Tuesday, February 9, 2016

THE LAST HOUSE (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing

Directed By: Sean Cain
Written By: Wes Laurie
Starring: Ezra Buzzington, Jason Mewes, Joanna Angel
Color/91 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: November 24, 2015

The Film
A trio of escaped mental patients lure some call girls to a Hollywood mansion for some sexual and Satanic fun but the boyfriend of one of the girls will try to stop their nasty plans before he loses his love forever.

THE LAST HOUSE is a low budget, sexually charged, horror thriller filled with notable names to fans of the genre. From Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) to Jason Mewes (Mallrats) and adult film star Joanna Angel, it is Ezra Buzzington (Rob Zombie's Halloween, The Hills Have Eyes) that shines as the head psycho. It is Buzzington's performance that is what you need to see in THE LAST HOUSE. He is believably chilling, leaving your skin with a trail of goosebumps.

THE LAST HOUSE is violent and bloody, a little bit sexy even if that area is a bit understated for how big of a role it plays in the film and a bit twisted from start to finish. Come for the horror, stay for Ezra Buzzington. Keeping the review short is best for this film. I wasn't a big fan of the whole thing, I found it to be convoluted and long in the tooth, trying to be too many things without being great at any one of them but I have to repeat that Ezra Buzzington is spectacular and his performance alone makes the film worth watching.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing gives THE LAST HOUSE a nice DVD presentation with an anamorphic widescreen transfer with deep black levels and a crisp and clean picture quality. Colors and skin tones are natural and are pleasing to the eye overall. The stereo audio is clear, free of any distortions or background noise. It's a nice mix between the dialogue and music.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with the Director
-Deleted Scenes
-Cinemayhem Interview with the Director
-Gorezone UK Premiere

The Bottom Line
This isn't the best film you're going to watch this year, or even this month. It is heavily flawed but I just loved Buzzington's performance enough to warrant a recommendation.

THE LAST HOUSE is available HERE

Friday, February 5, 2016

LUTHER THE GEEK (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Carlton J. Albright
Written By: Carlton J. Albright
Starring: Edward Terry, Joan Roth, Stacy Haiduk
Color/80 Minutes/Not Rated
Region Free
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Blu-ray, DVD

The Film
As a young boy Luther sees a carnival sideshow act of a "geek", a down on his luck beggar that attracts crowds by biting the heads off of live chickens in exchange for booze. Luther curiously tastes the chicken blood that has splattered across the stage and instantly develops a taste for it. Years have gone by and Luther is up for parole after a long history of violent crimes and he's developed a taste for human blood. Immediately upon his release he attacks a person with his set of metal teeth he has fashioned for himself and hides out at a secluded farm house terrorizing the three inhabitants and playing a game of cat and mouse with the local sheriff.

LUTHER THE GEEK was originally picked up for distribution by Quest Entertainment but never got the release it deserved and largely languished in VHS obscurity until Troma released it on DVD in 2005. I had never heard much chatter about the film so when the opportunity came up to review this Blu-ray I was intrigued to finally see it. Simply put, I wasn't totally ready for what I was in for.

This film had all the potential in the world to be a hicksploitation horror gem. I think they even had the freedom to take a campy approach to it or stick with the more serious tone that the film tries to achieve. It could have worked both ways but as it is LUTHER just moves too slow. Once we arrive at the farmhouse the movie slows pretty badly with a couple chase scenes with Luther and the mom and then the daughter and her boyfriend. There are a couple well done special effects moments as a result of Luther's metal chompers leaving plenty of mangled flesh and blood but I feel the the farm house arrives too quickly. Instead if we had another couple of moments of Luther on the run and having violent run ins with some locals before reaching the final location it would have spiced things up enough that the deliberately paced scenes at the farmhouse would have felt more tense and not as drawn out.

There is one thing that sets LUTHER THE GEEK apart from similar films and it is Luther himself. No, it isn't just his metal teeth that look like dollar store costume hillbilly teeth that make your lips bulge out but it is Luther's clucking. Yes, clucking. Luther doesn't talk, he just clucks like a chicken for whatever reason. The movie has a decidedly serious tone, an ominous score and a pace that tells the audience that things are scary and dreadful, not to be taken lightly or with a dose of laughter. Then Luther starts clucking away and it's weirdly hilarious. As any grown man clucking like a chicken would be.

