Italy National Day: Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Massacre in Dinosaur Valley (1985)


Film: If you have read anything on this site before, you’ll know I am a big fan of Italian films of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Amongst that, I also have somewhat of a fondness for the Cannibal film made by Italian filmmakers of the period. I think I saw Cannibal Apocalypse first and was stunned by the story and brutality of it, and whenever I hear of one I’ve not seen I seek it out.

This was one I hadn’t seen of until it’s release by 88 Films this year and I was pretty excited to watch it as I could tick off another Cannibal/ Green Inferno film off my list, and actually from the period and of available releases it might be my last one, or very close to it.

This film was written and directed by Michele Massimo Tarantini who also gave us Sword of the Barbarians and Women in Fury is of the second wave of Cannibal films of this time, others being Amazonia: The Catherine Miles Story and Cannibal Holocaust 2, which aren’t as good as the first wave, which included the original Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox.


Massacre in Dinosaur Valley tells of the misadventures of archeologist Kevin Hall (Michael Sopkiw) who has journeyed into the Brazilian jungle in search of dinosaur bones. When he gets there, he decides to hitch an airplane ride with Professor Ibanez (Leonidas Bayer) and his daughter Eva (Suzane Carvalho), along with a slightly mad ex-Viet Nam veteran, his annoying wife, a photographer and two models.

Unfortunately for them, the plane crashes (in some of the worst special effects ever seen) and the survivors of the crash have to find a way to make their way out of the jungle, but with just a few people up against cannibals, piranha and evil illegal diamond minors, will any of them get out safely?

First I must point out that this is an edited version of the film as due to animal cruelty laws in the U.K., some cock-fighting scenes at the beginning of the film have been excised from this release so it isn’t a ‘complete and uncut’ version, but realistically the film doesn’t suffer from it and it’s not a story point, though you do hear that the competition is going on in the background.

It’s a quirky film for sure. Sopkiw plays his role like a mysoginistic jerk-off that the women seem to love, but it’s done with a great air of comedy too, not sure if that’s intentional or not, but it does add something to the uniqueness of the film. One case that particularly makes for a laugh is some hilariously ill-fitting music over a sex scene. No Barry White for this guy!


The special effects are pretty amusing in general too. Most acts of gunshot violence don’t result in a blood spray, the aforementioned airplane crash is clearly a model plane and the scenes of hogs attempting to eat Sopkiw’s leg are less that spectacular.

The film is entertaining but it doesn’t have the weight that the films of the earlier batch of cannibal films, so it comes across a little more like a Romancing the Stone film with a bit of blood and violence.

Score: ***


Format: Considering the age of the film, it looks pretty good! There is an occasional artefact, but in general, this UK, region B, 88 minute bluray release is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with a decent LPCM 2.0 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Now I’m not sure if you count this as an extra or a special feature, but the film is able to be watched in an English dubbed, or a subtitled version. Oddly, the Italian language version is a shorter film!

In addition to that, we also have a theatrical trailer of the film, and a bunch of deleted scenes, some of which have no audio due to the nature of the scenes not being finished for the final presentation of the film, so their removal must have been decided well before any recording of audio was done.

There is also a discussion about the Cannibal sub-genre with well known U.K. Horror enthusiast Callum Waddell called Location Location Cannibalisation. It’s an interesting look not just at this film but of Cannibal films in general.

There is also a special thanks section where those who donated money to the release of the film get a note of thanks.

This bluray release also has a reversible cover featuring alternate artwork for the film.

I’m going to gauge these extras from the point of the alternate version of the film being an extra feature.

Score: ****

WISIA: It was entertaining but I can’t see myself watching it too frequently, not when films like the aforementioned Cannibal Holocaust, Apocalypse and Ferox exist.

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Happy National Day, Italy!

Italy National Day 2017

One of the reason the To Watch Pile even exists is that there is a bunch of us, who met through online forums and have become friends, who get together regularly to celebrate our love of horror, cult, action… dammit, let’s just say film in general, and whenever we get together films of Japan, Hong Kong or Italy inevitable come up in drunken conversation. It was these fine gentlemen who spurred me on to create the very site you hopefully enjoy on a regular occasion.

My fondness is specifically for Italian horror films, and so, I feel out of respect I should, each year, celebrate my love of Italian films by presenting three films, each one representing the three colours of the Italian flag: green, white and red.

What will they be? Well you’d better visit each day to find out!

I hope you enjoy the films I have decided to use to represent these colours, and I’d also like to thank you all for your continued support.

