Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

One from the re watch pile…

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

Film: You have to love the way some people think. When director Bo Arne Vibenius’ 1969 family film flopped, he did what any good director would do: he got straight back on the horse and made what was to become one of the most un-family oriented mainstream releases ever made (albeit under the pseudonym Alex Fridolinski). This film, Thriller – En Grym Film, in its original Swedish title, has gone by many names: Hookers Revenge and They Call Her One Eye to name a few, and has been released in more running times, due to censorship laws in various countries, than you would find at the Olympics. Notorious to its core, this version, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, is unrated and with the unnecessary hardcore sex and (apparent) actual corpse mutilation in lieu of special effects. Synapse released both the hardcore and no-core versions on DVD, the Red cover, with the subtitle ‘A Cruel Picture’ is the XXX one where as the yellow cover, with the subtitle ‘They Call Her One-Eye’ is the non-awkward porn version.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture tells the tale of young Frigga (Christina Lindberg), who lost the ability to speak after being raped at a very young age. Her mother and father regularly send her to various doctors in the hopes that she will regain her voice. One day, after missing the bus to one of her appointments, she accepts a lift from Tony (Heinz Hopf) who dopes her and within ten days has her hooked on heroin and working for him as a prostitute. After she attacks a client, Tony cuts one of her eyes out. Eventually the pressure of all her woes gets to her, and she decides to fight back…with a vengeance! (Cue zoom in and stabbing strings)

The first thing to say about this movie is hubba hubba: even with one eye covered, Christina Lindberg oozes a sweet sexuality that would be slipped on if you stepped in it. It is unsurprising however that Vibenius had little success with his previous film, as he is an extraordinarily BORING filmmaker. His action scenes are suitable enough, although the use of slo-mo is somewhat excessive. The dialogue or ’emotive’ scenes are done with such extreme close ups of the actors faces that instead of looking sad or friendly, they just all looked ominous. Also of particular note are how badly the cars must be made in Sweden: even the slightest bump during the car chase scene causes these pieces of rubbish to explode. Having said all that though, it was kind of like watching a train wreck; you just couldn’t take your eyes off its grizzly allure.

The hardcore scenes in this film also deserve a mention, as the ‘stunt actors’ in them are quite obviously not Lindberg and her fellow cast mates.

This film never quite fits a certain genre. It’s sometimes arthouse, grindhouse and porno-house all mixed in one. Even though the hardcore parts were obviously tacked-on and felt completely out of place, they didn’t really effect my overall enjoyment of the film (although there was one bit of going-in-dry footage that made me cringe). This is one of those must see oddities. You have heard a lot about it, especially in the wake of the Kill Bill films, but few will probably enjoy it. I was one who thoroughly did, and it will become a regular rotation… although I might fast forward through some of the hairy nut parts, or watch the alternate release, Thriller: They Call Her One Eye.

Score: ****

Format: The picture quality is all over the shop. Grain, cigarette burns… you name an artefact, and this film has it. I will say though, the image is still clear enough to be watchable, and judging by the amount of bootlegs there are around of this film, it is probably the best it has looked in years. To be brutally honest, the slightly off image just adds to the sleaziness of the entire proceedings, and is probably reminiscent of those old grind house cinemas that exploitation stuff like this used to get shown in. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio, even though the package states it’s 1.78:1. Presented in spectacular 1.0! This is a fairly clear mono track, but to fully appreciate this film you need to watch it both in English, and then with the subtitles…they are almost a different story! Even the main character’s name goes from Frigga (English dub) to Madeline (English subtitle). Keep your ear out for sound effects straight out of Scooby Doo cartoons, especially during the car chase scenes

Score: **

Extras: There are 4 theatrical trailers on this disc: the TV spot (for They Call Her One Eye), the theatrical trailer (for They Call Her One Eye), the Double Feature trailer (a grind house double feature trailer where the film is called the Hooker’s Revenge and is accompanied by The Photographer’s Model) and the Thriller trailer.

Outtake Reel is a few short outtakes, all in complete silence.

Alternate Harbor Fight is a reconstructed version of the harbor fight sequence using pieces of thought to be lost footage, which is then put together with some actual film footage to make a ‘new’ version of the fight.

Movie in Pictures (38 seconds) is the entire movie shown with a single shot from each scene…why? It’s like a crappy View Master version of the film.

There are 5 stills galleries: In Bed with Christina, a series of nude shots of Lindberg. Behind the Scenes, which is a collection of BTS footage, mainly of Lindberg, but dressed this time. Advertising and Promotion shows the posters and other advertising paraphernalia for the film. Deleted Fight Scene shows the still pics from a scene omitted from the final film, and Production photos are on set photos taken during the production of this feature.

There are also text filmographies for Lindberg and Vibenius.

Score: ***

WISIA: This film is such a weirdo watch, I actually can’t resist it, and have watched it several times.

