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  • 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.

  • 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.

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

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

    Director(s): Brian Gibson / Gary Sherman

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Poltergeist II: The Other Side RATING: 4/5

    Poltergeist III RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • 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.

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) Blu-ray Review

    10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

    Director: Dan Trachtenberg

    Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead & John Gallagher Jr.

    Released by: Paramount Pictures

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A distant cousin to Producer J.J. Abrams’ 2008 found footage thriller, 10 Cloverfield Lane focuses on Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Scott Pilgrim VS. The World) who after experiencing a near fatal car accident awakens inside the underground bunker of survivalist Howard (John Goodman, Argo).  Assured that she was saved from an apocalyptic attack, Howard’s questionable motives and short-temper leaves Michelle determined to learn the truth.

    From its frantic opening where Michelle is seen packing her belongings for a fast getaway, 10 Cloverfield Lane wastes little time establishing its theme of escape from forces deemed uncontrollable.  Shortly after suffering a severe car accident, the dark-haired beauty finds herself chained in a concrete room before being introduced to her savior Howard.  Overcome with shock, the doomsday planner informs his new bunker guest of the cataclysmic fallout that has occurred above ground, coldly reporting that no survivors remain.  Unwilling to believe her odd host, Michelle savagely fights back only to confirm her own fears that the world she once knew is no longer what it was.  Joined by kindhearted local boy Emmett (John Gallagher Jr., The Newsroom), the three unlikely roommates must forge a union in their new underground home in order to survive a new tomorrow.  Continuously suspicious, Michelle suspects Howard’s motives to be deceitful as his unstable personality and chilling paranoia increases the longer time passes, prompting the resourceful survivor to go above Howard’s head and escape her reportedly safe surrounding.

    After conquering a galaxy far, far away, Producer J.J. Abrams’ top-secret project would unsuspectingly sneak attack the public a mere two months before its theatrical premiere.  Bearing a similar title to its loosely connected predecessor, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an entirely different beast that ditches its Kaiju-inspired roots for a far more contained, character-driven tale that relies on razor-sharp suspense and thrills.  Tightly budgeted and featuring a cast of only three, Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a riveting performance of an understandably terrified civilian who overcomes her fears in more ways than one.  In addition, as Hollywood’s unofficial good luck charm, John Goodman taps into the rarely seen dark recesses of his craft, arguably establishing one of the best and most surprising performances of his career.  Best experienced as it was initially promoted with as little information as possible, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a heart-pounding watch with exceptional tension that will leave viewers fighting for air by its conclusion.  Vastly unique from its previous feature, 10 Cloverfield Lane is not only a far superior being but also one of 2016’s best surprises.

    Paramount Pictures presents 10 Cloverfield Lane with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Cast in rather subdued colors, clarity is impressive while, the soft-lighting of the underground bunker is exceptionally balanced allowing for strong detail in skin tones and background props to be crisply represented.  In addition, black levels, most notably during the film’s final act, are perfectly inky, ensuring a spectacular viewing experience from start to finish.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is perfectly clear with foreboding music cues, rumbling bass notes and even the film’s few oldies hits making impactful marks.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Dan Trachtenberg & Producer J.J. Abrams plus, seven Featurettes (34:42) ranging from Cloverfield Too, Bunker Mentality, Duck and Cover, Spin-Off, Kelvin Optical, Fine Tuned and End of Story that do a solid job covering the many different aspects of the film’s making.  Finally, a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code conclude the supplemental package.

    Materializing from what seemed like nowhere with its brilliantly mysterious marketing campaign, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a refreshingly original stranglehold viewing experience that keeps its grip tightly fastened.  Tensely absorbing, newcomer Dan Trachtenberg’s feature film debut unquestionably stands as one of the year’s most satisfying features with an exceptional high-definition release and an informative special features package to go along with it.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Paramount Pictures, 10 Cloverfield Lane can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Funhouse Massacre (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Funhouse Massacre (2015)

    Director: Andy Palmer

    Starring: Jere Burns, Scottie Thompson, Clint Howard, Courtney Gains & Robert Englund

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set on Halloween night, The Funhouse Massacre centers on a group of the most heinous serial killers in the country as they escape from their secluded asylum.  Descending upon a funhouse attraction themed to their very own murderous exploits, the homicidal lunatics continue their reign of terror on the unsuspecting guests.  In a last ditch effort to save their own lives, a group of college students, a bumbling deputy and a tough sheriff must band together to stop the crazed murderers.  Genre icons Clint Howard (Evilspeak), Courtney Gains (Children of the Corn) and Robert England (A Nightmare on Elm Street) comprise the film’s impressive supporting cast.

    Incapable of taking itself seriously much to the enjoyment of viewers, The Funhouse Massacre uses its over the top violence and familiar faces from the genre to lure viewers into its modern splatterfest of mayhem.  Shortly after breaking out of Statesville Asylum, an insane troop of serial murderers, led by Mental Manny (Jere Burns, Angie Tribeca), target a local horror-themed funhouse to kickstart their old habits.  Joined by a monstrously strong clown, an eerie doll-like vixen with a talent for knives, a bulbous cannibal, a demented dentist and a twisted taxidermist, a racially diverse group of college pals find themselves caught in the crosshairs of the Halloween killings.  Hilariously poking fun at the stereotypical roles in the film, The Funhouse Massacre makes light of the sole Hispanic character and his desire to emulate Danny Trejo’s Machete in a shtick that runs through the film’s bloodier moments.  While the fresh-faced talent carry the film well with a fine handling of its comedy, the film’s boasting of fan favorite horror stars falls short with only Robert Englund’s brief performance as the asylum’s warden being of worthy mention while, Clint Howard and Courtney Gains are reduced to little more than glorified cameos.  Earning itself the award for Best Special Effects (and Best Film) at Horrorhound Weekend Convention’s Film Festival, The Funhouse Massacre’s practical approach to its gory carnage of decapitated heads, knife slashes and body puncturing bullet shots is easily the indie efforts strongest attribute that purists will revel in.  Although not wildly original, The Funhouse Massacre is a decent horror-comedy that delivers several solid laughs and even more impressive effects work that warrants a watch.

    Scream Factory presents The Funhouse Massacre with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying nicely balanced colors and strong black levels, this modern feature looks as good as can be expected.  Joined by a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally strong with only Robert Englund’s descriptions of each inmate occasionally being drowned out by music effects.  Otherwise crisply captured with wailing screams and ammunition blasts making the most prominent marks on the track, sound quality is efficient.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Meanwhile, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Andy Palmer, Producer Warner Davis and Actors Clint Howard & Courtney Gains, Production Diaries (5:35), A Day on the Set (3:15), Popcorn Talk’s Video Commentary with Director Andy Palmer and Co-Writers/Co-Stars Ben Begley and Renne Dorian (1:33:34) (exclusive to Blu-ray).  Finally, the Theatrical Trailer (2:20) and a Reversible Cover Art conclude the disc’s bonus content.

    Treading the familiar territory of a funhouse centered murder show, The Funhouse Massacre never dares to be too different yet, satisfies audiences with its handling of laughs and bloodshed.  Although its final product may only be of mediocre quality, there’s no denying the exceedingly well-crafted special effects that brings the film’s gorier moments to life.  Furthermore, Scream Factory’s presentation serves the film solidly with several helpings of special features for homicidal carnies in training to cut into.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Funhouse Massacre can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Fender Bender (2016) Review

    Fender Bender (2016)

    Director: Mark Pavia

    Starring: Makenzie Vega, Dre Davis, Cassidy Freeman, Kesley Leos Montoya, Harrison Sim & Bill Sage

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a New Mexican town, Fender Bender finds teenage Hilary (Makenzie Vega, The Good Wife) experiencing the downside of being a newly licensed driver after suffering her first accident.  Unharmed yet rattled, Hilary innocently exchanges information with her striker only to be grounded for the accidental damage later that evening.  Home alone during a violent storm, Hilary’s friends stop by only for the unsuspecting trio to be terrorized by a masked maniac.  Dre Davis (Pretty Little Liars), Cassidy Freeman (Longmire), Kesley Leos Montoya (The Guest), Harrison Sim (Pizza Girl Massacre) and Bill Sage (We Are What We Are) co-star.

    In the suspenseful spirit of slasherfests from yesteryear, Fender Bender takes the fun yet consistently recycled subgenre and finds a uniquely relatable occurrence to construct its contemporary chiller.  Modern in its setting, Makenzie Vega leads the cast as the diversely selected Hispanic heroine whose day of catching her cheating boyfriend in the act goes from bad to worse after being rear ended in her mother’s new car.  After a briefly awkward exchange of personal information with the fellow driver, Hilary is reprimand by her parents and forced to stay home alone for the night.  Spooked by the loneliness and harshness of a brewing storm, Hilary is further unsettled by texts from her mysterious acquaintance and other questionable events.  Relieved by the arrival of her best friends, Hilary’s night of terror is only just beginning when a leather-masked madman crashes the party, intent on sharply cutting the small guest list.  Marking the return of long absent Writer/Director Mark Pavia (The Night Flier), Fender Bender plays to its strengths with classic tropes of an innocent teen in peril and a stranger in the house with genuine conviction, sparing viewers any self-referential nods that have become commonplace in similar films influenced by previous decades.  While its dialogue is cheesily delivered, a satisfying bodycount and a rather bleak showdown between Hilary and her masked assailant in the final act provides ample entertainment for horror hounds yearning for modern mayhem with inner retro workings.  Enhanced by an evocative, Carpenter-esque score by Night Runner, Fender Bender is a competently constructed slasher that although not perfect, manages to inject a breath of originality into the genre that likeminded viewers will greatly appreciate.

