Friday, October 29, 2010

DVD Review: Dawn of the Dead (Arrow Video 4-Disc Edition) DVD

George A. Romero's

Arrow Video

RATED: 18 Certificate
DIRECTOR: George A. Romero
CAST: Ken Foree (Peter), Gaylen Ross (Fran), David Emge (Stephen), Scott H. Reiniger (Roger), Tom Savini (Blades)

TAGLINE: When There's No More Room in Hell, the Dead Will Walk the Earth

SUMMARY: A National Emergency grips the US as the zombie population grows at an alarming rate. Two S.W.A.T. officers, a helicopter pilot and his girlfriend escape the city and take refuge in an abandoned shopping mall after securing it following a series of flesh-shredding confrontations with the undead. Their survival is threatened when a band of looters leave a door open allowing the zombies access to the mall once more and a final stand-off for survival must play out.

FILM: Dawn of the Dead, it's the scripture of zombie films in my eyes. Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Return of the Living Dead(1985) - these were the undead trifecta that informed my youth. I came of age during a time when the pop-utopia that was the VHS-era made zombie and slashers films ever accessible to the developing minds of young horror-geeks everywhere. In 1985 I was 12 years old, my parents didn't pay too much attention to what I watched, and the video clerks didn't care that I was a bit too young to be watching violence and gore flicks. From a young age I'dbeen fed a steady diet of slashers like Friday the 13th (1980) and Halloween (1978) on the late-night chiller programs not to mention awesome tele-films like Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981) and Gargoyles (1972). By age 12 or 13 I found myself looking for something more extreme and visceral. That's when I discovered Dawn of the Dead.

It's sometime after the events of Night of the Living Dead and the mysterious plague of zombies has spread worldwide. At the start of the film we meet Fran (Gaylen Ross) a  producer at a Philadelphia television station. We see society very much falling apart within the studio as talking heads debate the zombie apocalypse, it's a cacophonous shouting match. Her boyfriend Stephen (David Emge) aka "Flyboy" is the stations traffic helicopter pilot. He has the idea to take the chopper and fly North in an effort to find somewhere to start over. Stephen comes across as a bit of an over confident jerk while Fran seems conflicted but likable.

We are then taken to an inner-city tenement where a SWAT team is gearing up to raid an apartment building. This is when we meet Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott H. Reiniger), two of the more likable SWAT team members. The raid prove disastrous from the get-go as blue/grey skinned zombies start chomping on SWAT and tenement dwellers left and right. Adding to the chaos is Wooley (James Baffico) a racist trigger happy SWAT team member with an itchy trigger finger and a mouthful of racial slurs. Some great flesh-tearing gore and explosive head-shot kills are presented during this encounter. Peter and Roger end up in the basement where they discover the tenement residents have been keeping their zombified loved ones. They open fire and destroy the undead in a hail of gunfire. Deeply affected by the hopelessness of the situation the men decide to flee the city. One of them knows of Stephen's plans to commandeer the traffic chopper and make their way to the meeting point.

After a brief introduction the quartet take flight and head north. They make a brief stop at an airfield in search of fuel where the group is attacked by several zombies that prove to be unforgettable film moments including the iconic zombie that adorns nearly every DVD edition of Dawn of the Dead, the infamous flat-top chopper death and the unflinching killing of zombie children. Stephen is shown to be innefectual when it comes to killing the undead and it is during one of these encounters that he and Peter begin to go at odds of each other. Barely escaping the airfield the foursome continue north and fly over groups of hunters and National Guardsmen in rural areas on zombie-hunts that strongly recalls events from Night of the Living Dead. Further on they come across a shopping mall and the decision is made to stop for supplies. Once inside they realize that the mall would make for an ideal sanctuary to wait out the zombie plague. It is during this phase of the film that the dark-comedy and satire of American consumerism come into play in full effect further bolstered by wacky montages of zombie-killing and looting set to a zany musical score.

I can't speak of Dawn of the Dead and not mention the fantastic technicolor blood and gore effects by Tom Savini. The kills are fantastic and loaded with gorgeous splatter and a great cast of memorable zombies.  Add to that the great film score from Goblin who are best known for scoring numerous Dario Argento films and you have a potent mix of horror, black-comedy, visceral gore and an iconic film score that makes for most enjoyable and iconic zombie film of all time, and that's no lie.

George A. Romero established himself as one of the Masters of Horror with Night of the Living Dead (1968), and he would go onto direct other non-zombie genre fare in the interim prior to Dawn of the Dead. He touched on occult with Season of the Witch (1972), a prescient viral-plague film The Crazies (1973) and the atmospheric vamp film Martin (1977) - but these films were underfunded and received little distribution. It wasn't until Dawn of the Dead (1978) that Romero would cement his place as one of the greatest horror filmmakers of all time. The period following brought about a quick succession of genre classics including Knightriders (1981), the classic Stephen King-Romero anthology team-up Creepshow (1982), the 3rd installment of the trilogy Day of the Dead (1985), Monkey Shines (1988) his Edgar Allen Poe fueled team-up with Dario Argento Two Evil Eyes (1990). After The Dark Half (1993) it would be seven years before Romero made another film, the underwhelming Bruiser (2000) and another five years before beginning a new ...of the Dead trilogy - Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009)  - none of which neared the glory of the initial trilogy. It's an unenviable place to be for Romero, to be judged against your own filmography and in a market that won't fund your non-zombie related projects.

