Book Review: Portable Grindhouse by Jacques Boyreau

Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of The VHS Box

It has been said that I live in the past. That my obsession with my childhood heroes, comics and pop music from the eighties shows a lack of maturity, and an inability to grow up…

… but enough about my wife’s opinions of me.

I have to say though that I agree with her 100%: I love nostalgia. I am easily swayed by a bad movie if it has a character or situation that had something to do with my younger days… in other words, I am the guy who likes Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull, the ‘new’ Star Wars films and George Romero’s new dead trilogy. Some of the best books I have bought in the last 24 months have been ‘The Best of Smash Hits by Mark Frith (all about the legendary pop music mag of the eighties), Not Quite Hollywood by Paul Harris (a solid, if somewhat thin accompaniment to the hit film), Just Can’t Get Enough by Mathew Robinson and Jensen Karp ( a look at some of the coolest toys from the eighties) and this book: Portable Grindhouse by Jacques Boyreau, a look at the lost art of the VHS box.

Immediately, before I go into the contents of the book, I must state my utter admiration for the design of the book. Remember those old cardboard video boxes that sell through video cassettes came in? My movie collection actually started with a copy of Bloodbath at the House of Death, and I cherished that cardboard boxed film until I watched it so many times that I completely wore the bastard out. This book actually comes packaged in a slightly larger version of one of those boxes, and for those of us who haven’t seen one in a while; you will be wiped out by the wave of reminiscence that will wash over you.

So why is this book designed in such a fashion? Well, as the name may suggest it is a celebration of the VHS box, and its artwork, which was occasionally (usually?) of dubious quality. The introduction gives us both a look at the author’s discovery of the VHS, and then actually goes into the history of the format, and why so many people still love it.

The body of the book is a joy to behold: each double page features a look at the front and spine of a video box on one page (in a ¾ view), and a close up of the back, which gives either a synopsis of the film, or a look at other films released by the same company. For those of VHS age, or new collectors of the format, the distribution names will be familiar: All Seasons Entertainment, Media, Trans World Entertainment… the list goes on.

The films celebrated are mainly genre stuff, like My Bloody Valentine, Stunt Rock or The Tool Box Murders, and some more obscure titles like The Porno Killer, Midnight Intruders or Alien Massacre. There are some non genre stuff as well, all weird in their own way, like Roger Raglin Best Kept Secrets (a video bow-hunting manual), Gary Coleman: For Safety’s Sake (a guide to being safe in your home, hosted by Gary Coleman, with his assistants Jack and Jill Example, and Nurse Helpquick) and Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World (an animated feature which steals directly from Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

This book is the paper version of those trailer mix-tapes you used to be able to get, and are occasionally available on DVD (like All Monsters Attack). It’s not essential for your collection, but you will find yourself revisiting it often, and showing anyone who remembers these types of VHS Boxes.

My only problem with this book is that it feels as though the spine could crack if it is not treated with some degree of care: this is NOT a book you can open up on a flat surface without doing exactly that. Love this book, but be VERY careful with it. I will admit that this book would have gotten 5 stars if I could be confident of its resilience against repeated readings.

This tome is published by Fantagraphics Books, a company of whom I am a great fan as they have published some fantastic comic collections in the past. While it is not the be all and end all of VHS covers collections, it is a wonderful look at the cardboard box art of yesteryear. Let’s hope Boyreau can find his way clear to do more books of this type!

This really is the perfect book for the movie fan: light on text, heavy on image.

Verdict: ****

Rabid (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Rabid (2019)

The Cover the the Australian DVD release of Rabid.

Film: Most people love Cronenberg for his films like Videodrome and The Fly, and whilst I rate the latter, I’m not the biggest fan of the former. I much prefer his earlier films Shivers and Rabid: those films have a far greater appeal to me.

I do like eXistenZ and Naked Lunch too, but those early films really speak to me. As you can imagine, like most film fiends who hear the word ‘remake’ associated with a film they like, I went into a pre-judicial whine when I heard Rabid was getting one, until I heard the Soska Sisters, whose film American Mary was one I liked, were attached, and my whine turned into a far less bitter fruit punch. I wasn’t happy, but I was willing to cross my arms and shout ‘impress me’ at my TV screen.

The screenplay for this film was also written by the Soska Sisters along with John Serge, who gave us Killer Crush, Killer Mom and The Perfect Soulmate… I guess the name ‘Killer Fan’ was already taken.

Eeeeeeeek! She’s SOOOO ugly! (Not really, it’s Laura Vandervoort)

Wallflower Rose Miller (Laura Vandervoort) works in the fashion industry for obnoxious designer, Gunter (Mackenzie Grey) and because of her retreating personality, probably due to her facial scars from a car accident, is treated like dirt.

Gunter is having a fashion show and after the After Party, Rose leaves immediately after having an argument with her friend Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) and is in a horrific accident which causes irreparable facial damage.

Yeeesh! That’s something gross from the effects department!

… or is it irreparable? Rose receives a mysterious email from The Burroughs Institute about the potential for reconstructive therapy, but it’s not facial reconstruction they perform: its stem cell based hocus pocus, which of course offers a full recovery… but it changes Rose in ways she doesn’t want to face.

Dr Burroughs (Ted Atherton) gives Rose some tablets and ‘protein drinks’ to help her recover, and is warned that they may give her bizarre hallucinations, but her hallucinations seems so real, and the people she is hallucinating about attacking seems to be coming down with a weird, rabies-like disease…

Ok, so the first problem with this film is it’s star. Sure, it’s a good performance, but like teen movies of the 80s and 90s, when the wallflower is revealed to be a great beauty, it’s a false reveal, because even with the light scar facial effects and blotchy make-up, Vandervoort is still absolutely gorgeous.

My next issue with the film is it’s decision to just play along with the expected tropes of bitchy industry professionals, flamboyant fashion designers, asshole TV directors, and the horrifying ‘oh my god, she’s so successful now she’s beautiful’ plot device. I honestly couldn’t tell if the Soska Sisters were pulling the piss out of those cliches, we’re paying homage to them or were unaware they existed. Either way, it didn’t work very well.

It’s not all bad, though. The make-up on Rose after her accident is horrifying, and some of the other gore effects are nice and chunky.

Possibly the most terrifying thing about this film is the medical professional reaction to a viral outbreak. At this point in time it seems unfortunately real.

Also, considering this is a remake of Cronenberg’s film, there are some fun tributes to him throughout, such as the medical scrubs from Dead Ringers, and the concept of calling an institute that deals with altering bodies ‘The Burroughs Institute” and it’s head scientist/ doctor ‘William Burroughs’ was a nice tribute to the author William S. Burroughs, who wrote Naked Lunch, an unfilmable film made by Cronenberg.

This film is OK at best, and all the way through watching it, all I could think of was how much I wished I was watching the original, or Shivers, or Dead Ringers, or something ‘body horror’ more original than an average remake.

Score: **

The menu screen to the Australian DVD release of Rabid.

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian R4 release which runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack. I would have rathered a super Bluray release with a bunch of extras.

Score: ****

Extras: Absolutely nothing, well unless you count the trailer for The Final Wish before the film. It is a shame there is none as I would have liked to have heard the Soska Sisters thoughts on Cronenberg’s original and their ideas to remake it. Oh well, screw you, movie fans, you don’t deserve that.

Score: 0

WISIA: Probably not.

Holy crap! Someone needs some ointment!

Ready or Not (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Ready or Not (2019)

Ready or Not – Australian Bluray release

Film: As long as I’ve loved cinema, I’ve been a lover of the films that see humans hunting humans in some kind of sport. From Countess Perverse, to Battle Royale, to Turkey Shoot, to even The Hunger Games, I really appreciate the concept of someone being given the opportunity to satisfy some kind of instinct to peruse game that has the same intellect and bodily advantages that I have.

Tragically, were I ever find myself in that position, I am sure I would not be able to rise to the occasion as the only sport my body is built for is couch surfing.

Ready or Not relies heavily on the theme of human hunting human, but also adds a delicious amount of black humour that surprisingly works! It has a devilish script by the writing team of R. Christopher Murphy and Guy Busick, with an easy to watch directorial style by Tyler Gillet and Matt Bettineli-Olpen, who both worked on 2012’s V/H/S.

Ready or Not tells the story of Grace (Samara Weaving), a poor girl who grew up with foster families, who is marrying into the Le Domas family, a Fortune 50-like clan who made their money selling and distributing playing cards, board games and eventually owning sports teams.

Grace (Samara Weaving) receives advice from her future mother in law, Becky (Andie MacDowell)

Something that Grace doesn’t know about her husband Alex’s (Mark O’Brien) family is that every time they welcome a new family member, at midnight on the wedding night they gather together and the new member randomly picks a game for them to play, which sounds like fun… the problem for Grace is that she randomly gets issued ‘Hide and Seek’.

The Le Domas version of hide and seek sees the new bride or groom (in this case, bride) having to hide in their extensive estate, while the other family members (including Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell, Melanie Scrofano, Adam Brody and others) hunt her down with various weapons taken from a trophy room that looks more like a big game hunters pool room.

The family, ready for the hunt!

Why does this tradition exist and will Grace survive the night?

Only time will tell!

Boy oh boy, why a fun film this is. There usually is a dark sense of humour to the idea of an organised hunt of ones fellow human beings, but this one takes the cake. A lot of the humour comes from the fact that the family is obviously quite well off and suddenly have to learn how to use weapons, but the subtleties of the script and the performances are sublime.

I’m reminded of the mid-movie u-turn of From Dusk Til Dawn when I think back on this film, thought he plot of this film hits that first 180 degree turn, and the 20 minutes later, hits the handbrake again and spins out of control for the rest of the film!

It is also one of those films where the visual cues of the family’s secrets are everywhere, and only make sense when there horrible secret is revealed. Actually the design of the entire film is amazing, with characters who are sympathetic to each other wearing similar colours, and the brides virgin white dress standing out as a horrible beacon of innocence… but it doesn’t stay white for long!

The choice of performers is excellent as well. Samara Weaving (Guns Akimbo, Bill and Ted Face the Music) is a delightful heroine who is really the only grounded character amongst the distorted portraits of the family characters. Her decent into abject fear from blushing bride is very real, and she has a scream like I’ve never heard. The rest of the family with their various cartoonish character traits are wonderful foils, and this film lends itself to rewatching as certain things said become threatening once you, the viewer, has knowledge of what is coming.

