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!

Venom (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Venom (2018)

Film: Yep, I was there at the start.

For me, the 80s were when the best Marvel comics were made: John Byrne’s Fantastic Four run, Mike Zeck’s Captain America run and easily some of the best Spiderman comics ever made, and in those pages, a great, monstrous character was born: Venom!

The character was a combination of an alien suit/ symbiotic organism that Spiderman had acquired on an alien planet during the so-called Secret Wars and a news photographer that had been exposed as a fraud. Together they were a deadly monster of the likes comics had never seen, but bringing the character to the screen accurately has been difficult due to the ‘ownership’ by Sony of the character in movie form.

Even though a deal was come to to put Spiderman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I assume slipping Venom into that series hasn’t been a priority. What do you do with a character like Venom if the rest of the Marvel Universe is such a important part of his origin?

Well you basically create a brand new character and start again!

Venom starts with a crash landing of a rocket ship that has 5 alien symbiotes on board, collected from a comet. The owner of the ship, millionaire entrepreneur and total dickweed Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) desperately tries to reclaim the creatures but only manages to find three… of the remaining two, one begins its own journey that is revisited later in the film. (The other? Well Venom 2 needs a plot, right?)

Meanwhile, knockabout badboy journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has an assignment where he is going to help Drake look good after the crashing of the ship… a puff piece, if you will… but Eddie has other plans as there are many rumours that Drake is a not a great guy and his pharmaceutical company experiments on live human subjects. He manages to find out this info by looking at private documents on his fiancé, Anne’s (Michelle Williams) computer, as she is a lawyer working for Drake’s firm.

He verbally attacks Drake during the interview and the aftermath of that is that his life goes south, as he loses his job and his girl when she is also sacked for revealing secrets.

Meanwhile Drake HAS been experimenting with the symbiotes on live humans and discovers most of them consume the host they acquire, but one of his scientists, Dr. Skirth (Jenny Slate) doesn’t like this method, contacts Eddie and takes him into the research centre to photograph what has been going on.

This doesn’t go well for Eddie though, and he quickly finds himself attached to a symbiote who calls itself Venom, and the pair of them decide its time to take down Drake’s empire…

This ‘superhero’ film certainly sits apart from other superhero films. The initial concept, obviously needed to be different from the comic origin described earlier, is pure horror. I’d even go so far an to say that it takes its ideas from films like Lifeforce (aliens in a comet), The Blob (crashing to earth and ‘infecting’ people) and maybe more recently, a film like Life.

Tom Hardy wails as both pre and post infected Eddie Brock. As a human he’s just an average bloke, with a drop of dickishness, and as Venom he plays this crazy schizophrenia with an amazing and amusing fervour.

Riz Ahmed as the rich jerk nails his role. He hits all the right notes as charming at first, and when he starts acting out you aren’t sure you WANT to hate him. Michelle Williams, on the other hand, feels out of place here. Her character is fairly vanilla anyway but to make her appearance like a poor photocopy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts from Iron Man makes her even more unmemorable.

I mostly enjoyed the flavour of the film, which was borderline 80s style horror/ comedy, but when it really slipped into the superhero genre, it fails.

It doesn’t fail because it does what it does badly, it fails because it copies the boring and now overused Marvel Cinematic Universal trope of having the ‘hero’ fight a bigger, badder version of himself, like in Black Panther, and Iron Man, and Ant Man, and Captain America… there’s heaps of villains in the Marvel Universe, Hollywood, you can do better!

Honesty I would have preferred a more gruesome film, especially when you consider the characters requirement of eating people, but what we got was ok.

Score: ***

Format: I reviewed this film using the Bluray included in the Australian 4K release of the film. It was presented in an impeccable 2.40:1 image with a cracking Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc starts off with a trailer for Spider-man: Enter the Spider- verse, Alpha and Searching.

The first extra is a really cool thing called ‘Venom Mode’ which is like one of those old ‘pop-up’ video things, but in this case it is a cross between a commentary about the film, and a comic/ film comparison. It’s completely fact with no feeling and a little sporadic but has some interesting info.

The are three deleted/ extended scenes and as usual, they really didn’t add anything to the film.

The Anti-Hero is an all encompassing short that discusses the hero in the comic, in the film and Hardy’s portrayal of him.

The Lethal Protector in Action looks at the action scenes in the film, and the stunts.

Venom Vision is a look at what the idea behind a film version of Venom would be, and how the horror films of John Carpenter, and An American Werewolf in London were influences.

Designing Venom discusses the adaptation of Venom’s look from comic to the movie.

Symbiotic Secrets compares the film to the comics, and checks out some of the cheeky nods that comic fans should appreciate.

