Dead North is a 1991 SOV thriller about a group of adulterous New Jersey couples hoping to solve their marital woes with a camping trip. From the infamous W.A.V.E. Productions studio the film is a tedious slow-burn thriller that culminates with a killer terrorizing the campers. The feature dabbles in fetish themes but struggles to maintain momentum and coherency. Saturn’s Core brings the film to Blu-ray with a serviceable A/V package given the film's technical limitations. This release arrives with plenty of bonus features making this release perfect For Fans Only.
“We’ll park on the southern end and walk dead north.”
The New Jersey-based W.A.V.E. Productions studio found its footing by creating SOV shorts tailored to their customers' unique desires. Founder Gary Whitson would shoot these micro-budget shorts with amateur actors who would be game for anything. Dead North would be Whitson's third feature-length effort starring his band of performers. However, this time around he would attempt to emphasize the story and characters rather than focusing on specific kinks or fetishes.
Our Jersey suburban drama begins with war veteran Jake whose PTSD episodes are so severe his buxom wife Laura fears for her life. When not hogtied in their basement or slapped around she is dressing up in lingerie and meeting a friend for some afternoon delights. However, Laura’s luck soon changes when she discovers her co-worker Tisa is Jake’s mistress. Naturally, the two women resolve their dispute with a sexy “girl fight” while the camera focuses on their sheer pantyhose and high heels. Across town, Carl hires private investigator Peggy to snoop on his wife Cynthia who he suspects is cheating on him. Eventually, the two couples decide a camping trip with their friends is the best way to reignite their marriages and squelch any issues between them. More friends join the mix which is a difficult affair and apparently takes numerous living room meetings and phone calls to set up. All the while Laura is taking matters into her own hands no matter the consequences.
Dead North takes about 45 minutes to get through the tedious living room drama and bedroom-hopping activities before getting us into the woods. Thankfully Whitson provides just enough dramatic irony to keep us interested in the anticipated third-act violence. Once in the wilderness, the tension drops like a stone as the actors aimlessly mill about setting up camp. Jake’s ‘Nam stories alarm the others and ignite some drama as he runs about setting booby traps. Unbeknownst to the couples, Peggy and some of her friends arrive and wander about the woods snooping on Cynthia.
Where Dead North succeeds is in its ambition to be a salacious slasher with a host of bodies ready for the slaughter. I can admire Whitson’s approach of giving us plenty of character development and bedroom scenes leading up to the kills, but balancing those elements never really paid off for me. However, the bloody effects used in the kill scenes are particularly good given the film’s scope and resources. Whitson seems to know how to handle himself shooting the POV slasher bits which helps elevate the proceedings after a host of one-shot dialogue exchanges.
Performances from the W.A.V.E. actors are all wooden but their commitment to the process and kinky moments is commendable. It can be hard to follow the drama between the couples as they move from each other’s bedrooms but once they get to the camping trip things pick up a bit. While pacing and momentum is an issue the filmmakers clearly know the kind of film they want to make and their audience. Whitson tones down the fetish angle just enough to allow the narrative to function without it but allows his curious camera enough time to keep interested audiences wanting more. There is no nudity per se, but the lingering shots of hogtied women, and pantyhose girl fights will satisfy those hoping for something to satisfy all their cravings.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Dead North arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Saturn’s Core and Vinegar Syndrome. The Region Free disc is housed in a transparent keepcase with reversible artwork and an insert booklet with an essay from Ross Snyder.
The AVC-encoded 1080i HD image is transferred from the original Dead North S-VHS master tapes with its original 1.37.1 aspect ratio. As expected the detail, sharpness, and clarity aren’t defining features of this image. Primaries are discernable with pronounced saturation in costuming. Black levels are satisfactory though detail is lost within shadows. Within the limitations of the source material, the HD transfer appears on par with other releases from Saturn’s Core.
Dead North arrives on Blu-ray with a serviceable DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo mix. Dialogue exchanges are relatively clear given the on-camera microphones used in the production. Hiss and pop aren’t evident though fidelity strains under the scene conditions and blocking of the actors. Music and effects are defined though they struggle within the mix to find clarity and balance. Overall a pleasing mix given the source material for this SOV feature. Subtitles are available and highly recommended for those willing to fully commit to the film.
Saturn’s Core doesn’t disappoint as this release is loaded with bonus features. Additional W.A.V.E. Productions short films and a remake of the feature accompany the stellar commentary tracks. SOV fans should start with the shorts before moving through the other offerings.
Dead North struggles to escape the fetish trappings of other W.A.V.E. films by allowing Whitson to develop a lengthy tale of marital infidelity around a third act slasher element. Overall the film has some great moments within the kills and bedroom seductions but wallows in sustained dialogue exchanges. Those looking to satisfy a particular kink within the film should explore the other W.A.V.E films released on Blu-ray through Vinegar Syndrome.
Saturn’s Core brings Dead North to Blu-ray with a serviceable A/V package given the film’s source limitations. Chances are if this feature is in your wheel house you won't mind the analogue patina one damn bit. SOV fans will enjoy the plethora of bonus features included makign this relase For Fans Only.