Saturday, September 29, 2012


HELL YES! I will definitely be in attendance for a screening of John Carpenter's seminal slasher HALLOWEEN (1978) with my kids in tow - this is awesome!

Jamie Lee Curtis became an overnight movie star with her role in the original 1978 John Carpenter movie HALLOWEEN. Well, that Halloween, yes, the original from 1978, arrives back in movie theaters for an entire week this Halloween season. The studio has even commissioned a brand new movie poster just for this event.

HALLOWEEN (1978) - Nationwide Theatrical Rerelease October 25, 2012
John Carpenter’s 1978 masterpiece, Halloween, the movie that made Jamie Lee Curtis famous, and forever changed the standard for horror movies in Hollywood, is back in theaters just in time for Halloween 2012.
Check out the brand new movie poster, created exclusively for the 2012 theatrical rerelease, below, and check this page often for updates.

New locations will be added continuously through Sept 28. Click HERE for a list of cities and theatres screening John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN! 

Halloween 1978 movie poster
Above, the brand new poster created exclusively for the 2012 big screen Halloween theatrical rerelease.

Below, the original Halloween movie poster from 1978.
Original 1978 Halloween movie poster

Coming soon from Scorpion Releasing!

Some great stuff on the way from Scorpion Releasing in the coming months! We have Blu-rays of GRIZZLY, DAY OF THE ANIMALS, and the horror anthology THE MONSTER CLUB - very exciting genre titles plus we're getting the Steve Buscemi cult classic ED AND HIS DEAD MOTHER among others. No artwork or release dates yet but stay tunesd...

ALLEY CAT (1984)
After a beautiful young martial arts expert's grandparents are killed by a vicious street gang, she sets out to seek the truth and get revenge.

Wearing form-fitting fatigues, seven females join together as highly trained avengers. Their mission: to wipe every drug dealer off the face of the earth. To accomplish this, they drive around in a custom-built van, decked out with the latest in high-tech weaponry. Stars Jack Palance, Peter Lawford, Jim Backus, Neville Brand, Pat Buttram, Alan Hale Jr., and Arthur Godfrey.

An imaginative and somewhat disturbed young girl fantasizes about evil creatures and other oddities to mask her insecurities while growing up in rural Australia

A group of hikers are victims of an ironic twist of fate when wildlife reigns terror over them in this fang-baring suspense film. The hikers have convened in the woods of Northern California for a two-week camping trip. Soon, they are attacked by wild animals that have gone insane due to the depletion of the ozone layer. Now see this cult classic from a brand new HD master in 2.35:1 16x9 widescreen, from the original IP, for the first time in its proper presentation anywhere in the world! This title will be available in both BD and SD.

Though it's been a year since her death, Ed (Steve Buscemi) is still pining over his deceased mother (Miriam Margolyes). Enter a firm called Happy People Ltd, which for a hefty fee will bring Ed's mom back to life. He ponies up the money, and miracle of miracles, mother returns. At first all is bliss. But eventually dead old mom begins acting very strangely. Her habit of eating bugs is only the tip of a bizarre iceberg. Can things get any weirder? The supporting cast includes the likes of Ned Beatty and John Glover.

GRIZZLY (1976)
Giant, killer grizzly terrorizes a state park! This horror classic will be available in both BD and SD.

Horror anthology loosely based on the works of horror novelist R. Chetwynd-Hayes. A horror author is invited by a suave vampire (Vincent Price) to accompany him to the title establishment, where he observes the secret social customs of various species of monsters -- which apparently include drinking, dancing, and watching undead strippers remove more than just their clothing. He is also made privy to the mating patterns of these creatures, and three bizarre tales are told over the evening. Also starring Donald Pleasence, Richard Johnson, Simon Ward, Britt Ekland, John Carradine, Anthony Steel and Stuart Whitman. This will be vailable both BD and SD.

THE POWER (1984) 
A man comes into possession of an ancient Aztec doll. However, the doll is possessed by an evil spirit, which takes over his body.

When a nude, crazed woman slaughters a sailor who visits the island. When she is taken back to civilization and an ancient relic is discovered, an expedition is mounted to solve the mystery of the island which leads to a series of psycho-sexual murders. This title will be available both in BD and SD.

ABOUT SCORPION RELEASING: Specializing in some of the most sought-after indie and studio movies out there, Scorpion Releasing will focus on state-of-the art definitive editions of films spanning every genre imaginable. From HBO family classics to award winning foreign films, from arthouse and drive-in escapist fun to the most infamous horror and sci-fi, Scorpion will present each of these eclectic and unique films in a restored and remastered transfer from the original elements, and also incorporate insightful bonus extras as well. Scorpion is here to add a much-needed sting to the DVD industry, and the buzz has only just begun...

Blu-ray Review: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990)

- The Limited Edition Series -
Label: Twilight Time DVD
Region Code: ABC
Duration: 88 Minutes
Rating: R
Video: 1080p 16x9 Widescreen(1.85:1)
Audio: Englisg DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Cast: Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, Katie Finneran, Tom Towles, Patricia Tallman
DirectorTom Savini
Synopsis: Night of the Living Dead (1990)—a George Romero-approved remake of his 1968 cult horror classic, directed by makeup wizard Tom Savini—tells once again the chilling tale of seven people holed-up in a farmhouse besieged by armies of the un-dead. As the terrified little group fights for their lives, they begin to find themselves as plagued by the evil lurking within as by the ravening flesh-eaters battering on hastily boarded-up windows and doors. “Splatter King” Savini keeps things moving—and the blood flowing—as the survivors dwindle one by one.

The Film: Much like the original Romero-directed film we open with siblings Johnny (Bill Moseley, The Devil's Rejects) and Barbara (Patricia Tallman, Army of Darkness) visiting their mother's grave at a remote, rural cemetery - it's a picturesque location with rolling hills covered in green grass overlooking a lake. Johhny is an acerbic and witty and takes great pleasure in tormenting his sister about zombie, intoning the iconic line "there coming to get you Barbara". On cue a man stumbles into the scene, you're thinking it's a zombie but we get a fake out as the film deviates from the original. The man is dazed and injured, mumbles a warning and stumbles off, confused. It's now that we've been lulled into a false sense of security that the undead show up and attack, Johnny struggles against the fiend while Barbara screams her head off, he falls onto a gravestone at a weird angle, his neck snaps, it's brutal. The panicked Barbara flees the scene and eventually ends up at a rural farmhouse. It's here that she meets Ben (Tony Todd, Candyman) a man also fleeing the chaos of whatever it is that's happening in the area, it seems people are turning violent and eating people. We the audience of course realize this is the beginning of a zombie outbreak but remember the characters don't really know what the Hell is going on, they're panicked and stricken with fear. The two set about fortifying farmhouse in an effort to prevent the massing zombie hordes from entering the home. They remove doors from entry ways inside the home and barricade the windows, in the process of looking for lumber they discover the house is not as empty as it once appeared, in the basement they find Harry Cooper (Tom TowlesHenry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), his wife Helen (McKee Anderson), their daughter Sarah (Heather Mazur, TV's Pretty Little Liars) , who was bitten by one of the fiends. She's deathly ill but no one realizes just yet how dire the situation really is. Also taking refuge in the basement is a young couple Tom Bitner (William Butler, Ghoulies II) and his girlfriend Judy Rose Larson (Katie Finneran, TV's Wonderfalls).

Immediately Cooper rubs Ben the wrong way - both are strong headed men of action and have differing opinions on the best course of action to follow which leads to a lot of tension, drama and altercations, some with damning consequences. One of the most noticeable departures from the original is the character of Barbara portrayed by Patricia Tallman (Babylon 5) who is quite the opposite of the blonde, meek and nearly catatonic Barbara (Judith O'Dea) in the '68 film here is a red-haired fire-brand, she starts off a bit  on the prissy side but by the film's end is a zombie-killing bad-ass,  it's a great switch-up . Tony Todd very capably fills the shoes of Duane Jones as Ben - this just might be Todd's finest performance. Special mention of Tom Towels (Stuart Gordon's The Pit and the Pendulum) as the abrasive Harry Cooper, a real bastard, super unpleasant and quite intense, there's a nice exchange of words between his character and Ben as they pretty much fight over a TV - great stuff.

The film has atmosphere to spare, the rural farmhouse proves to be an claustrophobic setting as hordes of zombies try to break-in until they eventually fall through the windows like a mass of insects. The sound of incessant hammering  as windows are boarded up and patched throughout the siege is unnerving, the zombies are slow-moving shamblers, it's creepy stuff. 

This was the first of only four features that splatter-master Tom Savini directed and it's far and away his finest moment behind the camera, the most recent being the "Wet Dreams" segment of The Theatre Bizarre, the weakest of that anthologies vignettes. Perhaps what we have something akin to a Spielberg-Hooper situation on Poltergeist (1982) here with Romero-Savini... it's not likely but apparently Savini's directorial debut will remain his most well-regarded effort. 

The films is shot in color but like the black and white original it is propelled by chilling atmosphere and dread, not gore, though there are certainly moments of grue provided by the capable effects team of John Vulich (Re-Animator, The Hidden) and Everett Burell (Dolls, Castle Freak) whom created some great zombie make-ups for the film. 

The film pretty much sticks to the blueprint of the original save for a few twists, one being the wickedly great finale, there's a delicious irony in Ben taking final refuge in the basement after disputing it so vehemently with Cooper, the final twists are fantastic and the final few shots of the film are eerie and chilling

Blu-ray: Twilight Time offer up Tom Savini's chilling remake of George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead in a very nice looking MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer in it's original theatrical widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (anamorphic). It's sourced from a very nice print, most likely the same Columbia master used for the DVD, I saw no print damage whatsoever, there's a fine layer of grain and while the 1080p image didn't exactly leap off the screen with fine detail it is absolutely an improvement over the previous Columbia Pictures DVD edition.   
The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sounds great with some nice atmospheric touches in the surrounds but the majority of the action is front and center, dialogue is crisp and the score and effects sound great. There is an optional English SDH subtitle option.

Special features are culled from the previously mentioned DVD edition and include a theatrical trailer plus an audio commentary with director Tom Savini, it's a relaxed and scene-specific commentary covering many facets of the film, it's quite an interesting listen as he discusses the numerous splatter scene excised from the film by the MPAA and an alternate death scene for "Helen". Something noticeably missing from the Blu-ray is the "The Dead Walk" (24:52) making-of featurette. Not sure why that was not included but I believe for one reason or another not all bonus materials from Columbia are made available to third-party distributors, it would have been a sweet inclusion but it was not to be, however, we do get Twilight Time's signature isolated score track (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) featuring the original score by composer Paul McCollough (The Majorettes) which is not found on the DVD. The last item is a 8 page color booklet with color pictures and wonderful writings by  Twilight Time staff-writer Julie Kirgo who always offers interesting insights that put the film in perspective. I must compliment Twilight for the inclusion of a booklet in every release, it's a nice touch and something that's all but disappeared, such a shame. 

Something I never really comment on with releases is the Blu-ray box art and I gotta say that this film has ever really had great artwork associated with it's releases. The Columbia DVD was pretty lame I hate to say it but this Blu-ray is worse, it's just uninspired, worthy maybe of Diary of the Dead maybe but not this. The backside of the booklet features some great original theatrical poster art, that would have been fantastic.

 Special Features:
- Isolated Score Track by Paul McCollough
- Audio Commentary with Filmmaker Tom Savini
- Original theatrical Trailer
- Julie Kirgo liner notes
Verdict: Night of the Living Dead (1990) is a chilling and poignant take on George A. Romero's '68 original, with Romero himself penning the screenplay the film follows the sketch of the iconic black and white chiller with precision with but a few nice surprises. I will offer up that when I take in Romero's trilogy of the Dead I actually throw this on instead of the '68 original - it's that good. As remakes of classic films go this is right up there with The Blob (1988), The Thing (1982) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - definitely one of the better horror entries of the 90's and a high recommend. 4 Outta 5 

NOTE: This release was limited to only 3,000 units and is sold out and fetching upwards of $100 on eBay :(

Thursday, September 27, 2012

DVD Review: The Dark Side of Love (1985)


Fotografando Patrizia

Label: One 7 Movies
Duration: 91 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: Italian, English Dolby Digital Mono
Director: Salvatore Samperi
Cast: Monica Guerritore, Lorenzo Lena, Gianfranco Manfredi, Gilla Novak

Tagline: Incest is no longer a Sin!

 Patrizia hides a very dark secret - her brother Emilio is secretly in love with her. At first she just tries to play with him, confessing her love stories with other men, but fate has other plans for the doomed and incestuous would be lovers...

Film: Oh those Italians and their exploitation cinema, gotta love it and you gotta love One 7 Movies for unearthing these previously obscure nuggets of sexploitation and erotic cinema and making them available to the masses. This time out we have Salvatore Samperi's Fotografando Patrizia (1985) now re-titled The Dark Side of Love for the American DVD release. In it a young neurotic young man named Emilio (Lorenzo Lena) mother has passed on and his older sister Patricia (Monica Guerritore) returns home to care for her sheltered and socially awkward brother. It's an odd sibling dynamic to say the least. He chronically jerks it while he watches "art films" (read: porn) while conversating with his sister whom regularly parades topless through the house. More so she straddles him in bed while she excites him with stories of her sexual escapades, whoa, that's gotta be uncomfortable.... or is it. 

There's an uneasy sexual tension between the two that builds towards that most taboo of loves, the love that dares not be named - incest. Patricia lays upon her brothers lap (in only a bath towel, mind you) to console his sadness when she notices a throbbing erection in his pants, yeah, that's weird but what's even weirder is that she returns to her room and immediately rubs one out while little brother listens to hear spin a tale of sexual discovery, soon he's watching her masturbate and things just get stranger and more uncomfortable - for the viewer - these two don't seem to mind in the least, there's tons of nudity and weird sexual situations but the film just never takes the plunge into the deep end of the gene pool. It plays out as more of a lurid psychological thriller with a  lot of flesh. It's a weird one, you're watching this brother and sister fall in love, the sexual tension is thick enough to cut with a knife, they engage in mind-games and petty jealousies and push each other's boundaries. One such boundary pushing adventure has Emilio escorting Patricia to the cinema to observe her bring a complete stranger to his ultimate climax with an impromptu hand-job, a reenactment of a story she told him about being molested as a child.

The film offers no deep exploration on why these two have come to this odd place in their lives, perhaps a history of past sexual abuse (in her case we know this has happened), or maybe the two had incestuous encounters in their adolescence when they were developing their sexual identities... nothing is really offered as explanation and the film doesn't seem too concerned with the details either. Sadly, the film also doesn't seem too interested in giving me what I wanted, some lurid exploitation sleaze, the damn things is just way to slick and timid to ratchet up the sex and instead is quite pleased to settle on unsettling, erotic voyeurism. 

DVD: One 7 Movies presents the film in it's original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen (16x9) and it's sourced from a very nice print with very little  print damage, the transfer is quite attractive. Very crisp - definitely one of the better On 7 Films releases I have seen. Colors are warm and vibrant, black levels are decent and helped in no small part is cinematography from Dante Spinotti whom would go onto lens Manhunter (1986) and L.A. Confidential (1997), it's gorgeous stuff that's well framed and definitely classes up a film that's about incest. Audio options include the original Italian language mono track and a dubbed-English track with no subtitle options which is a bummer since I prefer watching films in their native language but when all is said and done the dub is pretty great. When toggling back and forth from Italian to English it was evident that the dub was the more robust option. The dialogue is crisp and clean with only a few minor instances of distortion, Fred Bogusto's score is above average, too. There are no bonus features but the presentation is just fine. 

Verdict: This is definitely one of those moments when I will make it way too apparent that I am a pervert because this is a classic case of not enough sleaze to appease my inner perv. Truly, it's a gorgeous slice of exploitation cinema but it's much too subtle for my taste. 3 Outta 5 

Blu-ray Review: THE BUNNY GAME (2010)

Blu-ray + DVD Combo 
Label: Autonomy Pictures
Region: 0 NTSC, ABC
Duration: 76 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Video: 16x9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Cast:  Rodleem GetsicJeff F. Renfro, Drettie PageGregg Gilmore
Director: Adam Rehmeier

Synopsis: Banned in the UK and partially inspired by a real-life experience of star Rodleen Getsic, The Bunny Game (2010) is an unflinching descent into torment and madness. Junkie hooker Sylvia Grey turns the wrong trick in demented trucker JR (Jeff Renfro). After knocking her out cold and taking her to a desolate place where no one can hear her cries, JR subjects Sylvia to a series of increasingly twisted, sadistic “games”. But will she survive the ultimate test when she wakes up with her head sealed in a white leather bunny mask?

Film: Some days you just wanna destroy something, tear shit up and vent your  frustration and sometimes you just wanna watch a film that destroys you and Adam Rehmeir's The Bunny Game (2010) pretty much destroyed me from frame one, it's an impossibly depressing watch that left me in a there's no hope for the human race sorta funk for awhile afterwards. I first heard about Rehmeier's controversial film when it was refused certification outright by the British Board of Film Classification for "unremitting sexual and physical abuse of a helpless woman, as well as the sadistic and sexual pleasure the man derives from this. The emphasis on the woman’s nudity tends to eroticise what is shown, while aspects of the work such as the lack of explanation of the events depicted, and the stylistic treatment, may encourage some viewers to enjoy and share in the man’s callousness and the pleasure he takes in the woman’s pain and humiliation".

