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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Harley Cokeliss
Cast:
Jemma Redgrave, Kathleen Wilhoite, Timothy Spall
Writing Credits:
Christopher Wicking, Harley Cokeliss

Synopsis:
A young woman about to be married begins having terrifying dreams about demons.

MPAA:
Rated R.

DISC DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English PCM 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 87 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 6/23/2020

Bonus:
• Both Theatrical and Director’s Cuts
• Scene-Select Commentary with Director Harley Cokeliss and Producer Paul Webster
• Introduction
• “Dream Master” Featurette
• “A Nightmare on Eton Avenue” Featurette
• “Dreaming of Diana” Featurette
• “Cold Reality” Featurette
• “Sculpting the Part” Featurette
• “Angels and Demons” Featurette
• “Demonic Tones” Featurette
• “The Making of Dream Demon” Featurette
• Image Galleries
• Trailer


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RELATED REVIEWS


Dream Demon [Blu-Ray] (1988)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 7, 2020)

Apparently the 1980s brought an inexhaustible supply of horror movies. For another of these, we head to 1988’s Dream Demon, a UK production.

Diana Markham (Jemma Redgrave) plans to marry honored military veteran Lt. Oliver Hall (Mark Greenstreet) despite pre-wedding nightmares. These occur after she moves into Oliver’s semi-creepy old mansion, and the oddness soon escalates.

These bad dreams persist and become more vivid. Eventually Diana meets American tourist Jenny Hoffman (Kathleen Wilhoite) and the pair confront the terror together.

Is it possible for any post-1984 horror movie that involves the nocturnal to avoid comparisons to Nightmare on Elm Street? Probably not. Some could distance themselves more, but when terror comes after slumber arrives, reflections of the 1984 Wes Craven classic feel inevitable.

Demon doesn’t go out of its way to invite comparisons with Elm Street, but it doesn’t actively discourage them either. Apparently this Blu-ray’s producers recognize these connections, as some of the supplements earn titles that link to the Elm Street franchise.

While Elm Street feels like the most obvious influence on display here. it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. I also sense connections to 1982’s Poltergeist and 1987’s Hellraiser.

Indeed, while the themes of Demon bond with those of Elm Street, Hellraiser creator Clive Barker’s influence seems obvious here. Demon often plays like a variation on the Elm Street franchise made from the Barker POV.

Despite the obvious nature of these influences, Demon manages its own identity. We can see the connections to the other films but they don’t become overwhelming, so Demon manages to stand on its own.

Does that make it a good movie? Sort of – while certainly better than many of its 80s horror counterparts, I can’t claim that Demon ever becomes particularly scary or memorable.

That said, in the realm of 80s horror, “not too bad” feels like high praise. I’ve seen more than enough of those genre efforts to realize the vast majority qualify as varying levels of terrible, so “pretty competent” allows Demon to rise above most of its peers.

Probably the film’s greatest weakness stems from its lack of real plot or particular internal logic. Unlike the Elm Street flicks, the “rules” of Demon never seem especially clear, and more than a few story elements don’t make a ton of sense.

We also fail to get especially good character development. Granted, that’s never been a strength of the genre, but unlike many of its peers, Demon relies more on psychological elements, so it needs well-drawn personalities more than most.

It doesn’t find them. We get rudimentary details about Diana and Jenny, but we never really know them as characters. Though not a fatal flaw, this creates a bit of a void at the heart of the film.

On the positive side, Demon does manage a fairly effective sense of nightmarish terror. It goes with some fairly graphic gross-out effects that manage to convey the horror, and it never winks at the audience.

I also appreciate the way that Demon doesn’t telegraph its form of reality. Most films that deal with topics like this would make it clear that the horror is real, but Demon tends to leave this up for grabs.

That’s where we get into the psychological side of things, as we find ourselves unsure whether or not Diana’s nightmares really do come into the real world or not. Demon keeps the viewer off-guard and that allows it to become more involving.

All of this adds up to an inconsistent but often effective horror film. Dream Demon doesn’t stand with the classics of the genre, but it works better than most.


The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus B+

Dream Demon appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect a decent but dated transfer.

Sharpness looked largely positive. Occasional instances of softness materialized – especially during some low-lit interiors - but the majority of the film offered mostly appealing definition.

I discerned no problems related to jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge haloes created no distractions. A smattering of small specks cropped up during the movie but nothing major interfered, and with a natural layer of grain, I didn’t suspect any issues with noise reduction.

Colors tended toward a low-key natural palette without any dominant hues. These lacked much vivacity but they felt appropriately rendered for the most part.

