Cast: Bruce Abbott (Re-Animator; Bride of Re-Animator); Jennifer Rubin (Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors)
Release date: April 8th 1988
Blu-ray release date: 23rd July 2018
Directed by: Andrew Fleming
Run time: 84 mins (approx)
‘When Cynthia wakes up, she’ll wish she were dead…’
Cynthia (Jennifer Rubin) wakes up from her coma after 13 years. She was the only survivor of a Jonestown-style suicide cult, a suicide-by-fire pact, instigated by Unity Fields cult leader Franklin Harris (Richard Lynch). We see in a later flashback that she began to retreat after the fire was started, she was just far enough away from the source of the resulting explosion that she lived, badly hurt, but alive.
When she wakes, she begins to have nightmarish visions of Harris, burnt and bloodied from the fire that destroyed all bar herself at Unity Fields.
Cynthia is inserted into a group therapy session, for borderline personality disorder treatment, run by Dr Alex Karmen (Bruce Abbott). Here she meets an eclectic bunch of individuals, including masochist Ralph (Dean Cameron), who takes an instant shine to Cynthia. The film is worth a watch for Dean Cameron’s performance, he portrays a very likable psychotic patient perfectly.
The first of Dr Karmen’s patients to die is Lana (E.G.Daily). an upset Cynthia has a flashback/vision of herself being baptized into the cult of Unity fields, a vision that takes a dark twist when Harris begins holding her underwater, forcing her under until she drowns, Cynthia horrified, realizes this is actually Lana. Afterwards, with Lana’s body below him, Harris turns to Cynthia and says “I warned you Cynthia, I warned you someone else would take your place”. Cynthia then ‘wakes up’ and hears a scream. Running into the pool room, she is confronted with the lifeless body of Lana, who has drowned in the pool – much like in her vision.
Each of the group continue to meet their end, one by one, by Harris (or so it would seem). Cynthia continues to have horrendous visions of him, his face all burnt up from the fire, and then the next person meets a grisly demise. She is convinced it’s Harris, she is convinced he has returned to take her, and is punishing her and those around her for fleeing the fire.
This is a very well acted, intense and thought provoking film. It doesn’t rely on gore and shocks to garner reaction, it relies primarily on the interactions and relationships of the characters, as well as the increasing tension and fear within Cynthia and the remaining patients of Dr Karmen. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Cynthia and Dr Karmen, Bruce Abbot portrays a very sweet and empathetic character, who cares a great deal about his patients, especially Cynthia who he bonds with closely.
I very much enjoyed the end twist of the film, up on a rooftop, when we are shocked to find out that it is actually Karmen’s superior, Dr Berrisford, who has been dosing the patients with psychogenic drugs to make the patients unstable and suicidal. All this just to corroborate his research – makes you wonder how much of this actually goes on in institutions. Karmen had suspected something was amiss with Berrisford for a while, and he confronts him after he sends Cynthia to isolation – “you want this, you want her on the edge, you’ve wanted this from the beginning”.
We are then left to decide for ourselves whether Cynthia’s visions of Harris and the resulting deaths of the patients were actually suicides caused by Dr Berrisford’s drug cocktails, or was Harris actually there, was he he really tormenting Cynthia and murdering everyone around her in a twisted revenge for her survival.
- Duel format collectors edition includes the High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and the Standard Definition DVD version of the movie.
- Interview with director Andrew Fleming.
- Interview with actress Jennifer.
- Interview with Spencer Murphy – Bad Dreams fan and University Lecturer.
- Audio commentary with Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer (Mondo-Digital.com).
- Theatrical trailer.
- Reversible sleeve with alternate artwork.
The blu-ray includes a booklet from 88 Films, looking back at the 30 essential North American slasher movies from 1960-89.
I love this film, I’m extremely impressed with the Blu-ray from 88 Films’ Slash Classics Collection.
Great special features, well worth a watch and a listen.
5/5 for the film and 3/5 for the features (A Bruce Abbott interview would have made it perfect)
If you haven’t seen this, give it a watch, it’s a horror classic!!
Lesley-Ann, the Housewife of Horror