Friday, October 30, 2015

ROAR (1981) (Blu-ray Review)

ROAR (1981) 
Label: Olive Films
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Region Code: A 

Rated: PG
Duration: 102 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen ( 2.35:1)
Director: Noel Marshall
Cast: Tippi Hedren, Melanie Griffith, Noel Marshall


Synopsis: Writer/director Noel Marshall stars as Hank, a doctor and outspoken naturalist in Africa who allows lions, tigers, cheetahs, and other big cats to roam freely around his remote estate. While away protecting animals from poachers, Hank’s family—including Marshall’s real-life wife and daughter, Tippi Hedren (The Birds) and Melanie Griffith (Working Girl)—arrive at his home and are stalked by the massive lions that have overrun the house. 

Sometimes you finish a movie and you're just dumbfounded, completely bowled over by what you have just watched, there are no words that will adequately express what you're feeling, so you just sit there slack-jawed... and you watch it again, because you cannot believe what you just watched could be true. 

Director Noel Marshall's Roar (1981) is just such a movie, in fact this is one of the most WTF! viewing experiences of my entire movie-watching life, trust me, this is a whopper of a movie. The story itself is pretty threadbare as described by the brief synopsis, there's just much to it on paper or on screen, and once you realize what you're actually watching you won't care about the story anyway, you won't care about the many storytelling shortcomings of the movie because you're watching what could have potentially tuned out to be a gruesome when animals attack movie, you're watching one of the most ill-conceived movie ideas and execution in all of cinema history. 

Noel Marshall and his real-life wife Tippi Hedren (The Birds) along with Tippi's daughter Melanie Griffith (Joe vs the Volcano)  and Noel's sons John and Jerry Marshall raised dozens of wild cats in their Beverly Hills home from cute cubs to fearsome adulthood. When the cats outgrew their Beverly Hills home they moved to a ranch outside of the city, which is where they would eventually shoot this movie. You can clearly see the insanity of this film as Marshall and the family improvise scenes with untrained African lions who do not take direction very well, there are so many scenes of the cast being overpowered and clawed by these fearsome cats that I find it difficult to believe no one was killed during the production. You can see the terror in some of their eyes of the cast as the camera rolls. In an early scene you see one of the cats take a bite out of Marshall's hand, blood trickling from the wound on screen, his clothes shredded by claws. In another a very youthful Melanie Griffith is mauled by a big cat who sits on her back and claws her face, the wound required over a hundred stitches and reconstructive surgery. There's no acting in this movie in the traditional sense, just improvised scenes of human surviving from one scene to the next, it's just crazy stuff. 

Tippi Hedren was thrown from a elephant's back fracturing her leg in one scene, which is of course captured on film. It is stupefying just how uch insanity and danger this family endured to make this nutty movie. I laugh when I think about Hedren speaking of the horrible tortures she endured while akin The Birds with Alfred Hitchcock. with Hitch hurling birds at her during the bird attack scenes, but watching this I have slightly less compassion about her grievances with Hitchcock. At least he didn't throw her in with into a scene with dozens of untrained lions, tiger, jaguars and cheetahs, nope, she did that to herself. I am serious when I say you can see the fear and terror in their eyes throughout the movie, there could not have been a day on set where the cast and crew did not firmly believe that someone would die, I was scared for them thirty-years after the fact watching it on my TV screen. 

On the surface the movie seems to have a kiddie-friendly family adventure quality about it, it sounds almost Disney in it's conception, except that the actors are appearing alongside clawed big cats who could at any moment chew their face off or shred them, and while that didn't exactly happen it should be noted that there were over 70 documented cases of animal attack during the making of the movie. Cinematographer Jan de Bont (Speed) was severely mauled and scalped during one of the attacks, and he was crazy enough to come back and finish the movie after that! Not sure what kind of drugs they were on while making this one, but whatever they were, they must have been worth dying for. 

Audio/Video: Roar arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films in the original scope (2.35:1) aspect ratio, and as crazy as the movie is in conception and execution cinematographer Jan de Bont camerawork looks pretty good, considering each and every frame was shot under threat of constant mauling by lions. The print used for the HD transfer looks pretty good with minimal issues, just the occasional white speckling. The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio sounds good. 
Cinematographer Jan de Bont
Onto the bonus features we have a great commentary with actor John Marshall and Tim League of Drafthouse Films. What looks to be a vintage making of doc with the participation of the cast and crew, with Tippi breaking down at one point when she begins to discuss what she had to give up to raise money for the project. The meat of the extras are a fantastic Q/A with Cast and Crew at The Cinefamily in L.A. on May 17th 2014 with star John Marshall,  sound mixer Courtney Goodin, editors Ted Nicolaou and Larry Carroll moderated by Harian Belove of Cinefamily and Christian Parkes of Drafthouse Films. There's so much great stuff is brought up during it. Marshall recalls what it was like raising the big cats from cubs in their Beverly Hills home, while the crew speak about just how weird and dangerous a shoot it was, what a character Noel Marshall was, some great stories from on set about the dangerous cats and the flood that nearly scrapped the movie. There's also a gallery of photographs and the essay that Tim League drafted about the movie and what a strange one it is. 

Special Features:
- The Making of Roar (33 Mins) HD
- Q/A with Cast and Crew at The Cinefamily, Los Angeles,  CA May 17th 2014with star John Marshall,  sound mixer Courney Goodin, editors Ted Nicolaou and Larry Carroll moderated by Harian Belove of Cinefamily and Christian Parkes of Drafthouse Films. (40 Mins) HD 
- Photo Gallery (6 Mins) HD 
- Audio Commentary with John Marshall and Tim League 

I could never truly describe how weird and absurd this movie is, how dangerous this looks, and how the cast and crew made it through the shoot without the loss of life or limb. There needs to be a movie about the making of this movie, but you know it would be made with loads of digital effects and animated lions, because no one is crazy enough to do what Noel Marshall and his family were willing to at the time, that would just be crazy, and that's why it's such a fascinating watch, because it's true. Half way through my viewing I the Werner Herzog doc Grizzly Man came to mind, I could imagine a young Timothy Treadwell, the doomed nature enthusiast who is the subject of that movie. I imagined him as a young boy maybe watching this movie and loving the idea of being one with nature, to live among the ferocity of nature and survive it. If you've seen Grizzly Man you know it didn't turn out so well for Treadwell or his girlfriend, watching this you realize how close this crazy family came to being maybe starring in their own family snuff film. WTF. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) (BLU-RAY REVIEW)

COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE (1970) 

Region Code: Region Free (A/B/C)
Duration: 93 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Video: 1080p High Definition / 1.85:1 / Color
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Bob Kelljan
Cast: Robert Quarry, Roger Perry, Michael Murphy, Michael Macready, Donna Anders


Centuries old vampire Count Yorga (Robert Quarry) has set-up himself in sun-drenched Southern California, where he has established himself as something Bulgarian mystic, who performs séances. We find him at the home of Donna (Donna Anders), whom has brought in Yorga in hopes of contacting her deceased mother from beyond the grave, it's a fun set-up and quickly establishes Yorga's place in contemporary California society.