Once again a small moral minority dictates draconian morality over an entire nation of adults, ugh. Admittedly the film is a bit more eye-brow raising and disturbing than your typical torture-porn flick at the cineplex but how anyone could watch this film and say that anything in this film eroticises the events in anyway at all is just freaking ludicrous to me, let alone encourage others to be incited to follow suite, Christ-o-mighty. 

This brutal film begins with a sloppy and suffocating blowjob performed by Bunny (Rodleen Gestic), a street walkin' prostitute with a coke addiction. The next few minutes we are subjected to a gloomy montage of Bunny's sad life, a vicious cycle of violent sex with anonymous johns, blowjobs in the alleyway, a trick stuffing her payment insultingly in her mouth, pissing in the street, drug withdrawal, crying in the shower while washing the filth away, walking the streets, snorting cocaine, rinse and repeat - it's just depressing stuff that left me wanting a shower, felt dirty like watching one of the old hardcore Richard Kern (Submit to Me)  or Harmony Korine's devastating Gummo (1997) only worse and with a similar minded black metal soundtrack. It's not a glamorous depiction of a whore's life by any means, it's grim and gritty and fraught with danger, like passing out while a low-life trick fucks your unconscious body, steals your money and drugs before taking off . When the destitute Bunny awakens she breaks down, the life she's chosen has bested her yet again. With no cash and no drug of choice she back at zero and she hits the streets once again when along comes an 18-wheeler driven by JR (Jeff Renfro), a middle-aged trucker with some blow and just maybe a little money for a blowjob if she's lucky, which she most certainly is not.

What JR has got it mind is torture, misogyny and sadism for days on end. After a snort of of nose-candy Bunny is incapacitated with cloth doused with some sorta knock-out drops and the trucker drives her out to the desert far away from prying eyes. She's taken to the back  of his semi-trailer and chains her up and this is where the film gets really fucked-up as she endures untold suffering at the hands of the demented trucker for five straight days. As extreme horror goes this was squirm inducing stuff. Stripped nude, her head shaved she's subjected to sexual violence, sadism, and forced to wear a leather bunny mask while the trucker where's a leather hog mask and chases her through the desert in a weird "bunny game". The trucker loves his toys, too, ball-gagging her, branding her with a hot branding iron (for real!), wiring her mouth open with some fucked-up dental device and forces liquor down her throat right up until the films somewhat outta-steam finale, I just didn't feel like the ending matched the intensity of the rest of the film, it seemed like it was meant to be chilling but it just came off as deflated to in my eyes.

The film definitely has an art school pretentiousness to it, it's easy to imagine Rehmeier as a snotty art school student with a 'let's make the most fucked-up movie ever!' demeanor and I am okay with that, actually - if he set out to show me something psychologically damaging let me just say he succeeded. Like Salo or 120 Days of Sodom (1976),  I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and Cannibal Holocaust (1980) this is a slice of shock cinema that won't get a ton of watches at my house until some poor unsuspecting fucker comes along and says "what have you got that will fuck my shit up?" and that's when this gets pulled, played and put away for awhile longer.

Blu-ray: The Bunny Game is presented in 1080p anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and looks good in stark black and white. The whites are crisp and the blacks are nice and deep. Despite the stomach-churning events depicted onscreen the grainy cinematography is quite artful and when taken one frame at a time allows you to enjoy the artfulness separate from the horrific events, it's a pretty artsy film at it's heart visually, very striking. Audio options include an English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track with optional English SDH subtitles and the commentary. The stereo track is crisp aside from some muffled dialogue and the caustic electronic score sounds quite good sonically as does the grinding black metal songs performed by L.A.-based band Harrassorreally harsh stuff which perfectly compliments the grim film. 

Special features include a commentary with director Adam  Rehmeier and actress Gestic who joins Reheimer via Skype - it's an interesting listen for sure that adds another level of disturbing to an already disturbing film, Gestic's dedication to the film borders on the fanatical, pretty amazing. There's also a making of featurette “Caretaking the Monster” (16:30) featuring interview with Rehmeier, Gestic, Renfro and Gregg Gilmore who was originally cast as demented-trucker JR but backed out for fear that he might actually killing someone after considering the unsettling script and Gestic's willingness to "do anything", dangerous cinema indeed. Gestic endured quite a transformation bringing "Bunny" to the screen, in actuality she's quite a cutey with some mighty fine acting chops. Filling out the disc are two trailer and a poster and stills gallery with a selection of posters, artwork, behind-the-scene pics and still. The stills are quite captivating, Rehmeier's has a great eye and these stills separate from the horrific events they portray are striking and artful. The Blu-ray + DVD combo also includes a standard definition version of the film with mirrored special features so you can enjoy the fucked-uppedness on either format.

Special Features:
Audio commentary by director Adam Rehmeier and actress Rodleen Getsic
- “Caretaking the Monster” making-of featurette (16:30) 16x9
Trailer (1:36) 16x9 
- Alternate Trailer (1:15) 16x9

Verdict: The Bunny Game is a disturbing slice of shock cinema that's unrelenting from frame one to the end credits. Not sure what Rehmeier set out to make here, there's not a message that I can decipher unless it's turning tricks will only end in ultimate sadness but I am quite sure he just wanted to make one of the most fucked-up films ever made and to that end it's quite successful, this was a difficult watch but a difficult watch does not always have a lot of rewatch value for me. That said, this is pretty fucked-up and worth a one-er particularly if you love shock cinema or if only to satisfy your morbid curiosity, it's quite unsettling. 3.5 Outta 5 

Monday, September 24, 2012



aka: Assault; The Creepers; Satan's Playthings; or Tower of Terror  

Label: VCI Entertainment 
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Dration: 91 Minutes
Rating: R
Video: 16x9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 and Enhanced 5.1 Surround 
Cast: Suzy Kendall, Frank Finlay, Freddie Jones, James Laurenson, Lesley-Anne Down, James Cosmo
Director: Sidney Hayers
Tagline: Don't Go Down in the Woods today...

