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Deathdream movie poster in release as Dead of Night
Directed by Bob Clark
Produced by Bob Clark
Written by Alan Ormsby
Starring Richard Backus
John Marley
Lynn Carlin
Music by Carl Zittrer
Cinematography Jack McGowan
Edited by Ronald Sinclair
Distributed by Quadrant Films
Blue Underground (DVD)
Release dates
1972 (Canada)
August 30, 1974 (U.S.)
Running time
88 minutes
Country Canada
Language English
Budget $235,000 est.

Deathdream is a 1972[1] Canadian horror film, directed by Bob Clark and written by Alan Ormsby. It was inspired by the W.W. Jacobs short story The Monkey's Paw.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

In Vietnam, US soldier Andy Brooks is shot by a sniper and falls to the ground. As he begins to die, he hears his mother's voice calling out, "Andy, you'll come back, you've got to, you promised." The voice becomes sinister and muffled as Andy's eyes close. Sometime later, his family receives notice of his death in combat.

Back home, Andy's father, Charles, and sister, Cathy, begin to grieve, but his mother, Christine, becomes irate and refuses to believe that Andy has died. Hours later, in the middle of the night, Andy arrives at the front door in full uniform and apparently unharmed; the family accepts the notice of his death as a clerical error and welcomes him back with joy.

Over the next few days, Andy displays strange and erratic behavior, dressing in an unusually concealing matter and spending his days sitting around the house listless and anemic. Meanwhile, local police investigate the murder of a local trucker, who was found with his throat slashed and his body drained of blood after telling diner patrons that he'd picked up a hitchhiking soldier.

Charles attempts to confront Christine about Andy's erratic behavior, which only leads to tension between the couple as Christine insists that Charles was too withholding and authoritarian a father and Charles telling Christine that she's made Andy too sensitive by smothering him. Andy continues to display unusual behavior, attacking a neighborhood boy who attempts to demonstrate his karate skills and then attacking the family dog when it tries to protect the child. At night, Andy becomes inexplicably lively and animated, wandering the town and spending time in the local cemetery. It ultimately becomes apparent that Andy has returned as some kind of vampire, and has been draining people's blood in order to reinvigorate himself, injecting it into his own decaying body with syringes.

On a double date at the drive-in with his high school sweetheart Joanne along with his sister and best friend, Andy begins to die from a lack of blood and attacks first Joanne, then his friend. They are both killed during the attack. The other drive-in patrons witness the last attack and panic. This causes Andy to flee before he can infuse himself with his friend's blood. The police pursue Andy, the chase ultimately ending at the graveyard where Andy has been spending his free time. There they discover Andy, finally dead and reduced to a skeleton, lying in a shallow grave that he has been progressively digging for himself beneath a crudely fashioned tombstone. Christine, looking at her son's body, gravely tells the police "Some boys never come home."


Critical reception[edit]

Glenn Erickson of DVD Talk critiqued, "The reason Deathdream works is its superior dramatic staging. The actors are excellent, especially John Marley and Lynn Carlin, both honored for their roles in John Cassavetes' Faces. Clark stages the domestic scenes with a fine simplicity and what we remember the most is the looks of bewilderment on nicely-framed faces."[3]

Paul Corupe of DVD Verdict remarked, "Deathdream, the second collaboration by director Bob Clark and screenwriter Alan Ormsby, is a marked artistic and technical leap forward from the pair's overrated debut feature, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things. A modern spin on the classic "be careful what you wish for" theme, Ormsby's screenplay balances a pointed Vietnam War allegory with pulpier aspects—a "shock" ending, distinct moments of morbid comic relief and beyond-the-grave retribution ripped from the pages of a 1950s horror comic."[4]

J.C. Maçek III of opined, "This is a very cool little horror film. Not perfect, but transcendent for what it is and another fine example of why Bob Clark was always quite a director in any genre. This one stands up there with films like Let's Scare Jessica to Death with its subdued horror undertones and dramatic surface."[5]

DVD release[edit]

Blue Underground DVD released a special edition of Deathdream in 2004. Special features include an audio commentary by Bob Clark, an audio commentary by Alan Ormsby, the featurette Tom Savini: The Early Years, the featurette Deathdreaming: Interview with star Richard Backus, alternate opening titles, extended ending sequence, trailers, and a poster & still gallery.


Filmed in Brooksville, Florida.


  1. ^ Hardy, Phil, ed. (1995), The Overlook Film Encyclopedia 3, Overlook Press, ISBN 0-87951-624-0 
  2. ^ "Deathdream". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-03-26. 
  3. ^ Glenn Erickson. "Deathdream". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-03-26. 
  4. ^ Paul Corupe. "Deathdream". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2011-03-26. 
  5. ^ J.C. Maçek III. "Deathdream". Retrieved 2011-03-26. 

External links[edit]