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Digital Dismemberment: The Howling Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Director: Joe Dante
Producers: Mike Finnel, Jack Conrad, Donald H. Blatt, Rob Bottin and Steven A. Lane
Special Effects: Doug Beswick, Roger George, Rob Bottin and Rick Baker
Cast: Dee Wallace, Patrick Macnee, Dennis Dugan, Christopher Stone, Belinda Balaski, Kevin McCarthy, John Carradine, Slim Pickens and Elisabeth Brooks
Released By: Shout!/Scream Factory
Release Date: 6/18/2013

The Premise: “From the director of Gremlins and Piranha comes the ultimate masterpiece of primal terror. Filled with edge-of-your-seat suspense, “genuine thrills [and] amazing special effects” (Us), this riveting werewolf tale sinks its teeth into your deepest fears and never lets go.
Severely shaken after a near-fatal encounter with a serial killer, TV newscaster Karen White (Dee Wallace, E.T.) takes some much-needed time off. Hoping to conquer her inner demons, she heads for “the Colony”, a secluded retreat where her new neighbors are just a tad too eager to make her feel at home. Also, there seems to be a bizarre link between her would-be attacker and his supposedly safe haven. And when, after nights of being tormented by savage shrieks and unearthly cries, Karen ventures into the forest to find answers, she makes a terrifying discovery. Now she must fight not only for her life… but for her very soul!”

Ahh, one of the true crown jewels of the werewolf genre! Joe Dante horror follow up to ’78’s Piranha, The Howling brought together a mass of talent including such names as Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Forrest J. Ackerman and Roger Corman, as well as some of the most incredible transformation sequences (non digital) ever expressed to film. Originally, Rick Baker was doing the effects work for the film, but he left The Howling to work on An American Werewolf in London. Baker left the effects job to assistant Rob Bottin. Also, many of the set dressings for The Howling were hold-overs from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre; most notably the corpse in the armchair seen in Walter Paisley’s bookstore. They were supplied by art director Robert A. Burns, who had worked on TCM.

*SPOILER ALERT*
The film begins with TV reporter Karen White on the trail of a serial killer. She has agreed to a meet-up with him while being under the watch of the police department, with the meeting being set up in a downtown porno shop. While following her leads, she meets him in one of the booths and is almost killed by the madman until two officers gun the lunatic down in the porno shop, but not before Karen thinks she sees a terrible transformation beginning to occur before eyes. However, she can’t confirm what she saw later. Terribly shaken, she keeps having nightmarish flashbacks to the event. After a breakdown on the air while trying to do a report about the event, she visits with Dr. George Waggner, who advises her to take time away with her husband to go to The Colony, a secluded retreat in the middle of nowhere. While they are there, they meet a wide variety of people. There seems to be an abundance of friendship and kindness amongst everybody, almost to the point of suspicion. Karen’s dreams persist at the camp, and she even begins to hear howling and something prowling around outside of their cabin. While Karen is at the camp, two other reporter friends of hers look into the guy that tried to kill her. Upon visiting the morgue, they find that his body is missing! Back at the camp, Karen is in group therapy and tries to recall the events of that night to no avail.

Walking back at night to the cabin, her husband is attacked and bitten in the woods but does not recall what attacked him. Karen calls her two reporter friends in the city, and they head up to The Colony as well, hoping to come up with a clue as to what is going on. Karen continues to have the weird dreams and visions. Meanwhile, her husband begins to act very strange, even having wild, half hairy werewolf sex with another member of the camp. The next day, the female reporter is looking at drawings that were done by Karen’s attacker and finds that they match up with locations at The Colony. She begins to explore the surrounding area and finds a cabin secluded in the woods — finding proof that he was indeed staying there. Upon her discovery, she is attacked by a werewolf, but manages to escape after hacking its arm off with a hatchet. As she attempts to call for help from Dr. Waggner’s office, she is found and bitten by another werewolf. Her boyfriend hears the death over the phone and goes to buy silver bullets. Karen finds her dead friend with her throat bitten out in the doctor’s office and is then attacked by the serial killer/werewolf from the beginning of the film. After he transforms, Karen throws acid in his face and tries to escape to The Colony, only to find out the whole place is full of werewolves. Does Karen escape and expose the truth to the world or does she become yet another victim? You are going to have to watch the film to find out…

Bonus Features:
Audio Commentary– (Track 1)- With Director Joe Dante, Actress Dee Wallace, Actors Christopher Stone and Robert Picardo. Ported over from the MGM The Howling Special Edition DVD released in 2003. (Track 2)- With Author Gary Brander. (New for this edition!)

