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STUDIO: Cinema Epoch
RUNNING TIME: 91 Minutes
•Commentary with cast and crew
•Short Films (w/ optional commentary)
•Various Featurettes (w/ optional commentary)
•Production and FX Galleries
•Local News Stories on the production
•Short-to-feature scene comparison
“It‘s A Nightmare on Elm Street meets Videodrome.” (Which is to say that it reminds me of both of those movies but is nowhere near as good as either)
Nick Baldasare, Rick Kesler, Susan Pinsky, Dan White and Norm Singer
A guy’s crazy nightmares start to leak into the real world, adversely affecting the lives of everyone he knows.
Every so often I’ll get a disc to review that’ll throw me a curve ball. Whether it’s insanely incomprehensible (Sugar, I remember you well), or just so multi-layered it’s hard to sort it all out, these types of reviews are usually my favorites to write, as they require that extra mental effort in deconstructing what’s seen. An effort that is sometimes difficult to give when you’re not obligated to write a review. I’m rambling…
So, I guess I’ve already established that Beyond Dream’s Door is one of those films. With a cover that featured a Joe Bob Briggs quote, naming it “One of the strangest film’s [he’d] ever seen,” I figured that I was in for at least a decent mind-fuck, if nothing else. And that’s what I got, initially. Well, a mind-fuck, anyway. The decent part was debatable. Essentially, it was a frustratingly dense and convoluted film that left me wondering what in the hell it was that I had just seen. After a day of trying to sort it out, I decided to sit down and watch it again, and still, I was left scratching my head at it all. So after a third and, yes, even a fourth viewing, I started to see through it all and not just get a grip on the finer points of the plot, but of what was underneath as well.
I don’t care how proud of it he was, I just could not be impressed by my neighbor’s backyard production of "The Cask of Amontillado."
We’re introduced to young Ben (Baldasare), a college student who is plagued by some crazy-weird dreams, involving horny naked chicks, creepy little brothers and bright red devil dogs. After discussing his dreams with his psychology professor and the professor’s two aides, his dreams start to invade the real world, killing the people he’s asked for help and them implanting them into the nightmare. Why? Well, apparently Ben decided to forget his dreams a long time ago and they’re pissed, so they’ve decided to come back and kill him (which explains the naked chick – it must suck to have an old wet dream come back and try to kill you). And, you know, if they had just explained that straight away and left it at that, it would have been a decent execution of a nifty little concept.
Instead, in an attempt to draw out suspense and fuck with the viewer, they sort of halfway hide that behind some self-destructive-tendency fluff and other useless information. Tack on a weird little sub-plot about the dreams wanting to kill anyone who know about them, basically wiping their existence off the face of the earth completely, and you’ve got a sort of convoluted mess, in terms of a narrative.
That’s not helped at all by performances that are extremely lacking in, well, pretty much everything. What we have is a cast list full of line deliverers. These guys memorized their lines well enough, but everything was really stiff and self-conscious, or covered in that whole “I’m acting” tone of voice (I’m sure there’s an official name for that, but I don’t know what it is). Where this really sticks out is in regards to our dream characters. There’s a lot of stuff on their minds and it would have helped sort of sell their intentions had they been able to convey any sort of emotion other than that of a Stepford Wife.
He wants to shake your hand…because HE CAN SEE YOU!
Rounding out my trifecta of problems here is, what I perceived to be, an anti-communication stance that almost seems too depressing to be true. We have our hero, Ben, hounded by personal strife and everyone he asks for help ends up dead. There’s a strong undercurrent that says that if Ben had just kept his mouth shut, everyone else would have turned out for the better. Sort of the antithesis of It’s A Wonderful Life. I’m not entirely convinced that it was intentional, as I think a lot of the ramifications of Ben’s reaching out were just fodder for a story, but it’s something that really stuck out at me and I feel like the writers should have made a little bit more of an effort to think about what they were saying. Especially when you’re making a movie in a genre that’s almost defined by its symbolism and subtext.
It’s not all bad though, as we are treated to some tasty gore and some really inspired and well-executed practical effects. Makes me glad this film was made back when it was, before there was a digital alternative, because if these same kids made this same movie today, I’ll guarantee you that it would have been full of piss-poor CGI.
In the end though, after the unorganized plot, lackluster acting and everything else, what we’ve got is a student film. A student film with a lot of ambition, a lot of promise and a lot of potential, made by some kids who just didn’t quite know how to pull it off. I’ve decided that I liked it, but the problem is that it took four viewings and a lot of mental sifting to come to that conclusion, and I don’t think that casual viewers are going to give it that many chances to prove itself.
"I can’t move it or everyone will see. But I can’t carry this thing in front of my crotch cause that’ll be just as obvious. Goddammit sometimes I wish I had a vagina!" Well, that’s at least what went through MY head when I had the same problem.
In the art department, someone must have been in a hurry, as we’ve got a fuzzy, feathered-edge snap of our demon-dog chowing down on one of our characters (and honestly – I really can’t tell which one). Quotes up top and title down below – it’s a pretty bland mockup of a movie that, while flawed, had enough substance as to inspire a trippy little poster. Not good.
Feature-wise, well, holy moly. The goodies are broken down into 4 sections: Before Dream’s Door; Behind Dream’s Door; Opening Dream’s Door and After Dream’s Door.
Before focuses on the birth of the concept ad it’s journey to a feature. We’re treated to the two short films it’s based on, some raw footage from the shoot, and acceptance speech for some award one of the shorts won and a side-by-side comparison of the scenes from the short and the recreated scenes in the feature. All of the short films have commentary (which aren’t great but hey – A for effort) and the side-by-side thing is a nifty little tool.
Modern-day Puritanicals found a way to continue the traditions of their witch-burning ancestors. God help you if you stopped to read it.
Behind deals with the actual production of the feature, including deleted scenes, various futurities, a blooper reel, production and FX galleries and “A Montage of Unused or Alternate Scenes.” Last time I checked – that’s what Deleted Scenes were. Why they’re listed separately with two different titles – I don’t know.
Opening consists of the promotional material – trailer and posters and the like, while After tells us what became of our loveable cast and crew after this production wrapped – there’s a lot of community theater involved. And hey, I’m not knocking community theater, but I’m not surprised these fellas didn’t really make it big in the film industry.
And it’s all followed up with a little place to play the score independent from the film – which isn’t horrible. I can’t really see sitting and listening to it alone as there’s nothing that special about it, but it’s here, so good for that.
"Welcome back to ABC’s Wide World of Sports and our coverage of the One-Man Downhill Ass-Slide."
There really is a wealth of material here (so much so that I’m surprised they didn’t go for the double-disc set) and, even though it really isn’t great, it is nice to see these people remembering their work and each other so fondly. It’s not really a case of fellating the material, rather a sense of pride and nostalgia. It was nice watching these people talk about things they did such a long time ago. You could tell they all took this project personally and held it close to them. Good stuff.
OVERALL 6.0 out of 10