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The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Shocking Dark

January 30, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Shocking Dark

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #495: Shocking Dark

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been part of a commando team sent into an underground bunker to rescue people and or attack aliens from outer space, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number four hundred and ninety-five, I take a look at the absolutely insane low budget Italian sci-fi action horror flick Shocking Dark, which hit movie screens back in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s (it really depends on where you lived).

Shocking Dark

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Shocking Dark, also known as Terminator 2, Alienators, Aliens 2, and Contaminator, is, as I said in the column intro, an absolutely insane low budget Italian sci-fi action horror flick. It’s the kind of movie that no one really tries to make in any sort of abundance anymore, which is a shame because, well, the world could use a little more regular low budget insanity. Directed by the legendary Bruno Mattei under the name Vincent Dawn, Shocking Dark rips off Aliens, The Terminator, and, to a lesser extent, The Green Slime. Shocking Dark is also a movie with a strong environmental message and an earnestness that makes it both cheesy and kind of endearing, in a way.

Shocking Dark stars Haven Taylor as Dr. Sara Drumbull, a scientist tasked with escorting a badass team of Marine commandos known as the Mega Force on a rescue mission into the polluted tunnels beneath Venice, Italy, in the far flung future of the year 2000. Venice is essentially a post-apocalyptic wasteland after aliens or mutants or some shit crash landed into the city and infected the entire city. The nefarious Tubular Corporation is concerned about the commando mission and send along the mysterious Samuel Fuller (Christopher Ahrens) as an observer. Now, the rescue mission is initiated because workers in the tunnels have started dying, but no one seems to know why they’re dying. Well, except for the people killed by a wacked out worker wielding a machine gun in the tunnels. That guy is freaking out because of something that he saw, experienced, and likely infected him while working down there. But what the heck infected him? Just what the heck is down in those tunnels?

So the commando team heads into the tunnels, with the jacked up Koster (Geretta Giancarlo Field, also known as Geretta Geretta) leading the way alongside Lt. Franzini (Tony Lombardo, real name Fausto Lombardi). When those two commandos and the others aren’t busting one another’s balls and engaging in hilariously racist dialogue, they’re sneaking around the tunnels. At first, nothing much happens as the tunnels are filled with smoke and fog and an eerie calm. But then bad shit starts happening, and quickly it becomes all about survival. There are monsters down there.

Monsters? What kind of monsters? Well, they’re either aliens, mutants, alien mutants, or some combination of those (and maybe others). They have tentacles, teeth, are covered in slime, and are deadly as fuck if they get close to you. On the good side of things, they go down pretty easily via shotgun blast. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know how many monsters are down in the tunnels. Dr. Drumbull and her commandos can sort of track them via a remote thing, but, the reality is it’s all a crapshoot.

So the commandos take on the monsters and the one guy with the machine gun. A bunch of people die, a bunch of monsters die, and a young survivor reveals herself to the remaining commandos. A girl named Samantha (Dominica Coulson) shows up, and Dr. Drumbull takes her under her wing. At the same time, the mysterious Fuller starts to reveal a little more about what the heck is really going on. I’m not even going to attempt to explain, in any sort of detail, what the hell is actually happening, as I’m not entirely sure I know, specifically, what’s really going on. The only thing I’m sure of is that the Tubular Corporation is up to no good, and the company is either directly responsible for what happened to Venice, or it’s just trying to capitalize on what’s happened to the city.

And so more mayhem ensues, more commandos and monsters die, and Fuller eventually shows everyone still left standing who he really is. And it’s at that point the movie starts ripping off The Terminator. If you’ve seen the trailer for Shocking Dark, you have a good idea of what I’m talking about.

The biggest issue with Shocking Dark, besides its weird story, is its glacial pace. Shocking Dark takes its sweet ass time getting to where it wants to go. Yes, director Mattei is trying to establish a mood and there’s plenty of atmosphere to be had in the real nuclear facility that the production used to film in, but because the movie is so blatantly ripping off Aliens, do we really need all of this “character development?” We know who these people are. We don’t need to waste so much time with scenes of these people yelling at one another. Yes, the bits where Koster and Franzini are funny the first two times we see them, but do we really need more than that? Not really. Now, it’s likely that Mattei didn’t have the necessary budget to make a balls to the wall extravaganza and that he had to pad out certain scenes in order to get the running time he needed to sell the movie, but, still, some of these scenes are just a chore to sit through.

