Blu-ray Review: Scared To Death



During the ’80s, the VCR opened up opportunities to make low budget movies. Producers didn’t have to worry about the cost of getting a theatrical release or hustling for a cable channel to license their movie. These were limited space and the big studios weren’t giving up their prime action. Mom and Pop stores were looking to buy odd titles for their rental racks to keep customers eager to comeback for more than the Hollywood Blockbusters. If you had a cool title and a tempting box cover, thousands of copies could be sold across the USA and the World. When the DVD revolution happened, there were thousands of titles that weren’t given the upgrade from analog tape to digital disc. Their distributors might have been stuck in legal limbos. Some had lost their film elements. Others had just gotten too obscure to be viewed as profitable for re-issue. Scared to Death is one of those films that hasn’t seen a serious upgrade release since the VHS tape came out nearly four decades ago. The mix of science fiction/horror/cop thriller is finally getting upgraded to Blu-ray. Even more appealing is writer-director William Malone having a second chance to restore the film. Old and new fans will get to see Scared To Death with a bit more clarity and the option of a longer cut.

Something is abducting the ladies of Los Angeles at night and the police are stumped. Who is the new serial killer to terrorize the city? Detective Lou Capell (Bosch: Legacy‘s David Moses) calls back Ted Lonergan (The Hand‘s John Stinson) to help with the investigation. Ted has gone into being a crime writer so he’s cool with poking around without following police procedure. He brings along his girlfriend Jennifer (Diana Davidson) as they get a sense that the killer is lurking in the sewer system and tied into a corporation. Turns out the killer is really a Syngenor (Synthesized Genetic Organism) and is doing more than killing his victims. There’s a lot of creeping around dirty industrial buildings and sewers for Ted and Jennifer. Can they really defeat this mutant of industrial nightmares?

The big selling point is the Syngenor. The creature costume is rather intense except for the odd tongue device that he uses against his victims. It’s not quite as nasty as the creature in Alien. For a no budget movie, the creature is impressive and doesn’t have to be completely shot in shadows and close ups to hide any duct tape elements. Easy to see this being recommended at the Videorama’s horror section based off the creature.

Even though Scared to Death found inspiration in the monster from Alien, the movie got kind of ripped off by C.H.U.D. a few years later. The two films are about creatures living in the sewer system that were mutated by out of control scientific experiments. Although Scared to Death is Los Angeles and C.H.U.D. takes place in New York City. C.H.U.D. gets more attention because of an all-star cast. Scared to Death almost had a big-name lead except Rick Springfield bailed at the last minute. The singer of “Jessie’s Girl” couldn’t skip his acting classes. Not to give away the ending, but Terminator was also years away from being released. Scared to Death is a bit of science fiction in its ability to predict the future of other movies. If you missed renting Scared To Death at the Video Bar, you can finally catch up on the scares.

The video is 1.85:1. The movie was shot on 16mm film and blown up to 35m for the release. There’s a bit of grain in the image. The audio is DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo so you can get a bit of echos in the sewers. The movie is subtitled in English.

Director’s Restoration (94:25) is actually about three minutes shorter than the release copy. It’s a little tighter. This is on a separate Blu-ray.

Commentary Track features writer/director William Malone, actor Bryce “Kermit” Eller and actress Diana Davidson. Malone points out how they were able to pull off a feature film on a shoestring. He put up his house and car in order to raise the budget for the film. He’s one of the rare success stores in this production strategy. Kemit admits the Sewers are really sets since sewers are smaller spaces.

Rise of the Syngenor (75: 03) is an extensive documentary about how Scared to Death came about. The film’s budget was barely $75,000 and went into profit with a sale to one foreign country. Malone was head sculptor at a mask house. He made the original Michael Myers mask and hung out with H.R. Giger. David Moses talks about working with the director.

The Locations of Scared to Death (8:34) is a tour with William Malone. He finds the original storm water drain. He finds a few of the original alleys. He points out if he had a permit for a location.

Dracula Party – Scared to Death (3:50) is a music video using clips from the movie. It’s like a Svengoolie song about the plot.

Vinegar Syndrome presents Scared to Death. Directed by William Malone. Screenplay by William Malone. Starring John Stinson, David Moses, Walker Edmiston, Diana Davidson and Bryce Eller. Rating: Unrated. Running Time: 97 minutes. Release Date: July 26, 2022.

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