Thursday, October 29, 2020

Rejoice! Patrick Still Lives (1980) Comes to HD Severin Films! Blu Ray Review

 Patrick Still Lives (1980) Severin Films 10/27/2020

Directed By: Mario Landi 

Starring: Gianni Del, Sacha Pitoeff, Mariangela Giordano, Carmen Russo

    1980's Patrick Still Lives is a pretty infamous Italian film that acts as an unauthorized sequel to the bonkers Ozsplotation flick Patrick (1978), directed by the legendary Richard Franklin (Psycho II, Road Games). FYI If you haven't seen Patrick, its a must see, and its also released through Severin. Because of it's being a shall we say, not totally official sequel the North American rights have been dicey, with hardcore trash fans needing to resort to bootleg copies. But fans rejoice, just like Cruel Jaws (1995) last month, Severin has done the seemingly impossible, bringing this back to fans in an official version. A bed bound Patrick (Gianni Del) uses his physic powers to seek a bloody revenge in this ultra low budget shocker. 

    Patrick Still Lives may lack a compelling plot or richly drawn characters or hell, even basic logic but really, you didn't come into this thinking it was going to be a masterpiece. What the film does deliver is a nutty '80's Italian outing that proudly carries that mantle and includes: weird dialogue, sketchy at best characters and motivations, lots of nudity, outrageous gore and sleaze by the buckets full. This is certainly not what I would call a good movie but its so crazy and graphic in every sense of the word that you cannot help be transfixed. It weirdly fuses the Old Dark House thriller with the slasher genre all wrapped up in a physic psychedelic package.  The movie is so beautifully shameless in not only ripping off Franklins film but also in how eagerly its willing to get good and nasty. Speaking of which, the film even manages to have a death scene (in a very sensitive area) that, as jaded as I am couldn't help but me a bit taken back. Visually the film has this really off-beat surreal look with neon lighting inspired by Bava and later Dario Argento. I went into this film expecting a pretty low-level sleaze fest and I was not disappointed. It delivers on cheap thrills and is somehow always ramping up the insanity. If you only see one sexed up physic slasher Patrick Still Lives is it!  

Picture: The title card before the movie reads: The following scan of PATRICK STILL LIVES is from the original 16mm camera negative. There is some discoloration in some scenes due to damage in the elements but this will hopefully not mar your enjoyment of this audacious filmic experience. 

Honestly, its a small miracle that this film is in such good shape considering it languished in near obscurity for decades. Overall, Severin offers a very nice sharp print and most certainly the best the film is likely to ever look. Image is clear with colors really popping. Seriously I think even the discoloration that they mention is not that distracting and, real talk I'm just grateful that a useable negative was even available. As always Severin does an excellent job at rescuing an obscure gem and scrubbing it up.  

Sound: Patrick Still Lives sports a nicely done DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue comes through clear and for a 2.0 the sound is robust and does the job nicely. 

Extras: Patrick Still lives includes: C'est La Vie: Interview with Actor Gianni Del (11mins). This is a really fascinating interview with Patrick himself, actor Gianni Del. Del talks about his career and of course talks about the making of Patrick Still Lives. Really enjoyable stuff.  


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Bong Joon Ho's Memories of Murder (2003) Comes to Digital Today!

 Memories of Murder (2003) Neon VOD 10/27/2020

Directed By: Bong Joon Ho

Starring: Kang-ho Song, Sang-kyung Kim, Roe-ha Kim 


Plot Summary: Memories of Murder tells the harrowing true story of a sadistic serial rapist and murderer terrorizing a small providence in 1980s South Korea.  

Spoilers Ahead! 

     Oscar winning director Bong Joon Ho's 2003 crime thriller Memories of Murder makes its VOD debut today and, I'm here to tell you, if you haven't seen this one yet its a must watch. Memories starts off as a typical crime film yet Bong Joon Ho is cleverly lolls us into a ever twisting and disturbing web that is teeming with style and startling realism. The film is set in the early '80's and the backdrop of political unrest in South Korea certainly adds to the tension and dread-filled climate. Everybody is literally on edge and that feeling is palpable throughout the entire film.  Speaking of, the movie always feels very real yet slightly off-balance. Bong Joon creates this ever present creeping dread by means of  claustrophobic camera work and weirdly lit spaces. Strange scenes also abound like a officer losing his leg in a fight, this event doesn't impact the plot but only helps cleverly reinforces this painfully real narrative. Random things like this happen without ever leading to anything. 

     A driving theme is also how the detectives will seemingly go to any lengths to get confessions. The savage police brutality only further adds that even the so-called "good-guys" are just as sketchy, leading to very little in the way of actually likable characters and gave me a weird sense of alienation. Yet, you never get a sense that Bong Joon Ho is casting judgement but rather presents these morally grey police, police with the ideology that they are doing what's right for the greater good. Even if those means are cruel.  Its interesting that this film plays very by-the-numbers at first yet as it unravels the movie is more about the impact on the detectives sanity rather than the murders themselves. In fact, I think it's all the more brilliant and unsettling that we never actually find out who the killer is. It's a splinter in the mind of all those who worked on the case and, just as in real life the crime isn't wrapped up neatly at the finale. I know there is probably much more in the way of deeper meaning, subtext and metaphor that I didn't cover but this is my reflections upon my first viewing. What I took away is a staggeringly engrossing character study wrapped in a police thriller. Check it out! 


The Mortal Storm (1940) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

 The Mortal Storm (1940) Warner Archives 11/03/2020

Directed By: Frank Borzage 

Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan, Robert Young, Frank Morgan


Disclaimer: Warner Archives has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

      The film takes place at the rise of Hitler. Now a once happy family is torn apart and divided by the rise the Nazi regime. Mortal Storm is that rare work of art that is just as powerful and effective today as it was in 1940. The filmmakers smartly chooses to frame the rise of fascism through the lens of a typical happy family. The idea of how ideology can greatly divide a family still plays out in many households, especially that relative that must talk politics around the Thanksgiving table. This is of course taken to the extreme  yet, its so painfully topical. The film is helmed by two time Oscar winner Frank Borzage who shockingly was not even nominated for this film, in fact Mortal Storm wasn't nominated for anything that year. Its a shame because this movie is so incredibly well directed with tense, harrowing moments brought to life by some amazing performances. 

   Although its a safe bet to have James Stewart play the everyman good guy caught up in this dark time in history its also the right one. Because really, I cannot think of any other Golden Age actor that so embodied American can-do spirit. He makes for the perfect viewpoint character as the actor was beloved at the time and is still regarded as of the the greatest actors of his time. The film pairs Stewart with Margaret Sullivan. The duo released a breezy Christmas movie also released in 1940 called The Shop Around the Corner. Sullivan was a truly amazing actress that had talent to spare, ease in front of the camera and beauty. She commands every scene she is in and is never over shadowed by her male counterparts. This also has excellent sporting actors like Frank Morgan giving probably his greatest performance. Irene Rich, Robert Young and Maria Ouspenskaya all shine in this as well. The Mortal Storm is a film that seems to fall through the cracks when it comes to discussing classic films from this period, yet is still harrowing and heartbreaking all these decades later. If you have slept on this movie now is the time to re-discover it because its really a well written, beautifully directed and acted film with a message that is still very useful in 2020. 

Picture: Mortal Storm is been given a brand new 4k transfer using the best surviving elements. The film looks stunning with a nice crisp and clean image. Blacks are deep and well handled and the grain is very fine and consistent throughout. It always amazing me how Warner Archives can scrub these films of artifacts, scratches and dirt. I think it really celebrates this worthwhile film. 

Sound: Mortal Storm sports a nice DTS 2.0 track. The film has very little background noise and dialogue comes through very nicely. 

Extras: Peace on Earth (8mins) a classic Christmas short that is actually a pretty bleak Anti-war outing. This is surprising as most studios were doing pro-war propaganda shorts live action and animated. I believe this is in HD because it looks stunning with colors that pop. Another short Meet the Fleet (20mins) is the polar opposite of Peace on Earth, which is a gung-ho pro-war short. 


Monday, October 26, 2020

Just in time for Halloween Luigi Cozzi's The Black Cat (1989) Severin Films Blu Ray Review

 The Black Cat (1989) Severin Films 10/27/2020

Directed By: Luigi Cozzi 

Starring: Caroline Munro, Florence Guerin, Urbano Barberini, Brett Halsey 


   1989's Italian film The Black Cat marks the second film Severin released of director Luigi Cozzi, his first being Paganini Horror (1989), which was released last Oct. A writer/director duo is crafting a new horror movie about an ancient witch named Levana. It seems that Levana isn't happy about having a movie made about her and starts to reek havoc.  

