Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

Category

Currently showing posts tagged Carrie

  • Carrie (1976) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Carrie (1976)

    Director: Brian De Palma

    Starring: Sissy Spacek, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, William Katt, P.J. Soles, Amy Irving, Betty Buckley & Piper Laurie

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Stephen King’s esteemed debut novel, Carrie centers on teenage outcast Carrie White (Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter) who quietly discovers powers of telekinesis.  Abused by her religious mother and tormented by sadistic classmates, the shy introvert exacts her revenge during the student body’s most anticipated evening.  John Travolta (Saturday Night Fever), Nancy Allen (RoboCop), William Katt (The Greatest American Hero), P.J. Soles (Halloween), Amy Irving (Voices), Betty Buckley (Eight Is Enough) and Piper Laurie (The Hustler) costar.

    Marking the first of many adaptations based on the works of horror maestro Stephen King, Carrie expertly melds relatable teen angst with supernatural suspense under the stylish direction of Hitchcock devotee Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill).  Awkward and friendless, Carrie White’s desires to fit in amongst her peers are consistently shattered when cruel classmates take delight in making her life a living hell.  Following her first unexpected period in the girl’s locker room, Carrie suffers emotionally shattering and embarrassing abuse when her fellow students manically laugh at her traumatic meltdown and respond by piling the bleeding teen with tampons.  From the damaging hallways of high school to her mentally destructive home life soured by her religiously unhinged mother (Laurie), Carrie’s tidal wave of emotions allows her to channel telekinetic abilities.  While her tormentors are punished for their actions, lead heel Chris Hargensen (Allen) rebels, costing her entry to the much anticipated senior prom and making vengeance against Carrie her main priority.  Developing sincere regret for her part during Carrie’s incident, Sue Snell (Irving) is determined to make peace by excusing herself from the prom and urging her popular boyfriend Tommy Ross (Katt) to take the shy Carrie instead.  Experiencing an evening of dreams come true after being crowned prom queen, unparalleled resentment and hate for the introverted teen creates another scarring moment in her life of endless torment.  Unrestrained and empowered by revenge, supernatural occurrences and a fiery inferno turns the once magical evening into a hellish nightmare.

    Brought to life by a cast of relative newcomers who fully embody their onscreen counterparts, Carrie’s simplicity and timeless approach in capturing the harsh struggles of teenage survival is key to its success.  Perfectly cast as the film’s tragic protagonist, Sissy Spacek, nominated by the Academy for her performance, channels the introvert in all of us while demonstrating a wide range of emotions in her pursuit for happiness and eventually fatal revenge.  In addition, Piper Laurie, also nominated for her equally stunning performance as the crazed Ms. White, issues genuine chills of terror while, Nancy Allen delivers one of cinema’s finest villainous roles as high school hell raiser Chris Hargensen making hating her an audience’s pleasure.  Matched with dreamlike cinematography by Mario Tosi (The Stunt Man), an evocative score by Pino Donaggio (Blow Out) and tight cutting by Editor Paul Hirsch (Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back), Carrie maintains its suspenseful build through use of nail biting slo-mo and screen splitting chaos during the film’s fire breathing finale.  Mesmerizingly haunting and easily one of De Palma’s finest hours, Carrie, much like its literary masterpiece, continues to live on as a gold standard example of horror cinema.

    Newly scanned in 4K from the original camera negative, Scream Factory proudly presents Carrie with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Improving on its dated past release, Brian De Palma’s supernatural shocker arrives with natural film grain firmly intact throughout while, skin tones are warmly inviting and nicely detailed.  Furthermore, dirt and debris are virtually absent paving the way for an exceptionally clean presentation.  The surreal, softer focus of Mario Posi’s cinematography demonstrated during sunny exterior sequences are preserved while, black levels cast appreciatively inky levels and bold colors spotted during the iconic pig’s blood poured on Carrie and the prom’s variety of spotlights pop quite nicely.  Without question, Carrie has made her definitive statement with this wholly impressive transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the film’s soundscape has never been regarded for its dynamics yet, dialogue is consummately produced with Pino Donaggio’s exceptional score fully encompassing sequences.  In addition, chaotic screams and destruction of the high school gymnasium offer notable rise.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.

    Spread across two Blu-ray discs, special features located on Disc 1 include, the Theatrical Trailer (2:06) and a Carrie Franchise Trailer Gallery (4:12).  Continuing on Disc 2, newly recorded supplements include, Writing Carrie: An Interview with Screenwriter Lawrence Cohen (29:07), Shooting Carrie: An Interview with Director of Photography Mario Tosi (15:22) and Cutting Carrie: An Interview with Casting Director Harriet B. Helberg (16:03).  The repurposed Acting Carrie (42:42) is also joined by the new More Acting Carrie: Featuring Interviews with Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley, William Katt, Piper Laurie, Edie McClurg & P.J. Soles (20:19).  Additionally, the vintage Visualizing Carrie: From Words to Images (41:33) and a brand new featurette, Bucket of Blood (23:53), interviewing the Italian speaking Composer Pino Donaggio about his experiences is included with English subtitles.  Furthermore, Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (11:25), hosted by Sean Clark as he visits the shooting locations today and Carrie, The Musical: Singing Carrie (6:23) continue the bonus feature packed release with TV Spots (3:11), Radio Spots (1:29), a Still Gallery - Rare Behind-the-Scenes (59 in total), followed by another Still Gallery - Posters and Lobby Cards (47 in total), Stephen King and the Evolution of Carrie Text Gallery (13 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art boasting the original 1-sheet design concluding the nearly endless supply of content.  

    Celebrating its 40th anniversary, Carrie continues to shock viewers with its supernatural scares while effectively tapping into the real-life and arguably more frightening torment outcast teenagers continue to face.  Treasuring De Palma’s adaptation for the classic it is, Scream Factory’s gorgeous 4K transfer, joined by its Collector’s Edition level of new and vintage supplements delivers the home video release of Carrie fans have been clamoring for.

    RATING: 5/5

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

  • Evilspeak (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Evilspeak (1981)
    Director: Eric Weston
    Starring: Clint Howard, R.G. Armstrong, Claude Earl Jones & Haywood Nelson
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A jumbling of horror elements carried out by the epitome of a cult icon make for an unusually, entertaining ride.  Marking the directorial debut of Eric Weston (Hyenas), this satanic tale of revenge is not only ambitious, but exceptionally crafty.  Completely restored and including long omitted scenes of bloody goodness, Scream Factory, in conjunction with Code Red DVD, proudly presents Evilspeak on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  The prince of darkness is calling your name, best to not keep him waiting...

    Evilspeak stars Clint Howard (Rock ‘n‘ Roll High School, Ice Cream Man) as Stanley Coopersmith, an orphaned outcast who’s constantly bullied at his strict military school.  Upon discovering the crypt of a deceased Satanist, Coopersmith, along with the help of his trusty computer, unleashes a world of demonic revenge on his tormentors.  Co-starring fellow genre stars R.G. Armstrong (Dick Tracy), Joseph Cortese (Monsignor), Don Stark (Tilt), Charles Tyner (Pete’s Dragon) and Haywood Nelson (What’s Happening).

    MOVIE:
    Following a path similar to Brian De Palma’s Carrie, Evilspeak is without question its distant B-movie cousin.  Headlined by the iconic Clint Howard (The Wraith), the balding actor is perfectly cast as the bumbling nerd his fellow cadets love to abuse.  Always reliable as the oddball supporting character in most roles, Howard uses his unique appearance and awkward manner to his advantage as Stanley Coopersmith.  Kicking off with a 16th-century sequence of a Satanist (Richard Moll of Night Court) performing a human sacrifice, Evilspeak quickly switches gears relocating to a military academy in present day.  Bubba (Don Stark), along with his pals, make it their job to torment and humiliate Coopersmith on a daily basis.  Ignored by girls and looked down on by his teachers, Coopersmith has only one friend in Kowalski (Haywood Nelson).  The What’s Happening star’s appearance is minimal but the camaraderie between the geek and a character of race feels refreshing in a film of this ilk.  Eventually, Coopersmith discovers a crypt that contains the secrets to satanic power.  Utilizing his ridiculously clunky computer, Coopersmith is able to call upon the powers of darkness to extract revenge on his bullies.  While, other respected cult films such as Tron (1982) and WarGames (1983) would be best remembered for their usage of early computer technology, Evilspeak not only did it first, but quite impressively as well.

