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MOVIE REVIEW ARCHIVES
Directed by James Landis
Starring Arch Hall Jr., Richard Alden, Marilyn Manning, Don Russell, Helen Hovey
One of the things
that always set low budget films apart from the big studio films is that they
were always willing to take risks and tackle subjects the bigwigs wouldn’t
touch. In 1958, Charles Starkweather went on a killing spree, taking his
15-year-old girlfriend Caril Fugate along for the fun. When it was over, they
had murdered 11 people, including Fugate’s own 2-year-old step-sister. At that
time, Hollywood wouldn’t dare touch a subject like this one. It wouldn’t be
until 1973, when Terrence Malick would direct the film Badlands. But in
1963, only after 5 years since those tragic crimes, James Landis wrote and
directed a film inspired by Starkweather and his murderous rampage. The film
was called The Sadist.
One would think
that a film made in the early ‘60s would be quite a bit more tame compared by
today’s standards. And surely they wouldn’t make a film too dark in content and
nature. But that is exactly what Landis and his crew did. The film starts out
with three school teachers who are on their way to an out-of-state football
game, when they run into car trouble. They find a junkyard a little ways off
the highway, in hopes of finding some help. At first they can’t find anybody
around. But then out pops Charles A. Tibbs, grinning ear to ear and holding a
until Tibbs’ arrival, the dialog is nice, clean, polite, and ever so pleasant,
giving the viewer thinking we’re watching an episode of Leave it to Beaver.
So it sets the viewer up for a big surprise when Tibbs shows up and just
torments his three captives with little mind games. Once they discover that he
is the one responsible for the recent murders in Nebraska, they realize they are
in some serious trouble. The comments from the three teachers, like calling him
“in-human” and “an animal” and asking him how he could do such things, really
shows what the American people were thinking about those crimes and Starkweather.
How could a person do all those horrible things?
When we first see
Tibbs, he’s walking with his knees bent, half squatting, squinting his eyes and
a silly grin on his face. And when he talks, in between his giggles, we think
he’s just some sort of goofball punk. But it doesn’t take long before we
realize this guy is just plain crazy. Arch Hall Jr. plays Tibbs with such a
performance that he really brings this character to life. He is just so
disconnected with society that nothing is out-of-bounds for him. He constantly
torments his prisoners, getting off on how they squirm, beg and plead with him.
When they try to reason with him, he accuses them of implying that they’re
better than him and that he’s stupid. This only makes it worse.
This was the
first job as cinematographer for Vilmos Zsigmond, who would go on to work on
many films for Al Adamson, such as Satan’s Sadist (1969), Five Bloody
Graves (1970), Blood of Ghastly Horror (1972), and quite a few more.
But he would rise to fame working on films like Deliverance (1972),
The Deer Hunter (1978), and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
(1977), which he won an Oscar for. He has been nominated a total of 5 times for
Best Cinematography. This talent could even be seen in this early film. There
are several camera angles and shots that you wouldn’t normally find in such a
low budget production.
is the type of film that might be overlooked because of the budget and the
no-name cast. But for fans of early independent films, this is definitely a must see.
But also, if you are a fan of gritty horror stories from real life, this is a terrifying
portrait of a person from the headlines. It’s one of those movies that you wish
was complete fiction. But in any case, this is a great example when some
talent filmmakers had a good subject matter, and some decent people to work on
the film, which resulted in a powerful and well made film.
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia,
Lew Ayres, Geoffrey Lewis, George Dzundza, Fred Willard, Elisha Cook, and Ed
The first time I
saw this movie (which was the video version)
was actually the following day after I finished reading the novel. So my
first feelings towards the movie was that it sucked. I thought that it had
left too much out from the book. Plus I didn't care for the way they
changed the character of Barlow from the human looking vampire in the book to
the Nosferatu-type monster in the movie.
But I recently watched it again, after picking up the DVD in the
discount bin. Hell, even if it was a bad movie, it's only $10. So I
sat down and re-watched it for the first time in about 15 years. Once
again, it seems that I'm eating my words.
The first thing that really hit me was just how atmospheric and
really scary the film was. I don't remember seeing this when it first was
broadcast, but it must of been pretty effective. There are several
elements that not only have the startling shock value, but also gives out some
intense feelings of terror. For example, when the little boy comes
scratching at the window of his friend, as he's floating outside the window in a
cloudy mist. Hooper does an excellent job filling the scenes with mood and atmosphere. It does not look like a made-for-TV movie.
It is very well paced, not having a lot of boring dialog sequences that fill the
more recent made-for-TV movies.
As usual for the made-for-TV movies of that time, the film is
packed with stars. David Soul is the main lead, after hanging up his
TV-cop days, is actually pretty good as the writer coming back to his childhood
town to face his fears of the local "haunted house", the Marsden
house. James Mason once again plays an evil character with grace and
elegance, but with that evil intensity under the surface. The cast is filled
out with some great character actors, such as Elisha Cook as the local
you've seen this before and didn't care for it, I would suggest you re-watch it
again. I have to admit, that it really did change my opinion of what I had
originally thought of it. If you haven't seen it, I would strongly suggest
picking up the DVD for your collection. Most places have it for around
$10. You can't go wrong here.
Directed by Greydon Clark
Starring: John Ireland, Yvonne DeCarlo, Jack Kruschen, John Carradine, Sydney
Chaplin, Hillary Horan, Sherry Marks, Alisa Powell, and Kerry Sherman.
A group of
cheerleaders get caught up with some Satanists that plan to use them for their
John Ireland plays the sheriff (named B.L. Bubb) of a local town, who is
actually the high priest of the local Satanic cult. His wife, the high
priestess, is played by Yvonne DeCarlo, many years after her stint as Lily
Munster. It seems that everybody in the little town is in the cult.
The film seems to start off like your typical 70’s teeny-bopper movies, with the
cheerleaders practicing on the beach, in between playing
football with some of the guys (and beating them). Of course, this is when
they’re not running off in the bushes with one of the guys. And
surprisingly, their cheerleading coach redefines the word naïve. You have
the local rivals show up to argue about turf and the upcoming game. When
the rivals lose the game of chicken (not the car type) to decide to gets to use
the beach, they decide to get revenge on the locals. They’re going to
really get them this time out, and decide they’re going to…T-P their school!
Man, it was pretty rough back in those days.
But once on their
way to the big game, their car breaks down. Lucky for them, the sleazy janitor
from their school is driving by and picks them up. Of course, he also just
happens to be part of the cult, and decides that they are going to ‘have some
fun’. He takes them to their secret alter and tries to assault them, but things
start to go wrong. Apparently Satan has other plans for one of the girls.
I'm sure it's no co-incidence that the one girl who appears nude, gets to have
the bigger role.
John Carradine has
a small role as a bum wandering around picking up cans. Once again, he’s only
in two scenes, but makes the most out of them. I guess I’m just entertained by
him because he is a great actor and has been in hundreds and hundreds of movies,
or maybe I just like the old guy yapping his jaw. It's a shame he never
got the recognition that he should of, but instead was playing tons of these
bits parts in all of these low budget movies. Although it is still painful
to see how his hands had become over the years.
threatened to be given to Satan as a sacrifice, that 70’s carefree feeling is
there. The people in this film are either as scary or frightening as the
characters in your average Scooby Doo episode. This film definitely won’t make
you lose any sleep (especially while you’re watching it), but there is a little
entertainment value here. Not much, but a little. Just seeing the whole style
of that time period is pretty funny. But it does make it hard for that to carry
the whole movie.
The movie was released in a no-frills DVD by VCI Entertainment. It does
feature the trailer, which is pretty entertaining. But the quality of the
print leaves a lot to be desired. Granted, with this type of film, why
would anybody bother to re-master it. Being that it is kind of grainy, I
guess it does add to the nostalgic feelings about the film. But none the
less, it would of nice to of seen a better print.
SCHOOL FOR GIRLS
Directed by David Lowell Rich.
Starring Kate Jackson, Pamela Franklin, Roy Thinnes, Cheryl Ladd, Lloyd Bockner,
and Jo Van Fleet.
Most of the made-for-TV movies from the
early to mid 70’s were usually pretty good, some even being very good, that
even hold up to recent viewings. That
was not the case for this movie.
I had picked up the DVD for $7, figuring
how could I lose with that price. Well,
the quality of the DVD wasn’t the greatest.
It was grainy, and even had some red stripping through a couple of parts.
But the worst part was the movie was simply just a bad movie.
Franklin plays a young woman who enrolls
in this girl’s school, after her sister kills herself, shortly after leaving
the school and coming to see her. She
enrolls under a different name, hoping to discover some reasoning behind her
sister’s death. She doesn’t
believe that it was a suicide.
Once at the school, she does notice that
there is something mysterious going on, but nobody will talk about it.
They seemed to be very afraid of something.
When it looks like one girl is about to give her some information, she is
it turns out, one of the teachers, the one that all the girls are in love with,
is actually Satan. He plans to have
a certain number of the girls sacrifice themselves for him, because in the past,
some witches were burned at the stake for worshipping him.
So after Franklin discovers the truth, she escapes from the burning
school while some of the girls and Satan remain in the fire. End of movie. Pretty
big let down, if you ask me.
aka THE KILLER BEHIND THE MASK
Directed by David Paulsen
Starring David Gale, William Sanderson, Christopher Allport, Jim Doerr, Marilyn
Hamlin, Caitlin O'Heaney
This film was never released until 1980. Once you watch it youll know
why. Yes it is a very bad movie. But that doesnt mean its not entertaining.
Theres tons of nudity, and even more sleeze. The story is pretty simple. A few
friends go to a weekend house in upstate New York for a couple of days. Add in a killer on
the loose whos wearing a rubber Halloween mask. Each death is done in some unusual
and interesting ways. Definitely nothing new compared to todays standards, but if
you remember that this was made a couple of years before FRIDAY THE 13th and the slasher
craze that followed.
One of the main highlights is the cast. Way before his body-less days
in the RE-ANIMATOR series, David Gale plays a hardworking, brute of a man, possibly a
lumberjack, Im not sure. Also playing damn near the same character that he played on
the TV show NEWHART, is William Sanderson, this time without his two brothers Daryl and
Daryl. It also stars Christopher Allport, James Doerr, Marilyn Hamiln, Kathleen Heaner,
Devin Goldenberg and Jeffrey David Pomerantz.
One of the best parts of the movie is during a seduction
sequence with Gale and one of his female co-stars. While in a barn, the girl starts
petting a cow. She then starts to caress the utter, then even stroking the nipples of the
cow. Just then Gale says, "Ever tasted it fresh?" You gotta love it. I expected
to see Jess Francos name somewhere in the credit but to no avail.
So if you want a really cheezy, but yet really sleazy film, with a little bit of slasher
fun, you may want to check this little flick out.
Directed by William Wesley
Starring: Ted Vernon, Michael Simms, Richard Vidan, Victoria Christian, Kristina
Sanborn, B.J. Turner
This is a simple story of a
robbery gone bad. After successfully robbing an army payroll, the thieves escape
in a stolen plane, taking the pilot and his daughter as hostages. While flying
away, one of the robbers dives out of the plane with all the money, releasing a
grenade in the plane. But the other robbers get the little bomb out and land the
plane to go after him and the money.
But here’s where the real
fun starts. They land in a wooded area, which seems to be filled with
scarecrows. While the one tries to run with the money, his old companions are
tracking him down. Meanwhile the scarecrows almost seem like they are alive . .
One of the cool things
about this movie is the atmosphere. While the plot of the movie starts
immediately when the it opens, the first 45 minutes is filled with some eerie
and creepy shots of the woods and the scarecrows hanging on crosses. The makers
of this film took the time to really try and scare the audience with the
Yes, there is some gore,
which is done quite well. The makeup effects were done by Norman Cabrera, who
had worked on such films as FRIGHT NIGHT 2, SUMMER SCHOOL, and had worked
with Rick Baker on HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS. What surprised me is that
with a talented effects guy, that they didn’t go overboard and make this film
into an extreme gore flick. Instead, they stayed with the atmosphere and used
the gore when the story really called for it. For that, I give them a lot of
credit. Even more so since this was made back in the late 80’s when that was
the way to make movies. Plus the design of the scarecrows are excellent.
This cult classic, which seems to be a very
hard video to find nowadays, basically went straight to video. If you missed
this little gem back then, I strongly suggest you find yourself a copy. This is
one of those films that you can watch over and over again and enjoy it every
Directed by Yang Chuan
Starring Man Biu Baak, Jaime Mei Chun Chik, Norman Chu, San Nam Hung, Maria Jo,
Philip Ko, Sha-fei Ouyang, Mat Tin
Back in the late
90’s, when Hong Kong films started to make their way into the American cult
market (it would be a few more years before Hollywood took notice of the likes
of Jackie Chan and John Woo), I had started to get into the action films coming
from there. Of course, my main interests were still horror films. So when a
horror film appeared from Hong Kong, I was all over it.
And boy was I in
for a surprise when I first came across some of these movies. For those who
haven’t experienced any of the 80’s horror films from Hong Kong, be prepared.
Make sure you have a pretty strong stomach. And remember, this particular film
came out almost 25 years ago, before all the excess of what has become passé by
Out of all the
films that had come out during this time, I feel that SEEDING OF A GHOST was one
of the best and still remains so today as well. The story is about a cab driver
who goes to a black magic wizard to help get revenge for the people responsible
for the death of his wife. He’s not sure who it was, but he wants them to pay
dearly for it. As it turns out, there is very, very heavy price for it. As the
wizard starts to cast his spells, the guilty ones start to suffer. From them
coughing up worms and maggots, to one of them having his wife become possessed,
it goes even more over the top, with an ending that you’re not likely to forget.
is not a film for the youngsters. The film features plenty of full frontal
nudity and a rape sequence that is….a rape sequence. Do we need to say more
than that? Didn’t think so. But if you can get past that, it’s a great little
revenge story, though the “revenge” is a little different than you’re probably
use to seeing.
The Hong Kong
horror films tended to be filled with their themes of black magic along with the
white magic used to battle it. Some of it can be pretty hokey. But I’ve always
enjoyed the mythology with the spells and rites to them.
of this film is the special effects. This was many, many years before CGI would
start to come into play. Plus, with the budgets they were working with, it
would be cost-effective. So there are a lot of practical makeup effects, along
with some fun lighting and animated effects. How can you go wrong with a rubber
corpse floating in the air, having sex with an animated lover?
This disc was
recently released by Celestial Pictures on a NTSC Region 3 disc, and it looks
incredible. My VHS copy had come right from the laserdisc that I duped myself.
Even the laserdisc didn’t looked this good. It was very dark and muddy. But
this DVD print is crisp and clear. Even in the darker moments, the picture is
still bright enough to see what’s going on. It had been a while since I had
seen this movie, but watching this new DVD, it really was like watching it for
the first time.
So if you’re
looking for something a little more over the top than what you would think from
that era and from Hong Kong, then I would highly recommend you checking out this
movie, but also finding this DVD. Granted, some of the effects are not going to
be as detailed or smooth as some of the films today. But upon recently
re-watching this film, I found it to be entertaining as ever, and still found
some moments to still be pretty outrageous. So call up our buddies at
Cinema and order this movie. Unlike the taxi driver in the film, you won’t
regret your decision.
Directed by Don Mancini
Starring Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Hannah Spearritt, Billy Boyd, Brad Dourif, John
Damn, do I feel old. Chucky has been around for 17
years??? Where does the time go.
When I first heard of the story for SEED OF
CHUCKY, I thought, "you have got to be kidding me?" Remember back when those NIGHTMARE
sequels made Freddy into something that wasn't even remotely scary, but just a
joke? Well, that is exactly where the Chucky movies have come to now. This isn't a
horror movie. Oh, it does have the gore, and some of it done very nicely,
but the movie itself about as scary as a wet paper bag. I don't think this
was even meant to be scary. As I said, much like the later NIGHTMARE
movies, this is just an expanded movie for everyone who loves the character of
Chucky. Don't expect anything special here, folks. Just bad jokes
and three dolls trying to fight to be the all-American dysfunctional family.
Through most the movie, I was just sitting in
amazement at what I was watching. Not only was I amazed that this actually played
in the theaters, but that it was even giving the greenlight?
What producer would sit back and say, "There's a scene where Chucky is
jerking off? Great idea! Let's do it!" And what the hell
is this whole story with a gender-confused offspring of Chucky and Tiffany?
Suppose I got to give them credit for coming up with something different...
But that being said,
I do have to give credit for the effects crew of Tony Gardner for really
bringing the dolls to life. They really have done a great job in making
these characters become just that....real characters. That also has a lot
to do with the people giving them their voices, namely Brad Dourif. The
combination of them both really do an awesome job here. Plus, I also have
to give credit to Jennifer Tilly for pulling no punches in making fun of
herself. And of course, how can I not mention that John Waters plays a
paparazzi out to get the dirt on Tilly. Waters is always fun to watch on
Other than that,
unless you're just looking for a very bizarre film, there's not much that I
could recommend here. If you are a fan of the Chucky movies, then you'll
not only enjoy this movie, but also all the extras that the DVD has.
There's a behind-the-scenes featurette that goes through the whole series, and
has comments from people both behind the cameras as well as in front
of...including Chuck and Tiffany. The DVD also contains some deleted
scenes, storyboard to final feature comparisons (which I always find
interesting), audio commentary with writer/director Don Mancini and Tony
After enjoying BRIDE OF CHUCKY, which was
quite a change from the previous films, it seems they have found their new
direction to head off to. I hope they have fun there, because I don't
think I'll be following them.
Directed by Michael Winner
Starring: Cristina Raines, Chris Sarandon, Martin Balsam, John Carradine, Jose
Ferrer, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, Deborah
Raffin, Eli Wallach, Christopher Walken, Beverly D’Angelo, Jeff Goldblum,
& William Hickey
THE SENTINEL is
another greatly underrated film. While a lot of people look at the credits and
immediately upon seeing John Carradine’s name, laugh and figure it’s garbage
(including me at one time, long ago), this film is not only scary, it’s also
very disturbing as well.
Raines plays a model who is
looking for an apartment of her own. Her boyfriend, Sarandon, wants to get
married, but Raines wants her own place for right now. She finds an old building
that has some very unique tenants, including an old blind priest who just sits
and stars out the window.
The movie has some great
characters in it, such as Burgess Meredith, as one of her neighbors. Meredith is
another one of those actors that while comes across as strange or eccentric,
still has great evil, twisted side to him, which comes out wonderfully here.
Other tenants include Beverly D’Angelo as a masturbating lesbian (yes, I wrote
The legendary Dick Smith
did the special effects. Even though he now thinks that he went too far back
then, the effects that he did are simply incredible. I would say the effects in
this film has some of the best gore effects that he’s done. Don’t get me
wrong, I’m not trying to say that this film is filled with gore. It’s not.
But when it does, it’s pretty damn gory.
The director got some
flack, just like Tod Browning did back in the 30’s, for using real life circus
freaks to portray the citizens of hell. It does have a very unsettling effect,
but I think that really does work for the film.
To say that this is an
all-star cast is an understatement. Even if you take the major cast, there are
still quite a few familiar faces around. So if you haven’t seen this, or at
least haven’t seen it recently, you really should give it a watching. As they
say, "They don’t make them like this anymore."
Directed by Brad Anderson
Starring David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Stephen Gevedon, Josh
“Some people have been so conditioned now that horror
should come at them very quick and fast, and with a Limp Bizkit soundtrack, that
they just don’t have the patients for this kind of movie.” – Director Brad
A Haz-Mat Removal team gets a
job of cleaning out a huge, old building, but they only have a week to do it.
The building just happens that it use to be a psychiatric hospital before it was
closed down for different reasons, from budget cuts to lawsuits. It
doesn’t take long for problems to start between the five workers. Is it
just your basic personality differences, or is there some more there? Or
is it just the building?
It’s been a long time since
I’ve watched a movie that really did give me the creeps. Some horror films
may shock you, make you jump, or just gross you out. This film is
different as where it brings about a great sense of dread to the viewer.
It has tons of great atmosphere throughout the film. Yes, there are parts
where you will jump, parts that will have you clenching the arms of your chairs.
But that doesn’t have lasting feeling of dread that you will envelop you by the
end of the movie, which will stay with you for days. While watching the
film, you know there is something really dark going on, but you’re not really
sure what it is. With each passing scene, the film darkens, building
The setting for the film is
the Danvers State Mental Hospital, which is located just north of Boston.
The hospital is a real place. The events that are talked about in the
movie are all based on real events that happened in that hospital, from some of
the patients to one of the reasons that it was shut down in the early 80's.
That makes it even eerier when you discover that.
One of the best things the
director did when filming this movie is let the setting of the Danvers Hospital
set the mood throughout the movie. There’s long panning shots of dark and
deserted hallways, old decrepit rooms filled with the remains of the people that
were committed there. Great stuff. During the commentary, you learn
that a lot of the set dressings were actually the way they found the place.
There are only a minimum
amount of characters, and they carry the whole film without a problem.
You’re never really sure who to trust or believe, or if what you’re seeing is
really happening, or just a dream or hallucination.
The DVD comes with tons of
extras. It has deleted scenes, along with an alternate ending. It
has story to screen information, theatrical trailer, audio commentary by
co-writer/director Brad Anderson and co-writer/actor Stephen Gevedon.
There is also a featurette about the setting for the movie, the Danvers State
am amazed that this movie has crept it’s way out on DVD / VHS without as much as
a sound. As much of a hysteria that crap Witch Project brought about a few
years back, I would of thought that America was still interested in a great,
moody and creepy horror movie. Apparently not. But in any
case, if you want a film that will stay with you for days, one that will get to
you the old fashion way, I highly recommend this film. It may not be for
everyone, but anybody calling themselves a horror fan owe it to themselves to
rent or buy this DVD for their collection.
If you would
like more information about this hospital, check out this website:
Directed by Christopher Smith
Stephens, Claudie Blakley, Andy Nyman, Tim McInnerny, Laura Harris, Danny
Dyer, David Gilliam, Babou Ceesay
A group of office
people are on their way to Turkey or some other foreign country in Europe, for a
“Team-Building” weekend. This is one of those ideas that managers come up with
to try and get their office workers working together for a common goal…the
company’s. How shooting each other in paintball games exactly does that is
beyond me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that this company is a
manufacturer of weapons? But none the less, they run into trouble on the way to
the resort when they find a huge tree laying across the road. The bus
driver refuses to take a ‘shortcut’, and leaves them on the side of the road.
So they attempt to make the rest of their way to the company's resort on foot.
Once they arrive
at the 'resort', they start to wonder if they are at the right place. And
then they discover that they are not alone out in the woods, it gets worse.
