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  • Vampirina DVD Review

    Vampirina 

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Isabella Crovetti, James Van Der Beek, Lauren Graham & Jordan Alexa Davis

    Released by: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Fangs never appeared more precious than in Disney Junior’s Vampirina.  Based on the book series by Anne Marie Pace, this brightly-colored animated series finds young Vampirina relocating to Pennsylvania from Transylvania and adapting to her new surroundings as a monster in a human’s world.  Presenting the program’s first four episodes consisting of two unique adventures each, Vampirina befriends her new next-door neighbors who graciously overlook her family’s monsterific appearances while, Vee’s parents attempt to open their own B&B without their spookier and more human clientele scaring one another off.  Befit with catchy musical numbers in each installment, Vampirina’s nerves get the best of her during the first day of school, an all-girls sleepover to win over Vee’s especially scaredy cat pal takes place while, Vampirina’s household conducts a different kind of surprise party and a viral video of Vee and best friend Poppy busting a move becomes a viral sensation leading to a dance off against Transylvania’s own Dragos the Dancer.  Featuring familiar voice talent from James Van Der Beek (Dawnson’s Creek) and Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) to Wanda Sykes (Alpha House) and Dee Bradley Baker (Star Wars Rebels), Vampirina, arriving just in time for the Halloween season, joining the ranks of the Disney Channel’s Hotel Transylvania: The Series, Vampirina that continues to fill the void of more spooky-centric content for preschoolers.

    Although the program’s intended demographic may not be the most vocal of videophiles, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment offers Vampirina in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, relaying the blue skin tones of Vee and her family with crispness as well as the family’s gothic homestead with glowing allure.  Furthermore, the accompanied Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes on each episode are also perfectly serviceable making dialogue and song cuts an easy and satisfying listen.  Apart from  Sneak Peeks at Coco (1:38) and Disneynature’s Dolphins (1:17), no special features are included.  Pleasantly entertaining as much as it teaches valuable lessons about accepting others regardless of their appearances or social backgrounds, Vampirina is fangtastic fun for youngsters.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, Vampirina can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • American Horror Project Vol. I: Malatesta's Carnival of Blood (1973), The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976) & The Premonition (1976) Blu-ray Review

    American Horror Project Vol. I (1973-1976)

    Director(s): Various

    Starring: Various

    Released by: Arrow Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scouring the bizarre and obscure avenues of America’s horrifically under appreciated efforts, Arrow Video proudly presents American Horror Project Vol. I!  Curating a triple dose of features and scholarly supplemental evaluations, this 3,000 unit limited edition collection welcomes Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood where a family searching for their son finds themselves in the stranglehold of a dilapidated amusement park overrun by a peculiar host and cannibalistic ghouls.  Next up, The Witch Who Came from the Sea centers on a troubled woman with a traumatic past whose violent fantasies find their way into her reality.  Finally, The Premonition threatens the livelihood of a five-year-old girl when she is abducted, leaving her mother riddled with frightening visions that may also lead to her daughter’s rescue.      

    From the dilapidated backroads of Pennsylvania emerges Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood.  Marking the first and only feature from Director Christopher Speeth, this psychedelic blend of horror and high-art maintains the production quality of many independent efforts of the era while, constructing an identity of its own under the guise of carnie insanity.  Short on narrative structure yet, maximizing its visual splendor, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood finds the central Norris family joining the sideshow business in order to conceal their true agenda of locating their missing son.  However earnest their quest seems, all plans are abruptly abandoned when their own survival is threatened.  Headed by the ominous Malatesta (Daniel Dietrich, Fleshpot on 42nd Street), the vampiric Mr. Blood (Jerome Dempsey, Network), devilish dwarf Bobo (Hervé Villechaize, Fantasy Island) and a colony of cannibalistic underground dwellers, the Norris family and other unlucky attendees fall victim to a grizzly rollercoaster beheading, stabbings and of course, feasts upon their flesh.  Guiding viewers through a funhouse of trashcan constructed production design where its grey-faced people eaters rally in front of silent film loops, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is viscerally unnerving with the trappings of its peculiar soundtrack and music cues heightening one’s fear of the offbeat attraction scattered across rural America.

