Visual Vengeance: The Wrong Door (1990) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of Visual Vengeance

Visual Vengeance have made themselves known alongside Saturn’s Core or Intervision as distinguished curators of all things videotape, lo-fi or standard-definition oriented film productions usually done regionally with local non-professional cast and crew members.  Usually working only with tape sources with varying degrees of picture and sound quality, the usual Visual Vengeance offering is akin to popping a videocassette on a CRT tube television set via blu-ray disc on 1080p playback.  

Their latest venture, a very obscure Super 8mm video thriller called The Wrong Door in its first-ever disc release, represents one of the few times the boutique label actually worked with celluloid film sources instead of magnetic tape reels.  Made from a new director-supervised 2K restoration of the original Super 8mm film elements, fans of the homegrown shot-on-video film have a chance to see this rarely (if at all) seen regional thriller in better conditions than it likely had when it first aired.
Minnesota college student Ted Farrell has an affinity for mysteries and dramatic theater, working as a sound designer for audio thrillers ala Brian De Palma’s Blow Out.  Dressed up one night as a court jester from the medieval period, he ventures out one night on an assignment when he crosses paths with an alluring young woman who winds up both dead and in the back of his car without explanation.  Soon the youth finds himself on the run of what appears to be a pair of serial killers trying to cover their tracks once they realize he is the only witness to the crime.  From there it becomes a chase thriller including but not limited to a poster image of Ted in the jester costume fleeing from a car trying to run him over.  Oh and there's a dream sequence that rips off of Father Karras' nightmare from The Exorcist right down to the flash cut of the white faced demon.

A modestly sized if not somewhat incoherent murder mystery done on Super 8mm shot by co-director Bill Weiss and scored with a lofi casio keyboard by co-director Shawn Korby and further editng by co-director James Groetsch, The Wrong Door is a meat-and-potatoes homegrown effort that meanders at times but is clearly a family affair.  The sound is a tad rusty and requires one to either crank up the volume or simply throw on the subtitles.  Ted played by Matt Felmlee is appropriately dorky, particularly in the jester costume and one wonders why he didn’t simply try and change out of it sooner as the ringing bells on his top hat give away his position everytime he moves.  The rest of the ensemble regional cast is mostly fine though it boils down to one guy running away from two other guys save for a dream sequence that blatantly steals from.

Running a brisk seventy-three minutes, the near dialogue-free Super 8mm exercise is nifty despite being a tad rough around the edges.  The 2K restoration overseen by the directors looks fine though wear and tear shows on the barely legible opening title credits.  As always, Visual Vengeance have packaged the set with plentiful extras including reversible sleeve art, poster art, stickers and a number of other Super 8mm shorts from the filmmaking team.  Fans of Visual Vengeance’s usual offerings might come away a bit underwhelmed but for those of us who can’t get enough of their lo-fi regional offerings rescued from almost certain oblivion, The Wrong Door is a worthy new addition to their ever-expanding catalog.

--Andrew Kotwicki