Demons aka Demoni (1985)

One from the re watch pile…

Demons aka Demoni (1985)

Film: Those who are regular visitors of the To Watch Pile will know that I love horror films of the 80s: Re-animator, Burial Ground, Dead and Buried… I could write a massive list of films that I love from this time, and right here, we have one of them.

I first discovered this film working in a small video shop in the southern suburbs of Sydney, and immediately loved it: the gore, the hot European girls, and just the general tone of the film blew my mind. I had a DVD release and enjoyed it, but this Arrow Blu-ray release has taken the love affair even further.

Demons starts with a young girl (Natasha Hovey) being approached on a train by a strange looking man who appears to be wearing a mask (film director Michele Soavi), and is handing out free tickets to a cinema screening. She manages to score two of them so she can bring her constantly whining friend (Paola Cozzo) along, and they skip a lecture at university to go.

The cinema is an old one, and there are several people there to see the film, including a young couple; a cranky old bastard and his long suffering wife; a pair of horny young men who start sniffing around our heroine; and a classic 70s pimp-styled character along with two of his ’employees’, one of who mucks around with a metal mask on display in the foyer and accidentally cuts her face with it.

They sit down to watch the film, which is all about four people looking for the tomb of Nostradamus, and the four find a mask much like the one in the foyer, and when one of the characters cuts his face, he turns into a demon.

Not surprisingly, the prostitute (Geretta Geretta)who cut her face in the cinema becomes one as well and starts terrorising the patrons, and everyone who is attacked becomes a demon. They try to escape, but discover that they are trapped inside with the creatures, which are constantly increasing in number.

What happens next is good old fashioned, gory, unholy fun!!

This film is directed by Lamberto Bava, son of Italian cinema legend Mario Bava and written by him, Dario Argento, Franco Ferinni and Dardano Sarchetti. Gorehounds will get a gargantuan sense of satisfaction as it relishes in the gore, all of which are good ol’ fashioned practical effects: messy and non-CGI! Italian film fans will have fun as well, spotting some Italian horror cinema regulars like Nicoletta Elmi, who was also in A Bay of Blood and Deep Red, and a cameo from Giovanni Frezza, best known as Bob from The House by the Cemetary.

I loved this film as a teen, and nothing has changed since then except for silver hair and arthritis. The story is engaging and moves along at a cracking pace, the characters are wacky stereotypes that you’ll never forget, and the effects are gory and top-shelf practical ones. If you want to have an argument with a lover of CGI effects, show them this film and I’m sure they’ll have nothing to respond with.Plus, it features a three and a half minute sequence where a guy wielding a samurai sword hooks around a cinema on a motorcycle killing demons to the sounds of heavy metal band Accept’s song ‘Fast Like A Shark’!

If you need more than that from a film, you are far too fussy!

What’s the best way to give a film collector what they want? How about a favourite film, presented cleanly, in great packaging with great extras? It’s that easy! Well played, Arrow.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed using Arrow Video’s Bluray release. The image is present in a surprisingly good, considering its age, 1.66:1 image and even though the soundtrack is only in mono 2.0, there is nothing wrong with this audio presentation. It is presented in both Italian or English tracks, which should both be given a listen as they have different musical cues, and the opportunity to hear Simonetti’s soundtrack is much greater on the Italian as the music track is a little more prominent.

 

Score: ***1/2

Extras: First I must compliment the excellent packaging. It has the ‘poster’ styled packaging that Arrow used to offer on their Blu-rays, with the option of 4 different covers, a double sided poster, a booklet essay by Calum Waddell and part 1 of a Demons 3 comic by writers Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating with art by horror artist extraordinaire Jeff Zornow. This is a new story, not Ogre or any other of the cinematic ‘sequels’ and, as a horror comic fan, I think it is a cool comic. The story is continued in Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Demons 2.

Dario’s Demon Origins sees Mr. Argento discuss the origins of the film, most of which your average horror fan would have heard before.

Defining An Era In Music is a discussion with Claudio Simonetti about the soundtrack to the film.

Whilst the other two pieces are mildly interesting, Luigi Cozzi’s Top Horror Films (it’s called Splatter Spaghetti Style on the feature) is really interesting, as he talks about Italian horror and his favourite/most important films of the genre.

We also have a Director’s commentary with Lamberto Bava and Sergio Stivaletti. It is in both Italian and English and whilst informative, it is at times a trial to listen to due to the language swapping.

