Monday, August 31, 2015

IMMORAL TALES (1974) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)

Label: Arrow Video
Region Code: A
Duration: 103 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: Uncompressed French Mono 2.0 PCM Audio with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Walerian Borowczyk 

Cast: Lisa Danvers, Paloma Picasso, Fabrice Luchini, Charlotte Alexandra, Pascale Christophe, Florence Bellamy, Jacopo Berinizi, Lorenzo Berinizi

Synopsis: Walerian Borowczyk's first explicitly erotic feature, Immoral Tales presents a veritable cavalcade of depravity: cosmic fellatio, transcendental masturbation, blood-drenched lesbianism and papal incest. It tells four stories, each delving back further in time, as if to suggest that the same issues recur constantly throughout human civilization, whether involving notorious historical figures like Lucrezia Borgia and Erzsébet Báthory, or present-day teenagers. Capitalising on the relaxation of censorship laws, Immoral Tales would transform Borowczyk's image from brilliant but obscure avant-garde artist to one of Europe's most confrontational filmmakers when it came to trampling on sexual taboos.

This Borowczyk anthology of strongly-sexual subject matter is quite a fantastic watch, an arthouse exercise in pushing the boundaries of taboo cinema and one that might surprise even the most adventerous lover of Eurocult with the exploration of incest, bestiality, faith-fueled masturbation, the deviant behavior of the clergy and the blood-laced orgies of the infamous Elizabeth Bathory.

The first tale 'The Tide' involves a pair of teen cousins and a bicycle trip through the countryside to an ocean beach where the slightly older male of the pair coerces his more naive cousin down the beach to a spot that strands them alone on a rocky outcropping during the high tide. Once there he confesses to her that he brought here there to teach her a lesson about the power of the tides, a lesson that involves the gorgeous freckle-faced Julie (Lise Danvers) wrapping her innocent lips around his cock until he spills his life's fluid into her throat. This is a gorgeous slice of exploitation with a sweet cumming of age innocence about it. 

The second erotic tale 'Therèse Philosophe' has young Thérèse M. (Charlotte Alexandra) returning home late from Church one day, she's running late as she she was distracted while fondling and caressing varous phallic objects around the church. Her angry granny punishes her by locking her away in room for three days during which she discovers an old trunk of clothing and erotic drawings, which sends the young lady into an erotic religious fervor as she masturbates with zuchini before meeting her unfortunate fate at the hands of lecherous vagrant, which is foretold at the start of the short.

The third tale, at least on the longer L'Age D'or Cut of the movie, is 'The True Story of the Beast of Gévaudan', a beastiality heavy version of Beauty and The Beast that goes places I did not expect it to, a completely over the top tour de force of weirdness starring Sirpa Lane as a countess who wanders away from her home into the woods where she is attacked by a hairy beast with an enormous horse-like cock, the creature rapes the poor woman, who in a Straw Dogs type manner comes to enjoy the rough encounter, a wildly cum-drizzled tale of perversity that you have to see it to beleieve it, I just cannot imagine how this went over in 1974! This segment was removed for the final theatrical cut of the film and Borowczyk later expanded the short into the feature film 'The Beast' which I must now certainly watch.

The fourth entry is somewhat less erotic but no less perverse, 'Erzebet Bathory' stars Paloma Picasso as the notirous blood-thirsty Elizabth Bathory, who at the start of the short is searching the countryside for virginal young women whom if chosen will have the honor of touching her lace and pearl laden gown. The young women are taken back to her castle where they enjoy a communal shower before being placed together in a room completely nude. Bathory then enters the room wearing her infamous laceand pearl robe and the many young women proceed to touch it, working temsleves up into a ferver, tearing it apart before tearing each other into pieces in an orgy of greed, thus supplying a fresh bath of virginal blood from which Bathory can restore her youth. This is probably the most cinematic of the bunch, it definitekly feels more of the arthouse than it does the grindhouse, with a nice stinger of betrayal at the very end.

The final segment 'Lucrezia Borgia' is a clear stab at the corruption of the Church, not sure what Borowczyk's relationship with the Church was but he certainly didn;t seem to be a fan. We have friar Savonarola (Philippe Desboeuf) decrying the Church and the inherent corruption thereof, this corruption is shown through the incestual exploits of Pope Alexander VI (Mario Ruspoli) with his own daughter Lucrezia's (Florence Bellamy) and son, the three involved in an unholy eye-popping threesome.

Seemingly designed to shock and offend the movie succeeds mostly, as I was honestly shocked by what I saw - especialy by 'The True Story of the Beast of Gévaudan' - though hardly offended. Each segment offering some form of taboo or deviant behavior that wouldn't be out of place in a standard slice of exploitation cinema, but as this is a Borowczyk film each has an arthouse aesthetic, they're gorgeously shot, and each has a fairytale quality about it, which could make it easie swallow for some, if you're gonna watch smut you might as well watch it with style.

Audio/Video: Immoral Tales arrives on Blu-ray from Arrow Video with a barnd new high-definition restoration by Argos Films. The image quality is strong throughout with some modest depth and a layer of film grain, with the second tale looking a little rougher than the others having been shot on 16mm from the look of it, a bit grainer and softer, but looking good just the same. The mono French audio is predictably non-dynamic, but it clean and balanced, optional English subtitles are provided.

The bonus material is pretty great, beginning with the option to view the standfard four-part version or the the original five-part 'L'Age D'or Cut' which includes the 'The Beast of Gévaudanan', for the sake of this review I only watched the longer cut. We have an introduction from Borowczyk expert Daniel Bird, a brief featurette with production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry and an hour long archival interview from the BBC archives with the filmmaker discusses painting, cinema and sex. This interview was never aired and makes its debut on this disc, having been newly edited.

