Whispers in the Dark (1992)
Even though 1992’s Basic Instinct wasn’t exactly a great movie, it was a commercial blockbuster, which meant that every studio under the sun would foist its own erotic thriller and try to capture the same success. It didn’t work. Each one was worse than the one before it, whether that movie was Love Crimes, Body of Evidence, Color of Night, Jade or the justifiably forgotten Whispers in the Dark.
Sometimes a terrific performance can elevate a flawed picture, but most of the time it just sits there twinkling like a diamond in the sewer. Such is the case with Annabella Sciorra who gives a great lead performance in Whispers in the Dark but, unfortunately, the movie completely fails her. Sciorra stars as a wildly successful psychiatrist who seems to treat clients with kinky sexual tastes. The only two of note are John Leguizamo as a artist who paints pictures of women in bondage and Deborah Kara Unger who tells Sciorra about her boyfriend who likes to tie her up for sex.
The plot gets complicated when Sciorra begins dating Jamey Sheridan who, unsurprisingly, is the boyfriend of Unger. Unger tries to blackmail Sciorra with stolen session tapes and is then found hung in her apartment. Who killed her and why? Up until this point, Whispers in the Dark is not totally unsuccessful; sure, the plot twists are pretty predictable and the eroticism is more silly than sexy, but Sciorra earns our attention. She’s likable and gives a performance that is above and beyond this material. But things start to go very wrong very quickly until the end which features one of the most laughable revelation scene you’re ever likely to see.
The script by writer/director Christopher Crowe ties itself into knots trying to keep afloat all of the ridiculous plot machinations and red herrings. Leguizamo is a violent freak, Sheridan may or may not have been a wife-beater, Sciorra’s ex-boyfriend, Anthony Heald, wants her back and Anthony LaPaglia, in one of the worst-written cop characters in recent memory, might do anything to frame one of these bozos as the killer. Another key character in the miasma is Alan Alda of all people as Sciorra’s friend and mentor.
Now, considering this list of suspects, who do you think the killer is and why? Even the most naïve of movie-goers will be able to figure it out with little to no effort. Yes, unbelievably, Alda is our psychotic killer. I wouldn’t normally reveal the resolution to a mystery unless that resolution happened to be the key as to why the movie becomes a laughable failure, but Whispers in the Dark more than qualifies. In Alda’s worst piece of acting, he clubs his wife Jill Clayburgh in the face with a wine bottle and declares his love for Sciorra. After screaming, turning over furniture and basically inhaling all of the scenery, Alda chases Sciorra out onto the beach while wielding a gaffer’s hook. Sciorra manages to grab the hook and plant it into Alda’s forehead which causes him to sputter and flounder in the surf before keeling over dead. The moment of Alda’s death ranks as one of the funniest deaths ever to be committed to celluloid. I would also say that once the solution to the movie is revealed it makes almost no logical sense, so none of it really matters anyway.
If you’re looking for a great mystery, you’ll need to look elsewhere, but if you’re in the mood for something trashy and unintentionally hilarious, Whispers in the Dark will do the job quite effectively. Is that a back-handed recommendation? Sorta.