OIT OF THE DARK
Director: Michael Schroeder
Year of release: 1988
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 89 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "The phone sex line was for fantasy...Now it's for murder", A frighteningly erotic thriller" and "Mother always warned her, never talk to strangers".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: The police are called in to investigate when a number of young women are murdered in the LA area by someone they have first spoken to on the phone. Clad in a clown mask and calling himself Bobo the Clown the killer seems to be targeting the women of the Suite Nothings company, a phone sex chat business. The chief suspect for the detective working the case is photographer Kevin who is not only dating one of the Suite Nothing employees but also in the process of taking promotional photos of the girls, many of whom have aspirations to be models or actresses. As the number of Suite Nothing employees left alive begin to dwindle those left realise the killer is most likely someone they know. After an ill fated attempt from one of the girls working with the police to trap the killer backfires with more bloodshed, Kevin who is still under suspicion teams up with his girlfriend Kristi to try and get to the bottom of things.
Good points: The killer looks suitably menacing with the clown mask being used definitely a good one. We've seen a lot of clown faced killers over the years of course with such style masks being very popular in the genre but quite often they can fall wide of the mark but this one manages to hit the right creepy note.
Out of the Dark has a detective and mystery side to it as well which is something I appreciate in the genre. I did manage to guess the killer very early on on this occasion but they give us three solid suspects. Aside from the photographer Kevin there is also a mild mannered accountant that works in the building played by Bud Court who could have a dark side. Incidentally I wasn't sure of his name as online he is listed as Doug but I'm sure Barbara called him David in the film. There is also an older guy whom we have reason to suspect named Dennis who is the estranged husband of the Suite Nothing boss and has an axe to grind with Kevin and could possibly be trying to frame him.
There are a handful of memorable creepy moments most notably when one of the girls (Camille) try's to trap the killer by luring him over the phone to her location and a waiting police presence but finds instead that the clown turns the tables on her. There is also an effective climax which is a little reminiscent of Halloween. Another couple of good moments involve a tense chase through a rainy night as the killer drives after his next victim who is on a scooter and the scene in which the motel owner makes a gruesome discovery is well done.
Presentation is slick throughout and this has a reasonable sized budget behind it despite not being particularly well known. If you are put off by the cheap shot on video style of many of the more obscure slashers you need not worry here. Scraping the barrel a bit with this point I know but I often find it tough to pick out good points. Always easier to criticize than it is to praise I find!
Bad Points: This one as you would expect being based around a phone sex company has quite sleazy undertones running through it which won't be to everyone's taste. It was marketed at the time as being part horror part erotic thriller and though I think that might be going a bit far it does have a somewhat seedy vibe plus a sex scene between Kevin and Kristi that I could have done without. In said sex scene there was a weird filter on the camera as well which I didn't like. Not sure how to describe it other than to say that it seemed they had tiny lacy patterns on their bodies. I didn't care for it in any case. Furthermore I think anyone watching this specifically because it is supposed to be a bit seedy and borderline erotic (as in they like that sort of thing) may be a bit disappointed. Sex scene aside I didn't think it had all that much female flesh on display really and only the one of the girls (Barbara) working for the company stood out for me as being super attractive so the eye candy wasn't all that elsewhere.
Speaking of the phone sex company I thought it was too silly and over the top when they showed the girls talking to their clients. They were too quick to jump into making it sound as if they were having an orgasm to the point where I don't think it would be believable to the caller.
It felt a little bit far fetched that Doug (or is it David?) just happened to look up at the office building when he was down on the street on two separate occasions to notice the light in his room being on. Maybe it would happen once but it is unlikely he would be in the right place at the right time to notice it a second time. This also subjected us to seeing him hurrying back into the building and getting frustrated waiting for the lift which was okay once but felt repetitive the second time.
Though there are solid production values elsewhere there isn't much to get excited about with the deaths here which are mostly a bit lackluster and boring with little in the way of blood and gore.
Big spoiler in this point. At the end I thought it was a bit strange that Kevin turned on Kristi as after she found out he was the killer. He said she could maybe be the one to change him and she seemed receptive to this and actually still seemed a bit supportive of him and not repulsed. Kevin still turned on her though even though you would think she was telling him just what he wanted to hear. Perhaps he suspected she was lying and trying to lull him into a false sense of security but if so that wasn't made clear.
Verdict: Reading this review you would maybe get the impression that I didn't like it very much but I actually did enjoy it and would grade it with a solid 7/10 rating. For whatever reason I found it difficult to pick out individual positive points for this one but it was a good time passer. It doesn't do enough to truly distinguish itself from the pack but you can still have a good time with it. I would have liked to have seen a bit less of the women talking on the phone and the sex scene taken out to be replaced with more blood and maybe an extra stalking or chase scene but for what it is it just about hits the mark.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Jo Ann: Bludgeoned with a baseball bat in the park.
2) Male: Hit in the head with shovel.
3) Barbara: Strangled with a hose.
4) Camille: Also strangled with some sort of cord.
5) Male policeman: Seen dead outside the location of the Camille murder with his throat cut. Death off camera.
6) Prostitute: Hit in the head with a bottle and her dead body later found in the bath. Actual death of camera.
7) Doug/David: Hit by a car by accident after he ran into the road after Kristi.
8) Kevin: Shot multiple times by Kristi with a handgun and shortly after by the detective with a shotgun.