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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

G

The Gathering

The Garden

Gargoyles

Ghosts of Mars

Gojira

Godzilla 2000

Gone the Way of the Flesh

Greasepaint and Gore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

H

Hack Job

Halloween

Hanging Shadows

Hardware

Harpoon: The Whale Watching Massacre

Harvesters

Haute Tension

Haxen

Heartstopper

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Hell Night

Hellraiser

The Hills Run Red

His Name Was Jason

H.H. Holmes

Homecoming

Homicidal

Horror At Party Beach

Horror Business

Horror Express

Horror Hospital

Horrors of the Black Museum

Horrors on 42nd Street

The Horseman

House of Black Wings

House of Carnage

House of the Living Dead

House Of 1000 Corpses

The House That Dripped Blood

The House That Screamed

Human Lanterns

Humanoids From the Deep

Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback Of The Morgue

 

 

I

I Drink Your Blood

Infection

Inside

Invasion From Inner Earth

Island Fury

Island of Terror

Island of the Fishman

Isolation

I Spit On Your Grave

It! Curse Of The Golem

IT! Terror From Beyond Space

It Waits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


(2002)
Directed by Brian Gilbert
Starring Chistina Ricci, Ioan Gruffudo, Stephen Dillane, Simon Russell Beale

Christina Ricci plays Cassie Grant, who is traveling through England on foot, when she is hit by a car driven by Kerry Fox.  Strangely enough, she comes away from the accident with nothing more than a slight concussion and a lost of memory.  Fox is so distraught over the accident, that she offers the hospitality of their home to Ricci, at least until she gets some of her memories back.  Ricci agrees and hits it off well with Fox's two children, Michael and Jessica.

At the same time, the Fox’s husband, played by Stephen Dillane, is hired by the church to investigate a ancient church that was recently discovered, which had been completely buried underground.  He normally works on restoring works of art, but his knowledge in dating items could help them figure out how long that church as been there.  So with the help of a priest sent to help him, they try to unravel the mysteries of this church and to figure out why the figure of Christ on the cross is facing away from the congregation and towards a wall of on-lookers.

Ricci starts having visions of people from the small town bleeding or dying, including the young boy Michael that she is taking care of.  Is this the after effects of her concussion, or are these premonitions of something terrible that is about to happen?  And who are these strange people that she sees standing around watching her.

I’ve always been fond of religious themed horror movies.  Most tend to have the same old plot with demons and / or evil priests (not saying that is necessarily a bad thing).  So I give a lot of credit for this movie being very different than what I was expecting, and coming up with something a little more original.

Unfortunately, this really isn't a horror movie.  Although, according to the box art, it's "One of the most original horror movies that I've seen in quite a while."  Yes, I will agree that it is one of the most original STORIES, but horror?  Don't think so.  Please don't misunderstand that I am not criticizing the movie since it's not a horror movie.  It is a very entertaining and original movie, with some horror elements to it.  But it's really a mystery/drama.

So don’t let that put you off.  We enjoyed the story enough to keep us interested in what was going on.  Sure, it doesn’t have any big demons popping out and swallowing souls, but I think there’s enough here for anybody that enjoys these type of religious / occult stories will be more than entertained.

Released on DVD by The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, the DVD is completely lack of any extras.  No commentary, no featurettes, no nothing.  So they definitely are lacking in that department.  But besides that, the DVD looks nice and is well worth your time to watch.


(2005)
Directed by Don Michael Paul
Starring Lance Henriksen, Adam Taylor Gordon, Brian Wimmer, Sean Young, Claudia Christian

THE GARDEN is a fable, and a very old one at that.  It's about temptation.  A young boy named Sam is having problems.  He had bad dreams that consists of strange visions, and then he ends up cutting himself.  Could it just because of the divorce of his parents?  Or the lack of attention from his recovering alcoholic father?  On the way home from a psychiatric hospital, Sam and his dad are involved in an accident.

When they awake, there are being taken care of by an old farmer, that could use some help around the farm for a bit.  But the longer they stay, the more that Sam realizes that things are not as they seem.  But when he brings up his suspicions to his father, he figures it's just part of his bad dreams.

Okay, is it just me, or does it seem like Lance Henriksen is in every movie these days?  It sure seems like he's popping up all over the place, especially a lot of the lower budgeted, straight to DVD titles.  But none the less, that doesn't stop Henriksen from giving his all to the performance, and many times bringing what would normally be a flat and dull film into something much better.  The rest of the acting is pretty strong.  The young boy Sam, played by Adam Taylor Gordon, really looks like a male version of a young Anne Heche.  But none the less, he does a pretty good job here.  His father, played by Brian Wimmer, also does a pretty good job, though he just doesn't seem to get what's going on.

But really, it's Henriksen that is stealing the show here.  You're hard to find someone who is better at playing a someone where the evil is just below the surface of the character.  Someone who can give you a nice smile or smirk, and at the same time give you a look to send chills down your spine.  And for that reason, everyone should be grateful that he seems to like to work in the horror genre that much.

Since the film does have a religious theme to it, I was interested right from the beginning.  The only problem I had with the movie was the ending what somewhat of a let down.  They do go in a direction that one might not have expected, which was nice and different.  But it just seems to fall a little flat there.  But what the ending may lack, the director does make up for it in the look of the film.  There are some great shots here.  When the Four Horsemen arrive, in what may or may not be a dream sequence, it's does very well.

The film score was done by Jon Lee, and he creates a wonderful creepy score here.  Lots of very creepy and eerie strings being used, that really gives the scenes even a more powerful effect.  He was someone that I had not heard of before, but will have to keep an eye, or ear as the case may be, for some of his future work.

The movie was release on DVD by Anchor Bay.  It comes with an audio commentary by the director.  Usually when the commentary is just the director by themselves, it can get pretty boring.  But Paul does a good job keeping the information coming about the making of the film, whether it be about the actors, the score, or just working with a young actor.

The disc also comes with a "behind-the-scenes" footage, which is just that.  Like you were standing there watching the filming.  While this can be pretty interesting, depending on what they're filming, most of the time, it can get pretty boring.  There is also a trailer, still gallery, and a bio for Lance Henriksen.


GARGOYLES   (1972)
Directed by Bill L. Norton
Starring Cornell Wilde, Jennifer Salt, Scott Glenn, Bernie Casey, Grayson Hall, Woody Chambliss.

For the longest time, this was one of those made-for-TV movies that was very hard to find.  It had become one of those cult classic shows that we remembered watching in our youth, along with TV series like NIGHT GALLERY, NIGHT STALKER, CIRCLE OF FEAR and GHOST STORY.  A couple of years ago, it was finally released on laserdisc and video, making a lot of collectors very happy.  And now, VCI Home Video has brought it to DVD.

An anthropologist, who specializes in demonology of ancient times, and his daughter come across something that was once thought of only as a myth.  While investigating a old man's story about demons or devils in the area, and showing them his strange find, they are attacked by strange creatures.

So after all these years, does the movie live up to the fond memories?  For the most part, yes.  The title creatures are not as scary as I had remembered when I had first seen it years ago.  But the makeup, created by a young Stan Winston, is done really well.  I still think the makeup for the lead gargoyle still holds up even today.  There might be a little too much slow motion used for the gargoyles.

The DVD release is in great quality, probably better looking than when it first was shown on television, back in 1972.  But this version was taken from the longer European cut that was shown in theaters.  It does contains some trailers, and cast bios.  Although it's strange that there is no bio for a young Scott Glenn, one of the supporting actors, who has probably gone on to do more films than anybody else in this film.

But no matter, this film does require watching, even if you don't want it in your personal collection.


GHOSTS OF MARS  (2001)
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, Jason Statham, Clea DuVall, Pam Grier, Joanna Cassidy, Richard Cetrone

Yet another film that I wanted to see in the theater, but never made it.  So when it hit DVD, not only picked it up right away, but also sat down and watched it pretty such the same night.  People who know me, know that is something that very rarely happens with me.

I remember hearing mixed reviews of this latest project from Carpenter, mainly that it was reworking of his ASSAULT ON PRECIDT 13, with a touch of THE THING thrown in there.  So I wasn’t expecting another classic from Carpenter, but was just looking to be entertained.

Was I?  Yea, for the most part.  The film is definitely not one of Carpenter’s best.  I had enjoyed his last film, VAMPIRES quite a bit.  So it would have been even more of a let down if I hadn’t heard some poor reviews when it was first released.  The story is pretty simple, and nothing new.  The dialog is pretty bad is some places, and in other times is downright stupid.  The main characters, played by Ice Cube and Natasha Henstridge are very lame.

But the film does have its high points, even though it’s just for some quality kills.  Some of the gore and CGI effects are done really well.  There are some decapitations that got a few cheers from me.  And even though the makeup designs for the alien ‘invaders’ was a little tribal-trendy, I still thought some of the designs were pretty cool, especially the leader.

The film’s theme was too similar with so many other films, including Carpenter’s own THE THING.  There’s seems to be even a few nods to INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS as well, with the civilization begin taken over by an unknown alien force.

The special edition DVD contains audio commentary by Carpenter and Henstridge, a video diary, Special Effects Deconstructions, and a featurette “Scoring GHOSTS OF MARS"

Entertainment Value: You do have some pretty cool quality kills, but not much more that you haven’t seen before.  This is one film that is a required viewing, since it is Carpenter after all.  But I wouldn’t run out to see it, or even put it near the top of my “to-watch’ list.


 

GOJIRA (1954) / GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS!  (1956)
Directed by Ishirô Honda
Starring Akira Takarada, Momoko Kôchi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Fuyuki Murakami, Sachio Sakai, Toranosuke Ogawa, Ren Yamamoto, Miki Hayashi, Takeo Oikawa, and Raymond Burr

Well, it’s nearly impossible for me to approach the subject of Godzilla with any objectivity, so I’m not even going to try.  After all, it was my love for this fire-breathing, Tokyo-stomping behemoth from Monster Island that first piqued my interest in monster movies, from which my love for horror films consequently followed, ultimately leading me to my current state of affairs: Dutifully strapped to my television set every spare minute to take in the latest fright flick, then rushing to the computer to chat about it.  So, it’s to the Big G that we must raise our glasses and shake our fists, because it all started there.  50 years, 28 official Toho films and one (unfortunate) American remake later, he still stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Granted, my first encounter with the character in 1971’s GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (aka THE SMOG MONSTER) was a far cry from the dark and imposing figure introduced back in 1954.  Throughout the 60s and 70s, G was a rambunctious fella, defending humankind from the evils of pollution, evil aliens, and the like.  My Godzilla spewed blue animated flames, stomped, bellowed, and even flew or talked when the occasions called for it. But even before my shameless completist genes had been fully formed, I knew I would eventually have to find my way back to Godzilla’s humbler origins.  (Or at least, one version of his origins, because as we all know by now, when the Americans adopted Godzilla, it was not without a few conditions.)

When I finally caught up with GODZILLA, KING OF THE MONSTERS! on television, he was certainly less spry, less colorful and less…fun.  (By the way, even though its sex is never really specified, I’m going to refer to G as “him” rather than “it” for the purposes of this article.  To me, Godzilla has always been an overgrown male child in a mutant dino suit.)  He moved slower, his “atomic breath” seemed to be more of a misty spray than the fiery blast of later installments, and there were no other monsters for him to do battle with.  But even more distressing, he was the bad guy, the villain.  In this incarnation, Godzilla was not even a misunderstood victim like King Kong, but instead a vengeful spirit intent on nothing but destruction of people and property.  Needless to say, I didn’t like the movie nearly as much as I hoped I would. 

Nonetheless, captivated by the big green stomping machine, I immediately trucked my way down to the public library and found as many Godzilla reference books as I could find. Ed Naha’s Horrors: From Screen To Scream was a wonderful source, and there were also Ian Thorne’s “Monsters” series of books for children, each about 50 pages, giving the spotlight to such famous icons as King Kong, Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, etc.  One thing that was immediately made clear was that the version of Godzilla that we Yanks were watching was not the original vision imagined by director Ishiro Honda – rather, it had been markedly altered with new scenes (directed by Terry Morse) featuring Raymond Burr shot and inserted throughout.  It had also been shortened from a running time of 96 minutes to a lean 80.  Considering that the Burr scenes constitute nearly 20 minutes of new footage, it didn’t take much figuring to realize that there was a lot that we were missing. 

But in the early 70s, viewers (especially of the 7-year-old variety) weren’t as fixated on uncut, original widescreen versions of films as we are today.  We accepted the world of home viewing as imperfect but certainly preferable to nothing.  Besides, as far as Godzilla went, there were already fifteen G movies released by 1975, as well as comic books, action figures and fan clubs, so we had plenty to keep us busy.  We dutifully read up on little-known facts, such as in KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962), there were two different endings: one where a certain big monkey wins for the American audiences, the other with ‘Zilla wearing the crown for his hometown crowd.  (You can imagine my frustration at not being able see the Japanese version, and there followed many a speculative schoolyard discussion on how it played out.) 

To be honest, however, as time went on, the notion of actually seeing the uncut version of the original Godzilla film became less and less of a priority.  Oh sure, if it ever came along, that’d be great, but I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it.  However, when it was announced in 2004 that Honda’s version of GOJIRA would be released in its original form and distributed for theatrical release, I nearly lost my mind.  This was history in the making: 50 years after he had first roared his way onto movie screens, the kaiju eija (giant monster) that started it all – launching a million guy-in-suit monster movies in the process – was about to be released from bondage.  As fate would have it, the film opened at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre on June 30th (my birthday, no less!)  It was sheer bliss to be sitting there in a crowded theater, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to watch my childhood hero crush and destroy in all his big screen glory. 

Or so I thought.

Because when Godzilla first poked his head over the mountaintop to terrorize the natives of Odo Island, he was met not with the screams or shrieks of terror befitting the king of the monsters.  Instead, the audience burst out with howls of derisive laughter.  I was appalled.  Sure, the puppet head was limited in its motion and wasn’t all that convincing, but surely these idiots could afford to be a little generous, right?  After all, they had turned out and paid their money to pay homage the same as me, hadn’t they?  They weren’t just coming to mock the Big G, were they? 

Sadly, as the film continued so did the laughter, and I eventually realized two things:  1) True horror fans are a rare breed, often willing to overlook technical shortcomings in order to immerse ourselves in the world of the film, and 2) Eija Tsuburaya’s special effects in GOJIRA are perhaps not all that impressive to a 21st century audience’s eyes.  That damned goofy puppet head continues to make appearances for close-up shots, and the models (and fly-lines) of the ineffectual Japanese Air Force are painfully obvious at times. Additionally, the love triangle between the fair Emiko (Momoko Kochi) and her two suitors, naval officer Ogata (Akira Takarada) and atomic research scientist Dr. Serizawa (Akihiko Hirata) comes off as melodramatic and flat. 

In short, GOJIRA is not a perfect film, especially if one is expecting a good ol’ fashioned creature feature.  But, as a side-by-side comparison (now available in a glorious 2-DVD set from Toho/Classic Media) of the two versions clearly illustrates, different agendas were at work at the time of their respective releases.  One is a vivid condemnation of atomic weaponry – presented by the only nation on earth to endure such an attack – while the other is purely a giant-monster-on-the-loose movie.  In the former, human struggles are on full display, while the latter follows a standard “Man vs. The Other” formula.  One explicitly recreates the Geiger-clicking aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the other focuses on a bandaged American newspaperman in a hospital bed.  Finally, the Japanese version has characters that vehemently oppose the destruction of Godzilla in favor of learning from it, as well as serious meditations on the ethics of creating an awesome weapon (the “Oxygen Destroyer”) to vanquish the immediate menace, knowing full well that such a weapon could be used for less benevolent purposes in the future.  For the American release, it’s all about munching the popcorn, watching the monster stomp the living daylights out of everything in sight, and ultimately killing said monster in time to grab a burger and fries afterwards.

There is expansive and informative DVD commentary – providing the listener with the necessary historical context for both features – by enthusiastic Godzilla experts/authors Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, and it is to their credit that there is not a clear preference expressed for either version.  While they defend the heartfelt and damning anti-war message of the Honda original, they also acknowledge that without the restructuring and streamlining of the American release, it is entirely possible that Godzilla might never have evolved into a worldwide cultural icon.   Likewise, they are not shy about pointing out the technical snafus, but also laud Tsuburaya’s innovative expertise in creating something entirely new.  When one considers the production’s time and financial restraints, the work of the special effects maestro and his team here is nothing short of miraculous.  Also given his due is composer Akira Ifukube, whose “Godzilla March” and “Requiem” are two of the most recognizable anthems in horror history.  (He is also credited with creating the mighty monster’s distinctive roar.)  World cinema fans will also recognize Takashi Shimura, star of Akira Kurosawa’s IKIRU and THE SEVEN SAMURAI (released the same year as GOJIRA), as the wise and benevolent paleontologist Dr. Yamane.

The commentaries and accompanying featurettes, “Godzilla: Story Development” and “Making the Godzilla Suit,” offer a welcome wealth of background info and trivia to fans and newcomers alike.  As well as providing background for the various players involved in the “Americanization” of the film, elements such as the influence of Harryhausen’s THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS’ and the origins of Gojira’s name (a combination of the words “gorilla” and “whale”) are discussed.  Additionally, discrepancies over the monster’s height (164 ft. in the Japanese release, while Burr reports it at a whopping 400 ft.) and the strategic use of Japanese actor doubles in the American version are pointed out.  (Ryfle makes an amusing speculation regarding the auditions for these individuals: “All right, thanks so much for coming in.  Now, please turn around.”)  Even more impressive is the knowledge that for the Stateside release, only three actors were used to dub all the Japanese characters into English, one of whom was character actor Victor Wong (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, PRINCE OF DARKNESS).

Also revealed is the fact that Godzilla’s scaly skin was not green but charcoal gray – not surprising since the film is shot in black and white.  However, it may be a shock for some to learn that it was a shade he would retain – even after the G movies switched to color – until the 1984 remake.  (Stunned, I quickly busted out my copies of GODZILLA VS. MEGALON and DESTROY ALL MONSTERS to confirm this and it’s true, the big green stomping machine is bluish-gray at best.  Huh.)  

Regardless of which version you prefer, Godzilla’s significance to the giant monster genre cannot be understated and this DVD set is a blessing for suit-mation fans everywhere.  While I will readily confess to enjoying the series’ goofier, Godzilla-as-hero installments of the 60s and 70s as much if not more so, it is good to see the big G finally given his/her/its due respect and reverence.

Review by Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen


GODZILLA 2000  (1999)
Directed by Takao Okawara
Starring Takehiro Murata, Hiroshi Abe, Naomi Nishida, Mayu Suzuki, Takeshi Obayashi

While I have enjoyed the Big G over the years, especially in my youth, I really couldn’t be called a huge Godzilla fan.  But I really don’t think that has anything to do with my feelings towards this entry in Toho’s cash cow.

This movie is so bad, I actually fell asleep in the theater.  This is something that I haven’t done since seeing THE BRIDE back in ’85.  There really isn’t that much of a story, the dialog (which I’m hoping isn’t the way the actual script is, but was due to the dubbing) is atrocious, and the acting is terrible.  But even worse are the special effects.  Now, before you try and remind me that this is a giant monster movie, with a guy in a rubber suit, you should check out some of the Gamera films that Toho’s competition has been putting out over the last couple of years.  They are using state-of-the-art effects, even though it still is a guy in a rubber suit.  There are a couple of scenes where Godzilla is standing in the water, but is slightly shifting back and forth, because they did a terrible job of superimposing him in there.  There are other times when he’s doing the cartoon walk.  For those who don’t know what a cartoon walk is, it’s when the character’s legs and feet are moving at a different speed then the ground that they are walking on.  This was always due because their was a background cell and then the characters were animated on a different cell.  But when you see it in a modern day Godzilla movie, it’s pretty bad looking.

If Toho re-opened up their studios for this comeback, my guess is that they’ll be closing those doors once again.  They really need to look at some of the technology that movie making has made in the last few years.  Then they need to work on a really good story, and have some actors that can relay that onto the big screen.

