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  • Assault on New Releases #11 - Halloween Edition: Count Dracula's Great Love (1973), Child's Play (1988) Collector's Edition, Burial Ground (1980), Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991) & Lady in White (1988) Blu-ray Reviews

    Count Dracula’s Great Love (1973)

    Director: Javier Aguirre

    Starring: Paul Naschy, Rosanna Yanni, Haydée Politoff, Mirta Miller, Ingrid Garbo, Álvaro de Luna de Luma & José Manuel Martin

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Starring Spain’s premiere horror star Paul Naschy (Night of the Werewolf), Count Dracula’s Great Love finds a carriage of travelers derailed and kindly taken in by the handsome Dr. Marlow (Naschy).  Secretly harboring his true identity as the Prince of Darkness, Marlow stalks and seduces his way to the necks of his gorgeous guests, transforming them into bloodthirsty slaves while, shy virginal Karen (Haydée Politoff, Queens of Evil) becomes the apple of his eye and essential to his much grander plan.  Boasting gothic ambiance, full moons and eroticism, Javier Aguirre (Hunchback of the Morgue) directs with elegance in this atmospheric tale that presents a memorable interpretation of Dracula who is quick to whip and axe his victims as commonly as sink his fangs into them.  Weaving a narrative of originality and rich complexity, Count Dracula’s Great Love remains effective for Naschy’s understated performance and the film’s blood ritual used to resurrect Dracula’s deceased daughter, concluding in lovesick tragedy.

    Beautifully scanned and restored in 2K from the 35mm internegative, Vinegar Syndrome presents Count Dracula’s Great Love with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  While minor intrusions from scratches and cigarette burns are evident, the Spanish feature has never looked better.  Bringing vibrant life to skin tones and the colorful costume choices of its actresses, detail is crisp preserving the fog-entranced tone while, black levels seen in Count Dracula’s cape, casket and dark dwellings are exceptionally inky.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, the film’s English dub track may register t’s and s sounds too sharply but, overwhelmingly exudes clean and audible dialogue levels while, cracks and pop are minimal and of little to no notice.  Presenting both its uncut U.S. edition and its original Spanish language version, viewers are informed that the latter, lacking proper elements from its licensor (and missing shots due to content that are only found in its English counterpart), is presented from lesser quality video sources and a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix in order to appreciatively appease fans yearning for both cuts.  Meanwhile, special features include, a never before released Audio Commentary with Director Javier Aguirre & Actor Paul Naschy featuring optional subtitles in both English and Spanish plus, a newly captured Video Interview with Actress Mirta Miller (8:22) with optional English subtitles.  Furthermore, the U.S. Theatrical Trailer (3:04), a Still Gallery (2:16) and a 6-page booklet featuring an informative essay from Mirek Lipinski are also included alongside a DVD edition of the release and Reversible Cover Art.  Fans of horror’s more gothic and erotic outings will take pleasure sinking their fangs into this significant Spanish offering, splendidly brought to high-definition by Vinegar Syndrome for the first time ever!

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Vinegar Syndrome, Count Dracula’s Great Love can be purchased via VinegarSyndrome.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Child’s Play (1988)

    Director: Tom Holland

    Starring: Catherine Hicks, Chris Sarandon, Alex Vincent & Brad Dourif

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Instilling a new titan for modern horror and ushering in a frightening franchise of sequels each varying in quality, the original Child’s Play still reigns as the most effective and chilling of Chucky’s many chapters.  When innocent six-year-old Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent, Wait Until Spring, Bandini) is presented with a Good Guy doll on his birthday, strange occurrences and the death of his babysitter raise questions of responsibility in their wake.  Unsuccessfully convincing his single mother and a homicide detective that his doll is alive and behind the recent string of murders, Andy finds himself pursued by the tiny terror in order to take over his soul.  Before the bodycount pictures its later entries would become with the foul-mouthed killer serving as their marketing mascot, Child’s Play’s less is more approach keeps viewers questioning the validity of Andy’s claims more so than blindly assuming his doll is truly possessed.  Wrapped in mystery and edge of your seat suspense with an oftentimes forgotten voodoo subplot, Child’s Play holds up strongly with a believable blend of special effects wizardry, an urban Chicago setting and top-notch performances with Dourif’s shrieking voice as the crazed Chucky leaving an indelible mark on the nightmares of viewers for years to come.

    Newly scanned in 2K from the interpositive, Scream Factory presents Child’s Play with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Casting a darker yet, more natural appearance during nighttime sequences, skin tones are accurate and nicely detailed while, colors found in Chucky’s red-striped and denim attire along with the neon-lit signage of the toy store in the film’s opening pop well.  Scuffs and other blemishes appear to be absent while, softness during daytime exteriors and inside the Barclay’s apartment look similar to its previous release.  Admittedly modest in its improvements, Scream Factory’s latest stab at Child’s Play unquestionably ranks as its best looking.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that projects solid dialogue and booming displays of authority during thunderstorms and Joe Renzetti’s (Poltergeist III) creepy score, sound quality is superior.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Impressively packed with new and old offerings, Disc 1 features a new Audio Commentary with Director Tom Holland plus, a repurposed Audio Commentary with Actors Alex Vincent, Catherine Hicks & “Chucky” Designer Kevin Yagher.  Furthermore, another vintage Audio Commentary with Producer David Kirschner & Screenwriter Don Mancini along with hilarious Chucky Commentaries on select scenes are also included.

    Kicking off Disc 2, Behind-the-Scenes Special Effects Footage (1:00:08), Howard Berger: Your Special Effects Friend ‘Till the End (40:53) and Life Behind the Mask: Being Chucky with Ed Gale (40:02) comprise the release’s newest and highly fascinating featurettes while, Evil Comes in Small Packages (24:49), Chucky: Building a Nightmare (10:05), A Monster Convention (5:26), Introducing Chucky: The Making of Child’s Play (6:15) and a Vintage Featurette (4:54) from MGM’s previous release are ported over.  In addition, a TV Spot (0:17), Theatrical Trailer (2:02), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (37 in total), a Posters & Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (20 in total) and Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster conclude the all encompassing slate of extras.  A frightening sophomore followup from Director Tom Holland (Fright Night), Child’s Play maintains its reputation as one of the better supernatural slashers of the 80s while, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition, sprawling with bounds of extras, is nothing short of a gift from the mighty Damballa himself.

