Bonus Friday the 13th review: Cat’s Eye (1985)

One from the re watch pile…
Cat’s Eye (1985)

The cover of the Umbrella Bluray release of Cat’s Eye

Film: I loves me an anthology film…. yeeeehaw! 

In the 80s there was a veritable Trevor trove of cool anthology films that all came out: Creepshow, Creepshow 2, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Tales from the Quadead Zone… maybe not that last one… but the mainstream ones were all entertaining and had great production values and big names attached. 

Cat’s Eye is certainly no exception to that rule, if anything, Cat’s Eye has a really nice pedigree (heh heh ‘pedigree’? Cat? Ahhhh forgedaboudit!). Let’s start with the cast: Airplane’s Robert Hayes, Videodrome’s James Woods, Firestarter’s Drew Barrymore, Casino’s Alan King, Dune’s Kenneth McMillan, Alien 3’s Charles S. Dutton… hell, even Scooby Doo’s Frank Welker does some special vocal stuff in the film! I also have to admit to having somewhat of a crush on Mary D’arcy, who played Woods’ wife in the film.

It doesn’t stop there though: this film was directed by Lewis Teague, a director who knows how to economically tell a story to various degrees of success, with films like Cujo, Wedlock, Jewel of the Nile and Alligator under his belt. When I say ‘economically’, I don’t mean that as an insult either: Teague tells the story so it is easy to understand and the performances he gets from his actors is always a good one.

Lastly, and most definitely not leastly… is that a word… we have this movie featuring three tales by horror legend Stephen King! Two of the stories, Quitter’s Inc and The Ledge were from King’s anthology book Night Shift, although The Ledge was first published in Penthouse (which is referenced in the story), whereas the final one, General, is an original tale made for the film.

Cat’s Eye starts with our introduction to a cat who is seemingly on the wrong side of a couple of King’s other villains, Cujo and Christine (in a nice nod to Teague’s and Carpenter’s films) before escaping to New York, where after a vision (yes, the cat has a vision) of a girl in trouble, he is kidnaped by a corporation called Quitters Inc. and we are thrown into our first tale where we see Dick (James Woods) wanting to quite smoking and going to a clinic called Quitters Inc. who have rather extreme measures of helping you quit… including torture… but will Dick quit?

Robert Hayes on the edge

The cat escapes Quitters Inc. and finds himself taken possession of by a gangster named Cressner (Kenneth McMillan) who has kidnapped Norris (Robert Hayes), a man with whom his wife is cheating, and bets him that he can’t circumnavigate the ledge around his penthouse suite: the prize being freedom, money and his wife… will Norris make it?

A young Drew Barrymore using her ‘pleeeeeeeease’ face

The final story, General, sees the cat, now named General by his new owner, played by Drew Barrymore, living with a family who have something living in their house… something Evil… that perhaps only General is aware of… will General save the family?

This film is a great deal of fun and is a real product of its time. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a couple of funny segments using a cover of the Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’. It’s entertaining and with the loose story style starring the tribulations of the cat, the short tales flow into each other with no hiccup or ‘Cryptkeeper’ to keep the movie running, which is refreshing and a great idea.

Score: ***1/2

The menu screen from the Umbrella release of Cat’s Eye

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Umbrella release, region B Bluray of the film which runs for approximately 94 minutes and is presented in a perfectly fine 2.40:1 image with a matching 2.0 DTS-HD audio

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A couple of nice fresh extras on this disc:

Johnny Norris On The Ledge: Robert Hayes Remembers Cat’s Eye is a fond recollection of the time Hayes had in making this film. It’s not just a typical 5 minute ‘everyone was wonderful’ type thing either, it’s a fairly detailed half-hour chat.

Like Herding Cats: A Conversation With Animal Trainer Teresa Ann Miller is a quite fascinating look at the skill of animal training, and the Miller family as career animal trainers.

We also have a trailer for the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s a fun, light-hearted (mostly) and easy to watch anthology so it gets a regular look.

