Effects (1980) – Blu-Ray Review

Effects is a regional horror film made in Pittsburgh, using a crew made up all people from the Romero circle. Star/filmmaker John Harrison, director Dusty Nelson and filmmaker Pasquale Buba had all met while working for a TV station in Pittsburgh, and worked under Romero on the film Martin in 1976. Harrison also did a lot of the music for Romero’s films. They raised $55,000 from family and friends to make this small, low-budget film.

It’s not based on a bad idea for a movie, but sadly, Effects is just not very good. Basically, it’s a horror-film version of Fassbinder’s Beware of a Holy Whore. Harrison plays a filmmaker who’s making a movie in the woodland area outside Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, his crew are hanging out, talking, doing drugs and hooking up. Special effects pro Tom Savini appears on-screen as one of the crew members as well as being on the actual crew that made Effects.

Where it’s most successful is at showing how boring actually making a film is for the first 50 minutes, after which it becomes a fairly routine slasher film. There’s kind of a movie-within-a-movie thing going on, which you’ve seen a thousand times before.

While it doesn’t quite work, Effects is a curiosity (and it shows up just how good of a director Romero is, because it’s not even as good as the films he made that were essentially industrial films, like Amusement Park). It’s not great by any means, way too much if a slow-burn, especially for that time. The payoff isn’t totally worth the time investment.

Made from the only 35mm theatrical print that the American Genre Film Archive could find, the Blu-Ray 101 Films gives you the best possible copy. It comes packaged with an archival commentary from Harrison, Nelson and Buba; two short films (Ubu and Beastie), and a documentary, After Effects, that has its own commentary track. Liner notes are by Joseph A. Ziemba of the American Genre Film Archive and Bleeding Skull.

★★

Ian Schultz

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