Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Zombruary 2 The Zombening continues….

One from the re watch pile…

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Film: This film was a late love for me. I had never seen any of the 4 Blind Dead films until I actually won a box set collection of the UK release of the series several years ago, and I instantly fell in love with the films and director Armando De Ossorio’s directorial vision for them. This also led me to De Ossorio’s amazing film The Loreley’s Grasp, which is so wonderfully ridiculous that one can’t help but loving it.

This film, The Tombs of the Blind Dead aka La Noche Del Terror Ciego, tells of Betty (Lone Fleming) and Roger (César Burner) who, after a tantrum, are concerned for their mutual friend Virginia (María Elena Arpón) who bailed from the train ride they were on whilst in transit to a weekend getaway destination.

Virginia is found dead in a castle in the middle of nowhere and an investigation begins to find out what happened, but what has happened is that at this particular abandoned castle, is that undead Knights Templar, blinded whilst alive for crimes against god including sacrifice and blood-drinking, have risen from the grave to kill anyone who disturbs their unholy slumber… and now that their castle is full of people investigating Virginia’s death, they have plenty to feast upon!

The really cool thing about this release from Blue Underground is the fact that there is both the edited UK release of the film The Blind Dead and also the uncut Spanish version of La Noche Del Terror Ciego, which ads four whole chapters to the film and tells a different, raunchier story than the UK version. It is subtitled so be warned for those who don’t want to read a movie, if you want the boobies, you are going to have to work for them.

The film is paced really strangely, but it totally works! The whole story of Virginia leaving her friends and her eventual demise is a whole third of the film and sets it up beautifully for the roller coaster ride of the rest of it.

It’s really a heap of fun and I can’t express what a treat this film is, make sure you check it out.

Score: ****

Format: As I mentioned there are two versions of the film on this DVD from Blue Underground. The English dubbed one runs for about 83 minutes but the Spanish with subtitles version runs for 101 minutes. The film is presented in a 1.66:1 image with a mono audio track, and the Spanish version is certainly the superior image. If I were to score each individually, The English would be 2 and the Spanish would get a 3, so I’ll average the score for the disc between the two.

Score: **1/2

Extras: There is a few interesting extras on this disc.

Alternate opening: Revenge from Planet Ape which is an alternate beginning attempting to capitalise on the popularity of Planet of the Apes, and the somewhat simian appearance of the make up on the Templar Knights. The quality of this isn’t great but it’s an interesting watch.

Theatrical Trailer is just that. It’s a pretty awesome trailer though!

Poster and Still Gallery which has an amazing selection of posters, lobby cards, video covers and press books of the film intercut with the occasional still from the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I really like Tombs of the Blind Dead and it gets a regular revisit at my place. It’s not brilliant, but it’s both charming and hokey enough to warrant regular viewing.

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House of the Dead 2 (2005)

Another day, more zombies for Zombruary!

One from the re watch pile…

House of the Dead 2 (2005)

Film: When it comes to video games, I am mainly a Call of Duty player, but being a horror fan, I have a grand affection for horror games too. One of the reasons I like CoD is due to the Zombies section of the game, but I like stuff like The Evil Within, and Resident Evil and even Sega’s House of the Dead.

Now this film, House of the Dead 2, was to be a sequel directed by dodgy director and film-reviewer puncher, Uwe Boll, but he was directing another video game property, Bloodrayne and couldn’t do it… or wasn’t asked. He was also responsible for the first House of the Dead, a cinematic travesty of the highest order, so maybe he WASN’T!

This is a new, fresh zombie movie, with an all new look at House of the Dead, where highly trained soldiers battle the undead in a gore-fest for all ages…well all ages over the age of 18 or accompanied by an adult anyway.

The tale of House of the Dead 2 goes like this: during a collegiate hazing, a young girl falls afoul of the villainous Professor Curien (Sid Haig), who is trying to bring the dead back to life, until one of his experiments escapes, causing a virus to be released on a campus, infecting the students.

