In this week’s round-up, I take a look at David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (01/01/13), Dark Sky’s release of Sleep Tight (01/08/13), Chiller (12/11/12), and Scream! Factory’s Deadly Blessing (01/22/13). Let’s get to it! READ MORE
Director Jaume Balagueró ([Rec] and [Rec] 2) switches gears a bit with his creepy new film Sleep Tight. The film was written by Alberto Marini (Films to Keep You Awake: To Let) and inhabits a much different tonal space than the [REC] films.
To that end I recently shot Balagueró a few questions via email. We touched on the change of pace this film represents, working with 700 live cockroaches and what to expect from his next directorial effort, [REC] 4: Apocalypse
IN the film “Toiling silently among the residents of an everyday Barcelona apartment building, doorman César (Luis Tosar, Even the Rain, Miami Vice) harbors a dark secret: his sole desire in life is to make others unhappy. When he sets his sights on Clara (Marta Etura, Cell 211, Dark Blue Almost Black), one of his building’s cheeriest residents, his sick need blossoms into a full-fledged obsession.” Sleep Tight was nominated for more than 20 awards in Spain and won six Gaudi Awards, including Best Director, Best Actor for Luis Tosar and Best Screenplay.
Sleep Tight comes to Blu-ray and DVD from Dark Sky Films and MPI Media Group tomorrow, January 8, 2013. Head inside for the interview! READ MORE
Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
From 1974 to 1979, author Peter Benchley pulled off a hat trick of impressive seafaring bestsellers. Each book was adapted for the big screen one year after publication – with mixed results. There’s Jaws, of course, then The Deep, which also did well at the box-office thanks in part to Jacqueline Bisset swimming in a see-through shirt. It seemed like adapting Benchley’s source material meant instant success. Then there was The Island, a film that cost more than Jaws and The Deep combined, that wound up tanking in theaters.
Directed by Michael Ritchie (Fletch), The Island follows investigative journalist Blair Maynard (Michael Caine) who decides to take on a nautical mystery as his next assignment. In a certain corner of the Caribbean, dozens of boats have been disappearing over the years. It’s some Bermuda Triangle shit and Blair is determined to get to the bottom of it. He takes his estranged son Justin along with him under the guise of a “vacation.” They do some father-son bonding stuff like buying a gun and lying to law enforcement agents. While they’re fishing one day, a filthy man and a little girl abduct them.
They’re brought to an uncharted island inhabited by a 300-year-old colony of French pirates. Their leader is suave scumbag John David (voice-actor extraordinaire David Warner). The pirates are the ones behind the missing boats and they’re really good at the whole looting and murder aspects of pirate life. They’re not kid-friendly Disney pirates who make clever quips while only getting marginally drunk. This gang never showers, they cover their women in mud, and they get wasted on some kind of island moonshine.
But throughout all the raids and swashbuckling, John David longs for a son. For years he’s been trying to train the boys of the colony how to be as cunning and heartless as him, but everyone’s failed him. It’s a bizarrely heartfelt subplot anchored by Warner’s dignified performance. So he starts to train Justin in the ways of pirate life in hopes of finally finding a worthy successor. The kid takes to it right away – swearing off Blair as his father and showing great aptitude with a pistol. It’s hard to believe a son would turn against his father so quick (as shitty as a father as he’s been), but at this point in the movie all credibility has been tossed overboard anyway.
All the while Blair is kept alive and forced to act like a husband to a woman of the colony. He almost escapes a handful of times, but it’s not until the pirates decide to take on a Coast Guard vessel that Blair sees his chance for escape and revenge. The Island was made during Caine’s “80s paycheck period,” in which he was more interested in getting paid than creating critically acclaimed films. Some of his output during this period is really fun (Dressed to Kill) and some is, well, Jaws: The Revenge.
The Island falls somewhere in the middle. Caine doesn’t exactly phone his performance in, but there are moments where he looks extremely bored. During the gun shop scene, for example, Caine looks like he’s falling asleep on his feet when he’s supposed to be debating with his son on whether it’s wise or not to own a gun. Other times he does his classic scenery chewing like only Caine can. The climax on the Coast Guard vessel is easily up there with one of the best badass Caine moments of all time. I wouldn’t compare it to the naked shotgun shootout from Get Carter, but it’s up there.
While there are a lot of nice set pieces and fantastic locations in The Island, it never really lives up to the word “thrilling.” Moments of suspense are cut short and dragged down by weak sub-plots and character developments. A lot of time is given to Blaire’s “pirate wife” and their forced relationship, which couldn’t be more dull. It feels like Ritchie wasn’t sure what he wanted the movie to be about: Caine’s attempted escape from the island or his son’s conversion to pirate life. He fumbles these two plots back and forth, shifting tones each time. The climax is terrific, but everything leading up to it feels very clunky.
The Island bombed at the box-office and then faded into cult obscurity. Universal released it through their “Vault Series” last year, and now, Scream Factory’s resurrected the film with a DVD and Blu-ray combo pack. Unfortunately, due to a void in resources and the passing of Michael Ritchie in 2001, there are zero special features on this set. It’s definitely worth a rent, but only diehard Caine and cult fans should dish out the cash for the set.
Scream Factory presents The Island in 1080p 2.35:1 widescreen with DTS HD Master Audio 2.0. The colors of the island scenes are particularly lush with blues and greens popping and contrasting nicely with the dark of the jungle. Ritchie definitely got the most out of location shooting. The film sounds as good as an HD 2.0 track can.
Like I mentioned, there are no special features. Not even a trailer.
Magnolia released V/H/S (write your reviews) on DVD and Blu-ray this week (along with iTunes and VOD etc…). But there’s another, older – and titular – format on which the film can be seen. Actual VHS tape! Total Film has the rundown on the UK release (via Momentum films) of the film on its “intended” format.
“The logistics of such an exercise were far from easy, and by all accounts Momentum Pictures had to undertake considerable research to get big-box-sized tapes made up which include many nods to the glory days of rental stores. Getting hold of these tapes won’t be easy though. Only 300 numbered copies have been manufactured and Momentum are promising a unique V/H/S event in January at which lucky fans will be able to get hold of them. Further details will emerge on the Total Film VHS Hub.”
