R.I.P. Stuart Gordon

R.I.P. Stuart Gordon

11th August 1947 – 24th March 2020

If you enjoy my silly little reviews I do here for the To Watch Pile, you have one person to thank for it: Stuart Gordon.

As a kid, and I’m sure I’ve shared this before on this site or any of the others I’ve worked on, my father used to buy me Famous Monsters of Filmland every time one was delivered to my local news agency. The first drive in movie I can remember seeing was a vampire movie and I always had monsters as toys. I graduated to Fangoria after FMoF and liked horror movies but I wasn’t crazy about them.

Then my local video shop got a new release film called Re-animator on VHS, and I became obsessed by horror.

This turned my life around. HE turned my life around.

Everything I did from then on was for horror. I became obsessed with the writing of H. P. Lovecraft, and that turned into a love of horror stories. I started actually thinking about how movies were made, how special effects worked, how novels can be translated into cinema… this all was because of Stuart Gordon.

You have a few heroes in your life that really resonate in your artistic soul. For me, Jack Kirby, who co-created the Marvel Universe was a hero. Harvey Kurtzman, the co-creator or Mad Magazine was a hero. Kurt Cobain, the singer from Nirvana, was a hero… and people like Robert Crumb and Dario Argento are still heroes because of the effect they had on their various genres.

Gordon was different. Gordon effected me on a far more personal manner. Gordon made me think about cinema like I’d never thought about it before.

I could talk about what Gordon did in his life, about the films he made, about all the amazing stuff he did for theatre in Chicago, about what a revolutionary filmmaker he was but I’m not going to. If you want that, go and read the Variety obituary, or the Bleeding Cool article, or the Fangoria tribute piece, I’m going to give you something real.

Stuart Gordon influenced me in a way that I can’t describe. Re-animator was a key that opened my brain box and sprinkled awakening on my teenage mind, and still to this day, every time I watch something he directed, I see something that expands my understanding about storytelling.

Thank you isn’t enough, Mr. Gordon.

Little Monsters (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Little Monsters (2019)

Film: I never used to be a fan of horror comedies because I didn’t like the juxtaposition of laughs with horror. Actually, I still don’t really believe that the horror/comedy exists: horror/ comedies are just comedies with monsters and or gore in them.

Having said that, some of my favourite movies are horror comedies. Movies like Shaun of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead and Re-animator hit this amazing balance between the ridiculousness of the situation, humans ability to laugh in the face of danger and blood and gore.

Unfortunately a lot of horror/ comedies fail because they can’t hit that balance; The Spierig Brothers’ Undead was one of those for me. It had a few funny lines, but essentially it fell flat as either horror or comedy.

This film, Little Monsters, is a winner though. Written and directed by Australian actor/ director Abe Forsythe who previously gave us the Ned Kelly comedy Ned (2003) and Down Under (2016), Little Monsters tell of Dave (Alexander England), a washed up worker who is constantly at war with his girlfriend until they finally decide to call it quits.

With nowhere to go, he moves in with his sister, Tess (Kat Stewart) and her son, Felix (Diesel La Torraca) where he proves to be not the best influence on the boy, especially when he discovers that Felix’s teacher is the stunning Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o), and volunteers to chaperone the children in his class on an excursion to Pleasant Valley, which has a petting zoo and mini golf, but also, for a limited time, the 5 times Nickelodeon kids award winning entertainer, Teddy McGiggle (Josh Gad).

What starts as a delightful excursion becomes a nightmare as the American Army base next door has a breakout of zombies who find their way onto the theme park grounds. Very soon, Miss Caroline, Dave, Teddy and Miss Caroline’s class find themselves holed up in the souvenir shop, surrounded by the undead, with seemingly no way out!

Will they all survive?

I admit to have blind bought this Bluray for two reasons, the first is you just have to put the word ‘zombie’ on anything and immediately I’m interested. The other is Lupita Nyong’o. For me she was about the only thing I liked about the Black Panther movie (well, her and Shuri), and she shows some amazing skill playing both Adelaide and Red in the Jordan Peele science fiction/ horror movie Us.