Much worse. Each comes up with their own story of where they are at and
the who the people that seemed to be stalking them are. But before they
can discover the real truth, it may be too late.
The dinner sequence with the pie is one of the best examples of showing how a
scene can take a severe turn and take the story into a very dark place. It
is something very simple, but also gives the viewer (not to mention the
characters) plenty of thoughts and ideas as to what might going on. Nicely
Being attack from these psychos,
terrorist or whatever they are, these poor office workers are now running for their lives. Only to run into different deadly traps that
have been set up. There are some scenes that could remind you of the new fad of
‘torture horror’. But none of these are taken to any extremes like some of the
other films as of late. But also, with some of these scenes is where the
humor comes from, only because of the absurdity of the situation. But
intertwined perfectly between the horror and comedy is the serious drama that is
happening to these people, that really holds this film together.
This is the
second film from director Smith, previously giving us the entertaining CREEP.
And with this film, Smith does a very good job with the hard task of combining
horror and comedy. The horror here comes from the crazy terrorists living in
the woods and the comedy comes from the circumstances, not necessarily from
“jokes”. This is where most horror/comedies can fail. Granted, it does help if
you are a fan of British humor.
This DVD release
if a Region 2 PAL release, and is in 2.35:1 widescreen format. And this
release is packed full of interesting extras. The audio commentary
features director Smith, writer James Moran, production designer John Frankish,
and actors Danny Dyer, Tim McInnerny, Babou Ceesay, and Andy Nyman. And it
is damn fun to listen to. You get some interesting facts about the film,
great and funny stories from everyone, and is just a good time. But the
disc also has some outtakes and deleted scenes, a making of featurette, and
much, much more.
Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill
Nighy, Penelope Wilton
What with HOT
FUZZ arriving on the Yankee shores this past weekend, it seemed like an ideal
time to break out Edgar Wright’s crowd-pleasing zombie comedy romance (or
zom-rom-com, as some pundits immediately dubbed it) and let the good and gory
zombies are a fruitful arena for horror/comedy, and Wright’s feature debut
proudly earns its place alongside such luminaries as RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD,
ARMY OF DARKNESS, and Peter Jackson’s BRAINDEAD (aka DEAD-ALIVE). This is,
quite simply, one of the best horror films – not to mention comedies – in years,
as well as a winning tale of friendship and true love. Simultaneously sending
up and celebrating not only George A. Romero’s zombie flicks but a host of other
cinematic efforts, the film’s complete investment in the onscreen situation with
nary a wink to the camera is its true triumph, elevating it beyond the
sophomoric hi-jinks of SCARY MOVIE and its ilk. There is plenty of gore for the
fans, sharp witty dialogue and wonderfully drawn characters fleshed out with
gusto by the cast of loveable wackos. The hilarious relationships (what is
up with Ed’s infatuation with Barbara?) are utterly believable and we so
grow to love these characters that when they meet their unfortunate grisly ends,
we truly feel a sense of loss – surely a rarity for a movie of this genre,
especially one with such a high body count.
When I saw SOTD
in the cinema back in ’04, the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake had just come along
(perfect timing, guys) and so the pseudo-homonymic (is that a word?) title
gambit was fresh in everyone’s ears and eyes. But I was expecting something
along the lines of a spoof, with the tropes of zombie film lore trotted out and
skewered for our, ahem, amusement. Instead, what my popcorn-crunching
compatriots and I got was a brilliant, witty, affectionate, raucous, clever and
splatterific love letter to Romero’s flesh-chomping zombi-verse and the genre
fans that had grown up loving it. I immediately went again the same week –
accompanied by several fence-sitters who had had similar trepidations – and
darned if it wasn’t even better the second time around, because Wright has
jammed the picture with inside jokes flitting all around the perimeters of the
frame. In short, it is a feast for the eyes, ears, and dare I say it, soul of
horror fans everywhere.
The plot of SOTD
centers on its titular protagonist (played with skittish energy and aplomb by
co-writer and longtime Wright friend, Simon Pegg), a semi-slacker in his late
20s whose life consists of muddling through his retail day job, playing video
games with his pudgy hedonist pal Ed (Nick Frost) and hanging out at the pub
with his increasingly frustrated girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield). On the fringe
are Liz’s friends Dianne and David (Lucy Davis and Dylan Moran), a not-so-happy
couple who offer bouncy enthusiasm or withering commentary in equal doses. It’s
a great central core of characters, and it is to Pegg and Wright’s credit that
each are given their moment (or moments) of heroism, further endearing them to
the viewers’ hearts. The supporting cast is no less brilliant, with Penelope
Wilton as Shaun’s loopy mum Barbara, Peter Serafinowicz as Shaun’s priggish
flatmate, and Bill Nighy in a priceless turn as Phil, the authoritarian stepdad
One suspects that
with this much talent before and behind the camera, this sitcom-ready scenario
would be entertaining enough to sustain our attention for the film’s 104 minute
running time. But why let twentysomething angst suffice when you can throw
staggering hordes of the undead into the mix? (Why, indeed. Who doesn’t think
that MUST LOVE DOGS couldn’t have been just that much better with a bit o’ the
Bub? Who wouldn’t have welcomed a Savini biker cameo in THE NOTEBOOK? How can
you call a flick SHE’S ALL THAT without having the heroine fend off a
trowel-wielding tyke? Ah, but I digress…) When people in the London suburbs
start falling over dead and rising up peckish for a wee bit o’ human noshies,
the challenges of job security and romantic entanglements must take a back seat
to surviving the onslaught…with the stage set for a grande bouffe of
daring verbal byplay, physical chicanery and eye-popping, viscera-spraying
When SOTD hit
DVD in ’05, I introduced several more folks to the joys of London-accented flesh
munching, but had never delved into the disc’s special features, so preoccupied
was I with getting more and more people aboard the “SS Shaun.” But this week, I
decided to take it out for a full tour, and well, I’m happy to report that as
passionate as the film is towards the genre it pays homage to, Universal’s
release itself packs just as much loving care into its bells and whistles.
aficionados watching the movie (shot in 2.35.1 Anamorphic Widescreen – in homage
to John Carpenter), it is immediately obvious that Wright and Pegg are huge fans
of horror, with an endless stream of allusions to Romero’s “Dead” pictures
alongside nods to genre flicks such as AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, ARMY OF
DARKNESS, 28 DAYS LATER and many, many more. Some are overt, such as when Ed
shouts “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!” to Shaun’s mum over the phone, or the
DAWN OF THE DEAD opening and closing credits music cues; others are more obscure
(such as the cough-and-you-miss it reference to crop trials, from LET SLEEPING
CORPSES LIE.) One can watch the film a dozen times and pick up something new on
each viewing, and that’s without even going into the homages to non-genre films
like EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, THE DEER HUNTER, Sam Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS or
Guy Ritchie’s flashy crime thrillers.
However, if you
don’t have the time to watch the flick a dozen times (though if you don’t, you
need to reassess your priorities anyway), Pegg and Wright point out the majority
of these references in their hilariously geeky and enthusiastic commentary. Any
that are not touched upon therein are illuminated in the “Zomb-o-Meter,” a
Pop-Up Video-like subtitle function that points out numerous fun and
frenzied facts as the film runs. (Who knew that Serafinowicz was the voice of
Darth Maul in STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE? Not me.) The cast commentary with
Pegg, Frost, Ashfield, Davis and Moran is slightly less enlightening and
engaging, although there are a few choice moments such as when the actors trot
out their best Bill Nighy impression. (By the way, the numerous references to
Spaced allude to the English sitcom that Pegg, Frost and Wright
collaborated on from 1999-2001.)
features are but the tip of the DVD treats smorgasbord that awaits eager fanboys
(and fangirls, of course) in the Special Features Menu. We’ve got “Raw Meat,”
which trots out Pegg’s video diary, audition tapes, special f/x comparisons,
makeup tests, promo featurette, and an extraordinary segment with a pudgier Pegg
and Wright showing off their “idea flip chart” for the film in 2001. The
“Zombie Gallery” has a solid assortment of photos, poster designs and the SOTD
2000 A.D. comic strip, while “Missing Bits” has deleted scenes, extended
versions, a hysterically misguided attempt to cut down on profanity by
substituting “funk” for the f-word, and the glorious “The Man Who Would Be
Shaun” segment, which has Frost and Pegg playing out a scene in their best
Connery/Caine accents. (To be honest, Pegg’s is frighteningly convincing; watch
your back, Michael.) Finally, as much of the info comes to the onscreen
characters via the telly, the faux programs are also given their full moment in
the spotlight in “TV Bits,” such as the Springer-like Trisha show and an
interview with members of the rock group Coldplay for their upcoming concert, “Zomb-Aid.”
In conclusion, if
you don’t happen to be living in one of the select cities currently playing HOT
FUZZ (damned limited release, grumble, grumble), draw a pint, grab a packet of
Hog Lumps, and settle in with your friends from the Winchester; where the Queen
(on the jukebox) is loud, the records are flying in the backyard and love and
zombies conquer all. Cheers.
Review by Aaron “Dr. AC”
Directed by Michael Reeves
Starring Barbara Steele, Ian Ogilvy, John Karlsen, Mel Welles
This film has the
honor of being the first movie from the young up-and-coming director Michael
Reeves. Reeves would only direct 3 feature films, the last one being the
incredible Witchfinder General, before dying of a supposed accidental
overdose of barbiturates.
She-Beast has all the makings of a great gothic film.
Filmed in a great setting with the real town setting is better than anything
Hollywood could have created. You have a pretty standard but effective story
about a witch returning from the grave to make good on the curse she put on the
town 200 years before. Plus, you have Italian horror icon Barbara Steele in the
lead role. So how could you go wrong?
I found the
biggest problem with this film was the humor completely takes away from any
seriousness of the film. Sure, some great horror films always have some silly
humor thrown in there to break the tension. But I just thought there was way
too much humor here, causing the film to be more of a wacky slapstick than
horror. And I just happen to like my gothic tales a little more on the serious
Not to say that
it doesn’t have its merits, mind you. Once you realize the kind of film that it
is, the cast is fun to watch, especially the wonderful Mel Welles and a very
young Ian Ogilvy. Of course, horror icon Steele always make a strong presence
in any film that she’s in. It’s even more amazing that she only worked 1 day on
the film. That shows some very smart producers who are trying to get the most
out their limited budget. The original title of the film was suppose to be
Revenge of the Blood Beast, which I think is a much better title. But
for me, I was have preferred my horror a little more straight forward and a lot
less of the silly humor. But to each his own.
basic story is about a witch who is killed by the local townspeople who have had
enough of her torment. But not before sure curses the town and the townspeople,
that she will return and kill their descendants. Now, two hundred years later
in present day, when Ogilvy and Steele show up, they end up crashing their car
into the same lake where the witch was killed. But once they're rescued from the
water, Steele’s body disappears and is replaced with that of the dead witch.
After which, Ogilvy joins forces with the odd Count von Helsing, played by
character actor John Karlsen. The younger fans today might know him as the
“evil old dude” from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. But here, his
character’s family had been fighting the evil in Transylvania for centuries, to
try and bring his wife back to him.
After what seems
like hours of wacky car chase sequences as they are running from the police, in
some slightly under-cranked filming, Ogilvy’s character and von Helsing get the
witch’s body back to the lake to give her a proper exorcism. But this merely
consists of dumping her in the water once before she disappears. Seconds later,
Steele appears in the water, and everything is right as rain. Or so we think.
The film’s ending is so anti-climatic, that there’s no real payoff. We know
it’s not over, but are only given a brief evil smile from Steele at the very
end. Left us kind of flat.
But the real
highlight of this film is the new transfer for this new DVD from Dark Sky
Films. It's a new transfer from it's original scope aspect ration from the rare
35mm vault materials. And it looks wonderful. This movie had been
released on video on the Gorgon Video Label, which really looked like crap. The
film was very dark in some spots where you couldn’t see anything. All of the
night sequences in the film were filmed day-for-night. So maybe in the video
transfer, they made sure that it was dark, meaning you can see shit! But the
Dark Sky disc looks fantastic. Sure, now you can tell that it’s actually
daylight during the night sequences, but at least you can still see what is
disc also contains an audio commentary by David Gregory, producer Paul Maslanksy,
actors Ian Ogilvy & Barbara Steele (who shows up a little later during the
film). Maslanksy was a producer who started in the horror genre, giving us
titles like Castle of the Living Dead, Death Line and Race With
The Devil, before moving onto comedies, like the Police Academy
movies. For me, this commentary was the highlight of the disc. We hear tons of
great stories about many different people in the industry, from Christopher Lee,
to Roger Corman, to Mel Welles, and many more. Very entertaining as well as
informative. Which is just what a commentary should be.
Directed by Mario Bava
Starring Daria Nicolodi, John Steiner, David Colin Jr., Ivan Rassimov
Released here in the states as BEYOND THE DOOR 2, to capitalize on the
success of BEYOND THE DOOR (the original title for this Italian film is THE
DEVIL WITHIN HER), but really has nothing to do with it. The only other connections to
it besides the title is David Colin Jr., who plays the little boy in both films, but are
THE DEVIL WITHIN HER does seem to be of made to jump on the EXORCIST
bandwagon, with Juliet Mills spitting out green vomit and her head spinning around 360
degrees. But people going to see SHOCK, under the title BEYOND THE DOOR 2,
expecting another demonic possession story are going to be disappointed in that regard.
The main plot is about a woman (Daria Nicolodi) arrives at her old
house with her young son and her new husband. We learn that her first husband, the
boys father, had been a heavy drug user and had committed suicide and that she had a
nervous breakdown and spent some time in a loony bin. Soon after moving back in, her son
starts acting strange, with severe mood swings, sick practical jokes and even talking to
someone who isnt there (hint, hint). Is the boy becoming possessed by
his dead father, or is the mother just slowly losing her mind again.
Whether or not Mario Bava completely directed this film, or was done
more by his son Lamberto, either way, they handle it quite well. From the opening shots
with the unmistakable Italian music, to certain shock sequences, it looks like
at least Mario Bava had something to do with it and shows us once again just how talented
Unfortunately, the film seems to take a little too long to really get
going. But, if you can make it through the first 30-45 minutes, the rest is well worth it.
While Nicolodi does a great job (as usual), the rest of the cast is pretty lame,
especially the young David Colin Jr., who is the one that youll be wishing would be
dead. Must be something about little kids in Italian horror films. They always seemed to
be quite annoying.
Directed by Ken Wiederhorn
Starring Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Brooke Adams, Fred Buch, Jack Davidson,
Luke Halpin, D.J. Sidney, Don Stout
years of being a very sought after pre-record, this 1977 film about underwater
Nazi zombies rises from it’s watery grave of out-of-print videos to finally
surface on DVD. While it had been released on DVD in the UK, over here in the
states, Blue Underground’s print is much improved on that version. While there
still is a little bit of grain, when compared to the UK print, the different is
like night and day. Although, one would of expected a little bit better
quality of a
print, since according to the box it had been “transferred from the director’s
own vault print and digitally restored for this premiere DVD release!”
another benefit of this newest version is that it has some extras. Such as an
interview with one of the stars (Luke Halpin), trailers, TV and radio spots, and
a great gallery of posters, stills, and production art gallery. It also
contains an audio commentary by the director Ken Wiederhorn, makeup artist Alan
Ormsby, and Fred Olen Ray, who was the still photographer and basically a gopher
on the film.
commentary is really good for the most part. It seems that Ray remembers the
most about the film, even more than the Wiederhorn. I’m sure that might have
something to do with the fact that Wiederhorn doesn’t really seem to care much
for the film. Makes you wonder why he would want to even do the commentary if
he didn’t like it. But nonetheless, there is a lot of great stories and some
cool information you can learn from them talking. They talk about the
difference working with Carradine and Cushing, the problems with dealing with
the makeup underwater, and many other topics.
But enough about the disc, how about the movie?
Well, if you haven’t seen this film, simply go out and buy it. How’s that?
Over the years, this has become one of my personal favorites. How could
you go wrong with underwater Nazi zombies? As crazy as that might sound,
this is one great movie. You also have two great genre actors here: John
Carradine as the cantankerous old ship captain, and Peter Cushing, as the old
German commander who was in charge of the experimental Death Corps.
Nazi zombies rises from the watery depths is one of my favorite scenes in the
movie, which is accompanied by an excellent musical score. I’d love to see come
out on cd. The music is very simple, but also very effective in handling the
mood and atmosphere.
basic plot is about a group of people getting stranded on a desert island when
the boat they have chartered has some engine problems. But they are not alone on
the island, as they soon find out. Not only is the old commander there, but
also his Death Corps are still alive in the water, waiting for their next
This is one of those films that really are an essential title for their
collection. And now that it is available for only $20, why bother putting it
off. Don’t wait until the DVD goes out of print, like the video did. Then
you’ll force to go back to forking over $30-$40 on ebay for one. Get them
while you can!
Directed by Bruce Kessler
Starring Andrew Prine, Brenda Scott, George Paulsin, Norman Burton, Gerald York,
This film is a mixed-bad of
tricks….pun fully intended. It doesn’t really fit into one particular genre.
There are elements of horror, the supernatural, but also some dark comedy, all
thrown into an early 70’s hippie-druggie style drama. But is it any good?
That’s the real question. For me, that is a simple answer. Yes, it definitely
is a good movie.
Andrew Prine stars as the
title character, a modern day warlock who lives in the storm drain. He believes
that he really is a magician who knows great power. He makes his living by
doing tarot readings, selling charms and stuff. After making a friend while
doing some time in jail for vagrancy, he is invited to a party with a slightly
richer cliental. He impresses the host enough to be invited back, though not
too many people believe that Simon actually is anything but a trickster or con
This film doesn't make out
Simon as some fanciful and all powerful witch. But gives us more of a realistic
approach to it. The guy lives in the sewers, after all. He has very little if
any money. But he is always working on advancing his powers and abilities.
With his scruffy beard and wavy hair, Prine brings this character to life,
making not only us believe that this guy thinks that he's a warlock, but that
we believe he does have these powers.
As Simon makes his way more
into this group of socialites, he continues his own agenda of advancing his
magical and mystical powers. But along with the way, he attracts the attention
of a young pill-popping girl, who just happens to be the daughter of District
Attorney. He also must prove his power to some of the non-believers.
The real highlight of this
movie is its star, Andrew Prine. Prine was a staple of 70’s movies and TV. He
made countless appearances in genre films, like Grizzly, Barn of the Naked Dead,
Hannah: Queen of the Vampires, The Evil, Amityville 2, and the list goes on and
on. Maybe the reason he was in so many of these was because he was always on
the money with his performance. He could play characters across the board, and
always made them believable. And with Simon, it is no different. Prine brings
such a presence to the character that you really feel that Simon believes
everything that he says. To the point that we start to believe that he really
is a powerful warlock, way before we start to see some of his magic at work.
Even though this film was
released on video cassette years ago, it was extremely rare to come across. And
even if you did come across one, the quality was so dark and grainy, it was
tough to watch. With Dark
Sky Films release of Simon, magic truly does exist. The print looks
incredible. The darker night sequences that were so dark in the video cassette
release are still lightened up enough to where you can see what’s going on. The
colors are bright and vibrant.
Also on the disc is a great
interview with Prine, where he talks about making movies in the 70’s, and just
having a blast. Not only does he talk about the making of Simon, but also
speaks of a having a lot fun making it, and having a lot of fun memories. There
is also an interview with director Bruce Kessler who goes into a little more
details of the making of the film. But again, talks about the great time they
had making this movie.
So while this may not be a
‘horror’ film per say, you are a fan of strange films from the early 70’s, and
am a fan of Andrew Prine, then you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of this
VINCENT PRICE: THE SINISTER IMAGE
"I think it's a saving
grace for anybody who has to play villains is to have a
sense of humor about himself."
of tough for me to write the review for this DVD. I really should just simply
write: Buy this DVD! But I don’t think that really explains my point of view,
does it? Since I am a huge fan of Vincent Price, to be able to watch an hour
long talk with him, not about his whole movie career, but mainly his work in the
horror genre, is a wonderful thing.
interview was shot in 1987 for a proposed show that would deal with different
people in the horror genre, hence the title. But for some reason it never took
off. Film historian David Del Valle conducts the interview, covering many
aspects of his career, buy mainly stays to his work in the horror genre. One of
the best things about this interview is that you get to see how Price feels
about his work.
speaks of working with many different people throughout his career, such as
Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, Roger Corman, Michael Reeves, and many more. Price
shows that he was never one to pass up the chance to make fun of himself many
times on many different television shows, like Jack Benny, Carol Burnett, or Red
Skeleton. Price never took it seriously, which is why I enjoy him so much.
Like fellow horror stars Karloff and Cushing, he was proud of the work he did.
besides the 62-minute interview, there is also a 42-minute radio interview that
Price did with De Valle in 1988. In this interview, Price talks more about his
career in general, then concentrating on the horror stuff. But none the less,
it’s still very interesting to hear it.
Also on the
disc are even a few more features. It features a 1/2 hour episode from a
1958 anthology TV show called HALF HOUR TO KILL, in which Price is the host, as
also stars in the show. As well as episode of SHINDIG! from 1965,
featuring THE WILD WEIRD WORLD OF DR. GOLDFOOT, also featuring Price, as well as
There is even a
radio drama show from 1958 featuring Price, called ESCAPE: THREE SKELETON KEY.
And to finish
off this great disc is a picture gallery of over 200 rare and never-published
stills of Vincent Price from David Del Valle's personal collection.
This DVD was put
out by All Day
Entertainment, with a SRP of $24.99.
Once again, if you
are even the slightest fan of Price or the horror genre, you owe it to yourself
to own this DVD. Vincent Price is one of those rare actors that should
never be forgotten. And because of his movies, and DVDs like this one, he
Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring Margot Kidder, Jennifer Salt, Charles
Durning, Bill Finley, Lisle Wilson, Barnard Hughes, Mary Davenport, Dolph Sweet.
This is the strange story of
Danielle, who was separated from her Siamese twin sister Dominique. After
a reporter witnesses a brutal murder next door, she calls the police on the
sisters. But when the police can find no evidence, they don't believe
her. So she continues her investigation on her own.
In this film, De Palma uses the split screen
technique to show multiple point of views at the same time. Such as during
the murder, you see the killer reaching for the window, as well as the view from
outside the window looking in. Very interesting technique. With
a lot of inspirations from Hitchcock, De Palma makes a very interesting and
This DVD has a new 16x9 enhanced
digital transfer, with the sound being remastered from the 35mm optical
soundtrack. It's presented in it's original theatrical aspect ratio of
1.85:1. The quality of the film is amazingly clear and sharp. The
extra features include the essay De Palma wrote in 1973 for the Village Voice
about working with composer Bernard Herrmann for the score for SISTERS (which is
hilarious), a print
interview with De Palma on the making of the film from 1973, excerpts from the
original pressbook, including ads, plus hundreds of production, publicity, and
Directed by J.S. Cardone
Starring Frederick Flynn, Michael Holmes, Sarah Kendall, Carol Kottenbrook, Carl
Kraines, Alan McRae.
Two couples arrive on an island for some
R&R. One of the women has been
having some nightmares and didn’t really want to come to this island.
As it turns out, something is stalking them.
Is it just her nightmares, or is it something from her nightmares?
This is a very low budget film that I was
not expecting to be much of anything. But
instead, the film does build up some great atmosphere, along with a few
interesting deaths. Don’t be
looking for tons of gore here, folks. But
there are a couple of scenes that are pretty interesting.
While the creature is kept hidden
throughout most of the entire movie, when you do get to see it at the end, it is
very effective. Great makeup job,
but it’s a shame you didn’t get to see it more (then again, if that was the
case, it might of lost some of it’s effectiveness).
this movie might not be the easiest to find, if given the opportunity, you
should check it out. It’s worth
the 90 minutes.
aka NON HO SONNO
Directed by Dario
Starring Max von Sydow, Stefano Dionisi, Chiara Caselli, Rossella Falk, Paolo
Maria Scalondro, Roberto Zibetti, Gabriele Lavia, Massimo Sarchielle, Barbara
Mautino, Elena Marchesini, Luca Fagioli
seems to being saying, Argento is back. After
his last three movies not seeming to have the style and flair of his previous
work, he comes back with full force on his latest.
He has gone back to the basics, to his beginning, to the giallo.
Once again, there is a killer on the loose; with a retired policeman
trying to solve the case that he thought he solved 17 years earlier.
The film opens in
1983, with the police investigating another serial murder.
Max von Sydow plays the man in charge of the investigation, talking to
the young boy, who has just partially witnessed his mother being murdered.
We then jump to the presence day, with the killings starting again, in
the same style as the original, except the police had thought they had solved
opening sequence, filmed mostly on a moving train, had me flashing back to the
days of DEEP RED and TENEBRAE. Not
only is the style there, but there’s plenty of suspense and tension.
The killer is stalking a hooker who discovered a little bit more about
her client than she wanted. As
she’s running through the train looking for help, the camera is right behind
her in a flurry of excellent camera work. The
stuff Argento is known for.
The acting from
the major cast for the most part is adequate.
Some of the acting isn’t too great, but it didn’t bother me that
much. But then you also have the
legendary Max von Sydow in the lead role, in which he is incredible. I’m still amazed that he had gotten involved in the film,
especially after the lack of success of Argento’s previous films.
Also back this
time is the band Goblin supplying the soundtrack.
And once again, the music works perfectly with the film. I had picked up the soundtrack months before I had gotten the
movie, and already had loved the music. I
had hoped the same for the movie, and was not let down.
If you were ever
a fan of Argento, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. If you are a new fan, then you definitely need to see this
movie. This one is highly
twisted nursery rhyme that is used in the film, in which the killer is following was actually written by Argento's daughter Asia.
Directed by James Gunn
Starring Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Gregg Henry, Tania
Saulnier, Don Thompson, Brenda James
James Gunn set out to make a monster film like
the ones that he grew up on in the 80's. And he did just that. We
originally caught it in the theater and loved it. So we were very excited
to add this DVD to our ever growing collection.
The story is pretty simple. It starts
when an alien meteor lands in the woods in a small southern town. This
needle-like alien quickly invades the body of Michael Rooker, who happens to be
stumbling through the woods that night. The transformation is slow, but
not so subtle. He starts stockpiling large quantities of meat in his
basement. His wife, played by Elizabeth Banks, sees this change, but is
told by her husband that it is just from a little "bug bite".
But like all good alien invasion movies, the
transformation goes much farther, and he gets much, much worse. This is
when the fans of 80's monsters will have a great time. Each time we see
Rooker's character he becomes something more outrageous. It's been a long
time since we seen a creature like the one he eventually turns into. And
then, of course, you add in the little slugs for some really creepy moments.
This movie also shows just how much of a fan
James Gunn is of 80's horror. This movie couldn't have been made by
someone who was not a big fan. There's too many "nods" to the genre. Just look at all the characters names, and
see if you can recognize them from different horror movies. For instance,
the major, Jack McCready, is named after Kurt Russell's character in THE THING.
And then you will see other names throughout the film, on different shops and
stores. A nice and simple nod to the genre. It's kind of fun to
watch it looking for them as well.
If you are a fan of the gooey monster movies
of the 80's, back with they used a lot of rubber effects and blood, then
you will enjoy this one. There is a bunch of CGI effects, but they are
used very effectively in combination with the real live effects. It was so
nice to see big rubber monster movie coming out from a major studio in 2006.
But unfortunately, not to many people went to see it in the theater. And
the real shame is that since it didn't do that well, that is showing Hollywood
that nobody wants to see big rubber monster movies. Oh, how they are so
This movie is another great example where
horror and humor can be blending together really well. It almost makes it
look too easy, but we know from many past movies, that it apparently tougher
than it looks. The characters are developed well, and are very likeable,
even the more annoying ones. Gregg Henry plays the mayor the local town
and is damn funny. But the real standout here is poor Michael Ripper.
That poor bastard had to go through so much prosthetic effects that there many
times where he basically was trapped inside this monster. What a trooper.
The DVD is filled with extras. The first
is the audio commentary with director James Gunn and actor Nathan Fillion.
And once again, it's pretty funny. Just like most of the other extras.
There are deleted and extended scenes (with optional commentary by Gunn), a few
behind-the-scenes featurettes, gag reel and much more.
So make sure you go out and buy this DVD, to
show your support to this type of movie. So maybe Hollywood understands
that we do want these kinds of movies.
Directed by Stephen Traxler
Starring Alan Blanchard, Judy Motulsky, Mello Alexandria, Dennis Lee Falt,
Prudie Butler, Dale Caldwell
This is definitely a poor-man’s CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. Due to some
sort of chemical leak from a local nuclear plant, a new life form has evolved
over the years. Basically a type of radioactive mud, it kind of looks like an
overweight gill-man from CREATURE. After gets done cleaning the lake of all the
fish, it goes on land to look for new food, starting with dogs, but then moving
on to humans. But it really doesn’t look that bad, especially for what the
budget was probably at. Plus, they really don’t show that much of the creature,
until mainly the end. Even then, it’s done with quick cuts, not trying to let
us dwell on the rubber suit.
There are a few moments of gore, mainly the remains of some dogs and the first
humans that it kills. But mainly the gore consists of blood, on the victims and
For me, other than the monster suit, the biggest entertainment I got out of the
movie was the dialog and the clothing of the time. It’s so obvious of the time
period when the film was made. For me that really gives the film more enjoyment
now than if I would have watched it when it originally came out.
But for the time,
and probably for the budget, the film does come across pretty well. Granted the
acting is very amateurish, and monster suit is obvious a big rubber suit, and
the dialog is great. So if you’re going into this film with the expectations of
a fun and cheesy film, I’m sure you’ll come away being entertained. If you’re
expecting some lost classic…well keep looking.
Directed by Juan Piquer
Starring Michael Garfield, Kim Terry, Philip MacHale, Alicia Moro, Santiago
Álvarez, Concha Cuetos, John Battaglia
Emilio Linder, Kris Mann, Kari Rose, Manuel de Blas, Frank Braña, Patty Shepard
Ahh…the late ‘80s….when gore was running rampant and thought provoking
storylines were nowhere to be seen. As horror fans, If the movie was outrageous
enough, we didn’t mind the absurdity of the plot. We didn’t care if the dialog
was hilariously bad. As long as we got some well done and outrageous gore every
few minutes, we were happy.
Back in 1982,
director Juan Piquer Simón gave us one of most enjoyable bad movies ever made
with his film PIECES. We had tons of gore, outrageous dialog and a plethora of
wacky and fun characters. It is a real hoot, especially when watched in larger
groups. So it’s no surprise that near the end of the decade, when he would
contribute his take on the animals-gone-amuck theme, we were in for the same
kind of delirium. But the killer species he picked wasn’t your ordinary
run-of-the-mill dreaded killing machine, it was…slugs. That’s right folks,
those black slimy little things that are disgusting just to look at, but now
thanks to toxic chemicals have grown to the size of a Baby Ruth candy bars and
start attacking a small town. Oh yea…and they have developed a taste for human
When watching a movie about killer slugs, you first must realize that you are watching a movie about killer slugs!
So any thought as to the realism or practicality of the whole situation, and
you’ve already thought too much. Don’t think. Just sit back (preferably with
some friends), and laugh and enjoy. Based on the novel SLUGS by Shaun Hutson, we
find a small town in America is slowly being invaded by flesh eating slugs. I
say “slowly” because they are slugs after all. But for some reason, these
little buggers can move quite fast when they are not being watched. You can see
one starting to climb up a wall and then in a matter of minutes, there are
hundreds of them all over the room! And once they get a hold of you, you’re
done for. Did I mention that you really shouldn’t think too much while watching
The city health
inspector is the first one to notice something squishy going on here but gets no
help from the grumpy old sheriff who would rather just yell at his deputies.
Our fearless inspector and his wife, who is a teacher, capture one of the little
slippery carnivores and takes it to the local high school to show it to the
science teacher. Even though he’s only a high school teacher, he seems to be
more than qualified to handle this type of situation. We believe what he tells
us because he has a British accent, sounding like a cross between Tim Curry and
Austin Powers. Later in the movie, he develops a chemical mixture that will
make the slugs explode. And we’re not surprised at all of the fact that he
apparently has access to enough of different chemicals at the high school to
fill a 50-gallon drum of this new concoction. They team up with a buddy from
the sanitation department to try to put an end to this creeping terror before
it’s too late.
The fun continues throughout the movie. We have hilarious lines of dialog like
when our hero goes to the water reclamation department to have them shut off the
water supply. After telling the director he needs to shut it off and he’ll take
the responsibility, the director yells back “You don’t have the authority to
declare Happy Birthday!” The reason for the cheesy dialog might have something
to do with the Spanish writers trying their best to make it sound like us wacky
Americans. Geezz…do we really talk like that?
The music in the movie is often exciting and thrilling, but only when our hero
is driving his car back and forth. For some reason, whenever he gets in the
car, the tempo picks up! Even if he’s just driving a few blocks to his house.
Now let’s talk
about the gore. That’s why we’re all here, right? Carlo De Machis was the
special effects supervisor, and had previously worked on the uber-bad classic
Claudio Fragasso film MONSTER DOG (1984), starring Alice Cooper. But he also
worked on Sergio Martino’s BIG ALLIGATOR RIVER (1979) and even John Milius’
CONAN THE BARBARIAN and Ridley Scott’s ALIEN. De Machis won a Goya Award for
this film for Best Special Effects. He would actually win the same award again
two years later for ENDLESS DECENT (1990), another Simón movie. With the Goya
Awards (the Spanish version of the Oscars), one would think that this type of
film would never even get nominated. But remember, they also recently gave Jess
Franco a Lifetime Achievement award. So we know they are a little less
high-brow then the American system.
The gore in SLUGS will make any gorehound smile and giggle. We have plenty of
blood flowing as these little buggers crawl and creep all over their poor
victims. We have them crawling in and out of bodies and ocular orifices, we
have them exploding through chest cavities, and we even have a brilliant scene
with Slug vs. Hamster! Words simply cannot express the pleasure from that
sequence. And no, I really don’t think they killed any real animals in this
The other great
thing about this movie is the cast. I’m not talking about the American actors
they brought in for the main leads, but the surrounding cast is like a who’s who
in the Spanish horror genre. Patty Shepard plays a small part of one of the
business partners that might invest in a new shopping center (where the slug
break out just so happens is occurring). Shepard was in CRYPT OF THE LIVING
DEAD (1973) with Andrew Prine, but also worked on a couple of Paul Naschy’s
werewolf movies, WEREWOLF SHADOW (1971) and ASSIGNMENT TERROR (1970). That film
also co-starred Manual de Blas as Dracula. In SLUGS, he plays the mayor of the
infested town. He would also be another Naschy film, HUNCHBACK OF THE MORGUE
(1973), as well as being in Amando de Ossoiro’s 3rd Blind Dead film,
HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES (1974). Emilio Linder, who plays the doomed victim who
accidently ingests one of the slugs, also was in Simón’s PIECES (1982), ENDLESS
DECENT (1990) and CTULHU MANSION (1990), along with MONSTER DOG (1984).
one actor who looks familiar, but you just might not be sure who he is. With
his gray/silver hair and beady eyes, actor Frank Braña looks like one of the
puppets from the TV show THUNDERBIRDS. He has a very recognizable face, so once
you put a name to it, you’ll start to notice him a lot more. And with the
amount of film work that he did, Braña is a staple in the Spanish cinema.
Besides being in a shitload of westerns, he was also in horror titles like de
Ossorio’s 2nd Blind Dead film RETURN OF THE EVIL DEAD (1973), CRYPT
OF THE LIVING DEAD (1973), GRAVEYARD OF HORRORS (1971), and THE HOUSE THAT
SCREAMED (1969). He also worked for Simón on three of his films PIECES (1982),
CTHULHU MANSION (1990), and ENDLESS DESCENT (1990).
There’s not much more we could say about this movie other than you need to seek
it out. Sure, you can’t take it seriously and compare it to the more “smarter”
films that have been made. But sometimes you just in the mood to have some
cheap and gory fun. And if you’re looking for 90 minutes of just that,
plus a memorable cast, some nice and juicy gore effects, then you are really
going to find a winner here. In all honesty, it is the best killer slug movie
you will ever find!
Directed by J.T.
Starring Edmond Mercier, Sarah Ingerson, Andrew Hewitt, Kate Petty
across Dr. Cyclops’ “three eyeball” rating for this back in Fangoria #246
(Sept, 2005), I decided to toss it in the Netflix queue…then forgot about it
until it showed up on my doorstep last week. I didn’t know anything about it,
and it would be nice to offer the same experience to all you good folks reading
this. But it’s extremely difficult to review a film without saying something,
so let me just say this: Stop reading right now and go see this flick.
Seriously. Go rent/buy this movie. Come back when you’ve seen it.
Go ahead. We’ll wait…
looks at watch)
74 minutes later…
Okay, you back?
Awesome, wasn’t it? I mean, really, wasn’t that awesome?
I’m guessing most of you didn’t follow my suggestion, I’ll get on with the
review proper. But the truth of the matter is, there isn’t really much to
tell. Writer/director/editor/sound designer J.T. Petty made this pic when he
was a film student at NYU in 1998 and its total budget amounted to all of
$6,000. However, as we’ve said time and time again here at the Krypt, it’s not
how much you have – it’s what you do with it.
Here’s the plot:
Old man Virgil (Edmond Mercier) lives out in the middle of rural nowhere. Life
is simple, quiet, mundane. A boiled egg and a cup of coffee for breakfast, with
no need to even change out of his long underwear most days. No visitors except
the papergirl on her bike. No company except that of his kitty cat. One
morning, said meow-meow runs off into the nearby woods. While looking for the
feline, Virgil comes upon what seems to be the murder of a young girl. But when
he runs home and calls the police, they turn up no sign of her or of any crime.
Later that night, and in the nights to follow, Virgil begins to have
increasingly disturbing dreams of the slain child. And she seems to be telling
All right, that’s
enough for now, because the story itself is the least impressive aspect of the
enterprise. What makes this film worth checking out is the fact that so much
tension and atmosphere is created with so little. For instance, for the first
hour of this hour-and-fifteen minute feature, there is one, count it, one
word of dialogue. The grand total of spoken lines is probably five or less.
(Petty must have heard one of his NYU professors tell him that “film is a visual
medium” at some point and took it to heart.) In the place of blathery chitchat,
he inserts the clinks and clanks of everyday life underscored by the most
haunting version of “The Little Drummer Boy” one is likely to hear. But rather
than a pretentious experiment, as some online detractors have claimed, this is a
daring, deliberate and disturbing tale that unfolds with ease and confidence.
One quirky and effective technique is the inclusion of chapter titles, akin to a
silent movie (which this very nearly is), setting each respective scene to come
with cold and chilling matter-of-factness.
Is Virgil crazy?
Did he really witness a murder? What is happening to him? He doggedly searches
for answers, munching away on his Christmas candy cane reindeers and chocolate
Santa figures as he goes. He boils his egg, he drinks his coffee, he spikes his
egg nog…and continues to dream of the little girl.
There’s no way
this could have ever come out of Hollywood, and one imagines the suits watching
this in the screening room, saying, “But…but…nothing’s happening.” Aha, but
something is happening, and I’ll wager that any horror fan with the
patience for a little slow burn horror will find themselves on the edge of their
seat, wondering what the hell is going to happen next. And what ultimately does
occur is not what anyone would imagine.
reinvented horror? Hardly. There is plenty of EVIL DEAD “Raimi-cam” in the
scenes moving through the woods, as well as the jerky shudder-editing that first
reared its head in JACOB’S LADDER. But he has retained the courage of his
convictions, many of which were born out of financial necessity, and has created
a refreshing alternative to the current crop of CGI extravaganzas and slippery
gorefests. On the DVD commentary track (the disc’s sole extra), he is joined by
producer Jeff Odell and cinematographer Patrick McGraw and the trio spin their
low-budget tales of woe and triumph, laughing and joshing each other all the
Yet, it is here,
and only here, that the low budget constraints become a detriment, because this
is by far the worst job of commentary recording I’ve ever heard. Truly,
each of them sounds like they’re on a different microphone, one worse than the
next. Buzzing and humming persist throughout, turning what should be an
enlightening conversation into a test of the viewer’s endurance and patience.
The three seem oblivious to the technical difficulties, but there’s no way that
they could have been happy with the way things turned out. Vanguard Video
should have required a second take, because this is really unacceptable. To
make matters worse, instead of lead actor Mercier’s name on the DVD cover art,
it is instead his character’s name of Virgil Manoven. For shame,
Vanguard. The man almost single-handedly carries the film and you can’t get his
name right? That’s two big, big strikes which smack of carelessness and
apathy, not the best ingredients to have on the menu.
quibbles aside, this is an underground release that deserves to be unearthed.
Petty has since gone on to, if not necessarily better, at least better paying
gigs such as directing 2003’s straight-to-video MIMIC: SENTINEL and writing for
video games such as “Splinter Cell” and “Batman Begins.” Here’s hoping he gets
out from behind the joystick and returns to the camera again sooner than not.
Review by Aaron “Dr. AC”
Directed by Owen Carey Jones
Starring Rebecca Pitkin, Pietro Herrera, Amber Hodgkiss, Julia Curle, Laura
O’Donoughue, Steve Murphy, Steve Smith, Luke Dickson, Kristy Bruce, Thomas Frere
Usually when we
get a low budget or independent film, it’s the acting that has us crawling the
walls. But we have been trying to be a little more forgiving with this and try
to focus on the movie itself, such as the story and the way the film was made.
Which brings us to THE SPELL, a new occult thriller “based on true, documented
Well, the word
“thriller” is not one that I would use to describe this movie. In fact, the
word “story” is not a word I would use either. I was amazed at the sheer lack
of a overall plot here. The movie starts out leading the viewer that the story
is going one way, but then never goes anywhere. We have a few different sort of
plots going on, with none of them every really being flushed out or given any
sort of detail. So what we have is a mish-mash of a few different ideas that
never come together in any sort of an in-coherent storyline. With themes of
witchcraft, black magic, and the power of God and the church all come into play,
but not one of them are ever given any explanation to if any of these conditions
have really have anything to do with the main character.
stars as Jenny, who has gone back and forth between her divorced parents, living
with each of them until she’s not wanted anymore. Even with her troubled
upbringing, she does not come across with a character that we are going to like
or even empathize with. So when she starts to either go crazy, become
possessed, or is haunted by a spell that was cast, we just don’t car.
Bad movies can
even be entertaining. Even the ones with the lowest budget and lack of talent
possible can create something so bad that at least it can make you laugh. But a
film that is worse is one that is just plain boring and dull. And that is what
you have with THE SPELL.
Directed by Jack Hill
Starring Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill
Sid Haig, Mary Mitchel, Karl Schanzer, Mantan Moreland
I remember this
film from back in the days of trading VHS days with other collectors, searching
for this title for years. When I was finally score a copy of this, the quality
so poor, that you could hardly watch it. But back before the days of DVDs, we
were still happy to even that.
really defines a “cult film”. Not too many people had seen it before,
especially on its initial release back in the 60’s. Since the film’s backers
went into bankruptcy right after the film was finished, it was held up with the
rest of their property. But slowly its cult status would start to grow. Then a
few years ago, when laserdiscs were still around, a special edition release came
out, featuring the re-mastered print, taken right from the original negative
from director Jack Hill. When the first DVD release came out, it was a
bare-bones release of the film.
Films is giving this film the treatment that it has deserved for years. Now
fans can not only have the chance to see this film, but also learn why it’s a
cult classic. Transferred and restored in high definition from the original
35mm negative, this is the director’s cut of the film. This release features a
wonderful brand new featurette about the making of SPIDER BABY that pretty much
features all the remaining cast and crew, discussing the making of the movie,
working with Hill, Lon Chaney Jr. and Carol Ohmart, and much more. This
featurette really shows that just because some of these movies were low budget
quick flicks, that didn’t mean that there were some truly talented people
working to put out the best thing they could.
SPIDER BABY is
about a family that is afflicted with a disease that causing the adults to
regress mentally as they get older. Lon Chaney Jr. plays Bruno, the chauffeur
and caretaker of the remaining children: Ralph (Sid Haig), Elizabeth (Beverly
Washburn), and Virginia (Jill Banner). But it just happens that a distant
relative is coming to take ownership of the house and property, and really
doesn’t care about the children.
This film is very
unique. At first glance, it’s pretty much a comedy, though a very dark one.
But when you really watch it, there are many strong horror elements here. Even
some points it’s almost a tragedy, since these children are mentally disturbed,
rather than evil.
I think the one
thing that sets this film much higher than some of its fellow low budget films
is the actors. The performances here are simply incredible. Lon Chaney Jr.,
who was having severe alcohol problems, stayed on the wagon for the duration of
the shoot. And I think in this film, he gives one of his best performances of
his career. The speech he gives at the end of the film is one memorable scene.
that are the “children”, played by Beverly Washburn, Sid Haig, and newcomer Jill
Banner. Each one nails their character to the degree that they seem like small
children. Even their mannerisms give off that perception. But on the same
token, when the theme turns darker, they become scary. But even at that point,
it still is coming from innocence, rather than psychotic.
