Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blu-ray Review: THE EXTERMINATOR (1980)

Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: 18 Certificate
Duration: 102 mins
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1), 1080p HD
Audio: Uncompressed LPCM Mono Audio with Option Subtitles
Director: James Glickenhaus Cast: Robert Ginty, Christopher George, Steve James, Samantha Eggar, David Lipmann
Tagline: If You're Lying I'll Be Back

THE EXTERMINATOR opens during the Vietnam war with a fiery explosion, it's an enormous APOCALYPSE NOW worthy fireball that sends soldier John Eastland (Robert Ginty, COP TARGET) tumbling through the air. Eastland's on patrol with his squad when they come under fire from heavily-armed VC troops. John and the other soldiers, including Michael Jefferson (Steve James, VIGILANTE), are taken hostage by the Viet Cong who tie the men to wooden stakes. They're interrogated for information about a forthcoming strike and when the answers don't come as easily as one VC commander would like he takes a razor-sharp machete and slices the throat of one of the men as if it were warm butter, it's nearly a complete decapitation, his head flops to one side as if on a hinge, it's almost comical in it's gruesomeness, his mouth agape in silent scream. Major props to the late great special effects man Stan Winston who created an entire animated human body for that one, it's jaw-dropping stuff.

During the commotion Michael is able to slip free of his binds and get the better of a VC soldier, commandeering his firearm and mowing down the enemy captors. It's a great pre-credit 'Nam sequence complete with napalm strafing and machine gun fire, it's chaos and it makes for a briefly epic intro that really amps up the film right from the get-go. A helicopter evacs the soldiers and the film seamlessly transitions to an arial view of the New York skyline sometime later. John and Mike are now employed at a warehouse, it ain't the good life but it's a life, the pay is shit but as they say - it's a job. When John and Michael catch a trio of punks from the Ghetto Ghouls gang attempting to heist some beer from the warehouse they intercede and kick some major ass, the punks just don't stand a chance against the seasoned 'Nam vets. However, the punks have their revenge later that day when they ambush Michael on his way to have a brewski with Eastland. They brutalize him with chains and a meat-hook which they sink into his spine leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

While Michael convalesces at the hospital Eastland cannot simply abide this injury to his best friend, the man who saved his life in 'Nam, and swears vengeance against the thugs who crippled Michael. Kidnapping one of the gang he interrogates hims with a flamethrower, after squeezing the info from the punk he tracks the remaining trio to abandoned building where they're partying with whores to the beat of The Trammps "Disco Inferno". Eastland blasts one of 'em dead and quickly incapacitates the remaining two, leaving them tied to a garbage strewn floor where the infamously large NYC rats make quick work of 'em, killing one outright and horribly disfiguring the other.

His streak of vigilante justice doesn't end with the Ghetto Ghouls and he next sets his sights on Gino Pontivini, a mafioso who collects protection money from the warehouse Eastland works for. In an elaborate scheme Eastland awaits the mobster in the bathroom trashcan of a restaurant, drugs Pontivini and takes him to a warehouse where he suspends him from the ceiling with chains directly over an industrial sized meat grinder. Pontivini desperate for his life after a quick demonstration of the machine, tells Eastland the location of the safe at his home and gives him the keys to the security alarm. Eastland tells the mobster "If you're lying I'll be back" and leaves him suspended in the warehouse. He enters the kingpin's property and is promptly attacked by a vicious Doberman barely escaping with his life by carving the canine with an electric knife. After securing the cash, which he intends to give to Michael's family, he returns to the warehouse and he wordlessly lowers the shrieking mafioso into the grinder feet first, apparently pissed that Pontivini neglected to mention the ravenous canine surprise that awaited him.

The crimes eventually catch the attention of the NYPD and detective James Dalton (Christopher George, PIECES, CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD) whom takes a particular interest in the string of vigilante crimes. He starts to piece together that the acts are the work of a singular man, but he's not the only one to put two and two together. A CIA spook named Shaw (Patrick Farrelly, TH NESTING) is brought in to dispose of the could-be political threat discreetly when local politician's fear Eastland's one-man crusade to burn the scum off the streets of NYC will have an adverse affect on incumbent politicians re-election campaigns. In the 80's it was either crooked politicians or toxic waste and usually both, gotta love it.

THE EXTERMINATOR is a film I recall seeing on the VHS shelf many times at my favorite mom and pop video store as a youth but somehow it's eluded my grasp until now. I guess in hindsight I was more into zombie and slasher films at that age, not so much the revenge exploitation or action stuff but if I knew then what I'd be depriving my future self of all these years later I goddamn well would have picked it up. It's not so much that this is an original film, but it is a well-crafted actioner with some real horror elements, it's a very complete exploitation package.

The film is really one of the grittiest exploitation actioners I've ever seen, it's downright disturbing, particularly when Eastland lays the pain down on a child prostitution ring featuring a pervy senator played by David Lipman (TV's LAW AND ORDER) who get his kicks by dipping a hot soldiering iron into a vat of vaseline and burning the flesh of prostitutes and young boys, it's pretty disgusting stuff and we don't even see him actually doing it, just the setting up of the pre-burn scenario made my skin crawl. It's pure revenge nirvana as Eastland takes down the ring with extreme prejudice.

Robert Ginty didn't seem an immediately obvious choice for someone on a one-man revenge streak, it seemed more likely that the badass character of Michael played by Steve James would be but it's a nice twist and Ginty turns out to be one of the silver screens most memorable one-man revengers. Also making a great appearance is the always enjoyable Christopher George as Detective Dalton. The man sweetens every film he's ever been in, and his performance here is no different. He's got a few fun foibles like a jury-rigged lamp wired to two forks that he cooks up hotdogs with, fun stuff. Dalton is given a love interest in the film by way of Dr. Megan Stewart (Samantha Eggar, THE BROOD) and while the two enjoy a Stan Getz concert in the park it is revealed that he too served in 'Nam and his character seems to serve as view of a 'Nam vet whose life has gone a bit differently in contrast to his driven-to-vengeance counterpart.

Eventually we know that the paths of Dalton, Shaw and The Exterminator must converge and you just know it's packed with squib rupturing exploitation action with 'Nam sized explosions - it does not disappoint. The film is not perfect by any means, structurally there's some rough narrative shortcuts, funky editing and the occasional bad bit of dialogue but for the most part, and where it counts, this is a visceral stunner of a revenge film.

Director James Glickenhaus has created not just a gory and violent revenge film but an authentic slice of New York City cinema that evokes a darker, meaner city that's long gone, the golden age of the 42nd street grindhouse, pimps, prostitutes and rampant drug use. See it here and in films like Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER because it just ain't there anymore, for better or worse. It's a great looking film and Arrow Video's  HD transfer does it proper justice.