After watching it though, I also have to take my hat off to Josh Gad, who plays Teddy with a gleeful delight at first before revealing his deplorable true colours, and make for a hilarious ‘jerk’ character. That’s not to take away from Alexander England either: Dave is one of the most irredeemable characters prime for redemption ever seen in a comedy.

The type of zombie that appears in the film is the slow, non-tool using type, but part of the script suggests that there are lots of types as one of the American Army guys asks ‘Fast ones or slow ones’ which was a nice truce in the war between running and walking zombies.

The best thing about this film though is how damned funny it is. It starts like a stoner comedy and switches so easily to a horror comedy/ romantic comedy that you barely notice where the change is… and that’s not to cast shade on the imbues either: they look amazing, considering most of the budget must have been spent just on the international cast members!

I really can’t recommend this film enough. It’s been a long time since I laughed out loud at a co edgy, let alone a horror/ comedy!

Score: *****

Format: Little Zombies is presented in an absolutely perfect 2.35:1 image, and a cracking DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is so much happening in this film, and it’s so bloody funny, it deserves multiple watches!

It Chapter 2 (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

It Chapter 2 (2019)

Film: I’ve never EVER been a fan of Stephen King’s books… now that’s not to say I don’t like his ideas, I’m just not a fan of the way he writes. I prefer Richard Laymon, Shaun Hutson and James Herbert for my horror books. Anyway, I’ve always been a fan of the adaptations of King’s books; I guess the summarising of one of his tomes makes his stories easier to swallow.

I did enjoy the first version of It (you know, the one with Tim Curry as Pennywise) and I admit I only watched it initially as a curio to see John-Boy Walton (Richard Thomas) in something other than The Waltons or Battle Beyond the Stars, and I found it to be a fun story.

I did attempt the book and gave up.

Anyway, I loved the first part of the ‘do-over’ of King’s novel. I thought it was well cast, and entertaining… did that echo into the sequel/ chapter 2?

Let’s get to the story first.

It’s 27 years after the events of the first film, and the Loser’s Club has long since disbanded, with all the members spread out, far away from each other, the memories of what happened that summer with Pennywise, the demonic clown (Bill Skarsgård) long faded… but not to one member.

Mike Hanlon (Isaiah Mustafa) has stayed in the town of Derry, remembering what happened, and when the evil starts creeping back into the town, he contacts all the Losers, Bev (Jessica Chastain), Bill (James McAvoy), Ben (Jay Ryan), Ritchie (Bill Hader), Eddie (James Ransone) and Stan (Andy Bean) and asks them to return and help him fight the threat of Pennywise again.

U fortunately for them, in the 27 years that Pennywise has been dormant, he dreamt of nothing bu them, and fortunately for him, Hanlon has accidentally delivered them to him and his evil shenanigans…

I was so excited for this film. Honestly, I can’t tell you how much, and that excitement grew the more I heard of the cast who we being employed: Chastain, McAvoy, Heder… I couldn’t believe the names that were being suggested. Well, I could: the first film had been such a success I’m sure any actor would have loved to have had their name attached to its sequel.

The cast are mostly fine, though one of the problems of the script is that the old friends quickly return to their young personas, and whilst I understand that the objective was to make the adult the evolutions of the child actors, what really happened was that they just emulated them. I’m not sure if the removal of the maturity of some of the characters was deliberate, but it was annoying, and having adults act like children didn’t sit well at all, especially the bickering between them.

The first film had, even with some of its over the top scenes like the leprous hobo, still somewhat of a subtlety to the nature of the scares that Pennywise provided. All the horror of the first film are thrown out the window and the horror and fear is forced upon you over and over to the point that it becomes boring. Again, if it was a script decision to increase those scares because the adults would be harder to frighten, it wasn’t telegraphed well enough. Much like Freddy Kruger in later Nightmare on Elm Street films, Pennywise and his ghouls and ghosts feels overexposed somewhat in this film.

If I’m going to be really picky, there is a cameo by Steven King which lasts far too long and the movie really slows down to play it out.

Overall, the highs of the first film were not present in this sequel, and this movie was mediocre at best, which is so surprising considering it was basically made by the exact same people. The irony here is that one of the characters, who is a writer, is constantly concerned that his stories don’t end well.