This film is a solid block of entertainment that is violent, bloody, funny and will tickle both your funny bone and your horror bone… yes, I’ve just decided we have a ‘horror bone.’

Score: ****1/2

The menu screen to Ready or Not

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian region B bluray release, which runs for a tight 90 minutes, and is presented in an impeccable 2.39 aspect ratio with a matching 5.1 DTS Master Audio.

Score: *****

Extras: Some great extras on this disc:

Let the Games Begin: The Making if Ready or Not is a cracking, 45 minute doco about the making of the film, and it covers heaps of aspects of its production and is a fascinating watch.

Gag reel – sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it isn’t.

Director’s commentary with Samara Weaving and Radio Silence (the team name of the directors) is a solid, really talky and informative and at times, funny. Well worth the listen.

Gallery – normally I’m not a fan of any sort of picture gallery on a disc, but this has some interesting features including a closer look at the fake board games that litter the house. There is also some less interesting, on-set pics.

Red Band Trailer is exactly what you think it is!

Score: *****

WISIA: Oh yeah. It’s so funny, charming and violent that I can’t WAIT to watch it again.

Sometimes the help NEEDS help!

Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

One from the to watch pile…

Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

Film: Honestly, I never been able to figure out if Something Weird Video never fail to hit the mark, or miss the mark. I guess, in the ‘so bad it’s good’ stakes, they can comfortably do both! Either way, you know with Something Weird Video, you are going to get something unexpected and that you possibly haven’t seen before.

With this release The Bloody Pit of Horror aka Il Boia Scarlatto written by Robert McLoren and Robert Christmas (aka Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale respectively), and directed by Max Hunter (aka Massimo Pupillo), Something Weird seem to take a step back and give us something that feels a little more like regular horror, even though it boldly claims to be based on the writings of the Marquis De Sade himself!

Book publisher Daniel Parks (Alfredo Rizzo) wants to create new book covers for author Rick (Walter Brandi) and so has taken a photographer, Dermott (Ralph Zucker), his assistant Edith (Luisa Baratto), and a bevy of attractive models (played by Rita Klein, Barbara Nelli, Mia Tahi and Femi Benussi) and their male counterpart (Nandi Angelini) to what they think is an abandoned castle.

They break in and quickly find it isn’t abandoned, but instead it is inhabited by a retired actor, Travis Anderson (Mickey Hargitay) who coincidently is Edith’s ex-fiancé! He initially rejects their proposal to photograph in his house but after seeing Edith, allows them one night… on the condition they don’t go into the dungeon at all!

You see, many years ago a cruel torturer named The Crimson Executioner, was executed in that very dungeon, and maybe, just maybe, if his spirit is disturbed, he’ll wreak bloody vengeance…

This film is like a saucy TV special ripping off a Mario Bava film. It has a bit of the charm of a Bava film, just a pinch, but without maybe the technical skill that Bava was able to achieve. It has fight scenes straight out of the Adam West Batman TV show (minus ‘BIFF’ and ‘SHLOCK’ of course) and torture scenes where the female cast.. well, sound more like they are into it.

By the way, I have to thank this film for introducing me to a crime I’d never heard of before… ‘deliberate murder’!

Score: ***1/2

Format: The Bloody Pit of Horror was reviewed on the Something Weird Video region 1 DVD which was released about 20 years go, which means the image isn’t great. It’s presented in a 1.85:1 image which is clear, but contains artefacts but no so many that it’s unwatchable. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono and does the job, but it won’t strain your sound system.

Score: **

Extras: Something Weird Video always provide interesting and, well, weird extras. This DVD is no different.

Deleted Footage from The Bloody Pit of Horror is just that. Some deleted scenes and an alternate opening.

Except from Privative Love featuring Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay which is a bizarre song and dance sequence from the film Primitive Love, aka L’amour Primitivo, a film from Luigi Scattini.

Except from Cover Girl Slaughter is apparently a part of a documentary about the women and men who are photographed for the covers of the pulp ‘true crime’ mags of the mid 20th century. I’m not sure if how much of a ‘documentary’ it was.

Bloody Pit of Horror trailer. What it is is what it’s called.

Gallery of Exploitation art featuring Horrorama Radio-Spot Rarities is a cool collection of poster art from exploitation movies, with radio adverts for OTHER film played over the top.

Score: ***

WISIA: It ticks all my boxes so yeah, it’s getting rewatched!

Haunt (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Haunt (2019)

Film: In 2018 I was pleasantly surprised by a film which I thought would be a little more than a one trick pony called A Quiet Place. I think it’s a film that could have easily been fairly terrible in the hands of someone who couldn’t direct either people or tension properly. In a fantastic move, we discovered that Jim from the TV show, The Office, John Krasinski is it only an amazing actor, he’s bloody good at directing both people and tension!

Who would have thought? (That’s unfair: I honestly have no idea what his educational or professional pedigree is)

Another part of that film’s appeal was the script, written by Krasinski along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who along developed the original story, who here act not only as the writers, but also co-direct. Was it a fluke? Well I watched Haunt to find out!