Additionaly there's a visual essay by Daniel Bird about Borowczyk's early works on paper showcasing his impressive visual style in the context of his early commisioned artwork. Lastly we have the theatrical trailer for the film, a sleeve of reversible artowork and a booklet with new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and an archive piece by Philip Strick. Apparently there are some differences between this version and the one that Arrow released in the UK last year, though I am unsure of the specifics, each having their own exclsive content from the looks of it.

Special Features:
- New high definition digital transfers of two versions of the feature, the familiar four-part edition and the original five-part conception including the short film The Beast of Gévaudan - which later became the feature The Beast.
- Immoral Tales (L'Age D'or Cut) (120 Mins)
- Introduction by Borowczyk expert Daniel Bird (5 Mins)
- Love Reveals Itself, a new interview programme featuring production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry (17 Mins)
- Obscure Pleasures: A Portrait of Walerian Borowczyk, a newly-edited archival interview in which the filmmaker discusses painting, cinema and sex (63 Mins)
- Blow Ups, a visual essay by Daniel Bird about Borowczyk's works on paper (5 Mins)
- Theatrical trailer (2 Mins)
- Reversible sleeve featuring Borowczyk's own original poster design
- Illustrated booklet containing new writing on the film by Daniel Bird and an archive piece by Philip Strick

Walerian Borowczyk's Immoral Tales looks fantastic on Blu-ray from Arrow Video with some great extras that will no doubt further inform susbsequent viewings, and this is definitely something I will watch again. I loved the blend of the erotic and perverse subject matter with the European arthouse aesthetic, highly recommended for the adventurous movie watchers. 4/5



Label: Warner Bros.

Release Date: September 1st 2015 
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: A
Duration: 928 Minutes
Audio: DEnglish DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Directors: Jeffrey Hunt, Pascal Verschooris, Michael Allowitz, Kellie Cyrus, Leslie Libman, Garreth Stover, Darren Genet, Joshua Butler, Paul Wesley, Chris Grismer, Julie Plec, Ian Somerhalder, Leslie Libman, Geoff Shotz, Jesse Warn,
Cast: Nina Dobrev, Paul Wesley, Ian Somerhalder, Kat Graha
m, Steven R. McQueen, Candice Accola

Synopsis: The Vampire Diaries continues its sixth season with more delicious drama to sink your teeth into. In season five, after a passionate summer with Damon, Elena headed to Whitmore College with Caroline, not knowing Bonnie sacrificed her life for Jeremy's. Meanwhile, Stefan and Caroline's friendship deepened as they stood up to the Travelers, a nomadic witch tribe driven to strip Mystic Falls of magic and cast out its supernatural residents. In the shocking season finale, Damon, fearing he would lose his loved ones on the crumbling Other Side, made a huge sacrifice to bring them all back — with catastrophic and heartbreaking results. Season six follows the characters' journey back to each other as they explore the duality of good versus evil inside themselves. Matt Davis reprises his role as Alaric Saltzman, recently returned from The Other Side. Plus, the season will make you misty-eyed as the departure of a major character will turn lives upside down and leave us asking what happened to Mystic Falls.

Again I find myself jumping into the deep end of an already established horror series I know very little about, this particular vampire melodrama has very little by way of bite for me, unfortunately.The series is based on a series of books by author  L.J. Smith and developed for TV by none other than Kevin Williamson of Scream fame, it follows the exploits of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), who falls for a handsome century-old vampire named Stefan Salvatore (Paul Wesley) in the supernaturally charged town of Mystic Falls, Virginia. 

Special Features:

- The Vampire Diaries: Good Bite and Good Luck - The executive producers and cast of The Vampire Diaries say a final farewell to Nina Dobrev, Steven R. McQueen, Marguerite MacIntyre, and Michael Trevino, after six memorable years. (14 Mins) HD 
- The Vampire Diaries: Best.Reaction.Ever - Fan reactions to big moments throughout the season will be curated from Twitter, fan sites and other social media, and pieced together to tell the story of season six via fans' reactions. (6 Mins) HD 
- Ep.615 Audio Commentary - Writer/Director Julie Plec provides commentary on her directorial debut
- The Vampire Diaries: 2014 Comic-Con Panel (28 Mins) SD
- Come Visit Georgia PSA (3 Mins) HD 
- Deleted Scenes (2 Mins) HD 
- Second Bite: Gag Reel (4 Mins) HD 
- Ultraviolet Digital HD 

The Vampire Diaries is not my cup of tea and I had trouble watching the overly dramatic and the emotionally manipulative happenings which definitely felt they were more suited to my teen daughters - who just so happen to love the show - than to my forty-something self. I'm a hardcore horror fan, I love visceral gore and violence, I want my vampires to be fang-deep in the blood of the innocent ...not deep in love. That being said WB have put together a great looking HD collection for the fans of the movie with some decent extras, they were a bit too fan-service oriented for my tastes but I am certain more age appropriate fans of the series will enjoy it. 2/5



Label: Warner Bros.
Release Date: September 8th 2015 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 967 Minsutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Robert Singer, Thomas J. Wright, Jensen Ackles, Jeannot Szwarc, Phil Sgriccia, John MacCarthy, Tim Andrew, Guy Bee, John Badham, Serge Ladouceur, John Showalter, Rashaad Ernesto Green, P. J. Pesce, Stefan Pleszczynski, Steve BoyumCast: Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, Mark A. Sheppard, Ruth Connell, Curtis Armstrong 

Synopsis: After Dean Winchester lost his battle with power-mad angel scribe Metatron last season, he was resurrected by the power of the First Blade and transformed into a demon, cursed with the Mark of Cain. The road to recovering wayward Dean takes brother Sam down sinister paths himself with consequences that will shake the boys to their core. The Winchesters' angelic comrade-in-arms Castiel must pick up the pieces in the aftermath of Metatron's campaign to overtake Heaven. With his divine "grace" failing and rogue angels still loose, Cas faces the ticking clock of his own mortality while all-new and ages-old threats again push our heroes to their human and otherworldly limits. At the same time, the King of Hell, Crowley, must deal with dissension within his own twisted family. Supernatural: The Complete Tenth Season will unleash your inner demon and hold you spellbound.