Reform School Girls (1986)

One from the re-watch pile…

Reform School Girls (1986)

Film: The Women In Prison (WIP) subgenre of exploitation films has been around for a long time, the first really of note being 1933’s Ladies They Talk About which starred Barbara Stanwick and Lillian Roth. The genre continued not just in films but also in the men’s pulp magazine like Argosy and even still continues to this day with stuff like 2009’s Sugar Boxx, though the post 60s films were slightly saucier than the ones previous to that decade.

Reform School Girls was a 1980s entry in the subgenre, written by Jack Cummins (co-writer of another WIP film The Concrete Jungle) and directed by Tom DiSimone who also directed The Concrete Jungle as well as other exploitation classics like Savage Streets and Hell Night.

Reform School Girls tells of the ‘fresh meat’ being delivered to a girl’s reform school for rehabilitation. Jenny (Linda Carol) decides to be a ‘protector’ of sorts to psychologically damaged Lisa (Sherri Stoner) and it’s something she desperately needs in this particular reform school as it’s run by the vicious warden Sutter (Sybil Danning), her fearful second-in-command Edna (Pat Ast) and a group of lecherous cruel guards.

Problem is though, the guards aren’t the only ingredients in this prison that are potentially deadly. The dorm bully is Charlie (Wendy O. Williams) who is constantly causing trouble for our heroes. Thankfully, there is relief in the form of the school psychologist Dr Norton (Charlotte McGinnis) but that doesn’t matter to Jenny, because she is slowly formulating a plan to escape…

From an exploitation point of view, this film has some epic exploitation pedigree, from the director’s previous output, the appearances from the They’re Playing With Fire and The Howling 2’s Sybil Danning, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning’s Tiffany Helm, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Loves Darcy DeMoss, Heat’s Pat Ast and most importantly, The Plasmatic’s singer Wendy O. Williams.

Does that make it a good example of the genre though?

Well, no.

At it’s best, Reform School Girls is a parody of WIP films, and really doesn’t stretch itself beyond the generic tropes it’s type: naked shower scenes, delousing, food hall fights, initiations, fire hose torture etc, and it does all seem to be done quite tongue in cheek… especially when you consider the uniforms for Pridemore doesn’t include pants, and the bed clothing consists of everything from g-strings and bras, to aerobic fitness tights rejected from the Olivia Newton-John ‘Physical’ filmclip.

Unfortunately for the film, it’s so badly acted that it fails to execute the timing of any comedy it attempts, and any times it attempts to take itself seriously, it fails miserably. Also, for a ‘reform school’, there isn’t an inmate less than 25 years old!

When this came out, I am sure for a young man that the amount of female nudity would have been a great reason to watch it, but with the level of nudity available on the internet I’m sure it’s not so appealing now. It does, however, have an amazing soundtrack… mainly featuring Wendy O. Williams… which kicks arse.

Score: **

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release, presented in a decent 1.77:1 image with a 2.0 Mono soundtrack that does the job well enough.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a sausage. Not even a disc menu.

Score: 0

WISIA: I saw thins when it was first released on VHS back in the 80s and this is the first time I’ve watched it since. The next time I watch it will probably be in two new formats time, for whatever the future of the internet looks like, but not before that.

Ouija House (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Ouija House (2018)

Film: The cover to this film boldly presents this film to star both American Pie’s Tara Reid and The O.C.’s Mischa Barton which I find really weird as it seems to me that having their names on a DVD is like those awful photos and warnings that you find on a cigarette packet, though just like those warnings, those of us addicted to horror sally forth regardless and suck up their awful goodness.

Maybe the addition of Dee Wallace (Cujo) takes the edge off?

I’d like to suggest that perhaps Carly Schroeder’s name helps too, but I’m not sure one of the Lizzie MacQuire stars is quite horror royalty.

Anyway, I should point out that this is not a part of the ‘Ouija’ film series that includes ‘Ouija’ (2014) and ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ (2016) but instead one of the knock offs using the ‘Ouija’ name to tap into some of those films popularity… did they even have enough popularity to even do that?!?

If we are even questioning that, I guess they MUST have!

This film was directed by Ben Demaree, the director of Apocalypse Pompeii and Dear Diary I Died, and was written by Justin Hawkins and Jeff Miller, who also co-wrote 2019’s Dolls.

Our tale of the Ouija House begins in 1988, with a group of people, (including Tara Reid and Tiffany Shepis) who are in what appears to be an old, unused house where it was rumoured murder and torture and witchcraft occurred, using a Ouija board to communicate with any spirits who may exist within the house. Of course, this being a horror movie and not an historical drama, everything ends badly.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to Laurie Fields (Carly Schroeder) who is studying demonology at University (cool uni!) and intends on going to the same house, her Aunt’s, for research, even though her mother Katherine (Dee Wallace Stone) has strictly forbidden it.

Laurie goes against her wishes and travels to the house regardless with her friends, Nick (Mark Grossman), Tina (Grace DeMarco) and Spence (Derrick A. King), where they will be meeting her cousin Samantha (Mischa Barton).

The house seems normal enough but after Tina finds a doll, she begins to act… off, and the supernatural shenanigans begin…

The premise of the story is actually pretty good, and even the some of the performances are ok: it’s cheap popcorn horror, but it’s executed well. There’s some pretty stupid inconsistencies in the story, and I mean glaring, dumbass inconsistencies, but there are a few conceptual ideas that are pretty innovative… none I can discuss without spoiling the movie, so please, just trust me.

Barton and Reid are clearly here for name purposes only, though I’m not sure if their names either hit the young hip horror crowd, or the older, degenerative fans (like me, and you can tell I’m one of them as I used the word ‘hip’. These days it’s more ‘hip replacement’). I think the marketing department on Ron Lee Productions need to look deeper into who is cult-popular and cheap.

Overall, it’s a tidy, and mildly innovative story, with a cute cast and a soundtrack reminiscent of some 80s synth scores (by Johnathon Price) so it gets an extra bit of credit from me for that.

Score: **

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment Australian DVD release, presented in a decent and unblemished 1.77:1 image with a clear and precise 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing, not even a DVD menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: I can confirm any prediction that may suggest I will never watch this again. Not because it’s bad, but just because it’s a one-watch screamer.

Sidecar Racers (1975)

One from the to watch pile…

Sidecar Racers (1975)

Film: I fell absolutely head-over-heels in love with Australian filmmaker Mark Hartley’s documentary Not Quite Hollywood, which was an amazing celebration of the Australian film industry’s darker, and perhaps occasionally sleazier side. There is a problem with admiring that doco as much as I do, though.

I have found myself in a situation where all you have to do to sell me a film, is describe it as an ‘Ozploitation Classic’ and dammit, Australian company Umbrella Entertainment have found so many films of this ‘Ozploitation period’ that my stupid DVD and Bluray collection is swollen with so many films that I may not have bothered with.

The Gods of Marketing have discovered my Kryptonite and take advantage of it at every opportunity.

This offering is certainly a film that I would never have bothered with as it’s about a sport, and I have a mind and a body made for horror, sci-fi and action, I’m afraid, but here we are, due to that dastardly label.

Sidecar Racers was directed by prolific American TV director Earl Bellamy, who worked on everything from The Brady Bunch to The Mighty Isis, from a script by John Cleary, who has several of his novels made into movies, such as High Road to China and Scobie Malone (based of his book ‘Helga’s Web’).

Sidecar Racers tells of Jeff Rayburn (Ben Murphy), a former American Olympic swimmer who is spending is time bumming around Australia, trying to figure out what to do with his life when he happens upon Lynn (Wendy Hughes) who sees his amazing balance whilst surfing and introduces him to her not-quite boyfriend, Dave (John Clayton), a sidecar motorcycle racer who was responsible for the death of his former racing partner in a horrific crash.

Dave and Jeff become a solid team and have dreams of hitting the European Sidecar Racing Circuit, but only if their partnership can survive their mutual affection for Lynn, a local motorcycle gang and more importantly, Dave’s seemingly self-destructive nature.

One of the things I found amazing about this movie is the fact that you’d have to be an absolute bloody mad-person to have ever engaged in this sport! Crappy 70s cycle-gear, nutso-drivers and insane daredevilry make for a spectacle that I can’t say I’ve seen before.

This film, of course, has a few names floating around in it other than the ones I’ve mentioned above. John Meillon (Crocodile Dundee) plays a mechanic known as ‘Ocker’, Peter Graves (Million Impossible TV series) plays Lynn’s father and type magnate Carson and Australian well-known TV face Serge Lazareff, seen in things like Bluey, Cop Shop and A Country Practice.

It’s a weird film too. It comes across as a pretty straight drama, with an occasional odd directorial choice. For example, there is a ‘musical interlude’ scene where a live band is playing at a party, and the singer spends part of the time looking directly into the camera as if she’s aware that it’s there. Fans of understated and subtle acting won’t find much here for them either as it’s as melodramatic like you wouldn’t believe. Every piece of emotion is underlined with shouting rather than actual ‘acting’.

The films also runs at 100 minutes, which is probably about 20 minutes too long, and even then, the ending is ultimately, a little unsatisfying.

This is a fun, albeit silly film that for me is more interesting as a document of Australia in 1975. Honestly, I didn’t realise that Wendy Hughes was such a stunner either, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Score: **1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release which is presented in a surprisingly good 1.33:1 image with a clear 2.0 mono audio track.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: None, not even a menu screen. The disc rolls straight into playing the film.

Score: 0

WISIA: It not being the type of film I’d normally watch, but for the images of Australia in 1975 it’s worth looking at again.

