Saturday, April 27, 2013

Blu-ray Review: ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1979)


Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: B
Rating: 18
Duration: 91 Minutes
Audio: Italian and Engish 
LPCM 2.0 Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles

Video: 1080p Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Cast: Tisa Farrow, Ian MucCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Olga Karlitos
Director: Lucio Fulci

Tagline: We Are Going To Eat You!

Synopsis: An abandoned boat in New York Harbor unleashes a deadly flesh crazed Zombie cargo... A Young American woman and a journalist investigate a tropical island where a deadly disease is making the dead walk... Soon, thoughts of getting to the bottom of the murderous curse will be forgotten, as Fulci’s walking corpses overwhelm the living and reports come in that the Big Apple is swarming with the living dead...

My first recollection of watching ZOMBIE aka ZOMBI 2 (1979) aka ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS was on a beat-up VHS back in the early 90's, on a VHS cassette bought for 50 cents at a garage sale. That well-traded VHS was probably a 4th or 5th generation dub and while the presentation was nothing more than poor the savage power of the film definitely shown through. Already a rabid fan of George A. Romero's Dead trilogy I was frothing to check out this 'unofficial sequel' to DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) that was one of the infamous Video Nasties and it did not disappoint in anyway, whatsoever! ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS was my introduction to both Italian horror cinema and the mad-genius of director Lucio Fulci. It was love at first sight from the intensely eerie scene of the seemingly abandoned yacht drifting in to New York Harbor. When it's boarded by unsuspecting Harbor Patrolmen one of 'em is attacked by a grotesque and obese zombie who tears a chunk of his throat out, we're a just a few minutes in and the and already the blood is gushing, it's a classic opening.

It's revealed that the derelict boat belonged to the father of Anne Bowles (Tisa Farrow, ANTHROPOPHAGUS), her father having visited the tropical island of Matool recently on a research mission. When the NYPD offer very little in the way of answers Anne starts her own investigation which leads to a fun encounter with reporter Peter West (Ian McCulloch, CONTAMINATION) whom is sent to investigate the attack on the officer by his editor (a fun cameo from Lucio Fulci). Sensing there's more to the story the two join forces and fly to the tropics where they charter a boat Captained by Brian Hull (Al Cliver, THE BEYOND) and his super cute wife Susan (Auretta Gay) to the island of Matool. En route Susan takes a moment to scuba dive topless (sexploitation, gotta love it!) along a reef where she encounters not just a predatory tiger shark but a zombie who just appears outta nowhere and attacks the shark! Truly some ingenious JAWS-ploitation action that's both WTF crazy and OMG awesome. It's pretty amazing stuff as the zombie grabs a hold of the drugged-out shark, tussles with it and then tears off a chunk of flesh.

Susan survives the strange attack and back on boat I'm sure no one really believed her story about the zombie encounter, who would, right? So, oddness aside they continue on to Matool where they meet Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson, THE HAUNTING) at the local Christian mission. We find out that the island has been plagued by a zombie epidemic, the dead are returning to life and feasting upon the flesh of the living. Menard, of course, believes there is a rational science-based explanation to the epidemic and stays on to seek a cure much to the dismay of his stunning wife Paola whom has the most striking eyes (Olga Karlatos, CYCLONE). The Doc keeps her under lock and key back at their home where she's assured by her husband that she's safe, but she's doubtful and rightfully so because after a wonderfully voyeuristic shower scene she falls prey to a zombie, the attack resulting in the greatest eye-piercing scene in all of cinema. While she futilely attempts to force a door shut a zombie splinters the wooden entrance, grabs a hold of her by the hair and slowly pulls her into the pronounced sliver of wood ever so sloooowly until it penetrates her right eye socket - it's a master-stroke of tension, practical effects and editing, it alone is worth the price of admission.

At this point in the film things really starts to pick-up steam, having been up to this point eerily creepy but not exactly jam-packed with wicked thrills, trust me, it's the best kind of a slow burn. Our foursome find themselves besieged by a mass uprising of the undead includingancient Conquistadors and islanders, among them the iconic dirt-covered, worm-infested zombie so famously seen in the film's advertising.The zombie effects in this film are very simple but brilliant, perhaps besting any of the Romero's archetypes in my opinion. What's so disturbing about them to me would have to be how rotting they are, truly revolting you can practically smell the undead stench in 1080p high-definition. The scenes of the zombies unearthing themselves are fantastic, rising from the ground, dirt covered and creepy, I do love that these are voodoo derived zombies, too. Our quartet find themselves back at the island mission alongside Dr. Menard where we are treated to one of the finest zombie-siege scenarios of all time, it's a thing of macabre beauty laced with tension, atmosphere and with a real sense of dread culminating in a haunting wrap-around finale that takes us back to NYC for a truly apocalyptic vision that remains one of the genre's most enduring and dour endings in horror cinema, it's haunting stuff.

ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS has pretty much everything you need, memorable tropic set pieces, an eerie, gut-churning electronic score from Fabio Frizzi, fantastic  cinematography from Sergio Salvati (THE BEYOND) and Lucio Fulci's signature gore and dread aesthetic. The zombies are iconic, the atmosphere is claustrophobic and there's a ton of great gut-munching courtesy of Gino and and Gianetto De Rossi's spectacularly gruesome make-up and special effects work. ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS is right there at the side of Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD as one of the finest undead films, in fact I think the  atmosphere of ZOMBIE FLASH EATERS bests DAWN on several fronts and holds up better without the anti-consumerism social commentary. What say you to that? Is it a spiritual sequel to DAWN OF THE DEAD? Nah, but it'd make a great alternative prequel now that I think about it. One brutal film, two iconic sequences known to every horror geek: zombie vs. shark and the brutal eye piercing, that's quite a legacy and this isn't even Lucio Fulci's best film!

Blu-ray: Arrow Video bring Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (1979) to Blu-ray with a stunning AVC MPEG-4 encoded in 1080p widescreen (2.35:1), which according to the 40pg. booklet included with the release was exclusively restored by Arrow Video using the original 2-perf Techniscope 35mm negative and scanned at 2K resolution, it also benefits from a new color timing plus dirt and scratch removal. it's an outstanding achievement. Blue Underground's 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of the film was pretty great (and still is) but I would have to give this new restoration the definitive visual edge, it's pretty sharp. There's a nice layer of fine film grain intact, fine detail and clarity are noticeably improved, black levels are strong and colors are vibrant without over saturation. The restoration has also afforded the film more image information on the top and sides of the screen, so we get even more of cinematographer Sergio Salvati's great camerawork up on the screen. It's interesting to note the not so subtle differences between the Blue Underground transfer and Arrow Video's, both minted from the same camera negative but quite different in regard to lighting and color. I prefer the Arrow version in comparison with the elevated contrast but appreciate both, I just think it's interesting to note the differences between the two different but great transfers.

On the audio front we get English and Italian language LPCM Audio 2.0 Mono with optional English subtitles including a newly translated subtitle for the Italian track.  Its well-balanced and sports very nice fidelity, aside from the poorly dubbed dialogue. The gruesome gut-chomping effects and Fabio Frizzo's throbbing synthesizer score come through clear and strong. The Blue Underground 2-Disc Ultimate Edition offered English and Italian 7.1 DTS-ES, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX and Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono options. I prefer the original mono presentation but if you're dying to give your surround sound system some zombie action the 7.1 and 5.1 does modestly open up the sound field a bit. I give the upper hand in respect to the audio presentation to BU for their generous options.

Now onto the massive amounts of bonus content beginning with disc 1 and the UK exclusive Introduction from star Ian McCulloch (1:28), admitting until just ten years ago he had never even watched the film and was a bit embarrassed by it, her was quite shocked how much he enjoyed it now. Next we have the option of viewing the film with three alternate title sequences, offering choice of ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, ZOMBI or ZOMBI 2. There are two brand new audio commentaries, the first is with co-screenwriter and wife of screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, Elsa Briganti, moderated by Calum Wadell which is not so much scene specific as Briganti reflecting on her working relationship with her husband and director Lucio Fulci. The second commentary with Lucio Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower (Beyond Terror) and horror expert Alan Jones is quite fantastic, the two have a great rapport and throw out a great many nuggets about the film and they're experiences with the notoriously fickle Fulci, it's an authoritative track with plenty of trivia, factoids and anecdotes about the production. Blue Underground's edition contains a commentary with Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine editor Jason J. Slater.

Also on disc are several High Rising Productions produced featurettes, interviews and documentaries beginning with From Romero to Rome: The Rise an Fall of the Italian Zombie Films (59:38) tracing the history of Italian zombie cinema beginning with the worldwide success of George A. Romeo's seminal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and into DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978). The documentary features interviews with NOTLD producer Russ Streiner, critic Kim Newman, Fulci screenwriters Antonio Tentori (A CAT IN THE BARIN) and Dardano Sacchetti (THE BEYOND) plus writers James Moran (SEVERANCE) and David MCGillivray (FRIGHTMARE). Directors Darren Ward (A DAY OF VIOLENCE), Ruggero Deodato (LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN), Alex Chandon (INBRED), Luiggi Cozzi (STARCRASH) also chime in the spaghetti undead craze. On top of the great interviews we get artwork, posters and clips from some great (and not so great) zombie films inlcuding ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST (1980), NIGHTMARE CITY (1980), CONTAMINATION(1980), and BURIAL GROUND (1981) plus many more.

Disc one features are rounded out by the US Trailer (1:23),  an awful VHS rip of the Vipco Trailer (2:35), TV Spot 1 (:30), TV Spot 2 (:30) and six Radio Spots (2:31). But wait, there's more, there are three Easter Eggs hidden away on the disc. What we find there are a ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST German Trailer (8:22), which features an extended clip from the film and a German language trailer, plus Critics of the Living Dead (1:04) featuring McCulloch commenting  on a humorous critique of his films. The last Easter Egg on the disc is Gino De Rossi's Wall of Fame (2:12) featuring Rossi guiding us through a series of framed movie stills and pics commemorating his work through the ears with Fulci, Rock Hudson, five 007 films and even the Disney feature BLAME IT ON THE BELLBOY (1992).

Special features on disc two start with Aliens, Cannibals and Zombies: A Trilogy of Italian Terror (45:53) featuring TV star turned Italian horror icon Ian McCulloch recalling his experiences making the trio of spaghetti horrors ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS, CONTAMINATION and ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST. It's a fun and quite honest account of his experiences, he states at one point that his role was to "carry the stupidity of it through", referring to the absurd American-ese translated dialogue. He offers fond remembrance of his time working with Richard Johnson on the set and not so fond recollections of Tisa Farrow ("very American") and the beauty of non-actress Auretta Gay, whom apparently once inspired Fulci to froth at the mouth, thrown himself to the ground and eat handfuls of dirt, I love it! When McCulloch also points out the similarity of Fulci to comedy legend Benny Hill, I may never see either man the same way again.

Zombie Flesh Eaters - From Script to Screen (3:18) is a very brief piece with screenwrite Dardano Sacchetti pointing out several scenes from the script  originally entitled NIGHTMARE ISLAND, including the infamous eye-gouging scene which was shot almost exactly as written.

The Meat Munching Movies of Gino De Rossi (26:34) features the special effects master speaking of his experiences on the films  ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980), THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981), CANNIBAL FEROX (1981), BURIAL GROUND and James Cameron's PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING (1981). The man has a storied career and it's a great interview that includes a tour of his warehouse where we see the actual drill press from THE CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD and the infamous titty-hooks from CANNIBAL FEROX. Gino speaks at length about working with Lucio Fulci and detailing how many of his greatest effects shots were achieved onscreen, from the eye-gouging to the intestine-vomiting, particularly enjoyed his account of working with James Cameron (TERMINATOR) on the set of PIRANHA 2 which sounds like it would be a great SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE-esque film within a film unto itself.

