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MOVIE REVIEW ARCHIVES

A-C     D-F     G-I     J-L     M-O     P-R     S-U     V-X     Y-Z


A

Abominable

The Abominable Dr. Phibes

Accion Mutante

After.Life

Albert Fish

The Alien Factor

The Alligator People

All Monsters Attack!

All Souls Day

Alone With Her

An American Werewolf In London

And Now The Screaming Starts

And Soon The Darkness

Anguish

Anatomy

Angel of the Night

Apollo 18

Army of the Dead

Ass Monster

Astro Zombies

Asylum

Attack of the Beast Creatures

Audition

Automaton Transfusion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B

Bad Dreams

Bad Taste

Banquet Of The Beasts

Barracuda

The Beast From The Haunted Cave

The Beast Must Die

Beast of Blood

Beast of the Yellow Night

Beatrice Cenci

The Being

Better Off Undead

Beyond The Darkness

Beyond The Door

Beyond The Wall Of Sleep

Blackout

Black Demons

Black Scorpion

Black Sleep

Black Sunday

Blackwater Valley Exorcism

Blade 2

The Blair Witch Project

The Blob

Blood and Black Lace

Blood Cult

Blood Feast 2

Blood Freak

Blood Snow

Bloody Moon

Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula

Brain Damage

Brides of Blood

Bride of Chucky

Bruiser

Bubba Ho-Tep

Buried Alive

 

 

C

Cabin Fever

Caltiki: The Immortal Monster

A Candle For The Devil

Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter

Carnival of Souls

Cemetery Gates

Centerfold Girls

C.H.U.D.

Circus of Horrors

City of the Dead

Coffin Rock

Cold Fish

Cold Prey

The Convent

The Corpse Grinders

Corridors of Blood

Count Yorga Vampire

The Crawling Eye

Crawlspace '77

Crawlspace

Creature

Creep

Creepshow

The Creeping Flesh

The Cremator

Crocodile

Crowhaven Farm

Cry Wolf

Cube

Cup of My Blood

Curse of the Crying Woman

Curse of the Demon

Curse of the Devil

Curse of the Living Corpse

 

 

 

 

(2006)
Directed by Ryan Schifrin
Starring Matt McCoy, Haley Joel, Christen Tinsley, Karin Anna Cheung, Tiffany Shepis, Jeffrey Combs,
Natalie Compagno, Paul Gleason, Lance Henriksen, Rex Linn, Dee Wallace Stone

Here’s a film that we’ve been trying to get to for a couple of years now, but just keep forgetting about it.  So in during one of our “what can I watch tonight” ponderings, we came across this title in our catalog and BINGO!  Time for what I had heard was a good old fashion ‘80s style monster movie.  And that is exactly what I got.

The plot is as if you took part of the basic story from Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW, where a disabled person witnesses what he thinks is a murder outside his window.  But here, instead of your basic murderer, we have a 7-foot monster chomping down on the neighbors.  Director Schifrin makes no excuses about it either, making the conscious decision to take this twist of a plot, and give us a nice throwback to the gory monster movies of the ‘80s.  And now only does he do just that, but he brings back a fun style of filmmaking that will have horror fans, gore fans, and everyone in between having a good time.

Matt McCoy stars as Preston, a rich guy who lost his wife and the use of his legs in a rock climbing accident several months before.  As part of his therapy, his doctor has one of the male nurses take him back to his mountain cabin to face his fears.  Shortly after getting there, he notices a group of young women arriving at the house next door for their own weekend getaway.  Now he’s already at edge about being so close to the memories of the accident, and doesn’t want to be there.  So when he starts to see something moving in the trees, he gets even more nervous.  Much to the disbelief of his asshole of a male nurse, who thinks he’s just making it up to get out of there.  To make it even worse, when Preston is watching one of girls next door outside on the phone, something comes out of the woods and snatches her off her feet.

There had already been reports of some wild animal loose killing some of the local farm animals.  So on the prowl that night are hunters looking to put an end to whatever is responsible.  One of the hunters is played by Lance Henriksen, in small but fun part.  The movie also has a small part for Dee Wallace, as one of the local farmers.  Jeffrey Combs plays one of the locals, who once again proves his acting capabilities when creating a role, and breathing life into a character.  Scream Queen Tiffany Shepis plays one of the girls next door, who is there to take off her clothes and die horribly, like she usually does in film.  And we are not complaining one bit.  But any of these people that run into the creature realize that this isn’t the furry, cuddly teddy bear like from Harry and the Henderson.

But the real star of the movie is the monster and the effects.  Christen Tinsley provided the special make up effects and creature work, when he wasn’t acting in the film as Preston’s nurse.  There are plenty of shots of the gooey red stuff to give any gore hound a smile, with a couple of scenes that will even get a loud cheer or two.  It was so great to see this monster-on-the-loose film, with the style right from the ‘80s, from the practical make up effects to the gratuitous nudity to the over-the-top moments of gore.

The movie also has a great soundtrack, but when the director’s father is Lalo Schifrin, I’m sure it was pretty easy to work that angle.  Lalo Schifrin had done scores for some incredible films, especially the original Amityville Horror, and he creates another memorable score here.

So while the concept of this film seems pretty silly and unoriginal.  But if you’re looking for a fun and entertaining 90 minutes of blood, guts, and carnage, you will have a good time.  It will make you pine for those days of old, when a big rubber monster tearing people apart was all we needed for a good night of movie watching.


THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES
(1971)
Directed by Robert Fuest.
Starring Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Terry-Thomas, Peter Jeffrey

Vincent Price has always been one of my favorite actors, and the Dr. Phibes movies have always been high on my list of favorite Price movies.  I was always enjoyed the way that while he was the 'bad' guy, we were still cheering for him.  Phibes is of the best anti-heroes in the cinema.

The story is about Dr. Phibes, who sets out to take revenge on the people he holds responsible for the death of his wife, each in a gruesome way, taken from one of the biblical curses.  Filled with some very dark humor, Price is excellent as the demented Dr. Phibes.  The film also stars Joseph Cotton, Hugh Griffith, and Terry-Thomas in a great little role.

This has recently been released on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment.  The film is presented in a widescreen version (1.85:1 ratio) and is great quality.  The only extras on the DVD is the original theatrical trailer.  It is a shame that they couldn't get the director, Robert Fuest, to do an audio commentary for both this film and it's sequel.  But the lack of extras is about the only thing I could complain about.  The SRP for this is only $14.95!  How could one go wrong with this great film for only $15!  This is a highly recommended DVD for any collection.


(1993)
Directed by Álex de la Iglesia
Starring Antonio Resines, Álex Angulo, Frédérique Feder, Juan Viadas, Karra Elejalde,
Saturnino García, Fernando Guillén, Alfonso Martinez, Santiago Segura

This is one foreign film that will NEVER get an American remake.  Why you ask?  Simply because it’s about handicapped terrorist kidnapping and murdering the rich, the beautiful, and the famous.  I think the ratings board might have a problem with that one.  Not to mention all of the protest groups out there just waiting for something like this to pounce on.  And even more so that their emblem is that of a figure in a wheelchair with a gun.

Accion Mutante is the name of a group of terrorist that target the attractive wealthy citizens in this futuristic dark comedy from director Álex de la Iglesia.  The members of Accion Mutante comprise of all sorts of handicapped misfits, that don’t seem to have a brain between them.  Now that their leader, Ramon, has been released from prison, they hope to get back to having better results in their terrorist escapades.  Ramon has the plan to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy baker mogul, at her wedding.  But once the kidnapping is a success (well…sort of), the real terror begins!

The futuristic world that de la Iglesia creates is not a pretty one.  The rich are the super upperclass, while the rest of the world lives in poverty and fifth.  The TV news is used in a similar manner to how it was shown in the ROBOCOP films.  There’s not problem with showing people being beaten by the police or even shot.  There are tons of strange and wacky characters throughout this movie.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, he introduces someone even stranger than the last.  A special nod to Spanish cult star Santiago Segura and his family of complete nutters.

This was director de la Iglesia first real movie, and showed even at a young age his sense of style and humor.  His humor is dark, silly, and at times reminds me of Month Python.  Some of the scenes are way over the top, with blood flying everywhere.  But the humor, no matter how dark and twisted, is still there.

Another highlight of this film is the look of it, in a production design aspect.  This film was a low budget film.  But the expansive set designs they came up with were incredible.  The design of their spaceship is incredible.  Not the fancy, clean & bright spaceships like in most sci-fi movies.  But theirs is dirty, slimy, and amazes you that it can even fly.  Not to mention that the crew would be smart enough to fly it. 

I can remember first seeing this movie on a bootleg video tape.  The quality was good, but still grainy.  It was the only version of the film that had subtitles.  But even with the lesser quality, I fell in love with the movie.  Director Álex de la Iglesia has one twisted sense of humor.

There has been other DVD releases of this movie, but no official ones that had English subtitles.  Until now.  Metrodome has released this in its uncut 2.35:1 widescreen format, in a region 2 PAL DVD.  And it looks incredible.  But not only does it have subtitles, there is also a great making of featurette that was made during filming.  This is almost a half hour long and covers many different aspects of the making of the film.  Since this was filmed during filming, you get a lot of ‘on-the-set’ footage while they were actually rehearsing and filming the movie.  They also talk about the production design, the costumes, make up, and just about everything else.  The director is on camera quite a bit talking about the film.  This feature also has English subtitles, and is a great extra for a movie that is 15 years old.

If you are a fan of wacky and dark sci-fi movies, then you need to pick this up.  And even if you’re a horror fan that doesn’t care for sci-fi, there is enough blood in here to keep you happy.  Not to mention that it’s simply a great story, and a great movie.  It’s well worth checking out, since you will NEVER see something like this coming out of Hollywood.  You can pick this disc up from our friends at Xploited Cinema.  But I wouldn’t wait too long, since I think a lot of fans have been waiting for this one to come out.  Just click on the banner below to get to their site.


(2010)
Directed by Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Starring Liam Neeson, Justin Long, Christina Ricci, Chandler Canterbury, Josh Charles, Celia Weston

This is a strange film.  Billed as a psychological thriller, but is really a creepy horror movie dealing with a very twisted serial killer.  Or is it?  That’s the beauty of this film.  All throughout the movie, you’re pretty sure what is really going on, but you’re never really positive since they never tell you one way or another.  That in itself, might just piss off a few film fans that like to know the outcome of a movie and not have to think.

After a car accident, Ricci wakes up in the basement of a funeral parlor, being prepped for her own funeral.  She can’t really move that much at first, and is told by the mortician, played by Neeson, that she is really dead, but she just doesn’t know it yet.  Of course, she doesn’t believe it since she feels alive.  But the calm Neeson tries to explain what is happening to her, that she is going through the different stages of death.  Her boyfriend, played by Justin Long, is having a hard time believing that she is really dead as well.

Is Neeson really a serial killer who is convincing his victims that they are really dead, only to bury them alive.  Or does he have this special gift where he can talk to the dead, and get irritated at times since they never seem to believe him when he tells them the truth.  There are several things in the film that really point to Neeson being a serial killer, such as taking photos of his victims and posting them on a wall in his bedroom.  And that fact that he always drugs Ricci before someone is coming to see her.  But just when you’re convinced, they show you something else that makes you wonder.

Neeson is great as the smooth talking mortician, who remains calm most of the time, but does get irritated at the “dead” when they never believe him.  The film gets even darker when it looks like he will be taking on a young apprentice.  Ricci looking pretty good throughout the movie, even when she is a “corpse”.  Since her character is so depressed to begin with, we can understand why she doesn’t have that fight-to-live feelings that most of us would think would make her want to escape more.

This was the first feature film for the young female director, Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo.  She graduated from film school in New York after deciding the film schools in her home in Poland would not be the best way about getting a film made.  Shortly after graduating, she started working on the script for AFTER.LIFE.  For her first feature film, we think she might be someone to keep an eye on.

This may not be the type of film for everyone since the plot is sort of ambiguous; though we were pretty convinced what is was going on.  But that is one thing that we really liked about it.  But had it not been for the stellar leads here, the movie might not have been as easy to hold the viewers attention due to the subtleness of it all.



 

(2007)
Directed by John Borowski
Narrated by Tony Jay

“In sin, he found salvation.”

I have never been a big fan of documentaries on true life crime and serial killers.  Maybe a little history of Jack the Ripper might peak my interests every now and then, but I’ve never really delved into too much detail.  Maybe since it is real, and not the fiction or alternate reality we succumb to while watching a movie, it makes it more disturbing and even harder to just walk away from.

A couple of years ago, I got a chance to see this documentary by John Borowski on H.H. Holmes, the first real American serial killer.  While again, this wasn’t my particular forte, I watched it anyway.  I was not only drawn into the history of this psychotic and amazed at the things he had done back in the late 1800’s, but also the style that Borowski told the tale of this demented person.  From using grainy black and white re-enactments, it gave an interesting look and feel to this already dark story.

So when I heard that Borowski’s latest documentary was one the notorious Albert Fish, I was excited to see if he could use this style once again.  I knew a little about Fish and his work, enough to know that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to know more detail.  And after watching this documentary, I was in shock.  I thought I’d heard enough about Gein, Gacy, and the others to prepare myself for the atrocities of Mr. Fish.   I was wrong.

After viewing this 86 minute documentary, I have to say that this was one of the most disturbing films that I’ve seen.  The film is really not visually graphic at all, but the things that Fish did to others, not to mention himself, that is simply and utterly horrifying.  Hearing Fish’s own words from a confession letter to the mother of one of his victims, a 10-year old girl, is something that I will never forget.

This actual letter is in the possession of artist and Odditorium owner Joe Coleman, who is interviewed in this documentary.  I would have thought that someone collecting such items is either a sick-minded person, or is doing it for the exploitation aspect of it.  But Coleman talks with great authority on the subject and actually makes some very good points as to why people need to remember Albert Fish.  And that he was, after all, still a human being.  No matter what most would think of him after what he did.  There is still much to be learned.

Also interviewed in the documentary is renowned true-crime author Katherine Ramsland, who gives us some pretty good insight into this sick mind of Mr. Fish.  Though, I couldn't help but notice on her bookshelf behind her, there was a copy of one of those Idiot's Guides to Criminal Investigations or something like that.

The documentary goes into great detail on Fish’s life, including him being raised in an orphanage, where he was abused with multiple beatings.  After awhile, he started to enjoy them.  So even at a young age, we start to see where his strange tastes started.  We follow Fish from there throughout his life, during his marriage and raising a family.  All the time, leading this double life of a sadist, masochist, murderer, deviant, and cannibal.

For someone who is looking for a fun “horror movie” to enjoy, I would avoid this one.  But if you want an excellent, yet frightening look into the mind of one that I would call the most demented humans in history, then I think you will find this film fascinating and also very unforgettable.

The DVD comes with interviews with the director, the Murder Metal Band Macabre, Nico Claux, the vampire of Paris, as well as the history of the electric chair, deleted scenes and outtakes, trailers, productions stills, and more.

For more information about this film, go to the official website: www.albertfish.com or the official site of the director: http://www.johnborowski.com


(1977)
Directed by Don Dohler
Starring Don Leifert, Tom Griffith, Mary Mertens, Richard Dyszel, Anne Frith, Richard Geiwitz, Eleanor Herman, and George Stover.

Even if you didn’t know that this film’s budget was around $4000, it is still amazing on just how entertaining, not to mention how well made, this film is.  This is the first film from the East Coast King of Low Budget Filmmaking, Don Dohler.

Made in Baltimore in 1976, Dohler used the help of friends, family, and other people who had interests in filmmaking that he had met up while publishing a small press magazine called CINEMAGIC.  This magazine was a guide for people who wanted to get started in making their own films.  So while Dohler and company didn’t have a lot of money, they had something more important.  They had the desire and talent to put out a movie that would be entertaining…and maybe even make some money for them.  Hell, it even made the cover of Famous Monsters, issue #143.  I guess that would be a good sign, don’t you think?

Granted, some of the acting isn’t the highest of quality.  But for a film of this budget, it still is pretty good.  I’ve seen a lot worse in some major films coming from Hollywood.  The actors do very well in giving that feeling of a small town, where everybody knows everybody.  And when something happens to one of the locals, the word spreads quickly.  The actor playing the mayor, Richard Dyszel, is also know as Count Gore DeVol, a horror host in the 70s’& 80’s in the Washington area.  And of course you have George Stover, a Dohler regular who is still showing up in his movies.  As well as Don Leifert, who was also the title character in Dohler's FIEND.

The basic plot is about an alien spaceship that crashes out in the woods outside of a small town.  The alien crew was carrying some different alien species to their home planet, but somehow crashed on Earth.  These three, very different looking aliens, start to attack the locals.  A strange guy from the local observatory shows up saying that he can help.  But he seems to be hiding something more.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is the makeup designs for the alien creatures.  This is a great example of what can be done when the ambition and desire is more important than the money.  The guys who came up with, and sometimes even acting in their own makeup suits, created some really original and cool looking creatures.  One creature stands about eight feet tall, using leg extensions that are covered in the makeup.  The result is a really cool looking monster; very reminiscent of something from Harryhausen, but today probably would have probably been a CGI effect.

The DVD was put out by Retro Media, which can be picked up at a great low price.  This is most likely the reason for the quality of the prints.  Don’t be looking for any re-mastered prints, with Dolby Digital Surround Sound on one of these discs.  And to be honest, if you did, I think it might take away some of the look and feel of these types of movies.  While the quality is pretty much the same as video quality, it’s still very much watchable.  And as stated before, for the low price, you can’t really beat it.  Hell, an original pre-record of this movie is probably going for more on eBay then what this disc costs.

The extra features on the disc contains a blooper and out-take reel, which is extremely entertaining.  There is also a still gallery, highlighting the Dohler regular George Stover.  Then there is also a never seen before stop-motion animation sequence that was never used for the final print of the film.


(1959)
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney Jr., George Macready, Frieda Inescort, Richard Crane, Douglas Kennedy.

THE ALLIGATOR PEOPLE has always been a favorite of mine.  I'm sure the one of the main reasons is due to the wonderful (if not completely drunken) job that Lon Chaney Jr. did in this film.  And some of the makeup is a bit silly looking.  But none the less, to me it's still entertaining.

The story is basically told in a flashback setting.  Beverly Garland plays a newlywed wife who's husband runs off as their leaving for their honeymoon.  After spending some time searching for her missing husband, she finally comes to an old plantation down south, which was an address that her husband had used before they were married.  But when she gets there, nobody seems to have heard of him.  But something just doesn't seem right there.

Chaney Jr. plays the hook-handed handyman called Manon.  He's hated the 'gators' since they took off one of his hands.  So there's nothing much more enjoyable for him than to shoot at the gators or even run over them with his truck, all the while either laughing or screaming at them.

The more snooping around that Garland does, she discovers a hidden secret about her husband.  He had been in a terrible accident while in the military.  But he seemed to make an incredible recovery once he got home.  But she discovers the secret experiments that have been going, which have not been totally successful.

Yea, but make up is a little rubbery in some cases, but I still think it was one hell of a idea to put an alligator shaped head on that of a human body.  Or even the makeup of some of the transitions, where it the face look more like a grill marks than reptile skin.  But even with these flaws, if you enjoy sci-fi / horror films of the 50's and 60's, I'm sure you'll enjoy this one as much as I do.  With a great cast, some great unintentional humor, and some interesting makeup, I couldn't recommend this film enough.

This used to be a hard movie to find in decent quality.  Yea, AMC (which stands for Alot More Commercials) would play it, but I don't watch that channel anymore.  But then 20th Century Fox released in on DVD in a beautiful widescreen (2.35:1) edition.  Granted, whoever writes the box copy for them obviously didn't know that much about the movie since his synopsis was wrong, but why am I not surprised.  But none the less, at least they put out a damn nice looking print.  So that makes up for it.


ALL MONSTERS ATTACK!

"THEY'RE COLOSSAL!  THEY'RE HUNGRY!  AND THEY'RE COMING THIS WAY!  HERE'S THE MOST GIGANTIC ASSORTMENT OF OVERSIZED BEASTS, BEHEMOTHS, DINOSAURS AND INDESCRIBABLE SPACE CREATURES EVER TO OVERWHELM YOUR VIDEO SCREAM!"

All Day Entertainment have come up with another DVD filled with trailers from our favorite classic monster movies.  Following the release of their other two trailer DVDs (THE HORROR OF HAMMER and TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN), ALL MONSTERS ATTACK! features over 50 trailers from all the classic giant monster movies like GODZILLA, RODAN, and MOTHRA to the giant bug and animals to even a 50 foot pissed off woman!

For fans of trailers, and even better fans of these great movies, this is a very entertaining disc.  I only wish I would have had this for my Halloween party a few weeks ago.  But at least it will come in handy for next year's party.  There are a couple trailers that are pretty worn out, but for the most part, all the trailers are still highly watch-able.  And besides, with these types of films, you don't want the crystal clear images that DVD is known for.  It kind of takes the fun out of them.

But there's more here than just the trailers.  As usual, All Day Entertainment adds a couple of other features.  There are two making of featurettes.  The first one is for the 1975 film THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, and the second one is from the 1958 film THE SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD.  For LAND, the camera goes behind the scenes talking to the crew and discussing how the film came about.  For the SINBAD featurette, they discuss the new techniques in film special effects that allow Sinbad to fight a skeleton warrior or a giant Cyclops fighting a giant lizard.  Then at last, there is a Atomic safety short film called OPERATION PLUMBOB (1954) and an award winning student cartoon from 1992 called MEGA-MORPHOSIS.

So this is another great title for your collection.  It's great for parties where you can just let it play trailer after trailer.  With a running time of 2 hours, there's plenty of entertainment value for everybody.  When watching this disc for review, my son was there the whole time, almost being as entertained as I was.  Of course, now he has a small list of films that he wants to see after seeing the trailer.  And who said those trailers don't work...


(2005)
Directed by Jeremy Kasten
Starring Marisa Ramirez, Travis Wester, Michole Hiltz, Laz Alonso, Jeffrey Combs, Ellie Cornell, David Keith, Laura Harring, Danny Trejo

A college couple get stranded in a small village, south of the border, interrupting some sort of celebration.  They almost run over some people during a parade, and causing them to drop a coffin carrying a bound naked girl.  Sounds like a party, right?  But once they try to find help at the local police, they start to figure out that something is amiss in this little village.

Coming up with an original idea for a zombie movie is pretty tough to do these days.  And in ALL SOULS DAY, they come pretty close.  This isn't your normal zombie movie, which even the characters play into that genre, not knowing if they are going to turn into a zombie once they've been biting.

Most of the cast does a pretty decent job, with some genre veterans lending their talents.  The most notably is Jeffrey Combs, playing a father from the segment in the 1950's.  You also have David Keith, playing the sheriff of the small village.  And then we have Danny Trejo as the main mucho grande leader of the village in the opening scene that takes place back in the early 1900's.  All of these roles are little more than bit parts, but they do a nice job in what little they have to do.  Laura Harring does have a little bit bigger role here and also does an good job giving the film a little bit bigger feel to it.

But I don't think I ever wanted to see a character die more than the main lead here, played by Travis Wester.  He was about annoying as you could get.  Whether or not that character was written that way, or if that was Wester bringing him to life, he was pushing the movie into the lines of deciding if I wanted to finish watching it or not.  Thankfully, the rest of the cast isn't that bad.

It was really nice to see a different kind of zombie here.  This isn't your rotting flesh, Italian looking zombies, but more what a corpse that rises out of the dirt after 200 years might look like.  The makeup team from Almost Human did an excellent job in creating these undead.  They give us a little different approach to a genre that's been done to....death.  Sorry, had to do it.

The DVD has been recently release by Anchor Bay and is a pretty packed-full disc.  There are 3 different featurettes.  The first one is a general one about the making of the film, talking to the producers, writer, director and most of the major cast.  The second one is about the special effects.  This was very interesting, showing some work on one of the lesser known effects houses, but one that is still doing some wonderful work.  The last featurette is about the stunt work for the film.

There is also an audio commentary by director Kasten and producer / writer Altman.  Rounding out the extras are deleted and extended scenes, trailer, storyboard gallery, and the screenplay on DVD-ROM.  All in all, the extras are pretty good, and pretty informative on the making of lower budgeted films.  We enjoyed them.

While this is not the greatest zombie movie, it is by no means the worst.  The spirit and passion for the genre is there and Kasten and crew do an okay job here with this project.  I guess I need to check out some more of Kasten's work to judge him better.


ALONE WITH HER
2006

Directed by Eric Nicholas
Starring Colin Hanks, Ana Claudia Talancón, Jordana Spiro

When the film starts, we are immediately immersed into the world of voyeurism, since the whole movie is shown through video & surveillance cameras.  We are introduced to "Doug", who seems to like to watch people though a camera.  And then he starts constantly watching, or really stalking, a young woman named Amy.  After picking up some mini-video cameras, he breaks into her apartment one night when she isn't there and installs several of these little cameras in different rooms, including the bedroom and bathroom.  And after Doug learns more and more about Amy, he "accidentally" meets her at a coffee shop.  He then starts to build a relationship with her, since they have so much in common.

This is where movie has it's effectiveness.  The fact that these little cameras are available to anyone and seemed to be pretty easy to install, it does make one wonder if anybody could be watching them....right now....and have no clue.  Think about it.  In the bathroom.  In the bedroom.  If dwelled upon enough, it could make you crazy.

When I first read about this film, where everything we see is the POV from some hidden surveillance cameras, I was thinking something along the lines of BLAIR WITCH.  Which didn't make me happy.  But I was very surprised and impressed on just how well done this film is.  At first, it's a little strange "watching" the characters from the camera's viewpoint.  But then the story and characters are strong enough that we are drawn into what is going on, and even sometimes forget that we are watching through these hidden cameras.  Yes, there are certain scenes where we can't help but become the voyeur.  And that can be a little uncomfortable at times. 

Colin Hanks does a good job as the very shy and psychotic stalker, Doug.  Watching him watching Amy, we can see that Doug has some issues.  A lot of them, in fact.  But like any good stalker, he deals with anything that gets in his way of getting what he wants.  I also give a lot of credit to Ana Claudia Talancón, who plays Amy.  She draws us into her character so much that we care about her.  So when we are seeing what Doug is doing, that is where the real terror comes in.  If the character of Amy was some bubble-headed co-ed, we could care less about what might happen.  But by bringing the audience to feel and care about her character, that makes the terror even more terrifying.  That is something that a lot of  horror films today seemed to forget about.

This was the second film from director Eric Nicholas, who also wrote the film.  It was a very unique idea of filming this movie.  But since it's all about stalkers, it's a great way to show the audience just what could be going on.


AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
(1982)
Directed by John Landis
Starring David Naughton, Griffen Dunne, Jenny Agutter, John Woodvine.

This film has always been one of my favorites.  Here was a film that was not only very funny, but also dealt out some serious horror as well.  There were some unbelievable makeup effects, the likes that had never been seen before.

This movie had already been released on dvd, but I hadn’t been too impressed with the transfer.  So when news of a new Special Edition came out, like many others, I was pretty excited.  And coming from Universal, it looked like they were going to deliver one hell of a special edition.

Well the quality isn’t what I had expected from a special edition, especially coming from a big studio, but I didn’t think it was that bad.  I think it could have been much nicer.  Why they didn’t put in the little extra work just baffles me.

The extras consist of a 5-minute featurette about the making of the film that was made during the original filming.  There is also a new interview with John Landis about the film.  The documentary / interview on Rick Baker which, in my opinion, is one of the most interesting parts of all the extras.  You get to see some of the wolf transformation sequences that were not used in the movie, as well as the way the wolf was able to walk.  There is also a segment where they are casting David Naughton’s hand, going through pretty much the whole process from beginning to end.

The dvd also has 3 minutes of outtakes, but unfortunately with no sound.  There’s a section where you can see the storyboards while watching parts of the movie, which is pretty interesting seeing how close to their original plans they came.  It also has production notes, a photo montage, cast and crew bios.

The audio commentary did have some interesting information, but not enough to fill the length of the movie.  There were often times when Naughton and Dunne stopped talking completely, obviously getting caught up in the movie.  I think it would have been much better to have included Landis and Baker at least on a different audio track, or have them all together, which would of definitely filled any gaps in the commentary.

So I guess really the only disappointment with this disc is what it could have been.  Even with all these extras, I’m sure Baker or somebody had more behind the scene footage.  Plus, if they got Naughton and Dunne to do audio commentary, want not film some new interviews with them, and maybe even find some of the other cast as well.  But none the less, this film is a classic and is an essential disc to have.


(1973)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring Ian Oglivy, Stephanie Beacham, Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Guy Rolfe

This was kind of a different film for Amicus.  Not only was it not an anthology film, but it was a period piece.  Usually Amicus' films were set in modern day, except maybe I, MONSTER.  So this was something new for them.  But once again, when you have a great story, a first-rate director, and an exceptional all-star cast, it's really hard to go wrong.

The original title for the film was THE BRIDE OF FENGRIFFEN, which was based on the book Fengriffen, and is your classic gothic tale of a ghostly haunting and revengeful curses.  But it seems that producer Max Rosenberg decided that his title would be a better one, much to the dismay of just about everyone.  Including me.  But don't let this cheesy exploitation title fool you.  Here you have a great little gothic supernatural movie.

Charles Fengriffen, played by Ian Oglivy, brings his new bride, played by the beautiful Stephanie Beacham, to his ancestral mansion home.  This location used for this mansion just happens to be Oakley Court, which use to be own by Hammer and was seen in countless of their films.  But immediately upon arrival, strange things start to happen to the bride.  She starts to see a strange eyeless man, who's missing one hand.  We also see the missing hand wandering around the house.  We learn that there seems to have been a curse laid on the Fengriffen family after Charles grandfather, played to the hilt by Herbert Lom, shows the locals his power over the peasants.

The film does a great job of bringing a sense of dread to the new bride.  Since she is the main point of the curse, the whole movies focuses one her and her torment.  We learn the history of the curse as she does.  While this poor woman goes through hell, and we feel the torment and terror she feels.  And as we realize the extent and purpose of the curse, it only gets worse.  I think without Steaphanie Beacham's excellent performance, a lot of the terror would have been lost.  But with her pretty much carrying the film, she captures the audiences empathy, and we feel the same overcoming and unstoppable terror that she does.

Like a lot of Amicus' films, this is a who's who of British horror.  Of course, right off the top, you have Peter Cushing as the doctor who is trying to help the troubled bride.  But then you have the likes of Patrick Magee, Guy Rolfe, and Herbert Lom just adding to the mix.  Lom really shows us his evil side here, and is just awesome.  And with Roy Ward Baker directing,  he does a great job putting this movie together, as always.

As we said, when you bring talented people behind and in front of the camera, it's really hard to mess up.  And this is no exception.  And to make it even better, they have a great script, with a good old fashion supernatural ghost revenge story.  Once again, it all goes back to the talent.

This movie was originally released on DVD by Image Entertainment.  The only extra on that disc was that it had an audio commentary by Ian Oglivy.  But now with this new release by Dark Sky Films, not only do you get that same commentary, but you also get another one with director Roy Ward Baker and Stephanie Beacham.  As we mentioned in our ASYLUM review, it's great that these commentaries are able to document and archive a lot of personal history of the making of these films.  Since they were made almost 35 years ago, this stuff need to be of permanent record for us horror fans.

Plus, the quality of the print is very nice, sharp and clear.  A much improvement over the image release.  This print was mastered in High Definition from a 35mm vault material.  The disc also has the usual, like bios, still gallery, and trailers.  Congrats to Dark Sky Films for another fine release.


(1970)
Directed by Robert Fuest
Starring Pamela Franklyn, Michele Dotrice, Sandor Eles, John Nettleton.

