16 user 23 critic

Effects (1979)

R | | Horror, Thriller | June 1980 (USA)
Some crew members of a company shooting a horror film begin to suspect that the "killings" in the movie are real, and that they are actually making a "snuff" film.


Dusty Nelson


William H. Mooney (novel), Dusty Nelson (screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Joseph Pilato ... Dominic (as Joseph F. Pilato)
Susan Chapek Susan Chapek ... Celeste
John Harrison ... Lacey Bickel
Bernard McKenna Bernard McKenna ... Barney
Debra Gordon ... Rita / Mona
Tom Savini ... Nicky
Charles Hoyes ... Lobo (as Chuck Hoyes)
Blay Bahnsen Blay Bahnsen ... Scratch (as Blay Bahnson)
Joe Wittkofski Joe Wittkofski ... TV Director
John Sutton ... TV Sound Man
Dave Balko Dave Balko ... TV Video Man (as Dave Belko)
Jackie Lahane Jackie Lahane ... Murdered Girl (as Jackie Lehane)
Cindy Sebastian Cindy Sebastian ... Dancer
Bobbi Van Eman Bobbi Van Eman ... Campfire Extra
Duke Snyder Duke Snyder ... Campfire Extra


Horror movie about an insane film director who hopes his crowning achievement will be a "snuff" documentary about the actual demise of a film crew working on a horror-movie shoot. The director's real cast and crew aren't too pleased when they find out about his project though. Written by Ørnås

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Making movies can be MURDER!


Horror | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

June 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Death's Director See more »

Filming Locations:

Ligonier, Pennsylvania, USA See more »


Box Office


$55,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Image Works See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Filmed in 1978. See more »


Dom: [sees Nicky wearing an unbrella hat] Look at that guy over there. Look at that, Gene Kelly should have one of those things. I'm singin' in a bar.
Celeste: [laughs]
See more »


References Singin' in the Rain (1952) See more »


Written by John Harrison
Performed by Ron 'Byrd' Foster
See more »

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User Reviews

A True Hidden Gem
24 July 2017 | by gavin6942See all my reviews

Some crew members of a company shooting a horror film begin to suspect that the "killings" in the movie are real, and that they are actually making a "snuff" film.

There are two things about this film that keep it interesting all these decades later. One is the abundance of George Romero-connected people involved: Tom Savini, John Harrison, Joseph Pilato, Pasquale Buba, Nancy Allen (but not THAT Nancy Allen) and others. Filming took place in 1978, around the time that "Dawn of the Dead" was made; it seems that many involved in "Dawn" were making their own film on the side.

The other interesting historical note is how this film for many years just never existed. Although it was shot in 1978 and seems to be copyrighted in 1980, virtually no one saw it in the 1980s or 1990s. Due to a distributor bankruptcy problem, the film never received a theatrical or home video release. It never aired on television, or got passed around as bootlegs either. The October 2005 Synapse Films DVD was the film's first official release anywhere in the world. The American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) is now (2017) releasing a Blu-Ray of the film mastered from a rare 35mm print that was made before the distributor backed out, so it can be discovered by a new generation.

Perhaps due to this film's misfortunes, Dusty Nelson did not return to directing until the "Tales From the Darkside" episode "The Unhappy Medium" (1986). Others involved (Savini and Harrison in particular) achieved great success in its wake. How such a movie went hidden for so long is something of a mystery. If its existence was known, it would be widely sought after. The film was such a secret, we never see it mentioned in interviews or even within in-depth books such as Joe Kane's "Night of the Living Dead".

The most logical reason it would fade into obscurity would be if it was an awful film. But, on the contrary, it actually happens to be quite good. While not the era-defining classic that "Dawn of the Dead" is, it is far better than many other independent horror features of its time. Heck, it even blows away Romero's early works (especially "There's Always Vanilla"). The film-within-a-film is creepy and effective. Dusty Nelson could have been somebody!

A historical footnote: The first known use of the term "snuff movie" is in the 1971 Ed Sanders book, "The Family: The Story of Charles Manson's Dune Buggy Attack Battalion". He alleges that the Manson Family was involved in making such a film in California to record their murders. His allegations were, for the record, false. The idea caught on, however, and we received the film "Snuff" in 1975, as well as this film. The most interesting thing about snuff films is not how they have captured the imagination of people who spread urban legends… it is that they don't exist. While it would be nearly impossible for such a thing to exist as an industry, it seems plausible that at least some killer would record their exploits and at least some of those tapes would get traded on a bootleg market. But apparently not.

The AGFA Blu-ray comes out August 22, 2017, featuring a new 4K scan from the only surviving 35mm theatrical print. We get an archival commentary track with John Harrison, Dusty Nelson, and Pasquale Buba covering their memories of a bygone era. These should be enough, but wait… there is also a "Beastie" short film by Dusty Nelson and a "Ubu" short film by John Harrison. Heck, we even have the "After Effects" documentary with optional commentary track!

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