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Hysteria

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    Ian Jane
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  • Hysteria



    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released on: February 25th, 2014.
    Director: Rene Daalder
    Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Amanda Plummer, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Michael Maloney
    Year: 1997
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Directed by Rene Daalder in 1997, Hysteria finally makes its way to Blu-ray after a few delays from Cult Epics, making this tough to find film available on home video for the first time since its VHS release years back.

    The film follows a psychiatrist named Doctor Samuel Fry (Michael Maloney), after a bizarre incident, must discharge a beautiful female patient named Veronica Bloom (Emmanuelle Vaugier). He knows, however, that if he does that she'll just be left to a life constrained by prescription drugs and basically become a zombie. It's obvious that Samuel has a thing for Veronica and because he cares for her he instead squirrels her off to a huge old gothic asylum run by Doctor Harvey Langston (Patrick McGoohan).

    Langston is quite happy to see Fry and Veronica arrive but we quickly learn that his methods are very unorthodox. While his patients are given free reign (we're told there are no locks on the doors) to dance when they want and act out when they feel necessary, it would seem that they all have the same scar behind their right ear. When Fry wakes up and finds that he too has this scar, he soon learns that Langston, who may be completely insane himself, has put chips into himself and all of his patients so that they can all experience a collective consciousness. Yet Langston's theories have some validity. As everyone is able to share one another's feelings, they don't hurt each other. At the same time, because they can all feel one another's pleasure, they do tend to have a lot of sex, which leads to one of the dominant personalities in the hospital, a wheelchair bound woman named Myrna (Amanda Plummer), using many of the more submissive patients to act out her desires in her stead. As Fry becomes acclimated to life in the asylum, his relationship with both Myrna and Veronica begins to change and his ability to fight back against Langston and the collective consciousness begins to wane…

    Infused with some disturbingly effective moments of black comedy, Hysteria is as much a movie about dominance and power struggle as it is about an insane asylum. As the movie plays out we see how the manipulation that occurs between Fry, Langston and especially Myrna affects not only these three core players but also the other inmates that are under Langston's 'care' in the facility. As the power struggle expands and the plot develops, the three performers shape their characters in interesting ways. Maloney's Fry is obviously concerned (and whether he'll admit it or not, aroused) by Veronica, and that concern is his prime motivation - at least initially. Once he realizes what Langston is up to and his role in his plan, it understandably shifts, almost to the point where it's a matter of self-preservation. Maloney plays it straight and the movie is better for it. McGoohan, on the other hand, is obviously having a lot of fun playing Langston. We learn very early in the movie that he may not be playing with a full deck himself and the aging actor really delivers a quirky, energetic and surprisingly charismatic turn. This leaves Plummer as Myrna. She's the darkest of the three principal characters and in many ways, if not the smartest, absolutely the most manipulative. Her wheelchair bound character is multi-layered and deceptive in many ways and Plummer really does great work here, portraying a woman who seems physically weak but who is in many ways the strongest person in the entire asylum.

    Shot with some nice style and interesting camera angles on an excellent location, the interiors do a great job of relaying the madness inherent in the premise of the film. Various extras act out in various ways throughout the movie, making much of what happens in the background of the film refreshingly unpredictable and worth paying attention to. There are a lot of little details that come together here to make this a pretty original movie. The ending feels just a tad too convenient but everything leading up to it is great. Like most of Daalder's work, Hysteria will not be a film for all tastes but those with a taste for the macabre, the bizarre and the absured will find this unorthodox horror picture well worth seeking out.

    Video/Audio/Extras:


    Hysteria arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from elements that were in less than perfect shape. As such, expect minor print damage throughout, cigarette burns around the reel changes and some color fading. Detail is good though, you definitely get more out of this than you would from a DVD (which, by the way, Cult Epics has also released). There isn't any obvious digital manipulation going on here so grain is plentiful and the picture is free of any noise reduction or edge enhancement. This isn't a pristine image, but the widescreen framing looks good and it has a gritty, solid film-like feel to it.

    The audio options are handled by way of an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, sans subtitles, closed captions or alternate language options of any kind. This is a pretty front heavy mix and it sounds more like an amped up stereo track but the rear channels do spring to life occasionally when the score or effects call for it. There are no problems with the audio at all, the lossless track is well balanced and the dialogue is clean and clear. There's decent depth here as well.

    The main extra on the disc is a twenty-eight minute long Making Of featurette that is actually a conversation between Daalder and Amanda Plummer. The two discuss the making of the picture in a fair bit of detail and talk about the various cast and crew members that they collaborated with on this and also offer up some thoughts on the film and stories from the set. Additionally the disc includes the film's original theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

    The Final Word:

    Hysteria is a strange mix of black comedy and gothic horror performed by a talented cast of decidedly quirky actors. It's really nicely shot and it's got plenty of atmosphere. A strange film to be sure, it's nevertheless an impressive picture. The Blu-ray from Cult Epics includes an interesting interview with the director and leading lady and this turns out to be a very welcome release indeed.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!























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