Music for a Flesh Feat (29:20) features composer Fabio Frizzi  during a live Q+A session from the Glasgow Film Theater moderated by High Rising Productions' Calum Waddell in August of 2012. The composer with the help of a translator answers questions from the audience about his work and influences, what he lacks in English speaking skills is more than made up for by his use of rampant hand-gesturing. 

Reversible sleeve featuring the Vipco
VHS artwork. 
On top of the fantastic Blu-ray features we have a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original Vipco VHS art plus newly commissioned artwork by graphic designer Graham Humphreys. We also have a theatrical artwork postcard of Fulci's THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY (1981) and a massive 40 page Collector's Booklet with new writing by Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower with a cool time-line to help sort through the which-came-first DAWN OF THE DEAD/ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS debacle. There's a new interview with star Olga Karlatosl (CYCLONE) conducted by Callum Waddel, a history of ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS and the BBFC by Craig Lapper detailing the films history of being slashed at the hands of BBFC. We also have script excerpts of the original NIGHTMARE ISLAND script which includes unfilmed and alternate sequences of gore plus a happy ending. Lastly, we have a Lucio Fulci filmography compiled by Jay Slater and Notes on Arrow's restoration of the film. The one thing that annoys me about the Arrow releases of late is the Arrow slipcase-styled menus, which I think it's rather ugly, aesthetically it's quite displeasing to me.

Arrow's Slipcase-styled Menu... not a fan.
Small menu quibble aside Lucio Fulci's hauntingly brutal ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS (1970) gets the truly deluxe treatment from Arrow Video. It's definitely one of finest Arrow presentations to date, it's quality is a tribute to the legacy of Lucio Fulci's and his enduring place as the Italian Godfather of Gore. Comparing the Blue Underground and the Arrow Video Blu-rays I am hard pressed to say one is more the definitive edition, you sorta need 'em both. The BU version has the Ian McCulloch commentary plus interviews with co-star Al Cliver (THE HOUSE OF CLOCKS), Guillermo del Toro (CRONOS), producer Fabrizio De Angelo, make-up effects artists Gianetto De Rossie and Maurizo Trani and Fulci's daughter Antonella Fulci. Just get 'em both, you won't regret it.

Special Features:
- Audio commentary with screenwriter Elisa Briganti moderated by Calum Waddell
- Audio commentary with Fulci biographer Stephen Thrower and horror expert Alan Jones
- UK exclusive introduction to the film from Ian McCulloch (1:28)
- Aliens, Cannibals and Zombies:  A trilogy of Italian Terror (45:53)
- From Romero to Rome: The Rise an Fall of the Italian Zombie Films (59:38)
- The Meat Munching Movies of Gino De Rossi (26:34) 

- Music for a Flesh Feat (29:20)
-Zombie Flesh Eaters - From Script to Screen (3:18)
- US Trailer (1:23)

- Vipco Trailer (2:35)
- TV Spot 1 (:30)
- TV SPot 2 (:30)
- 6 Radio spots (2:31)
- 40 Page Collector’s Booklet

Verdict: Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS is still quite a powerful viewing experience and Arrow's 2-Disc Blu-ray edition is worth plopping down some more bucks for regardless of what previous edition you own, that includes Blue Underground's 2-Disc Ultimate Edition (2011), you will definitely want this on your shelf for it's superior picture quality and fantastic High Rising Productions produced special features, it's a must-own. So get yourself a region-FREE Blu-ray player and enjoy some gut-munching, eye-gouging 1080p undead perfection! 

4.5 Outta 5 


Wednesday, April 24, 2013



Label: Aggronautix / MVD Visual 
Region: 0 NTSC 
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 mins
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: 16:9 Widescreen
Director: Dustin Mills
Cast: Brandon Salkil, Josh Eal, Ethan Holey, Dave Parker, Jackie McKown

Synopsis: The bath salts epidemic facing the southern and mid-western US has been stifled by an unprecedented government crackdown. This has led to a tremendous amount of surplus stock hidden by black market dealers, and a migration of those dealers to the northeast. In New York City, potent strands have surfaced and have attracted the most devoted bath salt junkies. A young aspiring chemist has developed an even stronger batch... but something has gone horribly wrong. The new ultra potent bath salt batch has revealed a major side effect: It turns users into violent flesh seeking ZOMBIES!

The Film: Gotta love this slice of indie horror exploitation from the demented mind of Dustin Mills who brought us The Puppet Monster Massacre (2010).  The idea is tore straight from the front page of the national news. You may recall last May that a deranged man under the influence of the street drug known as bath salts stripped down nude and stalked the streets where he attacked and ate the face off a homeless man in Miami. It was a shocking and ultra-violent event and Dustin Mills jumps on the timely and gruesome subject and filters it through his wonderfully psychotic mind.

The basic story has a few elements, the first being a super addictive strain of the drug known as bath salts created by a chemist known as The Chet (Dave Parker) and his partner "Bubbles (Ethan Holey) who slings the cigarette form of the drug on the streets. The second elements is an ass-kicking Agent Forester (Josh Eal) of the DEA who's on a one-man mission to eradicate salts from the streets. Lastly, we have an unfortunate drug addict named Ritchie (Brandon Salkil) who experiences the awful side effects of the super addictive salts first-hand, a ravenous hunger for human flesh. 

Bath salt Zombies is definitely a low-budget affair but it's packed with wit, gristle and outrageous gore from pretty much the start to finish, for a lo-fi feature it looks pretty sweet, if peppered with some stylized but schlocky digital effects. The film starts of nicely with a fun animated anti-drug PSA about the menace of bath salts with awesome 40's style fast-talking narration, the style reminded me a bit of Jimmy Screamerclauz's Where the Dead Go To Die (2011), particularly when the winged-Satan shows up! It's a great start that really sets up what you're in store for here, a deviant drug culture zombie film that goes places you might not expect. 

