There’s no doubt that the name Bob Clark is synonymous with some pretty great films. Noted for such classics as A Christmas Story, Porky’s, and Black Christmas, Clark has been the driving force behind some quality cinema. But in 1972, he directed a film that, despite gaining some positive reviews, never really made its mark on the map…and for good reason.
Bob Clark’s low-budget horror film Deathdream (also released under the title Dead of Night) is loosely inspired by W.W. Jacobs’s short story The Monkey’s Paw. However, it never quite captures the dark, chilling nature of that story, and ends up being not much of anything at all.
Although Deathdream is widely noted as being an allegory of sorts for the Vietnam War, I’m not sure it ever achieves this. In fact, the film ends up being a lot of back-and-forth between a group of characters that nobody really likes — some of them are so bad that, by the end of the film, you’re just glad it’s over. And by that point, you certainly won’t care one way or the other about the film’s Vietnam undertone, or what it was really trying to say.
The Breakdown:Deathdream focuses on the family of Andy Brooks, a soldier who is killed in the Vietnam War. Upon receiving news of their son’s death, the life of the Brooks family is turned completely upside down. Unable to deal with the news, Mrs. Brooks pleads to her son: “Andy, you’ll come back. You’ve got to…you promised.”
Fast forward to four o’clock in the morning and guess who’s knocking at the front door? Andy. Except it’s not the same Andy that left to go to war. There’s something seriously wrong with the guy who came back. However, everyone seems to be in complete denial of this fact.
People start dying one by one, and the only lead the authorities have are stories of a mysterious hitchhiking soldier who recently came to town. But it couldn’t be Andy! Nope, it’s definitely not Andy.
The film continues on like this in an anticlimactic sort of way, until the Brooks family is finally unable to deny the truth any longer. Their son came back a monster and, with all the eerily coincidental murders happening, there’s something like a 99.9% chance that Andy is the one behind the grisly deaths. But he’s still their son, after all…and a mother never stops loving her only son.
The Conclusion:Deathdream is one of those films where you can look back on it and say, “Hey. I see what he was trying to do there.” And I definitely can. Although inspired by a short story of a much higher caliber, Deathdream has a great setup. The whole film has a be-careful-what-you-wish-for thing going for it that really works. But in the end, the payoff is so insignificant, you might even miss it if you’re not watching closely enough.
If you’re a big Bob Clark fan, by all means, give this one a watch. It has just enough of this and just enough of that to keep you watching…waiting for something good to happen. But trust me. It never happens and this one is a certified sleeper.
Watch ‘DeathDream’ (1972) below:
|Buy the film at Amazon.com|
|Buy the film at Amazon.co.uk|
Written by: Joe Tallman