Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)

Film: I may be a little old and set in my ways, but I am willing to listen to alternate opinions and think about stuff that I may not agree with, and can sometimes even be swayed. There is a caveat though: one thing I have to assure you about is I will never EVER be convinced that the 80s WASN’T The best time for horror!

Because it was.

100%.

Truly the 80s were one of the generations of horror when legends were built, not just in film, but also in literature. Clive Barker is certainly one of those legends. Not just with his selection of six volumes of horror short stories The Books of Blood, but also with his debut directorial effort (also based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, first published in volume 3 of the Dark Visions anthology series of books) Hellraiser, described by the reviewer for Melody Maker magazine as the greatest British horror film ever made.

Hellraiser tells of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) who are moving into his abandoned parents house after his mother’s passing. They find that his brother Frank (Sean Chapman) a ne’er-do-well who is also Julia’s adulterous partner, unbeknownst to Larry, has been staying there but now appears to be missing… and seemingly in a hurry…

What they don’t realise is that Frank was the recipient of a mystical puzzle box called The Lament Configuration, which opens a door to Hell and drags you in. When Larry cuts his hand whilst moving in, his blood dripping onto the floor allows Frank (now a skinless monster, played by Oliver Smith) a door to escape from Hell, but he requires more blood to regain his full human appearance, and Clare is more than happy to spend her days luring men back to the house for him to consume from his hideout in the house’s attic.

He does eventually reveal himself to Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence) who escapes his clutches and steals the puzzle box, accidentally activating it and releasing Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and fellow Cenobites, creatures who collect the souls of people, offering them an opportunity to feel the ultimate ecstasy. Instead of taking her though, Kirsty offers them Frank, whom they don’t believe managed to escape Hell… so it’s up to Kirsty to prove to them who he is.

I still remember seeing the trailer for this at a Village cinema in Sydney, and even that creeping me out, so when it finally arrived I couldn’t wait to see it, and I was thrilled by what I saw. For me, horror before this has been either monsters or slashers, and this film certainly opened my eyes to a different form of horror, and how in the right hands, a low-budget film could be just as, if not more thrilling than the biggest of blockbusters.

This film has quality thrills, great acting and a solid storyline that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Of all the big guns of 80s horror, Hellraiser is certainly one of the biggest, and shouldn’t be missed. The sequels, of course, get lesser as they go on and honestly, if you must watch any of the 9-odd films, you should watch the first three, and then stop.

Score: *****

Format: The quality of the feature seems to be only slightly above that of a DVD release, but it’s 1.77:1 image and Dolby HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1 sound do the job.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Whilst Umbrella used to be the legends of extras, they seem to care less about it now.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a classic and deserves to be rewatched regularly. Mind you it also deserves a more complete package of extras so THIS release might not be the one to get!

Fairy Tail Volume 1

An ex-co-worker of mine was a big fan of Fairy Tail to the point she named her cosplay name after one of the characters in this anime (Hi Tash!) but honestly, even thoigh she pestered me to read it, I never got around to it… until now! I have to say it wasn’t what I expected!

Fairy Tail is a manga produced by mangaka Hiro Mashima, who also gave us Rave Master, and he says that the idea of Fairy Tail came from the sense of community he felt from being with his friends, and the quest that some young people have in real life to find their calling.

Fairy Tail Volume One takes us to the fantasy land of Earth-land and in this volume, we meet Lucy Heartfilla, 17 year old celestial wizard who wants to join a guild called Fairy Tail for the sense of community (like I said above… the main part of the guild is even a pub, which, it is said, Mashima got part of his inspiration).

While searching in a town, she accidentally finds herself embroiled in a human-trafficking ring (specifically one that kidnaps young women), until she is saved by Natsu Dragneel, a dragon slayer wizard who has fire based powers, and his associate Happy, a cat with some shape shifting abilities.

After they save her, she is invited to join Fairy Tail as it just so happens that they are members! They introduce her around the group, but discover one of their kin, Macao, has been kidnapped (a LOT of kidnapping seems to happen) by apes called ‘Vulcans’, and so immediately start what will no doubt be a series of adventures which will take them all over Earth-land.

Now even though I’ve watched anime since I was a kid, back in the days when we just called them ‘cartoons’, I’m only a recent full-tilt convert to anime, and it’s come from a sense of boredom with western comics. Prior to my current addiction I really only ever purchased Akira and a couple of western-styled manga like Dirty Pair. (I do have an occasional Lum, Ranma 1/2 and some only Shonen Jumps in my collection).

To this relative newcomer to manga, I find Mashima’s art and style to be reminiscent of One Piece, even down to the pseudo-fantasy/ historical setting. I imagine this is what Harry Potter would have been like if created by Eiichiro Oda!

