Blu-ray/DVD Reviews


Currently showing posts tagged Ghosts

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) Blu-ray Review

    Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

    Director(s): Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg

    Starring: Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally & Geoffrey Rush

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Crashing into the cinematic seas for its fifth adventure, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales once again finds the flamboyant Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, Alice Through the Looking Glass) caught in the crosshairs of his most formidable foe yet, the undead Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem, Skyfall).  After being outsmarted by Sparrow years earlier and cursed upon entry into the Devil’s Triangle, the vengeful Salazar seeks to make the endlessly drunk pirate pay.  Meanwhile, young Henry Turner’s (Brenton Thwaites, Maleficent) determination to locate the Trident of Poseidon to free his own father from sea-drifting captivity pits him with Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario, The Maze Runner), a resourceful astronomer whose curiosity and intelligence make the journey possible.  Also welcoming Captain Jack’s established frenemy, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush, Genius), back to the proceedings, the young newcomers find themselves, for better or worse, in the company of Jack as Salazar hunts the swashbucklers to the Trident’s island in an action-packed climax.

    Billed as the franchise’s curtain call, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales returns to the ghoulish roots of its original chapter with a fresh-faced cast of newcomers playing strongly against Depp’s eccentric captain who continues to prove the chameleon-like thespian is having more fun than ever in the role.  Kickstarting with a hilarious and technically impressive bank robbery by Jack’s crew who accidentally steal the entire bank itself, Javier Bardem sends chills down audiences’ spines as the demonic Captain Salzar whose mouthful of black slobber and undead appearance casts an effectively foreboding shadow upon the film.  With several surprises in store for longtime fans of the franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales also gives the treasured Captain Barbossa far more depth than before making the film perhaps the most gratifying for the series veteran.  Far more in line with the charm of the Disney film’s debut outing and boasting top-tier spectacle value, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is an above average delight that proves Captain Jack still commands the high seas.

    Marveling with its 1080p transfer, presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment continues to prove its pristine abilities with this flawless presentation that accentuates sharp skin tones, exacting black levels and crisp details spotted in Salazar’s deathly appearance and his man-eating zombie sharks.  Accompanied with a powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is crisply projected while, the film’s swelling themes provide bonafide boosts to the action-packed proceedings.  Notably shorter than previous Pirates films, special features include, Dead Men Tell More Tales: The Making of a New Adventure (47:50), a seven-part featurette exploring the creation of the epic production with interviews from some of the film’s young stars, the film’s many visual effects and the franchise’s enduring presence in pop culture.  Furthermore, Bloopers of the Caribbean (2:58), a Jerry Bruckheimer Photo Diary (1:40) and Deleted Scenes (2:59) round out the on-disc supplements while, a DVD copy and Digital HD Code are also provided.

    Earning a respectable near $800 million while dividing critics and audiences, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a return to form for the franchise that once left fans dizzied by its third adventure before sticking to simplicity with On Stranger Tides.  Harkening back to what made the original film so special without overthrowing it, the fifth installment does an admirable job with its renewed mojo hinting that this may not be Captain Jack’s final sail at sea after all to which we say yo-ho!  Although less desirable in its scant offering of bonus features, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents the film in a quality as visually and sonically rich as the Caribbean itself.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales can be purchased via and other fine retailers.

  • Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side (1986) / Poltergeist III (1988)

    Director(s): Brian Gibson / Gary Sherman

    Starring: JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson, Heather O’Rourke, Oliver Robins, Julian Beck, Zelda Rubinstein, Will Sampson & Geraldine Fitzgerald / Tom Skerritt, Nancy Allen, Heather O’Rourke & Zelda Rubinstein

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Haunting high-definition once more in new Collector’s Edition form, Scream Factory, the horror/cult subsidiary of Shout! Factory, welcomes the continued terrorization of the Freeling family to their catalog of frights!  Following the traumatic events of the original film, Poltergeist II: The Other Side finds the Freeling’s attempting to revert back to a normal existence until the forces of darkness, led by the chilling Henry Kane, pursue their clairvoyant daughter Carol Anne with ungodly vengeance.  Next up, from the suburbs to the big city of Chicago, Poltergeist III sees the young Carol Anne living with her aunt and uncle when the restless Reverend Kane weaves his devilish powers upon their daunting high-rise.  

    They’re back as suburban scares persist in the supernatural followup to Steven Spielberg’s original ghostly production of 1982.  Struggling financially in the wake of their house’s frightening decimation, Steven and Diane Freeling (Craig T. Nelson, Coach and JoBeth Williams, Kramer vs. Kramer respectively), along with their children Robbie (Oliver Robbins, Airplane II: The Sequel) and Carol Anne (Heather O’Rourke, Happy Days) (sans older sister Dana (played originally by Dominique Dunne who was tragically killed following production on the original film)), attempt to start anew in the house of Diane’s elderly mother.  Retaining her clairvoyant touch, it doesn’t take long before the spirits thought left behind in Cuesta Verde emerge once more to claim Carol Anne for themselves.  Discovering an underground tomb located deeper beneath the Freeling’s former home, trusted psychic Tangina Barrons (Zelda Rubinstein, Sixteen Candles) and Native American shaman Taylor (Will Sampson, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) sense the greater danger that now targets the evading family.  Stalked by the chilling and skeletal-looking Reverend Henry Kane (Julian Beck, The Cotton Club), Taylor rushes to the Freelings’ aide in order to prepare them for the dark battle that awaits.  Demonstrating impressively refined special effects that can’t be understated with Native American mysticism and a disturbingly memorable villain, Poltergeist II: The Other Side admirably balances what made the original a suspenseful success while, instilling its own chilling parameters that stand on their own.  Topped with Jerry Goldsmith’s score that blends innocence and dread effortlessly, climactic seat-jumpers featuring nightmarish braces gone wild, floating chainsaws (originally intended for 3-D effectiveness), an unforgettable regurgitated monster worm and a final showdown into the ghostly netherworld all make this sequel a respectably fun and grossly underrated followup to its pitch perfect predecessor.

    Inspired by Lewis Carrol’s own fantastical continuation Through the-Looking Glass, Poltergeist III ditches small-town frights and much of its original cast for a towering continuation of lofty ideas that struggle to land their mark.  Relocating to Chicago for placement in a school for gifted children, Carol Anne, cared for by her Aunt Trisch (Allen), Uncle Bruce (Skerritt) and teenage cousin Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle, Wayne’s World), finds herself frightened by reoccurring images of Reverend Kane (played by Flowers in the Attic’s Nathan Davis following the passing of original actor Julian Beck after wrapping production on its sequel) from beyond the grave.  Sensing Kane’s return and his pursuit of Carol Anne, faithful psychic Tangina (Rubinstein returning once more) seeks to stop the evildoer once and for all.  Jeopardized by budgetary limitations and a personal black cloud of despair following O’Rourke’s untimely passing during the film’s post-production phase, Poltergeist III’s skyscraper setting lends an intriguing visual change of pace for the series that ultimately falls second best to the familiarity of safe suburbia.  In addition, although Skerritt and Allen’s chemistry feels genuine together, Aunt Trisch’s random spouts of disdain for her troubled niece feels uncomfortably out of touch for a character that audiences should see as more maternally understanding.  Furthermore, while the return of Tangina is most welcome, Zelda Rubinstein appears particularly fatigued in the role, further underlining the fumes the franchise is running on.  Passionately directed by genre helmer Gary Sherman (Raw Meat, Dead & Buried), Poltergeist III conveys several worthy concepts through terrifying reflections, demonic doppelgängers, possessed teenagers and Kane’s hellish wrath literally freezing over the high-rise building.  Unavoidably imperfect given its tragic history, Poltergeist III, although busting at the box-office and ranking lowest on the franchise totem pole, delivers just enough light from the other side to draw the curious into its vortex for a brief time.        

    Boasting new 2K scans from their interpositives, Scream Factory presents both sequels with 1080p transfers, preserving their respective 2.35:1 (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) and 1.85:1 (Poltergeist III) aspect ratios.  While both films received above average debuts on the format in years past, their latest outings are that much cleaner, washing away the slight hints of softness found previously with strong skin tones, vibrant color grades, deep black levels and otherwise graciously filmic appearances on hand, leaving both films in their best conditions to date.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes that captures crisp dialogue levels and energetic stabs during supernatural attacks, the film’s scores are excellently handled adding necessary emphasis to their quieter moments and rise to their thrilling tempos.  In addition, both films are accompanied with optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes for your listening pleasure.

    Supplements pertaining to Poltergeist II: The Other Side include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Michael Grais and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist II Webmaster David Furtney, both of which are newly recorded for this release.  Additionally, Robbie’s Return with Oliver Robins (14:25) catches up with the middle Freeling child today as he commends Director Brian Gibson’s vision for the film, the fun atmosphere making a feature as a child and the sequel’s special effects sequences.  Meanwhile, The Spirit World (22:09) is a first-rate featurette catching up with Special Creature Effects Artists Steve Johnson & Screaming Mad George as well as Special Effects Supervisor Richard Edlund to discuss the many memorable monsters and apparitions that separated the film from the original.  Furthermore, Ghosts of Giger (21:02) takes a look back at the iconic H.R. Giger’s contributions to the film through slideshows and interviews with Steve Johnson and Giger’s agent Les Barany.  Lastly, vintage offerings consisting of They’re Back: The Making of Poltergeist II (6:15), Monster Shop (2:45), Ghost Makers: The Magic of Poltergeist II (6:28), the Theatrical Trailer (1:22) and TV Spots (2:04) are on hand while, a Still Gallery (73 in total), the Poltergeist II Script and Reversible Cover Art retaining the film’s original 1-sheet poster conclude the bonus features.

    Bonus features found on Poltergeist III include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Director Gary Sherman and an Audio Commentary with Poltergeist III Webmaster David Furtney, both newly recorded.  In addition, High Spirits with Co-Screenwriter Brian Taggert (16:02) finds the writer sharing warm memories of his collaborative relationship with Sherman, the film’s budget cuts, O’Rourke’s passing and his friendship with the wise and occasionally feisty Rubinstein.  Reflections with Actress Nancy Allen (12:15) sits down with the star who commends Sherman’s approach to the project, O’Rourke’s old soul personality and her unforgettably sad funeral plus, her working relationship with Skerritt who notes is the only actor she had an argument with in her career.  Furthermore, Mirror Images with Special Make-Up Effects Creator John Caglione, Jr. (12:47), an Alternate Ending (2:50) that lacks audio with dialogue from the original script added in as subtitles, the Theatrical Trailer (1:04), TV Spots (2:06), a Still Gallery (77 in total) and the Poltergeist III Script are also on hand.  Lastly, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet imagery completes the release’s supplements.

    Topping the television fuzz and tree attacking terror of the original classic may be no easy feat but, the combined efforts of Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III make strong cases for followups of underrated merit.  While, Reverend Kane’s initial attack on the Freeling family is by far the superior sequel, Poltergeist III, although ranking in last place, still maintains a mild charm that continues to persevere through its many setbacks.  Honoring both features with wonderful new scans, a plentiful sum of bonus features exploring the film’s makings and frighteningly fantastic new artwork by Justin Osbourn, Scream Factory welcomes fans back to the ghostly netherworld where your house will be all the cleaner with both Collector’s Edition sequels in them.

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side RATING: 4/5

    Poltergeist III RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 31st from Scream Factory, Poltergeist II: The Other Side and Poltergeist III can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

  • Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Blu-ray Review

    Haunted Honeymoon (1986)

    Director: Gene Wilder

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

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Over Your Dead Body (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Over Your Dead Body (2014)

    Director: Takashi Miike

    Starring: Ebizô Ichikawa, Ko Shibasaki, Miho Nakanishi, Maiko, Toshie Negishi, Ikkô Furuya & Hideaki Itô

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of Audition, Over Your Dead Body centers on an accomplished actress (Ko Shibasaki, 47 Ronin) starring in a stage rendition of a legendary ghost story.  After getting her lover cast as the male lead, rehearsals for the play, focusing on a troubled relationship and a supernatural presence, begin taking shape offstage as well.  When the line between reality and fantasy become heavily blurred, the young thespians find themselves consumed by the darkness.  

    Focusing on the exhaustive rehearsal process of a stage play, Over Your Dead Body begins promisingly, inviting viewers into the beautiful and dramatic narrative of its mock production.  Weaving a tale of an abusive relationship, samurais and apparitions, Director Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) spends considerable time establishing the characters of his play within a film before revealing their complicated lives offstage.  Successfully landing her lover a leading role in her latest opus, Miyuke’s (Shibasaki) relationship with Kousuke (Ichikawa) is anything but ideal.  Struggling to cope with the heavy subject matter of her role, Miyuke finds her onstage drama suffocating her once loving relationship with her costar.  Meanwhile, Kousuke secretly takes comfort in the sexual company of Miyuke’s understudy as the supernatural elements of the play begin taking hold of the actors’ lives.

    Considerably slow-building, Over Your Dead Body remains fixated on the visual splendor of its faux stage play while, Miyuke and Kousuke’s relationship dilemmas increase and become intertwined with the play’s grim narrative.  In its final act, Over Your Dead Body supplies unsettling footage of Miyuke attempting to claw at her womb with kitchen utensils for a fetus making the scareless first hour nearly forgotten.  In addition, the eerie awakening of a prop baby and Miyuke’s deformed transformation similar to that of her stage character gives the film added chills.  Effortlessly blending the realms of nightmares and reality at the expense of its runtime, Over Your Dead Body may not be Miike’s finest hour, yet successfully achieves a haunting tone by its conclusion.  

    Scream Factory presents Over Your Dead Body with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  A product of the digital age, flesh tones appear lively and well-detailed with the dimly lit sets of the film’s play offering healthy black levels.  That said, nighttime sequences of intimacy between Miyuke and Kousuke suffer slightly with foggier appearances and hints of digital noise.  Beyond these minor grievances, Over Your Dead Body makes a spirited debut on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, the Japanese dialogue is delivered sharply with moments of hushed tones never suffering.  Meanwhile, the film’s haunting score by Composer Kôji Endô (13 Assassins) and its glass-shattering sound effects are prominently prioritized enhancing scenes of suspense.  In rare Scream Factory form, special features are limited to only the film’s Trailer (2:03).

    Director Takashi Miike’s latest effort takes its time painting a picture of a troubled couple eventually overcome by dark forces.  Although its narrative is intertwined with the drama of its supernatural play, scares and nightmarish imagery are reserved until the film’s rewarding final act.  While its pace and lack of frights can grow tiresome, Over Your Dead Body maintains some of J-horror’s best qualities.  Continuing to expand their horizons to all facets of terror, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release awards viewers with a strong audio/visual presentation although, supplements are noticeably scant in comparison to past releases.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Over Your Dead Body can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

  • Assault on New Releases #7: Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight Collector's Edition (1995), Pay the Ghost (2015) & Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood Collector's Edition (1996) Blu-ray Reviews



    Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight (1995)

    Director: Ernest Dickerson

    Starring: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett, Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Thomas Haden Church & Dick Miller

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From small screen frights to Hollywood haunts, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight finds mysterious drifter Brayker (William Sadler, The Green Mile) protecting the last of seven biblical keys containing the power to abolish all evil.  Intent on reclaiming the sacred relic, the demonic Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic), along with his vile minions, track Brayker to an unsightly motel where the key’s protector and a motley crew of misfits must defend themselves against the forces of darkness.  Starring an eclectic mix of up and comers (Jada Pinkett, Madagascar), future Academy Award nominees (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways) and B-movie legends (Dick Miller, Gremlins), Demon Knight maintains the entertainingly dark humor and suspenseful scares best known to its popular HBO series.  Introduced by its ghoulish host The Crypt Keeper (infamously voiced by John Kassir) on set of his own directorial effort, Demon Knight provides ample fun as its cast of unlikely heroes do battle against several ghoulish creatures during an endless night of terror and fully stocked ammunition.  Complimented by impressive visual effects and an effectively 90s soundtrack including hits from Filter, Pantera and Megadeth, Demon Knight douses viewers in neon green gore and countless possessions while, crafting a big-screen romp that proudly carries on the shocks established by EC Comics’ forefathers.

    Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Demon Knight with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Following a rather grainy introduction well known to its television audience, colors, although sparse, pop nicely while skin tones are rich and natural under the film’s dim lighting.  Meanwhile, detail is quite sharp in facial features with black levels greatly impressing with no discernible instances of crushing.  In addition to maintaining a pleasing filmic appearance, the use of neon green in the demons blood and their electric responses to harm offer an effective contrast to the film’s dark ambience.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Demon Knight makes a most satisfyingly spooky splash in high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, dialogue is robust with intense moments of demonic anarchy and explosive carnage giving the mix a thrilling rumble.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Joining the ranks of Scream Factory’s respected Collector’s Editions, special features for Demon Knight include, an Audio Commentary with Director Ernest Dickerson and an Audio Commentary with Special Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vilet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo and Demon Performer Walter Phelan.  In addition, an Egyptian Theater Q&A Session (9:46), Under Siege: The Making of Demon Knight (39:12) marking another first-class retrospective from Red Shirt Pictures featuring new interviews with many of the cast and crew, a Still Gallery (66 in total), Theatrical Trailer (2:01) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s scary supplements.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

    Pay the Ghost (2015)

    Director: Uli Edel

    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Veronica Ferres, Lyriq Bent & Jack Fulton

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men) headlines Pay the Ghost as college professor Mike Lawford who finds himself childless following the disappearance of his son on Halloween night.  One tragic year later and estranged from his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead), Mike is haunted by unexplainable events that lead him to a startling link between the city’s missing children and the occult.  Based on the novella by Tim Lebbon and realized by Director Uli Edel (Christiane F.), Pay the Ghost weaves a unique yarn of supernatural occurrences and a parent’s worst fears for an intriguing mystery thriller.  After his young son vanishes at a Halloween carnival, Mike Lawford (Cage) desperately searches for answers when an ancient Celtic myth and a ghostly being are found responsible for the abduction.  As Mike’s investigation deepens, haunting imagery of his son and the possession of his wife occur, further proving the supernatural abilities of the entity.  While Cage musters up a halfway decent performance as a grieving father hellbent on retrieving his only child, the film’s lackluster visual effects and attempts at suspense largely fall flat.  Boasting a refreshingly original premise, Pay the Ghost never quite reaches above mediocrity even with its full-blown descent into the supernatural realm during its final act.  With a tightened script and an increased budget, Nicolas Cage’s latest indie effort may have achieved greater results but as is, Pay the Ghost is not an entirely wasted investment.

    RLJ Entertainment presents Pay the Ghost with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Lacking a broad color scheme, city streets and interior locations appear rather drab while, skin tones read decently given the soft lighting choices of the film.  Meanwhile, nighttime sequences, most appreciatively during the Halloween carnival, offer admirable black levels although the blemish free transfer tends to highlight the film’s rather unimpressive CG effects.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue projects on the lower end requiring an ample increase in volume.  With minimal music and few instances of potent sound effects, the mix does little to overly impress.  In addition, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available November 10th from RLJ Entertainment, Pay the Ghost can be purchased via and other fine retailers.

    Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

    Director: Gilbert Adler

    Starring: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon & Corey Feldman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Culled from a story by Back to the Future’s Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood centers on sarcastic private eye Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt) after being hired by the attractive Catherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak, Baywatch) to locate her missing delinquent brother.  As the investigation leads to a seductive brothel headed by Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart, Jade), Rafe uncovers their vampiric alter egos and must do battle with the seductive bloodsuckers.  Debuting shortly after the cancellation of the HBO series, Bordello of Blood lacks the overall excitement of its predecessor but, substitutes its shortcomings with eye-popping gore effects and healthy doses of female flesh.  With Miller’s hilariously dry humor coursing through the film, Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play) makes a welcome appearance as an over the top, electric guitar wielding preacher while, 80s icon Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys) gives fans his last prominent role for several years as nose-pierced horndog Caleb Verdoux.  With a familiar relic making an appearance, Bordello of Blood hits its stride when Guttman and Reverend Current invade the bloodthirsty brothel equipped with holy water contained Super Soakers, laying to rest the scantily clad vampiresses.  Although critically dismissed, Bordello of Blood has earned itself a cult reputation by fans who revel in its blatant outrageousness.  Lacking the bite of its first cinematic outing, Bordello of Blood is still worthy of a one night fling that luckily never takes itself seriously.

    Scream Factory presents Bordello of Blood with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With occasional softness and mild speckling on display, skin tones are consistent and well-detailed while, the colors of supermodel Angie Everhart’s red hair and even bolder gore sequences pop nicely.  Meanwhile, black levels are generally pleasing with no alarming imperfections on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible and prioritized while, the film’s rocking soundtrack including hits like Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” give effective boosts when applied.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Also joining the Collector’s Edition ranks, special features for Bordello of Blood include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Co-Producer A.L. Katz, Tainted Blood: The Making of Bordello of Blood (36:08) has Red Shirt Pictures once again delivering another worthy retrospective as the majority of the cast and crew hail the film as an embarrassment.  Furthermore, a Video Promo (3:12), Still Gallery (65 in total), Theatrical Trailer (1:42) and Reversible Cover Art wrap up the disc’s bonus content.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

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



    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 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, 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 and other fine retailers.

  • Dark Summer (2015) / Alien Outpost (2015) Blu-ray Reviews

    Dark Summer (2015) / Alien Outpost (2015)

    Director(s): Paul Solet / Jabbar Raisani

    Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Stella Maeve, Maestro Harrell, Grace Phipps & Peter Stormare / Joe Reegan, Reiley McClendon, Scott Miller, Matthew Holmes, Rick Ravanello & Doug Tait

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In conjunction with IFC Midnight, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, delivers two contemporary offerings of ghosts and extraterrestrials.  First up, from the director of Grace, Dark Summer centers on 17-year-old Daniel Williamson (Keir Gilchrist, It Follows) under house for invading the cyber privacy of a female classmate.  Consumed by loneliness and yearning to reconnect with her, Mona (Grace Phipps, Fright Night) shocks Daniel with a chilling message, rattling the teen’s senses.  A prisoner to his own house, Daniel becomes convinced an evil presence is stalking him to make him pay for his actions.  Stella Maeve (Chicago P.D.), Maestro Harrell (The Wire) and Peter Stormare (8MM) co-star. Next up, Alien Outpost takes place in the years following the near invasion of Earth by a race of aliens known as the Heavies.  With a series of bases established around the globe to ward off future attacks, a documentary crew captures the daily life of soldiers stationed in Outpost 37, the deadliest on Earth.  But when a catastrophic ambush occurs and a soldier goes missing, the understaffed squad attempt to rescue him only to discover a bigger threat at large. 

    Kicking off with intimidating probation officer Stokes (Stormare) installing a house arrest band, 17-year-old Daniel Williamson (Gilchrist) is forbidden from accessing social media or the internet following his cyber invasion of introverted classmate Mona (Phipps).  With his mother away on business, Daniel struggles with his urge to reach out to his victim only to regrettably accept an unexpected video call from her.  Shocked by what he has witnessed, Daniel is consumed with guilt, medicating his pain with alcohol and meds to no avail.  Comforted by his friends Abby (Maeve) and Kevin (Harrell), Daniel begins experiencing nightmarish images of Mona convincing him that supernatural forces are at play.  The more time spent in his own personal prison, Daniel begins to lose focus of reality, leaning on his friends to help him combat the ghostly presence that is after him.  Similar and even referenced by the film’s characters to Disturbia, Dark Summer takes the claustrophobic tone of the latter and melds it with a uniquely conceived contemporary ghost story.  Slow-building and capturing genuine moments of dread, Director Paul Solet’s followup to Grace introduces sound performances from its young stars and a brief but, effective appearance from veteran actor Peter Stormare.  While the film would have benefited by toying with the psychology of Daniel’s mental state more before revealing a true apparition at the helm, Dark Summer ultimately muddles itself with one too many supernatural explanations by its final act.  With infatuation spells, possession and more thrown at the viewer in the film’s fleeting moments, Dark Summer loses the mysterious aura established early on, chalking the film up to only mediocre levels.

    Following Earth’s invasion of the extraterrestrials known as the Heavies in 2021, Alien Outpost transitions to 2033 where a documentary crew are recording the lives of soldiers stationed at Outpost 37.  Originally created to safeguard the planet from remaining Heavies, the years following the First Earth War have led to many outposts being discontinued and less than adequately staffed.  Positioned in the humid Middle East, Outpost 37 remains the most dangerous base with enemy attacks and upheavals from locals on a daily basis.  Juxtaposing from the documentary footage and retrospective interviews with the surviving soldiers, Alien Outpost takes noticeable cues of alien activity set against the backdrop of realistic war zones from 2009’s District 9.  After one of their own is kidnapped following combat, the remaining soldiers attempt to retrieve him only to discover the second coming of the Heavies is on the horizon.  Battling brainwashed locals and losing more soldiers as their unsanctioned rescue mission continues, the troops of Outpost 37 are Earth’s only hope at survival.  From the visual effects realm of Game of Thrones, Director Jabbar Raisani’s feature-length debut demonstrates impressive effects sequences on a limited budget that arguably rivals most Hollywood blockbusters.  Unfortunately, the film’s premise feels far too generic and reminiscent of Director Neil Blomkamp’s recent sci-fi efforts while, the bloated and underdeveloped cast does little to evoke an emotional response from the viewer.  In addition, the uniquely designed Heavies give the film mild hope at redemption only to disappoint with their seldom seen appearances.  Attempting to blend the shaky-camera perspective of Cloverfield with high-stakes military action, Alien Outpost fails to make its landing count.    

    Presented with a 1080p transfer and sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Dark Summer is a product of the digital age projecting an image free of any dirt or debris.  Skin tones are mostly pleasing with suitable detail captured in closeups.  While muddier appearances are evident in swooping camera movements, black levels are encouraging with inky levels in the film’s more dimly lit sequences.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Dark Summer’s quiet soundscape is well preserved with dialogue levels crisp and authoritative while, the ambiance of crickets and ghostly sound effects are delicately placed for the proper effect.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 has also been provided.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Paul Solet, a Director Paul Solet Featurette (2:15), A Conversation with Peter Stormare (15:52), The Kids - Cast Interviews (2:04), Atmosphere and Style Featurette (1:57), The Art of Dark Summer (13:38), The Music of Dark Summer (8:37) and a Theatrical Trailer (1:58).

    Alien Outpost arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Also shot digitally, this contemporary sci-fi effort exudes sharp detail and healthy contrast with strong black levels, evident in the film’s many interview sequences, projecting a welcomingly inky appearance.  While the constant handheld cinematography may overstay its welcome to some, the occasional digital hiccups during heavier movement are intentional and not a flaw in the transfer.  For such a rapidly moving film, Alien Outpost’s presentation is still a crowdpleaser.  Joined by an impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, the film delivers exceptional dialogue levels with no distortion heard.  In addition, the film’s combat sequences of explosives, machine guns and other heavy artillery give the mix a run for its money that will leave listeners impressed with its efforts.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.  Bonus contents include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Jabbar Raisani and Director of Photography/Co-Writer Blake Clifton, Interviews with Cast and Crew (16:23), Deleted Scenes (3:22), two Theatrical Trailers (3:40) and a Reversible Cover Art.

    In the wake of their well-received release of IFC Midnight’s The Babadook, Scream Factory continues their partnership with two recent servings of haunts and alien invaders.  While Dark Summer has slightly more to offer with an intriguing buildup that only loses composure in its final act, Alien Outpost is an utter disappointment that fails to deliver characters worth caring for and a premise too closely compared to other contemporary science fiction features.  Considering their age and digitally shot roots, both films arrive with A/V treatments that range from solid to downright outstanding with a decent spread of special features to explore.  Overall, Dark Summer and Alien Outpost are both competently conceived films but, many of their ideas and executions fail to hit their mark.

    Dark Summer RATING: 3/5

    Alien Outpost RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Dark Summer and Alien Outpost can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

  • Spirited Away (2001) / The Cat Returns (2002) Blu-ray Reviews

    Spirited Away (2001) / The Cat Returns (2002)

    Director(s): Hayao Miyazaki / Hiroyuki Morita

    Starring: Daveigh Chase, Jason Marsden, Suzanne Pleshette, Susan Egan & David Ogden Stiers / Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle, Elliot Gould, Kristen Bell & Tim Curry

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their proud partnership, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes two more of Studio Ghibli’s animated spectacles.  First up, Director Hayao Miyazaki’s (Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ponyo) Spirited Away focuses on a young girl named Chihiro as she journeys to her new home with her parents.  One wrong turn finds Chihiro trapped in a surreal world of spirits while her parents are mysteriously transformed into pigs.  Scared and longing to return to her own world, Chihiro discovers a profound courage as she navigates her way through countless adventures.  Daveigh Chase (Lilo & Stitch), Jason Marsden (Transformers: Rescue Bots), Suzanne Pleshette (The Birds), Susan Egan (Hercules) and David Ogden Stiers (Beauty and the Beast) comprise the film’s English vocal talent.  Next up, The Cat Returns centers on clumsy schoolgirl Haru whose ordinary routine is turned upside when she saves the life of a cat.  and Whisked away to an unusual world of speaking felines, Haru must learn to believe in herself in order to evade an unwanted fate.  Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married), Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride), Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond), Elliot Gould (MASH), Kristen Bell (Frozen) and Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) provide the film’s English vocal talent.   

    Long considered to be Director Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece, Spirited Away finds spoiled ten-year-old Chihiro (Chase) uncomfortable about her family’s move to their new house.  After taking a slight detour to what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, Chihiro’s parents are quickly overtaken by the sight of endless food that transforms them into sloppy pigs.  Meanwhile, the frightened Chihiro is whisked away to a supernatural realm, home to a lavish bathhouse for spirits to replenish themselves.  Befriended by Haku (Marsden), a young male spirit, Chihiro is advised to find work within her new surroundings in order to devise a way to free her family.  After conforming to the world’s rules set forth by the wicked Yubaba (Pleshette), Chihiro nearly forgets her name, narrowly escaping a permanent stay in the fantastical environment.  As her work ethic grows and her independence develops, encounters with a notably stinky spirit and the mysterious No-Face take place.  When Haku, in dragon form, is severely injured following the theft of a magical seal, Chihiro embarks on a dangerous journey to return the stolen item in order save her friend’s life.  For all its magical mainstays, Spirited Away beautifully captures a child’s discovery of independence and transition into maturity.  Littered with wildly original creatures and a genuine sense of wonder, Chihiro’s transformation from frightened child to courageous young woman is an epic fantasy adventure with social commentaries on youth and society.  While its many characters may overwhelm viewers at times and their otherworldly abilities will undoubtedly fly over the heads of youngsters, Spirited Away remains a dazzling feast of animated majesty and compelling drama.  Becoming the most successful film in Japanese history and deservedly winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Spirited Away is one of Studio Ghibli’s most renowned pictures that effortlessly transports viewers to a dreamlike world like no other.

    A spin-off of 1995’s Whisper of the Heart, The Cat Returns centers on the ordinary life of quiet schoolgirl Haru (Hathaway).  When Haru saves an innocent cat from a deadly fate, the ditzy teenager learns the feline is anything but ordinary when he begins to speak.  Introduced as Lune, the Prince of the Cat Kingdom, Haru is overwhelmed when his kingdom praises her with gifts and the opportunity to marry the future King.  Cautiously contemplating the offer, Haru is advised from a whisper in the wind to seek support from the Cat Bureau.  Welcomed by the sophisticated Baron Humbert von Gikkingen (Elwes), the hefty Muta (Boyle) and the kind raven Toto (Gould), Haru is assured safety until she and Muta are abducted to the Cat Kingdom for a royal ball.  As the Baron and Toto rush to save their human friend, Haru begins to transform into a cat, further sealing her future as Princess.  Shamefully toting his superiority, The Cat King (Curry) is convinced his bridal selection for his son is a wise one until the Baron crashes the party leading to an adventurous final act.  Understanding the need to discover her true self to revert back to her human appearance, Haru and her friends navigate an intricate castle maze to return to the human world once and for all.  Considerably shorter than most Studio Ghibli efforts, The Cat Returns maintains the studio’s high animation standards while, its characters, although charming and humorous, lack a noticeable depth.  In addition, the film’s theme of believing in oneself is adequately conveyed but, never scratches beyond its surface for deeper subtext commonly seen in previous Ghibli efforts.  Set in yet another otherworldly realm inhabited this time by talking cats, The Cat Returns manages to deliver several moments of thrills complimented by worthwhile laughs courtesy of Muta and Toto’s constant bickering.  Although lacking a deeper emotional palette, The Cat Returns delivers top-notch visuals in its limited runtime that will resonate with dedicated Ghibli enthusiasts.                      

    Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment ushers both Spirited Away and The Cat Returns with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bursting with bright colors, both films arrive with blemish free transfers that allow viewers to fully appreciate the grand environments and uniquely crafted characters.  Black levels appear inky and absent of any crushing levels while, saturation is remarkably pleasing and depth, most noticeably in Spirited Away’s flying sequences, are nicely handled.  Accompanied with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue is always audible and crisp while, sound effects and each film’s respective scores are relayed with excellent clarity.  In addition to each film’s English version, the original Japanese mixes with English subtitles are also included.  Ported over from its previous DVD release, Spirited Away’s special features include, an Introduction by John Lasseter (1:09), The Art of Spirited Away (15:12), Behind the Microphone (5:42) where the English cast and crew share their experiences working on the acclaimed film.  Plus, Original Japanese Storyboards (2:04:31), a Nippon Television Special (41:53), Original Japanese Trailers (18:26), Original Japanese TV Spots (3:57) and Sneak Peeks (0:37) for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney’s Descendants are also included.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release round out the film’s supplements.  Also porting over its previously available supplements, The Cat Returns’ special features include, Original Japanese Storyboards (1:14:58), Behind the Microphone (8:59), The Making of The Cat Returns (34:11), Original Japanese Trailers (6:36), Original Japanese TV Spots (3:33) and Sneak Peeks (0:37) for Disney Movie Rewards and Disney’s Descendants.  In addition, a DVD edition of the release is also included.  

    Rewarding viewers with more of Studio Ghibili’s rich history, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment welcomes Hayao Miyazaki’s long revered masterpiece to American shores.  Surreal and epically realized, Spirited Away’s examination of a young girl roaming a world of spirits is one of the master storyteller’s most impressive outings that stands as an animation milestone.  Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli’s shortest feature to date, The Cat Returns, introduces viewers to an equally peculiar world of talking felines and a young girl struggling to alter her fate.  Containing a heartfelt theme and impressive artistry, The Cat Returns lacks an emotional depth, trapping it in a state of unfortunate mediocrity.  Marking their domestic Blu-ray debuts, both films stun on high-definition with all their previously available special features ported over.  Eager to journey to magical worlds of wonder, Studio Ghibli’s efforts have left a profound impact on viewers that can now be gloriously recaptured on home video.

    Spirited Away RATING: 4.5/5

    The Cat Returns RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Spirited Away and The Cat Returns can be purchased via and other fine retailers.

  • Vampire's Kiss (1989) / High Spirits (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Vampire’s Kiss (1989) / High Spirits (1988)

    Director(s): Robert Bierman / Neil Jordan

    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso & Jennifer Beals / Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole & Steve Guttenberg

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their exercise in funny frights, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents yet another high-definition double feature of things that go giggles in the night!  First up, Academy-Award winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) stars in Vampire’s Kiss as womanizing literary agent Peter Loew.  With loneliness invading his life, Peter’s sanity begins to teeter after an encounter with a seductive fanged mistress leaves him thinking he’s turning into a vampire.  As time passes, everyday is a full moon with Peter’s eccentric behavior reaching new heights.  Maria Conchita Alonso (Predator 2), Elizabeth Ashley (Coma), Kasi Lemmons (Candyman) and Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) co-star.  Next up, Peter O’Toole stars as castle-turned-hotel owner Peter Plunkett in High Spirits.  Struck with financial hardships, Plunkett and his faithful employees morph their Irish home into a haunted tourist attraction.  Unfortunately, the hotel guests are unprepared when real ghosts begin appearing, turning their stay into a hilarious holiday.  Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy), Daryl Hannah (Splash), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky), Peter Gallagher (American Beauty) and Liam Neeson (Taken) co-star.       

    Considered a box-office blunder at the time of its release, Vampire’s Kiss has since amassed a cult following most notably for its lead star’s incredibly quirky performance.  Constantly criticized for its lack of plot, Director Robert Bierman’s debut effort is in fact the study of a man’s loneliness and longing for true love that ultimately drives him mad.  Whether audiences choose to recognize this narrative explanation, what can’t be denied is Cage’s oddball performance in all its kooky glory.  Utilizing a distinctly peculiar accent, Cage’s Peter Loew goes through women as quickly as new socks while, maintaining a prestigious job as a literary agent in New York City.  Admittedly lonely and seeking therapy, Loew’s life is altered after a chance encounter with a beautiful woman leaves him with fang bites and a suspicion he’s becoming a vampire.  Professionally acting for nearly 35 years, Cage has amassed a solid body of work although today, noted for his more eccentric and less favorable roles.  Unlike anything before or since, Cage delivers an explosively over the top performance filled with crazy-eyed glares, shouting tangents and absurd body movements allowing him to devour the scenery in every shot.  As his vampiric convictions grow, Loew begins ridiculing a lowly secretary (Maria Conchita Alonso) at his office and purchasing $3.50 plastic fangs to better embrace his transformation.  As Loew’s sanity wavers, the viewer questions the actuality of the film’s events leading to a darkly poetic finale that seals Lowe’s fate as an alleged bloodsucker.  Shot during a less than stellar period in New York City’s history, Director of Photography Stefan Czapsky (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood) captures the essence of the metropolis making it feel like a living, breathing character in the film.  Ahead of the curve with its black comedic tone and Cage’s consciously outlandish performance, Vampire’s Kiss will likely still leave audiences divided but, admirers of the thespians more uncontrollable antics will find this late 80s offering priceless.

    From the director of Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, High Spirits is a delightful romp starring some of comedies most recognizable faces of the 1980s and headlined by one of cinema’s most beloved performers.  Incorporating Ireland’s vast folklore, High Spirits takes glorious advantage of its foreign locations, earning itself undeniably rich atmosphere.  As Peter O’Toole’s Peter Plunkett decides to redress his castle into a haunted attraction in order to save it, American tourists arrive but, are none too pleased with Plunkett’s phony shenanigans.  Eventually, actual phantoms appear, unimpressed with their exploitation and determined to give the tourists their money’s worth.  Constantly overruled by his loudmouthed wife (D’Angelo) and enamored with the castle, Jack Crawford (Guttenberg) begins seeing the ghostly, yet beautiful, apparition of Mary Plunkett Brogan (Hannah).  After being murdered at the hands of her husband (Neeson) 200 years prior, Mary’s confining curse is lifted by Jack’s selflessness and mutual attraction, carving out a romantic subplot to the film’s enjoyable narrative.  In addition, up and comers including, Peter Gallagher as a conflicted priest in training, Jennifer Tilly as his flirtatious achilles heel and Martin Ferrero (Jurassic Park) as a ghost debunker all make appearances.  Critically panned and earning Daryl Hannah a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress, High Spirits is a hilarious getaway picture where poltergeists are the life of the party.  Reminiscent of Beetlejuice, also released in 1988, High Spirits would fail to ignite the box-office but, was predominately  discovered on late night cable television during HBO and Cinemax’s infancy.  Littered with rewarding visual effects and simple sight gags, High Spirits is an uproarious ghost comedy that’s fun for the whole family.              

    Scream Factory presents both Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits with 1080p transfers, each sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Littered with flakes and occasional lines over its New York City skyline opening title sequence, Vampire’s Kiss quickly improves demonstrating a healthy grain level with warm complexions, rich detail and bold colors seen in bright yellow taxicabs and blood splatters.  Meanwhile, High Spirits presents strong saturation and fine detail in the dimly lit castle setting.  Containing a strong filmic quality, High Spirits suffers only from understandably mild softness during visual effect sequences and barely noticeable speckling. Vibrant and clean, High Spirits certainly aims to please.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, Vampire’s Kiss relays dialogue with distinct clarity and offering suitable depth during a loud disco sequence whereas, High Spirits’ rousing score from Composer George Fenton (Gandhi) rocks the mix complimented by its always clear dialogue levelsIn addition, although relatively light on special features, Vampire’s Kiss includes an Audio Commentary with Director Robert Bierman and Star Nicolas Cage ported over from its previous MGM DVD release.  Containing some dry spells, the track is still a worthwhile listen with the two collaborators strolling down memory lane recalling the nonunion shoot causing issues during production and Cage’s intense and at times, difficult, method acting process.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (2:09) is also included while, High Spirits unfortunately, arrives with zilch.

    Once again trading in their scares for laughs, Scream Factory’s suitable pairing of Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits makes a hauntingly hilarious splash on its viewer.  Nicolas Cage’s extremely eccentric turn as a vampire must be seen to be believed while, the impressive ensemble cast and charming visual effects of High Spirits will leave audiences of all ages with a grin on their face.  Scream Factory’s treatment of these 80s offerings is an admirable one with filmic quality transfers and more than pleasing sound mixes.  While, special features are limited, the thrill of owning these two paranormal retro offerings for the price of one is frighteningly inviting.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available February 10th from Scream Factory, Vampire’s Kiss / High Spirits can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

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

    Krull (1983)

    Director: Peter Yates

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

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

    Salvador (1986)

    Director: Oliver Stone

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

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Grave Halloween (2013)

    Director: Steven R. Monroe

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

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13: The Bob Newhart Show, Dan Curtis' Dracula, Gang War in Milan & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13 includes:

    - Dan Curtis' Dracula (1973) (0:36)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014

    - House in the Alley (2012) (6:28)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Scream Factory:

    - The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series (12:04)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Shout! Factory:

    - Gang War in Milan (1973) (20:26)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Raro Video:

    - Chances Are (1989) (27:10)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Image Entertainment:

    - Death Spa (1989) (31:40)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (37:55)

  • The Black Torment (1964) DVD Review

    The Black Torment (1964)
    Director: Robert Hartford-Davis
    Starring: John Turner, Heather Sears, Ann Lynn, Peter Arne & Norman Bird
    Released by: Kino Lorber

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Soaked in gothic atmosphere reminiscent of the Hammer horror films of the decade, Compton Films issued their own response with this eerie period piece.  Shot at the iconic Shepperton Studios, Robert Hartford-Davis (Corruption) directs this hauntingly underrated execution in British horror.  Previously released in less than stellar presentations, Kino Lorber, in conjunction with their Redemption line, proudly presents The Black Torment mastered in HD.  Largely forgotten since its theatrical run, The Black Torment has been resurrected with the intent of striking fear into your soul!

    Set in the 18th-century, The Black Torment stars John Turner (The Power of One) as Sir Richard Fordyce returning to his country estate with his new bride played by Heather Sears (The Phantom of the Opera).  After the brutal rape and murder of a young girl, suspicion increases as the locals believe Sir Richard is responsible.  Firm on his innocence, citizens are not convinced while Sir Richard begins experiencing severe mood changes and supernatural events.  As more people continue to disappear, Sir Richard begins questioning his own sanity.

    The stalking and eventual murder of a young, beautiful girl sets the gears in motion for this deliciously gothic whodunit.  Returning home from his honeymoon, Sir Richard Fordyce (Turner) is greeted by his wheelchair-bound father, his caretaker and sister of Sir Richard’s late first wife and her cousin Seymour.  Rumors have escalated amongst the townsfolk that Sir Richard is responsible for the girl’s death.  Shot cheaply without compromising style, The Black Torment takes its time establishing its characters while lavish sets and costumes attract the viewers eye.  As more victims disappear, Sir Richard is haunted by visions of his late wife who committed suicide some years earlier.  John Turner balances the gentlemanly and unhinged side of his role convincing the audience something is astray.  The gorgeous Heather Sears compliments Turner as a lovely devoted wife who eventually is consumed to fear him as an erratic and possibly deadly man.  While, often compared to the efforts of Hammer horror and possessing its fair share of eroticism, The Black Torment is far more tame compared to the popular studio.  In addition, death scenes are present but rely on showing less in order to suggest more to the audience, a tactic that is proven successful here.  The Black Torment may be considered slow moving to some but, its patience to develop its principal characters against the gloomy gothic setting works to its advantage.  

    Ghostly happenings and an uncertainty of who’s committing the murders adds a true level of mystery to this entertaining thriller.  As the finale approaches, the culprits dying words answer all questions in a surprising, albeit slightly over explained, attempt at wrapping up loose ends.  Beautifully shot by Peter Newbrook (whose sole directorial effort would come in 1973 with The Asphyx), The Black Torment is a spooky, period piece that wonderfully captures the gothic atmosphere only selected studios could achieve so well.  
    RATING: 4/5

    Released twice before with unimpressive results, Kino Lorber have presented The Black Torment in HD from 35mm archival elements.  Preserving its 1.66:1 aspect ratio in anamorphic widescreen, The Black Torment has never looked better.  Black levels are lively and vivid while flesh tones are relayed accurately.  Detail is quite nice and most appreciated in the lavish set design of Sir Richard’s estate.  Most noticeably is the remarkably clean presentation of the transfer.  No lines or scratches to be seen which only enhances the viewing pleasure of the film.  Admittedly, it’s a shame Kino Lorber decided against a Blu-ray release as the appearance of the elements are far superior compared to past Redemption titles issued on the format.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, The Black Torment is clear and surprisingly very robust.  No distortion to speak of and Robert Richards‘ powerful score rattles your speakers with his thunderous horns and elegant string sections.  No complaints to be seen here!
    RATING: 4.5/5


    - Robert Hartford-Davis Interview: This rare 13-minute interview finds Hartford-Davis discussing his cost conscience way of filmmaking while mainly speaking of the business side of the movie industry.  The interviewer tends to ask a question before stopping and attempting to simplify its delivery which tends to get tiresome.  The inclusion of this rarity is still a treat for fans of Hartford-Davis‘ work.

    - Trailers: Includes The Blood Beast Terror, Virgin Witch, Killer’s Moon and Burke and Hare.

    RATING: 2/5

    Banished to obscurity and nearly forgotten, The Black Torment has thankfully been resurrected much to the delight of gothic horror fans.  On par with Hammer horror films, The Black Torment weaves a thrilling tale set against murder and the supernatural.  The lush production design, impressive performances and patient pace make The Black Torment a wonderful addition to British horror’s history.  Kino Lorber’s HD presentation is unquestionably the best the film has ever looked.  The proper aspect ratio preserved and the overall clean appearance of the film will hopefully encourage Kino to issue this underrated gem on Blu-ray in the near future.  Rounding out the release with a rare interview from Director Robert Hartford-Davis should make picking up The Black Torment simple for those with an affection for full moons and the fog infested scenery of British horror.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Haunter (2013) Blu-ray Review

    Haunter (2013)
    Director: Vincenzo Natali
    Starring: Abigail Breslin, Stephen McHattie, Michelle Nolden & Peter Outerbridge
    Released by: IFC Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    With the runaway success of the Paranormal Activity franchise and most recently, The Conjuring, stories of the supernatural and ghosts are all the rage.  Whether it’s a house or a doll, hauntings have always managed to delight and terrify audiences for decades.  Aiming for originality, the concept of a ghost haunting a fellow ghost seems fresh in a climate of mediocrity.  Director Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) invites viewers to witness a young, suffering ghost attempting to save a living soul from a deadly fate.  Does this unique spin on ghost tales have what it takes to send you chills?  Let’s find out...  

    Haunter stars Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine, Zombieland) as Lisa, a 15-year-old girl living with her family in 1985.  Tragically, Lisa and her family died under unusual circumstances leaving their spirits to unknowingly follow the same routine.  Lisa discovers a way to reach out to the world of the living in order to help Olivia, the young girl currently residing in Lisa’s house, from a deadly fate similar to her own.  Unique and shocking, Haunter co-stars Stephen McHattie (Watchmen), Michelle Nolden (Red) and Peter Outerbridge (Lucky Number Slevin).

    Admittedly, films set in the 1980s normally cast a nostalgic spell for those enamored with the days of Devo and Pac-Man.  Engaging the audience with subtleties, opposed to painfully obvious reminders allows for the spirit of the era to take over.  Unfortunately, Haunter breaks this cardinal rule immediately.  Reminding the viewer that this is 1985 at every turn is beyond distracting.  Lisa’s (Breslin) room is covered with Depeche Mode and David Bowie posters, her little brother Robbie (Peter DaCunha) spends most of his time playing Pac-Man and Lisa’s family unwinds by watching Murder, She Wrote.  The worst offense is when Lisa is called to the table to talk with her parents as she toys with a Rubik’s Cube.  The constant attempts to reaffirm the time period fails to engage the viewer but reminds us that we are in fact watching a film.  In addition, Lisa goes about her normal daily routine until she begins to notice a similar pattern.  The audience spends the first 30 minutes of the film subjected to Lisa’s Groundhog Day-like awareness that continuously treads the same water.  This routine quickly becomes tiresome as the story bites its time trying to develop a narrative.  Finally, Lisa begins hearing voices and makes attempts to communicate with the living world.  A sinister, ghostly pale man (Stephen McHattie) warns Lisa about the voices and advises her to continue her routine.  Of course, Lisa, with Siouxsie and the Banshees shirt in tow, rebels against the fellow ghost and connects with Olivia, the young teenage girl presently residing in Lisa’s house.  Through investigation, Lisa learns that countless girls that previously resided in her house disappeared and were never heard from again.  It becomes clear that The Pale Man formally lived in the house and has developed a bratty jealousy about anyone else residing there.  In hopes of her family reaching peace, Lisa defies the odds and plans to help Olivia before The Pale Man makes her his next victim.

    Haunter presents a unique concept but fails every step of the way in telling a frightening or mildly interesting tale.  Abigail Breslin, who shines in nearly every film she appears in, looks dreadfully bored here.  In addition, the far from polished screenplay casts a dark cloud of uncertainty on what the makers of the film were attempting to accomplish.  The sad 1980s referential moments only remove the viewer from the experience and highlight the laziness of tone setting.  Most importantly, Haunter fails to pack any sense of frights or suspense in a tale about ghosts haunting ghosts.  Director Vincenzo Natali has shown immense promise with his previous efforts, but unfortunately Haunter is a major step back.  In what sounded intriguing, Haunter is an unstructured and sad take on the supernatural and hauntings.
    RATING: 1/5

    IFC Films presents Haunter in a 1080p anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer.  While, the film fails to deliver, its transfer doesn’t bode so well either.  The 1980s time period is cast in a softer light with Lisa’s house constantly engulfed in fog giving the film a hazier, less than appealing look.  In addition, as Lisa investigates her basement and other dark areas, black levels are often muddy leaving much to be desired.  Detail appears decently sharp in wardrobe but not as on par with other films shot in 2013.  The softer appearance and bleak black levels may have been intended, but it hardly translates to a stellar transfer.
    RATING: 3/5

    Haunter comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that fares better than its video presentation.  Dialogue comes across with no issues while hisses and pops remain extinct.  Attempts at jump scares push the sound nicely but the mix does little to overly impress.  In addition, a 2.0 PCM lossless mix is also included.
    RATING: 3.5/5


    - Audio Commentary with Director Vincenzo Natali

    - Audio Commentary with Writer Brian King

    - Behind the Scenes: Lasting over 20 minutes, this fluff piece finds the cast and crew tooting their own horns about the film and what drew them to the project.  Interesting bits include Breslin explaining that the concept of a ghost being haunted by someone living was appealing.  Perhaps, she was reading another script or the story confused even her.  In addition, Director Vincenzo Natali explains how not directing a film for a few years causes you to forget how.  A sad statement that speaks volumes here.  

    - Haunter - The Complete Storyboard by Vincenzo Natali: Natali’s storyboard script plays as a motion slideshow lasting nearly an hour.

    - Teaser Poster

    - Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Haunter is a horrendously dull and never terrifying execution in ghosts and the supernatural world.  The creative combination of Natali and Breslin should have made this film a unique exploration of ghosts haunting their own kind but sadly, Haunter never finds its footing.  The messy screenplay and embarrassing attempts at casting a 1980s atmosphere will find the viewer shaking their head in disapproval.  IFC Films’ video presentation is nothing to write home about, while the audio mix is sufficient enough.  The special features are in decent amount, but the quality of the film fail to make them very intriguing.  Haunter could have been much more had proper focus been paid to the screenplay and pacing, but unfortunately, the final result is a disappointing one.
    RATING: 2.5/5