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July 30, 2013

Movie Review: The Dark (1979)

There is nothing I like more than 1970s horror and sci-fi films. Truly. I believe that the entire filmmaking industry (from a narrative, not technical, standpoint) peaked in the 1970s and early 1980s. I love the wah-wah guitar riffs, bell bottoms and gas-guzzling sedans chewing up as much scenery as the actors do. Everything about the 1970s was stylized… especially the genre films. Yes, I’m biased. Yes, I’m a child of the 70s and 80s and, yes, there aren’t many finer examples of the genre than can be found in these two precious decades. Unless, of course, that film happens to be The Dark.

Now, let’s get one thing straight. I liked The Dark, but it didn’t really live up to my expectations. You see, two years before The Dark, the director, John ‘Bud’ Cardos, was responsible for one of my favorite TV movies of all time, i.e. The Kingdom of the Spiders (wherein we find William Shatner under siege in a sleepy Arizona town by an army of spiders). With that pedigree, I was ready for a masterpiece. What we have is an effective genre piece, with the requisite seventies style, but nothing near the director’s prior work.

In a nutshell, a serial killer is stalking the streets of Los Angeles and beheading people like crazy. The pathologist (Casey Kasem) lets us know that it isn’t human and incredibly strong. We already know this because we get to see the monster (using the same growl used for The Incredible Hulk TV show) tear heads off of unsuspecting Los Angelicans. A horror writer’s (William Devane) daughter is killed and he teams up with a reporter to (Cathy Lee Crosby, TV’s original Wonder Woman) to find the fiend. When they do, the denouement is pretty lackluster. The thing is an alien (a flannel-wearing alien, so we can assume he is either a professional wrestling lumberjack or a women’s prison warden) that shoots lasers out his eyes and is indestructible. Until he isn’t, of course.

Although fun, The Dark feels as if it has been stretched out far longer than the meager plot would allow. Cardos is adept, and the cast is game, so the film works well but there just isn’t enough there to sustain the chills that come up, intermittently, and can be effective. Not even the atmospheric score can help during the fluff scenes. It is the ‘between the chills’ filler that really gives The Dark some hiccups.

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