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Currently showing posts tagged Slasher

  • Madhouse (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Madhouse (1981)

    Director: Ovidio G. Assonitis

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

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

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

    Drive-In Massacre (1976)

    Director: Stu Segall

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

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Undertaker (1988) Blu-ray Review

    The Undertaker (1988)

    Director: Franco De Stefanino

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Black Christmas (1974) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Black Christmas (1974)

    Director: Bob Clark

    Starring: Olivia Hussey, Keir Dullea, Margot Kidder & John Saxon 

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director Bob Clark (Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, A Christmas Story), Black Christmas finds a houseful of sorority sisters stalked by a menacing stranger.  Harassed with obscene phone calls and violently picked off by the mysterious killer, fear and panic overwhelms the friends when their assailant proves to be closer than they thought.  Olivia Hussey (Romeo and Juliet), Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), Margot Kidder (The Amityville Horror) and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street) star.

    Hailing from the chilly Canadian north and predating John Carpenter’s 1978 trick-or-treating opus, Black Christmas, largely overlooked for its impact within the genre casts a masterfully suspenseful tone that continues to cut like a sharp icicle over four decades later.  Set within the bustling college town of Bedford, the ladies of the Pi Kappa Sigma house are prepping for their holiday getaways from school when terror strikes.  Disturbingly vulgar phone calls quickly turns into murder leaving the remaining sorority sisters scared for their own lives.  Brought to life by a diverse cast of local talent and thriving domestic stars, the house residents quickly gain the admiration of audiences for their naturalness and their unique character developments that find them struggling with alcoholism and relationship woes.  Unsettled by the murder of a young child and disappearance of their dwindling housemates, an investigation, led by Lt. Kenneth Fuller (Saxon), turns up more questions than answers related to the true culprit.  Incorporating POV footage from the killer long before its use became commonplace and encasing the film in a suffocating grip of dread eased only by well-injected touches of light humor, Black Christmas excels in its methodical plotting that although, slower-paced, serves the pre-slasher effort increasingly well.  Successfully tripping viewers up with several red herrings, tightly edited death scenes juxtaposed with Christmas caroling children and a strong “less is more” approach to its macabre narrative, Black Christmas remains one of the finest slices of holiday horror with twists not seen coming and a frightening finale that lives up to its cheeky tagline.

    Boasting a new 2K scan from the original negative, Disc 1 features Black Christmas with a 1080p transfer, sporting the director’s preferred 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  In order to temper expectations, Scream Factory appreciatively alerted viewers of inherent damage to the negative that remains present although, not hopefully intrusive.  True to their word and free of any digital noise, skin tones are natural-looking while, contrast is nicely more boosted than previous releases with colors in costume textures and patterns appearing lively.  Instances of speckling remain on display throughout the film but remain noticeably more cleaned up than before while, black levels also even out nicely with passing moments of murkiness observed.  Amidst its age-related anomalies, presentation is filmic as can be earning Black Christmas its best HD outing to date.  For completists, Disc 2 includes the equally adequate 2006 Critical Mass HD Master, screened in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio for those who fancy it.  Equipped with a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that hones pleasing exchanges of dialogue, blowing winds and creaky floorboard ambiance in the sorority house, controversy has emerged regarding the track’s uses of substituted sound effects and drowned out lines while, its accompanying audio options (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and Mono mixes, namely the latter) suffers from substantial cracks and pops.  Although an internal investigation appears to be underway for the tracks, the 5.1 mix remains the most effective listening option.

    Predominately packaged with recycled extras on top of a few new exclusives, Disc 1’s special features consist of three vintage Audio Commentary tracks.  The first including Director Bob Clark, the second featuring Actors John Saxon & Keir Dullea and lastly, one from “Billy”.  In addition, an Audio Interview with Director Bob Clark, lasting roughly 30 minutes, can also be listened to while observing the feature.

    Meanwhile, Disc 2’s bonus feature packed offerings include, the newly captured Film and Furs: Remembering Black Christmas with Art Hindle (26:11) and Victims and Virgins: Remembering Black Christmas with Lynne Griffin (26:35), both of which dig deep into the thespians respective careers and their time making Bob Clark’s Christmastime shocker.  Vintage additions cover, Black Christmas Legacy (40:22), a 40th Anniversary Panel at FanExpo 2014 (18:02), On Screen!: Black Christmas (48:41), 12 Days of Black Christmas (19:48), Black Christmas Revisited (36:25), Archival Interviews with Olivia Hussey, Art Hindle, Margot Kidder, Bob Clark & John Saxon (1:41:30), a Midnight Screening Q&A with John Saxon, Bob Clark & Carl Zittrer (20:21) and Two Scenes with a new soundtrack (3:04).  Finally, English and French Theatrical Trailers (8:16), Original TV and Radio Spots (3:09), an Alternate Title Sequence (2:47) utilizing the film’s Silent Night, Evil Night moniker and a Photo Gallery (53 in total) conclude the on-disc treats while, Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster is also provided.

    A genre staple that made way for the masked madman antics of the 1980s, Black Christmas has endured due to its chilling tone and strangulating suspense that makes it one of the scariest gift wrapped features to revisit during the jolliest time of year.  Early reports and ongoing speculation into the release’s audio issues aside, Scream Factory’s new 2K transfer makes for an early Christmas miracle that should easily satisfy dedicated fans while, the release’s few new extras and Joel Robinson’s cover artwork nicely compliment the hefty sum of repurposed supplements.  While its technical merits have rightly been questioned with a hopefully pleasing resolution to follow, Black Christmas remains highly recommend for the trailblazing shocker it is. 

    RATING: 4/5

    Available December 13th from Scream Factory, Black Christmas can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Fender Bender (2016) Blu-ray Review

    Fender Bender (2016)

    Director: Mark Pavia

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    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.

    Scream Factory presents Fender Bender with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Shot digitally, this modern day slasher boasts sharp contrast and strong colors most noticeably in exterior foliage while, skin tones read naturally and well-defined.  Scratch free with only fleeting moments of digital noise during dimly lit sequences, black levels are generally strong with the leather texture of the killer’s mask shimmering nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that plays strongly to the film’s synth score and suspenseful moments, dialogue is rightly prioritized while, sound effects of varying degrees all make commendable strides.  Special features include, a Retro VHS Version viewing option that perfectly brings audiences back to the nostalgic-fueled days of rewinding with accurately cheesy bumpers and tracking lines prevalent throughout the film’s runtime.  In addition, an Audio Commentary with Director Mark Pavia and a second Audio Commentary with Co-Producers Joshua Bunting, Carl Lucas, Jordan Fields & Gus Krieger who deliver information of substance while hilariously playing a drinking game with onscreen actions is also included.  Furthermore, a Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (9:16), a “Slashback” Trailer Reel (38:39) promoting many other Scream Factory releases, the Original Trailer & TV Spot (2:07) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring a commissioned design by Justin Osbourn alongside a Digital HD code conclude the supplemental offerings.        

    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.  Making a sound transition to high-definition, Director Mark Pavia’s long-awaited return to horror treats viewers with several supplements and a most enjoyable Retro VHS viewing option.  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.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Fender Bender can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Slasher: Season One Blu-ray Review

    Slasher: Season One 

    Director: Craig David Wallace

    Starring: Katie McGrath, Brandon Jay McLaren, Steve Byers, Dean McDermott & Wendy Crewson

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    30 years after her parents were brutally slain, Slasher finds Sarah Bennett (Katie McGrath, Jurassic World) and her husband Dylan (Brandon Jay McLaren, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil) returning to her hometown of Waterbury when a series of copycat murders begin occurring.  With each victim’s death centered around one of the seven deadly sins, the identity of The Executioner comes into question as the original killer remains behind bars.  With the sleepy community’s body count rising, dark secrets of those closest to Sarah are brought to light making everyone a potential suspect.

    Descending from the northern region that bred such classics as My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night, Slasher rewards fans of body count pictures with a contemporary model that adheres to the beloved tropes of its influences while taking advantage of its episodic narrative to concoct a mysteriously geared plot and multi-layered characters.  Headlined by rising newcomer Katie McGrath whose Irish accent sneaks its way into many a episodes, Sarah Bennett’s return to her hometown of Waterbury is met with promise before slowly unraveling when a new series of murders takes place modeled after the seven deadly sins.  Racially and sexually diverse, Sarah’s friends and fellow townspeople including gay couple Justin (Mark Ghanimé, Helix) and Robin (Christopher Jacot, Rogue), her husband’s boss and publisher of the Waterbury Bulletin Alison Sutherland (Mayko Nguyen, Cracked) and the incarcerated Tom Winston (Patrick Garrow, Poltergeist) responsible for the murder of Sarah’s parents all become targets of the blade-wielding Executioner.  Shortly after surviving her own brush with the masked murderer, Sarah’s investigation into her past reveals unsavory secrets and deeply buried skeletons in the closet that paint a disturbing picture of the parents she never knew.  Determined to learn the truth regarding her parents and insight into who may be responsible for the new killings, Sarah relies on visits with Tom Winston to pave the way to answers.  Meanwhile, Sarah’s husband Dylan, serving as editor-in-chief of the local paper is conflicted when his own journalistic drive for a career making story unveils a series of lies pertaining to his relationship with his wife.  

