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  • Slaughterhouse (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Slaughterhouse (1987)

    Director: Rich Roessler

    Starring: Sherry Bendor Leigh, Joe B. Barton, Don Barrett, Bill Brinsfield, Jane Higginson & William Houck 

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hog wild horror ensues in Slaughterhouse when financially ruined butcher Lester Bacon (Don Barrett, Hobgoblins) finds his business rival, with an informed lawyer and town sheriff in his back pocket, itching to buy his decrepit property.  Convinced a conspiracy is at hand, the eccentric old-timer orders his cleaver-wielding, pig sound-making son Buddy (Joe B. Barton, Blood Diner) to take care of the offenders.  An above average slasher offering from the glory days of video rentals, Slaughterhouse delivers a simplistically sound plot that takes pride in its story better than most of its indie competitors where body count was always priority.  Following a dare to remain in the foreclosed kill kennel the longest, four teenagers, befit with big hair and hammy dialogue, find themselves at the mercy of the overall-wearing madman where the film truly lives up to it name.  Graced with hilariously oddball performances from Barrett and Barton, Slaughterhouse draws blood with a variety of kills including, limb chopping, skull crushing and taking advantage of the tools at their disposal, corpse grinding.  Climaxing with an expected yet, surprisingly well-orchestrated showdown between the hulkish killer and the film’s final girl surrounded by a shrine of meathooked victims, the inexpensively shot Slaughterhouse may not reinvent the cycle yet, stands as a solid entry next to other southern comfort slashers where its buckets of blood will make likeminded viewers squeal like piggies.

    Exceptionally restored in 2K from the original 35MM interpositive, Vinegary Syndrome proudly presents Slaughterhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Shattering preemptive expectations based on the scratchy American Artists logo at the film’s onset, the low-budget slasher dazzles like never before.  Boasting stable skin tones, bold color grades throughout costume choices and the film’s bloodier moments to deep black levels offering a clear presentation of the onscreen occurrences, Slaughterhouse shines with filmic grace and a virtually spotless cleanup that definitively puts to bed shoddier standard definition and overseas releases alike.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that honors the film’s original Ultra-Stereo track for the first time on home video, dialogue is clear and robust while musical selections are handled with fine authority, making the feature a delightful listen.  Additionally, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 is also included.  

    Packed with both new and vintage supplements, bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rich Roessler, Producer Jerry Encoe & Production Designer Michael Scaglione, Reminiscene: Interview with Sherry Bendorf Leigh (10:40) catches up with the film’s leading lady as she reflects on the wild time making the film, Making a Low Budget Indie with Writer/Director Rick Roessler (28:16) sits down with the filmmaker as he recounts the development process of the slasher and his goal to push plot while, The Art of Producing a Low Budget Feature with Executive Producer Jerry Encoe (5:37) echoes many of Roessler’s sentiments including, their boredom making military training films that encouraged them to make Slaughterhouse and the difficulty of financing the project.  In addition, an Archival Interview with Rick Roessler from 1999 (15:16), an Archival Interview with Jerry Encoe from 1999 (10:45), Epilogue: 30 Years After the Slaughter (1:13), a Radio Interview Featurette from 1987 (4:50), Local News Coverage of Slaughterhouse Premiere (3:59) and a Shooting the Scenes: Behind the Scenes Featurette (20:48) is also included.  Lastly, Outtakes (3:08), a “No Smoking” - Slaughterhouse Theatrical Snipe (0:28), Theatrical Trailers (2:04), TV Spots (4:26), Radio Spots (0:45), the Slaughterhouse Shooting Script, a DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art conclude the mammoth spread of supplements.  Celebrating its 30th anniversary in true style, Vinegar Syndrome continues to prove their status as one of cult cinema’s leading distributors with its sparkling 2K restoration of this pigsploitation slasher, tailor-made for fans hogtied by its bloodtastically promising cover art.      

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Slaughterhouse can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Gate (1987) Blu-ray Review

    The Gate (1987)

    Director: Tibor Takacs 

    Starring: Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp & Christa Denton

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After an innocent backyard excavation for crystal stones unearths something sinister, The Gate finds best friends Glen (Stephen Dorff, Somewhere) and Terry (Louis Tripp, Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird) forced to defend themselves against a siege of demons and determine a way to close the evil portal before it’s too late.

