It (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

It (2017)

Film: I missed this one in the cinemas, but I work in an environment that celebrates pop culture, and so all of my customers and workmates… and family for that matter… we’re banging on about this reimagining/ retelling of the famous Stephen King novel: I literally couldn’t get away from It! For one particular company it was their best seller for several weeks and all the collectors of the pop culture community were going absolutely ape for anything with Pennywise the Clown!

For those who don’t know, It is based on the book of the same name by Stephen King and was originally produced in 1990 as a two part TV mini-series, directed by Halloween III’s Tommy Lee Wallace, and has been repurposed… I hate saying a film is a remake when it’s just from the same source material…. for a new audience, with a new split of the story into the two time periods (the book and previous mini-series tells of the adult and child versions of each character), and an update in the time period when it was set. I assume when it was made in the 80s, the 50s seemed as far away as what the 80s do to a younger audience today.

This film was directed by Mama’s Andy Muschietti and his style in this film is almost an 80s pastiche but still firmly has modern effects and aesthetic: it’s actually really clever and engaging, and never boring to watch.

It tells of a scourge on the small town of Derry. Every 27 years a spate of misfortunes occur, and we start our tale with the disappearance of Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) young brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). Bill’s group of friend, the Losers’ Club (Fin Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff) with their newest members (Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs and Jeremy Ray Taylor), decide to do some investigating and discover a horrible clown shaped creature known as Pennywise (Bill Saargård) has been feasting on the citizens of the town for many years.

We the threat to them becomes greater, the kids decide to fight back, but will all of them survive….

There is a lot of good to say about this film: mostly the acting is really good, especially from Lillis, but the one drawback is Wolfhard, who is clearly here to draw on his Stranger Things popularity. It’s stands to reason that of the Losers’ Club that she would be the best as she is a little older than the boys. The real winner is Skargård as Pennywise, who nails the bad guy character perfectly.

On that, clearly the studio is trying to make a franchise, and I reckon after the next film, which will obviously continue the story of the kids but as adults, we might see a continuation ‘stories inspired by Stephen King’s It’ styled thing. I don’t mind that idea at all, I could watch more adventures of Pennywise in a Freddy Kruger styled franchise (which they kind of announce in a cinema marquee which clearly states ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 5).

If I have to be a super picky reviewer, I’d say that the CGI of the paper boat in the opening scene was a little flat but that improved massively through the course of the film and some of it was absolutely amazing.

Part original It, part Goonies but all horror, I came into this with low expectations mainly because of the amount of mainstream movie watchers who loved it, but I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to both watching it again and the inevitable sequel. It’s easily one of the best mainstream horror films to be released in the past ten years.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of It was the Australian release Bluray which runs for approximately 134 minutes and is a perfect 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: Some pretty cool extras on this disc:

Pennywise Lives! looks at the first day that the young cast get to meet Bill Skarsgård in his Pennywise costume, and then explore the character.

The Losers’ Club explores the relationship that developed between the cast members of The Losers’ Club in the film, and how that made the film more complete with their friendship feeling more genuine.

Author of Fear is, of course, a look at Stephen King’s original novel through the eyes of King himself in a quite fascinating interview.

There is also a bunch of deleted scenes (and a gag scene) which aren’t necessary but a nice addition to the package. I’ve no doubt we’ll get a director’s cut of this film closer to the release of the sequel.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh yeah, I’ll totally watch this again.

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Red Christmas (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Red Christmas (2016)

Film: We all owe Bob Clark a great deal. If Clark hadn’t have made 1974’s Black Christmas, John Carpenter May never have made Halloween and the holidays may never have been a topic for the spectacular bunch of horror movies we have that are based in or around special occasions. A world with no Mother’s Day, no New Years Evil, no April Fool’s Day, no Silent Night and maybe even no Red Christmas!

Red Christmas is the brainchild of Australian actor/ writer/ director Craig Anderson who has won two AACTAs for his work on television comedies Double the Fist and Black Comedy. Anderson managed to get the skills of Horror legend Dee Wallace, probably known best for Cujo and The Howling in the film, and she really is the key to holding the whole film together.