I don't think the clucking takes away from the film, if anything it probably adds to the absurdity of the character as I'm sure the filmmakers hoped it would. I couldn't speak of the clucking... no, I couldn't speak of this film at all without discussing the bizarre ending that I sat staring at the screen in silence of for a moment trying to comprehend just exactly what the fuck it was that I saw. If you don't want the end to spoiled at all I'm officially making the rest of this section a spoiler alert so feel free to skip ahead...

The ending takes an amazing twisted and oddly uncomfortable turn when Luther and the sheriff have a shootout in the barn that houses the chickens and he kills the sheriff. The mother who had come to help the officer lies in shock in the barn until morning when Luther goes to make his escape and sees the woman sitting there in shock. He moves in for a bite until she comes to and starts clucking at Luther who is briefly taken aback. He clucks back and the pair begins communicating in clucking which leads to Luther proudly strutting around the barn like a rooster, crowing loudly until the woman pulls out her rifle and shoots Luther in the chest. That would make for an interesting enough ending if the credits rolled but they don't roll until the woman has a cry session... a clucking cry session. Yes, the woman cry clucks after killing the murderer. What. The. Fuck.

LUTHER THE GEEK was right there. It had the chance to be something great. And while it certainly is a memorable film that won't be erased from my mind anytime soon I think the film itself comes up a bit short on. It's passable but it just squeaks by.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome's latest license from Troma is another outstanding job. The new 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a new 2K scan from the original 35mm negative and has a warm and filmic look to it with a healthy grain structure. The image has been cleaned up a bit but there's a bit of speckling still remaining throughout. This keeps in line with the natural film look of the transfer. Colors are naturally a bit on the softer side but the blood reds are a beautiful shade of crimson. Detail level is very good particularly in closeups of surfaces and textures. The DTS-HD Master Mono Audio track is crisp and clear with no traces of background noise or damage such as popping or crackling. The levels are stable and mixed well between the dialogue and score.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary With Director Carlton J. Albright
-Video Interview With Actor Jerome Clarke
-Video Interview With The Director
-Video Introduction With The Director
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Reversible Cover Art
-All Previous Troma DVD Features Including: Interviews with Carlton Albright and Will Albright and Carlton Albright's thoughts on several key scenes

The Bottom Line
This release is an easy recommendation given the fantastic A/V presentation and the bounty of special features.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

ALL HALLOW'S EVE 2 (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Jesse Baget, Elias Benavidez, Andres Borghi, Jay Holben, Mike Kochansky, The Kondelik Brothers, Bryan Norton, Antonio Padovan, Ryan Patch, Marc Roussel
Written By: Various
Starring: Landon Ackerman, April Adamson, Ali Adatia
Color/91 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: February 2, 2016

The Film
A mysterious masked man leaves a VHS tape at the stairs of a young woman and when she puts it in her VCR (of course she has a VCR!) she finds that it holds several short films...

Jack Attack- Jack gets to carve his first pumpkin with his favorite babysitter but after eating some roasted seeds from the pumpkin Elizabeth notices something beginning to grow inside of Jack's stomach and then her own. - Enjoyable seasonal piece with a bit of well done and  believable stop motion animation. This was a nice choice to start the film off strong.

The Last Halloween - Four trick or treaters end up in the home of a paranoid doomsday prepper and we see their exploits - This particular chapter didn't do much for me at all, and the ending was much too over the top.

The Offering - A father and son drive deep into the woods to make a ritual offering to an unseen creature but forget an important part of the offering. - This entry is predictable but simple and effective. It has just enough substance and doesn't run long or feel padded in any way.

Descent - A woman gets stuck on an elevator with a man she believes murdered her friend. - Another predictable one but this one feels all too familiar and redundant.

M Is For Masochist - A short originally shot as an entrant to be part of the ABC's Of Death series that wasn't chosen. A carnival game soaked in blood, as Bill Oberst Jr (we couldn't have this movie without him!) is the barking carny promising prizes if you can draw enough blood from the victim on a spinning wheel. - I loved the idea of this, I love Bill Oberst Jr as the carny but this one needs to be realized as a bigger idea. There's something great here but it needs more meat on its bones.

