One Dark Night, 1982 supernatural horror movie

horror movie - One Dark Night, 1982Horror themes: Mausoelums, spending the night in a scary place, teen pranks, corpses, telekinesis, ESP
Verdict: 6.5/10… One of the better supernatural horror movies from the early 80s

As I write this, I have just popped in my freshly acquired DVD of One Dark Night, released back in 1982. On one hand, I am excited and expecting a real treat in genuinely atmospheric, creepy horror; but on the other hand, I’m wondering whether a movie that’s rated PG can really be scary. We’re talking PG here – not even PG-13.

Soon after I started researching One Dark Night, I got some reassurance from (see References section below) :

Never has a PG-rated, low-budget horror film successfully created a sense of impending doom and terror as One Dark Night did. . . Don’t let the PG rating fool you, either – this movie is scarier and more effective than the plentiful R-rated gore fests released around the same time.

horror movie - One Dark Night, 1982Nice. Also, I was soon reminded that at the time this movie was rated, there was no such thing as PG-13.I decided to perform a search for horror movies that carry a PG rating to see if anything truly terrifying were listed. Perhaps this will be the subject a future blog post, but for now I will name a few decent supernatural horror movies that are rated either PG or PG-13:
horror movie - One Dark Night, 1982

  1. The Legend of Hell House, 1973
  2. Solstice, 2008
  3. Storm of the Century, 1999 IMDb (Rating: 72)
  4. The Sight
  5. When a Stranger Calls (2006 remake)
  6. White Noise 2
  7. Watcher in the Woods (1980)
  8. Salem’s Lot
  9. Something Wicked This Way Comes

One Dark Night on

DVD cover

A short review on the DVD cover reads: “…spooky horror outing aimed at teen audiences…” This is another concern, albeit a minor one. Can this movie really be scary? Of course, being a very well-seasoned horror fan, there is not much that really scares me anymore; but relatively speaking, how scary can One Dark Night be? Back to the DVD cover:

World-famous psychic Raymar is found dead – along with several victims of his bizarre experiments. On the same day his body is interred in a mausoleum, high-schooler Julie Wells (Meg Tilly) agrees to spend the night there all alone–as part of a hazing to join the clique, The Sisters (Robin Evans, Elizabeth Daily, Leslie Speights). Later that night, the Sisters secretly return to torment Julie in an attempt to scare her out of her mind. But the girls are not alone. Raymar’s experiments continue even after death–on his own body and on the dozen resident corpses in various stages of decay. Soon they’re exhumed and looking for fresh bodies.

One Dark Night haunts audiences’ psyches with its claustrophobic setting, moody cinematography, foreboding score, and ultra-realistic makeup effects.

Brief plot summary: One Dark Night

A strange man named Karl Rhamarevich dies shortly after discovering a way to become even more powerful in death through telekinesis. On the night of his burial in a mausoleum crypt, Julie Wells (Meg Tilly) is to spend the night there as part of an initiation rite, supervised by two other girls. The mausolem becomes a scene of horror as Raymar returns to life and deploys his powerful and horrifying telekinetic abilities, forcing long-closed crypts to break open, sending coffins sliding out on Raymar’s command. The coffins splinter open, releasing decaying bodies – which soon begin to menace those girls trapped inside. Will they survive the horrific night in the mausoleum? (Source: IMDb)

Watching One Dark Night

The first minute of One Dark Night – while the opening credits are rolling – has all the makings of a wonderful creepfest! It’s a dark and stormy night, with lots of lightning and thunder, accompanied with eerie background music which consists mostly of a very low note on a synthesizer.

After the opening, we are at a major crime scene where we see a pile of dead women with their eyes still open, and dead psychic Raymar whose body apparently still contains some pent-up energy.

Soon we meet the main cast, the group of teens, which conforms closely to one of the standard horror movie recipes: a good girl, a funny one, the slut, and the jock boyfriend. We also have the persistent reporter.

Oh, what memories! Near the beginning of the movie, the teens are at a video arcade, and some of the video games I used to spend so much money on were shown close-up. Two notable games shown are, I believe, Defender and Tempest. Retro-gaming.

The second half of One Dark Night takes place in a mausoleum, which ranks in my book as one of the creepiest settings for a movie. There are not many horror movies featuring mausoleums, at least that I can think of right off the bat.

