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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Exterminators Of The Year 3000 (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Enjoy the Damn Movie, Will Ya?

I have seen two groups of people on the internet as of late. Those of you that are thrilled to own a good looking version of Exterminators Of The Year 3000, and those of you who want to nitpick the Hell out of it. For those of you that are happy that you have the opportunity to  view the release, looking the best it has ever looked, with an audio commentary for Robert Iannucci I’m with you. I’m glad to enjoy this film it all it’s post apocalyptic glory. This release sets up beautifully the release of the Collector’s Edition of Mad Max by Scream Factory later this year and should be embraced as Scream’s attempt to preserve movies in a better format and at a higher quality than previously released. Now for those of you that want to meander through this release, screen shotting, pot shotting and criticizing or taking issue with the transfer or restoration perhaps we must remember why we watch movies, how we enjoy them and what movie you’re actually watching here. (It’s been a long time since I’ve had a soap box post/review).

Is the Scream Factory restoration of Exterminators Of The Year 3000 flawless? No. It is not the perfect restoration. It has some minor flaws. Flaws that are precluded by the flaws in the initial production of the movie. There are shots out of focus. Shots in low light. Yes, Guiliano Carnimeo gave us  The Case of the Bloody Iris, a piece of important Giallo that is visually stunning and can be considered one of that subgenre’s greatest works, but he also gave us Rat Man. Exterminators Of The Year 3000 comes about toward the end of Carnimeo’s career in 1983. Yes he would do Rat Man and Computron 22 in 1988, but this is about it for him. We’re not talkinga bout a movie that came about during the late 60’s and early 70’s when Carniemeo’s work was at its peak. You can follow the trends of Italian cinema in general as paralleling the career or Carnimeo (and so many like him). The budgets became sparse in Italy save for a few filmmakers during the early 80’s, the desire to have subtitled or even dubbed work greatly diminished in terms of a mass market appeal and the budding direct to video market and rental trend began to work against filmmakers from a profit and quality stand point.  I am not trying to besmirch the good name of Guiliano Carnimeo, but this film needs to be put into context from a production standpoint, importance perspective and historical position. You can expect a high quality transfer. You can expect a reasonable restoration of a film, but I am of the camp that we are lucky to have this movie, looking this good and available to so many.

This is not a limited release. It is a full scale release but a larger distro company making available the release to a large audience. I’m simply glad to see an Italian fantasy picture get so much press and discussion. Of course some more prominent Italian films have received better treatment recently, but even those transfers and restorations seem to offend a certain entitled crowd (I’m not naming names of distro companies or films because we’re here to discuss how it pertains to Exterminators and not rehash transfer comparison photos. Guys, watch movies; not pixels. Watch stories about the year 3000 when water is scarce and is the focal point of aggression and war (you know… like all the other movies that seem to focus on that same angle). Watch movies for movies and appreciate what you have here: a good looking film that is damn fun to watch and creates a world that fits in with the subgenre so perfectly.

Let’s get one thing straight. I enjoy a beautiful resto job with no DNR (or not-noticeable DNR I should say) as much as the next collector. I pick up releases and pay way too much for them to have nice copies of my favorite films, but we have to look at the facts here. You get a nice package and good transfer (with which I found no notable flaws that precluded my enjoyment of the picture), an extra or two only (because it’s damn important to remember that this is still a product, for sale that has to turn a profit and may not even do that given the limited scope of the audience), and it’s widely available. The cover art looks good. I’m happy with the release as a fan of home media and as an Italian fantasy fan (though I tend toward the horror side as many of you may know).


Just remember that this movie was supposed to be a double feature with Cruel Jaws. A. At least you got this one on Blu. Poor Cruel Jaws is suffering at the mercy of an old copyright dispute that, while legitimate, is heartbreaking for fans of the Italians. I've heard more people trying to release that sucker legitimately over the years only to find themselves in the depths of potential litigation. Just tell Universal to let it go (and play them that goddamn Frozen song too). B. If this had been a double feature (like Blacula and SBS or one of the horror comedy double features recently) most folks would understand how the release isn't a powerpacked collector's edition. Its release had more too it. It was supposed to get married! Left at the alter!

One last note: The quality comparison photo is the selfie or dick pic of the collector world.  Just ruminate on that for awhile.

You can pick up Exterminators Of The Year 3000 now! Enjoy it. Savor it. Put it in your library and watch movies, not pixels.


From Scream Factory:

In a post-apocalyptic future where the earth is a desert and water is the most precious substance of all, a band of survivors must turn to a mysterious stranger to battle a ruthless gang of motorcycle psychos for control of the wasteland and the water. A glorious crash of guns, nuclear fallout, and synthesizers make this a must-see for anyone who’s been longing for the day in which they can finally get beyond Thunderdome.


Bonus Features:
Audio Commentary With Actor Robert Iannucci
Interview With Actor Robert Iannucci
TV Spots

Note: Yes the tone of this review and commentary is negative, but we gotta change things around here in this community. Just last year ya'll were fondling your VHS tapes forgetting how many different distro cuts their could be of any one movie. Now you're willing to light up a good release for something your auto tracking couldn't even get rid of. Be generous with your spirit when it comes to the genres you love. 

Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Just Call Me Mamuwalde

The reason you watch Blacula? Because of the band in the nightclub scene. I mean I guess there are plenty of great reasons to enjoy Blaxploitation from the social critique to the badass music, from strange eyebrows on an Afro Drac to an origin story that actually makes quite a bit of sense (unlike other horror blax crossover classics like Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde). When I was a kid I was first exposed to Blacula during Fox 5’s Creature Feature Week. I’d hear that “I am… (wait for it)… Blacula” quote on repeat as the commercial celebrated the week. I didn’t actually get to watch the movie at that time. My dad record Godzilla 1985, X Man with the X-Ray Eyes, Dracula’s Great Love, Giant Spider Invasion and Alligator, but for some reason he didn’t grab the TRUE Prince of Darkness. Year’s went by and I finally enjoyed Blacula a few years ago on what would appear to be  a very worn looking edition. Fast forward to yesterday when Scream Factory created an HD Blacula double feature.

First off… no issues with transfers or resto (and I tend to be lenient but I like to think of it as fair). Both movies look great, and I’m particularly fond of the choice of menus for each movie. You get extras for both movies which may not be stacked, but it’s appropriate for a double feature of this type. On one hand you get an audio commentary with David F. Walker who is a Film Historian and Filmmaker and the other you get an interview with Actor Richard Lawson. Both movies feature a trailer as part of the extra package. The front cover preserves the art for each movie in a double feature presentation.

Now on to each movie and a bit of a discussion for each…

Blacula 
(when you read this title you should always hear it with an echoy effect)

I am fonder of Blacula. It’s the first one I had seen (multiple times by now) and it has a more traditional, near Gothic horror twinge. I like that the origin story involves Dracula in an older time, and the overall presentation feels more concise. It’s almost as if the lack of creativity in the underlying story actually carries over better when we realize that there’s a bit of a play on color to the point of parody rather than trying to invent a new story for Blacula. This isn’t Hammer studios; we can’t have endless tales of Blacula so far removed from the source work that it scarcely matter who plays the PoD.

As I stated before the night club sequence is one of my favorite aspects of the movie. The band has the best outfits, music and dancing. I actually dance along when I watch the damn movie. I’m sure this opinion will not be shared by most. Other than that the opening, origin story is somewhat haunting though the rest of the movie doesn’t quite honor that same creepiness. Once we fast forward to the modern era, there’s cheese and camp and campy cheese with great big eyebrows and colors flipped to inifinty. What a fun time.


Synopsis from Scream Factory

In 1780, African Prince Mamuwalde (Marshall) pays a visit to Count Dracula in Transylvania, seeking his support in ending the slave trade. Instead, the evil count curses his noble guest and transforms him into a vampire! Released from his coffin nearly two centuries later by a pair of luckless interior decorators, Mamuwalde emerges as "Blacula," one strange dude strollin' the streets of L.A. on a nightly quest for human blood!

Scream Blacula Scream 
(not to be confused with the Rocket from the Crypt album Scream Dracula Scream… though someone needs to cover that album and make appropriate modifications).