I have no doubt with the success of it the studio is already thinking of The Conjuring-styled prequels showing Pennywise haunting earlier times in a cash-grab: no doubt we shall eventually be subjected to Pennywise: Origin, but I hope not.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australia release Bluray which is presented in an impeccable 2.39:1 image and a matching Dolby Atmos True-HD.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a whole disc of extras!

The Summers of IT Chapter One: You’ll Float Too looks at the casting of the kids and Pennywise, and the making of the first film.

The Summers of IT Chapter Two: IT Ends reflects the casting of the adults and the continuation of the portrayal of Pennywise.

Pennywise Lives Again looks deeper at Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise and discusses his thought son the success of the character.

This Meeting of the Losers’ Club Has Officially Begun looks at the meeting of the child actors and their adult counterparts.

Finding the Deadlights sees Stephen King talk about the nature of fear and then monster under the bed’.

Some of the interview footage is repeated from one extra to another which is somewhat disappointing. I’m constantly surprised that these extras are made into these stupid ten minute bites instead of a decent 40 minute documentary.

Score: ****

WISIA: Pennywise and I are done, I’m afraid. Divorce proceedings to follow quickly.

St. Agatha (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

St. Agatha (2018)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: *1/2

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

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: Probably not.

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

One from the re-watch pile…

Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (1984)

Film: If you’ve been reading this blog for the last few years, or read my reviews over the past 10 years, or even listened to my podcast, you may notice two things that I say over and over again.

1. My favourite movies mostly come from the 1980s

2. I am not a fan of Steven King’s writing.

The weird thing about these to things is that they do intersect: I really like all of the Stephen King novel based movies. It’s true. I’m a fan of the man’s ideas, but not of his execution. Do I feel bad about it? No. Would I watch any film based on a Stephen King novel at any time of the night or day? Yes.

I know that this wasn’t the first King translation I ever saw because I KNOW that I was taken to the cinemas to see The Shining by my parents at the ripe old age of 10 which launched both my fear of fathers and my love of breasts. This film, 1984’s Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (yes, that’s the official title) must have been very close to being the next one. I was watching a lot of horror in the early eighties so realistically it could have been this, or Cujo, or Carrie, but I can’t be sure.

What I can be sure of was that I definitely saw it when it first came out on VHS in Australia, and it probably made me a fan of the ‘abandoned town’ as a setting for horror films!

Anyway, the story of Stephen King’s Children of the Corn (SKCotC) begins with a mass murder in a small diner of all of the adults by the children of the town. One boy witnesses it and chooses to make an attempt to escape the town which is now being controlled by teenage religious zealots, led by Issac (John Franklin) and his thuggish sidekick Malachai (Courtney Gains).

Tragically he doesn’t escape, but he does make it to a highway where young lovers, Burt (Peter Horton) and Vicky (Linda Hamilton) come across his body, and this leads them to the town where they are terrorised by the children, and threatened to be sacrificed to something called ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’.

Will Burt and Vicky escape, or will they be sacrificed to… well, whatever ‘IT’ is…

This is as eighties as a film can get, but it has some amazing ideas and some truly threatening scenes. I remember when I first saw it I was reminded on the classic Star Trek series episode ‘Miri’ but that was probably just a teenage me associated two cool things together.

King’s story here was adapted by George Goldsmith (Blue Monkey) and its a solid thriller made real by the direction from Fritz Kiersch which visually tells of the desolation of remoteness of farmland and their communities, and just how easily one could drop off the map if not tended to appropriately. It’s also a fascinating look at the manipulation of religion by its leaders.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the 88 Films Slasher Collection Bluray, which was presented in 1.78:1 and with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track, both of which were surprisingly good considering the age of the film.

Score: ****

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

The original trailer for the title film, plus trailers for Don’t Go In The Woods, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Live Like A Cop Die Like A Man, Mother’s Day, Slaughterhouse, Trancers and Splatter University.

The Life, Legacy and Legend of Donald P. Borchers is a fairly thorough, 90-odd minute documentary about the movie producer, Donald P. Borchers, who produced this film as well as Vamp, Tuff Turf and Angel. It’s really an interesting insight into the Hollywood machine as well as Borcher’s actual career.

Score: ***

WISIA: Its a Stephen King classic and demands to be watched more than once.

Podcast Episode 7 Transcript

Good evening, boars and ghouls, to episode 7 of the To Watch Pile After Dark, a Podcast counting down my top 50 favourite horror films.

Working out your top 50 favourite horror films is no easy task, and honestly, as I watch other new films, I find the list changing but I resisted changing the list. Maybe I’ll have to do an updated top 50 in the future? Anyway, Reflecting on why you like a film is very important, and seeing yourself as a fan of the film is also a key.

Today we look at number 45 on my top 50 Countdown, a film originally supposed to be a sequel to the 2003 Korean film Into The Mirror, by director Kim Sung-ho, but was reworked by New French Extremity writer/ Director Alexandre Aja into a remake starring Kiefer Sutherland and Amy Smart.

Come with me, as we take a look into 2008’s Mirrors…

(Play Trailer)

After the mysterious death of security guard, Gary (Josh Cole), ex-cop Ben Carson (Sutherland) steps into his role of night watchman of a department store left abandoned after a fire. The place he acts as night watchman for was once called The Mayflower, and was the jewel of shopping, but it holds a dark secret in its basement.

Ben’s been suffering a fair bit in his life lately. After suffering a breakdown whilst working as a police officer, he became… well, not husband material… and in an entirely sympathetic act, his wife, Amy (Paula Patton) kicked him out to protect herself and their kids, Michael (Cameron Boyce) and Daisy (Arica Gluck). He has resigned himself to living with his supportive but concerned sister Angela (Amy Smart) whilst he tried to get himself back on his feet.

After working a few shifts at the Mayflower, Ben starts to notice strange things happening with the mirrors in the building and after some investigation discovers that the dark secret in the basement involves a possessed girl and a unique form of therapy involving a psychomanteum, which involves a patients tied to a chair surrounded by, you guessed it, mirrors.

As the investigation intensifies, Ben’s family becomes involved as the thing in the mirrors can travel through ANY mirrors, and the threat becomes VERY real…

The first thing I have to say about this film is it stars Kiefer Sutherland, and pretty much any horror film starring either him or his father are a good watch, due to both their acting skills and their intensity.

Another actor who stands our in this for me is Amy Smart. It’s probably not completely PC in this day and age, but I don’t just love this actor for her skill, she’s also gorgeous. I’ve been following her career for years and loved her in everything from Road Trip, to the Crank films to The Butterfly Effect. She’s a definite standout for me and I look forward to seeing her in the Tv series Stargirl.

The key to how great this film is though is definitely Alexandre Aja. His skill as a filmmaker and screenwriter was made apparent by the first film I saw of his called Haute Tension, aka High Tension, which admittedly has a twist that isn’t quite 100% fair on the viewer. He has since moved to America and made some amazing films, including remakes of Piranha and The Hills Have Eyes, and of course, this film. His strength comes from being able to get impressive performances from his cast, and not being shy about making horror films… oh yes, there will be blood.

There is a sequel to this film called, unsurprisingly, Mirrors 2, directed by Victor Garcia, who almost single handedly destroyed the Hellraiser franchise with the dreadful Hellraiser Revelations. Thankfully his sequel to this film is no where near as bad as that and stars Sin City’s Nick Stahl, Saw II’s Emmanuelle Vaugier, The Real American Heroe’s William Katt and Kim Possible’s Christy Carlson Romano. Thankfully it’s not as bad as the Hellraiser sequel.

On a sad note, Cameron Boyce passed away in July of this year, 2019, of an epileptic seizure at the young age of 20.

So that’s it, my 45th favourite horror film of all time. I wonder if you could ‘see yourself’ looking into it and enjoying it as much as I did.

Thanks you for listening to this episode of the To Watch Pile After Dark. Don’t forget you can see the transcript of this episode, and my movie reviews at my blog www.towatchpile.com. Also, forget to like and subscribe. The To Watch Pile After Dark will have a new episode pop up at midnight on the 13th of every month and on other occasions when I have time to record, and is available wherever good podcasts can be heard.