    Unfortunately, Evilspeak is plagued with some pacing issues in its first act that relegates the viewer to Coopersmith’s abuse for a lengthy 45 minutes before any retaliation is taken.  Once his handle of the dark powers is mastered, exciting death scenes via pigs and heads being twisted 360 degrees commences.  The exciting carnage continues with a fiery finale similar to Carrie’s prom sequence.  Coopersmith is elevated (with noticeable strings) as he ruthlessly decapitates his tormentors in another impressive showcase of low budget special effects.  Wildly underrated and incredibly creative, Evilspeak is a fun, B-movie experiment of satanic revenge shot on a tight budget, that made every penny count.  The charmingly cheesy 80s computer technology and the leading man power of the cooky-eyed Clint Howard is more than enough for a night of absolute popcorn joy.
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Evilspeak is presented in a 1080p transfer in its 1.78:1 aspect ratio, approved by Director Eric Weston.  The film was restored from a 35mm inter-positive that includes long omitted scenes of gore.  Instances of dirt and flakes are apparent throughout the film’s entire runtime while, colors are very vibrant and bold.  Skin tones appear warm and natural with black levels looking respectable, if not, a pinch murky.  Understandably, the source used has some odds and ends that block it from being a blemish free transfer, but make no mistake, this is the finest Evilspeak has and most likely, will ever look.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Evilspeak sounds nicely balanced with dialogue coming across clearly.  In addition, moments involving Coopersmith’s computer give your speakers a nice thrill with some techy sound effects.  A pleasing mix with little room to ask for more.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Eric Weston

    - Satan’s Pigs and Severed Heads: The Making of Evilspeak: Aine Leicht, responsible for arguably Scream Factory’s finest retrospective documentary, You’re Invited: The Making of Night of the Demons found on their Night of the Demons Blu-ray release, returns with another solid featurette.  This 27 minute doc interviews supporting cast members such as Claude Earl Jones, Richard Moll, Haywood Nelson and more.  The thespians discuss their involvement with the film and their unique experiences on the set.  Leicht has a wonderful way of capturing interviews that pertain to not only the film at hand but the other experiences‘ in her interviewers careers.  Haywood touches upon how everyday after shooting he would return to his Porsche to find a new tire flattened everyday which he attributes to possible onset jealousy.  Interesting insights and revealing stories make this another worthwhile retrospective to tune into.   

    - Effects Speak with Allan A. Appone: Appone sits down for a 14 minute interview and touches upon his early beginnings working on Prophecy (1979) leading up to his involvement with Evilspeak.  Appone also discusses the cost effective approaches that were taken to the many gags used in the film.

    - Cast Interviews with Clint Howard, Don Stark & Joe Cortese

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    At its core, Evilspeak is a film about revenge and getting even with your tormentors.  The tight budget and a less passionate director may have made this a forgettable dud but luckily, Evilspeak became more fun than it probably deserved to be.  Satanic powers, 1980s computer technology, a military academy, deadly pigs and Clint Howard form a wild cocktail of elements that created a bonafide cult classic that still lives on 30 years later.  Wonderfully restored, injecting plenty of added blood, Scream Factory, in association with Code Red DVD, have served horror fanatics another gem to proudly add to their HD library.  Although, not considered a collector’s edition, the wealth of delicious special features says otherwise and are the perfect icing on the cake for this supremely, satanic slice of cult pie.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Carrie (2013) Blu-ray Review


    Carrie (2013)
    Director: Kimberly Peirce
    Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde & Portia Doubleday
    Released by: 20th Century Fox/MGM

