Sunday, October 28, 2012

Blu-ray: CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH (1986)

Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD

Label: Arrow Video
Region: ABC (Region-FREE)
Rating: 18
Duration: 85 mins
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English LPCM 2.0 with Optional English SDH subtitles
Cast: Janelle Brady, Gil Brenton and Robert Prichard
Director: Richard W. Haines, Lloyd Kaufman
Tagline: It Rotted Their Bodies. It Corrupted Their Minds. And That's The Good News.

Synopsis: At Tromaville High School the kids are revolting. Literally. The irradiated marijuana they’ve been buying from The Cretins, a tough gang of ex-star pupils turned atomic punks, is turning them into freaks. Girls are giving birth to demon babies, the nerds are developing super strength and there’s a monster in the school basement that eats honor roll students for breakfast.

The Film: Troma is not a studio I followed in the 80's with any amount of relish honestly  I always thought their output looked cheap and schlocky and in the 80's  that's just not where I was at, I was looking for slashers though I did have a fondness for Full Moon Entertainment straight-to-video so I guess I did crave a certain amount of camp. I must admit I have never even seen Troma's flagship film The Toxic Avenger (1984)  to this day haven't seen Class of Nuke 'En High  since it's original VHS release in the 80's and from that viewing all I could remember was there's something about a giant nuclear-waste induced hallucination about a giant-boner, so let's see how it holds up....

I love it! Tromaville High-school is located in the shadow of the Tromaville Nuclear Power Pant when an accident at the plant sends toxic nuclear sludge into the water school's supply. A nerdy doofus named Dewey drinks some of the waste straight from a water fountain and attacks one of his classmates while spurting green foamy liquid from his ears before leaping out a window PCP style to his oozing death. The Nuclear power plant of course denies any waste has contaminated the ground water blaming the unfortunate death on the fact that the youth came from a home with two microwaves, gotta love the 80's microwave dangers which was right up there with the Satanic Panic scare of the era. 

The school is full of awesome 80's punk rockers including The Cretins, former debate team all-star turned mutant punkers, who sell classmates irradiated weed grown at the power plant which ends up being smoked by preppie high school couple, the virginal Chrissy (Janelle Brady) and the jocular Warren (Gil Brenton), the toxic-laced THC send Chrissy into a lusty fit and the two finally get it on. That night Warren hallucinates a tree sized erection while poor Chrissy finds herself impregnated with a mutant creature which she vomits into the toilet in the restroom, the toothy offspring ends up in the school basement into a drum of toxic waste where it grows into nightmare sized mutant miscarriage that terrorizes the school. 

Class of Nuke 'Em High us just a ton of 80's schlock awesomeness, we get neon punks, mutated cretins, gooey and dated practical effects,horny teens, some nudity, bizarre drug culture and adolescent comedy - it's everything and more you would expect of a Troma film and then some.   

Blu-ray: The first thing I noticed was how great the film looks in 1080p widescreen, there's some print damage but the neon-colors are vibrant, the nuclear waste slime really jumps out at you. The black levels are decent, maybe not inky black but very solid, aside from some occasional dirt this is a very strong transfer. Sadly the only audio option is LPCM 2.0, and while that's a disappointment it's satisfactory in a less that awesome sorta way.

Special features are pretty nifty, not having really viewed previous DVD editions I think mostly vintage stuff beginning with a audio commentary from co-director Lloyd Kaufman who is always entertaining, a born showman and his commentary is candid and witty as you would expect, fun stuff. The Interview with stars Robert and Jennifer Prichard (4:41) features the pair speaking of how they met on-set, Richard portrayed the leader of The Cretins, Spike  in the film. There's a funny retelling of a asthmatic stalker with a limp who perused Theo for a time and  a masturbatory sauna scene. We also get a vintage Troma Studios tour with Lloyd Kaufman (9:19) featuring Kabuki Man and a naked chic in a shower - a classic Tromatic extra. The other significant extra is Seven Deleted Scenes (7:03) that don't really add up to anything astonishing but are appreciated 

Special Features:

- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD transfer of the unrated Director’s Cut of the film 

- Audio commentary with Troma Studios founder and Class of Nuke ‘em High co-director Lloyd Kaufman 
- Interview with stars Robert and Jennifer Prichard (4:41) 4x3
- Theo Pingarelli on the Making of the Nuclear Power Plant Effect (0:40) 4x3
- Troma Studios tour with Lloyd Kaufman (9:19) 4x3
- Public Service Announcement by Lemmy from Motörhead featuring Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of South Park 
- Deleted Scenes (7:03) 4x3
- Aroma du Troma (2:05) 4x3
- Troma Studios Trailer Reel (14:09) 4x3

Verdict: Great to see Troma's Class of Nuke 'Em High (1986) get a region-FREE dual-format DVD/Blu-ray from Arrow Video in the UK. We get gore, mutants, nudity and 80's drug culture awesomeness, a trash cinema classic. On top of that it's a damn fine audio/video presentation with some cool extras, highly recommended. (3 outta 5) 

Friday, October 26, 2012

ARROW FILMS AND VIDEO Q1 2013 Releases Announced

ARROW VIDEO announced a slew of Q1 2013 titles today and I must say it's quite an array of must-haves. What are we getting? Ferdinando Baldi's spaghetti-western DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN (1968), a double does of the macabre from Mario Bava, a trio of erotic delights from Radley Metzger, Ozploitation, Wes Craven's DEADLY BLESSING (1981) gets upgraded to 1080p and the controversial French film BAISE-MOI (2000). Amazon pre-orders can be found at the bottom of the post...

