Tuesday, April 18, 2017

RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive Collection

Duration: 94 minutes
Region Code: All Regions
Rating: Unrated: 
Audio: English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Sam Peckinpah
Cast: Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Mariette Hartley, Ronald Starr, Edgar Buchanan, James Drury, Warren Oates. L.Q. Jones, R.G. Armstrong

In Sam Peckinpah's Ride The High Country (1962) we have aging lawman Steve Judd (Joel McCrea, Foreign Correspondent) at the turn of the 20th century, man on horses are giving way to the horseless carriage, and the remnants of old west are evaporating fast. Judd is in the process of signing on for work with a bank, hired onto guard a shipment of gold from the Coarse Gold mining camp in the Sierra Nevada's back to the bank in Hornitos, California. The job is dangerous, numerous men have died doing it, but the bankers don't think too much of the legendary lawman, who has seen better days, in fact he has to hide the fact that he needs reading glasses when reviewing the contract with the bankers, excusing himself to the bathroom to read it in private, it's sort of funny, and there's a lot of humor mixed into this movie. 

Finally offered the job Judd hires on an old gunslinger pal named Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott, Seven Men from Now) who has been working in a carnival sideshow attraction as “The Oregon Kid,”. The two past-their-prime gunslinger have both seen better days. Gil brings along his younger, hot-headed, sidekick Heck Longtree (Ron Starr) - love that name - on the job, and the three men set in the direction of Coarse Gold. But, unbeknownst to Judd the two men plan to double-cross him, and make off with the quarter million dollars in gold for themselves, unless they can convince the stoic, but well-worn, former lawman to swindle the bankers, too. 

They trio stop off along the way at a ranch run by uber-religious Joshua Knudsen (R.G. Armstrong, The Car) who lives with his attractive and rambunctious teenage daughter Elsa Knudsen (Mariette Hartley, The Return of Count Yorga), who is stifled by the strict upbringing by her father. She ends up running off with the trio of hired gunslingers, joining them on their trip to Coarse Gold, where she hopes to rekindle a romance with a young man named Billy Hammond (James Drury, TVs The Virginian) who once proposed to her, which doesn't turn out well for anyone. 

Peckinpah has always done well with stories about men who a bit out of time, a bit past their prime, and drawn into dangerous situations, and that was even true on this, his second film. McCrea and Scott are fantastic, veterans of countless Westerns, men of grit and presence, whose very appearance lends credibility to the film, but I have to admit, I have never been a huge fan of the American westerns. As a kid I hated them, it wasn't until I caught the wild Italian pasta-westerns of Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) and Sergio Corbucci (Django) that I came around to tales from the old west, mostly because I loved the lurid and violent ways and the keen cinematography, but to this day I don't much care for the John Ford (The Searchers) westerns of the films of John Wayne (True Grit), but I have come around to the movies of Sam Peckinpah, beginning with The Wild Bunch years ago, so it was a treat to dig into this revisionist western, even if it lacked the visceral punch of Peckinpah's later films. 

Back to the film, the gold shipment begins to take a backseat to the story about two aged lawmen, their codes of honor, and the betrayal, that's the real meat of the story. There's an impromptu marriage in Coarse Gold between her and her Billy Hammond, with a wonderfully demented exchange of vows overseen by drunk Judge Tolliver (Edgar Buchanan) who offers the most downer of warnings to the newlyweds. It turns out that Billy has an assortment of brothers,  they're a lecherous bunch, among them character actors Warren Oates (Race with the Devil)and L.Q. Jones (The Brotherhood of Satan), a slimy clan who at one point seem to threaten to gang-rape the poor girl!

The sex and violence is toned way down, particularly considering what would come from Peckinpah in later years, but the movie thrives on the honorable grit of McCrae and Scott, the latter of whom is not so honorable, but the finale buttons things up nicely, with Scott getting his wish to "enter my House justified.", both men facing the threat of death with old west dignity. 

