[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.]
The WBHE September 10, 2019 separate DVD & BD releases of "Supernatural" S14 help keep the CW joy going strong ahead of the October 2019 season premieres of these fun-for-all-ages series. This run begins with the August 2019 releases of (reviewed) "Arrow" S7 and (reviewed) "Flash" S5.
The September 17, 2019 releases of "Supergirl" S4, and the September 24, 2019 releases of "Legends of Tomorrow" round out this run,
The blessing and the curse related to "Supernatural" S14 is that premature rumors of the death of this series result in episodes that awesomely cover all bases and leave fanboys wanting more but being content about where things stands in the season finale. The same is true as "Arrow" and "Flash." It is known that S15 will be the end for "Supernatural" and that Team Arrow has decided that eight is enough.
The following trailer for S14 shows that "Supernatural" has not lost any of its creepy edge in its adolescence. This promo being in perfectly clear standard def. reinforces that spending a few more bucks for the enhanced images and sound of Blu-ray is WELL worth that extra cost.
The last hurrah elements of S14 begins with grim brothers/expert monster hunters Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester back in our world after an S13 adventure in an alternate universe known as "Apocalypse World." One change is that their core group of the siblings and long-term literal angel Castiel (Misha Collins) now includes "Little Nicky"/"Cousin Oliver" Jack (Alexander Calvert). This new kid on the block is the two year-old son of Lucifer in the body of a late-teens boy.
"Mom" Mary Winchester and mentor/father figure Bobby Singer also are back with the band after extended death-related absences from the series.
Everything old is new again in that S14 commences with the "surviving" sibling dealing with the sacrifice of his brother at the end of the prior season. In this case, Sam has the aforementioned inner circle and his army of hunters desperately seeking Dean, who is the new meat suit for archangel Michael. This brings things back to the primary S5 story arc in which Michael and Lucifer want to respectively possess Dean and Sam in order to hold a death match.
S5 further rears its ugly head as to former Lucifer vessel Nick also being on Team Winchester. Subsequent events indicate that that former tenant has a lingering effect on his prior landlord.
The standard murder and mayhem result as to Michael having Dean do his bidding, Sam and Dean teaming up to evict that squatter, and the standard demons and numerous other creatures of the night preying on innocent and not-so-innocent humans. All of this occurs in the background of the latest plan of Michael to turn earth into his idea of paradise.
Meanwhile at the fortified bunker that the Winchesters call home, Jack faces his own personal crises. S13 events have robbed him of his grace that makes him different than other boys. He also faces a comparable crisis to one in which "cousin" Sam struggles in S6.
Staying alive requires that Jack sacrifice a portion of his soul; a few subsequent desperate times require that he resort to the desperate measure of giving up a little more of his soul to defeat a foe with extreme prejudice,
Team "Supernatural" does the series proud as to the milestone 300th episode "Lebanon" (a.k.a. "Winchester Family Reunion.") This one starts strong with our boys on a scavenger hunt that goes awry when a trio of slacker teens who at least suspect what goes on in the bunker temporarily (and hilariously) gets the better of their elders.
After dealing with the meddling kids, the Winchesters try black magic that does not work as intended. The compensation for not getting the desired wish fulfillment is the return of deceased family patriarch John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). This resurrection allows the Winchester clan to once again be a relatively happy nuclear family. This also arguably is the happiest periods for the boys in the entire series.
The writers remain true to the entertainingly cynical nature of the series by not allowing the bros to be happy for long and by showing that magic has its price. Learning of the negative consequences of Dad coming back forces the boy to once again try to find a quick fix while contemplating a major sacrifice for the greater good.
"Leabanon" also is notable for providing INARGUABLY the best fodder for the gag reel that is a special feature. The Winchesters are having a very serious moment when a prop malfunction has Padalecki and Ackles literally rolling on the floor in laughter.
The aptly named "Mint Condition" Halloween episode is another season highlight; often angry and/or morose Dean is ecstatic as to a Shocker network marathon of classic slasher films and a real "job" that involves action figures and other memorabilia coming to life to attack a comic-book store employee. Usually more cheerful Sam is experiencing annual depression regarding this holiday.
This outing perfectly blends the well-produced horror and the dark humor that contributes to "Supernatural" being able to celebrate its Quincenera.
Humor fully takes center stage in a "Pleasantville" style outing in which a "job" brings Sam and Castiel to a real-life town that is straight out of a TV Land sitcom. All of us living through our current dystopian times can relate to the desire of the power-that-be behind this Utopia to want a more cheerful existence than our winter (and spring, summer, and fall) of discontent,
All of this culminates in a truly epic season-finale story-arc that involves the end of the world as we know it, Jack becoming an especially excitable boy leads to teen angst that leads to a "we need to talk about Jack" moment.
The inability of the Winchesters to properly parent their jinx of a ward leads to the "Dad" coming downstairs to put the kids in line. The climax to all this proves that the boss may not always be right but always is the boss. The other moral is that Hell literally has no fury like a powerful entity scorned; suffice to say that our existence is chucked.
Although the gag reel shows that boys just wanna have fun, the other special features demonstrate the love of the game that comes through in each episode. You will not believe in angels, demons, and the stuff of "Scooby-doo" episodes but will believe that the folks in front of and behind the camera do believe in spooks.
All involved share their perspectives and devotion in "Exploring Episode 300," the even more series-encompassing "The Choices We Make," and the 2018 Comic-Con panel that will make you mourn the 2019 panel likely being the end times for that event at that Con.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions that I share are my own,]
The proper perspective regarding the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment August 27, 2019 Blu-ray/DVD combo. pack and separate DVD releases of the 2019 horredy film "The Banana Splits Show" is context. The first example is that setting a gorefest at the modern taping of a real live-action kids' show from the late '60s arguably is better suited to the '90s.
The Clinton years is when wholesome fare such as the "Splits" series and "The Brady Bunch" enjoys renewed popularity under the very flimsy guise that hipsters like such entertainment ironically, A common aspect of this is putting a dark twist on a childhood favorite ala the big-screen "Brady" films.
This is from the perspective of a guy who has had his Google home assistant repeatedly play the infectious "Splits" theme since learning of "Movie" several weeks ago. Whether this also prompts doing the spastic "Splits" dance requires pleading the Fifth.
The press materials for the film perfectly convey the above by describing "Movie" as "get nostalgic and horrified all at the same time while watching the trippy '60s characters in this all-new tale about fear, power, and an oversized puppet rock-band."
The following trailer for "Movie" further illustrates the nature of this creative take on a classic.
The next bit of context is that ANY mashing up of two disparate genres is almost certain to result in a compromise in the form of everyone getting something that he or she wants but hopes for more. A brighter aspect of this is that "Splits" fans get their first new material in decades.
"Brady" further plays into "Movie" by contributing to a more ideal premise than the one used.
Young and obliviously dorky Harley seems to literally be the biggest fan of "Splits" 50 years into their run. It is indisputable that he is in for misery (not to mention much more agony than ecstasy) when mom Beth sets him and the rest of the family on the road to Hell via her good intentions as to buying tickets to a taping of "Splits" as a birthday present for Harley.
The rest of the clan is 19 year-old slacker/loving half-brother Austin, and Harley dad/Austin step-dad Mitch. The one friend of Harley calling in sick leads to young girl Zoe being drafted to round out the group,
All of this turns out to be a textbook example of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The animatronic American Idols already are turning evil thanks to reprogramming when sudden news of an imminent cancellation of their series fully triggers their homicidal instincts and related Cylon-caliber glowing red eyes. A kinder and gentler version of this is the hilarious leaked photos of real Disney "cast members" engaged in adult behaviors while wearing the costumes of the characters whom they portray.
It seems that a "Brady" episode in which the bunch encounters the Splits and other Hanna-Barbera characters while at the King's Island amusement park in Cincinnati provides a no-brainer basis for "Movie." Even if the folks at the ironically named Blue Ribbon Content production company that makes this film could not get license right to use the Bradys, it seems that a "Westworld" tale (ala the Simpsons at Itchy and Scratchyland) of an all-American family having to flee the rampaging Splits at a theme park would provide perverse entertainment.
Although it would slightly distort "Brady" lore, many folks would perversely delight in seeing Cousin Oliver suffocate from having his head shoved in a cotton-candy machine. That, and his being why the family goes on the trip in the first place, would remove any doubt as to his being a jinx.
Returning to our actual movie, this Willy Wonka style adventure starts on a happy note both for our family and a self-proclaimed influencer and his girlfriend. Things are slightly less happy for the young daughter of the stage father, who is obsessed with using the taping to get his Honey Boo Boo discovered. Fans of "Wonka" can guess how things end for the folks who are not pure of heart and/or deed both in the audience and on the production team.
The creepy backstage area fully becomes the killing fields of our literally dead-eye murderers; highlights include an obstacle course of death and using a lollipop as a deadly weapon. This is not to mention a macabre banana split that costs an arm and a leg.
The rest of this plan involves providing a captive audience of children an endless show while the adults wait in the wings.
The most unintentionally amusing aspect of all this is that ignoring the elephant in the room allows keeping the body count from further escalating.
