Saturday, February 28, 2015

CUT! (2014)

Directed By: David Rountree
Written By: David Banks, David Rountree
Starring: David Rountree, David Banks, Sam Scarber

Travis Simon (David Rountree) is an aspiring film maker working at a film equipment rental warehouse fulfilling orders to help other film makers make the movie of their dreams. Along with his friend Lane (David Banks) who is on parole, they aim to make their own hit horror film by scaring real people. Things quickly get out of hand and someone dies from their tactics. Lane decides this is the way to make a truly terrifying and realistic film, and reluctantly Travis agrees, driven by the dream of making a successful film.

CUT! caught me off guard as I had heard nothing about it prior to viewing the film for this review. The film is successful on all levels, but the foundation is in its fantastic screenplay. David Banks and David Rountree nailed a story and script that is simple and effective complete with a couple of twists that the viewer won't see coming and will turn the entire film on its head. A well done plot twist at the climax of a film is something of a cliche these days and one that most films don't manage to pull off. CUT! pulls it off and really makes the film that much more interesting and special at the end.

Rountree and Banks play very well off each other as the nerdy dreamer with his head in the clouds and the asshole, "fuck the world" friend made bitter by a stint in jail who is quite unlikeable.  The dichotomy works very well in progressing the actions and decisions of the characters in getting to the final product. The supporting cast is also pretty damn spot on. There's no performances that the audience needs to overlook as a downside to independent horror films. The special effects work is also good, with a good amount of blood being spilled. The negative here is that much of the violence is off screen, which is important to the context of the film but as a horror film it may leave the audience wanting a bit more in the way of gratuitous violence and gore.

CUT! came out of left field and is a tight character study in to the mind of someone that will do anything to create the art he loves. Horror fans should appreciate this approach and the success of the performances and the script.


Friday, February 27, 2015

BLOOD CAR - (DVD Review) - Horizon Movies

Directed By: Alex Orr
Written By: Adam Pinney, Alex Orr
Starring: Mike Brune, Anna Chlumsky, Katie Rowlett
Color/76 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: March 3, 2015

The Film
In the not too distant future gas prices have risen to record high prices topping $30 per gallon. Almost nobody can afford to drive anymore, least of all Archie, a shy vegan school teacher. Archie is trying to build an engine that runs on wheat grass. Eventually Archie discovers that his engine can be fueled with human blood and devises a contraption in the trunk of his car that he can dumb bodies into to fuel his car. While Archie enjoys the attention he is getting from the ladies now that he can drive he quickly loses his grip on his sanity with each and every person he shoves in to the trunk.

BLOOD CAR is a black comedy horror film steeped in social commentary. Unfortunately the commentary was more poignant and powerful a few years back when it was made. The humor largely falls flat for me and the production is quite cheap at times with the "meat" and "vegan" stands being little more than a child's lemonade stand made from cardboard. There is quite a bit of gore in the film from the rotating blades in Archie's trunk among other scenes so gore hounds might be a bit more likely to enjoy it.

This was my second viewing of BLOOD CAR, I had seen the film several years ago and found it to be complete and utter trash that deserved a spot at the bottom of the ocean. While I'm still far from being a fan of the movie I must say that I wasn't offended by the movie this time and found it to be considerably more tolerable. The acting is decent for what it is and the idea is interesting but BLOOD CAR is still rather monotone and bland throughout.

The Audio & Video
Horizon Movies' anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer on BLOOD CAR looks pretty good overall with a clean presentation that has a nice sharpness to it. Colors are natural and there's no damage to the transfer. The 2.0 stereo audio track is nothing special but it features a proper mix of dialogue and soundtrack with a nice clear quality.

The Extras
-"The Adventure" (short film, 21 minutes)
-"The $100 Short Short" (short film, 10 minutes)

The Bottom Line
Simply put, I'm not a fan of BLOOD CAR despite my opinion of it improving upon a 2nd viewing. There's enough gore and dark humor in this for gorehounds or big fans of comedic horror to give it a shot though.

BLOOD CAR is available HERE

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Directed By: Bradley Creanzo
Written By: Bradley Creanzo
Starring: Bradley Creanzo, Taylor Raftree, Stella Difabio
Color/103 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: December 30, 2014

The Film
A madman is sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital after the brutal murders of several people. In true slasher film fashion the psycho has no trouble escaping the institution to get revenge on the relatives of the victims who testified against him leaving quite the bloody trail in his wake.

THE BIBLE BELT SLASHER: THE HOLY TERROR is a sequel to an original short film by Bradley Creanzo. No worries as you quickly get the gist of what happens in the short film (or you can watch it before this feautre as it is included as a special feature). The first 20 minutes of this movie made me want to smash my head into a wall. The acting is bad, the composition isn't much better. There's a character in the court room scene that seemed to be holding back laughter every time he spoke. It was atrocious. Then something in this movie clicked with me. Perhaps it was the totally over the top killer who spouted one liners at his victims while tearing out bible pages and throwing them on their corpse. Maybe it was the fact that he bore a striking resemblance to Francis from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Or maybe it was the heart and soul that wants the viewers so badly to believe that this movie was actually made in 1989. I don't know what it was but something about this movie turned around my opinion on it quite quickly and I ended up enjoying it for what it was.