   Luigi Cozzi's The Black Cat (1989) starts off  oddly enough in weird space with what looks like a dime store space baby from Kubrick's 2001 and then brings us crashing back to earth with some in your face 80's hair rock licks. I knew I was in for a wild ride but I had no idea.  The Black Cat is the perfect test if you enjoy bonkers Italian trash or, if you have boring taste and do not. I say this because this late '80's outing is like a sweaty fever dream where logic is thrown out the window and, just when you kind of sort of think you know what's going on another crazy curve ball is thrown your way. The film is pretty interesting in the way it acts as a semi-Meta commentary on Italian genre and even name checks Suspiria (and using bits of Goblin's famous score) as well as Dario Argento himself. Sadly, the film doesn't really double down on this Meta angle and even seems to abandon it halfway through.

     Thats OK because the movie is anything but boring and, I cannot stress just how totally insane this movie is. Cozzi conjures  some great surreal imagery, gross out gags and wonderfully over-the-top moments and set pieces. Visually the film is outstanding and is over-flowing with strange camera angles, vivid atmospheric colors and mood pieces that are no doubt inspired by the likes of his peers Bava and Argento. The best way to even begin to describe this movie is like an acid-laced Lovecraft Cosmic horror epic blended with grimy late '80's Italian trash and sprinkled with a dash of Meta film commentary. And, honestly as hard as I try that still doesn't do justice to how crazy this movie is. The Black Cat  may just give 1979's The Visitor a run for its money in terms of brain melting insanity. I will most certainly be re-visiting this one, and, despite it not being on your radar is very much worth blind buying! 

Picture: Severin has done a fine 2k transfer to 1080p. The image is crisp, clear with no artifacts or scratches. Colors really pop and do justice to the visual style that Cozzi brings to the table. I was impressed by how smooth the images looked without any blurring that I could see. 

Sound:  Black Cat has a nice DTS 2.0 track. Dialogue and sound design comes through crystal clear with no hiss or drop out audio. 

Extras: The extras include Cat on the Brain (9mins) Interview with Luigi Cozzi and Caroline Munro. This new interview is really informative and Cozzi and Munro make for fun and lively subjects. I can say from personal experience Caroline is a truly special, kind person to her fans and I loved seeing her discuss this role. 

Warner Brothers UHD Release of Zach Snyder's 300 (2006) Review

 Warner Brothers Release of Zach Snyder's Comic Book Epic 300 (2006) Comes to UHD! 



300 (2006) Warner Brothers 10/6/2020

Directed By: Zach Snyder 

Starring: Gerard Butler, Lena Heady, Dominic West, David Wenham, Vincent Regan 

Disclaimer: Warner Brothers has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

   To say Zach Snyder is a polarizing figure in cinema is putting it lightly. Snyder came onto the scene in a big way with the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake which was written by James Gunn. The film did extremely well earning both critical praise for its spin on Romero's watershed horror film whilst also earning over 100 million on a scant 26 million dollar budget. While Dawn wasn't by any means a huge budget film it wasn't small either, especially for someone who largely cut his teeth directing music videos prior. It was a gamble but it paid off and it lead to Snyder helming the big budget adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel 300

    I will admit I have never seen 300 until now and wow this was a wild ride! Right away the film reminded me of those big old epics that Hollywood churned out from the '20's well into the early '60's until, you know, the counter culture put the final nail in their coffin. And, honestly I think this movie would feel right at home in a big spectacle from Cecil B. DeMille had he had the budget and freedom from the censorship of his era. Here's the thing: My big takeaway from this movie is its its action set pieces are well done, visually its stunning and, honestly thats kind of enough. Like big historical Hollywood epics its shallow but fun at the level of pure popcorn entertainment. So, this movie has been labeled problematic and its easy to see why even at the time it faced criticism of Iranophobia and homophobia. The former Snyder himself seemed to confirmed himself in an interview saying (paraphrasing) he wanted to make straight 20 year old's uncomfortable with the effeminate villain King Xerxes. It's really cringe-worthy and I understand why this movie gets the backlash but, on the other hand I think the movie is so over-the-top and silly that it's actually hard to take it seriously. In a nutshell 300 is a big dumb action movie that happens to have a lot of style injected into it. It goes through the motions of characters and exposition but we all know its about the big splashy battle scenes. I give the movie a pass because I dont legit think it meant to be mean-spirited but its still worth mentioning the parts that have aged horribly. Big, dumb, loud and cool looking, 300 is very much a product of its time and if you can gloss over its more problematic parts (and I dont blame if you if thats a deal breaker) its a good way to kill two hours.  At the end of the bloody day this battle epic pleases. 

Picture: 300 is a movie made for UHD and, therefore fans are in for a treat. There is a slight uptick in vivid color and details that really had my jaw on the ground. This movie is a interesting one in the annals of UHD reviews because, style wise the film is at times rather dark, moody and overall muted color wise. The source for this film is 35mm with greenscreen digital effects and not shot entirely on digital. This means that this is upconverted from a 2k master. The end result may be more grain forward than some fans may like but honestly I think its well maintained throughout. At the end of the day this is a worthy upgrade in terms of picture.

Sound: 300 wields a truly epic ATMOS track. The gold standard in a 3D sound is an ATMOS track and frankly, this thing sounded incredible. Those with a good sound system will get a nice robust complex sound from this track. 

Extra:  The film features a slew of great extras including a Commentary by Zach Snyder, Writer Kurt Johnstad and Director of Photography Larry Fong. This is a really lively fun commentary track and worth listening to. 

300 Fact or Fiction (24mins) A deep dive into the origins of 300 and the myth and facts between it. 

Who Were the Spartans? The Warriors of 300 (4mins) Look at the ways of life a Spartan would have lived as told by the films actors and director. 

Preparing for Battle: The Original Test Footage (6mins) A look at the origin of the film as well as the test footage. 

Frank Miller Tapes (14mins) A look at Frank Miller told by his friends and peers and of course the man himself, Frank Miller.

Making of 300 (5mins) A quick look at the making of the film as told by its cast and crew.

300 Image Gallery (3mins) a series of rapid fire images from the entire production. 

Webisodes Total Runtime (38mins) A in-depth look at the different aspects of the 300 production. 

Deleted Scenes (3mins) A few deleted scenes with introduction with Zach Snyder.  

Overall: Final Thoughts: Warner Bros has really been doing an amazing job with their UHD titles. Earlier this year the did Beetlejuice, The Goonies and Guy Richie's sorely underrated Sherlock Holmes films. Those are all great dont get me wrong but it feels like 300 was tailor made for the UHD format. Warner's does an excellent job at pushing the format forward and this is certainly a movie you will want to pop in to show off the full might of your UHD TV and sound system. Couple this with a lot great extras and you have worth while disc. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Attic's Lost and Found: Stuart Gordon's The Black Cat (2007) A Oft Forgotten Masterpiece

 The Attic's Lost and Found: Stuart Gordon's The Black Cat (2007) An Oft Forgotten Masterpiece 

The Black Cat (2007) Masters of Horror Season Two, Episode 11. 

Starring: Elyse Levesque, Jeffrey Combs, Aron Tager

     It's October and it seems fitting to dive into the film adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe. After all his work has been sending black velvet shivers down spines for decades upon decades. It seems also very fitting since sadly, we lost director Stuart Gordon earlier this year. The Black Cat was to be his second to last film (technically an episode but I consider these as their own mini-movies) as part of Mick Garris's criminally short lived Masters of Horror series. The plot sees the famous yet poverty stricken writer Edgar Allan Poe (Jeffrey Combs) searching for inspiration for a new tale of terror in order to sell a story. As his writers block becomes worse he starts to slip further and further into a nightmare world where fantasy bleeds into reality. Gordon directs this bleak tale that would easily fit nicely into Poe's darkly fragmented world of love, loss, sickness and ultimately madness. I kept this plot summary vague because I feel like the viewer should go into this as fresh as possible. Because, even this late in his career Gordon still has some nice tricks up his sleeve and injects style, class and of course his trademark sardonic humor the director was known for. It really feels like a feature that was made with the kind of zest and energy of a young-up-and-comer, not somebody who was already 60 years old. It's impressive how Gordon could take a modest budget and turn out a period film that looks and feels much bigger and more expensive in scope. I think that years in the trenches of low-to-no-budget filmmaking really served him well in making the most of what money he had. 