    Eliminating parents and other authority figures as rapidly as possible, The Gate pits unsupervised adolescents against the forces of darkness, using only their ingenuity and household items to defend themselves against the ghouls and goblins of the underworld.  Inadvertently opening a hellish backyard portal with the assistance of a satanic heavy metal album, best friends Glen and Terry are confronted with a series of nightmarish images of deceased parents back from the dead and the painful realities of a beloved pet’s passing to shake their youthful cores.  With no adults in sight and Glen’s older sister Al (Christa Denton, 8 Million Ways to Die) taking full advantage with a house party rampant with underage drinking and levitation attempts turned frighteningly real, the demonic forces grow stronger in their attempt to invade the teen’s quaint suburban existence.  Pursued by a pint-sized army of fiendish minions realized through a series of technical tricks ranging from costumed performers, stop-motion animation and forced perspective, Glen, Terry and Al must face their fears in order to definitively close the gate before time runs out.  Although slow-building with a genuine innocence captured in the chemistry between the young performers, The Gate stretches the boundaries of its PG-13 rating with macabre touches of a dead construction worker emerging from the walls, a punctured eyeball through a child’s hand and an overgrown demon flinging his young victims with no remorse to effectively chill preteen audiences.  With false senses of security at every turn and survival seemingly futile, the trio of teens rely on Barbie dolls, dad’s shotgun and model rockets to banish the demons in Director Tibor Takacs’ (I, Madman) effectively realized and certifiably scary devil-raising feature.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate presents The Gate with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The latest addition in their Vestron Video Collector’s Series, the film is a remarkable upgrade from its near decade old DVD release that honors filmic integrity, mildly soft but still natural-looking skin tones and a sharp color scheme present in the suburban greenery as well as Glen’s red space camp jacket and Al’s lime green sweater.  In addition, black levels are solid with detail largely admired in the creature designs while, only the slightest hint of speckling is observed in this otherwise picturesque presentation of the 80s cult classic.  Equipped with a perfectly adequate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue with ease, heavy metal tunes, lightning storms and rocket blasts all offer solid emphases on the well-orchestrated track.

    Much like the demons bursting from the gate, the overflowing wealth of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tibor Takacs, Writer Michael Nankin and Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, a second Audio Commentary with Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, Special Effects Artist Frank Carere & Matte Photographer Bill Taylor plus, an Isolated Score and Audio Interview with Composers Michael Hoenig & J. Peter Robinson.  In addition, Red Shirt Pictures delivers several newly recorded featurettes that explore many of the low-budget effort’s technical achievements including, The Gate: Unlocked (27:54) where Takacs and Cook discuss the film’s making in-depth, Minion Maker with Craig Reardon (22:36), From Hell It Came with Andras Hamori (13:13), The Workman Speaks! with Carl Kraines (12:22) and the most interesting Made in Canada (28:28) that sits down with six local cast and crew members from the Canadian shoot as they recall their own unique experiences making the film.  Meanwhile, ported over from the 2009 release, From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate (14:53), The Gatekeepers with Tibor Takacs & Michael Nankin (15:46) and The Making of The Gate (22:55) are also on-hand with the Teaser Trailer (1:08), Theatrical Trailer (1:50), TV Spot (0:32), Storyboard Gallery (9:27) and a Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery (10:20) rounding out the profound assortment of extras.

    A childhood staple that still stands up, The Gate is a fiendishly fun effort of teens going toe to toe with demonic beings with no one but themselves to rely on.  Incorporating the then timely black sheep of heavy metal into its vortex of fear, Tibor Takacs’ sharply constructed and gloriously effects-driven opus plays largely into the comforting confines of nostalgia where its discovery for many through video rental and repeat cable viewings made it a longstanding favorite.  Hoped for since its line’s formation, The Gate makes it high-definition debut with remarkable technical grades that far exceed its previous release and an overwhelming supply of bonus features earning it the highest praise as one of Vestron Video’s best offerings to date!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available February 28th from Lionsgate, The Gate can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Creepshow 2 (1987) Limited Edition Blu-ray Review

    Creepshow 2 (1987)

    Director: Michael Gornick

    Starring: Lois Chiles, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour & Tom Savini

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Once again inspired by the moralistic terror tales of EC Comics, Creepshow 2 lures viewers into three stories of the macabre focused on a vengeful Indian statue, an oil slick hungry for teens and a relentless hitchhiker who won’t take no for an answer.  Starring an ensemble roster including, Lois Chiles (Broadcast News), George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke), Dorothy Lamour (The Greatest Show on Earth) and Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn) as The Creeper, Michael Gornick (TV’s Tales from the Darkside) directs the horror anthology sequel.