The DVD and Blu-ray extras include two "making-of" features; a memorable scene in those is seeing the actual guys in the costumes and hearing their tales of trying to navigate while dressed that way. An amusing fake news report can be considered a highlight reel.
The final act to all this is not a "rock out." it is a reminder that "Movie" should be judged in the context of entertainment in the form of distorting something sweet into something acidic for the sick pleasure of those who find such twists entertaining,
The Warner Archive August 27, 2019 DVD release of the 1981 Michael Caine thriller "The Hand" is the latest in a string of neo-noir thrillers in the Archive catalog. The 1981 Rachel Ward slasher flick "Night School" is a prime example of this.
The cred. of this one includes a screenplay by Oliver Stone, who provides an audio commentary,
The general concept of these lurid psychological dramas is that the monster is the beast within; they also typically have moderate production values that contribute to the guilty fun of the viewers. The 1980 Michael Caine film "Dressed to Kill" epitomizes this.
Caine plays successful cartoonist Jonathan Lansdale, who is living the fairly good life in Vermont with moderately loving wife Anne Lansdale (Andrea Marcovicci) and slightly more adoring (aptly named) young daughter Lizzie.
The game-changer occurs when Anne breaks the rule against driving while angry; her act of road rage while arguing with Jonathan makes his titular appendage collateral damage in the ensuing accident.
A half-hearted effort by Anne to recover the severed projectile fails, leaving Jonathan with a stump a the end of his wrist and early retirement from drawing his strip. The rest of this portion of the story is that the zombie-like hand minimally has an imagined afterlife of its own comparable to Thing from "The Addams Family," which amusingly begins life as a comic.
Our action shifts to New York, where a highly reluctant Jonathan moves to facilitate Anne in her quest for what he hopes only is psychological fulfillment. Artistic differences with extreme prejudice regarding the young Turk brought in to take over drawing the strip further fuel the fire.
The body count mounts as the emotional stability of Jonathan lessens, The question is whether the hand has surprising mobility or Jonathan is raising Cain while in a trance-like state.
All of this leads to Jonathan being just as unlucky at extra-marital love as he is regarding his wife. Of course, this causes an even further breakdown and more innocents feeling his direct or indirect wrath.
The beginning of the climax is predictable in that Jonathan gets to the root of the problem; things take an unexpected (and even more psychological) turn. Of course, the truth ultimately comes out and justice arguably is served.
The fun of all this includes the twist on the horror staple of a cursed body part that gets attached to someone who is a victim of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. The hand coming from Jonathan is as symbolic as his extreme midlife crisis is to folks who reach their limits as they enter the second half of their lives; these two events coinciding is a perfect storm.
The Warner Archive August 27, 2019 rerelrease of its January 2015 Blu-ray of the 1981 Albert Finney horror film "Wolfen" provides another bite of the apple (no pun intended) as to this urban neo-horror film.
A highlight of this release is Blu-ray greatly enhancing the innovative cinematography of a surprisingly bright and sunny New York. Archive builds on this in a back-cover liner note that discusses what primarily distinguishes this movie from similar fare of the same era. "Using a steadicam camera and Louma crane to simulate the predators' perspectives, director Michael Wadleigh ("Woodstock") achieves a remarkable blend of New York City mystery and menace not captured on film before."
The following standard-def theatrical trailer for "Wolfen" includes a look at the aforementioned artistic POV while highlighting the early '80s horror-film vibe of the movie.
The concept of a man in wolf's clothing ripping apart an over-privileged and over-coked '80s Manhattan stereotype appeals to the primal aspect of each of us.
We also understand the psyche of alcoholic disgraced police detective Dewey Wilson (Finney) being called in because he has the right stuff to crack this high-profile tough case. We further are not surprised when he is teamed up with brilliant and emotionally stable police psychologist Rebecca Neff (Diane Venora) and ends up in her bed.
Ironically, the still enjoyable and creative "Wolfen" stumbles in its execution, There are too many (and too long) scenes of the titular creature stalking his prey. On top of that, this one is a bit too talky and stoic for this genre, No one seems to be especially emotionally involved in figuring out whatdunit,
Much of this likely is due to "Wolfen" literally playing to an audience raised on "wolfing out" involving more frantic pursuits and general mayhem. The typically lower production values of those films also contribute to that fun.
Having said that, Finney and a cast that includes Gregory Hines as a dedicated coroner all play their roles well. They never go to the other extreme in terms of over-emoting.
Related depth and commentary nicely provide relevant framework for all this. The yuppie scum (who pays the ultimate price for not having a chance to see the original "Poltergeist" movie) with roots that seem to date back to New Amsterdam days is most likely targeted due to a planned development on land of importance to the descendants of the folks who sold the island for $24 and a handful of beads.
We also are reminded that Native American culture has a long history that emphasizes the close relationship between man and beast. This is especially so in arguably the best scene of "Wolfen." One spoiler is that Wilson likely regrets not having a rolled-up newspaper and or a snausage with him.
The well-executed (and believable in context) climax is another highlight. Wilson and Neff have returned to the real scene of the crime and are about to become Alpo. Quick thinking in the form of a symbolic act provides a possible out; the lack of a sequel makes it possible that that gesture is too little too late.
As the above musings indicate, the tricky balancing act that "Wolfen" attempts is a modern werewolf tale in the context of a more traditional '80s murder thriller. The result is the film reflecting the principle of compromise in that everyone gets enough to be happy but not enough to be ecstatic.
The Breaking Glass Pictures DVD release of the 2018 micro-budget horror film "Epidemic" contributes to the proof both that Breaking has good instincts for edgy art-house fare and that there are seemingly endless variations of the deadly plague sub-genre of fright flicks. The additional fun of dysfunctional relationships in this on-location movie filmed in Allentown, Pa. provide the best entertainment.
The following YouTube clip of a SPOILER-LADEN trailer for "Epidemic" highlights the aforementioned aspects of the film.
The upcoming 30th birthday party of everymillennial Dana provides the main arena for the carnage in which far few who enter leave. Concluding that inviting remarried alcoholic father Rufus regarding whom Dana has a long-term estrangement makes sense is the most puzzling and unbelievable aspects of the film.
An amusingly unlikely coincidence that sets the primary action in motion involves the preparation of gal pal Mandi for celebrating Dana reaching an age that she no longer can be trusted leading to discovering a not-so-concealed secret room. The exploration of Mandi leads to a mishap that equally can be considered letting the genie out of the bottle and opening Pandora's box.
The secret room also requires a brief detour into Blogland. Videos of people discovering a door in a floor, a secret passage, etc. in their homes are catching up with footage of frolicking felines on YouTube. A personal experience somewhat validates the authenticity of such assertions and includes the bonus of potential creepiness regarding buying a house.
The seller of my current house being tremendously supportive regarding a move to unfamiliar territory had the side effect of learning that he was obsessed with this dwelling to the extent of going out of his way to drive past it after the sale; he likely continues doing so more than three years later. This validates the decision independent of this to change the locks and the alarm code within a few days of moving.
The seller repeatedly referred to leaving a time capsule and bragging that I never would find it. Concluding that it merely was buried in the yard, I was inadequately intrigued to undergo a treasure hunt.
A leaky pipe a year after moving led to opening up a drop-down basement ceiling; that led to discovering a creepy cache of report cards, old newspaper articles, photos, and other family treasures but nothing of monetary value. The spoiler this time is that one man's treasured mementos are another man;s trash. A related amusing part of this is that the layout of the cellar and finding several niches down there had already earned it the title of "serial killer basement."
Returning to our main topic, Mandi having an immediate and severe reaction to exposure to a substance in the previously sealed room does not deter her from attending the party. This leads to predictably infecting the people who are most near and dear to her by spewing all over them. This, in turn, leads to spreading the love.
Rufus indulging in liquid courage before arriving at Ground Zero makes him literally late to the party. This, in turn, proves that stupid is as stupid does. Rather than try to help the party goers or report the incident, this concerned father grabs the ailing birthday girl and brings her to the sterile environment of a no-tell motel. The feverish Dana makes it a literal hot-sheets lodging establishment.
Although everything largely plays out predictably, ambiguity regarding whether horrific visions and a semblance of a happy ending are real or Memorex keeps things interesting. The bigger picture is that justified paranoia regarding the spread of a literal or figurative plague adds an iota of credibility that keeps things interesting.
Breaking excels just as well regarding the extras that most of its releases include. These include a lively and amusingly self-deprecating interviewer with Rufus portrayor/Breaking insider Andrew Hunsicker. We also get outtakes from this film about an outbreak.
The Warner Archive April 9, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of the black-and-white 1958 CinemaScope cult classic "Frankenstein 1970" evokes strong thoughts of the similarly off-beat 1994 film "Ed Wood." This quirky tale also will bring the 1974 Mel Brooks film "Young Frankenstein" to mind.
This meta film opens with the titular monster pursuing the lady in the lake; we soon learn that this merely is a scene in a Golden Age of Television production of the classic tale. This commentary on the small-screen taking over the silver screen is contrary to "1970" using the relatively new CinemaScope film format for the production.
The Scooby gang that is making the movie-of-the-week consists of all the stock characters. Brave and bold director "Fred" is doing his best to maintain order; young blonde starlet "Daphne" is dreaming of stardom; more down-to-earth and brainier secretary "Velma" is trying to do her job while fighting off not entirely unwelcome advances. Goofy cameraman "Shaggy" rounds out the group. The overlapping personal and professional histories of the group members add a particularly Hollywood touch to the story.
