• Night Killer (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 25th, 2019.
    Director: Claudio Fragasso, Bruno Mattei
    Cast: Peter Hooten, Tara Buckman, Richard Foster
    Year: 1990
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    Night Killer – Movie Review:

    As the story goes, storied Italian director Claudio Fragasso convinced his producer, Franco Gaudenzi, to bank roll a thriller by telling him he was going to make him a horror movie. When Fragasso in his finished product and moved on to his next picture, Gaudenzi brought in none other than the late, great Bruno Mattei to shoot some additional gore set pieces to splice into the picture, at which point it somehow got released in Italy as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3.

    As to the story? Well, it opens with a scene in Virginia Beach at a theatre where a choreographer barks commands at her dance troupe. She’s unaware that there’s a killer with a disfigured face and a fright glove poking about… until it’s too late and her corpse goes flying off the balcony onto the floor.

    This admittedly awesome opening scene has very little to do with what comes next, although it does at least introduce us to the killer so it isn’t completely superfluous. From there, we meet Melanie Beck (Tara Buckman, who played the mom in Silent Night, Deadly Night!). She’s a thirty-year-old single mom who likes to fondle her breasts while looking in the mirror. She gets a phone call from someone threatening to ‘screw her brain’ and quite rightly calls the cops – but it’s too late! The call is coming from inside the house and the person who made it is wearing a wacky rubber mask and brandishing a fright glove.

    For reasons never explained, the killer leaves Melanie alive. She winds up in the hospital under the less than watchful eye of Dr. Willow (Lee Lively), and soon escapes. Her daughter winds up in the care of friends Anne and Sherman (Richard Foster), the later of whom may or may not have saved her from the maniac (and he has the scars to maybe prove it). Now on the lam, Melanie gets sexually harassed by a guy in a jeep. She chases him to a restaurant and forces him to undress at gunpoint and flush his clothes down the toilet. After escaping, the heads to the beach where she doles out a load of pills and tries to kill herself, but the pervy guy, Axel (Peter Hooten) shows up in time to save her… and then bring her back to his hotel room where he ties her up and holds her hostage and eats some KFC. Meanwhile, the killer strikes a few more times, presumably in an attempt to get closer to Melanie...

    Night Killer is surprisingly sleazy and lovably stupid. It’s clear that the look and the ‘glove’ concept were lifted from the Nightmare On Elm Street series (so how it got released as Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 in Italy is a bit of a mystery) but it doesn’t bother with the supernatural or dream logic elements of that series. It’s like Fragasso and Mattei just decided to plop a Freddy looking guy into a slasher picture, spice it up with some nudity and light bondage and call it a day. There are pretty massive logic gaps here that are hard to ignore, and the movie doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense – but yet, by the time you’re in the home stretch you’ll have probably figured out ‘whodunnit’ without straining your brain too heavily.

    The movie has some decent, moderate (and amusingly repetitive) gore effects going for it and it’s interesting to see the Virginia locations featured as prominently as they are in the film. The production values are definitely on the lower end of the spectrum, but if you’re familiar with the output of Fragasso and Mattei this won’t phase you in the least. The performances are… interesting. Buckman is okay here, sporting some goofy and dated looking nineties hair that kind of makes her look like Linda Hamilton. Peter Hooten chews the scenery and looks like a bug-eyed crazy dude for much of his screen time. The rest of the cast are just sort of there, save for Richard Foster, who is fun to watch while running about with a very fake looking latex scar on his face.

    Night Killer – Blu-ray Review:

    Night Killer gets its North American release debut via this Blu-ray from Severin Films. The picture is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, taken from a new 4k scan of the original 35mm negative. Given that the film was basically made in a chop shop, this looks quite good. There are obvious differences between the footage directed by Fragasso and the footage directed by Mattei, it isn’t hard to notice it, but the quality of the picture is fine when you take that into account. Detail is quite strong even while some scenes look softer than others, and colors look quite nice. Black levels are fine, skin tones look good and the image is free of obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues.

    DTS-HD 2.0 Mono options are provided in English and Italian with optional subtitles provided in English for the Italian track only. There are some definite differences between the dialogue in the two tracks, but they follow the same basic script. Both sound fine but the English track is a bit thinner with less depth than the Italian track which, by comparison, is the stronger of the two (which is weird, as it seems everyone is speaking English here). Either way, they’re both properly balanced and free of any hiss or distortion even if you might pick up on some mild sibilance every once in a while.

    The first of the two featurettes included on this disc is The Virginia Claw Massacre, a twenty-five-minute interview with director Claudio Fragasso. He speaks quite candidly about how this project came to be, how he coaxed producer Franco Gaudenzi into bankrolling the picture, what his intentions were with the film, shooting on location in Virginia, working with Hooten and Buckmen (who didn’t seem to get along too well) and how the Mattei-shot footage wound up in here (as well as how he feels about that). Like all of Fragasso’s interviews, it’s interesting stuff and it sheds some light on a less frequently discussed side of Italian genre cinema.

    The second featurette is the fifteen-minute Mindfuck, which interviews screenwriter Rossella Drudi (who also happens to be married to Fragasso). She speaks about where she got the inspiration from for the story, the research that went into rape and rape survivor cases, how she tried to bring an empathetic tone to the story in that regard, her thoughts on Gaudenzi and on Mattei’s contributions and more.

    The disc also includes a quick fifty-second trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    Night Killer – The Final Word:

    Night Killer is a wonderful mess of film, so wildly disjointed that even at its most predictable moments it still manages to surprise. Severin Films’ Blu-ray release is a fine one, presenting this rarely seen bucket of schlock in very nice shape and with some decent extra features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Night Killer Blu-ray screen caps!