Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

One from the re watch pile…

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

Film: Imagine a world in which The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Leatherface: A Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Texas Chainsaw 4: A New Generation, the remake and The Beginning were never made. Now, whilst you are in that mindset, pretend the original was set sometime in 1988 and this film, Texas Chainsaw 3D (or Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D as the actual film title says) is the first sequel. Actually, a couple of gravestone dates are deliberately obscured to suit this exact purpose. Cinema is all about ‘pretending’, so that should all be easy! Clearly, the idea that this is the first sequel would suggest that more are to come, which the producer expresses in one of the featurettes in the extras.

Texas Chainsaw 3D starts just hours after the original TCM, with the local police going to the Sawyer house to apprehend ol’ Leatherface. The family is willing to give him up, but then a posse of rednecked locals arrive, and after a gunfight, they burn the house down with all the family members inside. One of the survivors was a baby, stolen by a member of the posse and raised as his own.

Jump forward to now, and we are introduced to Heather (Alexandra Daddario), who discovers she has inherited some property in Texas. She, along with boyfriend Ryan (Tremaine ‘Trey Songz’ Neverson), friend Nikki (Tania Raymonde), her potential boyfriend Kenny (Keram Malicki- Sanchez) and a hitchhiker they have picked up, Darryl (Shaun Sipos), travel to claim her inheritance, but it comes with a price! Typically, the kids are picked off one-by-one, but the story doesn’t end there. Sometimes small towns have horrible secrets that deserve vengeance. The sort of vengeance that only a giant, mentally stunted man armed with a chainsaw can dish out…

Now I was always a Friday the 13th guy as far as the big franchised horror films went, so I was never too high and mighty about the Chainsaw series (or Halloween for that matter) and honestly, I think the original TCM, whilst it has its place in cinematic history, is not my cup of tea. I thought it was badly paced at times, to the point if boredom, and I just can’t get by the annoying character of Franklin. Every time he opens his mouth I wanna go and park my car in a handicapped zone!

Also, before I continue, I must profess to have not watched this film in 3D. I don’t like the 3D gimmick in films as it suggests to me the film needs a little something extra due to the plot being a little lacklustre, like Friday the 13th 3D or Avatar. Besides, if I wanted things thrown at me, I’d take up sports instead of being a dyed in the wool home video fan!

Contrary to what I just said about thin plots in 3D movies, this script is solid once you ignore the existence of the sequels, and the warped time frame, though it does fall back on the usual frustrating horror trappings occasionally (call the cops, don’t go in the basement etc). It’s no King Lear, but as a horror franchise sequel it does attempt to think outside of the box, which gives it an identity of its own. The film flip flops in the middle and becomes a completely different animal!

There is a lot of stuff inspired by other films in here as well, with elements of Psycho, Humungous and other films mildly suggested. The script also telegraphs a lot of its final elements, but they do end satisfactorily. The wink at fans of the Saw films is a bit of a laugh as well.

The cast all perform adequately. Alexandra Daddario as Heather makes for a vulnerable yet headstrong lead who adapts to a situation quickly, and she’s as hot as the sun. The rest of the cast play their roles well enough, and the new Leatherface, Dan Yeager, is as intimidating as a good psychotic nut job with a chainsaw should be. The fun thing about this film is some of the original cast turning up to play other members of the family (in the case of Gunnar Hanson and Marilyn Burns), reprising the same role (John Dugan as Grandpa) or other sequel cast playing original cast members ( ex- Chop-Top Bill Moseley playing the deceased Jim Siedow’s character).

The director also appreciates where his new toy came from, and there a Hell of a lot of homages to the original: armadillos, deep freezers, meat hooks, ‘chuk-owwwwww’ camera noises and red shorts will all make TCM fans point and explain to non-fans what they are there for. It’s a bit of unnecessary fan-service, but a hoot, nevertheless.

