Sunday, October 30, 2016

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) (Second Sight Blu-ray Review)

40th Anniversary Edition Limited Edition Boxset 

Label: Second Sight Films

Release Date: November 28th 2016 
Region Code: Region B Locked 
Duration: 91 Minutes
Rating: 15 Certificate (Uncut) 
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Uncompressed PCM Original Mono with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Austin Stoker, Darwin Joston, Laurie Zimmer, Nancy Loomis, Tony Burton, Peter Franklin, Charles Cypher

John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 is a stone-cold cult-classic executed with near gritty perfection by one of cinema's great genre directors. On a fateful night in Los Angeles three disparate elements converge on the decommissioned police station Precinct 13. What transpires is a white-knuckle thrill ride packed with claustrophobic atmosphere and sweaty tension, a cult-classic in the truest sense of the phrase.

Newly promoted Lieutenant Ethan Bishop (Austin Stoker, Horror High) is assigned to oversee the decommissioning of a police during its last few hours of operation. The skeleton crew staffing the station are Captain Chaney (Henry Brandon, The War of the Worlds), the station's two cute, sweater-bound secretaries, Leigh (Laurie Zimmer, A Dirty Story) and Julie (Nancy Loomis, Halloween), plus Lt. Bishop. It seems like a pretty easy gig from the onset but things have a way of turning bad real quick when you least expect it. 

Things  seems mundane for Bishop and the crew for the first few hours of their shift until a correctional bus transporting three prisoners arrives at the station seeking medical attention for one of the inmates who has fallen ill. Also on the bus is a notorious murderer named Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston, Eraserhead) who is on his way to Death Row, plus inmates Wells (Tony Burton, The Magnificent Seven), and Caudell (Peter Franklin, The Puppet Master), correctional officer Starker (Charles Cyphers, Escape from New York) and the driver of the bus.

On the same night not far away the warlords of multiracial L.A. gang Street Thunder have declared war on the city Los Angeles in retaliation for for the death of a few of their own who were ambushed by the LAPD earlier in the night. They thugs drive through the streets of the city looking for random victims when they happen upon an ice cream truck driver parked on the side of the street. They open fire, in the aftermath a young girl (Kim Richards, Escape from Witch Mountain) lays dead in the street. This is still such a shocking scene of violence, even after many watches this still packs a visceral punch to it. The grieving an enraged father of the young girl pursues the gang through the streets, eventually catching-up to them and killing one of the warlords. Now on foot he is chased by the remaining gang members, winding up on the steps of the 13th Precinct. Once inside he collapses and is unable to relay what has happened, without warning the gang lay siege to the precinct beginning with a spray of silenced gunfire killing several officers and a few prisoners in very short order.

With the power and communications cut off and with precious few alternatives left to him Bishop unchains the surviving prisoners in a desperate attempt to thwart certain death. The movie is a bit slow to start as the three story lines slowly converge but once the white-knuckle action sets in it never slows down. The tension is oppressive as the good guys find themselves somewhat hopelessly holed-up in the precinct with very few weapons, cut off from the world and with no help on the way they must fight or die. Bishop and his ragtag crew don't seem to have a snowball's chance in Hell of surviving this urban skirmish, at times it does start to feel like Carpenter borrowed a page from George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) in that respect, but maybe that is just because I've never watched Rio Bravo (1959) on which this is largely patterned

Assault on Precinct 13 was John Carpenter's first movie, unless you count the sci-fi comedy Dark Star which he co-directed with Dan O'Bannon (Return of the Living Dead). It's early stuff but already we can see many of what would become known as his trademarks, creating a very real sense of isolation and dread and a realistic approach to urban action. The movie is nicely shot in the super wide Carpenter-Vision (2.35) aspect ratio with a sweet Carpenter synth-score, which features a totally bad ass main theme that immediately sets a dark urban tone, I think outside of the Halloween main theme this is one of Carpenter's most recognizable pieces of music. 

The cast is superb, the wry relationship between Lt. Bishop and killer Napoleon is fun stuff, particularly Joston as the wise cracking antihero always asking to bum a smoke from everyone. He's right up there with Snake Plissken (Escape from New York) as one of Carpenter's most iconic anti-hero figures and the wry banter back and forth between the two makes for great viewing. While not a huge role the hypnotic Laurie Zimmer appears as one of the sexy sweater-bound secretaries trapped in the precinct and there's some tasty sexual tension between her character and the killer Napoleon. The actress has a certain Lauren Bacall type charm about her with cool demeanor and stunning blue eyes, not to mention the woman can really rock a sweater. 

Blu-ray: Assault of Precinct 13 (1975) comes to UK Blu-ray from Second Sight Films with a fantastic 1080p HD widescreen (2.35:1) transfer. Colors are vibrant with strong black levels, a few of the darker scenes can be a bit grainy but overall this looks wonderful with some nice crisp texture and fine detail. I do believe this is the same HD master as was used by US distributor Scream Factory for their Collector's Edition Blu-ray with some additional clean-up and restoration work performed by Second Sight to remove additional dirt and scratches and the results are wonderful, the movie has never looked better on Blu-ray. 

The disc comes with English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and an uncompressed PCM Original Mono mix for the purist. Dialogue comes through crisp and clean, and the snarling John Carpenter synth-driven score sounds superb. The surround is predominantly front heavy but the surround does open it up a bit, particularly with the score bleeding into the surrounds. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Second Sight have put together an epic 4oth Anniversary edition of the movie licensing all the Scream Factory extras including two audio commentaries and throwing in a few more. We have the original John Carpenter commentary which is still one of my favorite non-Kurt Russell commentaries from Carpenter. The second commentary is with Art Director and Sound Effects Editor Tommy Lee Wallace which is moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures. Wallace has some great stories to tell about collaboration with Carpenter, the different locations and his career making movies. Michael Felsher does a great job keeping the conversation on track and interesting.

Another carry-over from the Scream Factory release is the 2002 interview with Carpenter and star Austin Stoker after a screening of the film at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Carpenter fields questions from the audience and touches on the origins of the movie and what it was like shooting is first solo-directed feature. Carpenter is funny with some fun anecdotes, including one on how he skirted an x-rating from the MPAA. He also touches on his influence on filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Guy Ritchie, recording the score and his post Dark Star relationship with the now late Dan O'Bannon. Also carried over are the Red Shirt produced video interviews with actors Nancy Loomis and Austin Stoker adding up to about 35-minutes. Stoker goes into his early careers and working with Carpenter on the film, a particular scene he'd like to go back and switch-up a bit. Loomis also touches on her early career, Carpenter's original plan to make a western, the location, her character and life after acting plus the whole convention experience.

Second Sight have also included three brand-new video interviews produced by Severin Films for this release. We get new interviews with Austin Stoker (10 Mins), Producer Joseph Kaufman (16 Mins) and Tommy Lee Wallace (22 Mins) all recorded in 2016. Exclusive to this release is the inclusion of John Carpenter's early student films, the eight-minute short 'Captain Voyeur' which was unearthed by archivist Dino Everett at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. Now honestly this is not some lost Carpenter masterpiece but the rough short does feature some of the themes we've come to associate with the director. The short follows the ill-fated adventure of a peeping-tom over the course of a night. Extras on the disc are finished-up with a trailer, radio spots and a weird French documentary 'Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer?' (2003) in which filmmaker Charlotte Szlovak attempts to find the elusive actress who seemingly fell of the face of the earth shortly after this movie. 

We were sent only a 'check disc' for this release but the limited edition box set also includes five art cards and a bonus CD soundtrack of the menacing Carpenter score. This is a mighty stacked Blu-ray with loads of cool extras, Second Sight have put a lot of love into this Carpenter cult-classic. 

Limited Edition Special Features
- Newly Restored from High Definition 1080p Transfer
- DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Uncompressed PCM Original Mono Audio Options
- Return to Precinct 13: A new Interview with Austin Stoker (10 Mins) 
- Producing Precinct 13: A new Interview with Joseph Kaufman (16 Mins) 
- Filmmaking with John: A new interview with Tommy Lee Wallace (22 Mins) 
- Captain Voyeur: John Carpenter student short (Blu-ray exclusive) (8 Mins) 
- Do You Remember Laurie Zimmer documentary film (Blu-ray exclusive) (54 Mins) 
- Interview with John Carpenter and Austin Stoker (23 Mins) 
- The Sassy One with Nancy Loomis (13 Mins) 
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director John Carpenter
- Audio Commentary with Tommy Lee Wallace moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures 
- Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Radio Spots (1 Mins) 
- 5 Art Cards (Limited Edition box set exclusive)
- Bonus CD Soundtrack Disc (Limited Edition box set exclusive)

Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) is an action-packed white knuckler that starts off a bit slow but once things pick-up this siege classic proves to be one Hell of a tense ride. Second Sight have knocked it out of the park with their 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Boxset, this is the definitive version of the movie, this is the one to own. highly recommended. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

THE INITIATION (1984) (Arrow Video Blu-ray Review)


