Stuart Gordon

10/07 – 1993: BODY SNATCHERS

 

 

 

Of the approximately half-dozen remakes there have been, since director DON SIEGEL first terrified the world with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, based on Jack Finney’s timeless sci-fi terror tale, two standout versions are, for me, the smartest of the bunch. The first is PHILIP KAUFMAN’S dark satirizing of the San Francisco “self-awareness” scene back in 1978, and BODY SNATCHERS, the often-unsung version directed by genre favorite ABEL FERRARA (MS. .45, KING OF NEW YORK, FEAR CITY, BAD LIEUTENANT).  Ferrara’s ferocious, take-no-prisoners sensibility and dark sense of humor was a glove-like fit for an adaptation worked on by no less than five writers, which included STUART GORDON, DENNIS PAOLI and LARRY COHEN.

The oft-told story was still very flexible in terms of where it could be set and how it reflected the times in which it was being re-told. And what better place to set a story about assimilation, blind compliance and loss of identity, than on an ARMY BASE? Brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

GABRIELLE ANWAR (SCENT OF A WOMAN) plays Marti Malone, the oldest daughter of the Malone family, along with dad Steve (TERRY KINNEY of HBO’S OZ), and little brother Andy (REILLY MURPHY).

As good as everyone is in the cast, though, the must-see performance of the film comes from…MEG TILLY as mom, Carol Malone. Yeah, the same Meg Tilly you knew from THE BIG CHILL is here to deliver a “bigger chill” of a totally different kind, with a monologue that’s as chilling as any pivotal “possession” scene in the other versions, including the original.

Filming at an actual base as well as the surrounding areas in Selma, Alabama, Ferrara and DP BOJAN BAZELLI (PUMPKINHEAD) were able to infuse this version of Finney’s story with the same sharp sense of dread and paranoia that is inherent in the other successful versions.

  

Other interested parties who become involved in the nightmarish events that begin to engulf both the soldiers on base and civilians alike, include characters played by BILLY WIRTH (THE LOST BOYS), CHRISTINE ELISE, (CHILD’S PLAY 2), R. LEE ERMEY (FULL METAL JACKET) and FOREST WHITAKER (THE CRYING GAME, A RAGE IN HARLEM).

There’s so much more I want to say about this ‘hidden’ gem, but once again, it’s one of those cases where the less I spoil for you, the better it will be if you’re seeing it for the first time. In fact, try doing a ‘double’ with this and the Kaufman version!

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seven – 10/07/18

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Seven – 10/07/18

10/07 – 1993: BODY SNATCHERS

 

 

 

Of the approximately half-dozen remakes there have been, since director DON SIEGEL first terrified the world with INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, based on Jack Finney’s timeless sci-fi terror tale, two standout versions are, for me, the smartest of the bunch. The first is PHILIP KAUFMAN’S dark satirizing of the San Francisco “self-awareness” scene back in 1978, and BODY SNATCHERS, the often-unsung version directed by genre favorite ABEL FERRARA (MS. .45, KING OF NEW YORK, FEAR CITY, BAD LIEUTENANT).  Ferrara’s ferocious, take-no-prisoners sensibility and dark sense of humor was a glove-like fit for an adaptation worked on by no less than five writers, which included STUART GORDON, DENNIS PAOLI and LARRY COHEN.

The oft-told story was still very flexible in terms of where it could be set and how it reflected the times in which it was being re-told. And what better place to set a story about assimilation, blind compliance and loss of identity, than on an ARMY BASE? Brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

GABRIELLE ANWAR (SCENT OF A WOMAN) plays Marti Malone, the oldest daughter of the Malone family, along with dad Steve (TERRY KINNEY of HBO’S OZ), and little brother Andy (REILLY MURPHY).

As good as everyone is in the cast, though, the must-see performance of the film comes from…MEG TILLY as mom, Carol Malone. Yeah, the same Meg Tilly you knew from THE BIG CHILL is here to deliver a “bigger chill” of a totally different kind, with a monologue that’s as chilling as any pivotal “possession” scene in the other versions, including the original.

