Never has a PG-rated, low-budget horror film successfully created a sense of impending doom and terror as ONE DARK NIGHT did.
Made in the fall of 1981 for a miserly $1 million and taking only 28 days to make, ONE DARK NIGHT became a surprise hit upon its theatrical release.
Don't let the PG rating fool you, either - this movie is scarier and more effective than the plentiful R-rated gore fests released around the same time.
The story begins as Olivia McKenna (Melissa Newman) wakes up from a horrible nightmare. That morning, the bodies of seven young girls are found in the closet of a rundown apartment belonging to Olivia's telekinetic father, Raymar. Olivia had lost touch with her father many years ago due to his increasingly horrific fascination with his telekinetic powers.
When the police and ambulance attendants enter Raymar's apartment, it is in a state of disarray. Filthy and dirty, there are forks, knives and plates embedded in the walls. Raymar's body is on the floor and as the attendants lift him on to a stretcher, a quick flash of electricity sparks from Raymar's hand and blows a hole in the ceiling. Nobody in the bizarre situation knows what to make of it. However, they conclude that Raymar had died of a heart attack, but were not sure how the seven young girls had died.
Olivia is now troubled, since her nightmare was about her father picking up a young hitchhiker and then terrorizing her. The news of Raymar's death and his apartment full of dead girls brings the press out in full force, wanting information from Olivia. However, Olivia's husband Allan (Adam West) fends them off.
While at her father's funeral service in The Hollywood Mausoleum, Olivia starts having nightmarish visions of crypts cracking and coffins opening. Allan takes her away from the proceedings to calm her down. After the service, Olivia visits her father's space in the mausoleum and leaves a flower for him.
Seconds after she leaves, the flower is dead.
Later at their home, Allan and Olivia are approached by Dockstader (Donald Hotton), a writer for the paranormal and occult and an old research partner of Raymar's. Olivia invites him in and finds out a lot of disturbing information from Dockstader. He reveals to Olivia that Dockstader was a "psychic vampire," in other words, someone who used their telekinetic abilities to drain life and energy from living things. He tells Olivia that the girls in Raymar's apartment were literally frightened to death by his powers. Of course, Allan is disbelieving of Dockstader and thinks that he's crazy. However, Olivia trusts him and is fascinated by Dockstader's story.
Meanwhile, at a nearby high-school, Julie Wells (Meg Tilly) is sharing a lunch with her varsity letterman boyfriend, Steve (David Mason Daniels). Watching them are "The Sisters," the hottest clique in school, led by blonde and bitchy Carol Mason (Robin Evans). Her sidekicks are Kitty (Leslie Speights) and Leslie (Elizabeth Daily). It is revealed that Carol and Steve used to date and that Julie wants to become part of "The Sisters." When Kitty and Leslie inquire about Carol's final initation plan for Julie, she is secretive, but promises it'll be the best one ever. The entire "Sisters" issue gets Steve annoyed with Julie - he tells her that the only reason they are initiating her is so Carol can torment her because she's jealous. But Julie is persistent, sick and tired of being called 'good' and 'nice.' She wants to prove to Carol and to everyone else that she's not just another high-school nobody.
Later that night, Carol and her crew arrive in Carol's Mustang to pick up Julie for her final test. Julie is anxious to know what her assignment is, but not even Kitty or Leslie know. Soon, the Mustang is driving through the palm tree-lined Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery en route to the huge mausoleum. Pulling alongside the entrance, Carol instructs Julie to spend the entire night in the mausoleum and she'll be a "Sister." Hesitant at first, Julie surprises them by getting out of the car and going inside the spooky building. As they drive off, Julie spreads her sleeping bag out in a rest room while the caretaker locks the mausoleum up for the evening.
While driving, Carol explains that later on, they'll all arrive at the mausoleum with masks and sight gags, in order to scare Julie out of the building before dawn, so she won't become a "Sister." This bothers Leslie and she draws the line, explaining she doesn't think it's right. Carol is furious.
Carol: "I oughta let you out right here."
Leslie: "Yeah? Then why don't you?!"
Sure enough, Carol pulls over and lets the shocked Leslie out to walk home.
