Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Made for TV Cult Classic Dont Be Afraid of the Dark Warner Archives Blu Ray Review!

When I think Dont be Afraid of the Dark I think of the flawed but fun 2010 film produced by one of my favorite working filmmakers Guillermo del Toro. And even though I like to think I am pretty knowledgeable about new and old movies this one escaped me. So you can see why I was excited when I learned Warner Archives would be releasing it in time for Halloween! 

Dont Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

Directed By: John Newland


Director John Newland is no stranger to television, working on classics like Star Trek and One Step Beyond. Here he takes a stab at a made for tv horror movie which has gained a loyal following over the years and even had a big budget remake. I feel that made-for-television movies have a reputation within the horror community for not always being the best-however Dont be Afraid of the Dark is the exception to the rule. A young couple movie into a run down mansion with the hopes of fixing it up. Within the walls is a dark secret- demons that inhabit the home. Sally (Kim Darby) unwillingly lets them loose with, as you might guess- terrible results. The film takes its time in building characters and more importantly a sense of dread and we only get slow drips of horror. This is where I think the film thrives but also is weakened by- On the one hand I like the tension building and how the characters are given a chance to be fleshed out. However, as much as I enjoy a slow burn I feel that the film does tend to drag in spots and I couldn't help but check to see how long I had to the end. Speaking of, with a run time that is just under eighty minutes there certainly were scenes that felt like they could have been either trimmed or lost altogether.  This I feel is where the remake works better as it streamlines the narrative without sacrificing character and plot development. I also liked how a child was the gate way into this world rather than a neurotic housewife. Lets talk about the main draw- the tiny demons that are the center piece of the film. The creatures are honestly not that scary, but I can see how they would be to a early '70's audience especially to younger viewers. The FX designs themselves are actually well done considering the time they were made and the budget. What helps is a lot of the scenes the little goblins are seen in shadow or half lit, giving it a more eerie presents. And that is a good segway into another thing that works about this film, its neon Argento-ish lighting style. The lighting is dripping with green and red hues giving it a over the top comic book feeling. Visually I wasn't expecting this from a made for television movie. This attention to style helps smooth over some more cheesy aspects of the creatures. 

Overall even though I didn't see this as a kid I feel enjoyed its creepy less-is-more quality amp'd up with a great visual flare. I didn't love this movie as I thought it was a bit dull and dated and its a case where I liked the updated version better-however-I still enjoyed it as it was cheesy, spooky fun and had a visual flare I was not expecting. If you`ve seen this years ago or like me for the first time I think its a fun little movie

Warner Archives really delivers this their new re-release. It looks incredible especially for a made for tv movie made over four decades ago. Using a brilliant looking new 4k scan the image is wonderfully vivid and the colors really pop. You really get the benefit of this new scan when you consider a lot of the film plays with darkness and shadows to build its tension. As I mentioned in my review the film has an interesting visual platelet and the new restoration truly highlights this. The audio is from a nice 2.0 track and sounds are crisp and clear. If you are a fan of this movie and want more information about it you are in luck as WA priovides not one but two feature length audio commentaries, one by Amanda Reyes (author of Made for TV Mayhem) and another by Jeffery Reddick (screenwriter of  Final Destination) and Sean Abley of Fangoria. Pity there wasnt a tv trailer for this release to round out the features. For fans new and old this is a must have release! 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Paganini Horror Rocks its way onto Blu Ray from Severin Films!

Leave it to the good folks at Severin to dig up a Italian sleaze-fest I had never even heard of. This time the film is by non-other than Luigi Cozzi  (Devil Fish, Star Crash) who is no stranger to grimy exploitation/horror fare.