Howling’s Eternal– (Run time of 19 minutes) Interview and Behind-the-Scenes with Executive Producer Steven A. Lane, discussing the film and the others that followed in the series. (New for this edition!)

Cut to Shreds– (Run time of 11 minutes) Interview with Editor Mark Goldblatt. High point of interview is when he discusses the different elements of cutting as it pertained to the changing sequences. (New for this edition!)

Interview with Co-writer Terrence Winkless- (Run time of 12 minutes) Interview with Co-writer Terrence Winkless. Nice interview detailing his work on the film and some good stories about on the set.

Horror’s Hallowed Grounds: A Look at the Film’s Locations- (Run time of 12 minutes) Hosted by Sean Clark. He takes us around to the various locations used for The Howling and shows us what they are and look like today. (New for this edition!)

Making a Monster Movie: Inside The Howling- (Run time of 8 minutes) Different clips of various cast and crew members discussing the making of The Howling. (Ported over from the MGM The Howling Special Edition DVD released in 2003.)

Interview with Stop Motion Animator David Allen– (Run time of 9 minutes) Interview with Stop Motion Animator David Allen. Nice details on the movement of the werewolves instead of using actors in a suit.

Unleashing the Beast: Making of The Howling- (Run time of 48 minutes) Same multi-part documentary ported over from the MGM The Howling Special Edition DVD released in 2003.

Deleted Scenes with Film Audio
Deleted Scenes with Commentary
Outtakes
Theatrical Trailer
Poster & Still Gallery
Discs: 1
Format: NTSC
Color: Color
Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High-Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)
Language: English

Shout!/Scream Factory once again shows why they are at the top of the food chain when it comes to releasing special editions of horror classics to the masses! While some older films do not handle the transfer from standard def to high def, Scream Factory more than makes sure that the film does not suffer any quality issues. The colors are nice and bold, the sound is rich and best of all, the FX work does not suffer going to a higher definition. The special features are a nice addition to the disc as well. While we get the original commentary, “Making a Monster Movie: Inside The Howling” and “Unleashing the Beast: Making of The Howling” from the 2003 MGM The Howling: Special Edition, we also get a brand new commentary from Author Gary Brander, Howling’s Eternal, Cut to Shreds and the Horror’s Hallowed Grounds as fresh material. With the inclusion of all of the special features, the Blu-Ray does not feel like the same tired retreads that we get from lots of DVD companies these days. A good buy for regular horror fans and a must buy for werewolf fans everywhere, make sure to pick up your copy of The Howling soon!

Movie Rating: 4 out of 5
Blu-Ray Rating: 10 out of 10

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Posted by Dedman in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
Digital Dismemberment: Squirm Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Digital Dismemberment: Squirm Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Digital Dismemberment: Squirm Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Director- Jeff Lieberman
Producer- Joseph Beruh, Edgar Lansbury and George Manasse
Special FX- Don Farnsworth, Lee Howard and Bill Milling
Cast- Don Scardino, Patricia Pearcy, R.A. Dow, Jean Sullivan, Peter MacLean, Fran Higgins, William Newman, Barbara Quinn, Carl Dagenhart, Angel Sande, Carol Jean Owens, Kim Iocouvozzi and Walter Dimmick
Released By- Scream Factory
Release Date- October 28th, 2014

The Premise- When a powerful storm knocks Fly Creek, Georgia’s power lines down onto wet soil, the resulting surge of electricity drives large, bloodthirsty worms to the surface- and then out of their soil-tilling minds! Soon, the townspeople discover that their sleepy fishing village is overrun with worms that burrow right into their skins! Inundated by hundreds of thousands of carnivorous creatures, the terrorized locals race to find the cause of the rampage- before becoming tilled under themselves!

