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