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  • Tales from the Hood (1995) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Tales from the Hood (1995)

    Director: Rusty Cundieff

    Starring: Corbin Bersen, Rosalind Cash, Rusty Cundieff, David Alan Grier, Anthony Griffith, Wings Hauser, Paula Jai Parker, Joe Torry & Clarence Williams III

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Executive Producer Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing), Tales from the Hood unspools an anthology of urban frights set against the backdrop of inner city social issues as frightening as the monsters depicted in them.  Nightmares and reality are forever blurred when a trio of hoodlums retrieving a stash of missing drugs from an eerie mortician find themselves subjected to several tales from beyond the grave.

    Released in a dire genre year just ahead of Wes Craven’s postmodern slasher masterpiece rejuvenating audiences thirst, Tales from the Hood stands as one of the few crowning achievements from the lumpish decade that offers genuine frights with effectively delivered messages entwined in their narratives.  Seldom seen during the scatterbrained era but nonetheless serving as one of the best anthology efforts of its day, Tales from the Hood’s urban slant provides a chillingly fresh perspective on a proven formula with its commentary on issues such as, police brutality, domestic abuse and gang violence unfortunately still potent today.  Guiding his trigger-happy guests around his funeral home, Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III, Mod Squad) weaves a web of ghoulish stories in accordance with their own ethnic environment.  When an African-American rookie cop watches on as a civil rights leader is attacked by corrupt officers, Rogue Cop Revelation finds his lack of action comes at a haunting price while, Boys Do Get Bruised finds a child’s fear of the monster in his closet foreshadowing the real-life domestic abuse he suffers and the power of his own imagination that puts an end to it in this Twilight Zone-esque episode.  Furthermore, KKK Comeuppance centers on former Klansman and running politician Duke Metger (Corbin Bernsen, L.A. Law) learning his former plantation homestead is overrun by vengeful slave dolls brought to life by stop-motion wizardry.  Lastly, gang violence, hate and a failed attempt to rehabilitate a murderous convict in Hard Core Convert strikes genuine fear into the hearts of viewers with its grizzly imagery of real-life lynchings.  While most films of its kind leave audiences cherry-picking their favorite segments, Tales from the Hood continuously tops itself throughout its duration with its seamless blending of terror and gritty, urban realism making it one of the most smartly conceived efforts of the 90s.

    Reportedly thought to have no workable prints to remaster from, Scream Factory comes through to deliver Tales from the Hood with a strong 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Leaps and bounds better than its nearly decade-old discontinued DVD release, colors are striking while, skin tones are naturally pleasing with black levels, evident during the film’s overwhelming nighttime sequences, looking deeply inky with no intrusions of digital crush.  Scant speckling traces aside, the transfer is a remarkable sight that will leave fans yearning for a trip back to the hood more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue sharply and emphasizes its rap soundtrack authoritatively, an Alternate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 culled from the film’s LaserDisc release is also included for your listening pleasure.  Joining its place alongside other worthy Collector’s Edition releases, supplemental offerings include, a vintage Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Rusty Cundieff also recycled from its LaserDisc release, the newly-produced and exceptionally well made Welcome to Hell: The Making of Tales from the Hood (56:13) featuring interviews from Cundieff, Co-Writer/Producer Darin Scott and several cast members, a Vintage Featurette (6:04), the Theatrical Trailer (1:41), TV Spots (3:26), a Photo Gallery (9:46) and Reversible Cover Art bearing the original 1-sheet.

