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Currently showing posts tagged 1986

  • Dead-End Drive-In (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Dead-End Drive-In (1986)

    Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith

    Starring: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry, Peter Whitford, Dave Gibson, Sandie Lillingston, Ollie Hall & Wilbur Wilde

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Aussie exploitation maverick Brian Trenchard-Smith (Stunt Rock, BMX Bandits), Dead-End Drive-In takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where the economy has crumbled and crime runs rampant.  When the government orders local drive-ins to become concentration camps for society’s wild youth, lone rebel “Crabs” (Ned Manning, Looking for Alibrandi) plots his escape from the imprisoning wasteland.  

    An unquestionable by product of George Miller’s motor-charged Mad Max game changers, Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Dead-End Drive-In takes unexpected sharp turns to deliver a unique, neon lit offering of nuclear punkery.  Home to a ravaged world of polluted red skies, gang warfare and food shortage, cars and their associated parts are the leading commodities in a devastatingly unemployed and substance addicted society.  After sneaking off with his older brother’s prized 56 Chevy, physically fit Jimmy, better known as “Crabs”, whisks his foxy, leather-wearing girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry, Cassandra) to the Star Drive-In for a night of exploitation movies and backseat intimacy.  After the local police force steal Crabs’ wheels leaving the couple stranded, the government implements a strict lockdown for all patrons of the drive-in.  Populated by face painted punks, new wavers and skinheads, the outdoor movie house keeps its rowdy guests pacified with B-grade pictures, junk food and endless drugs to occupy their extended stay.  While Carmen forms friendships with the local crowd, Crabs’ cabin fever and growing suspicion that all is not what it seems generates friction amongst other rebel rousers.  When countless refugees are transported to the already overpopulated space, racism and hate dominates the self-medicating punkers from realizing their true status as prisoners.  Going for broke, Crabs forms a getaway plan pitting himself against the gun-carrying police and the Star Drive-In’s corrupt owner (Peter Whitford, Running from the Guns).  

    Although a much different beast than expected, Dead-End Drive-In paves its own path that raises intriguing political commentary on the stranglehold of materialistic addictiveness and  racism.  Impressively art directed with graffiti tattered vehicles and brickwork shepherded by Muralist Vladimir Chevepanoff, Dead-End Drive-In stylistically soars with its trashcan burning, drive-in warzone and vibrantly vile supporting players making the film one of the visually richest of the endless wave of post-nuke imitators.  Disappointingly lighter on action until the film’s climactic escape where Crabs literally leaps away from his oppressive environment in a thrilling car stunt, Dead-End Drive-In still makes good with its new wave heavy soundtrack, oddball characters and effective sense of dystopian depravity that solidly leaves Trenchard-Smith’s anarchic Ozzie mark.

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Dead-End Drive-In with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shining brightly through the film’s vast neon-signage, colorful makeup designs on its many punk performers and Crabs’ bright red Chevy, skin tones are naturally pleasing while, black levels waver from solidly inky to areas of speckling that are apparent yet, never overly distracting.  Equipped with an LPCM 2.0 mix, dialogue is clearly projected with the film’s excellent new wave cuts booming loudly.  Mildly restrained, quality is generally efficient while, slightly more authority during action sequences would have been preferred.  Special features include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Brian Trenchard-Smith, The Stuntmen (48:46), Trenchard-Smith’s 1973 documentary on Aussie stuntmen Bob Woodham, Grant Page and others plus, Hospitals Don’t Burn Down! (24:10), an Aussie pubic service film shot by Trenchard-Smith circa 1978 detailing the dangers of in-patient smoking.  Furthermore, a Vladimir Cherepanoff Gallery (19 slides in total), the Theatrical Trailer (1:36) and a 27-page booklet featuring stills and musings on Dead-End Drive-In and Trenchard-Smith’s other accompanying on disc films from Cullen Gallagher and Neil Mitchell are included.  Finally, a Reversible Sleeve boasting newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon and the film’s original poster design conclude the supplemental offerings.

    Not quite the punk free for all it’s advertised to be, Dead-End Drive-In follows similar post-nuke guidelines such as a dependency on vehicles while, its greater focus rests on the imprisonment of disillusioned youth and their subsequent brainwashing of complacency.  Fantastically designed and boasting few but, still wildly impressive stunts, Trenchard-Smith’s Ozploitation odyssey of a destructive future may not always live up to all expectations but, succeeds in carving out its own identity.  Arrow Video continues their liberation of the New World Pictures catalog with another praiseworthy transfer and a pleasing spread of supplements that will be of particular interest to Trenchard-Smith completists.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Dead-End Drive-In can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Chopping Mall (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Chopping Mall (1986)

    Director: Jim Wynorski

    Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Kattie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky & Suzee Slater

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kicking off their anticipated Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Lionsgate proudly presents Chopping Mall.  Set in the Park Plaza Mall, Director Jim Wynorski’s (Deathstalker II, Not of This Earth) cult classic finds revolutionary security robots short circuiting and transforming into malfunctioning murderers with sights set on a group of trapped teenagers.  Fresh-faced talent and memorable cult stars including, Paul Bartel (Hollywood Boulevard), Mary Woronov (Rock ’n’ Roll High School), Dick Miller (Gremlins) and Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2) appear.

