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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

D

D 4

Dead Girl

Dead of Night

Dead Snow

Deadly End

The Deadly Mantis

The Deadly Spawn

Death Machine

Deathmaster

Death Race 2000

Death Smiles at Murder

Deathwatch

Deep Blue Sea

Deep Rising

Dellamorte Dellamore

Deranged

Descent

Desecration

The Devil's Daughter

Devil's Gift

Devil Master

Devil's Rain

Devil's Undead

Diary of the Dead

Die Monster Die!

Dirt

Dog Soldiers

Don't Go in the House

Don't Open The Door

Doomsday

Doomwatch

Do You Like Hitchcock?

Dracula Has Risen From The Grave

Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein

Dream Home

Drive-In Double Features

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1941)

Dr. Jekyll And Sister Hyde

 

E

Eaten Alive

Effects

End of Days

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead

The Evil

Evil Dead 2

Evil Dead Trap

Evil Of Dracula

Evilspeak

Evils Of The Night

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Eye

The Eye 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

F

Face

Faces of Death

Family Portraits

Fantastic Flesh

Fatal Frames

Fear in the Night

Feast

Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds

Fiend Without A Face

Final Destination

The Flesh Eaters

Flesh and the Fiends

The Fog

Food Of The Gods

Four Flies on Grey Velvet

Fragile

Dan Curtis' Frankenstein

Frankenstein And The Monster From Hell

Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster

Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed

Frankenstein's Bloody Terror

Fright

Fontiers

Full Metal Yakuza

Funeral Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(2011)
Directed by Darrin Dickerson
Starring Darrin Dickerson, Eric Berner, Clay Brocker, Jeff Hime, Jaimee Gray Simon, Ted LeGarde, ‘Big’ Mike Ulm.

This film was screening at the Cincinnati HorrorHound Weekend in November of ’11 and our buddy AC was pretty impressed with what the filmmakers did with the budget they had.  So insisted that we review it here.  But after watching the trailer, he didn’t have to twist my arm that much.

The story is about a team of ex-military soldier-of-fortunes that are hired by one of those rich and powerful womem to find her son who is being kept at some facility where they are doing testing on him.  But the closer they get the old ‘abandoned’ military base the more the team realizes just what they are up against here.  Something none of them were prepared for or had ever seen before.  This won’t be an ordinary search and rescue mission like they were told.

The multi-talented Darrin Dickerson not only directed the film, but also stars in it, as well as being the writer and editor too.  This is one busy guy.  For me, low budget films where the director happens to be one of the stars is usually a very bad sign.  Whether it is because they are trying to save money or time in getting another actor/body, or they have delusions of being an actor as well, usually it is a mistake because they’re talent may be behind the camera, but not in front of it, but are too close to see their own flaws.  But Dickerson has proved my theory wrong here.  He is not only a strong director, but a very competent actor.

The rest of the cast also do quite well in their roles.  The rest of the military team all look professional and look like they know what they are doing.  But I think the one that stood out the most for me was Ted LeGarde, who plays the old man looking for his grandson.  In the opening scenes when he is talking to the doctor about his grandson, he gave those scenes so much emotion and depth that he really made an impact on me.  While most of the other cast are playing the tough guy roles, LeGarde let this emotional side out.  Sure, maybe it was a bit much by the end of the movie, but I still think he gave a great performance.

I do have a couple of minor complaints though.  The first one was the use of CGI.  It seemed that it was more than obvious every time it was used on screen.  From sparks flying to gun fire, it was very noticeable.  Now I know this is a low budget film and that is an easy way to get a better effect.  But for me, when I see that, it brings back the low budget feel that up until those moments, I wasn’t thinking.  I know with a bigger budget, those issues will go away.  So while it is a complaint, it is easily fixed, compared to just having a bad director.  Meaning if these guys had a lot more money, it would have looked a lot better.  Give a bunch of money to a guy with no talent and you have…well…Michael Bay.

The other thing that I could have done without is the way the film was edited, much like a Tarantino film.  Don’t really see the point of having it chopped up like that and played out of sequence, other than to slightly confuse the viewer what was going on at any certain time.  Once the group gets to the woods, then it pretty much goes straight forward.  But these are minor complaints, but felt needed to be mentioned.

Normally, to bring this back more into the realm of the horror genre, I would have liked it better to have them chasing something more of a monster instead of a big half naked muscle guy.  But how they ever found ‘Big’ Mike Ulm who played the beast, they found one that worked just as well.  Damn…this guy is freaking huge!  And for someone who probably isn’t an actor, he did okay.  And the look of the guy fit the storyline so again, not a complaint.  Kudos to them for finding such a huge guy that could pull off playing the monster.

For a film to look this good and have such a low budget (only $35K according to IMDB) it shows the amount of talent that went into the making of the film.  They really must have lucked out in finding the locations to shoot this since it looks like it would a have cost a fortune just for locations shots.  And it also helps greatly to having a good cast and a very good story.  Dickerson took inspiration from his personal life in having to deal with his own son developing epilepsy and what a parent goes through when you are just trying to find out the answers from the doctors who just might not be as helpful as you need them to be.  So major kudos to Dickerson for taking something so personal, and turning it into an entertaining film that is nowhere preachy, but does get the message across.

Seeing a film like this gives me hope for low budget and independent filmmakers.  I always see these guys set up at conventions and very seldom stop and check out their stuff because of the usual tripe that I come across.  But with people like Dickerson out there, doing what they are doing, I may have to take a minute now and then and look into more of these guys.  Never know what you might come across.


(2008)
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento & Gadi Harel
Starring Shiloh Fernandez, Noah Segan, Michael Bowen, Candice Accola
Andrew DiPalma, Eric Podnar, Nolan Gerard Funk, Jenny Spain

Ricky and JT, two high school friends and delinquents, decide to skip school one day and head to a local asylum that has been closed for years.  During their wanderings, destruction of property, and being chased by a wild dog, they come across something that changes their life and their friendship for ever: a naked woman tied to a medical gurney.  At first they think she’s dead, but then she moves.  While they try to decide just what to do with her, things get even stranger.

This is quite an interesting movie since it moves back and forth between several types of movies.  After JT decides that he wants to keep the girl there to use as his sexual play toy, the tone becomes pretty dark.  The fact that there is this young girl tied to this bed being repeated raped by JT and the other friend he brings to join the party, really shows the type of people that we are dealing with.  Then to make it even stranger, we discover that this girl they’ve found….doesn’t die. Discovered by accident, if you could call it that, JT had broken her neck.  But she’s still alive.  Of course, this doesn’t deter JT from carrying out his plans of sexual conquests.  Even when she starts to smell.

Ricky doesn’t want to join in and starts to question his friendship with JT.  Then you throw in some high school angst, a childhood crush, and you have all the makings of an after school special.  Other than the part about the captive dead/alive sex slave.

While it would seem that the film would delve into twisted sexual depravity, which really isn’t the point of the movie.  We don’t really go into get detail about what exactly is this creature.  There’s a few questions thrown around to what she might be, JT is more concerned about getting his rocks off, and really doesn’t care.

Aside from some creepy moments while first investigating the asylum, most of the scare elements come from the girl.  Chained to the bed, actress Jenny Spain does wonders just by her gaze she gives the camera.  Even when her face is beaten, swollen and bloody, she still can still send chills up the viewer’s spine.  I think is where the movie succeeds more than anything.

As the plot gets thicker and thicker, with Ricky digging a hole harder and harder to get out, it does make us wonder how this is going to end up, though we’re pretty sure it’s not a happy one.

This is not a film for the PG-13 crowd, if only due to the subject matter.  Even with the fact that we don’t know what this creature is the fact that she is being used as captive sex toy, and most don’t seem to see any problem with it, for me is the most disturbing part of the film.

With a pretty fresh cast and crew, they all do an adequate job here.  Shiloh Fernandez plays Ricky, who really looks like a young Joaquin Phoenix.  But the real praise goes to Spain as the title character.  With not a lot to do other than lie there, she still makes an impact with the viewer.  Noah Segan plays the friend JT that ones wishes they never have.  Nothing but trouble could come from someone like that, and Segan does a good job in that role.


(2007)
Directed by Graeme Whifler
Starring Jack Huston, Pell James, Terry Becker, Anina Lincoln, Meredith Morton, John Ennis, Nick Searcy

A young couple move into a new house in what seems to be a dying suburb.  Bob, the husband, has just started a new job, and had to move him and his new wife to a completely new city for a new start.  But it doesn’t take long before this new start takes a turn for the worse.  In their little cul-de-sac, they have some strange neighbors.  There’s the older couple that seemed to be deaf that have their yard fenced in, with Do Not Enter signs all over the place.  And then there’s Adrien, who seems a bit off right away, but is always wanted to give them gifts.  It doesn’t take long for the Bob and his wife Wendi to figure out that their recent bouts with different illnesses is being caused by the twisted neighbor, Adrien.

Originally called NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH, writer & director Whifler does do a great job creating a wonderfully new and twisted character in Adrien.  And actor Nick Searcy does an even better job bringing this character to life.  From the nice little touches of make up effects, to the wide and darken eyes of Adrien, Searcy shows us just what a really creepy neighbor could be like.

But unfortunately, that is really the only thing that kept my interests in this movie.  The rest of the cast does okay, but doesn’t really stand out.  The plot is somewhat different in the approach of the villain, but the basic plot is the same as countless other movies that have been coming out over the last few years.

But during the audio commentary, the moderator, Matthew Chernov makes the comment, “This film really does bring depravity back to cinema in a way that really hasn’t been seen in a long time.”  I guess he hasn’t been to the movies in quite some time, since this whole torture/porn thing is finally now just coming to an end.  Plus, while Chernov does do a good job as a moderator for the most part, asking the right type of questions of the director and actor present, he does seem to spend a lot of time giving high praises for them as well.  To the point where it becomes more “kiss-ass” than objective.

Whifler and actor Nick Searcy are also on the commentary.  Both of them give us plenty of information about their part of the process.  Whifler gives us details on how he came up with the character of the twisted neighbor Adrien.  And Searcy tells how he managed to sink into this man’s dark and slimy psyche.

Another note on the commentary is that at one point in the film, the commentary track becomes out of sync, causing them to talk about a scene that happened a few minutes before what we’re watching.  It does correct itself, but doesn’t explain what happened.  This could be just a defect in the making of the DVD.  The DVD also contains a making-of featurette that shows just how time consuming it can be, and that it isn’t all the glamour that one might think.

Fans will spot cameos by familiar horror faces of Irwin Keyes and Elieen Dietz.  Keyes’ plays a quick scene as a garbage man being “teased” by a very small dog.  While it has nothing to do with the movie, other than to show that I don’t think there’s a normal character in this neighborhood, Keyes is always fun to watch.  Dietz plays one the neighbors, and has a great make up job of making her look not so great.

I do want to give credit to the makeup team, since this movie does have quite a bit of work on screen.  From dead cats, to a swollen face makeup, to the nasty surgery stuff near the end of the movie, it all looks very effect and real.  So kudos to them.

Like a lot of these similar movies out there, where we have to witness terrible things being done to the innocent heroes of the story, there are scenes which are pretty disturbing.  Just watching Adrien pick and eat the scabs off his recent surgery wound is enough to turn any ones stomach.  And it goes downhill from there.  Sure, there’s a little bit of suspension of belief, but we are asked to suspend quite a bit here.

I guess the bottom line of my review is that while parts of the story were slightly different, it was the content and intention of the film that just seemed like a retread of what has been happening over the last few years.  With the help of great makeup effects and a strong performance by Searcy, that does make it a little better.  But when it comes right down to it, it’s not a film that I would watch more than once.  Sure, it’s creepy and sleazy.  And it’ll make you wonder about your neighbors.  But was I entertained by it?  Not really.  And that’s what it comes down to.


(1957)
Directed by Nathan Juran
Starring Craig Stevens, William Hopper, Alix Talton, Donald Randolph, Pat Conway, Florenz Ames, Paul Smith, Phil Harvey

This movie is a prime example of how a movie could be considered a sci-fi movie, when we here at the Krypt feel that it’s really a horror movie.  But instead of continuing that eternal argument, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s a monster movie.  I mean, you do have a giant praying mantis flying around terrorizing the country.  Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get down to the movie.

You can sure date this movie in the first opening sequences.  First thing you have a map of THE WORLD, and then quickly showing us on one part of the globe a volcano erupts, it could have an effect on another part, far away.  And so gives us our moral tale for today.  Could this be one of those early pro-environmental films, trying to warn us of what we are doing to our planet?  Or maybe just a way to exploit what’s going on in the world at that time to make a new monster movie?  I’d like to believe that was the main reason for this movie.  Adding in all the science-talk just makes it sound more real.

The basic story is simple, like a lot of these types of movies.  Due to a volcano eruption, a giant praying mantis is thawed out from an ice glacier and starts looking for food.  The Air Force first tries to figure out just what they’re dealing with, and then how to deal with it once they discover what it is.  But how do you do battle with a bug bigger and faster than your best air force fighter jets?

For a young kid (and a grown man who still loves these types of movies) this movie is a real gem.  Sure, it takes a while before we get to see the giant creature.  But when we do, it’s well worth the wait.  The mantis looks incredible.  Granted, it might move a little slow, but I think the design and execution of this puppet is great.  Where else can you see a giant mantis attack a city bus or an Air Force base, crashing through the buildings?  At one point, there is a great shot of it climbing up the Washington Monument.  Great effects work there.  Of course, nowadays it would be all CGI.  But even watching these “ancient’ effects today, I still thought they looked great, and didn’t take away any entertainment value for me.

Like I said, you really have to watch this through the eyes of a child to enjoy it.  And some of us, in our 40’s, can still do that.  We still get that gleam in our eyes and smile on our faces, cheering on these massive creatures when they show up on our TV screens.  I’m sure some of the younger audiences today, who were brought up on JURASSIC PARK and such, might be a little more apt to laugh or snicker at this movie than someone in their 40’s or 50’s would.  Which is a shame.

This was really the first genre picture for director Nathan Juran, but not his last.  He would go out to direct other classic films, such as 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH and 7TH VOYAGE OF SINDBAD, as well as cult classic titles like THE BRAIN FROM THE PLANET AROUS and ATTACK OF THE 50FT WOMAN (where he actually used the name Nathan Hertz).  But he also worked in a lot of genre TV shows, like LAND OF THE GIANTS, LOST IN SPACE, THE TIME TUNNEL and VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA.  He started his career as an art director and even brought home an Oscar in that field for the 1941 film HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.  So he might not have wanted to be remembered being connected with some of these films, fans like us never let these titles get lost in obscurity.  We will always be watching them, and making sure that future generations can enjoy them as much as we have.


(1983)
Directed by Douglas McKeown
Starring Michael Robert Coleman, Charles George Hildebrandt, James Brewster, Elissa Neil, Karen Tighe, Tom DeFranco, John Schmerling, Ethel Michelson

You couldn't have walked through the horror section of any respectable video store in the mid-80's, and not come across the big video box of RETURN OF THE ALIENS DEADLY SPAWN (pictured to the right).  Of course, the real title was simply just THE DEADLY SPAWN, but who's really paying attention.  And just by looking at the video box, you knew that it was going to be worth it.  How could it be bad with the that monster on the cover on the box...three huge mouths, filled with teeth, and blood and body parts everywhere!

Well now, thanks to the fine folks at Synapse Films, not only can you see this film in probably the best looking print ever, this DVD is filled with great extras.  But more on that later.  Let's get back to the film.

Made in the early 80's, this low budget film was not your typical movie of that nature.  This was one of those films that had a lot of talented people behind the camera, making it rise well above the moniker of a low budget 16mm movie.  This movie really was team effort from the director, the writers, the producers, and the makeup department.  They all had some great input, and came up with one great movie.

The story is very simple.  A meteor hits the earth, and these little aliens, looking like big slugs with bigger teeth, nest in the basement of a house nearby.  There, they start to eat and grow.  Anybody that accidentally comes down to the basement become a very tasty meal for this inter-galactic eating machine.  The two boys that live there, one a 10-year old monster movie fan, the other a young college science major, try to take on this thing that is devouring they family.

There are some great shots here, delivering some great moments of suspense, as well as gory horror.  I just love the 'monster-mouth cam' where we can see the victim through the monsters mouth, with all those teeth munching down.  Great stuff.  They have also come up with a very original idea of a monster.  This isn't your typical 'man-in-a-rubber-suit' running around.  John Dods created this toothsome nightmare, and gave the horror genre one very memorable monster.  This also shows that even with a low budget, if you have talented people working on the movie, you can still deliver a great movie.  Even something as a simple effect of the baby spawns sliding across the water, looks great in the movie.

Synapse Films released this on DVD, with a new digitally re-mastered transfer that looks simply incredible.  As they point out in the commentary, there are scenes where you can actually see the blood, where in the old video transfer, it was too dark.  Synapse has also filled the disc with tons of extras.  You get two different commentaries.  The first one is with producer Ted A. Bohus.  The other has a group commentary which is extremely informative and entertaining.  It features director/co-writer Doug McKeown, producer Tim Hildebrandt (who also did the original poster artwork), co-writer Tim Sullivan, actor Charles Hildebrandt, and John Dods, who was co-writer as well as creating this great looking monster.

But there's plenty more here.  There a photo gallery that has tons of stuff, from video box art, poster artwork, still shots, and much more.  There's even a great shot of one of the movie theaters where the film  played, showing some great promotional work that reminded me of the days of William Castle.  There's also an outtake real and audition tapes, an alternate opening sequence, original trailer, and a comic book prequel to the movie.

So what this all adds up to is one DVD that is a must for all horror fans.  I can't see anybody watching this and not be completely entertained, and amazed at just how good this movie is.


(1977)
Directed by Dan Curtis
Starring Patrick Macnee, Joan Hackett, Ed Begley Jr., Horst Buchholz, Elisha Cook Jr., Lee Montgomery, Anjanette Comer 

As we’ve said many times before, you really couldn’t go wrong with a made-for-TV movie from the 70’s.  Especially when they were from Dan Curtis.  And to make it even better, it would be written by Richard Matheson.  But for some reason, I couldn’t remember ever seeing this unsold pilot from Curtis.  It was called Dead of Night, and was another anthology film, much like their previous Trilogy of Terror (1975).  But the stories in here vary from horror to ones that really might have been better suited for Twilight Zone.  Not to say that there not entertaining, but it’s definitely not scary.

And that’s the first story we start off with, “Second Chance”, starring Ed Begley Jr.  It’s a nice story about a young man who restores a vintage car, only to be transported back in time.  The story was an adaptation of a story by Jack Finney, who’s the man responsible for writing a story for Collier’s magazine called “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, which would soon become a huge and powerful movie.

The second story, “No Such Thing as a Vampire”, and stars Patrick Macnee as a doctor who is trying to discover the real reason behind these attacks on his wife.  Attacks that all look like the work of a vampire.  This story was adapted from one of Matheson’s own stories, and isn’t all that terrifying.  Another one that could have been on Twilight Zone, or maybe even Night Gallery.

But the last story, simply called “Bobby”, is really the highlight of the film and makes up for any disappointments from the first two.  Joan Hackett plays a woman who seems to be very distraught over the lost of her son, who apparently drown a few months early.  Hackett gives an incredible performance as a woman who just can’t handle the idea of losing her son, and sets about trying to bring him back through occult means.  Lee H. Montgomery plays her son, Bobby.  Montgomery was a familiar face to 70’s horror fans.  He starred as the rat making friend in Ben, the sequel to Willard.  He also starred as the son of Karen Black and Oliver Reed in another Dan Curtis production, Burnt Offerings.

If this story alone is the only reason to purchase this DVD, then that is reason enough.  The episode is filled with some very chilling moments, more than enough to keep you entertained for the short time.  The whole film is a little over an hour, so the stories flow pretty quickly.

Dark Sky Films has done an excellent job bringing this film to DVD.  The prints all look great, but still retain that 70’s TV feel.  But as a bonus feature, there is another pilot episode from Dan Curtis.  It was called Dead of Night: A Darkness at Blaisedon”.  While Curtis didn’t direct this, only produce, it was an idea to start another series.  It was aired in August of 1969 and hope to ride on the success of Curtis’ other TV series, Dark Shadows.  This series was to feature a team of paranormal investigators trying to solve the mysteries of haunted houses.  The pilot starred Kerwin Mathews and Cal Bellini, who are hired to try to prove that the house that Marj Dusay had just inherited is not haunted.  But in fact, it is.  While it’s nothing that will keep you up at night, the film does have it’s moments of fright.  And if you’re a fan of 70’s TV films anyway, then you will enjoy it for that fact alone.

So the bottom line is that if you enjoy 70’s TV movies, then you need to have this in your collection.  If you are a fan at all of Dan Curtis’ work, then again, you need to have this in your collection.  We think you’ll be happy you did.


(2009)
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Starring Charlotte Frogner, Ørjan Gamst, Stig Frode Henriksen, Vegar Hoel, Jeppe Laursen
Evy Kasseth, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jenny Skavian, Bjørn Sundquist

If Peter Jackson was to remake Shock Waves, but set it in the snowy mountains and changed the plot just a bit, then you would have the film Dead Snow.  After months of getting a lot of internet hype, we had the chance to see this new Norwegian zombie film and just loved it.  For a film to take a sub-genre that’s been done to….death (sorry, had to do it), the filmmakers pulled out all the stops and give us one bloody entertainingly good movie.

A group of medical students travel up to the mountains for a holiday of sledding, snow mobile riding, and of course, drinking and sex.  They are heading to the cabin owned by one of the group.  But once they get to there, she's nowhere to be seen, or hasn't made it there.  Later that evening during the partying, they get a visit from some wandering local.  He tells them a story of some German soldiers who were occupying the villages in that area during WWII.  They were eventually chased into the mountains by the villagers, an area where the vacationer's cabin happens to be, where they froze to death.  But now, something has brought the solders back.  And they are not happy. 

Wirkola directed the film as well as co-wrote it with Stig Frode Henriksen, who was one of the main actors.  What they give us is a complete mix of different types of zombie films.  The first part of the film is slower and more atmospheric.  There are plenty of creepy shots of the darkened nighttime snowy landscape, with lot of strange sounds and noises coming from the surroundings.  But once the zombies start to appear, we move into Peter Jackson territory with some outrageous gore, done with a lot of fun and a lot of blood.

The cast might be set up to have the normal stereotypes, but it’s not done so overboard like most films would do.  All the actors do a great job being able to play with straight faces some of the outrageous sequences, and also be serious enough in other scenes to give them the impact that they require.  Ørjan Gamst, who plays the leader of the undead troops, also worked as the storyboard artist for the film.

The humor here is not stupid and forced, like some movies try to and fail.  It comes from the situations, and how crazy they are.  This is the perfect movie to be watched with a group of fans.  There will be plenty of reactions, from cheers to shouts of “Ohhh!”  We have decapitations, limbs being pulled apart, battles with chainsaws, sledgehammers, and machine gun equipped snowmobiles.  There is also plenty of the red stuff flying about, along with limbs and many, many feet of intestines being pulled, snapped, and ripped. The makeup on the zombies are effectively done.  Nothing too over the top, but simple enough to make them creepy and scary looking. 

The bottom line is that Dead Snow is just a fun horror movie, giving something to just about every type of fan.  There’s something in here for everyone’s particular taste.  It’s so refreshing to see someone taking a very old sub-genre, but being able to bring something entertaining to the table.  It’s something that is sadly missing from films coming from Hollywood.


Directed by Steven Norrington
Starring Brad Dourif, Ely Pouget, William Hootkins, John Sharian, Martin McDougall, Andreas Wisniewski, Richard Brake

Okay folks, here’s one that the Sci-Fi vs Horror people can fight over.  You have some people trapped in a huge corporate office building that are basically being stalked by a demented weapons designer and his latest toy.  This toy, called the WarBeast, is a huge mechanical killing machine, with long razor sharp claws, a mouth with huge teeth, and can sense it’s target by their fear.  Is it Sci-Fi?  Horror?  You decide.  No matter what you decide, director Norrington gives us a nice view of both worlds.

Though the ‘monster’ is a robot, it’s still one deranged creation and is as scary as some demon from some netherworld.  Especially if it’s chasing you down the corridor.  And since it’s running off a program, there will be no pleading with it.  When it finds you…you’re done.

But even more deranged than the WarBeast, is the creator, Jack Dante.  Not sure if anybody could have given this character the same craziness and eccentricities that cult star Brad Dourif brings to the role.  Once again, Dourif throws himself into this role, giving us yet another great performance by this very underrated actor.  Anytime he is on screen, he’s fun to watch.  You never know what he’s going to come up with.  Even when just giving a little speech, he captures the audiences attention.

The rest of the cast does a good job trying to keep up with Dante.  Ely Pouget is the main lead, as the new boss taking over the difficult job of changing the public opinion of just what their company is really doing.  John Sharian plays one of the rebels who has broken in to sabotage the company.  Genre fans might recognize him from his other roles in THE MACHINIST, the werewolf movie ROMASANTA, not to mention small parts in many other films.  Another genre favorite is William Hootkins.  With roles in Richard Stanley’s DUST DEVIL and HARDWARE, and even back to the original STAR WARS, Hootkins’ performance is always there.

But the real star of the film is the WarBeast.  The makers of the film give us just enough glimpses to see this machine to know that it’s not one to mess with.  From the whipping finger blades to the sounds of the metallic teeth pounding together, you know you are in deep trouble.

There was an American DVD release, which is full frame and cut.  This DVD release was put out by Entertainment In Video and is a region 2 PAL DVD, so you will need a region free player.  But it is uncut and in the original 2.35:1 release, and looks really good.  There’s so much you’d miss in the full frame version.  Unfortunately, the disc comes completely void of any extras.  No trailers or anything.  This would have been nice to at least have some audio commentary from the director and maybe even Dourif.  But shamefully not.  But even with the lack of extras, it’s still a movie that is worth adding to your collection.


(1972)
Directed by Ray Danton
Starring Robert Quarry, John Fiedler, Bob Pickett, William Jordan, Betty Anne Rees, Brenda Dickson-Weinberg
LaSesne Hilton, John Lasell, Freda T. Vanterpool, Tari Tabakin

In the early 70's, Robert Quarry was set up to be the next big star in the horror genre, taking his place along side other greats like Vincent Price.  In 1970, he played the title vampire in COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE, and followed it up the next year with the sequel, THE RETURN OF COUNT YORGA.  Then in 1972, he was pitted against one of Vincent Price's most memorable characters, Dr. Anton Phibes, in DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN.  But due to a contract he had with AIP, his options weren't that open.  He was originally to play the vampire in the pilot episode of NIGHT STALKER, but AIP put a stop to that.  That is a real shame, since Quarry really could have gone quite far.

DEATHMASTER was the film that he made on his own, an independent production, after the Yorga films.  Once it was finished, AIP swooped in and bought it cheap (with possible threats of lawsuits) for basically a tax write-off.  The film had never been released on video, laserdisc, or anything for all these years.  Yea, there was the bootlegs out there, but the prints were never really anything to write home about.  So when Retromedia announced they would not only be putting it out on DVD, but also a digital re-mastered print from an original 35mm negative, there were a lot of excited people.  At least I was.  I had always been a fan of Quarry, and had wondered why the sudden drop off of horror movies in the 70's.

The film opens with a coffin washing up ashore off the California coast, and being picked up by someone who seemed to have been waiting for it.  Quarry plays the vampire Khorda as kind of a cross between Yorga and Charles Manson with his long hair and goatee, and long robes.  He arrives at a house being used by a bunch of hippies, and with his philosophical questions and answers, he basically takes over the small commune.  But then Peco, one of the followers, starts to question Khorda and his ways.  When he tries to leave with his girlfriend, he discovers that Khorda's real self and that he is turning the others into vampires as well.  Peco manages to escape, but without his girlfriend.  He gets the aid of his friend Pop, an old jewelry making hippie, played by the very familiar John Fiedler, to help him rescue his girl and stop Khorda.

Quarry is excellent once again in the role of a vampire.  He's not just playing the same Yorga character again, but adding some extra flair to him.  He definitely had the knack for those type of roles.  With his blue glaring eyes, and that almost hypnotizing voice, he really gave off that feeling of a mysterious character, whether he was playing a vampire or not.

Along with Quarry are a couple of other people worth mentioning.  While most of the rest of the cast weren't the greatest actors, you do have John Fiedler who everybody will recognize, who has bit parts in tons of movies.  But then there is also Betty Anne Rees, who would later star with Quarry again in SUGAR HILL.  And then lastly, even though he doesn't seemed to be credited in the film, Bob Pickett plays one of the hippies in the commune.  This is the same Pickett who was also known as Bobby "Boris" Pickett who gave us that song The Monster Mash.  The film was directed by Ray Danton, who would go on to do YOUNG HANNAH - QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES (aka CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD) and PSYCHIC KILLER.

