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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

 P

Panic Beats

Phantasm 4

Paura: Lucio Fulci Rememered

Phantom of the Opera

Pitch Black

Plague Of The Zombies

Plague Town

Prey

The Projected Man

The Prowler

The Psychic

Psychic Killer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q

The Quatermass Experiment

Quatermass: The Original Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

R

Rage

The Rage

Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake

Ravenous

[REC] 2

The Reptile

Reptilicus

Resurrecting the Street Walker

Revlations

Revenge

The Revenge in the House of Usher

Ricco The Mean Machine

Ringu

Rojo Sangre

Room 6

Rouge

Route 666

The Ruins

 

 

 

(1983)
Directed by Jacinto Molina
Starring Paul Naschy, Julia Saly, Lola Gaos, Manuel Zarzo, Jose Vivo.

This has been a great year for us Naschy fans.  Not only do we see him make a great comeback in the excellent ROJO SANGRE, but we also get to see one of his more rare films (unless you liked shitty-looking bootlegs) hit DVD, looking just beautiful.  Plus, it seems there will more of Naschy's films still to come!

Once again, Mondo Macabro have come through with yet another incredible release.  They probably have to have the best track record for their releases.  Each disc is given the star treatment, with awesome prints, and even better extras.  And this release is no different.

In this film, Naschy brings his ailing wife to his country home of his ancestors in hoping to give her the rest and relaxation that she needs.  But he really has more deviant motives for her.  He is planning on killing her to inherit her wealth.  But as his sick wife is told stories of his evil ancestor Alaric de Marnac from the housekeeper, strange things start to happen.  Is it really Marnac coming back from the grave, or is it all just a plot.

Made in 1982, this is probably one of the more gorier films that Naschy made.  There's lot of blood and guts in this one folks.  Nothing like the Italians were dishing out at this time, but still very meaty, not to mention pretty violent as well.

But as usual, Naschy gives us another strong performance the as the plotting husband, out to get rid of his wife.  And of course, he gets to bed three different women in here....as they say, "it's good to be the King".  Julia Saly also gives a great performance as the sick wife, who starts to feel that she might be losing her mind.  Also giving another strong performance and really one of the only good characters in this movie, is the housekeeper, played by Lola Gaos.  Serious Spanish horror fans would recognize her from Jorge Grau's CEREMONIA SANGRIENTA (aka LEGEND OF BLOOD CASTLE, THE BLOODY COUNTESS, BLOOD CERMONY, and many other titles).  Here, she is perfect as the old housekeeper.  Even though she's basically the only non-evil character, she's probably one of the most creepiest.

But like all Mondo Macabro's releases, the extras are pretty much worth the price of the DVD.  First there is an interview with Naschy, that lasts almost a half hour.  Here he talks about not only this movie, but his whole career.  And there is also a 19-minute documentary on the Spanish horror film genre, which talks to a variety of people, including Naschy from a different interview, as well as Amando de Ossario, Caroline Munro, Jose Larrez, and a few others.  Very entertaining.

The disc also comes with trailers for past and  future Mondo Macabre releases, and a still gallery from the movie.  Not to mention that the print of the film looks beautiful.  I had gotten a copy of this movie years ago, but the quality of the bootleg was so bad, that it was really hard to even watch the movie.  So watching this new disc, was really like watching the movie for the first time.


It’s very hard for me not to get excited about any sort of project dealing with Lucio Fulci.  I’ve enjoyed his movies for decades, collected movie posters and other movie memorabilia from his movies, and also collected and enjoyed reading the few reference books that were on him.  I was even one of the lucky ones to make it out to the Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors convention in New York, back in 1996, only a few short months before he passed away.  In other words, I am a huge Fulci fan.

Being horror fans, we know that most of the films that we love never really get the credit they so richly deserve.  The same can be said for the creators of these types of films.  Especially when it comes to Lucio Fulci.  Fulci had never been giving the credit that he deserved.  What Mike Baronas has done with this new DVD is to do his part in trying to rectify that grievous error.

The great thing about this DVD is that this isn’t filled with fan-boy praise over their favorite director.  The praising comments (some not so praising) comes from the people that knew him best: the people he worked with.  Baronas has compiled a staggering number of interviews with actors, directors, cameramen, special effects artists, and many other people that had worked with Fulci over the years.  Each one of them giving their favorite memory of him.  As we said, some of them are not the most kind.  Most are not only high praise, but some even thank the makers of this DVD for giving them a chance to let the world know that when it came to the filmmaking, Fulci was indeed a master craftsman.

The stories you will hear on this DVD you will never find in any book.  These are stories are first hand, coming directly from the people who worked with him.  And from these, you get a chance to see a glimpse of this very talented and intelligent filmmaker, but who also had a very dark side to him.  As we mentioned, during a couple of the interviews, they thanked the makers of this DVD.  Firstly, for the chance to be able to tell people just how great of a filmmaker that Fulci was.  But more importantly, that that since he’s basically forgotten in the Italian film industry, they seemed very happy to know that Fulci still has a strong fan base in the states.  And that his work is still be admired today.

The DVD is composed of 3 different sections.  The first is Accomplices, which are people who worked with Fulci behind the camera.  Like effects artists (Carlo Rambaldi), musicians (Fabio Frizzi), cameramen (Sergio Salvait), and many more.  The second section is Peers.  Here you get to hear what other Italian directors thought and knew of Lucio.  Directors like Lamberto Bava, Umberto Lenzi, Sergio Martino, Bruno Mattei, Michele Soavi, and more.  The last section, which is really the most entertaining, is Victims.  These are the actors and actresses that were directed by Lucio.  You will hear from people like Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Cupisti, George Hilton, Geoffrey Lewis, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Catriona Maccoll, and many, many, more.

Some might find this DVD too long to sit through, since it’s basically filled with the “talking heads” approach.  But would you rather have footage from the movies and less info coming at you?  As fans, we know the movies.  We don’t need to see them on a documentary, giving up the chances to hear these great stories of this great filmmaker.  So while it might be a little hard to sit and watch all in one setting, it’s broken up into sections that make it very easy to go back and access right where you left off, or jump to a particular person that you might want to hear from.

I guess my only complaint would be there it would have been nice to compile a nice photo and still gallery, showing the wonderful poster art and items from his films.  But once again, I don’t think that’s really necessary for the purpose of this DVD.  I guess I’m just a sucker for those types of things.

Bottom line….if you are even the slightest fan of Lucio Fulci, then you need this DVD.  Even if you are the most die-hard fan, you will learn even more, and get a much better look inside him.  And you will have a much better understanding of this complicated man.  For a student of the horror genre, it's people like Lucio Fulci that need to be remembered for the huge impact that he had made.  Not only in the horror genre, but in the film industry as well.

Major kudos goes out to Mike Baronas for working on something that he is so passionate about, putting years of hard work and sweat, just so other Fulci fans can get to know the director a little better.  Thanks, Mike.

 You can acquire the DVD through the official website HERE.  Just tell them we sent you!


PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION
(1998)
Directed by Don Coscarelli.
Starring Angus Scrimm, Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Bill Thornbury, Heide Marnhout, Bob Ivy.

“Oblivion: 1. A forgetting or having forgotten; forgetfulness.  2.  The condition or fact of being forgotten.” – WEBSTER’S NEW WORLD DICTIONARY.

That pretty much sums up the latest installment in what used to be one of the most original and creative series in the horror genre.  After seeing this, I wish that I could forget it.  I don’t think I was ever disappointed as much as I was with this film.  As much as it pains me to give this a bad review, I have to do it.  I just hope the people involved can understand the disappointment here.

I was at the Fangoria show in January of 1998 in New York when the director and the major cast of the PHANTASM series were all there to promote the newest film.  The little trailer that they showed even looked really good.  We were told that it would let in a little light on the mystery behind the Tall Man and his origins.  So when the copy of PHANTASM: OBLIVION showed up on my door, I was one excited little puppy.  A puppy that soon realized what it’s like to be caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

This new chapter featured some footage from the first movie that was never used.  Originally I thought that would pretty cool idea for flashback sequences of events that the audience had never seen before.  But the problem was that most of those scenes really didn’t seem to have any point to the new film (or even the original for that matter, which maybe is why they were cut to begin with?), as if they were just simply padding.  As a matter of fact, there seemed to be a lot of scenes from both parts 2 and 3 that were used in the new one.  If these flashback sequences were in there for people who might not of seen any or all of the first three films, then that kind of goes against the statement that this new film was for the fans.  The fans didn’t need to see what happened previously, we already knew.

After the brief recap of the previous films, Part 4 starts up where the last one left off.  As we all know, Reg was left ‘hangin’ at the end of Part 3, being pinned to the wall, by quite a few spheres.  So how does he get out of this tight situation?  The Tall Man just lets him go, saying it’s not his time yet.  But then throughout the rest of the movie, Reggie’s life is constantly in peril from Hell Cops to the dwarfs.  Sorry guys, but to me that just sounds like a big cop out, as if nobody could come up with a better idea.  Then we see a shit-load of spheres come flying around a corner with the Tall Man walking away.  Normally this might have looked pretty cool, but for some reason I kept thinking of those little mini M&M’s flying around.

This was supposed to be sort of an ending to the series, answering a lot of questions.  Well, not only did it not really answer that much; but I have quite a few more questions and remarks after seeing this last film.

  • Reg says that he's done with all of this.  No more.  Then says, okay.  After all the Reg's been through, like he would just up and quite.  And then in a blink of an eye, decided otherwise.

  • Mike tells the Tall Man that he has a friend and that he'll find him.  Then why did he leave Reg at the end of Part 3 and continue to go on his own?

  • Reg and the Hell Cop – It’s so obvious as to why the Hell Cop got on top of the car, just because Reggie can’t get the gun out of the clamp, and he could shoot him through the roof.

  • Coscarelli said that he wasn’t going to put the humor that was in Part 3, since the fans didn’t seem to care for it.  No humor?  What about the sequence with the Reggie and cop, with all the one liners?  “Blow me” – “Some cops can be real assholes.”?

  • Coscarelli says that he didn’t rip-off the look of the dwarfs from STAR WARS, but then has the scene in part 4 with Michael walking through the rocks with the dwarfs looking at him from behind the rocks.  Is this a little in-joke?

  •  If the Tall Man is just an alien being that had took over Jebediah Morningside’s body, then why does he keep returning in the same body once that body is destroyed.

  • Mike talks about going back in time to kill the Tall Man but never does.  Instead tries to kill him with his homemade sphere and the car blowing up.  But then another Tall Man appears, just like in the previous films.  Didn’t we learn anything from the previous films?  Mike must not of seen part 2

  • What’s up with the Civil War sequence? What did that have to do with anything?  To make the point that the Tall Man has been doing this for years?  That was established in the very first movie with the photo that Michael found.

As I said in the beginning of this review, it really pains me to give this movie a really bad review.  This has been one of the most entertaining and original series in the genre.  The first one I still a classic.  I’ve known Reggie for a couple of years now and the fact of telling him my feelings of this film is not an easy task.  So it ends up something like, “You looked great, Reg.”  I just hope Reggie, and everybody else involved understands.


PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
(
1989)
Directed by Dwight H. Little
Starring Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, Alex Hyde-White, Bill Nighy, Stephanie Lawrence, Terence Harvey, Nathan Lewis.

I’ve always had a strong liking for the character of the Phantom of the Opera.  This is due to several reasons, one and the most obvious is probably because of Lon Chaney Sr. I don’t think there will ever be another film that would come close to his performance as Erik.  But aside from that, I’ve always enjoyed the very Gothic feel to the story of a deformed composer, living underneath the opera house, wanting to be loved and admired for his music, but not being able to have that because of who or what he is.  Very tragic.

When news of a new remake starring Robert Englund came to my ears, I had mixed feelings.  Would this be a cheap Freddy Goes To The Opera, or would this be something different.  I think either Hollywood or Englund himself had plans to try and make him one of the next generation horror stars, playing the different monsters.  That plan didn’t seem to work.  Some critics even slammed the film for leaving out key scenes.  Phil Hardy, author of THE OVERLOOK FILM ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HORROR bitched because there’s really no ‘unmasking’ scene and also no falling chandelier, as they did in Argento’s latest take on the tale (of course there were enough things to complain about that movie than not having an unmasking scene).  Maybe he should concentrate more on running times of the films than a film trying to be different.