V/H/S comes from filmmakers Adam Wingard (You’re Next, A Horrible Way to Die, Pop Skull), Simon Barrett (You’re Next, Dead Birds, Red Sands), Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Roost, The Innkeepers), David Bruckner (The Signal), Joe Swanberg (Silver Bullets), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), and Radio Silence.
Head inside for a better look at the big box packaging! And keep your eyes peeled for a US Version from Magnolia soon! READ MORE
Magnolia releases V/H/S (write your reviews) DVD/Blu-ray TODAY, December 4th! Extras include deleted scenes, a featurette on the visual effects, a behind the scenes featurette, an AXS TV: A Look at V/H/S feature, a filmmakers’ commentary and trailers. If you’re not into physical media, it’s also available on iTunes – though I’m not sure if all of the extras come with that version.
In the film “When a group of petty criminals is hired by a mysterious party to retrieve a rare piece of found footage from a rundown house in the middle of nowhere, they soon realize that the job isn’t going to be as easy as they thought. In the living room, a lifeless body holds court before a hub of old television sets, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of VHS tapes. As they search for the right one, they are treated to a seemingly endless number of horrifying videos, each stranger than the last.”
To celebrate we’ve got some (in most cases) new/previously unpublished quotes from filmmakers Adam Wingard (You’re Next, A Horrible Way to Die, Pop Skull), Simon Barrett (You’re Next, Dead Birds, Red Sands), Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Roost, The Innkeepers), David Bruckner (The Signal), Joe Swanberg (Silver Bullets), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), and Radio Silence.
Head inside for some brief reflections on their segments. READ MORE
Today, Anchor Bay Films presents Silent Night on screens in ten major U.S. metropolitan areas and on Tuesday, December 4th, the Blu-ray/DVD combo and DVD will be available to unwrap nationwide.
And that’s just what we’re giving you the chance to do. FOR FREE! We’re also throwing in a copy of the recent DVD re-release of Silent Night, Deadly Night 1 & 2. That’s the new movie and the uncensored version of the original film and its sequel (that re-release comes with a ton of extra features BTW). Just send an email containing YOUR FULL NAME, your US address (no PO Boxes) and your most HORRIFIC real-life Xmas story to If you’re up for that shoot us an email Contest Now Closed. You’ll know you’ve won if the package shows up at your door in a week or two!
The film, directed by Steven C. Miller (Automaton Transfusion, Under the Bed, The Aggression Scale), is a loose remake of the horror classic Silent Night, Deadly Night. The cast includes Malcolm McDowell (Rob Zombie’s Halloween, Easy A), Jaime King (Sin City, My Bloody Valentine 3D), Donal Logue (Shark Night 3D, Blade), Lisa Marie (Sleepy Hollow), Brendan Fehr (Final Destination, X-Men First Class), and Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World). In the remake, “McDowell and King star as a small-town sheriff and deputy on the hunt for a murderous Santa Claus terrorizing their community on Christmas Eve. But with the streets full of Santas for the annual Christmas parade, the killer is hiding in plain sight. He’s made his list, checked it twice, and the naughty are going to pay with their lives.”
Head inside for the box art and a list of theaters in which you can see the film today. READ MORE
Review by Patrick Cooper
Director Dick Richards only helmed seven movies during his career. Not a lot, but he managed to cover a lot of genre territory along the way. Wedged in between a war epic and a family melodrama is 1982’s obscure horror-thriller Death Valley. The film follows Billy, a young city boy on a reluctant trip to the west. His mom forces him to go so she can soften him up to her new boyfriend, who’s pretty much the opposite of Billy’s intellectual biological father. It’s more thriller than horror and Richards manages to infuse it with some nice western aesthetics. And now the folks at Scream Factory have dropped this obscure little film onto Blu-ray and DVD for the first time. Prepare to stare into the abyss of Peter Billingsley’s rosy cheeks in HD…
A pre-Christmas Story Billingsley stars as Billy. We first meet him during the film’s whimsical prologue as he roams around Manhattan with his dad (Edward Herrmann – The Lost Boys), doing academic shit like playing chess and going to book stores. This NYC montage is in sharp contrast to where we see Billy next: stepping out of an airport in Arizona, looking like they just put his dog to sleep. He has no interest in Arizona, or the desert, or his mom’s new boyfriend, Mike (Paul Le Mat – Puppetmaster). Mike doesn’t seem all that interested in Billy either. He’s a total dick to him behind his back, rolling his eyes whenever Billy opens his mouth looking really off-put by Billy’s intelligence.
While stopped in Death Valley, mom and Mike let Billy wander around the desert by himself. I’m sure Mike was hoping the kid would get lost and never be heard from again. But instead Billy comes across a motor home where a triple murder just occurred. This is where Death Valley really starts to pick up. The killer, Hal, starts stalking Billy’s family around the desert. We know who the killer is pretty early on because he’s wearing the same frog necklace MacGuffin Billy finds in the motor home.
It’s Stephen McHattie! That creepy guy who looks like Lance Henriksen! There are some pretty great set pieces between Billy and Hal. The best is in an old west museum where Hal has a bandana on so Billy thinks he’s part of the show. See, it’s one of those living museums where people dress up in period costume and talk to you so you feel super awkward. Billy calls him “Black Bart” – that’s two movies in a row Billingsley calls someone “Black Bart”! Pretty thought-provoking film criticism, I know.
Wilfred Brimley plays the sheriff and is as amazing as always. That guy has such incredible, stoic presence. Throw a cowboy hat and a badge on him and game over, pal. You can shove your diabetes jokes up you ass. Show some respect for Brimley’s greatness.
Then there’s the scene with the babysitter. Ho-lee shit. Billy’s family leaves him alone in a hotel room with this babysitter who looks like a bigger version of that fat blonde kid from Trick ‘r Treat who hose-vomits chocolate. And it’s a girl. As Billy watches television, she eyeballs a bunch of snacks that are sitting on the TV stand. There’s a Twinkie, a Mr. Goodbar, and some chips. This scene goes on forever. It’s baffling and hilarious. Richards makes us watch this girl in real-time drool over the snacks, ask if she can eat the snacks, then she eats the snacks, then she folds up the wrappers super loud, and uses them as a napkin. It goes on for like five minutes and miraculously it doesn’t impede the suspense building. If anything it makes you more on edge because you can’t wait for this girl to get killed! She even sticks her little sausage fingers in Billy’s ice cream! Ah!