The print quality of this new disc is simply awesome, and is probably one of the best looking discs that Retromedia has put out.  The extras include a 35mm theatrical trailer, as well as trailer for COUNT YORGA VAMPIRE and SUGAR HILL.  There is also four different still galleries, including behind-the-scene shots of DEATHMASTER.  There are also some radio spots and TV commercials.  But the best part of the extras is the audio commentary by Quarry himself, along with Fred Olen Ray.  Quarry gives us tons of interesting information about the making of the film, his association with AIP, and a whole lot more.  For me, the commentary alone is worth the cost of the disc.

It is really a shame that Quarry wasn't allowed to show us what he could have done in the horror genre.  He really could have been right up there with the other greats.  But we do have the few classic films that he was able to do.  So I guess we'll just have to enjoy them over and over again.  And maybe with these DVDs coming out, maybe his name will raise up a bit in the memory of horror fans.  It should.


(1975)
Directed by Paul Bartel
Starring David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone, Mary Woronov, Simone Griffeth, Roberta Collins, Martin Kove,
Louisa Mortiz, Dont Steele, Joyce Jameson, Fred Grandy

Even after 35 years, this film is still as entertaining, as prolific, and just plain as much fun as it was all those years ago.  Just by watching some of the reality shows on today, are we that far off from having our own Transcontinental Death Race?

Based a story by Ib Melchior, Roger Corman and company turned it into campy & gruesome tale of a world gone wild.  A world where the crowds cheer on these death machines to run down innocent pedestrians, and then even exploit the victims relatives.  What a hoot.  And as I said, are we really that far from that?

The race starts from the east coast, traveling through the US, racing to be the first to reach “New Los Angeles”.  The drivers also get points for running down pedestrians, the old and the young scoring the highest points.  Although why anybody would even be outside during the race is beyond me.  None the less, some of the “kills” are pretty gruesome for that time, even including someone’s head getting squashed like a melon. Could something like this really get made today?

David Carradine leads the movie as Frankenstein, a super-engineered driver, with having many different body parts replaced over the years from various races.  He is also the crowd’s favorite. Sylvester Stallone plays the Chicago mobster Machine Gun Joe Viterbo, with his race car brandishing a huge knife and two Tommy guns where the headlights are.  Mary Woronov is Calamity Jane, with her bull-horned car.  Nero the Hero, played wonderfully by Martin Kove with a lisp, shows that he’s a real man’s man.  And lastly is Roberta Collins, racing for the Nazi party, with her trusty navigator “Herman the German”, played by future congressman Fred Grandy. 

If this movie had been made today, the marketing people would have had a blast with it.  I could just see the toy cars and action figures that would have come out.  Cars with exploding parts flying.  And you would even get some extra pedestrians to be able to run down.  Sounds like a lot of fun to me.

When a group of rebels try to sabotage the race, and even take out the drivers, the government tries to cover it up by blaming the French.  Even back then, it was okay to make fun of the French.  At least that hasn’t changed over the years.

This is a movie that can be entertaining on many different levels.  Just taken at face value, it’s a great exploitation movie about a car race where anybody and everybody can die.  The cars and the drivers are like something out of a pro wrestling match, with their generic characteristics and looks.  But if you want to look closer, you can see a lot of social commentary coming through.  Who knows if there were trying to make a point, or just make a quick buck.  With Corman producing, I’m sure it was more of the later.

This special edition DVD was released by Buena Vista Home Entertainment and looks beautiful.  There is also a nice (but short, only 11 minutes long) featurette on the making of the film, which includes many people from the movie giving their thoughts.  That list includes writer Charles B. Griffith, actress Mary Woronov, and of course Roger Corman.  This would have been nice if they could have gone into great detail about the making of the film and other people that were involved.  But for what it is, it’s pretty good.  It just made me wanting more.  There is also an audio commentary with Roger Corman and Mary Woronov.  Anytime you get to hear Corman talking about any of his film is just a great time.  Both have some great stories about this film and their careers in general.

There’s been talk for a few years about a big Hollywood remake, with Tom Cruise attached to it.  While I’m sure it would have a lot of fancy looking cars, I really don’t see them doing the “points for people” part.  Can’t do that today…you might influence someone to go out and try that themselves.  And then even worse, sue the producers for it.


DEATH SMILES AT MURDER
aka LA MORTE HA SORRISO ALL ASSASSINO
(1973)
Directed by Joe D'Amato
Starring Klaus Kinski,

One of Joe D’Amato’s first films, which stars Klaus Kinski. Well, kind of. Even though he has top billing, he’s only in the film for about 10-15 minutes. Plus the movie is a very strange and hard to follow just what the hell is going on. But this is an early Italian film, so remember that, and don’t think you’re watching some American film where all the points and details are laid out very nicely for you.

It seems the main theme of the story is about a girl who is possibly a ghost who is getting revenge on different people who had wronged her. There are several moments when the girl appears as the decomposed corpse that are very effective, especially when she's in bed with a lover.  That could really put a damper on the evening.  But these sequences are used quite a bit and so are slightly over done.

But then, there also seems to be sort of a plot with Kinski discovering a way to bring back the dead.  So go figure.

If you’re just getting into Italian cinema, you might want to stay away from this one for right now. Go get some Argento flicks, or better yet, pick up DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE.  But if you’re well versed in this genre, you would probably enjoy this film.


(2002)
Directed by Michael J. Bassett
Starring Jamie Bell, Rúaidhrí Conroy, Mike Downey, Laurence Fox, Roman Horak, Dean Lennox Kelly, Torben Liebrecht, Kris Marshall, Hans Matheson, Hugh O'Conor, Matthew Rhyx, Andy Serkis, Hugo Speer

A troop of British soldiers are attacking the German front, and are being mowed down as they approach.  Shouting, gunfire, and explosions are everywhere.  And then it's the next morning, and we see a group of surviving soldiers make their way through the fog and stumbled upon a nearly deserted German trench.  But things are a seemingly a little strange there.

Right away, let’s just say that this movie isn’t the most original as far as the story goes.  Most will know the ending long before it unfolds.  So you could put that as a ‘bad thing’.  So with that out of the way, I have to say that I really enjoyed this movie, even with that 'bad thing".  I think the filmmakers did an excellent job with the set and atmosphere with when and where this film takes place.  With all the mud, seemingly constant rain, and cold, it gave a very grim picture of what it must have been like back there in the early days of war.  None of this crappy-looking CGI breath for these poor actors.  It looked really cold for them.  Now if it was CGI, then even more kudos to the makers since it doesn’t look like it.

While a couple of the actors would sometimes go a tad bit overboard, I thought that for the most part, they all did a fine job.  Laurence Fox does well as the Captain of this platoon, who not only slowing loses his men, but his mind as well.

We also have one 80’s style gore sequence (with the help of modern day CGI), that is pretty interesting, really could have been left.  One of the best sequences that will really leave an impression is the fate of one injured soldiers and some rats.  Very grim, but I'm sure was something that very well happened back then.

But the film does a very good job building the tension with the viewer, not knowing just what is hiding in the trenches.  Could it be more German soldiers, or something much worse.  There are plenty of night shots, where what atmosphere comes out even more.

So where the film might have lacked in originality when it came to the storyline, I think it made up for it in the acting and the art direction.  These poor actors must have had one tough time filming this movie, and their misery really shows through here.

The DVD comes with deleted scenes and two different audio commentaries.  While we wouldn't say that this is the best horror / war film that we've seen, it's definitely one that we enjoyed and would recommend you giving a chance.


DEEP BLUE SEA
(1999) 
Directed by Renny Harlin
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Jacqueline McKenzie, Michael Rappaport, Stellan Skarsgard, LL Cool J, Aida Turturro, Daniel Rey, Brent Roam.

In 1975, I had seen JAWS in the theater. I can’t remember another movie that I had seen before it, or since, that had effected me more than that movie. I had nightmares for weeks after seeing that film. With every movie since then that dealt with killer fish or just something in the water, I was always on edge. Was this going to have the same effect on me as JAWS did 24 years ago?

The main plot in DBS deals with some mako sharks that have been genetically altered, making them bigger, and more importantly smarter. Of course, when the billionaire who is footing the bill comes out the Aquatica Research Laboratory to see some results, all hell breaks loose: Your typical storm hits, the sharks attack, people get eaten.

But wait. Yes, even though the plot is pretty straightforward, and really isn’t nothing new, it doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. This movie is really more of an action film than a horror film. But being that Renny Harlen directed it, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. There are times where you are clutching your seat, but it didn’t seemed to have the same terror effect that JAWS did, at least for me.

The CGI effects for the sharks I thought were done quite well (See Below for Update). Some people complained that they moved too fast and were blurry. But if you’ve seen some of those shark attacks on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week, these things don’t move too slowly. In DBS, when someone gets attack, it’s very brutal. The gore is really kept to a minimum, but it still has a very intense.

The cast is relatively unknown, which was done on purpose by the makers of the film, so you wouldn’t know who was going to survive or not. The only real name here is Samuel L. Jackson, unless you want to count LL Cool J. The main hero, played by Thomas Jane, is a dead ringer for a younger Christopher Lambert.

I would highly recommend this film to anyone, especially if you were not the type who is water-friendly, like myself. There enough bits of everything to keep everyone entertained, whether you are a fan of action, suspense, or just like killer fish movies.

UPDATE:  I've recently purchased the DVD and have to add a few comments.  While watching it on DVD, somehow the CGI effects look way more cartoonish than when I first seen it at the theater.  I still think it's a great movie and is well worth the watch.  The DVD even has two different documentaries, as well as audio commentary by Renny Harlin and Samuel L. Jackson.  All that for about $20.


DEEP RISING
(1998)
Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Treat Williams, Famke Janssen, Anthony Heald, Kevin J. O'Connor, Wes Studi, Jason Flemyng

I never bothered with this film when it was at the theater. I didn’t expect much, mainly because it was made during the brief "Underwater / Monster / Creature" phase last year, that also gave us SPHERE and the made-for-TV-movie CREATURE. But I happened to come across the DVD and figured I’d give it a chance.

The story is simple: A group of mercenaries, on a hired boat in which Treat Williams is the Captain, set out to rob a cruise ship, unbeknownst to Williams and his crew. But when they get there, they find the ship completely empty of passengers, other than their bloody skeletal remains. As they try and discover what had happened, they soon realize that they are not alone on the cruise ship.

This film was written and directed by Stephen Sommers, and features an all-star cast.  Joining Treat Williams, Kevin J. O'Connor & Famke Janssen (both who were in Clive Barker's LORD OF ILLUSION).   O'Connor's character is the comic relief of the picture.  Normally his type of character would be very annoying to me.  But this time out, for some reason, I did find him very funny.  Also in the film are Anthony Head, Wes Studi, Derrick O'Connor, Jason Flemyng, and Djmon Hounsou.

The makeup and creature effects were done by Rob Bottin (who needs no introduction).  Once again, Bottin comes up with a very interesting looking monster.  While a lot of the effects were done by CGI effects, and at times looked a little cartoonish, for the most part they were done very well.   There is one makeup sequence involving one of the creatures victims that had me sitting up in my Video Command Center (aka Lazy Boy) and hitting the back button on my DVD remote. I can’t remember the last time a special effect blew me away like that.   With a beautiful blend of makeup effects and CGI, it's incredible.  Definitely one of the most memorable movie moments of this year.  This scene is incredible and alone is worth the money to rent this movie, guaranteed!

The only complaint I would really have with the movie is the way it's advertised.  As you can see on the first photo, the poster and box art make it look like an action picture.  While the film does have action in it, come guys, let's face it.  When you have a giant monster that is eating people, that sure sounds like horror to me.  But then again, what do I know.

But in my humble opinion, for a good old fashion monster movie, this is pretty damn entertaining.  Don't start thinking about explanations and stuff, but just sit back and enjoy it. 


(1994)
Directed by Michele Soavi
Starring Rupert Everett, Francois Hadji-Lazaro, Anna Falchi, Mickey Knox, Fabiana Formica,
Clive Riche, Barbara Cupisti, Anton Alexander

After many years of waiting for an American release of DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE, Anchor Bay finally puts it out.  Of course, for some reason, they used the silly American title of CEMETERY MAN.  Still don't understand that one, other than they figured your average joe movie shopper wouldn't know what they hell DELLAMORTE is.  Shame, really.  But then even weirder is that other than the American title on this print, all the other credits are the Italian ones.

Anyway, let's get down to the movie.  If you are a fan of Italian horror movies, zombie movies, or horror movies in general, then you need to see this movie.  Yes, it's that plain and simple.  There is something in here for everyone.  It's a horror/dark comedy, that is filled with some incredible and  wonderful imagery.  The story might be a little tough to follow for some newer fans of Italian cinema since some things might not make sense at times.  But all you need to do is just sit back and enjoy the show.  Don't think too hard about it.

Rupert Everett stars as Francesco Dellamorte, who is the caretaker for the Buffalora Cemetery.  With his faithful, but dimwitted partner Gnaghi, he has a lot of extra work on his hands with this job.  That's because the dead don't stay buried for long.  After seven days, they return as the living dead.  So Francesco has to dispose of them and put them to rest once again.  This time for good.  There's really no explanation as to why they return.  They just do.  And Francesco doesn't really want to make a big deal about it, since then they might close down the cemetery and then he would lose his job and his place to live.  So life, and death, goes on.

But then one day, he meets up with a young and beautiful grieving widow, played by the stunning Anna Falchi.  And then things get really strange.

The first time I seen this movie, it was a several generation bootleg, in Italian with no subtitles.  The quality wasn't the greatest and really wasn't really sure what was going on, but I still fell in love with the movie anyway.  The visual alone here were enough to capture my admiration.  Yea, I was a fan of Soavi's from before, but the style he showed here was just incredible.  The cinematography is amazing, especially with the beautiful use of slow motion.

The music by Manual De Sica sounds very similar to what Tangerine Dream might have come up with.  If often reminds me of the score they did for NEAR DARK.  But De Sica's score here adds wonderfully to the mysterious world of Francesco Dellamorte.  It's still one of my favorite scores.

This release comes with all new featurette called Death Is Beautiful, which features interviews with Soavi, Anna Falchi, and makeup man Sergio Stivaletti.  It's great to see Soavi back in the industry after all these years, and especially talking about this film.  He gives us a brief history of how he got started in the film industry, learning his craft from different masters, such as Dario Argento and Aristide Massaccesi (aka Joe D'Amato).

But unfortunately, the featurette is about 30 minutes long, with quite a bit of padding footage from movie..  I guess we all would all would have preferred a longer documentary, but for what it is, it's okay.  But as we said, just the fact that Soavi was involved in the featurette, that's a nice start.  I guess we're always wanting to have huge supplements on our favorite movies.  But this will keep us happy for now.  It also comes with a 8-page booklet (with only about 3 pages worth of text), that gives us a brief bio of Soavi, and the history of the source material which this movie was based on.

So if you had never picked up one of those import releases, now is your chance.  This film really is a must for all horror fans, especially if you enjoy the Italian way of doing things.


(1974)
Directed by Jeff Gillen and Alan Ormsby.
Starring Roberts Blossom, Cosette Lee, Micki Moore, Robert Warner, Pat Orr.

Since I grew up in a small town in Michigan, I’ve always found this film to be very creepy.  There were a few people in my town that could easily have been another Ed Gein.  Something like that could have be going on, and nobody would have ever know.  That’s the part that inspired Robert Bloch to write PSYCHO; that a small town America could be housing a terror that nobody was aware of.

While there are many high points in this movie, I think the real highlight is the performance giving by Roberts Blossom as the demented Ezra Cobb.  He does such incredible job, that it doesn’t even seem like he’s acting.  With his beady eyes, and the things he does with his face, really pulling off the innocence and ignorance that his character has, Blossom gives one of the best performances of a demented psycho.

The way the movie is filmed, in pseudo-documentary format, gives it an even more creepy feel to it, since it does seem like it is real.  The other actors here don’t seem like actors either, but normal small-town people, not even expecting something like that could be going on amongst them.

Though PSYCHO and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE were advertised they were based on Ed Gein, very little of it was actually true.  As I said, the only thing that Bloch took from it for his novel PSYCHO was that someone could be that crazy and be living in a small town with nobody aware of what was going on.  CHAINSAW did take it a little farther with the way the house was decorated and that Leatherface was wearing someone else face.  But other than that, it didn’t really follow any other details.  But DERANGED follows the story of Ed Gein pretty darn close.  There is the fact that he digs his mother up and brings her back home, which Gein didn’t do.  And other than changing his name from Ed Gein to Ezra Cobb, it stays very close to what really happened.  And once again, that is very unnerving when you think about what he was doing back then in the late 1950’s.

This has recently been released as a 30th Anniversary Special Edition in Germany.  It is a PAL Region 2 release, so you’ll need one of those region free players.  The quality of the print is very good, though it still has some grain and some scratch to it.  But I think that really does add to the effect of the film.  This isn’t a film that I would want to look brand-spanking-new.  A film like this needs to be a little gritty.

DERANGED was released in the States in a double feature DVD with MOTEL HELL by MGM in one of their Midnight Movie series.  But unfortunately, it was the cut print.  It was missing the sequence where Cobb spoons out an eyeball from a severed head, then saws the top off and removes the brain. But in this German release, that sequence is in the there.  But the quality of that sequence is very noticeably different from the rest of the film.  It obviously was taken from another source and spliced in.  But that is a very little complaint.

The DVD comes with several extras, including some rare behind-the-scene footage that was filmed during the making of the movie.  There is no sound, but Tom Savini gives some audio commentary over it, which is pretty informative, when he’s not talking about being infatuated with a couple of the girls in the movie.  In a day where just about every new movie being made has a documentary made about the making of it, it’s great to see some actual footage from this film that was made 30 years ago.

There is also another feature, that I even hate to call a documentary.  It’s basically the producer of DERANGED, Tom Karr telling the story of Ed Gein, standing in the grass, apparently where Gein’s house was.  While it may be accurate, it’s still pretty lame.  Karr tries like hell to give the performance of a reporter or an authority on the subject.  He may be, but he comes across as just a bad actor.

The last documentary is called ED GEIN: AN AMERICAN MANIAC, an older one which feature some footage of Plainfield Wisconsin, where Gein lived, narrated by Richard Sarno.  It also tells the story of Ed Gein, but is more like what a documentary should be.

It also comes with a cool 24-page booklet, but unfortunately the text is in German.

There are also trailers on the disc.  All the menus are in German, though are very nicely animated I might add, but are still very easy to navigate.  You can watch the movie in the original English track, without subtitles.  So it’s basically the same as the MGM version, except it’s uncut.  If you are stickler for getting the uncut version, this really is the one for you.  The extras are just icing on the cake.  If you never picked up the MGM release, you really should invest the extra money and get this version.  That is of course, that you can play import discs.  Since this disc is still cheaper than what the uncut American video release was going for on eBay, so why not get it?


(2005)
Directed by Neil Marshall
Starring Shauna MacDonald, Natalie Mendoza, Alex Reid, Saskia Mulder, MyAnna Buring, Nora-Jane Noone

Director Marshall has broken not one, but two well documented theories with his last two films.  The first one was that if a film premiered on television (especially the Sci-Fi Channel) before hitting theaters or video, it meant that it was going to suck.  Such as CHERRY FALLS, BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR, and the list goes on.  So when DOG SOLDIERS was going to play on there, I never even bothered with it.  But once it hit DVD, and quite a few people were giving it quite a bit of praise, I decided to take that risky chance and give it a rent.  I went out and bought the DVD the next day.  That's how impress I was with it.

And as any seasoned horror fan knows, there just isn't any great movies about spelunking, caving, or whatever you want to call it.  Oh sure, there might be some ones that are so bad they're enjoyable in a bad way, such as THE STRANGENESS or ALIEN 2: ON EARTH.  But for a really good, not to mention scary films, they just don't happen.  So when I started to hear quite a few positive rumblings about THE DESCENT, I figured there was no way that director Marshall could break those rules twice in a row.  And he has done just that.

The story is very simple.  Six thrill-seeking women take a adventure exploring a cave.  It was a big change to see basically an all female cast in a horror movie.  While these are all tough and adventurous types, they still come across as very real people.  So during this adventure, things go bad when they become trapped down in the cave.  And then it gets worse when they discover that they are not down there alone.

I'm not really claustrophobic, though I think I would be if I had to crawl through some tight spots, like in the movie.  But even watching the movie, I could feel a slight bit of anxiety creeping up.  And since the movie takes place close to being in the dark, you also have that element in there to add to the mixture.

Marshall does an incredible job of filming what would have been damn near impossible to film on locations, to make this just about entirely on a soundstage.  At no point was I doubting the reality of where they were.  And even more shocking when you find out on the documentary that several of the sets were used over and over again, but just dressed differently.  That is some amazing work from the set design people.

Also, since most of the movie is in near darkness, Marshall does an awesome use of lighting and color schemes.  Some times the light is red from flares or fire, sometimes green, and sometimes a normal white light.  And the changing back and forth and the mood that these colors set is very effective. 

The make up for the creatures are a nice and effective job.  They are similar to a few creatures, such as some nosferatu-type vampires, and the title character from another British movie CREEP.  But none the less, still come across as very scary and something that you would not like to come across at any point, time, or place.

It's been a long time since we've enjoyed a nice old fashion horror movie like this one.  It will have the hairs standing up on the back of you neck, and even squirming in your seat during some of the tight squeeze sequences these women go through.

As I'm sure a lot of people have heard or read about Lions Gate deciding to cut the ending of the film, making it less downbeat, and then trying to say that they director was involved in that decision.  I think the only involvement was them saying "We're going to cut the ending or we don't release it...okay with you?"  So for that reason alone, I would highly recommend you seek out the original British release, which you can get from our buddies at Xploited Cinema.

But if that's not reason enough, there is more than just that in this 2-disc special edition DVD.  First of all, you get two different audio commentaries.  The first one is with the cast and director, and the second one is with the crew and director.  So you get two very different types of story and information about the making of the film, both informative and entertaining (especially the one with the cast).  There is also a making of featurette, extended scenes, outtakes, still galleries, cast and crew bios, trailers, and scene & storyboard comparisons.  Lots of info here folks.  Well worth every penny.  So why bother waiting for Lions Gate to finally release their cut version, when you can own your own uncut special edition right now???


DESECRATION
(1999)
Directed by Dante Tomaselli
Starring Irma St. Paule, Christie Sandford, Danny Lopes, Salvatore Paul Piro, Vincent Lamberti.

Typically, American films are pretty straightforward.  We tend to shy away from the European way of “style over substance” filmmaking.  Most of the American-movie-going-public (also known as ‘sheep’) doesn’t like to have to think about the movie they’re watching.  They want everything explained to them in detail, so they don’t have to ponder anything once they leave.  They want a nice neat story, with a beginning, middle and end.  Nothing confusing.

For this reason, I don’t think DESECRATION would of made it big amongst the Blockerbuster / Hollywood Video crowd.  By no means does this mean it’s a bad film.  DESECRATION is almost more of a montage of nightmare-ish images than a straightforward movie.  I give Tomaselli a lot of credit for making this type of movie, and not following what most low budget filmmakers are doing by doing typical slasher type films.

The film is about a teenage boy who lives in a Catholic boarding school.  His mother died when he was very young, which left him which some issues.  After an accident with a nun and a remote control plane, things really start to get weird.  You don’t really know if what you’re being shown is a dream (or nightmare rather), or if it’s really happening.

There are several scenes with a faceless nun wandering around outside of people’s windows.  That is a creepy image.  There is also one of the priests teaching at the school  that was very creepy.  Not some decrepit old guy, but a young man who seemed like there was something else going on in his head.  One of my favorite scenes is with a nun who is having trouble getting a candle to light.  It’s a very simple sequence, but I found it disturbing.  For the gore fans out there, while there isn’t tons of gore, there is one sequence with a nun and a pair of scissors that you should enjoy.  There is also a very twisted scene with the young boy locked up in a small cage in a room full of oversized toys, while this mother squirts milk from a bottle at him.  Pretty damn twisted.

But I must admit a few negative points in the film.  First of all, bloody and demonic nuns are nothing new to the horror genre.  From Mattei’s THE OTHER HELL, to Fulci’s DEMONIA, to Baino’s DARK WATERS, this image has been used many times.  So I can’t give Tomaselli any credit for originality when it comes to that part of the film.  But I’m sure his religious upbringing had more do with him coming up with this than any other influences.  The only other bad point would be the accident with the airplane and the nun.  It was almost comedic.  If that was the feeling that he was going for, it worked. But if he was going for that feeling, it really didn’t fit in with the rest of the film.  My only suggestion would have been to show it either off camera, with shadows, or some other way.

For a low budget film that was shot on 16mm, it was done really well.  No shaky camera work here folks.  Plus the quality of the print was very impressive.  The film started its life as a 23-minute short film made back in 1996.  Then after getting positive feedback, Tomaselli (pictured right) decided to make it into a feature film.  The budget started at $30,000 and ended up at $150,000.  Tomaselli’s uncle, Alfred Sole, directed another religious orientated theme movie, COMMUNION (aka ALICE, SWEET ALICE).  It must run in the family.

The best thing about this film is the promise that it shows for the director.  He has finished his second film, simply called HORROR.  From the look of the trailer, it looks very much in the same style of DESECRATION, filled with great imagery.  One can only hope that when Hollywood comes knocking on his door, he holds onto that way of thinking and doesn’t get sucked in the void called commercialism. 


THE DEVIL MASTER 
aka THE DEMON LOVER, COVEN, DEMON TOWER, MASTER OF EVIL

(1976)
Directed by Donald G. Jackson & Jerry Younkins

I picked up the video THE DEMON LOVER, put out by Unicorn Video, at a video store in Florida while on vacation strictly due to the box art.  I later found out that this little film made back in 1976, was filmed in the city Jackson, Michigan, which is about 30 miles from where I grew up.  But even if that was reason enough, I never got around to watching it.

Then more recently, I picked up a copy of THE DEVIL MASTER on Regal Video.  After doing a little research, I discovered that it was re-titled version of DEMON LOVER.  So now that I have two different tapes of the same movie, I figured it would be a good time to watch the damn thing.  I put in THE DEVIL MASTER version first.

It’s the story of a group of hoodlums that look to be in their late 20’s, who are experimenting in the occult, lead by a dude that look kind of like the cowardly lion from WIZARD OF OZ.  Apparently when they’re done drinking and partying, the girls take off their clothes and they have a little devil worshipping.  Of course, we don’t get to see any of that.  One of the members is fed up with their so-called leader and decides to leave, which causes everybody to leave.  Then one of the members is found dead, killed as if by some “wild animal”.  As the rest of the members fear for their lives, as one by one they meet a gruesome demise; the police are investigating the murders.

The “demon” is somebody wearing a mask and what looks like some sort of bearskin.  The always use lots of smoke and quick cuts so you don’t get too long of a look at it.  Some of the murders are pretty bloody.  Not gory, but bloody.

The acting is simply terrible.  Some of them are so bad that it’s entertaining, such as the guy playing the detective.  But the rest of the cast is pretty bad.  Of course you do have Gunnar Hansen playing a professor who’s an expert in occult studies, and only has one scene in the film.  There’s another actor doing his best Frank Zappa impersonation, which is pretty good.  If I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn that was him. The characters names like Peckinpah, Frazetta, Ackerman, Ormsby, and Romero.

One of the directors, Jackson, went on to do such cult items as HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN and it’s sequel, along with the ROLLER BLADE SEVEN films.

Other than the party scene in the beginning, which had me on the floor laughing during the dancing part, the film is pretty forgettable.  The acting is so amateurish that it takes any and all realism of the film away, making it really hard to enjoy other than on a camp basis.

The main difference between the two versions is quite a bit.  THE DEMON LOVER has almost all the blood cut from the film.  The cuts are so bad that it’s really obvious that something was missing.  Also there is a full-frontal nude scene in the beginning that is completely cut out.  But the party sequence in the beginning of the film is much longer in DEMON LOVER than it is in THE DEVIL MASTER.  Which really means that I’m going to have to keep both copies of this damn movie!


(1973)
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Starring Belinda Montgomery, Shelly Winters, Robert Foxworth, Jonathan Frid, Martha Scott, Joseph Cotton,
Barbara Sammeth, Diane Ladd, Lucille Benson, Thelma Carpenter, Abe Vigoda

Ah yes, another made-for-TV movie from the 70’s.  Back in a time where you could have a made-for-TV about the offspring of Satan.  Those were the days….