    Teetering on the fringes of exploitation and psychologically frightening, Director Matt Cimber’s (Gemini Affair, Lady Cocoa) The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an unsung effort that explores the darkness of child sex abuse and the lifelong repercussions of the violated.  Starring Millie Perkins (The Diary of Anne Frank) as barmaid Molly whose violent daydreams including, the tying of two macho football players before straight-razoring their genitals proves wildly similar to recently reported events.  Adhering to a strict diet of alcohol and pill-popping, Molly’s romanticized memories, retold to her adoring nephews, about her late father is juxtaposed with uncomfortable imagery of her younger self faced with the overbearing seaman.  Robbed of her innocence while insistent on her late father’s perfection, Molly’s peculiar interest in the glamour of television and all its pretty faces compels the delusional woman to act out her fatal aggression on them.  The realms between Molly’s surrealistic episodes and reality come to a head when detectives (played by Richard Kennedy of Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS and George “Buck” Flower, best known for his roles as hobos in Back to the Future and John Carpenter’s They Live) begin connecting the dots back to Molly.  Hardly considered a horror film in the traditional sense with the exception of several razor slashing sequences, The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an uncomfortable yet, polarizing picture that strikes fear into the viewer with its touchy portrayal of incest and the physical and mental damage afflicted on its victims.  Complimented with early cinematography by Dean Cundey (Halloween, Jurassic Park) and a rather dreamlike aura, The Witch Who Came from the Sea stands as an exhaustive terror ride into the depravity of human beings.

    Long enchanted by the paranormal and the nature of interconnectivity, Director Robert Allen Schnitzer’s (No Place to Hide) metaphysical frightmare melds his respected interests with a tale detailing a mother’s worst nightmare.  Filmed in the tax-incentive region of Jackson, Mississippi, The Premonition introduces the mentally unstable Andrea (Ellen Barber, Blood Bride), assisted by the lovesick carnie Jude (Richard Lynch, Bad Dreams), as she attempts to steal back her young daughter from her adoptive parents.  In the film’s most hauntingly scarring scene, protective mother Sheri Bennett (Sharon Farrell, The Stunt Man) looks in on her sleeping child only to discover the eerie Andrea rocking the innocent girl to sleep before viciously attacking Sheri.  Although safe from capture, Sheri begins experiencing unexplainable visions that warn her of impending doom while, her scientific-minded husband Miles (Edward Bell, Helter Skelter) can’t wrap his brain around her condition.  After a freakish accident occurs, five-year-old Janie (Danielle Brisebois, Big Bad Mama II) is taken, increasing Sheri’s terrifying sightings of Andrea leading the Bennett’s to rely on spiritual forces beyond their understanding.  Although an investigation is put forth, The Premonition resists becoming a police procedural and wisely focuses on the film’s family dynamic, its gray-shaded characters and the emotional whiplash of a missing child to stay uniquely grounded.  While its horrific set pieces may not come in the form of a masked mute with a butcher knife, The Premonition presses on to deliver a film that is both respectfully challenging and psychologically engaging, leaving viewers with an added appreciation for its sophistication and artistic flair.  Enriched by an otherworldly score by classical composer Henry Mollicone, The Premonition is the standout opus of the collection that will stay with viewers long after the credits have concluded.