    Notably influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween and modern cult favorite It Follows, Slasher boasts a sometimes overabundant cast of characters, each with their own dark secrets that luckily all pay off with unexpected plot twists, intensely graphic demises or both.  Starring a cast of predominant Canucks, Dean McDermott (Power Play), impressively bouncing back from reality television hogwash, appears as Waterbury’s corrupt police chief and delivers the standout performance of the series showcasing the Toronto native’s diverse chops.  Creatively overseen by Creator/Writer Aaron Martin (The Best Years) and Director Craig David Wallace (Todd and the Book of Pure Evil), Slasher’s quality standards are evident in its plotting and suspense-driven jolts that never shy from cutting limbs off victims or showcasing a particularly unsettling drug overdose to make their violent points yet, gore never remains the primary focus for this tightly crafted whodunit.  Marking the Chiller Network’s first original program, Slasher may be horror’s closest answer to HBO’s True Detective with its small-town murder spree revived decades later where characters, many of whom corrupted by various factors, are hardly what they appear to be.  A fine melding of mystery, scandal and murder, Slasher may have minor setbacks namely its killer’s motivations but, its pros strongly outweigh its cons.

    Scream Factory presents Slasher with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.78:1 aspect ratios.  Presenting its eight episode debut season across two discs, black levels appear soundly inky with detail sharply evident in The Executioner’s leather hood while, skin tones look lush and natural.  Meanwhile, colors found in wardrobe choices and the show’s many blood splattering moments pop exceptionally well allowing for a respectably solid high-definition presentation for a modern series of its ilk.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes, dialogue never suffers and is consummately projected with the series’ more climactic areas involving stalking sequences, frightened screams, gunshots and police sirens making effective statements.  In addition, optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes are also provided on each episode.  Although brief, the sole Behind the Scenes (14:59) featurette provides a decent general overview of the series’ making with the majority of the headlining cast on hand for interviews plus, Creator Aaron Martin and Series Director Craig David Wallace discuss the show’s influences ranging from John Carpenter and Brian De Palma to Dario Argento.

    Hitting a home run with their first slice of original content, Chiller Network’s Slasher takes obvious cues from its 70s and 80s influences while spearheading a modern mystery brought to life by a diverse pool of onscreen talent and ripe with some of television’s most grisly gore.  Basking in an era of top-quality, small screen frights, Slasher may be the new killer on the block but cuts to the point with its terrifying and scandalous turns leaving viewers glued.  In only their second television series acquisition to date, Scream Factory has made a razor-sharp call adding this acclaimed newcomer to their ever-growing catalog, one that horror hounds will surely find much to chomp into.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available July 12th from Scream Factory, Slasher: Season One 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.

  • Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season DVD Review

    Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Willa Fitzgerald, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Carlson Young, John Karna, Tracy Middendorf, Amadeus Serafini, Jason Wiles, Tom Maden & Amelia Rose Blaire

    Released by: Anchor Bay Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the town of Lakewood, Scream: The TV Series centers on a damaging YouTube video gone viral and a group of teenagers who find themselves targeted by a masked killer in its wake.  Reminiscent of a decades old tragedy, the current wave of murders may connect to Lakewood’s dark past of death.

    Although sharing the same name as Wes Craven’s (who returns as co-executive producer with Scream screenwriter Kevin Williamson) seminal franchise, Scream: The TV Series bears no connection to its predecessors while adhering to their basic formula.  Following the upload of a cyber-bullying YouTube video, high school hottie Nina Patterson (Bella Thorne, The DUFF) finds herself victim to a knife-wielding masked murderer catapulting the town of Lakewood into a frightened panic.  With no suspect in custody, popular girl next door Emma Duvall (Fitzgerald) becomes the prime target of the killer while her fellow classmates including, former best friend Audrey Jensen (Taylor-Klaus), fanatical movie geek Noah Foster (Karna), the attractively spoiled Brooke Maddox (Young) and others find themselves stalked by the unknown killer.  Struggling to stay alive, Emma is simultaneously coping with the break-up of her boyfriend Will Belmont (Weil) and the arrival of new student Kieran Wilcox (Serafini) who quickly develops an attraction towards the fragile teen.  Using modern technology to its advantage, Scream: The TV Series  incorporates texting and Facebook into the fold alongside the killer’s chilling phone calls and physical confrontations best associated with the popular film series.  Meanwhile, Craven alumni Tracy Middendorf (Wes Craven’s New Nightmare) appears as Emma’s mother who along with many of the town’s adult figures are harboring a secret to Lakewood’s tragic history that eerily links to its current crop of victims.  As media attention circulates, red herrings are introduced and trust is severely tested as those closest to Emma fall victim to the killer’s blade during 10 thrilling episodes to discover who is responsible and who will survive.

    Broadcast on the anything but musical MTV Network whose priorities have shifted to mindless reality programs would understandably leave many curious watchers timid of its handling of an episodic slasher.  Astonishingly, Scream: The TV Series exceeds expectations, crafting a well-plotted debut season filled with likable characters layered with emotion and the self-referential humor fans have come to expect.  Furthermore, suspense and bloodshed are never spared allowing the series to fully embrace two of the genre’s most valued components.  With episodes helmed by such notable talents as Tim Hunter (River’s Edge), Brian Dannelly (Saved!), Rodman Flender (Idle Hands) and Ti West (The House of the Devil), Scream: The TV Series seamlessly taps into the cornerstones that made Craven’s original masterpiece so refreshing with its modern take greatly appealing to a new generation deeply ingrained in the pitfalls of social media.  Easily one of television’s great surprises of last year, Scream: The TV Series is a rollercoaster ride of mystery and scares that lives up to its iconic name.

    Anchor Bay Entertainment presents Scream: The TV Series in anamorphic widescreen, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  While skin tones are naturally pleasing and colors are appropriately conveyed, black levels appear decently with occasional hints of crush.  Although presentation is satisfactory, a noticeable sharpness is lacking that could have been easily remedied and far more appreciated on a Blu-ray release.  Equipped with Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, audio is strong with clear dialogue levels and suspenseful queues where screams and atmosphere always hit their mark.  Unfortunately light, special features include, a Gag Reel (2:52), Deleted Scenes (5:33) and a Promotional Gallery (8:26).

    Unexpectedly smart and hip, Scream: The TV Series carries the torch of Craven and Williamson’s original quadrilogy while maintaining a solid sense of humor, ample bloodshed and a dizzyingly fun maze of mystery that will keep viewers guessing who until its finale.  Although disappointing in its lack of a Blu-ray release and scarce supplements, Anchor Bay Entertainment’s home video release of MTV’s debut season still gets the job done.  With its anticipated followup season focused on last year’s survivors nearing, Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season is massively entertaining and ranks as one of today’s better film franchises reinterpreted for the small screen.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available May 10th from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Scream: The TV Series - The Complete First Season can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Destroyer (1988) / Edge of Sanity (1989) Blu-ray Review

    Destroyer (1988) / Edge of Sanity (1989)

    Director(s): Robert Kirk / Gérard Kikoïne

    Starring: Deborah Foreman, Clayton Rohner, Lyle Alzado & Anthony Perkins / Anthony Perkins, Glynis Barber, Sarah Maur Thorp & David Lodge

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Uniquely paired, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents a double helping of frights starring everyone’s favorite psycho.  After muscular madman Ivan Moser (football legend Lyle Alzado, Ernest Goes to Camp) is sentenced to the electric chair, Destroyer finds a film crew setting up shop in the same prison where Moser unexplainably disappeared eighteen months earlier.  Before long, the crew find themselves trapped inside the abandoned penitentiary with the thought to be dead murderer making his own casting cuts.  Familiar 80s faces Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl), Clayton Rohner (Just One of the Guys) and of course, Anthony Perkins (Psycho II) star.  Next up, presented in its uncut form, Edge of Sanity stars Anthony Perkins as the respected Dr. Henry Jekyll who after a lab experiment gone wrong undergoes a horrific transformation into the murderous Jack Hyde.  Unleashing a wave of mutilated prostitutes in his wake, Jekyll’s battle for his sanity is severely tested with no certainty if it will be reclaimed.   

    Bearing its original Shadow of Death title, Destroyer wastes little time establishing its hulkish antagonist, serial killer Ivan Moser (Alzado), before failing to electrically execute the inmate.  Suffering a jolting shock before a power outage causes a prison riot, Moser, suspected dead, disappears without a trace as the prison shuts its doors permanently shortly after.  Attempting to capitalize on its production value, an exploitation film crew, headed by its director (Perkins), descend on the abandoned location while, spiky haired screenwriter David Harris (Rohner) is hellbent on learning more behind the riot that occurred.  Haunted by disturbing nightmares set in the prison, David’s stuntwoman girlfriend Susan Malone (Foreman) attempts to keep it cool until the “half-alive” Moser begins his killing spree once again.  Outside of painting a pointless link to Moser’s father and helping hand on his path of destruction, Destroyer has fun within its simplistic borders of behind the bars mayhem.  While Perkins has little to do outside of being comically frustrated with his B-movie lead actress, Foreman and Rohner give appreciable performances with Alzado’s over the top energy taking the cake.  Mindlessly entertaining, bloody high points include, a corrupt warden being torched, a fellow officer being introduced to a jackhammer and Perkins’ director being eye-poppingly electrocuted.  Scant on exposition, Destroyer lives for cheeky absurdity and generally succeeds when piling on the body count.

    Beautifully photographed with lavish production design displayed, Edge of Sanity combines the tall tale of Jekyll & Hyde with the infamous murder spree of Jack the Ripper for a uniquely styled shocker.  Appearing in one of his final film roles, Anthony Perkins fits naturally into his character’s dual personality with a keen balance of derangement and normalcy.  Following a lab accident amongst chemicals, Dr. Henry Jekyll’s personality alters into the depraved Jack Hyde.  Stalking the London streets for women of the night, Hyde lures the promiscuous beauties into the shadows where his sexual urges are overpowered by homicidal rage.  Erotically charged, Hyde’s interest in local whore Susannah (Sarah Maur Thorp, River of Death), who bears a striking resemblance to a prostitute Jekyll encountered as a child, becomes his obsession as he indulges her with his addictive substance in order to carry out his murderous deeds.  A British production, Edge of Sanity maintains an air of class amongst its more brutal set pieces with its performances and surrealistic touches raising its quality over many of the decade’s attempts at atmospheric horror.  Criminally underrated and one of Perkins’ more undervalued roles, Edge of Sanity is an effective opus with one foot in timeless literature and the other seeped in the mystery of real world terror.    

    Both films arrive with 1080p transfers, screened in their respective 1.78:1 (Destroyer) and 1.85:1 (Edge of Sanity) aspect ratios.  Newly mastered from the only surviving elements, Destroyer appears noticeably soft at times with skin tones reading infrequently oversaturated.  Meanwhile, colors found in Foreman’s bright attire and Alzado’s burnt make-up effects are nicely balanced while, black levels are generally pleasing with only mild speckling on display.  Furthermore, Edge of Sanity excels as a sharper transfer all around with little to no anomalies, excellent detail and an overall filmic appearance.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, Destroyer hosts occasional cracks and pops with dialogue never compromised although, range can be moderately subdued.  In addition, Edge of Sanity offers solid audio levels with strong dialogue delivery and Composer Frédéric Talgorn’s (Buried Alive) score authoritatively delivered.  Lastly, the sole supplements included are a Destroyer Trailer (1:03) and an Edge of Insanity Trailer (1:08). 

    Eccentrically billed, Destroyer / Edge of Sanity make for an unusual combination of features, both headlined by the remarkably talented Anthony Perkins.  While Destroyer is a harmlessly fun romp that boasts an eccentric killer and even wilder death sequences, Edge of Sanity is unquestionably the better made feature with frightening surrealism and an underrated performance from Perkins.  Inviting more appreciation to these overlooked efforts, Scream Factory’s latest double feature may be a bit mad but, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available April 12th from Scream Factory, Destroyer / Edge of Sanity can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Scarecrows (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Scarecrows (1988)

    Director: William Wesley

    Starring: Ted Vernon, Michael Simms & Richard Vidan

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Centering on a band of ex-military criminals, Scarecrows finds the team pulling off a multi-million dollar heist and boarding a getaway plane for Mexico.  Taking hostage a civilian pilot and his teenage daughter, one of their own betrays the group leading to a ground search through a desolate area of farmland.  As night sets in, the heavily armed group find themselves confronted with a nightmarish array of deadly scarecrows.

    Blending the realms of action and horror seemed a novel idea during a decade of much testosterone-induced debauchery.  Unfortunately, Scarecrows never rises above its unique concept to be anything more than mediocre.  Substituting horny teenagers for military criminals, a betrayal by one to keep millions for himself sends his former cronies hunting for him in backwoods country, eerily surrounded by a heavy dose of scarecrows.  Armed to the teeth and with an innocent pilot’s daughter held hostage, the criminals set their new course to locate their backstabber and reclaim their fortune.  While the scarecrow designs, compliments of Special Make-Up Effects Creator Norman Cabrera (Drag Me to Hell) are impressive, the film dawdles for most of its runtime following the criminals’ endless hunt while genuine scares and thrills are kept to a bare minimum.  Admittedly, chemistry between the thugs is apparent and lends itself to moments of humor while machine gun shootouts are plentiful in this unlikely hybrid.  With its true horror colors reserved for its final act where the haunting antagonists finally take center stage, Scarecrows makes a valiant attempt to test new waters but, ultimately suffers from bland characters and overly emphasizing one subgenre over another leading to an uneven tone.

    Scream Factory presents Scarecrows with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Although shrouded in darkness, black levels appear welcomingly inky with no crushing levels even if visibility, attributed to the dimly lit production, isn’t always ideal.  In addition, detail shines through most effectively in Cabrera’s scarecrow designs with skin tones generally pleasing.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible with moments of gunfire and Composer Terry Plumeri’s (Sometimes They Come Back) chilling score registering nicely.  An optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been provided for your listening pleasure.  Stuffed like hay, Scarecrows arrives with a plentiful selection of special features including, an Audio Commentary with Director William Wesley & Producer Cami Winikoff, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter Richard Jeffries, Director of Photography Peter Deming & Composer Terry Plumeri.  In addition, The Last Straw with Special Make-Up Effects Creator Norman Cabrera (16:35) finds Cabrera recalling the nonprofessional learning ground the production was for him while, Cornfield Commando with Actor Ted Vernon (8:46) finds the mustached musclemen warmly looking back on his role in the film.  Finally, Original Storyboards (3:48), a Still Gallery (60 in total), Theatrical Trailer (1:32) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s supplements.

    Marking its Blu-ray debut, Scarecrows holds a charm for those won over by its action-horror hybrid approach.  While impressing with its make-up designs and awarded for its attempted originality, Scarecrows ultimately procrastinates for much of its run time ditching suspense and scares until its final fleeting act.  Luckily, Scream Factory’s efforts shine with a pleasing technical presentation and a generous helping of quality special features sure to please dedicated fans of this scarecrow stalking cocktail.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

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

  • Don't Go in the Woods (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Don’t Go in the Woods (1981)

    Director: James Bryan

    Starring: Jack McClelland, Mary Gail Artz, James P. Hayden, Angie Brown & Tom Drury

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From Director James Bryan (Boogievision, The Executioner, Part II), Don’t Go in the Woods centers on a group of wandering campers who venture into the wilderness for a weekend getaway.  Unbeknownst to them, a savage maniac is stalking their every move, killing at every chance he gets.  Starring many first time actors, Don’t Go in the Woods remains a slasher classic due to its campy production values and low-budget gore effects.

    Released at the peak of the slasher boom, Don’t Go in the Woods maintains a paper-thin plot of a quartet of campers wandering the wilderness only to evade the wrath of a deadly killer.  Littered with countless other tourists used as mere cattle, this Utah-shot production bolsters a body count that trumps most Friday the 13th installments but, lacks in any real suspense.  With horrendous yet, hilariously entertaining performances, Don’t Go in the Woods packs plenty of gore while, backfiring with many a false jump scares.  Relatively slow-paced, Director James Bryan’s indie effort makes decent use of its wilderness dwelling killer who lives off the land and makes grunting his first language.  With the core group of campers dwindling, the remaining survivors look to avenge their friends deaths by tracking the peculiar killer with weapons off the land, leading to a most bloody finale.  

