Another seemingly pointless anecdote: Around 1980 or so, I was planning my Halloween costume and wanted a new item which I'd seen on TV to complete my look. It was a pair of sunglasses which had small, red lights in them. The wearer used a remote-control (with a wire, of course) to make the lights glow. Had I been aware of "The X-Men" at that point (I wouldn't discover them for a few years. I know that this is hard to understand for those who grew up with "X-Men" TV shows and movies.), I would have probably used these glass to be Cyclops. But, no, I wanted to be the monster from this really cool movie that I'd seen on HBO called The Dark. (Yes, my parents should have been monitoring my TV viewing.) Now that I've watched Shriek Show's DVD release of The Dark some 25 years later, I must say that 10 year old boys are very, very easily impressed by movie monsters.
As The Dark opens, a scrolling text informs us that just as many animal species found on Earth can camouflage themselves or use unusual methods to protect themselves. We are then told that it stands to reason that aliens may have similar powers. We then see a woman (Kathy Richards, Paris Hilton's mother) stalked and attacked by something or someone. This event brings in the three main characters in the film. The woman's father, horror novelist Roy Warner (William Devane), is informed of his daughter's death, and confronts the police detective working on the case, Mooney (Richard Jaeckel). These two men dislike each other, as Mooney aided in Warner doing time for manslaughter. Meanwhile, TV reporter Zoe Owens (Cathy Lee Crosby) smells a juicy story with the murder, and convinces her boss (Keenan Wynn) to let her pursuit it. As Warner leans on Mooney to investigate the case, Owens attempts to learn more about Warner. During this time, the murderer continues to kill a new victim every night. Our three main characters, Warner, Owens, and Mooney, begin to learn more about the murders, mostly from a psychic named DeRenzy (Jacquelyn Hyde), and they converge on the killer, who may be more than human.
You know that you're in trouble when the special features on a DVD are filled with comments from the director stating that the finished film bore little resemblance to the original script and that the film's focus was changed during production. According to director John "Bud" Cardos, who was brought onto the film after Tobe Hooper was fired, The Dark was originally going to concern a man who had been imprisoned by his parents, never seeing the outside world. Following a house-fire, the man escapes and goes on a killing spree. But, during production, producer Edward Montoro decided that the movie should be about an alien, as sci-fi was quite in vogue at the time. So, the killer became an alien and the physical attacks changed so that the creature killed by shooting lasers from its eyes.
Thus, it becomes apparent that The Dark is yet another film where the behind-the-scenes story is more interesting than the film itself, as The Dark is a very slow and boring movie. Given that Cardos inherited the film from another director, it's hard to place a great deal of blame on him, but someone is responsible for the incredibly slack pacing in the film. Scenes meander from beginning to end and, save for the opening scene, there is no suspense or tension in the movie. The actors seem to be coming from all different directions and there's one scene between Crosby and Devane where it felt as if I was watching two people in the same rooming carrying on completely different conversations.
There are also many problems with the script by Standord Whitmore. The movie has far too many characters and throughout the first half of the movie, new subplots are popping up constantly. Horror fans will most likely be disappointed by the movie, as it plays more like a police/crime movie than a horror film. Since the monster kills a different person every night. All of the victims are nameless/faceless (and eventually headless!) characters that we know nothing about, and thus, don't care about. If it weren't for the text at the film's opening, we would have no idea that the creature was meant to be an alien, as this is never mentioned in the movie. (Although Mooney does joke about it.)
So, the outcome is a movie where a lot of characters talk about murders and we occasionally see someone we don't know get killed. The finale does feature some nice shots (and it was the only thing that I remembered from the movie...and how it influenced my Halloween costume...), but it comes far, far too late. However, the most annoying thing about The Dark is the music. I can only imagine that composer Roger Kellaway had seen Suspiria and was taken with the whispering in that film. Thus, The Dark is filled with people whispering "The dark, the dark" over and over. Never before has the mute button looked so tempting.
The Dark illuminates DVD courtesy of Shriek Show/Media Blasters. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The print used for this transfer was a theatrical print, as it still contains the "cigarette burns". Because of this, there are some noticeable defects from the source material, such as black and white spots. The picture is fairly stable, but the opening credits did appear to be shifting slightly from side-to-side. There is a mild amount of grain visible on the image and I noticed some noise when horizontal lines where on-screen. And while most of the film takes place in the dark, of course, the image is never overly dark. The film looks slightly washed-out at times, but for the most part, the colors are fine.
The DVD carries a Dolby 2.0 stereo audio track. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Despite the "used" look of the film, there is no hissing or "pops" on the audio track. The stereo effects are negligible for most of the film, save for "the dark, the dark" coming from the front channels.
The Dark contains a few extras. We start with an audio commentary featuring director John "Bud" Cardos, "fan" Scott Spiegel (probably best known as the co-writer of Evil Dead 2), and someone named Walt (?!). Despite the fact Cardos is at least 70 years old, he remembers a great deal about this film made over 25 years ago. He talks about the trouble with the script and what it was like to come in after Hooper had been fired (for being a week behind schedule after 2 days). He talks about the actors and the locations in great detail. Walt asks many questions about The Dark and Cardos other films. The commentary is entertaining, but the speakers veer away from The Dark too often. (But, given the quality of the film, I'm not surprised.) Also, Spiegel is apparently sitting too close to his mic, as his speech is loud and distorted. The DVD also has an interview with Cardos (13 minutes), in which he discusses The Dark (repeating many of the things from the commentary), as well as some of his other films, such as Kingdom of the Spiders and Mutant. He also talks about his early days in Hollywood. The DVD has two trailers, one is a 2-minute trailer for The Dark, while the other is a 30-second spot (looks like a TV spot) for a double-bill of The Dark and Beyond the Door II.
Oh well, another fond childhood memory has been destroyed. When a movie contains a monster with laser-beam eyes, it's easy to see why a young boy would find it cool. But, when that same film is seen to be pointless and to have a plodding pace that would make a turtle nervous, one can see that not all old memories should be trusted.