    Real talk the plot isn't the most amazing or hell even that original but, its just effectively creepy and moody enough to work. The fact that this is a 60 minute outing I think also helps keep the pace lean and the action ever plowing forward to an amazing finale. But the real magic my friends, the thing that is the glue to keep this thing together is of course the actors. Gordon gave Jeffrey Comb's his breakout role in Re-Animator (1985) and fittingly, at the end of his career, also gave him, what is in my opinion is greatest role to date. Not only does Comb's look like Poe but the character actor totally disappears into the role. Masterfully Jeffrey's Poe never gets carried away even in the more over-the-top moments. Because you see, a great actor like Combs can dance around the line of hammy, but never actually cross that threshold. Elyse Levesque who you might recall from 2019's amazing Ready or Not plays Poe's wife Virginia. Like Combs Levesque breaths life to the character and does the most with the less showy role. Cat is also filled with great supporting actors like Aaron Tager who Nick fans will remember from his unnerving roles in Are You Afraid of the Dark including the infamous Laughing in the Dark episode. The Black Cat is a simply effective, darkly humorous outing.  

Since its October, lets all re-watch this one, and raise a toast to Stuart Gordon and Edgar Allan Poe! 


Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Owners (2020) RLJE Blu Ray Review

 The Owners (2020) RLJE 10/20/2020

Directed By: Julius Berg 

Starring: Masie Williams, Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham 


Disclaimer: RLJE  has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    The Owners (2020) marks the feature film debut of Julius Berg and stars Game of Thrones actor Maisie Williams. But is it a brilliant start for Berg or a dud? The film follows a band of thieves that attempt to bully the code to a safe out of an elderly couples safe living in a big house. However they find something more sinister is a foot. Despite a not very original set-up, Owners starts out promising with a nearly break neck first act and is well paced and edited. Seriously, the first forty-five-fifty minutes is breathless and masterful. Sadly, the filmmakers are unable to maintain that fast pace with a second act screeches to a grinding halt. This is such a shame because I was totally engrossed only to be let down by drags in story. You can tell Berg actually cares about crafting rich characters so I do give him credit for slowing the action down to flesh out certain characters. However, I feel like this jerked me right out of a film that was earlier so enteritic and tense. 

   Weirdly, the film switches aspect ratio's at the end of the film, which is such an odd thing to do any further takes you out of the moment. This movie is only semi-saved by some truly stellar performances. Every single cast member is giving a honest, real performance without playing it up to Broadway levels or phoning it in.  Stand outs are Sylvester McCoy best known for his time as Doctor Who and genre legend Rita Tushingham (Hammer's Straight On Til Morning, A Taste of Honey) shine. Seriously, it was such a treat to see Rita back in genre cinema. Owners is such a frustrating film because it had such an incredible start that is anchored by amazing performances. But once the action stops dead in its tracks the film starts to unravel and frankly I found the last forty-minutes to be a chore to get through. It doesn't help that Berg does crazy stuff like dramatically switching its aspect ratio near the end of the film. This could have been an amazing feature debut but just cannot match the same energy that it does in the first half. Even the properly creepy finale doesn't make up for the slog the latter half of the movie becomes. 

Picture: Owner is a newer film therefore it looks great on 1080p. Colors are well handled throughout and even darker lit scenes are crisp and vivid. Skin tones look nice and natural. Overall, a nice looking film. 

Sound: Owners has a DTS 5.1 soundtrack. I was really surprised by how robust this track was. It's not amazing but I found it to be a nice complex sounding track for 5.1. Well done. 

Extras: The extras include The Making of The Owner (7mins) a short featurette on the making with the director and the cast. 


Thursday, October 22, 2020

Waterloo Bridge (1940) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

 Waterloo Bridge (1940) Warner Archives 10/27/2020

Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy 

Starring: Vivian Leigh, Robert Taylor, Virginia Field, Janet Shaw


Disclaimer: Warner Archives has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    Based on a 1930 play of the same name and had a adaptation on the big screen in 1931 from Frankenstein director  James Whale. The thing was when Whale made his version of Waterloo Bridge it was Pre-Code. This meant the taboo nature of prostitution could be explored more faithfully to the play. LeRoy's version comes at a time when the Code was strictly enforced and hence the subject matter is sanitized. Set during World War I a meek ballerina named Myra (Vivian Leigh) turns to a life of prostitution believing her husband is dead. 

    As far as remakes go, Waterloo Bridge has the budget to expand on the story, whereas Whales version is a more stark and stripped down telling. LeRoy is given the freedom to really explore the characters with greater depth whilst also providing a grander overall scope.  As much as I enjoy Whale's oft forgotten version of the film I can see why the '40 film overshadows it. It's sad that the film isn't allowed to explore the core themes but I still think it gets the message a crossed nonetheless. Watching this for the first time for this review I got a sense of impeding doom and mellow collie that haunts the entire affair.  Bringing the film to life is a fantastic cast of Golden Age of Hollywood. Vivian Leigh best remembered as the lead in Gone with the Wind (1939) does a great job in the lead. She has a excellent range and does a good job at bringing this character to life. Robert Taylor is also great and just has that leading man charm that makes the romance believable. And its not just that these two actors carry the movie because the supporting roles are filled to the brim with amazing character actors. Couple this with beautiful black and white photography by four time Oscar winner Joseph Ruttenberg (Mrs. Miniver, Gigi) and a robust score by Herbert Stothart (Wizard of Oz) and you have a engrossing classic film. Some seem to prefer the original version though, as I said, even as a big fan of Whale's take on the material this has a decided edge over it. I encourage everybody to check out both and decide for yourself. 

Picture: Warner Archive is the gold standard in restoring classics to their former glory and Waterloo Bridge looks stunning. The film sports a brand in 4k transfer and the image is crisp, clean and has a clarity that is sure to wow. Grain is fine and consistent throughout with black levels nicely handled. I cannot stress just how wonderful this new print looks with any artifacts or scratches removed. 

Sound: Waterloo sports a nice DTS 2.0 soundtrack.  Dialogue comes through very nicely. There is very little hiss or background noise to be had. 

Extras: Waterloo Bridge includes an episode of The Directors Playhouse Radio Program featuring Norma Sheer and Mervyn LeRoy.  Rounding out the features is a trailer.  I'm actually a little surprised that the '31 version isn't included as well (something they did with Gaslight) but maybe (and I'm only guessing here so please dont take this as fact) they are planning on doing that as a stand alone. 

It's worth noting that Warner has released James Whales version of Waterloo Bridge (1931) is on DVD through their TCM Forbidden Hollywood Collection One. It's well worth seeking out. 

Overall: Waterloo Bridge is very much a product of its time, therefore its hasnt probably aged incredibly well, however for fans of Golden Age Hollywood its really a excellent albeit a bit depressing film that has so much talent in front of and behind the camera. This new transfer is just amazing and if you have this on DVD its well worth the upgrade. If you dont own this already, well what are you waiting for? 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NOS4A2 Season 2 RLJ Entertainment Blu Ray Review

 NOS4A2 Season 2 RLJ Entertainment 10/20/2020

Starring: Ashleigh Cummings, Zachary Quinto Virginia Kull, Ebon Moss-Bachrach 


Disclaimer: RLJE has provided me with a copy of this set free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my honest reflections. 

    Just in time for Halloween comes the complete second season of the hit show based on the best selling book by Joe Hill. NOS4A2 Season two is one of those rare times when I feel the first season is good but the second season is better. I think the biggest improvement is how the showrunners explore much more of Manx background. And of course you can get right into plot without having to spend a lot of time setting up characters etc. Just like season one the series does a nice job of scares and really nice production design that engrosses you into the entire affair. Some people find some story elements dull and while thats not entirely untrue the the dazzling acting and set pieces kept me invested as the season went on and as far as story goes, its good, not brilliant. I really like the interesting take on vampires  that the series nicely hangs its hat on. It's really difficult for me to go into more detail as I dont want to spoil things if you haven't seen both season one and or two. I will just say its a show that has had its share of mixed reviews but for my money its an engaging horror tale told with fantastic actors, a rich and detailed production design and some nice twists and turns. 

Picture: NOS4A2 is a series that truly sings on 1080p. Colors are vivid and the details in the production really stand out in this transfer. Skin tones have a nice well balanced and nature look overall. Outdoor scenes are really stunning looking as well. Overall this is a nice looking Blu-Ray. 

Sound: The second season sports a really nice DTS 5.1 track. It's a really healthy robust track that really uses the sound design to full effect. Dialogue comes through nice and clear. 

Extras: NOS4A2 has a nice array of extras included in this set. A Look at Season 2 (4mins) A nice featurette with the cast and crew discussing the events of season one the themes and the jump in time between season one and season two. Really interesting short feature that is worth checking out.  

Catching Up with the Characters (5mins) A short look at the characters of season two and its impact on this second season. 

Comic Con@ Home Panel (37min) A remotely recorded panel. Its a great lively panel done during the COVID pandemic featuring Joe Hill, Jami O'Brien, Zachary Quinto. They discuss this season, some plot elements (which I wont mention bc of spoilers) and some really interesting tid bits like the differences between the Hills book and the series. 


