What happens when a throng of George Romero's industry pals collaborate on a suspense thriller? Not a lot. I really wanted to like 1980's Effects. When I discovered that Tom Savini and Joe Pilato starred in a "lost" horror film, I figured that I was on the cusp of disinterring a rarefied bauble, a diamond in the rough. While the cast is adequate, the totality of Effects put my pulse out to pasture with the potency of an antihistamine. This is one slow flick. Substantial conflict doesn't rear its shuddersome head until the 60-minute mark. So what happens during the first hour? A bunch of nothing. Literally. I'm telling you, the exposition is aimless to a fault, and I'm not even comfortable calling it an exposition.
The basic premise could have worked in a more streamlined film (in fact, it did; see 2000's Shadow of the Vampire). We follow a director, a few actors, a cameraman, an effects technician and a gaffer as they shoot a low-budget shocker. As the project progresses, some of the crew members begin to question the mental stability of Lacey, the grand vizier (in transoceanic cultures, this figure is referred to as the "head honcho" or the "big cheese"). Eventually, we learn that Lacey is hellbent on engineering a snuff film. Holy shit. I just realized that this is a tame, suggestive version of A Serbian Film. Say what you want about A Serbian Film, but at least it's not boring. Effects is interminably bland.
Y'know, it's almost as if director Dusty Nelson was attempting to turn lethargy into an artform. As I said before, I wanted to dig this flick, but it's hard to become invested in an hour's worth of capricious, irresolute dialogue. Have I mentioned that nothing happens until the third act? Because nothing fucking happens. My God. The movie that the characters are shooting is more interesting than Effects, and I say that without a hint of sarcasm. You might be wondering where Savini and Pilato come into play. The former has a bit role as an obstinate cretin. He never gets enough credit for his acting chops, but he brings more to the table than prosthetic limbs. The latter gives a striking performance as Dom (hey, that's my name!), the sole protagonist.
I alluded to the talented cast in the opening paragraph, but I feel the need to expound on the acting. Everyone knows Pilato as the hostile, belligerent Rhodes in Day of the Dead. As many times as I've seen said zombie epic (at this point, I think I prefer it to Dawn of the Dead), it never crossed my mind for the duration of Effects. Dom and Rhodes are worlds apart, but here, Pilato proves that he can pull off the good guy. He's virtually unrecognizable. John Harrison is chilling as Lacey. There is a quiet menace in his stare that pervades each scene he steals. FACTOID: Harrison provided the score for Creepshow and Day of the Dead. In other words, he rules.
The finale is well-staged, but I didn't care what happened to these people. I was pooped as a result of the plodding pace. Still, Effects isn't universally panned. You may very well get more out of this film than I did, but I'm chalking it up as a daft novelty item.
Posted by Dom Coccaro at 8:45 PM