A Boy's Life - A young boy is afraid of the monster hiding in his bedroom and tries at length to get his mom to believe him. - The only thing I'm afraid of is that I'll have to watch this short again. It is overly drawn out, boring as shit and really hurts the overall momentum of the film.

Mr. Tricker's Treats - The best decorated house in the neighborhood isn't going to the store for his Halloween props - Blink and you'll miss it. This one had potential to go somewhere, anywhere, but there was just not enough time to develop any sort of story or characters.

Alexia - On the anniversary of his girlfriend's death a man decides it is time to move on and delete her social media profile but something or someone won't let him delete it and is communicating with him through her profile. - I hope you're at least moderate in reading Spanish because all the communication is done via texting in Spanish except for a couple lines spoken in Spanish at the end. If you know basic Spanish you should at least be able to follow along. There's been several films like this released in the last couple of years and this one is about as successful as the rest - it's okay. Not the strongest choice to end on but a decent entry overall.

Eight stories plus the wraparound that is mostly inconsequential aside from giving a reason to be seeing these short films and we're left with similar results to many other horror anthologies with this many chapters. There's some good, some bad and it's mostly uneven but ALL HALLOW'S EVE 2 has enough worthwhile to give this one a look even if some of the better chapters leave you wanting much more.

The Audio &amp Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment deliver a nice looking DVD with an anamorphic widescreen presentation that features a clean and crisp picture. Colors and detail are good from short to short and there's only sporadic instances of black levels suffering from light compression issues. The audio features a 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound mix that is even across all levels and allows the dialogue and music to compliment each other nicely. There's no background noise or damage evident. The small amount of Spanish spoken in the last chapter featured no subtitles.

The Extras
Not a one, not a single special feature.

The Bottom Line
Where I found the first All Hallow's Eve to be underwhelming at best, closer to total shit if we're being perfectly honest, I think the sequel picks up the pieces and ends up being an entertaining horror anthology that you can watch all year round.

ALL HALLOW'S EVE 2 is available HERE

Monday, February 1, 2016

CORRUPTION (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Roger Watkins
Written By: Roger Watkins
Starring: Jamie Gillis, Tiffany Clark, Bobby Astyr
Color/79 Minutes/Not RAted
Region FREE
Release Date: December 15, 2015

The Film
Williams is a man obsessed with success and power but owes a debt to a person he may not be able to repay. His girlfriend's sister is thrown in a carnal, perverted world, and everyone else around him seems to not be able to help him as they give in to their erotic desires or have their own personal greed in mind.

Adult film legend Jamie Gillis stars in this color coded, fetishized kink-fest that will leave the viewer mesmerized, uncomfortable and astounded all at the same time. There's rough spots of rape and treachery, S&M, hardcore sex and Bobby Astyr playing a New York tough guy like Bobby Astyr does.

Roger Watkins builds this dream like world, filled with nightmarish sexual scenarios that all becomes a bit of a morality tale based around  greed and lust for power and sex. Watkins direction is fantastic and he gets a pair of great performances out of Gillis and Astyr as half brothers and as a piece of smut he gets some hot and steamy action with Vanessa Del Rio being a gorgeous mistress along with plenty of other various scenarios that will at times leave the audience squirming.

Filled with beautiful visuals, CORRUPTION belongs alongside arthouse midnight movies as much as it does in the rear viewing booths of a porn shop. It borders on being a minor masterpiece of smut and exploitation and will definitely leave an impression on you.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome's 2K restoration on CORRUPTION is stunning. The film has a light grain structure giving it a healthy film look. Colors are bright and vivid and have a bit of pop to them. Black levels are deep and inky with no artifacting or compression issues. Details level is high and skin tones are fleshy and natural with no signs of waxiness from excessive DNR. The HD audio is crisp and crystal clear. There's no audible annoyances or background noise. Dialgoue and music are mixed very well so they're complimentary to each other and are never lost among the mix.

