Saturday, July 21, 2018



 A TASTE OF PHOBIA (2017) - GERMAN ANGST (2015) -  PYEWACKET (2018), 24X36 (2016) - READY PLAYER ONE (2018) - SAVANNAH SMILES (1982) 

We're trying out a new semi-regular weekly capsule review column on the site, I'm calling it The Epitaph, these will be brief summary of recent release we think you ought to know about. Here we go...

A TASTE OF PHOBIA (2017) on DVD from the worldly and adventurous movie lovers over at Artsploitation Films, this fear-exploring anthology features 14 director from around the globe doing shorts based on fears, from the scatological to the psychological, and the more mundane, some with polish and some just looking rough. As with all anthologies this is loaded with a mic that runs the gamut from straight rubbish to rather cool, but you have to be not just a a die-hard anthology fan but also a real fan of lo-fi indie filmmaking, which I happen to be, and even I had a hard time digesting this in one sitting. Not just because some of them are sickening, but the quality wavers throughout, but if you're a fan of lo-fi anthologies this is worth a watch, for all others it might be a bit of slog. If you're on the fence this one is streaming on Amazon right now and free with your Prime subscription. 

GERMAN ANGST (2015) arrives on Blu-ray also from Artsploitation Films, we have three twisted tales from three German directors, most notably Jörg Buttgereit (Nekromantik) who offers up 'Final Girl', a tale of a young girl who seems normal at first, until we see that she has a man tied up and gagged in a room at her apartment, We learn what he's done and why he's there, and let's just say it's not gonna end well for him, nope. A nicely told tale that keeps a mystery about it as it plays out, feeding us back story along the way, and shot with some nice lensing. My favorite of the trio is the second film entitled 'Make a Wish' about a Polish deaf and mute couple who are exploring an abandoned warehouse when they are attacked by a group of skinhead neo-Nazis. This one involves a talisman that allows for body transference which makes an interesting twist to the story. This one also has some great flashbacks to the WWII era ancestors of the mute man, for a low-budget short it looks fairly convincing, this one is sort of like a nightmare version of the Freaky Friday but with murderous skinheads. The last one comes from Andreas Marschall (Masks), 'Alraune" is the story of a man seeking heightened sexual thrills which he finds at a bizarre underground sex-club, but he finds he may have gotten involved with something more sinister than he could have imagined, and he's right! This one is the most gruesome of the bunch with some Lovecraftian nods and tentacled weirdness. As a whole this was a more concise and entertaining anthology than the A Taste of Phobia disc, if it comes down to just one I say go with this one - this one is also streaming on Amazon Video and free for Prime members.

PYEWACKET (2018) on Blu-ray from IFC Midnight/Scream Factory, this team-up that doesn't always knock it out of the park in my opinion but occasionally they'll wow me with something like The Autopsy of Jane Doe or The Devil's Candy, and along the lines of the latter we have Pyewacket, a film that spells out exactly why you shouldn't dabble in the dark arts, it's almost always bad news. A young girl and her mom each grieve for their late father/husband in different ways, mom turns to drink while the daughter turns to black metal and occult dabbling, but when she summons a spirit to kill her mother after a spat things go all screwy. The rural setting and spooky vibe of this one gave me goosebumps, who hasn't wished their parents dead at some point when they were teens, but not many of us went out to the woods and performed a satanic ritual to make it happen? Highly recommended, loved the special effects used to achieve the demonic presence, super-creepy. 

24X36: A MOVIE ABOUT MOVIE POSTERS (2016) is on DVD only from Filmrise and the MVD Entertainment Group, a doc about movie posters, duh. The title references the dimensions of a traditional one-sheet movie poster, there's discussion of the inception of lithography in 1798 and how that lead to movie posters, with talking heads including Joe Dante,  fawning over classic illustrators and painters who made the classic vintage movie posters we all love, stuff from Philip Castle (A Clockwork Orange), Albery Kallis (Creature from the Black Lagoon), Reynold Brown (Attack of the 50 Foot Woman), Bob Peak (Superman: The Movie), John Alvin (Blade Runner), Roger Kastel (Star Wars), Richard Amsel (The Dark Crystal) and others. The first half of the film is an appreciation of the vintage stuff, the second half deals with the decline of poster illustration in favor of the floating heads photoshop style that permeated the nineties and aughts, and still does sadly. It concludes with the rise of Mondo and the new-style of collectible poster art, which I don't find nearly as interestibg as the vintage stuff, and they spend a bit too much time talking about properly licensing the properties, or not as the case may be. I wanted more vintage stories from the masters, but even so I think this is a fascinating doc, even if you don't collect movie posters, just as someone who grew up watching films there's something here to love, and some of the stories are great, like Roger Kastel speaking about riffing on the Gone with the Wind poster for his The Empire Strikes back poster, and the story of Guillermo Del Toro commissioning Drew Struzan to do his Hellboy poster only to have the studio pull back on it.  

READY PLAYER ONE (2018) gets the 4K treatment from Warner Bros., this Spielberg movie proves he's still got the magic, a nostalgic slice of pop culture-porn based on the Ernest Cline novel. Set in the dystopian future virtual gamer Wade Watts seeks a series on Easter Eggs hidden away by the creator of the virtual gamer world the OASIS, whoever finds them all first will inherent the creators fortune, and indeed the entire virtual world, but he must contend with corporate baddies Innovative Online Industries (IOI), headed by Nolan Sorrento. A fun and spirited gamer fantasy/adventure film, this one relies heavily on 80's nostalgia, and I was won over immediately. Any film that brings me the Iron Giant, Mechagodzilla, the Delorian from Back to the Future and cameos from Freddy Kruger and Chucky from Child's Play (along with hundreds of others!) is bound to be an entertaining slice of pop-culture,, I loved it and it looks and sounds great in 4K, of special note the tribute to Kubrick's The Shining was hands down the best part of the movie for me, so good.  

SAVANNAH SMILES (1982) is the last one this week, the 80's heartwarming comedy comes to Blu-ray/DVD combo from MVD Entertainment Group as part of their phenomenal MVD Rewind Collection. This story of a lovable little girl who fed up with feeling neglected by her careerist parents stows away in the back of a car at the park that turns out to be driven by a  pair of bumbling thieves who luckily for her turn out to have kind hearts. That however doesn't stop them from taking advantage of the situation with a hair-brained ransom plan. Poor Bridgette Andersen died far too young in real-life, but this kid friendly kidnap film is a testament to her talent, the kid still makes me smile and laugh, so damn adorable. Notably this movie was the first film to ever make me cry as a kid, I remember being nine years old and watching it on the TV, during the final scene tears started streaming down my face and I could not understand why I was crying, not yet old enough to understand the power of cinema, even a semi-cheesy kids film like this one! The film get an HD release from the only surviving elements, the HD image looks a bit iffy in spots, no so much because of the transfer but because of the condition of the elements, it's rough looking, but MVD go all-out with a slew of extras, we get an audio commentary, a making of doc, interview with the composer and a heartbreaking look back at the young actress with her mother. The 2-disc release includes a fold-out mini poster and limited edition slipcover. 

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