Friday, March 27, 2015

Deep in the Darkness (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

I’m not going to spend too much time on Deep in the Darkness because it isn’t my favorite Scream Factory release, however I think that there’s an audience for it. What you have here is another cross pollination with Scream Factory and Chiller TV movie. Chiller TV movies can range from low end SyFy releases to … lower ened SyFy releases. Sometimes you get a nice plot or an original effect or two. Often times you get some pretty terrible acting with a has been cast and a popularity driven feature that focuses on the subgenre of the day release that proves unoriginal. Every so often you’ll get a release worth watching, but the good news is that most of these releases are good for one watch just to see what the Hell is going on.  We’ve discussed my love/hate relationship with the Chiller/Scream connection, but I always try to find something that shows why Scream sought to put out the release other than contractual obligation.

Deep in the Darkness is fairly bland with a strong ending. The payoff is not wholly disappointing and fans of HP Lovecraft might chock this one up to another shitty adaptation of one of his stories (unofficially of course because this ain’t an HP flick).  This is a film adaptation, just not a Lovecraft adaptation. Michael Laimo apparently took influence from the 70’s made for TV movie Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and spun it into an award winning book… that is now a less than award winning movie. The book will have a sequel soon. Another of Laimo’s books, Dead Souls, was also turned into a movie by Chiller TV, and you all know how I feel about that one. (Credit to the great and powerful Wiki for the backstory on the Laimo book info).

I suppose if you liked Quantum Leap you could say that seeing Dean Stockwell would be a bonus, but let’s not bring in the Backula factor (interesting to note that this would be the second release in a year where a Quantum Leap star is featured in a Scream Factory release ie Lord of Illusions). You also get Sean Patrick Thomas of Cruel Intentions fame if that sort of thing interests you.

I can’t firmly recommend Deep in the Darkness, but I am not going to outright discourage you from checking it out. It’s not Dead Souls bad. It’s not even the worst thing I’ve seen this year, and the movie itself looks good as a newer HD flick on Blu-ray. Try to find the creepy in the creatures from the woods and you might get into it.

Deep in the Darkness is available April 21st:

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

Dr. Michael Cayle thought leaving the chaotic lifestyle of New York City for the quiet, small town of Ashborough would bring his family closer together. Soon after arriving, however, he discovers the town's deepest secret: a terrifying and controlling race of creatures that live in the darkness in the woods behind his home.

The Device (Image DVD)

What starts off as a great premise about a small, discovered ball that is somehow, simply the most enticing object on the planet builds into…well… not a whole Hell of a lot. That didn’t stop me from at least partially enjoying The Device. The premise is great and the movie looks good. It’s well acted though no true stand out performances. I think I would have been prepared to give this one solid marks if the lackluster ending/reveal didn't leave me in a state of want. The ending fails to pack much of a punch after a reliable and interesting intriguing build up.

The concept is fairly original and steers clear of most of the tech and game based horror that’s been arriving lately with a focus on Sci-Fi thrills and chills. It’s not found footage which will please many of you. Perhaps I’m being too harsh and expecting too much from a movie that for all intents and purposes is an effective story though not as a scare picture. Perhaps the big reveal is ruined by the cover art. Maybe that’s how I’m unimpressed because I can sort of see what’s evolving here.

You can check out The Device on DVD from Image now. I don’t necessarily give it full marks, but I’m pretty sure some of you will get more out of it than I did.

From Image:

Inspired by classic abduction cases writer and producer John Portanova (The Invoking) skillfully plays on the intrigue of the unknown. Starring Angela DiMarco (Trauma), David S. Hogan (Shadowed) and Kate Alden (The Right Place), The Device DVD features an audio commentary by the screenwriter of Fire in the Sky and Intruders, two of the most popular alien abduction films ever.

When two sisters find a harmless looking object in the woods, they cannot know to what extent it will change their world – and ours – forever. The small, sphere – mysterious, seductive, enticing – conveys a message, a deep, profound biological message, that will reshape our world, recasting relationships with the universe beyond our wildest dreams and worst nightmares.

Escape From New York (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

Yeah, the Duke is A#1. That’s life on a prison island… that is until ol’ Snake comes along and battle for the top spot. I first saw Escape From New York in 2002, well after the 1997 year in which it was set. I knew what Manhattan had become; a consumer tourist trap with Broadway everything and corporate sponsorship, but in the time of John Carpenter, in 1981, the future of New York was mega-bleak. Giuliani came in a cleaned up the streets, deleted the character of the city and made it safe for at least a short time, but that doesn't mean that we’re out of the woods just yet. The future is coming. There’s always a new 1997. There’s always a New York to escape from. The first time I enjoyed Escape From New York I did so as a late movie, head full of tranqs and buried up to my neck in blankets waiting to see who would make it off the island. Would it be my beloved Donald acting as an American president with a secret mixtape of espionage? Would it be Dean Profitt, post-adventure mini-golf? Would it be Billie? You can call her that because everyone else does. Maybe Airwolf? Man this movie has a great cast, and this is a great release. It’s a pleasure to enjoy it with all the trimmings from Scream Factory.

With the post-apocalypse on high gear for every would-be filmmaker out there, it’s nice to remember when a story could carry an action movie and when the camerawork wasn’t so shaky. Most of you have seen and enjoyed Escape From New York by now, and those of you who have not might find it a bit dated no matter how timeless it feels. The effects are less than CG and have a truly fantastical feel with models, paintings and clever camera tricks making up the bulk of the future island prison. There are bits of animation that take the place of high cost effects that are infinitely more effective than the video game look of most modern movies. You can feel the dirt of New York because New York was dirty even if the thing wasn’t shot in New York.  The people look like residents of future-Tromaville in New Jersey or perhaps the trappings of The Warriors (Bronx or otherwise). There’s almost early signs of steampunk and Mad Max (with more tech and more civilization). The world of New York circa 1997 is a trend setter and a morbid prediction in the Dickens sense of unchanged action leading to dire consequence for the people of 1981.

This time around I enjoyed the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell commentary track because my associates at the Dead Air podcast told me that it would be one of the best ways to watch a JC/KR movie. They were right. Having since memorized bits of dialogue from repetitive watching, the commentary gave me a look at how an independent feature was made in the late 70’s. It showed you what dedication a filmmaker had to his movie and how the battle of studio vs. artist was just shaping up and would seem to cripple John Carpenter in later years. You can’t cage the great JC; you’ll only make him smoke more cigarettes. Let’s run through the features from Scream Factory. Note that you get an entire extras disc! One Blu-ray. One disc of extras. Original artwork on the slipcover and the reverse is the more traditional artwork.

NEW 2K High Definition Scan Of The Inter-Positive, Struck From The Original Negative

This thing looks beautiful. It’s a sexy transfer. Clean. Nice contrast and full of detail. No heavy-handed DNR and the color looks appropriate though I haven’t seen this film projected.

NEW Audio Commentary With Actress Adrienne Barbeau And Director Of Photography Dean Cundey
Audio Commentary With Director John Carpenter And Actor Kurt Russell
Audio Commentary With Producer Debra Hill And Production Designer Joe Alves

You get three commentaries to choose from! I have to check out the most recent one with Barbeau and our man Cundey, but the JC/Russell one from the previous release is chock full of all the info you could want. Make sure to enjoy Debra Hill. She’s a Horror/Sci-Fi treasure.

