Friday, September 19, 2014

The Dead 2 (Blu-ray Review) - Anchor Bay

Directed By: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Written By: Howard J. Ford, Jonathan Ford
Starring: Joseph Millson, Meenu Mishra, Anand Krishna Goyal
Color/98 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: September 16, 2014

The Film
Nicholas is an American engineer working on turbines in India when a zombie outbreak hits. His mission turns from fixing turbines to safely crossing the 300 miles to Mumbai to rescue his pregnant girlfriend Meenu, who is trapped in the middle of the zombies and a firefight. Nicholas pairs up with a young orphan boy to help him traverse the harsh and dangerous landscape while Meenu struggles to stay alive as the monsters outside fight to get inside.

THE DEAD 2 is a sequel to the 2010 zombie horror film set in Africa. While it was far from perfect, the first entry into this series featured a bit of tension and a very interesting setting for a zombie film. It was mildly entertaining and ended up being worth a viewing. THE DEAD 2 feels like a lazy retread of that film. The Ford Brothers move the action to the deserts of India here which is interesting for a setting but really offers little else to the movie other than the initial thought of "Cool, India.". The zombies are slow which I prefer, yes it is true that faster zombies are more of an immediate threat than the slow, plodding zombies but the tension that can be built over a period of time with these classic style zombies is what can turn a great zombie movie into a a great movie. THE DEAD 2 is sadly missing out on any tension. There's very little attempt at building it and whenever it seems like things might take a step in the right direction as far as chills and tension go, it ends up in a cheap and telegraphed jump scare.

The acting is quite good from everyone involved, that is probably the film's strongest point. Unfortunately good acting is wasted on lazy writing. THE DEAD 2 suffers badly from lazy writing as it is very much just a road trip movie across a zombie filled road. Little of consequence happens to Nicholas and his version of Short Round along the way, they get to know each other a bit and kill some zombies. There is one scene toward the end that proves to be emotional and powerful. It's a shame there isn't more scenes like that. There's also some really questionable decisions made by characters and some overlooked details. Like when Nicholas hits a zombie with his jeep and just abandons his Jeep to set out on foot with no sign of damage to the vehicle. Or when he picks up a revolver and later on mysteriously has a 9mm style pistol. It's just lazy and upsetting.

The Ford Brothers have potential, as directors, they've shown it before and there are some positives here, the movie is violent and gory and the zombies have a neat look to them but THE DEAD 2 is nothing that the original film didn't do and do with more passion.

The Audio & Video
The Blu-ray from Anchor Bay is very nice. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer simply shines. Colors are vibrant and lively while black levels are deep and handled nicely. Skin tones are natural with no signs of waxiness or excessive DNR. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is excellent. There's no background noise and dialogue and soundtrack levels are perfectly on point. From gunshots and explosions to conversations on the phone you really can't ask for better.

The Extras
Special features include a "Making Of" featurette and a selection of deleted scenes

The Bottom Line
Zombie movie fanatics will be the ones who enjoy THE DEAD 2 the most. Is it a great horror film? No, but is it worth at least a watch on a boring night? Yeah, there's some fun to be had.

THE DEAD 2 is available HERE

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (40th Anniversary Blu-ray Review) - Dark Sky Films

Directed By: Tobe Hooper
Written By: Kim Henkel, Tobe Hooper
Starring: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger
Color/84 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: September 16, 2014

The Film
What can I say about THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE that hasn't been said a thousand times already? This maniacal film about a group of young adults looking for a fun weekend at their grandparents old house who are terrorized and tortured by a depraved cannibal family in a small secluded Texas town is among my top 15 favorite films of all time. It is a perfect film in every way. It is violent and sick but notably light on blood or gore. There's no need for shock value here as all of the film's scares lie in the writing and performances by a group that was being driven to the brink of insanity by an endlessly oppressive Texas summer heatwave and the stench of real rotting animal corpses dressing the set. This actual madness that the cast had descended into is easily felt through the screen by the audience and I'm hard pressed to come up with another film quite like it in that way.

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is as scary, weird and gross as it was 40 years ago when it was unleashed on the world. It is also as perfect in every way. Age has not cracked the film's shell and exposed flaws or dated it in any way. This film is timeless and I have no doubt it will be as effectively horrifying at its 80th anniversary as it is today at 40.

This film has received incredible amounts of merchandising over the years from video games on the Atari system to action figures, drink mugs, artwork, t-shirts, Halloween costumes and more. Of course home video releases rule and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE has been released on every format from Betamax to Laserdisc and even had a CED release. Perhaps most of all though, it has had numerous releases on DVD and Blu-ray including Collector's Editions, Anniversary Editions, Ultimate Editions, Special Editions... you name it and it probably had an edition. I've owned a few of these editions and while many of them are quite nice as far as technical presentation of the film and special features are concerned, none of them hold a candle to this new 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray set.