    Also known as Killbots, Chopping Mall turns a sex-filled evening of fun for eight teenagers into a hellish run-in with deadly droids where survival is tougher than a fair deal at the mall.  Shortly after being introduced as the Park Plaza Mall’s newest line of late night security, several bolts of lightning rattles the computer systems of the high-tech robotic protectors turning them into ruthless killers with polite manners.  Simultaneously, four horny couples plan to throw their own after hours party within a furniture storefront where booze and plenty of beds are on hand.  Exterminating several mall employees, the trio of metallic stalkers turn their attention to the scantily clad teens, leaving blood and destruction in their wake.  With escape impossible, the resourceful survivors must combat their enemies with makeshift traps and found weapons in order to see the next business day.  Centering its futuristic madness at the epicenter of every teen’s former recreational haven, Valley Girl meets Westworld in this Roger Corman produced cheapie that celebrates the bubbly blondes and yuppie horndogs of yesteryear whose trespassing earns them laser blast attacks and exploding heads.  Headlined by a youthful cast of thespians including, Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class), Russell Todd (Friday the 13th Part 2), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) and others, Chopping Mall remains snappily brisk and endlessly fun keeping blood, breasts and bots in steady supply.  

    Self-promoting his own works with visible posters for Sorceress and The Lost Empire on display, Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski also honors mentor and producer Roger Corman with several nods including, a Little Shop of Pets storefront and Attack of the Crab Monsters promptly televised for the film’s necking couples.  Predominately shot on location at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in California’s San Fernando Valley, Chopping Mall keeps its action well-paced as the technological terrors utilize tasers and death grips against the dwindling youngsters with Maroney confidently defending herself with a crack shot and crafty ingenuity within a paint shop.  Released the same year as other offbeat, eventual cult favorites including, Night of the Creeps and TerrorVision, Chopping Mall endures as one of the era’s most gleefully silly and finely-tuned sci-fi sideshows that warmly ranks as one, if not, Wynorski’s finest directorial effort in a spectacularly diverse career spanning well over 100 features.

    Newly restored from the original negative materials, Lionsgate’s limited edition release of Chopping Mall arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of marginal debris and inherent vertical lines during its opening title sequence, the quality of the B-movie favorite is a revelation.  Boasting exceptionally healthy skin tones and crisp detail within background posters and the metallic intricacies of its killers, colors found in the vibrant wardrobe choices of the era pop wonderfully while, the purplish hues of robotic laser blasts satisfy equally.  Miles ahead of ratty-looking bootlegs and fullscreen video sourced editions, Chopping Mall preserves its filmic integrity to look better than ever before!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible with bustling mall ambiance nicely balanced.  In addition, Chuck Cirino’s (The Return of Swamp Thing) synth/bass heavy score greatly impresses and effectively underscores the onscreen chaos while, the killbots’ fast-turning gears, gasoline explosions and shattering glass make appropriately sharp stakes on the track.  

    Bursting with supplements, an Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell is joined by a second Audio Commentary with Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital & Ryan Turek of Shock Till You Drop.  Furthermore, a third Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski & Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell, recorded in 2004, is also included.  With an Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino, Newly-crafted featurettes include, Back to the Mall: Interviews with the Victims and Makers (26:29) that explores the entire genesis of the film and its impact with interviews from Wynorski, Mitchell, Maroney, Todd, Crampton and countless others who look back on the experience with fond memories and deep appreciation to the fans who have kept it alive.  Chopping Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Editor Leslie Rosenthal (8:19), Talkin’ About… The Killbots with Robot Creator Robert Short (12:11), Scoring Chopping Mall: A Conversation with Composer Chuck Cirino (11:04) and The Robot Speaks!: Ten Questions with the Killbot (2:12) are also included that bring great insight to the many different behind-the-scenes contributions to the film.  Also included, The Lost Scene (3:01) finds Wynorski and Mitchell prefacing an additional scene with Bartel and Wornov that was never shot before sharing its script pages while, An Army of One: A Visit with Chopping Mall’s Biggest Fan: Carl Sampieri (6:01) who fortunately owns the only surviving bot from the film is also on hand.  Finally, a vintage Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots (15:41) featurette is carried over with the film’s Trailer (0:50).

    Rooftop pleas by diehard fans have finally been answered with Lionsgate’s newfound commitment to honoring B-movie treasures.  Arguably their most requested title, Chopping Mall makes its far too long awaited Blu-ray debut with jaw-dropping clarity and sonically splendid sound.  Proudly living up to its Collector’s Series banner, hours of newly made bonus features will find killbot enthusiasts enjoyably spending overtime in the mall.  With fans more than eager to offer arms and legs to see Wynroski’s beloved cult classic enter the HD realm for years, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video line has made a laser-blasting debut essential to all genre lovers.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Chopping Mall can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Haunted Honeymoon (1986)

    Director: Gene Wilder

    Starring: Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, Dom DeLuise, Jonathan Pryce & Paul L. Smith

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Heading into their wedding weekend, Haunted Honeymoon finds Larry Abbot (Gene Wilder, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory) and his fiancé Vickie Pearle (Gilda Radner, Saturday Night Live) visiting the gothic mansion of his great Aunt Kate (Dom DeLuise, Silent Movie).  Unbeknownst to Larry, his loved ones are secretly conducting a psychological procedure to help the talented actor overcome his irrational phobias and frantic nerves by scaring him to death.  When creepy happenings occur and a potential werewolf on the loose, Larry begins suspecting someone in his family wants him gone for good.  Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), Peter Vaughn (Straw Dogs), Paul L. Smith (Sonny Boy) and Jim Carter (Downton Abbey) costar.

    In his final directorial outing, Gene Wilder reteams with his late offscreen wife Gilda Radner and Blazing Saddles costar Dom DeLuise for a bone tickling blend of humor and haunts.  Best known as the popular stars of the radio hit program Manhattan’s Mystery Theater, engaged couple Larry and Vickie look to officially tie the knot at the grand homestead of Larry’s eccentric Aunt Kate.  Feeling on top of the world yet, struggling to overcome his unexpected bouts of nervous phobias, Larry’s uncle, Dr. Paul Abbot (Smith), has discovered a cure for his nephew that involves scaring him beyond belief.  With family and loved ones congregating at the mammoth mansion, Aunt Kate confidentially wills her fortunes to Larry while Dr. Abbot secretly informs the others of his planned experiment.  Before long, an electrical blackout, a thunderous storm and talk of a werewolf leaves the entire estate uneasy and suspicious of one another, fueling the notion that someone close to Larry may be jealous of his eventual riches.  Establishing a wonderful gothic ambiance and romantically real chemistry between Wilder and Radner, Haunted Honeymoon offers delightful doses of comedic spurts thanks largely to DeLuise’s hilarious turn in drag as the passive aggressive Aunt Kate.  In addition, Radner and DeLuise cut a rug during a wonderful song and dance routine that ranks as one of the film’s shining moments.  Proving to be capable behind the camera as well as in front, Wilder’s charm and comedic timing can hardly be matched with a knee-slapping sequence involving Wilder’s Larry using the legs of unconscious butler Pfister (Bryan Pingle, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning) as his own during police questioning.  While its murder mystery style plot may have been dated for its time resulting in a box-office bomb, Haunted Honeymoon, although no classic to be sure, has aged favorably and juggles lighthearted laughs with innocent scares nicely.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents Haunted Honeymoon with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly remastered, Wilder’s horror/comedy retains its intended, foggy appearance with skin tones remaining steady throughout.  In addition, colors are crisp with detail nicely impressing in the mansion’s decrepit walls and rain droplets on the leather gloves of Larry’s stalker displayed vividly.  Boasting healthy black levels and a noticeably clean appearance, the creepy comedy makes a healthy HD debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue makes easy and clear transitions with the lively score, notably Radner and DeLuise’s musical number, thunderstorm effects and spooky sound cues making the most of their efforts.  Unfortunately limited to just Trailers for Haunted Honeymoon (2:19), The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (2:53) and Life Stinks (2:01), the lack of bonus contents is disappointing nonetheless.  

    Tapping into the familiar horror/comedy formula of Young Frankenstein albeit with lesser results, Haunted Honeymoon still offers plenty of laughs with Wilder and Radner’s chemistry and DeLuise’s dragtastic performance being of particular note.  In the wake of Wilder’s passing, his final bow behind the camera, as well as his curtain call collaborations with Radner and DeLuise, may still not be a comedy masterpiece but will undoubtedly bring delight to those who can’t howl at the moon without laughing.  Graduating to high-definition, Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done admirable work in preserving this comedy chiller for years to come.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Haunted Honeymoon can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Bill Moseley & Jim Siedow

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the decade since the original massacre, Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider) seeks revenge for his slain kin at the hands of the crazed, cannibalistic Sawyer family.  Joined by local radio DJ Stretch Brock (Caroline Williams, Stepfather II), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 finds Lefty discovering the Sawyers’ underground death dungeons where a revving, gas-powered war is waged.  Bill Johnson (Paramedics), Bill Moseley (House of 1,000 Corpses) and Jim Siedow (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) co-star in Tobe Hooper’s campy followup to his frightening masterwork.

    Concluding his third and final association with low-budget mavericks Cannon Films, Director Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars) would return to the dusty Texas backroads for a new chapter in man-eating debauchery.  In a tonally peculiar departure from the original film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 marinates its horror with an abundance of wacky black comedy and far more blood than its first serving.  As the saw-wielding Sawyer family make their presence known again, vengeful Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Hopper) seeks to make the twisted cannibals finally pay for their reign of terror.  Capturing and replaying the recording of the Sawyers’ latest murder victims to help aid the investigation, local disc jockey Stretch Brock (Williams) finds herself caught in the crosshairs of Leatherface and his demented kin when she finds herself trapped in their underground labyrinth of cannibalism.  Spouting the holy word and armored with his own artillery of chainsaws, Lefty crashes the festivities for an over the top display of southern justice.