While I always appreciate a good tale of Voodoo, somehow crossing it with the Dracula mythology it feels like the writer is really reaching for a story. Of course that’s not to say that putting Dracula in the modern era with an African Prince in the lead and calling the movie Blacula isn’t a stretch, but there’s only so far my suspension of disbelief can be stretched before it goes from camp to cheese to cornball to gonzo to … an idea that I do not feels is executed overly well. Perhaps my affinity for the original has me somewhat biased. The greatest injustice of Scream Blacula Scream was that Blacula didn’t face Blackenstein (or some other Universal-esque monster). Perhaps the trademark Gods did not find the matchup favorable, and truly, has any second feature in a Dracula picture been a monster success. Hammer’s Brides of Dracula didn’t do it for me. Nor did Dracula’s Daughter for me. 

If there’s one great reason to enjoy Scream Blacula Scream, it’s Pam Grier which is really a great reason to watch any movie. I think SBS can grow on me with time, but for now I’m still of the opinion that the original is the movie to watch.


Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Blacula lives! This scintillating sequel, Scream, Blacula, Scream, pits voodoo power against vampire fury! Willis Daniels (Richard Lawson), the son of a late high priestess, seeks revenge on the cultists who have chosen his foster sister Lisa (Pam Grier) as their new leader. Hoping to curse Lisa, Willis unwittingly resurrects Blacula's earthly remains – and unleashes the Prince of Darkness and his freaked-out army of the undead.

You can order this double feature now from Scream Factory. Watch them both. Let us know what you think. Which is do you enjoy more? Is either movie actually frightening?


Bonus Features

--- BLACULA ---
Audio Commentary With Author/Film Historian/Filmmaker David F. Walker (Reflections On Blaxploitation: Actors And Directors Speak)
Theatrical Trailer

--- SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM ---
New Interview With Actor Richard Lawson
Theatrical Trailer



Saturday, February 28, 2015

Marsha the Erotic Housewife, For Single Swingers Only and Her Odd Tastes (Vinegar Syndrome Drive-In DVD Triple Feature)

While the Peekarama series has been a truly eye opening adventure for me as a novice adult film enthusiast, I must admit that I truly prefer the grindy, grimy offerings afforded by the Drive-In double features or in this case a triple feature. The Drive-In series can go one of a few different ways. Sometimes you get a horror double feature. Sometimes an obscure crime or exploitation thriller. This time around the fare is closer to the Peekarama series (as opposed to the last double feature that featured Big Foot). The three films in this series Marsha the Erotic Housewife, For Swingers Only and Her Odd Tastes are directed by Don Davis who created a short run of movies through the sixties and seventies dying in 1982. His work includes the three featured movies as well as Swamp Girl and the upcoming Vinegar Syndrome DVD release, The Muthers. Davis' work is exploitative, raw but it isn't exactly porn. Let's dig into this triple feature one movie at a time. These features are scanned from the director's personal prints in 2k.

This Drive-In Triple Feature is available now from Vinegar Syndrome:

http://vinegarsyndrome.com/shop/the-films-of-don-davis-dvd/

Marsha the Erotic Housewife

From Vinegar Syndrome: A beautiful housewife discovers that her husband is having an affair, so while he’s away on business she decides to embark on some erotic sexcapades of her own.

The picture is scratchy and it appears to be in a 4;3 aspect ratio which just feels different. I haven't found too many of the VS releases to look this way but I think it has a lot to do with the source material.(the director's personal prints).

The revenge nature of Marsha the Erotic Housewife almost pairs it better with the Vinegar Syndrome release of Lady Dynamite. The dialogue is bad. The lead has gigantic boobs and the film is embossed with delicate flute music that feels perfectly 1970. There's this marvelous segue featuring a drive along the seaside with the title of the movie as the focal point of the background music!

This movie feels like the model image of infidelity and... of course, being a "good wife". Pay attention to the home and town life in the 60's. Keep your eye on the what's going on in the background from the kitchen to the bar to the bedroom and attire. A time capsule film to be sure.

For Single Swingers Only 

From Vinegar Syndrome: At an apartment complex for swingers, beautiful young women can explore their fantasies and make their inner most desires come true. However, is there a steep price to pay for this supposed erotic paradise?

For Single Swingers Only features LOTS of showering. Lots. The premise of a hotel run for swingers (or an apartment complex really) is an easy set up for plenty of risque material, but it doesn't lend itself to more than pre-sex-comedy physical comic moments. There's a girl talking to the camera, retelling her story as if the whole thing is a confessional of sorts. Plenty of working out, physical activity and the obligatory naked massages.

There are some bad hair styles. Bad clothes. Generic mod music and a damn cool cigarette lighter.

The whole thing ends with hysterical laughing and a rather strange makeup transformation.

Her Odd Tastes

From Vinegar Syndrome:  A woman embarks on a worldwide quest for sexual fulfillment, experimenting in the exotic jungles of Africa to the swinging beaches of California, no desire left unfulfilled.

What opens with an elongated lesbian opening turns into a quest du fuck. An excuse to travel around the world yields some rather unique sexual situations including sex with an Asian woman, Satanists, slaves, African sexicapades and a Sheik (with waaaay too much oil).

The whole thing ends as you might expect; our experiment lass realizes that there's no place like home and return to her husband who is perhaps the strangest beastie of all her adventures. A giant, woolly bear carpet of a man. What a mess.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Champagne for Breakfast (Vinegar Syndrome DVD)

Let's cut to the chase on Champagne for Breakfast, the new DVD from Vinegar Syndrome. The reason you watch this isn't because John Hayes of Grave of the Vampire fame (fame?) wrote this. It isn't because the producer of Sex World directed it. It's because John Leslie pretends and fails to be gay through the entire movie providing a health level of humor that combines well with some rambunctious sex scenes (when Leslie fails to be play gay). We've all seen Leslie. Straight sex. Kinda tough, maybe he's a bad boy or maybe he's just ANY guy, but you haven't seen him like this. He eyes make the role. 

From Vinegar Syndrome:

The incomparable Leslie Bovee plays Champagne, a high paid advertising executive in need of a chauffeur. Harry (John Leslie) is a crafty, down on his luck entrepreneur in need of a job. Learning of Champagne’s search and figuring that his chances of getting hired will increase if he pretends to be gay, he cons his way into her employment. How long will he be able to hide his sexual urges? What will happen when he’s found out? Written by John Hayes (Grave of the Vampire, Baby Rosemary) and directed by Chris Warfield (producer of Sex World), CHAMPAGNE FOR BREAKFAST is a big budget crossover classic with an all-star cast and has been scanned and restored in 2k from it’s 35mm original camera negative.

Perhaps my only issue with the XXX feature is that it tends to move slowly and is somewhat repetitive. Leslie may perform some truly funny pieces of physical comedy, but the movie feels quite and perhaps not as far fetched as more modern sex comedies. Still a very entertaining picture.

Champagne for Breakfast is a time fine looking disc which is to say that it is up to the mark of quality put out by Vinegar Syndrome who spares no expense on their smut. The disc includes both hard and softcore cuts of the trailer as well as an alternate ending. When you see the trailer Champagne for Breakfast as show on this double feature, VHS release and not the Vinegar Syndrome disc, you'll understand how far Vinegar Syndrome goes to deliver a 2k scan, restored. Enjoy the cover art for this one. Definitely a precursor to 80's sex comedy box art.


Director Chris Warfield did 13 adult features in his time, directing until 1985, most working under the name Billy Thornberg. Some of these released through Vinegar Syndrome. He was also an actor who started off in TV roles and even acted in Diary of Madman with Vincent Price. While Warfield's style is a bit camp, he still made serious works of adult comedy cinema. He isn't as prolific as a Tobalina, but his pictures didn't seem to be focused on the sex act. He made movies, sexy movies, with stars like Lesllie Bovee who plays Champagne beautifully. I have to catch up on her back catalog especially the Disco Dolls in Hot Skin. 

You can order Champagne for Breakfast from Vinegar Syndrome now:


Features include:
  • Original theatrical trailer (hard version)
  • Original theatrical trailer (soft version)
  • Alternate soft version scenes

Zombieworld (Image/DreadCentral DVD)

I like zombie movies. If you don't, you can stop reading this review because ZOMBIEworld is a whole lotta zombie. I would urge those of you who dislike zombie fiction to give this one a chance as it is just a little different than some of the other feature length entertainment you may be used to. For starters it's a collection of short zombie fiction. This is not a preconstructed set of stories put together with a wrap story to make a feature length anthology picture. The benefit of that is that you get a cross section of stories, talent, zombie styles and some humor in between the shorts.