This film didn’t do too well at the box office.  My guess was because of the type of promotion used.  Comments like “You’ve seen him as Freddy, now see him as the Phantom”.  Most of your general movie going population would have expected another Freddy movie.  Nothing could be farther.  I was not disappointed, and very much enjoyed the film.

This isn’t your average remake either.  The filmmakers wanted to do something a little bit different.  The film starts off in modern day, and then after a bonk on the head, the character of Christina, played by Jill Schoelen, is transported back to the late early 19th century London, as an understudy for the diva at the opera house.  Soon she starts being tutored by mysterious figure.  This film is not really a remake, but just another version of the tale.  They even have a different reasoning for the Phantom’s disfigurement, by him selling his soul to the Devil to have his music become immortalized.

The makeup effects in the film were handled by Kevin Yagher, creator of Chucky from the CHILD’S PLAY films, as well as the Crypt Keeper from HBO’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT series, and are done very well.  In this newer version, instead of using a plastic mask, the Phantom uses skin from his victims and sews them onto his face to cover the scars.  A very original idea if I do say so myself.  There is a very painful looking scene with him stitching this mask on, with a lot of close-ups, which even makes the makeup effects look incredible.

So if you are looking for a film that does have the gore, but also has some really good atmosphere and mood, you should give this flick a try.  And if you’ve seen it before, you may even want to give it a second look.


PITCH BLACK
(2000)
Directed by David N. Twohy
Starring Claudi Black, Radha Mitchell, Vin Diesel, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Rhiana Griffith

After hearing not-so good reviews about this film, I went to it with pretty low expectations. I had heard that it really lacked originality. But then, how many movies nowadays even know what that is, let alone try and practice it. But none the less, we went to see it anyway. And maybe because of the low expectations, it turned out to be a decent film to see.

Basic story: space ship crashes on a distant unknown planet, and then the survivors have to get off before the "bad thing" happens. This "bad thing" could be monsters or some sort of natural (or un-natural for that matter) disaster. In this case, it’s a little bit of both. On this planet, there are three suns, so there’s no night except for every 20 or so days. But when it does get dark, out come the creatures.

The effects are done quite well, especially during the opening crash sequence. None of this BOOM - THUD! "We crashed!" There’s lots of shit flying around, parts of the ship breaking apart, and a lot of noise. It really makes an impact (no pun intended) of what the crash landing is like.

The monsters are also done quite well. Of course, being that they only come out in the dark, that alone can hide a multitude of sins. But the CGI effects are done adequately enough where it didn’t bother me that much. It seems that the makers of the films wanted to make sure they didn’t make the same mistakes that the makers of the American version of GODZILLA did, and promptly and proudly showed pictures about the creatures well before the movie came out. The design of the creatures is also interesting. They wanted to make sure that people didn’t think that it was a ‘man-in-a-suit’ creature, and they were successful. Mainly because all the creatures were done by CGI except for the real close ups, where you are not seeing the entire creature anyway. In one memorable scene, one of the characters has their head bitten clean off, which is always entertaining, at least in my book.

There were enough parts in the story that go against the ‘normal’ characterization. It just means that writers tend to make certain characters to act a certain way or whether they will live or die. They set you up for THIS is the BAD guy, and THIS is the GOOD guy. Without giving away too much in this movie, they seemed to go a little too much out of their way to make sure you don’t know just how the characters are going to behave and whether they are going to die, or be the hero. Then again, that even seems to be the "normal" thing to do nowadays. But it will still interesting and a nice change not to have the characters so black and white.

So don’t see it expecting it to change your political views, or anything that original for that matter, it’s worth the 90 or so minutes.


(1966)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Andre Morell, John Carson, Diane Clare, Alex Davion, Jacqueline Pearce, Michael Ripper

I had just recently re-watched this movie and realized that I had never written up an official review of it.  Not sure why I waited so long, since it’s one of my favorite Hammer films.  So here goes.

The plot is pretty simple.  Sir James, a doctor of medicine, has his vacation called short when he receives troublesome news from a former student.  It seems that the people of the Cornish village where he is the local doctor have been dying off under mysterious circumstances.  So Sir James and his daughter travel to Cornwall to try and help the young doctor.  When they arrive, they find some very strange things indeed.

This was Hammer’s only real entry in the zombie genre.  Not really sure why, especially since they did such a great job with this one.  There are two main elements of this film that make it really stand out.

The first thing is two of the part of the cast.  Andre Morell plays Sir James, and really gives him the presence of one of these ‘old-fashion’ British, with the stiff attitude.  With him being very prim and proper, he’s still smart enough not to rule out what might be causing the strange things around town.  The other cast member that does an outstanding job is John Carson.  He has a great voice that sounds very close to James Mason.  Carson also has the look and attitude to go with that voice that can really come off with a very intimidating personality.  Both Morell and Carson have always been faces that I always enjoyed seeing in a Hammer film, since I knew they were always going to give a great performance, nothing short of top notch.  Of course, having Michael Ripper as the local constable always helps as well.

Though, I must admit that some of the other cast falls kind of flat in their performances.  Namely Sir James’ daughter, played by Diane Clare, and Brook Williams playing the young doctor.

But the other thing about this film that stands out is the makeup and the costumes.  The image of the voodoo priest, with his grayish mask is one that made a lasting impression with me.  I remember buying a B&W still of that image years ago, and it being one of my favorites stills.  The makeup for the zombies is very simple, but yet highly effective.  They have the gray peeling skin, the white eyes, and look like they are still covered in the fresh earth that they had just dug their way out of.  The nightmare scene in the film is still one of Hammer’s best and most memorable sequences.

The film does lack in the gore and sex category, compared to the Hammer’s normal way of doing things.  There really isn’t any ‘eye candy’ that would always be thrown in there somewhere.  There is a decapitation (which is done quite well), but that’s about the extent of the gore.  But this isn’t a problem since the story and main lead actors really carry the whole movie anyway.

As all Hammer fans know, this picture was filmed back to back with THE REPTILE.  But unlike DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS and RASPUTIN who shared most of the main cast, there were only two of the cast who were in THE REPTILE: Michael Ripper and Jacqualine Pearce.

This film had never been released on video here in the states, making a copy of it a very rare item in one collection.  I can still remember getting a TV print (many generations down) and being extremely happy to finally be able to see the film.  It was released on laserdisc by Elite Entertainment ‘back in the days’.  But now it is available from Anchor Bay Entertainment.  The extras include a couple of trailers, one of them being the double feature trailer which combines this film with DRACULA PRINCE OF DARKNESS.  The other extra is the episode "Mummies, Werewolves, & The Living Dead" from the TV documentary series WORLD OF HAMMER that was on the BBC in the 80’s. 

As I would usually say, since being a big fan of Hammer films, I couldn’t recommend this film enough.  But since it’s also one of my favorites of those films, I really would advise you seek this title out.


(2009)
Directed by David Gregory
Starring Josslyn DeCrosta, Erica Rhodes, James Warke, Lindsay Goranson, David Lombard, Kate Aspinwall, Catherine McMorrow, Elizabeth Bove, Michael Donaldson

David Gregory has been working his tail over the years off making us lovers of the “DVD Extras” very happy.  He has worked on close to 100 featurettes for movies ranging from Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, to Gary Sherman’s Dead & Buried, to countless other titles.  But he has left the documentaries aside for now to give us the feature film Plague Town.

When you have a film that starts out with a priest about ready to kill a newborn baby, it kind of sets the tone for what this movie is going to be about.  No, it’s not about a killer priest, but about a town that has something wrong in their lineage, which causes them to be deformed.  Years later, when these ‘children’ run free about the town at night, playing the same type of games all children play, but with a much darker tone to them.

The plot is very simple.  Nothing new in the story department here people, just a disjointed family out on a vacation, where the father is hoping his two daughters will welcome in their future step mother.  Like expected, the siblings are two busy fighting with each other to give any attention to their future mother other than the occasion verbal bitch-slap.  Traveling through their ancestral homeland of Ireland, they get lost.  Like I said nothing new here.  But once they stumble across this old small town with their terrible secret, they discover their family isn’t that dysfunctional after all.

Even though there’s nothing story-wise that we haven’t seen before, what Gregory and co-writer John Cregan does give us is the chills and atmosphere.  Since most of the film takes place at night, we have wonderful shots of darkened roads, with the fog seeping across the land.  We get quick glimpses of shadowy figures moving in the night, with the strange sounds of children’s laughter.

The film does have a very dark tone to it.  There are some beatings that take place that are just brutal.  And what makes those scenes even more effective is not that they are just being perpetrated by children, but that they look at it as kind of like a children’s game.  They don’t see the harm in what they are doing to these outsiders.  That is where the disturbing factor and scariness comes into play even more.

The film clocks in at little less than 90 minutes, and moves at a good pace.  The film reminded me of some of the European “style of substance” attitude.  The film looks great.  The characters of the village look creepy.  And the plot is pretty simple to follow even though there’s not the usual over-explanation of what is going on.  And the creepiness of the film is helped even more by the musical score by Mark Raskin.  Using very low and limited tones, he enhances the scariness of the film immensely.

The DVD was released by Dark Sky Films and comes with an audio commentary by director Gregory and producer Derek Curl.  They give a lot of information on the making of this film which is quite entertaining, while also being interesting.  Since the film was actually shot in Connecticut for the Ireland setting, it works quite well.  But getting the people of that area to agree to have a horror film shot on their land wasn’t as easy, as they explain in the commentary.  There is also a featurette on the making of the film, which we get to hear from both Gregory and Curl, makeup artist Tate Steinsiek, as well as the main 3 female leads.  There is also a smaller featurette on the making of the musical score, which is also quite good.

If you’re looking for a good creepy film, that also has enough make up effects shots to keep even the gorehound out there amused, then you will enjoy watching this film.  If you’re looking for a typical Americanized horror film, then you will be disappointed.


(2007)
Directed by Darrell James Roodt
Starring Peter Weller, Bridget Moynaham, Carly Schroeder, Connor Dowds, Jamie Bartlett

There's been a lot of movies lately that are trying to convince you not to do certain things.  HOSTEL showed you that you shouldn't be traveling abroad in some smaller European countries.  WOLF CREEK did the same for the Outbacks in Australia.  And even 30 years ago, JAWS had shown me that you are never to go into the water.  And now with PREY, they are showing you that going on one of those trips through the wilds of Africa, so you can see the wildlife first hand, is not a good idea.

While on a working trip to Africa, Peter Weller sends his two kids and his new wife on a wild life safari ride.  But during during a pit stop, they get stranded out in the middle of the reserve.  And the worse part is that their are 3 lions stalking them, waiting for their next meal to get out of the jeep.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting much when I started watching this movie.  The plot seemed pretty simple and didn't see how they were going to make this last a full 90 minutes.  But it works.  Director Roodt spends enough time in the beginning setting up the characters, showing the animosity the teenage daughter feels for her new step-mother.  So when they get trapped out in the wild, things get very tense and very nerve-racking.

This is kind of like watching one of those Discover Channel shows gone bad.  There's even a scene during the opening credits that had me thinking I was watching some Italian cannibal movie from the 80's, when some lionesses take down a zebra.  It wasn't gory or anything, but it was real.  And for me personally, that is more disturbing.  Yea, I know that's reality.  But it doesn't mean I want to watch it.

So even when a human is getting attacked by one of these lions, it would get to me.  Seeing a monster in a rubber suit, or even a CGI dinosaur chomping on someone is one thing.  You know it's not real.  And I knew these actors where not getting munched on by these lions.  But since these are real creatures and this stuff does happen, it made it much more intense.  To me at least.

Speaking of the gore, there's not a lot of here, but when there is it's much more disturbing.  You see a lot of blood flying and smeared over the jeep the folks are trapped in.  And you also see the remains of one of the victims after the hyenas get through with him.

If they used any CGI here, I think it was only for some of the blood spurting from bullet hits to the animals.  There were a few camera tricks, but they were seamless.  All of the animals looked very real and very dangerous.  So the makers did a great job making these lions look like they were really attacking this jeep.  The film also does a great job of showing just what these animals really are like.  They are sharks on land.  They are not evil or mean.  They are wild animals.  And this films does a great job showing just what that really means.  Something us 'city folk' just don't get a clue, even by just visiting the local zoo.  Out there, it's the real thing and a whole different story.