Wild Eye DVD has released another great little movie that might not be too well known amongst horror fans.  But back in the 70’s, the television was filled with the horror genre.  From the work of Dan Curtis, to the other major studios, horror was a big deal back then.  You could also have a lot of stars or at least familiar faces in the film.  Movie stars weren’t afraid to do a movie-of-the-week every now and then.

It also wasn’t uncommon to have a satanic subject matter either.  Some of which didn’t even have the happiest of endings either. That’s something that usually doesn’t happen to often these days.  Folks don’t like their downer endings.

THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER is about Diane, a young woman who arrives home after the sudden death of her mother.  We know from the opening sequence that her death wasn’t an accident, but something involving a cult of some sort.  At the funeral, she is befriended by a Lilith, a woman who says that she was a dear friend of her mother’s.  Lilith demands that she stays with her until she can find a place of her own.  There, the young woman meets Lilith’s strange friends who all seem to know a lot about her.

The longer she stays; Diane starts to think that the nightmares that she’s been having might have something to do with her host and her friends.  But is it too late to do something to change what she has been dreaming about?

Belinda Montgomery plays Diane, and is perfectly cast.  She gives off that innocent and sad character thrown into a situation that she can not control.  70’s mainstay Robert Foxworth plays her love interest, while the loud Shelly Winters plays Lilith, another well cast member.  Her butler is played by Jonathon Frid, fresh from his role from Dark Shadows.  Other known faces are Joseph Cotton and Abe Vigoda.

One of the strengths of the movies of those times were the actors.  They really were there to give it their all.  It didn’t matter if it was made-for-TV movie about Satan.  It seemed more about acting than about not wanting to be associated with a certain type of movie or subject matter.  I really miss that.

I found this to be a pretty decent movie for that time, as well as even watching it today.  Sure, it might be a little dated, but I think it still holds up today.  Granted, you may see the ending coming before it gets there, but it’s still a cool ending.

The quality of the new DVD release from Wild Eye is highly watchable.  It doesn’t look like it’s been re-mastered or anything.  But to be honest, I actually prefer my 70’s TV movies to have that look, like they were made some 30+ years ago.  For me, it gives a sure spark of nostalgic.  But for newer fans, the print is still good enough to watch and enjoy.  Unfortunately, the disc comes with no extras whatsoever.


THE DEVIL'S GIFT
(1984)
Directed by Kenneth J. Berton.
Starring John Mendleson

Nothing highly original, THE DEVIL'S GIFT is yet another variation of the "home invaded by evil spirits" genre.  This time around, the family is infested by a demon that has managed to possess one of those creepy-looking little mechanical monkeys (same as was seen in the ads for Romero's MONKEY SHINES, wearing the goofy little outfit and holding onto cymbals that it bangs together)--and why someone would think this is the ideal "cutsie" toy for any child is totally beyond me (they certainly have the weird child-scaring effect that clowns exude).  This toy has somehow been salvaged from a fire in the beginning of the film, ended up in a junk store, and is bought as a birthday gift for lucky little Michael.  And not long after, strange events begin plaguing the family.  Everytime the demonic toy is about to do something nasty, we see an orange glow come over its eyes...and when you hear the sound of its cymbals coming together, watch out...somebody (or something) has bit the dust.  The little dude starts its antics by killing on a smaller scale.  The house plants wilt and die, a fly drops dead, the goldfish ends up laying at the bottom of its bowl, pet doggie "Sparkle" ends up cold on the garage floor...and we're only getting warmed-up here, cuz the family members themselves are next (well, duh).

The film tends to trudge along very predictably, leaving the viewer merely waiting for the repetitive close-ups of the monkey's soon-to-be glowing eyes and the revelation of who's gonna be taken out next.  There's a couple of attempts on little Michael's life by his dad's live-in girlfriend Susan (she is possessed by the demon that has possessed the toy monkey...did ya get all that?) that are interrupted at the very last minute before the little cymbals can signal another success.  Maybe the director is trying to insinuate that the father, "living in sin" as some would say, having shacked-up with some chick he's not married to (especially since she bought the toy in the first place) has invited tragedy into their home.  Who knows.  I really don't think this stuff is quite as "deep" as that, though...

Dad (John Mendleson) prevents one "accident" by putting his hand between the cymbals at the last minute as they're coming together.  (I'd like to say this is an edge-of-the-seat moment in the flick...but it ain't.)  Obviously realizing that the tragic events are linked to the toy, the father makes some futile attempts to dispose of the monkey (experienced viewers will be laughing it up, knowing damn well that putting a demon-possessed toy in a garbage can out on the curb, or burying it in a shallow hole in the ground, just ain't gonna cut it!).  And the poor guy can't get any professional assistance either...the local psychic merely wants to offer him advice (amounting to "get rid of it!") and a protective amulet, but won't come to the home and help out with its disposal (supposedly claiming that the demon "will sense her aura"...a likely excuse to stay the heck out of the whole
mess).

Minimal gore is seen only in brief dream sequences, wherein we also get our only glimpse of the actual demon itself (big, furry, and not-too-well-done), as it rakes its claws across daddy's face...which is, in fact, the ONLY moment of the film that could be considered gory anyway.  There's no nudity other than a shower scene, and oddly enough it's the male lead who is featured (very unusual for this genre).  Mendleson is trapped in the shower and gets sprayed with scalding hot water, then blood, and, lastly some stuff that looks like feces and/or mud (either way, dad looks pretty sickened by the substance as he tries to clamber over the glass shower doors).

THE DEVIL'S GIFT is one of those oddball horror titles released by the very prolific Vestron Video (a name well-known to seasoned horror videophiles) back in the 80's that didn't appear to be anything exceptionally noteworthy (judging from the box artwork and cast)...and really isn't.  I don't think I recall ever reading any printed review of the film, or else forgot about it because the critic didn't have anything nice to say, and offered no strong recommendation to check this one out.  But...if you start watching it, chances are you'll be interested enough to hang-out for the duration (if nothing else, just to see if the morons ever figure out how to destroy the cymbal-slamming little bastard!).  The supposed "twist ending" is no great surprise.  And without the minimal gore inserted, THE DEVIL'S GIFT could have easily been a dated "made-for-TV" flick (and more people probably would have seen it).

Review by Jon Stone


(1975)
Directed by Robert Fuest
Starring Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner, Ida Lupino, Eddie Albert, Tom Skerritt, Keenan Wynn.

This movie was released on DVD a few years ago by VCI Entertainment in a bare-bones edition.  It looked nice and was in 2.35:1, but that was about it.  But now Dark Sky Films have re-issued with it, with a brand new transfer and some interesting extras.

This is the film that originally I kind of laughed at the thought of Ernest Borgnine playing a evil character.  From his days of McHALE’S NAVY to even more recently of doing voice work on SpongeBob Squarepants, I just couldn’t see him as a bad guy, let alone as some demonic force.  But this film will change all of that.

The film starts out with the credits showing over the beautiful and disturbing artwork of devils and demons.  Then the movie opens at a local ranch house in the pouring rain.  The family is waiting for the father to return.  Ida Lupino plays the nervous mother, and William Shatner is the son.  When the father does show up, he tells them to give Corbis (Borgnine) back his book, what rightly belongs to him.  And then proceeds to melt away in the rain.

The next day, Shatner goes to find Corbis at an old abandoned ghost town.  This is one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  Borgnine plays the sequence so straight and almost friendly.  But underneath that, you can sense the seriousness and deep evil of the character.  And that is when he becomes scary.  Shortly there after, the younger son of the family, played by Tom Skerritt, and his wife arrive to help.  And then they learn, in a great flashback sequence, of the ancient curse that has been haunting their family for years and years.

The film has an all-star cast that really brings up the film higher than it normally would, with this subject matter.  You also have Eddie Albert coming in as an Occult expert who tries to help the family defeat this evil.  Even 70’s regular Keenan Wynn makes an appearance as the local sheriff.  Shatner does do his usual over acting bit, but not as much as he’s really known for.  Yea, John Travolta is in the movie, as the front of the box proudly promotes.  But he is really only in a few scenes, and has the eye-less makeup on.  You can tell it's him, but barely.

I'm not really sure why this film tends to get the "it's so bad it's good" moniker.  Yea, Shatner is Shatner.  But I think everything else is played pretty straight, and done well.  And I still think Borgnine plays a great evil character here.  Filmed in beautiful 2.35:1 ratio, giving us great wide landscape shots.  Really puts the mood of being out in the middle of no-where. 

The makeup effects were done by Ellis Burman Jr. and are really some of the best melting effects that I’ve seen.  Keep in mind, this was made back in 1975.  But the effects are gruesome, gory, and realistic.  The “eyeless” makeup are also the best I’ve seen.  Usually the forehead it built out so much that it distorts the fact.  But here it is kept to a minimum, and it gives truly a haunting image.  And let’s not forget the demon makeup for Borgnine.  A job well done for sure.  But the real highlight is the melting effects.  I don't know how long it must have taken them to shoot those scenes, but it must have been grueling for those actors.  But none the less, the effect is the probably the best melting sequence I've seen using real actors.  Truly unforgetable.

This disc comes with audio commentary from the director Robert Fuest, being moderated by Marcus Hearn.  My only complaint would be that at times Fuest gets caught up in the movie, since he had seen it in a long time.  But that shows just how good it is.  But Hearn does a good job bringing him back into job at hand.  They cover everything from Fuest early career, to working with Vincent Price on the PHIBES movies to even working on the original Avengers TV series.  Very interesting stuff.

But other than the commentary, here is where the extras fall short.  There is some very short newsreel footage from a marriage being performed by Anton LeVay, the leader of The Church of Satan.  It is only a few minutes long.  LeVay worked at technical adviser on this film.  But it would have been nice to maybe get some interviews from some of the other cast members, such as Shatner, Skerritt, and even Borgnine.  Though I do have to say that the box art for this DVD is awesome.  Whoever they got to do the graphics on the front and even better the shot as Borgnine in his demon makeup on the inside of the sleeve..

But none the less, even just with those extras, the print looks amazing, and is worth every penny.  If you are a fan of the 70’s occult movies, then this is a must.  Actually, it should be a required viewing by any up-and-coming horror fan. Got to know your history.  Sure, you might find some of the acting a bit overboard, I don't agree with most of that.  Just see if you don't think Ernest Borgnine plays one of the evilest Satan worshiper out there!


THE DEVIL'S UNDEAD
(1972)
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Diana Dors, Georgia Brown, Keith Barron, Gwynneth Strong

Cushing and Lee together again in this mystery / thriller, except this time they are on the same side. They team together to investigate the mysterious accidental deaths of the members of a wealthy trust fund, who are running an orphanage.

This is definitely not one of the better Cushing / Lee films. It seems to have a lot of potential, but nothing really comes of it.  This was the first and only film that was produced by Charlemagne, a production company owned by Lee and Anthony Nelson Keys, another Hammer alumni, who was one of the producer for many of their later films. The film was based on a book entitled NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT, which is the original title for the film as well. To be honest, neither title has really anything to do with the film, especially THE DEVIL’S UNDEAD.


(2007)
Directed by George Romoero
Starring Joshua Close, Scott Wentworth, Michelle Morgan, Joe Dinicol,
Shawn Roberts, Amy Ciupak, Philip Ricco, Megan Park, Chris Violette

I know a lot of fans were excited that Romero was going back to his filmmaking roots and making his next picture not only independent, but going for a very low budget.  Since he’s had trouble working with the studios over the years, by doing it this way he figured he would be able to make the film the way he wanted to.  And for that, I give him tons of credit.

Diary is not a remake or a sequel to the Dead series.  It is a modern day version of what happened when the zombie outbreak first happened.  As if it started today, instead of back in 1968.  A group of young film students are out filming a low budget horror movie, when the news comes over the radio about some attacks by strange people that were apparently dead.  It seems these attacks are becoming more and more widespread.  Jason, the director the student film, decides to document the events that are going on around him using his camera.  As they say a few times in the film, if it doesn’t happen on camera, it didn’t happen.  So they start to make their way back to their homes, in hopes of finding something other than walking corpses.

Luckily, the camera work for Diary is not the nausea-inducing shots that I was worried about.  The shots are pretty much straight forward, with a few jerky shots thrown in here and there.  Nothing like compared to Cloverfield.  They created an effective mood and at times build some really nice suspense and tension.  Though, I still have a problem with a character deciding it more important to keep filming something, like their friend being attacked by a zombie, then to put the camera down and help them.  Sorry folks, but to me that stops my suspension of disbelief quicker than a 30ft CGI monster attacking New York City.

The gore is top-notched here, but there is a very minimal amount, when compared to the previous Dead films.  The makers do a great job combining practical effects with the use of CGI for blood splattering and whatnot.  It works well enough to where you won’t notice it.  They also pull off some new and interesting ways of killing zombies that we haven’t seen before, such as the zombie with the melting head.  Nicely done, folks.

Now I am a huge fan of Romero’s work and have never disliked anything that he has done.  And that hasn’t changed with this film.  But I do think that as a filmmaker, Romero has changed.  I feel that he’s more concerned about giving a message with his films more than make them entertaining.  In Land of the Dead, the political overtones were very, very strong.  But that is nothing compared to the social commentary that Romero makes here in Diary.  That’s not saying that a film cannot have a message.  But to me, I want to be entertained first and foremost.

Sure, we all know that Night, Dawn, and Day of the Dead, all had Romero’s commentary in there.  And that’s fine.  But here’s my feelings and the way that I like to explain it.  With the first three Dead films, the zombies were the main course of the film, with a little seasoning of commentary.  The commentary wasn’t so strong of flavor that you couldn’t enjoy the main meal, without tasting it.  It was there if you wanted to, but not enough to distract you from the main course.  With Land, that seasoning became a side dish.  Once again, the main dish was still the zombie action, but the commentary became more prevalent within the whole meal.  With Diary, the commentary has now become the entrée with the zombies moving to the side dish status.  Make sense?

I know that society has changed dramatically with the invasion of the internet, cell phone cameras, and the instant media.  And it’s great that Romero wanted to use that as his central theme for this movie.  But I just feel that it took center stage in this production and outweighed anything else in the film.  Call me selfish, but for me, I just wanted a good old-fashion Romero zombie movie.

Dimension has released Diary on their “Extreme” label for some reason.  But none the less, they do an exceptional job with the extras.  The film has audio commentary by Romero, DP Adam Swica, and Editor Michael Doherty.  There is also a great documentary on the making the film, which is broken up into different sections.  They cover Romero, the actors, the makeup effects, the use of CGI, and more.  Very informative, and very well done.  There is also a set visit, “character confessions”, audio cameos, as well as the five winners from the MySpace zombie short film contest.

Of course, if you are a Romero fan, or even just a zombie movie fan, you will have to watch this film.  It is a necessity, if even just because it’s directed by George Romero.  The man is an icon in the genre, and fans need to keep supporting a guy who has consistently worked outside of the Hollywood system to try to make films the way he wants to.


DIE MONSTER DIE!
(1965)
Directed by Daniel Haller
Starring Boris Karloff, Suzan Farmer, Nick Adams, Freda Jackson.

Based on the story by H.P. Lovecraft, THE COLOUR OUT OF SPACE, Boris Karloff as a man who is harnessing the radiation from a fallen meteorite to make his garden grow to new heights...and life.  Nick Adams plays the love interests of Karloff's daughter, played by Suzan Farmer.  After his wife, played wonderfully by Freda Jackson, has been turned into a monster from the radiation, Karloff decides to destroy it, but is it too late?

This is one of those films that I remember seeing from my childhood, that I still think holds up today.  I remember the "Zoo from Hell" really gave me the creeps during the first viewing.

This is another great DVD put out by MGM on under their Midnight Movie selection.  The movie is great quality, and is presented in 2.35:1 ratio.  The DVD also comes with the trailer.  Not too much for extras, but at this price and this quality, you can't go wrong.


(2008)
Directed by Simona & Claudio Simonetti
Starring Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Robert Madison, Urbano Lione, Beatrice Arnera Gavarotti

People might thing that short films are much easier to do than feature films.  But it's really the opposite when it comes to telling a good and powerful story.  You only have a limited time to get your point across.  So every second counts.  And when you have a story that packs a punch like The Dirt does, you better make sure you have a good enough cast to deliver that punch.  After watching this short, I feel like I went 10 rounds with a George Foreman.

Coralina plays a newlywed young woman, who seems to have some deep rooted issues.  As the story progresses, her problems start to come to the surface, unfolding her dark and terrible past.  The last few minutes of this short film will have you leaning forward in your chair, eyes wide open.  And then out of left field, they throw you another curve that will having you scratching your head for a days later.

While this is only a short film, for any actor to be on the screen pretty much the whole time, really needs to be able to carry it.  Coralina's performance made my heart ache.  With such a troubled and haunting past, the viewer can feel her pain, even if we don't know the reasons yet.  And then when we do, the pain goes even deeper.

Written and directed by Simona & Claudio Simonetti (of Goblin fan), they create an incredible story that really makes an impact on any viewer.  It's one thing that nobody can watch and not be affected in some way or another.

Not sure how available this film is, but if you get a chance to see it, I would highly recommend checking it out.  It is one that you will not forget anytime soon.


(2002)
Directed by Neil Marshall|
Starring Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Liam Cunningham, Emma Cleasby, Thomas Lockyer, Darren Morfitt, Chris Robson, Leslie Simpson

This film broke a sure fire pattern as how to tell when a movie is going to be terrible.  Before a film came out on video (or theaters for that matter), if it played on TV, this is always a bad sign.  For example, take CHERRY HILLS, WISHMASTER 2, and LOS MUERTOS: VAMPIRES 2.  These films were all shown on cable months before the video release.

But DOG SOLDIERS played on the Sci-Fi Channel, in I believe an edited form, a month or two before it came out.  So I didn’t really give it that much thought.  How good could it be if they sold it for a TV presentation?  After been given some high praises from a couple of 'respectable' sources, we figured we'd give it a whirl.  Well, like I said, it broke the pattern.

The basic story is about a group of Army grunts that are in a combat training mission when all goes to hell.  They come across what’s left of a Special Forces unit that has been wiped out by something pretty damn mean, leaving no bodies, but few organs scattered about and lots of blood.  The soldiers end up making to an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, trying to make their stand until morning.

Yea, one could draw upon some similarities to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD…a bunch of people trapped in an isolated house, defending themselves against werewolves instead of zombies.  There are even a couple of people that we question whether they might be “changing” sides, so to speak.  But even with these, I don’t think it detracts from the movie.

Although on one interesting note, back in late 80’s at a convention, Tom Savini was talking about the new remake of NIGHT that was being worked on.  He said that one of the ideas that they had was to make it in both color and black and white, with the black and white footage being the zombie’s point of view.  Well, in DOG, that is exactly what they do.  And it does add a nice effect for the movie.

They do a good job of not showing too much of the creatures early on, showing a little more each time.  These werewolves are the same type as in THE HOWLING, walking upright on the back legs.  While they are very menacing, I’ve always preferred the four-legged types.  It’s just kind of hard to see these creatures moving that fast.  But that’s just me being picky…to each his own.

The only recognizable face to me was that of Sean Pertwee.  I fondly remember him from TALOS THE MUMMY.  Here he gives another great performance, although a little bit more restrained than in TALOS.  The rest of the characters are good, with Liam Cunningham playing the hard-ass Special Forces commander who is trying to set new standards in being an asshole.  The rest of the team play well off each other, filling out the cast rather well.

The film is filled with it's share of action and tension as the team try to hold their base as the enemy slowly closes in, taking them out one by one.  The film also does a great job intertwining the action genre with horror really well.  As stated in the documentary, this is a army movie with werewolves.  There is also some humor in the film, but none of the stupid kind that seems to be prevalent in horror films of late.

The DVD was released by Artisan and comes with a few extra features.  It has audio commentary by producers David Allen and Brian O'Toole.  There is also a great little featurette that runs close to 20 minutes.  It features interviews with the major cast, the director and producers, and even special effects man Bob Keen.  It's pretty cool, and shows a lot of behind-the-scenes information.  It also viewable in both widescreen and full frame, and comes with the trailer.

We found this one to be very entertaining, and a nice changed to a lot of the more recent crap, such as the highly overrated GINGER SNAPS.  Another nice addition to the collection.


DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE
(1980)
Directed by Joseph Ellison
Starring Dan Grimaldi, Robert Osth, Ruth Dardick, Johanna Brushay, O'Mara Leary, Gail Turner.

A rather distasteful, vulgar horror film that is highly exemplary of the output that started surfacing in the meager 80's and is worth a look simply for its somewhat nostalgic value.  In fact, the film was released in 1980, the same timeframe that we were treated to MANIAC and THE BURNING, and altogether these make for one hell of an unattractive threesome sharing numerous similar motifs (incinerated victims, madmen being subjected to justice for their crimes via pseudo-supernaturally-resurrected victims) but one cannot be certain as to which film came up with these themes first (not that anything about these el-cheapo gorefests could be considered original anyway), and this particular instance utilizes the ol' DON'T title that Hallmark started in the seventies and by now had been overused to the point to tedium.

The all-too mandatory psycho of this outing suffers from painful memories of having his arms burned by his mother when being punished, gas burners on the stove proving to be highly-effective when it comes to disciplinary action (long before we had 'Time-Out').  As if the unappealing child abuse flashbacks aren't bad enough, the results of such bad treatment are mindlessly-equated to the grown son therefore having an obsession with fire, to the point he installs a crematorium within his home, complete with asbestos suit and flamethrower.

The success-rate with which he easily lures women into his home and the fiery chamber is more than ludicrous.  Exhibiting little or no attractive qualities whatsoever (he's a goofy-looking nerd who talks about his mama non-stop), he none the less has no problem with pick-up lines like "Why dontcha lemme give you a ride home?" almost immediately following initial introductions...so therefore the viewer is usually left feeling little or no sympathy for a slew of young women who end up looking like giant Slim Jim's
within the incineration parlor, after which they're propped up in a comfy chair to keep dear ol' Mom company (difficult for a charred old bitch to meet people).

The "ugliness" of DON'T GO IN THE HOUSE hinders any possibilities of enjoying this flick via unintentional hilarities...the "Mama's boy" theme and insinuations of repressed homosexuality (he's called a "fag" throughout the entire film) make for an overly-crass treatment given to the overused PSYCHO storyline.  Throw in some really obnoxious disco music and silk shirts a la SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, and what you've got here is a really sick little flick that'll have most viewers scowling with extreme displeasure by the time its ninety-some minutes has mercilessly assaulted us.

Although a mandatory addition to the collection only because of it's DON'T-series status, the ads tell it like it is..."YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!"

Reviewed by Jon Stone


DON'T OPEN THE DOOR
(1975)
Directed by S.F. Brownrigg
Starring Susan Bracken, Larry O'Dwyer, Gene Ross, James N. Harrell, Hugh Feagin, Annabelle Weenick, Rhea MacAdams, John Steakley

The young and headstrong Amanda Post, played by Susan Bracken, arrives to see her dying grandmother after a mystery phone call.  She hasn't been back to the house where she grew up in 13 years, after her mother was murdered during the night.  Once she arrives there, she finds many strange things going on, and has many questions.  Such as why her grandmother isn't in the hospital.  And why is there a judge and the owner of a local museum both have their hearts set on getting the house when the old lady dies.  But she doesn't seemed to take shit from any of the locals who are trying to tell her what is best for her grandmother.

The characters that she finds in her grandmother's house when she arrives are about as sleazy as you can get.  First the Judge.  Not sure if he really is a judge, but that's why everybody calls him.  He is played by Gene Ross, a regular to Brownrigg's films.  He even had little parts genre classics in FRIDAY THE 13th: THE FINAL CHAPTER and HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS.  In this film though, he is in dyer need for someone to cut the last two strands of hair from his otherwise balding forehead.  But none the less, Ross plays character with so much sleaze that if you were to touch him, your hand would probably come away greasy.  The other strange character in the film is played by Larry O'Dwyer, who is the owner of the museum in town.  He also fits of the part of a local small town creep perfectly, who seems to have a thing for dolls, both big and small.

Soon after spending time in the house, Amanda starts receiving phone calls from someone with a whispering voice, who seems to be watching her from inside the house.  Well, after a couple of shots of the mysterious caller, we know who it is.  But why is he in the house?  And what's with the dolls?

Once the music started in the very beginning, I would of sworn this film was Italian made.  There are some great camera shots, and a lot of atmosphere going on here.  And one of the great things about this movie, is that even after the movie is over with, you're still not sure what is going on!  Some may call it poor writing, but I found it very interesting that the story wasn't the biggest part of the film, but the characters and the way it was filmed.

This film may not be for everyone.  But if you enjoy those bizarre little low budget films from the late 70's, you will get some enjoyment out of this film.

VCI Entertainment has done another great job bringing us another low budget classic, that probably looks better now then it ever has.  While still a tad bit grainy in bits, it's gives it that feeling of the 70's drive ins.  But the quality is still pretty damn impressive.  The disc comes with a bio of the director Brownrigg, the original theatrical trailer, along with a few other horror trailers.


(2008)
Directed by Neil Marshall
Starring Rhona Mitra, Bob Hoskins, Malcolm McDowell, Craig Conway, MyAnna Buring,
Sean Pertwee, Alexander Siddig, David O’Hara, David Morfitt, Les Simpson

In my eyes, Neil Marshall can do no wrong.  With this first film, Dog Soldiers, he had taken the worn-out werewolf theme and breathed new life into it, making a kick-ass military action film with some nasty lycanthropes thrown in.  He also broke new grounds by making The Descent, a film about spelunking (cave exploring) that was not only entertaining, but also damn scary as well!  So we were excited to see his latest and biggest budgeted film yet.

With Doomsday, Marshall seemed to have taken a bunch of films that he loved, such as Escape From New York and the Mad Max films, throw them into a blender and hit puree.  I feel that is the biggest problem with the film, that it’s basically a big dumb-fun movie.  One that you just sit back and applaud at the action, the violence, and stuff blowing up.  I believe that was what Marshall was trying to do.  And that’s fine.  My only issue is that I think that his first two films are much more intelligent than big dumb-fun.  So I had expected a little more here.

Does that mean it’s a bad movie?  No way.  It’s a lot of fun.  You have some great car chase sequences with some very cool stunts and shit blowing up.  The car sequences are right out of Road Warrior.  The designs of the cars are pretty unique as well, with the leader of the cannibalistic gang having his car covered in human skin.  Bet that smells real good in the hot sun.  There is little more hand-to-hand fighting going on during the car chases, which make the action even better.  It was nice to see good old fashion car stunts, with lots of body carnage along the way.  I guess with all the CGI these days, we had forgotten how cool the real stunts can be.

Plus, gorehounds won't be disappointed by some of the gore in there, which is done quite well.  You have some heads getting blown off, bodies being torn up, and a nasty burning body bit.  You even have a sci-fi element with come kick-ass futuristic military weapons.  Marshall does a great job of setting up the future, but also taking us back into the past to the days of knights and castles, without leaving the same time period.  Sure there might be some suspension of belief issues, but not enough that bogged down the story for me.

The story is about a plague that starts to run rapid in Scotland.  So to keep it contained, they seal off the country with huge steel walls, shooting anything that comes close to the parameter.   Many years later, there somehow survivors still living in Scotland.  When the plague starts to show up in England, they sent a group of highly trained military squad into Scotland to hopefully find the man who might have a cure.  Unfortunately, there are a bunch of psychotic, cannibalistic renegades running around.

Rhona Mitra does an excellent job as the one brought in to lead the military team.  Even though she’s a woman, she shows that she’s tough as steel when it comes to her job.  Sean Pertwee plays one of the scientists who are going along on the trip in hope of finding the cure.  We’ve always been a big fan of Pertwee’s work, so we’re always happy to see him on the screen.  Of course, I think the real standout of the movie is Craig Conway as Sol, the leader of renegades.  He looks like he’s just having a blast here.

Sure, this movie could have been a lot better.  But I really don’t think one could watch this and not get some entertainment out of it.  Granted, as I said, I would have expected a little more from Marshall.  But maybe after making a film like The Descent, he just wanted to have fun just blowing up a bunch of stuff.  Can you blame him?

The DVD release contains both the theatrical version and the unrated version, which runs 4 minutes longer.  The DVD contains audio commentary by director Marshall, and actors Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Rick Warden, and Les Simpson.  There are also some featurettes on the making of the film, covering the visual effects, the stunts and more.  Watching these featurettes amazes me once again how some of these things that we see on the screen are put together.  There’s a lot of stuff that us viewers take for granted, and don’t realize the amount of work that goes into it.  For instance, the huge military vehicles that are driven were built from scratch!  Not modified ex-military stuff, but completely designed and built from the drawings on the page.  That had to have been expensive, but pretty damn impressive.