    Drawing its line in the sand, Don’t Go in the Woods has split slasher enthusiasts for decades with many brushing it off as amateurish dreck while, others find appreciation in its over the top kills and not so serious tone.  While, it can hardly be categorized as a competent slasher with genuine scares, Don’t Go in the Woods possesses a low-budget charm of sticktoitiveness that bleeds in every frame.  Filmed over a two year period, Don’t Go in the Woods takes great pleasure in presenting a simplistic story while, never shying from its slasher genre staples with kills that will most assuredly leave viewers in chuckles rather than fear.  Cheesy but, undeniably appealing, Don’t Go in the Woods is an essential regional slasher for viewers who take delight in its quirkier traits.  

    Newly restored in 2K from the 35mm Interpositive, Vinegar Syndrome presents Don’t Go in the Woods with a 1080p transfer, sporting its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  Plagued with aging artifacts including, scratches and hazy photography, the pros far outweigh the cons.  Colors pop nicely in the film’s lush greenery, pastel colored wardrobe and scenes of blood-soaked carnage.  In addition, skin tones appear natural and inviting while, black levels are handled as well as can be with decent visibility amongst instances of flakes and speckles.  Vinegar Syndrome works wonders with this, at times, rough looking slasher, easily making this its definitive release.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono mix, dialogue is relayed decently with several occurrences of lower volume levels and mild hiss, all of which are never inaudible.  Scenes of slashing mayhem register sharply with Composer H. Kingsley Thurber’s music pushing the most authority in this otherwise contained yet, satisfying sounding mix.  Loaded with extras, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Audio Commentary with Director James Bryan, Actress Mary Gail Artz and Superfans Deron Miller & Dave Mosca and a third Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues.  Plus, a Cast & Crew Featurette (56:43), TV Promos Compilation (14:14), Autograph Signing Party (29:27), Theatrical Trailer (1:07), Production Stills Gallery (64 in total), Press Artwork Gallery (44 in total), Script Gallery (32 in total) and a DVD edition of the release round out the supplemental offerings. 

    While, its cult classic status has been debated by likeminded viewers, Don’t Go in the Woods holds a special appeal for those who revel in its cheeky charm and hilariously over the top gore effects.  Previously released by Code Red DVD as their inaugural title, Vinegar Syndrome’s newly restored Blu-ray release is a revelation of color and natural grain that trumps its imperfections while, preserving its OAR.  Packed with endless bonus content, Vinegar Syndrome delivers this low-budget slasher affair with all the bells and whistles one could hope to expect.  Whether it’s loved or hated, Don’t Go in the Woods has lasted the test of time and can now be better appreciated and debated with this definitive release.  

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 10th from Vinegar Syndrome, Don’t Go in the Woods can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • New Year's Evil (1980) Blu-ray Review

    New Year’s Evil (1980)

    Director: Emmett Alston

    Starring: Roz Kelly, Kip Niven, Grant Cramer, Louisa Moritz & Teri Copley

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Taking place on the hardest partying evening of the year, New Year’s Evil focuses on Diane “Blaze” Sullivan (Roz Kelly, Happy Days), the host of a televised punk/new wave show, who’s receiving eerie phone calls from a mysterious killer.  As the night lingers, murders are committed as each time zone in America brings in the new year, with the killer inching closer to Diane.  Kip Niven (Magnum Force), Grant Cramer (Killer Klowns from Outer Space), Louisa Moritz (The Last American Virgin), Taaffe O’Connell (Galaxy of Terror) and Teri Copley (Transylvania Twist) co-star.

    Marking one of the earliest efforts for Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus‘ The Cannon Group, New Year’s Evil continues the holiday-themed slasher trend kickstarted by John Carpenter’s Halloween.  Set amongst the punk music scene of Hollywood, New Year’s Evil attempts to turn the formula of a masked killer on its head by showcasing its culprit early on.  As sexy music emcee, Diane “Blaze” Sullivan, hosts her own televised new year’s event, a mysterious caller promising to off victims as each time zone strikes midnight, leaves Diane chilled.  Using a voice modulator and adorning several different costumes, the killer’s unknown, albeit relatively obvious, connection to Diane is the driving force of the film.  Conflicted with fear and all but oblivious to her withdrawn son (Cramer) who suffers from severe headaches, Diane agrees to go on with the show in hopes of luring the maniac out in the open.  A bonafide time capsule of 1980, New Year’s Evil makes great use of its rock show setting with youthful punks and live music from Shadow, who perform the constantly recycled title track.  While, light on its body count, New Year’s Evil offers enjoyable performances from its main cast and a series of notable locations our killer stalks including, a drive-in movie theater hosting an all-night horrothon and a mental sanitarium.  

    Far from perfect and almost always predictable, New Year’s Evil still offers a charming energy that plays to its nostalgic time period and holiday cash-in title.  An unabashed favorite that attempts to differ from its fellow slashers, New Year’s Evil entertains, both intentionally and unintentionally, with its punk sensibilities and campy, neon-lit, atmosphere.  Featuring notable cult stars and a bitchin‘ retro soundtrack, New Year’s Evil serves well as a prime candidate for fun, late-night slasher consumption.

    Previously released on DVD-R as part of MGM’s Limited Edition MOD program, Scream Factory presents New Year’s Evil with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  With the exception of minor, barely noticeable aging artifacts, the transfer impresses with a clean appearance, natural skin tones and remarkable detail in close-ups.  In addition, colors pop nicely from Diane’s glittering dress to the neon lights shining on the live rock bands.  Black levels are handled well with appreciable visibility that improves over its previous release.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, New Year’s Evil offers crisp dialogue levels with no distorting interference.  While, not overly impressive, music packs a noticeable punch with more climatic sequences offering an additional edge within its limited constraints.  Special features include an Audio Commentary with Director Emmett Alston, moderated by Bill Olsen of Code Red DVD.  Although, plagued with its fair share of dry spells, Alston offers notable anecdotes from the making of the film including, its tight budget and speedy 18 day shooting schedule.  In addition, Aine Leicht (Ginger Snaps, Without Warning) once again provides slasher enthusiasts with another detailed retrospective featurette with Call Me Eeevil...  The Making of New Year’s Evil (37:16).  This lengthy look back includes new interviews with Actors Kip Naven, Grant Cramer, Taaffee O’Connell and Director of Photography Thomas Ackerman discussing their unique involvements with the film.  Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:46) and reversible cover art round out the supplemental offerings.

    Joining the ranks of other calendar dated slashers including, Halloween and Friday the 13th, New Year’s Evil may fall below the iconic status of its originators but, still casts an identifiable charm for fans with a penchant for its heavy 80s tone.  Littered with punk rockers, gaudy new wave makeup and cheesy tunes, New Year’s Evil offers plenty of slasher staples to keep fans satisfied while, also injecting its own subtle twists for good measure.  Sandwiched between the release of fellow Cannon Film Group slashers, 1980’s Schizoid and 1981‘s Hospital Massacre, New Year’s Evil is an entertaining romp that although, doesn’t pack an overwhelming body count, makes up for in its unrelenting retro atmosphere and willingness to be unique on its limited budget.  Scream Factory’s high-definition treatment is a treasure, offering the film in its best presentation to date with an overly generous supply of bonus content for likeminded fans.  A personal favorite and a proud member of the unofficial holiday slashers collection, New Year’s Evil delights with its campiness and will most assuredly, award viewers with an affection for its bygone decade.

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Graduation Day (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Graduation Day (1981)

    Director: Herb Freed

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

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Producer David Baughn

    • Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Lives

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

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

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

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

    • Theatrical Trailer (2:04)

    • DVD Edition

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Prom Night (1980) Special Edition Blu-ray Review

    Prom Night (1980)

    Director: Paul Lynch

    Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen, Casey Stevens & Antoinette Bower

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Long considered one of the finest slashers to emerge from the 1980s, “Scream Queen” Jamie Lee Curtis lends her star power to this memorable Canadian offering.  Co-starring Leslie Nielsen (Airplane, The Naked Gun), Prom Night is a bloodthirsty tale of tragedy and revenge set on every teenagers‘ most special evening.  Remastered and restored in 2K, Synapse Films proudly presents the original disco madness classic on Blu-ray for the first time ever and packed with new bonus content.  

