I’m a little embarrassed about the fact that I was looking forward to a new Tremors movie. Don’t get me wrong, the first movie is one of my favorite monster movies of all time. But when Kevin Bacon didn’t return for the sequel, it’s all downhill from there. Some of the sequels are somewhat watchable, but none of them manage to capture the same magic the first one was able to accomplish. It’s a fascinating world, with endless possibilities, all the different kind of monsters that spawn from the Graboids, but without a budget, or quality actors and filmmakers, it’s just not the same. I don’t even know why I was looking forward to this sequel. Maybe it was that Michael Gross would be returning, but without Bacon, without Fred Ward, it’s going to be D-grade at best. Throw Jamie Kennedy into the mix, and who the hell knows what I was thinking. Perhaps it was that rumor floating around that they would be rebooting the franchise with Bacon/Ward in tow, and that news of Bloodlines was soon to follow. Whatever the case may be, I know now that I was wrong to be excited for the 4th straight-to-video sequel in a series with a long line of lackluster followups. Continue reading
When I was twelve years old, I was into baseball. I was pretty good, too. I could pitch, catch, infield, outfield and I could definitely bat. I was a switch hitter, which isn’t as sexual as it sounds. It simply means that I could successfully bat in both the right, and left-handed batting stances. Once, I was doing some batting practice with a teammate, and the ball hit my finger while I was gripping an aluminum baseball bat. My finger exploded, there was blood and gore and fatty tissue all over my shirt, the tip of my finger was broken and hanging out through the wound. I had to go the hospital and have huge needles shoved in between each of my fingers so that my finger, and its contents, could be sewn back together. I’m telling you this now, because this entire experience was far more pleasurable than having to sit through Milfs VS Zombies. Continue reading
I have a rocky relationship with Shocker. I’ve always really wanted to like it, but for some reason I just couldn’t get past its cheesiness. I’ve long considered it to be Wes Craven’s second-least favorite film of mine, following The Hills Have Eyes(Yes, I’m one of those guys who prefers the remake.) I’m not certain if the recent passing of Craven caused me to watch the movie with different eyes, or if as an adult, I was able to appreciate what it was a little more, but I found myself having a much better time upon revisiting the film via Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray.
The last time I watched Shocker was, at the very least, a decade ago. I remember thinking it had a really strong first half, but once the film’s baddie turned into some sort of electrified spirit, I felt like it ventured way too far into cheese territory. While I still felt like the first half of the film was stronger, I powered my way through to the end, and found myself smiling, even cheering the movie on. I would like to think that I was able to separate the emotions Wes Craven’s passing caused, and still watch the film objectively, but the truth of the matter is that I don’t know that for certain. Is it possible that my judgment was clouded? I suppose. Either way, I enjoyed the movie far more than I have during previous viewings.
Actually, it had been so long since the last time I viewed this movie, that I had no idea that Mitch Pileggi was the villain, Horace Pinker. As cheesy as his one liners become, Pileggi plays Pinker with his usual brand of “all-in” character acting ability. He owns that role. Also kicking a little ass is a young Peter Berg as the film’s protagonist. The soundtrack is awesome, the kills even more so. All in all, this viewing of Shocker converted me into a fan, and I feel like I’ll actually revisit more often, especially now that I have Scream Factory’s exceptional Blu-ray release of the movie.
The picture quality is exceptional. This is the best the movie has ever looked for me. Perhaps if you were lucky enough to catch a 35mm screening, it would look a tad better, but for my money, this is the definitive home video release of the film. Any and all issues present can and should be blamed totally on the age of the movie. Other than a few very minor blemishes, this thing is gorgeous. And the audio quality? Even as good as the picture quality is, the sound blows it away. With a rocking, badass soundtrack, Shocker rocked every corner of my living room with its DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. The sound of a kill feels as if the after effects are dripping down the side of your walls, and the electrifying sounds throughout the entire film felt as if the hair on my arms was actually going to stand at attention. If you are a fan of this movie, you are in for a real treat.
Being that this is one of SF’s badass collector’s edition, Shocker comes filled to the brim with awesome special features. We’re treated to both ports of old extras from previous releases, as well as all new stuff as well. The extras range from the already-known commentary with Wes Craven, as well as all new interviews with Mitch Pileggi, Cami Cooper, and Shep Gordon. And of course, the “Shocker” music video is included, as well as a vintage “making of” featurette. One thing is for certain, if you don’t feel like the awesome video and audio quality make this disc worth the price of purchase, the beefy extras package should very much do so.
Shocker is now available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory, and is highly recommended. You may purchase a copy by clicking on either of the following links:
Some say, after a certain point in time, John Carpenter hit a downfall, and hasn’t made a movie that compares to his earlier work since that day. Those same people often neglect to mention that another “Master of Horror,” Wes craven, has had such a spotty career that it would be hard to even pinpoint his heyday. The People Under The Stairs is one of the good Craven titles. Sandwiched in-between the bad(Shocker) and the little-bit-better(New Nightmare) The People Under The Stairs is one of those early Nineties movies that stands the test of time. Though I have a nostalgic connection to the movie, that has little to do with my adoration for it.
Part of the charm of TPUTS is that Craven ventures somewhat outside of his comfort zone. Instead of pampered little white teenagers being terrorized because of the sins of their parents, we head into an inner city slum to watch the horror unfold. And it’s not your typical, racist, one-dimensional movie portrayals of people one might find dwelling within what some would call a “ghetto” either. All of the characters in this movie are interesting, and have a value of their own. The only really well known name in the cast is Ving Rhames, but the real star of this show is Brandon Quintin Adams(Who would later appear in The Sandlot and The Mighty Ducks) as Fool.
Another thing that elevates this to the top portion of the list of watchable Wes Craven films is the story itself. It’s downright creepy. To imagine a psychopathic brother and sister, who abduct children and keep them under the stairs in their house… once the story gets going(it does take a bit to get to where it’s going) it becomes quite unsettling. Perhaps it’s because you’re expecting goofy fun? In any event, The People Under The Stairs is one of the very few “scary” movies Wes Craven has directed, and after all of these years(24) it really holds up, more than I can say for Shocker, The Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing, etc. etc..
Scream Factory had somewhat of an uphill battle with this one. Universal released this movie onto Blu-ray last year. And although it was totally barebones, all that extra space on the 50 GB BD left room for a very impressive, crisp looking transfer of the film. Scream Factory gives us pretty much the same, beautiful looking transfer, only this time it’s packed with extras. The picture doesn’t suffer as a result of less room for data storage. It looks just as good, only with a slightly lower bitrate, but you’re not going to notice that anyway. So, if you purchased Universal’s Blu-ray release last year, should you double dip and pick up Scream Factory’s as well? Well, the answer is an emphatic hell yes.
True Story is a movie starring Jonah Hill and James Franco, and in no way is it a comedy. Stop laughing, I’m serious. True Story is a drama/thriller, about a disgraced NY Times journalist, who discovers that a man accused of murdering his family has been stealing his identity. He has an idea to exploit the man and his situation to try and get back in the good graces of the writing community, but becomes close to the accused murderer along the way.
I didn’t know what to expect from this movie, honestly. I saw the cast, and I saw the trailer, and I knew that I wanted to see it at some point, but I also saw some pretty terrible reviews at the same time. More and more I’m learning that some of the top critics/journalist/bloggers have no interest in honestly reviewing a piece of entertainment. They’re more interested in getting blurbed, to the point that whatever mainstream opinion has been vomited out all over social networking sites will become the center of their review, opting only to produce the wittiest zinger, instead of providing their readers an honest review of a movie they’re thinking about seeing. Thankfully, the “journalists” got another one wrong with True Story.
People are used to Jonah Hill and James Franco being clowns, because well, they’re good at it. What some don’t know, though, is that they are pretty good at other types of roles as well. Not only is Franco good at dramatic/serious roles, but he’s also a hell of a director as well. Check out his page on IMDB and look at his directorial output as of late. There is some really good, experimental stuff released at Franco’s hands. It would appear that all of the time these two have spent together, laughing it up and appearing in fantastic comedies has given them quite an on-screen connection. A solid thriller is made even more so by the quality of their interaction.
The beauty of True Story is the enigmatic nature of the story it’s trying to tell. Even when your suspicions are confirmed, and you think you know the answer to the burning questions created by this story, you probably don’t. The main concern you’re supposed to have, is whether or not Franco’s character is guilty of the crimes he is being accused of, and even when you are given the answer, you’re also served up just enough reasonable doubt so that even if you know, you don’t really know. True Story is a pretty damn suspenseful thriller, and I would love to see these two actors tackle roles beyond their comedy comfort zone in the future.
FOX’s Blu-ray release of the film is pretty much what you’d expect. This is a new release Blu-ray, so unless there is some kind of major error(there isn’t) the quality of the transfer isn’t really an issue worth discussing. It looks gorgeous, just like ninety percent of the other new release titles from the studio. There are no issues to report with the audio, either. The one difference here, is that this Blu-ray does come with a decent enough extras package. New releases these days are coming with less and less extra bang for your buck, but FOX didn’t skimp with True Story. There is an Audio Commentary by Director Rupert Goold, an alternate ending, some deleted scenes, several featurettes, including one production documentary, and several other smaller features both about the film, and about the true story that it is based upon. That’s pretty good for a movie like True Story, and from a studio like FOX. FOX’s Blu-ray release of True Story is highly recommended.
Olive Films has released an extremely strange movie on Blu-ray. 1979’s Roller Boogie, directed by Class of 1984’s Mark Lester, and starring Linda Blair. If you’ve seen Class of 1984, Firestarter, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Commando, Armed and Dangerous, or any of Mark Lester’s classics, you will probably not recognize it in this film. Perhaps a little bit, but for the most part, this is the least Mark Lester-like film in his entire body of work. Also a little odd, is the fact that Dean Cundey was the director of photography.
If you’re familiar with Linda Blair’s post-Exorcist career, you’re probably aware that she turned into somewhat of a “bad girl.” Hopefully you’re not expecting much of that here, as Roller Boogie is rated PG. Granted, this PG was prior to the existence of the PG-13, but all that means is that the naughty bits are suggested, rather than shown on screen(for the most part). If you’re expecting Linda Blair to get her gear off, as she did in Savage Streets, and several other B-movie classics, you’re going to be disappointed.
If Mark Lester’s fingerprints are anywhere within Roller Boogie, it’s in the “punks” who are trying to establish dominance of the roller disco. Otherwise, it doesn’t feel like much of a Lester film. It’s obvious that this film isn’t quite my style, but I can certainly see why it would have somewhat of a following. The soundtrack(for what it is) is strong, the cast, especially Linda Blair is comprised of attractive young actors, who are either scantily clad, or decked out in full-on disco gear, and like I said before, it was filmed by Dean Cundey. So even if you find that this isn’t your style as well, it is, at the very least, easy on the eyes, and some would say on the ears as well.
The transfer of this film to the Blu-ray format might not pass the test when it comes to smarmy hipsters, blathering on about compression artifacts, but I think it looks pretty damn good, myself. One of the major things it has going for it is that in Dean Cundey. Roller Boogie is a gorgeous looking film, with tons of vibrant colors, and even though this isn’t some extensive restoration, it still pops on the HD format. The audio quality is serviceable, but one of the things I noticed is that in some scenes, the level of volume drops down to a point that you can hardly hear it, unless you have your system cranked. This is most noticeable in the soundtrack, as some songs seem to cut out entirely. If you’re a fan of the film, though, it’s a small price to pay for owning it on Blu-ray.
