Sunday, June 27, 2021

Shadows in the Dark (1989)

Directed by:
Bruce Seven

Diana (Tianna Collins) suffers from both massive debt, which forces her to work late nights at a sleazy, smoky strip club, and erotic "nightmares" featuring a dark and mysterious man, which are so involving she has a hard time waking up from them. "It just isn't fair. It just isn't FUCKING fair!" she shouts after hopping out of bed and rushing off to work, late again. At her club - Seventh Veil - a totally nude strip joint, the dancers are all miserable, depressed and desperate for cash. The clientele is creepy, business is slow, the tips suck ("I can make more money out on the streets!") and the asshole owner (Ed Powers) refers to them as "bimbos," "lazy sluts" and other charming names. At this particular club the girls not only dance but they also do live sex acts that include solos, girl-girl and girl-girl-girl, and usually incorporate different toys into the act like, uh, feather dusters (!?) Sometimes they even yank one of the male customers up on stage and do them right in front of the rest of the audience. Not that there IS very much of an audience at this place.

Backstage in the dressing room, Diana and fellow dancers Laura (Victoria Paris) and Staci (Bionca), congregate to bitch about their lives. Diana moans, "If I don't come up with any money by Friday, I might as well commit suicide!" But someone is listening... and it's the same man from her dreams. He - Luthor (Randy Spears) - also happens to be a supernatural, blood-drinking being with ill-fitting vampire fangs who preys upon women from the lower rungs of society he senses have given up the will to live. He's already bitten Staci on the arm when she went to serve him a drink but he's really interested in Diana because he believes she's tired of her "puny existence."

So I should probably just stop right here to let you know that this is an uncredited remake / rip-off of Katt Shea's little-seen gem DANCE OF THE DAMNED (1989), which may seem like the most random thing in the world for pornographers to copy unless you've actually seen Shea's film and then it makes perfect sense. The low-budget Dance is a talky, very set-bound production with a small cast, minimal special effects and location changes and mostly revolves around just two characters: a stripper and a vampire. That all potentially makes it something that would translate over to a shot-on-video, zero budget hardcore film fairly well. However, while Dance is well-acted, well-written and directed, multi-layered, mature and thoughtful, this one has terrible acting, extracted small patches of the Dance dialogue repeated verbatim (and not delivered nearly as well) and the first hour is almost exclusively dedicated to sex, stripper and sex-while-stripping scenes.

In Dance, the vampire reveals himself to be an immortal separate species of creature that isn't harmed by prayer, crucifixes or other religious artifacts. Only the death-by-sunlight mythology has been retained from your usual vampire lore. Here, the vampire is also a separate species of creature who laughs when a cross is thrust in his face but also can be killed by sunlight. In both films, the vampire lurks around a strip club looking for dinner and the potential victim he finds is at a low point in her life and contemplating suicide. In both films, the vampire has had it with his tired, lonely existence and is simultaneously wanting to connect with another living being and wanting to end it all. In both films, the vampire insists the stripper explain to him what sunlight feels like. And, in both films, the vampire explains his origins, how his family was murdered centuries earlier, how he ended up buried alive in the Earth for years and how he was left alone in the world to fend for himself on the fringes of society, mostly sustaining himself on animal blood.

In order to somewhat disguise the endless borrowings (which they don't do a very good job of), this film also makes "Luthor" an alien who, along with his family, fled their hostile planet centuries earlier when another alien species attacked them. They then crash landed on Earth and  he's been here ever since. Aside from that, he's basically just your run of the mill vampire. Since purchasing a can of black paint and a couple of pieces of wood or drywall likely exceeded both the talent and budget level for this, the strip club walls have what appear to be cut up and flattened trash bags or tarps taped to them.

The cast is rounded out by the overexposed, can't-miss-'em-even-if-you-wanted-to duo of Randy West (playing an obnoxious sleazeball) and a mulleted Tom Byron (whose sex scene is with an apparently one-time-only performer who calls herself "Cherri Bush"). Speaking of overexposed, 1989 was also the debut year for both Tianna and Paris, who went on to appear in over 40 adult features apiece this year alone. The script is credited to Mark Arnold, which is the first and middle birth name of Powers, though he appears on the cast list twice using both names.

Though this is now available on many adult streaming sites, the only legit home video release I'm aware of is the 1989 VHS distributed by 4 Play Video. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a picture of the VHS box anywhere. The one currently being used for this has no title and pictures of actresses not even in the movie, along with a photo of a Hannibal Lechter knock-off! (By the way, if you know where I can find an original VHS box or poster scan, please feel free to shoot me a message.)

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