Red Christmas tells of the final Christmas of the family home of a family in somewhat of a crisis. Diane (Wallace) has decided to sell the family estate so she can go on a world trip as she promised her now deceased husband that she would do after he passed. Her adult children aren’t too impressed with her decision as it means her Down’s syndrome son, Jerry (Gerard O’Dwyer) will be placed in assisted living… but on Christmas Day, a horrible secret returns to haunt Diana.

A cloaked figure names Cletus (Sam Campbell) has appeared and as a Christian family, they welcome him to their table, but Cletus seems to know a secret that Diana has kept hidden from her family. When he is rejected and kicked out of the house, he decides to wreak bloody vengeance on the family… but who will survive?

Anderson has created a magnificent looking film and uses all the tropes of Italian giallo cinema by using the Christmas lights of the family house to change the look of almost every scene. Within any particular scene, the colour palette changes from red to green (both giallo and Christmas colours) then to blue and pink creating an amazing depth in the image, and making the whole proceedings quite unsettling. It really is an amazing visual tool.

The casting is an interesting too. In addition to Wallace, O’Dwyer is a revelation. His performance is clever and funny, and evolves to a horrifying point after he feels rejected by his mother. Another casting choice which was a strange one was that of David Collins as a somewhat pervy minister: Collins is probably best known as the one with hair from the comedy group The Umbilical Brothers.

The film is gory and even though some of the effects are a little basic, they do the job well, and if you are a fan of practical special effects, like me, you’ll probably dig the low techy look of them anyway.

My only real problem with this film was I couldn’t help but think of the movie You’re Next (2011) with its family in crisis under siege and 80s horror actress in a matriarchal role, which did a very similar story (without the abortion or Down’s Syndrome themes) much more thrillingly.

All in all, Red Christmas takes some interesting and controversial subjects and makes an efficient horror film which is shocking and an entertaining watch. The best thing about this film is how damn serious it takes itself, even though there are occasionally a few ‘Fair dinkum’ Australian characters who might provide a touch of the old cultural cringe!

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment DVD which runs for approximately 78 minutes and is presented in a clean 2.35:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio. The disc itself, however, does seem to suffer from a slight bit of uneven audio mastering as found myself adjusting the volume from extra to menu to feature and back.

Score: ****

Extras: There is certainly an interesting bunch of extras on this disc.

Behind the Scenes Part 1 and 2: if there was ever a series of footage to tell people what an absolute nightmare it is to make a film, and that you have to have have both perseverance and a large dose of insanity to do so, this is it. If I ever had even the slightest inclination to make a feature film, these two pieces have permanently washed it away.

There is a deleted scene which doesn’t really effect the film at all with its absence.

Visiting Gerard O’Dwyer is an interview with one of the disabled actors from the film. It’s quite a funny interview and O’Dwyer is charming.

There is also a teaser trailer and a trailer for the film.

The cover slick offers an audio commentary for the film provided by Anderson and O’Dwyer but this options seems to be missing from the actual disc as an option.

Score: ***

WISIA: Red Christmas is a decent slasher but there is possibly hundreds of other slashers that I’d watch again before this one.

My Soul To Take (2010)

One from the re watch pile…

My Soul To Take (2010)

Film: I’m glad I didn’t peak early. I look at people who peaked early in their careers and pity them… well, I haven’t peaked yet so I don’t pity them too much as I don’t know what it feels like, but I imagine trying to reclaim glory must be a total bummer.

Wes Craven is an early peaker to me. Last House on the Left and A Nightmare On Elm Street, especially Nightmare, are two films that are revered by the horror community at large, and Nightmare is one of my favourites of all time. After Nightmare though, Craven didn’t really achieve much until Scream, and even though many love it, the first of them never resonated with me because it was obviously a parody and I also wasn’t much of a nineties TV watcher, so the appeal of Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox meant nothing to me… well, Ok, Drew Barrymore was an appeal but thats it, and it did lead me to discover Rose McGowan!

Anyway, in a further attempt to get another franchise started, we have this film, My Soul To Take, written and directed by Craven, but it feels like a passionless pandering to a studio rather than an exciting creative endeavour… mind you, that’s what so many blockbuster films feel like these days.

My Soul To Take tells the starts off with a man who is having trouble controlling his split personalities and he kills his very pregnant wife in front of his young daughter, after it’s revealed that he is a serial killer known as ‘The Ripper’.

We flash forward to sixteen years later and we discover that the town that The Ripper lived in was one where 7 children were born on the one night, the night the Ripper was killed, one of them being a troubled young man known as ‘Bug’ (Max Theriot) who seems to have his own issues with multiple personalities disorder.

On the anniversary of their birthdays, the 7 kids visit the scene of where the Ripper was killed, a wrecked ambulance, and perform a ritual where the exorcise his spirit for another year. This year it is Bug’s turn to do the deed but he fails when the police turn up to clear the kids out.

Bug is concerned that in failing his mission he has caused doom to come to the town, and maybe it has as the group who share the same birthday start being picked off one-by-one… but is it Bug? It sure seems like it is….

The main problem with this film is there are more loose threads that a pair of undies bought from Best and Less. When the final resolution is revealed, it still doesn’t explain why Bug was absorbing his friend’s personalities or if he was actually absolving their spirits, and why, at only 16, have these children created a myth about the Ripper that feels like it’s been in place for years? At 16 they could only have been doing this ritual for a couple of years so why did it become so ingrained in the social vernacular? On that point, why did the local council leave a burnt out ambulance by the side of a road for 16 years?!?

Basically the entire film has moments of nonsense that aren’t accompanied by anything original. At least Scream made it obvious it was a parody and that kind of made its standard horror tropes ok, this just feels like Craven repeating himself.

The cast are also unconvincing and boring, and even the Ripper has a generic voice that replicates Freddy’s to the point of being a total rip-off.

Can one rip off their own stuff? Yes.

All in all this is a boring, by-the-numbers crapfest of a film with zero redeeming features. Avoid, evade and fend off any opportunity to watch this film. It’s terrible.

Score: *

Format: This Review was performed with the Australian region B Bluray which runs for approximately 107 minutes had has a fantastic 2.35:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 Audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with a trailer for the Jean Reno flick 22 Bullets before going straight to the menu.

There are then 5 extras:

Audio commentary with Craven, Theriot, John Magaro and Emily Meade, which when Craven is talking is interesting, but the actors tend to be self-indulgent.

There is also a Theatrical Trailer and Deleted and extended scenes and Alternate opening and endings which the film benefits to not have included, though there are a few images here that are cool, even if they are also reminiscent of other pieces of Cravens work

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: Nope. It’s absolute rubbish.

Castle Freak (1995)

One from the re watch pile…

Castle Freak (1995)

Film: Of course, everyone knows of the Cornetto trilogy, and the Romero Trilogy, but my favourite loosely themed, syncopated trilogy is writer/ director Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy… and whilst you might easily think to yourself, ‘ oh that’s easy, it’s Reanimator, Bride of Reanimator and Beyond Reanimator’, but you’d be wrong as two of those suckers are actually directed by Brian Yuzna.

So what is Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy, you ask? Well, it isn’t officially known the Lovecraft Trilogy, even though it should be. It could also be called the Combs/ Crampton Trilogy, as they play, in each film, a couple of people with a strained relationship… anyway I digress. This ‘Gordon Trilogy consists of the aforementioned Reanimator, but then goes to From Beyond, and then to this, Castle Freak, which was loosely based on Lovecraft short story The Outsider.

(As an aside, he also did the Masters of Horror episode Dreams in the Witch-House and another film Dagon, both based on Lovecraft’s work, but these three particularly have the common actor thread through them, so I don’t necessarily count these, even though they are Ok in their own right)

This film tells of the Reilly family, who are a family in crisis. Susan (Barbara Crampton) can’t forgive her husband John (Herbert Combs) for a car accident he had whilst drunk which killed their son, JJ, and blinded their daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide).