Select Scenes Pre-Vis compares initial pre-special effects ideas to the completed scene from 8 scenes from the film.

There are two music video clips on this disc as well. Venom by Eminem is a horrible cash-in rap like they used to do in the 80s but in Eminem’s inimitable style. Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee, from Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse also makes an appearance.

Speaking of which, there is also a sneak peek into Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse.

Score: *****

WISIA: I will watch this again for Hardy’s performance, but little else.

Halloween (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Halloween (2018)

Film: Imagine if you could just reset everything. A wonderful world where any mistakes you made could be reset… a land where futures could be wound back and started afresh.

Well cinema IS that place and seeing as we live in a world where we don’t accept anything new and Nostalgia reigns supreme, a wonderful thing that can be done is sequels to horror classics can be abandoned, and relaunched. It’s certainly a variation on the straight up remake.

Interestingly its not the first time Halloween has tried this either. 20 years ago, the sequel nicknamed ‘H2O’ didn’t go the full-reboot, but instead gave a light refresh of the history where they redacted the apparent death of main character, and ultimate final girl, Laurie Strode.

This time, we are asked to forget everything that has happened since the original John Carpenter 1978 Halloween: no brother, no cult, no niece and no Rob Zombie remake. This film is H4O, or Halloween 2: 2… maybe its Halloween 2: Electric Boogaloo? Anyway, what this sequel, named Halloween (just like it’s Mum) was co-written By Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley with David Gordan Green, who was also the director.

Halloween takes place 40 years after the first Halloween, and we see that Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney) is now a much older man who has spent almost his entire life interred in an institution, his psychopathy a subject for many mental health experts and journalists.

Another person trapped for all that time is Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), the survivor of the killer’s rampage in Haddonfield Illinois, who has become a recluse who has turned her home into a fortress, and her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) into a resentful daughter who has be brought up like a bizarre, single purpose doomsday-prepper.

Karen did manage to escape her mother’s seemingly insane and obsessive and start a regular life and his happily married with a daughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak): a family that she keeps at arm’s length from her mother.

Unfortunately for the family, estranged or otherwise, Michael manages to escape and murders his way back to Haddonfield… will Laurie and her family survive?

The first question one asks oneself is: was it necessary? Lord, No! It was, however, an interesting look at many issues, like victim shaming, the horrible things we can potentially do to our kids with our actions whilst bringing them up and just what a terrible disorder PTSD can be for the sufferers and their families. What I also found refreshing was that those needing to commit an act of violence in self-defense did so with hesitation and remorse. Letting oneself over to a violent act can be a freedom that doesn’t feel good in the slightest.

Now the performances were fine, and the story runs along at quite the clip and the soundtrack by John and Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davis is both its own thing and an amazing tribute to the original, and there is enough violence for the slasher fan to remain interested, but I had problems with both Michael’s motivations and kills.

First, I just didn’t get the obsession with getting to Haddonfield. I’m not sure if I missed it but he seemed intent on returning to the town and taking out Laurie. Was it just finishing a job, or is his obsession with the town itself and not so much with Laurie. There is one point in the film where through some dialogue they make sure you KNOW that he is DEFINITELY NOT Laurie’s brother, so his motivation was not clear for me.

The other thing I found with his methods was that some people were just killed outright, and others he skulked around and hid. If he is this dead eyed machine that every mental health professional labelled as a human shark, why the change in method so often? I just didn’t like the inconsistency.

If I am to add one other criticism its that the teenagers in this film are very cut and paste: the cheating boyfriend, the nerdy friend, the horny girl… come on, it IS 40 years later: cant you come up with stereotypes deeper than this?

I think my favorite thing about this movie was the nods to the other films. The obvious one of those was Curtis’ borderline nutjob Laurie Strode, who developed a lot of the intensity that Donald Pleasance’s Loomis had in the first film. There was a couple of other smiles at the now-deleted films… even the not-related Halloween III: The Season of the Witch as some of the kids were wearing Silver Shamrock masks.

This is an interesting experiment and a nice way to ‘soft relaunch’ the series, and if the intention is to continue it, I’ll be along for the ride as this kept me interested JUST enough.

Mind you, Halloween 2 is still the best sequel.

Score: ***1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of the film was the Australian bluray which is presented in a perfect 2.35:1 image with a DTS-X audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: The first extras on the disc are a bunch of deleted scenes that the film does far better off without!

There’s a few other extras on this disc which would have been really interesting if they had been a little longer. Actually, the low score for the extras doesn’t represent the quality of the extras, but instead the BREVITY of them.

Back In Haddonfield: Making Halloween is a VERY brief look at the making of the film.