Label: ArrowDrome

Release Date: January 14th 2012
Region: 0 PAL 
Rating: TBA
Cast: Terence Hill, Horst Frank and George Eastman
Director: Ferdinando Baldi

Overview: Django the drifter returns in this classic Sixties Spaghetti Western from Ferdinando Baldi (Texas Addio, Comin’ At Ya!), starring Terence Hill (They Call Me Trinity) as the wandering gunslinger, hired as executioner to a corrupt local politician who is framing innocent men, sending them to hang in an evil scheme to take hold of their land.

But Django has other ideas and, cleverly faking the deaths of the condemned men, he assembles them into a loyal gang who’ll help him take down the boss, a man who had a hand in the death of Django’s wife years before.

Thrill as Django gets his bloody revenge with a hail of bullets in this classic from a series of B-movie westerns that helped to define a genre. Prepare your coffin now!

Special Features:
- Reversible Sleeve of Original Artwork
- Collector's Booklet by Spaghetti Western Expert Hoawrd Hughes 
3-Disc Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD 

Label: Arrow Video 

Release Date: January 28th 2013
Region: B/2 PAL
Rating: 15
Cast: Barbara Steele, John Richardson and Andrea Checchi
Director: Mario Bava

Tagline: STARE INTO THESE EYES... discover deep within them the unspeakable terrifying secret of BLACK SUNDAY... it will paralyze you with fright!

Legendary Scream Queen Barbara Steele (Shivers, Caged Heat) stars in this classic slice of gothic terror from the father of fantastic Italian cinema Mario Bava (Lisa & the Devil).

A beautiful witch is sentenced to death for her evil deeds by her own brother, condemned to die by having a metal mask hammered onto her face before being burnt at the stake. As she passes, she puts a terrible curse on all her future descendants as the spikes of the death mask pierce her flesh... But when two unwitting travellers discover her final resting place and worse, drip blood on her resting corpse, they unleash her once again in all her stunningly beautiful, terrifying glory....

Banned in the UK on its release, Black Sunday is a groundbreaking film that opened the door for Spaghetti horror in all its gory glory.

Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of two versions of the film; ‘The Mask of Satan’ – the European version with score by Roberto Nicolosi & ‘Black Sunday’ – the re-edited and re-dubbed AIP version with Les Baxter score, on home video for the first time
- Three audio versions: Optional Italian, European English and AIP English re-dub and re-score
- English SDH subtitles for both English versions and a new English subtitle translation of the Italian audio
- Audio Commentary with Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas
- Introduction to the film by author and critic Alan Jones
- Interview with star and horror icon Barbara Steele
- Deleted Scene from the Italian version with notes by Tim Lucas
- International Trailer
- US Trailer
- Italian Trailer
- TV Spot
- I Vampiri (1956) – Italy’s first sound horror film directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava
- US I Vampiri Trailer ‘The Devil’s Commandment’
- Trailer reel – trailers of all the major works by Mario Bava
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Matt Bailey and Alan Jones, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Limited Edition Slipbox (1000 copies) also available exclusively from the Arrow Store. Limited Edition features the same content as above plus the Slipbox casing and four alternating artwork panels featuring new and original artwork.
2-Disc Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD 

Label: Arrow Video
Release Date: January 28th 2012
Region: B/2 PAL
Cast: Telly Savalas, Elke Sommer and Sylva Koscina
Director: Mario Bava
Rating: 18 

Tagline: Every Corner of the Soul is Lost to the Icy Clutch of the Supernatural 

From the father of Italian Horror Mario Bava (Black Sunday, The Whip and the Body) comes a tale of nightmarish surrealism and supernatural suspense.

Lisa (Elke Sommer) - an American tourist travelling in Spain - loses her tour party and seeks refuge in the tumbledown mansion of a blind countess after being guided there by the distinctly satanic butler of the house, Leandro (Telly Savalas – Horror Express, Kojak). The Son of the Countess notices Lisa’s striking resemblance to his dead lover and pursues her as a night of murder, strange eroticism and dark hallucinations begins.

Re-cut in the US to cash in on the popularity of William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and released as The House of Exorcism (included in this special edition) the original Lisa & the Devil is Bava at his abstract and delirious best, delivering a 70s horror classic and a masterclass in cinema as feverish nightmare.