Label: Arrow Video 

Release Date: November 7th 2016 
Rating: R
Duration: 97 Minutes 
Region Code: A/B
Audio: English LPCM Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video:  1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Larry Stewart
Cast:  Daphne Zuniga, Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, James Read, Marilyn Kagan, Robert Dowdell, Patti Heider, Frances Peterson, Christopher Bradley, Joy Jones

The Initiation (1984) is a fun and nostalgic 80s slasher trip that doesn't stray too very far from the classic slasher themes with a wink and a nod to John Carpenter's Halloween (1978) and an inspired bit sort of borrowed from Happy Birthday to Me (1981). It stars Daphne Zuniga (The Dorm That Dripped Blood) as a troubled college-teen named Kelly Fairchild who is plagued by recurring nightmares stemming from a traumatic childhood experience and a long buried family secret. Throw in a sorority prank gone awry with some teen sex, an asylum, and a fun mall setting with a shocker of an ending and you have yourself a real slice of 80s slasher fun and an enjoyable 80's whodunit.

I love the surreal nightmares and how they pay off, plus we have the added benefit of a few rather sweet kills, a few using garden tools which set-up a rather obvious red-herring early on, you have to love those red-herrings in these 80's slashers. The cast is a parade of 80's familiars, beginning with fresh-faced Daphne Zuniga who is a total knock-out as the final girl with a twist. Add to that the awesome Clu Gulager (The Return of the Living Dead) as Kelly's father, who is not the worst guy in the world but definitely a bit of a scumbag. Then you have Vera Miles from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) slumming it as the mom who would rather keep her past buried even if it means risking her poor daughter's sanity in the process. I also love that the writer and director give the movie a decent amount of character development before the blood begins to flow. It starts off a bit slow but once the pranksters arrive at the mall things amp up and you really feel for a few of the character when the bite it. There's a good variety to the kills with a fair amount of the red stuff, too. Outside of the main characters mentioned we have the usual array of sorority bitches, 80s goofballs and a virginal cutie. My favorite aside from Zuniga would be the nerdy teacher's aide Heide played by actress Joy Jones, she was a blast. 

The film leans a bit towards the surreal with the nightmares and repressed childhood memories which turn out to be key to the mystery at hand, which is a real humdinger of a zinger. The dream sequences are neat, particularly one where she catches her mom screwing a man whom she sets a man on fire! The mall setting is a slice of early 80s awesomeness which brought to mind Chopping Mall (1986) minus the murderous robots - though Chopping Mall came years after this one.  The movie is a fun watch, with plenty of gratuitous nudity, sweet kills and some cool 80s atmosphere, with a finale that is a bit of crazed awesomeness. 

Audio/Video: The new HD restoration from Arrow Video looks impressive, a nice upgrade from their region 2 locked DVD. There is a lot of soft focus cinematography on screen and the poor quality 80's film stock doesn't help, but the new 2K transfer is a nice advancement over anything we've seen before on home video with a tighter grain structure and improved clarity with more depth to the image. The 80s colors are more vibrant and nicely saturated, and skin tones look more natural. The lossless mono audio does what is required with the dialogue and band synth score nicely balanced, overall unremarkable but fine. Optional English SDH subtitles are included. 

Extras on the disc begin with a new audio commentary from The Hysteria Lives podcast crew, who might be an acquired taste. I do love the podcast and they're commentary, chock full of slashery goodness and fun background on the movie cast and crew. The guys are not of the scholarly sort and this track is not lacking any of the casual charm of the podcast, complete with snarky in-jokes and references to English 80s pop sensation Toya.

Arrow Video and Red Shirt Pictures have also brought us some new bonus content, including brand new interviews with writer Christopher Pratt Jr. (22 Mins), actress Joy Jones (14 Mins) and actor Christopher Bradley (19 Mins). The disc comes in the standard Criterion-style Arrow clear keepcase with a sleeve of reversible with the original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn, which is fantastic, plus a collector's booklet with new writing by movie critic James Oliver. 

Special Features: 

- Brand new restoration from original film elements
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- Original Uncompressed Mono PCM audio
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Brand new audio commentary by The Hysteria Continues
- Sorority Saga: Brand new interview with Writer Christopher Pratt Jr. (22 Mins) HD 
- Pledge Night: Brand new interview with actor Christopher Bradley (19 Mins) HD 
- Dream Job: Brand new interview with actress Joy Jones (14 Mins) HD 
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn
-  Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic James Oliver (First Pressing Only) 

I love The Initiation, about eighty-percent of it is standard slasher tropes but the twist is a ton of fun and Daphne Zuniga is awesome. It is the rare slasher movie that cares to create actual fun characters with any sort of depth to them, in top of that the kills are good, the nudity is nice and the new transfer from Arrow looks and sounds great, and at long last we have an edition of the movie with some decent extras. 

KILLBILLIES (2015) (DVD Review)

Label: Artsploitation Films
Region Code: 1
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 83 Minutes
Audio: Slovenian with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Tomaž Gorkič
Cast: Nina Ivanišin, Lotos Vincenc Šparovec, Jurij Drevenšek, Nika Rozman, Sebastian Cavazza, Manca Ogorevc, Damjana Černe, Damir Leventić, Matic Bobnar

Here we have bloody backwood horror film Killbillies from the Eastern European country of Slovenia, which judging by this movie seems to be scary place along the lines of rural West Virginia here in the U.S.. A place apparently teaming with deformed rednecks hocking homemade moonshine on the roadside and giving the stink-eye to strangers. Killbillies doesn't offer much new by way of backwood weirdos though, borrowing liberally from American horror classics The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Hills Have Eyes and the more recent Wrong Turn series. What it does offer is a well-produced and nicely executed slice of reality based backwoods horror loaded with carnage and crooked-teeth.

Amateur fashion models Zina (Nina Ivanisin) and Mia (Nika Rozman) are hired for a photo shoot by photographer Blitcz (Sebastian Cavazza) and his assistant Dragica (Manca Ogorevc) for a photo shoot up in the mountains. Arriving at the location they begin to set-up shots when two freaky hillbillies named Francl (Lotos Sparovec) and Vintir (Jurij Drevensek) show up. The brutish Francl is carrying an ax and the hayseeds don't much care for the strangers who have arrived in their neck of the woods. The photographer tries to defuse the hostile encounter but the rednecks are out for blood not fancy city-folk conversation. 

They group are attacked and taken back to a shack in the woods, where they are locked away in the basement by the crooked-toothed weirdos. The hillbillies are not up to what you might expect, they're not  chopping them up for burger meat, nope, they're draining them of their bodily fluids and using that sweet human-nectar to distill some potent form of moonshine which they sell on the roadside. I thought that was a nice and a neat deviation from the usual cannibal-clan sort of backwoods weirdos we are use to in these movies, I also enjoyed the somewhat artful shots of their moonshine set-up and how they drained their victims. Par for the course the fashionistas begin to die in horrific way throughout with a good amount of carnage and gore on screen with a few of the luckier ones managing to free themselves and fleeing to varying degrees of success. 

The cast is decent and the movie is well acted with Zina being a bit of a early badass, while Mia is he more annoying with way more aspiration than actual talent. The photog team of Blitcz and Dragica are decent but are dispatched before either are able to make more than a shallow initial impression. The real fun here are the hillbillies, the hulking brute Francle has some nice make-up work happening on his face, deformed with weird puss-bumps on his face, a real freakish looking guy. His sidekick Vintir looks like Chop Top from TCM2 by way of one of the Wrong Turn hicks with a weird androgynous bent. At one point I thought I saw a collection of women's earrings pinned to his shirt, which was a nice touch. 

The film is well shot taking advantage of the scenic locations in rural Slovenia, a mountainous area with a lush canopy of greenery and gorgeous vistas. I was sort of expecting this to be a low-budget cheapie but I am happy to report the movie has top-notch production values and some truly impressive gore and blood work. The onscreen carnage includes a nice decapitations, blunt-force trauma to the head and a high-speed impact, the gore-hounds will definitely not be disappointed by this one. 

At a brief eighty-three minutes the movie is well-paced with very little filler, it does start-up a bit on the slow side but once the hillbillies arrive on scene it doesn't let up. Worth noting is that Killbillies is Slovenia's first horror movie, and while director Tomaž Gorkič doesn't add anything new to the backwoods-horror canon he does nail the sub genre with deft and bloody execution.   

Thursday, October 27, 2016

THE EXORCIST III (1990) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Rating: RI Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes I 105 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: William Peter Blatty
Cast: Brad Dourif, Ed Flanders, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Nicol Williamson, Scott Wilson

Synopsis: For more than fifteen years Police Lieutenant Kinderman (George C. Scott) has been haunted by the death of his friend Father Damien Karras. Now, on the 15th anniversary of the exorcism that claimed the priest’s life, Kinderman’s world is once again shattered when a boy is found decapitated and savagely crucified. It’s just the beginning of a nightmare series of bizarre religious murders. The brutal murders bear the hallmarks of the infamous Gemini Killer…who died in the electric chair fifteen years earlier. But when a psychopath claiming to be the Gemini Killer reveals intimate, gruesome details that only the true killer could possibly know, Kinderman is confronted with a horrifying truth that he cannot explain…and that will shake him to the core.

I clearly recall watching The Exorcist III for the first-time during an all-nite New Year's Eve movie marathon in the early 1990s with a group of stoned friends. We watched all-three movies in succession, the first film had always chilled me to the bone from a young age, the second made me wonder what the fuck, and the third was a nice return to form. In it we have actor legend George C. Scott (The Changeling) taking on the role of Detective Lt. Kinderman from the late Lee J. Cobb. It's been fifteen years since the events of The Exorcist and  Kinderman is on the trail of a murderer of a 12-year-old boy named Thomas Kintry whom he knew. Later a priest is found murdered in a confessional booth at a church, his head severed and placed in his lap. Next to die is Kinderman's friend, a priest named Father Dyer (Ed Flanders, Salem's Lot) whom is murdered after being hospitalized following a sudden illness. His murder and the two before exhibit the tell-tale signs of the Gemini Killer, a murderer sentenced to death seventeen years earlier. Either there's a copycat who is intimately aware of the original murders or there's something more supernatural happening, which is of course what is happening. 

The investigation leads Kinderman to a psychiatric ward where the nervous and chain-smoking Dr. Temple (Scott Wilson, formerly of The Walking Dead) relates the story of a catatonic man found wandering the streets years earlier. The man was committed and remained catatonic for years until just recently, now he has stirred, becoming more violent and claiming to be the Gemini Killer. Kinderman is clearly shocked to see that the man appears to be his friend Father Karras (Jason Miller, The Exorcist). During the session the man alternates in appearance between that of Karras and the Gemini killer, played with a wonderful and creepy intensity by Brad Dourif (Child's Play). During the conversation it is is revealed that the same demon who possessed young Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist has placed the soul of the executed Gemini Killer into the the body of the dying Father Karras as revenge for being cast out of Regan's body. Now locked up at the asylum he takes perverse pleasure in possessing the minds of the senile elderly inmates who carry-out his blasphemous and bloody murders.  

The story is well-written and feels personal, so creepy and nicely executed, the use of a pair of oversized surgical scissors to carry out the murders is inspired, even if the murders are not particularly gory with much of the carnage happening off screen. A kill I am very keen on happens at the hospital where a nurse falls victim to the killer covered in a sheet carrying the surgical scissors, the scene begins slow and takes a while to play out, with a frightening punchline, it is scary stuff! Later an elderly woman is sent to the home of Kinderman by the demon and his own daughter comes within inches of having her head snipped off, these scenes are scary and still work on repeat watches. 

Sure, the exorcism scene comes abruptly and for good reason, it was added on by the studio Morgan Creek who were not pleased with Blatty's original vision, and though it feels a bit over-the-top I do love it. Father Morning (Nicol Williamson, Venom) arrives from almost out of nowhere and performs the shock and awe exorcism with the fires of Hell emerging from the cracked concrete floor, with the priest's skin peeling-off during the soul-damning battle. I does feel like a bit of a detour from where the movie seemed to be heading but I loved it, and the scenes of Father Karras are a nice callback to the original movie. 

The Exorcist III is loaded with creepy atmosphere and menacing flourishes that still hold some impact today. Another stand-out visual worth mentioning is the surreal dream had by Lt. Kinderman who envisions a trip to Heaven complete with Angels attempting to communicate with Earth via ham-radio. If you pay close attention you will spot cameos from 90s beefcake Fabio and a young bearded Samuel L. Jackson! There are a number of oddball cameos in the movie, including former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop and radio commentator Larry King as themselves, plus basketball great Patrick Ewing as an Angel of Death. 

Audio/Video: The Exorcist II arrives on Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a new 2K scan from the interpositive looking wonderful in every respect. There's a new depth and clarity to the image of the theatrical version not see on the The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology version we saw a few years back from Warner Bros. The grain is tighter, fine detail is plentiful and the image is crisper, and skin tones are a bit warmer. Scream Factory have done some great restoration work here, this is a solid upgrade. 

Audio on the theatrical cut includes both a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround remix or the more authentic sounding DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo presentation, both are solid options free of distortion, coming through crisp and clean. The surround option does have some nice atmospheric moments with the Barry DeVorzon score but I tend to prefer the stereo presentation this time around. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we have a well-stuffed 2-disc edition loaded with some great extras. Disc one features the 110-minute theatrical cut. Also on disc one is a vintage featurette with Writer/Director William Peter Blatty, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Grand L. Bush, Executive Producer James G. Robinson, Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Larry King And C. Everett Koop. The 7-minute EPK is loaded with scenes from the film and behind-the-scenes shots, as with all the extras this one is a bit spoilery so be aware. The first disc also includes 6-minutes of deleted scenes and bloopers,a deleted 3-minute prologue, trailers and TV spots, plus three image galleries with 166 images of behind-the-scenes, lobby cards, posters and still images. 

