AKA: Rest In Peace
A mysterious recluse, Karl Raymar, is found dead one morning with six similarly deceased young women also in the room. After his burial in the mausoleum, Karl’s estranged daughter Olivia comes to learn that her absent father was well known to the world of mystics, having supposedly mastered the ability of telekinesis in an attempt to cheat death. Olivia learns that his supposed skill at such an art, and his obsession with immortality were considered so great, that he had supposedly learned to suck the life energy from living beings. But his apparent death by heart attack and his subsequent burial in a crypt seems to have disproven Karl’s great power….
Meanwhile, young high schooler Julie is currently battling with an obsession of her own. Julie desperately wants to join a click at her school, a small group of girls known as The Sisters. Unfortunately for Julie, none of the girls actually want her to join- they’re just using this as an excuse to torment her. Their leader Carol is the ex of Julie’s current boyfriend Steve, and Carol intends to do everything in her power to make Julie’s attempt to join their group as hellish as possible. So far, Julie has passed all of Carol’s tasks, but Carol has decided that Julie’s last test will be the most difficult of all. Her final initiation? To spend the night in the very mausoleum that the mysterious Karl Raymar has just been entombed.
What could possibly go wrong?
Answer: All the things
One Dark Night is an American horror film from 1983. It was originally planned for a much earlier release, but was pushed back due to repeated post-production delays. There are a couple different versions of the film in circulation. Writer Michael Hawes and director Tom McLoughlin had little control over the film’s final editing, so the ending they originally shot was altered without their knowledge. At some point, their original version was released, but without much of the effects and less footage included in the ending. To add insult to injury, the rights to the film were passed around so much that the original photo negatives became lost, leaving the film to languish in relative obscurity for quite a while since the majority of the copies released were of less than optimal quality. But those issues seem to have been resolved recently, as evidenced by the shiny new 4K restoration that has now been released. So good news is that this once forgotten gem has never looked better, and can now successfully reach the masses. But thanks to a rather slow beginning, it might take a little encouragement to keep said masses in their seats long enough to make it to the more entertaining ending.
That’s fine, movie. I’ll just wait here until something interesting happens.
On the surface of things, and in fact for the first hour or so, the film actually feels pretty unremarkable. It starts off interestingly enough, with the mysterious death of Karl Raymer, the six dead women piled in his closet, and the variety of objects mysteriously embedded into the walls of his apartment. But after that it’s focus shifts almost exclusively to the teens and their pranks and relationship drama. So a good chunk of the film feels like your typical 80s teen drama, but with less logic cause, hey, this is a horror film and logic be damned. Olivia and her husband Allen, played by Adam West- na na na na na na na -do have a couple of scenes interspersed throughout the film until the end, but for that first hour the focus is primarily on the kids and their needs. Julie’s ridiculous need to join a group that she knows full well don’t like her just for the sake of “proving herself” (Proving what, we don’t know). Carol’s need to make Julie’s life miserable by trying to hook up with an ex that hates her guts. Kitty’s need to incessantly chew on a toothbrush. Steve’s need to prove he was right and save his girlfriend. A lot of the scenes and actions feel very pushy and illogical, perhaps because the writers were too far out of high school. For instance, the movie tries to make The Sisters out as a group of evil bitches, but most of what they do is so ridiculously tame, especially by today’s standards, that their attempt at assholery just seems quaint. The worst thing these kids do is smoke a shared joint. Other than that they spend the majority of their time trying to scare Julie with masks, sheets over their heads and fake arms tied with string that they can drag along the mausoleum floor.
This is seriously the worst they could do? I’m terrified.
And speaking of the mausoleum, that has got to be one of the lamest dares I’ve seen in one of these teen beat horror outings. They build it up like some horribly horrific scenario, but then you get in there and the place is sparkling white, well kept, and even has lights that come on at dusk. Hell, I have lighting in my house that isn’t as bright as what they have in that building. Seriously, what part about this is scary? Oh, no! I have to spend the whole night locked in a near impenetrable building surrounded by the quietest neighbors anyone could ask for and I’ll be locked in so no one can come in to bother me until morning. I don’t know about you, but I know some parents who would kill for that very opportunity, nearby corpses be damned.
Yeah, she’s really suffering.
But despite all of that the movie actually feels….surprisingly cute? I mean, yeah,at its core it’s about some kind of evil wizard who uses telekinesis to reanimate corpses and somehow suck the life out of people just so he won’t die, but all the teenage shenanigans make the film feel oddly charming. Yeah, the big bad “Sisters” gave Julie a pill to take to make her more susceptible to their “prank” later (Demerol, apparently, which was not cool by the way), but they also use insults like “Nerdle brain” and are oddly understanding of one another’s quirks. Steve dresses like your typical “Jock”, yet is smart enough to know that his girlfriend is being played and tries to warn her, and he seems to be nice and polite enough to everyone that the class wallflower has no qualms about giving him a heads-up about what’s going on. So while you may have all this dark and creepy stuff going on in the background, all the added quirkiness gives the film an almost sweet, lovable quality that keeps the movie from feeling too heavy. Which perhaps makes sense for a PG rated feature.
The film’s greatest strength though, lies is it’s ending, where everything that’s been slowly building up comes to a head when our “psychic vampire” friend finally wakes up and starts reanimating all the corpses in the mausoleum and having them chase the girls through the building. It’s exceptionally well done, very creepy and surprisingly gory for a film with it’s rating. It’s also a humorous and nice comeuppance to the pranksters, who bear much of the weight of Raymar’s ghoulish sense of humor. Plus it gives you a chance to see what Christopher Walken will look like when he’s 137 years old, because Raymar’s face was made from a mask of Walken’s roguish features. I guess the filmmakers figured, hey, if celebrity masks were good enough for John Carpenter, then by god they’re good enough for us.
Wow. The mausoleum caretaker is going to be super pissed come morning.
I know I may have complained a lot, but I ended up really liking One Dark Night. Some of it comes off as super cheesy and a little offbeat, but instead of thinking it was annoying I found it rather endearing. It’s the kind of cheesiness you know was kind of intentional, but it’s not to the level that it’s so in your face that it becomes grating. That said, the film does have some serious pacing issues in the beginning and suffers from the horror movie pitfall of spending too much time focusing on its female characters aimlessly wandering around darkened corridors. But overall I still really enjoyed it. It’s a nice, light horror film, though even with the PG rating I hesitate to say it’s a good choice for your kids as the ending is surprisingly creepy. So you may have to use your own judgement on that. But for everyone else looking for a fun, slightly chill horror outing, or for those who just like 80s horror movies in general, this could be an entertaining watch.
One Dark Night is available on a variety of streaming services, including free on Tubi TV and Pluto TV.
One Dark Night is also available on DVD and Bluray, though various versions seem to be either currently sold out, or out of print.