Slumber (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Slumber (2017)

Film: My acquisition of this film came completely by accident. JB Hifi, an Australian electronics retailer, were doing a ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ thing and I’m a dummy who gets suckered into those sales and blind buys movies I’ve never heard of, starring people whose careers should have been over long ago.

This film, Slumber, also had a name on the cover which drew me to it: Maggie Q. I remembered her from Mission Impossible 3 and then Die Hard 4.0, as she is both talented and beautiful. After a quick look at IMDB I also discovered that one of the Doctors from Doctor

Who, Sylvester McCoy also Stars As does Lt Gorman, William Hope, from Aliens… this was pedigree I couldn’t pass up for a budget price.

Our story tells of Alice (Q) a sleep disorder specialist whose brother died when she was 6 years old, by throwing himself out the window after seemingly talking to a threatening imaginary friend.

Her latest patients, the Morgan family, have recently suffered with the loss of a child, and since have all suffered from various sleep disorders. The mother, Sarah (Kristen Bush), father Charlie (Sam Troughton) and daughter, Emily (Honor Kneafsey), all have various occupants es of sleep walking, whereas their son, Daniel (Lucas Bond), suffers from Parasomnia, where he is awake, but can’t move…and believes that something trying to hurt him.

After the meeting, Alice herself starts sleepwalking and having dreams about her deceased brother, but after the whole family have a night at the sleep clinic , it all seems to fall apart.

The cleaner, Cam (Vincent Adriano) sees what happens and warns Alice to stay away from the family as he believes they are haunted in the way that his grandfather, Amado (McCoy) once was… of course she ignores this advice, and things start to get worse…

Slumber feels like a mix of Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, (in actual fact, the synopsis on the back of the cover sounds like a highbrow description of a new Freddy Krueger movie) with a bunch of j-horror and post millennial ghost story thrown in for good measure. The good thing about this film is though, it actually works, even though the premise is quick a schlocky and well-travelled one, what makes that even better is that the film has a moderately short run time at 80 odd minutes, so it doesn’t try to oversell its story.

Of course, with a well worn path, there are a few tropes in this film that are not new, but they can be forgiven. Also, the toothless tiger, wet blanket character of Alice’s husband seems to be there just as set-dressing, and with no real purpose except so that Alice’s daughter has a stable family home. I honestly don’t know why this character even exists outside that purpose.

There’s some great performances and the direction is really nice, and there is one or two pants-filling jump-scares that will give the old alimentary canal a good cleaning out too.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Slumber was reviewed on the Australian Region 4 DVD, which runs for approximately 80 minutes and is presented in a fine 2.40:1 image with a matching 5.1 Dolby Digital audio.

Score: ****

Extras: Absolutely no extras unfortunately, as I think when you boldly proclaim ‘based on true events’ an explanation should be mandatory.

Score: 0

WISIA: I will definitely give this another go!

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.

The Beyond (1981)

One from the re watch pile…

The Beyond (1981)

Film: When I was a teen, my first job was manning the counter of a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and let me tell you, I loved that job. Every Sunday I worked from 12 until 4 pm without fail, and I never asked for a day off in the entire time I worked there I would show up at twelve, unwrap my sandwich and stick The Beyond (I think it was a Palace Explosive tape) into the in store player. For that 90 odd minutes, no one was allowed to rent that tape. They could come back after I had finished watching it, but until then, it was verboten (if you are interested, the second feature was always Dawn of the Dead, which they let me keep when the shop closed down, unfortunately, The Beyond had gone missing, so I couldn’t take that as well).

The Beyond is a film by Lucio Fulci, the other Godfather of Gore and was one of the films that was banned in the UK’s ‘video nasty’ witch hunts.

This film is a part of the Fulci’s unofficial zombie trilogy, also known as the Gates of Hell trilogy, which also includes House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, and as far as this reviewer is concerned, isn’t just the best of these films, but is the best of his career, even though the plot line is confusing and open to the individual’s  interpretation, and at times the effects are somewhat lacking in realism. Unfortunately, the sharpness of the Blu-ray image  is even less forgiving and a few of those effects are even less convincing.

Onto the story…

The Beyond opens in Louisiana in 1927, where a mobs of local townsfolk are making their way to the 7 Doors Hotel, where an artist named Schweik (Antoine Saint-John) is painting a rather disturbing picture that depicts the barren-ness of Hell while a copy of the mysterious Book of Eibon sits close-by. The townsfolk accuse him of witchcraft, which he claims was to keep a gate to Hell that exists within the hotel shut, but the mob ignore his cries, nail him to a wall, and cover him in quicklime.