Paganini Horror (1989)

Directed By: Luigi Cozzi

Starring: Daria Nicolodi, Donald Pleasence, Jasmine Malmone, Pascal Persiano

I'm fairly sure this is Severin's first Luigi Cozzi film and the label has certainly picked a good one in Paganini Horror (1989).Cozzi doesn't waste a single second with setting the stage for some nasty perversion and a gruesome death. A female rocker and trained violist (just go with it) is desperate for a hit song. It just so happens an old musty piece of music is obtained by her boyfriend that is a sure hit and the group decides to record a music video in a creepy old house-what could go wrong? Turns out a lot when the music opens up a hellish portal. Paganini Horror is a hell of a lot of fun. Its wonderfully weird, gory and above all it doesn't take itself too seriously. It even has some fun meta moments at the beginning. The plot is fine provided you dont think very hard about some of the gaps in logic.  Rocker women in a creepy house battling a violin playing demon, whats not to love? Italian film favorite Daria Nicolodi stars in this film and course does a great job. Donald Pleasence even makes a brief appearance.

The film itself is only eighty-odd minutes long and it clips away at a brisk pace with hardly a dull moment to be had. Couple this with some great visual flare and you have the makings for a fun sleazy and splatter-tastic film. Severin's new stunning 2k restoration is, as usual some looks great. Images are clean, artifacts are kept to a minimum and colors really pop. As I said the film has a lot going for it visually and now, we as fans can really take it all in with clarity. Paganini Horror is about rock music so naturally the soundtrack is important. Severin highlights this with a nice 2.0 channel.

The extras are also fun which includes an interview with director Luigi Cozzi and actor Pietro Genuardi. Rounding out the features is deleted scenes and an alternative ending and an original trailer. Both interviews are a lot of fun and the deleted scenes are interesting enough to warrant a watch. If that weren't enough the first 3,000 copies will include the soundtrack CD by composer Vince Tempera. I love releases with soundtracks so this is very awesome.

Overall: Its a treat to finally have this obscure film out on HD in my collection and I feel like Italian horror film fans will feel the same way. The picture and sound is great and as always Severin serves up some nice extras. Should be in every fan's film library.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Zoltan: Hound of Dracula (1977) Howls onto Blu Ray This Tuesday!

I love low rent '70's fare so when I heard Kino Classics was rolling out Zoltan: Hound of Hell aka Dracula's Dog I was excited as I had never seen it before. Well it certainly was...something.

Zoltan: Hound of Hell (1977)

Directed By: Albert Band

Starring: Reggie Nalder, Michael Pataki, Jose Ferrer

Leave it to the Russians to unearth Dracula's vault and with it his undead slave and of course his four legged friend Zoltan. Dracula is well and truly dead unable to revive even though his dog and faithful servant does (but its OK nothing in this movie really adds up). So, the pair must find a new Master and find that the last of the Dracula line just happens to be some avenge family man living in America. All howl breaks loose when the duo stalk the man and his family on a camping trip. By the late '70's Gothic horror was a rarity in America and was making a come back on the Euro scene. If the Dracula films weren't dead and buried by this point Zoltan might well and true be the final nail in the coffin. Consider this film was released the same year as masterworks like Suspria, Martin and Hausu (House) you really start to see just how low-rent Hound is. Its not that I feel im above cheap-thrill films, in fact I love them, however I found this movie kind of dull. Its not so much the poor acting, the large holes in logic or even its cheesy effects, but the biggest and unforgivable sin is being dull. It takes what could possibly be a fun premise and does very little with it in terms of an entertaining and memorable film. I even wish i could say its so bad its entertaining but its not. I think if you grew up watching this movie you could forgive a lot for nostalgia sake but as I am new to this film I did not have that kind of attachment to it.

If you grew up with this film or time period or your a hardcore trash lover you might enjoy it more than I did. I will say the very end shot was priceless and I wish the rest of the film had captured that playful tongue in cheek vibe. I will say this film is notable for early effects work from Stan Winston, so its got that going for it. Highlights is Reggie Nalder who is always fun to watch.  If you are a fan or as I said cant help yourself with bad '70's outings your in luck as

Kino has rolled out the blood-red carpet for this release. The print itself is in 4k and looks amazing for a low budget film thats over forty-years old. You can really tell from night scenes that this transfer is top notch as everything is crisp and clear. The extras are a bit skimp but we do get a great commentary by Lee Gambin and John Harrison. They both deliver a fun and lively commentary which offers interesting context to the film. Rounding out the extra is the trailer and radio spot. Overall a A-plus release for a  cheesy dog of a film.

