OUT OF THE DARK ('Medusa Pictures' UK video cover)
2 and a half stars   Cheese Rating: 50% Fiesty Frommage!


directed by: Michael Schroeder
starring: Cameron Dye, Karen Black, Bud Cort, Divine, Lynn Danielson, Geoffrey Lewis, Paul Bartel, Tracey Walter

(back of video blurb):
       "The failed yound models who work at Suite Nothings, a sleazy L.A. phone-sex service, are used to weirdos. Their customers are lonely misfits who live out their fantasies down the telephone line

       But the heavy breathing has suddenly turned to gasps of chilling horror. A psychopathic killer with a twisted sense of humour has begun a murederous vendetta that the police seem helpless to stop.

       Dressed in an eerie comic mask, 'Bobo' the dranged killer clown has become the ringmaster of his own circus of fear, forcing his victims to walk a tightrope of sheer terror.

       Starring KAREN BLACK ('Cut and Run', 'The Invisible Kid'), BUD CORT ('Bates Motel'), GEOFFREY LEWIS ('High Plains Drifter'), TRACEY WALTER ('Repo Man') and marking the final screen peformance of the legendary DIVINE ('Hairspray').

       OUT OF THE DARK - you should never talk to strangers... especially when they're as strange as 'Bobo'!"

choice dialogue:

"You know what they do to killer clowns? ... They send them to the funny farm!"

slash with panache?

       There are times when I find it hard to believe that I actually lived through the late 80’s; and one of those times was during Michael Schroeder’s OUT OF THE DARK (1988). Read on- you’ll see what I mean...

       Heading a quirky cast, Karen Black runs a phone-sex service in L.A.- ‘Suite Nothings’; where, as she explains to a new girl, our motto is to, "...keep the customers coming!" The usual beautiful and lithe out-of-work models and One of the girls on the phones at 'Suite Nothings'...actresses staff the place- a kind of update on the fashion house setting made popular by Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964); ‘ooohing’ and ‘aaahing’ in the manner you’d expect- feigning nothing but the most perfunctory interest. But one of the 'Johns' is different; a caller whose fantasies always end on a violent note. It’s not something that anyone takes very seriously until one of the girls, on the way home one night, is beaten to death by a killer in a clown mask. Even then, most of the employees at Suite Nothings put it down to a freak attack and it is not until another of the girls is brutally murdered by the killer- along with a neighbour, that panic begins to spread through the office...

       OUT OF THE DARK harks back in some ways to the slasher movies of the early 80’s; the masked killer- Bobo the clown, could have stalked any number of 'Bobo' the clown drives through the rain-slicked L.A. streets...teen chillers from that period (although OUT OF THE DARK is no teen movie). It is a look which is used to good and sometimes perverse effect- the sight of a clown driving through the rain slicked freeways of L.A. seems to raise nary an eyebrow! And to quote Lon Chaney Sr: "A clown is funny in the circus ring, but what would be the normal reaction to opening a door at midnight and finding the same clown standing there?" So, like dolls or mannequins, the clown isn’t particularly difficult to demonize and, so naturally in a chiller with darkly comic undertones like this, it is right at home.

       Where the movie differs from the early 80’s slashers is the fact that it is advertised as a ‘erotic thriller’; unfortunately this is where my gripe about the late 80’s comes in. When I think of erotic thrillers from that period I think of soft-core Late 80's flashbacks don't come any more vivid than this!fumblings, sax solos, fluorescent lighting and dry ice; and in OUT OF THE DARK we have those elements- in spades. The phone-sex angle of the movie encourages this; as does the introduction of Kevin (Cameron Dye), the hunky soft-core photographer and boyfriend of one of the girls. "Look at that guy- he probably gets more ass than a toilet seat"- quips one of the investigating officers about the snap happy jock who, when he’s not bumping-and-grinding, is photographing lengthy glamour model sessions accompanied by interminable guitar solos (another reason I hate films from this period- bloody guitar solos!). All of which causes the action to drag quite a bit in the first half.

       Although the film uses some of the slasher movie conventions it is in-fact much more of a murder mystery than a slasher movie; lots of going through files and other amateur sleuthing (in-between the slap’n’tickle- of course!) But when it Behind you!does work as a thriller, some scenes come together remarkably well; albeit scenes nicked from other (better) movies- most notably a tense a bit where, during a set-up to catch the killer, a girl tries to lure him by phone into a trap; only to succumb to what I shall cryptically call a BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) moment! Another scene which stood out was one where a motel owner (played by a very camp Paul Bartel in an outrageous toupee!), discovers that something is amiss in one of his rooms, as bloody water pours from under one of the doors....

       Talking of the cameos, and it was the re-union of Tab Hunter and Divine (I was hoping for a POLYESTER (1981) moment), that initially spurred me on to watch this movie. Disappointingly, both of their cameos are just that- very brief The great, late Divine- in his last role...and separate from each other. Divine as a sneering (male) detective and Hunter as the driver of a car caught up in an accident. Especially sad as this was Divine’s last role before he died.

       Parts of OUT OF THE DARK work as a psycho-thriller, but not enough. The same applies to the black comedy efforts- it’s all very hit and miss. But probably what hurts the film the most is one of the most contrived endings in horror cinema- and God knows, if seen a few!

BODYCOUNT 8  bodycount!   female:4 / male:4

        1) Female beaten to death with baseball bat
        2) Male has head split with shovel
        3) Female choked to death with (what looks like) plastic tubing
        4) Female strangled to death with flex
        5) Male found with throat slit
        6) Female found dead (method unseen)
        7) Male hit and killed by car
        8) Male shot repeatedly with shotgun