Dark And Stormy Night
Director: Larry Blamire
Cast: Daniel Roebuck, Jennifer Blaire, Dan Conroy, James Karen
Review by Brian M. Sammons
A few years back, writer, director Larry Blamire and his friends made a very independent movie with the memorable name of The Lost Skeleton Of Cadavra. It was a cinematic love letter to the classic, if a bit schlocky, sci-fi movies of the 1950s. It wasn’t exactly a spoof or a parody, as everyone involved loved the movies they were poking fun at too much to be mean spirited, but the movie was nonetheless a very funny throwback to a bygone era and genre.
Next on Mr. Balmire’s hit parade was his take on the Old Dark House movies of the 1920s & 30s. That movie is this movie, and it’s aptly called Dark And Stormy Night. Just like Lost Skeleton, it is an accurate send up of the source material, both fun and very funny, yet once again you can feel the love the filmmaker has for those forgotten movies of yesteryear. Furthermore for a low budget film, the quality is very top notch. The writing is witty and sharp, the actors play their parts remarkably well, deliver sharp, quick dialog flawlessly, and have real comic timing, and as for the direction, Larry Balmire shows his skill by blending the cinematic style of the 1930s with modern sensibilities.
Oh, could it be that you don’t know what an Old Dark House movie is? Well then, let me explain. These types of movies started a little before the roaring 20s, and lasted until the rocking 50s, but their heyday was the 1920s through the 1930s. The typical Old Dark House movie had a group of people arriving at a creepy looking house, usually a large house like a mansion so there was plenty of room for mayhem. Once there everyone would have to spend the night for some reason and during that usually unexpected sleepover bad things like murder would take place. Sometimes there was a supernatural element, but often the one doing the killing was human, and then the culprit usually wore a mask so that their identity would not be revealed until the end of the movie so as to keep the audience guessing at who was the coldblooded fiend. In a way, Old Dark House movies were sort of protoslashers, the masked maniac gore flicks that would become a staple of the horror genre in the late 70s and 80s.
In this movie, filmed in glorious black and white, a group of strange and mysterious persons gather at a thoroughly strange and mysterious estate during the appropriately dark and stormy night to hear the will of the recently deceased Sinas Cavinder. Naturally this takes place on the very night that Sinas said he would return from the grave, which also happens to be on the night a long dead witch’s curse is meant to take place, that is if the Cavinder strangler, who’s been killing woman for years, doesn’t strike first, or the maniac who just that night escaped from the local asylum for the criminally uninhibited. And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, a hooded, robed, and gloved killer calling himself (or perhaps herself) the Phantom of Cavinder starts bumping off the guests one by one. To give anything more about this movie away would be criminal, and might get the Phantom coming after me, so I’ll just have to leave you wanting more. Trust me, if you like the funny, you will want more of this.
This DVD from Shout! Factory comes with a nice collection of special features. There’s an informative and entertaining cast and crew commentary, a behind the scenes “making of” featurette, a gag real, and a nice surprise; the entire movie in color, but honestly, black and white is the only way to watch this gem.
Normally here is where I would say something like, “If you’re a fan of the Old Dark House films then you must get this movie”. However in this case I’m not going to qualify the recommendation. Instead consider this a general recommendation for anyone who likes to laugh, so chances are good that means you.