Onto disc two we have the re-assembly of Director William Peter Blatty's Legion cut of the movie running 105-minutes. The studio interfered with the final cut of the movie and demanded re-shoots, the theatrical cut is not Blatty's original vision, though I will say I love the theatrical version and always have. Unfortunately the original negatives of the original 'Legion' cut of the movie have been lost and what Scream Factory have done is to assemble what they could from Blatty's own VHS dailies of the movie. The end result is a somewhat distracting cut of the movie comprised of scenes from Scream Factory restoration of the theatrical version with hard-cut VHS footage, which is distracting to say the least. This is not truly a director's cut, a lot of original footage simply does not exist anymore so this is not a complete and true director's cut, this is a re assembly stitched together as best it could be with the existing elements, some of which are awful looking. 

Which is not to say I didn't love watching it, because this is quite a different experience with some notable differences including the fact that there's no exorcism scene in this version, actor Jason Miller does not appear in any of it as Father Karras. Brad Dourif gets a lot more screen time in this version and the ending is quite a bit different and more abrupt. It makes for an interesting watch but I cannot imagine this is gonna be anyone's preferred version of the movie. Having watched it I still love the theatrical cut, I think the studio made some good decisions when it came to the re shoots and some of that exorcism imagery is fantastic stuff. Despite its shortcoming it is great to finally have some version of the director's original version available for fans of the movie to watch. 

Extras on the second disc include an audio interview with director William Peter Blatty by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures, which is not so much a scene specific commentary as an interview edited to play along with the movie, which on one level is disappointing but they do cover some good ground. There are also over two-hours of brand new interview with Producer Carter DeHaven, Actors Clifford David, Tracy Thorne, and Brad Dourif, Production Assistant Kara Reidy, Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Assistant Designer Daren Dochterman and Illustrator Simon Murton, Composer Barry DeVorzon, Makeup Effects With Production Manager Ronald Colby, Editor Todd Ramsay, Effects Artists William Forsche, Mike Smithson, Brian Wade And Actor/Body Double Charles Powell! Loads of ground is covered, including a nice candid interview with Dourif who defends the original cut and speaking very pointedly about Jason Miller's alcoholism. There are also interviews with key players pertaining to the re-shoots, and it is great to hear their dissenting voices, some of whom feel that Blatty's version of the movie is unwatchable. 

The 2-disc release comes housed in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve or reversible artwork featuring both the original theatrical poster art and a new illustration from artist Joel Robinson, which is also featured on the limited edition slipcover. 

Special Features: 
Disc One: The Exorcist III (Theatrical Cut) (110 is) HD 
- NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
- Vintage Featurette (7 Mins) HD 
- Deleted Scene/Alternate Takes/Bloopers (6 Mins) HD 
- Deleted Prologue (3 Mins) HD 
- Vintage Interviews (Featuring Behind-The-Scenes Footage) With Writer/Director William Peter Blatty, George C. Scott, Jason Miller, Ed Flanders, Grand L. Bush, Executive Producer James G. Robinson, Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Larry King And C. Everett Koop (39 Mins) 
- Theatrical Trailers (3 Mins) HD 
- TV Spots (2 Mins) HD 
- Behind-The-Scenes Photo Gallery (4 Mins) HD (44 Images) 
- Posters and Lobby Cards Photo Gallery (6 Mins) HD (70 Images) 
- Still Gallery (4 Mins) HD (50 Images) 

Disc Two: Legion (Original Director's Cut) (105 minutes) HD 
- NEW Audio Interview With Writer/Director William Peter Blatty moderated by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures  (105 Mins) 
- NEW A "Wonderfull" Time – Interviews With Producer Carter DeHaven, Actors Clifford David And Tracy Thorne And Production Assistant Kara Reidy (25 Mins) HD 
- NEW Signs Of The Gemini – An Interview With Brad Dourif (18 Mins) HD 
- NEW The Devil In The Details – Interview With Production Designer Leslie Dilley, Assistant Designer Daren Dochterman And Illustrator Simon Murton(18 Mins) HD 
- NEW Music For A Padded Cell – An Interview With Composer Barry DeVorzon (18 Mins) HD 
- NEW All This Bleeding – A Look At The Re-shoot And Makeup Effects With Production Manager Ronald Colby, Editor Todd Ramsay, Effects Artists William Forsche, Mike Smithson, Brian Wade And Actor/Body Double Charles Powell (29 Mins) HD 

The Exorcist III has long been an undervalued entry in the Exorcist saga, I think its the only one worth watching after the original. The new Scream Factory 2-disc Blu-ray is a stunner top-notch A/V and some excellent extras. I do wish we had the true director's cut of the Legion version with a pristine HD presentation, but the re assembly is a nice extra and the theatrical cut looks fantastic. A very high recommend, this is a solid movie with some seriously creepy moments, if you haven't watched it you are missing out, if you're a fan already this release is overflowing with cool extras, this is essential stuff for horror fans 


Label: MPI Media Group
Release Date: November 1st 2016 
Duration: 90 Minutes 
Rating: Unrated
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (
Director: Benjamin R. Moody
Cast: Jason Vines, Akasha Banks Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Kelsey Pribilski

Ben Moody's movie Last Girl Standing opens at a point in the story which would usually be the last reel of a classic slasher film, with a final girl Camryn (Akasha Banks Villalobos) on the run from a masked-killer deep in the woods. She's the sole-survivor of a group of friends who have been slaughtered by a masked killer who we will come to know as The Hunter (Jason Vines), a killer wearing a jackalope-cowl, which I thought was unique to say the least if maybe a slight bit comical at first glance. Camryn manages to survive the ordeal when the killer trips one of his own homemade booby-traps in the woods. 

Now five years after the killings, which have become known as the woodland killing spree, Camryn is still deeply scarred by the traumatic experience. She is a wreck of a young woman plagued by paranoia and post-traumatic flashbacks to the murders of her friends. When we catch up to her she is working at a dry cleaners, she keeps to herself, but the new guy at work named Nick (Brian Villalobos) seems to take a liking her. Though she initially turns him down they do end up hanging out at a pool hall after work where she is introduced to his circle of friends, a struggling artist type, the friendly Danielle (Danielle Evon Ploeger) and the sarcastic Maelyn (Kelsey Pribilski), who doesn't much care for Camryn right from the start. Unfortunately Camryn becomes convinced that the masked killer has from her past has come back to haunt her, but this time she will be damned if she will allow the killer to harm her new friends, and she will do anything to protect them. 

I sort of love where this exploration of the slasher movie goes, picking up where the usual slasher ends and asking what happens to the final girl after survives the massacre, what is life like for her in the wake of such a bloody and traumatic event. As such the movie is nicely character based and intimately focused on Camryn's fragile state of mind> She is justifiably awkward in social situations and is prone to acting out in weird ways. As the story plays out Camryn continues to be plagued by nightmares and hallucinations of the killer, you're left  to ask yourself if what she is seeing is real or is a product of her damaged psyche? Which is a question the movie kindly answers in the final bloody reel, though anyone with more than a casual interest in horror movies will probably guess early on what is happening, which is to say that the premise is not wholly original and has been explored previously, though it handles it well and is nicely executed. 

The movie does good work playing with the aftermath of a masked-killer situation for the final girl, with actress Akasha Banks Villalobos turning in one heck of a performance. She comes through as sympathetic and strong but also deeply troubled. Not surprisingly no one walks away from that sort of experience without a few scars of both the physical and psychological variety, and her final girl is classic stuff. Where I think the movie falls short is the clouding of the what-if of the story, it is broadcast well in advance what is happening but this is still a fun watch. Another small detraction would be that despite the initial promise of the somewhat unique premise the movie does fall into the usual slasher tropes, but at the same time I think I would have been a bit disappointed if it hadn't. The kills and gore are good and bloody, and while gore-hounds might not appreciate the relative lack of the viscera in the middle section there is a rapid succession of brutal kills at the end, so it has a nice pay-off. 

Special Features:  

- Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Ben Moody and Producer Rachel Moody
- Audio Commentary with Writer-Director Ben Moody and Actors Akasha Villalobos and Danielle Evon Ploeger
- Making Of (55 Mins) 
- Gag Reel (5 Mins) 
- Fight Rehearsal (6 Mins) 
- Hunter Test Footage (6 Mins) 
- Set Tour (6 Mins)
- Trailer (2 Mins) 

Last Girl Standing a fun watch, a self-aware horror movie that asks the question what happens to the final girl after the closing credits? This is a movie worth seeking out, a solid first film from director Ben Moody with a standout performance from Akasha Banks Villalobos, hope to see more from both in the near future. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

LIGHTS OUT (2016) (Blu-ray Review)

LIGHTS OUT (2016) 
Label: Warner Bros.
Release Date: October 25th 2016 
Region Code: A
Duration: PG-13 
Duration: 81 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.4:1) 
Director: David F. Sandberg
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke, Alexander DiPersia, Maria Bello

When the David F. Sandberg directed the three-minute short Lights Out hit the internet in 2013 it went viral fast so I was not surprised when it was later announced it would be made into a feature length movie. That doesn't mean I had a lot of faith in it being any good though, as the short was a near perfect exercise in creepiness with a nice finish that left us wanting more. That's the problem though, when these three-minute masterpieces are stretched out into a feature length movie you never know what you're gonna get, except for maybe loads of unnecessary filler to pad the runtime. Thankfully Sandberg was announced to be directing the adaptation and he and screenwriter Eric Heisserer keep it simple, they've added in a back story, one that doesn't get fleshed out a whole bunch, but also doesn't make you feel too dumb for playing along, even when the rules they've set-up for out shadowy spectre seem somewhat fluid at times. 