Slasher fans will appreciate the bloody nature of the film despite the fact that the film runs too long (we really didn't need that music video at all). There is a substantial body count in this and some of the humor actually works. THE BIBLE BELT SLASHER: THE HOLY TERROR is far from perfect. FAR. But that said some movies like this just end up working. They have a certain charm and spirit to them that pull the viewer in and get them to look passed their faults (to a point) and enjoy them. This movie managed to do that.

The Audio & Video
Brain Damage Films brings this retro styled slasher to DVD with a decent looking 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors look good, vibrant enough without looking aritifically pumped up. Black levels are decent without too much crush or compression issues. The looks is clean of any damage. The audio is a 2.0 stereo mix, featuring a clean dialogue track and a well done mix with the soundtrack.

The Extras
-Bible Belt Slasher part 1 (short film)
-"Demons Of The Night" music video
-"Enemies" music video
-"The Pulse" TV spot
-Deleted Scenes
-TV Spot
-"Mario Likes Movies" featurette

The Bottom Line
An entertaining and pretty nice selection of special features add on to the package that makes this cheeseball body count film a fun romp for any indie horror fan.


Monday, February 23, 2015


Directed By: Various
Written By: Various
Starring: Bill Oberst Jr., Marc Velasco
Color/100 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: February 24, 2015

The Film
The world has fallen victim to a zombie apocalypse and nowhere is safe. Through a news report that shows footage of fights for survival from all over the globe, and even a brief history lesson of the first zombie attack, we see various corners of the globe get down and dirty with the undead.

ZOMBIEWORLD is an anthology film featuring quite a few segments, a wrap around story starring Bill Oberst Jr. as the news anchor who is slowly transforming from a respected news reporter to a blithering zombie and even a few PSA style tips for surviving in these troubled times. The film is cheap and campy as hell, sometimes too much. The wrap around story is well done and surprise surprise, Bill Oberst Jr. is great in his comedic role. The rest of the film is really bad. I suppose it could come down to your tolerance for cheese and camp but I tend to think I have a high tolerance and even a certain affection for the stuff (Troll 2 is one of my favorite movies!) but I simply could not tolerate the majority of ZOMBIEWORLD. It started early when Jesus started fighting zombies by throwing fish at them and continued throughout with incredibly weak film making and acting (even for low budget indie standards).

On the up side there is some really well done special effects and makeup work throughout the film. The effects work is easily the high point of the movie and there's plenty of different takes on what the zombies look and act like that it does keep each short interesting from the previous. Unfortunately the effects work couldn't save this movie for me. Or even come close.

The Audio & Video
Dread Central "presents" this movie that has been released by RLJ/IMAGE and as you'd expect from a low budget anthology film, the quality of each segment differs quite a bit. Overall the quality is good for both audio and video. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is as strong and sharp as it's going to be on DVD and the shorts filmed with better equipment and conditions look nice. Others look soft and dreary as they were filmed. A Dolby 5. 1 track with English subtitles for the shorts that aren't in English handles keeps things in line for the audio and sounds crisp and is free of any distortions or damage.

The Extras
The lone special feature is a short film called "Marathon Apocalypse".

The Bottom Line
If you're a zombie super fan and simply can't get enough of them or are morbidly curious about why I had such a miserable time watching this movie I'd suggest a rental.


Friday, February 20, 2015

The Turnpike Killer (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing

Directed By: Evan Makrogiannis, Brian Weaver
Written By: Evan Makrogiannis, Brian Weaver
Starring: Bill McLaughlin, Edgar Moye, Lyndsey Brown
Color/88 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date:

The Film
Driven by a voice in his head which tells him to punish impure women, a psychopathic killer terrorizes the areas surrounding the New Jersey Turnpike. Everything from brutal murders to holding victims hostage, the killer continues his reign of terror while the police try to hunt him down.

THE TURNPIKE KILLER tries desperately to harken back to films such as Maniac and Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer, even going as far as having extensively grainy video to make it look like a production of the 70s or 80s. While Bill McLaughlin is an imposing physical force his performance and overall character is beyond dry and bland. There's nothing that makes him interesting and the writing is at fault as much as the performance given.

There's quite a bit of on screen violence and gore which juices things up but the film essentially plays out as the same scene over and over and wears out its welcome before the 88 minute run time elapses (thankfully it doesn't run 105 minutes as the DVD cover states).  I respect what the film makers were going for and paying respect to but you can do better than THE TURNPIKE KILLER.

The Audio & Video
The movie was filmed with excess grit and grain on purpose for stylistic reasons which means the DVD is only going to look as good as it's going to look. Wild Eye Releasing gives THE TURNPIKE KILLER an anamorphic widescreen transfer that probably looks the best it can. Colors are washed out and the picture is far from sharp. Again, this has nothing to do with the transfer on the disc and has everything to do with the production of the film. Audio is on the quiet side so you may need to turn the volume up. Even then it still sounds a bit distant and not particularly crisp.

The Extras
The DVD has a decent lineup of special features....

-Audio commentary with the directors
-Cast and crew interviews conducted by Michael Gingold of Fangoria magazine
-Deleted Scenes
-"Devil's Moon" short film

The Bottom Line
A noble attempt at making a film in the vein of exploitative classics of the early 80s that ultimately ends up being too repetitive for its own good.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Coyote (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing

Directed By: Trevor Juenger
Written By: Trevor Juenger
Starring: Bill Oberst jr., Heather Schlitt, Joe Hammerstone
Color/75 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: December 16, 2014

The Film
Bill (Bill Oberst Jr.) is an aspiring writer, working as a furniture mover by day and suffering from paralyzing night terrors by night. Sleep is his enemy and he eventually cuts it out of his life as much as possible. His psyche quickly becomes damaged and every relationship he has goes to shit. He takes to the woods where he is attacked and bitten by a coyote which he shoots and skins for revenge.  Bill begins wearing the pelt of the dead animal around while his fragile mind continues to break more and more until it shatters and he goes on a monstrous rampage.

COYOTE is a very low budget affair that could easily have failed if it wasn't for the stellar performance of Bill Oberst jr. I have sung the praises of Mr. Oberst in the past and I'm sure I will as soon as I view another of his films. He may be the most active man in the business with well over 100 credits in less than a decade and he proves time after time that he is, to put it simply, fucking great. His performance in COYOTE carries a film that has a simple but effective idea that really needed a true talent to make it work. Bill Oberst jr. could use this film as a demo reel and any casting director that passed him over could be certified crazy. As crazy as Bill is in this picture.

The rest of the movie works as well, as the film makers stretch their obvious tight budget far with solid direction and interesting locations and scenes. There are moments that strangely break the fourth wall but it works within the confines of this story and our main character's paranoia. The special effects increase a few of the moments with a few gory moments that are well done. COYOTE isn't a perfect film, far from it, but it does a great job at being a character study of sorts on a deeply disturbed man and what paranoia and sleep deprivation can do to a weak psyche. Give this one a look as it genuinely surprised me.

The Audio & Video
This DVD is a case of doing what you can when a movie is filmed on a very low budget and doesn't have great looking video. Wild Eye Releasing gives the best possible quality here but we aren't talking 35mm or even high-def digital photography here. The image is generally on the softer side and colors are a bit muted. It does give the film a certain look and mood that work however. There's really no way this could look any better so take it and enjoy the movie. The audio seems to have been done in post production which isn't the ideal way to do it but I understand that recording sound with limited equipment and budget doesn't always yield the results you may hope for so recording in post can help with that. Otherwise the audio sounds fine and is perfectly enjoyable making for an overall decent A/V presentation and one that won't detract from the viewer's enjoyment.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with writer/director Trevor Juenger
-Audio commentary with Bill Oberst Jr.
-Audio commentary with cinematographer Nick Brian Walters
-"Trash Man" short film

The Bottom Line
Good indie horror should be supported and this film hasn't received half the attention that other indie horror films of far lesser quality have and that's a damn shame. You can find this DVD online for around $10, go get it and show support to those that made it and to Wild Eye for releasing it.

COYOTE is available HERE

Monday, February 16, 2015

Zombies: The Beginning (DVD Review) - Intervision Picture Corp

Directed By: Bruno Mattei
Written By: Antonio Tentori, Giovanni Paolucci
Starring: Yvette Yzon, Alvin Anson, Paul Holme
Color/95 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: February 10, 2015

The Film
Picking up right where Island Of The Living Dead left off, ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING is the story of the lone survivor from the previous film. After being fired from her company after they didn't believe her tales of an uncharted island inhabited by flesh eating zombies the woman joins a monastery, the only place she could find any sort of peace after her horrible experiences have given her awful nightmares each and every night. She is approached by a company to find out the truth of what is really going on on that island. She joins a team of mercenaries armed to the teeth and quickly encounter all sorts of zombies and weird science experiments.

ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING is a bit slower in starting and tougher to get comfortable with than its predecessor but once the action gets going its even more over the top and bizarre and just plain off the fucking wall than Island is. The medical experiments, the insane ripped off plot devices (and scenes, and stolen footage) just add to the sheer gold plated ridiculousness of the entire package.

This would end up being Bruno Mattei's swan song, his final film, and dammit, there's probably no better way he could have gone out. His legacy is perfectly summed up in this film. His legacy could be summed up nicely by most of his films but I digress... I'm not entirely sure what this movie was supposed to be "the beginning" of but it surely would have been some kind of spectacle if it surpassed this one. If you're at all a fan of schlocky, so bad they're good films or just really fucking like bloody and guts being thrown around you have to see this one.

The Audio & Video
Similar to their transfer of Island Of The Living Dead, Intervision Pictures delivers a nice looking DVD presentation of ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING. The anamorphic widescreen transfer (1.78:1 aspect ratio) does a good job of showing off the digital photography. Colors look good and the picture is relatively sharp and detailed. This is likely the best this movie will ever look on home video. The English audio track is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track that sounds crisp and clear with a solid mix. Dialogue is never lost and the score is never overbearing. There's no damage to speak of.

The Extras
-"Zombie Genisys" - featurette with writer Antonio Tentori

The Bottom Line
Another total schlock fest from Bruno Mattei made available uncut for the first time in America from Intervision gets the instant seal of approval. Go get it!


Friday, February 13, 2015

ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD (DVD Review) - Intervision Picture Corp

Directed By: Bruno Mattei
Written By: Antonio Tentori, Bruno Mattei, Giovanni Paolucci
Starring: Yvette Yzon, Gaetano Russo, Alvin Anson
Color/97 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: February 10, 2015

The Film
A group of treasure hunters wreck their ship on the coast of an uncharted island. While the mechanic tries to fix the boat (with all of those tools on board he should have no problem!) the rest of the group heads ashore to find food and water and scope out the island. Almost immediately they're attacked by hundreds year old zombies and must begin to fight for their survival. That fight gets a bit more difficult after the boat is overrun by zombies and explodes leaving them totally stranded. Things get stranger and stranger as their time on the island goes on until they set sail on a shoddy raft as their only hope.

ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is exactly what you'd expect from a Bruno Mattei film. It's pure schlock. The man had no shame throwing 90 minutes of pure cheese, many times cheese that he ripped off from someone else, on the screen. I for one am thankful for this because some of my favorite movies are Bruno Mattei movies. ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is now among them. In his penultimate film Mattei gives us splatter like hadn't seen out of Italy since the 80s. Blood and guts fly while zombie hordes fill the screen. The special effects are very good for the most part but some of the zombies have really fucking bad makeup. I guess that adds to the experience of watching this movie.

ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD is what it is. A movie to share with likeminded friends who enjoy this type of stuff. There's some legitimately good sequences including a ghost guitar that while random, is a creepy and cool visual. The movie only makes a little bit of sense really, as much as you need it to since some of the zombies are very interactive beyond just wanting to eat the living. It all adds up to an exceptionally entertaining time that will have you laughing while a bit grossed out and certainly smiling ear to ear.

The Audio & Video
Intervision Pictures' anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer looks as good as you'd expect. This film was obviously filmed with digital photography so it lacks the richness and warmth of actual film but colors and details still look good. The various monster designs shine through as well as the substantial blood and gore. The image is clean and stable and for a standard DVD release it looks nice enough. The audio is a standard Dolby stereo track with an English dub from the actors. The track is clean and free of any damage and sounds very good overall.

The Extras
-"Bungle In The Jungle" - featurette featuring interviews with producer and long time friend of Bruno Mattei Giovanni Paolucci and writer Antonio Tentori
-International sales promo

The Bottom Line
If you're into splatterfests and/or schlocky over the top Italian horror romps you'll be doing yourself an injustice to pass over this release. Intervision has given this film its first ever uncut release in America and it's one I highly recommend.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Digging Up The Marrow (2015)

Directed By: Adam Green
Written By: Adam Green
Starring: Ray Wise, Adam Green, Will Barratt
Available via Video On Demand February 20

Adam Green is best known for creating the Hatchet franchise, a series of uber gory slasher films based around the killer Victor Crowley who stalks the swamps of Louisiana. The first of these films put Green on the map and almost instantly made him a household name with horror fans. He continued in the genre with the psychological horror thriller Spiral, the tension filled Frozen which will have you sweating it out on the edge of your seat, two more Hatchet movies and even a horror fan culture based sitcom called Holliston.

DIGGING UP THE MARROW is a faux documentary written and directed by Adam Green is the story of a group of film makers who are contacted by a man named William Dekker (Ray Wise) who believes in real life monsters and claims to have seen them and knows the location of the entrance to their underground network of passageways and cities. This subterranean network is what Dekker calls "The Marrow". Green and his team were contacted to document Dekker's work that has spanned the entire country and is his life's work.

Despite thinking that there's little more here than a crazy man, Green and his friend and cinematographer Will Barratt meet up with Dekker to discuss all of this. In a series of sit down interviews and ventures into the forest at night to largely stare at nothing the team begins to think that there's nothing worth shooting except the exploits of a delusional old man, which could be worth shooting in its own right. Then on another unassuming uneventful night Dekker begins to freak out saying he sees one and that it is moving in the darkness right in front of them. Against Dekker's wishes Green and Barratt turn on the camera's light and get a quick glimpse of one of the mosnters which happened to be a bulbous, gooey looking creature.

Ecstatic with proof Green shows all of his friends including horror icon Kane Hodder and they all write it off to good special effects work. Disbelief and tension grow as Dekker's intentions are revealed and Green finds out that he has contacted numerous other Hollywood directors before Green and his team. Dead set on finding out the truth Green and Barratt go to the entrance of The Marrow without Dekker one night to find out if it is real. When Dekker catches them sneaking around the trio finds out how real these monsters are and how far they'll go to protect their secret.

Adam Green proves that he is capable of crafting a film driven almost entirely by characters and their interactions. Despite being a movie where the plot revolves around the idea of monsters existing there are only a few moments where Green lets the viewers get a look at them. The less is more approach works brilliantly here and this may be Green's best directorial effort. The acting, which Green and company are no strangers too holds up equally well without a hint of overdoing or hamming it up. Ray Wise plays Dekker as a sincere lunatic wonderfully. There's a bit of humor in the script but it flows naturally within the setting and tone of the film.

The documentary style shooting and found footage aspect work better than the majority of films in this style. I got a vibe very close to Clive Barker's Nightbreed from DIGGING UP THE MARROW, or perhaps it is closer to somebody making a documentary about trying to prove the existance of Nightbreed. Similarly to Barker's work, there are some very cool monsters on display here in the glimpses that we do get to see them. The special effects work is really well done. I'd love to see some sort of sequel where we see more of them and more of their living space.

As much as I love special effects work, DIGGING UP THE MARROW shows that Adam Green is more than just a slinger of blood and guts and can also excel with more of a character piece. Adam Green has made an engaging, scary and altogether well done horror film in DIGGING UP THE MARROW.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Nekromantik 2: Return Of The Loving Dead (Blu-ray Review) - Cult Epics

Directed By: Jorg Buttgereit
Written By: Jorg Buttgereit, Franz Rodenkirchen
Starring: Monika M., Mark Reeder,
Color/103 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Limited Edition: 5,000 Copies

The Film
Three years after Jorg Buttgereit shocked and disgusted the underground film world with Nekromantik, his film about a man who brings home a corpse for his and his wife to fool around with he returns with the sequel where a woman tries to hide her love of necrophilia from her new boyfriend but keeps a rotting corpse around her apartment. The woman is torn between her two lovers and finally makes a choice that seems to have been the right one.

NEKROMANTIK 2 upholds the legacy of the first as both a nasty film and a controversial one. The German government attempted to seize and destroy the film including it's negative. Luckily they weren't able to get their hands on the negatives because this film is quite good. Buttgereit's follow up is bigger in production and scope and he manages to craft a well done love story out of a disturbing subject matter. The performances from Monika M. and Mark Reeder are good, both being believable in their roles and keeping things grounded. The special effects work is gooey and gross in the best way. An exceptionally well done job.

The weak point of the film is the pacing. There are stretches of the film that are painfully slow and could have been cut to make the film sleeker and more streamlined without losing any impact. If NEKROMANTIK 2 was an 80 or 85 minute affair it would flow better and be a better film altogether. The film is still quite good despite the pacing issues. It is a great companion piece to the first film while being able to stand alone on its own two feet.

The Audio & Video
Cult Epics give NEKROMANTIK 2 its high-def debut with this Blu-ray that sports a full frame 1.33:1 transfer, maintaining the film's original aspect ratio. The 16mm photography looks excellent here with highly increased detail levels over previous DVD releases. Skin tones are fleshy and natural without a hint of waxiness. There is some light speckling and minor scratches on the negative used for the transfer but it adds to the overall feel of the movie if anything. The transfer is warm and natural and I can't imagine it ever looking better.

There are three audio options for the film, all in the film's native German with optional English subtitles. I listened to the Dolby Digital mono track which is how the sound was originally recorded. This track sounds very nice with a good mix job on dialogue and the film's fantastic score. The English subtitles are timed and translated perfectly. Also included are Dolby 2.0 and 5.1 tracks.

The Extras
Cult Epics adds a nice selection of extras to their great technical presentation.

-New video introduction to the film by Jorg Buttgereit
-Audio commentary with Jorg Buttgereit, co-writer Franz Rodenkirchen and stars Monika M. and Mark Reeder
-The Making of NEKROMANTIK 2
-20th anniversary live concert performed by Monika M. and Friends (2011)
-"A Moment Of Silence At The Grave Of Ed Gein" (short film, 2012)
-Half Girl "Lemmy, I'm A Feminist" music video by Jorg Buttgereit
-Original soundtrack
-Original soundtrack live
-Selection of Jorg Buttgereit trailers

The Bottom Line
Over 20 years later and NEKROMANTIK 2 hasn't lost an ounce of gross out or shock factor. This new Blu-ray from Cult Epics will allow a whole new and much wider audience to experience the film than ever before and that warms my heart just a little.

NEKROMANTIK 2 is available HERE

Sunday, February 8, 2015

God Told Me To (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground

Directed By: Larry Cohen
Written By: Larry Cohen
Starring: Tony Lo Bianco, Deborah Raffin, Sandy Dennis
Color/90 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: February 10, 2015

The Film
A man sits perched atop a water tower in New York City armed with a rifle and opens fire on the lunch time crowds on the streets below, striking well over a dozen victims without a single miss. When detective Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco) ascends the tower to try and talk the shooter down he asks what has made him commit this crime and the shooter responds simply with "God told me to." before hurling himself off the tower to his own death. Thus begins one of the strangest experiences you're ever going to have with a film.

Detective Peter Nicholas continues to investigate a bizarre string of killings plaguing the city where all of the murderers claim that God has instructed them to kill. Nicholas' investigation takes him on a strange journey of alien abduction and insemination, virgin births, unholy faith and more violence. It is only when he discovers his true connection to it all that he will be able to stop it.

GOD TOLD ME TO is a film that may only have been able to be made when it was made. Larry Cohen may have been king of the drive-in film with works such as The Stuff, Q The Winged Serpent, Black Caesar and the It's Alive trilogy to name just a few. GOD TOLD ME TO may be his best work however and quite possibly his weirdest. In what plays out like any detective crime story, we're thrown through a whirlwind blender of demonic horror and off the wall science fiction twists. Cohen's writing certainly had a more is more attitude with this film and it somehow all comes together and works. His tight, moody and sometimes stylish direction aids in that. In a film that perfectly shows off New York City's grittiness of the period it's worth noting as an accomplishment that he's also able to pull off perfectly lit and artistic shots with some heavy handed use of colored lighting.

Tony Lo Bianco and the rest of the cast that reads like a who's who of various eras of Hollywood, give everything they have to bring Cohen's script to life without a single ounce of cheese, ham or overacting. This film would fail if the actors corn balled up their performances and it is something that Larry Cohen wouldn't have allowed, especially with the talent he had on board. From Andy Kaufman's first screen appearance to Richard Lynch and Sylvia Sidney nobody misses a beat.

