Review Date: July 19, 2008
Released by: Shriek Show
Release date: 6/24/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
There’s a small, special sub-genre in horror where religious parable meets schlocky decadence. Overstepping their boundaries, these select films preach weighty prophecies about Godliness as if the Bible were scored to bad synth and heavy breathing. Of the guilty parties, there’s The Redeemer
where a by the numbers revenge slasher becomes confusing parable when riverside bookends show a boy stepping into the water to biblical verse. Weirder still is The Day of Judgment
, a slasher set in the Great Depression(!) where people sell their souls for economic prosperity, and in a truly laughable climax, we are read the Ten Commandments. The Chilling
doesn’t quite achieve such haughty prophecies, but it no doubt tries. Long a bottom feeder on IMDb user ratings, it was rescued by Code Red, but when they parted with Shriek Show the title stayed with Media Blasters. Now that it’s finally out though, let’s see what all this preaching is about.
Well, so much for suspense. In the epic and amazing opening title scroll, we bear witness to writer/director Jack A. Sunseri’s educational mandate. Cryogenics are evil and not part of God’s way. It is, color coded as it is in the film, Satan’s
work. Considering he lists Walt Disney as one of the people who was placed into frozen storage upon death, then I guess by association that makes The Emporer’s New Groove
the work of beezlebub. Anyway, on with the film. Time to introduce the main character, right? Nope. Instead, we get a portly front end involving a bank robber and his vicious deceiving of his partner and then later botching of his robbery. He’s shot and killed, but still daddy’s little angel. So what does he do? Preserve him cryogenically like his wife. The doctors and orderlies warn against it – “it truly goes against the laws of nature!” But still, daddy continues on.
Okay, now it’s time for the lead, for sure. Haggerty’s gotta be there. Nope. Instead we get Linda Blair dressed all business like at her job at Universal Cryogenics. It’s there that she notices something awry. As if being sacrilegious wasn’t terrible enough, it appears as if the freezer lab also has some dirty dealings on the side. Body parts of the victims in freezing, mainly their hearts, are being removed and sold on the black market. You know what happens when you take away someone’s heart, right? They become heartless! Tools of the dark lord! Satan’s minions!
Okay, now over 30 minutes into the film, we’re finally introduced to our lead. Dan Haggerty. Grizzly Adams in the flesh. Beard in tact, he exchanges a few noble quips to his security guard colleague. Lightning strikes and the power goes out – not good news for a business that relies on keeping people frozen. Instead of trying to wait it out, or going to 7-11 to pickup a truckload of ice, the dolts on call decide the best thing to do would be to take all the metal cryogenic storage tanks and place them in the middle of an open parking lot during the lighting storm. To no one’s surprise, they are struck by lightning, and out come the zombies, ready to eat the hearts that they no longer possess. As this was 1989, I guess Walt decided to go make Oliver & Company
instead. The horror!
Taking Romero’s iconic “when there’s no more room in hell the dead will walk the earth” lines from Dawn of the Dead
a little too seriously, The Chilling
is high camp all the way. It strives to give us An Important Message, but an inept one is probably a closer fit. It’s inept in the good ways though – it gets the horror right, with some creepy zombie stalking, atmospheric sounds and some good gore and gets the fundamentals – dialogue, character, plotting so very, very wrong. When the zombies strike in the second half it’s “Rise from your Grave!” madness, and beforehand it’s all laughs. Afterwards though, it's a nightmare!
Linda Blair is so godawful in this it’s hard to really describe. I never listed her by her character name, because really there was no character. Essentially, she showed up to set as a prop. Her character is without any distinguishable traits that would remotely make her human, and then when the shit hits the fan she fumbles to find even the most basic of emotional reactions. She was on a continual downward spiral throughout the eighties, but this makes Roller Boogie
look like Saturday Night Fever
. What? It already does? Well, you know…
And then there’s Haggerty. Ol’ Grizzly actually acquits himself nicely from this actors' mess, but HE DOESN’T EVEN SHOW UP UNTIL IT IS HALF OVER. It’s screenwriting 101 to introduce your leads within the first five pages, or, even if you’re Godard, the first act. But instead Haggerty shows up in the middle with the show stopping distinction of going to get a coffee. Yeah, he’s that important. Seriously, how can that happen?
The movie spends so much time developing this bank robber who bites it that it forgets about the people with which we’re supposed to sympathize. The people who are to go through peril with us as an audience. All this would be understandable if the robber came back front and center as the main villain. BUT HE DOESN’T! He’s just another zombie. No dialogue, no comeuppance, no revenge, not even a close-up. Just another zombie. I’d rather see more of Linda Blair blending in with the office furniture than all that excruciating robbery plotting that never paid off. Oh man.
So that brings us to the “message” of the movie. The Important Message that the filmmakers were so intent to convey when they promised with the opening scroll that “the facts are true, the characters are fictional.” We’re at the end…the message is coming…I can feel it. Then, it happens. Dan Haggerty fucking cries. Throwing his arms in the air like Platoon
, he has a black and white flashback of the great moments in his life. You know, a shot of his colleague, the desk that he worked at as a midnight security guard. Something really worth remembering. He even flashes back to events from the film he never even witnessed. And then. And then. Okay, so the message is going to give us a big blow to the stomach. A real eye-opener for the future of medicine and research. WE GET A “WHERE ARE THEY NOW?” OF FUNNIES FROM THE CHARACTERS. Seriously. We learn that Vince (that’s Haggerty’s character, apparently), retired to the Colorado mountains with his pet bear. Seriously. They were actually that original. Linda Blair apparently had a kid, and that bank robber we spent so much time with only to completely forget was deemed “never found”. Fuck.
puts the mess in message, a truly inconsistent and ill-conceived notoriety that has to be seen to be believed. The punches Sunseri pulls with this script are unforgivable, and will forever remain in the bad movie books as some of the grandest filmmaking Don’ts of all time. The zombie effects are solid though, and so too the deaths, sounds and coverage whenever the popsicles are on attack. Come to this movie midway through on television, and you could definitely be forgiven for confusing it for quality. But stay for the ending, and your life will never be the same.
Shriek Show presents a respectable transfer of a totally unrespectable little movie! The Chilling
looks cool in a progressive full frame transfer. Technically it is a fine film, with moody, colorful lighting and creepy effects, and they are preserved here in this clear and clean transfer. The colors don’t totally pop, but they certainly stand out and the reds don’t bleed. The opening title has some bad interlacing effects, but I suspect that’s a new inclusion to this “Director’s Cut”. Also noticeable is probably one of the worst matte’s I’ve ever seen, with a squared off, incorrectly exposed and poorly drawn lightning bolt totally making itself obvious at the hour twenty mark (above). Considering the rest of the film, I’ll blame it on the writers. It’s the good transfer we’ve come to expect from Code Red acquisitions on the Media Blasters label.
It’s a no frills mono track, but the sound design in the film is so effective, I couldn’t help but wish for a little more. The otherworldly sound they used for the zombie squeal makes even the climactic Invasion of the Body Snatchers
scream sound tame by comparison. It’s really good. Still, with this mono mix it comes through cleanly, as does the dialogue and the want to kill yourself joke music at the finale.
So this is the director’s cut. I don’t think I could ever make it through this film again on video to tell you what has changed, but I sincerely hope that “Where they are now” montage wasn’t actually part of the finished film. To nit pick, it should actually be “Directors’ Cut”, since as far as IMDb goes, there are two people responsible for this monstrosity. Whose cut it is, I don’t know, because unfortunately there’s nothing from either director here on this DVD, which is a real shame.
What is nice though, is a good 20 minutes of on the set footage, shot on video and showing a great deal of the production. We get lots of shots of alternate takes, the brief moments before and after cuts, and a whole bunch of make-up and effects work. We get to see the zombie molds being created, and even some of the glowing eye tests. There’s some interesting bits here, a real nice window into the competent portion of the production. How I wish there was footage of the screenwriting sessions, though.
Also included are some bloopers. Like the grey card. Nice touch. No, the whole thing is just a complete reel of silent outtakes from the film. Now, normally you’d expect bloopers, but in true schlocky vein, this here is actually a collection of excised sex scenes from the film! It starts off blasé, but then you get to see the bank robber and his lady getting it on in the shower take after take. Mark this as a first for actual behind the scenes footage of sex on screen. Some will appreciate the added full frontal nudity of the lady (or the hairy ass of her man!) but more will probably appreciate the bits before and after that show just how odd and uncomfortable these scenes actually are. While I’m sure the actress probably wouldn’t appreciate having her vagina all on screen (especially when she managed to get away with virtually no nudity in the actual film), it’s inclusion no doubt brings to light an interesting side of the process.
The disc is rounded out with a trailer, a “Chilling in five minutes” promo trailer, a handful of Shriek Show trailers and a still gallery. It would have been nice to get a few interviews or a commentary in the Code Red vein, but still, what’s here’s of interest.
is a message movie gone seriously, seriously wrong. While the effects work, cinematography and sound are all notable, the scripting hits a new benchmark in low, culminating with one of the biggest “are you fucking kidding me” finales you’ll likely see. If Linda Blair was satanic in The Exorcist
, then she’s hellishly horrible here in what’s definitely her worst performance. Still, there’s plenty of bad movie fun to be had, and Shriek Show’s DVD only heightens it with a quality transfer and some really eye-opening (literally with all the nude outtakes) behind-the-scenes footage. If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen a good-bad movie, then it’s time to thaw out The Chilling
Movie - D
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - B
- Running time - 1 hour 31 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono
- Director's cut
- Nude scene outtakes
- Theatrical trailer
- Extended promo trailer
- Still gallery
- Shriek Show trailers