• Born For Hell (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: July 20th, 2021.
    Director: Denis
    Mathieu Carrière, Debra Berger, Leonora Fani, Christine Boisson, Ely Galleani, Carole Laure
    Year: 1976
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    Born For Hell – Movie Review:

    Directed by Montreal filmmaker Denis Héroux in 1976, Born For Hell (also known as Naked Massacre) is loosely based on the exploits of serial killer Richard Speck, who had been arrested and tried a few years earlier in the late sixties.

    Moving the story from Speck’s preferred hunting ground of Chicago to Belfast, Ireland the film introduces us to Cain Adamson (Mathieu Carrière), an American Vietnam veteran who is trying to make his way back to the United States. Cain is a hot head and is clearly a few cards short of a deck, we see this early on when an explosion inside a church leaves bodies scattered about as he just sits there, unfazed by the chaos that has erupted around him.

    Cain starts hanging out at a bar and begging for spare change in the neighborhood in an effort to get by, but it’s soon obvious to the audience that his curiosity about the student nurses’ dorm nearby is… unhealthy. One of the nurses in training, Amy (Carole Laure), feels sorry for the guy and, rather foolishly, lets him into the dorm where he meets a few of the other young woman who live there – Bridget (Debra Berger), Pam (Ely Galleani), Catharine (Eva Mattes), Leila (Myriam Boyer), Christine (Emmanuelle’s Christine Boisson), Eileen (Andrée Pelletier) and Jenny (Leonora Fani) – none of whom realized until it was too late that he’d shown up armed with a very sharp switchblade…

    Quite a drastically different film than Denis Héroux’s final directorial effort, 1977’s killer cat film The Uncanny, Born For Hell is pretty downbeat stuff but it’s very well made. Changing the location from Belfast to Chicago doesn’t hurt the storyline at all (and let’s face it, while this was definitely inspired by the Speck killings it was never intended to be a bio-pic), and the locations prove to be quite an effective backdrop off of which to stage the events that comprise the bulk of the film. The production values of this international co-production are pretty solid. The film benefits a lot from Heinz Hölscher’s strong cinematography. The camerawork in the film captures the gritty look and feel of the city very effectively and Héroux shows good control over the pacing and tone of the film.

    Born For Hell also benefits from some pretty strong acting. The film’s German-born leading man, Mathieu Carrière, has worked with everyone from Walerian Borowczyk on Love Rites to Volker Schlöndorff on Young Torless and he’s very good here. His Cain Adamson is believably disturbed and quite sadistic and once the movie turns into a home invasion style film as he makes his way into the nurses dorm, Carrière turns things up. The supporting cast are very good here as well, the different actresses all doing fine work as the nurses in peril, but Carrière has the most to do here and he takes advantage of it and delivers some really strong work.

    Born For Hell – Blu-ray Review:

    Born For Hell comes to region free Blu-ray courtesy of Severin Films who present the picture in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 24GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Scanned in 2K “from an uncut 35mm print discovered in The National Archives of Canada,” the transfer is a grainy, gritty looking one but that suits the tone of the movie well and there really isn’t a whole lot of print damage here to note. Compression struggles in spots, the smoky explosion early on in the church being an example, but detail is pretty solid throughout. This isn’t a very colorful movie but the film’s grim color palette is reproduced well enough and we get solid black levels and nice skin tones. There aren’t any issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement to note.

    English and French language audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono with optional English SDH subtitles. Quality is comparable on both tracks but it does appear that most of the leads are speaking English here (this doesn’t appear to have been shot with live sound but rather it’s been dubbed in post-production), making that track the better way to watch the film.

    Severin also provides the U.S. video release cut under the alternate Naked Massacre title. This version is also provided in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the transfer using 18.2GBs of space on the disc. Audio is in English 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono, though there are no subtitles or closed captions provided for this version of the movie. Presentation quality mirrors the feature version of the film, though the compression is a bit more noticeable here. As to the differences, this version runs 1:25:43 as opposed to the feature version at 1:31:37 and it removes the prologue in Belfast from the movie. It also features some different editing choices, tightening up the chase scene and rearranging a few other scenes so that they take place in a different order. It isn’t the better version of the film but it is nice to have it included here in a nice presentation for those who might be more familiar with it this cut.

    The Other Side of the Mirror is a new interview with Actor Mathieu Carrière that runs just over fourteen minutes. Here he speaks with Kier-la Janisse about acting alongside Oreson Welles in Malpertuis, having to be careful when making Born For Hell to ensure that enough changes were made from the events that inspired it, why he took the part in the first place, getting along with the cast and crew (some very well!) and more.

    Up next, check out Nightmare In Chicago: Remembering The Richard Speck Crime Spree which is a featurette with local filmmakers John McNaughton and Gary Sherman that, over thirteen minutes, allows them to share some interesting memories of when Richard Speck was still very active in the Chicago area and the impact that this had on the city.

    A New Kind Of Crime: The Richard Speck Story is a featurette with Once Upon A Crime Podcaster Esther Ludlow that runs for thirty-eight minutes. This is a pretty interesting deep dive into the facts behind the Speck case, what sets him apart from other serial killers, some of his own back story and lots more. It’s definitely worth checking out as it is quite fascinating.

    Bombing Here, Shooting There is a new video Essay by filmmaker Chris O’Neill that clocks in at seventeen minutes. In this piece, O’Neill covers the Dublin locations used in the movie and some of the Irish actors who appear in these scenes. He also covers some of the history behind the locations depicting in the movie and what Denis Héroux and his crew brought to the movie.

    Not enough? Check out artist Joe Coleman On Speck, a fourteen minute segment in which the famed painter talks about Speck’s horrific legacy, his fairly infamous tattoo and how Speck’s killings personally affected him. Coleman also offers a ten minute tour of his Odditorium wherein he shows off some of his work that was specifically inspired by a few different serial killers, Speck included.

    Lastly, we get the Italian theatrical trailer for the feature along with menus and chapter selection options.

    Born For Hell – The Final Word:

    Born For Hell is grim stuff to be sure, but it’s also quite well done and very effective. Severin Film’s has done a nice job with this release, bringing it to Blu-ray with two different cuts and a nice selection of extra features. Feel good movie of the year this is not, but for those who like their horror on the darker side, this release comes recommended.

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

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Not accessible.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Scheduling stuff ahead of time while I'm on vacation, you'll see stuff live around 8:30EST each morning give or take a few minutes. If you see it inaccessible before then just pretend you didn't see it and come back later.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Who said you could take a holiday?!

      Glad to see you thought the compression was problematic too. Way too much crammed onto one disc. Great extras though, after only having seen it on a 50 movie pack this release was a nice surprise. If only they'd used branching or made it a two disc set.