This post is a part of our New Voices Section.

Written by Julia Marchese.

Released in 1980, Fade to Black is a fantastic and under seen horror film with a killer premise. Directed by Vernon Zimmerman and starring one of my favorites, Dennis Christopher, as Eric Binford. Eric is a shy young man living with his shrewish, wheel chair bound aunt in a cramped Venice apartment. She hovers over him and criticizes his every move. Things aren’t much better at work, where both his co-workers and boss love to yell at him.

Eric’s only escape is film.

In an era long before streaming, or even home VCR’s, Eric watches his films on his OG 16mm projector in his darkened bedroom, covered floor to ceiling with pictures of Hollywood movie stars. Eric’s movie obsession is all consuming – even his thoughts are intercut with scenes from classic films – and he can’t seem to stop lapsing into impressions of Cary Grant or Jimmy Cagney. Soon he is pushed too far and his line between fantasy and reality snaps –  he begins dressing like the film characters he so adores – in order to kill those who have mocked him.

Dennis Christopher gives a haunting, go for broke performance as Eric, so sad and desperate that he evokes pity even when he becomes a psycho killer. Mickey Rourke shows up in one of his earliest performances here, playing Eric’s aggro co-worker, and  Tim Thomerson appears as a coke addicted, harmonica playing, eating crackers in bed kinda social worker. Aussie super babe Linda Kerridge is one of the most spot on Marilyn Monroe lookalikes ever seen (who works at a skate shop in Venice, of course.) Fade to Black also features a  spectacular has to be seen to be believed finale culminating at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Today’s uber movie fans (and I count myself in there) are treated with such respect that its easy to forget a time not so long ago when hardcore film lovers were rebuffed with awkward distain more than anything else. Fade to Black captures this movie loving gone wrong outcome perfectly, and I admire the film’s portrayal of cinema going as both something to be cherished above all other things, as well as a cautionary tale of what can happen when you love cinema too much.

Julia is an film programmer, actor, writer and filmmaker living in Hollywood. Her documentary about the importance of revival cinemas & 35mm to culture, Out of Print, is available on DVD and Amazon Prime and features interviews with Rian Johnson, Edgar Wright, Joe Dante, John Landis and many more awesome folk. She is currently the co-host of a podcast, Horror Movie Survival Guide, where she and her best friend break down the hundreds of horror movies VHS they watched in college, in order to learn how to survive them and wind up as the final girl. The podcast is available on Itunes, Google Play, and anywhere else fine podcasts lurk.

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May 2024