Krull (1983)

One from the to watch pile, even though it’s technically a rewatch, though I haven’t seen the film since it’s first release on VHS in the 80s…

Krull (1983)

Film: I am terribly sorry to those of you who love the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings/ Hobbit films, but they aren’t for me. I don’t like ‘em. Sure they are technological achievements in cinema and Jackson fulfilled a lifelong dream, but they are just so looooooooooooooong, and boring.

Yep. Boring.

What I want from a fantasy film is expediency in storytelling, a story that tells a Dungeons and Dragon styled ‘bunch of rogues versus impossible evil’ tale, a pile of violence, and maybe, just maybe, boobs.

Krull was directed by Peter Yates, who directed things like The Deep, An Innocent Man and Eyewitness, from a script by Stanford Sherman, who wrote a whole bunch of episodes of the Batman TV show from the 60s, and honestly, that possibly shows with this movie.

Krull tells of the occupants of the planet called… Krull! Krull has a scourge on its surface though in the form of the Beast (voiced by Trevor Martin), and his constantly teleporting vehicle/ castle/ meteor The Black Fortress.

On the evening of the wedding of opposing kingdoms Colwyn (Ken Marshall) and his bride, Lyssa (Lysette Anthony), The Beast attacks and everyone is killed, except for Colwyn, and Lyssa is kidnapped. With everyone from both sides of the family killed, Colwyn in now the king of a united kingdom, but has no army.

So, he travels across the land, collecting a band of miscreants, including a cyclops who is cursed to see his own death (Bernard Bresslaw), a wizard (David Battley), an elderly seer (Freddie Jones) and a gang of escaped convicts (including Robbie Coltrane, Liam Neeson and Alun Armstrong with several others) overcoming many obstacles and adventures until they finally find themselves at the gates of The Black Fortress, ready to save the princess trapped inside.

So, yes, what you see here is the classic fantasy story with all the tropes, like kidnapped princess, evil bad guy, ragtag gang of heroes, charming male lead, that has been used in everything from Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories, to Star Wars and even video games, and Krull doesn’t try to rise above and challenge those lofty themes.

The world of Krull, like Star Wars, is a wholly fantasy one that exists outside of any Earthly timeline… perhaps it too, is a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… though it appears to be set in a D&D styled environment, with a little sci-fi thrown in for good measure.

As I mentioned, the script is as one would expect. It’s camp and attempts a Shakespearean styled dialogue even though what they are saying is melodramatic claptrap… which I guess is perfectly Shakespearean! Thankfully the performances are solid, and the direction and cinematography is amazing. The exterior shots are impressive long shots which show amazing scenery, and the smaller scenes and interiors, all filmed in a soundstage a Pinewood Studios incredibly, look fine.

The special effects are occasionally clunky, but it’s to be expected. In actual fact some of them are quite effective, like the stop-motion crystal spider and even the cyclops’s prosthetic eye, though Bresslaw’s lack of vision is occasionally apparent when he has trouble manipulating objects.

There is also a couple of effects which are surprisingly gruesome for a G rated film, especially in regards to the Beast’s appearance, and the fact that his H. R. Giger-ish soldier’s head split open and release a bloody worm that burrows into the ground.

Krull is a fun rollicking adventure that you can watch with the kids. Sure it’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but it’s charm outweighs how derivative it might appear.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This bluray release of Krull from Umbrella Australia is presented in a 2.35:1 image with a Dolby DTS 5.1 audio, both of which are really nice for a film that’s 30 years old.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a nice mix of extras on this disc.

We have two commentaries (found under the ‘Audio’ selection rather than in the extras). One is a cast and crew commentary performed by director Peter Yates and performers Ken Marshall and Lysette Anthony and another labelled a ‘Behind the Scenes’ Commentary, which features a reading taken from Cinefantastique, a now deceased sci-fi magazine.

In the regular Extras section, there is a trailer for the film, Journey to Krull, a half hour TV special on the making of the film and finally, a look at the Marvel Comics Movie Special of Krull, which came out in 1982 (Marvel Comics, in the 80s, and after the success of the comics of both Star Wars and to a lesser extent, 2001:A Space Odyssey, was doing heaps of comic adaptations of films, some of which became regular series’s, like the aforementioned Star Wars and The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones). This feature shows panels of the comic with dialogue from the film played over the top.

The cover is also reversible: one side has new art from Simon Sherry and the other has the original poster art from the 80s.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: Now that it’s back under my nose, I’m sure I’ll have no problem putting it in again when I feel like a nice easy watch.

Ghostland aka Incident In A Ghostland (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Ghostland aka Incident in a Ghostland (2018)

Film: Many film critics and academics have discussed the important virtues of films that James Quandt described as ‘the New French Extremity’. Hell, it’s such an important part of film history that the Faculty of Horror’s Alexandra West wrote a whole damned BOOK about it (titled Films of the New French Extremity, available now). The key things, according to Wikipedia (who were quoting an article from MUBI), that define the New French Extremity are a ‘crossover between sexual decadence, bestial violence and troubling psychosis’.

