Friday, March 16, 2018


Directed By: Johannes Roberts
Written By: Bryan Bertino, Ben Katai
Starring: Bailee Madison, Christina Hendricks, Emma Bellomy

The Strangers hit theaters in 2008 and found great success at the box office despite mixed reviews. I found the movie to be a tense and altogether unnerving home invasion film. The trio of killers, two female and one male each wearing a different mask, were relentless but patient, and certainly cold and calculating. They seemed to take as much joy in the process as they did the kill. When asked by one of their victims why they were doing this they offered a simple response; "Because you were home." It offered no insight or sense of reasoning and made for a chilling scene. A decade later the film holds up, aided by its score that sets the atmosphere which is a backbone for the film. 

Now a decade later a sequel has been released. THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT features a similar plot as the trio of killers stalk a family who plan to spend some time with relatives before dropping their daughter off at a boarding school. The secluded park is mysteriously empty and it doesn't take long for the masked killers to begin preying on the family but find resistance from the teenage brother and sister who fight for their survival with every ounce of strength they have. 

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT sounds like a very similar sequel on paper, and in many ways it is but instead of focusing on tension and building suspense this sequel takes a more is more approach and turns the film into an almost straight forward slasher film, complete with final girl. The tone of the film has shifted from stalking and atmosphere to bigger and louder like literally driving a truck into the trailer's living room. I wouldn't say The Strangers was a smart film, certainly effective but it isn't smarter than your average home invasion film but it's successor certainly is dumber. And bloodier. There's no shortage of blood in the original film but there's no holding back here, even giving us a couple of gorier shots but it's not enough for the film to fall back on to become a full blown slasher. The film still wants to be a tension based home invasion horror film and keeps its roots in that area but it desperately wants to fit in with the best slasher films of the 80s. There's plenty of 80s nostalgia thrown shamelessly at the audience and two of the moments during the climax and end of the film are embarrassingly cliched ripoffs from Christine and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Groan inducing describes it pretty well. 

There's two sides to every coin though and some of that 80s nostalgia simply works at least in a single scene vaccum. Blasting Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" while a boy fights for his life alongside and in a pool while the music fades in and out as the boy goes underwater and comes up for each breath and the entire scene is drenched in the rainbow of light from neon palm trees. Maybe it's my fondness for the song but I believe this scene oozes style and is fucking brilliantly done. In fact there's plenty of moments that the movie shows a visual flare that I really dig, to the point where as the closing credits rolled I thought "If I was making a slasher film I'd want the cinematographer of this film to shoot it for me." and after looking up Ryan Samul's other credits I'm not totally surprised as he's shot some good looking horror films over the last 15 years including Stake Land and Mulberry Street. And I have to give a mention to Bailee Madison who stars as the troubled daughter Kinsey, the lead that the film revolves around. While the acting in the movie is all decent and more than competent, I think Madison proves she can play the final girl pretty well and I wouldn't mind seeing her in more horror films. 

THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT is confused, not knowing what it wanted to be. It's too into being a nostalgia act for slashers to successfully reproduce what worked about the original but it isn't even a good slasher when you get down to it. I didn't totally hate it, I loved how it looked and the music choices, I really loved one scene, but it's a mess and I'm not totally surprised as I haven't yet found a film from director Johannes Roberts that I am a fan of. I can't say my expectations weren't met as I didn't have any but I was at least a bit hopeful that it would be a surprise hit to me like its predecessor. Alas THE STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT is at best a harmless cliche and at worst a shitty nostalgia act. I've seen some reviews absolutely tearing it apart and I don't think it's that bad, not even close but it definitely isn't good. 

But damn, do I love that pool scene. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Agusti Villarong's MOON CHILD Pre-Order Up At Cult Epics

Cult Epics presents Agusti Villaronga’s MOON CHILD (El Nino de la Luna) featuring an unreleased score by DEAD CAN DANCE on Blu-ray/DVD on April 24, 2018

Website MOON CHILD Exclusive: THE MOON Tarot Card featuring Lisa Gerrard (Limited edition of 500 with Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Details and Pre-order here:

Inspired by famed occultist Aleister Crowley's 1923 novel of the same name, Agusti Villaronga's film centers around the extraordinary 12-year-old David (Enrique Saldana), who has been adopted by a treacherous scientific cult where extraordinary mental powers are common. He begins an archetypal journey across two continents with Georgina (Lisa Gerrard) to find his destiny as Child of the Moon.

Coming on the heels of Villaronga's unforgettable 1986 film, In a Glass Cage, Moon Child is a mystical fantasy film for adults, available for the first time in the United States on Blu-ray & DVD. Presented in a new High Definition transfer and boasting an unreleased soundtrack by the darkwave band Dead Can Dance, Moon Child is a thoroughly unique gift to cinema and music fans alike. 

Special Features:
New HD Transfer (from original 35mm film)
Interview with Agusti Villaronga (2018)
Lobby Cards photo gallery
Original Theatrical Trailers

Isolated Score by Dead Can Dance (50 mins)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

EATEN ALIVE (Severin Films Blu-ray Release)

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi
Written By: Umberto Lenzi
Starring: Robert Kerman, Janet Agren, Ivan Rassimov
Color/93 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: February 20, 2018

The Film
Sheila (Janet Agren- City Of The Living Dead) is looking for her sister who went missing in the jungles of south east Asia. She joins up with a rough around the edges guide named Mark (Robert Kerman- Cannibal Holocaust) and they venture deep into the jungle to find her sister Diana. They encounter deadly animals, local cannibal tribes and a religious cult controlled by Jonas (Ivan Rassimov- Spasmo, The Man From Deep River) who leads a physically and sexually charged assault on his followers for any transgression. Sheila and Mark use the aid of Mowara, a follower tired of Jonas' ways in an attempt to rescue Sheila and try to get escape the dangers of Jonas and the cannibal tribesman.

Umberto Lenzi started the Italian cannibal genre with 1972's The Man From Deep River which starred Ivan Rassimov and Me Me Lai who both appear in important roles in this film. While the genre wasn't immediately popularized despite that film's large financial success there was plenty more  to come from both the genre and Lenzi and EATEN ALIVE aka Mangiati Vivi! combines the much criticized genre with real life tragedy as EATEN ALIVE could be simply summarized as the Jonestown Massacre meets Cannibal Holocaust. Ivan Rassimov shines as he so often did as the film's lead antagonist, a religious fanatic named Jonas building a devout legion of followers deep in the jungle. It was less than two years after the Reverend Jim Jones lead over 900 followers to drink Cyanide laced Kool-Aid in Guyana in a mass suicide that Umberto Lenzi turned used that cult as a basis for his second cannibal film. Even 40 years later the Jonestown incident lives in infamy and images immediately come to mind when you hear it mentioned which gives a lasting deranged quality to the Jonas character. Rassimov's hardened look instills fear and will make your blood run cold as he decapitates natives, rapes with a snake blood covered phallic icon (let's be honest, it's a giant dildo covered in snake blood) and rules with an iron fist. Ivan Rassimov proves again that he's among the finest Italian actors and one of the timeless bad guy actors of all time.

Janet Agren and Robert Kerman are also solid together with Agren portraying the desperate woman who is in over her head with the terrors presented by the jungle and Kerman as the rough and ready guide who will do whatever it takes to get paid. No review would be complete without a mention to Me Me Lai, the dark and beautiful actress who gained fame in her three cannibal film appearances and is subjected to some of the nastiest stuff EATEN ALIVE has to offer. Her babyface and doe eyes make her the perfect damsel in distress or at least the softer lover surrounded by primitive rituals and natural horrors.