Just a few years later producer Mark Buntzman would write and direct a sequel to the film starring Robert Ginty but without the assistance of director Glickenhaus who would only direct six more films before settling into the role of producer on such films as William Lustig's MANIAC COP (review HERE)  and Frank Henenlotter's FRANKENHOOKER (review HERE) and BASKET CASE 2, 3 before leaving the film industry all together. I would highly recommend you also take in a viewing of Glickenhaus's 'Nam vet actioner MCBAINE (review HERE) starring the one and only Christopher Walken, it's a thing of absurd beauty. This viewing has really whet my appetite to also check Glickenhaus's THE SOLDIER with Ken Wahl. If you dear reader have seen any of his others films and have any strong suggestions please send 'em my way.

Blu-ray: Arrow Video's Blu-ray of THE EXTERMINATOR presents the film in glorious 1080p in it's original aspect ratio of 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1). I'm quite happy to tell you that for a 31 year old film the transfer is clean and mostly free of print damage, colors are vibrant, flesh tones appear accurate and the black levels are typically very good. It doesn't look like much if any DNR has been applied either and the grain is quite noticeable during the darker scenes, particularly the pre-credit and opening credits sequence but it's not problematic. I always say give me some grain; I prefer it to the plasticine effects of a shitty DNR scrubbing.

The lone audio option is an English language Uncompressed LPCM mono track with optional English subtitles. While not overly dynamic the mono fares quite well with no distortion and is free of hiss, snap, crackle and pop, dialogue, score and effcets sound quite good.
Special features begin with a short video introduction from director James Glickenhaus. After that we get more fom Glickenhaus with the Fire and Slice: Making The Exterminator featurette, an 18 min interview with the director with clips from the film. The director discusses his inspiration for the film,the treatment of 'Nam vets returning from the war, casting the film, Christopher George and even compares his films to the songs of Bob Dylan - huh?

Next up is 42nd Street Then and Now: A tour of New York's former sleaze circuit from director Frank Henenlotter. Henenlotter, the director of BASKET CASE, FRANKENHOOKER and BAD BIOLOGY, the man is such a character as he guides us through the former sleaze circuit known as 42nd Street. He guides us through the history of the location's infamous from their golden age of grand theatre productions to burlesque houses, grindhouse cinema and hardcore pornography outlets right on through to the Disney-fication of the area in the 90's. It's fun stuff, the man's enthusiasm for sleaze is awe inspiring and were even treated to an impromptu blockhead routine, awesome stuff.

The last feature is an audio commentary with producer Mark Buntzman moderated by Calum Waddell who really keeps the conversation going, great stuff. The Synapse disc of the film features an commentary with Glcikenhaus so it was nice to hear another fine track for the film. Buntzman is also the writer/director of THE EXTERMINATOR II and his insights into both productions are pretty great and as usual High Rising Productions extras only serve to enhance the enjoyment of the film.

My early screener of the Blu-ray did not include the ephemeral wonderment that Arrow Video are known for, including the reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Tom 'The Dude Designs' Hodges, a double-sided fold-out artwork poster or collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by critic David Hayles. That said, I love the Tom Hodges artwork for the release, it's mighty magnificent and vibrantly appropriate.

Special Features:
- Introduction to the film by director James Glickenhaus (0:18) 16:9 HD
- Fire and Slice: Making The Exterminator - An interview with James Glickenhaus (18:36) 16:9 HD
- 42nd Street Then and Now: A tour of New York's former sleaze circuit from director Frank Henenlotter (15:07) 16:9 HD
- Audio commentary with Mark Buntzman, producer of The Exterminator and writer/director of The Exterminator II, moderated by Calum Waddell.

Verdict: THE EXTERMINATOR is simply one of the most enjoyable early-80's revenger I've seen in some time - it's pretty fantastic stuff. A seriously gritty exploitation-revenge actioner that deserves a place in the collection of any cult, exploitation or horror enthusiast worth their salt. This is a recommend of the must-have variety, you need to own this! Need further proof? The typically hysterical 80's era Roger Ebert once called the film as a "sick example of the almost, unbelievable descent into gruesome savagery in American movies"... shit, I couldn't have said it better myself. 4 outta 5

Monday, November 28, 2011



LABEL: Left Films LTD
RATING: 18 Certificate
DURATION: 82 mins
AUDIO: Dolby Digital Stereo
VIDEO: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
DIRECTOR: Rene Perez
CAST: David A. Lockhart, Camille Montgomery, Rick Mora, Robert Amstler
TAGLINE: It's Clint Eastwood meets George Romero as undead, flesh-eating gun-slingers roam the Wild West.

The year is 1849 and Mortimer (David A. Lockhart, MINTY THE ASSASSIN) is a bounty hunter in the old west on the trail of a Native American named Brother Wolf (Rick Mora, TWILIGHT) who stands accused of raping a white virgin, as opposed to a virgin of non-Caucasian persuasion. Morty arrives in the town of Jameson and promptly  buys himself a would-be blonde bride by the name of Rhiannon (Camille Montgomery) from a shady entrepreneur selling "hostesses, not whores". He has no intention of marrying her but instead takes her to the highlands and stakes her to the ground in an effort to draw Brother Wolf down from the hills, you know, by the allure of a feisty white woman to rape, how could he possibly resist, natch. The portrayal of Brother Wolf is your stereotypically stoic, white woman raping native American, the only thing missing was perhaps for him to shed a lone tear at the site of someone littering in the town square. This may sound like an incredibly lame plan of capture the "villain" but it works (of course) and Morty escorts the white virgin-raper back to town.

At about the same time two local yokels mining for gold discover a meteorite embedded in the earth. The meteor emits an unearthly green glow, the two suppose there must be wealth of emeralds inside and schlep the hefty space rock back to town where a crowd of curious onlookers gather around for a look-see. When one of the miners takes a sledgehammer to the rock it ruptures and spews forth a cloud of green spores which infect everyone, turning them into ravenous, fast-moving zombies. The creatures head for the hills where they prove to be quite a nuisance to Morty, Brother Wolf and Rhiannon.