The Original Scream Queen which looks at Jamie Lee Curtis.

The Sound of Fear which is a quick look at the Carpenters and Daniels processes for creating a new Halloween soundtrack.

Journey of the Mask has a short insight into the character of Michael Myers and the origin of the iconic mask.

The Legacy of Halloween is a round table discussion with Curtis, Carpenter, Green and Jason Blum, from Blumhouse Productions.

Score: ***

WISIA: It’s a well made film that probably doesn’t NEED to exist but is an interesting watch. If I am in the mood for a Halloween film, I’m still breaking out the original, number 2 or Rob Zombie’s remake before this gets a watch again.

Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies (2007)

One from the re watch pile…

Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies (2007)

Film: There is no doubt in my mind that the DC animated films are some of the finest translations of comic stories into another medium. Sure the MCU is pretty cool, and some of the DC live-action movies have been pretty good, but they have a failing in comparison to these animated films from Warner Bros.

The problem with a big budget movie is to be successful, you need to get EVERYONE to see it: comic fans, movie fans, actions fans… football fans… this is why some of the Marvel films are using alternate media to get people to love their films: the rock soundtrack of the Guardians Of The Galaxy films for example, or the liberal and misplaced juxtaposition of comedy and serious action in Thor Ragnarok. The dumbing down of some high concept ideas to get more punters in the door isn’t a new thing: adaptations from book to film have been around sincethe dawn of cinema.

The DC animated movies work so well for comic fans because there is an assumption that the fan base will have a knowledge of the characters so excessive retelling of origin stories don’t exist: if Hawkman turns up in a story, he’s just Hawkman, and we already know what he is capable of.

This film, Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies is based on the story of by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness in the pages of Superman/ Batman comics from the early 2000s, but with occasional tweaks.

The story tells of the ascension to presidency of Lex Luther (voiced by Clancy Brown), who is apparently doing a great job. There are no wars and the economy of the USA is the best is been in years. Crime is down and a majority of superheroes now work for the government, who even have a task force headed up by Captain Atom (Xander Berkeley), and featuring Power Girl (Allison Mack from Smallville), Black Lightning (LeVar Burton), Major Force (Ricardo Chavira) and Katana.

A meteor is heading to earth and President Luther has a plan to destroy it before it hits, and he offers a meeting with Superman (Tim Daly) so he can be the back-up plan if the missiles don’t work, but the meeting is a set-up and quickly Superman is accused of murdering Luther’s superpowered security guard, the supervillain Metallo (John C. McGinley) so he enlists the help of Batman (Kevin Conroy) to prove his innocence.

(By the way, this story links directly to the next Batman and Superman tale: Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse)

This was a pretty cool story in the comics, and it still works today. I imagine some might even find the idea of a self-serving political leader to be more relevant! It still is a pretty cool superhero tale and it features a load of both heroes and villains from cross the DC universe, my only problem with it is if you don’t like Ed McGuinness’ art, you might find the character designs clunky.

I am actually a fan of McGuinness’ work, but I find it works best with brutish characters like his run on Hulk. Here, characters like Power Girl and Starfire lose their softness and instead have the look of a badly made Disney action figure. The brutishness of his style does make Captain Marvel look like a total badass though!

I’m also a huge fan of Shazam! so his appearance here, and under his ‘proper’ name Captain Marvel, is a massive plus for me too.

All in all this is a well executed story but with an art style that whilst super-looking, is far too chunky for this traditional comic art style fan to fully appreciate.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray release of the film with is presented in a perfect 1.85:1 image and a match Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc actually opens with a couple of trailers for the animated Superman Doomsday, Batman Gotham Night and Green Lantern: Emerald Knight . There is also a trailer for the video game Halo Legends and some propaganda about how awesome Bluray is.

There is also a great pile of extras:

A Test Of Minds: Superman and Batman which looks at the relationship that the Man Of Tomorrow and the Dark Knight have had over the years.

Dinner with DCU is a round table with Kevin Conroy, voice director Andrea Romano, DC’s Gregory Noveck and art legend Bruce Timm.

There is also a bunch of shorts docos about DC Characters, comics and animation events like First Look at Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Blackest Night: Inside the DC Comics Event, Wonder Woman The Amazonian Princess, Batman Gotham Knight an Anime Revolution, From Graphic Novel to Original Animated Movie: Justice League The New Frontier and Green Lantern: First Flight – the Animated Movie Sneak Peek.

Finally there are six of Bruce Timm’s favourite episodes of Justice a league Unlimiyed and Superman The Animated Series.

Score: *****

WISIA: I really like all these DC animated features so yeah, it’s a regular respinner at my place even though it’s not my favourite one.