• Shatter Dead (Saturn’s Core) Blu-ray Review

    Shatter Dead (Saturn’s Core) Blu-ray Review
    Released by: Saturn’s Core
    Released on: October 26th, 2021.
    Director: Scooter McCrae
    Cast: Stark Raven, Robert Wells, Marina Del Ray, Flora Fauna, Daniel "Smalls" Johnson, John Weiner
    Year: 1994
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    Shatter Dead – Movie Review:

    Written and directed by Scotter McCrae in 1994, Shatter Dead takes place in a world where the Angel Of Death has impregnated a human woman, which changes things and causes the dead not to die, at least not in the traditional sense. This, combined with an increase in suicide, causes the zombie population to grow very quickly, though most of the zombies seem perfectly content coexisting with the regular humans and don’t differ from their living counterparts much at all, at least on the outside. Here we meet Susan (Stark Raven), who wants nothing more than to be reunited with boyfriend. When she makes a trip to the grocery store, she makes sure her gun is loaded, as in order to do this she's going to have to pass the regular homeless population that are out there, only their not really typical homeless people, they're zombies. Interestingly enough, the zombies don't attack so much as they panhandle. Susan gets what she needs and heads back to her apartment but runs into a large group of more aggressive undead led by The Preacher Man (Robert Wells) who has plans to bring about a resurrection of his own.

    Susan survives but loses her car. She is picked up by a man who seems friendly enough but who is in fact undead himself. When she figures this out, she basically carjacks him and finds solace at a safe house where she meets a woman named Mary (Flora Fauna). It's clear that Mary is attracted to Susan, and it isn't long before they're showering together, and it's then that Susan realizes Mary is a zombie as well. Susan doesn't panic, as Mary doesn't seem to be a threat to her, but things are about to get a whole lot worse for her very soon.

    While Shatter Dead may have been made on a very modest budget, even now, more than a quarter century since it was made, it still feels very fresh and very original. While it’s clearly a product of the mid-nineties in terms of how the characters in the picture dress and act, the themes and ideas that the picture explores still resonate and the movie remains one of the more interesting blends of arthouse ideas and genre tropes to come out of the SOV scene of the decade in which it was made. It still offers up plenty of gore, some of which is pretty effective, and a lot of sex and nudity to complement the splatter, but mixed in with all of this is plenty of food for thought about mortality, morality, homelessness and the afterlife. There’s a lot of social commentary and the way that McCrae’s story toys with the idea of gaining eternal youth through suicide is well thought out. While it does stumble the way low budget SOV movies tend to stumble at times, McCrae gets a lot more right with this than you might expect, and the acting is, if not always perfect, at least pretty solid throughout.

    Note that this release contains the original cut of Shatter Dead and a new director’s cut version. In addition to newly created titles, this cut moves at a faster pace, trimming some of the fat off of the longer cut. Otherwise, it’s basically the same movie, none of the trims affect any of the storytelling or any of the more sensational, exploitative elements that are clearly going to be a draw here.

    Shatter Dead – Blu-ray Review:

    Both versions of Shatter Dead comes to region free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080i high definition transfer that comes from a “brand new restoration of the Director's Cut from the original Betacam SP master tapes supervised by Scooter McCrae.” Framed in its original 1.33.1 aspect ratio with the seventy-six minute director’s cut taking up 19.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc and the longer, eighty-two minute original cut getting 10.4GBs of space. Obviously this release is going to be limited by the original elements available but the higher bit rate and stronger resolution definitely give us a noticeable upgrade over the older Sub Rosa DVD (which came out way back in 2002). There are some compression artifacts here and there in the longer cut but otherwise, things shape up pretty well given the fact that this was shot on tape.

    The 16-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo audio, available with optional English subtitles, sounds fine in both cuts. Levels are balanced well enough and there isn’t much in the way of hiss or distortion to complain about. Again, the limitations of the source material do factor into the equation here, but overall, given the film’s roots, the audio is decent.

    The three audio commentary tracks that were included on the Sub Rosa DVD are here again, the first one with director Scooter McCrae flying solo, the next with McCrae and cinematographer Matthew Howe and the third with McCrae and cast members Stark Raven, Marina Del Ray, Daniel "Smalls" Johnson and Robert Wells. There’s a ton of information in here, often times relayed with a good sense of humor, and as you’d expect, they cover a lot of ground. The commentary with the cast can be a bit too rowdy at times but the other two are quite worthwhile if you want to know more about the making of this film or enjoy stories about the trials and tribulations of low budget filmmaking.

    New to this release is God Still Hates You, an interview with director Scooter McCrae and cinematographer Matt Howe that clocks in at just short of forty minutes. They speak very candidly here about getting to know one another when they were in film school together, how and why they decided to collaborate on this picture, casting the movie, locations, influences and the film's nearly three decade legacy. This is pretty amusing and definitely worth your time as it goes over some stuff not really covered in the commentary tracks.

    The eight minute No Scars To Hide is also new to this release, it’s an interesting “locations then-and-now” featurette hosted by Michael Gingold that shows off how some of the locations used in the film have changed over the years, some more drastically than others, while some have remained more or less the same. Also included here, not on the last release, is The Loner, an early short film by Scooter McCrae that runs eight minutes and comes complete with an optional audio commentary by the man himself.

    There are more archival featurettes here as well, including the twenty-eight minute McCrae cable TV interview that is quite interesting. It’s basically a public access show in which McCrae appears as a guest to talk up the film. There’s also an archival behind the scenes footage, the blooper reel that was included on the old DVD and the vintage tour of the Shatter Dead house that, if you haven’t seen it before, is worth checking out.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc is a trailer for the feature, a few bonus trailers (Mail Order Murder: The Story Of W.A.V.E. Productions, Duck! The Carbine High Massacre and McCrae’s 1999 film Sixteen Tongues), menus and chapter selection options.

    Shatter Dead – The Final Word:

    Shatter Dead isn’t the type of SOV splatter film you put on with a bunch of friends for a beer-fueled movie night despite the fact that it does not shy away from exploitation at all (in fact, at times the movie wallows in it). The movie is much more of a pensive, thought provoking piece and as such, it stands out from the pack in a pretty big way. Saturn’s Core has done a nice job bringing the movie to Blu-ray with a presentation that stays true to the movie’s SOV origins and a pretty nice selection of extra features both old and new. Recommended!

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