The Audio & Video
Dark Sky Films has done great work with TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in their past editions of the film but they've now given us the definitive edition. The new 4K presentation of the film takes the pretty damn good looking previous Blu-ray and blows it out of the water. There's a beautiful film quality to the picture which has a very sharp look with a lovely natural color palette. Skin tones look fleshy and healthy and the anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer has come from source material that was in excellent and very clean condition. There are a number of audio options, including a Dolby TrueHD 7.1, 5.1, 2.0 and the original Mono mix. Depending on if you want to work out your home theater system or listen to the original mix you're in for a treat. The mixes are all well done and crystal clear. There's never any instances of levels fluctuating and there's no annoying background noise or popping or crackling. I'll sum up my thoughts on the A/V with a resounding "hell yes!"

The Extras
Disc 1:
-Audio commentary with: Tobe Hooper, actor Gunnar Hansen, Cinematographer Daniel Pearl
-Audio commentary with: Actors Marilyn Burns, Allen Danziger and Paul A Partain and Production Designer Robert Burns
-New audio commentary with Tobe Hooper
-New audio commentary with Daniel Pearl, Editor J. Larry Carroll and Sound Recordist Ted Nicolaou

Disc 2:
-The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth
-Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories Of The Saw
-A Tour Of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre House with Gunnar Hansen
-Off The Hook with Teri McMinn
-The Business Of Chain Saw: An interview with Production Manager Ron Bozman
-New deleted scenes and outtakes
-Grandpa's Tales: An interview with John Dugan
-Cutting Chain Saw: An interview with Editor J. Larry Carroll
-Deleted scenes and outtakes
-Blooper reel
-Outtakes from "The Shocking Truth"
-Horror's Hallowed Grounds
-Dr. W.E. Barnes Presents "Making Grandpa"
-Still gallery
-Trailer selection
-TV spots
-Radio spots

Discs 3 and 4 are DVD versions of the film and special features

The Bottom Line
By now do you need to hear anything else? I sure hope not because a perfect film with a damn near perfect presentation and a metric shit ton of extras shouldn't take too much thought. Go get it. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Prisoner Of Paradise (DVD Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Bob Chinn, Gail Palmer
Written By: Gail Palmer, Jeffrey Fairbanks
Starring: John Holmes, Seka, Sue Carol
Color/78 Minutes/X
Region FREE
Release Date: September, 9 2014

The Film
John Holmes stars as an American G.I. who gets stranded on a tropical island after his ship is bombed during WWII. He quickly finds out that a small Nazi outpost rand by one SS man along with a couple Nazi women (one named Ilsa... of course) and a Japanese military woman have kidnapped a pair of US women, one a military nurse. Holmes tries to save them but is quickly apprehended. The Americans are tortured, mainly sexually by the Nazi women as the fat, sleazy man of the SS looks on with sick enjoyment. The Japanese woman falls for Holmes and helps him destroy the outpost and escape with the American women.

A war epic, a porno and a piece of Nazisploitation, PRISONER OF PARADISE has it all going on. This is such a crazy idea that totally works. The genres blend perfectly for a sleazy ride. Hell, even the closing credits are ridiculous! John Holmes is the perfect guy for this role and the women are beautiful. The only shortcoming is that I wish there was a bit more Nazi torture going on, but I guess a porno is a porno for a reason and they'd sell more tickets with more sex and less crazy Nazisploitation situations.

The Audio & Video
Vinegar Syndrome does what they do and that is give films that other companies wouldn't touch a top notch presentation. This DVD looks great with a 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer taken from a clean print that has been kept in pretty solid condition. Colors look good and there's a nice clarity and sharpness to the overall image. The audio sounds good with a clear track free of any obtrusive background noise like popping or crackling. 

The Extras
The lone special feature is the original theatrical trailer

The Bottom Line
This is one of the more exciting and unique pieces of exploitation and smut that Vinegar Syndrome has released to date. The blend of genres makes for a really fun time and the vintage smut fans and Nazisploitation fans will both enjoy this one.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Graduation Day (Blu-ray Review) - Vinegar Syndrome

Directed By: Herb Freed
Written By: Anne Marisse, Herb Freed, David Baughn
Starring: Christopher George, Patch Mackenzie, E. Danny Murphy
Color/96 Minutes/R
Region FREE
Release Date: September 9, 2014

The Film
A young high school senior track star collapses and dies after a race in front of her school, coach and boyfriend. As Graduation Day approaches the seniors are in high spirits and ready to move on with their lives. Anne returns home from the Navy  to accept her fallen sister's diploma and track awards. Unfortunately there is a killer on the loose knocking off students and anyone else that gets in their way. Who is responsible for the vicious murders in what should be a time of celebration and growth for the students?

