Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Alone in the Dark" (1982) d/ Jack Shoulder

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The pioneer release from New Line Cinema, director Jack Shoulder's first effort, is this tidy little slasher that features no less than three mammoth genre names among its cast members, with Donald Pleasence, Jack Palance, and Martin Landau all doing their respective part in raising this one above the standard stalk n' slash fare that permeated theaters of the day, despite the familiar "psychos are loose!" vein, as heavily mined as it had already been, to that point.

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"Was that 'two Charlies, two Bunnies, and a Black and White'? Or 'a Charlie, no Bunnies, and two Black and Whites'?"
Dr. Potter (Dwight "Murdock" Schultz) lands a gig replacing Dr. Merton on the staff of  Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence), a reefer-toking, left field psychiatrist with an unorthodox approach to his patients at the Haven mental hospital, with only electrically locked third floor windows and doors keeping the most psychopathic, homicidal cases from escaping into the general populace. It's a good thing, too, with the likes of  Hawkes (Jack Palance) the paranoiac, Preacher (Martin Landau) the pyromaniac, Fatty (Erland van Lidth) the child molester, and Bleeder (Phil Clark) the sociopath in there, and all under the impression that Potter killed Merton, one of their favorites...At home, Potter's got his hands full with his wife, Nell (Deborah Hedwall), young daughter, Lyla, and sister, Toni (Lee Taylor-Allan), fresh from a mental breakdown, herself, all occupying space in his pad. Toni drags her unreceptive brother out to a local club, where a punk band's set is interrupted by a state-wide power outage. The next morning at the institution, there's a dead security guard, and four inmates missing. Hmmm, I wonder which ones...

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"...and I once saw a bee on a butterfly bush, while pounding Stegmaiers outside the Tomhicken recreational building..."
Pretty soon, Toni's meeting strange men while getting arrested at anti-nuke protests,  Lyla's learning how to make origami shapes from giant strangers, and when the teenage babysitter shows up to check on her, she and her horny beau end up getting added to the film's minimal body count. After a tense dinner, a visiting detective finds himself pinned to a tree by arrows, while the escaped lunatics have surrounded Potter's home. Dr. Bain makes the frantic scene, but his attempt at reasoning with the men leaves him one ear short, and but a bloody notch on Preacher's righteous axe in the end. After Preacher manages to set the basement ablaze and Fatty gets a back rub with a massive meat cleaver, Toni's new love interest turns out to be Bleeder, whose pesky nosebleed gives him away as he tries to strangle the young woman, eating  knife blade-inflicted death, himself, instead. Hawkes shows up in time to see Dr. Merton alive on television, storming out angrily after waxing poetic upon murder, and ending up at the punk rock club,  fitting in perfectly amid the regulars. Ba dum bump.

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"Love lifts you up where you belooooong," sings Fatty (Erland van Lidth).
Interestingly, the two singers from "The Sic Fucks", opened the first punk rock boutique in America back in 1977, called Manic Panic, located on St. Mark's Place in the East Village; also providing the boldly hued hair dye of the same name that would decorate the heads of young top heavy playthings that often found themselves on all fours in front of me, in the throes of tantric multi-O's, for decades to come. You'll remember mountainous Dutch noble, van Lidth, as "Terror", the head of the Fordham Baldies in 1979's The Wanderers. Lin Shaye has a brief cameo towards the beginning here, and her older brother, Robert, who snagged a co-producer credit, also provided the story behind tonight's review. Also worth noting,  the era's Gore God, Tom Savini himself, serves up a practical FX nightmare along the way. On the scale, Alone earns two Wops, a highly watchable slasher in a genre already ripe with brainless carbon copies as early as 1982. Check it out.

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A fine example of Camel(toe), domestic blend.
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