Retro Review

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Revisiting Creepshow (1982), Pt. 3

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Revisiting Creepshow (1982), Pt. 3

REVISITING CREEPSHOW

Part 3: You Lunk Head!

Hello there kiddies! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to the third installment of my monstrous multi-part series! A repulsive and revolting retrospect to that fiendish fright-fest, Creepshow...
In the last two installments, I discussed the film's background, its impact upon its release, the intro of the film and the first story, "Father's Day". Now let's get into the second story, "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill".Creepshow-Jordy Verrill-01 / Fair use doctrine.
This story begins with a crash. A meteor lands in a run down farm in rural Maine. The owner of the farm is Jordy Verrill, played by the writer of the film and horror master himself Stephen King. Jordy is portrayed as being quite unintelligent and makes terrible decisions. He comes to the conclusion that the meteor would be worth a pretty penny, which his small mind views as $200, at the local university. When Jordy touches the meteor, it burns his fingertips, so he decides to cool it off by pouring some water on it. This breaks the meteor in half, revealing a white liquid inside. Jordy thinks the meteor will be worth significantly less now that it is broken, but decides to try anyway. He picks up the meteor pieces after pouring the liquid that sat inside into the ground and places them in a bucket. Hours later, while watching TV and drinking beer, Jordy looks at the fingertips he had burnt on the meteor and sees a type of green moss growing from them. He runs to the phone to call the doctor, but imagines that the doctor will cut his fingers off and hangs up. He then realizes that he had been periodically sucking on those fingers all night. He sticks his tongue out at the bathroom mirror and sees it is covered in the same green moss. From here, things escalate quickly as the farm and Jordy himself are being overrun by foliage growing at an incredible rate.
Creepshow-Jordy Verrill-02 / Fair use doctrine.This story was adapted from the Stephen King short story "Weeds" published in Cavalier Magazine in 1976. Since then, it's been very difficult to find and has never been published in any of King's short story collection books. The short story is similar but does carry differences. One main difference is the tone. Jordy Verrill is not very intelligent, but it is played straight, whereas in the film it seems to be played at a goofy level, almost cartoonish. The short story shows that the weeds possess a form of sentience as Jordy begins hearing them communicate in his head and also make suggestions to him, like taking a cold bath to relieve his itching for example. He also doesn't imagine himself talking to his father in the mirror, I think this was the film's way of addressing the weeds talking in his head and his contrasting thoughts about the bath making it worse.
This story seems to be an homage to H. P. Lovecraft's "Colour Out of Space", in which a meteor of an unknown color lands on a remote farm and begins to change the foliage and the family living there. It can also be seen as a jab at the isolationist and lonely lifestyle of being a farmer as Jordy seems to have little exposure to life outside the farm. You may even see this as he struggles with the thought of calling the doctor for help. But, I don't think this was intentional. Another story that may have inspired King is a true one. In 1961, a man in North Carolina purchased a single square of linoleum from a neighbor to fill in a missing piece on his floor. Soon after, his wife began suffering from acute respiratory ailments. When he removed the piece of linoleum, he discovered a mass of mold had grown underneath. They cleaned it with all kinds of chemicals, but it wasn't long before the mold had grown on the walls and furniture. Eventually, most of the home was covered in gray, hairy mold. Although, this is similar to Weeds, there is no confirmation that King had ever heard of this.
This segment of the film definitely stands out for its goofy acting and cartoonish sound effects. It's the only story in the film played for laughs. This was on purpose. Romero had told King to play Jordy like Wile E. Coyote, the way he looks when he goes off a cliff. In this aspect, King doesn't disappoint. Some may call his acting hammy, but I think it suits the character perfectly. King also had an allergic reaction to the makeup he wore and had to take medication just to make it bearable. One can only imagine how difficult it would be for one to act under such circumstances.

Creepshow-Jordy Verrill-03 / Fair use doctrine.In conclusion, this is one of my favorite stories, mainly because it evokes the hopelessness of a Lovecraftian cosmic horror. From the second the meteor landed on Jordy's farm, he was doomed. It's also a very good example of Stephen King's earlier works, when he wore his inspirations on his sleeve. The end is also something I enjoy very much, we hear the news on the radio proclaim that serious rainfall is on the way and we see the foliage has reached the highway and is making its way towards Castle Rock, Portland, and Boston. Will the entire country eventually be covered in weeds? It would appear so.

Well, the weeds in my backyard are telling me to end part 3 of my retrospective. In any case, I hope you lunk heads can hold your breath a long time, at least until my next installment, where I take a look at the next creepy tale, "Something To Tide You Over"...
Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Revisiting Creepshow (1982), Pt. 2

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Revisiting Creepshow (1982), Pt. 2

REVISITING CREEPSHOW

Part 2: I Want My Cake

Hello there kiddies! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to the second installment of my monstrous multi-part series! A repulsive and revolting retrospect to that fiendish fright-fest, Creepshow...
In the last installment, I discussed the ins and outs of the film's background, its impact upon its release, and the intro of the film. Now, let us take a look at the first story in this anthology, aptly named, "Father's Day".
This tale centers around the affluent and boorish Grantham family as they gather at their patriarch's home on Father's Day seven years after his death. Aunt Sylvia (Carrie Nye (The Screaming Skull, Too Scared To Scream)), Richard (Warner Shook (Knightriders)), Cass (Elizabeth Regan), and Cass' husband Hank Blaine (Ed Harris (The Abyss, Needful Things)) are waiting for Sylvia's Aunt Bedelia (Viveca Lindfors (Exorcist III, The Hand)) to arrive. Creepshow-Father's Day-Father's Day cake / Fair use doctrine.In the meantime, they begin to tell Hank the story of how Aunt Bedelia killed her own father, Nathan, played by Jon Lormer (Twilight Zone, Star Trek), on Father's Day, years after he had her fiance murdered in a "hunting accident". Aunt Bedelia, now an alcoholic and consumed with guilt, arrives and visits her father's grave. After getting the event off of her chest, her father's decayed corpse rises from the grave to exact his revenge. He strangles Bedelia and shortly begins murdering the rest of the family, all the while asking for his Father's Day cake.
This story is one of the best examples of a Tales From The Crypt story. Usually, someone kills another person and that person will eventually rise from the grave to exact their revenge. Although, most of the times in these tales, the previously dead would have been killed for an unjust cause. In this story, that is debatable. The Grantham family is not seen as the shining example of morality, but the family patriarch, Nathan, is surely the worst of them all. After having Bedelia's fiance killed, he is left in her care. He nags and nags about his Father's day cake as she is seen to be emotionally distraught. It's difficult to blame her for her actions, but one can say that murdering him can not be justified. As pleasing as it is to see a bad person receive their comeuppance, in general, revenge leads to more revenge. Nathan's reanimated corpse also kills the maid, Mrs. Danvers. Where some may see her as being innocent in all of this, she was witness to his murder and did nothing about it. This could make her an accomplice in some people's eyes. The only character killed that one could say was wholly innocent was Hank. I guess a vengeful animated corpse cares not for the innocent. In the end, this is a shining example of karma.
I've seen many reviews say that it is the weakest story and others say that it should have been left out. I personally feel it is a great way to start the film and give us a taste of what is in store for us. Some of the imagery is outstanding. Who could forget the scene of Sylvia's head on a platter, topped with icing and candles, and Nathan proudly proclaiming, "It's Father's Day and I got my cake. Happy Father's Day!", while Richard and Cass look on in stark terror? Hell, someone even made an action figure of this scene recently. Nathan's reanimated corpse, played by John Amplas (Day of The Dead) looks amazing. The make-up effects were done by the legendary Tom Savini (Dawn of The Dead, Maniac). One other thing that sticks out to me about Nathan's reanimated corpse is his voice. I can never get tired of hearing that ghoulish sound, it's quite terrifying. All of the actors do a great job as well, especially Viveca Lindfors. Despite her strong Swedish accent, she delivers a powerful monologue. She asked George A. Romero if she could improvise the scene. She channeled her anger over her rocky relationships with her own father and her ex-husband. The product is a realistic and emotionally-charged performance. One more thing I truly love in this story is small, but has stuck with me since I was a child. When Richard and Cass encounter Nathan at the end, Richard let's out a gasping "Oh my god!" which is quite unique. We're used to hearing people scream or just gasp in horror films, but Warner Shook decided to recite his line while inhaling. This strikes me as a very authentic reaction to seeing something so horrifying.
Creepshow-Father's Day-Aunt Bedelia / Fair use doctrine.This isn't to say this story doesn't have its downfalls. The flashback scene of Nathan nagging Bedelia for his cake is quite hammy and goofy. This could have been on purpose, perhaps Romero felt that this is how the family sees the event as they are relating it to Hank. It does retract a bit from the overall feel of the story and otherwise great performances. Another scene that isn't very good is Hank's death. He falls into the hole that was Nathan's grave and sees Bedelia's corpse. Nathan's obelisk-like tomb then slowly starts inching fotward, threatening to fall onto Hank. It seems like Hank has no sense of urgency here and just lays there staring at the tomb for seconds on end. Nothing is holding him in place. In the comic book, we see that Bedelia's lifeless corpse has rolled on top of him and he struggles to get it off of him. This slows his escape long enough for the tomb to fall onto him and crush him. Why Romero chose to portray it the way he did in the film is beyond me. Since the comic book was based on the original script, I feel King had written this into the screenplay. It's very odd and a bit comical, you just end up screaming at the screen, "Get up, you fool!"
Stephen King wrote this story specifically for this film and as I stated before, I think he wrote this as a pastiche of the general Tales From The Crypt story. He may have had some inspiration from James Joyce's book, Finnegan's Wake. In this story, the titular character falls from a ladder and dies. He is then revived when someone accidentally spills whiskey on his corpse. In Father's Day, Nathan is revived directly after Bedelia accidentally spills her whiskey at Nathan's grave. This idea originally came from an old Dublin street ballad and the Gaelic word for whiskey translates to "water of life".
This was Ed Harris' fourth role. The year before this film, Ed Harris had the starring role in Romero's previous film, Knightriders. Later in 1993, he went on to play the main character, Alan Pangborn, in the film adaptation of the novel, Needful Things. But, beyond these connections, I don't think I need to tell you how well his career has gone since his appearance in Creepshow.
Ed Harris in Creepshow / Fair use doctrine.
One more thing of note to mention is the murder weapon. Creepshow-Father's Day-ashtray / Fair use doctrine.In the flashback sequence, we see that Bedelia kills Nathan by bashing him over the head with a marble ashtray. This ashtray can be seen in every story in this film, even in the wraparound story. Maybe, you can watch the film again and make a game out of spotting each of its appearances. No, I'm not going to spoil it for you! Where's the fun in that?
Well, that concludes part 2 of my retrospect and I've suddenly got myself a hankering for some cake. How about you? In any case, don't be a nunk head and join me next time as I take a look at the next spooky story, "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verril..."
Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Revisiting Creepshow (1982), Pt. 1

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Revisiting Creepshow (1982), Pt. 1

REVISITING CREEPSHOW

Part I: That's Why God Made Fathers


Hello there, kiddies! Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my monstrous multi-part series! A repulsive and revolting retrospect to that fiendish fright-fest, Creepshow...

When I was a kid, Saturdays were a special day relegated to staring at my television all day long. The mornings were full of cartoons. Late morning to early afternoon, we watched wrestling, 70s kung-fu, or giant monster films. But, later in the day came the horror movies. This was the best time to be glued to that screen. One of my favorite films, which they ran quite often, was Creepshow. I was too young to remember this film’s theatrical release, but I can imagine that the combination of George A. Romero and Stephen King was enough to make most horror fans' hearts thump erratically. In fact, this was one of the first horror films I can remember watching, along with Psycho and Night of The Living Dead. It was also one of the films that jump started my love for Stephen King and soon afterwards I was begging my mother to buy me one of his books. She purchased Night Shift (an anthology of short stories) from a flea market for 50 cents.

As an obsessive fan of horror and comic books, this was the perfect film for me. It brought together two of my favorite things that, at the time, was not easy for a young boy to find. To Romero and King, it was an homage to the comic books they loved as kids, EC horror comics like Tales From The Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. Comic books were all but exclusively about superheroes by the time I was old enough to enjoy them and I didn't even know that horror-themed comic books had ever existed. In fact, by the time the Tales From The Crypt television series first aired, I thought they were ripping off Creepshow! Boy was I wrong.

The year was 1982 and Warner Brothers was trying to decide when was the best time to release this strangely-toned R-rated film. Summer is usually the time most people go to the movies, but horror films do better closer to Halloween. They knew they couldn't release it before October 31st as the Halloween film series was dominating ticket sales for their last two releases. Michael Myers was becoming a household name and Creepshow would definitely be overshadowed by it. In an unusual move, they decided to give it a limited summer release in the Boston area. They gave it a four-week trial run, and it was met with great sales and high praise. Upon hearing that Halloween III: Season of The Witch would not feature Michael Myers, much to the lament of the fans of the series, they predicted that tickets sales for the film would dry up quickly. They were correct. Creepshow was released in theaters worldwide on November 12, 1982. It grossed well over $5 million in its opening weekend and knocked First Blood off of the number one spot. The first and only George A. Romero film to open at number one at the weekend box office. By the end of its run, the film grossed over $21 million in the US, becoming Warner Brothers’ biggest horror hit of the year.

Creepshow consists of five terrifying tales written by Stephen King. This is the only time George A. Romero directed a film that he didn't write. Three stories were written specifically for the film, while the other two were adaptations of short stories previously released in magazines. Most of the tales follow the stereotypical Tales of The Crypt formula. Someone commits a horrific act and it eventually comes back to haunt them, usually in the form of a murdered individual returning from the dead with a horrifying visage. Karma...

The film begins with a wraparound story about a boy who loves to read horror comics, but his father sees it as trash and refuses to allow his son to read it. I think this is an ever relevant topic, especially to 80s kids who listened to Heavy Metal and played Dungeons & Dragons. There was a huge push back against them at the time as they were thought to be teaching kids Satanism. To Romero and King, this was a callback to the similar attack on comic books in the 50s, which led to the self-regulating organization, Comics Code Authority and eventually the fall of horror comics.

The Creepshow comic book props and artwork seen in this story and the rest of the film were drawn and inked by Jack Kamen, a legendary artist in a variety of genres for EC Comics. He also drew the comic book cover-style movie poster. Originally, King wanted Graham Ingels (famous for his work on The Haunt of Fear and Tales from The Crypt) for the artwork. If you've ever read King’s non-fiction book about horror in film, radio, print, and comics, Danse Macabre, or the short story, The Boogeyman, then you know Stephen King thinks highly of Ingels' artwork. Unfortunately, Ingels was not interested. So, William M. Gaines (publisher and co-editor of EC Comics) recommended Kamen.

Playing the father Stan in this story is a non-mustachioed Tom Atkins (The Fog, Escape From New York, Night of the Creeps), who also starred in Halloween III which was released two weeks prior and was in direct competition. He also worked with Romero later on in Two Evil Eyes and Bruiser. Playing the horror comic reading son, Billy, is Stephen King's eldest son, Joseph King, who eventually grew up to become a best-selling author in his own right, under the pseudonym, Joe Hill (Horns, The Fireman). During a break, Stephen took Joe out to McDonald's, he had the make-up crew put scars and cuts and bruises on Joe as a joke. After leaving the drive-thru, the girl working the register called the police. Stephen had to explain to the police that they were making a movie and it was all a gag.

The scene ends with Stan smacking Billy for talking back and then throwing the comic in the trash. Afterwards, Billy is visited by The Creep, hovering outside his window heralding the upcoming horrors. Billy smiles at The Creep, knowing full-well that his revenge against his strict father is at hand. Although it is quite an evil notion, and should not be seen as good, this is an emotion most children have felt at one point. A concept that we can all relate to. This is followed by an animated intro with drawn images of all of the stories encompassing the film. I also loved this as a kid and I would be lying if I said, I didn't love it now.

Well, that concludes part one of my retrospect. I hope you enjoyed it. Join me next time kiddies, when we take a look at the first terrifying tale of the bunch — Father's Day...

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 1 comment
BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Stuff (1985)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Stuff (1985)

stuff43

By Nick Durham

Arrow Video is going to make me go fucking broke. That being said, when it comes to their quality Blu-ray releases, it's pretty much money well spent. Arrow's release of the Larry Cohen schlock classic The Stuff is no exception. A long time favorite film out of the long list of films that Cohen has been behind, The Stuff is a bona-fide guilty pleasure of ridiculousness and awesomeness; all wrapped up in a nice little package.

Most of you more than likely know the plot of The Stuff: The Stuff is a new and mysterious dessert that is taking the world by storm. Everyone seems to love it for some reason; so much so that it's putting other snack companies in tough spots. Enter professional industrial saboteur Moe (Cohen favorite and Law & Order vet Michael Moriarity), who is hired to uncover the secrets of The Stuff, and is eventually teamed up with young Jason (Scott Bloom), who has discovered that The Stuff is taking on a life of its own.

There's not much else to the story of The Stuff; other than the film is absolutely fucking bonkers. Moriarty plays it firmly tongue-in-cheek, while everyone else plays it relatively serious (for some reason), until we're introduced to Paul Sorvino's military man character, and from that point forward it's an absolute hoot. It also happens to be one of Cohen's better crafted films, and it also manages to contain enough social commentary to save it from being terrible schlock, and some of it shockingly manages to hold up today if you can believe that.

This Blu-ray release from Arrow Video is quite good, and definitely blows the old Anchor Bay DVD release from years back away. The film has been restored and looks better than ever, and the film's mono soundtrack sounds better than ever as well. There's a new documentary on the film featuring interviews from Cohen and others, the film's trailer is here as well (which features a commentary from Darren Lynn Bousman for some reason), and a collector's booklet as well.

All in all, Arrow may not have put the extreme amount of love and care into this release compared to some of their other releases, but this is still a great pick up regardless. I've always had a soft spot for The Stuff, as have many others, which is why it has managed to resonate for the past thirty plus years. So go out, pick this up, and indulge yourself aplenty.

Rating: 4/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 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
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Pieces (1983)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Pieces (1983)

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By Nick Durham

Pieces is a weird fucking movie, and that’s saying it lightly. Said weirdness usually comes from the fact that it’s really hard to figure out whether the film is supposed to be a parody of the slasher and splatter genres, or if it’s supposed to be taken seriously. You never really get a clear answer in figuring that out, but in all honesty, that’s quite okay, because it’s super mega-fucking enjoyable regardless of its absurdity and occasional downright awfulness.

Pieces begins in the 1940s when a young boy hacks his mother to death with an axe after she threatens to destroy his jigsaw puzzle of a naked lady (yes, you read that right). Forty some years later, there’s a string of super grisly murders on a college campus; featuring female victims being butchered by a chainsaw, and discovered with various body parts missing. Our killer appears to be making his own woman out of these various pieces (nooch), and it’s up to a cop (genre stalwart Christopher George), a former tennis player and occasional cop (George’s real life wife Lynda Day George), and an annoying student (Ian Sera, who if he looks familiar, he was a featured player in Pod People, i.e., the greatest episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 ever) to save the day. Along the way there’s plenty of nudity and gore effects, and one of the most ludicrous conclusions and final shots you will EVER see in any horror film in existence.

I’ve praised Grindhouse Releasing a lot in the past for their wonderful Blu-ray releases, and their release treatment for Pieces is top notch. The film is presented here in both its uncut U.S. release, as well as its slightly longer, uncensored Spanish release with full audio. Each has wonderful new 4K transfers. There’s a new commentary from actor Jack Taylor, older interviews with director Juan Piquer Simon and genre great Paul L. Smith (who plays the most red herring-esque character you’re likely to ever see), a very worthwhile documentary called 42nd Street Memories, and a bonus CD featuring the film’s soundtrack. Some of these features carry over from Grindhouse’s DVD release of Pieces from a few years back, but that doesn’t stop this from being a wonderful package.

So yeah, if you’ve ever seen Pieces before, you know it’s a ridiculous and absurd trip that must be seen to be believed. For those of you that haven’t seen Pieces before, what the fuck are you waiting for? Pick up this fantastic Blu-ray release from Grindhouse Releasing while you can. You’ll be damn glad that you did.

Raing: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Mutilator (1985)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Mutilator (1985)

themutilator

By Nick Durham

The Mutilator is one of those slasher flicks from the 80s that you may kind of remember, but if you do, you don’t remember it too well. Chances are you know the title at least, and yes, that is a great title for a piece of slasher trash. Funny enough, the original title for the film was Fall Break, which actually makes more sense considering the story revolves around a group of college douche bags on their fall break, and the film even has a fucking theme song entitled Fall Break. Oh well, a lot of films of this type in the 80s had at least two different titles at some point, so this actually isn’t that much of a surprise.

The Mutilator, as I said already, revolves around the typical brand of 80s college douche bags (and we know they’re douche bags because a couple of them wear sweaters tied around their necks or draped over their shoulders) who decide to take a trip to the beach house of owned by the father of our lead Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler). Thing is though, Ed’s father went a little off the deep end some years back when young Ed accidentally killed his mother with daddy’s rifle. Throughout the years, Big Ed has hunted a lot and made trophies of his kills, and now he has his sights set on his son and his friends.

The film’s flimsy plot isn’t done any favors by the laughably bad acting peppered throughout The Mutilator. In fact, the film as a whole seems really fucking amateurish in terms of its direction and technical aspects. This isn’t really that much of a big deal, because in the mid-80s, everyone and their mother was making slasher flicks in their back yards with camcorders they rented from the local video store. Where The Mutilator shines though is with its gore effects. For its time, they are really fucking good, and even though it takes us a while to get there, the gore shots and kills are worth the trip.

Arrow Video has done another fine job crafting a great Blu-ray set here. They’ve remastered the film in 2K, and somehow actually managed to piece together this rarely seen unrated version of the film as well. Somehow, someway, Arrow has managed to not make this movie look like shit. There’s a few different commentary tracks featuring writer/producer/director Buddy Cooper, as well as star Matt Mitler and female lead Ruth Martinez, and a new documentary featuring interviews with them and more besides. There’s a look back at the splatter effects of the film, screen tests, trailers, original and instrumental version of the film’s funky ass theme song, and a retrospective about the film’s super weird musical score (seriously, it’s weird). As usual, Arrow really packed in the goods special feature-wise.