Director Roodt does a great job with this film.  The look of it is amazing, showing the landscapes and colors of the land.  Including when it turns red.  Granted, this may have something to so with our new HDTV, but that's besides the point.  Taking what is really a very minimal story, Roodt keeps the tension going throughout the film.

Released on DVD by Weinstein Company Home Entertainment, once again with absolutely no extras.  It would have been really interesting to hear commentary from the director about the making of the film as well as from the actors and having to deal with working with these animals.

But despite the lack of extras, I do recommend this movie, especially to anyone who would enjoy one of those real-life African Adventure trips.  Bet you change your mind.  If not, good luck!


(1967)
Directed by Ian Curteis
Starring Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Woodlan, Ronald Allen, Derek Farr, Tracey Crips, Derrick De Marney

Back in the days of video stores (meaning renting VHS tapes), we had came across a movie called TOWER OF EVIL.  Any British film made in the 60's or 70's had to be entertaining, so we rented it.  And we loved it.  One of the main stars was Bryant Haliday, which we discovered had a made a few other horror films in that time era.  So we set about seeking them out.  Another great one of his was DEVIL DOLL.  But one that we had trouble finding was the sci-fi/horror title of THE PROJECTED MAN.  When we finally did get a bootleg copy of it, the quality was so terrible that we could hardly watch it.  So when we noticed that had gotten a import DVD release, we quickly picked it up.

Haliday plays a scientist on the verge of creating a machine that can transport, or project, an object from one place to another through the use of a laser beam.  The laser turns the object into matter, and then "projects" it to another location, putting the matter back to it's original form.  They have successfully done it with inanimate objects, but not with live animals.  Of course, they are considering the project so far a failure because they can't do live things.  Apparently the ability of transporting inanimate objects over distances doesn't seemed to have that much use.  So while working under the pressure of having his funding pulled, the good scientist uses himself as a guinea pig with this laser and of course has drastic results.

There is also some sort of sub-plot going on, as to why the funding for this project is being cut off.  There seems to be some mysterious characters, one in particular that we only see this arm from behind this big recliner chair.  I almost expected to see James Bond running around.  But other than a few conversations, this little plot never seems to go anywhere or be explained what it has to do with the rest of the movie.

Now watching this movie, you really have to be a fan of British horror of early 60's.  This is not the most exciting film.  Basically, it's pretty boring.  It does take a while for anything really to get going.  Haliday really brings the dull scientist to new levels.  Very determined in his experiment, but doesn't seemed to have much life to his character other than that.  Mary Peach plays the pathologist that Haliday brings in to help with discovering why the animals are dying.  After all Haliday's hard work, she comes in and figures it out pretty quickly.

The makeup for Haliday after his gruesome accident is pretty good.  Not sure if hiding it more in the beginning would have helped keep the suspense up, or if we just got used to it after repeated looks at it.  But they did do a pretty nice job, since it does look pretty gruesome.

So overall, the only one I could recommend this film to is those die-hard fans of British Sci-Fi/Horror films of that time period.  The DVD release is pretty decent, but it a bit grainy.  If you not, you may have a hard time getting through it.  But if you are, then I think there's enough in here to give you a little entertainment.  It's your call.


(1981)
Directed by Joseph Zito
Starring Farley Granger, Vicky Dawson, Christopher Goutman, Cindy Weintraub, Lawrence Tierney

While overseas during the World War II, a soldier receives a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend.  But once he returns home, he gets revenge during the local graduation dance by stabbing a pitchfork through her and her new boyfriend.

We now move ahead to present day (or 1980, for that matter), where the town is planning on its first graduation dance since those unsolved killings back at the end of the war.  The sheriff is on his way out for his yearly fishing trip, and leaves the town in the hands of his young deputy.  The deputy and his girlfriend start to get nervous when news of a murderer on the loose in a nearby town.  But just who is this guy sneaking around in the army gear, armed with a bayonet and pitchfork?

While the packaging states that the film is “completely uncut and uncensored”, it’s the same print when compared to the video.  So we’re not really sure why it states that, unless trying to get the buyers thinking that it was different than previous releases.  But with the quality of this DVD, there is tons of blood flowing in here that you really can’t see on the video print.  It’s a wonder how this got passed by the MPAA.  It also gives one even more appreciation of the work of Tom Savini.

This was made at the beginning of the gory slasher films of the 80’s, with Savini creating some of those makeup effects that made him famous among horror fans.  During this time, there were tons of these types of slasher films popping up all over the place.  But if Savini was working on it, you knew that at least the effects would be pretty good, depending on how much was cut out to save the R rating.  Films like this one, as well as MANIAC, THE BURNING, and of course FRIDAY THE 13TH, really put Savini on the map as the King of Splatter, whether he wanted the title or not.

With this new print, you can see detail that you couldn’t see in the old video prints.  For example, in a shower sequence, where a girl is stabbed with a pitchfork, if you look, you can see blood squirting out of the wounds (actually the ends of the cut-off pitchfork).  Little things like that are why Savini has got the reputation that he does.

There are some pretty interesting modes of death in THE PROWLER.  My favorite is the bayonet through the top of a guy’s head, popping out below his chin.  Very nice.  Another effect that is very well done is the girl getting her throat cut in the swimming pool.  You can even see the blood pouring out of her neck underneath the water.  Once again, a very nice touch.

Here in this film, director Zito does a pretty good job of building suspense.  I mean, you know someone is going to die when they go off by themselves; it’s just a matter of exactly when.  So building suspense is a little different then a normal thriller film.  And here, it works.  Zito later went out to work the Savini many other times, including on one of the better sequels in the FRIDAY THE 13th series (Part 4: THE FINAL CHAPTER).

The audio commentary is informative, but mainly it’s more entertaining with Zito and Savini joking around most of the time.  Savini seemed to be having trouble remembering what happens in the movie.  But there were some interesting points made during the discussion, such as the last scare sequence of the movie was actually taken from the middle of the film to give the audience that last jump.  It shows a little bit in just how the final cut comes about.

Another interesting note from the commentary is about making one of the earlier slasher films of that time.  Since this was made in beginning of those types of movies, all the stereotypical things to happen in slasher films were still being conceived, or as Zito and Savini joke about in the commentary, the manual was still being written.

But it was also nice to hear Zito speaking very fondly of this movie, and still very proud of what they made.  Some times, directors seemed to be embarrassed or even regret having made or been connected to certain films.  It was great to hear Zito not have that attitude or feelings.

And one last thought…just what the hell was Lawrence Tierney doing in this movie?  He had only a couple of scenes, and you could barely recognize him.

DVD comes with some video footage that Savini did during the making of the film.  It’s only 9 1/2 minutes long, but is a great look at what is really going on behind the camera, as well as when the camera is off.  The disc also comes with a theatrical trailer, poster and still gallery.


(1977)
Directed by Lucio Fulci
Starring Jennifer O’Neil, Gabriele Ferzetti, Marc Porel, Gianni Garko, Ida Galli, Jenny Tamburi, Fabrizio Jovine, Riccardo Parisio

This is another example of how seeing a movie the 2nd time years later can show you how much you can change.  I had first seen this movie back in the late 80’s, when I had become a fan of Lucio Fulci’s gorefests, like ZOMBIE and THE BEYOND.  So when I watched this one, other than one scene in the opening, the movie was pretty dull to me.  Of course, that was because I was expecting the Fulci gore.  So I never really gave the film a second thought.

Well, since the DVD has recently been released in the first uncut version here in the states, I figured it was about time for me to give it another look and see if the “film” had changed.  But as always, the film never changes.  The viewer does.  I looked at this film completely different than I had 20 years ago.  And since I was not expecting a Fulci gore film, I was able to watch the film with more of an open mind.  And I loved it.

The film starts off with a young girl psychically witnessing her mother jump off a cliff.  Then we move forward to the same girl, now an adult and married.  After dropping her husband off at the airport, she has another series of visions while driving home.  She sees a room with a hole in the wall, like something was buried there.  She also sees an older woman who’s been murdered, a limping pair of legs, and other various images.  None of them was making any sense to her.

So to get her mind off these images, she wants to surprise her husband by going to his summer house to fix it back up and re-decorate.  The house has been closed down for some time, so she has her work cut out for her.  But once she gets there, she realizes that one room is the same one from her vision, where something had been buried in the wall.  And she’s starts digging.

I think this film showed that Fulci could do really well with a giallo film when the story was good. This wasn’t his first attempt at this style of film, but was pretty much his last before moving into the gore films he’s best known for.  The film combines the use of shadows, red herrings galore, and a beautiful use of music.  The seven notes used in the main theme, which also plays a part in the film itself, is where Fulci came up with the original title, SETTE NOTE IN NERO aka SEVEN NOTES IN BLACK.  A much better title for a thriller than THE PSYCHIC if you ask me.

Sure, there is a slight over use of the zoom, almost making you think that this was directed by Jess Franco.  But that might have been the style at the time, trying to make a visual impact or point in the film.  Sure it can be a bit much at times, but it didn’t bother me that much.

Jennifer O’Neil does a good job as the main character, desperately trying to discover the meanings behind her visions, before it’s too late.  The rest of the cast also do a good job, pointing the viewer in all sorts of directions.

This movie had been released on video years ago, but was in a slightly cut version.  This recent DVD release from Severin is complete uncut and widescreen.  The print looks great as well.  There is also a featurette called Voices From The Black, which features audio interviews with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, costume designer Massimo Lentini, and editor Bruno Micheli.  All of them give some interesting information and stories about working with Fulci.

This would be a good movie to check out if you are interested in some of Fulci’s non-gore films, and see just how talented this director really was.  Give it a try.


(1975)
Directed by Ray Danton
Starring Jim Hutton, Paul Burke, Julie Adams, Nehemiah Persoff, Neville Brand, Aldo Ray, Greydon Clark, Whit Bissell

This movie is a great example on how your viewing perception can change over the years.  Seeing a movie 10 years later will not give you the same viewing experience as it did the first time since you are not the same person you were then.  It had to have been close to 15 years ago when I first seen Psychic Killer.  And from what I remembered, it sucked.  But as you get older, watch more movies, become more familiar with different actors and such, you start to view these movies with more of an educated eye.

Okay, so the movie is still not that great.  But I was much more entertained watching it this time than originally.  Why?  Well first off, you have a great cast of actors here, from the leading ones to the minor roles.  This was probably the best part of the movie for me.  The film stars Jim Hutton as a tall and lanky Mamm's boy, in a prison for the insane who was wrongly convicted of murder.  Apparently, the doctor who wouldn’t operate on his sick mother due to lack of money, was murdered and Hutton got pinched for it.  While behind bars, he meets up with a guy who teaches him how to leave his body, projecting himself to do his bidding.  Of course, right after this discovery, he is set free since the real killer is discovered.  Hutton starts to use his newly found ability to seek revenge on the ones he feels responsible for his mother’s death as well as his false imprisonment.

Julie Adams plays the psychiatrist who is trying to help him.  Adams is most famous for making the prehistoric gillman fall in love with her in Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Whit Bissell, who was one of Adams’ co-stars in Creature, also makes an appearance as the doctor who gave the psychiatric evaluation that put Hutton in the nuthouse.  Bissell has also played in tons of great movies, such as I Was A Teenage Frankenstein.  Two of the cops are both well known in the b-movie industry.  Aldo Ray played in many of these movies as is always recognizable.  The other cop, played by Greydon Clark might not be a familiar face, but that is because he’s most known for being behind the camera as a director.  Clark directed such classic films as Without Warning and Satan’s Cheerleaders.  And then of course, there’s Neville Brand.  He is one character actor that you can never forget.  That’s because no matter how small of the role, he makes it memorable.  In this film, he plays a butcher that gets into an argument with Della Reese.  And what could have been just simple walk through part, Brand stamps his own special mark to it, making it all the more fun to watch.

Paul Burke plays the cop that is trying to figure out how these mysterious murders are happening.  Burke, another seasoned TV actor, gives probably one of the most enjoyable performances.  Not since Christopher George, have I seen someone give some of the silliest and clichéd dialog, and make it sound even funnier.

The film was directed by Ray Danton, who made his mark on the horror genre with his first three films, before he moved onto TV movies.  His first film was Deathmaster, starring Robert Quarry.  After that, he made Young Hannah: Queen of the Vampires, with Andrew Prine and Mark Damon.  Then he made Psychic Killer.

