Blu-ray/DVD Reviews


Currently showing posts tagged Priest

  • The Unholy (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Unholy (1988)

    Director: Camilo Vila

    Starring: Ben Cross, Ned Beatty, William Russ, Jill Carroll, Hal Holbrook & Trevor Howard

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in New Orleans where a dark underbelly of satanic worship resides, The Unholy centers on Father Michael (Ben Cross, Chariots of Fire), the newly appointed priest of St. Agnes Church.  Following the brutal and unsolved murders of the parishes previous pastors, an ungodly evil threatens the house of worship with Michael’s pure soul being its last hope of survival.  Ned Beatty (Toy Story 3), William Russ (Boy Meets World), Jill Carroll (Psycho II), Hal Holbrook (The Fog) and Trevor Howard (The Third Man) costar.

    Channeling the satanic allure of The Exorcist and The Omen having been originally scripted in their wake and revived more than a decade later, The Unholy injects more special-effects wizardry into its proceedings where demonic beasts and grisly deaths reign while struggling to remain narratively appealing.  Miraculously surviving a fall off a building, Father Michael is appointed to reopen the dormant St. Agnes Church in New Orleans following the tragic murder of his predecessor.  Considered to be “the chosen one” by his mentors, Father Michael is quickly haunted by nightmarish visions of a seductive temptress while investigating the unsolved murders plaguing his church.  Stumbling upon a black magic-worshipping nightclub in his research, Father Michael’s encounter with teenage runaway Millie (Carroll), who confided in the deceased Father Dennis, begins to reveal a frightening truth.  Skeptical of Millie’s insistence that demonic forces are at play, strange occurrences including, a dog slain at the church’s alter and threats made by Millie’s club-owning over protector Luke (Russ) persist.  Juxtaposing between more nightmare-fueled visions of the scantly clad vixen and a victim, intestines gruesomely hanging, displayed as an inverted cross, The Unholy pays off with gory sights and a faith vs. demonic monster showdown during its climax yet, fails to dig deeper into Father Michael’s psyche as the chosen one.  Furthermore, while potential reasons and accused culprits behind the sinister happenings are unnecessarily named, none prove conclusive and simply serve as a way to buffer the runtime and muddy the waters of an effort best blamed simply on the devil.  Mildly taxing for these reasons yet, redeeming in its showcase of visual effects, creature designs and the red stuff, The Unholy offers more in its style than its substance.

    Debuting as the tenth inclusion of the Vestron Video Collector’s Series, Lionsgate presents The Unholy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Photographed during nighttime sequences or under dimly-lit circumstances, black levels are commendable while occasionally looking grainier than desired.  Furthermore, skin tones are natural with Millie’s 80s-centric makeup popping nicely.  Although the film’s few daytime sequences of sunshine understandably soften up the picture, this softness, although not wildly overwhelming, carries over throughout much of the film, appearing not as sharp as one would hope but also not an uncommon sight for lower-budgeted films from this era.  Meanwhile, moments of neck-torn gore and detail observed in the demonic creatures earn some of the transfer’s highest marks of clarity.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue never disappoints while, the film’s synth-heavy score by Roger Bellon (Waxwork) sounds excellent.  

    Exceptionally packed with content, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Camilo Vila, Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon, an Audio Interview with Production Designer & Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca, featuring Isolated Selections from his Unused Score.  Also included, Sins of the Father with Ben Cross (19:09) where the film’s star covers his adolescent fascination with the arts, attending drama school, early days rooming with the film’s director and praise for his costars.  Demons in the Flesh: The Monsters of The Unholy (22:26) catches up with Make-Up Effects Designer Jerry Macaluso who scored the job on the feature as a teenager in high school with additional insight into the film’s reworked ending from Art Director/Additional Special Effects Unit Steve Hardie and Effects Artist/Special Effects Unit Neil Gorton.  Prayer Offerings with Production Designer & Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca (18:35) and the Original Ending featuring Optional Audio Commentary with Production Designer & Co-Writer Fernando Fonseca (15:02) are also on-hand while, the Theatrical Trailer (1:17), TV Spots (2:15), Radio Spots (2:25), an Original Storyboard Gallery (18:40) and a Still Gallery (11:51) round out this five-star offering of supplements conducted by the tireless Red Shirt Pictures.

