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

  • The Gate (1987) Blu-ray Review

    The Gate (1987)

    Director: Tibor Takacs 

    Starring: Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp & Christa Denton

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After an innocent backyard excavation for crystal stones unearths something sinister, The Gate finds best friends Glen (Stephen Dorff, Somewhere) and Terry (Louis Tripp, Mama’s Going to Buy You a Mockingbird) forced to defend themselves against a siege of demons and determine a way to close the evil portal before it’s too late.

    Eliminating parents and other authority figures as rapidly as possible, The Gate pits unsupervised adolescents against the forces of darkness, using only their ingenuity and household items to defend themselves against the ghouls and goblins of the underworld.  Inadvertently opening a hellish backyard portal with the assistance of a satanic heavy metal album, best friends Glen and Terry are confronted with a series of nightmarish images of deceased parents back from the dead and the painful realities of a beloved pet’s passing to shake their youthful cores.  With no adults in sight and Glen’s older sister Al (Christa Denton, 8 Million Ways to Die) taking full advantage with a house party rampant with underage drinking and levitation attempts turned frighteningly real, the demonic forces grow stronger in their attempt to invade the teen’s quaint suburban existence.  Pursued by a pint-sized army of fiendish minions realized through a series of technical tricks ranging from costumed performers, stop-motion animation and forced perspective, Glen, Terry and Al must face their fears in order to definitively close the gate before time runs out.  Although slow-building with a genuine innocence captured in the chemistry between the young performers, The Gate stretches the boundaries of its PG-13 rating with macabre touches of a dead construction worker emerging from the walls, a punctured eyeball through a child’s hand and an overgrown demon flinging his young victims with no remorse to effectively chill preteen audiences.  With false senses of security at every turn and survival seemingly futile, the trio of teens rely on Barbie dolls, dad’s shotgun and model rockets to banish the demons in Director Tibor Takacs’ (I, Madman) effectively realized and certifiably scary devil-raising feature.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate presents The Gate with a 1080p transfer, bearing a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The latest addition in their Vestron Video Collector’s Series, the film is a remarkable upgrade from its near decade old DVD release that honors filmic integrity, mildly soft but still natural-looking skin tones and a sharp color scheme present in the suburban greenery as well as Glen’s red space camp jacket and Al’s lime green sweater.  In addition, black levels are solid with detail largely admired in the creature designs while, only the slightest hint of speckling is observed in this otherwise picturesque presentation of the 80s cult classic.  Equipped with a perfectly adequate DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that handles dialogue with ease, heavy metal tunes, lightning storms and rocket blasts all offer solid emphases on the well-orchestrated track.

    Much like the demons bursting from the gate, the overflowing wealth of special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Tibor Takacs, Writer Michael Nankin and Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, a second Audio Commentary with Special Effects Designer & Supervisor Randall William Cook, Special Make-Up Effects Artist Craig Reardon, Special Effects Artist Frank Carere & Matte Photographer Bill Taylor plus, an Isolated Score and Audio Interview with Composers Michael Hoenig & J. Peter Robinson.  In addition, Red Shirt Pictures delivers several newly recorded featurettes that explore many of the low-budget effort’s technical achievements including, The Gate: Unlocked (27:54) where Takacs and Cook discuss the film’s making in-depth, Minion Maker with Craig Reardon (22:36), From Hell It Came with Andras Hamori (13:13), The Workman Speaks! with Carl Kraines (12:22) and the most interesting Made in Canada (28:28) that sits down with six local cast and crew members from the Canadian shoot as they recall their own unique experiences making the film.  Meanwhile, ported over from the 2009 release, From Hell: The Creatures & Demons of The Gate (14:53), The Gatekeepers with Tibor Takacs & Michael Nankin (15:46) and The Making of The Gate (22:55) are also on-hand with the Teaser Trailer (1:08), Theatrical Trailer (1:50), TV Spot (0:32), Storyboard Gallery (9:27) and a Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery (10:20) rounding out the profound assortment of extras.

