Monday, September 1, 2014

Grindhouse Trailer Classics (DVD Review) - Intervision

Color/129 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: August 12, 2014

The Film
For the exploitation, horror and various other genre films of the 60s and 70s the trailer was the only thing to draw in an audience aside from having an appealing title. This would be 30 seconds to a minute and a half of footage from the film promising the most exciting, nerve shattering, blood curdling and adrenaline pumping action you've ever seen. Often times the trailer was better than the movie itself and sometimes the trailer showed every single exciting part of the full film.

Creating an exciting trailer that will captivate audiences and get them to shell out their bucks to buy a ticket to see the full film is an art form in itself and the trailers for the films that would play in seedy theaters in cities such as Chicago, San Francisco and along the Deuce in New York City featured an energy that has never been recreated. GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS features 55 trailers from films stretching the gamut of exploitation genres. A few included trailers are the horror films House Of Whipcord, and Don't Open The Window to the exploitation classics They Call Her One Eye and the Ilsa films. There's even a giallo or two included.

The Audio & Video
Intervision releases this DVD with an anamorphic widescreen transfer and original mono audio. The picture and audio quality fluctuates from trailer to trailer as you'd expect. The best trailers look and sound fantastic with little background noise and minor dirt or damage to the print. The trailers in lesser condition still maintain pretty good quality. There aren't any trailers that are excessively beaten or battered.

The Extras
-"Bump 'N Grind" - a 15 minute featurette with Emily Booth and she discusses the history of the grindhouse theater and the films they showed.
-Gallery of poster art

The Bottom Line
These trailer compilations are a lot of fun to watch in their entirety or to throw on before movies during a movie night with friends. Pick a few random trailers to watch before your main feature and you'll have even more fun. GRINDHOUSE TRAILER CLASSICS has some of the best trailers from the era and you won't be disappointed with this disc.


Friday, August 29, 2014

42nd Street Forever: The Peepshow Collection Vol. 4 (DVD Review) - Impulse Pictures

USA/Various Years
Directed By: Various 
Starring: Eric Boyer, Linda Shaw, Sharon Kane
Color/116 Minutes/X
Region FREE
Release Date: August, 12, 2014 

The Film
This collection of 8mm short stag films may be the most wild and sexually over the top that we've seen yet. Featuring everything from down and dirty interracial scenes that were still taboo in the 1970s, to some pregnant and group action there's a little something here for whatever desire you may have at that moment. This collection has no shortage of stars that went on to make, or already had made names for themselves within the XXX industry.

As raunchy as raunchy may get while staying within legal boundaries is a good way to describe this fourth volume of the 42ND STREET FOREVER: PEEPSHOW COLLECTION. Though, I wouldn't be surprised if something in this disc was illegal somewhere at the time of filming. Ah yes, good old fashioned wholesome American fun! Sit back with a glass of your favorite beverage and enjoy the swapping of fluids and endless tits and bush. This is sex in the 1970s after all!

The Audio & Video
Synapse Films should again be commended for saving these films and presenting them in a way that will historically significant. Never again will we have to worry about if these particular shorts have been preserved well enough to ever view again since they've been released on DVD by the Impulse Pictures label. They are silent shorts so the only sound is that of the projector running in the background but the picture quality is good. As good as low budget, porn films shot on 8mm film forty years ago will look. These are scratchy and dirty while remaining completely watchable. The nature of these films is totally in line with beaten and dirty prints and truly does add to the experience.

The Extras
The 15 shorts in the film are available to play individually or with a "play all" option. Fantastic liner notes from Robin Bougie of Cinema Sewer are included.

The Bottom Line
Synapse has done awesome work with their Impulse Pictures line and preserving these vintage short stag films. There is a historical value to these films and thanks to the fine folks at Synapse they will be preserved and available for decades to come.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

City Of Lust (2014)

Directed By: David A. Holcombe
Written By: David A. Holcombe
Starring: Margaret Grace, Jill Oliver, Derek Ryan
Color/76 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: July 1, 2014

Arianna has recently moved to a new city where she works as a hair stylist in a salon full of people that hate her for one reason or another. Arianna is a shy and quiet girl, alone in her new home. She takes to calling a phone sex line for companionship. Arianna is experiencing hallucinations and nosebleeds as a result of the chemicals in the products she works with. On top of that many of the people in her life are being found murdered. Her only friend, Jackie the phone sex operator, gets closer with Arianna hoping to help her but with bodies piling up around her and a killer on the loose how much longer can she keep her sanity or life?

CITY OF LUST is billed as a modern Giallo and I guess you can get away with calling it that despite it not being an Italian production. It glazes over some of the important aspects of the genre such as the investigation into the killer's identity but it is (barely) there. In my opinion it is closer to a love letter to Italian horror in general with heavily filtered colored lighting and violent gory deaths that became the norm in Italy in the 80s. The movie is low budget as is immediately evident from the photography. It doesn't take an expert to tell that this was not made with professional quality cameras but David Holcombe still gives us a decent movie. There's a good effort put in with set design and an artistic touch to the film, mainly shown in Arianna's hallucinations. While most of the performances are okay there's a couple characters that overact badly and really ham up the film when they're on screen. The film could also use a longer script and more in depth story. As with the investigation angle to the movie, the entire story really feels glazed over. Arianna is a likable character and getting more out of her, and those surrounding her would have been good. A proper investigation would have also brought the movie to a more proper runtime.

CITY OF LUST still manages to be a decent horror movie. It isn't everything I hoped it would be but it is more than I usually expect out of a low budget horror film. If you're a big fan of Italian horror or Gialli it's worth checking out as a decent homage to them.

CITY OF LUST is available HERE

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Walking Dead season 4 (Blu-ray Review) - AMC/Anchor Bay

The fourth season of AMC's THE WALKING DEAD really brought the show from an entertaining show set in the zombie apocalypse and turned it into a must watch action-drama while setting up the best which is yet to come. Our group of survivors in Atlanta try to set up a simpler life and a bit of civilization after their battle with Woodbury. Rick has renounced his leader ship and tends to crops and raising pigs instead. Life within the prison walls is as close to ideal as the group has seen since the outbreak. Things take a turn for the worse when a pig becomes sick and a virus seems to be spreading making survival very difficult with the lack of medical supplies. As the sickness claims members in a cellblock they reanimate causing panic in the prison. Survival in the prison is in jeopardy as the outer security is also compromised as the walkers are knocking down the outer fences.

While the prison survivors fight to stay alive and keep their security while the Governor aligns himself with a new family and group using his persuasive ways to quickly gain their loyalty and become the voice of the group. The governor uses his new group to wage an attack on the prison after taking a couple members hostage. He demands the prison for his own use in exchange for the lives of the captives. When Rick refuses and one captive is killed the war between the prison group and the Governor begins again ending with the prison being overrun despite a victory in battle. The attack on the prison has left the group scattered and broken with small groups fractured off in to different directions. The small groups all fight to survive on the road, in neighborhoods while they all eventually follow signs along the railroad tracks promising salvation and safety in a place called Terminus. When the group arrives in several packs at Terminus they learn that the people running the town are not who they claimed to be.

THE WALKING DEAD stepped up every aspect of its production from acting and writing to action and emotion. Special effects and horror elements remain high as the numerous zombie scenes are bloody and gory throughout the season. The zombies continue to have a great disgusting and decayed design. I wish there was a bit more practical effects as opposed to CGI but the CGI isn't bad looking. The drama is ramped up to a level we haven't seen in previous seasons with the group split and several relationships severed. The pacing of this season is fantastic as every episode works to a bigger story and there is very little filler unlike earlier in the series. Changing the setting in the second half from the prison to the road and eventually Terminus was welcome and will have viewers on the edge of their seat with a new and dangerously exciting wild environment. Emotions and entertainment run high in this season.

The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay looks and sounds fantastic. This is an AMC show which means you're getting some of the highest TV production values available and it translates to disc. The season is spread across five discs and features a gorgeous 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer with crystal clarity and very high detail levels. Colors are vivid and pop just enough while black levels are deep. The English audio track is a 7.1 HD track with an excellent and boisterous mix. Special features are abundant with several featurettes including "Inside The Walking Dead", "The Making Of...", "Drawing insprations", "Hershel", "The Governor Is Back", "Society, Science and Survival", "Inside KNB EFX", and "A Journey Back To Brutality". Also included are audio commentaries and extended versions on several different episodes and a selection of deleted scenes.

THE WALKING DEAD is my favorite current show on television and I've grown to care about the characters and storylines in a way I simply don't with most shows. The continually improving quality of the series is making the series part of an elite class of weekly programming and I can fully understand its popularity. This Blu-ray boxset is a fantastic way of catching up on the show before the start of season 5.

THE WALKING DEAD Season 4 is available HERE

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Possession Of Michael King (Blu-ray Review) - Anchor Bay/Starz

Directed By: David Jung
Written By: David Jung, Tedi Sarafian
Starring: Shane Johnson, Ella Anderson, Cara Pifko
Color/83 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: August 26, 2014

The Film
After the tragic death of his wife in an accident, Michael King (Shane Johnson) sets out to make a documentary disproving the existence of God or The Devil or any sort of supernatural being. Michael interviews people from both sides including priests and a mortician who practices necromancy. He also submits himself to various rites and rituals even going as far as to take LSD to open his mind to welcome demons into his body. Michael thinks the whole thing is fun and games until he starts hearing voices telling him to kill his daughter and commit other evil acts and he slowly begins to lose his grip on his sanity and self control.

THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING falls into many cliches that the demon possession genre and found footage style of film making can hold. Shane Johnson gives a solid performance and really carries the movie to make it at least watchable because it is rather boring and full of the "same old same old" that we've seen before in demonic possession horror films. There is one scene that provides a few genuine creepy moments and some tension but it quickly comes to pass without much consequence to the overall story.

THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING boils down to little more than a succession of rather lame black magic rituals presented by a character that is so pompous and arrogant that you can't help but hope for the worst with him.

The Audio & Video
Anchor Bay/Starz release the film on Blu-ray (with DVD and Ultraviolet HD digital copy) with a very attractive anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer. Texture and detail level is quite good while colors are vivid with deep black levels. There's no signs of edge enhancement or excessive DNR. The audio track is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track that has an excellent mix between score and dialogue. The track is free of any background noise and is of excellent quality.

The Extras
Extras? What extras?

The Bottom Line
If you're a die hard found footage or demonic possession fan then THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING is worth a rental. As for the rest of you I'd suggest you not waste your time with a weak film and a release that doesn't supplement it with any sort of special feature, not even a trailer.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Worm (DVD Review) - Synapse Films

Directed By: Doug Mallette
Starring: John Ferguson, Shane O' Brien, Jes Mercer
Color/94 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: August 12, 2014

The Film
In a world where people have lost the ability to dream they turn to a new product called "Fantasites" for sleep aid and to stimulate their subconcious into creating dreams. Fantasites are genetically engineered worm parasites that you drop into your ear before bed. Fantasites are all the rage, they're expensive and can be delivered right to your door. Charles is an awkward man with little to no social life. He begins using Fantasites to bring some excitement and perhaps even confidence to his life to get closer to get the girl of his dreams. Things start to spiral out of control for Charles and his new friends and his love when the government bans Fantasites over health concerns and people seek the addictive drug through illegal underground means. Charles tries desperately to get away from Fantasites and save the love of his life.

WORM is a movie I hadn't heard of until I saw that it was being released by Synapse. I went into this viewing of the film pretty much completely blind with no idea of what to expect other than my own ideas of what I thought the movie would be about. I don't think WORM would have been less impactful had I read a plot synopsis first but I'm glad I didn't. WORM touches on several social issues including addiciton, the widespread sale of untested drugs and genetically altered goods and even depression and the longing for companionship. The commentary is obvious but it never gets preachy which is the downfall of many films that include heavy doses of social commentary. WORM also works as straight entertainment as it strikes chords with several emotions. It is exciting and gross and at times funny and sad.