J.R.

Idle Hands (1999) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Idle Hands (1999)


Film: Many years ago I had this film on DVD, but as can one when one has a big collection of anything, things go missing, and this was one of the films (along with David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ) that has disappeared. I probably leant them both to the same person and never received them back.

If you have my copy of eXistenZ, whoever you are, I want it back! You can keep the copy of Idle Hands as I now have this whiz-bang bluray copy released by Umbrella Entertainment.

This film was written by Ron Milbauer and Terri Hughes and directed by Rodman Flender, who, considering how good this is, hasn’t really done anything like this again, though he is quite a prolific TV director.

Idle Hands tells of Anton Tobias (Devon Sawa) the ultimate slacker who spends his days smoking dope, watching MTV (and the hot girl down the street, Molly, played by Jessica Alba) and mooching off his parents, but Anton discovers what can happen when you spend too long idle.


Anton’s hand has become possessed and has turned him into a murderer, two of his victims being his best friends Mick (Seth Green) and Pnub (Elden Henson) who return from the grave and decide to help him rid himself of his devil issue.

The first thing they do is suggest he visit local metalhead, Randy (Jack Noseworthy) who being a metalhead, you know, is obviously a devil worshipper to try and find a way to exorcise it. He suggests he keep his hands busy because as the saying goes, idle hands are the devil’s playground, but will it work or will Debbie (Vivica A. Fox), a woman from a sacred order sworn to destroy possessed hands, kill him?

The cast are a massive piece of how well this film plays, even though it is dated as hell. Alba is great as the rebel girl love interest, Henson and Green are just a wonderful comedy team and I wish they had done more together, Noseworthy reprises his ‘bully metalhead character’ he’s done several times and does so well and Sawa holds it all together brilliantly.

There is some absolutely prime bits of comedy from Sawa in this: not only is his ‘devil’ hand performed brilliantly, he also manages to squeeze out some sublime, almost unnoticeable bits of comedy that once you see, are just brilliant. A particular favourite of mine is the disgust on his face when he is woken by a particular song on his clock radio, but when he puts his Walkman on, the same song is playing and an expression of satisfaction washes over his face.

Speaking of music, 90s music fans take note: The Offspring appear at the school dance in this film so if you like them, you’ll get to hear a few tracks, and even better, if you DON’T like them… well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.


Idle Hands is a fun and funny film, with some great jokes!

Score: ****


Format: This Australian region B bluray of Idle Hands runs for approximately 92 minutes and is presented in a spectacularly sharp 1.85:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio track. The extras, however, are not as sharp.

Score: ****

Extras: A nice bunch of extras on this disc:

A director and cast commentary starring Rodman Flender, Seth Green and Elden Hensen. It’s a pretty entertaining commentary as the three of them are quite funny.

Deleted scene is just as the title suggests, a deleted scene, but it’s introduced and explained by the director and features the demise of the villain of the film. The ending in the film is far better.

Making of Featurette is a 6 minute mini about the making of the film… don’t expect and involved explanation on how to make a film’ it’s essentially a trailer with some behind the scenes stuff and a few interviews.

Theatrical Trailer, is just that, the trailer for the film.

Storyboard Comparisons feature split screen views of the film showing the storyboard sketches in one panel and the actually film in the other. I find these things interesting so I enjoyed this part of the special features.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s VERY 90s, but really funny and I’m glad to own it again.

Comic Review: Naruto Volume 1

NARUTO VOLUME 1

If you’ve read anything about me here at the To Watch Pile, you’ll know that I love my comics. I’ve been collecting for years and enjoy everything about them, but I insist that both the art and the story are of a decent standard.

It’s a medium that celebrates both and should do so.

Now I’ve mainly been a Marvel or DC guy, with a few dalliances into Dark Horse and some of the other smaller companies, including the mighty 2000AD and also for a while was grabbed some manga stuff, like the Akira collection, and now defunct company Eclipse used to do Robotech comics as well., and even occasionally, and for a reason opposite to my claim about liking both art and story, I’d get Shonen Jump comics just for the cool Japanese styled drawings.

Now I’ve not bought manga for years, but recently, due to an occupationally change, I have become in contact with HUGE anime and manga fans, and upon their say so I have decided to check some out. It just so happened, coincidently that the bookshop near my work started getting a pile of manga collections in: Sailor Moon, One Piece, Death Note, Attack on Titan, and this one, Naruto, which I decided to give a go.

