Fade to Black

Fade to Black ★★★★½

Eric Binford, a shy introvert played by Dennis Christopher, is an outcast among his co-workers at a Los Angeles film distributor warehouse and is constantly belittled at home by his wheelchair-bound aunt. He finds solace, however, in the company of fictional movie characters, as he constantly obsesses over classic-era cinema in his bedroom, which is adorned with hundreds of posters of Hollywood stars. As a walking encyclopedia of film trivia and movie quotes, he loses himself in his fantasies, often taking on the personas of James Cagney, Richard Widmark, Bela Lugosi, and other screen icons from the past.

When Eric becomes infatuated with a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, played by Linda Kerridge, his fanciful tendencies develop into complete psychosis, resulting in a killing spree where he dresses up as his favorite movie characters and murders people who have wronged him.

The 1980 horror feature, Fade to Black, written and directed by Vernon Zimmerman, takes the distressed loner aesthetic of anti-establishment movies from the previous decade, like Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and sugarcoats it in an immensely fun-spirited collage of vintage film clips. The end result presents Christopher, fresh off of his role in in the classic sports drama, Breaking Away, as a figure who is menacing, but also relatable for film enthusiasts.

Even when I do not approve of the behavior of Christopher's lead, I get it. People occasionally tell me that I spend too much time watching movies. The types of people who tell me that I spend too much time watching movies, however, are a main reason why I spend a lot of time watching movies. On the flip side, of course, I am reassured that, during the current COVID-19 era of conspiracy theorists and QAnon devotees, I have a better grip on reality than the average person in my neck of the woods, despite my fascination with screen stories.

The strangely inviting plight of the serial killer in Fade to Black is also enhanced by the fact that almost all of the people around him are unlikeable. His aunt, played by Eve Brent (The Green Mile), is a shrill nails-on-chalkboard person. A co-worker, played by a young Mickey Rourke, is the sort of bully who has whatever comes to him coming to him. His boss, played by Norman Burton (Diamonds Are Forever), is right about Eric's incompetence, but we nonetheless want to see him killed just so he will stop hassling his employees. Morgan Paull appears as a movie producer who has to go, just like the "public enemy" that he is.

Linda Kerridge, who honest-to-goodnessly does resemble Marilyn Monroe, is wondrously charismatic as our antihero's possible salvation. Be on the lookout as well for Tim Thomerson (Near Dark) as a social worker and for Gwynne Gilford (Masters of the Universe) as a police officer.

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