Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

In 1929, Italian publishing company Mondadori started publishing a series of crime books that had garish yellow covers. It is from here that the Italian thriller/ horror film gets its name: giallo, the Italian word for yellow. The films from the early sixties started as adaptation of these early thrillers, but eventually became a genre of their own. The main characteristics of the giallo film take elements from detective stories and slasher films, with operatic elements and a large dose of blood, gore, violence and nudity. While many films from Italian directors can come under the ‘giallo’ title, the masters are truly Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dario Argento, son of producer Salvatore Argento, began his career as a writer for a film journal, before heading into screen writing. He worked for Sergio Leone on such films as Once Upon Time in the West before heading into his own movies, thrillers that kept in mind his childhood love of Italian folk lore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, but most of all, the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Argento is responsible for some of the greatest horror films ever: Deep Red, Suspiria, and this one -Tenebrae.

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has come to Rome to promote his latest novel, titled Tenebrae. His arrival is marred, however, by a series of killings that copy those in his novel. The police, Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carols Stagnaro) are frustrated by the murderer, who is directly referencing Neal by leaving pages from his novel at the crime scenes.

Anthony Franciosa asks Daria Niccolodi how one can star in more Argento films.

Neal, along with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), his assistant, Anne (Daria Niccolodi)and his other employees begin their own investigation to uncover the identity of the killer…but what Neal doesn’t realise is that someone, an ex-lover, Jane (Veronica Lario) is in pursuit of him, but what is HER connections to killing? Does she even HAVE a connection?

John Saxon – legend.

Tenebrae is the film that saw Argento return to traditional giallo after his sojourn into the supernatural with his previous two films Suspiria and Inferno, two chapters of his so called (and as of early 2006 unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and then right back into it with his next film Phenomena. With its rich exterior shots of some exquisite Italian locations, and an unusually bright palette for a horror film…a lot of the murders take place in broad daylight, Tenebrae is a pleasure to watch. Some really great performances by the actors, and some great bloody effects, particularly a brilliant axe murder.

I must admit that Tenebrae is one of those ‘perfect storm’ horror movies for me. My favourite director, an interesting story, a great soundtrack, a big dash of violence, John Saxon and beautiful Italian women. I honestly think there is only one horror film that is better than this one and that is Re-animator.

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video multi-region Bluray release from 2011, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. It is presented in a grainy, but clear 1.85:1 and a good mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some amazing extras on this disc, but you’d expect nothing less from Arrow! Before the disc, though, the package contains four options for the cover of the disc, a poster of the new disc art and a booklet about the film written by Alan Jones.

There are two commentaries on this disc, both which are super interesting. The first is with horror journalism legends Kim Newman and Alan Jones, and the other is with screenwriter Thomas Rostock.

Screaming Queen! Daria Niccolodi Remembers Tenebrae is an interesting interview where she talks about her character in this film, and her history in cinema and with Argento.

The Unsane World Of Tenebrae: An Interview With Dario Argento where he talks about his career and Tenebrae.

A composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae sees the lead player in the band Goblin and composer (as well as hero of mine) Claudio Simonetti discuss his work on this film and his career.

Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches is footage from 2011 of Claudio Simonetti and New Goblin playing live. I admit I caught them in Sydney in 2015 so seeing this brought back fond memories.

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: Tenebrae is one of my favourite films of all time so it gets regularly rewatched, and it should be by you, too!

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.

The Hole (2009)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The cover to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Film: This is one of those times where I felt like rewatching as it’s like comfort food. First, it’s directed by Joe Dante, responsible for 80s classics like The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace, and the awesome late 90s kids flick Small Soldiers and written by Mark L. smith who wrote the Vacancy films and The Revenant.

The Hole tells of single mum, Susan (Teri Polo) who has moved to a small town and away from big city life with her sons, Dane (Chris Massoglia) and the younger Lucas (Nathan Gamble) and into a house which, as these sorts of movies alway do, is far to big for her ever to be able to afford.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

Our hero, Dane (Chris Massoglia) tries to open his hole.

This house has a weird secret in the basement though: a seemingly bottomless hole that cute next door neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett) suggests may have been dug by previous tenant Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern), but very quickly our young trio discover than maybe, just maybe the Hole has deeper secrets…

…supernatural secrets… secrets that drove Creepy Carl out of the house and into a state weird he fears the stones and what it hides. Will the kids survive the contents of this bottomless pit?

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

Dane and Julie (Haley Bennett) discuss the dangers of their open hole.

This film really is classic Joe Dante with the small town being attacked by ‘something’ and as usual, he hires a charming cast of good guys and an oddball bunch of weirdos. Special mention has to go not just to the casting of Kate Hudson lookalike, Haley Bennett, but to see Bruce Dern in a film again was a heap of fun, and you can throw in a bit of legend Dick Miller as a pizza boy for a great trifecta.

The unfortunate thing about this film is it’s SO damned generic. Every new boy in town moves into a cute, available girl and has an annoying/ embarrassing younger brother/ quirky aunt/ mental grandfather and there is something weird in the basement/ next door/ at the pier. I will say this film succeeds with its extremely likeable cast, and there are some genuinely creepy moments, but there is not much new being brought to the table to allow it to stand out. It just seems to be a classic trope of ‘kids’ horror movies… those gateway movies for young horror fans…that is wearing out its welcome.