And then there’s the convoluted script. As we find out in the interview with writers Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi on the Severin Films DVD release, they needed to write a movie that had direct elements of The Terminator and, to a lesser extent, Aliens in it, as the producers planned on selling the movie as a kind of sequel to both of those movies (well, an Italian sequel to those movies. Shocking Dark was never an official sequel to anything). Combining the best elements from those two movies into one coherent story was always going to be a difficult task, and with a small budget, there was no way in hell Mattei was going to be able to match the actual spectacle from either one of those movies. So, in a way, the movie’s story was doomed from the beginning. At the same time, though, despite those two issues (and some truly awful acting and line reading), Shocking Dark has an energy to it that makes you want to keep watching. Everyone involved in the movie seems to be giving their all, and even though you know they have no hope of succeeding, you still end up rooting for them to do so. You want to see where the hell this thing is going to go and if, in the end, it’s going to somehow make a lick of sense. It might happen.

It doesn’t. But, again, it’s just entertaining enough, just weird enough, to make you keep watching. I don’t know if I can say that Shocking Dark works, but, man, it exists and it’s trying its hardest to be, maybe, good. Again, you want to root for it. It’s why you’re going to keep watching. That’s what happened to me.

Now, I think Shocking Dark definitely would have been more successful if it had stuck to ripping off only one movie, either The Terminator or Aliens. A low budget Italian sci-fi movie about a killer cyborg (or army of cyborgs) in a contaminated Venice? Fuck yeah I’d watch that. The same goes for a movie solely about aliens. Or mutants. But all of them? Maybe work on the script a little more, hammer out the details, and somehow find more money to make the actual movie. Spectacle can’t hurt a movie like Shocking Dark, it can only help it.

Some of the special effects are pretty good, while some of them are, at best, mediocre. Some of the alien monsters are kind of scary and look good, while others look cheap as hell. The tentacles that show up every so often always look ridiculous. The cyborg make-up works from a distance, but up close it looks terrible. In fact, it looks like badly melted plastic that’s been glued to a guy’s face. And it looks gross, but not gross in a good way.

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Haven Tyler, in her only movie to date, does a good job as Dr. Drumbull. She’s a little stiff sometimes when she has to do staid dialogue with other actors, but when she’s on the run she’s a champ. I’d like to know why this is the only movie she’s ever been in. She has legitimate star quality and probably could have had a big career in genre movies. Why did she quit?

Christopher Ahrens does an okay job as Samuel Fuller, the Tubular Corporation agent who is not quite what he seems. If he had been a hulking brute throughout the movie his performance would be classic, but he’s actually pretty good at the end of the movie. At the beginning of the movie, though, and through the middle of it, he’s just a guy who sort of knows his lines and that’s about it.
Geretta Geretta is hilarious as Koster. She’s so over the top and intense that there are times where you think she’s going to jump out of the screen and start screaming into your face. The movie could have used more of her. And Tony Lombardo, as Lt. Franzini, provides a good foil for Koster. He lasts longer than Koster. That shouldn’t have happened.

None of the other actors really stand out. Everyone else delivers their lines with endless excitement, even if there’s nothing actually exciting happening. At least they all look kind of cool in their weird as hell costumes.

Shocking Dark ends on a warning about the environment and pollution. Basically, the movie is telling the world to take environmental degradation seriously and that there’s still time to change things for the better. It’s debatable that the audience will internalize that message when the movie is over, though. The movie’s message is obvious. It hits the audience over the head with it. But the audience’s ability to retain it is in serious question because of the insane time travel plot that ends the movie. Because, really, where the hell did all of that come from?

So, should you partake in Shocking Dark? If you’re a mega fan of low budget Italian genre movies from the 1980’s, absolutely. Shocking Dark, even if it isn’t very good, is what you live for. Everyone else, your mileage may vary. If you’re willing to give a weird as hell movie a chance, I can recommend Shocking Dark. If your tolerance for weirdness is low, though, you should probably skip it. You won’t enjoy it on any level.

