The Hills Run Red (2009)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Hills Run Red (2009)

Film: One of the joys of being a VHS/ DVD/ Lazerdisc/ BD/ Betamax collector is the hunt. Thinking you know everything about a certain type of film, but then discovering, either through research or, thanks to the internet, a group interest that there is more to buy, more to collect. The most satisfying moment is when you get your hands on that rarity: though the joy is generally shortlived as you quickly discover yet another missing treasure. 

If this sounds familiar, The Hills Run Red is the film for you.

Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrinck) is a film fanatic who is obsessed with a missing film called The Hills Run Red, a horror film about a killer nicknamed Babyface (Danko Iordanov), which was directed by notorious reclusive filmmaker Concannon (William Sadler). He has plans of making a documentary about it, along with girlfriend Serina (Janet Montgomery) and best pal Lalo (Alex Wyndham) but all he needs is a lead in.

This lead comes when his research brings him to Concannon’s daughter Alexa (Sophie Monk), a heroin addicted stripper who he helps get cleaned up. After Alexa dries out, she takes the three to the backwoods town where the film was made, but what they find is a lot worse than anything they could have possible imagined.

What they find is that Babyface is a real creature and not a fictional character at all, and maybe film and reality aren’t so different from each other.

This film is directed by Dave Parker, who was also responsible for The Dead Hate the Living and written by David J. Schow, a fairly well known name in horror as he wrote 2 Critters films (specifically 3 and 4), Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part III, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and probably most famously, The Crow.

This has some interesting Scream type elements that appropriately get turned on their head. One of the characters whilst venturing into the woods talks about horror film conventions, and shows his mobile phone is working, he has back-up flares in case the torches don’t work and a gun in case they get into trouble. Brilliantly, these modern back-up plans backfire and are used against them.

This is a thematic constant in the film as well; just when the bitter old horror fan inside you goes ‘I know what will happen next’, it doesn’t. There are some great extra creepy moments in this film that are all based around this idea of being atypical.

The film is only quite short, and the I believe that even so, this films bangs along at quite an appropriate pace. At no time was I bored, except maybe during the five minute long closing credits and the film had my attention at all times, especially during any scene of Babyface- driven carnage or of Sophie Monk supplying anything contained within her knocker locker.

I honestly think this is the best 80s styled slasher that wasn’t made in the 80s, and I enjoyed it thoroughly!

Score: *****

Format: Whilst the film is only a fairly recent one and maintains a fairly good level of detail, I did find on occasion that the picture was a little soft. Also a few CGI effects weren’t blended into the color scheme of the film and stuck out like dogs balls in mouse ball soup. The Hills Run Red was presented in  2.40:1 widescreen.The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The use of the subwoofer in jumpscares is so great that I must admit I almost blasted excrement from the depths of my bowels on at least two occasions. A grand time was had by all… well except for the lounge I was sitting on.

Easily my favourite slasher film in years. Perfect sized doses (all lethal) of beatings, brutalizations, babes and breasts all make for a great film, but don’t think this film is light on story either. I love it.

Score: ***

Extras: Only two extras on this:

Commentary by Director Dave Parker, Writer David J. Schow and Producer Robert Meyer Burnett  is a quite animated commentary from the three. It covers a hell of a lot of stuff about of the film, and one gets a greater appreciation of the film when one hears how deliberately they avoided referencing other films directly, even though the film is about film fans falling afoul of filmmakers.

It’s Not Real Until you Shoot It: The Making of the Hills Run Red is a great look at the filming of The Hills Run Red. It has a selection of interviews with almost all the cast and crew and is both funny and informative.

Score: ***

WISIA: Oh goodness, yes.

BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF THE NASTY

The Art of the Nasty by Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris

My horror addiction doesn’t just stop at DVDs and Blurays (and a very small quantity of laserdisc and VHS), I also have a far-too-large collection of horror related toys, novels, board games, video games and comics, but my favourite non-plastic disc collectables are my books ABOUT horror films especially of they take a specific aspect of horror cinema and completely dissect it. At the top of those books that sit amongst my favourites is the wonderful second edition of Nigel Wingrove and Marc Morris’s The Art of the Nasty.

The book looks at the ‘Video Nasty’ part of England’s VHS and cinema history. Honestly if you are a horror fan and don’t know about this or at the very least haven’t seen the documentary Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide perhaps you should go outside and shake yourself, and then look it up before reading any further, but here’s a quick recap anyway: in the late 70s/ early 80s in the UK, during the rise of VHS, the politicians and media got stuck into home cinema because of the sex and violence contained within, and this may have been due to the way they were advertised and their lurid, and occasionally misleading covers which singled them out and basically lead to massive cuts as the British Board of Film Censorship (known as the BBFC, and the latter letter eventually changed to mean Classification) flexed its muscles and went on a cut-fest.

That’s basically what happened but obviously there is a HELL of a lot more to it. The effects are felt still today, as some films that have been released in other parts of the world uncut are still edited in the UK; Shameless’s The New York Ripper being a standout.

Anyway, this book is a celebration of the VHS covers of the time and just how the sex and violence of the contents were used to sell the film, seeing as how the covers were the ONLY selling point back in the non-internet days. Wingrove speaks from a firsthand experience in a lot of this, seeing as how he founded Redemption Films and Salvation Group and created the online experience Satanic Sluts. He also had his film, Visions of Ecstasy, refused distribution on the grounds of blasphemy!! His co-author, Marc Morris is a historian and broadcaster who mainly writes books about the middle ages, but also assisted Francis Brewster and Harvey Fenton with the book ‘Shock! Horror!’ another book about the art of the Nasty VHS.

The books opens with 2 forwards, titled The Nasties: A Personal View by Wingrove, one from the original edition from 1998 and the other more recently in 2009. The two forewards are definitely necessary as post-millennium so many previously banned films have been released, mostly completely uncut, and Wingrove discusses the change opinions in the new one.

The book then breaks down into chapter relating to different aspects of the Nasties. The Official Nasties, which covers the 39 films deemed obscene by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Nasties On Parole, which are the ones the DPP couldn’t get a conviction, Nasties – The Ones That Got Away, which are ones that completely avoided the DPP’s eye, Nice and Sleazy Does It, which looks at covers from the pre-certification era of VHS and finally The Good, The Bad and the Vomit-Inducing which is described as the best of the rest, still sleazy, but not to the extent of some of the others. The book concludes with a Video Company Listing which lists VHS companies and the films they released: essential reading for UK VHS collectors.

The book is, as you would expect, lavishly illustrated with some of the most striking images of VHS releases of the time and really, even as a devout horror collector, I am surprised by some of the images on these VHS covers (I don’t object to them, I just am surprised that middle class shop owners of the less-permissive early 80s would have allowed these images on shelves in their shops!!). All the images have a small blurb which tells the Original Title of the film, its country of origin, the director, the year and time and the video label that released that particular version. There is also a supportive paragraph which describes what the film was about and any interesting situations in which the film may have been involved. If I am to pass any criticism of this book, it is in these paragraphs as mostly I wanted more… but then again, the book is about the images, and essentially I can research any film on which I wish to gain more knowledge.

Each page also has a contextual historical snippet to show what was happening in the world at the time, which whilst not entirely necessary, is an interesting idea as it shows, now and again, what was happening in politics and other areas of pop culture at the time. It is a nice garnish to the feast that is the images and their accompanying text.

On the whole, this book is a horror gem, as inadvertently becomes a GREAT support to the aforementioned Video Nasties doco. It is well written and the bold images are an absolute treat!

Rating: *****

Rabid (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Rabid (2019)

The Cover the the Australian DVD release of Rabid.

Film: Most people love Cronenberg for his films like Videodrome and The Fly, and whilst I rate the latter, I’m not the biggest fan of the former. I much prefer his earlier films Shivers and Rabid: those films have a far greater appeal to me.

I do like eXistenZ and Naked Lunch too, but those early films really speak to me. As you can imagine, like most film fiends who hear the word ‘remake’ associated with a film they like, I went into a pre-judicial whine when I heard Rabid was getting one, until I heard the Soska Sisters, whose film American Mary was one I liked, were attached, and my whine turned into a far less bitter fruit punch. I wasn’t happy, but I was willing to cross my arms and shout ‘impress me’ at my TV screen.

The screenplay for this film was also written by the Soska Sisters along with John Serge, who gave us Killer Crush, Killer Mom and The Perfect Soulmate… I guess the name ‘Killer Fan’ was already taken.

