Thursday, July 23, 2015

LOST SOUL: The Doomed Journey Of Richard Stanley's The Island Of Dr. Moreau (Blu-ray Review) - Severin Films


USA/2014
Directed By: David Gregory
Starring: Richard Stanley, Fairuza Balk, Hugh Dickson
Color/100 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date:

The Film
In 1995 Richard Stanley was an and up and coming horror director with two successful films (Hardware, Dust Devil) under his belt when he got the opportunity to helm his dream project - an adaptation of The Island Of Doctor Moreau. The film was to be an epic, and production was a much larger scale than any production he had worked on previously including starring roles from Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer. Unfortunately just days into the production Stanley's plan began to unravel and quickly became one of the most infamous film production disasters in history.

Featuring interviews with Richard Stanley, co-star Fairuza Balk, and numerous production members and executives LOST SOUL digs deep into the story behind this doomed production which turned into something quite different than Stanley's original vision. We learn of everything from Richard Stanley being removed from the project to his disappearance and just why Marlon Brando wears an ice bucket hat in the film that eventually got made.

LOST SOUL leaves no stone left unturned and immediately pushes you deep into the circus world that was the production of The Island Of Dr. Moreau. With each passing anecdote from the set, or the hotel, or the jungles of Australia that surrounded the cast and crew you bear witness to a drug fueled frenzy of huge egos, strange personalities and ample paychecks while wasting away under the sun. This major motion picture turned into a carnival of insanity and debauchery filled with human/animal hybrids, midgets and Brando.

This documentary chronicles the single most interesting film production story of all time. While it would have been interesting to see Richard Stanley's vision come to life we instead get what could be considered an opus of film production documentaries. And a damn entertaining one at that.

The Audio & Video
Severin Films delivers a gorgeous looking Blu-ray chock full of beautiful sit down interviews in pristine high definition and heaps of behind the scenes footage from the production that doesn't look as sharp and pretty but has clearly been upgraded to HD. The English audio is handled with a 2.0 Dolby Digital track that sounds crisp and clear. There's no damage to the audio track or any sort of background noise. A stellar A/V job overall.

The Extras
-Outtakes - extended interviews including a largely extended segment with Richard Stanley
-Graham Humphreys Concept Art Gallery w/ commentary by Richard Stanley
-Archive interview with John Frankenheimer
-"Barbara Steele Recalls Moreau" audio interview
-The Beast Of Morbido featurette
-The Hunt For The Compound featurette
-Boar Man Diary featurette
-Trailer

NOTE: A 3 Disc Blu-ray set is available which includes an expanded selection of special features such as a recently discovered German adaptation of Moreau from 1921, and a reading of the story by Richard Stanley and more.

The Bottom Line
One day yet we may get to see a version of Richard Stanley's vision come to life but until then (and who am I kidding, even after then) LOST SOUL is a critical piece of film documenting the strangest, wildest and perhaps biggest failure of a film production of all time.

LOST SOUL is available HERE

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

i-LIVED (2015)


USA/2015
Directed By: Franck Khalfoun
Written By: Franck Khalfoun, Brian Breiter
Starring: Jeremiah Watkins, Sarah Power, Nic D'Avirro
VOD/iTunes Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Josh is a recent graduate of Stanford University struggling to make it on his own reviewing new apps on his Youtube channel to make ends meet. Josh comes across a new self help app called i-Lived which provides you missions to help meet any personal goal you type into the app. Upon an initial review Josh isn't able to gain the six pack abs he had hoped for and gives the app a mediocre review but later finds that the app will bring him all of his hopes and dreams and even cure his terminally ill mother if he's willing to go the distance with the missions the app assigns him which get more and more dangerous with each passing day and engulf more of Josh's sanity as he goes along with them.

This is the third film I've seen from director Franck Khalfoun, the first being the middling stalk and slash film P2 and the second being the exception Maniac remake starring Elijah Wood. It was the style and finesse in the remake of Bill Lustig's classic exploitation horror film that I had hoped to see in i-LIVED. Though the film had a noticeably smaller budget, leaving less room for multiple location shoots and a better overall production value, there was still enough resources available to take the film's plot and have it succeed.


