Trivia Also known as:Night Andy Came Home, The (1974)
Night Walk (1974)
Soif de sang (1974) (Canada: French title) (video title)
Veteran, The (1974)
Whispers (1972) (USA) (reissue title)
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Dead of Night (AKA Deathdream) (1974)
1st Apr 04
Andy Brooks, presumed dead, comes home from Vietnam, but he is not the fun-loving mummy’s boy that he once was before the war. Murders are occurring in and around the small town while Charlie (Andy’s dad), and ‘Doc’ (the local doctor), begin to piece together the evidence, placing Andy as the prime suspect.
Influenced by the American short story The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, Dead of Night is an early 70’s US b-horror film written by Alan Ormsby (Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, Deranged) and directed by none other than Bob Clarke (Porky’s, Black Christmas), and what a gem this little film is. It is highly imaginative and original, and once you’ve seen it you will never forget it. It has a strong cast of gifted actors and an even stronger array of highly believable characters, but not just the central characters – the peripheral characters are not simply written blandly as plot fodder. For example, we have the s-s-s-stuttering chef in the local diner who, upon police questioning, always begins the answers but has such trouble completing them, the friendly waitress finishes off for him;
Chef: “He said he was a s-s-s-s-s…”
Waitress: “He said he was a soldier”.
The writer’s sister - Anya Ormsby, who is one of the most gorgeous actresses ever to grace the horror screen, plays Andy’s sister - Cathy. She also appeared in Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and unfortunately not much else. Andy’s old flame, Joanne, is another special character, full of funny little quips and mannerisms. You will rarely see stronger acting / characters anywhere in a B-movie. We also have Ben, the over-friendly postman who simply won’t stop talking nonsense. He likes to help himself to any free food from the Brooks’ picnic table. Oh, and we also have the town drunk – where would we be without the town drunk? Trust me, town drunk aside, this really is an original little film. These personalities give Dead of Night more density in terms of characterisation - their quirky and colourful richness imbues the film with a strangely believable atmosphere, which is great - because Andy, our central character, is a zombie. Not the usual flesh eating kind of zombie we’ve all come to know and love, but a zombie who breaks away from these conventions.
Andy talks, and does not initially look corpse-like, although as the film progresses at a wonderfully engaging pace, he begins to decay rapidly with fantastic make-up work from our beloved Tom Savini, on his first job as chief make-up / FX artist. As the plot progresses, Andy’s flesh begins to rot and drop off. He employs the use of sunglasses and gloves in order to hide the decaying process which is only temporarily alleviated by the blood of his victims (of which there are few) by means of a hypodermic needle. He draws blood from the arm of his victims, then injects it into his own arm. This ‘killer with a hypo’ theme may have influenced George A. Romero’s early masterpiece, Martin (1976).
One of Andy’s victims is local doctor, Doc Allman. We do not want him to be killed, because a) we like him, and b) he’s onto Andy. But when Andy does begin to verbally imply that he is going to kill Doc, he begins saying things like “I died for you Doc. Why shouldn’t you return the favour”, and “You OWE me”. Perhaps writer Alan Ormsby was attempting to permeate the story with anti-Vietnam war ideologies, this tallies with the period in which Dead of Night was made (1972).
Dead of Night has a very dark and sinister atmosphere. The film has a wonderful look, in that early 70’s sense. The story is quite family-focused, and, as such, localises central issues such as trust and loyalty. Andy is such a mummy’s boy, and his mother, played by Lynn Carlin, has obvious mental health problems concerning her intensely obsessional love for her son. From the beginning of the film this is made apparent to us. Before Andy’s return, she will NOT stop talking about him and she simply refuses to believe that Andy has been killed in Vietnam. So, when Andy returns home (in a superbly creepy scene), she believes she was right all along;
Mum: “They said my son was dead.”
Andy: “I was”.
After this dialogue, the family breaks into hysterical laughter. We know why they’re laughing, but Christ, they go on FOREVER! The actors must have felt really stupid filming that scene. Andy’s little ‘joke’ is simply not that funny. You really have to watch this scene with that in mind to get the point here. That’s a minor quibble. Now onwards…
A mention should be given to the finale. It is really impressive, and could bring a tear to the eye of the more sensitive viewer, or anyone else who sympathises with post-traumatic stress disordered zombies. We never discover exactly why Andy is one of the living dead, we just have to accept that he is. Dead of Night however does bring closure to this theme – zombie Andy actually dies at the end of the film. Again, a zombie with laws of his own!
This point of well-portrayed strong characters may be generally overlooked, but this, along with sheer originality and innovation is what makes this film work in my opinion. See it for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.
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