GRADUATION DAY was always a lesser slasher to me. On my only previous viewing I was unimpressed and rather frankly, bored. It has been years since that viewing and on my first revisit to the film I find myself liking it substantially more. GRADUATION DAY is not a good film. It has a basic slasher plot which is full of plot holes and gaffes such as spoiling the identity of the killer for itself during a murder sequence where you can clearly tell who is behind the fencing mask. Or during the first murder of the film, a prop switchblade knife can clearly be seen squirting blood long before if ever strikes its victim. GRADUATION DAY works as an entertaining body count film with this type of silly charm. Hell, it even features an early appearance by future 80s Scream Queen Linnea Quigley and from Vanna White who doesn't have a puzzle board or a vowel in sight! The 80s certainly were a weird time.

There is a disturbing factor to GRADUATION DAY from a domestic violence standpoint and to a classic horror trope that we've seen countless times it adds a bit of a dirty feeling to the movie. While I did find myself enjoying the film quite a bit for everything it was and didn't want to be at the same time I also found myself waiting for the credits to roll by the end of the film. The writers apparently couldn't figure out how to end the film because in the last 10-12 minutes there are about 4 times the movie could have ended easily but it just kept going and going dragging the viewer along for the ride. It didn't hamper my enjoyment of the film but GRADUATION DAY could be trimmed by a good 10-15 minutes and wouldn't be any worse off. A cheesy 80s slasher film is a bit more attractive at a tight 85 minutes than it is at 96 minutes and dragging at the end.

The Audio & Video
Previously only available on a weak DVD from Troma, Vinegar Syndrome has released this new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack with a fantastic looking 4K restoration. Colors are vivid and realistic and skin tones are natural looking without a hint of waxiness in the 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. There's no DNR or edge enhancement to speak of. The lone audio track is a DTS-HDMA mono track which takes the original mono mix the film had and puts the high-def treatment to it. No complaints here as it sounds excellent and is very clear and free of background noise.

The Extras
-Audio commentary track with Producer David Baughn
-Audio commentary track with The Hysteria Continues
-Video interviews with star Patch Mackenzie, Director Herb Freed, Producer David Baughn, and Editor Martin Jay Sadoff

The Bottom Line
A fun movie is a fun movie and a very nice presentation is a very nice presentation. This release is both of those things. It's like buying really expensive Limburger Cheese... It's stinky but in the best way and of the finest quality!


Monday, September 15, 2014

Found (DVD Review) - XLRator Media

Directed By: Scott Schirmer
Written By: Todd Rigney, Scott Schirmer
Starring: Gavin Brown, Ethan Philbeck, Phyllis Munro
Color/103 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: September 23, 2014

The Film
The hype of indie films can really kill them once they release wide. If a lot of fans get on the bandwagon of calling a film the new greatest horror film and it can make it harder to enjoy a film for what it is if you aren't totally in love with it. For months I've been hearing the praises of Scott Schirmer's FOUND. I've finally got the chance to see it and managed to keep the countless opinions out of my mind while viewing it.

Marty is ten years old and loves horror films and comic books. He's bullied at school, his friends are turning their backs on him and his parents don't really get him despite being an idea student and a good kid. Marty's life takes a dark turn when he discovers a truly dark side to his older brother. Marty must deal with the struggles at home and school while knowing that his brother will kill him if he tells his secret. That nightmare becomes a distinct possibility when his brother snaps and turns his dark side on Marty and his parents.

FOUND is pretty damn vicious and mean spirited. I had some preconceived notions that the attention FOUND was getting was all for its gore content. While it is a gory film it isn't as prevelant as I had imagined. The acting is decent but there are some rough patches with various characters. Gavin Brown, who plays Marty is a strength of the film from start to finish though.There's a lot to like about FOUND but I also found it to be a bit empty at times with padding until the climax. I don't love FOUND. Upon finishing it I thought it was decent and deserving of some of the praise it was getting but certainly not the greatest thing we've seen in a long time. Then hours passed and then those hours turned into days and I liked what I had seen more and more. I still don't love FOUND but I definitely like it and I'm excited to watch it again before too long.

The Audio & Video
XLRator Media gives FOUND its wide release home on DVD and they did a nice job with it. The anamorphic widescreen 2.35:1 presentation is clean and sharp. Colors are crisp and there's no digital noise or damage. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is good. A steady and well done mix gives the listener a nice experience.

