On a whim, I decided to watch this film on Shudder. Well, really because it was less than 90 minutes and that’s all the attention span I had Tuesday. Now this movie, I don’t see many talk about or review. It is an under the radar type of 80s horror movie with an “interesting” plot and execution.
This film was released in 1983 and the director is a well known one in the horror community. His other film? Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives.
We’re going to talk about One Dark Night.
So this movie… I say that often but this movie. The summary of the movie is “the film follows three teenagers sent to a mausoleum for the night as part of a high school initiation rite. A dead, telekinetic occultist returns from the dead and haunts them, forcing the three to survive the night inside the crypt.” As true as this summary is, the way the movie rolls out, it’s kind of a lie. In actuality, we have a main protagonist played by Meg Tilly who wants to join the “sisters”, a sorority type of situation and to prove that she is worthy, she is dared to spend the night in a mausoleum. However, she is also the target of the leader of the sisters, who is jealous that she is dating her ex boyfriend.
It’s a bit more cruel than what the original summary comes off as.
The rest of the movie is also surrounded by a woman who is dealing with her father’s death who is the “telekinetic occultist”, and being comforted by Adam West.
I’m starting with the cons because there are a bit more. The plot seemed a bit empty at times. There wasn’t a lot of closure and that’s quite a shame. For example, there’s a mysterious man with very blond to white hair seen in the film that the lens focuses on too much and we don’t know anything about him. He seems important. Another thing I wished we knew a little bit more about was the daughter of our villain. She seemed so thrown into the script for a human element and we don’t see her potential. It would be nice to see her showcase her abilities (if she were to have them, it seemed like she did) and as much as she confronted him, I wish there was more.
The sisters themselves are a mysterious bunch. One (Leslie), played by a young Elizabeth Daily aka EG Daily, a very well known voice actress (Tommy from Rugrats, Buttercup from Powerpuff Girls), is the more sensible one of the bunch. The other girl, Kitty, seems to be the “going along to get along” type and the only black protagonist in the film. And of course there’s Carol, the leader, typical snobby teenage girl. For some reason, I thought they were in college and they all went to college but I should have known something was up if the “sorority” was 3 girls. Again, I wanted more about them and why they were the way they were. Are they popular or just mean girls?
Special effects wise, there were a lot of misses. The arrival of our antagonist took too long and the look for him looked fake, to be honest. There were some moments of what looked to be “The Haunting of Hill House” vibes or “The Haunting”, where the zombies were just toys. And that’s disappointing.
The rating is PG and considering I just watched Tourist Trap, another PG horror film from 1979, you can do so much and be effective by that kind of rating. It seemed like the movie was trying to go there but little details pulled it back from being something special. It did not help that also it came out after Poltergeist (it was delayed).
I hate to bring Poltergeist into this but that movie, also rated PG I believe, shows what you can do with that rating. Initially yes it was R but with Hooper and Spielberg rallying against that and I know the MPAA ratings had changed around but, the story and execution is more believable there than it is with One Dark Night.
The bright highlight is Meg Tilly and her performance as Julie. I bought it, that character. She’s likeable, vulnerable, you want to see her win! Even as drugged out she becomes later in the film, she seems to still have the upper hand over the other teen girls. The whole movie really could have been about her. And shout out to the lighting used and the late 60s Mustang. I want that car.
Here’s what they should have done: we get a “title card” or information card discussing the origin of “energy vampires” or telekinesis. That could have gotten me on board more like oh where are we going with this?? The bones of this movie, the structure is there but the foundation needed more work. If I had to compare it to Tourist Trap, I’d pick Tourist Trap over this. Yikes. One Dark Night is directed by Tom McLoughlin and stars Meg Tilly, Elizabeth (E.G.) Daily, Melissa Newman, Robin Evans, Leslie Speights, Donald Hotton and Adam West. I give this film a 2.5 out of 5.
Better luck next time.