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Video Murders (Culture Shock) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • Video Murders (Culture Shock) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Culture Shock
    Released on: April 26th, 2022.
    Director: Jim McCullough Sr.
    Cast: Eric Brown, Virginia Loridans, John P. Fertitta
    Year: 1988
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    Video Murders – Movie Review:

    Directed by Jim McCullough Sr. from a script by his son, Jim McCullough Jr., 1988’s Video Murders, which was shot in and around Shreveport, Louisiana, is centered around a young man named David Lee Shepard (Eric Brown of Waxwork and Mama’s Family!) who is… less than stable. He loves his mother very much and wants to make her happy, but when she disowns him he gives in to his urges and, well, he starts picking up hookers and strangling them to death in front of his camcorder.

    When David’s private home movie business requires additional victims, the local police realize that they have a potential serial killer on their hands and a tough talking cop named Lieutenant Jerry Delvechio (John P. Fertitta) makes it his mission to bring David to justice. Meanwhile, predictably, a reporter gets pulled into the fray while trying to crack the truth behind the recent rash of murders and a girl named Melissa Rivers (Virginia Loridans, who also appeared in McCullough’s Mountaintop Motel Massacre made two years prior in 1986), who genuinely likes David, finds her life in danger.

    While mildly sleazy in spots, Video Murders doesn’t really turn out to be the horror/slasher picture that its cover art would lead you to believe that it is. Releasing on DVD by Trans World Entertainment, Video Murders never got a DVD release and was pretty tough to come across until this Blu-ray surfaced. Despite the misleading imagery from that tape (rightly carried over to this high definition debut), the film is a decent thriller made better thanks to a lead performance from Brown. As Shepard, he manages to create an interesting character with a decent amount of depth, making him more than just a one-dimensional killer and portraying him as believably human.

    The rest of the cast is okay, but they don’t fare quite as well. Fertitta is fun to watch as the macho cop in charge of the investigation. As the movie plays out, he gets increasingly manic, almost obsessive, when it comes to catching the killer and he handles this part well, though the character really is a bit of a cliché. Virginia Loridans is also decent enough here, but her character is fairly thin in regards to how she’s written and she isn’t given a whole lot to work with. Still, she’s not bad, and it’s odd that she didn’t do any other films aside from these two Jim McCullough Sr. productions.

    The movie is pretty well shot, the 16mm photography giving it an appreciable grittiness that definitely works in its favor. Production values are fine, this was made on a modest budget but McCullough is savvy enough behind the camera not to overreach – we even get a decent chase scene with a helicopter in the last act that is pretty cool to see. The film also features a live set from a band called The Insatiables that adds some charm to the movie and the Shreveport location work gives the film some interesting regional flavor.

    Video Murders – Blu-ray Review:

    Video Murders arrives on Region Free Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.85.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 22.3GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a new 4k scan of the original 16mm negative the picture quality here is strong. There’s good detail noticeable throughout and the colors, many of which are quite garish in the way that you’d want the colors in a late eighties movie to be, are reproduced very nicely. We get strong black levels and good depth and texture while avoiding obvious compression artifacts, edge enhancement or noise reduction problems. Skin tones look good, contrast is fine and overall, this looks really good.

    English language audio options are provided in 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo with optional subtitles provided in English only. Overall, the audio quality is solid. The film’s score and bouncy soundtrack selections sound really solid here, and there are no problems to note with any hiss or distortion. The track is balanced nicely enough and the dialogue is always easy to understand and follow.

    Extras on the disc start off with a full-length commentary with first assistant cameraman David Akin, moderated by film historian Brad Henderson. Akin talks about the decision to shoot the opening credits on video in McCullough's studio, working with cameraman Joe Wilcox and how he would not have a career were it not for the McCullough family. He then goes on to discuss who did what on the scene, working with different cast members and what a few of them have been up to since the movie was made, some of the obstacles involved in shooting at night on 16mm, what it was like shooting on location in Shreveport, the film's gritty aesthetic and how the budget worked for it, shooting some of the bigger scenes including the bridge scene, what the McCulloughs were like to work with, working with The Insatiables, the film's distribution, the chemistry that the two McCulloughs had on set and lots more.

    The disc also includes an interview with band The Insatiables that clocks in at ten minutes. This piece sees them talk about how they got involved with Video Murders and why they did it, writing a song specifically for the movie, how they got a music video out of the footage and how that helped their career, thoughts on writing the song 'Black And White' that was used in the movie, what the music scene in Shreveport was like in the eighties, winning a Budweiser guitar in the eighties after appearing on MTV Basement Tapes, playing CBGB and what they've been doing since the band broke up in the nineties.

    Actor John Fertitta appears in an interview that runs for eleven minutes and sees him talking about how he got the part, his history with the McCullough family, what it was like going from Video Murders to then work on Mississippi Burning, working with Virginia Loridans on stage, working behind the camera on some earlier McCullough films, actors that have influenced his work, the physicality of the role and more.

    Akin appears again in a thirteen minute interview where he speaks on camera about getting his start with the McCulloughs on The Aurora Encounter, his friendship with Jim Jr., his own background and training in the industry, what the McCulloughs were like to work with and how he considers them family, how much he learned on their productions, how long the schedule was for Video Murders, how and why the film is fairly tame considering its subject matter, and how shooting in Louisianna differs from shooting in Hollywood.

    Culture Shock has also included over thirty-two minutes of original VHS audition footage featuring John Fertitta, Lee Larrimore, Virginia Loridans, Tracy Murrell, Frank Baggett and Jim McCullough Jr. all reading for various parts.

    Rounding out the extras are a music video for the song ‘Black And White’ by The Insatiables which features footage from Video Murders, trailers for a few other Culture Shock titles (The American Scream, Slashdance, Girlfriend From Hell and Death Collector), menus and chapter selection options.

    Video Murders - The Final Word:

    Culture Shock has given the obscure Video Murders a really strong release with a nice presentation and some quality extras that do a great job of documenting its history. The movie itself isn’t quite the horror movie you’d expect, but it is a pretty solid thriller worth checking out.

    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Video Murders Blu-ray screen caps!

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