It’s Halloween, but Harper (Katie Stevens) has no intention of going out with her sorority sisters. See, Harper is having boyfriend troubles… that is, Harper’s boyfriend is an alcoholic who has been abusing her.

Eventually, after much coercion from Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain) she agrees to go out to a club even though she has no costume, with two other girls, Mallory (Shuyler Helford) and Angela (Shazi Raja), where they meet up with a couple of young men, Evan (Andrew Lewis Caldwell) and Nathan (Will Brittain). After they get bored of the club they decide to go to one of those ‘haunted house’ attractions.

Unfortunately for them, this is a special haunted house attraction… even though the actors running the house are wearing cheap, vacu-formed plastic Ben Cooper-styled Halloween masks, they aren’t kidding when it comes to the scares… or the killing… can out heroes make it out of the attraction alive?

Well I have to say that this film was a damned surprise and paid off at every corner. This film has a thrill a minute, surprising violence for a modern horror film (which usually shy away from letting you actually SEE the violence) with some solid acting, awesome make-up effects and some surprises that you probably won’t see coming… I know I didn’t!

It reminded me very much of the film The Strangers, not just because of the masks, but if that film was a home delivery meal, this is the dine-in.

As a side note, I’m note usually a fan of acoustic covers of songs by breathy voiced ladies, but the cover of Rob Zombie’s Dragula over the end credits was surprisingly good.

This was a gripping film that had me captivated from the start and just kept delivering. Very happy.

Score: ****1/2

Format: Haunt was reviewed with the Australian release DVD which is presented in a 2.39:1 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, both of which are perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Only two extras on this disc:

The Sound of Haunt is a fascinating, albeit brief, look at sound design with Mac Smith from Skywalker Sound. I’d love to see a massive feature about horror movie sound design but, no: 4 minutes is all you get.

Behind the Haunt is another far-too-short looking at the genesis and making of the film. Oddly, after a mini-doco about sound design, the audio in this one is hollow and awful.

Score: **

WISIA: Oh yeah, Ill be watching this again, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind a sequel, which is a sentence I’m not used to saying.

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The Bluray cover to The Dead Don’t Die

Film: Until watching The Dead Don’t Die, I had only ever seen one film by independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and that was way back with 2003’s Coffee and Cigarettes, which was because I am a fan of the White Stripes, of whom members Jack and Meg White appear, and Steve Coogan, as I am a fan of both Alan Partridge and the hilarious English comedy, The Parole Officer. Now I haven’t avoided his work, as I quite like Coffee and Cigarettes, it’s just that there is always something else I would RATHER watch. I have seen that he regularly has quite extreme reviews, which is interesting, but just never got around to watching his output. Something I guess I should correct.

This film, The Dead Don’t Die, is clearly a tribute to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and the style of the film feels very much like that classic horror, as well as having more obvious tips-of-the-hat, like the make of a particular car and a reference to Pittsburgh. It also echoes Romero’s work with what seems to be a commentary on consumerism, and the fact the zombies emulate there ‘living’ versions, and has several obvious jokes, like the RZA’s delivery man character works for ‘Wu-PS’, or Steve Buscemi’s scathing MAGA hat.

The loveable constabulary of Centerville: Adam Driver and Bill Murray

It’s a regular day in the town of Centerville, and Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) are going about their regular business, though for some reason they have noticed that the day seems to be going longer… even for daylight savings!

The news has been reporting on excess fracking in the Arctic and Antarctic circles, which may cause the earth the alter it’s position on its axis, which is cause daylight to no longer match up with our man-made construct of time.

To make matters worse, a double-murder has occurred and Peterson’s suggestion of zombies being the cause, very quickly comes true! The cops, along with another officer, Officer Mindy Morrison (Chloë Sevigny) decide to patrol the streets of their undead ridden town, whilst the local oddball mortician and apparent ninja, Zelda Winston (Tilda Swinton) mans the radio but then starts doing something weird on the computer… is she behind everything, is it something more sinister, or just completely unrelated? Will our heroes survive?

Tilda Swinton as… are you ready… Zelda Winston: the mortician with a secret

It’s a weird bird, this movie, as it’s the calmest damned zombie movie you’ll ever see, that’s also funny, completely off the wall and has a few of the most bizarre fourth wall breaks you’ll see this side of a Deadpool movie.

The zombie make up is very tradition and done well. Their executions, on the other hand, are magnificent! Instead of the usual bloody explosions when heads are shot and streams of blood and gore when they are decapitated, Jarmusch instead goes for an almost supernatural waft of dust, which is really effective!

The soundtrack by Sqürl, Jarmusch’s band, has this wonderful hypnotic drone about it that suits the film brilliantly. As soon as I can I’ll be adding this soundtrack to my record collection.

As I said previously, the influence of Romero and 80s horror sits heavily on the chest of this film, and Dawn of the Dead’s message the dead conveying what they wanted in life makes for some funny moments (Sara Driver and Iggy Pop’s Coffee Zombies being a highlight) and a particularly tragic one too. There’s heaps of great in-jokes too…a few Star Wars digs aimed at Adam Driver are particularly funny.

This is an interesting zombie film that is completely atypical to any zombie movie made before it. I will say though that I found myself thinking a lot of the Spierig Bros movie Undead, which would possibly play well as a double feature.

Score: ***1/2

The menu screen for The Dead Don’t Die

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian released Bluray which was presented in a perfect 1.78:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There is the grand total of three extras on this disc:

Bill Murray: Zombie Hunting Action Star is a minuscule interview where he talks about Zombieland typecasting him into a zombie hunting action hero.

Stick Together asks the question ‘why would a Jim Jarmusch zombie movie exist?

Behind the Scenes of The Dead Don’t Die has 6 mini… and I mean MINI… features about the making of the film.

Score: **

WISIA: There is a lot happening here so yes, definitely will be watched over and over.

Fashion Zombies! Kill ‘em in the head!

Lords of Salem (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Lords of Salem (2012)

Film: He’s one of us, that Rob Zombie guy. He’s a music lovin’, horror and comic nerd who is doing what most of us wish we could be doing: making money doing what he loves most. Thankfully, one of those things is making horror flicks that pay tribute to horror and exploitation film history with cameos and homages galore. I loved House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his remake of Halloween, and I’ll even forgive him the hiccup that is Halloween 2, especially if he continues to produce quality horror like this, The Lords of Salem.

Recovering addict Heidi LaRoq (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a DJ who works with ‘Whitey’ Salvador (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree) as part of popular radio show The H Squad on Radio WIQZ in Salem, Massachusetts. One day, the station is sent a record, packed in a wooden box, by a group called ‘The Lords’ whose song, when played, puts the women of Salem in a trance, and being addressed to Heidi, it seems to be specifically focused on her. Over the course of a week we watch Heidi slowly succumb to the record, and as a live performance by The Lords looms closer, things get more and more surreal…

As is typical with Zombie’s films, and his borrowing from cult/horror/exploitation greats, you get a familiar vibe: I myself got a mild Suspiria/Inferno feel off this one. There are a few occasional clunky moments in the script, but they are never bad enough to detract from the overall feel of the film.

Zombie’s directorial style has become more matured over the years, and even though his frenetic video clip style does appear in various fantastic sequences, his ‘straight’ film sections are well filmed and are a pleasure to watch. Actually, this restraint probably makes the dream sequences seem far even wackier than they actually are.

Again, one of Zombie’s signatures is his ability to find legendary actors, although in this case legendary could perhaps mean ‘forgotten’. We have star turns from 10 Rillington Place’s Judy Geeson, The Howling’s Dee Wallace, They Live’s Meg Foster, Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Patricia Quinn and Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree, Willard’s Bruce Davison and cameos from genre legends Michael Berryman, Sid Haig, Billy Drago and Barbara Crampton. Special mention has to go to Torsten Voges from 8mm as the Norwegian (?) Death Metaller Count Gorgann, and Sheri Moon Zombie proves herself quite capable in a lead role I previously assumed she would have either been too annoying to carry off, or flat out incapable of.

So even over and above all this typical fan service there lies a very creepy story once you stop saying things like ‘is that the chick that played Frank N. Furter’s maid?’ This creepiness is made even more… um…. Creepy by an amazing score that sits on your chest and pushes its way into your head. I watched this for the first time by myself quite late at night, and admit to being made somewhat uneasy by it, and when I watched it the second time, in the middle of the day with others around, I still felt the same about it.

Sure, it features the usual Rob Zombie faire of 70s rock, fan-service cameos from genre ‘legends’ and the finely tuned bottom of Sheri Moon Zombie, but The Lords of Salem also shows a restraint and maturity not seen in his previous outings. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope Zombie pursues more films of this ilk.

Score: *****

Format: There is certainly no faulting the image of the film on the disc which is presented in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, but it tends to look a little messy, but that could be Zombie attempting to get an authentic ‘old’ film look to it. The audio sounds amazing with some great ambient sound provided by guitarist John 5 and DJ Griffin Boice. Don’t let the ‘DJ’ part deter you though; this isn’t a Korn meets Skrillex- type affair but instead a subtle goosebumps-inducing soundscape. This movie was reviewed using the UK DVD release.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for three films: The Facility, Dark Skies and The Bay. They all looked pretty good, actually, and I might have to check them all out, which is something I can do with the time I have spare seeing how this disc has no extras other than a trailer for The Lords of Salem. I find this a stunning choice as Zombie’s previous outings have has some great extras.

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah! I’m totally on board for another ride in the Dragula, that’s for sure!

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (2019)

Film: I am an unabashed Quentin Tarantino fan. Not just of his movies, but also of a gift he gave to me, and that gift was that he introduced me to a whole pile of genres of films I probably would never have watched if not for him either riffing on them in his films, or talking about them in one of his hundreds of interviews. I mean, I thought I loved film before Tarantino, but he opened me up to so many more, and I reckon I’m not the only one, and that a whole pile of Eurotrash film distribution companies owe their entire existence to the fact that did just that. I’ll just point out that I’d seen some of those films, but not necessarily realised that they were anything outside of being ‘action’ or ‘horror’.

One of the beautiful thing about Tarantino is that he doesn’t hide that love either. So many of his films either name drop, are influenced by or flat out emulate other films that you really can’t watch one of his films without stopping and thinking ‘ I now need to check out *insert name here’.