DVD: Arrow Video's 4-Disc edition of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead features three versions of the film. The U.S. Theatrical Cut, the Director's Cut and the Argento Cut plus a fourth disc of bonus features. All three versions of the film are presented in anamorphic widescreen. They each look brilliant though I think the theatrical cut gives the best image and audio quality overall. Aside from the blu-ray versions of the film this is as good as its gonna get. Each film includes 2.0 mono audio, the exception being the U.S. Theatrical Cut which gets 5.1  and 2.0 stereo mix as well as the original mono. English subtitles are only available for he Director's and European Cut.

I've mentioned it in my Inferno - 20th Anniversary Edition review and I'll state it again - Arrow Video is the Criterion Collection of cult and horror cinema. Their releases are brilliant from the ground up. Loaded with special features, fantastic packaging, and they give the transfers the love and care they need to pop on the HD television sets. No exception here. The films are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic aspect rations, very good looking transfers all three cuts of the film. Aside from the audio/visual supplemental material we get the typically stunning Arrow Video deluxe packaging. Two 2-disc digi-pak edition DVD's housed in a gorgeous slipcase.

While the above image is of Arrow Video's Dawn of the Dead blu-ray the DVD features the same deluxe packaging, poster and art art options.

- 4 Sleeve Art Option including newly commissioned artwork from Rick Melton
- Double Sided Fold-Out Poster
-'For Every Night There is a Dawn' 16-page Collector's Booklet written by Calum Waddel

DISC 1 - U.S. Theatrical Cut (122 min.)
The U.S. Theatrical Cut is the film as presented in theatres in the U.S. in 1979. It features a score comprised of original music from Goblin and library music tracks.
Disc 1 Extras:
Commentary with George A. Romero, Tom Savini and Chris Romero
Commentary with producer Richard Rubenstein moderated by DVD producer Perry martin

DISC 2 - Director's Cut (139 min.)
Also known as the Extended Version it is not an actual Director's Cut as Romero prefers the shorter running Theatrical cut. This Extended Version premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1978. This version of the film contains additional scenes and gore plus a music score comprised of library temp tracks.
Disc 2 Extras:
The Dead Will Walk Documentary (75 min.) Documentary featuring interviews with Claudio Argento, Dario Argento, George A. Romero, Caludio Simonetti, Toma Savini, Ken Foree, Michael Gornic and more.

DISC 3 - Dario Argento Cut (119 min.)
The Argento cut of the film was edited by Dario Argento himself for the European market. It contains several extended scenes and omits several from the U.S. cut. This version also features additional music from Goblin not found on either the U.S. or Extended versions
Disc 3 Extras:
US Trailers (2:37 min)
German Trailers (0:58 min.)
TV Spots (1:28 min.)
Radio spots (2:23 min.)
Reviews Gallery
*Giallo Trailer (Macabre, Sleepless, House by the Cemetery
*Scream Greats (53 min.)

DISC 4 - Special Features
Document of the Dead (84 min.) - The original documentary filmed during the making of Dawn of the Dead by filmmaker Roy Frumkes.
*Commentary with writer and director Roy Frumkes (84 min.)
*Document of the Dead: The Lost Interview and Deleted Scenes
*Fan of the Dead (52 min.)

* Denotes features not found on Anchor Bay's 4 Disc Dawn of the Dead Ultimate Edition

For comparison here is an exploded view of Anchor Bay's Region 1 Ultimate Edition of Dawn of the Dead

The Anchor Bay 4-Disc Ultimate Edition of Dawn of the Dead contains several features not found on the Arrow Video edition. They are...
- George A. Romero Bio
- Comic Book Preview
- 5.1 DTS Surround Sound on the U.S. Theatrical Version
- Monroeville Mall Commercial (0:27 min.)
- Memorabilia Gallery
- Production Stills
- Audio Commentary with actors David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger and Galylen Ross found on Anchor Bay's European Version
- On-Set Home Movies with Audio Commentary from zombie extra Robert Langer (13 min.)
- Monroeville Mall Tour with Ken Foree (11:28 min.)
- Comic Book

So, each edition has it give and take. The actor Commentary on Anchor Bay's Ultimate Edition is pretty great, but the Tom Savini episode of Scream Greats is equally awesome.

