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  • Madhouse (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Madhouse (1981)

    Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis

    Starring: Trish Everly, Michael Macrae, Dennis Robertson, Morgan Hart, Allison Biggers, Edith Ivey, Richard Baker & Jerry Fujikawa

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Infamously inducted as one of Britain’s prized “video nasties”, Madhouse centers on Julia Sullivan (Trish Everly in her only film role) who continues to try and block out the anguish her cruel twin sister Mary caused her growing up.  Suffering from a disfiguring illness and still harboring disdain for her other half, Mary escapes from the hospital, hellbent on delivering Julia a bloody birthday she’ll never forget.

    A peculiar blending of Italian hyper violence and America’s burgeoning slasher craze with a dash of gothic ambiance, Madhouse thrives on its uneasy tone that attempts to drown out its more questionable plot devices.  Educator to young deaf students, Julia still maintains a fear of her hospitalized twin sister Mary who suffers from a deforming disease and responsible for wrecking havoc on Julia throughout childhood.  Maintaining a close relationship with her loving uncle, Father James (Dennis Robertson, Dark Night of the Scarecrow), Julia seeks to make peace with her dying sister only to be met with frightening hostility.  Exploding into full-blown terror when Mary escapes from her hospital confines, Julia’s approaching 25th birthday seems less likely to be met as supernatural suspicions, a bloodthirsty Rottweiler and a body count start to take shape.  Shot in the suitably atmospheric region of Savannah, Georgia, Madhouse punctuates its proceedings with voyeuristic photography and a certifiably strange soundscape conducted by Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) to further its descent into darkness.  

    Charismatic and beautiful, Trish Everly holds the picture together with genuine fear and concern for her life reading clearly in her face and actions while, the supporting cast hams it up with generally over-the-top performances.  A noble debut for Everly that would ultimately prove to be her last onscreen, the young actress seemed destined for a career as a future scream queen that was unfortunately not meant to be.  Pulling no punches with its violence and never discriminating against adults or young deaf children as its prey, Madhouse’s Rottweiler attacks on the like surely and appreciatively earned its place in “video nasties” history with ravaged jugulars and torn hands on full display.  While the film’s final showdown between Julia and her doctor boyfriend against the murderous culprits leave far more questions than answers concerning their motivations, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis (Beyond the Door) perhaps smartly bookends the horror-oddity with a quote to properly chase audiences head-scratching motions.

    Scanned in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Arrow Video proudly presents Madhouse with a 1080p transfer, sporting its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  A wonderfully filmic-looking offering, grain is healthy and overwhelmingly satisfying to the eye while, skin tones remain natural and clean.  Furthermore, the film’s gorier moments paint the screen red with eye popping boldness with black levels also appearing appreciatively deep.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that registers dialogue crisply, the track also makes excellent use of Composer Riz Ortolani’s evocatively creepy score and usage of lullabies with no hiccups to speak of.  An optional LPCM 2.0 mix has also been provided for your listening pleasure.  

    Bonus features include, an Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues, Running the Madhouse with Edith Ivey (12:40) finds the actress recalling her early days in radio and the transition all actors made moving onto television.  Furthermore, Ivey also shares words about her appearance on The Howdy Doody Show, commentating for the Miss USA show for years before landing her role in Madhouse where the director wanted over-the-top performances from his cast.  Framing Fear (19:32) catches up with Director of Photography Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli in this subtitled interview that traces everything from his first paid job on Arturo’s Island to his many works with Assonitis.  Next up, Ovidio Nasty (7:44) chats with the film’s producer/director where he reveals the film’s direct influences to be The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Shining.  Assonitis also discusses the film’s alternate titles but prefers There Was a Little Girl and praises Savannah, Georgia as being the ideal gothic shooting location.  Finally, Alternative Opening Titles (3:01), the Original Trailer (3:04), a 23-page booklet featuring liner notes by John Martin (available only in the release’s first printing), Reversible Cover Art and a DVD edition conclude the supplemental package.  

    An overlooked effort that samples different styles and subgenres, Madhouse is certifiably odd to the bone with a violent bite from Rottweilers and deformed nutcases alike.  Although not one to provide all the answers by its conclusion, Director Ovidio G. Assonitis’ deranged sibling-slasher hybrid makes for a unique late night excursion through horror’s less traveled roads.  In their expected fashion, Arrow Video brings the “video nasty” to high-definition with a striking 2K restoration and a modest spread of extras to further educate and enlighten the minds of horror enthusiasts.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, Madhouse can be purchased via DiabolikDVD.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Drive-In Massacre (1976) Blu-ray Review

    Drive-In Massacre (1976)

    Director: Stu Segall

    Starring: Jake Barnes, Adam Lawrence, Douglas Gudbye & Verkina Flowers

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Although bearing a glorified grindhouse moniker further personified by its gritty photography, Drive-In Massacre falls short of living up to its promise of exploitation excess.  Co-scripted by Back to the Future’s quintessential hobo George “Buck” Flower, a sweltering California drive-in is targeted by a sword-wielding madmen with a penchant for necking couples.  Kicking off with an impactful opening leaving the heads of unsuspecting lovers literally rolling, Drive-In Massacre quickly veers off course as a dull duo of detectives investigate the murders leading them down a rabbit hole of red herrings ranging from public ejaculators and bumbling maintenance men to no avail.  Unsurprisingly shot in less than a week, this smartly marketed indie effort makes little case in the realm of appealing characters and a slim body count that can’t only help but disappoint based on the film’s tagline deeming itself too terrifying for the average moviegoer.  While its classic drive-in and latter carnival filming locations make for nostalgic eye candy, Drive-In Massacre ultimately dawdles for much of its barely hour-long runtime before the coppers zero in on a warehouse where yet another machete-wielding red herring withholds a young woman.  Completely unrelated to their actual unknown suspect, the film’s “killer is still out there” sendoff not only feels cheap but, lacks any sort of punch actual drive-inners may have had shifting their ride into reverse by the end credits.  Notable for preceding the slasher craze and boasting an uncompromisingly eye-catching title, Drive-In Massacre can be appreciated for its humble efforts but, hardly leaves a true developmental mark on the genre.

    Newly restored from the original camera negative, Severin Films presents Drive-In Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Although sporadic instances of scuffs, scratches and reel change snafus are to be expected, this no-budget crash course in exploitation moviemaking surprises with an overwhelmingly filmic appearance that comes alive best during the film’s sunnier sequences.  Furthermore, colors seen in drive-in manager Mr. Johnson’s flashy attire pop strongly while, the neon-lit carnival rides also spruce up the picture nicely.  Meanwhile, black levels vary in quality from serviceable to overly grainy.  Unfortunately, the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix suffers from more innate issues of muffling and restraint making dialogue delivery a challenging but, not impossible feat to absorb.  Scoring cues are at least more functional while, traces of static interference also rear their head from time to time.  

    Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Stu Segall followed by an Easter Egg accessed by clicking left of its icon revealing the Theatrical Trailer for Segall’s 1972 effort C.B. Hustlers (2:52).  Next up, the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:49) and Drive-In Days: A Conversation with Co-Writer/Actor John F. Goff (16:18) who recalls his early love affair with film through his uncle’s movie theater and his eventual affliction with the acting bug is provided.  Additionally, Norm Sheridan Recalls Drive-In Massacre (11:45) shares his own treasured experiences making the film that transpired several years after returning home from the Vietnam War.  Lastly, the vintage Making the Massacre: Interview with Director Stu Segall (6:32) is also included alongside Reversible Cover Art.  Far from an essential exploitation opus, Drive-In Massacre makes for a curious watch for grindhouse completists with its head-lopping introduction just worthy enough of its time.  Unfazed by its unavoidable wear and tear, Severin Films delivers this no-so trashy cheapie in the best shape imaginable for its high-definition domestic debut, befit with a generous helping of on-disc goodies.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Drive-In Massacre can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Witchtrap (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Witchtrap (1989)

    Director: Kevin Tenney

    Starring: Linnea Quigley, James Quinn, Kathleen Bailey, Judy Tatum, Hal Havins & Rob Zapple

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Bearing its alternate The Presence title card, Witchtrap, aggressively marketed as not a sequel to 1987’s Witchboard, scares up the screen as Director Kevin Tenney’s most overlooked spooktacular showcase from the wild and waning late 80s.  Afflicted with a reputation for being haunted and further confirmed following an unexplainable death on its grounds, the Lauder House, failing to sell to potential buyers attempts to reinvent itself as a bed and breakfast.  Hired by the property’s inheritor (Tenney in a brief role), a team of paranormal experts, aided by a trio of security operatives, use their tools and know-how to cleanse the home of its sinister evil but find themselves meeting fatal demises the longer they stay.  Boasting charmingly clunky acting and genuinely funny dialogue, Witchtrap delivers a black mass of gory special effects mayhem including, automobile impalements, exploding noggins, a bullet (sans gunfire) through the skull and the always dependable axe to the head.  In addition, scream queen Linnea Quigley reteams with her Night of the Demons helmer for a minor but, wildly memorable role that finds her baring her full assets and landing the film’s highlight death scene with a shower head driven through her neck.  Another low-budget marvel in Tenney’s rolodex of features overrun with possessed partygoers and eerie Ouija boards, Witchtrap keeps the fun rolling well into its final act where smart-assed lone survivor Tony Vincente (James Quinn, Witchboard) goes head to head with the black magic-worshipping entity of Avery Lauder (J.P. Luebsen, also of Witchboard fame) in a ghost busting brawl for the ghoul’s heart.

    Newly scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Witchtrap fully uncut with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Cleansed to perfection while maintaining its filmic integrity, skin tones are highly detailed and warmly accurate while, colors found in the bedrooms of the Lauder House and its surrounding greenery burst with vibrancy.  In addition, the film’s gorier moments are further enhanced by the image’s crispness revealing all the technical team’s efforts.  Lastly, black levels are deeply inky and universally sound, chalking up another flawless restoration for the consistent indie label.  Joined by a strong DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix, the film’s dubbed dialogue is handled effectively while its overall usage is occasionally jarring in motion.  Furthermore, the eerie atmospherics and musical underscores are appropriately balanced for a less forceful but nonetheless efficiently pleasing listening experience.

    Packed to the brim with content, special features include, a chatty Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Kevin Tenney, Producer Dan Duncan, Cinematographer Tom Jewett & Actor Hal Havins, several newly recorded interview featurettes including, Making Witchtrap with Kevin Tenney (23:36) who discusses his film school days before exiting once landing the opportunity to helm Witchboard and his other successive features and the hardships of making smaller budgeted films, Acting Witchtrap with Linnea Quigley (13:40) who recounts her chance encounter falling into acting and her creative relationship with Tenney, Shooting Witchtrap: An Interview with Tom Jewett (15:90) plus, Special Effects with Tassilo Baur (17:11).  Additionally, Audio Interviews with Special Makeup Artist Judy Yonemoto (8:18) and Music Composer Dennis Michael Tenney (13:13) are provided along with the Witchtrap Video Trailer (2:55), Book of Joe Short Film directed by Kevin Tenney (23:23) and an Alternate Ending for Book of Joe (3:44).  Lastly, a Production/Promotional Still Gallery (12 in total), DVD Edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original and favored VHS poster close out the robust spread of supplements.  A supernaturally splendid hodgepodge from the last breathes of the 1980s featuring a haunted house and buckets of blood, Witchtrap sits proudly next to Tenney’s other cult favorites from the era while earnestly deserving more praise than time has provided for its tightly budgeted and highly entertaining execution in satanic shrieks.  Treating viewers to the missing link in Tenney’s early trifecta of terror, Vinegar Syndrome outdoes themselves with the film’s definitive release.  Perfect in quality and presentation in all its uncut glory, the included bonus features are a staggering sight to behold and a pleasure to be possessed by.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • Slaughterhouse (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Slaughterhouse (1987)

    Director: Rich Roessler

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Wild Beasts (1984) Blu-ray Review

    Wild Beasts (1984)

    Director: Franco E. Prosperi

    Starring: Lorraine De Selle, John Aldrich, Louisa Lloyd & Ugo Bologna

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in Rome, Wild Beasts finds a city zoo of animals running amuck when their water supply is contaminated with PCP.  Escaping from the confines of their cages and waging bloody destruction throughout the city, the drug-crazed creatures revert to their savage instincts to feast upon the unsuspecting population.  Boasting notable faces from the many avenues of Italian cult cinema, the Godfather of Mondo Franco E. Prosperi (Mondo Cane) directs.

    In shock documentary maker Franco E. Prosperi’s final film outing, Wild Beasts delivers a bark as loud as its ferocious bite, ranking highly amongst the siege of naturicide pictures from the wild and crazy heyday of Italian made insanity.  After an unexplainable contamination of the local zoo’s water supply with hallucinogenic angel dust, the normally well-behaved animals go rogue, escaping from their barred dwellings to hunt fresh meat found in the unexplored region of the city.  Tasked with determining the cause of the animal’s bloodthirsty behavior, zoologist Rupert Berner (John Aldrich) and Inspector Nat Braun (Ugo Bologna, Nightmare City) combine their efforts to save the citizens now considered prey.  In addition, Berner’s girlfriend, Laura Schwartz (Lorraine De Selle, Cannibal Ferox), independently stranded in the chaos struggles to reach her young daughter who is also embroiled in her own animalistic nightmare along with her fellow dance classmates.  With its shocking sequences of beastly brutality brought to life by trained circus tamers under animal attack, Wild Beasts supplies ample doses of blood splattering carnage and wild life lunacy that must be seen to be believed.  Featuring a backseat rendezvous of intimacy disrupted by gnawing sewer rats, face-flattening elephants, a hungry cheetah in pursuit of a Volkswagen Beetle, explosive car wrecks, lions, tigers and much more, Wild Beasts is rabid with over the top energy and chaotic shaky camera kills that adds a level of documentary-like realism to its already impressively captured moments of vicious animal feasting.  Topped with dependably silly dubbed dialogue and a shocking twist that contaminates more than the zoo’s residents, Wild Beasts stands as one of the best and most brutal “animals attack” features that supplies everything and more one would hope to find in an Italian production of its maniacal caliber.

    Marking its Blu-ray debut, Severin Films welcomes Wild Beasts with a newly remastered 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Outside of minimal speckling, filmic quality is consistent throughout while, skin tones are appropriately natural-looking and gore effects nicely detailed.  In addition, the film’s few prominent colors found in Laura’s bright red attire pops strongly with textures found in animal fur also well preserved.  Predominately set under the cloak of nighttime, black levels are impressively handled with visibility never questioned.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that delivers the English dubbed dialogue with crispness, animal roars, car crashes and the film’s mix of sax and synth stylings by Composer Daniele Patucchi (Sacrifice!, Warrior of the Lost World) all leave exacting and effective marks.  In addition, an optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is also included.  

    Special features include, Altered Beasts: Interview with Director Franco E. Prosperi (15:33) reveals the film’s original intention to shoot entirely in Rhodesia before war broke out and a frightening encounter with terrorists prompted the production to relocate to South Africa.  Shortly after recommencing filming, Prosperi recalls his association with Mondo Cane pushed the production out once again before finally settling back in Italy for the remainder of the shoot.  Several funny tales concerning the difficulty of wrangling the film’s many animals are also shared in this intriguing interview with its maker.  Wild Tony: Interview with Actor Tony Di Leo (12:54) finds the film’s lead, credited as John Aldrich, sharing his early beginnings in a musical band before becoming a circus tamer turned into an opportunity at acting.  Di Leo fondly recalls Prosperi’s humorous spirit, his personal distaste for his performance in the film and the fear he held shooting scenes with the animals regardless of his taming experience.  Furthermore, Cut After Cut: Interview with Editor & Mondo Filmmaker Mario Morra (34:54) covers Morra’s lengthy career highlights in detail while, The Circus is in Town: Interview with Animal Wrangler Roberto Tiberti’s son Carlo Tiberti (10:25) discusses the family’s long history and many experiences in the circus business.  Lastly, House of Wild Beasts: A Visit to the Home of Franco E. Prosperi (12:42) and the film’s International Trailer (2:24) conclude the release’s bonus features.

    A top-tier inclusion of the ravenous animals gone mad subgenre, Wild Beasts insanely puts drug-tripping lions, tigers and hyenas at the forefront of this solidly produced slice of spaghetti cinema.  Effectively realized with in-camera animal attacks and grisly gore for likeminded cult enthusiasts to feast upon, Wild Beasts is a stampede of entertaining screams.  Brought to high-definition with a praiseworthy remastering by Severin Films, Freak-O-Rama’s helping of newly produced bonus features is the icing on top of this blood dripping cake.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available February 7th from Severin Films, Wild Beasts can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Undertaker (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Undertaker (1988)

    Director: Franco De Stefanino

    Starring: Joe Spinnell, Rebecca Yaron, Patrick Askin, Susan Bachli & William Kennedy

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In one of his final film roles, Joe Spinnell (Maniac) stars in The Undertaker as a crazed mortician who takes pleasure in making the local population apart of his personal body collection.  As more people go missing, his nephew Nick (Patrick Askin) grows suspicious of Uncle Roscoe’s devious activities pitting him and those closest in harm’s way.

    Helmed by no shortage of four directors under a phony foreign pseudonym and virtually lost to time for the better part of 30 years, The Undertaker adheres to the bloody tropes of slasher cinema with cult heavyweight Joe Spinnell delivering a most stupefyingly peculiar performance.  Mumbling through much of his role as a high-strung funeral director with a fetish for corpses, Spinnell’s deranged demeanor can hardly be contained as he sobs uncontrollably before savagely ripping his victims apart making the unpredictability of his range the film’s main vocal point.  After being lectured on the subject of necrophilia at his local university, Roscoe’s nephew Nick quickly grows weary of his uncle’s funeral parlor exploits, opening a can of worms he wished he never did.  Muddled by several promising but, nonetheless wasteful subplots involving the local police investigating a series of missing persons and a movie theater security guard who’s certain of Roscoe’s dirty deeds, The Undertaker keeps the “bigger is better” hairstyles of the era, ample helpings of T&A and top-notch deaths including, a switchbladed eyeball, scorched face via frying pan and a beheading in healthy supply.  Methodically tracking his victims, leading to a climatic assault on Nick’s teacher Ms. Hayes (Rebecca Yaron) with machete in hand and an abrupt final frame from beyond the grave, The Undertaker may not be a bonafide diamond in the rough but, its excavation remains of utmost importance for exploitation hounds that will treasure Spinnell’s maddening performance put to celluloid only a year before his untimely death.  

    Scanned in 2K from the 35mm camera negative, Vinegar Syndrome ushers The Undertaker to high-definition with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  At the mercy of incorporating six minutes of VHS workprint footage to ensure an uncut presentation, the overwhelming majority of the film looks splendid with rich colors, natural skin tones and sharp detail observing Spinnell’s facial scars all looking tip-top.  Understandably, the VHS-culled sequences are in rather drab shape although, footage from a satanic feature Roscoe watches looks more effective in its ratty condition.  The final showdown in Ms. Hayes’s apartment and Roscoe’s dimly-lit basement dwelling can also be harder to make out but these brief moments of unavoidable haziness are a minor setback to an otherwise sound presentation.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 mix that encounters strides of sharp sibilance, dialogue is sufficiently projected with soundtrack cues occasionally overwhelming exchanges.  Furthermore, cracks and pops are far and few between.  

    Special features include, a Director’s Intro (0:15) by William Kennedy, Audio Commentary with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy and Making The Undertaker with Actor/Writer/Director William Kennedy (20:45) that provides curious viewers with answers to everything and more regarding the troubled production as well as Kennedy’s praise for what he believes is one of Spinnell’s finest performances.  In addition, Rough Cut Outtakes (9:54), an Archival Promotional Video (5:07), a Production Still Gallery (17 in total) and a 6-page booklet featuring an exemplary essay by Michael Gingold is also included.  A DVD edition of the release is also on hand.

    Following vastly murky bootlegs and a previously released censored version, The Undertaker makes its Blu-ray debut in style with a rewarding transfer that can only be praised for its restored bliss and completeness.  Coupled with intriguing supplements and a blood splattered, coffin shaped O-card, Vinegar Syndrome, much like Roscoe’s penchant for bodies, makes The Undertaker one victim of a release Spinnell fans won’t want to miss in their collection.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome and limited to 3,000 units, The Undertaker can be purchased exclusively via VinegarSyndrome.com.

  • 31 (2016) Blu-ray Review

    31 (2016)

    Director: Rob Zombie

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989) Blu-ray Review

    C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (1989)

    Director: David Irving

    Starring: Brian Robbins, Bill Calvert, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Gerrit Graham & Robert Vaughn

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When a corpse used for a high school science experiment goes missing, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud finds three best friends fearing for their grades as they snatch a decomposing cadaver infected with a cannibalistic virus.  Shortly after being resurrected, the undead army experiment gone wrong goes on a killing spree, adding townspeople to his ravenous flock and leaving the young trio to save the community from themselves!  Brian Robbins (Head of the Class), Bill Calvert (Terror Squad), Tricia Leigh Fisher (Pretty Smart), Gerrit Graham (Phantom of the Paradise) and Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) star.

    Loosely borrowing from its more horror centric predecessor, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud makes a swift tonal change, relying on laughs and enhanced camp to bring life to the formally underground dwellers once more.  Scripted by Ed Naha (Troll, Dolls) (under the pseudonym M. Kane Jeeves), the misleading mutant populated artwork stretches the truth as the monsters are simpler, fang-toothed zombie types whose bite spreads their plague to other unsuspecting suburbanites.  Panicking after losing the intended corpse for their science experiment, Steve (Robbins) and Kevin (Calvert) don’t hesitate in stealing a thought to be dead replacement from the local Center for Disease Control to salvage their grade.  Roping fellow friend Katie (Fisher) into the mix, an accidental electrocution reanimates the corpse known as Bud (Graham) who’s wildly hungry for human flesh.  Infecting the small town one victim at a time with army officials attempting to quietly and unsuccessfully contain the situation, the three teenagers must put an end to the madness as Bud leads his hungry, hungry pack to the local Halloween dance.  Lacking the gritty grime of its New York based original, the quirky followup’s fresh-faced stars fully embrace the last gasps of the Gen X decade to the amusement of viewers while, Gerrit Graham’s gruntingly hilarious performance as the deathly infected Bud make his physicality and peculiar face movements a hoot to be seen.  Climaxing at a swimming pool where the bikini-donning Katie lures the C.H.U.D. infected citizens to their frozen farewell, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud by no means upstages its originator but, possesses a contagiously fun energy largely overlooked by cult cinema watching humanoids.

    Lionsgate presents C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Virtually free of scratches or other such anomalies, natural film grain is apparent while overall image quality reads mildly soft.  Skin tones are healthy with the film’s color scheme found in costumes, Bud’s simple make-up design and the teen’s favored burger joint popping nicely.  Discovered and predominately viewed during its VHS era, Bud devotees will be overly pleased with its new life on high-definition.  Supplied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is satisfyingly captured with ease while, Emmy Award winning Composer Nicholas Pike’s (Graveyard Shift, Critters 2) score of synth and rock queues see noticeable rises on the track.  

    Graced with rewarding supplements as part of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, extras include, an Audio Commentary with Director David Irving, moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, Bud Speaks! with Gerrit Graham (16:18) where the actor reflects on how he never imagined his career to be so permeated by horror/cult credits, his improvisational background, the freedom of having no dialogue in the film and his embracement of the role’s physicality.  Furthermore, Katie’s Kalamity with Tricia Leigh Fisher (12:45) catches up with the actress today as she recalls many laughs shared onset with her costars Robbins and Calvert, praise for Graham’s campy performance and a humorous story during the shoot when a day trip to a local amusement park resulted in countless messages being left on her answering machine ordering her to the set.  Finally, This C.H.U.D.’s For You! with Allan Apone (14:44) hosts the special effects artist as he discusses the experimental freedom working on horror films in the 80s while, a Video Trailer (1:47) and Still Gallery (6:20) round out the bonus features.

    A comedic changeup that substitutes the humanoid monsters from New York for razor-toothed zombies with three science failing high schoolers tasked to clean up the mess, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud is built for absurdity and generally wets the appetite of bad movie appreciators.  Making its high-definition debut alongside the timely release of its 1984 original, the Vestron Video Collector’s Series continues to spread the genre love high and low with its treatment of this bottom-dwelling sequel sure to make most stiffs wiggle with glee.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available November 22nd from Lionsgate, C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Director: Anthony Hickox

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

     

  • Blood Diner (1987) Blu-ray Review

    Blood Diner (1987)

    Director: Jackie Kong

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

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

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

    Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

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

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Clown (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Clown (2014)

    Director: Jon Watts

    Starring: Laura Allen, Andy Powers & Peter Stormare

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 2.5/5

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

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

    Doctor Butcher M.D. (1980)

    Director: Frank Martin

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

  • Green Room (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Green Room (2015)

    Director: Jeremy Saulnier

    Starring: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Joe Cole, Callum Turner & Patrick Stewart

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After witnessing a brutal crime during a tour stop, Green Room finds a young punk rock band confronted with a squad of skinheads and their disciplined club owner (Patrick Stewart, X-Men) who now want them dead.  Fearing for their lives and grossly outnumbered, the band must face the unexpected war head on if they want to survive.  Anton Yelchin (Fright Night), Imogen Poots (Roadies), Alia Shawkat (Whip It), Joe Cole (Secret in Their Eyes) and Callum Turner (Victor Frankenstein) comprise the ensemble cast.

    In a headbanging mashup of genre blending, Green Room turns its amp up to 11 before violently beating it to a pulp, leaving viewers barely breathing by its conclusion.  Traveling the backroads of the Pacific Northwest playing rowdy dive bar gigs, punk band The Ain’t Rights find themselves on the outskirts of Portland to perform at a seedy skinhead joint where heads are shaved and hate is common.  After incensing the crowd before winning them over with their anarchic energy, the band is privy to a murder in the club’s green room making them immediate prisoners of the neo-Nazi ruffians.  Restrained to the cramped quarters while weighing out their limited options, the quartet, also joined by the victim’s friend (Poots), are caught between a rock and a hard place that will be deadlier than any mosh pit experienced before.  Following the arrival of the club’s wicked owner Darcy (Stewart) and his rampant orders to frame them, the punkers are forced to fight fire with fire when bassist Pat’s (Yelchin) wrist is gruesomely severed and they unearth a heroin operation in the basement of the backwoods bar.  Obtaining one handgun and using makeshift weapons, the frightened friends go primeval and face off against the brutes in a tidal wave of pulse-pounding violence ranging from a boxcutter disembowelment, pit bull jugular tears and face exploding shotgun blasts.  Aggressively tense, Green Room sets the stage for one of the great social class rivalries of all-time pitting punks against bootstrapped skinheads in a showdown to end all showdowns.  As hard-hitting as a Misfits verse, Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier's (Blue Ruin) thriller packs a nasty punch with notable turns from Stewart and the recently deceased Yelchin in one of his final film roles that will blow viewers’ hair back, confirming the young star was merely warming up for a career that guaranteed even more hard-rocking greatness.

    Lionsgate presents Green Room with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Cast in a constant siege of dark ambiance and dingy club lighting, black levels are exceptional allowing for details to be strongly observed within the graffiti laden walls of the film’s central location.  Meanwhile, skin tones are consistently accurate while colors read accordingly although their presence is never wholly eye-popping.  Clean as a whistle, the film arrives with no source damage or unwanted anomalies ensuring a most picturesque viewing experience.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is well-handled with only the exchanges between the punks and Darcy through a locked door being slightly muffled for understandable reasons.  Blowing the speakers away, the mix does an admirable job relaying the film’s hard-charging, bass heavy punk anthems while, shootouts and bone crushing sound effects make equally strong statements.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier, Into the Pit: Making Green Room (9:58) is a typically brief EPK with insight from the film’s makers and cast plus, a firsthand look at the difficult weather conditions that equally plagued the production and helped encourage its tone.  Lastly, Trailers (10:45) for The Witch, The Lobster, Swiss Army Man, Room and Amy are also included alongside a Digital HD Code.

    Hypnotically hardcore, Green Room moshes its way to center stage to unload a brutal battle between punk rockers and homicidal Nazis.  Violent and breathtakingly suspenseful, Stewart delivers a chillingly cold turn as the gang’s Führer while, Yelchin offers fans a supremely badass farewell in one of his final swan song performances.  Meanwhile, Lionsgate’s high-definition treatment is virtually flawless making for a deservedly guitar-smashing viewing experience.  Earning itself the Audience Award at the Austin Fantastic Fest, Green Room is graphic thrills galore with a punk rock energy that will leave you certifiably whiplashed.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 12th from Lionsgate, Green Room can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Bad Moon (1996) Blu-ray Review

    Bad Moon (1996)

    Director: Eric Red

    Starring: Mariel Hemingway, Michael Paré & Mason Gamble

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Shortly after suffering an attack during an exotic expedition, Bad Moon finds Ted Harrison (Michael Paré, Streets of Fire) attempting to conceal his curse of transforming into a savage werewolf from his older sister Janet (Mariel Hemingway, Manhattan) and young nephew Brett (Mason Gamble, Dennis the Menace).  As local bodies being turning up around their isolated community, Ted strives to pass the blame onto his sister’s loyal German Shepherd who is acutely aware of the true monster at work.

