Thursday, May 23, 2013

Five Nuts and a Sex Scene: Color of Night (1994)

Color of Night (1994)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Bruce Willis, Jane March, Rubén Blades                         

((Again, a simple shout-out to my buddy Hud over at Vegan Voorhees, whose review for this movie convinced me otherwise to go through two hours of supposed thrilling sex and sexy thrills.))

Around the early 90s, teen slashers were momentarily replaced with a more mature set of thrills and spills, mainly in the form of one of two factions: the "yuppie in peril" movies (or Yupsploitation as I call it) where big shot guys are punished by maniacs for being big shots with films like American Psycho, Misery and the underrated 1991 Cape Fear remake, or erotic thrillers, where thrilling tension meets bedroom action with titles like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct doing the same erotic art as that of the 70s Gialli. Both of these types have their share of slasher film elements pulsing through the veins, so much that some fans of the hack and slash subgenre would either try to accept them as influenced works or, in some cases, actually mistaken them as a bonifide slasher films with big named casts and big budget. It's not much of the story that makes them slashers, but rather their portrayal of violence, as well as featuring some of the basic build ups that are usually identified with the subgenre.

Color of Night is a good example of a borderline erotic thriller that, thanks to some exploited elements, came kinda close to being a bodycount film; the plot surrounds one shrink, Bill Capa (Bruce Willis), who's been stricken color blind after one of his patients committed suicide right in front of him. Wrecked mentally and losing the ability to see red, he decided to take a few time off from helping troubled people to catch up with his bestfriend and fellow psychiatrist Bob Moore (Scott Bakula) at Los Angeles.

One night went sortah swimmingly; Capa joins Bob in a group session where he meet five estranged patients with varying psychosis, from having an obsessive compulsive reaction towards numbers and hygiene to simple nymphomania. One of them, however, is suspected to be threatening Moore so, when he was brutally knifed to death no soon after, Capa's forced by the LA police department to try and see if he could weed out the killer from the group, but the effort to do so is strained when a mysterious woman (Jane March) made herself present to Capa's life, thus prolonging the investigation and pushing Capa to look into the personal lives of each patients.

When one from the group gets killed some time later, Capa begins to fear for his own safety when it becomes clear that he's next in the cutting line. But what does this makes of the mysterious lady he had been seeing, which comes and goes as she please?

Reviewing this film will be a bit of a task for me since I'm not really that much of an erotic thrillers buff as I like to keep my horror films and my erotica separate, thus I'm very inexperienced when it comes to this kinds of films. I do see, however, why the film is a bit of a lost with the critics; running for two hours, the film tries to fill it with action stunts, psycho-babble and, yes, sex scenes in an attempt to develop the story as well as its characters, which is a fine move and all but with us running around tailing on each possibly significant characters that shows up on this film, we're generally just padding our way through one potential killer's life to the next, with cheap kills (which are very few), sex and action scenes added in order to keep us from switching off the movie. Putting that into our mindset, you might as well agree that the movie's desperate to entertain us as a lot of impossibly cheesy scenes are present here, including the most pointed out stunt where our killer tried to kill Willis' character by pushing and hurling a car off atop a building in an almost precise timing wherein it almost hits him! Freakishly calculative kill murder attempt aside, this definitely shows how this movie was supposed to be played for some good laughs every now and then.

So, the main problem of the movie is that it lacked what it should delivered; it ain't sleazy enough to call it erotic (one nymphomaniac and one five minute sexual montage featuring Bruce's placid dick does not make a film that runs for 121 minutes justifiably an erotic film) and, at the same time, the stupendously overblown plot practically murdered away any living sense of thrilling this film offered. It's a cop procedural done by a white collar working man who just happens to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time, so does that mean Color of Night doesn't deserve an audience? No, I don't think that is necessarily be the case.

The film certainly works as a trashy version of a big-budget thriller; it's exploited, yet at the same time, it still managed to entertain if we're going to forget one minute that this is supposed to be a film made for an audience who wanted something mature and smart. Color of Night is a mixing of various sub-genres, from buddy cop to straight thriller, to cheesy B-action movie and, yes, even a brutal slasher. The story got a good mystery and each character are not really boring to watch thanks to an impressive line up featuring cult faves like Lance Henriksen and Brad Dourif. It keeps you pandering on who might the murderer be, although some obvious clues were already given right under our noses early on after Bakula's character was murdered. This would eventually lead to a rather unexpected (albeit rushed) twist that soon escalates to an ending not so different from a slasher movies'.

Call it flawed and you might as well be dead on with that fact, but I for one found Color of Night an intriguing way to spend two hours of my afternoon before I set out for dinner. Could this be another case of a so-bad-its-good kind of film? I wouldn't count on it, but if you are itching to see one underrated thriller that has almost everything in it, Color of Night is a safe bet. So long as you rent it first before calling it keeps!

1 female jumps through a window and falls to her death
1 male stabbed to death with push knife, impaled through a glass shard
1 male found stabbed to death
1 male shot on the head with nailgun
Total: 4


  1. You liked this one a lot more than I did.

    1. That shot of March's ass behind an apron, and the final act, got me big time...

  2. I've seen it back in the 90s and thought it was decent enough. At that time, there were a couple of other not-so-popular 'mature' thrillers which I also enjoyed way more than others did, like "Scissors", "Final Analysis" or "Sliver". I love shit like that :D

    1. I'd seen Sliver some time ago. I remember not liking it, but I could try it again.

      Never heard of Final Analysis but I did heard of Scissors; I want to try the latter, it sounds interesting.

  3. Oh God, I didn't realise I'd consigned you to watching this! At least you liked it!