The story runs along at a cracking pace, and the art style matches the frenetic tale it tells. I do have to admit I’m not a great fan of art going from a particular style and then changing to express an emotion like shock, but the story was good enough that I could overlook that.

The characters are great, though! Lucy is our access to the guild so we learn about their habits and laws through her eyes. I hav to say I also enjoy her magical powers as they are really inventive and not something I can recall seeing ever before!

Natsu is also an interesting, passionate character who like his powers suggest, is a bit of a hothead, and Happy is just (so far, it’s only volume 1) as his name suggests, a happy cat who can talk and grow wings!

This volume also has some descriptions of jokes that may not have translated from the Japanese too well, and describes a few translation changes to make sense to western readers.

I can see myself buying another volume of this as I enjoyed it, but I think the next volume will need to have more of a hook as I can’t really see the characters getting too much development, but I hope I am wrong.

Score:***1/2

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

20 years ago this came out!!

Film: There is no doubt that director Mario Bava is truly the Godfather of Italian cinema. Able to dance between genres like a ballet dancer at breakdance school, he did everything from horror to westerns, from historical to sci-fi proving himself to be a master of cinema.

American International Pictures hit a few home runs with the Bava films Black Sunday and Black Sabbath (as well as some other non-Bava Italian films) and were looking to invest more heavily in the production of films so they could have the rights in the USA. Planet of the Vampires was one such collaboration and is based on the short story, One Night of 21 Hours by Renata Pestriniero, originally published in Interstellar Science Fiction Magazine. The screenplay was adapted by Bava, along with Ib Melchior, Alberto Bevilacqua, Castillo Consulich, Antonio Román, Rafael J. Salvia and Louis M. Hayward.

Angry astronauts attack!

So, do many hands make light work, or did too many cooks spoil the broth?

Planet of the Vampires sees the deep space vessels Argos and Galliot answer a distress call on the planet Aura. As the ships descend into the atmosphere, a high gravity pressure forces the crews into unconsciousness, only finding themselves acting temporarily violently upon awakening.

When the ships land, the only person unaffected by the temporarily is the captain of the Argos, Captain Markary, who, after his crew come to their senses, organise a team to search the strange alien landscape for the Galliot.

The finest in astronautical fashion and equipment!

When they find the Galliot, they discover the entire crew has killed each other and so all are buried, only to come back to life and attack the surviving crew. What is causing the crew to return to life though, and what happened to the gigantic alien race whose crashed spaceship seems to have suffered the same fate…?

Essentially, this is more or less a stock standard sci-fi film of the 50s but with a little bit of blood and gore… I mean, a LITTLE bit… but it’s notoriety comes from the influence it had on films like Alien and Prometheus, and if I may throw a little suggestion in their as well, Event Horizon and Lifeforce, but not to the same extent.

Bava’ s use of studios for the planet’s exteriors make for a bizarre looking alien world that does use his amazing skill of depth of field using lights and forced perspective, and should be included in any film schools education repertoire.

The costuming is a highlight though because it’s out of this world (wink wink)!! The best way to describe the main suits of the astronauts would be… um… ok, imagine if Hugo Boss has designed the SS uniform based on Kiss-Ass’s superhero suit/ wetsuit, but with 70s shirt collars flipped up like a polo on a frat boy. Yep. Nailed it.

Ultimately it’s 50s sci-fi made in the 60s. It’s quaint and it’s fine but I wish I’d watched Alien again instead! Or Lifeforce.

Or Event Horizon.

Hell, even Prometheus!

Score: **1/2

Planet of the Vampires Menu Screen.

Format: I had a weird revelation whilst watching this DVD in that it’s 20 years old.

Yep. This release from MGM’s Midnite Movies brand is 20 years old at the time of this review, and for a DVD that old, it’s 1.85:1 image and mono audio wasn’t too bad. It’s not brilliant, but it was watchable and the audio was clear.

Score: ***

Extras: A trailer, and that’s it.

Score: *

WISIA: Like I said, I wish I’d watched Alien again.

SHOCK! HORROR!

Assimilate (2019)

Film: I loves me a good body snatcher film. Seriously, from The Thing and Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (and their remakes) to Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty, I’ve always loved a weird alien-replacement conspiracy story. Thankfully, Hollywood does too, so you’ll get a new one once a decade or so… even if in several of those occasions they have been remakes, yes, a weird alternate simplicity of an original!

Wow, I’ve only just realised that a remake is the pod person version of an original film.

Anyway, this decade’s version is this film Assimilate, written, directed and produced (and starring) John Murlowski, who previously directed Amityville: A New Generation and Contagion… no, not that one, the other one from about ten years prior.

