Revisiting the “Classics”: 1979’s THE DARK

This is one of those movies like Lucio Fulci’s ZOMBIE, branded with a dozen different titles so as to confuse movie connoisseurs, only THE DARK had only one alternate handle: It was also known as THE DARKNESS, which is close enough that a guy can find it on imdb if he’s willing to do a little digging. That’s how I found it. I remembered this movie from my childhood, you understand. Even as a little boy I knew it was terrible, yet I loved it. Unable to recall the title, I did recall that the movie’s killer–more on that in a second–kept mumbling the word “darknesssssssss…” throughout the entire film. And I seemed to recall that it had Cathy Lee Crosby, who I knew from the TV show THAT’S INCREDIBLE, as the female lead. These two hazy memories allowed me to identify THE DARK, which allowed me to then find it on eBay, which allowed me to buy it and watch it. Yep, it was as bad as I remembered. And I still loved it.

I recommend THE DARK as a curiosity. For one thing, it was produced by Dick Clark and starred Casey Kasem in a supporting role. There’s this one actress named “Jacquelyn Hyde”–seriously. Best of all, though, THE DARK was meant to be a zombie movie. It IS a zombie movie. The monster is obviously a zombie. But between the time when the movie started filming and its release, a little movie called STAR WARS happened, followed by an equally obscure movie title ALIEN. This led somebody in the chain of command to decide to change the monster into an alien–this despite the movie being almost finished by that point. The result was a zombie movie shoehorned into an alien invader plotline, with hilarious results. They gave the zombie laser-beam eyes! The effects where he kills his victims was obviously (SO obviously) added after the fact, superimposed onto the existing film. And the characters keep talking about the horrific mutilations committed by the monster–it’s even called “The Mangler”–yet none of the victims WERE mutilated, because they got blasted by laser-beam eye bolts instead! No explanation is ever given for the monster, where it came from, or what it is, other than somebody saying “It must have come from Outer Space” or something. This one is MST3K hysterical. Do yourself a favor and dig yourself up a copy. The Mangler, the evil alien zombie with no motivation and no backstory, is waiting for you!