Things seems to be getting better for the Reilly’s though, as John has inherited a castle in Italy from a deceased relative who was a duchess.

The castle has a horrible secret though as many years ago the duchess claimed to have had a son with an American soldier during the war who left when the son was born horribly malformed. The duchess claimed the boy had died to the townspeople though, and actually kept the boy locked in a dungeon… but now he is loose.

Will the Reilly’s survive his wrath?

Of the three films I mentioned in this trilogy, this is certainly the lesser of them mainly due to the fact it is missing the dark sense of humour that Reanimator and From Beyond have, and honestly, it’s not as sexy either.

The film does tell a great story and Gordon’s direction is solid, but casting Combs and Crampton as an estranged couple works until you think of them as a couple, which doesn’t. These two have great antagonistic chemistry but not as a romantic couple. Even in From Beyond the relationship was a more physical and based in passion rather than a romantic relationship.

The story has a few weird anomalies too. The castle John has inherited is echoey and even John says that to another character yet when the mutant son of the duchess screams in agony, no-one seems to hear it. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s a stupid horror trope that Gordon is normally above.

One surprisingly wonderful thing about this film is how it really feels like a classic European gothic horror film, with the tragedy, the environment, the backstory and a climactic battle straight out of a Frankenstein movie!

Of the three films it is certainly the lesser, but it still tells an emotional story, with a great big mutant freak thrown in. Not great but it’s better than a lot of 90s dreck.

Score: ***

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the UK, 88 Films multiregion Bluray copy of the film which runs for approximately 95 minutes and presented in a perfectly ok 1.85:1 image and a 5.1 audio track, though there does seem to be a fair bit of barely noticeable artefact damage on the film.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a decent bunch of extras on this disc:

Castle Speak with Stuart Gordon sees Gordon look back on the creation of the film.

Next is the trailer for the film.

The Making of Castle Freak is one of Full Moon’s Videozone makings-of styled things which features some behind the scenes stuff and interviews with the cast.

The Evil Clergyman (a previously unreleased short film also based on Lovecraft’s writings taken from an anthology called Pulse Pounders) which is a half hour horror short reuniting Combs, Crampton and another Reanimator Star, David Gale. I guess this makes my Trilogy a quadrology, or whatever 4 of something is called, well except it’s directed by Charlie Band. It stars David Warner as well, which is pretty cool.

The Premiere of The Evil Clergyman Featurette sees a bunch of horror fans at a cinema watching the premiere of the film.

Trancers 1.5 Preview looks at a re-release of Trancers with some footage restored to the print.

The Pit and the Pendulum trailer.

There is also a booklet by Calum Waddell which features interviews with Gordon and producer Charlie Band from Full Moon Studios.

Score: ****

WISIA: I like Stuart Gordon’s films and even though this isn’t a priority of his to rewatch, I would, and have, watched it multiple times.

Happy Hunting (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Happy Hunting (2017)

Film: There is a great line from the movie High Fidelity that goes,’ Some people never get over the Vietnam War, or the night their band opened for Nirvana.‘… I think the same can be said for some filmmakers who have never gotten over Tarantino, and do their very best to emulate him (it could also be Robert Rodriguez, but for this example we shall use Tarantino).

You know the tics and tricks to them as well: The films almost always look hot and dry, the dialogue occasionally has nothing to do with moving the story along but it doesn’t have to be use the actions happening around them are doing that instead, everybody… and I mean EVERYBODY is shifty looking and there is an attempt to make every scene full to the brim with tension.

Sometimes these emulations work, but mostly they don’t as Tarantino and Rodriguez’s styles, though similar to each other, work due to their varied influences, and their own personalities.

This film was written and directed by the team of Joe Dietsch and Lucien Gibson, and whilst the style of the film might be Tarantino, the story and setting are a pastiche of H.G. Lewis’s 2,000 Maniacs and films like Turkey Shoot or The Most Dangerous Game.

