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.

Countdown (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Countdown (2019)

Film: As a movie obsessive and technically a hoarder, I’m always looking for a new movie to buy, and if something cheap or unusual crosses my path I’m willing to give it a go.

I found this film, Countdown, at a local retailer and honestly it caught my eye for no reason other than I thought it was a collection of episodes of the Jimmy Carr comedy games how 8 Out of Ten Cats Does Countdown.

It’s obviously not, but I just saw the word ‘Countdown’ and became excited.

What we have here though is a film written and directed by Justin Dec, and starring Once Upon a Time’s Elizabeth Lail, Jordan Calloway from Riverdale and Black Lightning, and Peter Facinelli, best known as Maxwell Lord from the Supergirl Tv series, or Carlisle from the Twilight saga, which owes a LOT to both j-horror and the Final Destination series.

Our story tells of a student nurse, Quinn Harris (Lail) who meets a patient who has downloaded an app which predicts his death, and that he claims is responsible for the death of his girlfriend. Quinn tells her co-workers and some of them download it, finding that they have multiple decades to live, but Quinn’s phone tells her she has 2 days, 22 hours, 37 minutes and 12 seconds left to live.

Whilst it unnerves her, she doesn’t think to much of it until she does some research and finds it has a history, and that it can’t be deleted off her phone, and even when she replaces her phone… the app finds its way back.

Upon buying a new phone, she meets Matt Monroe (Calloway) who is also haunted by the app and together they discover that they violated the Terms and Conditions on the app and that’s why they have such little time left.

They seek the assistance from a priest, Father John (P. J. Rourke) who tells them the app is actually a curse put on them, and they attempt to seek a resolution…. but how many people will die…?

This film owes a lot of what it is to the tension found in films like the j-horror classics Ring, The Grudge, one Missed Call and even the American film series Final Destination, but with pretty solid storytelling, and engaging cast and a generic, albeit well-designed ‘bad guy’, it doesn’t feel like it just attempted to copy them flat out.

It does contain a few American jump scares, but they aren’t ‘cat in a cupboard’ ones. Also, there are some creepy scenes that even made me cringe… having to unlock a phone by holding it up to a corpses face will sit with me for a while, for sure and there is a foot trauma scene that I can barely even think about.

All in all, this film was a lot of fun, scary and creepy, and for a blind buy I was pleasantly surprised.

Note: make sure you wait in the credits to see the Tinder date mentioned earlier in the film by the phone shop manager.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B Bluray release and was presented in a perfect 2.40:1 image with a matching DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: No extras for you!

Score: 0

WISIA: Even though this film was reminiscing of other horror franchises I found it totally engaging and will definitely watch it again.

One Hour with Resident Evil 3

One Hour with Resident Evil 3

So, against my better judgement, and in a feat that makes me a massive hypocrite, I bought Resident Evil 3, the remastered game, for my PlayStation 4. Why am I a hypocrite? Well, even though I am an advocate for movie remakes, I don’t understand why people would want a remastered video game.

(Yes, I’m aware that it’s basically the same thing, and I can’t explain why I don’t feel the same way about video game remakes: I just don’t!)

Resident Evil 3 is obviously the sequel to Resident Evil 2, which also had a revamp and a dress-up last year, and is predominantly a third-person puzzle game in the disguise of a zombie-hunter. That is, it’s a ‘find-this-to-open-that-to-get-this-to-unlock-that’ game, but with a fair bit… actually, a LOT of combat against all sorts of zombies and beasties.

In this tale, you play Jill Valentine, a member of the S.T.A.R.S team (Special Tactics And Rescue Service) who is trapped in the zombie ridden Raccoon City and after being attacked by a creature known as the Nemesis-T Type. To get out of the city, she needs to team up with Carlos and members of the U.B.C.S (Umbrella Biohazard Countermeasure Service), who are attempting to evacuate as many citizens as possible on a subway, but, as you would expect, there are lots of things that need to be done before that can happen.

Also, unfortunately for Jill, not every member of the U.B.C.S. is necessarily of great assistance, and considering they work for the corrupt company that caused the pandemic, Umbrella Corp, how far can she even actually trust them… and then there’s also the zombies…

This game is a remake of the 1999 game Resident Evil 3: Nemesis but thankfully as given up the AWFUL tank-like controls and fixed camera angles. Graphically it is really nice and the soundscape adds tension of a really high level. The moans of zombies come from a fair way of and the consistent rattling of chain-link fences and the crackling of fires adds a disturbing amount of depth.

Something I found really cool about this was the opening scenes were live action and really added to the realism of the environments. I thoroughly enjoyed my one hour of play, and if I’m honest, it quickly turned into 90 minutes as I did get lost in the environments.

Another cool thing about this release is the opportunity to play the beta version of the online game Resident Evil: Resistance. RE:R is similar to games like Evolve or Friday the 13th where one person plays the bad guy, and they are up against a a team of four players.