Kino Classics Unleashes this film (just in time for Halloween) Tuesday Oct 22nd.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Killer Crocodile Snaps Onto Blu Ray from Severin Films

In 1975 Jaws was unleashed into theaters and even decades after the screams died down people were still cashing in with various 'nature run amok' films. As of 2019 we are still getting Jaws-inspired movies with no signs of this slowing down. But if you are like me, this is a good thing. Killer Crocodile (1989) is a late entry into this sub genre and has been, along with its sequel been released by Severin Films and is out now!

Killer Crocodile (1989) Severin Films

Directed By: Fabrizio De Angelis credited as Larry Ludman

Starring: Richard Anthony Crenna, Pietro Genuardi, John Harper, Sherri Rose, Ann Johnson, Van Johnson

A gang of Eco-warriors arrive at a tropical delta and discover to their dismay toxic waste has polluted the water. But that will be the least of their problems when a killer crocodile decides to put them on the menu. Things only get worse when the corruption of the local government allows this carnage to go unchecked. Killer Crocodile serves up pretty much what you might expect from this type of outing, you have pretty standard borderline stereotypical characters,  plot holes and cheese the kind only the Italians can dish out and of course the films center piece a mindless man eating killing machine. Fans of these kinds of movies will relish in the films laughable dialogue and over-the-top acting. As much as I enjoyed the usual troupes of z-grade rip-off import films Killer Croc is honestly kind of dull in places. In a better movie a break in the action isnt a bad thing in fact it can often times help build and flesh out characters and give the audience a rest in between action scenes. This film however suffers from  a lull in crock attacks and also injects a crime/cover up subplot that doesn't really have a satisfying pay off. I also wish it would have played to its B-movie charms and had some fun with the genre. A tongue jammed firmly in the cheek would have helped gloss over some of the more wanting aspects of the film.

What saves the film and makes it watchable is the incredible practical effects. The crocodile itself is great looking and the gore and splatter effects will sure to be please any gore hound worth his salt. That guts-a-flying finale is oh so satisfying to watch. Riz Ortolani provides a heavily inspired Wiliams Jaw inspired theme which is pretty well done. Overall I think in order to love this film you have to really like these types of films. If not I think you may not have a great time. I find myself in the former category and I enjoyed it despite some slower moments. Even though it does take itself way too seriously it is still a good watch especially if you get a group of friends over. Killer Crocodile looks great sporting a new 2k scan from the films original negatives. You can really tell in night scenes just how improved this new transfer is. Colors look natural and thankfully are not blown out like some "new scans". As always Severin does not disappoint and unearths some great interviews including: In the Jaws of the Crocodile: Interview with Makeup FX Artist Giannetto De Rossi, The Fearless Crocodile Hunter: Interview with Actor Pietro Genuardi Of Crocodiles and Men: Interview with Richard Anthony Crenna and It Crawls: Interview with Cinematographer Del Zoppo. Rounding out the features is an original trailer. Severin puts a lot of love and care into each release and its great to see another trashy, Jaws rip-off get this kind of attention. Worth owning.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Playtime is over with Arrow's Toys are Not for Children (1972)

Arrow proves with Toys are Not for Children (1972) that they are willing to take risks with the films they put out. They can release a big budget crowd pleaser like An American Werewolf in London (1981) and also sleazy programmers like Killer Nun (1979) and, the movie I will be reviewing Toys are Not for Children made in 1972.

Toys are Not for Children (1972)

Directed By: Stanley Brassloff

Starring: Marcia Forbes, Harlan Cary Poe, Fran Warren, Luis Arroyo

Charlie (Harlan Cary Poe) marries a young girl named Jamie (Marcia Forbes) but he soon discovers his new bride is emotionally stunted with a fixation on her toys and more disturbing her father. Turns out Jamie had less than an idealistic childhood with a sexually abusive father and protective but over bearing mother who kicked her out of the house. It doesn't take long for the marriage to fall apart and with it Jamie gets mixed up into some pretty sleazy things. Toys is certainly not for everybody and if the topics of incest is overly upsetting or triggering for you I advise you steer clear of this movie. However if you enjoy exploitation Grindhouse filth, you might just enjoy this movie. I say might because the film isnt as hardcore as some would like and this plays out mostly like a potboiler with some spice added for the pervert crowd. Im glad that the film isnt overly mean spirited but on the other hand if you, as a filmmaker are going to tackle this subject dont use kid gloves. If you are looking for something like early John Waters, which have a sense of outrageous even absurd quality, that is sadly missing here.

This is where I think the film fails. Its more drama and not much steamy craziness. Its not to suggest this movie doesnt have sex and nudity, but its just kinda meh to be honest. Maybe i've become too jaded but outside of the incest subject which is very unnerving the rest of the film feels like it plays everything safe. Had it amped up the Waters like absurdity and insanity I think it would have made this a much more enjoyable film. What we get is a melodrama that yes is upsetting at times but ultimately doesn't deliver an entertaining film. Something like Sinful Dwarf walks that line of bonkers and sleazy this does not.  As a stated above what I love about Arrow is they can release a mainstream horror title but also produce grimy underground films with the best of them. This film was previously released on DVD by Something Weird Video and now has landed on Blu Ray for the first time in America. The print is of course great looking and it goes without saying a vast improvement from the previous DVD release. The extras are great and include a feature length audio commentary by Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain, a video essay by Stephen Thrower and a restored audio of the theme song which is a pretty interesting feature. Rounding out the extras is a trailer and has a booklet for the first pressing. I didnt love the movie yet I think others might and if you are a fan you should certainly pick this up.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Killer Nun Arrow Blu Ray Review

Killer Nun (1979) Arrow Video Oct 15th 2019

Directed By: Giulio Berruti 

Starring: Anita Ekberg, Paola Morra, Joe Dallesandro, Alida Valli, Lou Castel

Sister Gertrude (Anita Ekberg) has been slowing coming undone after a medical scare. Even though the doctors say she is fine she believes otherwise. Now on a morphine fueled state the nun starts going on a unholy rampage of killing and torture. If I were to point out a handful of shining example of pure off-the-meds film from Italy, a country known for their bonkers films Killer Nun from 1979 would have to be on that list. Director Giulio Berruti fearlessly showcases a whole carnival of sinful delights and wildly over-the-top moments. Sister Gertrude smashing a a poor elderly ladies false teeth is really something to be hold. There is a never a dull moment as we watch Gertrude slowly go more and more over the edge, leaving bodies in her wake., The film inst shy about injecting social and of course religious satire and also poking the hive of the Catholic church. It makes a great double feature with The Other Hell (1981). Killer Nun is absurd, wild and over flowing with sex and sleaze. Not to be missed. 

Arrow has presented a brand new 2k Scan: According to the booklet they say this about the restoration: Killer Nun ( Suor Omicidi ) is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with Italian and English mono audio. Scanning and restoration work was completed at L'Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 2K resolution on a pin registered Arriscan. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, picture instability and other instances of film wear were reapired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. The mono Italian and English language tracks were remastered from the optical sound negatives. The audio synch will appear slightly loose against the picture, due to the fact that the dialogue was recorded entirely in post production, as per the production standards of the period. In addition, the English version incorporates a few short sections in which only Italian is spoken.

The new 2k scan looks great and I`d even wager to say it looks slightly better than the 2012 Blue Underground Blu-Ray. Seeing how its been seven years since that release you can see the improvement in restoration technology. Speaking of the BU release, Arrow wasnt able to port over the interview BU did  with the director however they recorded their very own. The extras are of course on point and in typical Arrow fashion we are provided with interviews: In this case with editor Mario Giacco, actress Ileana Fraia and director Giulio Berruti. We also get treated to a video essay by famed cult/genre film historian Kim Newman who talks about this film and nunsploitation. Rounding out the features is a commentary by Adrian J Smith and David Flint. Overall this is a great cheesy, trashy bit of fun and Arrow has provided a first class release for all us sinners! 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Beware the French countryside in And Soon the Darkness (1970) Kino Blu Ray Review!