 A lot of the thematic elements brought to mind some great trash cinema of yesteryear, it's a nice mash-up of ideas sourced from some classic horror dark-comedies. Not unlike the  "super crack" from Frank Henenelotter's Frankenooker (1990) we get a super addictive drug with catastrophic effects, maybe throw in a bit of J. Michael Muro's Street Trash (1987) in there, too. The drug itself is made from a weapons grade chemical lost by the military en route to disposal that winds up in the wrong hands, that part brought to mind Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead (1986). The film is not copying any one of 'em but instead shares a few common threads, I loved the way Mills mashes 'em up and brings an energy and attitude to the film that's undeniable, if anything it definitely carries with it the same spirit as these three films. The look of bath salt zombies are pretty simplistic but just effective enough, once they smoke the salts the junkies are stricken with a toothy-grin that reminded me of the Batman comics when the Joker would spread his Joker venom, only here the effect is compounded by a redness around the eyes and a lust for human flesh. The acting is a bit spotty but appropriate for the type of film we're watching and I loved the effects, some of the digital stuff was sub-par but, like the acting, appropriate for the low-budget zombie romp.

Add to the cock shredding, head ripping, and intestine spewing fun some generous female nudity and a raging punk soundtrack featuring The Dwarves, Antiseen, The Meatmen, The Murder Junkies and The Gaggers and you have a three-chord fueled drug addled zombie massacre that makes for quite an entertaining watch, when it comes to low-budget face-eating cannibal films this is at the top o' the heap this year, a fun trashy zombie romp, good stuff.  3 Outta 5 

DVD Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary
- Trailer (1:04) 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DVD Review: BAD MEAT (2011)

BAD MEAT (2011) 

Label: Jinga  Films LTD
Region: 0 NTSC
Duration: 84 mins
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0
Video: 16:9 Widescreen 
Director: Lulu Jarmen
Cast: Dave Franco, Elisabeth Harnois, Jennifer Parker Kennedy, Mark Pellegrino

Bad Meat (2011) is a film I remember reading about a while back on a blog I cannot recall, the story went that it was a troubled production, that director Rob Schmidt (Wrong Turn) was the initial director on the project until financing  evaporated, apparently he even directed a bit of it before stepping down. In steps first-time director Lulu Jarmen to pick-up the pieces, and while I am not sure if any of that is true it certainly caught my curiosity when the DVD showed up that Mausoleum. 

A group of surly teens are sent away to Camp Hardways by their fed-up parents, the scared-straight camp is overseen by a weirdo neo-Nazi nutjob and his three fucked-up camp counselors. The group of teens, three girls and three guys, run the gamut from urban troublemakers and bratty fire-starters to emo fuck-ups - it's nothing too special as far as characters go, it's pretty typical troubled teen fare without a lot of character development. With the sorta film we're watching here that lack of depth is not really a concern, what's important is that they are at least more likable than the counselors, which they are.  

As troubled as these wayward teen at the camp might be the counselors are way more delinquent than any of our teens could ever hope to be, all three are getting it on with each other in ways you just don't wanna think too deeply on, it's pretty depraved stuff, two dudes and a woman with a strap-on. Do the math, it's pretty weird stuff. 

The counselors treat the teens with contempt, exploiting they're fears, pissing on them, peeping on the girls. They're treated like scum, I loved it when the camp director has a counseling session with one of the young ladies, making her believe that he's there to help her, that he wants to get to the root of all her problems... and then he tells her in no uncertain terms he just doesn't give a fuck about her problems, now he's her problem, it's wonderfully twisted. 

When the teens sit down for lunch they dismayed to find out it's a one course meal - a raw potato. Meanwhile the counselors sit down to a meat stew whipped up by the disgruntled cook who himself is treated nearly as poor as the teens. As it turns out the tasty stew was prepared with some unsavory mystery meat infected with some weird virus. Later that night as the employees of Camp Hardway settle down for a pleasant evening of reading Nazi literature, titty-peeping and raunchy, strap-on sex, as you do, they're simultaneously besieged by a wave of chunk hurling nausea and we're treated to a grotesque vomit-spewing deluge, this forced expulsion of bodily fluids is damn disgusting. In the aftermath the counselors collapse unconscious and arise wreaking of vomit, overwhelmed with violent tendencies and an unstoppable lust for human flesh and dismemberment. Now it's game on as bratty teens vs. virus-infected counselors and it's a bloody and perverse 84 minutes of carnage and gross-outs.

If you love gore, if you crave deviant behavior Bad Meat (2011) has plenty of both, so brace yourselves this one is gore-tastic and gross. Mixed in with the gross outs are dark veins of humor, this is pretty funny stuff along the lines of Cabin Fever (2002), both films feature the death of canines, if you're offended by the cinematic death of animals you've been warned, it goes there. 

With Bad Meat we get a decent cast, some twisted antagonists, some believable protagonists and for a low budget feature it's looks great, with some thoughtful shot composition and decent camera movements. At only 84 minutes it flew by, my only beef might be with the ending which sorta just happened and I wasn't quite sure what I was seeing, but even that didn't ruin this for me, a darkly humorous and completely disgusting watch, recommended. 3 Outta 5 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Blu-ray Review: THE FURY (1978)

THE FURY (1978) 
The Limited Edition Series 

Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: R
Duration: 118 Minutes
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English Subtitles
Cast: Kirk Douglas, John Cassavetes, Carrie Snodgress, Amy Irving, Andrew Stevens, Charles Durning, Dennis Franz, 
Director: Brian DePalma

Following the success of 1973's supernatural prom-scare Carrie Brian DePalma continued his exploration of the supernatural with this spy-thriller mash-up, definitely a weird ride that begins with Robin Sandza (Andrew Stevens, The Terror Within) having a conversation about the direction of his life on a Middle Eastern resort beach with his CIA agent father Peter (Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory) when terrorist storm the beach in a hail of gunfire, the target is Peter, Douglass even at 62 years of age was looking fit as a fiddle and rocking a pair of white shorty shorts while taking out terrorists and arming himself with an AK-47. It's a thrilling start to the film, action-packed and loaded with DePalma's signature moving camera.