    A childhood staple that still stands up, The Gate is a fiendishly fun effort of teens going toe to toe with demonic beings with no one but themselves to rely on.  Incorporating the then timely black sheep of heavy metal into its vortex of fear, Tibor Takacs’ sharply constructed and gloriously effects-driven opus plays largely into the comforting confines of nostalgia where its discovery for many through video rental and repeat cable viewings made it a longstanding favorite.  Hoped for since its line’s formation, The Gate makes it high-definition debut with remarkable technical grades that far exceed its previous release and an overwhelming supply of bonus features earning it the highest praise as one of Vestron Video’s best offerings to date!

    RATING: 5/5

    Available February 28th from Lionsgate, The Gate can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Regression (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Regression (2015)

    Director: Alejandro Amenábar

    Starring: Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Denick, David Thewlis, Devon Bostick, Dale Dickey & Aaron Ashmore

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Inspired by true events, Director Alejandro Amenábar’s (The Others) Regression finds Detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke, Boyhood) investigating the troubled case of the victimized Angela (Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) who accuses her father (David Denick, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) of sexual abuse.  Accepting guilt of the crime with little to no memory of its occurrence, Kenner calls upon the respected Professor Raines (David Thewlis, The Theory of Everything) to unlock the dark memories hidden inside, triggering a nationwide panic of satanic worship and deceit.  Utilizing the wildly reported claims of devil worshippers and sacrificial crimes during the late 80s and early 90s, Regression enters a bleak playground of fear that was very real for its time although its validity would ultimately prove false.  Set in the overcast lands of Minnesota circa 1990, frightened teen Angela seeks solace from her local church to evade further sexual abuse from her father and imminent danger from mysterious satan worshippers.  As the lines begin to connect, Detective Bruce Kenner uncovers a link between Angela’s abuse and members of his own department when an experimental psychological technique is implemented to retrieve repressed memories from the subconscious.  When the local community and the media’s interest in the occult increases, Kenner finds himself confronted with nightmarish imagery and threats that may or may not be happening, rattling his judgement of the case.  Continuing his successful streak of horror fueled pictures including Sinister and The Purge, Ethan Hawke delivers a fine performance as the hard-boiled detective itching to find justice for Angela only to discover a darker evil at play.  In addition, the lovely Emma Watson conjures a strongly layered performance as the fragile victim who cries wolf only to have her own testimony being questioned.  Mysteriously plotted with suggestions of the supernatural and the black arts, Regression delivers a well-crafted investigative thriller that some may feel slighted by in its revealing third act.  While its conclusion may not be as haunting as one would predict, the message is a strong reminder of the dangers of falling victim to hysteria and that the most vile monsters exist among us.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Regression with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Cast under grey skies and darker tones, the film succeeds in delivering inky black levels with healthy depth and no anomalies.  Skin tones are healthily handled with sharp detail while, the subdued colors and textures of Kenner’s suits are appropriately captured.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, ideal sound quality is effortlessly achieved with clear dialogue levels and ghostly music touches while, the dreary ambiance of the rainy environment is also appreciatively captured.  Light and rather repetitive as each supplement covers similar ground, special features include, Ethan Hawke - Bruce’s Obsession (2:04), Emma Watson - The Complexity of Angela (2:30), The Cast of Regression (2:26) and The Vision of Regression (2:43).  In addition, a Digital HD Code is also included.  Formulating an intriguing whodunit against the backdrop of one of the countries most scandalizing reports, Regression plays its cards carefully with worthy performances and a suspenseful pace.  Concluding on a more grounded and unsettling note, Director Alejandro Amenábar’s return to his darker roots is a pleasing feature, excellently presented courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Regression can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Sentinel (1977) Blu-ray Review

    The Sentinel (1977)

    Director: Michael Winner

    Starring: Chris Sarandon, Cristina Raines, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith & John Carradine

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the death of her father and an urgent desire for independence, beautiful model Alison Parker (Cristina Raines, The Duellists) moves into a spacious New York brownstone unaware of the danger that awaits her.  Haunted by nightmarish memories and riddled by her peculiar neighbors, Alison learns her once desirable new residence is a gateway to hell.  Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play), Ava Gardner (The Killers), John Carradine (House of Frankenstein), Burgess Meredith (Rocky), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Jerry Orbach (Law & Order), Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park), Eli Wallach (The Magnificent Seven) and Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) co-star.

