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Scream Factory release: ‘The Destroyer’ and ‘Edge of Sanity’

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Welcome to another Scream Factory blu-ray review. This time we’ll be taking a gander at the double-feature of The Destroyer and Edge of Sanity, released on April 12th, 2016.

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Packaging

As with all double-features courtesy of Scream Factory, both films are housed on a single, dual-layer 50GB disc. The front side of the paper slip cover features poster artwork from both movies, with the inside of the packaging graced by several still images. Original title artwork is printing on the disc. Once the Shout and Scream company logos have played, viewers are presented a screen where they select the film they wish to see.

 

Destroyer-1988-movie-3Feature presentations

The Destroyer aka Shadow of Darkness

Written by Peter Garrity, Rex Hauck, Mark W. Rosenbaum

Directed by Robert Kirk

U.S.A., 1988

Robert Kirk’s picture opens with a shocking dream sequence during which our protagonist, film stuntwoman Susan Malone (Deborah Foreman), plays the role of electric chair executioner for the infamous murderer Ivan Moser (NFL star Lyle Alzado). Things go haywire in the worst way imaginable, but Susan wakes up just as Iva gets his humungous hands on her neck. Her nightmares stem from the fact that she and boyfriend screenwriter David Harris (Clayton Rohner) are currently working on B-movie genre picture in the very same building that used to be the prison where a terrible riot broke out the night Ivan Moser was executed. The funny thing is, no one knows what happened to Moser’s body. That’s of little concern to most of the film’s cast and crew, least of all director Robert Edwards (Anthony Perkins). Susan’s nightmares become reality when people slowly start disappearing.

The Destroyer, also know as Shadow of Darkness (the name that appears as the title on the original negative Scream Factory used for this transfer), is the sort of movie gifted with pertinent themes and ideas percolating in its mind, yet seems far more content to play by the tired, worn out rules of the slasher genre. For one, the setting itself is quite refreshing. Yes, other horror films have adopted prisons as their central location, such as the aptly titled Prison (incidentally, another Scream Factory blu-ray release), but in the case of Destroyer, the institution itself is long abandoned, employed now by a film crew. As such, people’s perspective on the building is very different since they’re all present to work on a project with little concern paid to the establishment’s dark history. What’s more, there are several scenes that pay no heed to the fact that Destroyer is a horror film, but rather concentrate on enlightening aspects of film production. The setting up of cameras, discussions what frame rates are used, and even the preparation of a major stunt is depicted. Clearly the makers of Destroyer were interested in the art of filmmaking and were encouraged to use the story as a platform to highlight the process of creating a movie. Destroyer attempts to tie this together with the opening scene in which viewers come to understand that Moser has an obsession with television, albeit that angle has a much more surface level quality about it.

It should also be pointed out that Anthony Perkins, of course best known for playing the antagonist in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, gives a lively, guilty pleasure performance as a foul mouthed, short tempered director. He isn’t in the film as much as one would like, but whenever he shows up the scenes are suddenly injected with great energy, even though he’s playing a slob. His role in Psycho, despite earning rapturous praise to this day, actually did him no favours career-wise, which is incredibly frustrating when watching some of his other films and witnessing his obvious talent, as is the case here.

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All that being said, The Destroyer’s disparate pieces, intriguing though they may be, never come together to form a cohesive, thrilling unit. Rather than take chances and make Moser a semi ghost-like menace, the film offers a pedestrian explanation as to why he still walks the prison’s halls and who facilitates his penchant for killing. It doesn’t help that Lyle Alzado is not a charismatic screen presence. An American football legend perhaps, but the man to portray the killer in a horror film… not so much. His line delivery is awkward at times, and while it might be possible to muster the argument that Moser is an insane person, hence his bizarre speech pattern, the lines simply do not come across as threatening when spoken by Alzado. The biggest offender, however, is the final third, a surprisingly boring, drawn-out chase between Moser and the two lovers, Susan and David. After witnessing a few kills, suddenly the entire crew is done away with off screen, leaving an extended 25-30 minutes for Moser to locate the remaining protagonists and kill them. It sounds like a good idea on paper, and would be great on screen in the hands of a good director. Sadly, Robert Kirk runs out of ideas very fast. Most of what transpires is uninspired and, worse still, not the least bit scary.

 

 

Edge_of_SanityEdge Of Sanity

Written by J.P. Félix and Ron Raley

Directed by Gérard Kikoïne

U.S.A., 1989

Much like with the first film of the double-feature, Edge of Sanity opens with a dream, although this one is from the lead character’s past, a moment in his life that haunts him still. As a child, Henry Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) once witnessed two lovers gets acquainted in a barn, only to be noticed by the man and subsequently get teased in brutal fashion. Years later, in late 19th century London, Dr. Jekyll is a brilliant man of medicine currently working on a new anaesthetic which he will present at a critical conference in a few week’s time. The concoction appears to be sourced from some ether, but on the night when the product is accidentally mixed with cocaine in his laboratory, Dr. Jekyll transforms into an entirely different person. He no longer requires a walking cane, but that’s about the only positive spin on his nightly allure. As Jack Hyde, he roams the streets of London as a violent thrill seeker who kills prostitutes. His wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) soon begins to suspect that something is amiss, but will she be too late to uncover the plot and save her husband?