    Working from the best available materials for the collection’s obscure offerings, Arrow Video has restored each director-approved feature in 2K resolution with 1080p transfers, sporting their respective 1.85:1 (Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood and The Premonition) and 2.35:1 (The Witch Who Came from the Sea) aspect ratios.  Although excessive dirt removal was applied, each film still maintains their fair share of scuffs and scratches with varying degrees of vertical lines and cigarette burns on display.  Given the dire state of such rarely preserved films, their imperfections never deter from the viewing experience and, in the rare instance, actually add charm to their grindhouse roots.  Boasting respectable skin tones, fairly boosted color schemes, understandably speckled black levels and otherwise naturally filmic representations, The Witch Who Came from the Sea appears in the roughest shape with The Premonition unquestionably looking the best.  Joined by LPCM 1.0 mixes, each feature arrives with audible dialogue levels yet, imperfections are present.  Cracks and pops are common at reel changes and other various moments while, prolonged static is most noticeable throughout The Witch Who Came from the Sea.  Much like their visual counterparts, audio quality is not pristine but, easily does what is required for a pleasurable watching experience.  

    Unsurprisingly, supplements are plentiful with Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood arriving with an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (3:41), an Audio Commentary with Film Historian Richard Harland Smith and The Secrets of Malatesta (14:06) featuring an insightful new interview with Director Christopher Speeth.  In addition, Crimson Speak (11:49) sits down with Screenwriter Werner Liepolt, Malatesta’s Underground (10:10) highlights Art Directors Richard Stange and Alan Johnson’s invaluable contributions to the film while, Outtakes (2:59), a Still Gallery (38 in total), the Draft Script (BD/DVD-ROM content) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet poster is also included.  Meanwhile, The Witch Who Came from the Sea features an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (4:52), an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Matt Cimber, Actress Millie Perkins and Director of Photography Dean Cundey plus, the brand-new retrospective documentary Tides & Nightmares (23:28) featuring interviews with the cast and crew.  Furthermore, the vintage supplement of A Maiden’s Voyage: Remembering the Witch Who Came from the Sea (36:14) is included alongside, Lost at Sea (3:55), a new reflection of the film by Director Matt Cimber and a Reversible Cover Art also showcasing the original 1-sheet design.  Finally, The Premonition hosts an Introduction by Author and Co-Curator Stephen Thrower (3:16), an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Robert Allen Schnitzer, the Isolated Score and Pictures from a Premonition (21:19) featuring new interviews with key talent behind the camera.  In addition, a vintage Robert Allen Schnitzer Interview (5:51), a vintage Richard Lynch Interview (16:06), Schnitzer’s Short Films including, Terminal Point (40:45), Vernal Equinox (30:08) and A Rumbling in the Land (11:05) are included alongside, Peace Spots (3:38), the film’s Theatrical Trailer (2:23), TV Spots (3:27) and a Reversible Cover Art incorporating the original 1-sheet imagery.  Lastly, DVD editions of each film are also included with an impressive 60-page booklet housing some of Arrow’s finest liner notes to date with insights on the films from Stephen Thrower, Kim Newman, Kier-La Janisse and Brian Albright.

    Exceptionally curated, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. I dusts the cobwebs off some of the genre’s oddest and under appreciated efforts to emerge from the independent mavericks of the era.  While personal favorites are subjective to each viewer, there’s no denying this triple threat of terror and madness is an invaluable crash course on three diamonds in the rough of low-budget American exploitation.  Although securing film materials was no easy task with all showing their share of mileage, each film’s director-approved transfers look better than ever with Arrow’s phenomenal supplemental package offering viewers top-rated scholarly insight into these forgotten features.  With immediate hope for future installments to grace their collection, Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. I is the horror enthusiasts ideal roadmap to the weird and alternative.  

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from Arrow Video, American Horror Project Vol. I can be purchase via ArrowFilms.co.uk, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Assault on New Releases #7: Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight Collector's Edition (1995), Pay the Ghost (2015) & Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood Collector's Edition (1996) Blu-ray Reviews

     

    ASSAULT ON NEW RELEASES #7

    Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight (1995)

    Director: Ernest Dickerson

    Starring: Billy Zane, William Sadler, Jada Pinkett, Brenda Bakke, CCH Pounder, Thomas Haden Church & Dick Miller

