Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blu-ray Review: Mother's Day


Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 112 mins
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (2:40:1)
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Cast: Shawn Ashmore, Lyriq Bent, Patrick John Flueger, Frank Grillo, Jaime King, Warren Kole, Lisa Marcos, Kandyse McClure, Rebecca De Mornay, Tony Nappo, Matt O'Leary, Deborah Ann Woll
Darren Lynn Bousman's remake of the Charles Kaufman's Troma classic Mother's Day (1980) makes it's way to Blu-ray after languishing for some time on a shelf having been deprived of a theatrical release. I should mention that I watched this without the benefit of having seen the Troma exploitation original but hopefully we'll be seeing a Blu-ray of that feature in the very near future, it having been delayed numerous times not unlike the remake.

Beth (Jamie King) and Daniel Sohapi (Frank Grillo) are young couple just having moved into a new home following a family tragedy. The night they host a birthday party attended by several friends the party is crashed by the Koffin Brothers, a trio of sadistic bank robbers. We have Izaac (Patrick John Flueger), Addley (Warren Cole) and the youngest of the bunch Johnny (Matt O'Leary) who suffers a  nasty gunshot to the chest after a double-cross during the robbery. The trio arrive at the house under the assumption that the home belongs to their mother, not realizing it was recently foreclosed on and is now home to the young couple.
Taken by surprise the party goers are forced to remain in the basement at gunpoint while one of the guests, a doctor (Shawn Ashmore) tends as best he can to the gravely injured Johnny. It's not long before mommy dearest (the awesome Rebecca De Mornay) and daughter Lydia, the gorgeous ginger-haired Deborah Ann Woll of HBO's True Blood, arrive on the scene and mom takes over. De Mornay as the steely-eyed patriarch is quite the chilling character; a strict punishment minded momma who is the scary embodiment of every quietly seething mother who's ever uttered the phrase "come here, I just wanna talk, I'm not gonna hurt you" right before she snags you by the ear and whips the snot outta ya. Only De Mornay's momma is more likely to have one of her sadistic sons poor liquor on your head and set it on fire rather than grabbing a handful of earlobe, she's a scary intense piece of work. We haven't seen the actress this scary since the thriller The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and even still that's nowhere near what we have here.
There's quite a few torturous moments on display here, it's a real nail-biter. Not a splatterfest by any means but there's definitely some decent moments of gore including a couple of sweet shotgun blast to the skull. It's disturbing stuff as the twisted family pit the party guests against each other taking delight in their misery. There's a matter of missing money that fuels the horrific events throughout the film and I think it's mighty successful.I don't count myself as a fan of the few Darren Lynn Bouseman films I've seen including Saw II and Repo! The Genetic Opera but this I truly love. It's a sickening nailbiter that's pretty twisted and it's a damn shame it didn't get a wide theatrical run.  4 outta 5 


42nd Street Forever: The Blu-ray Edition [Blu-ray]

Region: All Regions (ABC)
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 225 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD MA English 2.0 Mono
Video: 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Various
Cast: Various

Synopsis: Synapse Films’ best-selling 42ND STREET FOREVER DVD series has been a favorite of grindhouse and exploitation fans around the world. Presented here for the first time on Blu-ray, this colossal “best of” collection combines a selection of vintage theatrical trailers from the first two DVD volumes of the series, and mixes them up with some all-new selections! Remastered in true 1080p high definition, this mind-numbing dose of classic original coming attractions will have your Blu-ray player exploding with more than three and a half hours of sex, exploitation, action, horror and science-fiction advertisements from around the world! Can your brain take all this sleaze in one sitting? A collection so huge, we can’t even list them all on the Blu-ray packaging!

The Film: What we have here is a "best of" collection of trailers culled from Synapse Films much beloved 42nd Street Forever trailer compilations. Some of you out there might be thinking what's so great about a compilation of film trailers but let me tell you - it's a pretty fantastic watch. As someone who loves not just a well executed trailer but owns a pretty large collection of mp3 "radio spots" for  grindhouse/horror films this set is pure gold from the get-go with an arsenal of action, blaxploitation, sexploitation, rape-revenge, kung-fu, horror and smut, it's just a terribly good watch.

