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  • 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) 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.

  • #Horror (2015) Blu-ray Review

    #Horror (2015)

    Director: Tara Subkoff

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

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

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

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

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

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

    RATING: 2/5

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

  • Tenebrae (1982) Blu-ray Review (UK)


    Tenebrae (1982)
    Director: Dario Argento
    Starring: Anthony Franciosa, Veronica Lario, Daria Nicolodi & John Saxon
    Released by: Arrow Video (available exclusively via www.Zaavi.com)

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The master of the giallo, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera), has thrilled and terrified audiences for nearly 50 years.  From his early beginnings with 1970’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Argento has earned himself the label of a true artist with a clear and precise vision in all of his haunted works.  During, what would arguably be considered his peak years, Argento crafted a frightening tale with autobiographical roots that harked back to the genre he helped create.  Newly remastered, Arrow Films, proudly presents Tenebrae in a limited edition SteelBook release.  Let’s take a look and see how this once labeled “video nasty” and beloved Argento classic has aged...

    Tenebrae stars Anthony Franciosa (Julie Darling) as Peter Neal, an American horror writer, in Rome promoting his latest best-seller.  A serial killer is stalking his every move while others associated with his work start popping up dead.  The film co-stars Christian Borromeo (House on the Edge of the Park), Veronica Lario (Sotto... sotto), Carola Stagnaro (Opera), Daria Nicolodi (Inferno) and John Saxon (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

    MOVIE:
    Dario Argento’s films have always mystified as much as they have terrified.  Sandwiched between two other classic works (Inferno and Phenomena), Argento helmed this semi-autobiographical terrorfest about a horror writer harassed by a razor-wielding madman.  Argento admits that while in Los Angeles, he was called constantly by a stranger who admired the Italian director’s work.  Eventually, the calls grew more aggressive and the caller blamed Argento’s films for ruining his life and wished to kill him.  While being understandably frightened, Argento returned back to his homeland with the seed for a new story.  Tenebrae finds the director of The Cat o’ Nine Tails returning to his roots to tell a more realistic tale of horror.  The film does a fine job with a core cast that fit into their roles like a black leather glove.  Franciosa headlines as the handsome and modest author of horror literature that is slowly being stalked while his fellow associates are dropping like flies.  Franciosa is a natural which allows him to slide into the character of Peter Neal without the audience remembering they are watching an actor on the job. In addition, other cast highlights include Argento regular Daria Nicolodi who co-stars as Neal’s assistant, Anne.  Nicolodi complements Franciosa’s performance as a loyal and trusted friend with a hint of an attraction for her employer.  Genre star, John Saxon (Enter the Dragon), also appears as Neal’s literary agent which benefits the film thanks to the actor’s undeniable charm.

    Tenebrae is a successful example of style and substance meeting perfectly together.  Argento, along with Director of Photography Luciano Tovoli (Suspiria), work wonders with their camerawork while weaving a tale of genuine mystery and terror.  Moments of murder are shocking in their brutality but also a visual delight akin to a painter executing a masterpiece with his brush.  Tenebrae is an arresting film with terrific performances and a plot that keeps the viewer guessing while constantly jumping in their seats.  Already a master of Italian horror by Tenebrae, Argento directs the film with pure artistry while collaborator Claudio Simonetti (Dawn of the Dead, Demons) serves up yet another hypnotic and haunting score that acts as a character itself.  Tenebrae is a masterful entry in Argento’s impressive body of work that succeeds in nearly every way a solid giallo should.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Arrow Video presents Tenebrae in a newly remastered 1080p High-Definition (1.85:1) transfer.  The opening shots of Tenebrae being read don’t appear particularly noteworthy but immediately following, a revelation occurs.  Simply put, the film becomes nothing short of breathtaking!   Detail is remarkable in facial features while black levels stun with no crushing seen anywhere.  While, not an overly vibrant film, colors pop beautifully in actors‘ clothing while death scenes dazzle the eyes with the boldness of the blood’s color.  Tenebrae looks incredible and exceeded my expectations by a mile!
    RATING: 5/5

    AUDIO:
    Tenebrae comes equipped with an uncompressed PCM Mono 2.0 Audio mix.  Dialogue comes off clearly with no issues in the pops or hiss department while sound effects like a crashing window or a razor slash are crisp as can be.  Simonetti’s addicting score is the real prizewinner of the mix as it commands your speakers with a boom!  The catchy synth sounds are as loud as can be and might even encourage you to tone your volume down...  Then again.  Tenebrae succeeds in serving up a robust mix that compliments the perfect video presentation.  In addition, optional original English and Italian Mono Audio tracks are provided along with optional English subtitles.
    RATING: 5/5

    EXTRAS:
    (NOTE: The collector’s booklet listed below was not provided for the purposes of this review, therefor the rating of this section cannot take it into consideration)

    - Introduction by Star Daria Nicolodi

    - Audio Commentary with Kim Newman and Alan Jones

    - Audio Commentary with Argento expert Thomas Rostock

    - The Unsane World of Tenebrae: An Interview with Director Dario Argento: Argento waxes intellectual about the origins of the film and critics’ opinions of him and his work.

