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‘…Deathdream is a fairly rough and ready low-budget horror in a Pet Sematary vibe, the kind of film where the angry subtext makes it of genuine historical interest…’

‘They really rip them up, don’t they?’ is a suitably gnarly line from Bob Clark’s prototype horror film Deathdream aka Dead of Night, which is now re-packaged and released on blu-ray for the first time in the UK as part of 101 Films’s Bob Clark Horror Collection. I’ve covered the centrepiece of this collection, Black Christmas, an iconic and highly influential thriller, earlier this week, but it’s time to delve deeper into Clark’s under-appreciated canon. Deathdream isn’t quite as accomplished or trendsetting as Black Christmas, but it’s certainly a film of singular vision that will be of interest to anyone with a feel for horror and/or Canadian film history.

With shades of WW Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw, Deathdream is a low-budget affair; the idea is simple enough to get your head around. An ordinary American family, whose son Andy (Richard Backus) has just been killed while serving overseas in the Vietnam War, wish for him to be safely returned, but when Johnny does come marching home, he’s not the same at all, he’s…different. ‘You’ve changed…everyone changes eventually’ note Andy’s parents (Lynn Carlin and John Marley), but usually when a vigorous dog-stabbing is part of your daily routine, things can only get worse…

‘I died for you…why shouldn’t you return the favour?’ is the big sociological question here; Clark understands the way in which low budget films like George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, Martin or The Crazies reflected America in a way that their big budget Hollywood cousins didn’t over the same period, and manages to pull off a similar feat. Deathdream deals with dead-eyed alienation and disenchantment caused by the Vietnam War with a deft, serio-comic touch; the period details, like a poster for Robert Quarry in The Death Master visible in the background, are agreeably specific to the lo-fi era, and Clark manages to elicit tension from a potentially one-note idea.

Carlin was a recent Oscar-nominee for 1968’s Faces, and Marley is familiar from The Godfather amongst other 70’s fare, but even with a prestige cast, Deathdream is a fairly rough and ready low-budget horror in a Pet Sematary vibe, the kind of film where the raw, angry subtext makes it of genuine historical interest. While not as slick or equivocal as Black Christmas, you can get a good sense of where Clark is coming from here; he’s an ideas man who would be making mainstream cinema from this point onwards.

Bob Clark Horror Collection (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray)

£44.99 GBP Out April 3rd 2023 in the UK!

Bob Clark Horror Collection (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray)

Special Features:

  • Dreaming of Death: a brand-new feature length documentary on the work of director Bob Clark
  • Brand New Audio Commentary with Travis Crawford and Bill Ackerman
  • Trailer


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  1. Ah, waiting to scale the peaks of cinematic experience that is Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things until your final post. I look forward to your commentary on Ormsby’s pants.

    • I’m all over it. Three coloured vertical tapered striped strides. Orange shirt. This is one of the worst wardrobes I’ve ever seen, including my own. Horror of the most shocking kind. Images that resonate with dread. Unspeakable.

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