“A tense thriller…” TEN YEARS OF TERROR

After reading the above book, there were a few features that I put added or put higher up on my To-Find list.  FRIGHT was one of those, which had just come on DVD, so I picked up that right away.  As I said in my review of that film, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

So after reading the great review for FRIGHT, and being a fan of both director Fuest and star Pamela Franklyn, I set out to find it as well.  Low and behold, it also had just recently released on DVD.  And in even more of a rarity, I watched the film the very same night I received the disc in the mail.  I guess since I enjoyed FRIGHT so much, I was expecting the same with this one.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the exactly the case.

The story is simple.  Two young girls are on holiday in France, bicycling their way through the small towns on the back roads.  They have an argument on whether they should take a break or keep moving and Franklyn decides to move on by herself.  Once she gets to the next town, she waits for her friend to catch up with her.  She never does.  When she goes back to the spot where she left her friend, she is gone.  Then of course, to add to the mystery, there is the guy that has been following them since the last few towns.

For the most part, the film is a pretty good thriller.  The only problem that I had is that it is so obviously who the red herring is since the filmmakers really go out of their way to point the blame in their direction.  Plus, they seemed to spend more than half the film doing this, which gets real old after a while, and even slows down the film.  But once you get past that, they do give you quite a few other suspects to ponder upon who might be the real person behind the missing girl.

I guess you could say that this is kind of the opposite of the movie FRIGHT.  In that film, the psycho and the young girl and trapped together inside a house.  Most of the film takes place in there, making it seem a little claustrophobic.  But in DARKNESS, the setting is the French countryside, with big open spaces, and long winding roads.  It almost takes away any sense of danger.  But on the other hand, I guess it could also translate into being in the middle of nowhere with a psycho, and miles away from any help.  If that’s what they were going for, I just didn’t feel it.

The small cast does a good job, but it seems the supporting cast shines more than the main characters.  Each one of them trying to raise your suspicions, thinking that they might have some deep, dark secret.

So overall, it’s not a bad film, but I had just expected much more.  For fans of British films of the 70’s, you might want to seek this one out.  But for those others, I think you might be better off traveling down another road.

Anchor Bay’s release comes with audio commentary by the director Fuest and co-writer / co-producer Brian Clemens.  It also comes with a trailer and radio spots.


ANGUISH
(1986)
Directed by J.J. Bigas Luna.
Starring Zelda Rubinstein, Michael Lerner, Talia Paul, Angel Jove, Clara Pastor, Isabel Garcia Lorca, Nat Baker.

The Eyes Of The City Will Be Ours.

This twisted little film is one of those highly underrated classics.  I had never bothered with this when it hit video many years ago.  With Rubinstein’s face plastered all over it, I figured it was some low-budget piece of crap that was trying to tie into the POLTERGEIST market.  But after it came out on DVD, and after hearing some good things about it, I decided to give it a try.  It was worth it.

If you haven’t heard about this movie before, you probably shouldn’t read past this paragraph.  And I also wouldn’t recommend looking it up in any film guides, since most of them give away an interesting part of the film.  Hell, don’t even read the back of the video or DVD.  But you should seek this film out and give it 90 minutes of your time.  Don’t expect a normal film.   

* * * S P O I L E R S * * *

After about 20 minutes into the movie, you realize that it’s just that, a movie that other people are watching in a darken theater.  The film is called THE MOMMY as is about Rubinstein and her son Lerner, both of which are a little un-hinged.  Through some type of telepathic powers, she sends her son out to kill people, and steal their eyes.  She thinks that people are out to get them.  She also thinks that her son is a great eye surgeon, when really he’s just an orderly.

There are several points to this movie that made me enjoy it so much.  First of all, the plot of the movie, the real movie that is, is very simple.  Some nutcase gets a little to into a movie called THE MOMMY and starts shooting people up.  There’s no real explanation as to why he’s doing it.  That’s the beauty of it.  It doesn’t matter why, he just is.  And these poor people are all caught up into it.

During the course of the film, what is happening on the scene in THE MOMMY starts to happen in the “real life” part of the movie.  Lerner ends up at a movie theater and starts to kill people there.  That’s when the killer shows up in the real theater.  The way that the same thing is happening almost together is a really interesting concept, and is played off really well.

Another particular part that I liked, that may just be from the DVD, but during one scene where THE MOMMY is playing, you can hear the two main girls talking back and forth.  With the surround sound, it comes from behind you, making it feel like you’re in the theater.

For the gore fans out there, there are several gruesome scenes with eyeballs and the removal of them.  There’s even a brief eye surgery scene that had me twitching for a bit.

The “twist” ending, where the movie THE MOMMY and reality cross, I wouldn’t consider your typical twist ending, like some would say.  Up until that point, there is nothing supernatural about this film.  But at the end, you start to wonder if that is what happened to the guy who started shooting up the theater in the first place.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for something different, and enjoys those strange and weird little films.


ANATOMY
(2000)
Written and Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring Franka Potente, Benno Furmann, Anna Loos, Holger Speckhahn, Sebastian Blomberg, and Taugott Buhre.

Imagine this.  You wake up to a bright light shining in your eyes.  You can barely move your head.  The more you regain consciousness,  you realize that you are on an operating table...and you are being disected. 

This German film is a great little thriller.  From the look of the box art, and the basic plot of the movie, one would think that it’s just another gore flick from Germany.  But that’s not the case here.  The film does have its gore, but nowhere what I was expecting from the look of the box art.  Not to say that what is in there won’t disturb you.  If you are one of those people who are a little frightened of doctors and surgery may get a little nervous watching this one.

A young med student is accepted into a famous medical school that specializes in anatomy.  But once she gets there, she uncovers a secret society that performs experiments on people…while they’re still alive.  As she digs deeper and learns more and more, she puts herself in grave danger of becoming an experiment herself.

This film really caught me by surprise at how well done it is.  The makeup effects team really had their hands full on this film.  It’s one thing to throw some latex and blood together for a simple gore effect, but they had to build medical “invisible” persons, so you can see the different layers of muscle, veins, and all sorts of gruesome stuff.  They are done incredibly well.

The Special Edition DVD was released by  Columbia Pictures, and is presented in a widescreen version at 2.35:1.  The audio can be in either English, German, or French, with either French or English subtitles.  It also has audio commentary by the director, which is in German, but does have subtitles.  The DVD also features some deleted scenes, a music video, and two different “making-of” featurettes, one on the film, and one on the make up effects.  It also has talent files, theatrical trailers, and storyboard comparisons.

This film is highly recommended to anyone who likes the horror genre, but also anyone who enjoys really good medical thrillers.  But be warned, if you have a doctor phobia, you may get a little nervous.


ANGEL OF THE NIGHT
(1998)
Directed by Shaky Gonzalez.
Starring Maria Karlsen, Mette Louise Holland, Tomas Villum Jensen, Svend Johansen, Claus Flygare, Han Henrik Voetmann, Ole Hvidman

This Danish film was riginally made in 1998, but not released in the states until 1999, by Fangoria under their video label.  This was the third film that was released on video by  Fangoria.  The first two titles were I, ZOMBIE and LADY OF THE LAKE.  They have been picking up these foreign films and releasing them over here on the Fangoria video label.  Normally that wouldn’t be a bad thing.  But the reviews of the first two films didn’t exactly make me want to run out and rent them.  But when ANGEL came out, I did hear some reviews that said that it was pretty gory.  So after coming across a used pre-record, I decided I’d give it a try.  All I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t try to watch all three of these movies.

Yes, there is a little bit of gore, but there’s more blood than anything else.  The acting looked like something out of a high school play, only worse.  They try to incorporate a couple of different genre styles here, including some John Woo-double fisted gun shooting, but it really doesn’t work.

The story was going in so many directions that it was very confusing and you really didn’t know who was who.  The main vampire seemed to be played by quite a few different people, which made it even more confusing.  Don’t get me wrong, I not one of those people who have to have everything spelled out for me.  But there has to be some sort of continuing plot here.

And of course, the dubbing is one of the worse I’ve seen.  It’s right up there with THE WAX MASK.

So in short, I would avoid this movie, unless you are either a die-hard vampire fan, or just a glutton for punishment.  In either case, there are way too many movies that are a better waste of your 90 minutes.


(2011)
Directed by Gonzalo López-Gallego
Starring Warren Christie, Ryan Robbins, Lloyd Owen

I have never been a big fan of these “lost footage” films, such as BLAIR WITCH PROJECT.  Maybe because I didn’t care for that one so much it had tainted that style of film for me.  APOLLO 18 is basically BLAIR WITCH in space.  The last Apollo mission that supposedly never happened apparently did happen and was covered up by the government for some unknown reason.  Until now.  Same premise…some hours upon hours of footage were found of what really happened and has been edited down to tell the story.

Okay, here’s my first problem.  Right after the little explanation of that premise, we know that this is “found” footage that has been edited down.  So why do the filmmakers of these types of movies find it necessary to add in the “bad splices” or footage that really has no bearing on what we are watching?  Why do we need those 2 seconds of camera going all haywire showing us nothing?  To remind us?  Sorry guys…I got that.  For style?  Doesn’t work for me.  I just find the whole thing annoying.  And the real strange thing about this editing is that the film was edited by Patrick Lussier, director of films like DRIVE ANGRY and the remake of MY BLOODY VALENTINE.  Things that make you go hhmmm.

Now that complaint is out of the way, let us get to the actual movie.  All that aside, I did enjoy the film for the most part.   They do a pretty convincing job that this is footage from an actual space mission.  Between the sets and the shots of no gravity or however they did them, was pretty effective and realistic.  This 3 manned mission to the moon is done all in secrecy.  The astronauts were given no real advance notice and knew that the public was not being told exactly what they were doing.  They were told the mission was to install some advance radars on the moon to help detect any attack from Russia.  But once they get to the moon and two of the astronauts land on the moon, they start to realize that maybe there were no told the entire story from Mission Control or from our government.

Just like in BLAIR WITCH, they find things outside of their camp (aka lunar module) that shows signs of someone else there.  Items have been moved or disappeared completely.  As the viewer watching this footage, we are given little hints that there might be other life on the moon.  And maybe the government might know something about it.  Also very similar to BLAIR WITCH, once the trouble begins, the two men on the moon start question their motives, the missions motive and even each other.  Paranoia sets in…pretty deeply in one in particular.  Granted the reasons are very different than in BLAIR WITCH, but the basic plot point seems to be the same.

With only three people really in the cast, it is up to them to carry the movie and Christie, Robbins, and Owen are able to do that job rather well.  They all play their roles well enough to sometimes believe that they are actual astronauts.  Granted, some of the dialog or things they are doing might seem a bit strange, but like the characters they are playing, they are just following orders.

The strange thing about this movie is that one of the producers is Timur Bekmambetov, director of NIGHT WATCH and DAY WATCH (two of my favorite movies, by the way).  So depending on how far up the producer level he was, I would have expected some bigger special effects than what we see.  But that is just me nit-picking.

The DVD comes with audio commentary with the director López-Gallego and Lussier.  There is also some deleted scenes, alternate scenes, as well as 4 different alternate endings.  Interesting to see them, but I would have to say they picked the right one that it is in the movie.

Overall, the film is okay.  It is not one that I would watch again, at least not anytime soon.  There is some suspense here, mainly waiting for whatever “it” is that is causing all the problems show itself.  But it is a well made film.  For me, the best part of the film is the whole paranoia angle, added with the government cover-up that could have been going on.  Always nice to make the audience think a little.


(2008)
Directed by Joseph Conti
Starring Ross Kelly, Stefani Marchesi, Miguel Martinez, Mike Hatfiel, Malcolm Madera, Audrey Anderson,
Vic Browder, Jocelyn Tucker, Jeff Mocho, Casey Messer

Lately it seems the films we are getting for review are getting worse and worse.  If we are reviewing movies that we want to watch, then we usually only do them on movies that we feel are worth watching.  But when they are being sent to us to review, we have to post our thoughts, no matter what, good or bad.  And I know that making movies are not hard.  And a lot of hard work and dedication goes into making films.  So I will always have to give credit to those out there that trudge on and get their films made.  Kudos to you and your passion.  But on that same note, maybe some people need to find a passion that they are better in.

ARMY OF THE DEAD is a terrible movie that would probably be typical fodder for the likes of the Sci-Fi Channel.  The story is silly, if just not downright stupid.  The acting is okay, if only because everything else is so bad.  A group of people head off to the desert for some “desert racing”.  This apparently means getting into some cars that are sort of equipped for off-road driving.  But racing?  None of these people were wearing helmets or even had roll bars.  Some of the vehicles are just regular 4x4 trucks, that I don’t really think were designed for desert racing.  Plus, their camping luggage is strapped to the roofs of their cars!  I guess this is where suspension of belief is supposed to come into play.

But one of the group, tells a campfire ghost story about a group of soldiers that were killed when they tried to steal some hidden Aztec treasure, by a bunch of animated skeletons….or sometimes just by their animated shadows.  Turns out that he’s really out there to actually find this treasure once he teams up with some mercenaries.  Of course it all goes wrong for everyone….especially us poor souls watching it.

As expected, the CGI title characters look worse than what some kids are throwing together on their home computers.  Lots of repeat sequences, or the same image repeated on the screen to make it look like a real army.  If you’re expecting to get a little Ray Harryhausen throwback, you will be sadly disappointed.  When the skeletons are blown up in several different sequences, it looks even worse.  The explosions are CGI and are so obviously laid over the film, and even worse are all the bones flying....just terrible.  And to make it even worse, even the blood spillage is not only CGI but extremely cartoonish.

The plot doesn’t make any sense and has more holes in it the than title characters rib cages.  You think the movie ends, but then they continue on with more nonsense.

I don’t think I could even recommend this for a Turkey Day event, since it’s just poor filmmaking and not the so-bad-its-entertaining kind.  Definitely a waste of 90 minutes of your time.  I know it was for mine.  Instead of watching this movie, you would be better off to rent JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, and see how it really should be done.

 


(2006)
Written/directed by Bill Zebub
Starring: Bill Zebub, Rocco Martone III, Adam Valley, Gina Lynn. George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher,
Freddie Dingo, Martha Kloskowsi, Lyndesy Brown, Kerri Taylor

As any good show-going genre fan knows, horror conventions are a great place to pick up free stuff like posters, CDs, buttons, etc.  Every so often, someone will roll through the dealer room handing out freebies and because we’re suckers for swag, we’ll take pretty much anything that gets handed out.  Such was the case at Flashback Weekend this past July, where I just happened to be at the right place at the right time when copies of what looked to be a softcore porn DVD were being distributed gratis.  Looking down, I could see that, next to bubblehead bleach blonde porn star Gina Lynn prominently placed on the front cover in next-to-nothing lingerie, the flick was entitled ASSMONSTER, then subtitled in tiny little letters: The Making of a Horror Movie.  I’m guessing that most anyone who ended up with a copy that day laughed at the title, made a few jokes with their pals, and then tossed it in their bag o’ loot, never to be watched.  At least, such was the case for me.

However, fate eventually intervened and rescued one-man film studio (and creator of metal fan-mag, The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds) Bill Zebub’s recent effort from obscurity.  Every November, a group of online horror fans and I engage in the obscenely masochistic activity known as “The Turkey Challenge,” where the point is to watch as many bad movies as one can in the space of one month. Thirty days has November, and there are plenty of cinematic gobblers out there to take in – Heck, Kitley and I spend the entire year talking about what we’re going to trot out for his annual day-after-Thanksgiving Turkey Day Celebration.  So it was that last week, as I perused my shelves for the next assault on the eyeballs and brain, I came across the long-ignored DVD sleeve emblazoned with Ms. Lynn’s prominently displayed derrière.  Checking IMDb for its eligibility (films have to rank at 4.0 or lower to qualify as a legitimate turkey), I found that it was sitting at a suitably disrespectful rating of 1.6 which meant that A) it certainly fit the criteria, and B) this was probably going to really, really suck.  I braced myself for the worst and prayed that the 96 minutes would go quickly.

To my surprise, I actually liked the damn thing.  In fact, I liked it so much that I promptly called Kitley on the phone and asked him to let me review it for the Krypt.  His response? “Hey, better you than me.” 

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is not what anyone would call a legitimately “good” movie.  From the second the shiny silver disc starts playing, you get an idea of what you’re in for.  Zebub’s name is all over the opening credits: Writer, producer, director, editor, cinematographer and even playing the lead character…named Bill.  To further set the DIY mood, said credits take place over a haphazardly framed game of frisbee played by two bikini-clad, not-quite-ready-for-Maxim ladies while unintelligible death metal plays.  However, once the “plot” kicks in, things improve considerably – in content if not in actual filmmaking skill.  Yes, this is absolutely a no-budget effort, where one gets the impression that less time was taken in setting up the shot than most productions put into choosing the lunch menu.  But there is real heart and humor on display, as well as firsthand knowledge of the indie film scene and the cast of basement-dwelling yo-yo’s that occupy it.

You see, the story revolves around three friends trying to cash in by shooting a bad T&A horror film to sell direct to fans at an upcoming horror convention.  Sound like art imitating life?  Well, Zebub knows of which he speaks, having been the creative engine behind such inglorious – but brilliantly titled – flicks like THE WORST HORROR MOVIE EVER MADE, KILL THE SCREAM QUEEN, and (forgive him, Lord) JESUS CHRIST: SERIAL RAPIST.  While utterly raunchy and sophomoric, ASSMONSTER retains a spirit of innocence and enthusiasm throughout and it is this quality that allows Zebub to shine where the majority of his mean-spirited, gore-spraying brethren fall short.  (In fact, there is absolutely no blood spilled on camera at any point…nor is there any monster to speak of.  But what it lacks in heaving hemoglobin, it more than makes up for in flaunted female flesh.) 

Rather than trying to work outside of his presumably miniscule budget, the New Jersey-based auteur celebrates his plight by putting it right up onscreen.  I imagine that countless freshman efforts really have been shot with a borrowed camcorder, with a clueless, never-shot-a-film-before friend performing camera duties (the scene of Bill watching “dailies” is priceless).  I’m convinced that any nascent exploitation filmmaker has encountered jealousy from their girlfriend over the fact that he’s been looking at naked women all day long.  And how many low-budget films have we seen that feature a bunch of no-names in the cast, with one or two “headliners” to dress up the credits?  Here, it’s the aforementioned Ms. Lynn and Cannibal Corpse frontman George “CorpseGrinder” Fisher.  The authenticity – and the good-natured manner in which it is shared – lets us know that Zebub is laughing with, rather than at, his low budget compadres and in turn, this allows us to laugh with, rather than at, the film itself.  It’s a splendid feat of audience ingratiation.

Now, there are certainly times where the seat-of-your-pants style wears out its welcome – Zebub himself is the biggest offender in several of the obviously improvised scenes, riffing and getting silly while his scene partner stands and stares.  But on the whole, the cast is solid, the writing is brisk and often hilarious, and more than anything, there is a spirit of fun and bawdy energy that drives the picture (the “fart into the cell phone” gag had me howling), making it one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve encountered in quite a while.  While there is regrettably no commentary track, the hysterical blooper reel washes things down nicely. 

In reading other online reviews, there have been favorable comparisons made between ASSMONSTER and Kevin Smith’s early films, and these allusions are not unwarranted.  In his no-budget navel-gazing, Zebub has found a tiny diamond amidst the belly-lint.  While certainly not for those high of mind and moral, there is a lot to like here.  If you’re not lucky enough to score a free copy at the next convention, you can visit www.billzebub.com or its sister site www.thegrimoire.com, where the film is available (and reasonably priced) on DVD or via download.

Review by Aaron “Dr AC” Christensen


ASTRO ZOMBIES
(1969)
Directed by Ted V. Mikels
Screenplay by Ted V. Mikels and Wayne Rodgers
Starring John Carradine, Wendell Corey, Tom Pace, Tura Satana, Joan Patrick, Rafael Campos, Vince Barbi, Joe Hoover, Victor Izay

I knew of Ted V. Mikels for many years.  But I had never seen one of his films, other than trailers and in documentaries.  My appreciation of him developed after I had the chance to meet him at the Cinema Wasteland convention.  The appreciation grew even more after watching him on the Independent Strange Film Show.  Pretty strange having never seen any of his movies, huh?

I picked up the DVD of ASTRO ZOMBIES since it would be a great introduction to his work.  Image Entertainment released the film on DVD, featuring footage that had been cut from the video releases. 

The film is a mixture of science fiction and horror, with some crime drama mixed to make it even more interesting.  John Carradine plays a scientist who was thrown out of the space program because he was using un-ethical methods.  He is trying to create a synthetic man that could be used in the space program.  But other countries want his research.  Tura Satana plays a “dragon lady” spy who is after it, and will stop at nothing to get it.  Meanwhile, the CIA is also looking for good doctor.

John Carradine plays his role as if he was hoping for an Oscar.  With each line of dialog, he explains exactly what he’s doing, using lots of long, technical words, with each machine and technique to his mute, hunchbacked assistant, who looks like he’d have trouble tying his shoes.  Carradine uses the props and machines like he knows exactly what he's doing.  It's also fun to try and figure out just what the machines actually were made of.  I'm pretty sure the "cryogentic" tank was once one of those freezer used to display meats at a supermarket.  But I could be wrong.

The rest of the cast fills out the movie with some interesting performances.  Wendell Corey is one of the heads of the CIA, and looks like he’s been taking a few too many of those 3-drink lunches.  This was Corey’s last film before he passed away.  Tura Satana is great as the sexy spy who doesn't take shit from nobody.

I had always figured that this was one of those cheesy shlock-fests that would be a terrible waste of time.  So I never bothered with it, and many films like it.  But then I started to realize the real gold behind these extra low budget films.  Low budget (or no-budget in some cases) doesn’t mean low quality.  Especially when you have talented people in front of the camera, and more importantly behind the camera.

This film was made for under $40,000.  Granted, that was back in the late 60’s, but that is still a pretty amazing price tag.  Of course, the sad thing is that Mikels himself never made a dime off the picture.  He was the director, producer, co-writer, editor, and even supplied the equipment.  I know I’d be pretty pissed off about that.

The DVD is great quality.  There are a few glitches from the film print, but those are very minor.  The print is very clean and clear.  It’s so clear that during the “night” sequences, you can see the character’s shadows.  Unfortunately, the DVD only comes with a theatrical trailer.  It would have been so cool to have audio commentary by Mikels himself.  They could of even gotten Tura Satana as well.  Somebody please explain to me why that didn’t happen?

With a SRP of around $20, this is one DVD that should be in everyone’s collection.  It’s one of those titles that can be watched multiple times and still be enjoyed with each watching.


(1972)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Barry Morise, Barbara Perkins, Robert Powell, Charlotte Rampling

In the 70's, there was really only one company that was giving Hammer Studios some competition in the horror genre.    And that was Amicus Pictures.  While they did make your standard horror films, they were mainly known for their anthology films.  They started in the middle 60's, working a lot with horror writer Robert Bloch, adapting his stories into films.  ASYLUM was one of them.  A lot of Bloch's stories were adapted into both the anthology films and the full length pictures as well.  When you're starting with quality stories, it's hard not to produce a good film.

Like Hammer, Amicus always had a great cast in their films.  And not just the standard horror icons like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee (though both of them worked quite a bit for Amicus), but also people like Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Denholm Elliot, and many more.  So with a great cast, and great stories, and such talented directors as Roy Ward Baker and Freddie Francis, it was pretty tough not to come away from these films entertained.

ASYLUM is one of their anthologies that was made after the huge success of TALES FROM THE CRYPT, which was made that same year.  In this film, the wrap around story deals with a young psychiatrist who is arriving at the Dunmoor Asylum for the Incurably Insane to apply for a job there.  But upon his arrival, he is told that the director, a Dr. Starr, the asylum has joined the patients after having a mental breakdown.  Dr. Rutherford, played wonderfully by Patrick Magee, tells the young doctor that if he can distinguish which of the patients is actually Dr. Starr, he will get the job.  So with each of the four patients that he interviews, we get to hear their stories.

The first one deals with a woman who is having an affair with a married man, which leads to murder.  The second one deals with a poor tailor who accepts a job from a strange man that wants to purchase a suit made with a very special material.  The third one deals with a young woman who is accused of murder, but she swears it was done by her friend.  And the last one is about a doctor who says he can transfer his soul to a little doll that he has constructed.

Between the stories from Bloch, and the great direction from Roy Ward Baker, this is a fun film.  Being a big fan of British horror, it's really hard for me not to enjoy this film, or really anything that Amicus produced.

This movie was originally released on DVD by Image Entertainment.  But there was no extras on that disc, just the movie.  Then there was a box set, The Amicus Collection, put out in the UK as a Region 2 PAL DVD set, which featured this movie, among others.  That release had audio commentary by director Roy Ward Baker and cameraman Neil Binney, as well as a featurette on Amicus Pictures, called "Inside the Fear Factory'.  Lucky enough for you fans that still never got a region free player, now you can get those same features on this new release from Dark Sky Films.  Of course, the fact that they films have been mastered in High Definition from 35mm vault material doesn't hurt either....You also get trailers, cast and crew bios, still gallery, and liner notes.

The commentary, hosted by British Horror expert Marcus Hearn, covers a wide variety of subjects during the film.  From the amazing crew they had, to the actual shooting of the film.  Hearn does a great job as moderator.  Any time there's a lull in the conversation, he is there with some questions or comments about the film.  The featurette gives us some interviews, including Max J. Rosenberg, who was one half of Amicus, along with Milton Subotsky.  This featurette was made in 2003, and Rosenberg, who's memory is still very sharp, passed away the next year, in 2004.  It's kind of funny how Rosenberg talks like he was the one doing all the working between him and Subotsky.  But when they talked to directors Freddie Francis, who did many pictures for Amicus, and Roy Ward Baker, they both make comments about never seeing Rosenberg on the set.

One of the great things about this release is that it is giving permanent record to the comments from these filmmakers.  Remember, these films were made over 30 years ago.  So to have the opportunity to have some of the creators of the film, like the director and cameraman, talk about the film and the making of it, is something that should be treasured.  Because these great filmmakers will not be with us too much longer.

So if you are a fan of the horror from across the pond, you will probably already be familiar with this film, and then will want it for your collection as well.  If you're not familiar with Amicus, this would be a great way to be introduced to them.  You won't regret it.


ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES
(1985)
Directed by Michael Stanley.
Starring Robert Nolfi, Robert Lengyel, Julia Rust, Lisa Pak

This movie was rented from one of the local video stores simply because of the title and the box art. If you haven’t done that yourself, then you are missing out on some damn fine cinema. Not a lot, mind you, but some.

The general story of the film is about boatload of survivors from a sinking cruise ship in the 1920’s. Why is it set in the 20’s? Who knows, since it really has no baring on the rest of the movie. But, back to the story. After drifting for several days (?) in the ocean, they end up on this deserted island. While exploring the island searching for food and water, they come across the inhabitants of the island, who happened to be the creatures from the title. They spend the rest of the movie trying to get off the island, to avoid these monsters. The whole duration of the movie is only about two days, but it does make it seem quite longer.

The characters are about as generic as you can get. We have the main hero, who is the levelheaded one, always with the ideas. Then we have the old grouch of a troublemaker, who is always arguing with the ideas and decisions. He’s the kind of guy who you are going to cheer when they die.

Then we also have some classic dialog. While picking some berries for food, one of the ladies is bitten by ‘something’, enough to put a nice gash on her hand. She jumps backs and screams. "Are you okay", one of the other survivors asks? "Oh I’m fine", she says and goes back to picking berries. During one of their rest periods while trudging through the woods, one of the guys asks the old grouch about himself. He grouch says that he was taking his wife to England for an operation, but she didn’t make it off the ship. The other survivor tells him, "I hope things work out for you."

But the best part of the movie is the creatures themselves. These little guys look like second cousins to the Zuni Fetish Doll from TRILOGY OF TERROR. These creatures stand about 6-8 inches tall, have big blank white eyes, and big mouths with lots of teeth. The only movement they do is their jaws moving up and down. When they run, their little arms swing back and forth. But other than that, they just stand there. It’s hilarious. They travel in huge packs, and the couple of times when the attack the group, I was on the floor laughing. Just imagine 5 or 6 actors with a half dozen of these dolls attached to them on various parts of their body, and the actors twisting and screaming. Classic cinema at it’s finest.

This film was obviously done on a very small budget, with the acting pretty much what they paid for. But they at least went through the trouble for making a shit-load of these creatures, and even a couple of pretty bloody / gory sequences including when one of the passengers stumbles onto an acid pool, thinking it’s drinkable water. Goodbye face.

If you enjoy those classic bad movies, this one is right up your alley.


AUDITION
(1999)
Directed by Takashi Miike
Starring Renji Ishibashi, Ryo Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda, Eihi Shiina.

Japanese cinema has always been able to just come way out of left field and blow me away, such as the first time watching ENTRAILS OF A VIRGIN, EVIL DEAD TRAP, or any of the Guinea Pig movies.  Whether it’s from their incredible style, cinematography, or their over-the-top gore, they’re always memorable.

AUDITION is no different.

The basic story is about a middle-aged widower, who after many years since the death of his wife, decides it’s time to look for a new one.  With the help of his friend, they set up an audition for a fake TV show, when they are really holding auditions for his future wife.  When he comes across a mysterious young woman, he knows that she’s the one.

The film starts out a little slow paced.  It takes a little time to get going, as he's trying to figure out a way to ask her out for real, instead of under the pretense of the fake TV show.  But the farther he falls in love with her, we start to realize something wrong about the young woman.  Once you get past this first part, it swirls into a twisted and very disturbing film.

There are some very disturbing stuff in this film, folks.  If you are the squeamish type, you might want to avoid this one.  It has some images that linger long after the film is over.  The ending sequence makes the hobbling scene in MISERY look like child’s play.  It's one scene that is hard to forget, and is one of the those scenes that will always be brought up when discussing this film.


(2007)
Directed by Steven C. Miller
Starring Garrett Jones, William Howard Bowman, Juliet Reeves, Rowan Bousaid, Ashley Elizabeth Pierce,
Kendra Farner, Joel Hebner, Jeff Denton

Okay, first of all, let me say that I do give the filmmakers credit for getting this movie made.  For the budget of only $30,000, only shot in nine days, that in itself is an amazing feat.  But, all that aside, it doesn’t mean it’s a good movie.  And this one is an example of that.

It’s pretty tough for me to criticize this movie since I know they were really trying hard.  But it seemed that this is a prime example where passion overplayed talent.  There are sequences that didn’t make any sort of sense.  Sure, maybe that was their point that they didn’t care about plot or continuity.  They just set out to make a gory zombie flick.  Even on the commentary, the director points out “Automaton is just about running, and jumping, and diving, and killing.”  If that was the case, then that is why to me, this film doesn’t stand out amongst the countless other low budget zombie movies out there.  It’s nothing different than we’ve seen countless times before.

The story is pretty much about a zombie attack, where the main cast is a bunch of college students.  They eventually do give us kind of a back-story, but it’s really nothing new.  So if you aren’t going to do anything that is any different than what has come before, you need to have something else that is going to raise the bar.  And here is where I feel the film fails.  Sure, there are some over the top gore, but once again, nothing really new or different.  Not saying that it's bad film, it's just the same as countless other zombie films the line the video store shelves.  Sure it was made for very little money.  But then again, so were a lot of those other films.

There are many influences from 28 Days Later with the running zombies, including the quick and jerky camera work.  I thought we were past all the MTV-style of filmmaking.  Apparently not.  Sometimes the zombies run.  Sometimes they slowly stagger like classic Romero style zombies.  But it’s usually done for effect.  What that did for me was show me the inconsistently.  Even the film quality seemed to jump back and forth from a grainy look to a more normal and clear look.

I will say that the makeup effects are pretty good for the budget.  There is an effect with a girl’s jaw that I thought was pretty cool.  The rest are your standard zombie type effects, but at least are done well.

So the bottom line is if you’re looking another bloody zombie film, you might enjoy this one.  Just don’t expect anything that you have seen before.  Sure, there is lots of blood, lots of gore, and lots of no-brainer scenes.  If that’s what you’re looking for, then you will probably enjoy this one.

The DVD was released by on Dimension Extreme Films, and is full of extras.  There are deleted scenes, music videos, a making of featurette, and a short film by director Miller.  There is also audio commentary by director Miller, and producers William Clevinger and Mark Thalman.


(1988)
Directed by Andrew Fleming
Starring Jennifer Rubin, Richard Lynch, Bruce Abbott, Harris Yulin, E.G. Daily, Dean Cameron, Susan Ruttan, Sy Richardson

This possibly could have been made to jump on the Freddy bandwagon, since it came out right after NIGHTMARE 3, which seemed to be the peak of Freddy-mania.  You have a burned-up killer, back from the dead terrorizing people....yea, might be.  They even get one of the stars from NIGHTMARE 3 to star in this one as well.  But for whatever reasons it was made, I remember not really caring for it when it first came out in the theaters, back in 1988.  And up until we watched this recent DVD release, we had not seen it since.  So we tried to forget anything that we remembered from long ago, and kept a fresh and more well-rounded approach when we popped it in our DVD player.

Let's start off by saying that 1/2 of this movie is really, really good.  Okay, maybe just a 1/3.  The film starts off when some footage of the 70's, of some of the members of Unity Field, a cult/commune of a some free loving hippies.  Their leader, played by Richard Lynch, preaches that death is just another state of existence.  And in one of the more disturbing and horrifying sequences of the movie is the flashback sequence when Lynch is 'anointing" the members with gasoline.  And then as they all sit and stare at him with loving eyes, he strikes a match.  The young Cynthia somehow survives the fire and goes into a coma that lasts 13 years.  When she finally does wakes up in present day, now being played by Jennifer Rubin, she finds herself at a mental hospital.  Since all her relatives are gone and the doctors figure she might not be able to adapt to the modern world.

Bruce Abbott, of RE-ANIMATOR fame plays one of the younger doctors trying to help Jennifer Rubin's character.  Both Abbott and Rubin do a good job with their characters.  Rubin still comes across as a flower child, still thinking in terms of 'love and peace', even though the world has drastically changed in the 13 years that she's been in a coma.

As she tries to adapt to her new surroundings, and having to deal with the other nutcases that she is being lumped in with, she starts seeing Lynch.  Sometimes he is his normally looking self, and other times he is the severely burned-to-a-crisp look.  He tells her that she was suppose to die with them in the fire, and it's not too late to join them.  If only they would have just stuck with that idea, this might have been a really good movie.

But here is where the other 2/3 of the movie ends up being, really, really bad.  Which is a real shame, since the scenes with Rubin and Lynch are pretty good.  But it's the other patients that really what brings this movie down.  You do get to see E.G. Daily in one of her early roles, but I did keep seeing Tommy Pickles when she'd talk.  Dean Cameron, who had a short stint of fame back in the late 80's, it probably causes the most damage in this movie.  His character should have been completely written out of this story.  It does nothing but bring the horror element of this movie to a screeching halt every time he comes on the screen, seeming to try and make this into more of an 80's comedy.  Pretty harsh?  Maybe.  But I just feel that this movie could have been much more.  So you have to blame someone, right?

Richard Lynch, who has always been a favorite of mine, does his usual great job here.  But he's not playing the typical heavy here, since when he is onscreen, he speaks of love and devotion.  Okay, so maybe he's covered in bloody burn makeup, but it's still love.  But seriously, he's playing something quite different than the usual monster coming back from the dead.  And I thought that was a pretty unique idea, especially for this time period.

I really didn't care for the subplot that is going on, though it does explain what really is happening.  I think if they spent more time on the main relationship between Rubin and Lynch's characters, and take the film into a different direction, it could have been a much more memorable film.

The DVD does come with audio commentary by the director, but only has a few small featurettes, which were made at the time of filming.  So nothing new as far as retrospectives or anything.


(1987)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Pete O’Herne, Terry Potter, Mike Minett, Craig Smith, Peter Jackson

Why is this film pure amazement?  Is it because it was the first real film to come from the mind of Peter Jackson?  Or is it because what started out as a 20-minute short, after four years of weekend shooting and dedication, became a full length feature?  Or is it even just that it’s one hell of an entertaining movie!

The answer to that I would say would be all of them.  The tools that Jackson and company had to work with, but yet still able to create this incredible cult classic, is simply pure amazement.  Whether it was the guns that Jackson made from scratch, baking the latex masks in his mom’s oven, making a miniature of a old house to blow a hole in it, or even just getting your friends to give up their weekends for four years to make a movie, now that is incredible.  Then you add the fact that it’s one hell of a movie, that just makes it even better.  Jackson has shown us that he has one hell of a sense of humor, and loves the over the top gore.  And in BAD TASTE, we get both of them and more.

This review really isn’t about the movie, since hopefully everyone reading this has already seen this movie, if not already have it in the collection.  But this review is for the special edition DVD of BAD TASTE that has recently came out.  Already have that 2-disc (so-called) special edition from Anchor Bay?  You know, the one that has that second disc that only has a 20 minute documentary on it?  Well if you do, you should either use it for a coaster or just throw it away, and get this newer and rightly called Special Edition DVD.  Okay, I do have to say right away that it is a import title and that you do need a region free player to play it.  And once again, if you don’t have one of those, that should be at the top of your list.  This release is PAL region 4 disc.  If you needed an excuse to get one of those players, this disc is the perfect one.

But here’s what you get for a small investment.  You get to hear from the people directly involved in the making this movie, right next to Peter Jackson, the Boys!  Pete O’Herne, Terry Potter, Mike Minett, and Craig Smith star in the movie, along with Jackson.  They also did countless other jobs behind the camera, played (and died as) countless aliens, and stayed with Jackson for four years helping him make this project come to life.  These four do an audio commentary for the film that is a riot.  You will hear some great stories from these guys about the making of the film.  As many times that I’ve seen this movie, there were still points that I never caught while watching the film.  It's one of the most entertaining audio commentaries that I've listened to.

But that’s not it.  You also get interviews with the boys, along with an audio interview with Michelle Scullion, who did the music for the film.  As well as an TV-News piece that was done on the boys, talking to them about BAD TASTE, and working with Peter Jackson.  I’m assuming this was done shortly after Jackson won the Oscar for LOTR.

AND….there’s also a slide show that is narrated by Peter Jackson himself.  This was actually taped at a convention years ago, but was never available before in anything other than terrible quality.  So that’s pretty cool too.

Of course, you also get the movie.  So if you are a fan of the movie, you really should seek this disc out.  It is well worth the money, even if you do have that other release.  And no matter how big of a fan of this film you are, I guarantee you will learn something about the movie that you didn’t know.



Directed by Kazuyoshi Kumakiri
Starring Shigeru Bokuda, Sumiko Mikami, Shunsuke Sawada, Toshiyuki Sugihara

Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's KICHIKU DAI ENKAI (BANQUET OF THE BEASTS) began its life as a $60,000 student film that eventually screened at several film festivals.  At its core, this is a political film that follows a group of Japanese activists whose leader is locked up but demands via a letter that his girlfriend Masami be the group’s short-term director (never a good idea).  Masami is quite sadistic and anyone who doesn’t follow her order (or accept her sexual advances) ends up as fodder.  Naturally, the group succumbs to the various pressures and eventually spirals out of control, resulting in a graphic series of confrontations in the film’s last half. 

Featuring more than a few moments of outrageous violence, KICHIKU DAI ENKAI is a bizarre film that never really surmounts its student film roots.  It is an interesting study on game theory and paranoia but, to be quite honest, this reviewer found the film to be a complete bore.  Artsmagic has peppered their DVD release with multiple quotes about the film’s graphic bloodshed, possibly hoping to pull in the gorehound crowd.  There are several supremely violent scenes, but one must endure a series of boring sessions of socio-political babble and childish infighting.  To the film’s credit, it is nicely shot, well edited and incorporates some discordant stock footage to create an effective mood.

Regardless of what I thought of the film proper, Artsmagic should be praised for giving such loving attention to a smaller film.  Their 2-disc set is overflowing with extras.  Disc one contains the main feature.  The film is presented full screen (it was shot on 16mm) in Japanese with easy to read English subtitles.  The second disc contains a bevy of extras.  There is a video introduction of the film by Midnight Eye’s Tom Mes.  One of the things I have enjoyed so much about Artsmagic’s series of Japanese film releases is the involvement of Mes.  He is extremely knowledgeable and relays a wealth of information.  Next up is the “Making of Kichiku,” a documentary that gets into the behind-the-scenes stuff.  It is always interesting to see stuff like this, especially the creation of the film’s graphic special effects.  Following that is a short documentary entitled “Reaction to Kichiku.”  This one presents thoughts on the finished film by several of the people who worked on it.  Amazingly, Artsmagic also presents interviews with the many of the film principles including the film’s director Kazuyoshi Kumahiki, actors Tomohiko Zaizen, Shunsuke Sawada, Shigeku Bokuda and Kentaro Ogiso and the cinematographer Kiyoaki Hashimoto.  In addition to all that, there is a theatrical trailer and filmographies.  All in all, a stacked special edition DVD release for this film.

Review by Will Wilson


(1978)
Directed by Harry Kerwin
Starring Wayne Crawford, Jason Evers, Roberta Leighton, Cliff Emmich, William Kerwin, Bert Freed

Being fans of Jaws, and all the killer fish movies that were inspired by it, we were really excited to finally see this film.  Can’t go wrong with a killer fish movie in our eyes.  It just re-enforces my fear of what’s in the water, and keeping me out of it.  Good stuff.

Barracuda starts out very similar to all the other Jaws-inspired films.  A couple of divers out looking for lost treasures (or old bottles) and are attacked by some hungry barracudas, leaving nothing much left of them.  Meanwhile, a marine biologist is trying to collect water samples by the local chemical plant that he believes is dumping harmful chemicals in the water.  Could this be what is causing the fish to become savage killers?

The fish attacks are done pretty well for that time.  Nothing great mind you, but fun all the same.  We even had a scene where a kid gets munched, so we know that nobody is safe here.

I was expecting a killer fish movie, which really isn’t what this is.  That was the problem I had here since about a third way through, the movie changes gears.  It’s not really a killer fish movie as much as it’s about government cover-ups.  The more the story plays out, there’s a lot more strange things going on at the chemical plant and in the local town then what is happening in the ocean.  And there seems to be a lot of shady characters in the suits and dark sunglasses about.

Of course, if you go into without the expectations I had, it’s actually a pretty good movie.  Here back in the late 70’s, the pro-environment subject was even being throw into horror movies.  Gotta love those horror films with a message.  It wasn’t really until The X-Files came out until these government cover-ups became so popular.  But back then, they were starting with the themes.  Plus, we just loved the ending.  Once again, something that you could do back in the 70's without any problem.  Unlike today. 

Main star Wayne Crawford was really behind this picture.  Not only was he the main lead, but he also wrote the story and the screenplay, co-produced it, and also directed the underwater sequences.  He did a lot of work both in front and behind the camera, having some success, such as being the writer & producer on films like Valley Girl and Jake Speed, as well as producing the cult favorite Night of the Comet and Servants of Twilight.

The film’s co-director Harry Kerwin is brother of actor William Kerwin, who plays the local sheriff.  Cult fans will know William Kerwin for his work with H.G. Lewis in films like Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs.

This film was released on DVD by Dark Sky Films, as part of a Drive-In Double feature disc, with Island Fury.  The disc comes with some great exploitation trailers of some sleazy films that I’m assuming that Dark Sky will be releasing.  If you like me and are a fan of these killer fish movies, even though there’s a lot more going on here than that, you should enjoy it.


(1960)
Directed by Monte Hellman
Starring Michael Forest, Sheila Carol, Frank Wolfe, Wally Campo.

I picked this up at one of the Cinema Wasteland shows.  Since it was only $10, my thinking was for that price it how could you go wrong.  Besides, I’ve always enjoyed these low budget monster films from the 60’s.  I had figured it would be another Corman-type quickie.

This was the first film for director Monte Hellman, and was written by Corman regular Charles Griffith, who had written NOT OF THIS EARTH, BUCKET OF BLOOD, ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, not to mention DEATH RACE 2000.

Filmed in South Dakota, the story is about a group of people that come up to a ski resort to rob the local bank.  They set a bomb to go off in one of the caves in the area, to give them a diversion while they rob the bank.  Everything seems to be working fine.  But the explosion lets loose a hideous creature that feeds on blood.  And to make it worse, it follows the robbers out to the mountains where they are hiding out.

I think what sets this a little bit apart from the rest of the films of this type is that there’s a pretty good story here.  It’s not just a basic story wrapped around a monster on the loose…okay, so it is.  But the actors and the story seemed to make it a little more than that.

I found the creature a lot more enjoyable, and really done quite well for the budget and time it was made.  It didn’t look like a lot of the rubber monsters that were coming out at the time, or at least not as bad as the others.  They seemed to go for something a little different, and I think they accomplished just that.

If you are a fan of these 60’s monster movies, then you definitely don’t want to miss out on this one.  Synapse Films did a great job with the DVD.


(1974)
Directed by Paul Annett
Starring Peter Cushing, Calvin Lockhart, Marlene Clark, Anton Diffring, Charles Gray,|
Ciaran Madden, Tom Chadbon, Michael Gambon

The plot of this film is kind of a twist between a mystery who-dunnit film and a horror film.  After an opening scene which comes close to a remake of THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME, we find a group of people who have been invited to a huge estate of a wealthy hunter.  He claims that one of his guests is a werewolf.  And he intends to identify the individual, then and hunt and kill the beast.  So the question throughout the movie is who is the werewolf.  At the beginning of the film, we are told that we are to gather our own clues, and at the end of the film, there will be a "Werewolf Break", before the guilty party is discovered.

We had seen this movie years ago on video, and always remembered it not being too good.  After viewing the newly released DVD from Dark Sky Films, we discovered that it's not as bad as we remembered and really doesn't deserve the bad rap that it usually gets.  Okay, the werewolf in the film is simple pathetic.  It is simply a dog wearing a fur coat.  It's about as threatening looking as Lassie on a bad hair day.  But that is about the only thing here that really lets the viewer down.

And on the other hand of the spectrum, you have a wonderful cast.  Anything with Peter Cushing in it is worth watching at least once.  Cushing plays Dr. Lungren, who specializes in the study of lycanthrope...werewolves.  And as always, gives a great performance.  But joining him is Charles Gray, who most probably recognize him as the narrator from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW.  Here, he gives another wonderful performance, though I did keep having ROCKY HORROR flashbacks every now and then.  Anton Diffring is in the cast, and not playing the heavy, as he usually tends to.  Instead he is charge of the video surveillance equipment for the compound.  And let's not forget Michael Gambon, who was most recently seen in the remake of THE OMEN, not to mention taking over Richard Harris role in the Harry Potter movies.

And then there's Calvin Lockhart, as the host of the party.  One could say that Lockhart is slightly over-acting a tad bit here.....slightly.  It's almost most as if he thinks he's reading Shakespeare!  But even though he does go overboard a little, I did enjoy his performance none the less, even if it was for more humorous ones.  But while looking up his filmography, I was shocked to find out that he also played King Willie in PREDATOR 2.  The minute I read that, I could immediately see him in that role.  Once again, he had a very distinct vocal presence in the movie, just like in BEAST.

So over all, this is not one of Amicus' better releases.  But as a fan of British films, and that of Peter Cushing's, it really is essential viewing, if only for those reasons alone.  The "Werewolf Break" at the end of the film was the idea of producer Max Rosenberg, much to the dismay of director Paul Annett.  But in a nostalgic way, it's kind of amusing.  It does remind you of the good old days of William Castle and all his gimmicks.

This new release contains audio commentary by director Paul Annett, in which he does a wonderful job reminiscing about the film and working with these great actors.  There is also an interview with Annett as well, although the same stories are told during the commentary.  The disc also features the regular features such as trailers, cast and crew bios, and lineal notes, where Annett pays a nice tribute to Peter Cushing.

So if you are a Cushing fan, and a fan of British horror, you will probably want this in your collection.  If you're not, you may want to check out some of the other Amicus films to get a idea on how good they were.  And then come back to this one.


(1970)
Directed by Eddie Romero
Starring John Ashley, CelesteYarnall, Eddie Garcia, Lisa Belmonte, Bruno Punzalan, Beverly Miller

This is the last of the famous Blood Island trilogy, and is a direct sequel to MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, starting right where the last one left off.  While on the boat leaving the island, it seems that our favorite chlorophyll-blooded monster had stowed away.  It comes out and starts attacking the crew members, causing a fire to start.  The boat blows up, with star John Ashley being thrown overboard.  After a recovering in the hospital, Ashley decides to return to Blood Island to once again, find out what's going on there.

As a horror film, I feel this is the weakest of the three films.  The monster is really only featured in the beginning of the film, but with the best makeup yet in the series.  Then for the rest of the film creature has been decapitated, with it's body strapped to table and it's head setting on another table, with wires hooked up to both keeping both parts alive.

The rest of the film is almost an adventure type movie, or as Sam Sherman mentions on the commentary, a "James Bond-type of film".  Don't know where he gets that idea from, but it's definitely a little bit more action than the previous two films.  Ashley arrives on the island with his newest female companion.  This time out it is a newspaper reporter, played by Celeste Yarnall, who wants a story about what Ashley is looking for.  But shortly after they do arrive, she is kidnapped by some thugs, lead by returning Bruno Punzalan, who is still working for Dr. Lorca.  So for the rest of the movie, Ashley and some friends track down the girl, and finally coming up against the evil Dr. Lorca once again.

This time, Lorca is played by Eddie Garcia, and features severe burn scars on one side of his face from the fire at the end of the last movie.  Of course, he is still doing research and experiments on humans.  Now it seems that he is trying to transplant a human head onto the body of the creature from last movie.  Of course, it's not too easy to get volunteers for that kind of operation.

While the film does have it's moments, it seemed a little slow going for me.  Plus I really wanted that monster to be running around some more, tearing apart the locals!  Instead, we got thugs dragging Yarnall through the jungles with Ashley and company right on their tails.  I think maybe they were trying to go for a different type of movie here.  But with the success of the last two films, why tamper with it?

Much like the other two discs in the trilogy, the quality for most of the film is really nice.  Very clear, and some great color.  But there are a couple of sequences where the scenes are very dark, hiding most of the background.  I'm sure these were some day-for-night scenes, and maybe even taken from some poor quality sources, but the difference between these scenes and the rest of the film are quite noticeable.  But that really is the only complaint about the disc that I have.

The rest of the extras are pretty much the same as the other two.  It has about an hours worth of commentary from Sam Sherman, who continues the story of Hemisphere Pictures and his connections with it.  There are also the trailers which are the same, except this disc has a trailer for HORROR OF THE BLOOD MONSTERS for some reason.  There is a Blood Island still gallery, but for some reason has quite a few stills that don't belong to any of the Blood Island movies, such as some shots from NIGHT OF THE BLOODY APES.  There is also the Eddie Romero interview that is on the other discs as well.

But one new extra is a 9 minute interview with star Celeste Yarnell by Sam Sherman.  She talks very fondly of the movie and her experiences, while some of there were not too good at the time.  But it is nice to hear that she is not embarrassed or has any regrets about doing the film.  There is also some lost footage of the creature wondering around the jungle that was suppose to be shown during the opening credits, but was cut.

All in all, it's still worth the cost of the disc.  Besides, if you have the first two, which I would highly recommend, then you have to get this one to fill out the trilogy.  Come on, what kind of a collector are you, anyway?


BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT
(1970)

Directed by Eddie Romero
Starring John Ashley, Mary Wilcox, Eddie Carcia, Leopoldo Salcedo, Ken Metcalf, Vic Diaz, and Andres Centenera.

Yes, it’s another fine film by the team of John Ashley and Eddie Romero. Sometimes referred to the last entry in the BLOOD ISLAND series, (BRIDES OF THE BEASTS - 1968, MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND - 1969, and BEAST OF BLOOD - 1970), but really has nothing to do with the series. In those earlier films, there was John Ashley battling the mad doctor and the monster. In BEAST OF THE YELLOW NIGHT, Ashley is the monster. Near death, Ashley sells his soul to the Devil. In return he possesses different people bringing out that person’s evil side. After years of doing this, Ashley starts to get tired of it and wants out. Especially when he really starts to fall in love with the wife of the new person he has become. But to make matters worse, the Devil throws in added feature. Any time that Ashley has any good feelings, like love or compassion, he turns into this hideous creature who goes on a rampage (like all Philippine monsters do) and kills a bunch of people.

While I didn’t think it was as good as some of the BLOOD ISLAND movies, it’s still pretty damn entertaining. There’s a great scene when Ashley wakes up after a night of some brutal murders as the monster, with dried blood all over his shirt. He just casually walks down the public street, with all this blood! Must be a common thing over there.

Some people may need an acquired taste for something like this, or any of the Romero / Ashley films, especially when watching their version of the Dr. Moreau story in their film TWILIGHT PEOPLE. But if you’re into that kind of cheese, this are highly recommended. You will be entertained.


(1969)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Adrienne Larussa, Tomas Milian, Georges Wilson, Mavie, Antonio Casagrande, Ignazio Spalla,
Max Steffen Zacharias, Raymond Pellegrin, Massimo Sarchielli, Mirko Ellis

ZombieHouse by the CemeteryCity of the Living DeadThe BeyondBeatrice Cenci???  I know that most all horror fans would have recognized those first four titles.  They were made by Italy’s Godfather of Gore, Lucio Fulci.  But what is Beatrice Cenci?  Or more importantly, who WAS Beatrice Cenci?

Beatrice Cenci, the person, was the daughter of aristocrat Francesco Cenci.  He was not only a very violent man with a bad temper, but also treated his own family extremely poorly.  In fact, he supposedly even had raped his own daughter, Beatrice.  That was the last straw, and with the rest of her family, plotted to kill their evil father.  The problem was that because of his money and power Catholic Church heard about this questionable death and started to investigate.  Many people were tortured to discover what really happened.  In the end, Beatrice, her brother, her step-mother, and Beatrice’s faithful servant/lover were all executed.  The youngest brother who was involved, had to witness the executions before spending the rest of his life in prison.  The church took over the family’s wealth and property, which was a common thing to do back then.  The townspeople knew how evil Francesco Cenci was, and they thought this was wrong for the family to be punished for putting an end to this terrible man.

Beatrice Cenci, the movie, pretty much follows the historical data.  The film is told with a series of flashbacks, with each one giving us more details as to what had happened.  Though there are a lot of these sequences, it doesn’t confuse the viewer to what’s going on.  This shows how masterful of a filmmaker that Lucio Fulci was.  The depth of each character is shown more and more as the story progresses, especially with the use of these flashbacks.  At first, it seems that Beatrice was just using her servant to get him to do the evil deed.  But when you find out just what her father had done to her, can you really blame her, or any of them, for plotting his demise?

The other strong point in this film is how it shows the Catholic Church as a bunch of money-grabbing scoundrels.  They were more concerned about acquiring the property and money from their congregation than saving the souls of them.  Even when they discover about her father’s attack on Beatrice, the church won’t budge on her punishment.

There are quite a few scenes of torture here, which are done with a very serious tone and not for simple gratuitous violence.  It shows the reality of what these poor people were put through, just to force out a confession.  And all the time, the priests were convinced they were “saving their souls”.

I’d say one of the main reasons this film works so well is the cast.  Adrienne Larussa is strikingly beautiful.  But it’s not just her beauty that makes her worth watching.  The emotional performance she gives is amazing.  The look on her face when her broken and tortured lover is brought before her is both moving and memorable.  Tomas Milian, a staple of Italian films, plays Beatrice’s servant/lover, who goes through hell for his love.  Georges Wilson, who plays the devious Cenci patriarch, does such a wonderful job getting the viewer to truly despise and hate this man.

Most of today’s fans mainly know Fulci for his gore films from the late 70’s to early 80’s.  They might even be familiar with some of his earlier work, like Don’t Torture a Duckling.  But not too many people had the chance to see Beatrice Cenci, since it was never really given a release here in the states.  Even years ago in the bootleg market, finding a decent copy was tough to do.  Which is a damn shame since it really shows just how good of a filmmaker Fulci was.

But lucky for us Fulci fans, now you have the chance to see this great movie and see just how good of filmmaker Fulci was.  And that he really could do much more than just those gore movies.  Not that there’s anything wrong with those, mind you, but just to show his critics and others who think that was the only thing he was capable of doing.  This film has been recently released on a German DVD from a label called New Entertainment.  The disc features an uncut widescreen version that looks as beautiful as lead actress Larussa.  It has available English language, as well as Italian dialog with English subtitles, if you want to watch it the way it should be.  The disc also comes with a trailer, an opening German credit sequence, as well as some trailers of some other releases from this same company.

If you are a serious fan of Lucio Fulci then you really need to not only see this film, but to add it to your collection.  That way, when someone says that Fulci was just a gore director, you can whip this one out on them and show them just how wrong they are.


(1983)
Directed by Jackie Kong
Starring Martin Landau, Marianne Gordon, Rexx Coltrane (aka Bill Osco), José Ferrer, Dorothy Malone, Ruth Buzzi

One of the best things about this recent DVD release is that we can finally see just what the hell the monster looks like!  The old Thorn/EMI video prints were so dark, you couldn't see shit.  But now, this new DVD lets us see the monster in all it's glory....wait, I did say that was a good thing, right?

Okay, so this isn't the greatest 80's cheesy monster movie.  But it's not the worst.  Close, though.  You have to remember that this was back in the day when all you needed was a gooey and bloody monster with big teeth that was chasing people.  Throw in a few townspeople to get chomped and you're good to go.  And this is pretty much follows that exact formula.

Martin Landau is one of the highlights in this film.  As he always did, whether it be in major films or these low budget ones, he gave it his all.  He always comes across as a real person.  Sometimes crazy, as in ALONE IN THE DARK or WITHOUT WARNING, but he's always giving a great performance.  And even in this low budget flick, he's playing it for an Oscar.  He plays a scientist that has been brought in to prove that there is no harmful contamination to the water by dumping nuclear waste in it.  Remember folks, this is the early 80's, when we were stupid.

The lead "actor" is actually the producer Bill Osco, who also just happens to be married to the director.  Soo....who slept with who to get that job?  Actually, it looks like they couldn't find another lead actor for the role so Osco jumped in.  Not sure on just how good of a producer he was, but his talents definitely didn't lie in the acting field.  I was kind of hoping that that big one-eyed bugger would get a hold of him at the end.  It is funny though, since in the movie, he's listed as Rexx Coltrane.  But on the DVD box, it lists "William Osco as Rexx Coltrane".  I guess they figured everybody knew it anyway.

While in typical 80's fashion, we don't see the monster until the end.  But when we do, it's a mass of oozing blood and goo and big teeth, with one big eyeball starring us down.  It kind of looks like a distant cousin to our buddy the Deadly Spawn, though we never get a really good look at it and it's usually only in closeups.  I'm sure the make up budget on this was pennies and the blood and goo covered up a lot of sins.  But we thought it was pretty cool none the less.

It really looks like Kong and Osco just wanted to make a monster movie and threw together a few ideas and things and then shot the movie.  There are attacks from the monster's tentacles out of nowhere, and then their gone.  At one point, Martin Landau is attacked in the backseat of a car, where you can obviously see the hand of the effects guy operating it...or more likely whipping Landau with the tentacle.  But then they throw in this weird dream sequence, when the Osco and Landau on a small plane that is getting attacked by this monster.  And just when Landau is pulled from the plane, we see co-star Ruth Buzzi with bloody eyes fly by on a broom stick?!?!?  You got me, folks.

As we said early, Shriek Show has done a great job cleaning up this movie and making it not so dark.  Plus the quality of the print is also pretty good.  The only extras on the disc are some trailers for this movie and some other Shriek Show titles.  There are also some production stills from the movie as well.

So if you're really in the mood for a cheesy 80's monster film, and can't find one, then you might enjoy this one.  But don't expect much, and then you might be entertained.


(2007)
Directed by John Pata
Starring Drew Schuldt, Dale Devries, Jordan Brown, Sam Warnke, Mary Manchester

    I can't tell you how we dread getting these low budget back-yard movies from young filmmakers.  While we applaud their enthusiasm, most of the time, they are terribly made, with no talent in front of the camera, behind the camera, or even somewhat close to the camera.  And they can be just painful to sit through.  So you can understand our complete shock to get a copy of John Pata's BETTER OFF UNDEAD and find it pretty damn entertaining.  And it was made in Wisconsin, no less!

    When we were at the recent Flashback show, the young director Pata was there pimping his movie.  He seemed like a nice, down-to-earth kind of guy, so we asked him more about his movie.  He told us it was done basically for fun and that everyone had a great time making it.  So we offered up our services and said we'd be happy to review it.  And now here we are.

    The film is just shy of a half hour but is paced pretty well.  The characters seem real, along with the dialog, even the toilet humor.  It seems to fit.  Three buddies are hanging out, waiting for another friend to show up.  But they decide to take off and go get some coffee.  During all of these, it seems that there is an outbreak of zombies.  No explanation given, or really needed for that matter.  Maybe if this was a feature length film we would need something.  But here, it works just fine.

    The makeup effects, also handled by the director Pata are simple, but effective.  Even the gut-munching scenes are done with zeal and of young horror fans.  Meaning...they deliver the goods.  You have several victims getting their intestines pulled and ripped out, countless bite and chomps, and plenty of the red stuff squirting about.

    Even though the movie is only 29 minutes long, don't let that put you off from spending the $10 on it.  The DVD is packed full of extras.  There is a making of documentary that is as long as the film.  Just about everyone involved in the picture gets to talk to the camera and give their thoughts on the project.  Sure, there is a bit of goofing around, but face people, these guys did this for the sheer fun of it.  There is also some on the set footage, getting ready for takes and makeup effect scenes.  The disc also comes with 4 different audio commentaries!  You also get a gag reel, trailer, and much more.  For only $10, that is a steal.  If you are interested in ordering the DVD, you can place your order through their MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/better_off_undead

    After that last low budget film that we reviews, HOUSE OF CARNAGE, it was a great thrill to see that we can still have hope for this sub-genre.  Great job to John Pata and the rest of his cast and crew.

 

 


BEYOND THE DARKNESS
(1979)
Directed by Joe D’Amato
Starring Kieran Canter, Cinzia Monreale, Franca Stoppi

This is probably one of Joe D’Amato’s more notorious films.  The subject matter, necrophilia, and what the young man does to the women he comes across is extremely brutal.  From ripping out finger nails, biting them in the throat, and even disposing of their bodies by burning or acid baths, it’s all here.

BEYOND THE DARKNESS had been released on video here in the states under the title BURIED ALIVE by Thriller Video.  Yes, that version was cut, but the only scene missing was one at a disco.  None of the gore or nudity was cut from this print.  But…yes, it was still cut.  Well now, for the first time, it has been released uncut in the states by Shriek Show on DVD.

Kieran Canter plays a young man who is obsessed with his girlfriend who is dying.  Once she dies, he digs up her body and takes her home.  He stuffs her like a taxidermist would do, to keep her looking young and beautiful.  But apparently, she’s not enough for him, so he picks up women and brings them back home. But when he tries to share his bed with new girlfriend and his dead one, things don’t go as well as he hoped.  His housekeeper, which seems pretty twisted in her own right, helps him with his deeds.

