The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

One from the re watch pile…

The Hills Have Eyes (2006)

Film: The early 2000s were a wonderful time when every second movie that was released was a remake, not like now when every movie is a Disney film, and every forum on the Internet was rife with old school horror lovers screaming blue murder that a remake would wreck ‘their’ film.

Here’s a few pointers:

-a remake doesn’t wreck an original film…in actual fact it does nothing to it other than bring attention to it.

it’s not ‘your’ film, and the owners of the rights can do whatever they feel like to it. You are just playing in their backyard.

Anyway, this remake was directed by French director Alexandre Aja, whose previous film was the unusual, and violent psychological film Haute Tension aka High Tension which many people were stunned by both for its extreme gore, and is use of trickery, and blatant lies to tell its tale. The script, whilst based on Wes Craven’s original film, is written by Gregory Levasseur, who also worked on Haute Tension and Aja’s next film, Mirrors.

The Hills Have Eyes remake tells of a family who are travelling across the New Mexico desert on holiday. When the father, Big Bob (Ted Levine) is told of a short cut not on the map by a gas station attendant of dubious moral, he proves he must have never seen a horror movie a decides to take it.

Part of the way across this ‘short cut’ the family are in a accident staged by a bunch of mutants who live in the mines in the hills, and in the governmental built town made to see how nuclear weapons would effect suburbs. These mutants are the results of the fallout subjected their ancestors.

Quickly, the family are subjected to murder, rape and cannibalism before one of them steps up his game and decides to set things straight, and carves a path of blood and guts across the desert.

Aja proves that his Haute Tension film was not a fluke, and this, his first American film, sits high on my list of amazing remakes, along with John Carpenter’s The Thing and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Aja has taken Craven’s film and really increased the levels of every threat the family encounter.

A special shout-out has to go to the effects, which to me are a seamless combination of CGI and practical effects, and the soundtrack, not just the incidental music but also the bizarre choices of songs for the opening and closing credits, particularly the opening which is combined with 1950s styled happy-housemaker adverts and deformities of the children of people who were exposed to Agent Orange in Viet Nam.

There is a lot to love about this film and dare I say it, I like it far more than the original.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B Bluray release of the film, which is presentin a crystal clear 2.35:1 image and a matching Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a few extras on here which are a pain to access as the disc has no menu screen, so whilst the film is playing you have to use your ‘Pop-up Menu’ button to access them.

There are two commentaries, one by Aja, writer Levassuer and Producer Marianne Maddalena and another by Producers Peter Locke and horror legend Wes Craven. Either individually or watched one after the other they offer a whole pile of interesting anecdotes of the making of the film.

There are 7 Production diaries which can be watched individually or as a job lot. They are crappy handicap filmed behind the scenes stuff with no offer of an explanation throughout and each one only goes for about two minutes. Ultimately worthless.

We also have trailers for this film, From Hell and X-men: The Last Stand.

Score: ***

WISIA: I really dig it so, yeah: 100%

Rupture (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Rupture (2016)

Film: When is a superhero movie not a superhero movie? When it is an exploration of ‘super powers’ and what it may take to get them to manifest in regular human beings! With the glut of fairly generic superhero films littering the cinemas, it’s nice to see someone doing such an exploration.

As one would expect, such a film would be made by people who are perhaps somewhat subversive with their previous productions, and in this case we are treated by the writer and director of the film Secretary, Steven Shainberg and Brian Nelson.

Reneé (Naomi Rapace), divorced, lives in the suburbs with her son, Evan (Percy Hynes White) but unbeknownst to her, her house is littered with camera, feeding the details of her everyday life to…someone?

After dropping her son off at his father’s house for a few days, Reneé is kidnapped and tasered by a group of people (including Fantastic Four’s Michael Chiklis) and taken to a facility, run by Dr. Nyman (Lesley Manville) and her team (including Peter Stormare) where she is subjected to a series of experiments by that are seemingly meant to test her endurance… it to what end? What will happen if and when she finally breaks?

Imagine making Hostel with a Twin Peaks color palette via a Croenenberg body-horror nightmare mixed with a Marilyn Manson filmclip hoping for a X-men styled result and you’ll get where Rupture is coming from. Mind you, if I’m totally honest, it’s a Diet Coke version of Martyrs.

Shainberg has an extraordinary mix of cast members who possibly shouldn’t work well together, but do so well, and to an increasingly odd effect as the film goes on.

It’s extraordinarily claustrophobic and the villains are persistently moustache-twirling weirdos with a mysterious agenda and that is what will keep you entertained for the entire film. Sure there are some inconsistencies, like the bad guys wiring up Reneé’s entire house with cameras, but there are none in the entire facility except portable video cameras carried around for the experiments, but I’ve seen far worse plot devices in my 15 odd years of reviewing films.

By the way, there is a couple of tributes to other genre films… keep a look out for them.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian Region B Bluray, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. The image and sound, presented in 2.35:1 and DTS-HD 5.1, are both perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Not a single one.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a great story with an awesome cast, though once it’s secret are revealed a second watching probably isn’t going to have the same effect.

Fair Game (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

Fair Game (1986)

Film: After I saw Mark Hartley’s amazing documentary Not Quite Hollywood, I became obsessed with the period of Australian cinema it covered. Not only because it showed me some films I’d never seen before, but it also reminded me of a whole lot of stuff I’d seen on VHS and forgotten.

… and so the copious amount of shopping, both local and tragically international… I mean what a shame one can’t get all the Australian movies here in Australia!!!

To date, of the ones I want to own, the only one that continues to elude me is Lady Stay Dead!

Of all these film that I hadn’t seen before the one I absolutely fell in love with was this film, Fair Game, so back then I searched out the DVD release and thankfully, Australian company Umbrella Entertainment have now released a pretty amazing Bluray of the film.

Fair Game tells the story of Jessica (Cassandra Delaney), the caretaker of a remote wildlife reserve who comes into contact with some pretty dodgy out back versions of good old boys: Sunny (Peter Ford), Ringo (David Sanford) and Sparks (Garry Who). Whilst the boys think they are merely playing with Jessica, Jessica doesn’t see the funny side of their taunts (which include breaking into her house a photographing her whilst she is asleep… definitely crossing a line) and very soon things escalate out of control.

Unfortunately for Jessica, she is very much alone: her phone has stopped working and her car has broken down… could these three miscreants eventually resort to murder… or even worse?

It really doesn’t get more Australian than this film. The red glow of the Australian outback is just as much of a star of this film as the actors involved. Those very actors are pretty amazing at the jobs too. In no way is this a serious film, it is a caricature of a serious rape/ revenge film like I Spit On Your Grave and the actors all play their parts like the cartoonish archetypes that they represent: helpless woman, smarmy badguy, rat-faced henchman and tunny, dumbo second henchman.

The real star of the film though is the car. It’s a cross between a Ford F100, a vehicle from Mad Max and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It’s a beast and plus a big part in the threatening nature of the film.

It’s a cracker of an Australian film, and everyone should really give it a fair suck of the sav !

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment multi-region Bluray which is presented in a clear 1.85:1 image with a matching 2.0 DTS-HD audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Heaps of awesome extras on this disc:

Audio Commentary with Director Mario Andreacchio and Writer Rob George

Extended Interview with Cassandra Delaney from Not Quite Hollywood is, what the title would suggest, a 15 minute interview taken from Mark Hartley’s amazing doco about the Australian Ozploitation films called Not Quite Hollywood.

On Location with Fair Game is about three minutes of behind the scenes footage of the scenes surrounding the destruction of the house with The Beast.

Behind the Scenes – 1985 TV Report from NWS9, Action News and Behind the Scenes – 1985 TV Report from ADS-7, State Affair are two news reports of the making of the film. By the looks of the channels it was for regional stations for some colour inbetween ‘real’ news.

Behind the Scenes with Dean Bennett is about an hour of behind the scenes material.

There is a bunch of promotional stuff like a theatrical trailer and an image gallery.

Storyboards shows a pretty cool series of storyboards for the film, shown as a slideshow with the score over the top.

Mario Andreacchio Short Films is obviously a series of short films by Andreacchio which honestly, I could make it all the way through. They do definitely explore the Australian youth experience though.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s not the greatest film ever made, but it’s so over the top you’ll definitely watch it more than once.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

One from the re-watch pile…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

The cover of the Steelbook edition of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Film: I did not like this film at all when I first saw it. I didn’t understand the decisions that had been made, and I didn’t like some of the story choices. I wanted Star Wars to be like MY Star Wars!

After seeing it for the second time though I realised something greater than that though: it ISN’T my Star Wars anymore, and now that it is controlled by Disney, it doesn’t fall into the mistakes of what is the issue with the prequels were, and even The Force Awakens. Many complained that TFA just felt like a remake of Star Wars… well, this does NOT feel like a remake of The Empire Strikes Back.

It would seem that Disney are taking a similar step with the SW universe as it is with the Marvel Universe movies: find different directors to make the films so they have a different take on what we believe to be the status quo. Sometimes, like with the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, it works spectacularly and sometimes, like with Thor Ragnarok, it fails miserably.

Daisy Ridley as Rey

The Last Jedi is a continuation of the Skywalker family legacy and picks up after the events of The Force Awakens. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in hope to learn the art of the Jedi, only to find him a reclusive who clearly has NO intention of ever teaching her, and with that emotional abandonment, she is somehow psychically linking to the First Order’s evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is offering her something different…

Meanwhile, the Resistance, led by General Organa (Carrie Fisher), is under constant attack by the First Order, and are trying to find ways to save themselves. Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) travel to the casino planet Canto Bight in the hope of finding assistance, whereas Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) prefers a more direct approach and will even commit acts of mutiny to get what he believes is right.

All in the background is the threat of the First Order’s Snoke (Andy Serkis), but will the good guys prevail, or will this middle part of a trilogy leave us with more questions than answers?

This first time I saw this film, I hated it. There is no other way around it, I thought it was a travesty, but upon watching it again, and listening to director Rian Johnson’s musings on the story, I have an appreciation of it I didn’t have previously. I still think there are a few story ideas that didn’t work, and the economy of cinema is not present, specifically with the Canto Bight scene which could be excised from the film without making any different to the outcome of the film.

It’s 30 odd minutes of wasting time for no reason other than to have a ‘cantina’ or ‘Jabba’s palace’ styled sequence.

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker

Tragically some of the casting is off too. As much as I dig Benicio Del Toro, he and the entire sequence he is in is a worthless waste of time, and Rose just seems like a Star Wars nerd has snuck onto the set, killed an actor and hid her body, and then replaced the real thing. Other than that, the cast is as good as they ever were.

There were some frustrating decisions made too. A fan-favourite from the original films is killed off quite early in the film only to be replaced with a character who was previously in the novels, which means if you haven’t read those she’ll mean NOTHING to you and you’ll wonder why you are supposed to care. Watchers of the films shouldn’t need external devices to make them care about a character.

What I do have to really say about this film is how beautiful it is. Even though on the surface we see some elements reminiscent of previous films, we also get to see some really different and inventive character, vehicle and even environment designs.

The important thing is though that the story moves in a different direction to what anyone thought, and maybe the criticisms come from those of us, me included, who think we KNOW what is good for Star Wars.

I couldn’t quite explain to people how I felt about this film until I listened to someone talk about their sportsball team. People who passionately love their team follow them through thick and thin, and usually no matter how bad they go in their respective league. The Last Jedi is my team not doing very well, but I’ll continue to support ‘my team’ as I really do love them. Star Wars is an intrinsic part of my DNA and I can’t imagine ever HATING it because one or two films haven’t lived up to my expectations.

I now do enjoy this film, but I think if a film has to explain itself with it’s supplementary Bluray/ DVD stuff, or if characters are introduced in other mediums like books or comics and that means I’m supposed to care about them in the films, it’s still not a great film.

Score: **

The menu screen of the Bluray of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Format: This film was reviewed using the Australian multi-region Bluray, an immaculate presentation, perfect in every way. It’s presented in a 2.39:1 image with a 7.1 DTS-HDMA audio.

Score: *****

Extras: As one would expect, this edition (and I say “this edition” as no doubt there will countless other releases) has a great bunch of extras on it, and honestly I felt it was a strange and interesting bunch of extras.

Disc One

The only extra feature on disc one is an audio commentary by Rian Johnson, and he clearly loves the fact he got to direct a Star Wars film, and he expertly explain decisions he made through the film, whether they were successful or not is up to we, the viewers.

Disc Two

The first is a feature length documentary called The Director and the Jedi which is a fascinating insight into the decisions that Johnson made with this film. It looks at all the aspects of the film and even bravely looks at Hamill’s disagreement with the things that happened in the script. I admit that I hated The Last Jedi at first, but after watching this I have a greater appreciation of the decisions made, and no longer detest it like I did.

Balance of the Force is a ten minute addendum to the previous extra, but I think watches more like someone justifying their decisions that have been judged as bad by the fan base. It’s weird actually, both these extras are like Disney’s trying to justify their employment of Disney.

Scene Breakdowns looks at a few scenes and their creation, from the story idea to the execution. This is divided into three extras: Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle, Snoke and Mirrors and Showdown on Crait. I love special effects features so these were all of great value to me.

Andy Serkis Live (One Night Only!) shows all of Serkis’ performance as Snoke, but without the ILM effects posted on his mo-cap suit.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes of various lengths that can be watched either with or without a commentary by the director, which I always find interesting as to why some choices were made to throw out a section. It’s interesting that some of these scenes would be placed far better in the film than the entire Canto Bight sequence.

Score: *****

WISIA: It being a Star Wars film, yeah, I’m gonna watch it again, but I’m still not going to think of it like The Empire Strikes Back or Rogue One which I think are absolutely perfect.

Carrie Fisher as General Organa

31 (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

31 (2015)

Film: There is no doubt that I am an unabashed Rob Zombie fan. I loved the first album of his that I got years ago from Utopia records in Sydney, which must have been La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume one in the early 90s, and I’ve been a follower ever since.

I was pretty stoked ten or so years later too when I discovered that he was going to translate his monster fandom and image to the silver screen, and I, to date, have enjoyed all his films…

Ok, H2 was a misstep and the less said about that the better. In actual fact, I should also, for full disclosure, state that I absolutely LOVE Lords of Salem!

A group of Carnival workers, including Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Charley (Sheri Moon Zombie), Venus (Meg Foster), Levon (Kevin Jackson) and Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) are traveling in a bus to their next gig when they are stopped by a mysterious road block in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately for them they are captured by the goons controlled by Father Murder (Malcolm McDowell), Sister Dragon (Judy Geeson) and Sister Serpent (Jane Carr) who once a year at Halloween put a group of people they kidnaped through a trial where they have to survive a gauntlet populated by a bunch of murderous people such as Sick-head (Pancho Moler), Psycho-head (Lee Temple), Sex-head (Elizabeth Daily) and the unstoppable Doom-head (Richard Brake).

They have 12 hours to survive whilst being pursued by these clown-faced torturers and all the while, Murder, Dragon and Serpent place bets on who will survive the longest… but will any of them survive at all?

The thing I find weird about where Zombie has gone with this film is all the criticisms that i’ve heard about his other films, he seems to have attempted just to distill them together in one film. Essentially this film starts as a homage… tribute (?)…. rip-off (!)… to Texas Chain Saw Massacre before descending into a pastiche of Zombie’s previous films.

The worst crime committed is that the protagonists are unlikable jerks, so there is no threat. In actual fact you look forward to them getting killed, and whilst that may have been the point, the payoff of their murders just isn’t awful enough or gory or inventive enough for it to enter torture porn territory.

Honestly this whole film seems to be a vehicle for Richard Brake, whose Doom-head character has some great monologues and he’s an impressive figure of evil within it, even though his dual switchblade weapons are a little boring and unimpressive considering.

Zombie’s usual visual style and mix of incidental music and songs for the soundtrack are all present here and still look as good as ever (if you like his style, which I do) and so that experience is another positive in a film which basically, was not very good.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Monster Pictures region B Bluray release which runs for approximately 103 minutes, and it’s image is difficult to judge as it is full of Zombie’s trademark ‘grindhouse’ filmstock appearance, so to say this 16×9 image is perfect is not true, but the look is a deliberate and artificial construct by the auditing and effects process, so it is perfect for the effect it is attempting to provide. The audio, however is a perfect 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other Monster Pictures releases The Greasy Strangler and Anti-birth before hitting the menu screen.

As far as extras are concerned, there are three behind the scenes galleries: one general one, one focusing on Zombie behind the camera and one of the photo shoot for the poster art. I don’t have much interest in static images on a disc made for moving images so this is essentially worthless to me.

At least there is also a trailer.

Score: *

WISIA: There’s much better films in Rob Zombie’s catalogue… actually there is better films in Andy Milligan’s catalogue. No, probably not ever again.

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Zombruary 2 continues…

One from the re watch pile…

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)

Film: I’ve always been a Hammer Horror film fan over a Universal Monsters fan. Yes the images of the Universal character designs are the most loved, but I have always preferred the design, the direction, the scores, the stories and yes, the ‘Hammer Glamour’ as the women of these films are occasionally referred.

The cinematically early splashes of blood and violence don’t hurt either.

This film, The Plague of the Zombies, was filmed back-to-back with another Hammer film, The Reptile, and shared most of its cast, and were both directed by John Gilling, who also directed Trog and The Mummy’s Shroud. It was written by Peter Bryan who also wrote The Hound of the Baskerville and The Brides of Dracula. The interesting thing about the films is they were both part of double features, but not together as the sets and cast may have confused audiences! This was original presented with Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

This film is set in August 1860, and tells of Sir James Forbes (André Morrell) and his daughter Sylvia (Diane Claire) who travel to a small Cornish town to assist their friend, Peter Tompson (Brook Williams), the town Doctor who is unable to halt what seems to be a plague effecting the townspeople. His wife, Alice (Jacqueline Pearce) seems to be succumbing to this disease as well.

One recently buried corpse had no autopsy performed on it so Tompson and Forbes dig up the coffin, only to find it empty! Upon further investigation they find that the dead walk the moors around the town, and that maybe, just maybe, the town squire, Clive Hamilton (John Carson) is using voodoo that he learned in Haiti to perform these wicked deeds… but why? What is his horrible scheme?

This film is a well constructed and entertaining look at voodoo, albeit not necessarily a very accurate portrayal. The acting is over the top and very theatrical but that just adds to the drama of the proceedings! Gilling has created a fascinating look to the film too, as most of the film has a cramped, oppressive, claustrophobic feel to it. When you combine that appearance with the score, which is a combination of traditional dramatic horns mixed with tribal beats, it creates a unique feel throughout the film.

This all makes for an effective horror film, not scary, but a totally entertaining film that sits high in my favourite Hammer films.

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed using the region B Bluray which runs for approximately 90 minutes (87 if you watch the DVD in this collection). It is presented in a wonderful, considering the age, 1.66:1 and a matching mono 2.0 audio track. It should be good considering the process of restoration, which is explored somewhat in the extras.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: A bunch of excellent extras on this disc:

World of Hammer Episode: Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead is an episode of The World of Hammer (as the title suggests) narrated by Oliver Reed explores the various films of Hammer than explored… yes, you guessed it…. Mummies, Werewolves and the Living Dead, relevant here as The Plague of the Zombies makes an appearance.

Raising the Dead is a retrospective making of the film and is incredibly informative, mixing film historians, fans and actual cast comments makes for a quite thorough recollection of the film.

The restoration comparison is fascinating as it shows the footage of the film before and after restoration, sometimes in a split screen so you can accurately see just how much work was done, not just with colour, but with telecine wobble, artefacts and even complete rips in the original negative.

Finally we have a trailer for the film.

This release also came with a DVD copy of the film (unreviewed)

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s certainly high level Hammer Horror so it definitely will get repeat viewings!

Orca (1977)

One from the to watch pile…

Orca (1977)

Film: I just love cinema, I really do, and one of the things I love is when something becomes popular, or a blockbuster, smaller, not as well funded productions gear up to challenge whatever was the ‘hit’.

After 1975’s Jaws, killer sea life was all the rage: several Jaws sequels, Piranha, Humanoids from the Deep, The Deep, Mako, and this film, Orca (which, ironically, was the name of Quint’s ship in Jaws: the orca being a creature that can kill a great white shark). Orca was directed by Michael Anderson, legendary director of things like The Dambusters, Logan’s Run and Doc Savage, from a script by Luciano Vincenzoni, the writer responsible for The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Policewoman and Raw Deal.

I honestly don’t remember if I have ever seen this film before, but if I have it would have been on TV rather than any of the multiple forms of home video, as I don’t have any recollection of ever hiring the film, and I certainly have never owned it before.

Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) and his crew, Novak (Kennan Wynn), Paul (Peter Hooten) and Annie (Bo Derek, in her first released film… she had filmed one prior but it wasn’t released until after this) hunt sharks to sell, but when they witness a killer whale kill a great white they decide, against the wishes of marine biologist, Rachel Bedford (Charlotte Rampling), turn turn their attention to capturing one of those instead.

So they make their merry way to sea and try to catch a male killer whale, but instead accidentally snag a female, who at first attempts to kill herself to avoid capture by pushing herself against the prop of the boat, but fails, and once slung up, we find that she was also pregnant and she spontaneously aborts the foetus. Her mate spends the whole time in the water freaking out and commits Nolan’s face to memory…

Soon, the boat is attacked by the male and Nolan decides to throw the female overboard, but the male kills Novak and the male pushes the body of his dead mate to shore as a warning to all that he wants his revenge! Even a local Native American, Umilak (Will Sampson) warns Nolan about the memory and capacity for revenge that orcas have.

The small town is attacked by the whale, but will Nolan face up to his responsibilities and clear out of town, leaving it in peace, or will he try to kill the male, and leave the town in pieces?

You have to love a film with an opening action scene that is a clear challenge to Jaws. The destruction, with ease, of the Great White in the beginning is clearly Anderson saying,’ you think Jaws was something, our Killer Whales will make mincemeat out of them!’

The film is made in an exquisite location of Petty Harbour in Canada and every scene makes me want to go their more and more. Upon a bit of research I discovered that ironically two of the tourist locations in this town are whale-watching and their aquarium!

The real winner here is the cast, who do their very best to make do with a story that is preposterous, for example, the orca knowing where to bust a fuel line and what part of the pier it can hit to cause a lot lantern to fall and ignite it: remembering a guy’s face from the water is one thing, but understanding chemistry and physics is something else. It is a horror movie though, so preposterous is to be expected.

Other than the silly idea of a vengeful sea-mammal, the cast don’t really get much of an opportunity to create characters that are sympathetic. The majority of the focus is of Harris’s character and the rest don’t get much of a look in, to the point I reckon that Harris could have performed this as a one-man live stage show! This unfortunately means that whenever something happens to another character, you don’t really care too much, and their deaths seem to be for the purpose of giving Harris some to grieve over and reflect on his character’s stupidity.

I will compliment the special effects crew on the fake orcas: they look amazing in the film and one can’t tell the difference between the real and fake ones except when their situation is out of the ordinary. This is apparently true as well as the trucks delivering the models during the shoot were stopped by anti-whaling protestors!

Orca is a well acted but ultimately silly film that doesn’t seem to have any reason to exist other than as a challenge to Jaws. The cast and the location is really the only reason to watch this film.

Score: ***

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment region B Bluray, which runs for approximately 92 minutes is presented in a surprisingly clear 2.35:1and an excellent 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

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

First there is a commentary by film historian Lee Gambin, anthropologists of Nope, Nothing Wrong Here: The Making of Cujo and Massacred by Mother Nature: Exploring the Natural Horror Film,

Moby Dick ala De Laurentiis: Martha De Laurentiis remembers Orca sees Dino De Laurentiis’s business partner, co-producer of his films and widow discuss briefly the making of Orca.

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

WISIA: If I felt like watching a movie about sea life gone wild, I’d probably watch any of the Jaws films, any of the Piranha films or Humanoids of the Deep before this one.

The Skeleton Key (2005)

One from the re watch pile…

The Skeleton Key (2005)

Film: Every now and again, big budget Hollywood make an attempt at trying something new at the movies, and they will find a team of actors who are a mix of up-and-coming A-listers, and stars from years ago to deliver a movie that is inoffensive and never… NEVER… will be referred to as a horror movie. It happens so frequently even Fangoria once had a section called ‘It’s Not A Horror Movie’ so these films could be celebrated.

In this case, the attempt was made using Hackers director, Iain Softley from a script by Ehren Kruger, who adapted the J-horror film Ring to an English version, and more recently, wrote the Ghost in the Shell movie. The stars picked from the ‘little bit old’ column were John Hurt and Gina Rowland, and from the new, Kate Hudson and Peter Sarsgaard.

The Skeleton Key takes place in New Orleans and tells of a hospice nurse, Caroline (Hudson) who answers a wanted ad placed by a lawyer, Luke Marshall (Sarsgaard) on behalf of one of his clients, Violet Devereux (Rowlands) to nurse her husband Ben (Hurt) whose health is failing after he has had a severe stroke in the attic of their mansion.

Violet is protective of her crippled husband, as one would suspect, but the longer Caroline stays in the house, the more she thinks that there is MUCH more going on and that perhaps the house contains a secret… a ghostly secret… with its origins steeped in Hoodoo…

This is an interesting film in that it takes itself seriously even though the story is preposterous, and that’s what makes it work. The four leads perform their roles with a great deal of conviction, especially Kate Hudson, which is saying something when you consider she’s mostly known for being the femme foil for lunkheads played by Matthew McConaughey in totally moronic romantic comedies. In this, she is sensitive and as her character evolves, she changes her style of acting. She has an amazing gear shift during the film too and does it convincingly.

John Hurt needs some recognition too considering he does most of his acting as a semi-comatose stroke victim, but what he can do with a wide eye and a stretch of the neck speaks volumes of fear. Amazing.

The whole design of the movie is quite beautiful. The spooky places look decidedly spooky and the old house the majority of the film takes place in is ominous and doesn’t feel right from the start, which suits the general unsettling feel the majority of the film has.

I really like this film, even though it isn’t really ‘proper’ horror it still resonates and as I said, it’s wholly due to the convincing performances.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This multi-region Bluray copy of The Skeleton Key runs for about 100 minutes, and is presented in a clean and clear 2.35:1 image with a perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack.

Score: ****

Extras: Speaking of skeletons, there is no extras on this disc. That’s a great disappointment too as the DVD release from 11 years ago was packed full of extras!

Score: 0

WISIA: I saw it first in 2005 and haven’t watched it since, so I guess any impact it may have left in zero for me not to bother with it again. That’s not to say it’s bad, there is just stuff I’d rather watch.

Castle Freak (1995)

One from the re watch pile…

Castle Freak (1995)

Film: Of course, everyone knows of the Cornetto trilogy, and the Romero Trilogy, but my favourite loosely themed, syncopated trilogy is writer/ director Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy… and whilst you might easily think to yourself, ‘ oh that’s easy, it’s Reanimator, Bride of Reanimator and Beyond Reanimator’, but you’d be wrong as two of those suckers are actually directed by Brian Yuzna.

So what is Gordon’s Lovecraft trilogy, you ask? Well, it isn’t officially known the Lovecraft Trilogy, even though it should be. It could also be called the Combs/ Crampton Trilogy, as they play, in each film, a couple of people with a strained relationship… anyway I digress. This ‘Gordon Trilogy consists of the aforementioned Reanimator, but then goes to From Beyond, and then to this, Castle Freak, which was loosely based on Lovecraft short story The Outsider.

(As an aside, he also did the Masters of Horror episode Dreams in the Witch-House and another film Dagon, both based on Lovecraft’s work, but these three particularly have the common actor thread through them, so I don’t necessarily count these, even though they are Ok in their own right)

This film tells of the Reilly family, who are a family in crisis. Susan (Barbara Crampton) can’t forgive her husband John (Herbert Combs) for a car accident he had whilst drunk which killed their son, JJ, and blinded their daughter Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide).

Things seems to be getting better for the Reilly’s though, as John has inherited a castle in Italy from a deceased relative who was a duchess.

The castle has a horrible secret though as many years ago the duchess claimed to have had a son with an American soldier during the war who left when the son was born horribly malformed. The duchess claimed the boy had died to the townspeople though, and actually kept the boy locked in a dungeon… but now he is loose.

Will the Reilly’s survive his wrath?

Of the three films I mentioned in this trilogy, this is certainly the lesser of them mainly due to the fact it is missing the dark sense of humour that Reanimator and From Beyond have, and honestly, it’s not as sexy either.

The film does tell a great story and Gordon’s direction is solid, but casting Combs and Crampton as an estranged couple works until you think of them as a couple, which doesn’t. These two have great antagonistic chemistry but not as a romantic couple. Even in From Beyond the relationship was a more physical and based in passion rather than a romantic relationship.

The story has a few weird anomalies too. The castle John has inherited is echoey and even John says that to another character yet when the mutant son of the duchess screams in agony, no-one seems to hear it. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s a stupid horror trope that Gordon is normally above.

One surprisingly wonderful thing about this film is how it really feels like a classic European gothic horror film, with the tragedy, the environment, the backstory and a climactic battle straight out of a Frankenstein movie!

Of the three films it is certainly the lesser, but it still tells an emotional story, with a great big mutant freak thrown in. Not great but it’s better than a lot of 90s dreck.

Score: ***

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the UK, 88 Films multiregion Bluray copy of the film which runs for approximately 95 minutes and presented in a perfectly ok 1.85:1 image and a 5.1 audio track, though there does seem to be a fair bit of barely noticeable artefact damage on the film.

Score: ****

Extras: There is a decent bunch of extras on this disc:

Castle Speak with Stuart Gordon sees Gordon look back on the creation of the film.

Next is the trailer for the film.

The Making of Castle Freak is one of Full Moon’s Videozone makings-of styled things which features some behind the scenes stuff and interviews with the cast.

The Evil Clergyman (a previously unreleased short film also based on Lovecraft’s writings taken from an anthology called Pulse Pounders) which is a half hour horror short reuniting Combs, Crampton and another Reanimator Star, David Gale. I guess this makes my Trilogy a quadrology, or whatever 4 of something is called, well except it’s directed by Charlie Band. It stars David Warner as well, which is pretty cool.

The Premiere of The Evil Clergyman Featurette sees a bunch of horror fans at a cinema watching the premiere of the film.

Trancers 1.5 Preview looks at a re-release of Trancers with some footage restored to the print.

The Pit and the Pendulum trailer.

There is also a booklet by Calum Waddell which features interviews with Gordon and producer Charlie Band from Full Moon Studios.

Score: ****

WISIA: I like Stuart Gordon’s films and even though this isn’t a priority of his to rewatch, I would, and have, watched it multiple times.

Annabelle Creation (2017)

One from the to watch pile…
Annabelle Creation (2017)

The cover to the Australian Bluray release of Annabelle Creation (2017)


Film: If there is one thing I can say about post-millennium ghost stories it’s that I have so much ennui towards them that I actually end up being occasionally surprised by aspects of them that may show off a small bit of quality. That is, the stories are awfully generic and don’t bring anything new to the ghost sub-genre, but occasionally I’ll find an amazing actor, like Vera Farmiga in The Conjuring films, or just a filmic quality from the production that will make them stand above being absolute drivel.

Not by much, but a single redeeming feature is a redeeming feature, and I can’t deny that.

Of all these ghost stories though, for me the worst has been the ‘Annabelle’ film. It was seemingly driven on by the genpop’s love of creepy dolls, but I didn’t find it to be particularly entertaining, and was surprised that a subplot from a different series should get its own. Even worse, this film is an ‘origin’ film, and I find that when you demystify a character you weaken it, somehow. I like Rob Zombie’s Halloween but I find Myers to be more a tragic figure than a force of nature in his films.

Esther’s (Miranda Otto) scars aren’t all mental.


This film, Annabelle Creation, tells the tale of dollmaker, Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife, Esther (Miranda Otto) whose lives horribly changed after the tragic loss of their daughter, Bee (Samara Lee).

Several years later, the couple take in a nun, Sister Charlotte (Stephanie Sigman) and a small group of orphaned girls, including the crippled by polio, Jan (Talitha Eliana Bateman) as an act of charity, but very quickly the girls discover that there is something in the house… something evil…

… and boring. It’s redeeming feature is it finally does pick up almost at the end, but that’s only if you manage to overcome the terrible pacing. To its credit it did end on a clever note, leading to the previous film.

Carol (Grace Fulton) in a scene lifted from one of Sandberg’s short films.


It’s one thing to make a film that is made for the mass populous that has nothing original, but to make it boring as well is a crime that I just can’t get by. There is no doubt David F. Sandberg, who previously gave us the wonderful Lights Out, gets amazing performances from such a young cast and the film looks hot and dry, but the script, by It’s Gary Dauberman, stinks of generic.

You could play ‘ghost movie lotto’ with this film: creepy doll, tick! Floaty black mist, tick! Weird old guy, tick! I could go on… but that’s not the worst of it. For the most part it feels like there is no threat and nothing seems to happen for the longest time. The worst crime a horror film can commit is being boring, so for that, this film should get life imprisonment.

Score: *

The menu for the Australian Bd release of Annabelle Creation (2017)


Format: This Australian Bluray release of the film runs for approximately 109 minutes and is presented in an immaculate 2.40:1 image with a matching Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There a a few extras on this disc.

The Conjuring Universe is a short look at the universe that the Conjuring and Annabelle films exist within.

There are two horror shorts, Attic Panic and Coffer, both by Sandberg and his partner Lotta Losten, both of which are far more effective than (and whose scenes are borrowed for) this film.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes that can be watched with a commentary by the director which discuss how the film would have been well over 2 hours long without some trimming, and is an interesting discussion about the importance of editing.

Directing Annabelle Creation is an excellent discussion with Sandberg about directing films. He discusses how he became a filmmaker and how he used DVD extras as ‘training’ videos for his own skill. It’s extraordinarily fascinating and a real insight into the act of direction and possibly an inspiration to those of us who do the same thing.

There is an interesting director’s commentary too, and it’s totally worth it. Sandberg is a guy who loves his craft of movie making and it really shows.

Score: ****

WISIA: Nup, nope, never. Though I might put it on for the two shorts on the extras.

The ‘eyes’ have it… eh, eh?