Theme Song: Not in the budget.
Interesting Dated References: Being friendly to your mailman.
Best Line: Yelled by John Marley as he points his finger at his wife after she says some accusatory shit — “You know why I’m drunk! … You know!” Then he pushes his daughter out of the way and tells her to “mind her own goddamn business.”
Social Context: Of course this goes with the age old idea that “war changes a man” and when soldiers return home they aren’t the same people. Because the public demanded it, this idea is taken to it’s special effect-laden zombie edge.
Summary: Just because you own some wooded land, a few fireworks, and a fog machine doesn’t mean you can film a scene for a movie and try to make people think it is Vietnam. But apparently the makers of Deathdream don’t follow that rule. In the opening scene of this movie they try to fool us into thinking they filmed in the jungles of vietnam which just happen to have a lot of maple trees.
So we see a soldier (Andy) get killed, then we see his family get the notice that he’s dead, then we see a truck driver pick up a soldier hitchhiker, and then we see Andy arrive home late at night. He acts all detached and creepy and his hair is annoyingly perfect. His family disregards all this and instead laugh a lot as they try to get him to talk. Andy isn’t much for conversation though and just delivers brief replies to their questions.
The next day the truck driver that picked up Andy is found dead. I should note that Tom Savini did all the special effects for this movie. It was his first real job I think. As a result, I will try to photograph all the examples for all the lonely nerds. Meanwhile, Andy and his family picnic with the mailman and Andy just sits there all quiet and zombie-like. Later that evening mom and dad argue about what a weirdo Andy is being.
Check out this kitchen. That’s a lot of color. This movie is clearly running on a budget of $100. So later that night Andy leaves the house and walks around a graveyard and stares in some chicks window. The next day some neighbor kids come to visit him.
So he kills the family dog in front of them. This makes Andy’s dad upset, so he goes to one of those 70s bars. By that I mean wood paneling, large mirrors, gawdy light fixtures, and of course a formica countertop-bar.
While at the bar Charlie invites the doctor home to take a look at Andy. After the visit the doctor starts to piece together that Andy may have killed the trucker and he tells Charlie. Later that night the doctor is in his office preparing to call the police, only Andy has cut the line! Remember that? So what are they going to do nowadays when killers are supposed to “cut the line.” I guess the modern day equivalent to that could be that the killer chases the person to an area with bad cell phone coverage.
So then Andy kills the doctor and shoots up the doctors blood which apparently makes him so high he nods out. The next day Andy’s sister and her boyfriend decide to surprise Andy and his old girlfriend with a surprise double date. During the date Andy acts all cold and distant to his old girlfriend. Meanwhile Charlie lies to the cops to try to throw them off Andy’s path. So the double date goes to the drive-in where Andy’s head starts leaking puss so he attacks and kills his ex girlfriend, chases his sister, kills her boyfriend with an electrical cord, and runs over some other guy. When he returns home his mother is all delusional and tries to comfort him.
Andy is a full fledged zombie at this point and the make up looks really good. Clearly this is where Savini ironed out what his typical zombie technique would be. Charlie tries to shoot Andy but can’t, so he goes into his own bedroom and shoots himself. All the while, the cops are closing in on the house. When they arrive mom escapes with Andy and the cops give chase. Oddly enough all the police sirens seem to have been added in after the fact and sound like a really fake keyboard/oscillator doing an imitation of a police siren. Andy makes his mom drive him to the cemetery where he crawls into the grave he had picked out for himself. Then the movie ends.
There’s so much confusing stuff going on in this movie. First of all, how does John Marley wind up in something like this. I guess if you look at the timing, it was the same year as The Godfather, so he may have been taking a lot of work at the time. Also, Marley played screen-husband to Lynne Carlin once before in Cassavetes Faces. Second, if this was Tom Savini’s first movie, it speaks volumes about his talent. The zombie soldier looks exactly like a zombie in Savini’s best work. Third, why the fuck did Bob Clark direct this stuff and then wind up doing A Christmas Story. I also have to mention that the writer did Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things. Deathdream really can stand up on its own. I don’t know, more in depth nerd reviews can be found here, here, and here. And yes, Bob Clark has since directed Baby Geniuses and died. Marley is a man’s man by the way.
Poster and Box Art: I didn’t mention it above because I’m feeling a little rusty at this, but Deathdream was one of those movies that was marketed under 75 different names. They include The Night Andy Came Home, The Veteran, Whispers, and Dead of Night. That being said, the above poster is great, but it makes the movie look more like some type of spy/heist film. So when it came time for Gorgon to release a video version, you know they went all out and hired some stoner hessian kid to draw the cover:
Again, would make a great heavy metal album cover.
Here’s a little newspaper ad from when it was marketed as Dead of Night.