Unfortunately the slick direction we've previously seen from Khalfoun is lost here and this movie feels every bit of the inconsequential direct-to-video horror film that it is sadly destined to be (despite a very limited theatrical presentation). Khalfoun has no flair here with rigid camerawork and very elementary and basic shots. Our cast doesn't help matters as they stumble through the script either over or underacting or hamming it up to the nth degree. Jeremiah Watkins isn't all bad as our lead Josh but his performance is uneven. There's one scene that I felt he brought real emotion to which involves his elderly landlord and a lamp.


There's a very clear message on display in i-LIVED dealing with the endless obsession of new apps and features for the cell phones that seem to be glued to our hands these days and letting them take over too much of your mind. I can support that message and I think i-LIVED had potential to turn it into a good horror film and at times it did. i-LIVED has some well done moments sprinkled throughout but I look at it like grabbing a handful of trail mix and only getting one or two pieces of what you like and the rest is all peanuts. Yeah, it's nice you got something you liked at all but now you have a handful of dry peanuts to deal with.

And that dear reader ends up being what i-LIVED is worth, sadly- peanuts.


Friday, July 10, 2015

A ZOMBIE EXORCISM (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing


Norway/2015
Directed By: Casper Haugegaard
Written By: Casper Haugegaard
Starring: Marie Frohme Vanglund, Mads Althoff, Jonas Bjorn-Andersen
Color/46 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: May 15, 2015

The Film
Three siblings gather at a church for a funeral when an unknown evil awakens the dead and the zombie apocalypse begins. The trio flee to the catacombs beneath the church and must fight for their survival.

Thankfully A ZOMBIE EXORCISM is a rather short affair clocking in at under 50 minutes. The film is bland in its writing and character development along with adding nothing new or noteworthy to the zombie genre. The direction is all over the place with heavy use of shaky cams during the more exciting sequences and camera angles quickly changing to point of view handheld angles despite this not being a found footage movie of any type.


There's non stop action and plenty of gore to be had though. If you're interested in the simplest side of zombie movie fare then you'll enjoy your time here but I was looking for something a bit more. I can't knock the film for having lots of the juicy bits though, that's for sure. The other upsides to A ZOMBIE EXORCISM are the acting which is solid and some great set designs.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing's anamorphic widescreen transfer makes the shaky, low budget photography look pretty good. The transfer is clean and stable with no damage. The Danish audio features English subtitles and has a strong mix with steady levels. There's no background noise or audible hiccups to mention.


The Extras
-Bonus short film
-Music video selection
-Behind the scenes featurette
-Trailers


The Bottom Line
I didn't care for it but maybe you will. I would have liked to see them expand on the movie a bit more than just having a random zombie outbreak for no real reason.

A ZOMBIE EXORCISM is available HERE

Monday, July 6, 2015

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment


USA/2014
Directed By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written By: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Earl E. Smith
Starring: Addison Timlin, Veronica Cartwright, Anthony Anderson
Color/86 Minutes/R
Region 1
Release Date: July 14, 2015

The Film
65 years after the town of Texarkana was terrorized by hooded killer the town once again falls victim to "The Phantom". Jami barely escapes an encounter with The Phantom and becomes obsessed with finding out the identity of this new killer. While Jami digs deeper in the mystery and history of the killings the bodies begin piling up in this typically sleepy town.

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN was widely marketed as a remake to the 1974 film but in all actuality is completely a sequel. Similar events play out in this one but it's all in paying homage to the original killer. The film works as a slasher and a horror mystery with the major twists and turns the story takes. The script is otherwise pretty straight forward and simple but effective enough and carried by a solid cast.

The downfall of this film, and it is a glaring, in your face problem that you literally cannot look past is the direction and photography choices made. There are heavily slanted angles for absolutely no reason throughout the film. These are usually reserved as a way to show some sort of madness, craze or other emotion changing device for the audience. Not here, they're thrown around without any real reasoning whenever the director felt like putting them in. I could probably look passed these randomly inserted slanted angle shots if I didn't have to watch the film through an incredibly hazy and sweaty looking filter. I can guess that the director wanted to give the film a sweaty, humid look which I'd be okay with but large quantities of the film look like there's a heavy layer of condensation or Vaseline smeared all over the camera lens.


This really kills some of the better lighting designs the film has going for it in certain scenes that feature colored lighting. The hazy look drowns out the bright red lighting that gives the film a creepy atmosphere during certain scenes. It's unfortunate that this look wasn't changed after seeing how it turned out in the dailies because it looks really bad at times.