Got Woods?

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

One from the to watch pile…
The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

The cover for Severin films The Theatre Bizarre

Film: I am sure in previous movie review I have mentioned my love of anthology films. From Creepshow, to The Twilight Zone Movie, to Holidays to Tales of Halloween I have always dug them, and I especially like, which is prevalent in the last two of the four mentioned, that have a similar theme.

The Theatre Bizarre is the brainchild of David Gregory, and the idea is to do an anthology film which recreated the ideal of Grand Guignol but for cinema audiences rather than ‘live’ theatre audiences.

The Theatre Bizarre: Virginia Newcombe

Our framing sequence is that of a girl (Virginia Newcombe) obsessed with a local dilapidated theatre, which she finds, upon entering, is populated by an automaton (Udo Kier) who proceeds to show her a series of stories, introducing each one with a new automaton…

First is The Mother of Toads, by director Richard Stanley and starring Catriona MacColl (The Beyond, City of the Living Dead) tells of the strange things that happen to a young couple when they become involved with a strange woman in France. It’s very H. P. Lovecraft.

The second is I Love You by Buddy Giovinazzo sees a man, Axel (André Hannicke) wake up in the bathroom of his apartment with a nasty cut on his hand. He is in the middle of a nasty break up with his wife, Mo (Suzan Anbeh) and when she returns he insists on knowing why she is leaving… and he may not be happy with the answers.

The next, Wet Dreams, is directed by Tom Savini tells of Donnie (James Gill) who is having repeated dreams about his penis being cut off by a monstrous vagina, and then fed to him by his wife (Debbie Rochon). His psychiatrist (Tom Savini) gives him a way of getting out of the dream, but which is the dream and which is reality?

The Accident by director Douglas Buck sees a mother (Lena Klein) discussing death with her daughter (Mélodie Simard) in respect to an accident they witnessed. It’s a delicate, beautiful piece about death in the middle of all this gore!

Vision Stains by Karim Hussein tells of a woman (Kaniehttio Horn) who has discovered that she can see a persons life by extracting the viscous fluid from their eyes and injecting in into hers so she can document them. She, of course, has to kill them to do so, but she picks women she believes want to die to perform her bizarre experiments on, but why does she feel a responsibility to do such a thing? 

The Theatre Bizarre: you might not want to eat during this film.

The surrealistic Sweets by David Gregory is another break-up story like I Love You, but this time snivelling Greg (Guildford Adams) is being dumped by Estelle (Lindsay Goranson) who has a food fetish, but maybe it’s worse than what you think.

With all the short films having women as the antagonist, I am sure there is some deep and meaningful anti, or pro feminism thing going in, but I’m a horror movie fan, not a psychologist, so I’m not going to get into that.

What I can definitely say though is that this film is a cracker of an anthology film. It’s all told dead straight and made me squirm on more than one occasion. The influences of Grand Guignol are definitely present as there is no shortage of blood… or vomit… or frog slime… or guts… or retina fluid… you get the idea!

The tales are all of a high standard, really, aside from Sweets, I loved every one. That’s not to say Sweets was bad, it just wasn’t the greatest film in this collection. Props must go to Richard Stanley too: I am not a fan of his and was blown away by The Mother of Frogs, so I might now go revisit some of his older works again!

It was a real pleasure to see a horror film that was horror-full, instead of horrible.

Score: ****1/2

The Theatre Bizarre menu screen

Format: The reviewed copy was a US DVD from Severin which runs for approximately 1 hour and 53 minutes. It is presented in a nice 2.35:1 vision with a clear and excellent Dolby 5.1 soundtrack. 

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with a trailers for Smile, which actually looks pretty good!

The first extras option is a director’s commentary, first we have a muddy sounding wraparound bit with Jeremy Kasten before each segment gets a commentary from the various creatives who made the film. It’s a many and varied commentary but wholly interesting. The sound quality is varying as the commentaries are clearly done in a variety of environments.