There are no extras on this disc to report
You may buy a copy of this Blu-ray using the following links:
Olive Films is killing it this year. So many bucket list Blu-ray releases in such a short amount of time. My exposure to Olive prior to a few months ago was minimal. I had a few Blu-ray discs I had purchased, mostly their horror output, and for the most part I have been satisfied with what I have seen. There have been one or two missteps along the way, but mostly what they release is pretty acceptable. This time Olive have released another personal favorite from adolescence, in Stone Cold starring Brian Bosworth.
Though sometimes my memory confuses Stone Cold with Charlie Sheen’s similar film Beyond The Law, it remains a favorite of mine from childhood. Some thought Stone Cold would skyrocket Brian Bosworth towards action film legend. While that didn’t exactly happen, it still turned out to be memorable Eighties action fare. Brian Bosworth is a loose cannon cop who infiltrates an outlaw Biker gang to put to an end their reign of terror. Also making appearances are Lance Henriksen, William Forsythe, and even more recognizable faces. The movie itself is ridiculous, but highly entertaining. All of the things we looked for in action during the Eighties is present. Gratuitous nudity, extreme violence, a rogue cop, lots of gunfire and explosions. Stone Cold is a fun time, and it will appeal even to those who didn’t grow up with films like this. The cheesy one-liners are comedic gold, and delivered with extra cheese from Seahawks linebacker Brian “The Boz” Bosworth.
Olive is known for putting out serviceable Blu-ray releases of cult classics, with little in the way of restoration taking place. That isn’t to say that their releases are bad, because they aren’t. It’s just that they generally take an existing HD master, and press it to disc. Stone Cold definitely looks better than I’ve ever seen it, though it had probably been 15 years since the last time that I watched it, and that was probably on VHS. I haven’t seen whatever DVD release of the film for direct comparison, but I have to assume that this trumps that by a pretty wide margin. DNR is not an issue, nothing looks out of sorts. No issues to report on that front. The audio is a lossless DTS track, but 2.0 because that’s how the film was originally released. So while you might not be getting a crazy full-on restoration job, and a new remastered 5.1 track, what you do get is Stone Cold in HD, and that’s what is important.
As with most Olive Blu-ray releases, there are no extras on the disc at all. Whether or not that is a deterrent is up to you. Personally, I feel like the sixteen dollar asking price is well worth owning a certified Eighties B-Movie classic on Blu-ray disc.
Another Scream Factory release, another controversy. Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition release of Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers has been plagued with issues since it was announced. Delays, a lack of source material from which to scan a new transfer. After a year of waiting, some of us assumed that we’d never actually see this release come to fruition. On June 23rd, the wait was finally over, but some people were less than satisfied. Do they have a valid complaint, or is it more anti-Scream Factory hipster nonsense?
First, let’s talk about the movie, then we’ll get into the controversy. Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers is one of the last great Werewolf movies. It shouldn’t be hard to do, considering the criminal lack of solid werewolf movies on the market, but sadly, the few that do get made are generally average, or worse. If you really break it down, Dog Soldiers is more than just a werewolf movie, it’s also an homage to Evil Dead, and a brilliant comedy. You don’t often see the movie described as a comedy, but it really is.
What helps Dog Soldiers to stand out among the handful or so of werewolf films we’ve been treated to since The Howling and An American Werewolf In London in the 80s, is that it wasn’t just trying to mimic those films. It was attempting to take a monster, underrepresented in the horror genre, and actually do something different with it. Sure, you have the full moon transformations, and all of that, but you also have military presence, which creates a Werewolves VS Soldiers dynamic that, to my knowledge, hadn’t happened previously. And that’s on top of the fact that the werewolves were being weaponized by the military on the scene. Dog Soldiers was ahead of its time in a lot of ways, which is one of the reasons we haven’t seen a movie quite like it since.
Here is the harsh reality of the situation. Dog Soldiers is an ugly film in a lot of ways. It’s a low budget affair, it was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm for its theatrical exhibition in the UK. The original negative is lost. However, with the materials available, Marshall states that this is the closest a home video release has come to resembling the original theatrical release of the film. It’s super grainy, and the contrast is really high. On top of that, it’s quite a dark film in the first place. Having said all that, this was my most aesthetically pleasing viewing of the movie to-date. It’s damn sure an upgrade from the DVD, and aside from the obvious shortcomings, it actually looked exceptional displayed on my sixty-inch Samsung Plasma. Though the grain is thick, the details are well-defined. The color looks different from the DVD, but as I said, according to Marshall, this is the way the film has looked since the first print.
There are plenty of arguments one could lodge against this Blu-ray release of a coveted fan favorite, some of them valid, others not, but we’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that this is likely the best it’s going to get. It’s an upgrade, there’s no denying that, and the disc also comes stacked with a plethora of bonus content, making this the current definitive edition of the film. One of the arguments I’ve seen to counter the claims of Marshall in his release statements, and his interviews on the disc, is that George Lucas claims that his Special Editions of the Star Wars films were “how he always intended” the films to appear, but I don’t see the comparison as valid. There is a huge difference between using the available elements to piece together a transfer of the film as it was originally seen in theaters, and going back in and adding computer effects, and complete scenes that weren’t part of a film’s original release. Neil Marshall has never let me down, and each and every one of his films are a treat. I’m going to trust in him when he says that this is how the film is supposed to look. If it was a really crummy presentation of the film, you know, something like the Ultimate Hunter Edition of Predator, it would be a completely different story, but thankfully this isn’t that. This is the release of this film that you’re going to want in your collection, if you are a fan. It might not meet the qualifications that you’ve grown to expect, but it is what it is. It is highly doubtful that a better release will come along, at least not until the original negative is discovered, which we’re told is also extremely unlikely.
