FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Oct 31, 2005

Day 31- Somewhere, A Fat Lady Sings...

So here we are, the last day, the last movie of Shocktober! I had hoped to go out with a bang, but it's more like going out with a "OK, I saw that.".

As you can see from the box art here, the last movie in my month-long frenzy is Alone in the Dark (1982), and no, it has absolutely nothing to do with the film of the same name starring America's favorite slattern, Tara Reid.

"The Haven", a new-agey, feel-good kinda mental hospital gets a new doctor, Dan Potter (Dwight Schultz) to replace Dr. Barkin, who took a job elsewhere. Along with Dr. Potter we meet the head of the facility, Dr. Leo Bain (Donald Pleasence), who's the pot-smoking touchy-feely type, who prefers to call his patients "voyagers"- they're just on a trip, man, dig? Everyone's got their own trip. Some of the "voyagers" Potter will be overseeing are the Men of the 3rd Floor- the most dangerous men in the hospital. We've got Frank (Jack Palance)- who really, really hates it when people call him "asshole", the Preacher (Martin Landau)- who likes to quote scripture about vengeance and set churches on fire, Fatty (Erland van Lidth)- a child rapist who's...umm...really fat, and Skaggs (Phillip Clark)-AKA "The Bleeder", who gets nosebleeds when he strangles people to death.

The only things separating these cuckoo wackos from the outside world is a door, held shut by the powers of...electricity! Dr. Bain feels locks are so cruel, man! These dudes aren't prisoners, man, they're voyagers! I'm OK, you're homicidal and insane, but still OK. So what happens when the town experiences a blackout and the doors to The Haven open? Hint: the Fab Four doesn't sit around playing Uno by candlelight.

Frank's schizophrenic delusions cause him to believe that Dr. Potter actually killed the beloved Dr. Barkin, and that's why he's taken Barkin's place. Thus, The Men of the 3rd Floor set out for some good old-timey revenge on Potter and family.

From here it becomes a house-under-siege flick, with Dr. Potter, his wife, daughter, sister, and some guy she met holed up inside, fending off the maniacs one by one. Who will live? Who will die? Who will save the day?

This isn't a bad movie, but it's not terribly effective in the fright department, either. There's the whiff of camp in the air, as if the film isn't taking itself too seriously, and that dooms it to Grade B status- not that that's a bad thing necessarily. Believe it or not, Landau chews up the scenery more than Palance does. I thought for sure this film was made in the 70s, what with the pot-smoking, the Valium, the nuclear power protests, the touchy-feely doctor and all. Pleasence is great as Dr. Bain- he insists his "voyagers" are just misunderstood right up to the end. He tries to talk the Preacher out of doing any more damage with lines like "Let's explore some feelings! Try and see what I'm about!", and my favorite: "Get back into your space!", at which point the Preacher slices off Bain's ear.

The most horrifying thing about Alone in the Dark is without a doubt one of the bonus features on the DVD: an interview with actress Carol Levy, who played "Bunky" the babysitter. That's Bunky up there on the bed with the knife sticking up in a sinister fashion. It's a good scene, I'll admit,- the killer hiding under the bed, pokin' at ya, pokin' at ya. But it's maybe ten minutes long- the interview with Levy is much longer and far more apt to give you nightmares. She talks extensively about all the work she'd done in commercials before she got the part in this movie- commercials for toothpaste and feminine hygiene products. We get to hear all about the shooting of a Playtex Tampons commercial, then a little about Alone in the Dark- I mean there's not much for her to say on the subject, since she was only in 2 scenes. Then we listen to tales about her post-acting career in real estate. Which she LOVES! She just loves it. But she'll return to the screen if it's a good enough offer. Apparently she did a soda commercial recently- she got the call because she was just right for the part, and she'd love to show us all what that means. So she does this:

And then she reiterates how much she loves being a real estate agent.

If you're looking for some Grade B fun, this could scratch your itch. And who ISN'T looking for a film with Martin Landau and Jack Palance as homicidal mental patients? I give it 5 out of 10 tragic, contorting real estate agents.

And that's it for Shocktober! Time flies when you're watching horror movies. I'll have my big post-game show tomorrow. Until then...Happy Halloween!


Des said...

Well done, Stacie! Good show...(puts away the British accent).

Palance and Landau in the same movie playing psychopaths? Pleasence not being the guy who spouts "he's pure evil" all the time and getting his ear cut off?

How did I miss this movie? I'm going to rent it tomorrow. Luckily we have a shitty little video store in town that has dick all for selection except in horror.

David Lee Ingersoll said...

I saw this movie at theatre in Newark, NJ back in '84. The place was great. It showed a continuous double feature. No times were listed for the movies. You just went in and watched whatever was on until it finished. Then you watched the next movie.

The theatre audience was usually scarier than the movies being shown.They cheered the heroes. They cheered the villains. As long as somebody was getting killed they were happy.

Anonymous said...

I would love to a patient of Pleasence's. I mean, who is really the sick one?!?

Great review, again!

Amanda By Night