VERDICT: Simply a wonderfully comprehensive deluxe-edition of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead in it's varied versions here. What can one say about this film thats not been said already? I say it's Romero's finest moment. Arrow Video's immaculate attention to detail and deluxe packaging make this a no-brainer must-buy. As someone who own's Anchor Bay's Ultimate Edition I can tell you that this is worth a double-dip. Keep in mind, it's Region O PAL formatted DVD. I've treated myself to all three cuts of the film and poured through the extensive supplemental  features several times over, Dawn of the Dead is really one of my favorite films of all time. ****1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DVD Review: Live Animals (2009)


Echo Bridge Entertainment

TAGLINE: Buy, Sell, Trade, the Market's Open.
RATED: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Jeremy Benson
CAST: John Still (Wayne), Christian Walker (Nick), Jeanette Comans (Erin), Stacy Still (Kathy), Patrick Cox (Edgar)

SUMMARY: In the quiet of the country, a sick twisted man kidnaps young adults in the dark of night, binds them by heavy chains to stalls in an isolated barn. They are trained to obey with torture, broken like horses, prepared for merciless slaughter. Their screeches of pain go ignored - many others were once here, many more will arrive. But one batch of prisoners has the chance to escape. Too bad they've underestimated their killer...

 FILM: As a night of partying at a lake house comes to an end a horny group of five 20-somethings are stalked and kidnapped by a hulking masked-figure armed with a dart gun. They awake the next morning and discover that they have been abducted and are being held captive in a horse stable. The captor is a ruthless man named Wayne (John Still), turns out he's a cold-hearted trafficker of white slaves that are sold on the black market to the highest bidder ...and he looks a bit like the world's meanest Santa Clause with that big white beard. He let's the 20-somethings know that they are his property now, they're like animals and they will be broken as such. And so he does with the assistance of his accomplice Edgar, a burly and mean looking Patrick Cox. Also among the captive is Kathy (Stacy Still), a seemingly mentally feeble woman who to my eyes strongly recalled the great Grace Zabriskie (Galaxy of Terror) in her appearance as woman at her wits end. She's singing fairy tales and generally being nutty. The film is fairly depressing as they're stripped of their dignity, tortured and broken, one of them loses their tongue in the process. The torture isn't overdone, but it is well executed and dreadful just the same. When one of their group is sold to a well-dressed businessman and shipped out of the country the group quickly realize they need to do anything they can to escape. When given the opportunity they make a break for it which leads to a bloody confrontation with their captor and a twist(ed) ending.

The acting is quite good throughout, particularly John Still as the menacing Wayne. I found myself thinking during the film what would I do in a similar situation,  but I didn't particularly relate to any of the 20-somethings which made it hard feel for them. Another aspect of the film I didn't care pertained to a revelation involving the character of Kathy. It seemed a bit of a convenience and I didn't buy into it. It proved to be a very convenient plot device. It didn't ruin the film for me, but I felt it was the weakest part of an overall good film.
The film has an artful style, it looked great with good lighting and concise editing. The story was pretty streamlined and didn't have a lot of fluff, it's a brisk 80 minute film, not a lot of lulls.

While watching the film I was reminded of another recent white slavery flick which I enjoyed a bit more called Shuttle (2008), they tread similar territory. White slavery isn't something
addressed in films the way it was in the exploitation cinema of late 60's and 70's and it's good to see it touched on now and again. The subject matter isn't handled particularly deeply here but it's a good concept and I wound up enjoying the film much more than it's "torture porn" reputation would have had me believe.

DVD: Live Animals is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a 2.0 stereo audio track. It's a good looking film shot digitally and the stereo sound is decent. There are 3 bonus features that run about 45 min. combined comprised of behind the scenes stuff, interviews and a tutorial on creating digital effects, not bad.

Special Features
- A View from the Crate: The Making of Live Animals (17 min.)
- Deleted Scenes (15 min.)
- Behind the Digital Curtain (22 min.)

VERDICT: The term "torture porn" is thrown around quite a bit and I've heard it tossed at Live Animals as well, but it doesn't fit in my opinion. The marketing itself reaches out to fans of films like Saw and Hostel and I can see this connecting with them, I just don't but into the term "torture porn". While not a spectacular film Live Animals was a good low-budget indie thriller with good production and artful execution. **1/2 (2.5out of 5 stars)


CONTEST: Win the Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated DVD

Thanks to everyone who entered our NOTLD:R DVD giveaway. I was overwhelmed with the number of entries, so thank you all. Today (a few days late, of course) I entered all the names into a hat a drew the winning entry....

CHARLES B. of Oswego, KS


Enter to win the NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: REANIMATED DVD courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing and McBastard's Mausoleum.

Simple, email McBastard2000@Gmail.Com with the subject line "NOTLD:R Contest" with your full name, mailing address and why you want the DVD. One entry per person.

Deadline for entries is 11/12/10. Drawing will be held on 11/13/10.

Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated is a mass collaborative artistic re-envisioning of George A. Romero's 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. International artists and animators were invited to select scenes from the film and reinvent them through their artwork. Open to all styles, media and processes the results ran the gamut with scenes created in everything from puppet theater to CGI, hand drawn animation to flash, and oil paintings to tattoos. This cacophony of works was organized and curated across the original film's time line in order to create a completely original video track made entirely out of art.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

DVD Review: Salvage (2007)

SALVAGE (2007)

"What If Everyday You Relived Your Own Murder?"
Echo Bridge Entertainment

RATED: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Joshua and Jeffrey Crook
CAST: Lauren Currie Lewis (Claire Parker), Chris Ferry (Duke), Cody Darbe (Jimmy)

SUMMARY: Claire Parker is going to die. At the hands of a sadistic and depraved killer, she will endure a terrifying, unimaginable brutal death--and it will all happen again. After being beaten, dragged, sliced, and stabbed, Claire awakens at work--where it all began--untouched and unharmed. But the hellish ordeal is far from over. The madman is back and he's ready for more blood... (from the Salvage DVD)

FILM: This journey begins as Claire Parker is getting off of the graveyard shift at the Starfire Express, a 24 hour convenience store. She walks down the street a ways and waits for her boyfriend Jimmy who works at the salvage yard to pick her up. A man calling himself Duke pulls up alongside her in Jimmy's truck. He says that he works with Jimmy and has been sent to take her home. On the ride to Claire's house Duke comes off as a pretty greasy guy with some inappropriate comments towards Claire. It only gets creepier from there as he tries to invite himself into Claire's home but she's not having it. He tries to lure her out saying that she's dropped an earring in the cab of the truck. She tells him to leave it on the door step and she'll retrieve it later, and so he does. Though she is sure he's gone on his way she still cautiously unlocks and opens the door only a smidgen, just enough to squeeze her arm through the opening and grab the earring then she quickly locks up again. Relieved she makes her way to the kitchen only to discover that the backdoor is open. A rush of fear rushes over her as Duke appears and strikes her and then drags her screaming to the basement. It's at this point that Claire awakens at the Starfire Express, it was only a dream ...or was it? The events unfold in a similar fashion, only this time Jimmy does pick her up takes her home and they go off to school. Only now she's seeing visions of Duke and things seem wrong, not right. It's at this point that you realize Claire is reliving her murder again and again in a nightmarish time loop. Each time she awakens at the moment of death and is able to gleen a bit more information about who Duke is and what's happening to her.

Salvage was made on a limited budget but the acting, cinematography and story are really strong. The acting from Lauren Claire Lewis and Chris Ferry is particularly good. Ferry as Duke is a menacing figure with a gruff voice, very chilling. Lauren is your every girl, not an overly strong female character but very likable and sympathetic.

It's a brutal film though it's not especially gore-laden. The effects are modest and well done. Some definite use of CGI that's not too distracting, including a great shotgun blast to the face. There's a face peeling scene in the film that is a prime example of the camera pulling away from the savagery and letting the tension and sound design do the heavy lifting.

The film was shot a mini DV and looks pretty good. There have been some color enhancements to the image that gives the film a surreal look, it works wonderfully. Also working in the films favor is a really effective film score from Evan Wilson (A Kiss of Chaos, Rise of the Dead)

DVD: The Salvage DVD from Echo Bridge Entertainment is presented in 1.85:1 non-anamorphic wide screen. I was a bit disappointed in the non-anamorphic letter boxed transfer to be truthful. It's 2010, almost every home must have a wide screen television by now, right? That said, the image looks quite good if a bit soft. The 5.1 audio track is also decent if not overly active. There are precious few supplemental materials here including a trailer and a Crook Bros. commentary track which is mostly technical in nature with very little discussed in regards to story.

VERDICT: A very good psychological thriller that relies on story, tension and haunting atmosphere (not gore) and nudity to carry it through. I'll be looking forward to the next Crook Brothers project. ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Friday, October 22, 2010

DVD Review: The Bloody Ape (1997)

"400 Pounds of Fury Hungry for Female Flesh!"

Wild Eye Releasing

RATED: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Keith J. Crocker
CAST:  George Reis (LoBianco/Ape), Paul Richichi (Lampini), Chris Hoskins (Duane Jones), Larry Koster (Vic White), Arlene Hansen, Gus Torres (Gas Station Attendant), Joe Hutchinson (Israel), Kevin Crocker (Officer O'Flannery)

 SUMMARY: THE BLOODY APE is the most outrageous, drive-in movie take on Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" ever committed to film. A carnival barker foolishly releases his 400 pound gorilla, who then literally goes bananas on a rampage of raw rape and boffo butchery - leaving the low rent population of Long Island either sexually violated, slaughtered - or both! From maverick indy filmmaker Keith J. Crocker (Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69), THE BLOODY APE is a gore-soaked love letter to the sex and violence of the grind house movie era that pulls no punches and offers no apologies for wallowing in a skin-drenched stew of crudeness and camp! Banned from numerous festivals around the world, ignored by critics and loathed by the politically correct....but now there just is no stopping THE BLOODY APE! (Written by Wild Eye Releasing)

FILM: The Bloody Ape (aka Son of Sweetback vs. Kong) is the 1997 feature film debut from gonzo director Keith J. Crocker whom is also know as the occasional editor of "The Exploitation Journal" and the proprietor of Cinefear Video, a great online shop for hard-to-find exploitation and horror from the 60's and 70's. The film originally began life as a Sasquatch cinema entry and evolved into a sleazy super-8mm shot exploitation style drive-in take on the Edgar Allen Poe short story "Murders In The Rue Morgue".

