Before Art but after Killer Klowns, there was Bobo, the clowned-mask slasher of the hyper-sexualized 80s film “Out of the Dark”.
A killer stalks erotic phone service operators. Let’s dig into 1988’s OUT OF THE DARK, directed by Michael Schroeder!
As I See It
This is a real throwback film for one very specific reason, and it’s not because it is a misogynistic slasher film from the eighties.
The premise is based on the murders of phone sex employees. Groups of women who gather in cubicles and use their dulcet tones to help lonely fellas feel like they’ve got some charisma for $4.99 a minute. Obviously, we’re talking pre-internet because the notion sounds preposterous nowadays.
This wasn’t the first wicked clown movie, the last, or the best.
With Damien Leone’s Terrifier franchise raking in some bloody bucks, we’re sure to see some more clowns pop up with a thirst for murder.
For the record, Killer Klowns from Outer Space will always be my favorite of the sub-genre, thanks to the absurdity of the Chiodo brothers.
Out of the Dark is not a good film. But it is far from unwatchable.
It’s worth checking out for the cast alone, which might be why I got a decent amount of enjoyment from such a locked-in-time feature.
Karen Black (Ruth) was in the horror anthology Trilogy of Terror and was the original Mother Firefly in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. She opted not to return for the follow-up, The Devil’s Rejects, and has since passed back in 2013.
The late, great Geoffrey Lewis (Dennis) was also in a Rob Zombie film, this time the aforementioned sequel to House, The Devil’s Rejects, as the leader of the country band Banjo & Sullivan, who falls victim to Otis and Baby. He had a storied career in various roles. Additionally, he is the father of the screen titan that is Juliette Lewis.
Tracey Walter (Lt. Frank Myers) has tons of bit parts and most notably may be recognized as Bob the Goon from Tim Burton’s Batman, Malak in Conan the Destroyer, and alongside Arnold and Miller in one of my favorite eighties action/comedy films, Repo Man.
Sticking with his genre roles Bud Cort (Stringer) was in Invaders from Mars, the made-for-TV movie Bates Motel, and Brain Dead.
Paul Bartel (Hotel Clerk) has a laundry list of parts in notable films. To name a few: Piranha, Rock N’ Roll High School, Chopping Mall, Caddyshack II, and Gremlins 2.
Lainie Kazan (Nancy) probably became most famous from her roles in the Greek Wedding films, but I will always know her as the neighbor Irene from Harry and the Hendersons.
Divine (Langella), director John Waters’s longtime feather ruffler and collaborator, was the star of the cult favorite Pink Flamingos and the musical Hairspray.
Of Gratuitous Nature
The sex scenes definitely cross over into Skinemax territory, and there is a lean toward… rougher loving. That, coupled with the office of moans and groans, makes for the misogynistic label that has been stamped on Out of the Dark.
Looking at the credits for the special effects, a name like Tony Gardner (Hocus Pocus, Evil Dead II) is not surprising. What I WAS surprised by was seeing the name, Chet Zar. For those not in the know, Zar was a makeup and special effects artist until around 2013, when I suppose he focused solely on art because I know him mainly as an artist. He’s absolutely brilliant and a must for any fan of dark art or horror.
Ripe for a Remake
Do phone sex lines still exist?
No progeny to report.
Where to Watch
Mill Creek released Out of the Dark on DVD though it has not been given a high-definition, physical release. You can rent it on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, YouTube, and Vudu.