See you next time, and remember, a real collector NEVER catches up…

Re-animator (1986)

One from the regularly re-watched pile…

Re-animator (1986)

Film: It’s the best horror film ever made. Review finished.

Oh, you want more… sigh, ok then.

I first saw this film when it came out on VHS in Australia and was immediately and utterly taken by it. It didn’t just excite my brain cells, I found almost a soul mate within the confines of the little plastic video case. I liked horror before I saw this film, but afterward, I loved it.

I didn’t just love THIS film though, it turned me on to the writings of H. P. Lovecraft and more horror writers, both modern and old. It turned me from being a horror casual to a horror obsessive.

This film was directed by Stuart Gordon, who wrote the screenplay with Dennis Paolo (From Beyond, Dagon) and William Norris (mostly known as being an actor). The story was based on Lovecraft’s stories from the 1920s, but modernised and made into a gory, gooey horror movie with a wry sense of dark humour.

Re-animator tells of a medical student named Herbert West (Jeffrey Combs) who has moved to Miskatonic University to learn more, and further his research after the death of his mentor Dr Gruber. At Miskatonic, he moves in with student Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) to whom West eventually reveals he has developed a reagent that’s can reanimate dead tissue, and bring the deceased back to life, though the life is a monstrous, violent, animalistic one,

Their experiments put them at odds with the Dean of the school, Dean Halsey (Robert Sampson), and his daughter Megan (Barbara Crampton), who also happens to be Cain’s girlfriend, and the object of obsession of Dr Carl Hill (David Gale), who also is the subject of West’s ridicule due to his ideas about human brain death.

Very quickly, the body count rises, and the lives of all concerned begin to fall horribly apart…

There is so much that is perfect about this film. Gordon’s direction of the script is perfect, and every performance is nailed and every scene is exciting and moves the story along at quite a fast rate.

The cast is excellent. Combs’ West is the maddest of mad doctors, Abbott is the most flaccid of accomplices, Crampton is the most loveliest of female lead (and I must admit to having a massive crush in her even all these years later) and David Gale… well, David Gale is the best Vincent Price like villain that was ever not played by Vincent Price.

This edition reviewed is the Umbrella Entertainment version, under their ‘Beyond Genres’ label, which contains two version of the film on it. The first disc has the original 86 minute ‘uncut’ version, chock full of chunky violence and blood and gore. The other disc contains what is called the ‘Integral’ cut, which has all the gore, but also some extended scenes from various cuts of the film that exist, which adds almost 20 minutes to the films length: not all of which is necessary, but most of which creates more layers to the film, especially the ‘anti-love’ triangle that develops between the three main leads… it’s not a triangle, but instead one of obsession and ownership.

Umbrella’s edition of this film also has an epic Simon Sherry cover that looks incredible too, and even better as the animated menus on disc 2!

Like I said, this is my favourite horror film of all time, and whenever anyone asks me what horror film is my favourite, without fail I say this one, as I believe it’s a must watch.

Score: ****** (yep, six stars: not an error)

Format: Reanimator was reviewed on the region B Bluray from Umbrella Entertainment, and it’s is easily the best this film has ever looked. It is presented in a 1.77 image, with a 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: Heaps of extras on this 2 disc extravaganza!

Disc 1

There are two audio commentaries, one by director Stuart Gordon, and the other by producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott and Robert Sampson. Both commentaries are interesting and engaging.

Re-animator Resurrectus is a retrospective documentary about the film, and is a pretty complete investigation of the film.

There is also a series of extended scenes, which are unnecessary but still work when put back into the ‘Integral” cut of the film, and a deleted scene, which I am not quite where it would have fit in the film, but was an interesting watch anyway.

Disc 2

On this disc there us a series if interviews with Gordon, Yuzna, Paoli, Music composer Richard Band and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. These are interesting, but the stories start to repeat themselves over the course of the extras.

This disc also has a bunch of trailers and TV spots.

Score: *****

WISIA: Simply, I think it’s the best horror film ever made and I watch it regularly. Honestly I could probably perform the whole movie as a one man show.