NEW Big Challenges In Little Manhattan: The Visual Effects Of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK

This shows you how to make movies without relying on computers for EVERYTHING. What gives Escape From New York and films of this age their iconic, unperfect look? This featurette shows you. Very cool stuff. Keep your eyes our for Mr. James Cameron with the paintbrush.

NEW Scoring The Escape: A Discussion With Composer Alan Howarth

I’m a score junkie which means listening to Alan Howarth talk about how the sound palette was created for an iconic picture is like bathing in Cadbury Crème Eggs. Howarth is always a pleasure to listen to as he is knowledgeable and a good story teller. Soundtrack enthusiasts (ie my dorky brethren) enjoy this treat.

NEW On Set With John Carpenter: The Images Of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK With Photographer Kim Gottlieb-Walker

Kim Gottlieber-Walker just made me realize that I have been taking for granted the on-set photographer and the importance thereof. I can safely say I didn’t fully appreciate how filmmaking has changed, how the “cameras are everywhere” has changed how actors related to the director and how their performance suffers from over-photographing. Lesson learned. Thanks Kim.

NEW I Am Taylor: An Interview With Actor Joe Unger

His scene may have been cut from the movie, but he’s making it to the extras disc for the Scream Factory release. There’s a new interview with Actor Joe Unger.

NEW My Night On The Set: An Interview With Filmmaker David DeCoteau

DeCoteau has made some pretty crazy dark fantasy pictures over the years. He’s the subject of the new interview on the Escape From New York disc which is an interesting perspective.

Deleted Scene: The Original Opening Bank Robbery Sequence
This is a must watch for the casual fan who thinks they’ve seen everything. This isn’t new material by any stretch, but it’s damn cool. Includes a commentary track.

Return To Escape From New York Featurette

Theatrical Trailers – obligatory. Don’t put out a digital disc without this.

Photo Galleries – Behind-The-Scenes, Posters And Lobby Cards – obligatory, enjoy.

This is hefty package from Scream Factory with some updated extras, great cover art (or the original art if you’re a purist) that looks fantastic. It’s Escape From New York. It’s John Carpenter. It’s Kurt Russell. It’s Scream Factory. When you put these things together you get something special. Something that feels like a refreshing post-apocalypse even though this movie is over 30 years old. Scream Factory does such a nice job with all their Carpenter releases and this is no exception. Duke. Snake. We’re the guys with the Blu-ray.

You can order the Scream Factory Blu-ray, Collector’s Edition now. Available April 21st:

Synopsis from Scream Factory:

In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a walled prison where brutal prisoners roam. But when the US president (Donald Pleasence) crash-lands inside, only one man can bring him back: notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero Snake Plissken (Russell). But time is short. In 24 hours, an explosive device implanted in his neck will end Snake's mission – and his life – unless he succeeds!

IT FOLLOWS ... and Scares and Gives me the Willies and You Should Get to the Theater

To those of you who know that I am a bit of a horror soundtrack junkie, that I collect soundtracks and listen to them while I work out and work and drive and eat breakfast with the kids, you'll be happy to know that I already made a purchase of the It Follows soundtrack on vinyl based on the recommendation of some friends and a one minute sampling before even watching the movie. It was that good. Sight unseen. Blind buy. Retro synth gorgeous with plenty of dark, brooding and a little bit of the ol' JC (that's John Carpenters to you squares) to make me feel downtrodden Assault on Precinct good about the bass hits. That's the first thing I want to offer you about It Follows, a movie that I just had the chance to review. The score is something strong and special. I'm going to add it to the pumping iron, horror music till you bust a gripper music playlist. Rich Vreeland has done some work on a few shorts, but he better start thinking of taking this whole "music thing" to all of your independent features. I want to hear his music in your film. Make it happen.

Extremely mild spoilers ahead. Nothing that you don't find out in the first couple minutes, but let's be overly cautious for folks who like movies and don't want to form an opinion based upon this review or the "internet's opinion" of the movie. Hint: see the movie.

It Follows is not a gratuitous movie. While a great deal of the film is based around the premise of the sexually transmitting of a supernatural death sentence, you don't have to watch any one take the old one eye down to tuna town. It's loving. It's emotional, and with that you get characters with which you can related who feel fictional but approachable. These are friends, and they feel the people you've known without feeling so real that you might find their flaws a reason to turn on them. Our main crew are frightened, react appropriately, and I'm glad we got a cast that works so well together even if their are some strange moments that feel disjointed due to a lack of explanation or evolution of character. This is a spooky flick that comes in at under 2 hours. We'll cut them some slack.

The underlying feeling as a  I watched this eerie flick was that I had seen some of these scenes before in other movies. There are moments that truly felt as though I was watching slight improvs of scenes from the original Nightmare on Elm Street or perhaps Halloween; perhaps they were almost homages to some of my favorite horror pictures . Two moments in particular. One involving our leading lady watching her friend's house waiting to see if anything would happen to him (akin to Nancy watching Glen's house through barred window. Another involved a school sequence where Jay is in class, staring out a window and begins to see strange things all the while a piece of literature is read in the background. Are you thinking Laurie Strode... fate? Are you thinking Nancy... dreeeeeeams? Either works and intentional or not it's something I picked up on. Rest assured I have not spoiled anything for you. Just something to keep under your hat while you watch It Follows this weekend as it opens to a wider audience.

This movie has some moments of retro cool that shows itself in some of the props used in various scenes that sort of try to age the film that don't always work with the automobiles I'm seeing in the background. The old station wagon is great, but the newer model cars thrust me out of that dreamy nostalgia state.  It definitely feels old and at times, dirty. 1980's chic with a touch of the now (a makeup mirror that double as an e-reader?). The movie was filmed in Detroit which explains the bombed out look of plenty of the scenes that give the picture an appropriate feeling of dread. David Robert Mitchell has used Detroit as his backdrop before in The Myth of the American Sleepover. For a new guy on the block he makes a damn good movie.

There's the slightest... ever so slight... bit of gore. Nothing a Walking Dead fan can't handle. Do not expect a "full loaded" burrito here. This is more of "mind plays tricks on you"/suspense/tension film. Yes there are jump scares, and they work perfectly. There are moments where "IT" will just show up... out of nowhere...and not as you might expect which had this viewer jumping backward. I was riveted, waiting for the scares and pissed off that my eyes felt so dry from keeping them so wide. That's probably the best recommendation for a horror picture with plenty of atmosphere and organic scares that you could hope for.

Enjoy some of the Horror and Science Fiction features that pop up from time to time. Invaders from Mars was the one that is most prominent in my memory. Who can forget those eyes. I'm not entirely certain that the choice of these background flicks plays into the underlying meaning of the film, but they're good fun. After reviewing the new Scream Factory Blu for Invaders from Mars recently and now seeing a reference to the original in It Follows, I'm due for a rewatch of the original. Speaking of underlying messages or watching It Follows as a moral tale or a tale that tries to demonize sexual promiscuity or that the central theme of the movie should have a metaphor that suggests a passing of sexually transmitted disease or AIDS, I'm going to leave that for the people who want to discuss the implicit race discussion in Night of the Living Dead. I just wanna be scared, and I was. Happily so. I was scared and I didn't feel shitty afterward because of the movie having to be so overly downtrodden  or "real", and I was scarred while being thoroughly entertained. Too many movies go for the mean spirited "fuck you". Too many want you to feel like your watching your waking life. Thanks to It Follows for being a horror movie and not a portrait of doom and gloom.