    Adapted from Wayne Smith’s novel Thor, Writer/Director Eric Red’s (Cohen and Tate) lycanthropic feature casts a full moon of shocks and bloodshed against a family driven tale centered around a boy and his dog.  Opening in Nepal, photojournalist Ted Harrison is disrupted from a passionate lovemaking session in his tent when a towering, fanged wolf tears his lay to shreds, leaving him gashed and barely alive.  Shortly after returning home, Ted is harboring a dark ailment he believes can only be cured by the company of his loved ones.  Crashing with his older sister Janet and blonde-haired, blue-eyed nephew Brett proves hazardous as local hikers and drifters are found brutally murdered, reportedly believed to be the work of a wild animal.  While his owners are startled yet never second guess the events, Janet and Brett’s protective German Shepherd Thor picks up a suspicious scent from Uncle Ted that can’t be shaken.  Consumed by his curse and selfishly attempting to pawn his bloodthirsty deeds off on the K9, Thor is hauled off by Animal Control leaving his distraught owners to fend for themselves against the true terror waiting in their own wilderness.  

    With the exception of the fangtastic werewolf design courtesy of special effects wiz Steve Johnson (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Warriors) and a generous helping of throat-ripping and face-slashing gore, Bad Moon is fairly straightforward during its tightly-constructed 79 minute runtime while its performances never fully resonate.  Signing off on a strong note with a suspenseful showdown between wolf and mutt plus, a last-minute jump scare for good measure, Bad Moon, although not overwhelmingly memorable, is a commendable inclusion into the beastly subgenre that was all but banished to hibernation by the time of its release.

    Scream Factory presents Bad Moon with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Capturing strong skin tones that only occasionally favor a redder pigment, well-balanced black levels and a presentation free of discouraging scuffs or scratches, Bad Moon makes a striking debut on high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible while the shrieking howls of the wolf, gunshots and Thor’s bark make for a most effectively trembling listen.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  In addition to presenting Eric Red’s approved Director’s Cut (1:19:25) that merely exorcises the rather dated CG werewolf transformation and the Original Theatrical Cut (1:19:51), special features include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Eric Red on his preferred cut plus, an additional Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Eric Red & Actor Michael Paré on the latter version.  Furthermore, the first-rate Nature of the Beast: Making Bad Moon (35:17) looks back on the development and impact of the film with new interviews from Writer/Director Eric Red, Actors Michael Paré and Mason Gamble plus, Special Effects Make-Up Artist Steve Johnson among others.  Also included, the VHS sourced Unrated Opening Scene from the Director’s First Cut (6:07), the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:06) and Transformation Sequence Storyboards (6:30), Thor/Werewolf Fight Storyboards (9:40) and Thor Stares Down Uncle Ted Storyboards (4:15) wraps up the surprisingly loaded sum of supplements.

    Hardly as memorable as its werewolf brethren from a decade earlier, Bad Moon supplies ample entertainment in the splatter department while Steve Johnson’s more grayed design work of the monster is call for applause.  Arriving technically sharp-looking and fluid sounding, Scream Factory celebrates this mid-‘90s howlfest in style that although not credited under their illustrious Collector’s Edition banner, acts the part in the quality and quantity of its bonus features.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available July 19th from Scream Factory, Bad Moon can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Pack (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Pack (2015)

    Director: Nick Robertson

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available July 5th from Scream Factory, The Pack can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)

    Director: Tobe Hooper

    Starring: Dennis Hopper, Caroline Williams, Bill Johnson, Bill Moseley & Jim Siedow

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the decade since the original massacre, Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Dennis Hopper, Easy Rider) seeks revenge for his slain kin at the hands of the crazed, cannibalistic Sawyer family.  Joined by local radio DJ Stretch Brock (Caroline Williams, Stepfather II), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 finds Lefty discovering the Sawyers’ underground death dungeons where a revving, gas-powered war is waged.  Bill Johnson (Paramedics), Bill Moseley (House of 1,000 Corpses) and Jim Siedow (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) co-star in Tobe Hooper’s campy followup to his frightening masterwork.

    Concluding his third and final association with low-budget mavericks Cannon Films, Director Tobe Hooper (Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars) would return to the dusty Texas backroads for a new chapter in man-eating debauchery.  In a tonally peculiar departure from the original film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 marinates its horror with an abundance of wacky black comedy and far more blood than its first serving.  As the saw-wielding Sawyer family make their presence known again, vengeful Texas Ranger Lefty Enright (Hopper) seeks to make the twisted cannibals finally pay for their reign of terror.  Capturing and replaying the recording of the Sawyers’ latest murder victims to help aid the investigation, local disc jockey Stretch Brock (Williams) finds herself caught in the crosshairs of Leatherface and his demented kin when she finds herself trapped in their underground labyrinth of cannibalism.  Spouting the holy word and armored with his own artillery of chainsaws, Lefty crashes the festivities for an over the top display of southern justice.

    Largely balked at for its extreme emphasis on dark comedy before being rechristened as a bonafide cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 makes no apologies for its campiness that lights up the screen like a murderous game show thriving on excess.  Emerging from a publicized stint in drug rehabilitation, Dennis Hopper, although later disavowing his association with the film, delivers a wildly entertaining turn as an unhinged Texas Ranger that sits handsomely with the thespians other more oddball roles.  In addition, Caroline Williams, adorned in Daisy Dukes, gives viewers the ideal final girl to latch onto with a powerfully shrieking scream for the books.  While Leatherface finds himself bewitched by the alluring looks of Stretch and winds himself up into several comical hissy fits, Bill Moseley’s Chop-Top steals the picture with his lurid make-up design and hilarious dialogue (“lick my plate, you dog dick!”).  In addition, the return of Jim Siedow’s The Cook gives the film an added dose of laughs with his authentic quirkiness.  Greatly enhanced by festering tunnels and the Sawyers’ skeletally constructed dwellings ably conceived by Production Designer Cary White (Gettysburg), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is an unconventional followup that left many scratching their heads with a clothes hanger yet, has achieved its proper due for its relentless dedication in seeing viewers laugh as loud as they scream.

    Scream Factory presents The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Located on disc one and newly mastered in 2K from the inter-positive film element, the film looks impressively vibrant with warmer skin tones, stronger black levels and an enhanced filmic quality over previous releases.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, sound is solid throughout with audible dialogue and powerfully relayed chainsaw motors and screams sharpening the film’s climactic moments.  In addition, a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Sprawled across two separate discs, special features on disc 1 include, a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Richard Kooris, Production Designer Cary White, Script Supervisor Laura Kooris and Property Master Michael Sullivan, while vintage tracks include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper and an Audio Commentary with Actors Bill Moseley, Caroline Williams and Special Make-Up Effects Creator Tom Savini.  Furthermore, Extended Outtakes from It Runs in the Family (29:37) featuring never before seen interviews with deceased Screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson and the late Lou Perryman who played L.G, several Still Galleries (301 in total), Theatrical Trailers (2:04), TV Spots (3:29), a new Behind-the-Scenes Footage Compilation from Tom Savini’s Archives (43:35), an Alternate Opening Credit Sequence (1:56) and Deleted Scenes (10:57) offer the impressive release’s first servings.

    Disc 2 includes MGM’s Original HD Master of the film with color correction supervision by Director of Photography Richard Kooris (1080p, 1.85:1), boasting both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.  Further packed with additional supplements, newly created featurettes include, House of Pain: The Special Make-Up Effects of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (42:32) with interviews from make-up effects artists Bart Mixon, Gabe Bartalos, Gino Crognale and John Vulich.  Yuppie Meat with Chris Douridas and Barry Kinyon (18:59) sits down with the film’s first two casualties as they share their colorful experiences on set.  In addition, Cutting Moments with Editor Alain Jakubowicz (17:19), Behind the Mask with Bob Elmore (13:48) who shares his account as a stuntman and fellow Leatherface performer on the shoot and Horror’s Hallowed Grounds (24:33) where host Sean Clark resists the original Austin shooting locations as they are today.  Finally, the beloved 2006 It Runs in the Family (1:21:41) documentary from Red Shirt Pictures and a Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s Breakfast Club parody poster completes the smorgasbord of bonus features.

    Previously released domestically with overseas counterparts including a bevy of their own supplements, Scream Factory’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 Collector’s Edition makes the definitive statement for the cannibal horror-comedy with two noteworthy HD transfers and hours of newly produced and vintage bonus features.  Topped with Joel Robinson’s colorful collage style cover art, the saw remains family with Scream Factory’s latest edition ranking as one of their prized members!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available April 19th from Scream Factory, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

    Director: Wes Craven

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Luther the Geek (1990) Blu-ray Review

    Luther the Geek (1990)

    Director: Carlton J. Albright

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • 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 ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Guardian (1990) Blu-ray Review

    The Guardian (1990)

    Director: William Friedkin

    Starring: Jenny Seagrove, Dwier Brown & Carey Lowell

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the novel by Dan Greenburg, The Guardian centers on young parents Phil (Dwier Brown, Field of Dreams) and Kate (Carey Lowell, License to Kill) welcoming the arrival of their newborn baby.  Shortly after hiring the ideal live-in babysitter, Phil and Kate’s worst nightmare comes true when Camilla’s (Jenny Seagrove, Local Hero) supernatural intentions for their child are revealed.  Brad Hall (Saturday Night Live), Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop), Natalija Nogulich (Hoffa) and Gary Swanson (Vice Squad) co-star.