Naruto tells of a neophyte ninja desperate to prove to a town that hates him that one day he will be the greatest ninja in the town, but first he has to graduate ‘ninja’ school and prove to all who despise him that he is greater than the evil force that’s living inside him.

This comics was published by Viz Media and as it is a manga, it does read from back cover to front, and each page from right to left.

Story: This first Volume of Naruto is all about setting up the story. It’s divided into 7 chapters which start at Naruto becoming accepted into the Ninja teachings and how he and two contemporaries, the serious Sasuke and dreamy, love-lorn Sakura start on their journey with their teacher Kakashi. This book also reveals the horrible secret that Naruto has hidden within.

The story is all about introductions and setting up but never becomes bogged down with them, and the story moves along a quite the clip. Writer/ artist Masashi Kishimoto has really given The main characters a variety of personalities, and they read nicely as completely different ‘types’ of people.

Score: ***1/2

Art: Madashi Kishimoto’s art is fantastic. It’s nice and simple and light and the characters are just ever so slightly cartoony, but not enough so it becomes a distraction, or do you ever not think they are ‘real’ people. The action is fast and furious and contemplative scenes are relaxed and understated.

Score: ****

WIRIA: I sure will: it’s totally cool! I’ve even already bought Volume 2!

Nerds of Oz: 26th May 2017

Week Ending 26th May 2017
New week, cool stuff!

Comics


From DC I grabbed the latest Harley Quinn, a comic I’m about to drop because, well basically, it’s terrible: uneven art, dumb stories. She so good in Suicide Squad and this comic just sucks, but the alternate Frank Cho covers are keeping me in.

Marvel are doing some ok stuff at the moment though. Seeing as how the new X-men series’ have been so good, this week I grabbed issue 1 of the revamped Generation X and issue 4 of X-men Gold, which unfortunately stars one of my most hated X-men Gambit. Yuk. Even though I am not a fan of Captain America’s turn as a Hydra Agent, I did grab this Secret Empire comic issues 1 and 2.


I really enjoyed that first collection of Naruto, so I grabbed the second one!

Partworks


Grabbed the next few issues of the Marvel Fact Files collection, and a new book from the Marvel Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection.

Books


The next issue of the 40,000 collection is out so I grabbed it!


Also, I have been collecting these ‘art of’ movie books for a while and the opportunity to get all four of the first, even though I was only missing Iron Man 1 and 2, for 70 dollars was a steal.

Toys


Classic Bruce Timm Harley as a hula girl from Cryptozoic: must have!

The Bye Bye Man (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Bye Bye Man (2017)


Film: I’m an idiot.

No matter how much I don’t enjoy post-millennial ghost stories like The Conjuring and some of the other boring, by-the-numbers mainstream claptrap we have seen lately, I still think I should give new ones a go. I think that some helped by the allure of actors I like, like in this case Carrie-Anne Moss, Faye Dunaway and Doug Jones. It’s not an obsession, it’s just that in a world where in cinema we occasionally criticise sequels, remakes and adaptations for their lack of originality, I just hope that one of these new films will thrill or at least tell an interesting story.


Sadly, that hasn’t happened here with this quite bloodless, boring film, directed by Stacy Title, from a script written by her husband Jonathan Penner, and based on the book ‘The Bridge to Body Island’ by Robert Damon Schneck.

Our story introduces us to Elliot (Douglas Smith), his girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and their friend John (Lucien Laviscount), university students who have decided to take up residence off campus, financially assisted by Elliot’s scholarship.

They are free to use any of the furniture found in the abandoned house, and quickly address any problems that the house may have. 

One of those problems comes from when Elliot finds a bedside table that has written repeatedly ‘don’t say it, don’t think it’ in the drawer lining, and when Elliot removes it he finds the words ‘The Bye Bye Man’ engraved into the wood.

The problem with those four words is the insidious effect it has. Once there is knowledge of the Bye Bye Man, he can return from wherever he is to slowly drive those who know of his existences Mad with obscure and mentally damaging visions.

Very soon, and something we already knew through a few flashbacks, Elliot sees the only way to rid everyone of the plague that is the Bye Bye Man is to delete his existence, and existence that is only present in people’s minds… so those minds needs to be deleted, with extreme prejudice!


This story has basically taken the idea that the Nightmare on Elm Street films initially proposed of a supernatural existence that can only survive if there are people to believe in it, which in itself, comes from a philosophical theory that Gods need humans to praise them, because without a conscious entity to believe in them, they will perhaps cease to exist.