Director Neil Marshall was heavily involved in this Blu-ray release, from what I gather. On top of fully supporting it, he also oversaw the process of creating this new transfer, as well as participated in a wealth of bonus content that comes packed on the disc. There is a director’s commentary, a beefy “making-of” documentary, including new interviews with marshall, producer Chris Figg, Kevin McKidd, Sean Pertwee, Darren Morfitt, Emma Cleasby, FX Artist Bob Keen, Creature Designer Dave Bonneywell, production designer Simon Bowles, and DP Sam McCurdy. Also on the disc is Neil Marshall’s short film Combat, which is where Dog Soldiers is spawned from. There is gallery of production and special effects photos, and plenty more. As you can see, if this is a film of which you are a fan, this is a disc that deserves to be on your shelf.
Beyond some problems finding the negative from which to draw a new transfer, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers is a must-own. Sure it’s dark and grainy, but the director himself is telling you that this is how the film is supposed to look. Could it have been better? Sure, in a perfect world where all of the original filming materials for every film are properly reserved to assist in these restorations, I’m sure the transfer could have looked a bit shinier, but with a significant audio/visual upgrade when compared to the DVD(which is also ugly as shit), and a hefty stack of bonus content, this is, and will continue to be the definitive home video release of Dog Soldiers, at least until someone happens to find the original negative. Buy it, watch it, love it.
On top of a stack of classic exploitation films, also comes a stack of what is hard for me to refer to as classics(perhaps with The Mean season being the exception), but they have some sort of nostalgic value at the very least. Thrashin’, She-Devil and Mean Season make their HD debut from Olive Films.
Of the three, I’d say most people are excited about Thrashin’. While Thrashin’ is far from what one could consider to be “good” cinema, it’s very Eighties, and strikes just the right nostalgic notes for it to remain on the minds of Thirty-somethings who grew up watching it on HBO and the like. It stars a very young, post-Goonies Josh Brolin, who is a badass skateboarder. As part of a gang, Brolin’s character is competing against their harshest rivals in a downhill skateboarding battle, when he falls in love with with the sister of the leader of the rival gang. It’s not as fun as something like BMX Bandits, or even Gleaming the Cube, but it does bring back some fond memories. I’m not certain how this would play to a young, first time viewer, but for cinephiles in my age group, it’s probably a must own disc.
She-Devil was released a year after the first season of Roseanne, when Roseanne Barr’s popularity was at a fever pitch. It’s not exactly comedic gold, especially when compared to Roseanne’s far superior TV show, but it’s another one of those movies that survives the test of time due almost entirely to nostalgia. Roseanne plays a housewife, whose husband(played by Ed Begly Jr) is having an affair with a famous romance novelist, played by Meryl Streep, she goes to great, slapstick lengths to get her revenge. As a film fan, revisiting She-Devil reminded me what a forgettable movie it actually is. If it weren’t for its cast, it would probably have been lost in obscurity. However, the collector in me is excited for it to be sitting on my shelf, on Blu-ray, no less.
The Mean Season is probably the best movie of the three featured in this review. It’s not a cheesy 80s nostalgia trip, it’s an honest to goodness thriller, starring Kurt Russell, Mariel Hemingway, and featuring Richard Jordan, Andy Garcia, Richard Masur, and even more familiar faces. Russell plays a reporter for a Miami newspaper. After promising his girlfriend that he would resign, and move out of the city to get away from all of the murders that are the subject of his writing, Russell’s character is roped into a cat and mouse game with a notorious killer, who is using his position at the newspaper to make him part of his crimes. Though the story has been done to death, both before, and after the release of this film, it’s still an intense little thriller, and with a cast like that, it’s hard to ignore.
All of these titles could be considered d-grade, as far as collector value goes, but for film fanatics, they might be mandatory. Thrashin’ is the most recognizable title of the three, and that’s just because it earned its spot in the pop culture lexicon. None of them feature particularly impressive picture quality, but that’s not the fault of the transfer. These are just ugly films. Having said that, for what they are, these Blu-rays are probably the best we’re going to get. Transfer-wise, there is nothing wrong with them at all. Could they have benefited from a full 4K remaster? Sure, what film can’t. But, since nobody is rushing to do that, what we have here is more than acceptable. The audio quality is pretty much on the same level as the video. Serviceable would be the proper term to use here. These aren’t titles you’re going to rip off of your shelf when you want to show off the power of your home entertainment system to friends, but for your own personal enjoyment, the quality will do just fine.
There are no extras on these discs to report.
The discs featured in this review can be purchased from the following links:
Blaxploitation Explosion! Coffy, Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, Hammer – Now Available On Blu-ray From Olive Films
Olive has given us a ready-made Blaxploitation marathon, all in glorious HD. The boutique label has been killing it lately, releasing a ton of coveted titles to the Blu-ray format. This time around, they release the exploitation classics Coffy, Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, and Hammer.
Of the four films being released, Foxy Brown is easily my favorite. It’s the classic revenge tale, with a Blaxpoitation twist, starring Pam Grier, and written and directed by Jack Hill. In Foxy Brown, Grier’s boyfriend is murdered by a government agency, so she poses as a sexy afro-sporting prostitute to carve her way up the ladder in order to get her ultimate revenge. This was the first movie that exposed me(in more ways than one) to Pam Grier, and it’s pretty clear that it was one of Tarantino’s favorites as well.
Another childhood favorite of mine is Hammer, starring Fred Williamson as the titular character. In this one, B.J. Hammer is a laborer at a local dock. After an opportunist sees him fight, he enlists him to be a prizefighter, but when his shady manager/drug dealer asks him to throw a fight, and kidnaps his girlfriend to convince him to go along with it, It turns out that Hammer don’t play that. This is a classic Seventies Blaxploitation/Exploitation tale, filled with tons of action, including some truly entertaining chase scenes. Another movie that inspired Tarantino, and apparently Rodriquez, as the duo cast Fred Williams as a similar badass in From Dusk til Dawn
As far as Coffy goes, it’s not that it is a lesser Jack Hill/Pam Grier collaboration than Foxy Brown, it’s just that, I was exposed to Foxy first, so it holds a special place in my heart. This time around Grier plays a nurse who sets out on the warpath on the city’s drug dealers, after her 11 year old sister is exposed to a cooked batch of Heroin. It’s basically the same formula as Foxy Brown, with a few slight differences here and there. Either way, this is a very exciting revenge film, with all the elements of Jack Hill greatness. Coffy is the movie that launched Pam Grier into exploitation super-stardom, and rightfully so.