    Prom Night centers on four Hamilton High seniors hoarding a dark secret from their past.  After a childish game turned into tragedy, someone who witnessed the incident is seeking revenge.  On the evening of their high school prom, an axe-wielding madman has arrived to play a bloody game of his own on the unsuspecting teenagers.  Anne-Marie Martin (The Boogens), Michael Tough (Skullduggery), Pita Oliver (Double Negative), Mary Beth Rubens (Firebird 2015 AD), Joy Thompson (Trapped) and Sheldon Rybowski (Spring Fever) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Calm and calculated, Prom Night chooses to weave a tragedy and develop characters, as opposed to racking up the body count.  With the exception of the inaugural death sequence, this tax-sheltered production makes the viewer wait over an hour for evidence of a true slasher film.  Generally, this slow-burn approach would cost the film severely but, Prom Night is all the better for it.  After accidentally costing the life of one of their peers, four children promise to conceal their secret.  Six years later, Kim (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Alex (Michael Tough) deal with the sadness of their deceased sister while, preparing for their prom.  Unfortunately, a hooded madman who witnessed the fatal incident is making harassing phone calls to the guilty teens.  Prom Night spins several red herrings with success while, maintaing the mystery of the masked assailant until the final act.  The remainder of the runtime allows the viewer to appreciate the colorful characters and their unique relationships with one another.  Best remembered for its cheesy disco sequences, Prom Night showcases the incredible dance skills of Jamie Lee Curtis who has somehow evaded a spot on the popular competition show, Dancing with the Stars.  As dates are found and jealous ex-girlfriends become bitter, prom night arrives with the axe-wielding murderer waiting in the shadows.  In its final act, Prom Night wears its slasher label proudly with suspense and a killer who never shies from chasing his victims.  Throat slashings and axe beheadings follow before a dance floor brawl ensues between Kim’s date and the killer.  The madman’s reveal is unexpected and emotional as the viewer genuinely sympathizes with this actions.  

    While, the film is relatively light on blood and slow moving, Prom Night works wonders as a thrilling whodunit during a time when disco was all the rage.  Halloween alumni, Jamie Lee Curtis, once again serves up a memorable performance as the final girl with rhythm, cementing her status as a bonafide horror icon.  Complimented by addicting disco tunes from Composer Paul Zaza (My Bloody Valentine, Curtains) and guided direction by Paul Lynch (Humongous), Prom Night rewards the viewer with an engaging story, charming performances and a bloody, neon-lit finale, slashers fans won’t soon forget.  

    RATING: 5/5

    VIDEO:

    Remastered and restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative, Prom Night is presented with a 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Poorly treated in previous releases, Synapse Films‘ presentation is a revelation.  The overblown lighting and inherent softness in daytime sequences are retained but, finally controlled and nicely balanced.  Skin tones are accurately relayed and boast nice clarity.  Whether you’re admiring Anne-Marie Martin’s sparkling red gown, Casey Stevens‘ baby blue tux or the neon disco lights, colors pop incredibly well with much to appreciate.  While, minor specks and flakes appear, black levels are rich and boast the best visibility to date.  Previously known for its criminal mistreatment on home video, Synapse Films has brought their meticulous work ethic and dedication to one of slasher’s finest in its definitive form.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround mix, Prom Night is crisp with dialogue always audible.  With no hiss or distortion to speak of, Prom Night truly comes alive during its memorable prom sequences.  Composer Paul Zaza’s tunes pack a roaring punch and a suitable bass that fill your speakers with disco fever.  Glass shattering and van explosions also send sufficient shrieks to the soundscape, enriching the viewing experience along the way.  In addition, an original Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix is also included. 

    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:

    • Audio Commentary with Director Paul Lynch & Screenwriter William Gray: Moderated by Pat Jankiewicz, Lynch and Gray jump right into the proceedings, playing a who’s who over the opening credits and detailing where everyones career went.  Lynch expresses his extreme interest in casting Eve Plumb of The Brady Bunch fame in the lead role before Jamie Lee Curtis’ management caught wind of the project.  In addition, Nielsen, whom Lynch worked with several times, was hailed as a joy to work with.  Dry spells do occur but, Jankiewicz does a fine job keeping the two collaborators engaged, making this an otherwise informative listen.

    • The Horrors of Hamilton High: The Making of Prom Night (41:04): Red Shirt Pictures crafts this insightful history lesson on the making of the production.  Director Paul Lynch explains his ad concept for the movie sparking an interest with Halloween producer, Irwin Yablans.  Unfortunately for Yablans, Producer Peter Simpson quickly signed Lynch to a deal.  Cast members Mary Beth Rubens, Joy Thompson, Michael Tough and Jeff Wincott share their experiences from the film including, Nielsen’s off-screen hijinks using a fart machine.  Plus, Art Director Reuben Freed, Composer Paul Zaza and Prosthetics Creator Warren Keillor also share their memories and respective contributions to the film.  A splendid retrospective featurette that covers all the bases.  Prom Night enthusiasts couldn’t ask for more!

    • Original Theatrical Trailer (1:49)

    • Original TV Spots (3:17): Six in total.

    • Original Radio Spots (1:06): Exclusive to the Blu-ray release, two spots are included.

    • Motion Still Gallery (6:20): Also exclusive to the Blu-ray release.

    • Additional Footage Added for Television Broadcast (11:11): TV Version Editor Michael MacLaverty prefaces the included six scenes.

    • Never-Before-Seen Outtakes from the Original Prom Night Shoot (23:15): The final Blu-ray exclusive feature.

    • Reversible Cover Art  

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:

    Beloved by fans and a personal favorite, Prom Night is a seminal high school slasher that chooses to mystify with suspense and character development, building to a climatic, bloody showdown on the dance floor.  Jamie Lee Curtis, who would board a terrifying train and face her Halloween foe once again before surrendering her scream queen status, shines as the sweet and sexy heroine with a talent for cutting a rug.  Accompanied by a far too brief appearance from funnyman Leslie Nielsen and a cast of talented Canadian hopefuls, Prom Night conveys a surprisingly twisty tale while, serving up a handful of teenage victims.  Shamefully handled for years, Synapse Films have outdone themselves restoring this slasher classic to its former glory.  Boasting bold colors and natural grain with a newly created surround remix, Prom Night has never looked and sounded better.  Overflowing with rich bonus content and a generously included reversible cover, Synapse Films has rewarded fans with one of the finest releases of the year!

    RATING: 5/5

    Also available on DVD, Prom Night can be purchased on September 9th from Synapse Films and Amazon

  • Jersey Shore Massacre (2014) Blu-ray Review

    Jersey Shore Massacre (2014)

    Director: Paul Tarnopol

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

    Released by: Attack Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

    MOVIE:

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

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

    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:

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

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:

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

    RATING: 4/5

  • Varsity Blood (2013) DVD Review

    Varsity Blood (2014)

    Director: Jake Helgren

    Starring: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Natalie Peyton, Elyse Bigler & Debbie Rochon

    Released by: Image Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Following the tropes of body count flicks of the 1980s, this high school set tale finds football players and cheerleaders rooting for their own survival following the exploits of a masked murderer.  Harboring a small town secret, this modern day slasher unleashes beautiful females and the use of practical effects, much to the delight of genre fans.  Presented by Image Entertainment, Varsity Blood invites viewers to take to the field and do their best to survive this bloody experience.

    Varsity Blood centers on the cheerleaders and football players of Hogeye High, a sleepy town harboring a dark secret.  Following the big Halloween game, the group of friends host a wild party where an uninvited guest is waiting.  Disguised as their high school mascot with bow and arrow in stock, this masked murderer will stop at nothing until Hogeye High’s finest take permanent half-times.  

    MOVIE:

    Marking the directorial debut of Jake Helgren, Varsity Blood begins promisingly with scantly clad cheerleaders changing until one beauty is left alone.  Stalked by a masked maniac, the cheerleading captain is forced to run for her life bearing only her bra and panties.  Unfortunately, her fate is grim establishing a classic slasher introduction.  New girl, Hannah Wallace (Lexi Giovagnoli), has recently moved to town and has befriended the popular crowd while, being welcomed into the cheerleading squad.  Hannah, along with her controlling mother (Debbie Rochon, Tromeo and Juliet), suffer the pain of losing her father and is strictly against consuming alcohol.  Surrounded by sexy fellow cheerleaders and handsome jocks, Hannah is unaware of the tragic passing of Principal Graves‘ teenage daughter just a year previously.  Following their Halloween football game, the group descend on an abandoned farmhouse for a victory party, unaware that a killer dressed as their high school mascot awaits.  In true slasher fashion, sex, drugs and death quickly follow for the teens of Hogeye High.

