Death Shock is a 1981 British short horror film. It was credited to Lindsay Honey – better known as Ben Dover – although he has denied directing the film, claiming that Bill Wright – aka Frank Thring – actually wrote and directed it. It was released on VHS in the UK by ADB Video Services.
Death Shock was made by the same production team behind the Videx series of films that had been set up by Mike Freeman in 1979, taking advantage of the lack of regulation for video in the UK to shoot a series of ‘videograms’ that were extensively advertised in video magazines. Honey, who had worked as the company’s sales manager, took over and shot one more film – Rock ‘n’ Roll Ransom – before the company was dissolved.
The plot is as slight as slight gets. Three young romantically paired working-class couples (two male/female, one female/female) are out for an afternoon of al fresco frolics in the Norfolk countryside when their Ford Granada breaks down. Stranded, they are picked up by a comedy vicar in a vintage jalopy (this is British, after all) and seek refuge in an isolated house where their upper-class host secretly spikes the evening meal with aphrodisiacs.
Of course, the delirious guests subsequently spend the night frolicking furiously in a variety of combinations. However, events take a sinister turn when one of the girls learns that their host and his friends are dabblers in the Black Arts…
Shot entirely on video during the format’s relative infancy, Death Shock starts off promisingly enough with a fun little pre-titles sequence (scored, amusingly, with Gustav Holst’s ‘Mars: Bringer of War’) in which a female cyclist stumbles upon a satanic ritual in the woods. She flees, is chased down, dragged to an altar, disrobed and stabbed with a sacrificial dagger. Regrettably, these first few minutes set up a level of expectation that everything post-titles fails to meet.
Foremost in the disappointments department is the frolicking, which accounts for most of the slender 47-minute running time but is unimaginative and lamely staged. There doesn’t even appear to have been an attempt to push the boundaries of acceptability despite it being a ‘Hard Times Production’.
Back in 1982, 8mm home product was still selling well – with titles from companies such as Knave publisher Russell Gay’s Mistral being surprisingly worthwhile (e.g. Bloodlust) and even the British VHS releases of (trimmed) US product from outfits such as TCX were far more explicit and much more enticing a prospect than anything in Death Shock.
The dialogue delivery, particularly from the women, is amateurish and handicapped by that monotonous insincerity that Britsmut players seem to have worked into a fine art. Of the participants, only buxom Linzi Drew is recognisable or went on to do anything else of note; long-time partner of Perry, Drew appeared in cameo roles in “respectable” films An American Werewolf in London for John Landis (in the authentically awful See You Next Wednesday spoof sequence) and The Lair of the White Worm for Ken Russell.
With precious little in the way of gore or chills to appeal to horror movie aficionados, nor anything near sufficient in the way of naughtiness, Death Shock is pretty feckless. Yet, in an unpredictable twist of irony, those intervening years have lacquered it with a curious naive charm. As a quaint remnant of those early days of the infiltration of Brit-shot smutties into living rooms across the nation, it’s totally priceless. In fact, with hindsight one might even take a moment to lament that Death Shock II never materialised beyond the tacky Letraset promise on the closing titles!
Never likely to be deemed deserving of an official digital release, the DVD-R of Death Shock that circulates should be snapped up without hesitation, if only for its retro or curiosity appeal. Lifted from a fairly healthy VHS source, it even includes the bonus ten minutes of bloopers, ‘It’ll Be Alright on the Bed’ (which prove, if nothing else, they had fun making it) and a trailer for folk horror classic The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1970) that bolstered up the original UK tape release.
Tim Greaves, MOVIES & MANIA
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