But with news of Shusuke Kaneko taking the helm of the next film, this could be the one thing that Toho needed.  Kaneko is the one responsible for the new Gamera series.  So with him aboard, this next one could be awesome.  Let’s all hope.


(2006) 
Written/Directed by Jason Martinko and Jordan McMillen   
Starring:  Jimmy Haynes, Jesse Fitzgerald, Joshua Fandry, Matt Kostovny, Bridget O’Neill, Robinne Heart, Sondra Petri, Arianna Luce, Lisa Christopher, Roxxxy Roulette, Raven Metz.

Normally, I would never, ever recommend that someone watch the special features of a DVD before they watched the movie itself.  Heck, I tend to be nigh obsessive about not reading anything about a film before I see it, simply because I want my initial viewing experience to be preserved intact.  However, in the case of GONE THE WAY OF FLESH, which comes courtesy of the crazy folk at Cut n’ Run Productions, I urge everyone to make the exception and watch the “Making of” featurette (which is nearly as long as the hour-long film itself) first. 

Why?  So glad you asked.

The plot consists of girls being murdered after they attend concerts featuring the rockabilly band, The Jason Martinko Revue.  No, that’s not an encapsulation; that’s really all the plot there is.  Much like Herschell Gordon Lewis’ features – whom the filmmakers cite as a major influence – there is nothing to spoil here.  It’s just a matter of how things are (pardon the pun) executed and believe me, the Godfather of Gore would be thrilled to see what his legacy has inspired.  We’ve got girls tied up, brains smashed against mirrors, disembowelments, decapitations, all done with the authenticity of a 6th grade puppet show.  It’d all be heinously degrading if it wasn’t so patently fake and juvenile, and I mean that in a good way.

The dramatic action runs the gamut of sloppily conducted murders, ineptly performed investigation scenes, and non-sound-synched snippets of concert footage featuring The Jason Martinko Revue, whose music is actually quite good.  Oh, there’s also a fair smattering of semi-hardcore lesbian action as performed by adult entertainers to break things up.  Yep, you read that right:  Full frontal female nudity and sex toys on display, and I’m not just talking about the fuzzy parts – I’m talking about the fleshy tender bits.  Definitely not one for the kiddies.

In fact, the whole enterprise is so shoddily done, so obviously homegrown, so devoid of artistic composition and skill, that viewers will undoubtedly find themselves shouting to the open air:

“Oh, my god.  Do these guys know anything about filmmaking!” 

“Oh, my God.  How much did this cost to make, like a $1.50?”

“Oh, My God.  The acting is terrible!  Have any of these people ever acted before?”

 “OH, MY GOD.  Why is the band is getting as much screen time as the rest of the so-called plot?!

The answers to these questions lie in the aforementioned making-of doc, “Sluts for the Slaughter,” featuring the writing/directing/producing/makeup f/x, et al team of Jason Martinko and Jordan McMillen, which proves to be even more entertaining that the movie itself.  (By the way, the answers to the above Q’s are:  1) No, they didn’t, 2) about $700, 3) no, they hadn’t and 4) because the whole idea for the film was to create a marketing platform for TJMR to reach a wider audience.)  As one watches, however, a very strange thing happens – we grow to really like these guys and their goofball, misguided attempts to make a piece of exploitation cinema.   

Because they poke as much fun at themselves as anyone, the duo inspires a great deal of goodwill.  As they sit there and report straight-faced into the camera that yeah, people got hurt during the filming; yes, they were using real knives; yes, there was drunkenness and disorderly behavior on the set…well, it’s impossible not to cheer their oblivious DIY spirit.  So, when we learn that the 2006 GTWOF premiere at Pittsburgh’s Rex Theatre was a monstrous sold out success, that the film has secured a distribution deal through Troma Films, and that plans for a sequel are already in store, it’s the perfect ending to an amazing underdog story.  Along the way, there are ringing testimonials from folks like Fred Vogel of August Underground, Bloodtypeonline’s Ed Demko and Russ Rutter, Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman and so on….

By the end of it, you feel like these guys are friends, and that is how GTWOF should be viewed: As though your buddies have made a movie and sent it over for you to watch.  If you’re expecting a legitimately well-made movie, you’re barking up the wrong tree.  But if you’re in the mood for an hour’s worth of homespun, low-grade gore set-pieces, howlingly absurd performances (what is up with the band manager with the obviously fake wig and mustache??), plenty of writhing strippers, one of the goofiest bar fights on celluloid highlighted by an amazing table flip, drug overdoses, some pretty rockin’ good music and a kickass title credits sequence featuring a topless fire spinner, then look no further, my friends.

For more info, check out the Cut n’ Run website www.cutnrunproductions.com/movies.htm and their MySpace page as well.

(Warning:  When one first pops in GTWOF, he/she is regaled with an incredibly repetitious main menu page, which declares, “Gone!  The Way of Flesh!” followed by about 8 bars of guitar and drum riffing.  And then it does it again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  For those of us who like to put in the DVD, then get a soda to have nearby, gather writing materials, put on our glasses, etc. while the disc boots up, this gets very, very old in a very, very short time.  By the time I finally got my hands on the remote and hit “Play,” the sound byte had been burned permanently into my brain.  Thanks, guys.)

Review by Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen


(2004)

Tom Savini.  Rick Baker.  Rob Bottin.  Steve Johnson.  All of these names are pretty well known to most horror fans.  But what about Phil Leakey and Roy Ashton?  I'm sure you're familiar with the films put out by Hammer Studios throughout the 50's to the 70's, right?  If so, then even if you might not know their names, you know the work of Leakey and Ashton.

Phil Leakey was man responsible for the early films Hammer Studios was putting out.  And when Hammer moved into the sci-fi/horror genre, Leakey was there creating the effects for it.  He was the man responsible for giving the new look to Frankenstein's creature.  Not to mention doing some other great work on the THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, X-THE UNKNOWN, and the QUATERMASS films.

When Leakey left Hammer after REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Roy Ashton took over, and gave audiences some more memorable creatures.  Ashton created the REPTILE, the living dead in PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, THE MUMMY, and probably one of his best jobs, turning Oliver Reed into one hairy monster in CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF.

In 1998, Bruce Sachs and Russell Wall published a book called Greasepaint and Gore: The Hammer Monsters of Roy Ashton, which we have reviewed here on our site.  But they didn't just stop there.  They continued gathering information, along with info on Ashton's predecessor, Phil Leakey.  And now, they have put out a wonderful double-documentary DVD, covering the years of work they both did for Hammer Films.

The Leakey documentary has Leakey himself discussing how many of his effects were created and worked.  Even some of those that never made it to the screen since they were too gruesome.  There's even a couple of parts where Leakey is showing that he still knows how to do the work, as he's making up a burn effect on someone's arm.  Leakey even still has the glass contact lenses that he used for Lee in the creature makeup from CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN!  He goes over quite a lot about working for Hammer back in those days, with a limited amount of time and money, but was still able to come up with some incredible stuff.  There's also interviews with Hazel Court, Val Guest, Jimmy Sangster, and Christopher Lee (who just can't seemed to not complain about something).

The Ashton documentary is unfortunately lacking in actual video interviews with Ashton, though there is some footage of him but with no sound.  But Ashton had made several audio recordings of his working with Hammer and on some of the different creations that he had come up with.  Ashton was always sketching things out, trying to work out the different ideas.  A lot of these sketches are shown here in the documentary in a still gallery.  There is more interviews with Barbara Shelley & Eddie Powell as well more from Lee, Sangster, and the others.  Some of Ashton's notes and recollections are read by his wife.

All in all, for fans of Hammer Films, this DVD really is a must for your collection.  There is a lot of history here, and these two guys were a huge part of what made Hammer Films what they are.  And even if you are just a beginning makeup artist, this can really give you a great insight to the job ahead.

Tomahawk Films produced and released this DVD in a region-free NTSC DVD.  You can order it directly from them at there website HERE, but you pay a bit for overseas shipping.  Or you can do what we did, and get it from our friends at Xplotied Cinema.  It is a bit pricey for a single DVD, but if you figure you're getting over 2 1/2 hours of interviews with some of Hammer's key people, it's worth every penny.


(2011)
Directed by James Balsamo
Starring James Balsamo, Michael Shershenovich, Dave Brockie, Lynn Lowry, Debbie Rochon, Lloyd Kaufman, Haroon Ahmad, Michael Balsamo

This plot-less ridden mess starts out with two dudes named James & Mike (who give themselves last names of Argento and Fulci) who are honing their so-called 'script' for the movie Hack Job. We get to witness a few short stories, but unlike an anthology this one just plods along with no rhyme or reason at all.

The first segment has some mummies rising from the ground which some people try to eliminate. The 2nd tale offers up a battle of the bands while an alien lands at the back of a diner. Said creature manages to take over people then leave their body abruptly until Oderus Urungus pops up as some sort of defender to do battle with it.  During this sequence you can clearly see the fish wire holding up the tentacles of the thing, which was obviously done on purpose.

Fans of GWAR should also note that the alter ego of Oderus, Dave Brockie, plays a goofy diner owner who spouts off dialogue such as:
"Look at this fucking mess.  Fucking shit.  I would just love to fuck the shit outta her.  I was made for fucking you baby.  Holy shit, what the fuck is this?  Its like God took a shit on my diner.  Holy fucking shit man."

The last story is about some preacher who is spouting off words of the lord while another guy is trying to kill him, or something like that. Finally it seems that Lloyd Kaufman from Troma is willing to tackle their script and get it made into a movie.

The man behind this project (James Balsamo) seems intent to deliver the key ingredients (or so he thinks) that would make up an entertaining film in a direct quote from the movie: "It has everything…tits, ass, sleaze, gore, blood it has it all. "  Yet aside from one or two decent looking ladies, the rest of the women should have put their clothes back on.  The gore is minimal and when it is shown you get dime store results that a 7 year old with any semblance of talent could create.

They were able to rope in some name stars to get horror fans interested. Lynn Lowry plays a talent agent in some footage that looks like a 12th generation VHS copy.  It seems her dialogue was mostly ad-libbed and done in one take.  Debbie Rochon pops up in some sort of a hallucination sequence.  She probably put in 2 hours of work, but if anything she looks wonderful on camera and always gives a good performance.  Lloyd Kaufman seems more at home here with several pre-pubescent scenes that some morons might find humorous.

The other added attraction are a list of bands on the soundtrack, none of which offer up anything worth listening to with the possible exception of Ghoul who deliver a few minutes of "Gutbucket Blues" while playing live on stage.  Too bad it isn't as good as their old stuff.

There is also a blatant plug for Fright Rags T-Shirts (which probably explains how they were able to get artist extraordinaire Jeff Zornow to create the box cover artwork) and the obvious shameless Troma plugs with cameo appearances by Kabukiman and Toxie.

This viewer had a hard time figuring out what audience Mr. Balsamo was catering to.  Most horror fans who can form a sentence will find nothing of interest here except for 96 minutes of idiotic nonsense with no redeeming values what-so-ever.  Exploitation fans looking for quality sleaze will likewise be let down since the one girl with that type of appeal (with two gun tattoos on her upper torso & a voice like Linnea Quigley) has barely any screen time.  The rest are non-actors who aren't even worth filming.  Maybe some 13 year old who is entering puberty and likes to hear swearing without it being bleeped might get a chuckle or two here, but that's about it.  Anyone else will be hard pressed to sit through this abomination without fast forwarding.  It seems Mr. Balsamo intended this to be a parody and not to be taken seriously, and that is fine but when you fail to deliver entertainment and only provide derision and contempt for anything even remotely worthwhile you have a problem.  The goal here isn't so much to find someone who thinks this is a clever and funny movie, but how many people can actually sit through it without losing their minds!  Just be thankful yours truly sat through this steaming heap of dung so YOU wouldn't have to!

Reviewed by Dave Kosanke


(2007)
Directed by Rob Zombie
Starring Malcolm McDowell, Tyler Mane, Daeg Faerch, Scout Taylor-Compton,
Danielle Harris, Kristina Klebe, Brad Dourif, Sheri Moon Zombie, William Forsythe

Okay, here we go.  We had never got around to catching this film in the theater, but it was amazing to sit back and hear all the different reactions from the fans.  There was the side that just hated the film, and then the side that loved it.  And then there were a few in between that just thought it was okay, but these seemed to be a minority.  I didn’t really spend that much time listening to the exact reasons for the praise and hatred, since I wanted to try to keep my mind open for when I did get to see it.

So which side of the debate do I reside now that I’ve finally seen it?  Read on see what you think.

Rob Zombie stated that he wanted to make Michael Myers scary again.  I think all he did with him in this movie was turn him into a standard run-of-the-mill psycho.  Sure, an incredible big and strong psycho, but at the end of the day, just a psycho born of a bad childhood.  By taking away the mystery (and even the supernatural element) of Myers, I think that took away a good chunk of the scare-factor.

The first act of the film sets up the possible reason that the young Michael Myers develops into a psychopathic killer.  There’s the typical attributes, like the killing of animals, the broken and unstable home life.  To me, that just seemed a little to “by the book” for character development.  And because his home life is such a wreck, and the characters were such that we could care less about, we’re damn near sympathetic with Michael when he kills them.  So if Michael is a product of a broken home, and we’re made to feel sorry for him, how does that make him scary?

But now I will actually argue against my own point, with the sequence with young Michael’s revenge on the school bully.  Once again, we are first made to hate the character of the bully outright, so when the payback comes we’re glad.  But here was a real twist for me.  This is once sequence where the violence is simple and not way over the top.  But it comes across with much more of an effect.  And when the bully starts to whimper and cry, pleading for his life, this is when we see the true evilness of this young boy.  We also go back to the significance of the mask here.  The mask comes off briefly, so Michael can look at this bloody figure below him, begging for his life.  But then the mask slowly comes back on, and the evil returns to finish the job.

One of the comments that I had heard in praising this movie was that it was a hell of a lot better than the last few HALLOWEEN sequels that had been made.  Okay folks, that’s not that great of a compliment there.  And that’s no way to defend this movie.  Just because it’s better than the previous ones, doesn’t make it good.  Just…not as bad.  If anything, that just makes your expectations a lot lower, which may make it seem good to you.

I’ve also heard comments about that this film, about the character of Myers, is much more violent than in the previous sequels.  That reminds of me of how some people responded to Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Dracula in Hammer’s HORROR OF DRACULA (1957).  No longer was he the suave and debonair character, but a mean and vicious monster.  And here in Zombie’s HALLOWEEN, when Myers is attacking, its’ pretty violent and pretty brutal.  But yet again, new and different does not automatically mean good in my eyes.

In the past, I always commended Zombie for casting genre greats in his films, even if only for bit parts and cameos.  I always figured that if I was making a movie, I’d be doing the same thing.  But as my buddy Dr AC pointed out, it now has become more of a “Where’s Waldo” game while watching the movie, trying to spot all the cameos.  And that really can take you out of the story that is trying to unfold in front on you, since your mind will pause for the appearance of Sid Haig or Bill Moseley.  So I do think that he should spend more time working on the story and dialog than figuring out which genre icon he can put where.

Which brings me to the dialog.  I am the last person that would be bothered or offended by the use of harsh language.  But if you were to develop a beer drinking game for every time you heard the word “fuck”, I think you’d be dead of alcohol poisoning by the end of the first act.  The foul language just seems so forced, like they are trying to go out of their way to use more and more of it.  I felt the breakfast sequence was just awful.  The dialog was just so over-the-top, seemingly trying to be offensive, but instead came off more like a very lame sort of “we’re trying really hard to offend people” way.

Taking the supernatural element out of the character really gives the logic of the story an even bigger run for the money.  If Myers is just your standard psychopath, how does he know where his sister is?  She was adopted and has a different name.  So how does he know where she lives and even what’s she looks like?  I also don’t understand his reasoning for coming back to kill her now, when it seemed like she was the only one besides his mom that he had a loving relationship with.  So why would he all of a sudden decide that he need to return home to kill her?

I will say, however, that I really enjoyed the whole mask element that Zombie created.  Out of the whole “re-imagining” concept that was the one part where I think Zombie came up with something new and different.  It gave a nice development to the young Myers darker side, where possibly the innocent part of him can hide behind when the violent side comes out.  Also the homemade masks I thought were a great idea, and some even pretty creepy.  A very nice touch.

So has Zombie delivered us a bad movie?  Not really.  I have seen much worse.  But a great movie?  No.  A good one…..well, maybe.  Especially if you were to compare it to the last few sequels.

But, if you are fans of this movie, then you should be very happy with this 2-disc DVD coming out from Genius Products.  The film itself is the unrated director’s cut, which runs 11 minutes longer than the theatrical release.  This includes some of the scenes that were too graphic or too violent for the original release.  This disc also contains audio commentary by Rob Zombie.

The second disc has plenty of extras for Zombie and HALLOWEEN fans.  Here you will see the alternate ending & deleted scenes (with optional director’s commentary), casting sessions, Laurie Strode screen test, and a few featurettes that cover the making of the film, the cast, and the masks of Michael Myers.  There is also a blooper reel that is quite amusing, especially with scenes with Malcolm McDowell.

So for Rob Zombie fans, you will definitely want to add this release to your collection.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you could do a lot worse.  But since the opinions of this film have been so varied across the board, the only way you’re going to be able to tell is by watching it yourself.


(2007)
Directed by Paolo Fazzini

I think I’ve said this before, but I’m a sucker for documentaries on the horror genre.  So what would be even better than a documentary on the Italian horror genre?  Especially when done correctly, they can really help to educate their audiences.  For more experienced fans, it can even be entertaining just to see some of your favorite directors talking about their movies and the genre in particular.  And that is exactly what you get here with HANGING SHADOWS.

Director Paolo Fazzini has done a great job by gathering some of the biggest names in Italian horror to talk about their work. And even more amazing, that it's a genre that really isn’t that popular in their own country.  We get to hear from directors like Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodata, Michael Soavi, writers like Franco Ferrini, and even the legendary makeup artist Giannetto De Rossi, plus many more.  They all give their insights as to why they make the movies they do.  We hear great stories of them getting into the business and why they stay.

I did have one small issue with this documentary, and that was with the subtitles.  Since all the dialog here is in Italian, everything is subtitled.  But the subs are white and are very hard to read at some points.  Plus, most of the time, they are on the bottom of the screen.  But then at times, they switch to the top.  That can get a little bothersome when you’re not sure where you should be looking for them.  Plus, I know my Italian isn’t the greatest, but there were times when I heard an Italian movie titles or certain words that I do know, but never seen those words in the subtitles.  Maybe I just missed them.

But besides that minor thing, I would recommend this 60-minute documentary for all levels of fans.  Sure...for some of us older fans, there might not be that much new information.  But even still, you get to see some real genuine Italian masters here speaking freely of their art.  And if you’re a younger fan, this is a great opportunity for you to learn about some of these filmmakers and give you something to seek out.  Consider it homework.  But this is homework that you will enjoy!

The DVD is distributed by The Cinema Guild and can be contacted at their website:  www.cinemaguild.com


(1990)
Directed by Richard Stanley
Starring Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch, William Hootkins


“No Flesh Shall Be Spared.” – Mark 13

"The worst possible drug trip."  That is how director Richard Stanley described his first movie.  For me, it's usually "Visually stunning!"  That’s how I usually start off my discussion of Stanley’s debut.  Each time I watch it, I come across something new or different that I hadn’t noticed before.  Stanley’s look at the future is very bleak and dismal, but probably not too far off.

The part that sets this movie apart for me, and Stanley for that matter, is the sense of style.  Some directors, like using shades of black and white to add atmosphere.  For example, the way Alex Proyas used it in his movie THE CROW.  Here Stanley uses orange and red colors, and everything between them.  This gives the film a very different feel to it.  Is the air really that color due to the pollution?  Is it because of the sun’s rays?  In either case, it paints a very different look for the future, and for this movie.

