The House That Jack Built (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The House That Jack Built (2018)

Film: It is a strange thing that sometimes, the viewing of a film makes you realise that you haven’t experienced a particular director’s work at all. Before starting the review on this film, The House That Jack Built, written and directed by Lars Von Trier, I looked at the directors filmography and discovered that even though I have both volumes of Nymphomaniac and Antichrist, I don’t remember actually watching them.

This is why this is called the To Watch Pile: too many movies, too little time.

Von Trier originally perceived this film as a television series, which it would have possibly suited considering it is played out episodic in a series of 5 ‘Incidents’ that take place over a 12 year period from the 70s to the 80s.

The House That Jack Built tells the story of architect, engineer and serial killer, Jack (Matt Dillon), and a discussion he is having with Verge (Bruno Ganz), a disembodied voice whose identity we eventually discover, but to share here would be to spoil the ending.

The two are looking over a series of incidents, in reality murders, that Jack has committed on various victims (played by Uma Thurman, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Sophie Gråbøl, Riley Keough and others) that Jack attempts to justify as psychological soothing acts which result in art. Jack and Verge explore Jack’s origins as well as his state of mind during the acts, and the highs and lows of the act of murder itself.

This is a quite fascinating look at the functions of a serial killers mind, and Von Trier has done his research. Von Trier doesn’t just reference psychology though, as Jack finds justifications for his ‘art’ everywhere, and his fractured thought process is shown through archival footage from hunts, World War 2 newsreels, cartoons… everywhere really, and it represents the state of mind perfectly.

One thing I can say is that even though its a discussion on serial killers, their acts and their origins, it certainly doesn’t mind showing you the acts of violence and the ensuing gore or the results of the violence, and even though it appears to be practical special effects, some of them aren’t necessarily great… but that also might be the point: it’s hard to tell whether Von Trier’s restrictions are deliberate, or an accident of budget or lighting. There is also a little bit of animal violence, both in the afore mentioned archival footage of hunting and special effects, so if that’s something that completely and utterly repulses you, this film definitely isn’t for you.

Von Trier’s camera style is unusual too. The whole film is told in this almost voyeuristic news camera-styled look that perpetually moves and keeps every scene, no matter how static, interesting.

The casting is fantastic too. It’s easy to forget just how good an actor Dillon is, and he both recounts his tale to Verge, and acts like a psychopath with such a lack of enthusiasm that is comes across as very real. The other cast are fantastic in their roles too, a highlight being Thurman playing quite possibly one of the most horrible human beings ever put to film, which in a movie about a serial killer is saying something, and is an interesting juxtaposition on character.

It’s a long film, but there is always something happening, and it is constantly saying something about the psychology of killers, and also how societal norms have changed the regular human being into a lamb, and there are very few tigers.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Umbrella Entertainment release, which is apparently the complete and uncut version, which runs at about 2 hours and 32 minutes and is presented in a fines 2.35:1 image with a deep Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Whilst this film is both interesting and provocative, I am not sure if it does hold itself up to repeat watches.

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

One from the re-watch pile…

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

Film: As I sit here at the To Watch Pile Mansion, in my movie room, I look around and enjoy the fact that one wall is covered in blurays and DVDs, another has my vinyl soundtrack collection, the third is my TV screen and finally a big pile of books all about film, more specifically, horror, cult and sci-fi films. To say that I am a movie fan is a slight understatement: I simply LOVE cinema!

One thing that has always fascinated me was the Video Nasty scare in the UK. I first heard the term ‘video nasty’ as a kid when it was mentioned on an episode of The Young Ones, a hilarious 80s UK comedy series starring Ade Edmondson, Rick Mayall and Nigel Planer.

If you haven’t heard of this show, for me and my friends in high school, it was our Simpsons: funny and infinitely quotable. I don’t necessarily suggest everyone needs to see it as I’m not sure if a new, younger audience would appreciate it.

Anyway, this term fascinated me and I had read about it in everything from magazines like Fangoria, Samhain and Deep Red, but it didn’t seem to be something we experienced here in Australia as I worked in a video shop when I was about 15, and things like Evil Dead, and Lucio Fulci films were readily available to watch, perhaps cut in various ways, but still there to hire.

Anyway, to get the full deal on what the Video Nasty was about, I had to glean information from various sources, but now, this wonderful documentary exists, directed by Jake West, whose name you might know from films such as Doghouse and Evil Aliens.

West has managed to get so many interviews with both sides of the argument that you really get a complete picture of what was going on both socially and politically in the UK at the time, and whilst it does come from a director of horror’s hands, it’s surprisingly balanced, but even the least politically-motivated viewer will see that the hands of oppressive moral majority were heavy and unreasonable, bordering on WW2 book-burning and Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent’s almost destruction of the comics industry in the US.

In addition to the incredibly informative amount of experts giving their opinions and recounting their tales, we also have a bucketload of bloody clips taken from the films in question.

I can’t express how enjoyable and informative this documentary is. It completely recounts the whole period, and even has a sequel: Video Nasties: Draconian Days which looks inside the censorship board in the UK. Both are must-sees for horror movie fans.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK DVD, which runs for 72 minutes approximately. It is presented in a 1.78:1 image of varying degrees of quality (to express points the director has deliberately degraded the film at times to visually explain how repeatedly copies VHS eventually looked) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with similar eff ts performed on it to audibly explain VHS sound. It doesn’t, however, ever become unwatchable or inaudible.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: Extras… EXTRAS? How about two full discs of extras?!?

Disc 1: Video Ident-a-Thon is a selection of the video distribution companies of the time idents played at the beginning of every tape… and there is almost a FULL HOUR of them!

Bonus Gallery has a selection of VHS covers played as a slide show with a soundtrack.

Also available has trailers for other DVDs available from Nucleus films, including The Playgirls and the Vampire, Night of the Bloody Apes, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varietease, Ghost Story, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 1, Death Ship, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, The Ugliest Woman in the World, and Between Your Legs. That’s not to mention trailers for titles from Naughty Films such as Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hot Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise.

Disc 2: This disc has the trailers for 39 videos which became the actual Video Nasties. These trailers can be watched either with or without title cards, showing the release dates and other information, followed by introductions from Emily Booth, Kim Newman, Alan Jones (the UK one, not ‘ours’)and Stephen Thrower, all who were featured in the main documentary.

This disc also has another brief slideshow of the VHS covers of the 39 banned films, again with a score played over the top.

Disc 3: This disc is similar content to disc 2, but instead this has the 33 films that didn’t permanently achieve the Video Nasty status, or as they are called here ‘The Dropped 33’. This again has introductions from subjects from the documentary like Emily Booth, Dr. Patricia MacCormack, Alan Jones, Marc Morris, Allan Bryce, Xavier Mendik, Brad Stevens, Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower.

This disc also has a slideshow similar to disc 2,but of the Dropped 33.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve already watched it a 100 times and I’ll probably watch it a 100 more.

Reform School Girls (1986)

One from the re-watch pile…

Reform School Girls (1986)

Film: The Women In Prison (WIP) subgenre of exploitation films has been around for a long time, the first really of note being 1933’s Ladies They Talk About which starred Barbara Stanwick and Lillian Roth. The genre continued not just in films but also in the men’s pulp magazine like Argosy and even still continues to this day with stuff like 2009’s Sugar Boxx, though the post 60s films were slightly saucier than the ones previous to that decade.

Reform School Girls was a 1980s entry in the subgenre, written by Jack Cummins (co-writer of another WIP film The Concrete Jungle) and directed by Tom DiSimone who also directed The Concrete Jungle as well as other exploitation classics like Savage Streets and Hell Night.

Reform School Girls tells of the ‘fresh meat’ being delivered to a girl’s reform school for rehabilitation. Jenny (Linda Carol) decides to be a ‘protector’ of sorts to psychologically damaged Lisa (Sherri Stoner) and it’s something she desperately needs in this particular reform school as it’s run by the vicious warden Sutter (Sybil Danning), her fearful second-in-command Edna (Pat Ast) and a group of lecherous cruel guards.

Problem is though, the guards aren’t the only ingredients in this prison that are potentially deadly. The dorm bully is Charlie (Wendy O. Williams) who is constantly causing trouble for our heroes. Thankfully, there is relief in the form of the school psychologist Dr Norton (Charlotte McGinnis) but that doesn’t matter to Jenny, because she is slowly formulating a plan to escape…

From an exploitation point of view, this film has some epic exploitation pedigree, from the director’s previous output, the appearances from the They’re Playing With Fire and The Howling 2’s Sybil Danning, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning’s Tiffany Helm, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Loves Darcy DeMoss, Heat’s Pat Ast and most importantly, The Plasmatic’s singer Wendy O. Williams.

Does that make it a good example of the genre though?

Well, no.

At it’s best, Reform School Girls is a parody of WIP films, and really doesn’t stretch itself beyond the generic tropes it’s type: naked shower scenes, delousing, food hall fights, initiations, fire hose torture etc, and it does all seem to be done quite tongue in cheek… especially when you consider the uniforms for Pridemore doesn’t include pants, and the bed clothing consists of everything from g-strings and bras, to aerobic fitness tights rejected from the Olivia Newton-John ‘Physical’ filmclip.

Unfortunately for the film, it’s so badly acted that it fails to execute the timing of any comedy it attempts, and any times it attempts to take itself seriously, it fails miserably. Also, for a ‘reform school’, there isn’t an inmate less than 25 years old!

When this came out, I am sure for a young man that the amount of female nudity would have been a great reason to watch it, but with the level of nudity available on the internet I’m sure it’s not so appealing now. It does, however, have an amazing soundtrack… mainly featuring Wendy O. Williams… which kicks arse.

Score: **

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release, presented in a decent 1.77:1 image with a 2.0 Mono soundtrack that does the job well enough.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a sausage. Not even a disc menu.

Score: 0

WISIA: I saw thins when it was first released on VHS back in the 80s and this is the first time I’ve watched it since. The next time I watch it will probably be in two new formats time, for whatever the future of the internet looks like, but not before that.

Ratman (1988)

Ratman (1988)

Film: Sometimes, being a B movie fan is like trying to find your wife’s wedding ring after she dropped it in a septic tank: you must wade through a lot of shit to find a gem. Discovering that gem is a treat, but generally you’ll find yourself with a large handful of excrement. Unfortunately, Ratman is not a gem, but instead one of those piles of shit one more than often finds, and not just any piece of excrement either. No, Ratman is a steaming fresh pile of peanut-encrusted beer bog.

Spoiler alert: it’s that bad.

Ratman, also known in Italian as Quella Villa in Fondo al Parco (The Village by the Park? Something like that) was directed by Giuliano Carnimeo, who also directed The Case of the Bloody Iris, and is written by Dardarno Sacchetti who gave us Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetery, along with many other classics of Italian horror. Honestly, I don’t know what either of them was thinking when they made this – and that goes for star David Warbeck as well. Surely times never got that lean!!

Set on a small island, Ratman starts with a professor proudly proclaiming that he should win the Nobel Prize for science after he creates a monster he calls ‘Mousey’ (played by tiny actor Nelson De La Rosa. Seriously, this guy is so small even Verne Troyer could pick on him), a rat/monkey hybrid. The problem with Mousey is that he has also developed poisonous teeth and claws, which will kill a man in no time at all.

Of course, Mousey escapes and starts a half pint reign of terror!

Mousey starts by killing a model, and her sister is called to the island to identify the body. Upon arrival she meets an author, and they soon become chums and visit the morgue together only to find the girl is not her sister, and that her sister has made a trip into the forest on another photo shoot, and the two choose to investigate… but what they find is a trail of death!!!!!

I really can’t stress enough what a piece of crap this film is, and its directorial and writing genealogy, with Sacchetti and Warbeck’s involvement specifically, makes it even more disappointing.

I know that as a B movie fan this is one of those ‘gems’ I am supposed to like, but I just found it to be crap, and barely watchable. Of what I have seen from Shameless so far, I have enjoyed this the least. Only purchase this if you really want a full set of Shameless’s collection. I will say though, that this film has the best tagline ever: “He’s the critter from the shitter”. Pure comedy.

Score: *

Format: In a decent act for such a film, Shameless have presented this in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen, but the image is terrible. Unfortunately, it is foggy and laden with film artefacts, but I guess that heightens the sleaziness of the proceedings, so perhaps that adds atmosphere? I didn’t feel that at all though. The audio is presented in English mono and the best I can say about it is that you can hear what people are saying. It performs the function that is required of it. To give Shameless credit though, they do apologise for the poor audio on David Warbeck’s character at times due to multiple audio sources.

Score: **

Extras: Nothing but trailer for Ratman and other Shameless titles here: The Frightened Woman, My Dear Killer, Baba Yaga, The Black Cat, The New York Ripper and Manhattan Baby. Shameless do offer multiple covers on this disc, which is something I always find to be quite cool, one of which is a funny but poorly executed Jaws piss-take. The other looks to be original video art, which is nice, but not at all relevant. then again, what video art ever was?

Score: **

WISIA: No. just no.

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

One from the re-watch pile…

Return of the Living Dead (1985)

Film: I have a very personal relationship with this film, The Return of the Living Dead, more so than with any other film: As a young teen, it was the first film I ever took a girl to… and that girl never spoke to me again, such is its power, and the course of young love.

The Return of the Living Dead was written and directed by Dan O’Bannon, the writer of Alien, based on a novel and story idea by John Russo with some amazing production design by the outstanding artist William Stout. Producer Tom Fox originally purchased the rights to Russo’s story, and when O’Bannon was hired to direct, he also decided to rewrite it less serious and a bit more fun, so as not to receive too much comparison to George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, and the result is this spectacular film in the zombie genre. And let me tell you, there were running zombies well before 28 Days Later or Dawn of the Dead (03), and this film has them…in spades!!

The Return of the Living Dead tells of new worker at the U-Need-a Medical Supply Company, Freddy (Thom Mathews) who is learning his new job from superior Frank (James Karen). The big boss, Bert (Clu Gulager) leaves early for a long weekend, allowing Frank to run through a few final things with Freddy, but Frank reveals to Freddy the horrible secret kept in the basement: corpses, now in barrels, that had once been resurrected by a chemical spill, the same corpses that the film The Night of the Living Dead was based on!! Going downstairs to investigate, Freddy and Frank accidentally expose themselves to the toxic chemicals, and the chemical re-animates many of the dead things the company sell, including a corpse kept in a ‘cool room’.