Sig Haig is delighted by his friends choice of zombie costume.

29 days later, two experts in the field of zombie hunting, Alex (Emmanuelle Vaugier) and Ellis (Ed Quinn) accompany a crack team of soldiers onto the campus to collect blood from the source of the virus, the original zombie, so they can create a vaccine to protect the world against the spreading menace. Unfortunately, even though the Special Forces team is made up of experts in the field of war, a campus overrun by zombies isn’t their field, and things fall apart…

Let’s start off with one aspect of this film that was also a problem with the first one: where is the freaking house? The movie is called House of the Dead, the game on which this film is based featured a damned BIG house, so where is the house? The first film had a house whose exterior was so small it should have been called “Shed of the Dead’, and this one takes place on an ‘isolated college campus’ (who isolates a college, wouldn’t it be smarter to put it in a town so the local community would benefit from the kids as a part of their social and financial infrastructure?), so shouldn’t it be called ‘Isolated College Campus of the Dead’?

Continuity faults abound in this film, so much so that it becomes annoyingly ridiculous. Almost every character gets covered in a blood splatters which move around from shot to shot, and occasionally zombies that attack on one part of the canvas miraculously appear at other ends of the campus even though it took the protagonists a truck ride to get there. That is not just sloppy editing, it is plain out bad filmmaking.

The solders in this film are described as ‘Special Forces’, but i don’t think they mean ‘special’ as ‘better’ or ‘greater’ as these soldiers were such a bunch of badly organized clowns, they wouldn’t have even gotten a job at a school fete. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect a film about zombies to be ‘realistic’ or the situations to be ‘sensible’, but for Romero’s sake, I expect the soldiers to at least act like soldiers. I am no military expert, but these guys weren’t even following basic HUMAN instinct, let alone those of a highly trained soldier. Funnily enough, the first House of the Dead was criticized for having college kids acting like army trained professionals, and this one has army trained professional who act like college kids.

At some points the movie tries to be deadly serious, but the acting isn’t the greatest, so it comes off as forced, and some of the horror homage’s (Sid Haig refers to being left ‘Alone in the Dark’, and most of the action takes place ’29 Days Later’ after the prologue) are so obviously placed, that I kept expecting someone to elbow me and say ‘Geddit? Geddit?’. The zombie fan will find a hell of a lot of the set pieces in this film reminiscent of other zombie genre pics.

Another thing I found a bit dumb about this film is in the liner notes, which is a four page booklet…ok, it is a piece of glossy paper folded in half, writer/ producer Mark A. Altman hangs a bit of well deserved rubbish on the first movie (which HE wrote as well) and on the ‘teen horror’ genre as well, while praising this film, which he describes as ‘The Wrath of Khan of zombie movies’, when in actual fact, this isn’t even the ‘Spock’s Brain’ of zombie movies.

There is no doubt this film is better than the first House of the Dead, but that is like saying you like your Mum better than your Dad coz’ when she cuts you, she doesn’t make you roll in salt. There are some positives about this film though: nudity, some decent zombie make up, and Sid Haig…and that’s about it.

Score: **

Format:

This review was performed on an Australian Ex-rental DVD whose 1.77:1 image has a bit of artefact interference, but basically a good picture with a clear image…which is probably a bad thing. I wasn’t really impressed with the sound on this picture: it did utilize the 5.1 to some effect, but not wholly. It lacked atmosphere!

Score: **

Extras:

There is a director’s commentary, which has input from director Mike Hurst and writer Mark A. Altman. They talk a lot about the genesis of this film, and how Altman wanted to make Starship Troopers on a college campus. It is also mentioned that this is a part of a trilogy, the final part being about the destruction of mankind…. please help us. I think that these gentlemen think they have a new ‘zombie trilogy’ on their hands. I pray for them that the legions of Romero fans don’t get their hands on their mobile numbers.

There are 4 deleted scenes titled Panty Raid 51, Football Practice, Library Scene and Exterior Dorm. These scenes neither add nor take anything away from the film, although it is disappointing to see that there was more sorority girl tom-foolery that was edited from the final cut.