Shriek Show’s disc looks really nice, blowing away any previous release of the film in the states.  The DVD features an interview with Cinzia Monreale, who plays the dead girlfriend and her sister.  She obviously didn’t have any problem with being completely naked through the first half of the movie.  Monreale had also worked with Lucio Fulci in THE BEYOND, playing the blind Emily.  There is also an interview and commentary with the art director, Donatella Donati (or assistant director according to him). who talks of working with D'Amato.

This is a good one to start with in your not familiar with D’Amato’s work.  There is quite a bit of nudity and gore.  If you like this one, you’re pretty much home free with the rest of his work…maybe.  Plus it does have a great score by Goblin.

In any case, for fans of Italian horror, this really should be part of the collection.  Granted, it won’t be one that I’ll be pulling out that many times, but at least I know it’s in there when someone asks to see something really sleazy.  I’ll be covered.


(1974)
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis
Starring Juliet Mills, Richard Johnson, Gabriele Lavia, Nino Segurini, Elizabeth Turner, Barbara Fiorini, David Colin Jr.

Director Assonitis was good at finding a hit, and making his own version.  He did it thing with JAWS, turning it into TENTACLES, and continuing the saga of those little killer fish by giving us PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING.  But I say this in high regards.  His movies may not have been original, I've always found them entertaining.  Probably his most popular one was his twist on THE EXORCIST, CHI SEI?, best known in the states as BEYOND THE DOOR.  It was released in the UK under the title THE DEVIL WITHIN HER.

Here we have his take on the whole possession theme.  Now while I will say that there are a lot of similarities with the Friedkin film, this is also very different movie.  The storyline is completely different here.  Yes, it deals with possession.  Yes, you have the spinning heads, the vomit, and things flying around.  But we have a pregnant woman possessed here.  And it's not about battling with a priest, but to simply have her soul, and have her give birth to the demonic spawn she is carrying.  Doesn't sound like THE EXORCIST, does it?  But because of all the other possession attributes, it's called a rip-off.  Okay...fine.  But even so, I still find it an enjoyable film.

Released in Italian in November of 1974, about a year after the Friedkin film.  But it wasn't released here in the states until July of 1975.  But even after a year and a half, Warner Bros. didn't like the similarities with it and their film and caused some legal action.  But me, like most I think, remember this film when it was shown on TV.  That's where I first seen it, and even on regular TV, it scared the crap out of me.

Juliet Mills plays the lead, and she does a incredible job here.  Once she becomes possessed, it's amazing the transformation she goes through.  With her wide eyes, and high, cackling laugh, Mills becomes one scary lady.  And I'm sure the vomit drool oozing out of her mouth helps as well.  But then there are more simple things that are still disturbing.  Like when she's walking down the street and sees a banana peel laying on the sidewalk, picks it up and then starts eating it.

The makeup is pretty simple, but still very effective.  Plus there are some pretty cool visual effects, with one in particular that I really enjoyed.  At one point during the possession, you see a head shot of Mills.  One side of her face is peaceful and staring straight ahead.  But on the other side of  her face, one eye is moving around.  So you have this great and simple effect with one eye starring straight at you and the other wandering about.  It gives off a very creep image.

Italian horror fans will be please to see our buddy Richard Johnson here, though he doesn't seemed to do much in the movie.  He does a lot of walking around, talking to the demonic force, and trying to convince Mills and her husband not to get outside help.  Mills' husband is played by Gabriele Lavia, best known for his role in Dario Argento's DEEP RED.  Not sure where they got the two kids that played their children, but I would have guessed they were the ones possessed.  Talk about two little demons!?!?

For some reason, this still hasn't seen a DVD release here in the states.  It was released on video years ago, but even those tapes are pretty rare, and possibly cut?  It seems that this would make some money if it was release over here.  But if you're really dying to get this on DVD, without buying a bootleg, there is a recent Japanese DVD release of the film.  It is a bit pricey, but the quality is pretty good.  It's a shame that there is no significant extras.  There are some trailers, which are actually pretty funny, since there is a Japanese guy talking and yelling over the trailers, including one for Bill Rebane's GIANT SPIDER INVASION!  We also get to see some great stills and promotional materials in the photo gallery.  But if you do like this movie, and want to get it, I'm sure you'll be happy with the DVD.  Just give our buddies at Xploited Cinema a buzz and they'll hook you up with one.


(2004)
Directed by Thomas Maurer and Barrett Klausman (Barrett J. Leigh according to the IMDB)
Starring William Sanderson, Tom Savini, Kurt Hargan, Fountain Yount, Frank Schuler, Marco St. John

You know the old saying when you see a bad adaptation that the author must spinning in his grave?  Well, after watching this latest H.P. Lovecraft inspired movie, Lovecraft is not spinning, but clawing his way out of the grave looking for somebody's head.

The film stars William Sanderson, who is a favorite of ours since BLADE RUNNER, and Tom Savini.  Savini is in one scene.  Not really that much to get second billing, huh?  And of course, the dialog that he has just doesn't quite fit the time period of the film.  But at least Sanderson is in most of the movie.  Not that it helps.

Most of the film takes place in an asylum, which shows the doctors being about as crazy as the inmates.  One young intern is experimenting on a young girl in the basement of the asylum.  It seems that cutting the skull cap, making a nice pop top opening to the brain, is a pretty easy one to do and still keep the patient alive.  This lets the young intern insert metal prods to shoot electric currents through to 'stimulate' images in the brain.  But he also wants to get at the newest inmate, played by Sanderson, so is in a pretty much comatose state, other than some mumbles.  The other doctors are getting in his way to his new patient though.

Once again, someone has taken a Lovecraft story and completely butchered beyond recognition.  With all the gore and the sexual connotations, I would have wonder if they even read the original story if it had not been for a couple lines of dialog that seemed to be taken directly from the original story.  But besides that, about closest they get to Lovecraft is the picture of him they have hanging in one of the doctor's offices.

Yea, so Stuart Gordon's RE-ANIMATOR went a bit off the track from that original story as well.  Okay, you got me on that one.  And I think the makers of the this film were trying to do the same thing.  But one of the main differences here is the acting is just plain terrible.  It almost seemed like a couple of the actors, especially Kurt Hargan, seemed like they were seeing who could overact the most.  Hargan won.

The directors also tried to make this film with a lot of style.  In fact, there's so much camera style before the opening credits are finished that I had one hell of a headache.  This camera style with the quick flash cuts and the shaky cam can get really old, really quick when you do it constantly.  It's one thing to do it to achieve a certain effect or mood, but I don't feel that it works when you are constantly doing it through the whole movie.  They also try to create some effects by going from black & white film to color.  Sorry, just doesn't work.

There's really nothing here that I could even remotely recommend for viewing.  Lovecraft fans will obviously be disappointed in the lack of likeness to the story.  There's really no gore or even nudity (other than one extremely gratuitous scene that is just plain silly) to speak of.

So if you're looking for a good Lovecraft-themed movie that doesn't follow the story, rent some of Stuart Gordon's attempts.  They may not be accurate, but at least their damn entertaining.


(2009)
Directed by Robert David Sanders
Starring Barbara Streifel Sanders, Joseph Dunn, Ian Malcolm, Michael Caruso, Caroline Rich, Anthony Tedesco,
James Martinez, John Gorman, Alexis Zibolis, Ace Gibson

The film starts out introducing us to many different characters living in or going to a certain apartment complex, giving us a little bit of their back stories.  It’s Christmas Eve in Los Angeles and the city has been plagued by earth tremors, power surges and momentary blackouts.  Just another day in LA.  But once a young boy goes down to the apartment’s basement to get an early Christmas present, he finds something that Santa definitely didn’t leave.

The acting is not bad for this type of movies.  The main leads do a pretty good job coming off as real people.  Some of the background cast are a little lesser quality, but all do much better than what you’d think you would get from a lower budgeted film.  There lies a slight good/bad thing in the story dealing with the characters.  Without giving too much away, we learn right from the first death, that nobody is safe in this movie.  Which is a good thing, because the audience won’t know what to expect.  But the bad side is that once we learn that nobody is really safe, we start to really not care about any of them because we know they are all disposable.  Sure, we might wonder which ones if any are going to make it through, but we’re not making those calls to Vegas just yet.

For me, the highlight of the film was the creatures themselves.  Yes, they do have some CGI tails added on which makes some of the kills even more cartoonish.  But as for the look and design, kudos out to Greg McDougall for coming up with something a little different than what we’ve seen before, but also something that looks pretty cool and pretty frightening.  Yea, it’s a guy in a suit with a CGI tail, but it’s different, which has to be one of the more difficult issues in these types of movies today.  While the stories are the same ones over and over again, it’s always nice to see a fresh new monster.

I would say that this movie would be perfect fodder for the Sci-Fi Channel, except it’s a little bit better than that.  Not great, mind you, but I’d say a little better than usually what’s on there.  And if only because of the cool looking monsters.


(1991)
Directed by Umberto Lenzi.
Starring Keith Van Hoven, Maria Alves, Joe Balogh, Sonia Curtis, Philip Murray II, and Justo Silva.

"the seldom seen 1991 zombie film from Umberto Lenzi arrives stateside,
uncut, digitally re-mastered, and in English for the very first time."

When I see a advertisement like the above quote for an Italian zombie movie, I'm all over that like ugly on an ape.  How could one go wrong with zombie film from the same guy who brought us CITY OF THE WALKING DEAD (aka NIGHTMARE CITY)?  So I bought this disc without further investigation.  And so I've learned another lesson in DVD buying...research.  Maybe the fact that it was seldom scene here in the States is because no one wanted to admit that they sat through it.

Okay, now that the bitterness has passed, let me be a little bit more specific and reasonable.  Lenzi film is about a young woman, her brother, and her boyfriend, that are in Brazil taking photos of something or another.  But the brother is interested in finding out more about black magic and Macumba.  He apparently finds out more than he anticipated.  Their jeep breaks down, where they come across a young couple who happen to live near by.  Hundreds of years ago, when the place was owned by slave owners, six slaves who tried to escape were killed.  Well, now since the brother's dabbling in things that he shouldn't be, the six slaves rise from the dead to seek revenge on the white man.

I will give the film a little bit of credit.  The makeup designs for the zombies are done very well.  Very reminiscent of the 1974 film SUGAR HILL.  They even went through the trouble of having the zombies' feet made up as well.  You can tell since there seems to be a lot of shots of their feet walking.  Back in the 'old days' you would see this shot before you seen the whole creature, just set up the scare (or to hide a bad costume).  But here we get these shots several times after we've already seen the zombies in many close up shots.

There is also a few cool gore shots, including the obligatory eye injury sequences.  They might be kind of cheesy, but still enjoyable.  But other than that, there's not much else.

I guess that Lenzi really was trying to make a zombie film like that of the 80's, which is maybe why the acting is so bad here.  One of the main character's English is so bad, that it's really hard to understand what the hell he's saying.

The disc, released by Shriek Show, comes with interviews with Lenzi and co-screenwriter Olga Pehar.  The interview with Lenzi is a little over nine minutes, which Lenzi spends most of explaining why the movie is so bad.  The interview with Pehar is only 70 seconds long, and the first 50 seconds is Lenzi talking.  Pehar makes one comment which last for the last 20 seconds.  I really don't think I would count that as an "Interview", would you?

It makes me wonder if they are sending someone over to Italy for a 10 minute interview, or is that all that is usable?  And once again, Shriek Show really needs to get someone else to do these interviews, someone who is fluent in Italian.  With every question, it seems that the guy is really struggling to get the question out.

Unless you are a die-hard fan of Italian zombie movies, I would really avoid this one.  There are far better films out there to spend your money on.


(1957)
Directed by Edward Ludwig
Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro

Good old fashion giant monster fun.  That's what it all comes down to with THE BLACK SCORPION.  If you're a fan of those old monster movies of the 50's, with the giant insects running around terrorizing the local townspeople, then you will enjoy this one as well.

After an earthquake down in Mexico, strange things start to happen.  Cattle from the local ranches start to disappear.  And then even some of the villagers as well.  A car is found that has been torn apart.  What could be doing such damage?  You guess it....giant scorpions!  The earthquake had opened a pathway for these giant creatures to escape from their buried homes miles under the earth's surface.  And now it looks like they have found a new food source.

Richard Denning plays an archeologist who has gone down to there to study the effects of the earthquake and the volcano close by.  But once there, when he's not putting the moves on the local female rancher, Mara Corday, they try and discover where these giant creatures came from and more importantly, how to stop them.

The effects here were done by the great Willis O'Brien, who had giving life to the original KING KONG, and they are awesome.  Yes, most of the scenes are stop animation, and won't compare to the dinosaurs of JURASSIC PARK, so get that out of your head right away.  But if you are a fan of the old time animation like this, it's some of the best around at that time.  Plus, there is a lot of killing and carnage with these giant beasties.  Plenty of poor souls get snapped up in the scorpion's giant pinchers.  This isn't the type of movie where you only get to see the creature in glimpses here and there.  There's plenty of action here.  The scorpions attack everything from each other, a train, tanks, and even a flying helicopter.

Some of the effects, when superimposing the scorpion over the real crowd, could have been better, or left out completely.  It basically looks like a big black shadow that is put over the screen.  But then some parts are almost transparent.  Those same techniques were used by Bert I. Gordon quite frequently.

Made a few years after THEM!, they did a great job here.  THEM basically used oversized mechanical creatures, and they were good in that, but they're moves are very limited.  But here, with O'Brien's animations, the creatures do quite a bit more, giving us monster fans something to enjoy.  Even now, almost 50 years after it was made.

The movie was released on DVD by Warner Bros. and is a great disc for the collection.  The disc comes with some great extras.  There is a documentary called Stop-Motion Masters, with Ray Harryhausen, which is a delight to watch.  There are other such items as the never-before-seen test footage from THE LAS VEGAS MONSTER and BEETLEMEN.  Throw in some giant monster movie trailers, and you're all set for a fun evening of giant monster fun.


(1956)
Directed by Reginald Le Borg
Starring Basil Rathbone, Akim Tamiroff, Lon Chaney Jr., John Carradine, Bela Lugosi,
Herbert Rudley, Patricia Blair, Phyllis Stanley, Tor Johnson 

Basil Rathbone stars as Dr. Joel Cadman, who is obsessed with discovering the mysteries of the human brain.  His wife is in a coma due to a brain tumor, and he is determined to discover a way how to save her.  Even if this means un-ethical experimental operations on live patients to further his studies.

Cadman saves a fellow doctor, Dr. Ramsey, wrongly accused and saved from the gallows.  He does this by use of a drug he found in India, which he calls the Black Sleep.  Once taken, it makes the person appear to be dead, even to the prison’s doctor.  Once another injection is given, the “dead” comes back to life.  For this favor, Cadman wants the young doctor to help him in his experiments.  But once Ramsey discovers that Cadman is experimenting on live subjects, he realizes he must find away to escape this madness.

Over the years, I never remember reading anything that good about this movie.  The reviews and comments were basically saying it featured a bunch of once big horror stars that were past their prime, all trying to see who could over act.  So even with the cast, I never made it a top priority to find it.  And there, my friends, is why you should never take in a 100% of what reviews tell you.  Believe it or not, but sometimes you might not think the same way about a film as they do!  So use reviews as a guide to help decide your viewing habits.  But unless you trust that person’s opinion, do let it totally persuade you from watching something.

After recently getting a copy of THE BLACK SLEEP and in a much needed shot of a classic b&w film and figured this would do the trick.  I will agree that a lot of the actors in there are past their prime and some are even completely wasted in their roles.  These would be mainly Bela Lugosi, who plays the mute butler, and Chaney Jr., who plays a dim-witted would-be strangler.  While Chaney Jr. is giving a little bit more to do than Lugosi, it is a shame that he wasn’t given the chance to shine like he occasionally could.  Lugosi on the other hand literally seems to be stumbling through his role.  Unfortunately, he died a couple of months after the movie was released.

But one of the highlights of these “has-been” is John Carradine, as Borg, the bearded old man shouting biblical verse, when he’s not yelling “KILL!  KILL!  KILL!”  He really shines in this minor role, like he’s back on the stage performing Shakespeare for the Queen.  Tor Johnson also appears as his usual white-eyed zombie figure, stumbling around, again, as usual.

Sure, this isn’t the classic Universal stuff that we all know and love.  But with this cast, a pretty decent story, and even some interesting camera set-ups,  it does make for an entertaining 80+ minutes.  Well worth the watch.  No matter what you read.


(1960)
Directed by Mario Bava
Starring Barbara Steele, John Richardson, Andrea Checchi, Ivo Garrani, Arturo Dominici, Enrico Olivieri, Antonia Pierfederici, Tino Bianchi

There are quite a few movies out there that are considered ‘classics’.  But Mario Bava’s directorial debut is one that really deserves that title.  Loosely based on the Russian story ‘Vij’ by Nicolai Gogol, Bava not only weave’s tale of an ancestral evil that threatens its descendants, but gives us one of the most beautifully shot and choreographed films in cinematic history.  While color horror movies where sweeping the theaters, mainly due to Hammer Films, Bava shot this one in black and white and showed audiences that you can still paint an amazing product by just using those two basic colors.

Not only showing us a wonderfully dark gallery of images, but also some glorious and innovative work with the camera.  From long panning shots, to incredible glass matt paintings, to an array of techniques, Bava’s work immediately started to inspire filmmakers then and still does today.  When two characters first arrive in an old crypt, Bava does a 360 degree camera pan, showing us the entire set, letting the ambiance and atmosphere seep into the eyes of the viewer.  This really is a film that one can watch over and over again and still be in awe of the beauty and talent on display here.

The opening sequence along is one that still is effective 40+ years later.  We witness as the accused Asa is being branded with the mark of Satan on her back, as the camera dwells upon it.  As they bring out the spiked iron mask to forever cover her face, it slowly moves towards the camera, as if covering our own face, seeing the close up images off the huge spikes coming from inside the mask.  Once it is placed on Asa’s face, we see a huge man with an even bigger mallet come forth to smash it to her head with one powerful swing, as blood and a scream pours out from behind the mask.  Strong stuff, folks.  But before she is encased in this demonic visage, she curses her brother who has accused her, swearing to wreak vengeance on his family for centuries to come.  Then we skip 200 years to see this promise start to come true, when Asa’s crypt is disturbed by two traveling doctors.

In a little bit of trivia, the masks were made Bava’s father, who was a sculptor.  He also sculpted the decomposed face of Asa once the mask is taken off.  Bava was even a painter before getting into films.  And this movie is a perfect example of how Bava used film to continue to paint such beautiful shots up on the screen.  And speaking of the mask, the actual title of the film was LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO (literally translation being “Mask of the Devil”).  When American International Pictures (AIP) picked up the film for U.S. distribution, they cut it, changed the music and re-titled it to its most common name now, BLACK SUNDAY.

The 23-year old Barbara Steele in her first starring role, playing the dual roles of the cursed witch/devil worshipper Asa and her descendent Katia.  With a young face just perfect for this role, giving viewers something to be entranced by, both in passion and in fear.  Even seeing her punctured skin, with eyes bulging out, she put the audience in a daze.  Steele would continue with her roles in the horror genre, making a huge name for herself, but not without a cost.  She would later regret it and was even quoted in saying, "I never want to climb out of another fucking coffin again!"  But though she might have been upset by her career choices, we fans of those gothic films were just loving it.  Over her career, she worked with some of the top directors from the genre, such as Mario Bava, Ricardo Freda, Michael Reeves, David Cronenberg, Joe Dante, Jonathon Demme, Antonio Margheriti, Lucio Fulci, and Roger Corman.  Whether she was happy for her genre roles or not, horror fans were very happy for them.

Another familiar face in the cast was John Richardson.  He would make a big name for himself battling dinosaurs while trying to save Raquel Welch in Hammer’s ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. (1966), as well as SHE (1965) and its sequel THE VENGEANCE OF SHE (1968).  But he also came back to Italy to make a few other films like FRANKENSTEIN 80 (1972), TORSO (1973), EYEBALL (1975), and even Michele Soavi’s THE CHURCH (1989), making his last film appearance before becoming a photographer.

BLACK SUNDAY is probably one of the most impressive debuts for a director, though rumors say he had un-officially directed a film or two before this one.  But none the less, it is a film that still makes an impact today.  It is one that film scholars teach about, horror fans drool over, and one that will still be having that effect many years to come.  If there ever was a 'classic' that really needs to be seen by every horror fan, this really is one at the top of the list.


(2006)
Directed by Ethan Wiley
Starring Randy Colton, Jeffrey Combs, Cameron Daddo, Kristin Erickson,
Leslie Fleming-Mitchell, Paul Kapellas, Don O. Knowlton, James Russo

We went into this movie pretty much expecting it to be a movie that was trying to ride off the success of THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE.  And we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it was a little different.  There's no court room drama here, just an exorcism going on at a farmhouse.  Plus, once you get to the ending, it does go into a different direction that I've never seen before.  So I do give them credit for that.  Also, another thing that was different than most of the 'possession' movies, is that this doesn't waste any time getting started.  The young Isabelle is in full demonic possession pretty much from the get-go.  Playing Isabelle is Kristin Erickson, who is the only one where the overacting actually fits the character she's playing.

But I also was surprised to realize just how bad this film is.  It was a close race to see which was worse, the acting or the dialog.  Just when you think some character was going way too far, they would spout some line that just made their performance even worse.  Coming from the guy who wrote HOUSE, I expected a little more.  Some of things the characters do is just plain silly.  And not in a suppose-to-be-funny way.

There doesn't seemed to be any characters in this film that you really can care about.  They try to flesh out the characters, but do a poor job in doing it.  Each one seems to have a back story to work from, but they're actions don't seem to follow their history.  For example, once Isabelle starts having her problems, the older farmhand recognizes what is really going on, and confronts the demon with a cross.  But once he convinces the family of what is wrong with their daughter, then he tells tem that he can't help because he has lost his faith.  Then why would he go in there with a cross and spout off some Latin prayer in the first place, if he doesn't believe?

At one point, the father wants their friend the vet to shoot Isabelle up with horse tranquilizers to "calm her down".  So after he points out that this stuff is not suppose to be used on humans, and agrees to do it anyway, he still puts enough drug in there to take down a horse!  And when Isabelle grabs in and sinks it into the vet's chest, giving him the full dose, all it does it knock him out for a day?

The local priest that the family calls in for help is played by Cameron Daddo.  There seems to be some bad history between the family and this priest that we eventually find out later.  But with some of the flashback sequences, we see that there really isn't much to like about this guy.  First he breaks off his relationship with the older sister of Isabelle and joins the priesthood.  But that was also before he was having a crack at the young Isabelle as well.  He just doesn't give you any reason to like this guy.  And Daddo's performance doesn't help us either.

But probably the worse of the lot is Randy Colton's performance as the father.  With some of the stuff that the possessed Isabelle tells, we're not sure if he's a bad father or not.  But he doesn't give us anything to make us like his character.  And when he starts to go off the deep end, it just gets even worse.  Now once again, he's not giving too much dialog to work with either.

Jeffrey Combs shows up in two two brief scenes as the local sheriff, also with a dark past.  Combs is about the only one bringing something to the acting table here.  But he really is wasted.  I think putting him in the role of the priest would have brought the film up much higher.

The disc comes with a "making of" featurette that basically just shows the filming.  There are some little snippets of interviews and stuff, but more of it seems to be just daily filming.  That can be interesting to a point.  But if it is too long, it just gets boring.  There is also  audio commentary by director Ethan Wiley and actor Cameron Daddo, and then is joined by cinematographer, "Rebel", whoever that is.

One of the items that they really tried to hype up was that the their was an actually supervision from a Catholic Bishop.  He also in on the featurette talking about real life possessions and exorcisms.  Pretty entertaining in a humorous sort of way.

If you want some entertainingly "bad" exorcisms, there are many out there from the 70's that are far more worth your 90 minutes then this one.


(2002)
Directed by Guillermo De Toro
Starring Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Ron Perlman, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus, Luke Goss, Thomas Kretschmann, Danny John-Jules, Donnie Yen, Santiago Segura

Let’s just start off right away with that if you enjoyed this movie, this release is a DVD-philes wet dream.  Coming with two discs in this edition, the first disc has the movie (widescreen 2.35:1), Dolby Digital Surround Sound, the isolated score, and two different commentaries.  The first one has the director Guillermo Del Toro and producer Peter Frankfurt, and the second one has Wesley Snipes and writer David Goyer.

Both commentaries give a lot of insight to the making of the movie, from the original concepts and ideas to how they made it to the screen.  Of course there is a lot of joking around from everybody, but that really doesn’t detract from the info coming across.

The second disc has to have well over two hours of behind the scene footage.  It covers every thing about the movie, from the visual effects, the makeup effects, the lighting, the fighting, everything.  First documentary is called A Pact In Blood.  During certain segments, when you click on your remote, it goes into a separate segment that goes into more detail as to what they’re talking about.

There is also the Director’s Notebook, which is another interactive documentary that reproduces the director’s notes that has an introduction by Del Toro.  Then there is the art gallery, theatrical trailers, music videos, and tips for the BLADE 2 video game.  The DVD-ROM extras are the script-to-screen features, the original website link and hot spots.

Okay, now let’s think about the movie itself.  I consider this sequel in the same vein of James Cameron’s ALIENS.  When it comes down to it, it is really an action film.  There are some pretty good horror elements, but for the most part, its action…plain and simple.  The plot is also simple.  Blade teams up with his enemies to take on a new and more powerful strain of vampires called Reapers, who are feeding and killing the vampires.  So Blade and the Blood Pact, the vampire SWAT team, do some seek and destroying…or at least try to.

I really loved the new creatures, the reapers.  It was cool to see someone make an interesting change to a very old movie monster.  Luke Goss, who at one time was a  huge pop star in the UK, does a great job as Nomak, the leader of the reapers.  Ron Pearlman, playing one of the Blood Pack, does his usual entertaining job in his role.  Always mean and tough looking, when he plays the villain, you always enjoy hating him.  Hong Kong star Donny Yen was also member of the Pack, but also served as one of the fight coordinators for the film.  It was also nice to see Spanish superstar Santiago Segura in the film.  Shame that he couldn't have a little bit bigger of a part.  Maybe one day.

Snipes does another great job with this character.  He seems to be having a little bit more fun with it this time out, giving the character just a bit of humor.  You can also tell that Snipes does care about the character, and was very involved in the making of the film.

Also returning of this sequel is Kris Kristopherson, even though he was thought to be dead at the end of the first film (remember…you never saw him shoot himself…).  This is one of those times that since the character was so popular, they figure a way to bring him back.  In all respects, they shouldn’t have done it.  But it’s one of those incidents that since I also really enjoyed the Whistler character, I don’t mind having him back.  If I didn’t like his character, I’d probably be bitching about it.

The special makeup effects were handled by Steve Johnston and company.  I think he’s turning into the new Stan Winston.  During the behind-the-scene footage, you only see Steve running around checking on other people’s work, never really doing anything himself.  But I guess when you are good as he is, that’s how it works.  But in any case, who ever was doing the work, they turned out some awesome stuff.  While there was plenty of digital effects work in the film, there still was a lot of the old fashion rubber stuff.  From burn effects for the vampires, to the reaper autopsy, the detail is amazing.  For the junior makeup artists, you will love the behind the scene footage on the 2nd disc.  The detail they do is incredible.  I especially always am amazed watching someone putting the hair in the appliances…one at a time.

As mentioned, the visual effects seemed to be used primarily for the fight scenes and the maws of the reapers.  The reaper’s maw opening up is a great example of how digital and makeup effects should work together.  It’s seamless.  That is the way it should be.  When it’s used during the fight scenes, it has much more of a comic book look to it.  With as many times as Del Toro and Goyer talk about on the commentaries about going for that type of look, I believe that was pretty much done on purpose.  While it does take away a bit of the realism, it didn’t bother me that much.

The disc was put out by New Line Entertainment.  The special features also consist of an art gallery, trailers, music videos from Cypress Hill and Roni Size, as well as game times for the BLADE 2 game.

So all in all, this movie and DVD is well worth your money and your time.


THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT
(1999)
Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez (II). 
Starring Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard.

Okay folks, here it is, my review for this newest phenomenon.  This movie has to be one of the most overrated films that I can remember.  I will give the filmmakers credit to some degree. But this is not a scary movie.  Once more, I just can’t understand the reaction of the masses that are flocking to this movie as if it’s TITANIC 2.

I will give the filmmakers a little credit as to how the film was supposedly made.  Although I don’t think the ending at the house was filmed ‘improving’ like the rest of the movie. I have a feeling that whole sequence was staged like a normal film. Which may be why that segment is really the only scary part of the movie. It was also obvious that there was no script since most of the dialog was them bitching at each other. But none the less, I do give them credit for that. Plus the whole idea of how it was to be filmed, with the actors not really knowing what was going on or was going to happen.

But as for originality of the story, that’s where you lose me. Let’s compare the story line for this film to another, slightly older film, that may not be as well known to the public eye.

BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: Three filmmakers, one girl and two guys, go off into the woods to shoot a documentary on a witch legend, and are never seen or heard from again. Their film and video footage is discovered, revealing what might have happened to them.

CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST: Three filmmakers, one girl and two guys, go off into the Amazon to shoot a documentary on cannibals and are never seen or heard from again. Some time later, their footage is found, revealing the filmmakers’ gruesome fate.

Notice anything similar between the two stories? I’m not pointing this out to say that the filmmakers of BLAIR WITCH are plagiarist in any shape or form. (Actually, I think that’s required if you’re going to work in Hollywood. Just ask Kevin Williamson). The reason I’m pointing this out is to show all the sheep that are just going on and on about how great and original this movie is.

 I also don’t understand how everybody is say how scaring it is.  I read where one journalist said that it was more disturbing then THE EXORCIST! Are we watching the same film here? Damn near the first whole hour all we get to see / hear is them bitching at each other. I thought that got real old after the first ten minutes.

Just what exactly is that scary or disturbing about his film? Is it the scary noisy heard in the woods? Of course, when I say, sorry but that doesn’t scare me, I’m accused of having no imagination because all those splatter / gore films must have ruined it for me. Bullshit. Want a scary movie that doesn’t show you anything? Try out the original version of THE HAUNTING or even the much-overlooked 1980 film THE CHANGELING.


THE BLOB
(1958)
Directed by Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr.
Starring Steve McQueen, Aneta Corseaut, Earl Rowe, Olin Howlin, Stephen Chase, John Burton, Robert Fields

This is one of those films that took many years to finally watch…all the way through.  The first time I caught THE BLOB was on TV late one Saturday night.  I never made it past the doctor’s office.  I kept turning it off, or changing the channel.  Then I’d turn it back on for a few minutes, and then turn it off again.  Don’t know why, but it scared the hell out of me.  I think I was around eight or nine at the time. 

Since that time (once I finally did see the whole film), this has always been a favorite of mine.  This film came up with a very original idea of a monster.  Not some guy in a rubber suit running around, but a mass of oozing jelly, absorbing everybody it comes in contact with, growing bigger and bigger.

Starring Steve McQueen as one of the youngest teenagers in history, and the entertaining theme song was written by a young composer named Burt Bacharach.

Criterion has recently released THE BLOB on DVD in their usual special edition tradition.  It has a new widescreen digital transfer, enhanced for 16x9 televisions with restored picture and sound.  The quality of the DVD is excellent.  The colors are bright, sharp and clear.  The DVD also contains two audio commentaries.  The first one is with producer Jack H. Harris and film historian Bruce Eder, while the second one is with director Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr. and actor Robert Fields.  The disc also contains a theatrical trailer, special collectible mini-poster, and BLOB-abilia: Collector Wes Shank’s rare trove of stills, posters, props (including the Blob itself), and other stuff.

For fans of the early shockers, and classic horror, this one is a must.