And Soon the Darkness (1970) Kino Lorber Classics Oct 15th 2019

Directed By: Robert Fuest

Starring: Pamela Franklin, Michele Dotrice, Sandor Eles

And Soon the Darkness (1970) is a film I wanted to see purely based on the fact it was directed by Robert Fuest who made, and I said this without ANY sense of smug irony, a near perfect film in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). But is it as good? The film opens with two British tourist bicycling through the remote French countryside. Cathy (Michele Dotrice) the more free-spirited girl decides to laze around in the country despite her friend Jane (Pamela Franklin) wanting to keep going. They have a fight and Jane leaves her friend in hopes she will catch up later. Now all alone Cathy slowly realizes she is being watched and later ends up missing. What started as an fun holiday starts to turn into a nightmare as Jane desperately searches for friend.

 Right from the first frame Franklin and Dotrice are photographed in a beauty yet very rural countryside and its  here where Robert really sets up a sense of total isolation which brings on a palpable feeling of dread and tension. We the audience knows something bad is about to happen but we dont know when and how? Fuest uses this viewer expectation masterfully, toying with his audience in a very Hitchcockian way. As the film progresses we are introduced to weirder and weirder characters and every bodies motives are always questionable at best. I will be blunt and say this movie is not for those who have a short attention span. Fuest crafts a slow burn of a film and doesn't mind taking his sweet time building tension while also unraveling a mystery. For those that are easily bored, this movie will probably not be very satisfying for you. I found it abit slow but also I was so caught up in the films mystery that I didnt ever feel bored. The film has a level of psycho-sexuality and a razor sharp sense of style that makes this a hallmark of the thriller genre. It also pre-dates a lot of 'tourists aboard' horror sub-genre. I wont spoil the finale but just say it makes the slow burn worth it. Kino Classics has rolled out a brand new Blu-Ray and as with Nightmare Beach has provided fans with a 4k re-master which tops the previous releases. Colors are vivid and the new transfer really takes advantage of the lush countryside cinematography by Ian Wilson (The Crying Game). The sound is great as well. The extra's as always are on point and I was delighted that they were able to port over the vintage commentary for the 2002 Anchor Bay Entertainment release which features Robert Fuest and Co-writer Brian Clemens as well as a brand new commentary by Author (So Deadly, So Perverse)  and film historian Troy Howarth.
As always Troy is well researched and makes for a fun guide into the sleaze. Rounding out the features is a trailer and vintage radio spots.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Trilogy of Terror II Kino Lorber Blu Ray Review

Halloween is quickly upon us and Kino Lorber Classics has some treats up their sleeves with Trilogy of Terror II, which is fun because the same label has released the first television film as well.

Trilogy of Terror II (1996)

Directed By: Dan Curtis

Starring: Lysette Anthony, Geraint Wyn Davies, Matt Clark, Geoffrey Lewis, Blake Heron