There is also a Cast and Crw commentary by Mike Burgess, Art Ettinger from Ultra Violent Magazine, Mark Murray from Cult Collectable, soundtrack writer Claudio Simonetti, director Lamberto Bava, Geretta Geretta (who played ‘Rosemary) and effects legend Sergio Stivaletti. This is a far better commentary than the previous one as it discusses many aspects of the film. It is, however, in a mix of English and Italian.

Score: *****

WISIA: This film gets a regular watch, so yeah, it’s a full-tilt rewatcher!

Venom (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Venom (2018)

Film: Yep, I was there at the start.

For me, the 80s were when the best Marvel comics were made: John Byrne’s Fantastic Four run, Mike Zeck’s Captain America run and easily some of the best Spiderman comics ever made, and in those pages, a great, monstrous character was born: Venom!

The character was a combination of an alien suit/ symbiotic organism that Spiderman had acquired on an alien planet during the so-called Secret Wars and a news photographer that had been exposed as a fraud. Together they were a deadly monster of the likes comics had never seen, but bringing the character to the screen accurately has been difficult due to the ‘ownership’ by Sony of the character in movie form.

Even though a deal was come to to put Spiderman in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I assume slipping Venom into that series hasn’t been a priority. What do you do with a character like Venom if the rest of the Marvel Universe is such a important part of his origin?

Well you basically create a brand new character and start again!

Venom starts with a crash landing of a rocket ship that has 5 alien symbiotes on board, collected from a comet. The owner of the ship, millionaire entrepreneur and total dickweed Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) desperately tries to reclaim the creatures but only manages to find three… of the remaining two, one begins its own journey that is revisited later in the film. (The other? Well Venom 2 needs a plot, right?)

Meanwhile, knockabout badboy journalist Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) has an assignment where he is going to help Drake look good after the crashing of the ship… a puff piece, if you will… but Eddie has other plans as there are many rumours that Drake is a not a great guy and his pharmaceutical company experiments on live human subjects. He manages to find out this info by looking at private documents on his fiancé, Anne’s (Michelle Williams) computer, as she is a lawyer working for Drake’s firm.

He verbally attacks Drake during the interview and the aftermath of that is that his life goes south, as he loses his job and his girl when she is also sacked for revealing secrets.

Meanwhile Drake HAS been experimenting with the symbiotes on live humans and discovers most of them consume the host they acquire, but one of his scientists, Dr. Skirth (Jenny Slate) doesn’t like this method, contacts Eddie and takes him into the research centre to photograph what has been going on.

This doesn’t go well for Eddie though, and he quickly finds himself attached to a symbiote who calls itself Venom, and the pair of them decide its time to take down Drake’s empire…

This ‘superhero’ film certainly sits apart from other superhero films. The initial concept, obviously needed to be different from the comic origin described earlier, is pure horror. I’d even go so far an to say that it takes its ideas from films like Lifeforce (aliens in a comet), The Blob (crashing to earth and ‘infecting’ people) and maybe more recently, a film like Life.

Tom Hardy wails as both pre and post infected Eddie Brock. As a human he’s just an average bloke, with a drop of dickishness, and as Venom he plays this crazy schizophrenia with an amazing and amusing fervour.

Riz Ahmed as the rich jerk nails his role. He hits all the right notes as charming at first, and when he starts acting out you aren’t sure you WANT to hate him. Michelle Williams, on the other hand, feels out of place here. Her character is fairly vanilla anyway but to make her appearance like a poor photocopy of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts from Iron Man makes her even more unmemorable.

I mostly enjoyed the flavour of the film, which was borderline 80s style horror/ comedy, but when it really slipped into the superhero genre, it fails.

It doesn’t fail because it does what it does badly, it fails because it copies the boring and now overused Marvel Cinematic Universal trope of having the ‘hero’ fight a bigger, badder version of himself, like in Black Panther, and Iron Man, and Ant Man, and Captain America… there’s heaps of villains in the Marvel Universe, Hollywood, you can do better!

Honesty I would have preferred a more gruesome film, especially when you consider the characters requirement of eating people, but what we got was ok.

Score: ***

Format: I reviewed this film using the Bluray included in the Australian 4K release of the film. It was presented in an impeccable 2.40:1 image with a cracking Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc starts off with a trailer for Spider-man: Enter the Spider- verse, Alpha and Searching.

