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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Shocking Dark (Blu-ray)
Shocking Dark (Blu-ray)
Severin // Unrated // May 29, 2018 // Region Free
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 1, 2018 | E-mail the Author
"Alright, you buncha pussies. I'm back, and I'm kicking ass!"

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Hey, he told you he'd be back*. See, before there was Terminator 2, there was Terminator II. Y'know, its non-union Italian equivalent. And, yeah, it does indeed shamelessly retread the same ground as The Terminator, with a cybernetic behemoth mercilessly hunting down our plucky heroine Sarah (Haven Tyler) with a whole time traveling thing and the fate of civilization in the balance. But mostly it's a ripoff of Aliens, filtered through the low budget lens of Bruno Mattei (Rats: Night of Terror) and Troll 2's Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi. I know, right? It took nearly thirty years for this to happen, but Terminator Roman Numerals is at long last scoring its first official release on these shores, even if it is under one of its less legally actionable alternate titles.

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Venice! To you, maybe it's all gondalas and Renaissance art and murderous dwarves in red slickers. Enjoy it while you can because in the future...? Dead city. Me, I blame that pesky, toxic cloud. While the surface may be uninhabitable, something yet lives beneath the city – something monstrous, something terrifying. Because Shocking Dark suddenly remembers it's supposed to have ripped off Aliens by now, there's a whole thing with the sinister Tubular Corporation (a way more bodacious name than "Weyland-Yutani"), a rescue mission for people who are almost certainly long dead, space marines the marines of Megaforce leading the expedition, and, oh, yeah:

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I'd keep recapping the plot from there, but there kinda isn't one: just some barely-there excuses to string together sequences lifted wholesale from Aliens. Space marines on a bug hunt, only, y'know, not in space. Oh, and remember all the banter between the marines? Shocking Dark takes a stab at that too, such as having Koster (Geretta Geretta) flipping out at a greasy wop being on her squad...because who would ever expect an Eye-talian in Venice? Plus you've got someone trapped in the creatures' nest muttering "kill me". Motion detectors that keep blooping away even though that puts the buggers right on top of them. A feral girl they stumble upon in the catacombs that becomes a surrogate daughter to RipleySara, complete with a story about how her mommy said there were no monsters – no real ones. Not-Ripley and Not-Newt waking up only to find themselves locked in a room – thanks, Not-Burke! – with a couple of these monsters. And while the lifecycle of these mutants isn't exactly the same as Alien's xenomorphs, anyone who encounters 'em does run the risk of being transformed into one themselves, plus there's something close enough to a chestburster. Harkening back to the original Alien, there's also a nefarious motive for the rescue mission, its own version of Ash, a control room fat-packed with blinking lights, and a clock ticking towards Armageddon. And since things tend not to work out too well for space marine analogues in Aliens knockoffs, once their numbers are whittled down, Shocking Dark fires up a just-about-literal deus ex machina, shifts gears, and rips off The Terminator instead.

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I love the hell out of Shocking Dark. I mean, yes, it's terrible, not that I've ever let that stop me before. Despite having been subjected to more than my fair share of Italian cheapquels and ripoffs, I still can't help but marvel at how Shocking Dark straight-up Xeroxes Aliens and The Terminator. There's zero suspense – thrill to sequences like Sara mashing a button in vain to open a blast door, when the correct button is literally right next to it – and the rarely-glimpsed, barely mobile mutants aren't the least bit menacing. Forget about pulse-pounding thrills; the action is hardly ever cut together competently. You'll see someone standing in a dimly-lit tunnel or something, that'll be followed by a foam rubber claw slowly swiping across an otherwise empty screen, and then a mannequin under unrecognizably different light slowly tumbles past a stairwell. The Not-Terminator's reign of terror doesn't culminate in too much more than casually tossing someone into the Grand Canal. And that's when there is action too, as opposed to Megaforce marching through yet another subterranean tunnel, struggling more with their line delivery than the legions of mutants lurking down there. I'd say more about the acting, but...well, you really just have to hear it for yourself:



If you have a taste for schlock, then you'll have a whole bunch to feast on throughout Shocking Dark. Recommended.


Video
"Jesus Christ."

