What Did I Just Watch: ‘Deathdream’


You have to admit, the horror films of the 70s’ were nothing short of trail-blazing. We saw the rise of many horror icons, from Wes Craven to Stephen King to John Carpenter. We saw Carrie, we saw Halloween, and we saw The Last House on the Left. It was a good time to be a fan of the horror genre, no doubt.

Of course, then we have Deathdream, Canada’s contribution to the horror scene of 1974.

The film is a relatively modern take on the old short story The Monkey’s Paw, the W.W. Jacobs tale every seventh-grader had to read aloud in class. Directed by Bob Clark, the story follows U.S. Army soldier Andy Brooks during his tour of Vietnam at the beginning of the movie. Shortly after the beginning of the film, Brooks is killed by a sniper during combat.

Upon being notified of his death in combat, his family begins the process of grieving. However, surprise! Brooks arrives home good as new – or does he? He soon exhibits odd behavior, wearing concealing clothes and behaving in a detached manner. Oddly enough, around this time the bodies start turning up sans blood. His father soon becomes suspicious of his erratic behavior while his mother, who is just happy to have her son home, seems to willfully ignore the unsettling signs that something is seriously wrong with her son.

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After attacking a local neighbor boy and his dog, things come to a head between Brooks and his father. Still, he finds the time to go on a double date with his high school sweetheart, his sister, and his best friend. However, we finally find out that Brooks has come back as a sort of revenant, bent on killing and draining the blood from his victims. Bad news for his sweetheart and his friend – Brooks proceeds to unceremoniously off them in the drive-in theater the were visiting. Considering there were too many people who witnessed the killings, though, he cannot drain their blood in order to live. Instead, he takes to turning another hapless pedestrian into a speed bump with his sister’s car before leading police on a high-speed chase.

The film ends with Brooks finally dying from his injuries inflicted by the trigger-happy police (well, what other options do they have?), with his mother standing over his crudely dug grave.

Here’s the thing. The film’s premise was actually not that bad. I couldn’t find any fault with the premise at all. However, I could find fault with the laughable acting. I get they’re trying to make Brooks look cold and vicious. Instead he comes across almost like a snotty Starbucks barista with his sunglasses and turtlenecks. Sure, there’s a practical use for those, but still. He looks ridiculous while on the prowl for sustenance.

Also, the film’s climax was cringe-inducing. Even his sister knew something wasn’t right yet she felt the need to bring Brooks out into the open. The ending could have been avoided if she was thinking straight, but as with the majority of horror films in the 70s’, surprise! Just another character incapable of seeing that her dear (dead) bro needed some serious help, not a jumbo popcorn and alone time with his sweetie.

Still, as I mentioned before, the film isn’t actually that bad. Watch it and draw your own conclusions.