The first horror film in Writer/Producer/Director Jeff Lieberman’s quirky and stylistic library of films, Squirm was the result of experiments with his brother in the back yard when Jeff was younger, using a train transformer and the electricity it produced to drive worms out of the ground. The film includes the early work FX work of Rick Baker with the addition of almost a million Glycera worms (which wiped out the supply of worms in New England for almost a year!). Some of the early casting ideas included Kim Basinger (as Geri Sanders), Sylvester Stallone (Roger Grimes) and Martin Sheen (Mick)! Not a creature feature in the sense of mutations or science gone wrong, the film instead trends towards an accident displacing millions of worms from the ground due to storms and electric current flowing through the ground. More of a wrong place, wrong time type of deal, Jeff manages to make the small country locations and gives it a sense of isolation once the worms begin flowing and eating the townspeople. Authentic looking and sounding due to using locations in Port Wentworth, GA and the use of many locals, you believe the surroundings and circumstances. Capable acting, camera work and FX makes this film worth watching, all while watching nature run amok. The soundtrack has a way of pleasing the ears as well and fits the general tone of the film to a T. A under-rated film that is finally getting its just due…

The film opens with a narrative telling us about a storm that hits Fly Creek, Ga in 1975, sending thousands of volts of electricity into the ground. The intensity of the storm rocks the small town, with widespread damage being done to the town and the electrical wires. The next day, we see Geri (Patricia Pearcy) showering, getting ready to pick up her friend Mick (Don Scardino). Roger (R.A. Dow) is outside cleaning up after the storm for Geri’s mother. The power and water is out at the house, and the mother expresses concern over whether Mick can make it. Geri asks to borrow Roger’s truck to pick up Mick. Roger is reluctant, but relents and tells her to be careful as he has a shipment of worms in the back. Mick’s bus can’t make it into town, so he hops off of the bus and walks into town. After trudging through the woods, Mick and Geri meet up and head back to the house. Geri runs into the local store for ice as Mick goes to the local restaurant to get an egg crème and water. As Mick drinks it, he is shocked to find a worm in it and spills it. As he argues about it with the waitress, the Sheriff (Peter MacLean) interjects himself and runs him off. They get back to the house and meets her family, including her sister Alma (Fran Higgins). As they head out to see someone, Roger stops them and yells at Geri about his shipment of worms being missing from the back of the truck. Geri apologizes and she and Mick continue on. When they arrive, Mr. Beardsley does not answer. They search the property for him and find a skeleton in the back yard. They rush off to find the Sheriff, but when they get back, the skeleton is missing. The Sheriff get irate, thinking they are pulling a prank on him. Mick changes clothes at the house and smokes a joint with Alma, where she gives him some details about the town and people.

They head to Quigley’s bar to find Beardsley, but he has not been seen. They run into Roger, and they all agree to go fishing. They go to meet Roger at his house, but he is not home. They check the shed in the yard and find the skeleton that went missing earlier. They later run into him at the dock and they go fishing. Mick is bitten by one of the worms and goes back to shore, scheming to get the skull as evidence, and Alma winds up seeing it as well. Geri goes back to fishing with Roger, but he tries to get rough with her on the boat. She struggles with him and pushes him down in the boat. The worms attack and burrow into his face and he falls out of the boast and runs away. She gets back to house later and lies to her mother about what happened. Alma and Mick break into the dentist’s office and he compares the teeth x-rays to the skull. They are shocked to find out that the skull matches the x-rays of the missing man Beardsley. When they get back, Geri tells Mick about the worms attacking Roger. They head to the worm farm to try and find him, but Mick finds Roger’s father, his torso eaten away by worms. They rush to find the Sheriff again, but he is having dinner with his mistress. He refuses to believe their story and they leave, unsure of what to do next other than to head back to Beardsley’s house to search for clues. They head back to the house for dinner, and while eating, a huge tree falls on the house. They find tons of worms under the roots and plan to burn them, but the sunlight drives the worms back underground. Mick runs out to get wood to seal up the house, but is attack by Roger in the woods and is left for dead. As night falls, the worms start showing up around town and devouring anyone in their path, including the Sheriff. Mick makes it back to the house, only to find it worm infested and with Roger waiting. Do Mick, Geri and Alma survive the onslaught of worms and Roger’s jealous rampage or do they face the same fate as others in the town? You are going to have to watch to find out…

Bonus Features
Digging In: The Making of Squirm- (Run Time of 33 Minutes) Excellent retrospective interview with Jeff Lieberman (Writer and Director) and Don Scardino (Mick in the film) discussing how the concept for the film came about, the cast and crew, the locations, Rick Baker’s FX work, problems on set and the creative ways they fixed them, audience reactions and of course, the worms! Really a wealth of information on every aspect of the film, including the distribution end.

Eureka! With Jeff Lieberman- (Run Time of 7 Minutes) Jeff Lieberman takes on a tour of his old house where the idea of Squirm came from. He shows us an old Lionel train transformer and talks about how his brother showed him how to run the electricity into the ground to draw the worms up, and even shows us one of the last prop worms from the film!

Original Theatrical Trailer- 1 Minute 55 Second Theatrical Trailer

TV Spot- 55 Second Alternate Footage Trailer

Radio Spot- 1 Minute Radio Trailer

Still Gallery
More From Scream Factory- Trailers (un-retouched) for other Scream Factory releases, including Pumpkinhead, Motel Hell and The Beast Within
Discs: 1
Format: NTSC
Color: Color
Rating: Unrated
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)
Language: English

Shout!/Scream Factory has once again brought to us a 70’s classic horror film that is more than deserving of the Blu-Ray upgrade! This version far superior to the MGM/UA Triple Feature DVD Release (that also included Swamp Thing and Return of the Living Dead released in 2011) and the MGM/UA single disc DVD release (released in 2003) in every way. The clarity of the film is amazing, barely retaining and scratches or grain. The sound is also vastly superior and rich. As with most Scream Factory titles, the delight is in the Special Features. The Digging In: The Making of Squirm feature is highly informative and Jeff does an outstanding job detailing the issues on the set and how he came about with the concept of the film. The Eureka! With Jeff Lieberman feature was cool as well, taking us back to the house where he grew up and giving us the back story on how he and his brother used a train conductor and electricity to drive worms from the ground. The definitive version of this film, you will find fewer examples of a well put together Blu-Ray release. Special mention also goes to the unique cover art Scream Factory put together for this release as well! Once again, this release is the perfect example of why Shout!/Scream Factory is the standard bearer for Blu-Ray horror releases!

Movie Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Blu-Ray Rating: 7 out of 10




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Posted by Dedman in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
Digital Dismemberment: Pumpkinhead Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Digital Dismemberment: Pumpkinhead Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Digital Dismemberment: Pumpkinhead Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray Review

Director: Stan Winston
Producers: Bill Blake, Alex De Benedetti, Howard Smith and Richard Weinman
Special Effects: Tom Woodruff, Jr, Grant Arndt, Howard Berger, Larry Carr and Emilio Gonzalez
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D’Aquino, Kimberly Ross, Joel Hoffman, Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Florence Schauffer, Brian Bremer and Buck Flowers
Released By: Scream Factory
Release Date: 7/9/14

 

The Premise
When a group of teenagers inadvertently kill his only son, Ed Harley (Lance Hendriksen, Aliens) seeks the powers of a backwoods witch to bring the child back to life. But instead, she invokes “the Pumpkinhead” — a monstrously clawed demon which, once reborn, answers only to Ed’s bloodlust. But as the creature wreaks its slow, unspeakable tortures on the teens, Ed confronts a horrifying secret about his connection to the beast and realizes that he must find a way to stop its deadly mission before he becomes one with the creature forever.

Also starring Jeff East (Deadly Blessing), Joel Hoffman (Slumber Party Massacre II) and Kerry Remsen (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge), this “atmospheric, moralistic tale” (TV Guide) delivers demonic horror at its blood-drenched best.





While known primarily as one of the greatest Make-Up and Special FX Artists of all time, Stan Winston delivers in his directorial debut about a father’s loss, lust for revenge and redemption. Based on a poem by Ed Justin, Winston brings the characters and story together with great locations and a bevy of actors (especially Lance Henriksen in a powerful role) that hit all of the emotional marks that few horror films ever achieve.

Henriksen put lots of personal detail into his character by having a unique set of dentures made and providing most of his own props, including his hat, shotgun and the silver dollars he used to pay Haggis. His emotional and physical connection to the creature is played out through the film, and the rest of the cast plays off of this to the hilt. The amazing set locations give the impression of being miles away from “civilization” and really create a sense of isolation and hopelessness. With being so busy with the behind the camera work, Winston left the creature designs to his more than capable FX crew that managed to create an iconic monster that is fondly remembered to this day. While the film only garnered a limited release due to the bankruptcy the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, it has since moved on to become a beloved cult classic in the genre. Bringing a modern, iconic new creature is no easy feat, but the inclusion of a great story, acting and amazing FX work make Pumpkinhead the basis for creature features to this day.

*SPOILER ALERT*
As a small child in 1957, Ed Harley is witness to his Father denying a neighbor admittance into their house during a terrible thunderstorm. Through the windows and the flashing storm, he sees a horrible creature mangling the neighbor until his death. In the present day, Ed runs a small supply shop with him young son and their dog. Three young couples are away for a weekend vacation and stop at Ed’s store for supplies. While there, the men down a few beers while the ladies have an encounter with some local townsfolk. While teasing one of their younger siblings, everyone hears the story of Pumpkinhead. The young men decide to ride their dirt bikes in the area around the store. Ed goes off for a delivery and leaves his son behind at the store. The dog runs outside, and the young boy follows. He narrowly avoids being hit by one biker, but gets struck and mortally wounded. In a panic, Joel (who hit the boy) and his girlfriend flee the scene of the accident and head to their cabin. One of the men stays behind to tell Ed what happened while the rest leave to try and find a phone to call for help. Ed comes back to find his son dead in the field while the man tries to explain what happened. He tries to help Ed, but he glares the young man off. The other couples get back to the cabin, but Joel refuses to let them call for help and holds them all hostage in the house. Ed goes to visit a local family to drop off their supplies and to inquire about an old lady named Haggis, a local healer/witch. Wallace does not want to tell him and does everything to dissuade him, but Wallace’s grandson tells him where to find her. He arrives at her hut and brings his dead son in with him, explaining what happened. She informs him that she can’t raise his son and asks him what he wants. He wants vengeance, and she sends him to a graveyard to dig up the withered remains of a certain corpse. He brings it back to her and she performs an arcane ritual that resurrects the spirit of Pumpkinhead.

It shambles off into the night to seek Ed’s vengeance. Joel continues to hold everyone at their cabin with a rifle as they continue to talk about what they should do. Ed buries his son next to his dead wife in the cemetery. One of the couples goes off into the woods and the man is savagely attacked by Pumpkinhead. During the attack, Ed is gripped with horrific visions of the man’s death. The other two men go out to look for their friend while the women arm themselves inside of the house. They rush out of the house to find their friend, but one of the young ladies is waylaid by Pumpkinhead and carried off. He begins to claw and tear at her face. Ed is at his house and overwhelmed by the visions of her death. He drives back to the witch’s house to try and get her to stop what is happening, but she tells him that there is nothing she can do to stop it and let it run its course. He runs out, determined to stop the monster and the visions in his head. The two remaining couples retreat back to the cabin, where Pumpkinhead continues to attack and torture them. It drags one of the ladies up into a tree and drops her at their feet, killing her. Ed arrives at their cabin and surveys the gruesome carnage inside. The three survivors try everything to escape, but are turned away by local townsfolk. Joel is eventually grabbed and impaled by Pumpkinhead with his own rifle, leaving the last couple to flee into the woods. Will Ed be able to save the last couple and at the same time save his soul, or has damnation set in? You are going to have to watch to find out…

Bonus Features

Audio Commentary- with Co-Screenwriter Gary Gerani, Creature and FX Creators Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis. Moderated by Filmmaker Scott Spiegel

Pumpkinhead Unearthed (1 Hour 4 Minutes)– A fantastic behind the scenes look at Pumpkinhead broken into 6 chaptered featurettes: Evolution of a Demon, The Cursed and the Damned, The Tortured Soul of Ed Harley, Constructing Vengeance, Razorback Holler and Stan. Each takes a different look at all of the aspects of the film (location, cast, crew, FX, general life on set) and Stan Winston with new interview segments from the cast and crew. There are also nods to members of the cast and crew who are no longer with us. The exhaustive wealth of information covered, as well as scenes and stills from the movie make this Special Feature alone worth the price of owning.

Behind The Scenes (7 Minutes)- Footage of the FX crew discussing and testing out various make-ups and costume designs for the creature in Pumpkinhead. A really nice look at the development of the creature and how the FX artists put it all together.

Night of the Demon (16 Minutes)- Interview with Producer Richard Weinman about how he became involved with the film and how it all came together. Nice background info and helps to show how concepts and ideas change in the production end.

The Redemption of Joel (14 Minutes)- Interview with Actor Joe D’Aquino about his character Joel, how he got involved in film and how he got along with the rest of the cast. Great insight into his character and his motivations.

The Boy With the Glasses (14 Minutes)- Interview with Actor Matthew Hurley talks about how he became a part of the film, his early TV work and the connection between him and Lance Henriksen during the film. A really nice and heartfelt interview.

Demonic Toys (5 Minutes)- Really neat interview with Sculptor Jean St. Jean about the creation of the SOTA 20” Pumpkinhead collectible.

