What you get out of AGFA’s great newly restored print of Effects very much depends on what you go in expecting. As a low budget 80’s horror flick “cobbled together with loose change” by a few friends of George A. Romero, the film does indeed retain a certain rawness throughout along with a tiny bit of graphic violence and a few shocking scenes here and there. The film also manages to be more than a bit prophetic about how today’s reality TV’s nonsense of cameras, cameras everywhere can actually be somewhat chilling and yep, desensitizing.
But let’s stick to what’s here first and foremost. There’s a horror flick being made in Pittsburgh and you’ve got a front row seat to the festivities. Again, don’t go into this one expecting bodies falling on cue and a predictable ending where you know what’s coming a mile and a few minutes away. SFX makeup whiz Tom Savini may be in this one, but he’s doing the acting and stunts thing this time out.
There’s a sense of skewed reality from the start as an actress does a nude shower scene that, as it turns out is part of the slasher film being made. There are a few shots where the film seems to jump back and forth between a dreamlike state and the grind of the film making process, but it’s all part of the overall plan. In fact, the film’s director, Lacey (a creepy, deadpan John Harrison) has cooked up a plan to film actual murders and pass the whole thing off as a film called “Duped: The Snuff Movie”. He’s a wealthy snot thanks to his parents dying in a mysterious explosion years ago, so he’s got an impossible network of cameras placed just about everywhere in and around the place the film is being shot in along with what seems to be a crew willing to participate in the mayhem when required.
Despite the super-low budget looks, this one’s a “pay attention!” flick if there ever was one in the genre. Yeah, there’s an “artsy” sensibility to it all, but that’s coupled with an overall sense of dread as things start going sideways and getting serious. Granted, there’s also a sleazy and exploitative vibe going on here, but it’s almost… classy in it’s own way. Well, until that moment in the film where a few of the crew snort some coke and watch one of Lacey’s films. It just so happens to be a black and white snuff film that’s pretty convincing to most in the room. Did Lacey kill or have someone killed onscreen? That question hands over the latter portion of the film as things go further south and one actor ends up running for his life and eventually taking a few before all is said and done.
As for the gore quotient? It’s pretty low key other than a prop leg you’ll see as a prop leg getting sliced with a razor in a scene where the Lacey and an effects tech are arguing about the amount of blood. You’ll also see a gunshot hit (another obvious effect) as well as a brief slice of nastiness from that alleged snuff flick. For the most part, what’s here is a lesson in building tension and mood with the most shocking violence saved for a few key moments. The film has been scanned in 4K for this release, but as with The Zodiac Killer, there’s a certain graininess that lends the proper vintage look to this gem.
You’ll also get a great documentary called After Effects on the making of the film, its disappearance and newfound resurgence. It was nice to see George Romero hanging out and chatting here, as losing him this year was quite a shock. There are also two really interesting non-horror themed short films included on the disc that I won’t spoil other than to say both are worth watching along with the main feature. The only thing missing from the disc are more trailers for AGFA’s growing library of exploitation classics. But then again, I’m hoping to be surprised when I see what’s next up from these guys.
Score: A- (90%)
Review copy provided by the publisher