Synopsis: In this slickly made thriller, a 16-year-old girl is brutally assaulted and raped in the woods near her London
school. Struck dumb by her experience, she remains so until a second girl is murdered. The school art teacher (Suzy Kendall) claims to have seen the killer -- who looks like Satan himself -- and she decides to set him a trap with herself as bait. A British flavored giallo, and a ripping good whodunit!

The Film: In the Devil's Playground (1971) begins at the end of a school day as the kids are dismissed for the day, a young teen in a white blouse and pink skirt with knee high stockings cuts through the forest nearby. Listening to her transistor radio she walks carefree along earthen path. What she does not realize is that she's being observed from off the path by someone stalking her every move.When the attacker makes himself known she flees in terror and we get a pretty decent chase scene. Near an electrical tower she is caught, partially stripped and raped - she's left in a semi-catatonic state unable to identify the perp who's face is never revealed. The attack is violent but the film does not hang over it, the film instead chooses a close-up of the young woman's muffled suffering. This is perhaps the first clue that what we're in for here is more aligned with a police procedural whodunit than a stylish and violent Giallo along the lines of Dario Argento's Deep Red (1975) or Lucio Fulci's Don't Torture a Duckling (1972), the sexualized violence is tame and the cinematography is very workmanlike, not dissimilar to a made-for-TV production. Likewise the score is obnoxiously 70's television oriented and took me right out of the moment, really ghastly stuff.

After the attack the young ladies of the academy are warned not to walk alone for fear of another attack but a girl named Susan unwisely cuts through the forest and pays for her ignorance when she is attacked and raped. When the school's art teacher Julia West (Suzi Kendall, Torso) realizes that young Susan is not among the group of girls she's driving home she is told that she went through the wood. Alarmed by the thought of harm coming to the girl she drives hurriedly down the forest path hoping to catch up with her but loses control of the car on a muddy stretch and spins out of control stopping askew in the road. Steadying herself and about to drive off she catches a glimpse of someone in the brake lights through the rear window illuminated by the red glow of her tail lights, someone whom looks strikingly like Old Scratch himself, Satan, it's a great effect and nicely framed. The figure quickly disappears from sight and she realizes that he was huddled over the body of young Susan who's been strangled to death.

As the typically incompetent authorities investigate they find it hard to swallow that Satan is the culprit and instead focus on more Earthbound suspects including an obnoxious crime scene reporter (Freddie Jones, Dune), Greg Lomax (James Laurenson, The Monster Club) a psychologist and the pervy husband of the school's strict head mistress - yup, there's a full arsenal of red herrings but it's not hard to figure out who the culprit is.

The Giallo elements are pretty weak, we get a unseen killer stalking young women adorned in the traditional black-leather gloves but none of the sexy style we get from an Argento, Fulci or Martino. When the killer's identity is revealed it's not a surprise, his identity having long been broadcast several times over thus the mystery of the whodunit is altogether lost. Slightly redeeming this entry is a snappy finale that starts with the use of an experimental drug called "Pentothal" meant to bring the first catatonic victim out of her dumb struck state, it's very solid and goes a long way toward redeeming the film with a "shocking" reveal followed by a close quarter struggle culminating at the scene of the original attack and ending with someone set afire in a crackle of high voltage electricity - it's fun stuff but not enough to fully redeem a film that starts in really fine fashion but labors to keep one's attention and in the end, despite a punchy finale, is an exercise in whodunit mediocrity.

The acting is pretty solid throughout, particularly Suzy Kendal who herself is no stranger to the Giallo having appeared in both Sergio Martino's Torso (1973) and Dario Argento's The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) among many others. There's not a rotter in the bunch, but it's just dull in a dry, very stuffy British sorta way which might have had a lot to do with my lack of interest in the film. What I loved was pretty much anything shot in the forest which was well-shot, great atmosphere and creepy - particularly the numerous woodland chase scene with plenty of creepy POV shots.

DVD: VCI Entertainment presents In the Devil's Garden on DVD for the first time in the US with an anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer. It's sourced from a clean print but I wanna say this is a PAL to NTSC conversion with some of the tell-tale video jitters, the image is soft, murky and colors are muted. We get two audio options, a English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix and enhanced 5.1 Surround Sound. The audio is a bit boxy with no depth to it and that awful score isn't helped by the poor fidelity either. The menu is a simple static menu and there are no bonus features on the disc.

Verdict: In the Devils Garden has some of the elements of a black-gloved Giallo but at it's heart is more of a straight whodunit and lacks the sleaze and style of an Argento, Martino or Fulci. As a thriller it's mildly successful but as a Giallo this is disappointing, maybe I am just a perv but I wanted a bit more sleaze with my blacked-gloved shenanigans, it almost went there but pulled back against it's darker nature much to my dismay. 2.5 Outta 5

Sunday, September 23, 2012



Label: Full Moon Features

Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 86 Minutes
Video: 16x9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: David DeCoteau
Cast: Guy Rolfe, Ian Abercrombie, Sarah Douglas, Walter Gotel, Kristopher Logan, Matthew Faison, Aaron Eisenberg, Richard Lynch

Tagline: When good puppets go bad.