Special Features:

- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of both versions of the film: ‘Lisa and the Devil’ and ‘The House of Exorcism’ producer’s cut
- Optional English and Italian audio on ‘Lisa and the Devil’
- English SDH subtitles on both features and a new English subtitle translation of the Italian Audio of ‘Lisa and the Devil’
- Audio Commentary on ‘Lisa and the Devil’ by Bava biographer and expert Tim Lucas
- Audio Commentary on ‘The House of Exorcism’ by producer Alfredo Leone and star Elke Sommer
- Introductions to both films by author and critic Alan Jones
- The Exorcism of Lisa – Assistant Director Lamberto Bava, screenwriter Roberto Natale, Roy Bava and Bava biographer Alberto Pezzotta discuss the making of both versions of the film
- Deleted Scene
- Original trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
- Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic and author Stephen Thrower illustrated with original stills and archive posters

Limited Edition Slipbox (1000 copies) also available exclusively from the Arrow Store. Limited Edition features the same content as above plus the Slipbox casing and four alternating artwork panels featuring new and original artwork
CAMILLE 2000 (1969)
Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD 

Label: Arrow Video 
Release Date: February 11th 2013
Region: B/2 PAL
Cast: Danièle Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo and Eleonora Rossi Drago
Director: Radley Metzger
Rating: 18

Overview: From an age before the hardcore explicitness of Porno Chic comes a swingin’ late 60s erotic film brimming with Italian opulence, liberated sex and modish inflatable furniture.

When Marguerite, a promiscuous woman with a troubled past and a deep distrust of men meets Armand, she lets her guard down and falls in love. But can they resist old habits and latent emotions in order to stay together? Find out in this visual, sensual cinematic feast of multiple sexual partners, from the director of Score and The Opening Of Misty Beethoven.

A vivid mix of colour, grandiose set design, bizarre costumes and frank sexuality, Camille 2000 is an essential piece of erotic film history and a must see for cult movie fans.

Special Features:

- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD Presentation
- Brand new high definition restoration of the extended cut – available for the first time in the UK
- Optional English SDH subtitles
- Audio commentary with director Radley Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen
- On the set of Camille 2000 – featuring stars Daniele Gaubert, Nino Castelnuovo and Radley Metzger
- Sylviana’s Bare Striptease – previously cut scene from the feature
- Cube Love Scene – A newly discovered alternate take
- Restoration Comparison
- Original trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly illustrated artwork by The Red Dress
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Robin Bougie

 Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD

Label: Arrow Video:
Release Date: February 11th 2013 
Region: B/2 PAL 
Cast: Silvana Venturelli, Frank Wolff and Erika Remberg
Director: Radley Metzger
Rating: 18

Overview: A mind-bending classic of erotic cinema, The Lickerish Quartet brings us a rich jaded couple and their grown-up son - bored after a night watching pornography - visiting a travelling stunt show, the star of which is bears a striking similarity to the woman in the sex film they just saw. Invited back to the castle for a drink, she soon becomes embroiled in a night of bizarre carnality, fantasy fulfilment and highly charged love games.

Hailing from a time when erotic cinema was embraced by the mainstream, The Lickerish Quartet is a dream-like fantasy of liberated love and questing eroticism which blurs the boundaries between staid reality and the surreal realms of unbridled sexual fantasy.

Directed by the groundbreaking sometime pornographer Radley Metzger, The Lickerish Quartet takes us back in time to an era when nudity was a novelty and sexual explicitness felt like a revolution...

Special Features:

- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD Presentation
- Brand new high definition restoration of the original feature – uncut and available for the first time in the UK
- Optional English SDH subtitles
- Audio commentary with director Radley Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen
- The Making of The Lickerish Quartet – A behind-the-scenes look featuring rare footage of Silvana Venturelli, Paolo Turco and Radley Metzger
- Cool Version Love Scenes – originally produced scenes where the original version too hot!
- Giving Voice to the Quartet – a look at the different audio tracks between the original location and dubbed soundtracks
- Original trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly illustrated artwork by The Red Dress
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Robin Bougie

 SCORE (1974)
Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD

Label: Arrow Video
Region: B/2
Release Date: February 11th 2013 
Cast: Claire Wilbur, Calvin Culver and Lynn Lowry
Director: Radley Metzger
Rating: 18


Riding an early 70s wave of ever more liberal big screen morals, Score takes us to the imaginary city of Leisure, where an experienced couple are playing dangerous games of seduction on the swinging scene. They’re taking bets on who can screw who as they play fast and very loose with a newly married couple – Betsy and Eddie – two cute kids who are about to get their world turned upside down...

As the two couples dance around one another and the wine and pot begin to take hold, will the young and naive pair break their vows and succumb to the new morality of their hosts? Will Betsy wear the dog collar and leash? Find out in Metzger’s paean to sexual liberation, softcore Lesbianism and gender-bending erotic freedom!


Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD Presentation
- Brand new high definition restoration of the film – available for the first time in the UK
- Optional English SDH subtitles
- Audio commentary with director Radley Metzger and film historian Michael Bowen
- On the set of Score – a behind the scenes look at the making of Score containing rare footage of Claire Wilber, Lynn Lowry, Cal Culver, Gerald Grant and Radley Metzger
- Keeping Score with Lynn Rowley (The Crazies, Shivers) – a brand new interview with Score’s star
- Original trailers
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly illustrated artwork by The Red Dress
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by Robin Bougie


Label: ArrowDrome: 
Region: 2 PAL
Release Date: February 25th 2013 
Cast: Ned Manning, Natalie McCurry and Peter Whitford
Director: Brian Trenchard-Smith
Rating: 18 

Tagline: The price of admission is the rest of your life...

From Ozploitation King Brian Trenchard-Smith (Turkey Shoot, Stuntrock) comes an Australian Grindhouse classic which pits the dregs of society against each other in a crazed battle featuring atomic punks, burnt out junkers and a totally corrupt police force.

In an apocalyptic future where crimes rates have spiralled out of control and the economy has permanently collapsed, those in charge have found a perfect solution to the rise of lawlessness... Lock away the undesirables, criminals and low down dirty scumbags in the old Drive-in movie theatres, now converted into violent concentration camps.

Now, two kids who thought they were only coming along to see the show are trapped by circumstance in the chaos of Dead End Drive-In, can they escape before they too become resigned to the crazed life in this hellhole like everybody else? . There's a party every day, a movie every night, and all the junk food you can eat. What more can a kid want... except to get out.

Special Features:
- A Reversible Sleeve of Original Artwork
- A Collector's Booklet
Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD

Label: Arrow Video
Region: B/2 PAL
Release Date: March 25th 2013  
Rating: 15
98 mins

Cast: Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman
Director: Wes Craven 

Tagline: They’ll Build A Barn From Your Bones!

Wes Craven unearths the darkness that festers beneath an isolated community in Deadly Blessing, a rural tale of mistrust and bloody murder from the director of Last House on the Left.

When Martha marries into a close knit sect she finds herself shunned as an outsider by its fanatical members, but when her husband dies mysteriously while riding a tractor expressly forbidden as a tool of the devil, things take a darker turn. Marked as a incubus by her neighbours, time is running out for Martha and her visiting friends, as plagued by nightmares and fearing for their lives, they face the violent fury and retribution of old time religion.

One of Hollywood’s masters of terror presents a tale of rural horror and simmering evil from the golden age of video terror.


Special Features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the main feature
- Optional English SDH Subtitles
- Audio commentary with Wes Craven [Blu-ray only]
- Brand new UK-exclusive interview with Wes Craven [Blu-ray only]
- Introduction by star Michael Berryman
- Craven Images: The Horror Hits of Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes Series, Cut and Run, Weird Science) - An interview with Deadly Blessing’s iconic star
- Deadly Desires: An interview with screenwriter Glenn M. Benest
- Easter Eggs
- Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Rue Morgue art director Gary Pullin
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by author and critic Kim Newman


Label: Arrow Video
Release Date: March 25th 2013
Region: 2 PAL
Rating: 18

Cast: Raffaëla Anderson, Karen Lancaume and Céline Beugnot
Directors: Virginie Despentes, Coraline Trinh Thi

Overview: Sex and shooting assault the senses in Baise-moi [literally ‘Fuck Me’ or ‘Kiss Me’], a bloody buddy movie that’s like Thelma and Louise on acid. 

Banned on release in France, the film has provoked as much horror as it has debate.

Manu – a part time porn star - and Nadine – a hooker – set out to leave their town for Paris after witnessing and being subject to rape and violence. They rage against societal expectations in a fury of robbery, orgiastic lust and murder.

One of the most controversial movies of the last 20 years, Baise-moi was described as the most sexually explicit film to ever reach British screens by the UK press, the film offers the complacent viewer a cinematic slap in the face.

Special Features:
- To Be Announced Soon
- Original theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Joe Wilson
- Collector’s booklet featuring writing on the film by author Kier-la Janisse


Label: Synapse Films
Region: All Regions 
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 90 Mins.
Audio: English Dolby Digital English 2.0 Stereo
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Cast: Kevin Van Hentenryck, Gil Roper, Denise Coop, Annie Ross
Director: Frank Henenlotter

: He’s back. He’s bad. And he’s a dad! Belial, everyone’s favorite beast-in-a-basket, is back in this sensational third film in the wildly macabre horror series. After being separated again from his conjoined twin brother Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck), Belial finds out he’s going to be a deformed daddy! Mrs. Belial (“Eve”, played by Denise Coop) delivers a litter of bouncing baby monsters, but the blessed event turns into a nightmarish ordeal when the police kidnap the little critters. They should know it’s not safe to anger Belial! Attacking the cops in a climactic, gory rampage, everyone’s favorite mutant mauler stops at nothing to get his newborns back!

The Film: The Time Square Freak Twins, Duane and Belial Bradley, are back in this third and weird final entry in Frank Henelotter's cult trilogy. We find that demented Duane has been placed in a padded room following the events of the second film. Sprung from the loony bin by the endearing Granny Ruth the twins, and Granny's band of "unique individuals", board a bus and drive south to the home of Uncle Hal where Belial's pregnant girlfriend Eve can safely give birth to their offspring away from the prying eyes of the normies.