We get some b-movie cheese sandwiched between slices of fried gold, and even the cheese is so godawful terrible that it's not just bad cinema it's awesome. I'm maybe not the world's biggest connoisseur of blaxploitation but if the trailer for The Guy from Harlem (1977) from the director of the black exorcist film Abby (1974) doesn't make you weep for joy the reel for the crazy weird revenge tale Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975) surely will, especially with that junk cutting scene, ouch. Not doing it for you, how about the mighty Boss Nigger (1975) or the urban voodoo zombie flick Sugar Hill (1974) both of which I haven't seen but if these trailers are to be believed they're must-see trash films.

Now I have seen a lot of obscure cult films but I've only seen maybe 1/3 of the treasures on display here. There's several trailers that left me scratching my head and wondering aloud "Why the fuck have I not seen these!?!". Three that particularly struck me were the William Devane action-revenger Rolling Thunder (1975), Abel Ferrara's rape-revenger Ms. 45 (1981) and They Call Her One Eye (1974) starring Christina Lindberg - Oh My Lord do  these look fucking awesome.

Trashy sexploitation is well represented by the trashy women in prison epic Chained Heat (1983) starring Linda Blair. The film is part of Impulse Pictures Women in Prison Triple Feature, get that shit quick! Sleazy fun with Ginger (1971), The Teacher (1974) and Delinquent Schoolgirls (1975)Need a little sci-fi with your softcore well how about Flesh Gordon (1974),  havent' seen it? Me neither but now I think need to.

Creature features are well represented with the slimy 80's awesomeness of The Deadly Spawn (1983), The Green Slime (1968)  (available on DVD on Demand from the Warner Archive) and the killer mushroom feature Matango (1968) - yeah that's right, killer 'shrooms.

Now if you own the first two DVD volumes of the series don't go trading 'em in just yet for there are over 3 dozen trailers from those set not carried over here, remember this is a best of with some new selections thrown in.

Blu-ray: The nearly four hours of trailers are presented in 1080p and look like what you would expect from a collection of grindhouse trailers. The source material can be mighty suspect at times but the grit and grime are part and parcel of the grindhouse experience. This distinct patina of the non-pristine is much sought after and when you think of recent films like Grindhouse (2007), Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) and Astron-6's Father's Day (2011) this is exactly the atheistic they're trying to capture to varying degrees of success. Likewise the audio is not pristine with pops and audio imperfections but it's all part of the charm and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Special Features:
- Audio commentary with AVManiancs.com's Edwin Samuelson, Fangoria Magazine's Michael Gingold and Temple of Schlock's Chris Poggiali

Verdict: 42nd Street Forever Blu-ray Edition gets a high recommend from me. It's a great night of beer drinking and skipping through to the goodies and enjoying the awesomeness and crappulence of 70's and 80's  grindhouse cinema. I couldn't take it all in one sitting, that would have been brain-melting but every night after work I would  sit on the couch with a Guinness and a plate of bleu cheese curds and delve into the awesomeness for an hour or so  and it was awesome. Much like viewings Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation (2008) and Machete Maiden Unleashed (2010) I sat with pencil ion hand scribbling down names of films that i just needed to see, great stuff. This is definitely a Blu-ray I'll be handing out as gifts this Christmas. Here's hoping a second volume is in the works... 4.5 outta 5 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blu-ray Review: KILLER NUN (1979)


Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: All
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 88 mins
Video: 16:9 Widescreen  (1.85:1)
Audio: English, Italian DTS-HD Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, English for Italian Version
Director: Giulio Berruti
Cast: Anita Ekberg, Joe Dallesandro, Lou Castel, Alida Valli, Paola Morra

Synopsis: Legendary Swedish sex bomb Anita Ekberg (La Dolce Vita) stars as Sister Gertrude, a cruel nun who discovers depraved pleasure in a frenzy of drug addiction, sexual degradation and sadistic murder. Joe Dallesandro (Flesh for Frankenstein), Lou Castel (A Bullet for the General), Alida Valli (Suspiria) and the luscious Paola Morra (Behind Convent Walls) co-star in this notorious 'Nunsploitation' based on actual events that took place in a Central European country not many years ago!

The Film: Could it be that this is my first entry into the nunsploitation sub-genre? I think it is. Killer Nun is a title I've long heard of and now being able to sit down and watch the damn thing I think it may have been a case of expecting maybe a bit too much. A weird little film starring one-time sex goddess Anita Ekberg as Sister Gertrude - a nun slash nurse at a psychiatric center who is none-too-slowly becoming unhinged from reality as she spirals down a path of morphine addiction, seduction and murder. Director Berruti doesn't seem to really know what kind of film he's looking to make, there's the exploitative elements one would assume with nunsploitation but it's never quite sleazy enough with only hints at lesbianism - I wanted more - I'm a perv what can I say? Ekberg while a bit older here is still a striking woman from the top down if you know what I mean but she just doesn't commit to the full-on sleaziness this role demands, what she does do quite excellently is portray the madness of Sister Gertrude when given the opportunity, she's got some serious problems. I would have liked to see the film be more of a character study such as William Lustig's Maniac but like I say the film tries to be too much at once and yet not enough ever. We get the sleazy but not sleazy enough nunsploitation, a bit of character study and even some Italian-style Giallo murder-mystery but like everything else it's not fine pointed enough to be successful at any of 'em in my opinion.

Don't get me wrong the film is pretty entertaining all around, visually it's attractively shot  and it's difficult to not enjoy Ekberg's performance as an morphine-addicted nun unraveling before your very eyes but it lacks a certain something. The are gruesome, there's some nice atmosphere and thankfully gorgeous co-star Paolo Morra disrobes several times throughout the film much to my delight. The drug-induced hallucinations are fantastic and when Ekberg loses her shit and stomps a patients dentures into oblivion I laughed my ass off, that was a bit over-the-top but you gotta love it. 

Blu-ray: Blue Underground presents the film newly remastered from the original negative fully restored in high definition. It's a very nice transfer from a near flawless print. The natural grain is lovingly intact and the image has some nice depth to it at times. Black levels are decent and the 1080p is pleasingly crisp and detailed. Likewise the DTS-HD MA Italian and English audio tracks are crisp and clear if not particularly dynamic, a very nice presentation from Blue Underground.

Special features include a poster and still gallery, theatrical trailer and a fourteen minute interview with director Giulio Berruti conducted in Italian with English subtitles. It's a great watch as he recounts working with Ekberg and filming in an actual monastery while trying to hide the true nature of the film from the priests, fun stuff.

Special Features:
From the Secret Files of the Vatican (13:41) 16:9
Theatrical Trailer (2:56) 16:9
Poster and Still Gallery

Verdict: As an exploitation film I don't think Killer Nun (1979) quite lives up to it's legend, it's a bit middle of the road and doesn't define itself enough for my taste. If it had gone more in the direction of out n' out sleazy nunspoitation I would be ecstatic or if it had gone the way of a full tilt character study of a drug-addicted nun spiraling out of control but as it stands its still a nice slice of sleazy exploitation with some nice kills, depraved visuals, sexy women and some arty leanings but its just a bit too tame for my tastes. Not a great film, it's a renter and maybe a buy for the more determined Italian exploitation nut.  
3.5 outta 5 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Label: Intervision Picture Corp
Duration: 98 mins
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Audio: German Dolby Digital with English subtitles
Director: Olaf Ittenbach
Cast: Andrea Arbter, Ellen Fischer, Ronald Fuhrmann
Tagline: No Matter What You Have Seen... You Have NEVER Seen anything like...

 Synopsis: In 1992, writer/director/special effects master Olaf Ittenbach changed the face of video horror, force-fed its ripped-out eyeballs to screaming audiences, then used a drill, machete and shotgun on its still-twitching torso: Ittenbach himself stars as a degenerate junkie who babysits his young sister with two bedtime stories of the damned. First, an escaped serial killer turns date night into a graphic family massacre. Then a country priest on a rape and murder spree leads to a disturbingly explicit descent into Hell. It became the VHS that shocked America. It has been banned in its Motherland for nearly 20 years. And it remains perhaps the most violent and depraved shot-on-video saga in history. This is The Burning Moon.