But it’s not just the look of this film that makes it special.  Or even the set design, which also adds quite a bit to the look of the film.  This is not the clean and shiny utopia that a lot of movies portray the future.  This is a time of misery.  A time of poverty.  A time when the government wants to pass a law making it illegal to have too many children, in an attempt to slow down the population explosion.  Or as one of the characters points out, to bring a child up at this time is “Stupid, sadistic, and suicidal.”  Not a pretty picture, huh.  Stanley makes the viewer see a more realistic and gritty view of what the future really might hold for us.

As described by a cab driver, who happens to be played by Motorhead's lead singer Lemmy Kilmister, "Fucking bunch of shit what these people are doing to their fucking world."

Well, enough of that psycho-babble, let’s get to the movie!  The basic premise is that McDermott plays a marine or some sort of a military guy out on leave from the combat zone.  Before going back to see girlfriend Jill (played by Stacey Travis), he picks up part of a robot of some kind from a junkman.  His girlfriend is a sculptor, who works with metals and whatever else she can find, and figures this would make a nice present.  This piece of robot, happens to be the brain of a robot called the Mark-13, who’s sole purpose is to kill humans.  And the brain is still functioning….meaning it’s still alive!  During the night, the robot comes back online and starts to re-build itself with whatever parts in can find lying around in the apartment…such as drills and saws.  And once its finished, it starts to seek out victims.

William Hootkins’ role here has to be of one of the most sleaziest characters I’ve seen.  He plays a Peeping Tom in the building across the street and is infatuated by the Jill, watching every thing she does through a huge telescopic lens, that has a camera, infra-red and everything.  He seems to always be sweating and wearing latex gloves.  Like I said, very sleazy.  But he plays it perfectly.

Iggy Pop is the voice of Angry Bob, a radio DJ that always seems to emphasize the better points of the day….well, maybe not exactly.  To quote Bob, “As for the good news, there is NO FUCKING GOOD NEWS!”.  And of course, you also have Lemmy from Motorhead as a cab driver, listening to who else…Motorhead!  Nice little cameo, and he fits the part so well.

This is a film where the music plays a big part in giving it even more life.  Simon Boswell, formally of the band Alien Sex Fiend, uses music pretty much throughout the movie.  Some times as if it’s part of the what’s going on in the film, almost like a sound effect.

So if you're looking for a real "feel good" movie...then you might want to pass this one up.  But if you're looking for a look at the future, through all the dirt and grime and gritty outlook, try HARDWARE.  And if you're looking for a film that is just a visual treat on the eyes, then check out HARDWARE.

The DVD reviewed here was the German release, put out by Laser Paradise, which we picked up from our friends at Xploited Cinema.  This film was cut when it was released in the theater and on video here in the States.  But there was only one scene that was cut, and it really was for only a few seconds.  This German release has a segment showing several cut scenes,  possibly what was cut from the German release.  But none the less, this DVD is the full uncut version!  The disc also contains a written interview with Stanley, but it is all in German.  The disc does come with the original English audio track.

If you are a fan of this movie and also of Richard Stanley's work, check out this website dedicated to HARDWARE.  Click HERE to check it out!


(2009)
Directed by Júlíus Kemp
Starring Gunnar Hansen, Pihla Viitala, Nae, Terence Anderson, Aymen Hamdouchi, Carlos Takeshi, Miwa Yanagizawa, Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir,
Guðlaug Ólafsdóttir, Snorri Engilbertsson, Ragnhildur Steinunn Jónsdóttir, Helgi Björnsson, Guðrún Gísladóttir

 

This will do to whale watching what JAWS did to the water!  Okay…just had to get that out there.

The slasher film is one sub-genre that has been done and re-done so many times that it is almost impossible not to tread on ground that hasn’t already been stepped on before….many times.  So when we were told that this film was actually well done, as strange as it might sound, we thought it would be worth giving it a try.  And we were pleasantly surprised.  Plus, you got to love that title.  I mean...it tells you right from the beginning what this movie is about.

The story is about a group of tourists from different parts of the globe, who are in Iceland to go out on a whale watching boat ride.  It seems that because of groups like Greenpeace and other nature’s rights groups, these small fishing towns have been hurt financially because they can no longer go whale hunting, but only give tours to foreigners to see the whales.  This has not set well with some of the locals.  Some even say that the whale watching is actually just as bad since it is still disturbing the whale’s environment.  Little bit of a personal message in there?  Could be.  But let’s get back to our story.

As the boatful of hopeful sightseers departs the harbor, with Gunnar Hansen as the ship’s captain, all seems to be going fine.  At least, other than Hansen seems to be having trouble locating any whales for his passengers to watch.  It also doesn’t help that the first mate seems a little shifty and most of the guests don’t get along with each other.  But then again, they are there to see whales, not to make friends.  When one of the tourists, on a drunken escapade, decides to climb up to the crow’s nest, something happens that causes them to be on their own.  Next thing you know, the first mate quickly abandons ship and the group is stranded out in the middle of the ocean.  Luckily, another boat comes by to help them.  As the tourist first get onto the other boat, there seems to be a language problem.  But soon enough, everyone is completely understanding of what is going on.  Even though they may not know why.

HARPOON is a fun movie.  Sure, we are not going to break any new ice with the basic plot of the movie, since it is similar to many other slashers out there.  But because the setting is a whaling ship off the coast of Iceland, and because the plot really keeps us guessing, it makes it stand out a lot more than one would expect.  There is a fair amount of blood and guts that will keep the gorehounds appeased.  Nothing too extreme, but good old fashion splatter that is fun.  Some of it you won’t even see coming.

The characters are a wide variety of personalities.  There are ones that we are obviously not supposed to like.  But with the rest, we’re never really sure who will be the hero or ‘final girl’ so to speak.  Once you realize that everyone is up for grabs, it really does keep your attention, because anything goes.  To me, that makes much more of an interesting movie.

As we said, this is not going to make you change your political views, but for a fun slasher movie, this is one of the best ones that I’ve seen in quite some time.  Well worth the watch.


(2001)
Directed by Joe Ripple
Starring Donna Sherman, George Stover, Patty Cipoletti, Steven King, Micci Samperi, Leanna Chamish, Joe Ripple.

This is the long awaited return to filmmaking from the East Coast King of low budget filmmaking, Don Dohler.  Dohler is responsible for such classics as THE ALIEN FACTOR and NIGHT BEAST.  While Dohler didn’t direct HARVESTERS, he was co-writer, co-executive producer, cinematographer, and editor.  So while not calling “action”, it does seem that he had his hands full anyway.  Joe Ripple took on the role of director, as well as co-executive producer and co-writing the script.  But then he also took on an acting role, playing a U.S. Marshall on the trail of the wanted criminals.  That shouldn't of been a difficult role for Ripple, since his day job is that of a police detective.  With Dohler being a full-time editor for a newspaper, it is amazing that they could get this film together.

While this plot does seem very similar to the last film Dohler directed, BLOOD MASSACRE, it still is pretty entertaining, combining a straight forward story with a little bit of a twist.  Two U.S. Marshals are on the trail of a wanted criminal, played by Donna Sherman.  She is an ex-marine and is as tough as nails.  Her and her gang are going through small towns knocking over strip clubs and convenience stores.  After a robbery attempt goes bad, and trying to hide from the law, her gang stops a car on the road makes the young girl take them to there house.  Once the gang arrives at the seemly normal household of the Peelman’s, there is something strange going on here.  And once they found out just what that hidden secret, it might be too late.

Dohler regular George Stover plays Herbert Peelman, the father and head of the family ‘business’.  Being that he has been in every one of Dohler’s previous films, it was nice to see him show up for Dohler’s return to filmmaking.  Stover’s quiet and subdued manner is great when you find out the secrets behind him and his family.  He seems like the nice, quiet, friendly neighbor…until it’s too late.  There's a great little segment in the behind-the-scene documentary, where Stover explains why Joe Ripple is good at directing.  Pretty funny guy.

The only part of this film that I didn’t care for were the computer effects that were used.  With the age of CGI (computer generated images), when they’re not done well, it looks pretty bad, kind of like seeing the zipper on the monster suit.  In HARVESTERS, CGI is used on a few occasions, such as a bullet hit to the head, and looks just terrible, very cartoonish.  There’s even a scene where they used a CGI for a car driving down a road at night, or of a news van park outside a house, or at least it sure looked like it was CGI.  If I’m not mistaken, they even used CGI fog in some scenes.  All that did was make it look like the camera lens was dirty.

But there are some great good old fashion makeup effects that are done really well.  One person gets skewered on a large tree branch, right through the chest.  Even though it’s really a simple effect, it’s done really well.  A knife in the neck of another person is another effect that is done quite well.  These are much more impressive to me than anything they did with the computer.

With really only the CGI effects that bothered me, I still found this film to be pretty entertaining.  It has some nice gore sequences, and not only some great gratuitous nudity, but also having one girl taking a blood bath.  And while it was filmed on video, the quality of the filmmaking makes you forget that very quickly.

The DVD features a very entertaining and informative 30-minute documentary about the making of the film, with commentary by Ripple, Dohler, and the Director of Effects, Sean Quinn.  It really shows just what goes on behind the scene of a low budget film.  From having to make last minute changes to how scene are shot, to having to carry a shit load of food for about a mile to where the crew is, it’s not all fun and games.  It also comes with trailers.

It can be purchased directly from their website, TIMEWARP FILMS.  If you’re going to order it, I highly recommend that you also pick up a copy of B MOVIE HORRORS.  This is a great book that covers the all of Dohler’s earlier work, and is very informative, and entertaining.


(2003)
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring Cécile De France, Maïwenn Le Besco, Philippe Nahon, Franck Khalfoun

We finally got around to seeing this intense little film.  We were waiting for an uncut print that either had English subs or dubbed, and we finally got one.  So we promptly sat down and watched to see what all the hype was about.

The basic plot is two college girls are going to one of their parent's house in the country to do some studying.  But during that first night there, a killer drops by and starts a reign of terror for the two young women.

Okay, let’s get the any negative remarks quickly out of the way.  There’s talk that this film is very similar to a novel from Dean Koontz.  Haven’t read the novel, so have no idea about.  But the only thing that I seen that seemed similar to anything was the killer’s truck.  It had a strong resemblance to the truck from JEEPERS CREEPRS.  A very strong resemblance.

Okay, now that’s out of the way, we can get to the real meat of the review.  It’s been a lot time since I’ve seen movie that had me very quiet while viewing it.  I think the last time was when I watched HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER for the first (and only) time.  This is a brutal little film.  And the best part of it that it puts the viewer behind the eyes of someone who is basically witnessing these horrible murders.  Once the killing starts, there is no humor, no stupid jokes, no place where the viewer can take relaxing breath.

The gore and makeup effects were handled by Giannetto De Rossi.  Fans of Italian horror movies might recognize his name from working with Lucio Fulci on some of his most famous films, such as ZOMBIE.  And it looks like de Rossi hasn’t loss anything over the last 20+ years.  The gore is done very well, and very, very red.

The story is a little different, where there’s not a lot of background as to what’s going on.  And for me, I didn’t mind that at all.  I didn’t need to have everything explained to me.  This has an ending that will have you pondering about it for a few days, trying to figure it out.  I'm sure there's more than one theory or explanation of what's going on.  Remember, this didn't come from Hollywood where everything is all tucked in nice and tidy.

If you are looking for a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat, or grabbing hold of the person next to you, or especially making you checking your doors at night before going to bed, this is the perfect movie for you.

With a very limited cast, all of them perform very well.  Especially the main lead, Cécile De France, who I thought was cast perfectly because of her eyes.  Since she is the one who is witnessing all of this violence, we see her reaction in her eyes, stretching wide with fear.  Sometimes those reactions can be as unsettling as what she's actually seeing.


HAXEN  (1922)
Directed by Benjamin Christensen

This is one of those films that you always heard about, or would see clips of during documentaries on the horror genre, but never seemed to be able to find a copy.  Now that has changed.  With demons and devils running around, witches being tortured, this film has some wonderfully dark imagery.

Christensen’s film starts out with some history about the first appearances of witches, demons and devils in art.  The film then goes on to show how the witch hysteria came about, and just what was done to them.  This is one of those topics that I find so interesting, because it shows what can happen to humanity when religion is taken too far.  It’s amazing to me to what the good and religious people back then did to basically innocence people, just because of what someone might of said (probably while being tortured) about them, or maybe just because they didn’t like them.  And because of this type of hearsay, people were tortured to the point of death, and then finally burned at the stake.

While the film does have it’s dark and macabre moments, there are some very humorous parts, such as the witches kissing the devil’s behind, which was taken from an early work of art.  But some of the darker imagery still leaves an impact.

Originally released in 1922 with a running time of 104 minutes, it was re-released in 1968 in an edited version that ran much shorter running time of 76 minutes long.  William S. Burroughs narrated this edited version, which had a different soundtrack.

Criterion has released this film in yet another awesome edition.  The disc features the original full length version of the film, that is a new digital, speed-corrected transfer of the Swedish Film Institute’s tinted restoration.  The music is from the original Danish premiere, and presented in Dolby Digital 5.0.

The disc also features a very informative audio commentary by Danish silent film expert Casper Tybjerg.  Along with a very interesting introduction by the director himself for the 1941 re-release.  His discussion of the different types of witches was very humorous, but also very disturbing. 

But there’s even more extras.  The disc also has some outtakes, a photographic exploration of the historical sources that director Christensen used for the film, called Bibliotheque Diabolique.  There is also a still gallery.

The disc features both the original full version of the film, along with the 76-minute version.

For those fans of early horror films, or more importantly, those who have interests in early history of witchcraft and the trials and methods of the early days, you will find this movie very interesting and enlightening.


(2006)
Directed by Bob Keen
Starring Robert Englund, Meredith Henderson, James  Binkley, Nathaniel Stephenson, Laura De Carteret

I want to say that I remember hearing/reading that makeup maestro Bob Keen had got behind the camera to direct his first film.  But that's about it.  So when this DVD of HEARTSTOPPER showed up, I was pretty excited.  Since most makeup effects artists know quite a bit about shooting film, we figured this could be a nice change to see some cool stuff, or at least some top notch effects.  We were wrong in all cases.

The story is very, very unoriginal.  A mass murder is executed by electric chair.  Or so they thought.  Apparently this killer has some sort of supernatural power.  Strange that he couldn't use it to not get caught in the first place, but I digress.  Once they get to the hospital, the killer wakes back up and starts his killing spree again.  He in search of a young girl who was close to suicide, so he can take over her 'soul-less' body and then continue his bloody work.

About the only good makeup effect in this movie is the look of the killer's face after the electric chair.  With his lips all curled back, showing the teeth, it looked pretty cool.  Unfortunately, this look didn't last long, and he changed back to his normal looking self after killing the doctor who was trying to perform the autopsy.  The killer's specialty is ripping the hearts out of his victims, hence the title of the film.  But these effects were done pretty poorly.  I guess with Keen behind the camera, I would have thought it would be done much, much better.

Keen really tries to put some style into his direction, but seems like he's trying too hard.  From little killer's glowing eyes, to the double exposures showing the killer looking at the young heroine, it just seems like Keen is really trying way too hard to have style, where is should just come out naturally.

But I do have to say that one surprise that I didn't expect was Robert Englund's performance.  Since he is playing the good guy here, the sheriff who caught the serial killer, I figured he would be lost not playing the villain.  But he gives the best performance here.  Let me re-phrase that again, since that's not really a compliment.  Englund does an excellent job portraying an old and slightly grizzled sheriff.  He plays the role very straight and doesn't go over the top, like some would have expected.

The rest of the characters are basically fodder for the killer.  The main lead, played by Meredith Henderson, just seems to be there to either look sad and depressed or yell at people for not believing her.  The killer, played James Binkley, is about as flat as they come.  From the silly dialog that he gets to spout, to his attempts to look evil, make his role very forgettable.

The DVD does come with an very entertaining interview with Robert Englund who talks about the making of this film and his role as a horror genre star.  There is also an interview with Bob Keen as well.

I think the biggest disappointment is that we just expected so much more from Keen.  Maybe he should stick with the makeup work.  At least then it was always impressive to watch.


(1986)
Directed by John McNaughton
Starring Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold

Most horror movies made years ago tend to lose their edge over time.  Not to say they're not entertaining, but I think we watch them now out of fondness, as oppose to actually hoping to be frightened.  Yes, I know they're exceptions to this, but I'm talking on a general scale.  The Universal classic monsters are viewed now more with nostalgia than actually scaring us.  The 80's monster movies, usually filled with tons of gruesome and gory effects, when watched today also seemed more nostalgic than scary.  The special makeup effects just don't have the same effect on us as they did when we first watched them.  Or that we've seen a throat slashing or rubber monster so many times, that it loses it's terror power.

But not HENRY.

I haven't watched HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER since it first hit video back in the late 80's.  It was a movie that I had heard a lot about when it first came out, so I had to see it.  This is not a movie that I could watch over and over again.  Why?  Because it's too damn real.  HENRY doesn't sugarcoat or glamorize it's serial killer, like the Hannibal Lectors or even Freddy Krugers.  Henry is a guy that you could very well be living next door to and not know just how close to death you may be.

When this 20th Anniversary 2-disc set came out, I figured it was about time that I revisited HENRY and see if the movie still had the impact it had on me all those years ago.  And the answer is still a big YES!  Filmed on a incredibly low budget, with very real actors, McNaughton gave us an insight into the mind of the worse kind of murderer.  One that murders just because.

I guess probably one of the main reasons the film works as well as it does is because of the actors.  Michael Rooker couldn't have played this character more colder than he does.  He fits the part to perfection.  His performance is one of those that if you were to meet this actor in real life, I think you would feel uneasy around him.  Tom Towles also gives an outstanding performance as the dim-witted friend and partner-in-crime Otis.  And Tracy Arnold comes across so real, that as the movie progresses, you really start to feel for her as she starts to move down a path that there is no coming back from.

While the movie does have some amount of gore and effects, they are really kept to a minimum, which makes the death seem all more real.  The soundtrack is incredibly simple, but extremely effective.  Especially with is drumbeats, much like that of a heartbeat.

Dark Sky Films has done an incredible job with this 2-disc special edition.  The film comes with audio commentary by director McNaughton.  there is also a great documentary that covers the whole history of the film, from it's first inception to the final release.  Not only are the director and cast included, we also hear from many others involved, which gives us a great look at how low budget films can be made.

There is also the documentary on the real life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, where this movies was based on.  There are also some deleted scenes and outtakes, with commentary by the director.

The disc sleeve is also double sided, with one side featuring the original artwork by Joe Coleman, which was pulled from the original posters for being a bit too much.


HELL NIGHT
(1981)
Directed by Tom DeSimone
Starring Linda Blair, Vincent Van Patten, Kevin Brophy, Jenny Keumann, Suki Goodwin, Jimmy Sturtevant, Peter Barton.

PRAY FOR DAY

   This was another little quick film to tie in with the success of HALLOWEEN.  But what differs here compared to all the other quick rip-offs is that this one is actually a pretty good film.

   Four sorority pledges have to spend the night in an old house where twenty years ago to the day, the previous owner had murdered his entire family, and the house is suppose to be haunted by their ghosts.  But the guys running the Hell Night prank intend to make sure the four inductees are too scared to make it through the night.

   While having a Van Patten in a movie is not plus in my mind, thankfully it’s only in small doses.  The rest of the cast are good, especially Linda Blair, continuing her horror genre stardom.

   What really surprised me in this movie is the amount of atmosphere.  When most of the lighting in the house is done by candlelight, it does add quite a bit to the mood.  It also says something for whoever was working in the lighting department.  There’s one scene where the killer rises out the floor, underneath the rug, which is also done really well, and is very effective.

    The DVD release of this film is a great buy.  The quality is sharp, and in 1.85:1 ratio.  It also features commentary by Linda Blair, director DeSimone, and producers Irwin Yablans & Bruce Cohn Curtis, which gives some great details into how the film was made, and shows a lot of insight of the film.  It also comes with the trailer for the film.