Synopsis: After learning that Andre Toulon's puppets have no strings and seem to have a life of their own, Dr. Hess, a WWII Gestapo henchman, sends his officers to kidnap them. During the melee, Toulon's wife Elsa is killed, but the puppets fight back and escape with their leader. Toulon creates a new puppet, Six Shooter, models Blade after a pasty-faced Nazi and uses Elsa's essence to create Leech Woman. The army is ready. Body part by body part, revenge will be theirs…

Flm: The third installment of the Puppet Master franchise is a period-piece, a prequel taking place three years after the start of Puppet Master ...huh? Whatever. The year is 1941 in Berlin during WW2. Dr. Hess (Ian Abercrombie, Army of Darkness) is a Nazi scientist in the service of the Third Reich. He's been tasked to create a serum that will create an army of undead zombie soldiers. He's had a modicum of success but the serum is too unstable and in an early scene we see a corpse jump off the operating table Re-Animator style and wreak havoc. Hess is overseen my Major Kraus (Richard Lynch, Bad Dreams) from the Gestapo. Kraus's driver Lt. Stein (Kristopher Logan, The Rocketeer) is an amateur puppeteer and attends a puppet show for children presented by Andre Toulon and his wife Elsa (Sarah Douglass, Superman 2). During the puppet show a marionette of Adolf Hitler is fired upon by a new puppet called Six Shooter, modeled after the American gunslingers. He's got six arms and six guns, it's a great character design and he has a great Jack Nicholson laugh that I just love. The Lt. who sounds a lot like Marvin the Martian sneaks around after the show and witness the puppets being fed their serum by Toulon and that they seem to be alive, unassisted by strings. When he reports this to Krauss and Hess the next day Kraus immediately takes an SS squad to Toulon's residence to arrest the puppeteer for treasonous acts. Hess convinces Kraus that he must speak with Toulon to gain his secrets of reanimation. Kraus agrees but then kills Toulon's wife Elsa after she spits in his face in defiance. As Toulon is being transported away the two soldiers guarding him are killed by Tunneler and Pinhead allowing him to escape and plot his revenge. It's a great shot when Tunneler drills his way through the back of the driver's seat and through his chest, quite bloody. 

This film has a lot going for it. Setting it during WW2 in Berlin is a good choice and it's a great backdrop for the film with some excellent sets and dressings. The acting is superb from the key players. Richard Lynch (Bad Dreams, Laid to Rest) as the despicable Major Kraus is inspired, he's a wicked villain. Ian Abercrombie as the Nazi scientist Hess is also great casting. You get the feeling he's being forced into working for the Reich and he seems genuinely amazed by the work of Toulon, in fact, he redeems himself towards the end of the film. You may recall Abercrombie as Mr. Pitt, Elaine's boss from the TV 's Seinfeld. Then there is Guy Rolfe (Dolls, Mr. Sardonicus) as Andre Toulon, easily the best Toulon I've seen so far in the series, no disrespect to the venerable and beloved William Hickey from the first entry. Also noteworthy is the appearance of Walter Gotell as the Nazi General Mueller who played "General Gogol" in several 007 entries, his character loves frequenting Nazi whores and his scene in a tub being bathed by topless Nazi tramps is just wonderful. 

There's very little I did not enjoy here. The setting, the acting, the special effects - all great stuff. Highlight for me include the origins of Blade and Ms. Leech and the rest of the puppets, great stuff. Let's not forget the awesome introduction of Six Shooter and that we find out why the Nazi's are pursuing Toulon at the start of the first film. A goof of sorts would be the inclusion of Jester in the film whom we saw Toulon create in the first film which the ending of this entry more or less sets up.

Blu-ray: While previous Puppet Master III VHS and DVD editions did not suffer quite as much as earlier Puppet Master II releases they were not great either; cropped images that were dark, murky and standard-definition with artifacting. Much like the new Puppet Master II Blu-ray the film is 
presented in it's original anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio with an MPEG-4 encoded image transferred from the original negative and remastered in high-definition with all new color timing and color correction. The results are revealing, like seeing the film for the first time. I've seen this film several times in it's many VHS and DVD incarnations and it's always been the same fullframe standard-definition transfer, cropped, soft, murky and lacking any fine detail. What we get with this Blu-ray release is a pleasingly crisp anamorphic presentation with a pleasant amount of natural grain left intact, with that though we also get a fair amount of digital noise but overall this is quite wonderful stomps previous SD transfers with vivid saturated colors, natural skin tones, decent black an acceptable amount of fine detail.

On the audio front we get a newly created 5.1 sound surround mix but it's Dolby Digital and not lossless audio. That said while it's not overly dynamic it is not lamented by the same compression issues and the dialogue, score and effects sound quite good. Still the lack of a lossless audio option is a disappointing oversight.

Some of the bonus content is mirrored from the Puppet Master II Blu-ray beginning with the  Introduction (2:35) from creator Charles Band filmed on the set of the forthcoming Puppet Master 10 in which the  auteur discusses the difficulty getting the early Full Moon films on Blu-ray and what's coming next in 1080p. There's the same Killer Puppet Montage (1:52),  a Rare Puppet Master Toy Promo (1:30) and same eight Full Moon trailers in HD widescreen. New content(sorta) is a vintage episode of Full Moon's video magazine VideoZone.

The center-piece of the bonus features is a newly recorded audio commentary with director David Decoteau and writer C. Courtney Joyner that's informative and entertaining - these guys are movie fiends and happily recollect their time on the Universal back lot and the classic film that were also brought to life there, it makes for some good listening. A lot of the commentary is scene specific and follows what's transpiring onscreen but they also veer off with fun production anecdotes, DeCoteau talks a bit about arguing with Charlie Band over the opening scene being a bit too graphic, remembering that Band is actually a bit squeamish, at least back in the day. The two also offer fond remembrances of Lynch, Abercrombie, Rolf, and Gotel all of whom have since shuffled off this mortal coil. They also discuss Lynch not being the first choice of actor to portray Kraus, originally the part was intended for Ralph Bates (Taste the Blood of Dracula)  but he died before production. They also discuss Lynch disfigurement which occurred during a 'Nam protest in Central Park during a "controlled" burn with rubbing alcohol but it got out of control, they also dismiss that the incident had stemmed from a drug-induced state which is what I had always been told. It's a good commentary and really adds to the enjoyment of the film, good stuff. 