At the party a young woman named Erica (Judy Lang) catches the eye of Count Yorga, a familiar vampire trope with a young woman who reminds the centuries old blood-sucker of a past love. After the seance Yorga catches a ride home with Erica and her wise-cracking boyfriend  Paul (Michael Murphy), a sort of hippie-type couple who drive a VW Bus. The image of a vampire in the backseat of a VW Bus is one you might want to ponder for a while, too funny. 

After they drop the Count off at his home the young couple become stranded on a remote stretch of road when their van becomes stuck in the mud, they choose to spend the night in the van, in the dark night they hear wolves howl, Yorga appears as his animalistic blood-sucking self and knocks Paul out, tasting the blood of Erica, infecting her with vampire-virus. 

The next day Erica visits Dr. Hayes (Roger Perry) about the strange puncture wounds on her neck, he notices she has lost a lot of blood and is fatigued but he doc cannot diagnose what the cause of her injury or illness might be. The next day Paul comes home to discover Erica with a bloody dead cat in her hands, drinking blood from the dead feline, animal overs might want to avoid this scene, it's a shocker! 

Meanwhile Donna's boyfriend, Paul and Dr. Hayes begin to discuss what could be the cause of Erica's worsening state of being, joking about vampirysm but not truly believing that something supernatural is afoot. Eventually the crazy notion becomes the most plausible explanation, when Erica goes missing the friends launch an assault on the Yorga mansion on a mission to stake the undead blood-sucker through the heart. 

I love '70s horror movies, there's always a certain amount of kitsch for me with them, the vintage clothing, tacky wallpaper, I just love to watch and enjoy them, they're slower movies usually that can take awhile to build up a head of steam, but Yorga is not too slow, it has a great pace and some good atmosphere, sure it's a drive-in cheapie but there's some good craftsmanship up on the screen, they do a lot with very little, and it shows. 

Add to that a wonderfully suave and dapper portrayal by veteran actor Robert Quarry who exudes a centuries old world charm, a very smooth vampire, one who can talk a woman right off her feet, even without having to hypnotize them, but he does that, too. The actor has mesmerizing eyes, light colored, and they set him apart from other vampires in cinema, plus he can turn from elegant to animalistic blood-thirsty vampire on a dime, when he bares his fangs he is straight-up threatening, it really is Quarry that makes the Yorga movies a success. 

Audio/Video: Count Yorga, Vampire (1971) arrives on Blu-ray from Twilight Time in a limited edition run of 3000 copies, the new 1080p upgrade tightens up the visuals quite a bit. The movie was an AIP cheapie and didn't have the best lighting which does negatively affect many of the darker scenes, but this far advances over the previous standard-def version I have on the shelf. The DTS-HD MA Mono audio track reproduces the audio faithfully, balancing the dialogue, audio effects and Bill Marx score very nicely. 

Onto the extras Twilight Time have packed quite a few noteworthy extras for the release, many of which seem to have found there way here thank in part to filmmaker Tim Sullivan, who is a super fan of the movie and of actor Robert Quarry. The 'My Dinner with Yorga: The Robert Quarry Rue Morgue Interview', is a recreation of an interview that Sullivan recorded with Quarry in 2003, the audio tapes were lost for the interview but the interview is recreated here through a reading by David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan, with Del Valle doing a great job channeling his inner Yorga. It's fun stuff and you can almost imagine Quarry sitting there for the interview, a fun and animated audio extra. Sullivan again appears on another audio-only extra as a guest on the Fangirl Radio Tribute to Robert Quarry, which runs 46-minutes. 

There's also an audio commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and guess who ... Tim Sullivan. A lively and informed discussion from both men who not only love horror, and love the Yorga movies but speak as men who were friends with Robery Quarry.

The disc is finished-up with two galleries, one from the MGM archives featuring various posters and behind-the-scene hots and promotional pics, then we have the Tim Sullivan archives featuring images from the 2003 Rue Morgue interview session, from screenings of the Yorga films and various pics of Sullivan and Quarry hanging out together, a few with Quarry flipping the bird. We finish up the disc extras with a trailer for the movie. 

Onto the packaging we have a clear Elite case with the very familiar artwork that was also used for the MGM Midnight Movies release of the movie, while it's not a reversible sleeve there is artwork on the reverse side of the sleeve, an illustration of Yorga baring his fangs, very cool. There's an 8 pg. collector's booklet with new writing on the movie from TT staff writer Julie Kirgo, which as per the usual is a treat to read. TT always creates new artwork fr the covers of the booklets and I loved his one, it should have been a reversible artwork option, a fantastic illustration of Yorga with a blood-red image of L.A. appearing amidst his flowing cape. 