Re-inventing the House: Making a Bloody Sequel is a basic making of with interviews with various cast and crew members.

There are trailers on this disc for Lion’s Gate Films’ House of the Dead 2, Alone in the Dark, Attack of the Sabretooth, The Triangle and Fierce People.

Score: ***

WISIA: Hell no, I’m NOT doing this ever again!

The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)

One from the to watch pile and the next of 2018’s Zombruary celebration…

The Girl With All The Gifts (2016)

Film: Possibly the thing I like the most about zombie films is that there is no real ‘traditional’ lore that has created a rule set so when you see something contrary to ‘tradition’ it seems out of place, or it puts you off. You know, a vampire film with the vampires walking in the day (especially if they are sparkling) or a werewolf who can change at will.

Creative license is obviously fine and occasionally can be put to good use for the sake of the story, but I am sure all of us who are horror fans just get a small twinge of ‘what the..?’ when we see one of these anomalies on screen.

Zombie films though don’t come under all that though as the mythologies are all different and most of us assume zombies to be a part of the rules laid down by George Romero’s Original Dead Trilogy, but films like Re-animator, Return of the Living Dead, the Dawn of the Dead remake and 28 Days Later shrug those rules and do their own thing, to varying degrees of success.

This film, based on the novel by Mike Carey and from a script by him, was directed by Colm McCarthy, director of Outcast and who has directed heaps of Tv including episodes of the aforementioned Black Mirror, Peaky Blinders and Doctor Who.

This synopsis may sound like Romero’s Day of the Dead and honestly, it does feel like that at the start, but where it ends up is completely different.

A group of children are being kept at a facility which is run by Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close) and controlled by Sgt Parks (Paddy Considine) and are being taught in a school where they are strapped into wheelchairs and moved around. The smartest and most intuitive of these children is Melanie (Sennia Nanua), the favourite student of Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton).

We very quickly find out though that these are not children, but instead subjects infected with a fungus that has turned them into flesh-eating monsters if they smell human skin. The humans who work at the facility use a cream on their skin which blocks their scent, preventing the children from ‘turning’.

Unfortunately the rest of the world has gone to pot with this infection and the creatures are everywhere, and when they manage to break into the facility, a small group, including the aforementioned bunch, manage to get away, but to where? How will they survive? Is there something even worse happening?

This cast…oh BOY, this cast are something special. Close and Considine are at the very tops of their game. Considine’s sergeant is a hard hitting bastard and Close is the no-nonsense Doctor and they are both powerhouses in their roles. Arterton’s character is wholly the heart and soul of the film and she plays it solidly. The real revelation in this film though is Nanua: she plays this delicate monster who doesn’t know what she is like an acting veteran. The whole movie had to be sold on her performance, and she sells it like an absolute professional.

I really like the make up on the zombies, or ‘the hungries’ and they are called in the film. The make up is reminiscent of the ones for Umberto Lenzi’s Incubo Sulla Città Contaminata aka Nightmare City but as this is a fungal infection that is causing the apocalypse, the hungries clothes have a real ‘overgrown’ look to them which is explored as the film goes on.

Typically, as I am a soundtrack collector, I noticed what an amazing hypnotic soundtrack this film has, composed by Cristobal Tapia De Veer, who also did an episode of Black Mirror and a few episodes of Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams Tv series’s.

The best thing about this film though is just how broad the story is. This isn’t just a zombie film, this isn’t just about survival, this isn’t just about tribalism and obsession. It’s about all of those things and it’s a cohesive brilliant piece of horror/ science fiction.

I absolutely loved this film and its shot right into my favourite films of all time list. Super recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which runs for approximately 111 minutes and is presented in a perfect 2.00:1 image with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Score: *****

Extras: The only thing wrong with this film is the lack of extras. Bummer.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is so much width and depth to this film it’s going to be watched several more times over the next few months!