So yeah, The Mutilator is an often forgotten 80s slasher trash fest that is gloriously awful, yet somehow endearing. It’s enjoyable in its badness though, and the film’s ending is a total hoot to say it lightly. Go check it out if you’ve never seen it before, and if you have seen the film before and have fond memories of it, pick up Arrow’s Blu-ray while you can.

Rating: 3/5 (film), 4.5/5 (special features)

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): God Told Me To (1976)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): God Told Me To (1976)

God Told Me To
By Woofer McWooferson

God Told Me To movie poster

God Told Me To

Writer and Director: Larry Cohen; Stars: Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis; Rating: R; Run Time: 91 min; Genre: Crime, Horror, Sci-Fi; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1976

God Told Me To is one of those hidden gems that bring great joy to fans of the horror-science fiction crossover films. Writer/director Larry Cohen, best known for the It's Alive franchise, Q: The Winged Serpent, the Maniac Cop franchise, and The Stuff, creates a film that manages to move from crime drama to science fiction to horror and back again and makes it seem easy in spite of an erratic and changing theme. Detective Peter Nicholas is a deeply religious man who finds himself faced with a series of seemingly unrelated killings by multiple killers whose only connection is that all say they are acting on instruction from God, e.g. “God told me to.” His investigation leads him to a group of people who were brought together by a message from God. From there he goes on to meet this “God” and finds a young man who resembles Jesus bathed in golden light. It is here where the story gets truly weird.

Tony Lo Bianco in God Told Me To

Sammy Williams and Tony Lo Bianco in God Told Me To

While the production value is low, particularly by today's standards, it fits the feel of a gritty police procedural and adds a flavor of realism to the more fantastic science fiction and horror aspects of the story. Solid performances by Tony Lo Bianco (The Honeymoon Killers, Police Story), Sandy Dennis (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), and Deborah Raffin (The Sentinal) in the lead roles elevate the film from standard B fare into the realm of must-see cult classic. Lo Bianco really nails the complicated and conflicted detective in a nuanced performance that has never received the praise it should. Sandy Dennis as the detective's estranged wife is almost zen in her perfect peace and acceptance of her husband's desire to leave her for another woman. Deborah Raffin as the other woman manages to come off likeable in spite of – or perhaps because of – her curious mixture of innocence and experience. Horror genre regulars Richard Lynch (Werewolf) and Mike Kellin (Sleepaway Camp) appear in supporting roles - Lynch as the Jesus figure and Kellin as the Deputy Commissioner, and Mason Adams (F/X) has a cameo as an obstetrician. Thus, Cohen manages to create a movie with both depth and believability in the face of an incredible plot.

Richard Lynch in God Told Me To

Richard Lynch in God Told Me To

God Told Me To is definitely not for the casual fan and could even be considered blasphemous by the most rigid of Christians as it weaves in and out of the philosophy of religion. Thanks to a resurgence in popularity of older films, viewers no longer have to search for an old VHS as it is now available on DVD, Blu-ray, and Amazon video. Fans of the odd and obscure, however, will be glad they took the time to watch it.

Andy Kaufman in God Told Me To

Andy Kaufman in God Told Me To

8/10 claws - .5 just for Andy Kaufman in his first film role.

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Tenderness of the Wolves (1973)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Tenderness of the Wolves (1973)

the-tenderness-of-wolves

By Nick Durham

Does the name Ulli Lommel ring a bell? If you’re a horror nerd (and chances are that you are since you’re here reading this) then you’ve no doubt heard of him, or at least been subjected to some of his more recent exercises in depravity. He really made a name for himself in the 80s with Boogeyman, which in itself was a pile of shit, but nowhere near as bad as his more recent, direct-to-DVD pieces of shit that he’s churned out at an alarming rate for Lions Gate. What you may not know however is that back in the day, Lommel was an up and coming director, and even an understudy of Andy fucking Warhol. His 1973 film, The Tenderness of the Wolves, is a surprisingly thoughtful and totally disturbing character study of infamous German serial killer Fritz Haarmann. It goes without saying that this is undoubtedly the best film that Lommel has ever made.

The late Kurt Raab plays Haarmann: a known homosexual in 1920s Germany (which was a crime by itself back then) that picks up and murders young men in horrific ways, and even moonlights into the fine delicacies of cannibalism to boot. As a known black-market criminal and homosexual, Haarmann becomes a police informant due to the poverty of the nation as a whole, which ends up finding him helping himself keeping the cops off his back so he can freely pick up and slaughter his victims. These scenes of Haarmann meeting and seducing his victims are where the real meat (no pun intended) of The Tenderness of the Wolves lies. They’re not super graphic or even really suspenseful honestly; but they really invoke how evil a son of a bitch this man is. This is both thanks to Lommel’s careful pacing, and Raab’s wonderful performance.

If there’s any drawbacks or flaws to The Tenderness of the Wolves, it’s that it doesn’t deal with the aftermath of when Haarmann is finally caught, or even deal with his origins either. The whole film is dedicated to this one particular fraction of time where he was at his most monstrous, which while incredibly effective, doesn’t do much to develop the character as a whole. Then again, this sick fuck was a real-life person after all, so maybe all we really need to know about Haarmann is what’s presented here.

Arrow Films has done another wonderful job with this Blu-ray release, but that shouldn’t be much of a surprise. The film itself has been remastered and looks glorious, and there’s even a new translation of the film’s English subtitles (which are way, way more accurate than any other American release of this film has ever been). There’s a commentary by Lommel, interviews with the film’s cinematographer Jurgen Jurges and actor Rainer Will (who plays one of Haarmann’s victims), an appreciation retrospective of the film, plus the film’s trailer and a fascinating booklet is included as well. Yeah, this is really good stuff here, which is the norm from Arrow.

Now in case you didn’t realize it by now, The Tenderness of the Wolves definitely isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a serial killer/thriller type flick, you’ll be disappointed here. This is a deliberate character study of a true monster, and Lommel doesn’t fuck around with expressing that to the audience. Still, with its brisk 82-minute running time, you don’t have much to lose by checking this out at the very least.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Guardian (1990)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Guardian (1990)

the guardian

By Nick Durham

William Friedkin is a very interesting dude to say it lightly. The man has directed a classic of the horror genre with The Exorcist, and even a classic of the action/crime-drama genre with The French Connection. Since that time, he's helmed some pretty good films (To Live and Die in L.A., Bug, Killer Joe) and some fairly awful ones (Jade). The Guardian falls somewhere in between those two camps as being a very engaging horror film (Friedkin's first foray into horror since The Exorcist) and being fairly overblown and flat out ridiculous trash.

The Guardian revolves around a married couple (Dwier Brown and Carey Lowell) and their newborn child. They hire a seemingly-perfect nanny named Camilla (Jenny Seagrove) who seems to have an instant connection to their child. Camilla however isn't quite human, and plans on sacrificing the baby to the living and super scary looking trees in what is apparently the only forest in Los Angeles. Eventually our clueless heroes start to realize something's not right with this dingy English broad who knows way more about breastfeeding than the mother does, and frequently likes to hang around naked.

We're never really given a clear idea as to what Camilla is, other than she's linked to Druids and is a physical, humanoid manifestation of these freaky-ass trees. That's all well and good I guess, but we're never really given a clear reason as to why she likes sacrificing babies to this fucking thing either. In case you can't tell already by reading all this, The Guardian tends to be a confusing mess more often than not. That aside though, it's an entertaining mess throughout its runtime regardless. Friedkin's direction is what makes this whole ridiculous affair worthwhile; believe me when I say that were it not for him, this would just be one big nonsensical pile of shit that would have been long forgotten and faded into obscurity. Wait, this did fade into obscurity? Well of course it did, but thankfully, we have Scream Factory.

Those fine-ass fuckers at Scream Factory have managed to throw in a surprising amount of extras here, including an assortment of interviews with cast members and Friedkin himself. One interesting piece of knowledge: Sam Raimi was originally going to direct this. Could you imagine how wonderfully over the top (well, more over the top I guess) The Guardian could have been if Raimi had stuck around? Sweet fucking baby Jesus.

So yeah, The Guardian is a clusterfuck of insanity brought to us by a legendary director who was probably on autopilot (and hallucinogens and/or cocaine) during filming. That being said, for what it is, it was shockingly entertaining in 1990, and still is today as well. Go check it out, make some popcorn, grab some beer, and enjoy the barrage of madness.

Rating: 3/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Spontaneous Combustion (1990)

Spontaneous Combustion

By Woofer McWooferson

Director: Tobe Hooper; Writers: Tobe Hooper (story and screenplay), Howard Goldberg, Stars: Brad Dourif, Cynthia Bain, Jon Cypher; Rating: R; Run Time: 97 min; Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1990

Spontaneous Combustion movie poster.

Spontaneous Combustion movie poster.

Best known for 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, writer/director Tobe Hooper decided to take a stab at the telekinetic phenomenon of pyrokinesis in 1990 with Spontaneous Combustion. The script was written in three weeks, or so says IMDb, but it plays like it only took three hours. Indeed, there is little to recommend this movie beyond Brad Dourif's performance for it has been done before and done better. Six years prior, Stephen King's Firestarter, hit the big screen with names such as Martin Sheen, Louise Fletcher, and George C. Scott attached, and Hooper's inevitably fell short of the admittedly mediocre King adaptation.

The spontaneous combustion begins.

The spontaneous combustion begins.

As with King's story, two young people allow themselves to be guinea pigs, resulting in a child born with pyrokinetic powers. In Spontaneous Combustion, they agree to be treated for radiation resistance and then are purposefully exposed to an atomic blast. Though they survive long enough for their child to be born, they are incinerated via spontaneous human combustion shortly after greeting their son. The movie then fast forwards twenty years to reveal their son Sam (Brad Dourif) has been raised by the man responsible for their deaths. Seemingly from nowhere he begins to exhibit the pyrokinesis that begins to burn him from inside. Eventually he finds out the truth about his family and exacts the revenge we all know is coming.

Brad Dourif Exacts Revenge in Spontaneous Combustion

Brad Dourif exacts revenge in Spontaneous Combustion.

Dourif pours everything into the role, but even his intensity is not enough to elevate this movie to repeated viewings. Fraught with bad dialogue, a predictable storyline, an unnecessary love triangle, and horrifically dated 80s fashion, Spontaneous Combustion leaves much to be desired. Although Tobe Hooper has been directing since the 1960s, his most acclaimed film, as noted earlier, remains the 1974 watershed of horror The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Because of this groundbreaking film, Hooper's films tend to be more harshly judged than might be fair to the director. Still, I don't think it's too much to say that Tobe Hooper's Spontaneous Combustion probably should have spontaneously combusted before distribution.

5/10 claws – For hardcore fans of Hooper and Dourif only.

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 1 comment
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Mister Frost (1990)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Mister Frost (1990)

Mister Frost

By Woofer McWooferson

Mister Frost DVD cover

Director: Philippe Setbon (as Philip Setbon); Writers: Derry Hall (adaptation), Brad Lynch, Philippe Setbon (as Philip Setbon), Louise Vincent (adaptation); Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Alan Bates, Kathy Baker; Rating: R; Run Time: 104 min; Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller; Country: France; Language: English; Year: 1990

Mister Frost (aka Mr. Frost), the 1990 drama/horror/thriller from director Philippe Setbon, is an exercise in a movie having everything right and doing it all wrong. Mister Frost falls flat on every front, from its confused storyline, muddled direction, and terrible acting to its incompatible score and unrealistic setting.

Victims of Mister FrostThe story begins with a couple of thieves finding a corpse in Mr. Frost's Aston Martin when they break in to steal the vehicle. After a visit from Inspector Detweiler (Alan Bates), during which Detweiler is confused, then amused, and finally disturbed by Mr. Frost (Jeff Goldblum), Frost is arrested and convicted for murder. With 24 victims to his credit, Frost bounces between psychiatric facilities before ending up at the one where Dr. Day (Kathy Baker) works. Frost sets his sites on Day at once and thus begins a psychological cat and mouse game.

Mister Frost attempts to be a smart thriller but is more of a snooze drama. The horror part is missing completely. I suspect it is on the videotape that we never see. With lackluster performances by everyone except Jeff Goldblum, the movie trudges along to its predictable and disappointing end. Kathy Baker's doctor seems on the edge of tears, even when she is happy, and Alan Bates' detective comes off as befuddled and taken aback at all times. The music is so out of touch with the scene that it distracts from the imagery and dialogue. The only stand out aside from Goldblum as the titular Mister Frost is fabulous character actor Vincent Schiavelli (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) in a microscopic role as a desk clerk.

3/10 claws – Only for the die hard fans of anyone involved

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Blacula (1972)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Blacula (1972)

Blacula

By Dixielord

The 1970s were the time of the exploitation films and spawned many subgenres.  One of the more famous, or infamous, depending on who you asked, were the blackspolitation films. These in turn were so popular and lucrative that these  films developed their own subgenre. Among those were boxing, crime, musical and my favorite, the horror subgenre. Horror blacksploitation consisted of films such as Abby, Blackenstein, and Blacula, among others. Blacula, released in 1972 was the first of these films.

William Marshall as Blacula

William Marshall is Blacula

Blacula was directed by William Crain and starred William Marshall and Vonetta McGee. It's largely due to the commanding presence of Marshall that the film is lifted above other blacksploitaion films and its somewhat silly name. Blacksploitation films have a mixed representation among critics. Some praise them for offering roles to black actors and directors and exposing black culture across racial lines, others decry them for reinforcing racial stereotypes. In my opinion, most of the films are guilty, to some extent, of both. While Blacula does have some unfortunate stereotypes, and is a bit too comfortable with throwing out homophobic references, overall it's a much better film than its name implies.

Blacula is the story of Mamuwalde, an African prince who travels to Europe to seek an end to the slave trade. Unfortunately, one of the heads of state he meets is Dracula. As it turns out not only is Drac a blood drinking vamp, he is also a bit of a racist who thinks the institution of slavery is just dandy.

Dracula from Blacula

We knew Dracula was evil vampire, but in Blacula he is also pro slavery.

He puts the bite on Mamuwalde and locks him in a coffin to spend eternity thirsting and starving for blood. Fast forward to modern (1970s) times where two interior decorators buy the Dracula estate and have it shipped stateside. There they open Dracula’s coffin and inadvertently wake the fledgling vampire. The former Mamuwalde wastes no time recruiting the two into his service. Later he happens across the beautiful Tina (Vonetta McGee) who is the spitting image of his long lost love Luva. Not shocking since she was played by McGee in the pre title sequence.