The single player is playing as an evil Umbrella Corp employee who is attempt to stop the other players from escaping a facility by putting zombies and other traps in their paths, controlling the situation from a series of cameras, whilst the team collects various forms of protection and executes missions to secure their escape.

I didn’t get to play this online unfortunately, but the training session was fun and and the character and play design engaging.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this game, and will no doubt drop several hours of my life into surviving Raccoon City’s zombie problem.

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

One from the to watch pile…

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

Film: There is no doubt that William Sachs has made a mark on oddball, lowbrow filmmaking. He’s given us such cult titles as Galaxina, Hot Chilli, Van Nuys Blvd., and of course this film, 1977’s The Incredible Melting Man.

Sachs apparently isn’t very proud of this film though, as he claims the studio interfered with its production quite heavily (if you watch the commentary on this release, he spits quite a fair bit of venom at the re-editing and over-simplification of the story which honestly, by the sound of his description, would have been a far more interesting film.

That’s not to say, though, that this movie isn’t a gem of cult cinema, even though both it, and its main character, are a bloody mess.

After a disastrous mission to space, astronaut Steve West (Alex Rebar), returns and is immediately quarantined and hospitalised as for some reason, his body has started to lose its structural integrity.

Not only his body is melting, his brain is too, and he escapes the facility and starts a rampage across the countryside, become more monster than man, killing everyone in his path, but can he be stopped? Is there some way to stop his threat, or will he eventually melt into nothingness…

This film is interesting insomuch it’s a tragedy dressed up as a gore movie. The tragedy of All-American hero West’s mutation as he loses his identity and becomes violent is a horror staple. The effects are expectedly gruesome and gooey and the film is well-worthy of its status of cult movie… and the addition of Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux” Smith certainly nails down that title.

It’s a silly film but it’s certainly a fun film to watch.

Score: ***

Format: The film is presented so bright and clear considering it’s age. It’s presented in 1.85:1 with a 2.0 mono audio.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: As Arrow usually do there is a cool couple of extras floating around on this disc.

Commentary by William Sachs is fairly detailed look at the film. His recollections are interesting, and occasionally quite scathing against the directors.

Super 8 Digest Version is quite a revelation. As a kid I used to see the ads in Famous Monsters for ‘Super 8 home video’ versions of horror films and I was always interested to see one. Well, here we have the Incredible Melting Man one!

Interview with William Sachs and Rick Baker is enlightening and entertaining, and it’s nice to see that neither of them take the film too seriously. Interestingly in a world where some films are being criticised by ‘proper’ filmmakers for being nothing more than ‘theme park rides’ it’s nice to see that Sachs wholly embraces his film as being exactly that. Unfortunately if you’ve already watched the commentary, some of the stories and anecdotes are repeated.

Interview with Greg Cannom is only very brief, and honestly could have been incorporated into the previous extra, but it gives an insight into Cannom’s involvement.

Promotional Gallery is another name for ‘stills gallery’, but at least this one is for the posters and lobby cards for the film.

Original Theatrical Trailer is exactly what it says on the box. Remember when there was just one original theatrical trailer and not a leak, a sub-teaser, a teaser, trailer 1, trailer 2 and a red-band trailer? Maybe older films had better luck at selling themselves because they were better films? Who knows.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s extraordinarily goofy so it deserves multiple watches!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Film: When is a children’s horror anthology not a children’s horror anthology? When it’s handed to Andre Øvredal, director of Troll Hunter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe, of course! Add production duties from Guillermo Del Toro makes for an even more of an event!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is based on the children’s book series by Alvin Schwartz, of which the first was published in 1981. Schwartz was a folklore and urban legend enthusiast so the stories from the three volumes that were published feature those themes very heavily, and some of the tales may seem somewhat familiar.

This films isn’t like a regular anthology film though. For one thing, it takes about six of the original stories from Schwartz’s books and shoehorns them together into a single story, so there is no abrasive change of cast and the connecting tale is well written and thrilling.

The story takes us to 1968, Mill Valley, at Halloween, and three friends, bookish Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), gentlemanly Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and wiseass Chuck (Austin Zejur) decide to get revenge on the town bully, Tommy (Austin Abrams) for years of abuse, but it backfires when he has an accident, damaging his car.

The three friends hide in a drive in movie theatre (playing Night of the Living Dead too, I might add) and hide in the car of a drifter named Ramón (Michael Garza) who protects them from Tommy and his friends and as a reward, they take him to look at a local infamous haunted house.

Once there they find a book that belonged to Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) the previous occupant of the house filled with stories and Stella, being an aspiring writer, steals it.

Once she gets the book home, though, she finds that the book is writing itself in blood and that the stories within are killing or maiming people in the town. They try destroying the book but it seemingly can’t be destroyed and has attached itself to Stella, so they start investigating Bellows to see if they can find some way to exorcise it… but how many have to get hurt before they do it?

Øvredal has created a spectacular piece of art with this film. It looks beautiful and every scene is extraordinarily set like a delicate painting. The special effects and make up effects are extraordinary and take from the original books artist David Gammell and are wonderfully accurate, especially Harold the scarecrow and the woman from the red room.

