Director – Tom McLoughlin
Cast – Meg Tilly, Melissa Newman, Robin Evans, Leslie Speights, Donald Hotton, Elizabeth Daily, David Mason Daniels, Adam West, Leo Gorcey Jr.
Release Year – 1983
Reviewed by John of the Dead
One Dark Night is the debut film for director John McLoughlin, who four years later released Friday the 13 Part VI: Jason Lives – one of the series’ best. This effort has drawn comparisons to Poltergeist for its use of real human skeletons. Although it was filmed prior to Poltergeist, One Dark Night was released after the Spielberg / Hooper film due to post-production issues. Aside from the skeletons and a supernatural scope the two films have nothing more in common. While I liked One Dark Night in the end, the end is the only reason I enjoyed it. This is a cooker-cutter 80s film where the payoff hopefully justifies the buildup. If you can make it through 75 minutes of development for 15 minutes of fun then you may enjoy this as I did.
Eager to join a high school club called The Sisters, Julie (Meg Tilly) must spend the night locked inside a local mausoleum. Little does she know, the massive crypt is home to the recently deceased Karl Rhamarevich – a Russian scientist found dead in his home with the bodies of six young women. On the other hand is Olivia. During her investigation into her estranged father’s death, Olivia learns that Karl’s dabbling into the occult gave him telekinetic powers. These powers come from draining others of their energy, which is what lead to the deaths of the six women. Lisa’s night alone will soon become a night of terror. She isn’t alone, and Rhamarevich will raise the dead to get what he needs from her.
I am personally not a fan of films involving telekinesis. While I love inanimate objects doing the dirty it doesn’t hit as hard when others are controlling them. At least with One Dark Night, the telekinesis is used to supreme levels. The selling point to this film is that Rhamarevich uses his powers to bring on some awesome skeleton horror. Those who miss seeing skeletons chasing people will enjoy the film’s final sequences. As I mentioned earlier, the issue is it takes so damn long to get there. I would not balk at this if there had at least been some horror thrown in here and there. Instead, the first 75 minutes contain relationship drama, Olivia investigating her dad’s death, and Lisa’s friends trying to prank her at the mausoleum. Had there been some deaths and scares during this long development there would be no issue whatsoever. You may notice Adam West’s name receiving top billing, but don’t be fooled. His character is a waste and does little to move the film.
The direction from Tom McLoughlin is great and you can see the guy had some real talent. His next film, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives, furthered this. While my balks with the story taking so long to get to the horror are there, he at least kept things interesting. His atmosphere is great and the mausoleum used provided immense opportunity for spooks. Not only is it a beautiful spectacle, but it also provides long winding corridors with excellent shadows. These corridors come in handy later on in the film. The acting performances are OK and exactly what you would expect for an 80s film. I really miss that charm sometimes. None of this compares to his execution during the final scare sequences though. I loved the look of the corpses, and apparently some of them were real (now illegal). It wasn’t just the look that sold me though, but the mannerisms too. The way they would glide on the ground was immensely creepy. Alongside the amazing atmosphere these scenes were perfect. It is a shame that there isn’t more of this horror in the film, especially when you consider how well executed it was.
Overall, One Dark Night is an experience I enjoyed thanks to its tremendous climax. The only reason it does not receive a higher rating is there wasn’t enough horro leading up to the climax. I will say that even if you don’t want to sit through the long development, give this a watch and fast-forward if you need to. It’s worth it.
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