Scorpion Releasing, as part of their Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, release a double feature of Australian cult/thriller moviesâ€¦
Directed by Mario Andreacchio and released theatrically in 1988, The Dreaming was originally put out on DVD years back by Elite Entertainment and now it lives again. This is an odd one. Four hundred years ago, a group of whale fisherman lands ashore the sandy beaches of Australia and lay waste to a few aboriginal types. Skip to the present day, well 1988 at least, an Australian archeologist named Professor Bernard Thornton (Arthur Dignam) out on an expedition opens up a tomb and unleashes the spirits of the now long dead fisherman who quickly possess her body.
When a few of the artifacts from the tomb find their way into a local museum, distant relatives of the aboriginal people killed at the beginning of the movie try and steal them. It's here that an unnamed girl who doesn't talk much becomes possessed by the somehow tainted spirit of the Dreamtime. She winds up in a hospital where she winds up under the care of a sexy lady doctor named Dr. Cathy Thornton (Penny Cook) who turns out to be related to the archeologist who set all this nonsense into motion in the first place.
The possessed archeologist runs around causing mayhem and making life tough for his foxy lady doctor, and in the end, none of it really makes much sense. This movie is baffling and confusing and utterly terrible in every sense of the word. While very little of it makes any sort of sense at all, it is a fun watch if you go in knowing what to expect. You head might hurt from trying to figure it all out but there are enough semi-retarded kill scenes and goofy nonsensical dialogue to provide plenty of unintentional laughs at all the wrong moments.
This is hardly a good movie, it's about as far removed from that as you can get, but it would go really well with a six pack, wait, no, make that a twelve pack of your favorite cheap beer and a big bag of Rold Gold Cheddar Cheese Tiny Twist Pretzels. It's got enough quirkiness and weird random â€˜stuff' going on that, despite its obvious flaws, it's entertaining enough. As a suspense film, it's really nothing to write home about, however. Tension is infrequent and fleeting and there's not a whole lot here in the way of scares. Performances are okay and the movie is reasonably well shot, making good use of some interesting locations. Oddly enough, this one was bank rolled by famed Australian producer Anthony I. Ginnane who financed such classic works of Ozploitation as Fantasm, Patrick and Escape 2000.
Directed by Michael Pearce in 1987, Initiation follows a young American named Danny Molly (Rodney Harvey) who leaves Brooklyn to reunite with this father, Nat (Bruno Lawrence), after his mother passes away. He arrives and is instantly uncomfortable, not only because he hasn't really had a whole lot of contact with his after over the years but also because the locals treat him like an outsider and he often times finds himself being made fun of. If that weren't bad enough, his father has basically run out of money and in order to make ends meet, has been working as a drug trafficker.
So with his dad's newfound occupation now out on the table, Danny is required to accompany him on a flight. Unfortunately for both of them, they run into plane trouble and crash land in the middle of a jungle. Nat gets bitten by a poisonous snake and Danny finds himself having to do everything he can to save his father's life â€" and from there, things getâ€¦ hallucinatory and strange when he runs into some Aborigines.
This one definitely takes its time getting going, in fact, it's downright sllloooowwwww for the first forty-five minutes or so. Once we get into the post plane crash side of things, however, it definitely picks up. The camerawork is impressive here, showing off some impressive and lush landscapes and really giving us a good sense of isolation that works well in the context of the story being told. Things are nicely framed and the movie makes good use of color, particularly once the Aborigine angle of the story starts to unfold. The movie is also complimented by an interesting score created by Stephen Matters. It does everything a good score should do, it highlights the tension and brings you into the movie, adding a little more depth and emotion where it's required.
Rodney Harvey, how had roles in My Own Private Idaho and who played Sodapop Curtis in the TV version of The Outsiders is fine in the lead here. He plays the part well, he looks right for the role and he brings a good feeling of confusion and distress to the character without overdoing it. Had the pacing been improved, this would have probably gone on to be a more recognized film than it is. As is stands, it's an interesting one that simply takes too long to find its footing, and once it does finally get into gear, the payoff can't quite make it all worthwhile, though it definitely does have its moments. At times Pearce seems to be reaching into Werner Herzog territory but sadly he fails to grip us the way that Herzog has done in the past with similar material.
Both movies look really good on DVD from Scorpion Releasing presented here in 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen in transfers taken from elements that were obviously in very good condition. Color reproduction is impressive here without looking artificially boosted, as is detail for a standard definition offering. Skin tones look nice and realistic and there are no issues with compression artifacts. Some minor grain is present, as it should be, but there are no issues with any serious, heavy print damage. Both films look just fine here, with The Dreaming showing just a slight bit more print damage here and there than Initiation. Overall though, things shape up very well in the video department.
The only audio option on the disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, in both films' original English language, no alternate language options or subtitles are provided. The levels are properly balanced, the audio is clean and there are no problems with hiss or distortion to note.
The main extra on the disc relates to The Dreaming and it is an interview with the film's producer, Anthony Ginnane, who speaks for eleven minutes or so about this particular movie. Aside from that we get trailers for a bunch of Scorpion releases, menus and chapter selection. As this is part of the Katarina's Nightmare Theater line, we get an optional intro and outro with hostess Katarina Leigh Waters. Done tongue in cheek style like the other entries in the line, we get an amusing enough skit before Waters runs off some trivia and information about the picture.
Scorpion Releasing's double feature release of The Dreaming/Initiation offers up two reasonably obscure Australian pictures in very nice shape, something that fans of these films will appreciate. If you haven't seen them before though, you might want to rent this one first if you can. While neither film is a complete bomb, neither are instant classics either, though the first feature definitely gets points for being entertaining and the second for being artistically impressive.
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.