Basket Case 3 is a campy freak-fest of fun that tosses out the more straight-up horror element of the first film and dives head-first into demented comedy and for the most part it really works. Courtesy of special effects make-up artist Gabriel Bartalos we get tons of low-budget freaks onscreen, it's like a campy version of Clive Barker's Nightbreed (1990) with loads of memorable rubber faced creations like Mackerel Head and Moon Face, it's a cheapie but a goodie. If you're here for the gore it's onscreen but is offset by Henelotter's particular brand of camp, if you're familiar with Frankenhooker (1990) you will find yourself in familiar territory. 

Highlights include a nutty, over-the-top birthing scene, the freaks assaulting the the local jail in an effort to free Duane and an unexpected Aliens (1986) homage with Belial in a mechanical exoskeleton suit, it's fun stuff with no shortage of bloody gore-infused comedy. The bad, there's some groan inducing line delivery, but it's pitch perfect for a b-movie schlockfest like this. 

DVD: Synapse Films presents Basket Case 3: The Progeny in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and it looks pretty good for a wacky b-movie shot on the cheap. The print the transfer is sourced from looks great with strong colors and black levels, not the most finely detailed image but not too shabby for a standard definition presentation. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio track is well balanced with clear dialogue, score and effects. The only special feature on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the film, unfortunately there is no commentary track from Frank Henenlotter which would have been outstanding, the man is always an entertaining listen.

Verdict: Basket Case 3 is definitely an acquired taste, a weird and quirky entry in the series that features a great cast of ribber-faced freaks with a bizarre mixture of nuttiness and camp infused violence.  (2.5 Outta 5)


Thursday, October 18, 2012



Label: Image Entertainment
Region: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated

Duration: 114 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Widescreen (2:35:1)
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Directors: Buddy Giovinazzo, David Gregory, Douglas Buck, Jeremy Kasten, Karim Hussain, Richard Stanley, Tom Savini
Udo Kier , Guilford Adams, Suzan Anbeh, Lindsay Goranson, André Hennicke, Kaniehtiio Horn, Lena Kleine, Catriona MacColl, Victoria Maurette, Virginia Newcomb, Debbie Rochon, Tom Savini, Melodie Simard

When Enola Penny (Virginia Newcomb) enters a derelict theatre she is enraptured by a bizarre series of six anthology vignettes introduced by a creepy marionette character (Udo Kier, Mark of the Devil) and a cast of eerie automatons creations.

Up first is the Lovecraftian tale "The Mother of Toads" directed by Richard Stanley, the director of Hardware (1990) and Dust Devil (1992). The segment features Italian horror icon Catriona MacColl who appeared in many of Lucio Fulci's films including The Beyond (1980). An American couple Martin (Shane Woodard) and Karina (Victoria Maurette) are touring the French Pyrenees when by chance they encounter a witchy woman named Mere  (Catriona MacColl, The City of the Living Dead) who lures Martin, an anthropologist by trade, to her countryside villa with the promise of the fabled Necronomicon. Once the young man is is alone with her he discovers she  is quite more than she at first appears. It's a well-crafted creeper and the seduction of Martin by the aged witch is quite unnerving and it only gets more grotesque when he wakes up next to something quite a bit more severe than a horny witch. The gooey low-budget creature effects are pretty great, the anthology starts off strong with what turned out to be my favorite of the bunch. It's great to see Stanley back directing horror his aforementioned early 90's features were among the decades brightest and darkest entries. The short features gorgeous settings and great cinematography accentuated by Dario Argento-esque lighting and an atmospheric score that brought to mind Goblin at moments. The piece really has an Italian horror feel to it, definitely a short that left me hungering for more from Richard Stanley, this was a great Lovecraftian tale rich with occult symbolism.

Up next  from director Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock) is a twisted tale of demented love and betrayal "I Love You". Axel (Andre Hennicke) is a pathetic and insanely insecure man pleading for his cheating lover Mo (Suzan Anbeh) to stay with him despite her painfully honest admissions of infidelity which she lays bare on the table in a series of promiscuous flashbacks. This one is heavy on dialogue but we get a satisfying and twisted finale that delivers the goods. 

"Wet Dreams" from Tom Savini follows a douche-nozzle named Donnie (James Gill) who steps outside the bounds of  marriage to Carla (Debbie Rochon) regularly but he is haunted by castration anxiety nightmares of emasculation and towards that end seeks the help of a psychiatrist named Dr. Maurey (Tom Savini). Turns out Donnie is sticking it to the psychiatrist's wife on the side and you have to imagine that a head shrink, when provoked, is capable of some dark and twisted shit. Tom Savini also directed the remarkable Night of the Living Dead (1990) remake but has done very little since that has stuck with me, my least favorite of the bunch but there's some revenger fun to be had here with gory special effects gore from the Toetag Pictures crew. 

