BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF THE NASTY

The Art of the Nasty by Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris

My horror addiction doesn’t just stop at DVDs and Blurays (and a very small quantity of laserdisc and VHS), I also have a far-too-large collection of horror related toys, novels, board games, video games and comics, but my favourite non-plastic disc collectables are my books ABOUT horror films especially of they take a specific aspect of horror cinema and completely dissect it. At the top of those books that sit amongst my favourites is the wonderful second edition of Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris’s The Art of the Nasty.

The book looks at the ‘Video Nasty’ part of England’s VHS and cinema history. Honestly if you are a horror fan and don’t know about this or at the very least haven’t seen the documentary Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide perhaps you should go outside and shake yourself, and then look it up before reading any further, but here’s a quick recap anyway: in the late 70s/ early 80s in the UK, during the rise of VHS, the politicians and media got stuck into home cinema because of the sex and violence contained within, and this may have been due to the way they were advertised and their lurid, and occasionally misleading covers which singled them out and basically lead to massive cuts as the British Board of Film Censorship (known as the BBFC, and the latter letter eventually changed to mean Classification) flexed its muscles and went on a cut-fest.

That’s basically what happened but obviously there is a HELL of a lot more to it. The effects are felt still today, as some films that have been released in other parts of the world uncut are still edited in the UK; Shameless’s The New York Ripper being a standout.

Anyway, this book is a celebration of the VHS covers of the time and just how the sex and violence of the contents were used to sell the film, seeing as how the covers were the ONLY selling point back in the non-internet days. Wingrove speaks from a firsthand experience in a lot of this, seeing as how he founded Redemption Films and Salvation Group and created the online experience Satanic Sluts. He also had his film, Visions of Ecstasy, refused distribution on the grounds of blasphemy!! His co-author, Marc Morris is a historian and broadcaster who mainly writes books about the middle ages, but also assisted Francis Brewster and Harvey Fenton with the book ‘Shock! Horror!’ another book about the art of the Nasty VHS.

The books opens with 2 forwards, titled The Nasties: A Personal View by Wingrove, one from the original edition from 1998 and the other more recently in 2009. The two forewards are definitely necessary as post-millennium so many previously banned films have been released, mostly completely uncut, and Wingrove discusses the change opinions in the new one.

The book then breaks down into chapter relating to different aspects of the Nasties. The Official Nasties, which covers the 39 films deemed obscene by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Nasties On Parole, which are the ones the DPP couldn’t get a conviction, Nasties – The Ones That Got Away, which are ones that completely avoided the DPP’s eye, Nice and Sleazy Does It, which looks at covers from the pre-certification era of VHS and finally The Good, The Bad and the Vomit-Inducing which is described as the best of the rest, still sleazy, but not to the extent of some of the others. The book concludes with a Video Company Listing which lists VHS companies and the films they released: essential reading for UK VHS collectors.

The book is, as you would expect, lavishly illustrated with some of the most striking images of VHS releases of the time and really, even as a devout horror collector, I am surprised by some of the images on these VHS covers (I don’t object to them, I just am surprised that middle class shop owners of the less-permissive early 80s would have allowed these images on shelves in their shops!!). All the images have a small blurb which tells the Original Title of the film, its country of origin, the director, the year and time and the video label that released that particular version. There is also a supportive paragraph which describes what the film was about and any interesting situations in which the film may have been involved. If I am to pass any criticism of this book, it is in these paragraphs as mostly I wanted more… but then again, the book is about the images, and essentially I can research any film on which I wish to gain more knowledge.

Each page also has a contextual historical snippet to show what was happening in the world at the time, which whilst not entirely necessary, is an interesting idea as it shows, now and again, what was happening in politics and other areas of pop culture at the time. It is a nice garnish to the feast that is the images and their accompanying text.

On the whole, this book is a horror gem, as inadvertently becomes a GREAT support to the aforementioned Video Nasties doco. It is well written and the bold images are an absolute treat!

Rating: *****

Evil Dead (2013)

One from the rewatch pile…

Evil Dead (2013)

Film: Sometimes the tone of a film is really what makes it. Films like I Spit On Your Grave achieve what they set out to do by having the correct attitude, and succeed because of it. Sam Raimi’s original Evil Dead succeeded not just for its gory setpieces and crazy storyline, but also because of its chutzpah and the wry sense of humour, which at its core has the blackest of hearts. For me, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, the FIRST Evil Dead remake, made that black humour far too obvious and slapstick, and fails because of it.

This film suffers the exact opposite: its failure lies in that it takes itself FAR too seriously.

Mia (Jane Levy) is a drug addict, and her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez) along with friends Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci), Olivia (Jessica Lucas) and Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore)  have taken her to her family’s secluded cabin, in the woods, to help her dry out and support her through the coming down process.

What they find when they get there though, is that the cabin has been broken into, and some ritual performed in the basement. Eric finds a book, wrapped in plastic and bound in barbed wire, and curiosity being what it is, opens the book.

We all know what curiosity kills though, and after Eric reads a passage in the book, weird things start to happen. Is Mia’s coming down tougher than they all thought, or has something taken her… something that wants to swallow their souls…

Straight up I have to compliment director Fede Alvarez on the direction of the film. Whilst it may not have some of the innovation brought on by budgetary constraints that Raimi had to deal with, it is at times breathtaking. He managed to keep the film quite timeless by not having a load of current gadgets and by giving it that washed out ‘sepia’ look. Initially, the level of gore that has been reached made the little gorehound, hidden deep inside me, stand up and applaud, and more than once, cringe… which rarely happens these days.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where my interest in it stops.

The script was OK, but essentially the plotline is rehashed from the original, but updated to suit more current moviegoers attitudes, and with a few deliberate twists thrown it to throw fans of the original off. This is something that perpetually annoys me about remakes: the need to turn a story on its head JUST for the sake of being different. This is little more than a writer’s ploy to say he put ‘his’ mark on the film.

Sorry guys, but putting butter UNDER my popcorn doesn’t make me an innovator.

Of course, the film is full of those ‘fan service’ bits where iconic imagery from the original pop up for no reason other than to make you remember this is a remake, and not an homage or a flat out rip off.

The characters were photocopies of each other, and really any of them could have said each other’s dialogue and you wouldn’t have even noticed. This was made even more apparent by average performances, except for the one executed by Lou Taylor Pucci, whose performance was so annoying I considered punching the chips out of my television.

The real problem with this film though, lies in the fact that it didn’t ‘get’ the first Evil Dead. I stated earlier that I initially enjoyed the gore, but when you batter a viewer with non stop images of it, eventually the old brain starts to stop being shocked. Raimi’s Evil Dead understood that to make the violence and gore more shocking, you need shades of light and dark within the entire tone of the film. Raimi himself failed this uneasy balancing act with too much light in Evil Dead 2, and this film fails with its constant darkness. The original film had the idea of friends on a holiday to give the film some levity, but with idea that the friends are helping one of their own overcome a drug addiction, the story starts in a dark place, and doesn’t allow for any variation.

The last thing that really rubbed my rhubarb the wrong way here was the appearance of the ‘buried’ demon. Seriously, since the exposure to the Western world of Eastern films, particularly that of ‘ j-horror’, demon possession designers have gotten lazy, and I assumed I had fallen asleep, and someone had changed the disc I was watching to that of The Ring, or The Grudge, or any one of the other scary, black haired girl ghost films.

I really wanted to like this film, and honestly, the gore level almost fooled me into thinking it was a good film, but it’s not. The violence level is of what a good horror fan would want, but without levels of light, it’s just a barrage that eventually become overwhelming, and dare I say it boring and disappointing.

This, the SECOND remake of Evil Dead suffers from the same thing that the first remake, Evil Dead 2, suffers from, but from a polar opposite point of view. If you could take this FAR too dark remake and mix it with Evil Dead 2’s high level of levity you’d have a spectacular film. Wait a second… that already happened: it’s a film called The Evil Dead, directed by Sam Raimi. Watch that instead: it’s the best of both worlds.

