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Sick Girl, Stepfather II, Night of Death!: A Fistful Of Horror From Synapse Films

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It recently came to my attention that my work was beginning to pile up on me. Several stacks of everything from independently made B-movies to classic films to TV shows were lying in wait of a critique. And so, I figured I’d start out my Saturday afternoon with some good ol’ horror titles from Synapse Films. My roster included the indie flick Sick Girl, Jeff Burr‘s Stepfather II: Make Room For Daddy, and an obscure French title, Night Of Death!, which I had actually had the pleasure of seeing years before.

Sick Girl (2009) – directed by Eben McGarr. Another in a long line of amateurish, shot-on-video horror movies. Sick Girl follows the murderous exploits of Izzy (Leslie Andrews), a seriously disturbed young woman who does nothing but torture and kill mostly unlikable people amid having flashbacks to the traumatizing events that have turned her into the monster she is. Izzy doesn‘t make any exceptions, though: everyone from adults to children are valid prey in this low-budget flick. Fright Night star Stephen Geoffreys has a minor role as a teacher.

Sick Girl’s low-budget origins are still rather apparent, even through Synapse’s nice transfer, which presents the movie in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The movie’s soundtrack is offered up here in DD 2.0 stereo. It‘s OK for the most part, but has a tendency to drown out the film’s dialogue (which could be construed as a good thing, depending on your point of view). Special features include a featurette, two trailers, a “comical” PSA featuring Izzy, and an interview with Fright Night star Stephen Geoffreys.

Stepfather II: Make Room For Daddy (1989) – directed by Jeff Burr. The great Terry O’Quinn returns for another go at building the perfect household in this sequel to the ‘80s horror hit. Battered and bruised from the previous film, the stepfather (O’Quinn) starts out in a Washington state psychiatric facility, where he spends his time building models of homes. After seizing the opportunity to escape, he heads down to Los Angeles, where he assumes the identity of a suburban family counselor and sets his sights on a lonely realtor (Meg Foster) and her son (Jonathan Brandis). Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2) co-stars in this guilty pleasure from the same director as Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (yes, we have two TCM connections in the same film!).

Presented in a widescreen anamorphic 1.85: transfer with Surround Sound, Synapse went the extra mile with Stepfather II by including a number of special features. First off, there’s an audio commentary with director Burr and producer Darin Scott, who also appear in a 30-minute featurette about the production of the film, along with Caroline Williams. Additional supplements consist of a half-hour of non-anamorphic alternate/deleted scenes (culled from a work print, by the look of it), two trailers, and a still gallery.

Night Of Death! (1980) – directed by Raphaël Delpard. Some movies just come back to haunt you. I remember seeing French horror flick La Nuit De La Mort! back in high school via a grainy dupe from a mail order video company. While it wasn’t easy to watch in an aesthetic sense (the transfer was dark and lacked any subtitles), Night Of Death! was nevertheless something that stuck with me. The story shows us how truly horrifying old French people can really be — something our beautiful young heroine (Isabelle Goguey) discovers when she goes to work at Deadlock Manor to take care of a group of elderly men and women. While the old folks claim to be vegans and appear relatively harmless, the reality of it all is that these geriatrics are members of a sect who enjoy the taste of human flesh.

Compared to the old VHS bootleg I once owned, Synapse’s anamorphic 1.66:1 presentation of Night Of Death! is a gigantic improvement. For one thing, I can actually see all of the action this time ‘round. Plus, this release features optional English subtitles to go with the French mono stereo soundtrack, so I can at last figure out what’s going on here. Apart from the subtitles, this release is as bare bones as you can get, but the more “mainstream” Euro horror enthusiasts will no doubt appreciate the chance to finally see this oddity.

Okay, so if I had to pick one title out of the lot here, I’d go with Night Of Death! — but that’s mostly because of my partialness to Euro horror. Fans of ‘80s American slasher/horror fun will love to pick up Stepfather II: Make Room For Daddy and add it to their collection. If you’re a fan of homemade Z-Horror, Sick Girl might just do it for you — although fans of the more classic (or perhaps, classy) kind of horror film will probably be better off passing the latter up.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.