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From small screen frights to Hollywood haunts, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight finds mysterious drifter Brayker (William Sadler, The Green Mile) protecting the last of seven biblical keys containing the power to abolish all evil.  Intent on reclaiming the sacred relic, the demonic Collector (Billy Zane, Titanic), along with his vile minions, track Brayker to an unsightly motel where the key’s protector and a motley crew of misfits must defend themselves against the forces of darkness.  Starring an eclectic mix of up and comers (Jada Pinkett, Madagascar), future Academy Award nominees (Thomas Haden Church, Sideways) and B-movie legends (Dick Miller, Gremlins), Demon Knight maintains the entertainingly dark humor and suspenseful scares best known to its popular HBO series.  Introduced by its ghoulish host The Crypt Keeper (infamously voiced by John Kassir) on set of his own directorial effort, Demon Knight provides ample fun as its cast of unlikely heroes do battle against several ghoulish creatures during an endless night of terror and fully stocked ammunition.  Complimented by impressive visual effects and an effectively 90s soundtrack including hits from Filter, Pantera and Megadeth, Demon Knight douses viewers in neon green gore and countless possessions while, crafting a big-screen romp that proudly carries on the shocks established by EC Comics’ forefathers.

    Scream Factory, the horror offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents Demon Knight with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Following a rather grainy introduction well known to its television audience, colors, although sparse, pop nicely while skin tones are rich and natural under the film’s dim lighting.  Meanwhile, detail is quite sharp in facial features with black levels greatly impressing with no discernible instances of crushing.  In addition to maintaining a pleasing filmic appearance, the use of neon green in the demons blood and their electric responses to harm offer an effective contrast to the film’s dark ambience.  Marking its Blu-ray debut, Demon Knight makes a most satisfyingly spooky splash in high-definition.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, dialogue is robust with intense moments of demonic anarchy and explosive carnage giving the mix a thrilling rumble.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included for your listening pleasure.  Joining the ranks of Scream Factory’s respected Collector’s Editions, special features for Demon Knight include, an Audio Commentary with Director Ernest Dickerson and an Audio Commentary with Special Effects Creator Todd Masters, Visual Effects Supervisor John Van Vilet, Special Effects Coordinator Thomas Bellissimo and Demon Performer Walter Phelan.  In addition, an Egyptian Theater Q&A Session (9:46), Under Siege: The Making of Demon Knight (39:12) marking another first-class retrospective from Red Shirt Pictures featuring new interviews with many of the cast and crew, a Still Gallery (66 in total), Theatrical Trailer (2:01) and Reversible Cover Art round out the disc’s scary supplements.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Pay the Ghost (2015)

    Director: Uli Edel

    Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Veronica Ferres, Lyriq Bent & Jack Fulton

    Released by: RLJ Entertainment

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage (Matchstick Men) headlines Pay the Ghost as college professor Mike Lawford who finds himself childless following the disappearance of his son on Halloween night.  One tragic year later and estranged from his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, The Walking Dead), Mike is haunted by unexplainable events that lead him to a startling link between the city’s missing children and the occult.  Based on the novella by Tim Lebbon and realized by Director Uli Edel (Christiane F.), Pay the Ghost weaves a unique yarn of supernatural occurrences and a parent’s worst fears for an intriguing mystery thriller.  After his young son vanishes at a Halloween carnival, Mike Lawford (Cage) desperately searches for answers when an ancient Celtic myth and a ghostly being are found responsible for the abduction.  As Mike’s investigation deepens, haunting imagery of his son and the possession of his wife occur, further proving the supernatural abilities of the entity.  While Cage musters up a halfway decent performance as a grieving father hellbent on retrieving his only child, the film’s lackluster visual effects and attempts at suspense largely fall flat.  Boasting a refreshingly original premise, Pay the Ghost never quite reaches above mediocrity even with its full-blown descent into the supernatural realm during its final act.  With a tightened script and an increased budget, Nicolas Cage’s latest indie effort may have achieved greater results but as is, Pay the Ghost is not an entirely wasted investment.