    Scripted by original Creepshow helmer George A. Romero, the frightening followup, a victim of reduced budgets and scary segments, struggles to achieve the morbidly gleeful heights of its predecessor while making the best of its efforts with occasional moments of eerie excellence.  Drawing horror hounds into the comic carnage via wrap-around segments starring Special Makeup Effects maestro Tom Savini as the ghoulish Creeper, Creepshow 2’s opening tale, Old Chief Wood’nhead, starring George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour in her final performance as elderly general store operators who fall victim to senseless murder is generally dull as board until the shop’s Native American warrior statue comes alive to retrieve an eye for an eye.  As the thieving trio, headed by a notably long-haired and bare chested hoodlum (Holt McCallany, Alien 3), plan to skip town, Old Chief Wood’nhead’s deliciously un-PC scalping of the assailant nearly forgives the installment’s stale buildup.  Meanwhile, an idyllic day at the lake turned deadly earns The Raft the highest honors for the sequel.  When four horny teens find themselves stranded on water, the stalking presence of a foreboding oil slick slimes its way through the cracks of their raft to dine on their young bodies.  As they drop like flies and a pervy attempt at nookie goes south, The Raft keeps suspense central with a splashingly sinister finale fitting for the lone swimmer who couldn’t keep his hormones under control.  Finally, The Hitch-Hiker finds a wealthy businesswoman and gigolo customer roadblocked by nightmarish images of the hitcher she accidentally killed.  Simple yet effective, gunshots and continued car ramming does little to shake the bloodied man who just wants a ride.  Concluding with an expected jump scare and an animated interstitial where a Venus Fly Trap feasts on a four-course meal of schoolyard bullies, Creepshow 2, a staple of late night programming and weekend rentals, may not equal its predecessor’s tighter stories, sense of humor or star power yet, the followup, specifically the strength of its second lakeside segment, captures a nostalgic charm that makes the ride a worthwhile one.

    Newly restored in 2K, Arrow Video presents Creepshow 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably revealing more information on either sides of frame more so than previous releases, colors are radiant as can be with details in Old Chief Wood’nhead’s sunbaked features nicely revealed while, the bright yellow speedo and other skimpy swimwear in The Raft pop brightly.  Furthermore, cleanup, outside of fleeting instances of speckles during darker sequences found in The Hitch-Hiker, is top-notch easily making this presentation the best the sequel has ever looked.  Equipped with varying audio options, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix boasts audible dialogue deliveries with the film’s synth-heavy opening title sequence sounding excellent.  Optional LPCM 1.0 Mono and 2.0 Stereo mixes have also been included for your listening pleasure.  

    Well packed with content, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Gornick, moderated by Perry Martin, Screenplay for a Sequel with George A. Romero (10:45) where the zombie cultivator discusses his love for the anthology format and heaps praise on Gornick for delivering a quality picture under unideal circumstances, Tales from the Creep with Tom Savini (7:53) finds the actor discussing the technical process of becoming his ghoulish onscreen character, Poncho’s Last Ride with Daniel Beer (14:44) finds The Raft costar reminiscing on the brutal shoot, his health scare with hypothermia during filming and Gornick’s endless support while, The Road to Dover with Tom Wright (13:51) has the trained actor detailing his early professional roots and his skills as a stuntman that helped land him the role as the deadly hitcher.  Other vintage supplements recycled from the Anchor Bay release include, Nightmares in Foam Rubber (32:03) featuring interviews from FX Artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero and My Friend Rick (2:43) where Berger recalls his early encounters and fascination with his mentor Rick Baker while, a Behind-the-Scenes featurette (5:50), Image Gallery (3:34), Trailers & TV Spots (3:24) and the Original Screenplay (BD-ROM) are also on hand.  Finally, a 19-page booklet featuring stills and a new essay entitled Deadtime Stories by Michael Blyth is included along with a Creepshow: Pinfall Limited Edition Comic Book that brings life to one of the sequel’s exorcised segments and a Reversible Cover Art featuring both new imagery by Michael Saputo and the film’s original 1-sheet poster rounding out the hefty bonus offerings.

    Nearing its own 30th anniversary, Creepshow 2 suffers from standard sequelitis and a shortened stack of segments that disrupts its full potential while, persevering to deliver shades of genuine fun.  Although The Raft remains the fan-favorite of the followup, its co-features vary in mileage yet retain a charm that makes revisiting them a pleasurable blast from the past.  In their latest excavation from the Lakeshore catalog, Arrow Video has pulled the curtain back on the much-requested anthology with a definitive video treatment, a handsome stack of supplements and a gorgeously designed package sure to hitch a ride with fans.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Arrow Video in a limited 3,000 unit release, Creepshow 2 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blood Diner (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Blood Diner (1987)

    Director: Jackie Kong

    Starring: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, LaNette La France, Roger Dauer, Max Morris & Drew Godderis

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Serving up a goofy helping of gore, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series welcomes Blood Diner to the menu!  When brainwashed brothers Michael (Rich Burks, The Under Achievers) and George (Carl Crew, The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer) Tutman are ordered by their deceased uncle to resurrect the goddess Sheetar, the duo use their successful restaurant to lure scandalous women for their body parts and to sacrifice a pure virgin to complete their black magic ritual.

    Originally intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, the Jackie Kong (Night Patrol) helmed cannibalistic comedy throws everything but an ounce of seriousness into its buffet of blood and over the top absurdity.  20 years after witnessing the death of their serial killing uncle, brothers Michael and George Tutman loyally dig up his remains and have the eyes and brain of Uncle Anwar guide them on their mission to resurrect the powerful Egyptian goddess Sheetar.  Serving the local community with their restaurant’s popular healthy food options containing secret ingredients sure to make the masses barf, Michael and George are ordered to collect multiple body parts from promiscuous female prospects and most importantly, locate a virgin to be presented to the mighty Sheetar during the aptly named blood buffet ceremony.  As butchered bodies begin turning up all over the city, Detectives Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer, My Lovely Monster) and Sheba Jackson (LaNette La France in her only film credit) seek to bring the criminal minds to justice.  

    Boasting unbelievably silly performances, ridiculous dialogue and cartoonish levels of blood splattering violence, Blood Diner had routinely earned the reputation as a “bad movie” and remarkably found itself banned in several countries for its extreme content.  While its low-budget limitations and amateurish nature is evident, Blood Diner remains buckets of gooey fun that commits to its comedic sensibilities and never lets up.  Tonally bizarre with a bevy of personalities ranging from punkers and rockabilly boppers to greasers and Hitler lookalikes, the VHS cult favorite keeps viewers head-scratchingly rocking along to its uniquely selected soundtrack of 50s doo-wop tunes incorporating an added dimension of oddness.  Mixing independent wrestling, nude aerobics and a rock club finale that turns patrons into green, poorly face-painted flesh eaters to the already insane festivities, the highly unusual blend of wackiness and trashiness make Blood Diner an entertaining, freaky feature like few others.

    Newly remastered from the film’s original vault materials, Lionsgate presents Blood Diner fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably cleaned up with no troublesome signs of dirt or scratches, the cheaply made feature casts a softer appearance that maintains skin tones nicely while, enriching the bright red, bloody offerings rampant throughout the film.  Furthermore, no digital scrubbing is apparent ensuring a naturally filmic presentation that honors appreciative black levels during the film’s final club sequence and strong details observed in makeup choices and Sheetar’s razor-toothed design work.  Much like the debut installment of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Blood Diner appears light years ahead of its grainy tape sourced predecessors.  Although moderately restrained in its projection, the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix supports audible levels of dialogue and caters to its doo-wop and rockabilly centered track selections nicely.  While the mix may not be wildly dynamic, sound quality is more than efficient.

    Loaded with a smorgasbord of bonus features including, an Audio Commentary with Director Jackie Kong and the top-notch retrospective Killer Cuisine: The Making of Blood Diner (1:04:31).  Produced by Red Shirt Pictures, this impressive five-part featurette hosts interviews with the rarely public Jackie Kong, Screenwriter Michael Sonye, Producer Jimmy Maslon, Creative Consultant Bill Osco and countless cast members covering the film’s origin, its lengthy writing process, the tragic passing of Star Rick Burks and the film’s ongoing appreciation by cult lovers.  In a career of crafting deeply researched retrospectives on B-movie favorites, Killer Cuisine ranks as one of Red Shirt Pictures’ best efforts.  Also included, an Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin (8:01) recorded in 2009, Theatrical Trailers (4:49), TV Spots (1:34) and a Still Gallery (5:34).

    In only their sophomore outing, Lionsgate’s Vestron Video Collector’s Series keeps its high-caliber quality in tune for the unbelievable domestic high-def debut of Blood Diner.  As ridiculously loony and uproariously funny as remembered, Director Jackie Kong’s goofy gore show looks splendid and arrives with another wildly impressive serving of delectable extras to chomp into.  Available for a limited time, Blood Diner is one of the best, fully-loaded genre treats to land in dedicated fan’s collections this Halloween season or any other for that matter!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 27th from Lionsgate, Blood Diner can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • No Way Out (1987) Blu-ray Review

    No Way Out (1987)

    Director: Roger Donaldson

    Starring: Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman, Sean Young, Will Patton & Howard Duff

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel “The Big Clock” by Kenneth Fearing, No Way Out finds Secretary of Defense David Brice (Gene Hackman, The French Connection) murdering his mistress Susan Atwell (Sean Young, Blade Runner) in a fit of jealousy.  Determined to protect his superior, loyal aide Scott Pritchard (Will Patton, Remember the Titans) invents a cover-up scheme thrusting blame onto an unknown Russian spy.  Enlisting Naval Commander and friend Tom Farrell (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves) to hunt down the killer, all roads lead back to Farrell and his own enticing connection to the victim.

    Weaving a tale of suspense and scandal, No Way Out is a tightly paced thriller where the political underbelly of Washington sets the stage for a whodunit marking its protagonist as public enemy number one.  After a chance encounter at a political ball leads to limo lovemaking, Naval Commander Tom Farrell (Costner) falls deeply for the attractive Susan Atwell (Young).  Admitting to engaging with Farrell’s new boss Secretary of Defense David Brice (Hackman), Susan agrees to call off the affair only to fatally fall victim to Brice’s jealous rage.  In true closed door political fashion, a cover-up is established pointing fingers to a suspected Russian spy within the confines of the Pentagon, instructing Farrell to uncover the man responsible.  With other selected assassins ordered to eradicate anyone with knowledge of Brice’s involvement, Farrell finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place as each new development implements him in Susan’s death.  Trapped within the walls of the Pentagon as 80s computer technology and prowling eyewitnesses threaten Farrell’s safety, No Way Out rarely lets viewers catch a breath while, an exciting chase sequence beginning behind the wheel before shifting to rooftops and subways keeps the thrills coming.  Featuring the handsome Costner in a role that propelled him to leading man heights and Sean Young at the peak of her sexiness plus, a brief appearance by the beautiful Iman (Surrender, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) as Susan’s trusted friend, Director Roger Donaldson’s (Species) well-received feature keeps viewers on the edge of their seats with a twisty conclusion not seen coming.

    Shout! Factory presents No Way Out with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of fleeting flakes and speckles during the opening moments, the film conveys a pleasingly filmic appearance with facial tones reading appropriately.  Although not wildly colorful, textures in Hackman’s suit, Costner’s pressed Naval uniform and other costume choices are well saturated while, black levels during Costner and Young’s backseat romp are quite clear and free of any abusive crush.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, quality is satisfactory with dialogue levels delivered clearly as scoring cues and the film’s intense wave crashing ship scene offer nice balance to the otherwise tame mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Roger Donaldson and the film’s Trailer (1:30).

    Perfect viewing for the political season, No Way Out combines sex, scandal and murder for a gripping narrative set in our nation’s capital.  A solid cast and stylish direction compliment the film’s pace that allows itself to sharply pull the rug out from under the audience during its fleeting moments.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory upgrades this Costner starring thrill ride with an admirable high-definition transfer and a pleasing commentary track from its helmer.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, No Way Out can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Dolls (1987) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Dolls (1987)

    Director: Stuart Gordon

    Starring: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams & Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the bowels of Empire Pictures‘ vast library, Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) puppeteers a dark fantasy of pint-sized playmates with a sinister side.  Executive Produced by Charles Band (Ghoulies, Crawlspace), Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Dolls Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Adorned with plentiful bonus content and newly designed cover art by Nathan Thomas Milliner, Dolls is bone-chilling fun.  

    After a violent storm derails their travels, a precocious little girl and her mean-spirited parents seek shelter at a gothic mansion.  Home to an elderly couple of doll makers, a childlike salesman and two punk-rockers also find their way to the gloomy residence to avoid the harsh weather.  Littered with countless hand-carved toys, something foreboding awaits in the shadows of this ominous home for those causing mischief.  Stephen Lee (Robocop 2), Guy Rolfe (Mr. Sardonicus), Hilary Mason (Don’t Look Now), Ian Patrick Williams (TerrorVision), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (Robot Jox) and Carrie Lorraine (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) star.

