Women are being brutally murdered throughout the city by the terrifying Night Ripper! This video store gem is a low-budget whodunit that actually offers some decent plot twists and turns with enough red herrings to keep you guessing. Culture Shock and Vinegar Syndrome once again team up to bring this shot-on-video classic a proper Blu-ray release. The A/V package is subject to limitations of the original elements but there are some very entertaining and informative bonus features to pick through for fans. Worth A Look
Models throughout the city are being slaughtered. Someone is taking a cue from London’s infamous gentleman serial killer Jack the Ripper and is butchering and mutilating these beautiful innocent women. For local photographer David (James Hansen), these news stories were mild curiosities. But when one of his models and then his fiance both end up slaughtered by the Ripper, David is caught in the crosshairs of the cops working the case. Now David will have to figure out who is killing these women before his beautiful new girlfriend becomes the next victim of the Ripper!
All credit where credit is due to Writer/Director Jeff Hathcock, Night Ripper is actually a pretty solid little whodunit horror/thriller. While some of the performances can be a bit on the amateurish side and the show definitely wears its small budget on its sleeves, Hathcock manages to stage some suspenseful sequences with a tight plot to hold your attention and invest in the tension. I’ll say I was pretty well ahead of the film but there were a couple of pretty good red herrings that actually threw me off the identity of the killer early on, and that’s not an easy feat to accomplish!
Much of the film does have the look and feel of an 80s industrial film. Sets are relatively cheap and often simple corners of a blank-looking room with a table and chairs. But, when it counts most, there are some inventive locations and suspense sequences to spice things up. A low budget shouldn’t always be the scarlet letter of doom for a film, it’s just something a creative filmmaker will have to overcome and Hathcock manages that task skillfully. The final act is a great example of how a simple location and lighting can lend to the overall mood and atmosphere for a thrilling finish.
As a whole, this was a fun little chiller of a thriller. The cast does what they can, and you can see some of the pedigree in the performances, but this film is also a great early example of some semi-famous character actors. The two big names folks might notice are April Audia of Fast Times at Ridgemont High fame, and the legendary Soup Nazi himself, Larry Thomas as David’s sleazeball coworker Mitch in one of his first roles. As I noted, performances are a bit amateurish, but you can tell this is a cast of actors largely starting their careers dreaming to make it big. The video market was booming in the 80s so this was often the best starting point many could hope for. Like so many shows, some have gone on to greater things, others started and ended their runs right here.
At the end of the day, Night Ripper proved to be quite the entertaining shot-on-video slasher. As more of these old rental shop favorites return from their magnetized graves, genre fans young and old are getting to rediscover these lost gems. While this might not grab the attention of most folks, the niche genre fan out there should have a great time with Night Ripper.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Night Ripper slices and dices its way onto Blu-ray thanks to Culture Shock releasing and Vinegar Syndrome. Pressed on a Region Free BD-50 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy case with reversible insert artwork. If you order through Vinegar Syndrome you also pick up an exclusive slipcover. The disc loads to an animated main menu with standard navigation options.
Right up front, I’m not grading this transfer against your average modern digitally shot or shot-on-film Blu-ray release. This is an 80s SOV movie and it looks like that. Presented in its original video 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Night Ripper picks up a transfer that can best be best described as "goods as it's ever going to get." Shot on video in the 1980s, this movie is only going to look just so good and it can’t fairly be graded against modern digital video or film releases on the format. But for me, that’s kind of the point of having a movie like Night Ripper on Blu-ray in the first place. You want it to look as much as possible like that VHS tape you blindly rented nearly 35 years ago, and it does! You have all the hallmarks of fuzzy details, washed-out colors, brown-ish shadows, and any number of video artifacts baked in for a perfectly delightful VHS appearance.
Coming in with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, Night Ripper doesn’t exactly make any sonic waves either. Like its video counterpart, it’s locked in on the format without a lot of wiggle room. Dialog is largely audible without issue, but there are a couple of spots where some lines mumble along and aren’t easy to fully discern. Sound effects are also equally choppy leading to some post-production canned library effects on top of whatever was recorded on set. Scoring is pretty basic but there are some fun backtracks and a featured song midway through to spice things up.
While it’s fun to have these VHS gems on disc, Culture Shock digs out a pretty impressive selection of bonus features for fans to dig into. You score new cast and director interviews, a very entertaining commentary track, and some extended gore sequences to satisfy any SOV horror hound.
Night Ripper probably won’t make the lists of the greatest movies ever made, but for a movie of a generation shot on tape for the VHS rental market, this is gold! Writer/Director Jeff Hathcock uses every penny of his small budget managing to craft a decently shot and constructed little thriller. Sure, there’s room for more effects, better actors, and bigger production design, but for every dollar available to this show it was money well spent.
Culture Shock releasing continues their good work of unearthing these lost or forgotten rental market gems. This movie has been largely forgotten since it hit rental shelves 35 years ago and now niche genre and cult fans can rediscover this flick. The A/V presentation is what it is, a shot-on-video production. Visually it won’t compare to the brightest and best Blu-rays out there, but for this kind of movie, it perfectly recreates the VHS experience. Genre fans will also have a blast with the great selection of bonus features assembled for this release. If you’re a fan of SOV movies, check out Night Ripper! Worth A Look