    RLJ Entertainment presents Pay the Ghost with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Lacking a broad color scheme, city streets and interior locations appear rather drab while, skin tones read decently given the soft lighting choices of the film.  Meanwhile, nighttime sequences, most appreciatively during the Halloween carnival, offer admirable black levels although the blemish free transfer tends to highlight the film’s rather unimpressive CG effects.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue projects on the lower end requiring an ample increase in volume.  With minimal music and few instances of potent sound effects, the mix does little to overly impress.  In addition, no special features have been included.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available November 10th from RLJ Entertainment, Pay the Ghost can be purchased via Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

    Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood (1996)

    Director: Gilbert Adler

    Starring: Dennis Miller, Erika Eleniak, Angie Everhart, Chris Sarandon & Corey Feldman

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Culled from a story by Back to the Future’s Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood centers on sarcastic private eye Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller, Joe Dirt) after being hired by the attractive Catherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak, Baywatch) to locate her missing delinquent brother.  As the investigation leads to a seductive brothel headed by Madam Lilith (Angie Everhart, Jade), Rafe uncovers their vampiric alter egos and must do battle with the seductive bloodsuckers.  Debuting shortly after the cancellation of the HBO series, Bordello of Blood lacks the overall excitement of its predecessor but, substitutes its shortcomings with eye-popping gore effects and healthy doses of female flesh.  With Miller’s hilariously dry humor coursing through the film, Chris Sarandon (Child’s Play) makes a welcome appearance as an over the top, electric guitar wielding preacher while, 80s icon Corey Feldman (The Lost Boys) gives fans his last prominent role for several years as nose-pierced horndog Caleb Verdoux.  With a familiar relic making an appearance, Bordello of Blood hits its stride when Guttman and Reverend Current invade the bloodthirsty brothel equipped with holy water contained Super Soakers, laying to rest the scantily clad vampiresses.  Although critically dismissed, Bordello of Blood has earned itself a cult reputation by fans who revel in its blatant outrageousness.  Lacking the bite of its first cinematic outing, Bordello of Blood is still worthy of a one night fling that luckily never takes itself seriously.

    Scream Factory presents Bordello of Blood with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  With occasional softness and mild speckling on display, skin tones are consistent and well-detailed while, the colors of supermodel Angie Everhart’s red hair and even bolder gore sequences pop nicely.  Meanwhile, black levels are generally pleasing with no alarming imperfections on display.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, dialogue is always audible and prioritized while, the film’s rocking soundtrack including hits like Sweet’s “Ballroom Blitz” give effective boosts when applied.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix has also been included.  Also joining the Collector’s Edition ranks, special features for Bordello of Blood include, an Audio Commentary with Co-Screenwriter/Co-Producer A.L. Katz, Tainted Blood: The Making of Bordello of Blood (36:08) has Red Shirt Pictures once again delivering another worthy retrospective as the majority of the cast and crew hail the film as an embarrassment.  Furthermore, a Video Promo (3:12), Still Gallery (65 in total), Theatrical Trailer (1:42) and Reversible Cover Art wrap up the disc’s bonus content.  

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, Tales from the Crypt presents Bordello of Blood can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Love at First Bite (1979) / Love at First Bite (1985) Blu-ray Review

    Love at First Bite (1979) / Once Bitten (1985)

    Director(s): Stan Dragoti / Howard Storm 

    Starring: George Hamilton, Susan Saint James & Richard Benjamin / Jim Carrey, Lauren Hutton & Cleavon Little  

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Scream Factory, the horror/cult offshoot of Shout! Factory, proudly presents a pair of neck biting vampire comedies sure to tickle your funny bones!  First up, Love at First Bite stars George Hamilton (Zorro: The Gay Blade) as Count Dracula who, after being banished from his castle must relocate to New York City.  Out of touch with the times and society, the Count is determined to woo an attractive fashion model if the big city doesn’t swallow him first.  Susan Saint James (Kate & Allie), Richard Benjamin (Westworld) and Arte Johnson (Evil Toons) co-star.  Next up, Once Bitten finds Jim Carrey, in one of his earliest roles, as shy, awkward Mark Kendall.  When a sexy vampire countess (Lauren Hutton, American Gigolo) targets Mark’s virginal blood to retain her youthful beauty, a frantic race against time ensues to seduce Mark for good before he sheds his virginity.  Karen Kopins (Troop Beverly Hills) and Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles) co-star.