Assimilate tell of two friends, Zach (Joel Courtney from Super 8) and Randy (Callum Worthy from American Vandal), who have decided to start a YouTube Web channel all about how boring their small American town is. During the course of the filming we meet various family members and odd locals (no weirder than normal oddness, that is) and of course, Zach’s high school crush, Kayla (Andi Matichak from 2018’s Halloween).

Also, they film a few pieces of weirdness, including a woman who is bitten by ‘something’. They chase the ‘thing’, only to see it picked up by the creepy local priest. They return to see her the following day but when they return to see if she is ok, she is, and with no evidence of ever being bitten, but there seems to be something off about her.

Quickly, the three realise that the townsfolk are being replaced by something, but will they be able to escape the town without being replaced themselves? Will the succumb to the aliens horrible scheme for world domination?

Honestly, I was surprised by how much I liked this film. At first I thought it was going to be derivative of the earlier mentioned films, but it was surprisingly entertaining with a decent amount of jump scares and actual thrills. I was also concerned it was going to be a Blair Witch/ Paranormal Activity found footage thing too, and even though it dips it’s toe in that pool, it doesn’t go full tilt into it, and the idea of the uploads has a payoff that is worthwhile.

The cast are great. Again, I thought the two male leads were going to be chuckleheads but they developed differently to what I first thought they would, and Andi Matichak, who appears to be the token final girl role at first, develops completely in a different direction. As a side note it was also nice to see Cam Gigandet again, I really liked him in Never Back Down (even though his character was a right knob) and The Unborn, so his appearance as the disbelieving Deputy in this was great.

The fault with this film is the special effects, which simply put, are terrible. I’ve seen a lot of cruddy effects in my time though, and even some of my favourite films suffer this fate, so it would be unfair to simple this film out on that notion.

Seriously though, they are well crappy.

All in all, this is a cracking film which entertained and surprised from start to finish… especially the finish.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian region 4 DVD, which is presented in a thoroughly decent 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The problem with the image being so clear is that it does reveal the effects to be a little bit… well, crappy. The image also varies somewhat due to the fact the mains characters are using their own webcams occasionally.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: It was pretty good, but the surprise has gone so it won’t be as eye-opening.

The New Mutants (2020)

The New Mutants (2020)

Film: A strange thing happened to the 13 year old me in 1983… no, not pubic hair and the realisation that boobs are amazing… no, I became a ‘proper’ comic collector. I had been collecting comics for almost a decade at this point, but comics were something I rolled up and shoved in my pocket, and carried around in cardboard boxes with little regard for comic company, numbering or continuing stories.

I just liked the pictures with the words.

In 1983, though, I picked up something special whilst at the local news agency with my mum, who was doing her lotto: the first issue of a comic which would change my life, The New Mutants.

The New Mutants told of teens, some the same age as me, who upon hitting puberty, discovered that hidden in their DNA was a horrible secret/ curse of special abilities that if untethered, could accidentally kill others. Thankfully, they were taken on by the kindly teacher Professor Charles Xavier, who at his private school would just teach them and protect them, would also train them to use their powers, but unlike his other team, the missing (at the time) X-men, he wouldn’t allow them to become ‘super heroes’… but they are strong-willed teens, so obviously THAT wasn’t going to happen!

Imagine my excitement, then, when it was announced that 20th Century Fox was going to make a HORROR film based on my favourite comic of all time! Imagine my disappointment at the constant delays, some COVID-related, and some due to the Disney buy-out of Fox, and other because it was getting some bad press, even though no one had actually seen it.

The New Mutants FINALLY got a release in late 2020, where it was unceremoniously dumped… even though it was part of the successful but floundering (well, except for Deadpool and the magnificent Logan) X-men series… to DVD and Bluray (in the companies defence, it was right during COVID lockdowns and few, if any, cinemas were actually open). Tragically you can tell it was dumped by the fact that bother the symbols for Marvel, and it’s parent company Disney, and not mentioned on the front of the packaging, and are a tiny part of the back cover, which is a resounding ‘we are embarrassed by this movie’.

At the risk of spoiling the rest of the review, they are wrong.

This film was directed by Josh Boone, the director of teen drama The Fault in our Stars, who had envisioned it to be the first in a trilogy, which is now obviously abandoned, and was based on a script by him and Bad Grandpa’s Knate Lee… please don’t let those credentials scare you off… and is based loosely on the comics Demon Bear Saga, written by Chris Claremont, with art from Bob McLeod and Bill Sienkiewicz.

The New Mutants tells of Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a teenage girl who has been admitted to a hospital after a tornado destroys her community, and her father is killed by… something…

At this institute, she discovers that the doctor in charge, Dr. Celia Reyes (Alice Braga) intends on keeping her there until she understands and can learn to control her mutant powers of being able to make people’s worst nightmares come to life.

Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt

Dr. Reyes already has a group of kids at the institute though: the quiet, but lycanthropic Rahne (Maisie Williams), the Brazilian hothead, Roberto (Henry Zaga), southern boy Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Uber-bitch, is-she-actually-a-demon Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), and quickly, Dani discovers that she is being held with these others, in a cage if sorts.

The problem with cages, though, is sometimes they keep what’s outside, outside, but they also trap everything inside, perhaps even whatever it was that killed Dani’s rather… and with 5 super powered and erratic teens, that could be a dangerous mix!

Roberto’s girlfriend is a hottie!

Now this film isn’t your traditional ‘Bang! Pow!’ Superhero movie, oh no. This takes all that bluster and works it down to something that you saw in some of the X-men films, especially with the horrors of Rogue’s (Anna Paquin) powers which caused he to be unable to touch the skin of another human being: getting your powers for the first time would be horrible. Mix with that the difficulties of puberty and a bit of sexual chemistry and you have an absolute cracker of a movie.

It reads very much like a super powered, horror version of The Breakfast Club, and honestly this probably does tap into my love of that John Hughes film, with maybe a little of A Nightmare on Elm St 3: The Dream Warriors thrown in for good measure.

The cast, for me, are an absolute dream. Maisie Williams, hot off her time as Anya in Game of Thrones, Charlie Heaton, the creepy hot guy from Stranger Things and Anya Taylor-Joy, my current obsession, and star of The VVitch and hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. In a weird piece of chance, and I guess it’s what a good casting person does, the cast somehow both fit, and don’t.

The story is a great introduction to these characters, and choosing to make this film with horror and teen elements is just as clever as making Deadpool a full-tilt comedy. It was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy and it’s a shame we’ll miss out on that as this film quite heavily leans into a future appearances of X-men baddie, Mr. Sinister.

Just because this film was dumped by Disney, please don’t assume it’s anything bad. It’s great!

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Australian release, region B Bluray copy of the film. The 1.85:1 image and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are fabulous.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a bunch of extras on this Bluray:

There are 7 deleted scenes which the movie really doesn’t miss at all.

Origins and Influences sees Boone, Lee and Sienkiewicz talk about the New Mutants comic. For me this is an unusual featurettes as Boone and Lee talk about how much they loved the New Mutants comic but it started off as a usual superhero comic, which for me, it definitely did not. Towards the end, it became boring and generic, but at first it was a proper school for people learning to control their abilities. I do appreciate it did become something unique when Sienkiewicz could really unleash his art style into it.

Meet the New Mutants introduces us to the cast and the characters they play.

Audio commentary with Boone and Sienkiewicz is really fascinating. To hear two storytellers from different areas of creative storytelling coming together and discussing a project they both worked on in different media. It’s so refreshing to see a comic creative get such a voice in a commentary. Normally in most superhero movies, a tiny bit of lip service is paid to the source material, or poor Stan Lee was forced to tell one of his oft-told tales again, but this really feels like a tribute to the comic. Fantastic.

There’s also the teaser and theatrical trailer.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh boy, it’s so good it’ll get regularly rewatched!

Anya Taylor-Jot is Magikal

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2010)

Film: There is only one difference between a so-called ‘A’ movie and a B movie: The Budget.

Budget can make a story that is cheap, tawdry or nasty something that people take notice of because budget pays for bigger stars, better effects or a more ‘international story. There was an amusing meme that went around when 50 Shades of Grey was released that if Mr Grey was poor and lived in a trailer park, it would be an episode of CSI.

So too, this film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, based on the first book of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, could have been a sleazy little film that slipped by and only had a fan base of those who liked the books, but instead, it attracted names like director David Fischer, screenwriter Steven Zaillian, actors Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Robin Wright, Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer, and a score by Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor.

Interestingly, this is an English remake of the film which was originally made in Sweden two years earlier with Naomi Rapace (also from Alien prequel Prometheus), along with two sequels made immediately based on the other two books of Larsson’s trio. I say ’remake’ but that is unfair; it is another movie version of the book. Unfortunately o date they haven’t made the other two books, and judging by the next Lisbeth Salander film made, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, they won’t be made anytime soon, nor with the same cast.

This film tells of shamed journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) who takes on an assignment searching for a missing member of Henrik Vanger’s (Christopher Plummer) family, who went missing forty years ago.

Vanger’s family, one of great wealth, has been at war within its ranks for years, which hinders Blomkvist’s investigation. Most of the family members are compliant as his research is under the guise of a biography, but still he finds insults and resistance.

Soon, he gets help from Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), a sociopathic hacker with a fast motorcycle and a vicious sense of vengeance and the two of them discover a horrible secret the family has kept hidden for years…

I’m going to gush a little here as I absolutely love this film. I think it’s directed brilliantly, the ‘administration’ and research the characters do is fascinating and the cinematography is exquisite. Of course the ‘hacking’ is almost of a science fiction level and one has to assume it’s not like that at all, but who wants to watch three days of coding instead of something a little more video game-ish.