The Extras
-"Through The Lens" - Interview with cinematographer Larry Revene
-Original Theatrical Trailer
-Artwork Gallery
-LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET Easter Egg - An unrestored but fully HD uncut presentation of Roger Watkins' infamous LAST HOUSE ON DEAD END STREET exploitation horror film! Until Vinegar Syndrome releases their fully restored and cleaned up Blu-ray of LHODES this is worth the price of admission alone!

The Bottom Line
I was more excited to get this release for the Easter egg of LAST HOUSE ON DEAD STREET than I was for the actual titular feature but CORRUPTION, while a totally different film in nature, stands on its own and is fantastic. Purchase this Blu-ray for either film but you'll quickly find out that you have two special films on your hands and one is in exceptional condition while the other is a suitable placeholder for the inevitable better release. Essential viewing!

CORRUPTION is available HERE

Thursday, January 28, 2016

UNCAGED (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Daniel Robbins
Written By: Mark Rapaport, Daniel Robbins
Starring: Gene Jones, Ben Getz, Kyle Kirkpatrick
Color/95 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: February 2, 2016

The Film
Jack has recently turned 18 and is plagued by a series of sleepwalking episodes which leave him waking up naked outside and having no memory of the night before. Jack straps a camera to himself to record the nights he can't remember and discovers that he is committing bloody murder after transforming into a beast at night. Jack's actions lead to the discovery of a nasty family legacy that he may have no escape from.

UNCAGED has an interesting idea of inheriting the family gene of transforming into a werewolf on your 18th birthday and having to deal with that awful reality but it does absolutely nothing interesting with it. The writing is atrocious and far too much time is spent on an unnecessary subplot involving a gangster and his wife. There's little response from the characters surrounding Jack about his revelation of transforming into a beast and his murderous rampage and those characters are the least interesting cookie cutter college stereotypes I've seen in a long time.

The worst part of UNCAGED, worse than bad writing and poorly constructed characters is that it's just plain boring. Actually, it isn't just plain boring, it's painfully boring. It drags and drags and drags and never, not once, is interesting or entertaining. There's no sense of horror, or suspense or even shock. The movie fails to get any sort of reaction out of the audience and the quicker this one fades from my memory the better off I'll be.

The Audio & Video
The DVD presentation is a solid one with a clean 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The movie has a cold blueish grey color palette and black levels are handled with grace. The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix is a bit weak overall. It's a decent mix but lacks any major punch or depth. There's no damage or background noise to distract the listener.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew

The Bottom Line
What's that toy from the early 90s that went around your ankle and you jumped over it repeatedly? Oh yeah, Skip It.

UNCAGED is available HERE

Friday, January 22, 2016

MARTYRS (2016)

Directed By: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Written By: Mark L. Smith
Starring: Trojan Bellisario, Caitlin Carmichael, Kate Burton
In Theaters and Digital HD: January 22, 2016
VOD Release Date: February 2, 2016

The original French production of Martyrs from 2008 was part of a wave of films from the country that bombarded audiences with extreme violence and a metric shit ton of gore. Along with Frontier(s) and Inside Martyrs helped launch France into the forefront of horror fandom. For better or worse. Frontier(s) was a passable horror film with a lot of half realized ideas it is worth a watch. Inside fares far worse being nothing more than gore for the sake of gore without any real thought put into a cohesive and believable story. This film panders to the lowest common denominator of gore hound. Martyrs on the other hand offered up something a bit more serious, deeper and certainly colder. It featured all of the shock and gore that the wave of French films had been known for but the film had depth and levels to it that it's blood soaked predecessors of a year earlier did not. Martyrs gained plenty of positive reviews and acclaim from fans and like plenty of films before and since, the remake was quickly planned. As immediate as the year it was originally released, the remake rights to Martyrs were being negotiated but it would take another seven years to have the film fully realized and produced.

2015 saw the quiet production and announcement of completion of the US remake, MARTYRS. With little fanfare or coverage the film was shot and awaited its release date, surprising fans with the news. Now that film is here it is finally time to see if the more than half decade of fuss and back and forth was worth it. And I can firmly sit here and answer that with a resounding - sort of. It was sort of worth it. I'm sure it will be worth it for the producers who stand to make money on the film as the budget had been cut numerous times over the years but that didn't affect the film. Audiences who are familiar with the original will find little new ground covered here despite it being a completely watchable and enjoyable film but new audiences have the most to gain as it will be something entirely new to them.