Audio/Video: Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962) arrives on Blu-ray from the venerable Warner archive, benefitting from a new 2K scan from a recent interpositive and the results are very nice. Colors are vibrant, the big blue sky and green tree lines look great. Grain is nicely resolved, fine detail is abundant, and the Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch) CinemaScope lensing looks phenomenal. While this is not the most colorful western, every once in awhile we do get some nice splashes of color, particularly during a visit to a local whorehouse. The one mark against it, the opening title credit sequence is window boxed for some odd reason, but I don't think that it's a deal breaker as the remainder of the film looks wonderful, but it is unfortunate.  

The English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Mono track sounds good, crisp, clean and while not overly dynamic, the movie is over fifty years old, it does the job and his free of any distortion, and the George Bassman score sounds great, even in mono. Optional English subtitles are included. 

Warner Archive bring over all the extras from ther 2006 DVD, beginning with the audio commentary with Peckinpah documentarians Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle. Nick Redman of Twilight Tie moderates, and this is a char filled to the brim with Peckinpah, if you're a fan of the director this is a mandatory listen There's also a 22-min interview with Peckinpah's younger sister, Fern Lea Peter, who recounts what it was like in the Peckinpah household when they were young, a few of her older siblings youthful behaviour and speaking a bit about his entry into the Marines, film school, and what drove her and Sam apart at one point in their adult lives. There's also a 3-min trailer for the movie included, which pales in comparison to the new 2K transfer, it makes for a nice comparison. 

Special Features:
- Commentary by Peckinpah documentarians Nick Redman, Paul Seydor, Garner Simmons and David Weddle
- Documentary: A Justified Life: Sam Peckinpah and the Hogue Country (22 min)(SD)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 min)(HD) 

Ride the High Country (1962) is a classic American western, it lacks the visceral punch of later Peckinpah films but is a solid character-driven slice of Americana, featuring two legendary actors giving wonderful performances as a pair of gunslingers past their prime, fighting to hang onto their honor, sometimes straying along the way. This Blu-ray from Warner Archive looks phenomenal, definitely worth the upgrade! 3/5 

TORTURE GARDEN (1967) on Blu-ray May 3rd in Australia from VIA VISION!

Classic Amicus horror-anthology TORTURE GARDEN (1967)arrives on Blu-ray from Australia's VIA VISION ENTERTAINMENT on May 3rd! 


Label: Via Vision Entertainment 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Freddie Francis 
Cast: Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, Peter Cushing, Robert Hutton

Via Vision Entertainment is thrilled to be releasing Torture Garden. It will be available on Blu-ray and DVD in Australia May 3.

Legendary cinematographer Freddie Francis (The Elephant Man, Cape Fear) directs this horror anthology written by Robert Bloch (Psycho) that features a cast to die for: Jack Palance (The Shape of Things to Come), Burgess Meredith (Burnt Offerings), Peter Cushing (Corruption), Beverly Adams and John Standing. Meredith frames each of the stories as the malevolent Dr. Diabolo, a con artist who might well have some real sinister powers as he entices patrons into his haunted house fairground attraction where he promises a glimpse into their futures. Beware the shears of destiny.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times called Torture Garden “irresistible.” 

“Palance and Cushing are excellent together and have a great repartee with one another,” notes Mitch Lovell in Video Vacuum, “making you wish they made more movies together.”

Friday, April 14, 2017

TANK 432 (2015) (Blu-ray Review)

TANK 432 (2015) 

Label: IFC Midnight/Scream Factory
Region Code: A

Duration: 88 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Nick Gillespie
Cast: Deirdre Mullins, Gordon Kennedy, Michael Smiley, Rupert Evans, Steve Garry

Synopsis: Under siege by a mysterious enemy in an apocalyptic, war-torn landscape, a band of mercenary soldiers, hooded hostages in tow, seek refuge inside an abandoned military tank. But their sanctuary soon reveals itself to be a steel-walled prison. As the group succumbs to claustrophobia, paranoia, and increasingly disturbing delusions, it becomes clear that the real threat may lie not outside, but within. The directorial debut from longtime Wheatley collaborator Nick Gillespie unfolds like a delirious, pulse-pounding puzzle. 

Longtime Ben Wheatley (Kill List) cinematographer Nick Gillespie helms this murky and claustrophobic psychological thriller set during a non-distinct, apocalyptic war, wherein a small band of mercenary soldiers are tasked with seeking and capturing "cargo", a pair of human hostages. Right from the get-go the mercenaries seem to be on run from an ever present, but seldom seen enemy, always nipping on their heels. 

As night sets in they become desperate for cover, taking refuge in Bulldog tank found on the battlefield, but once inside they discover, too late, that the hatch is broken and will not open from the inside. Gathered inside the team, who were already a bit worked up and out of sorts at the start of the film, begin to succumb to paranoia and fear, as they are harassed by a creepy figure outside, an enemy who appears demonic in some scenes, with the very real possibility that it might not even exist. 

As the intense drama of the situation unfolds the men argue and bicker, they begin to turn on one another inside the confines of the tank, which has now become an iron prison. As certain certainties are disputed, and it becomes clear that something is wrong with the whole situation, and while the end does give us a bit of a revelation, which is somewhat expected, it leaves more questions than answers, a bit too much for my taste, particularly when the what ifs seem more entertaining than what I watched. The film has a some mildly interesting images, the look of the antagonistic enemy is keen, but the positives are too few and too far between, I found this one a bit impenetrable, which coming from a collaborator of Ben Wheatley shouldn't be too surprising, but while I find Wheatley's brand of coldly  alienating weirdness a much tastier treat, Tank 432 just feels a pressure cooker which never gets up to a proper boil.  2/5 


PIG PEN (2016) (DVD Review)

PIG PEN (2016)
Label: Dire Wit Films 
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby digital 2.0 Stereo 
Video: Anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Jason Koch
Cast: Lucas Koch, Vito Trigo

Synopsis: Forced to fend for himself on the streets, 13-year-old Zack has just been pushed out of his dysfunctional home by Wayne, his mother's sadistic boyfriend. When the two are brought back together by a murder, only one will survive this bloody tale of revenge. PIG PEN is a harrowing and relentless vision that follows its fringe dwelling characters down a spiral of intensifying and almost unwatchable violence and desperation. 

Whew, strap yourself in for a dire, gut-punch dose of reality based horror, this is some stuff stuff right here. Zack (Lucas Koch)is a young teenager, who goes by the nickname Pig Pen, living with his Oxy-addicted mom (Nicolette le Faye, WNUF Halloween Special), whose boyfriend Wayne (Vito Trigo, Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1) keeps her doped up while pimping her out to his friends.  Wayne is a real sick douchebag of a human, eventually he kicks Zack out onto the streets, telling him he cannot return unless he brings $50, with the advice to pimp himself out on the streets.

Zack hits the dirty streets of Baltimore, left to fend for himself, and were treated to some down and dirty urban street living, where he encounters menacing dope dealers, pedohiles, and street urchins. Along the way he meets a few good people who give him an assist and advice, but they are few and far between, this is a downward spiral of a tale, and there's no chance of this finishing up on a positive note.

As the story unfolds were treated to some flashbacks, we glimpse a bit of Zack's life with his mom before things got so bad, before Wayne came into the picture, but you see the writing on the wall early on, and these walls are covered in blood, no happy ending folks. 

Zack as played by Koch is good, an awkward skate kid, seemingly numbed by the endless stream of depravity that has washed over him, he;s quiet, he keeps it inside, but there's a rage burning, he hates Wayne, he hates to see his mother shamed and abused in his hand, and eventually you know something awful will happen... and boy does it, damn, this thing is unrelenting. 

Audio/Video: Pig Pen arrives on DVD from Dire wit Film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) looking modest - this is a low-budget movie and the cinematography and lighting looked to have been limited, but it looks good considering the seemingly lo-fi roots. The main issues are softness and poor lighting and contrast, which seem to go hand in hand, most of the scenes are dark, and the lack of proper lighting gives it a murky look. Audio on the disc comes by way of a stereo Dolby Digital track, which handles the dialogue, effects and Paul Joyce (Father's Day) score well, there are no subtitle options. The only extra on the disc is a 2 minute trailer for the film. 

The movie takes a while to get going, it takes its sweet time allowing you to get a noseful of the urine drenched street life, and the final string of violence is a sight to behold with some truly teeth-gritting damage being inflicted. I would strongly recommend this to fans of Ryan Nicholson's Collar (2014) and Harmony Korine's Gummo (1997), this is a brutal-downer of an ugly film. 3/5

LAKE EERIE (2016) (DVD Review)

LAKE EERIE (2016) 

Label: Filmrise
Duration: 104 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Chris Majors
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Marilyn Ghigliotti, Betsy Baker, Meredith Majors, Ben Furney

Synopsis: Kate, a young widow who is heavily medicated, moves into an old house on Lake Erie to recover from her husband's sudden and traumatic death. The lake house has not been lived in for over 40 years and it is exactly how it was left it in 1969. From the moment Kate moves into the house, she is soon haunted by a dark presence. Is any of this real or are her medications making her hallucinate?

When young widow Kate moves into a old house on the edge of Lake Erie strange things begin happening... 

The house has stood vacant for over forty years, ever since the former owner, Harrison, a famous Egyptian archaeologist, inexplicably lapsed into a prolonged coma and died. He was researching an Egyptian relic, an amulet said to have the powers to transport you to purgatory type dimension, or some such thing. 

Kate, played by Meredith Majors, is haunted by the death of her husband, she is troubled mentally, on medication, and looking for a fresh start. Her neighbor is a typically nose older woman, Eliza (Betsy Baker, of Evil Dead!), informs Kate of the storied house's history and her remembrances of the dashing former owner. She also tells her that her own college-aged niece, Autumn (Anne Leigh Cooper) is studying the life and career and would love to have the opportunity to explore the old house and perhaps read through his journals, which Kate alows. 

Together, Kate and Autumn, read through the journals and come to the conclusion that Harrison is somehow trapped in the purgatory dimension and they begin to put together a plan to free him from the prison dimension. All the while Kate is haunted by memories of her now dead husband, plagued by nightmares of a demonic snake-eyed woman with a stunning figure (Victoria Johnstone), and visited in her dreams by Harrison. 

The movie is a bit on the slow side, it's a slow-burn, it takes its time to build up to a proper head of steam, but unfortunately it never did come to a boil for me. The acting is a bit spotty, wooden in places, uneven in others. Autumn is a bit of a amateur sleuth along the lines of Velma from scooby-Doo, dyed-hair, thick glasses, and always coming up with a what-if theory about Harrison. on a personal note, her eyes were hypnotic, wide-eyed and piercing.
Meredith Majors does good work as the lead, she carries the film on her shoulders, and while I don't think she was completely up to the task, she does make for a sympathetic character, and on a surface level reminded me a but of actress Kelly Reilly (Eden Lake), notably she also wrote the screenplay. 

Back to the film, I didn't mind the slow build-up, dropping nuggets here and there, with a creepy encounters and nightmares peppered about,  but I didn't care for the resolution, the other-world I think was dampened by the low-budget, it felt rushed, and was a step down in quality from the first half of the film. There are a few notable cameos in the film, first we have  Marilyn Ghigliotti (Clerks) as the realtor who sold the house to Kate, I kept waiting for a joke about this being the thirty-seventh house she sold, perhaps with Kate exclaiming "I'm 37!", ha ha, but the director apparently had more class than that. We also get Lance Henriksen (The Pit and the Pendulum) in a walk-on role as Kate's worried father, who shows up unexpectedly to take her back to Idaho, it's a small part, but I think we know Henriksen will do about any movie that comes his ways these days, but he always lends a bit of gravelly voiced gravitas to every role. Also, composer 
Harry Manfredini (Friday the 13th, House II: The Second Story) oes the score, it's far removed from his iconic 80s scores, but not a bad synth accompaniment.   

