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Shock ‘Em Dead (Blu-ray Review)

Shock-Em-DeadTraci Lords is reunited with Cry-Baby co-star Troy Donahue in the horror-thriller … with music … Shock ‘Em Dead featuring amazing guitar solos courtesy of Michael Angelo Batio.  Slasher // Video presents Shock ‘Em Dead, a film about rock & roll and soul(s) directed by Mark Freed (Lovers and Liars) and starring Traci Lords (Cry-Baby), Troy Donahue (Imitation of Life), Aldo Ray (We’re No Angels) and Stephen Quadros (The Lost Platoon).  Traci Lords plays Lindsay, who’s growing attraction to supernaturally charged rocker Angel soon turns to fear as she finds herself pulled further and further into a terrifying world of unspeakable evil.  This is yet another one of the vintage home video sourced films from Slasher // Video and it features a slew of bonus materials on it which includes a cast reunion session and director commentary.

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Film 

Manager-on-the-rise Lindsay Roberts has a rock band in the spotlight with guitar god Angel Martin as its newest member. Lindsay and the band are on the road to success. But all is not as it seems. Angel, as it turns out, has made a pact with the dark forces to make him a rock star having quite literally sold his soul for his talent. But there’s a catch, fame and fortune come at a price. In order to sustain his talent Angel must feed on the souls of others.

Rock and Roll horror films are pretty much a mixed bag of weirdness.  I’m not sure any of them would be considered good.  Though, I like Brian DePalma’s Phantom of the Paradise its one that probably isn’t for everyone.  On the opposite end there is the incredibly head scratching and thoroughly entertaining Hard Rock Zombies (From which I LOVE the ballad “Cassie”).  Here we have Shock ‘Em Dead, which is a goofy low budget piece of cult cinema.

This film is all about selling your soul for rock and roll.  Seriously.  A geek guitarist has a crummy day and awful audition, the next thing he knows he’s a rock god needing to feast on souls to survive.  Mark Freed’s film appears to want to be much more than it is, but luckily realizes the kind of schlock it is and relishes in some of its low budget cheapness while still trying to keep its tale a bit straight.  Its also straight-to-video exploitative that features somebody topless or getting spewed green goo on every ten minutes or so.

I’m not too sure, but I think this was one of Traci Lords’ attempts to make the jump from porn star to mainstream movie actor.  With porn as looked down upon as it was at the time, this is the kind of movie she could get and had to take.  I’m sure with her on the box and name over the title, many adolescent boys were tricked into thinking they’d see some kind of naughty action or nudity from here.  And they’d be left disappointed.  She plays the straight love interest girl in the film.  Her performance?  Eh, she’d get better.  She may also just be a product of the production as well.

If you’re a person into midnight movies and that of being crazy and weird, this one surely should entertain you and your friends for 90 minutes.  It features some charming low budget effects and a lot of odd conversations and character interactions.  Oh and I forgot to mention, some groovy “Its the 90s, but we’re still very much carrying on the 80s” music in its soundtrack.  I had never known of Shock ‘Em Dead before this review, but its one I’m interested in showing to the right people.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Clarity/Detail:  Shock ‘Em Dead is presented using the best available elements provided by Slasher // Video. Not sourced from an HD Master; remastered from 1″ Tape and upconverted to Blu-RAY and DVD specifications.  Of all the VHS and such sourced movies I’ve been reviewing from Slasher // Video, Shock ‘Em Dead proves to be the cleanest, best looking image of all.  Its consistent and doesn’t feature any sort of old school tracking or distortion issues at any point.

Depth:  Flat

Black Levels:  Blacks do hide detail on hair, surfaces and clothing.  No real crushing I could see.  

Color Reproduction:  Colors stick out decently, but there is some bleeding.  One can only imagine what the vomit goo would have looked like had there been an appropriate HD master for this.  Reds do seem a bit more powerful than other colors.

Flesh Tones:  Natural and mostly consistent throughout the runtime.  Facial detail is evident in close up shots, but nothing to write home about.

Noise/Artifacts:  You can easily make out ghosting, aliasing and the like.  Its nothing you wouldn’t be expecting and won’t deter you at all once you’re in the mode of watching it the way it is.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  The audio here on this Slasher // Video release winds up being the best of the ones I have reviewed.  That’s good, because this one is music based.  Everything here comes across pretty well and has a sort of clarity for what this is.  There is an actual separation between vocals, effects and music here.  There must have been a much better source(s) involved in this one.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is pretty clear and plenty loud.  There is buzzing on expected sounds and whatnot, but overall this one is pretty impressive given the circumstances of the transfer.

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Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Mark Freed

Interview With Director Mark Freed (HD, 4:53) – The director answers a roster of questions going from the early stages of this being a slasher film, to if he had a crush on any actors on set, bad ideas during shooting and if he was happy with how it turned out.

Cast Reunion 2015 (HD, 22:59) – Traci Lords did not show for this, but the rest of the cast members sit on a couch and answer various questions about their experiences in the production process.  Everyone seems to be in very good spirits.

“Director’s Cut” (HD, 1:42) – A montage of the movie with pretty much just the breast shot parts and some of them put in slow motion.

Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 5:15) 

Actor Auditions (HD, 6:23) – A nice little touch as a little window showing the scene from the film in which the performer is auditioning for while they read the scene.

Behind The Scenes Photo Gallery (HD, 8:27) 

Cast Revisits Audition Tapes (HD, 6:18) – From the reunion session, cast watches the audition tapes and make comments on them as they play.  Its both fun to see their reactions and awkward to watch people sitting on a couch watching something else.

Cast Views & Comments On Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:39) – Same as the Audition Tapes piece, just now the Deleted Scenes.

Shock ‘Em Dead Trailer (HD, :51) 

Poster & Art Gallery (HD, 13:36) 

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Summary 

Shock ‘Em Dead is a goofy relic of the early 90s that feels SUPER duper 90s while still holding onto some 80s music stylings.  This is the kind of movie you’d expect to scroll on by on a late night USA Up All Night or Cinemax programming.  This is truly a movie they just don’t make any more (And that’s pretty much a good thing).  Slasher // Video and Olive Films’ Blu-ray is what it is given the circumstances, but if I were a fan I’d be happy to retire my VHS for something that’s going to last.  Plus, this one backs a rich set of extras.  The price isn’t bad at all either.  A small cost for something that is likely going to be very rare in the future.  Definitely a recommend for those niche collector’s into enjoyable trash like this.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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