Tuesday, January 31, 2023

INVITATION ONLY (2009) (Unearthed Films Blu-ray Review)


Label: Unearthed Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Audio: English & Mandarin DTS-HD MA 5.1  English & Mandarin LPCM 2.0 Stereo, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Kevin Ko 
Cast: Ray Chang, Julianne Chu, Maria Ozawa, Jerry Chih-Wei Huang, Ying-Hsuan Kao, Lene Lai, Liz Ran Yang, Kristian Brodie, Joseph Ma, Tai Chung Chen, Vivi Ho

In the Taiwanese torture-slasher Invitation Only (2009) average joe Wade Chen (Ray Chang) is a driver for wealthy CEO Mr Yang (Jerry Huang). While in Yang's service Chen accidentally catches his boss having sex with super model mistress Dana (Maria Ozawa), and to keep him quiet about it the the boss offers him an invite to an exclusive party he says he is too busy to attend, saying that he should go under the pretense of being Yang's cousin, and to keep his mouth shut about catching him having sex with his mistress. Intrigued Chen takes him up the offer and arrives at the party where he gets the VIP treatment, enjoying a night of drinking, dancing and gambling, hooking up with the boss’s mistress Dana, and befriending one of the other guests named Hitomi (Julianne Chu). He's even gifted a brand new luxury sportscar by the party's intense host Warren (Kristian Brodie)! It's been an unforgettable night partying above his pay grade, but later when he and a small group are taken to a separate area of the compound under the pretense of receiving their gifts they find themselves exposed as frauds and hunted, tortured, and 
slaughtered by a masked slasher for the entertainment the wealthy party patrons. 

This gory slasher entry doesn't offer much in the way of originality but it is a sleek, well-made Hostel-esque slashery-torture entry with some ham-fisted commentary on how shitty rich people are. While it all seems a bit familiar it's quite well executed and the gruesome special effects that are sure to please the gorehounds. We have multiple throat slashings, stabbings, decapitations, dismemberment, blunt force trauma, and some truly uneasy torture sequences that involve nut-sack electrocution and rubbing salt pressed into deep facial wounds, plus hand, eye and facial trauma, gooey bug-guts and bloody gun shots. 

If you're a fan of mean-spirited slashery torture pics along the lines of Saw, Hostel and Live Feed I think you're gonna have a gory good time with Invitation Only. I'd definitely recommended this to that special subset of slasher fans who dig the more gruesome torture-y side of things. 

Reversible Artwork 

Audio/Video: Invitation Only (2009) arrives on Blu-ray from Unearthed Films in 1080p HD widescreen (1.78:1), the flick was shot on digital and this transfer sourced from a 2K DI looks solid with good clarity and depth, color reproduction looks accurate, and the black levels are pleasing. Audio comes by way of Mandarin/English DTS-HD MA 5.1, LPCM 2.0 Stereo or Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 with optional English subtitles. The tracks is well-balanced and offers good range, handling the oftentimes aggressive soundtrack with ease, and with no issues with distortion. Extras include a 3-min Image Gallery, 6-min Making of featurettes and a selection of Unearthed Films Trailers. The single disc release arrives in a clear keepcase with a Reversible Sleeve of Artwork.  

Special Features: 
- Making Of Featurette (6 min) 
- Image Gallery (3 min) 
- Trailers: Invitation Only (2 min), LDK (29 sec), Tokyo Decadence (1 min), Evil Dead Trap (1 min), Evil Dead Trap 2: Hideki (1 min)
- Reversible Sleeve of Artwork 

Screenshots from the Unearthed Films Blu-ray: 


Sunday, January 29, 2023

BONES AND ALL (2022) (WBHE Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 131 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Atmos, True HD with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: Luca Guadagnini
Cast: Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, Mark Rylance, André Holland, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jessica Harper, Chloë Sevigny