Happy Hunting tells of alcoholic drug cook, Warren Novak (Mark Dingle Wall), who needs to get to Mexico and after trying to get some money from some dealers in a deal that full-tilt goes knees up, he finds himself in the small, dying town known as Bedford.

Now Bedford has a proud history. It was a town founded by the Bedford corporation, and was a destination point for hunters year-round as hunting season NEVER finishes, but unfortunately times changed and the once prosperous tourism destination has become a ghost town except for a very small population.

This tiny population, though, like to remember the good ol’ days and celebrate them by capturing transients, like our pal Warren, his pursuers from the drug cartel and anyone who no longer fits the clean self-image that the Sheriff of the town has and sends them into the desert, with a select few of the townspeople in hot pursuit, hunting them down.

Unfortunately for the townsfolk, Warren’s sense of self-preservation is quite intense and very soon, to coin an over-used term, the hunters become the hunted, although Warren’s not so great at the hunt, especially when his shakes and hallucinations caused by going cold turkey start to really kick in…

This is a decently shot and acted film, which, as I stated earlier, wears its influences on its sleeve, that has some really nice set-pieces and some nutty characters that are quite over the top but unfortunately, it’s just mediocre. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have any memorable set pieces, and the ending is stolen directly from Night if the Living Dead… sorry, it’s obviously an homage, just like the beginning of 28 Days Later is stolen from The Day of the Triffids.

In short, if it crosses your path, give it a Watch, but don’t actively pursue it as there are better choices for this tripe of movie out there.

Score: ***

Format: The reviewed copy of Happy Hunting was the Australian Umbrella Entertainment release. It is presented in a clear and clean 2.35:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: No menu, no extras, no nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Nah, I’ll probably watch Battle Royale, Condemned, Hunger Games or any of the other ‘men hunting men’ films again before digging this out of the pit of the one watch only.

Annabelle Creation (2017)

One from the to watch pile…
Annabelle Creation (2017)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of Annabelle Creation (2017)


Film: If there is one thing I can say about post-millennium ghost stories it’s that I have so much ennui towards them that I actually end up being occasionally surprised by aspects of them that may show off a small bit of quality. That is, the stories are awfully generic and don’t bring anything new to the ghost sub-genre, but occasionally I’ll find an amazing actor, like Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring films, or just a filmic quality from the production that will make them stand above being absolute drivel.

Not by much, but a single redeeming feature is a redeeming feature, and I can’t deny that.

Of all these ghost stories though, for me the worst has been the ‘Annabelle’ film. It was seemingly driven on by the genpop’s love of creepy dolls, but I didn’t find it to be particularly entertaining, and was surprised that a subplot from a different series should get its own. Even worse, this film is an ‘origin’ film, and I find that when you demystify a character you weaken it, somehow. I like Rob Zombie’s Halloween but I find Myers to be more a tragic figure than a force of nature in his films.

Esther’s (Miranda Otto) scars aren’t all mental.


This film, Annabelle Creation, tells the tale of dollmaker, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto) whose lives horribly changed after the tragic loss of their daughter, Bee (Samara Lee).

Several years later, the couple take in a nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a small group of orphaned girls, including the crippled by polio, Jan (Talitha Eliana Bateman) as an act of charity, but very quickly the girls discover that there is something in the house… something evil…

… and boring. It’s redeeming feature is it finally does pick up almost at the end, but that’s only if you manage to overcome the terrible pacing. To its credit it did end on a clever note, leading to the previous film.

Carol (Grace Fulton) in a scene lifted from one of Sandberg’s short films.


It’s one thing to make a film that is made for the mass populous that has nothing original, but to make it boring as well is a crime that I just can’t get by. There is no doubt David F. Sandberg, who previously gave us the wonderful Lights Out, gets amazing performances from such a young cast and the film looks hot and dry, but the script, by It’s Gary Dauberman, stinks of generic.