Now, I am no academic, and I write this site because I just love horror and cult and sci-fi movies, but to me that also sounds like a description of ‘torture porn’. I guess because it’s French it becomes artistic rather than lowbrow (you can tell it’s lowbrow as it doesn’t deserve capital letters).

Anyway, this film was made by a person who is associated with this movement (New French Extremity, not torture porn), Pascal Laugier, writer and director of the award winning, and critically-acclaimed film Martyrs, a film which he claimed was written whilst under the influence of clinical depression, and by the torture porn poster boy Hostel: in some hands that mix might be a recipe for destruction, but in this filmmakers hands it was an exercise in the futility of existence.

This film, Ghostland, has thematical similarities to Martyrs, but honestly, effected me far more.

Pauline (Mylène Farmer) and her daughters Beth (Emilia Jones), a studious, wannabe-writer who resides mostly in a fantasy world, and Vera (Taylor Hickson), an obstreperous teen-bitch, are travelling to an old house they have inherited from Pauline’s cousin’s step-sister. On the way they encounter a strange candy truck, driven by an odd woman (Kevin Power) who waves and then drives off, only to return to observe them when they stop at a truck stop for directions.

The continue on their way to the house and find that their relative was an odd person who had a dramatically large collection of dolls and other bizarre curios all through her two-story house. Something else that becomes a surprise to them is the Candy Truck Woman turning up again, but this time with a large, brutish accomplice (Rob Archer).

It would appear that these two travel around, collecting victims for the larger of the two to rape and beat, but this man has a particular kink which is the person he is raping has to lie perfectly still like a doll. Beth has just started her first-ever period, and after sniffing her, the brute decide to start with Vera instead, and drags her off, kicking and screaming.

Beth attempts an escape and witnesses her mother, previously incapacitated by the men, attack and kill the Candy Truck Woman, before turning her attentions to the large man, and after a fight, dispatches him also.

We then flash forward several years and Beth (now played by Crystal Reed) has a perfect life. She is a successful author, happily married to a wonderful man and has a young son. After a stint on a TV show promoting her latest book, she is contacted by Vera (now played by Anastasia Phillips) who is screaming and in a panic.

Beth returns to the house and finds that Vera is now completely mad, and lives in the basement where her rape occurred, and her mother is dealing with it as best she can. She decides to stay for a few days, but the longer she stays, something seems to be fracturing her psyche… or maybe her memory… and all is definitely NOT what it seems!

There was basically nothing to dislike about this film. Laugier has directed it perfectly and gotten performances from everyone, no matter how small their role, that really creates tension and once it really kicks off, doesn’t let up. At no point during this film did I look at the time or become distracted, which is unusual for me, and the sense of dread throughout the film is SO pervasive that my stomach felt like I had a rock sitting in the bottom of it.

Please, see this film but make sure you have a cartoon or some ice cream to eat after it: you’ll need it.

One small note: the cover of the Australian release of this film clearly has the title ‘Ghostland’ emblazoned on the front, whilst the actual movie itself presents us with the alternate title ‘Incident In A Ghostland’. Weirdly, IMDB has this listed as ‘Ghostland’ but the cover used to represent the film has the other title. Subsequently, I have no idea what this film is called, exactly.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed using the Australia release, marked as region B on the back cover. Both the 2.40:1 image and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio were of a high quality.

Score: *****

Extras: Nothing

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s an enormously good film, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I am not sure I could watch it again.

We Are Still Here (2015)

One from the to watch pile…

We Are Still Here (2015)

Film: I don’t believe in ghosts or the supernatural. I don’t, which may be unusual for a fan of horror movies but because of this, a ‘ghostly’ horror movie has to be REAL good to either engage me or get a reaction from me. In general, the western output of these types of films, the ‘post-millennial ghost story’ if you will, hold very little interest to me. You know the ones: the Conjuring films, the Insidious films and their ilk, the ones that desperately try to emulate the j-horror movement of the late 90s/ early 2000s… the ones that try to put a fear of the supernatural into a generation that don’t believe in anything, and considering everything they do has to be filmed as proof, not even each other.

This film, We Are Still Here, feels very much like a film from another time and doesn’t seem to relate to those modern films at all. I imagine writer/ director Ted Georghegan, writer of Sweatshop and co-writer of Andrea Schnaas’ first English language film, Demonium, is much more a fan of of those earlier horror films as this feels like a European thriller, and maybe he does wear it a little more on his sleeve when you consider the scotch the characters are drinking is B&J Scotch, an obvious tribute to the J&B Scotch labels frequently seen in 60s and 70s giallo.

We Are Still Here tells of the Sacchetti family, Anne (Barbara Crampton) and husband Paul (Andrew Sensenig) who have moved to the country into a house that has been empty for 30 years, to escape the memories of their son who died in a car accident.

In the first two weeks they live in the house though, weird things start to happen. There’s an odd smell of smoke, the basement is always hot, and the townsfolk have a strange story regarding the history of the house and the original occupants.