    Considered one of the top grossing films of its year, Love at First Bite focuses on the Count when his own locals grow tired of his antics, banishing him from his own castle.  Joined by his faithful companion Renfield (Johnson), Count Dracula heads to the Big Apple to start anew while, prowling for flashy fashion model, Cindy Sondheim (Saint James), who he’s admired from afar.  George Hamilton makes a convincing, if not strikingly tan, Dracula with a Lugosi-like accent firmly in place.  The hard-drinking, psychologist dependent Cindy falls victim to the charms of the Count while, her shrink and beau, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenberg (hilariously played by Richard Benjamin), takes none too kindly to the caped foreigner.  As a descendent of Van Helsing, Rosenberg (name changed strictly for “professional reasons”) vows to destroy Count Dracula once and for all.  While, Love at First Bite accounts for several humorous moments including, Rosenberg attempting to harm the Count with a Star of David instead of a cross and a barrage of comical cameos from The Jeffersons‘ Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford plus, Barry Gordon (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Michael Pataki (Rocky IV), the film suffers from a slight identity crisis.  Favoring its more romantic angle at times over knee-slapping laughs, Love at First Bite doesn’t reach its full potential but, does manage to capture the Big Apple during the last gasps of disco.  Joined by a groovy dance sequence between Hamilton and Saint James to Alicia Bridges‘ “I Love the Nightlife” (previously removed on past home video releases), Love at First Bite is a charming time capsule with noticeable wire-hanging bats and a memorable gothic score from Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare on Elm Street).

    An unabashed childhood favorite, Once Bitten pushes its teen comedy angle instead of attracting screams.  Hollywood newcomer Jim Carrey headlines as the slightly awkward 18-year-old Mark Kendall, determined to lose his virginity to girlfriend Robin (Kopins) to no avail.  A far cry from the comedic force the world would know a few short years later, Carrey’s nervousness plays to the advantage of his character.  Lauren Hutton stuns as the seductive Countess hellbent on literally milking Mark for his virginal blood.  After a one-night stand with the blonde bombshell, Mark begins growing paler and resistant to bright lights as his fixation on her strengthens.  Robin, along with Mark’s bumbling Burger Circus employee best friends, Jamie and Russ (Thomas Ballatore and Skip Lackey, respectively), become concerned with his appearance, the trio begin investigating.  Hilariously, Jamie and Russ decide to locate fang bites on Mark’s body in the locker room showers prompting gay gossip headlines among the other students.  With the Countess aided by her flamboyant butler (Little), a public attempt to lure Mark’s attention takes place at the high school Halloween bop.  Marking one of the cheesiest dance-offs of the 1980s, Kopins and Hutton battle for Carrey’s attention to the sounds of Maria Vidal’s “Hands Off” with hilarious choreography to boot.  As time looms, the Countess must continue feeding off of Mark’s blood before, his virginity is taken and her youthful looks gone, leading to a final chase and escape sequence at the Countess‘ upscale mansion.  Much like its 1970s co-feature, Once Bitten captures mid-80s Hollywood hot spots in all their neon glory with genuine punks and valley girls walking the streets.  Complimented with a synth-heavy, guitar riffing score from John Du Prez (UHF), Once Bitten unapologetically follows tropes of past teen comedies but, remains a nostalgic trip of cheese to please.  

