Tuesday, March 19, 2019

PREYHSTERIA! (Blu-ray Review - Full Moon)

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

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)

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)

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

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

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.

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

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

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)

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

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