Umberto Lenzi may not have enjoyed making these jungle films but he was quite good at it. Here he creates a world of cult worship that feels quite a bit bigger than it really was with just a few huts and extras that included people from the crew. He's a good director and at times masterful and I think there's touches of that here, getting realistic and believable performances out of the natives who played the cannibals and the special effects work of which there's quite a bit. There's also the touchy subject of animal cruelty in these films and there's no way around it, it happened and it's there. It's something you're either going to have to deal with or not watch the movie. I'm not a fan of editing movies to remove such content so while it isn't pleasant to watch it certainly does add to the horrific nature of the films.

EATEN ALIVE isn't the masterpiece that Cannibal Holocaust is and it doesn't have quite the same splatter and gross out factor that Lenzi's Cannibal Ferox does but it is a well put together film (better than Ferox) with a true villain who you can unabashedly hate and a group of protagonists you can cheer for. Those are two things not all cannibal films have as it was common to blur the lines of who the real monsters were in this cycle of films. EATEN ALIVE is a highly entertaining and sometimes shocking piece of exploitation horror that should enjoy a new wave of fans from this new Blu-ray release.

The Audio & Video
Severin Films gives EATEN ALIVE its high definition debut with this Blu-ray release. While the picture quality does fluctuate it is a nice transfer overall. At its best the image is warm, clean and has great detail especially in closeups and textures like hair or fabrics. At its worst the picture is a bit soft and suffers from some damage from the source material such as scratches and speckling. These imperfections can add to the charm of such a grindhouse era exploitation film depending on your viewpoint for me I can take it or leave it as long as the good outweighs the bad which it certainly does. The blood reds pop and the rest of the color palette echoes the rest of the picture quality at times the lush jungle greens are breathtaking and others they are a tad washed out in comparison. The black levels tend to be deep and free of compression issues for the most part.

The audio is delivered in three dub tracks which is standard for Italian films of this era, all presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono mixes. I chose the English track which is how I've viewed the film in the past and the quality is good. The dialogue comes through crisp and clear while the memorable soundtrack that may seem untamed at times compliments it nicely and comes through with force when needed. I didn't experience any noticeable distortion or background noise to this track.

The Extras
-"Welcome To The Jungle": An interview with Umberto Lenzi - Lenzi recounts his time spent working on this film and in the cannibal genre as a whole. It clocks in at over 16 minutes and provides some insightful information along with his heavily opinionated views on the films and their legacy.
-"Me Me Lai Bites Back"- Clocking in at over 80 minutes long this feature length documentary of the queen of the Italian cannibal films examines the three films she co-starred in along with the rest of her film career and subsequent hiding from her past until her daughter put some pictures online and Calum Waddel tracks her down and brings her back into the exploitation film limelight. This documentary is insightful, funny, and a blast to watch from a fan's perspective. It's worth the price of the Blu-ray on its own.
-"The Sect Of Purification": An interview with production designer Antonello Geleng - Another substantial interview but this time we get to see an entirely different side of things as Antonello Geleng who was fresh off of working on Lucio Fulci's City Of The Living Dead goes through the process of designing the sets, locations and wardrobes. It's a welcomed change that provides a different look at the film and new anecdotes than those you'd typically here from the director.
-2013 Q & A with Umberto Lenzi From The UK Festival Of Fantastic Films - More time spent with Lenzi and there is quite a bit that differs from the sit down interview feature including some good stories involving actors he worked on different films with and stories about their dislike for each other. This is soaked in more of that signature Lenzi attitude.
-Archival interview with Ivan Rassimov and Robert Kerman - The footage may be a bit dated but the more we can pack into the release the better and it's almost mandatory that the late Ivan Rassimov be featured on the supplements so it is a great thing to have these clips.

The Bottom Line
Cannibal film fans will be doing themselves the biggest disservice if they pass up on these sleazy slice of jungle gold that looks and sounds leaps and bounds better than it ever has on home video. A bountiful selection of extras rival the main course and make for a tasty feast.

EATEN ALIVE is available HERE