Friday, February 10, 2017

DEADTIME STORIES (1986) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory
Release Date: February 28th 2017 
Region Code: A
Duration: 83 Minutes 
Rating: R-Rated 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Jef Delman
Cast: Matt Mitler, Cathryn de Prume, Melissa Leo, Nicole Picard, Scott Valentine, Michael Mesmer

Synopsis: Travel on a mysterious journey to a medieval world populated by blood-crazed witches, evil experiments and captive maidens. Then from the catacombs and dark caverns of medieval Europe, you’ll plunge into modern suburbia and the adventures of a female jogger stalked by a savage werewolf. Finally, sensuality will become macabre, black comedy as you follow the trail of three bank robbers who share their country house hideaway with a sweet murderess.

Deadtime Stories (1986) is a low-budget horror anthology that has a certain regional feel about it, shot by college kids between '82-'85, it feels a bit cheap, but it's fun, sort of silly, a little macabre, hokey and loaded with plenty of DIY charm. It's probably not gonna be for everyone but I loved it a bunch. One thing is for sure, the movie never looked better on home video than with this new DVD/Blu-ray combo from Scream Factory, which is getting released on February 28th. 

Like any good anthology we have wrap-around story that frames the segments and bookends the movie, wherein a young boy named Brian (Brian DePersia) is being babysat by his Uncle Mike (Michael Mesmer), who just wants to couch surf with a few beers and some softcore nudie films on skinemax when the kid goes to sleep. This kid, however, has an overactive imagination and fears that there are monsters is in his room waiting to pounce once the lights go out. He begs his uncle to read him bedtime story so the grown-up conjures up a few stories off the top of his head, and they're pretty gruesome for someone trying to coerce a kid into falling asleep. 

He begins with "The Black Forrest", a tale of two witchy sisters who have a boy slave named Peter (Scott Valentine, TV's Family Ties), they task him with luring villagers to their remote cabin in the woods. There they kill and use their body parts to cast a spell in hopes of locating and resurrecting their long dead third sister witch. A local Lothario is the first victim, lured and entranced by the witches, believing the rotten toothed witches to be sexy maidens, he loses a hand before dying when they apply a burning liquid to his wrist. The second intended victim is a cute maiden living in the woods, once Peter begins to take a liking to her things begin to sour for the witches. 

The special effects and atmosphere on this one are cheap, but fun, the severed hand and resurrection scenes are low-rent slices of b-movie making, but some of witchy make-up appliances leave a bit to be desired, as do the set dressing, but it's not without its charm. This was my least favorite of the three.  

The second story is "Little Red Running Hood" which offers up a werewolf story, wherein  Rachel (Nicole Picard, Ghoulies Go to College)is a fine-looking young woman with her granny, she and her boyfriend meet in an old tool shack and mutually lose their virginity. However, back at grannie's house there was a mix-up at the pharmacy and she got her prescription mixed-up with one for a guy named Willie (Matt Mitler, The Mutilator), who just happens to be a werewolf. He seems like an alright guy, aside from those rocker leather pants, and that prescription, for sedatives, is the only thing preventing him from becoming a snarling hairy beast, and guess what, when he tracks grannie down she doesn't want to trade prescripts with him, leading to him wolfing out in front of her house when the sun goes down. 

The werewolf transformation is mostly hinted at, but what we do get is pretty decent, a bulging sternum, canine incisors popping out, but the final werewolf look is just okay, not great. The finished wolf consists of mostly facial transformation with clawed, hairy hands... and those tight leather pants. This one is fun, it lacking direction, the editing is wonky, but that final line uttered by Rachel had me howling, so good and cheesy. 

The third and final story is "Goldi Lox and the Three Baers" featuring Ma Ma Baer (Melissa Leo, TV's Wayward Pines) as the matriarch of a trio of bank robbers. At the start she is breaking her husband and son out of the loony bin, not sure why. Afterward they rob a bank and drive out to their former residence to lay low for a bit, only to find that a pretty, young telekinetic serial killer named Goldi Lox (Cathryn de Prume, Wild) has taken up living there, and she's acquired quite a stockpile of dead young, would-be suitors. She also has some form of telekinetic powers, making her a formidable addition to the crime family. 

The three stories are fun, low-rent and not all that inspiring, but I love cheesy horror anthologies, I like the goofy wrap-around here, and I like the amateur can-do attitude of the whole thing, this is a fun late-night b-movie watch. Yeah, the budget shows through throughout, it's hard to hide the seams of this cheapie, but its got a lot of heart. I love the soundtrack, which was written and performed by director Jef Delman with music by former porno composer Larry Juris (Deep Inside Annie Sprinkle). I wish this had a bonus CD of just for those four songs, they're a lot of fun. Delman didn't go onto direct much, this was his first feature, one of only three, but you can see the cast and crew had a lot of fun making it, and it shows, this is a low-rent good time.  

Audio/Video: Deadtime Stories (1986) arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a newly minted 2K transfer straight from the original 35mm camera negative, the results are very nice. I had previously only seen this on a murky DVD-rip bootleg sourced straight from VHS, to see it in widescreen in all it's crisp HD glory is a real treat. Grain is nicely managed and not too overwhelming, the colors are nicely saturated, the black levels are nice and deep, this is just a dramatic improvement, very nice. Audio on the disc comes by way of a DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 track, dialogue and score sound good, the synth heavy score comes through with some good decent depth, including that memorable opening theme song which name checks Romero, Hitchcock and De Palma, like the movie itself the tunes are sort of goofy but also fun. The lone audio knock I levee against it is some odd audio distortion for a few seconds during the "The Black Forrest" segment. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Extras on the disc are plentiful, beginning with a solo audio commentary from director Jeffrey Delman, plus a 16-min interview with him, in which he speaks about the genesis o the film, settling on the horror genre as a commercially viable option, the producer's connection to the film Nightmare, working with and casting Valentine and Leo, who both studied with the same acting teacher, also mentioning they had to shoot around Leo's broken arm in her segment. 

Actors Cathryn de Prume, Melissa Leo and Scott Valentine Show up for a 16-min look back at the making of the movie, all are very candid and funny, and are apparently good friends to this day. They speak about how they came to end up being cast, having a blast making it, and Valentine having had a serious accident which resulted in him limping, lying about the severity of the injury to get the part.   

In the extras you will also find a VHS-sourced alternate cut of the first story The Black Forest, which plays a bit differently, having been planned as a possible stand alone feature at one point during the production. There are two brief deleted scenes with introduction from Delman, theatrical trailers and a an image gallery of various home video releases, stills, storyboards, and behind-the-scenes stuff. The 2-disc DVD/BD release comes in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of art featuring an image from the film on the reverse side, the 2 discs feature separate artwork, which I appreciate, both are scenes from the movie and not the artwork on the sleeve.   

Special features:
- NEW HD Transfer From the Original Negative
- NEW Audio Commentary with co-writer/director Jef Delman
- NEW I Like the Grotesque – an interview with co-writer/director Jeffrey Delman (16 min) HD 

- NEW Band of Gypsies: The Making of Deadtime stories (16 min) HD - Interviews with actors Cathryn de Prume, Melissa Leo and Scott Valentine
- The Black Forest – An alternate cut of the first story (30 min)
- Deleted Scenes with Intro (3 min)
- Theatrical Trailers (3 min)
- Still Gallery (4 min) HD

Always glad to see another nearly forgotten 80s horror film arrive on Blu-ray, this one might not knock you outta your seat but if you love a low-budget DIY horror anthologies I think you will find something to like about this. Scream Factory have knocked it out the park with the new 2K transfer and the extras are awes. 3/5