Filming at an actual base as well as the surrounding areas in Selma, Alabama, Ferrara and DP BOJAN BAZELLI (PUMPKINHEAD) were able to infuse this version of Finney’s story with the same sharp sense of dread and paranoia that is inherent in the other successful versions.

  

Other interested parties who become involved in the nightmarish events that begin to engulf both the soldiers on base and civilians alike, include characters played by BILLY WIRTH (THE LOST BOYS), CHRISTINE ELISE, (CHILD’S PLAY 2), R. LEE ERMEY (FULL METAL JACKET) and FOREST WHITAKER (THE CRYING GAME, A RAGE IN HARLEM).

There’s so much more I want to say about this ‘hidden’ gem, but once again, it’s one of those cases where the less I spoil for you, the better it will be if you’re seeing it for the first time. In fact, try doing a ‘double’ with this and the Kaufman version!


Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, SCI-FI HORROR, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix) (1988)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.Oh, brother. If you love “So Bad It’s Good” movies (or ‘SoBIG’s’, as I usually refer to them), you gotta love the drive-in ‘classic’ and direct-to-video “disasterpieces” from the mid-to-late Seventies, definitely the Eighties, and even some entries from the Nineties and beyond. So, if you’ve never seen 1988’s The Rejuvenator (aka Rejuvenatrix), set your “phasers” on “to be STUNNED!” This is a SoBIG trash wallow at its very finest; a mishmash of all the best aspects of films that actually have gone on to become classics in their own right.

If Death Becomes Her, Sunset Boulevard and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly were involved in some kind of horrific car crash, the result, pulled from the tangled, mangled mess of wreckage, would be this little gem. A no-name cast, the community theater-level acting, and some surprisingly good practical effects (for this micro-micro budget), make this a good/bad movie lover’s glistening wet dream.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The Rejuvenator begins with your garden-variety, B-movie mad scientist, Dr. Gregory Ashton, (John McKay) is doing some, shall we say, unorthodox work in the field of gerontology and biology. Not that he’s actually studying elderly people, but he IS trying to find a way to retard or even reverse the aging process. And naturally, as the movie begins, he’s not having the best of luck in refining said process, as a deformed lab animal kills other test subjects before meeting its own sticky, gooey demise.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Ashton’s research is being funded mostly by the vain, petulant, grandiose fading Hollywood actress Ruth Warren (Jessica Dublin), whose agenda for supporting his work is – what else? – to make herself younger again, so she can make her ‘huge big-screen comeback,’ and show the rest of the dime-a-dozen starlets and ingenues how it’s done. It’s not helping matters any that Ashton is constantly being spied upon by his sleazy, unctuous colleague, Dr. Germaine (Marcus Powell), superior sneer and upper-crusty accent included.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.The good doctor and his benefactress aren’t without their own unrequited admirers, though. Ashton is assisted in his research by Dr. Stella Stone (Katell Pleven), a woman who is actually smart and beautiful…not the usual direction that kind of role takes in this kind of picture. Ruth’s not-so-secret admirer is her manservant, Wilhelm, (James Hogue, obviously filling the Erich von Stroheim role from Sunset Boulevard), a former ‘paramour’ from her halcyon days, who is now content to wait on her, hand-and-foot if that allows him to continue to be close to her. (Yes, I see you rolling your eyes, but it’s that kind of movie!)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Threatened with losing his funding if he doesn’t come across with the goods, and soon, the harried Dr. Ashton has no choice, but to do what just about all ‘mad-doctors’ do in his situation: he complies. He injects Ruth with the serum he has “almost” perfected, and after the required flurry of surprisingly good low-budget makeup effects, (provided by Ed French, Dan Frye, and Bruce S. Fuller), Ruth magically is converted into…ANOTHER ACTRESS!

