Now available on limited VHS, with a DVD and Blu-ray release on the way is the microbudget horror flick Dreaming Purple Neon, directed by shot-on-video (SOV) legend Todd Sheets. Sheets is credited with directing 42 movies and is one of the last, if not the last of the SOV directors still making films. For those unfamiliar with SOV, the VHS rental boom brought about a new breed of low budget filmmakers in the early 1980’s that shot films on VHS with little to no budget. Dreaming Purple Neon is everything that you would love about a grindhouse or exploitation film, harkening back to the days of excessive nudity, blood, and gore. The low budget trip down exploitation lane channels found memories of the 1970’s, grindhouse cinema, blaxploitation and occult subgenres, offering up a veritable microbudget masterpiece of extreme weirdness, insanity, and gore.
The story involves a mixed bag of good guys and bad guys that end up in the wrong place at the wrong time, as an occult leader is summoning the queen of hell. They must join together and fight their way out of the evil situation. Despite the fact that this is primarily a grotesque horror movie, there is a surprising amount of story and subplots that are weaved in. The characters that have been created are interesting and the dialogue is unexpectedly quite realistic, while still blending those elements of humor and outrageousness. There are some fun horror movie references or Easter eggs that are thrown in and should be spotted by most genre fans. An argument could be made that there are some plot issues or holes, but it is forgivable considering the budgetary constraints.
The acting is a mixed bag of what you typically come to expect from a low budget indie horror production, with a few pleasant surprises and fun performances. Ricky Farr plays the gang leader Tyrone Kane and is an enjoyable mixture of Dolemite and the modern gangbanger. Antwoine Steele portrays Ray Ray, Kane’s number one henchman who does his best to channel his innermost Samuel L. Jackson from Pulp Fiction. Jack McCord is the occult leader Cyrus Archer and he is a devious delight that reminded me of Ernest Borgnine’s character in The Devil’s Rain. Eli DeGeer was excellent in her role as Denise, whose character had a romantic subplot with Dallas. She exhibited an unbelievable amount of emotional depth to her portrayal of the character, something that is atypical for this type of picture. It was so good that it unfortunately made Jeremy Edwards’s performance as Dallas seem a bit wooden. Dilynn Fawn Harvey served as some scary eye candy as the Demon Queen.
The directing by Sheets is superb and he smartly does everything that he can to make the picture appear to be higher than the $3,500 that they had for the actual production budget. Some additional funding came into play during the post-production and advertisement, but what ends up on the screen is pretty impressive. He makes use of anything that he can possibly get his hands on, as we end up with multiple shooting locations, several cars, some grand scenic shots, and a large cast. Sheets shows that he is an experienced director and delivers some good close ups, decent camera placement, and some interesting lighting sequences.
The practical special effects are ultimately what will make this type of movie successful and they more than deliver. There are gallons upon gallons of blood splattered and spewed across the screen, tons of violence, gore, and several intricate and unique kill scenes. It also contains some crazy looking creatures and more than enough weird and grossness to satiate horror and gore fans.
For such a small budget, Dreaming Purple Neon packs a powerful punch in terms of violence, gore, and nudity. There is more than enough of the above to please and entertain most horror fans.
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