BLOOD AND BLACK LACE
(1964)
Directed by Mario Bava
Starring Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner, Mary Arden, Arianna Gorini, Dante Dipaolo, Franco Ressel.

One of the models of a fashion salon is found murdered.  Could the murder be her drug addict boyfriend?  Another jealous model perhaps?  Or maybe the owner of the salon?  Each of them with their own dark side.  As the police investigate the crime, the murders continue with another model, then another.  The killer is dressed in black with a nylon mask, making their face feature-less.  This was one of the first giallo films, and one that would inspire a dozen more films. 

With this film, Mario Bava once again showed just what kind of talent he had.  The film is filled with wonderful camera shots, even including the opening credit sequence.  The other great thing Bava did with this movie is his use of colors.  There are lots of primary colors such as red that are jumping out of the screen, whether it’s the bright red manikins, or blood as it spreads in the water.  This is one of those films that you could just watch for the way it looks and the way it was filmed and be more than entertained.

The DVD, released by VCI Home Video, does a remarkable job with this release.  The film is released here in the states for the first time in its complete uncut version, and the quality of the disc looks beautiful, with the colors beaming from the TV.  It has been released in widescreen ratio of 1.66:1.  The DVD also features:

·        Audio commentary by Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog
·        American, French, and Italian trailers
·        Bios of Bava and Cast
·        Main title sequence from the French version and the American version.
·        Photo gallery
·        Interview with Cameron Mitchell
·        Interview with Mary Dawne Arden\

  This is an incredible DVD.  This is one of those discs that you can pull out over and over.  Whether you’re watching the movie, listing to the soundtrack, or just showing different scenes to friends, showing them the talented film work of Bava, it is a must for any fan’s collection.


BLOOD CULT
(1985)
Directed by Christopher Lewis
Starring Juli Andelman, Charles Ellis, Joe Hardt, Bennie Lee McGowan, James Dowell Vance.

A small college town is being plagued by a series of brutal murders of young co-eds on campus.  After the grisly deed, the murderer takes a part of the body, and leaves a strange dog-headed coin behind.

Made in 1985, BLOOD CULT has the honor of being the first movie shot exclusively for a video release.  It was made at the time when the movie studios realized that they could release their own videos and sell them, as opposed to sell the movies to a video distributor.  This put a crunch on the independent video distributors.  So it was decided that instead of paying $300,000 for a video rights to a film, they could make their own for under $100,000.  And so the straight-to-video market was born.

I am usually not a big fan of shot-on-video films.  Mainly since they always seemed to look like something from American’s Funniest Home Videos.  To me, that has a tendency to take away the chances of real style or atmosphere.  Not all the time, mind you, just most of it.  BLOOD CULT is somewhere in the middle.

But even with the low budget, this film still comes across with some style here and there, which is not usually seen in a SOV movie.  One of the real standouts to the film is the music.  Composer Rod Slane comes up with a very moody and tension building score that really adds to the suspense.  Really good and effective music is hard to come back in a major Hollywood film, let alone something as low budget as this was.  It really helps the film’s suspense.

The acting ranges from not bad to really bad.  Most of the main players do all right with what they’re given.  But there are a couple of actors that needed a second take or so.  In one scene, you can tell the Sheriff is looking down at his script.  The director even points this out on the audio commentary.  Then there were some that did really well.  One that stood out to me what the old lady the Sheriff goes to visit, played by Bennie Lee McGowan.  She came across very well, very natural.  I also think some more work, more fleshing out, of the story line would have helped quite a bit.  There are some plot holes that needed patching up.

The film is not filled with effects, but does have it’s moments.  They’re nothing to make you write home about, but are done well enough to set the mood.  Once again, on the budget that they were probably working on, they come off pretty good.

BLOOD CULT is not a great movie by any means.  It is your basic stalk and slash movie.  It seems they tried to come up with an interesting story, but didn't think it through enough.  But I don’t think they were setting out to break any new grounds other than the straight-to-video thing.  They wanted to make a quick and cheap (dollar-wise) and also effective horror film.  And for that, I think they succeeded.

But the best and most interesting part about this DVD is the history of making the film.  From the audio commentary, to the interviews with the director and producer, it really gives you an insight at what low-budget filmmaking was all about back in 1985.  And also really how the straight-to-video film evolution really came about.  I’ve always been fascinated on how some of these extremely low budget pictures actually get made.  These weren’t kids running around with their parent’s video camera, but professional filmmakers, trying to produce a quality product at a very, very low cost.  That is always amazing.

The DVD features audio commentary by director Christopher Lewis, musical director Rod Slane, producer Linda Lewis. Although the sleeve to the DVD states commentary by effects supervisor David Powell, not Linda Lewis.  There is also interviews with director Lewis, and Executive Producer Bill Blair.   It also has the trailer for the film.


BLOOD FEAST 2
(2002)
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring Christy Brown, Christina Cuenca, J.P. Delahoussaye, Daniel Franzese, Penelope Helmer,
Stevie Leininger, Chris Mauer, John McConnell, Mark McLachlan

This is the triumphant return to filmmaking by the Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis, with David Friedman returning as producer.  But then again, everyone reading this review knows that don’t we?  But after all these years, does the guy still have what it takes?  Yes, he does.

The plot, as basic as the original, finds Fuad Ramses III arriving at the catering shop that his grandfather used to run before things got…messy.  He plans on re-opening the business and making the people forget about the past deeds of his forefather.  But once he comes across the statue of Ishtar in one of the back rooms, he falls under its spell.  Shortly there after, the blood starts to spill, and the body pieces start to pile up.

The script, written by producer Jacky Morgan and Boyd Ford, does an excellent job of going to the point of campy humor, but not going over the edge, where it would just become plain stupid.  Like the first film, there is plenty of bad acting.  But in case of new and younger Ramses, J.P. Delahoussaye does a great job with the role.  The two bumbling detectives does get a little old with they’re characters.  One is always eating, while the other couldn’t figure his way out of a wet paper bag, while seeming to try to do his best Tom Cruise imitation.  Plus, with their character names being Myers and Loomis, there must be a HALLOWEEN fan somewhere behind the camera.  But for the most part, they are pretty funny.

The real standout, as far as casting, is John Waters…playing the priest at a wedding.  The King of Bad Taste is perfect for this little bit part.  Seeing him sit at a table during the reception, while trying to pick up new ‘alter boys’ is hilarious.  Couldn’t have picked a better person.

As for the gore, there is plenty of it.  Much more than the original, with much better effects (obviously).  You have hands getting put into a meat grinder; you have organs and intestines being pulled out; eyeballs popped out, and much more.  You will never look at that little tool to make melon balls again without thinking about his movie.

They are still looking for a distributor for the release, so who knows when it will hit the general public.  I’m hoping it shouldn’t take too long.  In any case, we’ve waited over 30 years for Lewis’ return, so another few months won’t kill us.


BLOOD FREAK
(1971)
Director: Brad F. Grinter, Steve Hawkes
Starring Steve Hawkes, Heather Hughes, Dana Culliver, Tina Anderson, Brad F. Ginter, Randy Grinter

This has got to be one of the most bizarre movies that I’ve seen. Here’s the basic plot: a young man on a motorcycle follows a young girl home after meeting on the road. Before they go into her house, she tells him that her sister is having one of her ‘drug parties’ with her friends. While she’s changing clothes, her one sister tries to come on to him, and offer him drugs, to which he declines both. The first sister comes back out and then starts preaching the gospel to the her new friend and some of the members of the ‘drug party’. Next the guy gets a job at the girl’s father’s turkey farm, doing odd jobs, including taste-testing some turkeys that have been experimented on. Before you know it, this guy turns into a turkey-headed monster that kills people and drinks their blood! During throughout the whole movie, a narrator breaks into to discuss and inform people of what’s ‘going on’. All the time while preaching about the evils of doing drugs and putting chemicals in your body, he’s chain-smoking cigarettes!

This was made in the early 70’s and on a very small budget with probably not a real actor in the whole film. The turkey-monster is literally a guy with a turkey head mask over his face. Everybody is reading his or her script, especially the narrator, who is looking down at it more than looking at the camera. Plus the ‘drug party’ is obviously what Christian’s thought a ‘drug party’ really looked like back then.

While strangely enough there is really no nudity, other than one quick butt shot, there is a little bit of gore, especially one scene where a man has his leg cut off at the shin on a circular saw. This is a pretty graphic and intense sequence. Where and how it got into this film, I just don’t know.

So if you’re really looking for a really weird one, seek this one out. Was it entertaining? That depends on your definition. I just sat there throughout most of it, just amazed that it had actually gotten made. Some religious group must of gotten together to make their own ‘horror film’ to scare the youngster straight. Funny thing, if the kids on drugs watched this movie while on drugs, they probably had even more of a blast.


(2009)
Directed by Jason Robert Stephens
Starring James Kyson-Lee, George Stults, Tiffany, Penny Drake, Danielle De Luca, Michael Berryman, Mickey Jones

When we first got this movie, from the look of it, we thought it was going to be a rip-off of the recent DEAD SNOW.  I mean, when you have a corpse looking person on the cover with a bloody battle axe, with a snowy background, we figured as much.  Of course, after watching it, if it actually was a rip-off, it would have been a lot more entertaining.

Six friends head up to a house in the mountains for a fun-filled weekend.  Just happens to be the same mountain where the famous Donner Party took place back in the mid-1800’s.  They are even warned by some locals, one of them being genre favorite Michael Berryman, that the mountain is not a safe place to stay.  Soon as after the friends arrive at their vacation house, it doesn’t take long before one of them starts to see a ghost, or something, that maybe is trying to warn him, or just scare him.  We never know.

The problem really with this movie is the screenplay.  There is a bit of history given to us about the Donner party, even one of the characters recounting the “old legend”, but nothing is ever explained as to what is going on?  Not that I need explaination.  Watched enough European cinema to get past that.  But there at least needs to be a storyline and this movie doesn’t follow through on any level.  If we are not suppose to know if there are real ghosts are if just one of the group of friends in going stir crazy, then what about the body of the caretaker that they find, only to disappear a short time later?  Or the couple that goes off to get help and are found froze to death?  The scripted really needed to be thought through a lot more.

Another problem I had with the movie is just the realism with the film.  Obviously they were filming in real snow in a real cabin.  So kudos for them not trying to film that with some crappy CGI snow.  But there were too many other issues that made me take notice.  They are supposed to be out in the middle of the mountain, far from anyone.  But when they go snowmobiling, they are obviously traveling along some well used paths.  They also keep referring to this big snowstorm that is going on, when several times when they are outside, it’s clear and sunny.

Also, when one of the girls falls down a “hill” and has to be rescued, the “hill” probably has 20 degree incline.  I mean, it just didn’t look like she was any danger other than getting a face full of snow.  And lastly, they are only there for the weekend, but it seems like it is several days because one second it’s daytime, then nighttime, then day again, and back and forth.  Very poor continuity.

James Kyson-Lee, from the TV show HEROES, plays Jerry, the one that starts to lose h is marbles.  He’s about the best actor they got here.  Which isn’t saying much.  ‘80s pop star Tiffany is the other ‘headliner’.  Guess there is a reason that her acting career hasn’t shot to the charts like her singing career did.  Along with the others, the acting was just not believable.

I will give credit to the make-up effects guys.  The stuff they came up with looked pretty good, and I’m sure working in that snow had to be pretty rough.

This movie has already been released here in the states under the original title NECROSIS and is available on DVD.  This is coming out on DVD in the UK under the BLOOD SNOW title on the 27th of September.


BLOODY MOON
(1980)

Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Olivia Pascal, Christoph Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter, Jasmin Losendky.

The film deals with a young man who’s face is hideously scared across one side, who apparently has this love-thing going with his sister. It seems that no other girl can satisfy his love like his sister. Hey, come on now. We are talking about a Franco film, remember? Anyway, a bunch of girls from a local school are being killed off in very gruesome ways, most of the time being partially naked. One girl is stabbed through the back, with the knife sticking out the front through one of her breast. Don’t think I’ve seen that done before. Another girl is tied to a rock and has her head cut off with a huge power saw.

This is a slasher flick, Franco style. It has lots of gore. It has lots of nudity. There’s your two basic elements of this movie. If you are looking for anything else, you won’t find it. If you will be happy with only those two elements, you should enjoy this film.


(2008)
Directed by Timothy Friend
Starring Tiffany Shepis, Trent Haaga, Russell Friend, Jennifer Friend

After an extended festival tour, indie scream queen Tiffany Shepis’ latest vehicle finally lands upon the shiny silver platter courtesy of Indican Pictures.  Featuring what is arguably the luscious convention fave’s finest performance to date, this is a good ol’ fashioned mash-up of Depression-era criminals on the run combined with Gothic bloodsucking, with a ladleful of absurdist humor thrown in for added flavor. 

As one might have surmised from its title, writer/director Timothy Friend’s film is not to be taken seriously nor as a historically accurate depiction of the titular bandit duo.  In this incarnation, Shepis’ Bonnie Parker is an ill-tempered nymphomaniac sociopath, with fellow Troma alumnus Trent Haaga’s Clyde focused primarily on keeping the sultry siren from biting his (or blowing anyone else’s) head off, without much success.  A sexy, funny, and equally matched team, their scenes crackle with lust and bloodlust as they swap insults and bodily fluids with equal ardor.  And yes, Virginia, there is a full-frontal bathtub sequence that shows off the bleached-blonde Tiffany’s hot bod in all its glistening glory.

Meanwhile, in the haunted manor just down the way, the nefarious and horribly mutated Dr. Loveless (Allen Lowman) is trying to revive the infamous Count (Russell Friend), assisted by his flighty enslaved sibling Annabel (played by producer Jennifer Friend).  Once Drac is back among the land of the living, he reveals that Annabel is a danger to the undead nobleman, being as she is, “pure innocence.”

As one might have noticed by this point, this is a project created by Friends and friends of Friends.  Regrettably, it is perhaps this aspect that kept the Kansas City auteur from making some tough decisions that needed to be made.  Because I can’t imagine that I’m the first to observe that the vampiric portion doesn’t hold up its end of the flick – every time we visit the Loveless brood, the film stalls out, only regaining momentum when returns its focus to the sassy, saucy crooks.  Either that, or no one in Friend’s inner circle had the guts to say, “Um, Timothy?  You know those scenes with your wife?  Not really working so much.” 

Which is not a slam against the actress/producer in the least, as the lovely Jennifer is an undeniably charming onscreen presence.  It’s simply that her character’s wacky inner world and entrapment at the hands of her mad scientist brother are not interesting enough to justify stopping the film dead in its tracks again and again.  In taking time out to spotlight Annabel’s anachronistic hairstyle, wardrobe and hi-jinks (which include puppet shows, radio shows, fascination with candy corn and chocolate treats, etc.), Friend has given a terrific showcase to his beloved bride at the expense of dramatic pacing.  It might have been wiser to save the undead goings-on for the final reel and/or markedly reduce Annabel’s presence – especially since she doesn’t really affect the overall narrative.  In fact, with a few nips and tucks, Annabel could have been eliminated from the film altogether – not a good sign where a major character is concerned.

This is not to say that this misstep destroys the film’s entertainment level, as there is much to like about B&CvD.  In addition to the crackling interchanges betwixt Shepis and Haaga, admirable attention is given to period details, with cinematographer Todd Norris’ sepia-tinged filters lending a sense of bygone era to the proceedings.  The opening sequence with a skinless nosferatu is impressively gruesome, and while Loveless’ twisted torso covered in nozzles and portals is clearly a plastic appliance, it’s a nifty display of practical f/x and DIY spirit (courtesy of Ryan Oliphant and Jeff Sisson).  The supporting ensemble is peopled with capable performers, including F. Martin Glynn (whose needling, wheedling partner in crime delivers an unforgettable monologue involving whiskey, a billy goat and a very sensitive portion of the male anatomy) while T. Max Graham’s gruff bartender gives a new meaning to the term “die-hard.”  Joseph Allen’s original music and Nita Norris’ superb art direction are also worthy of mention.  The fact that all this was accomplished on such a miniscule budget is a testament to the creative team’s abilities and acumen. 

Indican’s DVD features a chatty commentary with Timothy and Jennifer Friend, Lowman and Shepis, during which they point out seamless greenscreen work and other tricks of the low budget/high quality indie film trade, as well as a behind the scenes featurette, trailers and a Loveless viral video.  To purchase directly from Indican, visit:  http://www.indicanpictures.com/films/drama/bonnie-clyde-vs-dracula/

Overall, this is an enjoyable horror/comedy and a must-have for any card-carrying Shepis fan, but for a little judicious editing (just imagine that family dinner conversation.  “Um, honey?  We need to talk…”), it might have achieved certifiable cult classic status.

Review by Aaron Christensen.


(1988)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Starring Rick Herbst, Gordon MacDonald, Jennifer Lowry, Theo Barnes, Lucille Saint-Peter, Vicki Darnell, and John Zacherle as the voice of Aylmer.

This is another strange one from the mind Frank Henenlotter, the same man who gave us the BASKET CASE series.  But this is a very different type of film than that series...this being more of a morality tale of a young man and his talking, drug inducing parasite that resembles a blue turd, that sure sounds a lot like Bing Crosby.

The young Brian happens to meet up with little Aylmer who offers him a very hallucinogenic (and very addictive) drug that he emits.  The only problem is that for him to do this, Brian must take Aylmer out to get some food...and that would be human brains.  But that's not it.  Besides the heavy price of addiction, Aylmer's former owners are also looking to get him back.  They had been keeping him weak by feeding him cow's brains.  So Brian has a lot of issues on his plate.

If you are not familiar with Henenlotter's work, then this one will be quite a treat for you.  It is one bizarre film.  For me, the most amusing parts of the film is Aylmer.  Seeing this bluish turd looking thing, with this calm and soothing sounding voice, talking to Brian and slowing taking control of him is great.  It's really a simple tale of addiction...but probably the strangest one you'll ever see.

There are some great hallucination sequences throughout the film that will make you either cringe or feel like you are also under the influence of Aylmer's drug.  At one point while going through withdrawal, Brian starts to basically pull his brains out through his ear.  A scene that you will not soon forget.  And of course there is the famous blowjob sequence which was cut out of the previous releases, along with the brain pulling sequence.

Synapse Films has released BRAIN DAMAGE on DVD (1.85:1 ratio) in it's original uncut version for the first time , and it is one hell of a release.  Since colors are a very important element in the film, this new high-definition transfer is amazing.  The colors and details are incredible.  With the close-ups of Aylmer, especially when his mouth is opening to deliver the drug, you can see all the little details of his teeth and stuff.  Makeup man Gabe Bartalos really did a fantastic job on it.

Plus the DVD also has audio commentary with the director Henenlotter, ex-Fangoria editor Bob Martin, and filmmaker Scooter McCrae.  There is a lot of information covered throughout the commentary, about this film, some about the BASKET CASE films, a lot of other New York stories.  The disc also comes with the trailer, isolated music tracks, and director filmography.


(1968)
Directed by Eddie Romero & Gerardo DeLeon
Starring John Ashley, Kent Taylor, Beverly Hills (Beverly Powers), Eva Darren, Mario Montenegro

Made in 1968, this is known as the first entry in the famous “Blood Island” trilogy.  It was followed up by MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND and then BEAST OF BLOOD.  While BRIDES isn't really connected to MAD and BEAST, they are all set on place known as Blood Island.  Each film was directed by Eddie Romero and starred John Ashley as the young hero.

In this film, Ashley, a member of the Peace Corps, arrives on Blood Island to help them make progress with their farming, education, and the likes.  Joining him on his trip to the island is a scientist (Taylor) and his wife (Hills), who is there to study the possible effects from some atomic testing that was done near the island some time ago.

Once they arrive on the island, they discover that the natives have gone back to the 'old ways' and are sacrificing their daughters to some sort of monster, called the Evil One.  The pieces that are left of the sacrifices are thrown into the waters off the island.  Ashley and company also discover strange mutated plants, such as killer trees.  In one scene, a small boy is seen trapped in the branches, legs kicking about, while the villagers try to kill the tree.  Fine family entertainment.

Sure the monster is just a guy in big rubber suit, but who cares.  If you're expecting some high-tech, state of the art makeup effects, then wait for the next multi-million dollar fiasco to come out of Hollywood.  But if you are looking for some great B-Movie entertainment, then you can't do much better than this movie.  And as I said, the movie is a little cheesy, but I find it highly entertaining.  You have everything you could hope for in a low budget horror flick.  Sex, blood, nudity, and a big rubber monster chasing women around.

Ashley does a great job, as always, in the lead hero lead.  One entertaining part of the movie is seeing the expressions on Ashley's face when he sees all the women around the island.  From what Sherman and Romero say during their interview and commentary, it seems that Ashley really liked making movies in the Philippines due to the women around there.  Kent Talylor, who was a big lead 'back in his day', ending the last years of career doing low budget films, such as this one, and many with Al Adamson like BRAIN OF BLOOD and SATAN'S SADISTS.  You also will start to see a lot of familiar faces when watching these movies, besides John Ashley.

These films have had a cult following for quite a long time.  And fans usually had to deal with grainy looking bootlegs to be able to enjoy them.  Well now, thanks to Sam Sherman and Image Entertainment, you can watch these films all over again, in incredible quality and color.  But not only do you get a great quality picture, but there are plenty of extras to be had on here as well.  There is an audio commentary from Sam Sherman.  Although, it's not as much as a commentary about the film that you're watching as much as it's just Sherman telling us the history of Hemisphere Pictures, Eddie Romero, John Ashley, and making films in the Philippines.  The commentary only lasts for about an hour, but it's still some pretty interesting stuff, especially when it comes to the re-titling of the films.

The disc also comes with an 17 minute interview with Eddie Romero.  This same interview is also found on the disc for MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND and BEAST OF BLOOD.  But none the less, it was pretty cool to see and hear Romero talk about his film career, which basically starting out when he was in his late teens.

Filling out the extras are the original BRIDES OF BLOOD Wedding Ring Giveaway promotion, Beverly Hills pin-up gallery, Blood Island image gallery which only features pics and ads from the BRIDES and MAD DOCTOR films, and trailers for all the Blood Island movies.  Other trailers include BRAIN OF BLOOD, BLOOD OF THE VAMPIRES, THE BLOOD DRINKERS, and RAIDERS OF THE LIVING DEAD (why that last one is on here, I can't understand).  There is also an essay by William Koenig.


THE BRIDE OF CHUCKY
(1999)
Directed by Ronny Yu. Starring Jennifer Tilly, Brad Dourif, Katherine Heigl, Nick Stabile, John Ritter, and Alexis Arquette

When I first heard the news that Ronny Yu was going to be directing the next installment in the CHILD’S PLAY movie, I was pretty bewildered. How could someone who directed the amazing BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, this awesome and beautiful piece of cinematic celluloid, decide to do the next Chucky movie? Then I remembered his first American film, about the kung-fu kangaroos, WARRIORS OF VIRTUE, which died quicker (and as painful) at the box office than a Christian at a Roman feast. Maybe Yu might be able to at least put some style into a very dead series . . . at least we could hope.

Of course, casting Jennifer Tilly in the lead role is not a bad thing. She has a very distinctive voice that would be very recognizable. Brad Dourif returns once again as the voice of the psychotic doll. I’ve always enjoyed Dourif’s performances. He’s one intense actor that is always entertaining. I made it through the second Chucky movie, but was able to withstand the pressure to see the third one. From what I hear, I was one of the lucky ones. These were your typical ‘sequel’ movies . . . worthless. But then when I heard the news about a new Chucky movie, one with Tilly as Chucky’s bride, it got my attention. Then when Yu was going to direct, I really was curious. But could they really pull this off?

The one thing that we could hope that Yu would bring to this series was style. And that is just what he did. Yes, it is a CHILD’S PLAY movie. That’s obvious. But if you put that aside, you can enjoy this movie. There is a lot of humor in this movie, especially when they are making fun themselves. But Chucky is looking pretty creepy nowadays, with his face being stitched together by his girlfriend, Tiffany.

I don’t know if I would recommend buying the DVD, especially if you’re going to listen to the audio commentary. The screenwriter and Jennifer Tilly just seem to go on and on and on about just how great the movie, mainly due to their input in the film. The screenwriter even wrote the movie with Jennifer Tilly for the part of Tiffany. She mentions that she now has a ‘no-nudity’ clause in her contract now. I guess now that she’s a ‘name’ she feels that she doesn’t have to take her clothes off. I wonder how long that will last. I guess she should ask Sharon Stone. Anyway, it almost seems that the screenwriter had written in some nudity for her on purpose but she wouldn’t do it. Of course, this is all my speculations, and really has nothing to do with the movie. But hey, this is my website, after all.

So, if you like the Chucky movies, you’ll love this one. If you don’t, you might want to give this a try anyway. Who knows, you just might get a little entertainment out of it after all.


BRUISER
(2000)
Directed by George A. Romero.
Starring Jason Flemyng, Leslie Hope, Peter Stormare, Nina Garbiras, Andrew Tarbet, Tom Atkins, The Misfits

This new movie is not really a horror film.  It’s not really an action film, or a drama for that matter.  It’s a little of everything.  Which is why I’m guessing he had problems finding a distributor for it.  The studios probably wouldn’t know how to sell it to the normal idiot moviegoers who have to be told what it’s about before we go.

Anyway, BRUISER is the story of a young man who works for a glamour magazine.  He really has no balls, and puts up with a lot of crap from everyone around him.  Then he wakes up one morning to find his face has been replaced with a blank expressionless white mask.  Although it’s not a mask, since it doesn’t come off, but seems to be part of his face.  Could this of happened since his wife is a bitch and is cheating on him?  Or his best friend is stealing money from him?  Or that his boss just walks all over him?  As he tries to figure out what has happened to him, he stops being a push over and starts kicking ass, and not even bothering to ask questions later.

The film did have many interesting and entertaining elements to the film.  There are quite a few nods here and there to different films or genres.  But it seems that it doesn’t explore any of these different elements that it brings up.  There’s one sequence, where after one killing, part of his face starts to show through the mask, as if the killing was slowing bringing back his identity.  But then that is the only time that is done, even after more deaths.  I think if Romero would of explored some of these, it would come across a lot better.

Another problem I had with it was some of the main characters were very, very stereotypical.  The boss / owner of the magazine is way over the top.  Along with the main character’s bitchy wife.  Way too typical.  Obviously so you’ll be behind him when he takes out his revenge on these people.

It is a shame for these low points to what could have been a great film.  I did enjoy and it and it definitely is worth watching once it hits video or cable.  But I wouldn’t run out to the theater to see it, if it ever plays there.  It is nice to see Romero working again, free from the constraints of Hollywood, but it would be nice to give him some money along with that control.

Of course, one the highlights of the film, for me anyway, was at the club sequence.  The Misfits are playing there, and several of their tunes are in the film.


BUBBA HO-TEP
(2002)
Directed by Don Coscarelli
Starring Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, Reggie Bannister, Bob Ivy, Ella Joyce, Heidi Marnhout, Larry Pennell, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger

This is the newest movie by PHANTASM director Don Coscarelli, and is about a 68-year old Elvis and a black JFK doing battle with an ancient mummy who is sucking the souls out of fellow roommates at an old folk’s home somewhere in Texas.  Pretty basic, huh?

The story comes from a short story written by Joe Lansdale.  If you’re not familiar with his name, don’t be surprised.  Lansdale is one of those writers who is bound and determined not to be pigeon-holed into a certain type of genre.  A lot of his work, whether it be western, horror, crime drama, is just plain bizarre.  If you are familiar with his work, such as THE DRIVE-IN series, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  And this movie visually shows us the type of stuff that has been going through that man’s mind over the years.

Bruce Campbell does an outstanding job as the geriatric Elvis.  He’s got the voice down perfectly, plus you can’t even recognize that familiar face under the great makeup job that KNB did.  There were plenty of times during the movie that I completely forgot that was Campbell.  For those who think that this movie is just Campbell doing a bad Elvis imitation will be sadly mistaken. 

Ossie Davis plays Jack (aka JFK), who really thinks that he is the late president.  He thinks that the government put sand in his head to replace what was shot out in Dallas, and painted his skin black to be able to hide him easier.  One of the strange elements in the film is when you see Elvis room, it looks just like a standard room in an old folks room, with a couple of beds and some dressers. But when you see Jack’s room, it has the blue carpet, very clean and nice, and really looks like it would be something at an expensive hotel, or maybe the White House (?) than some cheap retirement home.  Its things like that, that really keep you puzzled as to what you’re really suppose to believe or not.

While there is a lot of humor, the movie is played completely straight.  I mean, how can you have a 68-year old fat Elvis and not have any humor.  But it never goes into the way of stupid jokes or sight gags.  There is quite a bit of seriousness in the film, as Elvis remembers his past and thinks about his future.

Coscarelli has done a great job with this film.  While most of the setting takes place in the retirement home, there are plenty of scenes with long dark hallways, with strange sounds coming outside the doorway.  Coscarelli also comes up with some great camera work to show us what Elvis may or may not be seeing.  Were not sure if he’s dreaming these images, or what, but it’s done with some cool style.

The film also co-stars a Coscarelli regular, Mr. Reggie Bannister.  It was great to see Reggie here, but it was a shame that he didn’t have more to do than basically a bit part.  But in any case, it was nice to see there.


(2007)
Directed by Robert Kurtzman
Starring Tobin Bell, Terence Jay, Leah Rachel, Erin Lokitz, Germaine De Leon, Terence Jay, Steve Sandvoss, Lindsey Scott

From reading the plot synopsis of this film it seemed to be a bunch of run-of-the-mill youngsters on the loose for some fun who run into some sort of ghost/demon.  But with Robert Kurtzman behind the camera, former founding member of the makeup gurus KNB, I would think that if anything, at least the movie would be gory and have some pretty cool makeup special effects.

Oh, how I was wrong.

This film was made pretty much by the numbers.  You have a bunch of annoying characters, put in a scary place where some evil from beyond the grave is going to come back to kill them.  Sure, there are sometwists (more like bends) to the story, but for the most part, very predicable.

There really isn’t any character here that you really could care about before they get killed.  Even the main female lead is really a snobby bitch.  So whatever is going to happen to her, we really don’t care.  Same goes for the rest of the cast.  The only redeeming actor is Tobin Bell, from the SAW movies.  At least he gives us an interesting character to watch.

But while this is the case in a lot of the slasher movies, to make up for that, you need to enhance that with something else.  That could be some really stylistic camera work or mood.  Or maybe just some simple and creative gore effects.  Some really awesome quality kills can make the viewer forget the lame dialog and characters, at least for a short time.

Unfortunately, in this film, I thought there was really only one kill that would merit any cheering from a gorehound.  But since it was mainly CGI, it only gets a small merit.  Even the makeup for the main monster looks pretty generic.  I guess since Kurtzman was doing the makeup effects as well, I expected much more.

There was a scene in the bathroom that I thought was shot pretty well.  Though not original in any sense, it was photographed quite well, and shot from some interesting angles.  So there was a shinning moment here and there, but overall was kind of flat.

We’re still waiting for the release of Kurtzman’s other movie, THE RAGE, which we had seen trailers for some time ago.  But don’t remember hearing a release date for that.  At least that one seemed to have some pretty good gore to it.

Even the DVD release is pretty basic.  Absolutely no extras here.  Once again, with Kurtzman at the helm, we couldn’t even get a short making of featurette???

So overall, if you’re looking for a run of the mill ghost/demon/slasher movie, there are plenty others to choose from.  I would pass this one up.


(2003)
Directed by Eli Roth
Starring Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, James Debello, Cerina Vincent, Arie Verveen, Giuseppe Andrews

The hype for this movie was starting long before the movie hit theaters.  This film was suppose to give the horror genre a ‘jump start’ (I really hate when I hear that…like it ever needed it).  Well, it did do well at the theaters, and did get some positive reviews when released.  It even got me to see it in the theater.  But was it that good?  Now that it has hit DVD, I guess now I should get around to writing my review of it, as well as reviewing the DVD as well.  So here goes.

