Blu-Ray Review: Madhouse (1981)

Madhouse_AV094Ovidio G. Assonitis’ 1981 horror flick Madhouse (aka And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl and not to be confused with 1974’s Madhouse) is a good-looking but ultimately disappointing genre flick that throws a few interesting ideas around but doesn’t quite know how to fit them all together. But man, does it make a killer opening impression as well as pack in a few unsettling kills. That said, it’s easy to see why the film has its following despite some oddball flaws that keep it from being truly great.

That haunting opening still packs a wallop, though. As a creepy lullaby plays, one young twin gently rocks another in a darkened room before suddenly stopping to smash her in the face with a rock or brick of some sort. It’s definitely jarring, but actually has nothing to do with the film unless it’s meant to set the overall mood.

Yes, we find out that one sister had indeed been incessantly mean to the other throughout their childhood. But it’s Julia (Trish Everly), now a teacher for deaf children who was the victim of her sister Mary’s (Allison Biggers) cruelty. Julia’s got flawless skin and not a scratch on her face or body, but she’s bearing plenty of fears thanks to her sister making her early years a living hell. Given that there’s no mention of her receiving any sort of plastic surgery (she also mentions Mary’s dog used to bite her frequently), that opening seems open to interpretation.

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Blu-Ray Review: Alien Covenant

“There’s so much here that doesn’t make sense…”
– Katherine Waterston as Janet “Danny” Daniels, Alien Covenant

AC_BR.PNGIs the Weyland-Yutani Corporation made up of really stupid and incredibly single-minded people hell-bent on burning through piles of money and human bodies every chance they get or am I missing something here? Every time they try to get an certain cranky, homicidal alien life form for their research or whatever other purposes, bad things happen and just get worse. I could just blame the robots, but it hasn’t *always* been their fault.

The humans on the other hand? Ay-yi-yi, we’re talking idiotic in increasing percentages in what, over a century of trying to bag that xenomorph and its assorted relatives? That’s a pretty lousy batting average. folks. That said, the original Alien gets a big fat weekend pass for its crew’s carelessness because you got your average space truckers griping about low wages and such who had no idea about what was coming thrown into a situation they had no control of .  Although, what the hell was Ash’s plan had the Nostromo crew somehow killed off their unwanted passenger first?

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Granted, the current chronology of the Alien franchise means the events in Prometheus came first and brought us the unbalanced synthetic David (Michael Fassbender) who ends up even nuttier in Alien Covenant (more on that below). Then we get Ian Holm’s creepy, frustrated and malfunctioning Ash in 1979’s Alien followed by the Lance Henriksen’s helpful Bishop in Aliens and Alien 3, followed by Winona Ryder’s “Hey, huh? I’m an android?” part in Alien Resurrection. While Ridley Scott seems hell bent on making a few more Alien films that take place before the original, Alien Covenant manages to (wisely) swipe enough from the above films not shot by Scott to somewhat good effect.  Still, I’m somehow left  with more bad questions than good answers about a ton of important stuff.

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Blu-Ray Review: Slugs

SlugsAV066Speaking of stuff that creeps around gardens you can accidentally squash, let’s talk about Slugs for a spell, shall we? The late Juan Piquer Simón’s hilariously awful, intensely gory horror flick is one you’ll love or hate intensely in part thanks to some pretty wretched acting that actually clashes with the rather awesome icky practical effects work by Carlo De Marchis.

Just like the director’s notoriously nasty Pieces, you’re getting a film that’s not going to let you out of its grip even though the absurdities pile up to the point where your brain starts spinning inside your skull. Then again, Pieces was (and is) totally nuts for a few more reasons I’ll leave the braver of you out there to discover at your leisure. But yes, let’s talk about Slugs for a spell, shall we?

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Blu-Ray Review: The Slayer

The Slayer_AV101Well, hell. The Slayer actually surprised me with how good it was and once again, Arrow Video drops the microphone with a stellar print of this eagerly awaited slasher with some nice bonus features. While the film has its share of flaws, it’s got a small and interesting cast that’s not made up of the usual sex-starved teens getting killed off by the slasher of the week. Okay, it’s more mature adults getting killed off, but hey, it’s a step up in any event.

The film also predates A Nightmare on Elm Street in having its fiend just so happen to do its dirty work as its wide-eyed female lead sleeps. While probably not at all an influence on Wes Craven’s masterpiece, it’s impossible to watch the film without making a connection somewhere along the line.

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Blu-Ray Review: Effects

Effects BRWhat you get out of AGFA’s great newly restored print of Effects very much depends on what you go in expecting. As a low budget 80’s horror flick “cobbled together with loose change” by a few friends of George A. Romero, the film does indeed retain a certain rawness throughout along with a tiny bit of graphic violence and a few shocking scenes here and there. The film also manages to be more than a bit prophetic about how today’s reality TV’s nonsense of cameras, cameras everywhere can actually be somewhat chilling and yep, desensitizing.