The first extra is a really cool thing called ‘Venom Mode’ which is like one of those old ‘pop-up’ video things, but in this case it is a cross between a commentary about the film, and a comic/ film comparison. It’s completely fact with no feeling and a little sporadic but has some interesting info.

The are three deleted/ extended scenes and as usual, they really didn’t add anything to the film.

The Anti-Hero is an all encompassing short that discusses the hero in the comic, in the film and Hardy’s portrayal of him.

The Lethal Protector in Action looks at the action scenes in the film, and the stunts.

Venom Vision is a look at what the idea behind a film version of Venom would be, and how the horror films of John Carpenter, and An American Werewolf in London were influences.

Designing Venom discusses the adaptation of Venom’s look from comic to the movie.

Symbiotic Secrets compares the film to the comics, and checks out some of the cheeky nods that comic fans should appreciate.

Select Scenes Pre-Vis compares initial pre-special effects ideas to the completed scene from 8 scenes from the film.

There are two music video clips on this disc as well. Venom by Eminem is a horrible cash-in rap like they used to do in the 80s but in Eminem’s inimitable style. Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee, from Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse also makes an appearance.

Speaking of which, there is also a sneak peek into Spider-man: Into The Spider-Verse.

Score: *****

WISIA: I will watch this again for Hardy’s performance, but little else.

Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies (2007)

One from the re watch pile…

Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies (2007)

Film: There is no doubt in my mind that the DC animated films are some of the finest translations of comic stories into another medium. Sure the MCU is pretty cool, and some of the DC live-action movies have been pretty good, but they have a failing in comparison to these animated films from Warner Bros.

The problem with a big budget movie is to be successful, you need to get EVERYONE to see it: comic fans, movie fans, actions fans… football fans… this is why some of the Marvel films are using alternate media to get people to love their films: the rock soundtrack of the Guardians Of The Galaxy films for example, or the liberal and misplaced juxtaposition of comedy and serious action in Thor Ragnarok. The dumbing down of some high concept ideas to get more punters in the door isn’t a new thing: adaptations from book to film have been around sincethe dawn of cinema.

The DC animated movies work so well for comic fans because there is an assumption that the fan base will have a knowledge of the characters so excessive retelling of origin stories don’t exist: if Hawkman turns up in a story, he’s just Hawkman, and we already know what he is capable of.

This film, Superman/ Batman: Public Enemies is based on the story of by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Ed McGuinness in the pages of Superman/ Batman comics from the early 2000s, but with occasional tweaks.

The story tells of the ascension to presidency of Lex Luther (voiced by Clancy Brown), who is apparently doing a great job. There are no wars and the economy of the USA is the best is been in years. Crime is down and a majority of superheroes now work for the government, who even have a task force headed up by Captain Atom (Xander Berkeley), and featuring Power Girl (Allison Mack from Smallville), Black Lightning (LeVar Burton), Major Force (Ricardo Chavira) and Katana.

A meteor is heading to earth and President Luther has a plan to destroy it before it hits, and he offers a meeting with Superman (Tim Daly) so he can be the back-up plan if the missiles don’t work, but the meeting is a set-up and quickly Superman is accused of murdering Luther’s superpowered security guard, the supervillain Metallo (John C. McGinley) so he enlists the help of Batman (Kevin Conroy) to prove his innocence.

(By the way, this story links directly to the next Batman and Superman tale: Superman/ Batman: Apocalypse)

This was a pretty cool story in the comics, and it still works today. I imagine some might even find the idea of a self-serving political leader to be more relevant! It still is a pretty cool superhero tale and it features a load of both heroes and villains from cross the DC universe, my only problem with it is if you don’t like Ed McGuinness’ art, you might find the character designs clunky.

I am actually a fan of McGuinness’ work, but I find it works best with brutish characters like his run on Hulk. Here, characters like Power Girl and Starfire lose their softness and instead have the look of a badly made Disney action figure. The brutishness of his style does make Captain Marvel look like a total badass though!

I’m also a huge fan of Shazam! so his appearance here, and under his ‘proper’ name Captain Marvel, is a massive plus for me too.

All in all this is a well executed story but with an art style that whilst super-looking, is far too chunky for this traditional comic art style fan to fully appreciate.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian Bluray release of the film with is presented in a perfect 1.85:1 image and a match Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc actually opens with a couple of trailers for the animated Superman Doomsday, Batman Gotham Night and Green Lantern: Emerald Knight . There is also a trailer for the video game Halo Legends and some propaganda about how awesome Bluray is.