Perhaps my least favorite film of the bundle, is Friday Foster. That’s not to say that it’s a bad film, just that, by comparison, it is the lesser of the four. In this one, Pam Grier plays a photographer who witnesses an assassination attempt on the “richest black man in America,” which sucks Friday into a deep conspiracy, costing her the life of one of her childhood friends. It’s not as exciting as Foxy Brown or Coffy, but it’s still a classic in its own right.
These are all old, grungy films, but they look and sound fantastic on the Blu-ray format. Featuring full HD, 1080p, AVC-encoded transfers in 1.85: 1, and DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio tracks, the grit and grime you’ve come to expect from movies like this is preserved, while outlining the detail made possible by the Blu-ray format. These aren’t as pristine as a new release movie would be, but for what it is, they look and sound pretty damn good.
As with most of Olive’s catalog, there are no extras on the discs to report.
You may purchase each of these titles from the following links:
Of all of the Eighties slasher films released to Blu-ray within the past several years, it surprises me that Sleepaway Camp II and III hold up better than most of them. I never really considered myself to be a fan of this series when I was a kid. I had seen them a few times each, but it was never something I’d develop an itch to revisit. In the not-too-distant past, Dead Air Podcast did a full Sleepaway Camp retrospective series. I’m certain I appeared on at least one of the episodes, because I vividly recall digging my Survival Kit box set off of the shelves upstairs, and watching the three films for the occasion. It surprised me then, and it surprised me again now, that I enjoy these sequels far more than even I was prepared for. In all honestly, I think I prefer the second and third films in the series over even the original, which rarely happens with low budget horror and slasher films.
Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers:
The second Sleepaway Camp movie, Unhappy Campers, is easily my favorite. Not only of the two that are being released this month, but of the entire series. There’s something about it that just oozes rewatchability. Every single time I watch it, I find that I have enjoyed it a little more than the time before. When you really think about it, similar films, and especially their sequels very rarely possess the quality of film-making you get here. I mean, sure, some of the acting is a little over the top, but none of it is bad, and if anything, it adds to the charm rather than detracting from the film itself. By any standards, Sleepaway Camp II should be awful, bordering on unwatchable. Not only is it not, it may be one of my favorite Eighties slashers. I love the Slumber Party Massacre movies for what they are, but never were they as competent and enjoyable as the Sleepaway Camp sequels. There is some real heart, and raw talent on display in the second film in the Sleepaway Camp series, and some of that even trickles over into the third film.
Sleepaway camp III: Teenage Wasteland:
The third Sleepaway Camp film is the lesser of the two, but they were basically filmed back to back, so some of what made the second film so special carries over into this movie. It’s a different kind of film, visually. It’s not quite as dark as the second film. In the opening scene, there is even a segment that takes place outside of a camp setting, involving a victim being chased down a NYC alley in broad daylight. What the third film is mostly known for, is the fact that its final form is a butcher job, thanks to the MPAA, and the flawed way that they operate. There is actually quite a bit more about that on the documentary on the disc, but more about that in a minute. While it might not be as good as Unhappy Campers, Teenage Wasteland is still a far more enjoyable film than some would say it has a right to be. As far as Summer-themed horror goes, you could do much worse.
Both discs come with a mixture of extras, new and old. The star of the show is a documentary titled A Tale of Two Sequels, which is split between the releases. The first part of the documentary, which appears on Sleepaway Camp II is interesting, but the second half is a real eye-opener. I knew before that Sleepaway Camp III had issues with the MPAA and was eventually cut because of it, but I had no idea of the extent. While the MPAA will not tell you specifically what to cut, the filmmakers had a pretty good idea as to what was twisting their titties. Several rough-looking gore scenes are both shown within the documentary, and available on the disc in the form of deleted scenes. In fact, a workprint of the film, including the longer kill scenes is included on the disc. It’s pretty rough, sourced from what had to have been some form of tape, but it is watchable if you would like to see a longer cut of the film. Some people say, gore is not what makes a movie good. And while I’d agree, I’d also state that, if you watch the deleted footage, and the documentary on the disc to see exactly what was cut, and where, I think you’d agree that the cuts that were forced by the MPAA turned this into a different film. Had those scenes been included, this would probably be much more of a cult classic than it is. Beyond the documentary, the deleted scenes, and the full workprint of the third film, both discs have commentaries, behind-the-scenes footage, a home video distribution promo that was sent to video stores, trailers, and a few other little nuggets of bonus content. Overall, it’s a more-than-competent package, for a couple of films that you’re probably going to want to revisit each year, once the heat and humidity become too much for normal humans to breathe properly.
Sleepaway Camp II and III are now available on Blu-ray/DVD combo packs, released by none other than Scream Factory. The picture quality is beyond acceptable, considering the fact that there is no camera negative with which to restore the film, and the extras are plentiful. Highly recommended.
HorrorSexy Podcast: Episode 9 – We Are Still Here, Spring, Hudson Horror, Christopher Lee & Much More
This week on the show, James, Eric and Shawn discuss the recently-passed Christopher Lee, and what his career has meant to them. Also up for discussion is E3 2015, with brief discussions about Fallout 4, and the new Doom.
James attended this year’s Hudson Horror Show, and he gives us the rundown, which leads to a discussion about the awesome Exhumed Films, their 24 Hour Horror-thon in Philly, and all of the awesome 35mm screenings and Drive-in screenings they are responsible for.
As always, new horror and other stuff has been dumped onto Netflix, and Eric has the scoop.
The indie sensation We Are Still Here is discussed at length, as is the recent announcement in regards to the Halloween franchise’s newest sequel.
Recent Blu-ray releases are touched upon, as well as quickie reviews of Jurassic World and the Poltergeist remake. Justin Benson and Aaron Moorehead’s latest, Spring closes out the show.
We will return. Tune in next week for another all-new episode of the HorrorSexy Podcast.
Much thanks to Karissa for her SEXpert vocalization used in the HorrorSexy introduction and Videogram aka Magnus Sellergren for the use of the track “Regina dei Cannibali End Titles” off his first release entitled Videogram.
You can purchase the full release of Videogram here: videogram.bandcamp.com/album/videogram
Make sure to stop by DiabolikDVD to support physical media, independent horror business and region freedom. www.diabolikdvd.com/
For more HorrorSexy podcasts and content go to www.HorrorSexy.com and support our contributors who work tirelessly to bring you horror that will turn you on.Much thanks to Karissa for her SEXpert vocalization used in the HorrorSexy introduction and Videogram aka Magnus Sellergren for the use of the track “Regina dei Cannibali End Titles” off his first release entitled Videogram.
You can purchase the full release of Videogram here: videogram.bandcamp.com/album/videogram
Make sure to stop by DiabolikDVD to support physical media, independent horror business and region freedom. www.diabolikdvd.com/
For more Continue reading
It’s hard to review the classics, sometimes. With a movie like John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, what can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before? This film is so ingrained in pop culture, that even people who haven’t seen a single Carpenter film is familiar with it, and its titular character, Snake Plissken, played by Kurt Russell in a way that no other actor could have done. When you consider that this film was produced on a budget of around six million dollars, the scope of this movie, and what Carpenter was able to accomplish with such a modest budget is truly amazing. It feels like a fifty million dollar film, at the very least. I don’t know if I can call this my favorite Carpenter film, but it is one of the top 3, for certain. This is is a harder Blu-ray release for some to swallow, as it is also available in a release that came straight from MGM, so unless the previous release was garbage, or you have an extremely impressive extras package, it’s a hard sale, to get folks to double dip on a title like this. I think Scream Factory did a good job, at giving us a reason to buy yet another Blu-ray copy of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York.
To start with, the MGM Blu-ray is not garbage. It lacks that extra punch that comes with the Scream Factory release, with the Collector’s Edition packaging, and an entire disc dedicated to bonus content, but it is a respectable presentation of the film itself. Some have claimed that the Scream Factory release is a downgrade, but they would be wrong, and probably haven’t actually seen it, if you want the truth. Yeah, yeah, I know, “compression artifacts” and all of that, but if you haven’t actually seen the release in motion, and you’re just regurgitating what another person with a bone to pick has regurgitated from elsewhere, I have no respect for your opinion. I’m sorry, I just don’t. If the way you decide to purchase home video releases is by looking at compressed screenshots, on sites that love to tear the popular guys down, you’re only hurting yourself. You’re missing out on a lot of good releases, over practically nothing. I will admit that there are some Blu-ray releases that have issues. If you were to take a look at FOX’s “Ultimate Hunter Edition” release of Predator, you will see probably the worst Blu-ray release to ever hit a store shelf. Not a single one of Scream Factory’s releases even remotely resemble that hot mess.
People shouted from the rooftops that Arrow Video’s UK Blu-ray release of Motel Hell was “MUCH BETTER” than Scream Factory’s release, so I bought it, watched for comparison, and you know what? It’s not. Both releases are fantastic, and both look gorgeous. I get in trouble sometimes, for referring to those that belong to this new group of anti-Scream Factory curmudgeons as hipsters. But, in all honesty, I really don’t know how else to describe somebody that suddenly dislikes something, now that it has become popular. I’m not saying that Scream Factory have never released something with flaws. If you will take a look at their Nosferatu, it is of lower quality than other releases of that film. But generally, if you see a reviewer, or somebody in a home video collecting group on Facebook, blathering on about “compression artifacts”, it’s more than likely that they are full of shit. This Blu-ray, looks as good, if not a little better than the previous release from MGM. Couple that, with the fact that it comes to you, absolutely brimming with bonus content, and it should be a no-brainer, as to whether or not you should buy this release.
Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, is highly recommended. It sports a new transfer of the film, that is as good if not better than the previous transfer, with new audio commentaries, photo galleries, visual effects documentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, a retrospective featurette, trailers and more. Take it from me, someone who has seen this movie a thousand times, and loves it dearly, you can purchase this release with confidence. There is nothing wrong with the transfer, and you are going to want in on these extras, if you are any kind of fan of this film.
I haven’t thought about Class of 1984 for a long time, but became excited the second it was announced by Scream Factory for a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release. This really isn’t a horror film, as much as it is a really gritty crime/drama, but the over-the-top look of the characters, and the post-apocalyptic feel of the film creates cross-appeal for genre fans. Glancing at the synopsis, and seeing the theatrical poster, one might get the wrong kind of expectations for a film like this. You cannot draw a comparison between this film, and Class of Nuke ’em High, because there is none to be made. This is a serious film, first and foremost.
If you’re somewhat new to the horror output of the Eighties, and are over-and-over, experiencing new films because of a Blu-ray release from Scream Factory, or any other number of boutique labels that are giving some of us our childhoods back, Class of 1984 is easily misunderstood. It’s not a comedy, it’s not a movie that’s “so bad that it’s good,” it’s a genuinely unsettling, gritty and dramatic crime drama, wherein a local “gang” is creating problems at the town’s high school. When I say problems, I mean like, rape, extortion, murder, drug trafficking, you know, the staples of one’s high school experience. I can see the horror appeal within this movie, because it’s legitimately terrifying. If you’re an adult teacher, what are you supposed to do when the behavior of your students is likely to cause you and your loved ones physical harm?