As we said, this is not a great movie.  But I think it’s a pretty good example of early 70’s B-movie films.  It’s got a little bit of gore and nudity, but nothing like the more exploitation style had gone to for that time.  They were just trying to make a decent fun horror movie.  It does have an ending that you probably wouldn’t see anywhere else than in a 70’s movie.  Unfortunately, when compared to today’s fare, it will seem a little weak.  But if you are a fan of that time period, you might just like it.

Dark Sky Films has released this movie on DVD in basically a bare-bones edition.  There are some trailers for the movie on the disc, but that is about it.  But the print and sound are really good, so at least we have that.


(1955)
Directed by Val Guest
Starring Brian Donlevy, Jack Warner, Margia Dean, Richard Wordsworth

"There's no room for personal feelings in science."
- Professor Bernard Quatermass -

That quote is one of the reason why I enjoy the Quatermass movies so much.  Granted these films venture more into science fiction than horror, but what attracts me is the blind dedication that Quatermass has, much like one of his fore-fathers...Victor Frankenstein.  Of course, it also doesn't hurt when you have an alien monster on loose either.

The film starts out with a rocket ship crashing to the earth.  This ship was put in space by Professor Quatermass and his team of scientists.  But when the hatch opens, only one of the three men that were on board comes out.  There's no trace of the other two and the lone survivor seems to be a little different.  As Quatermass and his team try to figure out just what happen when their rocket was in space, the lone survivor escapes and starts to change.

Hammer Studios had been making movies out of radio serials before, but this was their first time taking on television teleplay.  After seeing the success of the original teleplay, Hammer bought the rights for a film version. They were hoping to bring that same success to them, and they did just that.  Released in 1955, it was a huge success.  Director Guest filmed the movie as if it were a newsreel or documentary, giving it a very real look to it.

There was a lot of bad press when American Donlevy was cast to play Professor Quatermass.  In the original story, the role was played by an older English professor, quite different than the way Donlevy play it.  But what Donlevy brought to the role was authority and attitude, and he did just that and more.  He's always running around telling people what to do, firing off order after order.  In this version, Quatermass could really care less about anything as long as it doesn't stop his progress.  His goals may be for the benefit of mankind, but if a few people have to give their lives to science then so be it.

But also besides Donlevy giving a great performance, there is Richard Wordsworth, who plays the lone survivor Carroon.  While Wordsworth doesn't really have any dialog in the whole movie, he says plenty by the emotional and tortured look in his face throughout his slow transformation.  You can almost see the inner torment that is going on inside his body.  Wordsworth would later go on to play the beggar in opening sequence of Hammer's CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF.

The film was released in the states as THE CREEPING UNKNOWN, since we Americans weren't familiar with the TV serial.  It was finally released on video here a several years ago, but hasn't made it to DVD yet...at least not here in the states.  A UK company, called DD Video, has released it in a double feature DVD that also contains the sequel, QUATERMASS 2.  In this awesome set, not only do you get both films, but both also have commentary by director Val Guest & Hammer historian Marcus Hearn.  There is an interview with Guest about the first movie, conducted by Hearn, that is about 8 minutes long.  Also on the disc, is a trailer for Hammer's 3rd Quatermass film, QUATERMASS AND THE PIT.  And lastly, there is a nice 24-page booklet about film, filled with great photos and some interesting information.  The second disc, QUATERMASS 2, also has the same extras, though the interview and booklet are about the second film.

For fans of Hammer films, these two films are essential, since they really were the starting point of Hammer's age of horror.  Like we said, though these films might be considered to be more science fiction, there is enough elements of horror in there to keep you happy, not to mention the fact that they are great films.  We got this awesome disc set from out friends at Xploited Cinema, who always has some great stuff and great prices.  Though make sure you have a multi-region player before ordering.  This is a must have!


(1953-58)

For those who know their Hammer Studios history, they know that the film that really gave Hammer their boost, was their movie adaptation of a 6-part made-for-TV serial from 1953, called THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT.  As the story goes, Hammer knew right from the first episode that this was something exceptional, and quickly bought up the movie rights to it.  And so then Hammer begin to rise.  But what of the original serial?  Or the two sequels that were eventually made (that were also made into movie form by Hammer as well)?  Well, thanks to the wonderful world of BBC DVD, now you can see all three (or most of) of the original serials!

Released in a wonderful 3-disc set, BBC DVD has released all three of the Quatermass serials from the 50's.  Unfortunately, of the first segment, THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, which was first broadcast back in 1953, only the first two episodes were ever recorded, and is all that survives.  But all 6 segments of QUATERMASS 2 and QUATERMASS AND THE PIT are here.  Being a huge fan of the Hammer film versions, I was very excited to see what the original serials looked like.  Plus, in PIT, Hammer fave Andre Morell plays Quatermass.  So I couldn't wait to sit down and watch these.

Since the full 6-parts are here for the second two serials, they are each about 3 hours long!  But since they are in segments, it makes it very easy to sit down and watch a couple of the episodes each night.  Or, like I did with PIT, sit and watch the entire thing in one long viewing.  But though we don't have the complete series of the first movie, they do put on some great extras in this package to make up for it.  There is a great interview with writer/creator Nigel Kneale where he talks in great detail about the creation and development of the series.  I found this information very interesting, giving us a great look into how things were done for TV over 50 years ago.  Plus, making the collector in me extremely jealous, still has one of the original insect-Martians from PIT.  There is also a segment with Kneale and director/producer Rudolf Cartier talking about the series.  Once again, some great stuff here folks.  Then there is a short segment with two of the guys that created the creatures for the series.  It's just amazing the stuff that people did for little or no money back then.  The disc also contains a huge 47 page booklet that goes into great detail of the making of the series, and tons of information about it.  It lists the full cast and crew, original air dates and much, much more.

For THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, Reginald Tate stars as the Professor.  While only getting to see the first two segments, Tate does do a good job as the trouble scientist.  He does have some of that determination that was carried over into the movie version, with Donlevy's characterization.  Unfortunately, we never get to see the tormented astronaut start to change.  But even in these only two segments, you can see the suspense and excitement they were giving the audiences.

In QUATERMASS 2, where the professor discovers a restricted government industrial plant is actually a home base for invading aliens, the professor is played by John Robinson.  Robinson plays the character a little bit stiffer than the other professors before and after him.  He does have the determination, but doesn't have the attitude.  Look for another familiar Hammer face in here...Rupert Davies, who went on to star in Hammer's DRACULA HAS RISEN FROM THE GRAVE, as well as Peter Walker's FRIGHTMARE.

In QUATERMASS AND THE PIT, my favorite of the 3 serials, Andre Morell plays Quatermass.  Now being a huge fan of Morell's since the work he did with Hammer, this might be the reason for my favoritism.  But none the less, I think this is a much better story, and is still done really well.  While not the arrogant character that the movie versions were, Morell's portrayal still does give us a sense of disgust for the interference that he gets from the military and the government.  Cec Linder plays Dr. Roney, the scientist that is called in to investigate the uncovered bones, and does an exceptionally well job.  He actually plays the character more driven by his work than any of the characters of Quatermass in all three original serials.  You'll also spot Michael Ripper as one of the sergeants digging out the spaceship.

The quality of the movies do vary, but for the most part are in very good quality.  These are not crystal clear, but to be honest, I really enjoyed the "early TV" look of the serials.  It gave me a very cool nostalgic feeling watching these.

The price for this 3-disc set is around $50, which might seem at little steep at first.  But you have to realize that you are getting two complete serials, both running around 3 hours each.  As well as part of the first serial, and a few documentaries / interview segments too!  So when you put those together, that price doesn't seems that high any more.  Plus, any self respecting fan of British horror or sci-fi would have to have this disc set for their collection.  These shows are a landmark in horror and sci-fi television.


(2010)
Directed by Chris Witherspoon
Starring Rick Crawford, Audrey Walker, Chris Witherspoon, Jo Black-Jacob, Spencer Conway, Anna Lodej

A young man travels into the city to end an affair he has been having.  He has come to realize that he loves his wife and doesn’t want to leave her.  But once he gets there, even before the breakup meeting, he has a run in with a guy on a motorcycle, wearing a black helmet.  Like shades of Spielberg’s DUEL, for the rest of the movie, this mysterious rider stalks, chases, and beats the crap out of this guy, possibly even trying to kill him.  Could it be the ex-con ex-boyfriend of the girl he just broke up with?  Could it be some random psycho that has picked him to terrorize?  Or could it be something else.

Right after the breakup meeting, he hooks up with a long time friend for lunch.  Our main character Dennis, played by Rick Crawford, makes a comment about karma and if you do something bad, it will come back for you.  This point seems to be the same one that the filmmaker is trying to make as well.  His buddy knew what has been going on and tries to give him some straight forward advice, that life is a bitch, plain and simple.  But could karma really be coming back to kick him in the ass?

Crawford and does a fairly good job here as the screwed up Dennis except that he just seemed a little fake to me.  Maybe that was just in the performance, but the problem I had with this is that we didn’t develop any sympathy for this guy.  Sure, he wasn’t a jerk about the whole thing, but he didn’t seem too sorry about the affair either or that broken up about it.  So when bad things really start to happen to this guy, it doesn’t pull the viewer into feeling sorry for the guy, even though he is trying to make things right.

The director Witherspoon, besides his directing duties, plays the mysterious motorcyclist.  He also wrote the film, produced it, was the editor, cinematographer, worked on the visual effects, and probably a few other things.  So we have to give this guy a lot of credit for that alone.  The film is well shot and has some great camera work, though at times it seems that he might be trying too hard to get that many “cool” shots in there.  But really, it is a lot better than most of the lower budgeted stuff out there.  Witherspoon seems to know what he is doing.

The film starts off with a dictionary quote on the meaning of the word rage.  Without giving anything away about the story, it just seems a little far-fetched that a little road rage would cause someone to do what happens in this movie.  I think they had a pretty good idea for a suspenseful movie, but by going at little over the top; it took away from the mood they were starting with.  I think had they stuck with an update retelling of DUEL, I think they had the talent to create a pretty good thriller.  But instead, they wanted to explain everything at the end (no matter how far-fetched it seemed to me) and as well as go for a lot darker of a tone in the last act of the film.

There are a couple of scenes that I could have done without, for different reasons.  The first up is what happens to the neighbors.  It seems like it would be from a different movie and not the suspenseful one they were trying to make in the first part.  Also, it just seems like it was added in later to appease a possible distribution deal.  And second part just adds to that feeling as well, which would be the bedroom scene.  We won’t give anything away here but we found it pretty tough to watch just because of the subject matter.  Just didn’t seem like it needed to be in the film.

The music by Collin Simon is very effective, especially the opening credits.  He’s one that I’ll have to keep an eye for.  Or should I say keep an ear open for.

Overall, we have a very competent film here, made with some talented people.  I think at times they were trying too hard, with the different camera shots and nightmare sequences, but still came out okay.  While I still think they had the talent to create an entertaining and effective suspenseful film instead of going so dark, but maybe that was their intentions from the start.  This is also just my opinion and my personal taste in films.  Either way, we’ll be interested in seeing what they come up with next.


(2007)
Directed by Robert Kurtzman
Starring Andrew Divoff, Erin Brown, Reggie Bannister, Ryan Hooks, Rachel Scheer, Sean Serino, Anthony Clark, Alan Tuskes

I remember having a table across from Robert Kurtzman at a convention a couple of years ago.  Throughout the weekend, they were showing the trailer for The Rage.  I’ve been a fan of Andrew Divoff since Wishmaster, also directed by Kurtzman.  This film looked like it had all the right ingredients for a good old fashion 80’s horror flick.  Lots of monsters, filled with blood and gore.  But for some reason, the film never seemed to get released.  But then, after years of waiting, it finally hit DVD.  I rented it the day it came out, and watched it that same night.

Now, I’d thought about writing two different reviews of this movie, each giving a different side of my thoughts on it.  Almost like a point / counter-point sort of thing.  At certain moments, this film soars high, bringing back the 80’s gore films just like I thought.  But then right after that, it bottoms out like a Pinto station wagon over some bad railroad tracks.  But I guess I’ll just kind of mix in the good and the bad together, just like the movie itself.

The basic plot is about a scientist who had successfully created a cure for cancer, only to be put away by the government and burying his cure, since it would make the medical field lose millions of dollars.  So once he escapes, he decides to design a killer plague that will wipe out humanity.  And he calls it Rage.  But like all good evil scientists, his plans kind of get out of control.  And at this same time, a group of happy-go-lucky youngsters are on their way back from an all-night concert party and happen upon some of the infected creatures.

