Out of the Dark

Out of the Dark (1988) *****  Generic title notwithstanding, Out of the Dark is a genuine gem from the heyday of the late night cable erotic thriller.  Bobo, a serial killer in a clown mask, is stalking and murdering beautiful phone sex workers, and a handsome photographer (Cameron Dye) finds himself the number one suspect after a sultry photo shoot with one of Bobo’s victims.  His phone sex cutie girlfriend (Lynn Danielson) stands by his side, but a hardboiled and cynical L.A. detective (Tracey Walter) is determined to nail him as the culprit.  Distinguishing Out of the Dark from some of its peers is its wicked sense of humor and ultrastylish sensibility.  This movie even makes Tracey Walter look like the world’s coolest dude as he’s getting out of his car in slow motion.  Greatly enhancing Out of the Dark, too, is the fine cast of character actors, with Bud Cort, Karen Black, Divine, Starr Andreeff, and Paul Bartel all in fine form in smaller roles.  Recommended to those who wish Basic Instinct had been funnier, but not quite as dumb as its parody Fatal Instinct.

Clownhouse

Clownhouse (1989) ****1/2  The story of what transpired behind the scenes during the filming of Victor Salva’s Clownhouse is widely known and has resulted in its forever being tainted and relegated to out-of-print movie ignominy.  Politically incorrect as it is to concede, however, this film, which was effectively creepy when first unleashed on adolescents more than two decades ago, is actually amplified in its power to unsettle them as adults and is arguably – albeit unintentionally – a stronger chiller in retrospect for its unsavory intermingling of art and reality.  A horror film within a horror film, Clownhouse frequently gives indications of being an exercise in perversion for Salva, whose story luridly focuses on the psychological torture of a boy (Nathan Forrest Winters) who is terrified – and with good reason, as it turns out – by clowns because, as he puts it with tears in his eyes, “You never know who they really are.”  Indeed.

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