Eeeeeeeek! She’s SOOOO ugly! (Not really, it’s Laura Vandervoort)

Wallflower Rose Miller (Laura Vandervoort) works in the fashion industry for obnoxious designer, Gunter (Mackenzie Grey) and because of her retreating personality, probably due to her facial scars from a car accident, is treated like dirt.

Gunter is having a fashion show and after the After Party, Rose leaves immediately after having an argument with her friend Chelsea (Hanneke Talbot) and is in a horrific accident which causes irreparable facial damage.

Yeeesh! That’s something gross from the effects department!

… or is it irreparable? Rose receives a mysterious email from The Burroughs Institute about the potential for reconstructive therapy, but it’s not facial reconstruction they perform: its stem cell based hocus pocus, which of course offers a full recovery… but it changes Rose in ways she doesn’t want to face.

Dr Burroughs (Ted Atherton) gives Rose some tablets and ‘protein drinks’ to help her recover, and is warned that they may give her bizarre hallucinations, but her hallucinations seems so real, and the people she is hallucinating about attacking seems to be coming down with a weird, rabies-like disease…

Ok, so the first problem with this film is it’s star. Sure, it’s a good performance, but like teen movies of the 80s and 90s, when the wallflower is revealed to be a great beauty, it’s a false reveal, because even with the light scar facial effects and blotchy make-up, Vandervoort is still absolutely gorgeous.

My next issue with the film is it’s decision to just play along with the expected tropes of bitchy industry professionals, flamboyant fashion designers, asshole TV directors, and the horrifying ‘oh my god, she’s so successful now she’s beautiful’ plot device. I honestly couldn’t tell if the Soska Sisters were pulling the piss out of those cliches, we’re paying homage to them or were unaware they existed. Either way, it didn’t work very well.

It’s not all bad, though. The make-up on Rose after her accident is horrifying, and some of the other gore effects are nice and chunky.

Possibly the most terrifying thing about this film is the medical professional reaction to a viral outbreak. At this point in time it seems unfortunately real.

Also, considering this is a remake of Cronenberg’s film, there are some fun tributes to him throughout, such as the medical scrubs from Dead Ringers, and the concept of calling an institute that deals with altering bodies ‘The Burroughs Institute” and it’s head scientist/ doctor ‘William Burroughs’ was a nice tribute to the author William S. Burroughs, who wrote Naked Lunch, an unfilmable film made by Cronenberg.

This film is OK at best, and all the way through watching it, all I could think of was how much I wished I was watching the original, or Shivers, or Dead Ringers, or something ‘body horror’ more original than an average remake.

Score: **

The menu screen to the Australian DVD release of Rabid.

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian R4 release which runs for approximately 104 minutes and is presented in a clear 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 soundtrack. I would have rathered a super Bluray release with a bunch of extras.

Score: ****

Extras: Absolutely nothing, well unless you count the trailer for The Final Wish before the film. It is a shame there is none as I would have liked to have heard the Soska Sisters thoughts on Cronenberg’s original and their ideas to remake it. Oh well, screw you, movie fans, you don’t deserve that.

Score: 0

WISIA: Probably not.

Holy crap! Someone needs some ointment!

Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

One from the to watch pile…

Bloody Pit of Horror (1965)

Film: Honestly, I never been able to figure out if Something Weird Video never fail to hit the mark, or miss the mark. I guess, in the ‘so bad it’s good’ stakes, they can comfortably do both! Either way, you know with Something Weird Video, you are going to get something unexpected and that you possibly haven’t seen before.

With this release The Bloody Pit of Horror aka Il Boia Scarlatto written by Robert McLoren and Robert Christmas (aka Romano Migliorini and Roberto Natale respectively), and directed by Max Hunter (aka Massimo Pupillo), Something Weird seem to take a step back and give us something that feels a little more like regular horror, even though it boldly claims to be based on the writings of the Marquis De Sade himself!

Book publisher Daniel Parks (Alfredo Rizzo) wants to create new book covers for author Rick (Walter Brandi) and so has taken a photographer, Dermott (Ralph Zucker), his assistant Edith (Luisa Baratto), and a bevy of attractive models (played by Rita Klein, Barbara Nelli, Mia Tahi and Femi Benussi) and their male counterpart (Nandi Angelini) to what they think is an abandoned castle.