Gore fans will also appreciate the effects Texas Chainsaw 3D. Most are done practically and are not light on the red stuff as Leatherface cuts through his victims in a variety of gruesome ways.

All in all, it’s not a bad pic, though anyone who is a fan of any of the sequels will feel somewhat ripped off by the complete dumping of what is supposed to be cinematic legacy. I have no problem with that though and enjoyed this film for what it is: a franchised sequel made for masses of new horror fans, with a few tips of the hat at the older ones so as not to completely piss them off. Will it be regarded as a horror classic? Doubtful, but as a no-frills slasher pic, it’s enjoyable.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This Blu-ray Disc looks and sounds fantastic. The image is presented in an impeccable high definition 1.78:1 image and the sound, which is fantastic, is presented in HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc blesses the fans with three commentaries. The first is with producer Carl Mazzacone and original director Tobe Hooper, and they discuss the technical elements of the original film and the adaptation to 3D of some of the original elements. Hooper also seems to really endorse this film, but the skeptic in me says that if you throw a bucket of money at anyone they’ll endorse anything. The second commentary is moderated by DVD producer and filmmaker Michael Felcher, with original TCM cast members Gunnar Hanson, Marilyn Burns, Bill Moseley and John Dugan. This is a less informative, but amusing commentary by a bunch of people who have a legacy and have obviously spent a lot of time together discussing this film. The last commentary is by new Leatherface Dan Yeager and director John Luessenhop and is mostly about the making of the new film, which is informative, but nowhere near as fun as the other two.

Unfortunately, several times during these commentaries, they speak of deleted scenes being featured on the eventual DVD/ Bluray release, but they are not featured on this Blu-ray Disc.

There are also a series of short featurettes:

Casting Terror looks at each main cast member and the role that they play.

It’s In The Meat is all about the practical special effects, and for those who are wondering, one of the SFX guys says ‘CGI can go fuck itself.’

Leather face 2013 focuses on the man in the mask and the actor that plays him, Dan Yeager.

Lights Camera Massacre focuses on the 3D camerawork.

Resurrecting the Saw looks at the process the film producers went through to get the rights, and the ‘right’ story for this new TCM. One of the cool things about this particular featurette is one of the writers’ criticism of the Hollywood machine and its ability to churn out repetitive crap that doesn’t aim to be something higher. Interesting that one of the writers says that, when the producer flat out expresses his desire to create a new franchise.

Texas Chainsaw Legacy interviews original cast and crew members, who give their opinion of their collective legacy.

The Old Homestead looks at the recreation of the original house, and what the original cast think of how well it has been recreated.

Honestly, all these mini features could have been put together to make one really cool 90 odd minutes making of, but still each one was interesting and fun.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’d like to say that any rewatchability comes from a strong script or an impressive direction, but I keep coming back to this for Alexandra Daddario. Sorry.

The Burning (1981)

One from the regularly re-watched pile…

The Burning (1981)

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

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

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

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

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

Score: *****

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

Score: ***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: *****

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

The To Watch Pile’s GoFund Me campaign

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

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

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

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

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

Lady Stay Dead (1981)

One from the to watch pile…

Lady Stay Dead (1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: **

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

Score: ***

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

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

Score: *

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

Tenebrae (1982)

One from the very top of the rewatch pile…

Tenebrae (1982)

The cover of my well worn Arrow edition of Tenebrae.

Film:

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

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

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

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

John Saxon – legend.

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

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

Score: *****

The menu for the Arrow Bluray Of Tenebrae.

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

Score: ***1/2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailer is, well, the trailer for the film.

Score: *****

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

Sometimes, guests arrive when you are still getting ready.

The Slayer (1982)

One from the to watch pile…

The Slayer (1982)

Film: Even though I am taking this from the ‘Re Watch Pile’, I am actually regarding it as a ‘To Watch Pile’ contender as the only way I have seen it before was on a pretty awful DVD release from the UK from several years ago. I remember seeing the video cover at my local video shop, but never got to hire it as there must have been some other horror fan in my area who totalled bogarted this tape and no one else EVER got to watch it. He’ll, I even had a copy of the poster hanging up in my bedroom as a kid.

The Slayer was written and directed by J.S. Cardone, who also gave us Puppetmaster and the remake of Prom Night, and co-written by Bill Ewing, who also produced the film.

Artist Kay Church (Sarah Kendall) has always had nightmares, and she exorcises the images from them through her art. On the eve of an important art show, her husband David (Alan McRae), brother Eric (Frederick Flynn) and his wife, Brooke (Carol Kottenbrook), decide to take her away to a secluded island to rest and relax and wind down after the child up to the show.

Once on the island, though, Kaye gets a weird feeling like she has been there before, even though the island is mostly abandoned during the off tourist season, and she starts to recognise places on the island that she has painted from her memory.

Kaye feels off the whole time on the island, and when her husband goes missing, things begin to unravel.. has she actually been here before or has she been getting premonitions about the place that feel like a warning, and when the deaths start happening, who, or what is responsible….

For its time, The Slayer is unusual as the trend was really mainly sexy, slutty teens being killed and this clearly features adults in peril. It also doesn’t feature a murder event ten minutes to keep the short attention spanned audience interested either, and instead slowly tells a story of a woman who may be descending into madness.

I really like this movie. It’s not just a good watch, it’s also a charming document of the time (smoking in a 6 seater Cessna is something no-one under 30 could even comprehend, let alone pass by without a complaint to the management) and has some pretty creepy bits in it, and a left field ending that in lesser hands could potentially have not worked, but actually works really well within the context of the universe the film exists in.

Score: ****

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Arrow Video multiregion Bluray, and is presented in a nicely restored 1.78:1 image with a decent Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It was nice to actually SEE this film for the first time and not on some terribly mastered DVD.

Score: ****

Extras: It’s an Arrow Video release, so you expect there to be HEAPS of extras, and there is!

First, the film is available here on both a Bluray and a DVD version, and the packaging has a reversible sleeve, one with an original image from the film, and the other by Justin Osbourn, which is amazing! There is also a booklet with articles by film historian Lee Gambin and Arrow’s Ewan Cant.

Nightmare Island: The Making Of the Slayer is an exhaustive almost hour long documentary about the making of the film and a great mix of talent are interviewed for it, including writer/ director Cardone, actress Kottenbrook, production executive Eric Weston and a bunch of others. It is a fascinating look at the whole process with some interesting anecdotes from all involved.

Return to Tybee: the Location Of The Slayer is a look at Tybee Island, where the film was made, today. The best thing is in the film there us a dilapidated old cinema which has been restored to its former glory, and enjoying a showing of The Slayer.

The Tybee Post Theatre Experience features the screening mentioned above (which can be watched on this disc with the sound of the audience played as well), and also has a speech from Arrow’s Ewan Cant and a Q&A with the films DoP Arledge Armenaki.

There is a stills gallery which is a slideshow with a combination of behind the scenes stuff and stills from the film, with the soundtrack played over the top.

There is a trailer.

Finally, there is a commentary with Cardone, Weston and Kottenbrook, another one with The Hysteria Continues (a horror podcast from the UK), an isolated composer score track with accompanying interview and finally a repeat of the Tybee Post theatre audio track!

Score: *****

WISIA: As I mentioned, I’d only ever seen this as a pretty poor quality DVD which was a chore to watch, but now I’ve seen it in this cleaned-up version, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.

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.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

The cover of the Australian Bluray


Film: After veering away from the legend of Michael Myers with the wonderful Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the producers of the series dropped themselves right back into the tale of Michael Myers due to III’s poor reaction, which honestly I never understood as I thought III was cool.

