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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » One Dark Night
One Dark Night
Media Blasters // PG // January 31, 2006
List Price: $19.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Mike Long | posted February 22, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Today the average length of a feature film is around 90 minutes. At some point over the years, this became the accepted length of a movie, and at times, it's required in director's contract. Of course, there are still movies which run 2 hours or more. (I've seen some films, such as Aliens and Die Hard, that I wished would run even longer.) On the flipside, there are movies which are too long. These movies have ideas which simply can't sustain an acceptable feature length and are thus, the story is stretched. One Dark Night is a low-budget horror film from the early 80s which features a nice premise that simply collapses over the course of an hour and a half.

One Dark Night opens with two seemingly unrelated storylines. A man named Raymar is found dead in his apartment, along with the bodies of six young women. As the authorities investigate, they learn that Raymar was rumored to be a psychic. Raymar's daughter, Olivia (Melissa Newman), is visited by a mysterious man named Dockstader (Donald Hotton), who reveals that Raymar was a powerful telekinetic who could move objects and drain the energy from others.

Meanwhile, high-school student Julie (Meg Tilly) longs to be a member of an exclusive club called "The Sisters", whose members include Carol (Robin Evans), Kitty (Leslie Speights), and Leslie (Elizabeth Daily). Carol, the leader of "The Sisters" doesn't like the fact that Steve, her ex-boyfriend, has been seen with Julie. So, Carol decides to tease Julie was an invitation to join the group, although she has no intention letting the girl join her clique. Carol and her friends plan an initiation rite for Julie. They take her to a mausoleum and tell her that if she spends the night there, then she will be in the club. Once Julie is locked inside for the night, Carol, Kitty, and Leslie plan to sneak in and scare her. Unbeknownst to them, the mausoleum is the final resting place of Raymar, and his death hasn't drained his psychic energy. As the night goes on, Raymar's power grows and Carol's fake scares become all too real.

One Dark Night epitomizes the positive and negative aspects of horror films from the early 80s. On the plus side, fans of that era were treated to a group of films which often straddled two generations of scary movies. The gothic, Hammer-type movies were being replaced with the slasher films which fells closer to exploitation movies. One Dark Night definitely falls into this group. We are treated to a group of teenaged characters with whom the target audience can identify. This group is then placed in the old-school idea of a scary crypt filled with dead bodies and the potential for supernatural mayhem. Movies like One Dark Night were made by enthusiastic young filmmakers who weren't afraid to play with conventions and twist genres. The movies also feature fresh young actors who were typically willing to do most anything to get into the movies.

The film is also hampered by a problem which plagued many of the horror films of this generation -- One Dark Night is ponderous and boring. The bulk of the movie is made up long dialogue scenes which lead nowhere. The idea that the victim and perpetrators of a prank would come face-to-face with telekinetic zombie is a great one. Unfortunately, it's not until the finale that anything actually happens. The film introduces its main idea early on and at some point, the building of suspense turns into tedium (a mistake that many young filmmakers make). There are scenes in which Olivia listens to tapes about her father which bring the movie to a screeching halt. This wouldn't be some unbearable if the movie featured interesting characters. But, the movie is actually dominated by Carol and once you learn that she's a bitch, there's nowhere else to go. Meg Tilly is touted as the star of the film, but all told, she's not in the movie as much as some of the other characters.

One may come away from One Dark Night willing to forgive its problems, as the last 15 minutes of the movie is actually pretty good. Once the undead Raymar begins to torment the girls, the movie really picks up and actually features some creepy shots. The ending is a bit cheesy, but at least something is actually happening. (As an aside, for a PG rated film, One Dark Night certainly features some gooey corpses in the last reel.) When One Dark Night had concluded, my only thought was that it would have made a great 30-minute short. So, again, we have a promising film that falls victim to stretching itself too thin.

Video

One Dark Night projects itself onto DVD courtesy of Shriek Show (Media Blasters). The movie has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The source material used for this transfer was clearly a well-worn print, as the picture displays nearly constant grain, along with black spots, white spots, and scratches. There were also some bad splices in the film which caused very noticeable jagged cuts. (For the record, I didn't notice any "cigarette burns", so I don't know if this was a theatrical print.) The colors are OK for the most part, but they are washed out in some shots. Grading the transfer on One Dark Night is a chore, as the film itself displays so many defects. Given that the movie is a low-budget film that is nearly 25 years old, it's not surprising that there would be problems, but DVD fans have become accustomed to pristine transfers and this sort of step-backwards isn't acceptable.

Audio

The DVD features a Dolby Digital stereo audio track. This track provides dialogue which is clear and audible for the most part. However, the track also brings out the "pops" in the original sound elements, and that one jagged cut in the film makes an awful sound. The score sounds OK, but there are no prominent stereo effects.

Extras

The 2-disc release of One Dark Night features a few extra features. Disc 1 contains an audio commentary with director/co-writer Tom McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes. This is a fairly standard commentary, as the duo discuss the origins of the film and disclose how the movie was made on a very tight budget. On an interesting note, they discuss the state of horror films during the time that One Dark Night was made and they talk about how they wanted their movie to be different, while also acknowledging the slasher films of the day. Disc 2 contains a featurette entitled "R.I.P." (39 minutes). This segment is comprised entirely of behind-the-scenes video from the making of the movie. Many scenes in the film are documented with on-set and on-location photography and we get to see the cast and crew at work. Occasionally, these people speak directly to the camera. Two things worth noting here: the clapboard sports the film's original title, "One Dark Night", and Tom McLoughlin's name is spelled "McLaughlin". The other extra on Disc 2 is an "Alternate Director's Cut Version" of One Dark Night called "A Night n the Crypt". Running 90-minutes, this is essentially the same movie as One Dark Night save for the fact that the subplot dealing with Olivia is much smaller and is placed at different spots in the story. Also, the fate of two characters is altered. This version is presented full-frame.


Unlike many of the horror films that I caught on HBO in the early 80s (when I was too young to be watching them), I had no clear memories of One Dark Night. After seeing the film again some 20 years later, now I know why. The film's finale is well done and has some great shots, but the first 75 minutes is mind-numbingly boring and shows how low-budget movies would stretch their dollars.
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