Zombieland (2009) Review

Welcome to Zombruary, our celebration of all things undead and unburied. Every review this month will in some way be related to a zombie or undead film. I hope you enjoy as we revisit some old ones, and find a few new ones to take off the To Watch Pile.

One from the re watch pile…

Zombieland (2009)

Film: I‘m not the biggest fan of horror comedies, and that’s mainly because there is an inconsistency in how good they are. For every Return of the Living Dead’s there are, there is 4 that go between being ok, and just sucking. Thankfully, on occasion, you will get gems like Shaun of the Dead, or A Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse or this film, Zombieland.

Zombieland is the tale of a phobia-driven young man (Jessie Eisenberg) who lives no longer in the United States of America, but instead in a world he likes to call Zombieland, a world overrun by the infected style of running zombie that purists seem to hate.

Our young hero has rules about surviving Zombieland, things like Rule Number 1: Cardio. Apparently the overweight were the first to die as they couldn’t escape the zombies. There are several others like Rule Number 7: Travel Light and Rule Number 31: Check the back seat. Basically his rules are the same ones we, the horror fans, shout at the screen whenever a young girl is left alone for any reason. I won’t go further into the other rules as it would spoil some terrible funny and funnily terrible scenes of carnage.

Anyway, on his way back to his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, where he hopes to be reunited with his estranged parents, he meets another seemingly bonkers survivor (Woody Harrelson) and the pair join up for safeties sake. This man tells him that names are unnecessary in Zombieland as attachments can lead to fatalities, and they refer to each other by their destinations: Columbus, the young man and Tallahassee, the nut-job redneck with a love of guns and cars.

The two stop in a mini-market so that Tallahassee can soothe his unstoppable need for Hostess Twinkies, and after they dispatch a few zombies in creative ways, they meet up with two young ladies, the soon to be known as Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) and the four decide to make their way to California together, and so after a gargantuan amount of personality clashes, and several con-jobs later, they all realise that being loners may not be the way to survive Zombieland.

This film is directed by first time feature director Ruben Fleischer, from a script by Rhett Reece and Paul Wernick that was originally devised as the pilot for a TV series, which apparently by its timeframe, it would have been the first zombie TV series. Interestingly, since the advent of streaming TV, apparently there has been discussions of it returning as a series, a sequel is also in discussions.

The cast in this film were excellent. Jessie Eisenberg, who I normally am no fan of as he occasionally feels like a discount Michael Cera (or vice versa), was perfect in this role. Woody Harrelson is a classic as always as a gun-toting crackpot who has no problem sharing a few tears, even if just for his interesting ways of sending off the zombies. Emma Stone never ceases to amaze me: I loved her in Superbad, and as the hyper-nerd in House Bunny she was probably the funniest thing, but here she really makes this role her own: a femme fatale who is spending the rest of her life defending her younger sister. She is the straight man to Eisenberg’s phobias and Harrelson’s nuttiness, and pulls it off with ease. She is also a cracking good sort!! Abigail Breslin, who was nominated for a best Supporting Actress Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine is excellent as well, and holds her own against the other three personalities which could easily have overpowered her.

The cameo by Bill Murray is a classic as well. Especially with the tips of the hat they provide to things like Caddyshack and Ghostbusters.

The special effects are mostly average, though occasionally the CGI is so good that you won’t even notice half of it unless you watch the ‘making of’ stuff. I was stunned by some of the scenes that weren’t on location. There is a couple of ‘zombies get hit by stuff’ bits that are showing their age though. One really cool thing is that even when one of the rules isn’t mentioned, but is acted upon, you will see the rule written somewhere slightly hidden in the scene, with a solidity usually only seen in a David Fincher title sequence.

All in all it’s a fun film, but there are other films of its type that are better. The win for this film is the cast work together really well and form a funny yet warm-hearted cohesive ad-hoc family unit.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray, whose image nothing short of spectacular and presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and with plenty of gunshots and a touch of heavy metal, this English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 kick MASSIVE arse.