Anne invites their son’s friend, Harry Lewis (Michael Patrick Nicolson) and his parents, May (Lisa Marie) and her husband, Jacob (Larry Fessenden) to visit, as May is a psychic and she may be able to contact what Anne thinks is the boys spirit… but May detects something darker, something that the town needs to feed once every 30 years….

If I’m totally honest, the thing that attracted me to this film was mainly Barbara Crampton, an actress I’ve adored since seeing her… a LOT of her… in my favourite film, Re-animator, and I’m willing to give anything she is in a go… well, except maybe for The Bold and the Beautiful.

This film was surprising in every way. The story was surprisingly good. The acting was great, the cast was a good mix, and the gore was totally unexpected. I won’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it certainly is one of the better ghost stories I have seen in the past 20 years, but that may be due to the film deliberately being set in the late 70s/ early 80s.

Essentially it’s a pastiche of Fulci’s House by the Cemetery and A Nightmare on Elm Street that really works.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian Bluray release which is presented in a perfect 2.35:1 image and a matchingDolby 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There is a bunch of trailers on this disc for other Áccent releases, such as Late Phases, Jug Face, In Their Skin and Static, as well as one for this film.

There is a short extra called We Are Still Here: Building A Haunted House which discusses the foundations of the story and making of the film.

There is also a commentary by Georghagen and Producer Travis Stevens which is interesting as it’s a proper ‘making of films’ type commentary.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: It was great, so yeah!

The Night Child (1975)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Night Child (1975)

Film: With the likes of Argento, Fulci, Leone and the various Bavas dominating the spotlight it would be easy to get your name lost to these far more well known Italian directors, but in amongst these is the name Massimo Dallamano. Dallamano started as a cinematographer in 1964 and worked on films like A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, but was also an accomplished director in his own right, , as can be seen in films like 1969’s Le Malizie Di Emerge aka Venus in Furs (which he directed as ‘Max Dillman’), 1972’s Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange? aka What Have You Done To Solange? And this film, 1975;s Il Medaglione Insanguinato aka The Night Child.

The Night Child tells of recently widowered Michael Williams (played by Zombie Flesh Eaters’ Richard Johnson) and his daughter Emily (Italy’s first scream queen Nicoletta Elmi) who are to travel to Italy so Michael can film a documentary about the image of Satan in Art for the BBC. Emily, as one would expect, is extraordinarily disturbed by the death of her mother, and asks her father if he would mind if she could take a medallion from her mother’s belongings to wear as a keepsake.

Of course the old man doesn’t mind, and along with Emily’s nanny, Jill (Evelyne Stewert, aka Ida Galli from La Dolce Vita) they travel to Italy and meet up with the American producer of the documentary Joanna (Ghost of Mars’ Joanna Cassidy) and a local, Contessa Cappelli (Lila Kendrova from Polanski’s The Tenant), who knows all about a mysterious painting rumoured to have been painted by the devil himself.

Then, weirdness ensues.

Emily starts to have strange fantasies about a medieval girl being pursued by angry and fuck-ugly townsfolk, and the murders… that is, the ‘accidents’… start to happen…

My biggest problem with this film is it’s story. I have watched the film several times now and I am still not sure if it was the painting, the medallion, the girl, or all three are the cursed thing, and this ambiguity is hard for me to get over and therefore, spoilt any enjoyment I could had have of the film. I guess the clue that should straightedges out that curly one is the fact the film in Italian is called The Cursed Medallion but if you the film, I’m not sure that completely makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong, The Night Child is exquisitely shot, with some pretty good performances from a varied cast but the story was so flat, and the ending SUCH a downer (you know those ones where it seems like the writers wrote themselves into a corner?) that I just can’t give it any real credibility, because to this reviewer, the story is the most important part of a film.

So does Dallamano deserve to be amongst those big names of Italian cinema? Well, I believe he does, as like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, he sets scenes and shoots them so wonderfully that at times you just get caught up in the art of cinema itself.

Unfortunately the story here is just far too convoluted to be a good example of his storytelling, and The Night Child simply cannot complete with that competition.

On. Side note, redhead-o-philes will love this film as in addition to young Italian film legend Nicoletta Elmi who was in stuff like Demons and Bay of Blood, and American bombshell Joanna Cassidy, almost every female character is a redhead. Is there something Dallamano is trying to say, or was he just a fan of the red? Maybe there was a subtle I nod to the medieval idea that redheads were of the beast..

The Night Child feels like, it had several initial ideas, but instead of picking just one, the writer went with all of the , resulting in somewhat of a mess. It is a well-crafted and beautifully crafted mess, but still a mess. Really for Dallamano or Elmi or possession completists only.

Score: **

Format: Arrow’s DVD presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the image is sharp, colourful and generally a decent with only occasional film artefacts present. The audio is presented either in English mono, or Italian mono with English subtitles. It is a clear soundtrack, but you will notice what almost seems to be a vinyl record styled crackling here and there. Honestly I only noticed as I was listening for audio faults, and a casual viewer may not even notice it at all. The English track does occasionally play Italian with subtitles: for completion purposes, I suppose.

