We Are Still Here (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

We Are Still Here (2015)

Film: I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I don’t, which may be unusual for a fan of horror movies but because of this, a ‘ghostly’ horror movie has to be REAL good to either engage me or get a reaction from me. In general, the western output of these types of films, the ‘post-millennial ghost story’ if you will, hold very little interest to me. You know the ones: the Conjuring films, the Insidious films and their ilk, the ones that desperately try to emulate the j-horror movement of the late 90s/ early 2000s… the ones that try to put a fear of the supernatural into a generation that don’t believe in anything, and considering everything they do has to be filmed as proof, not even each other.

This film, We Are Still Here, feels very much like a film from another time and doesn’t seem to relate to those modern films at all. I imagine writer/ director Ted Georghegan, writer of Sweatshop and co-writer of Andrea Schnaas’ first English language film, Demonium, is much more a fan of of those earlier horror films as this feels like a European thriller, and maybe he does wear it a little more on his sleeve when you consider the scotch the characters are drinking is B&J Scotch, an obvious tribute to the J&B Scotch labels frequently seen in 60s and 70s giallo.

We Are Still Here tells of the Sacchetti family, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig) who have moved to the country into a house that has been empty for 30 years, to escape the memories of their son who died in a car accident.

In the first two weeks they live in the house though, weird things start to happen. There’s an odd smell of smoke, the basement is always hot, and the townsfolk have a strange story regarding the history of the house and the original occupants.

Anne invites their son’s friend, Harry Lewis (Michael Patrick Nicolson) and his parents, May (Lisa Marie) and her husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to visit, as May is a psychic and she may be able to contact what Anne thinks is the boys spirit… but May detects something darker, something that the town needs to feed once every 30 years….

If I’m totally honest, the thing that attracted me to this film was mainly Barbara Crampton, an actress I’ve adored since seeing her… a LOT of her… in my favourite film, Re-animator, and I’m willing to give anything she is in a go… well, except maybe for The Bold and the Beautiful.

This film was surprising in every way. The story was surprisingly good. The acting was great, the cast was a good mix, and the gore was totally unexpected. I won’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly is one of the better ghost stories I have seen in the past 20 years, but that may be due to the film deliberately being set in the late 70s/ early 80s.

Essentially it’s a pastiche of Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and A Nightmare on Elm Street that really works.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which is presented in a perfect 2.35:1 image and a matchingDolby 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a bunch of trailers on this disc for other Áccent releases, such as Late Phases, Jug Face, In Their Skin and Static, as well as one for this film.

There is a short extra called We Are Still Here: Building A Haunted House which discusses the foundations of the story and making of the film.

There is also a commentary by Georghagen and Producer Travis Stevens which is interesting as it’s a proper ‘making of films’ type commentary.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It was great, so yeah!

Sin City (2005)

One from the rewatch pile…

Sin City (2005)

Film: Before these wonderful days of comic to movie blockbusters, in general, comic movies were a curio at best, and the entire history of comics to movies is littered with some absolute crap, and occasional highlights. Prior to the release of Sin City, the highs had been things like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films, Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman, and there had been lows, like Albert Pyun’s Captain America. It used to be that to have a successful comic movie you had to satisfy the comic fans, which the more recent Marvel films have changed, by turning almost everyone into a comic film fan, but by staying true to the character or the aesthetic of a film, you could have a winner… and director Robert Rodriguez is well aware of that.

He also knows that comic creator Frank Miller, the mind behind the world of Sin City, has been through the Hollywood machine, and did not enjoy it. Rodriguez did not want to do this movie without Frank Miller on board, and so pursued Miller, including making a short film called ‘The Customer is Always Right’ to convince him that the look of the comic could be done. Using the actual graphic novels as script and storyboards, the duo created a movie that is literally every comic panel come alive, albeit with a few small trims. Every angle, every effect is all done exactly to the comic’s specifications, which, at first may not seem that spectacular, but when you consider it is a black and white comic, with an occasional splash of color, it is incredible. The monochromic look was achieved by having all performances done in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds added later. This way, Rodriguez’s digital prowess could accurately create the unique look which is exactly what something based on Millar’s vision required.

