Monday, May 13, 2019

DARKROOM (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)


USA/1989
Directed By: Terence O'Hara
Written By: Robert W. Fisher, Brian Herskowitz, Rick Pamplin
Starring: Aarin Teich, Jill Pierce, Jeff Arbaugh
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region Free
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film
It's no secret that by 1989 the slasher genre was dying and the well of ideas was dried up. It seemed that anything coming out at this point was a tired and uninspired retread of movies from years prior so whenever I watch one of these end-of-the-line slashers I always hope there's something that will set it apart. When I saw that DARKROOM was produced by Nico Mastorakis I became a bit more intrigued. I haven't always loved Mastorakis' work but I tend to at least find it interesting. Then the opening credits hit and I saw the creativity and care they put in to the credits that maybe I was stumbling on to something different.


Nope. What a fake out those opening credits were. As soon as the stylish credits designed to look like photos being developed in a darkroom (see what they did there?) end we're introduced to Janet who is returning home to her family's farmhouse from college but the reunion is interrupted by a mystery killer who takes pictures of his victims before killing them. Family secrets are revealed as the bodies pile up and the reveal of the killer's identity takes some twists and turns before all is said and done.

DARKROOM's biggest asset is that it is a sharp looking film that looks like a class above most slasher films of this period and has some decent special effect and kill moments. Unfortunately the story is all too familiar territory. The attempts at red herrings to throw the audience off the trail of the killer are uninspired and comes off as convoluted. Performances are passable and the movie is entertaining enough to fill up its 85 runtime but there's simply nothing to set it apart from dozens of other body count films from the same year and I bet that in a couple of weeks everything about this movie will be a blur of slasher tropes that I won't be able to separate from the other movies it failed to set itself apart from. This is lazy rainy afternoon entertainment and nothing more unfortunately.


The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome has brilliantly restored DARKROOM with a new 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative and this disc really looks exceptional. Colors are bright and vivid and skin tones are healthy with a natural fleshy look. Finer detail including surface textures and fabrics shine while black levels are deep and free of any issues with blocking or compression. A 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix gives the audio a strong and well balanced mix across all channels. The sound is crisp and clear and free of any distortions or background noise.


The Extras
-"Developing Fear" - Interview with actor Aaron Teich
-"Exposing The Truth" - Interview with actor Jeff Arbaugh
-Original Trailer
-Still Gallery


The Bottom Line
DARKROOM is a mixed bag that is a product of the end of the slasher genre that had mostly dried up by the time it was made. Slasher maniacs take note but don't expect a long lost classic of the genre.

DARKROOM is available HERE

Saturday, May 4, 2019

FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)



USA/1973
Directed By: Andy Milligan
Written By: Andy Milligan
Starring: Laura Cannon, Harry Reems, Neil Flanagan
Color/87 Minutes/Not Rated
Region Free
Release Date: March 26, 2019
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film 
Andy Milligan is a polarizing director in cult film history. Some viewers really eat up his stuff but I've found the majority find most of his films to be exhausting exercises in futility. I've seen enough to know that I pretty actively stay away from anything with his name on it but sometimes a movie comes around and totally surprises you. FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET is one of those movies.

Andy Milligan wrote, directed and photographed this film that follows a smart young prostitute named Dusty who turns tricks to make ends meet but longs for more out of her life and ends up meeting a young lawyer named Bob who she falls in love with and may be her escape from a gritty life in downtown New York City if she can manage to rewrite her own existence.


FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET is a sexploitation film that borders on being a masterpiece of life and destiny. Laura Cannon is flawless as Dusty, playing a character much wiser and more experienced than her 20 years on Earth would suggest. She's been through a marriage and now struggles to find a constant place to stay and spends time with her best friend, a local drag queen. The film excels because it feels effortless in all aspects. Scenes never feel set up, the performances never feel stilted and Andy Milligan's direction and cinematography feel more like a documentary than a narrative film.

A common complaint of Andy Milligan's films is that they drag on and on and he spends entirely too much time in exposition to the point that you may as well be getting hit over the head with a hammer as he screams at you about the movie. It's downright exhausting and tedious. FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET couldn't be further from that as these characters just suck you in and the 87 minutes absolutely flies by. Milligan could have wrote a more convoluted script but he keeps it simple but effective and personal and that's why this film works. Of course the plentiful sex and skin are nice and will be the thing that draw most of the audience in, it will be the characters and the simplistic perfection of the storytelling that they'll remember.


The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome have given FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET a brand new 4K scan and restoration from the 16mm camera reversal for this Blu-ray release with a pair of viewing options; the original 1.33:1 full frame presentation and the 1.85:1 theatrical framing. I chose to go with the director's intended look and went with the full frame presentation and couldn't ask for anything better with how this one turned out. This is an obviously low budget piece of exploitation from the early 70s that didn't have ideal filming conditions as it was largely shot on the streets of New York City so at times the film is dark or lighting isn't the best. These scenes still look quite nice on this disc with a natural and healthy grain appearance, deep black levels, and natural skin tones. The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and sounds crisp, and balanced with no hissing, buzzing, or other background noise issues.


The Extras
-Audio Commentary with film historians Samm Deighan, Heather Drain, and Kat Ellinger
-Locations "Then and Now" Comparison


The Bottom Line
FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET is without a doubt my favorite Andy Milligan film and is something I can see myself revisiting frequently and it has been preserved for generations to come with this essential Vinegar Syndrome release.

FLESHPOT ON 42ND STREET is available HERE


Friday, April 26, 2019

KISS OF THE TARANTULA (VCI Entertainment Blu-ray Review)


USA/1976
Directed By: Chris Unger
Written By: Warren Hamilton Jr., Daniel Cady
Starring: Suzanna Ling, Ernesto Macias, Herman Wallner
Color/85 Minutes/PG
Region A
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film
Susan is a lonely girl living with her parents in their mortuary and typically only spending time with the spiders she keeps as pets in the basement. When she learns of her mother's wicked plan to murder her father she unleashes one of her deadliest pets, a tarantula on her mother with deadly results. Now in her teens and bonded to the spiders stronger than ever Susan and her pets make a deadly duo for anyone that thinks they can walk all over her.


KISS OF THE TARANTULA is a play on Willard but exchanging a young man for a girl and his pet rat for some red-kneed Tarantulas. The film does a good job showing the affection Susan has for the arachnids early on and tries its best to make them as terrifying to watch as they slowly plod along the chests, shoulders and faces of their victims without any sort of graphic violence. The film earns every bit of its PG rating, never showing blood or nudity, quite a rarity for a drive-in horror picture of the mid 1970s. It never tries to imitate those moments and cheat us out of the payoff however so I do give it credit for that. It seems most of Susan's victims die simply of fright. That doesn't account for the incestuous uncle subplot that makes the whole thing weird and wacky for any 70s triple bill.


I've been a fan of KISS OF THE TARANTULA for years as I've found the connection between Susan and the spiders to be a suitable vehicle for the film and enjoy watching her tormentors who tease her, break in to her family's home to steal caskets as a prank and even end up killing the only person her own age who treats her with respect, squirm, squeal and cry as the spiders plod along towards them, on them and over them until it is all just too much. Of course I do wish the film took a more traditional exploitative approach and offered up something a bit more violent and nastier, it would have definitely helped the film's reputation and given it a bigger fan base but there's worse ways to spend a rainy afternoon than alone with Susan and her eight-legged friends in the basement. She really should meet Willard one day... a match made in pest heaven.

The Audio & Video
VCI Entertainment gives KISS OF THE TARANTULA a Blu-ray for the first time after previously releasing the film on DVD. The back of the Blu-ray boasts that it has been restored and remastered in a 2K scan fro the original 35mm negative and I believe that as the picture does have a decent sharpness to it that gives way to moderately improved detail level. There is a yellowish tint over the picture that I don't remember from watching previously released version of the film. It isn't too bothersome but worth noting. The 1.85:1 aspect ratio does preserve the film's original aspect ratio. The audio is presented in a LPCM 2.0 English track and sounds good. I didn't notice any background noise, hissing, popping or other imperfections. The mix is simplistic but adequate to the film.


The Extras
Bare bones.


The Bottom Line
I recommend it for fans of drive-in era horror looking for something lighter and silly but still schlocky

KISS OF THE TARANTULA is available HERE

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

FULL MOON FEATURES TAKES ON BOLD VENTURE
IN INTERACTIVE FEATURE FILMMAKING WITH
“DEADLY TEN”

Live-Streamed Production of Ten Original Full Moon Feature Films


HOLLYWOOD, April 19, 2019 – DEADLY TEN is an immersive cinematic initiative that will see Full Moon Features boldly producing a series of ten original genre films, live-streamed in front of fans. These ten films will include sequels of beloved Full Moon franchises, a spin on classic cult favorites, and daring soon-to-be essential genre films.  Principal photography will begin shooting in June 2019 and continue throughout the year in Europe and North America.  Release for the DEADLY TEN is slated for Spring 2020, and will premiere exclusively on Full Moon's Amazon Prime Channel.

In an unprecedented move, Full Moon will be giving fans an all access pass to this unique production by providing an inside peek into the magic of genre filmmaking.  Fans will be able to log into the DEADLY TEN website (www.DeadlyTen.com) and watch the current motion picture being shot in real time. Live feeds, exclusive on-set interviews, special effects secrets, pre-and post-production videos, interactive director's blogs and more.  Through this immersive experience, cineastes and budding young filmmakers can delve deep into mechanics of the movies and learn first-hand all about the joys, struggles, creativity, and hard work that goes into making a fully produced, independent feature film.

"This is one of the most exciting Full Moon production initiatives since our '90s video store heyday," says Full Moon founder and cult movie legend Charles Band.  "It's ambitious, high concept, a bit insane and there's never been another interactive filmmaking concept quite like this. As Full Moon thrives in the new terrain of streaming and takes viewers to places not many have gone before, we hope fans will love being a part of our new adventure!"

The DEADLY TEN film slate will include:
BLADE: THE IRON CROSS (Dir:John Lechago)
BRIDE OF THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY (Dir: Charles Band)
NECROPOLIS: LEGION (Dir: Chris Alexander)
SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-O-RAMA 2 (Dir: David De Coteau, Brinke Stevens)
BLOOD RISE: SUBSPECIES V (Dir: Ted Nicolaou)
HALLOWEED NIGHT (Dir: Danny Draven)
THE HOURGLASS (Dir: Ryan Brookhart)
FEMALIEN: COSMIC CRUSH (Dir: Lindsey Schmitz)
THE SHADOWHEART CURSE (Dir: Charles Band)
THE GRIM RAPPER (Dir: Billy Butler)


ABOUT FULL MOON FEATURES
Founded in 1989 by iconic independent film producer and director Charles Band, Full Moon is the successor to Band's groundbreaking Empire Pictures Studio from the 1980's. With Empire, Band created now-classic horror films like RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND and GHOULIES.  Band’s films helped launch the career of many of Hollywood’s biggest stars including Demi Moore (PARASITE), Helen Hunt (TRANCERS), and Viggo Mortensen (PRISON), to name a few.  With Full Moon, Band has produced over 150 films, including the PUPPET MASTER franchise, SUBSPECIES, PIT AND THE PENDULUM, CASTLE FREAK, DOLLMAN, DEMONIC TOYS, PREHYSTERIA!, EVIL BONG and many more. As well as feature films, Full Moon produces original series, toys, collectibles, merchandise, comic books and publishes the popular horror film magazin
e DELIRIUM.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

HAGAZUSSA (Doppleganger Films Blu-ray Review)


Germany, Austria/2017
Directed By: Lukas Feigelfeld
Written By: Lukas Feigelfeld
Starring: Aleksandra Cwen, Celina Peter, Claudia Martini
Color/100 Minutes/
Region A
Release Date: April 23, 2019

The Film
The film's subtitle "A Heathen's Curse" sums up HAGAZUSSA quite well as we follow a young woman in the 15th century Austrian Alps who has had grown up with darkness surrounding her. Now she lives alone with her baby in a small hut and begins to be tempted by the dark magic that has spread fear and paranoia across the landscape for ages.

HAGAZUSSA comes from German director Luka Feigelfeld who creates a deliberately paced, slow burn atmosphere piece that some might find to be detached but I think almost every scene is delivered with purpose even when it seems nothing of note is happening, it's all calculated. The photography in HAGAZUSSA is largely composed of static shots that somehow perfectly capture the majesty, seclusion and power of the Austrian Alps setting, almost managing to turn the setting into a character itself which can become overbearing on its inhabitants, especially our lead Albrun (played wonderfully by Aleksandra Cwen).


There will undoubtedly be comparisons drawn to Robert Eggers' 2015 film The Witch which featured a similar story set in 17th century New England along with a similar slow burn pace and priority on atmosphere and mood with a well thought out set of more intense visuals to add a powerful punch. Those comparisons are completely warranted but make no mistake, HAGAZUSSA is not a cheap ripoff. Lukas Heigelfeld spent too much time crafting a beautiful production, filled with Oscar worthy art direction and a droning score that creeps into you deeper and deeper as the film moves along to call this a ripoff. The film also served as Heigelfeld's final work for film school and if he was interested in ripping off an already popular story he could have picked something that would have been easier to pull off than a very deliberately paced period pace set in the Austrian alps.

I feel that HAGAZUSSA is a couple key iconic scenes away from being in that true upper echelon of modern horror masterpieces but it is a textbook example of minimalistic horror how to build tension over a long period of time and slowly descend a character into madness. I hope to see more from Lukas Heigelfeld very soon.

The Audio  Video
Doppleganger Releasing gives HAGAZUSSA a home on Blu-ray in the US with a beautiful release featuring a 2.39:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio which retains the films original aspect ratio. The picture quality is tested from one end of the spectrum to the other and always comes out looking strong. The black levels are very deep and free of any crush or blocking while the bright whites of the snow covered alps are properly dazzling but never begin to burn too hot. The lush mountainside forests and cabin settings all look incredible, showing very fine and subtle details in textures and surfaces, especially in interior settings. Audibly, the film is presented in the film's native German language with optional English subtitles in a subtly robust 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio mix that may not immediately blow but once you realize just how many many layers there are to the sound mix in this and how it penetrates you from all angles in an under-the-radar fashion I realized how great the audio on this disc is. The subtitles are timed and translasted perfectly as well.



The Extras
-Director's Commentar on Selected Scenes
-Deleted Scene with optional Director's Commentary
-"Interferenz" - A short film by Lukas Heigelfeld
-Music Video by MMMD


The Bottom Line
HAGAZUSSA is destined to divide audiences but those who enjoy art house horror and atmosphere over jump scares will find a slice of Euro horror excellence.

HAGAZUSSA is available HERE

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Leprechaun Returns Coming To Blu-ray From Lionsgate This June



Street Date: 6/11/19

Blu-ray™ SRP: $14.99

DVD SRP: $14.98


PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
Be careful what you wish for when Leprechaun Returns arrives on Blu-ray™ (plus Digital) and DVD June 11 from Lionsgate. This film is currently available on Digital and On Demand. The devious and deadly wisecracking Leprechaun that we all know (and love to hate) returns to reclaim his pot of gold from a sorority house property…all while gleefully going on a Leprechaun-style killing spree. Leprechaun Returns stars Linden Porco as The Leprechaun with his signature hat and shiny shoes, Taylor Spreitler, and Mark Holton, who returns to the series for the first time since the original 1993 film. TheLeprechaun Returns Blu-ray and DVD will include a making-of featurette, behind-the-scenes footage, and still gallery, and will be available for the suggested retail price of $14.99 and $14.98, respectively.

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS
The deadly, wisecracking Leprechaun is back in all his gory glory. When the sorority sisters of the Alpha Upsilon house decide to go green and use an old well as their water source, they unwittingly awaken a pint-sized, green-clad monster. The Leprechaun wants a pot of gold buried near the sorority house, but first he must recover his powers with a killing spree—and only the girls of AU can stop him.

BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
  • “Going Green with Director Steven Kostanski” Featurette
  • Leprechaun Returns Behind-the-Scenes Footage
  • Still Gallery 

CAST
Taylor Spreitler           TV’s “Days of Our Lives,” Girl on the EdgeThe Contractor
Pepi Sonuga               TV’s “Famous in Love,” TV’s “Ash vs Evil Dead,” TV’s “The Fosters”
Sai Bennett                 TV’s “Mr. Selfridge,” Trapped, TV’s “Knightfall”
Emily Reid                   End of Term, TV’s “Curfew,” Aquilo
Ben McGregor            The Machine, TV’s “Fresh Meat,” TV’s “The Passing Bells”
Linden Porco               LittlemanA Very Larry Christmas, TV’s “Channel Zero”
Mark Holton                LeprechaunPee-wee’s Big AdventureA League of Their Own

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2018
Title Copyright: © 2018 Leprechaun Returns. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Digital Premiere
Rating: R for horror violence/gore and some sexual references.
Genre: Horror, Thriller, Comedy
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: English, Spanish, English SDH
Feature Run Time: 93 Minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080p High Definition, 16x9 (1.78:1) Presentation
DVD Format: 16x9 (1.78:1) Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio™
DVD Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio


Thursday, March 28, 2019

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT (Blu-ray Review)


USA/2018
Directed By: Robert D. Krykowski
Written By: Robert D. Krykowski
Starring: Sam Elliott, Aidan Turner, Caitlin Fitzgerald
Color/97 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: April 2, 2019

The Film
Sam Elliott stars as Calvin Barr, a retired solider who was tasked with the top secret mission of assassinating Adolf Hitler. Though his mission was successful the war carried on with imposters in place of Hitler and Barr would live with the baggage of murdering a man. Now decades later the government has tracked him down again to kill the mythological Bigfoot who is responsible for spreading a deadly contagion.

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT has a title that immediately caught my attention. My imagination ran wild with the potential madness and excitement that such a movie with such a title could contain. Admittedly I didn't think the trailer was anything special and it didn't really get me excited to see the full film but the title and Sam Elliott in the starring role still had me curious about the whole thing.

I'll start with what I liked about the film and first and foremost that is Sam Elliott who totally owns the screen with his strong yet vulnerable performance. A big part of Elliott's character makeup in this film is loneliness as he apparently had found the love of his life early on but the war kept them apart and he never really was the same or loved again. Even his relationship with his brother who is his barber was distant. This would come in to play years later after his encounter with the Bigfoot (who is apparently misnamed) and realizing it is also a lonesome creature, but his mission is his mission. The writing for Elliott's character is somewhat messy in that regard because it really doesn't make much of a difference but Elliott gives it all he's got and he really is fantastic delivering all aspects of his character. I also liked the direction and thought many of the scenes were well executed and put together nicely, especially the Hitler assassination sequence. The cinematography was also nice at times but then there were moments where it was so dark that I couldn't see what was going on at all.

Then there's the things I didn't care for, a couple of which I briefly touched on already such as poor lighting during certain scenes and the character of Calvin Barr's having blurry motivations which I could deal with but the main thing about this movie I couldn't get over is that it's an utter bore. The most exciting scenes are here and gone in a flash after feeling like it taking forever to get to amid the filler. Even during what should have been the highlight scene of the movie, the Bigfoot encounter, the scene that I feel the title of the movie builds up to, goes over like a wet fart when the Bigfoot ends up being about five feet tall and resembling a young Wookiee from the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Upon finishing the movie I sat wondering exactly what I was going to say in this review because I had such a little reaction to the whole thing other than boredom and wondering exactly what the point was. I still wonder what the point was because it doesn't work as a character piece that it seems like they were going for and it definitely fails as anything more exciting than that. Somehow I still didn't hate the movie, Sam Elliott saves it from being a miserable experience as I was happy to follow him on his journey but I wish the journey was a more riveting one. Ultimately I'd be happy to sit through a celebration of Life Day on Kashyyyk than I would to revisit this one.

The Audio & Video
RLJE Films releases THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT on Blu-ray with a very nice looking anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1 transfer. The picture is sharp and has great detail depth. Black levels are deep while colors have a bit of a overcast muted look to them, which is an artistic choice as the whole film looks this way. A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix handles the audio giving body and power to the sound. The mix job is excellent, and dialogue and music are crisp and free of any distortions or imperfections.

The Extras
-The Making Of THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT
-Audio Commentary With Director Robert D. Krykowski
-Interview With Composer Joe Kraemer
-Deleted Scenes
-"Elsie Hooper" Short Film
-Concept Art Gallery

The Bottom Line
I don't know what to say about this film. I really don't. It's well made but seemed to be lost and satisfied with wandering around it its own meandering path to a conclusion of "what was the point?". If you're curious about the film I would suggest giving it a look because it's very possible you'll get something more out of it than I did but if the trailers didn't do much for you I'd say you're probably not going to get anything out of the actual film.

THE MAN WHO KILLED HITLER AND THEN THE BIGFOOT is available HERE

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

PREYHSTERIA! (Blu-ray Review - Full Moon)


USA/1993
Directed By: Charles Band, Albert Band
Written By: Michael Davis
Starring: Austin O'Brien, Brett Cullen, Colleen Morris
Color/83 Minutes/PG
Region Free
Release Date: October 23, 2018
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film
Rico Sarno is a crooked collector and dealer of antiques and finds a stash of unhatched dinosaur eggs in a South American temple. He brings them back but mixes up the cooler he's keeping them in with that of frequent customer Frank Taylor (Brett Cullen). Frank's kids discover the mix up and take care of the hatchlings after the family dog incubates the eggs and try to keep their discovery a secret but Rico and his henchman turn the Taylor's life upside down and put their lives in jeopardy to get his dinosaurs back.


PREHYSTERIA! is a video store era family classic that cashed in on the building buzz surrounding the release of Jurassic Park very similarly to how production companies like The Asylum operate today. Instead of trying for a mock blockbuster Charles Band, ever the businessman, went in the direction of a children's adventure movie keeping costs low. Austin O'Brien stars as Jerry Taylor, and he's a face that you certainly recognize as he was a go-to child lead in that era having also starred in Last Action Hero and My Girl 2. He's a good lead that any kid can connect with as he rips on his older, cooler sister played by Samantha Mills in what seems to be her final screen acting credit. The siblings end up bonding over their little baby dinos including T-Rex, Triceratops, and "the flying one" among others.

I remember PREHYSTERIA! fondly, it's one of the earliest introductions to Full Moon and their children's imprint Moonbeam Films that I have and it was definitely a favorite that you'll find people in their late 20s to mid 30s remembering renting at the video store even if they grew up to have no interest in Charles Band or cult film at all. That's the type of power and pull a lot of the Moonbeam titles had over kids looking up at the seemingly endless rows of tapes for rent. My excitement dwindled and dwindled as I rewatched the movie however. It became pretty clear that PREHYSTERIA! might not be the rip-roaring prehistoric adventure I remember and by the end I was honestly surprised by just how little there is going on in the movie. There's a couple wacky scenes of dino shenanigans and one scene of the family really being attacked by Rico but this plays more like a two-part TV episode than a feature film and even at that I'm not sure I would have tuned back in after the "to be continued" screen flashed at the end of part one. Some dinosaur eggs are better left buried in the past and it pains me to say that PREHYSTERIA! is one of them.


The Audio & Video
Full Moon finally brings their children's label Moonbeam Films fan favorite to Blu-ray with a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks solid overall with good colors and clean, warm transfer. The high definition transfer has been remastered from the original 35mm negative but at times lack truly excellent detail depth. The audio is presented with two options, a 5.1 surround track and a 2.0 digital stereo track. There's not much going on in the movie in terms of exciting or flashy sound design or effects so either track really does the movie justice. The quality is solid, free of any distracting distortions or background noise.


The Extras
Special features include a commentary track by star Austin O'Brien and director Charles Band and the original Videozone featurette.


The Bottom Line
PREHYSTERIA! has received a suitable Blu-ray release to give all of us that remember the film from its video store days a trip down memory lane but unfortunately once the nostalgia wears off you'll find out that there's really not much going on in PREHYSTERIA! and it's better left as a childhood memory.

PREHYSTERIA! is available HERE

Friday, March 8, 2019

PARTY LINE (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)


USA/1988
Directed By: William Webb
Written By: Richard Brandes, Tom Byrnes
Starring: Richard Hatch, Richard Roundtree, Leif Garrett
Color/90 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: February 26, 2019

The Film
Seth and Angelina are brother and sister who have a bad habit of sitting around their dad's mansion and using the telephone "party line" to lure horny strangers into a sex party that ends with Seth using a razor blade to kill them. As the bodies pile up Detective Dan breaks from "by the book" way of doing things to try and find the killers before anymore party line callers fall victim to their sick games!

PARTY LINE is a mash up of slasher film, crime thriller and late 80s Skinemax erotic feature but doesn't really excel at any one of those genres let alone cramming them together. It's middles around sort of blending the different styles but ends up just feeling messy throughout. There's misplaced humor involving a subplot with underage girls that never works for me but ends up playing fairly large role in the film. The acting including Leif Garrett as Seth, Richard Hatch as the detective and a supporting role from Richard Roundtree is pretty decent and the movie looks good, using a handful of memorable and very eye catching locations. PARTY LINE undoubtedly had more production value than similar erotic films that would make the late night subscription cable channels famous.


I can't say I wasn't entertained by PARTY LINE because I was but I think it was a missed opportunity at being something better. And it could have been anything better. Had it picked one of the many directions it splintered off in and focused on it then we could have had a winner with PARTY LINE.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome delivers PARTY LINE on Blu-ray with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer from a brand new 4K scan and restoration from the original 35mm camera negative and looks excellent. The picture quality is quite nice with beautifully rendered skin tones that show no sign of waxiness and great detail level in all of the wonderful 80s clothing and textures. Colors are vibrant and lively without being artificially pumped up. The audio is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio mono mix that sounds decent. The track is clear with a nice mix between dialogue and score and the sound effects give enough punch despite lacking true power. There's a very small amount of noticeable pops but otherwise not much in the way of distortions.


The Extras
Aside from the original theatrical trailer the lone special feature is an interview with the screenwriter Richard Brandes entitled "Party Line Fever" and runs around 16 minutes.


The Bottom Line
I'm lukewarm on PARTY LINE but I think the transfer is nice and there's enough in the movie to warrant a mild recommendation.

PARTY LINE is available HERE

Saturday, March 2, 2019

WACKO (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)


US/1981
Directed By: Greydon Clark
Written By: Dana Olsen, Michael Spound, Jim Kouf, David Greenwalt
Starring: George Kennedy, Joe Don Baker, Andrew Dice Clay
Color/87 Minutes/
Region A
Release Date: February 26, 2019
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film
Thirteen years ago at the Halloween dance several students were murdered by the Lawnmower Killer, leaving survivors scarred and the local sheriff obssessed with solving the crime. With an escaped mental patient on the loose the townsfolk are on edge, or at least they should be, as they fear he may be the killer returning for an anniversary killing.


Greydon Clark puts his tongue so far into his cheek that it bursts through, wraps around his head a few times and then comes back and pops his head off in a bloody mess. Then Joe Don Baker's Dick Harbinger comes in and runs his finger through mess on the floor and tastes it to confirm that "It's blood." That's the type of silly shit we're working with in WACKO. George Kennedy plays an incestuous doctor who actually has no medical knowledge at all, the pumpkin killer is literally wearing a big pumpkin on their head with a big nose and the entire cast is so over the top that I'm almost absolutely positive Greydon Clark let them all have free reign on their performances as long as they were wacky enough.

You need to have a sense of humor that allows you to enjoy stupid jokes to really love WACKO. It plays up genre tropes to their most cliche and then run those jokes into the ground to the point where I found myself chuckling along but it seemed to be more out of habit than genuine laughter by the end. That being said, I did enjoy the silliness and had a fun time with this parody and will certainly find myself enjoying it again in the future.


The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome gives new life to WACKO with a new 4K scan and restoration from the original 35mm camera negative for this Blu-ray release. Colors are vibrant and natural with a good depth to them. Detail levels are excellent giving life to the various Halloween costumes and props, not to mention the pumpkin head.  and black levels are deep and inky. There's no damage to the source material to speak of. The 1.0 DTS-HDMA mix presents the audio in a HD mix of its original format. The track is a pleasant listening experience with only intermittent hiss or buzz popping up in the background. Otherwise the mix is crisp full bodied enough to offer up some punch when needed.


The Extras
-New Audio Commentary Track With Director Greydon Clark
-"Die Laughing"- An Interview With Cinematographer Nicolas Von Sternberg
-Never Before Seen Outtakes
-Trailer


The Bottom Line
Vinegar Syndrome dredges up another video store era obscurity and gives it the royal treatment. If you like your horror filled with yuck yuck yucks you'll find some good laughs in WACKO

WACKO is available HERE

Friday, March 1, 2019

PIERCING - Release Announcement



SYNOPSIS: In this twisted love story, a man seeks out an unsuspecting stranger to help him purge the dark torments of his past. His plan goes awry when he encounters a woman with plans of her own. A playful psycho-thriller game of cat-and-mouse based on RyĆ« Murakami’s novel.

Starring:
Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, Laia Costa
Directed/Written by:
Nicolas Pesce
In Theaters and Available on VOD / Digital HD: February 1, 2019
Genre: Horror, Mystery Suspense
Running Time: 81 minutes
Rating: Not Rated

Website: https://www.piercingmovie.com/

Sunday, February 24, 2019

BLUE MOVIE - Cult Epics Blu-ray Review


Netherlands/1971
Directed By: Wim Verstappen
Written By: Wim Verstappen, Charles Gormley
Starring: Hugo Metsers, Carry Tefsen, Kees Brusse
Color/89 Minutes/Not Rated
Region Free
Release Date: February 12, 2019
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film
A young man named Michael has been released from prison after five years for having sexual relations with a fifteen year old girl, an act that he has found isn't really looked down upon anymore. Michael's parole officer has set him up with an apartment in a high rise that Michael finds filled with women, much to his liking. With his sex drive going wild after so many years of not being able to touch a woman Michael takes a liking to the married women of the complex and begins to have affairs with the women leading to threesomes, and even orgies that involve most of the building.


BLUE MOVIE is extremely thin on plot, with that brief synopsis making up almost the entirety of the movie until a moment near the end where a man at the orgy is laughed at for being impotent and leaps from the balcony to his death. It's at this moment that the film shows some power as most of BLUE MOVIE seems to be celebrating sexual liberation and freedom but without much meaning behind any of it with the sexual affairs and encounters usually having little consequence for anyone involved. When a man jumps to his death over sexual humiliation we're shown how powerful the sexual encounter can be.

BLUE MOVIE never enters full on hardcore pornography but for a film from 1971 taboos are broken and walls are torn down. It also proves to be a wonderfully directed and photographed film as Jan de Bont cut his teeth on films like this before going on to photograph films like Die Hard and The Hunt For Red October and direct blockbusters like Speed and Twister. BLUE MOVIE will likely be remembered historically for breaking barriers and attacking social norms and taboos more than for being an entertaining film but even if BLUE MOVIE is a bit of a bore, there's plenty of far more fun and exciting sexploitation films out there, few have the artistic merit of BLUE MOVIE.


The Audio & Video
Cult Epics presents BLUE MOVIE on Blu-ray with a 1.37:1 full frame aspect ratio in full 1080p high definition from a new restoration and transfer from the 16mm reversal and 35mm duplicate negative done by The Eye Film Institute. While the overall image quality is perfectly fine and presentable the colors are unremarkable and detail levels are pretty good. The image is generally a bit flat but presented in an appropriately realistic manner. The picture is free of any immediately noticeable scratches, dirt/debris or other damage. The audio fares better with the lone option being a 2.0 Dolby Digital mono mix in the films native Dutch with optional English subtitles. The audio is clear, free of any distortions, damage, or background noise. The film doesn't have a dynamic soundtrack but the audio track on this Blu-ray handles it beautifully.

Please Note: Screenshots have been taken from the DVD copy of the film


The Extras
Bonus features include:
-Interview with Wim Verstappen from 1971
-Interview with producer Pim de la Parra from the 2018 Dutch Sex Wave Festival
-2018 interview with Hugo Metsers Jr.
-Eye Film Institute featurette
-Poster and photo gallery
-Scorpio Films Trailers


The Bottom Line
Cult Epics should be commended for bringing this historical piece of sexploitation to Blu-ray.

BLUE MOVIE is available HERE

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

UNINVITED Blu-ray Review (Vinegar Syndrome)


USA/1987
Directed By: Greydon Clark
Written By: Greydon Clark
Starring: George Kennedy, Alex Cord, Clu Gulager
Color/91 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Blu-ray/DVD

The Film
Have you ever sat there watching a movie, any type of movie, and thought to yourself "This would be so much better if a radioactive cat puked up another cat and the hairball cat attacked people viciously."? Well if you have then you're in luck! And if you haven't, why not?


Greydon Clark (Without Warning,  Satan's Cheerleaders) helms this video store era cheesefest about a crew of sleazy businessmen who invite a few sexy co-eds on to their yacht to cover their tracks only to find that the girls have found a runaway cat that they won't let go. This cat also happens to be radioactive and extremely deadly. Aside from coughing up an inner cat that maims its victim, the cat is also contagious with a poison that is spread through its salive so anything it eats becomes tainted. As the cat runs rampant and the bodies pile up tensions rise on the boat and the already thin crew begins to disolve to nothing and the threat of being stranded at sea with no food becomes a strong possibility as well. But really, the main problem is that damn puke cat.

I love that Greydon Clark plays UNINVITED straight. There's no winking at the camera despite how cheesy this all is. There's actual effort put into this cat monster that boils down to little more than a hand puppet and even the special effects look good. The cast has some real names in it with well known names like George Kennedy and Alex Cord starring along with one of my personal favorites Clu Gulager. There's real talent involved in front of the camera and behind it with Nicolas von Sternberg shooting the film. It only takes one look at his filmography and you'll probably see a dozen or more cult classics you love. And it shows here because UNINVITED is a pretty damn good looking movie.


There's not a lot to analyze here, UNINVITED is what it is. - A sometimes goofy, perhaps overly serious but always entertaining horror romp filled with dashes of crime excitement.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome delivers UNINVITED to Blu-ray with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that was scanned in 4K from the original camera negative. Colors are vibrant and realistic while skin tones are healthy and natural looking without any sign of waxiness. There's a great amount of detail in closer shots of surfaces, fabrics and various textures, including the cat puppet. A DTS-HD Master Audio Mono mix handles the audio more than passably and features a really nice sounding track overall. The audio is crisp and mostly free of any background noise or imperfections.


The Extras
-Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
-Alternate international cut of the film
-"That Darn Mutant Cat" - An interview with cinematography Nicolas Von Sternberg
-Original Theatrical Trailer


The Bottom Line
I had a lot of fun with UNINVITED and it's motley crew of characters that get slaughtered by this weird mutant cat. If that doesn't sell you on it than nothing will.