In a podcast I am the host of (not the To Watch Pile one, another one called The Nerds of Oz) in an episode where me and my co-hosts talked about our favourite characters of all time, I actually named a Lisbeth Salander as mine. Of all the actresses to have played her, including Clare Foy in The Girl in the Spider’s Web, Mara is certainly the most convincing, and terrifying!

The ultimate results of the story vary from the book, but in this case I am ok with that as it did make the ending surprising, which was nice.

If I am to criticise this film, and it really hurts me to say this as he is my favourite Bond, is Daniel’s Craig’s performance. It is a performances of subtleties and the character probably requires that, but occasionally I find him a little wooden.

That said, this is easily one of my favourite films, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian multiregion Bluray and is presented in an absolutely pristine 2.40:1 image with a flawless Dolby Digital DTS-HD MA 5.1 track.

Score: *****

Extras: This film comes with two discs. The first disc features the film (of course) and a commentary by David Fincher. Like most of his commentaries, it’s fairly complete and he clearly enjoys the act of filmmaking. There is also a whole second disc worth of extras on this one:

Men Who Hate Women sees the director, screenwriter and stars of the film discuss the popularity of the Millennium Trilogy books.

The Character and location tabs open a separate, quite inventive yet very Fincher series of menus (that’s evocative of a research part of the film) that feature the entire making of the film, from casting to location b-roll and the visual effects design of the very James Bond-like opening sequence. Fascinating yet exhaustive stuff. There is also a fairly complete look at the promotion stuff for the film as well.

Score: *****

WISIA: Love this film, love the characters, love the story, love rewatching it.

A Bay of Blood (1971)

A Bay of Blood (1971)

Film: Truly, in English speaking countries and outside of the fans of horror or cult cinema, the name of director Mario Bava, unjustly seems to be ignored.

Bava was the son of a filmmaker and started as a cinematographer, and was also adept at screenwriting and special effects, but really, as a director is where his talent lies. In his career he directed over almost 40, with genres including horror, fantasy, science fiction and comedy… even a movie based on a comics character (yes, Marvel didn’t do that first OR best), and many directors including Dario Argento, Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, Joe Dante, Lucia Fulci and others claim to have been influenced by his work.

This film, A Bay of Blood, aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Carnage, Ecologia Del Delitto (and many others) tells the tale of a series of murders that take place by the titular Bay.

The worst haircut ever gets it’s due punishment

First, the disabled owner of the bay is found hanging in her house in what was a murder made to look like suicide, but almost immediately, her murderer is also dispatched by a mysterious assailant. These events lead to a series of murders that all appear to be a cover-up for a real estate scam and an inheritance issue that just seem to escalate.

This film is clearly one of the templates for the slasher movies that came ten years later in the eighties: really just a series of gory murders, intercut with some images of boobs/ butts and a barely incoherent story to link it all together.

Not sure about the rest of you, but I don’t really have a problem with that!

Clearly, Sean Cunningham was inspired by this scene

Honestly, the story is REALLY stupid and doesn’t feel at all like any attempt has been made for any type of legitimacy for the story, and it assumes the viewer has NO understanding of how police investigations go. One could never remake this film now as the perpetrators of the film left fingerprints everywhere and even a rock with a slight understanding of forensics would have the ‘mystery’ solved within minutes. Also, so many unnecessary scenes drag on for far too long, and characters whose back stories we really don’t need to know are over-explained to the point of slowing down the story.

I say all that but it the end it is still charming, and the scenes of violence, considering this came out in 1971, are quite shocking and occasionally sophisticated in their execution. Sometimes the victim’s death scenes are just dumb though… for example, Brunhilda is clearly still breathing after her demise… for them not to ring too true, but they are excusable as not much of it feels realistic at all.

Island of Death director Nick Mastorakis said (and I paraphrase) that in making his film that he asked members of his team to come up with a bunch of horrible ways to die, and a bunch of perversions and he wrote a script around those parameters: this feels like it was made similarly.

This film also boasts the worst haircut ever seen in the history of cinema. It’s a pseudo-Afro-mullet that looks like a fake artist tried to flock a motorcycle helmet. It’s both the most horrifying and funniest thing in this film.

Having said all that, this film has a weird endearing honesty about it that makes it a joy to watch, even if the final scene is one of the most ridiculous things you’ll ever see.

Score: ***1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Arrow films multiregion Bluray release from 2010. It is presented in a clear, but artefact-filled 1.85:1 image with a fairly decent mono audio track.

Score: ***

Extras: Oh boy, it’s a smorgasbord of extras on this disc… are smorgasbords Italian? Do I mean tapas? No that’s Spanish… Buffet? Whatever: the point is there’s heaps of extras!