Remembering The Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston (49 Minutes)- Stan Winston is fondly remembered for all of his amazing FX work over the years from his peers and crew members. Just an amazing amount of praise is rightfully placed on Winston and his work. Everyone involved talks about their first experiences on a set with Stan and works that they would go on to do with him in the future. This piece really gives you a feel of what he meant to not only the film industry, but to the many people he worked with in life. Tons of great pictures, stories and behind the scenes footage flow across the screen and really paint of picture of a great person and a visionary.

Still Gallery
Theatrical Trailer
More From Scream Factory- Trailers from other films released by Scream Factory including Motel Hell, Squirm and Without Warning.
Discs: 1
Format: NTSC
Color: Color
Rating: R
Aspect Ratio: 1080p High Definition Widescreen (1.85:1)
Language: English

Shout!/Scream Factory has once again brought to us a classic horror film that is more than deserving of the Blu-Ray upgrade, and Pumpkinhead delivers the goods! There have been several editions of this film, including four from MGM/UA’s vaults (2000 trailer only release, 2009’s Collector’s Edition and 2011’s multi-disc releases), but this particular edition blows everything away. The inclusion of the Special Features from the 2009 Collector’s Edition while skillfully blending in new features such as Night of the Demon, The Redemption of Joel and The Boy With the Glasses. Anything and everything you could ever want to know about this film is contained on this disc. The Remembering The Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston is one of the best features Scream Factory has put together, and I hope they continue to do features like this. I also really like the new artwork for the cover (which is reversible) as well. The transfer is bold and rich once again, and the film really booms over a decent system. With the inclusion of the still gallery and the Behind The Scenes footage, there is no stone unturned! The addition of other Scream Factory trailers is nice as well and gives a glimpse of the other great films in their portfolio.

Movie Rating: 4 out of 5
Blu-Ray Rating: 10 out of 10

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

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

lastwinterfeat

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
LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 1: No Telling (1991)

LARRY FESSENDEN COLLECTION REVIEW PART 1: No Telling (1991)

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By Nick Durham

Larry Fessenden is a weird fucking dude man. He's a one man sow of writing, directing, producing, acting, and more besides. Go to iMDB and look at this fucking guy's filmography: he's produced and acted in so much stuff it's hard to comprehend. He's had his hands in almost everything in terms of independent horror (or close to independent horror) ranging from Stake Land, We Are Still Here, I Sell the Dead, House of the Devil, and tons more besides. In terms of writing and directing, Fessenden has made a hell of an impact in the world of independent horror. Scream Factory and IFC have decided to bestow upon us a wonderful collection of four of Fessenden's films in one handsome Blu-ray set. The Larry Fessenden Collection features No Telling, Habit, Wendigo, and The Last Winter; four films that are definitely different from the rest of the independent horror pack.

The set begins with 1991's No Telling; Fessenden's feature length horror debut after directing a string of well-received short films in the 80s. This film revolves around scientist Geoffrey (Stephen Ramsey) and his wife Lillian (Miriam Healy-Louie) moving to the rural countryside. What should be a nice and relaxing environment becomes nightmarish for everyone as Geoffrey sink deeper into his experiments and projects involving pharmaceuticals, animals, and some very, very bad things.

I'm going to tell you all right now: No Telling is hard to watch because of the graphic animal carnage. It's never super exploitative though, as Fessenden knows when enough is enough and when to make the camera pan away. The heart of the story is a mix between showing the degradation of the marriage between Geoffrey and Lillian as he becomes more obsessed and unhinged with his work. That, and the social commentary on animal testing/experimentation, makes for one shocking and intelligent flick. If there's any drawbacks to this, it's that like I said: this is really hard to watch. When the experiments take a Frankenstein-esque turn...holy shit. Fucking hell, this definitely isn't for everyone. The film's conclusion is also pretty abrupt and anticlimactic, and we never get the satisfaction of seeing those that deserve it get theirs in the end. Then again, maybe that's the point Fessenden was trying to make: this kind of shit continues to happen in the real world, even to this very day.

Like just about all of Fessenden's future work to come, No Telling is a startlingly original and thought provoking horror story. If it weren't for the depictions of animal mutilations, I would recommend this to everyone I possibly could, but that in itself stops me from doing so. It's not that the depictions are that extreme and over the top; it's just that shit like that gets to me. I can watch a guy get his cock chopped off and eaten by cannibals, but I can't watch bloody experiments on mice and dogs. Color me weird I guess.

