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.
Yeah, Exterminators of the Year 3000 is a complete ripoff of George Miller’s epic Mad Max and The Road Warrior, but is that really a bad thing? You take a situation as enthralling as battling other survivors for resources by way of Twisted Metal-style car combat, throw in a few quirky but interesting characters, and put that Italian Exploitation twist on it, and you have a recipe for fun, and that’s exactly what this film delivers. We have one rigid anti-hero, one over-the-top baddie in fetish gear, tons of fast-paced vehicular combat, featuring cars straight out of a post-apocalyptic destruction derby, and a ton of nods to other films of the same ilk. Sound like fun? Well, it is.
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.
It feels sort of weird, reviewing the sequel to Candyman without having the first film released to Blu-ray yet. I understand, however, that another distro company supposedly holds the rights to the film, with intentions on a Blu-ray release some time in the future, so it’s not something I’m holding against Scream Factory. I know they would have released the first film as well if given the opportunity. I just wish that other company, one that has been lighting the horror charts on fire as of late with their sold out limited edition Blu-rays, would hurry up with their release. I digress. I’ve always been a fan of Farewell to the Flesh. Perhaps even more so than other horror fans. And, I am a fan of Bill Condon. Sure, he directed a two-part Twilight movie, but he also directed Kinsey, as well as Gods and Monsters. Farewell to the Flesh is the type of sequel that takes that boogie man from the first film, and expands his mythology so you can get a better understanding as to how he came to be. Sometimes this works, and other times it doesn’t, but I really feel like this sequel is a shining example of how to do a followup like this, and do it right. Continue reading →
In late October, the director’s cut of Nightbreed was finally unleashed upon hungry fans. We’ve been waiting for that release for what seems like decades, and its pre-order phase was met with the appropriate internet buzz, both good and bad. Now Scream Factory are dropping another Clive Barker film upon us, and it too comes with a Director’s Cut, as well as the Theatrical Cut. Some may argue that this is the superior film of the two releases. Some, but not myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lord of Illusions, and especially the director’s cut, but for me, Nightbreed is the perfect monster movie. Lord of Illusions is more of a dark pulp detective movie than a horror movie, but it’s dark enough, and violent enough for it to fit nicely in that genre as well. This is a case where Barker had one vision in mind for the film, but the studio had another. Thankfully, they allowed him to bring bother versions to fruition, but only the Theatrical Cut received a theatrical exhibition. If Barker is to be believed, the main issue that the studio had with his vision for Lord of Illusion, is that they wanted a fluffier horror movie, with less emphasis on the noir elements. Barker had always intended it to be heavy with the noir, so now we have two totally different versions of the film to choose from, and both in stunning high definition with tons of bonus content, and some nifty new commissioned cover art. Continue reading →
I enjoyed the first Dead Snow film well enough, but it seemed like it gathered a ravenous fanbase, which I was not a part of. It was a competently made zombie film, but at the time, I had pretty much had it up to here with the genre. Plus, another couple of nazi “zombie” movies came out around the same time, such as Outpost, and to a lesser extent, Frankenstein’s Army. I had little hope for a sequel to a mostly decent foreign zombie movie. You can imagine my surprise when early word of mouth from the festival circuit was mostly positive. After around 50 emails, I was finally able to find a PR person with an online screener for me to view. The first time I would see Dead Snow 2 would be mostly in its native tongue. I realized that Martin Starr was in the film, however, so I knew it had to be at least partially English. When the Blu-ray was announced by Well Go USA, I was surprised to learn that the movie had been filmed in both languages. I love it when a director does things like that. I love it even more when I compare the two versions of the film, and the experience is virtually seamless. The movie itself is a ton of fun. Quite possibly some of the most fun I had with a movie in 2014. That’s not to say that Dead Snow 2 is the best movie of the year, not by a longshot. But what it does, it does very well. Continue reading →