Score: *****

Extras: Heaps of extras on this set, and in the set. This was the first release of the film and it came in a cardboard outer box, and featured a Bluray, DVD and digital copy of the film.

Beyond the Graveyard: Picture in Picture Track is a great extra, with a smaller window opening up in the main screen showing how effects were done, or amusing anecdotes from cast and crew.

Commentary by actors Woody Harrelson and Jessie Eisenberg, Director Ruben Fleischer and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is a great one as those involved regularly ask each other questions about their aspects of the creation of the film, which keeps the conversation running.

In Search of Zombieland looks at the making of the film, and explores all aspects of its production.

Zombieland Is Your Land is more or less similar in tone to In Search of Zombieland, but seems to have more behind the scenes footage. If it had have been me, I would have combined these two together to make one really tremendous making of documentary.

Deleted Scenes is a bunch of scenes removed from the movie. They are: Zip Lock Bags, This Did Not Just Happen, Mum and Dad Would have To Wait, The jokes on Them, The Slow and the Weak, Girls Play at the park and You Always Think Of Something. Usually when I see deleted scenes I am quite happy to have seen them removed from the film, but some of these, particularly Zip Lock bags and you Always think Of Something, could have happily remained, though the rule number of Zip Lock Bags would have had to have been changed from number 2, which ended up being Double Tap.

Visual Effect Regression Scenes looks at the technical break up of four special effects scenes of the film, specifically Washington, Seat Belts, Banjo Zombie and Falling Zombie.

Theatrical Promo Trailers are a series of trailers that features Woody Harrelson and Jessie Eisenberg’s characters giving hints and tips on how to survive the zombie apocalypse. These interstitials are titled Bounty Towels, Bowling Ball, Buddy System, Skillet and Swiss Army. Quite funny.

This disc also featured trailers for Bluray as a format, 2012, Year One, Zombieland and Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.

Score: *****

WISIA: Zombieland is almost as funny as Shaun of the Dead which for me is the gold standard of horror-comedy-zombie films but maybe has just a little more heart. I enjoyed every second of it, though I believe that Shaun has far more rewatch value than this.

Silver Bullet (1985)

One from the re watch pile…

Silver Bullet (1985)

Film: I am an unadulterated fan of Stephen King films, but not of his books. It’s a strange quirk, I know, but I really like King’s ideas, but don’t like his actual writing style. I know that’s not a popular opinion, but I’d rather read writers like Shaun Hutson or Frank Herbert or Richard Laymon.

This movie is based on Stephen King’s novella The Cycle of the Werewolf which was originally published in 1983 with some beautiful illustrations by comic legend Bernie Wrightson, and King adds his skill to the script here but it has a massive amount of problems, insomuch that there’s a fair collection of lame jokes, cliche metaphors and just flat out clunky dialogue, most of which sounds like a 14 year old trying to impress a 6 year old, which is a shame because the story of a town under attack by some creature is a solid one.

This film was directed by Dan Attias, who has had a prolific career but mainly in TV and he has pretty much well worked on every big name series since the mid eighties.

Silver Bullet is narrated by Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows) whose paraplegic brother Marty (Corey Haim) believes that some mysterious murders that have taken place in the town are committed by a werewolf… but who IS the werewolf? After an encounter on a bridge, and a bit of Scooby Doo styled investigation, the kids, along with their Uncle Ned (Gary Busey) realise the werewolf is coming for them next and start to make preparations…

The movie is filmed a little like an after school TV show, and with the aforementioned hammy script, it comes across that way, but what salvages it is the appearance of some genre favourites like Terry O’Quinn, Everett McGill and Lawrence Tierney and then throw in some surprisingly low-budget gore and it turns into something a little better than that.

Speaking of low budget gore, the werewolf outfit is lacking in any kind of fear factor, and looks like Rupert the Bear with a tan, after six months at the gym. The de-transformation scene is pretty good, even though it seems like it’s just An American Werewolf in London’s amazing transformation scene… you know the one…. played in reverse.