Freddy and Frank panic and get Ernie to return to the warehouse to figure out to do with the screaming, hungry corpse in the cool room. They release it, and cut it into smaller pieces, so they can transport it across the street to a mortuary, run by Bert’s friend, Ernie (get it? Bert…and Ernie?), where they hope to cremate the dismembered corpse. They convince Ernie to do so, but what they don’t realise is, is that the smoke from the burning reanimated corpse seeds the clouds, and contaminated rain falls into the graveyard surrounding the mortuary.

Meantime, Freddy’s girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph) convinces his punk friends (including Jewel Shepard, Brian Peck, John Phillbin, Miguel Nunez Jr, Mark Venturini and Linnea Quigley) to go and pick Freddy up from work, and when the realize they are far too early to get Freddy, they decide to find somewhere to hang out, and the graveyard across the street seems to be the perfect place. Perfect, until the rain starts to fall….

This is one of those films where almost every set-piece strikes a memorable chord: Trash’s (Linnea Quigley’s) naked dance, the Tar Man (Allan Trautman), the naked, screaming yellow corpse getting its head sawn off…. Director Dan O’Bannon just provides hit after hit of stunning scenes. The entire production is run with a wry sense of humour, with even some obscure background elements joining in (there is a Coke machine in the background of the warehouse that has a sign on it that exclaims ‘Caution: Caustic Soda). The entire cast plays the story completely straight, which seems to make the movie even more bizarre and the comedy completely black. Now I am no real fan of the ‘horror comedy’ but The Return of the Living Dead is so subtle and clever in its presentation that it all plays perfectly. Heaps of gory, bloody fun!

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the UK release bluray which is presented in an almost perfect 1.85:1 image and a great Dolby DTS 5.1 audio, with also the option for the original PCM Dual Mono 2.0, which also sounds fine.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s an EPIC bunch of extras on this disc.

More Brains! is an almost exhaustive documentary about the making of the film, told as a timeline of the creation, and with interviews with many members of the surviving cast and crew, and they don’t just find the main actors for these interviews! There are producers, casting directors, special effects people… its just a thorough look at the making of the film.

Then there is a bunch of extras from More Brains, including:

The Last Interview with Dan O’Bannon is just that, and he talks about his career, his work ethic and the making of the film.

They Won’t Stay Dead: A Look at Return Of The Living Dead Part 2 which is more interviews from the More Brains doco, but about the second film in the series.

Love Beyond the Grave: A Look at Return of the Living Dead Part III is again, more footage from the More Brains doco, but with a few extra interviews here and there.

These two extras above aren’t just fluff pieces either, Part 2’s goes for about 30 minutes and Part 3’s goes for about 20 minutes.

Stacy Q Live! ‘Tonight’ music video is exactly what the title suggests it is. Pop star Stacy Q, of Two of Hearts fame, sings her song from the movie.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes that obviously didn’t need to be in the film but have some funny stories regardless.

Return of the Living Dead in 3 minutes has the cast do the whole film with snippets of dialogue from the cast from when the doco was filmed.

Resurrected Setting: The Filming Locations Today sees Beverly Randolph and Brian Peck have a look at the locations from the film, and what they look like today. This is pretty funny and has some amusing references to other horror films.

The Origins of Return of the Living Dead looks at the ideas behind the story of the film with an extensive interview with John Russo.

The FX of the Living Dead looks at the production design and special effects of the film.

Party Time: 45 Grave and the Sounds of Return of the Living Dead peeks at the music used in the film, focusing on the song ‘Partytime’ by 45 Grave.

There’s also a couple of trailers for the film.

Also, in this edition of the film, is a booklet about the film with words and pictures by Christian Sellars and Gary Smart, who wrote the book The Complete History of Return of the Living Dead.                                                                          

Score: *****

WISIA: How could one not rewatch such a great example of horror comedy, and a fine zombie film to boot.

Mausoleum (1982)

One from the to watch pile…

Mausoleum (1982)

Film: Everyone has a couple of ‘Holy Grail’ films in their ‘not seen and unsourced’ To Watch Pile and for me, this film, Mausoleum, has been in my top ten for many years.

In the 80s, I was an avid reader of the horror magazines: Fangoria, Slaughter House, Horrorfan, Famous Monsters, Fear… the list could go on, and to this day, still have most, if not every issue I ever bought of them. All of them, of course, reported on the making of this film but there was one particular article, and I am going to single out Slaughter House in this case (I think), that had this striking image of the film’s star Bobbie Bresee, an extraordinarily stunning blonde, who was in her mid to late thirties… much older than the majority of Hollywood starlets in other horror films! Something not seen very often in cinema!