Olaf Ittenbach’s shot-on-video gore-fest The Burning Moon (1997) makes its way from VHS dustbin obscurity to DVD from Intervision Picture Corp, a company who know a thing or two about obscure SOV films. They've brought us the Canadian VHS mindfuck Things (1989) and the slow-mo nightmare Sledgehammer (1983). If you know anything about either film you know they're not fucking around, these are some truly fucked-up films. Maybe not great films but really weird and wonderful in a you-just-gotta-see-this sorta way.

The Burning Moon is actually an anthology film of sorts featuring two tales with a neat framing device featuring a German thrasher dude named Peter (director Olaf Ittenbach) as he arrives for a job interview. He's really just one of the most-unhireable teens you'd ever want to come into an interview situation. After bombing the interview he takes off for a night of drinking and street fighting with his Hessian friends. The fight between two street gangs is loaded with carnage; chains, bottles being broken, head-bashing and lots of blood. In the aftermath Peter wanders home to tend to his wounds. The family dynamic at the house is nothing short of hostile with Peter verbally abusing his mother followed by a physical altercation with his father. In the midst of this he is told he must babysit his younger sister whom he clearly has no love for. Once mom and dad are gone Peter shoots a load of heroin into his arm, sweaty and disoriented he ventures outside and looks up  into the sky where he sees a vision of the moon on-fire, it's a very cool lo-fi effect. Strung out on dope he sits aside his sister's bed and spins the sibling two twisted bedtime stories.

First up an escaped mental patient escapes from a hospital for the criminally insane in a way that will seem pretty familiar to fans of John Carpenters Halloween. Having been away from the dating scene for some time he's anxious to get back into the swing of things and sets himself up on a blind date. The unfortunate young woman who winds up in his company only just narrowly escapes his clutches when she overhears a radio broadcast in regard to the escaped nutcase. But like any true psycho you just can't get away clean and he soon arrives on her doorstep leading to a pretty heinous slaughter. For a lo-fi shot-on-video slasher this film is heavy on the gore, it's not always realistic but just great stuff for the gore aficionados. The carnage is highlighted by a rather gruesome machete being shoved through a mouth and exiting the ear, it's fantastic gore. There are several decapitations, beatings and stabbings plus a wicked finger slicing scene with the killer leaving the severed digits in a butter dish. There's just tons of nastiness on display here.

The second story involves a countryside priest on a sadistic  murder-rape spree that begins with a woman being brutally raped and then shot in the head - it's pretty grim stuff. The priest continues his spree of rape and murders performing Satanic rituals to what end I am unsure. At the same time some hapless farmer  gets the blame for the violent rampage and a group of irate villagers hire one of the townies to stab, beat and pulverize his sorry ass to a bloody pulp. Apparently that Satanic ritual the priest performed had an effect because he then rises a zombie to wreak his awful revenge, sort off. He scrawls a bloody "666" onto the house and the perpetrator is then transported to Hell and then things get really strange. The finale is a glorious vision of Hell that's a lo-fi macabre masterpiece of gore, a cornucopia of the despicable and depraved. We've got ghouls tearing flesh, tons of gut-munching, a face peeled from a skull, flaming eye-sockets, vivisection and enough eye-trauma to appease even the most depraved fan of Lucio Fulci - it's fantastic stuff. Pretty elaborate effects highlighted by images of teeth being drilled which shattered my nerves, its horrendous stuff that culminates with someone being torn in half from the anus upwards, nauseating from start to finish.

Special Features:
- Making of Burning Moon (47mins)
- Trailer (0:39) 

- Intervision Trailers: ABC's of Love and Sex (2:42), Secret Life Jeffrey Dahmer (3:46)

Verdict: If The Burning Moon (1997) were a plate of nachos it wouldn't just be messy it would hands down be the gnarliest and nastiest plate o' nachos you've ever seen from the dirtiest dive-bar you've ever entered and you would scarf it down in a drunken hunger despite the imminent threat of food borne illness. This gets my vote for best shot-on-video feature I've ever seen, chock full o'  gore-tastic carnage and demented depravity. outta 5