Lampini (Paul Richichi) is a nutty carnival barker who owns a 400lb. gorilla, Gorto. Richichi is bizarrely wonderful as the Long Island carnival barker with an axe to grin. He's completely out of his mind bat shit insane, it's fantastic stuff. He reminds me of a psychotic Eddie Deezen (Herbie Kazlminsky,  from Spielberg's 1941). In a diabolical scheme to take revenge on those whom have wronged him Lampini has trained Gorto to kill and sets him loose upon the community to exact bloody revenge on his ex-girlfriend, the jewelry dealing Rabbi Rabinowitz and the racist gas station attendant Vic White. Things don't quite go as planned and several innocents are brutally and bloodily killed and raped.

But fear not residents of Long Island there's a detective on the case. Detective LoBianco (George Reis) a racist cop who immediately targets a young black man Duane Jones (Christopher Hoskins) as the culprit behind the horrific rape/murders despite strong evidence suggesting otherwise. Reis is a real riot and plays the role with great zeal. George Reis now runs the cult move site DVD Drive-In -  check it out. The acting all around is enjoyably terrible and campy. Definitely a film that revels in being bad.


Let me just say that Gorto the gorilla is one horny primate and has an uncanny knack for finding naked women to kill and occasionally rape. I love the deaths in this films. A hippie gets his dick torn off complete with some low-grade psychedelic effects, Gorto steals a car committing vehicular manslaughter, throats are slit, limbs are severed and we're treated to a gushing decapitation - real fun stuff, a lot of cheap thrills.

Shot on Super-8mm film The Bloody Ape looks truly grindhouse with it grainy image, tinny audio and hard edits that suite the sleazy nature of the film. Not merely an imitation of the grindhouse aesthetic, this is the real deal.

DVD: The Bloody Ape being the super-8mm exploitation classic that is is is presented in mind-blowing 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a grainy and scratched image and mono audio that is sure to tremble your tinny tube television speakers. A good amount of supplemental materials are included on the disc including a great commentary and Keith J. Crocker's film "One Grave Too Many" - a 6 minute short about a couple of grave robbers.

Special Features
Writer/Director Commentary (77 min)
Original Trailers (2 min)
Grindhouse Gorilla - The Making of The Bloody Ape(23 min)
Kieth J. Crocker short film "One Grave Too Many" (6 min)
Exploitation Journal Cover Gallery
Press Book
Lobby Cards
Stills Gallery

VERDICT: When it comes to no-budget film making it does not get any more broke-ass than this. True trash cinema of the 1st order. The comedy is appalling, the killings are outrageous, and the nudity is sleazy as Hell. A true homage to the low-budget sleazy grindhouse films that filled the drive-ins of America in the late-60's/70's. I can't wait to watch Crocker's nazisploitation film Blitzkrieg - Escape from Stalag 69 (2008). If you love the early films of John Waters of Sasquatch cinema like Night of the Demon (1980) you're gonna love The Bloody Ape.   The DVD is available from CineFear Video and Amazon.
***1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

DVD Review: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated (2010)

"Art is Dead... Yeah It's All messed Up"
Wild Eye Releasing

RATED: Unrated
CAST: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley

SUMMARY: Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated is a mass collaborative artistic re-envisioning of George A. Romero's 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. International artists and animators were invited to select scenes from the film and reinvent them through their artwork. Open to all styles, media and processes the results ran the gamut with scenes created in everything from puppet theater to CGI, hand drawn animation to flash, and oil paintings to tattoos. This cacophony of works was organized and curated across the original film's time line in order to create a completely original video track made entirely out of art. (from NOTLDR.Com)

FILM: It's generally known that George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead fell into the public domain immediately following it's theatrical release in 1968 due to a copyright snafu. So unfair, right? This is the man that created a seminal piece of cinema history. The visionary who ushered in the modem-age of the flesh-eating zombies to the masses. As the result of this unfortunate error pretty much anyone has been able to duplicate and distribute the film and profit from the Romero's labor. There've been hundreds of home video releases of this film throughout the years spanning the spectrum of quality from unwatchable to pretty decent. We've seen it recut as fan edits, rescored with new music, colorized and given fan commentaries. It's available on nearly every budget horror collection out there and Romero sees not a penny from 'em. Romero has had a hand in a few director approved editions including Elite Entertainment's Millennium Edition or the more recent 40th Anniversary Edition from Dimension Films. Both of these releases offer pristine transfers and great bonus features, additionally the Dimension release includes a great feature-length documentary called 'One for the Fire', a must-see for fans of the film. On the more novel end of the spectrum there is a colorized version that's been given the Mike Nelson Rifftrax treatment which is a fun time. One release I would suggest you steer clear of is John Russo's blasphemous 30th Anniversary Edition released by Anchor Bay Entertainment that went so far as edit in newly filmed additional scenes and provided a new film score, really terrible stuff, a true atrocity.
 So, here we have Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated, the massive collaborative efforts of 150 international artists each of whom chose their favorite scenes to animate in style, medium or process they desired. There's a bit of traditional animation, claymation, CGI, pen and ink, charcoal, stop-motion, machinima, and yet still more. Project curatorMike Schneider then assembled these snippets and edited them together laying the visuals down and syncing them over the existing sound elements from NOTLD. As per the original NOTLD this film is full frame and black and white. It's an original idea, I'll give it that.