Anyway this film sat on my list of must-sees but for some reason I never had a opportunity to actually see it, until last year, the wonderful people at Vinegar Syndrome brought it out on bluray, and now I sit, with a packet of Tim Tams and a can of Coke, finally able to see it. There was a DVD release previously, but for some reason, that never made it into my collection.

The film was made by a bunch of people who didn’t seem to work much in Hollywood after the film… or before it either, which I think is a shame as this film has some definite amazing moments, mixed with a dash of sleaze, but not enough to make it a sleaze-fest.

After her mother’s funeral, Susan Farrell (played as a youngster by Julie Christy Murray, and an adult by Bresee) runs away and finds herself at her family’s vault, where ‘something’ possesses her.

Many years later, Susan is happily married to the successful Oliver Farrell (Marjoe Gortner), living the life, and having fun, even though she has regular visits with her psychiatrist, Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton).

The thing is though, Susan doesn’t have psychological issues haunting her, she is possessed by a demon which due to a curse, takes control of the first-born daughter of every generation of the Nomed family… and yes, that is ‘demon’ backwards’.

Andrews enlists the help of a colleague, Dr. Logan (Sheri Mann) and between them they work out how to break the curse, but will the demon inside Susan allow them…

Basically, what we have here is a very standard possession film, with a sexy lead, some chunky gore, a touch of nudity, some terrible acting… yep: the very essential ingredients for an 80s horror film!

The special effects are done by John Carl Buechler, who weirdly isn’t listed as doing so an IMDB under the film as doing so, and are clearly his. There is an aesthetic to the design of the demon that is very reminiscent of Ghoulies, Cellar Dweller and other stuff he worked on. Actually, the little demon faces on the big demons boobs are certainly something to see!

A special shoutout must go to television veteran actor LaWanda Page. In this film she plays Else, the maid, and I can’t figure out if she is the comedy relief, if her performance is a throwback to her playing Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son or if it is totally deliberate, but every word out of her mouth drips with sarcasm or blaxploitation-styled dialogue. Whatever way, she’s a hoot!

So, was this film worth the wait? As an 80s horror kid I have shout a resounding ‘HELL YEAH’. This is one of those occasions where a everything about a film, including its faults, are the reason why I totally dig it.

 

Score: *****

Format: The reviewed copy of this disc was the Vinegar Syndrome multi-region Bluray, which was a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. The image, presented in 1.85:1, is amazing, and the audio, even though its in mono, does the job just fine.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, but the highlight is certainly Making Monsters: An Interview with John Carl Buechler, which unfortunately only lasts for under 10 minutes, and for a guy who had such a huge impact on SPFX in the 80s, it’s a shame this couldn’t have been longer.

There is a theatrical trailer and some TV spots.

There is also a promotional stills gallery which features a bunch of posters and lobby cards for the film.

This release also comes with a DVD version of the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s ridiculous, but I LOVE IT!!! I might watch it again right now!!!

 

 

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

Film: The only thing that has come out of Italy that is better than the food, is horror films. Seriously, the perfect night would be a fresh lasagne, some garlic bread, along with Argento or Bava, and a nice Chianti (insert bizarre suckling noise here). Demons 2 proves, that not everything for Italy’s cinematic feast is delicious.

Demons 2 is directed by the original’s director, Lamberto Bava, and is written by the same writing team of Bava, Dario Argento, Franco Ferinni and Dardano Sacchetti, but it is definitely… spoiler alert… the inferior of the two films.

This film has us in a super high-tech apartment block where various occupants are going about their business of dinner with family, studying for tests, being an 8 year old who is left home alone, having intercourse with high quality hookers, working out in the basement gym and having a birthday party.

The part is for whinging superbitch Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) who complains about everything and locks herself in her bedroom after hearing that a person whom she didn’t want invited to her party was actually invited by a friend. Whilst in her room, she watches, like several people who live in the block, a documentary about the demon incursion that occurred in the first film. Unfortunately, like the film from the first film, the doco appears to be cursed… or something… and a demon comes out of the TV, attacking Sally and starting the infection all over again.

Luckily the demons aren’t able to escape the apartment block… or can they?

To put it bluntly, this film is pretty bad. Bad,y acted and dubbed at times, with some dreadful dialogue Nd non-sensical plotlines that don’t move the story forward in the slightest. For exampl, some parents are driving home to their son at the same time as the party is happening, but they don’t make it… so why even show it?

The script is a breadless crap pizza with no real logic as to how the demons appear. The Tv show being watched by the viewers are potently infected but the cameraman filming the doco was resistant? What? Thankfully this eventually explained by the fact that the show is being transmitted by a demon TV station (as a heads up, demon TV stations are like NORMAL TV stations. It with flashing lights): I’ve seen some pretty dumb stuff in my horror experience, but demon TV station is up there with the dumbest.