Like his ‘remake’ of Enzo G. Casteralli’s, Inglorious Bastards, One Upon A Time… In Hollywood considers itself an alternate history of actual events, tweaked ever so slightly to make the result shocking, and fun.

In this film, it is 1969, and former star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), is finding it difficult to maintain his stardom in Hollywood, which is a machine chews up and spits out actors as quick as it can.

Rick maintains his Hollywood lifestyle as much as he can, and has his former stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), a man who was once accused of killing his wife, in his employ, and it’s an employment of convenience in so much as that Cliff drives and does odd jobs for Rick, but realistically he’s just being paid to continue their friendship. Rick lives in a beautiful part of the Hollywood Hills, and right next to the newly married Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

In a chance meeting with Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino), Rick all of the sudden has a crisis of confidence as Schwarzs explains to him that stars start to fall when they end up as the ‘heavies’ in TV shows. He offers him an opportunity in Italy, which Rick turns down, not wanting to appear in Italian films.

Whilst Rick is working on various jobs, Cliff has a few small adventures himself, including meeting Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), a member of the Manson Family, of whom their leader has been skulking around the Polanski residence. He takes her ‘home’ to former Hollywood backlot ‘Spahn’s Ranch’, only to find the Family have completely taken over, and have owner George (Bruce Dern) not as a prisoner, but certainly, due to his being blind, stuck.

Of course, all these events eventually ties together, as one night, four of the Manson Family, Tex (Austin Butler), Sadie (Mikey Madison), Katie (Madison Beaty) and Flower Child (Maya Hawke) go to murder the occupants of the Polanski household… but perhaps redemption is in the cards for Rick and Cliff?

For the most part liked this movie, but as two separate entities. The story of a has-been actor finding himself at a loose end and maybe having to go to Italy to continue his career fascinating, and would have been compelling by itself, but I reckon that you could comfortably excise every single bit of the Sharon Tate/ Manson plot and still have an interesting about the Hollywood machine.

Now that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Robbie’s performance, no quite the contrary, but I feel that the film suffered from her subplot which seems like it solely existed to have the violent outcome at the end of the film. Even the stuff with Cliff meeting the Manson Family didn’t really need to be in their except to feed the last 15 minutes… mind you, his torture of the man he was ‘convincing’ to repair his car was an interesting reflection into his psyche, and that the rumours about him and his wife’s death may not have been unfounded.

In actual fact, all the casting was fabulous. So many faces appear in this film that I didn’t expect to see: Zoe Bell, Kurt Russell, Rebecca Gayheart, Danielle Harris, Harley Quinn Smith, Lena Durham, Michael Madisen, Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry… I could go on! In researching the film for this very interview I have discovered that I now have to watch it again as I did even realise some of the actors were who they were!

The filming is just gorgeous as well. Tarantino’s eye is on point as usual as the camera’s seating is always totally within the film. Of course, ladies feet feature prominently, and I have to say that no one has ever filmed Robbie’s natural beauty so well.

As usual, the soundtrack is magnificent, but knew would expect no less from a Tarantino film. Also, the script itself is amazing. At no time do I find myself in any way bored by what the cast are saying. All in all, except for the weird disjointed storyline that I found distracting, I did actually like this film, but it’s not going to be a regular rewatcher for me, like Inglourious Basterds, Death Proof or Pulp Fiction are.

Score: ***1/3

Format: This review was done with the Bluray of the film and looks and sounds awesome! The vision is is 2.39:1 and the audio is in DTS-HD MD 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a few decent extras on this disc but alas, I must also make a boast about my copy of this disc.

I was lucky enough to manage to get my hands on this brilliant 4K edition (even though I have reviewed the Blu-ray Disc that also comes in this package as I don’t yet have a 4K player) that feels like it is just made for Tarantino fans. Not only does this disc sport a bunch of extras (reviews to follow), it also has a cool bunch of ‘relics’ from this history that doesn’t exist.

This package contains a poster of one of the ‘Italian’ films that never existed, a Mad Magazine that parodies one of Rick’s films, and a single, on blue vinyl

The extras on the disc are pretty cool.

Surprisingly, there are a bunch of deleted scenes, which I am grateful were excused from the film. Honestly, and other 20 to 30 minutes worth could have gone too!

Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood is a fascinating look at why Tarantino picked 1969 to set this film, which surprisingly was not JUST because of the Manson Murders.

Bob Richardson – For the Love of Film sees Tarantino talk about his love of Bob Richardson’s cinematography.

Shop Talk – the Cars of 1969 takes us into the beautiful vehicles used in the film. It’s essentially car porn.

Restoring Hollywood – the Production Design of Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and The Fashion of 1969 both talk about the film getting the look of the year correct, both from a scenery point of view, and the fashions as well.

These extras were all really cool, but I can help but wish they were longer.

Score: ****

WISIA: As I said earlier, I like the film, but it doesn’t get the rewatching score that other films of his do.

