Wednesday, June 27, 2018

MIND RIPPER (1995) (88 Films Blu-ray Review)

MIND RIPPER (1995) 
Label: 88 Films
Rating: Certification: 15 
Duration: 95 Minutes
Region Code:
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Joe Gayton 
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Giovanni Ribisi, Natasha Wagner, Claire Stansfield, John Diehl



The straight-to-video 90's horror entry Mind Ripper (195) began life as a Hills Have Eyes sequel set in space, co-written by Wes Craven's son Jonathan and directed by Joe Gayton (Faster) this would-be sequel is set deep in the blistering desert where a clandestine group of government funded scientist have found the body of a would-be suicide clinging to life after having apparently thrown himself from a cliff. They take his ravaged body back to their underground facility and inject with a super-soldier type serum which can regenerate human cells and imbues subjects with superhuman strength and agility, the serum was created by Jim Stockton (Lance Henriksen, Pumpkinhead) whom leaves the project shortly after due to differences in opinion about the unethical nature the project.




A few months after he's left the project it seems that research team leader Alex (John Diehl, National Lampoon's Vacation) has been dangerously upping the virus dosage to the human lab-rat, whom has remained comatose, transforming the formerly scrawny suicide, now dubbed "Thor" (Dan Blom, Tapeheads), into a sinewy muscle-laden beast of man. However, the experiment has turned south as Thor appears to be dying, forcing Alex to call in Stockton, to help save their deadly creation. 



Stockton reluctantly returns to the desert compound along with his surly teen son Scott (Giovanni Ribisi, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), daughter Wendy (Natasha Gregson Wagner, TV's The 4400) and her d-bag horndog boyfriend Mark (Adam Solomon), only to discover that some serious shit has gone down since he was earlier contacted by Alex, who has since been killed by a newly awakened Thor. Now surviving scientists Rob (Gregory Sporleder, The Crazies) and heroine Joanne (Claire Stansfield, TV's Xena: Warrior Princess), must join forces with the Stockton clan to fight for survival against the virus-enhanced Thor in the labyrinth of underground tunnels of the facility.



As a slice of straight-to-video 90's horror this action-y would-be sequel is not very good, but it does have some cheesy appeal, it maintains a teeny-tiny bit of the flavor of the original The Hills Have Eyes film, such as the family fighting against a deadly threat in the desert, and as where the original mutants were victims of unscrupulous nuclear testing this underground facility was former nuclear waste dump site. You can also see remnants of the original script, it beginning life as a Hills Have Eyes In Space sequel, it's been toned-down to a more Earthbound underground facility, and in place of mutants with a taste for human flesh we have a genetically engineered man, the virus inside him deteriorating his body, his eyes change, his ears and hair begin to fall off, not so much craving human flesh as much as an undefined desire for brains, with a dog-dick looking brain-sucking appendage that darts from his vagina/tongue. 




It's all very generic stuff with a few obvious homages to Alien throughout, the special effects done by Image Animation (Hellraiser) look pretty darned good considering this must had an anemic budget, but the gore isn't all that stupendous, but what we get is a bit gruesome, especially the doggy dick/vagina stuff. Lance Henriksen is decent as the dad trying to patch things up with his estranged kids, he's always good, even though he doesn't put a whole lot into this one, but he gets the job done. Future star Giovanni Ribissi (Gangsterland) shows up in an early role the same year as his appearance on the lightning kid on the X-Files, a typical angsty teen with daddy issues, he's annoying and I can't say it's one of those early career moves that makes you take notice of somebody clearly on their way to stardom, but at least he's not as annoying as the daughter and her horn dog boyfriend, so there's that. The least annoying of the non-Heriksen characters are the scientist played by Gregory Sporledeband Claire Stansfield, the latter of whom turns out to be a Ripley inspired heroine. The villain is sort of interesting, sort of sympathetic in a way in a "I never asked for this" sort of way, and a bit of a Terminator in that he's near impossible to kill, showing up mere moments after you think you're rid of him, particularly in the final stretch of the film when he hops from a truck to plane, it's silly but cheaply entertaining, nd it doesn't help that he looks like a long-haired surd dude prior to his balding/earless transformation. 



I didn't love this one, though I was appreciative I was finally able to give it a watch, I didn't know this one existed until just a few years ago, and even then I didn't know about it's origins as a pseudo The Hills Have Eyes sequel. If you're a Craven completest or a Hills Have Eyes aficionado you should give this one watch, just don't expect some lost gem, it's a bit of letdown in that respect.



Audio/Video: Mind Ripper (a.k.a. The Hills Have Eyes III) arrives on region-B locked Blu-ray from 88 Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen, and it look like a mid-90's straight-to-video sequel. Advertised as a transfer from the original negatives it looks decent, grain is present but never intrusive, but the cinematography seems very made-for-TV in its composition and framing, with a lot of unattractive hazy looking shots with poor lighting, some of it bathed it retina burning red lighting that softens the image and obscures detail. It's just not a great looking film, though this is no fault of the transfer itself, it looks like it's probably inherent to the source. 



Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with optional English subtitles, the stereo track is well-balanced and the dialogue is never hard to decipher, the synth score from J. Peter Robinson (Wes Craven's New Nightmare) is pretty bland stuff, but sound as good as can with the lossless presentation. 



The main extra here is a brand new interview with co-screenwriter (and son of Wes Craven) Jonathan Craven who speaks about origins of the script as a third Hills Have Eyes sequel set in space, also speaking about the directors they looked at for the film, including a young Alexander Payne (Sideways), the involvement of pre-infamy O.J and Nicole Simpson, and how the film was shot in post-communist Bulgaria, with stories of drunken location managers, shady drivers and other Bulgarian strangeness. Also discussed is his relationship with his late father and his father's legacy, and what it was like working with him on the film.



The single-disc release comes housed in an over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring the original VHS artwork, and a limited edition slipcover (o-card) plus a booklet with new writing on the film from Dr. Calum Waddell detailing the franchise and putting this would-be third entry in the Hills Have Eyes series in context of the first two film and the remake and it's own sequel (which was scripted by Jonatahan Craven). The only other disc extra is a 2-minute widescreen trailer for the film.  



This title has also been released on Blu-ray in the U.S. by Code Red, while I haven't seen it for the sake of A/V comparison I do know that this release from 88 Films is the only release to have a substantial new extra, that being the 39-minute interview with Craven's son, which is a worthy extras, as where the Code Red release only has the trailer. 



Special Features: 
- HD transfer from the Original Negative
- English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 Audio with Optional English Subtitles
- Stories From the Outpost - An Interview with Producer/Writer, Jonathan Craven (39 mins) HD
- Original Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Reversible Sleeve with Alternate Artwork




Mind Ripper (1995) is a bit of direct-to-video dud but the tenuous link to Craven's The Hills Have Eyes franchise and the participation of Craven himself and his son make this somewhat noteworthy mid-90's DTV horror entry. The 88 Films Blu-ray looks and sounds about as good as this one could with handsome packaging and a notable new extra by way of that Jonathan Craven interview, if you need to own it this movie this is the one to own. 




All the screenshots used for this this review were sourced by me directly from the disc being reviewed, provided to us for the purpose of review by 88 Films. 

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