Plus, the amazing work from the visual department showing us things that would have been impossible to do otherwise.  Seeing some of the parts where CGI was used to enhance the images were also very effective, and seamless.  That's when you know when the visual effects are done really well....when you didn't realize it was an effect.

The Blue-Ray version of the film features some extra features not available on the regular DVD edition.  What’s up with that???  I guess they’re really trying to get us to make that switch.

So in conclusion, should you rent this movie?  Definitely.  You will be entertained at some level.  Just go into it with your expectations for a fun and explosive ride, and you'll have a good time.


(1972)
Directed by Peter Sasdy
Starring Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson, John Paul, Simon Oates, Jean Trend, Joby Blanshard, George Sanders, Percy Herbert, Shelagh Fraser, George Woodbridge

This 1972 movie was based on a BBC TV series from 1970-1972, which dealt with a governmental agency called Doomwatch, that is in charge of watching for problems in the environmental areas of the world, like companies polluting water and such.  In this film, Ian Bannen plays Dr. Del Shaw, a member of Doomwatch, who goes to the remote island Balfe to check on the pollution content of the water, after some oil was spilled there a year ago.  But when he arrives, what he does find is a village full of very unfriendly people, who seemed to be hiding something from the outside world.

While not really a horror movie per say (then why am I watching it, you say?), it does star Ian Bannen.  I really enjoyed him in FRIGHT and in one of the segments in FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE.  And the film was directed by Peter Sasdy, who really made his name in the horror genre working for Hammer in the early 70's.  He had directed COUNTESS DRACULA, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA and the much underrated HANDS OF THE RIPPER.  He also directed some of the episodes from Hammer's TV series.  And then lastly, the DVD was only $11, so how could you go wrong with a 70’s British movie for that price?

But beyond all that, the movie is kind of similar to THE WICKER MAN, with an outsider coming to a remote island only to find a village-wide cover-up of some sort.  Bannen does a great job as the Dr. Shaw, trying to help the people while consistently coming up against the brick walls of the community.  Judy Geeson plays a school teacher who is not a local, and decides to help Bannen discover the mystery behind all the strange happenings.

The film does a good job in the portrayal of the islanders who refuse to take any help from the outsider world.  They are afraid of losing their little community.  Plus it doesn't help when the local priest is convincing them that what is happening to them is some sort of vengeance from God for some past sin.

The film does seem like a made-for-tv movie, or something that our favorite Prof. Quatermass would be showing up at any more.  Or Dr. Who for that matter.  But that is not a bad thing now is it?  I’ve always enjoyed British tv series, as well as a lot of their films from the 70’s.  And this one is no different.  The payoff isn’t as big as one could hope, but for me, Bannen only is worth the watch.  But then, that’s just my opinion.

The DVD was put out by Image Entertainment as part of their Euroshock Collection.  It is in 1.33:1 format, with no extras.


(2005)
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Elio Germano, Chiara Conti, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Cristina Brondo, Ivan Morales, Edoardo Stoppa, Elena Maria Bellini

I've had a hell of a time with this review.  I have even gone back and re-watched the film a second time.  Upon my first viewing, I did enjoy the film for the most part.  It seems to be Argento was trying to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock and his films.  The plot is taken from basically two of Hitchcock's films, REAR WINDOW and STRANGER ON A TRAIN.  This is no spoiler, since it's pretty obvious, especially with STRANGERS.

Elio Germano plays Giulio, a young film student.  The apartment he lives in has a window that faces another apartment complex, somewhat like in REAR WINDOW, where he can watch many of his different neighbors.  There is an opening sequence with Giulio as a young boy, which seems to serve no purpose other than to show us that he likes to spy on people.

And then a murder takes place in the apartment across from his window.  Giulio starts to believe that the murderer has taken a hint from Hitchcock's STRANGER ON A TRAIN and that there is another murder that will take place.  So he starts to investigate on his own.  Elisabetta Rocchetti plays Sasha, the girl across the street that keeps Giulio glued to the window, and you can understand why.  Roocchetti was in the last two Argento movies, and also Sergio Stivaletti's THE WAX MASK.

So the problem is that the plot is pretty easy to figure out, even if you haven't seen the Hitchcock films, mainly since the characters tell you what their plots are.  So that would leave the only way to make this film interesting, is to build up the suspense.  There are times when Argento does that, but I almost feel it's mainly due to his own style that is seeping through, not by trying to imitate Hitchcock's.  But then there's not enough to really hold that suspense throughout the film.

And then there's the ending.  It was one of those where I sat up in my chair and thought, "That's it?"  It tries so hard to be suspenseful and trying to be like Hitchcock, but in the end, it doesn't.  And that's very disappointing.  The script really needed some fine tweaking.  During the last 10 to 15 minutes, I was thinking that something was going to come out of nowhere and really hook you.  But it just doesn't happen.  It ends just like you think it's going to.

Instead of the usual type of music that Argento is known for in his suspense/thrillers, this time out he used composer Pino Donnagio.  If you're expecting another type of score like from Goblin, you will be disappointed.  But Donnagio, as always, creates a nice score for the film.  But I felt that it just didn't fit Argento's style.

And that may be one of the problems with this film.  I was expecting an Argento film.  Not a Hitchcock film, or one trying to be like Hitchcock.  I think that if he would have kept the same plot, but made it with more of his usual style, it might have been more enjoyable.  His look, feel and style of filmmaking would have covered up the plot holes, or would have at least made it easier to forgive.

But....if it's any consolation, I did enjoy this film better than his last one, THE CARD PLAYER.  So I guess the bottom line is that if you are a fan of Argento's films, you should enjoy this one.  And it's much better than those films he made in the 90's, by far.

The film was released by Studio Canal, in a PAL region 2 disc.  The movie is in widescreen (1.85) and looks great.  There is English dialog, but with forced French subtitles.


(1968)
Directed by Freddie Francis
Starring Christopher Lee, Veronica Carlson, Rupert Davies, Barry Andrews, Barbara Ewing, Ewan Hooper, Michael Ripper

I'm getting to be very jealous of newer fans of horror movies these days.  I remember saying up late one night to tape a copy of this movie when it was being shown on TNT.  Yea, we did have timers on our VCRs then...but you could never trust those things!  Like a lot of these Hammer movies, finding them on video was very hard, and usually were taking whatever copy we could get our little hands on.  But now this film, in all of it's glorious color, can be found at the local Best Buy for under $20.  Darn kids today...they don't know just how easy they have it!

Okay, enough complaining.  Let's get down to business.  This was the third Dracula film from Hammer that Christopher Lee honored us with.  And as usual, Hammer gives us a great cast to fill out their usual set designs.  While in the previous Hammer / Dracula film (DRACULA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS), Dracula didn't have any lines, or as Lee likes to say, none that were worth speaking.  But here, he does have a couple of lines here and there.  But Lee still gives a strong performance, giving Dracula a very menacing look, and one not to piss off.

The film starts off on a bit of a confusing note.  A girl is found dead in the church bell tower, hanging from inside the bell, blood flowing.  Since Dracula hasn't "risen from the grave" yet, who killed her?  Apparently the town is still under the evil spell of Dracula, even though he was thought to be destroyed years ago.  When the monsignor stops by the town and sees the terror in the townspeople, he takes the local priest up to Dracula's castle to end the reign of evil.  But while the monsignor is doing the prayer-thing, the other priests falls and lands on the ice, cracking it.  This just happens to be where our Count is still trapped after the end of the last movie.  And when the blood from the priest's wound seeps into the ice, and the mouth of Dracula...well, you know.  When the Count finds his castle desecrated, with a huge cross on the front door, he wants revenge on the monsignor who did it.  So Dracula and this priest, who is now under Drac's control, head off to the town where monsignor lives, so he can get his revenge.

The Monsignor is played wonderfully by Rupert Davies.  He gives the character a lot of charm with his very straight-forward way of thinking, almost bull-headedness.  Veronica Carlson plays his niece, who Dracula sets his eyes on for revenge.  Her boyfriend is played by Barry Andrews, who works at the pub/bakery.  While he does an adequate job, I've never cared for him that much for some reason.  He just doesn't have that much personality in the role.  Of course, his boss is played by the always entertaining Michael Ripper.  Once again, Ripper gives another great performance.  You'd think that playing so many of these little characters that he'd repeat them over and over again.  But Ripper always gives a fresh performance, and is always nice to see here.  Barbara Ewing plays the barmaid, and while not as stunning as the normal Hammer fare, she does quite nicely with the role.

Being such a die-hard fan of Hammer films, it would be almost impossible for me to give this film anything but high regards.  While I wouldn't consider it better than it's predecessor, DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS, I still found myself being very entertained while watching this on DVD.  The look of the film, the familiar faces, the music...how could you go wrong.

The only bad thing about this release is that while the film looks really nice, the DVD is barren of any extras besides a trailer.  It would have been really nice to have seen (or heard actually) audio commentary by Carlson and / or director Freddie Francis.  But I guess we shouldn't really complain that much.  At least the film has been release, and it looks great as well....So go buy it!


(1972)
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Dennis Price, Howard Vernon, Paca Gabaldón, Alberto Dalbés, Britt Nichols, Geneviève Robert,
Anne Libert, Luis Barboo, Fernando Bilbao, Josyane Gibert

Wow.  It’s been a while since I sat down with a Jess Franco movie.  Like I’d forgotten just how….interesting some of them are, and yet somehow strangely entertaining.  We decided to end the New Year on a bizarre note and watch Franco’s Drácula Contra Frankenstein (aka Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein and about a half dozen other titles).  We have the old Wizard Video VHS tape under the title The Screaming Dead, which is the version we watched.  But we were so enamored at this film that we quickly sought out the DVD version, under the title Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein, if only to compare the two.

The Wizard Video print is extremely cropped.  So much so that during the opening credits, you can’t even see the complete names and credits since they have been cut off.  Below is an example of the director’s credit.  The one on the right is from the DVD of Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein and the one on the left is from The Screaming Dead.  The DVD looks to be in 2.35:1 ratio through most of the movie.  There are a few scenes that switch to a different ratio, maybe 1:85:1, but is only for moment.  These sequences seemed to be taken from another source print.  But watching the Screaming Dead version, it’s obviously that we’re missing what’s going on.

Plus, the film seems to be edited differently, with some different sequences changed.  For example, on the VHS tape, there is a sequence where we hear Dr. Frankenstein reading from his diary, at the same time the words that he is reading are scrolling across our screen, even though we are still missing some of the words on the sides.  The narration tells us that Dr. Seward has sought out and staked Dracula.  Then right after this sequence, we see Dr. Seward travel to the castle and do just what we were told he had done!  In the DVD version, the diary sequence in not in there.  So unless you’re looking more to collect the Wizard Video VHS tape itself, I would avoid this version and get the DVD instead.  The quality of the print is so much better anyway.

But let’s get to the movie itself, shall we?  Dennis Price plays Dr. Frankenstein, who has already created his monster has now decided on reviving Count Dracula so he can rule the world, using him and his minions.  Franco regular Howard Vernon plays Count Dracula, who seems to have only one grimacing look, which he has on every time we see him.  Not only that, he really doesn't seem to move about throughout the whole movie.  About the only action we see is when he feeds on some young woman.  That's it.  The rest of the time he is either laying in his coffin, or just standing there, always with the same expression on his face.  When he finishing feeding some a victim, he almost looks like a drag queen with a poor makeup job.

Alberto Dalbés, who plays Dr. Seward, is no stranger to Franco films.  Between 1971 and 1974, he worked on over ten films that Franco directed.  That’s right….ten films in  four years, all directed by Franco.  What does that tell you of the time Franco would have had for pre-production?  Of course, we have always remembered Dalbés from his role as the mad doctor who is creating a giant turd-monster in Paul Naschy’s Hunchback of the Morgue (1973).  Luis Barboo, who plays the gnarled assistant to Dr. Frankenstein, was also a mainstay in the Spanish horror film industry, and has been in films like Franco’s Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973) and Amando de Ossorio’s Loreley’s Grasp (1974) and Return of the Evil Dead (1973).

When watching this film, like a lot of Franco’s work, it’s more amazing for the craziness of it than the actual film itself.  We know that Franco could make good movies, when he had the budget and the time.  But he is mostly known for these cheaper films that he seemed to crank out one right after another.  We have the typical super zooms throughout the film.  We have Dr. Frankenstein raising Dracula from the dead (which is actually an interesting sequence) to start his own undead army.  But what about this vampire woman in the coffin off to the side that seems to come and go during the movie, that really doesn’t even seem to be a part of the story?  Or how about how Frankenstein's creature was able to get into the local cabaret theatre and hide in the dressing room closet of the singer, waiting for her to come back to her room?

Dr. Frankenstein revives his creature here by the electronic equipment in his lab, which somehow makes the cover the metal box containing the creature just disappear.  The look of the creature is about as traditional as you can get.  The stitches makeup almost looks like they were drawn on.  Dr. Frankenstein hen he sends the creature off to snag women to help bring back the dead count to life.  Near the end of the movie, seemingly out of nowhere, the Wolfman shows up and battles with the creature!  And even better, we don’t even see the ending of the battle, but only the bloodied monster back at the castle.  W…T…F…???

That is the real charm here when it comes to this film.  Is it a good film?  The only bad films out there are the ones that are boring.  Plot and action wise, this film comes pretty close to being boring.  But just watching the film and trying to figure out just what Franco was trying to accomplish, will have you scratching your head for days.  I know that’s what it did to me.  Surprisingly there is very little nudity in this film.  That would have at least made it a little easier to get through.

So if you’ve never experienced a Franco film, you might want to try a few others before tackling this beast.  But if you have made it through your share, go ahead and take the plunge.  What could you lose other than 90 minutes of your life and possibly your sanity?  Enjoy!


(2010)
Directed by Ho-Cheung Pang
Starring Josie Ho, Eason Chan, Norman Chu, Chu-Chu Zhou, Hee Ching Paw, Juno Mak, Lawrence Chou, Hoi-Pang Lo, Lap-Man Sin, Ching Wong

"In a crazy city, if one is to survive, he's got to be more crazy."

We had completely forgotten that we had this DVD in our midst until our friend AC mentioned he had just seen this film called DREAM HOME that had some very creative and interesting kills in it.  Once I looked it up on Netflix, it was then I realized I already had the movie.  So I made it a point to watch it the next day.  And WOW…AC was right.

The film starts off with a brief history on the housing market in Hong Kong.  With a high population and not a lot of them making too much money, real estate is a high commodity.  The story is about a young woman who has a very exciting job as a telemarketer.  Uh…right.  She still lives at home with her family, saving her money so she might be able to afford a flat of her own, with a nice sea side view, something that she has always dreamed of.  But the real estate in Hong Kong is so high, with so many people in the country and not a lot of money being made.  So getting her dream home is going to be tough.

The film starts out with someone sneaking into the security room, finding a sleeping security guard and dispatching of him in a very gruesome way.  So right off the bat, we know that this filmmaker is not going to hold back on any bloodletting.  But as we slowly find out, this is only the beginning.  At the start of the film, we see the current date and time.  Then taking a cue from Tarantino’s style, the film’s timeline jumps around a bit, showing us the different parts of the life of the young female lead.  Once we started to figure out the “who” is, we still don’t know why they are going on this killing rampage.  As we get more and more of the history, we think that at any minute, it is all going to come together.  But then there is some more killing.  And then some more, coming together in a pile of bloody bodies and body parts.

We have eyes being poked out, throats cut, guts spilling out, gunshots, suffocation, quite a bit of nudity, and talk about coitus interruptus!  There are several sequences throughout the movie that will either have you twitching or cheering.  The effects are well done and effective and give the audience the impact they should.  In fact, there are a few scenes that are pretty painful to watch.  Not that it is graphic in the same nature as something like in HOSTEL, but still pretty intense.  And just when you think you’ve seen it all, just wait.

Out of all the movies that I have seen over the last few years, I don’t remember any that had this high of a body count, with pretty much each and every one killed in such a unique and creative way.  I guarantee that there are a few in here that will have the gorehound in you cheering for joy.  Plus, all the effects are done extremely well, not only in their set up but in the payoff as well.  Some are quick and will catch you by surprise, while others linger a second or two, giving your mind (and stomach) that chance to prepare for what you’re about to see.

But this film isn't just about the gore.  There is a story here of a deeply troubled person.  And the look of the film is great.  There are several times the use of the camera is so good, enough to where you notice the way the shot is.  When something like that can take you out of the movie for a split second, just long enough for you to notice how the camera angle is or how the action is set up, it shows that we are watching a very talented filmmaker.

The DVD, put out by IFC Midnight, is packed full of extras.  There are behind-the-scene segments on just about everything about this movie, from the story, the cast, the director, pre-production, the special effects, stunts, visual FXs and more.  Each segment goes into a lot of details in the short time explaining and showing all the work that went into making this film.  There were a lot of hard working people on this film, giving it their all, even at some physical pain involved.  Just add the actors!

If you’re looking for a great slice and dice film, with plenty of gore and some amazing and original death scenes, then you need to seek this film out and add it to your collection.  I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.


Dark Sky Films have released two double feature DVDs containing some great nostalgic sci-fi movies from the late 50's / early 60's.  If you have ever seen the film IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD, you've seen parts of these movies.  The only bad thing about these films is that they might have a selective audience.  If you're looking for top-notch special effects or great acting, or even great stories, than you are going to be disappointed.  But if you are looking for a fun way to kill a few hours, and take a trip back to the time with these types of movies and serials ruled for young fans of the fantastic cinema, then these movies are just for you.

One of my favorite parts of these DVD releases is the way Dark Sky has put these out.  The DVDs start out with ads for Drive-in's and the snacks.  Real nostalgic classic stuff here.  Younger fans probably won't get as much entertainment out of them as I did, but maybe they'll get a clue to the way things use to be.  In any case, they're fun to watch even now.  Plus, just like the drive-in days, before the movie starts, we have some coming attractions.  These just happen to be movies that Dark Sky has put out, but it cool the way they set them up this way.  And even between the movies, there are intermission shorts were are also cool to see.

Below are reviews of each of the movies featured on the 2 double feature discs.

INVASION OF THE NEPTUNE MEN
Directed by Koji Ota
Starring Sonny Chiba, Kappei Matsumoto, Shinjiro Ebara, Mitsue Komiya, Ryuko Minakami

Every cult fan knows the name of Sonny Chiba.  Whether it be from his days in THE STREET FIGHTER movies, the other countless martial arts / action films, or even his role in the more recent KILL BILL movies, Sonny Chiba is a name that every cult fan knows.  INVASION was one of the earlier films of Chiba, where he stars as Space Chief, a sci-fi version of Batman, protecting the world against alien invaders.  Of course, he flies around in a cool little space car, shooting the bad guys with lasers, and protecting the world, and of course little children from danger.  But since he has this little costume on, with a helmet and face mask, no one knows the real identity of this super hero.

When aliens from Neptune, looking more like pipe welders (as they were called in IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD) decide they want to invade our planet, Space Chief jumps to the rescue.  Though, I found it hard to believe that it would to be too hard to stop them, since they moved very slow with they're costumes on.  But still, the look of them looked pretty cool.  The fight scene in the beginning when Space Chief takes on about 5 of these aliens is a riot.

While this film seems to be made directly for the younger audiences, since the huge involvement of several young boys in the cast, they still do a pretty job here.  Granted, the effects can be a little dated.  But even watching it now, I think the special effects with the spaceships are done pretty good.  There are scenes with the ships flying over the cities blowing stuff up.  There are some nicely done matt shots and models that are pretty effective.  Granted, this isn't WAR OF THE WORLDS.  But you can see that while this might have been made for the kiddies, they still tried to produce a well-made film.  I can see a lot of younger fans eating this stuff up, even today.  Especially when that great 'hero' music starts up every time Space Chief comes on screen.  Gotta love it.

PRINCE OF SPACE
Directed by Eijiro Wakabayashi
Starring Tatsuo Umemiya, Ushio Skashi, Johji Oka, Hiroko Mine

PRINCE OF SPACE is a little tougher to get through, but that's only because of the alien invaders this time out.  Instead of cool costumes like the Neptune Men, the invaders from the planet Krankor just have funny hats, big noses, and one of the worse evil laughs in cinematic history.  But the plot is very similar to NEPTUNE MEN.  The local shoeshine boy is actually the hero Prince of Space, who also has a rocket ship that he flies around in, protecting humanity.

Once again, if you've seen IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD, then you've seen bits of this movie.  Not only do these aliens look funny, but they're pretty stupid as well.  Every time they shoot at the Prince with their lasers or whatever, it has no effect.  And it each, the Prince tells them that they're weapons will not have any effect on him.  But yet, they still keep trying and trying.  And each time has the same results.  You'd figure they'd finally get it.

Once again, this features some pretty cool, but old fashion, special effects with the miniature spaceships and moon bases.  But fans of this type of films will still get a kick out of it.  Even if you can't enjoy the primitive special effects, you should be able to enjoy the cheezy, and poorly dubbed, dialog.  Films like this is what kept Mystery Science Fiction around so long.

Much like NEPTUNE MEN, PRINCE OF SPACE was made for the little kids growing up in the 50's/60's, when space exploration was at it's most popular.  So there was a lot of 'what ifs' going through those little minds.  And movies PRINCE and NEPTUNE just added fuel to the fire for those youngsters.  And while we never were invaded by alien beings, with neither big noses or pipe welders' hats, these films sure help those kids with their imagination and dreams.

CREATION OF THE HUMANOIDS
Directed by Wesley Barry
Starring Don Megowan, Erica Elliot, Don Doolittle, George Milan, Dudley Manlove.

These next two films are much harder to get through.  There's a lot of talking in here, and not too much action.  In the beginning narration, we find out that after an atomic war, most of humanity was killed off.  But then we created robots to assist us in our daily living.  And of course, what would any normal society be without prejudices against a different type of people...the humanoid robots.  So much so, there's even the Order of the Flesh & Blood, keeping the 'clickers', what humanoids are called by ones who don't care for them, in check.  I love the fact that the hats these guys wear look very similar to the hats worn by confederate soldiers in the Civil War.  Hhmm....

The movie really tries to give us an understanding of being different, of being prejudice against another for whatever reason, and to make us think of mankind's future.  This film was made in the early 60's, when computers, atomic research, space programs, and all of that technology was taking off at an alarming rate.  So there was a lot of people thinking about the outcome of all of this.  And would human nature ever really change.  Looking around today....guess not.

But this movie does feature some interesting tidbits.  Famed makeup artist Jack Pierce, known for creating the classic Universal monsters, does the make up here.  While it basically consists of blue-ish/grey skin makeup (someone was in charge of the silver eyes), it was still cool to see his name up there in the credits.  Also, one of the names in the credits stood out....Dudley Manlove.  First of all, I was thinking of how someone could have a name like that, other than maybe a porn star, but then realized who that was once his character started talking.  I can never forget his voice.  Mr. Manlove was in Ed Wood's epic film PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE, playing the alien invader who calls humans stupid.  Like I said, his voice was easy to remember.

The main star of the movie is Don Megowan.  While he seemed to work mostly in the western films, Hammer fans might have recognized him, or at least his name, from playing the creature is Hammer's first attempt a television show, called TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN.  Anton Diffring played the mad doctor, while Megowan's make up make him look more like a guy who went through bad wisdom tooth operation.

Like said, this movie is a little tougher to get through, since there's not a lot of action.  But what we do get instead is some great dialog.  You'll hear terms like "a magnetic integrator neuron duplicator".  Sounds pretty impressive, huh?  And there's some of that great dialog between some of the characters.  Right after discovering that a human had been killed by a humanoid, one member of the Order of the Flesh & Blood looks at his partner and says, "This is something, isn't it?"  The reply, "Yes.  It's something."  Gives you goose bumps, doesn't it?

The print quality is a little grainier here.  But it really it doesn't really hurt the film. Actually, I think it gives it more of a nostalgic feel.  Don't get me wrong, it's not terrible looking by no means.  It is just not as crisp as all other Dark Sky films usually are.

WAR BETWEEN THE PLANETS
Directed by Anthony M. Dawson (aka Antonio Margheriti)
Starring Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, ombretta Colli, Enzi Fiermonte, Halina Zalewska

Like HUMANOIDS, this is also much tougher to get through.  The only saving grace to this film is the set designs.  From the spaceships, to the amazing alien planet, there was a lot of work done here.  Plus, like Mario Bava's PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES, there is a lot of use of colors.  But unfortunately, there's not a lot of action going on here to keep you interested.  It's very talky.  A lot of talk of danger, but we really don't get to see much of it.

Giacomo Rossi-Stuart plays Commander Rod Jackson.  And could we get any more of a manly name for him?  Plus, he fits the part even more so.  Any more male hormones in that guy and he would have exploded.  I love the fact that every time he takes off his space helmet, his big hair is still perfect.  What a hoot.  He worked a lot in the Italian film industry, working in quite a few of the genres.  But he also worked some some of Italy's finest horror directors as well.  He worked with Mario Bava in KILL BABY KILL and KNIVES OF THE AVENGER, and also worked with Joe D'Amato in DEATH SMILES AT MURDER.

In another interesting note, apparently the assistant director on this film was Ruggero Deodato.  He did this shortly after starting out on his own as a director.  Of course, it would be a few years before he gave us those yummy cannibal films.

The space crew are out to tackle a alien force that is causing havoc on Earth.  When the discover the source of the evil force, an alien planet, they are amazed to find out that the planet itself is the alien.  Once again, there are some great set designs at this point.  They obviously spent a lot of time making the film at least look good.  There are also some unintentionally hilarious moments with toy spacemen flying around on wires above the alien planet's surface.  You can even see the wires here, as well in some parts with the real actors in their space suits.  But for me, that just added some more entertainment.

You really have to be die-hard fan to get through this film.  Either that or one of those purveyors of bad movies.  They are cool to see, but would probably be more enjoyable in a group viewing, and maybe with some cinematic enhancers.


(1941)
Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Donald Crisp, Ian Hunter, Barton MacLane

It's surprising to me that after all these years, I had never gotten around to seeing this version of Jekyll & Hyde.  So once Warner Bros. decided to put it out with the 1932 version on the same disc, now I had my chance.  I have always loved the '32 version with March, so I was curious to see what Tracy was going to do with it.  I knew they kept the makeup to more of a minimum in this one then with March.  I guess so you could still see Tracy's face???

Well, I must say that I was not impressed with this version.  Not at all.  First of all, Tracy seemed pretty flat in this roll.  He just didn't seemed to have the evil sense to him.  Yea, he was mean, but just didn't deliver the goods as well as March did.  Plus, the other main leads, Turner and Bergman, seemed pretty bland as well.  I don't know why they made Bergman more of a bartender than a...looser type of woman that Miriam Hopkins played in the original.  I know I keep comparing it to the original, but I just wasn't impressed with much of anything in this version.  Though, Donald Crisp, who plays Turner's father, does do an excellent job of the very prim and proper Englishman...very formal, very stiff.

The only thing that really caught my attention was during the transformation scenes.  Instead of focusing on Tracy during the changes, we get these strange dream-like images with Bergman's head being part of a corkscrew, and both her and Turner being naked and drawing Tracy in a carriage.  Almost like they were showing the mental changes Jekyll was going through as opposed to the physical changes.  Very bizarre and different.  That I found interesting.

I guess I'm a little jaded by the original version, which I have always thought was awesome, with March really standing out.  I'm sure that is causing some of the negativity to this review.  But none the less, I just wasn't that impressed with Tracy here.  Maybe that's why Warner Bros. put it out on the same disc as the '32 version...that not too many people would buy that one, but just opt for the original???


DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE
(1971)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Starring Ralph Bates, Martine Beswick, Gerald Sim, Lewis Fiander, Susan Broderick, Dorothy Alison, Ivor Dean, Tony Calvin, Virginia Wetherell

This is a new twist in this Jekyll and Hyde version; at least it was back in the 70’s.  While working on a drug to make a man live longer, the good doctor comes up with a potion that gets him in touch with his feminine side…literary.  But the cost is high, with one of the main ingredients coming from a human body.  When the corpses become harder to come across, Miss Hyde takes to the streets to supply her own.

As the story goes, the idea for the movie was brought up as a joke over a dinner meeting, but was eventually taken seriously.  You do have to give them credit for coming up with a new aspect for this subject that has been remade more than any other horror character.  One of the things I liked about this movie is the way that they not only had the Jekyll / Hyde story going, but also added in themes from both Jack the Ripper and of the famous grave robbers Burke and Hare.