Special Features: 
- Isolated Score Track 
- Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan 
- My Dinner with Yorga: The Robert Quarry Rue Morgue Interview, a Reading by David Del Valle and Tim Sullivan (13 Mins) HD 
- Fangirl Radio Tribute to Robert Quarry with Tim Sullivan (46 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery: The MGM Archives 
- Still Gallery: The Tim Sullivan Archives 
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1 Mins) 

Count Yorga, Vampire holds up forty-five years later, and not on a kitscy level either, you might read some campy humor into it but it's not onscreen, it's just in your mind, because it's a relic of the seventies and you expect it, but Quarry raises the material quite, this is just a great vampire entry. Fans of Quarry's Yorga will be thrilled to know that The Return of Count Yorga (1971) is also available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, though with slightly fewer extras than this TT disc. If you're a fan of blood-sucking cinema you need this one, you need it now, you need it bad. 3.5/5

FLOWERS (2014)

FLOWERS (2014)

Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 79 Minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Phil Stevens
Cast: Colette Kenny Mckenna, Krystle Fitch, Anastasia Blue,Tanya Erin Paoli, Kara A. Christiansen, Makaria Tsapatoris, Bryant W. Lohr Sr., Raychelle Keeling

Synopsis: Some don't understand when the roller-coaster of life stops and their life ends. Some go up and others... find themselves in Purgatory to either find redemption or to choose damnation. Where do the murder victims go when they have a chance to choose' A mind-bending, artistic ride down the road to hell. Are you willing to damn yourself or accept salvation' 

Experimental art house gore movie Flowers (2014) comes to us by way of director Phil Stevens and the good folks at Unearthed Film, a strange brew of a movie bereft of any dialogue and dripping with dread and surreal and gruesome imagery from start to finish. We begin with a woman waking up in the filthy crawl space beneath a house, she's crawling through the mud, pulling her self over decaying bodies and human bones, a nightmare world. What we come to realize is that she, along with several other unfortunate women, are dead, they've been murdered by the serial killer who lives in the home they now find themselves now trapped beneath, in a surreal purgatory nightmare. 

Like I would imagine purgatory to be there's no sense of time, this is a non-linear story with no spoken dialog, there are however disgusting sound effects and an eerie atonal sound design to accompany each of the sequences, the home of the serial killer is the stuff of nightmares, the floors and walls are vile, the bathroom made my stomach churn, dead bodies are stuffed inside the walls of the home. The killer walks around his home in dirty underwear, and each of the women, who seem to be trapped in some sort of after-death purgatory, left to wander the home as if to bare witness to their own deaths at the hands of a murderous lunatic, everything here is straight-up depressing, there's no light at the end of this tunnel for the viewers.

Flowers is a low-budget movie, but theres some true art-house lensing on display to enjoy if you can get past the gore and guts. The color has been desaturated to a near sepia-tone flatness and I liked the look of it quite a bit, I dig the style. But I need a movie with not just style but some substance, and watching a movie without story and character proved tiring after a short time. There's no one here for me to engage with other than an unrelenting series of depressing and nauseating visuals, and for some that will be enough, but this downer of a movie did very little for me. I might have enjoyed this more in a cinema in a festival setting, but on my couch by myself I was watching the clock and waiting long before it came to and end. 

For the purpose of this review I was sent the single-disc version from Unearthed Films which does include a handful of extras, there's also a 3-disc Limited Edition version available with a CD soundtrack and additional extras for fans of the movie and collector's.

Single-Disc Edition Special Features:
- Unearthed Trailer Reel
- Behind the Scenes Stills(15 Mins) (99 Images)
- Audition Tape with Makaria Tsapatoris (15 Mins)
- Interview with Bryant w. Lohr Sr (10 Mins)
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Phil Stevens
- Audio Commentary with editor Ronnie Sortor
- Isolated FX Track
- Unearthed Trailer Reel

I appreciated the dour tone, the gruesome special effects, and the haunting quality of the after-life purgatory but without some character to bite into I was left cold, and I don't  see re watching it anytime soon. Flowers is a unique vision from a young director with obvious skill, I applaud Unearthed Films for taking a chance on it, but it's not for me. 2/5


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S PRISON (2006)

THE JAIL: THE WOMEN'S HELL (2006)

Label: Intervision Picture Corp

Region Code: 1
Duration: 98 Minutes
Rating: Unrated

Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Vincent Dawn (Bruno Mattei)
Cast: Yvette Yzon, Dyane Craystan, Jim Gaines, Odette Khan


For his second-to-last film, the late writer/director Bruno Mattei returned to the genre that established his reputation as a true Maestro of EuroSleaze: When a group of women are sentenced to a jungle hellhole prison known as ‘The House of Lost Souls’, they’ll enter a sweaty nightmare of sadistic guards, menacing lesbians and rampant nudity. But Mattei – here under his alias ‘Vincent Dawn’ – also packs his final babes-behind-bars saga with enough degradations, perversions, jaw-dropping violence and over-the-top performances to set all-new standards of genre depravity. Yvette Yzon (ISLAND OF THE LIVING DEAD), Dyane Craystan (ZOMBIES: THE BEGINNING) and Jim Gaines (ROBOWAR) star in this Philippines filth-fest produced by Giovanni Paolucci (MONDO CANNIBAL), now presented uncut and uncensored for the first time ever in America! 

The last few movies that notorious Italian exploitation director Bruno Mattei made before his death in 2007 are something to behold, a series of cheapie zombie and cannibal movies that went for broke with loads of depravity and gore. I truly think that Intervision may have saved his best golden years entry for last with the release of his second to last movie, the women-in-prison (WIP) shotgun to the face called The Jail - The Women's Hell (2006) starring the spunky Yvette Yzon as Jennifer, a bad ass criminal who at the top of the movie finds herself on a river boat with three other women headed for a tropical prison camp known as 'The House of Lost Souls'. The labor camp is run by a very cruel woman (Odette Khan) who barks out orders and sever punishments, she only has one setting, and angry bitch is it. The women are subjected to sexual abuse, thrown into sweat boxes and lashed with whips relentlessly. Mattei throws in about every damn WIP trope you could hope for and then amps it up to a ridiculous degree, comically so. One notorious scene of depravity features a woman tied to a bed while a python crawls over her nude body, just off camera it is implied the serpent crawls inside her womb, killing her, pretty sleazy stuff! Of course we have the mandatory nudity throughout, scene after scene of forcible water hosings, lesbian love among the prisoners, and they're forced into stripping and prostitution for a local assortment of crooked businessmen and politicians who frequent the prison camp. 


