Tuesday, August 12, 2008

One Dark Night

With all of the recent hype over Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, I thought it would be fitting to review the film that inspired it all, the 80s cult classic One Dark Night, featuring a very young Meg Tilly (who sadly never quite achieved the level of fame of her sister Jennifer). Some might argue that this film actually has nothing to do with Dark Knight other than having a similar name, but I say those people are damn fool hippies who want to overthrow our government, and I will be damned if I will let them have their way!

The film starts off pretty damned slowly, however, much moreso than Dark Knight does with its Bat-imitators trying to shoot up some crooks, and the Joker gang bank robbery and whatnot. No, this preferred more of a slow build, to the point of being borderline glacial. There’s two main plots, one concerning Meg Tilly as a teenager trying to survive some sorority hazing from her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriend. Before you ask, no, despite half the cast of the movie playing sorority sisters, there is no nudity to be had, because we like to keep things classy here. The other plot follows the family of a recently-deceased magician, who apparently was a legitimate telekinetic, and who gained his powers by terrifying young victims and then draining them of their psychic energy.

All this setup is pretty long and dreary, but it climaxes beautifully. For her final bit of hazing, Tilly is told to spend a night locked in a mortuary, which happens to also be the resting place of the villainous telekinetic. The sorority sisters decide to both drug Tilly to make her hallucinate and break into the mortuary themselves to frighten her until she flees and loses her chance at the sorority. This is when the movie just goes completely off the rails insane, and turns from a snoozefest into a thing of beauty. Just as one would expect, all of the negative psychic energy brings the magician semi-back to life (his corpse stands up and glows, but doesn’t move at all), and his natural response to such a situation is to start knocking props over and flinging corpses at everyone.

There’s a shockingly low body count for the film (just two or three, unless you count the four girls found in the magician’s closet that were already dead by the start), but there’s so much crazy action at the end that it more than makes up for it all. Indeed, it kind of acts like The Dark Knight, but in reverse: it has both a dull first two acts, and then gives us an amazing final third, instead of the incredibly rushed Two-Face storyline that weakened the great beginning and middle of Dark Knight. If some enterprising young film editor were to take The Dark Knight up to the end of the Joker storyline and then splice in everything in this film after the arrival at the mausoleum, we may just get one of the best movies ever made. Get right on this, people, it’s a gold mine waiting to happen!

Rating: ***

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