So first off, let’s just say that the makeup effects are top notch.  Kurtzman was the “K” in KNB Effects after all.  The man knows what he’s doing when it comes to that.  There’s lot of good old fashion gooey effects here to make any fan of 80’s horror smile and snicker.  We have some brain surgery, we have some killer vultures, and lots of slimy creatures running around ripping people apart.

Andrew Divoff plays the scientist, Russian I think, with a thick accent that he is so good at.  Divoff seems to just revel with this kind of role.  Even when his characters starts to transform and he is under some heavy makeup, he still just shines.  So many kudos to that man, for taking this role in a low budget film and making the most of it.

We also have genre favorite Reggie Bannister is a small role as a kind old uncle taking his niece and nephew out for some fishing.  But as luck would have it, they run into some of the infected creatures, which makes the day take a turn for the worse.  There’s even a nice joke in there about a “Phantasm” game.  Nice.

But unfortunately, Divoff and Bannister are the only acting highlights in this film.  The rest go from bad to worse.  And I think the worse offender here is Erin Brown (formally known as Misty Mundae).  I’m not sure if it was just her voice, or her delivery of the lame dialog she had to give, but it was about as convincing as a priest in a cancer ward.  Even more surprising since she's probably been in more films than anybody else on the set.  There were a couple of times where it actually looked like she was laughing during one of the more dramatic times.  For me, the acting really started to bring the film down.  But when the CGI effects started, it got even worse.

Now I’m not opposed to CGI effects by any means.  When done well, they can really enhance a nice effect to the film.  But when done poorly, for me personally, it makes the film sink to a much lower caliber of production.  I am amazed that some of these effects in this movie where left in there.  I am amazed that the director, producer, or anybody involved with this movie, could watch some of the cartoons in there and say, “yeah…looks good”.  Now maybe was it a budget thing, where they couldn’t do it without the CGI.  Then my suggestion would have been to do it some other way.  But to have these cartoon effects in there make it just plain laughable.  Unless of course, that was their intention.  But somehow I don’t think that was the case.

I guess I had just expected more out of Robert Kurtzman.  I give him a lot of credit for leaving KNB, leaving the whole Hollywood / LA thing and moving back to Ohio.  The man knows a lot of about film production.  I also give him a lot of credit for making his own little film production studio in Ohio.  It’s giving a chance for a lot of people to learn the craft of filmmaking, without having to go to the coast.  So I guess my expectations of his product is a little higher than I would have expect from just some other guy making films in Ohio.

So after all this wait to see this movie, I am disappointed.  But I do have to say that the film isn’t a total waste.  This would make a very enjoyable entry into anybody Turkey-Day marathon, or any viewing that would include many cinematic enhancers (aka alcohol).  The film does have some good qualities in there.  You just have to try and ignore the rest of the film.


RANA: THE LEGEND OF SHADOW LAKE
(1975)
Directed by Bill Rebane.
Starring Glenn Scherer, Brad Ellingson, Karen McDiarmid, Alan Ross, Julie Wheaton, Jerry Gregoris, Jim Iaquinta.

Never heard of Bill Rebane before?  If you have, you are definitely an experienced low budget movie trash fan.  Rebane has made a bunch of movies, pretty much all filmed in the part of northern Wisconsin.  He has made other such films such as THEY (aka INVADERS FROM INNER EARTH: see our Review Archives for that one), BLOOD HARVEST, DEMONS OF LUDLOW, LEGEND OF BIGFOOT, and THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION (which was shown on MST3K).

I must admit that compared to some of this other outings, RANA was pretty entertaining.  This is not saying it’s a great movie by know means.  But it was pretty funny and I did enjoy it.  The plot is about an island off of Wisconsin where a forest ranger and his son live.  Also on the island is an old & crazy trapper named Charlie.  Charlie has fun by harassing the loggers that come to the island to work.  His ‘fun’ means that he shoots at them.  You know, all in good fun.

But also living in the lake around the island, according to old Charlie, is Rana: a creature that the Indians used to worship.  But after the forest ranger’s son found some old bone and sent it to the local college, a paleontologist and her niece come to island to investigate, claiming that the bone is millions of years old.  Of course, Rana doesn’t like all the company.

The movie is a bit slow, but does features some pretty cool slow motion death scenes.  The cast is pretty mediocre, except for Jerry Gregoris, who plays Charlie, who is a blast.  You don’t get to see the creature until the very end, which looks like a poor man’s Creature from the Black Lagoon.

So if you’ve never seen a Bill Rebane movie before, this might be a good start.  Mainly because if you would watch most any of his other films, you might swear them off.  Rebane films are for truly dedicated film fans of bad movies.  You have been warned.


RAVENOUS
(1999)
Directed by Antonia Bird
Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella, Neal McDonough, David Arquette

I was pretty excited when this movie hit DVD. I had not made it to the theater and had been kind of pissed that I didn’t after hearing some really good things about it. But after watching the film, I was really confused. The film did have some very interesting ideas, and somewhat of a decent story, but was confused at exactly what type of film this was supposed to be.

I had thought that this film was dealing with the subject of cannibalism with complete seriousness. With the sort of ‘historical setting’, it kind of gives it a ‘real’ feel to it. Then it brings in some really bad and stupid humorous moments, which completely takes away any seriousness to the scene. The music, which may be appropriate for that time period, just doesn’t work and also took away from the seriousness or intensity of some of the scenes.

Another problem I had with the film was they seemed to throw in a supernatural element with the idea of the Weendigo. I like that they put the tale in the film, which gives some atmosphere. But when the characters start regenerating their health after eating flesh (some from the point of death), it puts it into a supernatural or fantasy element, taking away any believability to the film. If that was their original intention, that’s fine. But then I think they should have marketed more towards the supernatural elements. This might of come from the multiply directors the film went through before keeping Antonia Bird.

Another problem was the real lack of character development. With the small amount of cast in the film, you wouldn’t think it would be that hard to develop some better characterizations. But all you really get is the commanding officer giving the new guy one or two sentences about the rest of the troop in the camp.

While Jeffrey Jones is entertaining (as usual) in his role as the Commander, Robert Carlyle really stands out as the drifter who wanders into their camp one day, on the edge of death.

If you really feel that you have to watch this, enjoy. But I think that are a lot better films out there needing attention more than this one. It seemed to be popular among the genre fans, but I just don’t see it.


(2009)
Directed by Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
Starring Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Pablo Rosso, Javier Botet, Claudia Font, Jonathan Mellor, Martha Carbonell, Nico Baixas, Andrea Ros, Ariel Casas

First off this review will not have any spoilers for either this film or the first film, so don’t worry if you haven’t seen them.  We’re not going to be able to go into a lot of detail about it because of that, so we’ll do our best to let you know what we thought anyway.

When we had first watched the original [REC], we had no idea what the movie was about.  All we knew was that it was a new Spanish horror movie.  So when the proverbial shit starts hitting the fan, we were blown away.  So much in fact, that we could deal with the shaky-cam cinematography that we generally can’t stand.

But let’s get to the sequel at hand.  We will say that the first film had a sort of a cliff hanger of an ending.  [REC] 2 starts off right at the end of the first film.  In fact, they even replay the ending again, just to refresh the viewer’s mind.  The first film is told through the use a TV reporter’s camera recording everything.  In the sequel, the cameras used are the ones being used by the police SWAT team that goes in there to investigate.  One of the team carries a regular camera, while the rest of the team has mini-cameras attached to their helmets.  While reminiscent of ALIENS, the idea still works.  Along with them is a member of the medical field.  But what they discover, as do we, is that what we thought was going on during the first film turns out NOT to be what we thought.  Make sense?  Maybe by the end of the sequel you’ll know….or maybe not.

I give Balagueró and Plaza, who co-directed as well as co-wrote the movie, along with Manu Díez, a lot of credit for taking their first film somewhere completely different with the story.  But the problem is that the film itself is exactly the same, just really just a continuation of the first film.  Doesn’t really mean it’s a bad thing, mind you, since if you liked the first film, you should like this one.  But the “scariness” of the film, with the shaky camera and these zombies/creatures/monsters running at the camera worked really well in the first one to develop some pretty creepy shots and atmosphere.  But here, we get the same thing.  Not to say that it’s still not effective, but that effect seems to be a lessened since we’ve already been-there, done-that.  It’s really more of continuation of the film as oppose to a sequel.

One of the nice things about being the sequel, there’s no waiting for the action or horror element element to kick in, like in the first one.  It starts off pretty much right away.  There is a little bit a slowing done when the movie backtracks to show us what has just happened from some other characters perspective.  Nice idea since it does fill in some wholes.

But since the story line does change, that may lose some fans.  As I said, I liked that they did a nice twist on what really is going on in this apartment building and the people trapped inside, though not sure if I liked their new “spin” on it.  It’s one that I’m sure will be debated amongst horror fans for while.

Being a huge fan of Balagueró’s work, and have always been impressed with what he's done, I would recommend seeing this film if for any reason to support the Spanish horror genre.  If you have seen the first film and hated it, then going to this one is going to bring the same results.  But if you did enjoy it, I think you’ll enjoy this entry as well.


(1966)
Directed by John Gilling
Starring Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Jacqueline Pearce, Ray Barrett, Michael Ripper

Figured since I had recently watched Hammer's PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, I really should re-visit this one as well, since it is sort of it's companion piece.  This was filmed back to back with PLAGUE to save production costs for Hammer.

I must admit that this isn't one of Hammer's best films when it comes to plot.  It is a bit flat in some places.  But there are quite a few things that make up for those flaws.  The first one would be the acting.  Once again, not all the characters are outstanding, but the few that do, really shine through.  Noel Willman, playing the tortured Dr. Franklyn does a great job portraying someone with a dark and secretive past...one that won't let him escape his future.  Pearce, one of the only returning leads from PLAGUE, plays his daughter Anna.  She has such an exotic look with her wide starring eyes, she fits perfectly in her role.  And of course, there's Mr. Ripper, giving us another great role as the local innkeeper.

There is an underlying darkness in this film.  Yea, we know there's a creature running around killing people, and there's a secret that Dr. Franklyn is hiding.  But this secret seems to be very dark.  At one point in the film, when Pearce's character is playing the sitar, it almost seems as though she's trying to seduce her own father.  It's a very strange sequence, that leaves not only the visiting new neighbors a little uneasy, but also us the viewer.

Another thing that I've always enjoyed about this film is that it's very different.  Hammer came up with something completely new for them.  None of the usual vampires or the likes running around, but a new and interesting monster.  Granted, when seen up close in still shots, the makeup isn't the greatest.  But for quick shots in the film, I think it holds up pretty well.  Kudos to makeup man Roy Ashton for this creation, but unfortunately, this was the last Hammer film that he worked on.

Like PLAGUE, this was also directed by John Gilling and written by John Elder (Tony Hinds).  And once again, they both have done a great job with this picture.  Yea, you can spot a few similar sets from the two films, but that's only if you want to get really picky.  But overall, Hammer and company have given us another great little film that is kind of different from what they've usually put out, but still having that same old Hammer feel to it, and being entertaining.

The DVD, released by Anchor Bay, comes with the 20 and 60 second combo TV spots with RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK.  It also has the World of Hammer episode entitled VAMPS.


REPILICUS
(1962)
Directed by Sidney Pink
Starring Carl Ottosen, Ann Smyrner, Mimi Heinrich, Asbjorn Andersen, Bodil Miller, Brent Mejoing.

Another great classic giant monster movie from the early 60's, except this time out it comes from Denmark.  While mining for copper, a strange discovery is made.  The miners find flesh and bone wrapped around their drill (actually it looks more like cow's liver).  They eventually uncover part of the tail of a prehistoric creature.  When the tail  accidentally thaws from it's frozen state, it starts to regenerate the rest of its body.  Eventually turning into a 90-foot lizard monster, that terrorizes Copenhagen.

Kind of like the Danish version of Godzilla, this film would be well suited for Mystery Science Theater, if they haven't used it already.  The last time I seen something this cheesy was when I was in Wisconsin.  The effects with the creature making its way through the city are done with models and a very silly looking monster.  I'm sure when it first came out, it might of been pretty impressive...well maybe not that much.  In any case, I got a big kick out of it.  Especially when one of the locals gets eaten by the creature.  It looks like they animated the guy by drawing him out on a piece of white paper and cut it out, the super-imposed it in the film.  Don't see work like that anymore.