    After years of preserving cult favorites and introducing viewers to horror’s newest nightmares, Scream Factory’s first originally produced effort, in association with Chiller Films, is a suspenseful treat with surprisingly relatable themes and a heavily 80s-influenced score that will transport fans back to the days of video rental stores and big hair.  A conservative blend of new school meets old school, Fender Bender burns rubber and sends Scream Factory off on a strong start in their latest and hopefully enduring new endeavor of crafting original scares for today’s audiences.

    Premiering Friday, June 3rd at 9PM on Chiller, Fender Bender will be available on home video later this year by Scream Factory.

  • The Witch (2015) Blu-ray Review

    The Witch (2015)

    Director: Robert Eggers

    Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger & Lucas Dawson

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in 17th century New England, The Witch finds a banished Puritan family building a new home for themselves in the peaceful wilderness only to unravel following the mysterious disappearance of their newborn child.  Further tested by the demise of their crops and other questionable occurrences, the family suspects a powerful evil has targeted them.  Marking the impressive directorial debut of Robert Eggers, The Witch is a bleak and occasionally unsettling folktale of a religiously dedicated family come undone by tragedy and accusations.  Hauntingly atmospheric and scripted with historically accurate dialogue, Eggers’ fever dream of rural witchcraft may be slow-building yet, its nightmarish imagery of an elderly witch bathing in the blood of an infant and a crow pecking away at a woman’s breast make for some of the film’s more unnervingly memorable moments.  With rewarding performances all around, newcomers Anya Taylor-Joy (Atlantis) appearing as the film’s oldest daughter Thomasin and Harvey Scrimshaw (Oranges and Sunshine) as her younger brother Caleb give especially strong deliveries, The Witch is at its best the deeper the devil divides the unfortunate family as hope for salivation becomes impossible.  Lushly photographed and booming with remarkable production design, The Witch occasionally suffers from a laborious pace but, demonstrates a bold achievement for Eggers and his keen attention to detail that will undoubtedly serve him well in future efforts.

    Lionsgate presents The Witch with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Excellently preserved, skin tones are sharply detailed while the somber tones of overcast skies are handsomely demonstrated.  In addition, the earth shades found in the film’s setting and period based wardrobe display appreciative sense of textures and fibers with black levels appearing perfectly inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is solidly audible, if not occasionally hard to understand due to the strong accents of the performers while Composer Mark Korven’s (Cube) frightening score makes powerfully effective declarations.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Eggers, The Witch: A Primal Folktale (8:28) featuring interviews with Eggers and his cast, a Salem Panel Q&A with Cast and Crew (27:59) plus, a Design Gallery (17 in total).  Finally, Trailers (10:46) for Green Room, The Adderall Diaries, Mojave, Tusk and Ex Machina are included along with a Digital HD Code.  Weaving its own spell on viewers with its hyper realistic foundation and disturbing injections of horror, The Witch takes its time establishing its folktale, equally serving and harming its narrative.  Regardless of its carefully calculated narrative, The Witch is a marvelous directorial debut, ripe for multiple viewings to fully appreciate the capturing of its bygone period.  Furthermore, Lionsgate’s high-definition release excels in its technical areas while its assortment of special features are few yet offer a sizable amount of detail into the film’s making.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available May 17th from Lionsgate, The Witch can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • The Boy (2016) Blu-ray Review

    The Boy (2016)

    Director: William Brent Bell

    Starring: Lauren Cohan, Rupert Evans, Jim Norton, Diana Hardcastle, James Russell & Ben Robson

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in a secluded English village, The Boy finds young American Greta Evans (Lauren Cohan, The Walking Dead) relocating to assume the position of nanny to a young boy.  Shortly after learning she will be caring for a life-sized doll modeled after the child in the wake of his death, Greta begins experiencing a series of unexplainable events leading her to believe the doll is alive.

    Escaping an abusive relationship, Greta Evans (Cohan) treks abroad to care for Mr. and Mrs. Heelshire’s (Jim Norton, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Diana Hardcastle, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) 8-year-old son on their sprawling English property.  Laughing off what she assumes is a practical joke, Greta quickly realizes her responsibilities are to care for a porcelain doll bearing the likeness of their late son Brahms.  Serving as a coping device for the grieving parents, Greta is ordered to adhere to a series of strict caring rules, treating the inanimate object as if it were alive while the Heelshire’s take a long overdue holiday.  Striking up a relationship with local grocer Malcolm (Rupert Evans, Hellboy), the American woman slowly learns more about the real Brahms and his peculiar personality before his untimely death in a house fire.  Alone and with little outside interaction, Greta’s deviation from the doll’s care triggers an eerie chain events that finds Greta’s personal belongings disappearing, records being played on their own and the doll noticeably moving from one place to another.  Frightened and questioning her own sanity, Greta’s fears are validated when Malcolm is witness to the boy’s unbelievable movement.  Uncertain whether evil forces are at play or not, Greta’s nightmare ex-boyfriend unexpectedly arrives hoping to forcefully resolve their differences only to experience Brahms’ true intentions firsthand.

    Shot on location in Victoria, British Columbia and originally titled The Inhabitant, The Boy is cinema’s latest attempt at haunted doll scares with a thinly veiled plot audiences will spot a million miles away.  Admittedly, while its setup is painfully generic with the greater majority of its thrills spoiled in its marketing campaign, The Boy takes a third act detour mildly unique to what’s expected.  Unfortunately, although its watcher in the walls angle matched with a fast-paced chase of its heroine jolts the film with much needed energy, attempts to raise the film above its mediocrity are too little, too late.  Inexpensively produced and released during the dead of winter, The Boy would perform strongly at the box-office for its intended teen audience yet, plays itself too safe, ultimately lacking any solid suspense and indulging in below average cheap scares.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents The Boy with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Excellently handled, skin tones are exacting and true, details found in knickknacks around the Heelshire’s lavish household are crisp while, the grassy exteriors are lavish and bold.  Black levels are predominately inky and pleasing with only fleeting mentions of crush bearing little to no consequence to the film’s remarkable transfer.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue, including moments of hushed tones, are perfectly captured while, moody ambiance around the house is exquisitely balanced against the wall smashing and high-pitched shrieks of its final act.  With the exception of a Digital HD Code, no bonus features have been included.

    Publicized as more of the same while its final product strives to be different, The Boy is an uneventful opus that builds itself on lackluster frights suited for teens who don’t know any better.  Hardly the worst of its kind, The Boy does little to stand out in a crowd marking it for a forgettable future.  Luckily, Universal Studios Home Entertainment pampers the feature with exceptional technical merits but, severely slacks in the special features department.  In a toy box filled of better supernatural efforts centered on dolls, The Boy shouldn’t be counted on to haunt viewers’ dreams.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available May 10th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Boy can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Krampus (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Krampus (2015)

    Director: Michael Dougherty

    Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Conchata Ferrell, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen & Krista Stadler

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    When his dysfunctional family clashes over the holidays, young Max (Emjay Anthony, Chef) turns his back on the Christmas spirit.  Unfortunately, in doing so, an ancient evil is awakened as the demonic Krampus casts his powerful forces upon the non-believers.  In order to survive the night, the shattered family must band together to overthrow the shadow of Saint Nicholas.  Adam Scott (Parks and Recreation), Toni Collette (Little Miss Sunshine), David Koechner (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy), Allison Tolman (Fargo), Conchata Ferrel (Edward Scissorhands), Stefania LaVie Owen (The Lovely Bones) and Krista Stadler (Lena Rais) comprise the ensemble cast.

    Following his frightful statement on the Halloween season with 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, Director Michael Dougherty submerges viewers in a snowstorm of scares with his darkly comical tale based on the Christmas folklore.  After penning a desperate letter to Santa Claus to restore his families yuletide spirit, Max’s (Anthony) holiday is all but wrecked following the arrival of his trailer park relatives who further discourage his hopes.  Overwhelmed with anger and sadness, Max tears up his letter, prompting a deadly snowstorm to take hold of his small-town as the goat-like Krampus descends on the home of the non-believers.  Transforming the jolliest time of the year into a wintertime hell, Krampus, aided by his monstrous minions and evil gingerbread creatures, ravages the idyllic location ensuring that all who cross his path are on his naughty list.  Sharing a special bond with his Austrian grandmother Omi (Stadler) who recalls the monster from her own childhood, Max and his family learn more about the evil overtaking their household with their fight for survival bringing them closer than ever before.  With children and adults fair game to the film’s horrific antagonist, a white Christmas may not be what awaits under the tree this year.