What does all this mean? It means you should support It Follows on its expanded opening weekend starting Friday March 27th. Great Friday night movie. May not get you laid in the theater or afterward. Don't let that stop you.

Here's a sampling of the music so you can get excited for the soundtrack and try to grab the vinyl as well:

Here's the trailer although I recommend just jumping in without listening to anymore hype or setting an expectation. I didn't really know what I was going to watch and that helped to avoid the over-hyping that turns great horror into the internet's opinion pinata.  Check your local listings. It's playing two miles away from me. I may go check er out again.

From Radius/TWC:

IT FOLLOWS was written and directed by David Robert Mitchell and features an up and coming ensemble cast that includes Maika Monroe (THE GUEST, THE 5th WAVE) in the lead role.

Monroe plays 19-year-old Jay, who, after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, suddenly finds herself plagued by nightmarish visions. She can't shake the sensation that someone, or something, is following her.

As the threat closes in, Jay and her friends must somehow escape the horrors that are only a few steps behind.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

No Need to Save August, Larry... HUDSON HORROR SHOW Returns this June with JAWS!

As a fan of Hudson Horror Show, Silver Cinemas and the folks behind one of the premier 35mm events in the Northeast, I can safely say that the lineup forming in Poughkeepsie for Saturday, June 13th is stupendous. It is as near and dear to my heart as any horror screening I have been to. Let's run this one down. Tickets go on sale 12 noon on Saturday March 28th. $31 in advance. $35 day of the show. This will sell out. There's no way it won't. It's just a matter of how fast we can make it happen. Let's set a record.


and like the Hudson Horror Show Facebook page for updates on the event:

The story so far (announced titles)...


This is everyone favorite, and funny enough I always argue against it as a horror picture. It's a movie about mail bonding, personal challenge and family... and a shark. What a way to start the summer!


Most people like to laugh their way through Nightmare 2, and while I laugh too I can't help but feel a bit terrified by this misunderstood entry in one of the largest horror franchises. It was my uncut R rated movie on HBO. I watched it at my neighbors house on shag carpet, stinking of cigarettes in a dark living room one afternoon. My parents were none to thrilled. It's a foundational picture for me. One that started me in the right direction. 

MS. 45
Hudson Horror Show has a history of testing their audience. They screened Cannibal Holocaust on 35mm and now we are going afforded a cult classic revenge film. It was released on Blu-ray last year via Drafthouse Films and now it's on the big screen for you. Laugh or get sick to your stomach, but either way enjoy. (Doesn't that light blue font make the image?)


Now this is a treat especially with the upcoming Blu-ray release by Vinegar Syndrome (who will be on premises). Add Madman Marz and the producer of Madman and you have an experience that is not likely repeatable. Enjoy hack and slash gold.


Hudson Horror Show has a history of showing some of the most amazing mystery flicks. We will let this one speak for itself. We never divulge the Mystery Movie, but it's a reason as good as the announced feature to attend.

In addition, a Special Guest Q & A will include Gary Sales (Producer of Madman) and Madman Marz himself, Paul Ehlers. Vinegar Syndrome will be on sight selling their new Blu-ray of Madman (sure to be a slasher resto favorite). The event will include numerous other vendors as well as all the microwave hotdogs you can buy from the concession stand.

The recent triple feature at the Alamo Drafthouse was only an appetizer for the 11th HHS event (that featured Sleepaway Camp, Blood Beach and Giant Spider Invasion) and that sold out!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Muck (Anchor Bay Blu-ray) - Like Motorboating the Best Bog of Boobs

I wanted to say a few quick words about Muck. There’s plenty of trash talking going on out there about this one, and I think most of it is an over exaggeration. Is it an original horror picture? Well, it’s got stalk and hack attributes that would have you believe that this a typical CG gorefest with a big name (Kane Hodder) on the front line doing the dirty work. You'd want to believe that they put Hodder's name is up there to sell the movie rather than have a professional actor doing what professional horror actors do. While it may share similarities to movies like Hatchet or even hillbilly horror with fishies out of water getting their end at the hands of a humanoid destructor, Muck actually creates a baddie that comes straight out of the goo to decimate some gorgeous bodies. It’s not exactly a monster movie, but I still feel it has modern day creature feature attributes. Hodder is all Hodder. The mess is going to need more than a roll of Bounty and some police tape to clean it up.

The premise or backstory behind our baddie, is fun and leaves room for sequel and prequel alike essentially going for the franchise tag with one movie under its belt. In fact, Muck has had a successful Kickstarter campaign to do just that; create a new horror franchise in the form of a prequel. My only word of warning to director Steve Wolsh, you avoid that computerized gore in all installments. Keep the computerized effects basic if you must and use some filler splats if you need to, but stray true to what worked well in Muck. Muck: Feast of Saint Patrick is exactly what the month of March needs for horror and after enjoying Muck I'll be sure to check out the prequel when it rears it's marshy head.

There are some extremely attractive ladies on this shoot. They do not wear clothes often. It is a pleasure to watch them run around in their deathday suits, and that’s not entirely my hornball libido speaking as though it were my brain stem. Actually, the look of this movie with slow motion action sequences and fantastical shimmery lighting with plenty of blues and black to accentuate the night is something to be admired. Yeah, you can see that girls boobs loosey goosey, flippity flopping across the screen like a Jello commercial, but they do so with style. For a movie whose theme and focus is based around a marsh and burial ground, the movie looks beautiful, messy. The blood is good. The kills work. I’d love some more entrail-filled body splits, but I’m okay to wait for the more over the top sequel should one arise.

To sum it up, Muck’s got a strong musical selection which plays well to it's entertaining nature even in the face of coming off moderately mean spirited.  Hodder is almost playing in a more energetic, night crawler version of Hatchet which totally works. I had a great time, enjoying it as a sexually stimulating, fast paced, slay stopper that didn’t leave me scared but did leave me perfectly entertained. It’s a handsome looking Blu-ray with a great cover. Make sure to try to locate one of the promotional, underwear clad shot glasses floating around. Lots of nudie cuties in this one with a Playboy Playmate donning the victim card as well as a bunch of fresh hot bodies. Plenty of solid kills with strong effects and makeup work by Ben Bornstein who has had plenty of experience, this . While not original enough to be groundbreaking, it has enough novelty to feel fresh especially with the shooting style and “throw you right in” story telling style. As for director Steve Wolsh… this is his first full length, and it’s a damn fine way to get out of the gate as writer, director and producer.

You can order Muck on Blu-ray now.

Jacklyn Swedberg, Lauren Francesca, Stephanie Danielson, Lachlan Buchanan, Victoria Sophia, Leil a Knight, Puja Mohindra and Gia Skova… you have captured the perfect balance horror and sexual intrigue that made me a horror fan for life at a young age. Great job to the entire cast for their horror acting.

Synopsis from Anchor Bay:

After narrowly escaping an ancient burial ground, long forgotten and buried underneath the marshes of Cape Cod, a group of friends emerge from the thick, marshy darkness, tattered and bloody, lucky to be alive. They have already lost two of their friends in the marsh, presumably dead. They stumble upon an empty Cape Cod vacation house alongside the foggy marsh and break in to take shelter. Whatever was in the marsh is still after them and soon after one of them goes for help, the rest of the group learns that the evil in the marsh is not the only thing that wants them dead. Something worse, something more savage, was lying in wait just outside the marsh, in the house. What happens next is unspeakable horror that cannot be unseen. These unlucky travelers spend their St. Patrick's Day trapped between two evils forcing them to fight, die, or go back the way they came.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Blind Woman's Curse (Arrow US Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

I'm familiar with Nikkatsu which is to say I have enjoyed countless hours of hardcore pornography from Synapse during their 70's re-exploration of the human anatomy post-focus shift. That does not mean I know nearly enough to comment on the strength of Blind Woman's Curse in the Nikkatsu catalog, but I would urge those of you who are familiar with the production company, especially from the releases from Synpase to seek out a different Nikkatsu. Not necessarily kinder or gentler, but a studio that produced movies with a more clear narrative, ghostly presence and some rather intelligent choreographically powerful sequences. Arrow Video has given us a chance on the third of their US endeavor, available for viewing on Region A players.

To be honest I almost prefer to the pornography of the later Nikkatsu to the more structured, narrative fiction of Japan during the 60's and 70's. It's not that I cannot appreciate a ghost story or Japanese horror cinema in general, but it is not my preference. I've often struggled with influential films of the 60's and 70's coming out of Japan that focus on the supernatural as opposed to the less invasive, less though provoking fiction (think Kaiju). I give movies of this type a chance, appreciate strong visual presence but frown at the narrative that walks and meanders from slightly obscure reference to cultural novelty with which I am unfamiliar. Perhaps my lack of an open mind or research on this type of film, this genre, the supernal films of Asia during the 60's and 70's is at fault alone. I cannot connect save for a few action sequences and absolutely enticing end sequence in this case. It's almost easier to enjoy the later, adult offerings from this studio even with the lack of artistic merit found there in. Still I understand why it is great, though not my preference. You can hold Blind Woman's Curse right up there with a movie like Kwaidan, a movie that is six years Curse's senior. Kwaidan of course is considered the masterpiece of Japanese supernatural cinema and this is not its equal, but it is in the same class.

This release boasts colors that are robust, gorgeous. The palette is exotic and the transfer is shocking clear. The Arrow touch is not lost on this curse filled picture. The cover art is exquisite and lively.  Highlights include:
  • New high definition digital transfer of the film prepared by Nikkatsu Studios
  • Presented in High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD
  • Uncompressed mono PCM audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles
  • Audio commentary by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp
  • Original Trailer
  • Trailers for four of the films in the Meiko Kaji-starring Stray Cat Rock series, made at the same studio as Blind Woman's Curse
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx
  • Collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes, illustrated with original archive stills.
For fans of Lady Snowblood welcome Meiko Kaji to the screen in a full fledged role. For fans of Yakuza films, this is an early one with plenty of style beyond the fight sequence focus that has a few eerie moments to balance out the eternal battle for power on Earth as opposed to ether. It's a solid offering as a part of Arrow's US release schedule and rounds out a Spaghetti Western and Horror/Explotation feature in Day of Anger and Mark of the Devil respectively. 

You can order Blind Woman's Curse on Blu-ray/DVD combo available from Arrow in the US now. Releasing 4/21.

Akemi (Kaji) is a dragon tattooed leader of the Tachibana Yakuza clan. In a duel with a rival gang Akemi slashes the eyes of an opponent and a black cat appears, to lap the blood from the gushing wound. The cat along with the eye-victim go on to pursue Akemi’s gang in revenge, leaving a trail of dead Yakuza girls, their dragon tattoos skinned from their bodies.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Day of Anger (Arrow Blu-ray)

While I am a fan of Italian cinema and that fandom spans more than just the horror genre, I wanted to take a look and report back on Day of Anger for you. This is the new Blu-ray from Arrow Video that will be available in the U.S. on March 31st. I've been slowly but surely working my way into Italian Westerns most recently enjoy The Big Gundown. While Day of Anger isn't quite the caliber of Big Gundown in terms of scope, story or sheer size, Day of Anger epitomizes the characteristics that made the Spaghetti Western a lasting favorite of cult movie enthusiasts. While I may not believe that Day of Anger is quite the movie that Gundown is, that didn't stop Arrow from creating a powerful experience in terms of a Blu-ray release that comes close the treatment Gundown received from Grindhouse Releasing.

The disc looks great. Nice transfer. Not too much DNR (if any really). Arrow does this aspect quite well. The colors are rich with deep reds and browns that really are the signature look of the genre. The extra package is extensive. Here's the list from Arrow including a detailed walk through two different versions as well as the audio options included.  Plenty of interviews, deleted scenes, trailers and the typical arrow treatment of a reversible cover and booklet.

  • Brand new restoration from the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of both versions of the film: the original Italian theatrical release, and the shortened version that was screened internationally
  • Original uncompressed mono audio, with English or Italian soundtracks on the longer cut and an English soundtrack on the shorter one
  • Newly translated English subtitles for Italian audio and optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for English audio
  • Brand new interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
  • Brand new interview with Tonino Valerii’s biographer Roberto Curti
  • Previously unreleased 2008 interview with Tonino Valerii
  • Deleted scene
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Reinhard Kleist
  • Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Howard Hughes (author of Spaghetti Westerns), illustrated with original poster designs
Day of Anger has big music which is a must if you want to be considered a real player in the Italian Western market. Riz Ortolani provides the score. That means you know it's great. 

The film overall feels less brutal than some of its counterparts. Sergio Leone was the master of these and this was directed by Leone's former assistant Tonino Valerii. I'd hate to call it watered down, but perhaps ordinary is a better word. It looks like a Western. It sounds and feels like a Western, but it isn't raw nerve. This shouldn't deter you from seeing the film mind you. A fan of the genre will love this for its simplicity. If you stick around for the big finish you'll get some of the blood and brutality that the Italians do best. Day of Anger has the scenes you'll want to see and the story line will keep you interested. The real reason you watch Day of Anger is for the Lee Van Cleef performance that can carry even the worst Western of this era. 

It's a great addition to the restoration efforts we've seen so far surrounding Italian cinema of the 60's, and it's sure to bring a new audience to both this movie and Arrow product given the US release. I question why Day of Anger. Why in the first month of Arrow's foray in the states? It is considered to be a genre aficionado favorite per the release notes from Arrow. It must be a matter of convenience more than anything, having been releasing it for UK consumption. Mark of the Devil and Blind Woman's Curse also hit this month, but April will see highly anticipated title in Mario Bava's giallo masterpiece, Blood and Black Lace (yet another Arrow/Italian film release). 

You can order Day of Anger now:

Synopsis from Arrow:

Giuliano Gemma plays street cleaner Scott Mary, relentlessly bullied by the people of the small town of Clifton. When legendarily ruthless master gunfighter Frank Talby (Van Cleef) rides into town, Scott seizes the opportunity to lift himself out of the gutter, and possibly even surpass Talby’s own skills. But what is Talby doing in Clifton in the first place?