Honestly that trope was the only thing I didn’t like about the Jack Black Goosebumps film. I just think audiences may have evolved beyond that point.

Anyway, all in all it’s not a hateful bad film, it’s a nicely shot slice of average with a loveable cast from a reliable director.

Score: **

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

The menu to the Australian release of The Hole (2009)

Format: This film is presented on the disc as both a 3D or a 2D movie, but only the 2D was reviewed as I don’t have the capacity for a 3D viewing at home. The film looks and sound great with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD 5.1 Dolby digital sound, and runs for approximately 92 minutes, which is about the average attention span of an early teen horror fan.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Aftershock, Uninhabited, Larry Crowne and Cane Toads The Conquest, which can also be accessed separately in the extras menu.

In addition to those spectacular trailers though, we also have:

Gateway To Hell: The Making of the Hole which is, well, the making of the the film, The Hole, featuring a whole bunch of interviews with various cats and crew members.

A Peek Inside The Hole looks at the special effects of the film.

Family Matters looks at the relationships between the lead actors and their characters.

The Third Dimension looks at the process of making a 3D film.

The Keeper of the Hole looks at a Bruce Dern’s Creepy Carl character.

Like a lot of extras, all of these featurettes could have been cut together nicely and made a decent 40 minute to an hour ‘making of’ styled thing, rather than a bunch of what feels like worthless little ‘bits’ but I guess more is better, right?

Score: ****

WISIA: The Hole is a cute kids film, but really doesn’t hold up like some of Dante’s other films. I wouldn’t probably watch it again.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.

This strange ghostly girl crawled out of Dane’s hole.

Dead Awake (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Dead Awake (2016)

Film: This film shouted out at me from the shelves of my local store for one reason: how absolutely stupid the title is. I get that throwing the word ‘Dead’ into a title will make most younger (and this older) horror fan stop and check something out, and if it were a term that was actually used in the English language, you know, like Dead End, Dead Stop, Dead Tired, I’d be impressed, but Dead Awake was such a stupid combination I had to check it out.

Then I read the back of the Bluray slick and I find that it’s about sleep paralysis, which is something I find both horrible to think of, and an interesting idea for a horror film, especially when it’s mixed with a little American-styled post-millennial ghost story like Grudge/ Ring/ Darkness Falls/ Boogeyman films that haunted the cinemas in the early 2000s. I’m not really a fan of many films of this period, but for some reason I find I revisit these films occasionally.

This film was written by Jeffrey Reddick, the guy who came up with the concept of the Final Destination movies so it has some positive providence , and directed by Phillip Guzman, who directed A Kiss and a Promise.

When Kate Bowman’s (Jocelyn Donahue) recovering drug-addict sister Beth dies during a sleep paralysis episode, she discovers that perhaps her sister was being haunted by a creature who kills people in their sleep during these episodes.

She meets Beth’s doctor, Dr Davies (Jesse Borego) and at first isn’t convinced of this weird malevolent being bent on killing that he tries to tell her about, until she starts having episodes herself, as does her sister’s boyfriend, Evan (Jesse Bradford… remember Cliff Pantone from Bring It On? THAT guy!).

So Kate and Evan start a trail that starts at a sleep hospital run by Dr. Sykes (Lori Petty) to try and defeat whatever it is that haunts them, but how many people will die along the way, and can this creature, that appears to have existed for centuries, even be destroyed at all?

I really wanted to like this film. The cast are all really well picked, it’s filmed beautifully, the script is ok, but the premise is just so generic.

Dead Awake is a bizarre 80s-nightclub styled megamix of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Grudge and Ring, that is, the male and female lead of Ring versus a dream monster, who moves like the ghost from The Grudge. It’s not that this is a bad film, it’s just been done before by other films that did it far better. Emulating something is fine, but doing so with no point of originality is detrimental to your product.

To provide a metaphor, this film is the nerd who desperately wants to be a cool kid, but ends up being the kid from the Pretty Fly for a White Guy film clip.

Score: **

Format: Dead Awake was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which runs for 99 minutes and is presented in a 2.0:1 image and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Audio, both of which are immaculate.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Revolt, Faults, Eat Local and 13 Sins.unfortunately, that is it for the extras, but those last three films I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for… Revolt, not so much.

Score: *

WISIA: Probably not.

Day of the Dead Bloodline (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Day of the Dead Bloodline (2018)

Film: Another day, another ‘Day’. It seems that a lot of Hollywood need to feed from the undead teat of the late George Romero, and if they screw it up, they give someone else a go. The Night of the Dead remake by Tom Savini was a decent watch, Zack Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead was suitable impressive too, even though it was more of an action film with dead people than a horror film with a message like Romero’s, but remakes of Day have constantly screwed up.