You could play ‘ghost movie lotto’ with this film: creepy doll, tick! Floaty black mist, tick! Weird old guy, tick! I could go on… but that’s not the worst of it. For the most part it feels like there is no threat and nothing seems to happen for the longest time. The worst crime a horror film can commit is being boring, so for that, this film should get life imprisonment.

Score: *

The menu for the Australian Bd release of Annabelle Creation (2017)


Format: This Australian Bluray release of the film runs for approximately 109 minutes and is presented in an immaculate 2.40:1 image with a matching Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There a a few extras on this disc.

The Conjuring Universe is a short look at the universe that the Conjuring and Annabelle films exist within.

There are two horror shorts, Attic Panic and Coffer, both by Sandberg and his partner Lotta Losten, both of which are far more effective than (and whose scenes are borrowed for) this film.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes that can be watched with a commentary by the director which discuss how the film would have been well over 2 hours long without some trimming, and is an interesting discussion about the importance of editing.

Directing Annabelle Creation is an excellent discussion with Sandberg about directing films. He discusses how he became a filmmaker and how he used DVD extras as ‘training’ videos for his own skill. It’s extraordinarily fascinating and a real insight into the act of direction and possibly an inspiration to those of us who do the same thing.

There is an interesting director’s commentary too, and it’s totally worth it. Sandberg is a guy who loves his craft of movie making and it really shows.

Score: ****

WISIA: Nup, nope, never. Though I might put it on for the two shorts on the extras.

The ‘eyes’ have it… eh, eh?

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

One from the to watch pile…

The Andromeda Strain (1971)

Film: Somehow this film, over all these years, has passed me over.

I mean I haven’t actively avoided it, I just never purchased it nor have I seen it on TV. Maybe there was always something else to buy or watch, but even after Jurassic Park and I discovered a love of writer Michael Crichton, I still didn’t get around to watching it, even though I did watch the… shall we say below average… Congo (in my defence it was after reading the book, which I love, so I was high on crazy white monkey business).

In addition to being based on Crichton’s writings, this film has some amazing pedigree. The script writer, Nelson Gidding, was responsible for the scripts for films like The Haunting (1963) and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) so you know it’s well written. The director was Robert Wise, known for SO many famous films: Audrey Rose (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), West Side Story (1961), The Sound of Music (1965) as well as the aforementioned The Haunting and Odds Against Tomorrow. The blurb on the back describes Wise’s direction as ‘clinical precision’ and that description NAILS it.

The Andromeda Strain tells of a satellite that crashes to earth in the small town of Piedmont in New Mexico which releases something that causes the entire towns population to die quite quickly. Scientist Dr. Stone (Arthur Hill) and surgeon Dr. Hall (James Olsen) get into hazmat suits and search the town for answers, and eventually come across two survivors, a baby and the town drunk.

The return to their research facility in Nevada, Wildfire, and are joined by two other scientists, Dr. Dutton (David Wayne) and Dr. Leavitt (Kate Reid) who are all employed to find out exactly what has killed the townspeople.

Wildfire is an intense environment to do their research in as it requires 4 levels of decontamination before the research can even be started, and the threat of a nuclear cleansing is ever present should any of the alien material should leak from its housing.

Will the research scientists be able to find out what has caused all the death, or is mankind doomed?

This film is intense for sure, and at no time is it not a feast for the eye. The production design of the town is depressing and as sad as any film that shows the death of a town. The research station is an amazing visual too, albeit dated, and apparently the sets were so good they were used repeatedly throughout the 70s in Tv shows like The Bionic Woman and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.

The direction style has this great multi-screen format at times which really tells the story in an exciting, almost comic book fashion, and the acting is of a high caliber.

The Andromeda Strain is a science fiction film that deals with a potentially real problem so very realistically that it is quite disconcerting and is conceptually horrifying.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment, multi-region DVD which is presented in a clear, though with the occasional artefact, 2.35:1 image with a 2.0 audio track which is just fine.

Score: ***

Extras: Nothing, not even a menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a long film so I’ll have to be really in the mood to take the time to watch it, but I’ll totally watch it again!