They break in and quickly find it isn’t abandoned, but instead it is inhabited by a retired actor, Travis Anderson (Mickey Hargitay) who coincidently is Edith’s ex-fiancé! He initially rejects their proposal to photograph in his house but after seeing Edith, allows them one night… on the condition they don’t go into the dungeon at all!

You see, many years ago a cruel torturer named The Crimson Executioner, was executed in that very dungeon, and maybe, just maybe, if his spirit is disturbed, he’ll wreak bloody vengeance…

This film is like a saucy TV special ripping off a Mario Bava film. It has a bit of the charm of a Bava film, just a pinch, but without maybe the technical skill that Bava was able to achieve. It has fight scenes straight out of the Adam West Batman TV show (minus ‘BIFF’ and ‘SHLOCK’ of course) and torture scenes where the female cast.. well, sound more like they are into it.

By the way, I have to thank this film for introducing me to a crime I’d never heard of before… ‘deliberate murder’!

Score: ***1/2

Format: The Bloody Pit of Horror was reviewed on the Something Weird Video region 1 DVD which was released about 20 years go, which means the image isn’t great. It’s presented in a 1.85:1 image which is clear, but contains artefacts but no so many that it’s unwatchable. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital Mono and does the job, but it won’t strain your sound system.

Score: **

Extras: Something Weird Video always provide interesting and, well, weird extras. This DVD is no different.

Deleted Footage from The Bloody Pit of Horror is just that. Some deleted scenes and an alternate opening.

Except from Privative Love featuring Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay which is a bizarre song and dance sequence from the film Primitive Love, aka L’amour Primitivo, a film from Luigi Scattini.

Except from Cover Girl Slaughter is apparently a part of a documentary about the women and men who are photographed for the covers of the pulp ‘true crime’ mags of the mid 20th century. I’m not sure if how much of a ‘documentary’ it was.

Bloody Pit of Horror trailer. What it is is what it’s called.

Gallery of Exploitation art featuring Horrorama Radio-Spot Rarities is a cool collection of poster art from exploitation movies, with radio adverts for OTHER film played over the top.

Score: ***

WISIA: It ticks all my boxes so yeah, it’s getting rewatched!

Haunt (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Haunt (2019)

Film: In 2018 I was pleasantly surprised by a film which I thought would be a little more than a one trick pony called A Quiet Place. I think it’s a film that could have easily been fairly terrible in the hands of someone who couldn’t direct either people or tension properly. In a fantastic move, we discovered that Jim from the TV show, The Office, John Krasinski is it only an amazing actor, he’s bloody good at directing both people and tension!

Who would have thought? (That’s unfair: I honestly have no idea what his educational or professional pedigree is)

Another part of that film’s appeal was the script, written by Krasinski along with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, who along developed the original story, who here act not only as the writers, but also co-direct. Was it a fluke? Well I watched Haunt to find out!

It’s Halloween, but Harper (Katie Stevens) has no intention of going out with her sorority sisters. See, Harper is having boyfriend troubles… that is, Harper’s boyfriend is an alcoholic who has been abusing her.

Eventually, after much coercion from Bailey (Lauryn Alisa McClain) she agrees to go out to a club even though she has no costume, with two other girls, Mallory (Shuyler Helford) and Angela (Shazi Raja), where they meet up with a couple of young men, Evan (Andrew Lewis Caldwell) and Nathan (Will Brittain). After they get bored of the club they decide to go to one of those ‘haunted house’ attractions.

Unfortunately for them, this is a special haunted house attraction… even though the actors running the house are wearing cheap, vacu-formed plastic Ben Cooper-styled Halloween masks, they aren’t kidding when it comes to the scares… or the killing… can out heroes make it out of the attraction alive?

Well I have to say that this film was a damned surprise and paid off at every corner. This film has a thrill a minute, surprising violence for a modern horror film (which usually shy away from letting you actually SEE the violence) with some solid acting, awesome make-up effects and some surprises that you probably won’t see coming… I know I didn’t!

It reminded me very much of the film The Strangers, not just because of the masks, but if that film was a home delivery meal, this is the dine-in.

As a side note, I’m note usually a fan of acoustic covers of songs by breathy voiced ladies, but the cover of Rob Zombie’s Dragula over the end credits was surprisingly good.

This was a gripping film that had me captivated from the start and just kept delivering. Very happy.

Score: ****1/2

Format: Haunt was reviewed with the Australian release DVD which is presented in a 2.39:1 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, both of which are perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Only two extras on this disc:

The Sound of Haunt is a fascinating, albeit brief, look at sound design with Mac Smith from Skywalker Sound. I’d love to see a massive feature about horror movie sound design but, no: 4 minutes is all you get.

Behind the Haunt is another far-too-short looking at the genesis and making of the film. Oddly, after a mini-doco about sound design, the audio in this one is hollow and awful.

Score: **

WISIA: Oh yeah, Ill be watching this again, and honestly, I wouldn’t mind a sequel, which is a sentence I’m not used to saying.

Lords of Salem (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Lords of Salem (2012)

Film: He’s one of us, that Rob Zombie guy. He’s a music lovin’, horror and comic nerd who is doing what most of us wish we could be doing: making money doing what he loves most. Thankfully, one of those things is making horror flicks that pay tribute to horror and exploitation film history with cameos and homages galore. I loved House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his remake of Halloween, and I’ll even forgive him the hiccup that is Halloween 2, especially if he continues to produce quality horror like this, The Lords of Salem.

Recovering addict Heidi LaRoq (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a DJ who works with ‘Whitey’ Salvador (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree) as part of popular radio show The H Squad on Radio WIQZ in Salem, Massachusetts. One day, the station is sent a record, packed in a wooden box, by a group called ‘The Lords’ whose song, when played, puts the women of Salem in a trance, and being addressed to Heidi, it seems to be specifically focused on her. Over the course of a week we watch Heidi slowly succumb to the record, and as a live performance by The Lords looms closer, things get more and more surreal…

As is typical with Zombie’s films, and his borrowing from cult/horror/exploitation greats, you get a familiar vibe: I myself got a mild Suspiria/Inferno feel off this one. There are a few occasional clunky moments in the script, but they are never bad enough to detract from the overall feel of the film.

Zombie’s directorial style has become more matured over the years, and even though his frenetic video clip style does appear in various fantastic sequences, his ‘straight’ film sections are well filmed and are a pleasure to watch. Actually, this restraint probably makes the dream sequences seem far even wackier than they actually are.

Again, one of Zombie’s signatures is his ability to find legendary actors, although in this case legendary could perhaps mean ‘forgotten’. We have star turns from 10 Rillington Place’s Judy Geeson, The Howling’s Dee Wallace, They Live’s Meg Foster, Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Patricia Quinn and Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree, Willard’s Bruce Davison and cameos from genre legends Michael Berryman, Sid Haig, Billy Drago and Barbara Crampton. Special mention has to go to Torsten Voges from 8mm as the Norwegian (?) Death Metaller Count Gorgann, and Sheri Moon Zombie proves herself quite capable in a lead role I previously assumed she would have either been too annoying to carry off, or flat out incapable of.

So even over and above all this typical fan service there lies a very creepy story once you stop saying things like ‘is that the chick that played Frank N. Furter’s maid?’ This creepiness is made even more… um…. Creepy by an amazing score that sits on your chest and pushes its way into your head. I watched this for the first time by myself quite late at night, and admit to being made somewhat uneasy by it, and when I watched it the second time, in the middle of the day with others around, I still felt the same about it.

Sure, it features the usual Rob Zombie faire of 70s rock, fan-service cameos from genre ‘legends’ and the finely tuned bottom of Sheri Moon Zombie, but The Lords of Salem also shows a restraint and maturity not seen in his previous outings. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope Zombie pursues more films of this ilk.

Score: *****

Format: There is certainly no faulting the image of the film on the disc which is presented in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, but it tends to look a little messy, but that could be Zombie attempting to get an authentic ‘old’ film look to it. The audio sounds amazing with some great ambient sound provided by guitarist John 5 and DJ Griffin Boice. Don’t let the ‘DJ’ part deter you though; this isn’t a Korn meets Skrillex- type affair but instead a subtle goosebumps-inducing soundscape. This movie was reviewed using the UK DVD release.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for three films: The Facility, Dark Skies and The Bay. They all looked pretty good, actually, and I might have to check them all out, which is something I can do with the time I have spare seeing how this disc has no extras other than a trailer for The Lords of Salem. I find this a stunning choice as Zombie’s previous outings have has some great extras.

