Blu-ray/DVD Reviews

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Currently showing posts tagged Nightmare

  • The Skull (1965) Blu-ray Review

    The Skull (1965)

    Director: Freddie Francis

    Starring: Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Nigel Green, Jill Bennett, Michael Gough, George Coulouris & Christopher Lee

    Released by: KL Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on a story by Robert Bloch (Psycho), The Skull centers on occult antiquities collector Dr. Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing, Horror of Dracula) whose encounter with the skull of the Maquis de Sade proves frightening.  Forewarned of its effects by friend and former owner of the dreaded remains, Matthew Phillips (Christopher Lee, The Curse of Frankenstein), Maitland’s livelihood quickly becomes threatened by the skull’s evil forces.

    A supernatural mystery produced by noted Hammer competitor Amicus Productions, The Skull is a stylishly eerie effort from British genre titan Freddie Francis (The Evil of Frankenstein, Tales from the Crypt) that utilizes atmosphere and improvisational knowhow to its advantage.  Following a historically earlier pre-title sequence where a grave robber’s excavation of the Maquis de Sade’s cranium leaves him dead from an unknown presence, The Skull’s modern day London setting introduces occult collector Dr. Christopher Maitland whose pricy offering of the very same specimen by a shady dealer proves far too expensive albeit, very intriguing to the curious researcher.  Learning the item was stolen from a fellow colleague who was glad to be free of it, warnings of its evil capabilities fall on Maitland’s deaf ears, prompting him to retrieve it after the thieving dealer is unexplainably killed.  Casting a spell of madness and nightmarish hallucinations upon on its new owner, Maitland’s terrifying firsthand experience with the skull reveals its true potential to the previously skeptical scholar.  Headlining the feature with expected grace, Peter Cushing sells his descent into terror with a conviction memorably showcased during a particularly nail biting nightmare sequence of forced Russian roulette.  Appearing in a guest starring role, Christopher Lee’s small but welcome inclusion as a rare non-villain gives an added class to the film’s ghoulish festivities while, Francis’ resourceful direction, demonstrated in the film’s frantic and virtually dialogue-free final act, is overwhelmingly suspenseful regardless of the “floating” skull’s noticeably seen wires.  An early chapter in Amicus’ horror history, The Skull remains an effectively strong picture of its creepy caliber with its direction earning the most praise of all.

    KL Studio Classics presents The Skull with a 1080p transfer, preserving its 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing noticeable signs of scuffs and speckles throughout its runtime, colors also appear occasionally drab while, skin tones and delicate facial features revealing aging lines and acne scars are well-detailed.  Meanwhile, black levels are mediocre yet, costume textures and the many artifacts spotted in Maitland’s library are agreeable.  Although a fresh scan would have been appreciated, the results remain quite adequate.  Equipped with a rather flat but serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is handled sufficiently while an early encounter between Maitland and Marco, the sleazy dealer, registers slightly lower.  Scoring cues are decent but lacking oomph with a mild layer of hiss detected.  Special features include, an expertly researched Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Jonathan Rigby on The Skull (24:14) and Kim Newman on The Skull (27:18), both of which offer encyclopedic insight into Amicus Productions, its founders, Freddie Francis and Robert Bloch’s original short story making each featurette invaluable compliments to the film.  Furthermore, The Skull: “Trailers from Hell” with Joe Dante (2:36) and additional Trailers for Tales of Terror (2:21), The Oblong Box (1:56), Madhouse (1:48), House of the Long Shadows (2:27) and The Crimson Cult (2:03) are also provided alongside Reversible Cover Art.

    A well recommended Amicus offering, The Skull brings some of gothic cinema’s finest faces together for chilling thrills and consummate direction from Freddie Francis making it a technical sight to appreciate given the film’s originally less than solid screenplay.  Possession, death and the black arts reign wildly in this nightmare come to life with a most fascinating selection of supplements making KL Studio Classics’ upgrade of the film an easy choice for fan’s unholy collections.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Skull can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom (2016)

    Director: Sean O’Reilly

    Starring: Christopher Plummer, Ron Perlman, Jane Curtin & Doug Bradley

    Released by: Shout! Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the graphic novel series, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom finds introverted Howard Lovecraft disregarding his father’s warnings and entering a strange new world plagued by an endless winter.  Befriending a frightening looking creature, the unlikely duo brave immense danger and horrifying creatures to return the chilled environment to its former glory.  Christopher Plummer (Up), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), Jane Curtin (Saturday Night Live) and Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) comprise the film’s vocal talent.

    Comic book publisher turned animation upstart, Arcana Studio brings nightmarish realms and fantastical creatures to life, inspired by the atmospherically peculiar works of H.P. Lovecraft.  Following a visit to his father in the local sanitarium, quiet and reserved Howard Lovecraft ignores emotional ramblings to fear the powerfully scripted Nerconomicon, opening a portal into a dark underworld where a once marvelous kingdom has been overtaken by an eternal blizzard.  After outwitting a hungry tentacled creature, the gloomy-looking child and beast, nicknamed “Spot”, forge an unexpected friendship as they trek across the deathly cold land, encountering a pack of helpful children along the way.  Forging ahead to the Kingdom of R’yleh, Howard and Spot find themselves in the graces of royalty where everybody is not quiet who they claim to be.  Between snowball fights and rounds of hide and go seek, the daring duo’s death-defying mission to end the kingdom’s frozen state pits them against razor-toothed terrors and the occult while searching for a way back home for Howard.  Crafted with a clear passion for the works of its inspirer and monster movies, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom’s crude animation design lends itself nicely to its surreal, fairytale sensibilities while, its plot, heavily reliant on Lovecraftian lingo, may leave younger viewers puzzled.  Gothically colorful and featuring impressive vocal work from terribly underused talent, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom falls short on substance but earns praise for its less refined and refreshingly different animated approach.

    Shout! Factory presents Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing minor occurrences of digital noise, the computer-generated creations radiate striking colors, most prominently in the neon green and purple lighting hues while, black levels are deep and exacting.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is sufficiently audible with sound effects and the film’s accompanying soundtrack, although neither forceful or grossly impressionable, are adequately handled.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Sean Patrick O’Reilly, a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (3:36) and its Trailer (1:13).  Lastly, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code are also included.

    A passable Lovecraftian toon for tikes with a sequel planned, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom stumbles narratively with greater appreciation to be had for its rough around the edges yet, effectively appealing character designs.  Meanwhile, Shout! Factory ushers the animated effort onto home video with a most pleasing hi-def treatment, just in time for younger trick or treaters to welcome in the spookiest time of year.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Shout! Factory, Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • In Hell (1976) DVD Review


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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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