    Headlined by a sidesplittingly stellar cast of youngsters and dependable funnymen including, Adam Scott and David Koechner, Krampus seamlessly balances the rare Christmas chiller that packs ample jumps with stark black comedy achieved in spades.  In addition, Director Michael Dougherty’s sophomore effort harmoniously joins the two worlds of modern day effects and practical wizardry, granting the film an authenticity that rarely betrays viewers eyes and their sense of movie magic.  Channeling the genre-blending excitement common in its 80s influences, Krampus is a relentlessly fun, seat-jumping alternative to the warm, family-oriented fare routinely programmed during the holiday season.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Krampus with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting healthy, natural skin tones with festive holiday decorations and colorful clothing attire popping nicely, black levels are generally strong-looking with only occasional hints of murkiness due to the film’s intended lack of natural light.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is handsomely delivered while shotgun blasts and the chaotic energy of the film’s attacking monsters serve the track strongly.  Meanwhile, snowy ambiance and the crackling of firewood further compliment the prominent screams of terror which permeate the mix with authority.  Packed with plenty of supplemental presents, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Michael Dougherty and Co-Writers Todd Casey & Zach Shields, an Alternate Ending (1:24), Deleted/Extended Scenes (17:41) and a Gag Reel (5:15).  In addition, Blu-ray exclusives feature Krampus Comes Alive! (29:36), an in-depth, five part featurette covering the film’s origin, casting, special effects and production design while, Behind the Scenes at WETA Workshop: Krampus (9:54) delves into the fascinating development of the film’s monster effects.  Finally, several Galleries (478 in total) featuring poster art, creature art, storyboards and more are accompanied by a DVD counterpart and a Digital HD Code.  

    Joining the ranks of niche Christmastime frightfests, Krampus successfully treads the line of comedy and terror reminiscent of the free-spirited hijinks of Amblin Entertainment’s enduring 80s efforts.  Complimented by exceptional high-definition merits and a thorough spread of bonus features, Krampus may be best devoured around the holidays yet, remains a devilishly fun gift that entertains year round.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Krampus can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • #Horror (2015) Blu-ray Review

    #Horror (2015)

    Director: Tara Subkoff

    Starring: Chloë Sevigny, Timothy Hutton, Natasha Lyonne, Balthazar Getty, Taryn Manning, Stella Schnabel, Sadie Seelert, Hayley Murphy, Bridget McGarry, Blue Lindeberg, Mina Sundwall, Emma Adler, Annabelle Dexter-Jones & Lydia Hearst

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wealthy backwoods of Connecticut, #Horror follows a group of privileged preteen girls whose obsession with a disturbing online game is tested when the terror becomes real.  Chloë Sevigny (American Psycho), Timothy Hutton (American Crime) and Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is The New Black) star in this contemporary shocker helmed by actress turned director Tara Subkoff (The Cell).

    Stuck up, 12 year-old richies unload their horrendous personalities and mean-spirited cyber shenanigans on one another in a time where online discouragement can be deadly.  Joined together for sleepover, the group of girls enjoy playing dress-up with lavish ensembles and priceless jewelry while, remaining glued to their mobile devices for a macabre, nonsensical game.  Rotten to their cores, the suggested friends take turns tearing each other apart by body-shaming, uploading unflattering pictures of one another to the internet and showing no compassion for the death of their friends own mother.  Juxtaposed with hyperactive imagery of emojis, tagged pictures and blood-filled pools, #Horror lacks focus, appearing as scatterbrained as a tech-obsessed teen.  Containing zero redeeming characters, veteran performers including, Sevigny and Lyonne are merely used for set decoration while, Hutton, admittedly over-the-top, delivers the only mentionable performance in his limited screen time as a hysterical father searching for his missing daughter.  More a showcase of today’s cruel bullying dilemmas than a traditional thriller, #Horror attempts to adhere to slasher standards during its fleeting moments as a masked killer, capturing his/her exploits via smartphone, takes bloody revenge on the heartless girls.  Painfully uninteresting and tackily titled, #Horror’s attempts at capturing the true-life terror of cyberbullying is admirable yet, fatally crashes during its upload.

    Scream Factory presents #Horror with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying natural skin tones with pleasing detail, shadowy moments and black levels during nighttime sequences suffer from crushing issues that result in a noticeable, screen-door effect over the picture.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is generally strong with occasional instances, noticeably in the film’s opening exchange between two parties in a Ferrari, showing less priority in their delivery while, EMA’s electric music queues offer a more pleasing emphasis.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Containing only the film’s Trailer (1:42), a Reversible Cover Art rounds out the rather light supplemental offerings.

    Boasting wholly unlikeable characters and uncertain with its identity as a social statement or a teen terrorizer, #Horror greatly fails as the latter while, its depiction of the former is bleak and unentertaining.  Meanwhile, Scream Factory, in conjunction with IFC Midnight, welcomes the modern feature with a decent high-definition presentation although, bonus features are far and few between.  If death is trending as its tagline so cleverly suggests, then unsubscribing from #Horror is vital.

    RATING: 2/5

    Available April 5th from Scream Factory, #Horror can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • The Vincent Price Collection III: Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe (1970) & Cry of the Banshee (1970) Blu-ray Review

    The Vincent Price Collection III (1961-1970)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking their third annual release of chilling tales from the master of horror, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents The Vincent Price Collection III.  Comprised of five more efforts across four Blu-ray’s, each bursting with bonus content, legendary star Vincent Price (The Pit and the Pendulum, House on Haunted Hill) makes headlining turns in Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970) and Cry of the Banshee (1970), presented with both its Director’s Cut and the commonly known American International Theatrical cut.

    Based on the novels by Jules Verne, Vincent Price stars as the God-complex suffering Robur in Master of the World.  Set in the 19th century and riding the skies above in his indestructible airship known as the Albatross, Robur takes capture of four individuals including, government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson, Death Wish) as he details his desire to bring peace to the world through intimidation tactics with the Albatross.  Countries resistant to surrender their militaries suffer the explosive wrath of Robur’s powerful creation, forcing the abducted prisoners to devise a way to overthrow the captain and destroy his destructive weapon.  Although portraying the film’s conflicted antagonist, Master of the World is hardly in the same vein as Price’s lauded frightful features but, more an adventurous tale with fantastical elements.  Commonly compared to similar efforts such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Master of the World is an exciting detour for the horror thespian who delivers another delightful performance as he wickedly drops bombs atop of warships and hangs his prisoners above the clouds via rope.  While taking expected shortcuts through use of stock footage and other such techniques, American International Pictures delivered their most expensive picture to date with its Verne adaptation with the results paying off handsomely onscreen.  Scripted by the brilliant Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, Tales of Terror) and hosting one of Les Baxter’s (X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes) most impactful scores, Master of the World is a high-flying adventure with Price ably steering its ship.

    Blending history with gothic horror, Tower of London reunites Director Roger Corman once again with Vincent Price during the height of their popular Edgar Allan Poe series.  Retelling a reasonably accurate yet, still rightly fictionalized account of King Richard III’s rise to the throne and ultimate downfall, Price headlines as the dastardly Duke of Gloucester as he pays respects to his terminally ill brother King Edward IV before greed and the temptation of power consumes him.  Secretly murdering his other respected brother with the support of his equally vile wife Anne (Joan Camden, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), Richard weaves his influence around the kingdom by sending others who may threaten his plans to the torture chamber and deceiving his own nephews their birthright to the throne.  Expunging all who challenge him, Richard’s control of the kingdom comes at the cost of his own sanity as the ghosts of those slain return to haunt him.  Lacking the colorful composition of their Poe efforts, Tower of London’s black and white photography establishes its own moody ambiance that suits the film’s period setting.  Classically trained in theater, Price brings gravitas to his tragic hunchbacked role while, mixing the mad entertaining glee common to his other horror-oriented performances.  While not quite as applauded as their other collaborations, The Tower of London is an underrated feast with gorgeous camerawork by Archie R. Dalzell (The Addams Family) and an outlet for Price to proudly showcase his Shakespearean chops onscreen.

    Taking liberties with the tales of Guy de Maupassant, Diary of a Madman finds itself working backwards as onlookers gather at the funeral of Magistrate Simon Cordier (Price).  As close friends gather to read from Cordier’s locked diary, the truth of his fate is slowly revealed.  After witnessing a troubled murderer’s accidental death, Cordier finds himself consumed by the entity that forced the deceased’s hand to kill.  Known only as the horla, the respected judge, grieving for years after the death of his chid and suicide of his wife, attempts to counter the wicked voices in his head by embracing his artistic abilities and falling for the attractive Odette Mallotte (Nancy Kovack, Jason and the Argonauts).  Disrupted by the revelation that Odette is legally married to another and his intended bride-to-be favors his wealth over his love, the forceful nature of the horla compels Cordier to handle them accordingly.  Helmed by Reginald Le Borg (The Black Sleep), Diary of a Madman, although visually lavish in its design, tends to drag in several areas with its psychologically driving narrative growing monotonous.  Although Price is unsurprisingly charming and notably comes alive when possessed to stab his lover to death, Nancy Kovack stands as one of the horror maestro’s most intoxicatingly beautiful starlets and delivers a sound performance.  While it may not be Price’s most memorable feature, Diary of a Madman remains worthy of a watch on a preferably rainy evening.

    In this made for television special, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe spotlights Vincent Price, with minimal set dressing and few props, as he eloquently narrates four of Poe’s chilling works.  All told in the first person, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Case of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum come to life courtesy of Price’s intense conviction as he makes quoting Poe as effortless as breathing.  Well directed by Kenneth Johnson (The Bionic Woman), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe may not be feature length worthy entertainment but, serves as an exceptional showcase for the classically trained Price who makes Poe’s haunting tales even more effective than reading them independently under the blanket of darkness.  Longtime appreciators of the star’s many Poe adaptations will take delight at how ingrained the gothic poet’s works were installed in his vocabulary, greatly enriching their legacy in the process.