Douglass Buck's somber "The Accident" deals with the aftermath of a motorcycle accident witnessed by a mother (Lena Kleine) and her adolescent daughter (Melodie Simard). It's a gorgeous looking film and has a tenderness to it that sets it apart from the other dark-hearted tales, the young girl's questions about death to her mother was quite touching and maybe a bit misplaced on this anthology.

Enough about a innocent young girls questions about mortality, let's get back to some squirm inducing eye-gore with Karim Hussain's "Vision Stains" a rather unique vision of terror indeed as a young woman (Kaneihtiio Horn) mortally wounds street walkers, junkies and the homeless and as they lay dying inserts a needle into their eyes withdrawing the ocular fluid and then injecting it into her own eyeball - fans of Fulci's infamous eye-gore will just love this, some very nasty effects work going on here - it will have you squirming in your seat for sure, just nasty. The transference of ocular fluid sets of a series of memories in her own brain and she hurriedly scrawls the life memories of each of her victims into a journal, a weird addiction and compulsive .

The last of the vignettes is a candy-colored nightmare of gluttony and lust from David Gregory entitled "Sweets". Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) and Greg (Guilord Adams) are engaged in some bizarre fetish that involves mass digestion of confectionery delights to the point that it's just gross> When the two attend a party hosted by Mikela Da Vinci (Lynn Lowry, Romero's The Crazies) things get even more bizarre, a beautifully filmed and shocking bit of nastiness right here.  

DVD Special Features:
- Audio Commentary for each Segment with the exception being Douglass Beck "The Accident"
- 'Shock Till You Drop' Interviews with Gergory, Giovanizzo, Kasten (38:21) 
- Behind-the-Scenes (7:45)  
- Theatrical Trailer (1:35) 

Verdict: What attracted me to this film at first was the return of Richard Stanley to the horror genre - now that's something to get excited about right there and I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of all of these dark vignettes.  Not all were of the caliber of Stanley's Lovecraftian "Mother of Toads" but each was well-crafted, interesting and stylish, very few anthologies fire on all cylinders, that's just the way of the anthology but The Theatre Bizarre makes for some artfully disturbing viewing from start to finish, impressive stuff. (3.5 Outta 5) 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Blu-ray Review: EXCISION (2012)

EXCISION (2012) 

Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment 
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Region Code: A
Duration: 81 minutes
Rating: Unrated

Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.40)
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with English, Spanish Subtitles
Cast: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Ariel Winter, Roger Bart, Jeremy Sumpter, Matthew Gray Gubler, Ray Wise, John Waters, Malcolm McDowell, Marlee Matlin 
Director: Richard Bates, Jr.  

Synopsis: Based on writer/director Richard Bates, Jr’s short film of the same name, Excision follows a disturbed and delusional high school student, Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord). Pauline, with aspirations of a career in medicine, goes to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother (played by Traci Lords). While dealing with both being an outcast teenager and having an obsession over curing her sister’s cystic fibrosis, Pauline becomes increasingly deranged as her fascination with surgery and flesh and blood grows into something compulsive and demonic, if not epic.

The Film: Wowie, this was a dark-hearted film, and a funny one, too but super dark and certainly twisted - nice to see some original fuck-uppedness out there. Pauline as played by AnnaLynne McCord (TV's Nip Tuck) is an outsider at school, attractive but in a dark, demented way. She's strange and no one seems to care for her, particularly not the popular kids. She doesn't really help herself with fun question in sex ed class like "Can you get an STD from a dead guy?", that's just social suicide in high school and in life after, y'know but she's an inquisitive young lady so what can you do.

She's has dreams of becoming a surgeon and believes she has natural God-given abilities with a scalpel which she hopes to use to cure her sister of her cystic fibrosis, let's just see how that delusion pans out at the end. Speaking of dreams, let me tell you this chic is festering in dark surreal nightmares, fantasies actually, she dreams of crawling naked over masses of corpses, licking mutilated body parts, bathing in a tub of blood and enduring toe-curling orgasms while straddling cadavers on the autopsy table - really bizarre stuff. A virgin at the start of the film she offers her virginity to the boyfriend of one of the popular cheerleaders and this poor douche nozzle just has no idea what he's been invited to partake of, definitely bites off more than he's willing chew.

The film has quite a cast including Traci Lords (Cry Baby) and Roger Bart (Hostel II) as her parents. Bart who plays a sympathetic and henpecked husband to Lords over-bearing but well-meaning mother. We also have some great cameos from Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) as the school principal and Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange) as Pauline's teacher (how fucked-up a school would that be?) plus a brief cameo from trash-master John waters (Serial Mom) as a priest who futilely attempts to bring the demented Pauline closer to God whom with Pauline speaks regularly about pre-marital sex among other things, very funny. 

Hard to believe this is a first time feature for Richard Bates, Jr., it's very well directed, definitely a guy with vision and a beautiful film too with tons of grotesque and surreal beauty. Hats of to McCord for her performance, very solid and some might think casting an actress as gorgeous as her in the role as some sort of stunt-casting ala Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) but she's got the chops, not a character you will soon forget, totally unhinged and wonderful. 