It’s not entirely bad though. Whilst Demons 2 isn’t as gruesome as it’s predecessor, it features some creative effects work. There is a wider variety of demon looks in this film, and there is an amusing Demon Dog sequence. The effects are generally solid except for one that has a worse that Ghoulies rubber puppet look about it.

I also enjoyed the music far more on this film as it was more to my taste : The Cult, The Art Of Noise, The Smiths, Fields Of The Nephilim and others.

This film is far more a string of effects held together by a dodgy story, than a complete film.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video Bluray which is presented in 1.66:1 and has been restored from the original negative. That being said it does contain a bit of noise on the film here and there. The audio is presented in the original mono and does the job just fine. The film can also be watched with its Italian audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The first thing I should comment on is the excellent packaging design and the non-digital extras. Like most of Arrows Bluray releases when this first came out, we have a choice of four covers on a double-sided Bluray slick. There is also a double sided poster with original movie artwork on one side and art from Jeff Zornow on the other. This package also contains part 2 of a Demons comic, again with art by Zornow and a script by Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating. Finally there is a booklet titled Twice the Terror by Calum Waddell which is an interesting celebration of Bava.

There are a couple of extras on the disc as well:

Creating Creature Carnage is a discussion with Italian special effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti. If you are interested in practical special effects this is really interesting.

Bava to Bava: Luigi Cozzi on The History Of Italian Horror is exactly what the title suggests and is the perfect sequel to Cozzi’s discussion on the first Demons release from Arrow Video.

There is also a director commentary hosted by Calum Waddell featuring Bava, Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci. It’s not the greatest commentary in the world, but when they do speak, what they say is very interesting.

Score: ****

WISIA: The first Demons film is an Italian classic, watch that again instead of this.

Demons aka Demoni (1985)

One from the re watch pile…

Demons aka Demoni (1985)

Film: Those who are regular visitors of the To Watch Pile will know that I love horror films of the 80s: Re-animator, Burial Ground, Dead and Buried… I could write a massive list of films that I love from this time, and right here, we have one of them.

I first discovered this film working in a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and immediately loved it: the gore, the hot European girls, and just the general tone of the film blew my mind. I had a DVD release and enjoyed it, but this Arrow Blu-ray release has taken the love affair even further.

Demons starts with a young girl (Natasha Hovey) being approached on a train by a strange looking man who appears to be wearing a mask (film director Michele Soavi), and is handing out free tickets to a cinema screening. She manages to score two of them so she can bring her constantly whining friend (Paola Cozzo) along, and they skip a lecture at university to go.

The cinema is an old one, and there are several people there to see the film, including a young couple; a cranky old bastard and his long suffering wife; a pair of horny young men who start sniffing around our heroine; and a classic 70s pimp-styled character along with two of his ’employees’, one of who mucks around with a metal mask on display in the foyer and accidentally cuts her face with it.

They sit down to watch the film, which is all about four people looking for the tomb of Nostradamus, and the four find a mask much like the one in the foyer, and when one of the characters cuts his face, he turns into a demon.

Not surprisingly, the prostitute (Geretta Geretta)who cut her face in the cinema becomes one as well and starts terrorising the patrons, and everyone who is attacked becomes a demon. They try to escape, but discover that they are trapped inside with the creatures, which are constantly increasing in number.

What happens next is good old fashioned, gory, unholy fun!!

This film is directed by Lamberto Bava, son of Italian cinema legend Mario Bava and written by him, Dario Argento, Franco Ferinni and Dardano Sarchetti. Gorehounds will get a gargantuan sense of satisfaction as it relishes in the gore, all of which are good ol’ fashioned practical effects: messy and non-CGI! Italian film fans will have fun as well, spotting some Italian horror cinema regulars like Nicoletta Elmi, who was also in A Bay of Blood and Deep Red, and a cameo from Giovanni Frezza, best known as Bob from The House by the Cemetary.

I loved this film as a teen, and nothing has changed since then except for silver hair and arthritis. The story is engaging and moves along at a cracking pace, the characters are wacky stereotypes that you’ll never forget, and the effects are gory and top-shelf practical ones. If you want to have an argument with a lover of CGI effects, show them this film and I’m sure they’ll have nothing to respond with.Plus, it features a three and a half minute sequence where a guy wielding a samurai sword hooks around a cinema on a motorcycle killing demons to the sounds of heavy metal band Accept’s song ‘Fast Like A Shark’!

If you need more than that from a film, you are far too fussy!

