Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

One from the re watch pile…

Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Score: ***1/2

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

Score: *****

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

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

There are also a series of short featurettes:

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

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

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

Lights Camera Massacre focuses on the 3D camerawork.

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

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

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

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

Score: *****

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

Mausoleum (1982)

One from the to watch pile…

Mausoleum (1982)

Film: Everyone has a couple of ‘Holy Grail’ films in their ‘not seen and unsourced’ To Watch Pile and for me, this film, Mausoleum, has been in my top ten for many years.

In the 80s, I was an avid reader of the horror magazines: Fangoria, Slaughter House, Horrorfan, Famous Monsters, Fear… the list could go on, and to this day, still have most, if not every issue I ever bought of them. All of them, of course, reported on the making of this film but there was one particular article, and I am going to single out Slaughter House in this case (I think), that had this striking image of the film’s star Bobbie Bresee, an extraordinarily stunning blonde, who was in her mid to late thirties… much older than the majority of Hollywood starlets in other horror films! Something not seen very often in cinema!

Anyway this film sat on my list of must-sees but for some reason I never had a opportunity to actually see it, until last year, the wonderful people at Vinegar Syndrome brought it out on bluray, and now I sit, with a packet of Tim Tams and a can of Coke, finally able to see it. There was a DVD release previously, but for some reason, that never made it into my collection.

The film was made by a bunch of people who didn’t seem to work much in Hollywood after the film… or before it either, which I think is a shame as this film has some definite amazing moments, mixed with a dash of sleaze, but not enough to make it a sleaze-fest.

After her mother’s funeral, Susan Farrell (played as a youngster by Julie Christy Murray, and an adult by Bresee) runs away and finds herself at her family’s vault, where ‘something’ possesses her.

Many years later, Susan is happily married to the successful Oliver Farrell (Marjoe Gortner), living the life, and having fun, even though she has regular visits with her psychiatrist, Dr. Andrews (Norman Burton).

The thing is though, Susan doesn’t have psychological issues haunting her, she is possessed by a demon which due to a curse, takes control of the first-born daughter of every generation of the Nomed family… and yes, that is ‘demon’ backwards’.

Andrews enlists the help of a colleague, Dr. Logan (Sheri Mann) and between them they work out how to break the curse, but will the demon inside Susan allow them…

Basically, what we have here is a very standard possession film, with a sexy lead, some chunky gore, a touch of nudity, some terrible acting… yep: the very essential ingredients for an 80s horror film!

The special effects are done by John Carl Buechler, who weirdly isn’t listed as doing so an IMDB under the film as doing so, and are clearly his. There is an aesthetic to the design of the demon that is very reminiscent of Ghoulies, Cellar Dweller and other stuff he worked on. Actually, the little demon faces on the big demons boobs are certainly something to see!

A special shoutout must go to television veteran actor LaWanda Page. In this film she plays Else, the maid, and I can’t figure out if she is the comedy relief, if her performance is a throwback to her playing Aunt Esther in Sanford and Son or if it is totally deliberate, but every word out of her mouth drips with sarcasm or blaxploitation-styled dialogue. Whatever way, she’s a hoot!

So, was this film worth the wait? As an 80s horror kid I have shout a resounding ‘HELL YEAH’. This is one of those occasions where a everything about a film, including its faults, are the reason why I totally dig it.

 

Score: *****

Format: The reviewed copy of this disc was the Vinegar Syndrome multi-region Bluray, which was a new 4k restoration of the original 35mm negative. The image, presented in 1.85:1, is amazing, and the audio, even though its in mono, does the job just fine.

Score: ****

Extras: There’s a couple of extras on this disc, but the highlight is certainly Making Monsters: An Interview with John Carl Buechler, which unfortunately only lasts for under 10 minutes, and for a guy who had such a huge impact on SPFX in the 80s, it’s a shame this couldn’t have been longer.

There is a theatrical trailer and some TV spots.

There is also a promotional stills gallery which features a bunch of posters and lobby cards for the film.

This release also comes with a DVD version of the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It’s ridiculous, but I LOVE IT!!! I might watch it again right now!!!

 

 

Ghost Stories (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Ghost Stories (2017)

Film: Sometimes I’ll buy a dvd or a bluray for no reason other than I find something evocative about it, be it a dumb name, the fact it’s a sequel to something I’ve previously enjoyed (yes, for some reason I have Bring it On!, a funny movie, and all its sequels, each one crapper and crapper than the last) or if there someone on the cover who sparks interest.

It was the latter that caused me to pick up this one.

The first reason was it has a great big image of Martin Freeman on the cover, and I thought it surprising that one of the stars of The Hobbit, Black Panther and Ali G Indahouse would be in something I had never heard of. The other thing that was interesting was the other names of the cover: Andy Nyman who appeared in the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tapes from 2010 and Paul Whitehouse who was one of the stars of the comedy TV series The Fast Show.

What I found particularly interesting was that this was written and directed by Nyman along with League of Gentleman writer/ actor/ director Jeremy Dyson, and was based on a stage play of the same name written by them.

Ghost Stories tells of Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman), a notorious debunker of psychics and ghost stories who was heavily influenced by a TV star who was employed to do the same thing, but who mysteriously disappeared.

Surprisingly, he receives a letter from the former TV host and tracks him down to a small remote caravan where he lives basically in squalor.