HELLRAISER
(1987)
Directed by Clive Barker

    I was pretty excited when I heard that they were finally going to release HELLRAISER again on DVD, this time as a special edition.  I was even more ecstatic when I heard that they were going to do the same thing for HELLBOUND.

   Then I started hearing about these special “Tin Editions” that Anchor Bay was going to be putting out.  I also heard that the special edition of HELLBOUND, which was going to be part of the HELLRAISER Special Tin Edition, would not be released on it’s own until some time next year.  So I plopped down my $50.00 for this Special Tin edition when it came out.  What a waste of money.

   The DVDs themselves are pretty good.  The quality of the picture and sound are great.  I’ve only listened to a little bit of the commentary, and already can tell it’s a lot more interesting than hearing Clive ramble on by himself for 90 minutes, which was on the original special edition laserdisc.  The featurettes are pretty good too.  Except for the obvious fact both were made the same time with the same people and just basically divided up per film.  Although it’s not a good sign when Barker starts off the HELLRAISER documentary saying “This is the last time I will talk about that son-of-a-bitch movie.”  He then says, “I’ve exhausted my observations, probably exhausted them five years ago.”  And that’s only in the first couple of minutes.  So I guess we’re not going to get a lot of info from Clive during the documentary and the audio commentary.  I can hardly wait.

   But overall, the documentaries for both films are done really well.  They talked to quiet a few people besides Barker, who were involved with the film, such as Ashley Laurence, makeup effect artist Bob Keen, Cenobites Doug Bradley (Pinhead), Nicholas Vince (Chatterer), Simon Bamford (Butterball), and Oliver Smith who played skinless Frank, as well as the psycho patience in HELLBOUND who slices himself up with a straight razor. 


(2009)
Directed by Dave Parker
Starring Sophie Monk, Tad Hilgenbrink, William Sadler, Janet Montgomery, Alex Wyndham, Ewan Bailey, Danko Jordanov

Tyler is a film student who is obsessed with a ‘80s horror film called THE HILLS RUN RED.  The film was pulled from release shortly after it premiered and none of the cast and crew has ever been heard of again.  The director, Wilson Wyler Concannon (played by the always entertaining William Sadler), seems to be one of these crazy directors who think film is something more than just a movie.  So Tyler sets out to try to find this lost film, making a documentary about the whole trip.

I was finally able to see this film that came out last year, with a lot of hoopla.  I heard both good and bad reviews on it, but didn’t want to read too much about it before seeing it.  To put it in simple terms, this movie had the potential to be amazing.  There are parts in here that are great.  But the problem is that there are also parts in here that are not so great.  And that brings the film down dramatically.  I won’t even comment on the usual trappings that it uses or borrows from other films, since when you’re making a slasher film, it’s hard not to step on any previously walked paths.  But it’s how you walk down that path that can make it an exception.  And at times, they do just that.

Directed by Dave Parker, who previously had done THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING (2000), has at least done something that is very hard these days.  And that was to come up with the look of the killer that is very memorable.  In this day, when masked psycho killers are almost interchangeable, Parker has given us one that is both scary and will stay in your mind for quite some time.  The look of Baby Face with the broken doll face is very memorable, and is something very hard to do these days, with all the other psycho-slasher films being made.

Tyler hopes to get the help of the director’s daughter, who also appeared in the film when she was a little girl, and is now a drug addicted stripper.  Which leads to the first problem I had with the film.  Apparently going to film school teaches you how to help someone kick a heroin addiction, in what seems to be in a matter of days.  I’m not an expert on the subject myself, but it just seemed so unrealistic, that it had me laughing.

There’s a few other parts that had me a little confused, but don’t want to give out any spoilers or details.  But I do want to talk about one scene briefly, though it doesn’t really have any spoilers in there.  But it’s about a part that had me scratching my head, since it didn’t make much sense.  Although, since there were a few different screenwriters, that might be part of the problem.  Once we find out who/what Baby Face is, it seems to follow the rest of the story.  But there is one sequence, which was pretty damn scary, but then makes no sense for the rest of the film.  Once Baby Face captures one of the girls and has her tied up, she is trying to sing a lullaby to him to maybe calm him down.  He’s staring right at her, inches from her face, with the heavy, grunting breath, and then in a perfectly normal voice, tells her she can keep singing if she wants.  So as creepy as that moment is, we’re thinking that this character really is just some guy in a mask and not the demented adult child that we’re lead to believe.  But as it turns out, HE IS the demented child!  So to me, it makes no sense, other than for that effect.

But, all the strangeness and plot holes aside, when the movie does reach a high point, it hits it good.  Once of those high points in the music, by Frederik Wiedmann.  He does a great job enhancing the mood throughout the movie.  Even his little bluesy theme for the strip club is perfect.  Another great part of the movie is the gorgeous Sophie Monk, who plays the daughter Alexa.  Not only is she just stunning, but she’s also in many forms of undress in the first part of the movie.  She definitely makes watching this movie a lot easier on the eyes.  The film does have a lot of gore in it, though some of it is a little obvious that it’s CGI.  But there is still enough of the gooey stuff to make gore hounds happy.

So the bottom line is that if you go into this film expecting the greatest film ever made, then you might be disappointed.  But if you go into knowing that it’s just another slasher film paying homage to all those films of the ‘80s, then I think you’ll be pretty happy with it.  You just have to be prepared to let a few of the loose ends go and not think about them too much.


(2009)
Directed by Daniel Farrands

There is probably not a person alive in the civilized world that does not know who Jason Voorhees is.  It still seems unreal that the Friday the 13th series has been going on for 30 years now.  With 12 films under its belt, and the newest one hitting the theaters, it doesn’t look like we’ve seen the last of Jason Vorhees.  And to celebrate this occasion, we have this new documentary celebrating those 30 gloriously & blood years.

If you are a Friday fan, then you will love this DVD.  Even if you’re just a horror fan, you will still be entertained by this DVD.  We get to hear from every single Jason, hearing their stories of wearing the mask (or sack in part 2) and working hard to kill all those youngsters.  Each gives us their insight and what they brought to this character.  Which had to be a difficult task since you were always replacing somebody else from the last movie.  Unless of course, when your Kane Hodder, who played Jason in 4 of the films.  Little odd how he still sounds a tab bitter about not being cast in Freddy vs Jason.  Let's move on, Kane.

We also get to hear some entertaining and very interesting stories from the directors, writers, makeup men, and plenty of the actors who were usually getting the sharp end of the knife (or whatever instrument Jason was using at that moment).  You get to hear some real horror stories of having to work in 35 degree water, wearing nothing but a bikini.  And of course, Harry Manfredini, who gave us the immortal "K..k...k..k......Ma...ma...ma....."  There is also comments from filmmakers like Adam Green and Joe Lynch, and even Seth Green shows up.  Just shows how big of a fan base these films have.

Not only does this 2-disc DVD comes with the actual documentary, but it is also chocked full of extra interview footage that wasn’t used in the feature.  There are some great stories here.  My favorite being of how Ted White (Jason from Part 4) really wanted to grab and shake the crap out of that spoiled little kid (Corey Feldman).  Funny how he never shows up here.  It was strange to see the absence of Steve Minor, who directed parts 2 & 3.  Would have figured since he did the first two films that actually featured Jason they would get him.  Maybe he didn’t want to be involved???

It’s funny how just about every one of these films was trashed by the critics each and every time they got released.  But just like Jason, the fans kept coming back for more.  This really shows the dedication of the fans.  Sure, there are some Friday films that just aren’t that good.  But that doesn’t stop them from keeping their fan base alive and well, even after 30 years.

This is simply a wet dream for any Jason fan out there.  But also any serious horror fan should have this in their collection.  I would have to say that everyone will find something in here entertaining and worth their time.  Not to mention the fact that there is quite a lot here to see.


(2009)
Directed by Morgan J. Freeman
Starring Mischa Barton, Jessica Stroup, Matt Long,

HOMECOMING is basically a take-off of Rob Reiner’s MISERY, but a version that might make you think you’re watching the Lifetime Channel.  Sure they changed a few things around, but the basic storyline is the same.  High School football star Mike is returning to his hometown after his after being at college for only about three or four months.  He’s also bringing Elizabeth, his new girlfriend, with him.  Mike had broken up with his high school sweetheart, Shelby, right before leaving for college.  Shelby is still in love with him and thinks they are still a couple.  So she isn’t going to take too well the arrival of Mike and his new girlfriend.  She begs and pleads with Mike to come back to her.  But around everyone else, she acts like they're old news.

But due to some odd circumstances, Elizabeth ends up being held captive by Shelby at her house.  This is where the strong similarities with MISERY start.  A lot.  There are even a couple of lines of dialog that seemed to be lifted directly from that movie.  Shelby is still convinced that Mike will come back to her.  And Elizabeth just doesn’t seem to be grateful that Shelby is helping get well again after her “accident”. 

The one thing that makes this movie better than it should be is the cast.  Mischa Barton gives a compelling performance as the old girlfriend who’s has been left by the side.  The more we learn about her, the more we start to realize that much had been going on that nobody knew about.  There are times when she seems like the perfect friend and other times has just enough of that psychotic look on that would make any man’s skin crawl.  There are also a few scenes that will make the viewer cringe, like with broken ankles or getting your Achilles’ tendon cut with a pair of trimming shears.  But even they are effective; they’re a pretty easy button to push for the audience.  Not to mention, once again, the similarities to MISERY.

Jessica Stroup, who plays Elizabeth also gives a nice performance as the captured girlfriend, who comes to this small town just trying to be accepted.  Granted, I think someone should have told her just how hard it would be to walk on a broken ankle.  Plus, it really seemed like there would have been plenty of opportunities for her to get the upper hand on Shelby.

But other than those couple of scenes, there’s nothing her that we wouldn’t see on the Lifetime Channel.  There’s no nudity or overly dark sequences to really drive this home as a great horror film.  Is missing those things a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  But mainly it’s due to the film being highly derivative, there’s nothing else aside from the good acting to really make this film stand out.  Which really is a shame.   Of course, for characters that are supposed to be basically just out of high school a few months earlier, they sure do seem a lot older.


Directed by John Borowski

The types of films we usually review here at the Krypt are just your basic movies.  Nothing venturing into the real world such as documentaries, unless they are about the movies.  So this documentary on a serial killer isn't the norm for here.  But after hearing some very good things about it, I figured I could give it a look and see what the hype was about.

I had never heard of H. H. Holmes until I started seeing people at conventions with t-shirts promoting the movie.  But after you watch this excellent documentary, you will learn more about this monster of a man than you may want to know!  The man designed a house of horrors and had it built in Chicago.  It had rooms specifically designed to torture, kill and dispose of people.  Holmes did just that.  And this was way back in around 1890's.

Borowski has done an incredible job with this documentary that has taken him 3 years to get completed.  If I didn't put the dvd in the player myself, I would of sworn I was watching the History Channel.  He combines interviews with author Harold Schechter (who wrote the book Depraved: The Shocking True Story of America's First Serial Killer) & criminal profiler Thomas Cronin, along with re-enactments that are shot in foggy black & white, which just adds even more atmosphere to an already creepy story.

Adding even more to this already bizarre tale is the musical score by Douglas Romayne Stevens.  Combined with the vintage looking re-enactment footage in the documentary, this could have easily have been part of a classy horror film from the 30's.

The dvd contains the 64 minute documentary, along with a 20-minute "Making of", commentary by the director Borowski, trailers, outtakes, poster designs, and more.  Fans of serial killer history will definitely enjoy this film.  But even horror fans would enjoy it if only for the great little clips used to show Holmes' deviant atrocities.

For more information about this documentary, check out the official website - H.H HOLMES


HOMICIDAL  (1961)
Directed by William Castle
Starring:  Glenn Corbett, Patricia Breslin, Eugenie Leontovich, Alan Bunce, James Westerfield, and Jean Arless.

This was William Castle’s answer to Hitchcock’s PSYCHO.  Made shortly there after, Castle brings us the tale of a young woman named Emily, who in the opening minutes of the film, brutally stabs to death a Justice of the Peace.  So right away, we know who the murder is.  Or do we?

There are no spoilers in this review that will reveal the surprise ending.  But if you have never seen this film and intend to, I would avoid reading anything about the film elsewhere, since it might give away the ending.  It was an interesting idea, a different kind of twist then in a film like PSYCHO.

Since you see the murder right in the beginning of the film, the rest of the film the audience is trying to figure out just what is going on.  We know that something is wrong with Emily right from the start, but we’re not sure.  Plus the way she treats the wheelchair bound Helga, we know that she’s a bit crazy.  But her friend Warren doesn’t seem to notice her strange behavior.

The best part of this film is Jean Arless (aka Joan Marshall).  Her portrayal of the demented Emily is great.  She looks as if she just walked off the set of the Ozzie and Harriett TV show.  But when she loses her tempter, or just when she is tormenting Helga, the rage and intensity really shines through in her character.  Joan Marshall was actually the original wife of Herman Munster in the pilot episode.

The gimmick Castle used for this film was the Fright Break at the end of the movie.  Right before the heroine enters the dark house, where we are to discover the real truth of what’s going on, this clock appears on the screen.  We then hear Castle’s voice telling us that if we are too scared to find out what happens, now is our chance to leave the theater.  During the original release at the theaters, there would be a “Coward’s Corner” in the lobby for people who left during the Fright Break.  While not as clever or interesting as his past ideas, it still is funny to think what the reactions where back during the original release.

This may not be one of my favorites of Castle’s films or even one of his better films; but I still found it very enjoyable to watch.  Even by today’s standards.  It's definitely better than the negative reviews that it normally gets.

The DVD was released by Columbia Pictures, and in a digitally mastered audio and anamorphic video presentation, re-mastered in high definition.  Besides the trailers, it features a short featurette called PSYCHETTE: WILLIAM CASTLE AND HOMICIDAL.


(1964)
Directed by Del Tenney
Starring John Scott, Alice Lyon, Allan Laurel, Eulabelle Morror, Marilyn Clarke, Damon Kebroyd

Like beach party movies?  Even better with big headed monsters that look like they have hot dogs in their mouth, right?  Well then look no further.  Producer / director Del Tenney did just what he set out to do.  And that was make a entertaining little drive-in movie that was a combination of two popular types of films at that time.  And not only did he do just that, but he made a very successful film in the process.  And one that is still remembered over 40 years later.

Thanks to those wonderful corporations who have been dumping toxic waste into our waters, this time one of the barrels opens up when it hits bottom.  And just like toxic waste tends to do, it turns some skeletons at the bottom of the water into large fish-man type creatures.  And the promptly set about attacking the beach loving kids partying, doing all those wacky dances, like the Zombie Stomp.  Ahhh....the youth back then...

These creatures have always had a special place in my memory, since I can remember watching this film on TV when I was about 13 or 14.  The creatures are very humorous looking, especially by today's standards.  And then when you add in the 'hot-dog' mouth, it's even better.  But as silly looking as they might be, they are memorable.  And isn't that really the important thing?

Sure, you can't take this movie as a 'serious' horror movie.  But what beach party movie out there can you take seriously.  This movie was made for simple entertainment.  You have monsters, you have the dancing on the beach with the band playing surfer music, you even have the obligatory biker gang, even though they're only in the beginning.  What more could you ask for?  What more could you need?  This type of film is something you won't see any more.  So it's great that they are being released on DVD for both the generation that grew up on it, as well as the newer one.  So they can ask, "just what the hell were those people doing back then?" 

Dark Sky Films have done a wonderful job with this release.  The print probably hasn't look this good since it's original release, and maybe even better.  But not only do you get this fun little movie, but you also get it with another Tenney feature, CURSE OF THE LIVING CORPSE.  There is also an interview with Tenney, where he discusses his filmmaking history, and how these two films came about.

There is also audio commentary by Tenney, with the help of Dark Sky's Shade Rupe.  Some of the info from the documentary is repeated on the commentary, but there is still lots of interesting and entertaining stories on here.  I have always loved and be in awe of some of these stories of filmmaking back in the 60's.

I watched this film with my 13 year old son and we both enjoyed it.  It was very cool watching this film again, with him being the about the same age of when I first seen it.  Though, I think he was more terrified from the dance sequences then the actual monsters!  Like the Universal monster classics, this is a great film for all ages.  If you're into old monster movies, you need this one for the collection.

Kudos once again to Dark Sky Films for putting out such a great little double feature.  Either one of these films would have warranted a single release disc.  But keeping in the double feature them that the actual movies were played, they've combined them here together.  Great job, and a great DVD.


HORROR BUSINESS
(2005)
Written and Directed by Christopher Garetano

Garetano spent a few years following the exploits and work of several low budget filmmakers.  This documentary shows us just what these people are trying to do, and the trials and hardships they go through for their art.  And then, of course, some would have a hard time considering what they are doing is...art.

I'm kind of in the middle of the road on this documentary.  I really enjoy what Garetano shows us, and does give us a great behind-the-scenes look at some of these struggling filmmakers.  But the problem is that a majority of the filmmakers covered aren't that entertaining, and especially the clips of the films that they show.  Granted, some of these filmmakers are going for the "in-your-face" assault, and  I'm sure they do have their audience.  Just not with me.  But I also want to say that anybody that has that drive and passion to put all of that time and money into something that they love, then for that I have to give them credit for.  It's all a matter of taste.

So with that out of the way, Garetano does do an excellent job covering these filmmakers.  Each of them talk of their passion and motivations on why they are doing what they're doing.  Whether you agree with them or not isn't the point.  They are creating their work for others to see and make them think.

Out of the people covered, the one that I was most impressed with was David Stagnari and his short film "Catharsis", which looked very bizarre, but a nicely shot black and white film.  Stagnari also reminisces about seeing movies at the drive-in every week and the impact and influences that it had on him.

Another filmmaker covered is Mark Borchardt, mostly known from the documentary AMERICAN MOVIE.  It's really a shame for him, since the shots of him trying to film his newest movie looks about as unorganized as you can get.  But once again, he has the passion.

There are also little snippets of advice from such cult favorites such as Lloyd Kaufman, H.G. Lewis, Sid Haig, and even Joe Bob Briggs, who gives some great pointers for up-and-coming filmmakers.  The most important one is that you shouldn't hire your friends!  And I 100% agree with that one.

So if you are one of those people out there with dreams of breaking into the low budget horror film business, then you should definitely check this one out.  It will give a great insight of what these people are going through and all the hard work that is in store for you.  But just remember folks, passion doesn't make talent.  But without the passion, no amount of talent is going to help you.


(1972)
Directed by Eugenio Martin
Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Alberto de Mendoza, Silvia Tortosa, Julio Peña, Helga Liné, Telly Savalas, George Rigaud, Victor Israel

For any horror fan that is just starting his long journey into the depths of genre, one of the easiest and most followed paths to start down are the ones around certain iconic actors.  Films with names like Karloff, Price, Chaney, Lorre, were always ones that one would look for when seeking out new movies to watch.  Of course, you couldn’t leave out the British gruesome twosome…Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  With their work with Hammer Films, as well as all the other genre pics they appeared in, it gave more than one title for the fans to investigate.  And if you could find a movie that starred BOTH Cushing and Lee, that was an even better deal!

One of those movies is Eugenio Martin’s 1972 PANICO EN EL TRANSIBERIANO (PANIC IN THE TRAINS-SIBERIAN TRAIN) or more commonly known simply as HORROR EXPRESS.  The film starts out with Lee on an expedition through some wintery caves, finding a body that looks to have been frozen for quite some time.  Shortly thereafter, he is trying to board the title train with his specimen locked up nice and tight in a chained crate.  It doesn’t take long time for rival Cushing to suddenly appear and seems to be very curious as to what Lee has found.  So much so, it’s not above him to bribe the guy in charge of the baggage to break into the crate to see what is in it.  It seems that this ancient old ‘specimen’ is much older than Lee ever would have imagined and is still alive, much to his terror, along with the rest of the passengers.

Shorty after the train leaves, the baggage clerk tries to take that peek into the crate and quickly regrets his decision.  His body is found inside the crate, with blood coming out of his mouth and eyes, which by the way are now completely white.  But the mysterious creature that was inside is now gone.  This same thing happened to a thief at the train station who tried to break into the crate.  With the police still on board investigating this strange death, it becomes more intriguing for the inspector trying to uncover the mystery of just what was in that crate.

This film excels in many areas.  The first and easiest to see is the cast.  Christopher Lee is perfectly cast as the arrogant Sir Alexander Saxton.  He is desperately trying to keep his discovery from prying eyes, until he realizes what he has actually found.  Then he shifts into hero mode, through still in the very essence of the prim and proper British stereotype.  Cushing on the other hand, plays a much friendlier Doctor, even though he has come to understand and use the concept of bribery and such methods of getting what he wants.  Though they both might not think too much of a lowly thief that was found dead, they are not bad guys.  And once they discover just what they are up against, they band together and find for the right cause.

In the minor roles, the always gorgeous Helga Liné appears in a minor role as an international spy.  Granted her screen time isn’t that long, every second she is on the screen is a great pleasure.  Julio Peña, who plays the police inspector, also appeared in NIGHT OF THE DEVILS (1971), as well in a couple of Paul Naschy outings, HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB (1973) and THE WEREWOLF VS THE VAMPIRE WOMAN (1971).  And speaking of Naschy, one would almost think he had a twin brother, since Alberto de Mendoza (pictured here to the right), appearing here as the worried priest Pujardov, looks exactly like Mr. Naschy.  De Mendoza not only appeared in the Spanish market, but also appeared in a few Italian films, such as in Lucio Fulci’s THE LIZARD IN A WOMAN’S SKIN (1971) and Sergio Martino’s THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH (1971).  And of course, we have Telly Savalas as the crooked Captain who loves the power that he has.

But we also wanted to mention someone else.  Victor Israel plays the baggage clerk and is the Spanish version of Hammer’s Michael Ripper, or the Philippines’ Vic Diaz.  He appeared in tons of both Italian and Spanish films, from westerns to horror, usually in just little bit parts where you go “Hey…wasn’t that guy in….”  Some of his horror creds are THE HOUSE THAT SCREAMED (1969), GRAVEYARD OF HORRORS (1971), NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST (1975), Amando de Ossorio’s last film THE SEA SERPENT (1984) and even Bruno Mattei’s HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980).  If you watch a lot of European films, then once you spot this guy, you’ll start to see him over and over again.

HORROR EXPRESS does a great job taking a science fiction element (though it does have some highly laughable scientific explanations) and incorporating that into a great horror story that takes place on the confined space of a moving train.  While it is pretty easy to follow the ‘mystery’, the story still holds the viewer between the characters and the pretty damn good effects.  From the look of the creature, with his burning red eyes to his hairy clawed hands, they come across quite well.  The glowing eyes effect is done exceptionally well, especially for that time.

The musical score by John Cacavas is simply a masterpiece of cinematic enhancement.  First and foremost is the eerie and very catch whistling tune that is heard in the very beginning of the film.  In fact, it is so catchy that even one of the characters in the movie whistles it during one of the scenes!  While he did work on the film PANCHO VILLA because of Telly Savalas, they became great friends, which led to him getting into the film business.  HORROR EXPRESS was his first picture.  Staring at music at a very young age while growing up in South Dakota, Cacavas would eventually relocate to England, composing a score to Hammer’s SATANTIC RITES OF DRACULA.  When he moved back to the states, he worked pretty steadily in television and a few movies.  But his score for HORROR EXPRESS is one of my all time favorites.  You can read our review of the soundtrack by clicking HERE.

The new blu-ray release by Severin is just amazing.  It comes with both the blu-ray and the regular DVD.  The extras include an interview with director Martin which is very informative and interesting, especially when he explains how Peter Cushing almost didn't do the film.  There is also an interview with the producer Bernard Gordon who talks about his early days in Hollywood and how he was blacklisted.  These kind of stories never cease to amaze me on how things were working back then.  Something that I really hope never happens again.  Next is a small interview with composer Cacavas who talks about how he got his start in the business.  The real bonus here though is an audio interview with Peter Cushing that was done back in 1973, where he discusses everything from his early career to what he was doing currently.  Any time you can hear this amazing man talk is worth every second.  Well worth the listen.  And starting this whole disc of extras is the enthusiastic introduction by Fango editor Chris Alexander.  Once again, he shows us fellow fans not only how much passion he holds for the genre, but also how important it is to know this, and countless other films.


HORROR OF FRAKENSTEIN and TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN - TRAILER DVDS

I’ve always loved trailers, both the early ones from the 30’s and 40’s, and even more the ones from the 60’s and 70’s.  So the news of these DVDs from All Day Entertainment had me pretty excited. 

These discs are not prefect.  The quality of the trailers vary.  More on that later.  But for now, for those looking for a quick review, let me say this: For fans of Hammer Films, Frankenstein films, or just the horror genre, these two DVDs are simply a must!  Here’s a breakdown of each disc and why they’re a must.

For TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN, the extras besides the trailers are enough for the purchase.  You get Hammer’s rare, and completely uncut, television pilot TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN, starring Anton Diffring.  It even has optional audio commentary by Ted Newson (director the awesome Hammer documentary FLESH AND BLOOD), Gary H. Smith (author of UNEASY DREAMS: THE GOLDEN AGE OF BRITISH HORROR FILMS), and Stuart Galbraith IV.  There is small interview with Michael Carreras about getting the pilot made.

Then there are also two different interviews with Boris Karloff.  The first one is an interview that was done late in Karloff’s career and is very entertaining, but is a little short.  The second is a radio interview that is 38 minutes long and is also both entertaining and very interesting to hear Karloff talk about his career.  There is a brief interview with Peter Cushing that was actually taken from the documentary PETER CUSHING: A ONE WAY TICKET TO HOLLYWOOD.  There is also a radio interview with Glenn Strange, who also played the monster many times, which is over an hour long.

The disc also has bloopers and TV appearances of Abbott & Costello with Frankenstein, the re-issue trailer for FRANKENSTEIN, and a double bill trailer of HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER / TEENAGE CAVEMAN.  The disc is also supposed to have Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein for your DVD-ROM, but for some reason the disc doesn’t work on my computer.

Of the 21 original theatrical trailers, they include most all of the Universal films, some of the Hammer films, and oddities like FRANKENSTEIN CONQUERS THE WORLD, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE SPACE MONSTER, LADY FRANKENSTEIN, and DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN.

For THE HORROR OF HAMMER, you get a total of 53 theatrical trailers.  You get everything from the Dracula films, the Frankenstein films, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and a whole lot more.  There is also alternate trailers for BRIDES OF DRACULA, DRACULA A.D. 1972, and COUNTESS DRACULA.  You can also watch the trailers with audio commentary by Ted Newson, Gary H. Smith, and Stuart Galbraith, who give you a great history lesson of Hammer Studios and of those who worked there.

But that’s not all.  You also get to see two great featurettes, which show the Hammer publicity machine in action.  The first one is called Beauties and Beasts.  It is about the making of WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH.  You see James Carreras going over dozens of photos looking for his next starlet, who turns out to be Victoria Vetri.  The second one is Prince of Terror, which is about the filming of DRACULA A.D. 1972.  You get to see Cushing and Lee on the set of the film, with director Alan Gibson showing Lee how to hold the wagon wheel that stakes him.  It’s really interesting to see these little docu-promo reels that Hammer use to put out to promote their films.

And now for the bad news, and that would be the quality of the trailers.  About a year ago, Anchor Bay released a promo DVD with 20 trailers, all that been re-mastered, and in beautiful quality.  Compared to that DVD, the trailers on these two are not that great.  Not saying that they’re all terrible, for the most part, there pretty good.  But some of them are pretty dark, such as FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED; some are washed out such as OLD DARK HOUSE.  If this had released on video 5 years ago, the quality wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But since the advent of DVD, everybody seems to expect perfect quality with everything.  To be quite honest, with a lot of these trailers, such as the Universal titles, I don’t know if I’d want them to be perfect quality.  It really adds to the nostalgic feel to them.

The DVDs also sees to be a little difficult to maneuver around a bit.  If you go to play the trailers individually, the chapter stops are not completely at the end of the trailer.  If playing them all, it’s not that big of deal.  It would have been nice to start at any particular trailer and continually play from there.  But when selecting individual titles, it goes back to the main menu after the trailer.  I also couldn’t play the Frankenstein disc on my DVD-ROM for some reason, but it did play fine in my regular DVD player.

So the bottom line is that yes, the quality of the trailers are not mint or even great in some cases.  But does that take away the enjoyment from me?  Not at all.  If you are a fan of the genre that loves trailers, and behind-the-scenes information, these two DVDs are great buys.  Both titles go for $24.99 each, and can even be ordered directly from All Day Entertainment.


I love trailers.  The more cheese, the better.  Like they say, sometimes watching the trailers were as entertaining (if not more in some cases) then watching the whole movie.  They promised to show us terrifying monsters.  Scenes of horror that might drive you insane.  Not to mention some glorious and gratuitous nudity thrown in for good measure.  And they did they’re job.  They got us to come see the films when they finally came out.  Watching these classic trailers now is probably more entertaining for me now then when I watching them back in the 70’s.

The folks at Ban 1 Productions have taken a bunch of horror and exploitation trailers from the 60’s and 70’s, re-mastered them to awesome quality, and have collected them here together in one great little DVD.  HORROR ON 42nd STREET is a celebration of sleaze, horror, exploitation, and everything else that was wonderful in those B-movies from that time period.  These were not mainstream movie titles that Hollywood was putting out.  But the underside of Hollywood, churning out low budget quickies, with a lot of them turning out to be damn entertaining little films.

On this first volume, Ban 1 have compiled 40 trailers, that have been digitally re-mastered from the 35mm masters, from movies like MUTATIONS, WONDER WOMEN, CREATURE WITH THE BLUE HAND, DEVIL'S RAIN, FREAKS, VIGILANTE FORCE, and many more.  They is also a still gallery of some poster art, video box art, and the great ad campaign for the FOOD OF THE GODS.

My only complaint about the disc is that the title, HORROR ON 42nd STREET, is kind of misleading, since only about 1/2 the trailers are from horror films.  But none the less, they are all entertaining.

So if you are like me and enjoy watching these classic and timeless entertaining 'shorts', I would recommend picking up this disc.  It is a fun time.  Check out their website HERE.


HORROR HOSPITAL  (1973)
Directed by Antony Balch. Produced by Richard Gordon. Starring Michael Gough, Robin Askwith, Vanessa Shaw, Ellen Pollock, Skip Martin, Dennis Price, Kurt Christian.

Michael Gough was born to play roles of demented madman and psychopaths.  He was excellent in the 1959 movie HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM, as well as being the true bad guy in Hammer’s PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. In this film, continues to perfect his dementia of psychotic characters.

In HORROR HOSPITAL, he plays Dr. Storm; a wheelchair bound scientist who runs a ‘health clinic’ for young men and women.  Robin Askwith (who starred in several of Peter Walker’s earlier films) plays a young musician who leaves the club scene after a fellow musician steals one of his songs.  He decides he needs a holiday and goes to Dr. Storm’s clinic.   Along the way, he meets up with a young woman, played by Vanessa Shaw, on the train.  Since her mother has recently died, she is going to the clinic to see her Aunt, who is Dr. Storm’s assistant, that she’s never seen before.

The ‘clinic’ is really where Dr. Storm is experimenting with mind control through surgery.  Those who are "guests" at the clinic are pale and in zombie-like trances, with blank expressions on their faces, waiting for instructions.  Those who try and escape are chase down by Dr. Storm’s car, which has a wonderful decapitation device, complete with a basket to catch the heads.   Wonderful stuff here, folks.

There are many wonderful characters in this film. Skip Martin plays the dwarf assistant Fredrick, who seems to come with some of the comedic relief, while also taking some beatings from Dr. Storm. Then you have Ellen Pollock, who plays the Aunt, who is about as deadpan as you can get. There’s a great scene where she tries to tell Dr. Storm that she is tired of these experiments and is going to leave. She starts to tell him, "I’ve been thinking . . .", when Storm cuts her off by replying, "Have you my dear? I’ve been thinking for many years. And I’ve achieved quite a lot in that time, don’t you think?"  And of course, there's Dennis Price, in a great bit part, playing a flaming travel agent, who sends the young ones to Dr. Storm’s clinic.


(1959)
Directed by Arthur Crabtree
Starring Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Graham Curnow, Shirley Ann Field, Geoffrey Keen, Gerald Andersen.

Michael Gough has always been a personal favorite of mine, who's usually in bit parts or B-pictures.  But that's not to say that he still doesn't give on hell of performance in whatever he's in.  From smaller roles in Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA or PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, to leading roles in KONGA or HORROR HOSPTIAL, Gough is always entertaining.  Even in the role of Alfred the butler from the BATMAN movie series.

HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM is probably one his better known films that featured him in the leading role.  The film is also known for the opening sequence with the binoculars with the spikes that pops out.  Gough plays Edmond Bancroft, a crime journalist that loves to make the police look like idiots when they can't seem to solve the recent string of crimes.  These crimes involve people being killed by unusual weapons, just like the ones found in Scotland Yard's famous Black Museum, which houses a collection of macabre tools of the trade for murders.

Geoffrey Keen plays the police superintendent who is in charge of finding the twisted murderer causing fear amongst the city.  For fans of the James Bond series, you might remember Keen from playing the Minister of Defense in all of the Moore films.  Of course, I remember him from Hammer's TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA.

HORRORS was the brain child of producer Herman Cohen.  Cohen was the one responsible for creating I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF and I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, and many, many more.  Starting in the theater business, he knew who the audiences were, and what they wanted to see.  And he was more than happy to provide them with the thrills.

VCI Entertainment has released HORRORS on a special edition DVD, where they really have come up with some great extras.  First of all, the film is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 ratio, and is the European re-mastered version.  Now there have been complaints that the print had been taken from a PAL transfer.  I will say that the print is not as sharp as I would have hoped for, but this is not to say that it's still a very nice print.

But those who might be disappointed about the quality of the print, should be very excited about the extras.  Here is where this VCI disc really shines.  First you have the audio commentary by film critic David Del Valle and music composer Gerard Schurmann.  They cover a lot of ground about the making of the film, and those involved.  Del Valle has some very interesting comments about Gough, including a story about a scene from Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA where Gough throws up after Cushing has staked his sister.  That's a new one for me.  There is also an audio commentary by producer Cohen, except is taken from archival materials.  But it's still very interesting.

There is also a video tribute to Cohen that was done by film journalist Tom Weaver and Didier Chatelain, who was a very close friend and associate of Cohen.  This really gives you a insight to the man, and is very informative.  The disc also has the original Hypno-Vista opening with psychologist Emile Franchel, who explains to everybody the basics of hypnotism, and just effective the power of suggestion can be.  What a great publicity stunt for the film.  There is also a phone interview with Cohen that was done with Scarlet Street publisher Richard Valley.  At first, it's kind of hard to hear the conversation clearly, but after awhile it's not that bad.

VCI has come up with some great animated menus, moving through it's own little black museum of features.  Although, I did have a little trouble moving through the extras section.  The disc also has trailers, photo gallery, biographies, and a booklet insert that folds out into a mini poster from the movie...very cool idea.

So even with a squabble about the print quality, I still found this disc very enjoyable and very informative.  For fans of Cohen, and especially of Gough, I would highly recommend this.


(2008)
Directed by Steve Kastrissios
Starring Peter Marshall, Caroline Marohasy, Brad McMurray, Jack Henry, Evert McQueen, Christopher Sommers, Bryan Probets, Steve Tandy

When this movie arrived on our desk for review, we had never heard of it or it’s director.  Sometimes that can be a scary thing, since some of the films might be severely lacking in quality.  But sometimes it can be a good thing, since you’re going into it completely fresh and unbiased.  With The Horseman, the film starts off with a punch and never lets up.

The basic story is about a man who goes searching for the pornographers who he believes is responsible for the death of his young daughter.  Shortly after her death caused by drug overdose, he receives a package in the mail of a porn tape that features his daughter.  So he sets out to find the people involved.  And one by one, he find them, beats and tortures them to get leads on the next guy involved, and then kills them.  That’s pretty much the whole plot of the movie, as he makes his way up the line.

Sure, it’s pretty easy to get behind this guy and what he’s doing.  With flashbacks of him with his daughter when she was about 6 or 7, it’s easy to have those heartstrings yanked and to get you on his side.  No parent alive wouldn’t be.  So they do use a pretty heavy handed method of getting you to side with the protagonist, which really wasn’t needed.  But the difference here is that like a lot of these vigilante movies, our hero here is not some suave talking stone cold killer.  He’s a grieving father who has lost his daughter and wants the people responsible to pay for it.

The film starts off with a bang right at the beginning, before we even know what the story is.  With the use of flashback sequences, we start to learn the story and what has happened so far.  The film moves at a good pace, and never lets you rest for too long.  There is plenty of tension and suspense, especially near the end of the film and we’re not really sure how it’s going to turn out.  A happy ending?  A major downer?

One big difference in this film compared to some of the more Americanized style is the violence.  It is never really glorified.  It’s not some flashy martial arts Steven Segal spectacular.  It’s shown as dark and nasty as it can get.  It’s bloody and it’s messy.    And while there were plenty of chances to go overboard on the scenes of torture, director Kastrissios shows us just enough to get a mental picture, and lets our imagination do the rest.  That can be way more effective.

Some sequences seem as if they were filmed in black and white, or where most of the color was bled out.There is also very little, if any, music in the film.  This makes it more real than if we were watching Charlie Bronson take out more street thugs in any one of the Death Wish movies.

But the film does have its weak point.  While the story is well written and highly believable, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before.  As we stated, it’s pretty easy to get behind this character, no matter what dreadful things that he is doing.  These are evil people, so they deserved what they get.  The main character is an inconsolable man who has lost his child due to horrible circumstances.  So it does follow the strict black and white feel to the characters, with no real shades of gray.  While the film plays well, it shows a little lack of being able to go beyond those black and white boundaries.

Of course, we also have to make mention of the possibly religious meanings or message here.  Our main character is named Christian.  The movie is called The Horseman, assuming in reference to Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  But the rest of the movie doesn’t seem to be overly preaching in any sort of way.  So not sure if these are just coincidence or what.

The acting in here is pretty strong and very believable.  Peter Marshall does an excellent job as Christian, who works in “pest control” (nice touch there, guys).  He portrays this tormented father who will do anything to find the people responsible for the death of his daughter.

For his directorial debut, as well as being the writer, editor and even producer, Kastrissios shows great promise in films.  He shows us a great sense of style, with his camera work, the look of the film, showing the bleakness of some scenes, but also high lighting the colors in others.  Looking forward to see what he will bring us next.


(2009)
Directed by David Schmidt
Starring Leah Myette, Katherine Herrera, Michael Klug, Tirf Alexius, Amy Harmon, James Polak, Deborah Webb

We usually tend to not like low budget independent horror movies, mainly since they are just not well made.  The use of blood and guts that we usually get in these types of films can not cover up a weak story and even weaker acting.  No matter how good the effects are.  So it is always refreshing and gives me hope when we come across a film that has gone beyond that, and simply delivers a good film.

David Schmidt wrote and directed House of Black Wings, which tells the story of a young woman named Kate on the run from her past. When she moves in an old apartment building that her old friend Robyn owns, Kate finds out that her past is not the only thing that she’ll need to run from.  As Kate tries to get back on her own feet, while helping around the apartment building, she starts to notice strange things.  Like newspapers that always liter the courtyard, even after she picks them up.  Or strange flapping noises that she hears moving just out of her line of sight.

One of the things that impressed me the most was the Lovecraft feel to it.  The box copy states that it’s a “character-driven Lovecraftian ghost story”.  I’ve seen enough Lovecraft-based movies to know that adapting or even trying to capture that essence is not the easiest thing to do.  But Schmidt does that quite well in many parts of the film.  Several times we are given quick glimpses of something odd or bizarre, whether surreal, in a dream sequence, or simply just a fucked-up scene.  We don’t know what we’ve seen, but whatever it was, we know it’s not right. That is the beauty and essences of Lovecraft.