It has a variety of zombie shorts that focus on different mythologies and storytelling methods to create the broadest possible array of potential zombie stories. Some of these things are downright splatter flicks with beautiful green slime spraying everywhere while another might feature... I don't know... Jesus (you like him very much, but he cannot hit a curve ball?). Fun effects and even though some of the entries include CG splat or blood, I'm going to give it a pass. Friggin Santa Claus shows up. It's gonzo, and that is why it works better than some recent, serious zombie fiction. Because these aren't full length features, they don't fuck up a good thing by including needless dialogue or meaningless character development. The get to the point and then destroy the head or remove the brain.

Filmmakers include Adam Myette O’Brien, Adriàn Cardona, Cameron McCulloch, David Muñoz, Jared Marshall, Jesse Baget, Jonathan Brown, Luke Giudici, Paul Shrimpton, Peter Horn, Tomy Woodard, Vedran Marjanovic, and Zach Ramelan.

I am strongly recommending this to zombie enthusiasts. Watch it in one batch or watch a little at a time. My favorite is the beach story. Love those kill scenes, the irony and the rays. I had the pleasure of seeing this before when judging the Killer Film Fest, and voted for it there too. Looks great and the damn cover is gorgeous!

You can pick up Zombieworld now.

http://www.amazon.com/Zombieworld-Bill-Oberst-Jr/dp/B00P8LS666/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424925969&sr=8-1&keywords=zombieworld

From Image:

In Zombieworld, there is nowhere to hide…nowhere to run…the Zombie Apocalypse has come, and our world now belongs to the dead! From Ireland, Canada, Australia, Europe and all over the U.S., the bone-chilling news reports tell the same gruesome tale – walking corpses terrorize and devour the living. Only a few desperate humans find the courage to stand and fight for their last chance at survival. But the hordes of undead keep coming, and there’s only one thing on the menu – us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Poker Night (Blu-ray Review)

I have to admit that the reason I was drawn to Poker Night is purely related to the cover art. Yes, I'm into game related horror or cat and mouse horror, but with the market being moderately saturated with those themes, it was the art that did it for me. It really is something between The Collector and The Card Player (yes, the Argento film). The thing that stood out to me, the lack of a black background. It was almost lit up on a stage by bright lights compared to the ever popular black background with horrific, masked killer poking his head out. That's if you don't get the "faces" cover featuring the stars of the movie looking like a boy band, lined up and ready for their goddamn closeup. Poker Night is a Macabre feature coming off the Xlrator label which has had mixed results.

Unfortunately, aside form the aesthetic of the killer I found the movie a bit obvious. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it in part. It is a cat and mouse, slasher-esque, game picture, but it doens't quite compete with some of the finer entries in those particular subgenres of horror. The highlight is seeing Ron Perlman in anything, so you have that to look forward to. Far be it from me to say that I don't enjoy a generic piece of horror entertainment, but this one rubs me the wrong way simply based on its desire to play off some popular tropes out of successful gaming horror pics while delivering little more than a cool mask.

Director Greg Francis has been responsible for quite a bit of television over the years, Poker Night being a recent endeavor into film after working on many police and FBI related programs as well as paranormal research and supernatural programming. The look of the movie is fine mind you and the Blu-ray is quite nice. The movie itself competently shot though not extraordinary.

Starring Ron Perlman, Giancarlo Esposito, Beau Mirchoff, Titus Welliver, Michael Eklund, Ron Eldard, Corey Large.

Available now on Blu-ray and DVD.
http://www.amazon.com/Poker-Night-Blu-ray-Ron-Perlman/dp/B00PV09C58/ref=sr_1_1_twi_2_twi_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1424924400&sr=8-1&keywords=poker+night

Synopsis from Xlrator:

In this twisted thriller, a young detective is caught in a sadistic game of cat-and-mouse when he is kidnapped and tormented by a masked serial killer. In order to survive, the rookie must use the wisdom imparted to him by senior detectives on their regular poker night.

New Year's Evil (Scream Factory Blu-ray) - Start 2016 Early!

It’s New Year’s Eve… 56 days late. We all understood that Scream Factory couldn’t get us New Year’s Evil by 12/31/2014, but I still think seeing it’s release at any time other than November or December to be humorous. It isn’t even the quintessential New Year’s Eve horror flick and don’t you say Bloody New year takes it. That honor should be reserved for Terror Train (also released on Blu-ray from Scream Factory). The swarm of folks plaguing the Scream Factory  Facebook page can die down now. The release date is here and it’s in time for NEXT New Year’s Eve though I wouldn’t recommend waiting that long to watch it. Move over Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest, Blaze is in punk rock party host mode and somebody’s gotta a hardon for making post-accident Winslow crank calls  (a la Phantom of the Paradise) to her.

Before I go any farther... welcome to a little quickie that Hacktvision (that's me Sean O'Connor and Frank Browning) dreamed up. If only we could have finished the whole damn thing.


New Year’s Evil is a slasher movie with a holiday gimmick; let’s kill someone each time the clock strikes midnight in a different time zone.  It’s got one of the greatest Rock/New Wave theme songs featured in a horror movie especially circa 1980 when featured songs in horror pictures became a staple.  It even has some moments that might even be considering frightening and while I realize there’s a certain camp aesthetic to NYE and that a guy using a voice disguiser with such “elegance” isn’t panic inducing, there’s a grindy realism in it. NYE comes at the height of the slasher boom, during it’s peak when oversaturation was about to turn audiences against the kill by number (unless of course the picture held the prestigious franchise tag). Just following the release of New Year’s Evil you’d be hard press to walk into a video store and not be faced with a pile of similarly titles, similarly covered films, most as unwatchable and un-cinematic, de-plotted and filled with semi-censored porn.  Somehow this one has wormed its way into my glass of champagne and taken root in my liver.

This is a crisp looking Blu-ray. I’m so used to watching it look washed out and with plenty of noise, that it feels like a completely different movie. Extras include an audio commentary with director Emmett Alston, The Making of New Year's Evil featuring new interviews with actors Kip Niven, Grant Cramer and Taaffe O'Connell and director of photography Thomas Ackerman and the Theatrical Trailer. New Year’s Evil is perhaps best known for its iconic, holiday artwork featured on both the cover and the reverse, the reverse being one of my favorite alternate covers for a horror picture.

For all its simplicity, New Year’s Evil gets it right by combining several popular slasher tropes into one uniquely themed picture. You’ve got masks, phone calls, sharp objects, hot women and hotter music. It’s like a music video with a slasher movie interspersed in between scenes to pick up the degenerate audience (and this before the launch of MTV).  Perphaps the most dated part of NYE… the payphones… makes you think that someone could probably do an update on this one with cell phones and modern music while improving on the modded vocal performance of the killer. Add unique mask. Add punk rock icon in the lead (who is today’s Debbie Harry or Patti Smith?).

You can pick up New Year’s Evil now in time for next year’s drunken debauchery on the 31st of December. Warning: Do not try these prank calls at home!


From Scream Factory:

A Different Kind Of New Year's Resolution

Diane "Blaze" Sullivan, the host of a nationally televised punk-rock show on New Year's Eve, is receiving calls from a mysterious killer who tells her of his plans to off someone at midnight in each of America's major time zones… and she will be the last.

Starring Roz Kelly (who played Pinky Tuscadero on Happy Days), Kip Niven (Magnum Force), Grant Cramer (Killer Klowns From Outer Space), Louisa Moritz (Death Race 2000), Taaffe O’Connell (Galaxy Of Terror) and Teri Copley (We Got It Made), New Year's Evil injects an "intimate and refreshing viewpoint into what was once a tired old scenario" (Andre Dumas, The Horror Digest)…and then takes you on a non-stop thrill ride of unmitigated terror!
  

Extras:

Audio Commentary with director Emmett Alston
The Making of New Year's Evil featuring new interviews with actors Kip Niven, Grant Cramer and Taaffe O'Connell and director of photography Thomas Ackerman
Theatrical Trailer

God Told Me To (Blue Underground Blu-ray) - I'M Telling You to Pick Up This Blu-ray!