This zombie-western is not too shabby a premise for an indie horror film, it's an appealing genre mash-up in concept, but the execution lacks passion. Not helping the production is that the sets look like they were built yesterday, they're  super-flimsy, and they lacked that dusty, rustic aesthetic that sells westerns, there's just no atmosphere here. It's also hamstrung by some pretty amateur acting. Star Lockhart starts off strong as the silent but deadly gunslinger type but as soon as the dialogue spills forth from his lips it's game over, it's a terrible accent. That said, it's the only decent accent in the bunch. There's a lot of CGI blood in this film, nothing takes the piss outta a zombie flick like a shitty digital headshot. Note to the effects team, bullets don't spark when they strike a tree, they splinter, just saying. The film wants to be an action-packed zombie genre mash-up but the action sequences are poorly executed, it's very flat, case in point a protracted shootout at the top of the film. The nail in the coffin is a very flaccid final 3rd that gets bogged down in needless back story and exposition, it was too little too late by this point and I was quickly losing interest.

On the plus side the film has some decent cinematography, plus a few bits gratuitous nudity, otherwise known as the ace up the sleeve of indie horror, it didn't save the film bit it didn't hurt either. Not sure where this was shot but the rolling hills, open plains and lush forests provided some gorgeous scenery, a great backdrop. The non-period rock soundtrack features tunes ranging from Southwestern tinged rock to eerie mood pieces, great stuff but the film doesn't live up to either the score or the cinematography.

DVD: The film is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital stereo sound, no subtitles are offered. The image looks decent, it's a bit soft and lack fine detail, but well lit with some good lensing. The score and effects fare well in the mix but the dialogue is uneven and suffers a bit. Special features include the UK trailer and a stills gallery.

- UK Trailer (0:45) 16:9
- Stills Gallery (0:37)

VERDICT: I've actually watched this movie once before under the alternate title of THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED as it's known here in the US and I must say that the second watch did little to improve my opinion of the film. COWBOYS AND ALIENS promises a zombie-western mash-up where Eastwood meets Romero but it fails to deliver. Not an outright terrible film, there's promise here, but the pieces just don't fall into place. While I would probably check out director Rene Perez's next film this one has no rewatch value for me (though I've seen it twice) so I say skip it and/or wait for it to air on Syfy or Chiller. 1.5 outta 5

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Label: MVD Entertainment
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 66 mins
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Jordan Downey
Cast: Lance Predmore, Lindsey Anderson, Aaron Carlson, Ryan Francis, Natasha Cordova, Chuck "Dead Body Guy" Lamb, General Bastard, Wanda Lust
Tagline: Gobble Gobble Motherfucker!

Of all the really lame holiday themed slasher films it's Thanksgiving day that's been given short shrift thru the ages; all the other festivities seem to be covered, including Mother's Day. Other than Eli Roth's THANKSGIVING I can't think of a single turkey day themed horror film though I'm sure there's one or two of 'em out there, there must be. Director Jordan Downey's THANKSKILLING is a gloriously low-budget possessed turkey slasher wherein a maniacal fowl named "Turkie" is resurrected when a dog commiserates upon it's grave which is marked by a mini totem pole. The fowl-mouthed bird runs amok and lays into five college kids who happen upon it's stalking grounds.

These kids are your average stereotypical college bunch; there's joe sport (Johnny), the hillbilly neanderthal (Billy), the dimwitted slut (Ally), the seething nerd (Darren) and the good girl (Kristen) all of whom head out on the road to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, but the demon-possessed Turkie has other things in mind for the group when their Jeep breaks down enroute to their destination. Making the most of a bad situation the teens party it up 'round a campfire where Darren tells the tale of "one of the most notorious moments in pilgrim history" where a disgruntled native American Shaman cast a curse upon the Pilgrims of the first Thanksgiving dinner, he necromanced a turkey who return is said to return every 505 years and kills the first white people he encounters, and wouldn't you just know it it, tonight it's been 505 years exactly.

Going in you need to know that this is super low-budget film, not even rising to the ranks of a well made indie flick. This is a pure 80's era Troma-esque no-budget warts and production. A well-made, really bad movie is something to cherish and this film delivers at every turn, it is indeed extremely terrible but also terribly awesome just the same. That said, while being low-budget the composition is not completely terrible, this is a very watchable film. You know going in that producer Kevin Stewart and director Jordan Downey knew what they were creating, it's a very tongue-in-cheek send-up of slasher cliches set to the backdrop of Thanksgiving, if the killer were not a fowl-mouthed turkey you'd be hard-pressed to tell it were a Thanksgiving themed film honestly. 

The humor is campy, childish and sometimes vile - just the way I like it. For example, the film's goofy sheriff is sitting at the breakfast nook and after a sip of his coffee does a spit-take and exclaims to his soon to be estranged wife "that coffee tastes like shit! What'd you do take a dump in it?". The answer of course is yes as she swirls the pot of coffee revealing a turd inside, that's the level of humor you're in store for here folks, so brace yourselves. Our fiendish turkey is chock full of eye-rolling one-liners like a feathered Freddy Kreuger, seriously punny stuff like "I'm gonna drink your blood like cranberry sauce", "you've been stuffed"and "gobble gobble motherfucker".

The acting is uniformly terrible throughout, these are obviously friends and/or family of the director. The special effects are pretty shitty too and like I said the puns are truly awful but the film is actually one heck of a fun watch, sure the killer turkey is a novel idea but it's pretty awesome. What's not to love about a film that begins with a flashback to the first Thanksgiving with a topless Pilgrim-ette being chased through the forest by a killer turkey, add to that deliciously bad one-linersmand Turkie peeling off some one's face Hannibal Lecter styler and wearing it - that's just awesome. Definitely destined to be a cult film favorite for lovers of bad cinema.

DVD: THANKSKILLING gets a 16:9 enhanced 1.85:1 presentation from MVD Entertainment Group and definitely looks like a film shot for $3,500 - it's pretty poor looking but it's shittiness is complimentary to it's cheesiness. Muted color, poor black levels, flat image - like I said, not great. The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is not anything to crow about either but is serviceable; dialogue, score and effects sound pretty good. Special Features include a fun audio commentary with producer Kevin Stewart and director Jordan Downey, a blooper Reel (5:38), photo gallery (1:07) and a fan-made song about the film.  

Verdict: Just so we're on the same page this review is not late it's actually really early, okay? THANKSKILLING is a bad film, there's no way around it, but it rises above it's shit-poor production values with camp, crude-humor and schlocky bad movie might, this is cinema fromage of the highest order. Next Thanksgiving after you've stuffed yourself with turkey, yams and pumpkin pie I say toss down a few brews with THANKSKILLING on the tube and enjoy it before you slip into that tryptophan coma, it's definitely gonna be a perennial Turkey Day favorite alongside TRAINS, PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES at my house from here on in. 3 outta 5

I would also recommend you check out the film's website at - it's very interactive site and offers up a lot of fun for those who enjoy the film including videos, contest, message boards and posters.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DVD Review: DARK AGE (1987)

DARK AGE (1987)
Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Rating: MA 15+
Region Code: ALL NTSC
Duration: 90mins
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0
Video:16:9 Widescreen (1.77:1)
Director:Arch Nicholson
Cast: John Jarratt, Nikki Coghill, Max Phipps, Burnam Burnam, David Gulpilil, Ray Meager
Tagline: Death is only one bite away.