UNINVITED is available HERE

Thursday, January 31, 2019

SUSPIRIA (2018) - Blu-ray Review (Lionsgate Films)



Italy, USA/2018
Directed By: Luca Guadagnino
Written By: David Kajganich
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth
Color/152 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: January 29, 2019

The Film
Upon leaving the theater after seeing SUSPIRIA on Halloween night my mind was racing with everything I was still trying to take in. Luca Guadagnino had not only completed a project that had been rumored about for a decade but he gave me something I was both challenged by and that I appreciated. He had remade Dario Argento's Suspiria, my favorite film. Now, there was never and instance that I thought this modern take eclipsed the original but I did think that Luca Guadagnino gave the audiences a fresh take on it. But even after I slept on it and eventually decided to put SUSPIRIA quite high on my favorite films of the year list I knew that I had to watch it again to take it all in and process it.

Now given the chance to see it again I'm left with some of the same questions I was before along with some new ones. Opinions were solidified or flipped on their head. A second viewing of Guadagnino's SUSPIRIA was memorable, as I'm sure each viewing of this film will be but not all of it will be positive memories. For one, and I do think this is my single biggest problem with this film, is that the music is simply nonexistent. SUSPIRIA is a tale about a dance academy that secretly houses a coven of witches, it was a ballet school in the original but it's a much more modern and interpretive form of dance being used in the remake but either way you would imagine the music would play a huge role in giving the dancers something to dance to and of course setting a mood. Goblin's bombastic score certainly did both, giving us a catchy little melody that was easy to latch on to as the dancers performed their routines and the rest of the film attacking our ears and minds with bellowing wails, sighs, and beautiful sounds that could be described as otherworldly. The original Suspiria's soundtrack is an experience in itself. Thom Yorke of Radiohead was tasked with the job of creating the remake's soundtrack and the music he delivered would be better suited for an Elliott Smith biopic than a horror film. On top of the music simply not fitting the film at all it's also totally lost in the film's audio mix, while often times the instructors opt to have their dancers perform to no music. Pretty brilliant, eh? It's not even that I'm comparing Yorke's score to Goblin's, it's that I'm comparing Yorke's score to any horror film score. His score has nothing to offer this film.

But Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and the rest of the ensemble cast had a lot to offer the film. Dakota Johnson is fresh off the Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy and proves she has real talent here as the lead Susie Bannion. She's the main focus of the film and gives a measured performance that fits in to the mood of this film perfectly. Tilda Swinton proves why she's Hollywood royalty playing a trio of characters. Her main character, Madame Blanc runs the school most of the time and has her hands directly tied in with Susie. I loved watching Tilda and Dakota perform together. The remaining cast including Mia Goth and Chloe Grace Moretz all turn in physically demanding and moving performances. There's no denying the power and ability this cast possesses and provides the film which leads back to the director and Luca Guadagnino creates some striking visual sequences including the brutal mangling of a body, the intense dance sequences that are much more aggressive and at times sexual than anything we saw in Argento's original.

SUSPIRIA just had a bit of disconnect with me on this second viewing that I think I overlooked on my initial viewing because I was trying to take everything in at once and in a film such as this you're not going to take it all in on a single viewing, at least not properly. When I went back to revisit the film I felt that the cold, hard look covered in mainly concrete greys and dull interiors, a stark contrast to Argento's original that is infamously drenched in color and texture, that visual style transferred over to the mood of the film and ultimately my connection to it. This was due largely in part that I feel there were subplots that dragged the film out needlessly to a run time nearly two and a half hours long and didn't bring the emotion to the film that they intended to.

After a second viewing I'm still a fan of SUSPIRIA. I don't think it rivals the original but I think it is a true piece of art with a lot of talent involved. It's a vicious horror film at times and no review of it would be complete without totally gushing over the black mass climax where Mater Suspiriorum reveals herself and uses a demon to dispatch of any body that didn't pledge their allegiance to her. The lengthy sequence is flooded in red lighting, drenched in blood as bodies literally explode into a shower of crimson mist while dancers violently gyrate around the mayhem and Helena Markos exposes herself as a disgusting mess of sweat, slime, scars and a totally inhuman monster form. I have no problem calling this scene the best black mass or witchcraft scene in any film of the 21st century. Hands down. I'd even say the film is worth checking out for that scene alone.

The Audio & Video
Lionsgate brings SUSPIRIA to Blu-ray with a spectacular A/V presentation. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen picture quality is stunning with super deep black levels that have no issues with blocking or compression. The detail levels are very high giving life to the textures around the dance academy and the harsh concrete structures around the city. Colors are reproduced beautifully despite the film having a rather cold and dull color palette until its climax. Otherwise the picture quality is pristine and I have nothing negative to say about it. The audio is handled in a Dolby Atmos track and it sounds stunning. I don't know what else to say. Five stars all around.

The Extras
There are three different short featurettes that total less than fifteen minutes. "The Making Of Suspiria" gives a brief general overview and comparison to the original, "The Secret Language Of Dance" explores the dancing and choreography within the film and "The Transformations Of Suspiria" is perhaps the most entertaining of the three as it gives us a look into the prosthetic effects and makeup in the film.

The Bottom Line
SUSPIRIA is a film that will challenge and divide audiences and while it never had a chance to challenge the original it certainly stands on its own two feet as a beautifully crafted tale of witchcraft and I recommend it without hesitation.

SUSPIRIA is available HERE