    An imperfect tale of satanic seduction that rightly has its dedicated fans, The Unholy certainly has its moments of fright-filled anarchy but has difficulty crafting characters that command our attention.  Worshippers of the black magic horror opus will be overjoyed by its inclusion in the Vestron Video Collector’s Series that blesses it with a respectable HD upgrade and an ungodly awesome stash of newly recorded bonus extras.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available June 27th from Lionsgate, The Unholy can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

  • Night of the Strangler (1972) DVD Review

    Night of the Strangler (1972)

    Director: Joy N. Houck, Jr.

    Starring: Chuck Patterson, Micky Dolenz, Michael Anthony & Jim Ralston

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the muggy region of Louisiana, Night of the Strangler centers on the scandalous relationship between a caucasian woman and her black lover.  Amidst family controversy and escalating racial tension, a string of mysterious murders follows in its path.  Chuck Patterson (Hair), Micky Dolenz (The Monkees), Michael Anthony (Keep Off My Grass!) and Jim Ralston (Thunder Run) star.

    Bearing an intriguing yet, wildly misleading title, Night of the Strangler crafts a whodunit murder mystery amongst the segregated south of New Orleans.  Returning home from college to inform her brothers of life changing news, Denise (Susan McCullough in her only film appearance) nervously admits to being impregnated by her African-American lover whom she plans to wed.  Bigoted big brother Dan (Ralston) doesn’t take kindly to the news of his baby sister shacking up with a colored man and intends to fix the situation.  Meanwhile, Denise’s middle brother Vance (Dolenz), equally unhappy with Dan following his own girlfriend being taken for himself, sympathizes with her.  With Denise madly in love and excited for her future, Dan’s wealth and power ensures their lives being cut short in order to not tarnish his own reputation.  Distraught over his sister’s alleged suicide, Vance seeks refuge in close family friend Father Jessie (Patterson), a black priest.  As tension builds between brothers, more murders conducted by a mysterious individual begin.  Lacking any kind of strangulation sequences, Night of the Strangler introduces viewers to hate spewing antagonist Dan as a character everyone lives to hate.  In addition, as victims linked to the brothers are targeted, intriguing murder attempts including a venomous snake hidden in flowers unfold.  While each brother is vehemently convinced the other is responsible for the homicides, viewers are left certain they know until a surprising finale proves everyone wrong.  Washing away the squeaky-clean image of his television stardom, Micky Dolenz makes an unexpected appearance in this mildly sleazy film, far from the tracks of Clarksville.  While overt violence and nudity are minimal, Night of the Strangler is an intriguing mystery centered on a racially-charged family triangle and the brotherly priest stuck in its crosshairs.

    Scanned and restored in 2K from the American Genre Film Archive’s 35mm print, Vinegar Syndrome presents Night of the Strangler in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio for the first time ever.  Diluted of more vibrant color, the film’s wear is evident with its soft focus and moderate scratches.  In addition, dimly lit sequences demonstrate doses of flakes and speckles while the occasional cigarette burn can be spotted.  Aging artifacts aside, the less than stellar qualities never make the viewing experience unwatchable.  Instead, the film’s grindhouse battle wounds add a level of charm for those with managed expectations.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 1.0 mix, dialogue is relayed as decently as can be while, instances of soft distortion can be heard in quieter sequences.  Spared of any overwhelming pops or cracks, sound quality is serviceable but, can be benefitted by increased volume.  Finally, no special features are included on this release.

    Continuing their fitting collaboration with the American Genre Film Archive, Vinegar Syndrome delivers another peculiar picture filled with racist richies and interracial love affairs.  Far from an exploitation free for all, Night of the Strangler boasts a decent murder mystery with a reveal audiences won’t see coming.  Starring a formerly well-trained Monkee, Director Joy N. Houck, Jr.’s (Creature from Black Lake) non-strangulating effort makes for a decent stay in the disgustingly sweaty south.  While it may not always look pretty, Vinegar Syndrome’s 2K restoration saves the film from permanent extinction and appreciatively presents it in its original aspect ratio for the first time ever.  Seeking confession for the lack of racially-charged mysteries starring Micky Dolenz?  Night of the Strangler is your only penance!

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Night of the Strangler can be purchased via, and other fine retailers.

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

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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