Bob Clark’s “Deathdream” is one of the most sought after horror films ever made, one of those films that has been inexplicably out of print constantly and very much prized as a genuine horror gem. I’m one of those people that having seen “Deathdream” twice just can’t like what Bob Clark brings his audience. One of the reasons why is because “Deathdream” is so relentlessly bleak and dark. It’s an immensely depressing and viciously grim movie. And while that’s one of the main elements it’s been propelled it in to cult status, for me it’s just a major hindrance. I remember watching Bob Clark’s horror film the first time and just leaving it in a state of sadness.
Bob Clark was an amazing director who could tap in to any kind of genre that he wanted, and for a man who is so good at comedy, it’s shocking how there isn’t a single iota of comedy to be found here. “Deathdream” Based on the classic urban legend of “The Monkey’s Paw,” Clark’s film is set during the Vietnam war where soldier Andy Brooks is shot dead by a sniper. Andy dies hearing the beckon calls of his mother, and back at home his family receives word of his death. Despite his father and sister’s attempts to accept he’s died, Andy’s mother Christina refuses to accept that he’s died. Much to the family’s shock, Andy arrives home in the middle of the night, and the family embraces him. But as the days wear on, Andy begins acting differently, distancing himself from the family and becoming anemic.
Before long police begin to discover the bodies of victims that have been murdered and drained of their blood. Much to their horror, Andy reveals himself to be an undead being that thrives on drinking the blood of his victims. I’m not one of those people that have to have every single movie be light hearted or comedic, but “Deathdream” wears its themes on its sleeve. It’s a commentary about post-Vietnam sentiment and the PTSD soldiers dealt with after coming home. The character Andy comes home after being thought dead in the war, and when he returns his life is something of an artifice that he has to keep elevated for the sake of his family. He has to work hard especially for his coddling mother, who values her son over everyone else in their family, including her own husband.
There are light oedipal overtones conveyed through the way mother Lynn cherishes and keeps her son tailored toward, even when the shit hits the fan and chaos ensues. “Deathdream” gets the cult status as a genuine horror movie, but rest assured, it’s dark as coal, and painfully depressing. It’s really the picture of a family whose entire structure flushes down the drain, and how the refusal to let him go turns him in to a fiendish monster. It’s the kind of movie you’ll want to experience only once, and while it’s not my favorite from Bob Clark’s list of films, it certainly warrants a watch for respective horror buffs that love their cinema filled with social commentary.
The brand new Blue Underground deluxe edition comes with some extras carried over from the 2004 DVD.
This includes an audio commentary with Co-Producer/Director Bob Clark and a second commentary with Writer/Make-Up Artist Alan Ormsby. Both commentaries are moderated by David Gregory. There’s also a vintage interview with Tom Savini and actor Richard Backus. There’s an alternate opening title sequence, and a theatrical trailer. There’s a half hour interview with Any Liffey and writer/make up artist Alan Ornsby, both of whom discuss Ornsby’s student films, their meeting with Bob Clark, and teaming up to make “Children’s Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.” The latter features funny anecdotes about shooting in the heat, and recruiting hippies to play zombies. Ornsby lends insight about writing “Deathdream,” his desire to make an anti-war horror film, inspirations, and a great footnote about Christopher Walken auditioning for the character Andy.
He also discusses working with the cast, Tom Savini, the film’s reception na d working on “Deranged” from 1974. There’s a new interview with composer Carl Zittrer who discusses how “Deathdream” didn’t find an audience, the various title changes, the score, and much more. Production manager John “Bud” Cardos gives a brief interview, there’s a twelve minute screen test footage with actor Gary Swanson in the role of Andy. There’s a ten minute black and white student film by Ornsby, a large animated gallery with posters, and the US Press Book. There’s also a trio of Easter eggs: Ornsby showing off prosthetic applications used in the film, “Orgy of the Living Dead” TV Spot, and a TV spot for the “Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces doll.” Within the casing there’s an alternate sided slip cover, and a twenty page booklet with an in depth essay by critic Travis Crawford.