Overall: NOS4A2 is a series that people takes a little while to get fully invested into but by the time season two I really found myself enjoying it. The episodes themselves look great and has some nice features for fans to pour over. 


Video Attic Exclusive: Alone (2020) Tyler Posey and Summer Spiro Interview

 Video Attic Exclusive: Alone (2020) Tyler Posey and Summer Spiro Interview 


Coming to Home Video 10/20/2020 from Lionsgate Films 

Summary: When an outbreak hits, Aidan barricades himself inside his apartment and starts rationing food. His complex is overrun by infected Screamers, and with the world falling apart into chaos, he is left completely alone fighting for his life.
In a Video Attic Exclusive I got to talk to Tyler Posey and Summer Spiro about their new film Alone which comes out on home video today. 

*Note: This was recorded from a Zoom chat*

Mike: It must have been weird watching this movie now because it feels very timely with your characters basically quarantined for most of the movie.  

Tyler: Dude, its bizarre. I still cant wrap my head around it, like how similar it is with our movie and the world right now. That was never planned obviously, we shot this over a year ago. I mean, he's in quarantine, there's a pandemic happening and he has a social distance relationship and it's really bizarre. But he does come out of it a better person.

Summer: Yep.

Tyler: I think thats something to learn from.

Mike: So Tyler, I hear your a big zombie fan. In fact, I read you have a zombie tattoo. So that must be awesome...

Tyler: Wanna see it?

Mike: Sure. 

*pulls up pant leg*

Tyler: I swear to God if you look at my butt (laughs).

shows off tattoo

Mike: That's awesome. 

Summer: Oh wow.

Tyler: Cool, huh?

Summer: Yeah!

Tyler: It hurt really bad. 

Mike: So it must have been a dream come true to actually be in a zombie movie?

Tyler: It was a dream come true. It helped me live out all of my childhood fantasies. I was a weird kid. 

Mike: Same here (laughs).  So Summer are you a zombie fan or a horror fan in general?

Summer: Yeah, totally. I'm not someone who knows every single movie but when I watch a zombie movie I am beyond invested. I freak out, that stuff is so freaky. Even when we were shooting, we were just talking about there would be zombies in the bathtub, not actual people but mannequin-zombie body parts stacked in the tub so every time I would flip on the light to the bath I would freak out (laughs). So, yeah I scare so easily.   

Mike: This questions for both of you: Did you rehearse your scenes together?

Tyler: We were in super close quarters so we got to know each other pretty quickly and the chemistry was like really easy. It was so easy to work with Summer. We did rehearse a little bit I believe. 

Summer: Did we? I dont ever remember rehearsing. 

Tyler: I thought we rehearsed the walkie-talkie stuff? I thought we did, I'm probably wrong.

Summer: Oh, yeah. Okay I think we did rehearse that scene but there was also so much improve. I think we were just improving and then we got on set and did it again and nothing was the same ever. (Laughs). 

Mike: Oh, wow so all the walkie talkie stuff was ad-libbed. 

Summer: Yeah

Tyler: I think all or most of it was. There's a part where Summer's character asks me if I've ever been in love before and I say, "I was in fifth grade, her name was Jenny Caldwell she held my hand and then I cried and then I threw up" or something like that (laughs). 

Summer: (Laughs)

Tyler: And that kept that in there and I'm happy they did.

Summer: Oh, yeah that was so good! 

Mike: Yeah its such a great scene and the dialogue flows really organically. So Summer I love your character in this movie, Eva, she's so kick-ass and pro-active. Is that what drew you to this part?

Summer: Yeah there was a couple things. I like that she was doing her own thing, she wasn't cracking under the stress which I would have easily done. She was just keeping to her routine and keeping safe and even when Aidan came into her life her thought is if you put my safety in jeopardy your cut, we're done. There is a moment when it was just too risky for them to talk so she closed her curtains and was like, this is over, your putting me in danger, were done. And I liked that she was like that. I like that she cared more about survival than being in a relationship. But then his sort of perseverance sort of cracked her open a bit and I think thats what she needed. I think she needed to open up and trust somebody else. I think she's clearly somebody who had a lot of...she's a very independent person and doesn't lean on other people so she shifts her perspective and puts a lot of trust and faith into him. I love their sweet innocent relationship. 

Mike: Yeah I love how Eva isn't a typical horror damsel in distress, that she has layers to her. So this next one is for both of you. This movie is really heavy in terms of emotions. Did you find it hard to kind of shut that off at the end of the shooting day?

Tyler: For me I found the process pretty cathartic. I didn't really hold onto anything too long which I thought was really nice because I've been in that position before where I have to use personal sad experiences and it did mess me up for a couple of days. For some reason, I dont know I think that Aidan cries all the time and so there was nothing left for me to take home. I think I just let it all out on camera. 

Mike: How about for you Summer? 

Summer: The emotional stuff came much later where it felt much more emotionally charged because it felt scarier. In the beginning she felt more comfortable. I think because I knew this was all just imagine feelings it was easy for me to just shake it off, but, I will say that when you are hyperventilating a lot on set or having to breath heavily alot or like a lot of running so your out of breath, when you have to do that over and over again you get really loopy. Like, you lose oxygen to the brain, and thats harder because your trying not to pass out.

Tyler: Yeah, I've done that before, I've fainted on set because I  hyperventilated so often. 

Summer: Yeah I feel like I was a second away from passing out at times. 

Mike: So, finally  I guess I have to ask...Was your nude scene awkward to do.

Tyler: No it wasn't (laughs) I really dont care I'm very comfortable just being goofy and when it comes down to it and I do not take myself too seriously when it comes to that stuff. I certainly understand being in a position where that would be awkward, bizarre and uncomfortable but I try and negate that and laugh it off. Yeah I really didn't feel that uncomfortable I dont know why (laughs). 
  
A huge thank you to Summer and Tyler for taking the time to discuss Alone out now on Blu Ray and DVD from Lionsgate. 



Rubén Galindo Jr's Grave Robbers (1989) Vinegar Syndrome Blu Ray Review

Grave Robbers (1989) Vinegar Syndrome 10/27/2020

Directed By: Rubén Galindo Jr.

Starring: Fernando Almada, Edna Bolkan, Erika Buenfil 


    So, Grave Robbers (1989) might not be a hotly anticipated title but, if you, like me, are fans of Mexican horror director  Rubén Galindo Jr. it is! Not only is Vinegar Syndrome unearthing Grave Robbers but, in my opinion his opus film Cemetery of Terror (1985). I have enjoyed these movies for awhile now so much so that both movies are written up in my book The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema. But, I was working from a crappy DVD, but now, in 2020 both films are presented in great new editions. I will hopefully be reviewing Cemetery of Terror sometime as well. A group of grave robbers unearth a tomb hoping for riches. However, this being a horror movie, they only find evil undead spirits and a accident curse. 

   Though I prefer Cemetery of TerrorI will say that Robbers has an overall more polished screenplay and I like the blending of Occult with the Slasher genre. Though the movie is done on a dime Ruben clearly does his best to craft a atmospheric movie with some decent production design. Sure, it still looks low budget but I can tell a strong effort was made to put every bit of budget onto the screen. Even the costumes in the film look solid.  The makeup effects are also extremely well done, especially considering the limitations the filmmakers had to work with. Speaking of, if you are interested in gore, this film has plenty of splatter to sate even the more jaded of fans. To be honest, this isn't some kind of forgotten masterpiece and suffers from the typical short comings of low budget fares with some questionable plot holes. What saves it is Ruben' puts a crazy and altogether different spin on the slasher genre and I think what's really interesting is the film is steeped in Mexican tradition with a modern updating. I have a soft spot for this directors work and I really hope you decide to give this a blind-buy if you haven't seen it. I'm finally glad both of these Ruben films are getting a wider release and hopefully will finally find the cult following they deserve. Please do, Don't Panic next! 

Picture: This is one of those rare chances that I can compare the older release to the new one. I previously owned the Cemetery of Terror and Grave Robbers on a double feature DVD. Vinegar Syndromes new 4k scan is such a huge leap in terms of picture. Colors are more vivid and, seeing how a bulk of the film takes place at night the new scan benefits from this transfer. Grain is fine and consistent throughout. It's hard to believe that this film will ever look better. 

Sound: Robbers has a nice DTS-Mono track. Dialogue and sound design come through well. 

Extra:  Unearthing the Past: Interview with Ruben Galindo Jr (19 mins). This is a great new interview with the legendary Mexican horror director. It was great to hear about his career and the inspiration and making of Grave Robbers. Lively and enjoyable to watch. 

It also features a commentary track by "The Hysteria Continues" 


Grave Robbers is a fun slice of Mexican Slasher Satanic Horror that should not be missed! 


