Fade to Black (1980)
Cast: Dennis Christopher, Mickey Rourke, Gwynne Gilford
Director: Vernon Zimmerman
Synopsis: Shades of Phibes and The Theatre of Blood and a pre-cursor to Scream and Se7en.
“promises to be sublime, turns gradually to ridiculous” Time Out
“a poor man’s Rear Window” Creature Features
“interesting idea ruined by excessive violence” Maltin’s
“a promising idea insufficiently realised” Splatter Movies
“good premise goes awry” Blockbuster Video
Looking back, this film seems like a precursor to Wes Craven’s Scream in that the central character certainly qualifies as a person who has taken his “love of horror movies one step too far.”
The film follows the humdrum life of studio errand boy Eric Binford – a life which he tries to escape from regularly by slipping into a dream world inhabited by the film characters he is so obsessed by, most of them horror movie characters.
Slowly he loses control and exacts revenge on those people he perceives as sabotaging his happiness. Revenge is chillingly carried out reenacting some of Binford’s favourite scenes to horrifying effect.
Fade to Black is a good idea with potential, as Scream demonstrated, but here the director Vernon Zimmerman allows the tension to slacken far too often resulting in a film with some effective set pieces rather than one where tension slowly builds up to a crescendo. The movie breathes the same air as Vincent Price’s superb Theatre of Blood, but Christopher, hard as though he tries, is no Price and the movie suffers with his difficulty in getting the audience to invest in or to sympathise with his character.
Fade to Black would be a far better candidate for a remake than many of the 80s horror movies being given a makeover these days. Maybe in the hands of a director with some visual flair and with better pacing, editing and some real edge, this could be a great horror movie but the way it is a the moment it misses the mark on a few levels. Mainly It’s way too languid with little or no tension nor any suspense or build-up to an effective climax which is a great shame as it promises so much.
Dennis Christopher, best remembered in the superb Breaking Away, does an earnest job as Binford and overall its a fair effort, but not scary or tense enough to truly make the grade alas.