But let’s stick to what’s here first and foremost. There’s a horror flick being made in Pittsburgh and you’ve got a front row seat to the festivities. Again, don’t go into this one expecting bodies falling on cue and a predictable ending where you know what’s coming a mile and a few minutes away. SFX makeup whiz Tom Savini may be in this one, but he’s doing the acting and stunts thing this time out.

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Blu-Ray Review: Re-Animator (Limited Edition)

re-animator le Well, wow. As someone who’d missed out on the film during its theatrical run, I’ve always wanted to catch Re-Animator to see what all the fuss was about. Well, Arrow Video has just released an outstanding 4K transfer of both the theatrical cut and much longer Integral version that’s not not only a must-buy, it’s one of their best releases to date.

Amusingly enough, I’d gotten a copy of Bride of Re-Animator a while back, but stayed away from watching it because I wanted to see the first film before the sequels. Yep, I’m crazy like that. Anyway, yep. This movie is pretty damn great stuff and oh yeah, it’s not for the kiddies at all.

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AGFA Delivers A Case Of Double Vision

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Well, ooh. This pair of grindhouse-y beauties arrived today from AGFA as did the big, honkin’ six-pound box of unsalted Keystone Pretzels I ordered two days ago (those bakers ship fast!). Part of my weekend is set, that’s for sure. I’ll very likely triple up the movies with the gorgeous Arrow Video version of Re-Animator, as I went through the special features yesterday and they’re all great stuff.

Back in a bit – I guess I need to figure out what goes well with a small bowl of pretzels other than some freshly made Colman’s Mustard. Eh, I’ll figure something out.

-GW

Blu-Ray Review: The Bird With The Crystal Plumage

Arrow BirdAmong other things that showed up in the mail while I was hospitalized for about a month was an absolutely stunning 4K Blu-Ray conversion of Dario Argento’s first film, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage courtesy of Arrow Video.

Packed with bonus features (including a new interview with Argento) and physical goodies collectors will love, this limited edition joins Arrow’s other giallo as another essential worth tracking down. While the film is the director’s tamest horror flick, it still packs quite a memorable visual punch thanks to some creative camerawork, cinematography by the great Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist, Apocalypse Now) and a few genuinely terrifying moments that still shock today. Continue reading

IT Teaser Trailer: What? That? Oh, Right.

Okay… it’s confession time, again. CLOWNS DO NOT SCARE ME. At all. There, I said it. Hey, I grew up going to circuses on class trips (the animal waste smell was worse than the greasepaint talent, folks), watching Bozo the freakin’ Clown on TV, so clowns make me laugh. Even Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Okay, serial killers in real life who’ve dressed as clowns? Yeah, but that’s different. Hell, I’ve even painted an evil clown for a magazine cover back in the day and my sleep has been secure. Well, up to the point a bunch of orange clowns slipped into seats of power with plans to turn the rivers and skies blacker than the unclean resources they claim are otherwise. But, I digress. I do like the look of this from the trailer, haven’t reread the book in over 15 years or longer and thought Tim Curry looked great as Pennywise because his makeup gave him a light bulb shaped noggin that reminded me of Greedy Killerwatt. Yes, I am as old as dirt.

Anyway, we’ll soon see how Pennywise it was to remake this Stephen King classic, but as he’s given it his blessing, it certainly looks to be some sort of more definitive version than that old TV movie was. I predict a huge horror hit because humans are scared of the strangest stuff that’s not at all real while strangely doing scary stuff to each other straight out of a horror flick on a daily basis. Go figure.

-GW

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Arrow Video December: If You #TBT These, They’ll Come After You

My email is hiding stuff from me again, so this post is later than usual. As that title suggests, While today IS a Throwback Thursday, trying to do that with anything Arrow has this month will just get them mad at you and your wistful reminiscing. Just buy them and be scared or giddy or whatever you do best when you pick up a horror flick you fondly or fearfully recall.

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HELLRAISER: THE SCARLET BOX LIMITED EDITION TRILOGY (12/13, $124.95)- Pre-order/order at the MVD SHOP or on Amazon

These terrifying and original films boast brand new 2k restorations along with hours of archival content and newly produced extras including audio commentaries and interviews with Clive Barker, Doug Bradley and Sean Chapman in his first interview on the Hellraiser films in decades.

The 4-disc set will also include the newly edited version of Leviathan, the definitive documentary on Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser 2. A new documentary, Hellraiser: Evolutions, will also be included and will look at the evolution of the hit horror franchise and its enduring legacy.

These features will sit amongst a host of rarities and never-before-seen footage from the movies including the legendary ‘Surgeon’ scene from Hellbound: Hellraiser 2, the subject of fierce debate amongst fans for many years, now finally unearthed for its home video debut.

This limited edition Blu-ray comes with an exclusive illustrated 200-page hardback book featuring new writing from Clive Barker archivists Phil and Sarah Stokes and a 20-page booklet featuring never-before-seen original Hellraiser concept art. The limited edition packaging is adorned with incredible new artwork from Gilles Vranckx alongside a set of 5 exclusive art cards and a fold-out reversible poster.

Read on below the jump for a novella’s worth of features…

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