Going to the big city is scary enough without watching a movie like God Told Me To. Here I have to explain to my kid to be vigilant. At any time you could face a mugger or a flasher or a real-true-to-life terrorist or even the dreaded street vendor with knock-offs of doom. After watching God Told Me To you have to fear roof top snipers and a parades. You have to fear the common person, the everyday Joe. You cannot assume any of the millions of people have your interest in mind or even a neutral mindset. You have to fear everyone. This is the kind of fear that becomes more relevant when you watch the evening news and realize that some guy just murdered two cops, an hour away from your house out of nowhere. Blue Underground has picked the perfect time to refocus our attention on a Larry Cohen, religious tension-dripper like God Told Me To. The real monsters are the human beings after all.

The opening sequence of God Told Me To features the aforementioned rooftop sniper in a familiar NYC location, a water tower on top of a building. It’s the kind of common place location you’ll see every day, traveling on a highway through Brooklyn or in a high rise. I was not keenly aware of the exact location of this particular spot, but I felt completely connected to the scene as any New York City dweller or visitor might. It's the kind of thing you've seen in the moving pictures at the theater. That’s what got my juices simmering and when I was able to truly realize that the power of God Told Me To is in its sensationalistic approach to the common place scenes. You would be faced with this type of location and situation regularly… simply walking along a corridor in one of the boroughs. Once you realize you ARE the target, you can start getting scared.

This is what Larry Cohen does so well. He turns the ordinary into the extraordinary, creating real fear out of the things we see everyday even when he’s working with supernatural or monster storylines. He’s especially good at showing the seedy underbelly of New York City. He provides a time capsule for those of us too young to be scared of NYC. I grew up in the post-Giuliani cleanup era. It means that going to New York City felt clean and wholesome. You could see a show or get a falafel sandwich without fearing for your wallet. Even in a movie as sensationalistic as Q The Winged Serpent, Cohen creates a feeling of real New York that almost let’s you believe that a Mayan diety is lurking in the silhouettes of the New York City skyline. This is the same thing that becomes immediately effective in God Told Me To especially in the opening scene. You’re looking up; something is killing you from above and yet it all feels so real. Monster or madman or madmen, Cohen can make you believe in all of them.

God Told Me To came out during a time when it was especially common place to question religious values whether in horror or on television. Think of movies like the Exorcist or the Omen and how they created questions about religion. Those are sensationalistic pictures with terrific elements of supernatural horror. A movie like God Told Me To creates those same questions about the nature of God, the nature of religious belief especially when confronting a troubled protagonist detective looking for a breakthrough on a rash of seemingly religiously motivated homicides and mass murder. Think of how All in the Family tackled the subject of religion through meaningful, thought provoking satire and discussion. God Told Me To tries to address the same issues of absolute righteousness while flipping the ultimate good on its ass. While the same test of the concept of God and religion are tested in God Told Me To, most of the conversation is done at the end of a weapon.

This is a gorgeous looking disc. It will surprise you that something so gritty and grindy, from an era where New York City was engorged with filth, could look so good. It has appropriate amounts of film grain balanced with contrast and crispness that Blue Underground is known for. It comes with an extensive extra package featuring an audio commentary with writer/producer/director Larry Cohen himself. Any opportunity to listen and learn from a Cohen commentary should be embraced as a creator of countless dark fantasy pictures. You’ll also get an interview with the star, Tony Lo Bianco, the special effects artist, Steve Neill and two separate Q&A with Cohen (one at the New Beverly and one at Lincoln Center). The interviews and Q&A are new from the DVD previously released by Blue Underground as is the cover art featuring poster style artwork which I prefer to the “Bible cover” DVD art. You’ll also get a poster and still gallery, TV Spots and the theatrical trailer.

God Told Me To is available now from Blue Underground:

http://www.blue-underground.com/product.php?product=250

From Blue Underground:


A rooftop sniper guns down 14 pedestrians on the streets of New York City. A mild-mannered dad takes a shotgun and blows away his wife and children. A cop goes on a sudden shooting spree at the St. Patrick's Day Parade. And each of these unlikely killers makes the same dying confession: "God told me to." Now a repressed Catholic NYPD detective (Tony Lo Bianco of THE HONEYMOON KILLERS and THE FRENCH CONNECTION) must uncover a netherworld of deranged faith, alien insemination and his own unholy connection to a homicidal messiah with a perverse plan for the soul of mankind.


Extras:
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Producer/Director Larry Cohen
  • Heaven & Hell On Earth - Interview with Star Tony Lo Bianco
  • Bloody Good Times - Interview with Special Effects Artist Steve Neill
  • God Told Me To Bone - New Beverly Q&A with Larry Cohen
  • Lincoln Center Q&A with Larry Cohen
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • TV Spots
  • Poster & Still Gallery

Technical Specs:
  • Color
  • 7.1 DTS-HD; 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround EX; DTS-HD Mono
  • English
  • English SDH, French, Spanish
  • 1.85:1
  • 1976
  • 90 Mins
  • Not Rated
  • Region Code: ALL

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Phantom of the Opera (1989) (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

First off, I owe Scream Factory a big ol’ thank you. I’m happy to say that I had the chance to enjoy The Phantom of the Opera starring Robert Englund again after a long lapse. About all I could previously remember about this title was the poster which had me feeling all kinds of Fred Kruger down in my guts. I couldn’t remember the fun, gooey practical effects or the unique storyline. I remember when it hit in 89, I was only 9 years old and though I was a Fangoria reader, I had to wait a number of years to watch it due to the rating.  My parents wouldn’t dare let me hit the theater for a “Freddy” movie especially not after sneaking to my neighbor’s house to watch Nightmare on Elm Street 2.

Truth be told, now that I’m an older viewer and Robert Englund is more than just Freddy to me, this is quite a fun piece of 80’s semi-schlock. When you’re a kid and Englund was engrossed in Nightmare on Elm Street sequel after sequel it was difficult to remember that he was a TV actor (I adored him in V), that he could be in other movies. It almost damaged Phantom for me with the advertising pointing to the beloved iconic horror movie villain rather than a revamped version of the classic Leroux antagonist. It’s not scary. It is entertaining. It is a classic retelling of the Phantom story though it makes certain perfect 80’s concessions to keep the tale relevant and maybe more genre formulaic. There’s a little Faust in there. There’s a little sitcom, dream sequence wrap story… sort of.

Of course you get Robert Englund, but you also get Bill Nighy (of everything!) and Jill Schoelen (in everthing from Craven’s Chiller to The Stepfather to Curse II, Popcorn and Cutting Class!). Let’s not pretend that this will be the movie that Englund should be remembered for or that you would even hazard to remember the Nighy was in the damn thing.  It’s kind of place holder between Freddy movies for Englund and “a job” for Nighy.

The special features on the Scream Factory disc are generous and illuminating especially for a horror fan who was a bit young to remember the release or even the Fango article save for a few stills. You get a making of feature with cast in tow and an alternative cover on the reverse of the traditional jacket. You gotta see that to believe it (I won’t spoil it for you). It’s been given some nice treatment given the “popularity” of this movie. The transfer reminds me quite a bit of the transfer form the Dark Half. It’s definitely not bad, I’m glad to have it on Blu-ray, but at times it suffers from a lack of crispness in and the black appear faded. Some dust. Nothing to get uptight about.

Bonus Features
  • Audio Commentary With Director Dwight H. Little And Actor Robert Englund
  • Behind The Mask: The Making Of "The Phantom Of The Opera," Featuring New Interviews With Director Dwight H. Little, Actors Robert Englund, Jill Schoelen, And Alex Hyde-White, Screenwriter Duke Sandefur, Special Make-Up Designer Kevin Yagher, And More!
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spots
  • Still Gallery
 Do not expect the Universal version. Do not expect the Hammer storyline or even the original novel.  This is what happens when Hollywood give nearly $4,000,000 to a horror production on the cusp of the direct to video age.


You can pick up Phantom of the Opera (1989) now.



From Scream Factory:

Robert Englund (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Galaxy of Terror, Freddy vs. Jason) assumes the classic role of The Phantom in this shocking, nerve-jangling retelling of Gaston Leroux's timeless tale of music, madness and murder!