Many years later, a young women named Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits the hotel from her uncle, and almost as soon as she starts work on renovations, the trouble begins. First a painter falls from a scaffolding from which he should never have fallen, and soon after a plumber is butchered in the flooded basement, after which Liza strikes up a friendship with a local doctor, John (David Warbeck). A strange girl Emily (Sarah Fuller aka Cinzia Moreale) warns Liza that the work she is doing on the hotel is dangerous, but Liza chooses to ignore her, even though she is spooked by her words, and the accidents that have happened.  Strange things happen around room 36 as well (get it? 3 x 6…666) which is the room Schweik was dragged from to his death, and Liza thinks she sees both the body of Schweik and the Book of Eibon as well, but once John turns up, it appears to be a fantasy.

More and more deaths occur and it would appear that Liza has accidentally reopened the gate to Hell.  Can Liza find a way to close the Gate… will she even bother?

The fact that the film is so open to the watcher’s interpretation is the main thing I like about The Beyond. Whilst ‘regular’ film goers probably would have trouble with unconvincing special effects and gore, horror fans can (and in my experience, will) talk for hours about the meanings behind the film, and what the actual plotline is! It is dreamlike and nightmarish, and has this feel of a real horror film, one which I think many horror filmmakers no longer attempt to match as perhaps today’s movie goer requires more literal storytelling.

The Beyond has some spectacular gore scenes that may look a little fake but are executed with gusto! In this film Fulci has taken special attention to the face, and it’s parts, and celebrates their destruction in a way that will repulse most, but will inspire a “Cool!” from those who like it.

This film also has a great legacy of Italian and international horror stars: Catriona (Catherine) MacColl who also starred in House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, David Warbeck of The Black Cat and Hunters of the Golden Cobra, Cincia Moreale from Buio Omega and The Stendahl Sydrome, Antoine Saint-John of The Killer Must Kill Again and A Fistful of Dynamite, Giampaolo (sic) Saccarola of Tenebrae and the House By the Cemetery and Veronica Lazar from Inferno and Last Tango in Paris.

Score: *****

Format: Those of you who wander the wild land of the internet will know of the initial problem that scarred this release, that is, the incorrect black and white instead of sepia toned opening. When I purchased this disc, I received one of these flawed copies, but after contacting the people at Arrow Films, I received a corrected version within a week, which considering I am in Australia and they are in the UK, is quite commendable. I should point out that according to Arrow films, this error was on the first batch released, so all subsequent releases should be the sepia version.

The film is presented in an anamorphic 2.35:1 image that’s looks pretty special, especially when you consider the age of the film. Really the only bad thing about this film is that occasionally in some of the darker sequences there is a small amount of film speckling, which is completely excusable. The amazing soundtrack is presented in  5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with the options for either an English or Italian mono track for the purists as well. I am not one of those purists so I instead enjoyed the 5.1 only, and found it to be incredible.

Score: *****

Extras: There is HEAPS of extra features on this 2 discer!

Disc 1:

Before the film starts, Cinzia Moreale introduces the film, and her broken English is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Aka Sarah Keller: Cinzia Moreale Remembers The Beyond  is a nice look back by the actress who portrayed Emily in the film. She discusses her career and her work on this film, all with great poise, I must add.

The Beyond Q & A: Cartriona Maccoll is a fairly informative question session with MacColl which took place after a screening of the film. Unfortunately this is marred by two things; the first is the fact that some scrotum in the audience starts to eat a bag of chips, making crinkling noises all through the piece, the second is the fact that the film notes it with a subtitle referring to it. It is noted several times through the piece, and really the annoying bastard only needed to be pointed out once, as I found the subtitle detracted from what MacColl had to say.

There are also two commentaries on this disc. The first is an older commentary found on previous laserdisc and DVD releases by David Warbeck and MacColl, recorded before Warbeck died in 1997. It is a charming and friendly commentary that has some dubious recollections from the two. The second is with Antonella Fulci and hosted by Calum Waddell, which is a fascinating and personal look at Fulci’s work by his daughter.