The fashion in which the story progresses will have the viewer fully locked in and engaged wondering just what the hell will happen next. It may take a minute (or more) to process some of the big turns the film takes but you know what? It's a blast and somehow Cohen pulls it all together for a fucking awesome piece of bizarre drive-in cinema.

The Audio & Video
Blue Underground's release of GOD TOLD ME TO is absolutely stunning. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer has been scanned in 4K from the original negative and the results couldn't be nicer. The print is clean and in excellent condition. Colors are vivid and pop off the screen in breathtaking fashion. There's substantial detail shown in textures, surfaces and close ups. Black levels are deep and inky and handled with skill as there's no blocking up whatsoever. Skin tones are healthy and natural without any sign of waxiness from excessive DNR.

The English audio track is handled with a 7.1 DTS-HD mix that is pretty much perfect. The mix is boisterous and powerful while featuring subtlety that allows for a perfect balance of dialogue and score. There's no damage to the track such as popping or crackling and there's no background noise. Frank Cordell's score was in perfect hands for this disc.

The Extras
A fairly extensive lineup of special features are included:

-Audio commentary with Larry Cohen
-"Heaven and Hell on Earth": An interview with Tony Lo Bianco
-"Bloody Good Times": An interview with special effects artist Steve Neill
-"God Told Me To Bone" - Q&A with Larry Cohen at the New Beverly Theater
-Lincoln Center Q&A with Larry Cohen
-Extensive selection of TV spots and trailers for the film's ad campaigns under both titles "God Told Me To" and "Demon"
-Poster and stills gallery

The Bottom Line
This will be a disc that future drive-in era exploitation film Blu-ray releases will held to. The incredible A/V presentation with a healthy selection of extras makes this Blue Underground release essential to any fan of horror, exploitation, or oddball cinema.

GOD TOLD ME TO is available HERE

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Poker Night (Blu-ray Review) - XLRator Media

USA, Canda/2014
Directed By: Greg Francis
Written By: Greg Francis
Starring: Beau Mirchoff, Ron Perlman, Giancarlo Esposito
Color/104 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: February 10, 2015

The Film
Newly appointed detective Stan Jeter is invited to his first poker night with some of the best detectives on the force. The group uses their poker nights to swap stories and give insight to the new guys as much as for a night of fun and harmless gambling. Jeter quickly learns of their triumphs and failures and the lessons and knowledge they all learned from various stories and he'll immediately have to put them to use to try and match wits and survive being captured and held in a basement while tortured for weeks.

POKER NIGHT starts off with great intensity and tension. The killer's menacing look adds to the fear quickly being imposed in the viewer. The stories being shared around the table by the veteran detectives are all interesting and well done in their flashbacks and montages. Jeter's predicament features some very nasty and violent scenarios but unfortunately the back and forth from Jeter's situation to the poker table draws the viewers attentions elsewhere and the focus is put on the other stories which are frankly more interesting than Jeter's.

The performances are all very good, including a much larger role for Ron Perlman than I had predicted. The direction is stylish and the editing is tight. Unfortunately it is the writing from Greg Francis that let's his own direction and overall film down quite a bit as the film's most interesting parts are not based around its main character. POKER NIGHT remains a pretty well done film, and it is violent and entertaining from start to finish and while the meat and potatoes of the film aren't the most interesting part the villain is a smart and pretty well thought out killer.

The Audio & Video
XLRator Media's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is stunning. Detail levels are high in surfaces, textures and close ups, while colors are vivid. Skin tones look fleshy and natural and black levels are deep and don't suffer from pixelation or blocking up. The source material is crystal clear and clean as can be. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is crisp, clear and dynamic. The mix job is excellent letting the dialogue and score channels mix nicely. There's no damage or audible annoyances to speak of.

The Extras
A trailer is the lone extra

The Bottom Line
POKER NIGHT has some interesting scenes and some well done moments that make it worthwhile.

POKER NIGHT is available HERE

Friday, February 6, 2015

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 (DVD Review) - Severin Films

Directed By: Jake West
Written By: Jake West
Color/97 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: February 10, 2015

The Film
Jake West follows up his acclaimed 2010 documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape, which documented the 80+ horror and exploitation films that the BBFC cut, edited and outright banned from home video distribution. West is back with the follow up, VIDEO NASTIES: DRACONIAN DAYS an equally entertaining and even more poignant look at the British Board of Film Classification's work during the mid-80s after the initial "scare" of these ostracized films up through 1999 and the overall impact it had on British culture.

DRACONIAN DAYS is packed with interviews from those who lived through the decade plus of abhorrent censorship that is quite difficult to believe happened in a fully developed first-world country as recently as 20 years ago. From film makers, to critics and fans who had their homes raided by police and their property seized as evidence, even to people that worked under the Director of the BBFC, James Ferman, who made it his personal mission to keep the morals of Great Britain safe and secure.

Censorship in the UK became so extreme that any weapon that was outlawed in the country, from ninja throwing stars, to nunchucks and cross bows had to be edited out of films, regardless of their content because of their imitability by children. This means that even the opening scene in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secret Of The Ooze, a PG rated film made for kids of all ages was heavily cut because one of the heroes uses nunchucks to fight some villains. If you've seen the movie you know that the violence on display, especially that with the weapon in question is lighthearted, and comical, far from anything threatening to the minds of the beloved children.