During the attack Peter's son is protected from harm by Sandza's CIA friend Childress (John Cassavetes, Rosemary's Baby) who it turns out set-up the attack in order to take-out Peter and obtain Robin for a CIA-funded telekinetic murder squad, that bastard. Robin, believing his father dead, turns cold and disillusioned by the tragic event. The Agency with the help of seductive mentor, Dr. Susan Charles (Fiona Lewis), dope-up and brain-wash the psychic assassin, the process further unhinges Robin who becomes a powerful and soulless weapon. 

Meanwhile, Peter who actually survived the staged attack is now searching for his son while evading clandestine CIA agents, this plot thread leads to some weird, humorous scenarios with Peter dropping in through a window and holding a family a gunpoint while he disguises himself with shoe polish and a fresh set of clothes. When the CIA track his whereabouts he escapes the apartment in an age defying Bourne Identity-esque series of gymnastic feats. Fresh from this agile escape Peter hijacks two on-duty police officers, one of whom is played by DePalma regular Dennis Franz (Blow Out) as Peter leads them on a wild ride through a fog-laden construction site while escaping a CIA tail. 

Eventually Sandza tracks his son down to the Paragon Institute with the help of his girlfriend Hester (Carrie Snodgrass, Pale Rider) and a young psychic recruit Gillian (Amy Irving, Carrie). The psychic warfare prep-college is being run by Dr. Mckeever (Charles Durning, Dark Night of the Scarecrow) who always delivers a great villain when onscreen, good stuff. However, when Peter attempts to spring his psychotic son from the institute the results are expectantly tragic and psycho-kinetically explosive. 

The film is a bit of a clunky mash-up, the  spy-thriller and supernatural elements don't exactly mesh quite perfectly, when the two meet head-on during the finale it's fun stuff if a bit odd. The Fury is an interesting watch with some great moments, during the finale when Robin's eyes are burning irradesent blue and the psychokinetic mayhem is full-tilt it's fun stuff. Douglas is quite entertaining as the betrayed agent in pursuit of his son, and Cassavetes is an calculating and intense villain, he's one of those presences you just can't take your eyes off. As ever Amy Irving is delightful as the naive and sympathetic Gillian, a young woman recruited by the Paragon Institute, really pulls you in, which is great because Andrew Stevens doesn't exactly ever make yo feel anything for his character, turning in the most non-effectual performance of the film.  At nearly two hours the film struggles a bit to keep a decent pace despite DePalma's enjoyable visuals, the interesting bits just don't add up to form a cohesive story. 

I think the film's biggest flaw is the script, it's incoherent at times, but DePalma's tense directing style and some strong performances keeps the weirdness flowing along without much scratching, it keeps you off balance just enough to go with it, thinking about it too much would be detrimental to your viewing experience, trust me. 

There's some nice effects and gore peppered throughout, including a great Scanners-esque finale, the film shares quite a bit with Cronenberg's classic, but falls a bit short on it's promise. We get the usual array of DePalma cinema magic, a great scene of Gillian escaping from the Paragon Institute plays out in beautiful slow-motion, nearly silent, the escape is successful but not without collateral damage, a victim's life ends on the shattered windshield of an out-of-control car, it's pure DePalma awesomeness. While it's not a perfect film this is supernatural spy-thriller has some nice horror elements and is worth a watch even if it struggles to maintain coherency from time to time. 

Blu-ray: Brian DePalma's The Fury (1978) comes to Blu-ray for the first time from Twilight Time with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer presented in widescreen (1.85:1). Having just recently thrown on the Fox DVD for a view when this Blu-ray was announced I am pleased to say it's an improvement. Colors are nicely saturated plus fine detail and sharpness are improved. One thing you will definitely notice an abundance of film grain throughout, not just a fine silted layer either, this is robust stuff. The black levels suffer a bit, definitely handling them better than the DVD but they're pretty murky and infused with grain and contrast issues. The source print is not exactly pristine either, there are minor instances of print damage with scratches, white specks, there doesn't appear to have been much of any restoration afforded the film to my eyes past a clean-up. Not to say the presentation is not generally pleasing to the eyes, the 1080p upgrade shows increased fine detail and sharpness,  while it's not on par with Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) on Blu-ray if you're a fan of the film, if you love DePalma, I can safely tell you this is worth the upgrade provided you are willing to shell out $35 for the Twilight Time edition. . 

Audio options include both the English 4.0 DTS-HD Master Audio and English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with Optional English Subtitles. The 4.0 wins the contest quite easily with a pleasing dynamic range, dialogue and effects are nicely balanced. John Williams brassy Bernard Herman-esque score sounds nice and full, a definite upgrade from the DVD even if the surrounds don't get much of a workout.

Twilight Time have been releasing some recent Blu-rays stuffed with extras, check out Our Man Flint (1965), In Like Flint (1967), Christine (1983) and Major Dundee (1965), all of which are are dripping with great extras. Unfortunately, we don't get much in the way of extras with The Fury, what we do get is the signature Isolated Score Track, John Williams score is pretty fantastic, Williams is strongly channeling Bernard Herman and it's a joy to listen to. Also included is the Original Theatrical Trailer and an 8 pg. Collector's Booklet with Julie Kirgo's extensive liner notes which frame the film in a post-Carrie (1976) world with DePalma further exploring the occult and supernatural. While features are a bit anemic they are certainly appreciated, would have loved a commentary, interviews with the cast or crew, but the original Fox DVD had none and keeping with Twilight Time's business model they have not sourced new features, but we do get the nifty Julie Kirgo liner notes and a great isolated score.  