It’s not that this is a completely BAD film, it’s just that if I am going to watch a werewolf film I have seen before, I am probably going to go for The Howling or American Werewolf instead. Sorry Silver Bullet.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Picture, region B Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment which is presented in a decent 2.35:1 image with a clear and crisp 2.0 DTS-HD audio.

Score: ***

Extras: Soooooo many extras on this disc:

First we have a commentary with Director Daniel Attias hosted by Michael Felsher from Red Shirt Pictures, in which we celebrate the film and Attias’s career.

Dino’s Angel Takes On Lycanthropy: Martha De Laurentiis remembers Silver Bullet sees De Laurentiis reminisce on her experiences in Hollywood and on this film. She is delightful and has a great recollection of the time spent on her film career.

Isolated Score selections and audio interview with composer Jay Chattaway for a soundtrack fan is a pretty exciting way to watch the film. Like a director’s commentary, this feature brings the score to the forefront of the sound and has an associated commentary with Chattaway, hosted again by Michael Felsher. It’s an interesting look both at Chattaway’s career and choices made on this film.

The Wold Within: an Interview with Everett McGill sees McGill revisit his acting choices for the role he played in the film. Can I just say that some people get cooler with age, and McGill is one of those.

Full Moon Fever – interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken Jr and Matthew Mungle looks at the effects and make-up for the film. They discuss their careers and then look at what they did for this film.

We then have a trailer, a tv spot, a radio spot and a… ugh…. image gallery. The image gallery is at least a 70-odd image, slideshow type with Chattaway’s score over the top.

Score: *****

WISIA: As I said in the main body of this review, there’s other werewolf films I’d rather watch, so probably not again.

Orca (1977)

One from the to watch pile…

Orca (1977)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***

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

Score: ****

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

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

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

There is also a trailer for the film.

Score: ***

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

Happy Death Day (2017)}

One from the to watch pile…

Happy Death Day (2017)

Film: It is occasionally pretty cool when a film takes inspiration from another source, and extends its ideas out to make it its own. Sure it could be a travesty, it when it works it can be interesting. This film is one of those time-loop styled stories which you can tell immediately from the opening of the film, with Universal’s titles, which suggests it with a not-so-subtle hint of playing over and over a few times.

This film is directed by Christopher Landon who has a smart eye of being able to combine genres as could be told with his Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, here joining horror, time-loop scifi and collegiate-styled, John Hughes-ian teen comedies. His advantage here is a smart script by comic writer, Scott Lobdell, who created the mutant team Generation X, as well as writing other titles such as Alpha Flight, Fantastic Four, Teen Titans and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Sorority sister Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is, to put it bluntly, an absolute bitch. She wakes up one morning in the bed of Carter (Israel Broussard), on a day which happens to be her birthday, and prepares for the walk of shame back to her sorority house. At the end of the day, whilst walking to a party, she is murdered… and then wakes up back at the beginning of the day, and very quickly realises… well, after living and dying in the same day several times… that the only way to move on to the next day is to solve her own murder.

During the course of her birthday, we are introduced to a bunch of people who could be responsible: The bitter ex-lover, the hateful sorority sister, the friendly sorority sister whom she disrespects, the wife of the professor she’s bonking, her disappointed father and just so many others… but who is it?

That’s the mystery, and can Tree discover who it is before her lives run out?

The film is a pastiche of Groundhog Day, Mean Girls and every slasher film ever made, especially Scream as we see our masked villain is of the human variety, and can be hurt, and not an unstoppable Michael/ Jason type.

Typically with these sorts of ‘groundhog day’ films, everything you see happen and every movement made by various actors is really quite deliberate so it can be easily replicated on each new pass and honestly, the over exaggeration of some of the players is a touch blatant, to the point of distraction, but honestly that’s my only criticism of the film.

Those who love a bloody, gory slasher may be disappointed as this film isn’t one of those at all. The kills aren’t inventive, though they are sometimes surprising, but this film is more about the victim than the blood.

I have to give a specific shout out to Jessica Rothe who plays her role brilliantly, and wasn’t afraid of her character going from total glamourpuss to horrendously dishevelled victim. The character gets weaker every time she is killed so her appearance suffers.

Derivative with its idea but innovative with its execution, Happy Death Day is a thrilling, intriguing and funny version of a cinematic trope that has a nice bunch of twist and turns, and even pays direct tribute to the film that obviously inspired it, Groundhog Day.

Score: ****1/2

Format: Happy Death Day was reviewed with the Australian multi-region Bluray which runs for approximately 96 minutes. As one would expect from a modern film, both the 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with previews for Pacific Rim Uprising and Pitch Perfect 3 before hitting the menu screen. The other extras are:

Alternate Ending is just what the title would suggest it is and it’s an amusing alternative, but they definitively went with the right one.

Deleted Scenes, as usual, are an interesting distraction but the film ultimately benefits without them.

Worst Birthday Ever looks at the aspects of the ‘time-loop’ movie.

Behind the Mask: The Suspects looks at all the potential perpetrators of the crime, and the design of the killer’s mask.

The Many Deaths of Tree isn’t about the destruction of the rainforests, but instead about the various ways in which Tree dies through the film.

Unfortunately none of the extras last very long.

Score: ***

WISIA: This movie was great and I can’t wait to watch it again.

The Skeleton Key (2005)

One from the re watch pile…

The Skeleton Key (2005)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***1/2

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

Score: ****

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

Score: 0

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

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

One from the re watch pile…

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)

Film: As regular reading of the To Watch Pile may guess, I much prefer a more human villain in my movies than a supernatural one, mainly because I actually don’t believe in ghosts and ghouls and all that sort of stuff. I admit I do like zombie films, but there is a human horror to them with the loss of identity I suppose.

Anyway, cannibal films are are staple of the human horror film, and for me, and probably a lot of other horror film fans, the Hungry Trinity would be Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox, and this film, Antonio Margheriti’s Apocalypse Domani, aka Invasion of the Flesh Hunters, aka Virus aka Cannibal Apocalypse. Margheriti, also known as the director of Yor: Hunter from the Future directed this film under his alias Anthony M. Dawson from a script co-written by him and Jimmy Gould aka Dardano Sacchetti, who is probably best known for 1990: The Bronx Warriors.

Cannibal Holocaust tells of Viet Nam vet Hopper (John Saxon) who is contacted by a buddy from the war, Charlie Bukowski (John Morgan aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice) who is suffering quite badly from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which reminds him of acts of cannibalism he committed in a POW camp.

Charlie has attacked a young lady in a cinema and begs Hopper to get him out of town, but it would appear that Charlie’s acts of cannibalism aren’t a learnt trait, but instead appear to be some kind of transmittable disease which causes others to have a lust for human flesh.

Will Hopper successfully get Charlie out of the city, or will their needs outweigh their survival…

I first saw this movie on VHS in the eighties when I worked at a video shop in Sydney as a kid and fell in love with it. Along with The Never Dead (aka Phantasm), Dawn of the Dead, Re-Animator and The Beyond, it was one of my most regularly watched horror films. I like those other cannibal films I mentioned earlier, but I think because I saw this film first it set a standard that the others don’t reach.

… and it’s got John Saxon and John Morghen in it, for goodness’ sake: how could a Viet Nam vey Cannibal film get any better than that?!?

Score: ****1/2

Format: This Umbrella Entertainment NTSC DVD release of the film runs for approximately 93 minutes and is presented in an average 1.77:1 image with a functional mono audio track.

Score: **

Extras: There’s a mixed bag of extras on this disc.

Apocalypse in the Streets is a revisit of the exterior locations of the film told in a stiles and honestly not very well edited way. It is however interesting to see that some of the locations still look the same so many years later.

There is a European and a Japanese trailer for the film.

Alternate US Opening Sequence is just what the name suggests, but the one intact with the film is far better and uses less stock footage from Viet Nam.

Poster and Stills Gallery is a selection of posters and promotional material material from the film and a bunch of behind the scenes pics.

The Butchering of Cannibal Apocalypse Essay discusses the editing of the film in its various releases throughout the world.

Score: ***

WISIA: It is my favourite Cannibal film so of COURSE it’ll get looked at again and again!

It (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

It (2017)

Film: I missed this one in the cinemas, but I work in an environment that celebrates pop culture, and so all of my customers and workmates… and family for that matter… we’re banging on about this reimagining/ retelling of the famous Stephen King novel: I literally couldn’t get away from It! For one particular company it was their best seller for several weeks and all the collectors of the pop culture community were going absolutely ape for anything with Pennywise the Clown!

For those who don’t know, It is based on the book of the same name by Stephen King and was originally produced in 1990 as a two part TV mini-series, directed by Halloween III’s Tommy Lee Wallace, and has been repurposed… I hate saying a film is a remake when it’s just from the same source material…. for a new audience, with a new split of the story into the two time periods (the book and previous mini-series tells of the adult and child versions of each character), and an update in the time period when it was set. I assume when it was made in the 80s, the 50s seemed as far away as what the 80s do to a younger audience today.

This film was directed by Mama’s Andy Muschietti and his style in this film is almost an 80s pastiche but still firmly has modern effects and aesthetic: it’s actually really clever and engaging, and never boring to watch.

It tells of a scourge on the small town of Derry. Every 27 years a spate of misfortunes occur, and we start our tale with the disappearance of Bill Denbrough’s (Jaeden Lieberher) young brother Georgie (Jackson Robert Scott). Bill’s group of friend, the Losers’ Club (Fin Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer and Wyatt Oleff) with their newest members (Sophia Lillis, Chosen Jacobs and Jeremy Ray Taylor), decide to do some investigating and discover a horrible clown shaped creature known as Pennywise (Bill Saargård) has been feasting on the citizens of the town for many years.

We the threat to them becomes greater, the kids decide to fight back, but will all of them survive….

There is a lot of good to say about this film: mostly the acting is really good, especially from Lillis, but the one drawback is Wolfhard, who is clearly here to draw on his Stranger Things popularity. It’s stands to reason that of the Losers’ Club that she would be the best as she is a little older than the boys. The real winner is Skargård as Pennywise, who nails the bad guy character perfectly.

On that, clearly the studio is trying to make a franchise, and I reckon after the next film, which will obviously continue the story of the kids but as adults, we might see a continuation ‘stories inspired by Stephen King’s It’ styled thing. I don’t mind that idea at all, I could watch more adventures of Pennywise in a Freddy Kruger styled franchise (which they kind of announce in a cinema marquee which clearly states ‘Nightmare on Elm Street 5).

If I have to be a super picky reviewer, I’d say that the CGI of the paper boat in the opening scene was a little flat but that improved massively through the course of the film and some of it was absolutely amazing.

Part original It, part Goonies but all horror, I came into this with low expectations mainly because of the amount of mainstream movie watchers who loved it, but I was pleasantly surprised and look forward to both watching it again and the inevitable sequel. It’s easily one of the best mainstream horror films to be released in the past ten years.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The reviewed copy of It was the Australian release Bluray which runs for approximately 134 minutes and is a perfect 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: Some pretty cool extras on this disc:

Pennywise Lives! looks at the first day that the young cast get to meet Bill Skarsgård in his Pennywise costume, and then explore the character.

The Losers’ Club explores the relationship that developed between the cast members of The Losers’ Club in the film, and how that made the film more complete with their friendship feeling more genuine.

Author of Fear is, of course, a look at Stephen King’s original novel through the eyes of King himself in a quite fascinating interview.

There is also a bunch of deleted scenes (and a gag scene) which aren’t necessary but a nice addition to the package. I’ve no doubt we’ll get a director’s cut of this film closer to the release of the sequel.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh yeah, I’ll totally watch this again.