Goodman is asked to investigate three ghost stories that he was unable to debunk, and report back with his findings. The people he must investigate though have had their lives, at various levels, destroyed by their experiences.

The first investigation leads him to former night watchman, Tony Matthews (Whitehouse) who whilst on duty is haunted by a young girl in a yellow raincoat, who eventually locks him in a room.

The second investigation is with Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), a young man who can barely leave his room due to the fright he had. One night, whilst driving home from a party along a quiet road through a forest, his car breaks down and he is visited by a ‘thing’ (Paul Warren) which scares him almost to death.

The last investigation is the haunting of Mike Priddle (Paul Freeman), a man who, whilst waiting for his wife to give birth, is visited at home by a poltergeist which ends up being a portent for some extraordinarily bad news.

Goodman sees a link within all the stories, and once he sees them, his life takes a dramatic left turn and he realizes that nothing is as it seems, and these tales may have something to do with him…

This film was apparently filmed over a weekend, and it shows that a solid, incredible film can be pumped out quick-as-you-like. The script by Nyman and Dyson is solid and every performance is amazing, and each of the individual stories are well made, and quite scary. Where the story goes is also so bizarre and left field, but there is clues… oh yes, there are clues which become clear upon a second watch.

This is a great film with a small cast that is an amazing watch. Highly recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian R4 DVD which was presented in a just fine 2.39:1 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: This will definitely get rewatched several times as I think even on my second review watching, I may have missed some stuff!

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

One from the re watch pile…

Demons 2 aka Demoni 2: L’incubo Ritorna (1986)

Film: The only thing that has come out of Italy that is better than the food, is horror films. Seriously, the perfect night would be a fresh lasagne, some garlic bread, along with Argento or Bava, and a nice Chianti (insert bizarre suckling noise here). Demons 2 proves, that not everything for Italy’s cinematic feast is delicious.

Demons 2 is directed by the original’s director, Lamberto Bava, and is written by the same writing team of Bava, Dario Argento, Franco Ferinni and Dardano Sacchetti, but it is definitely… spoiler alert… the inferior of the two films.

This film has us in a super high-tech apartment block where various occupants are going about their business of dinner with family, studying for tests, being an 8 year old who is left home alone, having intercourse with high quality hookers, working out in the basement gym and having a birthday party.

The part is for whinging superbitch Sally (Coralina Cataldi Tassoni) who complains about everything and locks herself in her bedroom after hearing that a person whom she didn’t want invited to her party was actually invited by a friend. Whilst in her room, she watches, like several people who live in the block, a documentary about the demon incursion that occurred in the first film. Unfortunately, like the film from the first film, the doco appears to be cursed… or something… and a demon comes out of the TV, attacking Sally and starting the infection all over again.

Luckily the demons aren’t able to escape the apartment block… or can they?

To put it bluntly, this film is pretty bad. Bad,y acted and dubbed at times, with some dreadful dialogue Nd non-sensical plotlines that don’t move the story forward in the slightest. For exampl, some parents are driving home to their son at the same time as the party is happening, but they don’t make it… so why even show it?

The script is a breadless crap pizza with no real logic as to how the demons appear. The Tv show being watched by the viewers are potently infected but the cameraman filming the doco was resistant? What? Thankfully this eventually explained by the fact that the show is being transmitted by a demon TV station (as a heads up, demon TV stations are like NORMAL TV stations. It with flashing lights): I’ve seen some pretty dumb stuff in my horror experience, but demon TV station is up there with the dumbest.

It’s not entirely bad though. Whilst Demons 2 isn’t as gruesome as it’s predecessor, it features some creative effects work. There is a wider variety of demon looks in this film, and there is an amusing Demon Dog sequence. The effects are generally solid except for one that has a worse that Ghoulies rubber puppet look about it.

I also enjoyed the music far more on this film as it was more to my taste : The Cult, The Art Of Noise, The Smiths, Fields Of The Nephilim and others.

This film is far more a string of effects held together by a dodgy story, than a complete film.

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow Video Bluray which is presented in 1.66:1 and has been restored from the original negative. That being said it does contain a bit of noise on the film here and there. The audio is presented in the original mono and does the job just fine. The film can also be watched with its Italian audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The first thing I should comment on is the excellent packaging design and the non-digital extras. Like most of Arrows Bluray releases when this first came out, we have a choice of four covers on a double-sided Bluray slick. There is also a double sided poster with original movie artwork on one side and art from Jeff Zornow on the other. This package also contains part 2 of a Demons comic, again with art by Zornow and a script by Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating. Finally there is a booklet titled Twice the Terror by Calum Waddell which is an interesting celebration of Bava.

There are a couple of extras on the disc as well:

Creating Creature Carnage is a discussion with Italian special effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti. If you are interested in practical special effects this is really interesting.

Bava to Bava: Luigi Cozzi on The History Of Italian Horror is exactly what the title suggests and is the perfect sequel to Cozzi’s discussion on the first Demons release from Arrow Video.

There is also a director commentary hosted by Calum Waddell featuring Bava, Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci. It’s not the greatest commentary in the world, but when they do speak, what they say is very interesting.

Score: ****

WISIA: The first Demons film is an Italian classic, watch that again instead of this.

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