Despite the shitty look the film has it times it outshines its predecessor which is a vastly overrated film that I believe is as famous as it is for the simple reasons that it has killer artwork, The Phantom has a great look that inspired Jason Voorhees and was unavailable on DVD for years and was a heavily sought after VHS tape. The movie was frankly a bore with a couple of great moments tossed in to make it worth sitting through. This sequel done 40 years later is a solid horror film that suffers from poor technical artistic choices but remains an entertaining movie that deserves some of the recognition the original undeservedly has.

The Audio & Video
RLJ/Image Entertainment bring THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN to DVD with a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen ratio that looks good for a standard definition release. Colors are strong and vibrant and black levels are handled decently. The filter used in photography keeps the disc from looking sharp because of the soft and sweaty photography style but that is a style choice by the filmmakers.

A 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound track handles the English audio with ease and grace. There's great clarity to the dialogue and the levels are mixed well and are quite stable without unnecessary. volume fluctuations. The track is also damage and background noise free.


The Extras
A trailer is the lone extra


The Bottom Line
Some questionable artistic decisions aside, THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is a rock solid sequel disguised as a remake that easily outshines its predecessor. I wouldn't call it a modern classic but the good outweighs the bad and it certainly is entertaining.

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN is available HERE

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

AWAKEN (DVD Review) - Arc Entertainment


USA/2015
Directed By: Mark Atkins
Written By: Mark Atkins, Ryan Priest
Starring: Natalie Burn, Vinnie Jones, Robert Davi
Color/89 Minutes/R
Region 1
Release Date: July 7, 2015

The Film
A young woman wakes up on an island to find a group of others just like her and is immediately thrown into a fight for survival with the others while they all attempt to find out why they're on this island and being hunted by mercenaries. After escaping the island, only to be brought back the group finds out the shocking truth that they're being hunted in an organ harvesting operation.

AWAKEN is directed by Mark Atkins who is no stranger to direct to video fare and knows how to keep things entertaining enough to keep the viewer's attention without having huge production values or sharply written scripts. AWAKEN is a simple enough idea that allows for as many action scenes as the filmmakers want to put in, and there's plenty of them.

Vinnie Jones co-stars as Sarge, the head mercenary and is a badass, like always. The man has a natural presence as a hardass in front of a camera with his hardened look and real life ability to kick ass. He is matched against Natalie Burn who shows herself as capable of handling an ass kicking role in her own right. The acting is hammy from just about everyone involved but we don't watch movies like AWAKEN for much else other than the action so much is forgiven.


Daryl Hannah and Edward Furlong appear as well and Furlong is one of the least likable parts of the movie. He just oozes shittyness. The movie only has a couple of locations but makes the most of them to make it feel like a bigger world than what it really is. The island the victims briefly escape to is an interesting one and almost gave me a similar vibe that the town of Innsmouth does in HP Lovecraft's stories.

AWAKEN won't go down as a classic action film but for someone looking for something they haven't seen yet for some easy weekend viewing you can do a lot worse.

The Audio & Video
Arc Entertainment brings AWAKEN to DVD with a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks very good. Colors are bright and vibrant and the picture quality is sharp. The English audio track is handled with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound and is free of any damage or distracting background noise. The mix is nicely done as the score compliments the dialogue without drowning it out.


The Extras
A trailer is the lone extra


The Bottom Line
AWAKEN is a fast paced straight to video action flick that is high on violence and adrenaline.

AWAKEN is available HERE

Monday, June 29, 2015

THE NEW BARBARIANS (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground


Italy/1983
Directed By: Enzo G. Castellari
Written By: Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Timothy Brent, Fred Williamson, George Eastman
Color/91 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: June 30, 2015

The Film
The world has been shattered by nuclear war and the remaining survivors fight to survive amidst the roving gang known as The Templars led by their vicious leader One. A solitary warrior known as Scorpion (Timothy Brent) rescues a beautiful woman from The Templars and teams up with Nadir (Fred Williamson) and a fairly rag tag group in a fight against the brutal gang in hopes of reaching a distant land where a society is rumored to exist.

THE NEW BARBARIANS was one of my post-nuke type films to come in the wake of Mad Max being an international hit. The film is brimming with futuristic costume designs, charismatic characters, gore and extremely clever and downright cool vehicle and weapon designs. As cheesy as it may be there is a natural swagger and cool factor that comes along with THE NEW BARBARIANS.