The original "Frankenstein" story more fully enters the picture regarding the same-old story of house-rich and cash-poor Baron Victor von Frankenstein (Karloff) temporarily sharing the infamous castle where it all went down with "those meddling kids." An awesome 50s B-movie element enters in the form of Frankenstein using his Air B-n-B money to buy a nuclear reactor for use in his quest to restart the family business. The rest of this aspect of the story is that forced research for the Nazis has negatively impacted the mind of our mad scientist.
Another amusing aspect of this is that the baron has aspirations of obtaining a trophy bride of Frankenstein. This tie-in with "Dracula" extends to the baron being a skilled hypnotist whose lack of an uncle may be why he has never learned that with great power comes great responsibility.
A combination of classic farce and traditional horror film combine to amp up the body count as the Baron seeks to put his new chums to use. A scene in which an oblivious "Daphne" repeatedly narrowly avoids being grabbed by the major-domo turned robotic stooge. This fully bandaged shuffling creature still managing to capture prey evokes good thoughts of "The Mummy."
Of course, the law eventually begins closing in on the baron. This equally predictably leads to a grand confrontation that shows both that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and that every family business suffers from each generation lacking the same level of mad skills as the one that precedes it.
Archive keeps the fun going with a DVD extra in the form of a '50s-era TV spot.
The Wild Eye Releasing January 22, 2019 DVD release of the 2016 comedy-horror "Caroushell" is a prime example of the good that can come from friends contributing their individual talents to a minimal budget movie that is equal parts camp and scare. Learning the origin story of the film from co-writer Aleen Isley in the 45-minute interview reel on the DVD greatly enhances the entertainment value of this future cult classic.
The following YouTube clip of the official "Caroushell" trailer highlights all of the well-presented lowest-common-denominator elements discussed above that justify adding this one to the guilty pleasure section of your home-video collection.
The first of several clever twists comes very early in the film when we learn that the disgruntled amusement-park employee who is lamenting that he don't get no respect is Duke the plastic carousel unicorn. Do NOT call him a horse.
The action then shifts to the working-girl class home of late-teens Laurie, her tween brother Larry (a.ka. Lunchbox), and their single mother. The family casually talking about needing Laurie to watch Larry while Mom dances at a bachelor party provides good humor. A delusion regarding the absence of Dad is the icing on the cake.
Of course, these two worlds quickly collide. Laurie and Larry go the park where the latter rides Duke in a manner that proves his ability to join the family business in a few years. Although Duke has been suffering in relative silence, Larry pushes him to break free of the carousel and get his revenge on the boy. This initially leads to a few wonderfully low-budget slayings.
The action kicks into high gear as Duke tracks the siblings to a parents out of town party (complete with very amusing foreign students) that newly out bronicorn Preston is hosting. Writer/producer Steve Rudzinski steals the show as uptight, clueless, and frustrated pizza guy Joe. This holder of a classic McJob also is the surprising voice of reason in the film,
Duke gaining entrance into the house allows him to increase the body count before enjoying his role in what can be considered a Tijuana production of "Equus." He then eliminates the clutter before zeroing in on his primary prey.
The bro and the ho then literally run for their lives as the animated carnival ride zeros in for the final kill. The fun of this is that the filmmakers do not even try to make this absurd set-up very suspenseful.
All of this amounts to roughly 70-minutes of mindless fun that shows good instincts regarding when to end the party and send everyone home.
The DVD extend well beyond the aforementioned interviews. Wild Eye also includes a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and two trailers.
Warner Archive further shows ts range and the related seemingly bottomless nature of its catalog regarding two March 19, 2019 DVD releases of the 2001-02 Kids' WB anthology series "The Nightmare Room." "The Nightmare Room: Scareful What You Wish For" is our current topic; "The Nightmare Room: Camp Nowhere" is the companion DVD.
The valued review-writing shortcut this time cones courtesy of the mouth of the horse, The DVD bonus feature "The Nightmare Files" is an interview with Stephen King of the Clearasil set R.L. Stine, whose horror stories provide much of the fodder for "Room" episodes. The numerous insights that Stine shares includes describing the series as "The Twilight Zone" for kids.
"Room" also evokes thoughts of the 1991-93 kid comedy "Eerie, Indiana." This one has two tween boys investigating the regular weird occurrences in the titular town that they call home. Of course, "Supernatural" is the epitome of this type of series.
The titular tale stars former Disney Channel star/current highly damaged man Shia LaBeouf as excitable boy Dylan in a tale that can be considered a perverse version of "Toy Story." The growing pains of this lad who is graduating middle-school include having a life-size Buddy doll (fellow Disney Channel star Dylan "Zack" Sprouse) who is a real-live boy stalk him and demand fulfillment of a childhood pledge that the two be best friends forever.
Much of the fun of this one is the increasingly erratic behavior of Dylan not helping his efforts to convince friends and family that his new friend is not imaginary. This tale and the others not having a fairy-tale ending is very refreshing regarding children's fare.
The more amusing "Tangled Web" stars Justin Berfield of "Malcolm in the Middle" as a chronically lying teen. This notable one is a true fable.
Truth-impaired Josh has a strong track record of making up stories to avoid facing the consequences of his negligence. "Kung Fu" star David Carradine plays to type as a substitute teacher who schools Josh. This comes via making everything that Josh says come true.
Our prevaricator soon finds himself confronted by a psychotic version of juvenile delinquent Francis of "Malcolm," ninjas, escaped prisoners who are real Bozos, and other foes that his adolescent mind conjures. These include a very special guest star from a teen-boy perspective,
A personal fave in the set is "early" episode "My Name Is Evil." This story of teen angst has good-natured Morgan spending his birthday being the victim of a mean girl and having a carnival gypsy declare him to be a bad seed, The morning after finds a good friend of Morgan violating the bros before hos rule and said bitch convincing the entire school that Morgan is a much bigger jinx than Cousin Oliver.
This an episode in which you come for the teen drama and stay for the wonderful climatic twists.
The numerous extras extend beyond the Stine interview; a key to winning the interactive "The Nightmare Is Yours: Haunted Cave" game is to realize that Mike is a fucking idiot.
The appeal of "Room" to the target audience is that it makes them feel cool and does not talk down to them. The appeal to those of us who have not needed zit cream for years is that the stories are entertaining and feature child stars from our more youthful days.
The Warner Archive January 28, 2019 DVD release of the 1986 Wes Craven film "Deadly Friend" literally has everything (and more) for which you could hope from a teen movie. The treats include a scene straight out of the Craven "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise. '80stastic campy gore, and strong intentional and unintentional humor. The homoerotic undertones are a bonus.
Matthew Labyorteaux ("Little House on the Prairie") plays whiz kid Paul Conway, who uses weird science to transform very recently deceased girl next door Samantha "Sam" Pringle (a pre-"Mannequin" sequel Kristy Swanson) into a not-so-small wonder (a.k.a. Bride of Frankenteen). One spoiler is that this dream sexbot turns into the worst nightmare of her creator.
The "special relationship" between Paul and a friend with whom he seemingly would like to enjoy benefits adds an amusing but enlightened element to "Friend." (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)
Paul meets fellow mid-teens dude Tom soon after the new boy in town begins his university studies on the working of the human brain. Tom quickly awkwardly asking Paul if he is in the 10th grade and seeming disappointed on being told no is that first sign that Tom likes other boys "in that way."
Paul soon asking Tom what he likes to do and if he has a girlfriend is an early indication that the interest is mutual. Tom replying that he does not have a girlfriend and that all the local girls are stuck up provides further evidence of interest in doing more than grabbing some Micky Dees with Paul.
Several scenes throughout "Friend" further show that Tom wants to be the "buddy" of Paul, The many references to keeping their mutual secret is one example.
Non-Craven creepiness enters the picture in a couple of scenes with the single mother of Paul. The first one has our mad scientist Cosby Mom so that she will sleep through his sneaking to the hospital to steal the corpse of Sam in order to reanimate her. Paul and Tom exchanging broad grins as Paul spikes the coffee of his mother is very Menendez brothers.
Another eeewww moment has Paul tightly hug his mother in the middle of the night in an effort to conceal that he has a dead girl in the house. Mom responding "that's worth waking up for" is cringe-worthy.
On a lighter note, well-known '80s psychotically grumpy old woman Anne Ramsey ("Throw Momma From the Train") plays a stereotypical nasty old bitch neighbor. Her confiscating the rock that the teens use to play hoops allows her to have three balls.
The Craven terror begins with the BB (sans 8) prototype robot that is the creation of Paul becoming an increasing threat as it develops a great degree of independent thought.
History repeats itself with extreme prejudice when Sam 2.0 goes on a killing spree that is directed against those who dun her wrong during her life. Her scene with Ramsey is priceless. Of course, this prompts Paul to urge Tom to not reveal their secret,
All of this climaxes when Sam goes completely off the rails in a manner that arguably includes a jealous rage. We learn that Hell hath no fury like a Cylon scorned.
