Friday, March 30, 2018

THE 'BURBS (Shout Factory Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Joe Dante
Written By: Dana Olsen
Starring: Tom Hanks, Rick Ducommun, Bruce Dern
Color/101 Minutes/PG
Region A
Release Date: March 20, 2018

The Film
Ah, the suburbs, the idyllic slice of Americana where you groom your lawn, grill your meats and suffer from an unwavering paranoia that your new neighbor is some sort of strange maniac. There's really very little as beautiful as getting your fellow neighbors together to spy on the new folks because who the hell are they to invade your cul-de-sac and not introduce themselves? And what are those weird sounds coming from their basement? And why do they only come out at night? You better find out... for the good of the neighborhood!

Tom Hanks stars as Ray Peterson, a typical middle class American taking a week's vacation from his job. All he wants to do is lounge around the house and perhaps get some projects done but his wife (Carrie Fisher) wants to take a trip to the lake with their son. Balking at the idea because of all the hassles and headaches of a long trip, Ray and his wacky conspiracy theorist neighbor Art (the late Rick Ducommun) and short fused veteran gun nut Rumsfeld (Bruce Dern) get caught up in a scheme involving their new neighbors, the Klopeks, who live in the rundown old house next to Ray and keep to themselves. They also have strange noises and smells coming from the home and Ray's son has seen them digging holes in the back yard late at night. Paranoia boils over quickly in the 'burbs and when old man Walter at the end of the street goes missing for a couple days the trio decide to get to the bottom of it when the Klopeks leave for the day.

THE BURBS is a dark comedy that ages like a fine wine. Even after well over a dozen viewings I'm still picking out subtle things to laugh at. There are big laughs in the writing and main jokes and they hold up perfectly well but there's so many small little jokes and so much humor to be found in facial expressions and body language that it lends itself to repeat viewings. The main trio has a fantastic dynamic and natural on screen chemistry. They're the perfect microchosm for weird, quirky neighborhood streets where you're sort of forced in to these relationships with people you might not really like but you tolerate for the sake of a peaceful existence and sometimes even buddy up for some weird adventure (like breaking into the new neighbors house and blowing it up). These three guys wouldn't normally be friends but their houses are next to each other and they have little tiny bits in common, (like wanting to break into the neighbors house and blow it up) so they join up for this wacky adventure that we're privy to enjoying. The audience of this film is basically a wider extension of Corey Feldman's character who plays a teen who is home alone and enjoying the circus taking place on his street, constantly inviting more friends over to watch it all go down. He's a great backdrop for the entire thing. And God bless Carrie Fisher in this movie, the late princess looks amazing and turns in a fantastic role of the sole voice of reason on the entire block. If this street was real I'd imagine she'd end up in a padded room before too long.

I think the strong writing is a rock solid foundation for the film to be built on but THE BURBS excels and becomes a classic comedy because the entire ensemble cast is on board with it and nobody feels that they're above the material. Our heroes and protectors of the street are made better by great counterparts and the Klopeks are just that. Starting off with the youngest, Courtney Gains plays a mostly silent weirdo to a T while his older relatives, Henry Gibson plays the head of the household, a doctor at the local university who performs various experiments in the house. He's the one you have to look out for, adding an unnerving creepiness that the family didn't exactly need to be unnerving and creepy. The gem of the bunch though is Brother Theodore playing Reuben Klopek ("About a 9 on the old tension scale there, Rube!"). Reuben is the doctor's brother, and is a grumpy, grouchy old man scowling at the world and being generally miserable toward everyone. I love his performance. Add in a couple garbage men (Dick Miller and Robert Picardo)  for a hilarious scene that sends garbage flying all over the cul-de-sac and we've rounded out almost the entire cast and they're all fantastic.

Joe Dante uses some unexpected music cues throughout, including some Ennio Morricone western pieces that somehow fit perfectly, and even gives us some stylish directing with sweeping pans of the neighborhood in single takes that give a truly organic and realistic feel to the street. There's no fat to be trimmed in THE BURBS. The film is infinitely quotable and scene after scene replays in my head when I call up the memory. As it approaches its 30th anniversary it feels as fresh to me now as it did the first time I watched it in the mid-90s as it played on whatever TV station was airing it at the time and remains one of my favorite comedies of all time.

The Audio & Video
Shout Factory delivers THE BURBS to Blu-ray via a new 2K scan of the film's interpositive which looks good and is quite the upgrade over the previous Universal Blu-ray that used a dated master. The anamorphic widescreen transfer features colors that are mostly lush and vivid while remaining true to their real life nature. Detail is strong for the most part but at times becomes a bit softer and fine detail is lost. This is similar with the color in which the vivid nature fades a bit during grainer moments. This isn't the first special edition the film has received as Arrow Video released the film on Blu-ray in the UK back in 2014 with quite similar video results to my eye however their release was much grainier at times and didn't look quite as sharp throughout. Shout's disc may feature a bit of digital tinkering but it still features a natural look and one that is overall a more pleasing viewing experience to me.

This disc features a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo mix that sounds as nice as it should. A nice five or seven channel surround mix would certainly be welcomed but this stereo mix is of the highest quality for what we're given. The audio is crips and clear with no noticeable distortions interfering with the dialogue or soundtrack.

Note: The screen grabs presented in this review do NOT represent the HD quality of the Blu-ray.

The Extras
Special features are plentiful and far outweigh the nearly barebones Universal disc from a couple years ago.

Included in this release is an audio commentary track with writer Dana Olsen and it is moderated by Calum Waddell ensuring that the track is lively and on point. The "There Goes The Neighborhood: The Making Of The Burbs" documentary is the best part of the special features and includes interviews with many of the big names you want to hear from including director Joe Dante, and actors Corey Feldman and Courtney Gains. The original workprint of the film is a nice addition as well which features deleted, extended and alternate scenes. This is obviously a bit rough in presentation but I love seeing workprint versions and how they compare to the final cut. Finally an alternate ending, theatrical trailer which were both included in the old Universal release and a still gallery round out the extras.

The Bottom Line
THE BURBS is one of my all time favorite films and while this release from Shout Factory's Shout Select line isn't perfect it is my favorite release of the film on home video to date including Arrow's UK release. This is a must own release.

THE BURBS is available HERE

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

THE MASTER: The Complete Series (Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Various
Written By: Various
Starring: Lee Van Cleef, Timothy Van Patten, Sho Kosugi
Color/624 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: February 20, 2018

The Series
Lee Van Cleef stars as John Peter McAllister, a veteran of World War II and the Korean War who would become the first Occidental ninja, eventually deciding to leave the life of the ninja behind to search for a daughter he previously did not know he had. This was seen was a betrayal by other ninjas including his former student Okasa (Sho Kosugi) who has sworn to kill his former master for his dishonor. McAllister escapes to a small town where he meets a young, headstrong man named Max Keller (Timothy Van Patten) who constantly finds himself in scuffles and fights, commonly leaving the local bar through the front window. McAllister and Keller team up with Keller's pet hamster Henry who hangs out on the dashboard of Keller's van for a road trip adventure to find McAllister's daughter all while he takes on Keller as his new student teaching him the art of the ninja and finding someone to help and plenty of trouble at each stop along the way.

Premiering on January 20, 1984 THE MASTER should have been a perfect fit for its time. The 80s was a decade that loved odd couple buddy mashups like Knight Rider, Magnum PI, and The A-Team and ninjas were never more popular than they were during the 1980s with films like The American Ninja franchise and Enter The Ninja and Return Of The Ninja which both starred Sho Kosugi. But by August of the same year and after only 13 episodes the series was canceled and sadly most of the big plot points that drove the whole show were left unresolved. It's a shame that we didn't get one big final showdown between McAllister and Okasa and McAllister never does meet his daughter and we don't even get to say goodbye to Henry! That's okay, there's still plenty to love in THE MASTER.

Whether our ninja duo is busy fighting a dangerous and corrupt trucking company, or helping save a small town cannery, rescuing hostages or protecting an orphanage there's always a lot of spin kicks, bar fights and ninja magic. Each epsiode is a hour long (more like 48 minutes with the commercials removed) cheese fest. The best scenes of the series are those in which Sho Kosugi is around and that usually means it is a fight scene with Lee Van Cleef's stand-in that provided the best fight choreography of the series. Even these scenes have that high quality cheese funk to them as if it wasn't noticeable enough on its own that it was a stand-in doing the fight scenes for Lee Van Cleef the rubbery, wrinkled bald cap slaps you in the face. I love it. There's also plenty of scenes where you can clearly see the stand-in actor's eyes and part of his face in the opening of the ninja hood and it's obviously not Lee Van Cleef. This is all part of the charm and that charm permeates the entire series. The writing is fairly standard for a series of this nature where there's a plot that drives the series but most of the time it's individual stories with each episode and only sporadically does that main thread that holds the whole thing together come in to play. But within these standard episodes is a genuine enjoyment and love for the whole thing, especially Lee Van Cleef who is most known for his work in the Spaghetti Western genre and the writers love putting in winks and nods to this as nearly half the episodes have something in them that references his days spent in the old west. From the episode where someone says he looks like Clint Eastwood to which Lee Van Cleef replies "Not quite." or in the episode "High Rollers" which ends in an old west movie set and LVC notes how at home he feels, I fell in love with each of these moments as they popped up through the series. It's a little thing that not everyone will notice but for fans of Van Cleef's work on those pictures it is a little bit of a love letter that I appreciate.  Timothy Van Patten proves to be more than capable being the main character and doing most of the heavy lifting scene to scene. He's handsome and has a likable personality which instantly draws us to him.

THE MASTER is far from perfect and just like most television series that have passed their 30th birthday its seems are starting to show but with fun to be had in each and every episode and guest stars like Demi Moore, Clu Gulager and even Sho Kosugi's little ass kicker of a son Kane on top of the regular cast I can't help but love what THE MASTER has to offer.

The Audio & Video
Kino Lorber gives THE MASTER its worldwide Blu-ray debut via its Studio Classics line and it looks pretty damn great. The new full 1080p transfer retains the series' original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio as it was originally broadcast on televisions in 1984. Clarity and crispness are steady throughout with intermittent moments of light speckling or scratches where the source material was a bit rougher. The vast majority of the time the presentation is gorgeous however with excellent detail evident in the silkiness of the ninja outfits and how plainly Lee Van Cleef's stunt double stands out with his rubbery bald cap. Colors are sharp and black levels are deep and inky. I didn't notice any issues with compression or blocking.

The audio features a 2.0 DTS-HDMA  mix that isn't very dynamic but it's very pleasing to the ear with steady levels and a crisp mix. It gets the job done properly without being unnecessarily fancy. I had no problems with background noise or damage to the audio tracks.

The Extras
Sadly there's no real special features on this release, only a collection of trailers for other Kino releases on disc 3. Interviews or audio commentary on select episodes with Timothy Van Patten or Sho Kosugi would have really made this release special.

The Bottom Line
Kino has preserved THE MASTER for past and future fans with this three disc set and while it may not be high art it is high entertainment. Ninja fans take note! Recommended.