So, I didn't love this movie, but  it is well made with some decent cinematography, and the story is intriguing, though I don't think it gels particularly well at the end. Fans of low-budget indie horror with a supernatural slant might want to check this out. Director Chris Majors (husband of actress/write Meredith Majors?) is currently working on a new movie Blood Moon starring horror veterans Robert Englund and Betsy Baker, I look forward to checking it out. 2/5   

CREEPOZOIDS (1987) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Full Moon Features
Region: Region-FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 72 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: David DeCoteau
Cast: Linnea Quigley, Ken Abraham, Michael Aranda, Richard Hawkins, Kim McKamy, Joi Wilson

Synopsis: Blending key elements of genre hits MAD MAX and ALIEN (while also incorporating elements of Band's PARASITE and METALSTORM) but produced on a tenth of their budgets, CREEPOZOIDS tells the tale of five Army deserters who wander the post-apocalyptic, post-industrial LA landscape seeking shelter from an increasingly toxic environment and poisonous rain. They end up in an abandoned laboratory where they explore, have sex and eventually run afoul of a cavalcade of genetically engineered creatures including mutant rats, a monstrous baby, a massive, bloodthirsty H.R. Giger-esque beast…and something even more malevolent.

This cash-strapped, lo-fi Alien (1979) knock-off opens with a band of army deserters in the then (1987) post-apocalyptic future of 1998, the leader of the rag tag group is Jake (Richard Hawkins, Close encounters of the Third Kind), his second in command Butch (Ken Abraham, Terror Night), scientist Kate (porn star Ashlyn Gere (as Kim McKamy, Evil laugh), badass Bianca (Linnea Quigley, The Return of the Living Dead), and tech-nerd Jesse (Michael Aranda, El Chupacabra). They're wandering through the downtown L.A. ruins and find shelter from the deadly post-nuke acid rain in a seemingly abandoned laboratory. The place seems too good to be true, stocked with food rations and hot running water! However, it turns out the place was a science lab of some sort used for weird amino-acid experimentation, and a rubber-suited creature is on the loose, as are menacing mutant rats of unusual size, both of whom pose a danger to the AWOL deserters. 

This movie is so cheap, shot in 1200 square foot sound stage, it feels claustrophobic, which I guess works well for the bunker location, and there's some nice smoky atmosphere, I also enjoyed the cool retro green-glow of 80s computers, vintage floppy disc, the blue zap of a laser gun, and plenty of gooey and slimy creature effects and gore. Also adding to the entertainment factor is a softcore shower scene of Quigley nude in her prime, it seems to go forever, but any 80s Quigley nudity is always appreciated, and that's the sort of padding I don't much mind. 

I've watched Creepozoids (1987) in the past, or at least I thought I had, but apparently I never made it through to the end (those past DVDs looked like shit), which was a shame, because the finale is where the low-budget gold is hidden away, with the mutant offspring of the creature rampaging through the facility, a hideous baby creation that was awesome, a lot of what came before was cheesy, but that baby sort of made up for a lot of it

That being said, the movie is ultra-stupid, even my Full Moon standards, but DeCoteau and the crew managed to make a fun Alien knock-off on a shoestring budget, and I love it. At times the movie feels a lot like an Italian 80s post-apocalyptic knock-off, particularly Bruno Mattei's Rate: Night of Terror (1984, a film which also features band of apocalyptic survivors taking refuge in a abandoned research bunker, plagued by mutant rodents, and if you haven't seen that one, do yourself a favor and double-feature these together. 