The bigger picture is that Labytorteaux and Swanson both play their parts well and avoid camping it up with the possible exception of Swanson doing the robot. The Paul and Tom spark explains the limited on-screen chemistry between the leads.
The numerous indie horror films in the Wild Eye Releasing catalog nicely reflect a sentiment in the series finale of the Garry Shandling sitcom "The Larry Sanders Show." Shandling remarks during the final broadcast of the late-night talk show that he hosts in the Sanders persona that sometimes you get the '80s failedcom "The Ropers" and sometimes you get something much better. The Eye February 12, 2019 DVD release of the 2019 Debbie Rochon film "Doom Room" is a case of getting the original "Tick" sitcom. "Doom" is unique and has a well-executed clever concept. Rochon rocks as always.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Doom" highlights the supernatural eeriness that evokes thoughts of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and the teen girls tormented while held captive film "Split."
Our story begins with Jane Doe having a Panic at the Disco nightmare; she then awakens in the mother of all morning after rooms. It is a a horrific dark chamber with a heavy metal door. Her orientation courtesy of her creepy roommate includes an order to not open the door in response to a loud banging. Doe further learns that "he" freely comes and goes as he pleases.
The story that quickly emerges is that Doe is a slut who is being punished for her wanton ways; this largely comes in the form of "visitors," who inflict physical and emotional torture on our bad girl. Rochon joining in with her trademark evil grin is far more than half the fun.
The cleverness literally enters the picture as Doe begins to remember the events that bring her to this state; at the outset, this reflects that we are the makers of our own Hell.
Things make more sense in a manner that I know I know is serious as the details come into focus. We learn that this path to destruction begins with Doe defying her mother by wanting to be dirty. This fallen woman falling in with a bad crowd is only the tip of the iceberg. Another relevant truism is the "don't talk to strangers" principle.
Revealing every detail shows that the course of events make sense. This development also puts the Rochon character in perfect context and allows her to take her well-deserved prominent role.
The bigger picture is that "Doom" proves that psychological alone can be thrilling and that a sinister countenance can be worth a thousand screams.
Wild Eye further delivers regarding the DD extras, Thee include cast and crew interviews and a making-of featurette.
'Elves' DVD: Holiday Horror Combines 'Child's Play,’ 'Truth or Dare,' 'The List of Adrian Messenger’, & 'Gilligan's Island'
Uncork'd Entertainment fully embraces the spirit of holiday horror with the recent DVD release of the (reviewed) "Krampus Origins" and "Elves, which is our topic du jour. Both films provide an incentive to qualify for the nice list of Santa, Stating that there is Hell to pay for placement on the naughty list is not an exaggeration.
"Elves," which is a sequel to the Uncork'd 2017 film "The Elf," sets the tone early on with two young brothers who are snooping around in the period before Christmas leading to one boy finding one of the titular dolls. This leads to a "Hansel and Gretel" moment.
The film follows the horror tradition of quickly shifting the narrative to another setting and (presumably) years after the incidents in the cold open. A group of slackers/recent high-school graduates is gathered in an abandoned warehouse. This party starts to go out of bounds when one of the women gets her friends to play a game that involves the guilty among them putting their names on a naughty list and admitting their sins.
The explained lore is that the actual event long ago and far away is that there are seven visitors to the hay-filled maternity ward where Jesus is born; the rest of the story is that each of these admirers brings a gift that represents one of the deadly sins. This is akin to the theory that each "stranded" castaway on Gilligan's Isle represents one of these vices.
The awesome mix of humor and horror begins with an elf doll popping up in front of the first victim. A peer aptly comments that the requirement that the current occupant of the hot seat either commit the heinous act that Santa's little helper orders or die is akin to the film "Truth or Dare" that revolves around the policy that you do the dare or the dare does you.
This woman faces the dilemma of either running down a pedestrian or ending her life before life provides her a chance to appear on "Jerry Springer." She soon learns the lesson of the CW drama series "Supernatural" that evil entities are dicks.
This prompts the gang to act in a manner akin to the campaign in the classic murder-mystery film "The List of Adrian Messenger." That film revolves around a combined effort to capture a killer who is targeting the men on the titular inventory and to save the surviving members of that group from a fate equal to death. Once again, discovering that the big bad at the heart of this carnage does not play by the rules complicates matters.
All of this culminates in a North Pole standoff that does not succeed in stopping the madness.
The bonus features include two entertaining cast interviews complete with a magic show and references to the making of this one and "Elf."
The neo-modern Christmas story ending this time is that "Elves" is a movie by Millennials for Millennials and anyone else who enjoys his or her horror with a heavy dose of awesomely perverse dark humor.
Uncork'd Entertainment puts its awesomely twisted slant on Christmas films with two recent DVD releases of holiday-themed horror films. The current topic is "Krampus Origins," which tells the tale of how Anti-Santa gets his groove back. The companion release "Elves" is a wonderful variation of "Truth or Dare" with the "Krampus" element of punishing bad post-adolescent boys and girls. A review of that one is pending.
Both films are delightfully low-budget and quirky. They also show both that there is no shame in appealing to the lowest common denominator and that trash heaps can conceal semi=precious stones.
This story that can be considered a lost tale from the crypt opens during a raging WWI battle; a German officer is attempting to summon help in the form of the titular monster who is best known for carrying off naughty children. Doughboys interrupt this ritual with extreme prejudice before the guest-of-honor fully materializes.
The action then shifts to a stateside Catholic orphanage that a nunzilla governs with an iron ruler. The early 20th-century Goth girl, a couple of horny teen boy bullies, an awkward lad, and a handful of everykids who live there show that things have not changed much in 100 years, This is not to mention the elderly alcoholic priest living out his remaining days purely as a figurehead.
The arrival of a pretty young teacher provides the catalyst for the ensuing mayhem; circumstances beyond her control put her in possession of the book that includes the ritual that frees Krampus from his unfortunate incarceration as a guest of the fairies.
This book falling in the wrong curious hands frees the beast and leads to children disappearing. Once again, a little child leads them by informing the teacher of the inconvenient truth. This leads to a surprisingly civil discourse between beauty and the beast. This conversation also reveals that the reason for taking children extends beyond not-so-divine retribution.
All of this leads to a solution that shows that the personification of evil is not the sharpest #2 in the evil pencil box.
The fun of all this is that you will laugh and may cry. You further will learn that you should not leave Satanic tomes where children can get them.
'High Voltage' DVD + Blu-Ray + Digital: Horror-Comedy About Rock Band Paying Shockingly High Price for Year at the Top
Sony Pictures delivers a nightmare before Christmas regarding the November 20, 2018 Blu-ray + DVD + Digital release of the horror-comedy film "High Voltage." This homage to cynically dark-humored films of the '80s provides the bonus of commentary on the current state of the career of star David Arquette (a.k.a. former Mr. Courtney Cox).
Arquette displays great self-effacing humor as has-been former rock god Jimmy. His opening narration provides the best line in the film in which he states that he is celebrating his 50th birthday for the third time, This leading to an unwelcome reminder of his former glory is another highlight.
That "Groundhog Day" style celebration sets the stage for the remainder of "Voltage." Thirty-four year-old musician/family guy Scott and 23 year-old singer Rachel crash the party. This pair showing Jimmy what they have leads to forming a band.
Arquette shows more shameless humor regarding his effort to launch his new effort. He must pay for his past sins by kowtowing to Rick (Luke Wilson), who is the son of the former promoter of the old band of Jimmy. Jimmy must play nice and make up for his prior sin of not treating Rick well back in the day.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Voltage" nicely conveys the style and the spirit of the film.
The first gig of the band is the night that changes everything. Then-insecure Rachel having a not-so-great debut prompts an impromptu band meeting regarding where to go from there. The car in which Rachel is riding sans boys being struck by lightening as she is leaving gives her both an entirely new perspective and "Static Shock" style power to harness electrical power.
This leads to Rachel not demonstrating such great responsibility regarding her great new power. The good aspect of this is using her new-found ability to get the band on the road to success; the evil aspect of this is that this electricity comes at the cost of frying not-so-innocent men. The oft-presented and almost never heeded moral of this is that the hot chick who shows interest in you most likely lacks pure intentions. The rest of the story is that you pay dearly for what at most is an hour-or-so of pleasure.
This leads to Jimmy and Scott having to decide the extent to which they can condone the behavior that is granting them fame and fortune. Being an older former teen idol prompts Jimmy to repeatedly remind Scott that he should be careful about abandoning his one-shot at stardom.
Of course, all this climaxes after Rachel gets fully high on her own supply; any harm to the boys is collateral damage.
An unintentionally amusing aspect of "Voltage" is that it is similar to the 1977 six-episode failedcom "A Year at the Top." The concept of this one is that aspiring rockers Greg (Greg Evigan) and Paul (Paul Shaffer) sell their souls for the titular 12 months of stardom.
The bigger picture is that "Voltage" reflects the nature of fame. The reel and real lives of Arquette show how popularity can ebb and flow; the nature of the current (no pun intended) high shows that any short cuts come with prices that can range from a lack of integrity to a more costly compensation.
Warner Archive goes all-out Nightmare Before Christmas in releasing a series of Christopher Lee Dracula horror films from Hammer Studios on Blu-ray in this period of Santa and candy canes. These include "The Satanic Rites of Dracula" and "Horror of Dracula."
