Orgy of the Dead

Color, 1987, 86 mins. 26 secs.
Directed by Gorman Bechard
Starring Carmine Capobianco, Debi Thibeault, Frank Stewart, Cecelia Wilde, Donna Davidge, Jerry Rakow
Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC), Shriek Show (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), CMV Laservision (DVD) (Germany R2 PAL)

A Psychos in Lovestraight-to-VHS Psychos in Lovefilm that earned a shocking amount of indie ink in its day, the truly astonishing 1987 meta-horror treasure is a 16mm wonder that would have probably killed midnight audiences had it come out a few years earlier.

While the title might lead you to expect some sort of '80s update of The Honeymoon Killers, this is a much odder beast as it chronicles the warped romantic relationship that blossoms between two closeted serial killers, Joe (played by co-writer Carmine Capobianco), a lonely guy with a severe grape phobia, and Kate (Thibeault), who likes to kill people when she isn't doing their nails. Their surprisingly effective blissful relationship is soon strained by external factors, among them a cannibalistic plumber and the natural competitive natures that arise when couples have similar interests -- in this case, committing as much homicide as possible.

As much a comedy as a horror film, this labor of love for director Gorman Bechard packs in knowing references to its illustrious horror predecessors without becoming obnoxious or overdone, and in this case the simplistic, go-for-the-throat '80s aesthetic definitely Psychos in Loveworks in its favor. Chintzy synth music, a topless new waver, non sequitur monologues to the camera, even a theme song... If you're Psychos in Lovein the right frame of mind, it doesn't get any better than this. Both of the leads are quite likable; it's too bad no one ever thought about making a crossover sequel teaming them up with the Blands from Eating Raoul.

After years of video limbo following its 1987 VHS release from Wizard Video, this lovable sick puppy finally came back in circulation courtesy of CMV Laservision in Germany in 2005 and then from Shriek Show in 2009 on DVD. That lavishly-appointed release comes with two Bechard commentaries (one solo, the other with Capobianco; the first one's better), a montage of making-of photos, the title sequence created for the Wizard release (remember that?), a modest reel of extended footage that completists might enjoy, and weirdest of all, a highlight reel (13m46s) from the stage version mounted in Chicago in 2003! It's up there with the stage production of The Children seen on Troma's DVD for oddball novelty value. Meatiest of all is a featurette, "Making Psychos in Love" (13m1s), which features just about everyone involved both behind and in front of the camera discussing the making of a film whose full cult potential has yet to be reached. The full frame transfer itself looks exactly like what you'd expect for a low budget '87 movie; basically it's fine, splashy, and colorful, right up there with the better ones done from 16mm. There was even an extensive official site set up for the film, too. Psychos in Love

Psychos in LoveIn 2017, the film landed up with Vinegar Syndrome for an even more elaborate dual-format special edition with a fresh new scan from the 16mm negative. It looks even better, shockingly good in fact, and makes for an appearance so drastically different and improved from the original way '80s horror fans experienced it that it truly feels like a different film with more spacious and pleasing framing to boot. English SDH subtitles are provided for the clean English LPCM audio track.

An optional intro (32s) with Bechard and Capobianco is also included, and apart from the older gallery, everything from the Shriek Show release has been ported over here (both commentaries, featurette, stage version piece, alternate VHS opening)-- with a huge amount of new goodies as well. "Directing Psychos in Love" (11m11s) features Bechard compressing the origin and production of the film into a funny long anecdote, starting off with tales of how the script was written over a two-week period in a strip club and shooting the film over weekends for a month in the middle of summer. Capobianco gets the same treatment with a new interview (15m26s) about playing one of the main psychos and doing other jobs on the production, including "washing the dishes," and explaining the origin of the grape-hating aspect of the plot as well as the making of the phenomenal video store scene. An extended conversation between both men from the same interview sessions (20m6s) covers more odds and ends about the "go for broke" method behind the film as well as a line Capobianco wished had been Psychos in Loveleft in the film. A 2016 appearance by Capobianco at Cinema Wasteland (49m18s) with moderator Art Ettinger is the most substantive of the new additions, going into often hilarious detail about the artistic collaborations that spawned this film; he repeats a few of his tidbits from elsewhere here but the bulk of it is Psychos in Loveilluminating, including an explanation of what happened to a multi-picture deal with Charles Band that was supposed to kick in after this film's release (including Galactic Gigolo and Cemetery High). His stories of how the production company eventually fell apart over a script screw-up, with other projects down the line in the wilds of micro-budget genre films still ahead. Two new, greatly expanded galleries (behind the scenes and promotional images) follow next along with the trailer, plus a 9m55s sample of alternate and extended material from a VHS copy of the film's rough edit. Finally you can see more of the creativity behind this film firsthand with four Bechard short films -- blackout comedy bit "The Only Take" (2m32s), "Pairs" (33s of breast shots with a punchline at the end), surreal B&W dark comedy "Bartholemew" (6m33s), and grim experimental piece "Object in the Mirror Are Further Than They Appear" (14m59s) -- which all show a different aspect of the director's humorous and artistic leanings. ("Bartholomew" is the definitely the pick of the pack.) Also included is an insert booklet with appreciative, detailed essays by Ettinger and Matt Desiderio, while the reversible cover features new art by Derek Gabryszak on the front and the beloved VHS design on the back.

Reviewed on September 19, 2017.