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As the wheels of the remake train continue to spin, 2013 saw the resurrection of one of Stephen King’s most beloved adaptations.  Director Brian De Palma (Phantom of the Paradise, Dressed to Kill) brought King’s terrifying novel to life for the first time in 1976 with iconic performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.  Since then, the tale of Carrie White has been expanded into a 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2, as well as a television retelling in 2002 with Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted, May) starring as Carrie.  Director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don‘t Cry, Stop-Loss) helms this modern update of a troubled outcast with extraordinary abilities and the limits she is pushed to.  By the end, will you know her name?  Let’s find out...

    Carrie stars Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Dark Shadows) as Carrie White, a social outcast who is relentlessly taunted by classmates and abused by her overly religious mother (Julianne Moore).  Carrie soon learns that her anger unleashes newly found telekinetic powers that she harbors.  When she is unexpectedly asked to prom, an unforgivable fate awaits her that leads to a night no one will ever forget.  Judy Greer (Jawbreaker), Gabriella Wilde (The Three Musketeers) and Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    In this day and age it’s easy to be dismissive of any new remakes/reimaginings hitting theaters.  Devoted film lovers insist on being served exciting, original material opposed to a stale rehash of an already established classic.  Sometimes, a reimagining comes along that attracts such unique talent that turns everyone’s head in intrigue.  Director Kimberly Peirce, no stranger to shining lights on social outcasts, helms this modern take of the Stephen King best seller.  Peirce approaches the material faithfully with mild updates to relate to a new generation.  The opening, touched upon in the novel, finds Margaret White (Julianne Moore) riling in pain as she enters labor alone in her bedroom.  Giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, the exhausted woman sees this as a test from God and prepares to kill the child for her sinful ways.  Scissors in hand, Margaret is unable to go through with it and chooses to raise her daughter.  The film moves forward in time as we find Carrie White (Moretz), now 15 years-old, shy, awkward and idolizing her fellow female classmates.  Carrie quickly follows suit by retelling an iconic locker room sequence where Carrie frighteningly experiences her first period as classmates taunt and throw tampons at her.  Injecting the modern twist, Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) records the embarrassing incident with her cellphone and uploads it to YouTube for fellow classmates and the world to see.  The film continues to remain close to De Palma’s version with the occasional change-up for good measure.  Peirce harkens back to the novel to showcase Margaret White’s bodily harm that makes for some truly squeemish moments to great effect.  

    Peirce assembles a fine cast with the talented Chloë Grace Moretz slipping into Spacek’s iconic role.  Moretz handles the role well and captures the odd and uncomfortable personality of Carrie.  One couldn’t help but feel that Moretz was just a little too pretty to honestly portray the odd girl out.  Moretz’s acting abilities are far from disappointing, but her appearances hurt the believability of the character.  Julianne Moore delivers a disturbing performance as Carrie’s abusive mother, Margaret White.  Moore’s unbrushed greying hair and dressed down appearance complimented her character’s loony behavior.  While, Piper Laurie’s original performance still reigns supreme, Moore delivered a unique spin of her.  In addition, Judy Greer (Jeff Who Lives at Home), co-stars as gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin.  While, a brief role, Greer offers an endearing performance as a shoulder to cry on for Carrie.  Portia Doubleday (Her) stuns as the bitchy Chris Hargensen who makes abusing Carrie her main priority.  Doubleday makes hating her easy with her relentless bullying and stuck-up personality.  Fans of Nancy Allen’s original performance will be made proud.  Finally, Gabriella Wilde does a fine job as Sue Snell, the one teenager with a conscience who enlists her boyfriend to give Carrie the time of her life at prom.  

