Deathdream aka Dead of Night – Canada, 1974

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‘A boy went to war… something UNSPEAKABLE came back!’

Deathdream is a 1972 Canadian horror film produced and directed by Bob Clark (Murder By DecreeBlack Christmas; Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things) from a screenplay by Alan Ormsby. The plot was inspired by the W.W. Jacobs short story The Monkey’s Paw.

The film stars Richard Backus, John Marley (The Dead Don’t Die) and Lynn Carlin. A young Tom Savini handled the special effects makeup, apparently aided by Ormsby.

The film was shot as The Night Walker and initially released in Tampa, Florida, as Dead of Night (its British title) on August 30, 1974. It has also been released as The Night Andy Came Home.

Deathdream was released as a limited edition 2k Blu-ray + DVD combo pack on November 28, 2017, by Blue Underground. It has been restored from the 35mm negative in the most complete version available.

  • Audio commentary with co-producer/director Bob Clark
  • Audio commentary with writer Alan Ormsby
  • A recollection with actress Anya Liffey and writer Alan Ormsby
  • Interview with composer Carl Zittrer
  • Interview with production manager John Bud Cardos
  • Interview with actor Richard Backus
  • Tom Savini: The Early Years
  • Alternate opening titles
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Still galleries
  • Alan Ormsby student film
  • Collectable booklet with new essay by critic Travis Crawford

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In Vietnam, U.S. soldier Andy Brooks is shot by a sniper. As he begins to die, he hears his mother’s voice calling out, “Andy, you’ll come back, you’ve got to, you promised.” Sometime later, his family receives notice of his death in combat.

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Back home, Andy’s father, Charles, and sister, Cathy, begin to grieve, but his mother, Christine, becomes irate and refuses to believe that Andy has died. Hours later, in the middle of the night, Andy arrives at the front door in full uniform and apparently unharmed; the family accepts the notice of his death as a clerical error and welcomes him back with joy.

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Over the next few days, Andy displays strange and erratic behaviour, dressing in an unusually concealing matter and spending his days sitting around the house listless and anemic. Meanwhile, local police investigate the murder of a local trucker, who was found with his throat slashed and his body drained of blood after telling diner patrons that he’d picked up a hitchhiking soldier…

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Reviews:

‘A Monkey’s Paw for the Nixon era, this haunting horror movie from Canadian director Bob Clark (yes, the same man who gave us Porky’s) makes the most of its topical premise and rage over a generation being used as cannon fodder.’ Rolling Stone

Deathdream suffers from some of the same pacing issues that plagued Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, but it’s much more well-rounded. The writing is stronger, including a mid-movie revelation that puts an interesting spin on a classic horror trope. The dour ending may leave a bad taste in your mouth, but it’s undeniably poignant.” Broke Horror Fan

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‘The reason Deathdream works is its superior dramatic staging. The actors are excellent, especially John Marley and Lynn Carlin, both honored for their roles in John Cassavetes’ Faces. Clark stages the domestic scenes with a fine simplicity and what we remember the most is the looks of bewilderment on nicely-framed faces.’ DVD Talk

‘A modern spin on the classic “be careful what you wish for” theme, Ormsby’s screenplay balances a pointed Vietnam War allegory with pulpier aspects—a “shock” ending, distinct moments of morbid comic relief and beyond-the-grave retribution ripped from the pages of a 1950s horror comic.’ Paul Corupe, DVD Verdict

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‘ …what a gem this little film is. It is highly imaginative and original, and once you’ve seen it you will never forget it. It has a strong cast of gifted actors and an even stronger array of highly believable characters, but not just the central characters – the peripheral characters are not simply written blandly as plot fodder.’ Eat My Brains

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‘ …an unusual and wonderfully skin crawling horror experience punctuated by thought provoking social commentary akin to the best of George Romero.’ Cool Ass Cinema

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‘Though not very lively and ultimately anti-climactic, the movie sustains a calculated mood of off-centered awkwardness from to finish, and is buttressed by strong acting and plausible dialogue.’ Peter Dendle, The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia

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DEAD OF NIGHT

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Cast and characters:

  • Richard Backus … Andy Brooks
  • John Marley … Charles Brooks
  • Lynn Carlin … Christine Brooks
  • Anya Ormsby … Cathy Brooks
  • Jane Daly … Joanne
  • Mal Jones … Sheriff
  • Henderson Forsythe … Dr. Philip Allman
  • Norman William Beauchamp … Cop

Image credits: The Collinsport Historical Society

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2 Comments on “Deathdream aka Dead of Night – Canada, 1974”

  1. A rarity, the anti war horror film. And it works, brilliantly. Vietnam was known as the war that tore the American family apart. So it’s interesting to see it used in a horror film context. So disturbing in parts. The murder of the family dog, the whole family unit falling apart at the climax. Strong stuff. And all because a mother loved her son. Masterful.

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