Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fade to Black (1980)

Seen: On my laptop, originally rented from Scarecrow Video in Seattle.

For the life of me I can't remember where I first read about Fade to Black- I was convinced it was House of Self-Indulgence but can't find it in their archives. So if you're out there, Fade to Black blog post that I read that one time, just want to say "Thanks" and "Sorry I didn't link to you!" Written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman, the film is a seedy slasher that speaks to the movie-loving obsessive within me and probably a lot of you, but with more homicide than most of us are likely to engage in. Eric Binford (Dennis Christopher) is a quiet, socially awkward twentysomething who lives with a bitter, wheelchair-bound "aunt" (Eve Brent) in L.A. and toils away at a film distribution company (I think, I couldn't actually tell what kind of film-related thing they did actually). He spends all of his spare time watching movies and devouring film trivia, and longs to be with Marilyn Monroe. When he meets a nice struggling actress (Linda Kerridge) who happens to look almost exactly like Monroe, he thinks his dreams will come true, but she stands him up for a date and something snaps inside of him. To unleash vengeance upon all those he feels have done him wrong, Eric dresses up as different film characters and acts out murderous scenes.

Though low budget as hell and clearly meant to be just an over the top slasher, what I really appreciated about Fade to Black was how it didn't rely on its gimmick. It is definitely gimmicky, I mean that's the whole reason I was interested in it, but I ended up truly caring what happened to these characters, especially Eric. The script takes care to build up the story for a while, gradually shaping this protagonist villain before opening up the floor to bloody movie reenactments. Dennis Christopher is excellent in the role, intense and strange and as scary as he is sympathetic. Plus he dresses kind of like a schlubby Elvis Costello, which I dug. The b-plot with Tim Thomerson is weaker, but at least slightly entertaining with Thomerson spewing psychobabble and snorting crack while he tries to get the cops to not shoot kids who are apparently just the product of violent images in the media. Or something?

It's funny and kooky, and hell yes I loved the overriding film obsession, though I haven't even seen several of the films he references. It was kind of fascinating to watch someone wholly give in to his hobby, twisted as the results are. The visuals are cool, with impressive costume/make-up work for Eric and Marilyn's different guises, and nice editing that cuts between movie footage and Eric's actions to sort of show how fragmented his perception is. Also there's a baby Mickey Rourke as one of Eric's jerk coworkers! And I think one of the Warriors is his buddy but imdb seems to think otherwise. I know it's not necessarily a "good" movie overall, but it is certainly memorable, interesting, and well-acted- a darkly comedic slasher comedy that I'm surprised I took kind of seriously. Fun stuff.


Pair This Movie With: I think this might be a good double feature with something like Brainscan, which has a troubled outsider who's obsessed with horror movies unwittingly killing people because of an evil video game.

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