"Mausoleum," now at area theaters, is not terribly deep. Not even six feet, which is where most good crypt-kickers start.
It's a standard story of possession, release, repossession and release--soul-chess involving people with so little in their heads, one wonders why either side bothers. The heroine's name is Nomed, a suggestive sop to the dog-spelled-backwards set and an indication of the depths to which the filmmakers are willing to plunge.
In the opening scene, Little Susan answers The Voices (apparently unemployed since "Rosemary's Baby") who entice her into a single-occupancy mausoleum. Where fools fear to tread, this angel rushes in. A neon-lit coffin creaks open, a hairy hand with filthy, foot-long fingernails inches out. No, it's not Howard Hughes but the demon in her soul.
For some reason he stays dormant for 20 years until little things start irritating Big Susan (Bobbie Breese, looking like a fresh Susan George), who lives in what looks like a W & J Sloane showroom.
A nightclub masher bugs Susan and hubby Marjoe Gortner; she lights his Mercedes on fire with her eyes, Carrie-style. A delivery boy sees her in a revealing outfit and his eyes pop out; she gets mad and . . . well, his eyes pop out. A gardener seduces her and pays for it when she doffs her towel and picks up a trowel. And so on, with Susan transforming into an ugly slob of a monster with increasing regularity.
Meanwhile, hubby has no idea what's going on behind closed doors until Susan buys a surrealist painting. That's when he knows there's something wrong. Lawanda Page, in a gratuitous cameo as the couple's maid, catches on just in time ("I ain't been so nervous since I been black!" she mutters before going down the road). Eventually, a therapist and a demonologist are called in for a confrontation. After they save Susan with a convenient crown of thorns, things calm down (except for the stupid surprise ending no movie seems able to resist anymore).
"Mausoleum" is a bit different from the run-amok-of-the-mill in that it features lots of nudity and a monster who appears early on and then keeps coming back for gore, getting uglier and meaner each feeding (courtesy of makeup man John Buechler). Other than that, it's cliche' city.
"One Dark Night," on the other hand, is cliche' country. It might have been better served with the title "Mausoleum" since almost all the action takes place inside a mausoleum so huge and overpopulated it could double as the Pentagon. The familiar plot line here: nice girl (Robin Evans) wants to join sorority headed by nasty girl (and ex-girlfriend of hero-type, now going with nice girl). Challenge: to spend one dark night in mausoleum, which the bad "sisters" will spook up.
Subplot: the mad psychic Raymar has just died and been entombed. Turns out he was a "psychic vampire." ("They found a whole bunch of dead girls in his apartment," says one bad girl. Other bad girl observes crack in Raymar's crypt: "Maybe he wants to get out?" Ha ha ha!) It also turns out Raymar was not only into negative energy, but into animating dead things. And there are a lot of dead things in a mausoleum, right? Right.
The film's opening scenes are promising: a long shot of a row of coroner's vans pulling up to a seedy tenement, an apartment with silverware and kitchen appliances studding the walls from Raymar's psychic blasts. But once he does his bit in the mausoleum, things go downhill. The "dead," in various states of decomposition, are barely animated. In fact, it looks like the filmmakers got a deal on a going-out-of-business wax museum. They simply topple the mothballed figures or run them awkwardly on guy-wires. The exception is Adam "Batman" West, who appears to be alive in a cameo role. When the bad sisters get their just deserts--in fact, they are just desserts--it may be the first case of goremongering where the victims are smothered to death by falling bodies.
Raymar eventually runs into his psychic-but-not-disturbed daughter who saves almost everybody and defeats him by reaching into her purse and making like Perseus. But where Medusa turned to stone, Raymar turns to jelly . . . slowly, graphically, and disgustingly. It comes too late in the film to help.
These two films, of no more than adequate technical facility, currently occupy 28 screens in the metropolitan area.