Maniac (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

Maniac (2012)

Film: Maniac is a loose remake of Bill Lustig’s classic 1980 horror film of the same name starring Joe Spinell and Caroline Monroe. He it’s retooled by Alexander Aja (who also remade The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D) and Gregory Levasseur and directed by P2’s Franck Khalfoun, the updated story goes like this:

Mannequin restorer Frank (Sin City’s Elijah Wood) has a few problems: no friends, migraines, Oedipus Complex and a penchant for murdering and scalping women, and then using their removed hair as wigs for his shop dummies.

His life may be changing though as he has met a young photographer Anna (Safe House’s Nora Arnezeder), with whom he strikes up a friendship, but will his deadly urges allow this friendship to flourish?

The most remarkable aspect of this film is the POV aspect in which it is shot. This isn’t Blair Witch Project, shaky-cam stuff either; this is genuine, internet-porn styled POV that takes place from the standpoint of the antagonist, rather than the stock standard ‘found footage’ style which requires the addition of a hamfistedly inserted video camera. In this film, you are IN the murderers head, and seeing from his eyes, not as a witness, but as the perpetrator. In seeing his life through his eyes, we also see his mental point of view, and the way his unhinged brain interprets events. This device adds a touch of realism to the film, and the style is like the third person writing seen in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho which tells you everything that YOU DO. It was so effective that New Zealand’s censors banned the film saying a wider release would be ‘injurious to the public good’.

Now THAT’S the type of notoriety horror movie makers used to enjoy!

The soundtrack has some impressive subtleties to it as well. First I have to praise the synth score that occasionally kicks in which felt like a nice nod to the original. The real treat comes from Wood’s performance combined with the sound engineers. Listen closely when he is arguing with himself and you’ll hear an ‘extra’ voice coming trough the speakers. The combination of this and Wood’s POV performance makes for a disturbing yet sympathetic lead man.

Speaking of the 80s, there are a few other nice nods to the original: a description of an online sleeve bag that may fit Joe Spinell’s appearance may have been a little offensive, but in one scene the killer sees a reflection of himself in a car door, and it emulates the original ‘erection’ poster nicely.

Wood’s performance as Frank is amazing too. When you consider he is really only seen in reflections or in flashbacks or on occasion to show time lapse or to see the release he gets from Murder, he has a genuine presence in this film. Even when he isn’t seen, he is generally heard, as there is a constant sound of his breathing which weighs heavily in every scene. It seems he was made for this role as his sudden acts of violence, which won’t disappoint gore fans, are completely offset by his almost child-like looks and mannerisms.

When this came out I thought this was an effective thriller that was given a greater identity with its unusual way of telling the story.

Score: ****

Format: Its impossible to fault the picture and sound quality of this bluray. The 2.35:1 image is crystal clear and the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD audio is immersive a necessary for the effectiveness of the film.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc starts with trailers for Lovely Molly, Come Out and Play and Room 237. Extras offered include a series of interviews with Kalfoun, Aja, Woods and Arnedezer which reveal some of the ideas behind the remaking of the 80s classic.

Disappointingly there is no documentary revealing the way the film was made, which I would have liked to have seen

Score: **

WISIA: Whilst it is a good movie, I can’t see me watching it again.

The Addams Family (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Addams Family (2019)

The Addams Family Australian Bluray cover

Film: So this review has started,

I’m afraid I was disheartened,

so bad that I was startled,

by The Addams Family

Dahdahdahdah *click click*

Ok, I’m sorry but I needed to get that out of my system. That damned song is such a part of The Addams Family lore and legend that I felt I needed to get it out early, but now I’ve written it I’m afraid it’s revealed exactly what I thought of this film.

By do you want more than that amusing ditty to explain my thoughts on the film?

Ok, seeing as how you asked nicely…

A young Morticia and Gomez share a wedding kiss

The Addams Family were created by 20th century cartoonist Charles Addams in 1938, and were first published in the New Yorker as a series of single panel jokes that show a bizarre gothic family, including husband Gomez, wife Morticia and children Wednesday and Pugsly, along with Uncle Fester and Grandmama (and later on housekeeper Lurch and additional family member Thing) musing on the marvels of modern life in middle class America.

This cartoon went on to spawn a hit, and legendary, TV series starring John Astin and Carolyn Jones, as well as a cartoon and special guest appearances on the cartoon Scooby Doo, not to mention two hit films starring Raul Julia, Angelica Houston, Christopher Lloyd and an amazing Star turn by then young actor Christina Ricci as Wednesday… and a couple of lesser known efforts like the Tim Curry and Darryl Hannah led film.

This isn’t to mention that their entire look and lifestyle has influence an entire fashion culture of goth, and I’m sure every man and woman wished for a romance and dedicated partner like Gomez or Morticia!

Unfortunately, no dead horse can go unflogged and so a new version of The Addams Family has being released into the world. This time we have a more child-aimed CGI film featuring the voice talents of Oscar Isaacs, Charleze Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, Bette Midler and Snoop Dog… yep, cause the kids LOVE that rap musics… and playing Cousin Itt. They must have had too much money to spend on voice talent to waste Dogg’s distinctive voice on a character that sounds talks in little more than pops and whistles like Keyop from Battle of the Planets!

In this take of the Addams Family, we see all the subtlety of the theme of ‘being yourself’ thrown out the window, which the writers have done the extraordinary thing of making it both sublime and stupid

Welcome to Assimilation!