One thing that I will point out that Rodriguez did here that pretty much NO other filmmaker has done when adapting a comic is keeping accurate to the source material. It seems every Hollywood director and writer and designer needs to put THEIR own stamp on the films they make, but here, Rodriguez realised the source material was solid, and didn’t need to have his personality and ideas littering it up like the Marvel and DC films have had. There was a few colour choices that were made but they were more to define comics ideas that don’t work outside of the pages of a graphic novel.

Also, in the comics, Nancy’s dance sequences were all topless, but either Jessica Alba didn’t want to do it or they wanted to avoid a higher rating, her boobs are covered.

Just as a quick side note, Miller is a big fan of the work of Will Eisner, specifically the character The Spirit, a character he himself made a… well, not very good film of, and the noirish, city-as-a-character theme plays highly in his stories.i like Miller’s writing, but his art style usually isn’t my bag, like his sketchy style used in`his 80s run of Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns and 300, but I loved his treatment of chiaroscuro in his Sin City books, originally published by Dark Horse under their ‘Legend’ imprint, which is also where Hellboy came from.

The story is about Sin City…a town of roughnecks, hookers, maniacs and corrupt cops. Follow stories of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Dwight (Clive Owen) as they cut violent paths of collateral damage through the denizens of the town to achieve their goals.

This edition of the Australian Bluray of the films comes with 2 versions of the film… well, kinda-sorta. The individual tales that are mixed up within the movie have been recut and watched as four separate mini-features… like novellas… titled That Yellow Bastard, The Customer is Always Right, The Hard Goodbye and The Big Fat Kill. It’s a cool and interesting way to split up the stories.

Featuring a massive ensemble cast of movie stars, including Rutgers Hauer, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Benicia Del Toro and many others… including Frank Miller himself, and an entire scene directed by Quentin Tarantino!

Welcome to Sin City: don’t forget to buckle up!

Score: ****

Format: This film is presented in a stunning 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty cool bunch of extra in this package.

Disc one has the main release of the film on it, but in addition, a branching version of the film where special effects details can be seen whilst watching the film, and there are three commentary tracks, the first is with Rodriguez and. Idler, the second is with Rodriguez and Tarantino and the final one has the audience reaction to the film at an early screening. The two commentaries are fascinating and each cover different sides of the making of films in general.

Kill ‘Em Good: Interactive Comic Book which is essential a pretty cheap, Bluray based video game similar to something like Dragon’s Lair where being quick with the buttons is the way to win.

How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film looks at what Rodriguez did to convince Miller to allow him to make the film.

Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino looks at the relationship between Tarantino and Rodriguez and how they came to work together in this project.

Hard Top with a Decent Engine: the Cars of Sin City has us see the amazing vehicles used for the citizens of Sin City to drive. Car fans would love this.

Booze, Braids and Guns: The Props of Sin City looks at the cool amount of props collected for the film and the dedication to getting comic accuracy.

Making the Monsters: The Special Effects Make Uo is always my favourite part of any ‘extras’ section of a film, and this didn’t disappoint, especially considering most of it was done by Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead.

Trench Coats and Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City looks at the outfits and costume design of the film.

There’s also a teaser and a trail for the film… and then we get into the real fun part: The Rodriguez Special Features, which include:

15 Minute Flic School is an occasional series where Rodriguez shows tricks of the filmmaking trade.

The All Green Screen version is the entire film all played without any off the special effects, sped up about 800 times and it’s interesting what they were able to accomplish!

The Long Take looks at the way Quentin Tarantino directed Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro in the scene he filmed and because it was shot on digital they could continuously shoot so you see al the direction and discussion.

Sin City: Live in Concert is footage from a concert with Bruce Willis and the Accelerators, and Rodriguez’s band Chingon.

10 Minute Cooking School is another staple/ irregular series that Rodriguez does, this time its the recipe for Sin City Breakfast Tacos!

Score: *****

WISIA: One of the best comic to film productions ever, AND a kick ass gangster film in its own right. You’ll watch it agin and again and again.

Slender Man (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Slender Man (2018)

Film: One of the things I love about DVD and Bluray covers, are the blurbs lifted from reviews to and add hype to a movie’s home video release. This blurb is also a poker-styled ‘tell’ of what reviewers I can trust, and those I can’t. This film, Slender Man, has a comment by a fellow human that this film is ‘Scary, chilling and thrilling’.

Sure, a provocative note like this could inspire people to buy the home video release, but what eventually happens is the viewer realises that the reviewer quoted may have been misquoted or has NEVER seen another film in their life, and possibly spent their entire life in a movie and TV-less existence.

