19 May 2009

Dark Tower

United States - 1987
Director- Ken Barnett
Video Treasures, 1994, VHS
Run time - 1 hour, 31 min.

I personally believe that it is a bad idea to try and push anything other than the plot of the film at hand on the box itself. The obvious deduction when you see a video sleeve with claims like “in the tradition of…” is to think the film can’t stand on its own merit. When it’s an indie movie, like Dark Tower, it might also be a bad move to call out all the actors and their previous roles, in a bulleted list no less, to try and generate interest in the film. In short, any attempt to play up the quality of a film by invoking other films is a bad idea. But, for all I know, that was the only thing the marketing team though they had going for them.

Carolyn Page (Jenny Agutter) gives a bunch of fellows a tour of a skyscraper under construction and then retires to her office to undress and walk around in some underwear. A window washer catching an eyeful cranes his neck to get a better look but when she sees him he suddenly starts getting jerked around by an unseen force, his head bashed against the window and finally hurled over the side of his pulley falling like a giant bird poo to splatter on top of one of the guys who was just getting the tour. This says less I think about the fall, than the woman’s full closet nightie setup in her office, in an otherwise totally unfinished building.

Dennis Randall (Michael Moriarty, The Stuff, Hanoi Hilton) is called in as a head of security or something, to give the film a procedural feel and sporadically squeeze out his lines with a manic yell. Randall also has numerous waking psychic episodes in which he visualizes himself raping Carolyn while some guy in a shabby suit watches. He also appears to be sleeping with her while he has these visions, but the films producers deemed this paradox beneath clarification. That evening a security guard is menaced by a malfunctioning fluorescent light fixture and some spooky music. The whole thing is like a primitive god concept, in which a little understood phenomenon, mechanical failure in this case, is explained by the irrational invention of a supernatural controlling force. Hence the evil elevator, which drops at terminal velocity to splatter the security guard, but remains functional for the rest of the film to perform the same trick ad nauseum with the same boring static shot. Nobody calls a repairman, it’s just taken for granted that it's an evil spirit.

Instead, Randall hires a "French" paranormal-psychologist to bring still more verbal diarrhea to this buffet of talent. The shrink, Kevin McCarthy (My Tutor and Innerspace among other gems) gets drunk and tells everyone they are stupid. Advice for the ages to be sure, but perhaps better received prior to signing a contract to be in this film. In any case all three of the boys team up to tackle the building's poltergeist, dragging a snarky Carolyn along for laughs. Soon confronted by some wind and noises, everyone becomes overwhelmed by the awesome vapidity of the film. Randall becomes possessed by said spirit, apparently Carolyn’s dead husband, and barks out the whole back-story like a steaming hairball into Carolyn’s lap. Inexplicably he becomes a cheap rubber zombie and chases Carolyn around the building, grabs her and magically re-seals them both back into the broken concrete piling of the buildings foundation before reappearing moments later as Moriarty, apparently at peace with the whole ridiculous poltergeist-zombie-transmogrification thing. Well, that’s faith for you. Amen.

IMDB claims that this was directed by Freddie Francis who was later replaced by Ken Wiederhorn (
Return of the Living Dead II, Shockwaves), the former seems ridiculous because he's a multiple Oscar winner, but the second sounds more feasible simply because this is his caliber of film

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