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THE DARK (1979)

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I’ll start out by saying that The Dark is not a very good movie, but not only does it hold nostalgia for me, as I saw it at the awesome Fox theater in Hackensack (which was across the street from my beloved Oritani) in 1979, but is also a curiosity because, at some point during the film’s making, it appears that movie’s villain changed his origins from some sort of zombie to a space monster…

The simple story has L.A. being stalked by some sort of unnatural fiend (John Bloom) who is tearing off people’s heads. It is being pursued not only by a hard-nosed cop (Richard Jaeckal), but by the writer, father (William Devane) of it’s first victim and an ambitious reporter (Cathy Lee Crosby) who sees this story as her big break. But this creature eludes capture and continues it’s nightly rampages. What is it? And can it be stopped?

Well, the answer to that question might be easier if the filmmakers could decided on what it’s creature actually is. Opening narration and the fact that the monster shoots lasers from it’s eyes (obviously added in post) to decapitate it’s victims has us believing it is a space monster, yet examinations of skin tissue and much of the film’s dialog seem to indicate it is a zombie. The creature also wears human clothes, kinda looks like a zombie and there is a supernatural element as we get blowing wind before it appears and it uses some sort of supernatural power to warn off a psychic (Jacquelyn Hyde) whom is aiding the police. It is only in the last act where there is dialog suggesting that it might be otherworldly and the climactic battle with the L.A. police is filled with explosions as the creature blasts them with it’s laser eyes. But these are things that could have been done with minimal re-shoots. I have read elsewhere that there was indeed a last minute change in the film’s critter due to failed screenings, but never anything official from someone involved in the production. Either way, this flick directed by John ‘Bud’ Cardos from a script by Stanford Whitmore is not very good. There is very little monster action till the last 10 minutes or so and most of the film is boring drama concerning Devane’s writer and his relationship with Crosby’s reporter…or the efforts of the bumbling cops to track down “The Mangler”. There is no suspense and the atmosphere is minimal with only one gory decapitation to interest the gore-hounds and overall, the movie is just plain dull and silly. Simply not much here to recommend other than some 70s nostalgia and watching a decent cast wallow in this mediocre movie.

For a bad B-Movie, this flick has a decent cast of 70s character actors. Devane’s writer is aloof and he plays most of his scenes walking around in a stupor wearing sunglasses. His character and Cathy Lee Crosby’s over ambitious reporter have a romance that adds nothing to the story and neither character makes much of an impact till the last 15 minutes or so, despite being the leads. Jaekel is sound as the cop in-over- his-head who has no idea what he is really dealing with…and in his defense, we’re still not that sure either, despite the end narration telling us the Earth has just had it’s first alien encounter. We also get veteran character actor Keenan Wynn and legendary DJ Casey Kasem as a news mogul and forensics expert respectively. Decent cast caught in a really bad flick.

So, there is not much to recommend about this lame sci-fi/horror with an identity problem. Whether it be a zombie or alien, the film is slow moving and uneventful, for the most part, and the apparent post-production changes in it’s title villain certainly doesn’t help. There is some personal nostalgia for me having seen it in a theater at a time when B-Movies like this could be seen on the big screen, but other than that, I really can’t say too much in the positive about this turkey. Not even bad enough to be funny.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 laser firing zombie/alien things.

dark rating




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This 1982 horror isn’t what you’d call a ‘good’ movie in the conventional sense, but I had a really fun time checking it out recently as it had slipped under my radar back in the day when it was first released and it’s filled with nostalgia and unintentional fun. Superstition tells the story of an abandoned piece of property with a history of violence and death dating back to the 1600s where a witch was supposedly murdered and a curse placed over the land and lake where her body was cast. But the property is still owned by the church who is in need of funds, so they assign young Rev. Thompson (James Houghton) to renovate the house and property for rental, despite the recent gory murder of two teens…not to mention that former tenants have all met ‘bad ends’ there. The inspector in charge of the case, Sturgess (Albert Salmi) thinks it’s the work of the hulking, mute caretaker Arlen (Joshua Cadman), but Arlen’s mother Elvira (Jacquelyn Hyde) warns it is the witch who haunts the property and wreaks vengeance on all those who trespass. But despite the recent deaths, the fact that bodies continue to pile up and that Arlen is lurking somewhere on the property, the new tenants, which include the alcoholic Rev. George Leahy (Larry Pennell) along with his wife, son and two nubile teenage daughters, move in. Can Rev. Thompson and the police find the source of these horrible crimes and protect the Leahy family and if it is truly the work of a centuries old witch, can she be stopped or will blood continue to flow?

As this is an 80s horror flick, I think the answers to those questions aren’t hard to figure out. Superstition is an odd flick with some very unintentionally funny scenes, as well as, some cheesy but graphic gore which earned it an unrated release. James W. Roberson directs this flick very seriously despite the absurdity that the police would allow a family to move onto a property with a suspected murderer on the loose and with continuing deaths and disappearances…or the fact that his heroic young man of the cloth, Rev. Thompson, ogles Leahy’s teen daughters like an adolescent who’s just found dad’s Playboy magazines. I actually do think the director gives the film a nice visual style for an obviously low budget flick and makes good use of the old house setting. The film, despite it’s supernatural story, is structured like a slasher with victim’s being dispatched one by one in gruesome fashion, including microwave and elevator wire. It does go all Exorcist in it’s final act when the young Reverend Thompson finds out the truth of what happened in 1692…relayed to us in an amusing flashback…and heads to the property to throw down with the 300 year old Elondra Sharack (Carole Goldman) with the Leahy’s lives in the balance. And if this flick sounds a little loopy, it is and is all the more entertaining for it. Is it scary?…no…does it’s plot make sense?…no…but it is a lot of cheesy fun and there is plentiful gore and a couple of hot young girls to run around scantily clad while a killer is on the loose…all in delightful 80s fashion. Everyone makes the stupidest decisions possible, especially the cops who don’t appear like they could catch a cold, and when someone goes missing, it’s shrugged off despite there being a suspected murderer lurking about. Everything you could want from a cheesy 80s horror flick and as such there is a load of entertainment to be had.

Superstition is a silly movie that takes itself very seriously and is all the more entertaining for it. It’s a bloody good, fun flick that doesn’t need a logical reason to gorily dispatch a victim, or have it’s young lasses walk around in front of priests and cops wearing next to nothing. I love a “so bad, it’s good” movie and this one highly qualifies and in a very good way. I also give it credit for doing something different than just having a random maniac running around like a number of early 80s horror and the added supernatural elements provide additional fun to it’s cockeyed story. And with the added 80s nostalgia, this flick can be a fun night on the couch with like features and favorite beverages. Recommended!

Rated 3 (out of 4) microwaves!

superstitious rating