Monday, October 20, 2014

October Horror Challenge 2014 - Day 19

DEMONS 2 is not the classic that Demons is but it is a very fun piece of Italian splatter. The special effects remain great, the soundtrack is a bit more to the pop side which lends a fun vibe to the film, Bobby Rhodes is back again, this time as the badass personal trainer and it is still over the top. No, DEMONS 2 isn't as good as the first but I still really like it.

CRIMES OF THE BLACK CAT is an average giallo in just about every way. That doesn't make it a bad film, it just is not exceptional in any way. There is one scene toward the end of the film that is among the most viciously brutal acts of violence I've seen in any giallo which is the stand out moment of the film.

Today's Rundown
Demons 2 - 7/10
Crimes Of The Black Cat - 5.5/10

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October Horror Challenge 2014 - Day 18

Day 18 had an old favorite and a change of pace that proved to be a big let down.

DEMONS came first, the classic heavy metal soundtrack driven classic from Lamberto Bava and produced by Dario Argento. It's gory as shit with awesome makeup fx, some great characters and is just a fucking blast from start to finish. Dario Argento never made a zombie film, something a lot of fans have always expressed interest in wishing he had but this is pretty damn close. Lamberto Bava work with Argento on quite a few films as an Assistant Director and it certainly influenced him in the making of DEMONS.

Then there was the 1949 Disney animated film THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD. I knew that this movie had an adaptation of the Sleepy Hollow story so I was excited to see what classic Disney had in store for it. After getting through the Mr. Toad half of the film which only featured a few laughs I got to the Ichabod Crane half which was about 25 minutes of Crane being awkwardly lanky and ugly and then about 5 minutes of the Headless Horseman chasing him on a spooky October night. It was fairly worthless as far as a Sleepy Hollow story goes. The animation was as good as you'd expect and there were a few laughs in each story but overall it was disappointing as both a classic Disney film and a Headless Horsemen story.

Today's Rundown
Demons- 9/10
The Adventures Of Ichabod And Mr. Toad - 3.5/10

Saturday, October 18, 2014

October Horror Challenge 2014 - Day 17

A long overdue re-watch of MOTHER'S DAY was in store and for a movie I wasn't crazy about years ago hit the right notes this time. I don't know what I didn't enjoy about it before but this is a really entertaining, somewhat sleazy and cheesy backwoods horror film. Plenty of blood and gore, some T&A and a lot of fun from director Charles Kaufman, brother of Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman.

I've been in the mood to watch some gialli and I feel a day long binge of them coming in the next week but I tided myself over with FORMULA FOR A MURDER from director Alberto De Martino. This film is from 1985, after the giallo cycle had died out and given way to the Italian splatter wave but that doesn't make it less effective. It has a good bit of the black gloved violence we've come to love in the genre and a creepy little nursery rhyme from the killer. The killer's revelation comes pretty early in the film and the motive is as standard as they come but there are some great scenes and a plot that works. Good stuff.

Finally was AMITYVILLE 3. This series has always been a mystery to me as I find the original to be highly overrated and the remake was awful. Prior to last night the only other film from the series I had seen was part 2 which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had no idea this series had 11 movies with number 12 scheduled for next year. Are you fucking serious that the Amityville Horror series has a dozen movies? Good lord. Part 3 features Meg Ryan and "Aunt Becky" Lori Laughlin (which makes me even more baffled) and starts slow and uninteresting. Luckily the last 25 minutes or so really pull everything together and give us an exciting demonic finish that makes it all worthwhile and boosts the rest of the movie.

Today's Rundown
Mother's Day - 7.5/10
Formula For A Murder - 6.5/10
Amityville 3 - 6/10

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Devil's Business (Blu-ray Review) - Mondo Macabro

Directed By: Sean Hogan
Written By: Sean Hogan
Starring: Billy Clarke, Jack Gordon, Jonathan Hansler
Color/72 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: October 14, 2014

The Film
A pair of hitmen are sent on a job to recover a missing item for their boss and put a hit on the man who has it. As the duo sits in the house waiting for their potential victim to arrive home the elder hitman tells the rookie a story of his craziest outing. The story is interrupted by their target and the hit is thought to be successful until the body disappears. Thinking someone was watching them and moved the corpse the duo frantically searches the property as a witness could land them in heaps of trouble. They find a murdered baby and evidence of devil worship in the garage which quickly turns into the hit taking an even worse and more supernatural turn.

THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS is a tense horror thriller by English filmmaker Sean Hogan. I had no knowledge of this film going in and was pleasantly surprised by how damn solid it is in every way. The direction is tight and wastes little effort while the performances from the small but capable cast carries the script to complete success. It is fairly common for indie productions to have a weak spot in the acting but that is not the case here.

 The film has a quick pace despite being heavy in dialogue and character interaction and relatively light in action. That isn't to say there is nothing goin on, because there is some disturbing content and an eery feeling throughout. THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS isn't perfect but it is well made and perhaps most importantly it doesn't overstay its welcome by dragging things out with scenes that would be better suited for the cutting room floor. THE DEVIL'S BUSINESS is to-the-point and succeeds because of it.

The Audio & Video
Mondo Macabro's second Blu-ray release is damn near perfect. The anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer is gorgeous. Colors have a vivid realism to them without looking artificially pumped up, skin tones show great detail level as do textures and surfaces. Black levels are deep and inky with no blocking or crush. There's no noticeable edge enhancement or DNR. The Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio track sounds great with an excellent mix job between dialogue and the score. The audio is crisp and clear letting small details shine through.

The Extras
-Interview with writer/director Sean Hogan
-Interview with producer Jennifer Handorf
-Interview with star Billy Clarke
-Interview with composer Justin Greaves
-Audio commentary with Sean Hogan and Jennifer Handorf
-Behind the scenes featurette
-Music videos from Crippled Black Phoenix and Se Delan
-Mondo Macabro trailers

The Bottom Line
There's should be nothing stopping you from buying this release. Thisrock solid horror thriller with a fantastic A/V presentation and a stacked lineup of extras shows Mondo Macabro's attention to detail and maybe they're just showing off a little bit but you won't see me complaining! Go get it.


October Horror Challenge 2014 - Day 16

Day 16 was a busy one with movies, one of the busiest of the month. It all started with CHOPPING MALL. Let me just say if you've never seen CHOPPING MALL you're fucking up. This is 80s cheese at its finest. Killer robots designed to protect a mall turn on a group of teens who are partying after hours and we get it all, tits and exploding heads. What else do you need?

Then came the sequel to the Mexican vampire film I watched a few days ago called El Vampiro. This one, EL ATAUD DEL VAMPIRO or The Vampire's Coffin is a disappointing sequel as far as I'm concerned. While the first film wasn't anything remarkable or original it was an atmospheric and moody gothic horror film. This sequel loses that atmosphere and gives us a bland and frankly quite boring story of a vampire escaping his coffin in a hospital. There's one scene where he stalks the woman of his desires while she rehearses her musical play which is the best part of the film as the musical play's set provides an interesting and eye catching maze of set pieces, stairways and catwalks. The finale also provides an interesting look but it plays out a bit on the uninspired side.

Things got back to being awesome with THE BLOB remake from 1988. I haven't watched this in years and forgot just how awesome it is. It really takes the campy B-movie from the 50s and ups the ante in almost every way. The only thing the original has over the remake is the awesome theme song for the monster alien blob itself. Don't get me wrong I really enjoy the original film but this remake is just better. The new Blu-ray is awesome too, a purchase well worth the money. It's gory, it's silly, it's funny and gross... It's THE BLOB.

Then the wheels fell off for the night on the last two films. The first being THE INSIDE, a 2010 found footage horror film about a man that buys a video camera from a pawn shop and finds the tape inside to have footage of a group partying in some undisclosed location that looks like an abandoned warehouse. The group gets terrorized by a few psychos who murder the guys and fuck around with the women eventually chasing them down into some subterranean tunnel system where they fight to survive. The man that bought the camera retraces the steps on it to find the location and investigate the crimes, ya know, instead of just turning it over to the cops. This movie was painful and I'll go into further details when I give it a full review.

