Blu-Ray Review: RAIDERS!

Adobe Photoshop PDFAs “making of” documentaries go, RAIDERS! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made is pretty darn great. However, as a friend I watched this Blu-Ray with noted, “It’s kind of missing something important…” to which I had to ask (as I was thinking the same thing) exactly what he thought that was. The answer was of course, the actual fan film itself.

Yes, you get snips, clips and blips of the film with deleted scenes here and there, plus more as bonus features (which are all excellent). But as fine as all that is, not seeing the end result of 7+ years of work ends up making for a tremendous tease more than anything else. Granted, I knew there were some good (legal) reasons why it’s not on the disc. Then some smart poking around led me to this official website where yes, you can actually buy a DVD or digital download of the film as well as some other cool merchandise that includes actual props from the seven years in the making fan flick.

Damn. There went my joke about the real reason being Steven Spielberg becoming sick and tired of hipsters saying “Oh, that’s the film Raiders! was based on!” (which, yes…*sigh*… I actually overheard coming from someone’s mouth not too long ago. Damn hipsters!).

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Blu-Ray Review: The Bloodstained Butterfly

the-bloodstained-butterfly-av063Duccio Tessari’s 1971 thriller The Bloodstained Butterfly is a great entry point to the genre for those squeamish viewers curious about gialli but not willing to commit to the more violent entries known to more ardent fans. The film is part murder mystery, part courtroom drama and part revenge flick, all stylishly shot and scored to excellent effect.

It’s also a bit of a slow fuse to its conclusion, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The film’s structure where a murder is committed and witnessed, a suspect is caught, tried and jailed, but more murders take place is yes, pure TV drama stuff you’ll see on way too many episodes of whatever Law & Order series you’ve been hooked on for who knows how long. But, Tessari’s confident style comes through in every shot, making for a highly watchable viewing experience.

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Blu-Ray Review: The House of Seven Corpses

the_house_of_seven_corpses_mp“Trust me… dying’s easy! Living is hard”

And so is watching some movies, pal.

Upon finding yourself on the set of a horror film or hell, ANY film where someone starts reading from a musty old book written in an indecipherable language, Rule Number One is this: LEAVE. You want examples? Sure. Equinox, The Evil Dead, In The Mouth of Madness, The Beyond, Necronomicon: Book of the Dead, The Ninth Gate, and so forth and so on.  ALL of these flicks were initially rom-coms until someone on set decided to crack open a nasty, smelly old book they found, bought, pilfered or borrowed and all hell lit-er-al-ly broke loose.

Okay, not really. But you know you’re in for a deadly day for night shoot when there’s an old tome read and not much common sense exhibited by the cast once stuff starts going south. Sadly, 1974’s The House of Seven Corpses isn’t as good or fun enough a flick to watch as the above mentioned ones, wasting its tome (ha!) with too much “exposition” from annoying characters, John Carradine phoning in a performance from a better, scarier but campier film, and some slightly to moderately creepy undead that whittle down the cast and crew of a romantic comedy cheapie horror flick one by one.

hotc-zombie

It’s probably not a big co-inkydink that the film was produced by a company called Television Corporation of America, as save for a few moments, this looks and feels like a TV movie of the era. No, that’s not a complement.

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DVD Review: Psychomania

psychomania-1973This one’s for Mr. Bruno, who asked how this 1973 British “horror” flick was. Here’s your answer in the form of an opinion, sir. While it’s got a cult following, is fun as hell to watch, has some striking imagery, Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers) is very much a “meh” genre flick overall that hasn’t aged well and isn’t even remotely scary. It has some fine ideas and even a solid John Cameron score holding things together. But a lack of “edginess” or even a true sense of danger doom it as a “serious” scare flick.

That said, it’s got that cult following that adores it for a few key reasons such as a brilliant opening sequence, those GREAT skull painted motorcycle helmets worn by The Living Dead cycle gang, a killer shot of a formerly deceased biker bursting from the grave on the bike he was buried on, and a bunch of hilarious demises as most of the gang kills themselves in order to return as immortal bikers… from helllllll!

(Thanks, BFI!)

The plot goes like so: Death-obsessed cycle gang leader Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) discovers he can die via suicide and come back as an un-killable death-obsessed cycle gang leader with the aid of his frog-cult worshiping mum (Beryl Reid). Once risen, he lets his gang, The Living Dead in on his secret and they follow suit, save for his girlfriend Abby (Mary Larkin) who doesn’t want to join the ranks of the undead. There’s a bunch of bloodless murders and pre-Mad Max road crimes and chases, a lot of talking and a very weird finale that may baffle you if you weren’t paying attention to the kooky story and just wanted a more brainless flick to chill out to.

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DVD Review: A House Is Not A Home

a-house-is-not-a-home_mvd8444dAs an effective horror film, Christopher (Douglas-Olen) Ray‘s chiller A House Is Not A Home is quite well made, but isn’t the scariest film you’ll ever see by a long shot. Don’t get me wrong – other than a lack of gore, it covers the expected fright bases alright and has very solid performances all around. The problem is, it sticks a wee bit too close to the films it’s influenced by to be memorable outside of a few scenes.

Referencing The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, The Entity, and a few other more modern horror flicks, AHINAH’s best trick is playing with the old Eddie Murphy joke that black people would get the hell out of a haunted house as soon as the first sign of something scary took place. In this case, the big twist is… the house here just won’t let them, and that’s AFTER it’s supposedly been dis-possessed by a voodoo priest in a lengthy process that involves a room-to-room “cleansing”. Oops.