ShockTilYouDrop interviews is a series of interviews about the film with David Gregory, Buddy Giovinazzo and Jeremy Kasten. It talks about the origins of the film and what it took to make. There almost 40 minutes of interviews and it’s quite interesting.

There is also some Behind the Scenes stuff for the various segments but it’s not informative, just people on the set doing stuff. Each section goes for about 2 minutes and it’s not really worth watching, except for the last one, Vision Stains, which reveals a needle in the eye effect.

The Theatre Bizarre trailer is just what it claims to be.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s pretty intense, so whilst it won’t be regular on the rotation list, it will get at least another watch. I’ve actually had this film since 2011 and never watched it…. what a mistake!

The Theatre Bizarre: Peg Poett (Udo Kier) spins a tale or two!

Holidays (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Holidays (2016)

Film: There’s two things that horror movies do better than other genres of films: anthologies, and films commemorating special holidays… yes, New Years Evil is much better than News Year’s Day, by about a million times.

This is very much a modern anthology tale though, and sits more amongst the V/H/S and ABCs of Death-styled films rather than something like Creepshow or John Carpenter’s Bodybags. The difference, to me, being that older anthologies have a sense of fun, and are far more in tune with comics like Tales of the Crypt, and have an almost ironic comical resolution to each tale. These newer ones can have endings like that, but they are far darker, and the resolutions far more horrible and the irony rarely amusing.

There’s a great mix of creators in this movie though: Anthony Scott Burns ( who worked on visual effects on The Last Exorcism Part II), Kevin Kolsch (director of Starry Eyes), Nicholas McCarthy (director of The Pact), Adam Egypt Mortimer (director of Some Kind of Hate), composer Ellen Reid, Gary Shore (director of Dracula Untold), Kevin Smith (c’mon, you know who Kevin Smith is!), Sarah Adina Smith (writer of The Midnight Swim), Scott Stewart (director of Priest) and Dennis Widmyer (writer of Starry Eyes).

Holidays asks us to celebrate 8 occasions with it:

The Valentine’s Day story tells of a teenage girl with self-harm issues who seems to be entering into a relationship with her coach, and who has been a victim of bullying, and maybe self-harm is no longer her objective…

St Patrick’s Day explores a young school girl who is encountering difficulties in starting at a new school, and her teacher who is experiencing a strange pregnancy that the young girl seems to be aware of…

The Easter tale looks at the confusion a child can experience with the celebration, which incorporates Jesus’ resurrection and the legend of the Easter Bunny, but maybe it’s not her that’s confused.. maybe it’s the rest of us… maybe the story of Christ and that if the Easter Bunny and horribly intertwined…

Mother’s Day explores the life of a woman who gets pregnant every time she has sex, and how a doctor advises her to meet her sister, who runs a weekend retreat for women who can’t get pregnant… but maybe the women have more serious intentions for her…

Father’s Day has a young woman receive a tape recorder which contains a message from her estranged father, who asks her to meet her at a place they once went together. The woman is upset as her mother had previously told her that her father was dead… was she lying..?

Halloween tells the tale of three girls who work for a ‘girly’ webcam site who decide maybe this isn’t where there future lies…

Christmas sees a man desperate to get a particular gift for his child, and goes to deadly extremes to get it. The gift, a VR headset, may know the man’s dirtiest secrets though…

New Years Eve is the culmination of the tales, and we visit a murderer who has a thing for teeth, and wants to meet a new girl to kiss at midnight, but the girl he meets is much more than she seems…

Having a variety of writers and directors obviously makes for a somewhat uneven mix of story quality, but they do all entertain. Each story has a very small pool of talent but they are mostly fully engaged in the story which makes them even more unsettling. The poorest of the stories is Kevin Smith’s as even when being dark, it’s still sophomoric, and the acting in it is clearly less than the rest of the tales. That’s not to say it’s awful, it’s just the lesser of all the shorts on this disc.

The more I muse on this film, the more I am impressed with the variety of writers and directors managing to make a film cohesive even above and beyond the similar theme. Best thing is, you don’t have to wait until Halloween or Friday the 13th or Valentine’s Day to watch it!

Score: ****

Format: This region B, Australian bluray of this film runs for approximately 105 minutes. The film is presented in 2.35:1 and with a Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 audio, both of which are great

Score: *****

Extras: Not a brass razoo.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a fun mix of shorts, yeah it’ll be watched again.

Countdown to Halloween #6: Tales of Halloween (2015)

One from the re watch pile…
Tales of Halloween (2015)

The Australian Bluray of Tales of Halloween

Film: Anthology films are a staple of horror, and pretty much well every horror fan can name one in their favourite horror films, be it one of the Creepshows, or Tales of the Darkside, or Trick R Treat. There have even been great classic TV series anthologies like Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits and many horror anthology books, like the  H. P. Lovecraft collections, or hundreds of mixed author collections, like one of my favourites, edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector, The Book of the Dead.

This anthology has a total of ten directors giving us the thrills, including Saw II, III and IV’s Darren Lynn Bouseman, The Decent’s Neil Marshall, May’s Lucky McKee, The Halloween Kid’s Axelle Carolyn and Autopsy’s Adam Gierasch amongst others, and tells of all the horrors that take place on Halloween in one small town, with several of the characters from some stories popping up in others.

Tales of Halloween: Caroline Williams and Robert Rusler’s son has a Sweet Tooth

From its cartoony, pop up book styled beginning (hosted by Adrienne Barbeau playing the voice on the radio…again!), this film entertains with ten Halloween shorts, including a bunch of serial killers who get their just deserts, the legend of a candy loving killer, a woman who can’t fall pregnant who is possessed by a demon, a war between neighbours over their Halloween displays, a kidnapping gone horribly wrong and five more.

Heaps of tributes to classic horror films with many stars and directors showing up, including Lin Shaye (A Nightmare On Elm Street), Lisa Marie (Mars Attacks), Barbara Crampton (Re-animator), Caroline Williams (Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2), Robert Rusler (A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Barry Bostick (Rocky Horror Picture Show), James Duval (Donnie Darko), Stuart Gordon (director of Re-animator), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Greg McLean (director of Wolf Creek), Mick Garris (writer of Critters 2), Drew Struzan (artist of more film posters than I care to list)… the list goes on and on! 

Tales of Halloween: Nick Principe as the killer in Friday the 31st

As one would expect, stories directed by a variety of writers and directors can be a little uneven, but all of them entertain. Some of them finish with a quick resolution which is occasionally unsatisfying, but as a complete package the film delivers. This film is a gory-as-Hell, roller coaster ride with a bunch of amusing horror shorts most of which have a fun twist to cap them off: some obvious, some not, but all entertaining.

The soundtrack is heaps of fun too, ranging from the metalest of metal, to 80s-inspired synth which suits each tale as it unfolds.

This is truly made for horror fans though, as you, like I, will spend most of your time laughing at genre references, or crying out ‘hey isn’t that (insert name here)?’

Score: *****

Tales of Halloween bluray menu screen. Not present; any extras.

Format: The reviewed copy of Tales of Halloween was the Australian region B bluray, which runs for approximately 97 minutes. The film is presented in a 2.35:1 video with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio and both are, as one would expect from a modern film, perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: A modern film with NO extras made by multiple directors with NO extras? Poo on you, sirs!

Score: 0

WISIA: Anthology films are ALWAYS a rewatch if just for how much there is to take in! With the quality and variety of directors in this one, it certainly includes it in that ideal!

Caveat: This ‘anthology’ suggestion of being perpetual rewatchers does not include the miserable Creepshow 3. Just sayin’!

Tales of Halloween: a traditional Halloween decoration from This Means War