It’s also claimed that this is based on a true story of a group of friends and a haunted Ouija board in Wisconsin but me being a non-believer in the spirit world, I don’t believe it and that also doesn’t make the story better being based on a ‘true’ story.

The various actors in this film perform their roles ok, but the real bummer is the minimal screen time given to those that I actually wanted to watch the film for: probably barely 8 minutes altogether.

It’s also quite bloodless. There are occasions where you see the results of violence of people’s bodies or on the floor, but there are a couple of ‘shotgun violence’ scenes that perhaps there was an intention to add CGI blood and guts that was either forgotten or didn’t eventuate. These scenes are in flashbacks so maybe the director decided to make this scenes more ethereal and dreamlike, but more than likely they flat out ran our of money when it came time to cash some cheques. If dreamlike was the intention: that’s a massive fail.

Basically, another fancy new ghost story that fails on several counts… can we just go back to monsters or something please? Thanks.

Score: *


Format: This film was reviewed using the Australian region B bluray which runs for approximately 96 minutes. The film is presented in a perfect 1.85:1 widescreen image and an immaculate Master Audio. 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: Disappointingly, none. Even a ‘based on the true story’ sort of thing could have been amusing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Nup, and I’ll probably throw this one away.

Secret Origins: The Origin of DC Comics (2010) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Secret Origins: The Origins of DC Comics (2010)


Film: As of the date of this review, I have been a comics fan for 45 years. Every Sunday, as a child in the coastal town of Thirroul, my father would take me to the newsagency down the road so he could grab the Sunday paper, and we would return with a comic for me as well (and once a month, a Famous Monsters magazine), and that turned into a life long addiction to the panelled arts.

Ok, except for during the early nineties when the ‘Image look’ took over and every man and his dog was attempting to ‘draw’ like Rob Liefeld… yuk!

My first comic is emblazoned in my mind: issue 46 of Iron Man where he fought the Guardsman and I remember the cover well. In those days I didn’t know there was a ‘universe’ and I just read comics based on each individual issue. 


Sufficed to say I very quickly ended up with a collection of comics and even though my first comic was a Marvel one, in those days, it was DC that floated my boat, especially Superman and Batman.

…and still to this day I declare Superman to be the greatest hero of all, even though he is not created by my favourite comic creator, Jack Kirby: an artist whose talent I adore so much I even named my daughter after him!!

Anyway, DC comics always are close to my heart and I was so happy several years ago when I discovered this doco existed, along with its supporting doco, Necessary Evil, which explores the villains of DC comics, which are far more interesting as characters in general than the good guys.

This documentary, Secret Origins: The Origins of DC Comics, is narrated by Ryan Reynolds, and tells the of DC comics, and thoroughly explores the entire history: the ups and downs, the successful TV shows and films, the cartoons, the merchandise and the comics as well, but not just the history of the characters, also the creators, historians and all the business and style changes throughout the history.


This documentary features interviews with Karen Berger, Neil Adams, Frank Miller, Bob Kane, Marv Wolfman, Dwayne McDuffie, Neil Gaiman… just so many interviews, both new and archival, and all of them relevant and informative.

It also explores the legends of the greatest heroes of the DC Universe: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, The Watchmen, Swamp Thing and so many others.

The entire film is also illustrated with some of the finest art comics has to offer, and some awesome footage from the films and TV of DC, including some amazing behind the scenes stuff.

If you love DC comics, this is a must watch, and even if you just like any comics from any publisher, this is an incredibly informative and interesting look at the history of comics in general.

Score: *****


Format: The reviewed copy of this documentary was the American, region 1 DVD, which runs for approximately 90 minutes, and it is presented in a 1.80:1 widescreen, of varying quality due to some of the footage being archival, but the comic images and new footage and interviews are clean, and the audio in an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None, unfortunately.

Score: 0

WISIA: Being a comic and a documentary fan, this is a wonderful meeting of the two things, and gets watched possibly once a month.

Rest In Peace Rich Buckler

Comics artist Rich Buckler has tragically left us aged 68.

wonder woman

Buckler is probably best known for his work on the Fantastic Four as one of the artists who replaced Jack Kirby after he left the title, and is also known for work on Jungle Action starring Black Panther, and creating Marvel anti-hero Deathlok.

My first encounter with Buckler was with Daredevil #101, which was one of the first comics I ever grabbed as a youngster, and my love of Black Widow and Daredevil have their origins in the title around this time.

101-1

I still can’t look at a redhead in skintight black leather without thinking of these comics.

Bucker also wrote two books, How to Become A Comic Book Artist and How To Draw Superheroes, and more recently is known for his surrealistic art.

buckler

Rest in Peace, Mr Buckler. Thanks for all the amazing comics.

Nerds of Oz: Weekending 19th May 2017

Week Ending 19th May 2017
Back due to popular demand is Nerds of Oz, or, as I like to call it, who got my pocket money this week!!

Comics

From Marvel comics this week I grabbed the latest Kingpin and X-men Blue, both which are excellent for different reasons. Kingpin is an amazing look at the private life of Daredevil’s villain, and is very much aimed at the Sopranos or Breaking Bad styled fan with its glorification of the gangster lifestyle, and how a normal person can be dragged into it. Both X-men titles are awesome at the moment, though Gold is a little above Blue. Jean Grey is certainly a far more rounded character now though, which is cool.


I have also started to read manga again, and am starting with Naruto and One Piece, both suggested by a friend from work.



Magazines

As an extension of my new found love of manga, I also picked up the latest NEO mag, just to see what new animation and manga are around.


Books

I stupidly have started another Partworks (you know those fortnightly newsagency collections) and this is the current issue of the new-ish Games Workshop, 40K novel collection.


DVD/ Blurays

Are they future reviews? Possibly, but this week I grabbed Idle Hands, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Bye Bye Man, Split, I Am Not A Serial Killer, the Legacy Collections of Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy and The Wolfman, and the latest entries into the Resident Evil and Underworld franchises.




I also grabbed an anime called High School DD, which is basically the 80s film Revenge of the Nerds vs Busty Devil Women. Sounds awesome.


Records

I finally got my hands on Volume 2 of the Stranger Things soundtrack, which I am quite happy about!


Gaming

Last but not least, I grabbed this cool box for my Magic the Gathering cards!

Child’s Play (1988) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Child’s Play (1988)


Film: What is it with clowns and dolls? We enjoy both of them as kids but when we grow up, some of us are creeped out by them, but not me!

Definitely not me!

I LOVE movies that have a scary doll or clown in it! Never let it be said that I avoid either. Damn, I even saw Annabelle just because of the doll, even though I knew it to be part of the universe that the disappointingly dull Conjuring films exist in.

Why do I love horror films with dolls in it? The blame can be aimed directly at this film right here: 1988’s Child’s Play, starring the most loveable smartarse serial killing doll, Chucky!

This film was written by Don Mancini, also with John Lafia and Tom Holland, who also directed.

This film tells of Charles Lee Ray (Brad Dourif), a serial killer who, upon being almost captured, uses voodoo to transfer his mind to a fresh body, which happens to be the most popular toy of the day, a Good Guys doll.

Karen (Catherine Hicks) is desperate for a Good Guy doll for her son, 6 year old Andy (Alex Vincent) and manages to acquire the one that Chucky transferred his persona into. Very soon, Chucky is on the rampage, and wants a human body again but he find out that he can only return to the body of the first person he revealed himself to… otherwise he’ll be trapped as a doll forever, but a human doll with organs and blood, and one that can be injured… and killed, so the race is on to get back to Alex, and become one with him…


The first thing one has to note about this film is just how amazing Alex Vincent is in it. Mostly kids come across as obnoxious or just annoying in these sorts of films, but the whole preposterous story is sold on how good the kid sells it!

The special effects of Chucky need some props as well. Occasionally it is a little person dressed up, but there are also times where it is a puppet or an animatronic, and in both cases it looks convincing… once your sense of disbelief kicks in anyways.

On the point of the silly concept of the film, Hicks and her co-star Chris Sarandon both deserve credit for playing the entire film completely straight, which is exactly what this film needs. Brad Dourif’s menacing voice doesn’t hurt that either… he’s a nasty piece of work in this! 


It’s a great deal of fun, and even though the sequels, like all sequels, are occasionally stupid, this is an effective film that tells a great story even though what we are supposed to believe is out there.

Score: ****


Format: This film was reviewed with the UK DVD release that runs for approximately 83 minutes. Unfortunately this DVD wasn’t really made for widescreen TVs it doesn’t appear to be anamorphic, and the widescreen image just seems to float in the middle of your screen. I tried it on several different settings and couldn’t get it to play to the full screen of my widescreen TV. The image itself though is a clean one, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is fantastic.

Score: **

Extras: Only a trailer, I’m afraid.

Score: *1/2

WISIA: It’s an eighties horror classic, you better believe it!