Steam Boy aka Suchîmubôi (2004)

One from the to watch pile…

Steamboy aka Suchîmubôi (2004)

Film: It’s an interesting position that I am in where I find myself having to review an anime. As a rule, I am no fan of anime, but their are always exceptions to those rules.

In my case those exceptions are Kum Kum, the Macross Saga, Akira and Memories, and maybe I watched more recent things like Prison School, Keijo and Wanna Be The Strongest In The World. I’m not a Studio Ghibli guy (they are soooo slow and boring), I have little interest in Pokèmon (it’s dogfighting! You’re teaching your kids to like dogfighting!) and both Dragonball and One Piece have such a long history that I’ll NEVER catch up so why bother starting (i did recently attempt to watch Dragonball but by the 8th episode the enemies were STILL just TALKING about fighting… just fight, godammit!)?

Anyway, enough about that: Steam Boy is a Japanese animated film directed by Akira’s Katsuhiro Ôtomo based on a story by him and Millennium Actress writer Sadayuki Murai and tells the story of young James Ray Steam (voiced by Anna Paquin), a young inventor in an alternate steampunk-ish 1866, who has received a parcel from his grandfather, Dr. Lloyd Steam (Patrick Stewart) which is to be passed into the hands of civil engineer Robert Stevenson (Oliver Cotton) as it contains the secret of a powerful new source of steam power.

The problem for young Ray though, is that there is a nefarious group who wish to nab the invention for themselves.. and so begins a story that, except for the source of power, is still politically and industrially relevant today.

There is no doubt that Ôtomo’s hands are all over this film. The entire design of the characters is very similar to his previous works, though the pacing of the film is that of Akira.

Those who are fans of the aesthetic of steampunk should have a blast with this. The entire film is a feast for the eyes and somehow, no matter how fantastic, every machine looks as thoigh it could actually work. I imagine the research that went into the industrial revolution must have been long and arduous.

However, as pretty as the film is, it is quite slow. Some may say carefully paced, but I just found it to be a trial at times. Thankfully it is visually thrilling, so it’s not a complete loss.

Score: **

Format: This Umbrella Entertainment release of Steamboy runs for approximately 126 minutes me is presented is an immaculate 1.85:1 image with a matching DTS-HD 5.1 audio track.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a decent bunch of extras on this disc:

Interview with Katsuhiro Ôtomo is, as the name suggests, an interview with the writer/ director of Akira, Memories and, of course, this film. The interview is in Japanese with an English dub over the top and is a fascinating look into his creative process.

Multi-screen Landscape Study is a triple-split-screen 20 minute piece of mixed media and interviews which was used at a ‘Steamboy’ exhibition. It’s slightly confusing at first but if you persevere you’ll see some interesting interviews with the creators.

Re-voicing Steamboy looks at the process involved with the casting and recording of the American dub of the film and features interviews with Anna Paquin, Alfred Molina, Patrick Stewart and vocal director Rick Zieff.

Voyage of Steamboy looks at the making of the film, in Japanese with English subtitles.

The Adventure Continues shows the end title sequence without the credit roll over it, which is pretty cool, actually.

Production Gallery is a slideshow of production paintings from the film with a portion of the soundtrack played over the top.

Animation Onion Skins shows 5 scenes in various stages of production, from storyboards to the final product.

Score: *****

WISIA: Probably not, but I enjoyed the amazing animation.

Crawl (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Crawl (2019)

Film: Ever since my parents took me too see Jaws in the 1970s, I can’t say that I’ve been afraid of the water, but I’ve certainly had an affinity for it, and an admiration for it considering it is the ultimate place to have a horror story. Why? Well for many reasons: it’s an environment that man can’t survive in with out a breathing apparatus, it’s an environment that man can’t always control his movements in properly, and one never quite knows exactly what is underneath you, and there are SO many things that can kill you, either by accident or design.

Let’s just say that Jaws was the reason, asa kid, I stopped having baths and started having showers!

Due to this, I’ve always been drawn to movies that have aquatic threats, and this film, Crawl, is no exception.