The Italian Version of the Film, with or without subtitles is included in the extras.n

The Giallo Gems of Dardano Sacchetti is an interview with the story writer of A Bay of Blood, Sacchetti, and his experiences in the Italian/ giallo film scene, including working with a Bava on this film.

Joe Dante Remembers Twitch of the Death Nerve sees director/ film enthusiast Joe Dante talk about Bava and his reception in America.

Shooting a Spaghetti Classic looks at how A Bay of Blood was shot through the eyes of assistant cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia.

There are also two Trailers from Hell narrated by Shaun of the Dead director, Edgar Wright, which are both for A Bay of Blood, but under two of its other names, Carnage and Twitch of the Death Nerve.

Finally there are two radio spots for the film.

Also, the review edition is the Arrow Films release from about 2010 and it has a choice of 4 different covers, a poster and a booklet about the film by Jay Slater.

Score: ****

WISIA: It’s kitschy and cute, and gory as hell! It’ll get watched again, for sure!

The Lost Empire (1984)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Lost Empire (1984)

Film: As a teen, I was constantly borrowing the B movies from my local video shop, and of those movies, I had a special place in my heart for Chopping Mall, and because of that, I saw the name Jim Wynorski  as a sign of ‘quality’, and still today, if I see his name pop up I am willing to cast my eyes over whatever the product is.

Sometimes, I am rewarded with B movie goodness, and sometimes, my brain is poisoned, but nostalgia is a cruel mistress and I am willing to forgive this man whenever the film is less than good.

This film, The Lost Empire, is the first film that Wynorski wrote and directed, and co-produced with Russ Meyer girl Raven De La Croix, and is truly a film firmly dropped in the eighties. The fashions, the special effects, the acting and the sets are perfect examples of that.

Our movie starts with evil, shuriken-yoyo wielding ninjas attempting to steal a mystical ruby eye from a pig idol, that is on display in a jewellers. Several police arrive and foil the robbery, but not without there being several injuries and a few fatalities.

We are told in a text scrawl that this jewel is one of the two Eyes of Avatar and have the super science from the ancient Lemurians secreted inside them. They were separated many years ago and if the two eyes are ever brought together the weirder will gain the power of superior ancient science.

Next we are introduced to busty, big-haired, gun-happy sexpot police officer Angela Wolfe (Melanie Vincz), imagine Dirty Harry with a squarer jaw and bigger tits and her FBI boyfriend Rick (Paul Coufos) who are told, after a post hostage bust sex-session, that her brother Rob (Bill Thornbury)was shot in the jeweller robbery but survived and so she visits him in the hospital. Through his delusion bought on by pain, he hands her one of the shuriken from the robbery.

Rick sees the shuriken and tells Wolfe that it belongs to Lee Chuck, a man who sold his soul to the devil and needs to send him a soul a day to live forever. They investigate the robbery and the Eye of Avatar finds its way into Wolfe’s purse, unbeknownst to her.

Rick and Wolfe meet with Inspector Charles Chan, yep… Charlie Chan… who tells them that a religious nut named Dr Sin Do (Angus Scrimm) is linked to Lee Chuck and has an island, Golgatha, where he can practise his religion in peace.

Wolfe’s brother goes to the big precinct in the sky, and very soon, Wolfe wants revenge so she presses Rick for more information. He tells her that Sin Do has competitions where women fight for his entertainment. Soon she finds herself teamed up with Native American White Star (Raven De La Croix) who spouts generic Indian-isms (Kemo Sabe is slung around like pies at a footy game) and ex-con Heather McClure (Angela Aames) and the three enter the Sin Do tournament to find out what’s going on. Rick accidentally ends up with Wolfe’s handbag and realises that he has the Eye of Avatar and makes his way to the island as well…

Is Golgatha just a religious retreat, or a hideout for gang of terrorists run by a man who has lived for two hundred years after a promise to Satan himself…

Well, what do you think?

This film is most definitely a template for future Wynorski films, and honestly, for the market, there is nothing wrong with that. Essentially most if his films are adult male fantasy cartoons made real, with beautiful big-boobed babes, and testosterone fuelled dunderheads fighting against whatever evil may have reared its ugly head, with a peppering of toplessness, violence and terrible, almost Dad, jokes. It’s what B cinema is all about, and I’d watch one of these over a big cinema release any day!

This film also has a cameo by The Thing from Another World’s Kenneth Tobey.

I grew up loving Jim Wynorski films like Chopping Mall and it sure is nice to see his first attempt at ‘big’ budget filmmaking. I had a lot of nostalgic fun watching this film, and it has reinvigorated my love for Wynorski. I must track more of his films down. If you like the Corman films of the 80s, you’ll get a kick out if this too. Shame on my copy, the two interesting extras didn’t work.

