Movie Review: Deathdream (1974) – Blue Underground 4Kk/Blu-ray combo

May 11, 2024

Written by DanXIII

Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, director, producer, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

Deathdream is the kind of flick that begins featuring the horrors of ‘Nam and the value of a man that can carve a roast all in equal measure (for the record, Roastmaster General’s son Andy is who we see buying the farm in Vietnam).

Anyway, the family learns their son is dead and begins grieving… except later that night ol’ Andy comes home alive and…well alive anyway (after hitching a ride with a trucker who winds up dead after some high-larious antics at an all-night diner).

Over the next few days Andy acts weird A.F.; he’s quiet, pale, and only offers a small smirk to anyone that talks to him…plus he picks up some new hobbies like wandering around cemeteries in the dead of night and simultaneously beating down androgynous kids who karate chop him with one hand while strangling a dog with the other (an underrated talent to be sure).

Well, it turn out ol’ Awesome Andy is some sort of vampire/zombie type of thing that needs human blood to keep fresh as a demonic daisy… and he has no qualms about collecting that crimson tithe. All that stands between this monster and the innocent townsfolk are some bungling cops, Andy’s drunk father, and some friends and family in complete denial that their homeboy is a rotting monstrosity. That town is absolutely f**ked…

Deathdream, basically a riff on W.W. Jacobs 1902 short story The Monkey’s Paw, is a highly effective drive-in fright flick (by the legendary Bob Clark of Black Christmas fame) where the supernatural shenanigans escalate to the point of complete mayhem by the final reel.

Clark is of course a master of atmosphere (as well as some ambitious shots and framing), and that comes to the fore here as the family is splintered due to the fact that their son is not who he appears to be…and is increasingly bizarre and potentially dangerous.

Adding to the appeal of the film is some outstanding make-up effects by the legendary Tom Savini, and a chilling performance by Richard Backus as Andy…seriously, that dude does more with a simple smirk than some actors can do with reams of dialog.

Besides the fantastic fright flick that is Deathdream, those rad-ass folks at Blue Underground have included some choice extras here to make this 2-Disc release even more essential.
First up on Disc One we get a 4K version of the picture (newly sourced from the 35mm negative) as well as three audio commentaries; one featuring Director Bob Clark, another with Writer (and uncredited effects artist) Alan Ormsby, and one featuring Film Historians Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson (which is new to this edition). All are loaded with anecdotes and a good natured, self effacing quality that make for great listens.
Disc Two features a Blu-ray edition of the film which contains the aforementioned commentaries as well as a collection of interviews featuring Actor Anya Liffey, Ormsby, Composer Carl Zittrer, Production Manager John “Bud” Cardos, and Star Richard Backus.
Also included are a look at Savini’s early years, alternate opening titles, the film’s theatrical trailer, still galleries, and a screen test with the actor originally playing Andy, Gary Swanson, who also is additionally featured in a new interview exclusive to this release. Finally there is a short student film from Ormsby… it ain’t full-on horror, but it’s interesting all the same.

Filled with gore, ghouls, and…well, karate chops, Deathdream is a solid gold, mother F’n winner (especially if you are a fan of Clark’s other forays into the horror biz; Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things and the aforementioned Black Christmas)!


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