Sleepy Hollow has been attempting to assimilate Katrina into its cast of recurring players for some time now, hinting that she might be joining forces with Ichabod and Abbie but never following through for extended lengths of time. Part of that has to do with her formidable magic – put Katrina into a situation, and she should easily be able to deal with it by casting a spell. The show can’t continue to keep her as deus ex machina, but it also has to come to terms with the fact that she’s an integral part of Ichabod’s life, and they can’t keep her on the outskirts forever. Continue reading →
American Horror Story has often struggled to find its focus throughout the first half of its seasons; in general, though, the theme has been to keep the struggling group of cast members at its core together amid a lot of problems. In Coven, the goal was to keep the coven healthy and together; in Murder House, it was to keep familial relations together. And now in Freak Show, the season has made its intentions clear, that the pressures of living within the confines of Elsa’s freak show are threatening to break up the group. By doing so, Freak Show has cemented its place as the same story with the same cast, just set in a different facility. Continue reading →
I, like most horror movie fans, love an anthology. There’s no other genre that makes use of the short film the way horror does. Throw three of them together, maybe a bookend segment, and you’ve more than likely got something that horror fans are going to be paying attention to. The first V/H/S film was met with mixed reception, some loved it, some hated it. Me? I loved it. I’m a fan of almost everyone involved in it, and I thought it was a quite solid anthology. Then V/H/S 2 came along a year later, and it was greeted with almost nothing but praise. I’ll admit, as much as I enjoyed the first, V/H/S 2 blew it away. It wasn’t perfect, of course, but it was just on a different level than the first. Now we have a third, and supposed final, installment in the series, V/H/S: Viral. Continue reading →
I’ve been a fan of Adam Wingard since a friend of mine told me I needed to watch Home Sick. Good directors have a unique style that’s all their own, and is immediately recognizable to their fans; Adam Wingard’s is one of my favorite. No matter the size in scope of the story he’s telling, his films have a smaller, more personal feel to them. They tend to center around one or two characters, and never stray too far from them. It takes talent to make that kind of movie work, and Wingard nails it more times than not. You’re Next was one of my favorite movies of last year ( I didn’t get to see it until it got wide release), so my expectations for The Guest were pretty high going in. For the most part it delivered, but fell just short of being one of my top films of 2014. Continue reading →
Even if you’ve never seen them, if you’re a horror fan, you’ve likely heard something about both Night of the Demons, as well as Witchboard. Witchboard being the lesser known title. Both film spawned several sequels that ranged from great, to “well, there were boobs.” Both films were brought to us by the same director, which shows in some ways, but not enough to feel derivative. Another thing these films have in common, is that I have only seen them both a couple of times, and all of that was from rental VHS copies. It’s not that I didn’t like them enough to purchase them on DVD when they made the switch, it’s just that when you’re managing such a huge collection, it’s hard to remember every title you’ve ever liked enough to make it your own. Nevertheless, here we are in 2014, and Scream Factor has come to the rescue with a Collector’s edition Blu-ray release of Night of the Demons, and a standard edition Blu-ray release of Witchboard, which happens to have more extras than most standard edition Blu-rays that the company has released. Continue reading →
The Ford Brothers’ The Dead is one of the best examples of modern zombie filmmaking. I know it has its detractors, mostly because of the slow-going nature of the film, but I found it to be breathtaking, which isn’t a word you hear tossed around when describing zombies anymore. The Ford Brothers managed to capture what made films like Day of the Dead have such a strong impact on viewers. It wasn’t a comedy, or even an action movie. It was a bleak, slow-burning tale of the dead returning to life, in a post-apocalyptic West Africa. While the setting of some zombie movies comes as an afterthought, in The Dead, it played as important of a role as any character in the film. While The Dead 2 takes somewhat of a different approach – at least in regards to the pacing of the film – it still retains that aspect of the first film. It’s no longer set in Africa, however. This time around, the action – and I do mean action – moves to India, where an American contractor is about to wrap-up the job he’s doing, and once the zombies make themselves known, he does whatever he can to make it to his local, pregnant girlfriend, so that she can make the trek back to America with him. The main difference here, is that The Dead 2 is a lot more action-oriented than the first film. Sometimes that doesn’t work very well, causing the film to lose the original tone, but in the case of The Dead 2, it makes it one of the most beautiful and exciting zombie films I have seen for a while. Continue reading →