    Based on the novel by Jeffrey Konvitz, Director Michael Winner (Death Wish) returns to the city that never sleeps for his controversial religious shocker.  Shot on location in Brooklyn Heights, Alison Parker (Raines) moves into the ideal New York brownstone, inhabited by a blind reclusive priest on the building’s top floor.  Shortly after settling in, Alison develops a series of medical drawbacks while becoming acquainted with her eccentric new neighbors.  Unsettled by reoccurring dreams of her recently deceased father and her own previous suicide attempts, Alison’s sanity comes into question after learning she, along with Father Halliran (Carradine), are the only occupants of the apartment complex.  Aided by her boyfriend Michael Lerman (Sarandon), Alison discovers her new home is a gateway to hell that the Catholic Church assign guardians to protect.  While the ailing Father Halliran upholds his duty, Alison has been selected as the next Sentinel for a chance at redemption for her previous sins.  As the demons’ influence take greater hold, Alison’s faith and will to fight back are mankind’s only hope against the forces of darkness.

    Boasting one of the most eclectic casts in 70s horror, The Sentinel continues to tap the hot-button subgenre of religious terror during a time when satan gripped audiences attention.  Matched with underrated makeup effects by Dick Smith (The Exorcist) and bizarre imagery of ballet dancing lesbians fondling themselves, The Sentinel packs a visual identity not soon forgotten.  Considered wildly offensive during its original release for the casting of actors with real-life deformities, Director Michael Winner’s sole horror feature achieves an authentic level of eeriness separating itself from other Catholic based dives into the supernatural.  While generally viewed as a mediocre effort, The Sentinel has rightfully developed an increased appreciation over the decades.  Guided by worthy performances from Raines and Sarandon, along with a scene-stealing Meredith, The Sentinel has kept its hellish inferno burning for viewers to rediscover its chilling charm.

    Scream Factory presents The Sentinel with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a noticeably filmic appearance, skin tones are generally natural looking with colors of the apartment’s greenery and the film’s bloodier moments popping nicely.  Aside from inherent age-related issues of mild scratches and scuffs, detail remains strikingly stable with Dick Smith’s frightening effects better appreciated while, black levels reveal no glaring crushing issues.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always audible and free of any intruding distortion.  Meanwhile, sound effects and Gil Melle’s (Blood Beach) moody tunes come across effectively.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer Jeffrey Konvitz, Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Michael Winner and Audio Commentary with Actress Cristina Raines.  In addition, Working with Winner: The Making of The Sentinel (23:56) finds Second Assistant Director Ralph S. Singleton discussing his early starts in the industry and his working relationship with the often tough but respected Winner in this engaging featurette.  Furthermore, a Theatrical Trailer (2:35), TV Spots (1:39), Movie Stills (2:47), B&W Press Photos (2:30) and Lobby Cards and Posters (2:34) Photo Galleries round out the supplements.

    Nicely complimenting Scream Factory’s other resurrected religious frightener The Legacy, The Sentinel packs an impressively diverse cast with enough disturbing imagery to cement itself in horror lovers’ subconscious.  Graduating to high-definition with noticeably improved technical merits and a generous supply of bonus content for such an unsung feature, Scream Factory lures you to the hellish underworld with The Sentinel as your ideal host.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 22nd from Scream Factory, The Sentinel can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Legacy (1978) Blu-ray Review

    The Legacy (1978)

    Director: Richard Marquand

    Starring: Katharine Ross, Sam Elliot, John Standing, Margaret Tyzack & Roger Daltrey

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Richard Marquand (Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi), The Legacy centers on Maggie (Katharine Ross, The Stepford Wives), along with boyfriend Pete (Sam Elliot, Mask), on business in the English countryside.  After being involved in a car accident, the couple are invited back to the fellow driver’s lavish estate only to be surprised by other guests expecting them.  With an uneasiness filling the air, the houseguests begin unexpectedly dying as supernatural forces are suspected.  John Standing (The Elephant Man), Margaret Tyzack (2001: A Space Odyssey), Ian Hogg (Rasputin), Charles Gray (The Devil Rides Out) and Roger Daltrey (Tommy) co-star.

