On a stakeout to meet an informant, Detectives Eddie Boone and Mike Weitz are ambushed by a drug dealer named Richter and become separated in the fierce firefight. While detective Weitz tracks down their traitorous informant into a decrepit druggie den, Boone wrangles with Richter who injects him with a new street drug called Ozone. Unable to locate his missing partner for days, Eddie breaks standard police protocols to find his longtime friend and partner by digging into Ozone’s grimy underworld filled with powerful hallucinogenic manifestations from the drug that turns users into mindless mutated addicts and killing machines. Eddie will have to go through Hell to stop the distribution of Ozone and to rescue his partner from an elevated and fully transformed drug lord with unconventional powers that believes Eddie is key to his world dominance.
First, “The Dead Next Door.” Then, “Robot Ninja.” Now, TempVideo and MakeFlix present the next super-duper, 2-disc collector’s release from the visionary B-movie director, J.R. Bookwalter, with his 1995 horror film, “Ozone.” Co-written with the visual effects artist from “The Talisman” and “Subspecies 4: Bloodstorm, David A. Wagner pens his one and only option in which Bookwalter immediately took a shining to following a string of very taxing and bargain titles for a flyby label. Able to by clairvoyant with how “Ozone” should be constructed, deep inside the creative process of his auteur mind, Bookwalter felt desire to oversee the production, taking the helm on just how he would make an ambitious project come to a life on a microbudget. “Ozone” parallels the subculture of powerful narcotics, like heroin or cocaine, and amplifies the conditions of the euphoria side effects to monstrous, unpredictable heights through a labyrinth of what the hell is going to happen next? Mostly shot in Akron, Ohio, “Ozone” is a production of Bookwatler’s own company, Suburban Tempe Company aka TempeVideo, on an astonishingly low-budget of $3500 and a handpicked cast and crew.
Comprised mainly of Ohio based actors, “Ozone” finds it’s star in James Black who has previously worked with Bookwalter on “Zombie Cop” and “Chickboxer.” Black went on to stardom, making a living off of the Hollywood limelight by having roles in such films as “Soldier” alongside Kurt Russell and “Out of Sight” with George Clooney among many other television and movie roles, but Black’s humble beginnings shouldn’t be overlooked. His performance as the lead character, Eddie Boone, highlights his attributes as a leading man. The physicality of the former professional football player with good looks catches the corners of eyes that the man from Lima, Ohio can act as well as do action scenes professionally and effectively despite budget limitations. However, “Ozone’s” talent doesn’t end there with Black’s co-stars who wear multiple hats in other roles or behind the camera. Case in point is Bill Morrison and James L. Edwards as the two makeup a total of five characters in the film as well as serving to be critical components as crew. Morrison dons two roles plus crafting the special makeup effects and miniatures. Edwards supports three roles, including the main antagonist in what looks like a hefty body suit. Morrison and Edwards going through the rigors of makeup to pull off various characters with polar personalities provide “Ozone’s” well-rounded, always interesting, idiosyncratic individuals Eddie encounters through his misadventures of drug-fueled nightscapes. Tom Hoover, Michael Cagnoli, Michael Beatty, Jerry Camp, Mark S. Bosko, Wayne Alan Harold, Neil Graf, Leo Anastasio, Parris Washington, and Lori Scarlett in an unforgettable birth of a mutant baby scene rounds out this cast of colorful characters.
“Ozone” is a gooey, gory, gumshoe of a horror film baked on narcotics laced with nightmares and for the budget price of a dime bag, J.R. Bookwalter injects a full-fledged, black tar, down the rabbit hole thriller that’s akin to a Clive Barker Faustian concept. “Ozone” draws similarities from “Hellraiser” as well as could find strong congruence with “Lords of Illusions,” a film which was released the same year as “Ozone” in 1995. Instead of magicians of the occult, the use of a more salt of the Earth drug is a powerful, tangible substance that reflects relevance more so than of fantasy. Audiences can relate more to the idea of the twisted wrenching of habitual use of not only illegal drugs, but with perhaps medications, alcohol, or any number of other addictions that seemingly take over one’s life and replaces it with the worst part of themselves. The mysterious encounters Eddie Boone is subjected to during his tour of the drug enlightens the hardnose detective to an out of body horror experience wretched with disfigured humanoid shells and countless mutants determined on cornering the market on living not sober not on their own volition. The use of the new morph special effects merged with the respectable practice effects by Bill Morrison and his team gorge on body modification and overpowering death as synonymous to being high.
Just like “The Dead Next Door” and “Robot Ninja,” “Ozone” receives the king’s treatment into a duel format, 2-disc Blu-ray and DVD Signature edition release. Shot on Super-VHS C videotape in 1995 and then transferred to DVCAM in 2002 for the DVD remastering, the 2020 upgrade used the DVDCAM masters were captured as ProRes 442 HQ QuickTime video files for a new and comprehensive color upgrade, additional deinterlacing, and amend any other Super-VHS C tape imperfections. What resulted for the Blu-ray release is a super clean and enhanced look presented in the original 4:3 (1.33:1) aspect ratio of perfectly color corrected hues, brilliantly effusing various colors to coincide with the artistic storytelling of Eddie Boone’s trippy trek through “Ozone’s” chthonic evil. Seldom do minor blemishes pop up; in fact, you won’t even really notice when godsmacked on “Ozone’s” uncanny use of budgetary limitations. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound mix is equally as impressive. Pulled from the DA-8 tape achieve of the original audio masters on an eight-track cassettes, all of the dialogue and some original sound effects were used as the basis for the new restoration in which Maui Holcomb and director, J.R. Bookwalter enhanced over the course of 18 years. Dialogue cuts to the front of the line, mixed and balanced well with the explosions, gunfire, and other skirmishes, delivering a flawless and discernable product. Depth and range render nicely throughout. The DVD specs are the original 1994 VHS version also in the original aspect ratio with an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix. Jens C. Moller grand score elevates “Ozone” to the “next stage,” as the street mutates would coin it, offering up a bountiful, robust score that simultaneous blends action and horror seamlessly. If you’re looking for every nook and cranny bonus material on “Ozone,” you got it with an extensive bonus package on the Blu-ray disc that include a 2020 audio commentaries from J.R. Bookwalter, a 2003 commentary with the director and star, James Black, 2003 commentary, entitled “Street Zombies” from Bookwalter, bloopers and outtakes, production art and stills, news’ topic reels from 1993, promotional gallery, “Ozone’s origins explained through “Paying for Your Past Sins” with J.R. Bookwalter, “Into the Black” with star James Black and how he became involved, a 2003 location tour with actor James L. Edwards, behind the scenes footage with the only audio available is a commentary by J.R. Bookwalter, early test footage, and Tempe trailers. The DVD has additional material, such as awesomely isolating the musical score, 2020 audio commentary with Doug Tilley and Moe Porne of the No-Budget Nightmares Podcast, scenes from the Spanish dubbed version, the 1992 B’s Nest Video Magazine Intro, the original trailer, the Japanese trailer, the “Street Zombies” trailer, and more Tempe DVD trailers. The not rated, 81 minute, region free release also has optional English and Spanish subtitles. Inside the casing, which has a reversible wrap cover with the original VHS cover, housed inside a cardboard slipcover of revamped artwork by graphic designer Timothy Rooker includes an eight-page color booklet with liner notes by Tempe historian Ross Synder; it’s a good read up on “Ozone’s” conceiving and a little history on SOV of the 1990’s. Exquisitely enhanced and lush with material, the Signature Edition of “Ozone” just might be the definitive one of the wildly insane and bloodied occult cop fiction of independent horror ingenuity.