The basic story is 5 youngsters go out to a cabin in the middle of nowhere to spend some time away from their hectic college life.  Of course they are greeted by your typical not-so-average locals that we all can laugh at.  Then once at the cabin, they come across some wandering character who seems to have a slight skin condition.  When the kids refuse to give him help, he starts to try and take their truck.  Next thing you know, their truck is trashed and covered in the guy's blood and they set the guy on fire and he goes running off into the woods.  But soon afterwards, they realize that one in their midst have contracted the same disease that this bum had.  And this is discovered in a very gruesome way I might add.

After leaving the theater, I had enjoyed the movie.  Granted there were some pretty stupid parts to the film.  Okay, more than ‘some’.  But there were also some pretty good parts of the film too.  Let’s start with what I liked.

The make up effects, provided by KNB, were really good.  They were pretty simple for the most part, but I think were very effective.  During the shaving sequence, I don’t see how anybody who could sit there and not squirm at least a little bit.

Okay, so that maybe the only thing I liked about the movie…But could that be enough form me to consider it a good movie?  Well, the music was actually really good (See our review here).  I’m sure that had something to do with it.

Wait…how about that gratuitous nudity?  Come on, we had no problem with that in all those 80’s slasher films, did we?  Okay, so there’s something else that Roth ‘borrowed’, but we are talking about nudity, right?  Is that a such a bad thing to borrow?

While some may consider the ending a downer, which I’m sure the makers planned that way, I think it’s actually the opposite.  Since the ‘locals’ aren’t really the nicest people, I wasn’t too bummed about them soon to start developing the infection.  And they did seem to give quite a nod to, or rip off, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD for the ending, depending on how you want to look at it.  Though come to think it, I was pretty happy when that whiney blonde guy gets peppered with bullets at the end…

But for some of the humor, and most everything to do with the locals, to the old man at the little store, to the young partying copy, was just plain stupid.  Yes, even little Dennis.  It wasn't funny.  It wasn't scary.  Just dumb.

So after watching it again at home, do I still like it?  Well, I wouldn't put it in my top 50 films, both in the Good and Bad categories, but I did find parts of it entertaining.  I do think it is worth the rental at least.

But if you did like the film, the DVD is packed with lots of stuff.  It has 5 different commentaries.  While we didn't listen to any of these except the first few minutes of the one with Roth and Jordan Ladd, that was enough for me.  There is also a documentary that runs close to 30 minutes.  This is does a good job covering most of the aspects of the film, from the script, to the makeup, to the scoring, and getting it sold.  Though Roth does get a little annoying after awhile.


(1959)
Directed by Richard Freda & Mario Bava (uncredited)
Starring John Merivale, Didi Perego, Gérard Herter, Daniela Rocca, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Daniele Vargas, Vittorio André

While on a research expedition to discover what happened to the ancient Mayan race, one of the team comes staggering back to the camp, in a fit of hysteria, muttering the world "Caltiki".  When the rest of the team investigates further, they discover a buried tomb that had been recently uncovered.  In the hidden tomb, they find writings which speaks of the ancient goddess Caltiki.  And while diving in the water there, the diver soon discovers what Caltiki is.  As he is pulled the the surface, the flesh from his face has been melted off.  And then Caltiki rises out of the water.

I remember getting an old bootleg video copy of this movie years ago, only knowing that it was suppose to be an Italian blob movie.  Of course back then, that was more than enough to get my attention.  While the quality of the tape wasn't that great, it was good enough for me to enjoy this strange little film, and also be amazed at how gory the film was for a film made in the late 50's.

This came out a year after the American film THE BLOB, and is filmed in black and white, unlike it's American predecessor.  But even in black and white, there are some scenes of gore that completely blew me away during my first viewing.  I also remember being very impressed with the actual creature itself.  Mostly shot using model sets and looking like nothing more than a colored rag, the effects are still done relatively well.

So now after watching the newly released DVD release of this film, does it hold up to what I remembered seeing all of those years ago?  Mostly, yes.  This is a very important film in the horror genre.  Not only is it showing just what the Italian film industry were coming up with even back then, but it also showed us the beginnings of director Mario Bava.  Even though Richard Freda is credited, it is said that he walked out on the production early on.  According to some reports, he wanted to give Bava a chance at directing, showing the ungrateful producers that Bava really could handle the job of directing.  Freda gives him credit for creating the creature and filming most of the film.

The dialog on the English dub tract doesn't do anything for the film, other than make it fodder for the MST3K fans and the like.  Not sure if that's the actual dialog, but even if it is, the bland deliverance of the lines can kill any emotion in the film,  almost making it campy.  Or in the case of the character of Max, it goes overboard in the other direction.  And really the acting doesn't do much to help that either.  But like all monster movies from the 50's and 60's, did any of those actors take it that seriously?  And when you're watching it when you're older, sometimes those are the parts that can be as entertaining as the monsters.

Some of the effects are obviously miniature sets.  But even today, I find those great.  It kind of reminded me of a lot of those Japanese movies with the giant monsters stomping around.  So that part really depends on your affection for those types of things.  But there are also some miniature shots that are done really well.

So overall, I still enjoyed watching this film.  It does deliver the goods as an early monster movie.  There are several great payoffs shots with the monster, both in breaking through the walls and doorways, or dissolving the flesh from someone's hand.

The film looks great in this import DVD release.  Released in a region 2 PAL format by NoShame Films.  Though there are some parts where the blacks and whites are over exposed, almost washing out some of the shots.  But those are very minor.  Unfortunately, all of the extras are in Italian, with no subtitles.  There are interviews Luigi Cozzi and Stefano Della Casa.  It also comes with US trailer, the US opening credits and a photo gallery.  But as mentioned earlier, the film does have an option English audio track for the movie.


(1973)
Directed by Eugenio Martin
Starring Judy Geeson, Aurora Bautista, Esperanza Roy, Víctor Alcázar, Helen Miller, Blanca Estrada, Loreta Tovar, Montserrat Julio

In a small town in Spain, Marta and Veronica (Bautista & Roy) are two sisters that run an inn.  They are very prim and proper, and don’t care for the younger and freer generation of women who like to show off more of their skin.  They try to run a respectable establishment, but are forced to take in guests to pay the bills.  When a young woman who is staying there is caught sunbathing on the roof of the inn, Marta calls her a whore and tells her to leave immediately.  The women fights back, not liking being told what to do.  In the confrontation, she is accidently pushed down the stairs and is killed.  Marta, the older of the sisters, deems that it was an act of God, and gets Veronica to help her get rid of the body.  Moments later, Judy Geeson arrives looking for her sister, who we discover was the sunbathing girl.  Geeson is told that her sister had checked out earlier that day, not leaving any messages.  Slightly confused, she stays at the inn to wait for her to come back.  As she starts to look for her, we start to realize there is something going on at this inn and with the sisters who run it, especially Marta.  Something much darker.

Also known as It Happened at Nightmare Inn, this film shows the very repressed old generation of Spain, kept in the conservative dark ages under the Franco rule.  But in the early 70’s, this was slowly changing in Spain and well as in their films.  We see that both Marta and Veronica are fighting an inner battle to keep themselves the way they think women should be.  That hasn’t stopped Veronica from running off in secret to have an affair with a man half her age that works for them.  Marta also has some deep desires but refuses to give in to them.  At one point, she comes across a bunch of men skinny dipping.  As she is running away, she runs through a bunch of long thorny trees, either being turned on by the scratching and tearing they are doing across her legs, arms and chest, or feeling that this pain is her punishment for such thoughts.  Either way, it’s pretty twisted.

There is also something even worse going on at the inn that we’re not really sure of at first.  Just where are these bodies going that keep piling up?  Are they cutting them up and throwing them into the oven?  Or are they ending up somewhere else?

Geeson had been in quite a few British horror films, along with some popular mainstream films.  She’s always been a very recognizable face.  She’s not really given that much to do here, other than looking for her sister.  The real stars of the film are Bautista & Roy.  There’s times when it seems that Roy knows what they are doing are wrong, and wants to leave.  She even knows the affair that she is having is against that they believe.  But when her sister needs her, she is always there helping her.  Bautista is perfect in the role of the oldest sister.  She has an intense, domineering look on her face that demands attention and service.   She is so convince that these young women need to be taught a lesson, that she has no problem calling what she is doing a service to God.

Víctor Alcázar co-stars as a local man who became friends with Geeson’s sister before she disappeared.  Alcázar is no stranger to Spanish horror films, especially ones starring Paul Naschy.  He shared the screen with Naschy on four films, including two of what we consider his best films, Horror Rises from the Tomb and Hunchback of the Morgue.

Directed by Eugenio Martin, he gives us a grim tale of two straight laced sisters that let a bad situation get worse and worse.  The previous year, Martin had given us another great Spanish horror film, Horror Express.  This film had an all star cast which included British horror icons Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing as well as Spanish horror starlet Helga Liné.  If you haven't seen this film, you need to add it to your "Must-See" list as well.

But unlike Horror Express, A Candle for the Devil has never been released on DVD or even VHS over here in the states.  It did get a DVD release in the UK under the Odeon Entertainment label.  It’s not the greatest quality, but better than the copy of the Greek PAL tape I previously owned.  But this is one of those Spanish horror films that needs to be seen.  Not only does it have a little social commentary about Spain at that time, but it’s also a damn good horror movie.


(1973)
Directed by Brian Clemens
Starring Horst Jansen, Caroline Munro, John Carson, Shane Briant, John Cater, Lois Daine, and Ian Hendry.

Trying to come up with a new series, with a different kind of twist to it, Hammer gave us a swash-buckling vampire hunter.  This is not your ordinary vampire movie, or vampires for that matter.  Kronos is a wandering swordsman, searching out and destroying vampires in all their guises.  Along with him as his faithful companion is Prof. Grost, an expert in vampires.

They are called on by an old friend for help.  It seems that some of the local girls are being found basically drained of their youth, and left as old withering hags.  But what is underneath the black cloak that stalks them?

This was a new departure for Hammer, trying to re-invent the vampire legend that they have been going back to time and time again.  This was all done by the writer/director Clemens.  He wanted to break with the normal traditions of what Hammer was used to doing.  While it was period piece, it wasn’t really a gothic picture.  Most of the film takes place in the daytime, which was a real departure from the vampire films.  His hope was to spawn a new series of films about the title character.  But unfortunately, at the time, it didn’t seem to work.  My guess is that people still wanted their vampires like they’ve always had them…in long flowing gowns, beautiful women with heavy cleavage, and blood.

While it wasn’t a success when it first came out, the popularity of the film seemed to grow over the years.  This was released on video, which had become a pretty hard tape to come across.  It always was a pricey item on eBay.

But one of the things that was very much like a Hammer film was the cast.  Even though Horst Janson was basically an unknown, he did fit the part of Kronos perfectly.  He may not have been the strongest actor in the film, but he gave it a decent performance, and played the character very different from your normal hero-type.

John Carson has always been a favorite of mine, since PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES.  It’s a shame that Hammer didn’t use him more often than they did.  But he gives a great performance, as usual, as the old friend of Kronos who calls upon him for help.  Grost, Kronos’ hunchback assistant, is giving life to by John Cater.  Cater does a great job playing this strange but intelligent man, helping Kronos along the way with his battles. And of course, how can you have a Hammer movie, without one of their beautiful faces.  Caroline Munro is perfect for the role of the gypsy girl Carla.  Talk about perfect casting.

Shane Briant, one of Hammer’s later stars-to-be, has a small role of a young aristocrat.  And as usual, his casting is perfect for this odd character.  And in a small role as a bar bully, is Ian Hendry.  While only in a bit part, Hendry makes the most of it, really giving you the chance to hate him while only seeing him for a few minutes.

Paramount has released this movie on DVD in a wonderful edition.  While there’s always more extras that could have been, they do give us a great looking picture, as well as an audio commentary.  The commentary features writer/producer/director Brian Clemens and actress Caroline Munro.  They talk pretty consistently throughout the film, going over a lot of details, as far as how the film came about, the actors, working with Hammer, and much more.  It was a very enjoyable and entertaining, and learning 90 minutes listening to them talk.

We found this at the Walmart in their discount bins for only $5.88, on the day it was released.  Not sure how that happened, but we weren’t going to argue.  But even at the normal SRP of $14.95 (I believe), it is worth every penny.  For fans of Hammer, of vampire films, or even of those swashbuckling swordplay movies, you should find a great deal of entertainment here.


CARNIVAL OF SOULS
(1962)
Directed by Herk Harvey.
Written by John Clifford.
Starring Candace Hilligoss, Frances Feist, Sidney Berger, Art Ellison, Stan Levitt.

When a drag race turns bad, a car runs off a bridge sending it's passengers to a watery grave . . . except for one.  Mary Henry somehow survived the deadly crash.  But now she is haunted by ghostly visitors who are watching and following her.

This cult fave has been building up a following more and more every year.  Almost like an extended episode of the Twilight Zone, the film has a strange and eerie atmosphere to it.  The quality of this DVD is exceptionally good.  This really shows off just how well black and white can be used for mood and atmosphere. 

For any fans of this movie, this DVD is a collector's dream.  This special double disc edition has tons of extras, from two different versions of the movie, over 2 & 1/2 hours of extras, such as outtakes, trailers, and even a documentary about the film, made during the 1989 reunion with the cast and crew.  This is what a special edition DVD should have.  Below is the complete listing of what this edition holds.

            DISC – 1: The Original Theatrical Version

  • New digital transfer of the original theatrical version
  • The Movie That Wouldn’t Die! The Story of CARNIVAL OF SOULS – A documentary on the 1989 reunion of the cast and crew.
  • More than 45 minutes of rare outtakes accompanied by Gene Moore’s organ score.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • An illustrated history of the Saltair resort in Salt Lake City.
  • The Carnival Tour – A video update on the film’s location.
  • Optimal image quality – RSDL dual-layer edition.

DISC – 2: The Extended Director’s Cut

  • Selected audio commentary by screenwriter John Clifford and the late director Herk Harvey
  • One hour of excepts from films made by the Centron Corporation, an industrial film company based in Lawrence Kansas that employed Harvey and Clifford for over 30 years.
  • An essay on the history of Centron from Ken Smith’s Mental Hygiene
  • Printed interviews with Harvey, Clifford, and star Candace Hilligoss, illustrated with vintage photos and memorabilia.
  • English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired.
  • Optimal image quality – RSDL dual-layer edition.

(2006)
Directed by Roy Knyrim
Starring Reggie Bannister, Peter Stickles, Aime Wolf, Nicole DuPort, Kristin Novak, Ky Evans, John Thomas, Chris Finch, Karol Garrison, Bill Lloyd, Greg McDonald, Stephen Van Dorn, Howard Berger, Greg Nicotero

If you're looking for a film that you'll swear came out in the 80's, that's packed full of blood and guts, then this movie is all for you.  Back in the good old days of rubber monsters running around tearing apart helpless victims (some of them naked) about every 5 or 10 minutes.  Remember those days?  We didn't care how bad the monster looked, as long as it looked cool, had lots of blood and goo, and had body parts flying about.  Well, if you pine for those days, then you will enjoy this movie.

Reggie Bannister stars as a scientist who has genetically altered a Tasmanian devil, into a large eating machine that is pissed off.  And then the creature is kidnapped by a couple of animal rights activists and escapes into a mountainside cemetery, tearing apart anybody in it's path.  And just co-incidentally, the scientist's son just happens to be going to the same mountainside area, to work on a film project....which is about zombie.  More food for the beast.

Don't look for anything but a fun time here folks.  There's nothing to take seriously.  But the amount of blood here in amazing.  It's flying everywhere.  Didn't think a human body could hold that much.  Each time we meet a new character, you know they are there for one thing....to get munched.  And the makers of this film don't make any excuses for that either.  That is what they set out to do, and that's just what they've done.  Nice job, people.

Mr. Bannister does a good job here as the scientist.  It's so great to see him in a pretty big role, since he seems to be lately just used in bit parts.  And he still shows that he can carry the lead and still kick ass as well.  He brings a little bit of seriousness to the role, even though some of the plot is a bit....off.

The rest of the cast pretty much do what they're suppose to.  And that's basically to do stupid things until they end up as monster-fodder.  What do you expect when even in the trailer they're boasting how many people get munched.  Nobody is here trying for an Oscar.  But they are having fun.  There's even the gratuitous nudity that was the commonplace back in the 80's as well.

We even have cameos from Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger from K.N.B. Effects as a couple of druggies out looking to expand their minds.  They are getting high and trying to find their animal guide to show them what they see.  And when the monster shows up and Nicotero sees it through his 'altered' state, is a real hoot.  Wonder if those guys enjoyed having the blood poured all over them for a change?

The DVD comes with a nice selection of extras.  It's great hearing from the producer, writer, and director, all saying that they were just out to make a fun and bloody movie.  And they do just that.  No sign or hint of any pretentiousness here, people.  They set out to make a gory & bloody monster movie, that would be fun to watch, and they have delivered just that.

So if you're looking for some cheap entertainment with some blood and guts and just to have a fun time, then you should check out this movie.  Nothing serious, nothing to have to think about or figure out, but just sit back and watch the body parts fly!


(1974)
Directed by John Peyser
Starring Andrew Prine, Jamie Lyn Bauer, Aldo Ray, Ray Danton, Francine York, Tiffany Bolling

Sure, this might sound a little jaded, but if you have a movie that was made in the 70’s that starred Andrew Prine, then you are going to be entertained, plain and simple.  In this film, Prine plays Clement Dunne, who has taken it upon himself to rid the world of beautiful women who tempt young men with their bodies.  As he puts it in the film, “I want to help you.”

Andrew Prine was a staple in horror films in the 70’s.  Not to say that he made a lot of them, but the ones that he made were always memorable.  Starting his acting career in a lot of TV shows and westerns, it was in 1971 when he portrayed the title character in Simon: King of the Witches.  From there, it was roles in great films like Crypt of the Living Dead (1973), Barn of the Naked Dead (1974), Grizzly (1976), The Evil (1978), Amityville 2 (1982), and even on the TV show V, as one of the reptilian alien invaders.  Prine was always giving a great performance, even if the film was lacking in other departments.

With Centerfold Girls, he’s no different.  Right from the opening credits, we know he’s the killer.  There’s no mystery here, other than who is he after now and will he ever get caught.  We see this troubled man, always dressing in black, but the place where he lives in completely dressed in white.  He’s fighting those sexual urges that he’s having by the only way he knows how: by getting rid of what is causing those urges….the beautiful women who take their clothes off in the magazines.

One interesting and different thing they did here is make the this almost like an anthology film.  There are three different stories here; with three different sets of characters, with the connecting theme being Prine’s character as the killer.  He moves from one story to another, like different chapters in a book, or better yet, different months in a centerfold magazine.

It is also interesting how dated some of the content in the film is, basically on how the women are treated here.  Even after a woman is drugged and raped by a couple of sailors, it’s like it was no big deal.  The woman just accepts it and goes on with her life.  Which I guess it’s helpful since they also have just about every male in the picture always expecting sex from any girl that the least bit free spirited.  Boy how times have changed….

The film is also filled with other familiar genre faces.  Ray Danton was mainly an actor that turned to directing.  His first 3 films were genre pictures: Deathmaster (1972) starring Robert Quarry, Crypt of the Living Dead (1973), starring Prine, and Psychic Killer (1975), starring Jim Hutton.  Tiffany Bolling stars as one of Prine’s targets.  She also starred in films like Wicked, Wicked (1973), Candy Snatchers (1973), and Kingdom of the Spiders (1977) with William Shatner.  And of course, let’s not forget Aldo Ray, who’s been in more movies than we could list here.

The DVD is another fine release from Dark Sky Films.  The print has been cleaned up, but still holds enough grain to still give it a nice 70’s look to it.  I don’t think I would have wanted this film to look like it was filmed yesterday.  It gives it a better feel to it.  The disc comes with some trailers and radio spots, but the real treat is the featurette, “Making the Cut: A Look Back at the Centerfold Girls”.  We get to hear from Prine, producer Arthur Marks, actresses Francine York & Jennifer Ashley, each one giving us their memories about making this Centerfold Girls.

As we stated earlier, we are huge fans of Prine and his work in the 70’s.  But don’t feel that were biased in any way when we tell you that this disc is a must have for your collection.


C.H.U.D.
(1984)
Directed by Douglas Cheek.
Starring John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry, Kim Greist, Laure Mattos

What a great title for a horror movie.  It’s short and simple, and has a cool meaning behind the little acronym.  This is a great little tale of what could happen to some of the homeless people who are living in the underground sewers and tunnels in New York, when exposed to hazardous waste material.  Pretty topical at the time.

John Heard plays a famous high fashion photographer that left the business to take photos of a more serious nature.  He had befriended an old homeless woman, and planned to do a photo article about her and the homeless.

Daniel Stern plays the Reverend, who runs the local soup kitchen for the homeless people.  He has noticed that some of his regulars that live underground haven’t been coming around lately.  The police are looking into a more than usual missing persons report for the area.  Could it be something to do with a governmental cover-up?

The special effects are for the most part done really well.  The creatures are a little too obvious as simple rubber masks.  But the design of them is pretty good.  But the real stand out is the gore makeup effects.  There are scenes of body parts laying about, and half severed people, and are done really well.  This decapitated head is one of the best I’ve seen on film.  Even after all these years, I think this effect still holds up today.

The DVD was put out by Anchor Bay and is very nice quality.  It claims to the director’s cut.  But during the audio commentary, the director make comments about certain scenes that were cut out, but then seemed pretty surprised when those scenes show up in the film.  The film also is re-edited to the original sequencing.  In the video version, the film has an open ending with the creatures attacking a little bar.  Now this sequence is in the middle of the film, the way it was originally suppose to be.  I’m guessing the producers wanted to leave it open for a sequel.

The film is presented in widescreen (1.77:1).  The extras on the DVD contain the trailer and an un-used shower sequence with a body double for Kim Greist.  It also has a Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery.  It does have an audio commentary with the director Douglas Cheek, the original writer, Shepard Abbott, and actors Daniel Stern, John Heard, and Christopher Curry.  As mentioned on many newsgroups and reviews online, it is one of the most entertaining audio commentaries I’ve heard.  None of them had seen this version before, so they are surprised to see certain sequences.  The commentary is also filled with jokes and a lot of laughing.  They also talk about a lot of the people that had bit parts in the film that have gone on to become very successful, such as actors John Goodman, Jon Polito and Patricia Richardson.  Very entertaining.

So if you’re looking for a good old-fashion monster movie, you really can’t go wrong with this film.  It has something for everybody.  Gore, rubber-suited monsters, and even a little bit of social commentary.  All that for a mere $20.


CIRCUS OF HORRORS
(1960)
Directed by Sidney Hayers
Starring Anton Differing, Jane Hylton, Kenneth Griffith, Erika Remberg, Conrad Phillips, Donald Pleasence, Yvonne Monlaur, Yvonne Romain

Anton Differing plays a plastic surgeon on the run from the law after a surgery doesn’t go as well as expected.  While running, he comes across a run down circus, run by Donald Pleasence and his daughter.  The daughter has a huge scar on her face.  The doctor makes a deal with the circus owner that if he can fix his daughter’s face, he will get control of the circus.  Shortly after the successful operation, the Pleasence is accidentally killed by one of the circus’ bears.  Jump ahead a few years and Differing, under a new name and face, is the head of a hugely famous circus.

One of his stars decides she wants to leave the circus, against the wishes of Differing.  She was another young woman with a scared face that the doctor took off the streets, repaired her deformity, and gave her a new identity.  But during her last performance, she meets an unfortunately accident and is killed.

The police are trying to uncover the real mystery behind the deaths, while the doctor is looking for his next star.

As much as I enjoyed this movie, I was pretty confused.  It seems like there should have been so much more going on here than there really was.  The reason for the doctor being chased by the law seemed to be a bit over played.  And other being a huge control freak with the women in his circus, he wasn’t that evil of a person.  Okay, so he had a couple of them killed when they said they’d live, but other than that…

Entertainment Value: I’ve always enjoyed Anton Differing.  He brings some great life to the characters that he plays, even though they tend to be the same types.  Donald Pleasence is great, and wasted in a bit part and the original circus owner.

And then there are the animals.  There are some great sequences with the circus animals that are sssooooo obviously played by a guy in a suit, including the one that kills Pleasence.  And while there really isn’t any gore to speak of, there is one sequence when the knife-throwing act goes horribly wrong.  The effect is done really well, and very memorable.  So memorable, that it’s part of the animated menus on the DVD. 

So while it does have its flaws, and makes you think you missed a few minutes somewhere, it is an entertaining little British film.


CITY OF THE DEAD
(1960)
Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey
Starring Christopher Lee, Patricia Jessel, Dennis Lotis, Tom Naylor, Betta St. John, Venetia Stevenson, Valentine Dyall, Norman Macowan.

First of all, let me just get the point out right away.  You need to have this DVD in your collection.  How's that for a thought-provoking review.  You want reasons?  How about for the fact that this is one of those films that defines what black and white films are all about.  You like atmosphere?  This has so much that you'll swear that the fog in the movie is seeping right out from you TV onto your living room floor.

It is a very simple tale of a young woman who goes to an old town to learn about witches and witchcraft, and learns a lot more than she expected, or ever wanted to.  The movie does have some similarities to Hitchcock's PSYCHO, but according to the director, is purely coincidence, since his film was already before the cameras before Hitchcock's film was made.  In any case, original or not, CITY OF THE DEAD is still a very atmospheric and effective horror film, even by today's standards.

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, who had made his mark in the early 70's, by directing several great TV  movies and television shows.  He gave us the great TV chillers such as THE HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE (1970) and A TASTE OF EVIL (1971), both starring Barbara Stanwyck, (with TASTE being written Hammer alumni Jimmy Sangster).  He had also directed the original pilot of the TV series Ghost Story, which latter became Circle of Fear.  But probably his most notable work on the TV was the original pilot of THE NIGHT STALKER.  Even in the early 80's, he gave us another modern day tale of vampires, called I, DESIRE.  This film starred David Naughton (pre-werewolf days) and Brad Dourif.  CITY OF THE DEAD was his second feature, so even at the beginning of his career, the proof that Moxey knew how to give the audience a great scare was very evident.

There was a time when this film was very rare.  Then Elite Entertainment came along and released it on laserdisc, in a great quality print, but under the American title HORROR HOTEL.  The title even came out on DVD as well once that market opened up.  But recently, VCI Home Entertainment had acquired a print that was over 2 minutes longer than the HORROR HOTEL version.  But instead of rushing this uncut print onto the DVD market, they took the extra time and come up with some great extras for the disc.

The quality of the print is simply unbelievable.  Very crisp and clean.  It's amazing at just how great looking this film is, that was made over 40 years ago.  But included with the great print is a three different interviews.  The first one is with actor Christopher Lee that is 45 minutes long.  Fans of Mr. Lee with with find it very interesting.  There is also an interview with the director, John Llewellyn Moxey, and then one with actress Venetia Stevenson as well.  The disc also has separate audio commentaries by both Lee and Moxey.  It disc also has the theatrical trailer, photo gallery, and bios.  It is also in widescreen format (1.66:1).  Another neat thing they did was with the cover.  Apparently they couldn't decide on which of the two different cover art to use, so they used both.  It's a double-sided, so you can pick your own favorite.

So the bottom line is that if you enjoy atmospheric horror films, black and white horror films, or just plain horror films, I highly recommend you seek this film out for your collection.


(2009)
Directed by Rupert Glasson
Starring Lisa Chappell, Robert Taylor, Sam Parsonson, Terry Camilleri, Geoff Morrell, Jodie Dry, Joseph Del Re

We had recently watched the Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008), and was blown away by the amount of films that had come out of Australia.  And it seems that the country is still putting out quality films.  Granted, they might be a little bit more refined and serious than what was coming out 20-30 years ago, but they are still making an impact.  Films like Greg Mclean’s Wolf Creek (2005) & Rogue (2008) and Jamie Blanks’ Storm Warning come to mind of recent films.  Now we have a new film called Coffin Rock from writer director Rupert Glasson.  This was Glasson’s first feature film and is a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for.

Chappell and Taylor are a couple who are having trouble getting pregnant.  During one of their visits to a fertility clinic, Chappell is signaled out by a young receptionist, played Sam Parsonson, who focuses a new found obsession on her.  Getting their address from the office files, he heads for their town and continues his obsession.  When Chappell and Taylor are having marital issues because of the failed attempts at getting pregnant, in a drunken act of stupidity, she has a quickie with Parsonson.  Next thing you know, she’s pregnant.  Be careful what you wish for.

We know right from the beginning that Parsonson is not running on all cylinders.  From his quirky mannerisms, the constant verbal arguments he has with himself, we know he’s the bad guy right from the beginning and that there is going to be more trouble.  Parsonson does do an excellent job with his performance.  He comes across immediately as a person that you would not want to be around and could be very scary, even though he’s not intimidating physically.

The film is well done and well acted.  Lisa Chappell, who is a well know face in Australian TV and is even a well known singer in that country.  She is quite a beauty to look at and seeing what she is going through for a moment of weakness is truly heartbreaking.  We have seen Taylor recently in a few films and have always enjoyed his performances, even though he sometimes looks a little too much like Will Ferrell.  But we won’t hold that against him too much.

But while the film is well made, the problem is that this story is nothing that we have seen done time and time again.  So while the setting is different, the story is not.  We pretty much know what is going to happen and they really don’t do anything to break any of the lines that we’ve been down many times before. 


(2010)
Directed by Shion Sono
Starring Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Denden,  Makoto Ashikawa, Megumi Kagurazaka, Hikari Kajiwara, Lorena Koto, Asuka Jurosawa

When we received this film for review, we had never heard of it, which usually is the case with some of the titles that we get.  But from the quotes on the back, like “A Takashi Miike-inspired gore fest”, we were expecting some over the top stuff here.  Unfortunately, while the film does have its share of gore, it would be tough for me to even call this a horror movie.  It is more along the lines of something like SCARFACE or some other type of gangster film, just not as good.  Disposing of bodies in a graphic manner doesn’t necessarily make a horror movie to me.  It needs to be scary.  And this one wasn’t.

The story is about Nobuyuki Syamoto, a timid owner of a fish shop who leads a quiet life with his second wife and his teenage daughter, who seems to be very rebellious due to his father’s new bride.  The whole theme of children not being respectful of their parents and being treated harshly to try and gain that back seems to be an old theme at that.  But when they get sucked into the life of another local fish store owner, they’re lives change forever.  It doesn’t take long for Syamoto to realize that his new friend is going to expect more and more out of their friendship…including the help of disposing of bodies.

Apparently based on a true story, I guess to make this film more terrifying; it really is just a point in trying to depress the viewer.  We can tell right from the beginning that this was going to be a downer of a movie.  But since there were no characters here that we really cared about, it was hard to feel any empathy or sadness when something bad was happening to them.  As a matter of fact, there was not one character in here that I wasn’t wishing would die.  I think that was my biggest problem with this movie.  To me, for a movie to have an emotional impact on the viewer, especially when they are trying to evoke a sense of dread, you really need to care about the characters.  That way when something bad does happen, or even about to happen, it can tear at the viewer’s emotions.  But that doesn’t happen here.

As for the “gore fest” that we were promised, the gore consists of the 3 times where bodies need to be disposed of.  This consists of them being cut up into small pieces and either burnt or thrown into a river.  Is it over the top?  Well, you do get to see some half corpses, a lot of blood and guts lying around.  But if you’re shocked by that first sequence, then when you go there for the second and third time, its old news.  Of course, let me give credit to the makeup people because it looked pretty effective.  Granted, with that much blood everywhere, it is pretty easy to hide a lot of flaws.