    Largely balked at for its extreme emphasis on dark comedy before being rechristened as a bonafide cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 makes no apologies for its campiness that lights up the screen like a murderous game show thriving on excess.  Emerging from a publicized stint in drug rehabilitation, Dennis Hopper, although later disavowing his association with the film, delivers a wildly entertaining turn as an unhinged Texas Ranger that sits handsomely with the thespians other more oddball roles.  In addition, Caroline Williams, adorned in Daisy Dukes, gives viewers the ideal final girl to latch onto with a powerfully shrieking scream for the books.  While Leatherface finds himself bewitched by the alluring looks of Stretch and winds himself up into several comical hissy fits, Bill Moseley’s Chop-Top steals the picture with his lurid make-up design and hilarious dialogue (“lick my plate, you dog dick!”).  In addition, the return of Jim Siedow’s The Cook gives the film an added dose of laughs with his authentic quirkiness.  Greatly enhanced by festering tunnels and the Sawyers’ skeletally constructed dwellings ably conceived by Production Designer Cary White (Gettysburg), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an unconventional followup that left many scratching their heads with a clothes hanger yet, has achieved its proper due for its relentless dedication in seeing viewers laugh as loud as they scream.

    Scream Factory presents The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Located on disc one and newly mastered in 2K from the inter-positive film element, the film looks impressively vibrant with warmer skin tones, stronger black levels and an enhanced filmic quality over previous releases.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, sound is solid throughout with audible dialogue and powerfully relayed chainsaw motors and screams sharpening the film’s climactic moments.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Sprawled across two separate discs, special features on disc 1 include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris and Property Master Michael Sullivan, while vintage tracks include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper and an Audio Commentary with Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and Special Make-Up Effects Creator Tom Savini.  Furthermore, Extended Outtakes from It Runs in the Family (29:37) featuring never before seen interviews with deceased Screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson and the late Lou Perryman who played L.G, several Still Galleries (301 in total), Theatrical Trailers (2:04), TV Spots (3:29), a new Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation from Tom Savini’s Archives (43:35), an Alternate Opening Credit Sequence (1:56) and Deleted Scenes (10:57) offer the impressive release’s first servings.

    Disc 2 includes MGM’s Original HD Master of the film with color correction supervision by Director of Photography Richard Kooris (1080p, 1.85:1), boasting both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.  Further packed with additional supplements, newly created featurettes include, House of Pain: The Special Make-Up Effects of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (42:32) with interviews from make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale and John Vulich.  Yuppie Meat with Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon (18:59) sits down with the film’s first two casualties as they share their colorful experiences on set.  In addition, Cutting Moments with Editor Alain Jakubowicz (17:19), Behind the Mask with Bob Elmore (13:48) who shares his account as a stuntman and fellow Leatherface performer on the shoot and Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (24:33) where host Sean Clark resists the original Austin shooting locations as they are today.  Finally, the beloved 2006 It Runs in the Family (1:21:41) documentary from Red Shirt Pictures and a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s Breakfast Club parody poster completes the smorgasbord of bonus features.

    Previously released domestically with overseas counterparts including a bevy of their own supplements, Scream Factory’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Collector’s Edition makes the definitive statement for the cannibal horror-comedy with two noteworthy HD transfers and hours of newly produced and vintage bonus features.  Topped with Joel Robinson’s colorful collage style cover art, the saw remains family with Scream Factory’s latest edition ranking as one of their prized members!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available April 19th from Scream Factory, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Troll (1986) / Troll 2 (1990) Blu-ray Reviews

    Troll (1986) / Troll 2 (1990)

    Director(s): John Carl Buechler / Claudio Fragasso

    Starring: Noah Hathaway, Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack, Phil Fondacaro & June Lockhart / Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Margo Prey, Connie Young, Robert Ormsby & Deborah Reed

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Casting a spell of fantastical frights, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents a pair of knee-high cult favorites!  Shortly after moving into their new apartment building, Troll finds big brother Harry Potter Jr. (Noah Hathaway, The NeverEnding Story) recognizing dramatic changes in his little sister’s behavior.  With a mischievous troll behind the trouble, the mythical monster begins transforming the apartments into gardens of evil and their tenants into disgusting hobgoblins with Harry serving as their only hope.  Next up, the vastly unrelated Troll 2 finds a family of four taking a lengthy vacation in a desolate farm community.  Upon arrival, the unsuspecting visitors find themselves as the main course for the town’s human-morphing tribe of goblins.     

    Shot in Italy at the height of Empire Pictures’ success, Troll continues the decade’s trend of dark fantasy family-oriented efforts, albeit on a significantly lower budget.  Boasting one of Empire’s more impressive casts including, prominent child actor Noah Hathaway and Phil Fondacaro (Willow), performing dual roles as Torok the Troll and the heartwarming Professor Malcolm Mallory, to the film debut of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep) and the curious casting of Sonny Bono as a hilarious swinging tenant, Troll hosts an eclectic range of thespians for such a modestly produced effort.  Sporting impressive creature designs crafted by its director John Carl Buechler (Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood), this special-effects cheapie, although slowly paced, offers plenty of adolescent fun as Harry Potter Jr. treks into Torok’s vast gardens to retrieve his sister and confront a snarling giant monster.  A bonafide smash on home video that may have influenced a certain student of Hogwarts, Troll has remained a cult favorite for its fairy tale atmosphere and charming effects work.

