Not everything truly comes better in pairs.
Prime example: the latest release from Shout Factory, their ‘Killer Double Feature,’ the pairing of the shockingly entertaining Bad Dreams, and the uninteresting shock free Michael Ironside picture, Visiting Hours. With one half of this release both dense with its supplements and more than worthy, quality wise, of being the focus of such great depth, and the other being almost the polar opposite of that ideal, this release is both intriguing, and also quite uneven.
First, the good.
Bad Dreams follows the story of Cynthia, the lone survivor from a mass suicide committed by a cult called ‘Unity Fields.’ Members covered themselves with gasoline, struck matches, and burned themselves, and their house, down to the ground, leaving only this young girl, and a shattered psyche. And 13 years later, we are thrust into her world. Awaking from a coma in a psyche ward, Cynthia must not only come to terms with her past, but also a rash of recent inmate suicides. With one hell of a sense of humor and some great scares, this is both a film paired with some great supporting material, but also genuinely an entertaining horror flick.
The best aspect of this film has to be Andrew Fleming’s direction. Stylistically and tonally, films set in psyche wards are able to get away with a lot of cartoonish behavior and style, but Bad Dreams definitely allows that sense of Looney Tunes-like absurdity take over the picture. Be it great one liners or some surreal scares, Fleming has a really great hold over this film, and with a kick ass soundtrack, he doesn’t rely on setting a self-important style or atmosphere.
Performance-wise, the film is admittedly campy. Jennifer Rubin doesn’t really do much here, but isn’t allowed to be more than a troubled youth looking to figure out her past. Nothing more is asked of her than that, but she does have a great look, and some really great skill at selling scares. Richard Lynch is a batty cult leader, and steals the show, giving the film a killer sense of dread, and making the scares potent. Bruce Abbott is also really fun here, adding a lot of entertainment to the otherwise one note cast.
And then there are the supplements. What a collection. First off, the transfer is actually solid. The soundtrack plays wonderfully here, and visually, the transfer does more than its job. A commentary with Fleming is featured here, giving this release some real re-watchability, as it is both insightful and entertaining. There are also some solid interviews with the cast, and some features on the film’s effects, and its original ending. Toss in a trailer, and you have a killer half of this release.
Then there is the second half. What a letdown.
Visiting Hours is a scare-free film from Jean Claude Lord, and stars Lee Grant, William Shatner and Michael Ironside. The story follows a journalist who is out to end domestic abuse, only to find herself accosted by a loner played by Ironside. With herself put into a hospital, she must stay safe as her attacker attempts to finish what he started.
Personally, the one sin that is truly unforgivable when it comes to a horror film, is to be lacking in anything remotely frightening. Ironside gives a fine performance, but it is such a cartoonishly brooding and brutish turn, that you can’t help but laugh at him instead of turn away at the sight of his mug. Grant is fine, but equally off-putting, and Shatner’s performance is absolutely forgettable.
But what is even more forgettable is the film’s style and filmmaking. Looking like any run-of-the-mill ‘˜80s slasher picture, Visiting Hours lacks a single creative bone in its body, and even fewer that make for anything resembling a watchable bit of standard slasher fair. The premise is really intriguing, particularly the possible comments made throughout the narrative, but instead, we get a weak set of performances lensed by a director in over his head, and given absolutely no intellectual depth. Clocking in at 103 minutes, this is a tough slog of a film to get through, particularly when you have a commentary on the other disc that is far more interesting to sit through, despite the fact that you may have just seen the film already.
With a mediocre transfer and even less stellar trailers, radio spots and TV spots as its only features, this is one disc that frankly, shouldn’t be included with an otherwise intriguing release of Bad Dreams.
Overall, this isn’t a poor release. Bad Dreams is not only a fine film, but one that’s given the right bit of appreciation from Shout Factory to make it more than worthwhile. However, Visiting Hours is such a poor film, and an even worse DVD release, that you can’t help but be soured after sitting through the latter half of this release. Do yourself a favor. Rent the first disc of this release, and avoid the second one. You’ll thank me for it later.