While we call this a low budget film, we don’t want that to sound like the negative stereotype that sometimes brings.  Sure, their budget was small.  But Schmidt and company do a great job working with what they have.  It also helps when you are starting off with a good story. Everything else, especially when you have other talented people working with you, really can come together to create something unique and special. 

This is not to say the film doesn’t have its problems.  Mainly, I felt that it is a little too long.  Not that it drags necessarily, but it just feels too long overall.  The acting is also a little mixed.  Leah Myette, who plays the lead character Kate, tries a little too hard to be the “rocker”, and even starts to come across as annoying.  Her limp seems to come and go as well.  Just not that believable.  Katherine Herrera, who plays Robyn, on the other hand, doesn’t seem like she’s acting at all.  She has become her character.  While Myette tends to take you out of the story with her acting, Herrera sucks you right back in.  The rest of the cast does a pretty good job, though there’s not a lot of scenes going on without our two main characters.

Overall, we were quite impressed with this film.  Schmidt and company has created a nice little dark and spooky little tale, while weaving a touch of Lovecraft in there for good measure.  It gives me hope that there are still some talented storytellers out there, who like to play in the dark.

For more information about this film, head over to their website: www.swordandcloak.com



 

Directed by Ryan Cavalinne
Starring Danielle Donahue, Eddie Benvich, Janet Robbins, Peter Blessel, Amberly Ash, Syn Devil, Darla Enlow.

One of the nice things about having a website that contains movie reviews is that sometimes we get free movies to review.  Saves us some extra cash and sometimes gets us to see the movie before the official release date.  But that is also one of the bad things about it as well.  Sometimes the movies we get aren’t…..shall we say “up to par”?  But in all reviewing integrity, how can we not give our honest thoughts about the film, however bad they might be?  So this is the conundrum that we find ourselves in with HOUSE OF CARNAGE.

We always like to give credit for those who are driven enough to put a lot of their time, effort and money into the making of a low budget film.  They truly have the passion and dedication for it; otherwise they just wouldn’t do it.  But as we’ve said before, passion does mean talent.

HOUSE OF CARNAGE is the latest film by Ryan Cavalinne, who seems to be a one-man movie studio.  According to the credits, on HOUSE he wrote it, produced it, directed it, edited it, and was even the director of photography.  So for that, I do give him a lot of credit.  The man has the dedication.  Unfortunately, what he doesn’t have is any originality.

This film is a blatant rip-off of the TCM movies.  And Cavalinne will even tell you this on the audio commentary, even if you weren’t able to pick that up throughout the movie.  This is a poorly made film from the beginning.  There’s no script (literarily….they mention that in the behind-the-scenes footage), barely a storyline that is very chaotic, absolutely no originality, and the acting goes from moderate to just plain awful.

Its one thing to pay homage to a classic movie, but to shamelessly rip off so many elements from the TCM movies (or any movie) is just wrong.  To me, it shows a lack of talent in the filmmakers that they can’t bring something new and different to the table….if they even have a table.  That does not mean having the main killer wearing a potato sack over his head instead of a leatherface mask.  Or even using the phrase “The axe is family” instead of “saw is family” which was used is TCM 3.  You need to be a little more creative than that.

There is one character that is supposed to be a take-off of Bill Moseley’s Chop-Top.  While not as nearly as crazy and psychotic as Moseley’s character, they go far enough to just make it look like a bad impression.  Even at the end of the film, the main heroine is running towards the open road being chased by this whack-job, only to have him hit by a semi-truck.  While I do give them credit for that one effect (which was done rather well), couldn’t they come up with something a little different than that?

So here are a few pointers for the filmmaker that might improve the effectiveness of the action in his next film: 

1. When the killer is whacking people in the head with a min sledge hammer, one good whack to the head is usually enough to kill someone, or at least make them unconscious.  Hitting the victim in the head several times, only to have them have a little bit of blood on them and getting up and running away was kind of hard for me to overlook.

2.  When the killer is cutting off a girl’s fingers with a pair of pliers, at least have that girl give out some blood curdling scream.  If you can't have her screaming during the actual filming, as explained in the commentary, then at least add it in post production.  Having her moan a bit takes away any realism.

3.  Having an actor playing a psychiatrist or psychologist doesn’t mean they have to have a pipe and act like they’re Freud.

4.  When you have someone unconscious hanging by their hands in chains, their knees would tend to buckle and they are actually hanging here.  Just having them still standing, but hunched over…..looks pretty silly.  Even if they are topless.  Make it look real.

5.  If you’re going to make your film stock look old and grainy, make sure you do it throughout the film.  There are sequences where we see one part with the scratchy footage, cut to another angle of the same scene which looks fine, then cut back to the other angle with the scratches.  Be consistent.

The music by Tony Diana was pretty good.  Nothing really over the top but simple enough to add a nice effect to an otherwise dreary experience.

So my advice to Mr. Cavalinne is to plan.  Much like where in the real estate business it’s all about location.  In filmmaking, it’s all about planning.  And if it takes a long time to pound out a good script and storyline, you are much better off than just turning that camera on and start filming.  And when you're done planning.  Go over it again.  And then again.

As I stated earlier, I do give Cavalinne, and all the people behind this production credit for the hard work they put into the film.  But if you really want to make a good film, it takes just that much more time, money, and effort.  And don’t forget the creativity part.  Because without that, it just becomes another one of hundred no-name films made each year.


HOUSE OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973)
aka DR. MANIAC

Directed By Ray Austin.
Starring Mark Burns, Shirley Ann Field, David Oxley, Margaret Inglis, Dia Sydow

While even though according to every reference book I check in, says that this movie is utter garbage, apparently even including the director himself, I happened to like this movie. Oh, it’s not an excellent movie by any means, but was I entertained by it? You betcha!

Compared to Austin’s other film, VIRGIN WITCH, this film is a masterpiece. The only redeeming quality in WITCH is the tons of gratitude’s nudity. HOUSE doesn’t have any of that. But what it does have is some atmosphere and a pretty decent story, even if is a little whacked.

The story is about a vine vineyard in Africa some time in the early 1900’s. An older woman and her two sons run the plantation. But one of her sons is a little nutty. He’s apparently trying to be some sort of doctor but either left school or was kicked out. Now he stays at home, experimenting, mostly on animals, trying to capture their souls and keeping them in big jars. We never really get to see him, unless he has a surgical mask on or a black cape and hat that he wears while being outside. He also has a deformed leg and limps. His brother Michael is the one runs the plantation and gets on well with the workers.

Trouble starts when some of the workers are found dead. The workers believe that the brother is evil. To make matters even worse, Michael’s fiancée is arriving to so they can be married.

Granted, this film isn’t a classic, even in a bad sort of way. The little twist ending is quite easy to figure out way before they plan on telling you, but it is at least entertaining. It would probably help this movie out if it was watched after VIRGIN WITCH, but the problem with that logic is you might not be able to even make it to the second film.

But the film does have somewhat of a Hammer feel to it. Enough to at least make it worth the watch. The real problem might be finding this movie, as it seems to be pretty rare.


(2003)
Directed by Rob Zombie
Starring Sid Haig, Bill Mosely, Karen Black, Sheri Moon, Chris Hardwick, Erin Daniels, Jennifer Jostyn, Tom Towles, Robert Mukes, Dennis Fimple.

After waiting three years for this movie to come out, was it worth the waiting and all the hype?  I’d say yes, it was.  Zombie seemed to have taken what he had learned in directing videos and put that into his movie.  Granted, there are quite a few parts that do seem like we are watching a music video.  But I actually enjoyed that, with the little cuts of the strange and weird imagery that were inserted throughout the movie.  It gave the film a different type of feel, whether it was little bits of flashbacks or just something completely off the wall.  With all the drab and boring stuff coming out of Hollywood these days, it’s nice to see something different like this.

Was the movie original?  Not really.  Did that matter to me?  Not really.  Maybe it’s one of those things were if you don’t like Zombie, you won’t like the movie.  If you do like Zombie, you will.  As simple as that seems, that most definitely will skew one’s perception, myself included.  Maybe not to a strong degree, but that bias will be there.

But in any case, I think Zombie did more than an adequate job on this film.  He said he was going to give us a throwback to those gritty films of the 70’s.  Now I didn’t get the feeling of the 70’s, or any particular time period for that matter.  Could have been any time, really.  But after you watch this, you will be surprised at the violence in here.  I’m not talking about the amount or over-the-top violence like in some Hong Kong action movie.  It’s the type of violence that you will find in here.  It’s more on the same tone, though a lesser degree, as LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT or I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.  And it’s not really a gory movie, per say, though it does have its moments.  I found it to be a pretty disturbing movie, one that can leave some images floating around your head days later.

* * * SPOILERS * * *

Yes, there is the famous slow panning out shot before we see the young cop get shot in the head by Otis.  But a couple of other parts that I found even more disturbing is right before that, when the father sees the young girls tied up in the shack, while we hear the lovely tune by Slim Whitman, "I Remember You".  Pretty potent, if you ask me.  But then there's even something simple, like when Baby is yelling at the girl to answer what B-A-B-Y spells.  Then the camera pans over as she dances the little doll over the corpse of the girl's friend, the eyes with a wide open glare.  I think it's little touches like that are what I found the most disturbing.

* * * SPOILERS * * *

Zombie did do a great job coming up with some very memorable characters.  While some will compare Bill Moseley’s characterization of Otis with his Choptop character from TCM 2, I don’t really see the similarities other than they’re both psychos.  Zombie and Moseley gave Otis a personality of someone with some sort of intelligence, but it being very skewed when he’s looking at the world around him.  The other most noticeable character in the film is Sid Haig’s Captain Spaulding.  At times being very over the top, but underneath that, you can still see the deep seeded evil there.

Karen Black did an nice job just creeping the shit out of me in the role of the nymphomaniac-mother.  She just goes over the top.  It was also nice to see bit parts for genre favorites Irwin Keyes and Michael J. Pollard.

I also found the set design for both Spaulding’s place and the Firefly house were excellent.  Just the simplest things like having all of those doll’s heads nailed to the wall.  Pretty disturbing.  Or what about all those shoes just laying around in the back.  Just the set of Capt. Spaulding's place had to take plenty of work for all the detail that was there, even it was only shown for a short time.  That shows that Zombie really wanted a certain look for the sets, and was willing to go the extra mile.

As for this DVD release of the movie, us fans were hoping for an unrated print that we'd be hearing about even before the movie was released.  There were reports of anywhere from 10 seconds to 20 minutes that were cut from the R-rated version.  But unfortunately, the R-rated version is what was released.  Were they just trying to get us to buy it, only to release another uncut edition a little later?  Like many others, that's what I thought was the case.  But with him working on the script for the sequel right away, Zombie said he just didn't have the amount of time and effort into re-editing the film together, with the sound and music.  He does say that the unrated version will be out eventually, just not anytime soon.  With him starting to work on the sequel right away, it just may be quite some time before we do see it.  But I'm sure it will be at some point.

But this release is kind of a mixed bag.  Some great stuff, and other not so good stuff.  Probably one of the best things is the one of the best animated menus that I've seen.  Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, and Sheri Moon, all in the costumes and makeup from the movie, are our hosts through the different special features the disc has.  The disc contains a lot of different features, but seems to be a lot less than what I would have expected.  There is a some audition and rehearsal footage which is pretty cool.  But the part I was disappointed with was the interviews and the featurette.  The Making of Featurette is only a little over 4 minutes, and is your basic HBO Behind-the-scenes type segment.  It's cool, but really should have been much longer.  The Behind-the-Scenes stuff is only about 2 1/2 minutes, and is basically some shots of people standing around, with Zombie looking pissed off that nothing is happening.  I had expected much more than that.  The interviews are with Sheri Moon, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, and makeup man Wayne Toth.  They range from 1 1/2 minutes to almost 6 minutes, with some of the questions being pretty lame.  It just seems like there could have been a lot more in all three segments departments.

It does have audio commentary by Rob Zombie, which is informative where he talks about the making of the film, the actors, and of the difficulties of the shoot.  You can hear the little comments he makes about the difficulties filming on Universal's back lot, with takes getting ruined from the noise of the JAWS ride and stuff.  It almost sounds like he'd like to go into more details, but doesn't want to burn that bridge down completely.

The disc also has trailers and a still gallery, which actually has some great shots in there, both from the movie and behind-the-scene shots.  That was a nice change to your typical still gallery.

So overall, it is worth the money to pick up this disc...if you enjoyed the movie.  Who knows if the unrated version (if and when it comes out) will have these special features?  Unless of course, if you didn't like the movie anyway...


(1970)
Directed by Peter Duffell
Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ingrid Pitt, Denholm Elliot, Jon Pertwee, Nyree Dawn Porter, John Bennett, Tom Adams.

It’s been years since I have watched this movie, and was very happy to see it hitting DVD.  You really can’t go wrong with an Amicus films, especially their anthology films.  When watching this movie, I got a huge sense of nostalgia.  Watching these British films from the 70’ gave me that same feeling of watching the Hammer gothic films of the 60’s & 70’s.  It definitely sets the mood.

After re-visiting this film after many years, I found myself enjoying it much more than I remembered liking it.  Yes, most of the stories are not exceptional, but I found them entertaining.  But I do think that my enjoyment really came from the cast, which I believe is the real highlight of the film.  Of course you have the gruesome twosome, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, each in a different segment.  The film is broken up into four different stories, with also a wraparound story.  A cop is investigating the disappearance of a film star.  As he’s investigating the house where the actor was living, he discovers the stories of the three tenants that lived there before.

The first story deals with an author staying at the house to work on his new horror novel.  The writer is played by Denholm Elliot, and does an outstanding job.  The more he writes about his new novel, involving a psycho strangler, he starts to actually see the character lurking around the house.  There is a pretty cool double twist ending on this one.

The second story deals with Christopher Lee and his strange little daughter.  He seems to keep her on a very short leash, but we found out why soon enough.  The little girl, while having such a cute little smile, does seem to possess some sort of evil behind those eyes.

The third story deals with Peter Cushing and his friend to come across a wax museum, only to both become infatuated with one of the statues.  So much so, they pay a heavy price.  It’s always nice to see Cushing on the screen, but I wish there was really more that could have been done in this segment.  It’s pretty slow.

And the last story, deals with Jon Pertwee playing a veteran horror film star who has quite an attitude about him.  His is the actor that has turned up missing.  The lovely Ingrid Pitt plays his girlfriend.  I’ve never been too fond of the way Pertwee handles his role here.  It is played up for laughs, which is maybe why this isn’t my favorite of the stories.  But if you can get pass that, or if you might enjoy his performance, you will find the rest of this story very entertaining.

All the stories here were written by Robert Bloch, which were all based on his own short stories.  So overall, for a fan of British horror films, this really should be in your collection, or at least worth a rental.  As I said, you really can’t go wrong with an Amicus film.  If anything, this will make you want to seek out TALES FROM THE CRYPT, VAULT OF HORROR, or ASYLUM…

Lions Gate Home Entertainment has released it on DVD.  There's no real extras except an interview with 1/2 the Amicus team, producer Max J. Rosenberg, some of which took place at the Egyptian Area in the summer of 2003.  This is only between 7-8 minutes long, but is still pretty interesting to hear this guy, who's just shy of 90 years old, talk about the film industry and this film.


(1969)
Directed by Chicho Ibáñez-Serrador
Starring Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, John Moulder-Brown, Mary Maude, Tomás Blanco, Víctor Israel

Made in Spain in 1969, under the original title LA RESIDENCIA, this really fills out the moody atmosphere, in this gothic thriller.  The director would later bring us another uplifting film, WHO COULD KILL A CHILD?  Without giving any spoilers away, lets just say that it's not a 'feel-good' ending here.  But that just adds to the charm.

At a boarding school for young girls, something strange is happening.  The girls seemed to be disappearing from the school without a trace.  Have they ran away from the strict headmistress?  Or have they just ran off with a new found boyfriend.  Or is it something worse?

Staying at the school is the son of the headmistress, who is always spying on the girls.  He even has been meeting some of them secretly.  When his mother finds out, she keeps telling him that he needs to stay away from these girls, and find a nice young girl like his own mother used to be.  he is played by the blue-eyed John Moulder-Brown.  I don't think they could have found a more innocently looking face than his.  He plays the troubled son very well, being a peeping tom on one hand, but then also trying to befriend and help some of the girls at the school.

But the real highlight of this film is the way that it's filmed.  One of the murder sequences put the director right up there with the likes of Argento and Bava.  It's filmed in slow motion, with multiple layers of images overlapping each other, all the while the music from like a music box playing, and then slowing down as if it's run out of power....or life.  A very memorable sequence.

Director Ibáñez-Serrador gives a great sense of creepiness with long panning shots, use of shadows, and a very stylish use of the camera.  He does a great job of building tension and suspense.  The music heightens the suspense even more, playing a very big part in the style of the whole film.

While watching this movie, I noticed another familiar face that I've seen turn up in Spanish horror movies over the years, but could never place him, until now.  Victor Israel has one hell of a credit list for Spanish horror movies.  And he's got the perfect look for it too.  Whether it was in Amando de Ossorio's THE SEA SERPENT, or HORROR EXPRESS with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, or the few he made with Paul Naschy, like CRIMSON, NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST, he was always very recognizable.

This DVD was released by Shoarma Digital, and is region 0, but is PAL.  It is in beautiful 2.35:1 widescreen and looks really nice.  If you enjoy the gothic / suspense type films, I couldn't recommend it enough.


(1982)
Directed by Chung Sun
Starring Tony Liu, Kuan Tai Chen, Lieh Lo, Ni Tien, Linda Chu, Hsiu Chun Lin, Meng Lo, Yam Yam Siu.

Back in the late 80’s when Hong Kong action films were starting to become popular in the cult market, us horror fans were discovering some of the horrors coming from that very same place.  Films like Centipede Horror, Seeding of a Ghost and Human Skin Lanterns (as it was known in the States) were attracting the attention of the fans.  Unlike Centipede and Seeding, Lanterns was still a Hong Kong period piece, with the usual kung fu rivalry going on.  But it had elements of horror thrown into the mix.

Two rivals make a bet to win the annual lantern making contest to show is the better man.  Uh…what happened to kung-fu and sword fighting to prove that???  None the less, one of the men makes a deal with an old adversary to create his lantern.  Little does he know that not only does this guy still holds a grudge against him, but the lanterns he will make are going to be covered with human skin!

As an old-fashion chop-sockey movie, this is pretty good. Lots of the same here that you’ll find in countless other films of that nature.  The difference is with the element of horror thrown in.  So for a kung-fu fan, you might enjoy the little darker twist to it.  But as a horror fan, I think the movie falls a little short in that department.  Sure, it’s a fun movie with lots of the typical (but dated) martial arts action and swordplay.  And the horror elements are done well for that time.  I just feel that it doesn’t have enough of the horror to make it a good horror movie.

The skin peeling scenes are very dated, but are pretty effective.  It almost seemed like the scenes with a little the graphic skinning gore were spliced in there. It just doesn’t flow that well. Or that there was a quick nude shot inserted in there to spice it up.  The skull mask that the killer wears is pretty cool the first couple of times we see it.  But by the end of the film, it’s pretty silly.

For a modern day movie fan checking this out, expecting some glorious gore, they are going to be pretty disappointed with the lack there of.  The horror is pretty tame even for back then.  But when compared to today’s standards, if you took out the brief nude shots, it could damn near be played on Nickelodeon.  If you are fan of the old chop-sockey films, then you should enjoy this.  Just don’t expect anything really different beside the horror element they throw in.

The disc was released here the states by Image Entertainment and is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen, which looks really nice.  The print quality looks great, with the colors really shining.  Although sometimes the colors seem to bleed.  The disc also features an interview with Shawn Yin Yin, who talks about her career and getting blacklisted from movies.  There is also an alternate scene for the skin peeling sequence, as well as production stills, and trailers.


HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP  (1980)
Directed by Barbara Peters
Produced by Martin B. Cohen, Hunt Lowry, and Roger Corman
Starring: Doug McClure, Ann Turkel, Vic Morrow, Cindy Weintraub, Anthony Penya, Denise Galik-Furey, Lynn Theel

After re-watching this on the recently released DVD, I realized just how great this movie is. This film is pure exploitation. But, it also has a good plot and story line, some incredible gore and creature effects, and even some great acting by veterans like Vic Morrow and Doug McClure.

I hadn’t seen this film in about 10 years. I remember everybody talking about it at school when it had hit the HBO market. I had to wait until the video boom before I was able to see this classic. It had everything that those eager young teenagers could want: nudity and gore, and even some more nudity.

The plot is simple: In a small fishing town, due to some mutant DNA, these sea creatures are attacking the women to breed. Granted it takes the locals a little while to figure it out, especially once they stop fighting amongst themselves. I would highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a great little horror classic. They don’t make them like these anymore folks.

The creature and makeup effects were done by a very young Rob Bottin. For the budget that this film probably had, the effects that they come up with are incredible. The creature designs are done very well, with a lot of detail.

In an interesting little note, the music was done by James Horner, who went on to do some pretty big movie scores, including BRAVEHEART. Also, one of the production assistants was Gale Anne Hurd, who has produced some major blockbusters on her own, including the TERMINATOR films, ALIENS, ARMAGEDDON, and many others.


(1939)
Directed by William Dieterl
Starring Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Maureen O’Hara,
Edmond O’Brien, Alan Marshal, Walter Hampden, Harry Davenport

It’s amazing how a movie can change over the years.  Or does it?  As the saying goes, a movie never changes, but the viewer does.  The more movies that we watch, the more we learn about films.  And the more we learn, the more we learn to appreciate them.  So watching something at an older age, compared to watching something younger, can result in quite a different of effect, and opinion. 

The biggest example of that is remembering a movie that scared the crap out of you when you were a kid.  But when you watch it now, you are amazed at just how silly and plain stupid it might be.  Has the movie changed?  No.  But we as the viewer has.  So upon my recent watching of this version of the HUNCHBACK, that lesson was never more apparent.

I had seen this version of this classic tale years ago on TV.  Sure, it was okay, but it couldn’t compare to the great Lon Chaney’s version.  But watching this again, I was simply in awe of Laughton’s performance.  Since half of his face is covered with a rubber makeup mask, there is only part of his face that can really show any expression.  But the emotion that Laughton emits from his one eye is more than some of today’s actors can come up with there whole face.  It simple is heartbreakingly amazing.

We all know this old story, and it pretty much is the same as the countless other versions that have been out there.  Quasimodo lives in the bell tower of the Notre Damn cathedral.  Cedric Hardwicke portrays the Chief Justice, Count Frollo, who is kind of like Quaismodo's keeper.  He sends Quaismodo to capture Esmeralda, a gypsy girl that he has fallen love with but who turned away from his affections.  The hunchback is caught and charged with the attempted kidnapping.  Frollo does nothing to stop the punishment that the poor hunchback gets.  Which leads to one of the most touching sequences in this film.  After his whipping, Quasimodo is left out in courtyard for an hour for display.  When he cries out for water, Esmeralda has pity on the poor creature and brings him some water.  The expression that Laughton exhibits, from his facial expressions, to the limited body movement he uses, can almost bring the viewer to tears.  Why he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is beyond me.

But there are more here than just watching Laughton’s incredible performance.  The other actors also do a great job with their performances, though it is hard to compare them with Laughton.  Maureen O’Hara also stands out as the beautiful Esmeralda, and Cedric Hardwicke as the icy Frollo.  The use of the shadows is very reminiscent of the German expressionism period.  Not with the wacky set designs mind you, but the use of shadows hiding part of the screen and characters.  Plus the set and production design is simply amazing.  The fact that this whole movie was film on a backlot and was built, including the replica of the cathedral, is awe inspiring.

There is a lot of subtext here in the film, which comes from the original novel, when it comes to the lower class versus the upper class.  But I really won’t get into that, since it deals more when the real world of politics.  I rather look at it as a morality play on how people are treated throughout society.  We have a lot of hunchbacks out there.  Not just in their appearance, but also how they are treated.  How they are thought of, based solely on their appearance and not their merit.  We haven’t come that far, have we?

But I will end this review with a quote from one of the characters from the movie.  During the Festival of Fools, the crowds are looking for someone to crown the King of Fools.  When one of the royal court makes a comment that only the lowest of society, or “mob” would get enjoyment out of this spectacle, the King points out that even most of the royal court is watching in fascination.  And that “The ugly is very appealing to man.  One shrinks from the ugly, yet want to look at it.  There’s a devilish fascination in it.  We extract pleasure from horror.”  Maybe that's why we watch horror movies....


(1973)
Directed by Javier Aguirre
Starring Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Victor Alcázar, María Elena Arpón, Maria Perschy, Alberto Dalbés

Back in the days of video trading, finding a decent copy of this movie was always on the top of my list.  And after getting a copy from the Japanese videotape, a few generations from the original, I was tickled.  But now, after watching this recently released DVD, it was like watching the film for the first time.  There were many scenes that were almost completely black on the video version that you could never seen what was going on.  Not here.  The opening shots of the countryside are simply amazing.

While not one of his usual werewolf outings, Paul Naschy still plays the pathos card here for his characterization of hunchback, Gotho.  Gotho works in the morgue, but is the brunt of ridicule and hazing from other employees at the hospital and the people of the town.  You can understand his anger and rage against those people.  But he is also in love with one of the dying patients at the hospital.  After she dies, he takes the body down to the catacombs below the city to keep her for himself.

Meanwhile, one of the doctors is not only on the verge of creating an artificial life, but also becoming a megalomaniac, as they often do.  He cons Gotho into helping supply fresh bodies for his ever-growing creation by telling him that he can bring his dead girlfriend back to life.  But as this creation gets out of control, Gotho realizes he's been used, and turns the table.

This would be in my top three Naschy films, with HORROR RISES FROM THE TOMB and NIGHT OF THE HOWLING BEAST being the other two.  This doesn't have the action or as much horror as the other two, though there is it's fair share of gore.  But what it has instead is some great characters.  Naschy really does well with his tortured and sorrowful characters, like his many roles as the cured werewolf.  And with Gotho, it's no different.  You feel his anger and pain when he is being pelted by stones from the local kids.  And Alberto Dalbés gives us a great performances and the mad doctor who successfully creates a walking pile of goo, who's screams sound more like someone after a night of heavy drinking.

As a big Naschy fan, I couldn't recommend this film enough.  But if you're already familiar with this film, then you know of it's merits already.  And in that case, then you need to get his DVD release from Anolis Entertainment.  It is a region 2 PAL disc, so you will need a multi-region player.  Do I need to mention again about the need for one of those?  If this release was just the film itself, the quality alone would be worth the cost.  As I said earlier in this review, it really was like watching it for the first time.  The print is simply gorgeous.

But there are tons of extras to make these release even better.  There is the first audio commentary by Paul Naschy.  The commentary is in German, but does have English subtitles.  Naschy spends a lot of time going over the locations, working with the different actors, and gives us a lot of background information about the making of the film.  Very informative.  Some of the stories I've heard before, either in his autobiography, or from other interviews, but they were still great to hear right from the man himself.  When he is describing the scene in the catacombs with the real live sewer rats, it's simply amazing that they did what they did back then.  Plus, there's tons of other stories to keep you entertained.

Besides the commentary, there is a very cool introduction by Naschy, with him looking through a library of his films, before deciding to grab HUNCHBACK and thread it up in the projector.  But there is also some footage of Naschy at a German film festival, called Buio Omega from 2006.  Unfortunately, all of this dialog is in German with no subs.  You can also watch the German Super 8 video release of the film. While the quality is pretty rough, it's still a very nice addition to this release.  There is also a short feature of Naschy and his family traveling back to Germany.  Add in the usual of poster and photo galleries (which will make any Naschy fan drool), the American and Spanish Title sequences, and you have one hell of a Special edition.  Plus, the DVD case is in the form of a book, which features some more great stills and lobbys and poster art from the film.  The mini-essay was written by Naschy scholar Mirek Lipinski, who runs the Mark of Naschy website.


(1970)
Directed by David E. Durston
Starring Bhaskar, Lynn Lowry, Rhonda Fultz, Arlene Farber, George Patterson, Riley Mills, John McCook, Alex Mann, Iris Brooks, Tyde Kierney

Here’s a film with a title so memorable, that when partnered with I EAT YOUR SKIN, it’s probably one of the best known double feature bills from the 70’s.  A band of Satanic hippies on the loose terrorizing a small town is bad enough.  But when they get rabies, it makes things even worse.  But does the film still live up to the legendary status that it has developed over the last 30+ years?

From the very opening scene, the viewer knows just what kind of a film they are going to be watching.  When actor Bhaskar’s states that “Satan was an acid-head” and that they were all going to “freak out”, you know you’re in for a wild ride.  This film is still very dated, but for me, that was one of more enjoyable aspects of the film.  When a young girl is 'assaulted' by the gang (were not really sure if she was raped or not, but it sure seems like it was implied), it doesn’t take her long to forgive one of the gang that she was ‘seeing’.  Not something that would happen in today's world.  But I wouldn’t say that it’s in the same league as say something like LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.  Nowhere near as dark, and it's much more enjoyable.

This is another great example of the type of films that could be made back in the 70's.  Filmed in a small deserted town, the cast and crew could pretty much do anything, reeking havoc during the filming, which gave the film an even more realistic feel, or at least a bigger budget.  And also even for a low budget film, the cast stands out.  Bhaskar is perfect as the Satanic leader of the group.  Another great standout performance is from George Patterson, who plays Rollo.  When he becomes infected with the rabies, he has to be one of the scariest looking guys carrying an axe. 

Grindhouse is once again proving to people what exactly “Special Edition” means when it comes to a DVD release.  Not only have they re-mastered the print, most likely making it look better than it did on its original release, but they have also loaded the thing with extras.  And just when you think that's it, you find even more extras.  The disc has the original uncensored X-rated version of the film.  But you can also play the director's cut, which takes the four deleted scenes and puts them back into the film.  The only problem with this is that there is a brief pause in the movie, maybe a second, while the player goes to the deleted scene.  It's not that big of a deal, but it is noticeable.  But then you do get a chance to see the original ending, which is a bit more downbeat the what is in the film.  The deleted scenes are available to watch separately as well.

The disc also has audio commentary with director Durston and actor Bhaskar.  Great hearing them talk about the film and what went on behind the camera during the filming.  They do cover some great stuff, though there are a few times when they mention the same story a couple of times.  It almost sounds like it was done over a longer period of time, instead of one viewing.  But even with that, it's one of those commentaries that is both informative and just enjoyable to hear.

Then there is also the I DRINK YOUR BLOOD SHOW, which is 28 minute documentary hosted by director Durston who talks about the film with four different guests, who come out one by one and talk with Durston about the movie.  Three of the guests are actors from the movie: Lynn Lowry, Tyde Kierney, and Jack Damon.  Durston also talks briefly to Barney Cohen, who was an advertising exec, who supposedly is the one who renamed the film from PHOBIA to it's more widely known title, as well as renaming VOODOO BLOODBATH to I EAT YOUR SKIN.

The disc also has trailers, radio spots, still and poster galleries, and biographies of Durston, Lowry and Bhaskar.  In these bios, you can find even more special stuff.  In the Durston one, there is a clip of him receiving an Cult Movie award for the film at what looks to be like a convention.  In the bio for Bhaskar, you can see his Evil King Cobra Dance.  Reading his bio, it was a real shame to hear that for someone who was so talented with his body, the he became paralyzed after an accident.

Plus the DVD packaging comes with a mini fold-out poster of the famous double feature of BLOOD and SKIN.  We had picked up the special limited edition that was released, which came with the inside of the sleeve signed by Durston, Bhaskar, John Damon and Tyde Kierney, and a separate card signed by Lynn Lowry.  And lastly, this disc has probably the best animated menus that I've seen.  This limited edition have already sold out, but I'm sure that Grindhouse will be releasing the un-signed versions before too long.  For this is one disc that is worth every penny.  It's a real shame that some of the major DVD companies don't put the hard work and love into some of their releases like Grindhouse.


 

(2004)
Directed by Masayuki Ochial
Starring Michiko Hada, Mari Hoshino, Tae Kimura, Yoko Maki, Kaho Minami, Moro Morooka

This is a solid, reliable J-horror offering, which unfortunately means that it’s greatest asset is also it’s most grevious fault: It doesn’t really bring much new to the equation.  If you’re already a fan, you will find much to like here.  And if you are frequently frustrated/dissatisfied with the J-offerings in your Netflix queue, it is unlikely that INFECTION will alter your opinions considerably.  There are plenty of white-faced ghosts popping up when you least expect them, a fair amount of slimy gore (albeit primarily of the greenish, gooey variety), and the requisite head-scratching ending that seems to indicate that what you’ve been watching for the past 90 minutes was not the case at all…or was it?  Common elements found in the current fright flicks from our neighbors to the East, and either you like ‘em or you don’t.

The fundamental plot follows similar terrain as the flesh-wasting mayhem of Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER.  But rather than the jokey rural setting, here the premise is presented with dire seriousness and dread. At a  tragically understaffed, underfunded hospital, things are already pretty nightmarish from the get-go.  The waiting room is filled, the underpaid doctors are delirious from lack of sleep, and a general sense of desperation hangs over the proceedings like a wheezing oxygen tent.

One of INFECTION’s major assets is its terrific assortment of vivid, quirky characters, patients and staff alike.  We’ve got a punker kid singing to his walkman as blood pours from his ears.  A pretty, well-intentioned nurse who can’t quite ever hit the vein when giving an injection.  We’ve got weary veterans nearly asleep on their feet while a giggling old patient insists she sees ghosts in her mirrors.  “E/R” was never like this.

After a few expository scenes setting up character and situation, the two major plot points swing into action:  When a gruesomely burned/bandaged patient dies (due to human error), the members of the hospital staff resolve to cover up the death in order to preserve their careers. Around the same time, a young man arrives at the hospital exhibiting a nasty black rash and oozing putrescent green slime, possibly caused by an uber-Ebola virus.  After the youth literally melts away (one of the more unpleasant ways to go), the already stressed-out members of the staff start behaving more and more erratically, as well as experiencing the same ghastly viral symptoms one by one.

That’s about as coherent as the plot ever gets.  From there, the story volleys back and forth between flashbacks, hallucinations, ghostly encounters and shots of those ever-flashing flourescent lights.  And for better or worse, rather than moving toward a logical, tidy conclusion, things merely get weirder.

It’s as we enter the final act of the film, however, where symbolism runs rampant, and audiences will either be thoroughly intrigued or throw their hands up in frustration and go running for their closest copy of FRIDAY THE 13th for some mindless fun.  Director/co-writer Masayuki Ochiai and co-writer Ryoichi Kimizuka offer up the credibility-straining concept of the virus being a phenomenon of ideas evolving/transforming over time.  Good becomes evil, sickness becomes health and vice versa.  Confused yet?  (I was, but maybe I was just feeling tired that day).  However, if you don’t feel like thinking that hard, rest assured that the film works just as well on a gross-out level, with it’s colorful assortment of ooey-gooey set pieces.

The patented J-horror elements of foreboding atmosphere and discomfiting musical score are employed quite effectively throughout.  There’s also a dandy visual twist that I can’t go into due to it’s pertinence to the plot, but you’ll know it when you see it.  One minor caveat is that the oozing green fluid seems too green at times, with the unfortunate result of appearing more cartoony than creepy. 

INFECTION has plenty to offer, but you’ll need to work a little for it.  As is the case with many a J-horror, I imagine that one’s appreciation for it will deepen and enrich with subsequent viewings.  And really, who can fault a filmmaker for providing more levels than a viewer can digest in a single pass?

Reviewed by Aaron  "Dr. AC" Christensen


(2007)
Directed by Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury
Starring Béatrice Dalle, Alysson Paradis, Nathalie Roussel, Francois-Regis Marchasson, Jean-Baptiste Tabourin, Dominique Front

When I first heard about this movie, or better yet, when I first seen the poster image, it struck me as a film that I didn’t think I wanted to see.  Maybe I’m just getting old, but when I see a movie poster with a pair of scissors hanging over a bare pregnant belly, it’s not something that makes me want to run out and see it.  I figured it was going to be dealing with a psycho and a pregnant lady and really didn’t want to “go there”.

Of course, as luck would have it, we got a review screener in the mail.  Wonderful.  So with much dread, we sat down to watch something that we figured was going to be a cheap and easy gross out movie that was hitting below the belt.  Oh how we were wrong.

The film has a very simple plot.  A young pregnant woman , who recently lost her husband in an auto accident, is attacked in her own home by a very disturbed and completely crazy woman.  That’s pretty much it.  But what really set this film apart are the two main characters and the special effects.  Wow!

The makeup effects were simply incredible.  We’re not talking so over the top that you’d be thinking you’re watching an 80’s Italian film instead of a new French film.  But effects so simple in their application and even more so effective.  Trust me; you will never look at a pair of scissors again the same way.  Ever.  Most of the effects are your standard practical makeup, while a few are enhanced with CGI.  But it never gets close to looking cartoonish.  There are several moments in this film that will have everyone, male and female alike clenching fists, crossing legs, and just plain squirming in their seats.

Famed French actress Béatrice Dalle plays the mysterious stranger that invades the home of our pregnant lady, played by Alysson Paradis.  Both women give incredible performances, putting themselves both through a physical and emotional roller coaster ride.  Not to mention what they do to the audience.

The music is a combination of different styles, but all of them working really well within the picture.  It builds suspense, tension, and at times is sad and emotional.  Great work by Francois-Eudes Chanfrault.

For some reason, I don’t see an American remake of this any time soon.  Even with remake Queen Naomi Watts.  This is not a film to watch to “have fun”.  This is not a mindless horror movie to watch with a bunch of buddies.  This is a film that will make you jump.  It will give you chills that you probably haven’t had in quite some time.  Or at least, make that little knot slowly start to develop in the pit of your stomach.  Yes, it’s that powerful.  Are we hyping it up too much?  Well, you watch it and see if you're not effected by this.  Then let me know.

Directing team of Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury do an incredible job bringing this dark story to the screen.  There are a couple of times where they use a little of that flashy MTV-style that should have gone out of fashion years ago.  But it’s brief.  The rest of the film is done with a slow and dark style, bringing the sense of dread more and more to the surface.  We never really know what’s going to happen to these characters until the very end.  And by then, we’ve gone too far. 

The disc was released by Dimension Extreme Films, where this film completely fits in that category.  The disc comes with the trailer, but also a featurette that goes into great detail on the making of the film.  It covers everything from the initial inception of the screenplay, to the casting, and to the final moments of filming.  There are a lot of sequences showing the bloody effects used, showing just how much of a struggle that these two actresses had to go through for this movie.

So it’s not often that we watch a film that has this much of an impact on us.  This is one that you will never forget.  So enjoy that feeling once again, since it’s very rare these days.  And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have a friend who is also a fan of the genre that you can talk to about it.  Since this is definitely a film not to discuss around the water cooler.


INVASION FROM INNER EARTH  aka THEY  (1974)
Directed by Bill Rebane
Starring Paul Bentzen, Debbi Pick, Nick Holt, Karl Wallace, Robert Arkens, Arnold Didrickson

Another classic from the outer-world of Wisconsin.  For those not familiar with the works of Bill Rebane, some might consider that lucky.  Rebane had made several movies, including such classics as DEMONS OF LUDLOW, THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION, and THE CAPTURE OF BIGFOOT, and all of them filmed in Wisconsin.  To call these movies low budget would be an understandment.

