on 22 November 2013
Bad Dreams - In the mid-seventies, a cult called Unity Field commit mass suicide by dousing themselves in gasoline and setting themselves ablaze. A young girl, Cynthia, survives the fire and is taken to hospital where she falls into a coma. Thirteen years later, Cynthia wakes up and has little memory of the fire, so she is assigned a psychiatrist, Dr. Alex Karmen, who puts her in a group with his other patients. Cynthia soon starts to see visions of the cult leader, Harris, who still wants her to kill herself and join the others. Cynthia refuses, so Harris goes after the other members of her therapy group. Has Harris really returned from the grave, or is something altogether different killing the group?
Jennifer Rubin, who made her film debut a year earlier in A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, is an attractive and likeable lead as Cynthia. Bruce Abbott, a few years after starring as Dan Cain in Re-Animator, once again plays it pretty straight, but produces a good performance as Dr. Karmen. The late Richard Lynch is perfectly cast as Harris, Dean Cameron puts everything into his role as Ralph, who is in Cynthia's therapy group. Harris Yulin, Sy Richardson and Charles Fleischer add a touch of class in small supporting roles. Bad Dreams was the directorial debut of Andrew Fleming, he was only 23 years old at the time and did a wonderful job. He later went on to make The Craft, Dick and The In-Laws. The effects are excellent, especially the visions of a badly burned Harris. Michèle Burke, six time Oscar nominee, two time winner was responsible for the effects. The production values are good, shot for $4,000,000 and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, who is best known for Terminator and Aliens. The film shares a lot of similarities to A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, from the setting, the therapy group situation, Jennifer Rubin, and of course, the flame-grilled villain. In truth, despite the similarities, they're executed quite differently but are both highly enjoyable.
The picture quality is excellent, and we're treated to some very good extras. There's a commentary from Andrew Fleming which is very informative, recent interviews with Rubin, Abbott, Cameron and Lynch which lasts roughly 22 minutes, a behind-the-scenes feature, a trailer and the original ending. An excellent release and a very good film.
Visiting Hours - Deborah Ballin, an outspoken, middle-aged TV journalist, is campaigning on air on behalf of a woman who attacked her husband in self-defence. Her outburst infuriates one of the studio's cleaning staff, psychopathic misogynist, Colt Hawker, who likes to kill and photograph women as they're dying. When Deborah returns home later that evening, she is attacked by Colt and badly wounded. She manages to survive the attack and is taken to the hospital, but that's no guarantee of safety as Colt is determined to kill her.
Lee Grant is convincing as Deborah, she was a four time Oscar nominated actress, one time winner. I always love it when someone with real pedigree shows up in a reasonably low-budget slasher, it always gives the film that little extra. Once she gets to the hospital, something rather strange happens, instead of being the main target, she kind of splits the job with a young, divorced nurse called Sheila, played wonderfully well by Linda Purl. Sheila sees Hawker at the hospital before he leaves for the first time, from that point on, Hawker is just as intent on silencing Sheila as he is Deborah. William "Captain Kirk" Shatner is pretty good in a small role as Deborah's boss and friend, he's not as over the top as he sometimes can be. Lenore Zann who I recognised from Happy Birthday to Me and American Nightmare impressed in a small role, but it's Michael Ironside who dominates the film as Colt Hawker. He doesn't say all that much in the film, but he's deathly serious, hugely menacing and fantastic to watch. It's tightly directed by Jean-Claude Lord, the pacing is good and it has a great atmosphere. Lord later went on to direct a pretty good film called The Vindicator which is in desperate need of a DVD release, it has a very similar story to Robocop which came out a year later. The screenplay by Brian Taggert is actually quite smart, he later wrote the screenplays for Of Unknown Origin, Wanted: Dead or Alive, and Poltergeist III which I feel is quite underrated. The film isn't terribly violent, yet the film ended up on the "video nasties" list in the UK. I can only assume it was for a scene where a knife is run across a half naked body, seeing as the BBFC removed similar but much more violent scenes from The House on the Edge of the Park and The New York Ripper. Visiting Hours obviously drew comparisons with Halloween 2 which was released around six months earlier, the comparison is easier to make as Visiting Hours' music score was modelled after Halloween.
The picture quality is pretty good, it's grainier than Bad Dreams and isn't quite as detailed, but I still thought it looked really nice. Sadly the special features aren't quite as special for Visiting Hours, there's only a radio spot, TV spots and a photo gallery. It's a real shame that Shout Factory couldn't produce a commentary or find behind-the-scenes footage, if they had, this two-disc set would have been absolutely amazing. It's still brilliant though and easily worth the full five stars. It's a US release and will not work on a conventional region 2 player.
on 12 January 2012
I got this package because I like Bad Dreams and I had never got round to Visiting Hours. A two birds with one click job.
One of the best examples of the post-Nighmare On Elm street slasher-like horror thrillers. The production values are good, the story is interesting and the actors do a great job. If you like late 80s horror this one fits with films like Retribution, in that avoids the then popular fashion for mixing horror and comedy. The extras are very good, with a making of doc, cast inteviews, trailers, comemntaries and an alternative ending.
I feel like a complete wazzock about film. I'm a slasher fan to the point where I've got copies of films like Fatal Games, Silent Madness and hundereds of others. Visiting Hours should have been a must. It comes highly recommended, was made in Canada with a good budget, has Micheal Ironside as the killer and came out at the height of the slasher boom, plus it was a video nasty! But somehow I didn't like the look of it. William Shatner and Lee Grant just screamed soap opera histrionics. I told myself I'll get round to it eventually and then found other things to watch. And then finally I did. It's a really really smart flick! Characters that are set up as slasher fodder, not only survive but are given the dignity of resourcefulness and common sense. A couple of the attacks took me by surprise and the killer is fleshed out without being one of those annoying angst ridden cry-babies you're supposed to feel sorry for. Honestly, it's one I wished I could say I grew up with or even had watched years ago. It's up there with The Prowler as one of the best.
on 10 November 2011
The latest release from Shout Factory, their "Killer Double Feature," offers two great 80's slasher films. The pairing of the brilliantly entertaining Bad Dreams, and the underrated Michael Ironside picture Visiting Hours. Both films were previously released by Anchor Bay, I missed out on getting these two films before so I figured that I'd just get this double feature since it was much cheaper. Bad Dreams follows the story of Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin, who you might recognise from Nightmare on Elm Street part 3), the lone survivor from a mass suicide committed by a cult called "Unity Fields" in the 70's. Members covered themselves with gasoline, struck matches and burned themselves, and their house down to the ground, leaving only this young girl and a shattered psyche. 13 years later, we are thrust into her world. Awaking from a coma in a psyche ward, Cynthia must not only come to terms with her past, but also a rash of recent inmate suicides.
She also seems to be chased down by the apperition of the cult leader (Richard Lynch), who seeks revenge. With one hell of a sense of humor and some great scares, this is both a film paired with some great supporting material and some nice gore scenes, but also genuinely an entertaining horror flick. The best aspect of this film however has to be Andrew Fleming's direction, it was stylishly made and had a great atmosphere plus it had that guy from Re-Animator (Bruce Abbott) as one of the doctors. And then there are the supplements. What a collection. First off, the transfer is actually solid. The soundtrack plays wonderfully here, and visually, the transfer does more than its job. A commentary with Fleming is featured here, giving this release some real re-watchability, as it is both insightful and entertaining. There are also some solid interviews with the cast and some features on the film's effects, and its original ending. Toss in a trailer, and you have a killer half of this release
Now the second film Visiting Hours, while not as good as Bad Dreams, it still managed to be entertaining. Unlike Bad Dreams, it doesn't have any supernatural elements but is more of a straight forward slasher/thriller taking place in a hospital. Visiting Hours is a forgotten slasher film from Jean Claude Lord, and stars Lee Grant, William Shatner and Michael Ironside. The story follows a journalist who is out to end domestic abuse, only to find herself being stalked and attacked by a misogynistic serial killer played by Ironside. With herself put into a hospital, she must stay safe as her attacker attempts to finish what he started. The film was pretty slow paced, but there is enough violence to satisfy fans of horror cinema. Ironside gives a fine performance and is pretty believable as the creepy serial killer the rest of the cast is also impressive. The film is pretty creepy and suspenseful, so fans of slasher movies won't be disappointed. It was also made the same year as the similar "Halloween 2". Overall, I enjoyed this one and you should too, especially if you like slasher movies. unfortunately the transfer looks mediocre and there are trailers, radio spots and TV spots as its only features. This was a great dvd release, I have no doubt that slasher fans will enjoy this.