    Although prefaced by a passage from Edgar Allan Poe, Cry of the Banshee holds no correlation to the Corman/Price adaptations previously produced by American International Pictures.  Helmed instead by fellow Price collaborator Gordon Hessler (The Oblong Box, Scream and Scream Again), Cry of the Banshee focuses on vile witch hunter Lord Edward Whitman (Price) who uses his influence to exterminate those of the slightest suspicion of devil worship.  Murdering accused teenagers during a dinner party and ordering others to torturous whippings, Edward and his sons ambush a worshipping coven, resulting in several deaths before being cursed by its leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner, As You Like It).  Summoning the beastly sidhe to rid the Whitman clan, the estate’s gypsy servant Roderick (Patrick Mower, The Devil Rides Out), who is also madly in love with Edwards’ daughter Maureen (Hilary Heath, Witchfinder General), becomes possessed and periodically morphs into the monster to bring death to the Whitman’s family line.  Sporting a colorfully animated title sequence by a young Terry Gilliam (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and injecting far more nudity (within its Director’s Cut) than most Price features, Cry of the Banshee suffers from an overloaded cast and largely detestable characters.  Juxtaposing from Price, who arguably takes a backseat for portions of the film, to his sons’ individual paths, his daughter and Rodrick’s forbidden romance, the coven of witches and its local villagers, the film struggles to streamline its focus while, Price, who delivers a respectable performance albeit grossly seedy and only second to his turn in Michael Reeves’ Witchfinder General.  Achieving success during its original release, Hessler contends Cry of the Banshee to be his most uninteresting AIP feature which is respectfully agreed.       

    Culled from a variety of sources including, inter-positives (Master of the World, Diary of a Madman and Cry of the Banshee), a fine grain film print (Tower of London) and even original tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe), each feature is presented with 1080p transfers with the exception of the standard-def, televised Poe effort.  Sporting 1.85:1 (Master of the World, Cry of the Banshee), 1:66:1 (Tower of London, Diary of a Madman) and 1:33:1 (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe) aspect ratios, each film contains varying degrees of scratches and scuffs, all of which never greatly deter from the viewing experience.  From their striking color schemes, Master of the World and Diary of a Madman greatly impress while, Tower of London begins with rough around the edges before nicely improving, demonstrating pleasing black levels in its monochrome photography.  With expectations at bay regarding the sole SD feature included, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe looks as good as can be expected with only one minor coloring hiccup spotted.  In addition, Cry of the Banshee arrives in a virtually blemish free presentation that is both filmic and natural.  Given the fleeting state of materials for many elder features, Scream Factory has once again worked wonders in preserving several more of Price’s pictures.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes with Master of the World also boasting a newly created Stereo mix from the original 4-track mag, each film satisfies in delivering audible dialogue levels and worthy reproductions of their respective scores.  Admittedly, Diary of a Madman retains a mild hiss of little consequence on its track while, Tower of London has occasional cracks and pops heard throughout.  Unquestionably, Master of the World’s Stereo mix is the most effective of the bunch with Les Baxter’s thunderous score leaving lasting impressions.  

    With a variety of newly produced and vintage supplements, special features on Master of the World’s disc 1 include a new Audio Commentary with Actor David Frankham, an extended cut of Richard Matheson: Storyteller (1:12:05), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:28), Photo Gallery (2:18) and Photo Gallery II (1:59).  Disc 2’s Tower of London hosts a new Interview with Director Roger Corman (7:11), Producing Tower of London featuring interviews with Corman and his brother and fellow producer Gene Corman (14:04).  In addition to a Photo Gallery (4:31), two standard definition episodes of Science Fiction Theatre starring Vincent Price, “One Thousand Eyes” (26:09) and “Operation Flypaper” (26:05), supply fans with even more Priceless small screen entertainment.  Furthermore, Diary of a Madman includes a new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman, a Poster Gallery (1:44) and the Theatrical Trailer (3:16) while, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (also found on disc 3) includes, another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman and the newly produced Tales of Vincent Price with Kenneth Johnson (21:26).  In addition to both its Director’s Cut (1:30:49) and American International Theatrical Cut (1:26:37), disc 4’s Cry of the Banshee provides yet another new Audio Commentary with Film Historian and Author Steve Haberman on the Director’s Cut, A Devilish Tale of Poe (17:52) featuring an interview with Director Gordon Hessler with its Theatrical Trailer (2:28), TV Spot (0:58), Radio Spot (0:30) and a Poster Gallery (4:09) rounding out the final batch of on-disc extras.  Lastly, a 12-page booklet featuring rare photos is also included.

    In what appears to be their final curtain call for Mr. Price, Scream Factory’s The Vincent Price Collection III offers fans of gothic horror and atmospheric chills a throughly entertaining quintuple of features from the adventure-filled Master of the World to the witch hunting Cry of the Banshee.  Excellently presented and lovingly complimented with ample bonus content for after-movie consumption, The Vincent Price Collection III is a bittersweet accomplishment for the popular horror label that will easily rank as one of the year’s favored releases.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Vincent Price Collection III can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Crimson Peak (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Crimson Peak (2015)

    Director: Guillermo del Toro

    Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain & Charlie Hunnam

    Released by: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the acclaimed director of Pan’s Labyrinth, Crimson Peak centers on Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska, Stoker) who after suffering a personal tragedy, falls head over heels for the seductive Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, The Avengers).  Whisked away to his dilapidated mansion, Edith encounters mysteries and spirits within her new home revolving around her newfound love and the darkest of truths.  Jessica Chastain (The Martian) and Charlie Hunnam (Pacific Rim) co-star.

    Honoring such classics as The Haunting and The Innocents, Director Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Gothic Romances and chilling ghost tales is as visually ravishing as it is tragically compelling.  Co-written by Brian Robbins (Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark),  Crimson Peak, taking place in the late 19th century, follows independent spirit Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) as she attempts to get her novel published despite her gender.  Juggling responsibilities at her father’s respected business, Edith encounters the dashingly handsome Sir Thomas Sharpe (Hiddleston) as he attempts to gain investments from Mr. Cushing on his unproven clay-mining invention.  Unimpressed by the privileged baronet and his suspicious sister Lucille (Chastain), Mr. Cushing discovers unsavory details about the siblings, demanding them to return to their homeland despite Thomas’ expressed love for his daughter.  Suffering a heartbreaking tragedy and with no other family remaining, Edith and Thomas are joined together in Holy matrimony before relocating back to the Sharpe’s English mansion.  Haunted by ghostly apparitions and progressively growing more ill, Edith uncovers the house’s darkest secrets while fearing for her life from those now considered loved ones.  Equally concerned for her well-being, longtime friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Hunnam) travels to the imposing Allerdale Hall for a terrifying discovery, one that he and Edith may not survive.

    Dripping with potent atmosphere and unafraid to shock audiences with grizzly imagery despite its classy appearance, Crimson Peak is an exceptional tour de force of gothic cinema.  Empowered by del Toro’s flawless visual touches, the auteur’s haunting romance makes dazzling statements through its rich production design and spot-on wardrobe choices, both of which were astoundingly ignored by the Academy.  Excellently casted, the innocence of Wasikowska, Chastain’s unhinged demeanor and the conflicted emotional state of Hiddleston greatly impress while, the Sharpe’s questionable correlation and eventual reveal sends the film down even darker hallways than anticipated.  Combining onset performers with effective uses of CGI, the film’s predominately blood red ghosts are genuinely frightening with a particular specter paying homage to del Toro’s own The Devil’s Backbone.  Although making modest strides at the box-office and graciously appreciated by critics, Crimson Peak is a beautifully haunting masterpiece that impressively ranks as del Toro’s finest effort to date.

    Universal Studios Home Entertainment presents Crimson Peak with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Relaying skin tones with natural ease and well-defined detail, the dreary location of Allerdale Hall and its various lighting choices ranging from reds to blues, are effectively highlighted.  Costume choices, realized by newcomer Kate Hawely (Edge of Tomorrow), read beautifully with various stitching methods and textures easily seen and better appreciated.  Doused in considerable darkness, black levels are quite exquisite in the shadowy halls of the haunted house and Thomas’ jet black attire with no evidence of crushing on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, dialogue is always audible while, quieter ghostly ambiance, rainy wailing winds and Fernando Velázquez’s (The Orphanage, Mama) frightful music queues never disappointing.  Special feature include, an enthralling Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro, Deleted Scenes (4:26), I Remember Crimson Peak (Blu-ray exclusive), a four part featurette consisting of The Gothic Corridor (4:06), The Scullery (4:24), The Red Clay Mines (5:18) and The Limbo Fog Set (5:42) all of which host interviews with del Toro and his remarkable cast.  In addition, A Primer on Gothic Romance (Blu-ray exclusive) (5:36) traces the roots of the genre with the interviewees using their own feature as a springboard, The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak (7:53) spotlights the film’s impressive production design, Hand Tailored Gothic (8:58) (Blu-ray exclusive) details Costume Designer Kate Hawley’s gorgeous contributions, A Living Thing (12:11) (Blu-ray exclusive) explores the artistic efforts designing the haunted Allerdale Hall, Beware of Crimson Peak (7:51) finds Thomas Hiddleston acting as tour guide on a walkthrough of the house and Crimson Phantoms (7:02) (Blu-ray exclusive) takes a look at the film’s unique approaches to its many specters.  Finally, a DVD edition and Digital HD Code are also included.