It was director Mark Hartley's insanely fun Ozploitation documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (2009) where I first caught a glimpse of the killer croc feature DARK AGES (1987) and it's 20ft. plastic man-eating crocodile, it's since been on my radar. I love bad cinema, creature features and Ozploitation films and this looked to be all three in one so I knew straight away that I must watch this film sooner than later. Well, it turned out it would be quite a bit later before I would actually catch up with the film and not through my own volition either. As luck would have it the film practically fell into my lap this week when Aussie film distributor Umbrella Entertainment were kind enough to send along a screener of their recently released DVD edition for review. Very cool, but was it worth the wait?
Well, I'm not the only one that's been waiting to see this Aussie eco-horror gem either, until quite recently, the film has never enjoyed a theatrical or DVD release in it's homeland. The delay stems from a rights issues. It seems the film's original Aussie distributor Avco Embassy went belly-up just prior to the film's initial release and the rights holder wanted a ton o' cash to free it up for distro, so the Aussie's have been waiting 14 freaking years for it. Whom better to bring the film to the Aussies than Umbrella Entertainment, a very cool Australian genre film distributor. If you haven't heard of 'em, I've reviewed a handful of their titles on the blog and I highly recommend their OZPLOITATION boxsets, they have three volumes and each is packed with cult Ozploitation horror and genre film oddness.

In the film John Jarratt (WOLF CREEK) portrays Northern Territory wildlife ranger Steve Harris, a real eco-friendly kinda guy with aims to conserve the land down under's dwindling crocodile population from the threat of poachers. One poacher in particular proves to be a thorn in Steve's arse, a guy named John Besser (Max Phipps, MAD MAX 2). When Besser and a group of illicit hunters fail to heed warnings of a large croc in the area the hunters become the hunted and are attacked by the fearsome reptile, only Besser survives. With the threat of a killer croc in the area Steve sets out to relocate the man-eating croc despite public outcry to exterminate the beast. Steve is aided on his mission by two Aboriginees; the mystic Oondabund (Burnam Burnam, HOWLING III) and tracker Adjaral (David Gulpilil, THE LAST WAVE) whom view the creature as a mystical keystone to their people's past.

Throughout the film the giant croc, or Numunwari as it's known to the Aboriginees, savages the poacher Besser again, apparently not having learned his lesson the first time around, this time he loses an arm for his troubles. The injury spurs him to take on an Ahab type obsession against the creature making it all the more difficult for the trio to recover the croc without incident, add to that Steve's superior further laying on the pressure to kill the creature. Mixed into the carnage is a hamfisted subplot wherein Steve is reunited with his former girlfriend Cathy (Nikki Coghill, THE TIME GUARDIAN), it's a pointless exercise but does result in the film's lone instance of nudity so it ain't all bad.  Jarrat (ROGUE) as conservationist Steve is imminently more likable than his sadistic character Mick from the later-day Ozploitation classic WOLF CREEK (2005). As usual David Gulpilil steals every frame of film, he's just so magnetic on screen, the camera loves this guys face, definitely the most recognizable Aboriginal actor of all time.

The glimpse I caught of the croc in NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD was actually pretty terrible, it appeared quite the hideous construct. So how's the giant saltwater croc stack-up now that I've had a good look at it? Not too shabby for the most part all things considered with some notable exceptions. There's definitely a Spielbergian less is more approach to the film, that's just one of many among other JAWS-esque ideas floating around this flick; from the decision not to kill the creature, the boat being pulled along by the force of the creature, etc - it's just expected and not at all alarming in my opinion, pretty much every creature feature riffs on JAWS and it's certainly no different here. The creature effects are decent when kept to a minimum, once the croc gets on dry land during the final few minutes it's get pretty bad fast, but it's only momentarily awful.The kills are pretty fun if not particularly amazing. When poachers and fisherman run afoul of the menace it's usually a bloody affair, not too much gore but it's to nice effect, even a toddler gets snatched from the end of a dock which was pretty surprising, didn't expect that one.

Director Arch Nicholson keeps the thrills coming at a pretty good clip and the film has good production value and looks pretty great. The Northern territories of Australia make for a gorgeous backdrop and the film really showcases the land's beauty which is wonderfully captured by cinematographer Andrew Lesnie who would later go onto great acclaim and Oscars after lensing Peter Jackson's LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. I've always had a fondness for the look and aesthetic of Aussie films and this proves no different, love the lighting of the night shots.

Keep in mind that this is an ozploitation film and as such their some fair amount of lunacy to be found, such as a carful of punks menacing an old man and a car chase featuring a car full of angry poachers chasing a semi rig with the croc strapped to it's bed through the outback, pure craziness but awesome just the same. All in all a pretty fun watch, perhaps not a great film but a great watch nonetheless.

DVD: The film is presented in 16:9 widescreen (1.77:1) and looks quite good. It's a grainy film with some artifacting, dirt and noise, but overall a decent image with nice robust color and a decently sharp image. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 sounds good too, dialogue, score and effects come through clean, it's not overly dynamic and there's not much separation but quite serviceable.

The lone special feature on the disc is a newly recorded commentary with star John Jarratt and ozploitation producer extraordinaire Antony I.Ginnane (PATRICK, THIRST), which is pretty relaxed and not really alive with energy but enjoyable as Ginnane recalls why the film never received Australian distribution prior to this DVD release and Jarratt recalls working with the cast and filming a few scenes specifically. Would have loved at least a few trailers but the commentary certainly sweetens the deal.

Verdict: DARK AGE is pretty great and underseen       B-movie creature feature that's perfect for a Saturday night on the couch with some frosty beers and a few good friends, it's definitely worth seeking out, particularly if you crave ozploitation cinema and have a predilection for giant killer croc and gator flicks like ROGUE, BLACK WATER and LAKE PLACID. it's a fun JAWS riff and a good watch, enjoy! 3.5 outta 5

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Label: MVD Visual
Region Code: 0 NTSC
Duration: 65 mins
Video: 4:3 Fullscreen
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Director: Mathew Robinson
Band: David Yow, Duane Dennison, David WM. Sims, Mac McNeily

After a decade of inactivity seminal 90's noisemakers THE JESUS LIZARD returned to the American stage at the Exit club it Nashville, TN on July 14th 2009. The performance captured here features the four members of the classic JL line-up, David Yow (SCRATCH ACID) on vocals, Duane Dennison (TOMAHAWK) on guitar, David WM. Sims (RAPEMAN) on bass and Mac McNeily (MULE) on the drums.