Eventually the rebellious Jennifer a small band of the women have had enough of everything, they've seen too many other women die from abuse and torture, and they make a run for it. Escaping into the jungle where they know you either run for your life or suffer a slow and painful death at the hands of the sadistic prison guards. The way it plays out brought to mind the Brian Trenchard-Smith classic Turkey Shoot (1981), as the WIP film turns into a depraved version of The Most Dangerous Game, with some of the women falling prey to the guards and various booby-traps, not to mention booby-trauma. One of the women is tied to a tree, her tongue cut out, while one of the more maniacal guards slices off her breasts with way to much joy. Another is shotgunned multiple times by a group of guards, she's basically a slice of bloody Swiss cheese at the end, then she's gang raped. Mattei goes for broke with the wacky over-the-top violence which pushes this from just a distasteful WIP movie into straight-up trash classic, it's so over-the-top you cannot help but see the humor of it all. 

Audio/Video: The Jail: The Women's Hell was a shot-on-video movie, using the digital cameras available at the time, which were not the highest quality stuff but it translates nicely to DVD from Intervision. In my opinion this is the best looking of Mattei's new millennium Filipino exploitation movies, some of the scenes could pass for 35mm, the dank and dark shots of the prison living quarters look particularly good. The English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo comes through strong, with the dubbed dialogue and synth score are nicely balanced, they're not going for the sound design Oscar here, it is what it is, serviceable. 

Intervision continue to give back to the fans with more bonus content, the third in a series of interviews with producer Giovanni Paolucci and screenwriter Antonio Tentori clocking in at 22-minutes. There's also an interview with star Yvette Yzon and Alvin Anson who co-starred in with her in Bruno's final film, the gut-muncher Zombies: The Beginning (2007), both of whom recall having to adjust to the loud Italian director who always sounded mad onset.  


Special Features:

- Acting For Bruno: Featurette with Yvette Yzon and Alvin Anson (9 Mins) 
- Prison Inferno: Featurette with producer Giovanni Paolucci and screenwriter Antonio Tentori (22 Mins) 
- Trailer (2 Mins) 


If you're a fan of trashy exploitation cinema and have not looked into these late-period Bruno Mattei movies he directed under the pseudonyms Vincent Dawn and Martin Miller you are seriously missing out on some gloriously entertaining carnage. If you think about it no one was making movies like this in the new millennium, with the exception of Mattei who seemed determined to go out on top of the trash heap with a series of modern day exploitation films that in may ways rival anything the director created in the seventies and eighties, on a fraction of the budget - this is the best kind of sleazy movie making, Mattei went out on a high note, praise be to Intervision for bringing these to the trash-loving masses. 

EDGAR ALLEN POE'S BLACK CATS: TWO ADAPTATIONS BY SERGIO MARTINO & LUCIO FULCI (BLU-RAY REVIEW)


EDGAR ALLEN POE'S BLACK CATS: TWO ADAPTATIONS BY SERGIO MARTINO AND LUCIO FULCI 

THE BLACK CAT (1981) 

Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: Region Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 91 Minutes
Audio: Uncompressed LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono Italian with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: David Warbeck, Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, Dagmar Lassander, Al Cliver

Director Lucio Fulci takes a step back from the graphic gore of City of the Living Dead (1980) for The Black Cat, his variation on the Edgar Allen Poe short story of the same name. The movie begins with a man driving through a quiet English village when an ominous black cat appears in the backseat of his car, the man stares into the cat's eyes and falls into a trance, before veering into a parked car and erupting into flames. A short time later a pair of young lovers are making out in a boat on the river, looking for a more private place they make their way to a nearby boathouse where they lock themselves into a airtight storage room. The mysterious black cat again appears, supernaturally causing the A/C to shut down before making off with the only key to the door, the young lovers are trapped inside and suffocate to death, their whereabouts remain unknown for some days. 


It turns out that the ominous black cat belongs the aged Professor Robert Miles (Patrick Magee, A Clockwork Orange), a mean-spirited old cuss who spends his free time making audio recordings at the nearby graveyard, hoping to record the voices of the newly dead. It is implied that the professor possesses some form of hypnotic power, and might possibly be using his abilities to guide the black cat on it's murderous spree. The mother of one of the missing lovers from the boathouse, Lillian Gayson (Dagmar Lassander, The House by the Cemetery), worries about her daughter, notifying local constable Sergeant Wilson (Al Cliver, Zombi) who in turn places a call to Scotland Yard, Inspector Gorley (David Warbeck, The Beyond). Gorley arrives on motorcycle, in one of Warbecks more proactive and bad ass roles in Italian cinema, tearing into town on a the motorbike is a memorable entrance. After his arrival more death follow the appearance of the malicious cat with  suspicion beginning to fall on Professor Miles, Patrick Magee is just brings a lot of creepy menace and gravitas to the role, a strange character for sure. 


The story is only weakly linked to the Poe origins, basically we have the black cat and a victim bricked-up behind a wall at the finale, the latter of which Fulci has already explored with his movie The Psychic (1977), a superior movie with a similar tone. Fulci's Black Cat is a sort of montage of disparate elements, with Poe's story being just one component alongside other Poe-centic ideas, with a strong reference to David Cronenberg's The Brood (1977) and a shoe-horned nod to The Exorcist (1973), all wrapped up in the Gothic trappings of a rural English village with  loads of atmospheric touches including eerie fog shrouded woodland and cemetery scenes. 


Here Fulci relies more on a slow-building atmosphere than gruesome gore, there's no eye-trauma on display, just a few vicious cat scratches when the venomous feline draws blood, plus a mild scene of decomposing, rat-gnawn bodies, but for the duration of the film Fulci keeps it firmly in the Gothic horror vein, more akin to a Fulci/Hammer horror than a gruesome gore-soaked nightmare. It's worth noting Fulci made quite a few atmospheric whodunits before he came around to the favored gore entries in the early to mid-eighties, and this is a nice return to his roots, more along the lines of Don't Torture a Ducking or the aforementioned The Psychic. 


Audio/Video: Arrow Video bring Lucio Fulci's Gothic shocker to Blu-ray, sourcing the brand new 2K transfer straight from the original camera negative. The result are fantastic, well advancing over previous releases in all areas with improved clarity, depth and he overall crispness of the image. Colors are reproduced faithfully with natural looking skin tones, this is top-notch HD upgrade all around. Audio comes by way of  an uncompressed  LPCM Mono English or Italian with optional  English SDH subtitles. The evocative score from Pino Donaggio is nicely balanced with the dialogue and effects, nothing is overpowered, everything is crisp and free of distortion. 