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Dead Air: Episode 70 - Random Acts Of Podcasting

This week on the show, Jeff (@Jeff_FOTD), and Jesse (@DestroySuperman) explain what's been going on with the show, catch up on what they've been watching, and talk about all sorts of random things... There is no featured review this week, due to scheduling. However, you can bet that there's lots of inappropriate banter and genre film talk.

Download the MP3 Directly here 

Subscribe Via iTunes

iTunes listeners: Please take a moment to leave us a rating/review

The Dead Air Horror & Genre Podcast is brought to you by GenreWatch,The Liberal Dead, and Doc Terror. Be sure to visit the sites for more great content!

Looking to order any of the titles we discussed on this show? Head on over to Amazon for the best prices and help support our show.

And, as always, if you want to drop us a line to let us know what you think of any of the movies discussed tonight, or you just want to give us feedback on the podcast in general, please send an email to DeadAirHorrorPodcast (at) gmail (dot) com.

Check out this episode!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Digging Up the Marrow (RLJ/Image Blu-ray) - Turn Off the Light! (and Have Fun)

After enjoying Digging Up the Marrow for the second time last night, I realized that the damn movie actually creeped me out. By the end, I was clawing at my legs and trying to warn the protagonists. I was convinced that somehow I could change the outcome of the movie (remember that I had watched this once before). Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen I somehow KNEW that this time would be different. Of course it wasn’t different and the audio cue that makes the ending of Digging so powerful was so loud in my quiet little house that I jumped straight up off my goddamn couch… AGAIN! That’s the sign of a great movie. That’s the sign of a movie I want to show my kids around Halloween, and it’s the best reason to support Adam Green and ArieScope as well as the new  RLJ/Image Blu-ray release.

My initial thought was that Digging Up the Marrow is the perfect companion piece to Nightbreed (just recently released by Scream Factory as a Director’s Cut).  It balances the monster world created in Nightbreed that may be completely fantastical and a wee bit unrealistic with a found footage, faux doc style that forces you to believe in monsters, even the ones in completely unrelated films. Once you buy into the Marrow (the place from whence the monsters and the cast-offs emerge from beneath the surface of the Earth) you can pretty much tie any of your favorite monster flicks from the 50’s to present straight into the origin story provided, believably by William Dekker (Ray Wise). Little Monsters? Tie it in. Rawhead Rex? It’s Alive? Q, The Winged Serpent? Connect the dots, and you can end up with as many holes leading into the marrow worldwide as you’d like. There’s an urban legend quality to Digging Up the Marrow that makes it feel like a tale out of Weird NJ. It’s something we would have tried to uncover or explore as kids. I even know of the perfect “Marrow entrance” in Sussex county. There’s a glue here that makes sense, and it’s broad enough to apply to all the stories you’ve heard.

My initial impression of the film also had me at odds with Ray Wise’s portrayal of William Dekker. That’s not to say that Wise was a poor choice or that he did not convey conspiracy theorist, paranoid and fanatical in the best way possible. My dislike came from having someone famous play a character that is surrounded by people playing themselves. Adam Green, Rileah Vanderbilt, Will Barrat, Kane Hodder… all play themselves. The world of Digging Up the Marrow is our world. The really real world. There’s plenty of horror celebs, artists and directors showing up at the cons show in the film. How was casting a well known actor like Wise a good choice save for that fact that his performance was spot on? How can I believe the Marrow world is real if I know that one of the Marrow hunters is an actor playing a role rather than an unknown or perhaps more obscure casting choice? The second viewing corrected this assertion. I simply didn’t care that the world of Digging Up the Marrow had a flaw or rather an imperfection because Wise is the perfect choice. The name Dekker, every time I hear it, drives me straight back to the world of Midian and of Nightbreed.

Perhaps the most important facet of Digging Up the Marrow is the monsters. They look brilliant. Practical effects and makeup without computer influence to mess them up. They are terrifying and fantastical and good representations of Alex Pardee’s work. Pardee’s beautiful monster artwork being the inspiration for the movie as credited. There’s a misdirection in the initial appearance of each of the monsters. Each one appears and you say, “is that it”? Then comes the reveal, and that’s when you’re allowed to get scared. The reveal is always well timed and not forced.

Digging Up the Marrow is balanced well with Green’s inherent humor and funfilled spirit. He knows how to shock, but he entertains with the best of the 80’s master monster movie makers. He always pairs well with Kane Hodder. This movie does take place in the real world after all, but really, it takes place in Green’s world.

Extras include a fantastic 30 minute documentary on MARROW's special creature effects (“Monsters of the Marrow”), 30 minutes of deleted and extended scenes, a commentary track with Adam Green, Ray Wise, Will Barratt, and Alex Pardee, and more.

This may be my favorite horror picture of the year so far and for those of you with aversions to found footage movies, I ask you to consider this one as an exception to your dogma. This is really an excellent example of how that shooting style works well. Yes, it’s shaky at times, but appropriately so and did not inspire any nausea.  The monsters are fantastic and it has the same kind of excited energy you might find in a movie like Goonies where childlike wonderment and the instinct of the explorer takeover to create relatable “characters” and a worthy hunt. Immediately after watching Marrow I started getting the feeling like it was time to get the band back together… the crew I hung out without with many years ago, smoked cigarettes with and drank coffee with at the diner’s of great Morris County to dig up some Marrow of our own.  Take a hike in your local park then enjoy Digging Up the Marrow.

You can order Digging Up the Marrow now:

Also check out Green's new interview effort, Adam Green's Scary Sleepover. It's great fun.

From RLJ/Image:

What if the ghastly images and abominations haunting our collective nightmares actually exist? Writer/director Adam Green (Hatchet) sets out to make a documentary exploring this tantalizing premise after being contacted by a mysterious man named William Dekker (Ray Wise). Dekker claims he can prove that “monsters are real” and insists these grotesque creatures are forgotten, hideously deformed humanoids inhabiting a vast, underground metropolis of the damned. Determined to expose the truth, Green embarks on a bone-chilling odyssey and gets more than he bargains for when he dares to go Digging Up The Marrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dark Haul (Scream Factory Blu-ray)

Dark Haul comes to you as a SyFy release via Scream Factory on Blu-ray. I must admit that I am not one of the dearly devoted SyFy channel fans and thus did not expect much from Dark Haul, a title that didn’t seem to get much promotion via social media from the S.F. team. Think of this release in much the same way that Scream Factory puts out Chiller Films titles every so often, most of them not quite worth the label their on. I always commend the Factory for trying to put out new horror, non-retro nostalgia favorites because it’s damn difficult for folks to find new horror that isn’t placating the horror fan or trying to piggyback on the success of a theatrical release. That doesn’t mean that the releases up to this point always work. Sure they’ve gotten their hands on The Battery or Cockneys vs. Zombies, but those are balanced with unworthy titles like Dead Souls or even Monkey’s Paw (which I enjoyed to a degree) that don’t quite make the grade. With that said, Scream has The Babadook and Extraterrestrial hitting Blu soon, so if you aren’t taken with Dark Haul, there’s plenty of original, independent horror coming your way that will knock your socks off.

What works for Dark Haul? I have a special place in my heart for Tom Sizemore. His performance in Natural Born Killers always freaked me out and despite her more recent endeavors I’m always willing to give him a chance. He’s not bad at all in this one, but I think many of you familiar with his work in Saving Private Ryan maaaay be let down. The opening scene is strong though I think we’ve seen this before. The birth scene, gone awry, filled with monster mayhem (or just twinklings of it). I suppose when you’ve been given movies like Pro-Life and It’s Alive or even the dream sequence in Cronenberg’s The Fly, you need to make sure you’re creature effects are in play. Don’t hide the good stuff. Dark Haul is first and foremost a monster movie, a creature feature. I found the beast to be a status quo. It’s not as bad as the monster from Creature, but if you wanted that bad guy to impress,  I think using a glorified Tales from the Darkside The Movie rip-off isn’t the way to go (remember that winged monster and the baby monsters!?)

In truth Dark Haul has some entertaining moments, but it’s not comparable to the movies on the Scream Factory roster that really work, retro title or new release. It looks great and the cover art is enticing though perhaps the movie would do better with more high profile, big gun action sequences rather than slow methodical monster chase. Still, I did enjoy the last 5 minutes or so and that may be worth sticking around for.

You can pick up Dark Haul from Scream Factory now. It won’t be the worst monster movie you see this year.

From Scream Factory:

The meaning of a cryptic prophecy divides a team of secretive guardians as they attempt to transport a deadly creature and its half-human sister in an 18-wheeler truck to a more secure location. But a hidden agenda undermines their mission, releasing the beast, and they end up battling for the fate of the world when the true meaning of the prophecy is discovered. Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, Heat) and Evalena Marie (Remains) star in this mysterious and thrilling creature feature that delivers pulse-pounding action and eye-popping effects at every turn!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dixie Ray Hollywood Star (Vinegar Syndrome DVD)

Dixie Ray Hollywood Star is another production from Anthony Spinelli, one of the biggies in porn during the golden age. It doesn't feel like a porno, and that may be why there's an R rated cut of the movie included called It's Called Murder, Baby. There's a story here told in True Crime fashion with competent actors John Leslie and Cameron Mitchell. There are gumshoe elements and exploitation digs, but at the end of the day this is a rather unique take on a Bogart esque picture from the 40s... with lots of blow jobs. Vinegar Syndrome brings you a DVD to further expand upon their line of Spinelli movies.

John Leslie almost looks sickly and pale during the movie. I suppose its no surprise that he's drained of all energy; you could pretty much call this picture John Leslie Gets Blown. I mean it's every... other... scene. I like a good blow job scene as much as the next adult feature viewer, but variety is in important. There's plenty of talented and attractive female leads perhaps the focus was on their face rather than the rest of their bodies. The hardcore moments feel disjointed and almost unformulaic. Now I know that originality and novelty are fun, but sometimes we just want the four basic positions, some foreplay and a cum shot.  

Dixie Ray Hollywood Star suffers from an issue common to horror comedies. Not funny enough to be a comedy. Not scary enough to be a horror picture. Only it's not dramatic enough to be a thriller and it's not hardcore enough to be a porno flick. It is a very theatrical picture, but it tends to rely on dialogue to move the story along as a segue between modest hardcore. 

I don't know whether they had lighting issues on set or simply filmed the whole thing in soft focus to get a dreamlike quality out of the picture, but it makes the movie look washed out, mostly background and shots that aren't in focus. The grain is thick. This release feature both cuts of the movie; the X rated version called Dixie Ray Hollywood Star and the R rated cut It's Called Murder Baby.

You can order Dixie Ray Hollywood Star now from Vinegar Syndrome:

Private investigator Nick Popodopolis (John Leslie) has a problem: there’s a corpse of a beautiful woman (Juliet Anderson) on the floor of his office. As he explains his case to an alcoholic lieutenant (Cameron Mitchell), a strange story of blackmail, mystery and murder unfolds, all centered on an enigmatic movie star, Dixie Ray (Lisa Deleeuw).

Anthony Spinelli’s big budget WWII era set noir ranks as one of the last truly ambitious X rated movies ever made. With an all star cast that also features Kelly Nichols, Veronica Hart and Samantha Fox, the film was released in both X and R rated versions, both of which are presented here fully restored from their original 35mm negatives.

Hot Legs and California Gigolo (Vinegar Syndrome DVD) - Peekarama Double Feature

With movies like Johnny Wadd and Hot and Saucy Pizza Girls as well as Sadie, Seductress, Prisoner in Paradise and Fantasyworld, Bob Chinn has created some truly excellent pieces of adult entertainment through the 70's and 80's. I'm particularly fond of his closeups and star system. His movies are always plot driven porn flicks with a great sense of humor even at the most serious. Today courtesy of Vinegar Syndome, we offer up two adult features: Hot Legs and California Gigolo. It's a good pairing and as much fun as early Chinn picture can offer.

First off, you can order this double feature release now from Vinegar Syndrome. Remember that this is an adult feature. Porn. The sticky stuff.

Hot Legs

From Vinegar Syndrome:

Meet the girls at Hot Legs: beautiful models who will do anything to please their photographers. As an important publication deadline approaches, everyone tries to focus on work but will their lustful desires get in the way

Hot Legs has one badass, 70's style, cock rock intro that almost has the feeling of a T-Rex song and still better... it features the title of the goddamn movie!

Chinn's style is to emphasize penetration with close ups. Fuzzy actors and actresses with carefully placed lights that provide a look of fantastic dream-like quality without soft-focusing the Hell ouf ot you. We're talking thick manes of jungley bush that are separated by the machete of an erect cock. He holds his shots while initial penetration occurs to the point of tension, building sexual suspense. Consider this first contact. His scenes feature great backdrops. This picture has great lighting.

This particular story has moments of great humor. The good boss/bad boss routine is a common trope of the 80's sex comedy and Hot Legs wears it well. Pay attention for a marvelous porn stache toward the end of the film where a dancing queen photo shoot gives way to fucking. You even get one of the actresses on roller skates. Yum.

California Gigolo

From Vinegar Syndrome:

John Holmes is the biggest stud in Hollywood. All the girls love him and can never get enough. Follow John through the most star studded and erotic adventure of his life.
Of the two movies on this release, I'm definitely partial to Hot Legs due to story, actresses and lighting (some of those closeups are extremely memorable). Again we get some fantasic credit music courtesy of Jay Philips who also did the music for Hot Legs. This one is more like 70's low key guitar pop, but it features the movie title again!

Chinn has a thing with women getting off and ignoring a ringing phone. This happened in Hot Legs and watching California Gigolo, it can't be a coincidence. While in Hot Legs, the fuck buddies ignore the call and try to put the call to their ancient answering machine, California Gigolo takes a more direct approach. The hottie in this one masturbates... with the goddamn batphone! Let's get one thing straight. If you have a big red phone, it's a batphone. This is a batphone. What's more... the phone call continues through the entire masturbation sequence. I remember an ex girlfriend from my youth doing something similar at my request. It sounds just like you think it does... not sexy, but you just can't believe someone's doing THAT on the other end! Pure unleaded testosterone right there.

The typical Chinn closeups continue to the audiences benefit. He's not afraid to get face to face with John Holmes' cock. He's quickly becoming a favorite of mine daring to look into the sacred whispering eye of the vagina. Some of his camera work in this picture reminds me of Neon Nights directed by Cecil Howard.