    Capitalizing on the minor success of 1986’s Troll and helmed by an Italian-speaking crew, Troll 2  serves no connection to its family-fantasy predecessor yet, would develop an unexpected following like no other.  Shot on location in Utah and utilizing local talent, Troll 2, partly plagued by communication breakdowns between cast and crew, is a nonsensical disaster that welcomes more unintended laughter than genuine scares.  Substituting trolls for goblins and witches, the film’s poorly designed monster effects and stilted acting of its inexperienced performers demands how a film of such hilariously poor quality could be crafted.  Traveling to the not so cleverly named town of Nilbog, a vacationing family find themselves encouraged to eat brightly colored green food in order for the local goblin community to better feast upon their flesh.  Young Joshua Waits (Michael Stephenson, Beyond Darkness), aided by the spirit of his deceased grandfather, must protect his family at all costs by urinating on their tainted food or devouring a double-stacked bologna sandwich to ward off the vegan-preferred goblins.  Horribly received upon its short-lived release and embarrassingly repressed by most of its creators, Troll 2 would be resurrected as one of the most infamous “bad” movies of all time where it has garnered massive appreciation by devoted cult cinema aficionados.  Uncontrollably funny and reeking of poor quality, Troll 2 remains one of the most entertaining romps for fans of “so bad, they’re good” cinema.  

    Scream Factory presents both Troll and Troll 2 with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Possessing filmic levels of grain, the original film’s moments of effects work can become noticeably more grainy while, skin tones are generally pleasing and detail nicely brings out the impressive creature designs of John Carl Buechler.  Meanwhile, its sequel appears in slightly better condition, sharing the same appearance as its previous Blu-ray release by MGM in 2010.  Clarity is sharp with the film’s brightly colored emphasis on green liquid popping nicely while, detail in the less than effective monster effects pleases with skin tones of the human cast appearing quite naturally.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue in both films are well handled and prominently prioritized while, sound effects and the sequel’s oddly contrasting synth soundtrack delivers excellent depth.  Special features include, a typically great Scream Factory featurette with Troll Empire: The Making of Troll (50:07) featuring new interviews with Producer Charles Band, Director John Carl Buechler, Writer Ed Naha and many more.  In addition, the Theatrical Trailer (2:47) and a Photo Gallery (1:27) are included.  Furthermore, its sequel arrives with a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Actors George Hardy & Deborah Reed and its Theatrical Trailer (2:21).  Finally, included on DVD, albeit only the first 5,000 units of the release, is 2010’s Best Worst Movie.  Helmed by Troll 2’s Michael Stephenson, this heartfelt and enthralling documentary takes a retrospective look at the disaster of Troll 2 with interviews from its cast and its delusional director Claudio Fragasso who still hails the film as a work of quality.

    Providing viewers with a double dose of fantasy-filled scares and unintended comedy, Scream Factory’s packaging of Director John Carl Buechler’s low-budget charmer with its misleadingly titled catastrophe of a sequel make for solid inclusions into the labels eclectic lineup.  Joined by the wonderfully conceived documentary Best Worst Movie and other newly produced bonus features, this collection of cult favorites is one worth being afraid of for all the right reasons.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Troll / Troll 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Invaders from Mars (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Invaders from Mars (1986)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Karen Black, Hunter Carson, Timothy Bottoms, Louise Fletcher & James Karen

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Funhouse) Invaders from Mars centers on space obsessed David Gardener (Hunter Carson, Paris, Texas) who witnesses the landing of alien beings in his backyard.  As the invaders begin taking control of his parents and schoolmates, David must find a way to convince those unaffected of the truth before the entire human race is doomed.  Karen Black (House of 1,000 Corpses), Timothy Bottoms (The Last Picture Show), Laraine Newman (Problem Child 2), Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and James Karen (The Return of the Living Dead) co-star.

    Sandwiched between his two other Cannon Films collaborations, Lifeforce and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2, Director Tobe Hooper’s contemporary remake of the 1953 sci-fi favorite takes full advantage of modern movie magic while, sticking closely to its predecessors blueprints.  Once again told from a child’s point of a view, David Gardener (Carson) is startled to discover the arrival of martians over the hill from his house.  Overwhelmed with fear, David can hardly make sense of what he’s witnessed until his parents fall under the control of the invaders.  Recognizing a scar on the neck’s of those infected, David finds little help at school where his strict teacher Mrs. McKeltch (Fletcher) and fellow classmates have also fallen prey.  By chance, David finds solace in the school nurse, Linda Magnusson (played by Carson’s real-life mother, Karen Black), who finds David’s story horrifyingly true, leading the unlikely duo to seek help.  Relying on the U.S. Marines, headed by General Climet Wilson (James Karen), David and Linda find themselves in the threshold of an underground nightmare where the martians reside.  With time wearing thin and various creatures in their way, the military must use all their might to withstand a worldwide takeover.

