Monday, July 10, 2017

Effects (1980)

 Effects (1980)

PLOT - Dominic, a young cameraman and effects artist has been hired to work on a small independent horror movie up in the woods Northern Pennsylvania. Working with a skeleton crew, doubling with jobs, he begins to suspect strange behavior between some members of the cast and crew. Taking his mind off things, he starts a relationship with Celeste, a beautiful young graffer who's an out of work actress. Unknown to Dominic, Lacey, the film's director is actually making two movies at the same time. Behind the walls of the cabin they are living and shooting in are dozens of hidden cameras, as well as a whole film crew tracking Dominic's every move. 

LOWDOWN - Growing up I was very into the whole Pittsburg film world involving director George A Romero. Mostly his Dead films. I was obsessed with these movies, having to track down any magazine, book, or VHS tape that had to do with them. I would like to think I was truly the only 11 year old girl that loved these movies so much that I was constantly visiting the local library with my mother renting out books on film and special effects. My two favorites were of course the two zombie classics Dawn and Day Of The Dead. My all time favorite of course being Day Of The Dead. This movie blew my mind when I first saw it. Between the haunting score, the crazy mind bending gory effects by Tom Savini (so much that I even attended his school several years ago.) One of the biggest reasons I adored this film was actor Joe Pilato who played the film's villain Captain Rhodes. This short Italian nutcase completely stole the show as well as my heart when I first watched this. It became such a favorite of mine I even wore out my VHS copy to this. In fact, I even remember doing to my local military supply store and getting dog tags just like the ones Rhodes wore! As years passed I've been lucky enough to meet several cast and crew members from Day, but I've still yet to meet Pilato. I've heard dozens of crazy stories behind the man, but I still need to meet him in the flesh. Not only was he a huge childhood crush of mine, he also suffered in my eyes one of the greatest deaths of all time. Back in 2008ish I believe just by random I happened to find the DVD copy of Effects. For years as I researched the Dead films I always heard of Effects since Pilato played the film's lead and it also featured Savini as well. Sadly this was what they called a "Lost film" which meant due to copyright issues the film was filmed back in the 70's but sadly never truly got released...not even on video! For years people heard about it, but never got to actually see it. Finally thanks to Synapse Films, the movie finally got to see the light of day with a pretty decent DVD release. This was the copy I found, and honestly I couldn't believe my luck finally finding this.

The movie's transfer isn't crystal clear, but had a really cool making of feature where cast and crew all reflect on the film, including George A. Romero as everyone talks about how close knit the filmmaking family felt back in Pittsburg back then, and the crazy story of this becoming a lost film. I gotta tell you, the stories Pilato tells are a complete riot. Word has it that American Genre Film Archive is going to do a blu-ray release to this movie later this summer. Fingers crossed the transfer is clearer and there's more special features added!

This is a movie I can honestly can has a VERY strong screenplay. In fact, I would say this movie is thirty/forty years ahead of it's time. The setting of the isolated woods are beyond unsettling, and the whole time you're viewing it as the audience you can't help but feel uneasy. The score is beautiful, and as low budget as it is, it's truly the strong direction of this film as well as it's script that hides any flaws it has. We have John Harrison (one of George Romero's composers, who's responsible for the beautiful soundtrack of Day Of The Dead and Creepshow.) he plays Lacey the deeply disturbed director. This is a role I gotta say Harrison knocks out of the park. He plays it very subtle, typical coked out director who sorta acts like his nose is up in the air, all the meanwhile he has a very disturbed agenda. Loved the long shots of him alone playing Simon, or the exchange between him and Rita with all of the two-way mirrors filming them. I love the moment when he almost slips up in front of Pilato's character remarking on someone being wonderful in the film they are making, only to cover himself quickly and pretty smoothy if you ask me. What gets me if this isn't a movie that tries to hide what it is. Early on you learn that Lacey is filming two movies behind Pilato's back. We see his hidden camera crew in a room down in the basement watching all the monitors and cameras placed all over the property. We get the whole "People are watching you." vibe, but straight out we know something is truly wrong, and Pilato's character seems to be the only one who isn't behind the whole thing. Slowly we watch him as he pieces together the clues. I love the scene of him creeping down the stairs one night to watch the actress they hired from the city dancing for some of the male crew members one night, and how a few days later he finds photographs of her tied up. In fact that's one of my favorite scenes, Pilato slowly looking through the photos, and you can tell it's slowly clicking in his mind, trying to maybe figure out where he's seen her before. Of course we know...he watched this very same woman get brutally murdered in a fuzzy black and white snuff film Lacey and a few of the guys screened for him a few nights before after a few lines of coke. That's another brilliant scene, how Lacey tries to tell Pilato's character that what he just watched was a fake movie using special effects. That if you have great effects, you can fool the audience into watching anything. Plato even sorta foreshadows his own fate when he remarks that the movie he thinks they are filming is great but is missing one thing. A great chase scene.

The film is filled with colorful characters mostly Barney (love the scene of him going on and on shouting down the stairs about being called a bastard before they film a take.) Here we get to watch the film Pilato's character believes they are making get shot. You can tell true blue collar filmmakers made this movie since we get a pretty inside look on how low budget movies are made. Here the cast and crew are stuck living together, and we watch the adorable romance blossom between Pilato's character and the gaffer. It's sos strange to see Pilato play anyone besides Captain Rhodes but he does a great job playing this very day Joe who you actually like and feel sorry for. He's adorable in this, and kicks some major ass in the ending. The "chase" scene always gets me, as well as that gross effect showing the heel of his foot. Yikes! We also get to see Tom Savini himself in all his glory yet again playing the asshole. After hearing so many stories about Tom and how badly he wanted to be an actor, it's really clear here. Still, he does a decent job and I can't help but smile knowing when he originally read George's screenplay for Dead he wanted to play Rhodes, only to have Pilato play it in the end. Muhhahaha! Sorry Tom! With a pretty decent last half to the movie, we get a killer twist and beyond creepy ending shot. This again like I said is a movie that was very ahead of it's time, and used subject matter that worked perfectly for this kind of film. I truly believe had it gotten the release it deserved, it would have become a huge cult classic. 

So, in closing I'm very looking forward to getting the blu-ray to this baby. As of recently I've been on a huge Day Of The Dead kick, so of course I've popped in Effects more than once this summer. To anyone who loves a dark thriller, or 70's horror, go check out Effects right away!!!

4 stars!!!

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