Another issue I had with this film was the running time.  It was almost 2 ½ hours long.  It could have easily been trimmed down to 90 minutes and gotten the point across.  But I think they just wanted to keep trying to hit the viewer with watching the main character just get pushed around before he finally snaps.  I think someone would have done that in the first 30 minutes.

If you’re a fan of gangster movies, especially the Japanese kind, and like a little gore thrown in, then you might just enjoy this.  Personally, I think there are much better films out there, with a better story and much better characters.

The disc comes with an interview with director Sion Sono, which runs just about 7 minutes long.


aka Fritt vilt
(2006)
Directed by Roar Uthaug
Starring Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Rolf Kristian Larsen, Tomas Alf Larsen, Endre Martin Midtstigen, Viktoria Winge, Geir Olav Brath

This film is a perfect example of where you can have a story has no originality, but is filmed in a way that it’s still very entertaining.  The film deals with a group of people head off to a mountain to do some snowboarding.  After one of them breaks his leg, they make their way to an abandoned hotel for the night.  But once they are there, they realize they are not alone.  But by then, it may be too late.

Really nothing new here folks.  But director Uthaug and his small cast give us enough suspense and great characters that we easily fall into the story that is unfolding before us.  Even when the ending is revealed, which is no surprise to the viewer; it’s even a little confusing as to why the events of the prolog had happened.  I think that is where the strong point of this film lays.  That even though it’s not original or makes much sense, the film still plays well enough to keep you entertained.  And that is what it’s all about.

Ingrid Bolsø Berdal plays our heroine and does a fantastic job here.  She is the one that takes control of the situation and is the strong one.    Viktoria Winge also does a superb job her.  We really feel for her during this movie.

Director Uthaug does a very satisfying job of building suspense and tension throughout this film.  With long darkened hallways, underground passageways, into even darker basement, is the perfect place for these types of suspenseful sequences.  But he manages to do that even it the brightest of snow covered mountains.

Not sure what the budget was on this film, but they sure managed to make use of the beautiful landscapes that they were filming.  There are a few wide panning shots showing the mountains and snow banks that are breathtaking.  Of course, it always makes me wonder why someone would want to vacation there, but that’s just me.  I’m happy with seeing them in movies!

Another high point of this film is the visual effects department.  This is one of those films that you really don’t see where the visual effects department was even used.  Sure, they may through in a little digital blood spurt every now and then.  But when you watch the behind-the-scene sequence on the DVD, you will be amazed at what they do here.  From something as simple to erasing dog shit in the snow, to taking off the running mascara off one of the leads because of continuity, they are amazing.  They also show us how they can change the color scheme, bleeding some of the light and color out to make it look more effective.  It’s one of those things that the viewer takes for granted, but have no idea the kind of work these people are doing.  Major kudos to them.

This is a Norwegian film that was very successful in it's native country.  So much so, that they’ve already made a sequel to it.  I must say that I’m pretty excited about seeing that one as well.  As we’ve said, don’t watch this and expect anything that you haven’t seen many, many times before.  But if you just sit back and enjoy the film, I think you’ll be entertained.


THE CONVENT
(2000)
Directed by Mike Mendez.
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Joanna Canton, Megahn Perry, Dax Miller, Richard Trapp, Coolio, David Gunn,
Jim Golden, Liam Kyle Sullivan, Bill Moseley

Finally released in England, with still no stateside release date yet, the story is very simple, as almost if it was borrowed from countless other movies.  Apparently, back in the 60's, a young girl had come into the convent carrying gasoline, a baseball bat, and a shotgun and started wiping out the nuns and priest.  Shortly there after, it was closed down.  It has become a local urban legend and is rumored to be haunted.  Now, group of teenagers get trapped in the old convent and awaken the evil that rests there.

Now, let's say that it's not a terrible movie.  It does have some gory effects.  It does have a really cool opening sequence.  But besides that, there's not much going on here.  The characters are very stereo-typical.  The Satanist they run into were just plain stupid.  And you have Coolio as a cop.  Right.  Oh yea, I forgot.  It's suppose to be funny.  As the old adage says, for a film to be funny, you have to play it straight.  They don't, and it isn't.  They seemed to spend quite a bit of time and / or money on special effects, but couldn't come up with an effective looking pregnant girl.  It looks like she has a huge balloon under her skirt.

Barbeau is in the movie, for about the last 10 minutes of the film, which only clocks in at about 70 minutes.

It's a shame that I didn't enjoy this film.  It would of been nice to see another promising up and coming filmmaker make it, but I just didn't see any promise with this film.  Other than not to watch it again.


THE CORPSE GRINDERS
(1972)
Directed by Ted Mikels
Starring Sean Kenney, Monika Kelly, Sanford Mitchell, J. Byron Foster, Warren Ball, Ann Noble

What a beautiful title for a film.  It says it all, doesn’t it?  This is Ted V. Mikels classic tale of a small pet food company that is using corpses for their main supply of meat.  Or course, when someone gets too close to finding out what’s really going on, they just might end up inside one of those cans of cat food.  But the cats that eat this special food develop a taste for human flesh and start to attack their owners.

Image Entertainment has recently released this classic on DVD.  Much like Image’s previous Mikels release, ASTRO ZOMBIES, the film probably never looked this good.  Image has done a wonderful job cleaning up the print.  The one bonus this DVD has that AZ didn’t have is the extras.  It has an audio commentary by Mikels himself.  There are a few times, mainly near the end, when Mikels seems to get caught up in the film and isn’t talking.  But when he is talking, there are tons of great stories and tips from one of the best of the low-budget filmmakers.  He talks about the different locations that were shot, most of them being on this castle property.  It just shows the ingenuity of a great low-budget filmmaker, knowing what he can do and using what is available.  It makes me wonder what type of film Mikels would do if the budget was limitless.

The DVD also comes with the theatrical trailers for other Mikels classics like THE DOLL SQUAD, THE WORM EATERS, 10 VIOLENT WOMEN, and BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS.  It also features the never-seen-before music video tribute by Bentmen, as well as a gallery of rare behind-the-scene production photos, and a Ted V. Mikels filmography.

As for the movie, it’s classic Mikels.  You’ve got some great and twisted characters.  You got some killer cats.  You got probably the worst and most entertaining attempt at sign language.  And best of all, you have a machine that grinds corpses up into hamburger meat (with sawdust added for effect).  Where else could have a scene with a young girl who comes home after a hard day at the office and decides to have a beer.  But not until after she strips down to her underwear.

This film, or ASTRO ZOMBIES, would make great an introduction to those who haven’t experienced any of Mikels’ films.  If you have already seen them on those old pre-records, throw them out and pick up the new DVDs.  You will be amazed all over again.


(1962)
Directed by Robert Day
Starring Boris Karloff, Christopher Lee, Francis Matthews, Betta St. John, Adrienne Corri, Finlay Currie, and Yvonne Romain

“You can’t have operations without the screams.  Pain and the knife are inseparable.”

Karloff stars as Doctor Bolton, who is trying to invent a form of anesthesia for patients being operated on.  Right now, there is nothing other than just some whiskey and some very strong men holding you down while the surgeon cuts.  But during his experiments, Karloff ends up getting addicted to inhaling a potent gas.

Karloff is excellent as the poor doctor, who is only trying to help further science but not at the price of pain and suffering of his patients.  Most of his colleges think his experiments are a waste of time, and feel that pain is just a part of surgery, which is where the above quote came from.

They really try to bill this as a horror film, when it's really a medical drama, with some murder thrown into it.  But of course, with Karloff and Lee in the cast, there's no wonder that the back of the DVD case has "A NATURAL FOR HORROR ADDICTS, IF THEY CAN STAND ALL THAT BLOOD!" from the Daily Cinema.  Well, trust me, there's not that much blood.  To me, the scariest part of the film is the operation sequences.  And this isn't due to any gore, but just of the suggestion of what is about to happen, with the strong brute assistants holding down the patient.

This could have been a great film, if only there was a little bit more storyline to it.  They do try to add in a little subplot with Lee and company, but it just doesn’t seem to be enough. 

Lee plays Resurrection Joe, a grave robber who sometimes doesn’t wait until the body is cold…or dead for that matter.  Taking a page from the likes of Burke and Hare, Joe and his buddy who runs a local tavern, starts killing people to sell them to the doctors.  For the best version of that story, seek out THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS.

Also in the cast are genre faves Yvonne Romain, who would later meet up with Oliver Reed and his hairier side in CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, and Adrienne Cori, who also did some work for Hammer in VAMPIRE CIRCUS, as well as teaming up with two other horror icons, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, in MADHOUSE.

But for fans of Karloff and Lee, you could do much worse.  I've always enjoyed Karloff in whatever role or movie, so to me, it was worth the price of admission...or the DVD for that matter.


COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE
(1970)
Written and Directed by Bob Kelljan.
Starring Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Macready, Donna Anders, Judith Lang, Edward Walsh, Julie Conners, Paul Hansen.

Robert Quarry plays the title character, a vampire from Bulgaria, who has recently moved to the Los Angeles area in search of new blood.  Quarry was in a few genre films around the time, such as MADHOUSE and DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN, and usually playing the villain.  His acting is a bit stiff, but I’ve always enjoyed him, as well as this movie.  Call it nostalgic, or simple a guilty pleasure; I think it’s simple and entertaining vampire fun.

The film is very traditional when it comes the vampire mythology, and very dated (in a good way).  It was at those times when you had to find an old professor who knew of such things or an old book on vampires to learn more about them and how to destroy them.

The one thing that is surprising coming from a vampire film made in 1970 is the complete lack of nudity.  A little be of cleavage here and there, but no nudity.  You’d think they would be trying to compete with was coming over from Hammer or some of the Spanish films that were being imported.

But nonetheless, the film does come across with some pretty good atmosphere.  There’s a great conversational duel between Yorga and his modern day Van Helsing-type rival.  I also enjoyed the ending, which you could still do in the 70’s with no problem.

The DVD was released by MGM on their Midnight Movies label, and is available for the very low price of around $10-$15, depending on where you buy it.  For that price, you really can’t lose.  The film is presented in widescreen format 1.85:1, and comes with the original theatrical trailer.  MGM has announced that the sequel THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA will be coming out soon as well.


THE CRAWLING EYE
(1958)
Directed by Quentin Lawrence.  Screenplay by Jimmy Sangster.
Starring Forrest Tucker, Laurence Payne, Jennifer Jayne, Janet Munro, Warren Mitchell, Frederick Schiller,
Andrew Faulds, Stuart Saunders, Colin Douglas.

This is a very well made British sci-fi / horror classic from the late 50’s.  Written by Hammer’s own Jimmy Sangster, this film tells the story about some aliens that are attacking a small mountain village.  They are hanging out in the mountains and are kept hidden from sight by using clouds to cover them.  Like most films of that time, you don’t really get to see the aliens until the very end of the film, but it’s worth it.

The creatures are very creative looking, even though they’re not exactly what the title says.  They were created by another Hammer alumni, Les Bowie, who created the creature from THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT as well.

The acting is done quite well, with American Forrest Tucker leading the cast.  There is a lot of mood and atmosphere here, and it still holds up after all these years.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

I must admit that the main reason I finally sought this film out was due to the Misfits song The Crawling Eye, off their latest CD, FAMOUS MONSTERS.  They did such a great job telling the story of the film, that I had to check it out.


(1972)
Directed by John Newland
Starring Arthur Kennedy, Teresa Wright, Tom Happer, Eugene Roche

An older couple discover that a homeless young man is living in their crawlspace.  At first, they are a bit scared.  But when the wife starts to long for a family that they never had, they accept him as part of their family.  The husband is not sure at first, but sees just how happy it makes his wife and goes along with it.  But it does take long before they start to realize that they really don’t much about this person that they have accepted into their family.

But once things start to go awry, that is where the tension and terror increases.  When they try to tell him to leave and he turns the tables on them, telling them that they can't leave.  They can never leave him.  The couple start to realize that they have become prisoners in their own home.  And that aspect could be very terrifying.  This is a film that would be very hard to remake today.  The first sign that someone was hiding out in your house, the police would have been called immediately.  Let a homeless person stay in your house?  Are you crazy?  So this film is definitely a product of a much different time.

The cast is really good, making this film seem much better than the simple plot.  Arthur Kennedy and Teresa Wright really seem like an older married couple that is starting to regret that they had no children in their lives.  When the unexpected houseguest shows up, they show their compassion, if only to hide their loneliness.  But it doesn't take long for them to realize their mistake.  But could it be too late?

I grew up in the 70's, and experienced most of my movie watching on the television.  While their were some theatrical movies playing there, most of what I saw was the made-for-TV films.  And for the life of me, I can’t remember this one.  Nor do I ever remember hearing about this one until this DVD release.  It’s not even in the recently released book by David Deal, Television Fright Films on the 1970’s.  So it has to be pretty rare. 

Director Newland had his share of genre credits.  He directed episodes in the original ONE STEP BEYOND, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, NIGHT GALLERY, THRILLER, and also one of the most remembered TV movies, DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK.  He does do a good job

If you are a lover of 70's made-for-TV movies, than I do recommend that you check this one out.  It's not the best of the lot, but it's still entertaining enough, though very dated.  Younger fans might not enjoy it as much, since it does lack any blood or even real monsters.

Wild Eye DVD has recently released this ultra-rare movie on DVD.  Unfortunately there isn’t any extras, but since this movie is over 35 years old, that might have been pretty tough.  But the quality is good enough, but still retains that grainy made-for-TV look, which I really prefer for these types of movies.  You can check out their website HERE to see what else they have coming out.


CRAWLSPACE
(1986)
Directed by David Schmoeller.  Executive Producer - Charles Band.
Makeup Effects: John Buechler & MMI inc.
Starring Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery, Sally Brown, Carol Francis, Jack Heller, Kenneth Robert Shippy.

I had avoided this movie for quite some time. The main reason was due to always reading bad reviews for it in several different film books. Here are two examples:
   "Pointless psycho killer movie exploiting human madness without insight into the madman’s character." – John Stanley’s CREATURE FEATURE MOVIE GUIDE
   "This is a ridiculous melodrama." – Phil Hardy’s OVERLOOK FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA

For this reason, I figured it wouldn’t be worth the time.  But after the seeing this film, I’ve learned that no matter what you read or hear, or how many references may tell you how bad (or good for that matter) a movie is, the only real way to find out is to see for yourself.

One of the above reviews states that there's no insight to the madman's character.  He must not of watched the whole movie then, since Kinski's character talks about his past and growing up with his father being a Nazi. 

Kinski plays Karl Guenther, an owner of an apartment building that only seems to have beautiful young girls living there. Kinski used to be doctor who developed a taste for killing, which he seemed to of inherited from his Nazi father. He spies on his tenants by crawling through the crawlspaces, watching them through the vents.  Sometimes he makes small clicking noises to distract them, almost wanting their attention.  When his tenants have guest of the opposite sex, he finds a way to get rid of them . . . for good.

    I have only recently begun to realize just how great of an actor that Kinski was. He is incredible in this film. After each time he kills someone, he sits down at a table and plays Russian roulette, to see if he is to keep going on what he’s doing, or if some force will stop him. Each time he survives the little game, he puts down the gun and whispers "So be it."

    In the opening sequence, when one of his tenants finds his ‘secret room’, including a young woman kept in a small cage, Kinski strolls up behind her, and quietly tells her that the woman can’t talk. He says with a whispery voice, "She can't talk.  I cut her tongue out." and points to the jar on the counter with a tongue floating in it.  He tends to keep little parts of his victims.  

    The cinematographer on this film was Sergio Salvati. This guy had worked on three of Lucio Fulci’s classics films, ZOMBIE, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, and CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD. Check it out. You will not be disappointed.


(2011)
Directed by Fred Andrews
Starring Mehcad Brooks, Serinda Swan, Dillon Casey, Lauren Schneider, Aaron Hill, Amanda Fuller, Wayne Pére, David Jensen, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Daniel Bernhardt, Sid Haig

There was a huge media hype when this movie came out.  It was all over the place, with ads on most of the horror related websites out there.  This little independent horror movie was getting a wide theatrical release and everyone was taking notice.  It wasn’t long after the first screening when all the bad reviews started to pour out onto the web.  The film ended up setting a record at the box office as the worst opening in history and I believe was quickly pulled for the theaters.  Now, we’re not one to get excited in all the hype, for better or for worse.  We like to have the movie stand on its merits and take it from there.  So whether the movie is trash by critics or praised, we need to see it for ourselves, because there have been plenty of movies that we have completely disagreed with the general public have been saying.  So when the movie finally became available on Netflix, we got it, watched it, and now are going to review it so let everyone know what we thought, since it that question has been put to us quite a few times in the past months.  So here you go.

The story is nothing new: a bunch of college kids heading down to New Orleans for some partying, only to get sidetrack to look for some local legend about an alligator man out in the bayou.  Of course, the legend is true and the kids end up getting a lot more than they bargained for.  Like I said…nothing new.  But that being said, much like Adam Green’s HATCHET, I don’t think the filmmakers were trying to do anything new…other than make an entertaining monster movie that would feel like it was made in the ‘80s.  And I think they accomplished that.

This is not to say the movie doesn’t have its flaws.  Because it does.  But I think those are pretty minor and very forgivable for the positive things they do have here.  First and foremost, they have a man in a rubber monster suit!  No matter how bad the movie might be, when anybody does this, I will give them credit.  Because that means they are taking the time to find a poor bastard that is willing to put himself through hell with the long hours and tough working conditions to get the film made.  It means that they are taking the harder approach then going with some easy, cheaper, and cheesier CGI monster that looks more like a cartoon than anything remotely scary.  So major kudos to them for that.  Plus, they also took the time to create a back story for this monster.  Granted, some of it just didn’t make too much sense, but none the less, they took the time to create it.

Major kudos goes out to Daniel Bernhardt who plays Grimley Boutine who eventually mutated into Lockjaw, our half man/half crocodile from the title.  He really put himself through hell having to wear a full body costume, filming in probably the no-so-nice conditions and still manage to give a pretty entertaining performance.  People like him, working under the rubber in these kinds of movies, don’t seem to get the credit they deserve.  So our hats off to you, Mr. Bernhardt.  Well done.  That being said, I think more work should gone into the design of the creature, especially its face.  It seemed liked they wanted to stay in a reality based design, that this guy actually mutated into thing.  But the mouth the creature just didn’t look as scary as I think they could have made it.  Sort of like they wanted to have the big gator mouth, but didn’t want to go with something so big that  it would look silly then.

Genre fave Sid Haig plays Chopper, owner or a gas station/market out in bayou that has a little tourist trap section about the legend of Lockjaw.  While it does feel a little close to his performance of Capt. Spaulding from HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, it is always nice to see Mr. Haig on the screen and is always fun to watch.  Two of his companions in the film are played by David Jensen and Wayne Pére.  These guys seemed to have made their careers as character actors appearing in tons of movies and TV.  Here they created two of the most memorable characters in the film.  Not only do they seem like real backwoods folks, but also make them pretty fun to watch.  Definitely not your same old paint by the numbers characters we tend to see in a lot of these types of movies.  As for the rest of the cast, they do a good job.  But really, when you rent a movie called CREATURE, you’re not coming to the game for any Oscar winning performances, are you?  If you are, then you’ve grabbed the wrong movie.

I was a little confused by something with the version that we rented.  From the very eerie beginning, with full frontal nudity and gore, I figured that was going to set tone for the rest of the movie.  But then it seemed the gore kind of let off, or in some parts seemed like it was cut or edited down.  So not sure if there is a different unrated version out there or not, but it was highly noticeable to me.

Overall, if you’re looking for a cheesy monster movie, you could do much worse than with CREATURE.  Is it a great movie?  Not even close.  But it is definitely worth seeing and is highly watchable.  So don’t let all those early reports that came out condemning this movie as garbage.  Compared to the sling of crap that the Sci-Fi channel cranks out on a regular basis, this is pure gold.


(2004)
Directed by Christopher Smith
Starring Franka Potente, Vas Blackwood, Ken Campbell, Jeremy Sheffield, Paul Rattray, Kelly Scott, Sean Harris

Potente is on the run again, this time playing a young woman who falls asleep while waiting for the last train at a London underground (aka subway).  When she wakes up, she discovers that the place has been closed and locked up for the night.  But very soon, she finds out that she's not alone.  While the plot is somewhat similar to Gary Sherman's DEATH LINE (aka RAW MEAT), the film still stands on it's own two feet.  Unlike Sherman's film, this movie takes place almost entirely in the subway system.

Potente does a good job carrying the film on her own.  The only thing that I was a little confused at was her character's personality.  She seemed to be very self absorbed, not caring what other people, and thinking that a quick buck or two will get people to do what you want them to do.  But then at one point, she seems sorry about someone's death, when most probably wouldn't have.  Don't want to go into any more details without giving any plot points away.  But none the less, with all the running and screaming she does, Potente does give us another real character for us to sympathize with.

But the real star of the film is the title character.  The director doesn't try to hide him until the very end.  Once we do see him, we see a lot of him.  But does that take away the terror-aspect of him?  Not at all.  Sean Harris does an exceptional job playing this child-like lost soul.  Similar to Sherman's film, this character isn't necessarily evil.  It's just the way he is.  He is trying to survive and he really doesn't know any better.

They also give you hints of a back story, or history of this character, but never really filling in any details.  If this was the 80's, there'd be a sequel in the works, making sure we learned all the history about this character in the greatest detail.  But thankfully, director Smith gives us enough info where we can get an idea as to what might have happened, and that's about it.  It's a nice change.  Though, in one of the DVD extras, the director does talk about an aborted opening sequence that would have given some explanations and why it wasn't used.

The makeup effects on Harris were also great, really helping bringing this character to life.  Being in pretty much a full upper body makeup, it needs to be good to make the character believable, and not a 'guy-in-a-rubber-suit'.  But the makeup team of Mike Stringer and Mike Bates, from Hybrid, have some up with some great work here.  At no point in the film did I think the character looked 'rubber'.  Plus the wounds he has, plus the wounds of the other characters, were also done exceptional well, and looked very realistic.  Great job there.

Since most of the film does take place in the subways and sewers, if you're a tad bit claustrophobic, this might get to you a little.  Though, in the sewer scenes, I kept waiting for giant alligator to jump out.  Guess I've seen too many of those kind of movies.

The DVD comes with some great extras, giving a nice insight to the making of the film.  There is a Making-of featurette that runs a little over 30 minutes.  This covers pretty much all aspects of the film, with just about everybody involved.  We hear from the director, producers, actors, everybody.  And it is informing as well as entertaining.  There is also a shorter featurette, about 10 minutes long, which goes over the production design of the film.  Since most of the movie takes place underground, the look of the film is very unique.  Another featurette goes through the make up of the Creep character.  You hear from Bates and Stringer, the makeup guys, explaining their makeup processes and some of the work.  You also hear some of the horror stories for the poor actor, Sean Harris, who would be in the makeup chair some times 8 hours....before even getting to the set!  But the work of Harris and Hybrid combined, they have created a great character in the horror genre.

The disc also comes with the standard audio commentary by writer/director Christopher Smith.  There are also two different segments where Smith talks about an alternate opening and ending.  Unfortunately, no footage was ever shot, but with Smith's explanations and the storyboards, you can get a good idea of what it was about.  Another highlight on the extras is the Q&A session from the Fright Fest convention in 2004.  Director Smith and star Potente answer questions from the audience.  This is only about 10 minutes long, but is still cool to see.

We enjoyed this film quite a bit, and it was a nice surprise to see another great film coming out of UK.  Once again, this shows that you don't necessarily have to have a completely original story or idea.  But if the talent is there behind and in front of the camera, you can create a damn good movie.


(1982)
Directed by George Romero
Starring Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Fritz Weaver, Leslie Nielsen, Carrie Nye, E.G. Marshall, Viveca Lindfors
Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Stephen King, Warner Shook, Robert Harper, Elizabeth Regan, Gaylen Ross, Tom Atkins

One question that horror fans get asked quite a bit is the usual “what’s your favorite horror movie?”  I know a lot of fans do have a particular movie that is their favorite.  For me though, it really would be hard for me to narrow it down to even 20 titles.  But one movie that I know would be in that list is George Romero’s CREEPSHOW.  In fact, it is my favorite of all of Romero’s work, even above NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

Maybe it’s because I saw this at the time my obsession with horror movies really started to bloom.  Or maybe it was because it was a great mixture of humor and horror.  Or maybe even the beautiful way it blended the world of horror comic books that I read as a child into the movie world.  But for whatever reason, I loved this film when I first seen it, 25 years ago, and still love it as much today.

The film starts out with the wrap-around story about a mean father who takes away a horror comic from his son.  Tom Atkins plays the father and does an excellent job of playing a real ass of a dad.  His line of “That’s why God made fathers” to his wife even emphasizes that even more.  The son was played by Stephen King’s own son, Joe.

After the comic is thrown into the garbage, the young boy is visited by a ghostly skeleton, which quickly turns to animation, and starts the credits.  The animated sequences are used to connect the different stories.  The film features 5 different stories (not including the wrap-around one).  Each story follows one of the major themes from the E.C. comics that the whole movie was inspired by.  And that was that the bad guy was going to get what’s coming to them.  Granted, some of the victims weren’t always bad, such as the case of Jordy Verill.  But in his case, it was just his luck that was bad.

I think that one of the main reasons that this film is so good comes down to the acting.  When the characters are a little over the top, that is because they are meant to be that way.  It is a comic book after all.  Once again, in the case of Jordy Verill.  King plays him way over the top, or as Romero said he told King, “play him like the Wile E. Coyote from the cartoons”.  That was the intention.  But in the other cases, the actors are playing their characters completely straight and dead serious.  And that makes the material even more effective, any when the situation might be over the top.

I’d like to point out just a few actors and their roles that I think really shine in this movie.  The first one would be Leslie Nielson in the episode “Something to Tide You Over”.  Here he plays a sadistic husband out to get revenge on his wife and her lover.  Now Nielson has made a huge career out of playing the funny man.  But here, while he does have the sense of humor, it’s very, very dark.  And he’s very serious about getting his little revenge.  The way he tells Ted Danson, as he’s buried up to his neck, that he has to stay calm when the tide comes in, and to hold his breath.  So serious, but knowing all well that staying calm is still not going to help him.

Next would be a combination of Hal Holbrook and Fritz Weaver in the episode “The Crate”, my personal favorite of the movie.  Weaver really gets to go over the top, and even more so.  Once he gets into hysterics, though you can barely understand him, his lines are classic.  But before the hysteria and even after, Weaver plays his character completely straight, making his character very real.  And his long time friend Hal Holbrook, who sees what has happened to his friend as an opportunity to help his own situation, once again plays his character with such strength, that everybody in the audiences feels for this guy.  Near the end of this episode, when his plan has almost been completed, he can’t help but start to giggle.  Once again, great bit of character development that helps with the story.

And lastly, the character of Upson Pratt, played wonderfully by E.G. Marshall.  I just love this character.  Such a wonderfully and truly sarcastic bastards, if there ever was one.  His lines of dialog are sheer classics.  And his utmost lack of care about his fellow man just proves how much of a asshole that he is.  But because he has money and power, he is able to be like that.  Not that I would want to work for someone like that, but he’s sure fun to watch and listen to.

Which comes to another highpoint of this movie: the dialog.  This is a movie that can have fans quoting back and forth for years.  Every one of the episodes has some wonderful little lines here and there.  King had done an incredible job bringing these stories to the screen.  Two of the stories were based on previously published short stories by King, “The Crate” and “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verill”, which if I remember correctly is just called “Weeds”.

Now lets to get to Romero.  What’s to say really?  The way he incorporated the look and feel of the comic book is great.  From using comic book panels that shift from one scene to the next really gives the movie that feeling of one of those old horror comics that we used to page through when we were kids.  The way that he uses different colors to lighten scenes when it comes to the “scary parts” is also very comic book style, which I think just adds to the charm of the film.  Not to mention helping set or heighten the mood is some sequences.

And of course, you couldn’t really talk about the success of this movie without giving credit to Tom Savini and his amazing work on this film.  From creating the zombie corpse in “Father’s Day”, to the water-logged zombies in “Something To Tide You Over”, to our favorite little furry devil in “The Crate”, this film would not have been as popular had it not been for Savini’s work.  The bust of E.G. Marshall at the end of the film is almost as creepy as what happens to him. 

And before we get to the recently released 2-disc special edition of the film, I want to mention one last thing that I think really heightened the effectiveness of the film.  And that was the incredible score from John Harrison.  Right along with the movie, this score is one of my all-time favorites.  It epitomizes what a horror soundtrack would sound like for a horror comic book.  And I don’t think this film would have been as nearly as effective had it not been for this score.

Now back in the days of laserdiscs, when I heard CREEPSHOW was getting a release, I was all hopeful for a nice special edition.  But all we got was a bare-bones release with the only extra being a trailer.  Nuts.  Then when DVDs hit the market and it finally was going to come out in this new venue, we got just the same.  Nothing but a trailer.  Where was the justice in that?  But now, thanks to Universal Pictures (in the UK) we are finally getting the 2-disc special edition that we’ve been waiting for.  Ever get that region-free player???

The special features include audio commentary by Romero and Tom Savini, moderated by Michael Felsher.  This is a fun and informative commentary.  There is a lot of laughing and joking around.  But a lot of fun facts are also given to the fan, like trying to spot the famous ashtray in all of the episodes.  Romero and Savini go into a lot of details about working with some of the great acting talent that they had in the film, each one with some great stories.

The real highlight of the extras is the feature length documentary called “Just Desserts”.  They do have interviews with Romero, Savini, and a lot of the Romero regular’s who worked with him on his earlier films as actors, AD’s, grips, and whatever else needed to be done.  People like John Harrison, Nick Tallo, Pasquale Buba, & David Early.  There are also interviews with actors Ed Harris, Tom Atkins & Adrienne Barbeau, and Bingo O’Malley, Producer Richard Rubinstein, and infamous illustrator Bernie Wrightson.  Each of them gives their personal stories about working on this film, with Romero, the crew and mainly having fun.  Sure, it would have been nice to hear from Leslie Nielson and Hal Holbrook, but we can’t have everything.  It’s still a nice trip down memory lane for fans of the movie.

There is also some video footage courtesy of Tom Savini that shows some of his outstanding work for the film, some in progress and test stages, which is always interesting to see.  Especially when you can compare what it looks like during filming, to what it actually looks like in the final film.

There are also some deleted scenes, which are cool to see, but really offer any really juicy bits.  And of course we have the trailer and photo & still gallery which is interesting to see.

So since this is one of my favorite films, do I really need to say anything more than just go out and buy it?  You do need this for your collection.  Head on over to our buddies at Xploited Cinema and order your copy today.  And once again, if you don’t have a region-free player, what are you waiting for???


(1973)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Lorna Heilbron, George Benson, Kenneth J. Warren, Michael Ripper, Hedger Wallace.

First of all, I would love to have the painting that is featured in the opening scene of this movie.  I can only wonder where it is right now, but it would make one hell of a memento for a fan of this movie.

This was always a favorite title of mine.  So simple and so classic.  Cushing is a very dedicated scientist, who is trying desperately to find a cure for 'evil', for a very personal reason.  And in this desperation, he causes events to turn even more for the worse.  He plays Dr. Emmanuel Hildern, who has just returned from New Guinea with a huge skeleton of a creature that predates man, and according to legends, was known as the "evil one".  While studying the creature, and trying to clean it, they discover that where the bone becomes wet, flesh will grow.  The good doctor tries to use the blood from the newly restored flesh to come up with an inoculation for evil.

