All Drugged Up

To grasp Ozone, two things need understood. One is how voracious video stores were in stocking shelves with content. Anything rented. To meet that demand, the “shot on video” genre came into being, where amateur filmmakers found distribution deals (or made their own companies to hawk their wares) for VHS-based epics. The crazier the cover art, the better. A wild premise? That’s another win.

Second and more important to Ozone is America’s drug war. Whether by intent or merely via micro-budget, Ozone plays out like an absurd parody of Reagan’s anti-drug policies. It’s a world where this mini-town (really Akron, Ohio) is besieged by mutating addicts, hooked on a new narcotic.

Ozone isn’t confused with any studio offering, yet it finds a goofy, at times hilariously shrewd tone

Ozone wasn’t a wildly inventive concept – cinema constantly depicted a new, “worse than crack” street-spread alternative. Even the RoboCop series explored this with “Nuke.” Here, obviously, it’s Ozone, which turns people into goo, and rather than addict them, they spread the drug. It’s treated like a contagion, addiction churning through a community, working its way through the heaviest users, then forcibly luring in those unwilling to join. Think a zombie movie (Ozone’s alternate title is Street Zombies), but instead of needing brains, it’s about injecting new users.

It’s not difficult to imagine a sheltered conservative audience believing this to be only marginally fictionalized. Addicts didn’t need of help – they were monsters out to stick kids with needles. They host fight clubs in bar basements, and when high (or in this case, deformed), they submit to lust and go to work on each other right there on a sewer floor. All those things happen in Ozone.

Understanding this rogue genre reveals Ozone as part of the utterly lawless, unrated, unflinching self-funded bizarro world made possible by video stores. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was Roger Corman spinning up 16mm cameras and shooting two movies on one budget. Through Corman’s own ambition came stuff like Ozone, now performed for a video camera widely available to anyone walking through Sears (or so it was in the ‘90s).

Knowing those realities, Ozone clicks. It’s often shot with moody color, splurging on grotesque make-up effects like bubbling skin or a drug lord who’s more troll than human. Ozone isn’t confused with any studio offering, yet it finds a goofy, at times hilariously shrewd tone that sums up feelings from an entire decade’s worth of street crime.


Makeflix distributes Ozone on a BD-R, if one professionally packaged with slipcover and short essay booklet. There’s no attempt to mislead anyone – this is SD source material pressed onto a Blu-ray. To note, however, this is better than most attempts at upscaling VHS.

Aliasing, interlacing, and flicker do appear. That’s expected. In quantity though, those flaws stay low in number. VHS grit resolves well via this encode, smartly – even carefully – cleaned up as to not smother the source material. Ozone appears rough, yet in comparison to other attempts, quite clean.

There’s color to go around, saturated nicely, and with little bleed. A decent bump to contrast helps the lesser black levels as to never lose depth entirely.


While exaggerated, the precision coming from the DTS-HD track in 5.1, at times, sounds totally natural. Ambient effects stretch a little too far in making themselves noticed. Elsewhere however, dialog jumps between channels as needed, even the rears, naturally moving through the soundstage.

Fidelity shines here too, against all logic given recording circumstances and age. Dialog lacks an analog harshness, instead coming across as near modern in crispness and clarity.


Four (!) commentaries show up in this two-disc set, three on the Blu-ray (all featuring director JR Bookwalter), while the fourth is exclusive to the included DVD. Staying with the Blu-ray, bloopers and outtakes run 30-minutes, a making of coming in near the same length. Star James Black earns a short featurette, followed by a location tour, local news interviews, promo materials, and test footage.

Switch discs for an isolated score track, on-set audio track, more promos, and a few clips from the Spanish version.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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In terms of the shot-on-VHS genre, Ozone is among the best in its class, if you know what you’re getting into.

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