    Relying too strongly on the original’s plot and set pieces, Invaders from Mars suffers from never reveling in its 1980s environment therefore, losing a strong sense of personal identity.  In addition, although littered with Academy Award-winning talent and cult icons,  the performances fail to leave a lasting impression on the viewer.  Produced in the heyday of special effects wizardry, Invaders from Mars excels with effective visual effects by John Dykstra (Star Wars) and exceptional creature designs by the late Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgement Day).  A box-office disappointment better appreciated decades later, Invaders from Mars redresses a mediocre film while, not faring much better due to its lack of risks.  With standout special effects and inherent campiness, Invaders from Mars has its moments but, never manages to fully brainwash earthlings as one would hope.

    Scream Factory presents Invaders from Mars with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying generally warm, if not slightly soft, skin tones, Director Tobe Hooper’s sci-fi remake satisfies with bold colors in wardrobe choices and gooey detail captured in the various creature designs.  Instances of flakes and speckles occur during more dimly lit sequences including, but not limited to, David and Linda evading the martians in the school boiler room.  Generally strong looking, Invaders from Mars makes a satisfying leap to high-definition.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Invaders from Mars relays audible dialogue levels but, registers lower than anticipated prompting several increases in volume.  More climatic sequences of explosions and gunfire fare better but, never overly impress.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Accompanied with a generous supply of supplements, Scream Factory presents a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper while, Red Shirt Pictures delivers The Martians Are Coming!: The Making of Invaders of Mars (36:33) with in-depth interviews from Director Tobe Hooper, Actor Hunter Carson, Special Effects Artists Alec Gillis & Gino Crognale and Composer Christopher Young with Gillis and Crognale’s onset memories heavily focused on.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (1:28), TV Spot (0:32), Original Production Illustration Gallery with Commentary from Artist William Stout (14:03), Original Storyboards (4:16), Still Gallery (24 in total) and reversible cover art round out the special features.

    Intended for children but failing to capture a box-office audience, Invaders from Mars would be heavily digested on subsequent television airings and home entertainment to carve out its cult appeal.  Laced with a conscience campiness and some marvelous effects work, Director Tobe Hooper’s homage to a childhood favorite feels far too familiar to be overly praised.  Meanwhile, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray stats easily trump previous releases with its assortment of special features being the disc highlight.  While it may be Hooper’s weakest entry in his unofficial Cannon Films trilogy, Invaders from Mars will most assuredly charm viewers who grew up with this B-movie effort from another planet.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available April 7th from Scream Factory, Invaders from Mars can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • 52 Pick-Up (1986) Blu-ray Review

    52 Pick-Up (1986)

    Director: John Frankenheimer 

    Starring: Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover & Clarence Williams III

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Manchurian Candidate, 52 Pick-Up centers on successful Los Angeles entrepreneur Harry Mitchell (Roy Schieder, Jaws) who, along with his city council running wife (Ann-Margret, C.C. & Company), lead the good life.  When Harry is confronted by a trio of blackmailers, led by the sadistic Alan Raimy (John Glover, Gremlins 2: The New Batch) with video evidence of his secret affair, tensions mount as Harry attempts to pit the criminals against one another.  Clarence Williams III (The Mod Squad), Vanity (Never Too Young to Die), Robert Trebor (Talk Radio) and Kelly Preston (Death Sentence) co-star.

    While, best remembered for their enjoyable cult classics and over the top action extravaganzas, the stars would align several times for Cannon Films, pitting A-list talent both behind and in front of the camera to deliver something truly worthwhile.  Releasing films at a rapid pace, 1986 would see the juggernaut company, led by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, reach their pinnacle with a whopping 43 films.  Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Get Shorty”), 52 Pick-Up is a suspenseful thriller combining exceptional directing and memorable characters with remarkably sleazy Los Angeles locations.  Roy Scheider leads the film as a lucrative businessman and former soldier who refuses to bow down to the demands of pornographic blackmailers.  Confronted with evidence of his affair with a young stripper (Preston), Alan Raimy (Glover) demands $105,000 per year from Harry to keep the tarnishing footage out of the limelight.  John Glover’s maddening performance as the lead blackmailer is the film’s highlight with his striking eyes and ruthless perseverance to obtain Harry’s money a magnetizing sight.  In addition, Clarence Williams III and Robert Trebor both offer worthwhile turns as Raimy’s partners with Trebor, greatly impressing as an openly gay strip club owner with emotional depth for his slimy yet, sympathetic character.  Set in some of Los Angeles‘ seedier bars and strip clubs, 52 Pick-Up finds our blackmailers hosting a party with scantly clad guests including, appearances from porn icons Ron Jeremy, Amber Lynn and Jamie Gillis.  Coming clean to his devoted wife (Margret), Harry ultimately risks both their lives choosing to resist the very serious threats, leading to one chilling turn after another.  

    With critical opinions mixed and a poor box-office reception, 52 Pick-Up still remains an engaging thriller with a top-notch cat and mouse story between blackmailers and their  target who fights back.  Joined by a welcome appearance from the gorgeous Vanity as a fellow stripper, 52 Pick-Up stands as one of Director John Frankenheimer’s strongest efforts of the decade and another intense performance from Scheider.  

