Deathdream (Bob Clark / Canada, 1974):
(Dead of Night; Night Walk; The Night Andy Came Home)

One more alternate title: When Zombie Comes Marching Home. A blunt autopsy of a decaying order, even as the body refuses to remain dead. Vietnam lends the cathartic uncorking before the credits as a young grunt (Richard Backus) takes a bullet in the jungle and is announced as a casualty of war back home to his parents (John Marley, Lynn Carlin); Carlin, frantically upholding the familial traditions that keep her entrapped, wills her son back, or, rather, the glum ghoul that once was her son. The Monkey's Paw, of course, understood by director Bob Clark and screenwriter Alan Ormsby as a politicized literalization of war's walking dead; when not rocking catatonically in his room, Backus takes to slashing throats for blood, injected then into his body to smooth out cadaverous features. Dogs get strangled and bodies pile up, yet "everything is going to be alright, I won't have it any other way," according to Carlin, who has long learned to paper the cracks. The family is cast with an eye on Romero and Cassavetes, maybe a continuation of Faces, though Clark briefly and tellingly reconstructs The Graduate with an artless zoom into Backus' face as he sits in the lawn chair, twitching while the postman remembers patriotic WWII duties. Nam triggers it, but dissolving tensions already simmer at the dinner table, where the carving of roast beef is a tradition to be carried from (male) generation to generation. Funereal somber where the earlier Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things was freak-out nutty, Clark and Ormsby's devastating indictment finds the heart of darkness not in enemy fields overseas but at the center of an imploding family, internal pressures spurting out of foreheads, the oppressed mother scrambling to enforce patriarchal norms refused by the son, who has experienced the system's ultimate lies and now only hopes for the grave. With Anya Ormsby, and Henderson Forsythe.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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