Direct Jack Hill
was no stranger to low budget filmmaking in the 60’s. He worked with Roger
Corman, shooting additional footage for some films, and working on his own films
as well. In the 70’s, he made quite a few films in the exploitation genre, like
COFFY and SWITCHBLADE SISTERS. He also made a few films in the Philippines. No
matter what genre he was working in, his films were always entertaining and a
great time. And SPIDER BABY is my personal favorite of his work.
This new disc
comes with an all new audio commentary that features both Jack Hill and Sid Haig.
We do get some of the same info that was on the commentary for the first
laserdisc release. But the information is both important and entertaining. But
there is also much more info, and hearing Hill and Haig talking together is also
entertaining and informative.
There is also a
featurette on Ronald Stein, who composed the music for the film (among countless
other great low budget films). This guy should be a lot more well-known than he
is, since he always turned in great music for these movies.
There is also
some an alternate opening title sequence, extended scenes, still gallery, and a
little featurette where Jack Hill returns to the house from the film.. But the
real highlight of the extras is the all new featurette called The Hatching of
SPIDER BABY. This 30 minute documentary features interviews with pretty much
all the remaining cast members, plus Jack Hill and cinematographer Alfred
Taylor. There is tons of great info told here, about the film, about Lon Chaney
Jr., and why this movie is still remembered today.
Directed by Tony Swansey
Starring Allison Batty, Kevin Oestenstad, Stephen Isaac Dean, Joe Burke, Kelly
Jean, Esther Claire, Rebel, Mike Masset
When we think of horror, the barnyard is
generally not the first place our imagination scampers. Even though
sharp-edged implements are frequently showing up in the oddest of places (I
mean, really, why does one need a pitchfork at Camp Crystal Lake?), it is rare
that we see a fright flick actually set down on the farm. Yet, judging
from the results, the henhouse might just become the new mecca for mayhem.
Genre fans were treated to a couple terrific agro-horror pics last year, with
Billy O’Brien’s superb genetic mutation chiller Isolation and Jonathan
King’s hilariously rambunctious ovines-gone-mad comedy Black Sheep.
Now, from our own Windy City comes yet another “Don’t mess with Mother Nature”
cautionary tale set amongst the corn fields, and despite its low budget,
outlandish plot devices, and oft-derivative material, Squeal succeeds
heartily as a terrific slice of homegrown horror.
Opening with a voiceover sequence of a
medical experiment gone wrong, director Tony Swansey draws the viewer in,
building mystery and exercising a goodly amount of restraint. We hear
screams on the tape and we learn that whatever it is these scientists are
working on, it’s strong, it’s pissed off and it’s…squealing. Like a pig.
We then see an obnoxious motorist (John LaFlamboy) picked off the roadside where
his car has broken down in the sticks. Again with the furious squeals, and
in a trice, our hapless urban interloper is a pile of dismembered limbs on a
Having gotten our attention, Swansey
introduces his main characters: a grunge rock trio (Kevin Oestenstad, Stephen
Isaac Dean, Joe Burke), their ballbusting vegan manager (Allison Batty) and the
two ditzy groupies (Kelly Jean, Esther Claire) accompanying them on the next
gig’s road trip. Busting out the well-worn horror playbook, our heroes
meet a couple of weird gas station characters, they argue amongst themselves,
they get high, they get lost, their car breaks down, they separate, gratuitous
nudity ensues…it’s all pretty familiar territory. But while Swansey and
Dennis Doornbos’ script provides little in the way of originality and the
inter-group squabbling quickly grows tiresome, there is an assuredness and
texture in Dan Kenji Levin’s cinematography that elevates it above the spate of
shot-on-video dregs so prevalent within the DYI horror community. The
viewer feels that he/she is in the hands of professionals, and the care taken to
actually compose shots is a welcome relief from the shaky-cam stylings oft
employed to camouflage inexperience and/or laziness. Additionally, the
acting is universally strong if not always deep, making the ride that much
smoother, allowing us to actually invest emotionally in the characters.
The cultivating of this audience
goodwill pays off enormously when the big moment arrives and the homicidal
maniacs step out of the shadows for all to see. Not to give anything away,
this is, quite simply, a slasher movie with a curly tail. But while we may
initially laugh at the sight of a bellowing, snout-faced killer in overalls (the
singularly named Rebel) coming after his fresh-faced prey, the fact that the
movie continues to engage is a credit to all involved, both before and behind
the camera. Barreling forward on all four legs and rarely pausing to take
a breath, the fevered pace and energy – along with the committed cast’s efforts
– sell this hogslop hokum admirably.
Now, I’ll be completely honest:
Time and time again I found myself thinking, “This is ridiculous, this is a
novelty act, this is Jason Voorhees with a Porky Pig complex,” but darn it if I
couldn’t stop watching and grinning and enjoying the heck out of myself.
For the gorehounds, there is plenty of spraying, splashing and squishing
(courtesy of Vicky Strei), even if much of it does occur just out of the camera
frame and even if it isn’t difficult to figure out how the effects were
accomplished – the fact is, it works, and works well. There are numerous
memorable moments, images and characters, foremost being Mike Masset’s midget
pigboy incarnation – Simultaneously amusing and unnerving, Pigboy’s attack on
the two groupies is one of the more chilling and offbeat scenes of screen
violence in recent memory.
By taking its bizarre, barely plausible
scenario 100% seriously without ever winking at the audience,
Squeal remains nasty and spirited for its entire 79-minute running time.
While one might have hoped for something a little more inspired than the
nihilistic ending, I came away quite (and quite surprisingly) satisfied – a lot
more than I can say for many recent Hollywood genre efforts. Oh, and be
sure to stay through the credits for the… um, yeah. Just stay so that you
can see what I saw and we can talk about it.
Review by Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen
Directed by Peter A. Dowling
Starring Vinessa Shaw, Breckin Meyer, Scott Adkins, Kip Pardue, Karl Geary, Luca
Take THE HILLS
HAVE EYES, but set it in the underground caverns of the New York subway system
and you have the movie STAG NIGHT. Unfortunately, there is really nothing
original here that we haven’t seen many times before. Borrowing from films with
cannibalistic underground dwellers like DEATH LINE (1972) C.H.U.D. (1984), and
CREEP (2004), but making it a little more action orientated, writer/director
Dowling still doesn’t bring anything new to the dinner table.
A group of guys
decide to hit one last strip joint before calling an end to their bachelor
party. Getting on the subway, they have a slight run in with a couple of the
strippers who left the last club at the same time. Somehow they are stupid
enough to get off the train at some deserted station. Yea, I know….otherwise we
wouldn’t have had a movie. But it doesn’t take too long after as they’re
wandering the tunnels that they run across some demented scavengers that live
there. The main leader looks like Rob Zombie after a long tour.
Using the trusty
“shakey-cam” effects during the violent fight scenes is a sure way to keep the
audience guessing just the hell is going on. But here, unless the
characters are standing still talking, the camera is shaking around all the
time! The only tension it was building
for me was on my eyes trying to focus on what was happening. This is a style of
cinematography that got really old, really quick. All it does is give the
viewer a headache while trying to figure out just what the hell is happening.
And adding to the wonderful shakey-cam effect is having the film take place in
the dark subways and sewers, making it even harder to see what is going on.
some decent gore, with lots of cutting going on, including a couple of pretty
good head trauma sequences. But once again, due to the shaking camera and
the darken setting, it's pretty tough to see any details.
The film does
have a pretty decent cast, with some well name actors, like Breckin Meyer, that tries to pull this old and tired script into
something more than it is, but just doesn’t do it. There is nothing original
and we can see what is going to happen with each of the characters way before it
does. We were even waiting for the big scare at the end of the film to pop out,
and again at least there, they didn’t disappoint. There are many other
films that took this same theme and did a much better job with it, like the ones
we mentioned above. Check those out.
Directed by Jim Mickle
Starring Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Kelly McGillis, Danielle Harris, Michael
ago, when we had the 8 Films to Die For mini-film fests, there were usually only
a couple of films in the lot that really stood out to us. In the 2007 series,
there was one film that REALLY stood out. The film was MULBERRY STREET and it
was directed by Jim Mickle, as well as co-written by him and Nick Damici (who
also stars in the film). The movie is about a virus that turns the population
of New York into some sort o mutant rat-people. As crazy as that sounds, it was
incredibly well done. From that point on, I was paying attention to these two
guys, since they seemed to not only know how to make a great film, but also to
make it with very little money. Folks, this means they were smart filmmakers.
Something Hollywood has forgotten years ago. Plus, they had their connections
with Larry Fessenden, and we know that the people he is involved with are some
very talented people.
So a few years
later, we hear about the latest movie from the team of Mickle and Damici. Once
again, the script was written by the two of them, with Mickle directing and
Damici playing the main lead. And just like they did with MULBERRY STREET, they
take an idea and make it into something great. With STAKE LAND, they tackle the
vampire genre which at that point had been more than overdone. But with these
two guys in charge, I had enough faith in them to believe that they would be
able to show this tired sub-genre some new life. And they did. I mean, when a
baby is killed in the first few minutes of film, you can tell right away that no
one is safe here with these two filmmakers.
STAKE LAND takes
place in a world where vampires have taken over most of the country. But these
are not the smooth talking, fashionable looking gothic types, but down to an
animalistic blood thirsty monster. The date could be today, last year or a year
from now, but looks pretty close to where we are now. The story follows a young
boy named Martin, on the verge of becoming a man. In the beginning of the film,
we see a man simply called Mister save him from the same fate that befell his
family. This Mister character is also a hunter, just like the vampires. Except
they are what he is hunting. He takes Martin under his wing, teaching him and
training him how to stay alive in this new brutal world.
But as they make
their way through the country, they quickly discover that these nocturnal things
are not the only thing to be watchful of. A group of ‘religious’ people,
calling themselves the Brotherhood, are starting to gather in numbers, making
their own rules of how this new world should be controlled. So in between
fighting off the vampires and these religious zealots, Martin and Mister have
more than their hands full. Even more so when they take on an older nun and a
young pregnant woman into their group. All of their way north to a land where
they hope to find peace.
Mickle and his
crew do an incredible job of making this film look just plain epic. Looking
like they filmed all over the states, it just gives this film a lot bigger
budget then it really had. From tons of extras filling out the little enclosed
towns, to the constant attack from both the vampires and the Brotherhood, it
really brings this low budget film into a higher caliper.
shines here as Mister, this hardened, no-bullshit kind of guy, but that is still
a decent human inside this tough exterior. He knows what is right and wrong,
but has no problem serving his own method of justice, whether it is to one of
the vampires, or a religious idiot trying to rape an old woman. If the movie
world ever needed a new Snake Plisken, we have found him. But not only does
Damici show his acting skills, but as co-writer of the script, he is a very
talented part of this dynamic duo of filmmakers.
The rest of the
cast is filled out with a couple of familiar faces, along with one that I didn’t
recognize at first. Kelly McGillis, a long way from her TOP GUN days, gives a
strong performance as Sister, the older nun who Mister and Martin save from
being raped by a couple of the Brotherhood. Connor Paolo plays the young
Martin, trying to keep up with Mister. He still has the innocence in his face
and eyes, that shows that while he tries to play the tough assistant to Mister,
he is still a young boy. Genre fave Danielle Harris plays the young singer
Belle who happens to be pregnant and joins the motley crew on their journey
north. And fans of the cult TV show FRINGE might recognize Michael Cerveris as
the Observer. In STAKE LAND, he plays Jebedia, the leader of the Brotherhood.
He gives us a character and performance is that is scarier than any of the
vampires running around here, especially in the first half of the film. He’s
scary here because he’s not too far off from so many other religious leaders
over the centuries that have caused the death of so many people because they
didn’t follow their “divine” rules.
Another star of
this film is the music by Jeff Grace. While we had seen other movies that Grace
had scored, this was the first one that I really took a notice too. He does a
perfect job in creating a music tone that fits the movie’s desolate landscape,
but then also gets us those little hints of hope. With a very somber and almost
southern-blue feel to it, Grace has composed a score that is one of my favorites
of this year. We loved it so much that we immediately started to check out some
of this other film works.
Released on both
a standard DVD as well as a blu-ray version from Dark Sky Films, this is one
release that you really need to pick up the blu-ray. While we generally hate
when companies force you to buy the blu-ray if you want to get the extras, this
time….you WANT the extras. Dark Sky goes all out on this one. One of the best
things about this release is that there are prequel short films that gives us a
little background for all the main characters in the movie. This gives us a
little more insight into these people and what they are carrying on their
shoulders. There are also two different audio commentaries, an hour long making
of documentary, production video diaries. If you are a fan of this movie and
have a blu-ray player, then you really need to pick up this release.
STATE OF MIND
Directed by Reginald Adamson. Starring Lisa Gaye, Manouk van der Meulen, Don Hannah,
special appearance by Paul Naschy, Jill Schoelen, and Fred Williamson.
I picked up this PAL tape because it was one of those rare
Paul Naschy films. Even though I knew he only had a bit part, being the Naschy collector,
I had to get it anyway. Unfortunately, Naschy brief appearance is only in the very
beginning, but even though his screen time is short, its still pretty amusing.
The story is about a woman who takes in two injured survivors, a woman
and a man, of a car crash, but yet hides these facts from the police when they are
investigating the crash. It seems that this woman has quite a few skeletons in her closet,
literally. Things get even stranger once the two victims awaken especially the girl. And
even to throw more fun into the story, theres an escaped nut from the local looney
The film had a lot of interesting ideas, and some of them were used
quite well. While the secrets are not that hard to figure out, theyre still
played out quite well.
As for the acting, the woman who takes in the victims, played by Manouk
van der Muelen, does quite well in this role. The only problem is that shes about
the only one of the main characters who handles their role that well. Of course Naschy
little screen time is very entertaining, his fellow guest appearance actors,
Fred Williamson and Jill Schoelen, didnt seem to take their roles too seriously.
So as for your basic psycho-thriller, its pretty good. Just
dont expect really any surprises. I mean, if I could figure out whats going
on, just about anybody should. But once again, that doesnt mean its not
Directed by Luis Camara
Starring Georgia MacKenzie, Mark Wilson, pascal Langdale, Julia Ballard
Joanna Bobin, Annabelle Wallis, Adam Rayner, Frank Maier
The cover of this DVD, as
well as the box copy on the back really wants to make the potential viewer think
they might be getting themselves into a Saw-inspired film. But as it
turns out, the only person that is snagged in any trap is the viewer that was
dumb enough to put this in their DVD player. And that would be me. But in my
defense, it was for the better of mankind that I jumped on this grenade, to be
able to warn people of this little lackluster of a minefield.
The film starts out at a
party in some high rise office building, one that is apparently not in use
anymore. Several people at the party get a text message telling them to go to
another floor, where the real party is going to start. Once the group gets
there, with a few extra guests, they are greeted with a bunch of party favors
with their names on them, and a series of nursery rhyme style puzzles, leading
through different parts of the building. But one by one, a masked killer starts
to take them out. But there are no deadly booby traps like the box art makes
you believe. And when we finally find out the real answer to the whole puzzle,
not only is it pretty lame, but we just don’t care. We kept hoping that there
would be something that would pop out to make us think “Well I didn’t see that
coming!” But sad to say, that didn’t happen.
I really feel sorry for the
director and the film crew, since I think they were really trying to make a good
film. But I think their downfall is the lack of a good story, and the lack of
any real tension or scariness to the film. Without those two key elements, it’s
really hard to make a good horror film.
The acting was adequate. It
wasn’t great, but at least most of the characters were believable. But they
weren’t developed enough to make you care about them in the least bit. So when
they died, they were just another body for the count.
The DVD was released on the
Dimension Extreme label, and yet again makes me wonder why this is “extreme”.
The gore is really kept to a minimum. We do have a few effects, which are
handled pretty well. But ‘extreme’? Not so much. But the DVD does come with a
nice making-of featurette that shows the filmmaking process. From the location
and set design, to the makeup effects work, to the actors, they cover a lot.
There is also audio commentary from the director. Out of the whole disc, movie
and all, I found the featurette to be the most entertaining.
Sorry kiddies, but this is
one that I would not recommend to anyone. Unless you have 90 minutes that you
want to kill.
Directed by Rupert Wainwright
Starring Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Portia De
Rossi, and Patrick Muldoon
We saw this film on opening
night, still with the hope of washing the bad taste of the Blair Witch fiasco
from our palette, even though it was several weeks ago. I’ve always enjoyed
horror films that delved into religion, especially when they’re original, such
as PROPHECY (aka GOD’S ARMY), THE RAPTURE (may not be a
horror film, but it sure is pretty damn disturbing), and of course THE
EXORCIST. So I was excited to see STIGMATA once it hit the theaters.
The main story is about a young
girl, played by Arquette, a non-believer, who after receiving a rosary from her
mother who traveling in Brazil, she starts to become possessed by the owner, an
old priest, and she starts developing the signs of the stigmata, the wounds of
Christ. A priest, who is also a scientist (boy isn’t that a contradiction in
terms), played by Gabriel Byrne, is sent by the Church to investigate.
Wainwright’s past experiences
on music videos is very apparent in this film, which looks like it should have
the MTV symbol hidden somewhere on the screen. But the film does come off with a
lot of visual style and interesting look to it. Lot’s of strange camera
angles, lots of images flashing plus the look of some parts of the film itself
looks like one of those jeans commercial you see on MTV. But at least it’s not
boring visually. The sequences where Arquette is having her "seizures"
are done very well, with lots of images flashing across the screen.
Unfortunately, the are quite a
few plot holes. There’s a lot of things just don’t make any sense. Such as
when the possessed Arquette tries to seduce Byrne. If she’s possessed by a
priest, why would he being trying to seduce another man?
But if you can get past the
little things, it’s still a pretty interesting film. At least this film has
some style to it, which is always nice to see in any movies these days. Hell,
anytime someone is slamming the Catholic Church, I’m always going to enjoy
STIR OF ECHOES
Directed by David Koepp
Starring Kevin Bacon, Kathryn Erbe, Illeana Douglas, Zachary David Cope, Kevin
Dunn, Conor O'Farrell, Liza Weil, Lusia Strus.
Once again, I didn’t make
it to see this film in the theater. Although it did have a lot of positive hype,
I think I was still smoking from being burned by the whole BLAIR WITCH
thing. So I didn’t see it, along with THE SIXTH SENSE. But since it had
recently hit video / DVD, I gave it a try.
Kevin Bacon stars as an
ordinary Chicago citizen. Nothing special going on in this life, just your
average "joe on the street". Then after being hypnotized at a party,
he starts having very bizarre and frightening images flashing before him.
Sometimes he’s asleep, but other times he’s wide-awake. His 5-year old son,
whose seems to have his own special gift, tells him, "don’t be afraid of
As the images become more
detailed and intense, Bacon’s life and sanity start to fall apart. With
missing work, along with losing contact with his wife, all things are not well.
As the story progresses, we learn more and more, as Bacon does, as to what this
is all about, and the real mystery behind these images. The film isn’t really
graphically intense by no means, but does have a few images that will make you
This film is not original,
in any sense of the word. It’s your typical ghost story with a mystery. But
that doesn’t mean that it’s not entertaining. It’s based on an older book
/ story written by the master-scribe Richard Matheson. At one point, as done as
a little in-joke, one of the characters is reading THE SHRINKING MAN,
another one of Matheson’s novels, which became quite famous after the film
version, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, came out.
This film is well worth the watch. Some of
the imagines will stay will you long after the movie is over with.
Directed by Jamie Blanks
Starring Nadia Farès, John Brumpton, Robert Taylor, David Lyons, Mathew
A couple stranded
out on some deserted island come across a pair of twisted brothers and their
even more deranged father. As the couple being tormented and tortured, we know
one of two things is going to happen. Either they are going to snap back and do
some heinous revenge on their captors. Or it’s going to be one where the bad
guys win, and we leave the movie in a very dark mood. I personally am getting
tired of these types of movies. We sit and watch these people be tortured or
just tormented by people that are made out to be so bad, that we are cheering
for their demise. And for the most part, this film really isn’t much
different. But more on that a little later.
During the audio
commentary, writer Everett DeRoche says the script was written around 30 years
ago. But it could never get the green light due to the graphic violence in it.
But due to the success of WOLF CREEK, they were finally able to get the
approval. DeRoche had written quite a few other Australian genre films, such as
RAZORBACK, ROAD GAMES, LONG WEEKEND, and PATRICK. Unfortunately, even though it
was written that many years ago, seeing it now after all the similar themed
movies, it just plays out as just another one is a long line of retreads.
I will say that
there is something here that might take this film a little bit above the rest.
And that is the special make-up effects. Any gorehounds out there will be
pleasantly surprised at some of the red and gooey stuff that is shown here.
There is plenty of blood spilled, and most of the time, it’s not in a pleasant
way. Plus there is a sequence where the young lady comes up with her own
version of “personal security” that will make every man watching cringe and
The film was
directed by Jamie Blanks, who gave us the very forgettable URBAN LEGEND and
VALENTINE. But at least here, back on his home turf of Australia, he’s able to
show some of his talent. Not only directing the film, but he also co-edited it,
as well as composing the films score. The score is very somber and ominous,
giving the film a very dark feel to it. He is currently in post-production on a
remake of LONG WEEKEND, starring James Caviezel.
It really is a
shame that the film doesn’t play off as original as it should. Since the film
does show a talented crew of filmmakers here. This film is a great example
where CGI is used, but you really don’t see it. Whether it’s rain that has been
added in, or giving a false skyline to the house that was built on a set, it’s
occasions like that when it’s done correctly.
design, by Robby Perkins, is also top notch. For having little money, he was
able to build the set of the house and barn and make it look very real. Granted
it looked quite similar to a lot of other movies from TEXAS CHAINSAW to WOLF
CREEK, to a countless other films, but he still pulled off an admirable job.
The set can really add to the feeling of how these people live, even down to the
blowup sex doll, with the dirty handprint on it's ass. Little touches like
that, can say quite a bit.
Since the film only
has 5 characters pretty much for the entire film, you really need to rely on
them to carry the film. The main lead, played by Robert Taylor, seems a bit
downplayed. Nadia Farès, who plays his wife, starts off as a bit timid, but
comes out of her flower to show her dark side. Once again, nothing really new,
but you do give her credit for having some balls. The trio of evil, the father
and two sons really seemed to have fun taking their performances over the top.