Dan Curtis might be best known for his landmark television series Dark Shadow's but he also responsible for two of my all time personal favorite films, Burnt Offerings (1976) and Trilogy of Terror (1975) (Both released by Kino Classics-and BOTH are amazing releases!) In 1996 he re-visited his popular made-for-tv movie by giving it a sequel. Like the first television movie, TOTII serves up three-short chilling stories with no wrap around.The Graveyard Rats sees a nasty rich man's wife and her lover scheming to kill him for his money. They succeed but in some plot contrivance they cannot collect unless the dig up his corpse to retrieve some microfilm. Graveyard Rats is a basic murder plot that felt like an episode of  the Tales from the Crypt Series in both tone and storytelling. Its so by-the-numbers its almost painful to watch. They inject some "twists" but honestly even I could see them coming from a mile down the cemetery trail. I do think the finale is just creepy and grisly enough to be satisfying. And you got to love the practical effects work. The second segment is called Bobby. Bobby is interesting as it recycles a segment from Dan Curtis's Dead of Night (1977). The story itself is from the legendary Richard Matheson entitled "Prey". Bobby tells the story of a Mother who uses black magic in order to bring back her Son who was drowned. While doing a spell one stormy night she is shocked to see that it works and Bobby is back. But of course he's not exactly the same boy she remembers. Bobby is a take on the old folk tale The Monkey's Paw and this re-telling is so over-the-top in its acting and the atmosphere is so incredibly extra it almost boards on parody.
That's not to suggest this is a bad thing, in fact I think its what helps make this segment the true stand out of the three stories. And dare I say is actually kind of chilling at times. Sadly, the finale is goofy and undercuts any scariness it might have conjured. The final segment co-written by the legendary William Nolan and Dan Curtis is the films homage to the infamous Zuni fetish doll segment from the original. I talked to Nolan and he mentioned he regretted not writing something as memorable in the original and that he wanted to do his own take on the killer doll. Titled He Who Kills the film takes place presumably right after the events of the first Zuni segment. The doll is found burnt in the oven and is taken away to be studied. Mayhem of course ensues. As much as I wanted to love this one, it has BIG murderie doll shoes to fill and despite being written by two amazing scribes it seems to fall flat. Honestly its missing that camp value coupled with Karen Black's insane and deliriously manic performance. Dont get me wrong, Lysette does a fine job and indeed does an excellent job in all three-segments however Black just had something special that cant be copied.

The original Trilogy of Terror (1975) is a fun but seems only remembered for the Zuni doll segment. But damn, what a segment that was. Trilogy of Terror II (1996) I dare say has more memorable segments but doesnt have that standout moment the original did. Bobby might be the closet thing it has to that but you cant compare it to how fans talk about the Zuni fetish segment in the original.
Its not perfect and its kind of basic at times but it does have Curtis's flare for moody set pieces and Neo-Gothic quality that makes even lesser works a hoot. Kino has really pulled out all the stops in its Blu-Ray for TOT II. The new HD master is clean, not overly bright and really makes the EC comic's like color scheme pop! The extras includes a fun and informative running commentary by author and film historian Troy Howarth (So Deadly, So Perverse series) who gives some great background and trivia behind the film. His informative context honestly made me like the film more. We are also treated with interviews with lead star Lysette Anthony and creature effects artist Rick Stratton and Second Unit director Eric Allard. Overall this is a treat for anyone who grew up watching this on television and while it doesn't hold up as well for me, it is still a great seasonal watch.

Consider this a must own Blu Ray. Kino has really outdone themselves.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Prey Slashes its way to Arrow Blu-Ray!

With shows like AHS: 1984 we are all riding a wave of nostalgia for the 80's and all the oddball slasher/horror gems it gave us. Arrow Video is doing its part in re-releasing big titles like American Werewolf in London (1981) and obscure low budget slashers like The Prey (1983).

Release Date Oct 1st 2019

The Prey (1983)

Directed By: Edwin Brown

Starring: Steve Bond, Debbie Thureson, Lori Lethin, Jackie Coogan, Ted Hayden

The Prey is a pretty early entry into the 'camping' slasher, especially when you consider it was filmed in 79 and released in 83 (three years after Friday the 13th) and tells of a group of campers being stalked by an unknown person after a horrible wildfire badly scarred him. I can kind of see why The Prey was a video era oddity that never really got talked about, unless by hardcore slasher buffs. Its missing that hook to truly help it stand out among its peers. With the glut of dice`em ups you really needed a gimmick to make you successful or at least noteworthy. For example both Friday the 13th and Sleepaway Camp subverted genre gender norms with its respective killers and something like Slumber Party Massacre had a male killer but also subverted final girl troupes. It was also one of the few slashers to be directed by a woman. With Prey, what you expect is pretty much what you get, a largely by the numbers killer in the woods. Its not, however without merits and you can tell director Edwin Brown tries to bring some flare and dread into the film by juxtaposing the cruelty of nature to that of the largely unseen killer, its a novel approach but still feels underwhelming.

