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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.

     

  • The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review

    The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988)

    Director: Wes Craven

    Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Moake, Paul Winfield, Brent Jennings, Michael Gough & Dey Young

    Released by: Scream Factory

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    From the director A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Serpent and the Rainbow centers on anthropologist Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman, Spaceballs) as he journeys to Haiti to retrieve a mystic powder said to bring life to the dead.  Navigating the dangerous locale, Dennis finds himself involved in the deadly world of voodoo where the undead, possessions and ancient curses reign.  Cathy Tyson (Mona Lisa), Zakes Moake (Waterworld), Paul Winfield (The Terminator), Brent Jennings (Witness), Michael Gough (Batman) and Dey Young (Strange Behavior) co-star.

    Inspired by real life experiences documented in Wade Davis’ book, The Serpent and the Rainbow is a daring exploration of voodoo and the black arts.  Shot partly in the reportedly unsafe Haiti, Director Wes Craven’s nightmare-fueled opus is a noticeable departure from his previous shockers with an emphasis on the island’s factual political turmoil.  After barely surviving an Amazonia search for rare herbs and experiencing a psychedelic episode, anthropologist Dennis Alan (Pullman) is summoned by a domestic drug corporation to investigate a mysterious powder used during voodoo practices in Haiti that supposedly raises the dead.  Aided by doctor Marielle Duchamp (Tyson), Dennis’ encounter with a local zombie who roams cemeteries fuels his desire to locate the substance only to find himself ruffling the feathers of the barbaric authorities, led by Captain Dargent Peytraud (Moake).  Warned but not harmed, Dennis’ search leads him to swindling witch doctor Mozart (Jennings) who makes a deal to show the American how to develop the drug.  Pursued once again by the authorities, Dennis finds himself in dire straits when he is ruthlessly tortured and has his scrotum nailed to a chair, demanding his immediate departure from Haiti.  Riddled with frightening nightmares of rotting corpses and sinister snakes, Dennis’ short-lived return to America where friends are possessed and his concern for Marielle increased, leads him back to the black magic plagued isle.  Upon arrival, Peytraud’s power and influence knows no bounds as people are slaughtered with the resilient doctor learning firsthand the grave danger he is in.

    Although hesitantly considered a horror film, Craven’s cult classic supplies plenty of unsettling nightmare imagery where a serpent emerges from a decomposing body to attack Dennis while, dark forces cause a scorpion to crawl from the mouth of a living man.  In addition, the savage brutality of the Tonton Macoute beheading innocent lives is equally grizzly and not far removed from reality.  Akin to a fever dream of terror that never wanes, The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of Craven’s most progressively daring features that affects viewers on a purely visceral level of fear.  Earning respectable returns at the box-office, The Serpent and the Rainbow is the rare voodoo related feature that lives up to its intent as a supernatural spectacle.

    Scream Factory presents The Serpent and the Rainbow with a newly struck 1080p transfer from the inter-positive film element, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Although appearing occasionally soft in the dilapidated dwellings of the Haitian villages, greenery is noticeably lush and striking throughout.  Skin tones read moderately well and natural with several instances falling on the redder side.  Meanwhile, detail is strong with perspiration glistening on faces and the intricacies of rotting flesh found on the undead looking quiet noticeable.  Psychedelic colors and blood pop nicely while, black levels are inky and clear.  Filmic and hosting very scant scratches, The Serpent and the Rainbow makes a respectable high-definition debut.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is audible and effective while, the bustling sounds of the Haitian streets are lively and appropriately balanced.  Meanwhile, Brad Fiedel’s (Fright Night, Terminator 2: Judgement Day) score makes impressive statements against the shrieking screams of terror.  Welcomed into Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition series, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Actor Bill Pullman, moderated by Rob Galluzzo.  Although Pullman is only present for less than an hour due to filming commitments, Galluzzo does a remarkable job keeping the conversation interesting with Pullman injecting plenty of anecdotes about the filming experience.  In addition, The Making of The Serpent and the Rainbow (23:57) features new (audio) interviews from Pullman while, Author Wade Davis, Director of Photography John Lindley and Special Makeup Effects Artists Lance Anderson and David Anderson appear on-camera.  Yet another typically informative retrospective that fans will appreciate although, the scholarly insight from the late Craven is sadly lacking.  Furthermore, the Theatrical Trailer (1:23), TV Spot (0:31), a Photo Gallery (60 in total) and a Reversible Cover Art featuring the original 1-sheet artwork conclude the supplemental package.

