Posts tagged Twice Dead
The two-fer discs in Shout! Factory’s line of “Roger Corman Cult Classics” releases have mostly fallen into a comfortable pattern of linking two of the lesser-known titles in Corman archive together via similar elements. Their pairing of The Evil and Twice Dead maintains this trend. It brings together two haunted house films from two different eras of Corman’s career, with The Evil representing the New World Pictures glory days of the 1970’s and Twice Dead representing the more home video-oriented 1980’s output of Concorde Pictures. Between the two, one gets a nice glimpse into how the same subject matter was given different approaches in different decades.
Both films have been given new anamorphic transfers, which is a first for both titles. There’s a bit of speckling/scratching at the very beginning of each and sometimes around reel changes but both look impressive overall, offering a quantum leap in color and detail over the old, fuzzy VHS versions most fans are accustomed to. The sonic portion of these transfers sticks to the original theatrical mixes and each sounds fine.
Care is also taken with the presentation of the films on the discs. Producer Cliff MacMillan plays up the inherent double-feature feel of pairing these films together by providing animated menus that replicate the look of an old-fashioned movie theater (a technique he devised when producing double-feature discs for BCI). Better yet, the viewer is given the option of watching the films separately or as “The Roger Corman Experience,” which provides two period-specific bonus trailers to precede each film as well as vintage “previews” and ” feature presentation” cards with the Keith Mansfield-derived music that every exploitation fan knows by heart. Fittingly, all the bonus trailers represent other Shout! Factory titles (said trailers can also be viewed separately).
If that’s not enough, there are plenty of additional extras. Each film features a commentary track moderated by Code Red Films honcho Walter Olsen: director Gus Trikonis, cinematographer Mario DiLeo and writer Donald G. Thompson are the participants on The Evil‘s track while Twice Dead‘s track features director/co-writer Bert Dragin and star Tom Breznahan.
The Evil commentary track is a solid one, with each of the collaborators offering decent insights into their particular line of work on the film. Surprisingly, DiLeo has the most interesting material: he reveals how the film’s visual effects were mostly pulled off via practical, in-camera means and reveals how he accomplished some tricky moving shots without the benefit of a Steadicam. Olson peppers the track with periodic questions, which unfortunately sometimes distract the other participants while they are in the middle of a thought (he also pokes fun at/criticizes a few parts of the film in a rather un-moderator-like way). That said, the trio of filmmakers’ comments are enough to hold the listener’s interest.
Unfortunately, the Twice Dead commentary track doesn’t fare as well. Breznahan and Dragin are willing participants but neither has strong enough memories to fill the entire track. Also, Dragin seems to not understand that most people who listen to a commentary track on a DVD have already watched the film so he keeps refusing to talk about effects or plot twists until they appear on screen. Olsen tries to prop the track up with plenty of questions but they stick at a fanboy-ish level of trivia that don’t really open the film for discussion in an interesting or ambitious way. The end result feels like a missed opportunity.
There is also a featurette for Twice Dead, an interview with Jill Whitlow that was produced by Michael Felsher. It’s a short but sweet piece that has Whitlow discussing her career, her memories of Twice Dead and the reasons she left the film business. She’s got a charming personality and tells her tales well so the piece is easy to enjoy. Elsewhere, the package is rounded out with theatrical and t.v. trailers for The Evil.
In short, Shout! Factory and producer MacMillan have gone beyond the call of duty to beef up this double feature with plenty of extras and a savvy presentation. Your Humble Reviewer appreciates the level of work put into what could have been a simple two-movies-on-one-disc release.
One of the most entertaining trends in schlock filmmaking is the genre-splice approach. This refers to a film that takes two different types of popular story concept that don’t seem to go together and splices their elements to create a new hybrid that will hopefully offer double the entertainment value (and profit potential). However, it doesn’t always work out that way because genres have to be combined with extreme care and the wrong combo can result in a film that works against itself in a Jekyll & Hyde sort of way.
Twice Dead illustrates the risks of genre-splicing. This offbeat horror/suspense hybrid attempts to combine the ghost story with the kind of “regular folks vs. gang members” storyline inherent to Death Wish sequels and exploitation thrillers like The New Kids.
In fact, Twice Dead kind of plays like a supernaturally inclined variant on The New Kids. It stars Tom Breznahan and Jill Whitlow as Scott and Robin, a pair of squeaky clean college kids who are forced to move to an inherited home in a rundown part of L.A. when their dad’s business falls apart. This house is also haunted by Tyler Walker (Jonathan Chapin), the former lover of the deceased aunt who once lived there. He was an actor who committed suicide when the aunt left him and it’s safe to say he isn’t resting in peace.
That’s not the only problem the kids have: there is also the matter of the drug-dealing gang who was using the house as a hangout before the family moved in. They resent being displaced and begin tormenting the two kids. When the parents have to leave town to tend to legal matters, Scott and Robin decide to scare off the gang via an elaborate ruse using Scott’s skills with makeup effects(!). However, said trickery only makes the gang angry and they come back for revenge. The siblings’ only hope is help from the house’s other tenant, resulting in a finale that offers a supernatural version of vigilante mayhem.
On the plus side, Twice Dead offers an ambitious and surprisingly intricate plot for a low-budget horror film and dishes out plenty of setpieces during its short running time. Unfortunately, its ambitions exceed its aesthetic limitations. Breznahan and Whitlow deliver solid performances but the “gang” is a laughably miscast, overacting bunch that look more like they came from a community theater version of West Side Story instead of a ghetto. Even worse, Scott and Robin’s plan to scare off their tormentors is so implausible and poorly thought out that you almost want the faux-gangstas to get them. The supernatural angle is also rather sketchy, with it never being clear why Tyler haunts the home or what he requires to rest in peace.
Bert Dragin’s direction is competent but lacks the kinetic/visceral flair this kind of material requires. His approach to it is also a bit schizoid: there’s a lack of gore, nudity or other exploitable elements until the last twenty minutes, which throws aside the PG-13 approach of the prior seventy minutes for a handful of gore effects and an amusingly gratuitous sex scene that gets interrupted by otherworldly means. As a result, the kind of trash-horror fans who might have been Twice Dead‘s audience might give up on it before it gets to its third-act payoff and the fans of the subtler approach of the first two acts will be turned off by the finale’s carnage.
Thus, Twice Dead ends up as a curiosity item for schlock scholars. You can’t be all things to all people – and this film’s unwieldy blend of milquetoast and mayhem severely limits its appeal.