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MOVIE REVIEW ARCHIVES

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

S

The Sadist

Salem's Lot

Satan's Cheerleaders

Satan's School for Girl

Savage Weekend

Scarecrows

Seeding of a Ghost

Seed of Chucky

The Sentinel

Session 9

Severance

Shawn of the Dead

She Beast

Shock

Shock Waves

Simon: King of the Witches

Vincent Price: The Sinister Image

Sisters

The Slayer

Sleepless

Slither

Slithis

Slugs

Soft For Digging

The Spell

Spider Baby

Squeal

Stag Night

Stake Land

State of Mind

Steel Trap

Stigmata

Stir of Echoes

Storm Warning

The Strangeness

The Strangers

Stuck

Suspected Death of a Minor

 

T

Tales From The Crypt

Teeth

The Tenant

Tenebre

Tentacles

Terror of Dracula

Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Theater of Blood

Them

13 Ghosts

Thirteen Ghosts

13 Seconds

Three Faces of Terror

Three on a Meathook

To Let

Tourist Trap

Tower Of Evil

Tragic Ceremony

Tree

28 Days Later

Twilight Zone (1985-86) Episode 1-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U

Undead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1963)
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 gun.

Up 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.

The Sadist 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.


SALEM'S LOT
(1979)
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 Flanders.

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 drunk.

If 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.


SATAN'S CHEERLEADERS
(1977)
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 sacrifice. 

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. 

Even when being 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.


SATAN’S SCHOOL FOR GIRLS
(1973)
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 found dead.

As 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.


SAVAGE WEEKEND aka THE KILLER BEHIND THE MASK
(1976)
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 you’ll know why. Yes it is a very bad movie. But that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. There’s 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 who’s wearing a rubber Halloween mask. Each death is done in some unusual and interesting ways. Definitely nothing new compared to today’s 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, I’m 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 Franco’s 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.


SCARECROWS
(1988)
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 surroundings.

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 time.


(1983)
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 today’s standards.

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.

This 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.

Another highlight 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 Xploited Cinema and order this movie.  Unlike the taxi driver in the film, you won’t regret your decision.


(2004)
Directed by Don Mancini
Starring Jennifer Tilly, Redman, Hannah Spearritt, Billy Boyd, Brad Dourif, John Waters

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 the screen.

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 Gardner.

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.


THE SENTINEL
(1977)
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 that correctly).

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."


(2001)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Starring David Caruso, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Stephen Gevedon, Josh Lucas

“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 Anderson

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 suspense.

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 Mental Hospital.

I 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:  http://www.danvers-state-ia.com


(2006)
Directed by Christopher Smith

Starring Toby 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 done.

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.


(2004)
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 times roll.

It’s official, 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 from hell.

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 zombie mayhem.

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.

For any 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.)

These latter 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” Christensen


(1966)
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.

The 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 side.

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.

The 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 going on.

The 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.


SHOCK
(1977)
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 different characters.

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 boy’s 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 isn’t 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 he was.

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 you’ll be wishing would be dead. Must be something about little kids in Italian horror films. They always seemed to be quite annoying.


(1977)
Directed by Ken Wiederhorn
Starring Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Brooke Adams, Fred Buch, Jack Davidson, Luke Halpin, D.J. Sidney, Don Stout

After 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!”

Plus 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. 

The 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.

The 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.

The 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 victims.

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!


(1971)
Directed by Bruce Kessler
Starring Andrew Prine, Brenda Scott, George Paulsin, Norman Burton, Gerald York, Ultra Violet

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 artist.

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 disc.


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."

It’s kind 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.

This 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.

Price 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. 

But 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 Tommy Kirk.

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 won't.


SISTERS
(1973)
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 entertaining film.

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 behind-the-scene stills.


THE SLAYER
(1982)
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).

While this movie might not be the easiest to find, if given the opportunity, you should check it out.  It’s worth the 90 minutes.


SLEEPLESS  aka NON HO SONNO
(2001)
Directed by Dario Argento
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

As everybody 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 that crime.

The 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 recommended.

The twisted nursery rhyme that is used in the film, in which the killer is following was actually written by Argento's daughter Asia.  


(2006)
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 wrong.

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.


SLITHIS
(1978)
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 the monster.

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.


(1988)
Directed by Juan Piquer Simón
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 flesh.

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 this movie?

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 movie.

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).

But 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!


(2001)
Directed by J.T. Petty
Starring Edmond Mercier, Sarah Ingerson, Andrew Hewitt, Kate Petty

After coming 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…

(pause, whistle, looks at watch)

74 minutes later…

Okay, you back?  Awesome, wasn’t it?  I mean, really, wasn’t that awesome?

However, since 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 him something…

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. 

Has Petty 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 way. 

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.

These minor 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” Christensen



(2009)
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 events”.

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.

Rebecca Pitkin 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.


(1968)
Directed by Jack Hill
Starring Lon Chaney Jr., Carol Ohmart, Quinn K. Redeker, Beverly Washburn, Jill Banner,
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.

SPIDER BABY 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.

And now, Dark Sky 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.

Adding to 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.


(2008)
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 slaughterhouse table. 

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


(2009)
Directed by Peter A. Dowling
Starring Vinessa Shaw, Breckin Meyer, Scott Adkins, Kip Pardue, Karl Geary, Luca Bercovici

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.

There is  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.


(2010)
Directed by Jim Mickle
Starring Nick Damici, Connor Paolo, Kelly McGillis, Danielle Harris, Michael Cerveris

Several years 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.

Damici really 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
(1993)

Directed by Reginald Adamson. Starring Lisa Gaye, Manouk van der Meulen, Don Hannah,
with 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, it’s 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, there’s an escaped nut from the local looney bin.

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, they’re 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 she’s 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, didn’t seem to take their roles too seriously.

So as for your basic psycho-thriller, it’s pretty good. Just don’t expect really any surprises. I mean, if I could figure out what’s going on, just about anybody should. But once again, that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining.


(2007)
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.


STIGMATA
(1999)
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 that.


STIR OF ECHOES
(1999)
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 it, Daddy".

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 cringe.

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.


(2007)
Directed by Jamie Blanks
Starring Nadia Farès, John Brumpton, Robert Taylor, David Lyons, Mathew Wilkinson

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 shudder.

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.

The production 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.

Unfortunately, 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.


THE STRANGENESS
(1985)
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.

I 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 quick enough.

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.

I 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.

The 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….


(2008)
Directed by Bryan Bertino
Starring Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Kip Weeks, Gemma Ward, Laura Margolis, Glenn Howerton

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 her.

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 with.

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 Ils, 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.

Another bonus 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.


(2008)
Directed by Stuart Gordon
Starring Mena Suvari, Stephen Rea, Rukiya Benard, Russell Hornsby, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

Inspired by 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 to unfold.

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 “his choice”.

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.

Director Gordon, 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.

Image 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.


(1975)
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 increasingly brow-furrowing. 

However, this 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.

Screenwriter Ernesto 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 secondary villain. 

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 at www.sazuma.com).

Review by 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. Fredric Wertham.

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.

This documentary 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 delinquency.

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.


(2007)
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.

Jess Weixler 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?

Dawn becomes 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.

Lichtenstein does 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.

Of course, 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.

Dimension has 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. 


THE TENANT
(1976)
Directed by Roman Polanski
Starring Roman Polanski, Isabelle Adjani, Shelly Winters, Melvyn Douglas, Jo Van Fleet.

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 situation.

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 demands...

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 urge).

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 multi-faceted talent.

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.

The 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.

Reviewed by Jon Stone


1982
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

This 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.

Fast 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….

TENEBRE 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.

Once 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 terror.

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 worries. 

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.

The 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.


TENTACLES
(1976)
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 looked fake.

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 complete-ist.


(2012)
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

When 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.

Anthony 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 done.

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.

But 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 a feature.

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 photoshop jobs.

I would 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 www.newdraculamovie.com


(1974)
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring Marilyn 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 that family.

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 ever made.


THEATER OF BLOOD
(1973)
Directed by Douglas Hickox
Starring Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Robert Coote, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe, Robert Morley, and Dennis Price.

Price plays 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.


(2007)
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.

 Okay….Spoiler time.  Stop reading here if you don’t want to know about the ending.

Still 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!”

The 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 it.


13 GHOSTS
(1960)
Directed by William Castle
Starring Charles 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.


THIRTEEN GHOSTS
(2001)
Directed by Steve Beck
Starring Tony Shalhoub, Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, Embeth Davidtz, F. Murray Abraham

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. 

But one 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.

The makeup 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.

Entertainment 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.


(2003)
Directed by Jeff Thomas
Starring Jeff Thomas, Robert Miller, Daniel Rain, April Cole, Sarah Corbin, Kevin Kuras

Most low 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 looking scenes.

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.

Now the 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 at.


(2004)
(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 shows.

The 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 least.

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 entirely.


THREE ON A MEATHOOK
(1972)
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 theirs...

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.


(2006)
Directed by Jaume Balagueró
Starring Macarena Gómez, Nuria González, Adrià Collado, Ruth Díaz, Roberto Romero, David Sandanya

Jaume 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.

This was 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 worse.

Balagueró 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.

Macarena Gómez, 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 shooting.

Highly recommended.


TOURIST TRAP
(1979)
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 effectively.

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.

This 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 along. 

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


(1972)
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 gothic.

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.


(2007)
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 piece’s timelessness.

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 Contest. 

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 indeed. 

For more info, visit www.thetreemovie.com

Review by Aaron “Dr. AC” Christensen


(2003)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, Brendan Gleeson

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 deadly.

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.


Episode 1

"Shatter Day"
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.
 

Episode 2

"Wordplay"
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
the future.

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).

"Chameleon"
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 individuals.

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).

Episode 3

"Healer"
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!).

"Children's Zoo"
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.

"Kentucky Rye"
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.


Episode 4

"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."

"Wish Bank"
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 for.

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.

"Nightcrawlers"
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.


(2003)
Directed by 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 zombies.

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 shotgun.

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 disc alone.