I came to know THE JESUS LIZARD through their split single with NIRVANA as I'm sure many have, their contribution "Puss" was quite an intro too, a blissful skree of guitar, propulsive rhythm and David Yow's pained howling of "get her out of the truck. It was unlike anything I heard before and there's been nothing quite like it since. The next day I snagged LIAR (1992) and was floored, pummeled really, by what I had discovered. It was when I picked-up their previous album GOAT (1991) that it all came together for me and cemented by love of the band. In my mind the signature JL song has aways been "Nub" with it's acid-tinged slide guitar and propulsive rhythms, particularly when Yow implores "ah, rub it on me, rub it on me Duane" which sends guitarist Duane Dennison into the finishing salvo of fiery slide guitar nirvana, it gets me every time and leaves me wanting more.

THE JESUS LIZARD had a beast of muscular rhythm section, Mcneily and Sims were down right scary tight. On top of that Dennison lays on serpentine guitar that's applied with surgical precision, each jazzy-skree layed on with restraint and nuance, not a wasted note to be found. Over this noise-jam David Yow not so much sings as applies a fury-laced slew of slurred pain. The man at the time of this show was 48, confrontational and screams like a blind drunk preaching the blues while gargling glass.

So, here we are with their first American performance in a decade, a band reunited and what is so amazing is that you couldn't tell - they're steamrolling you like a well-oiled machine. Still threatening, still dangerous, sweaty and belligerent. They kick it off with "Puss" and then straight into thrusting "Seasick". They keep the set list mostly limited to their prime Touch and Go catalog only straying into their Capitol album SHOT (1996) to extract a few gems ("Thumbscrews", "Blue Shot") and never pulling out anything that came after. Say what you will about their major label debut SHOT but I think it's a solid album from start to finish. Those tracks represent their first songs not recorded by longtime sound engineer Steve Albini (BIG BLACK) and the songs certainly have a different sheen to 'em on CD but live they're just great JL songs. Aside from anything played from GOAT ("Mothbreather", "Monkey Trick") highlights from the set for me included the lone selection from the DOWN (1994) album "Destroy Before Reading", the DICKS' "Wheelchair Epidemic" and their medley of CHROME's "TV As Eyes"and "Abstracto Nympho".

The concert is filmed in 4:3 fullscreen and while it's not the most high definition club show you'll ever see it accurately captures the JL in fine form; always better live than on album they're loud, scathing and scary. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround is quite pleasing, too. The band's previous live album SHOW (1994) sounded pretty piss poor as I recall and this is a very decent mix, everything sounds great - the rhythm section is strong, the guitar is razor sharp and Yow stills sounds like someone duct-taped inside of a garbage can thrown into a pool screaming for help from the bottom of the deep end. Special features include a photo gallery of the performance and mp3's of the entire show that you can transfer to your computer and mp3 player, very cool.

Track Listing
•Puss [LIAR]
•Seasick [GOAT]
•Boilermaker [LIAR]
•Gladiator [LIAR]
•Destroy Before Reading [DOWN]
•Mouthbreather [GOAT]
•Blue Shot [SHOT]
•Glamorous[LASH EP]
•Killer McHann [HEAD]
•One Evening [HEAD]
•Then Comes Dudley [GOAT]
•Chrome [CHROME 7"] [TV AS Eyes"and "Abstract Nympho by CHROME]
•Nub [GOAT]
•Blockbuster [PURE]
•Monkey Trick [GOAT]
•7 vs 8 [HEAD]
•Thumbscrews [SHOT]
•Fly on the Wall [DOWN]
•My Own Urine[HEAD]
•Dancing Naked Ladies [LIAR]
•Bloody Mary [PURE]
•Wheelchair Epidemic [WHEELCHAIR EPIDEMIC 7"][orig. by DICKS]

Verdict: A very fine document of one of the greatest noise bands of the 90's. If you're a fan of THE JESUS LIZARD this is a no-brainer. That said, if you're not familiar with band this could be quite a shock to the system, honestly the music here is not for every alterna-rock fan out there. This DVD and the music therein made my wife physically sick and pretty angry, she actually stormed outta the room in disgust, so try not to anger everyone in your household with it unless that's just something you like to do. I saw JL in 1994 with KEPONE and PEGBOY here in Tucson, AZ at The Downtown Performance Center (R.I.P.) and watching 'em again brought me right back to that savage performance, it's good stuff. They're probably not gonna reunite anytime soon so this is the next best thing. If you're not familiar with the band I say check out GOAT and/or SHOT and proceed from there. 3.5 outta 5


Monday, November 21, 2011

Blu-ray Review: ZOMBIE (1979)

ZOMBIE (1979)
Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: Region FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 92 mins
Audio: English and Italian 7.1 DTS-ES; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX, Mono
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2.35:1) 1080p
Director: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Tisa Farrow, Ian MucCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Olga Karlitos
Tagline: We are going to eat you!

Wow! I remember watching this film for the first time on a beat-up VHS dub back in the early 90's, now look at it with a sweet 2-disc Blu-ray edition from Blue Underground, very cool. 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 even then. At that point in my mid-teens I was already a ravenous Romero fan following the iconic Dead trilogy and when I found out about what was considered the 'unofficial sequel' to DAWN OF THE DEAD in Italy I made it a personal quest to obtain it. Let me tell you that it did not disappoint in anyway, whatsoever. ZOMBIE was both my introduction to Italian horror cinema and 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 Harbor Patrolmen one of 'em is attacked by a grotesque zombie who immediately tears out his throat. It's gore-tastic stuff and when the zombie is shot by the other officer it falls into the harbor, this was and still is a fantastic opening to this day.

Turns out the derelict boat belongs 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 police turn out to be of little help 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 cameo from Fulci). Sensing there's more to the story the two join forces and board a plane 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 (thank you!) along a reef where she at first encounters a predatory tiger shark but is then sorta saved from certain doom when a zombie 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 attack and back on boat I'm sure no one really believe her story about the zombie, who would, right? So, oddness aside they continue on to Matool  where they meet Dr. David Menard (Richard Johnson, THE HAUNTING)  at the local mission. It's here that we find out that the island is 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 (Olga Karlatos, CYCLONE) who's kept under lock and key back at their home. 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 of all time. While she attempts to force a door shut a zombie splinters the wooden door, grabs ahold of her by the hair and slowly pulls her into the sliver to end all slivers of wood until it sloooowly penetrates her eye socket - it's a master-stroke of tension, old school practical effects and editing and worth the price of admission on it's own.