Special Features: 
- Brand new Introduction by Puppet Master creator Charles Band (2:35)
- Brand new 2012 Audio Commentary by writer C. Courtney Joyner director David DeCoteau
- VideoZone (25:30) 14x3 

- Killer Puppet Master Montage (1:52) 4x3
-Rare Puppet Master Toy Promo (1:30) 4x3
-HD Full Moon trailers:
Puppet Master (1:38) 16x9
Castle Freak 2:15) 16x9
Zombies vs Strippers (1:19) 16x9
Demonic Toys 2 (1:15) 16x9
Evil Bong 3 (1:00) 16x9
Gingerdead Man 3 (1:02) 16x9
Killjoy's Revenge (1:39) 16x9
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2:06) 16x9 

Verdict: Of the the first three installments of the Puppet Master series Toulon's Revenge inches out Puppet Master as my favorite. The acting is just really superb from a seasoned cast. Guy Rolf's portrayal of Toulon is the best of the bunch, I cannot imagine anyone else capturing the essence of Andre Toulon the way he did here. Despite the films modest budget the WW2 era sets are well rendered and shooting on Universal's back lot didn't hurt either, the film definitely has a sense of time and place. The stop-motion effects are really good though I think they may have been a bit better in Puppet Master II which I would attribute to special effects wizard David Allen directing that film. Full Moon's new remastered high-definition transfer is great stuff, it's amazing to see this film in widescreen for the first and I am definitely looking forward to more Puppet Master entries as well as Stuart Gordon's Castle Freak and The Pit and the Pendulum in 1080p widescreen. 

4 Outta 5

Blu-ray Review: PUPPET MASTER II (1991)


Label: Full Moon Features

Rating: R
Region Code: A
Duration: 88 Minutes
Video: 16x9 Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Director: David Allen
Cast: Elizabeth MacLellan, Collin Bernsen, Gregory Webb, Charlie Spradling, Steve Welles , Jeff Weston, Nita Talbot

Tagline: They're Back. No Strings Attached!

Summary: The nasty little puppets are back to take care of unfinished business. Joined by Torch, the newest member of the sinister troupe, they exhume their beloved creator Toulon to gather the brain matter that keeps them alive. But the Puppet Master has a deadly plan of his own…

Film: Puppet Master 2 open with a nicely macabre pre-credit sequence as Pinhead, Leech Woman, Jester and Tunneler unearth the grave of their departed master Andre Toulon at the Shady Oak's cemetery which is conveniently located just a stones throw away from the Bodega Bay Inn. Pinhead pries open the casket and pours the re-animating serum onto the rotted corpse as the other puppets look on in wonder and awe as Toulon is the reanimated, his rotted skeletal arms reaching toward the sky from his casket. Some time later we see a group of paranormal researchers led by Carolyn (Elizabeth Maclellan, Crash and Burn) arrive at the Bodega Bay Inn to investigate the murder of the hotel's previous owner as well as the lunatic ramblings of Alex Whitaker, the lone psychic-survivor from the previous entry. Apparently the victims had their brain-matter extracted through the nose - Egyptian mummification style. Carolyn is joined in her quest for paranormal activity by her brother Patrick (Greg Webb, TV's Boone), the psychic Camille (Nita Talbot, Chained Heat), sexy red-head Wanda (Charlie Spradling, Wild At Heart), and techie Lance (Jeff Watson, The Player).

That night psychic Camille spots the puppets and plans to leave the Inn in fear of her safety but before she can go is pummeled  dragged off by Pinhead and Jester. The next to go is poor Patrick who gets his forehead rather bloodily excavated by Tunneler, it's a great gory scene. Lance runs into the room after hearing Patrick scream bit it's too late to save Patrick though he is able knock-out Tunneler. While looking at Tunneler's body under x-ray the team deduce that the puppets are being sustained by a chemical in their bodies. Soon after a mystery-man calling himself Enrique Channe (Steve Welles, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) appears and announces that he has inherited the inn. Mr. Chanee is really Toulon's reanimated corpse decked out in an Invisible Man-esque costume of gauze, goggles and a cape. Chanee/Toulon retires to his room were he sets about creating a new puppet, Torch, a  flame-throwing assassin. There is a flashback to Cairo Egypt at the turn of the century where we see the origins of the reanimating formula and how it came into Toulon's possession and catch a glimpse of two unique animated puppets; Mephisto and Hermuncules. We also find out that the formula involves human brains, and this is why the puppets are murdering people. In fact, the puppets are not content to murder visitors at the inn, they travel to a nearby farmhouse where they attack a farmer played by George "Buck" Flowers (They Live, The Fog) and his wife in an effort to get more brain tissue to complete the formula, the scenes wherein Torch, Blade and Leech Woman murder the couple is fantastic, she's set afire in a blaze and then Blade hacks a chunk of her brain with his hook. Torch really amps up the kills this time out including roasting a young boy he encounters in the forest with his deadly flame-thrower, it's dark stuff. Toulon's is portrayed as an obsessed madman in this film, not very likable, it seems that rotting in a casket for 50+ years has had a poor effect on his mental health . He's also laboring under the belief that the gorgeous Carolyn is the reincarnated soul of his long dead wife Elsa and has devised a plan by which the two can be reunited forever. 

This time around the puppets are more fully realized and articulated than the first film, great stop-motion effects works from director David Allen and his team of puppeteers, really imaginative and wonderful artistry on display here. We get to see them on screen more which is a treat and their movements are more fluid. I enjoyed the flashback to Cairo and the origins of the formula. Toulon's disguise is creepy and effective and while for 90% of the film he remains bandaged and his face is not visible Welles performance and vocal characterization recalled the great Christopher Lloyd, wonderfully dramatic and the final unmasking of his rotting face is just grotesque 

Something I did not care for was the need for brain-tissue to create the life-giving serum Toulon administers to reanimate himself and the puppets as I feel it it vilifies both Toulon and the puppets, which I guess was Allen was going for here, it really ramps up the gore and horror. In the first film you liked Toulon, he was a good man who sacrificed himself so that the Nazi's could not use his formula for evil and without giving too much away about either film the puppets obey their master until they realize they are being used or mistreated for evil purposes. Here they are more villainous and it degrades the characters a bit in my opinion. The ending of the film is also a bit wacky and felt too far out of left field for me. It's telling that future installments dismiss it or out right ignore the events of this film, which on it's own separate from the series is a very strong entry. 

