Monday, April 18, 2011

The Dark Power (1985)

For some reason I was under the impression that The Dark Power was some kind of lost classic, the kind of forgotten gem I spend so much of my time trying to uncover, but as soon as the movie started I realised I was probably wrong. If a movie's prologue ends with three exclamation marks, it's probably not going to be the most professional affair, but luckily The Dark Power did turn out to be utterly hilarious.

There isn't exactly much to this 75 minute epic plot-wise: in a nutshell, a bunch of college girls move into a house that was built on an ancient Indian burial ground, and soon the dead Indians rise from their graves to torment the girls. Whip-cracking Ranger Girard is their only hope, but unfortunately he has to spend about 100 years piecing together the history of the burial site before realising that something might be afoot (that's in between trying to get down with a female reporter about one-eighth his age). Oh, and to spice things up there's an utterly bizarre racism storyline jammed in there in the middle, possibly to try to create some sense of continuity between the past and the present, but I'm not entirely convinced the makers even put that much thought into it. Not that it matters anyway, because the only thing that really registers with The Dark Power is how hilariously awful it is.

It's hard to describe how bad The Dark Power is, but either way I loved it. It's reminiscent of some Troma movies, only a lot more charming because it's largely unaware of how funny it is. Yeah, there are some appalling attempts at comedy, but the funniest moments come from how unbelievably inept the whole thing is. The acting is mostly terrible, but not in a way that's annoying - no matter how many times one of the actors clearly stumbled over their lines, I never stopped laughing. Lash LaRue makes this movie, delivering his lines like he has a mouthful of oatmeal but still somehow seeming cool. He's not adverse to a bit of line-stumbling either, stopping altogether mid-sentence on more than one occasion.

Technically the movie is obviously total gash, but a special mention has to go to the sound effects. For some reason the makers decided to use the same identical sound effect for every single time Ranger Girard cracks his whip - and what's even funnier is that the sound is obviously lifted from one of those old Casio Tonebank keyboards (I own one and can confirm that exact sound effect is on there). There's an almost unbelievable scene towards the end where Girard takes on a zombie Indian that's also acquired a whip somehow; this scene consists of maybe 3 solid minutes of both cracking their whip in eachother's general direction, the one whip-cracking sound eventually becoming hypnotic by the time the scene finally comes to an end. What's amazing is that the movie is only 75 minutes long, and they still needed this scene to fill out the running time.

Aside from all the unintentional laughs, The Dark Power actually does have a few things going for it. The soundtrack is great, typical synthy 80s stuff with some nice live brass. Also, the "build up" is actually not nearly as bad as you'd expect, despite the ropey acting and mostly bad dialogue, and held my interest well enough at least. And once the action gets going, it's worth watching for Lash LaRue's amazing one-liners alone. It's kind of weird how once the zombies arrive, the movie turns into a straight-up comedy - the weird, jaunty music and Three Stooges style gags are just annoying more than anything. I kind of get the impression that the movie was intended to be serious, but once the director saw how shitty the zombie Indians looked, an executive decision was made and the film became a comedy... And the only parts of the movie that aren't funny are the ones that were intended to be.

I've read a couple of reviews that praise The Dark Power as a genuinely good horror movie, and I can only imagine the people that wrote these reviews are clinically insane. However, considering how many times I laughed out loud while watching this movie, I'd be a lying scumbag if I said it wasn't a hugely enjoyable watch.

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