Effects Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by AGFA Releasing
Written and directed by Dusty Nelson
1980, 84 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on August 22nd, 2017
Joseph Pilato as Dominic
Susan Chapek as Celeste
John Harrison as Lacey Bickel
Bernard McKenna as Barney
Debra Gordon as Rita/ Mona
Tom Savini as Nicky
Chuck Hoyes as Lobo
Blay Bahnson as Scratch
Effects is a low budget film that quickly disappeared before it could get a proper theatrical release when the distributor filed for bankruptcy. Two decades later, Synapse Films rescued the picture from obscurity and gave it a DVD Special Edition. Now, the folks at AGFA Releasing have remastered the movie and are presenting it for the first time on Blu-ray. Effects has had a long, troubled history and the original film elements are now lost, but what we do get looks pretty good for something as rare as this title has become.
The plot revolves around a film crew making a low-budget horror flick in an isolated cabin deep in the woods. Their tale features possession and an unseen evil. Director Lacey Bickel (John Harrison) works closely with his cast and crew to get the scenes exactly the way he wants them. Dominic (Joe Pilato), his cinematographer, shares a strong relationship with him and wouldn’t mind starting something a little more than friendly with fellow crew member Celeste (Susan Chapek). Things take a bizarre turn one night after ample booze and cocaine, when Lacey shows a “snuff film” that he at first claims is the real deal but later admits is just a goof he shot with some friends. Dominic is put off by the experience and intensifies his focus on Celeste.
Around the halfway point, Effects takes an unexpected turn that I won’t spoil here, but suffice it to say the second half is much more engaging than the build-up. I wasn’t quite certain where the movie was going and would have been fine if it had maintained its course of a young couple finding romance, but this payoff is far more surprising and satisfying. Filmmaker Dusty Nelson (Necromancer) directs from a script he wrote and he keeps his cards close to the vest during the setup phase of his story. He handles the reveal nicely and keeps viewers guessing where the tale will finally end. Many of the scenes being shot for the movie-within-a-movie are introduced while being filmed, so audiences are frequently unsure what is drama and what is reality. Nelson excels at maintaining this guessing game throughout the duration and it is surprising he didn’t go on to a lengthy career behind the camera.
I first saw Effects via the earlier DVD release and wasn’t completely sold on the movie, but revisiting it now, I find the film to be a better experience. Yes, it remains uneven and the pacing of the first half is a bit wandering, but I really enjoy the second half. It’s nice seeing some of the cast acting against type. Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead) is a nice guy for once instead of a heavy and he does an exceptional job as a rational man caught in circumstances he cannot control. Famed make-up artist Tom Savini (Friday the 13th) appears in a supporting role as the always-partying Nicky, and does a fine job. John Harrison later pursued a directing career with films like Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, so it is nice to see him playing a director here. There are a lot of things to like in this film and I can recommend it to anyone looking to see an example of friends with limited resources and a lot of talent working together to make a movie.
Video and Audio:
As I stated earlier, the original film elements have been lost and this new transfer comes from one of the only remaining 35mm prints in existence. There are excessive amounts of dirt and scratches throughout and contrast levels are a bit shallow. Presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture is likely the best it will ever look.
The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix is in much better shape than the video counterpart. Dialogue levels are clean and free from distortion. Music cues are well-balanced and never intrusive.
The audio commentary features actor John Harrison, producer/ editor Pasquale Buba and writer/ director Dusty Nelson. The three old friends are more than happy to share their stories about the making of the film. This track is a relaxed, conversational affair that is a real treat to hear.
The main video-based supplement is the retrospective documentary After Effects (60 minutes), filled with extensive interviews with several members of the cast and crew. Filmmaker Michael Felsher provides an optional commentary track regarding the making of this piece.
There are two short films included; one from John Harrison (Ubu, 12 minutes) and the other by Dusty Nelson (Beastie, 16 minutes). Both show early promise from the two directors.