Slender Man is based on the supernatural character created as a meme by Victor Surge, aka Eric Knudsen in 2009, which spawned video games, YouTube videos, influenced Minecraft with its ‘Enderman’ character and tragically, resulted in some real-life violence. The character has also appeared in all sorts of other media, from My Little Pony to Big Mouth.

It would appear that the makers of this film like nothing more that jumping into a phase that pop culture was going through far too late, and 2018 gave us this movie, Slender Man, written by David Birke (13 Sins, Gacy) and directed by Sylvain White, who also directed comic-book movie, The Losers, and the sequel I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer.

The story follows four teenage girls, Wren (Joey King), Hallie (Julie Goldani Telles), Chloe (Jaz Sinclair and Katie (Annalise Basso) who decide one night to do some research into an urban legend known as ‘Slender Man’. Eventually they find a video that claims that after you’ve watched it, and heard the three bells, the Slender Man will come for you.

Of course, the girls watch it and within a day, Katie goes missing, but what happened to her? The other girls start an investigation into where she went, but slowly they discover that the creature is pursuing them, and the friendship begins to fall apart…

One thing you’ll immediately notice from that synopsis is the blatant rip-off… I’m sorry, ‘homage’… of the film The Ring, with a peppering of Candyman sprinkled over the top. These sorts of things happen in horror all the time, and in actual fact the entire genre is built upon ‘borrowing’ good ideas and this is not the main problem with the film.

White’s direction of most of the action is pretty good itself, but it didn’t need to be so dark.

No, the main problem with the film is the casting. Outside of the cast of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, I don’t think I’ve ever been presented with such a bunch of unlikable characters in my life. I’m not sure if it was White’s intention to present these kids as bored and disinterested, but they barely seem concerned for either their own or their friend’s wellbeing, which of course makes it impossible for the viewer to give a flying fandango as to whether they survive or not. This of course is a major issue because if you don’t care for the protagonist, you have no investment in the film.

…and honestly, I wish NO ONE had invested in this film.

I really can’t stress enough how much one should avoid this film. I own a lawn vacuum that doesn’t suck and blow as much as this film does.

Score: 1/2

Format: I found the image of this film to be SO dark that it can ONLY be watched in a room that has absolutely NO light source coming from anywhere at all, and had to adjust the contract a little even to watch it at night. The film is apparently presented in 2.39:1 image, but you can hardly tell. The audio is really good though and is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with a trailer for Insidious: The Last Key, which is perfect for this film as it also, is made for mainstream kids, boring as batshit, by the numbers horror. This trailer is also accessible from the Extras menu… if for some reason you felt the need to watch it again.

The only other extra is called Summoning Slender Man: Meet the Cast is exactly what the title would suggest. It’s interviews with the young cast and the director as they desperately try to sell a turd and pretend it’s a piece of gold.

Score: *

WISIA: Nope.

The Commuter (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Commuter (2018)

Film: Now and again, I am more than happy to watch a generic, by-the-numbers thriller. Something that doesn’t tax the brain but can provide a generic amount of thrills to keep me interested.

You know the score already, it’s that post-Speed plot that is used, and used, and used in every quick buck, single location, Liam Neeson starring film. There’s a secret something that our hero has to has to uncover before insert-the-vehicle-here stops finally at its destination. I’m not criticising the plot, but it’s nothing original.

The film was directed by The Orphan’s Jaume Collet-Serra, who has a really interesting eye for some sequences, with a story by Ryan Engle (writer of Non-Stop and kind of proving my point), Brian Willinger and Phillip de Blasi.

Our film opens the daily life of ex-cop Michael MacCauley (surprise! Liam Neeson), now an insurance sales person who on this particular day is going to have a vastly different day to all those other ones.

Today, Michael has been sacked from his job and has been manipulated to be on a particular train at a particular time, and he finds himself sitting opposite Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who claims to be interested in the human condition and discusses some psychology with him that involves hypothetical proposition that actually ends up being a real proposition: find someone on a train, drop a GPS tracker in their bag and receive $100,000. The problem is that no-one knows what the person looks like, only that they are carrying a bag, and are getting off at a particular stop.

Being desperate, Michael accepts the ‘job’ and the investigation begins, but as you expect, he can’t ask for outside help and definitely can’t report it to the police, which he does, to his ex-partner, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), he realised that he is being constantly watched, and all of the sudden, Michael realises he’s in total jeopardy, and can barely trust anyone, except maybe the other regular commuters he sees every day.

