Director: Tobe Hopper, John Cardos Starring:William Devane, Cathy Lee Crosby, Jacquelyn Hyde. USA. 1h 32m
This could have been a real contender as one of the more imaginative bold and vibrant sci-fi thrillers of the late 70’s but it fails on a few fronts which is a crying shame. The total of it’s dismal failures is all down to a ton of rewrites as the director duo of Tobe Hopper and John Cardos scramble around trying to wedge their classic into the shadow of the other highly successful sci-fi movies like Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979).
It’s hard to pinpoint when The Dark really begins. After a cryptic introduction explaining how animal and plant life from another planet might enforce dominance over us, the movie opens with a woman attacked by something plunging from the dark (and mostly off screen), something powerful and demented. The movie then cuts to an eccentric Psychic De Renzy (Hyde) explaining to a young actor that he’s going to die.. her larger than life red hair and boho wardrobe makes her easy to notice as she crops up throughout the film with her own brand of granny esoteric fortune telling and ethereal moments. The movie then cuts to another opener, this one really drives the story, a father and ex detective is told about his daughters death, he then teams up with the hottest newscaster in LA and they attempt to solve the case which is baffling the police team, who is the 7ft brutal killer who seems to have access to a laser!?
For the most part this could have been a really successful slasher a strange killer on the streets, and a hard cop/father teaming up with a lush new reporter is something any italian director from the decade would have wet himself over this taste pot boiler, but to turn this into a sci fi because Ridley-Scott made a movie about a Xenomorph feels unnecessary.
“Zombie? Mangler? Now, I don’t wanna hear those two words again!”— Police Captain Speer
The original story saw a boy who was trapped in the basement and treated like an animal escape and start killing, then after the success of Alien and other sci fi movies, the culprit had to be an alien so the film was massively re written and re filmed to incorporate an alien zombie werewolf/triffid like creature in a blue jean jacket, mercisly rip the heads off random city folk, because I guess that’s what aliens do?It feels odd that it even tried to class itself with alien which broke all the rules ann this boils down to a complicated cop melodrama.
Despite its troubles, ranging from incoherent narrative, terrible re-writes that lead to confusion and some dire castings, I do have a soft spot for The Dark. For me as I like the budget faux sequels of the big blockbusters that the Italian directors were so prevalent within the 70’s like Ippolito and Proietti’s Alien 2 : On Earth (1980). It’s cheap and tacky and has no direction but there is a mystery to be solved and it’s almost worth watching for the crazy “alien” creature with laser eyes and a habit of beheading people.
Related: Alien 2 : On Earth (1980),
Lists: 70’s Sci Fi Movies Vol 1
Spotlight: William Devane