Dead of Night aka Deathdream (1974)

directed by bob clark
Quadrant films/impact films

The first thing I noticed about this movie, the sophomore effort from Bob Clark following Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, is how vastly improved in every aspect of filmmaking it is in comparison to that initial offering. Script, lighting, camerawork, acting, pacing, makeup effects – everything is better. It’s as though Clark and head writer Alan Ormsby made a serious study of their inaugural production in order to make a more professional showing with their next film. Whatever the explanation – the budget was almost 400% larger, nearly $240,000! – it worked, because altogether this little horror picture is nearly excellent. The emotional impact of the small-town boy returning from a foreign war and the many repercussions of his impaired condition – to describe it as benignly as possible – are powerfully depicted, and the creeping sense that something is very wrong is deftly developed. Inspired by the W. W. Jacobs story “The Monkey’s Paw,” this saga sure seems to have been bastardized within S. King’s 1983 novel Pet Sematary in the tale of Timmy Baterman. (PERHAPS coincidentally, late in this flick, the action veers into a graveyard identified on its iron gates by a sign bearing the misspelling “Cemetary.”)

why did i watch this movie?

As mentioned when I reviewed Children, I had previously seen Clark’s third opus, Black Christmas, and I wanted to complete the trifecta.

should you watch this movie?

Yeah, I think any fairly serious horror fan probably should.

highlight and low point

Appraisals of the thespians amply cover both extremes. As the returning soldier “Andy,” Richard Backus does an overly intense Anthony Perkins impersonation, and as his mother, Lynn Carlin is often grating. John Marley as the father is absolutely perfect, however, and the various smaller roles are also done to a turn.

rating from outer space: A−

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