    Invited overseas by a mystery client, interior decorator Maggie Walsh (Ross) and hunky boyfriend Pete Danner (Elliot) travel to the English countryside only to be sidetracked by a car accident.  Safe with the exception of Pete’s motorcycle, the couple are graciously invited back to their fellow driver Jason Mountolive’s (Standing) extravagant mansion.  Greeted by several houseguests already expecting them, Maggie and Pete are introduced to their powerful new acquaintances as Jason’s declining health is the basis for their visit.  Summoned to his death bed, Maggie is bestowed with a sinister ring also worn by her fellow guests that refuses to leave her finger.  As Maggie and Pete’s desire to leave the estate are slyly denied, the possibility of black magic being conducted turns frighteningly real as the visitors meet fatal ends under questionable circumstances.  A disturbing drowning, chicken bone choking, fiery inferno and shattered mirror shards claim Jason’s unsavory business partners as the couple discover a shocking lineage between witchcraft and Jason’s family line.  Imperative that Jason’s legacy lives on and seduced by the satanic allure of power, Maggie’s fate becomes sealed.

    Slow-building yet increasingly tense, The Legacy carries the torch for satanic frights popularized earlier in the decade by The Exorcist and The Omen.  While not hardly as praised as its predecessors, Director Richard Marquand’s black magic opus weaves an intriguing, character driven tale with an eclectic cast and eerie imagery of a gothic mansion and creepy cats.  Although plot holes can sometimes be glaring and its narrative explanations slightly overindulgent, the film’s minimal but effective death sequences and dark conclusion easily make up for most of its shortcomings.  Critically divided and commercially unsuccessful, The Legacy remains an underappreciated occult tale forgotten in the wake of the burgeoning slasher movement.

    Boasting a new high-definition transfer, Scream Factory presents The Legacy in 1080p with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of modest levels of speckling, the picture is noticeably sharp with a natural grain layer and impressive detail in facial features giving way to the slightest wrinkles surrounding Ross’ eyes.  Skin tones are inviting while dual colors of a particular white cat’s eyes and the film’s blood dripping deaths pop exceptionally well.  Meanwhile, black levels are decently inky with only moderate instances of flakes apparent in more dimly lit moments.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is predominately clear with an occasion of hushed tones requiring an increase in volume.  Kiki Dee’s main title song and more striking sound effects including, gunshots ring loudly sans distortion.  Special features include, Anne V. Coates: An Editing Legacy (13:47) where the charmingly elder editor discuss her first introduction to cinema seeing Wuthering Heights and her admiration for the late Richard Marquand.  In addition, The Make-Up Effects of The Legacy: Robin Grantham (10:46), TV Spot (0:32), Radio Spot (0:29), Theatrical Trailer (1:43), Photo Gallery (2:32) and a Reversible Cover Art round out the supplemental package.

    Commonly forgotten in the annals of 70s horror cinema, The Legacy compliments satanic pictures before it with its unorthodox plot and diverse cast including, a brief but effective appearance by The Who’s Roger Daltrey.  With several murders, Sam Elliot showcasing his bare asset and supernatural happenings at every turn, The Legacy is casting a spell to be resurrected by curious viewers.  Graced with a newly struck transfer, Scream Factory ushers the film into a new era looking better than ever.  Accompanied with newly produced bonus features compliments of the consistently talented Aine Leicht, The Legacy is devilishly worth dancing with.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available September 15th from Scream Factory, The Legacy can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Evilspeak (1981) Blu-ray Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Eric Weston

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

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

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 5/5

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

  • Night Train to Terror (1985) Blu-ray Review



    Night Train to Terror (1985)
    Director: Jay Schlossberg-Cohen
    Starring: Cameron Mitchell, John Phillip Law & Byron Yordan
    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    By the sight of the 1-sheet poster, most would assumed that Night Train to Terror is another chip off the slasher block from the bitchin’ 1980s.  As fitting as it may seem, this is an entirely different beast.  When the topic of horror anthologies is brought up, there is a steady list of favorites to choose from such as Creepshow, Trick ‘r Treat and Tales from the Crypt.  But, somewhere in the cobwebs lies Night Train to Terror.  Presented for the first time on home video and it its original aspect ratio, Vinegar Syndrome bring this horror oddity to your growing collection in a Blu-ray / DVD combo pack.  How odd is this flick, you ask?  Well, get ready to throw logic out the window and let’s find out...