Other cool factors include a cool 80's synth score from Guy Moon (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama), some atmospheric colored gel lighting, and the much appreciated Quigley sex appeal, but there's no hiding that this production was anemic, the cast is uniformly awful, even Quigley, who is fun eye candy, but c'mon guys. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, I loved it, I have a soft spot for these 80s Alien knock-offs, and this one even has a decent chestburster styled scene. Despite the padding and low-budget, they do manage to cram in some good icky stuff, including a decent decapitated head scene, black alien-spew, and a creepy killer baby that is nightmare inducing, good stuff for those who love the bad stuff

Audio/Video: Creepozoids (1987) arrives on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features framed at 1.78 widescreen, cropped on the top and bottom from the original (1.33:1) framing. It looks solid, grain can be a bit chunky at times, but fine detail is nice, there's some nice depth and clarity to the image, this is a huge improvement over the Full Moon Grindhouse Collection DVD from a few years back. The new cropped widescreen image looks good, it never looks crowded, if you'd never seen the fullscreen version you would probably assume this was the original aspect ratio. Audio, as per usual with Full Moon HD releases, is limited to a lossy Dolby Digital presentation, with choice of stereo or surround. For a lossy track it sounds solid, not the most dynamic, but the Guy Moon (Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama) score sounds wonderfully 80s sci-fi, good stuff. No subtitles are provided. 

The disc includes a brand new audio commentary with DeCoteau who is very candid about his second film, his first being Dreamaniac, which he calls a disaster. He speaks about the limited resources and budget, trying to make the slimy sci-fi horror film on a shoestring budget in a 1200ft space with only two doors, both seen ad nauseum inthe movie, haha. He also speaks about actress Kim Mckamy refusing to do nudity in the film, then being shocked a few years later when he found out she went into porn under the name Ashlyn Gere (Anal Secrets, Sorority Sex Kittens 2) with a new set of tits. DeCoteau has had a long and storied career, love listening to him on these commentaries, always a blast. 

Also on the disc are fourteen-minutes of Full Moon trailers, though oddly, the Creepozoids trailer is an older fullframe trailer in SD, but it does serve as a nice comparison to how awful the movie looked on DVD previously. There's also an image gallery of behind-the-scenes photos courtesy of producer Gary P. Ryan.   

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Director David DeCoteau 
- Full Moon Trailers: Creepozoids (2 min), Ravenwolf Towers (2 min) HD, Killjoy Psycho Circus (2 min) HD, Puppet Master 2 (2 min) HD, Puppet Master 3 (2 min) HD, Head of the Family (2 min) HD, Spectres (2 min) HD 
- Photo Gallery (2 min) HD 

Creepozoids (1987) is certainly a trashy movie, but it's trashy lo-fi fun and if you're already a Full Moon fan you're well-primed for this sort of 80's schlock. The new Blu-ray looks terrific, there's a nice depth and clarity to the image that past presentations lacked, if you love 80's low-budget schlock then this is worth a watch. 2.5/5

Uncork’d Entertainment opens the HUNTING GROUNDS this May.


On DVD and Blu-ray May 2 2017

Studio: Uncork'd Entertainment
Cast: Bill Oberst Jr
Director: John Portanova

Winner Best Sci-Fi Horror Film at the Toronto Independent Film Festival 2015, writer-director John Portanova’s acclaimed film sees a fractured family forced to go up against an angry clan of Bigfoot.
Festival audiences and horror critics have gone crazy for the story of a father and son, forced to move to an old cabin in the woods after a devastating tragedy, who unearth a tribe of Sasquatch.

Written and directed by John Portanova and produced by horror label The October People, Hunting Grounds stars Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Jason Vail, David Saucedo, D'Angelo Midili, and Emmy winner Bill Oberst Jr (Criminal Minds).

Special Features: 
- Audio commentary with Writer/Director John Portanova, Producer Matt Medisch, and Director of Photography Jeremy Berg, 
- Making-of feature, deleted scenes (Blu-ray only)
- "John Goes Squatchin'" A featurette following Writer/Director John Portanova as he embarks on his first Squatchin' trip into the Washington rainforest (Blu-ray only).