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

    Burial Ground (1980)

    Director: Andrea Bianchi

    Starring: Mariangela Giordano, Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Peter Bark & Roberto Caporali

    Released by: Severin Films

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Presented under its alternate The Nights of Terror title, Burial Ground hosts a smorgasbord of guts and bloody depravity when a country getaway for several couples quickly turns into a fight for their lives against reanimated corpses.  Preoccupied with their own sexual appetite when a scientist’s tinkering with evil forces unleashes hell’s hungriest zombies, the couples struggle to defend themselves while keeping the rotting forces from gaining entry into the mansion.  A wall-to-wall bonkers example of Italian exploitation at its finest, Burial Ground’s plot may be paper thin but, graciously overcompensates with gallons of gore and some of the genre’s most memorable zombie designs befit with gaping facial holes, horrific skeletal features and squirming maggots oozing from their pores.  Weaponizing themselves with pickaxes, scythes and other garden tools, the ravenous undead decapitate the help and repeatedly feast on the torn out organs of their prey.  Perhaps even more memorable than the zombie’s persistent attacks, Burial Ground’s bizarro meter soars when Michael (Peter Bark, Arrivano i gatti), the peculiar-looking son of Karen, grows oddly attracted to his mother and makes an incestuous pass at her in the heat of zombiepalooza.  With options running low and escape unlikely, nothing can prepare viewers for Burial Ground’s absurd mouthful of a finale that draws its line in the sand as one of the great “what the…” moments of splatter cinema.

    Gorgeously restored in 2K from pristine elements, Severin Films presents Burial Ground with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.66:1 aspect ratio.  True to its description, this newly struck scan is leaps and bounds superior to past releases with a blemish-free appearance, strong facial tones and impressive detail bringing out the intricacies of the many zombie makeup designs and their intendedly heinous features.  Furthermore, the film’s plethora of blood pops loudly while, black levels, even during the film’s more dimly lit sequences, are effectively inky, allowing viewers to fully appreciate all that is occurring.  Definitive as can be, Severin Films deserves the utmost praise for their esteemed handling of this Italian gorefest.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is perfectly audible throughout without any static or pops detected.  In addition, a separate Dolby Digital 2.0 Italian mix is included with optional English subtitles.  Bonus offerings include, Villa Parisi - Legacy of Terror (15:47) where Movie Historian Fabio Melelli revisits the filming locations that date back to the 17th century and have been utilized by Italian film productions beginning in the 1960s through the present.  Meanwhile, Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with Actor Peter Bark (7:35), Just for the Money: Interview with Actor Simone Mattioli (8:57) and The Smell of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti & Actress Mariangela Giordano (9:20) are joined by Deleted/Extended Scenes/Shots (10:24), the Theatrical Trailer (3:31) and Reversible Cover Art.  Lastly, limited to the first 3,000 units, an exclusive slipcover featuring new artwork by Wes Benscoter is also included.  Riding high on a profoundly successful 2016, Severin Films continues to spoil exploitation enthusiasts with their treatment of Burial Ground, so definitive that the opening of hell’s gates can be the only justification for quality of this caliber.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Severin Films, Burial Ground can be purchased via Severin-Films.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Waxwork (1988) / Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1991)

    Director: Anthony Hickox

    Starring: Zach Galligan, Deborah Foreman, Michelle Johnson, Dana Ashbrook, Michah Grant, Eric Brown, Clare Carey, Patrick Macnee & David Warner / Zach Galligan, Monkia Schnarre, Alexander Godunov, Martin Kemp & Bruce Campbell 

    Released by: Lionsgate

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Melding the humorously wacky with the horrific, Waxwork finds a group of collegiate friends who stumble upon a mysterious wax museum displaying the most vile monsters, madmen and psychos albeit without victims.  Before long, their innocent tour lures them into its dark magic to become permanent members of the establishments morbid offerings.  Starring Zach Galligan (Gremlins) and Deborah Foreman (Valley Girl) with appearances from distinguished Englishmen and talented thespians Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) and David Warner (Tron) as the villainous museum owner, Waxwork’s greatest strength lies in its animated displays that honor the classic monsters of yesteryear and submerging would-be victims into their appropriately themed worlds.  Transforming into mini films within a film, the high maintenance China (Michelle Johnson, Death Becomes Her) finds herself immersed within Count Dracula’s gothic castle and forced to duel against his bloodthirsty brides while, the chain-smoking Tony (Dana Ashbrook, Twin Peaks) stumbles into the full moon lit backwoods where the beastly Wolfman (John-Rhys Davies, Raiders of the Lost Ark) hunts.  While the rather busy narrative throws touches of black magic, evil trinkets, freakish butlers and interdimensional realms to the forefront that occasionally scatterbrains the proceedings, Waxwork’s free-for-all conclusion pitting the likes of Marquis de Sade and zombies against the privileged Mark (Galligan) and his wheelchair-bound godfather right the ship in this clever sendup of classic chills under the guise of 80s video age eye-candy.

    Surviving the fiery events of the original film, Mark and Sarah (replaced by Monkia Schnarre, The Peacekeeper) return in Waxwork II: Lost in Time when a resilient zombie hand from the wax museum murders Sarah’s stepfather, pinning the blame on her.  Determined to prove her innocence, the two recover a magical compass enabling them to time travel through dimensions in order to gather the proper evidence to clear Sarah’s name.  Far more fantasy based than its predecessor with the characters winding up in medieval times to combat a black magic wielding sorcerer, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, using Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking-Glass as a loose template, makes greater use of hilariously parodying genre films than properly traveling through historical events.  Making stops at Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory and the streets of London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, Alien, The Haunting and Godzilla among other films all find their way cheekily homaged in this more refined sequel.  Graced with brief roles from B-movie legends Bruce Campbell (Evil Dead) and David Carradine (Death Race 2000), Waxwork II: Lost in Time widens its universe even more so, delivering a followup with more comedic oomph that surprisingly exceeds its originator by a narrow margin.

    Digitally restored, Lionsgate, under their Vestron Video Collector’s Series imprint, presents both Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Bearing generally clean appearances with scant scratches and slight speckling during darker sequences, colors pop effectively with skin tones reading nicely although, softness is not wholly uncommon or overly unpleasant.  Furthermore, its sequel noticeably improves during its extended black and white sequences mocking The Haunting that shine more sharply than the first film.  Respectable upgrades on both features will leave the overwhelming majority of fans more than pleased with the results.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, dialogue is admirably conveyed while occasional moments during the first film find character lines at odds with other dominating sound factors.  Otherwise making solid use of their respective musical scores, both tracks strongly live up to expectations.  

