Ready or Not (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Ready or Not (2019)

Ready or Not – Australian Bluray release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The family, ready for the hunt!

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

Only time will tell!

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****1/2

The menu screen to Ready or Not

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

Score: *****

Extras: Some great extras on this disc:

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

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

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

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

Red Band Trailer is exactly what you think it is!

Score: *****

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

Sometimes the help NEEDS help!

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

The Bluray cover to The Dead Don’t Die

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

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

The loveable constabulary of Centerville: Adam Driver and Bill Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***1/2

The menu screen for The Dead Don’t Die

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

Score: *****

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

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

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

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

Score: **

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

Fashion Zombies! Kill ‘em in the head!

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***1/3

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

Score: *****

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

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

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

The extras on the disc are pretty cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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

Maniac (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

Maniac (2012)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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

Score: *****

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

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

Score: **

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

The Addams Family (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Addams Family (2019)

The Addams Family Australian Bluray cover

Film: So this review has started,

I’m afraid I was disheartened,

so bad that I was startled,

by The Addams Family

Dahdahdahdah *click click*

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

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

Ok, seeing as how you asked nicely…

A young Morticia and Gomez share a wedding kiss

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to Assimilation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: *1/2

The menu screen for The Addams Family Bluray

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

Score: *****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***

WISIA: *dahdahdahdah Heck, No!

Morticia is horrified by Wednesday’s fashion choices.

Countdown (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Countdown (2019)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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

Score: *****

Extras: No extras for you!

Score: 0

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

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

One from the to watch pile…

The Incredible Melting Man (1977)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***

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

Score: ****1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ****

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

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Film: When is a children’s horror anthology not a children’s horror anthology? When it’s handed to Andre Øvredal, director of Troll Hunter and The Autopsy of Jane Doe, of course! Add production duties from Guillermo Del Toro makes for an even more of an event!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is based on the children’s book series by Alvin Schwartz, of which the first was published in 1981. Schwartz was a folklore and urban legend enthusiast so the stories from the three volumes that were published feature those themes very heavily, and some of the tales may seem somewhat familiar.

This films isn’t like a regular anthology film though. For one thing, it takes about six of the original stories from Schwartz’s books and shoehorns them together into a single story, so there is no abrasive change of cast and the connecting tale is well written and thrilling.

The story takes us to 1968, Mill Valley, at Halloween, and three friends, bookish Stella (Zoe Margaret Colletti), gentlemanly Auggie (Gabriel Rush) and wiseass Chuck (Austin Zejur) decide to get revenge on the town bully, Tommy (Austin Abrams) for years of abuse, but it backfires when he has an accident, damaging his car.

The three friends hide in a drive in movie theatre (playing Night of the Living Dead too, I might add) and hide in the car of a drifter named Ramón (Michael Garza) who protects them from Tommy and his friends and as a reward, they take him to look at a local infamous haunted house.

Once there they find a book that belonged to Sarah Bellows (Kathleen Pollard) the previous occupant of the house filled with stories and Stella, being an aspiring writer, steals it.

Once she gets the book home, though, she finds that the book is writing itself in blood and that the stories within are killing or maiming people in the town. They try destroying the book but it seemingly can’t be destroyed and has attached itself to Stella, so they start investigating Bellows to see if they can find some way to exorcise it… but how many have to get hurt before they do it?

Øvredal has created a spectacular piece of art with this film. It looks beautiful and every scene is extraordinarily set like a delicate painting. The special effects and make up effects are extraordinary and take from the original books artist David Gammell and are wonderfully accurate, especially Harold the scarecrow and the woman from the red room.

I did find though, probably like the scandal surrounding the books themselves where they were regularly banned from libraries as they were maybe a bit too scary for kids, that the movie wasn’t quite a kids film and yet wasn’t quite adulty enough to be totally engaging. What I did find is that if you did read these books as a child you would probably find them more engaging than someone who hasn’t read them. Nostalgia works that way.

If I’m really going to be picky about the film it’s the inclusion of the walkie talkies. It seems to me whenever a film is set in a time where there’s no mobile phones they do the ol’ walkie talkie thing. It’s boring and unnecessary and I don’t believe kids today think it’s either cool or even a thing that was ever done.

What this film does have is a wonderful cast with a beautiful vision that occasionally felt like it was attempting to preach to converted people, rather than gather new lambs to the flock.

Score: ***

Format: This review was done with the Australian Bluray release of the film. Presented in a beautiful 2.39:1 image, with an amazing DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, both of which, as you would expect, are wonderful

Score: *****

Extras: I was very excited to see the amount of extras on this disc but quickly discovered they were a series of small featurettes, barely 5 minutes in length, that probably could have been stitched together into one below average 40 minute or so ‘making of’. It appears that they were all just advertising bits that have been thrown on here as ‘extras.

A Classic Transformed looks at the original stories.

Creature Vignettes takes a peek at the designs of each of the creatures, but each bit only runs for about 60 seconds, if that!

The cast and crew interviews see discussions about the film from Øvredal, production designer David Brisbin, Del Toro, producer J. Miles Dale, costume designer Ruth Myers and cast members Zajur, Rush, Pollard, Garza, Colletti and Natalie Ganzhorn (who played Ruth). Most of these interviews have sound bytes used in the other featurettes. Also, it’s frustrating when you hear an interviewee talk about something ‘previously mentioned’ that you don’t get to see.

Dark Tales briefly discusses how this film are a mix of a horror film and an Amblin film of the 80s.

Rebels With a Cause is about the development of the scares for the film.

Red Spot Clip is a summary of Ruth’s curse, stemming from a spot on her face she gets from when a spider bites her.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: Yeah, I can probably see myself watching this again.

April Fool’s Day (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

April Fool’s Day (1986)

Film: The Eighties, some say, was horror’s heyday! The popular psychopaths had their violent ways with hundreds of horny, drunken teens, aliens attacked, the dead had their day and the coenobites walked the earth. Occasionally, though, there were hiccups that penetrated the serenity, flies in the gory soup, and this is where we find April Fool’s Day!

April Fool’s Day starts with the usual college student stereotypes (played by Ken Olandt, Amy Steel, Jay Baker, Deborah Goodrich, Griffin O’neal, Thomas F. Wilson (yep, THE Biff Tannen), Leah Pinsent and Clayton Rodney), full of tomfoolery and April Fool’s Day hoaxes, waiting patiently to catch the ferry to the secluded island retreat owned by their friend, Muffy St. John’s family.

Muffy (Deborah Foreman), the gorgeous heiress who invited them all is excited to see her friends come to her family’s home, but as the weekend goes on, her attitude, and her appearance, starts to change. Some of the friends start to disappear, and those who remain start an investigation that sees that St. John has a horrible family secret… and upon arriving on the island, the secret could result in a murderous rampage that may leave them all dead?

Written by Danilo Bach (Beverly Hills Cop) and directed by Fred Walton (When a Stranger Calls, which he also co-wrote), April Fool’s Day is the little film that could, but didn’t. It tries too hard to stand out in a crowd of slashers and sequels by trying to be cleverer than what it is, mixing too much comedy with not enough tension and ultimately becoming an experiment that failed.

I have to admit to also getting a cheap thrill in seeing Amy Steel in this film as well! Steel had been in Friday the 13th Part 2 (and 3… kind of) and the Friday films were and are favourites of mine and she was a pretty resourceful final girl in that film, so I looked forward to seeing more of her. I have to say though, I looked at her filmography and even though I had seen some of the other things she had been in, I didn’t realise and these are the only two appearances that really stand out!

Containing no gore, no tension and even more tragically, no nudity, this film has far too much levity for it ever to be taken seriously or to enter the annals of exciting and legendary 80s slashers. The cast is full of annoying characters though Wilson is one who almost raises a smile with his hi-jinks and pranks, but the biggest April Fool’s prank of them all is the one played on the viewer, for wasting 85 minutes of their valuable time.

Score: *

Format: Cinema Cult and their inconsistent grey covers have really not done anything to help this release of this film. Straight up it has NO chapter list and the menu is just the Shock! emblem with a ‘play’ button, and you can only even find that menu screen if you fast forward to the end, which is easily done as there is only 1 chapter on this disc: the whole film.

This disc is presented in a shoddy 1.78:1 image with an ok 2.0 audio track. The whole film looks like is is nothing but a port of a 15 year old DVD release which was probably just a port of the VHS release because no one could be bothered to waste their time on this film.

Score: **

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: Please, PLEASE, I implore you to not give any of you precious attention to this film.

Little Monsters (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Little Monsters (2019)

Film: I never used to be a fan of horror comedies because I didn’t like the juxtaposition of laughs with horror. Actually, I still don’t really believe that the horror/comedy exists: horror/ comedies are just comedies with monsters and or gore in them.

Having said that, some of my favourite movies are horror comedies. Movies like Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead and Re-animator hit this amazing balance between the ridiculousness of the situation, humans ability to laugh in the face of danger and blood and gore.

Unfortunately a lot of horror/ comedies fail because they can’t hit that balance; The Spierig Brothers’ Undead was one of those for me. It had a few funny lines, but essentially it fell flat as either horror or comedy.

This film, Little Monsters, is a winner though. Written and directed by Australian actor/ director Abe Forsythe who previously gave us the Ned Kelly comedy Ned (2003) and Down Under (2016), Little Monsters tell of Dave (Alexander England), a washed up worker who is constantly at war with his girlfriend until they finally decide to call it quits.

With nowhere to go, he moves in with his sister, Tess (Kat Stewart) and her son, Felix (Diesel La Torraca) where he proves to be not the best influence on the boy, especially when he discovers that Felix’s teacher is the stunning Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), and volunteers to chaperone the children in his class on an excursion to Pleasant Valley, which has a petting zoo and mini golf, but also, for a limited time, the 5 times Nickelodeon kids award winning entertainer, Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad).

What starts as a delightful excursion becomes a nightmare as the American Army base next door has a breakout of zombies who find their way onto the theme park grounds. Very soon, Miss Caroline, Dave, Teddy and Miss Caroline’s class find themselves holed up in the souvenir shop, surrounded by the undead, with seemingly no way out!

Will they all survive?

I admit to have blind bought this Bluray for two reasons, the first is you just have to put the word ‘zombie’ on anything and immediately I’m interested. The other is Lupita Nyong’o. For me she was about the only thing I liked about the Black Panther movie (well, her and Shuri), and she shows some amazing skill playing both Adelaide and Red in the Jordan Peele science fiction/ horror movie Us.

After watching it though, I also have to take my hat off to Josh Gad, who plays Teddy with a gleeful delight at first before revealing his deplorable true colours, and make for a hilarious ‘jerk’ character. That’s not to take away from Alexander England either: Dave is one of the most irredeemable characters prime for redemption ever seen in a comedy.

The type of zombie that appears in the film is the slow, non-tool using type, but part of the script suggests that there are lots of types as one of the American Army guys asks ‘Fast ones or slow ones’ which was a nice truce in the war between running and walking zombies.

The best thing about this film though is how damned funny it is. It starts like a stoner comedy and switches so easily to a horror comedy/ romantic comedy that you barely notice where the change is… and that’s not to cast shade on the imbues either: they look amazing, considering most of the budget must have been spent just on the international cast members!

I really can’t recommend this film enough. It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud at a co edgy, let alone a horror/ comedy!

Score: *****

Format: Little Zombies is presented in an absolutely perfect 2.35:1 image, and a cracking DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is so much happening in this film, and it’s so bloody funny, it deserves multiple watches!