• Rush Week (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: March 16th, 2021.
    Director: Bob Bralver
    Cast: Pamela Ludwig, Dean Hamilton, Courtney Gebhart, Roy Thinnes
    Year: 1989
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    Rush Week – Movie Review:

    Bob Bralver, who worked prolifically as a stuntman and TV director, directed this later period slasher film released in 1989. The film follows Toni Daniels (Pamela Ludwig of Pale Blood), a journalism student who has just arrived on campus as the BDB fraternity has been allowed back after getting kicked out the year prior for unruly activity. Her arrival also coincides with rush week, where the fraternities and sororities on campus allow new pledges to prove that they’ve got what it takes to join these different organizations.

    After meeting with Dean Grail (Roy Thinnes) and learning that his daughter passed away a year ago, Toni gets to work with her journalism assignment – covering the rush week activities happening on campus. It’s hardly her dream assignment, she wants something more interesting to work on, but it is what pot smoking faculty member Cosmo Kincald (Gregg Allman - yes, that Gregg Allman) assigned her and that’s that. When Toni finds out that a coed has gone missing, she starts poking around to see if she can uncover any tidbits, hoping that it’ll turn into a story that actually means something. Meanwhile, she starts getting closer to Jeff Jacobs (Dean Hamilton), the rowdy, and occasionally very moody, man in charge of the BDB crew who just so happens to be a computer science major with a dark past. Jeff and his right hand man, Byron Rogers (Donald Grant), have got all sorts of pranks planned, some of which involve a ceremonial axe and, coincidently, happen around the same time other voluptuous (and often times very naked) college girls mysteriously vanish.

    Toni is sure that there’s a killer on the loose, but everyone else thinks she’s nuts. Either way, she’s bound and determined to crack the case, despite putting her very life in grave danger by doing so. Oh, and the guy in charge of the cafeteria (John Donovan) is a Grade A creep!

    Rush Week is a mixed bag. It’s a pretty predictable film and, by slasher movie standards, surprisingly bloodless, but despite these factors, it’s entertaining enough in you’re in an undemanding mood. To the film’s credit, it does offer a lot of naked boobs and it contains some amusing references to A Nightmare On Elm Street, both of The Hills Have Eyes films and the works of Alfred Hitchcock. Lovely Kathleen Kinmont – who appeared in the amazing Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster? Her character is quite literally named Julie Ann McGuffin!

    The movie is also loaded with late eighties ‘charm.’ If you get off on garish colors and big hair, this movie will make sure you finish. The film is shout with a reasonable amount of style, there are some interesting camera angles employed throughout the movie to keep things interesting on a visual level. The movie also has a pretty interesting soundtrack that features quite a few Enigma Records recording artists. The Dickies appear in the film and perform Booby Trap and Monster Island during a party scene in the last third of the movie. Also listen closely and you just might hear The Dead Milkmen, The Surf Punks and some Devo too!

    The acting won’t blow you away but Pamela Ludwig is a decent enough lead. We buy her as a smart young woman, she has the right vibe to make that work even during the scenes of questionable computer use. Either way, Ludwig has got it going on, she’s smart and attractive and you can see why Jeff would be into her and she handles the material well. Dean Hamilton is also decent enough here, and supporting work from Donald Grant, Roy Thinnes and Gregg Allman (really stretching here as a stoner!) is also fine.

    Rush Week – Blu-ray Review:

    Rush Week arrives on Region A Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome “newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm interpositive” in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Taking up 28.5GBs of space on the 50GB disc, the transfer is quite nice. The image is pristine, there are maybe one or two instances where you might notice some really minor print damage but you truly have to be looking for it to spot it in the first place. Otherwise, no complaints! Detail looks good, colors look fantastic, black levels are solid and skin tones are nice and realistic. There’s a solid amount of depth to the image and no problems with compression or edge enhancement.

    Audio options are offered in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, both in the film’s original English language. Optional SDH subtitles are available in English only. The lossless track is, obviously, the way to go if you’ve got the hardware for it. Dialogue is clear and concise, always easy to follow. The score sounds solid, no problems with any hiss or distortion, it all sounds very good.

    The main extra on the disc is a full-length audio commentary track with The Hysteria Continues!, where they talk about seeing the film for the first time on VHS, the importance of the cover art, the film's release history domestically and abroad, how the film was reviewed upon release, notes on the cast and crew that appear in the film, how the picture is very much a 'whodunnit' and its use of red herrings, how it compares to other slasher films that deal with similar concepts and how the movie is more of a time capsule than anything else. As the track goes on they discuss similarities to other slasher movies that have come before and since, nods to other horror movies in the film, the garish 80s fashions on display, Bob Bralver's directing style, the overuse of the smoke machine in the picture, how some of the post-modernism in the film predates what would be done in Scream and a whole lot of other details. It's a pretty well-researched track and interesting to listen to.

    So 80s is an interview with actress Courtney Gebhart that runs thirteen-minutes. She talks about landing the part in the movie, how she got along with her co-stars, what it was like shooting the scene where she has to sing in the movie, how much fun she had working on the film and how the movie is very much a product of the era in which it was made.

    Still Dean Hamilton is a thirteen-minute interview with actor Dean Hamilton. In this piece he talks about getting his start acting right out of college in 1983, landing a part on a soap opera and then moving into film. He talks about doing projects in his native Canada and then landing the role in Rush Week in 1988. He then goes on to cover his character, how fun it was to make, some of the cast and crew members that he worked with on the picture, shooting in and around Los Angeles, interacting with Gregg Allman, moving on to producing and writing after getting out of acting and lots more.

    Menus and chapter selection are also provided on the disc, which comes packaged with some nice reversible cover art.

    Rush Week - The Final Word:

    More blood and tension would certainly have helped this film, it often times feels more like a mystery film with some exploitation elements tossed into it than a true slasher picture, but those of a less discerning mindset who can appreciate eighties oddities should get a lick out of Rush Week. Vinegar Syndrome, to their credit, has brought the picture to Blu-ray with a very nice presentation and some decent extra features as well.

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