The climactic twist is predictable but pulled off really well. The ending is pretty tense and the entire movie builds up to it nicely. I was hoping Billy’s real dad would show up and save the day though. He could’ve not only stopped Hal, but also smack Mike around for being a dick to his son. It’s fun to imagine the phone call the mom had to make to Billy’s dad, telling him all about how a serial killer almost murdered the kid. I bet Billy’s dad won the custody battle after this.
On Scream Factory’s Facebook page, people have expressed worry that the company is cranking these sets out too fast – that they won’t be able to keep up the quality of A/V and special features. I’ve got faith in them though. I’m sure resources for Death Valley were pretty slim, but they still managed to put together a set that’s worth your hard-earned money. And a lot of people, including myself, never even heard of this movie before Scream Factory announced it. So I say keep ‘em coming.
Scream Factory presents Death Valley in 1080p 1.78:1 widescreen. The transfer’s got a few specks and scratches but otherwise looks fantastic. The bright colors of the desert contrast crisply with the nighttime scenes. Like I mentioned earlier, Billingsley’s chubby rosy cheeks are hypnotizing. The 5.1 track sounds fine.
Audio commentary with director Dick Richards, moderated by Edwin Samuelson of AV Maniacs: Richards talks about the development of the film. He explains how he wanted to make one film in every genre, but he’s bummed he never made a musical. He considers Death Valley to be more of thriller than horror, and I’d have to agree. He’s says some pretty funny stuff about Billingsley – how he was a 40-yr-old trapped in a little kid’s body. He calls him “all business.” Samuelson tries to dig deeper and keep the conversation going, but Richards doesn’t seem to remember a lot (he’s pretty old now).
Trailer and TV spot
DVD copy for all you cavemen
Review by James A. Janisse
Outpost: Black Sun is a horror movie released earlier this year about Nazi zombies. Actually, I think zombie Nazis is more accurate, since they were Nazis before they were raised from the dead, not zombies who decided to join the National Socialist party. In any case, the film is a sequel to 2008′s Outpost, a fact I did not know before I sat down to watch it, so bear with me since I’ve never seen the original and thus might be missing some background information. In any case, Outpost: Black Sun doesn’t deliver on the good times zombie Nazis would suggest, ending up a muddled affair that plays like a boring first-person shooter.
After a set-up that shows us mad Nazi scientist Klausener (David Gant) and his re-animated soldiers kicking some ass, we meet Lena (Catherine Steadman), a young Jewish Nazi hunter trying to track down aging officers to exact revenge for her ascendants. This quickly leads her to an undisclosed location in Eastern Europe, where she joins engineer Wallace (Richard Coyle) to uncover why, exactly, there are so many NATO troops in the area. Their search eventually teams them up with a squad of soldiers who are venturing deep into the woods to turn off an electrical device that’s powering an army of reanimated Nazis.
This set-up is kind of preposterous, but there have been plenty of great movies built upon outlandish premises. What makes those movies work, though – and I’m thinking of silly affairs like Rocky Horror or Repo! The Genetic Opera – is that they don’t take themselves seriously. They embrace the campiness inherent to their story and just roll with it, winking at the audience to let them know they’re in on the joke. Director Steve Barker, who also co-wrote the film with Rae Brunton, inexplicably shoots Black Sun completely straight-faced, as though these zombie Nazis were a somber threat his audience should be made aware of.
I wouldn’t bash the decision to make this a serious film if it had been done cohesively. After all, the Nazis were an actual real-life terror, one of the most evil groups of people humankind has ever seen, and it’s not inconceivable that their return – undead or not – could be played as commentary on fascism in the modern world, or something like that. But instead, we get a hunchbacked zombie woman whose shrill laughter never stops, a dude hooked up to electrical cables that can spew out force lightning at random, and a script with so many “F”-words that it could have been written by a middle-aged boy. It’s really hard to take a movie seriously when lines like “This is for all the marbles” get uttered without a modicum of self-awareness.
And that still isn’t the worst bit of dialogue in the film. The aforementioned lightning guy is incomprehensible, dejectedly reciting lines that sound like they’re coming from an angsty first-year philosophy student. “The world is vibration particles, nothing more,” he says to Lena, as if that actually meant something. The confusing dialogue and story-line is made worse by perpetual dark lighting and camera movements designed to give the viewer motion sickness. Its honestly hard to imagine them making this movie worse than it already is.
Filmmakers who work in cheesy B-horror take note: If your movie’s material sounds ridiculous at the offset, play it up and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you do, you might end up with Outpost: Black Sun, a joyless movie that isn’t even graphic enough to satisfy gore-hounds.
Video: A lot of Outpost: Black Sun is very dark, a sad fact since it looks pretty damn good when you can see what’s going on. The video is crisp and the colors are appropriately bleak, but whether the characters are indoors or outdoors, they’re moving around in perpetual darkness, making it sometimes hard to see what’s going on.
Audio: One of the few great things about Outpost: Black Sun is its sound design, which gets great 5.1 treatment on the Bluray. The Nazi growls come through excellently, and the occasions where sound gets muffled for dramatic effect are perfect.
Extras / Special Features:
Making-of (5 minutes): 5 minutes of interviews and on-set footage. Barker talks about his decision to make a sequel to Outpost and how he had $200 grand extra to make it. Steadman and Coyle talk about their roles and the movie’s plot, and even they seem like they’re not entirely sure how this script got written. For the record, they both did a great job with the material they were given to work with.
Trailer (2 minutes): The trailer gives a good condensed version of the plot, chronologically introducing Lena, Wallace, and the soldiers. It’s actually more clear than the movie in telling the story, and it does a really good job of making the movie look exciting.
Even though V/H/S is still in US theaters, it has yet to come out in the UK. That all changes on January 18th, and this awesome new quad poster paves the way! And, for North American fans, Magnolia has als announced both DVD and Blu-ray releases of the film (write your reviews) for December 4th (extras will include deleted scenes, a featurette on the visual effects, a behind the scenes featurette, a AXS TV: A Look at V/H/S feature, and trailers).