    Marketed as Academy Award winning director William Friedkin’s (The French Connection, The Exorcist) return to the horror genre, The Guardian modernizes the dark origins of fairy tales with the deep-rooted fears of all parents for a uniquely-suited picture.  Adhering to the ancient druid worship of trees, an evil yet, convincingly caring nanny (Seagrove) connives her way into the lives of unsuspecting parents in order to sacrifice their newborn babies.  Disappearing only to resurface under a new identity as Camilla, Phil (Brown) and Kate (Lowell) hire the charmingly attractive woman to care for their newborn only to find themselves rattled by unsettling nightmares and the declining health of their baby.  While local friends fall victim to Camilla’s wicked ways courtesy of flesh-eating wolves, the couple’s suspicions are validated after a grieving former victim comes forward to warn the couple of the monster living under their roof.  Unsuccessfully convincing the authorities of the supernatural powers at play, Phil and Kate must trek to the source of the evil in order to protect their baby’s soul.

    Previously developed for Director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) before jumping ship to helm Darkman, the project would suffer through several grueling rewrites once Friedkin joined the production.  With the foundation of a solid premise, The Guardian falters due to its noticeably shaky screenplay and Friedkin’s quick-cutting that capsizes any effect the film’s scarier moments intend.  Although sequences of homicidal trees dismembering three deserving thugs make for solid eye-candy, The Guardian’s dark fairy tale tone finds itself largely lost in the woods.  Failing to attract audiences or sizable box-office returns with Friedkin also distancing himself from the project, The Guardian has marginally grown in appreciation amongst cult cinema circles.  Hardly reaching the quality of Friedkin’s devil-possessing 1973 classic, The Guardian, with its occasionally striking moments of grim imagery, is neither entirely forgettable nor remarkably memorable.  

    Scream Factory presents The Guardian with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Amidst several instances of flakes and specks, skin tones appear well saturated and boasting natural appearances.  Meanwhile, colors are strongly enforced with greenery and moments of gore popping most nicely.  With countless sequences shrouded in darkness and shadow, black levels appear inky and well detailed.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is prominently handled with audibility never an issue.  Furthermore, moments of suspenseful intensity including Ned’s savage assault from wolves and Phil’s chainsaw-wielding battle in the film’s final act are sharp and effective.  Packed with a varied assortment of new and vintage supplements, special features include, A Happy Coincidence with Dwier Brown (21:56), From Strasberg to The Guardian with Gary Swanson (10:10), A Mother’s Journey with Natalija Nogulich (11:33), Scoring the Guardian with Jack Hues (6:40) and Tree Woman: The Effects of The Guardian with Matthew Mungle (13:07) all produced by Aine Leicht’s dependable Cavetown Pictures.  Also included, Return to the Genre: An Interview with William Friedkin (17:25), The Nanny: An Interview with Jenny Seagrave (13:19) and Don’t Go in the Woods: An Interview with Stephen Volk (21:00).  Finally, a Still Gallery (1:19) and the film’s Theatrical Trailer (1:34) round out the disc’s bonus content.

    Unfairly compared to one of the genre’s most enduring efforts, The Guardian is all but destined for failure.  That said, judged on its own merits, Friedkin’s grim fairy tale never quite lives up to its full potential with a problematic screenplay and stabs at suspense crumbling.  Although its narrative may appeal to some more than others, Scream Factory’s high-definition upgrade unanimously impresses with its technical grades checking out and its supplemental package being worth the price of admission alone.  Long out of print, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is prime for Friedkinphiles and others unfamiliar with the Academy Award winner’s horror followup.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available January 19th from Scream Factory, The Guardian can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    A Christmas Horror Story (2015)

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

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

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • Shocker (1989) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Shocker (1989)

    Director: Wes Craven

    Starring: Peter Berg, Michael Murphy, Cami Cooper & Mitch Pileggi

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Shocker centers on demented mass murderer Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi, The X-Files) who after being sentenced to the death, harnesses electricity to return from the grave to continue his reign of terror.  Connected to Pinker through a series of surreal dreams, college football star Jonathan Parker (Peter Berg, Collateral) is the only one that can turn Pinker’s abilities against him.  Michael Murphy (Count Yorga, Vampire), Cami Cooper (Meet the Applegates), Sam Scarber (Over the Top), Richard Brooks (The Crow: City of Angels) and Ted Raimi (Darkman) co-star.

    Long considered a lesser effort in Director Wes Craven’s filmography and made unashamedly by its creator to recapture the success of his popular 1984 dream slasher, Shocker injects electrifying volts of hokey carnage.  Starring future director Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Lone Survivor) as fostered football star Jonathan Parker who loses his family and girlfriend to a murderous crimewave, Jonathan experiences a wave of preemptive dreams alerting him of the killer’s identity and where he will strike next.  With his surviving adoptive father Lt. Don Parker (Murphy) heading the investigation, TV repairman and black magic worshipper Horace Pinker (Pileggi) is captured and sentenced to death by electricity for his brutal crimes.  Harnessing the powerful volts, Pinker takes his revenge by body jumping into several different victims to continue his murder spree and wipe out Jonathan once and for all.  Blending memorable special effects with somewhat antiquated yet nostalgic video technology, Shocker visually pleases while delivering gory set pieces of mouth to mouth resuscitation gone terribly wrong and several slit throats.

    Although plot holes run aplenty along with a slightly overambitious runtime, Shocker has aged well emerging as a bonafide campfest best enjoyed for its over the top antagonist and hard rocking soundtrack comprised of Megadeth, The Dude of Wrath and Bonfire.  Intended to launch a new horror franchise, dismal box-office performance and lackluster interest from audiences halted any such plans.  While Craven enthusiasts remain split, Shocker is more fun than credited and ripe for a jolting rediscovery.

    Scream Factory presents Shocker with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Free of any discernible aging artifacts, colors found in costume choices and blood-splattered murder sequences burst off the screen.  Meanwhile, skin tones appear natural and nicely detailed while black levels are excellently inky and absent of any crushing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is robust and clear with electrical explosions and the film’s impressive rock soundtrack making a thunderous impact.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included for your listening pleasure.  Worthy of its collector’s edition banner, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Wes Craven, Audio Commentary with Director of Photography Jacques Haitkin, Producer Robert Engelman and Composer William Goldstein.  In addition, Cable Guy with Mitch Pileggi (17:36), Alison’s Adventures with Camille Cooper (17:12), It’s Alive! with Shep Gordon (11:57) and No More Mr. Nice Guy: The Music of Shocker (26:13) with insight from Music Supervisor Desmond Child, Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys), David Ellefson (Megadeth) and Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper) is also included.  Finally, Trailer & TV Spots (2:32), Radio Spots (1:09), Vintage Making Of (8:48), Storyboard Gallery (8:55), Still Gallery (77 in total) and Reversible Cover Art utilizing the film’s original one-sheet artwork round out the disc’s hefty supplements.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available September 8th from Scream Factory, Shocker can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 (2014) DVD Review

    Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 (2014)

    Director: Jake West

    Starring: Sir Graham Bright, Julian Petley, James Ferman & Stephen Thrower

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Moral panic and extreme censorship once again run rampant in Director Jake West’s acclaimed follow-up documentary to 2010’s Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and VideotapeVideo Nasties 2: Draconian Days pulls the curtain back on the shocking witch hunts that took place in the wake of the 1984 Video Recordings Act.  UK horror enthusiasts were subjected to unthinkable censorship measures and preposterous legal penalties for merely owning content deemed a “video nasty”.  Retold by countless film historians, critics, politicians and various archive footage, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days shines a light on one of the darkest ages in censorship history. 

    Expertly researched, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days is a vast improvement over its well crafted predecessor.  Director Jake West (Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes) and Producer Marc Morris continue to dig into the past and reveal the shocking censorship skeletons the British Board of Film Classification spewed on UK culture.  As moral censorship advocates such as Sir Graham Bright and Mary Whitehouse continued their attack on content deemed obscene and blasphemous, horror enthusiasts were confronted with both Section 2 and 3 of the Obscene Publications Act, the former placing those in possession of video nasties with fines and/or jail time while, the latter would seize said titles to be regularly destroyed with the owner avoiding prosecution.  West feels far more in control with a sturdy handle on his subject matter while, maintaining a very neutral focus allowing both differentiating viewpoints to come through.  Sir Graham Bright, former BBFC Director James Ferman, Julian Petely, Stephen Thrower and many others offer their scholarly insight as individuals who not only experienced the effects of these restrictions but, were influential in their existence.  With video nasties being blamed for virtually every crime committed, their demand grew but were regulated to underground circles where scoring desirable videotapes held a risky weight of severe punishments.  

    While, some may find the interviews dry, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days is unquestionably another remarkable effort from West and Morris who have provided audiences with an insanely educational resource for such a turbulent time in British history.  Insightful and unsettling, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days, along with its previous entry, are the definitive statements on the video nasties phenomenon and essential viewing for horror fanatics interested in their favorites films‘ rocky road to being enjoyed in the privacy of one’s own home.

    Severin Films presents Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Predominately made up of “talking head” interviews and vintage material of slightly lesser quality, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days appears as one would expect with satisfying picture quality that gets the job done.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days is hardly dynamic in its sound range but, nicely relays the dialogue of its interview subjects with ease.  Covering a whopping three DVDs, Severin Films delivers an abundance of bonus content that will leave viewers with nearly 13 hours of content to sift through.  Joining the documentary on disc 1, Fanzine Flashback, UK Fanzines 1985-1995 showcases images of countless underground fanzines that made their way through UK circles.  In addition, DPP 72 presents the 39 VHS covers for the films highlighted in Section 2 of the Obscene Publication Act while, DPP 82 covers the 82 VHS covers listed in Section 3 of the Obscene Publication Act.  Discs 2 and 3 collect all 82 “Section 3” trailers including Blood Lust, Cannibals, Dead Kids, Mark of the Devil, Hell Prison and many more with optional introductions from many of the interview subjects found in the documentary.