    A personal favorite of last year’s theatrical releases and arguably del Toro’s finest achievement yet, Crimson Peak presents an unforgettably haunting experience, respecting the Gothic romances that came before while, delivering a distinct visual feast firmly rooted in the imagination of its maker.  As gorgeously realized as its feature, Universal Studios Home Entertainment delivers an outstanding high-def presentation with a stimulating selection of special features for those who dare to take an extended stay at Allerdale Hall.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Crimson Peak can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Goosebumps (2015) Blu-ray Review

    Goosebumps (2015)

    Director: Rob Letterman

    Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Ryan Lee, Amy Ryan & Jillian Bell

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on the best-selling book series, Goosebumps centers on new kid in town Zach Cooper (Dylan Minnette, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) who strikes a friendship with his neighbor Hannah (Odeya Rush, The Giver), daughter of the mysterious author R.L. Stine (Jack Black, School of Rock).  After Stine’s countless manuscripts are accidentally opened, all the monsters of his stories are unleashed upon their small town with only the author and his young companions to stop them.  Ryan Lee (Super 8), Amy Ryan (Bridge of Spies) and Jillian Bell (22 Jump Street) co-star in Director Rob Letterman’s (Gulliver’s Travels) family friendly adventure.

    In development since the conclusion of its Fox Kids television series in 1998, Goosebumps takes a noticeably meta approach to its source material by incorporating an exaggerated version of its creator as a central character.  Shortly after arriving in Madison, Delaware, Zach Cooper (Minnette) develops an attraction to his neighbor Hannah (Rush) before being warned by her overprotective father R.L. Stine (Black) to stay away.  Concerned for her safety, Zach, along with his less than cool new sidekick Champ (Lee), sneak into Hannah’s house, learning the true identity of her grumpy father.  After an accident causes Stine’s locked manuscripts to open, the countless monsters and creatures from his Goosebumps books emerge from the pages.  Led by the rude dummy Slappy (voiced by Black) of Stine’s popular Night of the Living Dummy installments, devilish lawn gnomes, gigantic insects, an abominable snowman, the walking dead and others seeks to take control of Madison.  In order to return the monsters back to their rightful place, Stine and his teenage comrades must develop a new story to trap them.

    Filled with laughs and frightfully fun action, Goosebumps follows our young heroes as they combat the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena on a hockey rink, evade the razor-sharp teeth of The Werewolf of Fever Swamp with supermarket carts and hastily zigzag through the streets of Madison to outrun the destructive praying mantis from A Shocker on Shock Street.  With monsters from all of Stine’s 62 books included, only so many, with Slappy rightfully getting top-billing, get ample screen time while, others are unfortunately regulated to background noise.  Concluding with an exciting showdown at a rundown amusement park and a ghostly twist involving one of its characters, Goosebumps is a haunting adventure style story in the vein of Joe Johnston’s Jumanji.  Although a financial smash and a hit with audiences, the incorporation of all its antagonists in its first outing may eventually prove difficult in sequelizing such a promising franchise.  Nonetheless, Goosebumps will undoubtedly resonate with lifelong readers of the popular books while, its narrative is tailor made for the monster kids of today.

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Goosebumps with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  Bearing impeccable skin tones with rich detail, colors found in the rambunctious lawn gnomes and costume choices of its cast pop excellently.  Meanwhile, the hairy textures of the abominable snowman and the supermarket dwelling werewolf are most exceptional.  Taking place predominately at night, black levels are strikingly inky in both backgrounds and Black’s appropriately dark attire, showing no signs of digital noise.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, dialogue is flawless and nicely balanced with Composer Danny Elfman’s (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas) effective score.  In addition, action sequences from an explosive school bus, street destructing praying mantis and a rolling ferris wheel play strongly on the disc’s impressive mix.  Supplements include, a Cast Blooper Reel (3:08), Alternate Opening (3:28), Deleted Scenes (12:39) and All About Slappy (4:44), an entertaining featurette hosted by the devilish dummy with interviews from the real R.L. Stine and Jack Black plus, additional insight on the puppetry and CG effects utilized to bring the character to life are also explored.  Also included, Beginner’s Guide to Surviving a Goosebumps Creature (5:47) hosted by Stars Dylan Minnette and Ryan Lee, Strange Things are Happening… On-Set (3:30) showcases Minnette’s haunted video diaries while filming, Creaturefield! (8:56) finds Make-Up and Creature Effect heads Steve Prouty and Fionagh Cush as they teach young viewers homemade make-up techniques and a Cast Screen Test Gallery (7:16).  Finally, Previews for The Goldbergs (0:31), Pixels (2:42), Hotel Transylvania 2 (2:42), The 5th Wave (2:20), The Angry Birds Movie (2:33) and Open Season: Scared Silly (1:32) are included alongside a DVD edition of the release and a Digital HD Code.

    Long anticipated by fans who grew up addicted to Stine’s fictional frights, Goosebumps delivers a cinematic counterpart balancing harmless scares and kid friendly humor.  Furthermore, Jack Black adds another entertaining performance in his long line of family suited outings while, the young cast and the film’s creature effects, handled by Sony Pictures Animation, do the film great service.  While some may be disappointed that their favorite monsters were not better represented, Goosebumps aims to please all with younger viewers being most entertained.  Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment delivers a stellar presentation of its latest spooky offering with a supplemental package catered to youngins.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available January 26th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Goosebumps can be purchased via Amazon.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.

  • Dolls (1987) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Dolls (1987)

    Director: Stuart Gordon

    Starring: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams & Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the bowels of Empire Pictures‘ vast library, Director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond) puppeteers a dark fantasy of pint-sized playmates with a sinister side.  Executive Produced by Charles Band (Ghoulies, Crawlspace), Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Dolls Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Adorned with plentiful bonus content and newly designed cover art by Nathan Thomas Milliner, Dolls is bone-chilling fun.  

    After a violent storm derails their travels, a precocious little girl and her mean-spirited parents seek shelter at a gothic mansion.  Home to an elderly couple of doll makers, a childlike salesman and two punk-rockers also find their way to the gloomy residence to avoid the harsh weather.  Littered with countless hand-carved toys, something foreboding awaits in the shadows of this ominous home for those causing mischief.  Stephen Lee (Robocop 2), Guy Rolfe (Mr. Sardonicus), Hilary Mason (Don’t Look Now), Ian Patrick Williams (TerrorVision), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon (Robot Jox) and Carrie Lorraine (Poltergeist II: The Other Side) star.

    MOVIE:

    Lacking the excessive gore of Gordon’s Lovecraftian efforts, Dolls works beautifully as a dark rooted fairy tale with an important comment on childhood.  Serving up tried and true horror tropes including a haunted house, brutal thunderstorms and eerie characters, Dolls feels removed from the bloody decadence of other 1980s offerings.  The talented cast hit all their marks with Guy Rolfe as the kind and equally menacing doll maker injecting an added touch of class to the film.  In addition, the late Stephen Lee shines as the youthful salesman Ralph who is conflicted with embracing his childhood.  Lee conjures up wonderful pathos when reminiscing about his boyhood toys and his late father’s jovial spirit.  Carrie Lorraine does well as the imaginative little girl Judy, who forms a bond with Ralph and the magical yet, deadly dolls.  Shot entirely on Italian sound stages, Dolls offers up wildly effective production design with a decrepit manor hosting the film’s entire tale.  No stranger to recycling their efforts, Empire Pictures would redress the set for use in Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond.  

    Clocking in under 80 minutes, Dolls‘ breezy runtime allows its simple narrative to be told without sacrifice.  Characters are nicely developed and tedious stop-motion animation brings to life the deadly playmates with wonderful results.  Bloody when necessary, Dolls never loses sight of its horror genre label but, is best remembered for its classically gothic tone, soaked in fairy tale lore.  Produced by Brian Yuzna (Society) with a screenplay by Ed Naha (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids), Dolls predates the short statured slayings of Child’s Play and Puppetmaster while, capturing a spirit of horror from a bygone era.  Suspenseful and humorous, Dolls is an Empire Pictures highlight and stands as one of Gordon’s finest directorial achievements.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:

    Dolls arrives with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor flakes and speckles popping up occasionally and a slight softness during stop-motion sequences, Dolls is a delight in high-definition.  Boasting natural and nicely detailed skin tones, colors pop wonderfully in wardrobe and the various outfits of the highly decorated dolls.  Shrouded in darkness and candle light, black levels are a marvel with no crushing on display and rich visibility observed.  Simply put, Dolls makes a stunning splash with its Blu-ray debut!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Dolls has minor difficulties early on maintaining high dialogue levels.  Luckily, the mix quickly improves allowing speech to flourish with clarity and no other intrusions.  Fuzzbee Morse’s (Ghoulies II) music injects a synth-heavy, jack in the box composition that arrives robustly and further cements the film’s dark fairy tale tone.  Effectively balanced with only brief anomalies, Dolls is a satisfying listening experience.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been provided.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Director Stuart Gordon & Writer Ed Naha: Ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Audio Commentary with Stars Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Stephen Lee, Carrie Lorraine and Ian Patrick Williams: Also ported over from the previous DVD release.

    • Toys of Terror: The Making of Dolls (38:22): Red Shirt Pictures presents this detailed retrospective covering Empire Pictures‘ early theatrical releases, their success in the home video market and the lengthy animation techniques utilized in accomplishing Dolls‘ creepier moments.  Executive Producer Charles Band, Director Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, Writer Ed Naha as well as, Stars Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, Ian Patrick Williams and Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gabe Bartalos and John Vulich all offer their insights on this thorough look back on Dolls, dedicated to the memory of the late Stephen Lee.

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:32)

    • Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (8:21): Three scenes, Teddy’s Revenge, Rosemary Takes a Dive and Punch’s Little Secret are presented.

    • Still Gallery: 50 in total.

    • More from Scream Factory: Trailers include Pumpkinhead, Phantom of the Paradise and Sleepaway Camp.

    • Reversible cover art: Bearing the memorable VHS artwork of a doll holding its eyeballs.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

    Kickstarting Executive Producer Charles Band’s obsession with pint-sized killers, Dolls is an effectively dark fairy tale surrounded by gothic horror movie set pieces.  Classier than most summer camp slasher offerings at the time, Dolls is an entertaining romp of haunted house thrills and things that go bump in the night.  Headlined by a memorable cast and painstaking animation techniques, Writer Ed Naha and Director Stuart Gordon’s tale of terrorizing toys remains an Empire Pictures standout.  Looking better than ever, Scream Factory has pulled the right strings in delivering a worthy collector’s edition of one of Gordon’s most loved films.  Sporting a splendid transfer and a newly produced retrospective from Red Shirt Pictures, Dolls Collector’s Edition is yet another must-have shriekfest for Scream Factory enthusiasts.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available November 11thDolls Collector's Edition can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • 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

  • Haunter (2013) Blu-ray Review


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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Vincenzo Natali

    - Audio Commentary with Writer Brian King

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

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

    - Teaser Poster

    - Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Carrie (2013) Blu-ray Review


    Carrie (2013)
    Director: Kimberly Peirce
    Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Gabriella Wilde & Portia Doubleday
    Released by: 20th Century Fox/MGM

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    As the wheels of the remake train continue to spin, 2013 saw the resurrection of one of Stephen King’s most beloved adaptations.  Director Brian De Palma (Phantom of the Paradise, Dressed to Kill) brought King’s terrifying novel to life for the first time in 1976 with iconic performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.  Since then, the tale of Carrie White has been expanded into a 1999 sequel, The Rage: Carrie 2, as well as a television retelling in 2002 with Angela Bettis (Girl, Interrupted, May) starring as Carrie.  Director Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don‘t Cry, Stop-Loss) helms this modern update of a troubled outcast with extraordinary abilities and the limits she is pushed to.  By the end, will you know her name?  Let’s find out...

    Carrie stars Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Dark Shadows) as Carrie White, a social outcast who is relentlessly taunted by classmates and abused by her overly religious mother (Julianne Moore).  Carrie soon learns that her anger unleashes newly found telekinetic powers that she harbors.  When she is unexpectedly asked to prom, an unforgivable fate awaits her that leads to a night no one will ever forget.  Judy Greer (Jawbreaker), Gabriella Wilde (The Three Musketeers) and Portia Doubleday (Youth in Revolt) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    In this day and age it’s easy to be dismissive of any new remakes/reimaginings hitting theaters.  Devoted film lovers insist on being served exciting, original material opposed to a stale rehash of an already established classic.  Sometimes, a reimagining comes along that attracts such unique talent that turns everyone’s head in intrigue.  Director Kimberly Peirce, no stranger to shining lights on social outcasts, helms this modern take of the Stephen King best seller.  Peirce approaches the material faithfully with mild updates to relate to a new generation.  The opening, touched upon in the novel, finds Margaret White (Julianne Moore) riling in pain as she enters labor alone in her bedroom.  Giving birth to a beautiful baby girl, the exhausted woman sees this as a test from God and prepares to kill the child for her sinful ways.  Scissors in hand, Margaret is unable to go through with it and chooses to raise her daughter.  The film moves forward in time as we find Carrie White (Moretz), now 15 years-old, shy, awkward and idolizing her fellow female classmates.  Carrie quickly follows suit by retelling an iconic locker room sequence where Carrie frighteningly experiences her first period as classmates taunt and throw tampons at her.  Injecting the modern twist, Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday) records the embarrassing incident with her cellphone and uploads it to YouTube for fellow classmates and the world to see.  The film continues to remain close to De Palma’s version with the occasional change-up for good measure.  Peirce harkens back to the novel to showcase Margaret White’s bodily harm that makes for some truly squeemish moments to great effect.  

    Peirce assembles a fine cast with the talented Chloë Grace Moretz slipping into Spacek’s iconic role.  Moretz handles the role well and captures the odd and uncomfortable personality of Carrie.  One couldn’t help but feel that Moretz was just a little too pretty to honestly portray the odd girl out.  Moretz’s acting abilities are far from disappointing, but her appearances hurt the believability of the character.  Julianne Moore delivers a disturbing performance as Carrie’s abusive mother, Margaret White.  Moore’s unbrushed greying hair and dressed down appearance complimented her character’s loony behavior.  While, Piper Laurie’s original performance still reigns supreme, Moore delivered a unique spin of her.  In addition, Judy Greer (Jeff Who Lives at Home), co-stars as gym teacher, Ms. Desjardin.  While, a brief role, Greer offers an endearing performance as a shoulder to cry on for Carrie.  Portia Doubleday (Her) stuns as the bitchy Chris Hargensen who makes abusing Carrie her main priority.  Doubleday makes hating her easy with her relentless bullying and stuck-up personality.  Fans of Nancy Allen’s original performance will be made proud.  Finally, Gabriella Wilde does a fine job as Sue Snell, the one teenager with a conscience who enlists her boyfriend to give Carrie the time of her life at prom.  

    Carrie does offer its fair share of CG visual effects, but all to effective results.  The bloody finale at the prom sees Carrie unleashing her wrath after having pig blood dropped on her.  Students are thrown back in a tidal wave of tables and chairs while Carrie uses her powers to create an inferno of flames.  The entire movie is building to this sequence and it hardly disappoints.  As Chris and her boyfriend speed off after the prank, Carrie confronts them before sending the couple to a brutal death.  Chris‘ fate is sheer eye candy and a fitting end for such a hated character.  Carrie heads home to only be greeted by her insane mother who intends on putting an end to her devil child.  A fight to the death ensues between the mother and daughter before a tragic end befalls on them.  The film concludes on a similar note as the original with a much less effective jump-scare administered.

    Like most reimaginings, Carrie doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but it still has merit.  Peirce does a fine job harking back to the source material while injecting modern twists of cyberbullying to up the ante.  The core cast was more than capable in their respective roles with Moore and Doubleday offering noteworthy mentions.  Moretz captured the essence of Carrie but her physicality prevented the performance from being all it could be.  One can only wonder how the film would have appeared if Peirce casted Carrie as heavier set as described in the novel.  Moments of violence and chaos are demonstrated well and benefit from today’s movie magic.  Viewing Carrie during its theatrical run, I left the film feeling mediocre towards it.  After revisiting Carrie, it has managed to slightly entertain me more.  With more King reimaginings in the works, time will tell how this retelling of Carrie is best remembered.  Until then, Carrie is a serviceable adaptation of one of King’s finest efforts with a solid cast and a modernization that benefits the film nicely.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Carrie is presented in a beautiful 1080p (2.35:1) transfer that stuns.  Colors appear clear and accurate with detail looking most impressive in close-ups.  The school’s football field, swimming pool and of course, the pig blood look especially lush and bold.  Black levels are superior, most noticeably, during the pig clubbing sequence and the finale at the prom.  As a brand-new film shot and presented in HD, there’s nothing to fear with this transfer.
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Carrie comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  Dialogue is clear as a whistle with subtleties such as books slamming or creaky footsteps making a nice impression.  More intense sequences involving inferno, car crashes and screaming students are loud and solid.  The prom sequence will definitely send your speakers for a ride and make for an exceptional listening experience.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Kimberly Peirce: Peirce serves up an informative listen touching upon the casting process, development of the script, modernizing the film as well as budget and time constraints.  While, Peirce may often focus too much on what’s playing on the screen, the track is still a worthy listen.

    - Alternate Ending: Included as a second option labeled “Theatrical Cut with Alternate Ending”, the new ending offers an extra minute of runtime with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Deleted/Alternate Scenes: 10 minutes worth of scenes again with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Tina on Fire: Stunt Double Dailies: A featurette showcasing how the fire effects were achieved with optional commentary from Director Kimberly Peirce.

    - Creating Carrie: A making of featurette running over 20 minutes.  Director Kimberly Peirce, Producer Kevin Misher and the core cast discuss the film, their preparation and Stephen King’s original novel.  A terrific companion to the film!

    - The Power of Telekinesis: Talent in front and behind the camera discuss their takes on telekinesis.

    - Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise: A hilarious telekinetic prank that was pulled in a New York coffee shop on unsuspecting customers to promote the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Sneak Peak: Trailers for upcoming MGM titles.

