R Dir: Richard Friedman | Arrow Video | 1h 25min
Plot: What’s it about?
The horror film genre has always appealed to me because of its low barrier of entry. I think it is safe to say that a drama is the least expensive genre to produce which lends itself to lots of independently financed dramas. The second least expensive genre to produce is horror and it can be one of the most lucrative for the financiers. This led to a huge boom in the Eighties of inexpensive and truly original horror films. I like the overall diversity of the ideas that came out of this period – even when the ideas are truly bad or nonsensical. Such is the case with the entertaining and wacky film Scared Stiff, which Arrow Video has recently given the deluxe treatment.
Charlesburg, 1857 – a slave dealer named George Masterson comes back to his plantation style home. Some slaves have gathered in his house and are chanting in the attic. The slaves give a small wooden lanyard to George’s wife to protect her. When George gets home he kills the three slaves. The film cuts to Charlesburg in 1987. Pop singer Kate Christopher (Mary Page Keller) has recently overcome some sort of psychiatric episode. In the process she has fallen in love with Dr. David Young (Andrew Stevens) who had overseen her mental recovery. David has purchased the plantation style home that was once owned by George Masterson, unaware of its troubled past. Kate agrees to move into the house along with her young son Jason (Josh Segal.) When they hear pigeons in the boarded up attic, they investigate. They make a shocking discovery. Soon Kate begins to experience visions of George Masterson and his family. The house poses a grave danger to her family and others.
Scared Stiff is a great example of what happens when people throw every crazy idea they come up with into a film. Certain things that happen in the film – such as when the computer at the house shoots out a laser style apparition in the shape of the protective amulet – are put into the film simply because they look cool. Working off of a script by the amazing Mark Frost (of Twin Peaks fame,) Director Richard Friedman and producer Daniel Bacaner stayed up late at each other’s apartments rewriting the script until it was unrecognizable and pretty ridiculous. The resulting film is something that, in looking at online reviews, spawns admiration and hatred in equal measure. If you are looking for a tightly woven film that tells a story that is both frightening and realistic, this film will not come close to satisfying your need to be frightened or for solid plot mechanics. If you are looking for an amazing big-hair Eighties horror film featuring voodoo curses, strange twilight zone style sequences, tons of rubber special effects that are not realistic but have their own visual flair, and a doctor that prefers to wear sleeveless shirts – this is the film you have been waiting for. Honestly, at 83 minutes, this film packs in so much. It is not the least bit scary, but it is really entertaining.
The acting in the film is pretty fun of the mill. Mary Page Keller throws herself into her role, and does a pretty good job of singing, but she is not given Shakespearean dialogue to work with. Andrew Stevens is pretty entertaining as the doctor that can not bring himself to believe that there is something wrong with the house.
Video: How’s it look?
Presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio with an MPEG-4 AVC Encoded image, the 1080p presentation looks nice. The transfer of the film was done in 2K from the original 35mm print, so fine detail is solid. Coloration of the film has that drained look typical of the time period, but I was happy with how the film looked overall. Fans of the film will definitely want to see it in high definition.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Similar to the video, the audio presentation on Scared Stiff is solid. The LPCM Mono track sounds pretty great thanks to an enjoyable soundtrack courtesy of composer Billy Barber. The film does not have much in terms of depth, but the audio presentation is pretty clear. I didn’t have any issues understanding the dialogue.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentary – Director Richard Friedman and producer Don Bacaner (with Robert Ehlinger moderating) discuss the film’s production history and their feelings on the film over thirty years later.
- Mansion of the Doomed: The Making of Scared Stiff – Director Richard Friedman, producer Daniel Bacaner, actors Andrew Stevens and Josh Segal, special effects supervisors Barry Anderson, Tyler Smith, and Jerry Macaluso are all interviewed for this enjoyable retrospective piece that sheds a lot of light on how the film came together.
- Interview with Composer Billy Barber – Composer Billy Barber discusses how he came up with the music for the film and how he became a composer in general.
- Image Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
Scared Stiff is a fun and absolutely ridiculous horror film. While it clearly rubs certain people the wrong way, I was entertained f0r the entire 83 minute run time with a big dopey grin on my face. The supplementary materials provided by Arrow are strong and enjoyable. The new 2K scan looks pretty great and fans will surely want to upgrade. This is right up the alley of fans of films like House and Waxwork.