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Home | Film Review: Effects (1980)

Film Review: Effects (1980)


Members of a film crew learn to their dismay that the horror film that they are working on is actually a snuff film.


I knew pretty much nothing about Effects before I watched it (to be honest I had never even heard of it) but I thought that it sounded like it had potential to be a pretty fun little movie. Even if the premise was painfully unoriginal and similar to a handful of other movies I’d seen over the years I still assumed I was going to be in for a good time. I mean come on, it’s about people tricking other unsuspecting people into starring in a snuff film, has a pretty impressive cast (which includes Tom Savini, John Harrison, Joseph Pilato, and Debra Gordon), and was directed by Dusty Nelson who directed some pretty cool stuff such as the totally underrated Necromancer from 1988 as well as an episode of Tales from the Darkside back in the day. Going into the movie knowing all that I was certain I was about to watch a hidden gem that somehow managed to elude me all these years. Boy, was I wrong.

Without a doubt the biggest problem that I had with Effects is that it was mind-numbingly boring. Nothing happens worth mentioning for the first hour or so and even when things do start to get going it isn’t anything spectacular. It moves way too slow and I lost count of how many times I almost feel asleep while I was watching it. I was expecting an awesome slasher flick loaded with one brutal and bloody death scene after the other but what I got instead was a bunch of boring characters talking about boring things that I didn’t care about for about 85% of the film. I thought that the entire movie was incredibly uninteresting and after sitting through about 45 minutes of it without anything of note taking place I realized I just didn’t care anymore and was more than a little eager for the end credits to roll so I could move on to better and more interesting things. Almost the entire movie moves at a snail’s pace until toward the end when most of the death scenes (and there aren’t that many of them) are quickly crammed in at the last minute as almost an afterthought.

I was also let down by the fact that I was led to believe that Effects was a slasher flick. If you look at the cover art it looks like your typical slasher movie but nothing could be further from the truth. It isn’t a slasher flick, and in my humble opinion is barely a horror film in general. It is more of a drama with a few suspense movie elements thrown into the mix but it really isn’t that suspenseful. I really don’t think that the people behind it knew exactly what they wanted it to be and it is a very hard movie to set through as a result. It’s pretty hard to mess up a movie about someone making a snuff film but somehow the people responsible for Effects managed to do just that.

Even though it had a decent cast none of them really shined this time around. Most of them didn’t really put much effort into their performances and it appeared to me that none of them really wanted to be there to begin with. I don’t know if Savini and the others did the movie as a favor or something but it was quite obvious that none of them were really feeling it as most of them phoned in it for the most part. Savini in particular looks bored to tears pretty much every time he pops up on camera and while Pilato (who plays the main character Dominic) almost tries a couple of times it just seems like his heart isn’t into it like it was when he played Rhodes in Day of the Dead. I don’t know if the actors involved knew they had a turkey on their hands and didn’t put any effort into things as a result or what, but to say that the acting that takes place in this movie is bad is a bit of an understatement.

As you can tell I wasn’t a fan of Effects which is unfortunate because I really wanted to like it before I watched it. Apparently there was a problem getting it distributed after it was initially made back in the day and after seeing it I’m really not that surprised. I was expecting it to be something special but I have to say that I was truly disappointed after everything was said and done. Check it out if it sounds like your thing but keep in mind that it most likely isn’t going to be what you expect it to be.

Bonus Materials

  • AFTER EFFECTS documentary with optional commentary track
  • UBU short film
  • BEASTIE short film
  • Archival commentary track with John Harrison, Dusty Nelson, and Pasquale Buba
  • Liner notes by Joseph A. Ziemba of AGFA and Bleeding Skull!
  • New 4K scan from the only 35mm theatrical print in existence

Effects (1980) is now available on bluray per MVD

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