    Retrieved from Universal’s vaults after rampant requests from fans, Tales from the Hood is an underrated gem from a decade largely considered in peril with few redeeming genre efforts.  A horrific journey of eerie episodes with much more on its mind than simply scaring its audiences, this socially conscious and wickedly fun frightfest is urban horror at its finest.  Bestowed with new luridly crafted artwork by Joel Robinson (The Vincent Price Collections), Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release brings the hood back to life with a sightly high-definition makeover and a quality serving of mostly vintage supplements while, its brand-new, nearly hour-long retrospective doc is the disc’s towering extra.  Gather round the casket and don’t be left out on the streets without this recommended anthology of nightmares!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available April 18th from Scream Factory, Tales from the Hood can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Deadtime Stories (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Deadtime Stories (1986)

    Director: Jeffrey Delman

    Starring: Scott Valentine, Melissa Leo, Cathryn DePrume, Anne Redfern, Nicole Picard, Matt Mitler, Kathy Fleig & Phyllis Craig

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As imperfect as most horror anthologies go, Deadtime Stories is a mixed bag of mostly tricks and few treats where nightmares and fairy tales converge.  In order to put his monster-fearing nephew to bed, a disgruntled man retells three beloved bedtime fables with a macabre twist.  With the exception of atmospheric scenery, Peter and the Witches acts as the film’s unfortunate Sandman story where an enslaved boy (Scott Valentine, My Demon Lover) must kidnap a fair maiden for his witch captors to use in a sacrificial ceremony to resurrect their deceased sister.  Featuring effective make-up effects of a gory corpse being reanimated, the chiller’s first chapter is anything but a page turner.  Next up, Little Red Runninghood finds an attractive teen stalked by a ravenous werewolf who blames the sexually curious girl for mistakenly stealing his meds.  A decently modeled beast taken down by a silver cake server during a tense standoff, the second segment remains far from memorable but, a modest improvement over its predecessor.  Lastly, the final and most enjoyable of the trio, Goldi Lox and the Three Baers finds Mama (future Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, The Fighter) breaking her criminally insane husband and son from the loony bin only to learn their shady residence has been taken over by the homicidally telekinetic Goldi Lox (Cathryn De Prume, Wild).  Turning the absurdity into overdrive with over the top performances so intentionally bad, they’re a hoot, the closing tale is the true saving grace in this otherwise lackluster anthology of not-so-many frights.

    Boasting a new HD transfer culled from the original camera negative, Scream Factory presents Deadtime Stores with a solid 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio that puts to shame previous bargain bin releases sourced from grainy and barely watchable VHS prints.  Retaining a natural grain structure and robust colors, the film has never seen better days.  Joined by a respectable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that delivers dialogue and music, most notably the goofy opening song by Taj, solidly, the track satisfies fine.  Kicking off with a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Jeffrey Delman, additional special features include, I Like the Grotesque: A Conversation with Jef Delman (15:42) that finds the filmmaker discussing everything from shooting in Westchester County, NY and the difficulty in selling an anthology picture to the special effects, casting, locations and music of the film.  Furthermore, A Band of Gypsies: The Making of Deadtime Stories (15:35) catches up with Cathryn DePrune (Goldi Lox), Melissa Leo (“Mama” Baer) and Scott Valentine (Peter) as they reminisce on their clique at the time of the movie’s making and their warm regards for the project’s loyal following.  Lastly, The Black Forest (29:49), the original short film version of the Peter and the Witches segment with an introduction by Delman, Deleted Scenes (2:32) also prefaced by Delman, Theatrical Trailers (3:12), a Photo Gallery (4:14) and DVD Edition wrap up the release’s bonus features.  Offering sporadic bursts of intentional and not-so intentional ridiculousness, Deadtime Stories may have its followers but, its trifecta of tales do little to terrify and much to disappoint.  Thankfully for fans, Scream Factory have rescued the film from tape-sourced hell with a new high-definition makeover and a modest spread of supplements that demonstrate the class of Academy Award winners humbly unashamed of their earliest beginnings.  Cautiously recommended to horror anthology curiosos.  

    RATING: 2.5/5 

    Available now from Scream Factory, Deadtime Stories can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazom.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.

  • Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007) Special Edition Blu-ray Review

    Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow (2007)

    Director: Michael Felsher

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Celebrating the first creative collaboration between horror maestro George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and the master of suspense Stephen King, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow delves into the beloved anthologies influences, creation and continued appreciation through interviews with its talented cast and crew 25 years after the film’s original release.

    Previously available on Second Sight’s international Blu-ray release of Creepshow, Director Michael Felsher’s love letter to 1982’s anthology frightfest finally arrives domestically, elevated from its previous stature as a mere supplement to be better appreciated for the singular achievement it is.  Universally hailed as a career milestone for zombie popularizer George A. Romero, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow hosts a feature-length retrospective on the film that explores its obvious EC Comics influences and the chance encounter and eventual friendship between Romero and King that would generate their horrific nostalgia-driven opus.  Featuring detailed insight into the film’s development, Romero, Producer Richard P. Rubinstein (Dawn of the Dead, Martin) and Special Make-Up Effects Artist Tom Savini (Friday the 13th, The Burning) are prominently on hand to discuss the swift 60 day period King took to compose the screenplay, casting more well-known faces than previously used before in other Romero productions and the groundbreaking effects work utilized to bring the film’s monstrous segments to life.  While King is noticeably absent along with new sit-downs from stars including, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson and Hal Holbrook, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow welcomes genre legends Tom Atkins (Halloween III: Season of the Witch), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) and most impressively, Ed Harris (A Beautiful Mind) as they look back on the making of the film with warm memories, most humorously about Nielsen’s onset practical jokes and his knee-slapping usage of a fart machine.  Also covering extensive ground from behind the scenes talent, Felsher’s documentary spotlights Bernie Wrightson’s artistic contributions to the film’s comic book infused sequences while, First Assistant Director John Harrison details his impressive musical abilities landing him composing duties on the shoot.  Exceptionally thorough, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow joins the ranks of other finely realized retrospectives on genre pictures that provides fans with invaluable insight into the film’s making with vivid detail from its makers.

    Synapse Films presents Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  As a purveyor of bonus features for several genre labels through his Red Shirt Pictures banner, Felsher’s camerawork and interview footage appears unsurprisingly clean and fluid with sharp clarity throughout.  While vintage material and photographs from Creepshow’s shoot is noticeably of lesser quality at times, the doc’s presentation remains professionally rich.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly clear throughout making this predominately talky track most pleasing.  As bloated as its feature is extensive, the whopping assortment of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director/Editor Michael Felsher plus, a second Audio Commentary featuring Interviews with Actor John Amplas, Property Master Bruce Alan Miller & Make-Up Effects Assistant Darryl Ferruccui.  Furthermore, Creepshow Days with Michael Gornick (8:01) finds the Creepshow 2 director discussing his role as cinematographer on the original film and its impressive special effects work.  Also included, Tom Savini’s Behind-the-Screams (26:31) shares rough video recorded footage of the film’s effects in progress, Extended Interview Segments (23:45) with George A. Romero, Tom Savini and Bernie Wrightston plus, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark (14:56) where the spiky-haired horror host explores some of the film’s shooting locations today.  Finally, a Vintage 1982 Evening Magazine Segment (7:31), a Behind-the-Scenes of Creepshow Photo Gallery (8:30) and most excitingly, Scream Greats Volume One: Tom Savini, Master of Horror Effects (52:54) makes its long-awaited home video rerelease following its VHS debut 30 years earlier.

    While many horror aficionados abroad may already possess Felsher’s top-notch effort, domestic viewers who patiently waited for the definitive companion to Romero and King’s classic chiller to arrive have been handsomely rewarded.  Unlike other modern documentaries whose focus covers decades long franchises and their endless sequels, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow makes its one picture coverage an endlessly engaging watch for a game changing anthology that has undeniably stood the test of time.  Distributed by Synapse Films, this special edition release arrives with enough supplemental offerings including, the fan favorite Scream Greats installment that will undoubtedly tide fans over for the foreseeable future.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 12th from Synapse Films, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow can be purchased via Synapse-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7: Monsters, Odd Thomas, The Slumber Party Massacre, Buck Wild & MORE!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #7 includes:

    - Monsters: The Complete Series (0:43)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    eOne Entertainment: http://entertainmentone.com/home

    - The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) (7:03)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Return to Nuke'Em High Volume 1 (2013) (12:23)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Anchor Bay Entertainment: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Odd Thomas (2013) (18:12)
    Street Date: March 25, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Tom Holland's Twisted Tales (2013) (24:34)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Buck Wild (2013) (30:30)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Millennium Entertainment: http://www.millenniumentertainment.me/

    - The Flesh and Blood Show (1972) (35:09)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Frightmare (1974) (41:08)
    Street Date: March 18, 2014
    Kino Lorber: http://www.kinolorber.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)

  • Night Train to Terror (1985) Blu-ray Review



    Night Train to Terror (1985)
    Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
    Starring: Cameron Mitchell, John Phillip Law & Byron Yordan
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    By the sight of the 1-sheet poster, most would assumed that Night Train to Terror is another chip off the slasher block from the bitchin’ 1980s.  As fitting as it may seem, this is an entirely different beast.  When the topic of horror anthologies is brought up, there is a steady list of favorites to choose from such as Creepshow, Trick ‘r Treat and Tales from the Crypt.  But, somewhere in the cobwebs lies Night Train to Terror.  Presented for the first time on home video and it its original aspect ratio, Vinegar Syndrome bring this horror oddity to your growing collection in a Blu-ray / DVD combo pack.  How odd is this flick, you ask?  Well, get ready to throw logic out the window and let’s find out...

    Night Train to Terror kicks off with God and Satan aboard a train headed to the friary underworld as they decide the fates of three unfortunate souls.  In Harry, a killer keeps body parts of his victims in a twisted torture chamber.  While, in Gretta, a young woman obsessed with death takes part in a risky game of Russian roulette.  Finally, Claire finds a young woman and a Holocaust survivor terrorized by the son of Satan!

    MOVIE:
    There’s much to admire in a film that kicks off with an 80s-centric band playing to the camera while on board a train to Hell.  The catchy tune and the lead singer, who looks like a mix of Loverboy and Flashdance, sets the tone for the odd film you are about to witness.  The wrap-around segments of God and Satan deciding the fates of each of the  victims was a welcome touch that opened the stage for some humorous moments.  The film itself is an insane collage of horror presented without too much narrative in mind and a tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Demons, dismemberment, nudity and nazis all make entertaining appearances that are provided by a halfway decent cast and a synth-happy score.  Night Train to Terror takes lightning speed shifts telling its story while pushing moments of blood and horror leaving you with a “what the hell is going on?” attitude more than once.  In addition, the film deserves great praise for their usage of stop-motion effects that are less Harryhausen and more Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but just as charming and fun.  Overall, the film succeeds in throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer in terms of horrific elements while weaving a very “unique” kind of anthology tale.  There’s nothing quite like Night Train to Terror and by my calculations, that’s a fantastic thing!
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Night Train to Terror for the first time on home video restored in 2K from 35mm elements and in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film certainly has its fair share of inconsistencies with debris and scratches with colors popping nicely when they can.  Skin tones appear natural and detail is quite sharp in close-ups.  Grain levels look terrific while blacks can be a hit or miss.  It sounds mediocre, but in truth, this film has never looked better and probably never will.  Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment is the definitive one for a film that has only seen ratty bootlegs before its release.  Consider me satisfied!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Night Train to Terror hurls into your living room courtesy of a 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix.  Scenes of dialogue are clear and hissing is hardly present while moments of horror and carnage are loud and robust.  The score and catchy opening tune impressed my ear drums as they were loud even at a relatively lower volume.  Well done!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents a healthy dose of supplements that are spread across both the Blu-ray and DVD on this release.

    On Blu-ray:
    - Interview with Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (offered as an audio track over the film)

    - The Hysteria Continues Commentary: The bloggers offer plenty of laughs and interesting anecdotes about the film and the players involved.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    On DVD:
    - Gretta: The full-version of The Case of Gretta Conners, a unique and welcome extra as one can see and appreciate the differences from its shorter counterpart found in Night Train to Terror.

    - Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt (presented as an audio track)

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Night Train to Terror is quite unlike any horror anthology you’ve ever seen.  The chaotic pace and horrific imagery at every turn will certainly send you for a loop which makes it never boring.  Vinegar Syndrome have preserved and presented the film in the best possible manner with a welcome dose of extras that offer as much behind-the-scenes information as possible on this horror oddity.  Night Train to Terror is an absurd execution in horror anthologies with enough blood, demons and stop-motion to peak most genre fans’ interest.  Looking for logic?  We’re all out on Night Train to Terror but that’s exactly where most of the charm comes from.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Horror Stories (2012) DVD Review



    Horror Stories (2012)
    Director(s): Kyu-dong Min, Bum-shik Jung, Dae-woong Lim, Ji-Yeong Hong, Gok Kim & Sun Kim
    Starring: Ji-won Kim, Tae-woo Kim, Bo-ra Nam, Mi-ran Ra & Yeon-Seok Yoo
    Released by: Artsploitation Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Anthology films have been around for decades dating back to 1945’s Dead of Night all the way to the highly successful Creepshow from 1982.  As years progressed, the likelihood of witnessing a new anthology based film seemed near impossible as their popularity waned.  Within the past few years, countless horror anthologies have emerged including Trick ‘r Treat, V/H/S and The ABCs of Death.  In 2012, six of Korea’s top genre directors formed to create an anthology film like no other.  One where the wraparound segment, mostly used for gimmicky-like interludes in other films, was as horrifying as the actual short tales.  Horror Stories makes a bold challenge but does it live up to its intent?  Let’s take a look…

    Horror Stories collects six of South Korea’s top directors to tell four horrifying stories that are framed through a wraparound segment (directed by Kyu-dong Min of Memento Mori fame) that finds a high school girl abducted and forced by a psychopath to tell him the most frightening tales she knows.  Her stories include Don’t Answer the Door, directed by Bum-shink Jung (Epitaph), which finds a young brother and sister home alone and under attack by an intruder.  In Director Dae-woong Lim’s (Bloody Reunion) Endless Flight, a serial killer escapes police custody while onboard an otherwise empty flight.  Secret Recipe, directed by Ji-Yeong Hong, tells a macabre fairy tale about two jealous stepsisters who take plastic surgery to the extreme.  Finally, brothers Gok & Sun Kim (White: The Melody of the Curse) direct Ambulance on the Death Zone, a claustrophobic zombie tale detailing the standoff between a paramedic and a mother over the possibility of her daughter being infected.

    MOVIE:
    Being a strong enthusiast of the horror anthology format, Horror Stories immediately peaked my interest.  The outcome exceeded my expectations on every level and ultimately left me chilled to the bone.  The no-nonsense wraparound segment set a frighting tone to the film from the first frame.  The madness seen in the eyes of the serial killer keeping a high school girl captive leaves you disturbed knowing people of this ilk actually exist.  The first and arguably most terrifying segment, Don’t Answer the Phone, made me jump more times then I care to remember.  The end of the segment would make one assume the nightmare is over when in reality its just begun.  Director Bum-shink Jung weaves a suspenseful tale that concludes with an ambitious commentary on Korean employment and economy.  The grim ending truly makes one question whether the fairy tale we just witnessed or the real world reality is more horrifying.  Endless Flight received immediate praise for taking terror back into the skies which brought fond memories back of an anthology favorite found in Twilight Zone: The Movie.  While, the terror in this film is not found in the shape of a monstrous unearthly creature, its almost scarier because we are dealing with a flesh and blood serial killer.  A scene that includes a door peephole and a hairpin will make even the bravest squeam.  Director Ji-Yeong Hong’s Secret Recipe takes two jealous stepsisters and their obsession to wed a plastic surgeon obsessed with eternal youth to twisted heights.  The emphasis on plastic surgery that was utilized so well in another 2012 effort, American Mary, is used more subtly to show how far people will go to obtain what they want.  Nightmarish imagery and a dose of cannibalism makes this a bizarre and unforgettable inclusion.  The final segment, Ambulance on the Death Zone, is quite possibly the most creative of the bunch and proves how effective a zombie tale can be within the constrains of one location and less than a handful of actors.  The standoff between the mother and the paramedic makes the audience believe that the possibly infected daughter is truly infected and the mother doesn’t want to accept it.  Interestingly enough, as the tales continues, the daughter isn’t seen succumbing to the zombie infection as quickly as we’d assume which keeps you guessing until the finale.  The segment is incredibly effective in its delivery and sprays plenty of the red stuff which is always a plus for a zombie flick.  Horror Stories is an incredible execution in suspense and terror with each segment succeeding in making you jump.  The film is quoted on the back of its DVD release as being “one of the scariest Asian horror anthologies of the 21st century”, a gracious compliment indeed but slightly off.  Horror Stories is not just one of the scariest Asian horror anthologies, it’s one the scariest anthologies ever!
    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:
    Artsploitation Films presents Horror Stories in 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks quite nice on DVD with skin tones appearing as natural as can be.  Unfortunately, scenes of darker light (which there are many), have slightly crushed black levels that leaves pixelation to be found.  Colors look decent with images of blood popping nicely.  A serviceable transfer but one that could have looked a bit better.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Horror Stories is presented in its native Korean language in 2.0 Stereo.  Sound quality is nice and robust with dialogue and subtle noises coming across without a hitch.  English subtitles are also provided.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Cast Interviews

    - 12-page collectible booklet: This wonderful companion to the film has two essays entitled Omnibus Onslaught by Travis Crawford and The Terror of Modern Subjectivity: An Overview of Contemporary Korean Horror Cinema by Kyu Hyun Kim.  In addition, A Fairy Tale of the Sun and Moon, an interview with Director Bum-shik Jung conducted by Travis Crawford is included.

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Horror Stories was a masterful demonstration of four frightening tales all wrapped up in one supreme package.  Every segment possessed immense style and packed enough scares to chill me to the bone.  As we mature and age, it becomes difficult to truly “scare” someone who was raised on genre cinema but “Horror Stories” managed to do just that in spades.  As Kyu Hyun Kim mentions, North American consumers may believe that Korean horror is simply just a variation of the J-wave of horror from Japan showcased in The Ring and Ju-On franchises.  If you’re looking for long haired ghosts that are in desperate need of a chiropractor, look elsewhere because if Horror Stories is an indication of the best Korean horror then the future looks very bright.  Artsploitation Films‘ presentation of the film is serviceable enough and the booklet included is a wonderful read that offers very scholarly approaches to the content.  Artsploitation Films should be praised for bringing such a terrifying and rewarding film stateside and their future in distributing unique and unsettling films is one I anxiously look forward to.  The strength of the film itself gets my highest recommendation as an anthology that deserves to be seen by anyone looking to be truly frightened.
    RATING: 5/5

  • Body Bags (1993) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review



    Body Bags (1993)
    Director(s): John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper
    Starring: Robert Carradine, David Naughton Stacy Keach, David Warner & Mark Hamill
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After an already illustrious career directing gems like Halloween, The Fog, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, Director John Carpenter turned to the small screen for a taste of anthology madness. Following up Carpenter’s disappointing 1992 effort of Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Showtime came a knockin’ with a proposal that enabled Carpenter with wife and Producer, Sandy King, to gather a wide selection of their friends and genre vets to make a fun and horrific anthology flick. The result was Body Bags. In addition to Carpenter directing the first two segments and appearing as the ghoulish-like coroner who hosts the wrap-around segments, Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lifeforce) joins the festivities for the final segment of the film. With creative talent like this behind and in front of the camera, is this anthology of horrors worth remembering or best left for dead? Zip yourself in tight and let’s find out…

    Body Bags is a nifty anthology of three horror tales that are all hosted by a ghoulish-looking coroner (John Carpenter) who has a taste for the macabre and formaldehyde. The Gas Station, helmed by John Carpenter, centers on a woman (Alex Datcher) working the late shift at a gas station while an insane killer is on the loose.  Hair, again directed by Carpenter, stars Stacy Keach (Road Games, American History X) as a man that will do anything to stop the loss of his hair. Finally, Tobe Hooper directs Eye, a story about a baseball player (Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame) that agrees to a transplant after losing his eye in a brutal car accident. Don’t blink or else you’ll miss appearances from icons like Deborah Harry, Sheena Easton, David Naughton, David Warner as well as cameos by Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, Tom Arnold and the infamous Roger Corman.