Special Features: 
- John Williams Isolated Score Track 
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Collector's Booklet with Extensive Julie Kirgo Liner Notes

Verdict: Not a top-tier DePalma film by any means but an interesting supernatural actioner mash-up, it's fun to see DePalma further explore the occult following Carrie (1976), it's just not as successful a film. As usual Twilight Time's Blu-ray is limited edition of only 3,000 and available exclusively from, so get it while you can. 3 Outta 5 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013



Label: Image Entertainment
Region: 1 NTSC 
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Video: 16:9 Widescreen 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Tagline: When the Dead Walk, the Living Run 

Synopsis: After an explosion unleashes the contents of a military bio-weapons plant, the unsuspecting populace is transformed into a roaming army of flesh-eating zombies. Trapped in the quarantine zone, Jim (Jay HaydenA Warrior's Heart) finds himself cut off, confused and fighting for his own survival. Contacted by a small band of others unaffected by the toxins, Jim sets out to reach their besieged warehouse. Becoming the group's de-facto leader, he struggles to keep order as they hunker down, fortify their stronghold and arm themselves against the attacking mutants. Fragmentary radio reports from outside hint at a last-ditch government rescue plan. But can the survivors hold out until help arrives… or will they succumb to the living hell of an undead apocalypse?

When a chemical plants goes up in flames the toxic fallout really ruins the day for the inhabitants of a small town. Among them are Jim (Jay Hayden) and his unfortunate wife. As the toxic plume rises into the sky emergency sirens go off, a large portion of the populace exhibit signs of extreme violence and the military arrives and quarantines the country as a precaution, it's a very 28 Days Later rage-plague set-up, what we get are more infected than actual Romero-esque zombies. 

Our protagonist Jim at first finds safety in an abandoned building where he keeps to himself and watches the TV, we learn about the quarantine and the violence the infected are inflicting on survivors.  Not long after he is contacted by small group of three survivors who have taken up residence in a nearby warehouse, it's a more secure shelter, and he joins them. W what we get is more a character piece more so than as film laced with zombie carnage, there's not even a lot of survivor drama or in-fighting among the group. If you think of Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1979) and of the time in the mall once Peter and the group wall-up the stairwell and try to lead a life of normalcy you've got a good grasp of what you're in for here, 

Gore hounds seeking a throat-ripping zombie assault might be in for a a bit of disappointment but as a character study about a small group of survivors this works quite well, we get some strong characterization, the small cast is excellent, particularly Jim Hayden and Andy Stahl whom are given characters with the most meat on the bone, good stuff. 

It's a low-budget feature but the cinematography is fantastic and has a attractive green patina to it, nice deep saturated color and great shots, a very decent looking micro budgeted film. Note to indie filmmakers, having a great director of photography goes a long way.  

We only get a handful of infected onscreen but they look great, red-eyed and angry as fuck... except when they're speaking, yup, that's right, some of the infected maintain the ability to speak for a little bit at least, which was interesting.

As a zombie film State of Emergency (2010) is pretty low on gore but quite strong in the areas of atmospherecharacterization and creating small tense moments, depending n what you're looking for from an infected film you're either gonna enjoy it or hate it. Going in I didn't expect a lot from it, the DVD artwork is beyond generic and when I slapped it on I was anticipating quite a dull experience, and depending on what your tastes are you might think it a bit slow. It's not action-packed, not blood soaked but it's a nice claustrophobic story of survival punctuated with some nice moments of violence and fear, a decent weekend rental. 2.5 Outta 5 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TLA Cult Awards 2013 Winners Announced

Congratulations to all the winners, some great titles and Horror Society is a great site!

TLA Cult Awards 2013 Winners Announced

The Bunny Game, Father’s Day and Where the Dead Go to Die Win in Multiple Categories

Friends, fans, customers and seriously twisted minds voted and the winners were just announced for the self-described MOST IMPORTANT MOVIE AWARDS OF ALL TIME, hosted ( TLACult is the cult, horror and exploitation arm of legendary Philadelphia based online home entertainment retailer (, celebrating the best cult, horror, underground and arthouse DVD releases of 2012 in the legendary DVD-peddler’s trademark twisted, irreverent style.

Full details on all the winners can be found here:

Nominees were selected by members of TLA’s editorial and purchasing staff and were limited to DVD and Blu-ray releases from 2012. TLA also has a category, Best Website/Blog/Podcast/Whatever, that honors bloggers and other web personalities who help celebrate underground cinema and help keep cult movies alive.

“It was another great year in our weird little corner of the movie universe. But now the fans have spoken and chosen their favorites. It all comes down to get out the vote efforts on the parts of the nominees and clearly Where the Dead Go to DieFather’s Day and The Bunny Game have some seriously devoted fans. We just hope these awards inspire the nominees and their fans to keep making and writing about ballsy, boundary-breaking cult, horror and grindhouse movies.” said Dan Reed, Managing Editor of

The complete list of 2013 TLA Cult Awards winners are:
The TLA Cult Super Awesome Culty Ward – Best Overall: Where the Dead Go to Die
Best Grindhouse/Exploitation DVDBig Tits Zombie
Best Horror DVDFather’s Day
Best Box Set/Combo Pack: Midnight Movies Vol 1: Horror Triple Feature
Best Sexy Arthouse Flick: Melancholia
Best Mainstream Genre Flick: The Cabin in the Woods
Best Movie Where People Do Sex Stuff for Real: The Bunny Game
Best Grindhouse/Throwback: Father’s Day
Best Mindfuck: Where the Dead Go to Die
Sickest Flick: The Bunny Game
Best “Thank God It’s Back In-Print”: Re-Animator
Best Website/Blog/Podcast/Whatever:  Horror Society

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blu-ray Review: PHANTASM II (1988)


Collector's Edition Blu-ray  
Label: Scream Factory
Region: A NTSC
Duration: 95 Minutes
Rating: R
Video: 1080p Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Don Consacrelli
Cast: James Le Gros, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Paula Irvine, Kenneth Tigar, Samantha Philips
Tagline: The Ball is Back!