Black levels appeared reasonably dark – if a little too thick at times - while shadow detail presented acceptable delineation. The image remained perfectly watchable, even if it never impressed.

Though not great, PCM stereo soundtrack of Demon held up fine given its age. The soundfield boasted pretty good stereo presence for the film’s score, and effects broadened to the sides in a positive manner.

These elements fared best in the handful of action-oriented scenes, as those allowed the material to move across the speakers well. Environmental information also used the channels in a satisfying way, as a few scenes brought us well-depicted breadth.

Audio quality showed its age but remained more than acceptable. Dialogue occasionally sounded a little reedy, but the lines remained intelligible and reasonably natural. Music showed nice range and dimensionality.

Effects seemed similarly positive, though a little distortion popped up at times. Nothing here excelled, but the soundtrack seemed acceptable for its age.

This Blu-ray packs quite a few extras, and we get both the film’s theatrical version (1:29:23) and a Director’s Cut (1:28:08).

Because I never even heard of Demon before I saw the Blu-ray – much less knew the theatrical edition – I can’t directly compare the two. Based on discussions elsewhere on this disc – and the minor difference in running times – the primary change appears to come from the deletion of a semi-comedic tag scene right before the end credits. This makes for a good choice, as the original finale feels cheesy.

The “Director’s Cut” can be viewed with or without an Introduction from director Harley Cokeliss. In this 42-second chat, he tells us about the restoration of the “refreshed, revived and improved version of Dream Demon”. This becomes a superfluous lead-in to the film.

We get a Scene-Select Audio Commentary from Cokeliss and producer Paul Webster. Both sit together for this 46-minute, 21-second discussion of the film’s development, story and characters, sets and locations, cast and performances, effects, music, and editing.

It seems clear Cokeliss and Webster sat for a full-length commentary that got cut down due to dead air. I thank Arrow for that choice, as even in abbreviated form, this often becomes a pretty lackluster chat.

At their best, Cokeliss and Webster offer some good notes, but even with the edits, they go MIA a bit too much. They also fade as the track progresses.

Elsewhere on this disc, you’ll find interviews with Cokeliss and Webster. Those cover virtually all of the same material as the commentary along with plenty of other information. Stick with the interviews and skip this lackluster commentary.

A slew of featurettes follow, almost all of which present single-subject interviews. Dream Master spans 27 minutes, 22 seconds and involves Cokeliss.

The director discusses story/character areas and storyboards, cast and crew, various effects, photography, deleted scenes, the film’s release and its restoration and Director’s Cut. Cokeliss explores topics largely untouched in the commentary and adds solid insights.

We hear more from Webster with the 37-minute, 22-second A Nightmare on Eton Avenue. Here he covers aspects of his career as well as the development and production of Demon.

Some of this material feels a bit superfluous, but Webster proves charming and engaging through the chat. Heck, he even admits that Demon came into existence as a ripoff of Elm Street! This winds up as a solid program.

Dreaming of Diana goes for 16 minutes and includes actor Jemma Redgrave. She talks about her experiences during the shoot and some character insights. Redgrave offers a nice collection of notes.

Next comes Cold Reality, a nine-minute, 44-second reel with actor Mark Greenstreet. He looks at his time on the film and he brings us some useful thoughts.

Sculpting the Part fills eight minutes, 58 seconds and brings notes from actor Nickolas Grace. In the same vein as the prior two chats, he tells us about his involvement with Demon and his approach to his part. Expect another engaging interview.

After this we find Angels and Demons, a nine-minute, 20-second reel with actor Annabelle Lanyon. Here we learn about aspects of her career and her view of Demon in this appealing discussion.

Demonic Tones goes for 15 minutes, 13 seconds and presents info from composer Bill Nelson. He discusses his approach to the film’s score in this informative reel.

An archival piece, Foundations of Nightmare fills 26 minutes, 26 seconds and brings comments from Cokeliss, Webster, Nelson, Redgrave, cinematographer Ian Wilson, and actors Timothy Spall and Kathleen Wilhoite.

“Foundations” examines genre areas, photography, effects, and other production areas. We get too many movie clips and not enough insights, but we still find a few new notions, and the presence of footage from the set helps make this a decent show.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we conclude with two Image Galleries. These cover “Promotional” (17 frames) and “Behind-the-Scenes” (54). Both offer some value.

Because it wears its influences on its sleeve, Dream Demon can feel fairly derivative. However, the movie forms its own identity and comes with enough creepy terror to rise above most of its era/genre peers. The Blu-ray presents generally positive picture and audio along with a long roster of bonus materials. Chalk up Demon as a pleasant surprise.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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