MARTYRS centers around a pair of girls who become best friends at a young age at a Catholic orphanage. Years later one of the girls shows up at a secluded house and opens fire on the family inside with a shotgun claiming she knows it was the father who had kidnapped and tortured her years prior. The girls quickly find out about the depraved experiments being run out of the house by a secret group and they're thrown headfirst into a living nightmare that will quite literally bring them to the brink of death.

The budget cuts this remake went through may have played in its favor as the film doesn't try to be bigger than it needed to. The secluded house setting and underground laboratory type setting are more than enough to carry the majority of the picture. It keeps the film a bit tighter and doesn't let it wander. The Goetz Brothers offer up rock solid direction that occasionally shows a bit of flair with the camera. Our two lead girls have a natural connection on screen giving the audience a true set of protagonists to care about.

I could spend plenty of time talking of the characters but the majority of people interested in this film whether as a remake of the original or totally on its own merits will be mostly showing up for the violence, which is plentiful. And not only plentiful but it is graphic, rarely shying away from showing your the dripping and the pulling and the cutting. Flesh may as well be pizza dough and blood the sauce because you see so much of it that it almost becomes second nature.

MARTYRS ended up surprising me that it wasn't more of a mess given how long it took to actually come to fruition. The movie is entertaining and competently made without being the cold day ruiner that the original ends up being.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

THE HORROR NETWORK (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing

Directed By: Joseph Graham, Manuel Marin, Lee Matthews, Douglas Conner, Ignacio Martin Lerma, Brian Dorton
Written By: Douglas Conner, Brian Dorton, Joseph Graham, Manuel Marin
Starring: Macarena Gomez, Nick Frangione, Artem Mishin
Color and Black & White/97 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Relesae Date: October 27, 2015

The Film
THE HORROR NETWORK is an anthology film of five unrelated stories featuring different aspects of the horror genre.

3:00 AM
A short centered around a woman who has been receiving prank phone calls and investigates a noise she hears in the middle of the night. The suspenseful tone is what progresses this short forward but it is one that should have appeared toward the middle of the film and not what should start us off. Decent but a bit underwhelming in its execution and production.

A psyhcologically driven story about a psychiatrist and his patient who has night terrors about his mother and a shadow man along with the feeling of a split personality. A couple of light scares and a gross out moment. The acting is passable but heavy handed at times. I think this chapter would be better suited slowing things down after a balls to the wall segment.

The Quiet
The tale of a young deaf schoolgirl that is stalked after she steps off of her school bus that immediately thrusts the viewer and listener into a world of fear felt by the young girl as she runs for her life without the advantage of being able to hear her surroundings. It's none the less tragic in that we know the outcome is inevitable.

Merry Little Christmas
Plot is of little consequence when discussing this short. It is easily the most skillfully made, most graphic and best short of the film. The film features a simply disgusting and despicable scene of rape that will stay with the viewer as the rape scene in Irreversible does. It may not be as drawn out as Irreversible's but it is deplorable. It also features the best special effects and most memorable visuals that give Hellraiser's Cenobites a run for their money. I'd love to see a bigger budget full length version of this.

The Deviant One
Presented in black and white without dialogue but almost narrated by bible passages, this entry is a weak way to end, despite being an interesting and welcomed change of delivery. I don't care for the entry itself but it would fit much better in the middle of the film, letting the heavy hitter and visual feast that is Merry Little Christmas round out the film.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing brings THE HORROR NETWORK into your home on DVD. Picture quality fluctuates a bit over the different productions as you'd expect but it always looks quite good. The anamorphic widescreen transfer has a clean and crisp image with strong colors and deep black levels. The audio is crystal clear and the foreign language entry has nicely translated and perfectly timed subtitles. There's no distortion, fluctuations or background noise.

The Extras
-Extended Cut of The Deviant One
-Image Gallery

The Bottom Line
I love a good anthology film and while THE HORROR NETWORK isn't a home run it is worth picking up for Merry Little Christmas short alone. The rest is a bonus.