The Prey also falls victim to a lot of filler material, which admittedly happens to even the best and more interesting made slashers of the decade. Sure, it does feature some alright kills (though nothing that truly stands out) and has enough vintage cheese and horror troupes to warrant a viewing. The movie is also note worthy for early effects work by John Carl Buechler who sadly passed away early this year. I wish I could say I liked this movie more but it felt like it lacked the fun of other '80's era slashers. Brown seems to undercut his own premise but not fulling exploring it which is a real shame as this might have been a lot better had some extra effort been taken with its story. Not a stand out but for hardcore slasher fans its not at all a bad way to spend an evening or lazy afternoon watching.

Much like Hills Have Eyes part II Arrow gives The Prey gives fans a better edition than it probably really deserves. But even though I wasnt a huge fan of this movie its still pretty great that we live in a day and age where, we as fans can not only get a 2K re-release but one that is packed to the brim with new features. Before I get to those I want to talk about the picture. The film is presented in a brand-new 2k restoration and its like night and day to the previous release. Night shots really benefit from this crisp clean new transfer. Includes a uncompressed Mono audio track. Now lets get to the bonus stuff. This thing is LOADED people. It includes 4 Brand New interviews with actors Debbie Thuteson, Lori Lethin, Carel Stuycken,Jackson Bostwick. Also In Search of The Prey: Ewan Cant and Debbie Thureson revisit the original filming locations. This and commentaries are my favorite kinds of extras. And speaking of, Arrow has not one but two brand new commentaries. Other goodies include a Cast Q&A at Texas Frightmare Weekend as well as a audience reaction track (also recorded at Texas Frightmare). Rounding out the features is an audio interview with director Edwin Scott Brown VHS trailer and TV spots and the original script (BR-ROM content).  The Limited Edition contains a 2k International Cut featuring the infamous 'flashback' sequence added without the directors approval. There is also a third 'Fan Cut' which is a cool composite of footage from both previous versions. Arrow did something similar with the Limited Edition of Blood Rage. This is always a really awesome thing the label does and it makes for a must for completest that want every version available. Its staggering the amount of time, effort and love that went into this release. The attention paid to it makes it a must for horror fans and those wanting to add yet another lost slasher classic re-release. I cant imagine another version being better.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

An American Werewolf in London (1981) Howling's Again with Arrow's Re-Release.

Just in time for Halloween Arrow Video has re-released John Landis's 1981 modern Werewolf classic An American Werewolf in London.

Release Date Oct 29th 2019

Directed By: John Landis

Starring: David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffith Dune, John Woodvine, Brian Glover

1981 was a stand out year for horror with The Evil Dead and Scanners and a slew of movies still riding the slasher wave. We got two great and very different werewolf movies that year, The Howling by Joe Dante and of course Landis's horror comedy An American Werewolf in London. Two Americans named Jack (Griffith Dune) and David (David Naughton) are backpacking in London when they are savagely attacked by what they think is a madman. Jack is badly injured but his friend David dies. A nurse named Alex (Jenny Agutter) takes the young man and a love starts to bloom. But since this isnt a rom com things start to get messy when David starts turning into a vicious four legged killing machine. Landis wastes no time in setting up the films characters, snappy dialogue and a moody tone right out of the gate. Its impossible to pin point just one reason why this is an amazing film. Everything just works so damned well. I mean, you have Rick Baker at his Oscar winning best giving us one of the greatest werewolves in screen history, not to mention the utterly painful and spine chilling transformation. John Landis's script is tight and filled with a wickedly wonderful sense of dark humor. This coupled great direction, wonderful cinematography and an array of brilliant performances by Naughton, Agutter Dune helps elevate this movie well beyond B-movie fodder.

Werewolf in London is a classic for a reason, it just works on every single level and its why it remains a standout film over three decades later.

