Truth or Dare (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Truth or Dare (2018)

Film: It seems that Wes Craven’s Scream didn’t just save the horror industry in the 90s, it also gave young’s tv stars an opportunity to find their way to the big screen… via horror movies. Every time a new Scream-derivative film was announced, it’s cast was led by someone from a popular Tv show. To be fair, some of the teen comedies were these gateways for these people as well.

Horror Movies, which in the 80s seemed to be the place that either a) people at the end of their careers turned up or b) those prepared to do nudity killed their careers, became a place that soap or drama stars could wind up on the road to a cinema career.

It now seems to be the done thing by actors on the off-season of their TV shows, sometimes to little effect, but other times to some degree of success.

Truth or Dare, co-written and directed by Kick Ass 2’s Jeff Wadlow, features a bevy of these young stars from shows like Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf, The Flash and Grey’s Anatomy.

Our story is of YouTuber/ Snapchatter, Olivia (Lucy Hale), who is coerced by her friend’s to go to Mexico for Spring Break, and whilst there meets Carter (London Liboiron) who convinced them all to make their way to an abandoned convent and play a game of Truth or Dare.

The problem is, the game is not what it seems, and anyone that plays it becomes haunted by a demon who forces them into horrible, friend-destroying truths, or self-destructive and violent dares which, if they don’t commit to, will result in them being killed by the demon.

Once stuck in the game though, how can they get out? Is there a way to get rid of the demon, or are they cursed forever?

This film is pretty good, though the ‘thing’ that’s haunting them has a very It Follows way of ‘infecting’ the characters. The actors are all great and likeable and Wadlow’s direction tells the story with a minimum of effects but it still looks great, except for when people are possessed by the demon and their faces just look like a lame Snapchat filter, which is a shame. I think something even lower-tech, like coloured contacts and a voice changer, would have been more effective.

Basically this is an enjoyable film with a good cast that will be forgotten almost as soon as you finish watching it, until in two years time a completely unassociated sequel made by studio guns-for-hire will remind you it exists.

Score: **1/2

Format: Truth or Dare was reviewed with the Australian R4 DVD which runs for approximately 97 minutes. The image is presented in 2.39:1 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Before the menu starts, there are trailers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell and Pacific Rim Uprising.

Game On: The Making Of Truth or Dare isn’t really a proper ‘making of’ but instead is a 6 minutes overview of what the movie is about, it’s origins and a few comments from the cast.

Directing the Deaths is an even SHORTER piece which really just describes a couple of deaths in minor detail.

There is a commentary with Wadlow and Hale which is really interesting as each scene is described from the two pints of view and provides a nice overview of what is going on between cast and crew.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I’m pretty sure this is gonna be a one and done for me.

Eloise (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Eloise (2017)

Film: If I am totally honest, I have very little faith in post millennial horror films, particularly the ghost stories. I don’t want to be one of those guys who nay says stuff because it’s new, and I’m not quite doing that, but I think that very few horror movies made since the year 2000 have been made for me.

The real tragedy is the lack of a lack of quality in the straight-to-home-video market. In the 80s, the low budget stuff looked rough, was occasionally filled with has-beens and never-wases and usually sported a bunch of nudity… at the very least a boobie or two, but at least it was entertaining. Now it’s just about barely-audible scores set to scare and boring generic ghost stories that have NO surprises or original ideas in their stories and barely entertain in anyway. I guess companies are looking to make the next franchise.

This film, Eloise, stars Chance Crawford (ex-Gossip Girl), Eliza Dushku (ex-Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and P.J. Byrne (ex-Big Little Lies), and the fact that the three biggest names are ex-TV stars should immediately ring alarm bells… but what this film needs is a famous star from a big film who never really did anything else of note.

‘Hello, Robert Patrick, are you busy this weekend?’

Eloise tells of Jacob (Crawford) who has discovered his father has committed suicide and that he has inherited over a million dollars on the condition he can obtain the death certificate of his only other relative, his aunt who died in a mental institution called Eloise in the 80s.

Obtaining this certificate is going to take several months, but as a deus ex machina of improbable proportions, a friend of Jacob’s, Dell (Brandon T. Jackson), desperately needs $20,000 to pay off a debt, so they devise a plan to break into Eloise utilising the help of Eloise expert, Scott (Byrne) who also is a special needs person, and his sister/ carer, Pia (Dushku), whose mother worked there before she mysteriously disappeared.

What they find there is ghosts that offer nothing but horror and torture that shows that the writer probably watched the remake of House on Haunted Hill and thought they could do better with the aesthetic of the flashback sequences, which are so anachronistic that it destroys any credibility the story might gave at all, and that’s not to mention the improbable coincidences of the story.

Seriously, this film is just terrible, apart from some actual good performances from those TV cast members I mentioned, though Byrne’s character gets constantly on your nerves with his frenetic behaviour, but that’s probably the point.