The filmmakers abandoned the Halloween series for a few years before bringing back Haddonfield’s Number 1 son, 6 years from number 3, and a whole 7 years from number 2, which was the last time we saw Myers and there still must have been a market for it as it spawned an immediate sequels, 1989’s Halloween 5 (which continued the ‘Jamie’ storyline) which then led to 1995’s The Curse of Michael Myers, before then being relaunched AGAIN in 1998 with H20: 20 Years Later.

Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers was written by Alan B. McElroy who wrote the Spawn comic movie and Wrong Turn, a movie I love, and was directed by Dwight H. Little, who gave us 1989’s The Phantom of the Opera, starring Robert England and the Steven Seagal classic Marked for Death.

Jamie (Danielle Harris) dons a familiar Halloween costume.


The film starts ten years after the events of the first film with the transfer of Michael Myers (George P. Wilbur) from one mental health facility, under the care of Dr Loomis (Donald Pleasance) but without his knowledge, who, with a bit of cinematic conversational exposition, Michael finds out that he has a niece, and so his need to commit sororicide now extends to his sister’s daughter… 

He escapes the ambulance he is being transferred with, and proceeds to make his way back to Haddonfield, where his niece, Jamie (Danielle Harris), now resides with her adoptive family, including sister Rachel (Ellie Cornell).

Jamie isn’t settling into her new family very well as she keeps having visions of a shape threatening her, and very quickly those visions come true, as Michael threat become real, and not just Jamie and Rachel are in trouble, but anyone who crosses Michael’s path… lucky for them though, Loomis is in hot pursuit…

Immediately one must point out that this was the first film to star a very young Danielle Harris, who is now quite the horror icon due to her appearance in both this and it’s immediate sequel (she was replace by another actor in The Curse of Michael Myers), and things like Urban Legend (1998) and Blood Night (2009) and even returned to the Halloween series in Rob Zombie’s remakes playing the ‘new’ Annie Brackett. The reason she became so iconic was she plays her role like a real kid in this and not only isn’t annoying but also plays it with a great deal of depth and heart.

I’ll take you home again, Kathleen……..


Also, I have to say I like the fact that former crush of mine Kathleen Kinmont, known for She-wolves of the Wasteland and even better, Bride of Re-animator, appears in this and set my heart aflutter again even after all these years.

The 80s really were a time for some direly bad sequels, but this isn’t one of them. Is it as good as Halloween 1 or 2? Hell, no, but it is a decent example of 80s horror cinema, and is an entertaining watch.

Score: ***1/2

The Australian Bluray menu


Format: The reviewed copy of the film was the Umbrella Entertainment multiregion Blu-ray Disc, which runs for approximately 88 minutes and is presented in a not-to-sharp 1.85:1 visual with an excellent Dolby 5.1 audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There is only three extras on this disc:

The first is a commentary by our female leads Ellie Cornell and Danielle Harris and their reflections on the filming and their respective careers is interesting.

Next we have a discussion panel with the cats and crew of Halloweens 4 and 5 which is fun and interesting and a nice addition to the extras. Kathleen Kinmont is particularly entertaining.

Finally, a trailer for Halloween 4.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: To me the best thing this film ever really did was introduce the world to Danielle Harris: it IS entertaining, but the beginning of the end for the series, and a relaunch that probably didn’t need to happen.

Loomis (Donald Pleasance) looks upon Myers’ carnage.

The Funhouse (1981) 

One from the re watch pile…
The Funhouse (1981)

Arrow’s UK Bluray cover of The Funhouse


Film: To most people, Tobe Hooper peaked early in his career with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but I disagree. I am not the world’s biggest fan of TCM at all, in actually fact I find it to be poorly paced, with a really great payoff, I’ll grant you, but with quite possibly the world’s most annoying character, Franklin.

For me though, it’s Hooper post TCM and 80s output I like better: Eaten Alive, Lifeforce, Invaders From Mars, and even Tcm’s sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2! Another one of those I like is this film, The Funhouse, written by Larry Block aka Lawrence Block, whose only other real credit was the Matt Salinger Captain America movie made almost ten years after this.

Elizabeth Berridge in a not-so-famous shower scene.


The Funhouse tells of Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) and her blond date, Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) along with friends, Liz (Largo Woodruff) and her boyfriend, Ritchie (Miles Chaplin) who decide, against Amy’s father’s wishes, to visit a travelling carnival, but they get more than what they bargain for.

They decide to spend the night in the Funhouse, but unfortunately bear witness to the carnival barker’s (Kevin Conway) deformed son (Wayne Doba), kill the sideshow fortune teller (Sylvia Miles) after an unsuccessful sexual transaction. 

So there they are, trapped in a carnival attraction overnight, pursued by madness… will they all survive.

Oh, the freak show is gonna have freaks (Wayne Doba)


I dig this film. It’s classic 80s with weirdo characters and ridiculous practical make-ups, obnoxious jocks who are the good guys, virginal heroines (who’s boobs we get to see, which is an odd juxtaposition), slutty ‘best’ friends who tease their friend about being virginal, and a bizarre environment.

The acting is of a level one would expect from a film of this era, but Kevin Conway in his multiple roles as three different carnival barkers adds a bizarre almost respectability to the whole film, even though he is as creepy as hell, and the ultimate abusive parental figure.

I only saw this film for the first time when this release came out in 2011, and have been a fan ever since, mainly due to the overall tone of the film and the fact that I am an 80s connoisseur, though the fact I find both Elizabeth Berridge and Largo Woodruff cute doesn’t hurt either.

Recommended for fans of 80s slashers.

Score: ***1/2

UK Bluray menu


Format: This Arrow U.K. Multi-region Bluray release runs for approximately 95 minutes and is presented in a nice 2.35:1 image with a good stereo 2.0 audio. As one would expect the image is slightly grainy at times, and fairly artefact free.

Score: ***

Extras: There’s no shortage of extras on this disc.

First, three… count them… THREE commentaries! One by film critic/ journalists Calum Waddell and Justin Kerswell, the next by Craig Reardon and Jeffrey Reddick, and the last by Derek Power and Howard S. Berger. They are three completely different styles of commentary but all have areas of interest.

Next there is a trailer for the film.

Carnage at the Carnival sees Tobe Hooper reflect on his experiences in the making of Funhouse.

Miles of Mayhem has Miles Chapin, who played Ritchie, recollect on his experiences on the film and how every decision his character made screwed the futures of the other main characters.

The Make-up Madness of Craig Reardon looks at Reardon’s history with special effects in Hooper’s films.

Masterclass of Horror sees fellow horror director, and creator of Masters of Horror, Mick Garris talk about Tobe Hooper.

Tobe Hooper Q &A is a fairly poor quality interview with Hooper around the time of the release of his 2004 film, The Toolbox Murders. Despite the quality, it’s an interesting Q & A.

Stills Gallery is a slideshow of the make up and other behind the scenes shenanigans.

This is one of Arrow’s releases that has the multiple covers, 4 in total, a poster of the film and an illustrated essay booklet by horror historian and author Kim Newman.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a fun 80s slasher and yeah, I’ll be watching it again.

Largo Woodruff taunts her best friend for being a virgin.

The Mutilator aka Fall Break (1984)

One from the to watch pile…
The Mutilator aka Fall Break (1984)

The cover to Arrow Video’s The Mutilator


Film: 80s slashers are totally my jam. I mean, love zombie films, and I totally dig schlocky action crap, and adore a low-budget scifi drama, love a big budgeted superhero film, but give me a slasher over any of those, any day of the week.

Slashers are my bacon, my ice cream, my chocolate. They are sex mixed with candy.

You get the point: I’m a little keen on them.

Anyway, during the VHS era, I watched hundreds of slashers, that is I had my favourite films that I repeatedly watched over and over, but I always jumped on a new slasher whenever a new one came into the video store I worked in.

