Scared Stiff Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

Directed by Richard Friedman
Written by Mark Frost, Daniel F. Bacaner and Richard Friedman
1987, 84 minutes, Not Rated
Released on April 23rd, 2019

Andrew Stevens as David Young
Mary Page Keller as Kate Christopher
David Ramsey as George Masterson
Josh Segal as Jason
William Hindman as Dr. Ben Brightman
Jackie Davis as Det. Whitcomb
Nicole Fortier as Elizabeth Masterson



Kate Christopher is a musician on the verge of a comeback following some psychological issues in the past year. She has started a relationship with Dr. David Young, her former psychologist. David has asked her to move in with him into an old colonial mansion he has recently purchased. His co-workers are not so sure this is a good idea, but David is confident that Kate is ready to move forward. She agrees and together with her young son Jason joins David at the new place. The house comes with a troubled history involving a tyrannical slave owner named George Masterson, a terrible man who was as harsh with his family as he was his slaves. His wife Elizabeth kept a journal detailing the changes in George and some strange activity surrounding the house. The slaves provided her with a stone talisman to ward off evil.

David inspects the boarded up attic and finds the journal along with a dress, the talisman and some sheet music. Karen plays the piece and is shocked to hear how much it sounds like her current song for which she is filming a music video. She begins having visions of George and becomes obsessed with learning more of the history. David makes a gruesome discovery in the attic and calls the police. Det. Whitcomb arrives and begins an investigation that points to a curse on the mansion. Kate continues reading the journal for answers, but doesn’t like what she learns. She suffers hallucinations that demons are coming for her and her son and wants to leave immediately. Is she suffering another breakdown or is there something more sinister going on?

Director Richard Friedman (Doom Asylum) and his producer Daniel F. Bacaner (Blood Simple) re-worked an existing screenplay by Mark Frost (Twin Peaks) and came up with Scared Stiff (aka The Masterson Curse), an ambitious ghost story full of mystery and haunting twists. At its core, this is a melodrama concerning the perils and growing pains of rushing into a relationship. There is a running motif of pigeons as carriers of messages from the beyond and there are indeed ghostly set-pieces. One standout moment occurs early on when Jason is playing outside and his toys come to life and move about on their own. The appearance of demons also features strongly throughout, as more than one character is visited by a ghost from the past. The story builds to a grand finale that is dreamlike in appearance but is an actual nightmare for the participants.


Andrew Stevens (10 to Midnight) stars as David, the well-meaning doctor trying to advance his relationship with his former patient. Stevens gives a dedicated performance that is at times intense and somewhat demanding. Mary Page Keller (Pretty Little Liars) co-stars as Kate, a woman suffering visions of a past she doesn’t understand. When the demons come for her she flees to protect her son, but in time she will be pushed to face them on her own. Stevens and Keller work well together and keep audiences firmly on their side. The supporting cast is serviceable with Josh Segal doing particularly well as young Jason. Production values are high with the key location of the mansion providing a haunting presence to the material. The effects-heavy finale is hit-or-miss in terms of quality, but the work of artist Tyler Smith is commendable.

There are some interesting ideas in this movie, but there are also truly head-scratching moments that undermine what works. The pigeon motif is never fully defined, so we are simply left with a preponderance of birds cooing about the property. Early in the film, a character suffers an accident leaving his corpse hanging by a rope on the side of the house for days, but no one, including the police, notice. Kate is haunted by people from the past as well as visions of David’s contemporary patients whom she has not met. Some of this muddled storytelling stems from not knowing what to do with the male lead in the final act, as this is a woman’s journey.

Scared Stiff works more often than not and manages to overcome its low-budget limitations with a dedication that is commendable. Technical specs are impressive and there is a nice array of supplemental material for those considering a purchase.


Video and Audio:

The original camera negative has been remastered and given a 2K restoration with stunning results. The VHS is notoriously dark and murky, but colors pop here and black levels are solid. The 1.85:1 image contains plenty of small-object detail missing from the earlier release.

Audio comes courtesy of an LPCM 2.0 stereo mix preserving the original recording. Dialogue is clean and free from hiss or other distortion. Music cues and sound effects are well-balanced and get the job done.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.


Special Features:

Film historian Robert Ehlinger moderates an audio commentary with director Richard Friedman and producer Dan Bacaner. It has been a while since they watched the picture but their memories are fine concerning the production history. Ehlinger prompts them with thoughtful questions and allows them the time to answer in full.

Mansion of the Doomed (34 minutes) is an all-new documentary on the making of the film featuring interviews with Friedman, Bacaner and Ehlinger. Also appearing are actors Andrew Stevens and Joshua Segal, special effects supervisor Tyler Smith and make-up assistants Jerry Macaluso and Barry Anderson. This is a well-made piece that covers a lot of ground and reveals much of what went into creating Scared Stiff.

Composer Billy Barber sat down for an interview (7 minutes) in which he shares his memories of the film and at one point plays the recurring main theme on his piano.

An image gallery plays as a slideshow (6 minutes) featuring promotional images and poster art.

The original theatrical trailer has been included.


Movie: Cover
Overall: 3 Star Rating

This page includes affiliate links where Horror DNA may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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



Join Us!

Hit the buttons below to follow us, you won't regret it...