Disc 2:

Beyond Italy: Louis Fuller And The Seven Doors Of Death is an absolutely brilliant feature which has the president of Aquarius Films, Terry Levene talk about his career in exploitation films, and what was done to sell Italian films to the states. Those interested in the whole 42nd Street/ Grindhouse thing will find this fascinating, and detractors of Quentin Tarantino will appreciate his comments as well.

One Step Beyond: Catriona Maccoll Remembers A Spaghetti Splatter Classic is recollection from MacColl about her time filming The Beyond and her own career. As with all these sorts of ‘complete’ set of extras, some stories do overlap with disc 1’s Q & A and her commentary with Warbeck, but she is so charming it is easily overlooked.

Butcher Baker Zombiemaker: The Living Dead Legacy Of Gianetto De Rossi looks at the work of special effects artist De Rossi through his own eyes. Through a gravel voice that would make Lawrence Tierney sound like Shirley Temple in comparison, he discusses all the joys and woes of pre-CGI splatter filmmaking.

Fulci Flashbacks: Reflections On Italy’s Leading Paura Protagonist is a series of fond (sometimes) recollections of Fulci and his career from his associates and family.

Alternative Pre-Credit Sequence is just that! An alternative opening of the film, but with one of it’s many alternative titles. Interestingly, this one features a full colour version of the sepia opening of the usual release!!

There is also the International Theatrical Trailer.

The extras don’t just stop at what’s on the two discs either, with Arrow presenting the film in a box that contains a choice of four different covers, (The 7 Doors fo Death, the original title of L’aldila (or more correctly, according to the onscreen title ‘…E Tu Vivrai Nel Terrore! L’Aldila’ translated as ‘..And thou shalt live in terror! The Afterlife’.) or even Die Geisterstadt der Zombies (in English ‘The Ghost-town of the Zombies’), along with a two sided poster and a booklet with two articles by English horror journalist Calem Waddell and an introduction to The Beyond by Cabin Fever director, Eli Roth.

Since this edition was released, and pictured above, there has also been a steelbook version of the film with some amazing new art!

Score: *****

WISIA: I flat out love this film, it was a favourite when I was a kid, I loved it when I first grabbed it on DVD, and this BD version makes me simply burst with excitement. Arrow films have created a master film disc that is a suburb addition to any Blu-ray collection. Grab it now!

Boarding School (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Boarding School (2018)

Film: Don’t you just love those movies that surprise you?

The only reason I grabbed this movie, Boarding School, was that I needed a ‘free’ movie in one of those ‘buy two, get one free’ deals, and in this case, the free movie is the winner, and I can’t even remember what the other two were!

Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, who wrote films like the original Punisher movie (no, not that one: the 1989 one!), Now You See Me and The Rookie, and directed Remember the Titans and Safe, so whilst it has an odd pedigree, it is a solid one.

Jacob (Luke Prael) is an odd boy: quiet, likes horror movies and comics (wow, this cuts close to home already!) with a mother (Samantha Mathis) who is oppressive and obsessed with his well being. His grandmothers dies and he becomes somewhat obsessed with her and when he gets in trouble at school, his step father informs him that she is sending him to a small boarding school outside of town.

The school is run by Dr. and Mrs Sherman (Will Patton and Tammy Blanchard, respectively) and it is run with a cruel iron fist and devoted heavily to the teaching of the Holy Bible. There are only a few students at the school, all of whom suffer from various mental and physical disorders and the teachers objective seems to be to get the devil out of them, but the longer Jacob stays, the worse things seem to get… and the death of one of the students starts a series of events that will change Jacob’s life forever!

This story is engaging from the start, and has an extraordinarily interesting bunch of characters and situations that will keep you guessing as to where the story is going to lead, and whilst one specific plot point is obvious, the trail of the rest of it remains surprising and there are certaining some atypical story decisions made, which is probably why this snuck out straight to DVD.

The acting in the film is amazing. All the children are exceptionally talented and carry a huge pile of emotional weight in their roles, and there is some difficult issues happening within their character’s psyche. Will Patton is, of course, extraordinary as the oppressive teacher.

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and highly recommend it.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australia DVD which runs for approximately 107 minutes and is presented in a far-too-dark 1.85:1 image, which I am not sure was deliberate or not but the film was too dark for anything other than a night time viewing. The audio was a perfect Dolby Digital 5.1

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Unfortunately none, but unlike most DVDs that don’t offer any extras, this at least has scene select and set-up, which is just subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Score: 0

WISIA: Whilst it is an amazing film, I am not so sure it’s rewatchability is of a high level.

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.