    Scream Factory presents Love at First Bite and Once Bitten with 1080p transfers, both sporting 1.85:1 aspect ratios.  Marking their Blu-ray debuts, Love at First Bite arrives with slightly murky black levels seen mostly in Dracula’s fog-entrenched castle.  Colors are generally satisfying with warm skin tones and inky blacks relayed in Hamilton’s caped attire.  Instances of flakes and speckles are apparent but, far from intrude, leaving the film with pleasing clarity.  Meanwhile, Once Bitten kicks off with a softer appearance seen in the Countess‘ bright white mansion before transitioning to a lively picture of, at times, bursting color.  Skin tones are accurate with bold colors, most noticeably the Burger Circus‘ exterior and Mark’s ice cream truck, leaping off the screen while, scuffs and scratches are virtually nonexistent on this satisfying HD upgrade.  Equipped with DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mixes, both films have no trouble relaying dialogue while, musical moments such as, Love at First Bite’s “I Love the Nightlife” dance number and Once Bitten’s Halloween bop sequence, offer a nice additional boost in quality.  Relatively light on special features, this double feature of vampiric laughs comes with a Love at First Bite Theatrical Trailer (3:03) and Radio Spots (2:03) whereas, Once Bitten receives a Theatrical Trailer (0:57).

    Experimenting with new ground, Scream Factory takes a break from their bonafide horror classics to treat viewers with a double feature of fangtastic comedies.  While, Love at First Bite has its charms with memorable comedic cameos, nostalgia reigns supreme awarding Once Bitten the frontrunner of this collection.  Bare on special features, both films make their Blu-ray debuts with pleasing technical honors that should easily appease fans.  The blending of frightful funnies is a welcome change of pace for Scream Factory aficionados and one that will hopefully persist in the future.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available February 10th, Love at First Bite / Once Bitten can be purchased via Shout! Factory, Amazon.com and other fine retailers. 

  • Fright Night (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

    Fright Night (1985)

    Director: Tom Holland

    Starring: William Ragsdale, Roddy McDowall, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse & Stephen Geoffreys

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Marking the directorial debut of Tom Holland (Child’s Play, Thinner), Fright Night focuses on suburban boy next door, Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale), whose convinced his mysterious new neighbors are vampires.  When his attempts for help fall on deaf ears, Charley seeks out Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall), a washed-up actor best known as an infamous vampire killer, to restore peace to his quiet neighborhood.  Chris Sarandon (The Princess Bride), Amanda Bearse (Married with Children), Stephen Geoffreys (976-Evil) and Jonathan Stark (House II: The Second Story) co-star.

    Released at the height of the slasher movie boom, Fright Night pays tribute to the gothic tales of bloodsuckers, set in the modern suburban landscape of the 1980s.  William Ragsdale (Mannequin: On the Move) perfectly emulates the prototypical boy next door, Charley Brewster, struggling with trigonometry and increasingly horny.  Head over heels in love with his attractive girlfriend Amy (Bearse) and a horror movie aficionado, Charley becomes suspicious of his new neighbor, the suave Jerry Dandrige (Chris Sarandon).  Only seen at night and caught ushering a coffin into his basement with his assistant and suggested male lover, Charley is certain vampires have moved into his neighborhood.  Sarandon with his handsome good looks and charming smile captures the sexual essence of screen vampires before him while, reinventing the mythic figure for a new decade.  The lovely Amanda Bearse shines as Charley’s better half who falls under Jerry’s hypnotizing will leading to an erotically charged dance sequence at a quintessentially 80s discotheque.  Unsurprisingly, the late Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes) hams it up as horror host Peter Vincent who helps Charley in his mission after much convincing.  As an established cult icon, McDowall fits into the role like a glove with his performance ranking among one of his best.  Meanwhile, Stephen Geoffreys, playing Charley’s odd best friend “Evil” Ed, steals the show with his high-cracking voice and maniacal laughter.  Uncomfortable in his own skin and potentially shunning his own homosexuality, Ed is seduced by Jerry and comforted by the connection to another likeminded soul.  The effective emotions and suggested subtext separates Fright Night from being just any other ordinary vampire film.

