Released by: Videonomicon
Released on: September 8th, 2015.
Director: Ron Switzer
Cast: Cameron Klein, Tony Della Ventura, Robin Hartsell, Ron Switzer
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The movie that does for hallways what Things did for kitchens, 1991’s Science Crazed (also distributed on VHS by TriWorld, the company that first unleashed the aforementioned Things on an unsuspecting public!) is a genuine Canuxploitation oddity shot for peanuts by a mysterious one time director named Ron Switzer. A puzzling 16mm production in which everything was dubbed in post, the film begins with a prologue of sorts in which a certain Doctor Frank is told by the higher ups at the Shelly Institute that they expect him to resign. His unorthodox experiments may be of grave importance to science but they just can’t abide by his methods any longer.
Not to be outdone, Doctor Frank seems to ignore this and instead heads back to his laboratory where he promptly injects a woman with a secret serum that causes her to give birth to a boy mere hours later. After the injection we see her twitch a bit and then we cut to a shot of her on the floor with her legs spread and a bundled infant lying between them in a pool of blood. A few more hours later and the baby has grown to adult size. He’s a giant, hulking man whose face is wrapped in bandages and who has bright green Spock ears poking out from under the gauze. He’s also got a bad leg, so when he walks he walks very slowly, dragging the bum appendage behind him. The first order of the day for this creature known as The Fiend (Tony Della Ventura)? Kill his creator! He’s found dead by his assistants, Joan (Robin Hartsell) and Terry (Cameron Klein).
With that out of the way, we meet top cop Inspector McCoy (Michael Sommers) who just so happens to be hanging out at his local video store where he appears to be contemplating a rental of Rambo. He’s been asked to look into this as The Fiend cruises around an apartment building killing people who seemingly have no connection to any of this at all. But it gets better – with that out of the way, Switzer defies our expectations and cuts to a room made of cinderblocks where a lady in leotards does aerobics with a heavier gal… for nine minutes. Now the movie only runs about eighty minutes including the opening and closing credits so we’ll leave it to you to figure out just how much of the film is padded here, but it is a sizeable chunk of the movie’s running time for sure. It cuts back and forth with footage of The Fiend dragging his gimp leg through one hallway, and then the next, and then another. This movie has a fascination with hallways and it isn’t afraid to repeat the same shot time and time again - it’s unlike anything you’ll ever see. When our monster does finally get to the girls, they react rather nonchalantly to his presence (also a recurring element in this movie – no one seems particularly frightened of the monster).
But there’s more – from there The Fiend attacks Doctor Frank’s lab assistant. She rubs his pectoral muscles and he kills her, and then he heads to an indoor pool and drowns someone. If you listen carefully you might just hear someone from the crew, possibly Switzer himself, giving direction to the cast. The Fiend attacks a few more women after that, including a lady who is considering testing nerve gas on Canadian soil for reasons never elaborated on, but in case you forgot about Inspector McCoy (it would be easy to do that), he’s still on the case… will he be able to stop this monster before it kills again?
This one seems to take place in its own universe, a universe where a film crew can light an entire production with a single light and nobody needs to worry about their lines because it’ll all be dubbed after the fact, live movements be damned. This is a universe where hallways are more frightening than murder set pieces and where it’s completely acceptable to recycle not only footage of those hallways but large portions of the score too… over and over and over again. This is a film that defies logic on every level that it is possible to defy logic on and in a world where a movie is purported to be a spoof when it in fact spoofs very little and doesn’t actually contain what would seem to be any intentional comedy. Science Crazed should not exist, not on this place of existence, but here it is.
Primarily made up of a cast of complete unknowns (though Catherine Bruhier of Due South and fucking Polka Dot Door is credited here?!?!?) the actors don’t act so much as sleepwalk through the whole thing. No one shows any logical reactions to The Fiend when he appears, nor do they try to fight back when he takes their lives. Things just sort of happen, the single light set up leaves large portions of many shots cloaked in partial darkness and you can’t tell if this is an art project, a horror picture or just some sort of cinematic abortion – yet rarely is abortion in any form as hypnotic and trance inducing as it is with Science Crazed.
The end credits promise a sequel that never materialized. Ron Switzer appears to have passed on and this is his only confirmed credit but rumors abound that he made have made another move called Buzzsaw Nightmare that was only released in Korea. This second movie has yet to materialize, while so much of Science Crazed remains a mystery in its own right.
The original 16mm elements for Science Crazed are missing in action and the only elements left for the movie are whatever old VHS tapes that might still be lying around. Videonomicon has found two of said tapes and used them to create the transfer for this DVD (which is limited to 1000 copies), but obviously the limitations of the source material show through. It’s soft, there are tape lines visible in spots and compression artifacts pop into the frame from time to time but it’s watchable enough if you go into this with expectations in check. Does this look great? No, it doesn’t, but until better elements surface this is as good as it’s going to get.
The Dolby Digital Mono audio, which is in the film’s native English, is about as good as it probably can be. There are some times where the dialogue is a little bit muffled but this might have more to do with the original recordings than anything else. The film’s insanely repetitive score sounds alright here and for the most part the levels are properly balanced. Again, keep your expectations in check and you’ll be okay.
Extras on the disc are surprisingly plentiful for a movie this insanely obscure, starting with the audio commentary with Canuxploitation.com’s Paul Corupe and Rewind This! director Josh Johnson. These guys have done their research and are able to offer up more facts about the history of this picture than any two men should be allowed, but they also make no qualms about the fact that there are still a lot of unknowns here. They make some interesting observations about the film’s use of hallways, the makeup effects, the green Spock ears and the subtleties of the pool scene. So too do they offer up some interesting observations about the use of music in the movie, the film’s status as sort of an anti-slasher in that it doesn’t offer up much gore and is completely devoid of nudity, the dubbing, the locations (or lack thereof) and quite a bit more. It’s a fun track but so too is it genuinely interesting and as such, it’s certainly worth listening to.
Videonomicon also provides an interesting on camera interview with star Cameron Klein entitled Science Crazed Changes Everything! He talks her about why he changed his name for this movie, his experiences working on the film, what it was like working with the illustrious Ron Switzer who was so strapped for cash he wouldn’t even offer up bus far for some of his crew and quite a bit more. He talks about some of the same subjects but also cover some different ground in an equally enjoyable audio interview that plays out over a pretty keen still gallery of Science Craze related ‘stuff.’ Also on hand is writer Tony Burgess, the author of the Pontypool books. He appears in a separate interview to talk about his thoughts on the movie as well as why he referenced it in one of his stories.
The disc also includes the movie’s original home video trailer, a trailer for Ryan’s Babe (also on DVD from Videonomicon), menus and chapter selection. Inside the disc is a color insert booklet of liner notes featuring an essay on the film from Hamilton Trash Cinema’s Ben Ruffett and a second piece from Johnson. It’s also worth noting that the insert cover is reversible with the original TriWorld home video artwork on one side and a piece illustrated by Jon Vaughn on the flip side.
Last but not least, for the DVD-ROM enabled, plop this puppy into your computer to access an MP3 of the main theme song, a pair of black and white promo stills and front and back scans of the original sell sheet for the VHS release!
The Final Word:
Science Crazed is one of a kind, a hypnotically off-kilter viewing experience… an endurance test of a film that should not exist but most certainly does. It’s not even close to good on the traditional level but it’s fascinating in the way that films like this can be and Videonomicon’s DVD release does a fine job of at least trying to put all of this into context with a fine commentary and some interesting interviews too.