    Possessing all the ingredients to deliver a decent slasher sendup, Varsity Blood stumbles early on and never truly recovers.  The small town secret that plants the town’s brutal killings is simple enough, but is unfortunately over compromised by several characters’ own dark pasts.  Overly complicated, the “character development” offers nothing more than throwing the viewer off course more than necessary.  In addition, Varsity Blood is plagued with horrendously tacky dialogue and paint by numbers exposition that takes the audience for fools.  Surprisingly, this underwhelming slasher does offer an incredibly beautiful spread of up and coming talent who aren’t shy to shed skin.  Plus, impressive practical effects in the form of arrow impalements and decapitations will please the most casual gorehound.  Concluding with a left field reveal and a nauseating Scooby-Doo-esque explanation, Varsity Blood had potential to be more but ultimately suffers from a weak story and poor dialogue.  The underused usage of the impressive practical effects are the film’s major highlight, but are hardly enough to remove the film’s bad taste.

    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:

    Varsity Blood is presented in a widescreen transfer sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  The film relays skin tones nicely while, colors, most noticeably in the cheerleaders‘ uniforms, pop decently.  Unfortunately, instances of pixelation arise occasionally against whiter backgrounds and black levels, especially when the gang arrive at the farmhouse, are dreary and largely unimpressive making it difficult to see portions of action.  Overall, a rather mediocre effort for such a recent offering.

    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, Varsity Blood is an audible yet largely unimpressive track.  Dialogue is relayed with no issues but, moments of horrific action and suspense lack a much needed oomph.  Similar to its video presentation, Varsity Blood sounds fine but could have afforded to be more.

    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:

    None.

    RATING: -/5

    OVERALL:

    A modern day approach to the slasher subgenre, Varsity Blood had the potential to be an enjoyable 90-minute excuse in terror.  Unfortunately, a dull screenplay and an unrestrained tendency to over explain, derails the film immensely.  Attractive actresses and a fine usage of practical effects offer some assistance but ultimately, Varsity Blood is a missed opportunity for slasher enthusiasts.  While, special features are nonexistent, Image Entertainment’s video and audio treatment never reach beyond mediocrity which is more than can be said for the film’s quality.

    RATING: 2.5/5

  • Curtains (1983) Special Edition Blu-ray Review

    Curtains (1983)

    Director: Jonathan Stryker

    Starring: John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson, Lynne Griffin & Lesleh Donaldson

    Released by: Synapse Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Considered a forgotten gem among slasher enthusiasts, few films of its ilk can match the tone and nightmarish imagery of this independent Canadian production.  Banished by its creators, Synapse Films proudly presents the long awaited Curtains on Blu-ray for the first time ever.  Meticulously restored from original vault materials and loaded with horrific new special features, Curtains has finally been unveiled with treatment worth dying for!

    Curtains centers on a group of actresses summoned to a casting call at the secluded mansion of famed director Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon, Savage Streets).  In search of the perfect actress to portray a crazed character, these women will do anything to land the job.  In no time, a deadly killer in a banshee mask crashes the party, picking off the group one by one.  Samantha Eggar (The Brood), Linda Thorson (The Avengers), Annie Ditchburn (Slow Dancing in the Big City), Lynne Griffin (Black Christmas), Sandra Warren (Terror Train), Lesleh Donaldson (Happy Birthday to Me) and Deborah Burgess (The Last Chase) co-star.

    MOVIE:

    Beginning in 1980, Curtains was cursed with endless re-writes, reshoots and recasting before reaching completion in 1983.  First time director Richard Ciupka felt the finished product was so far removed from his original vision, he withdrew his name from the film with the directorial credit cheekily awarded to John Vernon’s fictional character.  Nonetheless, the production’s rocky road birthed Curtains unique style that stands out from its other slasher brethren.  John Vernon, who carved a career portraying sleazy characters, is perfectly cast as the womanizing Jonathan Stryker.  Samantha Eggar compliments Vernon nicely as his former leading lady, Samantha Sherwood.  Determined to land the role, Sherwood checks herself into an asylum where Stryker cruelly leaves her.  The supporting cast of attractive actresses including slasher movie alumni Lynne Griffin and Lesleh Donaldson do well before the majority of the cast start disappearing Agatha Christie style.  With the exception of Stryker, Curtains is an entirely female driven film which allows the film to stray from formulaic tropes and surprise the viewer.  In addition, the banshee mask wearing killer is one of the most underrated and creepy stalkers to ever appear in a slasher.  An infamous sequence takes place on an ice skating rink where the killer stalks an unsuspecting victim in broad daylight while maintaining nail-biting suspense.

    Curtains does suffer from minor pacing issues, most notably during the actresses‘ stay at Stryker’s mansion.  Several scenes can pass while the viewer is anxiously waiting for action to take place with no avail.  Luckily, nightmarish imagery involving a creepy China doll and a tense stalking sequence on a staging area amongst mannequins and funhouse mirrors more than make up for this.  Considering its production woes, Curtains still manages to achieve its own unique tone and style with rewarding results.  Bizarre imagery that never makes sense coupled with a sleazy John Vernon, an unforgettable killer and a twist ending deems Curtains an eccentrically essential slasher.

    RATING: 4/5

    VIDEO:

    Restored in 2K, Curtains is presented in a 1080p widescreen transfer sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Relying on fuzzy, distorted bootlegs for years, Synapse Films‘ presentation is a revelation.  Skin tones are as accurate as can be with fine detail impressively picked up on the countless wrinkles in the killer’s banshee mask and Vernon’s graying beard.  While, not an overly colorful film, there is much to admire in the costumes and sheer clarity of the sprawling, snowy Canadian landscape.  In addition, black levels, at one time a constant struggle to view, are remarkable with night and other dimly lit scenes now fully appreciated.  Synapse Films‘ attention to pain-staking detail is clear in this gorgeous looking transfer!

    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:

    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround mix, Curtains sounds terrific.  Specifically created for this release, dialogue, while hushed at certain times, comes across clearly with no distortion to speak of.  Composer Paul Zaza’s foreboding piano cues are chilling and greatly enhanced on this superior mix.  Stalking sequences are also nicely balanced and provide an extra boost when needed.  In addition, an original 2.0 Mono mix is also included.  Suffice to say, Curtains sounds nearly as good as it looks.

    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Stars Lesleh Donaldson and Lynne Griffin, moderated by Edwin Samuelson

    - Alternate Audio Track with Vintage Interviews with Producer Peter R. Simpson and Star Samantha Eggar

    - The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of Curtains: Red Shirt Pictures provides a 35-minute retrospective with insight from Director Richard Ciupka, Editor Michael MacLaverty, Special Make-Up Effects Creator Greg Cannom, Composer Paul Zaza and more.  The individuals discuss Producer Peter R. Simpson’s erratic behavior and foul mouth, the production’s endless journey and Ciupka’s decision to ultimately remove his name from the film following Simpson’s handling.

    - Ciupka: A Film-Maker in Transition: Exclusive to the Blu-ray release, Synapse Films have provided Director Gordon Thorne’s vintage documentary on then hot shot Cinematographer Richard Ciupka making his directorial leap.  The 15-minute mini-doc is a wonderful time capsule focusing on Ciupka’s career highlights at that point.  Curtains enthusiasts will especially appreciate the fly on the wall footage on the film’s set and Vernon and Ciupka blocking a scene.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:

    A holy grail in the pantheon of slasher history, Curtains remained in the recesses of fans’ memories for years, all but losing hope for a legitimate release of this Canadian oddity.  Synapse Films have not only rescued the film but have presented it with a jaw-dropping video and audio treatment matched with a sprawling amount of bonus content.  Bizarre yet memorable, Curtains is a stand out slasher playing on nightmare imagery, a female driven cast and a banshee mask wearing murderer destined to creep you out.  Over 30 years after its original release, Curtains has finally been re-opened to its undying audience with a career highlight release from Synapse Films.

    RATING: 4.5/5

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16: Flatliners, Nymphomaniac, Stage Fright, The Legend of Billie Jean & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #16 includes:

    - Flatliners (1990) (0:37)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - The Legend of Billie Jean (1985) (6:56)
    Street Date: July 22, 2014
    Mill Creek Entertainment: http://www.millcreekent.com

    - Stage Fright (2014) (14:05)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnet Releasing: http://www.magnetreleasing.com

    - Nymphomaniac Volume I & II (2013) (21:59)
    Street Date: July 8, 2014
    Magnolia Pictures: http://www.magpictures.com

    - Tourist Trap (1979) (34:55)
    Street Date: February 25, 2014
    Full Moon Features: http://www.fullmoondirect.com

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (43:19)

  • Bloody Birthday (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Bloody Birthday (1981)
    Director: Ed Hunt
    Starring: Lori Lethin, K.C. Martel, Julie Brown, Elizabeth Hoy, Billy Jayne & Andrew Freeman
    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    A bonafide cult classic of the killer kids subgenre, where three suburban tikes wage a full-scale murdering spree on their quiet community.  Still shocking and controversial, Director Ed Hunt (Starship Invasions) weaves a slasher-esque tale of carnage with the most unlikely murderers at the helm.  Boasting a new HD transfer from the original vault materials, Severin Films proudly presents Bloody Birthday on Blu-ray for the first time in America.

    Bloody Birthday kicks off in Meadowvale, California circa 1970 where three babies are born at the height of a solar eclipse.  10 years later, Debbie (Elizabeth Hoy, X-Ray), Curtis (Billy Jayne, Just One of the Guys) and Steven (Andrew Freeman, Beyond Witch Mountain) begin a sadistic murder spree on the adults in their town.  When fellow classmate Timmy (K.C. Martel, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial) and older sister Joyce (Lori Lethin, The Prey) learn who’s responsible, the killer trio are determined to keep them quite permanently.  Susan Strasberg (Sweet 16), José Ferrer (Dune) and MTV hottie Julie Brown (Earth Girls Are Easy) co-star.

    MOVIE:
    By 1981, cinemagoers were well aware of the hulking, silent slashers of the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises.  In addition, the sudden popularity in the genre birthed countless imitators whose devious antagonists were generally, insane men hiding behind the disguise of a mask.  Director Ed Hunt’s killer kiddie flick, Bloody Birthday, instead chose to humanize its horror and shock audiences by turning innocence into fear.  Sweet-looking but bearing devilish grins, the deadly children have no remorse for their heinous crimes, similar to a young Michael Myers.  Following traditional slasher tropes, the trios‘ targets are horny teenagers and any authority figure that stands in their way.  Being birthed during a solar eclipse and a hokey astrological explanation serves as exposition for the kids‘ fatal behavior.  While, bordering on the cheesy side, the film earnestly sticks to its guns, ensuring a fun time for all.

    The trio waste little time doing away with Debbie’s father (who also serves as the town sheriff) by pelting him repeatedly with a baseball bat.  With daddy dearest out of the way, our pint-sized serial killers are in possession of his firearm.  Unusual by slasher standards, the kids incorporating a gun into their assaults makes sense given the unfair advantage of their size.  Retrospectively, viewing the film in a post-Columbine age, the effect is even more frightening.  The tiny terrors unleash more death in the form of jump rope strangulations, beatings and most notably, a bow is used to launch an arrow into a victims eye.  Bloody Birthday also supplies a suitable amount of nudity that includes Julie Brown undressing while, Curtis and Steven snoop through a peep hole, confirming that sex is still high on the minds of 10-year-old homicidal children.  Secondly, a sex-craved couple get hot and heavy in a graveyard while, another bare all in the back of a van before Curtis installs bullets through their heads.  After fellow classmate Timmy (Martel) and older sister Joyce (Lethin) learn the truth, the deviants make them their prime targets.  An exciting third act involves siblings dodging bullets and Timmy exchanging blows with Curtis, before the jig gets pulled on the little monsters.  The film concludes open-endedly, leaving room for a potential sequel that sadly, would never come.

    Shot cheaply and quickly, Bloody Birthday is a sadistically fun time, ranking high as one of the best killer kiddie flicks to invade the horror genre.  Reminiscent of Village of the Damned with an 80s slasher twist, Bloody Birthday is an underrated gem ripe for rediscovery.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Severin Films presents Bloody Birthday with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.78:1 aspect ratio.  Understandably, Bloody Birthday has never looked phenomenal on home video.  Severin Films upgrades their original DVD release to the Blu-ray format which bolsters decent, albeit slightly washed out colors.  Contrast and detail aren’t meticulously sharp but can still be appreciated most in facial close-ups.  Black levels, while admittedly underlit, can be quite murky, mostly noticed in the opening graveyard sequence.  Fortunately, Bloody Birthday possesses a relatively clean presentation with little to no intruding scratch factors.  A marginal upgrade from its previous DVD release, but unquestionably, the finest the film has ever looked.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a LPCM 2.0 Mono mix, Bloody Birthday sounds rather flat, but audible.  Dialogue comes across fine although, a slight hiss and the occasional pops can be heard on the mix.  A brief audio dropout occurs near the final act but luckily, no dialogue is lost in the moment.  Slightly underwhelming, the mix is still sufficient.
    RATING: 3/5

    EXTRAS:
    Severin Films has kindly ported over all the features from their original DVD release:

    - Audio Interview with Director Ed Hunt: Nearing over 50 minutes, Hunt sits down and discusses his original interest in filmmaking, attending film school at UCLA and his professional film efforts leading up to Bloody Birthday and beyond.  The interview is  very extensive and informative leaving no stone unturned.

    - Don’t Eat That Cake - An Interview with Lori Lethin: Lethin sits down to discuss her work on the picture, the lack of child safety on the set and her current occupation as a drug and alcohol counselor.

    - A Brief History of Slasher Films Featurette: Adam Rockoff, author of Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978-1986, provides a general history lesson on the popular genre, incorporating clips and poster artwork for some of the most memorable titles.  

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Teaser Trailer: Provided as an Easter egg on the disc.

    - Severin Films Trailers: Includes Bloody Moon, Horror Express, Nightmares and The Baby.

    RATING: 4/5

    OVERALL:
    Continuing the cycle of other slashers, Bloody Birthday dares to be unique by placing sweet children as the ruthless killers.  Still controversial, Director Ed Hunt’s killer kiddie flick works low-budget wonders with a fun cast to watch and some brutal murder sequences that are enhanced by the merciless young maniacs.  Severin Films rightly deserves praise for promoting this underrated goodie to HD in its finest edition to date.  The strength and entertainment factor of the film alone deserves a high recommendation to fans in need of more homicidal children in their cult collections.
    RATING: 4/5

  • Bloody Moon (1981) Blu-ray Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

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

  • The Final Terror (1983) Blu-ray Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Davis

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

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

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Behind the Scenes Still Gallery: 67 in total.

    - DVD Copy

    RATING: 4/5

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

  • Sleepaway Camp (1983) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    Sleepaway Camp (1983)
    Director: Robert Hiltzik
    Starring: Mike Kellin, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields & Christopher Collet
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In the wake of Friday the 13th’s massive success, the slasher genre was in full boom and the innocence of campgrounds were far from safe.  Familiar but yet wildly unique, the campers of Camp Arawak expecting a summer of fun are met with an onslaught of death by a mysterious killer.  Effectively grizzly and featuring a shocking ending you’ll never forget, Sleepaway Camp is a true slasher classic that still entertains and charms 30 years later.  The mecca of horror home entertainment, Scream Factory, proudly presents this terrifying gem in a rightly deserved collector’s edition choked full of new special features.  Welcome to Camp Arawak because you won’t be coming home!

    Sleepaway Camp centers on shy Angela Baker (Felissa Rose) living with her off kilter Aunt Martha and cousin Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten).  With summer in full swing, the kids are sent to Camp Arawak for a season of fun and hijinks.  Shortly after arriving, multiple campers begin turning up dead courtesy of a mysterious killer destined to turn the summer into a nightmare.

    MOVIE:
    Sleepaway Camp was already riding the coattails of Friday the 13th’s second sequel and 1981’s camp-centered slasher, The Burning when it debuted in 1983.  What appeared as a blatant cash grab at a seemingly simple formula became one of the finest slasher installments of the 1980s.  Director Robert Hiltzik’s sole effort (before returning to helm 2008’s Return to Sleepaway Camp) genuinely captures the spirit of summer camp aside from the brutal slayings.  The success and charm of this slasher gem is practically owed to the young cast who look, act and speak the way actual kids at a summer camp would, a feat that can only be compared to lightning in a bottle.  In addition, the unfazed use of profanity from the young cast gives the film an added dose of realism without making a fuss about it.  Jonathan Tiersten’s trucker mouth is quite comforting in a time where adolescents’ cursing in films is taboo.  The youthful cast is littered with anti-Hollywood types including Karen Fields who plays the bitchy role of Judy.  Far from ugly but not quite the prototypical image of a knockout, Fields perfectly encapsulates an honest representation of a summer camp hottie.  

    Sleepaway Camp makes great use of its slasher movie label by relying on shots of the killers POV and knife slayings.  Interestingly enough, instead of premarital sex and smoking dope, the murders committed in Sleepaway Camp are the result of much deserved revenge on the likes of a molesting cook and obnoxiously cruel campers.  While, the introverted Angela (Rose) is the butt of everyone’s jokes, the mysterious killer gets crafty with his victims thanks to the help of a swarm of bees and a steaming hair straightener.  Softball, summer love and the Camp Arawak counselors that include the righteously cool Gene (Frank Trent Saladino) and the unintentionally hilarious meathead  Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo) add to the overall enjoyment of Sleepaway Camp.  As tension rises and countless more campers end up dead, the film leads to an unexpectedly wild and unforgettable climax that I dare not spoil.  Perfectly capturing the spirit of summer camp and rising to the call of its slasher formula, Sleepaway Camp is a prime example of a camp carnage classic.  Carried out by a brilliantly capable cast and a twist ending that will leave you jaw-dropped, Sleepaway Camp has earned its due and is still as entertaining and bloodcurdling as ever!
    RATING: 5/5          

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Sleepaway Camp in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen transfer (1.78:1).  Marking the label’s first 2K scan from the film’s original camera negative, Sleepaway Camp looks marvelous!  While, the film still retains a slight, inherited softness, the film looks remarkably true to its source with colors gaining a nice boost especially in the campers’ brightly colored shirts.  In addition, flesh tones are relayed accurately with a wonderful amount of detail.  The film projects a nice, scratch-free presentation that makes one appreciate the glorious film grain.  Black levels are respectable if not a tad hazy but still a terrific upgrade from previous releases.  Make no mistake, Sleepaway Camp has never looked quite this good and campers will be more than pleased.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Sleepaway Camp sounds fantastic with dialogue coming across clear as crystal with no noticeable dropouts of any kind.  A terrific companion to a near perfect video presentation.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Felissa Rose and Jonathan Tiersten: Justin Beahm steps in as moderator for this newly produced commentary that brings together on-screen cousins Angela and Ricky who have a ball recalling the shooting of the film.

    - Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik moderated by Jeff Hayes: Another newly recorded commentary with Hiltzik that covers similar ground as its predecessor but still informative nonetheless.  

    - Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Robert Hiltzik and Actress Felissa Rose: Also moderated by Jeff Hayes, this fun commentary has been kindly ported over from the previous DVD release.

    - At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp: In his final collaboration with Scream Factory, Justin Beahm delivers fans an incredible 45-minute companion piece to the classic slasher film.  Capturing new interviews with Director Robert Hiltzik, Felissa Rose, Jonathan Tiersten, Karen Fields and more, this look back finds the cast and crew reminiscing on the formulation of the film, how they obtained their roles as well as on set drama.  Felissa Rose offers a heartfelt and emotional credit to the film for giving her the life she has.  Beahm has certainly outdone himself with this terrific documentary that ranks as one of Scream Factory’s finest extras to date.    

    - Judy - A Short Film by Jeff Hayes: Host of SleepawayCampMovies.com, Jeff Hayes, directs this amateur effort that stars Karen Fields reprising her role of Judy.  Having survived the tragic murders at Camp Arawak, Judy is now grown and dishing out her own form of punishment to those deserved.

    - “Princess” Music Video by Jonathan Tiersten

    - Camp Arawak Scrapbook: 70 behind the scenes images from the making of the film.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Rare Images from Make-Up Effects Artist Ed French

    - A Demonstration of the 2K Film Scan Process: Technicolor Imaging Technician, Ian Turpen, hosts this informative behind the scenes look at Scream Factory’s first 2K scan for Sleepaway Camp.

    - DVD Copy

    - Reversible cover art: Utilizing the iconic 1-sheet poster imagery.

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    What could have been seen as a mere Friday the 13th knock-off has become a bonafide slasher classic that has stood the test of time some 30 years later.  Beautifully capturing the summer camp spirit and weaving a unique tale of slasher carnage that leads up to one of the best finales of the genre will easily make Camp Arawak an annual visit for viewers.  Scream Factory’s collector’s edition of Sleepaway Camp is hands down one of their finest releases to date with a breathtaking video transfer, an ample audio mix and an overwhelmingly awesome abundance of special features that includes Justin Beahm’s terrific final ode, At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp.  Slasher enthusiasts owe it to themselves to add this definitive version of Robert Hiltzik’s original classic to their growing Scream Factory collection!
    RATING: 5/5

  • Final Exam (1981) Blu-ray Review

    Final Exam (1981)
    Director: Jimmy Huston
    Starring: Cecile Bagdadi, Joel S. Rice, DeAnna Robins, Ralph Brown & John Fallon
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The early 1980s saw the dawn of the slasher genre attacking cinemas on a weekly basis.  Following the massive success of 1980’s Friday the 13th, no holiday or teenage associated location was safe.  Summer camps, graduations, Valentine’s Day and more offered hormonal teenagers a 90 minute escape into terror.  Not surprisingly, exam week seemed ripe for a lone killer to embark on a mass killing spree as well.  Scream Factory, in association with Code Red DVD, proudly presents Final Exam, on Blu-ray for the first time ever!  Study hard or this exam might be your last...

    Final Exam centers on Lanier College as the end of the semester is within reach.  Students are finishing up their exams for the week when a local frat pulls a phony terrorist attack prank.  As the young adults laugh off the joke, a much more serious threat is upon them when a mysterious maniac begins offing students one by one.

    MOVIE:
    The concept of a college set slasher during the genre’s popular boom seemed fitting next to its counterparts.  From the silhouetted poster image to the generic plot, Final Exam makes it clear they’re “borrowing” from Friday the 13th.  Admittedly, most slashers at this time were all trying to capitalize on the runaway success of Sean S. Cunningham’s summer camp nightmare.  Audiences became quickly accustomed to the slasher formula and expected a unique killer, gruesome death sequences and plenty of T&A.  Some succeeded and others failed while, some, like Final Exam, fell into the gray zone of mediocrity.  The film opens promisingly with a college couple necking in a car before falling prey to the mute psychopath.  The story switches gears to Lanier College where the most outlandish prank is executed in order for a frat brother to cheat on his exam.  In a society where college shootings are eerily common, the startling reveal of a van of masked men opening fire on the student body with blank rounds will immediately grab your attention.  As politically incorrect as the prank may be today, the scene is incredibly effective until it is revealed to be a fake stunt.  Unfortunately, Final Exam then takes far too much time to develop its characters and forgets to kill some teens along the way.  This misstep plagues the film from being more exciting and kills any true sense of suspense.  Luckily, we’re treated to the memorable character of Radish (Joel S. Rice) who is obsessed with real murderers and reminds everyone how random their motives can be.  

    Final Exam misfires yet again for being a virtually skinless slasher in a time where other films were showcasing nudity at a rapid rate.  The final act picks up nicely with stabbings and the maniac murdering a frat boy in the college’s weight room, easily the film’s highlight death scene.  Following tradition, Final Exam finds the killer going head to head with Courtney (Cecile Bagdadi), the final girl who spent the duration of the film studying.  As Radish indicated, the killer’s motives were senseless which only adds frustration to the film’s already tedious structure.  Admittedly, with all its issues, Final Exam does have some merit with likable characters and some decent stalk and slash moments in its final act.  Far from perfect, Final Exam is still a golden age slasher that’s worth revisiting every so often, even if it trips over its own feet at times.
    RATING: 3/5

    VIDEO:
    Presented with a 1080p transfer in a 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Final Exam looks impressive only small instances of flakes and speckles.  Scream Factory have carried over Scorpion Releasing’s HD transfer from the original camera negative making detail and colors all the more vibrant.  Black levels are nicely handled with visibility clean and clear.  Colors appear accurate with blood popping off the screen in bold ways.  Final Exam has never looked better!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix, Final Exam sounds lovely with dialogue never missing a beat and Gary Scott’s (Beverly Hills, 90210) Carpenter-esque score coming across clear and foreboding.  No noticeable hiss or pops were picked up making this an above satisfying sounding mix.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Actors Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi & Sherry Willis-Burch

    - Interviews with Actors Joel Rice, Cecile Bagdadi & Sherry Willis-Burch: The actors share their stories on how they landed the gig, how their lives changed following filming and what they’re doing now.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    RATING: 3/5

    OVERALL:
    While, not nearly as impressive as other notable slashers, Final Exam does have enjoyable characters and a halfway decent final act that should have carried over to the rest of the runtime.  Short on suspense and skin, Final Exam still has a charm that gives it a pass as a slasher from the good ol’ days.  Scream Factory treats fans with another top quality video and audio presentation that makes this North Carolina set slasher the best it’s ever looked.  In addition, a small serving of interviews and a cast commentary round out the special features for this recommended helping of college centered mayhem.  
    RATING: 4/5

  • Death Do Us Part (2014) DVD Review

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

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

    EXTRAS:

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

    RATING: 1.5/5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (32:55)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (48:23)