Leslie: "So you're really gonna let me out here?"
Carol: "You named it, you claimed it!"
Poor Leslie walks home and Carol & Kitty speed off. Back at the mausoleum, Julie can't sleep. She wanders around the shadowy corridors, reading some of the inscriptions on the walls. She comes upon a vault where the marble has been cracked - Raymar's vault. This creeps Julie out and she rushes back to the rest room, where she takes a sleeping pill that Kitty gave her. What she doesn't know is that the pill is Demerol, sure to make her delusional and hysterical.
Soon, Carol and Kitty arrive at the mausoleum with their masks and bag full of goodies: fake slime, a rubber hand, etc. They enter the locked building through a tiny window left open that leads to a janitor's closet. As they roam the building looking for Julie, Kitty becomes more and more frightened at being there. Carol doesn't care, she just wants to scare Julie. The girls come upon Raymar's vault, and Carol immediately recognizes the name. She tells Kitty that a bunch of dead girls were found at his apartment and that he could move things with his mind. Kitty is freaked out even more and she begs Carol to get the initiation over with. As the two girls leave, the marble cracks even more.
Julie is soon disturbed from her slumber by an ominous voice calling out her name. She stumbles out of the rest room, dazed, and wanders around. Soon, she is fleeing, screaming as Carol & Kitty toss slime on her and move the rubber hand across the floor with a string. Julie is so traumatized she seeks refuge in the chapel and starts to pray. Suddenly, Raymar's marble explodes, bright red light emerging from his tomb. Carol and Kitty hear this and become alarmed. Next, a chilly gust of wind whips through the mausoleum, smashing flower holders, swinging lights around, slamming doors and knocking the pews down in the chapel, while a shrieking Julie flees. Carol and Kitty enter the chapel and see that it's been torn apart - things are even embedded in the wall, including a crucifix.
Kitty: "Girl, let's book out of this place!"
But it's too late. All the doors have been forced shut by Raymar and the girls are trapped. Steve is outside the mausoleum, trying to find a way in to get Julie. He had seen Leslie earlier walking home and she told him where Julie was. Olivia, meanwhile, is having horrible visions - she is seeing the girls running around the mausoleum and rotted corpses. She gets dressed and tells Allan that she has to get to the mausoleum as soon as possible.
Raymar senses the bio-energy and soon, his powers are unleashed in full force. Marble explodes and coffins are soon emerging into the corridors. The coffins slowly open and the corpses rise up, floating through the air. Carol and Kitty scream in terror as they are attacked by the re-animated dead. The hideous bodies fly at the girls, knocking them down, covering them with ooze and maggots. Julie is soon entranced by Raymar's powers and she levitates into the air and is brought before Raymar's now open casket, electricity shooting from Raymar's eyes.
Steve manages to find his way in and Olivia arrives at the mausoleum. Even though they're there to save Julie, Carol and Kitty, they don't realize that Raymar's powers are so strong that they too are now in mortal danger.
I still remember seeing ONE DARK NIGHT when it opened in the theatres, and I was about 10 years old.
Having already seen films like HALLOWEEN, PROM NIGHT, FRIDAY THE 13TH and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, I thought that ONE DARK NIGHT would be lame because of the PG-rating. Well, was I wrong! The movie grabs you from it's opening sequence and doesn't let go.
It also plays on everybody's fears of graveyards and mausoleums and the beyond. There are several scenes where there is no dialogue, and they are extremely effective. Characters wander through the mausoleum, or through the darkened cemetery and it just fills you with a sense of dread. You know that something bad is going to happen but you don't know exactly what.
When Raymar unleashes the dead to attack "The Sisters," it's definitely a sequence that will stay with you long after you've seen the movie.Notice any mistakes? Review
Eerie musical score, great cinemaphotography and set design and good performances, especially by Robin Evans as the vindictive Carol.
Adam West's character is pretty much useless and there is one moment in the film where you can see the shadow of the microphone. Oh well, no movie is perfect!Our rating:
9.4 out of 10Review Written by Dave Grubka: Contact | More Reviews by Dave Grubka