The casting of Ralph Bates and Martine Beswick was perfect.  The similarity between them was prefect for the movie.  Beswick is just seeping evil in her role, and seems to be having a great time as well.  Bates does a good job playing the straight-laced, work-obsessed young doctor out to save mankind.  One of his victims, played by Virginia Wetherell eventually became his wife.

I also want to mention about a great in-camera trick with a mirror that you should look for that is done during the first transformation sequence.  This once again shows the kind of talent that was behind the camera at Hammer.  It’s done effectively enough to where if you’re not looking for it, you most likely won’t see it.  Watch for it.

I had recently seen FROM HELL, Hollywood’s latest attempt at the Jack the Ripper story.  The directors kept saying how they wanted the film to look EXACTLY like it did back in the late 1800’s.  But for some reason, I feel that many of Hammer’s films, and especially DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE, portray that time, place, and the people much better than more recent films.  I’m not talking about the actually facts or events, just the surroundings.  Anyway, maybe Hammer was just playing it off the stereotypical way.  But in either case, I had a much easier time accepting, and enjoying Hammer’s view of that time.

I think that might be one of the main reasons I like this movie: simply the look of the film.  Like many of Hammer films, they have that great gothic look and feel that some studios just can’t seem to reproduce, even today.

Continuing the same quality as their previous releases, Anchor Bay has done another great job with this release.  Presented in widescreen (1.85:1).  The DVD contains audio commentary by Beswick, director Roy Ward Baker, writer/producer Brian Clemens, and Hammer historian Marcus Hearn, which is very entertaining and informative.  The disc also contains the theatrical trailer, radio spots, poster and still gallery, and talent bios.



(1977)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring Neville Brand, Mel Ferrer, Carolyn Jones, Marilyn Burns, William Finley, Stuart Whitman, Robert Englund, Roberta Collins, Kyle Richards

It’s really hard to try and compare EATEN ALIVE to Tobe Hoopers’s previous film, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.  Could anybody really duplicate the intensity of that film?  Well, in EATEN ALIVE, Hooper does try, and comes close in certain parts.

The film is about a crazy owner of a small hotel, who has an alligator in the swamp right outside.  Neville Brand plays Judd, the owner, who is outstanding here.  He alone is enough reason to watch this film.  With sometimes just a look or a mumble, Brand delivers more of a performance than most can do with a bigger scene.  It makes you wonder how much of this is from the script or from Brand.  According to the audio commentary on the disc, it seems that most of that came from Brand, who liked to stay in character even off the set.

Like TCM, the film is filled with a few other wacky characters.  Mostly from the dysfunctional couple of William Finley and Marilyn Burns.  Not sure what the hell is up with Finley’s character, but it’s just weird and way over the top.  But it does add to the strangeness to the film.  But then you also have Carolyn Jones as a rubber-faced Madame of the local whorehouse, Robert Englund as the local tough guy / woman chaser.  And of course, you also have stars like Stuart Whitman and Jose Ferrer in smaller roles.  But even on this low budget film, there is nobody just slumming through their roles.  Every one is giving a 100%, which does show through in the end product.

One of the things that I think Hooper tried to carry over from TCM was some of the brutal violence.  I’m not saying that he was trying to copy from it, but there are scenes of brutality that give off that same intense feelings that we got in TCM.  Poor Marilyn Burns just got the crap beat out of her here.  From having to deal with Brand, being tied to a bed, being thrown down some stairs, it just goes on and one.  And she really sold it as well.  Though in some of those scenes, I don’t think she’s acting as much as she’s reacting to Brand.

The film really does have a unique look to it.  There are times when you’re wondering if there is something wrong with the film print since the colors and the lighting is very noticeable right away.  But this was a very simple way to get a very cool look to the film.  This is same with the grainy look to the film.  This is one film that I think needs to be left grainy and dirty.  That being said, the print has been cleaned up to a degree, but it still keeps the low budget look and feel to it.

Adding to that feel was the music, created by Wayne Bell and Hooper.  Bell had worked on the original TCM, and has once again developed a very unique sound to it.  The music, or really just bizarre sounds, really heightens the creepiness of the film.  That would make a

I think some of these great shots came through the help of the DP, Robert Caramico, who came to work on the film as a favor to the producer.  Caramico had worked in the low budget field many times before, working on films that some might call low budget trash.  Of course, fans like me think different.  He worked on films like OCTAMAN, SLITHIS, and even the beautifully underrated LEMORA: A CHILD’S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL.  He even worked with cult icon Ted V. Mikels on THE BLACK KLANSMAN.  It is even mentioned in the audio commentary this EATEN ALIVE that there were times when Hooper wasn’t even on the set for some of the shots.  Hhhmmmm…..

Dark Sky Films has released a 2-disc Special Edition of EATEN ALIVE, and have once again created a really special release for fans of this movie.  First off, the movie does look great.  But as we said earlier, while they did clean it up really nicely, it still does retain that graininess, which I think just highlights the film.  But is still probably the best print you’re going to see.  On that first disc with the movie, there is an audio commentary with several different people involved: producer Mardi Rustam, actors Roberta Collins, William Finley, and Kyle Richards, and make-up artist Craig Reardon.  These commentaries were recorded individually and spliced together.  Normally I don’t care for it when they do that, preferring the group commentaries where they seemed more relaxed and off-the-cuff.  But on there, they did do a nice job compiling a lot of information giving about the film from the different people involved.  And they all seemed to have some interesting stories about Neville Brand.  Noticeably missing from the commentary is Tobe Hooper.  What’s up with that?  Finley even makes a comment about trying to get a hold of Hooper to do the commentary but couldn’t.  Strange.

The 2nd disc features several featurettes on the movie.  The first one is on Hooper, which is an interview with him.  He tells us how he got involved in the picture and how he feels about it today.  It’s nice to see that he doesn’t have a problem with it and fondly remembers his involvement with it.  There is also a great interview with Robert Englund and how he became involved on this picture, so earlier in his career.  Next up is a brief interview with actress Marilyn Burns which one wishes would have been longer.  But what she does have to say in interesting.  The last featurette is about the real life person that Brand’s character was supposed to be based on, Joe Ball.

There is also the alternate title sequence and credits, since the film had many titles.  There is also a behind-the-scenes slideshow, trailers, TV and radio spots.  But one of my favorites is seeing the original comment cards that were filled out during one of the test screenings.  Those were great.

So I would definitely say that this film, and disc, is a worthy addition to your collection.  While it’s no where near the classic-ness of TCM, it’s still a fun film to watch, does have some pretty good scares to it, and most importantly, has an incredible performance by the late, great Neville Brand.


(1980)
Directed by Dusty Nelson
Starring Joe Pilato, John Harrison, Susan Chapek, Bernard McKenna, Debra Gordon, Tom Savini, Charles Hoyes

"People pay to see anything."

A long time ago, in the land of zombies...aka Pittsburgh, some aspiring filmmakers got together after working on other film projects and doing commercial work, and decided that they could make their own film.  They did it completely outside of Hollywood, a true independent film.  Produced, financed, cast, filmed, and everything else in Pittsburgh, PA.  It's a real shame that this film was lost for so long.  But at least now, thanks to Synapse Films, we can finally get to see it.  But does is still hold up after 25 years?

The plot of the film is about the making of film itself.  The film starts off to look kind of like a slasher film, but when the director yells cut, we realize that we had been watching a movie being filmed.  The director, played wonderfully by John Harrison, is very cold.  Plus, he seems to have ulterior motives with this movie.

Harrison, looking like a very young Dan Aykroyd, is great as the ice cold director, Lacey Bickle.  He's very determined, but has other ideas on just what kind of movie he wants to make.  And seems to be able to manipulate the other actors and crew members into helping him, though they don't even know the whole plan.

It's a great idea for a movie.  The director has some people involved, some that think they are involved, and then some that are completely clueless of the real plan.  So when somebody is suppose to die on camera....

Another highlight of the film is Joe Pilato, best known as the psycho Capt. Rhodes in Romero's DAY OF THE DEAD.  Looking very different, and a lot more quiet than his Rhodes character, Pilato does a great job playing a simple cameraman.  It was so weird not seeing him going over the top, as he did in DAY.  But he comes across as a very real person here.

The DVD was release with some very good extras.  First of all, there is an audio commentary by Harrison, director Dusty Nelson, and Editor Pasquale Buba.  They have some great stories here folks, including when they showed this film at the film festival that became Sundance.

There are also some original short films, behind-the-scenes photo gallery, and liner notes.  But the best part is the 60 minute documentary, AfterEffects.  This is different from your normal documentaries.  This looks to have been filmed in somebody's backyard, and is kind of like a family reunion.  You have Harrison there, director Nelson, editior Buba, actor Joe Pilato, and even George Romero!  And they're all sitting around in lawn chairs, talking about the movie, making movies in Pittsburgh, and how they got started and involved with this movie.  There are also interviews with some other actors that were done at another time.  Overall, it was done really well.

If it wasn't for DVD companies like Synapse Films, this film would still be a lost one.  They know that there are fans out there that would love to see this and / or have it in their collection.  So kudos to them for not just throwing it out on a cheaply produced release, but taking the time and put out a decent one.  Keep up the great work, guys.


END OF DAYS
(1999)

   This was one film that I wouldn’t have minded seeing in the theater.  But I didn’t make it a point to go, so I waited until video.  And boy am I glad I did.  What an embarrassment this film was.  I knew that with Arnold in the lead it wasn’t going to be anywhere near what the makers were claiming it to be.  But it did have some other cast members that had peaked my interest, actors such as Udo Kier, Rod Stieger, and Gabriel Bryne, playing Big Lou.  I had figured that at least Bryne would have been entertaining as Satan, but again, I was wrong.

   There are enough plot holes to drive the armored car that was carrying Arnold’s paycheck for this film through sideways. And if that wasn’t the worst part of it, quite a few parts were just plain stupid.  Come on here folks, the number 666 in the bible really is upside down, meaning the year.  Okay, so the year would be 999.  Where did the 1 get in front of it to make 1999?  Bryne can walk through fire without even having his hair seared, but can’t take a bullet hit without being knocked on his ass?

   Some of the things that happen in this film are what MST3K use to call “Plot Convenience Playhouse”.  We have a renegade priest out to kill Satan.  He lives in below the subway, but just happens to have a fully loaded automatic weapon?  Plus, Arnie and his buddy find the guy by a matchbook case?  Geez guys!  How cliché can we get here?

   This was billed and advertised as a “dark film” for Arnie.  Maybe for his career, but that’s about it.  You really want to see a dark film, watch Abel Ferrer’s MS 45.

   Once again, Hollywood proves that a big budget and a big star do not equal an entertaining movie.  You need something called creativity.  Will Hollywood ever learn?  Not until it’s marketable.


EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD
(1979)

Not to be confused with Lucio Fulci's DEMONIA, this is a film by Italian director Joe D'Amato,  and is his attempt to make all his fans happy simultaneously--those who love his horror flicks, and those who "get-off" on his porno ventures.  EROTIC NIGHTS merges both genres into what amounts to an X-rated version of ZOMBIE played off with great gusto.  The film has also been titled IN THE SPELL OF THE ZOMBIES (a rough translation, at best) and most will be drawn into its hypnotic goings-on (probably out of disbelief more than anything...from fellatio to flesh-eating, D'Amato leaves little to be desired).

Bear with me guys...once again I've screened an Italian-language flick with no subtitles, and a lot of this is assumption (how hard is it to figure this stuff out?).  It's all-aboard as we sail away to another zombie-infested island paradise, with our crew of three fucking the entire way.  As the captain, George Eastman isn't really thrilled that his girlfriend is showing their studly passenger so much hospitality.

Eastman's best fuck-scene is with the prolific Laura Gemser.  They're going at it in the water, and the next thing ya know, there's a horde of zombies ogling them from the water's edge, which apparently makes ol' George lose his woodie ...Gemser disappears in a flash, and he wakes up confused and unsatisfied on the shore.

Thus the fun begins.  Make way for the zombies to enter the picture!  Considering the film is yet another D'Amato skin-flick, these skin-eaters features some extremely well-done make-up effects.  Wormy, desiccated faces that lunge into various castmember's necks, tearing out huge mouthfuls of flesh (which they spit out at the camera with great expertise), launching magnificent sprays of blood from jugulars.  The zombie sequences are limited at best, sandwiched in between hardcore sex scenes...but D'Aamto makes them worth the wait, achieving some truly atmospheric and horrific moments throughout.

D'Amato's work is far from classic, but must be appreciated for its unique approach in mixing two genres with far-from-clumsy results.  ZOMBIE had its moments of titillation, but just about any horror flick has nude scenes scattered thru its running time.  D'Amato isn't happy withy mere "shower scenes"...unless there's a three-way going on!  Although Jess Franco had already played with X-rated features that incorporated vampirism, the Frankenstein legend, or exorcism themes, Joe is the first to cash-in on the living dead wandering around the hardcore feature, and certainly devoted most of the film's budget at the horror effects to be found therein.

The film finishes just as it had begun.  The slightly-warped Eastman and girlfriend in a mental institution, banging away and laughing maniacally. Could EROTIC NIGHTS only be the insane delusions of a couple of sex-starved, fucking maniacs?

Who cares?  The zombies RULE!

Reviewed by Jon Stone


THE EVIL
(1978)
Directed by Gus Trikonis
Starring Richard Crenna, Joanna Pettet, Andrew Prine, Cassie Yates, George O’Hanlon, Lynne Moody, Mary Louise Weller, George Viharo, and Victor Buono.

If it weren’t for the ending, this would be a great movie.  It’s the old fashion story of a huge house with a very dark past.  Crenna and company are renovating it be come a house for problem kids.  But while they’re fixing the place up, things start to go bad.  The house seals itself up, and doesn’t want anybody to leave.  At least alive.

There are some truly creeping moments in the film, one of the best being with a figure on a fireplace that seems to come to life.  They tried to do something like that in the remake of THE HAUNTING but went way overboard.

You have a great cast with not only Crenna leading the way, but you have 70’s genre regular Andrew Prine in there as well.

While some of the optical effects are very dated, I still found the film very enjoyable.  But as I said in the beginning, the biggest problem is the ending.  I won’t go into major details, but it entails Buono as Satan, and a very stupid climax. 

Entertainment value: You have a haunted house movie from the 70’s with Andrew Prine (kind of redundant, don’t you think?).  You really can’t go totally wrong with that.  If you can get past Buono as Big Lou, you should be entertained for your 90-odd minutes.


EVIL DEAD II: DEAD BY DAWN
(1987)

   On August 29th, Anchor Bay Entertainment will be releasing the ultimate collector's edition of Sam Raimi's classic sequel, EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN.  This will be the definitive version of this movie, being recently fully restored under the supervision of Lucasfilm's THX Digital Mastering Services.  Here's what features to expect on the DVD:

  • Improved visual clarity and Dolby Surround Sound 5.1

  • Both widescreen (1.85:1) presentation or full frame.

  • Special featurette - The Gore The Merrier

  • Original theatrical trailer

  • Preview of the new video game "THE EVIL DEAD: HAIL TO THE KING"

  • Audio commentary by director Sam Raimi, actor Bruce Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and special makeup effects artist Greg Nicotero.

  • Still galleries.

  • Talent bios.

   For the DVD special edition, the SRP is $29.98.  There will also be a Limited Tin Edition package, that will also include a 48-page, full color booklet with new liner notes by Bruce Campbell, and extensive film information compliments of Fangoria magazine.  For the Limited Tin Edition, the SRP is $39.98.  A video release will be also be available, but with only widescreen version, the featurette, original trailer, and a preview of the upcoming video game.  The suggested retail price for the collector's edition video is $14.95.

   Okay folks, now here's what everybody's been waiting to hear.  Is it better than the laserdisc that Elite put out?  Yes.  Here's why we think it is:

  • The quality of the DVD picture is better.  While the laser is a bit darker, the dvd picture is incredible.

  • Better sound.  State-of-the-art Dolby Digital Surround 5.1

  • You can watch it in either full-frame or widescreen.

  • New footage and new interviews for the featurette

  • Still Galleries and Talent Bios.

    The new featurette, "The Gore The Merrier", uses most of the same footage from the behind-the-scene footage that was on the laserdisc.  But there is a couple of things that are different.  On the DVD, there is an new interview with effects team K.N.B. (Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger, and Greg Nicotero) who had all worked on EVIL DEAD 2 before K.N.B. ever came about.  They kind of narrate over the footage explaining different stuff.  Now one could complain that now you can't really hear what's going on in some of the parts, but that's if you're really looking to complain.  In another minor complaint, they've trimmed some of the footage in some places.  But, they have also added some footage that was not on the laserdisc version.  The laserdisc featurette runs about 27 or 28 minutes, while the DVD version runs about 31 minutes.  Although I will add that there is one little twisted little segment that the makeup guys filmed back them with a headless baby doll chasing some people around, with blood and goo squirting out of the neck.  Pretty twisted stuff.  I think some of these makeup guys need to spend time away from the glue and paint for a while.

   The audio commentary is the same that was used on the Elite laserdisc.

   All in all, the DVD is well worth buying.  If you want to hang on to that laserdisc for a few extra seconds of footage here and there, that's fine.  But I found the DVD version to be better.  You can't really lose on this DVD.  It will make a great addition to the Special Editions of EVIL DEAD and ARMY OF DARKNESS.


EVIL DEAD TRAP
 aka SHIRYO NO WANA

(1988)

Starring Miyuki Ono and Fumi Katsuragi

When this movie hit the video market, it developed quite a reputation in a very short time. This was one of the first Japanese horror films that really brought my attention to what they were doing over there besides making Godzilla films.

The story is about Nami, a young woman who hosts a late night TV show. She receives a tape in the mail that looks like a real life snuff film. The tape gives some what of directions to an abandon factory, where it shows a woman chained to a wall, who is then very brutally stabbed to death, including having her eyeball pierced. This is the one scene that really made a name for this film. It is simply one of the most gruesome sequences you’re likely to see. Nami and her co-workers decide to try and find this place and to see if the tape is real. When they get there, they realize it was a bad idea, with each of the co-workers meeting a very gruesome and graphic end.

If you like the gory stuff, you will love this one. But don’t let all the gore put you off. The director of this movie, Toshiharu Ikeda, shows us plenty of style. There are some cool camera angles and stuff, and also are some black and white sequences, (mainly the killer’s viewpoint) that are cut so well with the color sequences. And while it does have it’s amount of gore, I really wouldn’t call it a splatter film. There’s more talent in this film then most of the Friday the 13th films put together.


(1974)
Directed by Michio Yamamoto
Starring Mori Kishida, Toshio Kurosawa, Kunie Tanaka, Katsuhiko Sasaki, Mariko Mochizuki

This is the third and final film in Yamamoto's Bloodthirsty Trilogy, as well as the last film that he made.  And once again, he gives us a new twist on the vampire genre.  Like in the past two films, he never stayed with the traditional aspects of the vampire genre.  And here is no different.

A teacher arrives at the Seimei School for Girls to start a new job.  But after meeting the principal, who tells him that he is soon to be come the new principal.  Things get even stranger when he finds out that the principals wife had died early that week and is kept downstairs in a coffin..."local traditions", he's told.

His first night, he wakes up in the middle of the night and hears a young voice singing.  When he goes to investigate, he comes across a young woman bleeding from the chest, and then attacked by a vampire women!  When he awakens, he figures it was a dream.  Until he learns that the girl who was bleeding has been missing from school.  Joining with the school's doctor, the professor tries to unravel the mystery of the local legends of vampires and ghosts!

Once again, Yamamoto fills his movies with a lot of mood and atmosphere with the use of shadows.  This film actually has some very brief nudity, which the first two films didn't have.  But the storyline, and the new twists on the genre is what I enjoyed the most.  It's a shame that he didn't continue to make more of these types of movies.  Perhaps at that time these types of films just were popular.  In either case, now we can all enjoy them once again.


EVILSPEAK
(1981)
Directed by Eric Weston
Starring Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Joseph Cortese, Claude Earl Jones, Don Stark, Charles Tyner, Hamilton Camp, Louie Gravange

The film opens hundreds of years ago, with a priest being charged with devil worshipping.  He defies his persecutors by holding a sacrifice on the beach with his followers, stating that he will return from death to seek retribution.

This was yet another movie that played at the theater that I worked at.  I had never sat and watched the film from beginning to end, but ended up seeing most of it in little bits at a time.  I do remember how gory the film was.  A few months ago, I sat down to watch the pre-record I have, and was shocked at just how butchered the video is.  Not only is there a lot of gore missing, but it looked as if somebody had edited the film with a chainsaw.  But thanks to our friends at Video Junkie, we were able to acquire an uncut print of this movie, and enjoy all the wonderful gore that had been exorcised.

But let’s get back to the review.  The basic story takes place at a military academy and is about a young cadet named Coopersmith (or Cooperdick as his classmates call him) played by always entertaining Clint Howard.  He is always being the brunt of the jokes, and is constantly getting picked up on and pushed around, not even excluding teachers and the school’s priest.

While cleaning a sub-basement of the church, he stumbles across the book of satanic worship that belonged to the priest from the film’s opening.  He starts to input the information from the book into one of schools computers that he brought down to his little home away from home.  After repeated humiliations from his classmates, he tries to contact the big guy down below for help.  And when he succeeds, he gets his revenge…big time.

The film does have its flaws here and there, if you want to be really picky.  It does take a little while to get moving.  The movie goes way overboard making the ‘bad people’ really bad, so when the reaping does happen, the audience is cheering, not wanting us to question who really is the evil one here.

The computer stuff is pretty humorous when looking at it in today’s standards.  That was back when you had computers that you could just ask questions and it would answer you, regardless of any programming it might have.  I’d sure like to have one of those today.  Maybe that will be in the next upgrade from Microsoft.

But even with that, you do have some great moments.  You have some killer pigs attacking a naked woman in her bathtub, you have some gruesome slow-motion decapitations, and even one teacher getting his head split in half.  Great entertaining gore from the early 80’s.  Almost brings a tear to my eye.

Plus you have another great role by the awesome R.G. Armstrong, one of the meanest and scariest actors from 60’s to the 80’s.  This was the film that I’ve always remembered him from.  One of his memorable lines from the movie is when he thinks that Howard has stolen something from him.  He grabs Howard by the shirt, gets real close to his face and says, “Now I'm gonna show you how I make a little boy into a little girl.  You want to see that trick?"


EVILS OF THE NIGHT
(1985)
Directed by Mardi Rustam
Starring Aldo Ray, Neville Brand, John Carradine, Tina Louise, Julie Newmar and lots of naked chicks

EVILS OF THE NIGHT is the movie form of how I like my women – 21 years old and really dumb.  All kidding aside, this is a perfect example of the low budget horror/sci-fi that came out in the 80s.  If you’ve got a few extra bucks and some b-movie stars phone numbers, you’ve got yourself a film.

The plot is pretty simple.  A bunch kids hang out at the lake and are randomly attacked by two dumb mechanics (Ray and Brand) who have been hired…yes, hired…by aliens to provide them 18-24 year olds whose blood they can harvest.  Surprisingly, it took TWO people to come up with this scenario.  Director Mardi Rustam matches this barebones plot with an amazing display of no-frills directorion.  Rustam, a producer probably best know for Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE, made his directorial debut with this one and provides that, if anything, he should have just stuck on the sidelines handing out money.

That is not to say that EVILS is completely without merit.  While it may fail on the level of being a competently made film, it does deliver a good time in the trashiest sense.  First, you have tons of naked babes running around.  Rustam obviously knew at least one thing about the film industry (sex sells!) and even threw some early 80s porn stars in there.  Second, there is some priceless dialogue and, as we all know, dopey dialogue can greatly enhance a film like this.  A perfect example is when John Carradine as alien leader Dr. Kozmar explains why they chose this remote area rather than a big city and why they were having trouble procuring young teens.  He states that alien research figured the local college would be perfect but “research forgot to factor in college summer break.”  Damn.  Finally, you have an all-star cast here with Aldo Ray and Neville Brand stealing the show.  I’ve heard it from many a mountain but anything Aldo Ray did in the 80s is worth watching for the junk factor.  Reportedly Tina Louise refused to do GILLIGAN’S ISLAND reunions because they were beneath her but signed on for this mess. 

Media Blasters DVD is presented full frame and looks really good.  Sadly, the only extra for the film is a newly generated trailer.  I would have loved to have heard Joe Bob Briggs deliver a commentary on this one because it has ample servings of the three Bs.

Also, if you stare at the cover art long enough you will see something familiar in the skyline.  Yes, George Lucas done ripped Mardi off!

Reviewed by William Wilson


(2005)
Directed by Scott Derrickson
Starring Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, Campbell Scott, Jennifer Carpenter, Colm Feore, Joshua Close, Ken Welsh, Duncan Fraser

We didn't catch this at the theater when it was playing and now wish we did.  This is a strange hybrid of a court room drama and a horror movie.  And even stranger is that it works really well.  The film is based on real events that happened to a young German woman in the 1970's.

It's about the trial of a priest who is being held accountable for the death of a young girl who died shortly after going through an exorcism ritual.  The story is told back in flashback sequences, sometimes in two different 'versions'.  Meaning that the priest will tell the way he saw it, showing the audience his 'view', and then showing the  medical doctor giving us his 'view' what he thought was causing the affliction.  This was a nice twist, that way the audience might not be swayed to a particular way to believe.  But while the film never tells you what 'really' happened, leaving it up to the audience to decide what they believe, there is a strong leaning to one side.

But even in flashbacks, I think this film gives us some of the best moments of possession since THE EXORCIST.  Jennifer Carpenter, who plays the title character, gives one hell of a performance...pardon the pun.  There was some CGI used during her possession, but you couldn't spot it, or it wasn't that obviously...at least to me.  During her seizures, episodes, or whatever you want to call them, Carpenter is incredible.  Twisting her body, with muscles tightening and clenching, I could almost feel the physical pain.

I felt that all the main characters are believable, especially Wilkinson as the priest.  He gives us a great performance of a man of cloth, determined in his cause and belief, no matter what happens to him.  Linney plays his defense attorney, who takes the case just to win her a partnership at her law firm.  Only after she gets involved in the case, does she start to realize what that means.

But there is enough creepiness in here to give it it's horror elements.  And the best way a horror movie can get to you, to frighten you, is to make you care for the characters when they are going through whatever peril they are facing.  And this movie does that wonderfully.  Director Derrickson does a very good job setting the mood and atmosphere here.  There are some truly great shots here.  Some dark and foreboding, and others with more of a uplifting or positive feeling.

The extras include audio commentary by director Derrickson.  Usually a one-person commentary isn't the greatest since they either run out of things to say, or get caught up in the movie.  He does point out a couple of scenes where CGI was used, which I never would have noticed otherwise.  But isn't that the key?  But Derrickson does mention at one point about a particular part, where Carpenter is on a full-blown possession and she contorts her face so much that it actually creeped out the cameraman.  Derrickson mentions that this was cut out.  If it was that powerful of an image, why wasn't that put back in the movie?

There is also 3 mini featurettes, which all total about 50 minutes, which covers how the film came about, the casting, and the visual look of the film.  During these, they talked to quite a few people involved in the project, from the main cast, to the director, writer, designers, and much more.  There is one deleted scene.  With only one deleted scene, I don't really think you need that as a special feature.  So while the featurettes are good, the disc is pretty lacking in the extras department.

So all in all, even if the disc only had the movie on it, I would still recommend picking it up.  The movie alone is worth the price of admission.  So any extras are just...extra.


(2002)
Directed by The Pang Brothers
Starring: Lee Sin-Je, Lawrence Chou, Chutcha Rujinanon, Candy Lo, Pierre Png, and Edmund Chen.

This film had been getting a lot of press as of late, as another great and scary movie coming out of the Asian horror market.  Ever since RINGU, that market seems to be booming in the mainstream market.  But unfortunately, since there has been some pretty damn good movies coming out from there, the standards are set pretty high.  And while good, this one just doesn’t hold up to its predecessors.

Taking huge nods from SIXTH SENSE and RINGU, THE EYE does have some moments that are disturbing and can make you feel uneasy.  The problem is that it’s nothing that we haven’t been through many times before.  It doesn't take us, the viewer, to realize that what she is seeing are ghosts, or the ones that are waiting to take the recently departed away.  I was waiting for the main character to say that she could see dead people, but thankfully, that never came.