You heard me. The stunning ‘new edition’ of Ruth has renamed herself “Elizabeth” (Vivian Lanko, who pulls double-duty here as the “improved” Ruth and as The Thing She Turns Into), whose backstory is now “the young niece of Ruth Warren, who is taking care of her estate, while her aunt goes away on a very long retreat.”

If you’ve seen enough of these monstrosities, (yes, that pun IS intended), you know where this is headed. Being an Eighties film, there has to be enough satisfactory sex and violence, so the sex part comes in when Elizabeth shows Dr. Ashton her gratitude for the miracle he’s worked for her. Wait, don’t leave! There’s so much more…

All the while, in the background, Dr. Stone and Wilhelm skulk around, mooning after their respective objects of desire and imagining what it would be like to finally be with them romantically. (There’s a dream sequence involving all the principal characters that includes a ‘dance number’ you have to see to believe!)

But, back to the ‘youth’ serum. You might recall that I mentioned it was “almost perfected”? Well, it has some pretty disgusting side effects, including the desire to murder random people and remove their brains – Oh, didn’t I mention that? Ashton’s serum is synthesized from human brain tissue, and one of the problems is that the more serum is used, larger and larger doses become required as the body builds up a tolerance to it with each application.

What would an Eighties schlockfest like this be without the opportunity to mix even more sex and violence onscreen? When Elizabeth’s sexual appetites increase with her new youthfulness, she ‘graduates’ from Gregory, moving on to random strangers, and eventually going out on her own to prowl the nightlife, going into the most retro-tastic club you can imagine, where the hot, big-haired, heavy-metal all-girl band called The Poison Dolly’s are playing!

The tunes, which sound like the kind of stuff that The Runaways turned down, are sublimely terrible, and of course, the band is dressed so that not too many people are really paying much attention to the “music.” When the serum begins to wear off and Elizabeth resembles a putrid pumpkin more than Cinderella, this is where the aforementioned murder of some posh poseur happens outside the club…in a phone booth, no less! (Remember those?)

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.From here, it’s all pretty much by-the-numbers. Greg Ashton struggles, along with Stella, to try and artificially synthesize the formula in the lab successfully, so that brain tissue from cadavers will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, the suspicious and jealous Dr. Germaine is closing in to shut down Ashton and his lab for good, snatching the research results for himself. And all the while, Elizabeth’s transformations grow more and more extreme, as does her need to hold onto her newly-found youth – at any cost.

Am I making this direct-to-video hoot sound better than it actually is? If so, my sincere apologies. But this IS entertaining enough that it wouldn’t surprise me if the MST3K/RiffTrax guys or Elvira have already worked their magic with it.

Brian Thomas Jones’ script (adapted from Simon Nuchtern’s original screenplay) and direction, rises above a first-year film school student’s initial project…but not that far above it. Just about all of the actors walk through this like it’s something to pad their resumes with, but not much else, although as the Dollar Store version of “Norma Desmond”, Lanko and Dublin seem to be having the most fun, playing the venial and selfish “Ruth/Elizabeth”. As funny as it plays when the “switch” occurs, Lanko’s not half-bad keeping the continuity going with the character.

It’s probably not even coincidental, the similarities between The Rejuvenator and another film that came out three years before it, Stuart Gordon’s celebrated Lovecraft adaptation, Re-Animator. For all we know, Re-Animator probably had the same level budget but better actors, a seasoned director at the helm, and the ridiculously gory effects of monster master John Carl Buechler.

At the end of the day, just like some of its counterparts, The Rejuvenator makes a great, fun, bad time-capsule worthy window into a crazy-ass decade, as well as a throwback to When DTV Low-Budget Movies Ruled The Earth. The makeup effects guys went on to establish some pretty impressive credentials, even if the cast and creative team did not. But for all the work that went into this, good, bad or indifferent, I feel perfectly fine in awarding it two-and-a-half out of five stars.

The Rejuvenator (1988) / Fair use doctrine.

Oh, and side note: like so many rarities that were only released originally on VHS tapes, I was “lucky” enough to stumble over The Rejuvenator, while surfing YouTube, where it’s one of their free movies. There are other places where you might be able to get it, but I strongly suggest that if you find yourself really jonesing to see this, get to YouTube now while it’s still available.

Posted by Samuel Glass in GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, SCI-FI HORROR, VIDEOS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Bride of Re-Animator (1989)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Bride of Re-Animator (1989)

brideofre2

By Nick Durham

Oh Arrow Video, how you spoil me. No more having to watch that crap, out-of-print (and edited) DVD version from Artisan, here we are with a wonderful Blu-ray release of the underappreciated Bride of Re-Animator. Like they did with their Society release, Arrow has gone above and beyond with the treatment they’ve given this film, and this package is quite the sight to behold. This is a film I have held in relatively high regard, even if some of it feels a little cheaper in overall quality compared to the original.

This 1989 sequel to Stuart Gordon’s 1985 classic Re-Animator, Bride of Re-Animator finds Brian Yuzna (who produced the first film, as well as being the director of Society, Return of the Living Dead 3, and tons more) in the director’s chair this time around. The film picks up eight months after the massacre at Miskatonic, with Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbot) in Peru during a civil war as meatball surgeons. They’re both still testing the limits of West’s reagent serum, and eventually the two of them wind up back at Miskatonic. There’s a cop (Claude Earl Jones) scoping them out for his own personal reasons, a beautiful woman (Fabiana Udenio) that has caught Dan’s eye, and the re-animated head of Dr. Carl Hill (David Gale) has returned to wreck havoc. Oh, and the boys are trying to make their own Frankenstein-ish monster from dead body parts, including the heart of Dan’s late fiancé Megan (who was played by the great Barbara Crampton in the original film).

Yeah, things are a little convoluted to say it lightly in terms of the plot and story of Bride of Re-Animator. Some of the character’s motivations, particularly Dan Caine’s, are so all over the place it’s hard to really sympathize with him, especially when he makes puppy dog eyes to any female character with a pulse. Plus, as I had mentioned earlier, some elements of it feel kind of cheap. One thing I will say is that the grotesque gore and makeup effects from the then fledgling KNB Effects group as well as Screaming Mad George and John Carl Buechler are the bloody icing on the cake. Some of the puppet effects have definitely not aged well though, but in all honesty that isn’t too much of a surprise. Those flaws aside, I still find this film to be an underappreciated sequel that sadly doesn’t get enough of the recognition that it deserves.




What also isn’t a surprise is how much love and care that Arrow Video has put into this Blu-ray release. The film has been remastered in 2K for the unrated version, and the R-rated version is here too for shits and giggles. While the unrated version looks great, there is a noticeable degradation in the picture quality during the unrated scenes of the film (which honestly makes it easy to tell what got cut from the film during its original release). There’s a bunch of commentary tracks featuring Yuzna, Combs, Abbot, Kurtzman, and more besides; as well as a retrospective with Yuzna, a few looks at the film’s FX, deleted scenes, and more. This limited edition set from Arrow also features a booklet reprint of the awesome comic book prequel to the first film. Yes, this set is a thing of beauty.

So yeah, it goes without saying that you need to get your hands on this Bride of Re-Animator set from Arrow. It’s a beautiful sight to behold, and it’s more than worth your time and attention. Pick this up while you still can.

Rating: 5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Tales of Halloween (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Tales of Halloween (2015)

By Amy Mead

Tales of Halloween Poster

TALES OF HALLOWEEN

One night. One town. Ten chilling stories.

Tales of Halloween is a anthology film in which a series of shorts are brought to us by ten directors well known horror directors. The ten stories are interwoven in that they all take place on Halloween night in a what is normally a quiet suburb but on this particular Halloween night, all hell has broken loose and the unsuspecting citizens are tormented by ghouls, monsters, and killers of all types.