Well, I find it hard to believe that if you're reading this that you haven't seen this film and if by chance that's the case I implore you to get thine self to one of the better video retailers in your area (or to the Amazon link below, thank you) and buy this film sight unseen. I won't continue to spoil the film other than to say that at this point in the film it really starts to pick-up steam, having been up to this point eerily creepy but not exactly jam-packed with thrills - it's the best kind of a slow burn. Our foursome find themselves amidst a mass uprising of zombies that include long dead Conquistadors and islanders, among them the iconic dirt-covered, worm-headed zombie so famously seen in the film's advertising.The zombie effects in this film are very simple but quite brilliant looking, nearly besting any of the Romero's archetypes in my opinion. 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 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.

ZOMBIE has it all; memorable set pieces, a eerie score, keen 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 throughout, it's through and through awesomeness. I might get a lot of shit for what I'm about to say but in my estimation ZOMBIE is a better watch than Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD. Not to say DAWN's not one of my favorite films, it is, but having watched both recently I feel that the dread and atmosphere of ZOMBIE bests DAWN on several fronts and holds up better without the shellacked on social commentary. What say you to that?

Blu-ray: Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE has quite simply never looked better on any format, ever. The brand-new 2K HD transfer is sourced from a nearly pristine camera negative and is presented in it's original "scope" aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Cinematographer Sergio Salvati personally supervised the film's restoration which looks brilliant in 1080p high definition. It's not reference material by any stretch of the imagination but it's quite sharp with it's fine layer of film grain gloriously intact, colors are accurate and vibrant, black levels are deep and the level of fine detail is pretty spectacular when compared to previous DVD editions. Gorehounds will be most pleased with how awesomely gore-tastic the presentation is, I saw sinewy bits of flesh I've never seen before. Audiowise the film gets both English and Italian language tracks presented in uncompressed 7.1 DTS-HD, 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX and original mono with optional English subtitles as well 8 other languages. Honestly the 7.1 and 5.1 mixes aren't gonna give your home theatre system much of a workout but the improvement in fidelity is notable and does open up the film a good bit, the Fabrizzi/Tucci score sounds pretty great, too.

Blue Underground have really gone all out for the fans here, when they tout "2-Disc Ultimate Edition" they aren't just blowing smoke up your ass, this handily bests previous editions, it's definitely worth the upgrade. Disc one starts with a short and appreciative intro from director Guillermo del Toro (CRONOS), the man clearly loves Fulci and this film in particular. Then it's right into an enjoyable audio commentary with star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine editor Jason J. Slater, fun facts and insights, it's pretty chill but but is a good listen. The first disc is rounded out with 2 theatrical trailers, 2 TV spots, 4 radio spots and a poster and stills gallery comprised of the US and German pressbooks, posters, stills, lobby cards, video covers and behind-the-scenes stills.

Disc two begins with Zombie Wasteland (22:19) which was shot during the 2010 Cinema Wasteland Zombie 30th Anniversary Reunion featuring interviews with cast and crew who offer the following Fulci recollections; Ian McCulloch recalls him as a bully, Richard Johnson remembers Fulci becoming so angry that he actually ate dirt, Al Cliver offers that Fulci really hated women and that it may have stemmed from a rocky personal history while stuntman Occtavio Dell'Acqua (the worm eyed zombie) recalls him being incredibly difficult to work with. It's all pretty one-sided and not really that surprising - the man is usually remembered as being difficult to say the least.

Up next is Deadtime Stories (14:30) which features Italian screenwriting legend Dardano Sachetti on the origins of the film starting out as a zombie-western having been inspired by horror-adventure comics of the time and its transformation from the western setting to an island while co-writer Briganti speaks about the magic of the film and her own appreciation of it. In Italian with English subs.

Flesh Eaters on Film (9:38) features co-producer Fabrizio De Angelis, who in contrast to some of the previous interviews, speaks to Fulci's good humor on-set, the demanding nature of the shoots and it's many locations plus the importance of producers on a film set. In Italian with English subs.

World of the Dead (16:29) features interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati and production and costume designer Walter Patriarca discussing the look of the film, set design, making the zombies harsh and ugly, shot in shadow and editing the infamous eye-scene, that being my favorite eye gouging scene in a catalog of films from a man who really enjoyed a good eye-gouge, no doubt. In Italian with English subs.

All in the Family (6:08) features the director's daughter Annette  speaking to her father's crazy treatment of actors and his view on his own film's gore. In Italian with English subs.

Notes on a Headstone (7:25) is an interview with frequent Fulci collaborator and composer Fabio Frizzi (THE BEYOND, THE PSYCHIC) speaking about Fulci's placement of music in his films, his restraint and his passion for filmmaking. In Italian with English subs.

Zombi Italiano (16:34) features interviews with special make-up effects artists Gianetto De Rossi and Maurizio Trani and special effects artist GinoDe Rossi whom all discuss the film's iconic imagery and effects from the low-budget clay zombie applications to the eye-gouging perfection of splinter meets eye, alongside the difficulty of shooting on a shoe-string budget.In Italian with English subs.

Zombie Lover (9:36) features director Guillermo del Toro (HELLBOY, DEVIL'S BACKBONE) talking about ZOMBIE. It's pretty clear that del Toro is a great admirer of the film and of Fulci's work as he recounts seeing the film for the first time, paying respects to stuntman Ramon Bravo who was the zombie in the zombie vs. shark scene and just really laying on the love for the film. del Toro is such a supporter, his enthusiasm is contagious and his appreciation really ended up being my favorite feature on the set, great stuff.
Could there be a more ultimate edition of ZOMBIE? It's not likely, Blue Underground have really given the film their definitive stamp like no release before, one of the year's best releases. I'll add that there's an awesome easter egg featuring a story about filming the zombie vs. shark scene that I won't spoil, it had me rolling with laughter.
Disc 1 Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Star Ian McCulloch and Diabolik Magazine Editor Jason J. Slater
- Theatrical Trailers (5:18) HD
- TV Spots (1:03) 4:3
- Radio Spots (1:56)
- Poster and Still Gallery (9:52) HD
 Guillermo del Toro Intro (0:27) HD

