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Effects (1980)

American Genre Film Archive
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/22/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/15/2017

I've noticed that there appears to be two kinds of people in the film industry -- those work non-stop, even if they probably don't need to (I'm looking at you, Tom Hanks) and those who have a notable amount of time between projects. I don't know about you, but I can't help but wonder, what are they doing during that time? Are they simply not working? Or are they helping their buddies out with other projects? The latter certainly seems to be the case with Effects, a movie which was lensed in the late 1970s by a group of filmmakers who met working on movies with George Romero. However, the fact that you make a movie doesn't mean that it's going to be released.

Effects focuses on a group of filmmakers who are making a low-budget movie. Lacey (John Harrison), the director, is very cold and distant, determined to run a tight ship. Dominic (Joseph Pilato), the special effects artist just wants to do his job. The gaffer, Celeste (Susan Chapek), finds that she must constantly defend herself, as it's an unusual job for a woman. As the production moves along, it becomes apparent that Lacey's inner circle acts somewhat unusual. This really comes to the surface when Lacey shows Dominic a particularly explicit movie. Between these odd screenings and the drugs being ingested by the crew, will the movie ever get made.

According to the extras included on this Blu-ray Disc, Effects was completed in the late 70s and the filmmakers landed a distribution deal. However, the deal went sour and the movie didn't see the light of day until a home video release in 2005. Given the fact that those involved were associated with Romero and that Pilato's performance in Day of the Dead made him a cult figure, one would assume that there was a built-in audience for the movie. Therefore, it is a shame that those who wanted to see Effects were robbed of the experience.

Right? Well, I would never deny anyone the opportunity to see a movie in which they were interested, but if they missed Effects, they weren't missing much. Let me put it this way -- Have you ever seen a movie where if you had not read the synopsis on the box then you wouldn't have known what it was about? (Or, to put it more bluntly, what you read had little to do with what you just watched?) That's the case with Effects. While watching the movie, one gets the feeling that there is very little story here. We see the group shooting the movie and talking and that's about it. It's not until the end of the third act that something actually happens, and it's not all that interesting. The problem is that the story on the box does sound interesting. In fact, it sounds like it couldn't have been a really good movie and something which was ahead of its time. But, what we get is a borderline mess. There's such a lack of story that, at times, this feels like a documentary. Take the scene where Dominic tries cocaine. It just goes on and on and serves no purpose. Much of the movie falls in line with that scene.

In the end, Effects is now little more than a curiosity piece. There are certainly going to be those out there who want to see special effects make-up master acting like a jerk while wearing an umbrella hat, or who want to see Pilato playing a nice person. Other than that, there's not much going on here. Yes, this is a regional low-budget movie, so it could be argued that it shouldn't be held to high standards, but the late 70s was a high watermark for independent horror movies and Effects pales in comparison to most of them. The movie is slow and meandering, and even when the story shows up at the end, it's too late. You would think that these guys would have learned more from being around Romero.

Effects really indulges in the cocaine on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of American Genre Film Archive. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The Disc brings us a new 4K scan from the only 35mm theatrical print. The image shows significant scratches and white & black dots which were left behind on this print. There is also a noticeable grain on the image. The picture does show nice colors and the depth works well here. I feel certain that AGFA did their best with this transfer, but it's difficult to overcome a damaged print. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 2-channel track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The audio here doesn't bring us any dynamic effects, but nor is it marred by pops and hissing. The music doesn't overwhelm the dialogue.

The Effects Blu-ray Disc contains an assortment of extras. We begin with an archival AUDIO COMMENTARY from John Harrison, Pasquale Buba, and Dusty Nelson. "After Effects" (60 minutes) is a documentary which looks at the origins of the film, the production, and the problems which lead to it not being released. The piece takes us to a reunion of the team behind the film which took place in 2004 where they re-visited the making of the movie and their reaction to finally having the film see the light of day so many years later. And although, George Romero wasn't directed connected to the film, he appears at the reunion. This piece can be viewed with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Michael Felscher. The extras are rounded out by two short films, "Ubu" (12 minutes) by John Harrison, and "Beastie" (15 minutes) by Dusty Nelson.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long