Monday, July 3, 2017

TWISTED NIGHTMARE BLU-RAY REVIEW

This is an awkwardly-staged if infinitely enjoyable low-level slasher flick, which, even for 1987, was already considered a timeworn attempt to scrape together was what left of an already-exhausted subgenre.  While certainly not original, Paul Hunt’s TWISTED NIGHTMARE (1987) nevertheless still offers plenty of mindless entertainment for ’80s horror junkies and slasher aficionados alike, so for those wishing to revisit this not-so-classic slasher pic, Code Red’s Blu-ray is definitely the way to go.

A bunch of twentysomethings receive a mysterious invite to Camp Paradise, where a few years earlier, Laura’s (Rhonda Gray) brother Matthew (Cleve Hall) had been the victim of a suspicious fire.  At the same time, Laura continues to have nightmares involving some mysterious Native American shaman (“My soul will always cast a shadow of death!”), an element which is eventually – albeit only half-heartedly – incorporated into the one-dimensional storyline as everyone is gradually picked-off one-by-one in the midst of their recreational weekend getaway.

Conceived in 1985, when films such as this were slowly beginning to wane in popularity, this wholly unoriginal, umpteenth slasher film attempts to work ancient burial grounds into its tired script, but even Kane (Robert Padilla), the Native American caretaker – or overseer, if you will – quickly gets relegated to stale caricature status (“This place is cursed! If you don’t leave now, you’re all going to die!”), a trope which originated with Walt Gorney’s “Crazy Ralph” character in Sean S. Cunningham’s FRIDAY THE 13TH way back in 1980.  Even the hulking, growling killer – as well as his muddled origin – is nothing new, betraying shades of Joe Giannone’s MADMAN (1981), Tony Maylem’s THE BURNING (1981), and even Paul Lynch’s Canadian-made HUMONGOUS (1982), to name only a few.  Despite the film’s obvious unoriginality, many of the “kills” are quite gory and, almost as if to parody genre conventions, most of the – ahem! – supposed “teenagers” herein are totally stereotypically presented (including an utterly gratuitous [and nudity-filled!] stint in a sauna), an ingredient which, in the end, elicits plenty of largely unintentional laughs. 

As is revealed in a number of the disc’s on-camera interview segments, TWISTED NIGHTMARE was apparently a quite troubled production, which even necessitated the shooting of some additional scenes by Charles Philip Moore – future director of the supernatural shocker DEMON WIND (1990) – and veteran DP Gary Graver.  Unfolding mostly by night at either a dark cabin or out in the surrounding woods, much of the hit-or-miss cinematography actually shows some measure of competence on Code Red’s much-improved Blu-ray, which showcases some heretofore unnoticeable stylistic touches: such as some subtle steel-blue nighttime shades that were unseen on previous transfers.  At the same time, on the downside, the added clarity of this newest edition also clearly reveals one of the stuntman’s fire-retardant burn-suits during a crucial scene.

Previously available on VHS from Transworld Entertainment, Code Red’s Blu-ray is a massive improvement, and although mastered from what is touted as (quote) “the only surviving film elements”, it all looks very good, especially during many – and there are a lot! – of the film’s previously problematic night scenes; it’s an obvious film print with some surface wear and a few vertical scratch-lines here and there, but nothing to get worked-up about; its 1.78:1 framing is reinstated, it’s relatively sharp, and you can finally make out what’s going on properly, which is all that really counts.  The DTS-HD mono audio also sounds fine, and while not demo-grade material, it gets the job done and sounds infinitely better than anything that has gone before it. 

Beginning with a commentary track from special effects makeup man, Cleve Hall, he’s joined by his daughter and moderators Damon Packard and Code Red head honcho Bill Olsen to help keep things moving along nicely, with plenty of interesting stories relating to the film’s troubled production, including some of the problems they ran into with the MPAA; and Mr. Hall is a fast-talker, so there’s a lot to take in here!  In the first on-camera interview, conducted by Monique McIntosh (19m19s), Cleve Hall goes on to discuss the current state of affairs within the film industry (including expressing his disdain for [quote] “bad CGI”), and how it’s not fun anymore.  All of this is intercut with VHS-standard clips from TN, plus some of the oddest – and jarring! – sound effects ever to accompany an interview.  These pointlessly-interjected noises are more than a little off-putting, to say the least, but, like the film itself, do add plenty of odd surprises.  In the next interview with actor Brad Bartrum (10m29s), he discusses the trials and tribulations of the production, which included multiple DP’s and a change in the art department, and he freely admits it was a (quote [to use the U.S. military colloquialism]) “clusterfuck!” In the last extra (7m05s), Hall shows up once again for a Q&A session following a screening of the film at the Aero Theatre on August 6th, 2016, which is again, for some inexplicable reason, partially dubbed with more odd sound effects, including looped audience reactions! Simply BIZARRE!  As with most Code Red releases, the disc also includes bonus trailers for a few of their recent and upcoming titles, including Dmitri Logothetis’ SLAUGHTERHOUSE ROCK (1988), Brian Owens’ HAPPY HELL NIGHT (1992), Don Jones’ SCHOOLGIRL IN CHAINS (1973), John “Bud” Cardos’ MUTANT, and Tom McLaughlin’s ONE DARK NIGHT (1982).


Staying true to its type, TWISTED NIGHTMARE does deliver the compulsory goods, so those even slightly entertained by just about any ’80s slasher film should be sufficiently satisfied—now more than ever, thanks to Code Red’s excellent Blu-ray. Order it from DiabolikDVD or Ronin Flix.

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