The cops in this town have much more than they can handle this Halloween and there is a pretty good chance that there just may not be enough EMT's and coroners left to process the bodies by the time this night is over.

Sweet Tooth

Written and directed by David Parker

Starring Caroline Williams, Greg Grunberg, Cameron Easton and Hunter Smit

After teen babysitter and her boyfriend tell a scary story about a local urban legend to her charge, Timmy. they break the cardinal rule and eat all of Timmy's candy. Now they are fair game for "Sweet Tooth"...

The Night Billy Raised Hell

Written by Clint Sears

Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman

Starring Barry Bostick, Marcus Eckert, Sage Stewart and

After being goaded into playing a prank by his sister and her boyfriend, young Billy tries to play a trick on the devil himself and pays the ultimate price.

Trick

Written by Greg Commons

Directed by Adam Geirasch

Starring Tiffany Shepis and John F. Beach with a cameo by Rebekah McKendry

Two couples are watching a movie and passing out candy to the trick or treaters until things take a very violent turn. People are not always as they appear.

This one is the darkest of the tales and also my favorite .

The Weak and The Wicked

Written by Molly Millions

Directed by Paul Solet

Starring Keir Gilchrist, Grace Phipps, BooBoo Stewart and Noah Segan

A young man summons a demon to dispatch the three bullies who forever changed his life

Grim Grinning Ghost

Written and directed by Axelle Carolyn

Starring Lin Shaye, Alex Essoe, Barbara Crampton featuring an appearance by Stuart Gordon

A scary story told at a Halloween party soon becomes a frightening reality for one of the party-goers.

Ding Dong

Written and directed by Lucky McKee

Starring Pollyanna McIntosh and Marc Senter

And Hansel and Gretel thought they had it bad...

This Means War

Written and directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp

Starring James Duvall, Elissa Dowling and an appearance by Sean Clarke

What should be a friendly competition between two neighbors about who has the best Halloween decorations gets a little out of hand.

Friday the 31st

Written by Mike Mendez and Dave Parker

Directed by Mike Mendez

Starring Nick Principe

A deformed killer living in the woods meets his match when a tiny visitor becomes upset when his cries of "Trick or Treat" repeatedly go unanswered.

The Ransom of Rusty Rex

Written and directed by Ryan Schifrin

Starring Sam Whitwer and Ben Woolfe

and featuring an appearance by John Landis

Two kidnappers robbers are in for a surprise when their grand plan to abduct a rich man's kid and get the ransom goes horribly awry.

The Bad Seed

Written and directed by Neil Marshall

Starring Cerina Vincent, Pat Healy and Kristina Klebe

A hardened police woman tries to save the town from an overgrown man eating pumpkin bent on ravaging the entire town.

I am a big fan of anthology films and I was not disappointed with Tales of Halloween at all. There are so many things for the audience to love about this film. There are revered horror icons aplenty and the stories, although rather short, are a pleasant mix that range from funny and entertaining to creepy and gory, and all of them are a lot of fun to watch. I do however wish some of the stories were just a little bit darker.

The talent bank with the writers and directors alone is phenomenal but then you add in all the insane acting talent and you've struck gold.

In addition to Tales of Halloweens enormous star studded cast, with many cameos by many revered horror figures, (Joe Dante, John Landis, Barry Bostwick, John Savage, and many others) Tales of Halloween boasts quite a few homages to some of the old horror favorites, ranging from Adrienne Barbeau as the DJ helping listeners to usher in the witching hour, to a candy bar labeled "Carpenter's" rather than Hershey's, as well as many other nods to the genre we all know and love. If you are a fan of anthologies you are bound to enjoy Tales of Halloween. I know I sure did. It has definitely made its way onto my Halloween season must watch list, and I strongly recommend you see it for yourself as soon as possible. If you haven't yet, you are truly missing out on a fun watch.

I give Tales of Halloween 8/10 organic man eating pumpkins

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 2 comments