Sure enough, the stakes get higher as Michael threatens to refuse to play…

The film cleverly shows the boredom and regimen of the daily commute, and how boring and repetitive those of us who have a ‘joe’ job exist from day to day, and the almost Michel Gendry way of showing the slightly differing repetition was disturbingly familiar. This, of course, juxtaposes itself brilliantly with just how screwed up Michael’s day becomes.

The only real problem I had with the story, other than it being a very familiar basic plot, is the solution to Neeson’s conundrum is actually fairly clearly shown in the early parts of the film and is quite clearly telegraphed, to the point his inability to work it out… and then miraculously figure it out make it quite frustrating, especially considering he used to be a police officer!

There’s some pretty cool big parts played by big names too, and Sam Neill as a New York police captain came as a big surprise. Also, keep an eye out for Black Panther’s Shuri, aka Letitia Wright, in a tiny bit part.

All in all a well made film with some action movie favourites in cast and stunts which all make for an easy 100 odd minute distraction. Nothing new, and you’ll forget about it in a week like that other action film… you know the one: what’s it called again?

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which was presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching 7.1 Dolby Atmos surround audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a only couple of extras on this disc. One is an interview with Liam Neeson and the other a tiny barely two minute piece about the making of the film.

Score: **

WISIA: As these film are so cookie cutter and generic, it is easy to watch, and probably easy to rewatch. The cast are likeable as well so that heads me towards a rewatch too.

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.

Avengers (2012)

Avengers (2012)

Film: I started my horror and comic journey at about the same time.

As a kid, my dad, every Saturday, would take me to the local newsagency in Thirroul, NSW and when he grabbed his Sunday paper, he’d buy me either a comic, or an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland. We moved away from that town, and the new place’s local newsagency only had comic, so for several years my monster love was reduced to either Godzilla films on Saturday afternoons, or the various horror comics from Marvel or DC (or their local reprinters like Newton Comics would do), or if I was lucky, a Vampirella.

Comics became my big bag until video stores emerged a few years later, and I loved them dearly. As a kid I was all about Aquaman or Captain Marvel (now known as Shazam!) with an occasional Hulk or Spiderman comic, and maybe an Archie or two, but in the 80s I became a full-tilt, no holds barred Marvel zombie, and the Fantastic Four, the X-men and the Avengers became everything I needed. I even entertained dreams of become a comic writer or artist one day.

I still have a gigantic comic ‘universe’ in my head that I’d like to do one day.

Anyway, the Avengers comics of that period were amazing, and I never believed we would ever see a movie based on them.

… and then the Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off!

The MCU, as you should all know, is a juggernaut of a movies series starring all the Marvel heroes… well most of them except for the ones licensed to other companies(well except for Spiderman, but that’s another story), is what seems to be a bunch of individual movies, but in actual fact is the greatest, biggest budget soap operas in the history of entertainment.

This film, The Avengers, takes placed directly after 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and was written and directed by Josh Whedon, from a story developed by himself and Zak Penn.

The Avengers is the culmination of the previous films and here, the heroes, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo and a HUGE team of CGI effects people) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) join together to fight against Thor’s brother, the charismatic and deceitful Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has stolen a powerful, seemingly mystical item known as the Tesseract, from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his agents of SHIELD, including Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders).

SO the battle to retrieve the item begins, but what the Avengers and SHIELD don’t realise is, is that Loki has an ally in the alien race known as the Chitauri, who wait in another dimension to create Hell on earth if they aren’t stopped…

That comic collecting kid in me loves this movie, even though it does, like most of the films, take a few liberties from the source material, like the absence of Ant Man and the Wasp (who were founding members), and the early joining of Captain America (who didn’t become an Avenger until issue 4 of the comic). They do however do some fun stuff that pays homage to the comics, like Hawkeye’s turn as a bad guy (he was originally an Iron Man villain of sorts) and dodgy and adversarial combination of characters, which the early Avengers comics played upon to be a contrast to the ‘family’ vibe of Marvel’s first group comic, the Fantastic Four.

I also liked Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/ The Hulk, so Ruffalo’s replacement of him came as a surprise, but Ruffalo’s a charismatic actor, so it was easily overlooked. What wasn’t easily overlooked was the continued employment of the terrible, B-movie soap actor made good, Chris Hemsworth, who doesn’t seem able to rise to the occasion when dealing with far greater actors and comes across as a pantomime version of the character he is supposed to be portraying. At least Downey Jr and Jackson are playing themselves as they basically always have, and they are such cinematic legends, they can get away with it.

My only other criticism is a criticism I have of most modern day superheroes, and that is that it’s apparently just fine to be a killer with no regard for human life, but that’s not a criticism of this film, just of comic films, and comics in general.

The film clicks along at a brilliant pace and is a visual spectacle, and the story is pure comic book, which is exactly what it requires to be successful. Whedon clearly loves his comics books and the respect he has for the characters is clear. His strength is also team dynamics, which is apparent from his previous experience with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly.

This first Avengers movie is a fun rollicking adventure, which only relies on a couple of films worth of back story rather than the gigantic amount the later films suffer from, which become almost unwatchable by themselves as individual movies anymore.

Score: *****

Format: This release has the film in three formats: in 3D, a normal bluray and a digital copy. The film was reviewed on the regular bluray and was presented in a flawless 1.78:1 image with an epic Dolby Digital 7.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc starts with an ad for an app called Marvel Avenger’s Alliance.

There are a bunch of cool extras on this disc:

Marvel One Shot: Item 47 is a short that Marvel used to do on their home video releases but unfortunately stopped. This is a cool one about a couple of thieves who have ended up with a Chitauri weapon and decide to use it for their own benefit… but don’t think SHIELD will be quite down with that. Much like one of the others focuses on Agent Coulson, this one gives Jasper Sitwell a go at being a hero… well before we find out the horrible truth about him in a later movie.

Gag Reel is just that, but back before they became contrived an unfunny, like they did on the later releases of other Marvel films.

Deleted Scenes has 8 deleted scenes, none of which are missed, but are interesting to see, particularly the Maria Hill interrogation stuff.

A Visual Journey is clearly the making of the film and only runs for 6 minutes. Shame, as I reckon a film this big deserves a little more than just a few minutes.

Score: ****

WISIA: It makes me cry with joy pretty much well every time I watch it, which is frequently.

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

One from the re watch pile…

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Film: Imagine a world in which The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Leatherface: A Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Texas Chainsaw 4: A New Generation, the remake and The Beginning were never made. Now, whilst you are in that mindset, pretend the original was set sometime in 1988 and this film, Texas Chainsaw 3D (or Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D as the actual film title says) is the first sequel. Actually, a couple of gravestone dates are deliberately obscured to suit this exact purpose. Cinema is all about ‘pretending’, so that should all be easy! Clearly, the idea that this is the first sequel would suggest that more are to come, which the producer expresses in one of the featurettes in the extras.

Texas Chainsaw 3D starts just hours after the original TCM, with the local police going to the Sawyer house to apprehend ol’ Leatherface. The family is willing to give him up, but then a posse of rednecked locals arrive, and after a gunfight, they burn the house down with all the family members inside. One of the survivors was a baby, stolen by a member of the posse and raised as his own.

Jump forward to now, and we are introduced to Heather (Alexandra Daddario), who discovers she has inherited some property in Texas. She, along with boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine ‘Trey Songz’ Neverson), friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde), her potential boyfriend Kenny (Keram Malicki- Sanchez) and a hitchhiker they have picked up, Darryl (Shaun Sipos), travel to claim her inheritance, but it comes with a price! Typically, the kids are picked off one-by-one, but the story doesn’t end there. Sometimes small towns have horrible secrets that deserve vengeance. The sort of vengeance that only a giant, mentally stunted man armed with a chainsaw can dish out…

Now I was always a Friday the 13th guy as far as the big franchised horror films went, so I was never too high and mighty about the Chainsaw series (or Halloween for that matter) and honestly, I think the original TCM, whilst it has its place in cinematic history, is not my cup of tea. I thought it was badly paced at times, to the point if boredom, and I just can’t get by the annoying character of Franklin. Every time he opens his mouth I wanna go and park my car in a handicapped zone!

Also, before I continue, I must profess to have not watched this film in 3D. I don’t like the 3D gimmick in films as it suggests to me the film needs a little something extra due to the plot being a little lacklustre, like Friday the 13th 3D or Avatar. Besides, if I wanted things thrown at me, I’d take up sports instead of being a dyed in the wool home video fan!

