Vinegar Syndrome continues to be the go-to label for genre oddities from past decades being given new HD life on lovingly produced Blu-rays, and October 2018 saw the release of four more under-seen horror films that came out originally between 1973 and 1990. They all have something to offer genre fans, and they’ve received the expected TLC from Vinegar Syndrome.
Keep reading for a look at The Killing Kind, Incubus, Def By Temptation, and Blood Harvest!
The Killing Kind (1973)
Terry (John Savage) returns home after serving time for sexual assault, and while his doting mother (Ann Sothern) warns him against spending time with whores — her term for all young women — he can’t help but be drawn to them anyway. His obsessions aren’t all sexual, though, as sometimes he just likes to see living things suffer.
This month’s highlight is a terrific little chiller that delivers with some aggressive kills and tangible madness while also allowing time to be spent with Terry and his mom as characters. We’re witness to their relationship that sees her smothering him in numerous inappropriate ways while refusing to accept his clear troubles. He seems to need it, but it’s clear the crack running through his soul might just swallow her whole too. Savage commits to behaviors that were only teased in 1974’s All the Kind Strangers, and while clearly in distress he’s even more clearly a danger to those around him. Sothern is equally fantastic as a lonely woman desperate to hold onto her son.
The two leads takes center stage throughout, but side characters move through their lives as Terry’s sickness grows. Cindy Williams is the most recognizable among them, and all act as distractions, witnesses, or motivators for his crimes. Some know the extent of his history while others don’t, but each of them take differently to him with outward stares at his shirtless torso or subtle glances, approval of his presence for his mother or distaste at their relationship. Director Curtis Harrington captures this microcosm well on his way to an ending that satisfies in its sadness.
Vinegar Syndrome gives this lost gem a solid restoration that retains softness while enhancing the film’s color, contrast, and imagery. The disc includes a reversible cover, an isolated score, and the following extras.
- Archival Interview with Filmmaker Curtis Harrington [22:31]
- Harrington on Harrington: A Career-Spanning Interview with Curtis Harrington [24:38]
- Commentary Track with David DeCoteau and David Del Valle
Something evil has come to a small New England community, and no uterus is safe. Men are being killed, women are being raped, and one young man is having disturbing dreams that occur every time there’s an attack. Coincidence? Probably not, but don’t worry, the town doctor (John Cassavetes) is hot on the trail of the monster responsible.
What to make of this super serious supernatural slasher from director John Hough (The Legend of Hell House, 1973). The entirety is played straight, and while that seems fitting for a film focused on a creature that’s violently raping women I’m not convinced some of the players here weren’t having a laugh. George Franklin’s script is obsessed with semen — no semen! boatloads of semen! she was drowning in semen! — with no real narrative purpose for the discrepancies or mentions. Worse, Cassavetes spends half the film with a slightly mischievous grin on his face, and while it never fits the given situation it’s especially egregious with a mouthful of semen-related dialogue.
Again, it’s played serious, and to that end there are some unsettling sequences as the women are attacked and assaulted. Hough fills the film with nudity — ostensibly to satisfy T&A junkies, but its presence leading up to each attack should hopefully neuter its effect on viewers… which in turn questions its excessive presence in the first place. (Curiously, the disc includes a few alternate takes, and in each case they offered less nudity than what was originally used in the film. Huh.) It’s a brutal film, there’s no doubt about that, and the ending is a solid kicker, but despite the seriousness you have my permission to chuckle at all the semen.
Vinegar Syndrome was only able to find a theatrical print of the film’s fourth reel meaning that’s the stretch that looks the best here. Still, even the earlier footage shows the effort that went into restoring the film for this release. The disc includes a trailer and TV spots along with the following new extra features.
- *NEW* From the Horror Through the Television: An Interview with Director John Hough [26:39]
- *NEW* Becoming the Incubus: An Interview with Lead Actress Kerrie Keane [21:02]
- *NEW* Capturing the Incubus: An Interview with Cinematographer Albert J. Dunk [27:07]
- Commentary Track with The Hysteria Continues!
Def By Temptation (1990)
Joel (James Bond III) raised in the fiery glow of the church decides it’s time to explore more of what the world has to offer, and he decides to visit his best friend in New York City to see what he’s been missing. K (Kadeem Hardison) welcomes his sheltered friend with open arms, but soon after his arrival things take a different kind of turn than they were hoping for. Men start turning up dead, and the common thread between the victims is the woman they were last seen talking to… the same woman who seems to have taken an interest in young Joel.
The terrifically named Bond also wrote and directed this tale of a succubi thirsty for both sex and blood, and he gets a massive assist from cinematographer Ernest Dickerson. It’s a low budget affair, and Bond’s enthusiasm occasionally trumps his skill. It’s clunky at times, but Dickerson’s camera captures plenty of style, sex, and engaging production design — including a poster for Demonwarp (1988) — all of which works to hold viewer attention as the story unfolds.
The cast is the other big draw with Hardison showing strong comedic chops — particularly via reaction shots — opposite the supernatural world he finds himself in. Bill Nunn is also solid as a lounge lizard hoping to score with the ladies but continually failing thanks to a severe lack of mojo. Samuel L. Jackson pops up briefly too. Bond himself is something of a mixed bag, but what would look a bit off elsewhere actually works here as his low-key awkwardness and shyness actually enhances the character’s situation. It’s an entertaining little hybrid of indie horror and blaxploitation and well worth a watch.
The newly restored image does justice to Dickerson’s visuals, and the disc includes a reversible cover, an archival article gallery, a trailer, and the following extras.
- Career-Spanning Audio Interview with Writer/Producer/Director/Actor James Bond III
- Ernest & Lloyd: A Candid Conversation Between Cinematographer Ernest Dickerson and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman [20:18]
- Film Historian and Critic Michael Gingold on Def By Temptation [2:08]
Blood Harvest (1987)
Jill arrives home to her small town to find her parents have become the least popular people in town thanks to their stake in the bank which has been foreclosing on the locals. Worse, they’ve gone missing, and while no one seems to care there’s one person who probably knows more than he’s letting on. Yeah, I’m talking about the adult male who’s dressed up like a clown, playing songs on his ukulele, and torturing Jill’s parents to death.
Look, not every rediscovered and remastered old film can be a forgotten classic, and Blood Harvest is evidence of that. It’s only real calling card is the curiosity of having Tiny Tim playing the weirdo Mervo. He’s legitimately unsettling in his sad, creepy clown getup, but while we’re teased some hard evidence of his maniacal culpability it’s clear early on that the actual killer is someone else. That someone is pretty damn obvious too which negates any chance the film has of suspense or terror, and while the kills feature a little bit of blood the reliance on throat slashing means there’s nothing to get excited about there either.
Bill Rebane’s direction is competent throughout, but the score and performances are all overdone. Tiny Tim is clearly no actor, and the unknowns show no reason why they shouldn’t stay that way. There is one recognizable face, though, that’s not covered in paint, and it belongs to a young Peter Krause (Dead Like Me) who made his on screen debut with this little slasher. Composer George Daugherty scored his first and last feature film here, but at least he’s making an effort. And hey, fans of lead Itonia Salchek’s naked body — fans like the director — will have a blast with it.
Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu-ray features an image restored in 4K from the original negative, and it captures the colors with vibrant glee from the blood red of slashed throats to the crimson grin worn by the resident clown. What I’m saying is the reds pop. The disc includes a booklet, a reversible sleeve, and the following extras.
- Commentary Track with Producer and Co-Writer Leszek Burzynski
- Every Critic Is Gonna Butcher It [3:05] – Tiny Tim mentions the film to the press in Niagara Falls on September 3rd, 1987.
- Performance and Candid Interview [1:11:22] – From the same day, Tiny Tim performs for the circus, chats with fans, and drinks a lot of 7-Up.