So, while you’re not getting a Nuke ’em High style, over-the-top gory and disgusting post-apocalyptic high school comedy, you are getting a hard-hitting film that, while not technically horror, presents a truly horrifying situation. As with most Scream Factory Blu-rays these days, there have been some mixed reaction from reviewers. If you buy Blu-rays to watch and enjoy the movies you love, with HD video and uncompressed sound, then you will be pleased with this release of Class of 1984. If you’re a home video hipster, and you watch movies with a magnifying glass, desperately hoping to find a flaw that you can spread around and amplify on social networking sites, and other places that think compressed screenshots are a good representation of HD video in motion, well, who cares what you think anyway? The extras package contains new retrospective documentaries, extra interviews, audio commentaries, and more. Buy with confidence, as this Blu-ray is more than recommended.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Offspring AKA From a Whisper to a Scream Is Highly Recommended
Though I pride myself on my encyclopedic knowledge of movies, every now and then one of these boutique labels releases a cult title that managed to slip by me. Such is the case with Scream Factory’s release of The Offspring, or, From a Whisper to a Scream. I knew of its existence, at least, mostly due to Doc Terror and his love for the film. I wasn’t expecting much, which is mostly a defense mechanism, so if a film isn’t my forte, I can at least keep an eye out for its positive values. But with The Offspring, I loved it from the first minute, and quickly realized that this is a film I should have watched long ago.
I love anthologies, but so many of them are mediocre, that I am instantly filled with apprehension when I learn that that is what I’m about to watch. I’m not sure what I expected with The Offspring, but the level of depravity took me by surprise. Part of that maybe because it’s marketed as a Vincent Price movie, but in reality, he’s just a Crypt Keeper, of sorts. Price’s character whose murderous daughter was just executed, presents four different tales to a reporter, in an attempt to explain to her, the town’s long history of of supernaturally-charged violence. Necrophilia, voodoo, flesh-eating, this movie has it all. And all of it is presented by a certified genre legend.
Scream Factory’s Blu-ray presentation of the film is a sight to behold. Usually on these non-Collector’s Edition releases, we get a few extras, but nothing much. This time around it’s stacked, including some new audio commentaries, several retrospective documentaries, including the feature-length documentary about the director, and the 8mm films he and his friends were producing as teens, and even a featured documentary about the production of this film in specific. There is more on the disc, and Scream are known for underselling their extras packages.
The picture and sound quality are reference quality, especially for a film of this nature, and from the late Eighties. Colors are gorgeous, the grain structure is existent, yet not intrusive, and the clarity is top notch. If somebody uses the term “compression artifacts” when explaining this Blu-ray release to you, smack them in the face, because they’re lying. Scream Factory put together an impressive package for a title that is a little less well-known than the the movies that generally turn into Collector’s Editions. I think The Offspring, AKA From a Whisper to a Scream has broad appeal, for even the most casual horror fans. If you were on the fence, take this as a strong recommendation for purchase. The movie is great, the extras are almost as good as the movie itself, and the video and audio presentation are in tiptop shape. Go forth, and purchase.
Mark of the Devil is one of those horror movies that was released back when going to the movies was an event. Where marketing slogans roped in potential ticket-purchases, and not catty online reviews and four hundred different trailers between the time a project is announced and its release dates. Most people who have a passion for genre films have at least heard the title Mark of the Devil, and that’s because of the marketing campaign behind it. Slogans like “Positively the most horrifying film ever made”, and “Rated V for Violence” would take care of putting the asses in the seats, but it’s the actual contents of the film that have us talking about it almost 50 years later. Arrow Video are introducing American consumers to their new US distribution house with three titles, one of which, Mark of the Devil. Continue reading
Exterminators of the Year 3000 is a film that I had never seen, but was highly anticipating once the announcement was made that Scream Factory would be bringing it to Blu-ray. I’m a huge fan of George Miller’s Mad Max films, and almost anything to do with a post-apocalyptic wastelands or dystopian societies. I am also a fan of Italian Exploitation, so when you combine those elements, you have my attention. I was expecting to be entertained by this film, but I didn’t expect it to be as fun as it was.
As far as the controversy over the quality of the video presentation is concerned, there are some elements of the video quality that are occasionally problematic. However, this is pretty obviously due to problems with the source material, and not some kind of screw-up at the hands of Scream Factory. If you’ll read an honest review about the discs, it would read that this is a mostly-solid presentation of an obscure piece of Italian cinema. It’s not without its problems, but there’s likely nothing that could have been done. It looks beautiful, almost ninety eight percent of the time. So for those of you that have read on forums and social networking sites that this release is an awful DNR’ed mess, you can rest easily in knowing that such claims have been greatly exaggerated.
Currently, Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Exterminators of the Year 3000 is sitting on Amazon.com, under sixteen bucks. For what you get, that price is more than fair. You do get several extras, including an audio commentary, some interviews and a couple of TV spots, and I can guarantee that no matter what you read on a forum, this is a big upgrade from any previous release of the film. The audio, much like the video, is somewhat problematic at the source, but for what it is, the presentation is impressive. For whatever reason, even though a lot of the actors could speak English, the film was eventually dubbed. I dislike dubbed films, I think it robs you the experience that the actors/director were hoping you’d have, but when there is no other option, I can certainly deal with it. Plus, some of the dubbing creates for some unintentional humor.
If you want to see a good example of an unwatchable Blu-ray, check out FOX’s “Ultimate Hunter Edition” Blu-ray release of Predator. That’s a DNR’ed, disgusting mess. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Exterminators of the Year 3000, is absolutely not. There are some issues with the film at the source level, but there is no such tomfoolery here. It looks as good as it probably could have looked without a full-on 4K restoration, and even then, most of the issues I’ve seen people complain about would still exist. So take my advice, ignore those people and their agendas, and pick up this Blu-ray, I can almost guarantee that most of you will have a fun time.