    Providing each film on their own Blu-ray disc, special features on Waxwork’s Disc 1 include, an Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan and an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Roger Bellon.  Additionally, The Waxwork Chronicles (1:22:17), another first-rate Red Shirt Pictures production divided into six parts, explores the development and making of both films with newly captured interviews from Writer/Director Anthony Hickox, Editor Christopher Cibelli, Producer Staffon Ahrenberg, Special Make-Up Effects Supervisor Bob Keen, Actors Zach Galligan, Monika Schnarre and many others covering everything Waxwork related fans would ever want to know.  Also included, a vintage The Making of Waxwork (24:06) featurette, the Theatrical Trailer (2:02) and a Still Gallery (7:55) conclude the disc’s helpings.  Next up, Waxwork II: Lost in Time’s Disc 2 opens with another Audio Commentary with Director Anthony Hickox & Actor Zach Galligan, an Isolated Score & Audio Interview with Composer Steve Schiff, a Music Video (3:50), Theatrical Trailer (3:03), Still Gallery (7:17) and a Reversible Cover Art capping off the double feature’s supplemental package.  Nostalgia will surely ring loudly for viewers raised on both Waxwork features during the heyday of video rental.  A clever and unique injection of horror and comedy during the slasher prominent decade, both films, with its 1991 sequel having a slight advantage, are enjoyable excursions into silliness that have been passionately peppered with ample bonus features to continue making the legacy of Vestron Pictures proud.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Lionsgate, Waxwork / Waxwork II: Lost in Time can be purchased via LionsgateShop.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Lady in White (1988)

    Director: Frank LaLoggia

    Starring: Lukas Haas, Len Cariou, Alex Rocco & Katherine Helmond

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Set in the wholesome suburb of Willowpoint Falls circa 1962, Lady in White centers on monster kid Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas, Mars Attacks!) who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a mysterious child murderer.  Aided by the first victim’s ghost, Frankie vows to bring the elusive killer to justice who may be closer than he knows.  Capturing the virtually lost magic of small-town Americana and shot on location in the picturesque region of Upstate New York, Lady in White weaves its atmospheric tale of local legends, ghosts and cold-blooded murder with expert direction and grounded performances that shine with pure naturalism.  Following Frankie’s supernatural encounter, the neighborhood myth of the lady in white searching for her fallen child ties into the picture’s larger story with the very real threat of her assailant still at large injecting a genuine undercurrent of thrills.  Reminiscent of Stephen King’s best coming of age fables, Lady in White’s acute capturing of simpler times while, injecting deeply rooted themes of family, facing fears and discrimination come from a creative voice of passion and experience that Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Fear No Evil) conveys in earnest.  An underrated masterwork with an innate connection to the heart and mystery of childhood, Lady in White remains as riveting as ever, eclipsing its reputation as one of the finest ghost stories of its kind.

    Debuting on high-definition with 2 Discs featuring the Director’s Cut (1:57:49, Disc 1), Theatrical Version (1:53:34, Disc 2) and the preferred Extended Director’s Cut (2:06:52, Disc 2), Scream Factory presents Lady in White with 1080p transfers, sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Utilizing the film’s interpositive and an archived film print to assemble the never-before-released lengthier director’s cut, the inherently soft photography is perfectly maintained while, fall leaves and seasonally appropriate greenery are lively looking.  Seamlessly blending its two elements for a first-rate restoration, the director’s intended cut looks excellent whereas the film’s alternate versions are of equal merit.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that forewarns hiss and pops that are hardly noticeable on its extended version, dialogue is never inaudible with the subtle ambiance of howling winds and crashing waves complimenting the proceedings nicely while, the film’s beautiful music selections, handled also by its Writer/Director, perform most effectively.  In addition an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  However unfortunate that no new supplements were produced for the release, vintage bonus features found entirely on Disc 1 include, an Introduction with Frank LaLoggia (0:46), an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Frank LaLoggia (Director’s Cut only), Behind-the-Scenes Footage with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (16:21) and optional commentary from its creator.  Furthermore, Deleted Scenes with Introduction by Frank LaLoggia (36:13) and optional commentary, a Promotional Short Film (7:18), the Theatrical Trailer (1:57), Alternate Trailers (7:10), TV Spots (1:34), Radio Spots (2:21), a Behind-the-Scenes Photo Montage (28 in total) and an Extended Photo Gallery (21 in total) wrap up the on-disc extras while, a Reversible Cover Art is also included.  An evocative coming of age chiller ripe for rediscovery and annual viewing, Lady in White is a prime ghostly offering for the Halloween season that stands out for its relatable themes and haunting narrative worthy of the deepest respect.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

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

     

  • Assault on New Releases #6: Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015), Spaced Invaders (1990) & Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) Blu-ray Reviews

         

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #6

    Insidious: Chapter 3 (2015)

    Director: Leigh Whannell

    Starring: Dermot Mulroney, Stefanie Scott, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell & Lin Shaye

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Leigh Whannell (Saw, Dead Silence), Insidious: Chapter 3 travels back in time to the early origins of spiritualist Elise Rainer (Lin Shaye, Ouija) as grieving teenager Quinn Brenner (Stefanie Scott, A.N.T. Farm) seeks her assistance to contact her late mother.  Living a fragile existence, Elise has sworn off her psychic practices until Quinn finds herself the victim of a supernatural entity.  With assistance from amateur ghost chasers Tucker (Angus Sampson, Mad Max: Fury Road) and Specks (Whannell), Elise must venture once more into The Further to save Quinn’s life.  Following its financially successful predecessor that tended to over-explain and tarnish the mystique of its supernatural antagonists, Insidious: Chapter 3 moves backward for a prequel based tale that packs several effective jump scares while lacking the originality of its franchise starter.  Shining a welcome spotlight on spiritual expert Elise and to an unfortunately lesser extent, the fan-favorite duo of Tucker and Specks, the paranormal happenings of the film are far too generic to stand out.  Donning multiple creative roles in front and behind the camera, Whannell’s first directorial outing is hardly a wasted affair with an admirable performance from Shaye and unique make-up designs of the film’s ghostly apparitions.  While its competently constructed and occasionally succeeds at building tension, Insidious: Chapter 3 never rises above mediocrity.  

    Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Insidious: Chapter 3 with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.  Boasting a crystal clear picture, skin tones are always natural-looking while, detail in costumes and set decoration are splendid.  From excellently saturated colors to the dark explorations of The Further, black levels are astoundingly inky and free of any digital noise.  With no anomalies on display, Insidious: Chapter 3 appears hauntingly perfect.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is exceptionally crisp while music cues and startling jump scares offer a shrieking depth that greatly impresses the entire runtime.  Special features include, Origin Story: Making Chapter 3 (19:04), Stunts: The Car Crash (9:35), Macabre Creations (8:58), Cherry Glazerr: Tiptoe Through the Tulips (5:16), Being Haunted: A Psychic Medium Speaks (11:34) and Deleted Scenes (5:16).  Additionally, Previews for The Final Girls (2:48), Air (2:12), Risen (1:31), Extinction (1:59), Lake Placid VS. Anaconda (1:37) and Broken Horses (2:35) are included along with a Digital HD Code.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Insidious: Chapter 3 can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Spaced Invaders (1990)

    Director: Patrick Read Johnson

    Starring: Douglas Barr, Royal Dano, Gregg Berger & Ariana Richards

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Co-produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures label and Smart Egg Pictures (Critters), Spaced Invaders finds a quiet midwestern community uprooted on Halloween night by a crew of misguided martians mistaking Orson Welles’ infamous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast as a call for hostile takeover of the human infested planet.  Hip yet wet behind the ears, the mini martians find themselves on a series of unexpected misadventures as they attempt to return to their home planet safely.  Marking the inaugural feature of Director Patrick Read Johnson (Baby’s Day Out, Angus), Spaced Invaders takes the zaniness of The Garbage Pail Kids Movie and sci-fi shenanigans of Howard the Duck to deliver an over the top space comedy for preteens.  While attempting to invade Earth, the five dimwitted martians quickly realize their nonthreatening, Halloween costume appearances doesn’t bode well for them as new kid in town Kathy (Ariana Richards, Jurassic Park), dressed in full Alien garb, befriends the green visitors.  As Kathy’s sheriff father (Douglas Barr, Deadly Blessing) and the elderly Mr. Wrenchmuller (Royal Dano, The Dark Half) eventually suspect invaders from Mars are in town, the young girl seeks to help her new friends return home much to the dismay of their ship’s Enforcer Drone committed to seeing Earth in ruins and the martians pay for their failures.  Silly although rarely humorous, Spaced Invaders makes attempts to appear hip to its then audience but, stumbles at every turn.  While its animatronic effects are generally pleasing and reminds viewers of a more charming time for movie magic, Spaced Invaders tends to overstay its welcome by its final act, dragging its feet to see the martians make their expected getaway back to Mars. 

    Mill Creek Entertainment presents Spaced Invaders with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Noticeably dated, flakes, speckles and occasional vertical lines are on display while skin tones are decently relayed with mediocre detail.  Bolder colors such as bright reds pop reasonably well although others appear rather drab.  Meanwhile, black levels possess their share of speckling and fail to bolster more pleasing, inkier results.  Equipped with a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix, sound is largely dull and unimpressive while dialogue is at least audible and free of any severely intruding factors.  Expectedly, no special features are included.

    RATING: 2.5/5

    Available now from Mill Creek Entertainment, Spaced Invaders can be purchased via MillCreekDirect.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

    Director: Francis Ford Coppola

    Starring: Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins & Keanu Reeves

    Released by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Blending the narrative of Bram Stoker’s iconic tale and the factual history of Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s Dracula centers on the tragic Transylvanian prince (Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy) as he travels to 19th-century London in search of love.  After an encounter with the radiant Mina (Winona Ryder, Edward Scissorhands) who bears a striking resemblance to his late wife, Count Dracula’s overwhelming passion brings darkness and horror to those who care for Mina.  Drenched in gothic atmosphere with an acute sense of detail, Director Francis Ford Coppola’s (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now) exceptional adaptation successfully paints its antagonist less as a bloodsucking monster but more a tragic Shakespearean figure audiences empathize with.  Brilliantly performed by Gary Oldman, Count Dracula’s unique costume designs and deliciously offbeat makeup brings to life a one of a kind interpretation of the grim character.  In addition, the supporting thespians including, Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins as an eccentric Van Helsing and Tom Waits as the deranged Renfield deliver excellent performances while Keanu Reeves’ Jonathan Harker serves as the sole casting miscalculation.  Although considered cliché today, Reeves poor English accent and flat performance consistently removes audiences from the otherwise mesmerizing film.  Insistent on utilizing practical effects from luscious matte paintings to various in-camera techniques, Director Francis Ford Coppola achieves an array of visual splendor that captivates audiences.  Deservedly earning itself three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Best Sound Effects Editing, Coppola’s erotically charged and frighteningly surreal adaptation has aged considerably well, living on as one of the more ambitious retellings of the Count’s fateful saga.

    Following its previously subpar release, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Newly mastered in 4K, the results are night are day with impressive textures, excellently inky black levels and naturally fitting skin tones.  While a minor framing adjustment is present on the release, it’s hardly deal breaking to excuse the overwhelmingly positive attributes to the transfer.  Further complimented by sharper detail and beautifully relayed colors to better highlight the various costume designs and ever-changing lighting effects, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never looked better.  Equipped with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, audio is pitch perfect with flawless dialogue levels and Composer Wojciech Kilar’s (The Ninth Gate) empowering score enthralling listeners.  In addition, hushed tones, thunderous sound effects and eerie ambiance all excel with proper balance and effectiveness.  The bountiful special features include, an Introduction by Director Francis Ford Coppola (3:55), a newly recorded Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola, Visual Effects Director Roman Coppola & Makeup Supervisor Greg Cannom as well as a vintage Audio Commentary with Director Francis Ford Coppola.  Additionally, newly included featurettes Reflections in Blood: Francis Ford Coppola and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (29:11) and Practical Magicians: A Collaboration Between Father and Son (20:07) are joined by previously available supplements The Blood is the Life: The Making of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (27:48), The Costumes are the Sets: The Design of Eiko Ishioka (14:02), In Camera: Naïve Visual Effects (18:46), Method and Madness: Visualizing Dracula (12:06), Deleted & Extended Scenes (28:14) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:36).  Lastly, a Digital HD Code closes out the release’s gratifying supplemental package.

