THE DARKER SIDE OF TERROR stars Ray Milland and Robert Forster as two scientists tinkering with God's creation and getting more than bargained for. It's not a bad flick, good entertainment for a cold rainy night.
Professor Meredith (Milland) is a university genetics scientist who in his spare time hides out in an abandoned old science block on campus to further his cloning experiments. His best student, lecturer Paul Corwin (Forster)---who's frustrated from having lost his hard-earned promotion to a slimy colleague (David Sheiner)---becomes unwittingly involved in Meredith's latest project: he has stolen some of Corwin's blood cells from a bloodbank and started to create a clone of Corwin. He decides to accelerate the growth of the foetus and within days, there's another Corwin walking around. They quickly educate Corwin #2 through TV visuals and special tests, hoping that he will learn something and become a full-fledged human being. Unfortunately Corwin #2 occasionally gets a bung right eye, and has developed a mind of his own and wants out of the lab. Out in the real world, Corwin #2 doesn't quite know to control his feelings, especially when it comes to women.
Director Gus Trikonis (MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS) brings a terse efficiency to the proceedings, as if counting down the demise of such a brash experiment as fast as its premature growth, and weaves many a tightly-directed suspense sequence to enliven anotherwise straightforward plot. Al (THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, '77) Ramus's script is a cautionary tale warning us of the dangers of cloning, with riffs on FRANKENTSTEIN, but similarly delivers the exploitation goods. The ending may not please everyone but I found it an apt closure. The film isn't overtly scary, but the understated ambiguity of this final shot is quite disturbing, and sent a couple of chills down my spine. In terms of story and special effects, THE DARKER SIDE OF TERROR could be seen as a percursor to DEAD RINGERS. I was quite impressed with the split frames where both Corwin's are on-screen; the effect is mostly seamless, though at times the split is quite obvious.
Forster is surprisingly good in both roles as the man with something toprove to his peers and the monster who doesn't understand where he stands. He's a low-key presence, and carries the scenes where he has to play off himself. The clever editing helps, but even though he's not Jeremy Irons, Forster manages to be very convincing. Milland on the other hand is wooden, a borderline mad scientist, but more cranky than mad. Adrienne Barbeau (THE FOG) offers romantic support as Corwin's neglected wife, who thinks their marriage is improving when she beds Corwin #2. John Lehne sticks around as a cop to add suspense. Shot by Donald Morgan (CHRISTINE).
THE DARKER SIDE OF TERROR would make an entertaining double feature with Ralph Nelson's EMBRYO (1976).