Effects: Obscure horror movie stars Tom Savini and was mentored by George A. Romero
Sometimes when a movie is “lost” and then “found,” one tends to wish the picture had stayed lost; an artifact of note but a dud as a work of cinema. Not so with Effects, the fluid, bizarre and even avant garde proto-meta horror film directed by Dusty Nelson and nurtured by the late, iconic director George A. Romero, that was made in 1978, screened at festivals to some acclaim in 1980 and then just… vanished. Synapse famously resurrected the movie a decade ago and now AGFA (American Genre Film Archive) have prepped a 4K scanned Blu-ray release of this obscurity and, for a low to no budget movie made by amateurs… it looks stunning. Of course, it also helps that the movie is also something of a secret masterpiece.
Cobbled together with loose change by late horror film icon Romero‘s friends, Effects is a mesmerizing do-it-yourself horror movie starring FX legend, actor and director Tom Savini, Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead), and actor/director and composer John Harrison (Creepshow, Day of the Dead, Tales from the Darkside). In a way, it’s like a grotty, Pittsburgh-fueled horror riff on Fellini’s 81/2 and it’s ripe with idea, energy and loaded with a handful of really great performances.
In it, a horde of coked-up, totally unlikable filmmakers gather in the ‘Burgh to make a low-grade horror movie called “Duped: The Snuff Movie.” But the director )(Harrison) thinks he’s Otto Preminger and his poor suffering DP (Pilato) has to suffer the clowns around him to hopefully make a buck and whisk the comely gaffer away on a romantic rendezvous. As filming begins and “accidents” happen, it’s clear that something isn’t right. And no one can be trusted.
With its manic veering between reality, fantasy, filming and hallucinatory gore, Effects is a disorienting an intense experience. The secret sauce of the movie is Pilato (Day of the Dead‘s screaming Captain Rhodes) who is SO good in this movie, a semi-improvised performance, that one wishes he became the really big star he should have become. Harrison is also great as the sullen, sleazy and self-aggrandizing director who is even sicker than he seems and Harrison’s original electronic and grand piano music score is a marvel, with echoes of what would become the blueprint for his Creepshow soundtrack. And Savini is Savini, but DAMN is he great at playing an arrogant prick.
Effects was produced by Harrison, edited and produced by Pasquale Buba (editor of Romero’s Knightriders, Day of the Dead and Monkey Shines), and written and directed by Nelson (Sakura Killers). Legendary horror icon Tom Savini also provided the film’s often gory effects (in fact the movie also serves as a tutorial for some of the gags he brought to Romero’s Martin and later, Dawn of the Dead).
AGFA ports over most of the features from the Synapse DVD but the 4K HD look is a radical improvement, with bursting colors and sharp detail and Savini’s patented early “melted crayon” blood leaping off the screen. Forget lost… this is a major work of ’70s indie cinema, the secret sidebar to the world that Romero built during the last days of the decade.