Monday, November 23, 2015

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (Blu-ray Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Grant Harvey, Steven Hoban, Brett Sullivan
Written By: James Kee, Sarah Larsen, Doug Taylor, Pascal Trottier, Jason Filiatrault
Starring: George Buza, Zoe De Grand Maison, William Shatner
Color/107 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: November 24, 2015

The Film
Christmas isn't all reindeer, presents and yuletide cheer. There's a darker side to the 25th of December including The Krampus, occult versions of the Nativity, killer zombie elves and a simple disdain for the holiday. This isn't a wonderful life, this is A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY.

Anthology films and horror have gone hand in hand since well, the first anthology horror film but this may be the first Christmas horror anthology film, at least that I can remember. A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY features four stories of holiday fear. Unfortunately all four stories play congruently as opposed to the standard format of one story playing to its conclusion and moving on to the next. This breaks up the individual segments for no apparent reason which makes the movie feel as there's simply too much going on at any given time.

The segments themselves aren't bad, it is just the way in which the entire film is presented that drags it down. Each segment is decent but sadly most of them miss out on the gorgeous and sometimes wonderfully gaudy Christmas aesthetic. The tacky decorations can lend a beautifully colorful look and feel to a set but there's little of that to be seen. What we do see is a simple but effectively vicious looking Krampus, some killer zombie elves that look like they came from Satan's version of Lucky Charms and a grizzly and badass Santa Claus. Oh and a pretty hot sex scene with a possessed girl humping her friend's brains out. Nothing says Christmas like a little fully clothed sex, right?

 A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is a nice mix of horror tropes that has good special effects and make up and good costuming. It also has a solid comic relief segment that pops up every so often with William Shatner playing Dangerous Dan, the local radio station host who tries to spread Christmas cheer while getting hammered on egg nog. While I don't think A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY would be any sort of classic had it been presented in a traditional anthology format, I think it would have been a bit more successful in its execution but either way it is an entertaining holiday horror movie.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment's Blu-ray of A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY is gorgeous. Colors are bright and vibrant while whites are beautiful without being "hot" and black levels are deep and inky with no signs of blocking. Detail level is strong in surfaces and textures and skin tones are fleshy and natural. The PQ is excellent and the audio is no different with a DST-HD 5.1 master audio mix. The mix is strong with dialogue and soundtrack levels being properly complimentary. There's no damage or distractions to the crystal clear audio. This is how a modern movie should look and sound on Blu-ray.

The Extras
The lone extra is a 15 minute behind the scenes featurette.

The Bottom Line
Christmas horror films are a bit of a hot property at the moment and A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY will be able to stand up tall and proud among them even if it doesn't use the holiday setting to the extent I was hoping for.


Sunday, November 22, 2015


Directed By: Nathan Rumler
Written By: Nathan Rumler
Starring: Lauren Abbott, James Bell, Terence Lee Cover

Review by Shawn Wolfe

There are two types of people in this world. Those who ask "Why would you watch a movie called FANGBONER?" and those who ask "How could you not?". Fortunately, I'm in the latter camp. FANGBONER is a very difficult movie to describe, but I'll attempt it. FANGBONER begins with our main character Dick waking up from a hard night of partying only to find that his member has been mutilated. He soon comes to the conclusion that he and a woman he's been seeing have been infected with a form of vampirism which requires them to feed off of the genitals of their victims. After coming to terms with their new disease, they go about trying to find unsuspecting people to feast upon, unaware that they are being tracked by the extraterrestrial originator of their terrible condition.

FANGBONER could easily have been an awful experience. It's a very low budget film and it shows. The dialogue is awkward, the actors' deliveries are sometimes painful, and the whole movie has a very cheap look to it. Yet, FANGBONER somehow exudes a charm that shouldn't be possible for a dick-joke filled film of it's caliber. The movie is filled with an array of characters that while sometimes bizarre, are never boring. And the soundtrack (featuring bands such as Polkadot Cadaver and Knives Out) is pretty darn good. At several points, I found myself either laughing out loud or wincing at the gore on the screen. I even watched the film twice before I wrote this review. FANGBONER is obviously not a film for everyone, but if you enjoy a hefty side of cheese with your gore you should definitely seek it out.

Friday, November 20, 2015

SGT. KABUKIMAN N.Y.P.D. (Blu-ray Review) - Troma

Directed By: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz
Written By: Charles Kaufman, Andrew Osborne, Jeffrey W. Sass
Starring: Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden
Color/105 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: November 10, 2015

The Film
Harry Griswold is a sergeant with the NYPD, he's a hot dog loving Bronx boy who is about to learn his destiny - harnessing thousands year old powers that will transform him into a superhuman Kabukiman sent to protect New York and the world from ultimate evil with his arsenal of weapons and powers including deadly chopsticks, sushi and Geisha fans.

First a bit of background - While filming The Toxic Avenger 2 in Japan Troma presidents Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz were approached by Japanese financiers connected to Namco to create a Japanese superhero since the first Toxic Avenger film was a big hit in Japan. Namco became a producer and SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD was greenlit with a 1.5 million dollar budget, the biggest budget Troma had ever worked with.

Ideas differed for the film as Michael Herz and the Namco boys wanted a more family friendly, mainstream oriented film while Lloyd Kaufman wanted to go the traditional Troma route filled with offensive material, dark comedy and sex and violence. Kaufman won the battle (mostly) and SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD would end up being R-rated and the Namco boys pulled their distribution leaving the future of the film up in the air until it was finally released theatrically in 1996 despite being screened at Cannes upon its initial completion.

I find SGT. KABUKIMAN to be one of Troma's most iconic characters that could stand toe to toe with Toxie had it been granted sequels in the way The Toxic Avenger was. Now, there's really no denying Toxie is the Troma icon, but Kabukiman is no slouch and neither is the film. Sure the film starts out with a confusing set of astrological circumstances to turn our everyday cop into the striped-bathrobe wearing superhero but that's part of the charm. Planets are in houses, Jupiter has a hole that tigers are jumping through and some other bullshit immediately tell the viewer they're in for classic Troma fare. The movie is gory complete with its own head crushing scene, and its sleazy with a daytime public rape attempt. It's silly and stupid with some cultural stereotypes and cliches on full display. We even have Brick Bronsky! BRICK BRONSKY! I dare not say his name a third time.

The movie is a bit uneven at times because there still seems to be a bit of hokey family friendly attempts thrown in which on a first time viewing may pull the viewer out of the film briefly but I think it adds to the charm once you get to know the film. And you can't dislike the original use of the trademark Troma car crash, can you? No, I think not.

SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD was the first step in Troma attempting to break into the mainstream, something they'd have an unexpected bit of success with a few short years later with The Toxic Crusaders cartoon and brand. While Troma found the crack that allowed a Troma product to squeeze through on to TV sets, video game systems (despite the games being damn near unplayable) and toy chests in homes across America perhaps the timing just wasn't right in 1990 for SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD to be the movie that made "Troma" be a weird word that parents in their 50s and 60s now somehow remember, but they aren't sure where from. Who knows what the world would be like if Micahel Herz and the Namco financiers had won the battle over the film and made Kabukiman an international superhero and icon.

The Audio &a Video
Troma gives SGT. KABUKIMAN NYPD a beautiful full 1080p HD presentation. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a healthy and natural grain structure giving the movie an actual film look. Colors are sharp and vibrant while black levels are deep and come across with no signs of compression issues or blocking. Skin tones aren't at all waxy and detail level is strong in textures and surfaces. The English audio mix is well done as the dialogue comes across loud and clear and the soundtrack is complimentary without ever drowning it out. I didn't notice any damage to the audio but there is a constant whirring in the background similar to that of a running projector that is a bit distracting and annoying at first until you tune it out.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary
-Interview With Star Rick Gianasi
-New Introduction By Lloyd Kaufman
-Full Episode Of KABUKIMAN'S COCKTAIL CORNER (Troma's new web series)
-Kabukiman Cocktail Karaoke
-Original Trailer
-Highlights From Tromadance 2015
-Stupid Moments In Troma History

The Bottom Line
Kabukiman is one of Troma's most iconic characters and it's great to see him shine in HD with an awesome release like he deserves to.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Directed By: Adam Egypt Mortimer
Written By: Brian DeLeeuw, Adam Egypt Mortimer
Starring: Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Maestro Harrell
Color/83 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: November 3, 2015

The Film
Lincoln is a teen being tortured by bullying. When he's sent to a secluded school for troubled teens he thinks he'll find some refuge but the bullying continues until he summons a ghost of a girl named Moira who committed suicide after being victimized by bullies years ago and Lincoln takes revenge on his tormentors through Moira.

Here's my initial review of SOME KIND OF HATE from a few months back -

My feelings remain largely the same but knowing what to expect as far as the embarrassingly cookie cutter teen cliches that really pulled me out of the movie made it a bit more palatable this time around. The movie still feels 15 minutes longer than it actually is but the violence and kill sequences were a bit more entertaining on a 2nd viewing as they are quite bloody and have a certain meanness to them.

I'm still no fan of SOME KIND OF HATE but I think I can now see how there would be a fanbase to the film and can see the parts viewers would enjoy.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment deliver a fantastic looking and sounding DVD that would only be surpassed by the Blu-ray counterpart. The DVD features strong colors, deep black levels with no signs of blocking or compression issues and a clean picture. The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix is clear and mixed well. The soundtrack and dialogue are complimentary and never drown each other out. There's no annoying background noise or damage to the audio.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Adam Egypt Mortimer and Co-Writer Brian DeLeeuw
-Audio Commentary with Stars Ronen Rubinstein, Grace Phipps, Sierra McCormick, and Director/Co-Writer Adam Egypt Mortimer
-Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary from Adam Egypt Mortimer

The Bottom Line
RLJ Entertainment gives us a quality release for a film I'm not too keen on but the special features make it worth checking out for yourself.


Monday, November 16, 2015

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3 (Blu-ray Review) - Troma

Directed By: Eric Louzil
Written By: Lloyd Kaufman, Carl Morano, Matt Unger
Starring: Brick Bronsky, Lisa Star, John Tallman
Color/102 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 13, 2015

The Film
The mayor of Tromaville gives birth to identical twin boys, Adlai and Dick but Dick is kidnapped from the hospital and raised by evil conglomerates hellbent on turning Tromaville into a toxic wasteland by committing a crime and framing Adlai.

CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SUBHUMANOID is more mutant meltdown madness. Filled with plenty of hilariously stupid jokes, more Brick Bronsky than you know what to do with and all of the raunchy stuff that makes us love Troma, this was a great end to the trilogy until the series was revived a few years back.

The plot is very loosely based on Shakespeare's The Comedy Of Errors at least as far as the separated twins and mistaken identity plot device goes. More realistically it gives Bronsky a triple threat of roles to show off his incredible (or not so) acting abilities but he's a lovable cornball in this and is certainly the star of the show.

If you're reading this you're probably familiar enough with the trilogy to know what you're in for - gross out gore, people melting, a giant mutant squirrel, lots of boobs, high energy, offensive humor and Brick fuckin' Bronsky. What else is there to say?

The Audio & Video
Troma has done a nice job bringing the NUKE 'EM HIGH films to Blu-ray so far and this is no exception. The 1080p full HD anamorphic widescreen transfer has strong details in surfaces and textures along with a natural but vivid and vibrant color reproduction. Skin tones are fleshy and not at all waxy. There's a thin layer of digital noise over the picture that takes away from the detail at times but it's nothing major. The HD 2.0 audio mix is clear and well mixed. There's no damage to the soundtrack but there is a bit of background noise throughout the film that sounds like the whirring of a projector. It's never distracting and after a while you tune it out but it is noticeable to begin with. Overall I'm quite pleased with this Blu-ray presentation of THE CLASS OF NUKE 'EM HIGH 3.

The Extras
-Director's Commentary
-Interview With Troma Star Lisa Gaye
-Trailers of the Nuke Em High saga

The Bottom Line
The NUKE 'EM HIGH movies are some of Troma's best work and this Blu-ray is at the head of Troma's class.


Saturday, November 14, 2015


Directed By: Luigi Pastore
Written By: Luigi Pastore, Antonio Tentori
Starring: Federico Amorosi, Sharon Alessandri, Nikol Brown
Color/80 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: November 10, 2015

The Film
After being told a stay in the mental hospital will do him some a man's madness comes to the surface and he goes on a vicious killing spree recording his actions on his own video camera.