Score: ****

Format: Immediately I have to criticise the the actual physical DVD itself. The cover is a horribly painted pic that disrespects the female leads of the film as it is horribly distorted and really, not very good. The menus of the disc itself needs also to received some criticism as it is difficult ascertain when a menu item is selected.

The disc image is presented in, quite an odd aspect ratio, of about 2.20:1 and the image is ok, but does have several scratches and other artefacts on it. The soundtrack in presented in stereo and is satisfactory, well until Raven De La Croix throws one of her terrible jokes out.

Score: *

Extras: There are three extras on this disc:

Director’s Commentary by Jim Wynorski… Well that’s what the menu option said, but what I received was… Nothing! I tried selecting it several times and not once did I receive the commentary. Disappointed.

The Stills gallery, which I shall point out is an extra on any disc I hate, is a 90 second slide show of stills from the film. Not behind the scenes photos or different shots, it is just freeze frames from the film. If I want to look a static images, I’ll read a comic, not put on a DVD.

The last extra is the Soundtrack which I was pretty excited for as I like the 80s synth track… Except of the ten tracks available to listen, it repeated 30 seconds of the first track over and over. Maybe I just received a faulty disc, but definitely not happy.

Score: *

WISIA: It’s an irresistible, quaint throwback, so I’ll definitely watch it again.

Follow Me (2020)

One from the to watch pile…

Follow Me (2020)

Film: I hate getting old. I really do.

Some parts of me don’t work as well as they used to, I’m not as sharp as I used to be and forget things and even worse, I don’t understand why in modern movies, the new heroes are Youtubers or Tiktokkers or Facebookers or MySpacers or whatever. Maybe that’s because in my experience a lot of these people are loudmouth jerks… occasionally entertaining, but usually obnoxious, and the youngsters these days see them as celebrities.

It would seem that filmmaker Will Wernick is hip to the kids, though! The first film of his I saw was 2017’s Escape Room, which certainly tapped into the trend of Escape Rooms as being a form of entertainment. This film, Follow Me, could essentially be a sequel as the escape room aesthetic is certainly its vibe.

Follow Me tells the story of online personality, Cole (Keegan Allen), a douchebag of the highest order with no real skill set other than to be annoying and to travel the world doing stunts and performing feats to entertain his low IQ viewers who no doubt donate to his Patreon (or whatever the universe this takes place in calls Patreon). Of course, wankers like this have entourages of similar jerks, like the girlfriend who ‘grounds’ him, Erin (Holland Rodin), his wannabe act-alike Dash (George Tanko), the extreme sports hanger-on Sam (Siya) and friend-he’s-had-for-years, Thomas (Denzil Whittaker).

Cole gets a challenge to journey to Russia by Alexei (Roman Rubinstein) to do an extreme Escape Room that will test his very limits. It starts with his friends being restrained in various traps which he has to solve the tests to release them, but when they don’t do it in one hour, he finds that his friends are in some very real trouble from Russian psychopaths who kidnap them and start torturing them for their very own YouTube channel styled thing… will Cole and his friends escape this seemingly unreal adventure, or will their bodies just go missing and they never get seen again?

Essentially what we have here is a low-rent, crappy version of Hostel, which riffs on the 80s April’s Fools Day with completely unlikeable characters performed by unlikeable actors, but modernised for the PG13 crowd.

Wernick does have a wonderful directorial style though. The set pieces are all pretty cool, if not a bit Saw-like, and the traps aren’t so hard that you or me wouldn’t figure them out so it does feel like there’s an element of realism to the events. Unfortunately there was a couple of things I was surprised at: one of the bodies in the film looks extraordinarily fake, and for some reason, occasionally Keegan Allen’s lips are lit so it looks like he has the very pinkest of pink lipstick on. Remember that episode of the I.T. crowd where Roy has lippy on after a buck’s night? THAT colour.

Unfortunately this film is just forgettable. When it’s competing for airtime against stuff like the aforementioned Hostel or any of those human-hunting-human for entertainment styled flicks, it just doesn’t stand out. Honestly, even Escape Room, which I didn’t like that much, was far better than this. I will give this film one saving grace: the absolute violence of the final kill, whilst reminiscent of Bruce Willis’ pasting of the Yellow Bastard in Sin City, was surprising.

Score: *

Format: This review was performed with the Australian Bluray release of the film whose 2.40:1 aspect ratio and Dolby digital 5.1 sound are as excellent as you would expect them to be.

Score: *****

Extras: Absolutely nothing, which to be honest, so a relief as I couldn’t care less about any behind the scenes stuff of this piece of trash

Score: 0

WISIA: Oh HELL, no! I wish I could find a way to forget I watched it ONCE!

