BADass SINema Unearthed - Blu-ray Review
- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Released here in America as Strange Behavior, director Michael Laughlin (Two-Lane Blacktop) goes for the jugular in Dead Kids. The murderous results are indeed an Ozploitation classic that many have never seen before. The frightful flick is full of surprises for attentive viewers, but one of its most unexpected treats is the resurrection of Lou Christie’s 1966 song “Lightnin’ Strikes” as some teenagers, raggedly dressed in demented Halloween costumes, start pogoing – in choreographed unison – to its high-pitched chorus.
“Lightnin’ is striking agaaaaaaiiiiiiinnnnn.”
Outside of the undead dance party sequence, there are a handful of wonderfully insane scenes – featuring an extended kill scene in which the Tor Jonson-masked killer fails to kill his victim – that expresses the sheer fun and horror to be had in this underground gem. The film works its ass off to combine formulas and come out with a unique horror groove all its own. It’s uneven, but damn close to b-movie perfection.
Trust me, Dead Kids achieves more than its fair share of killer moments.
Presented on blu-ray by Severin Films, Dead Kids takes a bit of a slow burn approach to the teen slasher phenom that was popular in the 1980s. This languid approach to the teen scene might alienate some viewers, but the sheer brilliance in Bill Condon’s co-written script totally makes up for any onscreen stumbles. The script tackles the established slasher genre head-on with an initial killing that is beyond bizarre and puts its own spin on the genre with the late-in-the-game revelation of a mad scientist pulling the strings.
Starring Michael Murphy (Count Yorga, Vampire) as the grieving police chief in charge of finding the killer targeting teens in a small Illinois suburb, Dead Kids features good performances from Louise Fletcher (Flowers in the Attic), Dan Shor (Tron, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure), Fiona Lewis (The Fury), Arthur Dignam (The Dreaming), Marc McClure (Superman, Back to the Future), and Charles Lane (Petticoat Junction) as it unwraps one mystery after another.
The film, while subtle with its use of practical effects, is also never afraid to let the blood flow thanks to the work of makeup guru Craig Reardon (Poltergeist). It should be noted, though, that this is one slasher flick that understands why overkill is, well, exactly that: overkill. The scenes are graphic due to what they imply and not so much in how they show it; there’s also a nice layer of suspense running throughout those scenes.
The low budget film is a puzzling joy to watch unfold; it is challenged with a pace that is unforgivingly realistic as two teenage boys go about their 24-hour business with managing raging hormones when they aren’t being tested by the local college’s psychology department for $100 a session. It is also goofy fun, yet, as far-out as it might seem for a college department to prey on students, never unbelievable in its scope of quasi-rural life.
And, for the faint of heart, the horror film never goes over-the-top with the gore; however, it also isn’t afraid to unseat the viewer with eyeless humans as scarecrows. Hell, even the police crime scenes feel authentic in their professional delicacy.
Dead Kids, thanks once again to Severin Films, is among the living once again. It is easily one of the best horror films you’ve probably never seen. Change that, will you?
MPAA Rating: R.
Runtime: 87 mins
Director: Michael Laughlin
Writer: Bill Condon, John P. Harrison
Cast: Michael Murphy, Louise Fletcher, Dan Shor
Genre: Horror | Mystery
Tagline: Good Kids Turned Killers!
Memorable Movie Quote: "Two sessions, two days, a hundred bucks a day."
Theatrical Distributor: World Northal
Release Date: October 16, 1981
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 11, 2014
Synopsis: A scientist is experimenting with teenagers and turning them into murderers.
Home Video Distributor: Severin Films
Available on Blu-ray - March 11, 2014
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Two-disc set; DVD copy
Region Encoding: Region-free playback
Transferred in HD from the original negative for the first time ever, Severin Films presents Dead Kids with a gloriously ripe 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. The film is obviously dated technologically, but the crisp details in the clothing and the backgrounds stand out like never before. Black levels are also strong, making some of the night kill scenes an absolute triumph of shades and thick lines. The image is presented with a 2.35:1 ratio and feels authentic to its original run. Also keeping with the spirit is the clean DTS-HD MA mono soundtrack.
There are two commentary tracks: one featuring co-writer Bill Condon and actors Dan Shor and Dey Young and a new one featuring director Michael Laughlin. Both are informative; however, the Condon track is a bit livelier.
Severin Films gives viewers an isolated score that highlights Tangerine Dream’s work on the film and a 20-minute look at the film’s makeup effects with Reardon at the helm. A collection of international and domestic trailers rounds out the collection. Also included is a DVD copy of the movie.
- The Effects of Strange Behavior (20 min)
- Isolated Music Track