I am not typically a fan of glossy supernatural TV shows with gorgeous cast but I did get sucked into the first season of the show and never returned, I liked it but I didn't love it and I tend to limit my TV watching to one or two series a season. Now jumping into season 10 after not having watched seasons 2-9 was off putting to say the least - a LOT has happened through the seasons and the Winchester's have been up to quite a bit over the years, though they still ride around in that sweet Impala! For starters Dean is now Demonic at the start of the 10th season, we have a host of demons, angels are everywhere, werewolves abound, there are scarecrows, ancient supernatural relics and even a musical about the Winchesters... Okay, obviously the show has a rich mythology forged over ten years and I had very little chance of absorbing it all in once sitting with out the benefit of the previous eight season between one and ten. 

Luckily there are quite a few bonus features on this set to enjoy, many of which pay fan service to the legions of Supernatural loyalists out there, which there seem to be many. we have a group commentary on three select episodes, which I didn't have a chance to sit down with. There's an hour long Supernatural Fans featurette spotlighting the fandom of not only the cast and crew but the many enthusiastic and creative fans of the show. There's another 20-minute video piece documenting Supernatural at Comic-Con 2014.

My favorite feature was the half-hour A Very Special Supernatural Special with the creators speaking about their favorite and least favored episodes through the years, which made me want to cue up a few seasons on Netflix and binge watch, but honestly that would be a bit daunting 10 seasons in at this point.  

The show remains at it's heart about the relationship between brothers Sam and Dean, and Dean makes for quite a sarcastic demon-fueled character, his arc is the center of the story this season, and there's a lot of mythology to suffer through for those unfamiliar with the series- like myself - and I wanted more monster-of-the-week episodes, but that's only because of my own ignorance about the series. I might be in the minority about that though, even my beloved  X-Files bored me to tears with the mythology episodes, which were never resolved by the series finale. 

Special Features:

- A Very Special Supernatural Special (30 Mins) HD 
- Supernatural Theatre: Staging the 200th Episode (25 Mins) HD 
- The Winchester Mythology: Battling the Mark and the Blade (21 Mins) HD 
- Supernatural Fans (57 Mins) HD 
- Supernatural at Comic-Con 2014 (20 Mins) 
- Three (3) Audio Commentaries on 'The Hunter's Game', 'There's No Place Like Home' and 'The Executioner's song'
- Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel (7 Mins) HD

While my lack of familiarity with the show hindered my viewing experience I still found a lot to love about the horror series, the Winchester's are a charismatic pair and they drive a sweet vintage Impala and the supernatural and horror themed shenanigans are fun, but this isn't the type of show I see myself catching up on any time soon. I definitely preferred the monster of the week type episodes as I was not versed with the rich mythology they've created for themselves, but for the legions of fans out there though WB have put together a great looking collection for season ten with superb HD image and sound with loads of extras. 3/5



Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 710 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English Dolby Surround 2.0 stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Directors: Ernest Dickerson, Greg Nicotero, David Boyd, Jeffrey F. January, Michael E. Satrazemis, Seith Mann, Billy Gierhart, Julius Ramsay, Larysa Kondracki, Jennifer Lynch
Cast: Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Melissa McBride, Chad L. Coleman, Sonequa Martin-Green, Lawrence Gilliard, Jr., Michael Cudlitz, Emily Kinney, Alanna Masterson, Christian Serratos, Josh McDermitt, Andrew J. West.

Synopsis: The previous season of “The Walking Dead” ended with Rick and the group outgunned, outnumbered, and trapped in a train car awaiting a grim fate. What follows is a story that weaves the true motives of the people of Terminus with the hopeful prospect of a cure in Washington, D.C., the fate of the group’s lost comrades, as well as new locales, new conflicts, and new obstacles in keeping the group together and staying alive. Stories will break apart and intersect. The characters will find love and hate. Peace and conflict. Contentment and terror. And, in the quest to find a permanent, safe place to call home, one question will haunt them… After all they’ve seen, all they’ve done, all they’ve sacrificed, lost, and held on to no matter what the cost... Who do they become?

Alright, the complete fifth season of The Walking Dead has arrived, and I will stay away from any spoilery stuff so fear not and read on... 

I've been a huge fan of TWD since the first episode, having never read the comics I came in completely cold and free of any baggage and I remain so to this day, I have no plans to read it until the series ends. That has probably helped me weather a lot of the issues fans of the comics have had, and might have made a few of the slower season, too. Season five starts of with a visceral episode "No Sanctuary" and finished up the Terminus storyline that ended in pretty awful place for the group, trapped in a train car awaiting to be slaughtered like cattle by yet another group of human-flesh hungry survivors. It's brutal stuff from the very beginning, in an episode chock full of visceral stuff, the opening scenes are tense

Various factions of the core group are regrouped - and unfortunately Judith comes back into the fold - call me crazy but I just wanted that kid dead. Okay, that was a tiny bit spoilery but we all know she was alive at the end of the last season anyway. With terminus resolved we have the group back to getting mullet headed idiot-savant Eugene to Washington, which has a pretty interesting resolution in and of itself, one that pushes Abraham to his limits.

We have some new characters this season, namely Father Gabriel Stokes, a man of the cloth with a few secrets, plus a young man named Noah who the group connect with on a return journey to Atlanta. Of course we lose a few along the season, some of which are pretty painful losses, one in particularly was a deep cut, we all have our favorite episodes and we just hope none of them get too much time on-screen talking about their hopes and dreams for the future, because you know they are the next to go, ha ha. 

The carnage this season remains high, the grotesque creations of the special effects teams continue to be awesome from season to season with gooey smashed faces of the undead, the flesh of the living being chewed off, and those grotesque head shots all come at us with good frequency. Last season we had the awesome burned zombies, this season we have two sets of zombies that stood apart. Water-logged zombies trapped in a flooded basement were my favorite, followed by a parking lot full of walkers that were napalmed early on and have since melted into disgusting puddles of gooey chompers, those one looked like something out of the shunting scene from Brian Yuzna's Society. 

The group do find a new home after a temporary stay at a church early on in the season, a new fortified community that almost seems like a more idyllic and pastoral version of Woodbury, minus the governing of a certain one-eyed murderous menace. The storyline is a good one, with the team pulling apart from each other to a certain degree while others keep secrets from each other, the usual array of apocalyptic undead drama unfolds to varying degrees of success.

This season I did not win any who-will-die next predictions I made at the top of the season, which funnily enough is how we start each season, always guessing who will be gone by the season finale, which is a bit morbid but this is a sort of morbid show. 

Onto the special features on the five disc set from Anchor Bay, as usual it is stuffed with bonus content beginning with seven audio commentaries on select episodes with cast and crew, and honestly when it comes to TV series I rarely partake of the commentaries and TWD is no exception to the rule. However, I am all about the deleted scenes and featurettes, thankfully we have hours of content for the fans of the series who just cannot get enough of the behind-the-scenes stuff beginning with 16-minutes worth of deleted scenes spanning the entire season, nothing here is a revelation but I loved watching them in HD. 

There are about two hours worth of Inside The Walking Dead and The Making of The Walking Dead featurettes, I love these, one they gve you a fun recap of the episode from the cast and crew and then you get a behind the scenes making of for each one, seeing the nitty gritty of how they created certain effects and the challenges faces capturing them.

There's also about 20-minutes dedicated to he cast members who were killed this season, the creation of gated-community Alexandria, and a day in the life of actors Michael Cudlitz and Josh McDermitt on-set, a fun peak at what a typical day on-set is like for each of the actors. We also get a short featurette about the making of the napalm-burned zombies from the season, which it deserved, these were among the standout effects of the season.  On top of that we get a Digital HD UV  code so you can enjoy the series on the go, whenever I travel these come in handy when I need to fight of boredom at the airport or the doctor's office, 

Special Features: 
- UV Digital HD Copy
- Audio commentaries featuring Showrunner/Executive Producer/Writer Scott M. Gimple, Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Executive Producer Tom Luse, Executive Producer/Special Effects Make-Up Supervisor /Director Greg Nicotero, Director Julius Ramsay; Actors Lauren Cohan, Chad L. Coleman, Michael Cudlitz, Sonequa Martin-Green, Danai Gurira, Alana Masterson, Melissa McBride, Josh McDermitt, Norman Reedus, Christian Serratos and Steven Yuen.
- Deleted Scenes (16 Mins) HD
- Inside “The Walking Dead” (Approx. 75 Mins)
- The Making of “The Walking Dead” (Approx. 53 Mins)
- The Making of Alexandria (10 Mins)
- Beth’s Journey (4 Mins)
- Bob’s Journey (5 Mins)
- Noah’s Journey (4 Mins)
- Tyreese’s Journey (7 Mins)
- A Day in the Life of Michael Cudlitz (8 Mins)
- A Day in the Life of Josh McDermitt (8 Mins)
- Rotters in the Flesh (5 Mins)

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season comes highly recommended, of course I am preaching to the quire if you are already a fan of the series, and I cannot imagine anyone is jumping in cold with season five of the series, but if so you can expect a top notch HD presentation with a quality surround sound presentation plus a wealth of extras that should keep you satisfied until season six starts up,  or perhaps in between episodes of the prequel series Fear the Walking Dead which is currently airing on AMC. 4/5 

Thursday, August 27, 2015



Label: Mill Creek Entertainment 
Duration: 384 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: Region 1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1), Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Directors: Terence Fisher, Seth Hout, Val Guest, Michael Carreras
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Paul Massie, Susan Strasberg, Terence Howard, Claude Dauphin, Tony Bonner, Ronald Lewis

Another fun set of 60's b-movie has arrived from Mill Creek Entertainment! This set of five Hammer horrors comes licensed from Columbia Pictures and sports anamorphic widescreen transfers - you get a lot of bang for your buck with this one.

THE TWO FACES OF DR. JECKYLL (1960) – Color – 89 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Paul Massie, Dawn Addams, Christopher Lee, David Kossoff, Norma Marla, Francis De Wolff

Synopsis: Absorbed in research directed towards freeing the two natures of man, Dr. Jekyll degenerates in to Mr. Hyde, a vengeful maniac. While Hyde wants revenge against a gambler whom his wife is in love with, Dr. Jekyll, takes steps to do away with his evil self.

A Hammer take on Robert Louis Stevenson's most famous novel stars Paul Massie in a dual-role as both the bearded Dr. Jekyll and the more debaucherous Mr. Hyde, it also notably features Christopher Lee as Jekyll's money-borrowing slimeball friend Paul Allen, who happens to be sleeping with Jekyll's wife Kitty, who is bored by her reclusive husband who would much rather keep himself locked away in his laboratory than attend social parties. When the boring doc injects himself with his potion he becomes the dapper and reprehensible playboy Mr Hyde, who fails to seduce his own wife, but instead hooks up with a steamy snake-dancer Maria (Norma Marla). Mr. Hyde sets into motion a series of events that will pretty much ruin everyone of the players involved, this Hammer entry has some surprising moments of deviancy that might surprise a few people, it certainly did me. Directed by Hammer alum Terrenec Fisher (The Devild Rides Out) the movie has some pacing issues but it an interesting variation of the time weathered story, draped in gorgeous Victorian sets and fashions, this one might be a bit slow but it had some juice to it.

SCREAM OF FEAR (1961) – B/W – 82 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee, John Serret, Leonard Sachs

Synopsis: A young wheelchair-bound woman returns to her father's estate to find he's away on business, but she keeps seeing his dead body in various places. Her stepmother and other house guests employ a plan to drive her insane and take her inheritance.