Arrow blows away previous releases with not just a gorgeous brand-new 2K transfer, but with a variety of informative value-added extras, beginning with an audio commentary from former Fangoria editor, and movie maker in his own right, Chris Alexander. he comes across as a huge fan of Eurocult and Fulci in particular, maybe not the most insightful commentary in an academic sense, but fun, breezy and he comes off as a well-informed super-fan. Not to trash the commentary but I would have preferred a commentary with author and horror historian Stephen Thrower. 


No worries, Stephen Thrower is well represented with two new features, the 20-minute overview of the movie 'Poe into Fulci: The Spirit of Perverseness', and the 8-minute 'In the Paw-Prints of the Black Cat', the latter with Thrower touring the original Black Cat filming locations, even recreating a few of the iconic tracking shots. Thrower is always a wealth of knowledge, mixing anecdotal asides with his own wry views and well-versed horror history, these are the best of the extras on the set in my opinion. There's also have a 20-minute interview with actress Dagmar Lassander who goes into some great detail about her storied career in Italian cinema. David Warbeck, who dies in 1997, is featured in a 70-minute video interview conducted by Thrower, the interview covers most of Warbeck's body of  Italian cinema. Lastly we have a HD trailer for the movie. 


Special Features: 
- Brand new audio commentary by filmmaker and Fangoria editor Chris Alexander
- Poe into Fulci: The Spirit of Perverseness – film historian Stephen Thrower on Fulci’s Poe-tinged classic(26 Mins) HD 
- In the Paw-Prints of the Black Cat – a look at the original Black Cat locations (8 Mins) HD 
- Frightened Dagmar – a brand new career interview with actress Dagmar Lassander (20 Mins) HD 
- At Home with David Warbeck – an archive interview with The Black Cat star (70 Mins) HD
- Original Theatrical Trailer (3 Mins) 
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin

Lucio Fulci's The Black Cat (1981) is a sorely under appreciated entry from the Italian master of phantasmagorical gore, maybe because it relies more on tone and atmosphere and strays from the more typical fantasy-based gore he was known for at the time, having been bookended by City of the Living dead and The Beyond, I can see how this Gothic chiller might get lost between to iconic slices of Italian cinema, but I highly recommend you check out this overlooked gem of Gothic cinema, a movie with great performances from the venerable Patrick Magee and Eurocult regular David Warbeck. 


YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY (1972) 

Label: Arrow Video 
Region Code: Region Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 96 Minutes 
Audio: Uncompressed LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono Italian with Optional  English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Sergio Martino
Cast: Edwige Fenech, Anita Strindberg, Luigi Pistilli, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Nebbia 

The second half of Arrow's Poe adaptation double feature is a classic Italian whodunit from noted director Sergio Martino, Your vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, which is a title that references his previous whodunnut The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh, also starring Eurocult icon Edwige Fenech. This lurid slice of Italian cinema begins with waning novel writer Oliviero Rouvigny (Luigi Pistilli, A Bay of Blood), the sadistic husband of Irina (Anita Strindberg, The Case of the Scorpion's Tale). Oliviero is obsessed with his dead mother, a quirk which emerges when he becomes a bit too turned on when his wife and various lovers dress in her vintage gowns. His strange sexual proclivities make him the subject of a murder investigation, when his former student and current lover turns up dead. After being questioned by the police the already wrecked man begins to spiral out of control, pushed even further when his maid turns up dead in his home, worried that he will be blamed for her death both he and his wife hide the body in the home and create a story about having to fire her. 

Soon after they receive word that Irina's niece will be visiting, a sex kitten named Floriana (Edwige Fenech, Blade of the Ripper), a manipulative nymph who seduces not only Oliviero but her own aunt, the red-haired Irina, whom as played by Strindberg is still quite a blossom, even when compared to Fenech. The stylish whodunit sets itself apart from many of it's contemporaries by eschewing many of the whodunit norms, there's no black-gloved killer for starters, but there's plenty of paranoia and no shortage of suspects, which makes it hard to get your footing at times. 

Fenech's turn as a villainous woman is fun, usually cast as the victim, and while she suffers at the hands of her abusive husband she's not angel, nope. As this is part of the Black Cat double-feature from Arrow there must be a connection to Edgar Allen Poe's short story, again we have black cat, named Satan which belonged to Oliviero's now dead mother, Irina cannot stand the cat and goes after ti several times with knife. Additionally theres the bricked-up wall which reveals a secret when the wailing cat draws suspicion from the police at the last moment, again, a tenuous link to the Poe story to be sure, but it's there. Italian cult-cinema fans will be pleased to see Eurocult staple Ivan Rassimov (Spasmo) who appears as, what else, a nefarious character who may or may not be complicit in the crimes.

Audio/Video: Like Fulci's The Black Cat this new 2K HD transfer was sourced from the original camera negative, but lacks the depth and clarity of Fulci's entry, there's some grit to it, it lacks the crispness and fine detail of the former, but looks significantly better that any version I have viewed before, it's a definite upgrade.  Audio again come by way of a crisp and clean uncompressed LPCM Mono English or Italian with optional  English SDH subtitles. 


Onto the bonus content we have a brand new interview with Sergio Martino himself in Italian with English subtitles as the director looks back upon his career and the influence of Edgar Allen Poe. Carried over from the No shame DVD from a few years back is a 23-minute making of retrospective featuring Martino, Edwige Fenech and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi. Michael Mackenzie offers up a half-hour visual essay covering all of Martinos whodunits, film historian Justin Harries waxes poetic over Fenech for the half-hour career retrospective, and director Eli Roth offers a 9-minute appreciation of the movie and of the director, citing Martino as a direct influence on Hostel II, in addition to casting Fenech in the movie as well.

Special Features: 
- Through the Keyhole – a brand new interview with director Sergio Martino (35 Mins) HD
- Unveiling the Vice – making-of retrospective featuring interviews with Martino, star Edwige Fenech and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi (23 Mins)
- Dolls of Flesh and Blood: The Gialli of Sergio Martino – a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the director’s unique contributions to the giallo genre (29 Mins) HD
- The Strange Vices of Ms. Fenech – film historian Justin Harries on the Your Vice actress’ prolific career (30 Mins) 
-  Eli Roth on Your Vice and the genius of Martino (9 Mins) HD
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin
- Limited Edition 80-page booklet containing new articles on the films, Lucio Fulci’s last ever interview and a reprint of Edgar Allen Poe’s original story.

Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key gets a nice upgrade from Arrow with a sweet array of newly produced supplemental material. of the pair of movies I liked it less than I did the Fulci entry but I have always favored Fulci, maybe to a fault. Martino's entry is solid, a deeply psycho-sexual whodunit ripe with sadism, misogyny and multi-faceted betrayal, while not may favorite of the Martino whodunits this is still a high recommend. Arrow's Edgar Allan Poe’s Black Cats: Two Adaptations by Sergio Martino and  Lucio Fulci is a classy release, the new HD transfers are the best either movies have ever appeared on home video, and the value-added extras make this one of my favorite releases of the year. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

STRANGE INVADERS (1983)

STRANGE INVADERS (1983) 
Label: Twilight Time 
Region Code: Region Free (A/B/C)
Duration: 93 Minutes
Rating: PG
Video: 1080p High Definition / 2.35:1 / Color
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HD MA with Optional English Subtitles 

Director: Michael Laughlin
Cast: Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, Diana Scarwid, Michael Lerner, Louise Fletcher, Wallace Shawn, Fiona Lewis

Synopsis Michael Laughlin directs Strange Invaders (1983), an affectionate homage to science fiction/alien takeover films of the 1950s that stars Paul Le Mat as a university professor searching for his ex-wife (Diana Scarwid), who seems to have disappeared while visiting her hometown of Centerville, Illinois. In fact, the place turns out to be a hotbed of aliens, in place since the Fifties and weirdly unaware of how the outside world has changed. Also starring Nancy Allen as a helpful journalist, and a lively supporting cast including Michael Lerner, Louise Fletcher, Wallace Shawn, Fiona Lewis, and period icon June Lockhart.

I remember watching this on TV in the eighties and I was completely absorbed by it, a straight-faced homage to the alien invasion movies of the fifties, movies which at that young age I had already watched, particularly Invaders from Mars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Movies I loved, movies that made be think that just maybe my neighbors were aliens from anotherpanet... at least I hoped so. Ovid, New York was a sort of nowhere place, which is probably why I enjoyed Strange Invaders so much, most of the action takes place in Centerville, Illinois which was analog to where I found myself most of my young life in boring Upstate New York, a place also seemingly trapped in the Cold War-era 1950s. 


In the film university professor Charles Bigelow (Paul Le Mat, American Graffiti) becomes obsessed with the disappearance of his ex-wife Margaret (Diana Scarwid), whom had left their young daughter Elizabeth (Lulu Sylbert) with her Charles so she could return to her hometown of Centerville to attend her mother's funeral. When Margaret doesn't return in a matter of days Charles heads to Centerville ot get to the bottom of his ex-wife's whereabouts. Arriving he discovers that the small town is straight out of the '50s, the teens drive around in vintage Chevy cars, and the styles are of the June and Ward Cleaver variety. Contrary to the idyllic appearances no one is welcoming to strangers from out of town, in fact Charles just barely escapes the town with his life intact when he encounters an alien who zaps his car with a beam of pure energy which comes straight from the creatures own mind. 


Returning to the city he seeks the help of tabloid journalist Betty Walker (Nancy Allen, Blow Up) after he sees a picture on the cover of the tabloid which looks exactly like the alien he saw in Centerville. The sassy, chain-smoking reporter nearly laughs him out of the office when he confides to her what happened to him, that is until she is visited by a strange Avon lady (Fiona Lewis) at her apartment,  who locks herself in the bathroom and zaps Betty's landlord (Shawn Wallace, The Princess Bride) before disappearing herself. After the encounter she and Charles approach a shady government agent, played by the wild-eyed Louise Fletcher (the Invaders from Mars remake) as Mrs. Benjamin, who tells them that there are no aliens and there is no town of Centerville, that it was destroyed by a tornado in the fifties.


Regardless, Charles, Betty and the young Elizabth head back to Centerville, and not surprisingly what they find is that the town is has been populated by a race of alien creatures since the fifties, taking on the appearance of the humans they've zapped thirty years ago. What does all this have to do with the missing ex-wife is at the heart of the story, in this fun straight-faced send up of vintage science fiction movies, I love this sort of stuff.  The performances are played flat, which might not go over well with a younger audience who did not grow up watching vintage science fiction tales of alien paranoia like myself, I think you have to have an awareness of what the movie makers are sending up here to appreciate it. 


While I grew up with not only this movie, but the movies that it is clearly riffing on, my teen kids did not, and as such I don't think they had the appreciation for it I do, but they tolerated it. I can understand their perspective, it's a bit on the dry side, it's not played for laughs, it has that same strange sense of weirdness that the Invaders from Mars had, that feeling that something is not quite right here, a disconnect, a wry, antiseptic paranoia about it. The movie does have some fun sci-fi special effects, including a cylindrical mother ship, classic flying saucers, cool alien designs by James Cummins (John Carpenter's The Thing) and retro-styled laser beams! There's a little something for most sci-fi and horror fans to enjoy on some level, even a saccharine nod to Stephen Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind with a happy reunion at the end. 


Audio/Video: Strange Invaders (1983) arrives on Blu-ray for the very first time courtesy of twilight Time who have released the slice of retro sci-fi as part of their Limited Edition Series limited to just 3000 copies, so you had best act fast before it goes out of print and fetch high prices on the secondary market. The transfer is quite good, the eighties film stock used for these cheapies tend not to look great in HD in my opinion, but the image holds up surprisingly well, considering the soft-focus cinematography, which tends not to come across as very crisp, but does lend a retro air of authenticity to the proceeding. Colors are strong, skin tones look good and the image is about as crisp as you could hope for considering the soft-focus cinematography. 


Bonus content includes an Audio Commentary with Director Michael Laughlin and Writer William Condon recorded in separate sessions and stitched together seamlessly to provide a fun, anecdotal and well-rounded track that is sure to please fans of the movie. There's also a trailer for the movie and an isolated score highlighting the fun sci-fi score from John Addison, who scored Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain (1966). Additionally there's an 8 pg. booklet with new writing on the film from Twilight Time staff writer Julie Kirgo, who is always a wealth of insight and perspective.  