Rating: 3/5

 

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Stung (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Stung (2015)

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By Nick Durham

Horror comedies are a tricky thing to get the ball rolling with: sometimes they work really well and offer a good mix of scares and humor, but on the flipside, sometimes they don't offer enough of either, or one will end up dominating the other, and the whole affair will feel uneven. Stung is a horror comedy that doesn't necessarily do anything wrong or even badly, but it doesn't do enough to be too memorable either in the realm of the horror/comedy film. That being said, while it isn't perfect, it does end up being very serviceable and even mostly enjoyable regardless.

The story revolves around a pair of caterers (Matt O'Leary and Jessica Cook) working at an upscale garden party in a rural area, and wind up becoming targets for mutated killer wasps. Said mutated killer wasps lay their eggs in their prey, so as you can imagine, there is lots and lots of slaughter on the menu. Clifton Collins Jr. (Star Trek, Boondock Saints II) is on board as a hilariously creepy momma's boy, and genre stalwart Lance Henriksen is here as well, doing what he does best...which is be Lance Henriksen.

Stung is the directorial debut of visual effects artist Benni Diez, who shows loads of promise behind the camera, does pretty well in terms of the technical aspects the film has to offer. Not to mention the fact that the creature and makeup effects are surprisingly good as well. The gore effects are occasionally nasty, and there's some moments of crap CGI effects as well, although that's to be expected with a low budget creature I guess. The cast is good; playing their parts fairly straight given the subject matter...except for Lance Henriksen. He hams it up and chews more scenery than a cow chews grass. But it's Lance, and I can't stay mad at him even if I wanted to.

So yeah, Stung isn't anything special, but for what it is, it's plenty enjoyable. It's currently on Netflix, and is a good time killer if you have an hour and a half to spare. I mean hey, there's worse ways to kill time...like actually getting stung by a wasp. Fuck that noise.

Rating: 3/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Troll (1986) & Troll 2 (1990)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Troll (1986) & Troll 2 (1990)

By Nick Durham

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Turns out you really can't piss on hospitality.

The first question you may be asking yourself is: haven't we heard and seen enough of the fucking Troll movies? Why does this guy have to talk about these fucking things after everyone else already has so damn much?

Well first of all: I hate myself. Second of all: you can't ignore the impact that Troll, and more so its sequel, have had on all of civilization...

...and by impact, I mean an impact similar to when you take an apocalyptic dump in the toilet so hard that the water splashes up and hits you square in the asshole. Pucker up fuckers.

Anyway, I could talk about Troll and Troll 2 all day, but like I said, plenty of people already have over the years, so I won't talk about what both movies offer...because we all know that both movies offer pure cinematic fecal matter. Both films, the sequel in particular, are so spectacular in their badness that they must be seen to be believed. I firmly believe everyone should see each film at least once in their lives. Fuck Citizen Kane, watch Troll and Troll 2.

Troll revolves around the Potter family, the father of which is named Harry (see? JK Rowling got inspired by this film...whether she wants to admit it or not. Thank you, Troll). Michael Moriarty (The Stuff) plays the dad, whose family's apartment complex features a passageway to a mystical world of evil trolls or some shit. The film's story is of little consequence, as the what happens during the film is practically incomprehensible, but it is notable for being directed by makeup effects guru John Carl Buechler (who would go on to direct Friday the 13th VII) and features a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who has a memorable scene hardly wearing any clothes.

Troll 2 is the real main attraction here, and it earns that decades long status as being one of the most enjoyably awful movies ever made. I won't say much about it, because chances are you all know plenty about the damn thing already. All I will say is that I love how terrible this fucking thing is, and if I'm ever feeling really down in the dumps, I turn this fucker on and I'm nothing but smiles.

The fine folks at Scream Factory have chosen to bless us with this Blu-ray double feature release. There's a new making-of for the first film, as well as commentary tracks on each of the films as well, but the really awesome special feature included here is the DVD of Best Worst Movie. Best Worst Movie is a surprisingly insightful and interesting documentary feature catching up with the whole cast and crew of Troll 2, as they reminisce about their experience making the film, and the legacy that came with being in one of the most noteworthy terrible films ever made. Seriously, having Best Worst Movie included with this set makes this worth owning in itself. It is one of the best documentaries about the clusterfuck that filmmaking can be.

All in all, Scream Factory's Troll/Troll 2 Blu-ray double feature is a collection of terrible films...but they're still somehow super enjoyable in spite of themselves. Including Best Worst Movie is a total fucking bonus, and makes this even more worth getting. Now yes, I'm giving a glowing review of these cinematic shitstains, so you should know what you're getting into...but if you love awful movies, look no fucking further than this.