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah! I’m totally on board for another ride in the Dragula, that’s for sure!

St. Agatha (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

St. Agatha (2018)

Film: Darren Lynn Bousman first fame to horror fans attention when he directed the first three sequels to the Leigh Whannel/ James Wan film ‘Saw’. He also surprised people with the unusual Repo: A Genetic Opera and a remake of Mother’s Day and The Barrens.

This is Bousman’s 2018 effort and is a bizarre mix of horror and crime who’s unusually confused state may be due to the fact that it has four writers… but is it good?

St. Agatha takes place in the 50s and tells of Mary (Sabrina Kern), a young con-woman who has been kicked out of home as she is responsible for the death of her brother as she was ‘with’ her conman boyfriend, Jimmy (Justin Miles), an episode of fornication which has resulted in her falling pregnant.

When a con goes wrong, they end up with no money, and to stop herself from being a drag on Jimmy’s capacity to earn money with his cons, Mary decides to move into a convent run by an oppressive Mother Superior (Cathryn Hennessy) who runs her convent with an iron fist and will take no objection to her cruel methods of control.

What Mary quickly realises though, is that the whole convent itself may be a con, and that there seems to be more going on with the wayward pregnant women that come for protection from the cruel world…

This film feels more like it should be some kind of made for TV period drama, but in Bousman’s hands, it becomes crueler, bloodier and more violent. There was certainly some strange visual decisions made. For example, there one scene where is a woman is forced to eat her own vomit, but there was a deliberate avoidance of actually visualising the act, and yet we get to see another scene where a nun chews food and spits it into another character’s mouth. I don’t understand why one of those things was seen to be over the top, and yet the other wasn’t.

The cast were pretty good, with Kern and Hennessy really holding the film together. The support cast of the other women staying in the convent were mainly pretty good, even though there was two choices where I initially couldn’t tell the difference between the two cast members.

Basically what I was hoping for with this film was something like Lucky McKee’s The Woods, but what I got was a washed out attempt at doing something like Pascal Laugier’s boring The Tall Man, but at least that had Jessica Biel and Stephen McHattie to make it appealing.

I could see what this film wanted to do, and hiring Bousman, whose Saw sequels are well-realised, was probably a great idea, but it just didn’t work. At all.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release DVD from Eagle Entertainment and runs for about 98 minutes. The film is presented in a clean and clear 2.40:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Probably not.

Monster Party (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Monster Party (2018)

Film: Occasionally I’ll peruse my local entertainment retailer just to see if anything jumps out at me, be it a lurid cover or a ridiculous title or a ‘produced by’ credit (you know, because the sign of a quality film is if someone PRODUCED a previous hit) or a couple of names of actors whom I like.

Today was a lucky day, as I secured a film that ticks all those boxes: the cover to this film (as you can see) has the back of a couple covered in blood facing some people who look well-to-do, the name ‘Monster Party’ is immediately evocative of something awful, it’s ‘produced’ by ‘The Producer of SINISTER’ (golly, it MUST be good… actually, I did like Sinister, so I’ll cut it some slack) and finally, it stars Robin Tunney (from The Craft and End of Days) and our very own Julian McMahon (Fantastic Four and Bait): this all sounds like a winner to me!

I’ll of this was also helped by Australia’s awful classification badge, which screamed at me ‘R18+ Restricted: High Impact Bloody Violence.

I’m in.

Monster Party tells of three burglars, Iris (Virginia Gardner), Dodge (Brandon Michael Hall) and Casper (Sam Strike) who are on the hunt for a big haul, as Casper’s father, a gambling addict, has been grabbed by a local gangster and is being tortured to pay off his gambling debts.

Luckily, Iris manages to secure the boys some work waiting on guests at a private party in a mansion, which they decide will be the object of their thievery, and the hosts, Patrick (McMahon) his wife Roxanne (Tunney) and their kids, Eliot (Kian Lawley) and Alexis (Erin Moriaty) seems nice, if not a little… well, strange.

