The Nun (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Nun (2018)

Film: At some time, earlier this century, someone in Hollywood decided that movies with ‘real’ killers, like slashers and so-called torture porn, were no longer in vogue, and that the cinema going kids needed to be afraid of the supernatural again, and of things that are associated with the bible and western religions. Is Hollywood trying to scare kids back to church? I’m not so sure, but what I do know is that these films, and I am going to single out The Conjuring films (a series of which this film is a part of) and the Insidious films, are by-the-book formulaic works that are only labelled ‘horror’ by the easily frightened or those who have never been to the cinema before, and think of movies as some kind of magic performed by warlocks and witches.

This film, The Nun, is written by Gary Dauberman, who also is responsible for the two Annabelle films, but on the bright side gave us the wonderful adaptation of Stephen King’s It, and directed by Corin Hardy, the director of the horror film The Hallow, and a bunch of music clips. It all, of course, takes place in the fictional world created by Chad and Carey Hayes for the original Conjuring film, directed by James Wan.

This film, though, tells of a priest, Father Burke (Demian Bichir doing is very best Father Karras from the Exorcist impression) and a mildly psychic novice nun, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who are sent into the woods of the Romanian countryside to investigate the apparent suicide of a DIFFERENT nun, but the convent they are visiting has a terrible secret, and along with their guide, a French-Canadian named… sigh… ‘Frenchie’ (Jonas Bloquet) they must fight against the forces of evil, embodied by a horrific figure of a yet ANOTHER Nun (Bonnie Aarons).

Taking elements from SO many films this movie struggles to find it own identity, and falls on its face with its tale. All through this film I was constantly reminded either by visual cues or by plot devices that it’s originality was somewhat lacking. It is like a mix of scenes from amazing Euro-horror films like a The Church, The Sect, the Blind Dead Series and others, I even got a Silent Hill vibe a couple of times, but without the originality, or even the honesty of those films.

The very best thing I can say about this film is it’s filmed great and the locations are exquisite. I should also point out what a striking figure that Bonnie Aarons strikes as the titular Nun: her look is quite unique and ready makes the character something special!

Unfortunately, this film is a veritable checklist of horror tropes, all making for a film that screams ‘GENERIC’ at the top of its lungs. Seriously, you could play ‘horror trope bingo’: “I’ve got ‘lights flickering off one by one in a hallway’…. BINGO!”

A blurb on the back claims ‘The Scariest Conjuring Yet’: it’s not, and out of a group of films that flat out AREN’T scary at all, that isn’t even a badge of honour, and by the way, if Nun-spoliation is your thing, this isn’t.

It’s a ‘bimbo’ film: boring, but pretty.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a perfect 2.40:1 image with a matching Dolby HD-DTS 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There are 4 extras on this disc:

A New Horror Icon which explores the look and design of the Nun, and discusses her ability to be a resounding icon.

Gruesome Planet is an amazing travelogue of Romania, where this film was made, and it looks at the various castles and other locations used.

The Conjuring Chronology places the entire series (this film, the two Conjurings and the two Annabelle films) in the order of their occurrence.

There are 7 Deleted Scenes on this disc which wouldn’t make the film any better or worse if they styled in.

Score: ****

WISIA: The only way I’d ever watch this again is by accident.

The Burning (1981)

One from the regularly re-watched pile…

The Burning (1981)

Film: Those who have read reviews here at the ol’ To Watch Pile will know I have a special fondness of the films of the eighties. Hot off the exploitation scene and riding on in the wake of late seventies classic fright flicks like Dawn of the Dead and Halloween, the eighties started with a bang. Some of these films were branded ‘Video Nastys’ in the UK due to the ‘extreme’ lengths they went to, and some of them were either heavily cut or banned outright. These films became sought after collectors items on VHS, and when released on DVD, usually have a platoon of fans anxious to add them to their DVD library, and now, we have to collect them all over again on Bluray, or 4K.

The Burning is an 80s gem and is chockablock full of blood, gore and tits and (there’s also some men’s busts, if that’s your preference) and is a wonderful example of a mean-spirited slasher that easily holds up against most of today’s horror movies, and honestly, mostly exceeds them.

The Burning tells of the alcoholic and violent caretaker of summer camp ‘Camp Blackfoot’, Cropsy, who one night has a practical joke played upon him by a group of kids who are staying at the facility. As with all horror movies, the practical joke goes horribly wrong, and Cropsy is severely burnt. Flash forward 5 years later as Cropsy is finally released from hospital, horribly disfigured and filled to the teeth with rage. He makes his way back to Camp Blackfoot, where he has now become the stuff of legend, to exact his vengeance on a new batch of campers, one of whom is one of the original teenagers, now older and wiser, working as a camp councilor. The kids are dispatched in traditional slasher style, thanks to the brilliance of Tom Savini’s special make-up and gore effects, but who will survive?

This film could be technically described as the first film by Miramax. Harvey Weinstein has a ‘Story by’, ‘Created by’ and ‘Produced By’ credit, Bob Weinstein has a ‘Screenplay by’ credit (along with Peter Lawrence) and mother Miriam (the MIR in MIRamax) worked as a pre-production assistant. While this film has a lot of never-see-again actors, it did have several people that went on to become name actors in it: Tony award winner Brian Backer, Short Circuit’s Fisher Stevens, TV regulars Larry Joshua and Ned Eisenberg, not to mention Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander and Academy Award winner Holly Hunter!

The Burning stands up with the big boys of the slasher genre for several reasons: Tom Savini is at his best with the effects, the soundtrack is incredibly impressive, and most slashers have the teens dispatched one by one, this one has one amazing scene where the killer performs an act of mass murder than has to be seen to be believed!! My favourite thing about this movie, other than the female nudity and gore, is the fact that it was never belittled by a series of sequels that either don’t make sense, or just plain out suck!

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Arrow Video Bluray Set, which runs for approximately 91 minutes and is presented in a clear and bright, 1.85:1 image with a fairly standard but nevertheless clean mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: A super bunch of extras on this Bluray, which is to be expected from Arrow:

Blood and Fire Memories is a great mini doco starring make up legend Tom Savini. This doco has some great ‘tricks of the trade’ bits and some excellent behind the scenes footage, and has comments from Savini about the filming of the Burning, and some wonderfully scathing ones about the Friday the 13th series, and how Jason shouldn’t even exist in the 9 of the 10 sequels the original spawned. This is an older extra that featured on previous releases of the film.

Slash and Cut is an interview with The Hidden director, Jack Sholder, who acted as editor on this film.

Cropsy Speaks is an interview with the actor Lou David who played Cropsy, who I reckon would leap on an opportunity to make a sequel.

Summer Camp Nightmare is an interview with female lead Leah Ayres.

Synthy the Best talks to composer Rick Wakeman, keyboardist from 70s band Yes, who wrote the score for the film.

There some behind the scenes footage which is some cool looks at SFX and stuntwork.

There’s a trailer for the film and a series of image galleries featuring the Make-up effects and posters of the film.

There is three (!) commentaries on this disc, one with Maylam and film expert Alan Jones, one with Shelley Bruce (Tiger) and Bonnie Deroski (Marney) and finally one with the guys from the podcast The Hysteria Continues.

There is also a booklet with an essay on the film by Justin Kerswell, and a DVD version of the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: The Burning is one of the all time great slasher movies and it’s on almost constant rotation at my house.

The To Watch Pile’s GoFund Me campaign

You may have heard, like Arnò above, that running a website isn’t free. I don’t mind that either as the To Watch Pile is a passion project and I enjoy doing it cost is something that can accompany ANY hobby.

I want to change things up a little though, and start a comic related podcast, and extend my YouTube stuff up a bit more, but need equipment to do so, and unfortunately I DON’T have the capitol for it.

So, I have started a GoFund Me Page to try and acquire better cameras, microphones and stuff so I can make more content for you to enjoy.

I can’t offer anything in return, but just a bit of spare change thrown towards the TWP will not just keep the doors open a bit longer, but also give me an opportunity to make more engaging content, maybe even with an occasional co-contributor!

The link for the page is right here: https://www.gofundme.com/keep-the-to-watch-pile-website-afloat?pc=ot_co_dashboard_a&rcid=e28632772b5242a08151aafce5b9b0a0

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.