One Dark Night (DVD)
Starring Meg Tilly, Adam West, Melissa Newman, Robin Evans, Leslie Speights, Elizabeth Daily (A.K.A. E.G. Daily), David Mason Daniels
Directed by Tom McLoughlin
Distributed by Media Blasters
Ahhh, the Eighties. It was a time of feathered hair, Aqua-Net hairspray, satin jackets, and of course a plethora of now vintage horror films that have either been lost over the years or gained extreme cult status among fans. The first time I saw One Dark Night was about 1984 on something that used to be considered cable in New York back then called W.H.T.: Wometco Home Theatre. What in Christ’s name a Womentco was is anyone’s guess, but one thing was for sure: That service piled on the horror films. It was a much simpler time all around. Films didn’t have to be “The Event of the insert season here”; they just had to be fun and somewhat spooky. One Dark Night is a formerly lost gem that is all that and more, and this package is both an extreme joy and a bit of a disappointment.
The story begins with a convoy of coroner’s vans pulling up to a tenement. What the hell could have happened that this many body wagons had to show you ask?! Evil psychic, Raymar, has had his way with a bunch of young women, and they now lay dead along with him. To be honest, I’m still not really sure what Raymar was trying to do with these chicks despite having seen this film a bunch of times. All I know is that whatever it was, people were dead, there were assorted things like plates and knives embedded into the walls of the apartment, and it was evil! *cues spooky music* Even though Raymar was an aforementioned evil psychic, he did have a loving daughter who has a bit of the old psychic powers in her, and she has a loving husband played by Adam West. Yes, that Adam West. The two make sure her dad is properly entombed in the walls of a mausoleum and are then on their way.
Meanwhile on the other side of town we’re introduced to Julie, played by then budding starlett Meg Tilly. Julie’s in a new relationship with a hotshot jock named Steve, and all is well in teenie land — except for one thing. Julie’s got the rep of being a goodie-two-shoes and desperately wants to shed that skin. To do so, she tries to get inducted into the local cool girl group named The Sisters. Before she can do that though, she needs to pass initiation by spending the night in the same mausoleum that Raymar’s in. Her chances of passing aren’t helped much considering that the head of The Sisters is Steve’s ex-girlfriend. Julie’s not too bright. So there’s the setup — vengeful bitch ex-girlfriend, sweet teen, jock, mausoleum, evil psychic that doesn’t wanna stay dead, and eight hours to pass the horrid hazing! Of course The Sisters show up to scare our dear Julie, but Raymar’s got other plans. Before you know it, the dead are walking — well, actually rolling — and the spookfest has begun!
One Dark Night is a classic on many levels, the main one of which is the cheese level! The makers of this film didn’t want running zombies or even shambling Romero-esque zombies. In fact, they didn’t want any actors at all. Instead they opted to build some really cool (even by today’s standards) looking corpses and, for the sake of what I am guessing are budgetary reasons, put them on dollies and rolled them into the actors! The effect is hilarious! I love watching these things move down the hallways of the mausoleum. Of course there are inserts of corpse feet dragging to give the illusion that the newly reanimated are floating for realism’s sake. You just gotta love it! Another thing you’ll notice right away about this film is there is no gore whatsoever. Before you cry foul, trust me; in this case it actually works. Instead of the red stuff we get heaping buckets full of slime, worms, and maggots. Let me tell you, I’ll take stage blood over insects any day of the week. So what do we have here? An unintentionally funny and far-fetched film that is a must-see for any zombie lover.
Up until now this film has been extremely hard to come by. To my knowledge it only received one Stateside home video release by the now defunct Thorn EMI home video company, and unless you had that tape, you were shit out of luck. Every once in a while it would show up on eBay in usually poor condition, or if you were resourceful — and lucky — you could track down a DVD-R of that very same tape that still looked like shit. Media-Blasters has brought this mostly forgotten gem back to us, and for that I am thankful; however, there are some things having to do with this release that are a bit troublesome.
The main thing I speak of is the print of the film itself. Apparently the original negative was never located. Therefore the end result is actually from a print — complete with dust and scratches. This can really distract you, especially in the darker portions of the film. Don’t get me wrong; out of all the copies of this movie that I have seen, this is without question the best. I just wish it could have been cleaned up a bit more. Other than that, this-two disc DVD rules!
Disc One contains the film along with a great commentary by director Tom McLoughlin and co-writer Michael Hawes. Both men display a lot of affection for their work, and they gleefully point out every mistake and flub! It’s apparent that for them this is kind of like going back and looking through their high school yearbook after not seeing it for twenty years. The memories keep flowing back, and the on-set stories are damned funny! Good stuff. Disc Two delivers the usual supplements like trailers and some shot on video behind-the-scenes footage, but the gem of it all is A Night in the Crypt. What’s that you ask? Well, this movie was filmed in 1981 and didn’t see a release until ’83. A Night in the Crypt is the rough assembly of the original 1981 directors cut of One Dark Night presented here in its entirety! It’s missing some sound effects and special effects here and there but it’s great to get an idea of what the filmmaker’s original vision was. I had no idea this cut even existed, and as a fan, this inclusion is the coolest thing ever. Bravo!
So how does One Dark Night stack up after all of these years? Pretty well! It may be a tad slow for today’s audiences, but fans of Eighties horror will eat it up! It’s riddled with ridiculous lingo like “Let’s book up!” and “You go, Hugo”, and if that don’t get ya cruisin’ down memory lane, I can guarantee the arcade scene and the clothing will! This flick remains one helluva guilty pleasure. Is it good? No! It’s fucking horrible by some film standards but in the most endearing of ways. Should you buy it? Without hesitation! Don’t make me have to roll a zombie at ya!