    RATING: 5/5

    Available now from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blacula (1972) / Scream Blacula Scream (1973) Blu-ray Review

    Blacula (1972) / Scream Blacula Scream (1973)

    Director(s): William Crain / Bob Kellijan

    Starring: William Marshall, Vonetta McGee & Thalmus Rasulala / William Marshall, Pam Grier & Don Mitchell

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Adhering to the cries from the children of the night, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, delivers two long-awaited blaxploitation classics!  Taking place in 1780 Transylvania, Blacula centers on African Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall, Pee-wee’s Playhouse) as he seeks Count Dracula’s assistance in ending slave trade.  Instead, the evil count transforms the prince into a vampire and banishes him to a coffin.  Released nearly two centuries later, Blacula stalks the streets of Los Angeles for blood and a woman (Vonetta McGee, Melinda) he believes to be his reincarnated wife.  Thalmus Rasulala (Willie Dynamite), Denise Nicholas (Room 222) and Gordon Pinsent (Babar) co-star.  Next up, Scream Blacula Scream finds Willis Daniels (Richard Lawson, Poltergeist), the son of a late high priestess, fuming over his cult’s decision to nominate his foster sister Lisa (Pam Grier, Coffy) as their new leader.  Intending to curse Lisa with voodoo magic, Willis unknowingly resurrects the black bloodsucker, hungry for more bloodshed.  Don Mitchell (Ironside), Lynne Moody (That’s My Mama) and Michael Conrad (The Longest Yard) co-star.

    Released the same year as seminal blaxploitation classic, Super Fly, Blacula would not only follow suit in influencing the urban genre’s popularity but, would also become the first film named Best Horror Film of its year by the Saturn Awards.  Its period piece opening with the articulate Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) urging Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay, Brute Corps) to assist in the demise of slave trading kicks the film off on a unique note.  Doused in appropriately gothic atmosphere, Dracula wastes little time feeding on his guest, transforming him into a vampire.  Locked away in a coffin for centuries, two flamboyant interior decorators unleash Blacula into modern day Los Angeles where flashy clothing and jive talkin‘ is commonplace.  Thirsting for blood, Blacula is quickly transfixed with the beautiful Tina (McGee) who bears a striking similarity to his late wife.  As bizarre murders of victims drained of blood begin occurring, Tina’s sister, Michelle (Nicholas), and her pathologist boyfriend, Dr. Gordon Thomas (Rasulala), grow suspicious, while, Tina falls deeper in love with the true culprit.  Complimented by its comical dialogue and a memorable club performance by The Hues Corporation, Blacula is slightly by the numbers but, greatly entertains thanks to Marshall’s commanding performance.  With a bloody yet, surprisingly poetic finale, Blacula is an enjoyable slice of blaxploitation horror with a dignified depiction of its antagonist and an equally funky and brooding score, compliments of Composer Gene Page (Brewster McCloud).  Continuously growing in popularity, Blacula would become one of the top moneymakers of 1972 and pave the way for a minor wave of other blaxploitation-horror efforts.

    From the director of Count Yorga, Vampire and its respective sequel, Scream Blacula Scream blends the worlds of voodoo and vampirism to great effect.  Vowing to take revenge against his foster sister Lisa (Grier) after being ejected from their peaceful cult, Willis (Lawson) uses voodoo practices in hopes to curse her.  Unfortunately, Willis revives the black prince of shadows to continue his reign of terror with the assistance of an undead army.  Where its predecessor may have slightly lacked in style, Scream Blacula Scream excels mixing African folklore and a more prominent blaxploitation attitude.  Co-starring genre goddess Pam Grier (Black Mama White Mama, Foxy Brown), this followup contains a tighter storyline, higher body count and more memorable performances, sure to quench the thirst of viewers.  As Blacula finds a kindred spirit in Lisa and sees her voodoo abilities as invaluable, her ex-detective boyfriend Justin Carter (Mitchell), finds the suspicious murders of fellow cult members far from a coincidence.  After heavily researching the occult, Justin is convinced a vampire is responsible and summons his former LAPD lieutenant to help track the nightcrawler.  Forever conflicted with his need to consume blood, Blacula urges to Lisa to use her voodoo spells to end his vampiric curse.  With a final showdown between Justin, joined by the LAPD, and Blacula’s minions, Scream Blacula Scream is endlessly entertaining and in the rare instance, surpasses its originator.  

    Scream Factory debuts Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream with 1080p transfers, both sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  While, the original film shows only minor instances of flakes and speckles with decent visibility during dimly lit sequences, both films greatly shine with bold colors, rich detail in facial features and their flashy 70s wardrobe.  Undeniably, both films look wonderful in high-definition with Scream Blacula Scream squeaking by as the frontrunner with a virtually spotless appearance.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films have no audio dropouts to report but, Blacula bears a noticeably tinny sound, creating an occasionally tedious echo effect, most noticeably during scenes at Count Dracula’s castle.  That said, dialogue is still audible with the sequel once again reigning supreme with a tinny-less mix and effective pitch during more horrific sequences.  In addition, special features include, an educational Audio Commentary with Author/Film Historian David F. Walker on Blacula, joined by a Photo Gallery (68 in total) and Theatrical Trailer (1:54).  Finally, Scream Blacula Scream arrives with Interview with the Vampire’s Assistant: Richard Lawson from Scream Blacula Scream (13:35).  Lawson recalls his luck of winning the part of Willis, his fond memories of William Marshall and Pam Grier as well as his thoughts on the steady popularity of the Blacula films.  A Photo Gallery (69 in total) and Theatrical Trailer (2:03) for the sequel round out the disc’s supplemental offerings.