Special Features: 
- Isolated Score Track 
- Audio Commentary with Director Michael Laughlin and Writer William Condon
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- 8 Page Booklet with new writing on the film from Julie Kirgo 

Director Michael Laughlin also directed the equally bizarre retro-horror shocker Strange Behavior (a.k.a Dead Kids), a movie that also falls into a weird '50s style sense of place and atmosphere, he had intended a third movie in a series of "Strange" movies, but after this one tanked at the cinema that failed to come to fruition, which is unfortunate, I love these movies, they're strange and I am not at all surprised they failed to draw a large audience, but in retrospect I think these have found a home in the annals of cinema as proper cult-classics, and I would have loved to have a third and final installment in his planned trilogy of "strange" movies.3/5

BREEDERS (1986)

BREEDERS (1986) 
Label: Olive Films
Region Code: A
Duration: 77 Minutes
Rating: Unrated 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Video: 1080pHD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Directeor: Tim Kincaid
Cast: Lance Lewman, Teresa Farley, Frances Raines, Natalie O’Connell

In Manhattan young women are being viciously raped by an alien creature whom can appear as anyone. In several of the cases the victims were accosted my a trusted male friend. The women are left traumatized and suffering a strange form of memory loss, covered in their own vaginal blood and a black seminal fluid left behind by the rapey creature from another world. Investigating the growing number of strange rapes are Dr. Gamble Pace (Teresa Farley, Bad Girls Dormitory)  and Detective Dale Androtti (Lance Lewman), two of the more wide-eyed and awful actors in recent memory. Lewman is way too young to be a detective while the big-haired Farley delivers her lines with the conviction of an oak plank, you can just imagine a cue card being held just off screen as she blankly reads the dialogue, so thankfully gay-porn director Tim Kincaid (Robot Holocaust) stuffs the movie with copious amounts of nudity. Each of the women of are raped in short order by the vinyl-gloved, bug-eyed alien, and the set-up for each attack are straight-up ridiculous, my favorite being when a model undresses and performs a 10-minute nude stretching exercise before the alien arrives for some forced-love intimacy. 

The performances from the cast are uniformly awful, but the pretty faces and copious amounts of nudity do make up for these shortcomings. About every ten minutes or so there's a woman on screen in various states of undress, they're interrupted by a male friend who hideously transforms into the bug-eyed alien, the women are raped and for the next ten minutes the doc and the detective try to figure out what the fudge is happening to the women of Manhattan, piecing together that all the victims were virgins at the time of the attacks.

The finale takes place in the sub-basement of the hospital near on an abandoned track of NYC subway where the victims have congregated, drawn to the location as if under alien-hypnosis. They're nude and gathered in a knee-deep nest of alien cum,the women are aggressively slathering the milky white fluid over their bodies while posing with a look on their faces that falls somewhere inbetween confusion and seduction, very silly stuff. The gore, like everything else in the movie, is way cheap but fun, I loved the toothy vagina-faced hybrid alien that appears towards the end of the movie, it is only slightly worse than the bug-eyed alien seen throughout the movie, this is one of those movies that is so poorly made that it ends up being charming at the end of the day. Breeders (1986) is an awful movie, a slice of b-movie trash loaded with nudity and corny sci-fi horror elements, if you love bad cinema this is a gleeful blast of awfulness straight outta the eighties. 

Audio/Video: The b-movie shit fest Breeders arrives on Blu-ray for the first time from distributor Olive Films and it looks surprisingly crisp in HD! Skin tones are a little on the cooler side but there's some nice fine detail and modest depth to the image, it can be a bit on the grainy side during the night scenes, but I love me some grain, and I will take it over an aggressive digital-scrubbing any day of the week.  The English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is solid, coming through clean, crisp and nicely balanced through and through. The only extra on the disc is an HD trailer for the movie. while it is a bare-bones disc Olive have won me over with the quality A/V presentation.  

Special Features:
- Trailer (2 Mins) HD 

This is a classic b-movie shit fest from the eighties, an awful alien-rape movie loaded with copious amounts of nudity, wooden acting and low-grade gore. If you have a craving for eighties schlock cinema this one delivers the goods through and through, a must-own for b-movie fans of sci-fi schlock and rapey alien terror. 2/5
  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS (2015)

BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS (2015)

Label: Scream Factory

Release Date: November 3rd 2015 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 84 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Brian James O'Connell
Cast: Joey Kern, Pedro Pascal, Yvette Yates, Emma Fitzpatrick, Fran Kranz, Joel Murray


Director Brian James O'Connell's movie Bloodsucking Bastards is a fun bloodsucking office horror-comedy that comes off as Fright Night by way of Office Space with a solid cast who do a superb job of getting across what it must be like working in a soul-draining cubicle job under the unnatural fluorescent lights doing phone sales. These guys are selling awful products to consumers over the phone who should know better. None of them seem particularly good at their career choice, they're more preoccupied with staying late and watching Internet porn or playing violent video games on the company's high speed Internet. The lone exception might be Evan (Fran Kranz, Cabin in the Woods) who is bucking for a promotion from the boss, Ted (Joel Murray, God Bless America), who keeps dangling that promotional carrot in front of Evan, hinting he might just be next in line for a management position. However, Evan is not exactly having a great week, the office human resources manager Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick) has just dumped him when the poor guy couldn't return the "I love you" she lobbed his way the night before. It is a cringe-worthy scene when he freezes up and doesn't respond appropriately, poor bastard.

It get exponentially worse when the boss calls a meeting with the entire staff to announce the new promotion. Evan firmly believes he will land the promotion, and much to his shock and dismay the manager position is awarded to an outsider named  Max (Pedro Pascal). A slimy go-getter, worse is that he and Evan are former rivals, he's a shark of a character, a bit too smooth, too condescending and someone that is easy to loathe. On the other hand Evan is a guy you want to succeed, he's a nice guy with a good heart, but things just do not seem to be going his way. 


Over the course of the next few days strange things begin to occur around the office. At first a new intern disappears while taking out the trash, which no one seems to take not of. More concerning is when the office pushover becomes an alpha male, and the nice girl turns into a sexually aggressive vamp. After that the telemarketers become lifeless office drones... even more so than before. Evan quickly catches on to the fact that something supernatural is afoot in the office, and the new manager Max seems to be the blood draining culprit behind it all, leaving Evan, his best friend Tim (Joey Kern), and the energy drink-fueled security guard to get to the bottom of it all, with bloody results.

Special Features

- Gag Reel
- Behind The Scenes (Bloodsucking Bastards On Set)
- Audio Commentary With Dr. God Comedy Troupe Including Director Brian James O'Connell, Producer/Actor Justin Ware, Writer/Actor Sean Cowhig, Actor Neil W. Garguilo and Actor David F. Park

This is truly funny stuff, the office setting is a nice spin on vamps, and the blood-draining and life-sucking humor meshes well with the whole nine to five drone schtick. The humor is witty but not too wink-wink, if you know what I mean. It worked for me in a way that kept me entertained for eighty-four minutes, which is the perfect length, it did't wear out the welcome. If you can imagine Summer of Blood 92014) by way of Clockwatchers (1997) I think you will have a pretty keen idea what to expect with this one, plus the added benefit of some sweet gore throughout. A pretty well-balanced mesh of humor, horror and gore,though maybe a bit too light on the horror for hardcore horror fans, but if you are looking for laughs you're covered, this is bloody good fun. 3.5/5

Saturday, October 24, 2015

PUPPET MASTER 4 (1993)

PUPPET MASTER 4 (1993)
Label: Full Moon Features
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: R
Duration: 79 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Diolby Digital 5.1 Surround 
Video: 1080p HD Widecsreen 
Director: Jeff Burr
Cast: Chandra West, Jason Adams, Teresa Hill, Gordon Currie, Guy Rolfe

The fourth installment of the Puppet Master series is directed by Jeff Burr whom a few years earlier directed the maligned Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1990) which I actually quite enjoy quite a lot, but the man also directed Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings  (1994) which has grown on me in recent years, still not great, but not straight-up awful wither. The film opens in an other dimensional netherworld where we are introduced to a rubbery Egyptian demon Lord named Sutekh and his trio of jawas looking minions adorned in robes with glowing red eyes. The demon Lord has declared war on those whom have stolen his secret of animation, namely Andrew Toulon who died in the first movie, but in the years since others have carried on his work, namely Rick Meyers (Gordon Currie, The Woods), a genius level researcher working for the Phoenix Division of the Omega Project which aims to develop military applications A.I.. Coincidentally he just so happens to work as the off season curator of the very familiar Bodega Bay Inn, Toulon's old stomping grounds, and is on the verge discovering Toulon's puppets and life giving elixir.  


Sutekh sends his trio of Gremlin-like creatures called Totems to the Earthly plane, the pint-sized terrors  are controlled by his jawa-esque minions, each delivered in a wooden case to the three researchers involved with the project, Dr. Piper (Stacie Randall, Ghoulies IV), Dr. Baker (Felton Perry, Robocop) and Rick at the Bodega Bay Inn. Dr. Piper is the first unlucky recipient of the deadly package and is terrorized by the Totem in a manner that specifically pays homage to the Zulu fetish doll segment of Trilogy of Terror (1975) and then of Cat's Eye (1985) when the creature sucks the life from her mouth and eyes with wispy Army of Darkness opening credit style animations, not the most original stuff but pretty entertaining.

Similarly Dr. Baker received a Totem dies soon after.

Back at Bodega Bay young prodigy Rick spends his time playing laser tag with experimental robots in an attempt to gauge and encourage them to react autonomously, to transcend their programming an exhibit true A.I. His war-games are interrupted when his girlfriend Susan (Chandra West, The Salton Sea) shows up with her red-haired psychic friend Lauren (Teresa Hill, Bio-Dome) in tow alongside her moussed-up 80's asshole boyfriend Cameron (Ash Adams, A Nightmare on Elm Street). Turns out that Cameron is a former schoolmate of Rick's as well as a current member of the Phoenix Division, he's previously unaware that Rick is the lead researcher on the very project he works for. 

After dinner that night Lauren notices the puppet Blade which Rick has previously discovered at the Inn, she stares at the puppet intensely, definitely getting a psychic vibe from the still secretly animated puppet. Later that night the group discover Toulon's trunk and open it despite Lauren's protests. Inside they find Toulon's journals, the remaining puppets Six-Shooter, Jester, Tunneler and Pinhead plus the animating serum. Reading through the journals they decide to attempt to reanimate the puppets, and do so successfully. Both researchers quickly realize that the serum could prove to be the key to A.I. and Cameron immediately begins to devise a plan steal the serum and take credit for the discover. He and Lauren use a mystical wiiji board of sorts found in Toulon's drunk to reach out to the spirit of former puppet master but instead open a gate to the netherworld summoning two Totems. Not long after the third Totem is mysteriously delivered at the Inn's doorstep and it's game on as the four battle for their lives against the creatures with the help of the puppets who in the grand Frankenstein tradition bring to life one of Toulon's unfinished creations, the new puppet Decapitator!

I rather enjoyed this installment of the franchise which kind of reads like a reboot of the series with the addition of the demonic Sutekh and his minions, it's all fun stuff and the more occult elements reminded me a bit of Beastmaster. The spirit of Toulon (Guy Rolfe, Dolls) appears to both the Puppets and Rick throughout the film, often morphing with the head of Decapitator, that I didn't enjoy quite so much. The puppet animations this time around weren't on par with a few of the earlier films but there are some very cool action sequences involving the puppets working together to destroy the Totems including a lassoing and electrocution of a creature, the tag team of Six-Shooter and Pinhead holding down one of the creatures while Tunneler burrows into it's chest cavity, and the awakening of the Decapitator who exchanges his silver featureless head for a electron discharging sci-fi ensemble which he uses to destroy the final minion.

The fourth installment of the franchise is good cheesy fun with some decent low-budget effects work and decent acting and while it's not a great film I found it fun and steeped in the now familiar Full Moon atmosphere that I seem to have an affinity for. The new widescreen presentation looks damn good, quite a step up from previous standard def versions I own. Extras on the disc include a vintage Videozone and an audio commentary with director Jeff Burr, if you are a fan of the marionette-horror series this is a no-brainer, get at it. 3/5