SYMPHONY IN BLOOD RED is cold and without remorse for the audience. Filled with nudity, and numerous extremely bloody murder set pieces, skillfully made by Italy's special effects master Sergio Stivaletti. Blood is splattered from wall to wall and ceiling to floor time after time. The killer grows frustrated with his actions but doesn't have the ability to control himself which is the single thing the audience can latch on to otherwise it is basically just a string of murders.

A giallo this is not. Our killer is never revealed and his motives are kept mostly secretive. There's no investigation into the killer or red herrings to throw us off the trail of the killer's true identity. The film was obviously influenced by giallo films and perhaps more specifically the films of Dario Argento as the violence rivals Argento's gialli but the writing simply isn't up to snuff. The direction is something that is an obvious influence from Argento with extreme closeups of eyeballs, and room wide pans following a character along with the sexualization of certain murders.

Stylistically speaking SYMPHONY IN BLOOD RED has a lot going for it but that's about it as the story is paper thin. At only 80 minutes, including credits, it doesn't run long enough to wear out its welcome but any longer and this would have become a test of patience as it becomes a waiting game for the next kill to arrive. The movie is driven by a pounding original score from Claudio Simonetti, and even showcases his former band Daemonia in a concert scene. The score is great and is definitely one of the high points of the film.

A better script would have allowed director Luigi Pastore's visual flare to really mean something in the big picture but the style mostly goes to waste on the subpar story. Pastore shows a lot of promise in the director's chair and I hope to see more from him in the future.

The Audio & Video
Troma gives SYMPHONY IN BLOOD RED its long overdue North American debut on DVD with a respectable release. The anamorphic widescreen transfer is clean and seems true to the original photography which is quite colorful at times. The DVD doesn't let the colors shine as an HD presentation would but the disc doesn't look bad. The Italian audio is handled with a 2.0 stereo mix with forced English subtitles. The audio is crisp and mixed well letting the intense score shine through when it needs to. The subtitles are translated well aside from the occasional spelling error.

The Extras
-"Symphony In Blood Red: A Look At Italian Giallo" - A documentary on the making of the film clocking in at over 48 minutes. It is subtitled in English but instead of traditional subtitles these are scrolling along the bottom of the screen and change speeds as the speaker talks.
-"The Backstage" - A behind the scenes look at the creation of the film, including a lot of special effects work clocking in at about 6 minutes
-"The Sound Recording" - 55 glorious seconds spent watching the actors record their lines in a vocal booth
-Original Trailer
-"Tromatic Extras" including a clip of Dario Argento taken from Direct Your Own Damn Movie, Tromadance 2015 Highlights, a trailer for Lloyd Kaufman's new web series and a music video directed by Lloyd Kaufman called "Faggot".

The Bottom Line
Gore hounds will eat this one up and for good reason as the splatter is fast and furious and with style.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

UNCANNY (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ

Directed By: Matthew Leutwyler
Written By: Shahin Chandrasoma
Starring: Mark Webber, Lucy Griffiths, David Clayton Rogers
Color/85 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: November 3 2015

The Film
David Kressen is a bit of a genius and for the last decade he has lived a secluded life with his inventions including the most lifelike artificial intelligence creation ever, a robot named Adam. When reporter Joy Andrews is granted access to David and his work she is attracted to his work and its creator but fears Adam may be learning to feel emotions of jealousy and anger toward her.

Simple yet effective, UNCANNY is a small scale film that does everything right. The main cast of three which is filled out with Rainn Wilson in a supporting role at the end, are fantastic and carry the screenplay with grace. The characters are interesting and developed throughout the movie giving the audience a group to really care about.

There's not a lot going on here, most of the movie happens in the character development and a few key scenes but it is perfectly paced and is full of enough surprises and small thought provoking moments to keep the audience fully engaged from start to finish.

The Audio & Video
Image/RLJ Entertainment give us a nice DVD with an anamorphic widescreen transfer and a clean picture quality. Colors and flesh tones are good along with black levels being deep. The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround audio is free of any damage or background noise and has a great mix job.

The Extras
A selection of deleted scenes is included.

The Bottom Line
UNCANNY is a sci-fi film built on good acting, a good screenplay and character development and is deserving of your attention.

UNCANNY is available HERE