    MOVIE:
    When the topic of horror anthologies arises, I find it a real shame that Body Bags isn’t discussed nearly as much as it deserves to be. The strategy of releasing horror anthologies has never proven to be widely successful or financially profitable for the studios which makes Body Bags an even more unique case. The heyday of the 1980s slasher craze was all but dead when 1993 rolled around and a cable channel named Showtime chose to take a chance. The benefit to horror fans was that we were treated to a wonderfully entertaining TV movie that brought together so many genre vets on one production. Sure, the incredible Creepshow brought George A. Romero and Stephen King together with a cast that included Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen. But, I think Body Bags is the only other anthology film that rivals it with a cast and crew that is just as noteworthy and talks the talk when it comes to their segments. John Carpenter’s efforts for The Gas Station and Hair are so polar opposite from one another but also so identifiably Carpenter.  The Gas Station rewards viewers with the suspense and terror we’ve come to know from Carpenter while Hair allows him to explore aliens once more with a dark comedic tone attached.  Stacy Keach is absolutely looney in his performance and the long hair he yearns for gives us a nostalgic reminder for what year this was made.  In addition, Robert Carradine’s mad portrayal of the killer in The Gas Station was not only refreshing but genuinely creepy. Tobe Hooper’s finale in Eye is what will really send shivers down your spine. The nightmarish imagery and descent into madness that Mark Hamill portrays is quite frightening and caught me off guard with a few jump-scares. John Carpenter’s acting chops in the wrap-around segments is what keeps the film fun and light similar to HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. While it is a shame that this TV movie didn’t morph into a fully fledged series as Showtime was hoping, we are still left with a remarkably fun anthology of tales that is painfully underrated as it is one of the best.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Body Bags in a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen transfer in 1:78:1.  The film looks nice and clean with barely any scratches to be seen.  Black levels look great which is a major plus for how many night scenes there are.  Grain is nicely intact and colors pop well specifically in Carpenter’s wrap-around segments.  Scream Factory does it again!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Body Bags comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that hits all the right notes.  Dialogue is clear as crystal while moments of terror are loud and booming.  No hisses or pops were heard on this track.  In addition, a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also provided.  What else could be asked for?
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Scream Factory treats this Collector’s Edition accordingly with a nice assortment of special features.

    - Unzipping Body Bags: A 20 minute featurette with interviews from John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King and Actors Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach.

    - Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Robert Carradine on The Gas Station

    - Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Stacy Keach on Hair

    - Audio Commentary with Producer Sandy King & Justin Beahm on Eye

    - Original Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Body Bags came at a time when horror was on life support and Showtime was willing to take a risky chance.  Thankfully, the finished product is a rewarding piece of anthology horror that brought together so many beloved genre vets on one project.  The film is light on its toes and has fun with itself while also packing the scares and terror when necessary.  Body Bags is an overlooked chapter in horror anthology history that not only produced some of Carpenter and Hooper’s best efforts of the 1990s but for the entire sub-genre.  Scream Factory’s uncut presentation of the film is a real marvel to the eyes and ears as it looks and sounds just terrific. The special features provided are wonderful and offer great candid anecdotes on the making of the film from the players involved although it would have been nifty to hear Hooper’s thoughts on his segment.  Scream Factory also provides gorgeous new cover art for the film provided by Justin Osbourne.  While, the option of having reversible covers that utilize the original 1-sheet artwork is normally provided on these Collector’s Editions, the rights holders for Body Bags always despised it and insisted on just using the new artwork.  Not a huge deal but certainly worth noting for fans of this popular collection.  Regardless, Body Bags is a hell of a fun time and thanks to Scream Factory’s superior treatment this release should be in every horror fan’s collection.
    RATING: 4.5/5