What’s the best way to give a film collector what they want? How about a favourite film, presented cleanly, in great packaging with great extras? It’s that easy! Well played, Arrow.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed using Arrow Video’s Bluray release. The image is present in a surprisingly good, considering its age, 1.66:1 image and even though the soundtrack is only in mono 2.0, there is nothing wrong with this audio presentation. It is presented in both Italian or English tracks, which should both be given a listen as they have different musical cues, and the opportunity to hear Simonetti’s soundtrack is much greater on the Italian as the music track is a little more prominent.

 

Score: ***1/2

Extras: First I must compliment the excellent packaging. It has the ‘poster’ styled packaging that Arrow used to offer on their Blu-rays, with the option of 4 different covers, a double sided poster, a booklet essay by Calum Waddell and part 1 of a Demons 3 comic by writers Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating with art by horror artist extraordinaire Jeff Zornow. This is a new story, not Ogre or any other of the cinematic ‘sequels’ and, as a horror comic fan, I think it is a cool comic. The story is continued in Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Demons 2.

Dario’s Demon Origins sees Mr. Argento discuss the origins of the film, most of which your average horror fan would have heard before.

Defining An Era In Music is a discussion with Claudio Simonetti about the soundtrack to the film.

Whilst the other two pieces are mildly interesting, Luigi Cozzi’s Top Horror Films (it’s called Splatter Spaghetti Style on the feature) is really interesting, as he talks about Italian horror and his favourite/most important films of the genre.

We also have a Director’s commentary with Lamberto Bava and Sergio Stivaletti. It is in both Italian and English and whilst informative, it is at times a trial to listen to due to the language swapping.

There is also a Cast and Crw commentary by Mike Burgess, Art Ettinger from Ultra Violent Magazine, Mark Murray from Cult Collectable, soundtrack writer Claudio Simonetti, director Lamberto Bava, Geretta Geretta (who played ‘Rosemary) and effects legend Sergio Stivaletti. This is a far better commentary than the previous one as it discusses many aspects of the film. It is, however, in a mix of English and Italian.

Score: *****

WISIA: This film gets a regular watch, so yeah, it’s a full-tilt rewatcher!

The Burning (1981)

One from the regularly re-watched pile…

The Burning (1981)

Film: Those who have read reviews here at the ol’ To Watch Pile will know I have a special fondness of the films of the eighties. Hot off the exploitation scene and riding on in the wake of late seventies classic fright flicks like Dawn of the Dead and Halloween, the eighties started with a bang. Some of these films were branded ‘Video Nastys’ in the UK due to the ‘extreme’ lengths they went to, and some of them were either heavily cut or banned outright. These films became sought after collectors items on VHS, and when released on DVD, usually have a platoon of fans anxious to add them to their DVD library, and now, we have to collect them all over again on Bluray, or 4K.

The Burning is an 80s gem and is chockablock full of blood, gore and tits and (there’s also some men’s busts, if that’s your preference) and is a wonderful example of a mean-spirited slasher that easily holds up against most of today’s horror movies, and honestly, mostly exceeds them.

The Burning tells of the alcoholic and violent caretaker of summer camp ‘Camp Blackfoot’, Cropsy, who one night has a practical joke played upon him by a group of kids who are staying at the facility. As with all horror movies, the practical joke goes horribly wrong, and Cropsy is severely burnt. Flash forward 5 years later as Cropsy is finally released from hospital, horribly disfigured and filled to the teeth with rage. He makes his way back to Camp Blackfoot, where he has now become the stuff of legend, to exact his vengeance on a new batch of campers, one of whom is one of the original teenagers, now older and wiser, working as a camp councilor. The kids are dispatched in traditional slasher style, thanks to the brilliance of Tom Savini’s special make-up and gore effects, but who will survive?

This film could be technically described as the first film by Miramax. Harvey Weinstein has a ‘Story by’, ‘Created by’ and ‘Produced By’ credit, Bob Weinstein has a ‘Screenplay by’ credit (along with Peter Lawrence) and mother Miriam (the MIR in MIRamax) worked as a pre-production assistant. While this film has a lot of never-see-again actors, it did have several people that went on to become name actors in it: Tony award winner Brian Backer, Short Circuit’s Fisher Stevens, TV regulars Larry Joshua and Ned Eisenberg, not to mention Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander and Academy Award winner Holly Hunter!

The Burning stands up with the big boys of the slasher genre for several reasons: Tom Savini is at his best with the effects, the soundtrack is incredibly impressive, and most slashers have the teens dispatched one by one, this one has one amazing scene where the killer performs an act of mass murder than has to be seen to be believed!! My favourite thing about this movie, other than the female nudity and gore, is the fact that it was never belittled by a series of sequels that either don’t make sense, or just plain out suck!