This however, was one that passed me by, and I don’t recall ever seeing anything about it anywhere. I baulked at it when Arrow first offered it up, but picked it up cheaply via a sales website as I figured ‘it’s cheap, what the Heck?’

The Mutilator: Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) contemplates his beer.


The Mutilator tells of Ed Jr. (Matt Mitler) who as a child was cleaning his father’s Big Ed’s (Jack Chatham) guns as a birthday pressie for him, when one accidentally discharged and blew a whole in dear old mother.

Big Ed, a hunter and all round manly sportsman, never quite got over it, and many years later, when Ed Jr is about to go on fall break, he contacts his son and ska him to go and close up their holiday condo on a small island, but does he have ulterior motives to get his son on an abandoned holiday island? And what will happen to the bunch of friends who accompany him?

The Mutilator: hunt, kill, repeat.


This film is directed by Buddy Cooper and John Douglass, from a script by Cooper: both of whom were ‘one and done as far as directing is concerned. This might have something to do with just how terrible the performances of the actors are, but that might have more to do with their skill (or absence of) than Cooper’s as his actual cinematography is actually quite good. Some of the scenes are corny though, and I mean, the Madman jacuzzi scene corny, that may be more to do with the accompanying score for what are supposed to be cutesy lovey dovey parts of the film, and the title track is something you’ll come to loathe, but that’s more because it features heavily on the menu screen… looped.

There is also some absolute stupidity in the film too which I imagine was perceived as being ‘comedy’ but comes of as out-of-place here, especially when you consider just how nasty some of the violence is… and there is some lady-parts that are just horribly done-over!!

None of what I have said should necessarily be taken as a wholehearted negative though, as this film is kitschy enough to be enjoyable in one of those eye-rolling, forehead-slapping ways. 

Score: ***1/2

Arrow’s animated, and audibly annoying menu screen for The Mutilator


Format: This UK Arrow films bluray release of The Mutilator runs for approximately 86 minutes and has a nicely restored, though occasionally artefacty 1.78:1 image with an excellent Mono 1.0 audio track, apparently retired from ‘original vault materials’ in 2k.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Before the films starts you have an option to start the film with an introduction from Cooper and make up/ editor assistant Edmund Ferrell. 

Typically, Arrow offer alternate cover for the bluray, and a booklet with essays about the film by Ewan Cant and Tim Ferrante, which are both informative and enjoyable.

Fall Breakers is a feature lengthen documentary/ retrospective about the making of the film. If only every release had something like this.

Tunes for the Dunes sees composer Michael Mainard talk about the films score. It’s an interesting look at the creation of tension and other filmic emotions using music.

Behind the Scenes reel is about 15 minutes of stuff that happened on set.

Screen Tests is just that, some screen tests of the Stars of the film.

There are two audio commentaries on this disc. The first one is labeled as ‘Cast and Crew’ and is hosted by Ewan Cant from Arrow video, with Cooper, Douglass, Mitler and Ferrell, and it’s a nice and informative commentary, well led by Cant. The other commentary is hosted again by Cant, and with Cooper again, but this time with final girl, Ruth Martinez.

Opening scene storyboards is a pretty cool look at the pencil sketches done to work out how the beginning of the film was going to look. It’s done to the audio of the opening scene of the film to give it clarity.

Trailers and TV Spots is a series of promotional bits for the film, some as Fall Break and some as The Mutilator.

There is an alternate opening title sequence with the title card of the Mutilator on it.

The is an option called ‘music’ which allows you to hear the title track from the film, but you hear it over and over on the menu screen, so it’s doubtful if you make it all the way through. It’s performed as both the original and as an instrumental only.

Gallery is a stills gallery of behind the scenes shots, but the song that by now you absolutely hate is being played again. I’m not normally a fan of stills galleries but this has some pretty cool behind the scenes images.

Score: *****

WISIA: 80s? Slasher? Hell yeah!

The Mutilator: put your toys away!!!