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America's Deadliest Home Video
Touted as 'the original found-footage movie', writer/director Jack Perez' 1991 potboiler America's Deadliest Home Video still has Cannibal Holocaust (1980) to reckon with, and since it's not a horror movie there's no reason for it to get into a shouting match with The Blair Witch Project (if movies can shout, that is). It is, however, an early exemplar of what the genre would become. It's also a lost gem with a great performance by Danny Bonaduce, and is Recommended to genre fans looking for something that feels fresh despite its age.
We find Dougie (Bonaduce) all excited to videotape his second anniversary to his bitchy wife. She's not all that into videography, however, or Dougie for that matter, leading our hero to hit the road, camera in hand, searching for a new lease on life. Unfortunately he only ends up renting trouble when he's discovered videotaping a criminal gang destroying evidence. Luckily deluded crime kingpin Clint Dryer (Michael L. Wynhoff) is an even bigger egotist than Dougie, and only too happy to kidnap his own personal documentarian.
The Clint Dryer gang has a method; "ordinarily we don't knock over gas stations, convenience stores are our specialty" says Clint. Clint's crew consists of two chicks, trigger-happy Vezna, (Molleena Williams) and Gloria, (Melora Walters) Clint's girlfriend. The low-rent crooks are also quite pleased to commandeer Dougie's whack maroon Chevy Astro Van, while adhering to Clint's wisdom; "sometimes you just gotta take it in the ass." Strangely enough, as Dougie goes along to save his skin, he quickly gets a taste for the life.
Perez's concoction starts out breezy and lightweight, before a trip to a shooting gallery turns so weird it shocks the movie into a totally different, cracked, and wholly welcome perspective. Something about the gang literally screaming their lines over the sounds of gunfire, discussing pointlessly the finer points of target practice, before an aged Eagle Scout drifts into the scene, means that things will never be the same. What was merely a dated time-waster becomes something thoroughly engaging and oddly revelatory.
Bonaduce really brings it by movie's end. In general his personality overshadows the everyman status he's asked to portray in America's Deadliest Home Video, but as he gets in a little too deep, he brings a convincing fire to his role. Wynhoff, Williams and Walters all rise to the challenge as well, believable enough that by the time the movie reaches its somewhat shocking conclusion, you'll more than give a damn. America's Deadliest Home Video, while a shaggy tribute to tech gone by, represents an engaging, weird dramatic curiosity, worth a look for both found-footage fanatics and crime movie fans alike. Recommended.
America's Deadliest Home Video screens on your very own home theater courtesy of Camp Motion Pictures in a 1.33:1 ratio video transfer that totally recalls the glory days of VHS. That said, the movie looks pretty good in DVD form, with colors that look natural and not washed-out. Obviously the picture can be considered soft and lacking detail, but that's because it was shot on video. It looks about as good as any other Camp Motion Pictures release, most of which were shot in someone's New Jersey backyard.
For audio you can enjoy a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, which gets the job done without much flash, and also thankfully without many problems. Dialog levels vary a bit, and intense scenes can come across as unduly loud. The score and other soundtrack elements are mixed in nicely, meaning this is ultimately a fine sounding effort considering the source.
Josh Schafer, Editor-in-Chief of LunchMeat, contributes a two-page Essay insert. You get the Trailer as well as a number of other Camp Motion Pictures Trailers. Lastly, but not leastly, you get Two Commentary Tracks, the first with director Perez, who covers all the bases and then some in interesting and engaging fashion. The second track features actor Wynhoff going similarly in-depth about filming, and especially about working with Donny Bonaduce. It's another fascinating track.
America's Deadliest Home Video, featuring live-wire Danny Bonaduce, is a shaggy tribute to tech gone by, representing an engaging, weird dramatic curiosity, full of low-wattage crime and craziness. It's well worth a look for both found-footage fanatics and crime movie fans alike. Recommended.