Thursday, June 23, 2022

Scared to Death – Vinegar Syndrome (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1980
Director: William Malone
Writers: William Malone, Robert Short
Cast: John Stinson, Diana Davidson, David Moses, Toni Jannotta, Walker Edmiston, Pamela Bowman, Mike Muscat, Freddie Dawson, Tracy Weddle

Release Date: May 31st, 2022
Approximate Running Times: 97 Minutes 20 Seconds (Theatrical Cut), 94 Minutes 25 Seconds (Director’s Cut)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Both Versions)
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (Both Versions)
Subtitles: English SDH (Both Versions)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $39.98

"Ted Lonergan thought he had quit the force to pursue a career as a writer. But when someone - or something - begins stalking and viciously killing the residents of Los Angeles, Ted is asked to lend his expertise in uncovering the mystery assailant. However, things aren’t as simple as they appear, as Ted discovers that the predator he’s after is in fact a first of its kind, and a rapidly evolving genetically mutated organism known as the Syngenor. Enlisting the help of Sherry Carpenter, a scientist specializing in genetics, the unlikely duo start tracking the tedious mutant in the hope of destroying it before the body count continues to rise or even worse: before it breeds." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (Theatrical Cut), 4/5 (Director’s Cut)

Here’s the information provided about Horror High's transfer, "Newly scanned & restored in 4K from its 16mm original camera negative."

Scared to Death theatrical cut comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 42.8 GB

Feature: 26.6 GB

The source used for the theatrical cut is in excellent shape; any blemishes are very minimal. Color saturation is very good, image clarity and black levels are strong, and grain remains intact, albeit it looks heavier in some scenes. That said, the opening credits, quality-wise, are not as strong as the rest of the transfer.

Here’s the disclaimer that plays before the director’s cut, "Vinegar Syndrome has been kind enough to include this personal restoration of my first feature film Scared to Death (1980).

Vinegar Syndrome's restoration of the film is a faithful representation of the original release that movie-goers and VHS collectors will fondly remember. This "Director's Cut" version, which was completed in 2021, is what I consider to be the most faithful to my original intention. Some of the original color-grading issues have been addressed and missing sound effects have been added. There have also been some scenes trimmed which are consistent with a later theatrical version of the film.

I have cleaned up only the most egregious dirt so that the film retains its original character. Still-in-all, both versions look much better than the film ever did in the theaters. I want to thank the staff at Vinegar Syndrome for their great work and kindness. I hope you all enjoy this trip back to 1980, heavy make-up, big hair, padded shoulders and all." - William Malone

Here’s additional information about the director’s cut, "The following presentation of Scared to Death was supplied to Vinegar Syndrome by the film's director, William Malone. This version was given to us already restored and was not altered by Vinegar Syndrome in any way."

Scared to Death director’s cut comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22.7 GB

Feature: 22.6 GB

Though the source used for the director’s cut has many of the same qualities as the source used for the theatrical cut. Overall, the director's cut falls a few steps short of the theatrical cut.

Audio: 3.75/5 (Theatrical Cut, Director’s Cut)

The theatrical cut and the director's cut each come with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound clear and balanced, and range-wise they’re satisfactory. That said, there are a few times when the dialog goes from normal volume to loud. Both versions come with removable English SDH subtitles.


The extras on the Blu-ray disc that contains the theatrical cut include the Dracula Party music video (3 minutes 50 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), a featurette revisiting the locations with director William Malone titled The Locations of Scared to Death (8 minutes 34 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), a making-of documentary titled Rise of the Syngenor (75 minutes 3 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English SDH subtitles), and an audio commentary with William Malone, actor Bryce 'Kermit' Eller and actress Diana Davidson.

A second Blu-ray disc contains the director’s cut.

Other extras include reversible cover art and an embossed slipcover limited to 5,000 units.


Scared to Death was co-written and directed by William Malone, who is best known for directing Creature. Also, though Syngenor, the monster in Sacred to Death, would later appear in George Elanjian Jr.'s Syngenor. The two films' only connection is that they share the same monster.

Though the monster in Scared to Death acts in the same way that most killers in slasher films do, Its motivation for killing could not be further from that of a killer from a slasher film. The Syngenor kills because of a primal instinct that's connected to its survival.

As mentioned before, there are many elements throughout Scared to Death that are synonymous with slasher films. Most notably, the use of POV stalking shots before the kill and stylized murder set pieces. Another thing that slasher films are known for is their memorable opening sequences, which set the tone for what follows. And in the case of Scared to Death, it has a solid opening sequence that sets the table.

Though most horror films are not remembered for their acting, the performances in Scared to Death are actually a few notches higher than what is expected from a low-budget horror film. The chemistry between its two leads, John Stinson and Diana Davidson, is one of its strengths.

From a production standpoint, Scared to Death is a film that takes full advantage of its resources. It features a solid premise that is well-executed, a narrative that does a good job of maintaining tension, and an exemplary finale that provides a perfect coda. Another area where Scared to Death holds up really well is its special effects. Ultimately, Scared to Death is a very satisfying mix of horror and sci-fi that fans of these two genres should thoroughly enjoy.

Scared to Death gets an excellent release from Vinegar Syndrome that comes with two versions of the film and a trio of informative extras, highly recommended.

                                                        Theatrical Cut Screenshots.

                                                         Director’s Cut Screenshots.

Written by Michael Den Boer

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