    - Screaming Queen!  Daria Nicolodi Remember Tenebrae

    - A Composition for Carnage: Composer Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae

    - Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches: One of the supplemental highlights as Goblin rocks out in this 16 minute segment from Friday, February 25, 2011.

    - Out of the Shadows: A Discussion with Maitland McDonagh: Another highlight of the disc is this scholarly interview with McDonagh, author of Broken Mirrors / Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - Collector’s booklet: Featuring writing on the film by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento, an interview with Cinematographer Lucian Tovoli and an appreciation of the film by Director Peter Strickland.

    RATING: 5/5

    OVERALL:
    Tenebrae is yet another masterpiece from arguably Argento’s finest years.  The film grabs hold with its unique camerawork and engaging performances wrapped in a story that successfully achieves mystery and murder.  Arrow Videos‘ presentation of the film is breathtaking and bolsters a strong audio mix that is sure to please fans of the film and its popular soundtrack.  In addition, the supplemental features are vast and informative leaving you with a deeper appreciation and love for the film.  Tenebrae ranks highly as one of Argento’s best while Arrow Videos‘ treatment accomplishes being one of the best  releases of any Argento film to date!
    RATING: 5/5

  • Crawlspace (1986) Blu-ray Review


    Crawlspace (1986)
    Director: David Schmoeller
    Starring: Klaus Kinski, Talia Balsam, Barbara Whinnery & Sally Brown
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The Criterion of Cult, Scream Factory, is back yet again to deliver fans with a much needed injection of some Empire Pictures goodness!  The maestro of creepiness, Klaus Kinski (Nosferatu the Vampyre), takes center stage as a murderous landlord with an obsession of peeping on his female tenants.  This supremely scary flick was helmed by David Schmoeller, responsible for other cult gems such as Tourist Trap and Puppetmaster.  Curious minds want to know how well this Kinski creepfest holds up so let’s not dawdle any longer...

    Crawlspace focuses on Karl Gunther (Klaus Kinski), a quiet landlord who happens to be the son of a Nazi.  Gunther has an obsession with sneaking through the crawlspaces of his apartment building in order to spy on his female tenants.  Gunther can barely contain his need to kill and with every new tenant comes a new object to fixate on.  Will the arrival of a new female tenant put a stop to Gunther’s heinous acts or is the fun just getting started?  

    MOVIE:
    With such an abundance of films released, Empire Pictures was a well-oiled machine that knew how to keep horror fans occupied.  Due to the scarcity of the film, I feel ashamed to admit that Crawlspace evaded me for so many years.  Crawlspace is a criminally forgotten flick that hits all the right notes in sending chills down your spine.  Klaus Kinski’s terrifying performance is what makes this film so appealing with his ice cold eyes and devilish grin.  The decision to make Kinski the son of a Nazi adds a depth to his character unlike most madmen found in films of its ilk at the time.  He has been fueled with a believable motivation that drives him mad to the point that only murdering can calm him.  In order to settle the score with his conscience, Gunther constantly plays Russian roulette to give faith a chance to punish him for his sins.  Another dimension to this maniacal character that made watching this film such a treat.  When he’s not spying on his next set of victims, Gunther is devising weapons of torture amongst his pet rats and a female prisoner locked away in a cage.  In addition, as the film reaches its finale, Gunther applies makeup that resembles Robert Smith of The Cure for an added level of weirdness.  