Phantasm 2 (1988) picks up pretty much right where the events of Phantasm (1979) left off, sort of. It's  six years later and we are introduced to Liz Reynolds, (Paula Irvine), a young woman with a psychic-link to Mike(Michael Baldwin) and the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm), we see the events immediately following the first film through a series of visions as Liz reads through her illustrated dream journal. Turns out that after Mike was captured by the Tall Man he was freed from the Lurker's clutches by the ass-kicking-est ice cream man ever, Reggie (Reggie Bannister), who leaped from a second story window, clutching Mike's unconscious body, just a moment before the house goes up in an enormous fiery explosion. It's a great action-packed start to the film and puts you right in the proper Phantasm mindset with plenty of weird Jawa-looking Lurker action.

We learn that Mike, now played by James Le Gros (Zodiac), has been committed to the Morningside Psychiatric Center ever since, for years he's received dream communications from Liz asking for his help, she fears the Tall Man and what he will do to her dying grandfather once he dies. As if it were just that easy Mike decides to start acting sane, meaning denying any of the events of the first film, and just like that is released from the asylum. His first stop is the Morningside Cemetery were he sets about unearthing graves in an effort to convince himself of his own sanity, that the events years earlier were indeed supernatural and not the bi-product of a deranged mind brought on by the tragic death of his brother Jody, and sure 'nuff the graves are empty. Learning that Mike has been released Reggie tracks him down at the cemetery, and guess what, he doesn't believe any of the weird shit from the first film actually happened, which makes no sense if you've seen the first film, but there's a lot that doesn't make sense with these films, instead of your melting your brain trying to make sense of it all it's best to just let the movie wash over you like the surreal, disjointed nightmare that it is.

Mike attempts to convince Reggie that the Tall man is real en route to Mike's house when Mike experiences a premonition that the house is about to explode, which it does, tragically killing Reg's wife, daughter and visiting family members, I am also pretty sure this is the very same explosion from the opening of the film, reused, Now a believer Reggie joins Mike on his quest to find Liz and destroy the Tall Man. From here the movie becomes a bit of a road film as the duo leave Morningside in Reg's sweet '70 Black Plymouth Barracuda, briefly stopping off at the hardware store to stock-up on supplies. It's here we get a great montage as they acquire what will become the duo's signature weapons, a four barreled sawed-off shotgun, a propane fueled flame thrower and a chainsaw, natch.

Meanwhile, in the town of Perigord, where the Tall Man has set-up a new base of operation to harvest the corpses of the dead, our psychic dreamer Liz's fears are being realized. Father Meyers (Kenneth Tigar, Lethal Weapon 2,3) is presiding over the funeral services for her departed grandfather, the priest smells the stench of evil in his town, in an attempt to thwart the strange goings on, which he doesn't fully understand, he opens the casket and plunges a knife into the chest of Liz's departed grandfather  to the shock of his widow who walks in on the priest and faints at the sight of the desecration. Character actor Tigar is cast quite well as the nerve-wracked, whiskey flask sipping man of the cloth.

En route to Perigord Mike and Reggie stop off at small town where the Tall Man has wrought his peculiar brand of destruction, it's a ghost town, the cemetery has been plundered, it's graves unearthed and empty. During the brief stopover the guys encounter a woman with a grotesque slug growing from her spine, it's an unnerving sight and Reggie sends the suffering woman and the creature up in flames. On the road again Mike wakes up from his passenger seat nap to discover that Reggie's picked up a cute hitchhiker named Alchemy (Samantha Phillips, Cheerleader Massacre) who should look a bit familiar to Mike as he just dreamt of her. Mike warns against bringing her along but Reggie is pretty horny and insists. At one point later in the film Reggie and Alchemy hook up we get a quirky, high-energy sex scene with Alchemy riding him cowgirl and slapping his little bald head, wacky stuff.

Back in Perigord Liz returns to the mortuary and encounters the Tall Man, he sets the Lurkers on Liz who is horrified to discover dear old grandma has become one of the mini-zombie minions. She is also pursued by one of the eerie metallic spheres, she escapes when Father Meyers sacrifices himself as a sphere sprays his liquefied brains all over the marbled mausoleum floor. Liz escapes into the darkened cemetery where she runs into Mike and Reggie when she falls in an open grave, as you're prone to do. The united quartet join forces and set out to destroy the demonic mortician before he can enslave more undead souls.

This action-packed sequel ramps up the action quite a bit, there are numerous  explosions including one that sends that sweet '70 Cuda up in a ball o' fire, which was a damn shame. The special effects are quite a bit more fantastic than anything we saw in the first film, the Lurkers are creepier, the creature embedded in the woman's spine would not have seemed out of place in a latter entry of the A Nightmare on Elm Street series, and we get not one but a trio of spheres. The spheres this time are even more intricate, not just the barbed brain-spewing variety, we get a gold variation that's laser enabled!

Leading up to the finale is a battle at a crematorium, pitting Liz, Mike and Reggie against suit-wearing Morticians and miner-esque Gravers. Liz turns the tables on a Mortician and incinerates him in a furnace, and another falls victim to errant sphere, it's a great scene as the serrated sphere churns through it's guts, the centrifugal force contorting it's body unnaturally, it's a smart effect. There's a sweet face off when Reggie goes up against a Graver, it's a crotch-shredding chainsaw vs. chainsaw duel, it's a sweet mash-up of My Bloody Valentine (1981) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986). When the quartet finally face-off against the Tall Man it's a gruesome sight, an acid-infused finale of yellow goo with  wonderful in-camera effects, after the splatter-riffic conclusion we get a typically surreal Phantasmic coda.

James Le Gros stepping in for Michael Baldwin as Mike goes over quite well, if it weren't for the other sequels featuring Baldwin it would be a seamless exchange, as it is I really enjoyed what he did with the character, after Scrimm he delivers the film's best performance. Bannister as the balding former ice cream vendor turned supernatural shit-stomper is pretty great, offering the film a bit of needed camp. Angus Scrimm is superb as the Tall Man, it'd be hard to imagine the franchise without his iconic mortician to drive it along. The series is ripe for a remake but when I think recasting the Tall Man and I immediately sour against it.