    Influential in the growing success of blaxploitation, Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream are a winning duo of entertaining vampire tales with an added dose of blackitude.  Intellectual and hypnotizing, William Marshall delights in his most memorable role as the African prince turned bloodsucker that stands proudly next to previous interpretations of the iconic Dracula character.  While, the original Blacula sets a terrific pace, its 1973 sequel is the more satisfying entry with a tighter storyline, voodoo worship and blaxploitation queen Pam Grier making an appearance.  Scream Factory debuts both films with gorgeous high-definition transfers, suitable sound mixes and a small but, worthwhile share of special features.  Deadlier than Dracula, the black prince of shadows makes a bloody fun splash in his only two outings, well worth adding into your tomb of terror.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available March 3rd from Scream Factory, Blacula / Scream Blacula Scream can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Vampire's Kiss (1989) / High Spirits (1988) Blu-ray Review

    Vampire’s Kiss (1989) / High Spirits (1988)

    Director(s): Robert Bierman / Neil Jordan

    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Maria Conchita Alonso & Jennifer Beals / Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole & Steve Guttenberg

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Continuing their exercise in funny frights, Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, presents yet another high-definition double feature of things that go giggles in the night!  First up, Academy-Award winner Nicolas Cage (Leaving Las Vegas) stars in Vampire’s Kiss as womanizing literary agent Peter Loew.  With loneliness invading his life, Peter’s sanity begins to teeter after an encounter with a seductive fanged mistress leaves him thinking he’s turning into a vampire.  As time passes, everyday is a full moon with Peter’s eccentric behavior reaching new heights.  Maria Conchita Alonso (Predator 2), Elizabeth Ashley (Coma), Kasi Lemmons (Candyman) and Jennifer Beals (Flashdance) co-star.  Next up, Peter O’Toole stars as castle-turned-hotel owner Peter Plunkett in High Spirits.  Struck with financial hardships, Plunkett and his faithful employees morph their Irish home into a haunted tourist attraction.  Unfortunately, the hotel guests are unprepared when real ghosts begin appearing, turning their stay into a hilarious holiday.  Steve Guttenberg (Police Academy), Daryl Hannah (Splash), Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation), Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky), Peter Gallagher (American Beauty) and Liam Neeson (Taken) co-star.       

    Considered a box-office blunder at the time of its release, Vampire’s Kiss has since amassed a cult following most notably for its lead star’s incredibly quirky performance.  Constantly criticized for its lack of plot, Director Robert Bierman’s debut effort is in fact the study of a man’s loneliness and longing for true love that ultimately drives him mad.  Whether audiences choose to recognize this narrative explanation, what can’t be denied is Cage’s oddball performance in all its kooky glory.  Utilizing a distinctly peculiar accent, Cage’s Peter Loew goes through women as quickly as new socks while, maintaining a prestigious job as a literary agent in New York City.  Admittedly lonely and seeking therapy, Loew’s life is altered after a chance encounter with a beautiful woman leaves him with fang bites and a suspicion he’s becoming a vampire.  Professionally acting for nearly 35 years, Cage has amassed a solid body of work although today, noted for his more eccentric and less favorable roles.  Unlike anything before or since, Cage delivers an explosively over the top performance filled with crazy-eyed glares, shouting tangents and absurd body movements allowing him to devour the scenery in every shot.  As his vampiric convictions grow, Loew begins ridiculing a lowly secretary (Maria Conchita Alonso) at his office and purchasing $3.50 plastic fangs to better embrace his transformation.  As Loew’s sanity wavers, the viewer questions the actuality of the film’s events leading to a darkly poetic finale that seals Lowe’s fate as an alleged bloodsucker.  Shot during a less than stellar period in New York City’s history, Director of Photography Stefan Czapsky (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood) captures the essence of the metropolis making it feel like a living, breathing character in the film.  Ahead of the curve with its black comedic tone and Cage’s consciously outlandish performance, Vampire’s Kiss will likely still leave audiences divided but, admirers of the thespians more uncontrollable antics will find this late 80s offering priceless.

    From the director of Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, High Spirits is a delightful romp starring some of comedies most recognizable faces of the 1980s and headlined by one of cinema’s most beloved performers.  Incorporating Ireland’s vast folklore, High Spirits takes glorious advantage of its foreign locations, earning itself undeniably rich atmosphere.  As Peter O’Toole’s Peter Plunkett decides to redress his castle into a haunted attraction in order to save it, American tourists arrive but, are none too pleased with Plunkett’s phony shenanigans.  Eventually, actual phantoms appear, unimpressed with their exploitation and determined to give the tourists their money’s worth.  Constantly overruled by his loudmouthed wife (D’Angelo) and enamored with the castle, Jack Crawford (Guttenberg) begins seeing the ghostly, yet beautiful, apparition of Mary Plunkett Brogan (Hannah).  After being murdered at the hands of her husband (Neeson) 200 years prior, Mary’s confining curse is lifted by Jack’s selflessness and mutual attraction, carving out a romantic subplot to the film’s enjoyable narrative.  In addition, up and comers including, Peter Gallagher as a conflicted priest in training, Jennifer Tilly as his flirtatious achilles heel and Martin Ferrero (Jurassic Park) as a ghost debunker all make appearances.  Critically panned and earning Daryl Hannah a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actress, High Spirits is a hilarious getaway picture where poltergeists are the life of the party.  Reminiscent of Beetlejuice, also released in 1988, High Spirits would fail to ignite the box-office but, was predominately  discovered on late night cable television during HBO and Cinemax’s infancy.  Littered with rewarding visual effects and simple sight gags, High Spirits is an uproarious ghost comedy that’s fun for the whole family.              

    Scream Factory presents both Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits with 1080p transfers, each sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Littered with flakes and occasional lines over its New York City skyline opening title sequence, Vampire’s Kiss quickly improves demonstrating a healthy grain level with warm complexions, rich detail and bold colors seen in bright yellow taxicabs and blood splatters.  Meanwhile, High Spirits presents strong saturation and fine detail in the dimly lit castle setting.  Containing a strong filmic quality, High Spirits suffers only from understandably mild softness during visual effect sequences and barely noticeable speckling. Vibrant and clean, High Spirits certainly aims to please.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, Vampire’s Kiss relays dialogue with distinct clarity and offering suitable depth during a loud disco sequence whereas, High Spirits’ rousing score from Composer George Fenton (Gandhi) rocks the mix complimented by its always clear dialogue levelsIn addition, although relatively light on special features, Vampire’s Kiss includes an Audio Commentary with Director Robert Bierman and Star Nicolas Cage ported over from its previous MGM DVD release.  Containing some dry spells, the track is still a worthwhile listen with the two collaborators strolling down memory lane recalling the nonunion shoot causing issues during production and Cage’s intense and at times, difficult, method acting process.  In addition, a Theatrical Trailer (2:09) is also included while, High Spirits unfortunately, arrives with zilch.