An aspiring opera singer finds herself transported back to Victorian-era London – and into the arms of a reclusive, disfigured maestro determined to make her a star. The silver-throated Christine (Jill Schoelen, The Stepfather) enjoys success through the arrangements of her new lover (Englund)... until she realizes that he has been committing unspeakably grisly murders in her honor and won't stop until he's completed his masterpiece... in blood!

Also starring Bill Nighy (I Frankenstein, Shaun of the Dead, Underworld), Alex Hyde-White (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Terence Harvey (From Hell) and Molly Shannon (SNL, Superstar), directed by Dwight H. Little (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Marked for Death, Rapid Fire) and featuring make-up effects by Kevin Yagher (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Face/Off), this “darker spin on…The Phantom of the Opera is the one to watch” (HorrorCultFilms.co.uk)!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Coming Under My Spell and Lady Dynamite (Vinegar Syndrome Peekarama DVD)

That Vinegar Syndrome is at it again with another preservation effort in the art of adult filmmaking via their Peekarama line. I love when Peekarama goes off the deep end feeling more like an 80’s sex comedy than a porn movie. Well, that’s half of what we’ve got here. The other half… is not what it appears to be.

First off, Coming Under My Spell and Lady Dynamite are available now through Vinegar Syndrome:
http://vinegarsyndrome.com/shop/come-under-my-spell-lady-dynamite-dvd/

Now on to the reviews...

Coming Under My Spell

From Vinegar Syndrome: The sexually desperate Fernando is a foreign exchange student taking classes in hip 1970’s San Francisco. Surrounded by sexy swingers and still unable to get some action, he is willing to try anything. His best friend Dave uncovers a used book about sexual Hypnotism, will they use it to fulfill their every desire?

Do I condone using a book on hypnotism to score with members of the opposite sex? Only if it works. And only if it’s the 1970’s. Coming Under My Spell is a less serious, more gonzo adult feature with plenty of gimmicks and images of yesteryear to fill your eyes and your pants. Take for instance the conversion van (iconic as ever of the 70’s sex artist) lined with an American flag interior. Perhaps the early version of the pocket pussy that looks like an uninflated kid’s swimmy is an even better throw back. You watch a movie like Coming Under My Spell purely for the funnies and not necessarily a movie that will get you hot and bothered.

The sexual techniques are closer to watching people pounding wood with hammers rather than any kind delicate acts of intimacy. There’s a guy who can’t hold is goddamn load, the most awkward doggie style I’ve seen maybe ever and some super sped up comedic sex in the opening. This feature is heavy on the shaky cam, but at least it features some power house close ups that make it worth watching from a porn fan perspective. Perhaps the highlight (save for the ending) is a pizza girl with a sweet Tit for Tat t-shirt. She’s the hottiest gal in the movie in the most Z droppingly boring sex scene (due to our protagonists inability to make sex interesting).

The ending really does this one justice going for all the all out gonzo featuring a bridal party du strange turned large orgy and our “hero” fucking himself to DEATH! Stick around for the end of this one horror fans. You get a special ending ala DePalma’s Carrie. You’ll have to see this one to believe it. Show it to your friends and watch them jump!

Lady Dynamite

From Vinegar Syndrome: Passions run high in true Carlos Tobalina fashion as a buxom beauty is scorned by her husband of ten years. Excited to be single she decides to experiment on anyone at anytime. LADY DYNAMITE truly explodes with eroticism in this 1970’s sex flick.

With a title like Lady Dynamite I’m expecting some of Blaxploitation knock off porn. That is NOT what I got. The title and poster are tremendous but unfortunately the best thing about this flick is the music by Shamus. The audio is bad, sounding hollow and distant with plenty of outside shots of San Fran. That combined with our next clue will give away the director: All girl orgy with lots of lingerie. Your director is… Carlos Tobalina of course! Anytime I say orgy when writing a review I suddenly realize that I’m writing about a Tobalina movie especially when combined with the San Francisco. Don’t let the name Troy Benny fool you. Tobalina actually acts in this one!

For what it’s worth there’s some awesome bleach blond bush with great closeups and a long leather couch scene that will make you feel sticky.

Enjoy the cover art. Enjoy the name. Enjoy the strange “wild and crazy” male strippers … the one with large moustaches!

Some of you are tired of Carlos Tobalina Double Feature Peekaramas… I feel like I’m learning about the work of a prolific adult film director. Consider this a guide on how to live sexually in San Fran and how to perform efficiently in an orgy.

+ Dual-Layer DVD-9 | Region Free | 16:9 Anamorphic | MONO
+ Scanned and restored in 2k from 35mm original camera negatives
+ Original theatrical trailers for both films

Friday, February 13, 2015

VIDEO NASTIES: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE PART 2 (SEVERIN DVD)

George Santayana ( and many after) stated that, "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it". While this is always a valuable quote to keep under your hat when discussing political upheaval, war and genocide, it is perhaps the most befitting statement for the protagonists in horror movies. You go to the camp where the kid died that one time a long time ago... you get thwapped into a tree multiple times while tucked away in a sleeping bag. You go to sleep in a mental hospital; some guy with blades on his fingers turns you into a puppet and throws you off a building. You truly could have avoided either fate (courtesy of Jason Voorhees and Fred Kruger respectively) had you only heeded the warning from Santayana. While I stray into absurd  fiction for a second to deliver a point, there is a valuable historical period to which we should all pay attention. It is near and dear to our genre of choice and furthermore and,with some warning, history has decided it might just be ready for syndication. The Video Nasties Live!  

Severin Films has brought The Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2 to the United States after being released by Nucleus in the UK. It's a follow up to the first guide that focused on the 72 movies that were prosecuted under the Video Recording Act of 1984 and features movies that were dragged into a bloody hornet's nest of censorship by  some "moral" folks in the UK. The first entry in this series is a must watch documentary filled with juicy pieces of knowledge about some of our favorite horror and exploitation films, but even more important the original documentary provides the context and lesson of how wholesale censorship can occur in free lands.  Part 2 continues that lesson, displaying how morality breeds morality breeds intolerance and self righteousness all under the guise of protecting children and keeping the culture strong.The period following the VRA84 was vicious. Beyond the enactment of regulation that led to raids and imprisonment, lives were destroyed over pieces of fiction that were quite legal in many parts of the world. 

Where Part 2 in this series will be the most valuable for the viewer is serving as a jumping off point and introduction to many great movies that can be overlooked by the casual horror fan. Just as the first 72 serve as a bucket list, movie watcher's guide, so does the next 82. These are more obscure movies for most of you. You've probably seen or heard of a number of them, but there's plenty in the 82 that will be new to you or will be put back in focus for you. The first disc is the documentary itself focusing on the historical period and providing both editorial opinion and a cold hard history lesson into how censorship happens. The second disc is filled to the brim with trailers and film introductions that provide background and synopsis for each of the 82 movies featured on Draconian Days (the alt title for Part 2). Per Severin, titles include: Blood Lust, Brutes and Savages, Cannibals, Dead Kids, Deep Red, Death Weekend, Demented, Eaten Alive, Headless Eyes, Hell Prison, Love Butcher, Mark of the Devil, Massacre Mansion, Savage Terror, Scream for Vengeance, Suicide Cult, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Xtro and Zombie Holocaust.

The three disc set boasts 840 minutes of material! The value of this set in both historical significance, weight of knowledge and entertainment valuable is second to only the original release (if it is second in name only). The most surprising and definitely enjoyable feature on this release was the fanzine cover art gallery. 300 British fanzine covers on display! Some of them were familiar to me, and others joined the list of zines to be added to my ever present collecting hunt. You also get a videotape cover art gallery. I love the cover art for this series.

I started this thing off quoting a man who understood the value of retrospection. Look back. See how these moral warriors assemble and create aggravated acts of outrage in the name of their own petty ideology at the expense of human life and freedom. We not beyond the censorship and oppression that lived on the front page of newspapers during the Video Nasty era. One might even say that the nasty era didn't end; it continues to this day only it's malleable or changes it's color like a chameleon. Just because the milk snatcher died (that would be Margaret Thatcher) and Whitehouse is in the ground, doesn't mean their hydra-esque accomplices aren't hidden in the House of Commons or perhaps even in North America. Jake Morris and Marc Morris continue to empower younger generations who haven't had the pleasure of having had a VHS tape ripped from their still living hands.