Horror legend Steve Miner’s heart may have been in the right place… in his chest, not on a plate… when he remade Romero’s Day Of The Dead, but it just fell a little short with some odd casting, like Mena Suvari, and Ving Rhames, but playing a different character from that which he played in the Dawn remake… confusing! Next we had Day of the Dead 2: Contagion and here we… actually no, the wounds are still too fresh, even after 13 years… and now we have a brand new, 2018 remake, Day of the Dead Bloodline, with a script by Hush’s Mark Tonderai and Baby Blues’ Lars Jacobson, and directed by The Corpse Of Anna Fritz’s writer/ director Hèctor Hernández Vicens.

The Dead walk, and mankind is screwed! You know the story: when there is no more room in Heck, the Dead walk the earth when something fell from space or something, and mankind is in some deep doodoo.

It’s 5 years latter Day Z, and medical student Zoe (Sophie Skelton) is now one of the medical personnel at a military run refugee camp, filled with army personnel, as well as families. One of the children at the camp gets a strain of influenza that desperately needs anti-biotics that she knows is at the University facility where she was five years ago, so of course, she and a bunch of muscle-bound army men travel off to retrieve it.

The problem is though, when they get there, the place has a small zombie problem, and particularly for Zoe, a creepy dude, who was obsessed with Zoe and had a strange and rare blood type, named Max (Johnathon Schaech) is still residing there. Now, though, he’s a zombie, and due to his weird blood type, he only half-turned and still retains some memory or being alive.

Well, this is the assumption, anyway…

Of course, he is intelligent enough to find a way to break into the facility, and when captured, Zoe convinces Lt. Salazar (Jeff Gum), the boss of the refuge that he may be the key to creating a vaccine to protect mankind from become ‘rotters’ (this film’s word for zombies) and she starts her experiments… but will the refuge survive?

So how bad is this? Well, it’s not. It’s interesting insomuch as there is a real proactive movement towards creating an inoculation which is an interesting aspect to the zombie breakout idea, which yes, has been done before but if you overlook some of the stupid script bits and pieces as a few moments of emotional melodrama, it’s actually works.

Schaech does his rapist freak Bub impression just fine, and Gum’s wound-back version of Captain Rhodes actually works far better as he at no time really becomes a caricature like Joe Plato’s did. The army aren’t the enemy here, they are here to protect us,

The zombies all look pretty good too, and the special effects are of a pretty good quality, but there is one problem with the film.

You can definitely tell this isn’t Romero’s Dead World is it all looks new. The story tells us it’s 5 years after the Dead first came back, but everything: the military vehicles, the guns, the uniforms, all look like they were unpacked yesterday. Also, even though supplies are getting thin, everyone at the refugee camp looks like a catalogue model: clean skin, even tan, manicured beard/ hair… thank Revlon a decent hairdresser/ waxer survived the zombie apocalypse.

This is where the suspension of disbelief gene that all movie fans have, fails. I don’t like comparing originals to remakes, but the grit and filth of the facility in the abandoned mine in the original gave a sense of realism, whereas even though the zombies look fine in this, it’s all Ikea fresh. Even the abandoned towns don’t look TOO abandoned, and a little like a movie set.

This is an Ok zombie film, and is more like a sequel to the Snyder Dawn with its slick presentation. I’ve actually seen many worse zombie films than this, and two of them were also called Day of the Dead.

Score: ***

Format: Day of the Dead: Bloodline runs for approximately 90 minutes, and this review was performed on the Australian, region B Bluray which has a perfect 2.35:1 image and an DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 of matching quality.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a single extra on this disc called Behind the Scenes is a 5 minutes fluff pieces which pays homage to Romero’s original work, but quickly turns into a self-congratulatory thing. Interesting one of the producers says ‘we are not trying to replace Romero’… so why not call your film ‘Military Hospital Of The Dead’ or ‘Blood Type Z’ or something.

Score: **

WISIA: Aside from how stupidly new it looks, it’s good enough to watch again, even though the end may be a little… well, really schmaltzy, but it’s certainly a different ending for a zombie film, that’s for sure.

Black Panther (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Black Panther (2018)

Film: Now even though this is technically a rewatched film, I’m going to label it a To Watch Piler… why? Well I received a free ticket to see this at the cinema, and unfortunately it was a Mum’s and Bubs session, which means the house lights were on the whole time, so any scene that takes place at night is almost unseeable, especially when the lead cast member is wearing all black!

Black Panther is one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, which all join together in a story ten years in the making which will all be resolved in 2019’s sequel to Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther has been an important character in the Marvel comics universe since his first appearance in Fantastic Four comics in 1966, and has been an important member of not just that team, but also the Avengers as well as having several impressive comics series’ himself.

The film was directed by Creed director Ryan Coogler from a script that he co-wrote with Amber Lake’s Joe Robert Cole, and what they created caused a massive bag of excitement for its positive role models.

Black Panther tells of the country of Wakanda’s new King T’challa (Chadwick Boseman), who has ascended to the throne after the death of his father (in the film Captain America: Civil War) but the road to his regency isn’t smooth.

First, whilst being watched by his people, including his mother Ramona (Angela Bassett), potential wife Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) and sister Shuri (Letitia Wright – the real revelation of this film), he must prove his worth as a leader in battle, but all the while, machinations are happening outside of Wakanda that may still threaten his rule.

A man calling himself Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) has teamed up with arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) but what is there nefarious plan, and how does it effect the rule of the Black Panther.

This film initially reminds me of a superheroic version of a James Bond film, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier did. It has exotic locations, improbable inventions and a wry sense of humour as Boseman performs his African James Bond alongside Wright’s ‘Q’ and Forrest Whitaker’s ‘M’ as they face off against an eccentric bad guy with a sidekick with a bizarre weapon, not to mention a bevy of women, all of whom are defined by their skill, brains and asskickery rather than their looks.

The design of the film is magnificent: quite possibly the best a Marvel film to date has to offer, and the colours jump from the screen and are a nice tribute to the beauty of many African cultures, but occasionally the CGI effects fail. Ok, they don’t actually fail, but there is a standard of effects that some blockbuster films seem to think is ok which occasionally don’t sit right, due to the physics of gravity or the extension limits the human body has. I get it’s a movie based on a comic, but if you are selling it as real, it shouldn’t look like a comic. Also, there is some CGI animals that just don’t look quite right.

Ultimately, the one thing I find about this film that doesn’t work is it’s just an introduction. The Black Panther storyline is reminiscent of the first Iron Man’s story of the rights of ascension in a technological world, and serves really as just frosting on the cake that is actually film that could be called Wakanda: A Prelude to Infinity War, as it sets up one of the battlefields for the next Avengers movie, just as the first Thor and Captain America films were really just a way of getting the punter ready for a more complete film experience with the first Avengers film.

In saying that though, I don’t want to discount the amazing work it did with having a sympathetic bad guy and a great set of role models for various groups that in pop culture don’t get as many as the white male population.

This film, even though it is a fun film, in 100% sticking to the Marvel formula so if you are expecting TOO much different from the stations that the hype train stopped at whilst this film was at the cinemas, you will be disappointed.

Score: ***

Format: This film is presented in an impeccable 16:9 image with a matching DTS-HDMA 7.1 audio which is absolutely amazing.

Score: *****

Extras: As one expects with Marvel films, they have a pack of extras ready to role, some about this film, and others to advertise other product, but why wouldn’t you do that with a captured audience?

There is a Featurettes section which contains 4 parts: Crowning a New King which looks at the character of Black Panther and his world, The Hidden Kingdom Revealed is an introduction to the fictional African nation of Wakanda and making it a ‘real’ place, The Warriors Within looks at the actors who play the various Wakandans throughout the film and finally, Wakanda Tevealed: Exploring the Technology looks at the cool toys in the film.

The usual Marvel Gag Reel is present which seem to get less and less funny each time, as the actors seem to almost be acting the gags.

There is four Deleted Scenes which, like the rest of the film, are quite charming, and honestly, whilst I normally think most deleted scenes are better off deleted, there are a couple of bits here that have some heart that would not have hurt the film at all.

From Page to Screen: A Roundtable Discussion is a really cool look at all the writers of the character, including not just the movie creators, but also comic writers like Don McGregor, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Christopher Priest.

Marvel Studios:The First Ten Years – Connecting The Universe is the first of the Marvel sales pitches on this disc of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There is no doubt it is extraordinarily clever and it is pretty cool when any series of films have a linking world, like Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse and more importantly, Universal’s monster movies of the 40s that had multiple crossovers in the form of House of Dracula and House of Frankenstein. This is a fine albeit short celebration and for a moment, you look at all these separate movies as one big story, rather than a series of films with a, to date, continually unresolved plot device as it’s connective tissue.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at Antman and the Wasp is another one of those aforementioned self-promotional pieces that shows off the next attraction coming to the ci emas, in this case, Antman and the Wasp. The first movie was so charming that I actually am really looking more forward to this that either the sequel to Infinity War or my beloved Captain Marvel movie (in which I believe the main character has been miscast, but prove me wrong, Marvel).

There is also an Audio Commentary by writer/ director Coogler and production designer Hannah Beachler is fascinating as it doesn’t talk about the usual writer/ director stuff, it also explores the design of the entire world of Black Panther and Wakanda.

Score: *****

WISIA: As it is a part of the greater world of the Marvel movies, I will watch it again, but it’s not a top tier Marvel movie for me.

The Slayer (1982)

One from the to watch pile…

The Slayer (1982)

Film: Even though I am taking this from the ‘Re Watch Pile’, I am actually regarding it as a ‘To Watch Pile’ contender as the only way I have seen it before was on a pretty awful DVD release from the UK from several years ago. I remember seeing the video cover at my local video shop, but never got to hire it as there must have been some other horror fan in my area who totalled bogarted this tape and no one else EVER got to watch it. He’ll, I even had a copy of the poster hanging up in my bedroom as a kid.

The Slayer was written and directed by J.S. Cardone, who also gave us Puppetmaster and the remake of Prom Night, and co-written by Bill Ewing, who also produced the film.

Artist Kay Church (Sarah Kendall) has always had nightmares, and she exorcises the images from them through her art. On the eve of an important art show, her husband David (Alan McRae), brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife, Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), decide to take her away to a secluded island to rest and relax and wind down after the child up to the show.