So, if you’re a fan of low budget Italian flicks from the 1980’s, see Shocking Dark. See it, see it, see it. Everyone else? Beware.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Around 20.

Explosions: Several.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A toxic cloud, junk, men running for their lives, multiple alien mutant monsters, multiple instances of people being choked to death, locker room banter, ass slapping, sniper hooey, machine gun hooey, an ear piercing scream, multiple gross as fuck alien cocoons and webbing, alien hand hooey, a severed bloody alien hand, exploding alien head, a handheld tracker device, hand biting, bullshit about a research project on genetic mutation, multiple people thrown to their death, a power outage, more body throwing, explosions, a giant arm growth, a good luck charm, fire alarm hooey, multiple videos that attempt to explain things, a stockholder video, face kicking, a shotgun blast to the gut that ends up being barely a flesh wound, electrocution, yelling, steam to the face, fire extinguisher foam to the face, a seriously high fall where it looks like the head comes off the dummy, a self-destruct mechanism, time machine bullshit, remote control car hooey, face slashing, and a confusing but heartfelt ending.

Kim Richards?: Attempted, multiple times.

Gratuitous: Stock footage of Venice, talk of war in Ankara, corporate malfeasance, a guy fucking around with nunchucks, shotguns, talk of blowing of titties, blatant ball busting racism, aliens that are sometimes scary looking and sometimes not scary looking at all, a leather jacket used as a blanket, a picture of Venice before the disaster, a door sign that says “711,” a long slide, “Where are you?,” time travel bullshit, an environmental message, and blatant copying of both Aliens and The Terminator.

Best lines: “What’s going on here?,” “I wonder why they didn’t answer our SOS?,” “Oh, Drake, it’s you. Yeah, it’s me,” “All right, you bunch of pussies! I’m back and I’m kicking ass!,” “If I had known any wops were coming I would have brought my anti-grease spray!,” “Hey, grease ball! What? Thanks. Go fuck yourself,” “Crazy. What does he want to do, get himself killed?,” “Now I can see, now I can kill you easily!,” “Who are you? Why did you shoot at us?,” “Kill me. Please kill me,” “There. Now we’re safe,” “What is this? Mutiny?,” “I’m picking up a life form!,” “Shit! She sure can run fast!,” “You’re not gonna strip, are you?,” “Wait, I don’t get it. We’re going to turn into something weird?,” “I repeat! Come back immediately!,” “Hurry, for Christ’s sake! Hurry!,” “Either you come with us or I blow your head off!,” “Everything started here, I’m sure of it!,” “You bastards! You were the ones that poisoned Venice!,” “He’s a machine, too!,” “And now it’s your turn!,” “This is the end of the line?,” “We’re gonna die. We’re both gonna die,” “End of the line,” and “We’ve got a lot of work to do, before it’s too late for everyone.”

Rating: 6.0/10.0

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Willow: This is a classic fantasy movie from director Ron Howard. I watched the shit out of this back when it first debuted on HBO. Warwick Davis stars as Willow, the dwarf magician that teams up with a hilariously douchey Val Kilmer to in order to keep a baby safe from a malevolent queen. The General Kael character, played by Pat Roach, was so badass, with his gnarly looking sword and helmet with a human skull face. I don’t know if this particular release has any special features on it, but I’d imagine that, special features or no special features, Willow fans will want this release. Well, you know, if they don’t already have the movie on some form of viable home video already.

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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

Shocking Dark

Haven Tyler– Dr. Sara Drumbull
Christopher Ahrens– Samuel Fuller
Geretta Geretta (as Geretta Giancarlo Field)- Koster
Fausto Lombardi (as Tom Lombardo)– Lt. Franzini
Mark Steinborn– Captain Dalton Bond
Dominica Coulson– Samantha Raphelson
Clive Riche– Drake
Paul Norman Allen– Kowalsky
Cortland Reilly– Caine
Richard Ross– Price
Bruce McFarland– Colonel Parson

Directed by Bruno Mattei (as Vincent Dawn)
Screenplay by Claudio Fragasso (as Clayde Anderson) and Rosella Drudi (uncredited)

Distributed by Severin Films

Not rated
Runtime– 90 minutes

Buy it here


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