Mamuwalde begins a courtship with Tina that attracts the attention of Dr. Gordon Thomas, the boyfriend of Tina's sister. Thomas is a pathologist for the LA police department and is played by blackspolitation regular Thalmus Rasulala. Mamuwalde confesses his love (and undead existence) to Tina, and she, believing she is the reincarnation of Luva, makes plans to go away with him. Meanwhile Thomas, deducing the truth, moves to stop Blacula.

When it was released Blacula was a huge commercial success, despite mixed critical opinions. It is my favorite blacksploitation horror film and one of my favorite vampire films of all time. The film does have a few racial stereotypes, but they aren't glaring or extremely offensive. Its portrayal of two gay characters and the casual use of the word “faggot” by the film's heroes is a bit more offensive. Although the 70s were a different time and the film probably accurately portrays the language of the time, it's still one of the more objectionable parts.

It's tempting to say Marshall is the only thing that lifts Blacula above other films of the genre, and a lot of critics do. You cannot downplay his presence, physical stature, and his acting ability, but even without him the film is a great horror movie. Blacula has a Gothic feel that harkens to the great horror films of Universal and Hammer, with warehouses substituted for castles and night clubs for taverns.

And while Blacula is no emo sparkler, he’s downright bloodthirsty at times, he is one of the more sympathetic vampires to be put to film. His whole undead life is due to his fight to free his people. Not only that, but as a vampire he refuses to take his reincarnated love by force. In many scenes in Blacula, and even more so in the sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream, Marshall shows a range of emotions that other vamps have never shown on film. The films ending puts it squarely in the realm of a classic tragedy as the noble count once again loses his love and decides to end his eternal life.

Original poster for Scream, Blacula Scream

Sequel to Blacula; Scream, Blacula Scream

If there is one flaw in Blacula that bothers me, it is that it tends to shift between Mamuwalde being a vicious creature of the night and a love sick character out of time. I really like the more emotional Mamuwalde, but sometimes the shift happens with little reason. I can understand his unwillingness to kill Thomas, even his running from him, as Tina implores him not to hurt him. But at other times he seems to randomly shift from vicious to somber.

An added bonus to Blacula is the musical performances by The Hues Corporation. The band, best known for the 1974 hit Rock the Boat, perform two songs during the night club scene. The soundtrack and score, using upbeat funk and jazz unlike traditional horror which relied more on classical and somber music. It's another small piece of what makes Blacula stand out in the horror genre as a whole.

Overall, Blacula is a standout of the blackspoitation genre and a must see for anyone calling himself a horror fan. It has flaws, and overly sensitive people may rankle at the homophobic slurs, but it's a great film and a slice of 70s film nostalgia. Plus it has William Marshall, one of the most underrated, and underused actors of his generation. At the time of this review, Blacula is streaming on multiple platforms and available on different media, including Blu-ray and a double feature DVD with its sequel Scream, Blacula Scream.

Posted by Allen Alberson in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)

solange

By Nick Durham

Italian horror and giallos...these are two of my favorite things ever. So why the fuck did it take me this long to discover and watch this? What Have You Done to Solange? is a 1972 giallo that features all the hallmarks of the genre, yet somehow manages to have a bit of class about it (well, a small bit) that a majority of these films certainly do not. Sleaze and giallos go hand in hand, yet this film is something else entirely, and now thanks to Arrow Films, a whole new generation of viewers can discover it.

What Have You Done to Solange? revolves around an Italian teacher named Enrico (Fabio Testi) whom is trying to get in the pants of one of his students. After a nasty murder occurs literally a few yards away from them, things begin to unravel for everyone involved. Enrico becomes a suspect, his affair gets exposed to his wife (Karin Baal), and the bodies just keep piling up with no end in sight. What's their connection? And just who the hell is Solange (Camille Keaton from the original I Spit on Your Grave in her debut role) and what does she have to do with everything?

Like I said earlier, What Have You Done to Solange? features a lot of the hallmarks of the giallo genre: eroticism, rampant nudity, vile murders, a confused detective, and a black-gloved killer. One thing that is notable about the film though is its craftsmanship. The camerawork and cinematography are wonderful to say the least. This shouldn't be surprising, considering it is directed by Massimo Dallamano, who served as the cinematographer for some classic Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns. Speaking of spaghetti westerns, legendary composer Ennio Morricone provides the lush score here as well. Nearly everything about this film is wonderful. If there's any flaws, it's that its conclusion is a little too anticlimactic.

This Blu-ray release from Arrow Films is a wonderful sight to behold. We get a new 2K restoration of the film, as well as a commentary track from critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman. There's interviews with Testi and Baal, as well as a visual essay that explores the themes of the film as well the sort of official, sort of unofficial sequels that would follow in its wake.

All in all, What Have You Done to Solange? is a masterwork of the giallo genre to say it lightly. This film is one of the landmarks of the genre, at least to me, and it deserves your time and attention. If you've never seen it and you dig giallos in the least, do yourself a favor and pick up this Blu-ray from Arrow Films. You'll be damn glad that you did.

Rating: 4.5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): The Hunger (1983) Dedicated to David Bowie

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): The Hunger (1983) Dedicated to David Bowie

The Hunger
Nothing Human Loves Forever

By Woofer McWooferson

The Hunger (1983)

The Hunger (1983)

Dedicated to David Bowie
(nee David Robert Jones)
8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016
Thank you.

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie

Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as Miriam and John Blaylock in The Hunger

Director: Tony Scott; Writers: Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas (screenplay), Whitley Strieber (novel); Stars: Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, Susan Sarandan; Rating: R; Run Time: 97 min; Genre: Fantasy | Horror | Romance; Country: USA; Language: English; Year: 1983

The Hunger, Tony Scott's 1983 adaptation of the Whitley Strieber novel of the same name, is perhaps the most sensual and artistic vampire film ever. The story of ageless Egyptian vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve) whose lovers are promised eternal life and youth, The Hunger begins as her latest lover John Blaylock (David Bowie) is beginning to age. Tony Scott's elegant and graceful style is perfect for the story, and he delivers scene after carefully crafted scene of cold lust, warm passion, and hot love. Denueve, Bowie, and Susan Sarandon are uniquely suited for the roles of Miriam, John, and Dr. Sarah Roberts (Sarandon), each bringing raw sexual intensity to mix with the aching hunger of the title.

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus in The Hunger

Peter Murphy of Bauhaus in The Hunger

Opening in a club where Miriam and John are hunting, The Hunger cuts back and forth between Bauhaus performing Bela Lugosi's Dead and Miriam and John scouting the crowd for a suitable meal. This juxtaposition sets the style and tone for the rest of the film. With very little ado, the Blaylocks accompany their meal home, seduce them, and then feed, said feeding being juxtaposed with Dr. Roberts' monkey test subject going wild, attacking his mate, and eating her. Using ankh necklaces with hidden blades, they slash their victims' throats and lap up their blood rather than using something so crude as their teeth. Nevertheless, the message is clear: we, vampire or human or monkey, are all animals with animal urges and animal desires. Shortly after this, John finds himself unable to sleep and realizes that Miriam's promise of eternal youth was hollow and selfish. Eventually John and Miriam separately seek Dr. Roberts because of her research on aging and longevity.

David Bowie as an aging John Blaylock in The Hunger.

David Bowie as an aging John Blaylock in The Hunger

The gore is minimal, but what there is of it is expertly placed for maximum impact, and the corpse and aging effects are top notch. The viewer believes he is seeing John age right before his eyes, and it is heartbreaking not just for John and Miriam but for the viewer as well. Watch for a young Willem Dafoe as 2nd Phone Booth Youth.

