HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Monday, April 3, 2017


In THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY, Clint Eastwood tells us: "In this world, there are two kinds of people, my friend.  Those with loaded guns...and those who dig."  Well, he was half right.  There ARE two kinds of people in the world: those who think shot-on-video movies from the 80s and 90s are unwatchable crap, and those who'd sooner watch one of them than anything that won an Academy Award this year. 

I fall into the latter camp--not completely, perhaps, but mainly--which is why I regarded Intervision Picture Corp.'s new DREAM STALKER/DEATH BY LOVE double-feature DVD with a sort of giddy delight instead of flinging it away with a cry of "ICK!" as some less adventurous individuals might be compelled to do.

Granted, these SOV features are a diverse lot which vary wildly in quality from the above-average (PHOBE:XENOPHOBIC EXPERIMENTS) to somewhere in-between (SLEDGEHAMMER, the first-ever SOV movie) to the downright pathetic (I'm looking at you, THINGS).

But however relatively good or bad they may be, they all share one thing in common--the fact that they're such a renegade, "outsider" form of cinema automatically makes them instantly interesting to a lot of people.

In the case of DREAM STALKER (1991), director Christopher Mills does a competent job with a cast that's unpolished but earnest, and comes up with something that resembles an actual movie.  Some of the photography, in fact, is actually rather nice, especially a gorgeous shot of a car crossing Golden Gate Bridge in the rain. Some of the sound, unfortunately, is the pits. (I'm looking at you, leaf-blower scene.)

Scriptwise, there's some perversely amusing dialogue and a glorious mess of a plot about a budding supermodel named Brittney Marin (Valerie Williams) whose dirt-bike-racing, mullet-sporting boyfriend Ricky (Mark Dias) gets killed shortly after their engagement. 

The increasingly troubled Brittney discovers, through the help of the eccentric Dr. Frisk, that her nightmares about Ricky (in which he tries to run her over with his bike before dragging her down kicking and screaming into his grave) have taken on telekinetic properties.

What even he doesn't know, however, is that when Brittney is asleep, Dead Ricky is able to return to this world, kill anyone who bothers or shows any romantic interest in her, and, in a twist on the old "dream lover" fantasy, make some really yucky nocturnal mookie with her. 

By this time, Ricky's looking a little icky, thanks to a nifty makeup job that makes him look like Two-Face only worse.  He hasn't lost his sick sense of humor, though, bemoaning the breakage of his condom in the zombie rape scene and giving a hapless mortuary worker some serious guff for cheaping out on his burial. 

In desperation, Brittney leaves her hot older-Pat-Benetar-looking mom behind and flees to their vacation cabin in the woods, only to find that it's now right next to a camp for "troubled teens" who are all in their 20s and 30s.  These insufferable post-juvenile delinquents could all use a good Jasoning, but after the chicks beat up on poor Brittney and the dudes try to molest her (by now, this movie has elements of NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE comin' at ya) they're all prime fodder for Dead Ricky to wade into just as soon as Brittney goes night-night.

Love-starved Brittney finally drives old Rottin' Rick right over the edge when she shows interest in a handsome new neighbor, Greg (John Tyler).  A nice softcore sex scene with brief nudity (bookending the earlier one between Brittney and a pre-dead Rick) sets up the raucous finale in which everybody gets seriously Rick Rolled, with plenty of blood and gore effects. 

All things considered, DREAM STALKER may very well be regarded as a classic of its kind.  The horror scenes are generally well-staged, the drama is pleasingly goofy, and SOV fans should find it as restful and invigorating as a good night's sleep. 

The same can pretty much be said for the follow-up, DEATH BY LOVE (1990), which, while not quite as over-the-top as the previous feature, is still one of the better SOV flicks that I've seen. 

Producer-writer-director Alan Grant stars as Joel Falk, a well-known sculptor who's quite a fit, bronzed figure of a man himself.  At least, enough to attract the interest of several equally attractive young women who, unfortunately, tend to turn up dead after hooking up with him.  And not only dead, but drained of blood, with ugly gashes on their throats.

But is Joel the killer?  Or is it the mysterious, unidentified man (Frank McGill) who's always spying on him from afar?  Every time Joel hooks up with a woman, this guy's peering through a window or hedge, seemingly up to no good. he the killer, and if so, why does he seem intent on murdering every woman that Joel shows romantic interest in?  

Like DREAM STALKER, this is a decent-looking enough feature to have been shot on video, and it's about as well-directed.  Since it was shot in Dallas, Texas, almost everyone has a thick Texas accent, which, as a Texan myself, I find to be a definite plus.  The acting, as usual, is much more enthusiastic than refined, and in general the movie is technically adequate and more. 

Whether he's killing these women without being aware of it, or his unknown stalker is disposing of them himself for some ungodly reason, Joel earns our sympathy early on thanks partly to Grant's earnest performance.  McGill comes into his own later as his character makes his way to the fore and the mystery surrounding him is revealed. 

This revelation, in fact, turns out to be a dandy of a twist, which I'd be loathe to expound upon here lest I give it away. Suffice it to say, the second half of the story gets a lot livelier and involves some nifty monster makeup.  Also of interest are the copious amounts of lovingly-shot softcore sex scenes throughout much of the running time, accompanied by the requisite smokey jazz music. 

With the help of a couple of likable police detectives, DEATH BY LOVE builds to a suitably intense climax that viewers should find satisfying.  (Be sure to stay through the closing credits for the final sting.) Together with DREAM STALKER, this double-feature DVD from Intervision should prove quite a tasty treat for shot-on-video connoisseurs who just can't get enough of that funky stuff.

Special Features:

Remembering Ricky: With Actor Mark Dias
Dirtbike Dreams: Executive Producer Tom Naygrow
Alan Grant Remembers Death By Love Via Video Skype
Yvonne Aric and Brad Bishop Remember Death By Love Via Video Skype
English subtitles

Buy it from Severin Films

Release date: 4/11/17


No comments: