Thursday, December 30, 2021

JAKOB'S WIFE (2021) (Acorn Media Blu-ray Review)


Label: Acorn Media International
Region Code: Region-Free    
Rating: Cert. 15        
Duration: 120 Minutes 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Travis Stevens
Cast: Barbara Crampton, Larry Fessenden, Robert Russler, Nyisha Bell

Director Travis Stevens follow-up to The Girl on the Third Floor is the small-town bloodsucker Jakob's Wife (2021), starring 80's horror icon Barbara Crampton, From Beyond) as Ann, the mousey, submissive wife of church minister Jakob (Larry Fessenden, Habit). After 30 years of small-town married life Ann is bored with her stagnant routine and craves something more. 

Later a town revitalization meeting reconnects her with a old flame named Tom (Robert Rusler, Vamp) seems to be just what she needs, but while flirting with the idea of an affair while exploring an abandoned mill with him they are attacked by ‘The Master’ (Bonnie Aarons), a bloodsucking Nosferatu queen, who shakes things up a bit more than she had initially desired. Returning home with newly minted bite marks on her neck Ann is now imbued with increasingly youthful looks, increased strength, a stronger will, and a thirst for the groovy red stuff. These changes put her minister husband's faith to the test as he attempts to free her from the control of The Master by hunting it down and killing it, while also serving as his wife's minion to sate her cravings, now the submissive to her, which I thought was a nice twist. 

The tale of small-town vampirism smacks a bit of Salem's lot with a Nosferatu/Max Schreck-looking vampire, a bald, mottled gray/blue-skinned, rat-toothed ancient evil that is slowly taking a foot hold in the small dilapidated town. Ann has a taste for blood, but with the help of her crucifix swinging husband, attempts to keep the carnage to a minimum by drinking cow's blood, but she does take out a curious neighbor. As she turns further into a bloodsucker she develops a light sensitivity and then has a horrific run-in with a teeth-whitening UV-light at the dentist's office. 

The flick is well-executed with an offbeat sense of humor that could be described as Salem's Lot by way of The Dead Don't Die (2019), it takes a bit to get up to speed and develop a tone at the beginning, but once it gets it's footing it's a fun ride sprinkled with some splashy gore and torrents of blood, though the tone still teeters between serious traditional vamp flick and something goofier. I dig the Nosferatu with a gender twist look of The Master, and of her red-eyed rat-toothed minion, played with fervor by Nyisha Bell. Aesthetically it's got a great small town look to it, not sure where it was shot but it brought to mind the village communities I grew up around in Upstate NY, which definitely helped pull me into the story. 

Audio/Video: Jakob's Wife (2021) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Acorn Media International in 1080p HD widescreen (1.85:1). The digitally shot films gets a presentation with some nice detail in the close-ups, solid color reproduction and adequate black levels. 
The sole audio option on the disc is an uncompressed English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles, offering a solid, well-balanced presentation that spreads the score into the surrounds as well as some nice atmospheric and action-based sound design. 

Extras include 14-minutes of deleted scenes and a brief 5-minute making of featurette. The single-disc release arrives an an oversized keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork. 

Special Features:

- The Making of Jakob’s Wife (5 min) 
- Deleted Scenes (14 min) 

Jakob's Wife (2021) is a solid small town vampire tale starring horror icons Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden, it didn't set my world on fire or turn the sub-genre on it's head but it was thoroughly entertaining and well-done. 

Screenshots from the Acorn Media Blu-ray: 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (1978) (Ronin Flix Blu-ray Review)


Label: Ronin Flix
Region Code: Region-Free 
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 101 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Original 2.0 Dual-Mono, 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround with Optional English SDH Subtitles
Director: Meir Zarchi
Cast: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemann

In the rape-revenger I Spit On Your Grave (1978) Camille Keaton (What Have You Done to Solange?) stars as New York City gal  Jennifer Hills, a young and beautiful writer who rents a cabin in rural Upstate New York to begin work on her first novel. After a brief encounters with a couple of locals by way of leering gas station attendant Johnny (Eron Tabor), his pals Stanley (Anthony Nichols) and Andy (Gunter Kleeman) and learning disableb grocery clerk named Matthew (Richard Pace), she finds herself at first annoyed by their leering eyes. Later small-town boredom turns into the men gang-raping her in a terrifying twenty-minute rape sequence that sees them pull her from her boat on the river, chase her through the woods, intermittently being gang-raped, beaten and left for dead in her rental house. 