Phantasm 2 is the sequel with the biggest budget by a rather large margin and you definitely see it onscreen. The scope is broader, the sets are bigger, and the effects are gorier. The one things that noticeably missing is the weird dream-logic from the first film, it's a more linear experience, but pretty surreal just the same, this is a Phantasm film after all! Coscarelli's sequel holds up pretty damned well, Phantasm 2 remains a unique vision of surreal horror.

Blu-ray: Shout! Factory imprint Scream Factory bring Don Coscarelli's Phantasm 2 to 1080p Region 'A' locked Blu-ray with an AVC MPEG-4 encode and it's a pretty wonderful presentation, a definite upgrade from the previous Universal DVD (2007). The print the hi-def master is sourced from looks particularly nice,with only very minor instances of print damage that could be detected There's a nice later of fine grain and the close-ups do offer some fine detail. Not sure what is was with the late-80's film stock but there is a familiar softness to the image at times, colors are vivid, there's some moderate depth to the image and shadow detail is strong, this is a a very pleasing transfer, one that brings new life to a familiar favorite.

Scream Factory offer the original DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and a more immersive 5.1 mix, with optional English subtitles. The 5.1 surround is quite good, there's not a ton of surround action happening but effects and score occasionally do  bleed into the surrounds to nice effect. The dynamic range is surprising, when the spheres do what they do it's brilliant. Both 2.0 and 5.1 offer a well-balanced audio experience, dialogue is crisp, effects and score are never overpowering and even occasionally elicit a nice low end bass response, a very pleasing and immersive audio presentation.

Scream Factory typically jam-pack their Collector's Edition titles with extras and Phantasm 2 is no different. The extras are sure please fans of the film whom previously only enjoyed a trailer for the film on anemic Universal DVD. The Audio Commentary is your typical Coscarelli commentary in that it's awesome, the director and actors Scrimm and Bannister keep it quite lively and entertaining, they're a fun bunch who obviously enjoy each others company, plenty of interesting tidbits about the film, shooting it, and the production.

“The Ball is Back!” (46:38) features new interviews with writer/director Don Coscarelli, actors Reggie Banister, Angus Scrimm, and Paula Irvine. It begins with Coscarelli speaking about not wanting to make another horror film right after the Phantasm (1979) which produced the sword n' sandal cable classic The Beastmaster (1982) before returning to he Phantasm series during Tom Pollack's horror-friendly reign as Universal's studio head.  Coscarelli also goes into the downside of working within the studio system, which were many, including making creative concessions, notably replacing the character of Mike, played in the first, third and fourth in the franchise by Michael Baldwin, with newcomer James Le Gros, even a young Brad Pitt auditioned for Mike and Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development, Hellboy) nearly replaced Bannister as Reggie, hard to imagine. It's a great mini doc with an abundance of neat behind-the-scenes video and stills and clips from the film.

“The Gory Days with Greg Nicotero” (22:01) features effects master Nicotero speaking about his beginnings working on George A. Romero's Day of the Dead (1985) and Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 (1987) plus of Phantasm (1979) and his disbelief that he would end up working with some of his favorite directors on sequels to films he loved. Hearing special effects guys talk about their craft definitely strikes a chord in my horror heart, we get more behind-the-scene clips, some really comedic stuff, too.

Reversible Artwork 
Sourced from Director Don Coscarelli's own personal 35mm film archives are Deleted Scenes (6:51) plus Additional Scenes – Alternate Takes, Deleted Gore Footage from the Workprint (18:58). That's nearly half an hour of extended, alternate and deleted footage from the film, sure to be treat for fans who just can't get enough of Phantasm 2.

Not related to the Phantasm series but a cool feature is a vintage Rare Short film starring Angus Scrimm (18:40). Can you imagine the Tall Man as Abraham Lincoln? Well, now you won't have to, this black and white educational film shows you, fun stuff.

Rounding out the Blu-ray features are a selection of TV Spots and Trailers for the film plus a collection of vintage featurettes. Separate from the Blu-ray extras there's a slipcover for the case featuring brand-new artwork plus a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original theatrical artwork, a typically fantastic Scream Factory release and one that will hopefully not just satisfy the existing fans but hopefully convert legions new followers.

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with director/writer Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm and Reggie Banister
- “The Ball is Back!” Documentary – featuring new interviews with writer/director Don Coscarelli, actors Reggie Banister, Angus Scrimm, Paula Irvine, Samantha Phillips and more!(46:38)
- Vintage Behind the Scenes Footage: Makeup Effects (3:12)
- Vintage Behind the Scenes footage: On the Set (4:17)
- “The Gory Days with Greg Nicotero” Featurette (22:01)
- Deleted Scenes from Archival Film Elements from Don Coscarelli’s Archive (6:51)
- Additional Scenes – Alternate Takes, Deleted Gore Footage from the Workprint (18:58)
- 3 Original TV Spots (1:25)
- Trailers for Phantasm (2:17), Phantasm II (1:27) and Phantasm III (1:27)
- Still Galleries: A Collection of 53 Images of Behind the Scenes, Make-up Effects, Poster and Stills (5:17)
- Rare short film starring Rory Guy (aka Angus Scrimm) as Abraham Lincoln (18:40)

Verdict: Scream Factory are making a quite name for themselves as the new home of classic horror, offering Criterion level bonus content and pristine audio/visual presentations, bringing new life to cult classics. Phantasm 2 is a great effects driven sequel, action-packed and oozing with that surreal weirdness inherent to the franchise, it'd be a real treat to see Phantasm (1979) get a definitive Blu-ray. 3.5 Outta 5 

Note: Screen captures are from the Universal DVD and not Scream Factory's Collector's Edition Blu-ray which is far superior