The height of the phone sex horror era!

Back before the Internet, for a good time you’d call one of those sex lines that were advertised on the USA Network during the Up All Night horror show. So it makes sense that in that same time period, there were a couple of horror movies made about the subject. 1988’s Out In the Dark and 1991’s Intimate Stranger even pack a pretty cool collection of indie and horror icons.

OUT OF THE DARK (1988)

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Out of the Dark sticks to the 80s slasher formula, with phone sex operators as the victims. Fricking Karen Black is their boss—and even does a little phone sex performance herself!

Meanwhile, there’s this photographer dude, played by one Cameron Dye. Cameron is best remembered as Nicolas Cage’s punk sidekick in Valley Girl and also appeared in 80s classics likes The Last Starfighter, Fraternity Vacation, and Body Rock. If you crushed on him back then, note that he spends a lot of time shirtless in this film.

out-of-the-dark-cameron-dye

So this photographer’s girlfriend is friends with all the phone sex operators and he’s going to do a photo shoot of them. As you can probably guess, as the girls start dying, evidence begins to point to him. So he and his girlfriend have to do some sleuthing to find the killer.

The killer is pretty dang cool in Out of the Dark, wearing a clown mask and talking in an evil voice. While no scene will really make you jump, the atmosphere is creepy. There’s not tons of blood but the suggested way in which the chicks are killed is pretty violent. Plus, there’s a “twist” at the end that you can see coming from a mile away based on all we now know about twists these days.

The awesome cast also includes Geoffrey Lewis (the original Salem’s Lot), Tracey Walter (Reno 911 and a million other things), and a bunch of blink and you’ll miss them cameos: fricking Lainie Kazan of My Big Fat Greek Wedding as a hooker, Tab Hunter, Paul Bartel, and Divine as a detective.

But my favorite part has to be the 80s photo shoot, complete with smoke, neon lights, lace, and boobs.

INTIMATE STRANGER (1991)

 out-of-the-dark-intimate-stranger

And speaking of the 80s, Intimate Stranger may have been released in 1991, but it stars 80s new wave queen Debbie Harry! It also stars cutie James Russo, best remembered as the vile rapist in Farrah Fawcett’s breakout dramatic movie Extremities.

Debbie plays a bar singer who works as a phone sex operator at night. It’s so awesome to hear Debbie sing a few songs in the bar, including Janis Joplin’s staple “Piece of My Heart,” and to hear her have fake orgasms on the phone while smoking a cigarette through her luscious red lips. This movie truly celebrates everything that is so cool about Debbie Harry.

So Debbie gets a call from a dude who kills a girl while he’s on the phone with her. Debbie goes to the police but they laugh at her. James Russo, a rookie looking to make detective, sweeps in to help her catch the guy.

Just like the couple in Out of the Dark, Debbie and James work together to try to catch the killer. Really, not much goes on in the film. There are barely even any murders and not much intrigue since we get to see who the killer is (it’s the dude from Trancers who also played Blanche’s cross-dressing baseball player boyfriend on The Golden Girls).

Aside from Debbie, my favorite parts include a tense chase scene involving a sex shop as well as the last chase scene with Debbie as a final girl…or, final woman….

While the film may have been made in 1991, it has late 80s direct-to-video cheesiness written all over it. And it doesn’t get any better than Debbie reading a fricking comic called “Tales from the Leather Nun” and having a one-night stand with a bartender…played by Billy Vera of “At This Moment” fame. I’m not even kidding.

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Out of the Dark is pretty much the better film, complete with horror, suspense, a body count, and a masked killer, but Debbie’s presence gives Intimate Stranger a charm of its own.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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