FADE TO BLACK (1980)
Fade To Black is a horror thriller about obsessive movie fan Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher). Binford lives with his crippled aunt (Eve Brent Ashe), who blames him for her affliction, and works at a film distributors barely holding on to his job. Eric meets beautiful young Marilyn (Linda Kerridge) who is the spitting image of Marilyn Monroe, but when she accidentally stands Eric up on a date, he snaps and begins to dress up as classic movie characters to eliminate those he feels have wronged him…and he hasn’t forgotten about sweet Marilyn either.
This 1980 slasher has obtained a bit of a cult following and while it may not be totally deserving, it is one of the more novel slashers of that era and the 80s nostalgia element always adds something, if you’re a fan of films of that decade. One of Fade’s biggest drawbacks is it is directed in a very pedestrian manner by writer Vernon Zimmerman. While Zimmerman came up with a fun story idea that should have been perfect for a real entertaining horror treat, he is unable to give it much life from the director’s chair and the film plays very by-the-numbers. The slow pace doesn’t do much in the film’s favor either and scenes from real movies occasionally spliced into the action is about as stylish as this gets. Worse still, is the ending is clumsy instead of suspenseful…and there is little suspense as it is.
What fun we have is watching Christopher, who was so good in Breaking Away, ham it up as the psychotic, movie-loving Eric. Christopher knows better than his director that the material needs a bit of an over the top touch and he does his best to accommodate. He gleefully goes from Dracula to the Mummy to James Cagney while dispatching his victims, including a young Mickey Rourke as an obnoxious co-worker and a sleazy producer who steals one of his film ideas. Sadly the rest of the cast are rather bland including Tim Thomerson as criminal psychologist, Moriarty, who specializes in juvenile cases and Ashe overacts, but not in a good way, as his oppressive Aunt Stella. Australian Linda Kerridge is pretty as Marilyn, but doesn’t really have the dynamic personality to make her memorable. That and her character disappearing for a long stretch while Binford has his revenge, doesn’t help get to know her any better.
Despite it’s flaws, it is a strange enough film to warrant a watch if you haven’t seen it, especially if you like 80s slasher flicks. Don’t expect much in the gore department, as there is relatively little blood and a rather moderate body count. At least Craig Safan’s score is very 80s and adds to the nostalgia.
All in all, Fade To Black doesn’t live up to it’s cult reputation and, to be honest, wasn’t that well received when it first came out. It’s one of those films that has gained a following and has been elevated beyond it’s actual worth, though, it is an odd little movie and films like this usually tend to find their audience over time, whether they are really that good or not. A curiosity viewing, or if you are an 80s completist, but don’t quite expect a classic.
Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) psycho film geeks!