But the best parts of the movie is not the cheesy effects but the acting.  These people thought they were making the next CITIZEN KANE or GONE WITH THE WIND.  Carl Ottosen plays the pissed off U.S. General that is sent to take control of the situation.  Apparently the Danish army, which seems to be pretty big, doesn't have any decent commanders.  All he does is bitch about having to be there.  His first comment to the scientist when he arrives is a very quick and stern "I don't know why I'm here professor.  I assume you'll let me know."  Then after being introduced to his beautiful daughter, he continues this great personality with "I believe the shorter the stay the happier for me."

But that great dialog doesn't stop there.  Once they figure a way out to possible way to stop the giant creature, which entails shooting a small rocket into the monster's mouth.  After explaining the plan to one of the Danish officers, his reply is "You'll have to fire point blank!  At a very close range."  What more could one ask for.

This film was released by MGM, under their awesome (and cheap) Midnite Movies moniker. 

Entertainment Value: How can you go wrong with one hell of a cheesy monster movie, with the whole population of Denmark running through the street through out the movie, and great dialog?  And all that for a measly $10!  Life is good. 


(2009)
Directed by Ozgur Uyanik
Starring James Powell, Lorna Beckett, Tom Shaw, Hugh Armstrong, Joanne Ferguson

I was not looking forward to watching and reviewing this film.  Just another low budget film that would probably have some terrible acting, paper thin plot, no style, and absolutely no redeeming qualities.  Been through too many of those before and not looking forward to another one.  But this time, I was in for a few surprises.

My first surprise was not realizing that the film is made like it was a real documentary.  If one didn’t know any better, they wouldn’t know that it was actually a film and not a real life documentary about a young filmmaker who gets a little too close to obsession.  That’s how good of a “film” this is.

The reason that this could actually pass as a real documentary was my second surprise.  That is simply due to the fact that most everyone involved do not seem like actors, but just real people.  This brings so much of believability to the story.  You start to think that you’re actually watching a documentary instead of a low budget picture.  The characters are real people, doing their job and getting pulled into this nightmare.  Several times you will catch yourself thinking that it is a real documentary.

The film is about James, a young aspiring filmmaker that gets a job at a production company as a runner, trying to find some way to get his foot in the door.  While cleaning out the office’s basement, he discovers some film cans that have an uncompleted horror film called THE STREET WALKER, which is about a serial killer.  The film was never finished and the director ended up killing himself.  Was it a really well made film or did James stumble across a real snuff film.  He decides that he wants to finish the film, hoping that this will get his career started.  But the more he becomes obsessed with this film and what is going on in the footage; he starts to lose his grip on reality.

Powell does an excellent job portraying the troubled aspiring filmmaker.  His father thinks he’s wasting his time instead of getting a proper job, one of his bosses at the production company is constantly try to keep him down and giving so support.  As he slowly starts to snap, we believe it.  We can feel the frustration that he is going through, which turns into a deadly obsession.

While we don’t get to see much of the actor playing the killer in the found film, the scenes that we see are pretty chilling.  All of the films footage is in black and white, while the rest of the pseudo-documentary is in color. So while there’s not that much graphic on screen violence, but enough suggestion to really make an impact, including a choking scene that will have you gasping for air.  And the black and white photography makes it even better.

With all the low budget crap that’s out there, it’s nice to know there are still some talent filmmakers that can still show us something different.  Gives me hope for the low budget industry.


(2005)
Directed by David Semel & Lili Fini Zanuck
Starring Bill Pullman, Natascha McElhone, Michael Massee, Mark Rendall, Tobin Bell, John Rhys-Davies

The problem dealing with movies that are about ancient prophecies, especially ones from the bible, you know pretty much what is going to happen at the end.  So throughout the story, they're telling you what's going to happen.  Sure, you might hope that it'll be different.  But in the end, it's not.  And that was my biggest problem with this mini-series.  They keep you going for the first 5 episodes, only to just drop the ball in the last hour.

Bill Pullman plays a astrophysicist, who doesn't believe in anything but science.  Especially after his daughter was brutally murdered by a Satanist.  But he is pulled into working with Sister Josepha Montafiore, played by Natascha McElhone, a devout nun who believes that Christ has been reborn and they are coming to the "End of Days".  So they join together to uncover and unravel the clues around them to try and discover what these Satanists are up to, and maybe why they chose his daughter.

Pullman does give an okay performance as the professor, though giving that his daughter had been recently killed, he doesn't seem to show much grief that one would had expected.  McElhone gives a exceptional performance as the nun.  Just her facial expressions shows of her deep convictions and belief.  Even when times seems to be at their worst, she has a smile on her face.

I think the real highlight of the film though, comes from Michael Massee, who plays Isaiah Haden. He is the Satanist who killed Pullman's daughter.  We see right from the start, that Haden is more than just some whack-job who worships Satan.  But where Massee's outstanding performance comes from is while he is playing a deeply evil and twisted character, he still brings the charm to the role.  His charisma flows from him, which makes him even more evil the way he can draw people into his fold.  Massee's performance alone is worth watching this film for.  He doesn't take the character way overboard, where some actors might have been tempted to do.  He plays Haden as a very real and very serious person.  Genre fans might remember Massee as Funboy, from the original THE CROW.

Also somewhat a familiar face is Tobin Bell.  Horror fans got to know him as the Jigsaw Killer in last year's SAW.  And in here, he plays another very strange character.  He seems to be playing Haden's lawyer, but it seems there is much more going on.  In any case, he is one character that you'd not want to come across.

Written and produced by David Seltzer, who wrote the original OMEN movies, seems to like to stick to these types of stories.  He also wrote THE EIGHTEENTH ANGEL, another religious horror movie.  So he seems to know his stuff.  Though he does like to give his disciples of the devils special powers.  Massee's character, though we're not really sure if he really is even human, seems to be able to do all sorts of little parlor tricks to make you uneasy.  And with Massee's portrayal, he does just that.  But his poor characters that are fighting the good fight, are just left with their luck and their faith.  Doesn't seem really to be a fair fight, huh?

Since the film is around 4 1/2 hours, it does take quite a bit of time to sit down and watch the whole series.  Which wouldn't be a bad thing necessarily if there was a little bit better of a payoff at the end.  And unfortunately, it just doesn't happen here.  Plus, if you've seen THE OMEN movies as much as I have, you basically know a lot of the story of what's going on anyway.

So if you do have a few hours to kill, and enjoy these religious-themed horror stories, I'm sure you'll find some enjoyment in it.  As as we mentioned earlier, we felt that Massee's performance is worth the watch.  Just don't expect a big climatic ending....more of an Anti-climatic....


REVENGE
(1986)
Directed by Christopher Lewis
Starring Patrick Wayne, John Carradine, Bennie Lee McGowan, Charles Ellis

This is the sequel to BLOOD CULT, which picks up immediately at the end of the first film.  The plot really delves into the actual cult in the film, as opposed to the theory of a single killer on the loose.  The title of this film really should have been BLOOD CULT as opposed to the first one.  The cult continues to sacrifice people to their dog-headed god, Caninus.  Patrick Wayne arrives to mourn the loss of his brother, who was killed in the first film.  He tries to uncover the mysteries to the cult on his own.

Unlike the film first, we are pretty much told who’s involved in the cult right from the beginning.  But that doesn’t stop the filmmakers from still trying to throw a twist at the end.  This had a much bigger budget than the BLOOD CULT, about five times the amount, so they were able to shoot on 16mm instead of video.  The difference is way noticeable.  As I mentioned in my review for CULT, a SOV film just has too much of a homemade look to it.

Another big change is the added ‘name’ stars to the cast, which was also due to the bigger budget.  Patrick Wayne might almost be a ‘name’, but he seemed like he was just walking through this movie.  Very stiff acting job.  Many other actors in the film impressed me a hell of a lot more than he did especially Bennie Lee McGowan in the role of Gram-Bo!  More on her later.  The other name in the film was John Carradine.  While he’s only is a couple of scenes, he’s always enjoyable to see.  Even if the film or his acting might be a bit weak.

Bennie Lee McGowan had a small part in BLOOD CULT.  It was in the woods near her house that the cult was having their secret meetings.  Her character returns in REVENGE in a much better part of the film.  This time the cult really wants her land and for her to get off the property.  So much so, that they kill the husband to try and scare her away.  When that doesn’t work, she is repeated harassed by a guy on a motorcycle.  I liked her character in the first film, so was happy to see that her character has come to the front of the line for the sequel.  This is one mean old lady.  She has no problem running around in the woods with some heavy artillery, trying to get these people off her land.

Charles Ellis also returns as the Sheriff from the BLOOD CULT.  On a good note, his acting seemed to improve quite a bit.  But on a bad note, he is only in one sequence.  When Patrick Wayne goes to visit him in the state psychiatric hospital, he’s in a straitjacket, in his own little delusional world.  His performance in this one little scene is much better than what he did in the entire first film .

Rod Slane also returned as Musical director and in charge of sound production.  And once again, Slane delivered a very simple, but very effective score.  He also did all the foley work (adding the different sounds in the film), which the details are explained throughout the commentary.

And speaking of the audio commentary, once again, it’s best part of this movie that comes on the DVD.  There is a lot of information that comes out about the low budget filmmaking industry.  Even if it’s something as simple as having all your friends and relatives in the background of the movie.  You learn that for $300 the filmmakers were able to rent a helicopter for a couple of hours for some aerial shots.  There are remarks on the use of tight editing, using steady-cams, and much more.  You can learn a lot about filmmaking from these commentaries.

Like their first film, I would recommend this film for a couple of reasons.  Yes, there is entertainment to be had by watching it.  I actually enjoyed this one more than BLOOD CULT.  But also if you have any interests in low budget filmmaking, you might learn something about the aspects of it.

The special features on the DVD include a short making-of featurette, audio commentary by director Christopher Lewis, Producer Linda Lewis, Musical director Rod Slane, and special effects supervisor David Powell.  It also comes with trailers for BLOOD CULT, LAST SLUMBER PARTY, FOREVER EVIL, TERROR AT TENKILLER, THE RIPPER, NIGHT VISTOR, and REVENGE.


REVENGE IN THE HOUSE OF USHER
(1982)
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Howard Vernon, Lina Romay, Antonio Mayans, Francoise Blanchard, Analia Ivars, Olivier Mathot, Valerie Russel, Jean Tolzac, David White.

I had picked up Image’s release of this Franco film mainly because it was a Franco film that was out on DVD.  Plus it starred Franco regular Vernon as the tormented Dr. Usher.  How could it not be entertaining?  I guess this is what I get for still being a beginner in the Franco film world.  This shows that I  still a lot to learn about the man and his films.  A lot more. 

Basically, nothing happens in the film.  There’s no nudity, and no real gore.  So how can this be a Franco film?  My guess that this print is missing a few things (more than just the plot) here and there.  Franco uses a lot of footage from his earlier film THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF as flashbacks to Dr. Usher’s early experiments.  You’re best bet is to pick up the disc for ORLOF and just watch that one, which is very entertaining.

Now, I’m not saying that I have to have nudity, gore, or even a plot for that matter in all of my films.  Although, any of those does have a tendency to spice up an otherwise slow film.  But I was HOPING for something else besides Howard Vernon moaning about his daughter and his failed attempts to bring her back to life.  While that is a bit of entertainment, it’s not enough to carry the whole film.

The Image release has the trailer, with dialog either in French or English, with subtitles available.  Although the subtitles don’t match the English language dub track that well.  Plus the title for the film is actually NEUROSIS, with the REVENGE part being underneath it.  I'm guessing that Image thought they'd sell more copies with the Poe inspired title than just NEUROSIS alone.

One other interesting note is that Vernon’s daughter Melissa is played by Francoise Blanchard, who played the title role in Jean Rollin’s THE LIVING DEAD GIRL.

For devoted Franco fans only.


(1973)
Directed by Tulio Demicheli
Starring Christopher Mitchum, Arthur Kennedy, Malisa Longo, Barbara Bouchet, Eduardo Fajardo, Manuel Zarzo

I was having a tough time tackling this one, so I rang up my buddy Preston B. Collins aka Pine Box Charlie to chat and lend a hand with the review.  Here’s what we came up with: 

AC:  So, buddy, today we’re looking at RICCO THE MEAN MACHINE – simply billed as RICCO within the film itself – the newest DVD release from DarkSky Films.  It’s a Spanish-made mob flick, although it’s set and shot in Italy, and was initially released in the U.S. as a horror film under the title CAULDRON OF DEATH.  What’d you think?