Normally no matter how bad a film is, I can get through it in one sitting: this took 4.

I’m afraid that’s not a sign of quality.

Honestly, the only good thing about this film is that it shares a name with the Damned awesome 80s cover of Barry Ryan’s song. Avoid at all costs.

Score: *

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian DVD which runs for approximately 88 minutes and is presented in a 2.40 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, both of which are of a high quality.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: If I ever watch this film again, it will be on a dare. Avoid at all costs.

Happy Halloween Flick: Night of the Demons (2009)

One from the to watch pile…

Night of the Demons (2009)

Film: It’s hard to do a review of a remake of a film that has iconic scenes with iconic horrors stars in it. More to the point, it’s hard to do a review of a remake of an 80s horror film that has so many things that make it stand head and shoulders above other smaller budgeted films of the same decade. The ‘lipstick in the nipple’ scene, the ‘bending over in the convenience store’ scene, the atrocious ‘acting’ by Linnea Quigley… actually, in summary, it’s EVERY scene in which Quigley appears!!

It must have been a daunting task for remake director Adam Gierasch to attempt to follow in 80s version director Kevin Tenney’s footsteps, but soldier on he did. As always the key to doing a remake is to take the originals scenes, and turn the violence volume up on them to a Spinal Tap-like 11, but how does one do that when the original has scenes that a SO well remembered for their absolute craziness.

Anyway, the story tells of Angela (Shannon Elizabeth), a club/party promoter who has organised a kick-arse party in a house when 85 years ago, some murders took place, and the house has been shrouded in mystery ever since.

A bunch of Angela’s friends come to the party, but the police shut it down due to the appropriate approvals not being present. Unfortunately, a bunch of them, including drug dealer Colin (Edward Furlong), Jason (John F. Beach), Dex (Michael Copon), Lily (Diora Baird), Maddie (Monica Keena) and Suzanne (Bobbi Sue Luther) get stuck in the building, and after one of them in ‘bitten’ by a dead body in the basement, slowly, one-by-one, they get turned into demons cast out of Hell, but will any of them survive… and will you, the viewer, even care?

Pretty much well everything about this film can be used as an argument AGAINST the concept of remakes being OK, but if I was to be forced into offering this film any sort of compliment, one of the demon designs (the one who has prehensile tit tentacles… titacles?) is pretty inventive, but other than that, this film is like a poor pisstake of the film GO! but with demons in it. The worst crime this commits is that it sets up ideas in the script that are interesting, that don’t pay off, and are just their because, for example, London gangsters are hot right now, let’s have one!

To add insult to injury, the songs on the soundtrack are pretty terrible and emulate sounds from actual big heavy metal songs… one in particular steals so liberally from one of Rob Zombie’s songs that I can’t believe they weren’t sued by him.

When a film is only remembered for Quigley reprising a visual take on her original role, and Edward Furlong looking like a hobo, you know it’s got issues.

Score: *

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 93 minutes (though it feels like SO much longer) and is presented in an average looking and sounding 16×9 widescreen image with a 2.0 audio track.

Score: **

Extras: This film thinks it’s far too good for you and offers you NOTHING in the form of extras!

Score: 0

WISIA: This is one of those cases where the original is so crackers that the remake will never be remembered! I won’t watch this again, not while the original exists.

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.

The Endless (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

The Endless (2017)

Film: Occasionally, a film comes along that surprises you. I like to think I know what’s going on within the world of genre films, I read several horror news blogs and magazines, I listen to a few horror/ genre podcasts but I guess in a world where SO many films can be made SO quickly it can be hard to keep abreast of the releases.

Somehow, this film of UFO cultish, time-bending supernaturality completely passed me by!

This film was written by Justin Benson, and directed by him and his regular directing partner, Aaron Moorhead who previous made Resolution (which contains a theme used as a small part of this film) and Spring. These two also star as the lead actors.

This film is about Brothers Aaron (Moorhead) and Justin (Benson) who left a UFO cult ten years ago as he believed that they were on the cusp of committing an act of mass suicide which they declared to be ‘the Ascension’ and hoped to find their way in the big old world. Through this time, Justin has convinced the younger Aaron that the cult was a horrible place that was not at all full of any normalcy.

They mysteriously receive a video tape from the cult, and in the ten years that have passed, none of the cultists in the video seem to have aged, and Aaron wants to go back to visit, even though Justin repeated warns him that it is a bad idea.

They return but find that nothing has changed… nothing… and that the entire cult seems to be stuck in some kind of bubble of time that keeps them safe. The problem is, the bubble seems to be a trap set by some being who sends them messages by delivering the photographs and video tapes, or is it a trap… and are others caught in it if it is and is there a ‘something’ out there, or is the cult suffering from a mass delusion?

So many questions, and the answers are innovative and interesting and this film, even though its low budget and low-fi is a fascinating sci-fi/ horror that turns regular tropes of both types of films on their heads, with some decent acting, ok direction and a surprise cameo by Lew Temple!