Admiring the concept and actually watching the film are not mutually agreeable in my experience. I found the viewing experience fairly jarring and disjointed. There are 150 styles of animation going  fighting for attention and they shift at such a pace that it made it hard to appreciate the classic tale of a small farmhouse and it's random assembly of occupants under zombie siege. As a personal preference I particularly did not enjoy the abstract renderings of the zombie masses. I've enjoyed a few motion comics over the years and what they have that this does not is a consistent and coherent art style that carries the story through.

DVD: The DVD from Wild Eye Releasing is a pretty packed affair. Presented in it's proper 1.33:1 aspect ratio with the original mono audio the image and sound quality are not very impressive but adequate. If you are a fan of the film there are over two hours of supplemental material to dig through. My favorite featurette is the Night of the Living Dead Box Art video wherein a fan of the Romero original has painstakingly collected hundreds of  VHS covers, good stuff. The commentary with Mike Schneider and Jonathan Maberry is also a good listen, very informative and their love for NOTLD is quite evident.

Special Features
-Intro/Outro from horror-host Count Gore De Vol
- 3 Commentaries
       - Commentary with Mike Schneider and genre write Jonathan Maberry
       -"Making of" Commentary
       - NOTLD:R Artists "Call-In" Commentary
- Alternate/Deleted Scenes (5 min)
- Short Horror Films / Horror Comics
- Behind the Scenes: Animation Process (10 min)
- The Zombie Encounter Panel Video (79 min)
- Night of the Living Dead Box Art Video (32 min)
- ...and much more!

VERDICT: While I was intrigued by the concept of a NOTD mash-up of sorts I cannot say I was enamored with it's execution. For my tastes the tapestry was too uneven and I felt the jumbled assembly detracted from NOTLD's strong storyline. I would rather have seen a more traditional animated feature with more fluid animation and new sound elements or even a motion comic. That said I cannot not take away from the spirit and adoration that went into assembling this project and it is a unique take on the film that's been taken advantage of for over 40 years.  Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated is available from Amazon.  **1/2 (2.5 out of 5 Stars)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DVD Review: Sella Turcica (2010)

"For Brad The War is Over... For His Family It's Just Begun"

RATED: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Fred Vogel
CAST: Damien Maruscak (Sgt. Bradkey), Camille Keaton (Karmen), Jade Risser, Sean P. McCarthy (Bruce), Allie Nickel, Sarah Thornton

PLOT SYNOPSIS: Sgt. Bradley Robak (Damien Maruscak) returns home from active duty after a mysterious accident leaves him paralyzed and wheelchair bound. Awaiting his return, his mother, Karmen (Camille Keaton) and younger sister, Ashley(Jade Risser) remain unaware of the details of the accident and severity of Brad's condition. Once he arrives, though he looks sickly, his family members are so pleased to see him alive that they don't bring attention to his ill appearance. Over the next twenty-six hours Brad's condition terribly worsens, barreling down to a gruesome conclusion that will change the family forever.

FILM: Karmen (Camille Keaton, I Spit On Your Grave) and her family are anxiously awaiting the return of her son Bradley (Damien Marusack, Murder Collection v.1) who is returning home after serving his country in the Gulf War. Bradley's been paralyzed from the waist down following a mysterious accident and is now wheelchair bound. Brad arrives and it's apparent right away that he just isn't "right", something is off about the young man. It could be post-traumatic stress or any number of battle fatigue ailments, but it's seems to be more than that. The wheelchair bound Sgt. is sickly-ill, his skin is discolored and he's mentally frail.  Mom and sister Ashley (Jade Risser, Murder, Set,Pieces) are happy to have him back but it's a difficult and awkward situation. Everyone wants to know what happened and he tells them he just can't recall any details. It's his brother Bruce (Sean P. McCarthy) whom he finally confides in regarding the strange and mysterious circumstances of the incident. But even this explanation omits any true revelation and only serves to further shroud the incident in intrigue. The scenes between Bradley and his brother are handled quite well. You can feel the strain between them as they try to reconnect and relate to each other but it does not come easy. Bradley is suffering terribly, though her tries his best to hide this from his family. He has an excruciating pain in his head and he is leaking a mysterious black liquid from his ears which he tries to conceal by stuffing his ears with cotton balls. Loud piercing sounds agitate him but despite the pain and irritability Brad does his best to put on a brave face for his family not wanting them to worry them. He seems to be in a bit of denial in regards to the severity of his illness.  He sequesters himself in his room for the most part. No one seems willing to break the facade of normalcy to address his condition.