    As we bask in a time where so many of our favorite video nasties are treated like royalty on home entertainment, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days reminds viewers of a dark period where consuming such content was an actual crime for UK fans.  Almost unbelievable in its absurdity, West presents the facts from those who were on the front lines of this radical moral shift that took hold of a country, harkening back to the days of book burning in Nazi Germany.  Enlightening and culturally important, Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days surpasses its acclaimed predecessor and must be seen to be believed.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available February 10th from Severin Films, Video Nasties: The Defintive Guide Part 2 can be purchased via Severin Films, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Animal (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Animal (2014)

    Director: Brett Simmons

    Starring: Joey Lauren Adams, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Paul Iacono & Elizabeth Gillies

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Executive Producer Drew Barrymore (Whip It), Animal focuses on a group of friends as they head to the wilderness for a weekend getaway.  Upon their arrival, a bloodthirsty creature sets its sight on its latest prey.  Scared and stranded, the friends retreat to an isolated cabin where secrets are revealed and survival appears grim.  Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP), Jeremy Sumpter (Peter Pan), Paul Iacono (The Hard Times of RJ Berger) and Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious) star in this contemporary creature feature from Chiller Films.  

    Reminiscent of backwoods horror films from decades past, Animal welcomes the viewer back to familiar territory with a group of attractive twentysomethings in search of an idyllic getaway only to fight for their survival.  The Chiller Films production wastes little time transitioning to night allowing the group to get lost as an unsuspecting monster stalks their every movements.  Equipped with immense strength and razor sharp teeth, Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s (Scream 4, Piranha 3DD) creature design work is a satisfying sight that charms the viewer with its practical capabilities.  In addition, Animal surprises with buckets of blood that drowns the viewer in corn syrup, much to the delight of gore enthusiasts.  While, Animal satisfies painting the town red, its cast fail to make a lasting impression.  Spending the majority of the runtime evading death, the cast fail to partake in any scandalous activities one would expect from films of this ilk.  In addition, characters are underdeveloped, even as the token gay character makes a late, unexpected reveal that although, intriguing, would have injected more conflict amongst the friends if utilized earlier.  Cast highlight Joey Lauren Adams‘ appearance is almost entirely forgettable despite being one of the most recognized names of the film.  Overall, Animal hardly revolutionizes the backwoods formula audiences have come to expect but, still manages to offer a decent modern take with an efficient pace and topnotch gore achieved the old fashioned way.

    Scream Factory presents Animal with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Picture is clean and clear with natural skin tones intact and well handled black levels for a film that takes place predominately at night.  Accompanied with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Animal handles hushed dialogue and the striking volume of the creature’s growls nicely.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo mix is also provided for your listening pleasure.  Meanwhile, special features include an Audio Commentary with Director Brett Simmons, Interviews with the Cast (1:43), Behind the Scenes (3:04), Theatrical Trailer (1:45), Teaser Trailer (0:32) and reversible cover art.

    Earnest and gory, Animal doesn’t offer anything horror enthusiasts haven’t been privy to before but, entertains with its effective creature designs and generous supply of bloody carnage.  Applauded for its TLC of cult classics, Scream Factory treats this contemporary offering with sound audio and video specifications as well as a decent spread of bonus content for viewers to bite into.  Available also on DVD, Animal should satisfy those yearning for a modern backwoods rendezvous achieved by practical means.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available on February 17th, Animal can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Compañeros (1970) Blu-ray Review

    Compañeros (1970)

    Director: Sergio Corbucci

    Starring: Franco Nero, Tomas Milian, Jack Palance, Fernando Rey & Iris Berben

    Released by: Blue Underground

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the legendary Sergio Corbucci (The Great Silence), a spaghetti western classic is born starring two titans of the genre.  Fueled by greed and violence, an unlikely union is forged between enemies determined to uncover a gold fortune.  Newly transferred from the original negative, Blue Underground proudly presents Compañeros in both its English and Italian versions for the first time ever!

    Trapped in the middle of an imploding revolution, Swedish arms dealer Yodalf Peterson (Franco Nero, Django) and Mexican bandit Vasco (Tomas Milian, Traffic) team up to recover a professor who holds the key to their prosperous future.  Hunted by the army and a reefer smoking madman (Academy Award winner Jack Palance, Batman), the two enemies must also resist killing each other in order to survive their turbulent trek.  Fernando Rey (The French Connection), Iris Berben (Schwarzfahrer) & José Bódalo (It’s Your Move) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Reminiscent of the character conflicted classic, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Compañeros stands as one of Corbucci’s finest efforts and one of cinema’s prized spaghetti westerns.  Marking the only film Italian genre icons Franco Nero and Tomas Milian would star in together, Compañeros is truly a once in a lifetime experience.  Nero commands his role of a foreign arms dealer with wit and snappy dialogue that surely shaped Quentin Tarantino’s distinct writing style.  Joined by violent Mexican bandit Vasco, Milian brings an uncontrollable energy to the picture that nicely contrasts Nero’s calculated personality.  Filled with brutal action and hilarious humor, Nero and Milian serve as the spaghetti westerns Odd Couple, conflicting but dependent on one another.  Consistently betraying and helping the other, Nero and Milian’s chemistry is intoxicating.

    Hell-bent on retrieving a professor to lead them to a safe of riches, Yodalf and Vasco become targeted by the American army and a vengeful reefer addict (Palance) from Yodalf’s past.  Every step of their journey is penetrated by lethal shootouts and their own stubborn personalities, creating effective conflict.  Gorgeously photographed by Alejandro Ulloa (The Mercenary) and complimented by another rousing score from Composer Ennio Morricone (The Big Gundown, The Thing), Compañeros is an exceptional genre effort set against the violent Mexican Revolution.  Bursting with bloodshed and hilarity, Nero and Milian, under Corbucci’s masterful eye, propel Compañeros to extraordinary heights.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Compañeros arrives with a 1080p transfer, boasting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Much like its Mexican climate, skin tones are warm and natural with only minor instances reading a bit too red.  Wonderfully transferred, scratches and other aging artifacts are nowhere to be seen on this spotless yet, natural grain intact presentation.  Detail is crisp and clear allowing the viewer to relish the rustic villages and beautiful landscapes.  Colors, most noticeably in Nero’s striking blue eyes and various costumes, pop nicely with sound black levels offering clear picture with virtually no crushing.  Blue Underground’s tireless efforts are on full display in this knockout transfer!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, Compañeros is quite effective given its limited range.  Relayed optionally in its native tongue with English subtitles provided, dialogue is always clear and robust with no distortion noticed.  Shootout sequences offer a noticeable but, retained boost in quality whereas, Composer Ennio Morricone’s score, with orchestration by Bruno Nicolai (99 Women, Eyeball), sets the tone for the picture with its unique touches.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    In addition to the Italian (119 minutes) and English (115 minutes) versions of the film, the special features are as follows:

    • Audio Commentary with Journalists C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke: newly recorded.

    • In the Company of Compañeros (17:02): Ported over from the previous DVD release, Stars Franco Nero and Tomas Milian discuss their acting approaches to the material, Nero’s insistence on playing foreigners in his westerns, onset friction between the two thespians and their gratitude to Corbucci.  In addition, Composer Ennio Morricone recounts his experiences working with Sergio Leone and claims A Fistful of Dollars to be his weakest effort on Leone’s westerns.  Morricone also details his immediate attraction to Compañeros and his unique approaches to composing.

    • International Trailer (2:27)

    • Italian Trailer (2:32)

    • TV Spot #1 (1:02)

    • TV Spot #2 (0:32)

    • Poster & Still Gallery: 51 in total.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

    Unquestionably, a master of the beloved genre, Sergio Corbucci delivers a splendid spaghetti western of greed and conflict with the assistance of legendary icons, Nero and Milian.  Compañeros is an exciting, tense and humorous journey through the brutal Mexican Revolution, destined to transform its characters and hypnotize its audience.  Accompanied with a new audio commentary, Blue Underground has provided an exceptional transfer for one of the genre’s finest hours.  Richly detailed and sporting no signs of wear, Compañeros has never looked finer.  Trigger happy fans of the spaghetti western should find it essential to draw on this influential tale, released in the wake of Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now, Compañeros can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

     

  • The Doctor and the Devils (1985) Blu-ray Review

    The Doctor and the Devils (1985)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Timothy Dalton, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Rea, Twiggy, Julian Sands & Patrick Stewart

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a screenplay from famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas and inspired by factual grave robbers Burke and Hare, a story of medicine and murder is birthed.  Executive Produced by Mel Brooks under his Brooksfilms (The Elephant Man, The Fly) banner, The Doctor and the Devils is a far cry from Brooks’ wildly known comedic outings but instead, a gothic thriller soaked in elegance and fear.  From the director of Girly and Tales from the Crypt, The Doctor and the Devils makes its unholy Blu-ray debut courtesy of Scream Factory.