Once on the island, though, Kaye gets a weird feeling like she has been there before, even though the island is mostly abandoned during the off tourist season, and she starts to recognise places on the island that she has painted from her memory.

Kaye feels off the whole time on the island, and when her husband goes missing, things begin to unravel.. has she actually been here before or has she been getting premonitions about the place that feel like a warning, and when the deaths start happening, who, or what is responsible….

For its time, The Slayer is unusual as the trend was really mainly sexy, slutty teens being killed and this clearly features adults in peril. It also doesn’t feature a murder event ten minutes to keep the short attention spanned audience interested either, and instead slowly tells a story of a woman who may be descending into madness.

I really like this movie. It’s not just a good watch, it’s also a charming document of the time (smoking in a 6 seater Cessna is something no-one under 30 could even comprehend, let alone pass by without a complaint to the management) and has some pretty creepy bits in it, and a left field ending that in lesser hands could potentially have not worked, but actually works really well within the context of the universe the film exists in.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Arrow Video multiregion Bluray, and is presented in a nicely restored 1.78:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It was nice to actually SEE this film for the first time and not on some terribly mastered DVD.

Score: ****

Extras: It’s an Arrow Video release, so you expect there to be HEAPS of extras, and there is!

First, the film is available here on both a Bluray and a DVD version, and the packaging has a reversible sleeve, one with an original image from the film, and the other by Justin Osbourn, which is amazing! There is also a booklet with articles by film historian Lee Gambin and Arrow’s Ewan Cant.

Nightmare Island: The Making Of the Slayer is an exhaustive almost hour long documentary about the making of the film and a great mix of talent are interviewed for it, including writer/ director Cardone, actress Kottenbrook, production executive Eric Weston and a bunch of others. It is a fascinating look at the whole process with some interesting anecdotes from all involved.

Return to Tybee: the Location Of The Slayer is a look at Tybee Island, where the film was made, today. The best thing is in the film there us a dilapidated old cinema which has been restored to its former glory, and enjoying a showing of The Slayer.

The Tybee Post Theatre Experience features the screening mentioned above (which can be watched on this disc with the sound of the audience played as well), and also has a speech from Arrow’s Ewan Cant and a Q&A with the films DoP Arledge Armenaki.

There is a stills gallery which is a slideshow with a combination of behind the scenes stuff and stills from the film, with the soundtrack played over the top.

There is a trailer.

Finally, there is a commentary with Cardone, Weston and Kottenbrook, another one with The Hysteria Continues (a horror podcast from the UK), an isolated composer score track with accompanying interview and finally a repeat of the Tybee Post theatre audio track!

Score: *****

WISIA: As I mentioned, I’d only ever seen this as a pretty poor quality DVD which was a chore to watch, but now I’ve seen it in this cleaned-up version, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

One from the rewatch pile…

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

Film: You have just got to love a good monster movie, and it’s especially great when that film has a monster that is either based in reality, or is reality tweaked to some tiny degree to make it even more fearsome, or in the case of a film like, say Zombeavers or Night of the Lepus, a tiny bit fearsome.

So, of course everyone loves a good shark movie; hell, if the Sharknado films are anything to go by, everyone loves even a BAD shark movie! Deep Blue Sea came along at just the right time: The 90s, in general, was a wasteland of bad horror being made as studios tried to tap into what made the 80s franchises so great, but missed either the point, or the boat.

Sure this decade gave us Scream, which in itself was a parody of Craven’s own work, and The Blair Witch Project, which was more about clever marketing than good filmmaking or storytelling but in general, horror had temporarily gone the way of the western.

Deep Blue Sea was somewhat of a surprise. Written by Valentine’s Donna and Wayne Power, and Bait’s Duncan Kennedy, one thing from the 80s this film did utilise was Renny Harlin as director, who is probably best know for A Nightmare on Elm Street 4, and a whole bunch of action films from the 90s, including Cliffhanger and Die Hard 2.

Deep Blue Sea tells of a scientific facility in the ocean known as Aquatica, where scientists, including Dr. McAlester (Saffron Burrows), Jim Whitlock (Stellan Skarsgård) and other are attempting to show off to a potential investor, Russell Franklin (Samuel L. Jackson) their research into getting proteins from genetically altered shark’s brains and using them to repair the broken pathways in the brains of sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease.

The problem is the sharks have gotten smarter, and even though shark wrangler Carter Blake (Thomas Jane) has suspicions, even he isn’t aware of just how smart, and very soon the sharks have figured out how to flood the facility, and using the staff as their very own human smorgasbord…

This film honestly could have been called ‘Deep Blue Trope’ as it took generic formulas from 80s slasher films and turned them into a monster movie. This is basically Friday the 13th, with the stereotypical teens (the cool black guy, the oversexed couple, the frigid final girl and the cool tough guy… and some throwaway characters you would never care about) in an abandoned area with no way out and something stalking them, which is a shark instead of a serial killer: it even does the killer POV camera shots! Maybe the juxtaposition of these two horror tropes is what makes the film kind of interesting.

The movie, yes, is generic, but I have to admit that I have a big problem with just how smart the sharks became. An animal working out that a gun is something that can hurt you is one thing, but figuring what video cameras do and then disabling them, with no context, is quite another, and ultimately, Jane’s character’s realisation as to the shark’s motivation, we’ll, even for a monster movie is pretty far-fetched.

There is some nice early appearances of some actors who went on to the greater things. Samual L. Jackson was still an actor when this was made, and didn’t just play Samual L. Jackson, like he does these days.

The real tragedy of this film is the closing credits are choked with an awful rap by LL Cool J, who also plays the chef who works at the facility. I also must admit to feeling sorry for Saffron Burrows: Even though her character is possibly the most important one in the film, and is even the only human on the cover, she actually doesn’t get a cover credit, and instead Skarsgård and Michael Rapaport, who aren’t in it as often, do. That’s a pretty sad indictment on the film’s release.

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B Bluray release of the film which runs for approximately 105 minutes and is presented in a satisfactory 2.35:1 image with a pretty spectacular DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There’s a couple of Ok extras on this disc.

First there is a commentary with Harlin and Jackson, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t recorded together. Jackson talks about the story of the film, and Harlin looks more at the making of the film and the processes.

When Sharks Attack is a selection of behind the scenes footage with an occasional sound byte from a cast or crew member, which, to summarise, comes together as ‘sharks are scary’.

Sharks of the Deep Blue Sea looks at all the various effects used to make the special effects sharks work.

There is a trailer for the film.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes as well, and, as expected, the optionally accompanying commentary does little to convince otherwise.

Score: ***

WISIA: Deep Blue Sea is an amusing distraction that I have watched a couple of times, but realistically, if it weren’t for a sequel coming out, I probably would not have revisited it.

Future Shock! the Story Of 2000AD

One from the re watch pile…

Future Shock! the Story Of 2000AD (2014)

The cover of Arrow Video’s release of Future Shock

Film: Truly, the best comic fans I know are the ones who grew up with the English comic, 2000AD. Sure, like many comic fans, I bought Marvel and DC as a kid, but these companies had (and still have) ‘style guides’ and even though we like to think we like one artist over another, the companies control the look to fit a company wide aesthetic… even Jack Kirby whilst he worked at DC in the early 70s had the heads of Superman that he drew redrawn by Curt Swan, an artist who probably drew Superman MORE than anyone else, ever!

I think if I had have been Kirby I would have been totally insulted and would have told them to stick their job right up their Hall of Justice.

2000AD was a totally different animal.

2000AD is a science fiction comic which celebrates the diversity of writing and art and within a single weekly issue, you were treated to at least 4 different artist and story teams, telling stories from all of the galaxy, and very rarely from the superhero sub-genre. It introduced the world to characters like Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Bad Company, Rogue Trooper and Slaine, just to name a few. It was more like the French comic Metal Hurlant (which is known in the English speaking world by its ‘other’ name Heavy Metal) mixed with an London punk attitude which shouted ‘UP YOURS’ to authority.

Creator of 2000AD, Pat Mills speaks of its origins.

It interesting to point out that even DC realised that maybe they could do something different, something that didn’t have a style guide, and came up with the comic line Vertigo in the 90s which abandoned the strict Comic Code Authority restrictions and made a comic line truly for adult comic collectors, and by adult I don’t mean it was full of tits and violence… well not, always.

(It’s interesting to point out that Stan Lee experimented with doing more adult comics in the 70s and it always fell short, mainly due to the content still being somewhat juvenile rather than truly ‘adult’. DC’s Karen Berger understood better than Lee as to what adults wanted, stole all of 2000AD’s talent, thrived with Vertigo comics whilst Marvel, in the 90s, highjacked Image comics aesthetic and very quickly almost went into bankruptcy)

That’s enough of the history lesson though, what are we here for? Well, this documentary talks to the brains, the original talent and the past fans who became the talent of the comic, and how it thrived even beyond the time of its name! Future Shock is mainly a talking heads styled documentary but it’s subject is fascinating as the comic truly was a document of the time it was released, which is important for ANY science fiction to be relevant.

Comic legend Kevin O’Neill discusses his involvement in the comic.

A massive amount of the UK’s comic talent pool are interviewed here, from Pat Mills to Neil Gaiman, Brian Bolland to Dave Gibbons, Cam Kennedy to Peter Milligan, Emma Beeby to Lauren Beukes… so many talented people with such interesting things to say about the history of UK comics, their own careers and what was happening historically in the Uk at the time.

The documentary is intercut with some pretty cool animation of the old art, and a decent heavy soundtrack that carries the subject changes along nicely (as an aside, seeing Dredd ACTUALLY punch his fist through Judge Fear’s head may have been one of the most exciting things I’ve ever seen).

I’ve watched a lot of comic docos and honestly, I find all of them to be really engaging and definite rewatchers, but this one stands out as being a superstar. It never gets boring, it travels along at quite the clip. If I’m to criticise it at all it’s not due to the makers, but due to writer Alan Moore’s resistance at being interviewed about his craft, and his absence is really quite obvious and unfortunate as his comics that 2000AD published (The Ballad Of Halo Jones and Skizz, just to name a few) are an amazing introduction to his work.

Score: *****

The menu screen for the Bluray Of Future Shock

Format: Future Shocks was reviews on the UK, region B Bluray release which is presented in an excellent, except for archival footage, 1.78:1 image with a perfect LPCM 2.0 audio track, which is fine considering most of the audio is Interview dialogue.

Score: *****

Extras: Arrow have provided a Mega-city full of extras, some of which were made by Arrow Video and are great supplements to the original doco:

Steve MacManus Interview is a 25 minute discussion with MacManus who was the editor of 2000AD from 1979 to 1986 and author of The Mighty One: Life in the Nerve Centre. His reflections on this amazing period for the comic is quite fascinating.

Extended Chapter featurettes just expands some of the discussions in the doco, specifically heap Entertainment” The Appeal Of Comics, Dredd Extended, Dredd 2012 True in Sporit and 2000ad VS The USA.

2000AD Strip Featurettes look at a bunch of different characters through the eyes of the creators, including Bad Company, Tharg’s Future Shocks, Rogue Trooper, Sláine and Strontium Dog.

Art Jam shows some time lapse footage of artists Jock and Henry Flint drawing pictures of Judge Dredd and Nemesis the Warlock.

King’s Reach Tower sees Pat Mills revisit the place where 2000AD was born, King’s Reach Tower.

Soundtrack Studio takes a look at the production of the soundtrack by Justin Graves from Crippled Black Phoenix.

Extended Interviews has more comic knowledge from Mills, Morrison, Gaiman, Gibbons and Berger.

Blooper Reel proves that even in a documentary, people can foul up what they were saying. Special mention goes to the Australian Women’s Weekly for getting a mention.

There is also a teaser trailer and the Uk Launch trailer.

In addition this package contains a booklet with an essay from Pádraig Ó Méalóid about the history

of the comic, some cool art and a few little notes about the disc itself.

Score: *****

WISIA: Seeing as how I love comic documentaries, this will get revisited regularly, especially considering how many extras there are!

The early mock-up of what 2000AD should look like.

Nightmare City (1980)

One from the re watch pile…

Nightmare City aka Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata (1980)

Film: We have SO much to thank George A. Romero for. Not only did he give us a bunch of amazing films that have risen above their lowly horror roots, he also generated an entire horror sub-genre that has become so popular it not only appeals to horror fans, but the general public are totally into it as well, as can be seen by the popularity of TV shows like The Walking Dead and even events like the annual Zombie Walks that several cities worldwide get involved it.

After the splatterfest that was Dawn of the Dead in 1978, every producer was looking for an avenue to deliver a zombie movie down, and Italian director, Umberto Lenzi (The Cynic, The Rat and the Fist) was offer a small script to produce.

He realised this script was too short for a feature and didn’t want to just produce a zombie movie that emulated Romero’s, so he created a world where human beings (not zombies) who suffered from nuclear radiation poisoning would end up with a blood disorder that required them to consume the blood of the Living to survive. His ‘zombies’ were more ‘nuclear vampires’.

The story starts with a mysterious airplane landing with no advice to the control tower as to their identity. Dean Miller (Hugo Stiglitz) is a reporter at the airport who goes to deliver a story as to what this mysterious plane is, but when it lands, he, and a bunch of incompetent soldiers, find that the plane is full of these nuclear vampires, who immediately go on a spectacular, unstoppable rampage which doesn’t stop when they are all killed as everyone they bite gets irradiated and turns into another nuclear zombie.

The military, led by General Murchison (Mel Ferrer), is trying to keep a clamp on this news getting into the general public’s hands, but the wave of monsters is seemingly bottomless, and the threat increases exponentially.

Will humanity survive this horrible invasion, or was it just a horrible dream?

This film is dumb. Dumb, dumb, dumb, but so enormously watchable because of that. The script is terrible. I remember once reading an article about the economy of cinema and how every scene should move the story forward and if it doesn’t, it should be excised from the script. This film has a weird discussion about a work of art that has absolutely no payoff.

The vampire’s motivations are odd as well. They seem to be smart enough to fly a plane, use a gun, even cut a phone line, but are easily distracted during an important feeding session by a new victim, even though they haven’t ‘finished’ the victim they have off… maybe the love of the hunt is just as important to them and the actual catch.

All in all it’s a pretty stupid film that is so bat-guano crazy at times that it’s hard not to like it. Give it a go.

Score: ***

Format: On this Arrow Bluray release, there is two different versions of this film, the original negative version and the dupe, both are present in 2.35:1 and neither are perfect. The dupe is not very sharp and the negative transfer has several spots where the image has stains on it, but both versions are entirely watchable. The audio is presented in a mono 1.0 and again, isnt fantastic but clear enough.

Score: **

Extras: There’s a great amount of extras on this disc:

There is an interview with Umberto Lenzi which is quite informative, about the production of the film, and how is well-known zombie film, is NOT a zombie film at all!

Maria Rosario Omaggio is also interviewed on this disc and to assist in her English she reads a charming letter to horror fans that she previously prepared.

Hostel and Cabin Fever director Eli Roth talks about the importance of Nightmare City within the history of cinema.

The Limits of Restoration explains the difference between the a negative transfer and a dupe reversal transfer. It is just a text extra with examples, but an interesting look at a process I knew absolutely nothing about! This is accessible here and on the main menu when you are able to choose which version you would like to watch.

There is a Trailer for the film and alternative opening credits, which has the title Attack of the Zombies!

Finally we have a commentary by ex-Fangoria Horror Movie Magazine editor, and Uwe Boll’s punching bag, Chris Alexander, who doesn’t in any hold this film in any way precious, so he’s very honest with his interpretation of it which makes for an amusing commentary.

The Arrow release also has a cool reversible cover, and an interesting booklet on the inside featuring an essay y John Martin, author of the book Seduction of the Gullible.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s as dumb as a box of hammers but it has enough charm to make it a repeat viewer.

Phenomena (1985)

One from the re-watch pile…

Phenomena (1985)

Film: The works of Italian director Dario Argento feature prominently in my top ten horror flicks, because with Tenebrae, Suspira and Phenomena he really appeals to my internal, and occasionally external horror nerd. His ability to make violence look like a beautiful choreographed dance has always amazed me, though in his more recent films, he seems to have lost it.

Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly) is a young girl who starts at a Swiss boarding school in a town where several murders have taken place. The investigators have employed a local Entomologist Professor, John McGregor (Donald Pleasance), who is assisting them with his knowledge of the time of death on the victims using the lifespan of the various bugs that consume rotting flesh. Jennifer, as it turns out, is quite special and has the uncanny ability to communicate with insects, and this gift may be able to help the investigation move forward. Her power though puts the investigation closer to the murderer, and puts her at great peril.

As the synopsis would suggest, Phenomena falls among Argento’s supernatural work, like Suspiria or Inferno but with elements of his giallo, like Tenebrae or Sleepless.

In this picture, Argento has created a bizarre world with quite possibly the most unusual plot within his output, which features bugs, serial killers, a chimp and a mutant just for good measure. The locations and camerawork are wonderful to watch. The treatment that Arrow have given the film really shows just how beautiful the camerawork is as the presentation is crisp and pure. There are some stunning tracking shots, and the opening exterior shot (you know the film, of the girl missing the bus) is just perfect. That’s not to say the interiors are inferior, as they too, look magnificent. When Argento gets to stage a scene how he wants to see it, he really is at his best.

The cinematography is typically excellent Argento, but what is a surprise is the quality of the performances he gets from the actors, which has occasionally been his downfall. The acting in Phenomena is mostly of a particularly high standard, with Connelly, Pleasance and regular player Daria Niccolodi being the stand-outs. Actually, Connelly needs to be commended in particular as Argento really puts her through her paces as an actress and as a performer, with some physical work that most actors would flatly refuse.

The soundtrack is another high point. Goblin are on top of their game with this film, and the addition of other artists makes for a great audio experience.

Phenomena is a brilliant piece of, not just Italian cinema, but of cinema in general, and I simply can’t recommend it enough. Not having this in your collection is a crime worthy of having your head pushed through a glass window.

Score: *****

Format: The film is presented in 1.66:1 and is nothing short of spectacular: sharper than a film reviewers wit! Occasionally the image does lose some of its clarity, but I assume that is due to this most complete film getting some of its material from varied sources. The audio on this disc is in LPCM 2.0 and is as fine as it could ever get, I believe. The actual film content changes from English to Italian or German and back but it remains clear throughout, and is appropriately subtitled when the language changes. The music track is a must for fans of soundtracks too, with music from Bill Wyman, Motorhead and Iron Maiden… not to mention Goblin, on it.

This Arrow BD release of Phenomena is something of a revelation to me, as I had previously only seen it as the disastrous edit Creepers or the somewhat visually lacklustre Umbrella DVD release. There is no doubt this version both looks and sounds the business.

Score: ****

Extras: There are some great extras for Argento enthusiasts on this disc courtesy of High Rising Productions. Typically they are all interesting and I reckon even the most stalwart of fan will come away with something new

Dario Argento’s Monkey Business: The Making of Phenomena is a retrospective look at the making of the film with Argento, actress Daria Argento, visual effects Luigi Cozzi, cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia and special effects Sergio Stivaletti. Most of this is is subtitled Italian.

Music For Maggots: Claudio Simonetti Remembers Phenomena sees Goblin’s Simonetti recall details of the musical selections for this film.

Creepers and Creatures: Sergio Stivaletti Live Q&A Sessions is a Q&A hosted by High Rising Productions Calem Waddell with the Italian special effects master. The sound is somewhat muddy but some of the harder to hear comments are subtitled.

This BD edition from Arrow also has a double sided poster of the film, and a booklet with a piece by Alan Jones in it… I imagine it is not 2GB’s Alan Jones though. Also, as with many of Arrow’s BD release, this film comes with four different covers for the cardboard slipcase.

I must admit to wishing the filmclip Valley by Bill Wyman and Terry Taylor was included, like on the aforementioned Umbrella release, but you can’t have everything.

Score: *****

WISIA: Being one of my favourite horror films, it gets rewatched regularly and I love it! You will too! As I stated earlier, this film is a standard in my top ten favourite films, and this release is the best I have seen. A horror fan’s must have!