Now on VOD platforms and in limited theaters October 5, “When a group of petty criminals is hired by a mysterious party to retrieve a rare piece of found footage from a rundown house in the middle of nowhere, they soon realize that the job isn’t going to be as easy as they thought. In the living room, a lifeless body holds court before a hub of old television sets, surrounded by stacks upon stacks of VHS tapes. As they search for the right one, they are treated to a seemingly endless number of horrifying videos, each stranger than the last.”
So who is part of the madness, you ask? Adam Wingard (You’re Next, A Horrible Way to Die, Pop Skull), Simon Barrett (You’re Next, Dead Birds, Red Sands), Ti West (The House of the Devil, The Roost, The Innkeepers), David Bruckner (The Signal), Joe Swanberg (Silver Bullets), Glenn McQuaid (I Sell the Dead), along with YouTube sensations Radio Silence.
In this week’s round-up, I take a look at Criterion’s Rosemary’s Baby (10/30/12) release, IFC’s The Pact (11/06/12), Scream Factory’s They Live (11/06/12) disc, the forgettable Vamps (11/13/12), and Warner Bros. Blade Runner 30th Anniversary set (10/23/12) – which isn’t horror, but pretty great anyway. There are a few highly anticipated titles in the mix this week, so let’s get to it! READ MORE
Reviewed by Michael Ferraro
Perhaps applause is in order for director Jonathan Glendening. His newest feature, the tantalizing Strippers vs. Werewolves, may be the most overproduced student film ever made. It features tons of tropes and stylistic editing choices even students from NYU would scoff at.
Case in point: the film begins as most films do, introducing characters and such. Only, instead of letting the film and characters speak for them selves, each character is introduced by their name (character name that is) being thrown onto the screen as they appear. It’s as if the filmmakers were already expecting you not to be paying attention to the film five minutes into it.
How can this be? Have they never watched a film before? Were they scared that audiences would expect a film with this title to not be taken seriously? They were correct about that latter question but still, people are going to expect some quality cheese when they pop this into their players. Instead, we get a humorless comedy, a thrill-less thriller, and some awkward editing. Hell, we sat through Zombie Strippers (and maybe even Zombies vs. Strippers) without question. Adding werewolves to the formula probably seemed like the right thing to do.
Strippers vs. Werewolves begins at the Silvadollas strip club, where business seems to be pretty good. Justice (Adele Silvia) is doing her job, pleasing a seemingly odd fellow in a private room, when he starts acting weird. For Justice, his craziness is at levels she isn’t quite used to, so she defends herself by stabbing the dude in his eye. We soon learn, however, that this guy, Mickey, is part of a violent wolf pack who soon learns of his death, and takes to the club in a violent fit of revenge.
The big plot twist? One of these evil wolves is engaged to sweet Justice. So will the clan ignore their brother and destroy these strippers? Of course they will (hence the title).
The Blu-ray contains a short behind the scenes extra and a pretty entertaining commentary with producers Jonathan Sothcott and Simon Phillips. I almost recommend you watching it with the commentary instead of by itself. Also, be on the lookout for a Robert Englund appearance (because if you blink, you might miss it).
Relativity Media releases House at the End of the Street on Blu-ray/DVD on January 18th, 2013. The PG-13 thriller from director Mark Tonderai (Hush) stars Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games) Max Thieriot (My Soul To Take) and Elizabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas, Adventures In Babysitting).
In the film, “Seeking a fresh start, newly divorced Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) and her daughter Elissa (Jennifer Lawrence) find the house of their dreams in a small, upscale, rural town. But when startling and unexplainable events begin to happen, Sarah and Elissa learn the town is in the shadows of a chilling secret. Years earlier, in the house next door, a daughter killed her parents in their beds, and disappeared – leaving only a brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot), as the sole survivor. Against Sarah’s wishes, Elissa begins a relationship with the reclusive Ryan – and the closer they get, the deeper they’re all pulled into a mystery more dangerous than they ever imagined.”
There’s a few special features so head inside to check those out along with some box art that’s better than the theatrical poster. READ MORE
Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse was released when slashers were booming. Rather than falling into the tropes of the age, The Funhouse is more of a throwback, atmospheric monster movie. The slasher genre is even poked fun of during the Halloween/Psycho homage in the beginning, when the little brother stabs Amy with a rubber knife. Whether it’s intentional or not, this acts as a humorous snub to the flood of slasher films in the ‘80s. The Funhouse is a slow burn that walks the fine line between suspense-building and just plain boring. Once the film starts moving at full speed though it whirlwinds into a nightmare ride of carnival thrills and kills, albeit a formulaic one.
Amy (Elizabeth Berridge) and her new main squeeze Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) head out to the traveling carnival with two friends for a night of dope smoking and freakshow peeping. Amy’s folks (an alcoholic mother and disinterested father) plead with her not to go – two corpses were found near the same carnival last year – but Buzz’s crooked smile coaxes her to the big top. They arrive at the carnival, stoned and glowing with adolescent hormones, and this is the part where people whine that it gets “boring.”
After they arrive at the carnival nothing happens for something like 45 minutes. But the devil’s in the details, you know? A lot of subtle, unnerving shit happens and all of it seems to be “marking” or summoning Amy in a way. Right when they arrive, Amy bumps into some hobo looking guy whose face is smeared in blood and filth. When her and Liz (Largo Woodruff) are arguing about Amy’s virginity in the bathroom, she playfully throws a paper towel at Liz. A second later, that bag lady with the jack-o-lantern teeth materializes out of nowhere and snatches up the towel. Why did she pick that one out of all the towels on the ground?! Every time they pass The Barker (Kevin Conway) he seems to single Amy out of the crowd. When the fortuneteller’s ball drops, it rolls right up to Amy then rolls quickly away. Maybe I’m reading too much into this but I think the carnival wants Amy’s ass!
The teens decide to have a slumber party in the funhouse and end up witnessing a bunch of horrible things, including a freak in a Frankenstein’s monster mask get a handjob. Once the action kicks in The Funhouse starts to follow a more traditional slasher/survival formula (murder death kill). The kills aren’t very creative. The best bit of violence involves axing a fellow who’s already dead (how much better would it have been if he was still alive when Buzz drops the axe?!).
What the movie lacks in blood splatter it makes up for in macabre detail and atmosphere. The production design drips authenticity. Hooper and cinematographer Andrew Laszlo (The Warriors) deliver some really inspired direction and photography. The HUGE crane shot following Amy’s little brother when the carnival is closing is incredible. Amy’s journey through the nightmarish funhouse labyrinth is terrifying. Slizabeth Berridge isn’t even the stand out performance! Kevin Conway is by a mile. He doesn’t get a ton of screen time, but he chews every second of it. You can practically smell his sweaty brow.
Besides the fact that it takes Gunther forever to die at the end, I really have nothing bad to say about The Funhouse. Fans are going to be thrilled with Scream! Factory’s Blu-ray. And if you’re not a fan of the film, I suggest giving it another shot.
The Funhouse is presented in 2.35:1 1080p with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. It looks freaking fantastic. Details are sharp and the contrast is great. There is so much incredible detail in and around the carnival and the transfer picks everything up real nice. It sounds terrific too. John Beal’s booming opening carnival score sets the stage, immersing the audience.
Audio Commentary with Tobe Hooper, moderated by Tim Sullivan: Hooper talks about what drew him to the film, his love of classic movie monsters, and covers a lot of the standard commentary ground like casting and whatnot. Sullivan does a great job of keeping the conversation going. There’s rarely a moment where they’re sitting there in silence or simply narrating what’s happing in the film.
“The Barker Speaks!” An Interview With Actor Kevin Conway (11:15): He explains how it was his suggestion that he plays all three barkers. He talks about working with Tobe and his coke (a-cola) habit, looking back fondly on the production.
“Something Wicked This Way Comes” An Interview With Executive Producer Mark L. Lester (8:44): He discusses how the film transitioned from a low-budget film to a $3 million picture with Universal. He talks about setting up the carnival and constructing the funhouse.
“Carnival Music” An Interview With Composer John Beal (10:01): He talks about his background as a musician and how he got into composing. Explains how prevalent synthesizers were in film scoring at the time, but they chose to use an orchestra so the film wouldn’t feel dated down the road. Wise choice!
Audio Interview With Actor William Finley (3:25): This is a snippet from an audio interview with the great Finley conducted in 2005. He discusses working with Hooper and how much fun the shoot was. RIP, Mr. Finley.
Deleted Scenes (5:26): These scenes were added to the film’s network television run to meet the minimum required running time and to compensate for all the sex and violence cut out. There’s a bit of Buzz meeting Amy’s parents and more of them in the car together. There’s a great scene with Amy’s little brother reading about a witch, which foreshadows the bag lady at the carnival.
TV and Radio Spots
Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
The folks at Kino and Redemption Films have been showing the maestro of soft-core sleaze Jess Franco some love on Blu-ray lately. They released a humble disc of his 1975 sadomasochist horror film Exorcism with no features besides the alternate cut (Demoniac). For his 1973 film Female Vampire, they’ve included some special features as well as the less-explicit alternate cut. It’s a nice package for his fans, but the film itself suffers from the drawbacks of nearly every Franco film.
The filmmaker’s muse and late wife Lina Romay stars as the Countess Irina Karlstein, a mute woman who lives with her family’s curse of having to drink bodily fluids to survive. Not blood, cum. Both male and female. She feeds by going down on her victims and once they orgasm she drains them of their fluids and they die. It’s not explained how this kills them, but this isn’t the type of film to sweat over details.
The Countess returns to her ancestral home on the Portuguese island of Madeira, making the locals wary and the men horny. There she lurks around all sexy like, usually with just a cape and boots on, engaging in sexual relations with men and women alike. She finishes them off in more ways than one, if ya catch my drift. She even has a dopey assistant who lures victims to her home. That’s really about it as far as the story goes. There is a weak sub-plot thrown in concerning a writer (Jack Taylor) who falls in love with the Countess, but that flaccid emotional story quickly finds its boner and devolves into a round of deadly oral sex.
The erotic scenes in Female Vampire are excruciatingly long and make up about the first hour of this 100-minute movie. There’s one solo scene with Lina where she’s writhing around on a bed for something like seven minutes. This is after she performs fellatio on the bedpost. Franco films these scenes very clumsily. He erratically zooms-in on crotches and butts like he just hit puberty. As sexy as Lina is, these scenes are nothing but tedious.
Luckily Redemption has included the 70-minute cut of the film, titled Erotikill. This version cuts out much of the sex in exchange for more violence. This version also seems to imply that Countess Karlstein feeds on blood like a normal ass vampire.
For Franco fetishists, this disc is a must-have. It’s a well-made package with some brief, but well-produced features. For those unfamiliar with Franco, you might want to check this out via your preferred method of rental.
Redemption Films presents Female Vampire in 1080p from a print containing an abundance of scratches, specks, and sporadic brightness fluctuations. No digital tampering has been done, which honestly may have weakened the film’s foggy, natural look. There are audio tracks in English and French, both in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The English dubbing sounds silly, so I recommend watching it in French with English subtitles.
Erotikill – a 70-minute, less explicit cut of the film.
Destiny in Soft Focus: Jess Franco Remembers Female Vampire (13:00) – Franco reminisces on the film and his relationship with Lina.
Words for Lina (13:00) – a nice tribute by co-star Jean-Pierre Bouyxou. He tells some anecdotes about Lina, always stressing how great her sense of humor was. He calls her a “guttersnipe.”
Trailers for Franco’s Exorcism, The Nude Vampire, The Rape of the Vampire, Female Vampire, and Requiem for a Vampire.
Review by Patrick Cooper
Jess Franco is an iconoclast of European trash who has made about a zillion films so far in his lifetime. Nearly all of them have heavy doses of eroticism and light-horror thrown in, with mixed results. He’s garnered a cult following over the years and while he may not be the most capable director in the world, there’s no denying his enthusiasm for filmmaking and naked women.
Made during Franco’s creative eruption of the 1970s (he made over 50 films in that decade alone), Exorcism is a tale of pseudo-Satanism filled with loads of sex, sleaze, and stabbings. Set in the underground world of Parisian sadomasochist performance art, the film stars Franco’s exhibitionist muse and late wife, Lina Romay. The very first shot of the film is Romay tied to a cross, being whipped and having blood smeared on her by a blonde. It’s pretty much the antithesis of an opening establishment shot from a helicopter. A crowd of elderly creeps watches this whole bloody spectacle, apparently getting their rocks off.
Turns out it’s just some S&M performance art and Anne (Romay) does this all the time. She’s an assistant or an intern or something at “Garter and Dagger” magazine and her and the editor Raymond (Pierre Taylou) stage these phony torture sex shows for material. Sometimes the audience participates and that’s when things get real gross.
Franco plays Mathis, a former priest who now writes short stories for “Garter and Dagger.” He was kicked out of the church for being too extreme in his devotion to the nastier parts of the Old Testament. One day at the office he covertly overhears Raymond and Anne talking about a black mass they’re going to be having. It’s just one of their slimy humpfests where people pretend to be sacrificed, but in Mathis’ twisted mind he believes they’re planning a legit occult ceremony for the dark lord himself. Mathis dons his priest’s robes again and starts stalking and killing everyone involved in the black mass. Every swinger, slut, and mustached Satanist falls under Mathis’ holy blade.
Franco plays a great creep. He spends most of the film peeping out his window into Anne’s loveden across the street, but when he gets down to abducting and “exorcising” people (stabbing them) he’s a menacing little sicko. There’s only one scene of impressively realistic looking gore. The rest of the killings are more about naked women screaming than any kind of real horror. None of the nudity is erotic and I found myself fast-forwarding some of the time devoted to writhing naked bodies. These scenes are more boring than anything else.
If you want to skip the sleaze and get down to the film’s more horror-influenced elements, Kino Lorber’s Redemption Films has included the alternate cut of the film, called Demoniac. This cut is nearly 30 minutes shorter than Exorcism and features none of the lengthy sex scenes. Franco also reshot some of the expository scenes for this cut, this time with everyone wearing clothes. Both cuts of the film sadly contain Franco’s novice camerawork and total lack of depth in both character and story.
The final minute of the film is completely baffling and hilarious. The tone (whatever minute trace of tone there was) completely changes to a buddy-cop film. The two detectives working the Mathis murders have a laugh and one of them delivers a line of dialogue resembling “You’re alright with me, rookie.” It’s amazing and so out of place and it might be the only entertaining moment of the film.
If you’re a fan of ‘70s sleaze for the helluva it then you’re going to love Exorcism. If you savor character, story, and skilled camerawork, stay far, far, away from this one.
Exorcism probably looked grungy from the start and on Redemption Film’s Blu-ray release there are loads of scratches, specks, and frequent fluctuations in brightness. The 1080p transfer doesn’t clear up any of these hiccups. Franco didn’t concern himself with petty annoyances like focusing the camera, so nothing looks sharp. Nothing seems to have been digitally corrected, which some people might dig. The only audio track is a 2.0 mix with English dubbing. The volume fluctuates throughout the film but at least the eerie soundtrack sounds nice.
Trailers for Franco’s Exorcism, The Nude Vampire, The Rape of the Vampire, Female Vampire, and Requiem for a Vampire.
Demoniac – a 69 minute, less explicit cut of the film.
Reviewed by Michael Erb
Anthropology student Nathan has an idea for his class project that’s just killer. His family owns some land that once the site of a Chumash burial ground, a place of great importance and sacred significance. Nathan wants his professor and a few classmates to come with him to the family land and recreate a Chumash ritual. The professor agrees and so Nathan’s friends, some hot sorority sisters, and a lot of illicit substances go to the coastal cottage for a weekend of fun and academia. What they don’t know is Nathan’s brother Benny has been drinking the hallucinogenic tea of the Chumash rituals, sending him into trippy kidnapping sprees. Benny also lets a meth cooker/addict named Delgado to stay in one of the greenhouses. After the group arrives and disturbs both men’s relative tranquility, they both realize that they have unfinished business with one of the girls Nathan brought along.
Rites of Passage is a bit hard to describe. It’s like a menacing backwoods hillbilly movie but with elements of a revenge film and a bit of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The movie also has three actors in prominent roles that are more known for doing any movie that comes along than they are for their acting ability. By all accounts, Rites of Passage should be awful. However, it really doesn’t do much wrong and the talent elevates the material when it begins to drag. The movie becomes fairly entertaining.
Longtime writer and first time writer/director Peter Iliff crams a lot of ideas into the movie. There’s a conflict between two brothers over the same woman, there’s two slightly sympathetic drug fuelled villains, there’s even a sub plot about a cam girl and a horny college kid meeting in real life. That’s a great deal of stuff to pack into a movie, even for a veteran screenwriter.
For the most part, Rites of Passage succeeds at maintaining a good balance over all its elements. When it does go overboard, however, the story suffers. There are characters that are simply never seen or referred to again, leaving their fates questionable. And even though Iliff manages to have all the separate elements comes together in the finale, it feels unsatisfying.
The tea hallucinations are the most interesting visual Rites of Passage has going on. The focus gets very hazy and fish-eyed, with lots of lens flairs and tribal drawings dancing in the peripheral. There are shamans performing some ritual and occasionally Wes Bentley’s face turns into a bear. It’s a trip alright.
The young cast does well all around. Their performances feel authentic and lend an air of credibility to the hard partying, hard studying set. Christian Slater has the most developed role in the film and appears to have the most fun out of anyone in the cast, playing the dual role of Delgado and his imaginary talking stuffed monkey, Poncho, with insane aplomb.
Wes Bentley plays the spaced out, creepy train wreck Benny. When Benny is on a tea root trip, Bentley chews scenery and appears to mentally go to a far off place. It’s cool to watch, especially when he’s capturing another would be bride or when someone’s writing on his way too stoned face. Only Stephen Dorff pulls off a somewhat lackluster turn as Professor Nash. Sure, Dorff looks confident and smug when seducing his students and entranced when he ingests some special tea. Otherwise, he looks a little sleepy and his performance becomes a bit tired.
It’s hard to put a quantitative rating to Rites of Passage because it actually did most of what it set out to do. The story is interesting and a bit refreshing in tackling the backwoods crazies’ trope. The cast makes the movie fun and enjoyable. The hallucination scenes are cool and executed well. Rites of Passage also doesn’t do anything particularly spectacular and loses interest with its own characters. It’s a nice first go at directing for Peter Iliff, but it looks like he could do more with his next movie.
The movie looks good and has no real audio/visual issues with the disc. High definition and standard setups should both be able to showcase those trippy tea sequences in all their splendor.
There’s only a short making of feature and a few trailers. The making of is interesting when Peter Iliff talks about how long it took him to finally transition from screenwriting into directing. Otherwise, the disc is sorely lacking in this area.
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, his quasi Alien prequel, hit Blu-ray and DVD recently both in the UK and in the States. It apparently features some killer documentaries about the film’s development process from being a straight Alien prequel to its more heady end result.
About a week ago we provided you with a rundown of what original writer Jon Spaihts’ draft might have looked like had Ridley Scott put it up onscreen. And now we have a visual rendering of what a chestburster might have looked like in the film via a piece of concept art. If you’ll remember from last week’s article, the chestbursting was intended to occur during a sex scene between Shaw and Holloway. So be prepared for some male naughty bits.
Head inside for a more complete rendering of the Prometheus chestburster!! Warning – the image is a bit NSFW. READ MORE
Reviewed by Michael Ferraro
Take a good look at the cover of this Blu-ray the next time you are anywhere you can find it. There is a picture of a shark swimming next to a shopping cart, with what appears to be a severed leg floating by, with this fantastic slogan right above it: Cleanup on Aisle 7. You may not be able to judge books by their covers, but for movies, the complete opposite can be said.
Bait 3D follows Josh (Xavier Samuel), who is still grieving after his best friend, Rory, is eaten by sharks during his lifeguard shift. Tina (Sharni Vinson), Rory’s sister, was about to become engaged to Josh the day of the incident and since then, her and Josh have parted ways.
During the year that passes since Rory’s death, Josh takes a job at a local shop where he stocks shelves. Conveniently (in terms of plot), Tina shows up out of nowhere with her new beau, Steven. At the same time, Doyle (Julian McMahon) is forced by an unknown man to pull a robbery on the store, which then creates a hostage situation.
Tragically, a tsunami suddenly hits the area and floods the somewhat underground store, leaving everyone inside trapped. But who finds their way inside the store too? A pair of great white sharks with an insatiable hunger for human flesh.
This is the first directorial effort by Kimble Rendall, who served mostly as a second unit director in such films as the second and third Matrix entries, Knowing, and Ghost Rider. Now, don’t pop in Bait expecting anything new with the genre. If anything, it’s a few steps higher than those oddly titled Shark films developed specifically for the home video crowd. Let’s face it, it’s certainly no Jaws. Jaws 3D maybe, but Julian McMahon is no substitute for Louis Gossett, Jr.
The disc contains the bare minimum of features; actually it includes only one: a storyboard gallery. The film was surprisingly co-written by Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction), and it would have been nice to have him lend his voice to a commentary to hear his thoughts on the shark genre and what inspired him to write this picture without directing.
Still, though it is predictable at every turn, some of the deaths are rather creative; it’s not like you’re watching Bait for anything other than that. Without spoiling too much, the film does end with way too many survivors. It’s not like it doesn’t have its share of death, because it does, but there are some characters you kept wishing to depart that just never do.
October is halfway over, and we’ve still got a ton of Blu-ray and DVD horror releases coming our way. In this week’s round-up, I take a look at the Jersey Devil flick The Barrens (10/09/12), the very strange Excision (10/16/12), Warner Bros. Little Shop Of Horrors Blu-ray (10/09/12) with the original ending (finally!), and Universal’s super-awful Wolf Man/Van Helsing abomination Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (10/09/12). Oh, and just for good measure, a gander at Synapse’s Basket Case 3 DVD (10/09/12) – yes, the trilogy closer is finally back in print! Check out my thoughts on the disc specs – and a little bit about the films too – after the break. READ MORE
This week (ie for next week’s winners) we will be giving away the brand new restoration of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? on Blu-ray! We have two copies so there will be two winners!
Head inside to see the Runner-Up for last week’s contest and to start this week’s contest! READ MORE
After the success of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame in 1923, Universal began its now eighty-plus year horror fixation with The Phantom Of The Opera. Under the watch of Carl Laemlle Jr.’s, Universal produced Tod Browning’s Dracula and James Whale’s Frankenstein, both of which are among the most influential and recognizable horror films ever made – the Spanish version of Dracula, shot at night on the same sets the English-language version used, is considered to be superior and equally important by many. From the 30’s until the late 50’s, Universal produced the bulk of their “classic” monster films, including The Mummy (a property the studio has bastardized far past the point of return), The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, and – a personal favorite of mine – Creature From The Black Lagoon. With make-up pioneers like Jack Pierce, incredible directors like James Whale, and horror personas like Lon Chaney Jr., Boris Karloff, and Bela Lugosi (and to a lesser extent, the “cross-over” film), Universal forever changed the horror landscape. READ MORE
For the first time ever, eight of the most iconic cinematic masterpieces of the horror genre are available together on Blu-ray as Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection debuts today, October 2, 2012, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Digitally restored from high resolution film elements in perfect high-definition picture and perfect high-definition sound for the first time ever, Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection brings together the very best of Universal’s legendary monsters—imaginative and technically groundbreaking tales of terror that launched a uniquely American movie genre. This definitive collection features eight films on Blu-ray, a collectible 48-page book featuring behind-the-scenes photographs, original posters, correspondence and much more. Each iconic film is accompanied by an array of bonus features that tell the fascinating story of its creation and history, including behind-the-scenes documentaries, filmmaker commentaries, interviews, storyboards, photo galleries, and trailers. Especially appealing for fans are a never-before-seen featurette about the restoration of Dracula and the first ever offering of Creature from the Black Lagoon in its restored Blu-ray 3D version!
From the era of silent movies through the present day, Universal Pictures has been regarded as the home of the monsters. Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection honors the studio’s accomplishments with the most iconic monsters in motion-picture history including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Featuring performances by legends of the horror genre, including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester, these eight iconic films also feature groundbreaking special effects and innovative makeup that continue to influence filmmakers into the 21st century. Sure to be a Halloween favorite for years to come, Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection is the ideal gift for film buffs and horror aficionados alike!
We’ve got a brand new trailer inside along with video that came out in June depicting the Dracula restoration process. Also included are full specs! READ MORE
Season 1 of “Holliston” comes out on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, October 9th – that’s a week from today. It features all 6 extended-length episodes as well as over 90 minutes of bonus content including cast commentary tracks for each episode, the half-hour preview television special, deleted scenes, a gag reel, 7 behind the scenes featurettes, and all 6 full-length “Road to Holliston” promos (the 60 second versions aired on TV and on-line in the weeks leading up to the series premiere last April.) Guest stars in Season 1 include: John Landis, Seth Green, Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, Derek Mears, Ray Wise, Parry Shen, and Brian Posehn.
In true “Downton Abbey” fashion, an hour-long Christmas Special will air on FEARnet in December and then hit FEARnet On-Demand and iTunes the next morning. Season 2 of the show, which will feature 10 slightly shorter half-hour episodes, has now completed production and will begin airing in the Spring. Guest stars include Sid Haig, David Naughton, Kane Hodder, Danielle Harris, Bill Moseley, Bailee Madison, James Gunn, Darren Bousman, Rileah Vanderbilt, Derek Mears, Andy Nyman, Paul Solet, and Caitlin Upton.
Head inside for the pics from Season 1! READ MORE
Reviewed by James A. Janisse
Bedevilled is the slow-cooking 2010 directorial debut by Jang Chul-Soo, a well-built thriller that evolves from an oppression piece to a graphic revenge tale. The film and its pair of lead actresses have won a number of awards, and deservedly so. Bedevilled is 115 minutes of poignant struggle and captivating carnage.
The story is set in motion through Hae-won, a business woman from Seoul who’s forced to take a vacation after a stressful day leads her to slap a coworker down. She visits the rural island where she grew up to re-connect with an obsessive childhood friend. The friend, Kim Bok-Nam, is one of less than a dozen inhabitants that make up the island’s disconnected society. The focus then shifts to Bok-Nam and her abusive marriage before the film’s crazy midpoint sets off a grotesque killing spree.
Before we get a glimpse of Hae-won, a female pedestrian gets sexually assaulted in the film’s opening scene. Hae-won witnesses the attack but remains silent at a police line-up, setting up themes of violence against women and inaction against it. Sometimes heavy-handed, the abuse that Bok-Nam experiences at the hands of her husband and the older women on the island is nevertheless poignant and perfectly set, taking place on an isolated island where even a washing room is considered impressive. Hae-won, played by Ji Seong-won, is a perfect audience surrogate, a modern city woman thrown into this regressive rural island.
Despite constant put-downs, beatings, and the fact that her husband has sex with a prostitute openly and in front of her, Bok-Nam takes all of the abuse leveled at her with a strong back and an unceasing wide-eyed wonder of Hae-won’s life in Seoul. Though she deals with her own horrible treatment, she still wants the best for her young daughter – so when she finds out that the girl is being raped by her husband, she tries to escape. Her attempt fails and the ensuing tragedy causes her to snap and start killing her oppressors in the most brutal ways possible.
Bok-Nam starts with the enablers, a cartel of old women who reinforce very traditional gender roles and allow her husband’s abuse to go on unchallenged. After hacking and slashing them with harvesting tools, she turns on her husband and his brother, at which point the movie gets medieval in the form of a grotesque beheading and a straight-up evisceration. Sandwiched between these visceral murders is an intense scene where Bok-Nam fellates a knife before symbolically castrating her husband, biting his finger clear off.
It’s not until after her oppressors are dealt with that Bok-Nam turns on Hae-won, the film’s perspective shifting accordingly. No longer a justified vengeance streak, Bok-Nam’s attack on the woman she’s spent the movie worshipping comes off as surprising. Her bloodlust seems misguided and unfair as she lunges after the pretty and seemingly innocent Hae-won. But a slick twist, revealed in a flashback, shows that Hae-won isn’t as blameless as she first appears.
The fact that Hae-won prevails and puts Bok-Nam down may suggest that a patriarchal society can never be overcome as long as some women are accomplices to it, but the film does end with a lesson, as Hae-won is finally able to speak up against injustice and identify the perpetrators of the sexual assault she witnesses before.
Bedevilled is a riveting and intelligent film. A small but ridiculously talented cast lend legitimacy to scenes that aren’t afraid to get vividly violent. Able to make a statement while providing plenty of sex and gore, Jang Chul-Soo’s debut feature should please everyone who sees it, no matter what they look for in a film.
Video: Bedevilled is shot in crisp HD, though the image is sometimes a little bright, with the sky and some of the more luminescent colors getting washed out in many of the film’s outdoor daytime scenes. This visual decision is motivated by the role the sun plays in Bok-Nam’s transformation, but still, it’d be nice to see some more of the island’s verdant plant life. Overall, it looks great, the film’s aesthetics able to vary between the city setting and the rural landscapes with equal beauty.
Audio: 5.1 surround sound is mixed well and sounds good.
Extras / Special Features:
Behind the Scenes (13 minutes): This is just 13 minutes of footage shot on set as they were filming. There is no commentary or elaboration on the production that we’re seeing, just repeated takes of various scenes. Footage starts with the bathing scene between the women, shows more detail of the head-in-the-tree, and includes rehearsals of a fighting scene, revealing the mats and boxes used to cushion the actors’ falls. Unfortunately, unless you’re desperate for some behind the scenes footage, it’s not that interesting.
Trailer (2 minutes): The trailer sets up the film’s violent vengeance streak, saying in usual dramatic form that Bok-Nam is not dumb or crazy, just BEDEVILLED! My favorite part of the film was the slow-build up to her murder spree and the uncertainty in how she’d deal with her lot in life, but since this review spoils more than the trailer, I guess I can’t criticize it too much.