As the guests arrive, an even stranger bunch of characters, our thieves become even more unsettled, until one of them is murdered by one of the guests, and the remaining two discover that the entire party is a ‘Murderers Anonymous’ meeting, as killers attempting to shake their addicting to killing.

With a little blood spilt though, the addiction kicks off, and our remaining heroes must do whatever it takes to survive… even become killers themselves!

As you may be able to tell from that synopsis, this film finds its influences from things like Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs, and more recently, Fede Alvarez’s excellent Don’t Breathe. What the film does is take that and mix in a little Tarantino-styled revenge, some kooky plot devices that go nowhere and an occasional bizarre choice of lighting schemes straight out of Bava or Argento films.

There is a few other strange choices as well. The casting is straight out of American soap opera so there’s this air of falsity to the whole film, which makes it feel somewhat insincere. One thing I did really like was establishing that the private party was VERY private so the mobile phones of the main characters were confiscated for privacy reasons. They could have very easily used that common nowadays trope of setting the film in the 80s (which I reckon is a cop out, but also better than a character tapping their phone and saying ‘mmmm, no reception’) but to actually have them hand over their phones was refreshing.

This film, though, is actually highly entertaining despite those couple of gripes. I don’t believe the ‘R rating’ is needed as even though there are some pretty violent acts, they take place just out of camera with just the results seen, and those effect that are clearly visualised are either really fake or very quick, the film does however take lots of twists and turns that all in all make for an entertaining jaunt amongst serial killers.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This movie was reviewed with the region 4 Australian DVD which runs for approximately 85 minutes and is presented in a mostly clean 2.40:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio. I say mostly as occasionally the colour seems washed out but that may have been a deliberate choice.

Score: ****

Extras: Empty plates all round, here.

Score: 0

WISIA: It was just entertaining enough for it to warrant repeat viewings.

Art of the Dead (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Art of the Dead (2019)

Film: The most exciting thing about having a website like the To Watch Pile is the opportunity to see films previously unseen, and an opportunity for new fandom to grow. Getting to see debut efforts by young filmmakers or missing films from favourite directors is always a treat and a pleasure.

Well, not always…

Today I was ‘lucky’ enough to watch a film called Art of the Dead, and by ‘lucky’ I mean ‘unfortunate’ as it was quite terrible. Actually that’s unfair, the story was full of fairly obvious tropes. It could have been entertaining if it had better actors, or maybe a more competent director who could have gotten better performances from the cast. I don’t blame him though, I blame myself. Basically, when I saw the two lead performers in this film were Richard Grieco and Tara Reid, I should have known what was coming.

Art of the Dead was written and directed by Rolfe Kanesky, who was responsible for The Black Room and The Hazing, as well as many other films that have become labelled ‘cult films’. Honestly, and I mean no disrespect, but I hadn’t heard of him before but after looking at his impressively long filmography I realised I had seen and enjoyed some of his previous offerings.

This was not one of them.

Art of the Dead tells of a series of seven paintings that, through their depictions of various animals, represent the 7 deadly sins, the problem with them though is that they are cursed and the observers can become possessed by the sin it depicts.

The paintings had been separated for a long time until art collector Douglas Winter (Grieco) managed to gather them together… and promptly kill his entire family in various horrible ways before killing himself.

As his estate is sold off, the paintings are sold through an art house run by Tess Barryman (Tara Reid) who sells them as a collection only to businessman Dylan Wilson (Lukas Hassel) who distributes them throughout his home, with each painting affecting the members differently.

The frog painting in his office makes him overcome with greed, whilst the other paintings cause his wife, Gina (Jessica Morris) to be driven mad with lust (and get laid by a goat) and his kids, Donna (Cynthia Aileen Strahan) to succumb to her painting of a snake, representing insane jealousy, and Louis (Zachary Chyz) who Lion painting makes him feel all the feelings of Wrath, much to the horror of his girlfriend, Kim (Alex Reinhart).

There is two other kids who get turned into snails. Also, the artist who died years, Dorian Wilde (Danny Tesla) also seems to be floating around influencing stuff as well. It’s complicated.

Luckily for the family, though, there is a champion who is trying to destroy the paintings, Father Gregory (Robert Donovan), but will he be in time to save Kim and her boyfriends descent into madness?