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents 52 Pick-Up with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Opening with a softer image and light speckling, the film proceeds to a much cleaner picture with warm skin tones.  Meanwhile, detail is crisp in Scheider’s gruff complexion, wardrobe choices and backgrounds.  Black levels are handled nicely in the many dingy bar and underlit strip club sequences with no crushing to speak of.  Bearing a healthy layer of grain without any digital manipulation applied, 52 Pick-Up pleases on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always nicely relayed and appropriately prioritized with Composer Gary Chang’s score of synth and jazz elements richly captured.  Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:44) is the sole special feature of the disc.  

    Tense and gripping, 52 Pick-Up is a fast-moving concoction of thrills and endless suspense.  Highlighted by performances from Roy Scheider and its unhinged antagonist John Glover, 52 Pick-Up blends blackmail and the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles to deliver a first-rate effort from Cannon Films during the height of their success.  Furthermore, Kino Lorber Studio Classics‘ Blu-ray treatment compliments the film with a visually pleasing transfer and well balanced audio mix.  Cannon Film completists will relish in this darkly engaging effort, destined to leave you on the edge of your seat.

    RATING: 4/5    

    Available now from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, 52 Pick-Up can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #2: Krull (1983), Salvador (1986) and Grave Halloween (2013) Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

    Krull (1983)

    Director: Peter Yates

    Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones & Francesca Annis

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Krull centers on the daring Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) who embarks on a dangerous mission to save his young princess bride (Lysette Anthony).  Imprisoned by the Beast and his fellow slayers, Colwyn must first recover the legendary Glaive blade and join forces with several traveling strangers to overthrow the dark powers that oppress their planet.  

    Highly expensive at the time of its making, Krull clearly borrows from the worlds of George Lucas and J.R.R. Tolkien to convey its mythic tale of magic and fantasy.  A simple plot of rescue and restoring balance to a fading planet, Prince Colwyn’s mission to locate The Black Fortress proves difficult and teams with a ragtag group of rebels including several fugitives (one played by a young Liam Neeson) and Ergo the Magnificent (David Battley, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory), a hilariously clumsy magician, willing to stand by his side.  While, the journey should be as exciting and cinematic as the destination, Krull hits minor speed bumps maintaining its sense of adventure.  Entertaining when they do occur, battle sequences are rather scant for a film Variety labeled “Excalibur meets Star Wars”.  Luckily, the characters are memorable and Composer James Horner’s (Avatar) grand score gives Krull a thrilling soundscape.  Originally a box-office bomb, Krull has gone on to achieve cult status amongst moviegoers that continue to appreciate this massive production decades later.  Beautifully photographed and capturing an epic scale like few productions at the time, Krull is a decent ride that ultimately feels borrowed from too many other sci-fi cinematic milestones.  Fun and sporting impressive visual effects for its time, Krull will most likely be best appreciated with repeated viewings for those who weren’t swept up in its allure during its original run.  

    Lacking with any special features, Mill Creek Entertainment presents Krull in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Virtually clear of any aging artifacts, Krull impresses with healthy skin tones and impressive detail that allows the viewer to best appreciate the film’s whopping 23 sets.  Slight softness occurs during moments of on-screen visual effects while, black levels satisfy with clear visibility and no intruding crushing.  In addition, Krull comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that captures dialogue reasonably well with only several moments coming across lower than expected.  Intense moments of battle and Composer James Horner’s score are the true areas where this mix shines and gives your speakers a nice run for their money.

    Released in a decade of impressive sci-fi productions, Krull tells an all too familiar tale of a damsel in distress and her loving prince, joined by his own army, to save her.  Sparing no expense, Krull is an epic looking film that achieves a gorgeous, otherworldly appearance.  While, it’s easy to see why Krull registers so highly with fans, Director Peter Yates‘ (Bullit) opus isn’t an immediate home-run but, one that can be better appreciated in time.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Krull is available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Salvador (1986)

    Director: Oliver Stone

    Starring: James Woods, James Belushi, Michael Murphy, John Savage & Elpidia Carrillo

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Writer/Director Oliver Stone’s Salvador centers on sometime journalist Richard Boyle (James Woods, Casino) who embarks to capture the Salvadoran revolution through the eyes of his camera.  Along with his friend Doctor Rock (James Belushi, Curly Sue), Boyle finds himself in dangerous situations with little hope while, trying to protect his local girlfriend and her children.  Michael Murphy (Batman Returns), John Savage (The Deer Hunter) and Elpidia Carrillo (Predator) co-star.

