Friday, February 7, 2014

BAD DREAMS/Visiting Hours (Scream Factory Blu-ray) Double Feature - Pick Your Death - Michael Ironside or Richard Lynch?

“Cynthia’s Got a Grave Problem!” and “So Frightening You’ll Never Recover’. What do these two tag lines have in common? They both appear on the cover of a double feature disc from Scream Factory that slams Bad Dreams from 1988 and Visiting Hours from 1982 together in some kind of strange horror equivalent of a super collider. These two films have little in common other than genre, impressive and memorable fonts for cover art as well as being VHS gold from the days of the mom and pop shop. I actually own a copy of Visiting Hours on VHS and though it isn’t one of my favorite movies, I still claim it to be one of my favorite tapes in my collection due to the exquisite cover art. This is the stuff that filled my nightmares as a kid… strange pixelated-esque artwork made from the turned on lights of hospital windows. Speaking of nightmares… Bad Dreams can give you some of those if you take one look at the makeup job they did for Richard Lynch.

First and foremost, you can order this double feature disc on Blu-ray from Scream Factory NOW!Let’s take these one at a time and try to see if you have a good pairing because they’re really quite different.


Synopsis from Scream Factory:

In the mid-1970s the members of the love cult Unity Fields sought “the ultimate joining” by dousing themselves with gasoline and committing mass suicide. A young girl blown clear of the fiery explosion was the only survivor. Thirteen years later, Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin, Screamers) awakens from a coma inside a psychiatric hospital with only buried memories of that horrific day — but now her fellow patients are each being driven to their own violent suicides. Has the sect’s leader (Richard Lynch, Deathsport) returned to claim his final child? Bruce Abbott (Re-Animator) co-stars in the intense shocker Bad Dreams from director Andrew Fleming (The Craft) and producer Gale Anne Hurd (Punisher: War Zone, The Incredible Hulk).


I admit that the cover of this may have given me the willies a kid with those big bulging eyes and covered mouth, but I didn’t actually get to see the movie until a couple years back during the now infamous Fangoria 300 challenge. Perhaps seeing this at a younger age would have secured a greater level of fear, but instead I’m blessed with the joy of enjoying some of my favorite actors in horror history. It contains a nearly perfect cast of 80’s horror icons from Dean Cameron (Chainsaw in Summer School) to Jennifer Rubin (Nightmare on Elm St 3… wanna get high?). These are actors that you’ve grown to love in roles that feel natural for them. These are horror people whether they want the typecast or not.

Bad Dream is filled to the brim with some class A effects work that feels dirty and gory and burny. At times it’s unsettling, and at others you’ll just be waiting for the kill. Perhaps the most enjoyable extra on the whole disc is the The Special Effects of Bad Dreams. There are walk-throughs of some of the more iconic looks form the movie including an in depth look at the Richard Lynch burn makeup.

This feature contains a commentary track with Andrew Flemming, Writer and Director of Bad Dreams as well as a Behind the Scenes reel, alternative/original ending (which feels like it takes FOREVER) and a theatrical trailer. They’ve actually got a full cavalcade of interviews as well with Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbot and Dean Cameron. One of my big regrets was missing Dean Cameron at a horror con in the last year, so I suppose this at least provides a fix. I think horror fans would accept Summer School as a Scream Factory

While some of Bad Dreams feels obvious, it more than makes up for it by being entertaining and fun with some really out there cult scenes and wake dreaming moments that disturb. I guess when they say typecasting they looked at Jennifer Rubin and said… you’re a dream girl alright… movies only about dreams/nightmares etc. (screw my bad pun).


Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Academy Award®–winner Lee Grant (Best Supporting Actress in 1975 for Shampoo) stars as outspoken TV journalist Deborah Ballin, whose crusade against domestic violence enrages a creepy loner (a truly disturbing performance by Michael Ironside, Scanners) in Visiting Hours. He brutally attacks the anchorwoman in her home, but Ballin survives and is hospitalized. Her assailant is enraged; he is haunted by a horrific childhood trauma . . . and now he has hidden himself inside the hospital to finish what he started. Can anybody — including her concerned boss (William Shatner), a frantic nurse (Linda Purl, Happy Days) or Deborah herself — stop the psycho’s killing spree before it reaches sick new extremes?


And yeah.. this trailer friggin rules. Every time I watch it I want to watch the movie again if though I know that I'm not fond of it.

While the cover of this feature has always enchanted and frightened me, the movie itself has never really gotten under my skin. Sure I love seeing William Shatner and Michael Ironside in the same movie, but it’s really not all that scary. Not really all that shocking either. It is simply a product of the slasher boom that began it’s slow dissent in 1982 (that’s when the well started to run dry). While Michael Ironside’s performance is powerful, it doesn’t out-do any of the previous entries in the slasher subgenre. To me, that means it’s a modest failure. The childhood trauma back story feels used up at this point especially when compared to nearly motiveless killers like Michael Myers who don’t even need a reason to tear someone up.

Sure Visiting Hours was on the Video Nasty list, and maybe that gives it a free pass, but I don’t find this all that exciting. Still, it’s important to watch all the nasties if you’re a horror fan. You need to know what people throughout history having considered ban-able. I’m sure that my dislike for this particular movie has to do with the idea that it’s been copied and abused so many times that I feel it’s formulaic (more so than other slasher movies). Successful slasher movies have awesome kills. Visiting Hours doesn’t have awesome kills.

This disc contains Radio and TV Spots (which are really a lot of fun) and an interview with screenwriter Brian Taggert. While I may not be the VH fan boy, this will be a real treat for folks who love this movie.

Note:1080p HD Widescreen 1.78:1, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono with traditional cove art and stills on the reverse.

My ultimate verdict is that Visiting Hours isn’t all that frightening, and you’ll be sure to recover with a couple aspirin and a phone call to the doc in the morning. Bad Dreams on the otherhand more than makes up for the lackluster Visiting Hours. What’s nice about this double feature is that fans of the late 80’s get a chance to see what was happening during the slasher boom and fans of the early slash set can appreciate some late 80’s supernatural horror with hints of psychologically thrilling pyro mindfucks. If you don’t like Visiting Hours or haven’t seen it, at least you have a copy to keep around as part of your Video Nasty collection. Bad Dreams can more than carry the release.

What astounds me about this release is that these two movies can look this good, and that Scream Factory actually took initiative to turn this double feature set into an extra slammed release worthy of the Blu-ray format and ready to make new fans of classic 80’s slashers. You don’t just get a double feature, you get two movies with a complete extra package. Two complete discs on one disc with movies that are well loved.

-Doc Terror

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