As I have already said, somewhere amongst the horrible acting and Bold and the Beautiful styled casting (seriously, the BEST looking street hookers you will EVER see are in this film) there is probably an ok film, but the performances of some of the acting are sub-par by any standard… even that of sub-par.

Score: *

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment release DVD which runs for approximately 97 minutes and is presented in a great 2.35:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: Hell, no.

Mystics in Bali (1981)

One from the rewatch pile…

Mystics in Bali (1981)

Film: When it comes to cinema, gems are hard to find, but now and again you’ll find yourself sitting in front of a film thinking to yourself ” why the Hell have I never seen this?”

Honestly, I had never even heard of this film, but one of the many movie magazines I buy did a blurb on it a few years ago, and I thought I should hunt it out, but other, seemingly more important releases always overshadowed it. This was a mistake, as I can’t even remember what some of those other films may have been. I should have immediately grabbed Mystics in Bali the very second I heard of it!

Mystics in Bali tells of curious tourist Cathy Kean (played by German tourist Ilona Agathe Bastian, who had no acting experience but did the film so she could stay in Bali longer) who wishes to learn the magical ways of the Leyak, an Indonesian black art. Her friend, and potential lover Mahendra (Yos Santo) takes her deep into the jungle to meet a cackling old Leyak witch (Sophia WD) who takes Cathy under her wing as an apprentice. She starts by learning a few spells but soon discovers that once you are under the thrall of a Leyak, it is difficult to get out. Maybe even impossible, even with the assistance of local shamen and mystics!

Mystics in Bali is one of those ‘kitchen sink’ films: you know, as in it has everything but! Witches (well, Leyaks), metamorphosis, floppy titted pig women, ancient mystical masters, flying vampire heads, people vomiting live mice, awkward romance and most incredulous of them all, a baby eaten right out of a pregnant woman’s… um… punani.

Now don’t tell me you didn’t want all that in one film.

The film does suffer from some poor dubbing, but considering the female lead was a German tourist and the rest of the cast are Indonesian, I guess one can overlook that.

The special effects aren’t so special, but are a treat to watch as there are some spectacularly bad animation effects, lightning from fingers and such, that look like hand drawn animation on the original film cels. The metamorphosis scenes do their very best to be American Werewolf in London, and fail, but are actually still quite off putting.

It is without a doubt one of the nuttiest and most entertaining films I have ever seen! If I am to recall how I felt after watching this, I would compare it to how I felt after watching Evil Dead for the first time, though this isn’t at all scary like Evil Dead was the first time I watched it. Although, I was about 13 then, so give me a break.

If you don’t have Mystics in Bali in your collection, it is an error you must immediately fix.

Score: ****1/2

Format: Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Mystics in Bali has a clarity that is surprising for a film of this age and region. There are occasional film artefacts, and admittedly at some of the more ‘special’ effects heavy sequences it does go slightly foggy, but I don’t think that is a problem with the transfer, but instead the original source. Presented in stereo only, but it is crisp and clear, considering it is an English overdub recorded in a studio somewhere.

Score: ***

Extras: We start with a fairly poor quality trailer and then get some extras that would have been great… if they weren’t text and had instead been actual documentaries. They are Mystics in Bali and the Indonesian Exploitation Movie, which talks about Indonesian cinema, H. Tjut Djalil – Director Filmography, which is just that and How to Become a Leak (sic) which I am sure should have been spelt ‘Leyak’, which contains the rites to becoming a Leyak. Don’t try this at home.

Finally we have a trailer park for Mondo Macabro, which features Snake Sisters, The Blood Rose, The Bollywood Horror Collection, Snake Dancer, The Devil’s Sword, Lifespan, Don’t Deliver Us From Evil, Satan’s Blood, Virgins From Hell, For Your Height Only, French Sex Murders, The Deathless Devil, Living Doll, Satanico Pandemonim, Panic Beats, Clonus, The Killer Must Kill Again, The Mansion of Madness, Alucarda, The Diabolical Dr. Z, Aswang, The Living Corpse, Blood of the Virgins, Seven Women for Satan, Lady Terminator, Crazy Love, Mill of the Stone Women, Dangerous Seductress and Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay. Honestly the disappointing text extras are saved by these awesome trailers!

Score: ***

WISIA: Hell yeah! This film is a hoot and a holler!