By the end of this movie you’ll understand the importance of the saying be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it, and the Brooks family gets it, big time, thanks to an intense desire by mother Christine (Lynn Carlin) to see her son, Andy (Richard Backus), again. Andy is ass deep in the Vietnam War and in the prologue he and his friend are shot dead. Loosely based on The Monkey’s Paw short tale written in 1902 by W. W. Jacobs, Andy, who’s now a walking dead guy, mysteriously appears one night hitchhiking home, and is picked up by a truck driver, who he kills for his blood.
Andy is kind of a cross between a zombie and a vampire, who over the course of the movie rots, but can regain his appearance by draining someone’s blood, but not in the usual through-the-fangs route. Andy sucks out the blood with a syringe and injects it into his arm like an illicit drug. Andy isn’t blind to what he is either, he knows he’s dead, and we learn this before he kills the town’s doctor, asking him to take his pulse and listen to his dead heart. He also knows he has a limited amount of time in this “undead” state. After he gets home he takes a walk late one night in the local cemetery, and seems to find something interesting about a particular gravestone, he then picks up a rock and starts doing something to it we the viewer cannot see. It’s not until the very end when he and his mother are on the run from cops that he directs her to the cemetery and to this grave, where we finally see he scrolled his name on it along with the date of his birth and the date of his death. Rotting away he buries himself in a shallow grave and dies with his mother at his side, and the cops standing over him.
It’s clear, however, after Andy makes it home that first night there’s something “wrong” with him. Until he shows up in the house, his POV is ours and it’s accompanied by an eerie sound similar to what the Sleestaks make from Land Of The Lost (1974-1977). After Christine, his father Charles (John Marley), and his sister Cathy (Anya Ormsby), all spend the night welcoming him home, things take a sinister turn. Andy spends a lot of time in a rocking chair in his room or in a lawn chair in the back yard. His emotional responses are in the numb category and he feels more like a robot. He also has no qualms killing their family dog (a scene I was none too pleased with to watch), by strangling it in front of his father and a bunch of neighborhood kids.
During these few, tragic days is when we can see the almost emotional abusive family dynamics come to the forefront, making me wonder if Andy really is better off dead, and putting blame on his mother for “resurrecting” him seems appropriate, though no one does that. As a viewer, I just found myself blaming her for all of this. Had she just allowed him to remain dead his father would still be alive and Andy’s girlfriend would be too. Charles commits suicide by gun in the final act after he confronts Andy and see’s how much of a rotted walking dead guy he is now, because he couldn’t get his fix in time, and that fix would have come from his girlfriend whom he killed at the drive-in. He also ends up killing his sister’s boyfriend there too, and randomly runs over some kid as he steals the car they were all in. Yeah, all this could have been prevented, if you ask me. In the words of Stephen King, ‘sometimes dead is better.’
This is not an overly gory movie. There’s a slashed throat of the truck driver in the beginning, and the syringe stabbing death of the doctor, and the mild rotting of Andy in the final act. Blood in this movie looks a lot like bright, red paint; my only complaint of the gore.
Richard Backus’ performance is an immensely creepy one, so thumbs up there, but overall the movie just didn’t do anything for me. And the dog death turned me off as well. I had heard of this flick for the longest time and for the longest time I didn’t realize Director Bob Clark is the same Bob Clark who directed the classic holiday favorite, A Christmas Story (1983). And then I learned of his Black Christmas (1974) and Deathdream (1974) horror connection. I think this was in the mid-90s when I discovered all this. The guy who did that Christmas Story movie I love did two horror movies?! No shit?!
Blue Underground released Deathdream on DVD back in 2004, and this coming November 28 they release it on DVD/blu-ray combo you can buy here on Amazon!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: (Blu-Ray) 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—1.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio (mono)—English SDH subs only; (DVD) 1.85:1 widescreen—English Dolby Digital (mono)—English SDH subs only.
Transfer wasn’t bad. Color were exception, but there was one scene where the green walls in the background kept shifting color. The print Blue Underground used is titled Dead Of Night, which makes more sense than Deathdream, yet Deathdream has got a much better poster.
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary #1 with Co-Producer/Director Bob Clark
- Audio Commentary #2 with Writer/Make-Up Artist (Uncredited) Alan Ormsby
- A Recollection With Star Anya Liffey and Writer/Make-Up Artist Alan Ormsby (29:29)
- Notes For A Homecoming – Interview with Composer Carl Zittrer (19:08)
- Flying Down To Brooksville – Interview with Production Manager John ‘Bud’ Cardos (5:21)
- Tom Savini: The Early Years (10:99)
- Deathdreaming – Interview with Star Richard Backus (11:43)
- Alternate Opening Titles (3:28)
- Still Galleries (197 photos)
- Alan Ormsby Student Film (10:12)
- Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible “Dead Of Night” Cover Art (see photo above)
- BONUS Collectable Booklet with new essay by critic Travis Crawford