PBC:  Well, honestly, for much of the running time, I was trying to figure out if that was really Christopher Mitchum’s speaking voice.  Obviously he was dubbed, by I wasn’t sure if he was doing his own ADR or not.  It seemed a bit too high in pitch, but honestly, other than Jess Franco’s FACELESS, I haven’t seen much of his work at all, and yes, you can read that as, “not at all.”  Scanning his filmography over on IMDb, the only films that even rang a bell at all were at the beginning of his career, when he was working with John Wayne.  Not a bad friend for a beginning actor to have, I guess.  But the biggest problem I had with RICCO is that they paint Mitchum’s character as this great lover, fighter, etc. and then you keep looking at skinny Mitchum and his long lanky blonde hair and you just can’t help but think, “Really?  Him?” 

AC:  Yep, that was my problem as well.  As far as his whole motivation for going after mob guy Arthur Kennedy (this flick came out the same year as Kennedy’s barnbusting turn in LET SLEEPING CORPSES LIE aka BREAKFAST AT THE MANCHESTER MORGUE and about a zillion other titles), it’s just that Kennedy put a bullet into his old man’s head after he’d been shot down, right?  It’s not that Ricco is angry that his father has been killed, it’s that the coup de grace was “too much.”  Um, he’s dead either way, right?  So, what’s the big deal?  Hey, I’m not a mob guy, so what do I know?  Granted, it’s mostly his mother seeking revenge, but still…

PBC:  And then the whole thing with his ex-girlfriend Rosa having been scooped up by Kennedy after Ricco was sent away to jail is another puzzler.  Seems that she wanted to get in where the power was so that she could be taken care of, but she’s miserable the whole time, and is constantly flirting with the first lieutenant character (and boy, does he pay for it – more on that later).

AC:  But to paint Ricco/Mitchum as this vengeful action hero is just silly.  If you look at the DVD cover art, you’ve got this sculpted blonde god sitting there in a towel surrounded by scantily clad women with a loooong, suggestively posed pistol.  Um, not so much.  Instead you’ve got hippie kid Mitchum in these turtleneck sweaters.  And the freaking action scenes are so goofy!  There’s this big brawl set in a warehouse that has been set up by Ricco’s dad to toughen his boy up or test him or something, and Ricco lets loose with his karate moves that are so clumsily choreographed, right out of the Man from Uncle playbook with a “hi-yah” chop to the shoulder that totally takes other guy out of the picture.  What-EVER.  Then you watch the featurette with Mitchum and find out that he’s actually belted in karate in real life.  Um, okaaaay, that’s cool, and if your opponents happen to stand there and wait for you to apply your devastating technique, then more power to you, good sir.

PBC:  Well, since you brought up the featurette, Mitchum does say that Ricco isn’t really a tough guy.  That he’s just this happy-go-lucky guy who’s happy to be out of prison.

AC:  Well, not to impugn Mitchum’s acting abilities, but it looks like he’s happy to be awake most of the time.  His dad (Robert) could get away with that laconic, laid-back style, but Chris just looks tired and bored.  Not exactly the most dynamic of screen presences, which is why when you hear that some of his early 70s movies were huge hits overseas (such as 1972’s SUMMERTIME KILLER), you just have to scratch your head and say, “Well, there you go.”  I will say that in the interview, he does seem like a heck of a nice guy – The kind of fellow you’d love to hang out with for a couple hours having a burger and a beer, even if I’m not driven to rush right out and check out more of his movies.

PBC:  But, in spite of all that, there are a couple of other attractions to the film, especially if you happen to be of the male persuasion: Their names are Malissa Longo, who plays the ex-girlfriend Rosa, and Barbara Bouchet as con girl Scilla.  Italian horror fans are likely to remember Bouchet from Lucio Fulci’s DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING where she played a lady of low moral character who had no qualms with displaying her womanly charms in front of the slavering young village boys.  Well, the lovely Bouchet’s exhibitionistic tendencies are put to terrific use in RICCO as well, the highlight of which is when she performs a delicious striptease in the middle of a deserted road as a means of distracting Kennedy’s henchmen.  Needless to say, distractions ensue.  Longo doesn’t seem to have any problem with modesty either, since she’s seen either topless or scantily clad for over half of the film.  Not that I’m complaining, since both she and Bouchet are very attractive specimens of the fairer sex. 

AC:  Looking to the rest of the cast, Kennedy turns in an okay, if one-note, job with his role as the crime boss Don Vito (GODFATHER reference, anyone?) who owns a soap manufacturing plant as a front for his illegal activities.  I did enjoy the fact that Don Vito has an aversion to the soap manufactured, especially once it is revealed that anyone who crosses him ends up in the handy acid bath and gets melted down into the mix.  (Think about that the next time you unwrap your bar of Ivory.  Now you know what the extra element is in the 99.44 purity rating…)  And since we’re talking about it, it is in that very soap manufacturing plant that a certain scene takes place, and it is this one moment that lends RICCO its infamous “must-see” status.  After one of the characters offends Don Vito, he’s beaten, stripped naked and then the knife comes out…you know where this is going, right?  But, where most other films would be content to simply cut to the victim’s shocked expression as he is deprived of his manhood, we get right in there and are shown the castration act itself in graphic detail and courtesy of some all-too-convincing makeup artistry.  Then, to literally add insult to injury, the displaced “bird and nest” are stuffed into the guy’s mouth before he’s pitched into the acid bath.  I mean, DAMN, THAT’S HARSH.  Brings a rather twisted irony to DarkSky’s claim of “complete and uncut,” yes?

PBC:  Dark Sky Films has indeed done another excellent job, although this is certainly one of the more obscure titles that they’ve released.  One has to wonder who exactly was clamoring for this film, other than fans of Longo and Bouchet.  The extras are slim: just a trailer and still gallery, but the aforementioned interview featurette with Mitchum is quite engaging, informative and well worth your time.  Some might argue that the featurette is more interesting than the movie itself – and a heck of a lot shorter too.

AC:  So, there you have it.  I can’t say that I loved the film, but if you’re a fan of Italian-styled action with plenty of female skin and/or have been looking for a flick with a really nasty eye for the male genitalia, RICCO’s your boy.

Review by Aaron "Dr AC" Christensen


RINGU
(1998)
Directed by Hideo Nakata.
Starring Matsushima Nanako, Mai Takano

It’s not too often when a movie comes out with a reputation of being scary, and then when you watch it, still having it delivering a punch.  And very hard punch, at that.  This movie is one of those.  It’s been building up a reputation here in the States for over the last few years.  Hopefully it will get a general release, but there have been rumors that there will be an American remake, which I hope doesn’t happen, since they’ll just screw it up.

Without giving the plot away, it’s about a videotape and a lot of rumors.  If you watch the tape, within one week, you will die.  One TV reporter decides to investigate this strange story and to see if it is for real or just another one of those urban legends.  Of course, since finding the tape and watching it, she might only have one week to uncover the mystery behind it.

There is no gore.  No blood and guts.  But what it does have is some truly spine-tingling moments that will have goosebumps on your arms and the hair on the back of your neck standing up.  This is the type of film that you don’t see too often anymore.  Not everything is explained in fine detail, which leaves a lot more to the mystery.  This is a nice change of pace compared to recent American films.

So if you are looking for one of those movies that are truly creeping, seek out this movie.  You will not be disappointed.  Although, just as a precaution, you might want to unplug your phone, or at least take it off the hook.


(2004)
Directed by Christian Molina
Starring Paul Naschy, Mehn-Wai, Miguel Del Arco, Bibiana Fernandez, Guillermo Montesinos, Paco Algora

If you are no stranger to my site, then you probably know that I am a pretty big fan of the work of Jacinto Molina...aka Paul Naschy.  So I was very excited to hear all the praise for his latest film.  After seeing only the beginning of that Fred Olen Ray movie that Naschy made a couple of years ago (I couldn't make it pass the beginning, that's how bad it was), I was hoping to see him in a decent film again.  Plus, with the screenplay being written by him as well, my hope was even higher.  And I was not let down.

ROJO SANGRE is somewhat of an auto-biographical tale of Paul Naschy.  In the film, he plays Pablo Thevenet, who was once a huge star, who directed and starred in countless movies and plays.  But now with the newer and younger generation of filmmakers, he is long forgotten.  Even getting bit parts is tough for him.  It also doesn't help that he is a tad bit bitter about the whole thing.  So when he is offered a job as a performer/doorman for the elite social club called Pandora, he is somewhat force to take it out of necessity.  Each night, he gets to portray a different character from history, like Rasputin, or Ivan the Terrible.  But his sanity is slowing crumbling away, and he starts to murder people who have wronged him in the past, sometimes using these characters to do the evil work.

First of all, I think it's great to see Naschy in a film worthy of his talents.  The performance that he gives is makes you feel so sad for the guy.  Which makes me wonder how much of this film is really auto-biographical.  I would hope that Naschy doesn't feel that bitter about the film industry today.  But in either case, he does a great job bringing that feeling of loss and betrayal from the industry.  He also shows that he still can give off that intensity in certain characters.  While dressed up as Gilles de Rais, his eyes alone give the performance, looking like they are seeing right into your soul.

Of course, Naschy is the major part of the film, but he is surrounded by a decent cast.  Miguel Del Arco is wonderful as Mr. Reficul, who has some of a great set of psychotic eyes as well.  It seems that quite a few of the characters surrounding Naschy are all on the edge of sanity.

But Naschy is not the only highlight of the film.  It is also the young director, Christian Molina.  This is his first film and he really shows off his style here.  He does some wonderful scene transitions that reminded me of some of the stuff that Coppola did in his version of DRACULA.  He also gives the film a very strange feeling to it, where you're not really sure of the reality of what's going on.  There's also a sequence with a gun that will is very reminiscent of Dario Argento.  We're not trying to say that is ripping off anybody's style here, but is possibly using different influences to create his own style.  In either case, what he is showing here is great.

My only complaint, if you could call it that, is the real lack of the title itself....There's not a lot of blood.  Yes, there are a moment or two of gore, like the above still, but not too much of the red stuff.  There are two scenes in particular where I would have expected the blood to fly.  But hardly any is shed.  It's a small complaint, and doesn't take anything away from the movie, but was one I wanted to mention.

The film was released  here in the states in a beautiful widescreen (2.35:1) edition by Fangoria Internation, through Shriek Show.  They have done a wonderful job with this release.  The print looks amazing.  I'm not sure if the movie was shot on video or what, but it looks gorgeous.  On the DVD, there is an interview with the director, who discusses the film and working with Naschy.  There is also a "making of" segment that covers all aspects of the film.  It also has a still gallery, a trailer for the film, as well as trailers for other Shriek Show / Fangoria releases.  The only thing I would consider missing is a interview with Naschy him, where he would discussing how the script came about and making it into a feature film.  With this being a very nice comeback for Naschy, that would have made a very appropriate segment to the disc.


(2006)
Directed by Michael Hurst
Starring Christine Taylor, Jerry O'Connell, Shane Brolly, John Billingsley,
Marissa N. Blanchard, Stacy Fuson, Billy Gardell, Ellie Cornell

Nobody likes hospitals, and the idea of your HMO delivering you into the antiseptic bowels of hell has proved to be fertile ground for horror flicks like The Beyond, The Dead Pit, Coma, etc.  However, this clunker from Mansquito director Mike Hurst arrives brain dead, then proceeds to flail about for 94 interminable minutes.

What discernible plot there is boils down to this: Christine Taylor is scared of hospitals.  How do we know this?  Well, we witness recurring nightmares of our heroine under the knife sans anesthetic.  But just in case we missed it, Hurst and Mark A. Altman’s dumbed-down script calls for every onscreen character to mention that Taylor’s “got a thing about hospitals” in the first 20 minutes.  Subtle, but effective, no? 

Of course, when she and longtime boyfriend Shane (Underworld) Brolley get into a car accident with hunky Jerry O’Connell, Brolley gets carted off to a mysterious hospital (by way of a mysterious ambulance, natch).  But when she tries to track down her sweetie, none of the local hospitals have heard of him.  That’s because Brolley’s been taken to, get this, a phantom hospital.  And not just any phantom hospital, but the one from Taylor’s dreams.  Oooooh, skeeeeeerrrry!