Edge of Sanity makes for a very, very peculiar watch, especially on initial viewing. Inspired by the legendary horror novel from Robert Louis Stevenson, the film opts to heighten the experience with a bountiful amount of bells and whistles, to say nothing of the fact that the Jekyll and Hyde plot is melded with that of the infamous Jack the Ripper. The first of those two important elements really does make for a special viewing experience, with Edge of Sanity going the full length to earn its namesake. When Jekyll morphs into the hideous Jack Hyde, Dutch angles abound, and the film’s lighting suddenly embraces beautiful primary colours in one second, and chiaroscuro techniques the next. Just as impressive is the set design that juggles the clean representation of a London that anyone would easily recognize during the daytime (even though a lot of the shooting schedule took the crew to Budapest) and the truly bizarre depiction of London’s sexually charged underbelly once the sun sets. There is not a question that director Kikoïne and his production crew put a lot of effort into establishing a convincing, dichotomous personality for the city of London, which of course mirrors the lead character’s monstrous duel personality.

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The second of the two aforementioned ingredients, that being the Mr. Hyde and Jack the Ripper crossover, serves virtually no purpose. The Hyde of the original book was already a boorish individual with violent tendencies, a person many feared, justifiably so. Why the filmmakers thought it best to add Jack the Ripper to the mould is anyone’s guess. No extra depth is lent to either Jekyll or Hyde by the inclusion of Jack. There is one potentially interesting scene, from a thematic perspective, arriving at the midway point of the film. At this stage, Jekyll has already embraced his alter ego a few times. Sitting with his wife and friends at a lush restaurant one evening, the conversation turns to the recent murders. A church has chosen to open its doors to shelter the city’s prostitutes, which Jekyll’s friends scoff at. Jekyll retorts that that is the church’s choice, that few people really even understand what full freedom of choice entails. The irony of this is that Jekyll is deluding himself into believing he has attained full freedom whenever he is jack Hyde, but the truth of the matter is that his addictive ether-cocaine drug is what drives him. Clearly the film has something to say about the tug-of-war between free will and dependency, yet the scene ends as abruptly as it began and the subject is never broached again.

Once again, Anthony Perkins delivers a solid performance, only this time by playing extraordinarily different roles. His Jekyll is naturally the more mild mannered of the two, although Perkins does provide a level of gravitas in the latter stages once the pressure begins to mount on the doctor’s shoulders. Hyde keeps calling to him, as does his new drug, with the temptation too much to bear. His Jack Hyde is a different matter altogether, resembling a character straight out of a grand guignol production. It’s extremely heightened, very over-the-top and at times a bit too much, but effective on the whole. Lest she be overlooked, Glynis Barber puts in fine work as Mrs. Jekyll. Better still, as the story develops, her character takes center stage by investigating her husband’s doings, becoming a sleuth of sorts.

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Video and Audio quality

Presented in 1080p high definition, both transfers are afflicted by their fair share of issues, even though on the whole the presentations are decent enough for fans of both films to enjoy the movies. There are a handful of scenes where softness is pervasive, although it is open to debate as to whether that is a problem with the source used for the transfer or not. The picture quality for neither film ever gets particularly sharp, but that should not dissuade people from picking up the release. These are older films shot on much older film stock. The looks are generally decent throughout, but detail does take a dip every now and then. Flickers of debris and white pops also make cameo appearances, which can get annoying after one time too many, especially the in the case of the latter.

On the audio front, the DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo tracks serve their purposes for the most part, but there are instances when dialogue is more difficult to decipher, especially during The Destroyer. The opening dream sequences features a priest saying one final prayer before Ivan Moser’s execution but his words are barely audible. The very same problem plagues a few more scenes later in the film, which is a mild annoyance. Edge of Sanity’s audio track is a better balanced and provides a bit more punch, which comes in quite handy when things get crazy during Hyde’s theatrical, murderous, night time excursions. Frédéric Talgorn’s classical score approach in the second film is done right via the DTS track as well.

 

Supplements

Scream Factory’s release is rather barren with respect to bonus material, unless one is excited about the original theatrical trailers.

 

Final Scream

This latest Scream Factory double-feature follows in the footsteps of the company’s other recent blu-rays by offering one less-than-stellar movie alongside a much better one. This regularly makes for a strange challenge when the time comes to produce a review. Is one of the these films really that bad? Would it be better had it been blessed with its own release? Is the other film really that good? Had it earned its standalone blu-ray, would it shine as brightly as it does now? These are intriguing hypotheticals, but when it comes to reviews, one should avoid writing about what might have been, but rather what is. As such, the appeal of the Destroyer and Edge of Sanity double-dose will vary on one’s propensity to explore Anthony Perkins’ lesser known cinematic ventures.


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