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Grandmother's House Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

Grandmothers House Blu Ray Large

Directed by Peter Rader
Written by Peter Jensen
1988, 90 minutes, Rated R
Released on April 30th, 2019

Eric Foster as David
Kim Valentine as Lynn
Len Lesser as Grandfather
Ida Lee as Grandmother
Brinke Stevens as Woman
Michael Robinson as Kenny
Craig Yerman as Raymond

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Newly orphaned siblings David and Lynn take a bus to live with their grandparents. The trip is uneventful until the driver nearly hits a woman hitchhiking. The kids arrive safely and are greeted with open arms by their aging family to their new home. Grandmother feeds them a hot meal before bed and David settles into his room. He carries a night vision scope lens, a gift from his late father, in his bag and spies out his window that night. He sees the lady hitchhiker but is quickly interrupted by his rambling grandfather. David dreams his grandparents are secretly evil and protecting a secret in the basement. The next day they go to the pool where David participates in a swim meet. Lynn meets Kenny, an aggressive flirt who puts the moves on her but ultimately seems harmless. Later, the family receives guests and David and Lynn spend time with the visitors’ teenage children; the boys exploring the farm and the young ladies talking about Kenny.

David returns to the farm and spies his grandparents meeting the mysterious woman and dragging her inside. He sneaks in to investigate and gets busted by his grandpa. The boy hides on the roof until he can try to escape with his sister. They confront the strange woman who holds a dark secret and knows more than David suspected. It appears their grandparents are not as sweet and innocent as they initially appear. This leads to some surprising revelations and an extended chase through the orange groves and surrounding waterways and canals. Who can they trust for help? Nobody suspects the sweet old couple on the farm of any wrongdoing. It remains unclear at this point who the real villain is, but everyone is certainly acting suspicious.

Grandmother’s House (aka Grandma’s House) is an odd little film that portrays the elderly as something potentially ominous. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by revealing that the grandparents are keeping a terrible secret and may be up to no good. It is strange that the title is not Grandfather’s House since he is the primary adversary. The mysterious woman injects the storyline with some much-needed energy and she is more than capable of a few surprises herself. The kids are well-rounded protagonists that audiences will root for and the isolated farmhouse situated in the middle of an orange grove makes for a creepy location.

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Director Peter Rader (Hired to Kill) is best known as the screenwriter of the mega-budget Kevin Costner movie Waterworld (1995). He makes his directorial debut on a much smaller scale, choosing instead to tell an intimate story of children in peril at the hands of their elders. The script was written by Peter Jensen (Shadow of the Hawk), who also serves as the film’s cinematographer. The story begins at a deliberate pace, starting with David’s suspicions about his family and his dedication to solving the mystery of the travelling woman. Lynn is not as well-developed a character, as she is more focused on boys and being a teenager. The family dynamic generates some genuine suspense, as our heroes are helpless to control their environment and rely on adults to survive. The chase sequence that makes up the final third of the picture is beautifully realized with some great tension as the kids face off against a seemingly unstoppable force. The ending contains a shocking reveal and resolution that I found surprising.

Eric Foster (Darkroom) stars as David and is instantly likeable as our protagonist. He manages to be curious and adventurous without becoming annoying, as little brothers in film frequently are. He has some great moments, particularly the extended rooftop sequence where he is forced to fend for himself. Kim Valentine (Raiders of the Lost Shark) is warm and supportive of her brother and keeps audiences firmly on her side as she deals with the aggressive Kenny and later with the mysterious woman. As I stated earlier, she is not as well-defined a character as her sibling, but she holds her own during the chase at the end. The name talent in the picture is popular TV personality Len Lesser (Seinfeld) as the grandfather and he delivers a lot of personality to the role. He brings an emotional range with a believability that keeps the film grounded in reality. Ida Lee (Vegas in Space) is far more compassionate as the grandmother figure that is never seen as a villain despite some of her actions. The most interesting person in the movie is Brinke Stevens (Slumber Party Massacre) playing the mysterious woman. She has the best character arc and keeps audiences firmly on their toes as her secrets are slowly revealed. She starts the picture as a victim but proves to be much more of an adversary by the film’s end.

Cinematographer Peter Jensen makes great use of the Steadicam rig bringing energy to the story and delivering some nice camera moves. Grandmother’s House is entertaining but uneven as it takes a while to get started, but recovers nicely in the third act. With strong direction and solid performances, the picture is an enjoyable time passer that holds a few surprises along the way. Technical specs on this release are rock-solid and there is a nice array of supplemental materials for anyone interested in making a purchase.

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Video and Audio:

The original camera negative has been scanned in 4K and restored with stunning results. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the picture is pleasing and really delivers with its strong colors and excellent black levels. There is no noticeable dirt or other debris in the image and flesh tones appear natural throughout.

A DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix gets the job done with some nice directional effects popping up in the rear speakers. Dialogue levels are clean and well-balanced and free from distortion.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

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Special Features:

The always-welcome Brinke Stevens sits down for the all-new interview The Mysterious Woman (13 minutes) and is full of entertaining stories. Topics range from her audition technique to shooting on location without a stunt double. She reflects on her character and shares a few of her favorite moments.

In Back to Grandmother’s House (16 minutes), director Peter Rader discusses the film’s origins and the pre-production process. He talks about working with producer Nico Mastorakis (Island of Death) and his close relationship with his cinematographer. He tells of his extensive involvement with all stages of the shoot from prep to final edit and what a huge learning experience the process was.

Writer/ cinematographer Peter Jensen is the subject of Slow n’ Steady (9 minutes), a thoughtful interview that focuses on the use of the Steadicam in the picture. He has fond memories of the shoot and shares several interesting production stories.

The archival making-of featurette (6 minutes) is narrated by Nico Mastorakis and includes the original pitch video of the story shot to raise funds followed by the same scenes as featured in the finished film.

A still gallery of promotional images plays as a slideshow (3 minutes) set to the movie’s main theme.

The original theatrical trailer has been included.

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Movie: Threestars Cover
Buy Amazon Us
Video: Fivestars
Audio: Threeandahalfstars
Features: Threestars
Overall: 3 Star Rating

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About The Author
Robert Gold
Author: Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer - USA
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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