Release Date(s)1987 (April 23, 2019)
Studio(s)Manson International/International Film Marketing (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
The glut of horror movies in the 1980s is, as most loyal Blu-ray purchasing fans know, a treasure trove of everything from bottom of the barrel, to lost classics, to everything in between. Scared Stiff (aka The Masterson Curse) definitely runs in the middle of the pack.
It’s a traditional Amityville Horror type tale about a doctor named David (Andrew Stevens), his former patient turned girlfriend/rock star Kate (Mary Page Keller), and her son Jason (Joshua Segal) who move into a southern colonial house together, only to find it inhabited by the spirits of long dead plantation owners, one of whom was possessed. While Kate begins to have odd dreams about the events that took place there, David becomes more aggressive towards her, but a stone talisman found in the attic may be the key to understanding what’s happening to them.
What’s unfortunate about Scared Stiff is that it has lots of potential to be something, at the very least, enjoyable. It’s far too serious for its own good, but is also hampered by lackluster performances and snooze-inducing dialogue exchanges early on. It isn’t until the film’s second half where the plot begins to start kicking in, and even by then, it isn’t all that enticing. It actually features an interesting score, a script that was originally written by Mark Frost (and consequently rewritten), and a climax that contains a barrage of special make-up effects, many of which are extremely well done and effective.
Sadly, Scared Stiff is bogged down in execution mediocrity, never really rising above the material or even making something fun or interesting out of it. Instead, like many supernatural or possession films, it tries to go for something with a more serious edge, but ultimately failing at it. It also doesn’t help that story’s conclusion is somewhat confusing and open-ended without much of a resolution. In essence, a handful of amazing make-up effects can’t make what essentially feels like a standard TV movie of the week, or even a bad soap opera, worthwhile.
Arrow Video brings Scared Stiff to Blu-ray via a 2K restoration from a 35mm interpositive element with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It’s a solid presentation and very organic in appearance with even levels of grain and vast amounts of fine detail, whether in shadow or in broad daylight. The color palette is reproduced well with good skin tones, but never excels due to a lack of variety in the visuals. Blacks are deep, contrast is good, and the image is stable throughout. It’s also quite clean with next to no damage leftover.
The audio is presented in English mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. For a monaural track, it certainly has plenty of life to it. The score and sound effects in particular have great fidelity. Dialogue exchanges are never a problem, and the overall track is free from debris or damage, such as hiss, crackle, or dropouts.
The excellent extras package on this release was partially created by Red Shirt Pictures. Included is an audio commentary with director Richard Friedman and producer Dan Bacaner, moderated by film historian Robert Ehlinger; Mansion of the Doomed: The Making of Scared Stiff, a terrific 34-minute documentary about the film that features interviews with Richard Friedman, Dan Bacaner, actors Andrew Stevens and Joshua Seal, special effects supervisor Tyler Smith, special effects assistants Jerry Macaluso and Barry Anderson, and Robert Ehlinger; a 7-minute interview with composer Billy Barber; an animated image gallery containing 66 stills of production photographs, behind the scenes shots, posters, and VHS covers; the original theatrical trailer, presented in HD, and a 20-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown by James Oliver, and presentation details.
I fully admit that I’m not a fan of this film at all, yet despite that, this is still quite a nice package. The documentary is actually very enlightening, giving us a nice background on the project and how it got made. Add to that an excellent presentation and Scared Stiff is certainly a disc worth checking out for deep-diving horror fans, mostly for the aforementioned make-up effects.
– Tim Salmons