    With well-paced suspense and memorable humor (once again, courtesy of Geoffreys), Fright Night has all the ingredients to make a modern day classic.  Matched with spectacular visual effects, most notably a wolf to human transformation on par with Rick Baker’s work on An American Werewolf in London, from Richard Edlund (Ghostbusters, Big Trouble in Little China) and Randall Cook (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), Fright Night leaves the viewer equally tickled and frightened the way all great horror films should.  A personal favorite, Tom Holland’s debut picture is righteously entertaining and one that stands proudly, along with The Lost Boys and Near Dark, as one of the finest vampire films to emerge from the 1980s.

    Twilight Time welcomes Fright Night back onto Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  With only a slight and personally pleasing contrast boost, the transfer is identical to its already impressive 2011 counterpart.  Colors are rich and plentiful with detail bursting in facial features and the actors’ costumes.  Retaining its natural filmic grain, Fright Night absolutely stuns on Blu-ray!  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, Fright Night’s sound levels remain consistent with its previous release, delighting with crisp dialogue and 80s pop music adding an intended boost while, Composer Brad Fiedel’s (The Terminator) score sets the atmosphere with utmost clarity.  In addition, an optional DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix is also included.  While, its previous release was virtually bare bones, Twilight Time’s 30th Anniversary Edition comes bursting with content!  Special features included are an Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Tom Holland, Actors Chris Sarandon & Jonathan Stark, moderated by Filmmaker Tim Sullivan plus, an additional commentary with Writer/Director Tom Holland, Actors William Ragsdale & Stephen Geoffreys and FX Artist Randall Cook, moderated by Journalist Jeremy Smith and Tim Sullivan.  In addition, the 1st Ever Fright Night Reunion Panel at Fear Fest 2 (2008) with Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Amanda Bearse, Jonathan Stark and moderated by Rob Galluzzo (54:22).  Broken into three parts, Shock Til You Drop Presents Choice Cuts with Tom Holland and Ryan Turek has Holland interviewed at his house about his various credits including Psycho II, The Beast Within, Child’s Play and of course, Fright Night (27:38).  Furthermore, a Vintage EPK with Behind the Scene Raw Footage (1:34:52), a Stills and Memorabilia Gallery from the Tom Holland Archives (73 in total), Original Theatrical Trailer “G” Rating (1:23), Original Theatrical Trailer “R” Rating (1:26), an Isolated Score Track and a 6-page booklet carrying over Julie Kirgo’s essay from the original 2011 release round out this impressive supplemental package.

    Long cherished by horror enthusiasts, Fright Night never overstays its welcome with an entertaining cast and its effortless ability to inject humor and instill terror simultaneously.  Joined by a slightly belated and underrated sequel in 1989 as well as a mediocre remake in 2011 and adjoining sequel in 2013, Tom Holland’s debut opus gave slasher obsessed audiences a modernized tale that made vampires hip once again while, tipping its hat to its gorgeously gothic predecessors.  Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Twilight Time welcomes Fright Night back onto Blu-ray with stunning technical merits and a whopping supplemental package that ranks as one of Twilight Time’s most comprehensive to date.  Simple and endlessly satisfying, few vampire films have achieved such praise with its tongue implanted so firmly in cheek but, the children of the night are all the better for it.  Welcome to Fright Night...  for real!

    RATING: 5/5

    Previously available in a limited edition of 5,000 units, Fright Night 30th Anniversary Edition is officially sold out.

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    Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-Up #6: Phantom of the Paradise, Dead Kids, Transformers: Armada & More!

    This week's installment of the Blu-ray/DVD Weekly Wrap-up #6 includes:

    - Phantom of the Paradise (1974) (0:33)
    Street Date: February 24, 2014
    Arrow Video: http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk/

    - In Fear (2013) (8:00)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Anchor Bay: http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com/Entertainment.aspx

    - Dead Kids (1981) (11:46)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - Thirst (1979) (16:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Severin Films: http://www.severin-films.com/

    - 42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. #1 (21:16)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Impulse Pictures: http://synapse-films.com/category/impulse-pictures/

    - Transformers: Armada The Complete Series (25:27)
    Street Date: March 11, 2014
    Shout! Factory: http://www.shoutfactory.com/

    - Farewells/Sneak Peeks (30:15)