I am a fan of Larry Cohen. From Black Caesar, Hell Up in Harlem, the It’s Alive series, and Q: The Winged Serpent, the man has developed a diverse body of work, and most of it is at least worth watching. Somehow, Gold Told Me To had eluded me up until Blue Underground released it to Blu-ray. This was not at all what I expected it to be, and may have become one of my favorite Cohen films. Fans of offbeat cinema should take note, this is one of this year’s Blu-rays that you’re not going to want to miss. I say “offbeat” because from the outside looking in, this just looks like your typical New York City thriller, where people are being terrorized by an unknown murderer. In reality, this is a Sci-Fi tale at its very core, and ventures into even stranger territory before it’s all over.
Casual genre fans may find it to be somewhat off-putting, for the very reason that I find it to be refreshing when compared to somewhat similar films. If you know absolutely nothing about God Told Me To before going in, the way in which the film transitions between different genres will grab your attention. From Crime/Thriller onto horror, and then again from Science Fiction, even dipping into Blaxploitation near the end, Cohen tried a “Kitchen Sink” approach to genre storytelling, and manages to pull it together extremely well. Another thing I really liked about God Told Me To, is that you really do have to pay attention. If you leave the film playing while grabbing a snack from the kitchen, you may return to an entirely different film, and have no idea what happened. There are a lot of moving parts here, so in a way, it’s like a brain game, only in the form of a late Seventies exploitation film.
Blue Underground, as usual, have put together an impressive release of Cohen’s film. There is a generous portion of bonus content, including a commentary, several interviews, a Q&A session with Larry Cohen from a screening of the film at the New Beverly, TV spots and more. The sound quality is nearly perfect. You have three audio tracks to choose from, including a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track which is the original mono recording, and a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track for good measure. During the feature, I switched back and forth between the 7.1 and 2.0 tracks. For the type of film this is, I much preferred the original 2.0 mono track, but both exemplary.
With a new 4K transfer, I highly doubt that Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To has ever looked better. In fact, I’d wager to say that, at least until the new 4K resolution players/displays become the standard, it may never look better than Blue Underground’s presentation. The images is remarkably film-like, with a healthy grain structure. Exterior scenes are absolutely gorgeous, but the well-lit interior scenes are almost as impressive. Even if the film itself wasn’t so engrossing, its presentation is so beautiful that I would highly recommend this disc to any proponents of film restoration. We’re treated to a ton of genre fare on the Blu-ray format, now that we have several competing boutique labels battling it out for licenses on bucket list titles, and God Told Me To is Blue Underground showing us the proper way to Blu-ray.
I’m not saying that Animal is a “ripoff” of Feast. It’s hard to make an original monster movie these days. Everything has already been done. What I am saying though, is that whether or not the creative team behind the new Chiller TV film Animal admit it or not, they owe most of what they put together to Gulager and his hilariously claustrophobic monster movie from 2005. Animal is another one of those films, made specifically for Chiller TV, even though it is aired censored. A few months later, it is released onto Blu-ray, through some kind of deal that is currently in place between Chiller and Scream Factory. The story takes place, mostly within a single location(sound familiar?), while a crazy Feast-looking creature tries desperately to huff and puff and tear the house down so he can eat a bunch of people, including Joey Lauren Adams. It all sounds pretty derivative, and it is, but it still manages to be pretty entertaining, and some of the FX work, though highly reminiscent of previous monster movies, is pretty impressive. Continue reading
Fright Night has been somewhat of a coveted title among Blu-ray collectors. It was one of the first major horror Blu-ray releases that Twilight Time released, that grabbed the attention of horror aficionados. Due to its extremely limited run, the first Blu-ray released skyrocketed to prices upwards of two-to-four hundred dollars on the secondary market. When it was announced that Twilight Time would be reissuing the Blu-ray in the form of a ’30th Anniversary Edition’ with added bonus content, every person within the know quickly pre-ordered the release, selling it out long before the actual release date. But is it a good release?
If you have at least seen their last Blu-ray release in motion, you will immediately notice that this is the same transfer, with a few slight level tweaks. The truth of the matter is, for ninety percent of us that collect these things, you will be extremely satisfied with the end product. It looks and sounds gorgeous, and the bonus content is just enough to give you a lot of information surrounding the production of the film. It’s a little hard to review a title that I can’t recommend for you to run out and purchase, nor would I recommend giving the scalpers what they want and paying that ridiculously inflated secondary market price. But if you can find a way to acquire this Blu-ray for a price that you are comfortable paying for it, I can’t see you being disappointed.
I’m three paragraphs into this review, and I’ve barely mentioned the movie itself. I’d seen Fright Night on numerous occasions, and I enjoyed it, but something about the tongue-in-cheek nature of the movie caused me to favor films such as Near Dark, and others with a more serious tone. I didn’t realize until much later what a rabid fanbase Fright Night had. After Twilight Time’s first Blu-ray release sold out, I made a vow that I would never watch the film again, unless it was on Blu-ray, new or old. The 30th Anniversary Fright Night Blu-ray caused me to have a newfound respect for the film. Whereas before, I only kinda liked it a little bit. Sure, it’s more of a humorous outing than something that takes itself a little more seriously, but it wasn’t nearly as cheesy as I recalled.
A new Blu-ray release was all it took to win me over. It isn’t stuffed with extras to the point that they’re falling out of the case when you crack the seal, but there are some really cool behind-the-scenes stories from Tom Holland himself, which enhanced my revisit of everybody else’s favorite vampire film. I still feel like there are at least two vampire films from the same era that are superior in every way, but Fright Night is no schlub. I feel as if now that this release is on my shelf, I’ll likely revisit the film(and hopefully its sequel some day) on an annual basis. It’s clever, it’s sexy, and it’s oh, so Eighties. The picture quality is excellent, as is the quality of the audio track, and the bonus content that wasn’t available on the previous release. As I said, this Blu-ray is sold out. If you feel it is worth the money being charged on the secondary market, then by all means seek it out. If not, you can either try and find a kind soul with an extra to sell to you at cost, or wait another few years for the inevitable 3rd Blu-ray release of the film within North America.