The film is pretty twisted, if you're a fan of Todd Solondz' twisted coming-of-age film Welcome to the Dollhouse (1999) with some Cronenberg-esque body horror (think Dead Ringers) elements soaked with a wickedly dark wit then this is a film for you, highly recommended. (4 Outta 5) 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DVD Review: The Complete Hammer House of Horror 5-DVD Collector's Edition (1980)

5-DVD Collector's Edition

Label: Synapse Films
Region: Region 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 702 minutes
Video: Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame. As Originally Filmed and Broadcast
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono

Directors: Peter Sasdy, Tom Clegg, Alan Gibson, Don Leaver, Francis Megahay, Robert Young, Don Sharp
Cast: Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliott, Pierce Brosnan, Patricia Quinn

Synopsis: Each generation creates tales of horror… stories that seep through the very heart of our collective fears. The legendary Hammer Studios is recognized as the high watermark of the Gothic macabre, creating some of the most chilling and recognizable horror films of all time.

The Series: As the legendary Hammer Films ran out of theatrical steam during the 1970's and  they stopped production of cinema releases and concentrated on television production with this short-lived horror anthology series, each episode a fifty-minute stand-alone feature directed by Hammer alum and featuring many familiar faces including Peter Cushing, Brian Cox, Pierce Bronson and Denholm Elliot among many others. Each episode is tightly directed with strong casts, atmosphere to spare and all matter of horror themed subjects. We get thirteen episodes in all and here's the rundown: 

Witching Time: The debut episode of the series directed by Don Leaver (TV's The Avengers), it's great start to the series here with about a film score composer named David Winter (Jon Finch, Hitchcock's Frenzy) living in the countryside and stressing over his wife's infidelity is visited upon by a beguiling witch named Lucinda (Patricia Quinn, The Rocky Horror Picture Show) whom hails from the 17th century. As she seduces him and drains his life's essence he grows more and more erratic, making life miserable for both he and his cheating wife Mary (Prunella Gee, Never Say Never Again). Great stuff, very comedic in it's own way with nudity aplenty and a great witch-burning pulse-pounder of an ending also featuring Ian McCulloch of Lucio Fulci's Zombie (1979) 

The Thirteenth Reunion: This episode is directed by Hammer-alum Peter Sasdy who also directed Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Countess Dracula (1971) as well as two other Hammer House of Horror episodes, we're in good hands here and his trio of episodes are among the series finest. This is another darkly comical tale of tabloid reporter Ruth (Julia Fioster, Alfie) whom goes undercover at a fat-farm that's infamous for it's vile talking-down to of chubbies, making 'em feel so bad about the extra pounds that they are shamed into fitness. When a man she meets at the clinic dies mysteriously she investigates which ends at a bizarre dinner party where the guest have very peculiar tastes.

Rude Awakening: Also directed by Peter Sasdy this is one of my favorites from the series no doubt in part star Denholm Elliot (Trading Places) as a adulterous real-estate agent who loses his grip on reality after visiting a strange property. Plagued by grisly nightmares of murdering his wife and differing scenarios of lust with his sexy secretary Lolly (Lucy Gutteridge, Top Secret), it hard to tell what real and what's a dream and it's fun stuff, very surreal with some great dream sequences and Gutteridge is a knockout! 

Growing Pains: Directed by Francis Megahay (Taffin), it's a ghostly thriller about a couple whom adopt a strange young boy after there son's tragic death. The parents are a bit self-obsessed and it seems the boy is either responsible for a series of bizarre occurrences or channeling the spirit of their deceased son. The bizarre occurrences include a vicious dog attack, maggot infested meat and a spooky finale at the graveyard.  

The House That Bled to Death: Another notable entry this time directed by Tom Clegg, who? When Mr.Peters (Nicholas Ball, Life Force) and his wife move into a home that was the site of a murder some years previously strange things happen, you get your typical windows and doors slamming shut and a few odder things like blood dripping from the walls and a cat meeting it's demise on a broken window pane. A nice moment of nudity, nosy-neighbor voyeurism and a handful of spooky moments including a notorious scene spraying a birthday party full of kids with massive amounts of the red stuff from overhead pipes, a fun episode with a wonderful twisty and viciousending. 

Charlie Boy: Now we get to the tale of a young couple whom inherit a strange African carved voodoo dolll, this episode directed by Robert Young who brought us the twisted carny-vamp tale Vampire Circus (1972). The couple use it for personal gain but it's not long before the tables are turned setting of a series of voodoo-inspired deaths, and there you have it - another devilishly good episode. 

The Silent Scream: This twisted tale comes from Hammer director Alan Gibson who brought us Dracula A.D. (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) - two lesser Hammer vamp entries but I will tell you this is a fun episode starring a very young Brian Cox (Manhunter) as an ex-con who goes to work for meek pet shop owner Martin played by horror great Peter Cushing (Horror of Dracula). When Chuck's criminal sensibilities get the best of him he discovers that Martin is not as altruistic as first thought. A very intriguing episode with wonderful performances from Cox and Cushing, this one features a host of big cats and animals with a hint of naziploitation, dark stuff and thought provoking. 

