• A Day Of Judgement (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: September 28th, 2021.
    Director: Charles Reynolds
    Cast: William T. Hicks, Harris Bloodworth, Susan Bloodworth, Deborah Bloodworth, Carlton Bortell
    Year: 1981
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    A Day Of Judgement – Movie Review:

    The single directorial effort from Charles “C.D.H.” Reynolds was this 1981 regional horror picture produced and distributed by Earl Owensby Studios, an outfit based in North Carolina that was responsible for handling exploitation and drive-in fare (often times starring Earl himself) such as Dark Sunday, Lady Grey (starring David Allan Coe!) and Chain Gang.

    Set in the 1920’s, A Day Of Judgement (which had an ad campaign that blatantly cashed in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween and used a tag line that read ‘The night HE came to collect his own’!) takes place in a small town somewhere in the American south. Here, the local preacher, Reverend Cage (played by director Charles Reynolds wearing some noticeably odd ‘grey’ in his hair and beard), makes it clear to his congregation that he and the Lord alike have had enough of their sinful ways. When his is finished, he quits and splits town.

    Cage's judgement call isn't really so far off the mark. The town has its share of bad seeds. The man who runs the bank, Mr. Sharpe (William T. Hicks), is less than honest in his dealings while Mrs. Fitch (Helen Tryon) spends most of her time crawling inside a bottle when she isn't poisoning a goat she suspects of eating her flowers. Ruby (Careyanne Sutton), whose husband owns the biggest store in town, likes to sleep around behind his back. A guy named Charlie (Brownlee Davis) is married to Grace (Denice Myers) suspects her of screwing around with his boss, Mr. Martin (Harris Bloodworth) while George Clay (William Gillespie), who runs the town gas station, is doing everything in his power to get his aged parents committed.

    On Cage’s way out of town, he passes a figure clad in a black hooded robe brandishing a scythe. It isn't long before various members of the town's populace start getting off in increasingly dramatic fashion. Has The Grim Reaper himself shown up to dole out God’s vengeance on the sinful township? Can the town sheriff (Elijah Perry) clean this mess up?

    A Day Of Judgement is an odd one, a slasher movie in a sense but one that’s fairly bloodless (a neat decapitation scene being the sole exception in the gore department) and set to the beat of a fire and brimstone fundamentalist Christian message. Owensby, by all accounts, was a man of faith and it makes sense that he’d distribute this one. The message is clear – those who turn their backs on God and his commandments will pay the price, and that’s pretty much exactly what happens, one character is quite literally dragged to Hell for their transgressions. There are some neat ideas at play here, and at times, Reynolds pulls it off…. at times. The movie isn’t as consistent as it should be, there are some pacing issues here and in addition to most of the murders happening off screen, the character of The Grim Reaper is woefully underused. The movie is on fire when the character shows up but we only get glimpses here and there, likely the result of having to bring this in on a low budget.

    Still, the movie has its own weird charm. Hicks and Tryon both pop up in Death Screams (also produced by Owensby) and Perry shows up in Final Exam but most of the cast don't appear to have done much else in terms of acting for the screen. Assuming they’re primarily first timers or even flat out amateurs, it makes sense that some of the acting might not be great, but it’s near to watch them try. Things unravel in a pretty big way at the film’s finish but still, despite the many and obvious flaws, there’s enough of interest here to make this worth checking out, particularly if you have a soft spot for oddball Christian genre films or regional filmmaking.

    A Day Of Judgement – Blu-ray Review:

    Severin Films brings A Day Of Judgement to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 22.6GBs of space on the 25GB disc. Scanned in 2k from the interpositive, the transfer is naturally grainy but it looks quite good. There’s nice detail here and any print damage that does show up is minor, relegated to small white specks and the occasional scratch or two. Colors are reproduced pretty nicely and black levels are good. The grain is pretty thick but that just adds to the experience. The disc is free of any noticeable issues with noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression problems. Overall, the picture quality here is pretty solid.

    The only audio option for the feature is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono mix, with optional subtitles provided in English only. The limitations in the source are evident here and the mix is a bit on the flat side but the dialogue is always clean and clear, the levels nicely balanced and the track reasonably clean. There’s a bit of sibilance in a few spots but outside of that, no complaints.

    Extra features are made up of two featurettes, the first of which is The Atheist’s Sins, an interview with the author of Nightmare USA, Stephen Thrower. Here, over eighteen minutes, he talks about how the film didn't meet with much 'acclaim or attention' when it was released, having never had a theatrical release but instead going straight to video. As the piece progresses, he talks about director C.D.H. Reynolds' life and times, Earl Owensby and his production company (and how they forbade anyone from working on Sunday), Owensby's religious convictions, the themes and morality of the film's concepts, attempts at period detail to make it look like the film was set in the 1920's, casting the movie and more.

    The second featurette is Tales Of Judgment and it’s an interview with filmmaker Worth Keeter and writer Thom McIntyre that is four minutes or 'soundbites from A Day Of Judgement from a longer piece that Severin is working on for a future release.' This piece goes over where Day Of Judgement falls in the Earl Owensby Studio's filmography, McIntyre's writing of the script, working with Reynolds on his single directorial feature, the influence of Halloween (at least on the marketing materials), Keeter's efforts to recut the film and the reshoots that were required and thoughts on the picture overall.

    A Day Of Judgement – The Final Word:

    A Day Of Judgement is a pretty weird movie! It’s sort of a slasher and definitely a horror movie but the religious message makes it stand out and the local flavor definitely gives it a certain something to set it apart from the pack. Severin’s done a nice job rescuing this one from VHS obscurity and giving it a proper high definition release. If it isn’t stacked with extras, the two featurettes are interesting and add important context. Recommended!

    Click on the images below for full-sized A Day Of Judgement screen caps!