    Once again trading in their scares for laughs, Scream Factory’s suitable pairing of Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits makes a hauntingly hilarious splash on its viewer.  Nicolas Cage’s extremely eccentric turn as a vampire must be seen to be believed while, the impressive ensemble cast and charming visual effects of High Spirits will leave audiences of all ages with a grin on their face.  Scream Factory’s treatment of these 80s offerings is an admirable one with filmic quality transfers and more than pleasing sound mixes.  While, special features are limited, the thrill of owning these two paranormal retro offerings for the price of one is frighteningly inviting.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available February 10th from Scream Factory, Vampire’s Kiss / High Spirits can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13: The Bob Newhart Show, Dan Curtis' Dracula, Gang War in Milan & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #13 includes:

    - Dan Curtis' Dracula (1973) (0:36)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    MPI: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - House in the Alley (2012) (6:28)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Scream Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/screamfactory

    - The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series (12:04)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Gang War in Milan (1973) (20:26)
    Street Date: May 20, 2014
    Raro Video: http://www.rarovideousa.com/

    - Chances Are (1989) (27:10)
    Street Date: April 22, 2014
    Image Entertainment: http://www.watchimage.com/

    - Death Spa (1989) (31:40)
    Street Date: May 27, 2014
    MPI: http://www.mpihomevideo.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (37:55)

  • The Reverend (2011) DVD Review

    The Reverend (2011)
    Director: Neil Jones
    Starring: Stuart Brennan, Tamer Hassan, Emily Booth, Doug Bradley & Rutger Hauer
    Released by: Level 33 Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The eternal battle between good and evil continues in a cautionary tale about belief and temptation.  Sworn by his oath to the church, a young Reverend’s life at his new parish are put to the test after learning of the village’s dark side.  Filled with spiritual themes and gory violence, Level 33 Entertainment proudly presents The Reverend.  Starring genre vets including Doug Bradley (Hellraiser) and Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), The Reverend advises you to cling to your faith before experiencing this soul-scorching film...

    The Reverend stars Stuart Brennan (Risen) as a young clergyman, who shortly after delivering his first sermon, is savagely bitten on the neck by a beautiful woman.  Surviving the attack, the Reverend simultaneously develops an uncontrollable thirst for blood and learns the dark nature that plagues his community.  Overrun by drugs and prostitution, the Reverend uses his new abilities to bring justice to the sinners of the village.  Based on an unpublished graphic novel, the film co-stars Tamer Hassan (Batman Begins), Emily Booth (Doghouse), Doug Bradley (Nightbreed) and Rutger Hauer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

    MOVIE:
    Opening with a confrontation between God (Giovanni Lombardo Radice) and Satan (Rutger Hauer) debating the soul of a devoted clergyman, The Reverend appears promising enough.  Sadly, this all too brief appearance from cult icon Hauer will mark his only moment in the film.  Showcasing panels from the unpublished graphic novel over the opening credits, the film attempts to attract a Sin City-esque spirit with miserable results.  The Reverend presents a decent enough plot but stumbles in selling it properly to the viewer.  Consumed with overlong dialogue sequences that seemingly go nowhere, The Reverend reeks of a production plagued by a director wearing one too many hats.  Interestingly enough, Director Neil Jones not only directed but, wrote and produced the film which could explain much.  Presumably staying true to the source material, the film manages to suffer even with a plot centered around a vampiric Reverend sworn to achieve justice.  The lack of excitement is substituted with more scenes of talkative mumbo-jumbo that suggests a director’s unwillingness to yell “cut”.  Luckily, Stuart Brennan’s lead performance is an earnest one that is only stunted from the subpar screenplay and lack of direction.  Brennan’s descent into vampirism is borderline laughable as he attends a gothic film club meeting and researches the mythology in an internet cafe.  One would assume that a Reverend researching vampires in public would raise quite a few eyebrows.  In addition, genre vet, Doug Bradley’s (Hellraiser), brief role as a fellow clergyman is so futile that any second rate actor could have accomplished it.  What the film lacks in action and depth, slightly makes up for in gore.  Savage neck bites and stabbings are on full display in well-achieved graphic detail.

    The Reverend attempted a unique tale on vampires and faith that fell apart almost immediately.  Mindless direction and an anti-climatic ending firmly planted the stake in this missed opportunity.  Stuart Brennan’s satisfactory performance and the surprising amount of blood utilized in the few violent sequences are credited as the film’s only saving graces.  The lack of publication for the graphic novel begs the question how a film adaptation was ever green lit.
    RATING: 2/5

    VIDEO:
    Level 33 Entertainment presents The Reverend in a widescreen transfer that is generally acceptable.  The film possesses a rather muted look with a lack of colors.  Detail is decent in faces and wardrobe while, black levels vary in quality from scene to scene.  The digital cameras used are evident giving the film a noticeable digital-age quality that removes you from the experience.  The transfer isn’t horrendous, but it’s nothing that deserves praise either.
    RATING: 3/5

    AUDIO:
    Equipped with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix, The Reverend sounds pretty awful.  The opening scene between Radice and Hauer captures a far echo-ier sound than needed, restraining dialogue from being heard properly.  In addition, the remainder of dialogue scenes never pack a solid punch forcing one to continue raising the volume which hardly helps.  Brennan’s narrations are painfully low with background music all but overpowering his words making each moment far from audible.  A disappointing mix that constricts the viewing experience.
    RATING: 2/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Behind the Scenes Slideshow: Over 40 shots are on display.

    - Trailer

    RATING: 1/5

    OVERALL:
    The Reverend presented itself with a promising story but failed in delivering.  The film feels lifeless, struggling to push the narrative with overlong dialogue sequences that halt  any exciting energy it could have had.  The appearances from the talented Bradley and Hauer are too brief to even be remembered, while Brennan achieves decent emotion but only sinks due to the film’s inability to be more enthralling.  Level 33 Entertainment’s video presentation is adequate but greatly suffers from a horrendous audio mix and subpar special features.  The disappointment of this curious concept can be firmly laid to rest, six feet below.
    RATING: 2/5

  • Dracula 3D (2012) Blu-ray Review


    Dracula 3D (2012)
    Director: Dario Argento
    Starring: Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Asia Argento, Unax Ugalde & Rutger Hauer
    Released by: MPI Media Group

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    The king of Italian horror, Dario Argento, has returned with his unique vision of Bram Stoker’s original classic.  Adapted countless times in various forms, the gothic tale of Dracula is indeed eternal and thirsty for yet another retelling.  Argento’s interpretation also marks his first foray in the 3D realm, inviting viewers that much closer to the prince of darkness‘ deadly bite.  Soaked in mystic atmosphere and eroticism, Argento’s Dracula 3D wishes to suck your blood.  Does Dracula’s latest attempt in three dimensions have what it takes to cast a spell on its audience?  Let’s not dawdle any longer and find out...