Monday, October 19, 2020

The Attic's Lost and Found: Highlighting Forgotten About Gems: The Bad Seed (1956)

 The Attic's Lost and Found: The Bad Seed (1956)

Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy 

Starring: Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, Eileen Heckart, Henry Jones 

    Nothing will baffle me as much as how firmly 1956's The Bad Seed has been imbedded into the pop culture zeitgeist yet, is still relatively unknown outside of cinema buffs. Based on a book of the same name by William March and later adapted for the stage, the '56 movie has often be copied and even remade but the original remains an untouchable classic. For those who never heard of this movie it revolves around a war wife named Christine (Nancy Kelly) and her angelic daughter Rhoda (Patty McCormack). But, it seems that the perfect polite little girl is hiding some very dark secrets in this early psychological thriller. 

    I've been a firm fan of this film for years now, yet, as tends to happens it went out of my regular rotation as newer movies and older re-issues (not to mention writing books) has pushed some films into the background. It's now October and I thought it was the perfect time to pluck my well loved copy and press it back into service. What stuck me is that the film walks this wonderful razors edge of melodrama yet it still chills me to the bone. The film wisely takes its time slowly ratcheting tension, developing characters and forming a world that feels real but slightly off. While the acting is solid (and Oscar nominated even) everybody is ever-so over-the-top which I feel not only doesn't hurt the film it helps support this slightly surreal otherworldly vibe. This is considered a cult-classic with legends like Charles Busch and John Waters as fans and, while yes, it has camp elements its harrowing and unnerving in a way few '50's films are. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it deals with taboo's even held in 2020 where seemingly anything goes. 

     Because at the end of the day this movie deals bluntly with a child killing other children and adults. We never see Rhoda do these evil deeds yet its so much more unsetting that we, the audience are left to imagine the horror. Yes, there is something to be said about show dont tell in film but honestly I think that not depicting the murders in this case makes it more effective. Bad Seed has it's issues but even when things start going a bit off the rails its strong theme's and premise reel you back in again. Think of it as having all the overwrought nature of a South Gothic Tennessee Williams play blended with a psychological thriller that pre-dates Psycho (1960). Not to mention it helped spawn the "evil kids" genre that is still going strong. The Bad Seed works so well because it touches on some very primal issues of Motherhood, womanhood, and family and those themes are timeless. Thats why I think that this is one of the few '50's era horror films that holds up incredibly well. It's not aliens, its not monsters, its the fear of someone small and innocent that might be evil to the core. Bad Seed forces us to deal with a real life monsters in a way that was very seldom done at the time let alone from a major studio. The film ended up being a huge hit for Warner Brothers making over double its budget at the box office and being nominated for four Oscars. If you slept on this film I beg you to give it a try. Yes, its a bit over-the-top but if you stick with it you will start to see just how disturbing it is and how it still inspires filmmakers to this day. 

Scare Package (2019) RJLE Blu Ray Review

 Scare Package (2019) RJLE 10/20/2020

Directed By: Courtney Andujar, Hilary Andujar, Anthony Cousins, Emily Hagins, Aaron B Koontz, Chris McInroy, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn

 


Starring: Jeremy King, Noah Segan, Baron Vaughn, Toni Trucks, Chase Williamson, Joe Bob Briggs

    Scare Package reminds me a lot of the member berries from the series South Park. Member Halloween? I member. Member the Freddy car from Nightmare on Elm Street? I member. Member Joe Bob Briggs? I member. You get the picture. Scare Package is a collection of different horror stories all framed around a horror film obsessed video store clerk and his new employee. The key take away from Scare Package is sometimes less is more. Just because you can blend in every '80's horror reference into a hyper self-aware smoothie doesn't mean you should. The major factor of enjoying Scare Package comes down to two questions: Do you like meta jokes? And I mean LOTS and LOTS of them. Do you like movie references, and not subtle ones but like name checking horror movies and also throwing a thousand lampshades on everything. If you do, you will most likely love this movie. If, you like me, feel like the Meta-horror genre is over-done not to mention a lazy writing device that isn't nearly as clever as the writers thinks it is, you my friend are in for a long hard ride. The movie even lampshades the over-used Meta-troupes fairly early in the film, which I STRESS isn't the same as being clever about it. I repeat acknowledging the shitty Meta jokes isn't the same as subverting them.  I truly think that in small doses I could have let this slide but it just hammers the point in just about every minute of the run-time.

    So, I had been warned by other reviews that this film lends more on the comedy side of horror, which for me personally isn't a deal breaker. In fact, its tricky but horror and comedy can be a perfect marriage. For example, 2010's Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is a brilliant film because it subverts and deconstructs the slasher genre without relying on name-checking movies, overt references and of course fourth-wall jokes. And, its a laugh-riot with stellar performances. That film works as well as it does because it can do this kind of self-reference genre troupes but it still feels very much its own movie with its own fresh voice. Scare Package never feels like it stands on its own feet or has anything super original to say.

   The segments within the framing device are really something. They all take fairly big swings, some range from "Oh, that was at-least interesting" to, "Um. What?" Again, I hate to be a buzz kill but all of the stories, even the more solid entries feel like they could have used more polish writing wise. Some have fun and even interesting concepts that just miss the mark. Lets take MISTER for example. I loved the idea of mixing toxic manhood and the supposed "alpha status" with werewolves but, again the themes are never taken far enough to be interesting or memorable. The chocolate bar gag was pretty clever, I will give them that. Probably my favorite segment was So Much to Do written, directed and starring Baron Vaughn. This is a good seg-way into what I think works about the film, because I honestly do not get enjoyment crapping on a film, especially one clearly made by fellow horror fans. As I said the film is probably more comedy than it is horror, and, I admit there are some pretty funny jokes and gags sprinkled throughout. Damned if i didnt get at least some chuckles here and there. Now onto what I think this film really has going for it, the effects. Wow. The filmmakers really celebrate the art of practical movie magic and, that love is strong. Goopy, gloopy, messy and gallons of blood, this is a gore hounds wet dream. And, despite the flaws, each segment has a high energy feel and I dont get the sense that the filmmakers are simply phoning it in. Truly these filmmakers took their love of video renting, 80's horror and over-the-top comedy and stitched together an anthology. 

This is all we and good but it comes down to this:  the film is wildly unfocused feels the need to bash us over the head with its influences. And at just shy of an hour and fifty minutes it over stays its welcome. The final wrap around segment for example just goes on for an absurd amount of time and starts to get very indulgent and frankly boring.  Look, I'm all for fun even outrageous cinema but you need a skill set to pull it off. Its not to suggest the film is devoid of talent, far from it, it just tries way too hard and comes off annoying and shallow. 

   Scare Package begs the question is Meta horror over done? For every New Nightmare (1994), Scream (1996) and Cabin in the Woods (2011) that uses skilled writing to take apart the horror genre, filmmaking troupes and clichés and cleverly re assemble them into something exciting Scare Package does not. Again, my problem isn't with the heart and passion or the effects but with how much the film falls back on the same joke over and over. Its like References: The Movie. Some people love this movie and hey, more power to you. I was that '90's kid that always had an fistful of video tapes from my local mom and pop and I like to think I am extremely knowledgeable when it comes to films in general especially horror.  I have seen literally thousands of them from all over the globe. I dont say this as a brag but to say I am certainly this films target audience but it failed to connect with me. Even the nostalgia for mom and pop rentals and Joe Bob (his cameo is epic btw) wasn't enough to make this an enjoyable movie. Call me a grump but this is the best example of how not to do Meta-Horror. 

Picture: Scare Package looks great on 1080p and for being shot on digital has a nice grainy film like quality. Colors are lush, warm and really pop. Skin tones are well balanced and look natural. This transfer really shows off the big bold colors the film uses as well as the great gore effects. 

Sound: Scare Package sports a nice DTS 5.1 Soundtrack. I really think its impressive. It's not as complex as it could be but the music, dialogue and sound design come through nicely. 

Extras: Scare Package has a decent array of extras including a bonus segment Locker Room Z (8mins), Rad Chads Ad (1min) a spoof commercial for Rad Chad's the fictional rental store. The Scare Package Blooper Reel (5mins) a pretty funny blooper reel. Anybody who knows me, knows I am a sucker for blooper reels. the aptly titled Original Not As-Good Ending (1min) Producer Commentary track and maybe the best feature the entire Joe Bob Briggs Episode that Features Scare Package (2hrs 23mins)_.  


Friday, October 16, 2020

Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1987) Lands on HD from Vinegar Syndrome!

 Zombie 5: Killing Birds (1987) Vinegar Syndrome 10/27/2020

Directed By: Claudio Lattanzi, Joe D'Amato (uncredited) 

Starring: Lara Wendel, Robert Vaughn, James Villemaire, Leslie Cumming

   I'm going to spare you the whole "Zombie" franchise lecture, but to sum up first there was Dawn of the Dead (1978) aka Zombie, Fulci's Zombie (1979) aka Zombi 2, Zombie 3 (1988) and Zombie 4: After Death (1989) and  of course 1987's Zombie 5, all unrelated films with Zombie tagged onto the title. The same thing happened with Beyond the Door (1974) oddly enough. A group of wide eyed college students take a trip deep into the wilderness to study rare species of birds. But, in typically slasher fashion the campers get more than they bargain for in this insane Italian outing. 

     Killing Birds (1987) starts off like some fever dreaming soaked in blood with four kills before we even reach the ten minute mark. Sadly though, the film doesn't try to keep up with this momentum and is a bit of a slog in the first and mostly second acts. Killing Bird's does pick up with some more kills and some great nice surreal imagery but for some, it might be too little too late. Obviously the film is trying to cash in on The Evil Dead (1981) fused with nature-run-amok movies which had a boom throughout the latter part of the '70's and throughout the 80's and even early '90s. What we get is a muddled plot that is even weak on the gore expect for a few good eye ball plucking's. I wish this movie would have amped up the craziness which might have helped mask the virtually non existent plot. Even as someone who loves trashy '70's and '80's outing I found Killing Birds to a bit of a chore to get through. In its defense I will say the film at least has some cool weird moments like a crunchy zombies, a Christ-like crucifixion, eye trauma and more fog than in the movie The Fog (1980).  Also seeing Robert Vaughn in this movie is jarring enough but it's with funky rotten eye make up and folks that alone is worth the price of admission. You also cant help but love the bad over acting and hilarious dialogue that make Italian genre fare worth watching. The movie is bad but, if you love gnarly Italian garbage cinema you might have a good time with this one despite its mountain of flaws. 

Picture: Vinegar Syndrome never ceases to amaze me with the excellent work they do with their restorations. Killing Birds has been given a 2k facelift using 35mm source material. Colors are vivid and really pop through out. This film being transferred from 35mm has a nice grain quality but for those who complain about that its very consistent and well maintained. Night scenes and darkly lit scenes really benefit from this new transfer and also celebrates the films spooky, surreal vibes.  

Sound: Killing Birds has a nice DTS 2.0 soundtrack. Honestly this is a really full robust soundtrack and I was impressed with the sound VS was able to get out of just a 2.0. Dialogue and sound designs come through healthy. Its worth noting that an original Italian track is also included. 

Extras: Talons (49 mins) this extended interview with director Claudio Lattanzi in which he discusses the making of Killing Birds. Lively and really worth checking out. 

Birds of a Feather (15 mins) A interview with sound man Larry Revene, A feature length commentary with historian Samm Deighan. Samm has done other commentaries and is really enjoyable to listen to. His tracks are always informative and entertaining.  

Rounding out the features is an original English Trailer and Italian trailer. I also love that this has a cool reversible cover featuring the original title. 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Tax Collector (2020) RLJ Entertainment Blu Ray Review

 The Tax Collector (2020) RLJ Entertainment 10/6/2020

Directed By: David Ayer 

Starring: Bobby Soto, Shia LaBeouf, Cinthya Carmona, Jose Conejo Martin, George Lopez

 


   Director David Ayer directed the infamously panned but somehow popular enough for a sequel, Bright. I am morbidly curious about The Tax Collector his latest outing. The film centers around a group of men that "collect tax" off of drug sales and other vice business. When a rival gang blows into town they threatens the safety of their families and loved ones. Now its a battle for pride, family and way of life. 

    So, here's the thing, I think Ayer actually does have a cool naturalist style and the movie isn't badly directed. Make no mistake though, everything you heard about this movie is true, its not good. It's strange that the same person that wrote Training Day (2001) and The Fast and the Furious (2001) and also wrote the mess that was Suicide Squad and this film. What's frustrating is the film is such an uninspired mish-mash of other gangland films yet never finds its own voice. It also feels like a slog with lots of filler that doesn't serve to move the plot forward or develop characters. Also, it feels like Ayer tries to develop his characters but in the end everybody offs of shallow and lacking depth. It's a shame because I could actually see a good movie but Ayer who also wrote this, sinks his own film like a stone with bland, predictable, stereotypical nonsense. I think the other reason this movie fails is everybody is terrible and its hard to root or relate with them. Yes, its possible to make fiction characters that are monsters really likable. This movie doesn't and we are given zero reasons to like let alone care for anyone in Tax Collector. 

   Maybe this all could be forgiven had the film swung a little bigger and really went full force into absurd action it may have at least made it enjoyable. The acting is actually not too bad, listen its not stellar and everybody seems not quite on the same page acting wise, but its solid. Bobby Soto is uneven as hell and he tries hard to play leading man but it doesn't work.  Its kind of baffling as Soto seems to have only done bit parts up until now.  Shia LaBeouf surprisingly is fascinating in this. Sure he's just as uneven as everybody else but at least he never allows himself to go full hammy and plays it like a John Wick type. Probably a very smart move on his part. Since I always try and something nice to say, the movie is well shot with nice pretty good practical gore effects. 

 Sadly, we arent done with David Ayer as he is set to write and direct Bright 2. How he still manages to get work is beyond me but maybe his early hits have earned him enough good will to to land big gigs. I gave this movie a fair shake but obviously the writing was all over the wall for this not being good.  This movie wants so bad to big this big sweeping gangster epic about love and family, duty and business but it's just feels so unoriginal with clearly suspect writing and acting. 


Picture: Say what you will about the film itself but the picture looks very good. It's probably a good assumption this was shot on digital so the 1080p upload looks very nice. Everything has a crisp clean nice look to it. As I said I thought the film had good visuals if nothing else and this is certainly highlighted. 

Sound: Tax Collector has a nice DTS 5.1 Soundtrack. Sound effects and design come through really nice and strong. Dialogue also comes through nicely. Altogether, in my opinion a very solid track. 

Extra: The only feature is some deleted scenes. Total runtime is 12 minutes. 


The Video Attic Presents: Telling Tales: An Interview with Ryan Spindell

 The Video Attic Presents:  Telling Tales: An Interview with Ryan Spindell 




Mike: Clancy Brown is such a delight in this film. I'm curious how much impact did you have on his character versus what he brought to the table?

RS:  That's a good question. I think the character was pretty well defined prior to him coming on board. He was really collaborative and great from the very start. And, I was always pushing him, like "Do you want to take this into a different direction?" He was kind of really locked in on the character from the script already when he came in. We did work on some of his vocabulary, like of like the natural bend and flows that weren't in the script.  For the most part though it was all in the script. 

Mike: How long did his makeup take, do you recall?

RS: I do. The makeup took about two hours in total. 

Mike: Wow.

RS: Yeah, luckily we had an amazing makeup artist doing it. What's kind of an interesting tid bit about that is when I first started putting this script together I imagined him to be a lot more cartoonish. We intentionally built a much more complicated prosthetics, like jowls, i was kind of thinking about, have you seen Dan Aykroyd in Nothing but Trouble?

Mike: Oh wow, yeah. 

RS: (Laughs) I love how unrecognizable he was. It's also in, I think Three Men and a Little Lady with the sequence at the end where Ted Danson dresses up like an old preacher with prosthetics and I just loved this idea that he was going to be this unrecognizable actor and people would be like, "I think I recognize this guy." Like, it was something in the eyes. I wanted people to know him but also not. Once we put him in the prosthetics, which we so amazing I felt like we were losing that Clancy Brown face which is already so great. So, we did several tests where we just starting pulling pieces off to see how much we could take off and still see the character but also like Clancy's face shine through. What I sort of ended up realizing is that the teeth was the most important component to the entire thing. I remember even in early drafts of the script describing the teeth as sort of like long yellow piano keys. But, I wanted them to be too many teeth. I sort of had this idea of instead of going the traditional route of big teeth or shark teeth, what if there's way too many tiny teeth? So, we had these dentures made for him and it turned out that whenever he put them on it transformed him, almost all the way. The irony is that as humans we smile to put people at ease but what happens is if he would smile he would get creepier. That is such a cool accidental byproduct of using that teeth for that effect. 


Mike: Did Clancy have many stories from his epic career to tell between takes?

RS: He did have really good stories but I think one of the real stand out things to me that isn't a story. One day on set we were shooting in Astoria Oregon, keep in my mind it was a really small production and he's been on some huge stuff and is use to different scale productions. I was sort of nervous with a guy that's worked with some of the best directors in the world. But he right to our little production really easily and he had a blast with it. One of the things that was really cool was, in the town we shot it in there was a local guy who owned a comic book store and he had heard Clancy was in town and sort of swung by the set to get a glimpse of Clancy and, have me introduce him to Clancy. So, this guy was explaining how the Highlander movies we're majorly impactful to him and that he had a really rough childhood and those movies got him through a tough period. You could tell he was very nervous meeting Clancy and instead of him being weird about it, which I've seen other actors do, Clancy just embraced the guy like, "Come hang out with me while they do my makeup", and he gave this guy a tour of the whole set and hung out with the guy for a couple hours. 

Mike: That's awesome.

RS: That's such a cool thing to do and, such an impactful thing for this guy from Oregon. So, I think of that as one of my big take away what kind of guy he (Clancy) is. 


Mike: The one thing I think is great about the film is how visually stunning it is. I know you have a background in visual design, so having studied that field did it help you set the look and overall feel of the film?

RS: Yeah defiantly. I grew up as a big art kid and I remember for a long time I wouldn't watch horror movies, because I was too scared of them. My mom had kind of ingrained in me this idea that horror movies were just these brutal blood and guts, like they were just created to traumatize you. So, I kind of avoided them like the plague. I remember very distinctly  in the span of one weekend, I think I was probably twelve or thirteen a friend of mine brought over Sam Raimi's Evil Dead 2 and Peter Jackson's Brain Dead. I remember watching those movies and it was like a switch clicked in my head. Because I didnt realize up until that point that horror movies could be so creative and so beautiful. Like, I could see the filmmakers just really having a blast and putting themselves into every single detail on the screen. I think it was in that moment when I decided I wanted to make movies but, I also decided that I wanted to make the can of movies that transported me to some other time and place. Back to the time of fun movies that we're bog and colorful. The filmmakers took all these different art styles I've been doing all my life like illustration and sculptor and I could take those skills and put them into one thing. Even now the way the camera moves, the way production design is laid out and the costumes and the make up, all of those elements are of equal importance to me. I tried to put as much of that into the film. Even though, as you can imagine on a budget, especially doing a "period piece" where there's no modern tech, no modern cars, no modern building and costumes its incredible challenging.

Mike: That brings me actually to my next question which is, had you always planned for this to be a period film, because obviously, as you said that makes the budget go up.

RS: It was the plan from the very early stages. I think initially I wrote the script, trying to think back, I wrote the script in 2012. I just storyboarded the entire movie in 2013. Yeah, I guess it did always have period setting. A big component of it was I didn't want it to be set in a specific period, I wanted it to have a timeless feel. So, you know the stories are in large being told by Montgomery, and I would imagine would have a very antiquated lens through which he views the world. So I wanted to use this idea of story and storytellers to kind of set up everything in this neutral, could be any time, time period. I think that it leans heavily into the '40's, '50's era but thats mostly because I feel like that was the last period in North America where costume in furnishers was made in more natural materials, which pre-dated synthetic plastics that changed the look of everything. In my mind that period is kind of the timeless period. It was important to me that, and its interesting because early on we got a review that said the different segments were set in different periods and the reality is they are set in no-period. Maybe I shouldn't say that out loud, because maybe thats working better for it. I hope you can watch this movie in a hundred years and think its timeless.

Mike: What I love about Mortuary is how its retro but its so subtle about it, like it lets you fill in the blanks of when its set. 

RS: I agree. It's funny because as a fan I'm incredibly nostalgic for horror of yesteryear and I think its almost impossible to not have that come out in your work. I sort of agree with you, I'm not the biggest fan of nostalgia for nostalgia sake. Many of those troupes are for people to go, "Hey, I remember that!" and I think its more fun to take stuff like that and use it in a way thats interesting. It's interesting because even in the past month of me thinking of the film its funny how you can make something and that it continues to reveal itself even months after you finished it. I knew I grew up being impressed by the original Twilight Zone. That was the show that, even though I hated horror as a kid I still loved to what that. I would watch that with my dad and I felt safe. The aesthetics and the ideas of that series really became baked into my consciousness. In a weird way,   I think that like, watching this movie recently and thinking about Sam and Montgomery discussing what makes a good story, I realized that the two of them are sort of two halves of my brain. Montgomery is sort of the classicist like, "The old ways the best way", you know, a good solid rally cry that teaches you a lesson. Then Sam is the opposite, "Thats old, thats boring, we've seen that before, we want something different and exciting."  In a weird way those two characters represent the thing that happens in my brain every time I make something which is I want to do something that really appeals to the stuff I loved the most growing up but I also want to do something surprising and new. 

Mike: I use to love the Twilight Zone but my thing was the '90's Tales from the Crypt series. We didnt have cable when it first came on the air so my Dad's friend would record episodes for my sister and I to watch. 

RS: The crypt keeper was, for me as a kid a little too scary so I would always cover my eyes while he was doing his intro and then I would watch the episode. I had the same thing, we didn't have HBO but my friend did which I only seen at his house late at night. 

Mike: For me, looking back at that series it was kind of kid friendly, even though it had some spicy elements being on HBO. Like it was more playful and never too mean-spirited. 

RS: Yeah it was more for fun. 

Mike: And looking back I also think about how tricky that shows tone was to pull off. Being scary but keeping the macabre fun of the E.C comics. 

RS: Yeah, that is tricky. The entire process thats something thats always come at me.  Especially with something like people who are financing the movie and the people are creative. So its constantly like, is this too funny. Humor and horror is the thing that scares people the most. I think you can make a straight horror movie and thats easy because you know what's going to appeal to those fans. For me, I want a little bit more with my horror. I do like the straight horror stuff but I think for my giddy thirteen year old brain that I still have this is the kind of horror that I miss the most. 



Mike:  Yeah, exactly. It seems like I've been noticing a refreshing return to more fun horror. 

RS: Yeah, absolutely.  There are a lot of reasons why I think that is. I do remember when I first graduated from film school and I started pitching horror with comedy in it and it was a very different time and production comes were like, "Yeah, no. We want something like Saw or Hostel." They wanted just straight horror. But, thats really turned over dramatically recently. Thats because people that grew up on Tales from the Crypt and the Hammer movies, their becoming the ones in charge. They want a return to that and I think on top of it things are already so bleak in the world today I dont know if people want to settle in and depress them even more. I think escapism is more important now more than ever. 

Mike: Yeah! Speaking of tone I think this is a good seg-way into my next question. The film opens with a child's funeral. I know its important to the framing device but were you ever worried that that might be too bleak or set the wrong tone?

RS: It has crossed my mind but no. I mean, its like the give and take of independent film. The give is that if your somebody like me that thinks though a Spielbergian lens everything is incredible difficult because your like, "How do I make a big scale horror movie with no money?" So, you end up sort of using these weird tricks and getting really Sam Raimi about it. But, on the other hand you have the freedom to make the movie you want. You dont have to answer to studio people. So, no I didn't really question that at all. If anything because of the fantastical tone of it we were worried people would think it was a kids movie off the top. 

Mike: ah okay.

RS: We actually had an entire extended scene which involved these kids all meeting in the woods, kind of like the Losers Club and making their way to the mortuary where they were investigating it, because they discovered it was at the heart of all the strange happenings in town. And, it was such a fun scene and it was very like, E.T with kids on bikes, stuff like that. What happened was we would screen it and the critics would say, again and again how it feels like a kids movie, but then we get to the point in the movie where dicks are exploring and they are totally lost. So even those it was cut I loved that stuff and in a way this movie is kind of a kitchen sink of a movie, like everything I love crammed into one thing. But, even I was like I have to eliminate that stuff off the top. Especially because everything is streaming now and you have to hook people in or they`ll switch to something else. 

Mike: Did you have a lot of footage that didn't make it into the final product?

RS: We did. As far as what you see, because of the production design and the cost its kind of a trade off. You say to yourself, "I have to put all of these money into what's on screen and we have less time and resources." And, of course you have less people to put it off. As far as the scenes that you see, your seeing almost everything. We really didn't shoot any extra coverage and we didn't have the luxury of extra time to shoot other stuff.  Going into this we had to really know the shots that we needed but there are some pretty big sequences that we ended up slicing away just because of the run time. Its a weird thing because the general consensus is you dont want your run time to go over more than about ninety minutes for a small movie like this. I hate when people criticize this movie too, like "Fun movie but they should have cut fifteen minutes." But, with a movie is cut the way it is because each story is already so tightly knitted together. You end up cramming so many things into a scene to make the story work its very difficult to just eliminate full scenes without the entire thing falling apart. So, the editing of the movie was a huge challenge because our backers were saying, "Cut cut cut cut" and it became this balancing out of how we to cut as much as possible without sacrificing the story. I'm sure people might say, "Just cut one of the stories" and I know in the heat of the moment that was a big struggle for us. 


Mike: Yeah, it comes back to that old saying about killing your darlings. 

RS: Yeah, that's so true. The thing that we kind of learned too is that when your making a feature, a traditional feature with one story and one set of characters you can sometimes eliminate whole scenes because you realize that you spend all of this time with these characters like as an example you might go, "Oh I need this scene to establish this character is sad". But, you can kind of see that in six other scenes throughout the movie that this character is sad, lets remove this altogether and people will still get it. But, you dont really have that opportunity as much with shorts since one scene might be doing six different things if that makes sense.

Mike: Yeah. As I said earlier the look of the film is great, especially the establishing shot of the town. Was that digital backgrounds to archive that look?

RS: Yeah, the town that we shot this at in Astoria Oregon, thats also where they shot The Goonies. So, the town itself is already amazing little Victorian town right on the coast. So we had all the buildings with this great look. But because we wanted each from of the opening title to cram as much material and atmosphere as we could we did enhance some of the backgrounds with digital mat paintings. It helped give everything a more dramatic effect. Most of the buildings and infrastructure is real, but like you said just backgrounds mostly. 

Mike: Did you keep many props from this shoot like the title card book?

RS: Yeah! I have everything (laughs). 

Mike: That's awesome.

RS: I have two trunks full of stuff in my friends garage which I need to move this week. I have all the key props. There were some props that I wanted so bad like The Raven's End sign that the kid rides past when he goes into town. Such an amazing piece of art that my good friend and art director Karleigh Engelbrecht painted. It was just too big so we ended up donating it to the film museum in Astoria. 

Mike: Nice.

RS: Yeah, they also have some of our nicer props like the childs coffin and some of the other bigger things. So, I'm hoping at some point enough people like this film that make a little exhibit dedicated to Mortuary Collection. 

Mike: I can totally see Mortuary becoming a cult classic or straight up classic. And, I have to be careful how I say that because some people still equate the term 'cult classic' as failures or not reputable movies. 

RS: Sure sure.

Mike: But not me, I love those kinds of movies. So you can worked with actor Caitlin Custer previously so it must have been easy to get her up to speed on what you wanted in terms of your vision for the film?

RS: Absolutely. 


Mike: It was such a cool thing to watch her and Clancy really play off of each other in their scenes.

RS: Yeah! It made it so much easier on me to have Clancy a seasoned pro who never has an ounce of ego, there were no trailers on set, he was just like in a bedroom getting his makeup done and then just sitting on the porch waiting for us to shoot.  He was the coolest guy on set and he set the tone for all the other actors but especially Caitlin since every scene with them is this back and forth. There is a risk when your writing stuff like that like, "Are people going to want to watch two actors talking in between stories? Is this going to be boring". But luckily the chemistry is there and it helps really elevate the writing. 

Mike: Maybe a loaded question but do you have a personal favorite segment?

RS: (Laughs) I dont have a favorite segment. I've asked myself this question many times and I think to pick one is like picking my favorite child. 

Mike: Ah okay (laughs). 

RS: The Babysitter Murders will always have a special place in my heart because thats the movie that we made first independently and it sort of raised the money for the rest of it. So, that was the movie that started it all. That was a real labor of love, which was financed by Kickstarter and made with nothing.  So that will always have a special place for me. We initially had a longer segment, they were all suppose to be around twenty minutes. Then as we were getting ready for production we realized that we weren't going to have enough money to shoot everything that we wanted to. The one that was there was like actually the biggest of all of them and it had a lot of linking pieces that linked all the stories together. When we had to cut that piece we already shot enough components that we needed to have a short there. Problem is we couldn't have anything big so the producers were like we need something very producible because we have very little money left and asked if I had any ideas. The whole time I was making this I was kind of upset there wasn't a monster movie in it, monster movies are my favorite. So, I sat down and I wrote that piece and my initial thought was this was a fun little one off story. But, the thing doesn't really go anywhere unexpectedly or doesn't have a big twists or surprises, its just a straight forward monster movie. Then I was like,  I could have Sam sort of call it out for what it is. And in a way it further elevates this exploration of stories and what makes stories. It ended up working perfectly. Montgomery is a story telling and enjoys classic stories, Sam says," Tell her a story" and he kinda throws her a soft ball. I love it but it is a soft ball and she calls him to task and he says, "Okay I need to step up my game, the stories gotta be better, be twister, they gotta be more". So that was kind of a happy accident that happened. Thats why that segment will always hold a special place in my heart. I have a question for you, I'm really curious what your favorite segment is?

Mike: Oh, hmmm..I would have to say the first long segment with the Frat guys. But, then again I also love The Babysitter Murders and that twist and how it subverts certain troupes. 

Below Ryan is referring to the 2015 short film which was later re-worked later into a segment in Mortuary Collection. 

RS: It's funny because we made that movie in 2015 and I was really scared that someone was going to do that before we got this movie done. It seems like obvious and universal and I know a lot of people had seen this short so I was just waiting for someone to sort of make the feature length version. But, I again I think when horror became this mainstream genre everyone was sort of trying to find a way to pick apart the slasher movie. 

Mike: I like how Mortuary is self aware but doesn't go over board with it.

RS: Thanks. Yeah and I think going back to the segments its interesting to talk to people but which ones their personal favorites because it dramatically swings and thats a surprise to me. Every anthology movie always has one or segments that are duds. Like there are some ones that really kill and then you have some filler. That was a big push for us because when I was working on the script I was thinking how do I make this anthology where there are no duds. We worked really hard to do but we got to the end of the road and its kind of impossible to make a movie with multiple segments that people love equally. Your kind of setting yourself up for people to pick favorites and its somewhat vindicating that people's favorites have been different a crossed the board. So you dont have one specific story that everybody hates. Everybody seems to be connecting with at least one story in it. 

Mike: And as I said in my review every segment felt like it drew from something bigger like, Lovecraft or Poe. I also love that the theme of story is woven into the every bit of connecting tissue in the film.

RS: That was one of those major components at the very beginning of this project was the wrap-around. Like I asked myself, "How do we make a wrap-around that feels like its own movie and not just a book end?" I feel like, and even Creepshow to me, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, I feel like that wrap-around is just a book end. It's not a real thread that sort of is ran through the movie. So, my idea since every one was getting hot on this format again, I still felt like other anthologies were taking loose threads and finding ways to connect them together. So, what if we start from the framing story and work our way in. Though, I think South Bound has an interesting structure. Have you seen that one? 

Mike: I haven't. I heard good things though.

RS: Its interesting it doesn't have a framing story per se but it stiches each of the stories together and each story kind of runs into the next one. 

Mike: One of the things I really loved by Mortuary is how, I I think I mentioned this in my review, on my second viewing I began to notice all these little details or clues I missed the first time. 

RS: Yeah, thats cool. That's a huge compliment. For me thats a big part of it. I love movies that you can watch again and again and you can start to pick up more threads. So, I crammed as much of that into this movie as humanly possible within our tight budget and timeline. It/s interesting because there was little flourishes in the production design or signage on the walls, like there is so much you can do with that to add layers to your movie. But all of those things are typically what ends up getting cut on an independent level. Its like, "Here what you have money for, you get this room and you can dress it like that, and if you want to do the detail stuff its going to cost more and your not going to be able to do". So, whats nice is about this movie, even though we didnt have the traditional budget to dive into all those details, I did have an amazing team of people and I also have a background in design and graphic design as well. So, me and my friends would stay up late at night and make those things ourselves and sort of layered it in. I would go to the store and get some misc. objects and paint them, my girlfriend did all the artwork, and the books. It's just little stuff like that that sort of, its the kind of thing you stay up all night doing and you wonder if its worth it. But, then you heard from people like you that say they pick up on it I think it makes it so much richer. 

Mike: You can certainly tell that a lot of work went into it. It looks like a real lived in world. So, the film is streaming on Shudder Oct 15th. Is there any home video plans?

RS: Yes, as you say we premier on Shudder Oct 15th as sort of their build up to Halloween, which is perfect because it very much is a Halloween movie. I believe we roll out the Blu Ray and I believe digitally early 2021. 

Mike: That's very exciting I hope I get to review that when it comes out.

RS: Amazing. We have so much material. It took us two years to make this movie and the whole time we were shooting behind the scenes. So right now we are putting together a ton of special features, even videos like us in my apt doing stuff like the puppet effects. Its going to be a really cool package when its all finished. 

Mike: Thats awesome! Now, my final question is, besides Creepshow what is your favorite horror anthology? 

 RS: Ohhh man. That is a tough one. I think I'm gonna say the Amicus movie Asylum. 

Mike: Yes thats a good one!

RS: The main reason is going back to this, it has a real framing device story. Amicus movies were always good about that but I just love Asylum's framing device. The set up of the new doctor at the hospital, I think its such a cool clever idea. I really miss that in anthologies. I'm also a huge fan of Tales from the Darkside the series and film. 

 

A Huge thank you to Ryan Spindell for taking the time to talk to me about his amazing film. It already streaming on Shudder so check it out!