Our story sees our heroes living in their very haunted house on the top of a misty hill over looking the town of… are you ready?… Assimilation, which is a model American town built by the TV renovation star, Margaux Needler (Allison Janney from I, Tonya), who is a horrible combination of an American midwestern Tammy, and your average complain-to-the-Mánager-haircut Karen, maybe with a handful of Mattel’s Barbie thrown in for good measure.

The Addams family’s house doesn’t quite fit in with her idea of the town, and so she starts a campaign to change the aesthetics of it. This has come at quite a bad time though, as Wednesday and Margaux’s daughter, Parker (Elsie Fischer) have started a friendship and their fashion styles have started to crossover, with Wednesday starting to wear pink and white, and Parker… well, becoming more ‘Wednesday’… actually, becoming more Souisix Souix.

Not only is this happening, Pugsley is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah styled coming of age celebration which involves a rather extensive dance involving a family scimitar, but Pugsley’s a modern Addams, and relies less on blades, and more on explosives… will the family turn their back on tradition in favour of the boys more modern was of execution?

Of course, as you can see, this film involves all of the things one would expect from the Addams Family, but it all falls disastrously flat. Not just because it is the SAME thing almost every time they trundle out the franchise but also because they don’t sell it well. It’s ok to do the same thing over and over; cinema goers actually expect it (that’s why there is so many remakes and sequels), but rather than make it blatant, try dressing it up differently. The idea of making the ‘assimilation’ of the Addams Family was probably fun and seemed like a good idea, but it flat out was not.

Whilst we are talking about assimilation, the flat out rip off of the live action movie’s ‘Mamoushka’ for Pugsley’s coming-of-age party was almost offensive to the writer’s of that film. It offered nothing except for an opportunity for the character designers to come up with some occasionally clever but mostly bad other members of the family.

Most of the vocal casting is on point, aside from the aforementioned Snoop Dogg appearance, except for Pugsley. In casting a Stranger Things actor, who are so hot right now, there is a requirement to perhaps overuse them, and the character of Pugsley, who is better as a foil for Wednesday, comes across as an anxiety-stricken mishmash of Kevin McAllister from Home Alone, and as a slow-mo fuelled, John Woo supercop, and it all falls flat. I would have rathered seen a shorter film with all the Pugsley stuff cut out.

Wednesday is a difficult sell in this film also. Not because they changed the character, and some of the comedy from her ‘assimilating’ is actually quite funny, but because, in my experience, so many teenage girls seem to talk in bored monotones, and unusual haircuts are the norm. When Parker makes her dramatic change to Addams style, her character doesn’t change really at all: bored, hates her parents etc etc. Even though this was aimed at kids, maybe the better idea would have been to make it more about young Morticia and Gomez, which is how the film starts, and their courtship. He’ll, if you really HAVE to revive this franchise and you hire Theron and Isaacs, why not do it live action: they would look great together onscreen in these roles!

I liked the character design in the film as rather go for a more realistic style, they really emulated Charles Addams’ art, but modernised it somewhat. At times the characters almost feel like animated toys due to their grotesque appearances (even the normal ones) and it is almost jarring when you see a close up, for example, of Morticia’s skin and can see it’s not made of clay or plastic.

Another thing that really irritated me more than I can explain is the use of a couple of songs in the film. Firstly, at one point we see Lurch sitting at the piano, and instead of his usual moans sings in perfect tones, and the other is the song used in the appearance of Cousin Itt. Seeing as it is Snoop Dogg performing the character, they choose to use the song ‘Drop it Like it’s Hot’ but as it’s a kids film, blank out the words ‘bitch’ and ‘weed’… if you are going to use a Snoop song, pick one with no swearing or drug references, or another song altogether.

There is some pretty obscure film references peppered throughout the film, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers, various Universal Frankenstein films and the Man Who Laughs.

Essentially, this film is terrible, and if you want to introduce your kids to ANYTHING Addams Family, this should be the horrible secret, hidden in the attic, and fed a bucket of fish heads once a week.

Score: *1/2

The menu screen for The Addams Family Bluray

Format: This review was done with the Australian Bluray release, and both the 1.85:1 image and the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 are impeccable.

Score: *****

Extras: This release does have a few extras on it.

There is four deleted and extended scenes, which the film neither benefits from having in or out. All of the excised bits were obviously dumped quite early as they only appear as rather basic animations.

Charades with Thing is quite possibly one of the worst ‘games’ I’ve ever seen on a DVD or Bluray.

Life of a Scene explains how storyboards eventually become the final product.

Welcome to the Family would be a decent little making-of featurette if it were longer.

Addams Family Throwback is a barely one minute look at the odd occasion where the film takes elements of Charles Addams’ original cartoons and incorporates them. I’m not sure how important they ACTUALLY thought this is as the extra goes for barely a minute. It was nice to see Addams’ art, though.

Thee is also videos for Haunted Heart by Christina Aguilera and My Family, which doesn’t seem to be credited, but they are really just bits of the movie with the lyrics displayed over the images,

Score: ***

WISIA: *dahdahdahdah Heck, No!

Morticia is horrified by Wednesday’s fashion choices.