Scream of Fear or Taste of Fear as it was known in the UK is a surprise filled suspense film concerning young Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg), a wheelchair bound young lady who returns home from school after her best friend dies in a drowning accident, only to discover that her beloved father has gone missing, and her cold step mother Jane (Ann Todd) whom at first seems to be ever so nice might be up to no good. She starts to snoop around for answers with the aid of her chauffeur Bob (Ronald Lewis), and begins to see visions of her father's corpse around the house, particularly in the guest house. Meanwhile her mother's friend Doctor Gerrard (Christopher Lee) visits nightly and suggests the visions are a product of  nervous disorder.

This one is loaded with some very fine suspense and twisty turns, a top notch black and white thriller that makes great use of Penny's wheelchair, a scary accident that plunges her into the mansion pool is a particularly effective scene, loved this one. 

THE GORGON (1964) – Color – 83 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Richard Pasco, Barbara Shelley, Michael Goddliffe, Patrick Troughton

Synopsis: In a rural village, a series of murders have been committed where each victim was turned into stone. A local professor investigates and finds an evil Gorgon haunting a nearby castle and in search of more victims.

Back into the realm of Gothic horror we gave The Gorgon directed by Hammer vet Terrence Fisher, set in the German village of Vandorf in 1910 we have a series of unsolved murders in the village, each occurring on the night of a full moon. Paul Heitz (Richard Pasco) arrives in the village after his younger brother is found dead. his body turned to stone, and for some reason Dr. Namaroff (Peter Cushing) is falsifying the death certificates to obscure the truth behind the strange deaths. Heitz calls in friend Professor Karl Meister (Christopher Lee) to help him get to the bottom of things. Meanwhile Heitz begins to form a romantic relationship with Namaroff's nurse Carla (Barbara Hershey) and discovers that the spirit of a fabled snake-haired Gorgon sister may be haunting the nearby castle ruins. 

The Gorgon is laced with vintage Gothic fashion and set dressing, dripping with atmosphere and creepiness, but all is nearly undone when the final scene of the snake-haired Megaera is finally revealed, it's a bit on the cheap side but this doesn't spoil the movie, this is good stuff and worth a watch! 

STOP ME BEFIRE I KILL! (1961) – B/W – 108 Mins – Not Rated
Starring: Claude Dauphin, Diane Cilento, Ronald Lewis, Françoise Rosay, Bernard Braden, Katya Douglas

Synopsis: After a horrific car crash, race car driver Alan Colby goes on vacation to recover, but suffers blackouts and violent outbursts. With his wife by his side, he visits a psychiatrist who promises to cure Alan's suffering but they have now encountered a mind more unbalanced and disturbed.

This was a let down considering the Giallo-esque title of the movie, it turned out that not all Hammer thrillers are of the suspenseful variety, straying far from the superior Scream of Fear we have a story about race car driver Alan Colby (Ronald Lewis) vacationing in France after a near fatal accident, in the aftermath he is inexplicably overcome with the desire to strangle his wife Denise (Diane Cilento), both seek the help of psychiatrist David Prade (Claude Dauphin), but even a touch of nudity cannot save this stale thriller. This is the one movie on the set I would say just Skip it.

THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY'S TOMB (1964) Color - 81 Mins - Not Rated

Starring: Terence Morgan, Ronald Howard, Fred Clark, Jeanne Roland, George Pastell, Jack Gwillim

Synopsis: An American showman and financier disrupts the coffin of a mummified Pharaoh and finds it empty. The mummy has escaped to fulfill the dreadful prophesy and exact a violent and bloody revenge on all those who defiled his final resting place.

The last feature on the two-disc set is The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb, a pretty typical set-up for a mummy movie, an American showman Alexander King (Fred King) unearths a tomb f a disgraced Pharaoh. He plans to take it on the road as a way to print money, he steadfastly refuses to allow the discovery to be whisked away to some dusty old museum, and he makes a few enemies because of his entrepreneurial ways. As expected they open the sarcophagus at some point and the mummified Pharaoh is nowhere to be found, but soon those who have done wrong by the ancient Pharaoh are found dead and the lurching creature starts making quite a mess of things. 

Not the most pulse pounding of Hammer entries and a pale shadow of the Terrence Fisher classic The Mummy starring Christopher Lee who was by far a more threatening mass of moldy bandages, but this one has some pretty opulent Egyptian set pieces, the Pharaoh's tomb looks fantastic, but this is still a bit on the slow side, thank goodness for Freddie King who does a fantastic job as the fast-talking PT Barnum type American Showman.

The Hammer Films Collection from Mill Creek Entertainment is highly recommended, not all of them are upper crust Hammer entries but for under $10 this is a fantastic deal and the movies are certainly entertaining to varying degrees. Now bring on the Hammer Films Collection Vol. 2 and make it a Blu-ray! 2.5/5 



Label: Scream Factory, IFC Midnight

Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 104 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 
Director: John McNaughton
Cast: Peter Fonda, Michael Shannon, Natasha Calis, Charlie Tahan, Samantha Morton, Leslie Lyles, Meadow Williams

Director John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) is back with a new reality-based thriller concerning Maryann (Natasha Calis), a young girl who moves in with her grandparents (Peter Fonda, Leslie Lyles) following the death of her parents. She befriends a terminally-ill young boy nxt door named Andy (Charlie Tahan) who is home-schooled by his mother, a doctor named Catherine (Samantha Morton), and his stay-at-home father Richard (Michael Shannon). 

Andy's mobility is restricted and can only get around via a wheelchair, not having the use of his legs, and spends most f his time in his bed playing XBOX for the most part. Once young Maryann arrives on scene he now has an XBOX partner and his demeanor begins to change for the better, the two become fast friends much to the disappointment of his insanely overprotective mother, who only tolerates Maryann's intrusions for a short time before banning the young woman from her home altogether. The two kids just cannot be separated though, and they two remain friends through secretive meet-ups when his parents are not at home. . 

What will strike you right away is how unraveled his mother Catherine becomes once Maryann shows up at the house, she begins to act erratically, taking her frustration out on poor Andy and her subdued husband, the guy played by Shannon seems kind hearted enough but he is brow-beaten by his overly aggressive wife who dominates him and Andy at home, and the death-glare she gives young Maryann is scary stuff. Poor Richard is more sympathetic towards Andy and his new found friend, allowing her to come into the home against Catherine's wishes, which only further angers her, causing her to act more erratic and violently. 

Maryann begins to investigate the family knowing that something is rotten in the house and soon she discovers a dark secretly kept away in the basement, something Andy has no knowledge of. Without giving too much away what she finds is pretty damning, she takes to the Internet to dig deeper and what she discovers is startling stuff involving a missing child, when she brings it to the attention of her grandfather he simply shrugs it off as a work of fiction from her own imagination, something  spurred by her inability to play with her new found friend, which as a viewer I always find frustrating, that cinematic cliche of adults not believing anything a kid has to say, no matter how detailed and informed they may seem to be, I hate it. What transpires afterward is sort of insane and more than a little bit chilling, and finally quickens the pulse of a film that for too long runs cold for far too long, so I think that this one might fail to find a wider audience, but for those who don't mind a slow-burner of a thriller there's a lot to enjoy enjoy here, and Morton's over-the-top performance is a fun watch. 

The Harvest has haunted me for a few days now, as these more reality-based horror movies tend to do, with a supernatural or more over-driven horror film I can dismiss it outright, they're too fantastic to be believed, but with these 'neighbor's next door with dark secrets' type of thrillers there's always a layer of diabolical plausibility that weighs on my afterward, for what might be going on behind the closed doors next door is more frightening than any ghost or masked murderer in my opinion. Add to that a what-would-you-do in that situation as a parent scenario, and you have an emotionally charged thriller with more than one dimension. Great to see McNaughton back in the director's chair for a feature length film after a fifteen year absence, this slow-burner might not set the world on fire but it is a tense and atmospheric movie with a top-notch cast and definitely worth a watch. 2.5/5

Special Features:

- Audio Commentary with director John McNaughton and producer Steven A. Jones
- Theatrical Trailer



Label: Anchor Bay Entertainment 

Release Date: September 1st 2015 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 with Optional English SDH Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Ian Kessner 
Cast: Robert Patrick, Ian Kessner, David Lipper, Sarah Fisher, Justin Kelly, Jesse Camacho, Kendar Timmins, Eve Harlow, Elise Gatien

Director Ian Kessner does a lot right with retro 80's slasher Lost After Dark beginning with the tone and feel of it, this one feels like a low budget early 80's horror slasher for the most part, beginning with a cast of easy to recognize stock characters who love smoking weed, drinking beer and engaging in pre-marital teen sex. There's the sweet girl Adrienne (Kender Timmons), her all-American best friend Jamier (Elise Gatien), the rocker-Goth chic Marilyn (Eve Harlow), the uptight bitchy blond Heather (Lanie McAuley) and her douchey over privileged boyfriend Johnny (Alexander Calvert), the nice quarterback Sean (Justin Kelly), the token black dude Wes (Stephan James) and the tubby stoner who cracks wise and pines away for the slut of the bunch, Tobe (Jesse Camacho). 

The film begins with a nice set-up from 1977 with a quick death scene that establishes the killer and the farmhouse location, then we move ahead to the year 1984 at a high school dance with the Vice Principal Mr. C (Robert Patrick) hassling students in the hallway. Our main cast have the only-brilliant-in-the-eighties idea to hotwire a school bus and driving off to a cabin in the woods owned by Adrienne's father, but they have the awful luck of snagging the one bus with a busted fuel gauge, which leaves the stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, you know... just Lost After Dark!

They head on down the road and happen upon a dilapidated old farm house and decide it looks suitably creepy and would definitely be a great place to look for search for gasoline, and just maybe make-out and get stoned. What they don't know just yet though is that the farmhouse once belonged to a family of cannibal-killers who were shot dead by te cops years earlier, only problem is that one of them survived, a Madman Marz type character named Junior Joad, and he's not too keen on having horny teens on his property, so some heads are gonna have to roll. 

The movie takes a bit of time getting to the sweet kills, establishing the characters somewhat as they pair off into couples and explore the property, we get a bit of chemistry, some making-out, and then the kills properly start-up. Once the first victim is strung up with barbed wire everyone knows right away that they are on the menu, from here it's scene after scene of kids fleeing for their lives from the murderous madman with the death scenes being quite good, not glorious, but above average.  Being a retro eighties slasher the filmmakers wisely chose to execute these with bloody practical special effects, keeping the use of digital blood to a minimum, or just used tastefully to the point that it didn't make itself obvious.

We have a good range of murder set-pieces, a bear trap to the face, an auger twisted through a spine, a pickaxe and then a pitchfork through the gut, a head bashed against a tree, a car dropped atop someone and a Fulci-esque shard of glass being driven through the eye in a slow fashion-- it's good stuff, and as a slasher fan from way back I appreciated the variety of the ways that the kids are dispatched one after the other.  Even Heather's "rat fucking dog" gets offed, and if you know me at all you know that anytime a movie is willing to kill off kids and domesticated animals I am pleased as punch I'm just sick that way.. 

The kills are fun and the cast of characters are actually likable, far too often slashers nowadays are just a parade of assholes being killed, but with Lost After Dark you actually feel for them a little bit when their time comes around, even the bitchy blond. Kessner and crew has not made a jaded or ironic send-up of the slasher movies we grew up with, they're going for b-level slasher authenticity, the humor is situational and not of the winking 'were making a retro 80's slasher' variety. They do seemingly change-up the order of the kills a bit, in that the characters which you are used to seeing offed in a particular order sorted by stereotype is skewed, which was a nice touch and will keep your toes. 

The character of Junior Joad comes straight from the 80s slasher playbook, I can see some of the Sawyer clan from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in there and a bit of Madman Marz from Madman thrown in, a bearded wild man with a monosyllabic vocabulary, and one without a signature weapon. In a nice touch Junior used whatever was at his disposal - from stringing someone up with barbed wire to chopping off their head with whatever is within arms reach.

The 80s aesthetic is further realized by the addition a faux-grain and print damage gimmick, which is used tastefully but inconsistently, they're aiming for that aged look that conveys print damage and it works pretty well, but they did step over the line just one time in my eyes. As one of the young women are about to die they slip in a "scene missing" insert which sort of pissed me off, even more so when a later scene referenced it in a way. I hated it in Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof and I have no love for it here either, it's not authentic and it just draws attention to itself, but it didn't ruin the movie for me, just irked me. 

Otherwise the film does a rather excellent job of capturing an early 80s slasher feel with appropriately vintage eighties fashions and a pretty awesome soundtrack with vintage sounding new-wave, new romantic and old school rap songs, a soundtrack begging for a cassette-only release. The way they shot the film feels retro too with some classic POV shots early on, a few modern camera techniques betray the aesthetic from time to time, but the vibe is typically spot on. 

I do love the addition of Robert Patrick to the cast as Vice Principle Mr. C (Patrick) who later arrives on scene in a canary yellow Camaro blasting disco, the 'Nam vet of course takes on the killer, but we're cheated to a degree, after Mr. C delivers a very non-PC monologue about how many VC he killed in the 'Nam a brief battle ensues just off screen, but Patrick gets to chew the scenery up nicely here, and is one of the few characters that is allowed to take it to the next level. A brief cameo from Halloween II director Rick Rosenthall at the end of the film is perhaps the only wink at the audience, and the final shot of the movie is a classic 80s freeze frame.

Audio/Video: The movie arrives on Blu-ray looking like a somewhat beat-up 35mm print and considering that is what they're going for it is a success on all fronts, colors are strong, details are mostly crisp and the black levels are consistent. The Dolby TrueHD surround audio is pretty decent, not the most surround-centric experience you could hope for but the sweet retro-eighties soundtrack sounds fantastic and dialogue, effects and score are nicely balanced. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Unfortunately there are absolutely no extras on the disc, not even a commentary from first-time feature Director Ian Kessner and the cast and crew, which I would have appreciated, I loved the movie, and I wanted to know more about the making of it - that's a missed opportunity, though director Ian Kessner has indicated that a commentary with him and co-writer/producer Bo Ransdell will be forthcoming via an mp3 that will be made available.

Lost After Dark is a blast of retro slasher goodness from start to finish and a high recommend to fans of eighties horror. This is definitely one of the more successful retro horrors I can recall recently, it captures the vibe and atmosphere of the classic b-movies we know and love and does so without winking at us. 3/5

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Label: Artsploitation Films 
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Curtis Burz 
Cast: Sten Jacobs, Anna Altmann, Jaspar Fuld, Nina Splettstösser 

Artsploitation continue their streak of challenging and thoughtful world cinema with this dark German import, the psychological thriller The Summer House (2014) starring Sten Jacobs as an affluent family man Markus Larsen, a man with aberrant sexual proclivities, namely obsessing over his business partner's 12-year old son. Mark's long suffering wife Christine (Anna Altmann) longs for his absent touch, but when he not meeting strange men for cheap sex he is often hidden away at the families summer home, alone with adolescent boy who is now the object of his untoward affection. In the middle we have his young daughter Elisabeth (Nina Splettstosser) who is budding and beginning to grapple with her own sexuality, with a detached mother and a deviant father what will become of this young woman, meanwhile her father's dark obsession threatens to come to light and destroy the family. 

Jacobs has an odd look about him that suits the role perfectly, his eyes are maybe a little too close together, think of Dexter Morgan from the Showtime show Dexter, both share similar features but he's a bit more doughy around the middle and with the aforementioned closeness of the eyes, and like Morgan he is a family man with something to hide, but as challenged as my morality might be I cannot ever see getting behind the character of Markus, so to speak. The wife as played by Altmann is a suffering woman screaming from the inside for the attentions of her husband, she's bitter and cold, her interaction with her daughter are strained and awkward. The daughter herself is coming of age, or at least at the age when boys begin to take notice of young woman and vice versa, she challenges her mother and is questioning of her father, who on the surface seems loving and attentive, but at the same time is not above leaving her alone in the car while he runs inside a lovers apartment to make a throat-deposit.

The victim, a 12-year old boy, the son of a business partner, the arrangement is sketchy and you know that this sort of thing just cannot go undetected for long, but they way it is resolved was a bit of a shocker, as the victim turns the tables on the sexual but the outcome  may not be what he desired, it's a bit of a shock ending but it's played very flat and it will have you stare on in disbelief much as the earlier scenes will, it's a sad and dark story indeed.

Audio/Video: The DVD disc from Artsploitation looks fantastic and would make a great Blu-ray release at some point, crisp vibrant colors, the usual artful cinematography we've come to expect from Artsploitation minus the feverish dream like quality many of the titles share, which is quite an accomplishment, creating such a consistent aesthetic among the various directors and cinematographers, they have a vision and have stayed true to it, while many of the films share little by way of plot and narrative the visual consistency has remained true though and through. The German Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo audio is crisp and clean with good stereo separation, optional English SDH subtitles are included. 

The disc comes loaded with extras including deleted and extended scene, plus an alternate ending, one that doesn't stray very far from the original but is a variation. Additionally there are about an hours worth of interviews with Director Curtis Burz, Composer Bastian Schick, Cinematographer Peter Serbera and Actors Sten Jacobs and Anna Altmann, quite a wealth of extras on this one. 

Special Features:

- First Rehearsal - The Dinner (7 Mins) 
- Alternate Ending (9 Mins)  
- Deleted Scenes (7 Mins) 
- Extended Scenes (11 Mins) 
- Interview with Director Curtis Burz (21 Mins) 
- Interview with Cinematographer Peter Serbera (7 Mins) 
- Interview with Compsoer Bastian Schick (8 Mins) 
- Interview with Actor Sten Jacobs (14 Mins) 
- Interview with Actress Anna Altmann (7 Mins) 
- The Summer House Trailer (3 Mins)
- Cast and Crew interviews
- Artsploitation Trailers: Der Samurai (2 Mins), Cub (2 Mins), Reckless (2 Mins), Horsehead (2 Mins) 

The Summer Home is a slow burning meditation of an aberrant middle class family that dives deeply into the world of pedophilia and obsession, along the lines of Stanley Kubrick's Lolita by way of Todd Solondz' Happiness, without the benefit of the dark humor. This one packs quite a nauseating punch, not all horror need be about visceral blood and guts, sometimes it's just how horrific and disgusting a place the world can be, you have been warned. 3/5

BACKCOUNTRY (2015) (Scream Factory)


Label: Scream Factory I IFC Midnight

Release Date: September 1st 2015 
Region Code: A
Duration: 92 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 7.1, english DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Adam MacDonald
Cast: Eric Balfour, Nicholas Campbell, Missy Peregrym, Melanie Mullen,  Alex Roop

Young couple Alex (Jeff Roop) and Jenn (Missy Peregrym) head off to the Canadian backcountry for some backpacking and camping, heading for a trail that has been closed for the season, but Alex is a seasoned camper and ignores the advice of the park ranger who tries to steer him clear of the area. Along the way things begin to go awry, first Alex drops the canoe on his big toe, causing quite an unsightly wound, but he ventures on. 

The scenery is fantastic, the woodlands are gorgeous and the views are breathtaking along the way, the couple seem to have some underlying issues with each other and as the journey continues they begin to argue and turn against one another, with Jenn rightfully questioning Alex's skills as an outdoorsman along the way. Things turn for the worse when they encounter a strange hiker named Brad (Eric Balfour) who joins them for a fish dinner around the campfire, he has a weird menacing manner about him that threatens to turn into a physical altercation, but soon enough he continues on his own through the darkened woods, leaving the couple to themselves. 

Later that night they begin to hear strange sounds and twigs snapping int the woods, in the morning their supplies have been ransacked, but Alex lays the blame on raccoons, though he knows damn well that he saw a bear track in the area, he chooses not to alarm Jenn about such things, continuing on their journey through the wilderness. Before too long it becomes evident that Alex has no clue where they are or how to return to where they began, and the two really start to lay into each other, especially Jenn who emasculates Alex with a lot of venom, and who can blame her, they're deep in the woods, they have no idea where they are, and a bear is stalking them and things are about to get a lot worse.

Backcountry is a bit of a backwoods slow-burn that it's sweet time to get going, at nearly an hour before it gets a decent boil going, along the way we're feeling out the young couple, seeing the quiet drama between the two, the unease and jealousies, we're also seeing mistakes being made along the way that a seasoned camper wouldn't have made, and if they'd done thing differently perhaps things would have gone a bit differently. Some of these no-brainers include refusing a map of the area, leaving behind an emergency tracking system, and purposefully leaving behind cell phones, plus there's no small amount of male ego at play here, especially the decision to not just turn back at several points. 

While it does take awhile to get the pot boiling once we get to a certain point in the movie things turn harrowing rather quickly with a rather visceral and blood-soaked encounter that leaves one of them in shreds and the other in shock and wounded wandering through the wilderness with a flesh-crazed bear stalking them. The minimal cast is superb with Roop and Peregrym turning in convincing performances, as a young couple in love, as a young couple  at odds with each other and then as a couple terrified beyond belief at the hands of vivacious bear, you buy into it, you feel it. It was great to see Peregrym, who I have not seen since the short-lived TV series Reaper, she makes for a strong character and has quite a set of pipes on her, those scream were nerve shattering. The appearance of Eric Balfour as an Irish-accented hiker was a bit out of nowhere, his presence added some early menace to the movie, creating some needed tension between our main characters, creating an uneasy tone which worked to the movies benefit. 

The effects are pretty minimal in the film, you don't really get any gore for an hour, but the violence is gut-churning once it begins, and though brief you won't soon forget someone clawed to shreds, helpless against a furry force of nature. 

Audio/Video: The Blu-ray from Scream Factory and their partnership with IFC Midnight looks and sounds great, the HD image looks crisp and clean with scene after scene of gorgeous wilderness shots, which might bore some of the horror fans but I loved it. The English DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround audio sounded great, clean and crisp with a strong surround presence, the sounds of birds and the crackling of the campfire the menacing bear sounds and the terrifying screams of agony - this is a great sound design.. 

Special Features

- Audio Commentary With Writer/Director Adam MacDonald And Actors Missy Peregrym And Jeff Roop
- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette (17 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Bear Shots (2 Mins) HD 
- Still Gallery (64 Images) 95 Mins) HD 

Extras on the disc beginning with an engaging audio commentary from With Writer/Director Adam MacDonald And Actors Missy Peregrym And Jeff Roop who recall the making of the movie and filling in some anecdotal stories along the way. There's also a behind-the-scenes featurette,  a gruesome gallery of stills and behind the scenes shots, a series of shots using a cat as a stand-in for the bear, a sort of video storyboard of sorts that were used to convey to the bear wrangler what shots they needed for the movie. 

While the structure of the movies feels a bit off, with the slow-build and a visceral punch-to-the-gut, but then it slows down again for a somewhat slow finale that brought to mind the end of Adam Green's Frozen. Backcountry is an effective wilderness survival tale, and to it's credit, the night I watched it I was plagued by nightmares of of a vicious bear attack in my sleep, my wife said I was kicking and screaming in my sleep with torrents of sweat puring off of me, so the movie has got some serious juice to it. 3.5/5