Susan Sarandon in The Hunger

Susan Sarandon as Dr. Sarah Roberts in The Hunger

From Bauhaus to Delibes and from Iggy Pop to Schubert, the soundtrack is haunting and beautiful and further accentuates both the smoldering passion of lust and the heartbreaking anguish of loss. Between the lead performances, Scott's direction, the use of light and shadow, and a soundtrack that feels deftly tailored for the story, The Hunger truly is a masterpiece in the vampire subgenre of horror.

Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger.

Catherine Deneuve as Miriam Blaylock in The Hunger

10/10 claws – Stylish, sensual, and satisfying.

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Blood Rage (1983)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Blood Rage (1983)

bloodrage

By Nick Durham

You guys want to see an 80s slasher that features an assload of gory moments, murderous twins, and a young Ted Raimi in a cameo as a dude selling condoms in a bathroom?

If your first question is what's a condom?, well...we're in the same boat. I don't know what they are either, but I do know what a Ted Raimi is. My preferred choice of birth control is what I call the Ted Raimi, where right before I'm about to blow a load I start chanting I'LL SWALLOW YOUR SOUL and that's when my partner runs away screaming. No babies for me.

Anyway, Blood Rage is a cheap slasher flick that was filmed in 1983, but not officially released until 1987 in a heavily edited version that was even re-titled Nightmare at Shadow Woods for some reason. The story revolves around twins named Todd and Terry (both played by Mark Soper), of which Terry is a crazed killer that has blamed Todd for a gruesome murder when they were young. In the years that followed, Todd has been institutionalized while Terry has led a pretty nice life while being smothered by his mother (Louise Lasser). Things come to a head though when Todd escapes, and Terry goes on a blood-thirsty rampage for shits and giggles.

As I had said before, Blood Rage was heavily edited upon its eventual release, and it's easy to see why. This film is a flat out fucking bloodbath literally from its beginning to the end. Some of the effects are pretty good for their time, and some of them...well, they weren't then, and definitely aren't now. Still, there are some inventive kills, and the film walks a fine line between being tongue in cheek and ridiculously mean-spirited. The film's story is fairly predictable, but it's surprisingly well-acted for what it is.

The wonderful folks at Arrow Films have unleashed another shockingly spectacular Blu-ray release. A three disc limited edition set, the Blood Rage Blu-ray set features three (!) versions of the film that encompass its uncensored version and edited cuts, along with a shitload of commentaries and interviews as well. The film itself has been restored in 2K HD, and it looks wonderful to say the least. Arrow seriously literally overdid themselves bringing Blood Rage home.

To wrap things up, Blood Rage is a fairly entertaining and somewhat forgotten slasher that has received a brilliant Blu-ray set release from Arrow Films. The features and overall presentation of this set make Blood Rage worth picking up by itself alone. This is by and far worth your time and money, and you should probably act soon and pick it up while you can, because when Arrow calls something a limited edition, they're not fucking around. Grab this while you can.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

MOVIE REVIEW (RETRO): Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

By Kev B.

Silent Night Deadly Night poster

 

My favorite holiday horror flick is another one that brings me back to my awesome childhood, growing up in the 80’s with one of the coolest Moms on earth. Way back then, before the internet, we had a show with two opinionated douche nozzles who did movie reviews, called Sneak Previews and later At The Movies. A week before Halloween back in 1980, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert had declared war on horror movies, and dedicated an entire episode of their show to a disturbing new trend in Hollywood, the slasher film. How douchey were they? Well, Siskels review of Friday the 13th for the Chicago Tribune included this gem of a quote "It has been suggested to me that a great way to keep people from seeing a truly awful movie is to tell them the ending" so he spoiled the reveal to discourage readers from seeing it. He also encouraged a letter campaign to harass the studio, producers, and even Betsy Palmer for taking part in the film.

Silent Night Deadly Night Controversy

In 1984 Siskel and Ebert reviewed Silent Night, Deadly Night. They said it was crude and mean spirited and that the profits made from the movie were blood money. They read the names of the film's production crew on air, shaming them and again encouraging viewers to send hate mail. Whenever they were outraged, Mom and I knew we had a winner and ran off to the theater to check it out. The more disgusted and repulsed they were, the more excited I would get. In fact, they’re the reason I write reviews today, as I had always wished I had a like minded critic whose opinion I could trust. And it really is all a matter of taste and opinion, including the debate on artistic merit. Ya ever heard the old saying: Opinions are like assholes, everybody’s got one… and most of them stink.

They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, but the shit storm that ensued and the protests at showings of the film caused the studio to pull it from theaters a week or so after its release. Had it not been for that TV commercial running at dinner time across America, the movie probably would’ve had a moderate run in theaters and went unnoticed. And despite Silent Night Deadly Night out-grossing Wes Cravens A Nightmare On Elm Street, also released on the same day, they listed the film as one of the worst of 1984. The major fatal flaw was that 30 second television commercial, not the movie itself, as most of the outraged protesting parents didn’t even see 30 seconds worth of the movie.

"My 3-year-old son saw the television commercial for Silent Night, Deadly Night last week and now refuses to sit on Santa's lap for our annual Christmas picture this year. How dare producer Ira Barmak rob my child and others like him of their fantasy. Make the splatter films, if you must, about adult subjects and leave our holidays alone. What next? A marauding turkey at Thanksgiving? Think of the children!!!"

The subject of the controversy is almost more interesting than the movie itself, and in the long run it’s helped more than it hurt this fun little slasher. It put the movie on peoples radar, and actually solidified and justified its mark in horror history. It wasn’t the first killer Santa movie, and it aint the last, but its my favorite and it’s become a holiday tradition for me and many others out there.

Silent Night Deadly Night protest

Poor Billy Chapman never had a chance, he had that perfect storm of consequences that effected his life and mind so deeply it would’ve been a miracle if he turned out a well adjusted young man. The movie begins, Christmas eve 1971, with Billy at 5 years old visiting his grandfather at the Utah mental facility with his parents and baby brother Ricky. Grandpa seems catatonic until poor Billy is left alone with him for a few minutes, he snaps out of it and tells the young boy “Santy Claus only brings presents to them that's been good all year. All the other ones, all the naughty ones, he punishes! What about you, boy? You been good all year?” “You scared, ain't ya? You should be! Christmas Eve is the scariest damn night of the year!”

With that still fresh in his young mind, the ride home is cut short by a chance meeting with a derelict on a crime spree dressed in a Santa suit. After witnessing his parents murdered at the hands of Santa, Billy and little brother Ricky are sent to St Mary's home for orphaned children and subjected to the strict disciplinary guidance of Mother Superior. Her sadistic abuse accompanied by noteworthy quotes like “Punishment is absolute, punishment is good!” and “When we do something naughty, we are always caught. Then we are punished!” Not the best place for a kid to grow up with a possible hereditary mental illness and extreme childhood trauma.

Billy gets a job at Ira’s Toy store as a stock boy, but when the holidays come around his attitude becomes a little erratic. Add to that the need for someone to fill in as the store Santa, and before we know it Billy is all dressed in red and white and looking a little stressed. The store closes and the bottle opens and the celebration begins, Christmas party at Ira’s. Turns out alcohol is the final trigger when Billy gets a few drinks in him, and before you know it holy holiday hell breaks loose. Billy goes into full on punish mode, and punish he does!