David Lyons seems to have the most fun going creepy crazy for the camera. While
Mathew Wilkinson does the harder job of playing the youngest of the family, one
that is the usually the target of most of the abuse. And lastly, John Brumpton
plays the father of this demented family. Where most would try to out-perform
the others in his demented family, he underplays it. This actually makes him
scarier, since he’s very serious in what he does.
This DVD release
comes out under Dimension’s “Extreme” label. And for once, this film really
fits it. I guarantee any gorehound watching this will give a round of applause,
a grimace of the mouth, or a crossing of the legs, at least once during this
film. If not several times. Though I do think they could have come up with a
little bit better of a title. Since it’s they get lost on this island before
the storm hits.
like a lot of the Extreme releases, there’s not much in the way of extras. We
do get a great commentary track that features the gambit of the film crew. You
have the director Blanks, writer Everett DeRoche, actor Robert Taylor, producers
Mark Pennell & Pete Ford, DP Karl Von Moller, production designer Robby Perkins,
and special FX artist Justin Dix. The commentary track is very informative,
funny, twisted, and entertaining. Just what one should be.
But other than
that, there is just a trailer, teaser and then previews for other Dimension
releases. For a film that focus this much on special effects, it would have
been great to be able to see some behind-the-scene footage. Or any stuff
showing the making of the film. Shame really.
Directed by David Michael Hillman
Starring Dan Lunham, Terri Berland, Diane Borcyckowski, Arlene Buchmann, Chris
Huntley, Keith Hurt, Mark Sawicki, Robin Sortman, Rolf Theison
Could someone please name any good horror movies that spend 90% of the time in a
mine shaft? I’m not talking about films like MY BLOODY VALENTINE or THE BOOGENS,
but ones that after the opening setup scenes, spend pretty much the rest of the
movie down in the caverns. I couldn’t think of any good ones either. I guess
that is my point.
guess one would think that the feeling of claustrophobia would really add to the
atmosphere of the film, with the dark caves and caverns. Yea, one would think
that way, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t seem to work that way. When are
they going to learn that it just isn’t effective? Or at least it has yet to be
done in an effective way.
The basic plot in this 1985 film is that a corporation is sending a group of
people to investigate an old mine, to see if it’s worth spending the money to
open it and start mining it again. You have the standard group of people,
including the old veteran miner who knows all the ghost stories, the hard-nosed
boss who has a hidden agenda, and the couple of grunts that seemed to the real
experienced workers. Then there is the amateur writer who is recording the
event, since the mine has had a mysterious and troubled past. One could hope
that he is the first to meet a grisly end, but unfortunately that doesn’t come
It’s so obvious at how low the budget is on this film. But as we all know, a
low budget film does not mean a bad film. It just happens that it does in this
case. The acting is very amateurish, with a lot of your typical characters. I
will give them credit for finding an actor with a nice accent, or finding
someone who could pull off the dialect. At least it gives some character to at
least one of the actors.
will give them a little bit of credit for trying to come up with a different
looking monster, which the design is interesting. And even more credit for just
using stop animation. The problem is simply that the animation is pretty bad.
When the monster attacks, it looks like something that I used to see on Pee
Wee’s Playhouse years ago. They would have been much better off going with a guy
in a rubber suit.
video was put out by Trans World Entertainment. And while this film is pretty
rare, with some places selling it online for over $50 (now that is scary), it’s
not one that I would seek out. It is only a nice addition to the collection due
to just how bad it is. Course, it is in a big clamshell….
Directed by Bryan Bertino
Starring Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Kip Weeks, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, Glenn
Kristen McKay and
James Hoyt arrive at his secluded family summer home after a friend’s wedding.
We know right away that something has happened the way that James did not
expect. As the back story starts to unfold, the couple start to realize that
they are being watched by some unknown figures out in the dark. Then the
watching stops and they start to terrorize the couple.
Both Speedman and
Tyler do a good job with their performance. Tyler’s character is the one that
increases the tension in the film. She is the young and vulnerable character
that creates your fear of what might happen to them. She is the character that
will most viewers with empathize through, creating that sense of terror, even
though we may have done something different. We are living this movie through
There are a few
elements that I think are just a little too cliché or far-fetched. I know we
all think that we could do something different or a better job dealing with
these intruders. So that did take out a little of the believability of the
story for me personally. But at its basic premise, you just never know.
Mainly, since in the “real world”, people just don’t attack people just because.
That is the
beauty of this film. It’s simplicity of a plot. Some unknown assailants start
to stalk and terrorize this young couple for no reason. That’s it. There’s no
rhyme or reason for what is going on. That is the part that will keep you awake
at night, especially if you hear any strange noises during the night. That is
the part that will have you thinking about it, long after the movie is over
There as been a
lot said about the similarities with this film and the 2006 French film Ils (aka
Them). Sure there are some differences there, but if you break it down to the
basics, the movies are just about identical. So that was in our mind when we
were watching the film. Since most American viewers probably haven’t seen
it’s going to be new to them and will have an effect on them. Especially for
more of the mainstream audiences. But even for us die-hard horror fans, there is
enough in here to keep us happy.
The main thing
that works here for the creepy factor is the masks the assailants are wearing.
Two of them are simple plastic kid’s masks, and the other is a gunny sack,
almost like for a scarecrow. There are times when these characters just glide
into the background, or out of the darkness, that is done really well.
here that really added to the film was the musical score, done by Tomandandy. We
reviewed the score in our soundtrack reviews, back way before ever seeing the
film and it blew us away then. This is a great example where a musical score
and enhance a film so much more.
The film was
released on DVD by Universal and has both the theatrical version and the unrated
version on the disc. The uncut version runs 2 minutes longer than the original
version. Both are presented in 2.35:1 ratio. The disc also comes with a short
making-of featurette and some deleted scenes.
The film is
definitely worth watching. It would be great for a late night viewing,
especially if you’re with a group of normal movie fans. It would guaranteed to
get a reaction.
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Starring Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Rukiya Benard, Russell Hornsby, Carolyn
true-life events where a woman hit a homeless man with her car, drove home with
the guy still wedged in the windshield, and leaves the car and the guy in her
garage to die. Pretty messed up when you think that it really happened. So
Stuart Gordon takes the basic premise of that story and turns it into a great
thrilling ride. We remember hearing about this unbelievable story when it hit
the news and remember the outcome. Gordon does take liberties with the story,
so even if you know the story, that doesn’t mean you know how the story is going
Stephen Rea plays
John Bardo, a victim of downsizing, who now finds himself out on the street.
Right from the start, we feel sympathy for his character. He’s not a bad guy,
but was just handed a really bad hand. “It’s your choice” is what he hears from
everyone from the guy at the job placement center to the cop who wakes him up on
the park bench. But in reality what happened to him was nothing farther than
Mena Suvari plays
Brandi, a nursing assistant at a nursing home, who at first we think is another
basically good person. She really seems to care for the elderly people that are
in her care. Even when dealing with the shitter aspects of her job, she does
what needs to be done. But as her evening progresses, we discover that she is
not the responsible, caring person we thought. Then as she’s driving home from
a late night partying, Bardo just happens to be crossing the screen when their
worlds collide in the most literal sense possible.
The movie really
is carried by these two actors. Their performances are what grabs the viewer
and holds you to the story. You feel bad about Rea’s character right from the
beginning. So when this terrible thing happens to him, it really digs into
you. Plus, since I knew this was based on a real story, I kept thinking of that
while watching the film that some poor guy actually when through this torturous
ordeal. For someone who is doesn’t really move that much throughout the movie,
Rea is able to make the viewer feel his pain, anguish and outright hopelessness
and he tries to figure out how not to die stuck in this car.
Suvari shows us a
person that makes a very bad decision, and then spends the rest of the movie
trying to cover it up, making it worse at every turn. She thinks about her life
and what will happen instead of this poor man stuck in her car windshield. Her
constant shouts of “Why are you doing this to me?” shows her grasp of sanity is
starting to loosen. As she tries to get help from her boyfriend, her true side
comes out even more.
best known to us fans as kicking out some great horror films, does an incredible
job here constructing a great suspenseful and thrilling ride. We feel the pain
along with the tension as Rea tries and fails at attempts to free himself from
his painful predicament. The film is filled with the dark humor that Gordon is
fond of using. But the humor is very subtle and not over the top.
Entertainment has released this movie onto DVD with about as basic release as
you can get. No extras. No commentaries. Nothing. It would have been great
to have a commentary by Gordon and even better by Rea and Suvari. Instead, we
get squat. Very disappointing.
But none the
less, the movie along is worth adding it to your collection. Sure, it’s not a
horror movie in the general sense. But if you were to consider what this woman
did to this guy, and that it’s based on a true story, that sure seems like a
horror story to me, with one of the scariest types of monsters out there. The
one that comes in human form.
Directed by Sergio Martino
Starring Claudio Cassinelli, Mel Ferrer, Lia Tanzi, Gianfranco Barra, Patrizia
Castaldi, Adolfo Caruso, Aldo Massaro, Jenny Tamburi
Despite not having the
instant name recognition of peers like Argento and Fulci, Sergio Martino is
considered by many to be one of the finer journeymen of Italian cinema. Until
recently, he was best known in certain circles for his 1973 drive-in classic
TORSO, a semi-sleazy giallo starring Suzy Kendall. However, thanks to DVD
releases of his superb THE STRANGE VICE OF MRS. WARDH and ALL THE COLORS OF THE
DARK, as well as exploitation material like MOUNTAIN OF THE CANNIBAL GOD, his
flame has finally begun to burn brighter in the eyes of today’s horror fans.
Now comes one of
Martino’s most overlooked efforts, a clever cocktail of Italian poliziesco
(political thriller) and giallo, 1975’s SUSPECTED DEATH OF A MINOR. Perhaps due
to its misleading and clunky title (the director points out in a supplemental
featurette that the original name, MILANO VIOLENTA [Violent Milan], was nixed by
the distributor for not being “commercial enough”), the film has faded from the
memories of even the most ardent fans. Happily, newly minted fans of Martino
can now judge it for themselves, thanks to a remarkable restoration and
presentation by the good folks at Sazuma.
The first thing that should
be made clear is that this is not strictly a giallo per se, so you’ll have to
shelve that “black gloves” drinking game for the time being. (In fact, the
title is more than a little puzzling, since we actually see the murder of the
minor in question less than five minutes after the opening credits and the cops
find out immediately following. Where is the “suspected” in all this?) There
are several nasty little murders featured throughout the picture, which often
play out like deleted scenes from DEEP RED, complete with Luciano Michelini’s
Goblin-like prog-rock score. (There’s even a wicked boiling-water-to-the-face
bit that’ll have you screaming “ouuuuuch.”)
Outside of these set-pieces,
we’ve got a pretty snazzy crime thriller with Claudio (WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO
YOUR DAUGHTERS?, ISLAND OF THE FISHMEN) Cassinelli hell-bent on uncovering the
murderer of an underage prostitute, despite the inefficiency of the police
force, the corruption of moneyed tycoons, and other established staples of the
genre. What remains frustratingly unclear for the first 45 minutes is exactly
why he’s so determined to uncover the mystery. I’ll not reveal anything
here, as I assume that there is supposed to be some degree of Oho-Surprise!
generated here, but personally I just wasn’t feeling it, especially when the
reveal is less-than-stunning. Even a little misdirection or red-herrings might
have served Martino well – as it stands, the unexplained obsession only becomes
aspect may prove to be less problematic to viewers than MINOR’s comic elements
such as the oh-so-wacky car chase that precedes the big revelation. Said
automotive mayhem includes a bicycle that becomes a unicycle when struck, a
impressively head-spinning pedestrian (you gotta see it to believe it), and that
old comic standby…nuns in a van. More than anything, it resembles a random
scene from WHAT’S UP DOC? that runs its course before returning to gritty
pseudo-realism. Effective? Maybe not. But certainly noteworthy. There’s also
a nifty theater-with-a-sun-roof sequence that will provide a smile of
recognition for all you DEMONS fans out there.
Gastaldi lays out the hairpin plot curves like a pro, and finds some pretty
slimy subtext to support his stock characters. Mel Ferrer – with NIGHTMARE CITY
not yet a glint in his eye – plays the hands-tied police superintendent with a
stiff and fuzzy upper lip. Italian screen legend Massimo Girotti oozes unctuous
smarm and self-satisfaction as our resident rich (and thereby evil, this being a
poliziesco) tycoon with a dark oogy secret. Adolfo Caruso plays the
obligatory goofy sidekick, while Lia Tanzi, Jenny Tamburi, and Barbara Magnolfi
are our gorgeous, oft-underage ladies of the night. Couldn’t quite figure out
who plays the Man with the Mirrored Sunglasses, but he makes for a dandy
In spite of whatever
misgivings viewers might have about the feature itself, there’s very little to
take issue with regarding Sazuma’s presentation. Like the previously reviewed
release of LA SETTIMA DONNA (aka LAST HOUSE ON THE BEACH), the cardboard
slipcover digipak-style packaging brings a refreshing level of class to the DVD
game. The enthusiastic and informed liner notes by film critic Christian Kessler
are presented in both English and German. The R2 print is shown in 2.35:1, 16:9
Anamorphic Widescreen with Italian audio (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono) and English,
German or Dutch subtitles. (One minor quibble is that, in the English subtitles
at least, there are an unfortunate number of misspellings. Not enough to be
overly bothersome, but they’re there.) Bonus Features include the original
Italian trailer, poster gallery, and a 25-minute interview with Martino who
seems quite pleased with his revived notoriety, if a little nostalgic not to
have been discovered sooner.
The audio commentary – in
German with optional English subtitles – by Kessler and author Robert Zion is a
quirky blend of praise, gentle mockery, political digressions and repeated
references to Germany’s victory in the World Cup soccer match played on the day
of their recording (June 30, 2006). In addition to a few potshots at numerous
German and Italian public figures that politically savvy viewers might find
amusing, they also diss on Kevin Bacon, Kenny Loggins and John Carpenter. Like
the film itself, it’s a mixed bag but one that is plenty flavorful.
The first in their “Italian
Genre Cinema Collection” (with LA SETTIMA DONNA #2), we can only wait with bated
breath to see what other gems Sazuma has in store (check out their full catalog
Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen
Written, Produced, and Directed by Chip Selby
I grew up in the
late 60’s / early 70’s. So the horror comics that I remembered seeing then was
Creepy and Eerie. The name Tales From The Crypt was from a movie as far as I
knew. But once I started really getting into horror, I kept coming across
references to these comic books. Eventually, I learned a little about what EC
comics had done a good 10 years before I was born. Then when the reprints
started to come out, I was able to see and enjoy these wonderfully created
images and stories that caused such a roar back in the mid 50’s.
But I obviously
wasn’t the only one who enjoyed these comics. Whether from the reprints or the
originals, these comics have influenced many people, including the likes of
George Romero, John Carpenter and Bernie Wrightson. But not in the way that
certain people wanted you to believe that it would. People like Dr.
And with these new
documentary, you can learn everything you wanted to know about these comics and
more importantly, the people behind them. Director Chip Selby has put together
a wonderful documentary here. Not only is it filled with information about the
comics, but it’s filled with the wonderful images from the pagers of them as
well. You also get to hear from the artists themselves talking about their work
and working with Bill Gaines, the man behind the comics.
This is a very
important history lesson for us horror fans. Remember, these comics came out 50
years ago, and is a very important part of the horror genre. So even if
you've never been into comics, there is some important history here to be
learned. Names like Jack Davis, Al Williamson, Jack Kamen, Al Feldstein.
They should be as well known to us fans as some movie directors that we
idolize. They probably gave those youngsters enough scary images to keep their
appetites sated, and still are doing it to this day.
starts at the beginning of EC Comics when Bill Gaines takes over the company
from his father. And along with Al Feldstein, they delve into horror,
terror and suspense. We hear directly from the people involved. We
also get to see some actual footage of Bill Gaines addressing the Senate Hearing
Committee who were trying to decide if comics were leading to juvenal
It also follows
the magazine after it's demise as it rises from the graves, like one of it's
many ghouls featured in the pages, to be reborn on the big screen and later on
the small screen in the HBO series TALES FROM THE CRYPT. We get to hear
from George Romero and John Carpenter, author R.L Stine, movie producer Joel
Sliver, comic book historians Roger Hill & Jerry Weist, and many more.
Not only is this
documentary very informative, but the style of it is also very enjoyable, using
many of the artwork throughout the length of the show. Even the DVD case
looks like a mini-comic book. The 2-disc DVD is available through their
website Crypt DVD, for
only $24.95. Trust me, for that price, it's well worth every penny.
Not only will you be entertained, but you will be learning something as well!
And when a documentary does that, you really have something special.
Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein
Starring Jess Weixler, John Hensley, Josh Pais, Hale Appleman, Lenny von Dohlen,
Vivienne Benesch, Ashley Springer, Julio Garro, Adam Wagner
When you make a
film about a young girl developing teeth in her…lower region, you have a very
difficult task at hand. It would be so easy to go overboard, and go the pure
grindhouse/exploitation route. But writer/director Mitchell Lichtenstein
created something that was still outrageous and dark, but still manages to keep
it from going over the top.
plays Dawn, a high school student who is very passionate about keeping her
virtue, her purity, her virginity. She gives motivational pep talks to fellow
students and younger audiences at these “Promise” meetings, which wants them to
promise to keep their sexual urges on hold until they get married. But
unbeknownst to Dawn, she has a set of choppers between her legs, otherwise known
as the fabled vagina dentata.
She lives at home
with her mother, step-father, and her step brother. Her brother is the complete
opposite of her, mean, offensive, and with a deep dark desire to screw his
half-sister. He seems to have a girl always in his room for sex and to get high
with. And for some reason, has a preference for anal sex. Could it be due to
something that happened to him in his childhood with his half-sister?
friends with a new kid in school, who seems to have the same beliefs about the
‘promise’. But when her new friend gets a little too heated up, and he forces
himself on her, they both discover that her self defense mode kicks in, chomps
down, and bites off. Frantic, Dawn starts to discover more about her body, her
urges, and what she needs to do.
an incredible job here keeping everything in balance. There’s humor, gore, and
very dark emotions, but he is able to keep all of that in the film without going
over the top on any level. Even when dealing with the subject of date rape, you
can’t really get to a darker place. But he still holds the borders firm, and
can still make an impact. Though, with each...attack, the mood is a little
different. We go from horror, to humor, to revenge, with an even more
twisted humorous end.
There’s plenty of
messages here, depending on what you what to take from it. In just about every
scene of the town, we see two huge nuclear towers on the horizon, feeling the
air with smoke. Is this the cause of her mutation? As Dawn becomes aware of
her sexuality, and the dangers of it (not only for her, but for her partners),
she has to understand the results of her actions, and come to terms with it.
there's not a man alive that could watch this film and not have these thoughts
going through his head at some point later on. Like when he's with a
woman. Freud had always said that no matter what man is scared of, it all
comes down to the fear of castration. And for once, there's a movie where
you don't have to reach to fit that into the subject matter. Because it is
the subject matter!
As good as the
writing and direction are, if not for Jess Weixler in the lead, who’s to say how
this film would have turned out. Weixler portrays Dawn with such innocents that
we really believe her. We believe that she has no idea of the pleasures that
are waiting for her when she breaks her ‘promise’. When she does, we see her
transformation from a young innocent, to someone who starts to understand her
power, and what she needs to do with it. And because of Weixler, she makes that
all seem real.
The rest of the
cast does as outstanding job as well. John Hensley plays the sick and twisted
brother. But even though he is easy to despise, Hensley does give a glimmer of
reasoning for his actions and feelings.
released under their Extreme label, which comes with audio commentary by
Lichtenstein. It also has some deleted scenes, with optional commentary,
trailer and TV spots. There is also a good featurette about the making of the
film, interviewing plenty of cast and crew about not only the film, but the
basic subject matter.
Though the film
is a little slow to start off with, we would still highly recommend everyone
have patience. Once it gets a hold of you, you won’t be able to get away.
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Shelly Winters, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van
Amazing cult classic that took three
viewings before I felt capable of reviewing the feature. Assembled with
extreme intricacy by Polanski, THE TENTANT is jam-packed to the fullest extent
with subtleties that even the most perceptive of moviegoers cannot hope to catch
in one sitting. No problem...such a work is more than deserving of
multiple viewings, with its entertainment value not waning whatsoever.
Reportedly, the film was blasted by critics upon its original release, which of
course means that it's more than likely worth a look...or two, or three…
In the simplest interpretation, THE TENANT
is essentially a hardcore depiction of society's callous attitudes as
"goodwill toward mankind" is thrown out the window.
Self-centered, isolated and uncaring inhabitants of a cold world exist
singularly for what makes them happy-and are highly intolerant of any other's
needs or desires, especially when they exhibit emotion or desire. As
Trelkovsky, Polanski is the reserved, mild-mannered young man who unknowingly
wanders into the lair of ill-tempered stiffs, who do little more within their
apartment building than sit in silence, simply awaiting any form of disturbance
that will allow them to roar in protest, regardless of the severity of the
On the other hand, we also have the young
idiots whose disregard for the more reserved denizens starts out as a natural
reaction, spawned simply by their youth, and the vitality that they exude.
Laughter, celebration and a general rowdiness seemingly natural to the invading
generation is apparently innocent enough at first...until Trelkovsky's buddy
exposes a more devious motivation for such antics. The obnoxiously-loud
marching band music--played at such a volume that not even its listeners could
honestly find any enjoyment from--exposes their true motivations toward the
all-too silent tenants. Caught in the middle in Trelkovsky, who inevitably
begins to lose his grip on reality...and understandable so, given the choices of
social groups to fall into!
The young man, obviously not feeling as
though he can relate to any of the odd characters that make up his world,
therefore withdraws into his apartment, the only place where he can isolate
himself from the madness going on outside...or so he thinks. The bastards
won't let him. Knocking upon his door constantly, they refuse to leave him
alone, demanding that he choose an identity (that they'll provide him with),
requiring him to take stances with them (like throwing an unwanted tenant out on
the street because they don't sleep when they're supposed to) and follow their
identical mode of behavior. Eventually, Trelkovsky is pushed to such a
point that a mere suggestion from someone becomes an irate demand, yet another
evil attempt to take away his sense of self and his willpower.
This is where the fun (don't get me wrong...this is disturbing stuff) begins.
Trelkovsky goes right over the edge, and in a big-sort-of-way. He begins
seeing the crowd of tenants as trying to drive him insane (which they are),
stealing away his identity (which they are) and making him become someone else
(which they are). His interpretation of the person they'd like him to be
ends up being slightly more convoluted than they actually intended, but
certainly gives them something to think about (Dr. Frankenstein could never
match the monster that these fuckers make out of Trelkovsky).
Over and over, the young man hears about
the previous tenant, and how he needs to be more like her. Of course, they
were only referring to her quite disposition and willingness to please her
neighbors. Trelkovsky's state of mind goes a little further with their
The poor guy starts imagining that
everyone around him wishes that he would become the young woman (who,
incidentally, threw herself out the window in a suicide attempt...not
surprising, given the environment and those around her...a violent act that
Trelkovsky notices some of the characters refer to in light-hearted amusement).
In fact, prior to his renting the apartment, Polanski takes us on a visit to the
bedside of the battered, near-dead Simone...wondering whether she perhaps may
recover from the devastating fall (even though he's told not to worry about that
happening). At this point, we're subjected to the most visceral moment of
horror that THE TENANT will dish-up for the audience...no gore, no graphic
violence necessary. The scream. Probably the most nightmarish,
agonizing scream that one will ever bear witness to. Simone's scream
echoes throughout the halls of the hospital, and will not easily forgotten.
Good luck topping this moment, Hollywood. Don't even try.
It is during this sequence that Isabelle
Adjani is introduced into the story, an acquaintance that Trelkovsky will
encounter throughout his descent into madness. She's far from the sensual,
alluring character that most directors choose to present her as, more a foppish
but loveable young woman...a little on the bizarre side, but generally harmless.
Polanski utilizes her character to point out that most people seem to "get
off" on violence and aggression (she starts getting turned on while
watching Bruce Lee kicking ass in a flick that she and Trelkovsky go to see...as
Lee's opponent is dealt a fatal blow on-screen, she feels the urge to...feel his
As Trelkovsky sinks deeper into a state of
madness, the cross-dressing begins as he begins assuming the persona of the
ill-fated (and now deceased) Simone. The absolute genius and talent shown
to us by Polanski in the director's chair are now enhanced by his amazing
on-screen performance as Trelkovsky. The admiration of himself in the
mirror, having now dressed himself as the woman, is just too damn much.
While I've not acquainted myself with much of Polanski's works, THE TENANT is
most assuredly an exhibition that showcases to the fullest extent his
I have to admit, some of the circumstances
and motifs presented during the course of the film had yours truly a tad-bit
confused as to their inclusion and meaning (should there be any need to analyze
them or not…perhaps better left as merely bizarre imgery). The tooth
hidden within the wall (that Trelkovsky had to move an appliance to get to) is
still beyond me. His knowledge of
the apartment's vacancy, the delusions of the priest presiding over Simone's
funeral ("Yearning only for carnal satisfaction!" he scolds), and when
Trelkovsky, dressed in drag, turns to the camera and announces "I think I'm
pregnant!". I almost started wondering if the young man had
impregnated Simone and abandoned her after the fact, which led to her suicide
attempt...her scream upon seeing him at the hospital...and a vengeance from
beyond the grave that drives him to suffer her fate.
conclusion is just too fucking intense (the taunting tormentors outdo the
evildoers of ROSEMARY'S BABY by far!) as Trelkovsky finally gives his neighbors
exactly what they have been pushing for throughout the film, with devastating
results. An amazing masterpiece that will have you confused, awestruck and
completely engrossed by its horrifying twists and turns, regardless of how many
viewings you may subject yourself to.
by Jon Stone
Directed by Dario Argento
Starring Anthony Franciosa, John Saxon, Daria Nicolodi, Veronica Lario, John
Steiner, Giuliano Gemma, Christian Borromeo
“Every humiliation which stood in his way could be swept aside by the simple act
of annihilation: Murder” – from TENEBRE
is going to be part confession / part review. So bare with me for this first
part of this before we get to the actual review. It has been said that you can
never watch the same movie the same way twice. While the movie itself has not
changed, the viewer has. Whether it is watching it the next day or 20 years
later, you are watching it with different set of eyes. This is something that
all movie fans have experienced, sometimes without realizing it. There are
times when watching a film again, with more educated or maybe less prejudiced
eyes that perhaps you see things you didn’t the first time, and appreciate it
more. And on that same token, maybe are a little more critical and not as
easily entertained as you were before. So the great thing about being a movie
fan is that you can go back to films years later and get a different enjoyment
out of it. Or, as in my case, you realize that this film that I had held in
such regard before wasn’t as good as I originally thought it was.
So…am I saying
that TENEBRE is not as good as I remember? Actually, what I’m saying is OPERA
is not as good as I remembered. A few years ago, at one of the Cinema Wasteland
conventions, a bunch of us were having a “friendly” discussion of favorite films
from certain directors. When Argento came up, I immediately went with OPERA.
Our good friend Lawrence Raffel, from FearNet.com was there, and he went with
TENEBRE. Each of us wouldn’t budge on our choice, even though the other tried
to convince the other how wrong they were. I mean, even though we are talking
about opinions, someone still has to be wrong….right? Needless to say, I wasn’t
not going to back down off my opinion.
forward a year or two later. Last year, my son wanted to watch an Argento
movie, so what better one than his best film, right? So we started watching
OPERA. If my life would have been directed by Polanski or Aronofsky, the paint
on the walls of our family room would have started to peel away, slowly falling
to the floor, shortly before chunks of the wall would break off and crumble. As
I sat there watching this movie, one that I had seen countless times before, and
it started to hit me. This is not a great film. The acting from the lead is
just terrible. There are holes in the script big enough to drive a garbage
truck through. Sure, there are plenty of great moments in this film. The
murders, the needles on the eyes, the camera work. It is all there. But as a
whole, the film is definitely lacking. Could I have been wrong all these
years? Apparently so. If I needed anymore proof that opinions can change over
the years, it was handed to me that day, in tight black gloves.
Of course, I had
to send a note to my friend Lawrence, confessing my little discovery to him.
After he finished laughing and telling me “I told you so”, he asked me “When is
the last time you watched TENEBRE?” Well, actually it had been a while. So
with my head hung low, I decided that I would re-watch it again, to see how my
feelings towards it might change, like they did with OPERA. So which now leads
me to my review of TENEBRE. Boy…talk about a long introduction….
was Argento’s return of the giallo, after spending several years with the first
two films in his Three Mothers trilogy. Working on the films, especially
INFERNO, really took a toll on Argento. While in LA, something happened to him
that gave him the idea for his next movie. He started to receive some phone
calls from a fan who wanted to discuss his work with him. Each time, the calls
got more and more distressing to Argento, especially when the person said he
wanted to kill him. After leaving LA, he started thinking about that concept of
murder. After this incident, Argento was quoted saying, “To kill for nothing –
that is the horror of today. If you kill for money or to achieve a goal, I can
understand that, even if I can’t condone it. But when that gesture has no
meaning then it is more repugnant than ever.” So the idea of TENEBRE started.
The word Tenebre
means darkness, and Argento took that concept in this movie to mean the darkness
of the person’s soul or unconscious mind. Tenebre is also the title of the new
book from the main character of the movie, Peter Neal, a successful
crime/mystery writer who is on his way to Rome to promote his latest book, which
is doing quite well. But during his flight, a young girl is brutally murdered,
having pages from this new book shoved in her mouth, before being sliced open
with a straight razor.
Neal arrives at his apartment, he is greeted by the police with the news of this
murder, trying to figure out if there is a connection to him or just some crazy
fan. After two lesbians are murdered, both the police and Neal try to figure
out who this madman is. While discussing the case, they mention a line from a
line from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "When you have eliminated the impossible,
whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Argento uses this
theme for his movie, but filling it with wonderful set pieces of suspense and
This was released
here in the states in an edited version under the title UNSANE, which cut much
of the gore out of the film. But luckily, those days of trying to find an uncut
version are way in the past. Anchor Bay had released an (almost) uncut release
of the film. But all the gore and violence is still in their version, so no
This film is
classic Argento. First off, which we hear pretty much right away, was the
return of Goblin….sort of. While not the entire band working on the soundtrack,
it did have three of the main members: Claudio Simonetti, Massimo Morante, and
Fabio Pignatelli. And they delivered a great score that fits perfectly in this
film. From the opening main theme to the other tracks, Goblin once again shows
that a score doesn’t have to be the traditional creepy score to be scary or to
help build suspense.
other thing that is here is Argento’s camera work, including a 2 and half minute
crane shot that creeps along the outside of the house of a two potential
victims. The American distributors wanted this shot to be cut for the US
release, but Argento refused. Good for him since this a very memorable shot,
making the viewer feel like an intruder circling around the building. While the
film isn’t filled with over-the-top gore, it does have its moments. But more
importantly, the scenes of violence are filled with a high artistic feel too
them, namely a red arterial spray across a white wall. Nice. This is something
that is entirely missing from today’s slasher films…style. Something as simple
as being chased by a guard dog, Argento turns into a dragged out, suspense and
terror filled episode.
Of course, this
movie has a great cast here. Anthony Franciosa plays the main lead, author
Peter Neal, giving a fine performance as the writer of fiction trying to
decipher a real life murderer. This was a role that originally was meant for
Christopher Walken. John Saxon plays his agent and Daria Nicolodi is Neal’s
assistant. Die hard Italian horror fans might recognize John Steiner, who plays
the television journalist. He appeared in countless Italian produced films,
such as Mario Bava’s last film SHOCK and Ruggero Deodato CUT AND RUN, usually
playing the meaner and darker roles. And let us not forget the beautiful women
that Argento fills the screen with. Granted, most of them meet a gruesome end,
but none the less, they are fun to watch until that time.
TENEBRE is one of
those movies that no matter how many times you watch it, even if you know who
the killer is, it is a thrill to watch and experience Argento when he was in the
true prime of his career. From the music to the cinematography, to the ballet
of death that he displays in front of our eyes, it is one that will stick in
your mind, much like the knife of the killer.
Directed by Oliver Hellman (Ovidio Assonitis)
Starring John Huston, Shelly Winters, Henry Fonda, Bo Hopkins, Claude Atkins,
Delia Boccardo, Cesare Danova.
Made in the early 80’s,
this is yet another film "inspired" by the success of JAWS,
this one being done by the Italians. This was also made at the time when studios
could get some big names for these cheap monster / disaster films. TENTACLES
is no different.
Due to some new type of
underwater digging, a giant octopus / squid has arrived on this small coastal
town and is very hungry. The monster doesn’t waste any time acquiring several
people for some food, including even snatching a little baby from his stroller
parked by the water’s edge. There’s something that you won’t see in a
modern film. During the film, this creature definitely doesn’t go hungry. The
film even has some pretty makeup effects for some of the leftovers.
Most of the ‘Big Name
Stars’ are in only bit parts, some, like Henry Fonda, are really only cameos
with one or two scenes.
The effects for the giant
octopus are pretty shabby. When seen underwater, the filmmakers use extreme
close-ups of a real octopus, making it look bigger than it really is. When even
get to see some miniature boats getting attacked, which is always amusing. Then
for some of the on the water’s surface shots, we have an incredible fake
looking rubber monster. And to think some people complained that the shark in JAWS
But the scariest thing is
this film is Shelly Winters. She plays the sister of John Huston, who is a local
reporter trying to uncover just what is going on out there in the water.
Winter’s character has been married several times, and seems to like to go to
the bars and pick up guys. If you don’t think that’s scary, then you
haven’t seen Shelly Winters.
While this isn’t as good
as some of the other JAWS rip-offs (both in a good and bad sense), there are
enough good reasons to watch this film, even if one of them is just to be a
Directed by Anthony D.P. Mann
Starring Matt Davis, Angela Faulkner, Andrea Hiltz, Iike Hincer, Vikkie Jinn,
Dick Miller, Angella Scott, Terry Wade, Denise Wedge, Barry Yuen, Noelle Piche
we first came across an article in a recent issue of Fangoria on this movie, we
thought it was an old movie that somehow we’d never heard of before. From the
look of the incredible poster art, we were sure that it was an older movie. But
as we read the article, we realized that the filmmakers had that intention right
from the start. They wanted to make this version look like it was something
from the BBC from the ‘70s or ‘80s. And they did just that. Being a huge fan
of the film work that the BBC has been doing for many, many years, we’ve always
enjoyed that special look and feel to their films, so we were excited to be have
the chance to check out this new film.
Now fans of this
site know that I’m not the biggest fan of low budget films. Mainly the
reasoning behind that is the poor acting, lack of a real story, or just not a
well made film. As we’ve said many times before, passion does not make talent.
So anytime we go into these low budget films, we are always hopeful, but very
cautious. But I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well TERROR OF
DRACULA turned out.
D.P. Mann co-wrote the film, directed it, as well as stars as the Count. Mann
was use to making low budget films looking much high quality than one would
think with the money they had. And he wanted to do the same with Bram Stoker’s
novel, which has been a favorite of his. I will say that any filmmaker who is
taking on Stoker’s novel, better not make the mistake of claiming that their
version is going to be the first real faithful adaptation. A lot of have come
close, but there are too many things that get changed or left out in every
version out there. And Mann’s is no different, with a few changes made to the
story and characters. If you’re going to wave the “faithful” flag, then you
better be there. But all that aside, I will give them kudos for what they have
The film really
feels like you are watching a stage play. Some might take that as a criticism
but I found it to be very entertaining. The acting was quite good, especially
enjoying Matt Davis’ portrayal of Johnathan Harker, Terry Wade as Van Helsing,
and though briefly, Barry Yuen’s take on the poor Renfield. Mann does a pretty
decent job playing the count, creating a believable accent and feeling of that
immortal curse the Count has. I do think the makeup job could have been better
though. There are shots where it look like the blackness around his eyes was
from taking a few rounds in the local boxing ring.
as a whole, with the locations that they used, it really is an amazing
production for the money they had. I guarantee that this could have been passed
off to an unsuspecting viewer that it really was from the BBC in the early
‘80s. Major kudos goes out to Mann and his crew for being able to produce such
And of course,
I’m not sure who the poster artist was, but they need to be credited as well,
since that was the very first thing that drew me into the Fangoria article.
They have created a piece of artwork that is sadly missed these days of quick
definitely be interested to see what Mann and his team come up with next.
For more information about this film, check out the official website at
Directed by Tobe
Burns, Paul Partain, Gunnar Hansen, Jim Siedow, Ed Neal, Allen Danziger,
When I had first
seen this movie, I really didn’t like it. I felt cheated. I was expecting a
‘chainsaw massacre’, just like the title said. But only one person gets killed
with a chainsaw! Plus, you’d think that since people (sorry, a person) were
getting killed with a chainsaw, it would be pretty gory. Sorry, wrong again.
But we have to
remember, I saw this at a time when the blood and guts was really coming of age
in the movies. It was during one of the re-issues, some time in the early 80’s,
and I was in my late teens (in other words, I hadn't learned the finer taste of
cinematic horrors yet...). So I was disappointed and went away with a very bad
taste in my mouth.
Then after getting more and more into movies, and becoming more of a serious
student of the genre, I had re-watched the film. And then I started to see
the light. This wasn’t some gory stalk ‘n’ slash film. This wasn’t
some special effects bonanza / monster movie. But what it was, and still
is today, is a very disturbing look into a very disturbing family. And
what might happen if some normal everyday youngsters happened to stumbled upon
This is one of
those films that do a fantastic job of where the real terror is not the violence
that you see, but what you think you have seen, or what’s alluded to. Not to
say this film isn’t violent, but it has always been perceived to have shown more
violence than there actually was. And I think that shows just how good of a job
that Hooper and company did.
Just by seeing the
set designs that Robert A. Burns came up with, gives the viewer a real sense of
dread and horror that theses young people have stumbled into. I think that
gives more of a lasting impression on the viewer than somebody getting whacked
with a chainsaw.
But like all
classics, having a great set means nothing if you don’t have the right people to
bring life to their characters. I think the real standout to this film is the
late Jim Siedow. The brilliance to his portrayal is in his ability to swagger
back and forth between being a normal and sane individual to someone who is more
crazy and sadistic in their demeanor. And this is quite often several times in
the same scene. When the kids first meet up with his character at the gas
station, he even tries to persuade them not to be running round bothering
people, as if warning them. But when Sally ends up at the station that night
while being chased by Leatherface, he realizes what he needs to do. And while
he’s under control for the most part, the insane sadistic side keeps popping
out. Siedow has given us one of the best characters and performances in the
entire horror genre.
But then credit also
has to go to Ed Neal for his very wacky performances as the hitchhiker. Whether
or not that was Neal’s personality in real life, who knows? But in any case, he
comes across as one hell of a nutter.
And adding to the
great cast and sets were just the little things that really made the film more
than just some low budget cheapie. Whether it was the lighting they did, like
when the cook is beating the hitchhiker in front of the truck. Or long camera
moviements that go underneath the swing and slowly follow the doomed Pam up to
the house. Or something even as simple as when they find that tooth on the
front porch. It’s nice touches like that, that set this film apart from many
other films, and give it a much deserved spot as one of the best horror films
THEATER OF BLOOD
Starring Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne,
Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, and
Edward Lionheart, a stage actor who only performs the works of Shakespeare.
Lionheart believes that he is the greatest actor to walk the stage and to
speak the famous bard’s words. Unfortunately,
the critics do not agree and constantly blasted him for his performances.
Then after losing out on the Critic’s Choice Award, making a grand exit
in front of the critics who spurned him, he jumps off the balcony to a watery
grave in the river. But then years
later, when someone starts killing off the group of critics who denounced his
ability, in interesting ways taken from different plays by Shakespeare, there
are doubts to his suicide.
Price had stated
that this was one of his favorite films to make.
He got to do many different parts of Shakespeare all in one film, as well as
act along side many of Britain’s finest actors, such as Robert Morley, Dennis
Price, and Ian Hendry. One of his other co-stars in this film, Coral
Brown, would later become his wife. Diana Rigg, known for her role in the
British television series THE AVENGERS, plays his daughter.
This film does
have a lot of camp humor in it. But
Price and company play it completely straight, making it even more entertaining.
Some of murder sequences are very dark humor, while others are simply
dark, with Price just chewing up the scenery.
The death scenes are really interesting, since they are (somewhat) taken
from Shakespeare’s work. It’s
very in the same line of how Price was dispatching of the different characters
in the Phibes movies.
Directed by David Moreau & Xavier Palud
Starring Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen, Adriana Mocca, Maria Roman, Camelia Maxim
There’s been a
lot of hype going around about this French film. Sometimes that’s a good
thing. And sometimes it’s not so good. With a lot of pre-hype, the film has a
lot to live up to. The biggest problem I had with it was it lives up to the
hype….until the end.
It’s really hard to
review this film without giving away some spoilers. We usually try not to do
this, but I really want to explain why I had a problem with it, and can only do
that by talking about the ending. So….if you have not seen it, and do not want
to know about it, then you can keep reading until you see the line break and we
tell you to stop.
Let’s start with
the basis of the movie. Once again, it’s very simple. A young couple are
awoken in the middle of the night by some noises from outside their home. They
can see hooded figures running around out there. And then somehow they get into
the house. The film does a great job building suspense. Any time you’re
dealing with a home invasion, its one fear that everyone can relate to, or at
least put themselves in that same situation, whether it be in their home or
apartment, small town or big city. It’s a basic and generic fear that can
really hit….home (pun fully intended). They also play on some other very
basic scare tactics. They work since everyone watching can relate to it.
So while it is effective, I wouldn't call it the most original. But it
does get the jumpy feeling across, so I guess it really doesn't matter does it?
At first we never
really get a good look at our invaders, we’re not sure what the couple is up
against. So you’re imagination can run a bit, trying to figure out who or what
they are, what their motive might be, and just what they want. Then when we
start to see some of them, we’re still not really what to think because we’re
really expecting something more, or at least something else.
Stop reading here if you don’t want to know about the ending.
with us? Okay, here’s the deal. After spending the entire movie building up
some great suspense and tension, when we finally find out that “them” are just a
bunch of adolescent kids out for a good time, I found that extremely
disappointing. At the end, we see them running to catch a bus, after spending
the night terrorizing (and apparently murdering) this couple, like it was some
sort of a game. Talk about a sucker punch. I guess I just expected a little
bit more impact of an ending than just a bunch of hooligans.
Now, one could
make the argument that since it was just some young kids, that it could make it
even scarier, bringing in the reality or “it could really happen” thinking in.
Sure, I’ll give you that. And I think, after thinking about the film for a
couple of days, it can have a reality check. Especially with all the
whack-jobs out there. But for me, I just felt that after spending the first
hour of the film building this great tension of not really knowing who or what
these attackers were, when we do find out, that it just didn’t have the payoff.
I think if you know from the start who “them” is, it takes away all of the
tension since you’re basically thinking to yourself, “It’s a bunch of
kids…..just beat the crap out of them!”
film was released here in the states by Dark Sky Films, and as usual, they did a
great job with the release. The film looks really nice, especially since it was
shot digitally. The disc comes with a making-of featurette, which goes into
some pretty good details on the film. The directors and the main two actors
talk about their part in the film. I will give credit to Olivia Bonamy, the
female lead, since she really went through the ringer on this film.
This would be a
tough recommendation for us. Sure the first part of the movie is pretty good if
you’re looking for some suspense. But since the ending really let me down, it
kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, which is the last thing you remember about
Herbert, Jo Morrow, Martin Milner, Rosemary DeCamp, Donald Woods, Margaret
Hamilton, John Van Dreelen
The plot is about
a family who inherits an old house from a strange uncle. The house is supposed
to be haunted, but due to the condition of the will, they have to live in there
to be able to keep it. Since they just had all their furniture repossessed at
their old house, it seemed to be pretty good timing…until the ghost start to
show up. And to even add to the strangeness, the housekeeper that came with the
house is played by the Wicked Witch herself, Margaret Hamilton.
This was one of
Castle’s earlier ‘gimmick’ films. It was filmed in “Illusion-O”. When you went
to see the movie, you were given a ‘Ghost Viewer’. During certain parts of the
movie, you would be told to use the viewer. Then you could choose if you wanted
to see the ghosts or not to, depending on which part of the special glasses that
you looked through. What a great idea. He apparently got the idea after
visiting his eye doctor and was given a very similar test using different
colored filters. It transferred well to his idea for this movie.
The story is kind
of like if you were to put ‘Leave It To Beaver’ family in a haunted house
setting. The kids consists of a young son, maybe around 9 or 10, who is anxious
to meet the ghosts, and a older daughter, maybe late teens/early 20’s, who seems
to be fond of the young lawyer who is handling the estate of the late uncle.
When their furniture is repossessed, they seemed to take it like it’s no big
deal, like it’s just another day.
Most of the
scares were pretty dated, but not as much as I had expected. It was still very
enjoyable. Both for the story and also for the Castle glasses gimmick. My
nine-year-old son got a great kick out of, following the instructions to use the
glasses when the movie told him to. Which was probably the target
audience Castle was looking for when it first came out.
The DVD comes
with your own special ghost viewer, which actually does work. It also has a
featurette about the making of the film, as well as the original theatrical
introduction by William Castle on how to use the special glasses. Other
features include trailers and production notes.
This DVD is
obviously a must for any Castle fan. But also if you are a fan of those campy
films of the 60’s, you will still enjoy this one.
Directed by Steve
Shalhoub, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, Embeth Davidtz, F.
This is the
second remake of a William Castle film by Dark Castle Entertainment, the first
being THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL. Like in their first remake, Dark Castle used
the basic story from the original, but made quite a few changes. Like in the
original film, a family inherits a strange house from a recently deceased
uncle. They are also in very hard financial time. Except this time out, the
mother/wife figure had died six months earlier in a house fire. Of course
replacing the character of the mother is an apparent live-in babysitter, which
is really strange since if they are in such money trouble, how could they afford
it? One would assume the older sister would take on that responsibility. Guess
not. Plus the little boy, with a very annoying speak impediment, and has a
strange fascination with death. You know, just your normal 8-year old.
major difference is the house they’ve inherited. This is no ordinary
house, but one completely made of glass. It’s like a giant maze, with all
sorts of strange writing on the walls. Whoever designed this house for the
movie has got a lot of credit coming to them. There was a lot of detail
put into the making of it. Granted, when some of the CGI effects happened,
it lost some of the effectiveness. But it still is a great design.
It’s kind of like the puzzle box from HELLRAISER. Except on a much grander
scale, and also being inside it.
And then there
are the special glasses that allow you to see ghosts. It seems that in some
scenes, the ghosts don’t attack you unless you have the glasses on and see
them. Sorry, can’t explain that one either. I guess the ghosts want
you to be scared before they kill you. But I did enjoy the way the ghosts
were filmed. Even with the glasses on, the phantom killers were there,
then in a flash they were gone. It wasn't something as easy as just
putting the glasses on and there was the ghost. It was almost like the
frequency going in and out on your TV. Very stylish.
Mathew Lillard plays a psychic
with the curse / ability when people touch him, he reads past events from them.
Needless to say, he could have been completely removed from the film. His
comedic elements did not amuse this viewer.
The rest of the
cast is fleshed out by Tony Shalhoub, who seems to be in everything now, which
is not really a bad thing. Then there's Shannon Elizabeth, who after the
first AMERICAN PIE, decides that she doesn't have to get naked anymore.
Here's a clue: Your acting didn't you make you famous in that movie.
Returning to the horror genre again, Embeth Davidtz has come a long way since
ARMY OF DARKNESS. And then lastly, is F. Murray Abraham, just chewing the
shit out of the scenery, and looking like he is enjoying the hell out of it.
effects are done really well. The ghost designs were pretty cool. Although
there are a few ghosts that seemed like they walked of the set of the latest HELLRAISER sequel (oops! Said it again),
or maybe even a NIGHTBREED sequel. I think should have been
avoided. But there are a couple designs that were pretty effective, such as the Jackyll.
This is one of
those films that have tons of reasons why I shouldn’t like it. There are just
so many elements are either too far-fetched or just plain stupid, with the whole
babysitter-thing being one of them. But for some strange reason, I actually
liked the movie. Don’t know why, and couldn’t really explain it. I’d agree
with you on all your reasons of its flaws. But I still liked it. Could it all
be due to the one hell of a quality kill that happens soon after they arrive at
the house? Could it be due to the ghost of the girl wandering around completely
naked? Could it be that it was only $15 at Best Buy, which would have been the
same cost for my wife and I to see it in the theater to begin with (not
including popcorn)? Maybe one of those.
Value: Bottom line: is it worth seeing? Yes. Even if is just for the one great quality
kill, and the naked ghost walking around (those are just a couple reasons that
pop in my mind). Maybe it won't worth you buying, you really could do a
lot worse. Simple as that.
The DVD features a
behind-the-scene featurette, which is pretty interesting. It also comes with
back-stories for all of the ghosts. If it seems like their trying to move into
HELLRAISER series, they’re doing a good job. The disc also contains audio
commentary by production designer Sean Hargreaves, makeup artist Howard Berger,
and director Steve Beck.
Directed by Jeff Thomas
Starring Jeff Thomas, Robert Miller, Daniel Rain, April Cole, Sarah Corbin,
budget filmmakers think that with a camera and some kyro-syrup blood, they can
make a horror movie. But what they don't have is any sort of style or
talent to give us anything more than just some cheap jump-scares and some cheezy
gore effects. But with 13 SECONDS, writer/director Jeff Thomas has given
us something a little more.
The story is about a band that goes to an
abandon school to record their newest album. But once they get there,
things start to go wrong. First they hear the noises, like a child
laughing. Then there's the art gallery, who's pictures seemed to be
portraits of the future...or the past. Slowly the band meets up with the
others that are in their with them...
Not to say there's not any flaws. We'll
get to those in a minute. But Thomas has given us some really creepy
elements here, some good gore and makeup effects, and most importantly, some
style. There are some really good shots in this SOV movie, some that
you never see in these types of budget films. With some good lighting,
some nice use of shadows and fog, Thomas gives the viewer some really good and spooky
Another part of
the film that I did like was the art gallery. I'm assuming that this was
inspired by one of the pilot episodes from the Night Gallery TV show, where a
painting changes to show what is going to happen in the near future. Plus,
since the band's name is Night Gallery, one can only assume. But in any
case, whoever they had to make the paintings did an excellent job creating them.
The sequences with the hands and face coming out of the blank paintings was done
quite well too. The twist ending does explain a lot of what's going on
throughout the movie.
There isn't really a moment in the film when something is not happening.
The only problem with this is that I think that he overdid it just a bit.
Not saying that non-stop action is bad, but when you have a plot like this one,
I think you need to give the audience a little time every now and then to soak
up the story, instead of it having jump right into the next scare-sequence.
It's cool to have these quick shadows flicker past us, and they are effective.
But when you do them too many times, their effectiveness wears off pretty fast,
and the viewer can become bored with them.
The music, with the haunting piano score, adds
very well to the atmosphere of the film. Very simple, but very effective.
problem, which plagues a lot of these low budget films, the acting. While
he does a good job behind the camera as writer / director, Thomas' first job
should have been replacing the lead actor...himself. Throughout the whole
movie, his acting is so over the top, with him seeming to do his best "Intense
Emilio Esteves" impression, that it really distracted me from what was going on.
Some of the other actors were also like that, but not as bad as Thomas was.
Actually, Robert Miller gives us the best performance out of the whole cast
(though the 'teeth chewing' was a bit much). He comes across as a real
person, not someone who is acting. Kevin Kuras as Mac, comes close to
doing this as well. As for the other cast, it doesn't seemed that they had
much personality, let alone breathe any life into the characters. They
were very flat.
So overall, the film is worth the time to
watch it. With some real money, and some real actors, I would be
interested in seeing what Thomas and company could come up with. Even with
the bad acting, the film does have it's good moments. Worth taking a look
(aka I Tre Volti del Terrore)
Directed by Sergio Stivaletti
Starring John Phillip Law, Riccardo Serventi Longhi, Elisabetta Rocchetti, Ambre
Even, Andrea Bruschi, Roberta Terregna
I've always enjoyed the anthology films.
From back to the classic Amicus ones like TALES FROM THE CRYPT and FROM BEYOND
THE GRAVE to what the 80's gave us with CREEPSHOW and TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE:
THE MOVIE. Granted there were some bad ones that snuck in there, but I've
still always liked the format.
So when I first heard about Sergio
Stivaletti's latest film, which was going to be an anthology film, I was pretty
excited. And then after seeing the trailer, I had even higher hopes.
It had been years since Stivaletti had directed a movie, so we were interested
to see how he has grown as a director over the years. So once we got our
hands on the recently release (import) disc, we sat down to watch it. And
we were blown away....but not in the way we were expecting.
The thing that amazed me the most was just how
bad the production
value of the film was. I figured it might have been a lower budgeted film,
but some of the problems were so bad that they couldn't even have passed
through the John Russo school of filmmaking. At some parts, it sounds
like the sound mics are located on the actors themselves, instead of a boom mic.
So every time the actor moved their arm or body, you heard a loud rustling
noise...sometimes louder than the dialog. And this just wasn't like one quick little take, but whole
sequences were like that. Didn't the sound guy notice that during filming?
How could anybody not noticed it in the editing stages?
The basic plot of the movie was taken right
from Amicus' DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS. Inspired by? Borrowed
from? Ripped off? Who knows. In any case, it's the same story
with three passengers on a train being greeted by an old professor, who is a
hypnotist. And by looking into his gold ball, you can see something about
you. So each of the three look into it and we get three different stories.
But the one thing that is different here is
that each story has the ending cut short, which was kind of puzzling. But
then at the end of the wrap-around story, all three of the story endings are played out
back to back. Very strange and different idea, but I don't think it worked that well.
Each of the stories, again, weren't really that original. It's like they
had the ending of each story, but wasn't sure how to get there. And it
first one deals with a werewolf. I will give credit to the makeup effects
of the creature. Most of the shots are done really well. But the
problem is that we see way too much of the
beast for too long, using too long of shots of it. This makes it look more like a makeup job. Italian horror
fans may recognize Goblin's Claudio Simonetti in a small role.
The second story is about a mad plastic
surgeon, and girl who wants a face lift, and gets just that. But most of
the segment is this girl walking around the building, trying to figure out where
everybody is at. Gets a little tedious after a bit. There are some nice
makeup effects in this segment. But there is way too much of nothing going
on but a girl wandering around. The sequence tries to be surreal, but I
just don't think it works. You will also see Lamberto Bava and Stivaletti
playing themselves on a movie set.
The last story is about 3 friends who want to
camp out by a lake. But an old strange fisherman tries to scare them away
with tales of danger. Nice idea about some sort of sea creature. But
it just didn't work for me. The creature at the end is way too CGI.
I would have been much more happier with a cheezy-rubber suited monster.
John Philip Law plays the hypnotist in the
wrap-around story, as well as having a small part in each of the other stories
as well. Most of the other actors do okay with their roles. But Law
seems to try to make up for the fact that he's 'an actor' and tends to go a
little overboard in certain parts.
But the movie was not a complete waste.
There is the soundtrack. Maybe I was just looking for something to make
this movie not a complete waste, but I thought the score from Maurizio Abeni was
pretty good. I also most thought that Claudio Simonetti had something to
do with it, since it is very similar to the scores of Goblin or the Italian
scores from the 80's. So the film did have that much going for it at
Pulp Video has released this movie on a PAL -
Region 0 DVD, in a anamorphic widescreen version. It has Italian and
English audio tracks (though it looks like it was filmed in English).
There's also both Italian and English subtitles as well. The disc also
features some deleted scenes, and a "making of" featurette, but with the audio
is in Italian. Trailers and photo gallery round out the disc.
There is also a 3-disc set that was also
released. The first disc is the same as the previous release. But
the second disc features 6 different "making of" featurettes, but are also only
in Italian audio. There is also bloopers, photo gallery, and 2 teasers.
The 3rd disc is a CD soundtrack to the movie, featuring 26 tracks.
With the music being one of the only real
highlights of the movie, if you really wanted to pick up this movie, I would
recommend the 3-disc set, just for the soundtrack. Otherwise, I would pass
THREE ON A MEATHOOK
Directed by William Girdler
Starring Charles Kissinger, James Pickett, Sherry Steiner, Madelyn Buzzard, John
Shaw, Marsha Tarbis.
What great a title for a movie! This has got to be one of my favorite
titles of 70’s-80’s exploitation films. Nice, and to the point…no pun intended.
Made in 1972, this was
William Girdler’s follow up to his first film, ASYLUM OF SATAN, with some of the
same cast following the director.
This classic piece of drive-in cinema seems to give somewhat of a nod to PSYCHO
with the opening scene of a couple having a fling, before the girl has to leave.
Of course, this time out, it's a little bit more gratuitous than PSYCHO was.
And the same with that film, we're thinking that she is the main character of
the film, which is also not the case. She is out to spend some quality
time with her friends for the weekend. But due to some unfortunate car
problems, they are stranded in the middle of nowhere.
But then arrives a young man who offers them some help. He tells them that
he lives on a farm nearby with his father, and they are welcome to spend the
night there, until they can get their car fixed. The young man's mother
had passed away some time ago, possibly due to some involvement with the son,
but he doesn’t remember. And once they arrive at the farm, his father
pulls his son aside and reminds him of what happens to him when he’s around
women. While the son doesn’t really remember “the last time”, he assures his
father that nothing will happen this time.
As the young girls are waiting, they are treated to some sandwiches with Pa's
special meat. Hint, hint.
But, as expected, during the night, the four girls are brutally murdered. The
next morning, when the father discovers the bodies, he promises to help his son
hide the bodies, and to cover up for him again. But soon after, the young man
is bringing home another girl…
While this isn't a gory film by no means, these first murders caught me off
guard. I had not expected anything, and was pleasantly surprised at how
well the scenes turned out, especially the decapitation sequence. It's
nice to see that somebody was using their head...to show somebody losing
So, even though the film does have a lot of slower bits, the thing that I liked the most
about the film is just the basic subject matter. Charles Kisssinger does a
great job as the old father, just out trying to help his family. Plus the
ending throws a little twist that I enjoyed quite a bit. This film is a
lot more straight-forward as the plot and story goes, compared to Girdler's
first film, ASYLUM OF SATAN.
The film even ends on a PSYCHO note with a psychiatrist explaining everything to
us at the end of the film, in case there were any questions that we had.
Overall, I would highly recommend this film, especially to fans of the early
70's horror films. The only problem would be trying to find the damn
thing. The pre-record is a very hard one to find. Maybe since ASYLUM
OF SATAN being released on DVD, we can hope that this one will follow. In
either case, you should seek this one out.
Of course, it does live up to the title, though there’s
actually four, not three, on the hooks. Guess THREE in the title sounds
better than FOUR.
Directed by Jaume Balagueró
Starring Macarena Gómez, Nuria González, Adrià Collado, Ruth Díaz, Roberto
Romero, David Sandanya
Balagueró is another name that I would follow blindly. He has not made a film
that I didn’t like, and most of what I’ve saw of his work, I thought were
incredible. This last film, [REC], which is already getting an American remake,
is another scary as hell film. It seems of late that the work of horror films
coming from Spain will be setting new standards in the genre. And that is with
Balagueró as one of them that is leading the charge.
Balagueró’s entry in the 6 Films To Keep You Awake series, that had 6 different
films done by 6 different directors, including Álex de la Iglesia, Narciso
Ibañez Serrador, and a few others. We had picked up the box set and set out to
watch all of the films. To Let was the last one we got to, and as it
turns out, we had saved the best for last.
The story is very
simple. A young couple go to an apartment building, desperately looking for a
place to live. Things are not good from the moment they pull up to this old and
decrepit building. The rental agent seems pretty confident they will be renting
the apartment. But as the couple look through the shady apartment, it gets much
doesn’t waste any time getting the movie started. And it really doesn’t let up
until the end, some 68 minutes later. I would have to say that next to The
Orphanage, another Spanish film, To Let is probably one of the best
films I’ve seen this year. It has everything that a horror film fan could
want. It has its share of gore, tons of suspense and action. It definitely
will creep you out. Don’t expect another ghost story, but simply a ball’s out
horror film. The only thing that I could complain about was that during
the more intense sequences, the camera would shake. Not over time, like it
was a handheld shot, but enough to be noticeable. I understand the effect
they wanted to create, but at times, it did get annoying. Luckily, it
wasn't used enough to ruin it for me.
Major kudos must
go to Nuria González in the lead of rental agent. Her performance here is
simply incredible. Sure, the rest of the small cast also do excellent jobs, but
González goes really over the top. This must have been a very difficult film
for the actors to make, since it is a very physical film. You really will be on
the edge of your seat throughout most of the film.
who plays the main lead, had me scratching my head, trying to remember where
I’ve seen her before. But thank the lord for the internet, and a few moments
later, realized she was in Stuart Gordon’s Dagon.
This film is only
available in the box set, 6 Films To Keep You Awake, which retails for about
$20. For that price, it is well worth the money. Especially for this film, and
along with Álex de la Iglesia’s The Baby’s Room, you will be glad you
spent the money.
The disc does
come with a short making up documentary, where the director and actors talk
about the making of the film, giving their thoughts and memories of the
Directed by David Schmoeller
Starring Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Robin Sherwood, Tanya
Roberts, Dawn Jeffory, Keith McDermott, Shailar Coby.
Director David Schmoeller is really a hit
and miss kind of guy. When he does
good, he does really good. But that
is not all the time. Either that,
or it’s just his early films are the only good ones.
TOURIST TRAP was Schmoeller’s
directorial debut, which he also wrote, and it is fantastic.
But more on that later. He
also wrote and directed Klaus Kinski in CRAWLSPACE.
This is also an exceptional film. But
he also went on to direct the first PUPPET MASTER film, as well as NETHERWORLD,
both for Full Moon. I had seen both
of these and didn’t care too much for PUPPET MASTER, and thought NETHERWORLD
was just terrible. So why were his
earlier films so good, and these just terrible?
But, getting back to the review at hand,
with his directorial debut, Schmoeller gives us one hell of a creepy film.
He takes a bunch of ordinary manikins and turns them into some images
that are not only scary, but will stay in your mind well after the film is over.
Shows that something as simple as a plastic person can be used very
A small bunch of youngsters end up at an
old ‘tourist trap’ off the main highway, where of course their car stops
working. The place is run by Chuck
Conners, and is filled with manikins, much like a wax museum.
Except these manikins are alive…or are they? Conners is exceptionally good in this film.
While at some points he’s campy, he can also be very creepy.
is one of those low budget films that really work.
It has been recently released on DVD in widescreen (1.85:1), and at a
very good price. This one is
definitely a must see.
Directed by Jim O'Connolly
Starring Bryant Haliday, Jill Haworth, Gary Hamilton, Mark Edwards, Jack Watson,
Anna Palk, Derek Fowlds, Dennis Price
What with the
Hammer Gothics growing longer in the tooth, the British horror film industry of
the early 70s was desperately trying to hang onto its audiences and exploitation
elements were becoming more and more prominent. Also known by the titles of
HORROR OF SNAPE ISLAND and BEYOND THE FOG, this overlooked little gem, while by
no means a classic, will likely surprise viewers with its more-than-competent
handling of a now-familiar plotline (visitors to a isolated location are
bloodily picked off one by one by homicidal maniac) years before the 80s slasher
movement, and even pre-dating the Italian giallo explosion of the 70s.
As the titles come up, we
are treated to an obvious miniature of a lighthouse surrounded by swirling dry
ice fog. But the fact is, it’s a pretty decent model and Kenneth V. Jones’
moody music sets the tone quite admirably. The credits and the startling
opening sequence that follows are perfect harbingers of what is to come: There
may not be a lot of money involved, no real “name” stars and obvious sets
representing the island locale, but there is the sense that the creative forces
behind the venture are fans of the genre who know how to tickle us in just the
right way. And they’re not above throwing around a bit of flesh and blood to
satisfy our baser desires.
On Snape Island, a
vacationing American girl (THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW’s Candace Glendenning) is
discovered nearly catatonic from shock, with her companions brutally dismembered
and messily strewn about. Suspected of the murders, she is brought to hospital
and under hypnosis unfolds a tale (told in nudity-filled flashback) of how she
and her free-loving friends had gone off on holiday, only to encounter madness
and mayhem. Intrigued by an ancient Phoenecian axe found as the murder weapon,
a group of archeologist treasure hunters (led by Bryant Haliday) set off to
investigate. Dark mysteries are soon uncovered, with suspicions arising both
within and without the group. (It doesn’t help that there’s a history of
bed-hopping among the members of the team, one that doesn’t abate even while
folks are disappearing from the film at an alarming rate. Gotta love those hot
and horny British birds.)
Working from a
source novel by George Baxt (screenwriter for HORROR HOTEL and CIRCUS OF
HORRORS, as well as collaborating with Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson on
1962’s NIGHT OF THE EAGLE aka BURN WITCH BURN), writer/director Jim O’Connelly
skillfully employs all the elements at his disposal to conjure a sufficiently
spooky atmosphere. The island and the lighthouse provide ample dark corners to
conceal the menace until just the right moment, and while the plot itself
doesn’t really hold up under close scrutiny, the creepy camera angles and lively
soundscape of scuttling crabs and howling winds – as well as a healthy dose of
boobs, buns and/or blood every quarter hour or so – keep things moving right
To assist in his
efforts, O’Connelly managed to assemble an attractive and seasoned cast. Rose
is played by stunning blonde Jill Haworth, an up-and-coming star of the early
60s who originated the role of Sally Bowles in CABARET on Broadway in 1967. (As
fate would have it, she would be passed over for Bob Fosse’s film version – the
same year as TOWER OF EVIL – in favor of Liza Minelli, who went on to win the
Best Actress Oscar.) Jack Watson, veteran of numerous British chillers,
including THE GORGON, FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE, and Pete Walker’s SCHIZO turns up
as crusty old sea salt Hamp. Anna Palk (who plays the trampy Nora) had also
paid her genre dues years earlier as Joseph Cotton’s daughter in 1966’s THE
FROZEN DEAD. We’ve even got Robin Askwith (whom audiences might recognize by
his distinctive red sideburns in HORROR HOSPITAL and THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW,
although he’s dubbed here as an American hippie) and “guest star” Dennis Price
turning up in smaller roles. Finally, Gary Hamilton’s mental defective ranks
right up there with the savage wackjobs of ANTHROPOPHAGUS (aka THE GRIM REAPER)
and DEATH LINE (aka RAW MEAT) – minus the cannibalism angle.
Again, TOWER OF EVIL is not
some groundbreaking masterpiece, but rather a full-blooded little curiosity item
that will likely appeal to Euro-Brit horror fans. Elite Entertainment has done
another splendid job, with a superb 1.85:1 widescreen presentation that shows
off this low-budget effort in its best possible light. Well worth tracking down,
and available from Elite both as a single release DVD or as one of the four
films featured in their “British Horror Collection” or “Halloween 4-Pack”
(alongside INSEMINOID, CURSE OF THE VOODOO and HORROR HOSPITAL).
