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Blu-Ray : Recommended
Ranking:
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Release Date: January 31st, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1992

Death Magic

Overview -

Death Magic is a 1992 SOV supernatural slasher about a group of magicians who resurrect the spirit of a bloodthirsty Civil War Major hellbent on killing the descendants of those who wronged him. Ambitious and verging on sexploitation, the feature is filled with occult rituals, love triangles, gratuitous nudity, and enough blood-spurting kills to please horror fans. Culture Shock Releasing brings this video store oddity to Blu-ray with a pleasing A/V package and plenty of special features for fans to worship. Recommended.

Powell Davidson and his magician friends are tired of working under Donald Graham. They want to get into some serious magic, some necromancy. Powell has computed the perfect time to summon a spirit. In an abandoned pueblo outside of town, they perform their spell and unwittingly unleash Aaron Parker, a murderous Civil War Major, to fulfill his dying curse -- to kill the descendants of every person who condemned him to death by hanging in 1875!

directed by: Paul Clinco
starring: Keith DeGreen, Anne Coffrey, Norman Stone, Jack Dunlap
1992 / 93 min / 1.33:1 / English DTS HD-MA 2.0

Additional info:

  • Region Free Blu-ray
  • Feature-length commentary by Director Paul Clinco
  • Rough cut ending featuring extended gore sequences
  • Excerpt from Genre Grinder podcast about Death Magic
  • Comparison of available video sources
  • Behind the scenes still gallery
  • Gallery of reviews and synopses
  • English SDH subtitles

Purchase Original Edition From Vinegar Syndrome.

OVERALL:
Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
93
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Director Commentary, Rough Cut Ending (10mins), Podcast Excerpt (17mins), Source Comparison (5mins), Photo Gallery (4mins), Review Gallery (7mins), Culture Shock Trailers (5mins)
Release Date:
January 31st, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

“Was my bed a way station on your quest for knowledge?” 

Major Parker (Jack Dunlap, The Manhunt) is sentenced to death and hanged for war crimes in 1875. His actions resulted in the massacre of a peaceful tribe of Native Americans and the murders of innocent people attempting to question his authority. Fast forward to the 1990s where dorky black magic practitioner Powell (Keith DeGreen) leads a group of fledgling magicians in a necromancy ritual. Soon their astral ramblings conjure the spirit of Parker who goes on a rampage slicing through the descendants of his cavalry brigade with his cutlass. Under pressure from the group Powell seeks help from his once mentor Donald Graham (Norman Stone, Perdita Durango) who obliges because he wants to win back angsty ex-lover Marisa (Anne Coffrey) who left him for Powell. 

Death Magic leans into the historical elements of the story devoting a generous amount of screen time to Parker’s backstory. The film is an ambitious production with believable Civil War-era set pieces peppered through the narrative as we bounce around in time. Dunlap imbues the crazed officer with a terrifying sense of allegiance to his mission as he slaughters innocents without hesitation. His performance can sometimes be a bit campy, especially when scenes announce his arrival with red lights and dry ice wafting through the frame. 

What makes Death Magic such an engaging thriller isn’t the insane gore effects but the inclusion of power dynamics, love triangles, and the sexually liberated attitudes of our characters. This supernatural slasher contains more character development and emphasis on relationships than most SOV flicks of its ilk. We’re drawn into the lives of these characters even when they’re completely unlikable because the drama played out is just as intense as their rituals. 

Cast with actors from director Paul Clinco’s Domino Theater group, performances are committed even when they’re expected to vomit mouthfuls of astral nonsense, my favorite being from Graham when scolding Powell when he snorts, “So you improvised on a clavicle of Solomon?” DeGreen and Stone bring equal parts intensity and camp to the table with a supporting cast rising to the challenge. 

Filled with velvet capes, daggers, tomes of forbidden knowledge, and eerie candle-lit rooms, Death Magic is pure fodder for theater geeks. Thankfully its low-budget appearance never gets in the way of the committed cast and solid gore effects which confidently anchor this supernatural slasher.  

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Death Magic
arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Culture Shock Releasing. The film is housed in a transparent keepcase with reversible artwork. Loading the disc presents the Culture Shock logo before landing on the Main Menu screen with scenes from the film playing above typical navigation options. 

Video Review

Ranking:

Death Magic arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1080p image in the film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. This early 90’s SOV feature has all the hallmarks of the VHS era with minimal clarity and depth to the image. Colors are discernable with blues and reds emerging within costuming and blood effects. Black levels are strong during nighttime scenes but lose their luster thanks to the consistent analog fuzz present. Most scenes are difficult to read so I recommend watching this feature in a darkened room. My LG OLED provided an excellent look at the film’s darker scenes but I still needed to black out the room to get a clearer look. Do yourself a favor and check out the source material comparison offered in the special features menu to get a taste of the film’s home video legacy. 

Audio Review

Ranking:

Death Magic conjures the dead with a serviceable yet fuzzy 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix. Dialogue exchanges are frequently clear though in conflict with the intense synth scoring and effects constantly. It’s not a complete mess as the mix handles the textures nicely but buckles under the pressure during kill scenes. Distortion is limited though some heated exchanges test the on-camera microphones.

Special Features

Ranking:

Culture Shock Releasing loads this release with excellent features for fans of this VHS classic. Check out the director’s commentary before moving through the other features. 

  • Audio Commentary with Director Paul Clinco
  • Rough Cut Ending (SD 9:48) A disclaimer reads: “The following segment was taken from an SVHS tape containing a rough cut of Death Magic. This early edit of the ending features many extended shots (including gore FX shots), but does not have the final audio mix.”
  • Podcast Excerpt (HD 17:09) Gabe Powers and Patrick Ripoll from the Genre Grinder podcast express their thoughts about the film. 
  • Source Comparison (HD 5:08) The SVHS rough cut, the D2 Master Tape, and the commercial VHS tape are compared side-by-side. 
  • Behind the Scenes Gallery (HD 3:51) Photos from the production autoplay. 
  • Gallery of Review & Synopses (HD 7:13) A gallery of write-ups on the film autoplay. 
  • Culture Shock Releasing Trailers (HD 5:13)

Final Thoughts

As a supernatural slasher, Death Magic satisfies because it narrowly balances spectral killer themes with a unique character ensemble and exploitation elements. Clinco’s efforts to build and develop the characters' relationships add an interesting depth to the insane slasher dynamic. This regional horror flick is an ambitious effort well worth checking out. I had an absolute blast with the film and feel that Culture Shock is on the forefront of reviving true cult VHS classics.  

Culture Shock Releasing brings the film to Blu-ray with a serviceable A/V package still bound to the limitations of the source materials. Special features are plentiful giving fans of this video store oddity plenty to worship. Recommended