Out of the Dark: ”Imagination can make the impossible possible.”

Year: 1995
Directed by Jeffrey Lau
Produced by Mona Fong Yat-Wah
Written by Jeffrey Lau
Cast: Stephen Chow, Karen Mok, Leung Kar-Yan, Wong Yat-Fei, Lee Lik-Chi, Lo Hung, Ben Wong Chi-Yin, Lee Kin-Yan, Heung Dip, Chow Chi-Fai, Carol Tam Suk-Mui, and Hau Woon-Ling

An escaped mental patient assists the tenants of a haunted apartment complex battle the paranormal.

What can be said about Out of the Dark? Out of the Dark is a long line of films that were released during or near the end of what can possibly be described as Stephen Chow’s ”golden age”. The so called ”golden age” is an era in the early to mid 90s where Stephen Chow was at his most active. Out of the Dark is principally a spoof of wide-ranging influences within a horror context. It is basically like the Scary Movie franchise that would follow in 5 years.

While Out of the Dark is still quite accessible compared to Stephen Chow’s prior efforts, Out of the Dark’s accessibility still might fall short of Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. The humor though can always be appreciated for its sheer wackiness, it’s still a bit local so few of the jokes might not work on non-Chinese speakers.

You might be scratching your head asking what about Leon: The Professional or Wong Kar-wai has to do with horror? Yet, Out of the Dark pulls it off because its internal logic is founded on one thing which is outlandishness. Outlandishness could be Out of the Dark’s middle name. Out of all of the Stephen Chow’s comedies, Out of the Dark could qualify as the bloodiest. Although, it’s nowhere near gory enough to be treated like a category 3 film, the sight of blood is not something you would really associate with Stephen Chow. Horror comedies are often accused of lacking horror. Some can easily argue otherwise but the opening segments of Out of the Dark do a pretty great job at working up a ghastly ambiance before the ensuing wackiness hits the fan. The tight dark corridors of the apartment complex and the threat of the paranormal does produce a formidable sense of dread.

If it is possible to build a good plot solely composed of skits, then Out of the Dark’s plot is great. Otherwise, the plot is deflated from the onset at the service of the dark humor and gags. The humor doesn’t really ever subside until the credits roll so the pacing is tight on that grounds. Gags are random at the point of utter excessiveness which isn’t a hyperbole considering feces are involved. Needless to say, all Stephen Chow’s comedies delight in their own inherent absurdity, but even for Stephen Chow enthusiasts, Out of the Dark probably goes off the rail with its absurdity and insanity. The sheer frequency of the gags could be tiresome or even irritating. Those willing to stick by will be treated to a zany product that satiates in its paranormal milieu and all the while spoofing popular references that have no business being together.

Out of the Dark is a deranged horror comedy that a lunatic out of a mental asylum would possibly conjure up. It’s cartoonish and frantic fun bought down to the scale of live action. It’s far from picture perfect. Yet, as a low brow comedy, it’s either a work of art or a tangled mess of crude humor and lunacy that should be avoided.

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