Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dark Power, The (1985)

Directed by:
Phil Smoot

Former 40's western star Lash La Rue (with his trademark bullwhip) headlines this quirky Indian-themed zombie tale shot on the cheap in North Carolina. An elderly Indian medicine man dies and his property - which includes four graves marked with sacred Eagle daggers - goes up on the market. Flirtaceous reporter Mary (Mary Dalton), who's doing a story on the Indian, runs into her college-aged Beth (Anna Lane Tatum) - who has found herself without a place to stay this school year - and uses her connections to allow Beth to rent out the home. Ignorning the land's cursed reputation, Beth decides to move in and convinces her friends Tammie (Cynthia Bailey), Lynn (Cynthia Farbman) and Susan (Suzie Martin) to also move in and share rent. After all, it's a big enough place. And it even has a jacuzzi bath and a pool table! The girls have a few issues getting along (which I'll address here in a minute), but they'll have even bigger problems to deal with when the inhabitants of the graves sitting in their front yard decide to pay them a visit one evening. In other words, it's witch doctor zombies vs. college girls, with each of the Indians getting their own signature murder weapon (tomahawk, bow and arrows, etc.) and Lash playing the heroic sheriff who shows up just in the nick of time to spout such lines as "Feel my whip, you son of a bitch!" The results are upbeat, silly and actually quite fun in a cheap movie way.

What really makes this one stand out from the pack is that it actually tries to comment on racism! The Lynn character is a racist bitch. She irrationally hates Tammie because she's black, demands her housemates kick her out, has no problem throwing out the "n" word, hangs confederate flags around the house and invites her obnoxious brother (Marc Matney) to come live with them in hopes of driving Tammie out. During the night of the Indian attack, the brother even invites his racist friends over to crack jokes at Tammie's expense. The nice part is that even being faced with all this crap, Tammie stands her ground, doesn't budge and manages to keep a positive attitude throughout. Even better, she eventually emerges as this film's true heroine, not only for putting up with a bunch of unbelievable bigots and somehow managing to maintain her dignity in the process, but also for her survivalist instincts and zombie fighting skills. Going into this I certainly wasn't expecting to find one of the most memorable leading ladies in any 80s horror film (which includes all bigger-budgeted mainstream releases), but here she is, anyway! Even more interestingly, the actress playing her ended up becoming a top New York fashion model and can now be seen on to the reality TV series Real Housewives of Atlanta.

Though Tammie pretty much dominates the proceedings, many of the other characters are at least broadly defined and have some personality to them. Top-billed Lash (who appeared in the same director's sci-fi/western ALIEN OUTLAW the same year) also gets some nice moments, particularly at the end. The Indian designs themselves are pretty good and the film has a sense of humor (though I could have done without a few slapstick moments involving the zombies and some dumb flatulance jokes). There's a decapitation, a throat slashing, lots of arrow hits and some other bloody moments, plus one topless scene. The film does start out a little slow, but hang in there, it gets better.

The VHS release was from Magnum and it's also on DVD from VCI Home Video.


1 comment:

toreador32580 said...

I cannot believe how much I loved this movie! Yeah, it's got some cheesy moments, but a lot of the acting is pretty good with a lot of lol moments in the dialog. Especially when Lynn goes on her rants! haha And yeah... I loved Cynthia! She had the best lines in this movie and was great, all in all. I agree that anyone looking for a good laugh (in a good way) should check this out.

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