Arrow Video has a real treat in story for us this Halloween season with a brand-new Blu-Ray release. The film itself is presented in a brand new 4k transfer which is pretty incredible looking, especially on a 4k television, We are also treated to a hair-raising  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. If you love extra's I cant stress how great this release is. Not only does it port over everything full the previous Full-Moon Edition but includes new material including a new commentary with Paul Davis, Brand-new interviews and video essays like I Think Hes a Jew: about how Landis film explores the films Jewish Identity. Other highlights include a look at some real props and costumes from the film. In totally you got over three-hours of bonus material which is staggering for any fan of this film. Overall this makes my list for one of the best releases of 2019 and something that every fan should own regardless if you own this on Blu-Ray already. If you dont now is the perfect time to upgrade.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Waxing Nostalgic for Wax Mask 1997 Severin Blu-Ray Review

The Wax Mask (1997) Severin Films Release Date September 24, 2019

Directed By: Sergio Stivaletti

Starring: Romina Mondello, Robert Hossein, Riccardio Serventi Longhi, Gabriella Giorgelli, Gianni Fanco

The Wax Mask was, to me a legendary film, as it nearly teamed Italian horror titans Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento. This never happened as sadly, Fulci died before filming could begin. Argento then handed the directing reigns over to first-time director Sergio Stivaletti who had worked on special effects on various Argento projects.  I have always wanted to see this movie, and while yes it has been released before on DVD I had not gotten around to seeing it. But thankfully Severin has treated fans to a brand-new HD restoration of the film and of its packed to the gills with extras. Sonia (Romina Mondello) is the sole survivor of a brutal murder of her mother and father. Twenty-years later she is still haunted by the memory of a hooded figure with a metal hand. While working for as a costume designer for a wax museum she starts to hear of similar murders to that of her parents. Now she must face her worst fear as the same madman is on the loose, killing men, women and children.

  Wax Mask could have easily been a campy remake of House of Wax (1953) or A Bucket of Blood (1959) but the film weaves a wonderful Gothic poetic tone that is wholly refreshing. However, the film is a bit of a mixed bag.  The film’s macabre visuals coupled with the great real locations, helps ‘mask’ the films lower budget. You can tell a lot of details went into the films costumes, set pieces and some great camera work by cinematography by Sergio Salvati (The Beyond, Zombie, Puppetmaster) who has over fifty films to his credit. It also goes full in on taking the premise seriously and for the most part they succeed in bringing an interesting new spin on the ‘Bodies made of wax’ horror sub-genre. Now for the bad, the film feels like it prods along at times with a romance sub plot that honestly feels like it only slows down the film. Also some characters are not fleshed out nearly enough. While the practical efforts are good (considering that’s what Stivaletti started out doing) the digital efforts have aged really poorly. It feels like a cheesy Full Moon film circa the late ‘90’s. I wont spoil it but the ending is pretty laughable, which ruins the atmosphere and gothic tone the film works really hard to build. Overall if you grew up on Full Moon films of the ‘90’s you might find yourself ‘waxing’ nostalgic when watching this movie, which might help gloss over its sometimes-obvious flaws. For others, it might be hard to get over the films plot holes, dated effects and shoe horned romance. I will say, for better or worse it commits to its bonkers premise and I have to give the filmmakers credit for going all in. Not a bad little ‘wax’ based horror film. 

The amount of extra’s Severin and its team produced for this disc is staggering. Extras include: Audio Commentary by Director/Special efforts artist Sergio Stivaletti and Michelangelo Stivaletti. Beyond Fulci a twenty-minute retrospective of the planned Argento/Fulci project and how it evolved into the film we know today. Its really interesting, especially to hear Dario talk about Lucio. The disc includes a whooping six more Interview featurettes including: The Chamber of Horror’s Interviews with Producer Dario Argento, Director Sergio Stivaletti,Producer Giuseppe Columbo and Actress Gabirella Giorgelli, Claudio Fragasso and more. Rounding out the features is a vintage Behind the Scenes featurette with on set interviews with Dario Argento.  Everything you wanted to know about this film and much much more, is all provided in this amazing collection of bonus features. This is absolutely an incredible release for fans of Euro horror. Consider it a must own.