I was on board with The Battery very early on. In all honesty, all it really took to rope me in was the unveiling of this badass, old school poster. I looked around on the net for reviews, but information was sparse. When the film was released on VOD/Digital, I jumped at the opportunity to watch it. I wasn’t expecting much from a no-budget zombie film. Little did I expect that it would secure a spot on my list of the best films of the year in 2013. I did what I could to promote the film, and let people know that this was something truly special. I managed to get a few people to watch it, and then it started getting more popular, as it screened at the 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. People I had assured that they NEEDED to see this film, such as Jeff and Heather, found it to be spectacular as well. The extremely limited budget of the film ($6,000) certainly adds to the charm of the film. But, it’s the fact that the movie looks as good as it does, with performances as good as they are, and music as great as it is, despite that non-budget. How many multi-million dollar zombie films have we seen that were borderline unwatchable? Tons, even more than tons. I’d wager that around 1 out of ever 10 zombie films that are released today, are even worthy of consideration. The Battery is the zombie film, made for those of us that have had it with the genre. It’s the anti-zombie film, that manages to be better than any zombie film that may or may not be sitting next to it on the shelf. It’s one of the best no-budget films I have ever seen. Continue reading →
I will say this: though I don’t think that Resurrection really has a plan in terms of its new Spanish flu development, it does make for some entertaining moments in these second season episodes. Maybe it’s because it gives real danger to the returned, something that has been missing from previous episodes; those people don’t feel like regular humans, because they don’t suffer from the same problems and have the potential to return after they die anyway. Introducing such a thing takes away any serious repercussions for many of the characters the show follows, and this includes Bellamy now. With the flu, at least, the returned don’t just die – they disappear. Continue reading →
In an effort to get caught up with DEADtime, and to stay caught up, we’re implementing a new way of posting reviews. Instead of compiling each week’s horror stuff, we’ll be posting them after each episode of the show airs. It’s going to work out better for everyone, because if someone’s late it doesn’t stop the rest of the episodes. For now, we’re a couple of weeks behind, but we’ll catch up to the latest episodes quickly with this new system. This will be a bulk review of American Horror Story: Freak Show, so I will mostly be treating these two episodes as if they were one.
There was a time, long before the internet, that I went out of my way to find out absolutely anything about a movie I was excited about. I begged my parents for issues of Fango, mailed away for catalogs, actually read the entertainment section of the newspaper, literally anything I could do to get information about a movie. Here we are, years later, and all of that information is literally in our hands at any given second, and I find myself going out of my way to not know anything about a film going into it. Word of mouth, hype, false praise, etc. run rampant these days and nine times out of ten, I find myself in total disagreement with the vast majority, be they positive or negative. We’ve all got our own taste in things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. As such, I like to form my own opinions. Having said all that, you may be thinking to yourself about all the wonderful things you’ve heard about Joe Stauffer and David Long’s Pieces of Talent, and getting the feeling that it didn’t quite thrill me the way it did seemingly everybody else on Earth. You’d be right.
Synopsis from IMDB:
This story centers around Charlotte, a struggling young actress who can’t catch a break. In an effort to support herself and her hopeless mother, Charlotte holds a job as a cocktail waitress at a seedy, local strip club and hates every minute of it. During a cigarette break late one evening she witnesses an altercation between an overzealous bouncer and an unfortunate passerby, David. David makes movies and given Charlotte’s career interests a friendship quickly develops. Soon enough, David mentions a project he has in the works that she would be perfect for and an excited Charlotte agrees to take part. She has no idea what she has signed up for.
That synopsis would lead you to believe that a girl named Charlotte (Kristi Ray) is the main character here, and while it’s true she would probably be considered the protagonist, the film most certainly doesn’t center around her. She plays second fiddle to the film’s villain David (David Long, who also co-wrote). Pieces of Talent is basically David just running around seemingly at random killing people as a part of an “artistic” film he’s working on. It feels like somebody is attempting to put together a large puzzle here, using different pieces from other, different puzzles. By the end, David attempts to explain a plot that interconnects all the victims, but as the concept had been completely ignored up until that point, 80 minutes into the 90 minute runtime, it felt forced and wasn’t particularly satisfying.
That sort of thing can be forgiven in some instances, particularly in the (groan) “torture porn” genre, as long as when it comes to the kills, they’re at least equal parts brutal and entertaining. Sadly, Pieces of Talent drops the ball in this regard also. That’s not to say there isn’t blood though. There’s blood, plenty of it. The disappointment comes in when David takes the time to build elaborate sets for the kills, then doesn’t even utilize them. For instance, he straps one guy into a chair, with his wrists restrained out in front of him, a large pendulum looking contraption, with all kinds of saw blades and the like on it, swinging ominously above them. When it comes down to the kill though, all we get is David smashing the guys writst with a small hammer and a quick cut away. That friends, is the very definition of a tease, and Pieces of Talent is full of them.
Things aren’t all negative though, this is a very well made film. It’s well shot, the acting is good, David Long in particular turns in a fairly creepy performance as David. That smile will haunt me for a couple of days. As mentioned there’s blood, and at times the film does exhibit a pretty substantial mean streak, I was just constantly left wanting. There was so much wasted potential. Couple that with a plot that at first appears to be non-existant then attempts to throw itself together at the last minute, before concluding in a highly unsatisfying manner, and you’ve got yourself the movie equivalent of going into an underground massage parlor and not getting the happy ending you paid for in advance.
Drive Hard is a straight-to-video action/comedy, starring John Cusack and Thomas Jane. I didn’t expect much from it, but as it turns out, it was actually quite entertaining. I’m not saying that this is some sort of Triple-A title. It’s very much what you think it is, with both lead actors teetering somewhere between playing themselves, and phoning it in for a paycheck, but it’s funny enough that if you see it somewhere on the cheap, there are worse home video purchases you could make. The story follows Peter, a former NASCAR racer, who has settled down with a wife and child in Australian suburban hell. Peter gives driving lessons for a career now, so when Simon(Cusack) shows up, he assumes that will be the extent of his day. As it turns out, Simon knows very well who Peter is, and has picked him for a reason. See Simon is on a quest for revenge, which involves stealing 9 million dollars in bearer bonds from a corrupt “bank” and he has chosen Peter as his unwilling getaway driver. Continue reading →
It’s somewhat weird to review a release that I know anyone that happens to read this will be unable to buy anywhere other than the scalper market. But by the time I received my review copy, and found a quiet moment within October to watch it, it had already happened. So unfortunately, if you are reading this, you will be unable to purchase this Blu-ray, unless you pay a premium on ebay to buy it from one of those nasty scalpers. That being said, this is one Blu-ray I have been waiting for since the format was launched. There’s a reason why, if you were to find yourself in a conversation about the best horror remakes that have been made, The Blob ’88 will almost always be mentioned. The Thing, The Fly, and The Blob are three remakes that are universally heralded as “the best”. Some would consider all three of these remakes to be superior to the films they were based on, and I am included in that group of people. Add in Alexandre Aja’s remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, and Martin Scorcese’s The Departed, and you’ve rounded out my list of the top 5 remakes of all time. It was an absolute pleasure to revisit Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake of The Blob in high definition. Continue reading →