Review by Aaron "Dr. AC" Christensen
Directed by Riccardo Freda (as Robert Hampton)
Starring Camille Keaton, Tony Isbert, Maximo Valverde Luigi Pistilli, Luciana
Paluzzi, Jose Calvo, Giovanni Petrucci
This is a strange
little film that caught me off guard. I didn’t know much about this film before
sitting down to watch it, but knew it was directed by Riccardo Freda. That alone
was enough to get my interests. But from the cover of the DVD, I figured it was
a nice Italian gothic period piece. So when the film starts out with 3 guys and
a girl out on a sailboat, I was surprised to find it a modern day setting. But
as the film progresses, it does turn into a gothic movie, just a modern day
The movie starts
off a little slow, as we’re being introduced to the main characters. Tony
Isbert plays Bill, a rich youngster that seems to only have friends because of
his money. And his two buddies seem intent on getting whatever money they can
from him. Camille Keaton plays Jane, their only female companion, who Bill has
feelings for. But unfortunately, Jane doesn’t have the same for him.
In the pouring
rain, the young group run out of gas during their outing, and ended up at the
dark and gloomy estate of Lord and Lady Alexander. They are given a place to
stay for the night. And this is when the feeling of the movie changes, and
moves into the more strange and atmospheric gothic piece. It seems Jane was
expected by the owners and guests of the house, for this is a very special
night. Jane is separated from her male companions and is treated to her
own room and bath to get comfortable. While her friends are left in the
servants quarters to fend for themselves. But something just doesn't seem
right to Jane, who seems to be drawn downstairs to her hosts.
One part of the
thing that really caught me off guard was the gore. I wasn’t expecting some of
the over-the-top gooey stuff that we get here, and that was a pleasant
surprise. Not to say this in the realm of Fulci, but it is still pretty
impressive for what we have here. It's like they took a traditional gothic
tale, but spiced it up a bit with the red stuff. But the really strange
thing is that this wasn't made in the 80's when that was popular, but in 1972!
Got to give credit to those Italians when it came to their filmmaking.
Camille Keaton is
best known to American horror fans as the star of cult rape/revenge movie I SPIT
ON YOUR GRAVE. But I hadn’t even realized that she had made some films in
Italian before she came back to the states. Including as the title
character in the famous giallo, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO SOLANGE?
Dark Sky Films
has released this film uncut for the first time on DVD. The transfer was taken
from the original elements and looks great. There is still a little bit of
graininess in the picture, but I actually think that adds to the viewing
pleasure. The movie is in Italian, but does have English subtitles. The disc
also comes with a nice little featurette / interview with Camille Keaton. She
talks about how she started her film career and about working on some of the
different films that she was in.
Once again, Dark
Sky Films continues to put out great quality discs of some great classic films
that we might not have had to chance to see, especially not in the is quality.
Job well done.
Directed by Michael R. Steinbeck
Starring: Bill Elverman, Kate Berry, Avery Laine, Jeff Garretson
Being able to see
our future – particularly one’s own death – and the fear that accompanies such
knowledge has been a long-standing dramatic motif stretching back to the early
Greek plays. In his new short feature TREE, Michael R. Steinbeck has skillfully
crafted a modern-day fable: Man receives vision of his approaching death and
feverishly wrestles with Fate to avoid it. If Steinbeck and lead
actor/screenwriter Bill Elverman’s characters and situations seem a bit stock or
two-dimensional at times, this somehow only lends a stronger resonance to the
Aided immeasurably by Jeff Arwady’s
spiraling, hypnotic score, TREE unfolds the story of a young couple, Tom (Elverman)
and Ellie (Kate Berry), who inherit the family farm in Rockland County,
Wisconsin after Ellie’s father passes away. While we are repeatedly told that
Tom “never imagined being a farmer,” he seems to take to his new lifestyle ably
enough, aided by his local friend John (Jeff Garretson). Ellie and daughter
Katie (Avery Laine), seem happy in her new surroundings, with Ellie even
deciding to take on the resident “champeen” of the Fall Festival Pie Baking
While poking around
the basement, Tom comes across his father-in-law’s journals, from which he
learns a few posthumous tips about reaping and sowing. But also included are an
old man’s ramblings about precognitive visions of his life’s final moments (“my
inglorious end”) – visions received whilst standing beneath the imposing oak
tree in the front yard. As Tom splits firewood for the furnace one night, he
hears indistinct whispering in the oak’s branches overhead. When images of his
own demise start to appear, the young husband and father grows increasingly
agitated – especially once he learns that other members of his family are also
receiving waking “dreams” … which seem to be coming true.
Steinbeck, who also edited and shared
cinematography chores with Nicholas P. Richards, shows admirable confidence and
skill as a filmmaker. Likewise, his young cast displays considerable restraint
with a story that could easily lend itself toward histrionics, though this muted
quality has the unfortunate side effect of quashing the characters’ emotional
arcs to relatively few notes. Elverman in particular communicates a wealth of
inner turmoil; with a mere skyward glance or a mumbled response, we see a man on
the brink. (Also, for better or worse, his wild-eyed, axe-in-hand poses bring
to mind Ryan Reynolds’ similarly unraveling character from the recent AMITYVILLE
HORROR remake – the two actors even share similar facial hair patterns.)
Not to say there
aren’t a few stumbles along the path. For instance, we never get much of an
indication as to what the family members lives were like before, or what Tom
might have given up to travel this new path, which might have helped flesh out
the characters a tad. One also feels that far fewer explicit shots of Tom’s
impending funeral would have sufficed (we get it, we get it), and Katie’s
“emergency” at the lake never really rings true. Berry is at times saddled with
some less-than-graceful dialogue, with her fixation on the pie contest and
particularly in the emotional scene after her husband has exploded at their
daughter. Finally, when Tom finally unleashes his anger against the leafy
oracle, the protracted nature of the scene – combined with Arwady’s orchestral
grandstanding – diminish rather than heighten the dramatic impact.
Ultimately, TREE is a well-polished,
great-looking independent short film that manages to hold up under repeat
viewings. While it may not break much narrative ground, its central character’s
desperate struggle against the inevitable succeeds in a discomforting sense of
foreboding. And while some may not, I fully appreciated the haunting grace note
inserted just before the credits roll; in that little moment, Steinbeck and
Elverman’s effort shifts from dark fable to chilling nightmare – no small feat
For more info, visit
Review by Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns,
For some reason, "zombie" keeps coming up
with the mention of this film. So let's get that done with right off the
bat. It's not a zombie film, at least in the traditional sense. If
you looking for the staggering, living dead, cannibalistic creatures, then you're in
the wrong place. Got back to Italy or Pittsburg. But while these "infected" are not zombies, they're even more
28 DAYS LATER starts off with some animal
rights vigilantes breaking into a London animal research facility to free some test
monkeys. Unfortunately, the primates had been infected with a highly
contagious virus which fills the victims with an incredible amount of rage,
making them want to kill anybody in sight. The virus is transmitted
through blood and saliva, and only takes about 10-20 seconds for the victim to
become infected after coming in contact with the virus.
28 days later, Jim wakes up in the hospital
from a coma. Stumbling out of the hospital, he finds the city
deserted...at first. Then he comes across some of the 'infected'.
And here's where you realize that this is no zombie movie. The infected
are fast...very fast. If you don't move quick, game over. Teaming up
with some other survivors, Jim & company try to find more like them that might
be hiding out.
One of the scariest elements of this film is
that it is not too far off in regards of reality. With the viruses that
are 'alive' right now, such as the Ebola, West Nile and SARS, one can imagine
the kind of devastation a simple little virus could create if the right one got
out of hand. Another scary part of the film is what something like this
could do to the human condition. Much like in the traditional zombie
films, when your best friend, or even a parent comes running and screaming at
you with nothing else in their mind other than to kill you, could you kill them?
And then when you do come across someone who isn't infected, can you trust them,
or are you afraid they'll slow you down?
The minimal cast does an excellent job with
their roles. Everybody has been cast perfectly. Cillian Murphy fits
perfectly in the role of the confused Jim, while Naomie Harris also gives a
great performance as Selena, who has shut herself off emotionally to stay alive.
And then there is one of my favorites, Brendan Gleeson who does a outstanding
job in the somewhat minor role that he has.
While watching this film, one gets the
actually feelings of the characters, and what it must be like to be one of the
few survivors. When one of them dies, you feel it. When one of them
becomes infected, and is killed almost immediately, even before the
transformation takes place, you stand there in shock and disbelief, just like
the other characters. Almost as if this just can't be happening.
Danny Boyle has done an excellent job here
with this film. Boyle shows that even with being shot on Digital Video,
that does not stop you from creating a great atmosphere and coming with some
incredible shots. Also with the use of reflections, mirrors, and double
imagery, Boyle and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle has come up with some
awesome camera work.
The film was shot back in September of 2001
and will be opening up in selected theaters on June 27th, with hopefully more
theaters in the weeks after. But if you can't wait for that, you can get
the import DVD from our friends at
Xploited Cinema. The import DVD is a
PAL Region 2 disc, so make sure you can play it on your player before ordering
it. The disc comes with audio commentary by director Danny Boyle and
writer Alex Garland, deleted scenes with optional commentary, a radical story
board alternate ending, and a documentary of the film called "Pure Rage: Making
of 28 DAYS LATER. There is also a Jacknife Lee music video, along with
still and polaroid gallery with commentary, animated story boards, and trailers.
Highly recommended if you can't wait for the US release. Or at least this
will tide you over until it does come out here.
starring Bruce Willis
Directed by Wes Craven
The new and improved TWILIGHT ZONE kicked off its run in 1985 with this classic
story of a man and his doppelganger. Peter Jay Novins (Bruce Willis) is in a bar
on night when he accidentally dials his home number while making a call. Much to
his surprise, a man claiming to be Peter Jay Novins answers the phone. Over the
next 7 days Novins tries to combat this imposter in a continual game of
one-up-man-ship until the last day, Shatterday, is upon the duo.
Written by Harlan Ellison, this starter for the updated series hits all the
right notes. The story is filled with great moments of paranoia and the esoteric
ending where it is revealed that the bad Willis disappears because he is a
memory of the reformed Willis is justifiably ZONE-esque. Pre-fame Bruce Willis
is very good as both the slimy and benevolent versions of Novins, which is
necessary because the entire scenario rests on his performance. And it is weird
to see him with his real hair. The biggest shocker for me is seeing Wes Craven's
name attached to this. When I originally saw these shows, catching director's
names wasn't my biggest priority. So it is interesting to see Craven, who was
coming off one of the worst films of his career (THE HILLS HAVE EYES II), run
through a variety of genres in 5 of the first 6 segments.
"A Little Peace and Quiet"
starring Melinda Dillon
Directed by Wes Craven
Frustrated housewife Dillon finds the answer to her hectic lifestyle while
digging in the garden one day. She uncovers an amulet that, when she is wearing
it, allows her to stop time. At first it is a blessing that allows her to eat
breakfast in peace, speed through the grocery store with no hassles and get rid
of unwanted solicitors. But what happens when the Cold War enters the picture?
Most Americans got their Cold War paranoia helping via the 1983 miniseries THE
DAY AFTER. Unfortunately, I didn't catch that during its initial run so this
memorable segment had to settle for my Cold War harbinger of death (coupled with
a not too healthy theatrical screening of RED DAWN the previous year). In
complete contrast to his first segment, Craven infuses this one with a much
sillier tone. That is until the end where he punches the viewer in the gut.
Having Dillon freeze time seconds before a Soviet nuclear missile makes impact
is powerful stuff, especially for a ten year old. The final scene featuring
Dillon walking amongst hundreds of "frozen" extras as they gaze up into the sky
is an amazing visual (one pulled off with all real human beings and no dummies
according to Craven on the audio commentary). Dillon, so well known as the
tortured mother from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, is perfectly cast as
the put upon mother. A quick in-joke appears in the final shot with a movie
marquee showing the double bill of FAIL SAFE and DR. STRANGELOVE.
One of the most amazing things about these episodes are that they run close to
50 minutes (with opening and closing credits) each. A 1 hour program with only
10 minutes for commercials? Wow. I don't watch a lot of regular TV nowadays, but
even if I watch a half hour show, I am only around getting twenty minutes. Also,
I did not know that The Grateful Dead were involved in the re-recording of the
legendary TWILIGHT ZONE theme.
starring Robert Klein
Directed by Wes Craven
This dune buggy is one of my favorite hotdogs. If you understand that sentence
then you probably remember the premise for this segment about Bill Lowery
(Robert Klein), a suburbanite who wakes up one day to find out that the meaning
of words have been switched on him. As his day progresses, he finds it harder
and harder to understand and communicate. Even worse, everyone is beginning to
look at him like he is crazy.
This is the third segment directed by Craven and easily his strongest. The whole
"wordplay" scenario is a lot of fun because the viewer is immediately put into
Klein's unenviable position, trying to figure out just what the heck people are
talking about. It starts off easy ("Where should I take the girl in accounting
to dinosaur?") but as the episode progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult.
It is a bit depressing if one looks at it from the point of view of the people
viewing Lowery, but writer Rockne S. O'Bannon doesn't plunge into complete
glumness (he could have easily had Lowery's child die as a result of his
inability to communicate). Instead it ends on an upbeat note with Lowery looking
through his young son's books and beginning the task of learning all over again.
Second City alum Klein is very good as the confused Lowery.
"Dreams for Sale"
starring Meg Foster
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Foster is having a tranquil picnic with her husband and twin daughters when she
notices things start going off-center. Her husband keeps repeating things over
and over and random computer like glitches impairs her vision. The big
reveal is that she is actually in a malfunctioning dream machine in
This is the first of the shorter, 10 minute or under segments. Not much time is
allowed for build up and the segment tries to deliver a unexpected turn quickly
but if you just read the title, you can see it coming from a mile off (although
you probably wouldn't guess the futuristic setting).
starring Terry O'Quinn, John Ashton
Directed by Wes Craven
Astronauts aboard the Columbia (courtesy of stock footage) report seeing a blue
flash on a mounted camera while in orbit. Once back on earth, a technician (John
Ashton) checks the camera out only to be absorbed by the alien life form
masquerading as the device. Several scientists (led by Terry O'Quinn) quarantine
the object but are shocked when it begins concealing itself as various
I specifically remember this segment from my childhood. It is a very well acted
piece (both O'Quinn and Ashton are so underrated) and benefits from Craven's
streamlined storytelling that packs in plenty of information in the brief 20
minutes allotted. The scenario is similar to THE THING and the same year's
LIFEFORCE. One can easily see it being expanded to feature length. This segment
also contains the series second nuclear war plot device/scare tactic (2 for 2 in
regards to the episodes).
starring Eric Bogosian, Vincent Gardenia
Directed by Sigmund Neufeld, Jr.
Jewel thief Jackie Thompson (Bogosian) receives an unwanted bonus after stealing
a large gem. Shot during the robbery, Thompson soon finds himself completely
healed thanks to the glowing gemstone. Thompson, along with con artist Henry
Faulk (Gardenia), decides to use this miracle to his benefit and adopts the
moniker of "Brother John," a preacher who can heal (and accept numerous
donations). "Brother John" becomes world renown but this results in the stone's
owner appearing to retrieve it.
The first of the heavy moral stories, "Healer" is a pretty standard affair.
Bogosian, looking so young, and Gardenia are both fine but as the story
progresses; it becomes increasingly obvious where it is all going. The stone can
only be used for good and that greed and selfishness renders its powers
ineffective. This segment shies away from a truly downbeat climax (at one point
Thompson's wounds reappear) by having Thompson learn his lesson and return to
his meager life (he even heals a deaf child to boot!).
Directed by Robert Downey, Sr.
A young girl receives an invitation to The Children's Zoo and decides to make
her continually squabbling parents take her there. What the parents don't know
is that at The Children's Zoo, children are able to exchange their current
parents for alternate one on display.
One of the quick segments, this one proved to be quite memorable (for me at
least) with the image of confrontational parents encased in showrooms. It ends
cheerfully with the young girls selecting a pair of reformed parents. I kept
wondering, "What if they were just really good liars and would say anything to
get out?" Look for a cameo by Wes Craven as one of the belligerent parents.
starring Jeffrey DeMunn, Arliss Howard
Directed by John Hancock
Salesman Bob Spindler (DeMunn) celebrates the closure of a big deal by getting
plastered. On the way home he manages to barely avoid a head on collision but
crashes his car into a tree next to a backwoods watering hole named "Kentucky
Rye." Spindler enters the bar to find a rowdy group of patrons and a bartender
looking to sell the establishment. Impressed by the fun loving patrons, Spindler
quickly purchases the deed by signing over his
commission check and small financial help of a stranger.
The first of a pair of ghostly stories for the series by John (LET'S SCARE
JESSICA TO DEATH) Hancock, "Kentucky Rye" is too ambiguous to be effective. The
ending divulges that Spindler did in fact die in the head on collision and the
man who helps him obtain the deed to the bar is the driver of the other car that
he killed. What is not explained is what exactly happens to Spindler once he is
in the bar. Is the bartender the devil? Did Spindler sign over his soul when he
bought the deed? After all, the stranger he killed is the one who helped him
seal the deal. What is clear is that Spindler isn't happy spending the rest of
his eternal life in an empty bar at the episode's end, resulting in a message
that would make M.A.D.D. proud.
"Little Boy Lost"
starring Season Hubley, Scott Grimes
Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace
Photographer Carol Shelton (Hubley) is at a crossroads in her life, trying to
decide whether to pursue her career or start a family with her fiancé. Her
thoughts get more convoluted when a mysterious boy named Kenny (Grimes) appears.
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. After three episodes featuring good to
excellent segments, the new TWILIGHT ZONE delivers its first stinker. The
biggest problem with this segment is its overly melodramatic tone. Sappy can't
even begin to describe this episode. Plus, it is entirely too conventional. It
will come as no surprise to the viewer that the mysterious Kenny is in fact
Shelton's future child coming to persuade her to settle down now so he can be
born. The episode does feature some interesting twists, namely Shelton decided
to pursue her career (essentially killing off Kenny) and having her boyfriend
being the one yearning for a family. But they just can't overcome the
predictable nature of this one. It does get points for having the boyfriend
explode in a movie line for BEVERLY HILLS COP and uttering, "My entire world is
going to hell and I'm going to see Eddie Murphy."
starring Dee Wallace Stone, Julie Carmen
Directed by Rick Friedburg
A suburban mom (Stone) discovers a genie lamp at a yard sale, but finds that the
process of obtaining her three wishes is more of a hassle than she bargained
Another bad segment. This one is utterly pointless and is the first time I
thought it was something made simply to fill the time. Stone finds that wishes
are granted in a DMV-like building with lots of paper work. Her processing agent
helps her out, but when she get to the front of the line she is told that she
doesn't have a 604 form. D'OH! And it is closing time where everyone puts on
Devo hats and disappears, so Stone returns back to her world and bypasses the
lamp this time around. The end.
starring Scott Paulin
Directed by William Friedkin
On a dark and stormy night, a group of people in a diner witness the nightmares
of a troubled Vietnam veteran (Paulin).
Whew! Just when it looked like this episode was a certified bomb, along comes
this powerful segment from Friedkin. Based on a short story by Robert McCammon,
this is right at the top of my list of the best segments so far. Friedkin gets
the most out of everything in this segment, from the photography to editing to
the performances. Paulin is exceptional as the psychic Vietnam vet Price whose
nightmares literally come to life. The story works on several levels,
manifesting in fantasy the idea of the Vietnam vet who brought his nightmares
home with him and unleashes them on society (a
hot topic since the end of the war). It is a horror genre precursor to wave of
anti-Vietnam films to be released in the next couple of years. The ending, where
Price's dead platoon comrades lay siege to the diner, is incredibly violent. I
couldn't believe it aired on network television, let alone in 1985. It looks
like this was a great year for Friedkin cinematically with him delivering this
and the theatrical feature TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.
Review by William Wilson.
Michael & Peter Spierig
Starring Felicity Mason, Mungo McKay, Rob Jenkins, Lisa Cunningham, Dirk Hunter,
Emma Randall, Steve Grieg, Noel Sheridan, Gaynor Wensley
“When I was a kid, we fucking respected our parents…we didn’t fucking eat them!”
This is that
Australian zombie film that everybody had been talking about for a couple of
years now. Finally getting picked up by Lions Gate and getting a limited
theatrical release, it’s soon hitting DVD in the states. But this not your
average zombie film. It still delivers the basics but also a lot more. Giving
a very big salute to Peter Jackson’s early work, and even a little nod to John
Woo, the movie is about a small town in Australia that is besieged by strange
clouds, acid rain, and a meteor shower that is turning the residents into
Filled with the
Jackson-type humor and gore that we love, I was very pleased with this film. We
have brains getting punched out through the back of the head; we have a several
set of legs walking around; a the ultra-cool hero running around with a 3-barrel
I was pleasantly
surprised to find a zombie movie with a very original take on it. Gotta give
anybody credit for being able to do something like that with a sub-genre that
has been done to…death…Sorry, bad pun. Don’t expect the same old type of zombie
movie…there’s much more going on. The creators bring a great sense of
style of the film, with some great slow-motion sequences, gore effects that
would make any gore hound happy, and a sense of humor that had me on the floor a
couple of times.
For as low of a
budget as they had, they were able to come up with some great actors. Mungo
McKay plays the main hero of the movie, Marian. With the low tipped hat, and
the 3-barrel shotgun, he is one mean zombie killer. But one of my favorite
characters in the movie is the “Barney Fife from Down Under”, played by Dirk
Hunter. Most of the humor in the movie comes from him. I thought he was just a
riot. The rest of the cast does a great job bringing the terror and the humor
in at a well balanced point.
When you find out
just how much money these brothers had to make this movie, and the way that if
looks, it’s very impressive. The Spierig brothers had very little to no money.
But what they did have was determination to get this film done. There is a
great documentary on the disc that shows plenty of filming, making me even
amazed at what they were able to accomplish. It just shows that when you
have talented people working for you, that all have the same drive as you, you
can do amazing things. During the documentary, you'll show some of the
sets were completely built from scratch. At their budget, that alone is
incredible. And then when you just where digital effects were used, it's
even more impressive.
This disc is the
PAL Region 4, and has some cool extras besides the documentary. There is
also two audio commentaries. The first one is with the
writers/producers/directors Michael & Peter Spierig, cinematographer Andrew
Strahorn, and special makeup effect artist Steven Boyle. The second one is
with the cast: Mungo McKay, Dirk Hunter, and Emma Randall (which is damn funny).
There is also several different mini-documentaries. There's one on the
zombies, one on the screening at the Toronto Film Festival, camera & makeup
tests, one on how to make a homemade dolly construction, animatic to film
comparison, and trailers and teasers. And then throw in some deleted &
extended scenes, production notes and stills, artwork & design sketches.
This is one of those discs where the extras are damn near worth the cost of the