Chiller (1985)
By: Julian on March 6, 2009  | 
Umbrella (Australia). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 86 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Michael Beck, Beatrice Straight, Laura Johnson, Paul Sorvino
Screenplay: J.D. Feigelson
Country: USA
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Wes Craven is without a doubt one of the shining icons of horror cinema, creating films that are looked upon as some of the genre's best - from his blistering 1972 debut The Last House on the Left, to creating one of the most enduring movie antagonists Freddy Krueger twelve years later, then giving the American horror genre a much needed kick-in-the-teeth with Scream (a comment I make knowing full well it's de rigueur to hate that movie). But amongst the stellar projects, Craven has done some real stinkers, usually made-for-TV dreck or hack-jobs that are just Ulli Lommel films, cashed-up.

This movie, his first project after A Nightmare on Elm Street and made for the CBS network, sits in the latter end of the scale. Chiller is typical made-for-TV material, with the lethargic acting and lazier direction, nothing more than a stop-gap. It does, however, feature an interesting presence in the ever-dependable Paul Sorvino, one of the film's few (maybe "only") saving graces.

Miles Creighton (Michael Beck) is young and successful, a CEO at his father's corporation and one day, he dies. Completely shattered, his mother Marion decides to cryogenically freeze Miles to preempt any future medical procedure that could bring him back to life in the future. Ten years later the freezing device breaks down, thawing Miles and forcing Marion and the doctors to make an executive decision: let him go, or attempt a revival procedure that could not have been undertaken when Miles was first frozen a decade ago. After seeking advice from Father Penny (Sorvino), Marion selects the latter and, to everybody's surprise, Miles regains consciousness.

Miles resumes duties at his (now dead) father's company and begins a merciless managerial purge. One of the focuses of his bile is Clarence, an old veteran who kept the company afloat after Miles father's death. When Clarence is callously let go, he has a heart attack on the stairwell. Miles ignores Clarence and Marion's pleas to reinstate the loyal executive, and grooms a young woman for the job.

Miles' behaviour twists from the rude and unemotional, to the sociopathic, beating up his secretary and trying to seduce his cousin. Father Penny approaches Marion and attempts to convince her that her son is not the man he was when he died, but to no avail. Things come to a head when Father Penny confronts Miles, who responds in a bit of attempted vehicular homicide. Only then is Marion able to concede her son is a soulless madman and becomes intent on stopping him.

Chiller's got a whole barrel full of faults, but the worst of those is that it's flat-out boring. Craven's attempt to direct an intelligent psychological thriller is significantly let down by JD Feigelson's completely inadequate and poorly paced screenplay. The acting's no good either, and after a few attempts by Michael Beck to mould Miles Creighton into a creepy, profoundly malevolent presence, he seems to lose interest. No one, besides the typically-good Sorvino, seems to acknowledge Chiller as anything legitimate or worth putting effort into, least of all Craven, who just blueprints the directorial techniques and flourishes he utilised so effectively in A Nightmare on Elm Street a year before.

Of the great horror directors, few have been as variable in output as Wes Craven. It's hard to believe, when looking at his current oeuvre in retrospect, that the guy behind such tremendous films could churn out money-grubbing rubbish like this on a regular basis.
Absolutely appalling – so appalling that Umbrella saw fit to insert a disclaimer at the start of the film saying that the print was not normally of the standard they would acquire, but there was no alternative. I've seen better nth generation VHS prints than this one, but I would imagine that if there was a better print out there, Umbrella would have sourced it. Presentation is in it's original 1:33:1 ratio.
The English mono track is awful, at times impossible to understand, particularly at some volume. Dana Kaproff's soundtrack is fairly sub-standard thumping organ and orchestral fare.
Extra Features
Zero. Not even a menu screen.
The Verdict
Without a doubt the quality of the transfer detracts further from the experience, but Chiller lacks any sort of malice, with Michael Beck's monotoned antagonist perpetually falling short of any sort of fearsome mark. Definitely in the murky lower-half of the Craven canon.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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