Children of the Full Moon: Here we go, a werewolf tale, finally some classic horror staples. Directed by Tom Clegg (again) who directed a series of Made-for-TV Sharpe's films starring Sean Bean, which I've never seen so that don't mean shit. This time out a young couple find themselves stranded when their car dies on a rural road. Seeking shelter at a home deep in the woods they are attacked by what appears to be a werewolf. We get some creepy moments here with the quirky family that resides and some awesomely schlocky werewolf make-up.

Carpathian Eagle: Francis Megahy returns to direct this police procedural as a Detective Clifford (Anthony Valentine, The Monster Club) investigates a series of ritual murders wherein the victims have had their hearts ripped outta their chest, the prime suspect is Mrs. Henska (Siân Phillips, Dunethe ancestor of a cruel Carpathian countess. Okay, honestly this one's a bit of a snoozer in my opinion but we do get a glimpse of a pre-007 Pierce Bronson. 

Guardian of the Abyss: From Don Sharp the director of the schlock-tastic classic Psychomania (1973) comes this tale of a cursed mirror which brought to mind the story of "The Gate Crasher" from the Amicus anthology film From Beyond the Grave (1973) and I rather enjoyed it, some great occult and fantasy elements even though the cursed-object story was a bit rote by 1980 but Sharp makes it work, fun stuff. . 

Visitor from the Grave: The final Peter Sasdy episode is a good one, too. Much like "Rude Awakening" before it has some very surreal and dreamlike moments. Here we have a slightly disturbed heiress named Penny (Kathryn Leigh Scott, of TV's Dark Shadows) is attacked and nearly raped buy an intruder whom she shoots in the face with a shotgun, ouch. Due to various circumstances she is unable to report the crime to the authorities and the body is buried in the nearby woods. However, Penny is haunted by the apparition of the man afterwards which frays her already tenuous grip on reality. This was another fantastic Sasdy episode, we get some genuinely creepy and surreal  moments with a nice bit of gore, too. 

The Two Faces of Evil: Alan Gibson's second episode of the series deals with doppelgangers and is quite an interesting watch with some wonderfully askew visuals and chilling moments. Janet (Anna-Calder-Marshall) and her husband Martin (Gary Raymond) are on vacation with their young son when they pick up a hitchhiker during a torrential rainstorm. The stranger's face is obscured and he's dressed in a yellow rain slicker, without warning he attacks the husband ending in a horrific car accident that kills the stranger. The husband survives but is is unable to speak and during his recovery there are signs that he just might not be who she thinks he is. This was a great episode, a weird and chilling tale that brought to mind elements of David Cronenberg's The Brood (1979).

The Mark of Satan: The final episode in the series is directed by Don Leaver whom also handled the first episode who much like Jim Carrey's character in the film The Number 23 (2007) becomes obsessed with a number - this time out it's the number 9 which he begins to see everywhere around him following the death of a neighbor after he drills a hole into his skull believing himself possessed by the Devil.

Typical of horror anthologies whether they be TV or film productions there's a lot to digest here and not all of it is stellar but on the whole this is a succeesful and macabre mix of horror and suspense with a surprising amount of nudity. Produced in the 1980 the series definitely has a 1970's feel to it but then again we weren't quite into the MTV era-80's just yet. If you love the classic Gothic-tinged Hammer  horrors there's gonna be a lot to love here. We get a little bit of everything; werewolves, cannibalism, Satanism, doppelgangers, witchcraft and dark comedy, this is great stuff and the generous smattering of nudity and gore is not unappreciated, a few years later Hammer again ventured into the TV market with Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense which I definitely want to seek out now. 

DVD: All thirteen episodes are presented in their original British broadcast versions and aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full-frame and look quite good, detail and colors fare better than I had expected with decent black levels too, not much to complain about here in the video department. Synapse have Likewise the English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono audio delivers dialogue, score and effects clearly and without distortion, very clean presentation. A very solid presentation from Synapse films.

In the special feature department we get informative if brief one-minute episode introductions by film scholar Shane M. Dallman with bits of trivia for all thirteen episodes. There's also two video interview with actresses Kathryn Lee Scott and Mia Nadasi (then wife of director Peter Sasdy) who offer up tales of how they got into the film industry and working on their respective episodes.

Special Features:
- Episode Introductions with Film Historian Shane M. Dallmann
- Animated Still Gallery (6:14) 

Verdict: Previous to checking out Synapse's 5-disc DVD set I was completely unaware of this Hammer produced British TV horror anthology series but after taking in all thirteen episodes I am pleased to give this a recommend, lovers of The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside and Tales from the Crypt are strongly encouraged to seek this out. Worry not, for a thirty year old TV series these episodes stand the test of time, solid writing and chills through and through. (4 Outta 5)