“I died for you, doc — why shouldn’t you return the favor?”
After his mother (Lynn Carlin) prays for him to come home safely, a Vietnam War soldier (Richard Backus) reported as dead shows up at his house, surprising everyone — including his father (John Marley), sister (Anya Ormsby), girlfriend (Jane Daly), and a local doctor (Henderson Forsythe) who suspects he may have been involved in the recent death of a trucker (David Gawlikowski).
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Vietnam War
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary writes, this “effective, little-known horror film” is “well-directed by Bob Clark”, best known for helming Black Christmas (1974), Porky’s (1982) and A Christmas Story (1983). He acknowledges that “Clark has made a creepy, moody horror film” but notes that “it is, on closer examination, also a perceptive critique of a patriarchal family, a microcosm of the patriarchal society that is willing to sacrifice its sons in an ugly war that their fathers are responsible for.” While I don’t necessarily see themes of patriarchal society playing out so strongly, Alan Orsmby’s script does a remarkable job positing soldiers’ PTSD as a literal form of horror, one that manifests not only for the men but for their loved ones back at home. Even if Backus hadn’t died in Vietnam, his return home might very well have provoked an equally confused and problematic response, given how deeply impacted so many soldiers were by this senseless war. Interestingly, one can’t tell exactly what horrific fate has befallen Backus, which is why I’ve listed three different sub-genres (ghosts, vampires, and zombies) above: the point is that this soldier-turned-monster can no longer function “normally” in “regular” society, no matter how much his loved ones want to believe he can and will.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- John Marley as Charles Brooks
- Lynn Carlin as Christine Brooks
- A creepy, well-handled screenplay and premise
Yes, as a surprisingly good show.
One thought on “Deathdream / Night Walk, The / Dead of Night (1974)”
First viewing (1/29/21). Not must-see – but it has maintained something of a cult status so horror fans will want to see it.
Working with an occasionally effective but flawed script (though the stated point of “PTSD as a literal form of horror” is well-taken), director Clark and his cast do their best (esp. with a focus on characters over gore) – and a consistent tension is achieved. An added plus is Carl Zittrer’s unnerving score.
Backus is uniquely creepy as Andy. It’s certainly interesting seeing Marley and Carlin together again several years after ‘Faces’. But I was most taken with Henderson Forsythe as the ill-fated Doc Allman. Forsythe brings a noticeable gravity to basically a nothing role. (A stage actor, Forsythe succeeded original Broadway cast member Arthur Hill as George in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ – and is also seen in ‘Interiors’ and ‘Silkwood’.)