Film ratings: 1/5

Blu-ray set rating: 5/5 (just for Best Worst Movie)

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
MOVIE REVIEW: Gravy (2015)

MOVIE REVIEW: Gravy (2015)

By Nick Durham

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Well this kind of came out of nowhere. Co-written and directed by Psych star (and die hard horror fan) James Roday, Gravy is a nasty and super funny little dirge about what happens when you mix Halloween night, a trio of cannibals, and a Mexican restaurant. Yes, this film is every bit as enjoyable as all that sounds.

A handful of employees at a local Mexican cantina find themselves on the menu as they are invaded by a few costumed cannibals played by Michael Weston (who seems to be doing his best Charlie Day impersonation throughout the whole film), Jimmi Simpson, and Lily Cole. What results is an often very darkly funny and super bloody affair, and like I said above, it's super enjoyable to boot.

There's really not that much more to Gravy other than the brief synopsis above. We are introduced to quirky characters that don't want to become chow for our funny cannibal friends, and there's an assortment of funny dialogue from everyone involved. Our three cannibals know what they're doing is wrong...and they accept it. Weston, Simpson, and Cole are hilarious and deadpan in their roles as the self-aware cannibal killers, while the cast of victims (which includes Sutton Foster and Precious star Gabourey Sidibe) are great as well.

If there's any downside to Gravy, it's that maybe it prods on a little too long for its own good. This is really only a minor complaint though, as the rest of it is surprisingly unpredictable, plus it features some great blood and gore effects work, and a really well-selected soundtrack of songs to boot...but maybe that's just me. Anytime I hear a Tears for Fears song in a movie I find myself singing along to it, and I end up hating myself for a brief period of time, but that's another story. There's also a really funny cameo from Roday along with his Psych co-star Dule Hill, and a small role from Sarah Silverman that I wish would have had more to it.

All in all, Gravy may not be for everyone, but this film is a surprisingly good labor of love from James Roday, and it is immensely enjoyable. The fine folks at Scream Factory have given it a pretty good Blu-ray release as well, with a couple features that show how much Roday and his crew put into making this film. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
BLU-RAY REVIEW: Eve of Destruction (1991)

BLU-RAY REVIEW: Eve of Destruction (1991)

By Nick Durham

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Want to see some shit? Well, thanks to the fine folks at Scream Factory, we've got some shit in HD here. Eve of Destruction is a mix of sci-fi/thriller/quasi-slasher trash that hit the scene in 1991 and was largely ignored, yet somehow manages to have a small cult following. Scream Factory, who has a knack for re-releasing shit like this (for better or worse) is here to debut the film on Blu-ray, whether we want it or not.

Anyway, Eve of Destruction follows a brilliant scientist named Eve (Renee Soutendijk) who is employed by the government, creates a cyborg in her own image for some kind of covert ops missions or something that's never really given all that much insight honestly. When said cyborg is damaged during a bank robbery gone wrong (don't ask), she begins accessing the painful memories of her creator (which have been stored inside the droid's consciousness...because reasons), which ends up leading her on a path of death and destruction. The foul-mouthed Col. Jim McQuade (the late, great Gregory Hines) is tasked with tracking her and bringing her down, with the bot's creator lending a hand as well.

There's not much more story-wise to Eve of Destruction other than that, but boy oh boy does this movie take a simple yet promising premise and piss all over it. The whole movie is so damn drawn out and honestly flat out boring. Twenty minutes of run time could have easily been shaved off in the editing room and it wouldn't have affected anything at all. Despite its drawn out nature though, there are some occasional cool images popping up now and then, and the acting from our leads is surprisingly good as well. The effects work isn't bad either for its time, and the film's climax isn't bad either, so I guess as a whole the film isn't totally awful.

Like I had said in the beginning, Scream Factory re-releases some interesting choices of films, most of which have special features that range from a shitload's worth to a handful. Eve of Destruction only has the film's theatrical trailer as its only feature...yes you read that right. Nothing else here but the fucking trailer. What is this, a DVD from 1998? Oh well, at least the film's HD transfer looks pretty good.

All in all, Eve of Destruction is a fairly forgettable early 90s dirge that tried to do the whole cyborg killer thing. It didn't totally fail, but it sure as shit didn't pass either. If you're a fan of the film, this Blu-ray release from Scream Factory may be worth picking up for cheap, but it's kind of disappointing that they didn't at least try to throw something extra here on the disc besides the fucking trailer.

Rating: 2/5

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 1 comment