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Arrow Video Bluray Set, which runs for approximately 91 minutes and is presented in a clear and bright, 1.85:1 image with a fairly standard but nevertheless clean mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: A super bunch of extras on this Bluray, which is to be expected from Arrow:

Blood and Fire Memories is a great mini doco starring make up legend Tom Savini. This doco has some great ‘tricks of the trade’ bits and some excellent behind the scenes footage, and has comments from Savini about the filming of the Burning, and some wonderfully scathing ones about the Friday the 13th series, and how Jason shouldn’t even exist in the 9 of the 10 sequels the original spawned. This is an older extra that featured on previous releases of the film.

Slash and Cut is an interview with The Hidden director, Jack Sholder, who acted as editor on this film.

Cropsy Speaks is an interview with the actor Lou David who played Cropsy, who I reckon would leap on an opportunity to make a sequel.

Summer Camp Nightmare is an interview with female lead Leah Ayres.

Synthy the Best talks to composer Rick Wakeman, keyboardist from 70s band Yes, who wrote the score for the film.

There some behind the scenes footage which is some cool looks at SFX and stuntwork.

There’s a trailer for the film and a series of image galleries featuring the Make-up effects and posters of the film.

There is three (!) commentaries on this disc, one with Maylam and film expert Alan Jones, one with Shelley Bruce (Tiger) and Bonnie Deroski (Marney) and finally one with the guys from the podcast The Hysteria Continues.

There is also a booklet with an essay on the film by Justin Kerswell, and a DVD version of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: The Burning is one of the all time great slasher movies and it’s on almost constant rotation at my house.

Lady Stay Dead (1981)

One from the to watch pile…

Lady Stay Dead (1981)

Film: Several years ago, Australian filmmaker Mark Hartley made a documentary called ‘Not Quite Hollywood’, and I curse him every day for that marvellous piece of work. Why do I curse him? Well I knew very little about ‘those’ Australian films, and that doco turned into a shopping list that has subsequently cost me hundreds of dollars in film purchases.

The main film that intrigued me on the documentary was this one, Lady Stay Dead, mainly due to the fact that I was completely unaware of its existence. Whilst I may not have seen some of the other films, I had certainly heard of them at least, but this one was a mystery.

Written and directed by Terry Bourke, whose resume also contains films like Inn of the Damned, Plugg and Night of Fear, not to mention a TV series that few remember but was one I liked as a child called Catch Kandy, this film is an interesting beast.

Gordon (Chard Hayward) is a professional Gardner, but his paid work isn’t what defines him… it’s his hobby as an abuser of women! His job sees him maintaining the grounds of celebrity Marie Colby (Deborah Coulls), an abusive cow who through her insults finally drives Gordon to make her his next victim, but when she resists and continues the abuse, he snaps and drowns her in a fish tank. When is disposal of the body is witnessed by a neighbour, Gordon realises that he must kill again, but these attacks will start a series of events that may bring about Gordon’s downfall. Has he left too many clues to his hobby, or will he get away with it again?

There is no doubt that this film has been wrapped in Ozploitation, and then triple dipped in sleaze! The story is a mix of the previous year’s Bill Lustig film ‘Maniac’ and 1975’s ‘L’assassino é Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora’, aka ‘The Killer Must Kill Again’, but with a fair dinkum beachside locale and a bunch of hot Aussie chick who all get their kit off!

Now that may sound great but there are a few drawbacks. The acting is dire, and I mean as if the actors are reading off cue cards dire! Also, the soundtrack if a mix of terrible ‘I Never Been To Me’ styled pop songs, and elevator music circa. 1973. I’m no music critic but this stuff poisoned my ears.

This films as Australian as they come, so Ozploitation fans really need to have this in their collection, but unfortunately, it’s just not very good. When neither the victim or perpetrator in a film have any charisma, you are off to a pretty bad start, but then this cliched farce has NO suspense and some really laughable dialogue and acting, so there is no salvation at all.

It does however feature Australian legend and actor from Mad Max and Turkey Shoot, Roger Ward, so all is not lost. Worth watching for cultural embarrassment only.

Score: **

Format: Lady Stay Dead was reviewed with the Code Red, multi-region Bluray which runs for approximately 94 minutes, and presented with a 1.78:1 image with a mono audio track, and considering the age of the film, aren’t too bad at all. There a are few artefacts and marks here and there but no so persistently that is becomes a distraction.

Score: ***

Extras: There is only one extra on this disc and it is called Banana and the Lady. It’s an introduction to the film by former-wrestler Katarina Leigh Waters on something called ‘Bucket List Theatre’ and she proves that as a presenter, she is a great former-wrestler. Why is it called ‘Banana and the Lady’? Well it starts with a guy in a banana suit replicating one of the scenes in the film, but this time it ends with him blowing a bad CGI load over the lens.

One thing I did find disappointing about this release is the menu screen image highlights Katarina’s stupid bit rather than the actual movie, which seems disrespectful to the movie, if you ask me.

Score: *

WISIA: I doubt very much of this will get another watch here at the ol’ To Watch Pile.