The other reason I was interested in this film is it’s director, Alexandre Aja. I’ve enjoyed Aja’s work ever since I first saw High Tension, aka Haute Tension, on DVD and I have followed his English speaking career through the remakes of The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors and Piranha 3D (another sub-aquatic threat film), and Horns and have always been thrilled by the way he tells a story, and this story, written by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen, is a not only a good one, is also one that in a post- Hurricane Katrina world, feels very real.

Crawl tells of college level swimmer, Hayley (Kaya Scodelario) who upon hearing of a category 5 hurricane coming her way, looks for her father, Dave (Barry Pepper) so they can get out of town together.

Unfortunately, Hayley finds her father in the basement of a building he is working on with a broken leg, and when she goes to call for help, is interrupted by the threat of not one, but two alligators in the basement with them, blocking their escape.

They try to find different ways to escape, but they have to think not just of the threat of the gators, but also of the flooding basement where the water is slowly but surely rising…

The story of this film was great, and felt very real. The two main cast played their parts brilliantly. I can’t say I recall seeing Scodelario before but Barry Pepper was cast brilliantly as the father and I think I’d like to see more roles like this for him. I don’t mean to discount Scodelario in saying that either because she was fantastic: very real and very honest in a scenario that is not just real, but also very likely. Hers and Pepper’s performances as father and daughter felt very sincere.

Unfortunately the majority of the rest of the cast aren’t really there as anything other than story setting, or as gator food, but good horror movies need fodder for the machine, right?

The setting was wonderful as well, and I must say I was even more impressed when I discovered a lot of it was a sound stage, though occasionally some of the effects don’t look entirely right. Occasionally some of the CGI just didn’t ring true, and that was a shame. For the most part, the gators were well realised, but again just occasionally they would just not look or move quite right.

All in all this was a great story about a relationship between a father and daughter that’s under pressure being put even further under pressure by a situation not of their invention. Definitely worth watching.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Crawl is presented in an excellent 2.39:1 image with a matching Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 audio. This is what you would expect from a modern film presented in a modern format.

Score: *****

Extras:

Intro to Alternate Opening and Alternate Opening sees Aja introduce an alternate, scarier opening sequence which wasn’t filmed but instead is being shared in an animated graphic novel style, which is a pretty good idea… and it’s nice a scary, with bonus points for the Wilhelm Scream.

There are three deleted/ extended scenes which, as usual, the film doesn’t suffer without.

Beneath Crawl is a look at the creation of the film, from plot to story ideas and how expensive a film set drenched in water can be. There’s interviews with a bunch of the cast and crew and it’s quite interesting,

Category 5 Gators: The VFX of Crawl… well, the title gives away what the extra is about. VFX fans will enjoy as it’s not just about the gators, it’s also some amazing atmospheric stuff too.

Alligator Attacks are exactly that: a mega mix of all the gator attacks from the film.

Score: ****

WISIA: Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed this film I honestly don’t think I could see myself watching it again.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

One from the rewatch pile…

Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Film: The history of cinema has had a rocky road with remakes, generally fans of an original story will immediately talk against their ‘holy grail’ being polluted by a modern team’s tinkering, but sometimes it works. Most horror or science fiction fans will name John Carpenter’s The Thing as an important movie within both genres and Carpenter was successful as he didn’t just remake it, he ‘re-imagined’ it. He took it’s basic premise, but told a different story. It worked with 1988’s The Blob, 2004’s Dawn of the Dead and here with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake. The usual ‘It shouldn’t be done!’ rubbish surrounded it when it was first announced, but scriptwriter Scott Kosar (The Machinist) and director Marcus Nispel’s (music video director for Faith No More and Cher, amongst others) proved that you can take an idea, in this case Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel’s, and tell a vastly different story with similar elements. This film won many awards upon its release (BMI Film Music Award – Steve Jablonsky, Catalonian International Film Festival Best Art Direction – Scott Gallagher, Teen Choice Award – Choice Movie Thriller) and was nominated many times as well at many respected film festivals.