You can order Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2  now:


From Severin:

Prepare to be corrupted and depraved once more by the sequel to the definitive guide to the Video Nasties phenomenon – the most extraordinary and scandalous era in the history of British film. For the first time ever on DVD, all 82 films that fell foul of the Director of Public Prosecutions “Section 3” list are trailer-featured with specially filmed intros for each title, alongside director Jake West’s brand new documentary – VIDEO NASTIES: DRACONIAN DAYS.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Love at First Bite and Once Bitten (Scream Factory Blu-ray Double Feature)

Confession time. I hadn't seen either Love at First Bite or Once Bitten prior to reviewing them for this release. I have no nostalgic memory of laughing at them or being aroused by them. I feel like I'm in the minority here. I feel like most people have enjoyed Jim Carrey's performance before he got big or perhaps George Hamilton performance after he already made it. Scream Factory has put out two different double features with comedic focus. We reviewed High Spirits and Vampire's Kiss, a double feature that I enjoyed well enough though I don't think Vampire's Kiss is my kind of horror comedy (if you think it's really a horror comedy). This time around I felt a less enthusiastic about both releases, however I know that nostalgia driven horror fans are going to love this set.

Let's talk about both movies.

Love at First Bite

As a kid I remember still frames of George Hamilton as Dracula. I had never seen the actual movie, but Hamilton looked the part. I knew it must be a comedy (the hair gives it away). Finally watching it, I'm of the opinion that Love at First Bite is the natural progression of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein... only not nearly as clever with a cast that is subpar and no truly great cinematic moments. It has some excellent physical comedy but not due to George Hamliton's performance that is clearly tongue in cheek. The supporting cast makes the movie tolerable. After the opening scene where Drac is pushed out of his castle and makes his way to New York, I quickly thought of every other fish out of water picture I knew, compared it and found it "lesser than".

To be honest I almost feel a bit bad not enjoying Love at First Bite. I can appreciate why George Hamilton is actually the perfect actor to cast in a Drac comedy, but maybe I'm not big on vampire horror comedy. I was not a fan of Dracula Dead and Loving It either.

Hey you can always watch it to see George Jefferson.

Love at First Bite includes the trailer and radio spot.

From Scream Factory:

George Hamilton is possibly the tannest vampire in screen history in 1979's Love at First Bite. When Count Dracula (Hamilton) is forced out of his castle to make room for an Olympic training facility, he relocates to New York City in search of discos, blood banks, and the fashion model who just might be the girl of his dreams. Will the Count take a bite out of The Big Apple — or will its mean streets take a bite out of him? Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Arte Johnson, Dick Shawn and The Jeffersons' Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford also star in this outrageous romance about a guy who really loves the nightlife.



Once Bitten

If it wasn't for Cleavon Little, I would have turned the damn thing off. Once Bitten is a typical frat boy/sex comedy with a coming of age root that isn't funny. It does have some genuinely sexy aspects. Lauren Hutton is an 80's mega babe vamp. This kept me entertained for most of the movie as did some of Little's antics (though he is no Sheriff Bart in Once Bitten). Perhaps the greatest reason to watch Once Bitten is to see the evolution of Carrey's talent; to understand his horror roots better and how his comedy evolved.

With no personal connection to the picture and minimal tit for tat (or even meaningful physical comedy) Once Bitten is a snoozer with few laughs. Perhaps this is one you had to see at a young age to appreciate it. Even as a fan of 80's horror, 80's comedy, sex comedies and vampire films, I really couldn't find the hook.

Like Mongo, I have deep feelings for Sheriff Bart (aka Cleavon Little), but that's where my good will ends for Once Bitten.

Once Bitten includes the trailer.

From Scream Factory:

Jim Carrey is necking with a vampire in Once Bitten, a 1985 teen comedy also starring Lauren Hutton, Karen Kopins, and Cleavon Little (Blazing Saddles). When a vampire Countess (Hutton) seeks virgin blood, she soon discovers that it’s not as easy to come by as it was in the good old days! When she crosses paths with the still-virginal Mark Kendall (Carrey in one of his earliest screen roles), it's a race against time to get to him before he gets it on. Once Bitten is a totally '80s teen vampire flick where the bloodsuckers don’t sparkle, but the comedy most certainly does.

Kink (Dark Sky DVD)


I don't know if you've been paying attention but sex is big right now. What am I saying? Sex is always big. Bondage is big. Sadomasochism is big. BDSM. Discipline is big. It's not all 50 Shades of who-the-fuck-cares either or Nine Inch Nails videos playing the pop industrial music complex of the mid-90's. Yeah, that book's got its place, and Trent Reznor is still as relevant as ever. It's exciting people and creating real conversation no matter how shitty the book is (yes, I read what I could stand of it), but there's something even more important happening. It's nice to know that the MTV generation isn't the only one whipping up interest in pain and pleasure. People are exploring their sexuality in a more open way than ever before. James Franco is exploring the industry and lifestyle behind BDSM in his new documentary Kink. Kink is the safe word that this sex film enthusiasm has needed; a look into the really real of the sexual out-there. 

I was exposed to some pretty severe sexual material at a young age. My dear old dad collected smut that was pretty brutal. We're not talking about Playboy, Penthouse or Hustler. I'm talking about some crazy bondage porn. In Black and White. Folks tied up in strange positions and to the point of certain pain. Now while I had found solace in Playboys and Penthouses from an almost too young age (8 or so stolen from a next door neighbor) this was something new and scary and I didn't think I liked it, but I had to see it. To this day I remember still frame image of wholesale pain and I wonder how it effected me at age 12. Hey, maybe my father was ahead of his time or maybe his fascination was the fascination we all have when we see something so new. It's not like he had a library of the stuff either. Just a few mags among others. It was an education and probably a lesson in the ways of the world (the way the world was when you peel back the sitcom). Why do I mention this? Because I think that for many of you a movie like Kink will be "dad's porn stash" in a world where the porn stash is seemingly on the coffee table and you have to dig really deep for the juicy stuff. 

Kink is a great movie for the beginner, the curious or the experienced sexual "deviant" (Note: I use that word with great respect and adoration for those willing to dare to be deviants). That doesn't mean that the beginner will be able to identify with what he is seeing on the screen. You best not be penis-phobic (because the cock is on the block). You must realize that there will be violence though I submit that this violence if far less severe than what you'll find in a Hollywood dramatization of a harlequin romance novel. Remember that watching a movie like Kink is about tolerance and finding tolerance while growing an understanding for something that could be so far outside of yourself... or perhaps lurking just beneath the surface. 
James Franco has produced and Christina Voros have given us a look behind the curtain, under the drape, inside the box and through the keyhole. It doesn't have to be the ultimate move on the subject to be important or eye opening. Hell, I'm partial to both watching and reading Philosophy in the Bedroom as my exploration of all things sexually perverse or dipping deep into a Vinegar Syndrome Peekarama. It's important because it is put together with discretion and with a unique eye on the subject matter. It isn't as dark you might think. It has more compassion. It's robust with thought provoking imagery and concepts. 

Will Kink's exploration of Kink.com turn you on? At times. There are plenty of hot scenes with strange, new teases lurking on every frame, but you might be surprised at how much it isn't about sexuality and is about the professional sexual business that is made up of hard working individuals. Professionals. Creating the fantasy going on behind your eyelids when you close them to daydream.

Pick up Kink now. It's beyond it's tag line: "The 51st Shade of Grey"


From Dark Sky:

In a particularly obscure corner of a business that operates largely out of public view, Kink.com's directors and "models" strive for authenticity. In an enterprise often known for exploitative practices, Kink.com upholds an ironclad set of values to foster an environment that is safe, sane and consensual, even as the bondage-and-discipline and sadomasochistic activities depicted seem to stretch the definition of "pleasure." The people at Kink.com aim to demystify the BDSM lifestyle and to serve as an example and an educational resource for the BDSM community.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Animal (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

We’ve discussed what happens when Scream Factory brings forth Chiller TV related features. In general I am forgiving and can find something to enjoy about each of these releases, of course recognizing that they are not typically of the same caliber as Scream Factory distributions of fan favorites from the 80’s. I always give them a chance, and I must admit that I have been surprised. Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear was quite enjoyable for a newer anthology features. I enjoyed the gimmick and the general premise of each story. Monkey’s Paw had some strong moments. I say all this because it’s February and time for Animal, another Chiller Films release that premiered just this last year. What of it you may ask? Did Animal follow movies like Dead Souls or did this surprise me?

This is a “cabin in the woods” horror flick which is to say that a bunch of friends go into the woods and inevitably find themselves stranded in a cabin trying not to be killed by something. That something in this case is a giant animal (you know… the one from the title). From there you may imagine that this turns into a connect-the-dots, kill in sequence, the survivor is the person you would expect and there are not relevant twists.  Your imagination would be correct which is not entirely unheard of in this subgenre or even with a run of the mill horror feature.  Where Animal excels is in the practical effect driven creature that comes off as a lesser version of the creature from Feast. The gore… well it happens and fairly lackluster, but there are some moments of conventional horror suspense that may leave you feeling remotely satisfied. Yes, I enjoyed the look of the creature, but really it’s movements are a bit jerky and one dimensional. I found myself staring at the screen waiting for something real to happen as opposed to the hysteria of various protagonists screaming on queue.

It’s nice to see Joey Lauren Adams in a feature movie though I must admit I didn’t recognize her until the credits.

The disc comes with a couple special features and some impressive cover art that nearly sells the movie (and it looks an awful lot like Feast too). You’ll get an audio commentary with Diretor Brett Simmons, interviews with the cast, the trailer and Behind-The Scenes Footage. This is actually quite impressive given the scope and scale of this release.

You’ll like this for the creature. You’ll expect quite a bit more of it once you’ve seen the big guy, and I’m afraid that simply won’t happen. Remember that this is a Chiller Films release, set your expectation to entertaining, not groundbreaking feature with horror elements, and you’ll do oaky by this one.

Animal is available from Scream Factory now:


 From Scream Factory:

When plans for a weekend getaway hit a dead end, a group of close-knit friends finds themselves stranded in unfamiliar territory, pursued by a menacing, bloodthirsty predator. Holed up in an isolated cabin, they turn on one another as tensions mount and long-buried secrets are revealed. But when the body count rises, the group must put their differences aside and fight for survival.




Double Feature: Vampire's Kiss and High Spirits (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

For February and Valentine’s day Scream Factory has given us two separate double features. Horror comedies to be specific, and while the quality of each film release will vary one cannot doubt that the motivation behind these releases was to encourage loving horror partners to wrap themselves up together in front of their Blu-ray players with the likes of Nicolas Cage, Daryl Hannah and Steve Gutenberg. Today we’ll bring you the first of the double features, released only days of after V-day. If you haven’t seen Vampire’s Kiss and High Spirits, this is the kind of light hearted horror that can turn a “norm” (non horror watcher) into a horror watcher.

Vampire’s Kiss

From Scream Factory:

Teetering on the edge of sanity, volatile literary agent Peter Loew (Nicolas Cage) tries to find purpose in his life through a cutthroat work ethic and a hedonistic night life. But when an encounter with a mysterious beauty leaves Loew convinced that he is turning into a vampire, his behavior turns positively outrageous.

This is a movie of legend. It’s a movie that I had only heard of, seen stills from and have always been curious about. With a young Nicholas Cage in the starring role, how could you go wrong? Let’s set your expectation. This is not an overly funny movie (or at least not as funny as the second feature on this release, High Spirits). It’s actually more whacked out, Gonzo crazy. I suppose we should expect nothing less of Mr. Cage during his pre-Wild at Heart phase.

What Vampire’s Kiss does promise is lots of T and A combined with a certain sensuality that can almost turn you on… until you realize that Nick Cage is in fact about to attack someone with plastic vamp fangs over some “vamp” with an Aquanet addiction. The ending.. touching and worth sticking around for if not long, drawn out and perhaps slightly offputting.


Do I recommend Vampire’s Kiss? In parts and maybe just one time to see if it’s your thing. It follows more in line with Martin than it does with more traditional vampire fare. Perhaps the best way to enjoy this one is with a pile of Bahaus vinyl, a clove cigarette and… yes… plastic or wax fangs.

High Spirits

From Scream Factory:

Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg, Beverly D’Angelo, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher and Liam Neeson star in this hilariously haunting comedy! When a castle-turned-hotel owned by Peter Plunkett (O’Toole) falls on hard financial times, he comes up with an idea to turn the place into a tourist attraction by billing it as Europe's most haunted castle. But just when it seems he'll have to give up the ghost, some real phantoms show up — and they're none too thrilled about being exploited.

I remember seeing High Spirits at a sleepover when I was a kid. We kept rewinding a particular scene in order to better see some skin we thought, maybe, we may have seen. It’s stuck with me. I thought it was funny back then, and that was at an age where I couldn’t possibly have understood all the subtle comic sensibilities contained within.


High Spirts has all the trappings of an 80’s sex comedy, but it’s a PG-13 release so it doesn’t have all the good bits you might expect. This isn’t Porkys. This is a lighthearted, romantic romp in Ireland with some light, dirty humor to fill in the ghostly gaps. Peter O’Toole is splendid and funny (boy did I love him in King Ralph… perhaps more than I liked him in Lawrence of Arabia). Steve Guttenberg, Daryl Hannah, Liam Neeson and Beverly D’Angelo create the perfect balance of a well balanced comedic troop with dramatic presence and power.  Watching this one made me realize just how ingrained Jennifer Tilly is in the world of horror and dark fantasy. From Psycho II to Child’s Play and even High Spirits!

High Spirits is the movie that truly sells this set for me. It’s highly entertaining with plenty of slapstick moments that let you know why the 80’s defined physical romantic comedy. It’s never scary, but it is ghostly and has a spooky atmosphere. This flick gets a bad wrap… mostly because people simply don’t know how to have fun with a goofy 80’s Guttenberg flick that isn’t Police Academy.

This double feature is ready to order from Scream Factory now:



Monday, February 2, 2015

Going Under (Blue Underground Blu-ray) - The Emotive Pain of Being Bound

S&M is real in right now which means it’s time to find the movie that best calculates just how far to simulate the public with the new, hot release of the moment ergot we get movies like 50 Shades of Grey, Kink (a documentary from James Franco), The Secretary even and Going Under a movie that explores BDSM from a nearly romantic perspective without showing itself to be shallow but rather romantic in a sense. This does not mean that Going Under is the companion piece to 50 Shades. In fact, from what I’ve read of 50 Shades of Grey that picture is a Harlequin romance novel for neo-housewives and househusbands trying to break out of their daily hamster wheel and feel dangerous.

Going Under is for folks who have played around with their sensuality; perhaps as single and who want to better understand their relationships to people through it and perhaps in spite of it. That being said I found the movie to be rather lengthy, emotive and somewhat dull. That’s only because my expectation was set at Marquis de Sade level when it should have been set to empathic exploration mode. Those are very different positions to be in. I haven’t had a meaningful thought about S&M in at least ten years, so for me this movie becomes about watching how relationships form and transgress. This is not easy task for a guy whose favorite movies from 2014 involved exploding splatter everything.

This movie stars Roger Rees who is in a ton of movies and absolutely terrific in both this movie and the majority of the pictures in which I have seen him. Funny how the mind works…  I solely associate him with A Christmas Carole starring George C. Scott. He plays Scrooge’s nephew, the one with all the energy and good will. Take that image and transpose it to Going Forward. Rees is the submissive. He’s sexually tortured (gently) throughout the movie. You see him naked. I just saw Scrooge’s nephew naked and all I can think of is… Tight as a drum. Those of you who are familiar with A Christmas Carol will surely understand my predicament.

Going Under  predates the 50 Shades fad by seven years which is obvious because it is a much deeper picture/work of fiction. It is much less focused on the sexually tangible and instead takes on erotic though in much the same way that de Sade’s Philosophy in the Bedrom did (with less anal). Much more “in your head”. This feels like a very uncharacteristic release for Blue Underground, the fount of trash and sleaze pictures from Europe and the 1980’s. Of course this is originally a Blue Underground DVD, but I'm still stumped. How did this proactive drama slip in? For those of you in need of something more sensual and less filthy, this might be the thing that gets you laid. 


Check out Going Under released by Blue Underground.


From Blue Underground:

A Tale Of Obsession, Submission And Tortured Love
Peter, a married psychotherapist, and Suzanne, a professional dominatrix, have been engaged in an affair of sensual dominance and submission in an S&M dungeon where they must abide by the rules. Now, those rules are about to be broken when they agree to see each other on the outside. As Peter becomes increasingly obsessed with the troubled Suzanne, they embark on a sordid psychosexual journey into their tortured pasts through their most carnal desires.


Extras include:
  • Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Eric Werthman and Star Roger Rees
  • Pushing the Boundaries - Interviews with Stars Roger Rees and Geno Lechner
  • NYC Black & Blue Ball
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Teaser Trailer

Starry Eyes (Dark Sky Films Blu-ray) - She's Ready for Her Close Up.

Boy did Starry Eyes make an impression on me. It was in my top ten list for 2014 easily and made me remember just how much I adore culty, physical, sort-of body horror. In fact that’s a good point about Starry Eyes. People are having trouble classifying it. Is it more occult, supernatural… is it a mental mind fuck of a movie? Is it simply a degenerative picture the shows the depravity of the film industry? Is this body horror at or transformative horror with perfect demonic sensibilities?

Let’s say you’re an actress, trying to get a role in a movie that might give you a break with a well known, respected studio. What would you do to get the role? How far would you let the role take you and what would you let the production company do TO you? I’ve heard stories that suggest that the stone cold truth behind the events in Starry Eyes are more real than we would ever want to realize. Kevin Kölsch  and Dennis Widmyer are about to show us that world, the seedy underbelly that gave birth to it and the other side of that coin… the place where the dimensional gap between fantasy and reality cross paths to show a deeper darker Twilight Zone that ends in self destruction, demonization and more bloody than any Serlng moral tale.

I love this flick because Alexandra Essoe is innocent and seductive while being perfectly deviant when she needs to be (to get the “part”) and all the time lovable. You’ll root for her through the end even though it may not be the polite thing to do. Essoe is a powerhouse. I fear and love her. There are moments in this feature where I felt strangely turned on by her performance, even in the most degrading of moments. I felt uneasy until I realized I was supposed to feel that way to a degree. She’s supposed to be playing the part of a girl who wants a role out of perfect working class desperation, will do anything to get it and convinces you, the audience, of this as much as she would convince her casting director in the movie itself.

The score is beyond perfect with its gorgeous 80’s synth aesthetic. I look forward to this vinyl hitting my shelves soon enough. Pulse pounding. Nerve wrenching… the perfect music to write to.

The story itself is well told with perfect twists and turns that lead you down a rabbit hole only to reveal that hole as a rabbit snare that skins you alive. Starry Eyes is a trap, and you’ll love being in it until it kills you.

You can pick up Starry Eyes on beautiful Blu-ray now. It has a double sided cover (the traditional art being my favorite). The disc includes a commentary track with the directors/writers as well as the Producer Travis Stevens, 10 deleted scenes, a music video by the composer Jonathan Stripes (a must watch), Alex Essoe’s audition video (also a must watch), the trailer and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery.


Order it now and let yourself be taken by a truly horrifying picture:


From Dark Sky Films:

Determined to make it as an actress in Hollywood, Sarah Walker (Alex Essoe,Passion Play, Boy Toy) spends her days working a dead-end job, enduring petty friendships with other struggling artists and competing actors, and going on countless casting calls in hopes of catching her big break. After a series of strange auditions, Sarah lands the leading role in a film from a mysterious production company. But this opportunity comes with some bizarre conditions that will transform her both mentally and physically into something beautiful ... and altogether terrifying.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sex World (Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray) - The Future is Fuck

So it’s like Fantasy Island, add sex, subtract midget, no plane, add bus flashback segment and more hi-tech. That’s Sex World. On the heels of Oriental Baby Sitter, Expectations and Confessions came Anthony Spinelli’s most beautiful, truly narrative piece of adult cinema. While his previous endeavors were primary fuck driven, Sex World plays on a common theme of the day, “the world” ie Westworld and Futureworld. Released in the 70’s these two movies feature what might amount to a dystopian theme parks where the fun goes to funeral rapidly. Of course by the time we get to Sex World in 1978, the focus is clearly fun and only limited by our imagination. Vinegar Syndrome continues to deliver beautiful smut into the year 2015 though I caution you, this is much more than meets the brown eye.

Sex World does not watch like a dystyopian, cautionary tale but rather as a hopeful story; you will find the satisfaction you desire in Sex World. Your sexual demands will be met. Your fetish exposed. It’s a world of healing (sexual healing). While much of the movie plays out like a fuck by numbers approach with a tech, dream fulfillment tint, the truly inspiring moments of Sex World occur in the pictures opening. As the feature divulges a clear backstory for each character complete with sexual frustration or longing, real actors are exposed beyond their physical attributes. The foreshadowing is emotive and passionate. Perhaps the greatest achievement of a movie like Sex World is keeping the whole thing fun and exciting while relaying some of the most carnalistically frustrating moments of the 70’s.

Balanced with tongue in cheek performances and a smooth, funky score that almost plays like a James Bond theme, Sex World is really an amalgam of attributes from 70’s sex cinema and popular Hollywood tropes put together in a way that could appeal to a wide audience and not just the degenerate audiences in trench coats on 42nd Street. There are moments that deal with rough sex, the breaking of traditional sexual roles as well as a lengthy, oneliner filled discussion of racial division that borderlines on some of the work that was important during the evolution of Blaxploitation. It has that style that the industry would gradually abandon and that even the talented Spinelli would give up as he went into his later work in the gang bang series. Perhaps the most tantalizing piece of street cred you can give to Sex World comes in its tag line:

“Westworld” was for children, “Futureworld” was for teenagers, but … Sex World is definitely for ADULTS!



This is a limited Blu-ray/DVD/CD release restored in 4k from the original 35mm camera negative. Of course it looks beautiful which is characteristic for a Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray. The real treat here besides the reversible Italian cover art is the inclusion of the soundtrack on CD. The soundtrack is to Sex World is truly memorable and enjoyable, especially on that long, unsexual commute to the office. With a release price under $30, the CD is a freebie steal. Of course the DVD includes a softcore cut… if you need to tone it down some. The disc also includes not one but two theatrical trailers, interviews with Kay Parker, Joey Silvera and Still Photographer Joel Sussman.

Sure the sex is satisfying and perfectly 70’s but so is the story. Each year when I run through my favorite Blu-rays of the year, Vinegar Syndrome makes the grade. This year is promising to be no exception and Sex World continues the trend with its film grain longitude and its rich contrast latitude. Science Fiction? Nope. Science Fuck-tion!

You can order Sex World now. Only 1,500 available (and there will be a DVD release later this year). 

http://vinegarsyndrome.com/shop/limited-edition-sex-world-bddvd-combo/

or from DiabolikDVD:

http://www.diabolikdvd.com/category/Adult-(Browse-All)/Sex-World-(Vinegar-Syndrome)-(CD-[sl]-DVD-[sl]-Blu~Ray-All-Region-Combo).html

From Vinegar Syndrome:

Sex World is a luxury resort, advertised as the ultimate sex-themed getaway, where people travel to try and overcome their sexual problems. As the resort’s guests slowly become aware of their inhibitions, fears, and repressed urges, with the help of robotic surrogate lovers, director Anthony Spinelli’s camera paints a haunting picture of human insecurities set against a science fiction backdrop.

One of the biggest hardcore hits of the late 1970’s SEX WORLD is a thoughtful analysis of eroticism, punctuated with striking and at times abstract visuals. Featuring an all-star cast, including Annette Haven, Leslie Bovee, Kay Parker, John Leslie, Joey Silvera, and with Hollywood level production values, SEX WORLD remains one of the most significant and thought provoking hardcore feature films ever produced.

Features Include:

+ 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD/CD Package | Region Free | 1.85:1 OAR | DTS-HD Master Audio
+ Restored in 4k from 35mm camera negative
+ Video Interview with Actress Kay Parker
+ Video Interview with Actor Joey Silvera
+ Video Interview with Still Photographer Joel Sussman
+ Two Theatrical Trailers
+ Alternate Soft Cut (dvd only)
+ Soundtrack CD
+ Reversible Cover w/ Italian Artwork