    Set in 1820s Edinburgh, The Doctor and the Devils centers on Dr. Thomas Rock (Timothy Dalton, Licence to Kill), a noted anatomy professor obsessed with pushing the boundaries of modern medicine.  Dissatisfied with the few rotted cadavers provided to him for study, Rock recruits Robert Fallon (Jonathan Pryce, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) and Timothy Broom (Stephen Rea, V for Vendetta), two fiendish grave robbers to secure quality corpses.  Understanding their reward increases with fresher corpses, the duo begin committing murder in order to supply Dr. Rock with the very best.  Twiggy (Club Paradise), Julian Sands (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Phyllis Logan (Dowton Abbey) and Patrick Stewart (X-Men: Days of Future Past) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Basking in gothic aroma, The Doctor and the Devils is reminiscent of the period piece thrillers Hammer Films was renowned for two decades earlier.  Under the masterful direction of Hammer Films and Amicus Productions alumni Freddie Francis, The Doctor and the Devils captures an identifiable tone of dread and eloquence.  Released at the height of the slasher film craze, the film failed to ignite the box-office numbers but, delivers a lavish production with rich art direction and revered performances.  Timothy Dalton, prior to his tenure as James Bond, stars as a brilliant anatomist determined to push mankind’s understanding of the human body.  Surrounded by disapproving peers, Rock becomes obsessed with furthering his studies by examining fresher supplies of corpses.  Luckily, desperate street hustlers Fallon and Broom become captivated with providing the recently deceased for Dr. Rock.  Fueled by greed, Fallon and Broom quickly turn to murder in order to capitalize on their latest business endeavor.  Pryce and Rea steal the picture with their wild conviction and madcap energy as low level thieves with a weakness for booze and prostitutes.  In a charming surprise turn, Twiggy appears in a substantial role as an attractive working girl who, enters into a brief romance with Rock’s colleague, Dr. Murray (Julian Sands).  While, not graphically gory, the violence found in The Doctor and the Devils feels heightened due to the effectively vile nature of its devilish grave robbers.

    Gorgeously photographed and undeniably classy, The Doctor and the Devils suffers from narrative issues including, Dr. Rock’s anatomy obsessions which causes him to turn a blind eye to the morally wrong issue.  Akin to a mad scientist, Dr. Rock’s yearning to gain new insight is understandable but, without more internal conflict, his intentions feel slightly out of sorts in a more grounded film.  In addition, the lack of attention on Dr. Rock results in a blooming romance between the prostitute Jennie and Dr. Murray.  While, intriguing and nicely laid out, the effort feels wasted as the characters’ relations are hardly central to the plot.  Although, the film suffers from misguided character construction, The Doctor and the Devils is a visually ravishing period thriller with superb performances from Pryce and Rea.  Where the film lacks in cheap scares and overwhelming gore, it generally succeeds with sophisticated gothic grace.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Scream Factory presents The Doctor and the Devils with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving with natural grain intact and relaying a very filmic appearance, this gothic thriller looks sound.  Skin tones are relayed warmly with dreary colors including blacks, browns and grays popping nicely.  In addition, the rotted and sometimes bloody cadavers offer nice contrast in their gory state to the otherwise unflashy color palette.  Although, crushing is minimal, black levels vary from clear to occasionally murky, making visibility difficult.  Overall, The Doctor and the Devils retains its fog-entrenched atmosphere of past period pieces with near perfect results.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, The Doctor and the Devils satisfies with always audible dialogue and exceptional balance of more chaotic scenes.  Moments of loud partying and heavy tavern drinking never overwhelm the mix but, instead rewards the viewer with its well handling of several components at one time.  Distortion or other anomalies are nonexistent in this nicely balanced, dialogue heavy picture.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian Steve Haberman

    • Interviews with Executive Producer Mel Brooks, Producer Jonathan Sanger and Former Brooksfilms Development Executive Randy Auerbach (15:42): In this newly recorded conversation, the creative trio reminisce about the project’s early beginnings and the importance of withholding Mel Brooks’ name on most Brooksfilms releases in order to not raise expectations of a comedy.  This laid back, informal chat also finds the three colleagues recalling a Hollywood pastime when friendships were important not only to the artists but, also in getting projects off the ground.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    Sophisticated and posh, The Doctor and the Devils is a maddening tale of obsession, murder and betrayal headlined by a stellar cast and executed by an icon of gothic cinema.  Largely inspired by the real life Burke and Hare, this cinematic grave robbing account delivers a suitable story but misfires with several character traits.  Best appreciated for Pryce and Rea’s memorable performances and its impactful production design, The Doctor and the Devils is a suitable period horror film made during a time that greatly lacked them.  Scream Factory delights fans with a near perfect audio and visual treatment of this often overlooked film along, with a decent spread of supplemental features that include insights from Film Historian Steve Haberman and Mel Brooks.  Not quite perfect, The Doctor and the Devils remains a classy love letter to the gothic outings of yesteryear with its tale of decadent grave robbing rooted in fact.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 4thThe Doctor and the Devils can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    Squirm (1976)

    Director: Jeff Lieberman

    Starring: Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan & Peter MacLean

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Jeff Lieberman (Just Before Dawn, Remote Control), this Southern spine-tingler is guaranteed to get under your skin.  Joining the ranks of their esteemed collector’s editions, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Squirm on Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S.  Oozing with newly produced special features and retro-style artwork courtesy of Paul Shipper, Squirm will send you running for higher ground.

    Set in the deep south of Georgia, Squirm focuses on the aftermath of a powerful storm that has electrically charged the wet soil, causing bloodthirsty worms to rise.  When the fishing village of Fly Creek becomes overrun with terror, a group of locals must fend for themselves to survive the carnivorous creatures.  Don Scardino (director of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone), Patricia Pearcy (Cockfigher), R.A. Down, Jean Sullivan (Escape in the Desert) and Peter MacLean (Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo) star.

    MOVIE:

    On par with other “nature gone wild” efforts such as Day of the Animals and Dogs, Squirm rises above most exploitation fare due to its patient storytelling.  Maintaining a steady pace and allowing characters to properly develop, Squirm chooses to charm its audience instead of overwhelming with constant carnage.  Establishing a genuinely Southern tone and casting local talent, the humid, insect infested backwoods serves as an ideal setting for this creature feature.  Following a series of brutal storms causing fallen power lines, Geri (Pearcy) welcomes her city dwelling boyfriend, Mick (Scardino), to her neck of the woods.  Before long, the two lovebirds happen upon human remains with no luck of convincing the town sheriff of their existence.  In true Scooby-Doo fashion, the two make it their duty to get to the bottom of the dead bodies and the increased volume of worms in the area.  Unfortunately, as night falls so does the worms’ hunger for human flesh causing mass panic in the town of Fly Creek.  While, Squirm takes its time before true terror ensues, its final act of blackness and claustrophobia is well worth the wait.  In addition, the convincingly gory make-up effects, achieved by a young Rick Baker (An American Werewolf in London, Ed Wood), add another layer of genre appreciation to revel in Squirm.

    Well acted and undeniably soaking in B-movie charm, Squirm’s only minor setback falls in its ending which feels rather abrupt, leaving the viewer with questions rather than answers.  Nonetheless, Squirm is a wildly entertaining effort filled with cheesy Southern accents, impressive make-up effects and a creepy tone, courtesy of its slimy critters, that propels Squirm to the front line of 1970s creature features.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Squirm arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of murky stock footage during its opening, Squirm impresses with a clean appearance, leaving flakes and speckles to a minimum.  In addition, skin tones are warm and accurate with fine detail picked up in close-ups.  Natural grain is firmly intact, retaining an uncompromised filmic appearance.  Black levels, most appreciated during the film’s final act, are satisfying with respectable visibility.  Bracing for only mildly decent quality due to the film’s low-budget, Squirm has never looked better and greatly improves on past releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, Squirm is never wildly dynamic but, succeeds where it counts.  Dialogue is always clear and concise while, Composer Robert Prince’s (Night Gallery, Gargoyles) warp sounding score adds effective ambiance.  Scenes of creepy crawling carnage also add an extra, albeit contained, boost in authority.  Instances of hiss and pops are featured but fail to do any disruptive harm.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman: Ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Digging In: The Making of Squirm (33:11): Writer/Director Jeff Lieberman and Star Don Scardino share informative anecdotes about the production including its origins, casting (Pearcy beat out a young Kim Basinger for her role) and shooting on location.  Lengthy and detailed, Lieberman and Scardino look back on the film with vivid recollections of the experience.

    • Eureka! With Jeff Lieberman (7:04): Lieberman serves as your guide as he journeys back to his childhood home to retrace the early ideas of Squirm.

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:56)

    • TV Spot (0:55)

    • Radio Spot (1:01)

    • Still Gallery: 25 in total.

    • More from Scream Factory: Trailers include Pumpkinhead, Motel Hell and The Beast Within.

    • Reversible Cover Art: Utilizing the memorable Drew Struzan 1-sheet.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Arriving on Blu-ray for the time in the U.S., Squirm is an essential addition to the Scream Factory library, filling the void of prominent creature features.  Endlessly fun and oozing with worm-infested debauchery, Squirm basks in its B-movie agenda much to the delight of likeminded viewers.  Once again, Scream Factory chalks up another stellar collector’s edition entry with exceptional technical merits and fan pleasing extras courtesy by the uber-talented Aine Leicht.  Sealed with gloriously slimy new artwork from Paul Shipper, Squirm Collector’s Edition makes it an easy skin-crawling selection to curl up with.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available October 28th, Squirm Collector's Edition can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

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

    Pumpkinhead (1988)

    Director: Stan Winston

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Theatrical Trailer (1:32)

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

    • Reversible Cover Art

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 5/5  

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

  • Graduation Day (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Graduation Day (1981)

    Director: Herb Freed

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Producer David Baughn

    • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Lives

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

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

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

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

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    • DVD Edition

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Grindhouse Trailer Classics (2014) DVD Review

    Grindhouse Trailer Classics (2014)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Intervision Picture Corp.

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The memories and output of grindhouse cinemas have managed to stay afloat, many years after the Deuce’s demise and family friendly rebirth.  For every cannibal classic or sleazy stinker that was discovered on 42nd Street’s dingy theaters, a trailer planted the tiny seed of growing interest in cinemagoers’ subconscious.  Often advertised with empty promises, the trailers for grindhouse entertainment promised viewers the world and than some with varying results.  Intervision Picture Corp. proudly presents Grindhouse Trailer Classics, a compilation of the sleaziest and thoroughly entertaining trailers to emerge from the 1960s and 1970s Times Square scene.  