    As a product of its time, Crawlspace does right by the audience for including beautiful female actresses and some nice T&A moments for a tantalizing effect.  Talia Balsam (The Kindred) and Tané (Death Spa) both make appearances in the film.  Making great use of budget, Empire Pictures shot the entire film on an apartment complex set which works well and adds a nice claustrophobic layer.  Pino Donaggio (Carrie, Blow Out) serves up an incredibly spooky score that sets a disturbing tone with its echoing chorus chants.  Director David Schmoeller orchestrates the tight 80 minute runtime with suspense and precision that paved the way for more collaborations with Empire Pictures such as Catacombs and Puppetmaster Crawlspace is a disturbing and creepy diamond in the rough that is driven home by Kinski’s frightening performance.  The film’s breezy runtime leaves no room for shenanigans and keeps you firmly on the edge of your seat.  To say that I enjoyed Crawlspace would be an understatement, this is a wildly entertaining flick that is without a doubt, one of Empire Pictures’ greatest accomplishments.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    VIDEO:
    Scream Factory presents Crawlspace in a 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1) transfer that looks remarkable.  It surprises me just how good a film from Empire Pictures‘ canon translates to HD and in the case of Crawlspace, it truly shines.  Colors, most noticeably in the red carpet in the apartment complex’s halls, comes across bold while nice detail is showcased in facial features with skin tones looking very natural.  Instances of flakes and speckles are barely existent on this transfer that boasts clear black levels and a great filmic layer of grain.  Another fine job by Scream Factory!
    RATING: 4.5/5

    AUDIO:
    Crawlspace comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mix that is very satisfying.  Dialogue comes across clearly even at times with Kinski’s soft-spoken lines.  Pino Donaggio’s haunting score really shines with intense scenes pushing the levels of the mix nicely.  A rewarding audio presentation for such an effectively moody flick!
    RATING: 4/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Audio Commentary with Director David Schmoeller: Schmoeller touches upon the atmosphere and unique process of how Empire Pictures‘ films were created.  In addition, Schmoeller doesn’t get shy when discussing the tense nature of dealing with Kinski who could be ruthlessly uncooperative at times.  Originally, Kinski’s character was meant to be a Vietnam POW but Charles Band questioned whether audiences were ready for a film dealing with the war.  The decision was then made to make him the son of Nazi which, to this reviewer, was far more effective.  There are some dry spots to this commentary, but overall Schmoeller offers plenty of insight into the making of the film.

    - Tales from the Crawlspace: An Interview with John Vulich: Makeup-Effects Artist, Vulich, sits down for an interview where he discusses his early career highlights traveling the world and working on Empire Pictures films.  Vulich also touches upon his encounters with Kinski and hails them as an unforgettable experience.

    - Please Kill Mr. Kinski: Director David Schmoeller’s short documentary film that details the unpredictable and intense temper of Kinski which resulted in several on-set physical altercations.

    - Theatrical Trailer

    - TV Spots

    - Reversible cover

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Crawlspace is a disturbingly intense and creepy flick thanks to the unforgettable performance of Klaus Kinski.  There’s no denying that this film is one of the best offerings from Empire Pictures and one that has gone far too unnoticed throughout the years.  The depth and insane motivations driven by Kinski’s character make this a film that will leave you questioning the late actor’s sanity.  Scream Factory has accomplished another victory by resurrecting this frightening flick with a wonderful video and audio presentation as well as a satisfying assortment of supplements.  For what it’s worth, winding down on a wildly successful year for the horror label, Crawlspace walks away as one of my most revered non-Collector’s Edition releases from Scream Factory to date!
    RATING: 4.5/5

  • TV Terrors: The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978) DVD Review



    The Initiation of Sarah (1978) / Are You in the House Alone?! (1978)
    Director(s): Robert Day / Walter Grauman
    Starring: Kay Lenz, Morgan Brittany & Morgan Fairchild / Kathleen Beller, Blythe Danner & Dennis Quaid
    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Embarking on uncharted territory, Scream Factory has jumped into your living room with a double dose of television frights from the 1970s.  Two flicks, both from 1978, center on a college freshmen with psychic powers while the other focuses on a high schooler who becomes the target of a stalker, make up this collection from a time when Dallas and Taxi ruled the airwaves.  In today’s reality TV obsessed culture, how do these bygone made-for-television efforts holds up?  Grab your microwavable dinner, turn out the lights and let’s find out…

    The Initiation of Sarah stars Kay Lenz (House) as Sarah Goodwin, a shy college freshman who joins a sorority as a way to fit in.  Unfortunately, the sorority’s housemother played by Shelley Winters, is a witch who knows Sarah has the gift of psychic abilities.  The twisted old woman encourages Sarah to use her powers for revenge.  The supporting cast includes Morgan Brittany (Dallas) and an exceptionally bitchy Morgan Fairchild (The Seduction).  Next up, Are You in the House Alone?! finds a beautiful high school student (Kathleen Beller of The Sword and the Sorcerer) the target of a sadistic stalker who has been leaving obscene messages in her locker and watching her every move.  The stalker is only getting closer and time is running out!  An all-star cast comprised of a young Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Tony Bill (Shampoo) and Scott Colomby (Porky’s) all make appearances.

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

    http://eurocultav.com/Reviews/TV_Terrors__Initiation_of_Sara/tv_terrors__initiation_of_sara.html