I did find though, probably like the scandal surrounding the books themselves where they were regularly banned from libraries as they were maybe a bit too scary for kids, that the movie wasn’t quite a kids film and yet wasn’t quite adulty enough to be totally engaging. What I did find is that if you did read these books as a child you would probably find them more engaging than someone who hasn’t read them. Nostalgia works that way.

If I’m really going to be picky about the film it’s the inclusion of the walkie talkies. It seems to me whenever a film is set in a time where there’s no mobile phones they do the ol’ walkie talkie thing. It’s boring and unnecessary and I don’t believe kids today think it’s either cool or even a thing that was ever done.

What this film does have is a wonderful cast with a beautiful vision that occasionally felt like it was attempting to preach to converted people, rather than gather new lambs to the flock.

Score: ***

Format: This review was done with the Australian Bluray release of the film. Presented in a beautiful 2.39:1 image, with an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, both of which, as you would expect, are wonderful

Score: *****

Extras: I was very excited to see the amount of extras on this disc but quickly discovered they were a series of small featurettes, barely 5 minutes in length, that probably could have been stitched together into one below average 40 minute or so ‘making of’. It appears that they were all just advertising bits that have been thrown on here as ‘extras.

A Classic Transformed looks at the original stories.

Creature Vignettes takes a peek at the designs of each of the creatures, but each bit only runs for about 60 seconds, if that!

The cast and crew interviews see discussions about the film from Øvredal, production designer David Brisbin, Del Toro, producer J. Miles Dale, costume designer Ruth Myers and cast members Zajur, Rush, Pollard, Garza, Colletti and Natalie Ganzhorn (who played Ruth). Most of these interviews have sound bytes used in the other featurettes. Also, it’s frustrating when you hear an interviewee talk about something ‘previously mentioned’ that you don’t get to see.

Dark Tales briefly discusses how this film are a mix of a horror film and an Amblin film of the 80s.

Rebels With a Cause is about the development of the scares for the film.

Red Spot Clip is a summary of Ruth’s curse, stemming from a spot on her face she gets from when a spider bites her.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: Yeah, I can probably see myself watching this again.

April Fool’s Day (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

April Fool’s Day (1986)

Film: The Eighties, some say, was horror’s heyday! The popular psychopaths had their violent ways with hundreds of horny, drunken teens, aliens attacked, the dead had their day and the coenobites walked the earth. Occasionally, though, there were hiccups that penetrated the serenity, flies in the gory soup, and this is where we find April Fool’s Day!

April Fool’s Day starts with the usual college student stereotypes (played by Ken Olandt, Amy Steel, Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Griffin O’neal, Thomas F. Wilson (yep, THE Biff Tannen), Leah Pinsent and Clayton Rodney), full of tomfoolery and April Fool’s Day hoaxes, waiting patiently to catch the ferry to the secluded island retreat owned by their friend, Muffy St. John’s family.

Muffy (Deborah Foreman), the gorgeous heiress who invited them all is excited to see her friends come to her family’s home, but as the weekend goes on, her attitude, and her appearance, starts to change. Some of the friends start to disappear, and those who remain start an investigation that sees that St. John has a horrible family secret… and upon arriving on the island, the secret could result in a murderous rampage that may leave them all dead?

Written by Danilo Bach (Beverly Hills Cop) and directed by Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls, which he also co-wrote), April Fool’s Day is the little film that could, but didn’t. It tries too hard to stand out in a crowd of slashers and sequels by trying to be cleverer than what it is, mixing too much comedy with not enough tension and ultimately becoming an experiment that failed.

I have to admit to also getting a cheap thrill in seeing Amy Steel in this film as well! Steel had been in Friday the 13th Part 2 (and 3… kind of) and the Friday films were and are favourites of mine and she was a pretty resourceful final girl in that film, so I looked forward to seeing more of her. I have to say though, I looked at her filmography and even though I had seen some of the other things she had been in, I didn’t realise and these are the only two appearances that really stand out!

Containing no gore, no tension and even more tragically, no nudity, this film has far too much levity for it ever to be taken seriously or to enter the annals of exciting and legendary 80s slashers. The cast is full of annoying characters though Wilson is one who almost raises a smile with his hi-jinks and pranks, but the biggest April Fool’s prank of them all is the one played on the viewer, for wasting 85 minutes of their valuable time.

Score: *

Format: Cinema Cult and their inconsistent grey covers have really not done anything to help this release of this film. Straight up it has NO chapter list and the menu is just the Shock! emblem with a ‘play’ button, and you can only even find that menu screen if you fast forward to the end, which is easily done as there is only 1 chapter on this disc: the whole film.

This disc is presented in a shoddy 1.78:1 image with an ok 2.0 audio track. The whole film looks like is is nothing but a port of a 15 year old DVD release which was probably just a port of the VHS release because no one could be bothered to waste their time on this film.

Score: **

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: Please, PLEASE, I implore you to not give any of you precious attention to this film.