THE MASTER is available HERE

The Super Inframan Press Release - 88 Films

The UK's top label for Hong Kong cinema has outdone itself by bringing one of the key classics of kaiju craziness back to shelves for a British BluRay premiere!
With a street date of 23rd April, 88 Films is proud to announce that the Cantonese-language classic THE SUPER INFRAMAN (1975) is now IN STOCK at our online web shop and shipping almost a month early! Highlighting a brand new HD transfer and coming clad in our trademark slipcase that features the original Hong Kong poster artwork, this is a superhero epic that needs to be seen to be believed. Years before caped crusaders, airborne idols and indestructible uniform-clad animal-men became a blockbuster presence, the East Asian superstar actor Danny Lee (CITY ON FIRE/ THE UNTOLD STORY) punched and kicked his way to stardom as the headline attraction in this outrageously entertaining action packed masterpiece!
The very first Hong Kong superhero opus, THE SUPER INFRAMAN also drew on the kaiju (direct translation: 'strange beasts') boom that had proved so popular in Japan thanks to the ongoing ULTRAMAN and GOJIRA/ GODZILLA franchises. However, by the mid-1970s even the 'King of the Monsters' was starting to look a little long in the tooth and, as a result, it was up to the director Shan Hau, whose other classic credits include SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU (1977) and BLOODY PARROT (1981), to attempt to cross cultures with this Chinese variant. The proof, of course, is in the prize - and THE SUPER INFRAMAN was a smash hit across the Asian continent - bridging language boundaries and national identity as viewers grooved to the loud colours, lavish costumes and otherworldly creations. Featuring creature feature fisticuffs, with Lee pitched against a number of monstrous creations, and foxy femme fatales - this is pure glam rock mixed with chock-a-block adventure and intrigue.

Cleverly mixing sci-fi and shocks together - THE SUPER INFRAMAN became one of the most celebrated Shaw Brothers productions of its era. Inspiring a cult following that has lasted until this day, this genius 1975 jaunt of good vs. evil in mysterious lands has been one of the most demanded titles from followers of the 88 Asia line. As such, we are proud to present THE SUPER INFRAMAN in this dazzling release - that comes with options of the original Cantonese audio track, with English subtitles, or - for that true 'grindhouse' experience - the Anglicised dub where not a single word matches a single mouth motion! Also included in this release is a behind-the-scenes image gallery and a booklet by Dr. Calum Waddell looking back at the history of the kaiju trend!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Comet TV and Charge! March Giveaway & Lineup

I Can Carry Nearly 80 Gigs of Data In My Head!
-Johnny Mnemonic

March is here and like you might have read in our earlier email, we’re super excited to share with you the newest COMET TV schedule and Giveaway as well as a new network, CHARGE!
CHARGE! is an action network showing the most “kickin’” and “punchin’” films ever created.
This month COMET TV has the best of the worst marathon, with the best of the worst movies ever created.
Over on CHARGE!, there’s the Kickboxer marathon with all five Kickboxer films.
And we want to give you the opportunity to have an awesome March of your own! The COMET TV and CHARGE! March Prize Pack is perfect for binging some classic films and TV Shows!

The Comet TV and Charge! March Pack has:
1 - Limited Edition Johnny Mnemonic COMET TV T-shirt: One of the best of the worst films ever. Can you carry Nearly 80 Gigs Of Data In Your Head… It depends on if I have my morning coffee! This shirt is exclusive and only 130 are in existence.
1 - Kickboxer Exclusive Charge! Clamshell Box: Talk about retro goodness! This Bloodsport exclusive clamshell box features exclusive throwback artwork and will immediately take you back to the days of waiting in line for new release movies at the video store!

1- Kickboxer “Kickin’ It” Viewing Kit: When you’re working up a sweat either by saving the world or sitting on the couch, this viewing kit will aid you, in your quest. It has an official Kickboxer elastic headband as well as some popcorn and stickers.

2 - Exclusive COMET TV Film Cards: The best thing to celebrate the cult classic films arriving on COMET TV this month! A limited edition set only available here!

2 - Exclusive CHARGE! Film Cards: Get in the mood to check out CHARGE! with this card set showcasing some of the awesome movies showing on CHARGE! this month!

To Enter:
Email me at with your full name and address and tell me your favorite movie playing on Comet or Charge this month!
Winners addresses must be submitted by April 7.
Giveaway open to the US

About COMET TV - March 2018



We’re rolling out the red carpet for some of the best worst movies on planet Earth. They’re so bad… they’re awesome. Catch films like …

Creature (1985)
Gargoyles (1972)
Jaws of Satan (1982)
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Monster Dog (1984)
Reptilicus (1962)
The Milpitas Monster (1976)
Vicious Lips (1986)
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

Cyberpunk might be all the rage right now, but Johnny Mnemonic was doing it before it was cool. Keanu Reeves stars as a data courier who traffics top secret information via an implant in his brain. Sounds cool, right? Not when that data ends up acting like a virus that could kill you dead if you don’t get the passwords in time.

