DARK MANSIONS (1986)
Article 4980 by Dave Sindelar
Directed by Jerry London
Featuring Joan Fontaine, Michael York, Paul Shenar
What it is: TV-Movie Gothic thriller
A writer stays on the estate of the Drake family to write a family history, but she ends up resembling the wife of one of the men of the family… who died under mysterious circumstances.
I suppose this is a Gothic thriller of sorts; there’s a couple of eerie events, a hint of precognition in one of the characters, and possibly a ghost (or at least, disembodied laughter). However, it seems to me that the focus is really on the internal power struggles of a family of rich and beautiful people, and I suspect that the movie is best appreciated by people who love that sort of thing; in other words, it’s a lot more for the soap opera crowd than the horror crowd. Since I’m not part of that crowd, I found the movie tiresome; I was especially annoyed by the hair-trigger musical score that goes off every time it wants to underline how important or significant a moment is (such as pointing out that a two-person encounter has been observed by a third person), which would have been more effective if it didn’t go off every two minutes or so. I think it would have worked better if its crowning dramatic moment had actually been included in the movie rather than having been consigned to a “killed in Vietnam” style final freeze frame revelation, but I suppose they would have had to cut one of the scenes of the beautiful people in bed with each other in order to fit it in; after all, there must be priorities. As a horror movie, it falls flat; as a drama, it’s too soapy. This one didn’t work for me.