By Daniel Morris (Topeka, KS)
Caught the world premiere screening of Dreaming Purple Neon and I must say I was surprised. Having seen the trailer, I really looked forward to seeing the whole film. The trailer was pretty nostalgic really, with a ton of gore and old school charm. I figured I should not get my hopes too high because there was no way the film would live up to this trailer. I was wrong. Not only did the film give me all I had hoped for, it went further than I thought. This film was truly a great Halloween gift for those in attendance. The story is epic, with twists and turns aplenty.
Dallas returns home to a small town to try and make things right after a failed attempt to build a future for himself and his girlfriend Denise. Once he gets there, he finds the town under the influence of a designer drug called “Purple Neon” created by a rich and powerful businessman named Cyrus Archer. But Cyrus is more than he seems and his actual agenda is to bring the Queen of Hell to Earth. Cyrus leads a cult of strange, masked acolytes who are also addicted to Purple Neon. Together with the Queen, they plan on returning the world to the Dark Times and destroying most of humanity in the process.
Having truly enjoyed director Todd Sheets’ last Horror film, House of Forbidden Secrets, I found Dreaming Purple Neon to be a visually stunning film, that also has the distinction of being Mr. Sheets most ambitious project to date. He pulls out all the stops here, creating one of the most visually arresting and brave micro budget films ever made. Everything is designed to hit the viewer with maximum effect. It’s truly such a beautifully shot film. I was even more impressed with the lighting and set design of this film than House. And Todd really piles on the shocks on this film. Buckets upon buckets of blood and gore, with several show-stopping effects sequences all done with little or no money. Some of these effects have never been attempted in a Horror film as far as I know, and they are executed wonderfully.
The effects team on this movie has really outdone anything from Todd’s long, splattery career. In fact, as the effects get more and more ambitious, the unreal mayhem that the Effects Team pulls off is nothing short of maddening brilliance. This truly is a film that kicks into maximum overdrive about 15 minutes in and never stops. Todd Sheets lays waste to about every taboo you can think of, making no excuses and pulling no punches. Yet with all the insanity happening, the story never loses focus, the film never derails. The film is an unrelenting splatterfest for sure, and with all of this violence and depravity, this film could easily have been a disturbing mess that felt dark and sickening. In the hands of any other director, this could have been one of those films that made you want to take a 3 day shower, but thankfully it isn’t. There is a playfulness to Todd’s direction that really makes me smile. This is like an ultimate party film, a true love letter to the Horror genre that is an incredible fun and wild ride.
At the heart of Dreaming Purple Neon there is a very effecting love story going on, and before you die hard Horror freaks roll your eyes, think of the classic Dead Alive. Another great Horror flick with a romantic center that delivered the Horror. Though very different, this film has something similar to offer. The characters are very well defined for a splatter movie, making you actually care when all hell literally breaks loose. I was impressed with the sincerity and honesty in the performance of the two leads, Jeremy Edwards and Eli DeGeer in bringing this relationship to life. It seems real, not forced, not hokey. I also really enjoyed all the villains in the film, the main baddie Cyrus Archer played with menace and humor by Jack McCord, Tyrone Kane played by Ricky Farr and his sidekick RayRay, played perfectly by long time Todd Sheets alumni Antwoine Steele were highlights of the film, and of course the two Demons – the Queen and her minion The Demoness. The supporting cast were equally strong, with Millie Milan a highlight as well. I was also very impressed with Jerry, the caretaker and henchman for Cyrus Archer. He chews scenery with a vicious attitude and a dark streak of humor.
I also wanted to mention the music. Equal parts catchy and ominous, the film’s soundtrack is truly incredible. Both fresh and “old school” at the same time. Original yet nostalgic. If you’re an aspiring film-maker, you really owe it to yourself to watch this movie and learn how to create atmosphere with music. The sound design is equally stunning, helping to create an impressive soundscape for the film.
Watching Dreaming Purple Neon with an audience was a TRULY amazing experience. The minute I thought that the film makers could not possibly go any farther “over the top” than they already had, something else happened that made me stare at the screen in astonishment and shock. This is a VERY original movie with a huge heart, crafted with love and care by a group of people that truly love Horror movies. It is modern and different but still nostalgic. Much like infusing his previous film, House of Forbidden Secrets, with his love of Italian Horror, Todd Sheets has brought the VHS Generation into the new modern age of Horror, bringing us an homage to the classics of yesterday that also throws new ideas and images at the audience, many of them this reviewer has never experienced before.
It is beginning the Film Festival screenings, along with Horror cons and other theater screenings before being released on DVD, Blu-ray and On Demand. Track it down, plop your butt in a seat and be prepared for an incredible wild ride done with quality and passion. While shocking and likely to be quite upsetting in many ways for modern PC audiences, the viewer senses that the director has no agenda other than to entertain us and give us a good time. If you are a Horror fan, you cannot afford to miss it.