The main story deals with a young woman who has been blind since the age of two, gets her vision back after an operation.  But once her vision is back, she can see more than ever, not only seeing ghosts, but also the ones that come for the recently departed.  Of course, I was waiting for Nicolas Cage to show up…but that’s another movie.  Apparently she has acquired the same special vision as the young girl that she received the eyes from.  So her and her psyche-doctor set out to discover the mystery behind the donor.

While it’s not a bad film, it just left me wanting or expecting a little more.  I guess maybe I had too high of expectations for this film and was kind of disappointed by it.  The fact is that its all been done before and that actually took more away from the film, since I kept picking out where the story plots were from.  I don’t have a problem with the re-using of ideas from other movies, but it’s always nice to put your own little twist or view of it.  This didn’t seem to have that. 

The DVD has been released by Lions Gate Entertainment.  The special features include 16x9 Widescreen, 5.1 Surround sound, a 15 minute making of documentary, trailers, tv spots, and previews.


(2004)
Directed by Oxide Pang Chun & Danny Pang
Starring Eugenia Yuan, Qi Shu, Jesdaporn Pholdee, Philip Kwok

The plot deals with a trouble young woman who decides to end her life after another failed relationship.  But just like her relationships, her suicide attempt is a failed one as well.  But once she has recovered from this attempt, she starts to see strange specters, that she thought were people.  But soon she realizes just what they are, and what they want.

While I did somewhat enjoy the first EYE movie, I didn't think it was outstanding.  So I didn't make it a point to run out and get the sequel when it came out.  Then I had read a few good things about the sequel, so I figured I'd give it a try to see if the Pang brothers could improve on the original film.  I'm not really sure why they called it THE EYE 2, since the only connection or similarity is the main character being able to see ghosts.  Besides that, you have a completely different story.  And a much better one if you ask me.

I think one of the strong points to this movie is its a horror movie on different levels.  There are some of your basic 'jump scares' which are done very well.  There were a few scenes with the ghosts that were also pretty disturbing.  While most of them tending to be the typical "post-RINGU" style of ghosts, there was one scene in particular that is pretty tough to forget, and that stayed with me for days.

But there are also scenes which convey a real sense of horror.  And these are not scenes with ghosts.  When the young girl is brought into the emergency room after her suicide attempt, that particular scene is very unsettling, in a very real way.  Nothing supernatural here folks, but something that is truly disturbing.  Of course, I'm not talking something out of an 80's Italian film, but this scene I found very intense.  Same goes for some scenes dealing with pregnant women.  Nothing gooey or gross, but I still found it pretty disturbing.  Then again, I'm a guy, so that might have something to do with it.  And of course the ending, with big nods to Polanski's THE TENANT, is just as upsetting and unnerving, as well as being just as effective.

There is also some eastern religious beliefs thrown in here, such as re-incarnations and karma, that take the story into moral one or parable.  I don't think you need to know much about these beliefs to understand the point they are trying to make.  It's pretty easy to follow it, whether you believe in the re-incarnation part or not.

The main actress is played by Qi Shu, who was also in Jackie Chan's GORGEOUS and also in THE TRANSPORTER, with Jason Statham.  Shu pretty much is the movie, since the camera is on her just about the the whole time.  This requires the actor to have the talent to hold the audience's attention and interests for 90 some odd minutes.  And I think she does just that and more.  The audiences experiences her pain, sorrow, and fear throughout the movie.  She does a phenomenal job here.

I think the Pang brothers have done a much better job this time out.  The movie has the typical jump scares, but also some scenes that will stay with you long after the TV is off.  And that has the making of a true horror movie.

The DVD comes with a short making-of featurette, running about 13 minutes, where you get to hear the director's talk about the movie, and also Qi Shu.


(2004)
Directed by Yoo Sang-Gon
Starring Shin Hyun-Jun, Song Yoon-Ah

This South Korean film joins the Japanese in the latest phase of the horror market.  Unfortunately, if they would have just left out the Japanese influences, mainly from RINGU, then it would have been a much better film.  The movie itself is a pretty good ghost story, that I think would have been very effective without the use of the RINGU scare techniques.  But  those really distracted me from the story since they are pretty obvious where the influence came from.

The main story is about a serial killer that is getting rid of the bodies of his victims by only leaving the bones.  A sculptor who reconstructs faces from skulls for the police is put on the case to try and figure out the victim's identity.  But with his daughter still recovering from heart surgery, he just can't focus on his job and quits.  Shortly after that, both he and his daughter start to have strange and frightening ghostly images appearing before them.  And after a few scary encounters, and with the pestering of a younger helper, he decides to try and discover who this skull was.

FACE does a nice job coming up with a nice twist that I didn't see coming.  And for that, I give it a lot of credit with coming up with something a little original, especially with the way most films are today.  But as I mentioned before, it's just a shame that they did follow the Japanese with their overly done RINGU themes.

The director does a very good job juggling a few different movies here at once.  One the surface, it is a horror/ghost film.  But there are some very strong elements of a sad love story underlying the horror theme, as well as a police thriller.  I think this takes the film a little higher than your normal straight out horror film.

Not sure what the tag line on the cover (Looks Can Kill....) is suppose to mean.  But none the less, among all the newer Asian films that have been coming out, I do think this one is worth the price of admission.  Especially if you are looking for a nice, good old fashion ghost story.

This movie was released on DVD by Tartan Video, under their Asia Extreme label.  This DVD comes with interviews with the director, cast and crew, which all come with subtitles.  It also has outtakes, behind the scenes of a photo shoot, photo gallery, and trailers of other releases from Tartan Video.


(1978)
Directed by Conan Le Cilaire

Back in 1981, when I was a mere lad of 13, there came a day on the schoolhouse playground where stories began circulating of an infamous film where one could see an actual execution by electric chair.  “No way,” came the dubious reply from several members of the covert crowd.  But the solemn nod from the initial speaker left no doubt: this thing was real.  As he went on to catalog the various “goodies” that he had witnessed, our eyes grew wider as our mouths did likewise.  A parachutist plummets to his death.  A suicidal jumper lands on the sidewalk with a resounding smack.  A criminal loses his head in the desert…literally.  A bloodthirsty alligator munches a Florida game warden.  An ignorant tourist who didn’t read the “Don’t Feed the Bears” sign comes to a grizzly end.  And the piece de resistance? – a live monkey has his brains beaten out, which are then consumed onscreen as a black market delicacy. 

The film, we learned, was called Faces of Death, and by the end of that school day, it had emerged as a rite of passage to be undertaken by every red-blooded man-child in the 8th grade.  Unbelievably enough, there was a copy available for rental at the local video store, and Brent Burwin’s mother was willing to rent it for us.  (Brent’s mom was also known for letting kids smoke, drink and curse in her little trailer park domicile.  Brent’s mom was the coolest.)  So, one fateful day, about 16 kids crowded into the Burwin residence and watched in respectful rapture as carnage unspooled before us.  It was all there, as promised: Monkey, gator, bear, electrocution, etc., plus a ritual sacrifice complete with cannibalism and an orgy.  Best/worst of all, it was all real.  However, in spite of the sickening autopsy, slaughterhouse and car crash footage, somehow it wasn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be.  Something was missing, somehow.  Ignorant as we were and regardless of our willingness to put skepticism aside, there were just some moments that didn’t quite ring true.  But the film said it was true, so it had to be, right?

I never went back to revisit the original film, nor did I see any of the other (in hindsight, inevitable) entries in the FoD series.  That’s the great thing about rites of passage; once you’ve gone through them, you don’t have to go back again.  Someone asks you, “Have you seen Faces of Death?” with a note of challenge in their voice, and you are now armed with the correct response:  “Yeah, I saw it.”  “Gross, huh?”  “Yeah, but not too bad.  Except for the monkey part.”

Now as an adult and avid student of horror and exploitation films, I’ve seen a lot of shocking things over the years.  But there are some things from FoD that I haven’t forgotten, like the way the eyes of the electrocution victim exploded against the white tape the officials had placed over the sockets.  The way we saw the fangs of the alligator actually munch into the unfortunate game warden’s flesh.  How the cult leader gutted the corpse and handed out the entrails to his followers.  These visions had burned into my brain, never to be forgotten…

…until this past week, when I watched the new 30th Anniversary Edition of Faces of Death, released this month by Gorgon Video.  The infamous film, triumphantly banned in 46 countries, finally arrived on DVD for the world to reevaluate or perhaps witness for the first time.

Watching it again through adult eyes was somehow akin to thinking really hard about the logistics of Santa Claus coming down an infinite number of chimneys, all over the world, all in the space of a 24-hour period:  It just doesn’t add up.  Sure, there are some grisly scenes with cadavers and honest-to-God news clips from horrific train and airplanes accidents, but that grain of doubt that we all felt sitting in that trailer park a quarter century ago?  We had known in our hearts that something wasn’t right, but we wanted to believe it to be true.  Now, however, I could clearly see that in every scene of onscreen violence, the camera swirled around, never quite giving us a good look at the mayhem, that there were frequent cuts in the action that would never have been possible with a single camera set-up, that it was all…staged.  Effectively and competently staged, but staged nonetheless.  It was nothing more than a well-executed piece of exploitation theatre, a realization that filled me with both admiration for the filmmakers’ moxie and proficiency as well as a bit of embarrassment for having fallen for the stunt years ago.  Because I had wanted to believe, I had eliminated the jump cuts, softened the latex edges, suspended my disbelief and saw (as Tobe Hooper had done earlier with Texas Chainsaw Massacre) what the filmmakers wanted me to see, which was much more horrific in my mind’s eye than what actually appeared on the screen.

In this day and age, when YouTube footage of live executions is available at the click of a mouse, why would anyone want to watch Faces of Death, for all intents and purposes, an antiquated parlor trick in questionable taste?   The appeal, for me, comes from listening to the filmmakers come clean about their intentions and the techniques utilized to pull off the illusion of capturing “the ultimate taboo” onscreen.  The effects are still quite impressive, even if our 21st century eyes can see the strings and Karo syrup on display.  Gone is the forbidden fruit of witnessing the demise of a living human being, replaced by grudging respect for the f/x technicians undertaking the challenge.  It calls into question why a faux documentary such as this would have been made in the first place (the audacity!) and undeniable knowledge that its creators knew instinctively there was an audience for it.  Almost accidentally, it has evolved from a mere “sicko” film to one that serves as the jumping off discussion point about the nature of voyeurism and humanity’s fascination with death.

The film is hosted/narrated by “Dr. Francis B. Gröss” (revealed in the end credits to be “portrayed by Michael Carr”, which should have tipped us off way back then), as he guides us through “the most bizarre and grisly death scenes ever recorded, from executions, assassinations and mass murder to suicide, disease and disasters.” But the real goodies for today’s audiences lie in the disc’s revealing bonus features, which include a feature-length commentary with writer/director Conan Le Cilaire (aka John Alan Swartz), which turns out to be as fascinating as the picture itself.  Further illuminating are the featurettes, “Choice Cuts” with editor Glenn Gurner and “The Death Makers” with special make-up f/x creators Allan A. Apone and Douglas J. White, as they discuss the means by which the cinematic hoax was perpetuated.  Refreshing to some and perhaps frustrating to others, there is no sense of apology – everyone comes off as former young craftsmen wanting to earn a reputation and a living wage, completely oblivious and/or undeterred by any moral sense of wrongdoing.  There are also Faces of Death trailers, outtakes, and one deleted scene of a gas chamber “execution.”

What inarguably sells the horror of the faked scenes is the brutality coldly visited upon our fine furry and feathered friends and these segments are still, like the animal cruelty scenes in Italian cannibal movies, fairly indefensible.  Scenes that unflinchingly bear witness to cattle and sheep having their throats slit in the slaughterhouse or seals clubbed by hunters are intended to tear down viewers’ emotional defenses, leaving us vulnerable to the staged gross-outs to follow.  Now, while the filmmakers didn’t go out and murder these animals themselves as the Italians did, they did make a conscious choice to include these scenes in a manipulative fashion.  In this more sensitive PC climate, I imagine the furor over these inclusions will ring out twice as loud, especially now that it is revealed to be a mockumentary, that there really was no “study” being undertaken to understand the nature of death, that this was all just a carnival barker’s lure of shocking sights and sounds. 

The notion of “snuff films” has been around for as long as most of us have been alive, dating back to the Manson Family murders, perhaps even earlier.  Because there is something inherently taboo about viewing the demise of human beings as entertainment, I am sure that some may feel disappointment that Faces of Death is nothing more than a hoax, that they are unable to fulfill this morbid fantasy.  Hopefully, we then come to our senses and take the next step – being truly thankful for the same reason.

Especially about the monkey part.

Visit the Faces of Death site, http://www.facesofdeath.com/, for more information, including the “Archive of Outrage,” “Fact or Fiction?”, a “Share Your Story” page and much more.

Reviewed by Aaron "Dr. AC" Christensen


Written and directed by Douglas Buck
Starring Gary Betsworth, Sally Conway, William Mahoney, Alex Splendore, Anderson William

Every once in a while, as is every horror fan’s dream, we stumble across a flick that shakes us to our foundations and gives us reason to rejoice in our devotion to the genre.  With so many studio blockbusters screaming from the Blockbuster shelves and pop-up ads bogging down MySpace, finding a true diamond in the low-budget horror film marketplace rough is rare.  But when it happens, it makes the weeks, months, years of slogging all worthwhile.

Such an occurrence took place a few weeks ago when I tracked down writer/producer/director Douglas Buck’s FAMILY PORTRAITS: A TRILOGY OF AMERICA through Netflix.  Initially, I had only been following my shameless completist sensibilities, trying to fulfill the quest of seeing all of Rue Morgue magazine’s “100 Alternative Horror Films,” published in RM#50.  Said list had included Buck’s short film CUTTING MOMENTS, which kicks off the trilogy and is the undisputed highlight of the bunch.   But the other two offerings – HOME and PROLOGUE – are hardly also-rans, each expertly weaving a haunting spell of isolation and nihilism.  Seen as pieces of a whole (which they are, even though the films were shot years apart), they create a devastating experience which will please fans of gore and intellectual character examinations alike.

Let me preface by saying: This is not a “fun” horror film.  It’s a undeniable downer, but like AMERICAN BEAUTY, which also examined the dark underbelly of suburbia’s supposed blissful existence, there is such vision and skill on display both before and behind the camera that the viewer is left with unqualified admiration for an artist who delivers chills on such an insidious, human level.  Buck, whose remake of Brian DePalma’s SISTERS was well received its US premiere last week at the 2007 South by Southwest Festival, is a rising talent to watch.

The 29-minute CUTTING MOMENTS (originally completed in 1997) opens with a shot of a woman (Nica Ray) looking out the window at her husband (Gary Betsworth) trimming the hedges in the front yard.  It concludes with their son playing with a stuffed toy out on the lawn.  But what transpires between these bucolic bookends is so thoroughly shattering that viewers might find themselves reaching for the remote and hitting the “pause” button before venturing on.  The genius of CM is that although the shocking scenes of gore (Tom Savini is credited as an effects advisor) are of the type that draw hands into fists and cause feet to curl up under oneself on the couch, they are earned.   There is an emotional context underlying the scenes of mutilation – something sorely lacking from much of modern genre efforts – with the horror starting long before a single drop of blood is spilled.  This family is broken, and the efforts toward “healing” that occur are achingly desperate and heartfelt, most of them playing out without a word of dialogue.  These characters have become hollow, and the excessive measures required to wake them from their stupor of denial and self-hatred seem entirely plausible.  (In fact, and perhaps unfortunately, Buck builds such a powerful sense of dread – before delivering his shattering punchline – that the shadow of this first installment looms heavily over the next two sections to come.)

HOME covers similar dysfunctional family terrain, but from a child’s perspective.  Gary (Betsworth again) observes his abusive dad’s dominion over wife and child, and wonders to himself “if I would have what it takes to be a father.”  He subsequently seeks out a woman that he can lord over, they marry and the cycle of self-hatred and abuse continues.  After the sucker punch of CUTTING MOMENTS, the feeling of looming familial disaster might seem like going to the same well once too often, but seen for its own merits, HOME manages to cultivate its own bleak little vision quite competently.  There is also a streak of black humor present, with Gary’s calm narration often at odds with the events played out before us. 

The final chapter, PROLOGUE, is also the longest, clocking in at nearly an hour.   Here, Buck’s ironic nature is evident from the title alone, as the onscreen drama exclusively focuses on the aftermath of a horrific incident in a small town.  A young woman, Billie (the luminous Sally Conway), returns home from the hospital – after a yearlong program of surgery and rehabilitation – in a wheelchair and with metal hooks for hands.  Her awkward scenes of reintegration within the community are interspersed with those of an aging artist (William Mahoney) and his wife who seem incapable of sharing more than a few words together (one of several continuing motifs from HOME and CUTTING MOMENTS).  These two character arcs draw inevitably closer throughout, with Buck delicately depositing puzzle pieces of what has gone before.  Highly satisfying – and surprising – is the decision to end not with a bang, but with a whimper: A haunting final image of an individual’s private, self-created (and self-imposed) Hell.  I’ve heard PROLOGUE (which features personal indie horror fave Larry [HABIT, WENDIGO] Fessenden in a small role) compared favorably to Atom Egoyan’s THE SWEET HEREAFTER, and I would agree with that assessment, albeit with an even darker and bleaker undercurrent. 

The commentary tracks on the disc are extremely illuminating, both into the world of independent filmmaking as a whole as well as Buck’s individual journey creating the films. Distributed through Fessenden’s GlassEye Pix (www.glasseyepix.com), the DVD presents the features as individual shorts on side A, then as a cohesive anthology on side B.  There are very few differences to be found (a few minor trims, different closing credits, etc.), but Buck and friend/author Douglas E. Winter offer stimulating insight together on the FAMILY PORTRAITS presentation, with Buck taking us through each individual short on the opposite side.  There are also commentary tracks offered by professors John Freitas (NYU) and Marc Lapadula (Yale), as well as Buck’s early short, AFTER ALL.

With rampant symbolism and subtext to spare, the beauty of FAMILY PORTRAITS lies in its refusal to pander or compromise. This is not easy shock horror; this is horror that settles into your bones and subconscious.  The dialogue is sparse and mildly stilted at times, with the stories unfolding primarily through facial expressions and quiet, still-life camera shots.  There might be too much “drama” for fanboys, and the scenes of violence might very well send more sensitive art-house patrons hurtling up the aisles.  But for the horror fan looking for something different, something honest and real, I cannot recommend this collection of low-budget masterpieces – yes, I invoke that oft-overused term deliberately – highly enough.  And once you’ve seen it, spread the word.   This is the kind of under-the-radar artistry that deserves your attention.

Review by Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen


(2008)
Directed by Kevin VanHook
Appearances by Dick Smith, Rob Bottin, Tom Savini, Howard Berger, Dee Wallace Stone, John Landis,
Joe Dante, George Romero, Mick Garris, Frank Darabont, Greg Nicotero, Robert Rodriquez, Simon Pegg, and more

We have always been a fan of any documentaries when they are dealing with some part of the horror genre.  It’s a great way to learn more about the wonderful history behind this.  So when we heard about this new made-for-cable one coming out, we were excited.

The only thing I could criticize about this documentary is that it’s only about an hour long.  We have some of the top guys in the make up field today all talking about the movies that they worked on and the movies that got them started in makeup.  We also get to see clips of some of the great examples in makeup effects ranging from the gory slasher movies to monsters and alien.

Director VanHook has worked on quite a few movies in the visual effects area, as well as writing and directing his own movies.  Here he does a great example of giving us a chance to hear from the masters of their crafts.  There were a few left out such as Stan Winston, but that is understandable due to his untimely death.  But it would have been nice to have a special mention.

But horror fans growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, when the makeup effects artists were as big of a star as the people on screen, a lot of these names are very well known to your normal fans.  So it was really nice that they made sure they pointed out the incredible work and talent that came from Dick Smith, Jack Pierce, John Chambers, and of course, Lon Chaney Sr.  Every fan of Freddy and Jason know the names Savini and Baker.  So it was nice for the filmmaker to give some time and credit to the work of Chaney Sr., Pierce, Smith, and Chambers.

I’m sure the short running time had to do more with the time slot it was probably allotted for the original Starz channel gave it.  But it sure would have been nice to have some extra footage added in there on the DVD.  At least to fill it out to a good 90 minutes.  But as we said, that is a minor complaint.

So if you have any desire to get into makeup effects, then this is essential for you to watch.  But even if you just a fan of horror movies, then you also owe it to yourself to see this, and learn your history on some of the most talented people out there in the scare business.


FATAL FRAMES
(1996)
Directed by Al Festa
Starring Stefania Stella, Rick Gianasi, David Warbeck, Ugo Pagliai, Rossano Brazzi, Donald Pleasence, Geoffrey Copleston
Alida Valli, Linnea Quigley, Angus Scrimm, Ciccio Ingrassia

This was the film that was suppose to jump-start the Italian thriller / horror genre back in the 90’s.  The word was that Al Festa was going to show the world that the giallo films were still alive and well in Italy.  He had an all-star cast, both Italian actors such as Ugo Pagliai, Rossano Brazzi, Alida Valli, and Ciccio Ingrassia, as well as British actors like Donald Pleasence and David Warbeck an even some American actors like Angus Scrimm.  Plus you had Steve Johnston doing the special makeup effects.  How could this go wrong?  Well, just watch the movie and you’ll see. 

Director Al Festa had made his career as a music video director, and composer for such films as Bruno Mattei’s ROBOWAR or Claudio Fragasso’s ZOMBIE 4: AFTER DEATH, before going on to bring us FATAL FRAMES.  This is very obvious when you watch the movie.  It’s like one long music video.  But this isn’t always a bad thing, when there’s something else there.  Unfortunately in this case, there isn’t.

The story is about an American director, played by Rick Gianasi, who is asked to come to Italy to film a new music video.  His girlfriend had been brutally murdered recently; so he decides it would be a good idea to get away.  But while in Italy, he keeps witnessing a killer dressed in black, slicing up young women.  But once the police arrive, there’s no evidence that a murder was committed.  Of course, he decides to try and figure out what’s going on.

Stefania Stella, who also produced the movie, plays the main female lead.  Go figure.  She is playing herself, and is the star of the music video to be shot.  So we get to see several scenes of the video shoot, with Stella singing, and flopping around in the water, trying not to have her large chest fall out of her costumes.  Could this whole movie be just about promoting Stella and her acting & singing talents?  One would initially think that, but they really tried to make a good movie here.  They just didn’t.  Stella’s grasp of English leaves much to be desired.  I know it’s not her first language, but there are times when it sounds like she’s talking with marbles in her mouth. The weak script makes the poor acting shine even brighter.

Gianasi starred in Troma’s SGT. KABUKIMAN, as well in these two low-budget flicks MUTANT HUNT and BREEDERS. He almost makes Stella look good.  I guess he should really stick to making more films for Troma.  The rest of the cast is either wasted in bit parts (save for David Warbeck), or is a waste of time.  Scrimm’s little one scene cameo is really more embarrassing than entertaining.

The gore effects are one highlight of the movie.  Steve Johnston and his company provided them.  They were done very well, and are some of the best splatter effects I’ve seen in quite some time.  So the film at least has that going for it.  Although the one bad thing about Johnson doing the effects is that I’m sure that had something to do with the fact that Linnea Quigley was in the film.  The behind-the-scene featurette on the DVD shows some of the work that Johnson & company are doing in process.

But if you really are a fan of this movie, this DVD is a wet dream come true.  It has tons of extras on it.  It features music videos from both Stefania Stella and Al Festa.  Stella’s are mainly from the movie, but Festa’s look like they are from the 80’s.

The film itself runs 125 minutes, which is about 6 minutes shorter than the original bootleg prints that were in circulation.  But the disc has 16 minutes of deleted scenes.  It also has a 26-minute making of documentary, which covers all the major cast and crew.

The DVD features audio commentary by the director Al Festa & Stefania Stella.  This has got to be one of the weirdest commentaries that I’ve heard.  Being that English is not their first language, there are times when it’s either hard to understand what they are saying, or they might get some words mixed up.  That’s understandable, but is still amusing.  But then there are times when Stella goes off on this long speech about someone or a certain part of the movie, where it’s so obvious that she had pre-written the speech before hand.  Stella goes on and on about her music videos and singing, hoping that everybody enjoys it as much as she enjoys performing for her fans.  Yea.  Right.  And then to top off the whole two hours, Festa actually comes up with the dumbest joke that I was actually embarrassed.  Right in the middle of the commentary, Festa says, “By the way, I know what you did.”  A puzzled “What?” comes from the others.  Festa then replies, “I know what you did last summer.”  And then they all laugh, while I tried to keep from crying.  And the two hours of commentary actually has mood music playing in the background!  It’s a riot.

So is the movie worth the price?  While their hearts were in the right places, they simple made a really bad movie.  But I picked up my copy at Best Buy for only $15.  And for that small of a price, I definitely got my entertainment IT.  So it’s a tough call for you, the reader.  If you want some cheap entertainment…you’re all set.


(1972)
Directed by Jimmy Sangster
Starring Peter Cushing, Ralph Bates, Judy Geeson, Joan Collins

This film marked several incidents in Hammer Studios' film history.  It was the last film that Jimmy Sangster worked with Hammer.  It was also the last of their psycho-thrillers that Sangster had started back with TASTE OF FEAR.  And it was also the first film that Peter Cushing worked on after the death of his wife.

The film was originally written quite some time ago by Sangster, under the title THE CLAW, but was never made.  Several years later, the script was brought back, had some re-writes done on it by Mihael Syson, which became FEAR IN THE NIGHT.  This was the third and last film that Sangster had directed, and again as in the previous three films, starred his friend Ralph Bates.

Bates plays a teacher who has gotten a job at a boy’s school run by Peter Cushing.  Judy Geeson plays his newlywed wife, who is just getting over a nervous breakdown.  But before the couple leave for their new home at the school, she is attacked by a man with a prosthetic arm.  No one seems to believe that she was attack, and she wonders if she might be having another nervous breakdown.  It gets worse when they arrive at the school to find the headmaster of the school, played by Cushing, has a prosthetic arm.

One of the things I like about this film is that it has a limited cast, basically only four characters.  But the film really is carried by them and the story.  While it might not be too hard to figure out just what it going on, it’s still a very entertaining thriller.  And I’m sure that has mainly to do with the exceptional cast.

Judy Geeson is perfect in this role of the troubled newlywed.  She has the perfect eyes for this role.  Her glassy eyes are like an opening to her soul.  When she starts to loose it, you can see her staring off into space, knowing that nothing is registering in those eyes.  Bates once again does a great job as the husband with a hidden agenda.  Joan Collins plays the wife of Headmaster Cushing, practicing for her future TV career as a real queen bitch.  And of course Cushing does an exceptional job, as one would expect, as the man dedicated to the teaching the young boys.

Being one of the last of the Hammer films, it was released on video by Thorn/EMI under the FEAR IN THE NIGHT title, but was also released by Neon Video under the title HONEYMOON OF FEAR.  Anchor Bay brings it to DVD, and like their past releases, it is in excellent shape.  It is presented in widescreen format, 1.85:1 ratio.  The disc also comes with the trailer.

But to me, one of the best highlights of this disc is the audio commentary by Hammer historian Marcus Hearn and Jimmy Sangster, who co-wrote and directed the film.  The commentary isn’t as much about this film as it is about Sangster career, and mainly with Hammer.  He does talk about some of his career in the States, such writing TV movies or working on some TV series like GHOST STORY.  But most of the conversations are about Hammer and the people that worked in, on, and behind the films.  And if you are a fan of Hammer films, that reason alone is enough for someone to buy this DVD.  You will learn a lot of information and insight about how Hammer operated and the people who worked their.  I find it fascinating to hear how movies were made back then, compared to the way they are today.

Though it is strange why Anchor Bay would plaster Joan Collins' face on the cover of the DVD packaging.  She is even given top billing on the front cover.  Granted, I'm sure they thought that might help it sell a little bit more, but I think they could have come up with something a little bit better.  But if that's the only thing I could find to complain about, I guess that would mean that I would highly recommend this DVD, which I do.


(2006)
Directed by John Gulager
Starring Balthazar Getty, Henry Rollins, Navi Rawat, Judah Friedlander,
Josh Zuckerman, Jason Mewes, Jenny Wade, Krista Allen, Clu Culager

Just about every horror fan knows of this movie.  And I'm sure that is either because this is the 3rd movie to be made by the Project Greenlight series, or that it was suppose to be out well over a year ago, but kept getting delayed and delayed.  Which by movie standards, is not necessarily a good thing.  But this had recently hit DVD and we had heard many good things about it.  So we didn't even wait for Netflix, and went out and picked it up.  And even more surprising, we even watched the very next day!  And so I have to say, that if you're looking for a no-nonsense, straight out horror fun, then this is your movie.