The Archive Blu-ray release of "Dracula A.D. 1972" from 1972 is our current topic. The moderately well-known spectacular film chemistry between Lee and co-star Peter Cushing in all their joint projects is the tip of the wooden stake regarding the quality of this one.
Virgins in the context of "1972" are in for an exceptional treat regarding this film far exceeding all expectations. Anticipating an entertaining low-budget production that is equal parts cheese and camp leads to sheer delight in finding a well-crafted film with performances that range from good to excellent and a compelling story that makes sense in the context of Dracula lore. The one exception regarding the production values is a spurting blood scene that is reminiscent of a volcano that is a school science-fair project.
The jazzy soundtrack adds an element of unintended humor; this fast-paced music and the strong early '70s vibe of the film create an expectation of the words "A Quinn Martin Production" appearing on the screen.
The bigger picture (pun intended) is that the usual expert Archive resurrection of classic and cult-classic films for Blu-ray releases makes "1972" seem as if it has risen from the grave and been entirely reborn. It truly looks and sounds mahvelous, simply mahvelous.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "1972" is notable for the opposite reason that the film is must-see. This promo. inexplicably underplays the quality of the movie. The narration is thoroughly cheesy and does not properly showcase the production values; it does include a good sense of the plot and the "Clockwork Orange" aspect of the production.
Our story begins in 1872 as a spokesperson narrates a battle between Dracula (Lee) and Lawrence Van Helsing; this high-stakes confrontation concludes with the defeat of Dracula.
We quickly jump ahead a century as a group of uninvited hippies are throwing a wild party in the home of a wealthy woman in London; the planning and the execution of the exit strategy of the young people provides good humor.
The plot begins to thicken on group leader/minor league Manson Johnny Alucard convincing the group to participate in a Satanic ritual at an abandoned church. The naivety of the gang prompts them to go along with this plan for what they think is innocent fun.
Young unwitting Jessica Van Helsing (Stephanie Beacham of "Dynasty") is unaware both that the rite of passage is intended to raise Dracula and that she is his bride in an arranged marriage courtesy of Johnny. Her rude awakening comes when everything gets very real.
Other good humor enters the picture when Dracula acts like an ungrateful genie freed from a bottle; Johnny expects a major pat on the head and barely avoids a kick in the pants. Dracula finding that his fiancee is not his intended does not help matters.
Current Van Helsing patriarch Lorrimer (Peter Cushing) enters the picture on Jessica acting oddly and expressing an interest in the occult. The police soon coming knocking after finding the mangled body of the most recent Countess Dracula provides the final piece of the puzzle.
Hilarity and horror ensue as Lorrimer confirms to Johnny that you cannot trust anyone over 30. The relentless manner in which the man attacks the boy is highly cathartic for all of us who must deal with Millennials. We also a "Batman '66" style battle as Jessica is lured into a fiendish trap that is designed to get her to the church on time.
All of this culminates in the predicted battle royale between Lorrimer and Dracula that brings the film full circle back to the beginning.
All of the aforementioned aspects of this unexpectedly good film provide a good reminder that horror need not be unduly graphic, exploitive, or otherwise excessively perverse. You simply need good source material and adequate talent on both sides of the camera that can make the story seem plausible.
The Monarch Home Entertainment October 9, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 horror film "3rd Night" provides a good chance to add diversity to your horror films collection. One notable element is aptly named writer/director Adam Gravely engaging in laudable nepotism regarding casting. This is not to mention Gravely putting his skill as a master of shadows to good use.
The underlying concept succeeds because it reflects relatable fears and stereotypes. This includes reflecting how anyone who has bought or sold a house feels about realtors. One hint is that this scum-of-the-earth makes used-car dealers seem like model citizens.
"Night" opens with (presumably) urban transplants Meagan and Jonathan Reid moving to an apple orchard in rural Australia. Their relationship already being strained meets one prerequisite for this type of film. Their beloved cat Nook quickly going missing checks another box.
Veterans of this type of horror film (and of "Scooby-Doo") can deduce that creepy local Cambo is not the one actively menacing the outwardly nice young couple. Abused young-teen Cambo son Rex adds an interesting element to the film.
As typically is the case, Meagan recognizes the danger that the couple is facing more quickly than Jonathan. This includes repeatedly believing that someone is watching them from their yard. The first creepy (and prophetic) note help make the man of the house a believer.
As the title suggests, all Hell breaks loose on the third night that the Reids are in their new home. Of course, this involves Cambo getting the worst of it in a few ways and at least one Reid being knocked unconscious. The surprises come with nice variations on the old psycho killer in the back seat trick. We also get good humor related to the tech. in the SUV of the couple.
As indicated above, the effectiveness of "Night" includes centering the movie around real fears. This starts with rarely knowing the history of your new home when you buy a house. An aspect of this is having little (if any) way of knowing the extent to which someone is obsessed with the property or (in rarer cases) is still living there,
Currently owning a house that the seller still drives by to check out things years later and repeatedly refers to a "time capsule" that he states that I will never find provides personal perspective regarding this. A spoiler is that needing to replace a drop-down ceiling in the basement revealed the family papers (now landfill) that comprise the capsule.
Graveley ups his game by including the element of the conflict associated with city slickers invading the territory of hicks; this concept is the stuff of which countless television and film comedies and dramas are made. Putting people from vastly different environments in the same space has plenty of potential minimally for tears and recriminations.
The third element of this concept is anyone living in an isolated environment. Once again, reel and real-life repeatedly prove that folks whom no one would hear scream are particularly easy prey who literally or figuratively kill people just to see them die.
Also as mentioned above, this blending of horror elements makes it a good choice for inclusion of an indie psychological thriller to your scary movie marathon.
'Nightwing' & 'Shadow of the Hawk' Blu-ray Double Feature: '70slicious Tales of Terror on Indian Reservations
Mill Creek Entertainment embraces the true Halloween spirit regarding the October 23, 2018 Blu-ray double-feature release "Nightwing" (1979) and "Shadow of the Hawk" (1976). The common theme of both is terror on American Indian reservations. The other shared element is both shoot-on-location films greatly benefiting from the crystal-clear BD images showcasing the beauty of the Southwest and the the Pacific Northwest respectively.
"Nightwing" awesomely melds old-school horror with social commentary that remains relevant nearly 40 years after its theatrical release. The surprisingly strong pedigree of this entertaining B-movie includes director Arthur Hiller ("Love Story"), prolific composer Henry Mancini (original "Pink Panther" films), and star NIck Mancuso. The A-list continues with the film being based on a story by well-known thriller noveilst Martin Cruz Smith, who additionally is a "Nightwing" screenwriter.
The IMDb description "killer bats plague an Indian reservation in New Mexico" reflects the traditional "animals gone wild" element of "Nightwing." Hiller and Smith stick to the script by having the horror begin with discovering mutilated horses with mysterious wounds. That brings reservation lawman Youngman Duran (Mancuso) literally and figuratively into the picture,
The tried-and-true continues with scientist Phillip Payne (David Warner) arriving on the trail of the aforementioned air-borne threat. He has been tracking the caravan of that threat to homeland security from south of the border and has dire news for the locals. The immediate potential for harm extends to two-legged animals; the bigger picture is that this swarm is using the area to fuel up before going to more populated feeding grounds.
Of course, even Duran does not initially believe Payne but changes his tune after a comically campy attack on a group of not-so-good Christians. It is equally predictable that the rest of the population remains skeptical,
The climax regarding this comes down to Duran going on a risky mission that runs the dual risks of his becoming a bride of Dracula and having his plan blow up in his face. The one certainty is that he is in deep guano.
The new-school elements revolve around issues related to tribal politics; relative traditionalist Duran already is at odds with the leader of a more prosperous neighboring tribe that our hero believes has sold out to the white man. Discovering a valuable natural resource on the land of the tribe of Duran at the same time that the bats show up further complicates matters.
The fun of "Nightwing" relates to the variation on man v. weaponized spiders, or bees, etc. These films provide plenty of thrills and chills while making us wonder if mosquitoes ever will become more of a threat than being a highly annoying insect.
"Hawk" has a more eerie feel. Jan-Michael Vincent stars as fully assimilated American Indian Mike who is enjoying an office job and good lifestyle when his grandfather Old Man Hawk (Chief Dan George) literally goes off the reservation to track down Mike and convince him to return to his roots. The rest of the story is that Hawk is tasked with keeping a legendary witch and her "monkeys" at bay; Hawk being convinced that he is about to die prompts a mission to get Mike to take his place regarding this effort.
This reunion leads to Mike abruptly leaving a swinging bash at his bachelor pad to escort his grandfather home. The aforementioned minions are in hot pursuit and drive the pair (as well as the love interest who largely is along for the ride) off the road and into the woods.
The eerie moments include Hawk and Mike each having several disturbing visions; we further get Mike engaging in a highly symbolic mission that culminates in an equally symbolic battle.
The fun of "Hawk" begins with the generation gap that the roughly 50-year age difference and greatly divergent world views exaggerates. The extra enjoyment relates to the American Indian beliefs/superstitions. This is not to mention the '70slicious fight scenes.
The bottom line is that they do not make 'em like these anymore. The cast and crew all know their stuff; the premises are entertaining, and the gore is minimally,
One reward of more than a decade of reviewing home-video releases of indie films is watching already loved studios and distributors expand their catalog beyond their original scope.
Philadelphia-based Breaking Glass Pictures is a prime example. The recent Breaking DVD release of the 2018 drama "Lost Child" reflects this and provides a good companion to the (reviewed) Breaking August 2018 DVD release of the day in the life of teenage redneck film "Moss." These edgy southern-fried films are a great expansion from the edgy more substance than skin gay-themed films that Breaking continues adding to its catalog.
A perfect example of the not-so-missing link in this evolution is the Breaking April 2017 release of "Fair Haven." This reviewed film has Tom Wopat of "The Dukes of Hazzard" playing the widowed father of a kind and gentle farmboy who returns from conversion therapy that does a great deal of harm and no good.
The following YouTube clip of the Breaking trailer for "Child" highlights the Blu-ray worthy cinematography that features the Ozarks. This promo. additionally conveys the Southern Gothic vibe of the film.
"Child" opens with a seemingly obligatory scene for "you can't go home again" films about a boomerang kid who is a native son or daughter returning after leaving in disgrace years ago. The first images either are a bus rolling through the bucolic landscape of the area or get right to that public transportation pulling up to the center of the arena of action. The main character disembarks and gets into the old pickup of the ride to the childhood farm or shabby house in the woods that has a key role in the underlying angst.
Our tortured soul this time is recently discharged soldier Fern. She is returning to Clampett country after teen trauma that results in her moving out of the family home and then enlisting in the army. She moves back into the family house in the wake (no pun intended) of the death of her father, This relocation ties into a mission to find and care for her brother Billy.
Life experiences taking their toll and general unease related to being a woman living alone in a cabin in the woods are enough to put Fern ill at ease. A neighbor with good intentions strongly urging her to get either a gun or a dog and the man down the street looking like he is straight out of "Deliverance" contribute to the tension.
Fern meeting the titular dirty but civilized 10ish boy Cecil in the nearby woods is the final element that puts all the pieces in place for "Child." The lad ain't talkin' but agrees to come home for vittles and to spend the night. A one-night stand returns to haunt Fern when she learns that the day job of bartender Mike is a social worker. Fern not wanting to subject Cecil to the evils of a foster home prompt her to agree to let him stay with her a bit longer.
Fern mysteriously getting sick and literally aging overnight prompts consulting a country doctor. This licensed professional attributing this condition to the presence of Cecil indicates this his method of providing healthcare does not significantly differ than that of Granny in "The Beverly Hillbillies."
The essential folklore is that a malevolent forest-dwelling spirit takes the form of a young boy and convinces a good Samaritan to take it in so it can do plenty of harm. Odd behavior by Cecil proves that he is own worst enemy.
Meanwhile, Fern reuniting with Billy involves the most surprising and disturbing twist in this extremely gothic film. Not only is he not glad to see his sister, he considers her a primary root of all past and present evil.
A familiar aspect of this is one sibling running off and not only failing to protect a brother or sister but leaving that person behind to contend with all the highly toxic family drama. In many respects, this is analogous to an alcoholic wanting to put things right with someone whom that drunk seriously hurt. The intent is noble and the need for redemption is strong, but related righteous resentment remains high.
The stress of Fern leads to drama with Cecil that supports the theory that he is not like other boys; this leads to the lad experiencing dreaded trauma. It additionally involves Fern playing Nancy Jo Drew by pursuing a lead regarding the identity of Cecil.
All of this culminates in conclusions that make sense for a story set in a rural area that has a large of population of poorly educated people raised on superstition and harsh discipline. Breaking deserves strong credit for bringing this tale that does not sensationalize this culture to us city folks.
The quartet of DVD extras is equally consistent with the art-house style of "Child." Each special feature examines an aspect of the making-of the film. These include the production "process," the "story & performance," the Ozarks, and writer/director Ramaa Mosley.
Breaking Glass Pictures stays true to its commitments to distributing edgy and/or gay-themed fare regarding the DVD release of the 2014 thriller "Lyle." This one has "Transparent" star Gaby Hoffman as expectant mother Leah, who has reason to believe that something is Satanic in the state of Williamsburg (Brooklyn).
The following YouTube clip of the SPOILER-LADEN "Lyle" trailer shows the mix of indie film and big-budget thriller that makes the film unique.
The nature of the relationship between stay-at-home mom Leah and long-term partner/professional musician June most likely is the basis for Breaking adding "Lyle" to its impressive catalog; the theme of this couple being just like many straight ones in that Mom stays home with the titular toddler while pregnant with the second child and "Dad" works long hours (which strains the "marriage") and largely views Mom as a hysterical female is true to the Breaking philosophy that movies with gay leads can be just like ones in which the main characters are straight.
In typical New York City horror movie style, "Lyle" opens with our couple and their child touring a too-good-to-be-true Brooklyn apartment. Although Leah is skeptical from the beginning, June essentially tells her not to worry her pretty little head about it. The incredible deal on the place and weird landlady Karen being obsessed with getting knocked up are the primary sources of the angst of Leah.
The first indication that Leah has good reason to worry her pretty little head is that Lyle begins acting very strangely; a subsequent indication that Karen is not being truthful regarding a statement that a child never has lived in the apartment triggers additional concern.
The spidey sense of Leah goes off the charts after a tragic event involving Lyle. This prompts an investigation that uncovers evidence of prior nefarious doings in the building. All this supports the theory that just because someone is paranoid does not mean that no one is watching.
In classic thriller style, the conflict escalates to a point that Leah does not trust anyone, and all efforts to soothe her fail. This leads to a climax and ending very similar to another film in which a mother-to-be fears that evil forces have a role in her pregnancy.
Hoffman does a good job carrying most of the film; her portrayal of Leah is sympathetic and mostly believable; harm befalling a child is tough for most mothers, and feeling that you cannot trust your life partner is distressing. Throwing in a threat to an unborn baby is enough to stress out anyone.
Breaking further follows its successful formula by including a short film by "Lyle" writer/director Stewart Thorndike. This one involves the bizarre home life of a child.
The bad news is that the 1956 scifi horror thriller "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" being a prominent topic in film study and political science courses precludes giving the Olive Signature division of Olive Films October 16, 2018 Blu-ray release of this classic due regard. The first good news is that the copious in-depth and insightful bonus features do show "Body" proper regard and give current students a good shot at boosting their grade at least a notch.
Audio commentary by "Body" stars Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter (and by Gizmo's birth dad Joe Dante) further enhances the Signature release of the film.
The second good news is that the recently beefed-up Olive Films section of Unreal TV 2.0 includes reviews of other cult classics that Signature has shown tremendous love. The first releases are the 1952 classic Western "High Noon" and the more campy 1954 Joan Crawford Western "Johnny Guitar." This collection including the lesbiancentric 1996 neo-noir film "Bound" demonstrates the range of Signature,
"Body" is based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. The aforementioned special features shows how this tale of the fruit of seeds from outer space replacing ordinary townfolks in a '50s Everytown U.S.A. speaks to (hilariously named) producer Walter Wanger. We additionally get the perspective of director Don Siegel.
As the oft-mentioned extras remind us, one aspect of "Body" that makes it notable is being the first in a long series of "pod people" films that still entertain movie goers and provide sitcom writers who are desperate for a Halloween episode script fodder for a dream-sequence. However, this does not prevent Siegel and his team from borrowing from "Citizen Kane" and many other classics.
Just as "Kane" opens with the death of the titular William Randolph Hearst pod person and goes on to portray the key events in the life of the clone, the first scenes in "Body" show a crazed and disheveled Dr. Miles J. Bennell (McCarthy) restrained in a hospital and ranting about the titular offensive. This leads to a psychiatrist agreeing to hear his story in order to calm him down.
"Body" then depicts an equally standard opening scene; we see a train pull into the station at Santa Mira, California. The protagonist (Bennell) disembarks and meets his nurse. The audience learns on the ride to the office both that Bennell has good-natured arrogance and that he is returning from a two-week trip to a medical conference. Bennell learns that chaos in the form of people flooding his office with claims of replicas replacing locals has erupted in his absence,
The mystery deepens when Bennell finds his office empty and all seeming quiet on this western town front. Things get more interesting when Becky Driscoll (Wynter), with whom Bennell has an "its complicated" past, shows up after an extended absence, This reunion leads to a joke about divorce that is shocking for the '50s but very funny in 2018.
The initial investigation by those "meddling kids" Bennell and Driscoll bears little fruit until they experience a major breakthrough. This phase of the investigation ultimately leads to hot pursuit of Bennell and Driscoll that includes era-apt propaganda in the form of coaxing the couple by telling them that they will be much happier if they no longer think or feel.
The bonus regarding this is that falling asleep creates a significant risk of a fate different then death, Seeing Bennell being particularly clever in evading his former friends and neighbors is another aspect of "Body" that distinguishes it from other '50s scifi fare.
The quality continues to the end; the opening scenes establish that Bennell does not lose his humanity. However, suspense remains whether "Abner" believes "Gladys" that "witches" are among us. The outcome demonstrates why "Body" has endured so long.
The final mention of the numerous short documentaries and related material in the Signature release is that the filmmmakers never divulge their intents regarding "Body" being right or left-wing propaganda. That ambiguity adds to the fun of the film and reminds us of a kinder and gentler (although equally paranoid) era,
'Exorcist II: The Heretic' star Linda Blair panning this 1977 sequel to the enduring 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" in a new interview for this fabulous remastered Collector's Edition Blu-ray of "Heretic" from the Scream Factory division of cult film god Shout! Factory justifies following suit. HOWEVER, it is apt that the devil is in the details.. Blair simply neglects to put the John Boorman ("Deliverance") film "Heretic" in proper context.
The Shout! goodness includes separate Blu-ray discs of the original 117-minute film and the 102-minute hone-video version. Watching the longer one is recommended.
Before delving further into giving the devil his due, it is important to alert readers to a limited-time offer. Folks who directly order "Heretic" from Shout! will get a free 18X24 poster that features the Scream artwork for the film. The caveat is that Shout! has a limited number of this posters and cannot guarantee that you will get one.
Returning to our main topic, wisdom of Jon Stewart during his "Daily Show" era includes that film versions of television programs generally fail because the premise of the program is initially deemed to not merit a movie. Similarly, sequels would be the first entry in a franchise if they were as good as the original. Imposing a younger-sibling expectation that the second film will be as outstanding as the older brother or sister further strongly disadvantages a "II" film, "Heretic" is not great but does not warrant the scorn that Blair expresses.
The other bit of context that Blair glosses over is that co-star Richard Burton does his usual spectacular job to an extent that Blair states that she is star-struck in her scenes with him. Having Burton star is "Heretic" is a far cry from Jamie Kennedy taking over for Jim Carrey in "The Son of the Mask" or having William "Herman" Ragsdale step in for Andrew McCarthy in the under-rated "Mannequin" franchise.
The premise of "Heretic" is that Father Philip Lamont (Burton) is on a mission from God to preserve the reputation of Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) regarding the classic epic death of Merrin in "Exorcist." This includes determining the circumstances of that demise and proving that Merrin is not one of the titular blasphemers.
Meanwhile apparently dispossessed teen Regan MacNeil (Blair) is living at a center for troubled children that Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher) operates. The primary objective of that therapy is to free Regan of the demons that still plague her.
Blair rightfully criticizes Boorman for adding a tap-dancing Regan into the film mid-production, but she fails to put another silly aspect of "Heretic" in context. Much of the action stems from tech. of Tuskin that combines hypnosis with a mind meld in that a second person can share the experience of the hypnotized person.
This scene (and subsequent use of the device) reflects the emphasis on "sci" in sci-fi during the dawn of the computer era of the mid-70s. The brave new world equally fascinates and scares the American public during this period,
In this case, Lamont (who is not a big dummy) witnesses the titular rite that is a central element of the first film. He further gets images of Africa that include the POV of a alocust. That sends that soldier of Christ to The Dark Continent in search of Kokumo (James Earl Jones), whom Lamont thinks can help.
Meanwhile. Regan regresses to a point that she is a threat to herself but not others; she simply is experiencing hellish PTSD.
The real fun begins when Regan and Lamont reunite in New York; an irresistible force compels a not-so immovable object in the form of Lamont. The power of Satan compels him to return to the scene of the crime with Regan in tow.
The entertaining ensuing scene seems more like something out of the Leslie Nielsen "Exorcist" spoof "Dispossessed" than a horror film. We get a "Patty Duke Show" moment as demon Pazuzu uses a carrot (rather than a stick) to try to lure Lamont over to the dark side, Part of this mission involves making Regan disheartened. The result is good campy fun.
The not-so-fatal flaw throughout "Heretic" is that it tries too hard to distinguish itself from its older brother; the possession element is less strong, and the music is not nearly as haunting as the timeless soundtrack the first time around. Even a scene at the iconic stairs from "Exorcist" lacks the same impact.
At the risk of seeming like a titular non-believer, "Heretic" provides a good second chapter in the "Exorcist" trilogy but would have succeeded even better (and been better received) if it had been produced as an independent homage.
In addition to the Blair interview, Scream gives us audio commentary by Boorman and project consultant Scott Bosco. We also get an interview with editor Tom Priestly.
The indie thriller "Diane," which premiered at the Arena Cinelounge in Los Angeles on September 7 and hits cable and VOD on September 17 puts several new twists on psychological dramas. The overall theme is that new angst in the life of one with a traumatic past can be the straw that breaks the back of the camel.
Central character Steve, who is the subject of the study in the film, is an Afghanistan veteran with physical and psychological scars from that war, The daily existence of this literal and figurative walking wounded man quirky involves performing engine repairs in his garage and regularly visiting local merchants. Beyond that, he mostly keeps to himself in his inherited house.
Steve seeing the corpse of a woman on looking out his bedroom window one morning changes everything. The po po arriving leads to Steve learning that his trespasser is the titular local singer. Hard-nosed Detective Bernard quickly determining that Steve is a person-of-interest, and the local media giving the story prominent coverage begins the Kafka-lite journey for this former soldier.
The concurrent trials of Steve consist of becoming obsessed with his uninvited guest and having Bernard dog him. An aspect of the latter is denying the request of Steve for an attorney at the police station during an intense grilling. The asserted basis for the denial is that the session only is a questioning of a witness. The correct answer is that any interrogation in which someone feels that he or she does not have the option of walking away triggers the right to legal counsel.
Steve also must deal with unstable neighbors and "tourists" both trespassing and creating mayhem. This is not to mention the recent widower of Diane coming knocking with his own agenda. These intrusions lead to fairly obsessive home surveillance.
Meanwhile, Diane increasingly haunts Steve to the point of becoming a full-on tormentor. The awesomely unexpected payoff that writer/director Michael Mongillo provides is a highlight. Diane has a valid gripe with our boy; there merely is more to the story than the surface role of Steve regarding this chanteuse becoming compost.
The overall understated tone of "Diane" is a primary reason that the film succeeds; having our main character being among the 1,000s who return from modern combat heavily damaged adds another good layer. The "it could happen to you" aspect is a further bonus.
The ultimate conclusion regarding an analysis of "Diane" is that it is worth seeing in the theater if only to support indie film. For everyone else, this flick more than stands up against competing fare.
'The Toybox' Theatrical/Blu-ray/DVD: Mischa Barton Haunted Winnebago Screams 'Welcome to the RV, Bitch'
The joint Skyline Entertainment and Steel House Productions supernatural thriller "The Toybox" jointly proves that there is life left in old-school style horror films and that dilapidated Winnebagos never die, they just lure in new victims. Fans of this genre and/ or Mischa Barton of the Fox teensoap "The OC" and/or former Mrs. Charlie Sheen/current real housewife Denise Richards can check out the film in theaters starting September 14, 2018 and home-video retailers the following Tuesday.
This aptly campy story about an RV with an evil mind of its own opens with it luring in its first victim the night before the road trip around which the movie is centered. Suffice it to say both that one boy was absent on the day of the "stranger danger" assembly and that his story will be an enduring urban legend.
The fun begins the next morning when widowed dad Charles shows that he is in charge by having elder "good" son Steve and younger "bad" son Jay accompany him on a family vacation in the titular "vintage" vehicle. Richards plays Steve's spouse Jennifer, who is along for the ride,
"ToyBox" follows the rules by having the suspense slowly build. The weirdness begins with the windows acting oddly and things going pure old-school by having the radio dial move on its own. Young daughter Olivia learning the importance of keeping her hands in the vehicle at all times is the first escalation.
Charles stopping to play good Samaritan on discovering a disabled vehicle brings Mark and his sister Sam (Barton) into the mix. This leads to Charles fairly literally proving that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions when he offers Mar and Sam a ride to the next town.
The driving force behind the movie takes our travelers down the aforementioned path by jacking their ride and stranding them in the desert. This leads to the real fun.
Anyone who has ever seen a horror movie aptly can see much of what ensues from a mile away. One can understand a moderate amount of carelessness regarding sticking a hand in the engine of the central carnivore despite it not running at that time. Others putting themselves in the path of danger after that event is less believable (but makes for bloody good fun).
Director Tom Nagel and writer Jeff Denton do a little better regarding both the fleeting shadowy figures seen in the corner of an eye and the glimpses of relevant torment. They further nicely tie this together by revealing the equally relevant history of the literal deathtrap.
The concepts of a haunted RV and that vehicle facilitating stranding the whack-a-moles are clever enough to warrant watching "Toybox." The valid interpretation that decades of family drama that both travelling together and being confined in such a small and shabby space fuels the supernatural rage is a terrific bonus. The only thing that would improve on this would be the Partridge Family bus being the evil entity and the stress of that group touring for 40 years igniting the inferno.
The best thing about the Cinedigm September 4, 2018 DVD release of the 2017 horror film "Truth or Dare" is that it exceeds expectations. The quality cinematography and opting for film over videotape are the first good signs, Having a cast with decent talent and skills is another bonus. The behind-the-camera pedigrees include "Dare" being from the producers of "I Spit on Your Grave" and the credits of director Nick Simon including "Cold Comes the Night."
Not having seen "Blumhouse's Truth or Dare" precludes properly comparing our current subject with that film. The promos for the Blumhouse production indicate that the two are similar in story and quality.
"Dare" immediately grabs attention with a dark-and-stormy night in which a teen girl is trying to talk a teen boy down off a roof; suffice it to say that the DPW will have major road kill to clean the next morning. The girl then frantically completes a dare that a dark force commands.
The action soon moves forward 30 years as frat boy Carter hosts handsome blonde med. student Tyler, chubby oddball Holt, and equally central casting type coeds at a pre-Halloween party at the aforementioned house of horrors. Although Carter gets the place through the "Haunted Rental" service and knows that it has a dark past, his ignorance regarding the specifics turns out to be far from blissful.
The mayhem begins Carter coerces the gang into playing the titular game; the first sign of trouble comes when the written challenges differ from those that the group devises. Concern is minimal when the only potential harm is chapped lips and related embarrassment.
Things get more creepy when the invisible hand that is directing the post-adolescents asserts itself more forcibly. Things quickly escalate to requiring that Tyler literally feel the burn. The next bit of terror comes via establishing a deadline of no more than a few minutes and the group learning that noncompliance results in the dare doing them.
One theme that runs throughout "Dare" is the challenge of completing the required task and living to tell the tale; a related aspect is the evil entity that is calling the shots doling out what it considers apt punishment for the individual sins of the players. Hypothetical examples are requiring a date rapist to impale himself on a heated curling iron or someone who is unduly afraid of bees to stick a hand in a hive,
This gets "Dare" off to a strong start that several silly moments do not ruin. Examples of goofiness include a baseball menacingly bounce down stairs and a kitchen appliance go on the attack.
Temporarily taking the game into the real world before the survivors return to the scene of the crime to finish things off also has highlights. The best moments involve an eliminated player returning for another round.
The final lesson is to never bet against the house.
As mentioned above, "Dare" deserves credit for exceeding expectations. On top of that, expanding the scope of inadvertently awakening a dark force beyond using a Ouija board or reciting incantations from a magic book puts a fresh spin on an old concept; one can only hope for a film in which a cursed Scrabble board begins spelling out horrific ways to die,
'Village of the Damned' Blu-ray: Masterful Restoration of Thrilling Tale of Immaculate Misconception
Warner Archive provides a good candidate for a Saturday Thriller Theater matinee with the July 31, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1960 classic British horror movie "Village of the Damned." Speaking from personal experience, folks who already own the "Damned" DVD will love the greatly enhanced video and audio of this remastered release. The contrast is much sharper, you literally can see every detail, and the audio that helps set the creepy tone is crystal clear,
The most awesome thing about "Damned" from a modern perspective is that it is a probable inspiration for most Stephen King fare. (It also is recalled that "The Simpsons" parodies "Damned" once or more.) The English rural village of Midwich stands in for the small Maine communities that attract big bads in King novels, Also ala King, a sudden eerie event early in "Damned" triggers the ensuing well-crafted terror.
"Damned" opens innocently enough with man of letters Gordon Zellaby having a routine telephone conversation with brother-in-law Major Alan Bernard (Michael Gwynn). The aforementioned surprise occurence is Gordon suddenly seemingly dropping dead. The typically British response of Alan is puzzlement but not especially strong concern; he merely mentions to his superior that his duties are taking him near Midwich and that he would like to ensure that the husband of his wife is not a rotting corpse.
On arriving at the outskirts of Midwich later that day, Alan discovers that the area is littered with people who apparently fell in their tracks. Gordon and his neighbors subsequently waking up does not lead to any explanation for the mass narcolepsy.
The real fun begins on the townfolks learning that Gordon spouse Anthea (Barbara Shelley) and every other woman physically capable of giving birth has a hot-cross bun in the oven. Trauma and drama ensues regarding women such as the "innocent" who claims that she "has never been touched" and the wife whose husband is on a year-long absence when she receives news of the impending birth.
An abbreviated gestation period and the little surprises physically maturing at an accelerated rate are additional early indications of something weird. The good people of Midwich also soon learn that other communities are having a similar phenomenon.
Early indications of sinister elements occur when the kids likely are biologically in their terrible twos but seem like roughly 10 year-olds. These youngsters having straight platinum blonde hair, blank stares, a creepy voice pattern, and ability to make their eyes glow begin boldly demonstrating their abilities to read minds and to use mind control to exact revenge on those who purposely or inadvertently do them wrong do not endear them to their elders . The only disappoint in "Damned" is a girl being stopped from putting a bully in his place.
Popular (and talented) British child actor of the era Martin Stephens plays leader of the wolf pack David Zellaby. He shows far more poise and understanding of his role than adult thespians. You really would not like him when he is angry.
The underlying dilemma is that the kids simply want to protect themselves and to understand what makes us foolish mortals tick. The related problems are that the kids merely looking and behaving weird is a large strike against them. Their lack of hesitancy to use their powerful mind-control powers to inflict karma on those who harm or otherwise mistreat them is an additional issue.
The "enemy" both being children and coming from the women of the village complicates things; their practice of attacking only when provoked is another factor, The Cold War era of the film is reflected regarding the underlying consideration being that the threat seemingly is currently controllable. The debate includes whether to imprison, kill, or find another option regarding the menace.
The Superman element is finding the equivalent of Kryptonite in dealing with a foe that literally knows your every thought and can directly turn your attack against you. The fact that there is the sequel "Children of the Damned" indicates the effectiveness of the final assault. One need not be a mind reader to anticipate that Archive is releasing a Blu-ray of the sequel by the end of 2018.
'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' DVD: Oscar-Winning Classic Early Talkie of Timeless Horror Tale of the Beast Within Everyone
Warner Archive continues giving Golden Age fans a chance to "catch 'em all" regarding the 1,000s of "Must See" films of that era with the aptly March 27, 2018 DVD release of the 1932 Frederic March version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde." As the DVD liner notes remind us, the Patty Dukeesque acting of March earns him a Best Actor award for that role.
This tale has the same substantial depth as fellow classic horror films "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" of the era. This one centers around the fact that dressing man in finery and developing him to a level of refinement that makes Emily Post seem like a literal two-bit whore does not change that we all have a savage nature that includes carnal desires. The credible speculation regarding the real-life Jack the Ripper being an outwardly respectable London gentlemen (perhaps an actual royal) supports the theory of the fictional Dr. Jekyll.
The related live-stage and melodramatic vibes of "Jekyll" are very apt both for this early period in the film industry and the nature of the story. The aforementioned award-winning portrayal of Hyde as a combination of Neanderthal Man and the Wolf Man strongly contributes to this theatrical sense.
The film opens with a busy day for respected Dr. Jekyll. He is off to deliver a lecture on his theory that man (and woman) has two distinct parts. They essentially are the respectable socially acceptable portion of ourselves that we present to the world and our "dark passenger" that represents the savage nature that remains despite our lengthy evolution. The rest of the story is that Jekyll believes that he can separate these aspects of us so that we essentially have the "good" one and the evil twin with the figurative goatee.
This medical practitioner then goes to the hospital where he first helps a young girl recover the use of her legs and then works overtime to personally operate on a scared old woman. The latter humanitarian gesture makes him late for a formal dinner at the home of his fiancee Muriel Carew and her strict and humorless father Brig. Gen. Danvers Carew (ret.).
Jekyll being late already incurs the wrath of Daddy; politely but firmly resisting a demand to postpone Muriel's wedding adds fuel to the fire.
Jekyll wraps up his day by coming to the aid of damsel-in-distress/dance hall girl Ivy Pearson. This loose woman seems to be one bad performance away from working a street corner and offers our hero tit for tat regarding both his medical services and his kindness.
The hardest working man in medicine next goes to his home office/man cave to work on his formula to separate the beauty from the beast. As the film title suggests, he succeeds. Surprisingly, the transformation is one of the least melodramatic moments of the film and does not even involve smashing test tubes or beakers.
The newly born Hyde then goes on the town in search of Ivy; he soon finds her and follows the still modern tradition of having the bartender summon the object of his affliction to his table. These leads to a situation in which Hyde provides tat in the form of a love nest that is a step up for our fallen woman.
Jekyll sowing his wild oats in the guise of Hyde predictably threatens his engagement and lowers his already not great status in the eyes of The General. The Carews leaving for an extended trip to Boston is an additional complication.
Meanwhile, the Hyde side exerts himself even stronger to the extent that his behavior deteriorates and takes control even when Jekyll does not drink the transformation formula. The clear moral is to not let the genie out of the bottle.
This all culminates with a variation of the villagers storming the castle of the monster. The twists at the end that purport to deliver justice are interesting and almost definitely influence the outcome in the Hitchcock Jekyll and Hyde film "Psycho." Both films clearly show that we all go a little mad sometimes.
The most fun special feature is the 1955 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hyde and Hare" in which the titular wascally wabbit learns the lesson about being careful about the things for which you wish. In this case, it relates to convincing kindly Dr. Jekyll to adopt him as a pet. A particularly cute scene has Bugs adopting the guise of a cute little rabbit as opposed to the stinker whom we all know and love.
Archive additionally provides the highly atmospheric and clever theatrical trailer for the 1941 Spencer Tracy version of "Jekyll."