Score: ***

Extras: Exorcism – Italian Style is an interesting look at the post Rosemary’s Baby/ The Exorcist Italian rip-offs of possession films with interviews with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori and Italian film critic Paolo Zalati.

There is also an Italian and a US trailer. the Us trailer is particularly funny with the Last House on the Left tiff of ‘keep telling yourself, it’s only a child, it’s only a child…’

Included in this DVD release from Arrow films is a booklet featuring a detailed history of Dallamano’s work by High Rising Productions Callum Waddell, which is an interesting and thorough considering it’s only 5 odd pages of text.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I don’t believe I need to revisit this yet again.

Sin City (2005)

One from the rewatch pile…

Sin City (2005)

Film: Before these wonderful days of comic to movie blockbusters, in general, comic movies were a curio at best, and the entire history of comics to movies is littered with some absolute crap, and occasional highlights. Prior to the release of Sin City, the highs had been things like Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films, Richard Donner’s Superman and Tim Burton’s Batman, and there had been lows, like Albert Pyun’s Captain America. It used to be that to have a successful comic movie you had to satisfy the comic fans, which the more recent Marvel films have changed, by turning almost everyone into a comic film fan, but by staying true to the character or the aesthetic of a film, you could have a winner… and director Robert Rodriguez is well aware of that.

He also knows that comic creator Frank Miller, the mind behind the world of Sin City, has been through the Hollywood machine, and did not enjoy it. Rodriguez did not want to do this movie without Frank Miller on board, and so pursued Miller, including making a short film called ‘The Customer is Always Right’ to convince him that the look of the comic could be done. Using the actual graphic novels as script and storyboards, the duo created a movie that is literally every comic panel come alive, albeit with a few small trims. Every angle, every effect is all done exactly to the comic’s specifications, which, at first may not seem that spectacular, but when you consider it is a black and white comic, with an occasional splash of color, it is incredible. The monochromic look was achieved by having all performances done in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds added later. This way, Rodriguez’s digital prowess could accurately create the unique look which is exactly what something based on Millar’s vision required.

One thing that I will point out that Rodriguez did here that pretty much NO other filmmaker has done when adapting a comic is keeping accurate to the source material. It seems every Hollywood director and writer and designer needs to put THEIR own stamp on the films they make, but here, Rodriguez realised the source material was solid, and didn’t need to have his personality and ideas littering it up like the Marvel and DC films have had. There was a few colour choices that were made but they were more to define comics ideas that don’t work outside of the pages of a graphic novel.

Also, in the comics, Nancy’s dance sequences were all topless, but either Jessica Alba didn’t want to do it or they wanted to avoid a higher rating, her boobs are covered.

Just as a quick side note, Miller is a big fan of the work of Will Eisner, specifically the character The Spirit, a character he himself made a… well, not very good film of, and the noirish, city-as-a-character theme plays highly in his stories.i like Miller’s writing, but his art style usually isn’t my bag, like his sketchy style used in`his 80s run of Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns and 300, but I loved his treatment of chiaroscuro in his Sin City books, originally published by Dark Horse under their ‘Legend’ imprint, which is also where Hellboy came from.

The story is about Sin City…a town of roughnecks, hookers, maniacs and corrupt cops. Follow stories of Hartigan (Bruce Willis), Marv (Mickey Rourke) and Dwight (Clive Owen) as they cut violent paths of collateral damage through the denizens of the town to achieve their goals.

This edition of the Australian Bluray of the films comes with 2 versions of the film… well, kinda-sorta. The individual tales that are mixed up within the movie have been recut and watched as four separate mini-features… like novellas… titled That Yellow Bastard, The Customer is Always Right, The Hard Goodbye and The Big Fat Kill. It’s a cool and interesting way to split up the stories.

Featuring a massive ensemble cast of movie stars, including Rutgers Hauer, Rosario Dawson, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Benicia Del Toro and many others… including Frank Miller himself, and an entire scene directed by Quentin Tarantino!

Welcome to Sin City: don’t forget to buckle up!

Score: ****

Format: This film is presented in a stunning 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby digital 5.1 audio.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a pretty cool bunch of extra in this package.

Disc one has the main release of the film on it, but in addition, a branching version of the film where special effects details can be seen whilst watching the film, and there are three commentary tracks, the first is with Rodriguez and. Idler, the second is with Rodriguez and Tarantino and the final one has the audience reaction to the film at an early screening. The two commentaries are fascinating and each cover different sides of the making of films in general.

Kill ‘Em Good: Interactive Comic Book which is essential a pretty cheap, Bluray based video game similar to something like Dragon’s Lair where being quick with the buttons is the way to win.

How It Went Down: Convincing Frank Miller to Make the Film looks at what Rodriguez did to convince Miller to allow him to make the film.