    Carrie does offer its fair share of CG visual effects, but all to effective results.  The bloody finale at the prom sees Carrie unleashing her wrath after having pig blood dropped on her.  Students are thrown back in a tidal wave of tables and chairs while Carrie uses her powers to create an inferno of flames.  The entire movie is building to this sequence and it hardly disappoints.  As Chris and her boyfriend speed off after the prank, Carrie confronts them before sending the couple to a brutal death.  Chris‘ fate is sheer eye candy and a fitting end for such a hated character.  Carrie heads home to only be greeted by her insane mother who intends on putting an end to her devil child.  A fight to the death ensues between the mother and daughter before a tragic end befalls on them.  The film concludes on a similar note as the original with a much less effective jump-scare administered.

    Like most reimaginings, Carrie doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but it still has merit.  Peirce does a fine job harking back to the source material while injecting modern twists of cyberbullying to up the ante.  The core cast was more than capable in their respective roles with Moore and Doubleday offering noteworthy mentions.  Moretz captured the essence of Carrie but her physicality prevented the performance from being all it could be.  One can only wonder how the film would have appeared if Peirce casted Carrie as heavier set as described in the novel.  Moments of violence and chaos are demonstrated well and benefit from today’s movie magic.  Viewing Carrie during its theatrical run, I left the film feeling mediocre towards it.  After revisiting Carrie, it has managed to slightly entertain me more.  With more King reimaginings in the works, time will tell how this retelling of Carrie is best remembered.  Until then, Carrie is a serviceable adaptation of one of King’s finest efforts with a solid cast and a modernization that benefits the film nicely.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Carrie is presented in a beautiful 1080p (2.35:1) transfer that stuns.  Colors appear clear and accurate with detail looking most impressive in close-ups.  The school’s football field, swimming pool and of course, the pig blood look especially lush and bold.  Black levels are superior, most noticeably, during the pig clubbing sequence and the finale at the prom.  As a brand-new film shot and presented in HD, there’s nothing to fear with this transfer.
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Carrie comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  Dialogue is clear as a whistle with subtleties such as books slamming or creaky footsteps making a nice impression.  More intense sequences involving inferno, car crashes and screaming students are loud and solid.  The prom sequence will definitely send your speakers for a ride and make for an exceptional listening experience.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Kimberly Peirce: Peirce serves up an informative listen touching upon the casting process, development of the script, modernizing the film as well as budget and time constraints.  While, Peirce may often focus too much on what’s playing on the screen, the track is still a worthy listen.

    - Alternate Ending: Included as a second option labeled “Theatrical Cut with Alternate Ending”, the new ending offers an extra minute of runtime with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Deleted/Alternate Scenes: 10 minutes worth of scenes again with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Tina on Fire: Stunt Double Dailies: A featurette showcasing how the fire effects were achieved with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Creating Carrie: A making of featurette running over 20 minutes.  Director Kimberly Peirce, Producer Kevin Misher and the core cast discuss the film, their preparation and Stephen King’s original novel.  A terrific companion to the film!

    - The Power of Telekinesis: Talent in front and behind the camera discuss their takes on telekinesis.

    - Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise: A hilarious telekinetic prank that was pulled in a New York coffee shop on unsuspecting customers to promote the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Sneak Peak: Trailers for upcoming MGM titles.

    - DVD Copy

    - Ultraviolet Copy Code

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    2013’s reimagining of Carrie didn’t light me entirely on fire, but it was still a serviceable take on an iconic tale.  Director Kimberly Peirce may have been an unexpected choice but her expertise with social outcasts gave this film its flavor.  Peirce did a fine job sticking to King’s source material while injecting the necessary tools to make it a functioning modern take.  Chloë Grace Moretz brought her usual A-game acting chops to the role but her lovely appearance made the believability of the character a constant struggle.  Julianne Moore and Portia Doubleday deserve recognition for their portrayals as dangerously flawed characters.  The film manages to not disappoint in the effects and violence department that pay off in the exciting finale.  The Blu-ray edition of Carrie is quite simply perfection.  A wonderful video presentation matched with an effective and robust audio mix plus a plethora of special features make this release a winner.  In addition, the film comes accompanied with one of the coolest looking lenticular slipcovers in sometime.  Regardless, of your film adaptation preference, 2013’s Carrie has its issues but it has all the potential to become even better with time.
    RATING: 4/5 

  • 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