Play Dead Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Vinegar Syndrome

Directed by Peter Wittman
Written by Lothrop W. Jordan
1983, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Released on July 30th, 2019

Yvonne De Carlo as Hester
Stephanie Dunnam as Audrey
David Cullinane as Jeff
Glenn Kezer as Otis
Ron Jackson as Richard
David Ellzey as Stephen
Carolyn Greenwood as Monique



Audrey and her brother Stephen have just lost their mother and are attending her funeral. Colorful Aunt Hester arrives and is a bit of a bitch about the whole thing, prompting the siblings to leave early. Hester lingers near the casket long enough to leave a Satanic necklace on the pillow. There is a lot of bad blood in this family, as she blames her late sister for stealing her boyfriend and starting a family. The man in question has been dead for a few years now, but Hester refuses to let it go. She is a bitter woman who seeks revenge against her relatives for a wrong that only she recognizes. Hester gifts her niece with a Rottweiler named Greta who is well-trained and friendly enough, but is secretly doing the devil’s business and killing all of those close to Audrey.

The first death hits Audrey particularly hard and leaves her devastated. She seeks the support of her boyfriend Jeff, who is understanding and sensitive. The next day Det. Otis Burris arrives at the house to ask some questions. He is taken by what a friendly dog Greta is. Burris suspects Audrey may be responsible for the killing and shares his thoughts the following day with Aunt Hester during additional questioning. She feigns insult and throws him out and returns to her cottage to perform a black mass. When the next victim is found with dog hairs in her hand, Burris begins to suspect Greta. Nobody believes this sweet dog is capable of violence, but soon they will know better than to trust this hound from Hell.

Play Dead (aka Satan’s Dog) is part of the animal-attack subgenre featuring household pets turning on their masters. Greta is a well-trained dog with an itinerary to settle her master’s grudge. She seems harmless enough while lying about the house, but when she sees an intended target and the camera switches to slow-motion all bets are off. Greta slowly advances on her prey and either lunges at them or performs an increasingly complex series of tasks that result in their death. Aunt Hester is in league with the Devil and will stop at nothing to get her revenge on both her relatives and their innocent friends.


Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters) stars as Aunt Hester, the scorned woman who doesn’t know how to show restraint. Anyone who crosses her or gets too close to the truth is turned into dog food. She is menacing in the role and lends the picture a sense of black humor as she gives the evil eye or delivers a firm scolding to the worthless people that surround her. Greta isn’t the only character whose actions receive the slow-motion treatment as Hester frequently slow dances in front on a mirror. Honestly the amount of slow-motion in this film is far more humorous than dramatic. De Carlo does her fair share of scenery chewing and her performance is a bit large, but it all works with the character.

Play Dead is not particularly scary, but it is campy and frequently entertaining. There are better killer dog movies, but this is one of the more bizarre titles. The kills are not the most exciting or violent but the dog does a fine job with the material. It’s always nice seeing Yvonne De Carlo up to no good and the supporting cast does a mostly commendable job, though some performances are a bit shaky. Make-up effects are limited to some spilled blood and a few bite marks at the end. I can recommend checking this movie out for the schlock value – provided you can catch it streaming.


Video and Audio:

Play Dead has received a 2K scan and restoration of the original camera negative. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, picture quality is strong with bold colors and solid black levels. Flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is plenty of small-object detail.

A DTS-HD MA 1.0 preserves the original mono recording and gets the job done. Dialogue levels are well-balanced with music and effects tracks and are never difficult to understand.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

Director Peter Wittman has little memory of this movie but does his best in this newly-recorded interview (6 minutes). He remembers getting along with his cast and working well with dogs but little else.

In an audio interview (25m), actress Stephanie Dunnam reflects on the film and shares her experiences on set. She has kind words for Yvonne De Carlo and her fellow co-stars. She addresses the use of a body double for her nude scene and goes on to discuss her work in television and her career since.

The original trailer has been included.



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.
Other articles by this writer



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