    Dracula 3D finds famed Italian horror master, Dario Argento (Suspiria, Tenebrae), conducting his own unique vision of the iconic Bram Stoker novel.  400 years have passed since the passing of Count Dracula’s (Thomas Kretschmann) wife, leaving him eternally lonely.  Upon discovering that newlywed Mina Harker (Marta Gastini) bears a striking similarity to his wife, Dracula is obsessed with making her his.  Utilizing Mina’s husband, Jonathan (Unax Ugalde) and best friend, Lucy (Asia Argento) as pawns, Dracula slowly embarks on uniting with his newfound love.  Fortunately, noted vampire expert, Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer), arrives in order to put an end to Dracula’s unholy ways before it’s too late.

    MOVIE:
    As many famed auteurs age, the quality of their output is generally criticized for not being on par with past accomplishments.  In recent years, no horror director has been critiqued more so than Dario Argento.  Many would argue that after the 1980s, Argento’s genius seemingly stopped with the majority of his later work failing to capture audiences.  After completing his Three Mothers trilogy with 2007’s Mother of Tears and the tumultuous road to releasing 2009’s Giallo, Argento seemed overdue for a comeback of sorts.  Dracula 3D is Argento’s unique vision of the Bram Stoker novel without being a direct adaptation.  In addition, Argento assigned this film to be his first experiment with the 3D format.  As hopeful as Argento adapting Stoker sounds, Dracula 3D is yet another devastating disappointment from the man that delivered such classics as Deep Red and Opera.  The worst offense Dracula 3D is guilty of is the abysmal screenplay.  Oddly enough, this “unique vision” of an already established novel took four writers, including Argento, to bring the painfully wooden dialogue to screen.  The bland writing contaminates the film like a plague resulting in hollow performances from the entire cast.  Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted) invokes sex appeal but lacks any charisma as Dracula, resulting in one of the most boring performances of the character.  The remainder of the cast suffers the same fate as the poor writing hinders them from a serviceable performance.  Luckily, Argento has not lost his touch when hiring beautiful actresses, including his daughter Asia Argento (Land of the Dead) and Maria Cristina Heller (Angels & Demons), who are never shy when bearing their assets.  In addition, cult icon, Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, The Hitcher), appears as the vampire avenging Van Helsing.  Unfortunately, Hauer’s appearance comes fairly late in the film and does little to invigorate the film’s energy.

    Dracula 3D, while tame compared to Argento’s previous efforts, still manages to deliver decent gore in the form of slashed necks, axes to the head and of course, good old fashioned vampire bites.  Unfortunately, decent gore is trumped by horrendous CG effects including a laughable wolf to human transformation as well as an odd gigantic insect murder that will leave you dumbfounded.  Luckily, the set design and costumes do a fine job establishing the intended gothic atmosphere with more than decent results.  Interestingly enough, Argento’s first forary into 3D is a wildly effective one.  A nice sense of depth is coupled with gimmicky “in-your-face” effects that include swords, tree branches and animals charging the screen.  Sadly, Argento’s Dracula 3D disappoints on nearly every level.  The bland screenplay works as a domino effect resulting in wooden performances from the cast and an overall boring cinematic experience.  The gimmick of 3D is the only effective piece of the film that acts more as an odd curiosity.  As hopeful as one was, Dracula 3D lacks any of the spirit and originality Argento once possessed.  Argento completists will have difficulty finding any merit in this film that deserves to be staked through the heart.
    RATING: 1.5/5

    VIDEO:
    MPI Media Group presents Dracula 3D in a 1080p anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) transfer.  The film is nicely detailed with excellent handling on black levels for which there are many.  Night scenes and the darker clothing of some of the actors show no signs of crushing whatsoever.  A tint of softness is present, but welcome, at times to capture the dreary gothic atmosphere.  Skin tones are also well preserved making this transfer more than ample.
    RATING: 4.5/5

    3D VIDEO:
    Having both 2D and 3D versions available on one disc, the 3D version of Dracula 3D is surprisingly stunning.  The opening title sequence sways through the village of the film creating a wonderful sense of depth.  Continued instances of depth are furthered in backwoods scenes where the branches of trees invade your eye-line.  Gimmicky, yet wildly effective, uses of 3D are seen in swords through actors‘ bodies, animals charging the camera and actors‘ fingers that practically reach out and touch the viewer.  A handful of blurring moments occurred throughout the film which were noticeably inferior to the otherwise stellar majority.
    RATING: 4/5

    AUDIO:
    Dracula 3D comes equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.  For the most part, the mix is sufficient with frightening moments capturing a loud push and Claudio Simonetti’s score, which invokes shades of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows,   beautifully projected.  Unfortunately, dialogue seems to be more of a mixed bag.  At times, speech is loud and robust while others, most noticeably whenever Dracula speaks, the mix is a struggle to hear causing a wrestling match with your volume button.
    RATING: 3.5/5

    EXTRAS:

    - Behind the Scenes: This surprisingly lengthy making of featurette captures fly on the wall shots during production as well as incredibly informative interviews from nearly every member on the show including actors, screenwriters, art designers, 3D effects artists and more.

    - "Kiss Me Dracula" Music Video: Performed by Simonetti Project.  Presented in 2D and 3D.

    - Trailer

    - Red Band Trailer

    RATING: 3.5/5

    OVERALL:
    Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D is another poor addition to Argento’s recent canon.  The horrendous screenplay all but doomed this production as its cluelessness gravely affected the performances of the cast.  The passion and creativity that oozed from Argento’s earlier works is all but lost here as Dracula 3D plays as a boring attempt at gothic horror.  Thankfully, MPI Media Group’s presentation is a delight with a superior video presentation and effective 3D treatment.  In addition, the few supplements provided, namely the behind the scenes featurette, is far more interesting than the film itself.  The real tragedy of Dracula 3D is what it could have been had the right components and passion been in place.  Sadly, Dracula 3D is another Argento effort best forgotten.
    RATING: 2.5/5