The story is a simple one of survivors trying to find their way to a place where life isn't just about surviving but flourishing and adding to a community. Things are never that easy, especially with George Eastman leading The Templars' thirst for violence and supremacy over the wasteland. Eastman's group has the coolest cars and bikes that are packed with guns, lasers and various implements of death such as rockets and rotating blades. There's no shortage of heads and limbs flying in THE NEW BARBARIANS.

THE NEW BARBARIANS may be a product cashing in on the success of a better known film but it goes heads and shoulders above and beyond almost any other movie in the post-nuke apocalyptic action film category.

The Audio & Video
Do I need to go into at this point? Blue Underground's transfer is stellar. Anamorphic widescreen  very natural looking grain structure, beautiful vivid colors and great detail and sharpness coupled with the DTS-HD 1.0 mono track that takes the original audio and makes it sound perfect. Yeah, I'd say that's stellar.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with Enzo G. Castellari
-"Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 2"
-"Tales Of The Hammer- Interview with star Fred Williamson"
-Theatrical trailer
-Poster and stills gallery

The Bottom Line
THE NEW BARBARIANS out Mad Max's Mad Max and is a wonderful slice of post apocalyptic cheese. Highly Recommended

THE NEW BARBARIANS is available HERE

Thursday, June 25, 2015

ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX (Blu-ray Review) - Blue Underground


Italy/1983
Directed By: Enzo G. Castellari
Written By: Tito Carpi, Enzo G. Castellari
Starring: Mark Gregory,
Color/89 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: June 30, 2015

The Film
A corporate mega power has decided to redevelop the Bronx which has long been declared "no man's land" and a lost cause. Relocation efforts to send residents to "lovely New Mexico" has resulted in hold outs from lifelong residents and the gangs that run the territory. The relocation efforts have turned into death squads being sent in to eliminate any hold outs which starts a war as the remaining gang members and residents have armed themselves and are ready to kill for their right to stay.

The sequel to 1990: The Bronx Warriors was shot a mere 18 months after the success of the first film and ramps up the action quite a bit. What the original gave us in terms of creative characters and eye catching and attention grabbing costumes and set pieces on top of plenty of action takes a more is more attitude for the violence and it pays off. Trash and various survivors from the first film are back to take on the faceless, silver clad, flame thrower wielding death squad goons and there's almost non stop fights, shoot outs and explosions.

ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX also seems to be a bit gorier than its predecessor. This isn't Fulci level horror gore but there are some effects going on in terms of blood and burns. The acting again is hit or miss and our handsome muscular lead from 1990 is now a jacket wearing leader here as he lost most of his muscle mass between shoots much to the chagrin of director Enzo Castellari.

Where 1990: The Bronx Warriors shows its obvious influences, ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX takes those influences and just blows them to hell. I really can't sum up how fucking fun this movie is. There are multiple moments where vehicles are blown up with only one or two gunshots from a long distance. It's that attitude that drives the entire movie. Enzo Castellari isn't worried about keeping things grounded, and we shouldn't care that things are far from grounded. The more is more attitude really works in making ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX an immensely entertaining film.

The Audio & Video
This is how it should be done! Blue Underground's 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a wonderfully vibrant color palette. The colors are bright and beautiful while the overall picture quality has a great crispness and sharpness. Skin tones are natural without any waxiness. The English audio track is a DTS-HDMA mono track with optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. This audio track is crystal clear and is free of any background noise or damages such as crackling or popping.

The Extras
-Audio commentary with Enzo G. Castellari
-Enzo G. Castellari and Fabrizio De Angelis In Conversation Part 3 of 3 - the fantastic conversation continues and concludes with more great stories. A complete joy to watch these two friends and collaborators reconnect.
-"The Hunt For Trash" - Interview with BRONX WARRIORS superfan Lance Manley - This featurette documents Manley's search for Mark Gregory who starred as Trash in the Bronx Warrior films and dropped out of the public eye in 1989. Pretty fascinating stuff.
-Theatrical trailers
-Poster and stills gallery
-DVD copy of the film

The Bottom Line
I've seen ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX numerous times and have loved it since my first viewing of it on a shoddy Vipco import from the UK years ago. I don't think I've ever had more fun watching it than I did this time getting to see it in beautiful HD in all of its glory. It is long overdue to become a cult classic.

ESCAPE FROM THE BRONX is available HERE