    Night Train to Terror kicks off with God and Satan aboard a train headed to the friary underworld as they decide the fates of three unfortunate souls.  In Harry, a killer keeps body parts of his victims in a twisted torture chamber.  While, in Gretta, a young woman obsessed with death takes part in a risky game of Russian roulette.  Finally, Claire finds a young woman and a Holocaust survivor terrorized by the son of Satan!

    MOVIE:
    There’s much to admire in a film that kicks off with an 80s-centric band playing to the camera while on board a train to Hell.  The catchy tune and the lead singer, who looks like a mix of Loverboy and Flashdance, sets the tone for the odd film you are about to witness.  The wrap-around segments of God and Satan deciding the fates of each of the  victims was a welcome touch that opened the stage for some humorous moments.  The film itself is an insane collage of horror presented without too much narrative in mind and a tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Demons, dismemberment, nudity and nazis all make entertaining appearances that are provided by a halfway decent cast and a synth-happy score.  Night Train to Terror takes lightning speed shifts telling its story while pushing moments of blood and horror leaving you with a “what the hell is going on?” attitude more than once.  In addition, the film deserves great praise for their usage of stop-motion effects that are less Harryhausen and more Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure but just as charming and fun.  Overall, the film succeeds in throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the viewer in terms of horrific elements while weaving a very “unique” kind of anthology tale.  There’s nothing quite like Night Train to Terror and by my calculations, that’s a fantastic thing!
    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:
    Vinegar Syndrome presents Night Train to Terror for the first time on home video restored in 2K from 35mm elements and in its original 1:85:1 aspect ratio.  The film certainly has its fair share of inconsistencies with debris and scratches with colors popping nicely when they can.  Skin tones appear natural and detail is quite sharp in close-ups.  Grain levels look terrific while blacks can be a hit or miss.  It sounds mediocre, but in truth, this film has never looked better and probably never will.  Vinegar Syndrome’s treatment is the definitive one for a film that has only seen ratty bootlegs before its release.  Consider me satisfied!
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Night Train to Terror hurls into your living room courtesy of a 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix.  Scenes of dialogue are clear and hissing is hardly present while moments of horror and carnage are loud and robust.  The score and catchy opening tune impressed my ear drums as they were loud even at a relatively lower volume.  Well done!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    Vinegar Syndrome presents a healthy dose of supplements that are spread across both the Blu-ray and DVD on this release.

    On Blu-ray:
    - Interview with Director Jay Schlossberg-Cohen (offered as an audio track over the film)

    - The Hysteria Continues Commentary: The bloggers offer plenty of laughs and interesting anecdotes about the film and the players involved.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    On DVD:
    - Gretta: The full-version of The Case of Gretta Conners, a unique and welcome extra as one can see and appreciate the differences from its shorter counterpart found in Night Train to Terror.

    - Interview with Assistant Editor Wayne Schmidt (presented as an audio track)

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Night Train to Terror is quite unlike any horror anthology you’ve ever seen.  The chaotic pace and horrific imagery at every turn will certainly send you for a loop which makes it never boring.  Vinegar Syndrome have preserved and presented the film in the best possible manner with a welcome dose of extras that offer as much behind-the-scenes information as possible on this horror oddity.  Night Train to Terror is an absurd execution in horror anthologies with enough blood, demons and stop-motion to peak most genre fans’ interest.  Looking for logic?  We’re all out on Night Train to Terror but that’s exactly where most of the charm comes from.
    RATING: 4/5