‘One Dark Night‘ is a US PG-rated horror that was released in 1983 (but made in 1981) and directed by Tom McLoughlin, who later went on to direct another horror movie in the form of ‘Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI’ (1986).
Right from the off, this movie seemed to bely it’s 1983 release date. The title cards flashing up on screen between claps of thunder and bolts of lightning, announcing it’s nubile young cast over the image of the location that would torment them for a night – One Dark Night seems to fit better into ‘House of Haunted Hill-era’ scares than into a 1980s zombie movie. It’s a throwback, and a pretty glorious one at that.
One Dark Night hinges on the story of a bunch of bitchy high school girls tormenting one of their classmates in the traditional high school fashion – by convincing her to stay with them in a mausoleum that contains the corpse of a deceased bio-vampire who feeds off the energy of the young women he tortures (though they aren’t to know that).
Predictably, chaos ensues, and the girls (along with the vampire’s daughter) wind up fighting for their lives as the vampire takes control of the various corpses in the building and uses them to play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with his victims.
I’ll admit that there isn’t much going on in One Dark Night beyond that basic premise, but you can easily read the whole thing as either a sly nod to the way that horror movies were being made in the 1980s – packed with attractive young women who have little to do except scream and run away (and die), with excessive and gory violence, and a crumbling older man to oversee proceedings – or it can be seen as simply a gleeful subscription to all of those tropes. Given that this movie has carved out a loyal fan-base and has become a guilty pleasure for many people, I’d assume the latter.
There’s little ground-breaking on One Dark Night, it succeeds in building up a pretty decent atmosphere with a some solid and assured pacing that pays off in a cheesy but mildly effective ending sequence. Sure, seeing a member of the undead shoot lightning bolts out of his eyes may be a bit daft, but the carefully-constructed shots of skeletons and rotting corpses chasing the hapless group through the mausoleum are a pleasant surprise – gratifyingly gory and done in such a way that the ropey special effects aren’t drawn too much into focus.
One Dark Night is pitched as a family horror, which is strange, because despite the lack of nudity or bad language, there are still many genuine frights and moments of horror in this movie, and I imagine seeing someone ripping the face-skin off a living corpse would have freaked me out a bit as a child. Still, different strokes….
I guess what really sells this movie (aside from the fact that Adam West -yes, that Adam West is inexplicably in it….I guess the Batman still needed to pay the rent in the 80s) is how firmly it embraces it’s horror heritage. The sets, looming with eerie coffins and towering backdrops are a throwback to haunted house films of yore (which is the genre One Dark Night owes most, and most obviously, to), the creepy score is a staple of that decade’s horror, and a collection of slightly subversive performances from the female leads mark this a notch above the usual “sexy teens in peril” flick. It might not be magnificent, but the skirting of excessive violence and sex leaves behind a film that has to rely on it’s story alone, and that makes One Dark Night something of an exception. File this one alongside ‘Night of the Comet‘ (1984) as there are distinct parallels between the two – both were released with a PG certificate, both feature 80s teens, both have tongue-in-cheek elements, both rely on their smarts and simple elements to drive tension and scares, and both have picked up a deserved loyal following that sees regular screening events and celebrations of the movies.
Watch the trailer for ‘One Dark Night‘ below:
Watch the full movie below:
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|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
The soundtrack for ‘One Dark Night‘ was produced by Bob Summers, who was one of the producers behind the soundtrack for ‘Night of the Comet‘ (1984) and it is full of 1980s synthesizers and is well worth checking out. Read more about the soundtrack HERE.
Written by: Louise MacGregor