This product was provided by Arrow for the purpose of this review. All opinions are our own.
Director Richard Friedman’s 1987 schlockfest Scared Stiff (the U.S. version, not the Hong Kong one released the same year) never had a proper DVD release in the States and has seemingly been lost to time, only available on VHS and Laserdisc, but the good folks at Arrow Video have changed that with not only a new Blu-ray for the film, but also a brand-new restoration to boot.
As a fan of all things horror, especially horror films of the ’80s, I was pretty amped up to finally catch this one, but sadly I was left feeling a bit indifferent about Scared Stiff after the credits began to roll. The film stars Mary Page Keller and Andrew Stevens as Kate and David, a couple taking their relationship to the next level by buying a house together. Unbeknownst to them, this house was previously owned by a ruthless plantation owner whose evil ways haunt the property to this day.
Kate’s son, Jason, played by Josh Segal, is the first to witness some poltergeist activity in the house. As expected, things get progressively worse, climaxing in the possession of David, who goes on a rampage throughout the town, beginning with his patients and co-workers at the mental health facility where he works as a psychiatrist and ending with a bloody game of cat and mouse with his family.
The premise feels similar to 2005’s The Skeleton Key (another film I wasn’t fond of), but Scared Stiff is far more dry than even that feature. The weak editing and plodding narrative limp along for most of the runtime, making for a dull experience as the characters fumble their way around this thoroughly uninteresting mystery.
That is until the final act comes in hard and fast and the film pulls a complete 180, throwing in a series of surreal, practical effects-driven horror setpieces at us and transforming itself from a dry supernatural mystery to a batshit gorefest. Too bad this wasn’t more prevalent in the previous hour or else Scared Stiff would be just the bonkers kind of ‘B’ movie I would usually be into.
The Arrow Video Blu-ray contains all the quality and care you’d come to expect from the company’s releases, with the new 2K restoration looking nearly perfect. On the disc, there’s a making-of documentary featuring interviews with director Richard Friedman alongside key cast and crew members. The insight into the effects work was a highlight, with Friedman and producer Dan Bacaner discussing how effects supervisor Tyler Smith would immediately say “yes” to any crazy idea they would come up with…and that certainly shows in the finale.
There’s an audio commentary track with Friedman, Bacaner and film historian Robert Ehlinger; additional interviews; trailers; a stills gallery; and a collector’s booklet. All in all, it’s a solid package for a film that’s been neglected essentially since its release in 1987.
Despite another quality release from Arrow, Scared Stiff is not a title I could see myself revisiting in the future, and even its over-the-top climax can’t save it from being a relatively mediocre experience, albeit one that I could see many other horror fans enjoying.