Shocking Dark Blu Ray Review (Severin Films)
Shocking Dark (aKa Terminator II, Terminator 2, Aliens 2, Aliennators, Specters of Venice, & Contaminator) is a 1989 science fiction film directed by Bruno Mattei (In the Land of the Cannibals, Mondo Cannibal, Women’s Prison Massacre, & Women’s Camp 119) under the name “Vincent Dawn”. It was written by Claudio Fragasso (The Other Hell, Monster Dog, & Troll 2) & it was produced by Franco Gaudenzi (Zombie 3, Zombie 4: After Death, & Robowar). It was released two years before the official Terminator 2: Judgment Day film. Despite it’s obvious rip off of that franchise it actually has more in common with another James Cameron film Aliens. It was never released in theaters or on home video in America due to legal issues. It got a wide release everywhere else & it was controversial! Mattei was one of the best at ripping off popular films & making his own version, this was his craziest effort of doing that causing mass confusion!
In Venice, the seaweed is killing the oxygen in the waters. It leaves the city toxic & disastrous to all of it’s residents. It has wiped out most of the population & caused chaos in the community. In the year 2000, this apocalyptic wasteland has the remaining survivors evacuated to a secure location. A few scientist & guards get slaughtered by a mysterious intruder. A professor gets a warning out to them before all hell breaks loose. Colonel Parson (played by: Bruce McFarland) & Captain Bond (played by: Mark Steinborn from Condition Critical & Screw Loose) set up a mission called Operation Delta Venice to investigate the incident. They call upon the Mega Force which includes Lieutentant Koster (played by: Geretta Geretta from Demons, Murder Rock, Rats: Night of Terror, & Domino), Lieutentant Franzini (played by: Fausto Lombardi from Rats: Night of Terror, Zombie 4: After Death, & Madness), Caine (played by: Cortland Reilly), Price (played by: Richard Ross), & Kowalsky (played by: Paul Norman Allen from The Gamble & Aquile). The elite team is forced to bring scientist Dr. Sara Drumbull (played by: Haven Tyler) & Tubular Corporation representative Samuel Fuller (played by: Christopher Ahrens from Titus, Beyond Justice, & Raiders of the Magic Ivory) with them. They go through the tunnels which leads to them to traumatized scientist Paul Drake (played by: Clive Riche from Cemetery Man, Mother of Tears, Empire, & Rome) & the young Samantha (played by: Dominica Coulson). They soon discover the population has increased in this disaster area but it’s a dangerous threat rather than a friendly face that could help. They discover hidden secrets that caused this mass hysteria & these deadly creations that could make their whole community existent! They must battle the unknown to save humanity & their own lives in this living hell!!!!
Have you ever imagined what Aliens would look like if it was produced by Italians on a lower budget? Probably not but it was still made in 1989 riding the success of 1986’s Aliens from James Cameron & hoping to trick consumers into seeing it. This was the Asylum of the 80s but after saying all of that you have to ask yourself then why it was called Terminator 2 in most countries & why did they use the obvious rip off artwork of it to promote this film? I will get into that a little later on so keep reading. Personally, I love most of these cheap Italian knock offs & if you seen my movie collection that would be an understatement. I always respected how they turned nothing into something all the time. A low budget never stopped them from being creative & even making things more exciting than some of the originals. All the main characters are clones from those popular films that everyone knows but in these productions I think they add an extra charm to them. The set pieces, special effects, & music were very good for it’s time & lack of money. They knew what kind of film they were making but they worked hard to make it the best final product they could. Terminator fans still have something to be excited about when it comes to Shocking Dark since everything about the advertisements & promotional material tease a similar film. I’d say the last 20 minutes switches from Aliens to Terminator so you get to experience both imitations in the same feature! This is such a entertaining viewing experience. It gives you everything that you would expect from something like this & more. Science Fiction/Horror fans get to see plenty of violent & gooey effects to keep them on their toes during it’s running time. I’ve seen other rip offs from both franchises & Shocking Dark is definitely one of the best to borrow their concepts.
Let’s talk about the high definition presentation. This 1080p (1.78:1) 2K transfer from the Director’s Cut negative found in a Rome Lab vault looks pretty impressive considering it’s age & lower budget. Cinematographer Riccardo Grassetti (Strike Commando 1/2, Zombie 3, & Blazing Flowers) always added a stylish approach when he shot a film. This brand new scan elevates his work & highlights the creative set pieces used in this feature. This is the first time that I’ve seen Shocking Dark so I can’t really compare it to any other version out there but if I was a betting man I’d say this is the best that it’s ever looked considering the top notch treatment Severin Films provided with this new blu ray. It’s great to see this finally get a home video release in America after all these years! The DTS-HD Master English Audio 2.0 roars in the home system with all it’s action & mayhem taking place. The 2nd half of the film especially has an extra kick to it when everything goes down. As always with Severin, the soundtrack & score really shine on this track. It’s also available in Italian, Spanish, German, & Chinese. It includes English subtitles.
Let’s discuss the special features on this blu ray release from Severin Films! “Terminator in Venice” is a 13 minute interview with the creative team of Claudio Fragasso & Rossella Drudi. They say producers were always looking for films similar to the American ones for foreign markets. They were specifically asked to rip off Terminator & both of Alien films at the time. Rossella Drudi decided to knock off Aliens more than the other two films in Shocking Dark. She talks about how she was forced to name some characters the same as the ones they were intimidating. She chats about writing the script & adding a few of her own original ideas to go with the similar concepts from before. They say the director & crew had nothing to do with this being called Terminator 2. It was all done behind their backs & the public wasn’t happy about this shameless attempt to sell the film. They mention some of their other projects that were treated this way. They both don’t understand why so many people love this film because they both pretty much hate it.
They mention it’s probably because it’s the only film & script that they worked on that had no creative control whatsoever. They were forced to deliver certain things to meet expectations. I think this was the first time that I’ve ever seen Claudio Fragasso claim he had nothing to do with the direction. If you know him, when it comes to Bruno Mattei projects there’s almost always controversy & mystery to who directed what back in the day. Personally, I’ve seen enough material from both film makers & I can tell the difference between their styles. It’s in Italian with English subtitles. “Once upon a Time in Italy” is an almost 13 minute interview with actress Geretta Geretta. She talks about her earlier modeling days & film roles. She chats about moving to Italy & working with Bruno Mattei on Rats. She makes it very clear that Bruno directed it & no one else that claims it did.She mentions her experiences on Murder Rock & Demons. She says Fulci was easy to work with & he was always professional. She goes into great detail about the production of Demons. She says Domino was her favorite performance from herself. She talks about working with Bruno again on Shocking Dark. She said he had a much lower budget than their previous collaboration. She goes into details about the production & working on other science fiction projects. She mentioned that Bruno helped her out on her own directorial effort. You get almost 2 minutes of “Alternate Italian Titles”. Last but not least, the Theatrical Trailer is provided. Severin Films completely KILLED IT with this recent batch that also includes Zombie 3 & Zombie 4. All 3 are instantly favorites in my collection now! I love the black cases that Severin Films have been using lately. A limited edition version with the amazing Terminator 2 slipcover is available direct from Severin Films. Do not sleep on this rare opportunity, this exclusive won’t last long & it will never be available again. Various exclusive bundles & a DVD are also available from their official site. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND picking this up. Titles like this need all the support they can get so Severin Films can save more films from obscurity. It’s available everywhere right now, CHECK IT OUT!!!!