    In what appears to be their last Craven related release and classily dedicated to his memory, Scream Factory welcomes The Serpent and the Rainbow’s unsettling levels of voodoo terror and nightmarish imagery into their respected line of Collector’s Editions.  Casting a superior looking curse with its Blu-ray debut, special features, although understandably lighter than past Craven efforts, deliver worthwhile information that fans of this cult classic will surely appreciate.  Hosting another stellar art design by Joel Robinson (Nightbreed, The Vincent Price Collections), The Serpent and the Rainbow will possess you with its frightening twists and turns.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now from Scream Factory, The Serpent and the Rainbow can be purchased via ShoutFactory.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • Shock 'Em Dead (1991) Blu-ray Review

    Shock ‘Em Dead (1991)

    Director: Mark Freed

    Starring: Traci Lords, Aldo Ray, Troy Donahue & Stephen Quadros

    Released by: Slasher // Video

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Hard rock and homicide come together in Shock ‘Em Dead when rising band manager Lindsay Roberts (Traci Lords, Not of This Earth) discovers guitar virtuoso Angel Martin (Stephen Quadros, Demon Wind) to lead her fiancé’s act to new heights.  Unknown to his fellow band members, Angel has made a pact with evil forces granting him unprecedented musical talent in exchange to feed on living souls.  As infatuation increases, Lindsay’s lust for Angel morphs into fear after discovering his dark secrets.

    Appearing in one of her first mainstream roles following her controversial career in adult entertainment, Traci Lords, although top-billed, plays second string to the film’s heavy metal antagonist.  Making a pact with a voodoo temptress, former nerd Martin morphs into hard-rocking, guitar playing god Angel (Quadros).  After landing a spot in manager Lindsay Roberts’ up and coming band, Angel is met with limitless talent, women and fame only to discover his dark deal requires him to kill in order to sustain his new life.  Coupled with several scantily clad females and heavy guitar licks provided by Nitro’s Michael Angelo Batio, Shock ‘Em Dead joins the niche subgenre of other heavy metal-horror efforts including, Trick or Treat (1986) and Rock ’N’ Roll Nightmare (1987).  Accompanied by a pack of sexy groupies who share a similar arrangement with evil forces, Angel stabs his way through several unsavory characters who treated his former self wrongly while harboring a growing attraction to his manager and bass player’s fiancée.  Before long, Angel’s secret is revealed forcing Lindsay and her beau Greg (Tim Moffett in his film debut) to destroy him by goofily force feeding their twisted band leader and his devilish jezebels to their doom.  Moderately fun with an enjoyable head-explosion during its fleeting moments, Shock ‘Em Dead tends to become routine before its conclusion while, serving as a loving testament to hair metal’s final days that kept heads banging for the better part of the previous decade.  Although not the finest hour for metal/horror hybrids, Shock ‘Em Dead still manages to host a decent party of soul killing mayhem and the very sexy Traci Lords giving an earnest performance.

    Arriving in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Slasher // Video respectfully alerts viewers that Shock ‘Em Dead is not sourced from an HD master but, rather remastered from a 1” tape source and upconverted to Blu-ray specifications.  Appearing noticeably of lesser quality than desired, Shock ‘Em Dead contains inherent softness in its picture common to its outdated source material.  Unquestionably bearing a video age look, colors are relayed decently while, black levels understandably suffer from a hazier appearance during dimly lit sequences.  In addition, minor flakes and speckles are spotted while, tracking lines are thankfully nowhere to be seen.  Considering the best available elements were provided for its release, Shock ‘Em Dead may not look astounding but, certainly fares better than one could hope for under the conditions.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, dialogue ranges in quality from audible to problematic with exterior factors such as sound effects and guitar riffs overpowering the performers with mild hiss detected intermittently.  Supplied with a surprising number of supplements, special features include, an Audio Commentary with Director Mark Freed, an Interview with Director Mark Freed (4:53), Cast Reunion 2015 (22:59) and a “Director’s Cut” (1:42) serving as a sizzle reel of the film’s more scandalous moments.  In addition, Deleted & Extended Scenes (5:15), Actor Auditions (6:23), a Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery (8:27), a Cast Revisits Audition Tapes featurette (6:18), Cast Views & Comments on Deleted Scenes (5:39), the Shock ‘Em Dead Trailer (0:51) and a Poster & Art Gallery (13:36) round out the disc’s bonus content.

    Shortly after her collaborations with King of the B’s Roger Corman and Pink Flamingos director John Waters, Traci Lords would combat rockin’ evil in Shock ‘Em Dead.  Cheaply produced and serving as one of the last heavy metal-horror films of its time, Mark Freed’s headbanging directorial debut contains its moments before running itself in circles.  Although not sourced from ideal elements, Slasher // Video admirably makes fans aware of the film’s visual limitations in order to keep expectations contained.  Presented to the best of its abilities, Shock ‘Em Dead’s generous price tag and favorable amount of supplements make it easily recommendable.

    RATING: 3/5

    Available now from Slasher // Video, Shock ‘Em Dead can be purchased via OliveFilms.com, 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.