• Deathdream

    Released by: Subkultur Entertainment
    Released on: April 29th, 2016.
    Director: Bob Clark
    Cast: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Henderson Forsythe, Anya Ormsby, Jane Daly
    Year: 1974
    Purchase From Diabolik DVD

    The Movie:

    Also known as Dead Of Night, 1974’s Deathdream, directed by the late, great Bob Clark and written by Alan Ormsby (who also wrote Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, directed by Clark shortly before this picture, opens with an interesting scene where the Brooks family sits down to dinner only to be interrupted by a telegram altering them to the fact that son Andy (Richard Backus) has been killed serving in the Vietnam War. Charles (John Marley) and Christine (Lynn Carlin), his parents, are understandable distraught and upset by this news, Christine seemingly unable to accept it as reality. His younger sister Cathy (Anya Ormsby) is also distraught.

    In the middle of the night, after the family has settled down to bed for the night, who should arrive on their doorstep but Andy himself, looking rather amused, a strange grin on his face. They are, of course, overjoyed to see him and assume that the telegram must have been sent in error. It soon becomes obvious though that Andy isn’t quite the man he once was. After his return home he’s incredibly introverted, he doesn’t want to go outside or have any sort of social life. Instead, he’s content to stay hidden away from the world in his bedroom, rocking back and forth in his chair at an almost manic pace. When Andy suddenly snaps and kills their dog in front of some kids, it’s clear that something is very wrong here. Doctor Allman (Henderson Forsythe) isn’t sure what to make of this either. Charles intends to get to the bottom of it even if deep down he knows he doesn’t want to face the truth.

    Deathdream is a very well made movie. Expertly directed by Clark, who proved a few years earlier he knew how to make a great horror movie with his seminal slasher Black Christmas (also made in 1974), it’s deliberately paced but remarkably intense. Ormsby’s script tackles the social and political issues of the era in which the film was made without beating you over the head with things. The movie also does a great job of exploring the family dynamic by letting us get to know the Brooks well enough to make them interesting to us. It’s clear that Charles is strong enough to face reality here while Christine is in denial about what’s happening. It tears at them, you can see through the expert performances the stress that it puts on their marriage and in many ways its heartbreaking to watch all of this play out.

    However, despite the family drama and heady scripting, Deathdream is first and foremost a horror movie. It’s a smart, different, very intelligent horror movie but it is a horror movie just the same. While it’s never going to have you jumping out of your seat and running for the exit, it’s a very suspenseful picture. We know early on what’s wrong with Andy, it’s made fairly clear, but seeing how he and his family adjust to it and watching them figure out what to do about it is where the tension stems from. He is very definitely a threat to those around him, no matter how much they might all care for each other.

    The performances are very convincing, never over done or underplayed but completely believable from all involved. The picture is also very well shot using some interestingly plain locations, Deathdream is set to a fantastic score from composer Carl Zittrer that helps accentuate the drama and the horror alike. Clark (who has a small cameo in the film himself as a policeman) builds the story to a suitably grim and horrific conclusion. It’s great stuff.


    Deathdream makes its worldwide Blu-ray debut from Subkultur on a 50GB disc in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. The transfer here isn’t pristine but it does look really solid. The image is fairly grainy (it was shot on 16mm film), the film has always had this quality to it, but the print damage that appears is thankfully pretty minor, just small whit specks. Colors look nice and natural while black levels are nice and solid. The disc is well authored, showing no problems with any compression artifacts while the transfer is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. This is pretty filmic, fans should be please. It offers quite a nice upgrade over the previous DVD release from Blue Underground (which, to be fair, was a revelation compared to the old VHS release that was almost unwatchably dark).

    Audio options are provided on the Blu-ray in English and German DTS-HD Mono tracks with optional subtitles provided in German and English as well. The English audio track is a little flat at times but otherwise problem free. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to understand and if there’s any hiss here it’s infrequent and minor. The track is properly balanced and the score sounds really good.

    Also included on the disc is the German video version of the movie which is presented with both English and German audio options in an open matter presentation running eighty-two minutes and forty nine seconds (versus the feature version clocking in at eighty-eight minutes and twenty seven seconds. Also be on the lookout for the ‘Uncensored Original Ending’ also presented in open matte and runs four minutes and ten seconds. Great to see this included here.

    Rounding out the extras is a still gallery, the film’s original US theatrical trailer, a selection of bonus trailers for other titles available from Subkultur, menus and chapter selection. Unfortunately none of the extras from the Blue Underground release have been carried over to this edition, so completists may want to hold onto that disc for that reason.

    As this is a combo pack release a PAL format DVD version of the movie is also include inside the larger DVD sized keepcase. This case also houses a full color insert booklet containing an essay on the film in German only. The case in turn fits inside a nice cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    Deathdream is an excellent film, a genuinely chilling horror picture that is really well made on all fronts. Subkultur’s Blu-ray release is good one, offering up some decent extras and a strong audio/video presentation for the feature.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!