Contrary to what I just said about thin plots in 3D movies, this script is solid once you ignore the existence of the sequels, and the warped time frame, though it does fall back on the usual frustrating horror trappings occasionally (call the cops, don’t go in the basement etc). It’s no King Lear, but as a horror franchise sequel it does attempt to think outside of the box, which gives it an identity of its own. The film flip flops in the middle and becomes a completely different animal!

There is a lot of stuff inspired by other films in here as well, with elements of Psycho, Humungous and other films mildly suggested. The script also telegraphs a lot of its final elements, but they do end satisfactorily. The wink at fans of the Saw films is a bit of a laugh as well.

The cast all perform adequately. Alexandra Daddario as Heather makes for a vulnerable yet headstrong lead who adapts to a situation quickly, and she’s as hot as the sun. The rest of the cast play their roles well enough, and the new Leatherface, Dan Yeager, is as intimidating as a good psychotic nut job with a chainsaw should be. The fun thing about this film is some of the original cast turning up to play other members of the family (in the case of Gunnar Hanson and Marilyn Burns), reprising the same role (John Dugan as Grandpa) or other sequel cast playing original cast members ( ex- Chop-Top Bill Moseley playing the deceased Jim Siedow’s character).

The director also appreciates where his new toy came from, and there a Hell of a lot of homages to the original: armadillos, deep freezers, meat hooks, ‘chuk-owwwwww’ camera noises and red shorts will all make TCM fans point and explain to non-fans what they are there for. It’s a bit of unnecessary fan-service, but a hoot, nevertheless.

Gore fans will also appreciate the effects Texas Chainsaw 3D. Most are done practically and are not light on the red stuff as Leatherface cuts through his victims in a variety of gruesome ways.

All in all, it’s not a bad pic, though anyone who is a fan of any of the sequels will feel somewhat ripped off by the complete dumping of what is supposed to be cinematic legacy. I have no problem with that though and enjoyed this film for what it is: a franchised sequel made for masses of new horror fans, with a few tips of the hat at the older ones so as not to completely piss them off. Will it be regarded as a horror classic? Doubtful, but as a no-frills slasher pic, it’s enjoyable.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This Blu-ray Disc looks and sounds fantastic. The image is presented in an impeccable high definition 1.78:1 image and the sound, which is fantastic, is presented in HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc blesses the fans with three commentaries. The first is with producer Carl Mazzacone and original director Tobe Hooper, and they discuss the technical elements of the original film and the adaptation to 3D of some of the original elements. Hooper also seems to really endorse this film, but the skeptic in me says that if you throw a bucket of money at anyone they’ll endorse anything. The second commentary is moderated by DVD producer and filmmaker Michael Felcher, with original TCM cast members Gunnar Hanson, Marilyn Burns, Bill Moseley and John Dugan. This is a less informative, but amusing commentary by a bunch of people who have a legacy and have obviously spent a lot of time together discussing this film. The last commentary is by new Leatherface Dan Yeager and director John Luessenhop and is mostly about the making of the new film, which is informative, but nowhere near as fun as the other two.

Unfortunately, several times during these commentaries, they speak of deleted scenes being featured on the eventual DVD/ Bluray release, but they are not featured on this Blu-ray Disc.

There are also a series of short featurettes:

Casting Terror looks at each main cast member and the role that they play.

It’s In The Meat is all about the practical special effects, and for those who are wondering, one of the SFX guys says ‘CGI can go fuck itself.’

Leather face 2013 focuses on the man in the mask and the actor that plays him, Dan Yeager.

Lights Camera Massacre focuses on the 3D camerawork.

Resurrecting the Saw looks at the process the film producers went through to get the rights, and the ‘right’ story for this new TCM. One of the cool things about this particular featurette is one of the writers’ criticism of the Hollywood machine and its ability to churn out repetitive crap that doesn’t aim to be something higher. Interesting that one of the writers says that, when the producer flat out expresses his desire to create a new franchise.

Texas Chainsaw Legacy interviews original cast and crew members, who give their opinion of their collective legacy.

The Old Homestead looks at the recreation of the original house, and what the original cast think of how well it has been recreated.

Honestly, all these mini features could have been put together to make one really cool 90 odd minutes making of, but still each one was interesting and fun.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’d like to say that any rewatchability comes from a strong script or an impressive direction, but I keep coming back to this for Alexandra Daddario. Sorry.

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!