The Extras
-"Headless" - The full uncut 25 minute short film
-"Deep Dwellers" -The full uncut 7 minute short film
-Commentary track with director Scott Schirmer and writer Todd Rigney

The Bottom Line
FOUND is a great example of an indie horror film that isn't completely over hyped. I highly recommend you give it a chance. 

FOUND is available HERE

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hole In The Wall (2014)

I couldn't wait to sit down and write this review upon finishing the film. I wanted to talk about HOLE IN THE WALL with anyone I could. Unfortunately for me very few people have seen it at this point so I will talk to myself about it in this review. Sit back dear reader, and enjoy until you get the chance to view this wonderfully offensive film.

HOLE IN THE WALL is an anthology film with the only rules being filth, sleaze and horror. The film starts with "A Message From The Underground", a PSA style message to the audience that really should be taken to heart. If you're at all unsure if you want, or more importantly should, view this film, heed this warning. The film gets underway with "The Plainfield Chopper" as a man dragging a wrapped body into his barn while a weird boy watches him. The boy is invited up to experience death. We visit this duo repeatedly through the film as it serves as the wrap around to the various other stories in the film. Each time we come back they are a bit further along in their sadistic fun with the body, making sure not to lose a drop of the blood because the blood makes everything better.

The first chapter of the anthology goes straight for the jugular. The viewer, along with their stomach and their morals are put to the test with "Scumbag". If you manage to make it passed this diabolical delight of bizarre sadism, animal cruelty, necrophilia and murder you may continue with the rest of HOLE IN THE WALL. You'll have to get passed scenes involving shit, semen and blood all with sex and violence mixed in. I promise you'll never look at your fingers the same way again.

Congratulations if you made it with your lunch in tact. And if you didn't, you can live out the rest of HOLE IN THE WALL vicariously through the rest of this review.

"Ed Gein D.D.S." is next and shows what happens when you resurrect an infamous serial killer through black magic and he has a penchant for practicing his own brand of dental work on his victims. This is an uncomfortably brutal take on the already violent and disturbing history of the infamous serial killer. Then comes "Last Dance", a sexually charged piece of filth straight out of John Waters' world. I hope you're prepared to see anything you can imagine because it is possible that "Last Dance" has it and makes sure you're repulsed by it. "Last Dance" is a snow covered descent in to a fucked up family filled with sex and madness.

By this point you've either gone to confessional and been told to say 1,000 Hail Marys or you've lost all inhibitions and are well on your way to become a drooling raving maniac. It's okay to admit that you've thrown up, turned of the film and turned it back on because you just can't look away.

You've been welcomed back with "Siren" a surreal and psychedelic piece of drug fueled horror with victims far and wide. I love "Siren" for the fact that it can easily be taken as a straight forward horror film or a piece of psychological horror using drug use as the catalyst for driving someone to the brink of insanity. We learn the origins of the Chopper in our wrap around story in "Our Song Is My Blade" as a ghostly woman and her disembodied voice haunts a man telling him to kill, and kill he does. "Our Song..." is beautifully violent and brings the story full circle to an over the top climax of blood and guts that looks like it is straight out of an H.G. Lewis film. And just when you think you've survived HOLE IN THE WALL there's a last punch to the gut post credits with "Glory Hole". It is quick but it will certainly have you re-thinking not walking out during the credits.

HOLE IN THE WALL pushes the limits of decency in ways that haven't been seen since films of the 1970s. It is filled with disgusting, despicable and depraved content and is a purely fucked up film. HOLE IN THE WALL doesn't solely rely on being gross and offensive though, there are some truly creative and artistic moments in both the writing and direction of these shorts. From the character interaction in Derrick Carey's "The Plainfield Chopper" that comes off organically with the Chopper almost becoming a teacher of sorts to his new "apprentice", to the heavily colored lighting and direction by Carolyn Baker in "Siren". Derrick Carey showed more directorial skill with the haunting work in "Our Song Is My Blade" with the ghostly voice over work and shots of the woman driving the man to kill.

We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that this movie isn't a total gross out though and that is the case with Greg Johnson's "Last Dance". If someone didn't know better they could easily mistake this for something John Waters made in the 60s or 70s. It oozes of the Dreamlanders and Waters' signature sleaze. And fans of more straight forward horror will find plenty of it to enjoy with Cory Udler's ridiculously vicious "Ed Gein D.D.S". When I first heard the title to this short I had no idea what to expect but I half expected some sort of weird spoof. I was happy to find that wasn't the case and it is just an off the wall title for an off the wall piece of nastiness.

The film closes making sure the viewer knows that HOLE IN THE WALL is all about being gross and offensive and filled with motherfucking sleaze in the cherry on top that is Steve Goltz and Kevin Sommerfield's "Glory Hole". I can't say enough about HOLE IN THE WALL it goes places that most filmmakers don't dare think about, let alone actually make and release.

It isn't uncommon for anthology films to be a bit disjointed and lacking in quality throughout but that is not the case here. While the shorts provide the viewer a great mix of content and tone, it is all filthy. Even when there are bits of comedy thrown in it fits the overall tone of HOLE IN THE WALL completely without yelling "I''m fucking funny please laugh at me!" at the viewer. The humor that is present is sick and will make you question if you should laugh, if you're even able to laugh instead of still processing what you've already seen.

HOLE IN THE ALL is a filthy horror anthology made in full by Wisconsin based filmmakers. If this is what drinking the waters of Wisconsin will have you make and enjoy I need to relocate ASAP because I fucking loved this movie. HOLE IN THE WALL is a quality blend of sleazy horror and fantastic filmmaking that strikes many different chords in perfect harmony. HOLE IN THE WALL is ready to turn the independent horror world on its fucking head. I can't wait to get a chance to own this film. 

You can find out more information on the film such as release dates, festival screenings and more at the film's official Facebook page HERE

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Pumpkinhead (Blu-ray Review) - Scream Factory

Directed By: Stan Winston
Written By: Mark Patrick Carducci, Stan Winston, Richard C. Weinman
Starring: Lance Henriksen, John DiAquino, Kerry Remsen
Color/86 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: September 9, 2014

The Film
A group of teens bring their dirt bikes to Ed Harley's (Lance Henriksen) store to get supplies for their trip. They decide to start riding right there in the field next to the store and after drinking a bit one of them runs over Harley's son. Most of the group scrambles, leaving the boy for dead. Harley is angered and devastated and decides to pay a visit to a witch to summon the local myth known as Pumpkinhead. Pumpkinhead is a creature that will take vengeance for whoever summoned him and can't be stop until the deed is done. As Pumpkinhead terrorizes the kids Ed Harley realizes that two wrongs don't make a right and tries to stop the beast himself knowing that the vicious attacks from the monster won't bring back his son or help bring closure.

PUMPKINHEAD only gets better with subsequent viewings. I love this film a little more every time I see it. Stan Winston isn't known for his directing like he is for his special effects but he does a fantastic job with this film. The atmosphere created with set pieces and lighting is thick and moody. The acting is very good from top to bottom with Henriksen giving one of his best performances of his career. PUMPKINHEAD is as much a morality tale as it is a horror film but it is very much a horror film. From the hulking 7 foot plus stature of the creature to his penchant for dispatching of his victims with violent and brutal style to the spooky witch that can awaken the Pumpkinhead fetus this movie is creepy and a bit disturbing.

It's also beautiful visually and emotionally. The sets, from the creaky shacks in the woods to the burial mound covered in moldy, rotten pumpkins this movie has a very distinct look. At times it is very humid and dusty then it almost feels like a frigid Autumn night. The story of Harley and his son and then Harley's emotional turn really draw the viewer in from different angles. There are some very likeable characters that we want to survive and then there are others that we don't mind watching Pumpkinhead handle with vigor. PUMPKINHEAD is awesome.

The Video & Audio
Oh Scream Factory, thank you so much. PUMPKINHEAD shines in this new Collector's Edition Blu-ray.  The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has great clarity and sharpness. You can almost feel the wind in the woods or the dust in the earlier scenes at the store. A lot of this film takes place in very dark locations and the black levels are handled brilliantly on this disc. Colors are represented with lifelike realness and don't look at all artificial. Skin tones are show great detail and not a hint of waxiness. The DTS-HDMA Stereo audio track is mixed perfectly and is crystal clear. No background noise or audio damage to speak of.

The Extras
This disc is packed. Packed I tell you!
-"Pumpkinhead Unearthed" - A documentary on the film clocking in at over an hour long!
-"Remembering The Monster Kid" a 45 minute tribute to Stan Wintson and Alec Gillis
-Audio commentary with Gary Gerani, Tom Woodruff a
-"Night Of The Demon" with Richard Weinman
-"The Redemption Of Joel" with John DiAquino
-"The Boy With The Glasses" with Matthew Hurley
-Demonic Toys featurette on the making of PUMPKINHEAD toys
-Theatrical Trailer
-Still Gallery

The Bottom Line
PUMPKINHEAD on Collector's Edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory is a contender for Top 10 Releases Of The Year with its gorgeous technical presentation and extensive collection of special features