Bones and All (2020), directed by Luca Guadagnini, director of the Suspiria remake, is a couple of things all at once, we have a coming-of-age story, a love story, a road movie, and all of it is wrapped up in dark edges that make for a pretty captivating watch. It begins with highschooler Maren (Taylor Russell, Escape Room) who is living with her single-father (André Holland, Moonlight), he keeps he locked into her bedroom at night for reasons not clear right away, but when she sneaks out her bedroom window one night to attend an impromptu PJ party with her friend from school we discover the reason. The girls are gossiping and applying nail polish on each other, when asked by her friend for her opinion on a nail polish color Maren takes her friends finger into her mouth, which for a split second seems sexual, until she bites down hard, you hear the bone crunch, and then she peels the flesh from her finger. Covered in blood she runs away home and when ger father sees what has happened he says to grab everything she can in three minutes and split town - obviously something like this has happened before. A few months later we catch up with Maren who wakes to find that her father has split, leaving behind her mother's birth certificate and a cassette tape, which she listens to throughout the film, filling us in on past incidents of biting and cannibalism throughout her life.

Her father never talked about her mother, whom she never knew, and with that birth certificate in hand she hits the road via the bus looking for her mysterious birth mother (Chloë Sevigny, Gummo). On the road she first encounters a creepy old man named Sully (Mark Rylance, Don't Look Up), he sniffs her out at a but stop and reveals himself to be an "eater" like her, attempting to take her under his wing and teach her his rules and how to sniff out the dying to feast on their flesh; even showing her a macabre rope he has made from the hair of his victims. He creeps her out and she takes off the next day, eventually encountering  another "eater" named Lee (Timothée Chalamet, Dune) in a convenience store after they mutually sniff each other out. He is more to her liking and together they hit the road in search of her birth mother and human flesh to feast on, occasionally encountering other "eaters" like a greasy pair of wanderers  Jake (Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man) and Brad (David Gordon Green, dir. of Halloween Ends), the later of whom is not a true eater, just a groupie cannibal man who tags along for the ride. 

What an "eater" is is left fairly ambiguous, we know they crave human flesh and look and act human in all other respects, there's no transformation, but does it give them power of any sort, other than the extrasensory sense of smell? I don't know and I am alright with that, it's a film that keeps it's mystery. The dark love story is interesting in that you're pulling for Maren and Lee, despite the fact they're cannibalistic outsiders hunting humans and devouring them, the rest of the world seems so ugly, so that helps. They have a set of rules that they follow, or seem to be making up as they go, with Maren often regretting her cravings and how they pan out, but their story is interesting and you want to see them emerge on the other side, if not victorious, at least happy. But let's be real, this is a dark fairytale about a a pair of "eaters", it was never gonna end in rainbows and puppy dog tails, but I was with it from the beginning to the end. Set in the 80's in rural America the film brought to mind the vibes of stuff like Badlands, My Own Private Idaho and The Reflecting Skin, offering an artful but desolate backdrop to this dark coming of age story that is both beautiful and quite tragic. 

Audio/Video: The films arrives on Blu-ray from WNHE in 108op HD framed in 1.85:1 widescreen with a Dolby Atmos, True HD and optional English subtitles, plus a Dolby Digital Descriptive English Audio track. The image looks organic and natural throughout, there's good depth and clarity and no issues with compression that were evident to me. The Atmos audio is a nice bonus, offering a sound design that feels naturalistic, dialogue is well-defined and there's some immersive use of the surrounds especially during outdoor scenes set at night. 

The only extras are a handful of brief 2-min EPK features with director Luca Guadagnini and actors Taylor Russell, Timothée Chalamet, and Mark Rylance with some brief behind-the-scenes footage. The single disc release arrives in a standard keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork, inside their an insert to redeem a digital copy of the film. 

Special Features: 
- A Look Inside (2 min) 
- Luca Gaudagnini: The Vision of Bones and All (2 min) 
- Meet Lee (2 min) 
- Meet Maren (2 min) 
- Outsiders In Love (2 min) 
- Digital Copy

Screenshots from the WBHE Blu-ray: