Bad Dreams/Visiting Hours (Blu-ray)
Released by: Shout! Factory
Released on: February 18th, 2014.
Director: Andrew Fleming/Jean-Claude Lord
Cast: Jennifer Rubin, Richard Lynch/Michael Ironside, Lee Grant
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A pair of popular eighties horror films previously released on DVD through Anchor Bay and then resissued through Shout! Factory find new life as a Blu-ray double feature courtesy of the Scream Factory imprint’s new release – here’s a look at what those two discs contain:
BAD DREAMS (1988):
When the first feature begins, a cult leader named Harris (Richard Lynch) is pouring gasoline all over himself and his followers, about to take them all out in a blaze of glory. A young girl survives but is in a coma. Thirteen years later, this girl, Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin), wakes up. Of course, as she’s been essentially out of it for well over a decade the doctors at the hospital figure she should get some psychiatric help, and she does, but soon various people in the support group she’s attending at the hospital start getting killed off in increasingly grisly ways. Complicating matters further are the dreams that Cynthia is having, in which she sees these people being murdered.
If that weren’t bad enough, it looks like Harris is still around, scowling his way around the hospital out to bring Cynthia back with him – thankfully a dream doctor (Bruce Abbott) is around to help.
Well paced and entertaining enough in its own right, Bad Dreams borrows from Nightmare On Elm Street in a big way (Rubin would go on to appear in Nightmare On Elm Street 3 – The Dream Warriors) what with Harris popping in and out of things the way he does and Cynthia’s dreams melding with reality the same way they did for the Elm Street kids in Craven’s movie. The Jim Jones/suicide cult angle gives the movie a slightly interesting spin and Lynch is pretty great as the man bad guy here, using his weathered and eerie looking face and imposing screen presence to nice effect. Rubin is sympathetic enough in her part and does fine with the material, while Abbott runs around trying to make sense of everything. Dean Cameron and E.G. Daly also have small supporting roles in the film, solidifying its eighties-ness in a big way.
A few good kills scenes and some fairly tense murder set pieces make this one that eighties slasher fans will no doubt enjoy. If it’s not a masterpiece it’s at least a fun time killer.
VISITING HOURS (1982):
In Jean-Claude Lord’s 1982 slasher (produced with the kind assistance of the Canadian Film Development Corporation!) begins when a television journalist named Deborah Ballin (Lee Grant) delivers a pretty spirited opinion piece on a case involving a wife beater, despite the insistence from her producer (William Shatner) that he may not be able to air it as it’s close to slander. Regardless, Deborah stands by her words but is then attacked that same night in her own home by an insane woman hater named Colt Hawker (Michael Ironside). She escapes with her life and is taken to the hospital for treatment, but the cops don’t catch Hawker who is still on the loose.
Under the care of a nurse named Sheila (Linda Purl), Deborah seems to be mending just fine but after Hawker beats, bites and abuses a young women he picks up at a diner (Lenore Zann), it becomes obvious he’s still got an axe to grind. When he finds his way to the hospital, it starts to look like he’s going to finish the job he started.
Although the movie is about fifteen minutes longer than it needs to be, Visiting Hours still manages to carve itself out a spot as an above average slasher thanks to two key factors, this first of which is Ironside’s relentless performance. He’s a big guy and he uses his size to his advantage here, smashing his way around the movie with fairly convincing he-man status and cutting quite an imposing presence. He’s perfectly cast and definitely gives his all, highlighted by a scene in which he doses up on pills, washes them down with booze and then proceeds to smash his arms into broken glass in order to get himself into the hospital he knows Deborah is staying in. The second factor is the hospital itself. Many of us find hospitals unsettling enough without raging psychopaths roaming the halls, and Lord manages to make an otherwise perfectly normal hospital into a fairly claustrophobic setting.
Supporting performances from a surprisingly low key and underused Shatner and a sympathetic Purl help to round out the cast rather well and if the film can’t quite ever recapture the intensity of its opening attack sequence (in which Ironside appears out of nowhere wearing Deborah’s make up and jewelry!) it’s still got its share of grisly kills and tense set pieces.
Both films look very good here in SVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen framed at 1.85.1. Print damage is never an issue and you won’t notice anything more than the occasional speck here and there, while color reproduction is strong for both titles. Detail is noticeably improved over the DVD release from a few years back and colors and black levels both benefit here as well. Eagle eyed viewers might spot some minor compression artifacts in the darker scenes but otherwise, this is a nice HD upgrade over the SD offering that came out previously. Skin tones look more natural, contrast is solid and all in all this is a clean and stable representation of the two movies that does a nice job of taking advantage of what the Blu-ray format can offer.
Both movies get the DTS-HD Mono treatment on this reissue and they sound pretty good. The dialogue sounds a little more fluid and natural here than it did on the DVD, there’s a bit more depth to things than there was before. Other than that, expect nicely balanced levels, clear dialogue and generally just two solid no frills tracks that suit the movies that they represent quite well.
The extras for Bad Dreams start off with a commentary, carried over from the previous Anchor Bay DVD, courtesy of the film’s writer and director, Andrew Fleming, who has a good sense of humor about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to this picture. He’s got some great stories to tell about the different cast members involved in this production, about shooting so much inside a hospital, about the use of music in the film and more.
Up next are a series of interviews with cast members Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch and Dean Cameron that total just under twenty-two minutes and are included in an all new featurette called Dream Cast. All involved share some fun stories from their time on the set and while it’s a little clip heavy at spots, it’s also got some brief behind the scenes clips to add some value to it. The Special Effects Of Bad Dreams is a two minute promotional spot made to showcase the film while it was in production – it’s brief but it lets FX artist Michelle Burke discuss the film and the work we see in it. Behind The Scenes Of Bad Dreams is a nine and a half minute spot that shows how the famous parking lot scene from the movie was shot. The film’s theatrical trailer and an alternate ending rounds out the extras, though menus and chapter stops are included on the disc too.
Extras for Visiting Hours include an interview with Brian Taggert that runs a whopping forty-three minutes and which more or less covers his entire career. He talks about his childhood, about some plays that he worked on, about working on Of Unknown Origin and V, about writing for specific actors and how this got him into trouble with The Writer’s Guild, and of course about working on Visiting Hours and how that turned into a movie about ‘the women’s movement.’ There’s also an interview here with Pierre David that runs just over eleven minutes and lets the French Canadian producer of the movie talk about how he got into the business, how he became an executive producer on this and many other pictures and how as he become more involved in this, he started paying more attention to the scripts that he was involved with bringing to life. He talks about the French Canadian film industry and about working on Visiting Hours as well as a few other pictures that his name was attached to. Lenore Zann gets twenty-three minutes in front of the camera to talk about what it was like playing Lisa in Visiting Hours. She talks about auditioning for the film and how having ‘long, long hair down to my bum’ helped her get the role. From there she discusses the politics of her character in the movie, the women’s rights issues that were at the political forefront when the movie was made, shooting in Montreal at twenty years old and more.
Aside from that we get some TV spots (the advertised theatrical trailer is missing), a radio spot, a still gallery, a Scream Factory trailer gallery (which includes promo spots for The Dungeonmaster, Dark Angel, Futureworld and The Incredible Melting Man) menus and chapter stops.
The Final Word:
Two solid eighties slashers well worth revisiting for fans of the genre are given a nice upgrade on Blu-ray. The audio and video upgrades are obvious but on top of that we get a few more Visiting Hours related bonus features on the Blu-ray than we received on the DVD release. Both movies are pretty enjoyable an all in all, this is a solid release.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!
lee grant. andrew fleming,
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