The acting in the film is very good and the characters are well defined and developed. I've not seen Camille Keaton in a film  since the rape-revenge exploitation flick I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and it was great to see her stretching her acting chops as the mother. The supporting roles from Jade Risser and Sean P. McCarthy as Brad's siblings are also good but it is Damien Maruscak's stand-out lead performance as Sgt. Bradley Robak that steals the show here. His performance is tense and uneasy and you can feel his suffering as his illness progresses. It's a very physical performance, one I'll be talking about for a while. It makes the film in my opinion.

Eventually things spiral out of control and the film reaches it's explosive climax. I don't want to spoil it but I will say it is a bloody and fucked-up finale. The violence is shocking and the gore is fantastic. Not even the family dog Fulci is safe! Nice nod to Italian gore maestro Lucio Fulci there by the way. I think the film may feel a tad slow as the tension builds from an uneasy homecoming to the aforementioned gore-filled finale but it is deliberately paced by design and with purpose.

DVD: Sella Turcica is presented in anamorphic wide screen with good image quality, it appears soft in a few places but otherwise no complaints. The DVD is pretty well-stocked in the special features department. An informative commentary from the director and star, a couple of featurettes chronicling co-star Sean P. McCarthy's tattooing of cast & crew during filming plus an 8 minute behind the scenes look at the special effects work that went into the death of Fulci. We also get deleted scenes and outtakes, and two photo montages from the set and a trailer gallery.
  • Commentary with director Fred Vogel and Damien Maruscak (1:45:00)
  • Deleted Scenes (1:41)
  • Behind the Scenes Photos (5:10)
  • Making of Fulci's Death (7:57)
  • Outtakes (2:01 min)
  • On Set Photos (3:34)
  • Tattoos On Set (1:32)
  • Trailers
    • Sella Turcica (2:14)
    • Murder Collection V.2 (2:47)
    • Latex Autopsy (1:37)
    • August Underground Collection (1:06)
VERDICT:  This is my first time viewing a TOETAG INC production. I've heard a lot of chatter about 'em, not always good, usually indicating the extreme nature of the films as overly shocking and violent. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Sella Turcica. It's a tense and well-acted dramatic story about a family trying so desperately to hold onto the appearance of normalcy for the sake of a family member that they turn a blind eye to the white elephant in the room until it blows great bloody chunks in their faces. I can't wait to explore more Toetag Inc and Fred Vogel productions. Good stuff.
**** (4 out of 5 stars)


Sunday, October 17, 2010

DVD Review: Inferno - 30th Anniversary Edition

INFERNO - 30th Anniversary Edition (1980)
Arrow Video

RATED: 18 Certificate
DIRECTOR: Dario Argento
CAST: Leigh McCloskey (Mark Elliot), Irene Miracle (Rose Elliot), Eleonora Giorgi (Sara), Daria Nicolodi (Elise Stallone Van Adler), Sacha Pitoeff (Kazanian)

SUMMARY: The middle installment in Dario Argento's Three Mothers Trilogy finds poetess Rose Elliot and her brother Mark lost in a maze of mystery and murder after Rose discovers a book called "The Three Mothers" chronicling a coven of witches.  The poetess is convinced that her apartment building is home to one of the witches, the Mother of Darkness.  She and brother Mark enter into a fantastical journey of macabre intrigue and danger.

FILM: My introduction to the films of Dario Argento came about the same time as I was discovering the films of David Lynch. It was at a local video store that I found myself discussing Lynch's Blue Velvet with the video clerk and it was suggested I check out Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA (1977). Told that if I enjoyed the surrealistic atmospheric qualities of Blue Velvet that Suspiria would probably strike a chord with me. The assumption was  correct. I loved everything about Suspiria's dark and surrealistic fairytale of a young American woman attending a German ballet school run by the Mother of Sighs. It was a visual overload of garish lighting, spooky storytelling and nightmarish imagery. Suspiria is still one of my favorite supernatural themed Argento films, and the film that kicked-off my love for the Italian master of horror. It would be several more years before I would take-in Argento's pseudo-sequel to Suspiria, the haunting Inferno. When I did it confounded me. It was a deep riddle with few answers but the imagery was nightmarish and magnificent. I put off seeing it again for several years and when I did I was much more enamored with the film at that later date, and upon this subsequent viewing even more so.

Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle, THE NIGHT TRAIN MURDERS) is obsessed by an antique book she's bought from an odd neighborhood bookseller named Kazanian (Sacha Pitoeff) called "The Three Mothers". The book's author, architect E. Varelli, tells of how he was commissioned to build three homes for a coven of witches known as The Three Mothers - the Mothers of Tears in Rome, the Mother of Sighs in Germany, and the Mother of Darkness in New York City, whom Rose believes lives in her centuries old apartment building. Following clues foretold in the book she discovers a room in the basement of the building that is submerged by water. Lacking good judgement Rose descends into the underwater labyrinth and discovers a corpse that lends credence to her initial feelings that the building is indeed home to the Mother of Darkness. She writess to her brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey, CAMERON'S CLOSET) in Rome explaining that she feels she is in danger. Fearing her safety he embarks to New York City but not before his own brief brief encounter the Mothers of Tears (Ania Pieroni, TENEBRE) in Rome. Once Mark arrives in New York he discovers Rose has gone missing. He meets Rose's neighbor and friend Elise (Daria Nicolodi, OPERA) whom sets Mark on the same path as his sister. What I love about Inferno is that it is essentially Argento's variation on a the haunted house story that is similar in tone to Suspiria but not as linear, it's actually a bit confusing. The film is best enjoyed by letting it wash over you and letting it carry you along. Searching for answers to the clues and riddles provided is a fool's errand, they're just not there. When one speaks of Argento and Fulci you hear of subscribing to dream-logic or nightmare-logic and Inferno is a great example of that idea. Argento is truly a visual director, cinema is a visual medium, and the plot will often take a backseat the the gorgeous visuals and lighting. To that end Inferno looks amazing, it's gorgeous stuff.

There's a lot that this film gets wrong. Foremost in my mind is the lack of a Goblin score. Goblin scored many of Argento's most iconic films in the 70's/80's with likewise iconic filmscores and main title themes, most notably in Suspiria where the filmscore is married into the film ingeniously. I think it was a misstep not to go that route here. This time around Argento went with prog-rock pioneer Keith Emerson of the 70's prog-superstars Emerson, Lake & Palmer. It's an odd score that feels intrusive and odd at times. The main title is amazing but there are times I'm left scratching my head and never more so than the infamous cab ride. Actor Leigh McCloskey as Mark Elliot is just plain uninspired. It's appropriate that he went on to a successful career in daytime soaps and sitcom appearances. Let's be fair though, great acting has never been an Argento trademark. Lastly, the Death prop as pictured above is overly hokey. A real b-movie level prop that detracts from the finale of the film to some degree.

DVD: Inferno is presented in a newly restored and fully uncut version for the first time ever in the UK. It's gorgeous 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer from a new HD master is a noticeable improvement over both the previously available Anchor Bay and Blue Underground DVD releases. Audio options include an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and Italian Stereo and Mono with English and Italian subtitle options.  Spread out over two disc loaded with all-new featurettes. We get a video introduction, interviews with Dario Argento, Lamberto Bava and Daria Nicolodi, an extensive trailer gallery chronicling all 18 of Argento's films. Unfortunately there is no commentary from Argento or the cast. Equally as exciting as the fantastic audio/visual content of this Arrow Video set is the awesome packaging extras which include four reversible sleeve art options including newly commissioned artwork by Rick Melton, very cool. Then we get an 8-page booklet with all-new writings from noted genre author Alan Jones plus 6 postcards replicating theatre poster art for the film. This release is on par with The Criterion Collection releases, simply outstanding stuff.


  • Reversible sleeve with four artwork options, both original and new commissioned artwork from Rick Melton.
  • Double-sides fold-out poster
  • 8-page Collector's Booklet with brand new writings on Inferno by Alan Jones
  • Introduction by star Daria Nicolodi
  • Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror - (57 mins) Mark Kermode narrates this documentary on Argento's career including interviews with George A. Romero, John Carpenter and Alice Cooper.
  • Featurettes
    • Dario's Inferno (16 min)
    • The Other Mother: Making the Black Cat (16 min) In 1989 director Luigi Cozzi (a long time friend and collaborator of Dario Argento) decided to make the unofficial follow-up to Inferno and 'complete' the Three Mothers legacy. This feature looks at the sordid story of The Black Cat and includes several clips.
    • Acting in Hot Water: An Interview with Daria Nicolodi (18 min)
    • X Marks the Spot
    • Dario Argento and Lamberto Bava on Inferno (9 min)
    • The Complete Dario Argento Trailer Gallery (18 films/39 min.)
    • Spanish Trailer
    • International Trailer

VERDICT: This is a must buy. The more I revisit Inferno the more I've come to appreciate it's riddle-filled story and nightmarish imagery. Arrow Video's treatment of the film and the outstanding packaging of the DVD merits it a space on your DVD shelf. Even if you are only a casual fan of the film the special features are intriguing and a must-see for Dario Argento fans. My only regret - I don't have the Blu -Ray. The DVD is Region 0 as is the Blu-Ray so stop making excuses and snag this right quick. Also, kudos to Arrow Video for lobbying the notoriously prudent BBFC to bring Dario Argento's Inferno to the British public completely uncut for the very first time. **** ( out of 5 stars)