Humongous (1982)

One from the rewatch pile…

Humongous (1982)

Film: Everyone, even non-horror fans, remembers the ‘superstars’ of 80s horror. The Jasons, the Freddys, the Michaels but not often does someone pay any creed to the ‘second stringers’, the ‘reserve grade’, the ‘wannabees’, the ‘try hards’: the ‘almost rans’ whose films didn’t become franchises, and in actual fact at times were lucky to get release at all!! They were like the guys and girls in high school who wanted to be cool, but their Best and Less leather jacket wasn’t anywhere near as cool, or bona fide, as the one you got from the Salvos that had a spew stain on it and stunk of ganja, and like those people, the B-list of horror drift into the backs of people minds, except for the occasional exception, like The Burning, but that is just because it is shit-hot.

This film was one of those that didn’t quite make it, even though it played the formula as close to the rulebook as it could. As a matter of fact, Humongous steals quite liberally from Anthropophagus The Grim Reaper as the core idea of the film is almost exact, and not so liberally from the Friday series, with the malformed son and occasionally a scene feels like it was lifted from one of the Friday films, but I guess if you wish to steal from other films, they are a good place to start!!

This release of Humongous is under the sub-title of Katarina’s Nightmare Theatre. The Katarina in question is Katarina Leigh Waters, a multi-franchise wrestler, including the WWE, who has in her sights, aspirations to be a second rate Elvira, which in turn makes her a third rate Vampira. The slick for this DVD claims to be ‘uncut’ and I have no reason to discount this claim.

Now I apologise for the way this reads, but the film IS as generic as what this sounds. Five teens, the jock, the nerdy little sister, the dickhead, the slut and the girl who obviously survives and an older man, the guys who ‘warns them of what may happen’ take refuge on a mysterious island when their boat is run into rocks and sinks. The island used to house a strange old lady who didn’t associate with the local community and kept wholly to herself. Why did she do this? Well in the 1940s, she was raped at a party and the rapist killed by her beloved dogs, but his seed laid purchase and she gave birth to a deformed freak, who, when she died, became like a giant, wild cannibal roaming the island looking for his next meal, and tasty teens sound delicious…

Ever since I got my first DVD player in 1998, I have longed for this film, and this may be my biggest problem with it. I had such high expectations as when I saw it originally on VHS in the 80s I was somewhat of a horror neophyte, and wasn’t even of AWARE of half of the stuff I have seen since, so my teen brain kept telling my adult brain how good it is.

It isn’t.

It is competent and well filmed, but hardly gory and unfortunately the script feels like someone sat down and created a ‘franchise’ rather than a complete film. It really does feel like a ‘best of’ of other horror films of the time. Thankfully one thing this release of the film offers is the rarely seen in America, extended rape sequence, which is shot from the woman’s perspective, which makes it quite harrowing.

Basically, 80s horror fans have a ‘must have’ for their collection, but only for completion purposes, other horror fans may look upon it as an OK distraction offering NOTHING new to the table.

It tries to be good, but it just doesn’t try hard enough. Why watch something TRYING to be Anthropophagus or Friday the 13th when you could actually watch them instead. If you really feel the need to watch a second string 80s horror film, watch The Burning instead… or Madman… or anything. Joy Boushel has nice knockers though, so an extra point for that.

Score: **

Format: This film is presented in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen and is a slightly below average image due to it pixelating quite frequently and the abundance of artefacts. That’s not to say it isn’t watchable, but it could be better. The soundtrack is in mono and it is what you’d imagine it would be.

Score: **

Extras: The film can be watched in two different ways. One is just with the film just directly starting and the other is with an introduction by wrestler Katarina Leigh Waters, who is provided with a pun filled script that is about as funny as constipation. Even Elvira would have rolled her eyes at some of these apparent jokes. I am not sure what wrestling has to do with horror films, but she delivers her lines with a professionalism that would make Triple H proud.

The extras on this disc are not too bad.

Audio Commentary with director Paul Lynch, Writer William Gray and Horror Historian Nathanial Thompson – moderated by Katarina Leigh Waters is a decent look at the making of the film and the Canadian ‘horror industry’ in general.

R-rated beginning scene is the ‘nice’ version of the rape scene, which contains no thrusting of the rapist, just violence and an implied rape. The quality is really quite bad though, very foggy.

Original Trailer is obviously the original trailer for Humungous. It’s a speccy, artefacty affair, but a nice inclusion.

Katarina’s Trailers are a series of random trailers though I am not sure if they are future releases on her ‘label’. They include Final Exam, Nothing but the Night, The Devil Within Her, The House on Sorority Row, The Incubus and The Pyx.

Score: ****

WISIA: I have to admit that even though I’m not the biggest fan of this flick, I do find myself rewatching regularly. I think just because it’s an easy watch.