This is basically a remake of the plot from the 1995 film DEMON KNIGHT.  But the difference here there is no back story.  It's just about a group of people in a bar, trying to keep a bunch of monsters outside from getting inside.  There's no explanation to what these things are, or where they came from.  That may bother some people, but to me, it didn't affect the film in a negative way.  Who cares where they came from?  That's what sequels are for.  The point is that there's a bunch of monsters out there that are trying to get in and kill the people inside.  Plain and simple.

But one thing that is very different in this story are the heroes.  It's kind of hard to go into more details without giving away spoilers, so we won't.  But let's just say that I give the writers credit for going in different directions than the norm.  A few times.  Nicely done.

Some may complain that there's no character development.  I disagree.  Not only do I think there is some background given to each character, in a very new and humorous way, but I think that is plenty enough for us to understand who these characters are.  That may be due to the fact that they are very stereotyped, but do we really need that much more?

The real highlight of the characters to me, was the bartender, played by the cult icon Clu Gulager.  He plays the role so straight that most of his dialog is pretty funny.  Not that he's a 'funny guy' but just in his sarcastic delivery.  He's the real gem of this story.  Another highlight is the lovely Krista Allen.

Director Gulager gives us another example when horror and comedy can be mixed together effectively.  The humor here is mainly from the characters and the circumstances they're in.  There's no silly slapstick humor.  It's all from the situations and the dialog.  But once again, the dialog isn't stupid little jokes but the kind of things these people would be saying.

The effects were done by Gary J. Tunnicliffe, who seems to be working on just about every low budget movie these days.  From doing the new PUMPKINHEAD sequels, just about all the HELLRAISER sequels, and the list goes on and on.  And once again, he shows why he is working on all of these films.  He can pull off some amazing work with very little time and even less money.  That shows a true talented effects man.  He provided the monster suits as well as all the gore.  And there is plenty of that.

For fans of the good old days of bloody carnage of the 70's and 80's, you will not be let down here.  The film uses a lot of blood.  A lot.  Peoples heads are getting ripped off, limbs taken off, eyes pulled out, and much more.  You will not be disappointed.  The only real complaint that I could give this movie is that you don't really get that good of a look at the monsters.  Plus, during the monster attacks, they use the "fast shaky cam", which I'm sure is used to hide a lot of errors in the monsters.  And by errors, I just mean because of the budget.  But all that aside, the monsters are pretty damn cool looking.  They reminded me how Clive Barker originally described his title monster from his short story "Rawhead Rex", where it's head was basically one giant mouth, filled with teeth.

Like the movie, the DVD comes full of some fun extras.  There are some deleted scenes, which once again show why they are "deleted scenes".  There is a short featurette that shows the making of the film, with interviews with the director, producer, actors, and makeup man Tunnicliffe.  And speaking of Tunnicliffe, there is also a featurette on his work on the film.  What more could you want than an Out-take section, which is pretty funny.  There is also audio commentary by director Gulager, writers Patrick Melton & Marcus Dunstan, Gary Tunnicliffe, producers Mike Leahy & Joel Soisson, and editor Kirk Morri.  This also continues the very funny atmosphere of the making of this movie.

This is even going to get me to rent the Project Greenlight 3 DVD when it comes out.  It will be cool to see the behind-the-scenes of this film, even though they will make much more drama in it than it probably really happened.

So want a good old-fashion monster movie, filled with plenty of blood and guts, and want to laugh out loud, I would recommend checking this movie out.  I think you'll enjoy it.  I know we did.


(2008)
Directed by John Gulager
Starring Jenny Wade, Clu Gulager, Diane Ayala Goldner, Tom Gulager,
Carol Anthony Payne, Hanna Putnam, Martin Klebba, Judah Friedlander

Feast was the only film to come out of the Project Greenlight series that turned a profit.  So it’s only natural that they would try and repeat that success with a sequel (actually two sequels filmed back to back).  Unfortunately, all the charms of the first one seemed to be really forced in part 2, leaving this viewer disappointed.  Not to say that the film didn’t have its merits, but I think they were just trying to hard to capture the lightning in a bottle a second time.

The first film did have its share of some pretty outrageous moments and plot turns that one usually wouldn’t expect.  And we loved it for that.  But it seemed in the sequel that they wanted to try and go way over the top even more.  Once again, some parts work, but more often they don’t.  Some just seemed silly.  Maybe since the first one caught us off guard, showing that we really didn’t know what was going to happen.  That surprise is gone here.  Plus, I think they went a little too far in a couple of scenes.

The film starts off right after the ending of the first film.  Harley Mom’s twin sister shows up looking for her, only finding her severed hand.  She also discovers the wounded bartender (played again by Clu Gulager) hiding under a trailer, who we all assumed was dead at the end of the first film.  Guess not.  But we loved Clu’s crusty old character and were glad to see him back.

The only other returning character, besides the monsters, is Jenny Wade as Honey Pie.  The last we saw of her in the first film is when she drove off in the truck, leaving everyone else stranded at the bar.  Not only do we meet up with her, but also a whole bunch of other crazy characters set to replace the ones that were killed off in the bar in the first film.  I think that’s one of the problems was they were trying so hard to replace them with other “memorable” characters, such as all of them having nicknames.  I don’t think it worked this time out.  Sure, having two midget Mexican wrestling brothers were kind of funny….the first 10 minutes.  After that, it got old.

I guess that’s one of my biggest issues with this film is that there really isn’t a single character in here that you care about.  In the first one, there were several.  Even though some of them might not have been the best people in the world, you did develop some sort of attachment to them.  Not here.  The only one that comes close is the crotchety old bartender and his dirty mouth comments every now and then.  And even those start to lose their charm.

In the first film, a lot of the monster makeup (and budget) was hidden with fast and shaky cameras and dark lighting.  Here the monsters are out in broad daylight, so there’s no where to hide their flaws.  And for that part, they did an excellent job.  Especially since they apparently they have quite a bit less budget in for this film.  There is more than enough monster action, blood spraying, and body parts flying.  And most of that work was top notch.  Though since we do see them more, they do seem more like the whole “guy in rubbersuit”, a lot more than the first one, which we don’t have a problem with.  Better have that then some cheesy CGI. 

But the one thing that I noticed right away in this sequel that I don’t remember seeing in the original film is the use of GCI.  And not only CGI, but very bad CGI.  Listen up, people.  If it’s going to look like a cartoon, unless you WANT it to look like a cartoon, don’t use it.  Just figure out some other way to get the desired effect.  For me, it takes me away from the action when I see obvious cartoon blood flying around.  The CGI parts in here were just silly. 

The DVD does come with a good behind-the-scenes featurette which covers quite a bit.  There are comments from a few of the cast, some details on the makeup effects and monster appendages.  There’s also audio commentary: with director John Gulager, screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, producer Mike Leahy, actors Diane Goldner, Tom Gulager, and Clu Gulager.

They do set up the ending of this film to go right into the 3rd one.  As a matter of fact, this one doesn’t even have an ending.  So don’t be surprised when the movie just ends.  But make sure you stay watching until the credits are over.


FIEND WITHOUT A FACE
(1958)
Directed by Arthur Crabtree.
Starring Marshall Thompson, Kim Parker, Terence Kilburn.

Thoughts materialize and being a evil entity after a scientist's experiments go wrong.  At first they're invisible, attacking their unsuspecting prey.  But when they start to appear, they are one of the most original ideas (no pun intended) for a monster: Brains with antennas, and with a spinal cord for a tail.  A truly great design.  This is one of those classic films from the late 50's with a cross between science going wrong, and the threat of atomic radiation.

Criterion has released yet another great DVD special edition for this film.  It features a new widescreen transfer, with digital picture restoration and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions.  It also features an audio commentary conversation with executive producer Richard Gordon and genre film writer Tom Weaver.  Other features include:

  • Illustrated essay on British sci-fi / horror filmmaking by film historian Bruce Eder

  • A collection of trailers from Gordon Films: FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, THE HAUNTED STRANGLER, CORRIDORS OF BLOOD, FIRST MAN INTO SPACE, and THE ATOMIC SUBMARINE

  • Rare still photographs and ephemera, with commentary

  • Vintage advertisements and lobby cards


FINAL DESTINATION
(2000)
Directed James Wong.
Starring Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenveur Smith, Chad Donella, Seann William Scott, Tony Todd.

I was very surprised and very entertained by this film, which is completely different from what I expected.  I originally figured it would be yet another teenager horror flicks in the SCREAM vain.

But instead it was a very good story, with several disturbing sequences.  The basic plot is about a group of school kids are going to fly to Paris for a school trip.  But due to a premonition about the plane crashing, one student starts to freak out and gets taken off the plane along with some other schoolmates.  Sure enough, shortly after takeoff, the plane explodes.  But when the kids think they’ve escaped from Death’s grip, they’re wrong, and one by one it comes collecting.

Some of the death sequences are interesting, if not a little far-fetched.  Death seems to go way out of his way to get somebody “by accident”, but it didn’t detracted that much from the film for me.  Plus there is one sequence that you will not see coming that will totally take you by surprise, and it’s done really well.

Also you may notice that many of the character names are from famous people from the genre, such as Browning, Chaney, Murnau, Dreyer, Schreck, and even Hitchcock.

If you have any fear of flying, the opening sequence will not be a good experience for you.  I’ve never had any fear of flying, but it even had me a shaken up a bit.

The DVD release of this movie is filled with extras.  All this for only about $20.00

  • Widescreen presentation (1.85:1) & 5.1 Dolby Surround sound.

  • Two separate commentaries.  The first one is the filmmakers James Wong, Glen Morgan, James Coblentz, and Jeffrey Reddick.  The second one has actors Devon Sawa, Kerr Smith, Kristin Cloke, and Chad E. Donella.

  • There is also an isolated score and commentary with composer Shirley Walker.

  • Deleted scenes and alternate ending

  • Test Screenings: Documentary about the filmmakers and studio executives reveal the process of test marketing and the impact this has on the storyline of FINAL DESTINATION.

  • PREMONITIONS: Documentary about Pam Coronado, a real life intuitive investigator who taps her psychic skills to help crime fighters crack unsolved mysteries.

  • Theatrical trailers

  • DVD-ROM Features: Read the screenplay while watching the film.


(1964)
Directed by Jack Curtis
Starring Bryon Sanders, Rita Morley, Barbara Wilkin, Martin Kosleck, Ray Tudor

"WE STUMBLED UPON A LIVING HORROR!"

Thanks to the wonderful people at Dark Sky Films, this once rare classic is now readily available for us fans.  Made back in early 60's, this film had most everything a horror fan could want.  You had a simple plot, with a small and simple cast.  You had some great characters, who still think they're in a film made in the 40's or 50's.  And you even had some decent gore footage for a film of that time.  Yea, some of it was a little silly, but I think it's still enjoyable.  And if that wasn't enough, you also have a new and original monster, that even mutates into something even more entertaining!

A young pilot is hired to take a drunken movie star and her assistant over to Provincetown.  But due to mechanical problems and an oncoming storm, they have to land on a island, with its only inhabitant is a German scientist, who says he's collecting samples for his experiments.  Shortly after they get there, they find the complete skeleton of a woman (they knew it was a woman because it was still holding her bikini top) washed up on the beach.  Amazing how those bones stay together after the muscles are gone, isn't it?

They soon discover that there is some sort of parasites in the water that devour flesh.  These parasites are shown in the film by what looks like basically scratching the film negative.  But even still, I think it's a pretty cool effect, for that time.  But it's not that simple of just being trapped on the island.  The pilot also has to deal with his drunken movie star, who isn't the most nicely person, drunk or sober.  And then there's the mysterious scientist.  Just what kind of experiments is he doing?

Probably my favorite part of this movie is actor Martin Kosleck's portrayal of the German scientist.  While playing it a little overboard, like all bad guys should be, Kosleck still gives the audience a real feel for his "better than the rest of you" character.  Known for his roles as Germans, usually Nazis, Kosleck does a great job here as well.  He gives one of these great villains, who knows they are right and are going to win, no matter the costs.  And he comes off as so matter-of-factly about it too.  When they come across the skeleton, he makes the comment that it must have been a shark attack.  Nice.

After being on the island for a day or two, they get some additional company in the form of a beatnik.  While the character is really 'out there', Ray Tudor is a riot as this wacky character.  But when his usefulness has gone, the professor not only plans to get rid of him, but really seems to enjoy it just as much.

For being made in the early 60's, and while it's in black and white, there are few sequences that are pretty gory.  Remember, this was made over 40 years ago, so don't expect some 80's style gore here.  But there is some nice amount of blood and some nice effects, particularly when a couple of these parasites gets on the leg of our hero, the pilot.  While it wouldn't win any awards today, I think back then it must have thrown people for a loop.

Released on video years ago, which was a very hard tape to come by, Dark Sky Films has releases a wonderful DVD with the movie in it's original theatrical version.  The film looks just beautiful here.  The film also includes the deleted Nazi experiment sequences that were cut from the released film.  Though they are interesting to see, I think they are a little bit too campy.  Mainly since the young girls that they throw into the parasite filled water, they come out with their hair still attached.  Now just how does that happen?  The disc also contains trailers and outtakes.


FLESH AND THE FIENDS
(1959)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, George Rose, Billie Whitelaw.

“And you know it gives a man pride, respect of himself to be doing a good job.
Just think of it, Willie.  Burke and Hare members of the great medical profession.”
- William Hare -

There have been several films based on the exploits of the famous duo of Burke and Hare.  They were grave robbers who turn to murder, killing 16 people in Edinburgh in 1827-28.  Their exploits were featured in movies like THE HORRORS OF BURKE AND HARE and THE DOCTOR AND THE DEVILS.  The characters were referred to in Robert Wise’s excellent THE BODY SNATCHERS, in where Boris Karloff follows in their footsteps.  But FLESH AND THE FIENDS has always been my personal favorite version.

The main highlight of the film is the performances that are given by the cast.  Leading the way is Peter Cushing, who plays Dr. Knox.  He is the doctor that is buying the corpses from the “Resurrectionists” for medical studies.  He does this without questioning where or how they came across the bodies.  He is more concerned with the advancement of medical science than to think of what might be happening to the dregs of Edinburgh.  His character of Dr. Knox resembles greatly of that of his performances as another famous doctor, by the name Frankenstein.  Both have such a driven force to learn and advance medical knowledge, that the simple care of humanity is lost.  As always, Cushing performance is excellent.

The two other outstanding performances come from George Rose and Donald Pleasence, who portray the fiendish duo of Burke and Hare.  They realize that there is easy money is selling corpses to the medical school.  But they don’t like the grave digging that is required and also that they have to wait until somebody dies.  They decide to speed up the process, and start killing people.  They are careful on who they pick, strangers that are just arriving in town, or old bums that nobody would think twice about if they showed up missing.  The scene where they bring their first victim home, an old drunken woman, to dispatch of, is very chilling, and shows the darkest depths of humanity.  Pleasence really shines as Hare, the true brains of the operation.

Also starring is John Cairney as a young medical student who falls in love with a young bar maiden named Mary Patterson, played by Billie Whitelaw.  Horror fans will recognize her as the evil nanny in THE OMEN.  She also played another bar maiden in Dan Curtis’ THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

Director John Gilling does a great job intertwining three separate stories together.  There is the love story between the young student and the girl.  He is torn between his love of her and his schooling, where she is torn between her love of him and her love of the bottle and partying.  Then there is the battle between Cushing’s Dr. Knox and his fellow doctors who want him thrown out of the profession for his accusations (which are true) of their incompetence.  And last there is the pair of Burke and Hare that are just trying to make some money, to better their lives.  Even at the cost of human life.

The film has recently been released on dvd by Image Entertainment.  It is presented in a beautiful 2.35:1 ratio, and has never looked this good.  It also contains two different versions of the film.  The first version is British, while the second version is the ‘Continental’ version which contains some nudity that was cut out of the other print.  The dvd also contains the theatrical trailer under the title THE FIENDISH GHOULS.  Director and cast filmographies are included, as well as a photo and poster gallery.

I can’t give enough praise for his movie.  This is simply a must for any collector, fan of the genre, or even just a fan of great cinema.  This one can not be missed.


(1980)
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman, James Canning, Tom Atkins, Nancy Kyes, Hal Holbrook, George 'Buck' Flowers

As we all know our history, this was Carpenter's follow up after that other little film that he did that broke all records for an independent film, HALLOWEEN.  And a lot of people compared it to that film, which I feel is really unjust.  It's a completely different type of film, but still is a very creepy, atmospheric, and very good addition to Carpenter's early career.

The film opens up with John Houseman telling a nice little spooky story around a campfire on the beach, surrounded by the children of the small coastal town of Antonio Bay.  He tells the story of a ship that ran a ground after seeing a campfire light through a thick fog that had appeared.

That night, on the anniversary of the ship crashing, a fog moves over the sea, making it's way towards town.  As it moves, it overtakes fishing boat, where the crew is hard at work getting drunk.  When they make their way out onto the deck of their boat, through the fog they see what looks like an old ship floating past them.  And then they see some figures in the fog, now standing on the deck of their boat...with knives and hooks.

In HALLOWEEN, Carpenter had re-created, re-invented, or at least boosted the slasher/stalker film.  With THE FOG, he has created a great ghost story, something that hasn't been done well too many times in the movies.  For a ghost story to work, you need a good storyline, a great mystery behind the ghosts, and most importantly, atmosphere.  One of the best things about this movie is not that you see the monster, but that in the fog, all you can make out usually is just a figure or a shadow.  A very nice touch.  And when you see the fog coming, you know what's coming with it.  Much like a haunted house movie like THE HAUNTING,  Carpenter does a excellent job in making the actual 'fog' the monster, or at least part of it.

Carpenter has also always been able to get some very talented people behind the camera, as well as in front of.  Dean Cundey was the Director of Photography for this film, along with countless other classic films of the 80's & 90's.  And just like Carpenter has said himself, a lot of this film is the result of Cundey's work.  The stuff they do with the lighting is some classic stuff is simply beautiful.  And in front of the camera this time, he has another great cast.  Hal Holbrook plays the troubled priest, Father Malone, that stumbles onto the real secret to upcoming anniversary to their little town.  Jamie Lee Curtis returns with Carpenter for this next movie, and brings her mother Janet Leigh along for the ride.  Also joining the great cast are genre favorites Tom Atkins and George 'Buck' Flowers.

And as popular and recognizable his HALLOWEEN theme is, I think what Carpenter created for THE FOG is a much better score.  Adding to the atmosphere of the film so much, it just slides into the background and gives an even more of a creepy feeling.  And that is just what a soundtrack should do.

After many years of being a very sought after video tape, MGM released THE FOG on special edition DVD.  And special edition is exactly what this is too.  Of course it is in 2.35:1 ratio (as well as standard format for those who prefer it), and looks incredible.  The disc contains the audio commentary with Carpenter and producer Debra Hill, which was originally from the laserdisc, but is still a great listen, giving some great information and insight to the film.

The disc also contains two different documentaries on the film.  The first one was made back in 1980 for the promotion of the film, called Fear On Film: Inside The Fog.  During the 7 minute short, we hear from Carpenter, Hill, Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Adrienne Barbeau.  It's great seeing them talking about the film at the time when it was coming out.  The second documentary is an all new one called Tales From The Mist: Inside The Fog.  It features all new interviews with everyone who was on the other one, except for Curtis (while they do show clips of her from the older documentary).  But they also talk to Tommy Lee Wallace and Dean Cundey.  This one is just under a half hour, once again giving some great information about the film.  It's also very cool to hear the cast and crew talk about the film all of these years later, right after hearing them in the other documentary talking about the film that is just coming out.

Filling out the extras is a blooper reel (also from the laserdisc), which is pretty funny, especially when John Houseman and Hal Holbrook screw up their lines.  There is also trailers, poster and still gallery, as well as a storyboard to film comparison for the sequence of the first deaths on the fishing boat.  That is really interesting to see how they compare.

So overall, I can't see how this film could not be in someone DVD collection.  I would have to put it up there as probably my favorite of Carpenter's films.  Yes, even before HALLOWEEN.  But that's just me.


1976
Directed by Bert I. Gordon
Starring Marjoe Gortner, Pamela Franklin, Ralph Meeker, Jon Cypher, Ida Lupino, Belinda Balaski

The infamous Mr. B.I.G.  Starting his career making 'giant' movies back in the 50's, Bert I. Gordon made himself a nice little niche in the film market.  Yea, his films might not have been the most technically advanced, but there was entertainment to be had.  Of course, some of that entertainment might be due to the how 'well made' the film was, but that's besides the point.  But Gordon tried his 'giant' movies again in the middle 70's, first with FOOD OF THE GODS and then with EMPIRE OF THE ANTS.  And the special effects had advanced quite a bit in the 10 years since his last "BIG" movie.

Based on the H.G.Wells story, the plot is very simple, as always.  A group of people end up on this small Canadian island, where they run into some very large animals.  It's just happens that an old farmer couple had stumbled on some strange 'goop' coming from the ground.  Of course, they obviously think to feed it to their chickens, which made them grow to 6 feet tall.  But they weren't careful enough to not let other animals or insects get into the food.

Marjoe Gortner plays a football player who is hunting on the island with his two buddies, when one is attacked by giant wasps.  He's dead before they get to him and realize what had attacked him.  But once they find out, they head back out to the island to find out some answers.  Along the way, they run into a young couple on vacation in their RV, and a business man and his assistant who are out to see the farmer couple out their special animal food.

All the actors here are giving it their all.  Plus you have several genre regulars and favorites here.  Probably most notably (to me, anyway) is Pamela Franklin.  We've always enjoyed her since the first time when watched THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE.  But that wasn't her only genre entry.  She was only 11 when she made her debut in the classic ghost story THE INNOCENTS, with Deborah Kerr.  And then she worked with Orson Wells in THE WITCHING (aka NECROMANCY), also directed by Bert I. Gordon.  Plus, many more.  And in FOOD, she once again gives it her all, as one of the original 70's scream queens.

Ida Lupino followed her role in THE DEVIL'S RAIN here as the old Mrs. Skinner, who discovered the mysterious 'food' with her husband.  And HOWLING fans will also recognize Belinda Balaski here.  Now instead of battling werewolves, she's fighting off giant rats.

In the films Gordon made in the 50's, the special effects that he used were in the beginning stages.  Like the insects walking up a photograph of the building, they just didn't look that good.  But by the time the 70's came around, a lot of advancements had been made in both trick photograph and in makeup effects.  There are several shots in of the large rats climbing up the cottage, or invading the RV.  The model sets used were done really well.  And when the large animals are interacting with the human cast, the special effects crews created some very realistic oversized animals.  Except for the wasps.  Those seemed to have been done the old way with the images being super-imposed over the scenes, causing a less than impressive look.  But other than those, I thought the rest of the effects were pull off pretty well.

And since this movie was in the 70's, the filmmakers had no problems having some people getting torn apart by some of these rats.  While we don't see anything as gruesome that we would start to see in the 80's, there are still some pretty unsettling scenes.  Even if it just from a few little caterpillars.

I also wonder if the animal activists were having a field day with this movie.  There are tons of shots (no pun intended) of the rats getting shot.  Now it looks like they are being shot with a paint gun or something.  Whatever it is, when they get hit, the rats go flying back.  Maybe this is why it's never been released on DVD over here.

The film was also written by Gordon, who gives us some great dialog scene.  Once again, talk about being in the 70's.  Once the group of survivors are held up in the cottage, trying to barricade themselves from the rats outside, Pamela Franklin's character turns to Marjoe's and says that she wants to have sex, since she doesn't think they'll get out of there alive.  So in the throes of certain death, it's the female that can only think about sex?  And of course, Marjoe's character turns her down, since there's more important things to worry about.  Right.  My...how the times have changed.

So all in all, we really enjoyed this film.  I think that the effects and trick photography still hold up for the most part.  It's kind of like the old 3-D movies, when you'd see one scene or sequence that was obviously put in there for the 3-D effect.  In FOOD, there are several scenes (like the ones below) where they really tried to show off their split screen techniques.  And I think that in most of the cases, it works really well here.  Then when you add a great cast, it helps out even more.  Maybe someday this will finally get a nice DVD release over here in the states.


(1971)
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, Jean-Pierre Marielle, Bud Spencer, Aldo Bufi Landi,
Calisto Calisti, Marisa Fabbri, Oreste Lionello, Fabrizio Moroni, Corrado Olmi

Don’t worry we won’t be giving any spoilers away with this review, until the very end, which we will alert you before you get there.  So if you’re one of the lucky ones who hasn’t read anything on this film where they unveil the mystery, you won’t discover here in our main part of the review.

Drummer Roberto has been followed the last few days by a strange man in a black overcoat and sunglasses.  One night after rehearsal, he follows the man into an abandoned theater.  Once he confronts him, the man pulls a knife out on him, and the next thing you know, Roberto accidently seems to stab the old man.  And just as this happens, a spotlight shines upon him as someone in a child’s mask takes photos of him.

Shortly there after, Roberto discovers that he is being blackmailed from this mysterious person who took the photos.  But they aren’t seemed to be asking for money or anything.  But when people start to discover more of the mystery, they end up meeting a grisly end.  His wife, played by Mimsy Farmer, seems a little disjointed about what is happening to her husband.

This was Argento’s third movie, ending what some call his “Animal Trilogy” (with Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Cat O’ Nine Tails being the first two).  This isn’t as well known to most fans, only because it’s been very tough to find a decent quality print.  But there is a new DVD release from a German company called RetroFilm, that seems to be the best you’re going to find for the time being.  This print is mainly from a 35mm print, but they have added in shots from other sources to make the film as complete as they could.  Most of the film is pretty decent quality.  You can see when they go to the other sources, some of them being pretty grainy.  But overall, it really doesn’t distract from the film.  And besides that, it’s the best looking print that I’ve ever come across.

But out of those 3 early films, I find I like this one the least.  One of those reasons is that there really aren’t any characters in this movie that you could really care about.  Even our protagonist Roberto isn’t the nicest guy.  So we don’t care that he’s being blackmailed or tormented by some mysterious person.

But fans of Argento won’t be entirely disappointed with this film.  It does have its plentiful interesting camera work that he was known for.  There’s a great use of the camera during the sequence with the maid being stalked.  Does a great job building suspense and tension for the viewer.  A lot of times, critics like to point out that using the killer’s POV makes the audience into the killer, so we can experience what the killer is.  But during one of the murder sequences, the camera goes from the killer’s POV to the victim’s POV.  Very interesting, since I can’t recall seeing someone doing that before.

The idea they use to try to help identify the killer is something that is a myth used in many stories.  The idea is that the killer’s face might be the last image the victim sees, and that image is burned onto the eye’s retina.  But the only image they can find looks like four flies, which is even more puzzling, until it all comes clear at the end.

So if you are a die-hard Argento fan and can’t wait for an official release to ever come out of this movie, then this is the disc you should pick up.  As we said, most of the film looks great.  It is in a beautiful 2.35:1 widescreen format, with English audio track available.  It is available at Xploidted Cinema.  Just click the banner below.

* * * SPOILER ALERT * * *

We did want to make a comment or two on Mimsy Farmer’s performance.  Throughout most of the movie, she seems pretty low-key.  She gets excited every now and then, but is pretty sedate.  Until the end, when we find out that she is the killer.  Then she transforms into this almost possessed character, ranting and raving about how and why she wanted her husband to suffer and die.  Pretty twisted and really comes out of nowhere.  And of course, the very ending of the movie is very memorable as well.


(2005)
Directed by Jaume Balagueró
Starring Calista Flockhart, Richard Roxburgh, Elena Anaya, Gemma Jones, Yasmin Murphy,
Colin McFarlane, Michael Pennington, Daniel Ortiz, Susie Trayling

Following up with his films THE NAMELESS and DARKNESS, director Balaueró gives us what I feel is his best film to date.  The film is set inside a children's hospital on an English island that is being shut down.  The hospital...not the island.  Most of the other patients already have been moved, but after a  huge train accident, the other hospitals are overcrowded.  So the remaining children and skeleton staff have to remain there for a few more days.

Calista Flockhart plays a American nurse who is just starting work there on the night shift.  It's not long before we realize that she seems to have some extra baggage, which might be a reason for a new job.  She quickly befriends one patient, a little girl named Maggie who is dying.  Maggie tells her that there is someone that lives on the floor directly above them.  Her name is Charlotte, but some call her the "mechanical girl".  But nobody else there has seen her or believes her.  It doesn't help the fact that upper floor had been closed and sealed off after a terrible accident happened there many decades ago.  During the night, one of the children's leg gets broken...while lying in bed.  Nobody can figure it out, or seem to really try to.  The same goes with the strange noises that are heard from the floor above.