Now, those looking for a coherent plot or engaging characters should try looking down the hall in Room 7 because there’s not one lick of sense to be found in the entire movie.  But in order to distract us, Hurst trots out every tired cliché in the modern horror catalog.  The increasingly well-worn “people turn into demons, but then turn back, making the heroine think she’s going crazy” motif?  Room 6 has it in spades.  Spooky little whispery kids?  Check, in the form of The Amityville Horror redux’s Chloe Moretz.  Dream sequences?  Heck, yeah.  In fact, there are dream sequences about dream sequences. 

And whoever decided that flickering fluorescent lights yielded tension ought to be hung out a window until they recant.  For my money, flickering lights = annoyance, not chills.  Then again, since everything else in this movie seems designed to grate on horror fans’ nerves, why shouldn’t Hurst go for the royal flush?

Speaking of flushes, in case you happen to, ahem, step out of the room, don’t worry, because our intrepid director has seen fit to recap all the high points at the 30-minute mark.  To remind us of all the ineffective scares he’s thrown our way, perhaps?  He then proceeds to completely undercut the tension of his climax by repeating his opening scenario, and caps the whole thing off with a twist ending that will challenge the gag reflex of even the most tolerant of fans.

Even the laughably out-of-place soft-porn sequence, where several smokin’ hot nurses strip out of their sensible shoes (and everything else) to engage in a little blood orgy, fails to raise anything but a chuckle, if you know what I mean.

Quick question: Am I the only one who thinks that the reason why Christine Taylor aka the former Miss Marcia Brady continues to get cast in films is because filmmakers harbor a secret fantasy that hubby Ben Stiller will show up on set and they’ll get to hang with the funnyman?  In this particular effort, rather than a conventional performance, we get an incredible array of labored breathing, a spectrum of gasps and a virtual catalog of whines.  Watching Taylor hyperventilate her way through this minor opus of health care gone wrong, I felt grateful not to have seen Rooms 1-5.  (Yes, that’s a joke.  At least, I hope it is...)

And how about Jerry O’Connell?  Boy, Jerry McGuire seems like a long time ago, huh?  Show me the money is right, eh Jer?

Kane “I am Jason Voorhees” Hodder shows up for about 3 minutes as a homeless guy moonlighting as a demon, but his cameo amounts to little more than an opportunity for Hurst to brag to his friends (and investors), “Guys, I got Jason in my movie!”  Granted, with precious little hockey masking going on these days, I suppose Hodder is happy to push Jerry O’Connell around for a quick buck.

After enduring an hour and a half of this prolific persiflage, I wanted some answers.  While there are few to be found in both the 40-min. behind-the-scenes featurette “Hospital from Hell,” and in the shared effusive commentary by Hurst and Altman, they hardly assauge one’s dissatisfaction in the final product.  I had to wonder if they were talking about the same movie as they laud the various levels of interpretation and stellar performances, because my DVD seemed to be missing these elements.   One thing is clear, though: They both seem very pleased with the final results, and they make no bones about copping to their various influences, which range from Jacob’s Ladder to Nightmare on Elm Street to Ringu.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Anchor Bay’s clever packaging that manages to capitalize on the recent Omen remake, turning the two “o”s in “Room” into “6”s, creating a low-rent number of the beast.  Nice work, guys.  Roger Corman woulda been proud.

Review by Aaron Christensen


(2007)
Directed by Greg McLean
Starring Radha Mitchell, Michael Vartan, Sam Worthington, Caroline Brazier, Stephen Curry, Celia Ireland, John Jarratt

This is the new film from Greg McLean, who made us think twice about taking a walkabout in Australia with his film Wolf Creek.  It seems like it took forever for this film to finally come out over here.  And it’s a damn shame that it never got a theatrical release.  But none the less, the film is about a very large crocodile who doesn’t like the fact that a tour boat has come into its territory, and decides to make sure they don’t leave….alive.

Radha Mitchell plays the tour guide of this little outback boat trip which shows the tourists the dangerous wild crocodiles.  Michael Vartain is a writer of travel guides, and really seems to be out of his element.  But when they follow what looks like a distress signal, and go off the normal tour course, they become hunted by a 20+ foot crocodile who’s not to happy about these visitors in his waters.  And so the ride begins.

McLean surprised audiences with his first feature film Wolf Creek back in 2005.  While I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie, we really liked how different the story varied from the typical plot lines that we usually see.  It was a nice change and is worth your time.  Plus, we were really impressed with John Jarratt, as well as the rest of the small cast.  McLean wrote and directed Wolf Creek.  With Rogue, McLean once again wrote, directed and even produced this time out.  This is a talented guy, folks.

In Rogue, McLean gives us a great cast of characters during this wild tourist boat trip.  Most of the characters seem a little shallow in the beginning.  But as the movie plays out, the depth of their characters start to come out making them a lot more real.  Mitchell does a good job as the tour guide, in which she actually had to re-learn her native Australian accent.  Vartain gives a strong performance as someone who really doesn’t want to be there, and even doesn’t seem to be the nicest person.  But like the others, as the movie plays out, we get to see the real him.  John Jarratt does a great job bringing his character to life, with a lot of depth.

But what about one of the most important parts…is it scary?  Well, you have to understand that this review is slightly jaded.  Not because I loved or hated Wolf Creek or admire the director himself.  But it’s due to the simple fact that movies about creatures under the water eating people simply scares the hell out of me.  Thank you, Mr. Spielberg and your movie Jaws.  So with these types of movies, it doesn’t take much to get me a little nervous or uneasy.  So please remember that when I give this film such high praise in the scare factor.  It’s just I’m a real puss when it comes to such things.  Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.  So there were many times during this movie where I felt uneasy.  Almost like I was having Jaws flashbacks.  I felt that McLean does a great job building that tension with the viewer.  You know something bad is going to happen, but you just don’t know when or to who.

Some viewers might be disappointed at the low body count here and even the small amount of gore.  This is not a blood filled gorefest.  Yes, there are some gooey bits, which are done quite well.  But the real impact behind the movie is the tension and suspense.  If these people are going to make it, and if not, who’s going to be the next meal.

Although, I will say that in the beginning of the film, in small local tavern, there is a wall of newspaper clippings about crocodile attacks.  And there is a shot of a real photo of the body of a 12-year old child being taken out of the belly of a croc.  Sorry folks, but we don’t need to the mondo stuff in here, even if it’s just a photo. Yes, I know that happens, but I still don’t want to see the real thing.  That’s why I’m watching a movie.

As for the other important part…just how good does the title character look?  Well, I have to say that the work of the special visual effects team is right up there with Jurassic Park.  They use a combination of animatronic puppets and CGI that are fused together flawlessly.  You never know what you’re seeing is a real effect or computer animated.  Really beautiful work.  There were several parts when I had thought they had used real footage of crocodiles and just modified it a bit.  Only to find out while watching the documentaries that what you’re seeing is completely CGI.

The visual effects guys not only do an incredible job with the crocodile, but also the surroundings.  The part of the northern territory where this was filmed is simply beautiful.  But they even modified it to fit what they needed.

Which brings us to the special features of the DVD.  First off, the disc has audio commentary by McLean who goes through the basics of the making of the film.  Some of the information is mentioned in the featurettes, but its still interesting stuff.  You also get a lot of information about the film as well.  There is also a Making Of documentary, made by McLean.  This also covers the making of the film from the start to finish.  It covers a lot of info, with interviews with the cast and crew, working with the visual effects artists, and even the music composer.  There’s also some mini featurettes on a few other subjects, where some info is repeated.

So the bottom line is that if you like movies about sharks, alligators, and any nature run amok type themes, then you will love this film.  If you are a bit of a puss when it comes to these movies (like me) then tread those waters at your own risk.  Shortly after watching this movie, I had some pretty nasty images going through my head while trying to go to sleep.  Thank you, Mr. McLean.


ROUTE 666
(2001)
Directed by William Wesley
Starring Lou Diamond Phillips, Lori Petty, Steven Williams, Dale Midkiff, Mercedes Colon, Alex McArthur, and L.Q. Jones.

Ever since 1988, when first time director Wesley gave us the incredibly creepy SCARECROWS, fans have been asking what happened to him.  Now after all these years, the wait is over.  And after seeing his latest film, my question is why did he come back.

I should have seen this coming when I heard that Lou Diamond Philips was in the lead role.  This is never a good sign.  Anybody who doubts that remark hasn’t seen BATS yet.  But even with that, I did have high hopes that the director might be able to bring back some of that great atmosphere that flooded SCARECROWS.  Once again, I was wrong.

The basic story is about a group of FBI agents who are transporting a witness to testify in a mob trial.  Of course, the mob is trying to make sure that he doesn’t make it.  The FBI  decide to take an abandon road, appropriately named Route 666 to save time and to loose the hit men.  The road was closed many years ago after an accident with a prison chain gang, leaving four inmates dead.

The witness is an ex-mob accountant, and is one of the worst characterizations I’ve come across.  He just doesn’t come across as the accountant-type, especially one that the mob would trust.  The agents are also about as incompetent.  During the beginning shoot-out, one would of thought that they must have been absent missed out on the target shooting classes.  Not to mention the fact that they have the witness riding in a convertible instead of the police vehicle.

Since they were buried in the asphalt, these ghost-prisoners can only walk on the road, or other concrete for plot conveniences.   It’s pretty lame.  Coming from the guy who made SCARECROWS, I had hoped that this would also have the creepy feeling in this film.  But apparently you just can’t get that feeling with the setting a long and deserted highway with the sun beating down on you.

Sorry, but I can’t even get this a recommendation for a good ‘bad’ movie.  Maybe next time.


(2008)
Directed by Carter Smith
Starring Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Laura Ramsey, Shawn Ashmore, Joe Anderson

I have to say that when I first seen this trailer, it really didn’t do much for me.  It kind of seems like just another lackluster attempt from Hollywood at making a horror movie.  So we didn’t bother with it at the theater.  But by the time it hit DVD, I’d be hearing some pretty good stuff about it.  So shortly after it was released, we took that journey to The Ruins.

The beginning of the movie starts out sort of like I expected.  A bunch of young college kids on a vacation full of partying and drinking.  This was not doing anything to change what I had originally thought.  They meet up with a German guy who tells them that his brother is out investigating an old Mayan ruin, and wanted to know if they’d like to join him when he goes out to meet him the next day.  Looking for some extra excitement at the end of their vacation, they agree.

The next day, they find the ruin which is sort of a pyramid-like tower.  But right after they get there, they are surrounded by locals with guns, screaming at them and pointing at the tower behind them.  Their vacation ends there.  Because of the language barrier, they’re not really sure what these people are yelling and screaming at them.  But with the guns pointing at them, they start to climb the ruins for safety.  It’s hard to go into greater detail without giving too much away, so we’ll just leave the plot at that.

I was really impressed with the acting here. Since they didn’t go with the usual stereotyped college characters, the actors seemed more like real people.  I felt this brought more realism to them.  When they start to realize their situation, they can’t believe that this can happen.  Things like this just don’t happen to people.  This just shows people that once you get outside the USA, you really never know what can happen.

The cast is lead by Jena Malone, who was Donnie Darko’s girlfriend, Shawn Ashmore, who has been Iceman in all three of the X-Men movies, Jonathan Tucker, who was in the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  But I think real stand out here is Laura Ramsey.  She’s been in a couple other horror movies, like Venom and The Covenant, but in The Ruins she really performs some incredible scenes here.  Her performance will make the audience squirm with pain and sympathy.

The other thing that really got my attention was the special make up effects.  Since most of the effects are done in broad daylight, it’s pretty tough to hide bad effects.  These effects are top-notch, very real looking and very effective.  This is a great example of using simple effects (though I know they were not simple to do) that would cause a reaction from the audience.  Not to mention giving a lasting impact.

The disc has audio commentary by Editor Jeff Betancourt & director Carter Smith, who cover pretty much all aspects of the film.  There are a few featurettes that cover different subjects such as the making of the film and the makeup effects.  There are also some deleted scenes, and also includes the theatrical ending, along with an alternate ending as well.

This is a film that you should definitely check out.  Even when most modern horror films coming from Hollywood aren’t worth the rental, this one is a keeper.