And while this is all going on, Hildern's daughter is growing anxious by not being allowed to venture outside the house.  We find out that her mother had gone insane and was up locked up in the local insane asylum, and has recently died.  So he tries to shelter his daughter from the 'evils' of the world, by keeping her in the house.  But it just so happens, that the asylum is run by Hildern's half-brother, Dr. James Hildren, played wonderfully by Christopher Lee.

Here we see Lee in a more familiar role.  While he's not really an evil character, he's methods of treating the insane are not the most humane.  But this is set in Victoria age, so things were a little different there.  Lee's doctor is also working a cure for insanity, but by slightly different means.  He seems to be more in it for the personal gain that he will acquire than the helping of humanity.  When he learns of his brother's work, he becomes intrigued.

The film is really a gothic tragedy, and was directed by Freddy Francis, who does a great job here.  There's really two different stories going on, that are both intertwined together.  Cushing, as usual, gives a great performance as the troubled, but good hearted doctor.  He tries so hard to keep his daughter from the same fate as her mother, but accidentally moves her in that direction even faster.  His daughter, played by Lorna Heilbron, is just wonderful.  She's such a beauty, but as she slowly descends into madness, the glowing innocent look in her eyes become fire.

While Cushing and Lee don't have too many scenes together, they play there characters with much believability.  You can just feel Lee's arrogance, and feel Cushing's pain when he realizes what he has done to his daughter.  Great stuff here people.  Highly recommended.

And for your Psycho-Babble lovers out there, I'm sure Freud and company would have a field day with this movie.  For example in the creature's finger that is cut off after flesh grows back on, is obviously a phallic symbol.  And after the doctor's doctor's daughter is injected with blood from the...finger, she goes mad!  It all makes sense now....

While this movie was released in the states, but didn't really come with any extras.  We were going to buy that edition, but then learned of this import release that features audio commentary by Christopher Lee and film historian Marcus Hearn.  As in NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, Lee does go on a bid about his bouts with being typecast and sorts, but for the most part talks of the movie, working with Freddie Francis and Peter Cushing, and the other cast, and more.

The disc also comes with the original trailer, along with several Hammer trailers as well.  There is also a photo gallery, and a great little 24-page booklet that gives you tons of info about the making of film, the response it had, and some wonderful stills and poster art.


(1969)
Directed by Juraj Herz
Starring Rudolf Hrusínský, Vlasta Chramostová, Jana Stehnová, Milos Vognic, Zora Bozinová, Ilja Prachar, Eduard Kohout, Jirí Menzel

This is a strange film.  No doubt about it.  If you’re expecting a black and white horror film in the traditional sense, then you will be gravely disappointed.  But if you’re looking for something a little different, something surreal, dark and twisted in a historical sort of way, and really enjoy the look of black and white films, then you just might enjoy this one.

After opening credits that look like were done by Monty Python, we meet Karl Kopfrkingl as the title character, played by Rudolf Hrusínský.  It's really because of him that makes this movie intriguing to watch.  He is like a cross between younger versions of Peter Lorre and Donald Pleasence.  He is creepy, sleazy, and just normal enough to squeeze by.  But with little quirks, like using his comb on the dead, then combing his own hair with it, or the way he touches the faces of his family, gives just a great little added flair that set his characterization higher than normal.

Hrusínský spends most of the movie telling the audience and those around him, the joys of his work at the crematorium.  Thinking that he’s setting people free of their worries by turning them into ashes has some how gotten into twisted mind.  He really considers what he does a service to mankind.  It also doesn't help when Kopfrkingl compares burning bodies in the ovens like baking their daily bread.  What a twisted way to think of that.

Once the Germans start to take hold of their town, he learns that he’s been picked for an even bigger quest in life.  Instead of ‘freeing’ just the people from his town, it looks like he might be able to ‘free’ thousands of people, in the ovens of his crematorium.  Including those that are closest to him.  That’s when the darker tone really sets in, when we start to see where the film and the character are going.

The real ‘horror’ part of the film isn’t so much of what he’s doing in the film but what it’s leading up to.  Throwing the historical data of what was going to be going through those ovens is enough to horrify anybody. 

Visually, the film is quite interesting.  They use some wonderful transitions throughout the film, going from one setting or scene to another.  There is also use of swirling camera moves, blurry shots, and rapid movements, all giving the film a strange and unusual look and feel.  The film has several strange things going on that might not make sense to most.  But I think it's done in more of a surrealistic sense, showing just how strange this are.  Then again, I could be totally wrong.

Dark Sky Films has done a wonderful job bringing this film to the surface.  Sure, it’s not going to resonate with all horror fans.  But serious ones, and even those that have a liking to films about what was going on at that time, you might find something here to enjoy, or at least intrigue you.  The film comes subtitled, and has no extras.  But the look of the film is very clean.  The camerawork alone will keep the attention of some serious film fans.


(1981)
Directed by Sompote Sands
Starring Nat Puvanai, Kirk Warren, Angela Wells, Tany Tim

Ever since that first time I sat in the theater and watched JAWS, I've always been easily bothered by movies that dealt with creatures in the water.  Whether it be piranhas, sharks, or giant crocodiles, they've always made me a little uneasy.  But unfortunately, with this movie it was done so badly, that there was no way this could have any effect on my little phobia.  Although there was one scene where a guy is seen being swallowed down the croc's throat.  I could have done without that shot.

The basic plot is about a doctor is vacationing with his family and friends, when his wife, child, and friend's fiancée are all killed by a giant crocodile.  The doctor and his friend set out to destroy this beast.  They even hire a tough seaman (shades of JAWS) and his boat to try and kill the croc.

The size of the creature seems to vary in size.  One point it's snagging people underwater, with their bodies hanging out of the sides of it's mouth.  Then other times, it seems big enough to have someone laying sides ways in the mouth, or it's even catching and killing cattle, carrying one in it's mouth.

But the real problem with the movie is the editing.  There are only extreme close-ups of the real animals used, and also in very quick paced cuts.  But when you see the croc with someone in it's mouth, obviously using a fake croc, they linger on it way too much where it takes away any shock value.  The scenes play like this: we see someone if the water.  Close up of croc's eyes.  Music starts.  Something moves really quick in the water.  Some splashing.  Screaming.  End of scene.  Sometimes were able to hear the croc growl.  Oh boy!

There are some scene where they use a real croc.  For instance when it decides it's going to jump over the boat out to catch it.  We get to see this thing "jump" out of the water, then fly across the boat, like it was a killer whale or something.  That was almost entertaining in a camp sort of way.  Almost.

The disc also contains the original radio spots, and horror trailers for some of the other titles in the VCI catalog.


(1993)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel, Tamara Shanath.

An older man who run an antique shop stumbles onto the Cronos device by accident, which forever changes his life and the ones close to him.  The Cronos device is a scarab-shaped, sort of mechanism that seems to make one immortal, but with a price…the thirst for blood.  A mean & cruel, old dying rich man has been searching for this device for years, to give his diseased body the chance to become immortal.  He uses his sadistic nephew to do his bidding and search for the device.

After using the ancient contraption, the grandfather starts to go through a change, becoming a little younger looking, healthier, but also developing a strange hunger, a taste for the red stuff.  His silent granddaughter watches what is happening to her grandfather though the innocent eyes of a child.  She sees the transformation but it doesn’t change what she feels for him.

I think the real highlight of this film is the characters.  Each of the main actors does such a great job making their characters come to life.  You have Federico Luppi playing the grandfather, who was also in del Toro’s THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE.  He gives a great performance, giving us a great sense of kindness and love for his family.  Then you have the old, dying man in search of his last chance of a longer life.  He is played by Claudio Brook, who gives the character a real feel for someone who already has the thirst for immortality, but wants the device as to give him even more power than he already has.  Ron Perlman plays his nephew, who is one mean SOB, but lacks the intelligence of his uncle.  He is too stupid to grasp what the Cronos device can do.  All he wants is for his Uncle to die.  And if he succeeds in finding the device, that will make it a long time before that happens.  And he just doesn’t get it.

This was the first movie by Guillermo del Toro, who also wrote the movie as well as directing.  He was only 28 at the time.  Here with CRONOS, del Toro has done something that filmmakers are always trying to do, and usually fail miserably.  He has taken a new and interesting twist on the vampire tale, and had done a great job as well.  del Toro shows us that the real horrors here is nothing supernatural.  It’s not the Cronos device.  It’s what greed can do to a person.  It’s what insane desire can do to a person.  And this comes across beautifully in the film.

Lions Gate Home Entertainment has released this film on a 10th Anniversary Special Edition DVD.  For fans of the movie, vampire films, and of del Toro’s work, this is a great little package.  The film comes with commentaries by the director and the producer.  It also has a short 5 minute Making Of segment, which is basically an interview with actor Federico Luppi, who talks about the director and the film.  There is also an Art Gallery and Photo Gallery.

There is also a 15-minute featurette called The Director’s Perspective.  This is a one-on-one talk with the director del Toro.  He talks about how the film came to be, as well as how he started in the film industry.  There’s plenty of footage of the film being made, showing the younger del Toro on the set.  He truly has a passion for the horror genre, and treats it as it should be. 

There was talk of having a special edition DVD that would actually come with a replica of the Cronos Device.  But apparently that didn’t work out.  That is really a shame, since that would have been a really cool collector’s item.

Since del Toro has gone on to do some bigger budgeted films, such as BLADE 2, it’s nice to see that his earlier film is being treated like the classic that it is.  And it’s also nice to see del Toro still have that passion and love for the genre 10 years later.

This disc comes highly recommended.


CROWHAVEN FARM
(1970)
Directed by Walter Grauman
Starring Hope Lange, Paul Burke, Lloyd Bochner, John Carradine, and William Smith.

In this made-for-TV film, a young woman and her artist husband move into her ancestral home, Crowhaven Farm, after she inherits it. Almost immediately, she starts to have what seem to be flashbacks. She feels like she’s lived in that house before. She wants to leave, but her husband convinces her they should stay there. She learns from one of the older townspeople that many years ago, in their little town, some witches were tortured and killed for witchcraft. She starts to do more research into the history of their town and of the witches.

This film is not one of those that will keep you up at night. It does have some creepy elements to it, but is really just a long version of a NIGHT GALLERY episode. But, that is not to sound like a criticism. The movie is pretty good. One of the best things about the movie is the ending. I won’t give it away, but it doesn’t have the ‘happy-go-lucky’ endings that most made-for-TV movies have today. And for that reason, it definitely worth watching.


(2005)
Directed by Jeff Wadlow
Starring Julian Morris, Lindy Booth, Jared Padalecki, Jon Bon Jovi, Sandra McCoy, Kristy Wu, Jesse Janzen, Paul James

Just as a caution, there might be a few spoilers in this review.  We don't come out and tell you who the killer is, but do somewhat give away the basic ideas.

What starts as a prank at a prep school turns into terror when the lie they started becomes real....or does it?  That's the basic plot of this new slasher film that has recently hit DVD from Universal Studios.  This film tries really hard to be more than your average slasher movie, and in some cases it does succeed.  But for the most part, it was made a decade or so too late.

The whole theme of the movie is lies.  Like movies dealing in dreams, you never know if what you're seeing is real or just another lie.  And it's not that we don't like a little mystery, but when you have too much, you get tired of trying to figure out who the killer is and just wait for the ending.  There are more red herrings in here than in a New Jersey fish market.

The characters are pretty much generic, each fitting one of the standard teenager molds.  That makes it pretty tough to empathize with any of them.  While 'creating' the killer, the group goes through their 'death' scenes.  So when they apparently happen, we've seen it already, so there is no suspense.  Plus, the fact that they are 'murdered' in the exact same way as they designed it, it makes it even harder to swallow.

Casting Jon Bon Jovi as a teacher at this prep school ....right.  He does try to make us think he's got some dark secrets, but just have a hard time buying into that.  We have enjoyed Lindy Booth in her previous horror outings like WRONG TURN and the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake.  Here, she is giving much more of a lead role and probably has the most character depth, but it just doesn't hold the rest of the movie.  And of course, we also have Gary Cole, with an wonderful attempt at a British accent, playing one of the fathers.

But one thing that we did really enjoy was the score by Michael Wandmacher.  He's a composer that I'm not really familiar with, but we really enjoyed his simple score, which was pretty creepy in some cases.  Kind of like a little Tangerine Dream and a little early Howard Shore.

The disc comes with two short films made by the director, including the one that won him first prize in the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival.  There are also the auditions of the major cast, which I always do find interesting.  There is also a little 'on-the-set' with actor Julian Morris.  Most of this is rather tedious and over drawn.  The disc also comes with audio commentary by the director/co-writer Wadlow, co-writer/producer Beau Bauman, and editor/associate producer Seth Gordon.

This release is the un-rated version, but we're not really sure what was cut out from the original release.  The extras do include some deleted and extended scenes, which makes me think this is the director's cut.  Not sure what would have been cut since the film isn't that graphic to begin with.  But you never know nowadays what the MPAA considers too much.


CUBE
(1998)
Director and Co-Screenwriter: Vincenzo Natali
Starring Nicole deBoer, Nicky Guadagni, David Hewlett, Andrew Miller, Julian Richings, Wayne Robson, and Maurice Dean Wint.

This is a very strange and interesting film, which starts off with an incredible pre-credit sequence. The plot is very simple: A small group strangers are trapped in some sort of huge Rubic’s Cube, with some of the rooms having deadly booby traps. They try and band together to figure a way out of this maze. But this is where the real problem develops: Human nature. They start to argue and fight amongst themselves. The film seems to be basically a morality play, showing the true evil of man and human nature.

The whole movie takes place inside this cube, going from one room to another. But while that would make one thing of it getting a bit tedious, it doesn’t. The characters carry along the movie really well, with you learning more and more about each one as time goes on, while also trying to uncover the mystery of the cube.

The only familiar face to me in this film was David Hewlett. Even though he was in SCANNERS 2: THE NEW ORDER, I remembered him from his acting debut in a strange little film called PIN (1988).

One thing that I think is missing from the DVD release of CUBE, is the short film that director Natali did called ELEVATED. This is the story of three people trapped inside an elevator, with maybe (or maybe not) a monster in the building. This short film was used to get the point across about human nature being the real monster. This film helped get CUBE the green light for production.  It would of been really cool to see this, and be able to compare it to CUBE to see the development.

 This film is very entertaining and very thought provoking film. Definitely seek this one out at the local video store.


2005
Directed by Lance Catania
Starring Daniel Patrick Sullivan, Janina Gavankar, Allie Smith, Roger Anderson, Lance Mulvaney, Circus-Szalewski, John Turk, Quiana Whittler

Most of the time, I am not the biggest fans of the modern-day low budget film.  While I give credit to anybody that is able to have that passion to go through the massive struggle of actually getting a film made, sometimes the talent just isn't there.  And even all the passion in the world can't make up for the lack of talent.  Ed Wood is the perfect example of that.

So when this film played at one of the art-house theaters in Chicago earlier this year, we debated on going.  While the story seemed interesting, but the fact that it was shot-on-video and low-budget, we decided to pass.  And now after seeing the movie on DVD, I'm kicking myself.

I've always enjoyed religious themed horror movies.  Especially ones that can give a new twist or come up with something a little original.  Here with CUP, it's not necessarily a new concept, but is done a little differently.  Jack is a photographer, who once was a well renowned art photographer.  Now, after the death of his girlfriend, he spends his time taking doing photo shoots for a porn website.

Then one day, he witnesses an car accident.  When he goes to help the passengers, one of them calls him by name and tells him to take the box in the back.  It contains a scared holy relic.  She tell him not to open it, but keep it from those who want it.  When the time is right, he'll know when and who to give it to.  Of course, when he gets home, he opens the box, and his life changes forever.

I think there's two main things that can really help low budget films rise above their thousands of cousins out there: the story and the acting.  In CUP, I think writer/director Catania has got both.  Yea, the story isn't the most original, but Catania gives us a different take on it.  The holder of this holy relic is no saint.  So why should he be the chosen one?  Plus, the characters that fill the story are ones that you think you could trust all of them....or none of them.  There's no black and white here.

And of course, I think the real highlight of the film is the actors.  Daniel Sullivan gives a great performance as Jack, the troubled man, with a even darker past.  He comes across as a very real person, trying to fight the demons from his own past, only to be confronted with different ones.  Even in the minor roles like the character of Nibbles, played by Circus-Szalewski, the computer geek who runs the porn website, that has a hidden agenda.  He brings as much passion to the character as the character is passionate about his beliefs.

And one couldn't be more alluring seductive than Iona, played by Janina Gavankar.  If all temptresses were like her, I think the world might be in trouble.  But when you see in in the interview segment on the DVD extras, you can see just how good of an actress she is, since she seems like a different person.

So all the eroticism and the religious aspects are there, but it is a horror movie, right?  Is it scary?  Yes, the film does have it's share of jump scares and some minor gore effects to keep horror fans interested.  But I think the real horror comes from the storyline.  This might not be for fans of the latest Freddy or Jason movie.  But I think the story is done so well, that any viewer, horror fan or otherwise, would be drawn into the film.

For a low budget DVD, this features quite a few extras.  It has interviews with the cast and crew, which gives a good insight to the film and the characters.  There are also a couple of deleted / extended scenes, with optional director's commentary.  There are also some behind the scenes info about a couple of scenes, as well as some discussion and breakdown of a couple of the CGI effects.  Then there is the usual cast and crew bios, and trailers.  But one interesting segment is that we get to see  some of the first cast reading of the script.  It's not long, but it's kind of cool to see.


(1963)
Directed by Rafael Baledon
Starring Rosita Arenas, Abel Salazar, Rita Macedo, Carlos Lopez Moctezuma, Enrique Lucero, Mario Sevilla

Many years ago, I had a friend who asked me if I had seen any of the Mexican horror movies from the late 50's/early 60's.  Not only had I not seen any of them, but I told him that I really didn't want to start getting into another sub-genre.  Silly me.  Of course, this didn't stop my friend from sending me a couple of those movies anyway.  One of them was BLOODY VAMPIRE, and the other was CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN.  After watching them, I was hooked.

For someone growing up on the Universal classics, I've always loved the glorious black & white films, where the atmosphere was thick and heavy.  Granted, most of the outside sets where filmed on a soundstage, Universal always did a great job making it look creepy.  And if you're a fan of that type of films, like me, you will fall in love with these Mexican horror films. 

THE CURSE OF THE CRYING WOMAN, aka LA MALDICION DE LA LLORONA, has always been my favorite of these great films.  Maybe since it was one of the first that I'd seen, or maybe since it's just that good.  This film is loosely based on a famous Mexican legend or ghost story, that of the legend of La Llorona, The Crying Woman.  The movie starts out with a stagecoach moving through the foggy woods.  The trees are all black and twisted, covered in thick fog.  One of the passengers speaks of this path being haunted or curse, since there has been a lot of deaths and missing people reported in this area.  And no sooner than that, there coach is stopped by a mysterious man, who promptly kills the driver.  The passengers then try to flee, but don't make it.  There is a strange woman watching this attack, while holding 3 large dogs, which she releases on the other passengers.  But even stranger are the woman's eyes, or lack there of.  And all the while, this eerie moaning music plays throughout this attack.  And so starts the movie.

The movie continues with a young woman and her husband, Rosita Arenas & Abel Salazar, returning to see her aunt, who she hasn't seen in several years.  She is amazed that her aunt hasn't seemed to aged over the years.  And even more amazed when she discovers the real reason her aunt has called for her return!

For fans of these films, Abel Salazar is a very familiar face and/or name.  He really was the man behind these film.  He produced most of these films of this time, as well as starring in quite of few of them.

Like most of these films of that time, the atmosphere is thick as the fog, and is filmed in beautiful black and white.  Every one of these films reminds me of the old Universal horror films.  But what's even better, is that the sets here look more real than something on a huge stage, with an enormous backdrop.  In CURSE, the title character is shown with eyeless sockets.  It's amazing on how well the effect is done, especially at that time, and it still holds up today.  Even the other effects, like the corpse of the dead witch, is a lot more than just your normal skeleton.  Covered with rotting flesh and hair, it gives a lot more of an impact.

Released on DVD years ago by Brentwood, in a okay quality release, us fans of these films now have a reason to really rejoice.  And we can all thank CasaNegra Entertainment for this.  They have re-mastered the picture and sound from newly restored vault elements, in the original uncut version.  And it have never looked this good.  Since most of us have been use to the low quality dupes over the years, watching this DVD was like watching it for the first time.  The picture quality is so crisp and clean.  Simply amazing.  You can watch the movie in either the original Spanish language track with English subtitles, or the English dubbed track.

And if that wasn't enough, they also have some great extras.  There is an audio commentary by Mexican Cinema expert Michael Liuzza.  This is pretty informative track, where he goes through the historical background of the film, the actors, and the filmmaker.  The only problem is that there are quite a few long gaps where nothing is being said.  Which is a shame since when he is talking, it's great stuff.

The disc also comes with a full color booklet, with a great account of the legend of La Llorona by Peter Landau, both in English and Spanish.  Not only does it give the history of this legend, but it also has some great artwork and promotional items from this film.  There is also another essay on director Rafael Baledon by David Wilt.  There is also cast bios, and poster and still galleries.

So if you do enjoy the old Universal films, and enjoy the monsters and the atmosphere, then you definitely can't go wrong here.  And with the presentation that CasaNegra is giving us, it is well more than worth it.


(1957)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis, Athene Seyler, Liam Redmond, Reginald Beckwith, Maurice Denham.

This 1957 film is probably most known to horror fans from the face of the demon that usually is in every book on horror films, as well as the video boxes, and now DVDs for the movie.  The sad part is that as cool as the demon looks (especially for that time period), that really isn’t the highpoint of the movie.  Atmosphere and mood are.

Tourneur delivers what some filmmakers only wish they could.  An intense and frightening horror movie, with basically no monster.  Yea, there is the demon that is shown at the beginning and at the end of the film, but Tourneur had nothing to do with that.  That was done by the producers, which is not an uncommon thing.  The the true horror of the film is the fear of just what might be out there, and that maybe demons and such are actually a reality, and not something from fairy tales and superstitions.  Is the power of witchcraft or demonology a real power, or just a simple power of suggestion?

Andrews stars as scientist Dr. Holden brought in to shed the light on so called magicians, fortune tellers, and namely to expose Julian Karswell (MacGannis) and his cult of followers.  But the professor that he was coming to help is found dead outside of his house, caused by what looks like an accident.  But the viewer knows right from the beginning that he was killed by a giant demon that was summoned forth to kill him...or it was just his imagination?

Some fans feel that since we are shown the demon in the very beginning of the film, the viewer already knows the magic and demons are real, and that it takes away some of the suspense.  While I do agree to some degree, I don’t feel that ruins anything in the movie, at least not to the degree that have said.  I do agree that it would have been better to leave it up the viewer, like in THE HAUNTING, but also must admit that the demon, especially for that time, is done really well...except for that one scene at the end.  If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking  about.

The real key element to the film is the battle between Andrews’ Dr. Holden and Karswell, with Niall MacGinnis giving an outstanding performance.  Not your typical leader of a demon cult, MacGinnis is a friendly person, even offering help to his adversary with the use of his library on magic spells and so on.  MacGinnis creates one of the most memorable villains in the horror genre.  When Andrews first goes to his house to talk to him, he is having a party for the local children, dressed up like a clown.  But even with this image, he playfully threatens Andrews by telling him that he will be dying at 10:00 pm on a certain day.  After a while, Andrews starts to see things a little differently then the way he use to.  The final scene on the train is one of my favorites scenes in the horror genre.  This little battle between good and evil is right up there with the conversations that Damien Karras has with the demon inside of Regan in THE EXORCIST.

Columbia Tristar have released in on DVD with both versions of the film.  The original title was NIGHT OF THE DEMON and ran for 96 minutes.  It was cut down to 82 minutes and retitled CURSE OF THE DEMON for here in the states.  CURSE is pretty much what it's know as over here.  But with this disc, you have both versions in your hands.  The prints are excellent quality, and are presented in 1.66:1 ratio.  Unfortunately, the only extras are two trailers, FRIGHT NIGHT and THE BRIDE, which seem really out of place for this disc.  One would have thought they would have at least found a trailer for NIGHT/CURSE to add on there.  But none the less, this is one of the films that is a must for any collector or fan of the genre.  This truly deserves being called a "classic".


(1973)
Directed by Carlos Aured
Starring Paul Naschy, Fabiola Falcon, Vidal Molina, Maritza Olivares, Maria Silva, Jose Manuel Martin, Eduardo Calvo

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the works of Paul Naschy, now is your chance to see what you have been missing all these years.  Jacinto Molina, Naschy’s real name, has been making the kind of movies that he loves for well over 30 years…horror movies.  He has played almost every one of the Hollywood well-known monsters, from vampires, zombies, to mummies, not to mention quite a few that Hollywood didn’t use.  But one of his favorites, and most well known, is his series of the cursed werewolf, Waldemar Daninsky. 

The original title for CURSE OF THE DEVIL is EL RETORNO DE WALPURGIS (THE RETURN OF THE WALPURGIS), which was made in 1973, and is the seventh outing in his werewolf series.  It was started back in 1968 with LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO (MARK OF THE WOLFMAN), which was released in a very edited version called FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY TERROR.  Naschy not only has written many of his movies, including CURSE, but also even went on to direct quite a few of his own films.

It’s been many years since I watched this film.  But not long enough to realize the improvement of the print.  Compared to the old pre-record, this new DVD is amazing.  I will say that it does lack a little in the color department, but it is still is a great improvement.  I know that doesn’t sound like too good of a critical assessment, but after years of watching Naschy’s movies in whatever quality we could find, it’s hard not to be happy with this print.  So take it for what it’s worth.

Naschy has often re-invented the history of his character Waldemar Daninsky in each of his movies, and this one is no different.  The movie starts in a period setting with two knights in armor fighting to the death.  The victor is Daninsky, and his opponent was a warlock and leading of a witch’s coven.  Daninsky is out to destroy the evil witches and their coven.  But before they can be punished at the stake, a curse is put on him.

Many years later, a descendant of Daninsky comes across a gypsy, who he falls for.  But late one night, she bites him on the chest with a skull of wolf, covered in her own blood,  and inflicts him with the curse of lycanthropy.

I really liked this the new approach Naschy had taken in his script, as to how Daninsky acquires his curse.  It’s very different from the same old way of just being bitten by a wolf or werewolf.  Another great thing about Naschy’s movies, with this one being no exception, are the locations.  Filming in Spain gave them some great scenes of the countryside, old mansions and villages, something you could maybe only compare to maybe the old Hammer films.

There are also quite a few women running around the film, usually taking their clothes off at some point.  This is not an uncommon thing for a Naschy movie.  Another re-occurring element in his werewolf movies is that death can only come to the werewolf when he is killed by someone who loves him.  This shows Naschy’s great affection to Universal’s series with Lon Chaney Jr., and he does well in carrying on the tradition of the cursed soul.

Naschy’s werewolf is probably one of the best looking wolfmen, as the makeup is concerned.  The transformations are done the old time-lapse way, same as in Chaney Jr.’s films.  But one thing that is different is the blood.  This werewolf is always having drool or blood oozing from his mouth.  Plus this is one nimble little lycanthrope, since there is a lot jumping and leaping onto people.  Didn’t see too much of that in those old Universal films.

I couldn’t recommend this DVD enough.  Sure it may have to do with the fact that I’m a big fan of Paul Naschy.  But this guy not only put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into his films, but he also put in a lot passion into it, for the genre that he loves so much.  Plus you add in the fact that his films are pretty damn entertaining, how could you go wrong.

This DVD, along with Paul Naschy’s WEREWOLF SHADOW, were released by Anchor Bay.  The film is presented in widescreen format (1.85:1), and comes with trailers, poster gallery (which features some great artwork) and bio.  But it also has a 15 minute feature called Interview With The Werewolf.  This is an all too short conversation with Paul Naschy himself.


(1964)
Directed by Del Tenney
Starring Helen Warren, Roy Scheider, Margot Hartman, Robert Milli, Hugh Franklin, Candace Hilligoss, Dino Narizzano

When you start out as a film fan, there's hundreds of little gems that you stumble across.  Ones that you've never heard of that just catch you off guard on how good they are.  Though after 25 years of that, those become few and far between.  So I was delighted to discover that with CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE, there still are more of those gems out there, waiting to be re-discovered.

I must admit that when this title was an added second feature with the DVD release of HORROR AT PARTY BEACH, I had never heard of it.  I just figured it was some low budget piece of crap that was thrown in for free.  Oh, how I wrong I was.  I sat down to watch this and was completely entertained by this great little film.  I even liked it better than PARTY BEACH!

The film starts with a funeral for the head of the Sinclair family.  Apparently this family is not of the usual type, but very close to something like Edgar Allan Poe would have come up with.  In fact, this reminded me quite a bit of a Poe story, with the cursed family and all.  It seems the father was deathly afraid of being buried alive.  So in his will, he left certain instructions that must be done for his family to inherit any of his money.  Like keeping his tomb's torches lit and leaving the door unlocked.  If they failed to follow these instructions, not only would they not get any money, but they would also die by the way they were most frightened of.  Pretty nice old man, huh?  Think I need to revise my will.

The film feels like a blend of the Corman Poe films, some period piece gothic feel of Hammer Studios, and with a nice tough of some of early Italian films of the 60s.  Lots of atmosphere, with the foggy banks, the long funeral parades, and the family curse.  Great camera work, in glorious black and white, and a masked gloved killer on the loose.  Sounds like a great time to me.

This family is something special.  Roy Scheider has his screen debut here as one of the sons, the drunken Philip.  And while it still looks like a much older Scheider, for some reason, I kept thinking that he really reminded me of a young Basil Rathbone!?!?  Maybe since Rathbone ended his career playing in those types of movies.

His older brother Bruce, played by Robert Milli, seems to have a strong resemblance to Clark Gable.  These two brothers are about as cruel as they come.  Bruce likes to make a play for his brother's wife, only to shut her down when she succumbs to his 'charms'.  But that's when he's not getting it on with the young maid under their employment.  And Scheider doesn't even seemed to care what his wife is doing.  All he's interested in is his drink.

The mother is grief-stricken, but seems mainly afraid of her husband coming back from the dead.  Candice Hilligoss, star of the cult classic CARNIVAL OF SOULS, portrays the lawyer's daughter.  This film was her only other film, besides CARNIVAL.

Other than some little humor from one of the policemen, this film is played completely straight.  One might find  some other humor from the very dark characters, mainly the two brothers with their cruelity.

The disc features audio commentary with director/producer/writer Del Tenney, and moderated by an un-introduced Shade Rupe, who works for Dark Sky Films.  Tenney discusses the film in great detail, giving out a lot of information the making and distributing of the film.  When he mentions the the interior scenes were all film on a set, one that was built specifically for this movie, I was amazed.  I would have sworn that it was filmed in some old house.  This shows what a great filmmaker Tenney was.  He knew the kind of film he was looking for, and wanting to film it in black & white, creating a great looking and very effective gothic thriller.

Kudos to Dark Sky Films for making this a double feature with HORROR AT PARTY BEACH, but I think this film definitely could have stood on it's only legs for a single movie release.  Yes, we enjoyed it that much.  If you are a fan of the Corman Poe films, or the 60's gothic thrillers from Italy, I highly recommend you pick up this disc.  It has become one of my more recent favorites.  And as we said before, a very unexpected gem found in the hundreds of other dull and lifeless jewels out there.

Along with HORROR AT PARTY BEACH, the disc also contains a nice interview with the man behind these two pictures, Del Tenney.  He gives us quite a story on how these films were made, along with his other film, VIOLENT MIDNIGHT (aka PSYCHOMANIA).  A lot of this information is also covered in the audio commentary.  But none the less, Tenney is one of these directors that is still proud of these films that he made close to 50 years ago.  And once you watch them, you can understand why.