Thursday, June 16, 2022

Census Bloodbath: Sure Is Dark In Here

Year: 1984
Director: Howard Heard
Cast: Elizabeth Trosper, William J. Kulzer, Shea Porter
Run Time: 1 hour 28 minutes

Plot: Local cop Morgan Cole (Shea Porter) and hotshot ringer Rydell King (William J. Kulzer) try to solve a series of murders of women who all go to the same college. Morgan's sister Judy (Elizabeth Trosper) is also being targeted by the killer. The most prominent suspect is Jimmy Scott (Kevin Costner, somehow), though Morgan suspects Judy's Black boyfriend Billy (Julius Metoyer) because he is an enormous racist.

Analysis: Shadows Run Black starts off at a deficit, because it's a police procedural slasher. Over the course of this project and the (holy shit) 240 slasher films I've watched before this, it has been extremely rare that a police-centered entry has risen above its peers, because they actively sideline the crop of victims and make it difficult to care about them when they are murdered.

This particular film doubles down on that angle by not viewing women as human beings. The sheer amount of unmotivated nudity in the film would be hilarious if it wasn't such an obvious symptom of this film's approach to female characters; ie. the first woman onscreen has so little dialogue I legitimately thought it was a plot point that she couldn't speak, until she says one or two lines in between a sex scene and a striptease in front of a broken car. It's also wildly racist, like Holy Shit racist. When Morgan breaks into Billy's house to beat him to a pulp for consensually kissing Judy, she offers the excuse "he didn't mean any harm, he was just trying to protect me." What the fuck, Judy?

Anyway, the movie is also bad for reasons that have nothing to do with its incredible lack of social justice capital. It's boring as fuck, shunting any and all kills offscreen. Save for one kinda OK gore gag of a meat cleaver bashing through a door into someone's face, there is nothing these kills have to offer other than the chance to watch naked women perform mundane tasks, usually in front of a stove. Not the first place I'd choose to be naked, but cheers to them.

If you don't have a prurient interest in the naked cis female form, this movie has literally nothing to offer. It at least lives up to its title in its frequently underlit sets. That's about the best I can say about the film, which is a boring, horny (borny?) slog. To sum up, the characters we get are evil cops, nameless personality-free naked women (we never even see the college they ostensibly go to), and Kevin Costner, who is in a combined 45 seconds of the film. It's not a thrilling prospect, no. I'm not even a big Costner fan!

Killer: Rydell King (William J. Kulzer)
Final Girl: Judy Cole (Elizabeth Trosper)
Best Kill: I wish I could just opt out, but I guess I'll go with the one where the lady gets stabbed right between the boobs, which at least has some Jess Franco bad taste zest to it.
Sign of the Times: The racism and misogyny in this movie aren't casual, they're full suit, tie, and tails.
Scariest Moment: A woman is setting the table and the killer can be glimpsed in the mirror behind her.
Weirdest Moment: A magician performs at a college-aged girl's birthday party while he is accompanied by a finger-plucked cello.
Champion Dialogue: "I was trying to scare you off your fat ass into getting a job."
Body Count: 7; not including two characters (Carol and Georgy, for the record) who I'm 99% certain are dead but whose deaths are never explicitly shown or implied onscreen.
    1. Hank is killed offscreen.
    2. Lee Faulker is strangled in the pool.
    3. Cheryl is stabbed between the boobs.
    4. Naked Lady #1 is strangled.
    5. Sandy is killed offscreen.
    6. Morgan is shot offscreen.
    7. Rydell is shot off a roof.
TL;DR: Shadows Run Black is a useless slasher unless you're very interested in naked breasts and can't just Google them.
Rating: 2/10
Word Count: 679

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