Now here's a nice idea! Take one unknown film production company (here being 'Three A.M. Films') and put together a special edition DVD of not only one of their most recent production but a whole host of other goodies (shorts films, documentaries etc) to encompass their movie making career. In fact a very cool idea and with the release of 'Vengeance of the Dead' we almost get the perfect film maker promo package!
But let's start with the main feature itself...first things first - now if like me you'd seen the cover, read the title and thought 'cool, a zombie movie' then (like me) you'd be wrong! The film is in fact a creepy spooky shocker and a fine one too...
'Vengeance of the Dead' is set in the sleepy town of Harvest, where we meet young Eric who is visiting his grandfather after some time away. Sure enough things haven't changed much but as Eric will soon find, they'll soon change in a dramatic way! Our young lead soon starts to have troubled dreams, which is worsened not only when he starts seeing spirits of the dead (initially in the form of a young girl) but more so when he realises that he has been sleepwalking during the night. Strange things start to happen around town, first a grave is dug up and its occupying corpse is torched, then things worsen when some of the townsfolk start to die under mysterious circumstances! Who or what is responsible for the strange goings on? Is there a psycho on the loose? Has Eric himself been up to no good during his sleepwalking ventures? Or are the spirits of the night up to some gruesome mischief?
'Vengeance of the Dead' is a solid and satisfying straight forward ghostly thriller which whilst will not be one of the best you're likely to see it shows great promise for its creators Don Adams and Harry James Picardi. It's not without its faults but has some moments of real inspiration! On the down side perhaps the pacing and flow of the movie doesn't really sit very well, and at times the actors audio track is not as well heard as it could have been. But, what the film does have is a very atmospheric haunting feel, particularly during the ghostly moments and flashbacks which isn't dissimilar to the creepy atmosphere from spookier scenes of (the original version of) 'Carnival of Souls'. There are also some great setpiece moments when the townsfolk meet their end - one standout scene of levity sees one sleazy old grandfather spying on his granddaughter in the shower. The directors commentary points out that they originally planned to have the old pervert masturbating while he fantasises about the poor girl, but for the film shoot they went with the old guy ogling away whilst he swishes away with his lithe (well it made me chuckle!)
Whilst 'Vengeance of the Dead' is a fine slice of modern Americana genre film making, perhaps though the only real disappointment is the films transfer itself. The image at times is quite grainy and has a very low budget NTSC video transfer feel which is bewildering when you watch one of the many bonus 'news reel' documentaries that shows the shoot of the movie as a more professional movie look. That said, it won't ruin your enjoyment of the film but you'll be longing for a cleaner transfer.
But still, there's a whole lot more to this particular DVD release than just the main feature itself and what you get should please folk no end! This disc comes to you as a double sided presentation - on side one you get the main feature and an interesting audio commentary by film maker Don Adams who spills the beans on among other things his influences on this production (which was fascinating). Also on disc one there is a fun extended teaser trailer for their new production 'War Wolf' - a sort of civil war werewolf romp with the lovely Amber Newman as a canteen whore getting mauled by a customer/werewolf! To accompany the teaser there's an equally fun 'behind the scenes' of the trailers shoot and to round things off there's a selection of cool trailers for other forthcoming releases.
Things start to get really fun though when you flip the disc over and discover the delights on side two! First off you are met with 'Three AM's' first early movie presented in full which is called 'Schrek'. This highly original and shockingly entertaining short is one of the best short low budget films I've seen in some time! The film opens (like the main feature) in the town of Harvest, where we meet three young men obsessed with serial killers and all things Nazi!? One of the guys lives in the house that used to be home to a crazed killer called Schrek - originally one of the evil Nazi bastards that worked in concentration camps during the second world war but had run away and relocated in the US under the alias Schrek (which he picked from his favourite German actor Max Schrek) only to become one of the most inventive serial killers around...But back to our hapless trio, the guys think it would be a hoot to jokingly attempt to resurrect the sick old Nazi but inevitably that is 'exactly' what they do! Schrek returns (sans a sort of Nazi Jason Voorhees) and the poor lads are fighting to stay alive!!
'Schrek' is not only very original but also lots fun and full of all the trademark terror goodies that fans of the genre will adore. As well as the excellent script concept, there's some great plot twists and even more startling kill scenarios that make me wish that '3AM' would get some cash together to remake 'Schrek' as a full length gore laden feature (that would inevitably generate some nice cash income which they could use on other productions!)
Along with 'Schrek' we get yet another directors commentary by filmmaker Don Adams that is (like its main feature counterpart) fascinating and lots of fun. Also included is a short documentary on the 'Making Of Schrek' in which both Adams and Picardi lay it on the line with their perspective of low budget film making (and curiously I noted that there seemed to be out-takes of a more graphic nature??)
Well if all that wasn't enough, well indeed there's even more!! Rock fans will find the included music video by 'Graphic Nature' interesting and low budget film makers (and the curious, like me) will find the selection of News broadcast pieces on '3AM Films' engrossing in that peeking in a friends family album sorta way! Rounding things off (eventually) is a lengthy documentary on the 'Making Of Red Eyes', which is an unreleased anthology movie by the '3AM' team. The film looks like a hell of a lot of fun (and I for one am very curious to check it out) but the documentary only acts as a frustrating overlong teaser and is presented in a somewhat disjointed manner.
So rounding up...'Vengeance of the Dead' the movie is an interesting spooky genre affair but 'Vengeance of the Dead' the DVD is a vastly impressive package that is your one stop shop to a slice of modern American low budget film making (and it's growth) in the form of the admirably enthusiastic team at 'Three A.M. Films'. Fellow filmmakers and the rightly curious should check it out!
Review by Alan Simpson
'Vengeance of the Dead' can be ordered direct from Tempe by clicking here.
|Released by Tempe/Cult Video|
|Region 1 (NTSC)|
|Running time - 72m|
|Ratio - Original|
|Audio - Dolby 2.0|
|Directors commentary, 'Warwolf' teaser & making of, Short film 'Schrek' with commentary & making of, Newscasts, 'Making of Red Eye' and Music video!|