    MOVIE:

    Lacking the excessive gore of Gordon’s Lovecraftian efforts, Dolls works beautifully as a dark rooted fairy tale with an important comment on childhood.  Serving up tried and true horror tropes including a haunted house, brutal thunderstorms and eerie characters, Dolls feels removed from the bloody decadence of other 1980s offerings.  The talented cast hit all their marks with Guy Rolfe as the kind and equally menacing doll maker injecting an added touch of class to the film.  In addition, the late Stephen Lee shines as the youthful salesman Ralph who is conflicted with embracing his childhood.  Lee conjures up wonderful pathos when reminiscing about his boyhood toys and his late father’s jovial spirit.  Carrie Lorraine does well as the imaginative little girl Judy, who forms a bond with Ralph and the magical yet, deadly dolls.  Shot entirely on Italian sound stages, Dolls offers up wildly effective production design with a decrepit manor hosting the film’s entire tale.  No stranger to recycling their efforts, Empire Pictures would redress the set for use in Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond.  

    Clocking in under 80 minutes, Dolls‘ breezy runtime allows its simple narrative to be told without sacrifice.  Characters are nicely developed and tedious stop-motion animation brings to life the deadly playmates with wonderful results.  Bloody when necessary, Dolls never loses sight of its horror genre label but, is best remembered for its classically gothic tone, soaked in fairy tale lore.  Produced by Brian Yuzna (Society) with a screenplay by Ed Naha (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), Dolls predates the short statured slayings of Child’s Play and Puppetmaster while, capturing a spirit of horror from a bygone era.  Suspenseful and humorous, Dolls is an Empire Pictures highlight and stands as one of Gordon’s finest directorial achievements.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Dolls arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor flakes and speckles popping up occasionally and a slight softness during stop-motion sequences, Dolls is a delight in high-definition.  Boasting natural and nicely detailed skin tones, colors pop wonderfully in wardrobe and the various outfits of the highly decorated dolls.  Shrouded in darkness and candle light, black levels are a marvel with no crushing on display and rich visibility observed.  Simply put, Dolls makes a stunning splash with its Blu-ray debut!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Dolls has minor difficulties early on maintaining high dialogue levels.  Luckily, the mix quickly improves allowing speech to flourish with clarity and no other intrusions.  Fuzzbee Morse’s (Ghoulies II) music injects a synth-heavy, jack in the box composition that arrives robustly and further cements the film’s dark fairy tale tone.  Effectively balanced with only brief anomalies, Dolls is a satisfying listening experience.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been provided.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon & Writer Ed Naha: Ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Audio Commentary with Stars Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine and Ian Patrick Williams: Also ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls (38:22): Red Shirt Pictures presents this detailed retrospective covering Empire Pictures‘ early theatrical releases, their success in the home video market and the lengthy animation techniques utilized in accomplishing Dolls‘ creepier moments.  Executive Producer Charles Band, Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, Writer Ed Naha as well as, Stars Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Ian Patrick Williams and Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gabe Bartalos and John Vulich all offer their insights on this thorough look back on Dolls, dedicated to the memory of the late Stephen Lee.

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    • Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (8:21): Three scenes, Teddy’s Revenge, Rosemary Takes a Dive and Punch’s Little Secret are presented.

    • Still Gallery: 50 in total.

    • More from Scream Factory: Trailers include Pumpkinhead, Phantom of the Paradise and Sleepaway Camp.

    • Reversible cover art: Bearing the memorable VHS artwork of a doll holding its eyeballs.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Kickstarting Executive Producer Charles Band’s obsession with pint-sized killers, Dolls is an effectively dark fairy tale surrounded by gothic horror movie set pieces.  Classier than most summer camp slasher offerings at the time, Dolls is an entertaining romp of haunted house thrills and things that go bump in the night.  Headlined by a memorable cast and painstaking animation techniques, Writer Ed Naha and Director Stuart Gordon’s tale of terrorizing toys remains an Empire Pictures standout.  Looking better than ever, Scream Factory has pulled the right strings in delivering a worthy collector’s edition of one of Gordon’s most loved films.  Sporting a splendid transfer and a newly produced retrospective from Red Shirt Pictures, Dolls Collector’s Edition is yet another must-have shriekfest for Scream Factory enthusiasts.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 11thDolls Collector's Edition can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.