Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Category

Currently showing posts tagged Blood

  • 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. 

  • Stryker (1983) Blu-ray Review

    Stryker (1983)

    Director: Cirio H. Santiago

    Starring: Steve Sandor, Andria Savio, William Ostrander, Michael Lane, Julie Gray & Monique St. Pierre

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, Stryker finds a world devastated and water its most valued treasure.  As several bands of survivors battle each other over short supplies, a secret water source has been exposed leading a lone woman with knowledge of its whereabouts to depend on renowned warrior Stryker (Steve Sandor, Fire and Ice) to protect its safety against the evil Kardis (Michael Lane, The Harder They Fall) and his army.

    Piggybacking on the craze of post-apocalyptic mayhem set forth by Mad Max, Stryker burns rubber taking unapologetic cues from George Miller’s game-changing effort where muscular brutes, wasteland women and high-octane vehicles run amok in pursuit of dominance in a new ravaged world.  As the survivors of worldwide nuclear destruction struggle to locate viable water sources, Delha (Andria Savio, Death Screams), harboring knowledge of a shrouded spring and pursed by the death squads of Kardis for its location, is saved by the fearless Stryker and his companion.  Before long, the lone female finds herself captured and tortured by the vile Kardis until a successful daring rescue mission by Stryker puts her in pursuit of Trun, Stryker’s brother, for manpower to combat Kardis’s overwhelming forces.  Determined to seek vengeance against the wicked leader for the death of his own lover, Stryker joins the cause to protect the coveted spring and liberate those in peril.  Loaded with battered vehicle chases, scantly-clad women armed with crossbows and high-pitched Filipino midget warriors, Stryker delivers a respectable drive-in effort with action-packed bloodshed done cheaply although, its saccharine celebration of a conclusion at the height of battle shortchanges its outcome.  Marking the first of many post-nuke helmed efforts for Filipino native and dependable Corman colleague Cirio H. Santiago (Firecracker, Wheels of Fire), Stryker remains a mid-level Road Warrior ripoff that generally satisfies where it counts while, Santiago’s later experiments in the genre would greatly improve with each passing attempt.

    KL Studio Classics presents Stryker with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  No stranger to speckling and occasional scratches, this expectedly soft-looking effort looks as good as can be expected given its tight budget and dry, desolate locations.  Skin tones look decently with instances of blood popping well and costume choices relaying mediocre detail.  Furthermore, black levels, evidenced in Kardis’s torture dungeon and the cave harboring the desired water spring, look rather drab and harder to make out.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that translates the obviously dubbed dialogue with ease, soundtrack cues and action-oriented moments of explosions and firepower offer slightly more oomph to the proceedings.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Jim Wynorski, moderated by Bill Olsen & Damon Packard.  B-movie legend and fellow Corman protégé, Wynorski, although having nothing creatively to do with the film outside of knowing Santiago rather well and taking over directorial duties on its remake after the Filipino filmmaker fell ill, provides chatty conversation and an obvious love for the genre making the track an unexpected treat.  In addition, a Trailer Gallery featuring Stryker (2:03), Wheels of Fire (2:04), Equalizer 2000 (1:39), The Sisterhood (1:26) and Dune Warriors (1:12) is also included.

    From what seems like a bottomless pit of post-apocalyptic knockoffs, Stryker neither burns out nor exceeds what’s expected of it.  Living up to its colorfully exploitative poster art, blood, babes and savagery reign in this New World Pictures produced feature that stands as a mere stepping stone for Santiago’s more refined wasteland followups.  Never a pretty looking picture since its inception, KL Studio Classics ensures the film a most welcome upgrade for the HD generation.

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • 31 (2016) Blu-ray Review

    31 (2016)

    Director: Rob Zombie

    Starring: Sheri Moon Zombie, Jeff Daniel Phillips, Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs, Meg Foster, Kevin Jackson, Richard Brake, Lew Temple, Jane Carr, Judy Geeson & Malcom McDowell

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a group of carnival workers are abducted on Halloween night, 31 finds them imprisoned in a deranged compound and forced to partake in a sadistic game.  Tasked to stay alive for 12 hours against crazed clowns and other homicidal deviants, the unfortunate players must band together in hopes of seeing dawn.

    Impressively funded by a successful fan backed campaign, 31 returns horror maestro Rob Zombie to the 70s-style foundation of his earliest films with a morbid depravity and artistic freedom not seen since 2005’s The Devil’s Rejects.  Following the rapid abduction of five traveling carnival workers, 31 finds the unsuspecting quintet at the mercy of three aristocratic lunatics.  Forced to take part in their annual game at the labyrinth-esque compound known as Murderworld, the frightened friends must survive 12 grueling hours, relying only on their resourcefulness and willingness to live, to defend themselves against crazed Nazi midgets, chainsaw-wielding madmen and terrifying clowns determined to annihilate them before time’s up.  Headed by Sheri Moon Zombie in her most tenacious role since Baby Firefly, the tightly-budgeted bloodbath welcomes newcomers Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs (Welcome Back, Kotter), Kevin Jackson (Rosewood) and Jane Carr (Dear John) to Zombie’s latest carnival of madness while, other such former collaborators including, Jeff Daniel Phillips (The Lords of Salem), Meg Foster (They Live), Malcolm McDowell (Halloween) among others beef out the impressive company of victims and slayers.  While 31 arguably boasts Zombie’s goriest and most deranged set pieces to date, its screenplay, admittedly secondary to its onscreen carnage, suffers from unavoidably trashy stereotypes common to varying degrees in previous Zombie efforts.  In addition, although the vast majority of 31’s characters fail to leave lasting impressions, the House of 1,000 Corpses helmer does succeed in bringing to life another worthy antagonist in Doom-Head whose performance by Richard Brake (Batman Begins), performed with perversion, eloquence and blood splattered clown makeup, single handily steals the show.  Serving as horror’s unrestrained answer to The Running Man with a finale that excellently demonstrates Zombie’s melding of music selections to his imagery, 31 falls somewhere in between the best and more problematic of the fright maker’s modest filmography, valued best for its buckets of blood and live or die obstacles.

    Lionsgate presents 31 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of its sun-bleached daytime openings and closings, Zombie’s latest shrouds itself in overwhelming darkness and dimly lit sets in the various sections of Murderworld where black levels rank strongly.  While occasionally murky levels and scant digital noise obstruct detail in skin tones, quality is overwhelmingly positive with the film’s few bolder colors seen in bright red blood, Sheri Moon Zombie’s yellow-blonde hair and Doom-Head’s smudged face paint noticeably standing out for the better.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects dialogue clearly at all times, the track captures the echoey ambiance of Murderworld’s quieter nooks with swift precision while, screams, chainsaw clatter and suspenseful guitar riffs provide excellent oomph to the festivities.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rob Zombie and In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn: The Making of 31 (2:11:27), a five-part and rewardingly in-depth documentary common to most of Zombie’s other features that explores the film’s journey from pre-production through its speedy 20 day film shoot.  In addition, an Also from Lionsgate (9:27) section boasting trailers for Blair Witch, The Devil’s Rejects, Cell, Knock Knock and Cooties are included alongside a Digital HD Code.  While supplemental volume may seem scant, the comprehensiveness of the offerings are made up for in their top-tier quality.

    One strictly for the gorehounds, 31 does little to stretch the creative wings of Zombie but succeeds greatly in delivering a kill or be killed horror showdown, uncompromised by thoughtless executives or meddling studio brass.  Simplistically plotted and brutally carried out, Zombie’s newest feature may not rank amongst his finest but has earned slightly more appreciation through additional viewings.  Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s high-definition presentation is overwhelmingly solid while, the disc’s bonus offerings are exceptional crash courses in filmmaking with Zombie’s valued insight and fly on the wall footage of the film’s intense making guiding the way.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, 31 can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #11 - Halloween Edition: Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), Child's Play (1988) Collector's Edition, Burial Ground (1980), Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991) & Lady in White (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

    Starring: Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Haydée Politoff, Mirta Miller, Ingrid Garbo, Álvaro de Luna de Luma & José Manuel Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Spain’s premiere horror star Paul Naschy (Night of the Werewolf), Count Dracula’s Great Love finds a carriage of travelers derailed and kindly taken in by the handsome Dr. Marlow (Naschy).  Secretly harboring his true identity as the Prince of Darkness, Marlow stalks and seduces his way to the necks of his gorgeous guests, transforming them into bloodthirsty slaves while, shy virginal Karen (Haydée Politoff, Queens of Evil) becomes the apple of his eye and essential to his much grander plan.  Boasting gothic ambiance, full moons and eroticism, Javier Aguirre (Hunchback of the Morgue) directs with elegance in this atmospheric tale that presents a memorable interpretation of Dracula who is quick to whip and axe his victims as commonly as sink his fangs into them.  Weaving a narrative of originality and rich complexity, Count Dracula’s Great Love remains effective for Naschy’s understated performance and the film’s blood ritual used to resurrect Dracula’s deceased daughter, concluding in lovesick tragedy.

    Beautifully scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm internegative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Count Dracula’s Great Love with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While minor intrusions from scratches and cigarette burns are evident, the Spanish feature has never looked better.  Bringing vibrant life to skin tones and the colorful costume choices of its actresses, detail is crisp preserving the fog-entranced tone while, black levels seen in Count Dracula’s cape, casket and dark dwellings are exceptionally inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s English dub track may register t’s and s sounds too sharply but, overwhelmingly exudes clean and audible dialogue levels while, cracks and pop are minimal and of little to no notice.  Presenting both its uncut U.S. edition and its original Spanish language version, viewers are informed that the latter, lacking proper elements from its licensor (and missing shots due to content that are only found in its English counterpart), is presented from lesser quality video sources and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in order to appreciatively appease fans yearning for both cuts.  Meanwhile, special features include, a never before released Audio Commentary with Director Javier Aguirre & Actor Paul Naschy featuring optional subtitles in both English and Spanish plus, a newly captured Video Interview with Actress Mirta Miller (8:22) with optional English subtitles.  Furthermore, the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:04), a Still Gallery (2:16) and a 6-page booklet featuring an informative essay from Mirek Lipinski are also included alongside a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art.  Fans of horror’s more gothic and erotic outings will take pleasure sinking their fangs into this significant Spanish offering, splendidly brought to high-definition by Vinegar Syndrome for the first time ever!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Count Dracula’s Great Love can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

    Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent & Brad Dourif

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Instilling a new titan for modern horror and ushering in a frightening franchise of sequels each varying in quality, the original Child’s Play still reigns as the most effective and chilling of Chucky’s many chapters.  When innocent six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, Wait Until Spring, Bandini) is presented with a Good Guy doll on his birthday, strange occurrences and the death of his babysitter raise questions of responsibility in their wake.  Unsuccessfully convincing his single mother and a homicide detective that his doll is alive and behind the recent string of murders, Andy finds himself pursued by the tiny terror in order to take over his soul.  Before the bodycount pictures its later entries would become with the foul-mouthed killer serving as their marketing mascot, Child’s Play’s less is more approach keeps viewers questioning the validity of Andy’s claims more so than blindly assuming his doll is truly possessed.  Wrapped in mystery and edge of your seat suspense with an oftentimes forgotten voodoo subplot, Child’s Play holds up strongly with a believable blend of special effects wizardry, an urban Chicago setting and top-notch performances with Dourif’s shrieking voice as the crazed Chucky leaving an indelible mark on the nightmares of viewers for years to come.

    Newly scanned in 2K from the interpositive, Scream Factory presents Child’s Play with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a darker yet, more natural appearance during nighttime sequences, skin tones are accurate and nicely detailed while, colors found in Chucky’s red-striped and denim attire along with the neon-lit signage of the toy store in the film’s opening pop well.  Scuffs and other blemishes appear to be absent while, softness during daytime exteriors and inside the Barclay’s apartment look similar to its previous release.  Admittedly modest in its improvements, Scream Factory’s latest stab at Child’s Play unquestionably ranks as its best looking.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects solid dialogue and booming displays of authority during thunderstorms and Joe Renzetti’s (Poltergeist III) creepy score, sound quality is superior.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Impressively packed with new and old offerings, Disc 1 features a new Audio Commentary with Director Tom Holland plus, a repurposed Audio Commentary with Actors Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks & “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher.  Furthermore, another vintage Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner & Screenwriter Don Mancini along with hilarious Chucky Commentaries on select scenes are also included.

    Kicking off Disc 2, Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects Footage (1:00:08), Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Till the End (40:53) and Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky with Ed Gale (40:02) comprise the release’s newest and highly fascinating featurettes while, Evil Comes in Small Packages (24:49), Chucky: Building a Nightmare (10:05), A Monster Convention (5:26), Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play (6:15) and a Vintage Featurette (4:54) from MGM’s previous release are ported over.  In addition, a TV Spot (0:17), Theatrical Trailer (2:02), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (37 in total), a Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (20 in total) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the all encompassing slate of extras.  A frightening sophomore followup from Director Tom Holland (Fright Night), Child’s Play maintains its reputation as one of the better supernatural slashers of the 80s while, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition, sprawling with bounds of extras, is nothing short of a gift from the mighty Damballa himself.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Child’s Play can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

    Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Peter Bark & Roberto Caporali

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented under its alternate The Nights of Terror title, Burial Ground hosts a smorgasbord of guts and bloody depravity when a country getaway for several couples quickly turns into a fight for their lives against reanimated corpses.  Preoccupied with their own sexual appetite when a scientist’s tinkering with evil forces unleashes hell’s hungriest zombies, the couples struggle to defend themselves while keeping the rotting forces from gaining entry into the mansion.  A wall-to-wall bonkers example of Italian exploitation at its finest, Burial Ground’s plot may be paper thin but, graciously overcompensates with gallons of gore and some of the genre’s most memorable zombie designs befit with gaping facial holes, horrific skeletal features and squirming maggots oozing from their pores.  Weaponizing themselves with pickaxes, scythes and other garden tools, the ravenous undead decapitate the help and repeatedly feast on the torn out organs of their prey.  Perhaps even more memorable than the zombie’s persistent attacks, Burial Ground’s bizarro meter soars when Michael (Peter Bark, Arrivano i gatti), the peculiar-looking son of Karen, grows oddly attracted to his mother and makes an incestuous pass at her in the heat of zombiepalooza.  With options running low and escape unlikely, nothing can prepare viewers for Burial Ground’s absurd mouthful of a finale that draws its line in the sand as one of the great “what the…” moments of splatter cinema.

    Gorgeously restored in 2K from pristine elements, Severin Films presents Burial Ground with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  True to its description, this newly struck scan is leaps and bounds superior to past releases with a blemish-free appearance, strong facial tones and impressive detail bringing out the intricacies of the many zombie makeup designs and their intendedly heinous features.  Furthermore, the film’s plethora of blood pops loudly while, black levels, even during the film’s more dimly lit sequences, are effectively inky, allowing viewers to fully appreciate all that is occurring.  Definitive as can be, Severin Films deserves the utmost praise for their esteemed handling of this Italian gorefest.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible throughout without any static or pops detected.  In addition, a separate Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is included with optional English subtitles.  Bonus offerings include, Villa Parisi - Legacy of Terror (15:47) where Movie Historian Fabio Melelli revisits the filming locations that date back to the 17th century and have been utilized by Italian film productions beginning in the 1960s through the present.  Meanwhile, Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with Actor Peter Bark (7:35), Just for the Money: Interview with Actor Simone Mattioli (8:57) and The Smell of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti & Actress Mariangela Giordano (9:20) are joined by Deleted/Extended Scenes/Shots (10:24), the Theatrical Trailer (3:31) and Reversible Cover Art.  Lastly, limited to the first 3,000 units, an exclusive slipcover featuring new artwork by Wes Benscoter is also included.  Riding high on a profoundly successful 2016, Severin Films continues to spoil exploitation enthusiasts with their treatment of Burial Ground, so definitive that the opening of hell’s gates can be the only justification for quality of this caliber.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Burial Ground can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991)

    Director: Anthony Hickox

    Starring: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, Dana Ashbrook, Michah Grant, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Patrick Macnee & David Warner / Zach Galligan, Monkia Schnarre, Alexander Godunov, Martin Kemp & Bruce Campbell 

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Melding the humorously wacky with the horrific, Waxwork finds a group of collegiate friends who stumble upon a mysterious wax museum displaying the most vile monsters, madmen and psychos albeit without victims.  Before long, their innocent tour lures them into its dark magic to become permanent members of the establishments morbid offerings.  Starring Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) with appearances from distinguished Englishmen and talented thespians Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) and David Warner (Tron) as the villainous museum owner, Waxwork’s greatest strength lies in its animated displays that honor the classic monsters of yesteryear and submerging would-be victims into their appropriately themed worlds.  Transforming into mini films within a film, the high maintenance China (Michelle Johnson, Death Becomes Her) finds herself immersed within Count Dracula’s gothic castle and forced to duel against his bloodthirsty brides while, the chain-smoking Tony (Dana Ashbrook, Twin Peaks) stumbles into the full moon lit backwoods where the beastly Wolfman (John-Rhys Davies, Raiders of the Lost Ark) hunts.  While the rather busy narrative throws touches of black magic, evil trinkets, freakish butlers and interdimensional realms to the forefront that occasionally scatterbrains the proceedings, Waxwork’s free-for-all conclusion pitting the likes of Marquis de Sade and zombies against the privileged Mark (Galligan) and his wheelchair-bound godfather right the ship in this clever sendup of classic chills under the guise of 80s video age eye-candy.

    Surviving the fiery events of the original film, Mark and Sarah (replaced by Monkia Schnarre, The Peacekeeper) return in Waxwork II: Lost in Time when a resilient zombie hand from the wax museum murders Sarah’s stepfather, pinning the blame on her.  Determined to prove her innocence, the two recover a magical compass enabling them to time travel through dimensions in order to gather the proper evidence to clear Sarah’s name.  Far more fantasy based than its predecessor with the characters winding up in medieval times to combat a black magic wielding sorcerer, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, using Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass as a loose template, makes greater use of hilariously parodying genre films than properly traveling through historical events.  Making stops at Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and the streets of London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, Alien, The Haunting and Godzilla among other films all find their way cheekily homaged in this more refined sequel.  Graced with brief roles from B-movie legends Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and David Carradine (Death Race 2000), Waxwork II: Lost in Time widens its universe even more so, delivering a followup with more comedic oomph that surprisingly exceeds its originator by a narrow margin.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate, under their Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint, presents both Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bearing generally clean appearances with scant scratches and slight speckling during darker sequences, colors pop effectively with skin tones reading nicely although, softness is not wholly uncommon or overly unpleasant.  Furthermore, its sequel noticeably improves during its extended black and white sequences mocking The Haunting that shine more sharply than the first film.  Respectable upgrades on both features will leave the overwhelming majority of fans more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is admirably conveyed while occasional moments during the first film find character lines at odds with other dominating sound factors.  Otherwise making solid use of their respective musical scores, both tracks strongly live up to expectations.  

    Providing each film on their own Blu-ray disc, special features on Waxwork’s Disc 1 include, an Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan and an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon.  Additionally, The Waxwork Chronicles (1:22:17), another first-rate Red Shirt Pictures production divided into six parts, explores the development and making of both films with newly captured interviews from Writer/Director Anthony Hickox, Editor Christopher Cibelli, Producer Staffon Ahrenberg, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Bob Keen, Actors Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre and many others covering everything Waxwork related fans would ever want to know.  Also included, a vintage The Making of Waxwork (24:06) featurette, the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) and a Still Gallery (7:55) conclude the disc’s helpings.  Next up, Waxwork II: Lost in Time’s Disc 2 opens with another Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan, an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Steve Schiff, a Music Video (3:50), Theatrical Trailer (3:03), Still Gallery (7:17) and a Reversible Cover Art capping off the double feature’s supplemental package.  Nostalgia will surely ring loudly for viewers raised on both Waxwork features during the heyday of video rental.  A clever and unique injection of horror and comedy during the slasher prominent decade, both films, with its 1991 sequel having a slight advantage, are enjoyable excursions into silliness that have been passionately peppered with ample bonus features to continue making the legacy of Vestron Pictures proud.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

    Starring: Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco & Katherine Helmond

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wholesome suburb of Willowpoint Falls circa 1962, Lady in White centers on monster kid Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas, Mars Attacks!) who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a mysterious child murderer.  Aided by the first victim’s ghost, Frankie vows to bring the elusive killer to justice who may be closer than he knows.  Capturing the virtually lost magic of small-town Americana and shot on location in the picturesque region of Upstate New York, Lady in White weaves its atmospheric tale of local legends, ghosts and cold-blooded murder with expert direction and grounded performances that shine with pure naturalism.  Following Frankie’s supernatural encounter, the neighborhood myth of the lady in white searching for her fallen child ties into the picture’s larger story with the very real threat of her assailant still at large injecting a genuine undercurrent of thrills.  Reminiscent of Stephen King’s best coming of age fables, Lady in White’s acute capturing of simpler times while, injecting deeply rooted themes of family, facing fears and discrimination come from a creative voice of passion and experience that Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Fear No Evil) conveys in earnest.  An underrated masterwork with an innate connection to the heart and mystery of childhood, Lady in White remains as riveting as ever, eclipsing its reputation as one of the finest ghost stories of its kind.

    Debuting on high-definition with 2 Discs featuring the Director’s Cut (1:57:49, Disc 1), Theatrical Version (1:53:34, Disc 2) and the preferred Extended Director’s Cut (2:06:52, Disc 2), Scream Factory presents Lady in White with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Utilizing the film’s interpositive and an archived film print to assemble the never-before-released lengthier director’s cut, the inherently soft photography is perfectly maintained while, fall leaves and seasonally appropriate greenery are lively looking.  Seamlessly blending its two elements for a first-rate restoration, the director’s intended cut looks excellent whereas the film’s alternate versions are of equal merit.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that forewarns hiss and pops that are hardly noticeable on its extended version, dialogue is never inaudible with the subtle ambiance of howling winds and crashing waves complimenting the proceedings nicely while, the film’s beautiful music selections, handled also by its Writer/Director, perform most effectively.  In addition an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  However unfortunate that no new supplements were produced for the release, vintage bonus features found entirely on Disc 1 include, an Introduction with Frank LaLoggia (0:46), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Director’s Cut only), Behind-the-Scenes Footage with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (16:21) and optional commentary from its creator.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (36:13) and optional commentary, a Promotional Short Film (7:18), the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), Alternate Trailers (7:10), TV Spots (1:34), Radio Spots (2:21), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Montage (28 in total) and an Extended Photo Gallery (21 in total) wrap up the on-disc extras while, a Reversible Cover Art is also included.  An evocative coming of age chiller ripe for rediscovery and annual viewing, Lady in White is a prime ghostly offering for the Halloween season that stands out for its relatable themes and haunting narrative worthy of the deepest respect.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Lady in White can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

     

  • Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review

    Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Bruce Campbell, Ray Santiago, Dana DeLorenzo, Jill Marie Jones & Lucy Lawless

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    30 years after saving humanity from demonic takeover, Ash vs Evil Dead finds aging stock boy Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead) revving up the chainsaw once more after foolishly unleashing the Deadites back into the world.  Teaming up with two directionless co-workers, the trio head out on the open road to put the definitive stake into hell’s minions.  Ray Santiago (Sex Ed), Dana DeLorenzo (The Mad Ones), Jill Marie Jones (Girlfriends) and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess) co-star.

    Following the medieval madness of 1992’s Army of Darkness, Evil Dead heads have yearned for the endlessly hinted at fourth adventure of everyone’s favorite monster-hunting stock boy.  Reigniting the franchise torch with a financially successful and fan divided 2013 remake, the likelihood of continuing the continuity of yesteryear appeared dead and buried until the groovy world of television extended itself to all its blood splattering campiness.  Acting as co-executive producer and pilot director, original series helmer Sam Raimi (Spider-Man, Drag Me to Hell) and Star Bruce Campbell return to their stomping grounds, ensuring Ash vs Evil Dead to be the madcap followup viewers have been waiting for.  Living a trailer park life and holding down a dead end position at ValueShop, Ash Williams uses his nincompoop charm and wooden hand to swoon bar floozies into bathroom quickies.  Regressing the horrific events of his past while keeping the demon calling Necronomicon book of the dead locked up, Ash’s own idiocy and a night of high times with a blonde finds the flunky reading from the dreaded tome and unleashing evil yet again.  In true irresponsible fashion, Ash aims to skip town to avoid his problems, inadvertently wrapping up fellow hombre Pablo (Santiago) and his crush Kelly (DeLorenzo) in the mix.  With white-eyed demons on the prowl, Ash’s attempts to undo the damage fail forcing him back into the role as the world’s most unlikely yet, nonetheless badass defender.  Embarking on a hellacious road trip for answers to stop the Deadites, the authorities and a mysterious figure with questionable intentions pursue Ash and his sidekicks through 10 episodes of gloriously over the top gory carnage.

    As cheeky and horrific as its cinematic predecessors, Ash vs Evil Dead captures the tone of Raimi’s backwoods frightfests with absolute precision while, Campbell’s equally cool and corny personality sells the onscreen exploits with his acknowledged age and out of touchness with today’s times making the character funnier than ever.  Always the lone wolf, Ash is served well by his cronies in demon disposing who enhance the show’s humor with their characters gelling solidly with the inherently funny Campbell.  While Ash’s graying hair and belly girdle are the butt of many jokes, Ash vs Evil Dead has a hoot laughing in the face of today’s politically correct mindset taking lighthearted racial and sexist jabs at the expense of his teammates.  Matched with phenomenal makeup designs for its many monsters and geysering with bloodshed albeit, overly reliant on unflattering computer-generated gore, each episode paints the screen red, laughing wildly to its end credits.  Smartly forging new roads from its onset with the establishment of new characters including, the bizarre Ruby (Lawless) who holds Ash solely responsible for the evil’s outbreak and harbors her own desires to own the Necronomicon, Ash vs Evil Dead comes full circle welcoming viewers back to a familiar setting for a horrifically action-packed finale.  A hilariously macabre delight, Ash vs Evil Dead plays all the right notes and fits like a chainsaw, standing proudly as a hail-worthy small screen sequel to Raimi’s three theatrical favorites.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents all 10 episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Shot digitally on Arri Alexa cameras, each episode is blemish free with top-notch detail observed in facial features, costumes and Ash’s messy trailer while, skin tones are exceptionally natural with colors radiating off the screen from Ruby’s red hot vehicle to more subdued shades found in Ash’s navy blue shirts.  In addition, black levels are deep and appealing with only faint noise spotted throughout darkly lit basement sequences in the season finale.  Equipped with Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mixes, sound quality is exquisite with dialogue clear as crystal, screams and chainsaws sharply relayed and the show’s phenomenal soundtrack selections from Deep Purple, The Stooges, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper and AC/DC making thoroughly rockin’ statements.  With the pilot episode, “El Jefe”, arriving with an optional Audio Commentary with Creator/Executive Producer Sam Raimi, Co-Executive Producer Ivan Raimi, Executive Producer Rob Tapert & Executive Producer/Actor Bruce Campbell, each subsequent episode contain commentary tracks from a variety of interchanging guests including, Executive Producer Rob Tapert and Actors Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Jill Marie Jones and Lucy Lawless.  Additional special features include, Inside the World of Ash vs Evil Dead (15:59).  Attached to the end’s of each episode during their original airings, the creators and cast sit-down for brief interviews about their makings.  Furthermore, the self explanatory How to Kill a Deadite (2:31) and the sizzle reel Best of Ash (1:27) round out the bonus offerings.

    Reopening the Book of the Dead after nearly 25 years, fans have much to hail for with Ash vs Evil Dead.  Seamlessly appearing as an extended overdue sequel, Campbell and company have loaded this boomstick debut season with enough humor, horror and buckets of red stuff to have made the wait well worth it.  Deservedly renewed for another season of undead mayhem and snappy one-liners, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents the program with exceptional high-def merits and a generous spread of supplements including, informatively funny commentary tracks on each episode.  Groovy doesn’t even begin to describe Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season but, it’s one hell of a start!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available August 23rd from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Clown (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Clown (2014)

    Director: Jon Watts

    Starring: Laura Allen, Andy Powers & Peter Stormare

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After the entertainment for his young son’s birthday fails to arrive, Clown finds loving father Kent (Andy Powers, In Her Shoes) donning a clown suit and makeup to perform.  Unfortunately, over time the vintage costume and wig refuses to come off, simultaneously altering Kent’s personality into something demonic.  With little hope for a cure, the once wholesome father finds himself in a circus of nightmares that places his family in dire straits.  Laura Allen (The 4400) and Peter Stormare (22 Jump Street) co-star.

    Conceived from a clever mock trailer deceivingly billing eventual Producer Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, The Green Inferno) as its helmer, Clown spotlights the fear-inducing carny figure under unique circumstances as a cobweb infested vintage costume serves as the carrier of evil for an unsuspecting father.  Uniquely crafted, Jon Watts’ (Cop Car, Marvel Studios’ upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming) feature-length directorial debut wastes little time establishing the idyllic family life Kent and wife Meg (Allen) live as they celebrate the birthday of their son Jack (Christian Distefano, PAW Patrol) before peculiar events strike.  Experiencing extreme difficulty in removing the clown nose and full body costume discovered in a mysterious traveling trunk, Kent grows frantic when even power tools fail to sever a single stitch.  Developing a voracious hunger, the real estate agent in clown’s clothing finds answers in the costume’s previous owner Herbert Karlsson (Stormare) who reveals the sinister past of the clown through history and its insatiable appetite for children.  Failing to fatally eliminate the demon’s carrier, Kent, progressively becoming more clown-like, evades death to feed while, Karlsson and Meg join forces to stop a big top reign of blood.

    Shot quickly and cheaply, several years of domestic delays and increased buildup escalated the occasionally creepy feature to heights impossible to live up to.  Presenting one of the better clown designs in recent memory with a grim pursuit of children through Chuck E. Cheese ball pits and unapologetically leaving gallons of prepubescent blood in the demon jester’s wake, Clown also adds a possessed dog in need of decapitation and rainbow spewing body liquid as Kent attempts to unsuccessfully take his life several times.  Greatly suffering from severe pacing issues that jeopardizes the film’s initial suspense, Clown possesses genuine moments of eeriness yet, not nearly enough to leave a lasting impression.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Clown with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Maintaining a softer approach that keeps detail and otherwise more impactful colors mildly restrained, the digitally shot feature is decently presented and appears true to its intended palette.  Although, black levels lack a deeper inkiness common in other modern features resulting in murkier presentations that are mediocre at best.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is greatly prioritized while, the film’s inclusions of heavy bass notes during intense moments of screams and other frights make the track a nice compliment to its onscreen theatrics.  Containing only one supplement, Making Clown (6:24) is a fairly standard EPK with talking heads Eli Roth, Star Laura Allen, Cinematographer Matthew Santo and others discussing the film and their various contributions to it.  In addition, a Digital HD Code has also been included.

    Anticipated for far too long, Clown’s delayed release may have generated welcome buzz yet, its finished product, littered with pacing misfires and an otherwise interesting plot gone dull, diminishes the promise it once had.  While jolts of creativity are contained within, Director Jon Watts has graduated to far better projects that display his talents to much greater effect.  Given its long road to home video, special features are regrettably nominal while, Anchor Bay Entertainment’s presentation is pleasing enough.  

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available August 23rd from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Clown can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980) Blu-ray Review

    Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980)

    Director: Frank Martin

    Starring: Ian McCulloch, Alexandra Delli Colli, Sherry Buchanan, Peter O’Neal & Donald O’Brien

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fully restored from their original vault materials, Severin Films proudly presents both versions of the infamous grindhouse classic Doctor Butcher M.D.!  After a hospital orderly is discovered feasting on deceased bodies, anthropologist Lori (Alexandra Delli Colli, The New York Ripper) and Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch, Zombie) make a connection to the cannibals exotic home island and chart an expedition to further investigate.  Assisted by the local Doctor Obrero (Donald O’Brien, Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals), the unsuspecting team find themselves hunted by a cannibalistic tribe and reanimated zombies, shockingly developed by the unhinged Obrero.

    As goretastically eyeball-plucking as promoted, Doctor Butcher M.D. continues the flesh devouring exploits of other Italian gutbucket efforts of the era that would, thanks solely to its American distributor, make 42nd Street history with its genius marketing campaign and exceptionally exploitative re-titling.  After a series of bizarre human consuming episodes occur at several hospitals, smart and sexy anthropologist Lori and the noted Dr. Peter Chandler discover all the assailants hail from a territory of Asian islands that surely will reveal more answers to the stumped scholars after journeying there.  Joined by Chandler’s assistant George (Peter O’Neal) and his journalist girlfriend Susan (Sherry Buchanan, Tentacles), the team are warmly welcomed by Doctor Obrero and his loyal guides.  Before long, the unwelcome visitors are targeted by the cannibalistic tribesman using makeshift bamboo traps to puncture the nosy outlanders with fatal precision.  Armed with firearms do little good as the crew are largely outnumbered and fall victim to having their intestines revealed and their eyeballs gouged for vile consumption.  While the film remains narratively similar to other foreign travel pictures gone horrifyingly south, Doctor Butcher M.D. remains graphically entertaining with its over the top, bloodthirsty excess and zombie corpses who, although visually striking, interestingly enough don’t indulge in the eating of its victims.  As the deranged Doctor Obrero’s twisted experimentations are revealed to the good doctor Chandler, the tribe’s abduction of Lori goes haywire when her godly nude bodice sporting painted rose pedals prompts the cannibals to rebel and dine on their former puppet master instead.        

    Tightly trimming several sequences and tagging on a brief opening from an unfinished Roy Frumkes (Street Trash) horror opus, Doctor Butcher M.D. is the epitome of exploitation mayhem that would excitedly rouse the Deuce’s red light district where junkies, prostitutes and gorehounds all got their rocks off.  Further supported by a window dropping suicide, throat slashings and nauseating brain operations, Director Marino Girolami's (Nude Odeon) (working under the pseudonym Frank Martin) sadistically fun people eater feature can’t be praised for being wholly original but, takes mammoth sized bites with its flesh-tearing gore output and its one of a kind title that depraved viewers can’t help but love.

    Severin Films presents Doctor Butcher M.D. (and its original Zombie Holocaust cut) with 1080p transfers, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing battle scars from its grindhouse cinema days, scratches, scuffs (most commonly during the Frumkes shot opening scene) and occasional vertical lines are not uncommon during viewing yet, never deter from one’s enjoyment.  Excellently overseen, Severin Films’ new scans easily trump past international releases of the film with a much more naturalistic color scheme and warmer skin tones that rectify the unpleasant faded quality of previous versions.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the English track is well-handled with easy to follow dialogue levels while, its Zombie Holocaust counterpart features an equally pleasing DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 English dubbed Mono mix along with an Italian LPCM 2.0 track san subtitles.  

    In addition to including both the Doctor Butcher M.D. (1:21:46) and Zombie Holocaust (1:28:57) cuts of the film, special features found on Disc 1 include, Butchery & Ballyhoo: An Interview with Aquarius Releasing's Terry Levine (31:36) which serves as the release’s finest inclusion hosts Levine as he charts his career in the film business, the many different releases he acquired throughout the years and their unique promotions, and the unfortunate demise of the 42nd Street of yesteryear.  Next up, Down on the Deuce: Nostalgic Tour of 42nd Street with Filmmaker Roy Frumkes & Temple of Schlock’s Chris Pogialli (21:55) is an excellent journey through the tourist trap of today’s Times Square as Frumkes and Pogialli detail what stood before the McDonalds and Starbucks of the block took over.  Also included, Roy Frumkes' Segment of Unfinished Anthology Film Tales That Will Tear Your Heart Out (8:07), The Butcher Mobile: A Conversation with Gore Gazette’s Rick Sullivan (12:33), Cutting Doctor Butcher: An Interview with Editor Jim Markovic (10:12) plus, Trailers for the film’s Theatrical (2:44) and Video (1:14) / (0:56) releases.  Finally, the towering first serving of supplements concludes with Gary Hertz’s Essay: “Experiments with a Male Caucasian Brain (…and other memories of 42nd Street)”.

    Hosting the Zombie Holocaust edit, special features continue on Disc 2 with Voodoo Man: Interview with Star Ian McCulloch (8:14), Blood of the Zombies: Interview with FX Master Rosario Prestopino (23:03), Enzo on Marino: Enzo Castellari Recalls his Father Marino Girolami (7:46), Sherry Holocaust: Interview with Actress Sherry Buchanan (24:04) and Neurosurgery Italian Style: Interview with FX Artist Maurizio Trani (4:36).  In addition, New York Filming Locations: Then VS. Now (3:03), Ian McCulloch Sings “Down By the River” (2:40) recorded in 1964 and a Theatrical Trailer (4:16) joined by a German Trailer (3:17) is also included.  Finally, the release tops itself off with a Reversible Cover Art featuring the equally eye-catching Zombie Holocaust 1-sheet artwork while, an Official Barf Bag (limited to the first 5,000 units) is packaged inside for more squeamish audiences.

    Choke full of face-chewing craziness and blood splattering cannibals, Doctor Butcher M.D. remains a grindhouse heavyweight that turned its roadside marketing into a theatrical spectacle, worthy of disapproving riots.  Continuing to assault new generations of exploitation junkies through VHS discovery and enduring word of mouth, Severin Films has delivered the definitive house call in the film’s long running infamous history.  Presenting both versions newly restored, sadistically uncut and barf bag full of phenomenal bonus features, Doctor Butcher M.D. is an essential cut for gore and guts connoisseurs while, Severin Films’ finger lickin’ good release ranks as one of the year’s best!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available July 26th from Severin Films, Doctor Butcher M.D. can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Pack (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Pack (2015)

    Director: Nick Robertson

    Starring: Jack Campbell, Anna Lise Phillips, Katie Moore & Hamish Phillips

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the Australian Outback, The Pack centers on a struggling family whose secluded farmhouse is targeted by a swarm of bloodthirsty wild dogs.  Short on ammunition and largely outnumbered, the frightened family must outwit their predators to survive before becoming a serving of flesh for the four-legged attackers.

    Reviving the nature run amuck genre with the burgeoning home invasion thriller, The Pack is a tensely crafted achievement from first time director Nick Robertson that sinks its teeth into viewers’ jugulars and refuses to let go.  Threatened by loaners to foreclose on their home while struggling to pay their bills, sheep rancher Adam (Jack Campbell, Gabriel) and his veterinarian wife Carla (Anna Lise Phillips, Animal Kingdom), along with their two children, find themselves confronted with worse problems when their sprawling Australian farmland is overrun by flesh-eating wild dogs.  Camouflaged by the night, the pack of fang-toothed savages ferociously charge through windows to reach the appetizing skin of their victims while, the blue-collar family unsuccessfully attempt to shield entryways into their home.  When reaching out to the authorities proves graphically fatal for the cavalry, the family finds themselves on their own against the hairy beasts who manage to take generous bites out of Adam during several escape attempts.  With options running low, the physically drained family use the shadows and their delicate movements to navigate to safety before being forced to defend themselves with only a butcher knife, a tire iron and a handful of bullets. 

    Enforced by pulsating suspense and grisly depictions of the ravenous dogs feasting upon humans, The Pack operates predominately on dread while, allowing viewers to greatly sympathize for the family in peril and root for their survival.  Possessing a rabid-like madness with exceptional hunting skills at their disposal, the devil dogs strike genuine fear into each frame that will leave viewers howling in relief as the sun rises following the film’s never-ending night of terror.  An ozceptional effort from the Aussie shores, The Pack brings healthy doses of bloodshed and a nightmarish view of man’s best friend to the genre.

    Scream Factory presents The Pack with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shot predominately under the foreboding night skies, black levels are handsomely relayed allowing for facial details and the blood dripping fangs of the pack to be captured with ease.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, although scant and secondary to the onscreen action, is audible while shrieking cues of window smashes, rifle shots and dog barks come across with impressive authority.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Bonus features include, The Making of The Pack (7:57), a fairly standard and brief EPK featurette along with the Theatrical Trailer (1:49) and Reversible Cover Art.

    Joining the ranks of their more celebrated contemporary genre acquisitions, The Pack is a nail- biting, canine attacking thriller with an expert sense of suspense crafted by a first time filmmaker.  In conjunction with IFC Midnight, Scream Factory graciously shares this Aussie achievement with domestic audiences sure to be impressed by its unrelenting bite.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available July 5th from Scream Factory, The Pack can be purchased via ShoutFactory.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.

  • #Horror (2015) Blu-ray Review

    #Horror (2015)

    Director: Tara Subkoff

    Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Timothy Hutton, Natasha Lyonne, Balthazar Getty, Taryn Manning, Stella Schnabel, Sadie Seelert, Hayley Murphy, Bridget McGarry, Blue Lindeberg, Mina Sundwall, Emma Adler, Annabelle Dexter-Jones & Lydia Hearst

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wealthy backwoods of Connecticut, #Horror follows a group of privileged preteen girls whose obsession with a disturbing online game is tested when the terror becomes real.  Chloë Sevigny (American Psycho), Timothy Hutton (American Crime) and Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is The New Black) star in this contemporary shocker helmed by actress turned director Tara Subkoff (The Cell).

    Stuck up, 12 year-old richies unload their horrendous personalities and mean-spirited cyber shenanigans on one another in a time where online discouragement can be deadly.  Joined together for sleepover, the group of girls enjoy playing dress-up with lavish ensembles and priceless jewelry while, remaining glued to their mobile devices for a macabre, nonsensical game.  Rotten to their cores, the suggested friends take turns tearing each other apart by body-shaming, uploading unflattering pictures of one another to the internet and showing no compassion for the death of their friends own mother.  Juxtaposed with hyperactive imagery of emojis, tagged pictures and blood-filled pools, #Horror lacks focus, appearing as scatterbrained as a tech-obsessed teen.  Containing zero redeeming characters, veteran performers including, Sevigny and Lyonne are merely used for set decoration while, Hutton, admittedly over-the-top, delivers the only mentionable performance in his limited screen time as a hysterical father searching for his missing daughter.  More a showcase of today’s cruel bullying dilemmas than a traditional thriller, #Horror attempts to adhere to slasher standards during its fleeting moments as a masked killer, capturing his/her exploits via smartphone, takes bloody revenge on the heartless girls.  Painfully uninteresting and tackily titled, #Horror’s attempts at capturing the true-life terror of cyberbullying is admirable yet, fatally crashes during its upload.

    Scream Factory presents #Horror with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying natural skin tones with pleasing detail, shadowy moments and black levels during nighttime sequences suffer from crushing issues that result in a noticeable, screen-door effect over the picture.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally strong with occasional instances, noticeably in the film’s opening exchange between two parties in a Ferrari, showing less priority in their delivery while, EMA’s electric music queues offer a more pleasing emphasis.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Containing only the film’s Trailer (1:42), a Reversible Cover Art rounds out the rather light supplemental offerings.

    Boasting wholly unlikeable characters and uncertain with its identity as a social statement or a teen terrorizer, #Horror greatly fails as the latter while, its depiction of the former is bleak and unentertaining.  Meanwhile, Scream Factory, in conjunction with IFC Midnight, welcomes the modern feature with a decent high-definition presentation although, bonus features are far and few between.  If death is trending as its tagline so cleverly suggests, then unsubscribing from #Horror is vital.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available April 5th from Scream Factory, #Horror can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

    Director: Wes Craven

    Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Moake, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Michael Gough & Dey Young

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow centers on anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman, Spaceballs) as he journeys to Haiti to retrieve a mystic powder said to bring life to the dead.  Navigating the dangerous locale, Dennis finds himself involved in the deadly world of voodoo where the undead, possessions and ancient curses reign.  Cathy Tyson (Mona Lisa), Zakes Moake (Waterworld), Paul Winfield (The Terminator), Brent Jennings (Witness), Michael Gough (Batman) and Dey Young (Strange Behavior) co-star.

    Inspired by real life experiences documented in Wade Davis’ book, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a daring exploration of voodoo and the black arts.  Shot partly in the reportedly unsafe Haiti, Director Wes Craven’s nightmare-fueled opus is a noticeable departure from his previous shockers with an emphasis on the island’s factual political turmoil.  After barely surviving an Amazonia search for rare herbs and experiencing a psychedelic episode, anthropologist Dennis Alan (Pullman) is summoned by a domestic drug corporation to investigate a mysterious powder used during voodoo practices in Haiti that supposedly raises the dead.  Aided by doctor Marielle Duchamp (Tyson), Dennis’ encounter with a local zombie who roams cemeteries fuels his desire to locate the substance only to find himself ruffling the feathers of the barbaric authorities, led by Captain Dargent Peytraud (Moake).  Warned but not harmed, Dennis’ search leads him to swindling witch doctor Mozart (Jennings) who makes a deal to show the American how to develop the drug.  Pursued once again by the authorities, Dennis finds himself in dire straits when he is ruthlessly tortured and has his scrotum nailed to a chair, demanding his immediate departure from Haiti.  Riddled with frightening nightmares of rotting corpses and sinister snakes, Dennis’ short-lived return to America where friends are possessed and his concern for Marielle increased, leads him back to the black magic plagued isle.  Upon arrival, Peytraud’s power and influence knows no bounds as people are slaughtered with the resilient doctor learning firsthand the grave danger he is in.

    Although hesitantly considered a horror film, Craven’s cult classic supplies plenty of unsettling nightmare imagery where a serpent emerges from a decomposing body to attack Dennis while, dark forces cause a scorpion to crawl from the mouth of a living man.  In addition, the savage brutality of the Tonton Macoute beheading innocent lives is equally grizzly and not far removed from reality.  Akin to a fever dream of terror that never wanes, The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of Craven’s most progressively daring features that affects viewers on a purely visceral level of fear.  Earning respectable returns at the box-office, The Serpent and the Rainbow is the rare voodoo related feature that lives up to its intent as a supernatural spectacle.

    Scream Factory presents The Serpent and the Rainbow with a newly struck 1080p transfer from the inter-positive film element, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Although appearing occasionally soft in the dilapidated dwellings of the Haitian villages, greenery is noticeably lush and striking throughout.  Skin tones read moderately well and natural with several instances falling on the redder side.  Meanwhile, detail is strong with perspiration glistening on faces and the intricacies of rotting flesh found on the undead looking quiet noticeable.  Psychedelic colors and blood pop nicely while, black levels are inky and clear.  Filmic and hosting very scant scratches, The Serpent and the Rainbow makes a respectable high-definition debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible and effective while, the bustling sounds of the Haitian streets are lively and appropriately balanced.  Meanwhile, Brad Fiedel’s (Fright Night, Terminator 2: Judgement Day) score makes impressive statements against the shrieking screams of terror.  Welcomed into Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition series, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Actor Bill Pullman, moderated by Rob Galluzzo.  Although Pullman is only present for less than an hour due to filming commitments, Galluzzo does a remarkable job keeping the conversation interesting with Pullman injecting plenty of anecdotes about the filming experience.  In addition, The Making of The Serpent and the Rainbow (23:57) features new (audio) interviews from Pullman while, Author Wade Davis, Director of Photography John Lindley and Special Makeup Effects Artists Lance Anderson and David Anderson appear on-camera.  Yet another typically informative retrospective that fans will appreciate although, the scholarly insight from the late Craven is sadly lacking.  Furthermore, the Theatrical Trailer (1:23), TV Spot (0:31), a Photo Gallery (60 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet artwork conclude the supplemental package.

    In what appears to be their last Craven related release and classily dedicated to his memory, Scream Factory welcomes The Serpent and the Rainbow’s unsettling levels of voodoo terror and nightmarish imagery into their respected line of Collector’s Editions.  Casting a superior looking curse with its Blu-ray debut, special features, although understandably lighter than past Craven efforts, deliver worthwhile information that fans of this cult classic will surely appreciate.  Hosting another stellar art design by Joel Robinson (Nightbreed, The Vincent Price Collections), The Serpent and the Rainbow will possess you with its frightening twists and turns.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Serpent and the Rainbow can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Vincent Price Collection III: Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970) & Cry of the Banshee (1970) Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection III (1961-1970)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking their third annual release of chilling tales from the master of horror, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents The Vincent Price Collection III.  Comprised of five more efforts across four Blu-ray’s, each bursting with bonus content, legendary star Vincent Price (The Pit and the Pendulum, House on Haunted Hill) makes headlining turns in Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970) and Cry of the Banshee (1970), presented with both its Director’s Cut and the commonly known American International Theatrical cut.

    Based on the novels by Jules Verne, Vincent Price stars as the God-complex suffering Robur in Master of the World.  Set in the 19th century and riding the skies above in his indestructible airship known as the Albatross, Robur takes capture of four individuals including, government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) as he details his desire to bring peace to the world through intimidation tactics with the Albatross.  Countries resistant to surrender their militaries suffer the explosive wrath of Robur’s powerful creation, forcing the abducted prisoners to devise a way to overthrow the captain and destroy his destructive weapon.  Although portraying the film’s conflicted antagonist, Master of the World is hardly in the same vein as Price’s lauded frightful features but, more an adventurous tale with fantastical elements.  Commonly compared to similar efforts such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World is an exciting detour for the horror thespian who delivers another delightful performance as he wickedly drops bombs atop of warships and hangs his prisoners above the clouds via rope.  While taking expected shortcuts through use of stock footage and other such techniques, American International Pictures delivered their most expensive picture to date with its Verne adaptation with the results paying off handsomely onscreen.  Scripted by the brilliant Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, Tales of Terror) and hosting one of Les Baxter’s (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) most impactful scores, Master of the World is a high-flying adventure with Price ably steering its ship.

    Blending history with gothic horror, Tower of London reunites Director Roger Corman once again with Vincent Price during the height of their popular Edgar Allan Poe series.  Retelling a reasonably accurate yet, still rightly fictionalized account of King Richard III’s rise to the throne and ultimate downfall, Price headlines as the dastardly Duke of Gloucester as he pays respects to his terminally ill brother King Edward IV before greed and the temptation of power consumes him.  Secretly murdering his other respected brother with the support of his equally vile wife Anne (Joan Camden, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), Richard weaves his influence around the kingdom by sending others who may threaten his plans to the torture chamber and deceiving his own nephews their birthright to the throne.  Expunging all who challenge him, Richard’s control of the kingdom comes at the cost of his own sanity as the ghosts of those slain return to haunt him.  Lacking the colorful composition of their Poe efforts, Tower of London’s black and white photography establishes its own moody ambiance that suits the film’s period setting.  Classically trained in theater, Price brings gravitas to his tragic hunchbacked role while, mixing the mad entertaining glee common to his other horror-oriented performances.  While not quite as applauded as their other collaborations, The Tower of London is an underrated feast with gorgeous camerawork by Archie R. Dalzell (The Addams Family) and an outlet for Price to proudly showcase his Shakespearean chops onscreen.

    Taking liberties with the tales of Guy de Maupassant, Diary of a Madman finds itself working backwards as onlookers gather at the funeral of Magistrate Simon Cordier (Price).  As close friends gather to read from Cordier’s locked diary, the truth of his fate is slowly revealed.  After witnessing a troubled murderer’s accidental death, Cordier finds himself consumed by the entity that forced the deceased’s hand to kill.  Known only as the horla, the respected judge, grieving for years after the death of his chid and suicide of his wife, attempts to counter the wicked voices in his head by embracing his artistic abilities and falling for the attractive Odette Mallotte (Nancy Kovack, Jason and the Argonauts).  Disrupted by the revelation that Odette is legally married to another and his intended bride-to-be favors his wealth over his love, the forceful nature of the horla compels Cordier to handle them accordingly.  Helmed by Reginald Le Borg (The Black Sleep), Diary of a Madman, although visually lavish in its design, tends to drag in several areas with its psychologically driving narrative growing monotonous.  Although Price is unsurprisingly charming and notably comes alive when possessed to stab his lover to death, Nancy Kovack stands as one of the horror maestro’s most intoxicatingly beautiful starlets and delivers a sound performance.  While it may not be Price’s most memorable feature, Diary of a Madman remains worthy of a watch on a preferably rainy evening.

    In this made for television special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe spotlights Vincent Price, with minimal set dressing and few props, as he eloquently narrates four of Poe’s chilling works.  All told in the first person, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Case of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum come to life courtesy of Price’s intense conviction as he makes quoting Poe as effortless as breathing.  Well directed by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe may not be feature length worthy entertainment but, serves as an exceptional showcase for the classically trained Price who makes Poe’s haunting tales even more effective than reading them independently under the blanket of darkness.  Longtime appreciators of the star’s many Poe adaptations will take delight at how ingrained the gothic poet’s works were installed in his vocabulary, greatly enriching their legacy in the process.

    Although prefaced by a passage from Edgar Allan Poe, Cry of the Banshee holds no correlation to the Corman/Price adaptations previously produced by American International Pictures.  Helmed instead by fellow Price collaborator Gordon Hessler (The Oblong Box, Scream and Scream Again), Cry of the Banshee focuses on vile witch hunter Lord Edward Whitman (Price) who uses his influence to exterminate those of the slightest suspicion of devil worship.  Murdering accused teenagers during a dinner party and ordering others to torturous whippings, Edward and his sons ambush a worshipping coven, resulting in several deaths before being cursed by its leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner, As You Like It).  Summoning the beastly sidhe to rid the Whitman clan, the estate’s gypsy servant Roderick (Patrick Mower, The Devil Rides Out), who is also madly in love with Edwards’ daughter Maureen (Hilary Heath, Witchfinder General), becomes possessed and periodically morphs into the monster to bring death to the Whitman’s family line.  Sporting a colorfully animated title sequence by a young Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and injecting far more nudity (within its Director’s Cut) than most Price features, Cry of the Banshee suffers from an overloaded cast and largely detestable characters.  Juxtaposing from Price, who arguably takes a backseat for portions of the film, to his sons’ individual paths, his daughter and Rodrick’s forbidden romance, the coven of witches and its local villagers, the film struggles to streamline its focus while, Price, who delivers a respectable performance albeit grossly seedy and only second to his turn in Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General.  Achieving success during its original release, Hessler contends Cry of the Banshee to be his most uninteresting AIP feature which is respectfully agreed.       

    Culled from a variety of sources including, inter-positives (Master of the World, Diary of a Madman and Cry of the Banshee), a fine grain film print (Tower of London) and even original tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe), each feature is presented with 1080p transfers with the exception of the standard-def, televised Poe effort.  Sporting 1.85:1 (Master of the World, Cry of the Banshee), 1:66:1 (Tower of London, Diary of a Madman) and 1:33:1 (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe) aspect ratios, each film contains varying degrees of scratches and scuffs, all of which never greatly deter from the viewing experience.  From their striking color schemes, Master of the World and Diary of a Madman greatly impress while, Tower of London begins with rough around the edges before nicely improving, demonstrating pleasing black levels in its monochrome photography.  With expectations at bay regarding the sole SD feature included, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe looks as good as can be expected with only one minor coloring hiccup spotted.  In addition, Cry of the Banshee arrives in a virtually blemish free presentation that is both filmic and natural.  Given the fleeting state of materials for many elder features, Scream Factory has once again worked wonders in preserving several more of Price’s pictures.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes with Master of the World also boasting a newly created Stereo mix from the original 4-track mag, each film satisfies in delivering audible dialogue levels and worthy reproductions of their respective scores.  Admittedly, Diary of a Madman retains a mild hiss of little consequence on its track while, Tower of London has occasional cracks and pops heard throughout.  Unquestionably, Master of the World’s Stereo mix is the most effective of the bunch with Les Baxter’s thunderous score leaving lasting impressions.  

    With a variety of newly produced and vintage supplements, special features on Master of the World’s disc 1 include a new Audio Commentary with Actor David Frankham, an extended cut of Richard Matheson: Storyteller (1:12:05), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:28), Photo Gallery (2:18) and Photo Gallery II (1:59).  Disc 2’s Tower of London hosts a new Interview with Director Roger Corman (7:11), Producing Tower of London featuring interviews with Corman and his brother and fellow producer Gene Corman (14:04).  In addition to a Photo Gallery (4:31), two standard definition episodes of Science Fiction Theatre starring Vincent Price, “One Thousand Eyes” (26:09) and “Operation Flypaper” (26:05), supply fans with even more Priceless small screen entertainment.  Furthermore, Diary of a Madman includes a new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman, a Poster Gallery (1:44) and the Theatrical Trailer (3:16) while, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (also found on disc 3) includes, another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman and the newly produced Tales of Vincent Price with Kenneth Johnson (21:26).  In addition to both its Director’s Cut (1:30:49) and American International Theatrical Cut (1:26:37), disc 4’s Cry of the Banshee provides yet another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman on the Director’s Cut, A Devilish Tale of Poe (17:52) featuring an interview with Director Gordon Hessler with its Theatrical Trailer (2:28), TV Spot (0:58), Radio Spot (0:30) and a Poster Gallery (4:09) rounding out the final batch of on-disc extras.  Lastly, a 12-page booklet featuring rare photos is also included.

    In what appears to be their final curtain call for Mr. Price, Scream Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection III offers fans of gothic horror and atmospheric chills a throughly entertaining quintuple of features from the adventure-filled Master of the World to the witch hunting Cry of the Banshee.  Excellently presented and lovingly complimented with ample bonus content for after-movie consumption, The Vincent Price Collection III is a bittersweet accomplishment for the popular horror label that will easily rank as one of the year’s favored releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Vincent Price Collection III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Crimson Peak (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Crimson Peak (2015)

    Director: Guillermo del Toro

    Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain & Charlie Hunnam

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the acclaimed director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) who after suffering a personal tragedy, falls head over heels for the seductive Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers).  Whisked away to his dilapidated mansion, Edith encounters mysteries and spirits within her new home revolving around her newfound love and the darkest of truths.  Jessica Chastain (The Martian) and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) co-star.

    Honoring such classics as The Haunting and The Innocents, Director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Gothic Romances and chilling ghost tales is as visually ravishing as it is tragically compelling.  Co-written by Brian Robbins (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark),  Crimson Peak, taking place in the late 19th century, follows independent spirit Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) as she attempts to get her novel published despite her gender.  Juggling responsibilities at her father’s respected business, Edith encounters the dashingly handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) as he attempts to gain investments from Mr. Cushing on his unproven clay-mining invention.  Unimpressed by the privileged baronet and his suspicious sister Lucille (Chastain), Mr. Cushing discovers unsavory details about the siblings, demanding them to return to their homeland despite Thomas’ expressed love for his daughter.  Suffering a heartbreaking tragedy and with no other family remaining, Edith and Thomas are joined together in Holy matrimony before relocating back to the Sharpe’s English mansion.  Haunted by ghostly apparitions and progressively growing more ill, Edith uncovers the house’s darkest secrets while fearing for her life from those now considered loved ones.  Equally concerned for her well-being, longtime friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Hunnam) travels to the imposing Allerdale Hall for a terrifying discovery, one that he and Edith may not survive.

    Dripping with potent atmosphere and unafraid to shock audiences with grizzly imagery despite its classy appearance, Crimson Peak is an exceptional tour de force of gothic cinema.  Empowered by del Toro’s flawless visual touches, the auteur’s haunting romance makes dazzling statements through its rich production design and spot-on wardrobe choices, both of which were astoundingly ignored by the Academy.  Excellently casted, the innocence of Wasikowska, Chastain’s unhinged demeanor and the conflicted emotional state of Hiddleston greatly impress while, the Sharpe’s questionable correlation and eventual reveal sends the film down even darker hallways than anticipated.  Combining onset performers with effective uses of CGI, the film’s predominately blood red ghosts are genuinely frightening with a particular specter paying homage to del Toro’s own The Devil’s Backbone.  Although making modest strides at the box-office and graciously appreciated by critics, Crimson Peak is a beautifully haunting masterpiece that impressively ranks as del Toro’s finest effort to date.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Crimson Peak with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying skin tones with natural ease and well-defined detail, the dreary location of Allerdale Hall and its various lighting choices ranging from reds to blues, are effectively highlighted.  Costume choices, realized by newcomer Kate Hawely (Edge of Tomorrow), read beautifully with various stitching methods and textures easily seen and better appreciated.  Doused in considerable darkness, black levels are quite exquisite in the shadowy halls of the haunted house and Thomas’ jet black attire with no evidence of crushing on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, quieter ghostly ambiance, rainy wailing winds and Fernando Velázquez’s (The Orphanage, Mama) frightful music queues never disappointing.  Special feature include, an enthralling Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro, Deleted Scenes (4:26), I Remember Crimson Peak (Blu-ray exclusive), a four part featurette consisting of The Gothic Corridor (4:06), The Scullery (4:24), The Red Clay Mines (5:18) and The Limbo Fog Set (5:42) all of which host interviews with del Toro and his remarkable cast.  In addition, A Primer on Gothic Romance (Blu-ray exclusive) (5:36) traces the roots of the genre with the interviewees using their own feature as a springboard, The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (7:53) spotlights the film’s impressive production design, Hand Tailored Gothic (8:58) (Blu-ray exclusive) details Costume Designer Kate Hawley’s gorgeous contributions, A Living Thing (12:11) (Blu-ray exclusive) explores the artistic efforts designing the haunted Allerdale Hall, Beware of Crimson Peak (7:51) finds Thomas Hiddleston acting as tour guide on a walkthrough of the house and Crimson Phantoms (7:02) (Blu-ray exclusive) takes a look at the film’s unique approaches to its many specters.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    A personal favorite of last year’s theatrical releases and arguably del Toro’s finest achievement yet, Crimson Peak presents an unforgettably haunting experience, respecting the Gothic romances that came before while, delivering a distinct visual feast firmly rooted in the imagination of its maker.  As gorgeously realized as its feature, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers an outstanding high-def presentation with a stimulating selection of special features for those who dare to take an extended stay at Allerdale Hall.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Crimson Peak can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Luther the Geek (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Luther the Geek (1990)

    Director: Carlton J. Albright

    Starring: Edward Terry, Joan Roth, Stacy Haiduk, Tom Mills & J. Jerome Clarke

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Excavated from the Troma vaults, Luther the Geek centers on paroled murderer Luther Watts (Edward Terry, The Children) who takes comfort in biting the heads off live chickens for their blood.  Returning to his hometown with a razor sharp set of teeth, Luther stakes his claim at a family’s desolate farm house where his bloody rampage continues.  Joan Roth (in her only feature role), Stacy Haiduk (Superboy), Tom Mills (Bean) and J. Jerome Clarke (Behind the Candelabra) co-star.

    Set in rural Illinois, Luther the Geek is a harrowing horror film bursting with bloodshed and deranged depravity.  Lacking the date night quality of slasher films, Carlton J. Albright’s sole directorial feature packs an effectively grizzly punch sparring no apologies.  Melding the psychological ambiguity of Leatherface with the carnivorous killer instinct of a vampire, Luther, after serving 20 years in prison, is released without batting an eyelash before returning to his violent ways.  Chomping into the neck of an elderly old lady with his sharply shimmering teeth, the madman stows away in the back of a woman’s vehicle to evade capture from local law enforcement.  Shortly after arriving home, single mother Hilary (Roth) is confronted by her unexpected passenger only to be bound and gagged while, daughter Beth (Haiduk) and boyfriend Rob (Mills) get frisky in the shower.  When Luther’s less than stellar riding abilities are proven while attempting to steal Rob’s motorcycle, the bald lunatic decides to make the young lovers his latest prey.  Overpowered and held captive on their quiet farmland, the trio are no match for Luther even when a lone officer attempts to do battle with him in a dimly lit chicken coop.  In the longest evening of their lives, dawn hardly means the nightmare is over for the simple farm folk.

    Clucking at his victims with an animalistic stare in his eyes, Edward Terry’s performance as the circus freak influenced killer is firmly unsettling and fully embodies the mindset of an unhinged individual.  Savagely gnawing at his victims necks, Luther’s forceful beating of the teenage Beth is notably ruthless and oftentimes difficult to view while, special effects highlights, achieved by the uncredited William Purcell (RoboCop) and Mike Tristano (Things), include the goretastic moment of Rob’s torn open chest exposing his still beating heart.  Intendedly harsh and dreary, this memorable home invasion bloodbath unquestionably separates itself from the pack.  

    Scanned and restored in 2K from the original camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents Luther the Geek with a 1080p transfer in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While mild compression traces can be spotted in darker sequences such as the chicken coop climax, visibility is hardly an issue.  Otherwise boasting a remarkably clean appearance, footage is filmic while skin tones are notably accurate with colors found in Beth’s hot pink tank top and Luther’s stroll through food market aisles making bold strides.  In addition, detail is most striking during closeups of Luther’s neck-tearing acts showcasing all their brutal severity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, a pop or two is heard only during the film’s opening credits while, dialogue is strongly delivered with no complaints to be had.  Newly created special features include, a colorful Introduction by Director Carlton J. Albright (0:38), Audio Commentary with Director Carlton J. Albright, Fowl Play: An Interview with Jerry Clarke (10:17), credited as J. Jerome Clarke, the actor/artist/singer shares his experiences in the business while reminiscing on his role as a state trooper.  Also included, A Conversation with Carlton (6:36) and the Theatrical Trailer (2:26).  Ported over from Troma’s past DVD release, supplements comprise an Interview with Carlton Albright (5:12), Interview with Will Albright (2:40), Carlton on the shower scene (7:30), Carlton on the old lady bite scene (2:38), Carlton on the fight scene (8:50) and Carlton on the final scene (1:12).  Accompanied by The Children Trailer (0:55), a Reversible Cover Art bearing the original poster and a DVD edition of the release conclude the supplemental package.

    Effectively brutal and chilling, Luther the Geek pits psychotic tendencies with Ozzy Osbourne head-biting qualities for a peculiar feature that carries buckets of blood to the show.  In their latest recovery from Troma’s vast library, Vinegar Syndrome restores the sadistic shocker to life in glorious quality, squashing all previous releases.  Matched with a suitable spread of supplements and a generous reversible cover art, Vinegar Syndrome’s latest cult release is worthy of clucking over.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar SyndromeLuther the Geek can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.comAmazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Jack's Back (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Jack’s Back (1988)

    Director: Rowdy Herrington

    Starring: James Spader, Cynthia Gibb, Jim Haynie, Robert Picardo, Rod Loomis & Rex Ryon

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    One hundred years after the brutal slayings of Jack the Ripper, Jack’s Back takes place in modern day Los Angeles where a copycat killer stalks the streets, leaving a trail of victims in his wake.  When intelligent medical student John Wesford (James Spader, Avengers: Age of Ultron) is suspected, the mystery thickens following his own shocking death.  Disturbed by nightmarish visions, John’s estranged twin brother Rick emerges to discover the true culprit.  Cynthia Gibb (Modern Girls), Jim Haynie (The Peacemaker), Robert Picardo (The Howling), Rod Loomis (The Beastmaster) and Rex Ryon (Feds) co-star.

    Marking the directorial debut of Rowdy Herrington (Road House), Jack’s Back is a crafty, murder-mystery whodunit that takes the unsolved legend of Jack the Ripper and transports it to the flashy lights of Los Angeles.  Following a string of copycat murders in the vein of London’s most noteworthy criminal, doctor in training and fellow humanitarian John Wesford (Spader) finds himself in the crosshairs of the supposed killer only to meet a fatal demise.  With evidence linking him to the murders and his own suicide, John’s rough around the edges twin brother Rick is convinced otherwise after experiencing nightmares of his brother’s murder.  Seeking assistance from a hypnotizing psychologist (Picardo) and John’s potential love interest Chris (Gibb), Rick may have bargained for more than he can handle when those close to him are targeted.

    From Paul Saax’s catchy rendition of “Red Harvest” over its opening credits to quintessential 80s saxophone queues throughout, Jack’s Back sets the intended tone of a thriller for its time.  Following his teenage turns in efforts such as Tuff Turf and Pretty in Pink, James Spader graduates to more adult fare as an ace med student and disturbed tough boy, handling both sides of the same coin effectively.  In addition, while coasting the L.A. streets of yesteryear before stumbling upon a seedy peep store for firepower, nostalgic Gen Xers will take comfort as Rick and the attractive Chris pass a neon lit movie house playing Can’t Buy Me Love and La Bamba.  Littered with multiple red herrings and an engaging plot that keeps viewers guessing until its dramatic conclusion, Jack’s Back is far more clever and inventive than credited.

    Boasting a newly struck transfer from the original camera negative, Scream Factory presents Jack’s Back in 1080p, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While black levels found in its opening sequence appear mildly splotchy with other instances possessing hints of noise, skin tones maintain respectable detail.  In addition, interior daytime sequences occasionally suffer from overblown white levels although, the noticeably clean, virtually free of nicks and scratches, transfer sports an overall filmic quality.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is cleanly relayed with Paul Saax’s opening number and the film’s multiple car chases offering decent, if not mediocre, boosts in authority.  Furthermore, no discernible instances of hiss or pops were detected.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Rowdy Herrington,The Making of Jack’s Back (23:51) featuring new interviews with Herrington, Director of Photography Shelly Johnson, Producer Tim Moore and Actress Cynthia Gibb.  Finally, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (0:57) and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplements.

    Suspenseful and smart, Jack’s Back is a well-paced and thrilling showcase for the up and coming Spader before his respected turns in Sex, Lies, and Videotape and Crash.  After a short delay, Scream Factory delivers this underrated effort in a worthy presentation, just in time for its Blu-ray debut.  Joined by a newly recorded commentary and an informative retrospective featurette, Jack’s Back returns for the better.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Jack’s Back can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • A Christmas Horror Story (2015) Blu-ray Review

    A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

    Director(s): Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban & Brett Sullivan

    Starring: George Buza, Rob Archer, Zoé De Grand Maison, Alex Ozerov & William Shatner

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    One year following a mysterious set of murders, A Christmas Horror Story centers on the interwoven tales of a trio of teenage investigators hoping to crack the case, the disturbed first responder whose young son becomes affected by the supernatural and a less than wholesome family hunted by the mythical Krampus.  In addition, Santa Claus is overwhelmed by more than Christmas Eve chaos when his elves turn into bloodthirsty monsters.  Continuing the revived trend of horror anthologies, A Christmas Horror Story takes full advantage of turning the cheeriest time of year into a bloody massacre.  Blending a murder mystery with tales of changeling creatures and St. Nick battling his loyal helpers turned man-eaters is a rollicking fun time.  While each set of characters share events in common, A Christmas Horror Story never truly brings them altogether for a more connective payoff, allowing each segment to stand better on their own hoofs.  In addition, its generally unknown cast, comprised of local Canadian talent, are effective with the more prominent William Shatner (Star Trek) relegated to little more than a cameo as an eggnog chugging radio disc jockey.  With each segment delivering the many unique subgenres of horror, all with pleasing doses of gore and crafty makeup effects, A Christmas Horror Story’s twist conclusion is a well added touch.  Although undoubtedly timed to coincide with this Christmas’ horror opus Krampus, A Christmas Horror Story is an admirable indie effort with several effective scares that can stand tall with other niche Xmas shockers.

    RLJ Entertainment presents A Christmas Horror Story with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A product of the digital age, clarity is sharp and pleasing with skin tones appearing natural and well-defined.  With the majority of its runtime spent in dim locations, black levels are inky and deep while, the brighter colors illuminating from decorations pop nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, sound quality impresses with dialogue consistently clear and the film’s more shocking moments of screams and other suspenseful jump moments hitting their marks.  Relatively scant on supplements, the sole inclusion A Christmas Horror Story: Behind the Scenes (14:45) is a standard EPK with brief interviews from key talent and onset footage of the shoot.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from RJL Entertainment, A Christmas Horror Story can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #6: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Spaced Invaders (1990) & Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #6

    Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

    Director: Leigh Whannell

    Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell & Lin Shaye

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence), Insidious: Chapter 3 travels back in time to the early origins of spiritualist Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye, Ouija) as grieving teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, A.N.T. Farm) seeks her assistance to contact her late mother.  Living a fragile existence, Elise has sworn off her psychic practices until Quinn finds herself the victim of a supernatural entity.  With assistance from amateur ghost chasers Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specks (Whannell), Elise must venture once more into The Further to save Quinn’s life.  Following its financially successful predecessor that tended to over-explain and tarnish the mystique of its supernatural antagonists, Insidious: Chapter 3 moves backward for a prequel based tale that packs several effective jump scares while lacking the originality of its franchise starter.  Shining a welcome spotlight on spiritual expert Elise and to an unfortunately lesser extent, the fan-favorite duo of Tucker and Specks, the paranormal happenings of the film are far too generic to stand out.  Donning multiple creative roles in front and behind the camera, Whannell’s first directorial outing is hardly a wasted affair with an admirable performance from Shaye and unique make-up designs of the film’s ghostly apparitions.  While its competently constructed and occasionally succeeds at building tension, Insidious: Chapter 3 never rises above mediocrity.  

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Insidious: Chapter 3 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a crystal clear picture, skin tones are always natural-looking while, detail in costumes and set decoration are splendid.  From excellently saturated colors to the dark explorations of The Further, black levels are astoundingly inky and free of any digital noise.  With no anomalies on display, Insidious: Chapter 3 appears hauntingly perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is exceptionally crisp while music cues and startling jump scares offer a shrieking depth that greatly impresses the entire runtime.  Special features include, Origin Story: Making Chapter 3 (19:04), Stunts: The Car Crash (9:35), Macabre Creations (8:58), Cherry Glazerr: Tiptoe Through the Tulips (5:16), Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks (11:34) and Deleted Scenes (5:16).  Additionally, Previews for The Final Girls (2:48), Air (2:12), Risen (1:31), Extinction (1:59), Lake Placid VS. Anaconda (1:37) and Broken Horses (2:35) are included along with a Digital HD Code.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Insidious: Chapter 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Spaced Invaders (1990)

    Director: Patrick Read Johnson

    Starring: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Gregg Berger & Ariana Richards

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label and Smart Egg Pictures (Critters), Spaced Invaders finds a quiet midwestern community uprooted on Halloween night by a crew of misguided martians mistaking Orson Welles’ infamous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast as a call for hostile takeover of the human infested planet.  Hip yet wet behind the ears, the mini martians find themselves on a series of unexpected misadventures as they attempt to return to their home planet safely.  Marking the inaugural feature of Director Patrick Read Johnson (Baby’s Day Out, Angus), Spaced Invaders takes the zaniness of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and sci-fi shenanigans of Howard the Duck to deliver an over the top space comedy for preteens.  While attempting to invade Earth, the five dimwitted martians quickly realize their nonthreatening, Halloween costume appearances doesn’t bode well for them as new kid in town Kathy (Ariana Richards, Jurassic Park), dressed in full Alien garb, befriends the green visitors.  As Kathy’s sheriff father (Douglas Barr, Deadly Blessing) and the elderly Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano, The Dark Half) eventually suspect invaders from Mars are in town, the young girl seeks to help her new friends return home much to the dismay of their ship’s Enforcer Drone committed to seeing Earth in ruins and the martians pay for their failures.  Silly although rarely humorous, Spaced Invaders makes attempts to appear hip to its then audience but, stumbles at every turn.  While its animatronic effects are generally pleasing and reminds viewers of a more charming time for movie magic, Spaced Invaders tends to overstay its welcome by its final act, dragging its feet to see the martians make their expected getaway back to Mars. 

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Spaced Invaders with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably dated, flakes, speckles and occasional vertical lines are on display while skin tones are decently relayed with mediocre detail.  Bolder colors such as bright reds pop reasonably well although others appear rather drab.  Meanwhile, black levels possess their share of speckling and fail to bolster more pleasing, inkier results.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, sound is largely dull and unimpressive while dialogue is at least audible and free of any severely intruding factors.  Expectedly, no special features are included.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Spaced Invaders can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

    Director: Francis Ford Coppola

    Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins & Keanu Reeves

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blending the narrative of Bram Stoker’s iconic tale and the factual history of Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s Dracula centers on the tragic Transylvanian prince (Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy) as he travels to 19th-century London in search of love.  After an encounter with the radiant Mina (Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands) who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife, Count Dracula’s overwhelming passion brings darkness and horror to those who care for Mina.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere with an acute sense of detail, Director Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) exceptional adaptation successfully paints its antagonist less as a bloodsucking monster but more a tragic Shakespearean figure audiences empathize with.  Brilliantly performed by Gary Oldman, Count Dracula’s unique costume designs and deliciously offbeat makeup brings to life a one of a kind interpretation of the grim character.  In addition, the supporting thespians including, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins as an eccentric Van Helsing and Tom Waits as the deranged Renfield deliver excellent performances while Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker serves as the sole casting miscalculation.  Although considered cliché today, Reeves poor English accent and flat performance consistently removes audiences from the otherwise mesmerizing film.  Insistent on utilizing practical effects from luscious matte paintings to various in-camera techniques, Director Francis Ford Coppola achieves an array of visual splendor that captivates audiences.  Deservedly earning itself three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing, Coppola’s erotically charged and frighteningly surreal adaptation has aged considerably well, living on as one of the more ambitious retellings of the Count’s fateful saga.

    Following its previously subpar release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly mastered in 4K, the results are night are day with impressive textures, excellently inky black levels and naturally fitting skin tones.  While a minor framing adjustment is present on the release, it’s hardly deal breaking to excuse the overwhelmingly positive attributes to the transfer.  Further complimented by sharper detail and beautifully relayed colors to better highlight the various costume designs and ever-changing lighting effects, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never looked better.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, audio is pitch perfect with flawless dialogue levels and Composer Wojciech Kilar’s (The Ninth Gate) empowering score enthralling listeners.  In addition, hushed tones, thunderous sound effects and eerie ambiance all excel with proper balance and effectiveness.  The bountiful special features include, an Introduction by Director Francis Ford Coppola (3:55), a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effects Director Roman Coppola & Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom as well as a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola.  Additionally, newly included featurettes Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (29:11) and Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son (20:07) are joined by previously available supplements The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (27:48), The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka (14:02), In Camera: Naïve Visual Effects (18:46), Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula (12:06), Deleted & Extended Scenes (28:14) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:36).  Lastly, a Digital HD Code closes out the release’s gratifying supplemental package.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Don't Go in the Woods (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

    Director: James Bryan

    Starring: Jack McClelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown & Tom Drury

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director James Bryan (Boogievision, The Executioner, Part II), Don’t Go in the Woods centers on a group of wandering campers who venture into the wilderness for a weekend getaway.  Unbeknownst to them, a savage maniac is stalking their every move, killing at every chance he gets.  Starring many first time actors, Don’t Go in the Woods remains a slasher classic due to its campy production values and low-budget gore effects.

    Released at the peak of the slasher boom, Don’t Go in the Woods maintains a paper-thin plot of a quartet of campers wandering the wilderness only to evade the wrath of a deadly killer.  Littered with countless other tourists used as mere cattle, this Utah-shot production bolsters a body count that trumps most Friday the 13th installments but, lacks in any real suspense.  With horrendous yet, hilariously entertaining performances, Don’t Go in the Woods packs plenty of gore while, backfiring with many a false jump scares.  Relatively slow-paced, Director James Bryan’s indie effort makes decent use of its wilderness dwelling killer who lives off the land and makes grunting his first language.  With the core group of campers dwindling, the remaining survivors look to avenge their friends deaths by tracking the peculiar killer with weapons off the land, leading to a most bloody finale.  

    Drawing its line in the sand, Don’t Go in the Woods has split slasher enthusiasts for decades with many brushing it off as amateurish dreck while, others find appreciation in its over the top kills and not so serious tone.  While, it can hardly be categorized as a competent slasher with genuine scares, Don’t Go in the Woods possesses a low-budget charm of sticktoitiveness that bleeds in every frame.  Filmed over a two year period, Don’t Go in the Woods takes great pleasure in presenting a simplistic story while, never shying from its slasher genre staples with kills that will most assuredly leave viewers in chuckles rather than fear.  Cheesy but, undeniably appealing, Don’t Go in the Woods is an essential regional slasher for viewers who take delight in its quirkier traits.  

    Newly restored in 2K from the 35mm Interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Don’t Go in the Woods with a 1080p transfer, sporting its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Plagued with aging artifacts including, scratches and hazy photography, the pros far outweigh the cons.  Colors pop nicely in the film’s lush greenery, pastel colored wardrobe and scenes of blood-soaked carnage.  In addition, skin tones appear natural and inviting while, black levels are handled as well as can be with decent visibility amongst instances of flakes and speckles.  Vinegar Syndrome works wonders with this, at times, rough looking slasher, easily making this its definitive release.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, dialogue is relayed decently with several occurrences of lower volume levels and mild hiss, all of which are never inaudible.  Scenes of slashing mayhem register sharply with Composer H. Kingsley Thurber’s music pushing the most authority in this otherwise contained yet, satisfying sounding mix.  Loaded with extras, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Actress Mary Gail Artz and Superfans Deron Miller & Dave Mosca and a third Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues.  Plus, a Cast & Crew Featurette (56:43), TV Promos Compilation (14:14), Autograph Signing Party (29:27), Theatrical Trailer (1:07), Production Stills Gallery (64 in total), Press Artwork Gallery (44 in total), Script Gallery (32 in total) and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental offerings. 

    While, its cult classic status has been debated by likeminded viewers, Don’t Go in the Woods holds a special appeal for those who revel in its cheeky charm and hilariously over the top gore effects.  Previously released by Code Red DVD as their inaugural title, Vinegar Syndrome’s newly restored Blu-ray release is a revelation of color and natural grain that trumps its imperfections while, preserving its OAR.  Packed with endless bonus content, Vinegar Syndrome delivers this low-budget slasher affair with all the bells and whistles one could hope to expect.  Whether it’s loved or hated, Don’t Go in the Woods has lasted the test of time and can now be better appreciated and debated with this definitive release.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 10th from Vinegar Syndrome, Don’t Go in the Woods can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blacula (1972) / Scream Blacula Scream (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Blacula (1972) / Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

    Director(s): William Crain / Bob Kellijan

    Starring: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee & Thalmus Rasulala / William Marshall, Pam Grier & Don Mitchell

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Adhering to the cries from the children of the night, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, delivers two long-awaited blaxploitation classics!  Taking place in 1780 Transylvania, Blacula centers on African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall, Pee-wee’s Playhouse) as he seeks Count Dracula’s assistance in ending slave trade.  Instead, the evil count transforms the prince into a vampire and banishes him to a coffin.  Released nearly two centuries later, Blacula stalks the streets of Los Angeles for blood and a woman (Vonetta McGee, Melinda) he believes to be his reincarnated wife.  Thalmus Rasulala (Willie Dynamite), Denise Nicholas (Room 222) and Gordon Pinsent (Babar) co-star.  Next up, Scream Blacula Scream finds Willis Daniels (Richard Lawson, Poltergeist), the son of a late high priestess, fuming over his cult’s decision to nominate his foster sister Lisa (Pam Grier, Coffy) as their new leader.  Intending to curse Lisa with voodoo magic, Willis unknowingly resurrects the black bloodsucker, hungry for more bloodshed.  Don Mitchell (Ironside), Lynne Moody (That’s My Mama) and Michael Conrad (The Longest Yard) co-star.

    Released the same year as seminal blaxploitation classic, Super Fly, Blacula would not only follow suit in influencing the urban genre’s popularity but, would also become the first film named Best Horror Film of its year by the Saturn Awards.  Its period piece opening with the articulate Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) urging Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay, Brute Corps) to assist in the demise of slave trading kicks the film off on a unique note.  Doused in appropriately gothic atmosphere, Dracula wastes little time feeding on his guest, transforming him into a vampire.  Locked away in a coffin for centuries, two flamboyant interior decorators unleash Blacula into modern day Los Angeles where flashy clothing and jive talkin‘ is commonplace.  Thirsting for blood, Blacula is quickly transfixed with the beautiful Tina (McGee) who bears a striking similarity to his late wife.  As bizarre murders of victims drained of blood begin occurring, Tina’s sister, Michelle (Nicholas), and her pathologist boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Rasulala), grow suspicious, while, Tina falls deeper in love with the true culprit.  Complimented by its comical dialogue and a memorable club performance by The Hues Corporation, Blacula is slightly by the numbers but, greatly entertains thanks to Marshall’s commanding performance.  With a bloody yet, surprisingly poetic finale, Blacula is an enjoyable slice of blaxploitation horror with a dignified depiction of its antagonist and an equally funky and brooding score, compliments of Composer Gene Page (Brewster McCloud).  Continuously growing in popularity, Blacula would become one of the top moneymakers of 1972 and pave the way for a minor wave of other blaxploitation-horror efforts.

    From the director of Count Yorga, Vampire and its respective sequel, Scream Blacula Scream blends the worlds of voodoo and vampirism to great effect.  Vowing to take revenge against his foster sister Lisa (Grier) after being ejected from their peaceful cult, Willis (Lawson) uses voodoo practices in hopes to curse her.  Unfortunately, Willis revives the black prince of shadows to continue his reign of terror with the assistance of an undead army.  Where its predecessor may have slightly lacked in style, Scream Blacula Scream excels mixing African folklore and a more prominent blaxploitation attitude.  Co-starring genre goddess Pam Grier (Black Mama White Mama, Foxy Brown), this followup contains a tighter storyline, higher body count and more memorable performances, sure to quench the thirst of viewers.  As Blacula finds a kindred spirit in Lisa and sees her voodoo abilities as invaluable, her ex-detective boyfriend Justin Carter (Mitchell), finds the suspicious murders of fellow cult members far from a coincidence.  After heavily researching the occult, Justin is convinced a vampire is responsible and summons his former LAPD lieutenant to help track the nightcrawler.  Forever conflicted with his need to consume blood, Blacula urges to Lisa to use her voodoo spells to end his vampiric curse.  With a final showdown between Justin, joined by the LAPD, and Blacula’s minions, Scream Blacula Scream is endlessly entertaining and in the rare instance, surpasses its originator.  

    Scream Factory debuts Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream with 1080p transfers, both sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  While, the original film shows only minor instances of flakes and speckles with decent visibility during dimly lit sequences, both films greatly shine with bold colors, rich detail in facial features and their flashy 70s wardrobe.  Undeniably, both films look wonderful in high-definition with Scream Blacula Scream squeaking by as the frontrunner with a virtually spotless appearance.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films have no audio dropouts to report but, Blacula bears a noticeably tinny sound, creating an occasionally tedious echo effect, most noticeably during scenes at Count Dracula’s castle.  That said, dialogue is still audible with the sequel once again reigning supreme with a tinny-less mix and effective pitch during more horrific sequences.  In addition, special features include, an educational Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian David F. Walker on Blacula, joined by a Photo Gallery (68 in total) and Theatrical Trailer (1:54).  Finally, Scream Blacula Scream arrives with Interview with the Vampire’s Assistant: Richard Lawson from Scream Blacula Scream (13:35).  Lawson recalls his luck of winning the part of Willis, his fond memories of William Marshall and Pam Grier as well as his thoughts on the steady popularity of the Blacula films.  A Photo Gallery (69 in total) and Theatrical Trailer (2:03) for the sequel round out the disc’s supplemental offerings.

    Influential in the growing success of blaxploitation, Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream are a winning duo of entertaining vampire tales with an added dose of blackitude.  Intellectual and hypnotizing, William Marshall delights in his most memorable role as the African prince turned bloodsucker that stands proudly next to previous interpretations of the iconic Dracula character.  While, the original Blacula sets a terrific pace, its 1973 sequel is the more satisfying entry with a tighter storyline, voodoo worship and blaxploitation queen Pam Grier making an appearance.  Scream Factory debuts both films with gorgeous high-definition transfers, suitable sound mixes and a small but, worthwhile share of special features.  Deadlier than Dracula, the black prince of shadows makes a bloody fun splash in his only two outings, well worth adding into your tomb of terror.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 3rd from Scream Factory, Blacula / Scream Blacula Scream can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #1: Neighbors (2014), Stagefright (1987) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray Reviews

    Neighbors (2014)

    Director: Nicholas Stoller

    Starring: Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne, Dave Franco & Christopher Mintz-Plasse

    Released by: Universal Studios

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Parents to a baby girl and new homeowners, Mac (Seth Rogen, This is the End) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne, Bridesmaids), are adjusting to their new suburban existence when the Delta Psi Beta fraternity moves in next door.  Led by their president, Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron, That Awkward Moment), the frat’s parties continue to grow in size as the Radner’s patience wears thin, prompting a hilarious war between the two neighbors.  Dave Franco (21 Jump Street), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Kick-Ass), Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project), Carla Gallo (We Bought a Zoo) and Lisa Kudrow (Friends) co-star.  

    Funnyman Seth Rogen teams with Director Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement) in this modern day Animal House tale of debauchery disrupting the lives of two thirtysomethings.  The unlikely combination of Rogen and High School Musical hunk, Zac Efron, hardly screams comedic gold but, Efron makes a surprising turn as the fraternity president who knows no bounds.  The personality clashes and age differences make for hilarious on-screen chemistry and a drunken debate of whether Michael Keaton or Christian Bale is the definitive Batman will surely ignite laughter and off-screen arguments amongst viewers.  As a house war erupts between the two parties, sabotage antics reach wild heights in this comedy hit.  Co-stars Rose Byrne and Ike Barinholtz are the standout performances with hysterical dialogue that further cements their comedic status.  While, the final act may drag itself out a few minutes too long, Neighbors is still an entertaining romp of college humor hijinks that allows fresh blood like Efron to capably play in the Rogen sandbox of modern comedy.

    Universal Studios presents Neighbors with a 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Crisp and sharp, skin tones appear natural while, colors are always bold and refreshing.  Black levels are also handled very nicely, most noticeably in the neon-lit rave sequence, leaving room for no issues to be seen.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Neighbors sounds just as good as it looks with dialogue always coming across clearly and the modern hits soundtrack offering an added boost for your listening pleasure.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Neighbors arrives with a generous offering of special features including, Blu-ray exclusive content such as an alternate opening (6:40), deleted/alternate scenes (12:55) and On Set with... (3:41), a brief featurette with Dave Franco as your tour guide showcasing a fundraiser Delta Psi Beta hosts in the film.  In addition, a gag reel (5:57) and Line-O-Rama (2:52) join more informative, albeit brief, featurettes covering various areas of the production such as An Unlikely Pair (5:34) focusing on the pairing of Rogen and Efron, Partying with Neighbors (7:17), highlighting the central elements that created the on-screen hilarity and The Frat (5:44) where the cast of Delta Psi Beta discuss fraternity legends.  Finally, a DVD edition and Ultraviolet code round out the supplemental package.

    With little competition combatting it, Neighbors has been crowned by many to be the funniest comedy of the year.  Hardly breaking new ground, Neighbors is still a barrel of laughs allowing Rogen to do what he does best while, inviting welcome newcomers such as Efron, Byrne and Barinholtz to his comedic circle.  Universal Studios’ audio and visual presentation is pitch perfect with a decent array of special features that offer more added humor than informative production accounts. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Neighbors can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Stagefright (1987)

    Director: Michele Soavi

    Starring: David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Gligorov, Mary Sellers & Piero Vida

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of The Church and Cemetery Man, Stagefright centers on a group of young actors rehearsing a new musical based on a murderer.  When a madman escapes from the local institution, the show’s director locks his cast inside the theater overnight accidentally with the killer.  With no escape, the stage is set for a night of suspense and blood.  Also available on DVD, Blue Underground proudly presents this Italian shocker, newly transferred in high-definition from the uncut negative, and loaded with newly produced special features.

    A protege of Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), Michele Soavi would mark his directorial debut with this low-budget, atmospheric tale of terror.  Set in a dingy theater house where a group of starving artists perfect their experimental musical production, a former actor gone mad escapes the confines of his imprisonment to paint the stage red.  While, the film starts off rather slow with the cast aggressively rehearsing their offbeat production, Stagefright truly shines after the killer takes possession of an equally odd owl mask to fall into character.  Once the show’s director locks his team indoors to rehearse through the night, the escaped maniac utilizes a variety of power tools to make his own personal casting cuts.  Brutal and shocking, Stagefright retains its momentum thanks to Composer Simon Boswell’s (Hardware, Lord of Illusions) blending of operatic, synth-heavy tunes.  Nicely photographed by Renato Tafuri (The Church), Stagefright doesn’t always possess the effortless style of Argento’s earliest works but, obviously demonstrates the chops of a young director from the same school of filmmaking.  A third act confrontation on the theater’s catwalk between the sole injured victim and the masked killer is both thrilling and terrifying, sending Stagefright off on a satisfying final note.  Unique and dreamlike, Stagefright remains one of Soavi’s finest efforts due to its claustrophobic setting, startling gore effects and frantic score courtesy of Simon Boswell.

    Unsurprisingly, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a marvel.  Presented in a 1080p widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Stagefright improves astonishingly over previous DVD releases.  Detail is most impressive in facial close-ups while, colors pop nicely in this generally low-lit film.  Skin tones always appear natural with healthy film grain left intact.  Handled with the utmost care, black levels are consistently visible and show no signs of crushing or pixelation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is relayed clearly with no distortion to speak of.  That said, several moments of characters speaking in hushed tones may require the occasional increase in volume.  Boswell’s exhilarating synth-heavy score sounds sensational, making itself a  personal highlight of the mix.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD 2.0 mix has also been included.

    Blue Underground compliments their rich audio and visual presentation with a plethora of newly produced bonus features including, Theatre of Delirium - Interview with Director Michele Soavi (19:01) where Soavi recounts the difficult shooting schedule and  credits his experiences with Dario Argento in learning how to create tension and atmosphere.  In addition, House of the Company - Interview with Star David Brandon (11:40), Blood on the Stage Floor - Interview with Star Giovanni Lombardo Radice (14:00), The Owl Murders - Interview with Make-Up Effects Artist Pietro Tenoglio (11:21) and The Sounds of Aquarius - Interview with Composer Simon Boswell (18:02) round out the impressive array of informative interviews found on the disc.  In addition, a theatrical trailer (2:18) and poster & still gallery (74 in total) have also been included.

    Akin to a frightening fever dream, Stagefright uses its limited budget to its advantage.  Predominately centered in a darkened theater, the owl-masked murderer stalks his prey with patience leaving his victims shy of limbs.  Nicely detailed, possessing sound black levels and free of any aging artifacts, Blue Underground’s new transfer is a sight to be seen with an equally impressive sound mix to satisfy viewers.  In addition, the newly-included assortment of special features are a treat to sit through and should appease dedicated fans.  A delightful directorial debut, Michele Soavi’s Stagefright remains a fan-favorite of late 80s Italian horror that is ripe for revisiting.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 23rd, Stagefright can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger, Teri McCinn, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen

    Released by: Dark Sky Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Eaten Alive, five youths head out on a weekend getaway in rural Texas only to fall prey to a family of ruthless cannibals.  Shocking and controversial, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has unleashed a world of horror on viewers for over 40 years becoming a masterpiece of genre filmmaking.  Dark Sky Films proudly presents the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in an all-new 4K transfer with a newly crafted 7.1 surround sound mix supervised by Director Tobe Hooper.

    Shot in the sweltering summer of 1973 in Austin, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has achieved iconic status for changing the face of cinema with its brutal depiction of macabre realism.  Equally loved and hated, Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper’s enduring opus has unanimously remained in the public conscience as a groundbreaking effort of independent cinema.  Inspired by the heinous exploits of real-life serial killer Ed Gein, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre grows more grizzly with age as its vintage quality and boiling backroads setting leaves viewers with a hellish representation of a living nightmare.  The equally believable cast headlined by Marilyn Burns as Sally, are our guides as their afternoon of fun morphs into an odyssey of madness.  The horror that unfolds at the Sawyer residence, home of Leatherface and his disturbed family, are the film’s most disturbing moments that have lifted it to iconic heights.  Imagery of human bone constructed furniture and a victim hung on a meathook is just the beginning of this grueling experiment in shock value.  Barely maintaining her sanity and survival, Sally is subjected to a terrifying dinner with her captors before attempting her escape.  Drenched in bright red blood on a highway, Sally is confronted and evades the maniacal Leatherface, angrily waving his deadly power tool in an unforgettable final image.

    Chilling and unsettling, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has remained a cinematic landmark since rattling the public’s senses during the tumultuous 1970s.  Simple in its execution, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s grimy production value matched with its uncomfortable tone sends viewers through a relentless viewing experience that feels authentic.

    Scanned in 4K, Dark Sky Films presents The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in a 1080 anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on their already impressive 2008 release, Dark Sky Films’ latest transfer is the best yet!  Shot guerilla-style, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre retains its warm, Texas appearance with skin tones reading reasonably sharp and accurate.  Lines and debris that have plagued so many previous releases are extinct in this transfer while, always maintaing a layer of natural grain.  Consistently underlit, black levels are nicely handled, especially during Leatherface’s pursuit of Sally in the fields.  Action is satisfyingly visible with no crushing to speak of.  Supervised by Writer/Director Tobe Hooper, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes equipped with a newly created DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 Surround mix that picks up dialogue clearly with no intrusions and chaotic moments of chain saw mayhem roars across this impressive mix.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Stereo 2.0 and Original 2.0 Mono mixes have also been included.  

    Bursting with bonus content, the 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition arrives with four commentary tracks including: 1) Writer/Producer/Director, Actor Gunnar Hansen, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, 2) Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger & Paul A. Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns.  Plus, two newly recorded tracks from: 3) Writer/Producer/Director Tobe Hooper and 4) Cinematographer Daniel Pearl, Editor Larry J. Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolauo.  A separate Blu-ray disc of additional bonus features include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth (1:12:49), Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw (1:11:42), A Tour of the TCSM House with Gunnar Hansen (8:03), a vintage walk through tour from 1993.  In addition, Off the Hook with Teri McMinn (17:02), The Business of Chain Saw: An Interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman (16:27), a new, albeit silent due to the audio being lost, selection of deleted scenes & outtakes (15:07), Grandpa’s Tales: An Interview with John Dugan (15:48), Cutting Chain Saw: An Interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll (10:47), vintage deleted scenes & outtakes (25:23), a blooper reel (2:22), Outtakes from The Shocking Truth (7:40), Horror‘s Hallowed Grounds: The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (20:19), where Host Sean Clark visits the original shooting locations, Dr. W.E. Barnes presents Making Grandpa (2:45), a still gallery (2:27) and several trailers, TV & radio spots round out this impressive assortment of special features.  An accompanying DVD edition of the film and special features disc is also included for standard definition needs.

    As effective as it was 40 years ago, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre continues to shock and mesmerize viewers with its unsettling presentation of cannibalistic killers in the barren backroads of Texas.  In a time of endless catalog re-releases of subpar standard, Dark Sky Films have delivered fans the definitive release of this low-budget spectacle.  Beautifully scanned in 4K with an impressive 7.1 surround mix, Dark Sky Films has left no stone unturned with over four hours of bonus content to delve into.  Endlessly disturbing and terrifying, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre never fades in quality and Dark Sky Films‘ 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition firmly proves that the saw is still family!

    RATING: 5/5

    The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is available right now and can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Pumpkinhead (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Pumpkinhead (1988)

    Director: Stan Winston

    Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, Kimberly Ross, John D’Aquino & Joel Hoffman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of FX maestro, Stan Winston (Aliens, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), this grim fairy tale speaks to the demon in us all.  Atmospheric and haunting, Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Pumpkinhead in a well-deserved collector’s edition, on Blu-ray for the first time ever.  Bursting with special features and newly rendered artwork from Justin Osbourne, allow Pumpkinhead to consume your soul!

    Pumpkinhead centers on local grocery store owner and single father, Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen).  After a group of dirt bike riding teens accidentally kill his only son, Harley seeks a backwoods witch to revive his child.  Instead, a demonic creature known as Pumpkinhead is summoned to extract bloody revenge on those responsible.  As the desolate area runs red, Harley must confront a dark connection that links him to the brutal beast.  Jeff East (Huckleberry Finn), Kimberly Ross (Death Street USA), John D’Aquino (Slipping Into Darkness), Joel Hoffman (Slumber Party Massacre II), Brian Bremer (Society) and George ‘Buck‘ Flower (Back to the Future) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Lit with warm reds, cool blues and drenched in fog, Pumpkinhead casts an identifiable, Southern Gothic atmosphere.  Genre icon, Lance Henriksen (Alien, The Horror Show), stars as a loving father, confronted with grief after the tragic death of his son.  After searching in the deep backwoods for a mysterious witch, Harley’s heart is consumed by revenge prompting the woman to summon the demon creature known as Pumpkinhead, to carry out justice.  Henriksen sells the role of a distressed parent effortlessly, with his yearning for vengeance, justified in the eyes of the audience.  As the guilty teens evade the scene in panic, safety is far from reach as the monster hunts them under the shroud of darkness.  With a larger than life stature, elongated claws and white, lifeless eyes, Pumpkinhead is easily one of the finest monster creations to emerge from the 1980s.  Emphasized by strobe lighting, Pumpkinhead dishes out brute force with ease and substitutes a shotgun as a pitchfork.  Summoned from a rotting pumpkin patch and the know-how of an ancient witch, Pumpkinhead delivers a stylish, modern day fairy tale for horror audiences.  As the remaining teens fight for survival, Harley is conflicted with his choices.  In time, the grieving father becomes aware that his hateful ways fuel the bloodthirsty beast.  Far from forgiving, Harley must make a pivotal choice to right his wrongs before he is forever consumed by the creatures dark nature.  

    Moralistic and frightening, Pumpkinhead beautifully crafts a loving relationship between father and son before tragedy strikes.  Fueled by revenge, Henriksen’s strong performance allows the audience to sympathize and relate to his pain.  Similarly conflicted as Harley, the viewer once again shows compassion for the guilty teens as Pumpkinhead rages his deadly authority.  A roller coaster ride of thrills, emotions and terror ensues, marking Pumpkinhead one of the great monster movies to emerge from such a heavy horror decade.  Based on a poem by Ed Justin, first time director Stan Winston delivers a distinctly moody, gothic offering that has deservedly lived on past its creative makers lifetime.

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

    Pumpkinhead arrives with a 1080p widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Appearing with natural grain intact and minimal flakes, Pumpkinhead shines on high definition.  While, not a wildly colorful film, Pumpkinhead’s warm reds during sunny sequences shine off the screen, drying viewers mouths out.  Black levels are handled well with no crushing to speak of while, detail in facial features are not quite as sharp under the dim lighting.  Otherwise, skin tones read naturally under clearer conditions with much to admire.  Elevated to new standards, Pumpkinhead has never looked better!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Pumpkinhead registers nicely with clear dialogue and zero distortion.  The Southern locale allows chirping crickets and other swamp critters to serve as nice ambience.  More climatic moments centering on Pumpkinhead’s wrath are delivered with swift intensity while, breaking glass and gunshots offer particular shrieks to the mix.  A DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter Gary Gerani and Creature/FX Creators Tom Woodruff Jr. & Alec Gillis: Moderated by Scott Spiegel, the creative trio discuss the potential titles that were originally considered from the film including Vengeance the Demon.  The group also commend the moody lighting and the film’s depth that many other horror films at the time lacked.  Overall, the collaborators keep the track entertaining and inject plenty of informative anecdotes along the way.

    • Pumpkinhead Unearthed (1:03:59): Ported over from the previous MGM DVD release, this impressive documentary provided by Red Shirt Pictures spans six chapters and covers every stage of the film’s development.  Co-Screenwriter Gary Gerani, Producer Billy Blake along with cast members Lance Henriksen, Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Brian Bremer and many others provide insightful interviews.

    • Pumpkinhead Behind-the-Scenes (7:11): Vintage footage of Tom Woodruff Jr. perfecting the movements and mannerisms of the demonic creature are captured along with, Creature FX Designers, Shane Mahan and Alec Gillis, sculpting Pumpkinhead.

    • Night of the Demon with Richard Weinman (16:29): Co-Producer Weinman recounts the principal players and history behind Pumpkinhead’s origins.  Weinman expresses his firmness in seeing a moral underpinning for the fate of the teenagers which was utilized in the final film.

    • The Redemption of Joel with John D’Aquino (14:02): D’Aquino expresses his early love for television inspiring his desire to become an actor.  In addition, the thespian shares his audition experience on the film and initial dislike for Co-Star Jeff East that ultimately, helped both actors land their roles and form a friendship.

    • The Boy with the Glasses with Matthew Hurley (14:30): Hurley fondly recalls Winston’s gentle and calm nature as well as the bond formed with his on-screen father, Henriksen.

    • Pumpkinhead: Demonic Toys (4:50): Sculptor Jean St. Jean shares his admiration for the design of Pumpkinhead when tasked to craft his own 18” collectible scale.

    • Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston (49:11): Cast and crew recall their fondest memories and unrelenting respect for the late visionary in this lengthy, heart-tugging featurette.

    • Still Gallery (13:39): 98 in total.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    • More from Scream Factory (6:18): Included trailers for Motel Hell, Squirm and Without Warning.

    • Reversible Cover Art

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:

    Frightening and atmospheric, Stan Winston’s directorial debut has left a lasting impression on the horror genre with its deep, moralistic tale soaked in gothic fairy tale lore.  Lance Henriksen’s sympathetic portrayal of a grieving father steers the picture and ranks as one of his most memorable performances.  Beautifully photographed by Cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (The Lone Ranger), Pumpkinhead invokes a stunning, fog-drenched environment unlike many other genre films.  In addition to a fine story, Pumpkinhead birthed one of the most notable creature designs of the decade.  Sporting definitive A/V treatment, Scream Factory has treated fans with arguably, the most comprehensive spread of bonus content found in any of their collector’s editions.  Complimented with one of the best newly rendered covers, courtesy of Justin Osbourne, Pumpkinhead continues to live on in this essential release for all horror fans.

    RATING: 5/5  

    Available September 9th from Scream Factory, Pumpkinhead can be purchased via Shout! Factory or Amazon.com

  • Graduation Day (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Graduation Day (1981)

    Director: Herb Freed

    Starring: Patch Mackenzie, Christopher George, Michael Pataki & E.J. Peaker

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After prom night and before summer camp begins, graduation day awaits!  From the director of Beyond Evil and Tomboy, the class of ’81 are disappearing and seemingly everyone is suspected.  In association with Troma Entertainment, Vinegar Syndrome proudly presents the quintessential high school slasher, Graduation Day, newly restored in 4K and on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Following the tragic death of a high school track star, Graduation Day centers on a masked killer targeting student athletes and fellow teachers.  With graduation mere days away, the class of ’81 are dropping like flies.  As the mystery unfolds and bodies continue to emerge, a strict coach, the victim’s grieving sister (Mackenzie) and boyfriend are all suspected of the bloody crimes.  Christopher George (Pieces), Michael Pataki (Rocky IV), E. Danny Murphy (Final Mission), E.J. Peaker (Hello, Dolly!), Carmen Argenziano (Stand and Deliver) and Linnea Quigley (Night of the Demons) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Capturing the overly intense devotion to high school athletics, Graduation Day is yet another slasher re-telling of an anticipated moment in teenage lives, painted red.  Chaotically edited, this 80s effort moves at a swift place while, adhering to the rhythmic beats that fuel genre films.  After a blood clot tragically kills a graduating track star, a mysterious killer, adorned in a fencing mask and black leather gloves, begins targeting fellow athletes and faculty members.  Grieving the loss of her younger sister, naval officer, Anne (Mackenzie), arrives in town to better understand the circumstances of her death.  Amongst a sea of would-be killers including, a demanding track coach (George) and strict stepfather, Anne joins the ranks as a potential murderer to the suspecting audience.  While, the core cast of teens are rather underwhelming, “Scream Queen” in the making, Linnea Quigley (Savage Streets, The Return of the Living Dead) appears as a scandalous student who shows off her assets and gets cuddly with a teacher to ensure a passing grade.  In addition, Christopher George’s niece and future Wheel of Fortune letter-turner, Vanna White, makes a brief appearance as a fellow student.  

    Filled with locker room stalkings and backwoods prowling, Graduation Day takes full advantage of its sports obsessed tone with clever sword slayings and high jump horrors.  While, the film detours by setting up several suspenseful sequences that lead nowhere and one too many red herrings, Graduation Day still entertains with a cast of seasoned vets like George and Pataki that ham it up nicely.  Finally, as the climax nears, an over the top performance emerges from the revealed killer with an effective jump ending, sending the film off on a satisfying note.  Honoring the slasher ethics of moviemaking, Graduation Day is not immune to missteps but, succeeds overall as an entertaining 90-minute romp with a killer who likes making good time with his dirty deeds.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Newly restored in 4K, Vinegar Syndrome presents Graduation Day in a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time on home video.  Retaining a natural grain appearance, this indie slasher maintains its 80s-esque softness with bold colors, most prominently in the red graduation gowns and other pastel colored wardrobe, popping nicely.  Scratches and flakes are present in varying amounts, but never overly intrusive.  Skin tones are warmly relayed while, black levels, although mostly visible, still encounter their fair share of speckling.  Based on previous video sourced releases, Vinegar Syndrome have worked wonders with this latest presentation.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, Graduation Day is projected nicely with effective musical cues during suspenseful moments.  Dialogue is mostly audible with locker room scenes, understandably echoing while, others involving multiple chatter at once, overwhelms the mix at times.  In addition, the roller rink sequence with new wave band Felony, kicks relatively high punches but a little too much sharpness.  Overall, the audio succeeds during crucial moments of talk and terror.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Producer David Baughn

    • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Lives

    • Acting Out in School - An Interview with Patch Mackenzie (8:48): Lead actress Mackenzie discusses her strict British upbringing, opinion clashes with Director Herb Freed on the film and her guest appearances on countless television shows such as The Waltons and Taxi.

    • Surviving the Class of ’81 - An Interview with Herb Freed (12:22): Previously serving as a rabbi for three years, Freed credits his late wife and Co-Screenwriter Anne Marisse for supporting his passion for film.  The director also reminisces on his casting choices and the joy in hearing actors bring his lines to life.

    • Graduation Day Blues - An Interview with David Baughn (11:34): Lifelong film fan, Producer Baughn discusses his early beginnings with MGM, booking Russ Meyer films and forming a friendship with the man.  Baughn also discusses the films ad campaign and his memorable working relationship with Freed.

    • Cutting Class - An Interview with Martin Jay Sadoff (7:20): Hailing from NYU, Sadoff explains how his love for music influenced the fast-cutting editing approach to Graduation Day.

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    • DVD Edition

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    In a climate of holiday-themed slashers, Graduation Day corrupted another seminal day in the lives of teenagers with entertaining results.  Scattered with up and coming scream queens and future television personalities, this high school bloodbath spins a twisting tale of sports related murders.  The teenage cast fail to leave a lasting impression but, the film’s tone and atmosphere are rightly in place.  Vinegar Syndrome’s impressive 4K restoration washes away dreadful memories of previous releases along, with a satisfying spread of bonus content to jump into.  Over 30 years later and long overdue, the class of ’81 can once again be celebrated in this memorable retro slasher.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 9th, Graduation Day can be purchased via Vinegar Syndrome or Amazon.com

  • Hell of the Living Dead (1980) / Rats: Night of Terror (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Hell of the Living Dead (1980) / Rats: Night of Terror (1984)

    Director: Bruno Mattei

    Starring: Margit Evelyn Newton & Frank Garfield / Ottaviano Dell’Acqua & Geretta Gereatta

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Two Italian shockers paired up in one blood-curdling, high-definition double feature!  Under the watchful direction of Bruno Mattei (Women’s Prison Massacre) comes flesh-eating zombies and highly intelligent vermin yearning for blood.  Over the top and insanely gory, Blue Underground proudly presents both films newly transferred from their original uncut and uncensored prints, packed with bonus content!

    After an accident at a chemical plant unleashes a deadly virus, a highly trained SWAT team are sent to New Guinea to investigate.  Shortly after arriving, flesh-eating zombies welcome their latest meals.  Joined by an investigative reporter, can these civilians survive this Hell of the Living Dead?  Next up, Rats: Night of Terror takes place in the year 225 A.B. (“after the bomb”), where a group of formerly underground scavengers discover an abandoned laboratory and a swarm of bloodthirsty rats.  Short on ammunition, will the last of the human race survive the night against the killer vermin?

    MOVIE(s):

    Also known as Virus and Night of the Zombies, Hell of the Living Dead follows familiar waters that George A. Romero beautifully crafted in 1968.  Broadening its horizons, this Italian gut-muncher succeeds by feeling like several different films in one.  Kicking off with a deadly accident at the Hope chemical plant, a catastrophic virus is unleashed morphing humans into flesh-eating savages.  Shortly after, an intense hostage standoff takes place between SWAT teams and crazed terrorists demanding the fall of the Hope corporation.  Bearing witness to the relationship amongst four SWAT members who end the situation, the group is shipped off to New Guinea to investigate the plant’s accident.  Navigating the lush jungles, the team encounter investigative reporter Lia Rousseau (Margit Evelyn Newton, The Adventures of Hercules II).  With the area in peril from zombies, the civilians team up to survive the nightmare.  With exceptionally effective gore on display, the SWAT team still have difficulty remembering to aim for the head after being reminded countless times by one of their own.  Utilizing documentary footage, Hell of the Living Dead morphs once again, feeling akin to a faux-cannibal documentary.  Encountering jungle tribes, Rousseau sheds clothing and applies face paint to mingle and gain information, only to discover the jungle is swarming with countless undead limb lickers.  Throughly entertaining, Hell of the Living Dead climaxes with a government coverup revelation and one of the most “eye-popping” deaths in zombie history.  Admittedly, this Italian gorefest missteps only by keeping the majority of the cast alive until the final few moments.  Shedding substantial victims earlier would have upped the suspense, but luckily the film still works.  In true Italian fashion, Hell of the Living Dead is a consistently bloody piece of early 80s zombie goodness, sure to please gorehounds.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Adhering to the post-apocalyptic setting popularized by George Miller’s Mad Max, Rats: Night of Terror takes place in the aftermath of world obliteration.  A group of scavenging road warriors discover an abandoned laboratory in search of supplies, only to discover deadly rats.  Hilarious and surprisingly brutal, the motorcycle riding group bear rebelliously retro names such as Video and Chocolate.  Incorporating clunky 80s computer technology, the leather clad team spew laugh out loud dialogue while, combatting the highly intelligent vermin with firearms and flamethrowers.  In addition, friction amongst the friends creates turmoil when working together against the creepy critters.  Rats: Night of Terror has a wildly likable cast that suffer gruesome deaths at the paws of the disease-ridden killers.  Providing action, blood and brief T&A, Rats: Night of Terror fits the bill for a quality effort in post-apocalyptic fun.  While, the final act may feel like it loses minor steam, the identity reveal of the surviving road warriors‘ savior is nearly worth the entire film.  Absurdly cheesy and rarely dull, Rats: Night of Terror turns the ravaged world genre on its head with B-movie traits that get the job done.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Uncut and uncensored from their original negatives, both films are presented with 1080p widescreen transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Virtually free of any anomalies such as scratches or dirt, each film looks remarkably clean while, retaining a fine natural layer of grain.  Skin tones appear vivid with colors, most appreciatively during bloodier moments, popping exceptionally well.  Hell of the Living Dead’s stock footage sequences appear only mildly inferior while, black levels are handled respectfully.  Shot entirely at night with actors wearing darker wardrobe, several sequences in Rats: Night of Terror appear slightly softer than others, but never deal-breaking.  Both films have never looked better warranting Blue Underground praise for their superb treatment.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mixes, both films sound wonderfully crisp with dialogue coming off clearly.  No hisses or pops to speak of on either audio track.  In addition, the always reliable Goblin, with their freaky and frantic score in Hell of the Living Dead offers a nicely balanced boost while, Composer Luigi Ceccarelli’s synth-heavy score in Rats: Night of Terror is relayed nicely.  Some of Ceccarelli’s music queues begin with decreased volume before stabilizing to full blast.  Barely noticeable, it appears to be more of an issue with the original recording.  Overall, both films couldn’t have sounded better and will leave you bopping your head to their infectious scores.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Bonded by Blood - Interviews with Co-Writer/Co-Director Claudio Fragasso and Stars Margit Evelyn Newton, Franco Garofalo, Ottaviano Dell’Acqua & Massimo Vanni (50:14): This lengthy sit down with several key participants of both films finds Fragasso citing Soylent Green and George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead as direct inspirations for Hell of the Living Dead.  In addition, Fragasso meets up with Ottaviano Dell’Acqua and Massimo Vanni, who played Kurt and Taurus respectively in Rats: Night of Terror, as they visit the original filming locations and reminisce.  Covering much detail, this featurette is a treat to sit down with.  

    • Hell Rats of the Living Dead - Interview with Director Bruno Mattei (8:39): Before passing in 2007, Mattei explains here that Rats: Night of Terror was essentially his re-telling of Night of the Living Dead, replacing zombies with rats.  In addition, Mattei reveals the difficulty shooting with the animals and that many of them were guinea pigs in disguise.  Mattei also recounts his satisfaction with the stock footage working so well in Hell of the Living Dead and his personal appreciation for Goblin which led to their involvement in scoring the film.

    • International Trailer #1 (2:09): Bearing the Rats: Night of Terror title.

    • International Trailer #2 (3:54): An extended trailer of Rats: Night of Terror utilizing the alternate Blood Kill title.

    • Italian Trailer (3:56): Rats: Notte di terrore

    • Poster & Still Gallery: 64 slides in total.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Fans of blood-soaked Italian cinema will revel in this latest Blu-ray double feature from Blue Underground.  While, both films have their minor shortcomings, Hell of the Living Dead is a supremely gory zombie film with wonderful effects work and the ability to dabble in multiple genres, leading to one entertaining experience.  Meanwhile, post-apocalyptic thrills await in Rats: Night of Terror with dingy settings, uproarious dialogue and thousands of hyper-intelligent critters dying for human flesh.  Blue Underground has done a tremendous job preserving two, nonstop Italian splatterfests in glorious detail with over an hour of comprehensive bonus content to enjoy as well.  While, their output may not be as frequent as other labels, this ridiculously entertaining double feature is just another reminder of the esteemed quality standards Blue Underground upholds.

    RATING: 4.5/5  

  • Jersey Shore Massacre (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

    Director: Paul Tarnopol

    Starring: Danielle Dallacco, Angelica Boccella, Giovanni Roselli & Ron Jeremy

    Released by: Attack Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the vein of other summertime slashers, this modern take frames its story around fist-pumping buffoons in the Garden State.  Intertwined with local Jersey Devil folklore and appearances from adult entertainment legend Ron Jeremy and YouTube sensation Shawn C. Phillips, this horror-comedy aims to entertain with laughs and gore.  Executive produced by Jersey Shore alumni, Jenni “Jwoww” Farley, Attack Entertainment presents Jersey Shore Massacre, the only stop to get tanned blood red!

    Jersey Shore Massacre finds a group of girlfriends scurrying for a place to stay after losing their Seaside Heights beach rental.  After meeting a group of buff guidos and retreating to the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens, a mentally deranged killer begins slaughtering the ignorant bunch one by one.  

    MOVIE:

    Starring a group of up and comers, Jersey Shore Massacre plants its tongue firmly in cheek and refuses to budge.  Much to the delight of the audience, the film succeeds in casting an absurdly, over the top slasher that involves hacking up Jersey’s tannest.  With the exception of 2012’s Jersey Shore Shark Attack, horror parodies of the once popular MTV reality series have been virtually untapped.  Visually ripe and full of potential, it’s a mystery why the popular seaside resort was never take advantage of during the slasher boom of the 1980s.  Jersey Shore Massacre looks to rectify that by offering a ridiculously cheesy response to the body count pictures of yesteryear.  Cliched as they come, Jersey Shore Massacre still adheres to the finer aspects of the genre that slasher enthusiasts yearn for.  A cast of females never shy to expose T&A and a terrific series of death sequences, all predominately accomplished by practical effects.  Notable kills include burning by tanning bed, tattoo removals via electric sander and a spear through sexually engaged bodies ala Friday the 13th Part 2.  While, the acting is far from award winning with several awful accents to mention, the cast still manage to sell a group of obnoxiously gaudy guidos that are believable by Jersey Shore standards.

    Further adhering to slasher tropes, Jersey Shore Massacre finds the only non-promiscuous guidette, who also lacks a Jersey accent of any kind, as the lone wolf tasked to do battle with the elusive killer.  With an underwhelming reveal of the killer’s identity, Jersey Shore Massacre’s final act drags by running in circles before finally reaching a finale we all knew was coming.  Stupidly funny and surprisingly crafty in the special effects department, Jersey Shore Massacre never asserts to be anymore than junk food entertainment, not intended to be taken seriously.  Accepted at face value, Jersey Shore Massacre is a decent offering that makes light of the Jersey Shore phenomenon a few years too late.  

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

    Jersey Shore Massacre is presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Nicely represented, colors are lush and accurate with the guidettes‘ bright clothing popping especially well.  Before the DNR police are called, the waxy-looking skin tones are attributed to the cast’s tanning sprees and over usage of make-up and not digital tinkering.  Meanwhile, black levels look decent, if not inconsistent.  Night sequences range from deep and inky to fuzzy and unclear, but all reasonably visible.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, Jersey Shore Massacre has no issues to speak of with dialogue always coming in clear and bass pumping club music offering a nice punch to the mix.  A bit more emphasis during the more thematic murder sequences would have benefitted but as is, the mix is satisfactory.  In addition, a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix is also included.  

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Jersey Shore Massacre: Behind the Scenes (24:00): This surprisingly lengthy look behind the magic captures on-set footage and interviews with key talent from the cast and various crew members.  A nice companion piece to this low-budget horror-comedy.  

    • Fat Camp Massacre Part 1 (10:16): YouTube sensation Shawn C. Phillips (“Coolduder”) stars in this Heavyweights meets Sleepaway Camp short. Briefly appearing in Jersey Shore Massacre as a film that the fist-pumpers pop on, this hilarious concoction deserves its own full length feature!

    • Bigfoot Unmedicated (5:21): A series of 12 voicemails that Mark E. Shaw (aka “Bigfoot”), who appeared as Edgar in the film, left for Director Paul Tarnopol.  Hilarious and delusional, Shaw urges Tarnopol to return his calls regarding a “national emergency” involving the frustration he has suffered from shooting the film.  

    • Coming Soon (1:35): Trailer for Girls Gone Dead.

    • “Melt” by Italian Ice Music Video (5:40)

    • “Outta My Head” by King Nyne Music Video (4:32)

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Jersey Shore Massacre succeeds in being an absurd take on the slasher formula, funneled through the sandy shores of the Garden State.  While, not offering anything revolutionary to the genre with the exception of poking fun at the mobs of guidos and guidettes, Jersey Shore Massacre still supplies enough T&A and practical gore effects to pacify most.  Attack Entertainment’s video and audio treatment are mostly rewarding with a special features package that isn’t too shabby either.  A few years late to the game, Jersey Shore Massacre still accomplishes its goal of seeing gel-abusing meatheads and high-heeled Snooki’s reach a bitter end, all in good fun.  

    RATING: 4/5

  • Bloodsucking Freaks (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

    Director: Joel M. Reed

    Starring: Seamus O’Brien, Luis De Jesus, Viju Krem, Niles McMaster & Alan Dellay

    Released by: Troma Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Nearly 40 years after its original release, Director Joel M. Reed’s satirical shocker breathes new life in the HD generation.  A bizarre odyssey through New York’s dangerous Soho district, centered on a band of eccentric sadists makes this indie effort an unsettling time capsule of cinema.  Newly transferred from original vault materials and including a never before seen title sequence bearing the Sardu, Master of the Screaming Virgins moniker, Troma Entertainment proudly presents the enduring Bloodsucking Freaks on Blu-ray!

    Bloodsucking Freaks centers on the unusual off-broadway Theatre of the Macabre, hosted by the infamous Sardu (Seamus O’Brien).  Shocking forms of torture, dismemberment and more are all fictionally staged for audiences every night but, when countless people begin disappearing around New York City, the truth is revealed about Sardu’s temple of terror.  Luis De Jesus (Let My Puppets Come), Viju Krem (Fourplay), Niles McMaster (Alice Sweet Alice) and Alan Dellay (Trading Places) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    A blatant satirization of the theatre world, Bloodsucking Freaks also expands on the gory 1960s exploits of Director H.G. Lewis (Blood Feast, Color Me Blood Red).  Sardu’s Theatre of the Macabre is New York’s seedy Soho response to the Grand Guignol where torture and dismemberment are for the entertainment of audience members.  Sardu, brilliantly portrayed by the late Seamous O’Brien, is the perverted, deviant equivalent to Vincent Price.  Aided by his loyal dwarf assistant, Ralphus (Luis De Jesus), Sardu is obsessed by the macabre and has a weakness for whippings at the hands of his female dominatrixes.  When snobbish reviewer, Creasy Silo (Alan Dellay), insults Sardu’s performance, the unhinged entertainer kidnaps and forces him into an imprisonment of torture.  In addition, Sardu has big plans for his grim theatre as he also abducts ballet star, Natasha Di Natalie (Viju Krem) and threatens her into his grandiose vision for a new show of pain and decadence.  Soaked in black humor, Bloodsucking Freaks highlights shock value moments of Ralphus electrically shocking a woman’s nipples and sawing another’s hand off.  In addition, Sardu takes great pleasure in his domineering role by substituting a nude woman as a dinner table and operating a white slave trafficking ring below his theatre.  A demented dentist is also welcomed into Sardu’s sanctuary to perform an unorthodox surgery on a female prisoner, before he is torn apart by mentally insane slaves.  Teaming up with a corrupt detective, Natasha’s football player boyfriend, Tom Maverick (Niles McMaster) is determined to find his love and tracks her to the twisted theatre.  Brainwashed, Natasha performs a sadistic ballet as she repeatedly kicks the imprisoned critic to death onstage.  

    Thin on plot, Bloodsucking Freaks is an exploitation affair that is best appreciated for its grizzly and over the top moments of bloody carnage.  In addition, the quirky cast of characters are beyond memorable with Sardu and Ralphus‘ peculiar submissive/domineering relationship the oddity that keeps eyes glued to the screen.  Bloodsucking Freaks is also noteworthy for its timeless footage of a seedy New York City before its squeaky clean overhaul.  The sleazy, Soho district captured in the film makes one wonder if Sardu’s torture chamber is really half bad in comparison.  Still shocking and unusual as ever, Bloodsucking Freaks is a freak show of torture, sadomasochism and nude, helpless prisoners bound with no escape in sight.  Repulsively rewarding, Bloodsucking Freaks is essential viewing for all trash cinema aficionados.  

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Bloodsucking Freaks is presented in a 1080p transfer sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Transferred from the original materials, this shock classic hasn’t aged considerably well.  Riddled with scratches and speckles, black levels appear mostly fuzzy and tough to make out.  Meanwhile, colors are mostly dull with exceptions being Ralphus’s brightly colored sweaters and the overly red blood which pops nicely.  Detail varies from hazy to decent with closeups most impressively picking up the dirt found underneath Ralphus’s fingernails.  Bloodsucking Freaks has never looked breathtaking on any format and it can be easily argued that its grindhouse imperfections benefit the viewing experience.  Troma Entertainment’s transfer is arguably the best the film has looked but that doesn’t necessarily make it pretty.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Bloodsucking Freaks certainly sounds a pinch better than it appears.  Dialogue is picked up nicely with only minor instances of static and pops throughout.  In addition, shrieking sounds of screams and Michael Sahl’s carny-infused music sound nicely.  Not a wide-ranging track, Bloodsucking Freaks is an audible one that is more than sufficient.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • New Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman

    • New Uncut Version (1:29:54): Running 43 seconds longer than the original cut and incorporating the Sardu, Master of the Screaming Virgins title card, a deleted scene has been reinstated spotlighting Sardu submitting to Ralphus.

    • Audio Commentary with Blood and Guts Expert Eli Roth: Ported over from the original Troma DVD release.

    • Eli Roth Interviews Cast & Crew (3:48): Also ported over from the DVD, Roth sits down with Arlana Blue who appeared as one of the ravenous nude prisoners, the demented dentist Ernie Rysher and Co-Editor Victor Kanefsky.

    • Interview with Eli Roth (20:07): The Cabin Fever director sits down for this newly shot interview recounting his contributions to the original DVD release during the early internet days.  Roth expresses genuine love for the low-budget schlock fest and his appreciation for the sleazy pre-Giuliani New York setting.  Plus, Roth discusses his own films including his upcoming The Green Inferno.

    • Interview with WWE Superstar Chris Jericho (14:32): Longtime fan, Chris Jericho discusses his earliest introduction to the film on VHS.  Jericho’s fascination with the film lead him to introduce an assistant/henchmen named Ralphus during his WCW days.  The former WWE champion also waxes intellectual on some of his favorite horror films including Amityville II: The Possession and Cabin Fever.

    • Theatrical Trailer

    • Tromatic Extras: Includes Radiation March, Tromaloha! and Sell Your Own Damn Spider!

    • Troma Trailers: Return to Nuke’Em High Vol. I, The Toxic Avenger, Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead and The Taint.

    • DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Hilariously shocking and supremely weird, Bloodsucking Freaks has rightfully earned its status in cult history with a tale of endless torture and eccentric performances like no other.  A minimal plot hardly matters when a perverted dwarf, dismemberments, corrupt cops, a sleazy New York setting and pitch black humor substitute.  While, the original elements’ condition plague the technical side, Troma Entertainment’s Blu-ray treatment  is a rewarding package with a wealth of vintage and newly composed special features for fans to cut into.  Gruesomely fun, Bloodsucking Freaks deserves to be with fans harboring an appreciation for the sick and twisted.

    RATING: 4/5

  • 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 DVD Review

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3
    Director(s): Unknown
    Starring: Annie Sprinkle, John Holmes, Susan Nero, Bobby Astyr and Jamie Gillis
    Released by: Impulse Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Impulse Pictures wastes no time welcoming viewers back to the dingy underworld of 42nd Street sleaze.  Another round of classic adult loops make up this copious collection of hardcore hijinks.  Re-mastered in high-definition, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 is a look back at nasty nudies from the golden era of grime.

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 features 15 8mm adult loops from the 1970s and 1980s.  Totaling nearly two hours worth of content, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 invites the seediest of voyeurs to saddle up with vintage stag reels featuring Annie Sprinkle, John Holmes, Susan Nero, Bobby Astyr and Jamie Gillis.

    MOVIE(s):
    Whether you were hunting the back of sex magazines or staking claim in one of the many peep show booths located in the country, a vast variety of hardcore stag reels were never in shortage.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 continues to award adult entertainment hounds with all the skin it can handle in two hours.  Karen finds a beautiful blonde, presumably the title character, rocking an Andy Warhol’s Bad shirt as her and her lover read up on the art of massaging.  Deep throating eventually turns into manual and doggy-style positioning before concluding with an Elmer’s Glue-like eruption on Karen’s face.  Don’t Splash finds a man, with a supremely 70s stache, and woman trading off oral and finger foreplay before the main event.  The nameless auteurs work is highlighted when a final climax shot is captured in slow-motion.  Classy!  Last Tango in Paris kicks off basic enough with a couple killing time at a poolside bar before some private fun.  Far from shy, the woman loves looking directly into the camera lens as she goes down on John Holmes’ uncircumcised shaft.  Things take an odd turn when Holmes uses butter as a lubricant before entering the backdoor.  Meanwhile, in Uncle Harry a schoolgirl virgin is given a pair of roller skates by her lusting uncle.  Sex ensues but, our virgin has tremendous difficulty placing a condom on her mate before oral play can proceed.  Finally, Uncle Harry of course rises to the occasion with his naughty niece chugging away at the prize that awaits inside.  Love Machines centers on two attractive lesbians getting hot and heavy before one of the girls intensely uses a strap-on, doggy style on her lover.  Shortly after, a buffet commences with salad tossing as the main course.  Other notable reels include Army Bitches, Playgirls (featuring Annie Sprinkle) and Her First Experience with two jailbait looking lesbians getting frisky before one gets basked in a golden shower.  42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 concludes on The Barbarian Girls, an incredibly bizarre and violent reel kicking off with two women wandering aimlessly before arguably, the worst fake hit and run takes place.  The injured female is quickly taken by her Ronald McDonald wig wearing companion to a secluded location to be tortured.  Bound by rope, the victim is whipped repeatedly before a sharp instrument is used on her no-no zone resulting in a bloody mess.  The nightmare seems almost over until the torturer puts her prisoner out of misery by stabbing her to death.  Somber and creepy, The Barbarian Girls is most certainly not for the squeamish.

    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 does it again, providing former peep show attendees a diverse line-up of salacious material to escape in.  Treading on waters pertaining to straight and lesbian encounters, The Barbarian Girls is certainly the most eccentric of the bunch leaving you more spooked than aroused.  Nonetheless, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 does its service of putting these long dormant stag reels back into the laps of the perverts who adore them.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Remastered in high-definition from original film prints, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 is presented full frame sporting a 1.33:1 aspect ratio.  On par with previous volumes in the collection, the reels are loaded with scratches, lines and debris, but still watchable.  Offered with a “play all” option or an individual loop select feature, some reels suffer from more blown out light than others due to the cheap, unprofessional nature of the shooting.  Capturing the sleazy atmosphere you’d expect, these reels don’t look pretty but reek of their bygone period which is welcoming.    
    RATING: 2.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, 42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 only presents a projector sound effect.
    RATING: -/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Liner notes from Cinema Sewer Publisher, Robin Bougie: Bougie compliments this release with his latest essay, Dear Old Dad.  Bougie touches upon the lengths Americans would go to procure stag reels before the dawn of the internet.  In addition, Bougie discusses finding his own father’s porn stash as a way of “passing the torch”.  A master of sleaze, even Bougie warns viewers of The Barbarian Girls‘ nightmarish nature.     

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    42nd Street Forever - The Peep Show Collection Vol. #3 is another fitting entry into the endless world of hardcore stag reels.  Erotically charged and amateurishly shot, these grainy short form sex flicks capture skintastic footage, all in desirable close-ups.  Passionate porn enthusiasts will be delighted to own this retro compilation of steamy cinema from Impulse Pictures.   
    RATING: 3/5

  • Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) DVD Review

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy (1977)
    Director: Cesare Canevari
    Starring: Daniela Levy & Marc Loud
    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.

    Reviewed by Mike Keeny

    Appearing on the renowned “video nasties” list of the 1980s and still currently banned in the UK, Intervision unleashes one of the most notorious Nazisploitation epics of all time.  Depraved and sadistic, this Italian production exploits the nightmarish treatment of prisoners at the hands of the Third Reich.  Infamously sleazy, Gestapo’s Last Orgy, also known as Last Orgy of the Third Reich and Caligula Reincarnated as Hitler, is not for the faint of heart!

    Gestapo’s Last Orgy stars Daniela Levy as a beautiful concentration camp prisoner forced to endure unthinkable torture and sexual degradation at the hands of Hitler’s minions.  When a Nazi Commandant’s abuse increases, the desperate prisoner is forced to unleash her revenge.

    MOVIE:
    Released during the peak years where Nazisploitation thrived in grindhouse theaters, Gestapo’s Last Orgy is unquestionably more twisted than 1975’s more commonly discussed, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS.  Switching from past to present, Lise (Levy), returns to the abandoned scene of her imprisonment with her primary abuser as she recalls the terror she experienced.  Shocking moments included a nude troop of Nazi soldiers having their way with the female prisoners, a female warden tossing a menstruating prisoner to a pack of ferocious Dobermanns and a sickening dinner sequence that is the primary cause for the film’s banishment in the United Kingdom.  Nazi generals and other high-ranking officials feast on the meat of deceased prisoners before stripping down another.  The wicked dinner guests use her naked body as a food platter before igniting her in flames.  Gestapo’s Last Orgy is a sickening slice of trash cinema whose sole purpose is to shock with each scene.  Successful in its execution, this notorious nasty is tasteless and pushes the envelope of extreme brutality.  Lise’s resistance to show fear to the Commandant creates an obsession for the Nazi.  Torturing her with rats and acid pale in comparison to the murder of his own newborn with Lise based on the child’s “half-breed”.

    Revolting and gruesome, Gestapo’s Last Orgy strays closely to the Nazisploitation tropes of past efforts but does little more than shock.  Appropriately praised for its harsh nature, Gestapo’s Last Orgy was not quite my cup of tea and deserves a shower after viewing.  Perhaps, that’s the intent.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Intervision Picture Corp. presents Gestapo’s Last Orgy in an anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Reasonably soft looking, the film showcases signs of scratches and flakes throughout its runtime.  Colors pop decently with black levels on the murkier side.  Overall, the presentation is a decent upgrade from past releases and gets the job done fine.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, the audio is represented well, if not a tad flat while sporting a low hiss throughout.  Dialogue is audible with composer Alberto Baldan Bembo’s score coming in with static during sharper notes.  A mediocre mix that has its share of hiccups.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - A Brief History of Sadiconazista - Interview with Film Historian Dr. Marcus Stiglegger: Dr. Stiglegger of the University of Mainz, Germany sits down for an informative 36-minute interview.  A noted authority and author of several book on the subgenre, Stiglegger provides a scholarly background of Nazisploitation’s roots dating back to anti-Nazi propaganda of the 1940s, the grindhouse era films of the 60s and 70s plus, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  The interview is engaging and a true crash course on the subject.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Gestapo’s Last Orgy remains an ultra sleazy and cruel piece of Nazisploitation.  Shocking and vile, this schlocky piece of grindhouse cinema does little to entertain and is tough to stomach.  The film still deserves the notoriety it receives within the genre for pushing the limits of despair.  Intervision Picture Corp. has done a fine job welcoming this uncut, unforgettable “video nasty” into their diverse library with an interview from Dr. Marcus Stiglegger that is worth the purchase alone.  While, not very impressive, fans of the niche genre will certainly appreciate.
    RATING: 2.5/5 

  • The Final Terror (1983) Blu-ray Review

    The Final Terror (1983)
    Director: Andrew Davis
    Starring: John Friedrich, Adrian Zmed, Lewis Smith, Daryl Hannah & Joe Pantoliano
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing to feed the fire of their exciting Summer of Fear line-up, Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents one of the most sought-after slashers from the 1980s.  Helmed by director Andrew Davis (The Fugitive) and produced by Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland), The Final Terror is a frightening experiment in backwoods terror.

    The Final Terror centers on a group of forest rangers enjoying a fun weekend of camping.  Upon intruding on forbidden territory, a savage, camouflaged killer begins stalking the woods for fresh victims.  The few that remain have no choice but to defend themselves against the deranged murderer.  This long-lost slasher stars John Friedrich (Baretta), Adrian Zmed (Bachelor Party), Rachel Ward (Night School), Daryl Hannah (Splash), Ernest Harden Jr. (White Men Can’t Jump), Mark Metcalf (One Crazy Summer), Lewis Smith (Django Unchained) and Joe Pantoliano (Memento).

    MOVIE:
    Shot in 1981 but shelved for distribution issues, The Final Terror would finally be released in 1983 to capitalize on the stardom of Daryl Hannah and Adrian Zmed whose careers were blossoming from their appearances in Blade Runner and Grease 2.  Following in the wake of the slasher genres recent successes at the box-office, The Final Terror feels less Friday the 13th but more Just Before Dawn meets Rituals.  The film begins promisingly enough with a young couple enjoying a motorcycle ride before meeting a bloody demise courtesy of our backwoods killer.  Transitioning to a group of wilderness rangers on a weekend getaway, The Final Terror features one of the more diverse casts including African-American and English actors, both of whom were not as common in other slasher films at the time.  The group is full of unique personalities who all share a mutual dislike for Eggar (Joe Pantoliano), the redneck outcast who makes a living being rude to others.  When the group ignores Eggar’s warnings about intruding on forbidden territory in the woods, Eggar opts to travel by car and agrees to meet them at the end of their journey.  Once alone in the wilderness, the group begin getting picked off by a mysterious figure.  The backwoods setting and deserted group of would-be victims seems conventional enough, but luckily The Final Terror aims for more.  Instead, of the group ignorantly pretending nothing has gone astray, they immediately recognize their dilemma and fight for survival.  Combating the harsh conditions of the outdoors, The Final Terror feels as much as an escape films as it does a slasher.

    While, the film is a product of its genre, The Final Terror lacks the body count and promiscuity that runs rampant in its slasher counterparts.  In addition, following the opening death scene, the film takes half the runtime before anything as exciting occurs, making The Final Terror quite the slow burn.  The final act leads to a predictable outcome although, the reveal and eventual demise of the savage killer is a memorable one that incorporates the survivors putting teamwork and their survival skills to the test.  Ultimately, The Final Terror has its share of pacing issues and a slightly underwhelming amount of slasher tropes.  That said, the film has an entertaining cast that use their heads as opposed to being mere cattle for the killer.  As obscure and forgotten as the film is, The Final Terror still possesses enough enjoyment to proudly welcome into your slasher library.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    The Final Terror is presented with a 1080p high-definition anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Before the film kicks off, Scream Factory informs us that all materials including the OCN and inter-positive were lost.  The label went to great lengths securing six different film prints from private collectors in order to present the film in the best possible way.  Surprisingly, Scream Factory’s Frankenstein job is mostly successful.  The transfer appears generally clean of scratches and debris allowing the filmic grain layer to be better appreciated.  Colors appear mostly healthy although occasionally skin tones dip in quality.  In addition, dimly lit night sequences have always plagued this film and still remain murky at times but, are luckily far more visible than ever before.  Overall, for a film with no original elements to work with, Scream Factory accomplishes a satisfying transfer that should please fans waiting to relive the film after 31 years.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Final Terror sports decent sound quality with dialogue picking up nicely.  Suspenseful sequences with loud screams are quite striking and help enhance the experience.  The mix is sufficient and works well for all the basic needs.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Davis

    - Post Terror: Finish the Final Terror: Post-production supervisor Allan Holzman sits down for over 20 minutes to discuss his contributions to the film as well as his early film training editing films for Roger Corman before directing Forbidden World.  Holzman’s wife, composer Susan Justin, also shares her approaches and styles when scoring the film.

    - The First Terror with Adrian Zmed & Lewis Smith: Actors Zmed and Smith, who appear as Marco and Boone respectively, sit down for a 15 minute series of interviews where the two discuss their first interest in acting, shooting in frigid temperatures, producer Joe Roth’s temper and director Andrew Davis‘ remarkable skills behind the camera.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Behind the Scenes Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    The Final Terror is a surprising treat for Scream Factory fans that never imagined this backwoods slasher receiving a second lease on life.  Released in the horror heyday of the early 80s, The Final Terror stars an incredibly likable and diverse cast that use their outdoor surroundings to survive the night.  A slow build and small body count hurts the film’s fun factor, but The Final Terror still manages to entertain and provide great camerawork from talent that would move onto such A-list projects as A Perfect Murder and Holes.  Scream Factory’s dedication to preserving sought after genre titles like The Final Terror makes fans eternally grateful for their efforts.  Combined with a healthy dose of special features, provided once again by Aine Leicht (Witchboard and Night of the Demons), Scream Factory’s release of The Final Terror is the definitive word on this forgotten slasher.
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • House of Mortal Sin (1976) Blu-ray Review

    House of Mortal Sin (1976)
    Director: Pete Walker
    Starring: Anthony Sharp, Susan Penhaligon, Stephanie Beacham & Norman Eshley
    Released by: Redemption Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Kino Lorber, under their Redemption Films banner, continues their onslaught of releases from famed British horror maestro, Pete Walker (The Flesh and Blood Show, Frightmare).  Controversial and twisted, House of Mortal Sin casts a dark shadow over the sanctity of religion with a blackmailing, inappropriate priest at center stage.  Co-starring Susan Penhaligon (Patrick), Stephanie Beacham (Schizo), Norman Eshley (See No Evil) and Sheila Keith (House of Long Shadows), Redemption Films proudly presents the film fully uncut.  

    House of Mortal Sin centers on a young woman, Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon), who confesses her most intimate details to Father Xavier Meldrum (Anthony Sharp).  Unfortunately, Father Meldrum has no tolerance for sinners and records their conversation in a blackmail attempt.  Suspicions are raised as bodies begin turning up, but no one believes that a holy man could possibly be responsible, except Jenny.

    MOVIE:
    The 1970s reigned supreme with religious-themed horror films that rattled the box-office.  House of Mortal Sin is a unique entry in the canon in that it does not hold the devil responsible for evildoings, but instead a respected priest.  Pete Walker’s own resentment towards attending Catholic school resulted in his film that never shies away from exposing the hypocrisies of the institution.  Anthony Sharp (Barry Lyndon) wonderfully captures the aged, yet respected Father Xavier Meldrum who is widely regarded amongst his community.  Shortly after Jenny Welch (Susan Penhaligon) admits to the seasoned clergyman about her abortion, an unhealthy obsession begins.  Father Meldrum records the intimate information and uses it as a ploy to keep Jenny within his grasp.  Unfortunately, most people find her accusations ridiculous as a servant of the church would never do such wrongdoings.  In this sense, House of Mortal Sin serves as an interesting time capsule where people would not commonly accuse a clergyman of committing any harm.  Of course, today we live in a society where cases of abuse at the hands of priests have become all too common and sadly, unsurprising.  Thankfully, House of Mortal Sin chooses not to be a tale of child abuse at the hands of the church but more in the vein of a slasher film.  Father Meldrum’s obsession with Jenny causes him to lash out at those closest to her resulting in several murders including a grizzly strangulation with a Rosary.  In addition, Meldrum possesses shades of Norman Bates as a man with a mommy complex.  He confides in his elderly mother who can no longer speak but is obviously disturbed by her son’s actions.  Meldrum’s mother is cared for by the equally devilish and one-eyed, Miss Brabazon (Sheila Keith), who takes great pride in abusing the ailing woman when her mad son isn’t watching.

    House of Mortal Sin continues to surprise as the film’s final act doesn’t include the typical final girl and madman showdown.  Nonetheless, Pete Walker’s opus concludes on a satisfyingly, somber note that’s quite effective.  House of Mortal Sin may not have possessed children or projectile pea soup, but still delivers a chilling tale of a disturbed priest hellbent on teaching sinners a lesson.  Headlined by a talented cast that turn in memorable performances, Pete Walker’s exercise in Catholic-horror will surely shock and entertain those brave enough to endure creepy clergymen.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    House of Mortal Sin is presented in a 1080p transfer bearing a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Minor instances of speckles aside, the transfer looks exceptionally clean sporting a healthy layer of grain. In addition, colors translate well with skin tones appearing natural as can be.  In comparison to some of Kino’s previous Walker titles that were slightly more problematic, House of Mortal Sin ranks as one of their finest looking transfers yet.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 mix, House of Mortal Sin has no noticeable issues to speak of with dialogue coming across very clearly.  A very pleasing and modestly effective audio mix make this a pleasurable listening experience.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Pete Walker and Jonathan Rigby:  Rigby, author of English Gothic, moderates this highly informative commentary track that has been kindly ported over from the previous DVD release.

    - Pete Walker: An Eye for Terror Part 2: Elijah Drenner interviews Walker in this 11 minute featurette that finds the director explaining his first interest in filmmaking as well as his own opinions on his films now.

    - Pete Walker Trailers: Includes The Flesh and Blood Show, House of Whipcord, Frightmare, The Comeback and Home Before Midnight.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Kino Lorber’s exciting Redemption banner does a fine service in their continuing efforts to bring Pete Walker’s work to the high-definition realm.  House of Mortal Sin is an effectively creepy take on a disturbed and obsessive priest.  Anthony Sharp steals the show as the twisted Father Meldrum who poisons and strangles his way through victims with no remorse.  Pete Walker’s tale of corruption and religion makes a wonderful leap to Blu-ray with a satisfactory video presentation and an informative array of special features to cut into.  Unquestionably, House of Mortal Sin is a personal favorite of Walker’s many works and one that is screaming to join your collection.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Death Do Us Part (2014) DVD Review

    Death Do Us Part (2014)
    Director: Nicholas Humprhies
    Starring: Julia Benson, Peter Benson, Emilie Ullerup, Christine Chatelain & Kyle Cassie
    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Wedding bells are ringing for Kennedy Jamieson and Ryan Harris as they decide to embark on a shared bachelor/bachelorette party with a group of friends.  Following the slasher movie formula, the group begins dwindling in size as the runtime increases.  Lensed in Canada and starring an up and coming group of locals, Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Death Do Us Part.  Directed by Nicholas Humprhies (Winner of Screamfest’s Best Short Film for The Little Mermaid), this bloody bachelor bash is destined to make you think twice about marriage because you might not live to see it...

    Death Do Us Part stars real-life couple Julia and Peter Benson as Kennedy Jamieson and Ryan Harris, a recently engaged couple who have been whisked away to a remote cabin for a joint bachelor party amongst friends.  Before long, the fun festivities take a terrifying turn as they start showing up dead courtesy of a mysterious killer.  Lies and accusations simultaneously plague the group as they fight to stay alive through the night.

    MOVIE:
    The alluring cover art for this new-age slasher flick does a fine job piquing interest.  But, as anyone who experienced the glory days of renting VHS at your local video store, know this is a tactic that trumped us more times than not.  A fun, bloody cover to lure you in is all that it takes and before you know it, you’re the victim of another dud.  Death Do Us Part taps into these very nostalgic times with the same less than satisfactory results.  Utilizing the slasher movie formula, the film earns credit for weaving the story around a bachelor/bachelorette party that doesn’t feel overdone compared to other  films of its ilk.  The points for originality end there as Death Do Us Part sends the viewer on a disappointing 89 minute ride.  Headlined by an attractive cast, there’s no denying that the performers are far too old to be portraying a cast of mid-twentysomethings.  Furthermore, the fact that they are indulging in excessive drinking and acting like they’re fresh out of a fraternity just feels pathetic.  The screenplay does little to help the situation, providing laughable dialogue and painful attempts at intended humor.  The film paints a cast hiding plenty of skeletons in their closet as the groom cheats on his bride-to-be with her sister and has his drug dealing cousin begging for money to pay off his supplier.  Death Do Us Part sets these characters up as highly unlikeable and pure bait for the mysterious killer who takes great pleasure in removing them from the screen.  

    Death Do Us Part does nothing new or original that we haven’t seen in past slashers.  As fingers are pointed and accusations are made, every man is for themselves as loyalty goes out the window.  Death scenes are uneventful and sometimes poorly executed as fake limbs are dreadfully obvious.  Death Do Us Part attempts a twist ending that can be seen a mile away, hammering the final nail in the coffin for this disappointing slasher.  While, the cast is attractive enough, there obviously too old to play the roles convincingly.  In addition, other slasher movie tropes of skin and sex are practically non-existent which is unfortunate.  The lack of effective scares, poorly executed death scenes and a lame twist ending make Death Do Us Part a flick you won’t want to commit to.
    RATING: 1/5

    VIDEO:
    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Death Do Us Part in an anamorphic widescreen transfer with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, the film does little to impress.  Colors are picked up and presented nicely while, black levels, especially in nighttime sequences in wooded areas, could have used a little more help.  Moments of the cast running from the killer are difficult to make out and appear as if they are running against a black backdrop.  The film looks as suitable as can be but nothing worth writing home about.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Death Do Us Part sounds quite nice with all dialogue picked up clearly.  Sound effects are handled well with the minimal amount of music relayed crisp and effectively.  
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Death Do Us Part: Behind the Scenes: This 8-minute fluff piece has the cast and Director discussing the origins of the project and how they came together.  The location for the film (belonging to one of the cast members’ fathers) became the launch pad for devising the story.

    RATING: 1.5/5

    OVERALL:
    The inviting cover art and halfway decent premise does little to live up to expectations.  Unfortunately, Death Do Us Part fails on nearly every level with zero scares, a poor screenplay and no originality to speak of.  Stars Julia and Peter Benson, who also served as co-producers and co-executive producers, should have bowed out of performing in front of the camera and casted the film younger for slightly better results.  While, the effort was there, the results are a lame attempt at a modern slasher flick that could have been quite fun otherwise.
    RATING: 2/5

  • Big Bad Wolves (2013) Blu-ray Review

    Big Bad Wolves (2013)
    Director(s): Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado
    Starring: Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad & Doval’e Glickman
    Released by: Magnolia Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hailed by Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) as the “best film of the year”, this captivating feature comes from the directing duo of Israel’s first produced horror film, 2010’s Kalevet.  Shocking and suspenseful, Big Bad Wolves weaves a disturbing tale of brutal crimes and the lives of those affected.  Soaked with an aura of black comedy, this grizzly depiction of revenge sends the viewer squeezing the armrest of their seat.  Proudly presented by Magnolia Pictures, Big Bad Wolves arrives in the US prepared to send the viewer on a dark, twisted journey that will leave you breathless...

    Big Bad Wolves centers on a series of brutal child murders that collides the lives of three different men.  The father of the latest victim (Tzahi Grad) hellbent on revenge, a vigilante detective (Lior Ashkenazi) operating outside the law and the suspected murderer (Rotem Keinan), a religious studies teacher arrested and eventually set free due to a police blunder.  

    MOVIE:
    Evoking a fairy tale tone reminiscent of The Brothers Grimm, Big Bad Wolves opens with an innocent group of children playing in an abandoned building.  Shortly after, a team of detectives escort a bookish-looking schoolteacher, whom they believe to be responsible for a series of grizzly child murders, to the location in order to retrieve a confession in an unorthodox manner.  Without an admission, the men have no choice but to let the balding teacher go while, in the shadows, a young boy has captured their unpleasant treatment of the man on his phone.  Micki (Lior Ashkenazi) is removed from the case following the video footage going viral, opting him to pursue the suspect outside the confines of the law.  Meanwhile, Dror (Rotem Keinan), the religious studies teacher, is ordered to step down from his position as rumors begin to swirl about his involvement in the murders.  Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of the latest victim, finds his daughter bound to a chair, sexually assaulted and beheaded in a backwoods area.  The investigation continues with no clear idea of who may be responsible while, Micki and eventually Gidi are convinced the schoolteacher is to blame.  Fueled by anger and revenge, Gidi abducts Dror and banishes him to the damp basement of his newly purchased home.  Simultaneously hunting Dror, Micki is inadvertently brought to Gidi’s basement with a front row seat to the justice awaiting the supposed murderer.  Alliances are made and broken as Gidi and Micki subject the accused to enormous amounts of torture.  As time progresses, the men, as well as the audience, slowly begin questioning the schoolteacher’s guilt.

    Possessing shades of Peter Jackson’s 2009 opus, The Lovely Bones, Big Bad Wolves delivers a mesmerizing story about tragedy and the individuals it brings together.  The grim nature of young girls being sexually abused and beheaded leaves little sympathy room for the culprit.  Ashkenazi’s Micki is convinced that Dror, a local schoolteacher, is guilty of the crimes and has no issue resorting to less than legal actions to bring him to justice.  Ashkenazi plays the role with a fierce and believable determination that has the audience rooting for him all the way.  In addition, Ashkenazi injects some much needed comic relief with his sarcastic remarks paving way for an even more likable character.  Rotem Keinan delivers a standout performance as Dror, the religious studies teacher accused of the disturbing crimes.  Visually, Keinan possesses many elements that make him appear a lonely outcast and unquestionably guilty.  Keinan showcases incredible range as he endures unspeakable pain while being tortured and still insisting on his innocence.  Tzahi Grad’s Gidi is fueled with revenge after the murder of his daughter and is hellbent on seeing Dror suffer.  Grad’s monotone speech and deadpan stare perfectly relay a man who has nothing left to lose.  Gidi bounds Dror to a chair and violently hammers his hands and clips his toenails completely off.  More black humor is infused when Gidi is constantly interrupted by phone calls from his nagging mother and an unexpected visit from his father (Doval’e Glickman).  When Gidi’s father is made aware of the nightmare in the basement, a reestablished sense of control seems imminent.  In an unexpected turn of events, Gidi’s father partakes in extracting information from Dror using a blowtorch.

    Big Bad Wolves tugs at the most tender of nerves and draws you into a horrifying story that is equally dark and riveting.  The ensemble cast work true magic with performances that make you laugh as much as they frighten.  The Israeli-lensed production casts a hypnotic spell as it keeps you guessing until a twisted ending that will leave you truly spooked.  Overwhelming positive buzz and the compliment of a lifetime from Quentin Tarantino promises that Big Bad Wolves is a film that lives up to its bark with a fiendishly, bloody bite.
    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:
    Magnolia Pictures presents Big Bad Wolves with a 1080p high definition transfer in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks marvelous with skin tones nicely intact and detail coming through well in clothing and perspiration from Dror’s face during his torture scenes.  In addition, black levels are handled beautifully especially in Gidi’s dim, cobweb infested basement.  Moments of imperfection are nonexistent on this splendid video transfer.
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix in Hebrew, Big Bad Wolves sounds just as remarkable as its video transfer looks.  Dialogue comes across loud and clear with subtle sound effects working effectively.  Frank Hayim Ilfman’s eerie score is robust with a well rounded bass sending chills down your spine as it invades your speakers while, Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” never sounded crisper.  A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio English dub mix is also included along with optional English subtitles.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Making Big Bad Wolves: This nearly 17 minute featurette is quite informative with Directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado discussing the fairy tale approach to the material while, the cast discuss their roles and their working relationship together.  In addition, the usage of practical effects over CGI and the importance of a powerful soundtrack are also touched upon.

    - AXS TV: A Look at Big Bad Wolves: A much shorter piece that merely borrows shortened interviews from the superior featurette.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Also from Magnolia Entertainment: Trailers for The Last Day on Mars, Beyond Outrage, Here Comes the Devil, Journey to the West and an advertisement for AXS TV.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Big Bad Wolves is a phenomenal effort from a highly talented duo of filmmakers from the unexpected region of Israel.  Disturbing, shocking and surprisingly hilarious, Big Bad Wolves accomplished telling an adult fairy tale set against the backdrop of our all too grim real world.  Packed with delicious performances from a small, intimate cast and a powerful score from the talented Frank Hayim Ilfman, Big Bad Wolves is a disturbingly, entertaining film that makes you question your own thoughts.  Magnolia Pictures has presented the film with a pitch perfect audio and video package which only makes the viewing experience all the better.  Big Bad Wolves will send you on a mesmerizing journey with a finale that will leave you in absolute disarray.
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • 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)

  • )

    Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #6: Phantom of the Paradise, Dead Kids, Transformers: Armada & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #6 includes:

    - Phantom of the Paradise (1974) (0:33)
    Street Date: February 24, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - In Fear (2013) (8:00)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Anchor Bay: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Dead Kids (1981) (11:46)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - Thirst (1979) (16:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #1 (21:16)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Impulse Pictures: http://synapse-films.com/category/impulse-pictures/

    - Transformers: Armada The Complete Series (25:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:15)

  • The Invoking (2013) DVD Review

    The Invoking (2013)
    Director: Jeremy Berg
    Starring: Trin Miller, Andi Norris, Brandon Anthony, Josh Truax & D’Angelo Midili
    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The dark memories of ones past can only stay buried for so long until they come haunting.  First time Director, Jeremy Berg, explores the sinister past of an adopted woman as she uncovers more than she bargained for in the rural area of Sader Ridge.  Hailed as “chilling” by Fangoria and a “must-see” from FEARnet, The Invoking blends interpersonal drama amongst a group of friends and haunting imagery together to bring a sinister tale to life.  Terror awaits as unspeakable evil plagues a young, up and coming cast in The Invoking...

    The Invoking finds Samantha Harris (Trin Miller) traveling with three friends to her newly inherited house from a family she never knew.  Shortly after arriving, the abandoned house begins plaguing Samantha with horrific visions of evil brutality.  As the forces of darkness become more apparent, Samantha struggles to determine what’s real and fantasy.  Co-starring Andi Norris, Brandon Anthony, Josh Truax & D’Angelo Midili.

    MOVIE:
    A strong story is only as good as its characters and sadly, The Invoking has neither.  Red-headed lead, Trin Miller, stars as Samantha Harris, a woman who was adopted at a young age.  Traveling with a trio of friends to a house she recently inherited from her natural family, the group fail to invoke any sense of natural chemistry and their lack of professional experience is noticeable in their stiff performances.  Andi Norris and Josh Truax co-star as Samantha’s friends that reek of hipster quality and make you cringe with the majority of their delivered lines.  In addition, Brandon Anthony appears as Mark, Samantha’s ex-boyfriend, the token jerk of the group because there always has to be one.  Anthony, for better or worse, plays the most unlikeable role as a jealous buffoon who gets his rocks off giving people an attitude.  Upon arriving at the backwoods house, the group are greeted by Eric (D’Angelo Midili), a local twentysomething that grew up playing with Samantha before she was adopted.  Midili conveys one of the only decent performances of the film as a soft spoken war veteran with skeletons in the closet.  The Invoking spends the better part of an hour establishing the dramatics of the group’s relationships, making the viewer question if this is a horror film they’re watching.  Unfortunately, the attempts at character development are wasted as the cast fail to create any likable personas for the audience to care about.  The more time spent at the house, Samantha begins developing horrific images of her friends acting in evil ways that hardly make sense, often times resulting in unintentional humor.  It becomes clear that Samantha’s natural parents weren’t the finest of folks and the nightmarish imagery being seen are forgotten memories being resurrected.  Eric’s true colors as an unhinged foster child that never moved on from his friendship with Samantha are revealed as he gets closer with her.  Eric plays puppet master over Samantha’s friends as each are killed off leaving Samantha all for himself.  The less than exciting murder sequences are quick and bloodless leaving any horror fan searching for corn syrup disappointed.  The Invoking drags itself to an unsurprisingly anti-climatic ending that will leave you scratching your head at the logic.  

    A group of friends traveling to an abandoned house seems like the ideal, albeit clichéd, premise for an eventful horror movie.  Sadly, The Invoking tells an unfocused story that never scares and fails to intrigue.  The cast of young thespians are far too unnatural to carry the film with the exception of Midili’s slightly creepy performance and Miller’s girl next door appearance that deserved a better project to shine in.  The Invoking appeared intriguing enough but be warned, it doesn’t get any more hollow than this.
    RATING: 1/5

    VIDEO:
    Image Entertainment presents The Invoking in a widescreen (1.78:1) transfer that is far from perfect.  The desolate, rural setting doesn’t leave much room for robust colors resulting in a washed out appearance.  Black levels are disappointing with pixelation and murkiness running rampant, making exterior nighttime sequences barely visible.  Exterior daytime sequences encounter issues with light slightly overblown casting unnatural contrast on actors‘ faces.  While, it all seems downright awful, the film still walks away sufficient enough for a decent presentation, warts and all.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, The Invoking passes with clear dialogue and background noises of chirping birds that come across fine.  Without experiencing any intrusions in the listening experience, the mix never does much to stand out.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeremy Berg, Producer Matt Medisch and Writer/Producer John Portanova

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Trin Miller, D’Angelo Midili & Andi Norris

    - Behind the Scenes Documentary: This surprisingly lengthy documentary, running nearly 75 minutes, talks to the creative talent about the origins of the project as well as the principal actors.  The documentary is very in-depth although, painful as the talent behind the camera discuss all the components they felt made the film work so well are exactly what the film lacks.  Regardless, this featurette, coupled with the commentaries, makes this a beefy package of special features for such a lackluster flick.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    The Invoking invites viewers to an experience of terror and horror that unfortunately never delivers.  An unfocused story, lame characters and no sense of suspense or thrills leaves The Invoking as a criminal disappointment.  Fortunately, Image Entertainment has provided a reasonable AV presentation plus, an unusually vast and detailed amount of special features that give a firm insight into the making of the film.  Ultimately, The Invoking will leave you more confused than frightened forcing you to keep it buried.
    RATING: 2.5/5

  • The Reverend (2011) DVD Review

    The Reverend (2011)
    Director: Neil Jones
    Starring: Stuart Brennan, Tamer Hassan, Emily Booth, Doug Bradley & Rutger Hauer
    Released by: Level 33 Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The eternal battle between good and evil continues in a cautionary tale about belief and temptation.  Sworn by his oath to the church, a young Reverend’s life at his new parish are put to the test after learning of the village’s dark side.  Filled with spiritual themes and gory violence, Level 33 Entertainment proudly presents The Reverend.  Starring genre vets including Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) and Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), The Reverend advises you to cling to your faith before experiencing this soul-scorching film...

    The Reverend stars Stuart Brennan (Risen) as a young clergyman, who shortly after delivering his first sermon, is savagely bitten on the neck by a beautiful woman.  Surviving the attack, the Reverend simultaneously develops an uncontrollable thirst for blood and learns the dark nature that plagues his community.  Overrun by drugs and prostitution, the Reverend uses his new abilities to bring justice to the sinners of the village.  Based on an unpublished graphic novel, the film co-stars Tamer Hassan (Batman Begins), Emily Booth (Doghouse), Doug Bradley (Nightbreed) and Rutger Hauer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    MOVIE:
    Opening with a confrontation between God (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and Satan (Rutger Hauer) debating the soul of a devoted clergyman, The Reverend appears promising enough.  Sadly, this all too brief appearance from cult icon Hauer will mark his only moment in the film.  Showcasing panels from the unpublished graphic novel over the opening credits, the film attempts to attract a Sin City-esque spirit with miserable results.  The Reverend presents a decent enough plot but stumbles in selling it properly to the viewer.  Consumed with overlong dialogue sequences that seemingly go nowhere, The Reverend reeks of a production plagued by a director wearing one too many hats.  Interestingly enough, Director Neil Jones not only directed but, wrote and produced the film which could explain much.  Presumably staying true to the source material, the film manages to suffer even with a plot centered around a vampiric Reverend sworn to achieve justice.  The lack of excitement is substituted with more scenes of talkative mumbo-jumbo that suggests a director’s unwillingness to yell “cut”.  Luckily, Stuart Brennan’s lead performance is an earnest one that is only stunted from the subpar screenplay and lack of direction.  Brennan’s descent into vampirism is borderline laughable as he attends a gothic film club meeting and researches the mythology in an internet cafe.  One would assume that a Reverend researching vampires in public would raise quite a few eyebrows.  In addition, genre vet, Doug Bradley’s (Hellraiser), brief role as a fellow clergyman is so futile that any second rate actor could have accomplished it.  What the film lacks in action and depth, slightly makes up for in gore.  Savage neck bites and stabbings are on full display in well-achieved graphic detail.

    The Reverend attempted a unique tale on vampires and faith that fell apart almost immediately.  Mindless direction and an anti-climatic ending firmly planted the stake in this missed opportunity.  Stuart Brennan’s satisfactory performance and the surprising amount of blood utilized in the few violent sequences are credited as the film’s only saving graces.  The lack of publication for the graphic novel begs the question how a film adaptation was ever green lit.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    Level 33 Entertainment presents The Reverend in a widescreen transfer that is generally acceptable.  The film possesses a rather muted look with a lack of colors.  Detail is decent in faces and wardrobe while, black levels vary in quality from scene to scene.  The digital cameras used are evident giving the film a noticeable digital-age quality that removes you from the experience.  The transfer isn’t horrendous, but it’s nothing that deserves praise either.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, The Reverend sounds pretty awful.  The opening scene between Radice and Hauer captures a far echo-ier sound than needed, restraining dialogue from being heard properly.  In addition, the remainder of dialogue scenes never pack a solid punch forcing one to continue raising the volume which hardly helps.  Brennan’s narrations are painfully low with background music all but overpowering his words making each moment far from audible.  A disappointing mix that constricts the viewing experience.
    RATING: 2/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Behind the Scenes Slideshow: Over 40 shots are on display.

    - Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:
    The Reverend presented itself with a promising story but failed in delivering.  The film feels lifeless, struggling to push the narrative with overlong dialogue sequences that halt  any exciting energy it could have had.  The appearances from the talented Bradley and Hauer are too brief to even be remembered, while Brennan achieves decent emotion but only sinks due to the film’s inability to be more enthralling.  Level 33 Entertainment’s video presentation is adequate but greatly suffers from a horrendous audio mix and subpar special features.  The disappointment of this curious concept can be firmly laid to rest, six feet below.
    RATING: 2/5

  • Dracula 3D (2012) Blu-ray Review


    Dracula 3D (2012)
    Director: Dario Argento
    Starring: Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento, Unax Ugalde & Rutger Hauer
    Released by: MPI Media Group

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The king of Italian horror, Dario Argento, has returned with his unique vision of Bram Stoker’s original classic.  Adapted countless times in various forms, the gothic tale of Dracula is indeed eternal and thirsty for yet another retelling.  Argento’s interpretation also marks his first foray in the 3D realm, inviting viewers that much closer to the prince of darkness‘ deadly bite.  Soaked in mystic atmosphere and eroticism, Argento’s Dracula 3D wishes to suck your blood.  Does Dracula’s latest attempt in three dimensions have what it takes to cast a spell on its audience?  Let’s not dawdle any longer and find out...

    Dracula 3D finds famed Italian horror master, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Tenebrae), conducting his own unique vision of the iconic Bram Stoker novel.  400 years have passed since the passing of Count Dracula’s (Thomas Kretschmann) wife, leaving him eternally lonely.  Upon discovering that newlywed Mina Harker (Marta Gastini) bears a striking similarity to his wife, Dracula is obsessed with making her his.  Utilizing Mina’s husband, Jonathan (Unax Ugalde) and best friend, Lucy (Asia Argento) as pawns, Dracula slowly embarks on uniting with his newfound love.  Fortunately, noted vampire expert, Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer), arrives in order to put an end to Dracula’s unholy ways before it’s too late.

    MOVIE:
    As many famed auteurs age, the quality of their output is generally criticized for not being on par with past accomplishments.  In recent years, no horror director has been critiqued more so than Dario Argento.  Many would argue that after the 1980s, Argento’s genius seemingly stopped with the majority of his later work failing to capture audiences.  After completing his Three Mothers trilogy with 2007’s Mother of Tears and the tumultuous road to releasing 2009’s Giallo, Argento seemed overdue for a comeback of sorts.  Dracula 3D is Argento’s unique vision of the Bram Stoker novel without being a direct adaptation.  In addition, Argento assigned this film to be his first experiment with the 3D format.  As hopeful as Argento adapting Stoker sounds, Dracula 3D is yet another devastating disappointment from the man that delivered such classics as Deep Red and Opera.  The worst offense Dracula 3D is guilty of is the abysmal screenplay.  Oddly enough, this “unique vision” of an already established novel took four writers, including Argento, to bring the painfully wooden dialogue to screen.  The bland writing contaminates the film like a plague resulting in hollow performances from the entire cast.  Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted) invokes sex appeal but lacks any charisma as Dracula, resulting in one of the most boring performances of the character.  The remainder of the cast suffers the same fate as the poor writing hinders them from a serviceable performance.  Luckily, Argento has not lost his touch when hiring beautiful actresses, including his daughter Asia Argento (Land of the Dead) and Maria Cristina Heller (Angels & Demons), who are never shy when bearing their assets.  In addition, cult icon, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, The Hitcher), appears as the vampire avenging Van Helsing.  Unfortunately, Hauer’s appearance comes fairly late in the film and does little to invigorate the film’s energy.

    Dracula 3D, while tame compared to Argento’s previous efforts, still manages to deliver decent gore in the form of slashed necks, axes to the head and of course, good old fashioned vampire bites.  Unfortunately, decent gore is trumped by horrendous CG effects including a laughable wolf to human transformation as well as an odd gigantic insect murder that will leave you dumbfounded.  Luckily, the set design and costumes do a fine job establishing the intended gothic atmosphere with more than decent results.  Interestingly enough, Argento’s first forary into 3D is a wildly effective one.  A nice sense of depth is coupled with gimmicky “in-your-face” effects that include swords, tree branches and animals charging the screen.  Sadly, Argento’s Dracula 3D disappoints on nearly every level.  The bland screenplay works as a domino effect resulting in wooden performances from the cast and an overall boring cinematic experience.  The gimmick of 3D is the only effective piece of the film that acts more as an odd curiosity.  As hopeful as one was, Dracula 3D lacks any of the spirit and originality Argento once possessed.  Argento completists will have difficulty finding any merit in this film that deserves to be staked through the heart.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    MPI Media Group presents Dracula 3D in a 1080p anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer.  The film is nicely detailed with excellent handling on black levels for which there are many.  Night scenes and the darker clothing of some of the actors show no signs of crushing whatsoever.  A tint of softness is present, but welcome, at times to capture the dreary gothic atmosphere.  Skin tones are also well preserved making this transfer more than ample.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    3D VIDEO:
    Having both 2D and 3D versions available on one disc, the 3D version of Dracula 3D is surprisingly stunning.  The opening title sequence sways through the village of the film creating a wonderful sense of depth.  Continued instances of depth are furthered in backwoods scenes where the branches of trees invade your eye-line.  Gimmicky, yet wildly effective, uses of 3D are seen in swords through actors‘ bodies, animals charging the camera and actors‘ fingers that practically reach out and touch the viewer.  A handful of blurring moments occurred throughout the film which were noticeably inferior to the otherwise stellar majority.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Dracula 3D comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  For the most part, the mix is sufficient with frightening moments capturing a loud push and Claudio Simonetti’s score, which invokes shades of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows,   beautifully projected.  Unfortunately, dialogue seems to be more of a mixed bag.  At times, speech is loud and robust while others, most noticeably whenever Dracula speaks, the mix is a struggle to hear causing a wrestling match with your volume button.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Behind the Scenes: This surprisingly lengthy making of featurette captures fly on the wall shots during production as well as incredibly informative interviews from nearly every member on the show including actors, screenwriters, art designers, 3D effects artists and more.

    - "Kiss Me Dracula" Music Video: Performed by Simonetti Project.  Presented in 2D and 3D.

    - Trailer

    - Red Band Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D is another poor addition to Argento’s recent canon.  The horrendous screenplay all but doomed this production as its cluelessness gravely affected the performances of the cast.  The passion and creativity that oozed from Argento’s earlier works is all but lost here as Dracula 3D plays as a boring attempt at gothic horror.  Thankfully, MPI Media Group’s presentation is a delight with a superior video presentation and effective 3D treatment.  In addition, the few supplements provided, namely the behind the scenes featurette, is far more interesting than the film itself.  The real tragedy of Dracula 3D is what it could have been had the right components and passion been in place.  Sadly, Dracula 3D is another Argento effort best forgotten.
    RATING: 2.5/5

  • The Power (1984) DVD Review



    The Power (1984)
    Director(s): Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
    Starring: Susan Stokey, Warren Lincoln, Lisa Erickson & J. Dinan Myrtetus
    Released by: Scorpion Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributor, Scorpion Releasing, is ready to send you for a roller coaster ride filled with possession and horrors thanks to The Power!  This unique blending of genres showcases what happens when an ancient talisman ends up in the wrong hands  and all hell breaks loose.  From the directing duo who brought you The Dorm That Dripped Blood and The Kindred, The Power has been resurrected in a brand new HD master prepared to make you think twice before communicating with the spirit world.  After a lengthy delay, let’s investigate just how powerful this flick is...

    The Power centers on an Aztec idol that is stolen before ending up in the curious hands of three high school students determined to make contact with the spirit world.  Unfortunately, the idols powers are proven very real when another young man steals it for his own purposes and is consumed by its horrific energy.  Can The Power be contained or are the teens doomed to feel the idols wraith?

    MOVIE:
    The alluring rainbow filled poster art for The Power is hypnotic, to say the least.  A cautionary and doom-like tagline ices the cake for what is hoped to be an enjoyable viewing experience.  As the film begins, a college professor is lecturing a class before a snarky student makes offhanded comments.  The professor makes eye contact with an ancient idol sitting in his briefcase before setting his stern gaze on the student causing a bloody nose for the smart aleck.  As the lecture concludes, the professor is greeted by a colleague who is firmly aware that the relic is consuming his friend.  Before long, the professor is left alone with his prized possession until its power is revealed causing the educator to be elevated and impaled on a flagpole.  Suffice to say, a terrific opening.  Without missing a beat, we are whisked away to a desert land where the recently deceased professor’s friend is on the hunt for the relic.  The energy of this ancient talisman continues to grow as the man learns it is now possessed by an elderly gentleman and young boy unwilling to part with it.  The man does the noble thing and shoots them dead before making his claim on it.  This is where The Power begins to test its audiences‘ patience.  The film seems to start over yet again, opening with three high school students planning to conduct a seance later that evening.  Nearly 20 minutes into the film, The Power fails to deliver a stable set of characters for the viewer to latch onto.  Finally, the high schoolers meet at the local cemetery with personal items in tow they feel will protect them should anything go wrong.  Of course, one student has the talisman that seems to be hot on everyone’s Christmas list.  How did his parents come into possession of it before passing it on as a gift?  An explanation is apparently not necessary.  The seance commences with the teens awakening a power that is far beyond their expectations resulting in the death of a cemetery worker.  Just when you thought you had a set of characters you could zone in on, alas more are on the way!  The teens seek the guidance of a local tabloid writer who they believe can help them in their unique situation.  Of course, the writer doesn’t put much faith in their story but her ex-boyfriend isn’t so sure.  He decides to do some investigating on his own before getting consumed by the relic and stealing it for his own purposes.  

    The Power certainly has its share of issues finding its footing but it eventually gets there an hour into the film.  As the idol appears in the writer and her former beau’s life, odd occurrences start.  In an effective nightmare sequence, multiple hands emerge from the woman’s mattress and attempt to stab her before she awakes.  The longer her ex keeps the idol in his possession, the worse his obsession becomes.  He begins to morph into a demon-like creature and is determined to kill his former lover and the teens.  The final act is a fun recovery for an otherwise sloppy first half.  The man’s horrific transformation is a highlight with wonderful make-up effects taking center stage and a demise for the creature that is just as satisfying.  The film concludes jumping ahead three years finding the female teenager in college.  She is greeted by an earlier character that simply appears as a bookend for the film.  He wishes to ask her about her experiences with the relic that have been recorded in a novel written by the tabloid writer that also survived.  The film ends not making a tremendous amount of sense but leaves the viewer with an enjoyable jump scare before the end credits.  The Power had a very bumpy start getting the viewer invested in a core group of characters.  But, the film found its way by finally zeroing in on the three high schoolers and the tabloid writer.  The film would have benefitted immensely had the makers spent less time setting up the relic’s drawn out history and more on those who would possess it for the duration of the film.  Luckily, The Power has some great make-up effects and nifty nightmarish imagery that makes the viewing experience worth it.  The Power may not be the greatest film, but it certainly has some choices moments, warts and all.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    The Power is presented in a brand new HD anamorphic widescreen master (1.78:1).  After being delayed due to a better print being located, The Power makes a decent splash on this release.  The film certainly has its fair share of speckles and pops in the transfer, but detail looks nice with colors represented nicely.  Black levels, while quite murky at times, are still presented as good as can be.  Utilizing this better print, one can only imagine how much worse the film could have looked.  Thankfully, Scorpion Releasing did the right thing and presents this film in arguably the best shape it will see.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    The Power comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that has its fair share of hiccups as well.  Instances of hiss and static are present throughout the mix but surprisingly never intrude on dialogue.  Pops are heard, mostly during reel changes, but again nothing that deters the viewer from catching any moments of dialogue.  A serviceable treatment that could easily have been far worse.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Katarina’s Nightmare Theater: Katarina Leigh Waters hosts this optional featurette providing an intro and outro to the film scattered with informative facts and humorous hijinks.  

    - Original Trailer

    - Scorpion Releasing Trailers: Includes Grizzly, Day of the Animals, Dogs, Lurkers and Sorceress.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    The Power tripped over its feet for spending far too much time establishing the relic’s past with former owners and less on those that would steer the majority of the film.  Thankfully, the film does well bouncing back with likable characters and effective make-up designs that save the film from being a total disappointment.  Scorpion Releasing has again saved another cult favorite from obscurity and preserving it with the best care it is likely to receive.  Special features are minimal but those jonesing for an early 80s effort in evil clay relics, The Power might be worth putting in your hands.  
    RATING: 3/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #1: Nightmare City, Die, Monster, Die!, Vinegar Syndrome & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #1 includes:

    - Nightmare City (1980)
    Street Date: December 31, 2013
    Raro Video: http://www.rarovideousa.com/

    - Die, Monster, Die! (1965)
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Cat People (1982) Collector's Edition
    Street Date: January 21, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Judy (1969) / The Night Hustlers (1968)
    Street Date: January 7, 2014
    Vinegar Syndrome: http://vinegarsyndrome.com/launch/

    - The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) / The Neanderthal Man (1953)
    Street Date: January 28, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

  • Tenebrae (1982) Blu-ray Review (UK)


    Tenebrae (1982)
    Director: Dario Argento
    Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Veronica Lario, Daria Nicolodi & John Saxon
    Released by: Arrow Video (available exclusively via www.Zaavi.com)

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The master of the giallo, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), has thrilled and terrified audiences for nearly 50 years.  From his early beginnings with 1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Argento has earned himself the label of a true artist with a clear and precise vision in all of his haunted works.  During, what would arguably be considered his peak years, Argento crafted a frightening tale with autobiographical roots that harked back to the genre he helped create.  Newly remastered, Arrow Films, proudly presents Tenebrae in a limited edition SteelBook release.  Let’s take a look and see how this once labeled “video nasty” and beloved Argento classic has aged...

    Tenebrae stars Anthony Franciosa (Julie Darling) as Peter Neal, an American horror writer, in Rome promoting his latest best-seller.  A serial killer is stalking his every move while others associated with his work start popping up dead.  The film co-stars Christian Borromeo (House on the Edge of the Park), Veronica Lario (Sotto... sotto), Carola Stagnaro (Opera), Daria Nicolodi (Inferno) and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

    MOVIE:
    Dario Argento’s films have always mystified as much as they have terrified.  Sandwiched between two other classic works (Inferno and Phenomena), Argento helmed this semi-autobiographical terrorfest about a horror writer harassed by a razor-wielding madman.  Argento admits that while in Los Angeles, he was called constantly by a stranger who admired the Italian director’s work.  Eventually, the calls grew more aggressive and the caller blamed Argento’s films for ruining his life and wished to kill him.  While being understandably frightened, Argento returned back to his homeland with the seed for a new story.  Tenebrae finds the director of The Cat o’ Nine Tails returning to his roots to tell a more realistic tale of horror.  The film does a fine job with a core cast that fit into their roles like a black leather glove.  Franciosa headlines as the handsome and modest author of horror literature that is slowly being stalked while his fellow associates are dropping like flies.  Franciosa is a natural which allows him to slide into the character of Peter Neal without the audience remembering they are watching an actor on the job. In addition, other cast highlights include Argento regular Daria Nicolodi who co-stars as Neal’s assistant, Anne.  Nicolodi complements Franciosa’s performance as a loyal and trusted friend with a hint of an attraction for her employer.  Genre star, John Saxon (Enter the Dragon), also appears as Neal’s literary agent which benefits the film thanks to the actor’s undeniable charm.

    Tenebrae is a successful example of style and substance meeting perfectly together.  Argento, along with Director of Photography Luciano Tovoli (Suspiria), work wonders with their camerawork while weaving a tale of genuine mystery and terror.  Moments of murder are shocking in their brutality but also a visual delight akin to a painter executing a masterpiece with his brush.  Tenebrae is an arresting film with terrific performances and a plot that keeps the viewer guessing while constantly jumping in their seats.  Already a master of Italian horror by Tenebrae, Argento directs the film with pure artistry while collaborator Claudio Simonetti (Dawn of the Dead, Demons) serves up yet another hypnotic and haunting score that acts as a character itself.  Tenebrae is a masterful entry in Argento’s impressive body of work that succeeds in nearly every way a solid giallo should.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Arrow Video presents Tenebrae in a newly remastered 1080p High-Definition (1.85:1) transfer.  The opening shots of Tenebrae being read don’t appear particularly noteworthy but immediately following, a revelation occurs.  Simply put, the film becomes nothing short of breathtaking!   Detail is remarkable in facial features while black levels stun with no crushing seen anywhere.  While, not an overly vibrant film, colors pop beautifully in actors‘ clothing while death scenes dazzle the eyes with the boldness of the blood’s color.  Tenebrae looks incredible and exceeded my expectations by a mile!
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Tenebrae comes equipped with an uncompressed PCM Mono 2.0 Audio mix.  Dialogue comes off clearly with no issues in the pops or hiss department while sound effects like a crashing window or a razor slash are crisp as can be.  Simonetti’s addicting score is the real prizewinner of the mix as it commands your speakers with a boom!  The catchy synth sounds are as loud as can be and might even encourage you to tone your volume down...  Then again.  Tenebrae succeeds in serving up a robust mix that compliments the perfect video presentation.  In addition, optional original English and Italian Mono Audio tracks are provided along with optional English subtitles.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:
    (NOTE: The collector’s booklet listed below was not provided for the purposes of this review, therefor the rating of this section cannot take it into consideration)

    - Introduction by Star Daria Nicolodi

    - Audio Commentary with Kim Newman and Alan Jones

    - Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock

    - The Unsane World of Tenebrae: An Interview with Director Dario Argento: Argento waxes intellectual about the origins of the film and critics’ opinions of him and his work.

    - Screaming Queen!  Daria Nicolodi Remember Tenebrae

    - A Composition for Carnage: Composer Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae

    - Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches: One of the supplemental highlights as Goblin rocks out in this 16 minute segment from Friday, February 25, 2011.

    - Out of the Shadows: A Discussion with Maitland McDonagh: Another highlight of the disc is this scholarly interview with McDonagh, author of Broken Mirrors / Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Collector’s booklet: Featuring writing on the film by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento, an interview with Cinematographer Lucian Tovoli and an appreciation of the film by Director Peter Strickland.

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    Tenebrae is yet another masterpiece from arguably Argento’s finest years.  The film grabs hold with its unique camerawork and engaging performances wrapped in a story that successfully achieves mystery and murder.  Arrow Videos‘ presentation of the film is breathtaking and bolsters a strong audio mix that is sure to please fans of the film and its popular soundtrack.  In addition, the supplemental features are vast and informative leaving you with a deeper appreciation and love for the film.  Tenebrae ranks highly as one of Argento’s best while Arrow Videos‘ treatment accomplishes being one of the best  releases of any Argento film to date!
    RATING: 5/5

  • Toad Road (2012) DVD Review


    Toad Road (2012)
    Director: Jason Banker
    Starring: James Davidson, Sara Anne Jones, Jim Driscoll, Scott Rader & Jamie Siebold
    Released by: Artsploitation Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cementing their status as one of the leading forces of unique and independent cinema, Artsploitation Films teams up with Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision to invite viewers down a hallucinatory path.  Toad Road is Artsploitation Films’ first American acquisition, shot on a shoestring budget that feels akin to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project in its execution.  Honest and disturbing, Toad Road sends chills down your spine in unexpected ways that make you wish for the terror to end.  The barriers of reality and nightmares become blurred as the characters struggle to navigate in this mixture of urban myth lore and documentary.  In order to find out what truly lies on Toad Road, let’s trip out…


    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Toad_Road__Artsploitation_/toad_road__artsploitation_.html

  • The Beast Within (1982) Blu-ray Review


    The Beast Within (1982)
    Director: Philippe Mora
    Starring: Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, L.Q. Jones & R.G. Armstrong
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From deep within the swampy marshes of Mississippi comes a beast like no other!  Scream Factory proudly presents, for the first time on Blu-ray, The Beast Within.  A diverse cast of seasoned vets all guided under the watchful eye of the director of Mad Dog Morgan come together for this story of man becomes beast.  After flopping at the box-office during its original release, a cult following has emerged over the years for this terrifying flick.  It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed, but does this beast still have what it takes to gnaw your soul?  Let’s find out...

    The Beast Within centers on Michael MacCleary (Paul Clemens), the offspring of a woman who was savagely raped by a swamp beast.  17 years have passed since the incident and Michael has grown into a fine, young man.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long before the inherited evil consumes him and forces his hand to feed amongst unsuspecting victims.  The supporting cast is rounded out by Ronny Cox (Beverly Hills Cop), Bibi Besch (Tremors), L.Q. Jones (Casino) and R.G. Armstrong (Dick Tracy).  Philippe Mora (The Howling II:... Your Sister Is a Werewolf) directs from a screenplay by Tom Holland (director of Fright Night and Child’s Play).

    MOVIE:
    There’s no denying the similarities The Beast Within holds with the monster flicks of the 1950s.  Even down to the title, The Beast Within feels like a 50s concept updated for a modern 1980s audience.  In addition, like much of the golden era of monster pictures, some were entertaining, others missed their mark and some were just downright awful.  The Beast Within falls somewhere in the middle.  The film kicks off intriguing enough, albeit cliché-ridden, with newlyweds making a wrong turn before the wife is savagely assaulted and raped by a monster of some sort, deep within the woods.  Shortly after, we skip ahead 17 years and learn that the teenage son of that couple is experiencing some abnormal changes.  Michael MacCleary (Paul Clemens) has been holed up in hospitals as experts imagine he is on the verge of death.  Nightmarish images haunt Michael before he awakes with a yearning to return to the town of his mother’s assault.  From this point on, the film has trouble staying interesting.  Sure, there are moments of Michael’s abnormal behavior returning resulting in the murders of several townsfolk but just as the going gets good, the film hits the brakes again.  The film has issues staying afloat with a spotty narrative that leaves the viewer unclear as to what’s occurring at times.  

    While it seems harsh, there are plenty of quality merits that come along with The Beast Within.  Les Baxter (The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven) provides an incredibly haunting and satisfying score that sets a wonderful tone for the film.  The supporting cast is littered with genre performers ranging from Ronny Cox (Robocop) to L.Q. Jones (director of A Boy and His Dog) giving it their all.  Michael’s full-fledged transformation scene, which tediously takes the majority of the runtime to reach, pays off in spades.  Special Effects maestro Thomas R. Burman (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Goonies) accomplishes a truly nasty and painful looking transformation for our leading actor which showcases Michael’s head blowing up realistically like a ballon.  While, the final result of the swamp cicada-esque beast is quite laughable, it makes for entertaining eye-candy.  Make no mistake about it, The Beast Within is not a bad film, it just never swayed me the way it has other cult enthusiasts.  The film is filled with good intentions but spends far too much time digging itself out of a muddy plot that gets away from its fun concept.  The Beast Within has its moments and perhaps one day I’ll view it as something greater but for the time being, it still falls somewhere in the gray zone.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents The Beast Within in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen (2.35:1) transfer.  The film looks decent with nice detail in facial features but black levels never reach their full potential.  For a film with tremendous night scenes, there always seems to be a little too much speckling in the shots.  Then again, this was a film that wasn’t shot on a tremendous budget which can be marked for most of the blame.  In addition, exterior shots during the day appear to have a softness to them which can also be attributed to the amount of fog in said scenes.  The Beast Within has never been a tremendously colorful film but the few instances such as Michael’s baby-blue varsity jacket pop nicely.  While it seems mediocre, Scream Factory’s treatment is definitely an improvement on previous DVD editions and most likely the best the film will see for the foreseeable future.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    The Beast Within comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo 2.0 mix that is quite sufficient.  Dialogue comes across with no noticeable hitches while Les Baxter’s terrific score is striking and robust at particular key moments.  The Beast Within is not a film with a grand sound design so there aren’t many standout moments that make this mix anything more than serviceable.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Philippe Mora & Actor Paul Clemens: The two get along famously, at times even talking over each other in excitement.  Both men discuss a variety of topics including Les Baxter’s wonderful score, shooting on location in Mississippi, the H.P. Lovecraft references found in the film and the studio’s insistence to tone the film down due to test audiences being too terrified.

    - Audio Commentary with Writer Tom Holland: Moderated by Rob Galluzzo of Icons of Fright, Holland stays talky for the duration of the commentary touching on many different aspects including his unique origins of landing the job.  Apparently, Holland was tasked with adapting the title of a book that was yet to be published.  Oddly enough, the book wasn’t even published until after the film was released.  Holland cites his references and nods to H.P. Lovecraft as well as the uniqueness of the story that he believes still feels fresh.  The original failure and later rebirth of the film as a cult favorite has astonished Holland and he believes the film has aged well.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Radio spots

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    The Beast Within is the story of a man turned beast that originally tanked at the box-office before being re-birthed into a cult hit.  The film consciously stays close to horror clichés and monster movies of the 1950s, but never manages to knock it out of the park in the long run.  The effective score and genre-seasoned actors do a fine job with the task at hand.   The transformation scene is the highlight of the film that is most impressive and unfortunately not as hailed when compared to other films of the time such as An American Werewolf in London and The Thing.  The beauty of a cult flick like The Beast Within is that only a select grouping take the greatest appreciation from it.  I’d like to consider myself an acquaintance of that group, The Beast Within is far from perfect but definitely has its fair share of entertaining moments.  Without question, Scream Factory should be applauded for bringing yet another cult favorite into our HD libraries with sufficient visual and audio specs as well as informative and nostalgic supplements.  Unleash your inner beast and add this into your Scream Factory collection now!
    RATING: 3.5/5

  • TV Terrors: The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978) DVD Review



    The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978)
    Director(s): Robert Day / Walter Grauman
    Starring: Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany & Morgan Fairchild / Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner & Dennis Quaid
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Embarking on uncharted territory, Scream Factory has jumped into your living room with a double dose of television frights from the 1970s.  Two flicks, both from 1978, center on a college freshmen with psychic powers while the other focuses on a high schooler who becomes the target of a stalker, make up this collection from a time when Dallas and Taxi ruled the airwaves.  In today’s reality TV obsessed culture, how do these bygone made-for-television efforts holds up?  Grab your microwavable dinner, turn out the lights and let’s find out…

    The Initiation of Sarah stars Kay Lenz (House) as Sarah Goodwin, a shy college freshman who joins a sorority as a way to fit in.  Unfortunately, the sorority’s housemother played by Shelley Winters, is a witch who knows Sarah has the gift of psychic abilities.  The twisted old woman encourages Sarah to use her powers for revenge.  The supporting cast includes Morgan Brittany (Dallas) and an exceptionally bitchy Morgan Fairchild (The Seduction).  Next up, Are You in the House Alone?! finds a beautiful high school student (Kathleen Beller of The Sword and the Sorcerer) the target of a sadistic stalker who has been leaving obscene messages in her locker and watching her every move.  The stalker is only getting closer and time is running out!  An all-star cast comprised of a young Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Tony Bill (Shampoo) and Scott Colomby (Porky’s) all make appearances.

    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/TV_Terrors__Initiation_of_Sara/tv_terrors__initiation_of_sara.html

  • The Horror Show (1989) Blu-ray Review



    The Horror Show (1989)
    Director: James Isaac
    Starring: Lance Henriksen, Brion James, Rita Taggart, Dedee Pfeiffer & Aron Eisenberg
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After years of evading the DVD and Blu-ray scene, Scream Factory proudly presents the highly requested The Horror Show.  Produced by Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th), this late 80s flick utilized an tone reminiscent of the Nightmare on Elm Street films carried out by a terrific cast of cult icons most notably Lance Henriksen (Near Dark, Pumpkinhead) and Brion James (Blade Runner, The Fifth Element).  After nearly 25 years since its original release, does The Horror Show still have the chops (literally) to please or is it best left to fry in the electric chair?  Grab your meat cleaver and let’s find out...

    The Horror Show focuses on the deadly serial killer Max Jenke (Brion James) who along with his meat cleaver has claimed the lives of 116 people.  Thankfully, justice will finally be served as this brutal killer is sentenced to the electric chair.  Unfortunately, Jenke is no ordinary serial killer.  The high-voltage blasts transform him into a supernatural force that is hellbent on extracting revenge on Detective Lucas McCarthy (Lance Henriksen), the man responsible for his capture.  Jenke will not rest until McCarthy and his family have paid with their lives!

    MOVIE:
    While 1989 saw tremendous output from horror icons in the form of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers and Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, the writing was becoming clear on the wall.  The slasher boom, as well as the horror genre as a whole, was beginning to wane on the public’s interest.  One of the few exceptions of the year came from The Horror Show.  A film that makes no mystery it’s borrowing elements from the successful A Nightmare on Elm Street series but still manages to find its own identity.  Sure, Brion James‘ performance of a wisecracking serial killer is comparable to Freddy Krueger, who at the time became a humorous poster child for the MTV generation, James manages to come off more sinister and unforgiving.  From the opening scenes, James pulls no punches when he decapitates a young girl’s head before tossing it at Henriksen.  James’ greasy hair, yellowing teeth and icy blue eyes sends chills down your spine in the same fashion Joe Spinell achieved in Maniac.  Lance Henriksen plays the tough as nails detective McCarthy and brings a lot of integrity to the role that is a treat to watch.  Once Jenke is sentenced to the electric chair, the aftermath is delivers the viewer plenty of jumpscares when McCarthy keeps seeing the crazed killer he watched fry to death appear.  While the film loses some steam halfway through with Jenke just simply taunting McCarthy and no real death scenes occurring, The Horror Show quickly whips itself back into shape.  Some terrific special effects gags are showcased here that include Jenke taking on the form of a nicely roasted turkey as well as a nightmarish scene that finds Jenke pushing his face through the pregnant stomach of McCarthy’s daughter (Dedee Pfeiffer).  The finale finds McCarthy tracing Jenke, with  McCarthy’s wife (Rita Taggart) hostage, to a power plant (that looks much too similar to the boiler rooms of a certain razor clawed killer).  Using the power of high-voltage electricity against Jenke, McCarthy manages to bring the mad serial killer back into reality to finish him off once and for all.  The film certainly does stray closely to the A Nightmare on Elm Street formula but there’s nothing wrong with that as the film thoroughly entertains its entire runtime.  Director James Isaac made his directorial debut with The Horror Show joined by Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th, House) who executed a signature creepy score for the film.  After replacing David Blyth (Death Warmed Over) behind the camera, Isaac accomplished a wonderful little gem in an overly populated release year for horror flicks.  It would be a whopping 12 years before Isaac returned to the director’s chair for the tenth installment of the Friday the 13th franchise with Jason X.  Tragically, Isaac passed away in 2012 at the tender age of 51.  The Horror Show is an entertaining and frightening flick that brought out the best in its core cast as well as its first time director.  For what it’s worth, The Horror Show should be looked upon as Director James Isaac’s crowning jewel in his very modest directorial efforts that still manages to bat a home run nearly 25 years later.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents The Horror Show in a 1080p 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer.  The film has a nice clean look throughout with minor instances of flakes and speckles popping up from time to time.  While nothing to complain about, the film does seem to have an aura of softness to it that appears to be attributed to Director of Photography Mac Ahlberg (Hell Night, Re-Animator) artistic choices.  Detail is sharp with aging wrinkles and perspiration on the actors clearly seen.  Black levels are as clear as can be which is terrific considering how many dimly lits scenes are seen throughout the film.  Overall, this Scream Factory transfer has my seal of approval!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    The Horror Show comes accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that sounds wonderful.  Dialogue comes off with no hissing or distortion and Harry Manfredini’s effective score is heard in all its robust glory.  
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    While not apart of their Collector’s Edition series, Scream Factory does manage to offer fans a nice assortment of special features.

    - Audio Commentary with Producer Sean S. Cunningham: Moderated by Red Shirt Pictures’ Michael Felsher, Cunningham talks about a variety of different topics including the early origins of the films story with Steve Miner and the reasoning behind the films alternate title of House III in foreign territories.  Felsher does a great job keeping Cunningham motivated which makes the commentary track far from boring.  It’s refreshing to hear Cunningham discuss something other than his association with the Friday the 13th franchise so this was a welcome treat.

    - The Show Must Go On! with Kane Hodder: An interview with Stunt Coordinator Kane Hodder who touches upon the fun nature of the stunts in this film as well as his recollections doubling for Actor Brion James.  Hodder seems to have nothing but fond memories of the shoot and all the players involved with it.

    - House Mother with Rita Taggart: Actress Rita Taggart sits down for a 10 minute interview discussing her insecurities of original Director David Blyth being removed from the project and her fondness for co-star Lance Henriksen.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    The Horror Show treads on water that we’ve all seen before but manages to feel fresh and always entertaining.  Brion James steals the show as the sadistic Max Jenke and is supported by a terrific performance by Lance Henriksen.  The special effects in the film achieved by KNB are a hoot to watch and are one of the most entertaining aspects of the film.  While the body count is fairly low especially with a serial killer that has murdered 116 people before the film even begins, The Horror Show doesn’t disappoint in making you jump out of your seat several times complimented with another effective score from Composer Harry Manfredini.  Scream Factory has done another great service to horror fans by releasing this highly sought after flick from MGM’s vaults in the best shape we could ask for.  
    RATING: 4/5

  • Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger (2011) DVD Review


    Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger (2011)
    Director: Emanuele De Santi
    Starring: Emanuele De Santi, Giulio De Santi, Alessandro Gramanti & Christian Riva
    Released by: Autonomy Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    What happens when you attempt to mix The Crow, fast MTV-eqsue editing and ridiculous amounts of blood?  Apparently, Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger happens.  This 2011 hyper-gory Italian film seems to take influences from many different works before it and create something unique.  Unfortunately, the result is more painful than anything some of the characters experience in this flick.  Let’s not waste any time and dive right into this horrendous mess…

    Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger is set in the fictional Heaven Valley, where Adam is investigating the murder of his wife and learns the local mafia boss is to blame.  Unable to turn to the corrupt police, Adam makes a deal with a demon to offer him superhuman strength and dark powers to avenge his wife.  In exchange for power, Adam must obey the demon’s wishes.  It doesn’t take long before a bloody war is waged on the mafia.

    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Adam_Chaplin__Violent_Avenger_/adam_chaplin__violent_avenger_.html

  • In Hell (1976) DVD Review


    In Hell (1976)
    Director: Nikos Papatakis
    Starring: Olga Karlatos, Roland Bertin & Philippe Adrien
    Released by: One 7 Movies

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cult Greek director, Nikos Papatakis, possess’ a fairly modest body of work having only directed five movies in his lifetime.  Interestingly enough, having fled to New York in 1957 for political reasons, he befriended John Cassavetes and became co-producer on Shadows.  Being raised in a politically charged time, Papatakis embarked to tell a truly grueling and reflective story of the Algeria anticolonial liberation struggle.  In what has been claimed as one of the most radical films to emerge from the decade, Papatakis debuted In Hell in 1976.  Is this film truly as radical as it it claims to be?  Pump yourself up for plenty of subtitle reading and let’s find out...

    In Hell, released as Tortura in Italy, tells the story of Hamdias, a producer who’s set to break new boundaries by developing a film on torture.  Hamdias believes that the clash of people is what substantiates human nature as well as love and politics.  Unfortunately, our chipper director unexpectedly dies halting the project.  His leading lady and mother of his child, Gaila, sets out to complete the controversial project with nightmarish results.

    This review was originally published through Euro Cult AV.  To view it in its entirety, click this link:

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/In_Hell__One_7_Movies__DVD_/in_hell__one_7_movies__dvd_.html

  • 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

  • The Last Shark (1981) DVD Review



    The Last Shark (1981)
    Director: Enzo G. Castellari
    Starring: James Franciscus, Vic Morrow, Micaela Pignatelli & Joshua Sinclair
    Released by: RetroVision Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In 1975, Steven Spielberg accomplished the unthinkable.  He embarked on directing an ambitious film that was, for all intents and purposes, a B-movie.  Oddly enough, as most B-movies come and go and some by luck become cult classics many years after their release, Mr. Spielberg screwed up.  His “shark movie” was magnificently written, incredibly casted and masterfully directed especially for the young age of 29.  Jaws went onto massive box-office success and nearly 40 years after its release, the film has been hailed as one of the greatest movies ever made.  The success of such a simplistic B-movie-esque idea sparked a chain reaction where everyone wanted to get in on the treasure that certainly resided under the sea.  The Jaws formula has been ripped off and milked countlessly (even by the studio who birthed the original classic) but most cult enthusiasts root the first culprit back to 1981.  The Last Shark (also known as Great White) was an Italian production that made no secret as to which film “inspired” them.  Unsurprisingly, Universal Pictures were well aware of the blatant copycat and successfully sued to have the film pulled from its short North American release.  The film developed its share of followers, but was still never seen again until the mid 2000s when international territories began rolling out DVD releases.  Now, RetroVision Entertainment have unveiled a limited 500 copy run of the film in its first official US release.  Grab your swimsuit and sun tan lotion as we dive headfirst into Ja…, I mean The Last Shark

    Director Enzo G. Castellari (1990: The Bronx Warriors) weaves a story about a Great White shark who comes to wreck havoc on the beautiful waters of South Bay.  As the annual regatta celebration approaches, Mayor William Wells (Joshua Sinclair from Lady Frankenstein) doesn’t seem to find any harm in keeping the beach open.  Bad move as more bloody mayhem ensues thanks to our favorite finned monster.  Wells is forced to hire Peter Benton (James Franciscus of Beneath the Planet of the Apes and The Cat o’ Nine Tails) and shark hunter Ron Hammer (Vic Morrow of Humanoids from the Deep) to take the beast down.

    MOVIE:
    If the description above for The Last Shark doesn’t sound familiar, then you’ll be thrown for quite a loop when you sit down to view it.  It can’t be denied, The Last Shark is a bad flick and not in a particularly good way either.  The biggest problem is that it follows the major plot points of Jaws so closely that it never gets to have any of its own fun.  A film like Piranha is so enjoyable because not only was it a parody of the Jaws concept which allowed for tongue-in-cheek humor but it never shied away from the fact that it was about man-eating piranhas.  Piranha wanted to capitalize on Jaws but did it on its own terms which has rightfully earned its spot as a true cult classic.  Unfortunately, The Last Shark tried as hard as possible to remain as close to Spielberg’s film which is a remedy for boredom.  While there are some cult actors to be found in the film, they all just seem to be wasted on such a subpar film.  Even the late Vic Morrow, with a sea cap and an odd Scottish accent in tow, attempting his own take on Robert Shaw’s character seems grossly underused and just plain bored.  The mother and daughter roles in the film (played by Micaela Pignatelli and Stefania Girolami Goodwin) are just horrendous.  Pignatelli overacts constantly and Girolami just comes off annoying anytime she’s on screen.  Both actress‘ seem like they were clearly dubbed but it doesn’t change the fact that their acting abilities were off-putting.  As cheaply made as this film was, a majority of the shark is stock footage that hardly attempts to match the shark we actually see in scenes with the actors.  That said, when the shark is seen, he attacks his victims like a rocket which causes the boat or windsurfer to fly as high as a kite and a dummy of the actor crashing down to sea.  Those moments were some of the most enjoyable and laughable of the entire film but sadly it just wasn’t enough to wet my appetite.  I can certainly appreciate the appeal The Last Shark has for fans of the shark subgenre, but it just didn’t cut it for this reviewer.  Time to throw this one back to the fishes!
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    The Last Shark is presented widescreen (1:85:1) which appears to be tape sourced but actually looks quite nice.  No distracting scratches were noticed during viewing and colors appeared bright considering the source material.  Not too shabby.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    English 2.0 Audio (Stereo & Mono) which is just fine.  Dialogue comes out clear and loud.  Nothing incredible but it gets the job done without a hitch.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    RetroVision Entertainment has a small but nice selection of special features for such a limited release.

    - 30 Years Later Documentary: a self-produced featurette from RetroVision with film critic Ed Tucker and RetroVision’s co-founder Brannon Carty.  This 12-minute interview has Tucker discussing his memories of the original release as well as showcasing the 3 original 1-sheet posters from the film.  In addition, Carty expresses his love for the cult favorite and displays his own rare memorabilia from the film’s release.

    - 3 Theatrical Trailers

    - Photo Slideshow

    - Original US Score

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    While The Last Shark has its cult appeal to some, there’s no denying that this is just a poor attempt at badly ripping off a true classic.  As a lover of films of this ilk, I was disappointed to find the film as lame as I did.  If one wants to cash in on a craze, you still have to inject your own spirit to make it worth most people’s time.  Instead, they’ll just be wishing they were watching Jaws 3-D, unbelievably cheesy but still enjoyable.  That said, the cult completist in me can’t say I’m bummed that I own The Last Shark, but it won’t be a film I will return to anytime soon.  It’s still a treat to see a young label like RetroVision Entertainment put this lost flick out and I look forward to their future output.  While there’s not much to this release, the few special features were a generous touch but sadly the strength or lack thereof for the film is what sinks this.  Curious minds might want to purchase the DVD due to its limited 500 copy run, but be warned this ain’t Jaws…  Hell, it’s not even Jaws: The Revenge.
    RATING: 2.5/5