In fact, that is what it seemed to boil down to - Will the purchase and viewing of these films in the home (whether a home has children or not was of no difference) leave the children at risk. The answer, at least to James Ferman, was "yes!". Ferman's power reached a tyrannical breaking point when he suggested that any film that could of questionable content to the youth be banned from private ownership on video and from private home viewing. Again, the question of whether a home had children living there did not matter. This proposal did not care on the purpose of a film or its artistic merit (I'll leave the debate of one film's artistic merit vs another film's for another day). This means that films widely held as classics like The Godfather or Schindler's List would be illegal for an adult to buy and watch in the comforts of their own living room. Luckily Ferman's team realized the wide reaching and frankly damning implications this would have and talked him out of it.

The fact remained however that many horror and exploitation films were just too damned violent, vile and disgusting for anyone to own and view in their uncut nature. Films underwent such heavy censorship that very little if any of the actual horror remained. What was left was some odd minutes of a totally illogical and disjointed group of scenes. Not only was the gory, nudity and violence removed the film itself had been destroyed in many cases. This didn't stop fans from seeking out these video tapes and acquiring them of course. Uncut releases from Germany and other areas of Europe were smuggled through customs and passed their dogs and fans would post ads in fan published magazines and newspapers with lists of what titles they had for sale or trade or their wishlists. The bootleg market boomed at this point and many video rental stores even had secret back rooms for trustworthy customers to get their fix.

This black market boom in illegal video tapes led to police raiding many homes, businesses and trade shows. Anywhere these contraband tapes were being stored, swapped or duplicated was subject to search and seizure. The accounts with this documentary are funny at times with many first hand accounts of collectors having their home raided and the police having no real idea of what they were doing with my personal favorite example being from contributor David Flint, author of "Babylon Blue" when he was raided and some 70 or 80 tapes were seized including some properly certified PG rated kids titles but hardcore porn was skipped over and "Nudie-Cuties" was taken but "Nudie-Cuties 2", which was right next to it on the shelf, was skipped over! 

James Ferman's hold on the BBFC ironically came to an end in 1999 shortly after he lifted the ban on hardcore porn. Yes, dear reader, the ownership and home viewing of pornography was illegal in Great Britain until 1999. In the years since Ferman resigned from his position the majority of the Video Nasties and the dozens upon dozens of titles associated with them have been passed uncut for home video in the UK and have received rather lavish releases on formats ranging from VHS and DVD to high definition Blu-ray.

THE VIDEO NASTIES: DRACONIAN DAYS is a must-see documentary for any horror and exploitation fan as a piece of history for the genres but more importantly it is a work that all artists should view regardless of their medium to show that we'd be damned to let history repeat itself with this type of censorship. Jake West has made an important film that will stand the test of time as an article and example of what once was and hopefully will never be again in the world of censorship and art in the home.

The Audio & Video
Severin Films has released a nice overall set here with an anamorphic widescreen transfer that is sharp and has good color reproduction. The sit down interview footage obviously looks better than footage shot 15-30 years ago but even the older footage still looks fine. There's no damage or dirt with the source material. The English audio is handled through a mono track which is nothing special but it gets the job done with no background noise, popping or crackling. While the audio isn't dynamic it gets the information across perfectly which is what's important.

The Extras
Disc 1
-Fanzine Flashback - A gallery of classic covers from the prominent fanzines of the video nasties era.
-DPP 72: The Final 39 - A still gallery of video cassette covers of 39 of the 72 films that were successfully prosecuted and anyone found with these tapes would be liable for prosecution.
-DPP 82 - A still gallery of the "Section" 3 tapes that were not prosecutable despite being liable for seizure.

Disc 2
-Section 3 Films A-L: Trailers for each of the 82 "Section 3" films with lengthy introductions (optional). These introductions are closer to mini commentary tracks than simple intros!

-Section 3 Films M-Z: Trailers for each of the 82 "Section 3" films with lengthy introductions (optional). These introductions are closer to mini commentary tracks than simple intros!

The Bottom Line
Every genre of film has a documentary or two that is essential viewing for that genre. THE VIDEO NASTIES: DRACONIAN DAYS is essential viewing for fans of exploitation and horror movies and will make an excellent addition to your collection especially next to Video Nasties: The Essential Guide previously released by Severin.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

HI-8: Horror Independent 8 (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing

Directed By: Tim Ritter, Marcus Koch, Tony Masiello, Ron Bonk, Chris Seaver, Todd Sheets, Donald Farmer, Brad Sykes
Written By: Ron Bonk, Donald Farmer, Matt Hill, Alaine Huntington, Marcus Koch, Tim Ritter, Chris Seaver, Todd Sheets, Brad Sykes
Starring: Baker Chase, Alexis Codding, Travis Hoecker
Color/98 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: December 16, 2014

The Film
Shot on video horror was huge in the 80s and churned out some really dreadful movies that somehow managed to land distribution simply because it would sell. Occasionally though, some of these movies were actually pretty good, or entertaining at the very least. The format was cheap but had a distinct look that brings back quite a bit of nostalgia today. There's no doubt that it opened the door to almost anyone to make a movie. So what would happen if a group of modern day indie horror directors went back in time to use HI-8 cameras and tapes to film a horror anthology? The result is HI-8: HORROR INDEPENDENT 8.

It's pretty easy to figure out why there are eight chapters to this anthology film, with everything from zombies to slashers and rapists. Each director makes their own retro styled horror tale, some serious, some overly cheesy. This film feels like it could be straight out of 1989 with wild gore and creature effects and a genuine excitement that can be felt through the screen.

Yes, there is plenty of camp and cheese and this isn't Hollywood level stuff but it isn't meant to be. This is horror lovers making horror movies for nothing else but the love of doing it. This is the type of movie that you sit back with a few friends and a few beers, kick up the recliner and just enjoy. There's something for every taste in HI-8 whether you like the straight forward stalk and slash, or if you prefer monsters or if you're in the mood for something a bit weirder, it's all here and the movie flies by. HI-8 is a whirlwind of shot on video fun.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing has given HI-8 a home on DVD and the results are solid. Taking into account that this was filmed entirely on video the DVD looks great. The picture quality is clean and as sharp  as you'd hope. Colors look good as well. The stereo audio track sounds good as well with quality mix jobs. There's no damage or excessive buzzing or popping.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with producers Brad Sykes and Josephina Sykes
-The Making of HI-8
-Teaser trailer
-Promo clip for "Gang Them Style"
-Promo clip for "The Scout"
-Promo clip for "A Very Bad Situation"
-Behind the scenes image gallery

The Bottom Line
HI-8 is a project full of fun and love by film makers that love horror and put their heart and soul in to everything they make. HI-8 may be low budget but it's extremely high energy and definitely worth checking out.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Frankenstein vs. The Mummy (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Damien Leone
Written By:  Damien Leone
Starring: Max Rhyser, Ashton Leigh, Robert MacNaughton
Color/114 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: February 10, 2015

The Film
What do you get when a doctor obsessed with prolonging life, his monstrous creation and an ancient Egyptian king mummy all obsess after the same woman? Well... just read on to find out.

Victor and Naihla are professors at the same university, Victor as a doctor and philosopher of medicine and Naihla as an archaeologist. The young and attractive pair begin dating after Naihla returns from an expedition in Egypt where she unearthed a 3000 year old mummy of a rather vile king who of course has some sort of curse attached to his body. Another professor working on the mummy with Naihla gives life back to the mummy by spilling blood onto him.

Not to be outdone, Victor has been obsessed with re-animating dead flesh and has been paying a rather undesirable man to bring him body parts and when he needs a fresh brain the man decides to up his pay day substantially by blackmailing Victor. After a struggle, Victor kills his body snatcher and uses his brain to complete his project. The problem? It's smarter and stronger than Victor could have ever predicted and has the soul of his body snatcher who wants to kill Victor and capture Naihla. Oh, and the mummy king wants Naihla as well after he sees her necklace of an old Egyptian symbol. And Victor isn't ready to let some undead monsters take away his girl.

FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE MUMMY actually started out pretty decent. Sure, it had some melodramatic romance moments but the movie was building to a pretty decent albeit standard mummy and Frankenstein horror movie. The mummy had a classically scary look to him, and the professor who did his bidding was a major creep. I actually enjoyed where the movie was heading through the point where Victor had to murder his body snatcher. It had all been done before and in better ways but again, it wasn't bad. The acting and effects were solid and we were well on our way to a decent DTV horror movie. Then we see the Frankenstein monster who looked like he belonged to a really douchey rock band and sounded like he was giving his best impression of Regan from The Exorcist. It was laughable.

The romantic moments from early on became the driving factor of the rest of the movie and it turned into a Lifetime network Halloween special. I can imagine the tagline now... "Will she choose the timeless love of the monsters, or the human touch of the man?" Get real. My eyes were rolling fast and furiously by the third act. You may be wondering about the title, surely we get some badass moments of the mummy and the monster battling it out, right? RIGHT!? Well, we do get one. I definitely wouldn't call it badass and it doesn't last for more than 90 seconds. For a movie with the title FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE MUMMY at least give the audience some fucking scenes of the monsters fighting. It would have been the only redeeming factor.

FRANKENSTEIN VS. THE MUMMY jumped off a cliff. Yeah, it suffered from some hammy acting and we're supposed to believe that these two beautiful single professors that don't exist in real life just found each other at this university, that's fine. I can deal with that. Special effects were pretty damn good and there was even some decent music and cues in the movie. So why in the blue hell did it all go wrong? Who decided it was a good idea to turn this in to a giant "take me to prom" episode of The Brady Bunch where "something suddenly came up" and these monsters are so pissed off about Marcia Brady (Naihla) that they're going to kill Victor? Sorry for that random tangent but that's what it feels like to me, like the writer (who also directed) felt he had a decent setup of classic horror themes and wasn't satisfied with that and wanted to make something that would be his own and royally fucked it all up.

Oh well. When all is said and done I'm not really surprised that this was a let down.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ give this movie a nice presentation on DVD with a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are vivid and represented nicely especially in the muted color palettes in Victor's lab. Sharpness is pretty good but darker scenes do block up a little bit but not terribly. The audio is handled with a 5.1 Dolby Digital that sounds nice and has a great mix. Music and dialogue never fight for space and compliment each other nicely. Clarity is very good and there's no damage or background noise.

The Extras
-An audio commentary track with writer/director Damien Leone and cinematographer George Steuber

The Bottom Line
If you're a more forgiving fan of horror films and love the classic monster you might consider giving this one a rental. If you're smarter though you'll pass and watch something better.