Fright Fest Review #15: Deathdream (1974)

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no animate son...
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no animate son…

Subgenre:  Zombie

Summary:  After being killed in Vietnam, a young man returns home to his family.

Review:  Deathdream opens with an unnervingly realistic battle sequence that depicts American soldier Andy’s hellish final moments.  A messenger tells his family the news of his death, but later that same night Andy returns home.  His family is grateful to see him, but it soon becomes apparent that something isn’t right.  Andy asks that his presence be kept a secret, and spends most of his time sitting in his room.  When he does talk, it’s in short, monotone sentences.  His father Charlie grows suspicious of these changes, but his mother and sister write them off as the lasting effects of war.

The greatest strength of Deathdream is its ability to generate unease rather than outright horror.  Andy’s stilted, unnatural interactions with his family leave a far greater impression than the generally pedestrian scenes of violence.  Maybe it’s because the former are an all-too-real depiction of what families went through when their PTSD-afflicted sons came home from Vietnam.  Supernatural elements aside, Deathdream provides a thoughtful and melancholy look at the toll war takes on the living.

The Verdict:  Suitably creepy and surprisingly reflective, Deathdream should satisfy most horror fans.  I give it seven vampiric Vietnam vets out of ten.

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