The Chronicles of Horror Movie Night: ‘Deadline’ (1984)

Posted by Damon Swindall - June 1st 2012 @ 9:00 am

After starting in Washington D.C. nine years ago Horror Movie Night has expanded to include chapters in Austin, Dallas and Chicago. Horror’s Not Dead’s own Brian Kelley is the originator and programmer of this illustrious weekly Wednesday night tradition which features a “classic” horror film. Each week I will be reviewing/commenting on the past week’s selection so do your best to find the film, most of which have not made it past VHS, and follow along. Better yet, start your own chapter.

Paragon Video VHS of Deadline

There’s a cold front coming through the hallowed ground of Horror Movie Night. Make sure you have all provisions needed to sustain yourself for a brute attack on our senses. Gather the loved ones close, say your possible goodbyes, and make damn sure you are ready for whatever may come your way. An arctic chill blasts through our screens as yet another Canadian horror film comes into the rotation. EEK! Now this isn’t always bad, but I’ve found with most horror flicks from our neighbors to the north, at least those from the 70s and 80s, it’s kind of a hit or miss deal. There are some damn fine films out there, just look at Cronenberg, but there are also tons of time wasters. Sadly that’s kind of the case with this week’s pick, Deadline from 1984. Though it is overall a tad boring and too “talky,” there are a few moments of pure chaotic, bloody bliss. 

Steven Lessey (Stephen Young) is a writer whose brand of horror fiction has caught on in a big way. They are making movies left and right out of his torrid tales and he couldn’t be happier. Well, if only he could turn out another he would probably be a bit happier. It seems the author has been hit with a bout of writer’s block and has his manager/agent bearing down on him. Then his latest speaking engagement at the university where he used to teach had a worse outcome than expected. The majority of the crowd berated Lessey for his need to pollute the world with such gory filth and tell him how he was bringing society down as a whole. Something we horror fans know all too well. As he attempts to write something of any value, we see the scenes in his head and watch as his life spirals into trouble when the lines between life and fiction blur.

Steven hard at work

Pissed Student: Don’t you think your comments help contribute to the decay instead of helping to solve it?
Steven: I don’t offer solutions, I can only speak in the language of our times to comment on it.
Pissed Student: You mean your horror is the language of our times?!
Steven: I think horror represents a way of relating to numerous events that otherwise we might never be able to identify.
Pissed Student: Well, I don’t want to identify with horror.
Steven: Well, that’s tough.

The interesting part of this movie is how the majority of the death and dismemberment comes from fictitious happenings in Steven’s mind. He’s trying to come up with his next big novel/screenplay by starting with a gory premise but nothing really reaches out to grab him. Not sure if this is because he’s just stuck, or if he’s truly trying to go in a new direction like he tells his agent. Right. I’m sure it’s just a combo of not having any real ideas and coming to terms with how poorly his work is received by kinds of people he used to teach. No one wants to be lowest common denominator.

In any event, these tiny vignettes of violence are the sole saving grace of the film. All the story involving Steven and his alcoholic, drug addict wife is fairly boring and way too soap opera for most horror films. The monotony is broken up when, at random moments, we cut away to a whole other story and place to see something gloriously bad happen. A strange black goat causes a man to get sucked into a large piece of farming equipment, crazy birthing takes place, and a grandmother is set ablaze while tied to her bed by her grandchildren! With things like this it’s hard to believe that I would be overall less than impressed by the film. What attempts to work on an anthological level just dissolves into quick, random scenes of death with seemingly no purpose.

Eating of his flesh

The good news is the gore FX during these sequences really lives up. As an expectant mother lies with her legs held up in the stirrups, she is attacked from the inside by her baby who would rather commit suicide than leave the womb. This causes convulsions and blood to spray from her mouth and crotch. If you like that, then you’ll love the scene of communion in a convent where a group of reverent cannibal nuns attack the priest, crucify him, and begin to fillet his flesh to eat of his body. What a great scene!

None of this, however, compares to the segment featuring a Nazi punk band. Music performed by Canadian new wave outfit Rough Trade, these musicians are under direction to test out a new technology utilizing the infamous “brown note”. For the uninitiated, or at least those who don’t watch South Park, this is a note that operates on just the right frequency that would make any listener lose control of their bowels and shit themselves. Well, this maniac has cranked that idea up to eleven and uses a few homeless gentlemen to test the special equipment to enhance the effects of the musical reverberations. The end results is not just a loss of bodily functions but a bursting of the torso and expelling of all the victim’s internal organs! Sounds like a great concert to me.


For all of these wonderful sounding segments they are broken up by the bloated wrap-around story of Steven and his dysfunctional family. This all reaches new heights when his three young kids watch one of the horror films made from his writing, The Executioners, and reenact a scene resulting in the death of his only daughter as she is hanged by her brothers. Is this all some sort of anti-horror horror film? First our main character is bitched at in a public forum for the trash he writes and then the exaggerated nightmares of every parents council in the world are realized when a young girl dies because of trying to copy something seen in a horror flick. I can’t really guess one way or another on this one, but I’m going to say that it’s probably not a commentary on the genre. I’d say it’s more a tale of how these two parents should have been more involved with and attentive to their kids instead of shooing them away all the time or going out partying.


This slow moving main story is what makes this a hard movie to recommend to anyone, but with  some scenes full of such horrific greatness I can’t help but want everyone to see them. I’m torn. Since it’s not on DVD it probably wouldn’t be the easiest find out there. Somewhat frustrating bit of movie that Deadline.

Body Count: 10 (though many of them were not real)
First Death: 4:10
Best Death: Nazi New Wave Punks Eviscerate with Music
Number of Times of Physical Abuse by Steven: 3
Best Character: The Goat! (see below)

Coming soon to Horror Movie Night (Chronicles are posted one week after screening):
-5/30/12: Memorial Valley Massacre (1988)
-6/6/12: Pinocchio’s Revenge (1996)
-6/13/12: The Carpenter (1989)
-6/20/12: Bad Dreams (1988)


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