Directed by: Randall Hood
Written by: William Hersey and Tony Sawyer
Starring: Jack Ging, Edith Atwater and Antoinette Bower
Reviewed by: Josh G.
Gothic horror has never been a large part of my viewing experiences. While films such as Mario Bavaís Black Sabbath have interested me with their dark and rich tones, the bulk of the sub-genre never made it into my weekly routine. Itís a shame, since itís a classy theme that should be looked into further. The house in Die Sister, Die is a classic one. Old, roomy, and very elegant. The opening credits to this 70s flashback are eerie and cold, setting creepy letters over a background of blurred woods. The timid music is there, the stages are set, and there is nothing more to know. We are about to view a very good film. Isnít that right? Or are we wrong? Is this just another sleazy, quick buck piece of trash that bares no welcome in any sane personís home?
We start off outside, staring at the old gothic house mentioned before. A telephone rings, and we are brought inside the master bedroom where elderly Amanda (Edith Atwater) is squirming in her bed. Blood is dripping from her suicidal left wrist. Two cars drive by the house, and park abruptly. Edward (Jack Ging) and a doctor run out of their vehicles and race up the house stairs. Amanda is bloody, but far from dead, and she seems terribly angered with her brother Edward. ďYou bastard!Ē she cries, but she will not tell the doctor what she is hiding from him. There is a deadly family secret, and Edward will stop at nothing to keep it locked up.
Esther Harper (Antoinette Bower) is working her waitress job over at Hankís, a bar that Edward is seated at. The two make small talk, and after threatening Miss Harper with her past, it is arranged the next day for Esther to be Amandaís nurse. Upon the first meeting, Amanda already suspects Esther of being a spy for her brother, but both are sweet towards each other, and Esther is given Amandaís sisterís room. Mrs. Gonzalez (Rita Conde), the maid, informs Harper of the family, and about how they have been all greedy money lovers since their father died. Amanda and Edwardís sister, ĎMiss Nellí, apparently left one day, not even staying for her fatherís funeral. As the story goes on, Edward reveals his darker side more and more to Esther, making his intentions for the death of Amanda, be it suicide or murder, known to the fullest.
The longer the nurse stays in the house, the more mysterious everything gets, what with finding dazed and confused, sleepwalking Amanda on the staircase, and eagerly attempting to open the front door. Edward buys sodium cyanide to get rid of Ďcoyotesí, and confronts Amanda about his hopes to have her offed clearly. The secrets cannot keep themselves hidden any longer, with everybody suspecting, questioning, and discovering all of the crippling details of the murderous ways of the family past...and possible, near future!
Many horror films of the age were letting loose with gore here, blood there, and down right disgusting spotlights in the most unusual places. Die Sister, Die did not follow this trend. Much. And it works. Guts and grue, while often times the main focus of low budget thrills, did not overcome the characterization or plot, which was by far the most important aspect of Hoodís film. Surprisingly, some truly gruesome footage was captured for carnage enthusiasts. A woman falls down to her death, dummy-style, but the awkward positions could make anyone cringe. Either that, or laugh their ass off. The most shocking and sick scene of the feature is in a highlight piece which Amanda has a hallucinatory, arty dream, where in she rips the head off of her sister. The blood drips like a brush fresh out of red paint, and if it had been imitated a bit more, Die Sister, Die could have been a bit more memorable. The lack of nudity didnít seem to aid its cult status either, but for a classy gothic horror such as this, it wasnít needed to begin with.
The fewer amount of faces on screen, the better. With a light cast, somewhat memorable and performance worthy, you never scram around the monitor marking off names as the dialogue passes from one to another. Itís simple, itís kind of predictable, but it works! Almost like a Shakespearean play, itís not Ďwhatís going to happení, itís Ďwhenís it going to happení? The freaky dreams were a major plus, and the visuals, short and sweet, worked wonders. A more colorful nurse would have been nice. Antoinette Bower looks like sheís comfortable with the character of Esther, but never takes it to the next level. The same damn expression is spread across her face for seemingly every emotion. Thank God for a developed voice. Atwater and Ging are your typical 70s actors, and nothing more should be expected from them. The Spanish maid was a nice comic relief character as well, though I doubt that was her original intent. You canít help but smile every time Conde comes up. The amount of scenes sheís in, however, are far too little in number.
How easy it would be to market the film as pure thriller, but to do so would be to ignore the imagery and themes that jump within. Itís no mystery killer, no slasher, and certainly a few dozen parrots away from a splatter house. Released on DVD by Brentwood, Family Value, and St. Clair Vision, the choice is yours. But beware, many could be simple digitally mastered (though not very well) VHS clean-ups. My St. Clair Vision was! If so, youíre better off with the VHS. No commentary; no widescreen; no original vault materials. I bet my appendix that itís an unauthorized release. What a shame. At least eight minutes of horror film trailers accompany the DVD, and thatís it! Though what really matters is the film, and Die Sister, Die is one that should be rescued from obscurity. Itís out there. Search a little, and you could be pleasantly surprised. Donít go in expecting a lot, and spend it on any Friday night. Your collection should get along fine with this addition. Buy it!
comments powered by Disqus Ratings: