Insidious (2010)

One from the re watch pile…

Insidious (2010)

Film: One thing I have found odd about cinema at the moment is that there is heaps of supernatural horror that’s popular to a mainstream audience. I am sure there is some kind of psychological reason that the general public is shying away from ‘real’ human killers in their horror, but I’m no psychologist so I can’t really comment on that.

What we have here is a film from Australia’s very own James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the creators of the Saw series and The Conjuring franchise, so Hollywood must love them with their ability to milk the cash cow.

Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) have just moved into a new house but strange things start to happen after their son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) has a minor fall off a ladder. Dalton goes into an undiagnosable coma and Renai decides after several bizarre encounters with various ‘things’ that the house is haunted, so they quickly move house again.

At the new house the family attempts to restart their lives but quickly discover that the house wasn’t haunted but instead, THEY are. Josh’s mother, Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) Steps in with some information and a contact, psychic Elise Rainier (Lin Shaye)

Aaaaaaand then it hits the halfway point, and becomes a farce.

Elise and her assistants, the ridiculous Tucker (Angus Sampson) and Specs (Leigh Whannell), come to investigate their claims, using such tools as a View Master Reel and other devices more ridiculous than anything Egon Spengler created in Ghostbusters, and then the film turns into a parody of Poltergeist, with the couple finding out their son has been taken to ’The Further’, which is basically the same as where Carolanne is taken in that same film.

The usual generic crap takes place with a visit the The Further in search of not his body, but his ASTRAL body which is what has been kidnapped by Darth Maul… I mean, a demon.

Will they get their son back? Will I care? Will this piece of crap spawn two sequels two date because people will watch anything if the marketing is good enough?

After an amazing opening with a likeable cast and a pretty interesting set up, even though it’s another stupid haunted house movie, is devolves into sloppy writing and generic imagery that has been done over and over again, even to the point Wan has even stolen from himself with some of the design looking like the Dead Silence dolls and ghosts, and then FROM here with some of the elements in The Conjuring.

Mostly Wan’s direction is pretty good, and the performances he gets from Wilson and Byrne make them immediately sympathetic protagonists, and he cleverly uses a few tricks from Mario Bava via Dario Argento to occasionally have some impressive looking scenes, which is usually spoiled by using the fast motion camerawork found in film clips by Marilyn Manson 20 years ago.

It’s a real tragedy when a promising first act gets crapped on by a disappointing second and third. Don’t bother with this film at all, unless it’s on free-to-air.

Score: *1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian, region B Bluray which runs for approximately 105 minutes and is presented in an amazing and clean 2.40:1 image with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, The Beaver and The Tree of Life before we are presented with the menu.

Horror 101: The Exclusive Seminar isn’t really a seminar about horror, but instead is the filmmakers explaining what they decided to write within the confines of this film, and how they decided to turn some of the tropes of traditional horror on its head.

On Set With Insidious is one of those usual ego-strokes where all the cast and crew talk about how awesome each other are, and this is all intercut with behind the scenes footage of the production.

Insidious Entities looks at the ghosts and demons of the film.

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: I hate this post-millennial ghost story crap thats completely dependent of jump scares rather than actually being frightening, and the only reason I watched it again was for the benefit of you, dear reader, so you won’t have to.


31 (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

31 (2015)

Film: There is no doubt that I am an unabashed Rob Zombie fan. I loved the first album of his that I got years ago from Utopia records in Sydney, which must have been La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume one in the early 90s, and I’ve been a follower ever since.

I was pretty stoked ten or so years later too when I discovered that he was going to translate his monster fandom and image to the silver screen, and I, to date, have enjoyed all his films…

Ok, H2 was a misstep and the less said about that the better. In actual fact, I should also, for full disclosure, state that I absolutely LOVE Lords of Salem!

A group of Carnival workers, including Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Charley (Sheri Moon Zombie), Venus (Meg Foster), Levon (Kevin Jackson) and Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) are traveling in a bus to their next gig when they are stopped by a mysterious road block in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately for them they are captured by the goons controlled by Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell), Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson) and Sister Serpent (Jane Carr) who once a year at Halloween put a group of people they kidnaped through a trial where they have to survive a gauntlet populated by a bunch of murderous people such as Sick-head (Pancho Moler), Psycho-head (Lee Temple), Sex-head (Elizabeth Daily) and the unstoppable Doom-head (Richard Brake).