    Before your feature presentation, there was always trailers.  Grindhouse Trailer Classics compiles 55 of the most violent, sexy, gory and action-packed trailers that were projected during the Deuce’s most thriving years of the 1960s and 1970s.  Over two hours of mind-bending, celluloid entertainment awaits lovers of the seediest days of trash cinema in this wild collection.

    MOVIE:

    With the advent of the internet and YouTube, locating the latest or most obscure movie trailers is only a click away.  Preservers of grindhouse cinema have much to appreciate in this high-octane compilation of some of the best trailers to emerge from the Deuce’s heyday.  Nicely collected and presented as one giant loop, Grindhouse Trailer Classics serves not only as a terrific resource for these films‘ original marketing campaign but, as the perfect ambience for any get-together amongst friends or an annual Halloween bash.  Drawn in by dramatic narration and the imagery of scantly clad women, ferocious monsters or kung-fu fighting martial artists, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is sure appeal to any serious fan of offbeat cinema and introduce others to a wealth of unforgettable B-movie flicks.  Grindhouse Trailer Classics comes equipped with a whopping 55 trailers to rip your guts out, including:

    • I Drink Your Blood / I Eat Your Skin
    • Blood Splattered Bride / I Dismember Mama
    • Switchblade Sisters
    • Caged Heat
    • Eyeball
    • Deranged
    • The Big Doll House
    • Bury Me An Angel
    • The Last House on the Left
    • The Street Fighter
    • Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS
    • Dr. Black and Mr. Hyde
    • Don’t Open the Window
    • The Human Tornado
    • Caged Virgins
    • Ebony, Ivory and Jade
    • Deadly Weapons
    • Torso
    • They Call Her One Eye
    • Deathship
    • Master of the Flying Guillotine
    • They Came from Within
    • The Thing with Two Heads
    • I Spit on Your Grave
    • Sweet Sugar
    • Girls for Rent
    • The Toolbox Murders
    • The Executioner
    • House of Whipcord
    • Truck Turner
    • God Told Me To
    • Doctor Butcher M.D.
    • Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things
    • Night of the Bloody Apes
    • Bloodsucking Freaks
    • Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Shieks
    • The Single Girls
    • The Corpse Grinders
    • Zombie
    • Coffy
    • The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak
    • The Legend of the Wolf Woman
    • Satan’s Sadists
    • Disco Godfather
    • Let Me Die a Woman
    • The Doll Squad
    • Secrets of Sweet Sixteen
    • Cannonball
    • Autopsy
    • Fight For Your Life
    • Love Me Deadly
    • Wham!  Bam!  Thank You, Spaceman!
    • Shogun Assassin
    • Three on a Meathook
    • Journey into the Beyond

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Grindhouse Trailer Classics is presented with an anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Varying in quality, each trailer is riddled with scratches and lines, some worse than others, but never deterring from the viewing experience.  Understandably, the anomalies in grindhouse features and their trailers are as beloved as their content, making this compilation exactly as you hoped it would look.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix, the trailers compliment their rough visual appearance with some encountering minor hiss and pops in their audio.  Never deal-breaking, these trailers sound as good as one could expect.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Bump ‘N Grind - Emily Booth Explores the World of Grindhouse (18:30): Cult presenter, Emily Booth, is your guide in this nutshell journey through grindhouse cinema history.  Breezy and informative, Booth works from a script provided by Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents.

    • Grindhouse Poster Gallery: 29 slides showcasing all the glorious one-sheet artwork for the films found in this compilation.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

    While, repeat viewings may not occur as frequently, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is an enormously fun journey through 55 of the kookiest genre films to emerge from the sleazy paradise of 42nd Street and such.  Appearing in gloriously vintage shape and paired with an educational crash course in Deuce cinema from Emily Booth, Grindhouse Trailer Classics serves as a terrific historical resource and a superb conversation starter during Halloween parties. From dusk ‘till dawn, Grindhouse Trailer Classics is worthy of admission into your cult library.

    RATING: 3.5/5

  • Jersey Shore Massacre (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

    Director: Paul Tarnopol

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

    Released by: Attack Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 4/5

  • Bloody Moon (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Bloody Moon (1981)
    Director: Jess Franco
    Starring: Olivia Pascal, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter & María Rubio
    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Released at the height of the slasher boom, Spanish auteur Jess Franco would craft his closest contribution to the popular subgenre.  Placing attractive schoolgirls in the web of a deadly killer, Franco delivers the graphic violence and buckets of blood we’ve come to expect.  Produced by a German production company and shot on location in Spain, Severin Films proudly presents Bloody Moon, uncut and uncensored, on Blu-ray for the first time ever!

    Unquestionably taking the slasher films of North America into account, Bloody Moon focuses on a group of attractive teenage girls at an international language school.  Years after a fatal tragedy occurs, a mysterious killer is back again claiming new victims.  Deemed a “video nasty”, Bloody Moon was banned in England in the early 80s.

    MOVIE:
    Kicking off in classic slasher form with a rambunctious costume party leading to promiscuity, Bloody Moon wastes no time establishing a murder via scissors.  Bearing a ghastly scar on his face, Miguel (Alexander Waechter), is sentenced to a psych ward for his crime until he is deemed suitable for society.  Years pass and following his release, Miguel and his beautiful sister, Manuela (Nadja Gerganoff), are reunited.  Returning to their elderly aunt’s residence, which also serves as an international language boarding school, the siblings adjust to their new life and positions.  Before long,  Angela (Olivia Pascal) and her sexy friends become targets of a killer stalking the school grounds.  While, Bloody Moon’s plot suits the slasher genre, the film, following the opening murder, wanders into mediocrity with uneventful character development.  Lacking the distinctive style associated with Franco’s previous works, Bloody Moon misses the mark of serving up a high body count and disappoints with a prudish amount of nudity, compared to other slasher efforts.  Instead, Franco relies on cheap scares that are mildly humorous but quickly grow tiresome.  In addition, an incestual relationship between Miguel and Manuela is presented, but never fully explored.  The motivation behind the murders are clichéd while, the twist climax fails to surprise.  

    At the risk of sounding overly negative, Bloody Moon does contain some quality moments in its use of gore.  A graphic sequence involving a grizzly murder by power saw are remarkably well done, sprouting gallons of blood on the screen.  More thrills come when a knife stabs through a breast and a child is ran over by a car, shocking in true Franco fashion.  Bloody Moon mimics the genre it’s playing in with plenty of POV shots from our killer plus, a splash of giallo, as the culprit is seen in one scene sporting black leather gloves and a kitchen knife.  The cast of young ladies, headlined by Olivia Pascal (Vanessa), are all stunning sights and spend their free time swimming topless, albeit briefly, and boogieing down at the campus‘ local roller disco making their boarding school, one of the grooviest around.  While, the English dubbing is quite laughable and the conclusion is rather abrupt, Bloody Moon is still deemed a decent effort thanks to the noteworthy murder sequences.  Franco’s slasher effort is lacking his usual sleaze and style but is far from considered one of his worst.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Bloody Moon is presented with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing a healthy grain layer, the film looks remarkably clean and bolsters crisp colors.  Skin tones are natural and radiant with black levels as visible as can be.  Uncut footage of murder sequences are inserted back into the film from a lackluster source but, work surprisingly well given their context.  In addition, rare vertical lines are briefly seen in this otherwise phenomenal looking transfer.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with an English PCM Mono mix, Bloody Moon sounds quite pleasing with the English-dubbed dialogue coming in clear and free of distortion.  The odd sounding score also comes in well with a decent bass sound during more suspenseful moments.  
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Franco Moon - An Interview with Director Jess Franco: Ported over from the previous DVD release, Franco sits down for nearly 20 minutes discussing the origins of the film.  Franco explains how a German production company proposed the film to him under false pretenses.  A phenomenal director of photography and Pink Floyd contributing to the score were all promised but never came to fruition.  In addition, Screenwriter Erich Tomek (credited as Rayo Casablanca), who also served as the production manager, denied any changes Franco wanted to impose on the film which can be attributed to the film’s very non-Franco vibe.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    Following in the wake of body count flicks like Friday the 13th, Bloody Moon comes in a bit weak and struggles to stay interesting.  While, this foreign slasher tried to ride the coattails of more successful films, Franco’s inability to inject much of his own bizarre creativity explains many of the film’s issues.  That said, the cast do a fine job in their roles, most notably Olivia Pascal who conveys the right blend of fear and emotion playing the final girl.  The few murder sequences included are effective and gory, nearly making up for the relatively low body count.  Severin Films has done a tremendous job providing a superb video transfer and audio mix along with an enlightening interview from the late director.  Far from Franco’s finest hour, Bloody Moon still contains enough to be recommended to slasher enthusiasts and Franco-philes alike.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Gestapo's Last Orgy (1977) DVD Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Keeny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Final Terror (1983) Blu-ray Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Davis

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

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Behind the Scenes Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Death Do Us Part (2014) DVD Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 1.5/5

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

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #9: Grudge Match, Dead Shadows, Nurse 3D & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #9 includes:

    - The Dick Van Dyke Show: Classic Mary Tyler Moore Episodes (0:36)
    Street Date: April 1, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Grudge Match (2013) (4:44)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Warner Bros.: http://www.warnerbros.com/

    - Dead Shadows (2012) (10:38)
    Street Date: April 29, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - Nurse 3D (2013) (17:22)
    Street Date: April 8, 2014
    Lionsgate: http://www.lionsgate.com/

    - Camp Dread (2014) (25:02)
    Street Date: April 15, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (32:55)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)

  • Adam Chaplin: Violent Avenger (2011) DVD Review


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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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