Twenty-something Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) is estranged from her mother and younger brother Martin (Gabriel Bateman). Her mother  Sophie (Maria Bello) is a lifelong manic-depressive, which made life at home difficult. Rebecca's father ran of years ago, and at the start of the movie we see her second husband, Martin's father, killed by a shadowy apparition in a warehouse, a savage looking silhouette of a woman with long tangled hair and long sharp claws does him in.

With Martin dead Sophia stops using her psychiatric meds and falls into a deep depression, keeping to herself locked away in her dark room, speaking to an imaginary friend named Diana. Martin seeks the help of his sister Rebecca, who along with her new boyfriend Bret (Alexander DiPersia), arrive at the house and remove her neglected step-brother from the home. Back at her apartment Rebecca is attacked by the same supernatural spectre that killed Martin's father at the warehouse, but when she turns on the light the spectre disappears from sight, just like in the original short. 

This spectre turns out to be Sophia's imaginary friend, we learn that she met a woman named Diana years earlier at a psychiatric center while being treated for depression as a teen. The deeply troubled girl was aggressive and light sensitive, and apparently succumbed to a form of experimental light therapy while at the clinic. Now she has returned years later and Sophia and her kids are in danger, for the shadowy spectre is a jealous bitch. 

I liked the backstory, they give you just enough, it is done with broad strokes
and you sort of have to fill in the blanks, which I didn't mind much at all. What worked in the short works here, too. Scenes of the creepy silhouetted woman are tense and jolting, the effect of her disappearing work well and while it is done a lot there's no denying that it is a creepy effect. 

The movie logic as set-up by the movie establish that standard lighting simply makes her disappear while ultraviolet light makes her corporeal which allows for some measure of fight against the malevolent supernatural woman. As such the kids carry around candles, iPhone and flashlights to ward off her attacks, there's a fun scene of boyfriend Bret being attacked by Diana in the dark, just when it seems he's done for he uses his car fob to cast some light on the situation, I liked that bit of ingenuity.

The cast does fine work, I bought into each of the character, particularly Maria Bello as the troubled mom with a damaged psyche, fragile and seemingly hopeless at times, but she is protective mother when called upon. Boyfriend Bret seems like a standard issue dip shit but I came around to like him, and Palmer and Bateman are very good as the half-siblings, with the younger Bateman managing to not be too annoying at all, which surprised me. 

The movie has some nice moody lighting achieved through the use of natural light from candles and flashlights to create some creepy atmosphere, playing with light and shadow as you would expect of a movie titled Lights Out. Visually this is fun watch, about the only stuff that didn't work for me was the non-silhouetted corporeal form of the spectre bathed in UV light - I think this is a case of where less would have been more, in fact I liked the creepy smile of the spectre in the original short more than what we have here which was decidedly more witchy  in appearance. Part of Diana's back story involves a unique and terrible skin condition she was afflicted with which is built into her design, not awful but a sore spot for me. 

Audio/Video: Light's Out arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. on October 25th, the image looks excellent, very crisp and finely detailed with nice shadow detail and deep black levels. Love the look of the naturally lighted scenes, swathes of green and purple look very striking, there are loads of fine detail in the image. The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mic is top notch, with good atmospheric use of the surrounds, my dog was goings nuts with the creepy use of the rear channels.  The eerie and tense Benjamin Wallfisch score also sounds terrific. 

Extras on the disc include about fourteen minutes of deleted scenes, including an alternate climax which is a areal spook-shocker that is very different from the theatrical finale. I wish they would have included the original short and a commentary or making-of featurette, I would have loved to hear director Sandberg speak about making the short, the buzz it created and how that turned into a feature length movie, that was a missed opportunity. The Blu-ray also includes a Digital Copy with Ultraviolet.   

I wouldn't say that Lights Out is some sort of modern horror classic but it is a fun teen-friendly frightener with some good scares, an exceptional premise, and a suspenseful score which gave me the goose flesh more than once, which is above par for PG-13 horror. The Blu-ray and DVD come out from Warner Brother on October 25th.