There is also a great pile of extras:

A Test Of Minds: Superman and Batman which looks at the relationship that the Man Of Tomorrow and the Dark Knight have had over the years.

Dinner with DCU is a round table with Kevin Conroy, voice director Andrea Romano, DC’s Gregory Noveck and art legend Bruce Timm.

There is also a bunch of shorts docos about DC Characters, comics and animation events like First Look at Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Blackest Night: Inside the DC Comics Event, Wonder Woman The Amazonian Princess, Batman Gotham Knight an Anime Revolution, From Graphic Novel to Original Animated Movie: Justice League The New Frontier and Green Lantern: First Flight – the Animated Movie Sneak Peek.

Finally there are six of Bruce Timm’s favourite episodes of Justice a league Unlimiyed and Superman The Animated Series.

Score: *****

WISIA: I really like all these DC animated features so yeah, it’s a regular respinner at my place even though it’s not my favourite one.

The Nun (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Nun (2018)

Film: At some time, earlier this century, someone in Hollywood decided that movies with ‘real’ killers, like slashers and so-called torture porn, were no longer in vogue, and that the cinema going kids needed to be afraid of the supernatural again, and of things that are associated with the bible and western religions. Is Hollywood trying to scare kids back to church? I’m not so sure, but what I do know is that these films, and I am going to single out The Conjuring films (a series of which this film is a part of) and the Insidious films, are by-the-book formulaic works that are only labelled ‘horror’ by the easily frightened or those who have never been to the cinema before, and think of movies as some kind of magic performed by warlocks and witches.

This film, The Nun, is written by Gary Dauberman, who also is responsible for the two Annabelle films, but on the bright side gave us the wonderful adaptation of Stephen King’s It, and directed by Corin Hardy, the director of the horror film The Hallow, and a bunch of music clips. It all, of course, takes place in the fictional world created by Chad and Carey Hayes for the original Conjuring film, directed by James Wan.

This film, though, tells of a priest, Father Burke (Demian Bichir doing is very best Father Karras from the Exorcist impression) and a mildly psychic novice nun, Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who are sent into the woods of the Romanian countryside to investigate the apparent suicide of a DIFFERENT nun, but the convent they are visiting has a terrible secret, and along with their guide, a French-Canadian named… sigh… ‘Frenchie’ (Jonas Bloquet) they must fight against the forces of evil, embodied by a horrific figure of a yet ANOTHER Nun (Bonnie Aarons).

Taking elements from SO many films this movie struggles to find it own identity, and falls on its face with its tale. All through this film I was constantly reminded either by visual cues or by plot devices that it’s originality was somewhat lacking. It is like a mix of scenes from amazing Euro-horror films like a The Church, The Sect, the Blind Dead Series and others, I even got a Silent Hill vibe a couple of times, but without the originality, or even the honesty of those films.

The very best thing I can say about this film is it’s filmed great and the locations are exquisite. I should also point out what a striking figure that Bonnie Aarons strikes as the titular Nun: her look is quite unique and ready makes the character something special!

Unfortunately, this film is a veritable checklist of horror tropes, all making for a film that screams ‘GENERIC’ at the top of its lungs. Seriously, you could play ‘horror trope bingo’: “I’ve got ‘lights flickering off one by one in a hallway’…. BINGO!”

A blurb on the back claims ‘The Scariest Conjuring Yet’: it’s not, and out of a group of films that flat out AREN’T scary at all, that isn’t even a badge of honour, and by the way, if Nun-spoliation is your thing, this isn’t.

It’s a ‘bimbo’ film: boring, but pretty.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a perfect 2.40:1 image with a matching Dolby HD-DTS 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There are 4 extras on this disc:

A New Horror Icon which explores the look and design of the Nun, and discusses her ability to be a resounding icon.

Gruesome Planet is an amazing travelogue of Romania, where this film was made, and it looks at the various castles and other locations used.

The Conjuring Chronology places the entire series (this film, the two Conjurings and the two Annabelle films) in the order of their occurrence.

There are 7 Deleted Scenes on this disc which wouldn’t make the film any better or worse if they styled in.

Score: ****

WISIA: The only way I’d ever watch this again is by accident.

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

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.