Hidden Gem ‘Self Defense’ (1983) Retro Movie Review

This practically unheard of Canadian gem from 1983 is a prime example of how bold and adventurous northern indie cinema was in this era. Enter production company Salter Street Films from Nova Scotia, along with Director Paul Donovan (Def Con 4 1985and his brother and lawyer, Michael Donovan, who ran the company. Salter Street Films put out a number of offerings, but one of their most explosive being Self Defense aka Siege

poster for "Self Defense"

What makes Self Defense a great but not perfect film is the plot scenario it sets up and cleverly uses to its advantage. Around the time of the production, there was an actual police strike in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, for a number of days. Self Defense uses some of the only actual news footage from ATV news, which covered the real strike.

alternate title and poster for "Self Defense"

The intro with the news footage and camera work that catches the dark, hazy, devoid-of-life streets of downtown Halifax adds an authentic and unnerving atmosphere to the beginning of the film. It’s done quite brilliantly, and I believe and really sets up a proper mood for what’s to come. We see such calm dark streets, yet underneath it all, there are people dwelling and continuing on with their nightly routines, despite the lack of police presence.

We are then brought to a private gay nightclub called The Crypt, where a group of men wearing foolish-looking bands around their shoulders marked with N.O. (which stands for New Order) and carrying 2×4 boards and baseball bats arrive. All activities screech to a halt in the club as they state their business. The New Order believe that being a “homo” is wrong, and they aren’t going to stand for it. Things escalate quickly, and instead of just scaring and intimidating the patrons as planned, one is accidentally killed in a nasty incident with a broken wine bottle.

self-defence 1983
Screenshot from “Self-Defense”

One of the vigilantes call their leader, a man simply known as Cabe (Doug Lennox), a cold-blooded killer who systematically executes all of the patrons in the bar, but not before one of them, a man named Daniel (Terry-David Despres) escapes. Daniel runs to the apartment of Good Samaritans Horatio (Tom Nardini) and his girlfriend, Barbara (Brenda Bazinet), who defend him from the New Order henchmen. Despite their lack of weapons, the group band together with ingenuity and use what they have at their disposal to put up a hell of a fight against the New Order gang.

Self-Defence 1983
Screenshot from “Self-Defence”

Self Defense has never gotten an official DVD release, and it’s a damn shame, because this movie is an entertaining and gritty thriller. The full length movie is available on YouTube. Self Defense would benefit from a nice remaster on Blu-ray, as the quality is obviously dated, but the material is great and the content even from the ’80s still remains more relevant than ever today.

Hatred and bigotry towards homosexuals is still prevalent in today’s society, I’m sad to say. Although I’d like to think it has vastly improved, like anything, there is always room for more improvement and tolerance. I highly recommend Self Defense as a diamond in the rough that you’ll want to check out, especially if you enjoy films such as John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13.

About Richard Taylor

Avid gore/horror/underground/brutal death metal/comic fiend. Got into the good stuff in the nineties by tape trading the likes of Violent Shit, Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Apocalypse, The Beyond, Guinea Pig series, Men Behind The Sun etc. Have written for a bunch of sites some now defunct and some still going such as Violent Maniacs Cage, ZFE Films With Attitude, Mortado's Pages Of Filth, Severed Cinema, Goregasmic Cinema, Extreme Horror Cinema and Twisted Minds.

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