Disc 2 Special Features:
- Zombie Wasteland - Interviews with Stars Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson and Al Cliver, and Actor/Stuntman Ottaviano Dell'Acqua (22:19) HD
- Flesh Eaters on Film - Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizio De Angelis (9:38) 16:9 HD
- Deadtime Stories - Interviews with Co-Writers Elisa Briganti and (Uncredited) Dardano Sacchetti (14:30) HD
- Flesh Eaters on Films - Interview with Co-Producer Fabrizo De Angelis (9:38) HD
- World of the Dead - Interviews with Cinematographer Sergio Salvati and Production and Costume Designer Walter Patriarca (16:29) HD
- Zombi Italiano - Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Gianetto De Rossiand Maurizio Trani (16:34) HD
and Special Effects Artist Gino De Rossi
- Notes on a Headstone - Interview with Composer Fabio Frizzi (7:25) HD
- All in the Family - Interview with Antonella Fulci (6:08) HD
- Zombie Lover - Award-Winning Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro talks about one of his favorite films (9:36) HD
- Easter Egg (4:39) HD

Verdict: There's not much I could say about Lucio Fulci's ZOMBIE other than it's pretty amazing and worth plopping down some bucks for. No matter what previous edition you own you need to upgrade ASAP and not just for the AV qualities alone, the special features are seriously great and make this edition a must-own. Gut-munching, eye-gouging perfection, 'nuff said. 4.5 outta

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Visit to BOOM! Studios

Some of you regular readers may have noticed I've been super light on the reviews these past few weeks. The main reason being I've been in Los Angeles, California for that past three weeks in preparation of the opening of the first-ever Pinkberry in Tucson, Arizona. While I have my laptop and a selection of films to review while I'm out here I found that 1. I hate watching films on my laptop and 2. I'm way busier than I expected to have been and find little time to watch and review films - so I apologize for that. In my life outside of this blog I have a career in food service in Tucson, AZ - yay food service. Anyway, today at the Pinkberry corporate headquarters we had what we call a Surprise and Delight sampling event outside the office space for all the inhabitants of office building we're located in, it was fun stuff let me tell you. Who doesn't want a little FREE Pinkberry fro-yo? No one, that's who. Anyway, I was out chatting the attendees when I noticed two gentleman in line with a few graphic novels tucked under arm. Being the nosey and naturally inquisitive guy that I am I get in close for a sneaky-peek and what do I see? A ZOMBIE TALES collection amidst the stack o' comics,  so I chat up the guys a bit cuz hey I like comics

Turns out one of 'em is none other than Ross Richie, one of the co-founders of BOOM! STUDIOS. We enjoyed a very brief conversation wherein we discussed THE WALKING DEAD comic and TV show and my love of Bill Sienwiewicz's run on THE NEW MUTANTS. Afterwards Ross, being a Hell of a nice guy, was nice enough to invite me to come visit his office which was located just around the corner from where we were at, which was just very cool of him.  

After finishing up at work that's exactly what I did with my mate RJ in tow. I didn't see Ross again at the office but I did meet the BOOM! PR gal who was a real pleasure to converse with. I wish I could recall her name but I don't (sorry). She was very kind and helpful while we browsed the titles - which were truly awesome by the way.

Here's where I tell you that '84-'89 were really my glory days of comic collecting - back when they were .65 cents an issue - not $4. I got bit by the comic bug in the 5th grade when I stole (yes, actually stole) a few issues of the Chris Claremont/Dave Cockrum THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA issues of THE UNCANNY X-MEN from my friend Josh - truly I was not a good friend, what can I say? Anyway, I was a total Marvel Boy who loved THE SECRET WARS, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, PETER PARKER THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, THE WEB OF SPIDER-MAN, THE UNCANNY X-MEN, Kurt Busiek's THE AVENGERS, Walter Simonson's THOR, CLASSIC X-MEN (those Arthur Adam's covers still thrill me) and THE NEW MUTANTS. But once I got laid in the early 90's I more or less lost touch with comicdom until '94-'99 when I was reading a ton of Frank Miller's SIN CITY, Mike Allred's MADMAN, Marvel's THUNDERBOLTS and Grant Morrison's JLA among a few others. Then from about 2005 on I've been reading mainly omnibus editions of Marvel and DC books from the local library. So, I'm not the most knowledgeable comic nerd on the block and would never claim I was, but I've always been an avid casual fan of the form in one way or the other.

Anyway, my visit to BOOM! Studios just tapped right back into my love of comics and the art form as a whole, it really just brought me back to the form in a way that I haven't felt for a really long time. So, what I picked-up at the office was PLANET OF THE APES: THE LONG WAR, ZOMBIE TALES OMNIBUS: OUTBREAK, CTHULHU TALES OMNIBUS: DELIRIUM and HELLRAISER VOL.1 - none of which I've read yet, not completely anyway. I've been flipping through the books just admiring the artwork - brilliant stuff. Like I say, I've been outta the loop for a while and not all the writers and artists names popped out at me but it's a mighty impressive roster of talent. I'm seeing a ton of great writers; Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Steve Niles, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman and amazing artwork from Mike Mignola, Mark Chiarello and Andrew Richie among so many others.

While I was there I also saw a ton of great stuff I didn't pick-up (yet) including Philip K. Dick's DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?, 28 DAYS LATER and even DIE HARD - there body of work is pretty intriguing. 

Well, I'm actually right proper drunk right now but before I blog myself into a stupor I want to extend a big THANK YOU to Ross Richie and the folks over at BOOM! Studios, my trip to BOOM! was definitely a highlight of the entire trip out here to L.A. so far and consider my a fan from here on in.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011



Release Date: November 14th 2011
Region: 0 PAL
Rating: 15 Certificate
Duration: 98 mins
Video: 16x9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: Original Mono 1.0 Audio
Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman, Maren Jensen, Susan Buckner, Douglass Barr
Tagline: They'll Build A Barn From Your Bones!

Wes Craven had already established himself as a notable exploitation director with grindhouse shockers THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (1972) and THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) when this creepy atmospheric chiller entered the cinemas in 1981. The film, featuring a young and pretty stunning Sharon Stone, takes place in a rural Hittite farming community, the Hittites being a religious sect who've sworn off the trappings of modern society, not unlike the Amish, whom live their lives in a way not dissimilar to that of the early American settlers working the land with horse and hand leading devout God fearing lives untainted by the temptations of the civilized world. This aspect of the film really intrigued me, growing up in an area of Upstate NY with a robust Amish community I was certainly mystified by the lifestyle that while not frightening, certainly struck me as a bit creepy. Then again, when they passing me on the road in their horse and buggy while I headbanged along to Alice Cooper's "Constrictor" cassette on my Sony Walkman I probably seemed a bit odd, too, just saying.

Enter into this conservative community a woman named Martha (Maren Jensen, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) whom has married an ex-communicated member of the sect named Jim (Douglass Bar, THE UNSEEN). As Jim's wife she finds herself shunned right alongside him and the bad blood between the Hittites and the newlyweds is pretty clear from the start, most of it because Jim went off to college for some book learning and has given into modern farming practices, notably working the land with a tractor. When Jim is mysteriously crushed to death by said tractor things get weird around the farm as Martha is branded an incubus by her Hittite neighbours, a demon who enters the body during sleep.

The source of the ill will towards her is Jim's father Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK) who appears in a scenery chewing performance that must be seen to be believed, it's fun stuff, he's completely bonkers. Issiah's son (and Jim's brother) William (Michael Berryman, THE HILLS HAVE EYES) is a dim-witted man-boy who covets his brother's sexy city-folk wife and he just can't keep himself from giving her a peep now and again much to his own detriment. Martha's only friends in the area are a crazy-eyed neighbor named Louis (Lois Nettleton, BUTTERFLY) and her painter daughter Faith (Lisa Hartman, TV's TABITHA) who offer her friendship following Jim's death.  When her city dwelling friends Vicky (Susan Buckner, GREASE)) and Lana (Sharon Stone, TOTAL RECALL) arrive to help their dear friend cope with the loss of her husband, their arrival in a red Mustang is met with little enthusiasm by the Hittites except for Jim other brother John (Jeff East, SUPERMAN) who takes a liking to Vicky right away, and she him. It's not long before a death spurs even more animosity from the Hittites and young Lana is plagued by visions of a mysterious grey skinned man and big hairy spiders, the film is filled with some great visuals. At one point someone lets loose a serpent into Martha's bubble bath in a scene that would later be copped for Craven's own A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984), it's one of a handful of scenes that would later be repurposed in Craven's better known films.

It's definitely a creepy watch with a few brilliant touches of the macabre but it just never gained traction for me, as a series of interesting set pieces it's an entertaining watch with some slasher, occult and folk horror elements but as a whole it failed to consistently deliver the goods, and it's not helped by a poorly executed CARRIE-esque shock ending that felt rather tagged-on, for the most part the film's effects are pretty decent but that last bit is just short of terrible and smelt of producer interference.

The acting is pretty decent here with a strong showing from the film's largely feminine lead cast. A notably bad exception being aforementioned Ernest Borgnine whose turn as the way too intense Issiah seemed to be in his own little film separate from everyone else - did that guy have a coke problem in the 70's? There's some creepy atmosphere, some neat set pieces, an abundance of nudity (no, not Sharon Stone, sadly), including the pre-requisite shower scene, sex scene, and the trio of lady friends parading around in lingerie needlessly. Unfortunately the film lacks the visceral punch of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and doesn't really reach the heights of the surreal nightmare imagery of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET but you can definitely feel him trying to evolve from his grindhouse roots, it's somewhat successful and just a few years later he would introduce us to his penultimate creation - Freddy Kreuger.

DVD: Arrow Video present DEADLY BLESSING i9n it's original aspect ratio of 16:9 widescreen (1.78:1) presentation and the print appears really good, no discernible instances of print damage, only a few minor specs and grains dirt, it's not particularly sharp but there are no compression artifacts, the colors look accurate and the black levels fare well. The lone audio option is a an English language Dolby Digital mono track with no subtitles. Dialogue, effects and James Horner's OMEN-esque score come across balanced if a bit tinny at times, there's not a lot of depth but not too bad.

Special Features: Here in the states we still have no Region 1 DVD edition of DEADLY BLESSING so I would encourage any Wes Craven die-hards to seek out Arrow's Region 0 PAL DVD, it was a sweet bonus to get a few features on top of a nice presentation, too. Features begin with a brief Introduction by star Michael Berryman (:30) and then right into Craven Images: The Horror Hits of Michael Berryman (26:30) as the peculiar and awesome actor discusses being discovered by WAR OF THE WORLD producer George Pal whom cast him in the film DOC SAVAGE (1975), then onto ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975) before he would be chosen by Craven for the iconic role off "Pluto" in THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Berryman speaks about Craven as a director and person, the reception of the film including an encounter with a woman who received the film poorly at a screening, a lengthy recollection of some animosity onset between his then girlfriend and an unnamed starlet plus almost being cast in the sequel to THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake. He also discusses THE HILLS HAVE EYES II, Craven's body of work. It's not all gold but it's definitely interesting, particularly if your a Berryman enthusiast (and who isn't?). I'm quite a fan of the High Rising Productions featurettes, they usually grow my appreciation for a film even if it's not quite my cup o' tea, so good on 'em. Deadly Desires: An interview with screenwriter Glenn M. Benest (13:17) features the co-screenwriter of Craven's TV film STRANGER IN THE HOUSE (1978) and DEADLY BLESSING discussing the origins of the story and how the Amish were an untapped subject in film, particularly in horror, even mentioning the Peter Weir film WITNESS (1985) as a rare instance. He also speaks about Wes Craven being more a technical director and not so much an actor's director, relating the story of how Sharon Stone blew-up onset when she was became dissatisfied with Craven's directing style or lack thereof, also mentioning the film's unscripted ending and how it betrays the psychological nature of the film.

Also tucked away on the disc are two Easter Eggs, one with Michael Barryman (2:31) discussing his new film BELOW ZERO and another film titled CUT co-starring both Kane Hodder and Tony Todd, the other easter egg is with co-screenwriter Glenn M. Benest (:32) whom briefly discusses the poster artwork for the film.

Not included with my advance screener were the reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Rue Morgue magazine art director Gary Pullin, a double-sided fold-out artwork poster and collector's booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by author and critic Kim Newman. That's a bummer for me, but very cool for you if  you snag this one.

VERDICT: This is a film I've long wanted to see as it's never been given a proper region 1 DVD from Universal. It's definitely a case of wanting what you can't have and I'm pleased that Arrow Video have given the film a region 0 PAL DVD edition. It's a nice presentation with a few cool featurettes making it an easy buy for Wes Craven die-hards. Wes Craven as a director and producer is really hit or miss with me and I say this is along the lines of say SHOCKER or THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS as Craven's films go and it's certainly better than anything post-SCREAM 2 with the notable exception of the thriller RED EYE but I'm really pleased to see it on DVD at least and available to those of us wanting to check out Craven's exploits following THE HILLS HAVE EYES and pre-SWAMP THING and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. 2.5 /5