Mill Creek Entertainment, best known for their bargain priced collections of DVDs and for their low priced reissues of former BCI titles, unleashes the second disc in their Total Terror Double Feature, this time featuring A Brush With Death and Harvest Of Fear. Another bargain priced 'twofer' disc that puts a pair of micro-budgeted horror movies on one Blu-ray disc, like the first release in the series it's not HD reference material. That said, you can't argue with the price.
A Brush With Death:
Written and directed by Brad Weibe in 2006, A Brush With Death follows the exploits of five foxy cheerleaders (played by Seanna McDonald, Nicholls Melancon, Missy Stired, Ali Thurlow, and Anna Kalkowski) who all decide to take a trip to visit the countryside for a weekend away at one of the girl's uncle's fancy mansion. Not the brightest of sorts, they run out of gas on the way there and meet up with a creepy old gas station attendant who leers at the girls salaciously. Thankfully, his stuttering ward, Caleb, isn't quite as creepy and he helps them out while we see, thanks to the magic of a flashback, an image from his childhood in which the older man killed a woman in front of him.
With that out of the way, the girls get back on the road and arrive at the mansion just in time to go swimming - in bathing suits, mind you, but they still look good. After that, the guy who lives next door, Rankin, happens to swing by seemingly for the sole purpose of telling them about a neighborhood tragedy in which a young man went nuts and killed his entire family. Cue more nonsensical flashbacks and the girls are off as they learn that there's more to the area than they initially suspected, and Caleb appears to be snooping around the house.
A Brush With Death is a mess of a film. From the long, drawn out scenes of the girls driving around talking about nothing of interest to the choppiness of the editing that throws in more flashbacks then any single movie really needs, it starts slowly and builds to a nonsensical conclusion that won't have you so much on the edge of your seat as it will leave your scratching your head. Director Weibe gets credit for trying but the end result is a film so ripe with logic gaps and confusing character motivations that it doesn't wind up making a whole lot of sense.
If A Brush With Death had tried to overcome the shortcomings of its script and low budget by offering up some interesting sex or gore, that would have gone a long way to at least upping the entertainment value but we don't get any of that either. The girls do wander around in skimpy outfits, but that's not quite enough to distract even the most ardent fan of the female form from the fact that nothing really happens in this movie. It's poorly acted, it isn't well shot, and it goes nowhere.
Harvest Of Fear:
Made in 2004 by director Brad Goodman working off of a script by Chris and Ted Pfeifer, Harvest Of Fear starts off with a delightfully trashy bang as a hot topless girl runs through the woods, chased by a guy in a mask with a knife who has just carved up her poor boyfriend. She's not long for this world, however, and she soon joins him. From there we meet the fine citizens of the town of Devil's Lake, where someone is running around during the town's annual Harvest Festival knocking off college students left, right and center. You see, during the Harvest Festival it's common for people to wear masks for some reason, which gives the killer ample opportunity to just sort of fit right in and not draw so much attention to himself.
Later, a couple making out in a car are cut up, a woman is assaulted in bed by the knife wielding psycho after having a dream where she sees herself killed by him, and a few other unlucky types meet the end of his knife until a few of the people realize it might have something to do with the suicide of a guy named Wally who may or may not have responsible for killing a bunch of kids two decades ago.
Without an original bone in its cinematic body, Harvest Of Fear isn't quite the same sort of cinematic disaster that the first feature on this disc is, but it too suffers from a bad script, even worse acting, and some uninspired effects work. If you've seen even one slasher film you'll have no trouble figuring out where this one is going, how the set pieces are going to play out, and what the characters are going to do as the story progresses - even the killer's outfit is bland, he just runs around in an uninspired mask wearing a dark hoodie. The movie does offer up a fair bit of bloodshed and nudity but that too is expected, it's really not differentiating itself at all by doing so even if this does provide a few minor exploitative thrills. The female cast members are all fun to look at, which is a plus, but again, it's not anything interesting, unique or original. This is simply a low budget slasher film done completely by the numbers that brings nothing new or anything of interest to the genre.
Both films are presented in AVC encoded 1.78.1 widescreen high definition transfers. A Brush With Death is in 1080p while Harvest Of Fear is in 1080i. Having never seen these films on standard definition, it's really tough to say if the Blu-ray offers much of an increase in quality at all. Less compression is always a good thing when it comes to picture quality, so this release has that going for it, but generally the image is soft on both films, never showing the sort of detail people expect from HD. Now, with that said, you can't get blood from a stone and these two movies are only ever going to look so good, and fans of low budget horror will probably be going into this release knowing what to expect, but softness and occasional smearing are present in both transfers. Black levels aren't ever as good as they should have been and texture and facial close ups offer only a slight increase from what you'd expect these films would have looked like in standard definition.
Both films are presented in standard definition Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with no alternate language tracks or subtitles provided. As far as the quality of the two tracks goes, there's nothing particularly exceptional about them, they sound like the low budget standard definition stereo mixes that they are. Levels are generally okay and you'll have no troubles understanding the performers or following the films at all. There isn't a ton of directionality in either movie, so don't expect much in the way of immersion, but the tracks are serviceable enough.
The disc contains only a static menu that allows you to play one movie or the other. That's it. There's no chapter selection nor are there any other supplements provided.
Mill Creek's Total Terror Double Feature: A Brush With Death / Harvest Of Fear is pretty tepid, teaming up two uninspired low budget films that don't amount to much at all. The audio and video quality are probably as good as these two films are likely to ever get, but that still doesn't mean they look or sound great, because they don't. Really, this is bottom of the barrel stuff, and with some interesting gems in their catalogue since taking over BCI's Crown International titles, it's puzzling why they'd opt to bring these cheapies to Blu-ray before some of the cult classics they have. Regardless, even if it's nice to see more obscure titles on the format, what's here is pretty bad. Skip this one.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.