JUDGED BY THE COVER – “The Dark” (1979)

With “Judged by the Cover” I take a look at some VHS boxes of movies I’ve never seen — and most likely never will — and try and summarize what I think they’re about, merely by their box. This week, I look at: The Dark (1979)


When night movies in…terror walks alone. Not sure what that means exactly. I get that it’s supposed to be, y’know, ‘spooky’, but it’s more confusing than anything. Are they implying that, in the daytime, terror walk in pairs?

Another confusing bit of text: Only DeRenzy with her supernatural powers can see these grisly attacks in her visions. So only she can see the killings? Like, no one else can see the murderer or the victims? Or these crimes are figments of her imagination? I’m only joking, of course. I get it: they’re saying that she can see the crimes before they happen (at least, that’s what I think they’re trying to say.) Still: who is DeRenzy? A cop, a detective? Some random glue-sniffer? Also, they don’t even say that DeRenzy is the only person who can stop the monster — they only say she has visions of the killings. They end the text by asking, “Who can destroy this desperate creature?”

Also: the killer is an alien! At least, that’s what the tag line (A Chilling Tale of Alien Terror) and cover image would lead me to believe. Perhaps this fact is instantly obvious in the movie, but considering they simply refer to the killer as “The Mangler” on the back cover, wouldn’t it be more fun to leave the whole alien angle a surprise until someone actually watches it? Then again, when this is your movie I guess selling every bit of it before anyone sees it is really the only way to get anyone to watch it.

As with a lot of old fright flicks, the cover art is beautifully done. I like the silhouette of the city against the letters; I wish they would have used it on the cover as well to help remind the possible video renter that the movie takes place in a city.

In summation: The Mangler is a 10,000-foot tall monster who incinerates the city and its inhabitants with lasers from his eye. These lasers also act as a tractor beam, apparent by the figures suspended in midair. The only way to stop him? Who knows! DeRenzy, the nondescript nobody with useless psychic powers, she sure can’t. I love the ideas and the imagery, but I highly doubt anything that was described actually occurs in the movie.

Would I watch it? Hell yes I’d watch it! I wanna see if the box was tricking us all along, and if DeRenzy actually saves the day with her supernatural psychokinetic powers!

Read the actual synopsis here!

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