Director – Vernon Zimmerman
Cast – Dennis Christopher, Tim Thomerson, Gwynne Gilford, Norman Burton, Linda Kerridge, Morgan Paull, James Luisi, Eve Brent, John Steadman, Marcie Barkin, Mickey Rourke, Peter Horton, Hennen Chambers
Release Year – 1980
Reviewed by John of the Dead
This is another 1980 slasher film that I came across randomly and after reading the plot decided that I HAD to watch this one. As you can tell just from my numerous amounts of horror reviews…I am a film buff. Predominantly I am a horror film buff, but I do take much joy in watching films from other genres, and Fade To Black is a slasher film for film buffs.
This flick stars Dennis Christopher(It) as Eric Binford, a lonely film buff forced to live with his aunt after losing his single mother at an early age. Eric is often picked on for his weird ways, but the bullying he goes through takes a backseat when he meets the girl of his dreams…a girl who looks exactly like Marilyn Monroe. She says yes to Eric’s proposition for a movie date, and this sends Eric into the most emphatic mood he has had in years…until she fails to show for the date. His obsession over her has now grown full force, and his tolerance for those who bully and bring negative elements into his life has decreased…full force. Eric is now on a killing spree to rid his life of those who detriment against him, and being the movie buff that he is…mimics all of his kills to his favorite kills in horror and classic cinema.
While this film’s plot had my devout interest, I went into this film with a bit of skepticism. Many many times I have found an 80s horror film with an awesome plot but left the film rather disappointed that the plot was not executed to full potential. Thankfully, that is not the case with Fade To Black. The numerous shoutouts to classic horror and non-horror films are effective, and the severity of the shoutout itself is obvious and is sure to not leave a viewer with no clue as to what film is being mentioned left in the dark. I liked that especially because even I myself was not familiar with every film that was mentioned, but this film’s execution in that area dumbed things down for lil’ ole me.
If you are a fan of demented or psychopathic killers than I think you will enjoy this one. Watching Eric Binford grow deeper into his film-fueled dementia was really fun to watch, and the fact that he based his kills off of some classic films only added to my enjoyment. For each kill he decided to dress up in full costume of whatever character he wanted to portray during the kill, and managed to stay in character until his victim’s death. Pretty sweet stuff if you ask me. Actor Dennis Christopher did a fantastic job portraying Eric Binford, and had me believing that he really was just as crazy as his character needed him to be. He has to be one of the most convincing psychopathic killers I have seen in a very long time.
Part of the fun behind these great kills and usage of Eric Binford is the direction job of writer/director Vernon Zimmerman. He made this film fun to watch(literally) with his unique and dark sets involving pretty much everywhere Eric goes, until his(Eric‘s) bright and enthusiastic climax. Ever the entertainer, Eric refused to end the film without a bang, literally. The kills were not overly gory, but we did get a fair amount of classic 80s gunshot gore that I found pretty fun to watch. We also get veteran actor Mickey Rourke in a small role in this film as one of Eric’s bullys, named Richie. This was not his first film, but his first acknowledgeable role in a non TV movie.
I really wanted and even planned on giving this film an 8-rating, but here were some execution problems that I really could not get over, so this film had to settle for my 7-rating. Overall, I liked Vernon Zimmerman’s direction and execution, but I feel that he failed on execution during some scenes that very much needed some good execution. The scenes were important, but left me a bit unsatisfied due to this. I also did not like some of the character usage in this film. The role of the Marilyn Monroe lookalike was a bit bland to me, and aside from Eric’s obsession over her she was pretty much unnecessary and did not offer much to the film aside from not show up to their date. Her not showing up did trigger some strong emotions from Eric that eventually sent him overboard, but nonetheless I expected more from her. We also get a sub-plot involving a psychiatrist and a policewoman who romance themselves while trying to track down Eric, and that really led to nowhere on a constructive basis and seemed like just an attempt to eat up screen time and give us “something else” to watch. Oh well, this is still a sweet film regardless, and these knocks against the film do not detriment it too much. Going from an 8 to a 7-rating is not a huge jump.
Overall, this is a fun slasher film that is obviously aimed at movie buffs and therefore is recommended to all movie and slasher buffs. Give this one a watch.