This brings the question to mind: Who in hell would want to decay above ground in a mausoleum? Maybe these are fundamentalists who believe their bodies will be resurrected when the trumpets sound; or perhaps there are uber-wealthy people who believe themselves too good to rot in the ground like everyone else. Why on earth someone would insist on taking up space above the ground after they die is beyond me. As for me, please use no chemicals and bury me au natural in a simple pine box – or better yet, just cremate me. In all honestly, I want my body to return to the earth and be a part of everything else ASAP. I digress.

The creepiness begins when the girls drop off our homely heroine at the mausoleum, basically forcing her to spend the night there as an initiation rite into their little club of cool. (I cannot help but wonder if it would be considered cheating, to take in a couple of strong sleeping pills? That would be me!) She enters the mausoleum, with all its large drawers, with some trepidation, clutching her red sleeping bag. At first, the building is well-lit. Curious, she explores a bit, reading some of the plaques.

Julie finds a place to settle down and sits on her sleeping bag, leaning against a wall with no corpse drawers; however, she gets bored quickly and goes exploring.

People, this girl is far braver than I. Would I spend the night in a mausoleum? The only scenario that might include my bunking in such close quarters with corpses would necessarily include the transfer of a large sum of money into my bank account. Plus, I would smuggle in and quickly consume two or more Ambien (or something stronger).

The Sisters of Cool are in the car arguing about the hazing situation when it is revealed that Sisters leader Carol (the blond bitchy one) gave Julie a pill earlier, which Carol says was Demerol. Good enough!

The movie flips between Julie at the mausoleum, the Sisters of Cool, jock Steve (who is genuinely concerned for Julie’s safety, and is not happy with the Sisters and their pranks), and Raymar’s own sister, who is staying up late doing some research into her brother’s experiments – listening to his tapes and such.

The Sisters of Cool head back to the mausoleum with the intention of scaring poor Julie to death; after all, they – especially the blond ice bitch – have no intention of actually letting Julie into their pathetic little club, no matter what. They have a sheet and a rubber mask with which to do some frightening, which they do; they sneak into the mausoleum, find Julie asleep (passed out, more like), and start terrorizing her. But the Sisters do not have the last laugh. . .

Steve finally finds out from the abandoned Sister that Julie is indeed at the mausoleum, so he goes to the rescue.

At this point some truly horrifying things happen to the girls in the mausoleum. For example, a casket slowly slides out of its mausoleum drawer all by itself and then the casket opens to reveal the moist, rotting body of an older man. The eyes of the corpse open, and the girls find it in them at this point to run to another part of the building, where the same thing happens with other caskets and bodies, in varying states of mortification and putrefaction. It is damn scary to see the corpses being dragged by an unseen force – a force supplied by dead Raymar – into the faces of the terrified girls.

Suddenly, I vaguely remembered seeing One Dark Night when I was around 20, and that this movie did a decent job of giving me the creeps back then. (It probably wouldn’t now; this would require something stronger, like Grave Encounters (2011), The Reeds (2009), The Grudge (2005), or perhaps some new supernatural horror from Asia.)

One Dark Night: Morsels of wisdom

Made in the fall of 1982 for a mere $1 million and taking less than a month to film, One Dark Night became a surprise international hit upon its theatrical release.

One Dark Night was nominated for Best Horror Film of 1983 by the Academy of Science Fiction.

IMHO, the most attractive girl in One Dark Night is the young Meg Tilly; however, those who tend to favor blondes will almost surely vote for Elizabeth Daily.

Thoughts about One Dark Night

This is a wonderfully creepy horror movie, and it manages to deliver real scares without excessive gore, sex, any skin at all, very little gutter language, etc. In fact, One Dark Night relies only upon effective storytelling, a creepy atmosphere, supernatural occurrences, and some good corpse special effects (especially for the early 80s) to deliver chills. In other words, there is no cheating or relying on phony props – and this is a huge plus. So many horror movies of today utterly fail to scare on their own merits and rely on nudity, gore, or taboo-breaking to gain some level of viewer approval, and that is truly unfortunate.

In fact, one of the primary missions of my new supernatural horror movie website is to cull the truly scary gems from all those movies that rely on any of the aforementioned crutches to deliver “scares.”

I highly recommend One Dark Night to all but the most jaded horror fans. This movie should be suitable for most audiences, given its age, its rating, and its being relatively free of potentially offensive language, imagery, and even teen behavior – all of which are benign by modern standards. The creep factor, however, is not benign; it’s fairly effective, especially for its time. Enjoy!

Resources: One Dark Night, 1982

Orinigally written Saturday, March 21, 2009