Special Guest Director: Quentin Tarantino looks at the relationship between Tarantino and Rodriguez and how they came to work together in this project.

Hard Top with a Decent Engine: the Cars of Sin City has us see the amazing vehicles used for the citizens of Sin City to drive. Car fans would love this.

Booze, Braids and Guns: The Props of Sin City looks at the cool amount of props collected for the film and the dedication to getting comic accuracy.

Making the Monsters: The Special Effects Make Uo is always my favourite part of any ‘extras’ section of a film, and this didn’t disappoint, especially considering most of it was done by Greg Nicotero of The Walking Dead.

Trench Coats and Fishnets: The Costumes of Sin City looks at the outfits and costume design of the film.

There’s also a teaser and a trail for the film… and then we get into the real fun part: The Rodriguez Special Features, which include:

15 Minute Flic School is an occasional series where Rodriguez shows tricks of the filmmaking trade.

The All Green Screen version is the entire film all played without any off the special effects, sped up about 800 times and it’s interesting what they were able to accomplish!

The Long Take looks at the way Quentin Tarantino directed Clive Owen and Benicio Del Toro in the scene he filmed and because it was shot on digital they could continuously shoot so you see al the direction and discussion.

Sin City: Live in Concert is footage from a concert with Bruce Willis and the Accelerators, and Rodriguez’s band Chingon.

10 Minute Cooking School is another staple/ irregular series that Rodriguez does, this time its the recipe for Sin City Breakfast Tacos!

Score: *****

WISIA: One of the best comic to film productions ever, AND a kick ass gangster film in its own right. You’ll watch it agin and again and again.

Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box

One from the reread pile…

Potable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box (2009)

It has been said that I live in the past. That my obsession with my childhood comic heroes, eighties pop music on vinyl and my persistent purchase of physical media shows a lack of an ability to move forward, and an inability to grow up…

… but enough about my wife’s opinions of me…

I have to say though that I agree with her 100%: I love nostalgia. I am easily swayed by a bad movie if it has a character or situation that reminds me of my younger days. In other words, I am the guy who likes Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the ‘new’ Star Wars films (ok, NOT The Last Jedi) and George Romero’s new Dead trilogy, and most of my book purchases are based around older collections of comics, or books about films of the era I enjoy the most… which is why I purchased a copy of Jacques Boyreau’s Portable Grindhouse: The Last Art of the VHS Box.

Immediately, before I go into the contents of the book, I must state my utter admiration for its design. Remember those old cardboard video boxes that sell-through video cassettes came in? My movie collection actually started with a copy of Bloodbath at the House of Death, and I cherished that cardboard boxed cassette until I watched it so many times I completely wore the bastard out. This book actually comes packaged in a slightly larger version of one of those boxes, and for those of us who haven’t seen one in a while, you will be wiped out by the wave of reminiscence that will wash over you.

So why is this book designed in such a fashion? Well, as the name may suggest it is a celebration of the VHS box, and its artwork, which was occasionally (usually?) of dubious quality. The introduction gives us both a look at the author’s discovery of the VHS, and then goes into the history of the format, and why so many people still love it.

The body of the book is a joy to behold: each double page features a look at the front and spine of a video box on one page (in a ¾ view), and a close up of the back, which gives either a synopsis of the film, or a look at other films released by the same company. For those of VHS age, or new collectors of the format, the distribution names will be familiar: All Seasons Entertainment, Media, Trans World Entertainment… the list goes on.

The films celebrated are mainly genre stuff, like My Bloody Valentine, Stunt Rock and The Toolbox Murders, and some more obscure titles like The Porno Killer, Midnight Intruders and Alien Massacre. There’s some non genre stuff as well, all weird in their own way, like Roger Raglin Best Kept Secrets (a video bow-hunting manual), Gary Coleman: For Safety’s Sake (a guide to being safe in your home, hosted by Gary Coleman, with his assistants Jack and Jill Example, and Nurse Helpquick) and Barbie and the Rockers: Out of this World (an animated feature which steals directly from Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

This book is the paper version of those trailer park Bluray and dvds you can get, like Umbrella’s Drive-In Delirium collections. It’s not essential for you collection, but you will find yourself revisiting it often, and show anyone from older movie fans who remember VHS days, to modern day VHS collectors.

One with this book is it feels as though the spine of the book could crack if it’s not treated with kid gloves: no opening this up on table for this book. I really dig this book, but the packaging I admire is also detrimental to its longevity. DO NOT lend this to a book abuser!

This time is published by Fantagraphics Books, a company of whom I am a great fan as they have published some amazing comic collections in the past. Whilst this may not be the be-all and end-all of VHS cover collections, it is a wonderful look at the box art of yesteryear. Boyreau has several other books of a similar theme, including Trash: The Graphic Genius of Xploitation Movie Posters.

This is a great book, though maybe being light on text is detrimental to it being one you would revisit regularly.

Score: ***