This film was a surprising first watch, and one that fans of thoughtful sci-fi, not your mass-market Star Wars-y stuff, will probably enjoy, considering elements of it even seem to harken back to ideals proposed by Lovecraft of something bigger being our there and controlling us.

One warning though, this isn’t a gore-fest, special effects laden feature. If you are looking for that go somewhere else, but if you want Story and texture, you might just dig this.

Score: ****

Format: This review was done with the Umbrella region 4 DVD release of the film which runs for approximately 111 minutes and is presented in an average 2.40:1 image with a 5.1 audio track. When I say average though, it is more to do with it low budget rather than it being a damaged print. The print is fine, but it obviously wasn’t filmed with the latest in cinema technology.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None to speak of at all.

Score: 0

WISIA: I actually think this film NEEDS to be watched more than once for a full absorption of its ideas.

Rawhead Rex (1986)

One from the to watch pile…

Rawhead Rex (1986)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: **

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

Score: ****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The is the original trailer.

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

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

Score: *****

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

Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

In 1929, Italian publishing company Mondadori started publishing a series of crime books that had garish yellow covers. It is from here that the Italian thriller/ horror film gets its name: giallo, the Italian word for yellow. The films from the early sixties started as adaptation of these early thrillers, but eventually became a genre of their own. The main characteristics of the giallo film take elements from detective stories and slasher films, with operatic elements and a large dose of blood, gore, violence and nudity. While many films from Italian directors can come under the ‘giallo’ title, the masters are truly Mario Bava and Dario Argento. Dario Argento, son of producer Salvatore Argento, began his career as a writer for a film journal, before heading into screen writing. He worked for Sergio Leone on such films as Once Upon Time in the West before heading into his own movies, thrillers that kept in mind his childhood love of Italian folk lore, the tales of the Brothers Grimm, but most of all, the writings of Edgar Allen Poe. Argento is responsible for some of the greatest horror films ever: Deep Red, Suspiria, and this one -Tenebrae.

Author Peter Neal (Anthony Franciosa) has come to Rome to promote his latest novel, titled Tenebrae. His arrival is marred, however, by a series of killings that copy those in his novel. The police, Detective Germani (Giuliano Gemma) and Detective Altieri (Carols Stagnaro) are frustrated by the murderer, who is directly referencing Neal by leaving pages from his novel at the crime scenes.

Anthony Franciosa asks Daria Niccolodi how one can star in more Argento films.

Neal, along with his agent, Bullmer (John Saxon), his assistant, Anne (Daria Niccolodi)and his other employees begin their own investigation to uncover the identity of the killer…but what Neal doesn’t realise is that someone, an ex-lover, Jane (Veronica Lario) is in pursuit of him, but what is HER connections to killing? Does she even HAVE a connection?

John Saxon – legend.

Tenebrae is the film that saw Argento return to traditional giallo after his sojourn into the supernatural with his previous two films Suspiria and Inferno, two chapters of his so called (and as of early 2006 unfinished) ‘Three Mothers’ trilogy and then right back into it with his next film Phenomena. With its rich exterior shots of some exquisite Italian locations, and an unusually bright palette for a horror film…a lot of the murders take place in broad daylight, Tenebrae is a pleasure to watch. Some really great performances by the actors, and some great bloody effects, particularly a brilliant axe murder.

I must admit that Tenebrae is one of those ‘perfect storm’ horror movies for me. My favourite director, an interesting story, a great soundtrack, a big dash of violence, John Saxon and beautiful Italian women. I honestly think there is only one horror film that is better than this one and that is Re-animator.

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video multi-region Bluray release from 2011, which runs for approximately 101 minutes. It is presented in a grainy, but clear 1.85:1 and a good mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Some amazing extras on this disc, but you’d expect nothing less from Arrow! Before the disc, though, the package contains four options for the cover of the disc, a poster of the new disc art and a booklet about the film written by Alan Jones.

There are two commentaries on this disc, both which are super interesting. The first is with horror journalism legends Kim Newman and Alan Jones, and the other is with screenwriter Thomas Rostock.

Screaming Queen! Daria Niccolodi Remembers Tenebrae is an interesting interview where she talks about her character in this film, and her history in cinema and with Argento.

The Unsane World Of Tenebrae: An Interview With Dario Argento where he talks about his career and Tenebrae.

A composition for Carnage: Claudio Simonetti on Tenebrae sees the lead player in the band Goblin and composer (as well as hero of mine) Claudio Simonetti discuss his work on this film and his career.

Goblin: Tenebrae and Phenomena Live from the Glasgow Arches is footage from 2011 of Claudio Simonetti and New Goblin playing live. I admit I caught them in Sydney in 2015 so seeing this brought back fond memories.

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

WISIA: Tenebrae is one of my favourite films of all time so it gets regularly rewatched, and it should be by you, too!

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.