Score: **1/2

Format: The sound and picture quality of this disc are outstanding. The picture is presented in Hi-def 2.39:1 widescreen and the sound punches you in the head with a Dts-HD 5.1 track that has some pretty amazing levels to it.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s some ok extras on this disc!

Commentary by actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas with Director Alvarez and writer Rodo Satagues is pretty good, and most of their recollections are either informative or amusing.

Directing the Dead is a look at what processes director Alvarez used to make the film, and get performances from the cast.

Evil Dead the Reboot has interviews with Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell about being convinced to do a remake… sorry, a ‘reboot’, and with Alvarez and Sayagues about approaching a cult favourite and the risks therein.

Making Life Difficult discusses how psychologically hard it was for the actors to film the intensity of a film such as this.

Unleashing the Evil Force talks about the lore of the Book of the Dead.

Being Mia follows Jane Levy around on a day on the set, and looks at some of the tortures the director put her through… actually, a lot of the extras are very Levy Heavy, so the producers must have decided she is the Next Big Thing.

Previews starts with a trailer promoting Bluray as a format (hot tip idiots: I’m watching a Bluray disc, so I possibly already know about it) before giving us trailers for Django Unchained, After Earth, This Is The End, White House Down and Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore.

Score: ****

WISIA: There is enough gore to keep me going back, so yeah, I’ll watch it more than once!

Poltergeist (2015)

One from the rewatch pile…

Poltergeist (2015)

Film: So as cinema fans we have decided that remakes are something that we will no longer completely argue about as there have been enough good ones and enough bad ones for both sides of the conversation to have ammunition in a non-winnable war, but now, the detractors have a new weapon, a carpet bombing, nuclear, anthrax-filled, DNA bomb that will melt the argument of remake fans.

That weapon is the turd laden, disappointment fuelled crapfest known forever more as the Poltergeist remake.

This hunk o’junk was directed by Gil Kenan, whose previous efforts were the kid’s movies Monster House, which was pretty good, and City of Ember, but essentially we have a kid’s film director remaking one of the great all time horror films. It was written by David Linday-Abaire, who did the screenplay for Robots, Inkheart, Rise of the Guardians and Oz, The Great and Powerful, so again, another family film maker attempting to ‘reboot’, ‘redux’ or ‘reimagine’ a classic.

Sigh.

I assume you all know the story but this has a few tweaks, so I’ll share those with you. The Bowen family have moved into a new, cheaper house as dear old dad, Eric (Sam Rockwell) was made redundant from his job at John Deere. He’s moved with wife Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt), and three kids, Madison (Kennedi Clements), Kendra (Saxon Sharbino) and Griffin (Kyle Catlett) in a new house. Very quickly though, they find there is something wrong with the house… Something supernatural… And when Carolanne… Sorry, Madison, is stolen by the evil entities living in her closet, the family enlist help of a seemingly useless university paranormal investigation team and a television psychic, Carrigan Burke (Jared Harris), but will they all be able to retrieve her, or has she, and the entire cast”s acting careers, been lost forever.

Now in the throes of writing for various websites over the last 20 odd years (yep, still plugging away for no financial reward…sigh), I’ve sat through some absolute dire films in the name of cinematic, journalistic integrity, but never have I sat through such a waste of time, talent and resources. I actually should have watched it twice but I decided that seeing as how I’d already sat through the extended cut, there was no reason to poison myself again with a shorter, more incomplete film, I mean, you wouldn’t take half a dump, right?

Honestly, the only thing I can compliment this film on is one element of the production design, specifically the undulating, Croenenberg via Fulci look of the ghost world, as far as the rest of it though, well, my problems with this film lie in three measures, and I shall break them down individually.

First, the cast. I really like Sam Rockwell, and even when he is in dire rubbish like Charlie’s Angels, he stands out as a scene stealer, but here he appears to be collecting a weekly cheque, or his Downers have really kicked in, and he just fades into the background. The others are just terrible, and the director doesn’t seem to know how to get good performances out if any of them, and they all trudge through this mess like they are being forced to be there. Jared Harris normally stands out as well, and does here but it is due to his accent rather than his performance. It seems the director has no idea how to get actors to act and what he has achieved is the very definition of generic characterisations.

Second, the script. A director can perform his craft better if he has a decent script, and here he doesn’t. The story starts quickly and uses a few of the trappings of the original, but then it has jumps in the narrative that are awkward, and characters that change at the drop of a hat, making them nonsensical, not to mention a paranormal team that don’t share every scrap of information that they have experienced with each other. Their equipment is also eye rolling, especially the iPad controlled drone that is sent in to find Madison in the ghost world. At first I thought it was a cool idea, until the controls were handed to Griffin, the ten year old boy, to fly into the void. By the way, if I were watching images sent back from limbo of the tortured souls within, I’d probably react, rather than watch it like a repeat of the most boring of Richard Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries.

A lot if the script just doesn’t ring true, and even in the most fantastic of fantasies, lore and truth of the story must prevail or it becomes hard to swallow, and it happens so frequently in this film that it’s the size of a horse sedative.

Finally, the overall production design. In a post Paranormal Activity/ The Ring world, making a film about hauntings has its own visual language, but guess what: that doesn’t mean you have to adhere to it. This film has a complete lack of a visual originality.  All the flags are raised here: blue tinted imagery, little black haired girls, grabbed by your leg and pulled up the stairs, bubbling black ‘stuff’  from the ground. Even a casual horror fan, who may be suckered in completely by all these modern haunting films, would sit with arms crossed, and be able to identify from where each bit was stolen! Sure, it’s a remake so clearly originality HAS to as issue, but the good remakes generally distance themselves from the original to get a look of its own. This distances itself from the original by using all the looks from the post The Ring ghost films.

I really can’t advise you against this film enough, and have a slew of casual horror friends who have told me not to see it but I didn’t listen to their advice, but I expect that you all should listen to me: do not waste your time watching this film. The only thing wrong with this film is everything.

Just a horrible, horrible waste of a film. Don’t see this, please. I have thrown myself on a grenade for you, don’t make my sacrifice in vain.

Score: *

Format: One positive thing I can say about this disc is how well it is presented. The film is in 2.40:1 with a 5.1 and a 7.1 soundtrack (I reviewed this on the 5.1) and as one would expect from a film of this era, it is perfect. In addition to 2 versions of the film, the disc also features the 3D version of film.

Score: *****

Extras: The extras, like the film, are a pile of rubbish. An alternate ending, which is almost as stupid as the original one, a stills gallery, which is an extra that never fails to infuriate me, and 2 trailers, which in their favour make the film look like it is going to be mildly entertaining.

Score: *

WISIA: No, thousand times, no.

Ready or Not (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Ready or Not (2019)

Ready or Not – Australian Bluray release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The family, ready for the hunt!

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

Only time will tell!

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****1/2

The menu screen to Ready or Not

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

Score: *****

Extras: Some great extras on this disc:

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

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

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

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

Red Band Trailer is exactly what you think it is!

Score: *****

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

Sometimes the help NEEDS help!

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The Bluray cover to The Dead Don’t Die

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

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

The loveable constabulary of Centerville: Adam Driver and Bill Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***1/2

The menu screen for The Dead Don’t Die

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

Score: *****

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

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

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

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

Score: **

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

Fashion Zombies! Kill ‘em in the head!

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***1/3

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

Score: *****

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

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

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

The extras on the disc are pretty cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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

Maniac (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

Maniac (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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

Score: *****

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

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

Score: **

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

The Addams Family (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Addams Family (2019)

The Addams Family Australian Bluray cover

Film: So this review has started,

I’m afraid I was disheartened,

so bad that I was startled,

by The Addams Family

Dahdahdahdah *click click*

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

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

Ok, seeing as how you asked nicely…

A young Morticia and Gomez share a wedding kiss

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Assimilation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: *1/2

The menu screen for The Addams Family Bluray

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

Score: *****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***

WISIA: *dahdahdahdah Heck, No!

Morticia is horrified by Wednesday’s fashion choices.

Countdown (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Countdown (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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

Score: *****

Extras: No extras for you!

Score: 0

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

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

One from the to watch pile…

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***

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

Score: ****1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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