They have 12 hours to survive whilst being pursued by these clown-faced torturers and all the while, Murder, Dragon and Serpent place bets on who will survive the longest… but will any of them survive at all?

The thing I find weird about where Zombie has gone with this film is all the criticisms that i’ve heard about his other films, he seems to have attempted just to distill them together in one film. Essentially this film starts as a homage… tribute (?)…. rip-off (!)… to Texas Chain Saw Massacre before descending into a pastiche of Zombie’s previous films.

The worst crime committed is that the protagonists are unlikable jerks, so there is no threat. In actual fact you look forward to them getting killed, and whilst that may have been the point, the payoff of their murders just isn’t awful enough or gory or inventive enough for it to enter torture porn territory.

Honestly this whole film seems to be a vehicle for Richard Brake, whose Doom-head character has some great monologues and he’s an impressive figure of evil within it, even though his dual switchblade weapons are a little boring and unimpressive considering.

Zombie’s usual visual style and mix of incidental music and songs for the soundtrack are all present here and still look as good as ever (if you like his style, which I do) and so that experience is another positive in a film which basically, was not very good.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Monster Pictures region B Bluray release which runs for approximately 103 minutes, and it’s image is difficult to judge as it is full of Zombie’s trademark ‘grindhouse’ filmstock appearance, so to say this 16×9 image is perfect is not true, but the look is a deliberate and artificial construct by the auditing and effects process, so it is perfect for the effect it is attempting to provide. The audio, however is a perfect 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other Monster Pictures releases The Greasy Strangler and Anti-birth before hitting the menu screen.

As far as extras are concerned, there are three behind the scenes galleries: one general one, one focusing on Zombie behind the camera and one of the photo shoot for the poster art. I don’t have much interest in static images on a disc made for moving images so this is essentially worthless to me.

At least there is also a trailer.

Score: *

WISIA: There’s much better films in Rob Zombie’s catalogue… actually there is better films in Andy Milligan’s catalogue. No, probably not ever again.

Roger Corman: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

One from the re watch pile…

Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel (2011)

Film: I sometimes wonder if when the Lumière brothers stood on the shoulders of Thomas Edison and William Dickson and created their wonderful Cinématographe machine if they ever sat down and discussed the wonders of what their creation may hold in the future.

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film about an Island of Fishmen!’

‘I imagine one day someone will make a film called ‘ Dinoshark’!’

‘I imagine one day someone will adapt the work of Edgar Allen Poe into a series of films!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make a film with a spaceship in it that has boobs on it!’

‘I imagine one day a man will make all those films, and write/ produce/ star in many many more!’

‘Oh Auguste, don’t be ridiculous: one man could never do all that in one lifetime!!’

Well, one man did, and continues to do so! Roger Corman would have to be the most important man in the history of cinema. He is certainly a rebel before his time who has not only nurtured such talents as Ron Howard, Jonathon Demme, Joe Dante, Jack Nicolson, Martian Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich and many others, he’s also been at the forefront of effects development, expediency of production (both time and money wise) and just the ability to show that any story, if made cheap enough, can be a financial success… and DAMN the critics. Audiences and critics want different things from cinema!

I believe that B movie fans like myself are generally Corman fans before they realise that Corman exists. I know my youth was spent looking at Famous Monsters and watching late night creature features, a lot which have probably disappeared from my memory through the eons I’ve been alive, so I must have really experienced his work around this time. For certain though, I definitely know I watched Battle Beyond the Stars, and even as a kid knew it was a cheap seats version of Star Wars, but Sybil Danning…. sigh!

It wasn’t until my Fangoria years in the 80s that I really realised what a spectacular output Corman was responsible for, and here, with the documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, we get to see just why his influence on the movie industry is a unique and important one.

Written and directed by Alex Stapleton, who reviewed two important nominations for this film, one the Golden Camera at Cannes and the other a Rondo Hatten Classic Horror Award, this film looks at Corman’s history, the amazing successes he’s had over the years, and the daring steps he took into all different areas of production, direction, distribution and even sociological ideals which may not have always been wholly acceptable by the moral majority.

This film is a concise look at an amazing career, that still continues today, and with the absolute catalogue of talent interviewed here, we get a look at what Corman did for so many people in Hollywood, even if that just meant them finding out exactly what they WOULDN’T want to do as far as production is concerned.

Highly recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK Bluray release which runs for approximately 90 minutes. For the most part, the image is excellent and presented in 1.78:1 but that occasionally changes depending on the historical footage shown. The audio is a matching quality DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: There is a pretty cool bunch of extras on this disc:

Extended Interviews takes all the stuff that didn’t make the cut to the film but still had interesting stories to tell.

Special Messages to Roger is a nice collection of tributes to Corman from his contemporaries, acolytes, apprentices and dilettantes. Some are heartfelt, some funny, but all seem to be genuine!

There is also a trailer for the film. Nicholson’s comment from the film,’ by mistake, he made a good picture every once in a while’ should have been the Tagline to the whole thing, and it’s quoted here.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I actually love film documentaries almost as much as I love movies, and this is one I watch regularly.

Visitors (2003)

One from the to watch pile…

Visitors (2003)

Film: I love a sunburnt cinema, films of sweeping plains, of rugged outback killers, of tough, arse-kicking dames… yeah, I love Australian films. Not the artsy, fartsy ones that proper critics love, but instead the dumb, violent, Ozploitative stuff made famous recently by Mark Hartley’s awesome doco ‘Not Quite Hollywood’.

I’m never sure that Ozploitation quite left us completely and this film, 2003’s Visitors might be a good example of that. Not only does it tell a story of an attractive woman left to protect herself, it’s also written by Everett De Roche, writer of Razorback and Harlequin, but it’s also directed by Richard Franklin, who gave us Road Games and Patrick.

Visitors tells of Georgia Perry (Radha Mitchell), am around-the-world yachtswoman whose efforts have come to a shuddering halt due to a lack of wind, and she is left in the middle of the ocean, static, surrounded by a huge unforgiving fog.

Being stuck for so long, though, starts to effect her mind and she starts to have bizarre flights of fancy involving strange tattooed men, pirates and dreams of her mother, father and aunts, but are they real? Is it just her mental state screwing with her, or are there more ominous forces at work?

Parts of the background of the story is revealed in a piecemeal, flashback method.. you know, like Pulp Fiction… and the more we see, the more is seems that our heroine’s life may have been unravelling before she even stepped on the deck. It’s an interesting way to tell such a straightforward story when you consider the only real family secret was how her father ended up in a wheelchair.

This is pretty much Radha Mitchell’s Show, and she does it well. She’s likeable and her creeping madness manifests in many ways, some creepy, and some just hilariously bizarre. The addition of Suzanna York to the cast as her oppressive, manipulative mother is fantastic, as are the appearances of Tottie Goldsmith, Dominic Purcell and Ray Barrett.

The problem with this film is though it’s just not very engaging. Whilst Mitchell’s character is a nice enough person who is surrounded by some generic, family tragedies, her plight on the boat would have been enough, but adding the ‘ghosts’ who keep visiting make it difficult to be interested in. To make matters worse, when the stupid reason why they are visiting is revealed, and it’s not just stupid, it’s ridiculous, you’ll be left in a great big pile of ‘what the..?’

I wanted to like this as I like the actors and the writer and director, but it’s just not very good. The addition of SyFy channel quality cgi doesn’t help it too much either.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment release DVD and was presented in a clear 2.35:1 image with a matching 5.1 Audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There is a couple of extras on this disc, including text biographies of the cast and crew (though not Everett De Roche, which seemed out of place), a terrible, out of scale photo gallery (an absolutely worthless addition), the trailer for this film and trailers for Alexandra’s Project, The Rage in Placid Lake, Erskineville Kings and Japanese Story.

Score: **


The Champagne Murders (1967)

One from the to watch pile…

The Champagne Murders (1967)

Film: I’ve only ever been to Europe for three days… yep, you read that right: three lousy days! All that flying, exhaustively long stop-overs at other airports so I could get off a plane in England, be shuffled onto a bus to a place called Retford where I was involved in a three day conference and sales meeting, and then was shuffled off back to the airport and thrown back here to sunny Australia.

That was about 21 years ago and I have to say it’s been a constant thorn in my paw that I didn’t get to see more of Europe other than jolly old England. Why? Well I’ve always loved movies set in Europe, I guess mainly the ones from the 60s and 70s, and that probably started with things like Roman Holiday and even tripe like Gidget Goes To Rome, and even the Carry On films to some extent.

This affection continued to grow when I started to really get stuck into watching gialli and from there the films of Armando de Ossorio, Jorge Grau and other European directors of varying quality. I’m not sure if it’s the environments, the architecture, the women or just the fact that even the slimiest of bad guys still seems to be cooler than anyone in a Hollywood film.

This film, The Champagne Murders aka La Scandale is from this period I love, 1967 specifically, and was directed by prolific French director and member of Nouvelle Vague (the French film movement, not the band), Claude Chabrol and was written by Claude Brulé and Derek Prouse from an original story by William Benjamin.

To finish a deal to sell Wagner Champagne, Christine Belling (Yvonne Furneaux) requires the approval of Paul Wagner (Maurice Ronet) to continue to use his family name on the product. Paul has a few problems of his own though: after a violent incident a year or so ago for which he had treatment, he still suffers from an occasionally blackout, which is exacerbated by his chronic alcoholism.

After Paul and Christopher (Anthony Perkins). Christine’s conniving husband, go on a trip to Hamburg, Christine receives a blackmail letter with a newspaper article about a murdered girl, who happens to be the escort that Paul spent the night and had one of his blackouts withhold they were there.

Christine then decides to blackmail Paul into giving up his name, but very soon, another girl in Paul’s company turns up dead… but is it Paul committing these murders, or is he being set up by someone else?

I have to say I did really love this film. It has a deliberate pace so if big budget action films are your thing, this isn’t going to wash. This film doesn’t just convey a story, it is a series of carefully built scenes with amazing subtle and fluid camerawork and spectacular performances from all involved. The best thing about it though is it’s inconclusive ending: yes, the killer is revealed but the circumstances of their comeuppance are left in a delicious open ended finale that reveals that perhaps all problems in the world are just a microcosm, and maybe even insignificant and that the pursuit of money can reduce one’s humanity, and enslave.

The reviewed version was the English language one, so not all of the visuals match the sound perfectly, and the appearance of Perkins must be based on the popularity of Psycho give both the themes of duality, and the fact the score at times feels like it hits some very Hitchcockian notes.

I had never even heard of this film before this week, and it’s rocketed into being one of my favourite films of all time. Give it a look.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release. Mostly, the 2.35:1 image is of a high quality though some of the stock footage of vineyards suffers from a few artefacts and some damage to the film. The sound is presented in 2.0 and suffers from occasional inexplicable peaks and troughs of volume, but for the most part is clear.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a single thing at all!

Score: 0

WISIA: As a matter of fact, one SHOULD watch it at least twice as the second watch will no doubt reveal several little tics and looks that make so much more sense.

Pet Sematary (1989)

On the last day of Zombruary, we revisit a Stephen King classic!

One from the re watch pile…

Pet Sematary (1989)

Film: Whilst I am a pretty big horror fan, and I mean movies, comics, video games and books… in all its forms really… I have never been the biggest fan of Stephen King’s books. In the 80s I read horror novels non-stop as my trip to and from work was a long and boring ride. Unfortunately I don’t read as much anymore, but I blame my addiction to video games and the internet for that.

That’s not to say that I don’t like Stephen King though. The many MANY movies that have been based on his books I have always found to be an interesting distraction and occasionally I’ve even liked them. I guess what that means is I’ve always liked his ideas, but don’t like his writing style and find reading his books to be a laborious act.

Pet Sematary was made based on a screenplay that King himself did based on his book of the same name, and was directed by Mary Lambert, the director of a bunch of Madonna’s early videos and of the inevitable sequel Pet Sematary 2.

Pet Sematary tells of the Creed family: Louis (Dale Midkiff), a Doctor, his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), their daughter Ellie (played by twins Beau and Blaze Berdahl) and son Gage (Mike Hughes) who have just moved to a new house next to a busy highway.

Soon after they move in, their cat Church is hit by a truck, and their neighbour across the street, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne) tells Louis that there is an old Native American burial ground behind a pet cemetery hidden in the woods. Louis and Jud take Church and bury him, without the rest of the family’s knowledge, and very soon, Church comes back… but now he’s mean, and smells.

A further tragedy hits the family when their boy Gage is hit by a truck, and ignoring Church’s personality change, and the warnings from the spirit of a dead cyclist who he tried to help, Pascow (Brad Greenquist), Louis exhumes his body and takes him to the burial ground. It when he returns he’s no longer their baby boy…

This story, based loosely on The Monkey’s Paw, with its ‘wishes gone wrong’ scenario, is probably one of King’s best. The film benefits from Lambert’s direction as she seems to be really in touch with the family relationships and the quality of acting from all concerned, especially the children, really sells the tale well. The appearance of Gwynne, best known as Herman Munster from The Munsters is a revelation as well, and you don’t think of him as Herman at all through the film.

This is the best type of horror film as the horror really comes from bad decisions and tragedy, rather than an external threat that is completely random.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Pet Sematary was reviewed using the Australian Bluray which runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in a decent 1.78:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A great bunch of extras on this disc:

The Commentary by Mary Lambert was done a while after it was made and so we rely on Lambert’s memory for the details of what happened during the course of the filming. It’s a fairly thorough commentary though I think she may occasionally get distracted by what she is watching s there a moments of quiets from her.

Stephen King Territory sees actors, cast, crew and even King himself discuss the origins of the story.

The Characters dissects all the characters motivations and the actors who play them.

Filming The Horror looks at how the crew got away with doing the effects for the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Pet Sematary works on many levels and has enough shocks to warrant repeat viewing.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

One from the re watch pile…

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (1974)

Film: As with all film fans, there are ‘Holy Grails’ on my mental checklist of ‘need to sees’ and before I had seen it, this was one of mine. This film, The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, is also known as Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (which is more or less a translation of the Italian title “Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morti” which literally means “You must not desecrate the sleep of the dead”) and Don’t Open the Window. I had these three films on my list, and for some reason I was ignorant of the fact that they were one in the same film.

Imagine my joy when I found out they were one and the same.

The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue tells the following tale: George (Ray Lovelock) is an antiques dealer who enjoys his weekends in the country, away from the hustle and bustle and pollution of the big city. One weekend on his way to his retreat, he has a small accident with the gorgeous Edna (Christine Galbo) who is on the way to assist her brother in law Martin (Jose Lifante) in an intervention with her heroin addicted sister, Katie (Jeannine Mestre). Unfortunately his motorbike is wrecked, and so Edna offers to take him to where he has to go in her car.

Typically they get lost, and George stops to ask for directions at a farm that is using a revolutionary pest control technique that has a disturbing side effect: it brings the dead back to life! Whilst George is away from the car, Edna is attacked by one of the living dead, and so begins a descent into madness that finds corpses returning to eat the living, babies showing deadly signs of cannibalism and the local constabulary, led by a hardnosed old-school inspector (Arthur Kennedy) thinking they are a pair of homicidal hippies!

One of the things I really like about this film is what a misogynistic, sexist arsehole the male lead, George (Ray Lovelock) appears to be. He is a condescending, self assured jerkoff, and honestly I can’t tell if he is representing men of the era accurately, or if he is a parody akin to what was seen in something like the MUCH later film The Editor.

Now the female lead is one I really like. Christine Galbo plays her role of Edna like a more realistic Barbara from Night of the Living Dead. She is definitely in shock, but almost completely avoids the dumb-founded catatonia that made Barbara a frustrating piece of furniture to be thrown around by the male protagonists.

Actually I felt this film owed a lot to Night of the Living Dead, and not just due to its walking dead, its machismo fuelled male lead or weak-ankled female lead. There is an all over sense of impending doom, and the more cynical of us might just say the ending is a blatant copy of Romero’s B/W film.

The script, by Sandro Continenza, is both retro and revolutionary at the same time. It has hippie-hating cops and the women are of the shrinking violet variety, but it also looks at ‘new’ clean pest-rid technologies. It’s anti-pollution, looks briefly (and amusingly) at heroin addiction and demonstrates a high level of environmental awareness.

An absolute cracker. It precedes George Romero’s ideas of the dead’s instincts presented in Dawn of the Dead by several years, and its anti-pollution, pro-eco stance is well ahead of its time. As for Blue Underground’s disc, well it is chock-a-block full of more extras than you could shake a grave marker at. I never thought I would see a film to rival Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and while I still may not have, this comes real close

Score: *****

Format: This review was performed on the Blue Underground, two-disc Set from about ten years ago. The DVD has a delightful image: bright, vibrant, detailed, and is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen. The cover claims the image has been remastered in Hi Definition from the original camera negative, and I am guessing it is that process which gives it…ahem… new life. The film is presented in a choice of 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, Dolby Surround 2.0 and Original Mono. I reviewed this as 5.1 and was impressed by the quality. Of course, the voices do not always match the speaker’s lips but this may be due to dual language tracks rather than a fault of the disc mastering.

Score: ***1/5

Extras: This being a 2 discer means we are treated to a coffin full of extras.

Disc 1 treats us to the International trailer (which identifies the film as The Living Dead at THE Manchester Morgue, but gets away with it by providing a COOL music track), the U.S. trailer (under the title of Don’t Open the Window, and is one of those SEE!!! HEAR!!! Type trailers), TV Spot (another US trailer for Don’t Open The Window), Radio Spots (a collection of radio adverts with a collection of posters played over the screen…excellent) and Poster and Still Gallery (a collection of pixelated pictures and posters and stills from the film).

Disc 2 has a great series of featurettes:

Back To the Morgue – On Location With Jorge Grau sees director Grau revisit locations in Derbyshire and Manchester and talk about the production, location and filming of the movie. The revisitation of Southgate hospital shows it to be a condemned building…shame but the visit to the graveyard is fantastic (especially to a grave yard explorer like me) as it is the graveyard that contains the grave of Robin Hood’s Lieutenant Little John!! The visits are accompanied by amusing reminiscences from Grau. A favourite would have to be his justification of having the streaker in the opening part of the film; while he admits it wasn’t in the script, he believed it was ‘suggested’ by the scriptwriter.

Zombie Fighter – Interview with Star Ray Lovelock is an interesting interview with the actor where he basically recounts his career.

Zombie Maker – Interview with Special Effects Artist Gianetto De Rossi is an interesting look not just at the effects of this film and the effect’s artist’s body of work, but also a brief history of effects artists in European cinema.

2000 Interview with Jorge Grau is a more personal interview with Grau, and he discusses his life and influences, and the making of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s an amazing zombie film and well worth repeated viewings!

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Zombruary 2 continues…

One from the re watch pile…

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Film: I’ve always been a Hammer Horror film fan over a Universal Monsters fan. Yes the images of the Universal character designs are the most loved, but I have always preferred the design, the direction, the scores, the stories and yes, the ‘Hammer Glamour’ as the women of these films are occasionally referred.

The cinematically early splashes of blood and violence don’t hurt either.

This film, The Plague of the Zombies, was filmed back-to-back with another Hammer film, The Reptile, and shared most of its cast, and were both directed by John Gilling, who also directed Trog and The Mummy’s Shroud. It was written by Peter Bryan who also wrote The Hound of the Baskerville and The Brides of Dracula. The interesting thing about the films is they were both part of double features, but not together as the sets and cast may have confused audiences! This was original presented with Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

This film is set in August 1860, and tells of Sir James Forbes (André Morrell) and his daughter Sylvia (Diane Claire) who travel to a small Cornish town to assist their friend, Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), the town Doctor who is unable to halt what seems to be a plague effecting the townspeople. His wife, Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) seems to be succumbing to this disease as well.

One recently buried corpse had no autopsy performed on it so Tompson and Forbes dig up the coffin, only to find it empty! Upon further investigation they find that the dead walk the moors around the town, and that maybe, just maybe, the town squire, Clive Hamilton (John Carson) is using voodoo that he learned in Haiti to perform these wicked deeds… but why? What is his horrible scheme?

This film is a well constructed and entertaining look at voodoo, albeit not necessarily a very accurate portrayal. The acting is over the top and very theatrical but that just adds to the drama of the proceedings! Gilling has created a fascinating look to the film too, as most of the film has a cramped, oppressive, claustrophobic feel to it. When you combine that appearance with the score, which is a combination of traditional dramatic horns mixed with tribal beats, it creates a unique feel throughout the film.

This all makes for an effective horror film, not scary, but a totally entertaining film that sits high in my favourite Hammer films.

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed using the region B Bluray which runs for approximately 90 minutes (87 if you watch the DVD in this collection). It is presented in a wonderful, considering the age, 1.66:1 and a matching mono 2.0 audio track. It should be good considering the process of restoration, which is explored somewhat in the extras.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A bunch of excellent extras on this disc:

World of Hammer Episode: Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead is an episode of The World of Hammer (as the title suggests) narrated by Oliver Reed explores the various films of Hammer than explored… yes, you guessed it…. Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead, relevant here as The Plague of the Zombies makes an appearance.

Raising the Dead is a retrospective making of the film and is incredibly informative, mixing film historians, fans and actual cast comments makes for a quite thorough recollection of the film.

The restoration comparison is fascinating as it shows the footage of the film before and after restoration, sometimes in a split screen so you can accurately see just how much work was done, not just with colour, but with telecine wobble, artefacts and even complete rips in the original negative.

Finally we have a trailer for the film.

This release also came with a DVD copy of the film (unreviewed)

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s certainly high level Hammer Horror so it definitely will get repeat viewings!

Planet Terror (2007)

One from the re watch pile for Zombruary…

Planet Terror (2007)

Film: I have to admit to being a pretty huge Robert Rodriguez fan. There is something about the hot Texan look and the cool not-really-70s vibe that really resonates with me. I am neither old enough nor have I ever lived in American, so the whole Grindhouse experience isn’t really one of mine, but being a teen in the 80s, I get how a film can seem more violent or sexy from the ‘dirtiness’ of the image.

According to Rodriguez’s forward in the book ‘Grindhouse: The Sleaze-Filled Saga of an Exploitation Double Feature’, he came up with idea of a double feature before he filmed Sin City, but put it on hold until he presented the idea to Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino loved the idea and eventually the two decided to of make two brand new films that were made to look like 70s exploitation flicks. Those two film became RR’s Planet Terror and QT’s Death Proof as tragically the experiment failed, and the distributors, the Weinstein Brothers withdrew it from release, only to release each film as single feature, double disc blurays, this one being Planet Terror.

Planet Terror tells of scientist Abby (Naveen Andrews) who releases a bio-chemical into the atmosphere when he is double-crossed by Lt. Muldoon (Bruce Willis), a marine with whom he has been supplying the same drug to, which has been used to keep at bay horrible mutations. The chemical infects almost everyone it comes across, turning them into bloated, pustule covered flesh eating zombie-things. A ragtag group of survivors, including mysterious El Wray (Freddy Rodriguez), Go Go dancer amputee Cherry Darling (Rose McGowan), sexy Doctor Dakota Block (Marley Shelton, doing her very best Barbara Crampton in From Beyond impression), tough guy police officer Hague (Michael Biehn), his brother J.T. (Jeff Fahey) and several others use any abilities they have to find a way to get away from the town, coming not just up against the zombies-things, but also the marines, and even worse, fighting amongst themselves! Will they make it to safety? Only time and a LOT of firepower will tell!!

There is no doubt this film is a fantastic piece of gore laden horror. The story is a pure eighties ‘bio-chemical weapon’ story, like The Return of the Living Dead, but with the visuals of a Lucio Fulci pic. The soundtrack is an interesting one, with Carpenter like synthy bits mixed with RR’s Mexican influence guitar pieces. From the opening scene, which is like a C-cup version of a Russ Meyer’s filmed Go-Go dance, this film has you entranced. Every line is pure Rodriguez in top form.

Rodriguez’s use of the ‘Grindhouse’ effect is interesting as well, the intensity of the artificial ‘print damage’ gets worse in more intense scenes, adding both to the tension of the scene, and also bringing back memories of watching old VHS tapes where the tape was stretched and distorted over excessively sexy or gory bits, from where previous viewers watched that bit over and over again or paused to have a good look at boobs or blood. Another highlight of the ‘Grindhouse’ effect is the so-called ‘missing reel’ which has a saucy sex scene jump to another scene that looks like it takes place a good ten minutes later, which makes the viewer feel like part of the ‘What happened?’ factor.

Of course, this film is probably best known for the iconic image of Rose McGowan, who is fantastic in this, with the machine gun prosthetic leg. She’s been in a lot of stuff, but that silhouette will remain a Hollywood icon for years.

When I first saw this film it sent me to a place that only 70s and 80s gore films send me to, so I suppose the experiment, for me, was a resounding success. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve enjoyed it.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the American region free Bluray which contains an awful artifact-y 1.77:1 presentation that is covered in all sorts of hairs and cigarette burns: it jumps, has telecine wobble and the color drops out more than once… but it is supposed to be like that, so I guess it is perfect!! Like the picture, the sound is imperfect and is filled with little crackle-y bits, but it’s SUPPOSED to be like that! Presented in Dolby 5.1 surround sound.

Score: ****

Extras: As usual, Robert Rodriguez has a well-stacked pantry of extras on this Bluray.

Disc 1 opens with one if the ‘fake trailers’ that were to site inbetween the two films when packaged as Grindhouse. This fake trailer, Machete, of course has since become an action film in its own right, with a sequel!

The first extra is the ability To Watch the film in a “clean’ version that doesn’t have any of the scratches and stuff on the screen. Honestly I don’t know why you would watch the film like this.

Feature Commentary by Robert Rodriguez is as you would expect a commentary by Rodriguez. He is passionate about his work, and presents a detailed commentary on all aspects of the filming of Planet Terror (occasionally repeating himself from the extras).

The Audience Reaction Track is a feature length track that plays the audiences reaction during a showing of the film along with the actual soundtrack…. Like seeing the film ‘live’. Rodriguez did this with Sin City as well, and it is certainly a great way to watch a ‘Grindhouse’ movie. My favourite part is the audience’ s reaction to the appearance of Bruce Willis!

Disc 2

10 Minute Film School is one of Rodriguez’s usual extras, and shows how he did some of the effects for Planet Terror using both live action and cheap methods. This extra is a great tool if you are a tragic wanna be film director.

The Badass Babes of Planet Terror tells of the female casting choices of the film. There are interviews, and interesting anecdotes from Robert Rodriguez, Rose McGowan, Marley Shelton, the Crazy Babysitter Twins and Stacy Ferguson.

The Guys of Planet Terror tells of the male casting choice of the film. This has interviews and anecdotes with Rodriguez, Tarantino, McGowan, Shelton, Freddy Rodriguez, Josh Brolin, Naveen Andrews, Tom Savini, Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey.

Casting Rebel is a short bit about the casting of Rodriguez’s son Rebel in a main role. Shelton, Brolin and Rodriguez all discuss his abilities.

Sickos, Bullets and Explosions: The Stunts of Planet Terror is all about the big bangs and multiple mayhem of Planet Terror. This is an interesting look at the stunts and features interviews with Stunt Supervisor Jeff Dashnaw, with additional comments from Rodriguez, McGowan, Shelton and F. Rodriguez.

The Friend, The Doctor and The Real Estate Agent is a pretty funny piece about the casting of Rodriguez’s friend Tommy Nix, his doctor, Dr. Felix Sabates and his realtor, Skip Reissig.

There is a trailer for the film, and a bunch of international posters for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve watched this so many times I can practically recite it.

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Zombruary 2 The Zombening continues….

One from the re watch pile…

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Film: This film was a late love for me. I had never seen any of the 4 Blind Dead films until I actually won a box set collection of the UK release of the series several years ago, and I instantly fell in love with the films and director Armando De Ossorio’s directorial vision for them. This also led me to De Ossorio’s amazing film The Loreley’s Grasp, which is so wonderfully ridiculous that one can’t help but loving it.

This film, The Tombs of the Blind Dead aka La Noche Del Terror Ciego, tells of Betty (Lone Fleming) and Roger (César Burner) who, after a tantrum, are concerned for their mutual friend Virginia (María Elena Arpón) who bailed from the train ride they were on whilst in transit to a weekend getaway destination.

Virginia is found dead in a castle in the middle of nowhere and an investigation begins to find out what happened, but what has happened is that at this particular abandoned castle, is that undead Knights Templar, blinded whilst alive for crimes against god including sacrifice and blood-drinking, have risen from the grave to kill anyone who disturbs their unholy slumber… and now that their castle is full of people investigating Virginia’s death, they have plenty to feast upon!

The really cool thing about this release from Blue Underground is the fact that there is both the edited UK release of the film The Blind Dead and also the uncut Spanish version of La Noche Del Terror Ciego, which ads four whole chapters to the film and tells a different, raunchier story than the UK version. It is subtitled so be warned for those who don’t want to read a movie, if you want the boobies, you are going to have to work for them.

The film is paced really strangely, but it totally works! The whole story of Virginia leaving her friends and her eventual demise is a whole third of the film and sets it up beautifully for the roller coaster ride of the rest of it.

It’s really a heap of fun and I can’t express what a treat this film is, make sure you check it out.

Score: ****

Format: As I mentioned there are two versions of the film on this DVD from Blue Underground. The English dubbed one runs for about 83 minutes but the Spanish with subtitles version runs for 101 minutes. The film is presented in a 1.66:1 image with a mono audio track, and the Spanish version is certainly the superior image. If I were to score each individually, The English would be 2 and the Spanish would get a 3, so I’ll average the score for the disc between the two.

Score: **1/2

Extras: There is a few interesting extras on this disc.

Alternate opening: Revenge from Planet Ape which is an alternate beginning attempting to capitalise on the popularity of Planet of the Apes, and the somewhat simian appearance of the make up on the Templar Knights. The quality of this isn’t great but it’s an interesting watch.

Theatrical Trailer is just that. It’s a pretty awesome trailer though!

Poster and Still Gallery which has an amazing selection of posters, lobby cards, video covers and press books of the film intercut with the occasional still from the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I really like Tombs of the Blind Dead and it gets a regular revisit at my place. It’s not brilliant, but it’s both charming and hokey enough to warrant regular viewing.