• Blades (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: September 7th, 2021.
    Director: Thomas R. Rondinella
    Cast: Robert North, Jeremy Whelan, Victoria Scott, Holly Stevenson, William Towner
    Year: 1989
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    Blades – Movie Review:

    Aw, the killer lawn mower movie, certainly one of the most under used sub genres of the horror film. In this 1989 effort from director/co-writer Thomas R. Rondinella (who also worked on Girls School Screamers a few years prior in 1984) that was picked up and distributed by Troma, a lot of people are showing up dead at the Tall Grass Country Club. And not only are they dead, they're sliced up pretty good to boot. We see this first hand when a charming young woman in a ‘KISS Animalize’ t-shirt and her boyfriend get slaughtered in the first few minutes of the film.

    The club is owned by a man named Norman Osgood (William Towner), and he obviously does not want the local press to catch wind of the events going on at his establishment, because soon he'll be hosting a Pro-Am golf tournament. To avoid the negative light that would surely shine down bright upon him if word got out about the killings, he talks to a local professional golfer named Roy Kent (Robert North). The hope is that Roy will be able to solve the mystery of the bloody murders in time to save the tournament, and the club.

    Norman has another problem that he's unaware of though - Roy is a drunk. And then there's Kelly Lange (Victoria Scott), jealous of Roy's professional status. She would like nothing better than to see Roy fail and she does her best to try and get Norman to cancel the tournament. When the cops arrest Deke Slater (Jeremy Whelan) on suspicion or murder, all seems to be back to normal, until Deke starts going off about a killer lawn mower. As a bit more time passes, both Roy and Kelly begin to think that he may not be as crazy as he sounds.

    Sound goofy? That's because it is. Very goofy, we’re clearly not meant to be taking this movie at all seriously. It’s essentially Jaws at a golf course with a lawnmower in place of a shark and a tricked out van in place of a boat. It’s amusing to see how closely this film follows Jaws’ basic storyline. Production values are okay. The film was made on a modest budget and more horror fans will walk away from this wishing there’d been a bit more splatter on display, but there are a couple of decent kill scenes in the movie and whenever the killer lawnmower is on screen, the movie is pretty fun. The use of ‘lawnmower POV’ shots is amusing at first (again, a nod to Jaws) but it gets old fairly quickly and Rondinella and company do overuse this tactic a bit.

    The acting isn’t great, but it suits the goofy tone of the movie. Robert North is the more fun to watch out of the crew, he’s got a surly charisma to him that is, if not specifically endearing, at least entertaining. William Towner plays the country club owner, essentially the mayor from Jaws, with the right amount of snooty arrogance while Jeremy Whelan and Victoria Scott are fine, if not super memorable in their roles.

    Blades – Blu-ray Review:

    Vinegar Syndrome brings Blades to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 18.1GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Presented “newly scanned and restored in 2k from its 35mm original camera negative” clarity is very strong, even in the darker scenes, and detail is excellent. There is almost no print damage here at all, the picture is surprisingly clean, and color reproduction is pretty much perfect. Black levels look good too. There are no noticeable issues with compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction problems to note, the picture always looks suitably filmic. No complaints here at all.

    The 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track, in the film’s native English, comes with optional English subtitles and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track as well. There is some sibilance in a few spots but otherwise the track is clean and nicely balanced. The films genuinely cool score sounds very strong here as well.

    Extras start off with a commentary track with director Thomas R. Rondinella and writer William R. Pace that covers all the bases. They go over where some of the ideas for the movie came from, the locations, casting the film, the effects work and the production history in general. They’re pretty enthusiastic and fun to listen to.

    The disc also includes Fore Warning, which is a twenty-one minute making-of documentary featuring interviews with Rondinella, writer/associate producer Bill R. Page and producer John P. Finegan. This piece covers how each participant came to work on the movie, their backgrounds, working on Girl School Screamers and the importance that project had on this one, where the ideas for the movie came from, casting the picture, how the owner of an establishment called Beer World get involved, some of the locations that were used in the movie, the effects work featured in the picture, how the film was marketed and promoted and more. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary track does but it’s still worth watching.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a still gallery, menus and chapter selection options. Vinegar Syndrome packages this release with some nice reversible cover sleeve artwork.

    Blades – The Final Word:

    Blades is no unsung classic of low budget horror but it does have its moments and a few stand out set pieces add to its goofy charm. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release presents the film in excellent shape and with a nice selection of extra features as well. All in all, it’s an entertaining mix of horror and comedy.

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