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The Lost Arcade: Here Comes A New Challenger For Game Film of the Year

The Lost Arcade#thelostarcade

If you thought a documentary about a grimy New York City videogame arcade would be the last thing you’d ever be interested in seeing, take note: Kurt Vincent and Irene Chin’s The Lost Arcade is one of the best films I’ve seen on arcade history. Well, the history of ONE particular arcade known by its fans as a second home where skills were honed and lifelong friendships and friendly rivalries were built. Years in the making, this look at the legendary Chinatown Fair arcade is fascinating and moving because it focuses more on the people who played and worked there than on the games. That said, there’s plenty of game footage as well as gamers playing and talking about what they love here. In fact, it’s the passion on display when these people talk about why they play and how CF became so important in their lives that keeps this flowing from start to finish.

(Thanks, International Film Festival Rotterdam!)
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Blu-Ray Reviews: A Handful of Arrows for the Holidays

Ho, and Ho-Ho. It’s been quite a year here, but that’s not why I’m here babbling on my keyboard. You need some more movies to watch, I’m sitting on a stack of them that needed to get written up and this post is my way of attempting to get you to spend some of that disposable income you’re trying to hoard in that mattress. Anyway, I see your quiver is half empty there, Robin Hood. Here are six Arrow Video Blu-Rays of note to nab either direct from MVD Entertainment or your favorite video selling emporium. Lock up the kids for most of these because it’s the birds and the bees plus some bloody good and badness going on below.

Requiescant_AV022Requiescant (MSRP: $39.95): Carlo Lizzani’s 1967 spaghetti western (also known as Kill & Pray) gets a ton of mileage from its religiously-raised orphan turned dead-shot gunfighter (Lou Castel), but it’s also working a political agenda that’s somewhat fitting in this current climate of careless Trumpeting. Kicking off with a massacre of border-bound Mexicans (one of whom survives to become Castel’s priest/gunman), the movie switches gears to a rescue mission that doesn’t go exactly as planned before it drops back into weightier territory.

While mostly bloodless and only slightly comical, the film lets Castel carry the picture despite the presence of director Pier Paolo Pasolini in what’s an extended cameo as a revolutionary leader of sorts. He’s got a memorably manly visage, but Castel’s more innocent good looks and his ways with a firearm are going to keep your eyes on him throughout the film. You can choose from Italian or English versions of the film (both impeccable 2K restorations) with two interviews and a trailer rounding out the special features. Like Arrows other westerns released in the US in the past, this one’s a cult classic that comes highly recommended. Continue reading

Blu-Ray Review: Blind Woman’s Curse

Blind Woman's Curse BR_DVD Cover (Custom)One of those wild Japanese films packed with striking imagery and offbeat performances, Teruo Ishii’s 1970 hybrid Blind Woman’s Curse makes for another excellent Blu-Ray release from Arrow Video. It wraps up action and revenge flick aesthetics with a creepy tone, loads of late 60’s era sexiness and violence with a solid performance from beautiful Meiko Kaji. She plays Akemi, the head of a yakuza clan sometime during the 1920’s who’s been released from prison only to find there’s a pretty efficient pair of assassins as well as other folks after her and what remains of her loyal gang.

The main assassin (Hoki Tokuda) happens to be the sister of a rival boss out for her own revenge. Akemi accidentally blinded her during the fierce and beautifully shot sword battle that opens up the film and she now she’s somewhat hard to stop as she whittles down Akemi’s gang. Her assistant, a muttering and really creepy killer with wild hair (Tatsumi Hijikata) is one of those characters who gets under your skin and remains there from the moment you see him. Both he and the black cat that appears during the film lend a supernatural tone to the proceedings that lend the film a nice horror vibe. That said, if you pay close attention, you’ll see that the film tends to toss a lot at you with expectations that you’ll keep up.

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Blu-Ray Review: Day of Anger

Day of Anger BRDVDWhen UK-based Arrow Video finally decided to launch in North America this year, it picked a trio of excellent films to kick off what’s going to be a wild run of classics and desired library additions. As all three films arrived at the same time, I had to flip a coin to choose which one to review first and Tonino Valerii’s magnificent 1967 spaghetti western Day of Anger (I giorni dell’ira) won the review draw.

This was one of those genre films I’d heard about for years but have never seen until this beautifully restored (from the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative) version and it’s very highly recommended whether or not you’re a western fan. Excellent performances all around, some stirring set pieces, excellent art direction and cinematography all wrapped up with a superb Riz Ortolani score that will stick in your head for days makes this one a must-see (and must buy if you’re a collector). Continue reading

Film Review: Memory Lane

Memory Lane MPPacking in a compelling story that’s part thriller and murder mystery with a supernatural bent into seventy minutes is a tricky thing to do well. Nevertheless, Memory Lane is one of those odd yet impressive little indie films deserving of a wider audience. Director Shawn Holmes gets some decent mileage from his ridiculously small budget of $300, making a flawed yet powerful, emotion packed ride. While the film has echoes of Memento, Flatliners and oddly enough, Groundhog Day, that small amount of money spent doesn’t exactly buy you always stellar acting or prime locations to shoot in.

The cast of eager unknowns does what they can with the melodramatic material, but some are better than others in conveying the dense but compact script. The brief running time means some plot points get slimmed down or booted in the logic balls to make way for story advancement with the clock ticking away. But if you go in with no expectations, you may end up enjoying this one a lot more than you thought. When Nick (Michael Guy Allen), a PTSD afflicted Afghanistan veteran decides to end his life after his girlfriend Kayla (Meg Braden) takes hers, he sees a vision of what looks like her being murdered. Brought back to life by some friends, Nick realizes he “needs” to die again and again in order to find out what actually happened to the love of his life… Continue reading