Director Bob Clark
Screenplay Alan Ormsby
Starring Richard Backus, John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Henderson Forsythe
Deathdream is one of those films that wants to be two things. First as sad a tribute to the wounded warriors of the Vietnam War and, second, a zombie film. The end result is a mess that should satisfy neither audience.
The story begins with young Andy Brooks (Backus) taking two in the chest in Vietnam. Next thing we see is Andy’s family back home, getting a message that their beloved died in the war. Before they have a chance to grieve, Andy is at their door, somber, silent and just wanting to rest.
Andy’s mother (Carlin) and father (Marley) have different emotions about his return. His mother is overjoyed to a disturbing degree. His father gets the idea that something is up with Andy, especially after he starts showing stranger behavior.
Meanwhile an investigation begins on the truck driver who gave Andy a ride home. He is found slain with his neck slashed and a puncture wound in his arm. Word reaches the local doctor (Forsythe) who voices his suspicions.
The drag about this film is almost everything. It all feels like an anchor keeping the film from sailing anywhere. There is nothing that feels natural at all about the script. Everything is forced, the scenes take too long and the exposition is painfully slow and obvious.
Bob Clark is a skilled director, so much in his other film of 1974 (Black Christmas) that it is amazing that this is the same person behind the lens. This film feels confused beyond its dual narrative.
How did Andy make it back half way across the world if he is dead? How did the same Army that reported his death not notice that he is missing? How is it that no one else in the town (including the Army rep reporting his death) thought it strange that Andy followed soon after?
The story feels like only an excuse to turn Andy into a glowing eyed zombie in the last act. There would have been many better ways of reaching this point than the one they choose, especially since they don’t bother explaining it.
This is a film for no one. Save your time by staring at the wall. It will feel less awkward than 95% of the dialogue of this film.
(* out of *****)