Release Date(s)1982 (February 22, 2022)
Studio(s)Monterey Films (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B
The oddball slashers of the 1980s offer a wide range of poor to over-the-top performances and nonsensical plots, and everything in between. Among them is 1982’s Deadly Games. In the film, a group of small town friends reconvene after the death of one of their own. A ski mask-wearing, black glove-adorned killer is bumping them off one at a time as they seem to be constantly sleeping around with each other’s boyfriends and husbands. Is it the PTSD-suffering Billy (Steve Railsback), his close friend Roger (Sam Groom), Roger’s new love interest and reporter Keegan (Jo Ann Harris), or perhaps somebody else? The rest of the cast includes Colleen Camp, Denise Galik, Jere Rae-Mansfield, Alexandrea Morgan, Dick Butkus, and June Lockhart.
Deadly Games wants to be a more interesting film than it really is. It attempts to concentrate on relationships between men and women, especially the women, but through a horror prism. Some might pick up on giallo aspects, mostly attributed to the trope of a black-gloved killer whose identity is finally revealed at the end of the film. However, the dialogue exchanges and attempts at comedy are gut-wrenchingly awful. And it’s not just that the dialogue itself isn’t very good, just that there’s a lot of it. It almost feels like the filmmakers allowed the actors to speak extemporaneously, and just let the cameras roll. Many will likely focus on Steve Railsback’s performance, but more attention to should be paid to Jo Ann Harris, who is constantly spouting non sequiturs, almost as if she’s talking to herself.
The film works best when it’s at its quietest. When attempts at atmosphere are made with restraint by not allowing actors to speak as if they’re being paid by the syllable, then it works okay. The idea of a group of people who appear to be sleeping with each other behind each other’s backs and that there’s a killer among them is not a bad idea, but the execution is not exactly ideal. Colleen Camp drops out of the film far too early (one of the stronger and more appealing actors of the group), though her death scene is perhaps the most effective. And the ending, which is rather abrupt, is less than satisfying. Many of these issues might be attributed to the fact that director Scott Mansfield was not involved with the editing process as it was literally taken away from him, and that many scenes hit the cutting room floor. Whatever the case may be, Deadly Games as is has good ideas, but doesn’t have a clear focus.
Deadly Games was shot by director of photography R. Michael Stringer on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and Panavision lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Arrow Video brings the film to Blu-ray for the first time (indeed, on any disc-based format) with a 2K restoration from the original camera negative. The positives up front lie within the clarity of the presentation. There’s solid definition for most of the visuals and a nicely-saturated color palette. The image is also stable and free of any obvious leftover damage. It’s an extremely grainy presentation, one that the encode doesn’t always handle that well. During darker scenes within the theater, grain can be extremely busy, even chunky. There’s also occasional crush. But for the most part, the majority of the presentation is healthy. It would be interesting to know why a 4K scan of the original elements wasn’t performed instead of a 2K scan, which might have ironed out some of the image’s lesser qualities. Regardless, it’s a major step up from its VHS presentation.
The audio is included in English mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a quiet presentation that might need a quick volume adjustment, depending entirely upon your setup. It’s highly narrow when it comes to dialogue and sound effects, as to be expected, though occasional score and music selection has surprising push to it. It’s also a clean track and the various elements have decent resonance.
The following extras are included, all in HD:
- Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues!
- Sooty’s a Shit: An Interview with Jere Rae-Mansfield (24:15)
- Practical Magic: An Interview with John Eggett (21:39)
- Promotional Image Gallery (31 in all)
- Behind the Scenes Image Gallery (63 in all)
- Trailer (1:58)
The audio commentary features The Hysteria Continues! podcast collective of Justin Kerswell, Erik Threlfall, Nathan Johnson, and Joseph Henson. As per usual, the four men discuss the film thoroughly as they watch it together, discussing many of its pros and cons, while also comparing it to other horror films that came before and after. In Sooty’s a Shit, actor Jere Rae-Mansfield discusses the origin of the film, the board game seen in the film, her career at the time, her audition, the characters, scenes that were deleted, the theater in the film, shooting on low budget films, going out on a date with and marrying Scott Mansfield afterwards, Mansfield losing control of the film, and getting into the home video business. In Practical Magic, special effects creator and stunt co-ordinator John Eggett talks about getting his start on Gas Pump Girls, receiving the script for the film, shooting the pool scene, critiquing horror films, the big swing in the theater at the end, making breakaway windows, working with Scott Mansfield, seeing the film for the first time, other films in his career, and other types of effects that he’s executed. The image galleries are comprised of 94 stills of promotional photos, posters, press materials, home video artwork, and behind-the-scenes photos. Last, but not least, is the film’s trailer. Also included via BD-ROM is the film’s screenplay under its original title Who Fell Asleep.
The disc sits in a clear amaray case with a double-sided insert, featuring new artwork by Ralf Krause on the front and the original poster artwork on the reverse. Inside the package is a 24-page insert booklet featuring cast and crew information, the essay The Games People Play: Exploring the Midwestern Gothic in Deadly Games by Amanda Reyes, and restoration information. Everything is housed within a slipcover featuring the same new artwork.
Slasher fans are bound to appreciate Deadly Games for many of its shortcomings, as well as its merits. It’s one of those films that’s at least worth dissecting as its not atypical of what the genre would becoming over the course of the 1980s. And Arrow Video’s presentation is certainly the best option for just such a venture.
- Tim Salmons