    Politically charged, Salvador served as a last ditch effort for Writer/Director Oliver Stone to convey a more personal story beyond his previous genre fare.  Detailing the Salvadoran revolution, Richard Boyle (Woods), travels via car with fellow down on his luck buddy, Doctor Rock (Belushi) to the war-torn location.  Fueled by alcohol, drugs and the promise of cheap women, Boyle and Rock remind viewers of the Gonzo journalists found in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas but, with more agenda.  Caught in the middle of a chaotic, contrived war, Boyle finds himself at odds with the country’s increasing danger and his personal desire to protect his girlfriend (Elpidia Carrillo).  Woods is brilliant in this Oscar-nominated performance of a self-proclaimed weasel of a man who scams and boozes his way to make a living.  Matched with his unforgettable work in Videodrome and Once Upon A Time in America, the 1980s can arguably be seen as Woods‘ most enduring decade.  In addition, Belushi’s Doctor Rock is the perfect yin to Woods‘ yang.  Desperate, broke and scared of his new surroundings, Belushi quickly adapts to El Salvador by drinking with young children, eager to start bar fights at the drop of a hat and falling in love with a prostitute.  Belushi’s rambunctious attitude is refreshing against the grim imagery of murdered civilians by the military government.  Constantly rattling the political cages and putting himself in harms way, Boyle is relentless in trying to establish a story and the pictures to go along with it.  Vastly underrated, Salvador is an intense, fictional account of the Salvadoran revolution spearheaded by Woods and Belushi’s incredible performances of two Americans willingly placed in hell.  In addition, Stone’s rebirth as a filmmaker helped launch a career of other politically fueled and critically acclaimed projects that continue to this day.  

    Presented in a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Salvador looks remarkable with a crisp appearance and rich detail found in facial features and the hot Salvadoran climate.  Complexions are always spot-on while, black levels are impressive especially in the dark, jungle settlings where visibility reads well.  Equipped with a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion and only minor shake-ups during some of the film’s more chaotic war sequences that can overwhelm speaking bits.  In addition, a DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio mix has also been provided.  Meanwhile, special features run a plenty with a worthwhile audio commentary with Writer/Director Oliver Stone, an isolated score track, the impressive and lengthy Into the Valley of Death - The Making of Salvador (1:02:52), deleted scenes (27:47), an original theatrical trailer (1:58) and a MGM 90th Anniversary trailer (2:06).  Plus, a 6-page booklet with Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo lending her expertise on Salvador’s significance round out the disc’s supplements.

    Limited to just 3,000 units, Twilight Time’s impressive treatment of this criminally underrated Stone effort is beyond recommending.  Woods and Belushi’s powerhouse performances guide the viewer on this tour of the hellish El Salvador during a time of revolution and chaos.  As complicated and wild as the war itself, Boyles‘ personal desires are at constant odds with the safety of those closest to him, making Salvador an intensely, captivating ride that never lets up, leaving the fewer with more questions about the state of the world.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Salvador is available now and can be purchased exclusively through Screen Archives.

    Grave Halloween (2013)

    Director: Steven R. Monroe

    Starring: Kaitlyn Leeb, Cassi Thomson, Dejan Loyola, Graham Wardle & Hiro Kanagawa

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When American exchange student Maiko (Kaitlyn Leeb, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings) travels to Japan’s Suicide Forest to uncover the truth of her dead birth mother, a college documentary crew captures her journey.  Unfortunately, on October 31st, the group will disturb something sinister in the grim forest that may destroy them all.  Cassi Thomson (Big Love), Dejan Loyola (Evangeline), Graham Wardle (Heartland) and Hiro Kanagawa (Godzilla) co-star.

    Originally premiered on the SyFy network and “inspired” by true events, Grave Halloween feels like a marriage between The Blair Witch Project and J-Horror imagery found in The Ring.  A decent setup of an attractive exchange student hoping to learn the truth behind her birth mother’s suicide, finds our core cast in an atmospheric, backwoods area near Japan’s Mount Fuji.  Littered with subpar performances, Grave Halloween slightly rises above most TV-movie dreck with crafty practical effects in the form of long hair ripping limbs from a victim.  Intercut with ghostly flashbacks to Maiko’s childhood and digital camera POV shots, Grave Halloween grows tiresome as the Suicide Forest becomes a giant maze causing the group to constantly lose each other for most of the runtime.  Weak jump scares and more Japanese phantoms that bombarded cinemas a decade ago appear to underwhelm the viewer.  As the group dwindles and safety is near for the survivors, a twist, open-ended finale concludes Grave Halloween.  Far from the worst made for TV effort, Grave Halloween is competently shot and possesses some worthy practical gore effects but, never manages to be very memorable.  Ultimately, Grave Halloween is a frankenstein concoction of genres we’ve seen before, only with lesser results.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Grave Halloween in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Drenched in heavy fog, detail is nicely picked up in wardrobe and the eerie backwoods setting while, moments of bloody gore pop nicely.  In addition, black levels read respectively well for DVD quality and should please those tuning in.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Grave Halloween picks up dialogue with no hitches and moments of shrieking terror come across with an added bump.  Unfortunately, no special features are included.

    For TV-movie fare, one could do way worse than Grave Halloween.  Borrowing from different subgenres, namely the tired J-Horror realm, Grave Halloween never manages to be anything wildly original or noteworthy.  On a positive note, the usage of practical effects are worthwhile and serve as the film‘s leading strongpoint.  With the Halloween season in full swing, Grave Halloween is not the worst way to kill 90-minutes, but it certainly won‘t be worth revisiting either.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Grave Halloween is available now and can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.