Maybe I give this movie extra credit for the nostalgia, but I still think it has a solid story, some interesting kills, and enough gratuitous sex and violence to get me thru most of the holiday season. He beheads a dude riding a sleigh. He strangles someone with a string of Christmas lights, He impales Linnea Quigley on the antlers of a taxidermied deer head, and if that don’t make you want to see it then disregard everything I’ve said and go watch Jim Carrey as the Grinch. I highly recommend you make Silent Night, Deadly Night part of your movie collection, and a holiday tradition in your home too. If you can find the double feature DVD it includes the sequel featuring Billys little brother Ricky, all grown up and crazy as hell. “Garbage Day!”

Depending on how much cheese you like with your horror there are 5 SNDN movies in the original franchise, and part 5 has Mickey Rooney in it too.

And remember… “You see Santa Claus tonight you better run boy, you better run for your life!”

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 4: The Last Winter (2006)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 4: The Last Winter (2006)

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By Nick Durham

The fourth and final film in Scream Factory's Larry Fessenden Collection is 2006's The Last Winter. So far we've had science gone wrong with No Telling, love gone wrong (and a vampire) with Habit, and a family getaway gone wrong with Wendigo. With The Last Winter, everything you could possibly think of goes totally fucking wrong, for everyone and everything. To me personally, this is probably Fessenden's most well-put together film in his filmography. From a technical standpoint especially: this movie looks and sounds fantastic and is creepy as hell.

The Last Winter focuses on a crew of oil drillers in the Arctic where some strange occurrences are happening. After one of the crew is found naked and dead in the snow, an environmentalist (James LeGros) believes that some kind of gas that causes hallucinations and insanity is being unearthed by the drilling. Soon enough the group becomes trapped at their base, there's massive ghostly apparitions wrecking havoc, and the body count steadily increases as it looks like nature is telling humanity to fuck on off.

Ron Perlman is here, pretty much being Ron Perlman as the group's leader, while American Horror Story MILF Connie Britton is on board as well. There's a subplot of a love triangle between her, Perlman, and LeGros, but it feels really tacked on and out of place compared to the rest of the film. Other than that, the rest of The Last Winter is bloody wonderful. The atmosphere is brilliant and the performances are solid. In the hands of another writer/director, this whole affair would come off as fucking silly, but in Fessenden's hands, it's creepy and surprisingly poignant.

Then again, there are times when the whole thing comes off as a little too heavy handed as well. We get it: humans are assholes and we're slowly killing ourselves because of our dependence on fossil fuels. At least Fessenden manages to spin an interesting horror story around the whole thing. I had said before how deterioration always manages to play some kind of role in the films featured in this set. No Telling featured the deterioration of a marriage and science itself, Habit featured the deterioration of a self-destructive man and a relationship, while Wendigo revolved around the deterioration of the family dynamic and sanity itself. The Last Winter goes balls out with the deterioration of the whole planet and all of humanity as well.

The Last Winter is definitely the largest scale of the four films, and just might be the best as well. There isn't much else I can say about it other than check it out, it just may be Fessenden's crowning achievement.

Rating: 4/5

Larry Fessenden is truly a unique auteur in the world of independent horror, and it's wonderful that he's getting the recognition he deserves. Check out these films, this set, and everything else from Fessenden that you can get your little mitts on, you'll be glad that you did.

Blu-ray box set rating: 4/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 3: Wendigo (2001)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 3: Wendigo (2001)

 

 

 

 

 

By Nick Durham

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The third film in Scream Factory's Larry Fessenden Collection is 2001's Wendigo. Now this film actually managed to achieve a degree of mainstream success (I remember seeing this in heavy rotation on the Sci-Fi Channel...that's right, I refuse to this very day to call it the SyFy Channel. Fuck that shit.) and features some pretty well-known actors as well. This remains probably Fessenden's most well-known film almost a decade and a half later.

Wendigo revolves around a New York photographer named George (Jake Weber from the Dawn of the Dead remake) who is seriously stressed the fuck out. Seeking a getaway, George, his wife Kim (Patricia Clarkson) and their young son Miles (Malcolm in the Middle's Erik Per Sullivan) take a trek towards upstate New York, and slowly things start to go a little bit haywire. George manages to piss off some locals, and it becomes apparent that the family's cabin is inhabited by something otherworldly.

While its title and basic premise may make you think this is a creature feature at first glance, the horror of Wendigo is much more psychological than visceral. That's another thing about Fessenden's films: they always manage to intertwine psychological horror with more traditional horror elements...and just like No Telling and Habit before it, deterioration plays a big role here as well, this time with the deterioration of the family dynamic. George and Kim aren't quite a loving couple, nor are they even really loving parents. They're actually kind of assholes, and we really don't feel all that bad for them as the situations in the film become more dire either.

The acting from everyone is really good, actually it's damn good. This is probably the most well-acted film Fessenden has ever committed to celluloid in his whole filmography. The atmosphere is good and creepy as well, and there's a really nice sense of dread permeating throughout the film during its whole running time. If there's any drawbacks to Wendigo, it's that I feel the film's ending kind of betrays a lot of the mythology the film has already set up. I don't want to give too much away, but watch it and you'll see what I mean.

So yeah, Wendigo would end up becoming one of Fessenden's most well known films, so much so that he even continues to go back to the mythology of the wendigo legend for other projects like his Fear Itself episode Skin & Bones and the PS4 game he co-wrote Until Dawn. Watching Wendigo again for the first time in a long time makes me realize my memories of the film are better than the film itself, but I digress. You should definitely check this out regardless if you never have before.

Rating: 3.5/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 2: Habit (1995)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 2: Habit (1995)

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By Nick Durham

The second film in Scream Factory's Larry Fessenden Collection is the Independent Spirit Award winning Habit, which was filmed in 1995 and released in 1997. This was the film that really started getting the ball rolling on Fessenden making a name for himself within the realm of independent horror. While No Telling and his short films were interesting and original to say the least, it was this film that really announced his presence to the genre. It should also be noted that this is a remake of Fessenden's own 1982 short film of the same name, which expands on everything presented there in terms of character and atmosphere.

Habit is a vampire film in which our lead character Sam (Fessenden) finds himself at a crossroads in his life. His father has just passed away, and he's broken up with his long-time girlfriend as well. Finding solace in booze and his bohemian lifestyle in 90s New York City, Sam meets the sexy Anna (Meredith Snaider) at a Halloween party. They eventually engage in a kinky sex-charged relationship and soon things begin to turn a little strange. Sam finds himself getting sicker and weaker, while Anna continuously enjoys sinking her teeth into him. Eventually he realizes what she is, and then things start to get nasty.

As I said above, Habit received a shitload of acclaim upon its original release from the indie circuit, and it's easy to see why. This is a decently original take on vampirism, and it manages to overcome any of the clichés that come with it too. For being super low budget, the film is well-shot and features some great shots of New York City as well. The acting is great all around, particularly from Fessenden as our lead who finds himself deteriorating more and more with each passing day.

Special features wise, Scream Factory's Blu-ray contains a commentary from Fessenden as well as a making of documentary. The Habit short film is included as well, and so is Fessenden's N is for Nexus short from ABCs of Death 2 and a making of for that to boot. There's a weird music video thrown on here as well that Larry was behind too. So yeah, there's some good stuff here for sure.

So yeah, Habit is definitely one of Fessenden's best films to be sure. If you've never seen it before, I strongly recommend giving it a look. It's not likely you'll find a more unique vampire film from the mid-90s era.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments