Don’t you all love eighties no-budget flicks? Well, I do and you can’t suck it. It’s one of those gems that’s hard to track down (unless you had the chance to see it when it was fresh) but tracking it down pays up well, especially if you’re into these sort of things (don’t look at me like that, some people fuck pumpkins, I watch stuff like this). If semiology (or post-structuralism if you like it better) taught as anything it taught as that there’s nothing more important than a code. And codes come in all shapes and sizes. Sure, one could argue that Deadly Sunday doesn’t even come close to anything resembling cinematography (the fact that you can operate a camera edit to some degree doesn’t quite prove anything), or at least its more artistic levels, but I say bugger off snobs! – as long as I can take something out of it, it was worth my time. As I have said, Deadly Sunday pays up which is even more exceptional since it doesn’t really promise you anything. Somehow that seems fairer than overhyped industry blockbusters.
Anyway, what’s it all about? Well, it’s about crime sweetlings. At least the setup is. It’s Sunday which means that it’s time for your average Sunday-country-family-trip (How many horrors have you seen with setup like this?), and one can’t spell trip without hostages and raving lunatics right? So there, our nuclear family takes the wrong turn and winds up in hands of jewel-thieves who are holed up waiting for the fence to do his magic. So far, it’s more than familiar. Eventually, head of the family winds up in a shelter, separated from the rest of his family (mother and two children of male and female persuasion), in which he discovers that he’s not as unfortunate as he thought he was. There are others with him and they are quite mundane, without even a hint of supernaturality or any such thing. They’re just people. Like you and me. Maybe fatter.
If you read this far you might have asked yourself about whereabouts of that gem I mentioned. Up to this point, everything seems so mundane. Told you it was hidden. Let’s play with, well…not so much with suspense as with prolongation. First, one has to list all the god awful crap in this movie. Camera, acting, editing, sound, lightning and development. There, simple enough. Its geminess comes from the dialogue, build-up of suspense and absolute randomness of one of the bad guys who keeps breaking the narrative causality with acts of sheer insanity. Remember that line from Bob Dylan’s Desolation Row? All these people that you mention, yes I know them, they’re quite lame. What we have here is nothing than a bunch of lame people, huddled together in a stressful situation. They don’t act as heroes, because they aren’t heroes, they don’t act like men, because they’re scared shitless. They bitch well, they argue well, and they can’t organize themselves if it meant their lives (as it actually does). Still, they’re not shown as cattle waiting for slaughter (as many horror flicks choose to do), they’re shown as complete individuals, and their dialogue is perfectly written to sum them all up. It’s beautifully ironic, cynical and it resonates well with the fantasy world of weekend warriors out there. Bad guys are nothing more than a side note upon which the real drama of human interaction can ensue. And it’s one hell of a drama.
Too bad that Donald M. Jones isn’t worth a shit as a director so much of it comes out mind-numbingly idiotic. Deadly Sunday was a “no-budget” production, but budget doesn’t buy you a sense of style or understanding of an editing process. While Jones might be vaccinated from style and any sort of movie-making artifice, he surely handles his suspense well. At any point in the narrative Deadly Sunday could have gone in any direction. Since characters are established and you more or less care for them, this uncertainty keeps you glued to the screen. After decades of exposure to genre, any genre-movie that can manage this is worth its weight in gold.
Directed by Donald M. Jones,
Henry G. Sanders