Balagueró shows that he can continue to create a great mood and creepy atmosphere in his films.  One can only imagine being pretty much on your own in a darkened hospital ward, and hearing strange noises from the deserted floor right above you.  But besides giving us a creepy visual ride, he also fills it out with an incredible story that draws the viewer in, letting us discover the secrets to the hospital as our main character does.  And when most of the cast is filled out with children, it's pretty easy to be drawn into the story and worry about these kids, especially when things go start to go wrong.

Flockhart does an excellent job as the nervous nurse Amy.  She is really trying to deal with her past, but once things start to go awry, her judgment is brought into question.  Richard Roxburgh, who played Dracula in VAN HELSING, plays one of the doctors on staff, who tries to help Flockhart to unravel the mystery.  Elena Anaya, who was also in VAN HELSING, as one of Dracula's brides, plays a fellow nurse.

If you like creepy ghost stories, then you will enjoy this no matter what.  It has everything that a great ghost story should have.  Great creepy elements, characters that you feel for, and a great story that holds it all together.  There are several sequences here that will have you on the edge of your seat, especially the last 15 minutes or so.  We've seen what Balagueró has done with the zombie genre with [REC] and its sequel.  So check out this one to see his incredible entry in the ghost story genre.  This comes highly recommended.


(1973)
Directed by Glenn Jordan
Starring Robert Foxworth, Bo Svenson, Susan Strasberg, Heidi Vaughn, Phillip Bourneauf, John Karlen, Rovert Gentry, and Willie Aames

First of all, I love the TV films that Dan Curtis made back in the 70’s.  Plus, I love the story of Frankenstein.  So combining those two together, it’s pretty much going to be tough for me to give an unbiased opinion.  But we’ll try.

Originally aired in January of 1973, as part of the Wide World of Mystery series on ABC, this was one of many made-for-TV horrors that Curtis would be involved with.  Of course, the original Dark Shadows being the start of it all.  But we’ve always loved the look of these shot-on-video productions, since they looked more like something showing on PBS than an actually movie.  So they seemed more real….at least they did to an 8-year old boy.

Robert Foxworth could do no wrong in the 70’s.  He ran the gambit of the type of horror movies he was in, battling all sorts of monsters.  From THE DEVIL’S DAUGHTER in the early 70’s to PROPHECY, DEATH MOON, and IT HAPPENED AT LAKEWOOD MANOR, you couldn’t be a fan of 70’s horrors and not know this guy.  And the reason he was in these was because he could always deliver.  And here is no different.  He takes his role of Victor Frankenstein very seriously.  His serious gazing eyes shows us his passion to create a life from nothing, to prove to his fellow naysayers that he could do the unimaginable.

Bo Svenson plays the creature, and actually does a better job than I would have thought.  He does a decent job bringing pathos to the character, which is very key for that role.  At times he does seem very gentle and kind.  But when bad things happen to him, he shows us the creature lacks the understanding to deal with it and then turns into the “monster” everyone first sees of him.

The rest of the cast is filled out by other talented actors, including Susan Strasberg and John Karlen (another 70’s TV regular).  You have a very young Willie Aames as Victor’s younger brother.  But really all the action is with the characters of Foxworth’s Victor and Svenson’s the “giant” as he’s billed.

Sure the story doesn’t follow the exact story line from the book, but hardly any of these adaptations do.  But it still carries the main message and theme in this wonderful production.

If you were watching any made-for-TV horror programs in the 70’s, you had heard the music of Robert Corbert.  These are mainly from the countless projects that he worked on with Dan Curtis.  And even though some music from Dark Shadows and some other projects are re-used in this movie, they still fit very nicely here and give it an even bigger feel to the production.

This newly released DVD from Dark Sky Films contains audio commentary by Robert Foxworth and John Karlen, moderated by Jim Pierson which gives tons of information about the making of the film.  Plus there are some fond remembrances from Karlen and Foxeworth.  Foxworth makes a great point about todays over use of “MTV-style” cutting.  Where here, in these older films, the actors and the scenes are used to hold the audiences attention.  I had never of though of it that way, but it is true.

The disc also has the promo, the recap and the preview from the original ’73 broadcast.  For someone who had been watching these programs at a young age when they were first broadcast, seeing these little promos brought back a huge wave of nostalgia.  Nicely done.


(1974)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Shane Briant, Madeline Smith, David Prowse, John Stratton, Michael Ward, Elsie Wagstaff, and Patrick Troughton.

This was the landmark film for Hammer Studios.  Not only was it the last Frankenstein film for Hammer, but it was also the last time that Terence Fisher worked for them as well.  Hammer was coming to an end, and this was one of their last attempts at the gothic films that made them famous.

Cushing’s portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein kind like his characterization from FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED…while he is not a nice person, he is not as overall mean he seems to be in that previous entry.  He still is not about to let anyone get in the way of his experiments, and does what he feels needs to be done to advance his experiments.  And now he has found the perfect hiding place, inside an asylum for the criminally insane.  While he’s a little bit more passive than in DESTROYED, that cold determination is still there.  And that’s the part I’ve always enjoyed about Cushing’s Frankenstein…that unstoppable devotion.  So yes, he really is the highlight of the film.

But like most Hammer films, there are many other good points.  The rest of the cast is as good as usual.  Though Briant always seems to come off as a bit conceited.  He just never seemed to have that deep rooted acting ability.  John Stratton does an excellent job as the seedy and wimpy Director of the asylum.  You almost feel sorry for him.  Then of course, in a small role in the beginning as a graverobber, we have Patrick Troughton, who seemed to showing up a lot in the later Hammer films.  Madeline Smith does fit her part rather well as the Angel.  With her wide staring eyes, I can see it taming one of the crazy inmates at the asylum.

David Prowse returns to Hammer in his second role of a creation of a Frankenstein.  In 1970, he played Ralph Bates’ creation in HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN.  The makeup here is a little bit more extreme than in that film.  And even though it does look more like a rubber suit (which is what it was), I think they did come up with an interesting design for the monster.  Yes, even though it does look more like an ape creature than some pieced-together cadaver, I still think it looks good.

Paramount has released his on DVD, but unfortunately, this is the American print, which is cut.  There are several famous scenes during different surgeries where some of the gore has been snipped out.  Including the shot of Cushing holding an artery with his teeth.  That was longed thought to be a publicity shot, and not really in the movie.  But the Japanese version, which was released on laserdisc, is the full version, with all the gore intact.  But, I came across this DVD in the $5.88 discount bin at Wal-Mart.  For that price, I was willing to buy it, even if for the audio commentary.

The commentary by Prowse and Smith is very interesting.  Both tell stories of making of the film, as well as working with Hammer in general.  But unfortunately, the commentary is the only extra on the disc.  Once again, it seems that there could have been a lot more extras on this, even it was something as simple as a poster and still gallery.  But I'm afraid it is pretty bare.  I guess we should be grateful for the commentary, to be able to hear these actors talk about their experiences making the film.  But that still doesn't make me forget that there this print is cut.

So could I recommend it?  One side of me says sure…it is a Hammer film, right?  But as a friend says, if we buy the cut prints, that’s telling the DVD producers that we will buy it no matter what, uncut or not.  And I do agree with that to a point.  So it’s really up to you.  This is probably the only time this film will be coming on DVD.  I just don’t see someone else buying the rights and re-releasing it.  But I could be wrong.  But since I paid less than $6.00, I can’t really complain.  But if you are a die-hard Hammer fan, you've probably bought it the first day it was released...I got mine on the second.


(1965)
Directed by Robert Gaffney
Starring James Karen, Marilyn Hanold, Lou Cutell, Nancy Marshall, David Kerman, Robert Reilly

Watching this DVD was like going through a time machine.  I felt like I was 12 years old again.  And I think I enjoyed it more now then if I had seen it back then.  I must admit, that I had never seen this film in it's entirety.  The parts that I had seen before were clips that were shown the in the film IT CAME FROM HOLLYWOOD.  If you're not familiar with that title, it was a film from 1982, and was full of clips from movies like this and much worse.  It was hosted by John Candy, Dan Ackyod, Cheech and Chong, and Gilda Radner.  This was years before Mystery Science Theater 3000, but was the same process, with these guys talking over the films, making all sort funny comments.  FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER was featured quite a bit.  Back then it looked like a real hoot.  And after watching it recently, it sure was.

Filled with tons of stock footage of rockets blasting off, airplanes taking off, and much more, the story is about an attempt to launch a man to the planet Mars.  But the lucky astronaut is actually a humanoid, built from the parts from other bodies, hence the Frankenstein in the title.  But while all these is being planned, a flying saucer from another planet is watching Earth, in search of 'breeding stock' for their dying race.  It seems that after a war on their planet, everybody has died.  So they need women to re-populate their race.  But their plans don't go as easy as they hoped, especially once they meet up with the humanoid Frankenstein after they had shot is rocket ship down.

Fans of the old sci-fi movies of the 50's and 60's will just love this one.  From the cheesy dialog to the outrageous plot, it's all a great time.  You'll hear lines like "Shall I initiate preliminary pre-take off procedures?", which you don't hear these days.  You have some hip and swinging music interludes in between the dialog sequences.  And you have a humanoid robot that can't even make it through a press conference, but it planning to fly a rocket to Mars?!?!?

James Karen, who most modern day horror fans know as Frank from RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, stars as the scientist who created the humanoid.  While is much younger here, you can recognize his face, and especially his voice.  It's great to see him once again play this role as straight and serious as you could.  Another person that I never recognized was that of Lou Cutell, who plays the pointed-eared alien Dr. Nadir.  Cutell was also in PEE WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE as the Amazing Larry.  He also gives one entertaining performance.  There are times when he is playing it completely straight, and then there are times when it looks like he's purposely going way overboard.  But you're never quite sure!

What Dark Sky Films has done with this release is giving a great gift to older fans.  This film will bring back some great childhood memories.  Even if you haven't seen this film before, it just has that Saturday afternoon matinee feeling to it, that will take you back to your youth.  Plus, it's also great for today's younger fans who enjoy these types of movies.  But I think those numbers are quite lower.

Unfortunately, the only extras on this disc is a still gallery and a theatrical trailer.  It's a shame that they couldn't get James Karen to do an audio commentary.  But that is the only complaint here.  The print looks great, except for the stock footage, since that was probably graining to begin with.  But overall, it looks great.

So if you an older fan that longs for those afternoon matinees from your youth, filled with aliens, spaceships, and monsters from another world, do yourself a favor and pick up this movie.  Turn on the TV, hit play on the DVD player, and be transported back to a time when those aliens and spaceships and monsters were all we needed.


(1969)
Directed by Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Simon Ward, Veronica Carlson, Freddie Jones, Thorley Walters, Maxine Audley

Peter Cushing gave the character of Dr. Frankenstein a whole new look and feel...and attitude  With Cushing, he wasn't the troubled, guilt-ridden scientist that we remember from Universal's original.  Here, he is driven.  He is dedicated to his work.  Beyond obsession, he will stop at nothing to advance his work...even if that meant murder.  That is probably the main reason that Hammer's Frankenstein films were so popular...because of Mr. Cushing.  He brought so much to the role, always playing it straight, and always giving that glimpse of true evil in his eyes.  The sign of a real madman...he could be courteous and friendly at time, when it suited his needs.  But at the flick of  a switch, turn back into the evil genius that he is.  We start to wonder why he is trying to advance his medical experiments.  Is it really to help humanity, or is that just some sort of an excuse for his demented schemes. 

FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED has always been my favorite of the Hammer / Frankenstein films.  While in this film we're not assembling body parts together, but transplanting brains.  And in here, Cushing gives us his darkest portrayal yet.  He despises weakness and stupidity, and loves to point it out and take advantage of them.  One of my favorites scenes is when Cushing overhears some local tenants talking about the work of "mad scientists".  Cushing says, "Excuse me, but I didn't know you were doctors."  When they reply that they are not doctors, Cushing replies with a sarcastic, "I'm sorry.  I thought you knew what you were talking about."  Classic.  Cushing's portrayal shows just what Frankenstein thinks of people.  If they are not simply an annoyance, then if they can, they are there to be used.  And he does just that.

Another reason for this film being so good is, like many of Hammer's pictures, the cast.  Whether it be the main characters, or just little bit parts, Hammer seemed to have some great character actors to fill those parts.  One of the standouts here is Thorley Walters.  His face is very familiar with fans of British films, not just with Hammer.  Here he plays the inspector searching for the mysterious murdering doctor, who happens to be Cushing, and he does a wonderful job at it.  Of course, you have the lovely Veronica Carlson, who along with her boyfriend Simon Ward, are being blackmailed by Cushing. In one of the best scenes of the movie, Carlson is desperately trying to remove a hidden body from the garden after a pipe bursts, spraying water everywhere, and making the dead hand pop out of the ground.  Add in Freddie Jones as the victim of Frankenstein's work, and you have another great Hammer movie.

Warner Bros. have done an excellent job with this release, as far as the print is concerned.  It looks great, and is the uncut version of the film, which includes the famous 'rape scene' that was not in most release prints.  The story goes that the scene wasn't in the original script, but Hammer wanted more sex in the film, so requested that scene inserted.  But once again, the only extra on this release is a trailer.  But none the less, being my one of my favorites from Hammer, I am tickled to see this one hit DVD.


(1968)
Directed by Enrique Eguiluz
Starring Paul Naschy, Manuel Manzaneque, Dianik Zurakowska, Julian Ugarte, Rosanna Yanni, Aurora de Alba, Carlos Casaravilla, Julian Ugarte, Jose Nieto

You must understand right away, that being a huge Naschy fan, my review here could be a little jaded...could be.  Fans of this site should know by now of my deep admiration of Mr. Naschy (aka Jacinto Molina), his love of the genre, and his work that still continues today.  So if you are one of those who's never seen, or God forbid never heard of, one of his films, then you need to pay attention even more.

If you are a fan of the classic Universal monster movies, as well as the gothic films from Hammer Studios, then you have to enjoy Paul Naschy's first outing as the hombre lobo, Waldemar Daninsky.  The plot is right out of a Universal film, with werewolves battling each other (a cinematic first??) as well at battling vampires.  Add all of that in a incredible gothic castle locations, with dungeons galore, and what more could you need?

The film starts off with the character of Daninsky seeming not being the nicest guy, while he tries to put the moves on a the young countess, who is already seeing another young man.  But as it turns out, they both fall deeply in love.  Daninsky shows his true colors when he saves the life of the old boyfriend, but in turns is attacked by a werewolf and bitten.  So starts the curse.  In trying to help find a cure, they contact a doctor who might be able to help.

This was Paul Naschy's first entry in his long history of horror films, as well as the continuing exploits of Waldemar Daninsky, the cursed hombre lobo.  The original title was LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO, or THE MARK OF THE WOLFMAN, and was made in 1968.  In the early 70's, Sam Sherman of Independent International picked up the rights for an American release.  They needed a Frankenstein picture for a double bill, so he edited the film a bit, and added a intro narration about the "Wolfstein" creature.  And then changed the title to FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR.

This film shows the love that Naschy had, and still has, for the horror genre, and good old fashion monster movies.  Being inspired by Universals movies, especially FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN, Naschy gives us 2 werewolves and 2 vampires, all battling it out.  And with his portrayal of the cursed Daninsky, Naschy shows the real empathy of the character.  Some one who knows he will kill when the moon is full, but knowing there is nothing he can do to stop it.

The disc comes with some nice extras.  First up in a great interview with Paul Naschy, that runs close to 30 minutes.  Naschy talks about the film, it's origins, and his fondness of the genre.  There is also a couple of trailers, deleted scenes, and poster gallery.  The film is also presented in a wonderful 2.35:1 format.  The film quality does look pretty good.  Not great, but good enough for anyone to really enjoy the movie.  One of the things I love about this film is simply the look of it.  With the widescreen shots, you have these wonderful landscapes with the fog, the castle, and of course the wolfman.  It's a shame that more horror movies can't be filmed in settings where Naschy did a lot of his films.  That always adds to the feel and look of the film. 

The disc also comes with audio commentary by Sam Sherman, from Independent International.  As he did with the Blood Island movies, Sherman gives an interesting and informative talk over the movie.  The only complaint would be that his commentary is not about the movie itself that much as it is about Sherman's and Independent International's connection to the film and getting it's release over here in the states.  He also goes into great detail about their attempt to get it re-released in a 3-D format, which failed miserably.  Sherman mentions that he'd love to try and do that again today and take it on the road.  If he did, I know that I would make damn sure I would be there to see it.  So while you won't hear that much detail about Naschy or the film (other than how it went from LA MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO to FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR), Sherman does give us some more great stories of distributing films back in the early 70's.

Now, for those that have to have the original complete version, you might be disappointed here.  This release is the FBT version, with the intro and all the cuts.  But for some of us, this is the first version that we had seen, and is what we remember.  Yes, it would be great to have the full uncut version, but this isn't so bad either.  Plus, we've always enjoyed the little "Wolfstein" intro.  It's so like Sherman and Independent International to conjure up something like that to help tie it in to what they needed.  Plus, if it wasn't for them, who knows if this film would have been seen by thousands of young kids on the TV, letting us know of some Spanish horror star named Paul Naschy.  So while you may be bitter about not having the full uncut version, I think most will get just as much enjoyment out of this version of the film.  Besides, the disc does contain the deleted scenes in the extras section.

The disc was put out by Shriek Show, and for the most part, they did an okay job.  They did use the original Spanish artwork of MARCA DEL HOMBRE LOBO for the sleeve, which was very cool.  There were a few problems with the spellings and translations on the disc.  Mainly in the Naschy interview when Naschy saying "Lawrence Talbot" and they translated that into "Lawrence Stewart".  Makes me wonder what else was translated incorrectly.  They also misspelled Mirek Lipinski's name on the credits.  If you're not familiar with Mirek, you must not be a fan of Naschy's.  Mirek ones the best website dedicated to all things Naschy.  Check it out HERE.

But that is really the only complaint I can say about this release.  For everything else that you do get, it really is a must for horror fans, since this is the milestone in the genre history.  Not only is it the first appearance probably the best cinematic wolfman (yes, I did say that....don't like it....go get your own website!), but also is also the start of Naschy's long and outstanding career in the genre, and is still going strong today.


(1971)
Directed by Peter Collinson
Starring Susan George, Honor Blackman, Ian Bannen, John Gregson, George Cole, Dennis Waterman, and Tara Collinson.

With as big of a fan as I am of British horror films, I am surprised, and somewhat embarrassed that I hadn’t heard about this film until it came out on DVD.  But since it was a British horror film, from the early 70’s no less, I picked it up without a question.  Of course, with a big quote on the front of the cover claiming it to be “One of the best horror films of the 70’s” from the book TEN YEARS OF TERROR: BRITISH HORROR FILMS OF THE 1970's, that also confirmed the purchase.  And I wasn’t disappointed.

The story is very simple.  Susan George plays a babysitter that goes to a job to watch a young boy, while the mother and her new husband go out to celebrate an anniversary of some sort.  The wife, played by Honor Blackman, seems quite nervous about leaving behind her child.  What we soon find out is that her previous husband and father of the child, is in the local nuthouse, after trying to kill her.  And of course, shortly after leaving George by herself, isn't that someone lurking outside the house???

George is very good as the tormented young woman, doing what she can to save the child, and herself.  Blackman also shows the paranoid stress of always thinking that her ex-husband will be coming back for her.  But the real show stealer here for me was Ian Bannen.  He does an outstanding job as the guy whose grip on reality slowly slips through his fingers.  In several scenes he goes from being the friendly, mild mannered gentleman, changing into a raving lunatic in a split second notice.  I always remember Bannen from one of the episodes in Amicus' VAULT OF HORROR, where he also seems to have a troubled homelife.

Collinson shows some great style with quite a few of the camera angles.  One of my favorites is when Bannen is threatening George and the child with the piece of mirror.  The camera is facing George and the child, but you can see Bannen’s demented reflection in the shard of mirror.  Great set up.  There is also another shot with George to the right in the long shot in the foreground, and Bannen on the left in a close up shot.  Once again, a very nice bit of cinematography.  Its little things like that, which can really spice up a movie.

For fans of Hammer, you’ll recognize George Cole from his role in VAMPIRE LOVERS, and Dennis Waterman from his role in SCARS OF DRACULA.  The young child was played by the director’s own son.

This film goes out highly recommended to fans of horror, thrillers, and of the British film industry.  The DVD was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, and is a great little addition to any collection.  The movie is in a widescreen presentation (1.66:1), and also comes with a trailer, and a Peter Collinson bio.


(2007)
Directed by Xavier Gens
Starring Karina Testa, Aurélien Wiik, Patrick Ligardes, David Saracino, Maud Forget, Samuel Le Bihan, Chems Dahmani,
Amélie Daure, Estelle Lefébure, Rosine Favey, Adel Bencherif, Joël Lefrançois, Jean-Pierre Jorris

This is another film that was getting a lot of attention, helping the French leave their bloody footprint in today’s horror market.  Along with Inside, Frontière(s) is showing that the French can make some pretty gory and intense films.  With Inside, they did just that.  But here, well…..let’s read on.

A lot of hype about Frontière(s) has been because it being pretty violent and filled with gore.  All the magazines coverage has the gore shots there for us to see all the carnage.  The trailer does the same.  So I went into it expecting to see some way over-the-top Hostel-type carnage here.  Let’s just say that while it does have its fair share of gore, it wasn’t as extreme as I had anticipated.

And while this film develops all of this attention, did anyone who has seen it noticed that the film is about as original as the latest film to come out of Hollywood?  The film that kept popping up in my head while I watching it was Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. It’s funny since that movie wasn’t exactly the most original either.  But there were a lot of similarities I thought to that film, along with Texas Chainsaw, and countless other films that deal with demented families.  Makes me wonder if it would be getting same attention had it came from the U.S….

I could also have done without all the MTV style quick-cuts and fast editing that we’ve seen here in the US for the last few years.  Frankly, I think it got real old years ago.  And here, it’s pretty much the same.  Fortunately, they didn’t go overboard using it, but we still find it annoying.

Please don’t take these comments the wrong way either.  I did like the film.  I did think it was pretty intense in some cases, pretty creepy in some, and even scary.  There is one scene with two characters crawling through a tunnel that had me as claustrophobic as when I seen Neil Marshall’s The Descent.  But I guess my biggest problem was that maybe I got caught up into all this hype over it, so I was expecting much more.

But let’s get to the good parts.  I think the cast here does an exceptional job here.  Each character is well cast, and performs to the hilt.  The real highlight of the cast is Jean-Pierre Jorris as the father of the demented Nazi clan.  He doesn’t go overboard in his performance, but shows us enough craziness to creep the hell out of you.  The favorite son of the clan, played by Patrick Ligardes, did kind of remind me of Christopher Lloyd, but a very dark and mean Christopher Lloyd.

Karina Testa plays the main lead, and spends the last half of the film pretty much covered in blood.  We give her lots of credit of having to act in the conditions that she did.  It must have been a very physical role for her, and she does an exceptional job.  The other characters, while not some of the nicest people, even get our sympathies when they come up against this nasty family.

The gore scenes were done very well, and were very effective.  Some times they were something as simple as cutting someone’s Achilles’ tendons, but were very effective.  I think that was one of the things that I found refreshing in this movie.  The gore wasn’t the key point of the scenes, but something there to add to what was going on.  That gives the film a little bit more to stand on then just flash effects.

Sure, the characters do some pretty stupid things, especially when trying to escape.  But this is a horror movie after all.  And as we said before, it’s not the most original one either.  So we weren’t surprised at these.

The DVD release is pretty much a bare bones edition.  There are no extras other than some trailers.  It’s great that this is the uncut and unrated version of the film.  But it would have been nice to have a little behind-the-scene stuff to give us film geeks a little more for our money.


 

(1997)
Directed by Takashi Miike
Starring Takeshi Caesar, Yasushi Kitamura, Yuichi Minato, Shoko Nakahara, Ren Osugi, Tomorowo Taguchi

 

Fans of Takashi (AUDITION, ICHI THE KILLER) Miike’s brand of cinematic madness should get a kick out of his 1997 genre bending yakuza/sci-fi/comedy FULL METAL YAKUZA.  Released straight to video in Japan, the film gets a nice special edition DVD treatment from neophyte Japanese cult label Artsmagic DVD. 

FULL METAL YAKUZA tells the tale of Kensuke Hagane (Tsuyoshi Ujiki), an inept Yakuza member who idolizes tough as nails Yakuza assassin Tosa.  But when Tosa is double crossed after being released from prison, both he and lackey Hagane end up full of bullet holes and left for dead.  Enter Genpaku Hiraga, a self-proclaimed scientific genius who has purchased their dead bodies and uses them in his cybernetic experiments.  Waking up in a half flesh/half metal, Hagane discovers Hiraga has not only restored him to life, but also attached many choice parts of Tosa in the process.  Instilled with a yearning for revenge, the now indestructible Hagane sets out to get even with the mobsters who set him and Tosa up.

Often referred to as a Japanese version of ROBOCOP with a Yakuza twist, FULL METAL YAKUZA is a bit more than that.  Miike’s sci-fi riff on the Yakuza lifestyle serves as both a serious entry in the genre and a send up of it.  All of the requisite Yakuza clichés are included, coupled with some really goofy humor (male anatomy jokes abound).  Miike throws in a bit of everything ranging from gun battles to rape scenes to bloody samurai sword fights to a bit of romance.  As a result, the film is a bit of an unsteady mix and the alternating between gravity and goofy may alienate fans not overly familiar with Miike’s style.  But chances are if you like them weird, then this one will do you just right.

Previously available subtitled only through bootlegs, Artsmagic gives the film an overall excellent treatment.  Picture quality is what one would expect for a low budget film, with a couple of the night scenes being a little too dark.  The image is presented in an animorphically enhanced widescreen transfer (1.85:1) with easy to read English subtitles.  The best reason to get the disc is the number of supplements, something rather rare for Miike releases.  Artsmagic really delivers in terms of extras on the disc including interviews and an audio commentary.  A 33-minute interview with director Miike is one of the highlights.  Miike discusses various topics, from the genesis of FULL METAL YAKUZA to the Japanese film industry.  Also interviewed are editor Yasushi Shimamura (14 min.) and lead actor Tsuyoshi Ujiki (24 min.).  Both provide excellent accounts about FULL METAL YAKUZA and the Japanese style of filmmaking, something rarely heard about today.  But by far the best extra on the disc is the audio commentary by Tom Mes, editor of Midnight Eye and author of the book Agitator – The Cinema of Takashi Miike.  To put it simply, Mes knows his stuff.  He provides so much information on Miike, the many actors from the film and the origins of V-cinema (direct to video) during his remarks.  It is a very welcome commentary.  Other extras include biographies, filmographies (both unfortunately hard to read due to the small font used) and two trailers for two upcoming Artsmagic anime titles (MALICE @ DOLL, A.LI.C.E.).

Artsmagic hits the DVD gaming running with a great disc release of this cult Japanese title.  It is nice to see both FULL METAL YAKUZA and Miike getting a little extra attention on disc.  Hopefully, this is a sign of good things to come from the company.

Review by William Wilson


FUNERAL HOME
(1980)
Directed by William Fruet
Starring Kay Hawtry, Lesleh  Donaldson, Barry Morse, Harvey Atkin

Young Heather travels out to her Grandmother's house to help her run their newly opened 'tourist home' that will hopefully help pay for the bills.  See, there's no money now since Grandpa had disappeared a few years ago, and there's nobody to run the business...the funeral home business.  So what better place to turn into a nice cozy bed 'n' breakfast place.  Fun for the whole family.

Unfortunately, there's not too much fun in FUNERAL HOME.  Had this been since years before all the creative plot twists, it might not have been that bad.  But that is not the case her.  It's pretty obvious what's going on, even though they do try to throw a few curves, it doesn't work.  Add that to the fact that it's just not scary or even entertaining.

Kay Hawtry does do an okay job as the Grandmother, as well as some of the other cast.  But it's just not enough to carry the film.  And there's really not much else in there help out.

Director Fruet did go on to do some stuff that was entertaining, including SPASMS and BLUE MONKEY.  But of course, let's not forget his other terrible 80's slasher, KILLER PARTY.  I guess he was really hit or miss.

If you're really looking for an 80's horror film, something obscure, you might be do better by passing this one up.  It's not the hidden treasure that we all have hoped to stumble across.