Thursday, March 15 at 4/3C

Wednesday, March 28 at 6/5C


Friday Primetime Movie 8/7C

Saturday Encore Presentation 8/7C
King Cobra (March 9)
Monkey Shines (March 16)
Code 46 (March 23)
High Spirits (March 30)

Stargate Universe

Monday-Friday at 2/1C & 10/9C

Unlock the secrets of the ninth chevron with the boldest show in the Stargate franchise’s illustrious history. SGU features stunning visuals, a complex storyline, and all the gate-hopping action you could possibly need. So, what are you waiting for? Board the Destiny and join COMET for the adventure.


CHARGE! punches it’s way into our lives with an awesome Kickboxer marathon!

All five films will be shown Monday-Friday, March 26-30 at 6/5C - including the original Van Damme movie that started it all!

The roundhouse kicks begin March 26 at 6/5C

Saturday, March 10 at 10/9C

Monday, March 26 at 6/5C
Kickboxer 2: The Road Back

Saturday, March 10 at MIDNIGHT/11C
Tuesday, March 27 at 6/5C

Kickboxer 3: The Art of War
Saturday, March 17 at 10/9C
Wednesday, March 28 at 6/5C

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor
Saturday, March 17 at MIDNIGHT/11C
Thursday, March 29 at 6/5C

The Redemption: Kickboxer 5
Saturday, March 24 at 10/9C
Friday, March 30 at 6/5C

The Avengers
Revisit a classic. The British ultra suave spy series The Avengers is sleuthing it’s way onto CHARGE! with back to back episodes Monday through Friday at 1:30/12:30C.
Ranked by TV Guide as one of the top 20 cult TV series of all time, The Avengers is a spy-fi delight!
Weekdays at 1:30/12:30C

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

STAR TIME (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray Review)

Directed By: Alexander Cassini
Written By: Alexander Cassini
Starring: Michael St. Gerard, John P. Ryan, Maureen Teefy
Color/84 Minutes/
Region FREE
Release Date: March 27, 2018

The Film
"This is the fourteenth murder..."
"Fourteen? Fifteen! Fiveteen! Can you believe this, Henry?"

Henry is a delusional young man with a fragile mind. He finds comfort in his favorite television programs, even telling his social worker about the time he spends with his favorite program, "The Robertson Family" each week. When "The Robertson Family" is canceled he becomes suicidal and is approached by a mysterious agent named Sam Bones (John P. Ryan from It's Alive and Class Of 1999) who promises Henry the same fame and notoriety that his favorite television actors have if he kills certain people. After donning a baby face mask for personality Henry agrees and goes on a killing spree until Sam instructs Henry to kill his social worker.

STAR TIME received some love and recognition from the festival circuit before hitting VHS and fading into obscurity in 1992. Having never heard of the film before the announcement of this release I was curious to see what it was all about but was a blank slate going in. It didn't take long to realize that STAR TIME wasn't going to be a straight forward serial killer film like the plot synopsis hinted that it could be. Writer/Director Alexander Cassini is far more concerned with creating a character piece about a psychologically damaged man morbidly obsessed with television to the point that instead of taking his own life when the television program that he feels is the only thing he's holding for is canceled he is persuaded by a mysterious man claiming to be a talent agent to go on a killing spree and live in infamy forever with his handiwork gracing the TV screen each time he kills. Henry is slow to take to the idea, failing on his first attempt and attributing it to having nerves on opening night. Quickly Henry has racked up over a dozen killings and Sam is loving his work to the point where he scoffs when the nightly news incorrectly reports on the number of killings so far.