And then there was CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I shouldn't have been surprised by the presentation of this movie given that I was watching it on a DVD from a really cheap public domain set but good fucking lord I was not ready for this. The film involves a 700 year old vampire who is unleashed on some island where she's hunted by a blind man, a school teacher who warns her kids not to play in the cemetery of they'll be put in the corner and Andrew Prine. That's about all I got out of the movie. There's also a guy running around that looks like a Neanderthal but I never gathered what his deal was. Now you may be wondering why I have virtually no fucking idea of what I watched. Was I distracted and not paying attention? No. Was I really drunk? No. I watched this movie and paid attention but I simply couldn't follow it. It wasn't a surreal film and it didn't progress in some non-linear fashion. No, that wasn't the case. The case was this is a movie, made in the early 70s that was simply destroyed in this DVD presentation. It was cut by 10 minutes, cropped from widescreen to full screen. The picture looked like it was ripped from a shoddy VHS and then compressed to hell and back to fit on the disc. It looked like I was watching the TV through a muddy screen door. The audio sounded like everyone was talking through a paper towel roll about 3 rooms away from a microphone which made the vast majority of the dialogue (I'd estimate 80-85%) completely indecipherable. It sounded like garbled bullshit. A movie made up of actors doing their best impression of the teacher from Charlie Brown. Perhaps the most baffling of all was that despite being filmed in color, on Eastman film stock according to IMDB, this was black and white. I don't fucking get how that even happens. Whatever, there was nothing going on that really made me want to seek out a proper version anyways.

Today's Rundown
Chopping Mall - 8/10
El Ataud Del Vampire - 5/10
The Blob - 8/10
The Inside - 2/10
Crypt Of The Living Dead - 3/10

Thursday, October 16, 2014

October Horror Challenge 2014 - Day 15

GUROZUKA is a 2005 Japanese horror film about a group of girls traveling to a lodge in the woods to rehearse for their film club. They find an old tape showing a masked woman murdering other girls and find out that seven years earlier girls had gone missing or ended up insane in this cabin from the film club. Eventually bodies and supplies start to disappear as the masked killer is back. GUROZUKA isn't very good. The mask worn in the film is creepy but aside from that its rather boring and uninspired. 

THE SLAVE isn't a horror film but I needed to review it so I counted it on my list. Sue me. Here's the full review of the gorgeous disc

AUTUMN BLOOD isn't a horror film either according to IMDB or some other sites but it is as much a horror film as many other movies of the sort. A full review of this one is coming as well so I'm not not going crazy on it here but it is a movie that had potential if the idea had been thought out and something actually happened. There can't be more than 500 words of dialogue in this entire movie.

Today's Rundown
Gurozuka - 4.5/10
The Slave - 7/10
Autumn Blood - 4.5/10

The Slave (Blu-ray Review) - Mondo Macabro

Directed By: Pasquale Festa Campanile
Written By: Renato Ghilli, Tullio Pinelli, Brunello Rondi
Starring: Rosanna Schiaffino, Haydee Politoff
Color/100 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: September 9, 2014

The Film
Silvia is a beautiful woman in her late 20s. She has intense sexual fantasies, desires and dreams where men and women adorn various weird and exotic costumes. Silvia meets Margaret, a very wealthy movie star. Margaret has Silvia stay with her and begins training her to become a model until their relationship takes a much different turn with their sexual desires.

Sex is one of the driving themes of THE SLAVE but it is not by any means explicit or really even an erotic film. It is a very artistically driven drama about fetish, wealth and the human psyche. Margaret comes to demand to be known as "Mistress" and pays the folks in her mansion to act as her slaves with her favorite being Silvia. There's everything from turning Silvia into a human sculpture at a dinner party to bondage.

THE SLAVE is a beautiful film. Beautifully lit, shot and performed. There are a few moments with heavy doses of trippy colors and lighting and a perfectly 60s jazzy pop soundtrack from Piero Piccioni, one of Italy's most notable composers. THE SLAVE was new to me and from what I can tell it isn't very well known in the states but that should change with this release as it is quite good. It is just a matter of time until people discover it.

The Audio & Video
Mondo Macabro's debut Blu-ray is a home run when it comes to technical presentation. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a gorgeous film look with a healthy and natural looking grain structure. The overall clarity is excellent with closeups showing great detail in skin tones and textures. Colors are vibrant without looking artificial and it is largely a very clean transfer with just minor speckling occasionally. The HD mono audio track is in the film's native Italian with English subtitles. The audio is limited with just the single side mix but sounds excellent nonetheless with crystal clarity, no background noise and it works perfectly for the film. The subtitles are translated very nicely and are timed perfectly.

Note: Screen grabs taken from DVD version of film and while they're nice they don't fully represent the gorgeous HD presentation.

The Extras
-Interview with Roberto Curti
-Interview with Justin Harries
-Text summary documenting the production of the film
-Text cast and crew profiles
-Selection of Mondo Macabro trailers

The Bottom Line
Mondo Macabro makes it known to the world that the great work they did on DVD will only be surpassed by their great work on Blu-ray. Fans of Italian genre cinema will want to see THE SLAVE and there is only one way worth doing so... this BD. 

THE SLAVE is available HERE