Born for HellOverview -
Born For Hell follows a deranged man who murders eight young nurses in their home over one night that was based on the real-life Chicago serial killer Richard Speck. This film though also tackles some wartime and political issues about soldiers with PTSD as well. Severin Films gave this video a new 2K transfer in 1080p that is decent enough with two funny dubbed audio options in mono. The many bonus features are phenomenal to watch that include an alternate cut of the film and new interviews. Recommended!
In 1976, Montreal filmmaker Denis Héroux – future director of THE UNCANNY and Oscar®-nominated producer of ATLANTIC CITY – adapted the true story of Chicago mass murderer Richard Speck to war-torn Belfast, where a disturbed Vietnam vet drifter (Mathieu Carrière of MALPERTUIS and BILITIS fame) brutalizes a dorm full of student nurses. Re-edited by its video distributor and released as NAKED MASSACRE, Héroux's harrowing director's cut has remained unseen in America until now. Debra Berger (THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS), Leonora Fani (GIALLO IN VENICE), Christine Boisson (EMMANUELLE), Ely Galleani (BABA YAGA) and Carole Laure (SWEET MOVIE) co-star in this "uncompromising and unfathomably grim work of art" (Video Basement), scanned in 2K from an uncut 35mm print discovered in The National Archives of Canada.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Slasher films rose to prominence in the '70s and continued well on into the late '80s, which are considered their golden years of monsters and mayhem. In 1976 though, Canadian filmmaker Denis Héroux made Born For Hell - AKA Naked Massacre as it was called on home video. This horror slasher had all the violent elements that the popular slashers had at the time, but it also tried to make a social and political statement of the Vietnam War and the Northern Ireland conflict at the time. While it failed to stick the landing on those exact points through its narrative, it makes it up with plenty of gore and exploitation with some good performances that are all based on a sadistic true story. Born For Hell is a great piece of exploitation cinema that tries to do more than its surface-level material.
Born For Hell is actually based on the evil serial killer Richard Speck, who started out as a burglar, but over the course of one night, savagely murdered and raped eight young nursing students at a townhouse that was acting as a dormitory in Chicago. It was a widely covered murder trial where Speck showed no remorse and there was quite a lot of controversy over the crimes and his subsequent incarceration that followed. But this particular film follows a man with the ironic name of Cain Adamson, who is a Vietnam War vet who is suffering from severe shell shock or PTSD as it's known today and arrives in Belfast, Ireland. He tries to get home to the states, but can't properly get on the ship to take him home.
This causes him to roam the streets, save someone from a church bombing, and even have an uncomfortable conversation with a homeless person of the same sex that would imply that he might be gay. All of this is shown to reveal his uncanny mental instability and PTSD, of how the war has left him a broken person. Not only that, but through stories, his childhood was no better either. This leads Cain to break into a house of young female nursing students whom he met earlier, where he brutally murders and tortures each of them one at a time.
Denis Héroux doesn't only focus on the blood and carnage here, but he and writer Géza von Radványi (who did most of the directing according to the actors), comment on the war and atrocities that are affecting people coming home by inserting real news footage that have the anchors reading explosive sound bytes that drive home their intentions. In the end, though, it really wasn't needed, especially with its link to the Speck murders in Chicago. That being said, it gives Cain some depth as to why he might have jumped off the deep end and committed these heinous acts in the movie, which is not the case with the real-life case.
Aside from the silly name of Cain, Mathieu Carrière plays that part perfectly with sheer brutality and a haunting charm that allows him to get close to his victims. The film raised more controversy with certain women's groups protesting the film for its exploitative violence against women, but in turn, it just went to show how deeply disturbed this individual was and his duality of saving someone in peril earlier in the movie that crosses into his violent crimes. Born For Hell is still a fantastic film to watch to this day and should remind every of the glory days of exploitation slashers with a purpose.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Born For Hell kills its way to Blu-ray through Severin Films. This sole disc is packed inside a hard, black (although it's not 4K) plastic case with no cardboard sleeve. The artwork is excellent with a hand holding a knife with a woman screaming in its reflection. There is no insert inside.
Born For Hell comes with a very good 1080p HD transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 that looks good for its source material. According to the print on the disc, this transfer was scanned in 2K from an uncut 35mm print that was discovered by someone in the National Archive Of Canada.
Due to the source material and low budget over years ago, there are still some issues with this video presentation. However, Severin films have done a knock-out job making this older film look gorgeous in a lot of ways. The colors are a bit more nuanced and brighter in the well-lit exterior sequences that reveal green leaves in the trees, blue skies, and Cain's army green jacket. Interior shots have a more wooded look with browns, reds, oranges, and yellows dominating the frame. Nighttime sequences still reveal some good colors like a red building or some amber color lighting, but this is where elements get a little muddled. There is no shadow definition and black levels are murky and rarely inky.
The detail in these nighttime shots have more grain and look a little blurry from time to time even. Other details in daytime scenes reveal good close-ups with excellent facial features and individual hairs. The gore and blood show some detail, however, it's flatter than normal. There are some problems with noise, dirt, debris, and warps as well, but that's what makes an old grindhouse feel nostalgic.
This release features both English and French DTS-HD MA 2.0 options. The English dub is hilarious and takes away any suspense or horror in any scene. The French one is a bit better, but the sync issues make it funnier than it should be. Sound effects are decent, but are on the light side of things and don't offer any real power in the low end of the bass department.
Vehicles driving by, stabbing sounds, and music cues all do their job nicely, but it's straining to get over that loud hump to make a big impact. The dialogue again is funny to hear but is clean and clear for the most part. This is not the best audio mix, but there wasn't a ton to work within the first place.
There are about 111 minutes of bonus features on this disc, not including the alternate version of the film. Due to the pandemic, the below interviews were done via Zoom, so the quality is okay at best.
- Naked Massacre (HD, 86 Mins.) - This is the home video version of the movie that plays about four minutes shorter than the theatrical version.
- The Other Side Of The Mirror (HD, 14 Mins.) - A brand new interview with Cain himself Mathieu Carrière where he talks about his life, his films, and making this particular movie.
- Nightmare In Chicago (HD, 13 Mins.) - Filmmakers living in Chicago talk about the real-life Speck murders and how they played or didn't play a part in this movie.
- A New Kind Of Crime (HD, 39 Mins.) - Esther Ludlow and her podcast titled Once Upon A Crime talks about the Speck killings.
- Bombing Here, Shooting There (HD, 17 Mins.) - A video essay that is quite amazing that tackles the political and social issues of the film, regarding Northern Ireland at the time.
- Artist Joe Coleman On Speck (HD, 15 Mins.) - Famous Artist Joe Coleman talks about Speck and his fascination with serial killers and dead bodies that he is inspired by in his art. This is excellent.
- Inside The Odditorium (HD, 10 Mins) - Coleman shows everyone his museum of monsters and madmen of curiosities and bizarre findings across the globe. It's super creepy and amazing.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Italian trailer for the film.
Born For Hell explores the worst of human nature, but also covers the psyche of those war vets that have severe PTSD that is set against a turbulent time in Northern Ireland. Not only that, this film is based on the real-life murders of eight young nursing students. The film still holds up for many reasons and is a welcome addition to the Severin collection. The video and audio presentations are both good at best, despite some hilarious dubbed audio, but the bonus features are excellent. Recommended!
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