I'm on a streak of good luck with recent independently produced films lately and WORM is just the latest that I've enjoyed quite a bit. This is a film well worth your time.

The Audio & Video
There are few companies that can rival Synapse Films in terms of disc quality and they show it here, giving this indie sci-fi/horror film a nice presentation. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is crisp and clean. The colors are lively while detail is good. The 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo mix is simplistic in design but works perfectly. There's no background noise or hissing, crackling or popping. It is a quality mix with dialogue and soundtrack levels complimenting each other.

The Extras
-"Worm" - The original short film
-Deleted scenes
-Audio commentary track with the director, producers and visual effects supervisor

The Bottom Line
Synapse picked up this indie film upon seeing it and are delivering it to the masses and it deserves to be seen. Highly recommended!

WORM is available HERE

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Legend Of Hell House (Blu-ray Review) - Scream Factory

Directed By: John Hough
Written By: Richard Matheson
Starring: Pamela Franklin, Roddy McDowall, Clive Revill
Color/94 Minutes/PG
Region A
Release Date: August 26, 2014

The Film
A team of psychics are contracted to spend a week isolated in Hell House to prove or disprove the theory of survival after death. The last time people entered the house was twenty years earlier and only one person, Ben Fischer (McDowall), left alive and with his sanity intact. Upon arriving at the house it becomes evident that there is a presence inhabiting the house that doesn't welcome anybody who challenges him. The team's week is spent being attacked, frightened and possessed in order to find the ghost of "The Roaring Giant" Emeric Belasco, a maniacal man who was known for depraved acts such as vampirism, bestiality and sadism while living, responsible for the deaths of nearly everyone who enters the walls of Hell House but will anybody be left alive to speak of their findings?

To put it simply, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is one of the finest haunted house movies ever made. Director John Hough, who considers this his best film and his personal favorite of his own work, tightly directs the cast led by the always fantastic Roddy McDowall. HELL HOUSE is filled with gorgeous antique set pieces that add an air of creepiness in a totally organic way. The special effects, all of which are practical, another point of pride for Hough, are brilliantly executed. They've been duplicated time and time again in films over the years but perhaps never with the skill or precision that they are in HELL HOUSE.

Despite its PG rating, HELL HOUSE speaks of rather nasty themes and doesn't shy away from showing the viewer some violent and extreme content. There are death scenes that are fairly brutal along with various ghostly attacks that would push the limits of a more strict rating in today's world. HELL HOUSE relies on the tension and suspense it creates to build a scary film, which it is totally successful at but it also shows some flash of the excess the horror genre is known for. 

The Audio & Video
SCREAM FACTORY gives THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE its American Blu-ray debut with a nice looking and sounding disc. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer features a lot of nice detail in skin tones and on objects and textures. Colors are vivid without being rendered too hot. There is a nice grain structure to HELL HOUSE as well. There are intermittent scenes, usually in more dimly lit locations, that are a bit soft. These scenes don't look bad by any means and still feature elevated detail levels and an attractive look. The DTS-HD MA Mono track sounds as good as it will ever sound. There's no background noise, and music and dialogue compliment each other very well. It's a simple mix but sounds excellent.

The Extras
There's only a few features on this disc but they're of the highest quality -
-Interview with John Hough - A nearly 30 minute interview with the director of the film as he discusses the production of the film and the impact it has had
-Audio commentary with Pamela Franklin - This was a pleasant surprise as it is listed as an "audio interview" on the packaging
-Theatrical Trailer
-Radio Spots
-Reversible artwork

The Bottom Line
Scream Factory has done great justice to one of the best haunted house films that has ever been made and if you're not familiar with it I highly recommend you go out and grab this release and if you're already a fan of the film I suggest you upgrade whatever previous release you may own as it surely pales in comparison to this new Blu-ray.