The 1990s, that beautiful era of direct-to-video trash littering your local Blockbuster with covers that were sometimes way more enticing than what was underneath. Vinegar Syndrome returns to that era with a new 4K Blu-ray release of Adam Rifkin’s The Invisible Maniac, a sleazy 1990 horror comedy that pushes the boundaries of good taste, and possibly your patience. The film makes the jump from VHS to 4K with a terrific transfer that pulls the most from the source and is accompanied by a great collection of special features. Worth A Look!
Invisible Maniac will be available for purchase again on January 1, 2023
For those not exactly sure of what to expect from Rif Coogan’s The Invisible Maniac, a film of such lurid, egregious no-budget sleaze and shock that it’s almost intoxicating, then know that its certain brand of shrill nonsense will be for some viewers and repel others immediately. For this reviewer, the experience of watching was more fun than dissecting what was happening on the screen. Seemingly destined for the midnight repertory circuit (give it a few years, I think), The Invisible Maniac bares it all with relentless nudity, whacked-out performances reminiscent of a PM Entertainment production, and a slapdash story that revels in that loud, brash 90s style of over-lighting each scene and cutting it to a synthesizer score.
Kevin Dornwinkle is a gifted child that so happens to have a hankering for seeing naked female flesh. After his prudish mother catches him in the act, Kevin escapes into another passion: science. Years later, the successful scientist (Noel Peters) is about to show off his new molecular reorganization serum, which grants the user invisibility, and it fails horribly. Now, the washed-up Dr. Dornwinkle has to become a high school teacher to survive, but soon he perfects the serum and goes on a rampage of molestation and murder on the students who made fun of him.
There’s something to be said for trying to be exploitative within the confines of the direct-to-video production style, yet The Invisible Maniac’s constant brandishing of female flesh becomes the kind of softcore stuff that littered plenty of other DTV productions. Sure, the combination of such elements with splatter horror provides the kind of laughs one can only find in watching trash, but it can feel really rote here after so much repetition. That being said, fellow former video store regulars are sure to eat this kind of stuff up, and rightfully so, as now enough time has passed to make low-budget DTV fare have an archival quality to it.
Amidst all the forced zooms and cutting when the budget didn’t allow for better special effects, The Invisible Maniac still finds a couple of ways to be interesting in its execution. In particular, there’s a dream sequence that you see glimpses of that predicts a kind-of sapphic horror that’s a different kind of horror from the rest of the film, and it’s genuinely good. For those who miss the days of walking up and down the aisles of a video store, only picking movies based upon their cover art, you’ll find comfort in the inanity on display in The Invisible Maniac. It’s an exercise in bad taste and will most likely try your patience, though I’d be lying if I said that stuff wasn’t enjoyable every once in a while.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-rays
Don’t let Mr. Dornwinkle inject that serum or he’ll change into The Invisible Maniac, which offers two discs (BD66 for the UHD and BD50 for the Blu-ray) and comes in a black Elite case with reversible sleeve artwork. The case comes housed in a limited-edition slipcover (available on VinegarSyndrome.com), and fans who opted for the April Fool Day’s slipcover from VS back in April were gifted with a NSFW lenticular slipcover. The 4K disc boots up to a standard menu screen with options to play the film, set up audio and video and choose which reel to start with. The Blu-ray disc fires up to the same menu, although an option to explore bonus features is added there.
Not many films out there make the jump from VHS to 4K Blu-ray, though The Invisible Maniac has achieved that feat with some help from the folks at Vinegar Syndrome. This 2160p presentation is sourced from a new 4K restoration of the OCN performed by VS and you can tell that almost immediately here, as the level of detail and film grain shown here is terrific and very faithful to the source. Shot mostly at an abandoned school, those flat primaries you expect to see in class are emphasized wonderfully here, although never making them pop enough to overtake the presentation. Again, this is a 1990s production through and through, so think how those harsh fluorescent lamps at school lit everything and you’ll come close to the film’s aesthetic. The HEVC encode treats it all remarkably, though.
As for HDR, you can see deeper colors in close-ups and clothing especially, otherwise it’s a really nice and natural application to the low-budget production. You might be able to spot some gaffes, like tape used for a tear-away boob gag, though I chalk that up to this film really not being seen much outside of VHS. The source must have been in great shape as well, as I didn’t notice much damage throughout the presentation. All in all, this is another terrific 4K showcase from Vinegar Syndrome.
The Invisible Maniac is showcased with a DTS-HD MA mono track that also doesn’t have much damage, if any. This is a front-focused movie, naturally, with the high-end effects definitely showing limitations in their range, although the track handles it all well here without sounding too harsh. This is a low-budget movie filled with jokey sound effects, the quality of which I was expecting to sound a bit more limited than they do here. Consider this a great effort to pull the most from the limited source as well.
Vinegar Syndrome supplies this 4K release with a newly produced making-of doc and some nice archival features. The making-of doc is breezier than anything else, with each interviewee extolling the values of making a cheap movie on the fly and with no money, but it’s clear everyone had a great time working together on the film. The one archival feature I do want to call attention to is the Dream Sequence, as it may be the weirdest stuff that didn’t end up in the film. Like a music video made in 1990s sapphic purgatory.
The Invisible Maniac is exactly the kind of shock and sleaze that Vinegar Syndrome excels at releasing. And while it may not be a great film by any means, the new 4K presentation looks terrific and the package is rounded out with some nice special features. This one is at the very least Worth A Look!