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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Deathlands: Homeward Bound
Deathlands: Homeward Bound
Image // Unrated // February 5, 2008
List Price: $14.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Justin Felix | posted March 10, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Deathlands: Homeward Bound's DVD cover art contains a banner that reads "Sci-Fi Essentials."

That's "Sci-Fi" as in Sci-Fi Channel.

I've sat through quite a few Sci-Fi Channel movies dumped on DVD in my role as a DVDTalk reviewer. While Sci-Fi Channel flicks typically offer some minor B-movie charms, I've yet to see one that I would describe as essential viewing, making "Sci-Fi Essentials" seem like a contradiction in terms.

Oh well. In any case, I'll move on to the movie itself.

I'd never heard of the Deathlands series of books until I watched this film - and I wouldn't have known that it was a long-running series unless I'd heard the director's commentary on this DVD. According to director Joshua Butler, this movie is based upon the fifth book of the series. It sounds like there's some kind of cult fandom for these novels (Butler comments that the audio versions were popular with truckers), and I have to imagine the series is better than this cheap flick would suggest. A cursory search on Amazon's website comes up with dozens of Deathlands paperbacks - apparently all by James Axler - and for anything to last that long, it must offer something of worth. It should be noted that prior knowledge of this series isn't necessary for this movie - it stands as a single film. Because of this, I'm reviewing the movie itself, but I'm unable to judge for any Deathlands fans out there whether this flick will disappoint or not.

In Deathlands: Homeward Bound, Vincent Spano plays Ryan Cawdor, an eye-patch wearing renegade who looks like he stepped right out of John Carpenter's Escape from New York. It's 2084 AD (according to the movie; the DVD case says it's 2104, but who really cares?). The world is a wasteland thanks to a nuclear war. And Cawdor is roaming around with a gorgeous redhead supermodel (amazing how she looks fantastic in this barren Mad Max-style world of the movie), an Indiana Jones wannabe, and an albino mutant. Things are going along okay until Cawdor's gang comes upon a village his father once ruled. His father was murdered by his stepmother, who was in love with his brother, who killed his other brother and stabbed Cawdor's eye out. Still with me? Cawdor decides to wreak vengeance after all these years and his pals want to join in on the fun. His brother and stepmother have a son, who it's suggested is sexually interested in his mother. The villagers want to be rid of their rule but do nothing since they're waiting for Cawdor's return. What follows is a low-budget mish-mash of elements from Dune and Most Dangerous Game.

Deathlands: Homeward Bound is one bad movie. From poor acting (the evil stepmother is played by porn legend Traci Lords of all people!) to poor visual effects, this is one of those Ed Wood-type experiences where you just marvel that the turkey was ever released. And as such, I have to admit this was moderately entertaining. It reminded me of the old cheap apocalyptic matinee fare of my youth: stuff like Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone and its ilk. Just watch, for instance, the filtering trick they use to suggest the nuclear landscape. It comes and goes and changes color with no rhyme or reason. This film would definitely please the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crowd!

The DVD

Video:

Deathlands: Homeward Bound is presented in an anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen format. The image quality varies wildly in this movie, offering a smorgasbord of grainy shots followed by clear shots followed by filtered shots in ridiculously strong shades of red.

Sound:

The audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 and is much better quality than the video. Dialogue and sound effects were clear.

Extras:

A Special Features link offers several items. First, there are four separate trailers for the movie - all of which are similar to one another and sport the shorter title Deathlands. Second is a Production Stills gallery that has a slideshow of images from the film's production accompanied by music from the score. Finally, director Joshua Butler provides an audio commentary track, as I've already referenced in the review itself. Butler provides a lot of background on the film's production. His approach is laid-back but informative.

An Also Available link goes to a picture of 4 other DVDs produced in the dubiously titled "SciFi Essentials" range.

Final Thoughts:

I have no way of judging whether fans of the Deathlands books would like this movie. However, Deathlands: Homeward Bound is really, really bad - so bad that it's actually entertaining if you want to laugh at movie-making ineptitude. Rent it, if you're curious.

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