The premise may sound familiar, but this story is much different to the original 1973 Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It is August 18th, 1973, and five youngsters (Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Jonathon Tucker, Erica Leerhsen), are traveling from Mexico through Texas to see Lynard Skynard, when they decide to stop and pick up a hitchhiker. Meeting this hitchhiker causes a chain of events that will have them meet the Hewitt family of Travis County, and their lives will never be the same again.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, is loosely based on the serial killer Ed Gein, who kept the tanned hides of women around his house, and occasionally dressed in them. What helped to give this remake some credibility was the involvement of original Texas Chainsaw Massacre cinematographer Daniel C. Pearl and the fact that original screenwriter’s Henkel and Hooper acted as co-producers. Unlike the original, cannibalism is only suggested in this redux, but the cruelty of the family seems much more extreme. A special mention goes to R. Lee Ermey’s portrayal of the Travis County Police’s Sheriff Hoyt. Redneck through and though, this is a great example of both inspired casting and brilliant acting.

Marcus Nispel and Daniel Pearl also deserve much respect for creating a very claustrophobic sensation, even in the scenes that take place in wide open fields, there is a sullen feeling of oppression that cannot be shaken.

As far as a bluray package is concerned, this Texas Chainsaw Massacre release is amazing!! A combination of a good movie, with great commentaries and relevant extras that don’t appear to be sales propaganda, that sets a standard for others to aspire to.

Score: *****

Format: The transfer for Texas Chainsaw Massacre is crisp and clear and sensational and is presented in a 2.35:1 image which is a real delight to behold. A choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1, and the subtleties of both are breath-taking. Every drop of water heard in the background feels like it is running down your back.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s an absolute cornucopia of extras on this disc:

Photo Gallery and Art Gallery have pre-production drawings of both Leatherface and the set design.

The Alternate Beginning and Ending have footage that was originally to book end the feature, with an interesting look into the future of one of the main characters.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Redux documentary is a 1 hour 17 minute look at every aspect of the remaking process. Interviewing Nispel, Bay and others associated cast and crew, not to mention fan favorite and favorite fan Joe Bob Briggs, also looks at the origins of the original and the crowd reactions both before and after the first screening.

Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield is an informative, if not incomplete (they completely overlook the death of Ed’s brother in a forest fire and his grave digger assistant) 24 minute documentary about the ‘real Leatherface’ Ed Gein. Interviews with various historians and psychologists, this is not only an interesting look into the origins of Leatherface (and Norman Bates and Buffalo Bill), it is also a fascinating insight into the mind of serial killers.

Deleted Scenes are the usual gambit of alternate takes and additional scenes. I must say though, the alternate Morgan Death scene is very visceral.

Severed Parts has us take a deeper look at the deleted scenes and bookends and why they were deleted and trimmed for various reasons.

The Cast Screen Tests are the screen tests for Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour and Erica Leerhsen.

Art Gallery looks at some of the preproduction sketches for the film.

The theatrical Trailer is one of the best cut trailers I have ever seen, with Leatherface not seen until the very end and there is also a selection of TV spots.

The Music Video is a track by Motograter called Suffocate.

Finally, there are three of quite possibly the best and well organized commentaries I have ever heard. Every speaker states his or name before they speak, therefore removing and misunderstanding with regards to who is making what comment, although Marcus Nispel’s German accent makes it quite obvious when he speaks, and no-one talks over each other or interrupts each other. All are given a fair go with comments appropriate to the scene. Nispel has a voice on all three commentaries so occasionally he repeats himself, but from different points of view. There is a Production commentary where Nispel is accompanied by Producer Michael Bay and Executive Producers Brad Fuller and Andrew Form to discuss the foundation elements of the film: the casting, the locations and the general ideas behind the look and tone of the film. Nispel is joined on the Tech commentary by Daniel Pearl, Greg Blair, Scott Gallagher, Trevor Jolley and Steve Jablonsky to discuss everything from the score to the cinematic elements of the film. Finally, the Story commentary has Nispel along with Bay, Fuller and Form, scripter Scott Kosar and also cast members Jessica Biel, Eric Balfour, Mike Vogel, Jonathon Tucker, Erica Leerhsen and old Leatherface himself, Andrew Bryniarski, discussing character motivations and backgrounds.

Score: *****

WISIA: As you might be able to tell, I love this movie so it sure does get a re-spin quite regularly here at the To Watch Pile Mansion.