    - DVD Copy

    - Ultraviolet Copy Code

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    2013’s reimagining of Carrie didn’t light me entirely on fire, but it was still a serviceable take on an iconic tale.  Director Kimberly Peirce may have been an unexpected choice but her expertise with social outcasts gave this film its flavor.  Peirce did a fine job sticking to King’s source material while injecting the necessary tools to make it a functioning modern take.  Chloë Grace Moretz brought her usual A-game acting chops to the role but her lovely appearance made the believability of the character a constant struggle.  Julianne Moore and Portia Doubleday deserve recognition for their portrayals as dangerously flawed characters.  The film manages to not disappoint in the effects and violence department that pay off in the exciting finale.  The Blu-ray edition of Carrie is quite simply perfection.  A wonderful video presentation matched with an effective and robust audio mix plus a plethora of special features make this release a winner.  In addition, the film comes accompanied with one of the coolest looking lenticular slipcovers in sometime.  Regardless, of your film adaptation preference, 2013’s Carrie has its issues but it has all the potential to become even better with time.
    RATING: 4/5 

  • The Power (1984) DVD Review



    The Power (1984)
    Director(s): Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter
    Starring: Susan Stokey, Warren Lincoln, Lisa Erickson & J. Dinan Myrtetus
    Released by: Scorpion Releasing

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Independent distributor, Scorpion Releasing, is ready to send you for a roller coaster ride filled with possession and horrors thanks to The Power!  This unique blending of genres showcases what happens when an ancient talisman ends up in the wrong hands  and all hell breaks loose.  From the directing duo who brought you The Dorm That Dripped Blood and The Kindred, The Power has been resurrected in a brand new HD master prepared to make you think twice before communicating with the spirit world.  After a lengthy delay, let’s investigate just how powerful this flick is...

    The Power centers on an Aztec idol that is stolen before ending up in the curious hands of three high school students determined to make contact with the spirit world.  Unfortunately, the idols powers are proven very real when another young man steals it for his own purposes and is consumed by its horrific energy.  Can The Power be contained or are the teens doomed to feel the idols wraith?

    MOVIE:
    The alluring rainbow filled poster art for The Power is hypnotic, to say the least.  A cautionary and doom-like tagline ices the cake for what is hoped to be an enjoyable viewing experience.  As the film begins, a college professor is lecturing a class before a snarky student makes offhanded comments.  The professor makes eye contact with an ancient idol sitting in his briefcase before setting his stern gaze on the student causing a bloody nose for the smart aleck.  As the lecture concludes, the professor is greeted by a colleague who is firmly aware that the relic is consuming his friend.  Before long, the professor is left alone with his prized possession until its power is revealed causing the educator to be elevated and impaled on a flagpole.  Suffice to say, a terrific opening.  Without missing a beat, we are whisked away to a desert land where the recently deceased professor’s friend is on the hunt for the relic.  The energy of this ancient talisman continues to grow as the man learns it is now possessed by an elderly gentleman and young boy unwilling to part with it.  The man does the noble thing and shoots them dead before making his claim on it.  This is where The Power begins to test its audiences‘ patience.  The film seems to start over yet again, opening with three high school students planning to conduct a seance later that evening.  Nearly 20 minutes into the film, The Power fails to deliver a stable set of characters for the viewer to latch onto.  Finally, the high schoolers meet at the local cemetery with personal items in tow they feel will protect them should anything go wrong.  Of course, one student has the talisman that seems to be hot on everyone’s Christmas list.  How did his parents come into possession of it before passing it on as a gift?  An explanation is apparently not necessary.  The seance commences with the teens awakening a power that is far beyond their expectations resulting in the death of a cemetery worker.  Just when you thought you had a set of characters you could zone in on, alas more are on the way!  The teens seek the guidance of a local tabloid writer who they believe can help them in their unique situation.  Of course, the writer doesn’t put much faith in their story but her ex-boyfriend isn’t so sure.  He decides to do some investigating on his own before getting consumed by the relic and stealing it for his own purposes.  

    The Power certainly has its share of issues finding its footing but it eventually gets there an hour into the film.  As the idol appears in the writer and her former beau’s life, odd occurrences start.  In an effective nightmare sequence, multiple hands emerge from the woman’s mattress and attempt to stab her before she awakes.  The longer her ex keeps the idol in his possession, the worse his obsession becomes.  He begins to morph into a demon-like creature and is determined to kill his former lover and the teens.  The final act is a fun recovery for an otherwise sloppy first half.  The man’s horrific transformation is a highlight with wonderful make-up effects taking center stage and a demise for the creature that is just as satisfying.  The film concludes jumping ahead three years finding the female teenager in college.  She is greeted by an earlier character that simply appears as a bookend for the film.  He wishes to ask her about her experiences with the relic that have been recorded in a novel written by the tabloid writer that also survived.  The film ends not making a tremendous amount of sense but leaves the viewer with an enjoyable jump scare before the end credits.  The Power had a very bumpy start getting the viewer invested in a core group of characters.  But, the film found its way by finally zeroing in on the three high schoolers and the tabloid writer.  The film would have benefitted immensely had the makers spent less time setting up the relic’s drawn out history and more on those who would possess it for the duration of the film.  Luckily, The Power has some great make-up effects and nifty nightmarish imagery that makes the viewing experience worth it.  The Power may not be the greatest film, but it certainly has some choices moments, warts and all.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    VIDEO:
    The Power is presented in a brand new HD anamorphic widescreen master (1.78:1).  After being delayed due to a better print being located, The Power makes a decent splash on this release.  The film certainly has its fair share of speckles and pops in the transfer, but detail looks nice with colors represented nicely.  Black levels, while quite murky at times, are still presented as good as can be.  Utilizing this better print, one can only imagine how much worse the film could have looked.  Thankfully, Scorpion Releasing did the right thing and presents this film in arguably the best shape it will see.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    The Power comes equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix that has its fair share of hiccups as well.  Instances of hiss and static are present throughout the mix but surprisingly never intrude on dialogue.  Pops are heard, mostly during reel changes, but again nothing that deters the viewer from catching any moments of dialogue.  A serviceable treatment that could easily have been far worse.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Katarina’s Nightmare Theater: Katarina Leigh Waters hosts this optional featurette providing an intro and outro to the film scattered with informative facts and humorous hijinks.  

    - Original Trailer

    - Scorpion Releasing Trailers: Includes Grizzly, Day of the Animals, Dogs, Lurkers and Sorceress.

    RATING: 2/5

    OVERALL:
    The Power tripped over its feet for spending far too much time establishing the relic’s past with former owners and less on those that would steer the majority of the film.  Thankfully, the film does well bouncing back with likable characters and effective make-up designs that save the film from being a total disappointment.  Scorpion Releasing has again saved another cult favorite from obscurity and preserving it with the best care it is likely to receive.  Special features are minimal but those jonesing for an early 80s effort in evil clay relics, The Power might be worth putting in your hands.  
    RATING: 3/5

  • Toad Road (2012) DVD Review


    Toad Road (2012)
    Director: Jason Banker
    Starring: James Davidson, Sara Anne Jones, Jim Driscoll, Scott Rader & Jamie Siebold
    Released by: Artsploitation Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Cementing their status as one of the leading forces of unique and independent cinema, Artsploitation Films teams up with Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision to invite viewers down a hallucinatory path.  Toad Road is Artsploitation Films’ first American acquisition, shot on a shoestring budget that feels akin to 1999’s The Blair Witch Project in its execution.  Honest and disturbing, Toad Road sends chills down your spine in unexpected ways that make you wish for the terror to end.  The barriers of reality and nightmares become blurred as the characters struggle to navigate in this mixture of urban myth lore and documentary.  In order to find out what truly lies on Toad Road, let’s trip out…


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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/Toad_Road__Artsploitation_/toad_road__artsploitation_.html

  • Horror Stories (2012) DVD Review



    Horror Stories (2012)
    Director(s): Kyu-dong Min, Bum-shik Jung, Dae-woong Lim, Ji-Yeong Hong, Gok Kim & Sun Kim
    Starring: Ji-won Kim, Tae-woo Kim, Bo-ra Nam, Mi-ran Ra & Yeon-Seok Yoo
    Released by: Artsploitation Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Anthology films have been around for decades dating back to 1945’s Dead of Night all the way to the highly successful Creepshow from 1982.  As years progressed, the likelihood of witnessing a new anthology based film seemed near impossible as their popularity waned.  Within the past few years, countless horror anthologies have emerged including Trick ‘r Treat, V/H/S and The ABCs of Death.  In 2012, six of Korea’s top genre directors formed to create an anthology film like no other.  One where the wraparound segment, mostly used for gimmicky-like interludes in other films, was as horrifying as the actual short tales.  Horror Stories makes a bold challenge but does it live up to its intent?  Let’s take a look…

    Horror Stories collects six of South Korea’s top directors to tell four horrifying stories that are framed through a wraparound segment (directed by Kyu-dong Min of Memento Mori fame) that finds a high school girl abducted and forced by a psychopath to tell him the most frightening tales she knows.  Her stories include Don’t Answer the Door, directed by Bum-shink Jung (Epitaph), which finds a young brother and sister home alone and under attack by an intruder.  In Director Dae-woong Lim’s (Bloody Reunion) Endless Flight, a serial killer escapes police custody while onboard an otherwise empty flight.  Secret Recipe, directed by Ji-Yeong Hong, tells a macabre fairy tale about two jealous stepsisters who take plastic surgery to the extreme.  Finally, brothers Gok & Sun Kim (White: The Melody of the Curse) direct Ambulance on the Death Zone, a claustrophobic zombie tale detailing the standoff between a paramedic and a mother over the possibility of her daughter being infected.

