Saturday, February 20, 2021

THE ATTIC EXPEDITIONS (2000) (Severin Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Severin Films
Region Code: Region-Free
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 100 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround & 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Jeremy Kasten
Cast: Seth Green, Jeffrey Combs, Andras Jones, Ted Raimi, Wendy Robie, Alice Cooper, Beth Bates, Jerry Hauck, 
Shannon Hart Cleary

The straight-to-video flick The Attic Expeditions (2000) is a humorous mind-trip movie that I can clearly recall seeing on the shelf at my local Blockbuster in the early '00s. Knowing shit-all about it thinking the generic artwork of someone wrapped in bandages sucked I never even gave it a second look. Maybe if I had given it a closer look-see I would have noticed that both Seth Green (Idle Hands) and Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) were standing behind that person wrapped in bandages, and then I most certainly would have at least watched it once as I was a fan of both. That never happened though, and my first watch of it was for this review right here.

In it we have a troubled guy named Trevor (Andras Jones, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama) who has been committed to an asylum for the criminally insane for the murder of his ginger girlfriend Faith (Beth Bates), during what appears to have been a black magic ceremony of some sort. Trevor is now in the care of Dr. Ek (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond), who is a very peculiar doctor with ulterior motives, he is manipulating his patient's emotions with brain surgery and constantly monitoring him on a series of closed-circuit TV screens. 

Eks end game seems to be the recovery the book of black magic that Trevor used during the ceremony during which he murdered his girlfriend, but Trevor's memories of the event are deeply tucked away inside his mind, which Ek sets out to unlock. To that end he sends Trevor to a half-way house called "The House of Love" that is overseen by Dr. Thalma (Wendy Robie, The People Under The Stairs). At The House of Love Trevor meets the other patients, including the manic Douglas (Seth Green, Ticks), the hand-puppet obsessed Ronald (Jerry Hauck, Matchstick Men), and sexy blonde Amy (Shannon Hart Cleary, The Wizard of Gore) who becomes a love interest of sorts for Trevor. 

Dr. Ek's surveillance of Trevor continues at The House of Love with the help of a new arrival, Dr. Coffee (Ted Raimi, Skinner), who begins to question the legitimacy of not only Ek's treatments, but his odd behavior and intravenous drug use. As Trevor settles into the house he become friends with the talkative Douglas and also begins to explore the attic space of the halfway house to which he is drawn. There he discovers a dusty steamer trunk which seems to be the key to unlocking his lost memories, all the while being haunted by visions of his dead girlfriend Faith, and the truths about The House of Love begin to reveal themselves. 

The flick is a cool head-trip with some surreal imagery, nightmarish visions and flashbacks to the Satanic ritual, mostly shot from skewed angles that give the film a off-kilter vibe. It was also cool to see shock rocker Alice Cooper (Prince of Darkness) show up at the loony bin early on as a patient with a penchant for escaping, his head bandaged and looking the part during a scene that also introduces Raimi's character Dr. Coffee, who the staff initially mistaken for a patient. The hallucinatory vibe-on-a-budget is more often than not successful but I think that things do become a bit unglued as the cash-strapped production struggles to match Kasten's ambition. The flick is a bit open ended and open to interpretation, with it asking the viewer 'is all of this a strange reality or the warped hallucination of a fractured mind?' 

I enjoyed it but this is the sort of flick where the budget hinders the execution of the lofty ideas of director Kasten (The Theatre Bizarre), but the scrappy independent has plenty of heart and I admire the intent, even if I don't love the film. Where the film succeeds is in it's genre stunt-casting, Jeffrey Combs is the exactly the actor you want when you're casting an ethically challenged mad scientist, and having Ted Raimi, Seth Green and Wendy Robie onboard definitely adds to the charisma up on the screen, but the lead Andras Jones comes off as a bit flat, which dampens it overall.  

Audio/Video: The Attic Expeditions (2000) arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Severin Films in 1080p HD framed in 1.78:1 widescreen,
sourced from a new 2K scan of the original camera negative. It's a very filmic looking transfer with a gorgeous sheen of film grain that brings out plenty of texture and fine detail. The colors throughout are warm and vibrant, skin tones look natural and inviting, the black levels are solid and the source elements are in great shape.

Audio on the disc comes by way of both English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround with optional English subtitles. It's a strong surround design that floats the David Reynolds (She Creature) score into the surrounds as well as some creepy atmospheric touches that add to the viewing

Extras start off with the forty-minute making of retrospective  'Cast & Crew 20 Year Pandemic Reunion & Story of Making The Attic Expeditions', which mixes some newly zoom shot group interviews with some vintage '98 EPK interview footage. We get input from director Jeremy Katsen, cast Jeffrey Combs, Seth Green, Wendy Robie, Shannon Heart Cleary, Tim Heidecker, and Andras Jones, as well as producer Dan Griffiths. There's a lot of talk about the early projects of Kasten and the crew, like Off The Road, and we get a generous helping of footage from the Bon Jovi inspired musical Death of a When-Wet. Plenty of talk about Kasten's early professional editing gigs on stuff like Fraternity Demon, Ocean Tribe, Phat Beach, plus some great behind-the-scenes footage of the making of this movie, plus footage from those earlier films.

Additionally we  get a five-minute Zoom session with director Kasten reuniting Alice Cooper and Jeffrey Combs, which begins with Cooper talking about how he an Combs once accidentally ended up at the same Rolling Stones concert in Arizona. Kasten lays on the love for the rocker and horror icon, who were very important for him to have in the film. They also discuss the years long process of getting the film made, and there's some vintage behind-the-scenes footage of the Cooper scene in the film, with Ted Raimi commenting how cool it was to have both Combs and Cooper in the same scene, and it certainly is cool. 

There is also a seven-minute Zoom extra with horror Scholar Adam Rockoff  in conversation with director Kasten, in which the casting of the film is discussed, with the director saying that once Combs signed on it was easy to get Wendy Robie and Seth Green onboard. He talks about just being a few years out of film school and chomping at the bit to make a film, as well as his influences like Jean Rollin, Coffin Joe and more.  

The single-disc release arrives in a black keepcase with a single-sided sleeve of artwork that I don't love, but it is not worse that the original DVD artwork at least, and I think the theme is better visualized. The Blu-ray features the same key artwork. Severin also released this as a limited edition 2-disc release that featured the first-time ever CD release of the soundtrack during their annual Black Friday sale. 

Special Features:
- Cast & Crew 20 Year Pandemic Reunion & Story of Making The Attic Expitions, featuring Jeremy Kasten, Seth Green, Jeffrey Combs, Tim Heidecker and many more (40 min) 
- Alice Cooper & Jeffrey Combs Internet Reunion (5 min) 
- Horror Scholar Adam Rockoff Contextualizes The Attic Expeditions (7 min) 

The Attic Expeditions (2000) is a weird bit of head-trip cinema with lofty ideas and a shoestring budget, I don't think it lives up to the ambitions of the director but it's got a cool cast and Severin have afforded it a solid Blu-ray presentation with some excellent extras that gets into the nitty-gritty of the making of this scrappy mind-warping movie. 

Screenshots from the Severin Blu-ray: