Lady Stay Dead (1981)

One from the to watch pile…

Lady Stay Dead (1981)

Film: Several years ago, Australian filmmaker Mark Hartley made a documentary called ‘Not Quite Hollywood’, and I curse him every day for that marvellous piece of work. Why do I curse him? Well I knew very little about ‘those’ Australian films, and that doco turned into a shopping list that has subsequently cost me hundreds of dollars in film purchases.

The main film that intrigued me on the documentary was this one, Lady Stay Dead, mainly due to the fact that I was completely unaware of its existence. Whilst I may not have seen some of the other films, I had certainly heard of them at least, but this one was a mystery.

Written and directed by Terry Bourke, whose resume also contains films like Inn of the Damned, Plugg and Night of Fear, not to mention a TV series that few remember but was one I liked as a child called Catch Kandy, this film is an interesting beast.

Gordon (Chard Hayward) is a professional Gardner, but his paid work isn’t what defines him… it’s his hobby as an abuser of women! His job sees him maintaining the grounds of celebrity Marie Colby (Deborah Coulls), an abusive cow who through her insults finally drives Gordon to make her his next victim, but when she resists and continues the abuse, he snaps and drowns her in a fish tank. When is disposal of the body is witnessed by a neighbour, Gordon realises that he must kill again, but these attacks will start a series of events that may bring about Gordon’s downfall. Has he left too many clues to his hobby, or will he get away with it again?

There is no doubt that this film has been wrapped in Ozploitation, and then triple dipped in sleaze! The story is a mix of the previous year’s Bill Lustig film ‘Maniac’ and 1975’s ‘L’assassino é Costretto ad Uccidere Ancora’, aka ‘The Killer Must Kill Again’, but with a fair dinkum beachside locale and a bunch of hot Aussie chick who all get their kit off!

Now that may sound great but there are a few drawbacks. The acting is dire, and I mean as if the actors are reading off cue cards dire! Also, the soundtrack if a mix of terrible ‘I Never Been To Me’ styled pop songs, and elevator music circa. 1973. I’m no music critic but this stuff poisoned my ears.

This films as Australian as they come, so Ozploitation fans really need to have this in their collection, but unfortunately, it’s just not very good. When neither the victim or perpetrator in a film have any charisma, you are off to a pretty bad start, but then this cliched farce has NO suspense and some really laughable dialogue and acting, so there is no salvation at all.

It does however feature Australian legend and actor from Mad Max and Turkey Shoot, Roger Ward, so all is not lost. Worth watching for cultural embarrassment only.

Score: **

Format: Lady Stay Dead was reviewed with the Code Red, multi-region Bluray which runs for approximately 94 minutes, and presented with a 1.78:1 image with a mono audio track, and considering the age of the film, aren’t too bad at all. There a are few artefacts and marks here and there but no so persistently that is becomes a distraction.

Score: ***

Extras: There is only one extra on this disc and it is called Banana and the Lady. It’s an introduction to the film by former-wrestler Katarina Leigh Waters on something called ‘Bucket List Theatre’ and she proves that as a presenter, she is a great former-wrestler. Why is it called ‘Banana and the Lady’? Well it starts with a guy in a banana suit replicating one of the scenes in the film, but this time it ends with him blowing a bad CGI load over the lens.

One thing I did find disappointing about this release is the menu screen image highlights Katarina’s stupid bit rather than the actual movie, which seems disrespectful to the movie, if you ask me.

Score: *

WISIA: I doubt very much of this will get another watch here at the ol’ To Watch Pile.

The Beyond (1981)

One from the re watch pile…

The Beyond (1981)

Film: When I was a teen, my first job was manning the counter of a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and let me tell you, I loved that job. Every Sunday I worked from 12 until 4 pm without fail, and I never asked for a day off in the entire time I worked there I would show up at twelve, unwrap my sandwich and stick The Beyond (I think it was a Palace Explosive tape) into the in store player. For that 90 odd minutes, no one was allowed to rent that tape. They could come back after I had finished watching it, but until then, it was verboten (if you are interested, the second feature was always Dawn of the Dead, which they let me keep when the shop closed down, unfortunately, The Beyond had gone missing, so I couldn’t take that as well).

The Beyond is a film by Lucio Fulci, the other Godfather of Gore and was one of the films that was banned in the UK’s ‘video nasty’ witch hunts.

This film is a part of the Fulci’s unofficial zombie trilogy, also known as the Gates of Hell trilogy, which also includes House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, isn’t just the best of these films, but is the best of his career, even though the plot line is confusing and open to the individual’s  interpretation, and at times the effects are somewhat lacking in realism. Unfortunately, the sharpness of the Blu-ray image  is even less forgiving and a few of those effects are even less convincing.

Onto the story…

The Beyond opens in Louisiana in 1927, where a mobs of local townsfolk are making their way to the 7 Doors Hotel, where an artist named Schweik (Antoine Saint-John) is painting a rather disturbing picture that depicts the barren-ness of Hell while a copy of the mysterious Book of Eibon sits close-by. The townsfolk accuse him of witchcraft, which he claims was to keep a gate to Hell that exists within the hotel shut, but the mob ignore his cries, nail him to a wall, and cover him in quicklime.

Many years later, a young women named Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel from her uncle, and almost as soon as she starts work on renovations, the trouble begins. First a painter falls from a scaffolding from which he should never have fallen, and soon after a plumber is butchered in the flooded basement, after which Liza strikes up a friendship with a local doctor, John (David Warbeck). A strange girl Emily (Sarah Fuller aka Cinzia Moreale) warns Liza that the work she is doing on the hotel is dangerous, but Liza chooses to ignore her, even though she is spooked by her words, and the accidents that have happened.  Strange things happen around room 36 as well (get it? 3 x 6…666) which is the room Schweik was dragged from to his death, and Liza thinks she sees both the body of Schweik and the Book of Eibon as well, but once John turns up, it appears to be a fantasy.

More and more deaths occur and it would appear that Liza has accidentally reopened the gate to Hell.  Can Liza find a way to close the Gate… will she even bother?

The fact that the film is so open to the watcher’s interpretation is the main thing I like about The Beyond. Whilst ‘regular’ film goers probably would have trouble with unconvincing special effects and gore, horror fans can (and in my experience, will) talk for hours about the meanings behind the film, and what the actual plotline is! It is dreamlike and nightmarish, and has this feel of a real horror film, one which I think many horror filmmakers no longer attempt to match as perhaps today’s movie goer requires more literal storytelling.

The Beyond has some spectacular gore scenes that may look a little fake but are executed with gusto! In this film Fulci has taken special attention to the face, and it’s parts, and celebrates their destruction in a way that will repulse most, but will inspire a “Cool!” from those who like it.

This film also has a great legacy of Italian and international horror stars: Catriona (Catherine) MacColl who also starred in House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, David Warbeck of The Black Cat and Hunters of the Golden Cobra, Cincia Moreale from Buio Omega and The Stendahl Sydrome, Antoine Saint-John of The Killer Must Kill Again and A Fistful of Dynamite, Giampaolo (sic) Saccarola of Tenebrae and the House By the Cemetery and Veronica Lazar from Inferno and Last Tango in Paris.

Score: *****

Format: Those of you who wander the wild land of the internet will know of the initial problem that scarred this release, that is, the incorrect black and white instead of sepia toned opening. When I purchased this disc, I received one of these flawed copies, but after contacting the people at Arrow Films, I received a corrected version within a week, which considering I am in Australia and they are in the UK, is quite commendable. I should point out that according to Arrow films, this error was on the first batch released, so all subsequent releases should be the sepia version.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 image that’s looks pretty special, especially when you consider the age of the film. Really the only bad thing about this film is that occasionally in some of the darker sequences there is a small amount of film speckling, which is completely excusable. The amazing soundtrack is presented in  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with the options for either an English or Italian mono track for the purists as well. I am not one of those purists so I instead enjoyed the 5.1 only, and found it to be incredible.

Score: *****

Extras: There is HEAPS of extra features on this 2 discer!

Disc 1:

Before the film starts, Cinzia Moreale introduces the film, and her broken English is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Aka Sarah Keller: Cinzia Moreale Remembers The Beyond  is a nice look back by the actress who portrayed Emily in the film. She discusses her career and her work on this film, all with great poise, I must add.

The Beyond Q & A: Cartriona Maccoll is a fairly informative question session with MacColl which took place after a screening of the film. Unfortunately this is marred by two things; the first is the fact that some scrotum in the audience starts to eat a bag of chips, making crinkling noises all through the piece, the second is the fact that the film notes it with a subtitle referring to it. It is noted several times through the piece, and really the annoying bastard only needed to be pointed out once, as I found the subtitle detracted from what MacColl had to say.

There are also two commentaries on this disc. The first is an older commentary found on previous laserdisc and DVD releases by David Warbeck and MacColl, recorded before Warbeck died in 1997. It is a charming and friendly commentary that has some dubious recollections from the two. The second is with Antonella Fulci and hosted by Calum Waddell, which is a fascinating and personal look at Fulci’s work by his daughter.

Disc 2:

Beyond Italy: Louis Fuller And The Seven Doors Of Death is an absolutely brilliant feature which has the president of Aquarius Films, Terry Levene talk about his career in exploitation films, and what was done to sell Italian films to the states. Those interested in the whole 42nd Street/ Grindhouse thing will find this fascinating, and detractors of Quentin Tarantino will appreciate his comments as well.

One Step Beyond: Catriona Maccoll Remembers A Spaghetti Splatter Classic is recollection from MacColl about her time filming The Beyond and her own career. As with all these sorts of ‘complete’ set of extras, some stories do overlap with disc 1’s Q & A and her commentary with Warbeck, but she is so charming it is easily overlooked.

Butcher Baker Zombiemaker: The Living Dead Legacy Of Gianetto De Rossi looks at the work of special effects artist De Rossi through his own eyes. Through a gravel voice that would make Lawrence Tierney sound like Shirley Temple in comparison, he discusses all the joys and woes of pre-CGI splatter filmmaking.

Fulci Flashbacks: Reflections On Italy’s Leading Paura Protagonist is a series of fond (sometimes) recollections of Fulci and his career from his associates and family.

Alternative Pre-Credit Sequence is just that! An alternative opening of the film, but with one of it’s many alternative titles. Interestingly, this one features a full colour version of the sepia opening of the usual release!!

There is also the International Theatrical Trailer.

The extras don’t just stop at what’s on the two discs either, with Arrow presenting the film in a box that contains a choice of four different covers, (The 7 Doors fo Death, the original title of L’aldila (or more correctly, according to the onscreen title ‘…E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L’Aldila’ translated as ‘..And thou shalt live in terror! The Afterlife’.) or even Die Geisterstadt der Zombies (in English ‘The Ghost-town of the Zombies’), along with a two sided poster and a booklet with two articles by English horror journalist Calem Waddell and an introduction to The Beyond by Cabin Fever director, Eli Roth.

Since this edition was released, and pictured above, there has also been a steelbook version of the film with some amazing new art!

Score: *****

WISIA: I flat out love this film, it was a favourite when I was a kid, I loved it when I first grabbed it on DVD, and this BD version makes me simply burst with excitement. Arrow films have created a master film disc that is a suburb addition to any Blu-ray collection. Grab it now!

Island of Death (1976)

One from the re watch pile…

Island of Death (1976)

Film: I admire director Niko Mastorakis more than I admire almost any other director. All too often we hear that a horror or exploitation film was made as the writer and or director wanted to create a discussion about some ill in the world. Mastorakis has no such delusions of grandeur: as a matter of fact, he openly laughs at those who would attempt to find absent subtext in what I choose to call one of the greatest exploitation films ever made: Island of Death. Mastorakis admits that the script is based around a series of murderous and perverse ideas brought to him, and that the only reason he made it was because he heard that The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was made for almost no money, but earned a heap.

Our film starts with a man trapped in a lime pit, begging for assistance from a girl sitting on the edge, which she denies him. We suddenly flashback to a few days earlier, where we meet the couple, Christopher (Bob Belling) and Celia (Jane Ryall) landing on the Isle of Mykonos for a bit of a holiday . After getting some accommodation on the island, they call Christopher’s mother, as he wants his mother to hear him and Celia screwing in the phone booth.

As the story unfolds we learn that these two are…well, crazy. They refer to each other as husband and wife, and then cousins (the real truth is revealed later), and start to rape, molest and kill their way through the islands denizens, and its goats, all in the name of God!

Immediately, I have to comment on both the acting and the direction: both are terrible. Half the time it feels like the actors learnt their script a half an hour earlier, and may have idiot cards to help them with their lines (funnily enough, the worst actor is probably Mastorakis himself: a true crime against good acting). That is not to say all the acting was dire. Belling (aka Robert Behling) is sufficiently devious and menacing, and the pretty Ryall (aka Jane Lyle) maintains an amazing sense of innocence through the entire proceeding, even during any acts of perversion in which she is involved.

In general Mastorakis’ direction is OK, but now and again, the camera drops out of focus, or the initial set-up is at odds with what may be deemed ‘good cinema’. He does however have some picturesque scenes that show of the beauty of Mikonos. There’s a couple of times the voice doesn’t quite sync too, but that seems to be an editing issue rather than a fault of the disc.

The thing is though that none of that matters. The film is just nutty enough that one can’t keep their eyes from it as the unfolding tale is ridiculous and I for one, think it is a great example of what ‘exploitation’ should be. All of us fans of sick cinema should thank both Mastorakis and Arrow films for the opportunity to see this film uncut.

At first I wasn’t sure if this film was so bad it only deserved one star for being sick, depraved and horrible, but then I realised that it deserves five stars for exactly the same reason. This is a fascinating film packaged with a great collection of extras. Well done, Arrow!

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed with the 2k remastered Bluray from Arrow Video which is presented in a decent 1.37:1 image which does have a few artefacts, and is clearly an older film, but it’s been cleaned up beautifully. The audio is in 1.0 and is is clear and crisp but unremarkable.

Score: ***

Extras: There’s a nice bunch of extras on this disc:

Exploring Islands of Death sees Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Horror and Nightmare USA talk about the making of Island of Death. This isn’t a casual peek either, this is a full tilt critical assessment1

Return to the Island of Death see the director return to the past of Mykonos where the film was made. Mastorakis is a charming host on this visit and shows to have quite the sense of humour as well. The island itself is just as lovely, and hasn’t changed much either! He also makes a confession that Island of Death 2 should be made soon.

There is an interview with Niko Mastorakis where he talks about not just this film, but his career as well.

The Films Of Nico Mastorakis is a dissection of Mastorakis’ career, broken into 4 parts, but told by Mastorakis is a series of anecdotes about the behind the scenes of his films.

There are alternate opening titles under the names Island of Perversion and Devils of Mykonos.

Island Sounds has 5 pieces of music from the score played over a still image of the name of the film and the song title.

There is an original theatrical trailer, and a trailer reel of Mastorakis’ films.

There is also a booklet with an essay about the film’s history by Johnny Walker, and notes about how the 2k transfer was done and any issues had with its production. This Bluray edition also comes with a DVD copy of the film which contains most of the extras.

Score: *****

WISIA: Honestly, it’s not a frequent re-watcher for me, but it is so batty that one can’t help but feed the need to see it several times… and then maybe watch a friend’s reaction when THEY watch it!

Night of the Comet (1984)

One from the rewatch pile…

Night of the Comet (1986)

Film: As a horny oversexed teen, this was probably one of the top ten most borrowed VHS films that I hired from my local video shop. Was I because of the high quality acting and drama? The exploration of mankind’s survival at the end of the world? The two gorgeous babes who were the main characters?

Well, I’d like to say it was the first two, but as you probably all will know, it was the hot girls.

No apologies: it was all hormones.

Anyway, having already been a fan of both the book and the BBC TV series of John Wyndam’s Day of the Triffids and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (not to mention the 80s teledrama of Triffids and Boris Sagal’s The Omega Man), I was on board with this film from the premise, the addition of Kelly Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart were just a bonus.

This film was written and directed by Thom Eberhardt, who also gave us Soul Survivor, which, like this film, is reminiscent of another uncredited text (in that case Survivor by James Herbert).

Everyone is excited by the comets that are about to fly above the earth, especially Samantha’s (Kelly Maroney) step-mother, whom, while her father is away, is throwing a ‘comet party’ with a bunch of neighbours and her sleepy potential boyfriend. When Samantha and her get into an argument, Samantha runs away and hides, missing the comet event.

Meanwhile, Samantha’s sister, Reggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) is also stuck inside while the comets fly over, but instead, she is staying in the cinema she works in with her ‘boyfriend’, whom has made a deal and has to wait for a guy to arrive with some film reels.

The problem for them both, though, when they wake the next morning, is that they find that everyone who has watched the comet has been reduced to dust, except for an unfortunate few who have become a kind of sun-hating, vampiry things.

They make there way to the city, and have fun (to a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’) in the abandoned malls and meet up with another survivor, Hector (Robert Beltran) who quickly leaves them to see if his family survive, and with a promise to return.

Whilst he is away the girls get in trouble with some of the mutants, but are saved by a team of scientists, one of whom is the friendly Audrey White (Mary Woronov), but does this team of scientists have an ulterior motive to help the girls, and if so, will Hector be able to save them?

This film is a real distillation of the 80s: it features a bunch of characters straight out of a Valley girl/ John Hughes movie nut in a horror/sci fi situation that contains liberal amounts of humour with its walls.

The cast are likeable enough, though Beltran gives off a weird vibe… like he doesn’t want to be there… to the whole preceding. I think the girls and the ‘zombies’ and the scientists are such a charactures that Beltran seems too ‘real’ and he rings untrue within the confines of the movie. There’s no doubt that he is a fine actor, but I’m not sure he is a perfect fit here.

If I’m to criticise the film at all, it must be as to how quickly our two teenage heroines get over the death of…well… everyone. They have a few moments of existential crises, but manage to rise above and get back to shopping and hanging out at the empty mall pretty quickly. There personal issues with the situation are not what the story is about, so on with the show, I guess.

It’s a fun story, if you overlook the ‘influences’ I mentioned earlier, and the special effects suit its age and it’s look.

Score: ****

Format: This review was done on the Arrow films, Region B Bluray release which runs for 95 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.85:1 image with a decent 2.0 audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: As one would expect from Arrow, a shedload of extras!

There is three different commentaries on this disc, one by actors Kelli Maroney and Catherine Mary Stewart, another by writer/ director Thom Eberhardt and the last one by production designer John Muto. Each of the commentaries gives an interesting take on the making of the film, and ultimately they combine to make a pretty cool total experience of the making of the film.

Valley Girls at the End of the World is a really nice recollection of the movie from Catherine Mary Stewart and Kelli Maroney.

The Last Man on Earth? is an interview with Robert Beltran where he talks about his starring role in the film, and he kind of sounds like a bit of a demanding self-involved jerk. I do like his idea of Eberhardt making a sequel now to see how the characters recreated their new world.

End of the World Blues is an interview with cult movie legend Mary Woronov, and she talks a little about her career and her experience with this film. She is still the coolest person that I’ve never met.

Curse of the Comet is an interview with make-up supervisor David B. Miller and his effects used in the film

There is also a trailer for the film.

This package from Arrow video also contains a DVD copy of the film, a reversible cover with alternate artwork, and a booklet featuring an essay about the film by Moviemail’s James Oliver.

Score: *****

WISIA: I have fond memories of this film and no matter what future format may surface, I’ll buy it again and again.

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001)

One from the rewatch pile…

H.P. Lovecraft’s Dagon (2001)

Film: I have a lot to thank Stuart Gordon for. If I had never seen Re-Animator in the 80s, I may never have become the fan of H. P. Lovecraft that I did, which means I may never have become the voracious consumer of horror literature that I am, and the book hoarder that’s associated with that.

Yeah. Thanks, Stuart,

What it does mean though, is that any mention of a film being ‘Lovecraftian’ gets my attention, as even though I have consumed much of his output, I am always interested in what others definition of it is. Just like steampunk isn’t just a gear stuck to a stovepipe hat, Lovecraft isn’t just tentacles and old gods. There is SO much more: an aesthetic that just can’t be described that lightly, so I am not going to attempt it here.

This film, Dagon, is a mixture of Lovecraft’s story of the same name, written in 1917 and published in the journal The Vagrant two years later, and another tale, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, written in 1931, but not published until 1936 as Lovecraft himself didn’t like it. The script for the film was written by Gordon collaborator Dennis Paoli, who also wrote the scripts for Gordon’s films Re-animator, From Beyond, Castle Freak and The Pit and The Pendulum.

Entrepreneur Paul Marsh (Ezra Godden) keeps having a dream of a mysterious underwater city and a beautiful mermaid who dwells there, even whilst on a sailing holiday of the coast of Spain with his beautiful girlfriend, Bárbara (Rena Moreño) and their investors, Howard (Brenda Price) and Vicki (Birgit Bofarull).

One afternoon they all hear some mysterious chanting coming from the shore, and very soon a storm swiftly moves in. Howard goes to move the boat away from a reef they were anchored near, but the storm is too fast, and the yacht is smashed against some rocks, painfully trapping Vicki’s leg in the rent in the wooden hull.

With all their communications conveniently down, Paul and Bárbara go to shore in a dingy to find help but what they quickly find is a town full of strange misshapen people who pray to an old god and whom Paul seems to have a history… or a destiny with. This becomes even more apparent when he meets the wheelchair-bound Uxia (Marcarena Gómez) who is the spitting image of his dream mermaid…

Now this story doesn’t resemble Lovecraft’s text greatly, mainly due to the modern setting, but thematically it does its best to delivery the ideas in it. In general though, one can’t be too critical of that as every Lovecraft film Gordon has done resembles Lovecraft’s text only on a surface level, and I don’t mind that as Re-animator and From Beyond are pretty awesome… especially Re-animator, which is my favourite film of all time, without fail.

The story of this film is pretty interesting and the mixture of the Lovecraft tales works well together. Gordon’s direction is typically wonderful, but if I must criticise the film for anything, it’s use of CGI effects is far too early, and considering what Gordon is able to do with practical effects, these stick out awfully… even moreso in this Bluray presentation.

For a film that was made almost twenty years after Gordon’s Re-animator, there is an aesthetic cast revelation in Godden that Gordon likes his heroes to be very much like Jeffrey Coombs portrayal as Herbert West. The rest of the cast is good as well (is it just me or does Moreño have an uncanny resemblance to a young Elle MacPherson) though the Spanish film legend Francisco Rabal, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to someone who has worked since 1943, has a monologue that is barely comprehensible, and when you consider this monologue tells the history of how the town came to worship Dagon, it’s pretty bloody important!

This is nowhere near Gordon’s greatest work, but it is a nice addition to his output of Lovecraft tales.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment, region B Bluray which runs for 98 minutes and has a nice 1.77:1 image with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, none of which are really that special:

B-roll/ Making Of is NOT what the title would suggest and is instead some shot-on-video of the cast and crew at work.

Interviews with Macarena Gómez, Stuart Gordon, Raquel Meroño and Ezra Godden reveal their experiences on the set, sometimes their first times, and it’s a pleasant, casual series of interviews.

Interviews from the Set is more with Stuart Gordon and Ezra Godden, on the set of the film and they talk about what the film is about.

There is also a teaser, trailer and TV spots for the film. Weirdly, the trailer doesn’t default to the screen edge of you Tv and instead, hovers in the middle with black bars all round.

The presentation of the film, the third in Umbrella’s Beyond Genres series, is immaculate. The slipcase and slick art by Simon Sherry is spectacular (seriously Umbrella, get this art on T-shirts ASAP!!!), and the inner sleeve has the original tale by Lovecraft, which, if you are ancient like me, may take a magnifying glass to fully appreciate.

Score: ***

WISIA: I love Gordon’s body of work and this, being another loose Lovecraft adaptation, is well worth watching over and over again.

Jigsaw (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Jigsaw (2017)

Film: Am I a fan of the so-called sub-genre torture porn? Oh yeah, you better believe it, though I think that ‘torture porn’ is somewhat of a misnomer. I don’t find a sexual excitement from the films labelled such, but I do find them to be thrilling and I can’t say that I don’t hate the gore of them either.

I’ve stated several times in my career writing horror movie reviews that I don’t find supernatural films in the slightest bit scary, mainly because I don’t actually believe in the supernatural, but I think I like these film is because I find the concept of being trapped horrifying. I just gotta be free…

Jigsaw is the 8th film in the Saw series, this outing directed by Australia’s very own Spierig brothers, who previously gave us Daybreakers and the oddly groundbreaking Undead. The script was written by writing team Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, whose previous outings include Piranha 3D, Piranha 3DD and Sorority Row.

Our film starts with a young man being pursued by the police, but he has an objective which is a remote trigger hidden on a rooftop, but when he is shot, it starts a series of events…

Five people, Anna (Laura Vandervoort), Mitch (Mandela Van Peebles), Carly (Brittany Allen), Ryan (Paul Braunstein) and another poor individual (who is namelessly dispatched as as an example of the violent nature of our killer) are chained to a series of doors in a room that has circular saw blades through them, and a mysterious voice (that we as Saw viewers have obviously heard before) tells them that to free themselves blood must be shed… this of course leads them on a series of trials that reduce their number one by one.

As the story of their trial continues, we are also introduced to coroner Logan Nelson (Matt Passmore) who begins assisting the investigation on bodies that are being found with a jigsaw piece cut from them… but isn’t the killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) dead? If he is, who is committing all the murders? Could it be one of the members of the website of people obsessed with his work?

The thing about the Saw films is, just like porn, you want the ‘money shot’… the building of tension, and then a wad of gore exploding all over your face. The story is almost secondary to those points, and I’m sure if this were the age of VHS, the tape stretch marks would be all over the kills, which would be rewound and replayed over and over.

That’s not to say the story wasn’t a good facility to move from blood-soaked pillar to barbed-wired post, but I think that the straws are well and truly being clutched at. The persistence of there being a history of people working with Jigsaw is a plot device necessary since his early-in-the-series demise but the excuses for them helping are getting thin.

The murders in this film are fun but the innovation of the machines has become stretched to the point of being ridiculous. One must wonder exactly what type of connection Jigsaw had to be able to get his hands on some of the ironic additions to the devices.

The acting in the film is interesting. There seems to be some characters who are well and truly placed within reality, like Vandervoort’s Anna, and others, like Callum Keith Rennie’s Detective Halloran are over the top, almost parodies but somehow, they work together.. and I can’t figure out how. Maybe Tobin Bell’s John Kramer is the blue that holds it together, with his quiet manner and sociopathic hobbies.

The special effects are are nice and bloody, which is what you expect… though the occasional rubbery barbed wire might spoil the authenticity.

Basically, what we have here is another in a series that has a particular method to its delivery of the goods, and this doesn’t fail in that, it’s just we’ve seen all the gore, misdirection and torture before. It might be time for the good name of Jigsaw to be permanently laid to rest.

Score: **

Format: Jigsaw was reviewed on the Australian Region B Bluray which has both an impeccable 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: A pretty cool bunch of extras on this disc that explore not just the making of this film, but the legacy of Jigsaw as well. Also I have to point out just how cool the menu is: it’s bizarre and creepy with a bunch of actors made up to look like Billy, and it reminds me of the Rammstein album ‘Sehnsucht

There is an amazing 7 part documentary, with each part exploring a whole different aspect of the film. They are titled A New Game, You Know His Name, Survival Of The Fittest, Death By Design, Blood Sacrifice, The Source Of Fear and The Truth Will Set You Free. I don’t know why they cut this into 7 mini-docs when one big one would have been a better plan. Maybe it was they assume we have short attention spans. The cool thing is though that it cover every aspect of the film, from the writing to the soundtrack and lots of cast and crew are interviewed.

The Choice Is Yours: Exploring the Props looks at the props that were created for the film. It was odd that this was presented separately to the rest of the mini-docos but it was still a welcome addition.

Score: ****

WISIA: I doesn’t matter if a Saw film is good or not, at some point I’ll end up watching it again whilst having a Saw-festival.

Rawhead Rex (1986)

One from the to watch pile…

Rawhead Rex (1986)

Film: I don’t wish to sound pretentious or elitist, but if you are a horror fan who has never heard of Clive Barker, you should perhaps stop, re-assess and use a different term other than ‘horror fan’ to describe yourself.

Seriously. It’s like saying you don’t know who Stephen King or Richard Laymon are… ok, I’ll forgive it if you don’t know who Laymon is (he is the writer of several books that would be a FAR better source of new horror films rather than remakes and sequels: The Beasthouse trilogy would be an amazing franchise).

My first exposure to Barker though, was with the first Hellraiser film, and I became an avid reader of his works though that fandom did wind down the less horror and more fantasy entered his novels. So of course I watched the Hellraiser films and his other works but somehow, Rawhead Rex completely bypassed me. I knew it existed, as Fangoria back in the day had an epic front cover from the film, but I never had the opportunity to see it, and never actively sought it out either.

Thankfully though, Arrow films have presented us with an apparently uncut version of the film! Packed full, typically from Arrow, of supplemental features!

Rawhead Rex tells of a small Irish town that has a horrible secret, and when a farmer moves an obelisk from his property, it gets released back upon the town! It is the ancient beast Rawhead Rex (Heinrich Von Schellendorf), a pagan thing that wants nothing but carnage and to kill!

American historian Howard Hallenbeck (David Dukes), his wife Elaine (Kelly Piper) and their two children (Hugh O’Conner and Cora Venus Lunney) happen to be in the town taking in the sights when Rawhead is released, and get caught up in the hullabaloo that follows, especially when one of them is taken by the beast…

It is common knowledge that Clive Barker wasn’t a fan of this film (apparently a myth according to the director, George Pavlou on one of the extras), which caused him to take more of a role in the making of Hellraiser, based on his novella, The Hellbound Heart, and there is plenty not to like about it.

The costume of the creature is a pretty solid, big monster costume… for a Corman film from the 60s. It appears to be quite firm and fake, and the performers mouth can be quite obviously seen within the creatures own mouth on several close-ups. For a creature with such an impressive head design, the articulation is quite minimal. The noise that emanates from the creature is quite daft too.

Interesting, for a film which contains two kids, the children are not the source of unpleasant characterisation:Kelly Piper’s portrayal of Elaine makes her come across as the most bitchiest of bitches and you honestly pray that she’ll be taken next. Imagine Christine Baranski’s portrayal of Leonard’s mother in Big Bang Theory being played as a ‘real’ serious character in a horror film that is taking itself quite seriously.

The worst thing is the sloppy screenplay. Within the confines of the scene of the first murder, it is quite obvious why one of the potential victims isn’t taken (which obviously gives a massive hint as to how to kill the monster), and it is projected quite hamfistedly. Some of the dialogue has a set-up with no pay-off. Now seeing how Barker himself wrote the screenplay, I assume the direction is at fault, or their was a little bit of freestyling amongst the actors.

For the most part the film LOOKS quite solid, but tends to fall apart a bit under even the slightest scrutiny. It’s identity suffers because it looks like it was trying to be a bit gothic like a Hammer Film, but it’s a little too bloody to successfully do it.

Score: **

Format: Rawhead Rex was reviewed on the Arrow UK release Bluray which runs for approximately 89 minutes and is presented in a fairly clean 1.85:1 image with a decent 2.0 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: It’s an Arrow Bluray, so sure enough that means heaps of extras!

Call Me Rawhead is an interview with actor Heinrich von Bünau, and by actor, he’s been in this interview and Rawhead Rex. It’s a pretty long interview for someone who keeps claiming to have forgotten so much.

What the Devil Hath Wrought is an interview with Roman Wilmot, who is charming and has some amusing anecdotes.

Rawhead FX: A Cock and Bull Story sees Peter MacKenzie Litten, John Schroonraad, Gerry Johnson, Sean Corcoran and Rosie Blackmore talk about the effects of the film.

Growing Pains; the Children Of Rawhead is a brand new Interview with Hugh O’Conor and Cora Lundy who played the kids in the film.

Rawk ‘n’ Roll is an Interview with score composer Colin Towns, and what an intimidating score it is too!

Rawhead Rising is an interview with comics legend from Death Rattle, Taboo and The Saga Of The Swamp Thing, Steven R. Bissette talk about Barker’s work, and The never published Rawhead Rex comic.

Audio Interview with George Pavlou is, as the name suggests, an newly recorded audio interview with George Pavlou, played over a series of stills from the film, behind the scenes pics and merchandise from the film.

The is an image gallery which features monster design sketch art and behind the scenes pictures, played as a slideshow with the score playing over the top.

The is the original trailer.

There are two commentaries on the disc, one with George Pavlou, moderated by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower, and with with podcast favourites The Hysteria Continues.

The disc itself has a pretty cool reversible cover, one drawn by lowbrow artist Wes Benscoter and the other ordinal artwork, and a booklet featuring an essay about the film by Kat Ellinger.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’m glad I’ve seen it as it fills a hole in my watch-history, but I won’t see it again.

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.