Henry is a lost soul, fully under Sam's rule until he visits his old social worker that he had sent a video tape to stating that he had killed himself after his favorite show got the ax. Wendy, played lovingly and with a sense of helpless despair by Maureen Teefy, is the voice of reason and reality to Henry, believing Sam is nothing but an imaginary friend and a creation of a broken mind. Sam calls for Henry to kill Wendy which sends Henry into a frenzy to protect his true friend until he finally gets his fifteen minutes of fame and scream his name into the lens of the television camera for all to hear.

STAR TIME would not be a success without great performances and our main trio all turn in excellent ones. Michael St. Gerard does quite the 180 from his role of the heartthrob Link Larkin in John Water's Hairspray from a few years prior, convincingly and tragically portraying the broken Henry. St. Gerard doesn't have a long list of credits but this could definitely be the performance of his career. It's easy to say that you have no empathy for a killer but your heart absolutely breaks for Henry. John P. Ryan is no stranger to any film fan, I bet you've seen one of his movies even if you don't know him by name and he turns in a strange, at times diabolically comedic and altogether devious performance as the devil on Henry's shoulder. Cassini makes the movie something special with his style behind the camera however. STAR TIME is a prime example of a director making his debut feature film and showing no fear taking chances. Cassini's experimental side comes through time after time with interesting camera movements, angles and set pieces. The room full of nude women on TV monitors seducing Henry is instantly burned into my memory and I would not be surprised if the creators of Rocko's Modern Life had seen this film before making the episode in which Heffer becomes obsessed with TV which features a scene strikingly similar to the one here.

Cassini succeeds more often than not in the chances he takes and I never asked myself why he would make that artistic decision. The film's commentary isn't hidden or shadowed, it is quite obviously dealing with the obsession of fame and TV on a fragile mind and even over a quarter century later this is still something we deal with daily as violent media of all forms is blamed and brought in to question with each new murder. I hate to think that STAR TIME'S relevance is here to stay even if it deserves to stick around because it's a good film.

STAR TIME can be considered a horror film and without much work at all it could have been a bloody slasher film but I think that cheapens and fails the film. It is a psychological horror film, it is a comment on the price and worth of fame, after all once you scream your name into the camera who cares after the screen goes black? Who will remember Henry Pinkle when the channel goes off the air and the color bars pop up. Despite that STAR TIME probably has an entertaining slasher film in it and even with it being set around several bloody set pieces in the second half of the film, STAR TIME is more than just another exercise in blood and guts.

The Audio & Video
A bit more than an obscurity, STAR TIME is a title I had never heard of before this release was announced by Vinegar Syndrome and it certainly deserved to be rescued and shown some respect. Vinegar Syndrome has restored the film from its original 35mm negative and delivered the original director's cut on to home video for the first time and it looks magnificent from top to bottom. Detail levels are exceptional, particularly in closeups such as character faces and clothing and texture. Just take a look at Sam Bones' green sequin suit and you could count each sequin and see the perfect detail of each one. The color palette is vivid and natural and black levels are deep without any compression or blocking issues. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track sounds pristine. The track appropriately mixes the dialogue and score in a crystal clear presentation. There's no crackling or hissing or other distortions and no background noise to speak of.

The Extras
-Audio commentary track from director Alexander Cassini
-"Shooting Star Time" - An interview with cinematographer Fernando Arguelles clocking in at over 30 minutes. This is a great background into the production of the movie.
-"The Great Performance" - A short film by Alexander Cassini
-Theatrical Trailer
-Reversible Artwork

The Bottom Line
STAR TIME won't find a fan base with everyone. Its somewhat avant garde approach definitely limits who will find this film enjoyable more so than if it had gone for the more straight forward horror film approach that it hints at but in that case it wouldn't be nearly as memorable and wouldn't be the same viewing experience. Vinegar Syndrome has beautifully restored the film and surrounded it with some worthwhile bonus features that I think experimental film fans will appreciate.

STAR TIME is available HERE

Friday, March 16, 2018


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

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

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

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

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

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

But damn, do I love that pool scene. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isolated Score by Dead Can Dance (50 mins)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

EATEN ALIVE (Severin Films Blu-ray Release)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EATEN ALIVE is available HERE