Holmes is wearing his perfect fro and modest porn stache. He's not the sole focus of the movie which is great for me. I'm not a huge fan of the huge one. There are some particulary impressive deep throat shots, plenty of hair bush, puffy nipples and even a bear skin rug! California Gigolo features some of the longest lhabia I've seen... and a thumb that doesn't miss its mark. Add some wine... (wait for it)... bottle sex and you've got a moderate gonzo film with variety and some very hot moments.

The Muthers (Vinegar Syndrome DVD)

Cirio H. Santiago is one of those guys whose name should mean more to all of us as fans of exploitation cinema. I feel like his name has escaped me up until now even though I've enjoyed Vampire Hookers and Caged Fury. Santiago is a guy who helped further the cause of Blaxploitation and gave depth to women in prison flicks during the 70's. The film we're hear to talk about today is The Muthers, a film with which I was unfamiliar previous to Vinegar Syndrome announcing its release on DVD. It's got plenty of incarceration and plenty of exploitable elements.

Unlike books, judging movies by their covers is perfectly acceptable, and by that token The Muthers must be one of the greats. Everything from the artwork preservation to transfer of the DVD is solid.  The disc doesn't contain much in the way of extras; only a trailer. You'll appreciate the classic DPI bumper at the outset and the opening scene with the classic, funked-up dramatic music.

The Muthers is not the best of its genre; it isn't my favorite Women in Prison movie (which may be reserved for The Big Bird Cage or Black Mama, White Mama. For an amalgam of two separate exploitation subgenres it's a fine effort though it's not quite filthy enough or mean enough, but it certainly has enough exploitable elements to entertain. It's quotable, and if you stick around for 30 minutes or so the thing really comes to life (once everyone enters prison). You've got all key tropes from the obligatory shower scene to a bunch of prisoners gang beating another prisoner to get their privileges back.

You can order The Muthers now and see just how far Santiago pushes exploitation:

Details from Vinegar Syndrome:

Climb aboard THE MUTHERS, the meanest, toughest and most action packed pirate ship in the pacific. Join Jayne Kennedy, Rosanne Katon, Jeannie Bell and their all female crew on a daring rescue mission to save one of their own from the clutches of vicious white slavers. Directed by the master of Filipino sleaze, Cirio Santiago, THE MUTHERS blasts onto DVD newly restored from its 35mm negative.

Mark of the Devil (Arrow Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Mark of the Devil was a forbidden movie to me as a kid. By the time I became interested in the VHS box at Long Valley Video, my father had been telling me that there were some movies I was simply not allowed to rent. Funhouse was one. Last House on the Left another. Dear old dad was an avid movie watcher, Sci-Fi lover and monster kid at heart, however every fiend has his limits and for my dad it was slasher films or films with sadistic murder. He didn't find any entertainment in the likes of Fred Kruger, and he certainly didn't want me watching girls piss their pants in the middle of the woods. He also didn't want me to enjoy some good ol' fashion witch confessional torture. As a kid you learn about the Salem witch trials, and it sounds like a horror story when you think that the witches are the arm of Satan. As you grow up you realize that Salem was some kind of strange hysterical land grab and that innocent people were maimed at the hands of the greedy. Then you learn that witches are actually just people who like to get naked, worship the moon and the earth and draw circles. It's a religion. A positive religion. No Satan here.   As a kid I thought Mark of the Devil must be some great film about hunting evil, destroying Satan (remember... Doc T was raised a Presbyterian) and doing good. Mark of the Devil sounded like the perfect monster movie to me, and so I wanted it... and was categorically denied it until I turned 16 and just rented the damn thing myself.

Arrow Video has given me a chance to reconnect with Mark of the Devil, older and fully aware of the subtext of the film. Now I own a DVD of this release, and it isn't half bad,but this Blu-ray is something to be cherished in terms of color palette and beautiful contrast. Perfect film grain. This torture movie s a pleasure on the eyes. It outshines the previous DVD release and is light years beyond the wellworn VHS tape I watched at 16. I'm a proud fan of this movie today. Hell, I even have one of those barf bags they gave out to patrons (imitation or recreation to be sure).

Mark of the Devil has a solid extra package with a commentary track by director Michael Armstrong, outtakes, trailers and plenty of interviews with cast members including cult fan favorite Udo Kier. The real meat and potatoes of the extras are the look back at Hallmark releasing with Michael Gingold of Fangoria and the history of British horror in the 70's. I read Fango regularly to this day. I think that Gingold cares about horror and truly loves it. On several occasions I had the chance to enjoy his company at 35mm screening, and I'm glad to hear him speak about the history of Hallmark Releasing on this disc. Listen to the man; you'll learn something. As for the British horror history lesson, it's a limited doc at 40 mins but offers a nice summary of Brit horror from the 60's and 70's. It's nice to see so many of these titles being treated so well. Peter Walker immediately comes to mind.

As for the film itself, the opening features a beautiful tar and feathering complete with H.G. Lewis style gore that mounts through the entire picture. As many of you know I have an affinity for movie blood color and prefer my gore in the key of Crayola red. Mark of the Devil does not disappoint. Thing of this as a true torture by numbers film; a Grand Guignol of the witchfinder variety, not to be confused with The Conqueror Worm starring Vincent Price. The backdrop is the perfect village in the middle of nowhere Europe with a unique location that carried the audience outside of the world of Hammer and Amicus (that often used the same sets over and over per the featurette attached here to). When's the last time you saw a live bunny used as a marionette... on MARIONETTE WIRES!?This is witchhunter-sploitation at its finest and imaginative or at least thoughtful.

Herbert Lom is the creepiest villain in many movies from the 70's and this is no different. Poor Udo Kier is always the victim of the worst dubbing. I enjoy his performance here and in most movies, but you have to firmly suspend a bit of laughter with the obnoxious voice overs. You can try to avoid this using the German language track, but I've always watched it in English. Speaking of voice overs, the narration provided just after the opening sequence of the film is a well placed Mondo and exploitation trick used to given historical context for a release that may be more gravy than of grave. In this instance it almost comes off as the beginning of the TV show Dragnet. With a fiery background and scrolling text no less! Perhaps the most wonderful discovery, watching this movie with fresh eyes, was that composer Michael Holm's score bears a vague resemblance to the theme from Cannibal Holocaust. I love them both.

By the end of Mark of the Devil you truly feel like you just waited on line for the witchunter ride at Disney or Epcot. This movie may as well be the Carousel of Progress of the 70's exploitation from Britain.  Mark of the Devil is available this month on Blu-ray/DVD combo, and, as part of the new Arrow initiative, you can watch it on a Region A player! While Arrow had released many of a movie without region lock in the past, in the last couple years they were forced to lock the movies Region B due to rights issues and release restrictions. The new Arrow US has started making these releases available to those of you in the states. This is a great way to start collecting if you haven't had a region free player.

Order Mark of the Devil now from DiabolikDVD. Get ready for plenty of Arrow. Get ready for the third wave British invasion (or is this the forth?)[sl]-Blu~Ray-Combo).html

As the good man says, "Strip him down so the women can enjoy it"! Clearly the best line in the movie.

From DiabolikDVD and Arrow:

Once proclaimed as "positively the most horrifying film ever made", Mark of the Devil arrives in a director-approved edition featuring a new restoration of the feature. A bloody and brutal critique of religious corruption, Mark of the Devil sees horror icon Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Suspiria) play a witchfinder's apprentice whose faith in his master (Herbert Lom) becomes severely tested when they settle in an Austrian village. Presided over by the sadistic Albino (a memorably nasty turn from Reggie Nalder), the film presents its morality not so much in shades of grey as shades of black. Written and directed by Michael Armstrong, who would later pen Eskimo Nell, The Black Panther and House of the Long Shadows, this classic shocker has lost none of its power over the years.

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Full slate of extras and features:
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements
  • Optional English and German audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the German audio
  • Audio commentary by Michael Armstrong, moderated by Calum Waddell
  • Mark of the Times - exclusive feature-length documentary from High Rising Productions on the emergence of the 'new wave' of British horror directors that surfaced during the sixties and seventies
  • Hallmark of the Devil - author and critic Michael Gingold looks back at Hallmark Releasing, the controversial and confrontational distributor that introduced Mark of the Devil to American cinemas
  • Interviews with composer Michael Holm and actors Udo Kier, Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schoner and Herbert Lom
  • Mark of the Devil: Now and Then - a look at the film's locations and how they appear today
  • Outtakes
  • Gallery
  • Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Anthony Nield, plus an interview with Reggie Nalder by David Del Valle, all illustrated with original stills and artwork

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Don't Go In The Woods (Blu-ray/DVD Vinegar Syndrome) - Warning: This is a Great Friggin Blu-ray

Don’t Go In The Woods is a Video Nasty. It is not a pretty looking movie with splendid gore that rivets and twists your gulliver. Don’t Go In The Woods is a near roadmap of every forest/wilderness based slasher film of the 1980’s (except for maybe the biggies like Friday the 13th and The Burning ironically). Vinegar Syndrome has released this classic on Blu-ray, and there’s one thing about it that might drive some of you crazy, it’s beat up pretty bad… in the best way possible. Perhaps the most important thing to note about that aspect of the release is that it is NOT a flaw to have an print that feels grindy. It's a blessing when we are allowed to enjoy a movie without it being obliterated by "forward thinking" restorers.

This isn’t some half-assed effort by an uncaring company that seeks to restore and preserve film. The most important thing to realize about this Don’t Go In The Woods release is that it looks beautiful in all ways horror fans care about. It’s as clear and pristine as this film can be given the condition of the original source material. Vinegar Syndrome understands how not to destroy the movies we love. You won’t notice pasty, painted pixels courtesy of the DNR department and the film is being released to look as accurate as the original film print. I have seen Don’t Go In the Woods before, and I can assure you that the VHS copy and previous releases look nothing like this. Where distributors and restorers like Vinegar Syndrome shine is in releases that need the most care. Sure, the recent Blu-ray release of Jaws by Universal looks great… but it’s like Ghandi said, “ you can judge a society by how they treat their weakest members”. What will make you happy is that this release truly embodies the Vinegar Syndrome principle of restoration and preserving the look and feel of a movie over perfection and potentially destroying a movie by over-correction. I want this to foreshadow Last House on Dead-End Street coming soon from VS. That movie will have similar challenges to be sure.

The movie itself, the plot… the story…well, that's just what you think it is. A group of kids goes into the woods, and are attacked by a madman. Of note about the madman (because aside from skin, that’s what you want to know about): the madman seems to be wearing some kind of hippie beads or rosary on this head. He kind of looks like Hillbilly Jim from professional wrestling; this of course is in contrast to his training as a professional actor which you can hear about in the interview included in the bonus features.  He grunts. He attacks. He’s like a video game bad guy with as few dimensions as an NES game, but for some reason it works. There’s a comedic element and then there’s that certain power that carries through any backwoods horror flick: this is how a homicidal maniac in the wilderness looks. You can almost believe it. If you allow yourself that luxury, then you’ll actually be a little eeked by this picture. I imagine most of you won’t be eeked and will enjoy the camp, laughter appeal of this picture. Pay particular attention to the bumpy thumpy hammered out edgy soundscape parading around as a score. I adore it probably because it sounds quite a bit like I dance... jerky. Like an nonrhythmic man doing the robot.

I love the performances we get out of some very young actors (most of whom are interviewed in the bonus material). You can tell that despite some inexperience or perhaps with source material being somewhat flawed, they make the best of it. The gore is laughable by today’s standard or even by early 80's standards. I fear that a modern audience won’t understand why the splatter is effective or how it could have been “nasty” enough for the UK to send it to nastyland. In fact in my review of the entire 72 nasties, I didn’t understand how this one even made the grade. It shouldn’t be on the radar of a governing body for a conservative country. It’s success is a mystery to me from a financial standpoint. How does a movie like Don’t Go In The Woods even earn a censorship badge of distinction? It’s one of those things where it’s fame derives from that “devil’s mark” from Whitehouse and co. I suppose the film could even be said to owe Thatcher a debt of gratitude. I won’t go that far, but I’m glad that Don’t Go In The Woods made the nasty list to make me aware of it. The first time I watched this flick during my nasty challenge, I thought I had picked up the wrong movie.

The extra package for this Blu-ray is substantial including a comprehensive sitdown with cast and crew including interviews with just about everyone, director commentary, commentary with the director, actor Mary Gails Arts (the lead) and others as well as a commentary with The Hysteria Continues! As you may remember from my review of Night Train To Terror, The Hysteria Continues commentary was by far one of my favorite aspect of the release as it is with this release. Well done! There’s an autograph signing party featurette, TV promo compilation, still gallery, trailer, art and press gallery as well as a script gallery! In short… this thing’s got everything! The release is DVD and Blu-ray, preserves the traditional cover art beautifully which for this particular release is of the utmost importance. I can’t tell you how enticing this cover art is. Tell me that adding the “…alone!” in lowercase letters in bloody, scratch isn’t perfect? “Everyone ahs nightmares about the ugliest ways to die”… that’s right up there with the Tourist Trap tag line, “Every year young people disappear”. Of course the obligatory mondo-esque warning, “Warning: This motion picture depicts scenes of graphic violence” sells the movie completely.

80’s slasher fans. Video Nasty boys and girls. Grindhouse-y gurus. Indie horror enthusiasts of yesterday AND today… get on this release from Vinegar Syndrome.

You can order it now.

From Vinegar Syndrome:

In director James Bryan’s 1981 cult classic, a group of obnoxious campers venture into the wilderness for what they assume will be a fun filled weekend. Unknown to them, a bloodthirsty maniac is hiding in the woods, watching their every move, and violently killing them, one by one, every chance he gets… Filled with low-fi gore effects and black humor, DON’T GO IN THE WOODS remains one of the quintessential regional slasher films of the early 80s, and is coming to Blu-ray for the very first time, newly restored in 2K from the 35mm Interpositive and loaded with extras.

Features Include:

+ BD/DVD Combo Pack | Region Free | 1.66:1 OAR | DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
+ Commentary w/ Director
+ Commentary w/ Director, Mary Gail Arts (Lead Actress) & others
+ Commentary w/ The Hysteria Continues!
+ Cast & Crew Featurette (60m)
+ Autograph Signing Party Featurette (30m)
+ TV Promo Compilation (15m)
+ Theatrical Trailer
+ Production Still Gallery
+ Press & Art Gallery
+ Script Gallery

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.