The local lowlifes having left her for dead don't expect what comes next, Jennifer recuperate and devises a plan to inflict an ultimate revenge on the men, killing the raises one at a time in a series of events thats still shocking to watch even to this day. Meir Zarchi's flick, originally titled Day of the Woman, is not for the easily upset, and not without its share of issues. Its a hard watch for starters, the subject matter is repugnant, and it's a film not always seen as the slice of empowering feminist exploitation its often cited as, especially given a couple of lurid nudity for the sake of nudity moments, which might go to support the claims of misogyny often hurled against it. Myself, I feel its more empowering than misogynistic, but I can see both sides of the equation, it really makes you suffer through the brutal rape to get to the empowering payoff. 

It's a well-shot film and well-acted, particularly by Keaton, she's teally put through the proverbial meat-grinder before coming around to her revenge, which dubiously entails a bit of seduction that melts away any sense of realism, but as rape-revenge spectacle its quite a gripping watch. I appreciate that Zarchi keeps the rape scenes grim and awful, its not made to be something erotic, and the sense of desperation and brutality is really allowed to set in, and again its Keaton's performance, mixed with the unrestrained toxic machismo of the lowlifes that assault her that takes you to the depths, which allows for her operatic revenge to reach the bloody depths it does. 

It was my own parents whom inadvertently introduced me to I Spit On Your Grave when I was about 11 years-old. At the time my parents would often rent and  watch R-rated VHS tapes after we kids were in bed. It just so happened this particular night I was not very sleepy and I could hear quite well from my room down the hallway what was transpiring on the TV screen. I don't recall the specifics other than I could tell their was some sort of horrific sexual assault happening to a woman that seemed to go on forever, and then there was some sort of revenge happening in the aftermath that involved seduction, which as an 11 year-old confused the hell out of me, and to be honest, it still a bit of a head-scratcher. Just hearing it was quite jarring to me as I conjured sick images in my head, and the next morning I remember seeing the VHS tape laying on the coffee table, the iconic artwork sending a shiver down my spine as I left for school that day, where I told my schoolmates about the movie I'd heard the night before. I didn't actually see the film till years afterward, around the time I was watching other notorious feel-bad flicks like The Last House on the Left and Cannibal Holocaust, all three to this day still make me pretty queasy today, which is a testament to their potency. 

Audio/Video: I Spit on Your Grave arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Ronin Flix in 1080p HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen and benefits from a gorgeous 4K scan and restoration 
from director Meir Zarchi's 35mm original camera negative. Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre this is a film never meant to to look this good on home video, but this restoration affords it lush grain levels that support excellent fine detail and textures with vibrant colors with nuanced contrast. Colots look fantastic, reds have a nice pop and the green foliage of the wooded areas are lush, while the whites are crisp and skin tones look warm and natural throughout. 

Audio comes by way of uncompressed English DTS-HA MA 2.0 restored original  dual-mono, plus 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles. The 5.1 offers some occasional use of the directional but still felt very front-centered to me. I prefer the original dual-mono and stereo tracks, specifically the vintage mono directness, though the stereo tracks has some decent panning and stereo surround action, but the 5.1 is a bit superfluous. 

Ronin carry over all the old extras relegating the Anchor Bay disc to trade-in status effective immediately, we get both commentaries from the 2004 DVD release, the first with director Meir Zarchi, and the second with Joe Bob Briggs, both are solid, Zarchi can be a bit stiff but the Briggs commentary is pretty great, he's super-knowledgeable and his wealth of genre knowledge is awe-inspiring, having fun both praising and dancing the film. Also carried over is the 2011 Remembers I Spit on Your Grave with Zarchi who recollections the troubled production and sordid distribution and legacy.

Something new is  the 11-min Jennifer’s Journey, revisiting the locations of I Spit on Your Grave with Michael Gingold, its rather amazing how a lot of the locations are pretty much the same, but also coming from a small Upstate New York village I can attest to how little changes an area like that. 

The disc is buttoned-up with 6-min of Trailers, 2-min of TV Spots and a minute's worth of Radio Spots, a brief alternate 'Day of The Woman' title card, and a handful of galleries. The single-disc Blu-ray edition arrives in a standard keepcase with a single-sided  sleeve of artwork featuring the iconic artwork. 

Special Features: 
- Jennifer’s Journey - the locations of I Spit on Your Grave featurette hosted by writer Michael Gingold (11 min) 
- Audio Commentary with writer / director Meir Zarchi (2004)
- Audio Commentary with Film Critic Joe Bob Briggs  (2004) 
- The Value of Vengeance - Meir Zarchi Remembers I Spit on Your Grave (2011) (29 min)
- Alternate Day of the Woman Opening Title (16 sec) 
- Theatrical Trailers (6 min) 
- TV Spots (2 min)
- Radio Spots (1 min) 
- Stills Gallery (2 min) 
- Slideshow with Rare & Behind-the-Scenes Photos from the Set (9 min) 

Screenshots from the Ronin Flicks Blu-ray: