Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Films Of Chester Novell Turner: Black Devil Doll From Hell / Tales From The Quadead Zone (DVD Review) - Massacre Video

USA/1984, 1987
Directed By: Chester Novell Turner
Written By: Chester Novell Turner
Starring: Shirley L. Jones, Gladys Ames
Color/132 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1

The Films
In BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL a devout church going, Jesus loving woman finds a really creepy looking puppet in a thrift store and falls in love with it despite the creepy story from the shopkeeper. After buying it the woman starts to have nightmares and sexual fantasies until the puppet comes to life and attacks her, leading to him acting out all sorts of sex acts on her, including taking her long protected virginity. After thinking it was all a dream the woman finds some blood to realize it wasn't. Pleased with the experience she now refers to the puppet as "Mr. Wonderful". The doll has since disappeared and our devout Christian has turned into a little pre-marital sex with stranger having tramp. And that's that for an extended period of time until the doll returns and attacks the woman again.

This movie fucking sucks. I'm sorry. I know it is a huge cult title, especially in the VHS collecting community and this is its debut on DVD but it just sucks. I have no idea why it is so sought after. It is bad even for a shot-on-video movie. The soundtrack is beyond irritating, the acting sucks as much as you'd imagine and the only thing it has going for it is that the doll is creepy looking... who the hell would buy that thing? The movie just doesn't end either.Nothing happens for a good 25 minutes leading up to the finale... I had a serious urge to bash my head into a wall until I passed out. 

TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE fares a wee bit better and I do mean a wee bit. The film is considerably shorter which is already a plus because had it ran any longer and I'd have that urge to concuss myself into unconsciousness again. In this movie a woman reads stories from a book baring the same name as the movie to her ghost son. The stories make up this anthology movie starting with "Food For ?", a story about a poor family who never has enough food to feed everyone at the table so one of the siblings takes matters into his own hands. "The Brothers" is about 2 brothers who have hated each other their whole life. Now that one has died of a heart attack the other steals his body straight out of the funeral home to disgrace him one last time, until his corpse of a brother has other ideas. And the wrap around story is "Unseen Vision" which is more of the mother and her son and how she deals with her husband who disapproves of her talking to their dead son.

QUADEAD ZONE isn't nearly as slow as BDDFH but it is still pretty damn bad and just plain uninteresting. Each and every gag could have been done by anybody, and I really do mean anybody. There's nothing at all special here and it is amazing that these movies have such a cult following. 

The Audio & Video
Perhaps the kings of bringing shot-on-video horror to DVD (and special limited editions), Massacre Video brings BLACK DEVIL DOLL FROM HELL and TALES FROM THE QUADEAD ZONE to DVD for the first time and they look and sound how you expect a no-budget horror film from the mid 1980s shot on consumer level VHS camcorders to look and sound. The picture is weak and washed out, with tracking issues and waves and wobbles while the sound is thin and tinny. The soundtrack commonly drowns out the diablogue. These discs look no better than home videos of the time would look. Massacre Video used the master tape from Chester Turner himself, which is the best available copy in existence so it won't look better than this and none of the issues present are their fault.

The Extras
-"Return To The Quadead Zone" - a 35 minute documentary on the films of Chester Turner with Turner and his star Shirley L. Jones. 
-Commentary tracks for both films
-Still galleries 
-Reversible "VHS Design" covers

The Bottom Line
If the resurgence in VHS collecting has done one thing it is bring the chance of introducing a whole bunch of little known horror films to a new generation of fans (or an old generation that missed them the first time). This box set from Massacre Video brings two of the most valuable VHS titles to a much more widely accessible package while not really losing their VHS presentation. The extra features are a nice touch to round out the set and the design of the packaging is great and I have no problem recommending this set for fans interested in checking out the films, bad as they may be. It certainly beats paying $600 for the VHS.


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