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In this shattering variation on The Monkey's Paw, grief-stricken suburban parents (Academy Award nominees John Marley of THE GODFATHER and Lynn Carlin of FACES) refuse to accept the news that their son Andy (Richard Backus) has been killed in Vietnam. But when Andy returns home soon after, something may be horribly wrong: Andy is alive and well... or is he? Produced and directed by Bob Clark (BLACK CHRISTMAS) and written by Alan Ormsby (DERANGED), DEATHDREAM became one of the very first films to confront the domestic ravages of the Vietnam War. More than thirty years later, it remains one of the most chilling horror films of all time.
- Tom Savini: The Early Years
- Deathdreaming Interview with Star Richard Backus
- Alternate Opening Titles
- Extended Ending Sequence
- Theatrical Trailer
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The film is a simple plot. A family is told that their son died in action in Vietnam. Not long after the son shows up and the family makes the obvious assumption that the gov got it wrong. What follows is the bizarre personality change and actions the son takes on. Basically it comes down to the son is dead and in order to keep his body from rotting he has to have blood.....so he kills....but his body can never really get enough and he slowly rots away through the film.
One of things that makes this film so fun to watch is the performance of the son Andy. It's like the producers went to a mental hospital in hell and picked this guy up. His crazy stares and gazes. His mannerisms and speech and there are several scenes where he just rocks in a chair and the expression on his face is chilling. You really feel you are looking at evil.
The effects, though there are not that many, are very well done. I think this was Tom Savini's first film for effects and they are great.
The film does suffer a bit from some bad acting in spots but not enough to make this a joke or so bad it's good type. It's pretty solid for the most part. The overall look of the productions is a cheaper type film and possible to some a grindhouse look but without the grindhouse thrills.
Overall this is a decent horror film that doesn't really deserve the obscurity it's received. When it came out on DVD in 2004 I thought it would find a bigger audience and I'm sure it's been discovered by a few more, but it's still pretty much obscured. The film doesn't quite deserve a 4 star yet 3 seems to little. 3 1/2 seems more like it, but I'll give it 4 since I can't do 1/2 stars on my mobile device.
On a side note, I notice people throwing around "cult classic" when looking at reviews on here. As much as I enjoy this film, it certainly can not be considered a cult classic under the definition as I know it. Iv been into the horror scene since the late 70's. Iv been to countless conventions, read all the horror mags, know hundreds of other horror fans and I can tell you this film never had a cult status. Of course the DVD packaging states it on the back, but the distribution companies and studios know that sounds cooler to horror fans and may prompt more sells from the younger unsuspecting horror fan. I mean if it's on the label, it must be true, right?
I admit it, I'm an impulse buyer when it comes to VOD horror, and the title of this one convinced me that it would be something dreamlike and psychedelic, in the vein of Visions of Suffering. Turns out the movie's "real" name is Dead of Night, and it's not a strobes-and-lava-lamp production but a horror movie about a Viet Nam vet named Andy who gets killed in the war...and then comes home.
Does it sound like The Monkey's Paw to you? Well, I guess it is pretty much a direct adaptation of the plot to contemporary times, although I only learned that on the internet; I've never read The Monkey's Paw. But maybe I will after seeing this.
What it reminded me of was Fred Vogel's Sella Turcica, a movie I really liked, despite its stilted acting. The acting in this one is stilted to, especially that of Andy, played by Richard Backus in a psychotic flat affect that grew on me as the film went on until I was just about busting a gut at the scene were he goes out on a double date and the three around him are all trying desperately to pretend he's normal.
This is a great slow build movie. I liked the old time production values and the video restoration or whatever is very good except early on there are a few sound flaws. The violence, when it comes, is very intense and well choreographed.
And I love the gutsy political statement. I was born at the tail end of the Nam era and am hence very curious about it. That's one reason I really enjoyed this.