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I know! I had just about the exact same reaction, unable to believe what I was seeing either. Not the theoretically nightmarish horrors that these two poor bastards were witnessing, no, but to this surreally gorgeous presentation of Shocking Dark. Newly-remastered in 2K from the original negative, Shocking Dark is a knockout. The 1.78:1 image is overflowing with detail, with my eyes especially drawn towards the fine textures in the Megaforce squad's uniforms. Depth and dimensionality frequently impress. Its sheen of film grain is reproduced beautifully throughout, and even upon brutally close inspection, I couldn't spot any artifacting or the like. The color timing is particularly masterful, boasting an inexorably '80s palette that soars clear off the screen. As striking as this presentation is in so many ways, it's not entirely immaculate, peppered with flecks of dust, tiny nicks, and all that. As much of that as there is, it's never to the point of being overwhelming or distracting, though. It's also worth noting that Shocking Dark isn't marred by judder, warping, or any imperfection that would actually get in the way. I'd hoped for a really strong presentation, and what Severin Films has delivered here goes so far beyond anything I could've expected. Very well done.

Shocking Dark and its extras arrive on a single-layer Blu-ray disc. In case it got too buried in the laundry list above, you're looking at a full 1.78:1 presentation.


Audio
Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!

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Nevermind them; Shocking Dark's lossless audio isn't as bad as all that. Presented in two-channel mono, this 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack may not be polished to a gleaming sheen but is still perfectly listenable. Yes, there is a mild, persistent hiss throughout. Pops, clicks, and crackling occasionally creep in, and a handful of scene transitions are punctuated with a thump. Dialogue is on the edgy side, particularly straining with more loudly shouted lines. Dynamic range is unsurprisingly limited, so don't expect shotgun blasts or explosions to pack much of a wallop. Still, much like all that negative dust doesn't get in the way of the visuals, none of this is particularly intrusive. There's no threat of a line of dialogue getting drowned out or being unintelligible. There aren't any severe spikes in volume or unduly loud flaws that'll have you leaping off your couch. The hiss and assorted background noise are all easily ignored. You don't have to sweat dropouts or anything like that either. The lossless audio hits the marks it should, and I can't say that I've walked away with any meaningful complaints.

The eclectic list of alternate soundtracks – all in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192kbps) – spans Italian, Spanish, German, and Chinese. I love that archivist mindset, where it's not about tailoring languages based on where this disc will be distributed but Severin including everything they could get their hands on. A set of English subtitles is also along for the ride.


Extras
  • Terminator in Venice (13 min.; HD): Co-director/co-writer Claudio Fragasso and his writing partner Rossella Drudi contribute an exceptionally engaging interview. Drudi carries the bulk of the conversation (in Italian, natch), including how they were commissioned to pen a Terminator-slash-Aliens ripoff with essentially zero creative control, filming in an old nuclear plant and underneath the Roma Termini station, the challenges of pulling off something this ambitious on a tiny budget, painting a picture of the sneaky international film market in those days, and, hey, the thrill of having two women save the world! They're also quick to confess to not caring for Shocking Dark much at all and detail in length why. You should really watch all of the extras here, but if for whatever reason you only have time for one, make sure it's this.

  • Once Upon a Time in Italy (13 min.; HD): Actress Geretta Geretta doesn't limit this interview to just her time on the set of Shocking Dark. It casts a wide enough net to encompass everything from Geretta's early days in Portland, Oregon to her jetsetting modeling career to her turn as a feature filmmaker. Of course, the discussion largely revolves around her years as an actress in the likes of Smithereens, Demons, and Domino. Geretta has no shortage of amazing stories to tell, such as rodents being...errr, recycled in Rats: Night of Terror, auditioning for Lucio Fulci to land a role in Murder Rock, and strangling herself with a puppet here in Shocking Dark. Oh, and this interview is conducted in English, by the way.
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  • Alternate Italian Titles (2 min.; HD): Thrill to Italian text, Italian narration, and, yes, the Italian title of Terminator II in this alternate intro.

  • Trailer (1 min.; SD): Last up is a trailer culled from...I dunno, a Chinese VCD bootleg or something? The quality is extremely rough, but its inclusion is appreciated just the same.

Shocking Dark is a really slick package beyond what's on the disc itself, with gorgeous painted artwork and a sleek, black case.


The Final Word
What do you think, Samuel Fuller?

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"A masterpiece. Nothing like this has ever existed before." Thanks, Excerpted Dialogue from a Movie Hardly Anyone Reading This Has Ever Seen! I don't think I'd put it quite like that, but...eh, close enough.

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We're talking about a borderline-incomprehensible Italian knockoff of both The Terminator and Aliens, courtesy of the brilliant minds behind Troll 2 and Hell of the Living Dead. If you read that and sneer "ugh, pass", then...well, fair enough. To those who are intrigued, though, you're in for a hell of a treat. No matter what kind of picture you have forming in your head right now, Shocking Dark is even more ridiculous and deliriously fun and "wait, what?!" than that. I'd have had a blast even if this had been a barebones release with a messy presentation, but Severin Films pulling out all the stops as they have – sterling visuals and a pair of terrific interviews, in particular – make it that much more irresistible. Recommended.
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