Bad Dreams / Visiting Hours Double Feature Blu-ray Review
Written and directed by Andrew Fleming
1988, Region A, 80 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on February 18th, 2014
Jennifer Rubin as Cynthia
Bruce Abbott as Dr. Alex Karmen
Richard Lynch as Harris
Miles Cameron as Ralph
Harris Yulin as Dr. Berrisford
Directed by Jean Claude Lord
Written by Brian Taggert
1981, Region A, 103 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on February 18th, 2014
Lee Grant as Deborah Ballin
Michael Ironside as Colt Hawker
Linda Purl as Sheila Munroe
William Shatner as Gary Baylor
Lenore Zann as Lisa
Scream Factory brings a double dose of terror to Blu-ray with the killer-hospital flicks Bad Dreams and the highly underrated Visiting Hours. It is an odd combination for a double feature, but the hospital theme kinda ties them together.
The films were previously released (in 2011) on DVD and I have pasted my review comments for the films below. If you have already read that review, you can skip to the audio, video and special features section as they are specific to this new Blu-ray release.
First up is Bad Dreams, the debut film from director Andrew Fleming (The Craft) which tells the tale of Cynthia, the sole survivor of a religious cult that burned together in a suicide pact. Having survived the fire (without scars), she wakes from a thirteen-year coma to find herself in a mental facility surrounded by loveable nitwits.
Cynthia is having visions of Harris, her former religious leader, instructing her to take her own life and join the cult, paired with the threat that he will begin killing patients at the hospital until she does the right thing. People start turning up dead in bizarre suicides that range from basic drowning to a loving couple who pulp themselves through a giant turbine. Dr. Karmen struggles to make sense of the strange proceedings and knows somehow that Cynthia is the key to this mystery.
A fun cast led by Jennifer Rubin (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors), Bruce Abbott (Re-Animator) and Dean Cameron (Summer School) help this briskly-paced genre flick rise above some of the other dreck that was flowing in 1988. Richard Lynch (The Sword and the Sorcerer) is fantastic as the doomed cult leader with a bad habit of playing with matches.
Visiting Hours is a Canadian thriller about an outspoken journalist (Lee Grant - Damien: Omen II), who defends the rights of female victims in society. One night, during a live TV interview, her position upsets a local looney in the form of the badass Michael Ironside (Scanners), who breaks into her house and waits for her to come home. His attack leaves her wounded but alive, so naturally he follows her to the local hospital. Her boss, played by William Shatner (The Devil’s Rain), is concerned but helpless when it comes to treating her wounds and must leave her in the capable hands of Nurse Sheila Monroe (Linda Purl, Homeland).
Grant isn’t the only target of Ironside’s misogynistic villain. He stalks and tortures a prostitute (Lenore Zann, Happy Birthday to Me) before turning his attention on some of the random patients in the hospital. He incapacitates his victims and photographs them as he attacks with such glee that his performance makes up for any shortcomings to be found.
The biggest problem the film faces is that it is a victim of the times in which it was made. The early 1980s were fertile ground for slasher movies and with the success of the hospital-themed Halloween II and X-Ray, this film was marketed as a similar type of product. This is particularly unfair considering the seriousness director Jean-Claude Lord (Eddie and The Cruisers II) brings to the material. Audiences expecting blood, boobs, and beasts may be left disappointed, but the film stands on its own and features some fantastic poster art.
Video and Audio:
The anamorphically-enhanced 1.78:1 picture preserves the original theatrical aspect ratio of each, and presents colors evenly with some grain present throughout both features. Visiting Hours has a slightly more impressive picture quality than Bad Dreams and despite some occasional softness, the transfers are stronger than their previous DVD counterpart.
As far as audio, Bad Dreams arrives with a decent DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that gets the job done with some nice use of the rear channel surrounds, especially within the frequent dreamy hallucinations that haunt our heroine. The original stereo mix is presented in a DTS-HD MA 2.0 that is equally respectable.
Visiting Hours is close behind with a serviceable monaural DTS-HD Master Audio track that is simple and effective. Dialogue remains clean and free from distortion.
English subtitles are provided for both features for anyone in need.
Shout Factory seems to be recycling the Anchor Bay catalog, and is wisely keeping the supplements previously available. There are a number of vintage featurettes along with a contemporary set of interviews with the cast among the treasures to be found.
First up is an engaging commentary with director Fleming, who is at times a bit too honest for his own good as he eagerly shares tales of numerous rookie mistakes on this, his first feature. He keeps the information flowing with minimal downtime and very little on-screen narration.
Next is a featurette titled “Dream Cast” (22 minutes), that includes new interviews with actors Jennifer Rubin, Bruce Abbott, Richard Lynch and Dean Cameron. Each reflects on the making of the film and they have no qualms about poking fun when necessary.
There are two short pieces from the set, recorded in 1988, focusing on the special makeup effects and also a behind the scenes look at the filming of a moment near the end of the movie. (9 minutes)
The original ending (10 minutes) is also included in fairly rough workprint condition. While there are some nice elements to this finale, it was wisely cut, but is nice to see on display here.
A photo gallery and the original theatrical trailer round out the special features for this title.
The film’s original ad campaign of radio and TV spots return with this release and are joined by a photo gallery of production stills.
The special features of all of the previous releases of this film stopped here, but Scream Factory corrects this oversight here with a collection of three new interviews with various members of the cast and crew.
Screenwriter (and playwright) Brian Taggert (45 minutes) provides the most enthusiastic interview on the disc, as he has a lot of information and advice to share. His stories are numerous and include not only Visiting Hours but also some of his other credits such as Of Unknown Origin and V: The Final Battle. Once an actor himself (and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Burt Lancaster), Taggert has nothing but wonderful things to say about the cast, particularly Michael Ironside.
Veteran genre producer Pierre David (Scanners II & III) discusses his impressive career in this informative albeit brief interview (11 minutes). He reveals the origins of the project and his involvement throughout production. The man is a legend in Canadian cinema and the story he shares of how he ultimately got this movie distributed is an impressive tale of determination.
Actress Lenore Zann (23 minutes) shares her memories as Lisa, the hooker with a heart of gold. The piece offers a nice look at her extensive career as she discusses everything from her work in early '80s horror films to a lengthy career in voice-over work (including the voice of Rogue in the animated X-Men series), her thoughts on the depiction of women in film and finally, how she became involved in politics. This is a surprisingly thorough piece and a fun addition to this disc.