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In my city, there's a monthly event at a local theater called, "B-Movie Bingo" wherein moviegoers come to watch a VHS of a crappy 80s or 90s film on a screen that is capable of handling 70mm and compete to complete their bingo card of genre cliches (i.e. villain in white suit, three mustaches on screen at once, severed limb, high fault, etc.). A training video showing numerous examples of these cliches is shown prior to every film and for a few years now a clip of a deranged looking man/monster getting hit in the head with a basketball with such force his head explodes entirely has captivated me. What does this have to do with "The Immortalizer", a straight-to-VHS horror film offering of the late 1980s? Well, at a glance, the villain on the cover resembled the man/monster from that video clip and my curiosity to find context behind the clip was piqued.
"The Immortalizer" is a baffling piece of cinema, yet one, given its budget, straight-to-VHS release and time period of origin, makes entirely too much sense. The premise, which after having to watch the film a second time because the film completely evaporated from memory less than a week after watching jumps out to me as a short-film concept gone awry, is simple: an evil doctor/mad scientist, Dr. Devine is hell bent on kidnapping young twenty-somethings to swap the brains of older rich clients into. It's your typical horror film take on finding eternal youth, only with our villain having a cabal of mutant henchmen to round up unsuspecting victims. It's a concept that should have been revealed by the 30-minute mark, but doesn't pop up until the third-act mark. As I stated previously, the concept, with some very smart editing and, honestly, an entirely different filmmaker behind it, could have been a phenomenal 10-15 minute short film.
Instead, "The Immortalizer" languishes on-screen for roughly 90-minutes providing little in the thrills and chills department. Padding the time are odd scenes of the mutant army menacing our essentially nameless characters/victims, while one of them escapes and then must return to try and free his friends. Joel Bender's direction does the film zero favors and at times one gets the distinct impression everyone on the cast and crew was bored with the entire affair and were only going through the motions out of sheer contractual obligation. Bender almost 20-years after this, would go on to direct the criminally underrated and deeply disturbing "Karla", based on a real-life pair of monsters, so in that regard, "The Immortalizer" is an interesting curiosity piece for the growth of a filmmaker.
Ultimately, "The Immortalizer" is a colossal waste of time best left a forgotten film. Apart from it's overall concept, "The Immortalizer" is a meandering mess that is poorly written, poorly acted, and poorly executed. It's a horror film devoid of all horror and not off-the-rails enough to enter the pantheon of other bad B-movies worth a laugh. The cruel capper to the whole affair is it turns out "The Immortalizer" wasn't even the film from the clip I longed to have context provided to. To sum it up in "B-Movie Bingo" terms, "The Immortalizer" was a feature-length "long boring scene."
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer definitely gives off a late-80s straight-to-VHS vibe in terms of color design and reproduction. Overall, things are a little hazy at times and the contrast of colors are garish; detail is average at best with compression artifacts being an issue of note. Contrast levels are far from perfect, but again, acceptable. For a straight-to-video, truly forgotten horror film, this definitely looks snappy in context; against anything with a moderate budget of the time period, it struggles to keep pace.
The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track is acceptable. The film is definitely many notches above what I'd expect from its original release format: VHS. Overall, the audio is flat across the board, never too tinny, but lacking any clear dynamic LFE material. It's a balanced track that adequately covers the dialogue and genre effects with ease.
Having never heard of "The Immortalizer" prior to reviewing it and having legitimately blanked on 95% of it no more than a week after watching it, it's safe to say this is a forgotten horror film best left forgotten. Two viewings for this reviewer cemented the notion that this was at best a 15-minute short film concept painfully bloated to a 90-minute runtime. Skip It.