This fine piece of cinema, is about an invasion from some aliens...I think.  I'm not really sure, since you never see any of the aliens.  Or anything for that matter.  A group of people are trapped in a cabin up north.  When they try to return to civilization, they found the whole world has gone nuts from a plague of some sorts.  A red light keeps showing up, making bodies disappear for some reason.  But that's about it.  There's more blood on the box art than in the entire movie.

For those who enjoy the cheezy low-budget filmmaking, might, and I mean might, get some enjoyment from this flick.  I didn't.  I was all I could do just to stay awake through the whole thing.  If you can, and actually enjoy it, more power to you.


(1983)
Directed by Henri Charr
Starring Elizabeth Monet, Tanya Louise, Michael Wayne, Mike Jacobs, Joe Lombardo,
Ross Hamilton, Hank Worden, Kirsten Baker, Stanely Wells

This film, which is also known as Please Don’t Eat The Babies, is one of the weakest excuse for a movie I’ve seen in years.  Of course, does that mean it’s not enjoyable?  Well, that would require the right circumstances and maybe even some cinematic enhancers.

The film starts off with Sugar and Bobbylee traveling around on some island city, doing some shopping at the markets.  But they are being followed by a couple of hoodlums.  They are finally caught and questioned by some mob boss or something, who wants to know where one of the girls got their coin necklace.  So they are forced to take them to island where they got it.

This is when the film starts with the flashback scenes with the two girls much younger, who are a boat trip with some of older friends/relatives.  Looking for air for their tanks, they come to this remote island run by an old man and his couple of grandchildren.  Right away, things don’t seem right.

We learn that Gramps and family are either cannibals, or just like to kill whoever comes to their island.  But the littlest grandchild, named Jimmer, decides that he likes this last group of people and wants to help the escape.  And after that, we jump back to the current time, with the two girls brought back to the island again with the thugs who want to find this hidden treasure.

There’s a little bit of nudity and gore to keep fans of exploitation films interested, but for the most part, you’ll just wonder what the hell is going on.  The plot is paper thin at best.  The acting is laughable, except for Hank Worden.  Worden is a great character actor that has been in tons of stuff.  He’s a real hoot to watch, since you’re not sure if he’s really acting or if that’s just the way he is.  I’ve seen him in a couple of other films and he plays the characters the same way.  But most of the other actors either never worked again, or at least not that much.  Athough, Kristen Baker did have a role in Friday the 13th Part 2.

This film was released on DVD by Dark Sky Films, as part of a Drive-In Double feature disc, with Barracuda.  The disc comes with some great exploitation trailers of some sleazy films that I’m assuming that Dark Sky will be releasing.  As a single release, it would be tough to recommend this title.  But since it’s a double feature disc, I would have to say that it’s worth it.  If watched with a group of friends, under the right circumstances, it could be pretty entertaining.


(1966)
Director Terence Fisher
Starring Peter Cushing, Edward Judd, Carole Gray, Eddie Byrne, Sam Kydd, Niall MacGinnis

This has always been a favorite of mine, mainly since when I first seen it years and years ago, it scared the crap out of me.  These little piles of oozing mass, with a long tentacle reaching out for you, was enough to give me the chills as a young boy.  Plus, once one of those tentacles got a hold of you, they'd dissolve your bones, leaving a shell of skin.

The plot is very similar to a few other movies around that time, but basically deals with a small English island that is under attack from some sort of creatures that have been spawned by an experiment gone horribly wrong.  Edward Judd and Peter Cushing are doctors that are called to the island to try to discover what theses things are, and how to destroy them.  Tagging along with them is the lovely Carole Gray, who plays Judd's love interests.  While there's no relations that I know, she looks like she could be Judy Geeson's sister!  Niall MacGinnis, best known as the evil occultist from CURSE OF THE DEMON,  plays the head of the little island village.

Peter Cushing once again does a exceptional job as one of the bone doctors trying to figure out what's going on.  At no point do we see Cushing not taking this role completely serious.  Even with the blob monsters sliding about, he gives it his all.  As well as the other actors here.

Director Fisher does a great job here building suspense in this sci-fi/horror film.  While we do get to see the creatures right away, making monster fans like me very happy, Fisher is still able to make us nervous around these creatures.  That is a sign of a great director.  Fisher also kills off some characters that one would normally thought of part of the hero team and wouldn't die.  That builds even more tension since you're not sure who is going to survive!

This movie was released here in the states on video, but not on DVD.  But it was released in the UK in a PAL, Region 2 release.  It features an interview with Christopher Lee, remembering the director Terence Fisher, which is very informative and entertaining, since Fisher really was an underrated director.  There is also the original theatrical trailer, stills and publicity gallery.  There is also a nice 24-page booklet that has some great information about the making of the film, and the actors in it.  It also has some great poster art from the film.

If you're looking for a nice British horror / sci-fi film, you really can't go wrong with this one.  From the great cast, the great direction, and a very cool looking monster, you will enjoy this film.

Fisher's next movie was NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, which was very similar to this movie, but just doesn't have the same impact that this one does.


ISLAND OF THE FISHMAN a.k.a. L’Isola Degli Uomini Pesci  (1979)
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Richard Johnson, Barbara Bach, Joseph Cotten, Claudio Cassinelli.

THEY’RE MEN TURNED INSIDE OUT! AND WORSE . . . THEY’RE STILL ALIVE!"

This was the tag line that used to promote the film SCREAMERS, back in the late 70’. Which if you’ve seen the movie, you know that it has nothing to do with the movie. Classic movie promotion at it’s finest. This movie was actually an Italian film that was picked up, some added new footage, some cut out, and re-titled it to send it on it’s way to an unsuspecting audience. The original movie was called ISLAND OF THE FISHMAN and was directed by Sergio Martino. The film stars were Barbara Bach, Claudio Cassinelli, Joseph Cotton and Richard Johnson.

The story is about some survivors of a shipwreck who wash up on a tropical island beach. The survivors meet up with the only (human) inhabits of the island. Joseph Cotton as a strange scientist, his daughter played Barbara Bach and the delightful Richard Johnson who seems to be the lord and master of something mysterious. Then there are the strange fish creatures that keep popping up. While the makeup effects for the creatures are not something that you’d see in a James Cameron film, they are done rather well.

I’ve always remember Johnson from the 1963 film THE HAUNTING, as Dr. Markway, the para-psychologist who is trying to solve the mysteries of Hill House. But as I got into the Italian horror genre, I was surprise to find him keep popping up every now and then. In Fucli’s ZOMBIE, the Italian EXORCIST-inspired BEYOND THE DOOR, and a few films by Sergio Martino such as THE GREAT ALLIGATOR, not to mention ISLAND OF THE FISHMAN. In this film, Johnson plays what has to be one of the biggest dicks, and plays it so well.  Even if the rest of the movie sucked (which is doesn't), Johnson's role alone is worth watching this movie.

The producers of SCREAMERS added a new beginning, which was directed by Dan T. Miller, which is about 10-11 minutes long. Starring in this brief intro was Cameron Mitchell and Mel Ferrer, with special makeup effects by Chris Walas. But they also cut out some footage and also replaced one the creatures at the end of the film with a creature that was heavily inspired by the Gilman from THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.  

If you've seen this movie, in either it's original form or under the title SCREAMERS, we'd like to know what you thought about it.  Loved it, hated it, whatever.  We're always interested in hearing other peoples opinions.


(2005)
Directed by Billy O’Brien
Starring: Essie Davis, Sean Harris, Marcel Lures, Crispin Letts, John Lynch, Ruth Degga

Find this movie.  Watch it.  Simple as that.

These days, it’s very rare for a movie to come pretty much out of nowhere and just blow me away.  That is just what ISOLATION did.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with that it didn’t come from Hollywood.  I really didn’t know much about the film before I watched it.  I knew it had something to do with some quarantine on a farm, and had figured it was something ‘inspired’ by the 28 DAYS LATER theme.  Oh, how I was wrong.

It’s really hard to go into any details about the film without telling you what it’s about.  And I think for this film, it’s best that you go in completely cold.  So as I said in the very beginning, just find it and watch it. Don’t read the box copy, don’t read any reviews (other than this one, of course) and don’t talk to anybody who’s seen it until you watch it.  Then, we can talk in more detail.

But if you’re one that really has to know what it’s about, here’s the basic details, without giving anything away.  John Lynch plays a cow farmer in Ireland.  His cows are being used in some sort of experimental testing by a drug company.  And when one of the pregnant cows has trouble giving birth, then is starts to get weird.  A young couple in love on the run from their families gets caught up in the plot.

The film only has a cast of about five people.  That’s it.  And since these five actors carry the whole film, it shows two things.  Firstly, that they are very capable actors, making their characters seems like real people.  And second of all, and most importantly, that the story is strong enough to carry the viewer through the movie.  John Lynch, who plays the farmer Dan, has done a couple of genre flicks here and there.  But most notably is in Richard Stanley's debut film HARDWARE, as Shades.

The movie does have a few nods to a couple of other movies, which we can’t mention without giving any hints away.  But for the most part, I found this movie very fresh and original.  The movie is played very straight forward, with no real humor thrown about to lighten the mood.  It’s a very dark and wet movie.  And like the title states, you will feel the isolation that they are going through.

There are parts in this film that make you seem like you might be watching the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet.  And these particular scenes were starting to creep me out.  Not in a horror movie way, but in a very “this is really what happens on a farm” sort of thing.  Too much reality for me, folks.

The DVD was released by Lionsgate and come with a pretty bare-bones edition.  There are a few trailers for some other releases, and some storyboards and photo gallery.  The only other extra is a short film by the director called THE TALE OF THE RAT THAT WROTE, which is amusing.  But even without any major extras, I couldn’t recommend this film enough.  I doubt anybody out there could watch this movie and not be affected by it in one way or another.  There are things in here that will last in your mind for days.


(1978)
Directed by Meir Zarchi
Starring Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann

This is one of those films that the title alone is remembered sometimes more than the movie.  It is one of those films that activists and critics love to point out as cruel exploitations and the way women are treated in horror films.  But obviously, they have never seen the film.  Because if they have, they would realize that this is not shown from the point of view of the rapist, but of the victim and of the heinous crime that rape is.  That didn't stop both Siskel and Ebert from trashing this film and not only hated this film and Ebert called it "sick, reprehensible and contemptible."  No kidding, Roger.  When you have rape as the subject matter, what do you expect?  All one would have to do is listen to the audio commentary from Joe Bob Briggs and to hear some of the silly stuff that has been said about this movie, and to really think about what is going on in the movie.

The story is simple.  Camille Keaton is a writer from New York that rents a house in the woods to start writing her first novel.  But shortly after arriving there, she is attack, beaten, and repeatedly raped by four local young men.  One of them, is a slightly retarded man, who the others keep egging him on to take his turn, so he won’t be a virgin.  They pay no attention to this poor naked girl as she lies there, covered in dirt, bleeding, and crying for help.  Like it’s no big deal.  After each rape, they let her go or leave her there laying in the mud, only to follow her and attack her again.  And again.  Once she is able to finally make it back to her house, right before she is able to call the police, they attack again.  This time, they don’t intend to leave her alive, but leave it up to the retarded Matthew to finish the job, which unbeknown to them, he just can’t do.  He leaves her laying there, but tells his friends that he stabbed her just like they told him to.

Not sure why she doesn’t call the police once she regains her senses, but she doesn’t.  She slowly cleans herself up and starts to plot revenge.  Deadly revenge.  Once the guys discover that she’s still alive, they don’t even seem to be that worried that they could be in trouble with the police.  Little did they know that would be the least of their problems.  She sets out to get her revenge on each one of her attackers.  The original title of the movie was called DAY OF THE WOMAN, which it a much more fitting title, but surely not as catchy or memorable as what they went with.

Watching this film today, you can feel how dated it is, with the way the guys are; the fact of the rape wasn’t that big of a deal, and that she probably ‘enjoyed’ it.  Boy, how times have changed.  But even though this film is over 30 years old that part of the film still packs one hell of a punch.  It’s not the first rape-revenge movie, but it’s one of the more popular ones.  It really shows the brutality of this terrible crime, and does not glorify it at all.  But to me, these attackers’s attitude of what they did is almost as terrifying as the crime itself.

While this film is a classic because of the subject matter, and the fact that the title alone is pure exploitation at its finest.  There is plenty of nudity from Keaton, but it is never gratuitous because it is during some intense scenes of sexual violence you’ll see.  If they really wanted to exploit it, she would have been naked all of the time.  When she gets naked later in the film, after her recovery, it is all part of her plan of revenge.  So again, it’s there for a reason.

I will say that the film is quite slow paced.  It takes a little while for the movie to get going.  The rape sequences take way too long, which might be the intention of the filmmaker, to make it feel like it goes on forever.  But after the attacks, it seems to take way too long for her to go from her recovery, start planning her revenge, and make each one of the plans happen.  Director Zarchi spends a lot of camera time lingering on things, a little longer that I think necessary.

None the less, it is a very important film in the horror film genre, and really doesn’t get the acclaim that it really should, mainly because it is slapped with that title of a cheap exploitation film.  When in reality, it is much, much more than that.

The film is being released in the UK with new footage never seen before there, on both blu-ray and regular DVD, featuring tons of extras.  But has been released here in the states a few times, the best one being the Elite Entertainment release in 2004.  If you are a fan of the movie, then this is going to be a real treat for you.  Carrying over the two audio commentaries from the Elite disc, one with director Zarchi and the other with Joe Bob Briggs, the disc also has tons of other extras such as interviews, essays, interviews, and much more.


(1966)
Directed by Herbert J. Leder
Starring Roddy McDowell, Jill Haworth, Paul Maxwell, Aubrey Richards, Ernest Clark, Oliver Johnston, Noel Trevarthen, Ian McCulloch 

Why this movie hasn’t been released onto DVD (or video for that matter) is beyond me.  This a Roddy McDowell classic.  McDowell plays Pimm, an assistant curator at a British museum.  After one of their warehouses burns down, they find a stone statue of a golem, still standing amongst the ashes of the building.  Shortly after finding it, the main curator is found dead next to the mysterious statue.  Then it is transferred to the main museum, where McDowell works.

After a while, McDowell discovers the secrets to the golem and is able to command it to do his bidding.  Especially when he is past over being promoted to main curator after the first one had died. He decides to use the golem to get rid of the people that get in his way, as well as making sure that the beautiful Haworth ends up with him.  I've always liked the way this golem looked, not like the original from the silent films.  This is more looking like it was actually carved out of stone, instead of looking like a gray painted man.  It looks way more menacing.

The real highlight of this film of course, is Roddy McDowell.  While not going completely overboard, he gives us a great performance of someone who is quite literally insane, but appears quite normal on the outside.  That is except when he's carrying on a conversation with his dead mother.  He even borrows jewelry from the museum for her to wear.  While it does have a little bit of a Bates touch to it, McDowell's character is not as nervous or frightened like Bates was.  He knows what he wants and is determined to have it.

Director Leder also wrote and directed another classic film that has yet to see the light of day on DVD or video...THE FROZEN DEAD.  And also in a small role as a member of the police is Ian McCulloch, who would later make a few Italian films, battling zombies and aliens.

For fans of McDowell, this movie is simply a must.  He was an incredibly talented actor, and always gave a great performance.


IT! TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE  (1958)
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Starring Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer, Paul Langton, and Robert Bice.

This was the film that ALIEN was to be based on.  Well, I guess you could say that being that the basic plot is an alien gets aboard a spaceship once it had landed on an alien planet.  Once they take off, the alien sets out to kill all the crew.  But that’s probably where the similarities end.

In this film, the spaceship had landed to check up on the previous crew that had landed there, but had lost contact with.  When they get there, they find only one remaining crew member alive.  He tells them a story of a monster killing everyone, but of course they don’t believe him.  They plan to take him back to Earth to be charged with the murders.  But the alien monster climbs aboard before they can take off.

This is one of those great monster / sci-fi movies from the 50’s.  Cheezy, corny, but every bit enjoyable.  The monster is the ‘guy in a rubber-suit’ type (this is where ALIEN really made an improvement).  Plus this was back when the realism of space travel was way before people would question it.  It was no problem shooting a gun or portable rocket launcher in the spaceship, or even setting a booby trap with grenades!  Come on, like something could happen to the ship?  Back in those days, they were built tough, until an alien came along.

One of my favorite scenes is when two of the crew members need to get to the lower level of the ship, below the level where the alien creature is.  So they open the outer door of the ship and simply walk down the side of the spaceship, down to the lower level, open the door and climb in.  Boy, you don’t see that anymore.

Director Cahn also brought us such classics as INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, CURSE OF THE FACELESS MAN, and ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU.

Released by MGM as one of their Midnight Movie titles, for only $10, you really can’t go wrong here.  It’s a great nostalgic film, which any fan of the genre would get some sort of enjoyment out of it.  And for that price, it’s a nice addition to any collection.  And only running 69 minutes, it's a nice way to kill a little bit of time.

The disc also features the trailer.


(2005)
Directed by Steven R. Monroe
Starring Cerina Vincent, Dominic Zamprogna, Greg Kean, Eric Schweig, Matt Jordan

Cerina Vincent plays a forest ranger named Danielle who is fighting her own personal demons when she ends up confronting a real one.  Now, Vincent is a good actress, and is very nice to look at.  But casting her as a forest ranger is like casting Rosie O'Donnell as Miss America.  I had an easier time of suspending disbelief of a giant gorilla running around New York City than trying to believe that she's a forest ranger, out in the middle of the mountains, with no showers, and having her hair and makeup looking perfect.  Plus, while it was suppose to be cold out there, and all the other characters are wearing their uniforms and coats, but yet Vincent always seems to be a white wife-beater with her bust hanging out.  Even when she does put on her coat, it's never zipped up.  So that really distracted me from the movie, and not for the obvious reasons.

Another part that had me thinking was when I seen 3 names on the writing credit.  That makes me feel that either it was written, then re-written, and then re-re-written again.  Or, as in this case, 2 people write it, and someone "adds" it.  And also in this case, the one that modifies it is the producers.  What this can cause is a film that has a lot of little parts that just don't seemed to fit together.  And that's what I felt here.

There seems to be times where all of a sudden something is thrown at us that just doesn't seem to gel or fit into the movie.  Like the character of the professor that lets the viewer in on all the history or details of the monster.  All of a sudden he just appears to tell the main character the history of this demon?  Why hadn't the demon been stalking him all along?

It just seems like the basic storyline either wasn't fleshed out enough, or just not thought through enough.  Some of the taunting stuff this demon was doing seemed a little far-fetched, if you ask me.  Seemed more like something your average run-of-the-mill serial killer would do.

The creature is an interesting mutation of different monsters.  Kind of a combination of Alien creature, Jeepers Creepers, and even a little of SYNgenor thrown in there for good measure.  But overall is pretty effective and impressive.  Though, if it has wings, why does it bother to wander through the forest on legs anyway?

Director Monroe does an okay job for his first horror movie.  His use of the steady-cam during some of the chase sequences are done nicely.  He also had some really nice stylistic shots for the flashback sequences when we find out about Danielle's past.  Even the setting for the movie is pretty good.  With beautiful shots of the woods and huge trees, it is very nice to look at.  But once again, I feel the biggest problem with the movie is the screenplay.  I think if they would really polished that over more, it could have turned out into a pretty good movie.  And if it was really polished, even with Vincent in the lead role wouldn't of bothered me.

The DVD comes with a nice documentary that covers the making of the film.  There's interviews with the director, producer, and Vincent, and the actor playing the creature.  They go into some pretty detail in the designing of the creature and filming it as well.

But here's a first.  There is audio commentary with the director and Vincent.  But 30 minutes into the film, Vincent says she has to leave for an audition call back and takes off!  What the hell is that about???  You couldn't scheduled this around an audition call back, or even just re-schedule the commentary?  Or how about not even mentioning that she's on the commentary and consider it a bonus.  That was different.

So the bottom line is that if you're a fan of Vincent's, than you'll enjoy this movie.  If you're a big fan of monsters on the loose, you might enjoy it.  Just don't get your hopes up too high.