In closing I must say that viewing the film in anamoprhic widescreen for the first time was a revelation, the 1080p visuals were popping off the screen at me with great locations, wonderful set dressing and seeing this 35mm film get the high-definition treatment made this feel like a first time viewing which is quite wonderful, very excited to see future installments of the series and other Full Moon titles like Stuart Gordon's Castle Freak (1991) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1995) get the 1080p treatment - let's hope they all look this good if not better,. 

Blu-ray: To my knowledge this may be the first-time ever that Puppet Master 2 has been presented in it's original anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) aspect ratio. The MPEG-4 encoded image is transferred from the original negative and remastered in high definition with all new color timing and color correction and the results are simply stunning, it's like night and day. I've seen this film several times in it's VHS and DVD incarnations and it's always been the same fullframe standard-definition transfer, interlaced with rampant compression issues and artifacting of both the audio and visual variety. The cropped image was always soft, murky and lacking any fine detail. What we get with this Blu-ray release is a pleasingly crisp 16x9 widescreen presentation from a very nice negative with a pleasant amount of natural grain left intact, with that though we also get a fair amount of noise, too. The noise is mostly noticeable during the darker scenes naturally but overall this widescreen presentation blows away any of the previous SD transfers of the film with wonderfully saturated and vibrant colors, natural skin tones, decent black levels and a fair amount of fine detail.

On the audio front we have something a bit less exciting than the image. Sure, we get a newly created 5.1 sound surround mix but it's Dolby Digital and not lossless. Like the previous DVD edition it is equally lamented by compression issues most notably with a metallic-ringing throughout the film. Dialogue and score sounds very nice but this is a disappointing oversight. More so than even the video upgrade that the 1080p format allows for is a sonic upgrade and this is a bit of failure.  

On top of the sweet widescreen transfer we get a nice array of bonus content beginning with a new Introduction (2:35) to the film from creator Charles Band filmed on the set of the forthcoming Puppet Master 10 in which the always fun auteur discusses the difficulty getting the early Full Moon Films on Blu-ray. Band also offers up a brand new commentary track for the film beginning with explaining that director David Allen passed in 1999. The commentary is regularly off topic but  quite a treat for fans of the series and of Full Moon Entertainment in general. It doesn't get too scene-specific but there's a ton of FM anecdotes and history, his association with director David Allen whom he met in the 70's whom he co-credits with creating the Puppets and commenting on his skill as an effects artists and director and that he was a protege of the works by Ray Harryhausen. Bands again goes into the troubles with getting early FM films on Blu-ray, creating new high-definition transfers and the financial woes that were prohibitive to that end. He speaks to his love of practical effects and disdain for CGI when overused it becomes cartoonish and he prefers the jittery stop-motion technique over it because of it's 3-dimension physicality. Band specifically talks about Dave Allen creating the iconic Bodega Bay Inn on a cliff shot used in the PM series. The interiors of the Bodega Bay Inn were shot at a an actual castle were they also shot Meridian, Skullheads, Castle Freak, The Pit and the Pendulum, and Demonic Toys 2. Lie k a lot of the commentary it's not Puppet Master II specific and he talks at length about the evolution of the FM Roadshow and the trials, tribulations and rewards of going theatrical with the film Ghoulies, including acquiring an R-rating from the MPAA. My favorite anecdote about Ghoulies being hate mail from pissed-off parents who had a Hell of a time potty-training their toddlers after viewing the film.  Band also discusses his wish to find all the deleted scenes and reinstate them, he also mentions wanting to find all the deleted scenes from this film and others and re-instating them at some point, it's a pretty entertaining listen. There's a Killer Puppet Montage (1:52),  a Rare Puppet Master Toy Promo (1:30) and one of FM VideoZone video magazine which were probably some of the first featurette/bonus content I ever recall seeing from the VHS era. This one featuring a behind-the-scene glimpse of  of PM2 highlighting the new character of Torch and some of the SFX work with interview with David Allen and the puppeteering team, Steve Welles, Jeff Weston, Nina Talbot, Gregory Webb and others. Also featured on the episode is an interview with director Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) who speaks about his film The Pit and the Pendulum plus trailers for the film and Puppet Master (1989), Shadowzone (1990), Meridian (1990), Crash and Burn (1990). Finally we get a selection of eight Full Moon trailer in HD widescreen including Stuart Gordon's Castle Freak (1995) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1991) which are both slated for Blu-ray editions in the near future, so psyched for that!

Special Features:

-Brand New Introduction by Puppet Master creator Charles Band (2:35) 16x9 
-New 2012 Audio Commentary by Charles Band
-Behind the Scenes VideoZone  (21:37) 4:3
-Killer Puppet Master Montage (1:52) 4x3
-Rare Puppet Master Toy Promo (1:30) 4x3
-HD Full Moon trailers:
Puppet Master (1:38) 16x9
Castle Freak 2:15) 16x9
Zombies vs Strippers (1:19) 16x9
Demonic Toys 2 (1:15) 16x9
Evil Bog 3  (1:00) 16x9
Gingerdead Man 3 (1:02) 16x9
Killjoy's Revenge (1:39) 16x9
Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2:06) 16x9 

Verdict: In the past I felt that Puppet Master 2 lacked much of the charm of the first film. It's definitely a bit darker and more menacing, the horror elements are ramped up and the puppets
are rendered with more detail and articulated movement plus they get more screen time but the film just seemed a bit hollow in my opinion and was outmatched by the first film. However, viewing the film on Blu-ray and in widescreen for the first-time I think it's definitely stepped up a few notches, presentation is everything, it's a wonderfully entertaining watch, the Blu-ray looks great and while the audio leaves a bit to be desired this is still recommend. 3.5 outta 5