Deadline Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

Directed by Mario Azzopardi
Written by Mario Azzopardi and Dick Oleksiak
1980, 90 minutes, Rated R
Released on April 28th, 2020

Stephen Young as Steven Lessey
Sharon Masters as Elizabeth Lessey
Marvin Goldhar as Burt Horowitz
Jeannie Elias as Darlene Winters
Cindy Hinds as Sharon Lessey
Phillip Leonard as Philip Lessey
Tod Woodcroft as David Lessey



Steven Lessey is a successful author and screenwriter whose numerous books have been adapted to film. He lives in Toronto with his wife Elizabeth and three young children, Philip, Sharon and David. Steven rose to fame penning schlocky horror tales filled with mindless violence and gore. He finds himself at a crossroads as he yearns to make something more substantial, but his producer insists he follow the proven formula of low-grade material. Steven’s current production, Mr. Vampire, is in trouble and he is asked to do extensive rewrites punching up the grisly death scenes, all the while arguing with lead actress Darlene Winters over the quality of her dialogue.

Steven labors over his typewriter for such extended hours that he alienates his family and watches helplessly as his marriage slowly collapses. He addresses a group of students in the film studies program on the campus where he once taught, only to be derided by the audience who view his writing as morally bankrupt and callously opportunistic. He is accused of contributing to the problems of society with his messages of negativity. Steven frequently finds himself distracted by ghastly fantasies of death played out in increasingly horrific scenarios. He remains determined to rise above the dregs of the genre and create what he views as the ultimate terror experience. Fate has other plans for him when a personal tragedy sends him spiraling out of control and forces him to face real life horrors.

In the early 1980s, the Canadian film market produced a large number of low-budget horror movies as part of the popular slasher movement, including titles like Prom Night, Curtains, Happy Birthday to Me and My Bloody Valentine. Each of these films follows the basic formula of an unknown psychopath hunting down and killing attractive young adults, usually while wearing a mask until the last-minute reveal. Director Mario Azzopardi (Bone Daddy) takes a different approach for his psychological chiller Denadlie, focusing instead on the effect that stories of the macabre have on society and the people who create them. He removes the familiar tropes of the genre and keeps his narrative firmly grounded in reality.

Working from a script he penned with Dick Oleksiak (Diamond in the Rough), Azzopardi offers some insight into the creative process and warns of the dangers of allowing work to become all-consuming. Our protagonist, Steven Lessey, is good at his job but feels trapped by the repetitive formula. He has no shortage of gruesome ideas, presented to viewers as a series of cutaway vignettes. This is where the film has its cake and eats it too, arguing that violence is bad while pausing to revel in over-the-top scenes of brutality. Standout moments include a woman drowning in a shower of blood, a man being mauled by a farming thrasher, two children burning their grandmother alive and a scientist using low-end frequencies in rock music to induce bodily harm.


Stephen Young (Soylent Green) stars as Steven and does a commendable job keeping the character relatable despite his numerous shortcomings. Steven is arrogant and defensive and lacks the dedication of a good husband and father. He is easily pushed around by his producer and finds the quality of his work challenged by actors and audiences alike. It is when Steven suffers his greatest tragedy that Young shines, turning mounting frustrations into desperation, helplessness and loss.

Sharon Masters (Bonnie’s Kids) co-stars as Elizabeth, the unhappy wife who turns to drugs and infidelity as a coping mechanism. Her performance is a bit large, as the character is something of a wreck prone to emotional extremes. Marvin Goldhar (The Offering) is particularly convincing as Burt, the manipulative producer. He plays at being Stephen’s best friend and confidant, offering encouragement and support, all the while pressing for his bottom line of getting more pages for his film project. Adding to the chorus of voices lining up against Steven is Jeannie Elias (Nomads) as actress Darlene Winters. She challenges his talent as a writer and makes no effort to hide her contempt for him as a man.

Deadline is not a traditional 1980s horror film, as it ditches the teenage cast and masked assailant and focuses on the mental collapse of a middle-aged man. The script addresses the prominent criticisms of the slasher era and offers a look behind the scenes at the material. Genre fans will get a kick out of the murder set-pieces as fun asides that break up the melodrama. When it comes to uncovering the ultimate horror experience, the film hits the right note and puts a dark spin on the tone, which makes for a downbeat conclusion. If you are growing tired of “dead teenager” movies, you might want to check this one out, as it has something more to say.


Video and Audio:

The disc opens with a notice from Vinegar Syndrome that the film was sourced from flawed 35mm vault elements. The image was scanned and restored in 2K, but some instances of damage could not be corrected and were left intact. These shots are brief and appear near the beginning of the film as a tear in the print and some minor scratches and discoloration. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture is in much better condition than the notice would imply and this is likely the best the picture is ever going to look.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track preserves the original mono recording and features a satisfying mix of music and effects cues that are well-represented and do not intrude on dialogue levels. Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

In the interview segment Producing Something Horrific (13 minutes), producer Henry Less remembers how the project came together and shares his thoughts on societal violence. He talks about working with director Mario Azzopardi and his regrets for how that relationship soured. The featurette has a dull gray cast, as though a filter were applied, though the included film clips are unaffected.

Embracing the Horror (14 minutes) catches up with cinematographer Manfred Guthe (The Pit) who details his early work in documentaries and slowly climbing the ranks of the camera department to the position of DP. He shares his thoughts on this film’s script and the decision to light the horror fantasies differently than the narrative. He has since retired from the industry and looks back on his time fondly.



Movie: Cover
Overall: 3 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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