    MOVIE:
    Being a strong enthusiast of the horror anthology format, Horror Stories immediately peaked my interest.  The outcome exceeded my expectations on every level and ultimately left me chilled to the bone.  The no-nonsense wraparound segment set a frighting tone to the film from the first frame.  The madness seen in the eyes of the serial killer keeping a high school girl captive leaves you disturbed knowing people of this ilk actually exist.  The first and arguably most terrifying segment, Don’t Answer the Phone, made me jump more times then I care to remember.  The end of the segment would make one assume the nightmare is over when in reality its just begun.  Director Bum-shink Jung weaves a suspenseful tale that concludes with an ambitious commentary on Korean employment and economy.  The grim ending truly makes one question whether the fairy tale we just witnessed or the real world reality is more horrifying.  Endless Flight received immediate praise for taking terror back into the skies which brought fond memories back of an anthology favorite found in Twilight Zone: The Movie.  While, the terror in this film is not found in the shape of a monstrous unearthly creature, its almost scarier because we are dealing with a flesh and blood serial killer.  A scene that includes a door peephole and a hairpin will make even the bravest squeam.  Director Ji-Yeong Hong’s Secret Recipe takes two jealous stepsisters and their obsession to wed a plastic surgeon obsessed with eternal youth to twisted heights.  The emphasis on plastic surgery that was utilized so well in another 2012 effort, American Mary, is used more subtly to show how far people will go to obtain what they want.  Nightmarish imagery and a dose of cannibalism makes this a bizarre and unforgettable inclusion.  The final segment, Ambulance on the Death Zone, is quite possibly the most creative of the bunch and proves how effective a zombie tale can be within the constrains of one location and less than a handful of actors.  The standoff between the mother and the paramedic makes the audience believe that the possibly infected daughter is truly infected and the mother doesn’t want to accept it.  Interestingly enough, as the tales continues, the daughter isn’t seen succumbing to the zombie infection as quickly as we’d assume which keeps you guessing until the finale.  The segment is incredibly effective in its delivery and sprays plenty of the red stuff which is always a plus for a zombie flick.  Horror Stories is an incredible execution in suspense and terror with each segment succeeding in making you jump.  The film is quoted on the back of its DVD release as being “one of the scariest Asian horror anthologies of the 21st century”, a gracious compliment indeed but slightly off.  Horror Stories is not just one of the scariest Asian horror anthologies, it’s one the scariest anthologies ever!
    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:
    Artsploitation Films presents Horror Stories in 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The film looks quite nice on DVD with skin tones appearing as natural as can be.  Unfortunately, scenes of darker light (which there are many), have slightly crushed black levels that leaves pixelation to be found.  Colors look decent with images of blood popping nicely.  A serviceable transfer but one that could have looked a bit better.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Horror Stories is presented in its native Korean language in 2.0 Stereo.  Sound quality is nice and robust with dialogue and subtle noises coming across without a hitch.  English subtitles are also provided.
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Cast Interviews

    - 12-page collectible booklet: This wonderful companion to the film has two essays entitled Omnibus Onslaught by Travis Crawford and The Terror of Modern Subjectivity: An Overview of Contemporary Korean Horror Cinema by Kyu Hyun Kim.  In addition, A Fairy Tale of the Sun and Moon, an interview with Director Bum-shik Jung conducted by Travis Crawford is included.

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Horror Stories was a masterful demonstration of four frightening tales all wrapped up in one supreme package.  Every segment possessed immense style and packed enough scares to chill me to the bone.  As we mature and age, it becomes difficult to truly “scare” someone who was raised on genre cinema but “Horror Stories” managed to do just that in spades.  As Kyu Hyun Kim mentions, North American consumers may believe that Korean horror is simply just a variation of the J-wave of horror from Japan showcased in The Ring and Ju-On franchises.  If you’re looking for long haired ghosts that are in desperate need of a chiropractor, look elsewhere because if Horror Stories is an indication of the best Korean horror then the future looks very bright.  Artsploitation Films‘ presentation of the film is serviceable enough and the booklet included is a wonderful read that offers very scholarly approaches to the content.  Artsploitation Films should be praised for bringing such a terrifying and rewarding film stateside and their future in distributing unique and unsettling films is one I anxiously look forward to.  The strength of the film itself gets my highest recommendation as an anthology that deserves to be seen by anyone looking to be truly frightened.
    RATING: 5/5

  • Body Bags (1993) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review



    Body Bags (1993)
    Director(s): John Carpenter & Tobe Hooper
    Starring: Robert Carradine, David Naughton Stacy Keach, David Warner & Mark Hamill
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    After an already illustrious career directing gems like Halloween, The Fog, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China, Director John Carpenter turned to the small screen for a taste of anthology madness. Following up Carpenter’s disappointing 1992 effort of Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Showtime came a knockin’ with a proposal that enabled Carpenter with wife and Producer, Sandy King, to gather a wide selection of their friends and genre vets to make a fun and horrific anthology flick. The result was Body Bags. In addition to Carpenter directing the first two segments and appearing as the ghoulish-like coroner who hosts the wrap-around segments, Director Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Lifeforce) joins the festivities for the final segment of the film. With creative talent like this behind and in front of the camera, is this anthology of horrors worth remembering or best left for dead? Zip yourself in tight and let’s find out…

    Body Bags is a nifty anthology of three horror tales that are all hosted by a ghoulish-looking coroner (John Carpenter) who has a taste for the macabre and formaldehyde. The Gas Station, helmed by John Carpenter, centers on a woman (Alex Datcher) working the late shift at a gas station while an insane killer is on the loose.  Hair, again directed by Carpenter, stars Stacy Keach (Road Games, American History X) as a man that will do anything to stop the loss of his hair. Finally, Tobe Hooper directs Eye, a story about a baseball player (Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame) that agrees to a transplant after losing his eye in a brutal car accident. Don’t blink or else you’ll miss appearances from icons like Deborah Harry, Sheena Easton, David Naughton, David Warner as well as cameos by Wes Craven, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hooper, Tom Arnold and the infamous Roger Corman.

    MOVIE:
    When the topic of horror anthologies arises, I find it a real shame that Body Bags isn’t discussed nearly as much as it deserves to be. The strategy of releasing horror anthologies has never proven to be widely successful or financially profitable for the studios which makes Body Bags an even more unique case. The heyday of the 1980s slasher craze was all but dead when 1993 rolled around and a cable channel named Showtime chose to take a chance. The benefit to horror fans was that we were treated to a wonderfully entertaining TV movie that brought together so many genre vets on one production. Sure, the incredible Creepshow brought George A. Romero and Stephen King together with a cast that included Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, Ted Danson and Leslie Nielsen. But, I think Body Bags is the only other anthology film that rivals it with a cast and crew that is just as noteworthy and talks the talk when it comes to their segments. John Carpenter’s efforts for The Gas Station and Hair are so polar opposite from one another but also so identifiably Carpenter.  The Gas Station rewards viewers with the suspense and terror we’ve come to know from Carpenter while Hair allows him to explore aliens once more with a dark comedic tone attached.  Stacy Keach is absolutely looney in his performance and the long hair he yearns for gives us a nostalgic reminder for what year this was made.  In addition, Robert Carradine’s mad portrayal of the killer in The Gas Station was not only refreshing but genuinely creepy. Tobe Hooper’s finale in Eye is what will really send shivers down your spine. The nightmarish imagery and descent into madness that Mark Hamill portrays is quite frightening and caught me off guard with a few jump-scares. John Carpenter’s acting chops in the wrap-around segments is what keeps the film fun and light similar to HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. While it is a shame that this TV movie didn’t morph into a fully fledged series as Showtime was hoping, we are still left with a remarkably fun anthology of tales that is painfully underrated as it is one of the best.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Body Bags in a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen transfer in 1:78:1.  The film looks nice and clean with barely any scratches to be seen.  Black levels look great which is a major plus for how many night scenes there are.  Grain is nicely intact and colors pop well specifically in Carpenter’s wrap-around segments.  Scream Factory does it again!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Body Bags comes with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that hits all the right notes.  Dialogue is clear as crystal while moments of terror are loud and booming.  No hisses or pops were heard on this track.  In addition, a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track is also provided.  What else could be asked for?
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    Scream Factory treats this Collector’s Edition accordingly with a nice assortment of special features.

    - Unzipping Body Bags: A 20 minute featurette with interviews from John Carpenter, Producer Sandy King and Actors Robert Carradine and Stacy Keach.

    - Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Robert Carradine on The Gas Station

    - Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter & Actor Stacy Keach on Hair

    - Audio Commentary with Producer Sandy King & Justin Beahm on Eye

    - Original Trailer

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Body Bags came at a time when horror was on life support and Showtime was willing to take a risky chance.  Thankfully, the finished product is a rewarding piece of anthology horror that brought together so many beloved genre vets on one project.  The film is light on its toes and has fun with itself while also packing the scares and terror when necessary.  Body Bags is an overlooked chapter in horror anthology history that not only produced some of Carpenter and Hooper’s best efforts of the 1990s but for the entire sub-genre.  Scream Factory’s uncut presentation of the film is a real marvel to the eyes and ears as it looks and sounds just terrific. The special features provided are wonderful and offer great candid anecdotes on the making of the film from the players involved although it would have been nifty to hear Hooper’s thoughts on his segment.  Scream Factory also provides gorgeous new cover art for the film provided by Justin Osbourne.  While, the option of having reversible covers that utilize the original 1-sheet artwork is normally provided on these Collector’s Editions, the rights holders for Body Bags always despised it and insisted on just using the new artwork.  Not a huge deal but certainly worth noting for fans of this popular collection.  Regardless, Body Bags is a hell of a fun time and thanks to Scream Factory’s superior treatment this release should be in every horror fan’s collection.
    RATING: 4.5/5