Burial Ground (1981) Blu-Ray Review

burialground1Burial Ground (Italy, 1981)
Dir: Andrea Bianchi
Starring: Karin Well, Gianluigi Chirizzi, Pietro Barzocchini

Out March 28th on Blu-Ray from 88 Films

Visit 88 Films shop here – http://88-films.myshopify.com

Plot: When a professor opens a previously undiscovered crypt he accidentally releases a plague of zombies. Unaware of the zombies, the professor’s guests arrive at his mansion and are soon trapped inside, zombies hungrily clawing at the doors.

I’ve watched quite a lot of shlock recently but not the fun kind, and here we have an example of the fun kind. Italian horror cinema is often a goldmine of strange, silly and gory tales, full of sex and over the top violence. Burial Ground, or as it was originally titled Le Notti Del Terrore (Nights of Terror), was a departure from Andrea Bianchi’s previous Giallo films and an attempt at the zombie splatter films popularised by the likes of Lucio Fulci.

What makes Burial Ground special isn’t really the story, it’s mostly one long zombie siege and the characters have little to no character development. The story up until the siege feels very rushed and filled with a couple sex scenes to keep the audience placated until the gore. What makes it special is the amount of gore, and the often ridiculous dialogue. There is plenty of imaginative violence, ranging from the zombie staples such as gut-ripping and exploding zombie heads, to more unique kills such as a decapitation with a scythe. It keeps it fresh and interesting throughout the film.

burialground3Romero puritans will be happy to hear that there are no running zombies in Burial Ground, but the zombies do break from tradition by using a number of tools including the previously mentioned scythe, nails thrown like throwing knives, and a table saw. The unexpected tools are amusing in their unexpected way, much like some of the other stranger parts to this film.

The strangest part of this film is easily the child character, Michael, played by 25 year old Pietro Barzocchini. It’s clear from first appearance that Michael is being played by someone much older, even if he is the right height. Combined with the film’s often bewildering dubbing, Michael’s dialogue is weirdly golden. He’s whiny and always calling for his Mama, or coming out with some really dark stuff like telling his mum to burn the zombies. What makes him the strangest character though is his incestuous relationship with his mum which is never really addressed by any of the other characters.

The dubbing of Burial Ground is often amusing, it’s not badly done in a technical way but the dialogue doesn’t always seem to match the tone and some of the female characters scream in a similar way regardless if it’s a sex scene or a zombie scene. Typically the female characters are pretty useless in this which is common in Italian films of the era, in this case they scream and cover their faces as the zombies slowly lurch towards them.

burialground4Overall Burial Ground is dated and weird, but in a fun way that is a laugh to watch with friends. The 88 Films bluray release of Burial Grounds gives it the restoration treatment but also contains the Grindhouse cut which leaves all the scratches and distortions in the film to give it that grindhouse quality. There is also plenty of special features including trailers, interviews, commentary, and deleted scenes. Also there are physical extras including a collectable art card, reversible sleeve and a booklet filled with information about the film.

7/10

Scalps (1983) Blu-Ray Review

scalpsScalps (USA, 1983)
Dir: Fred Olen Ray
Starring: Jo-Ann Robinson, Richard Hench, Roger Maycock

Available on Blu-Ray from 88 Films – April 4th 2016

Plot: Looking for more Native American relics for his university, a professor sends out a group of students out into the wilderness to find some. Undeterred by warnings from the locals, the students set up camp and start digging.DJ (Robinson) tries to get her friends to stop when she feels uneasy about desecrating the sacred grounds. It’s too late however, something evil has been awoken and intends to seek revenge upon the students.

Scalps draws in it’s audience by being as weird as possible in it’s pre-title scene, using bizarre imagery and giving us absolutely no context. This includes a vicious decapitation and weirdest of all, what I can only describe as a lion in a wizard’s robe. Not a wizard wearing a lion mask, although the actual mask that the actor is wearing seems to be only partially functioning with it’s animatronics only working on the left side of it’s lion face. If this image doesn’t make you deathly curious about just what the hell is going on, you’re not curious enough.

scalps1This is followed by a pretty standard slasher movie set up as the students load up into a station wagon, excited more about shagging in the wilderness than the planned archaeological dig. They stop for a little car repair and to disregard the Native American man who warns them not to mess about with the cursed ancient relics that they plan to dig up. It’s at this point that our top candidate for Final Girl, DJ begins to show that’s she’s not fully onboard with the dig, and the other students dismiss her too as weird.

Scalps starts to drag it’s feet for a while, the group start their dig and there’s the usual sneaking off for shenanigans but the latter doesn’t really get any blood pumping, or lead to any of the blood letting that we’re eager for. The group gradually stumble upon the supernatural forces in the area, usually highlighted by the shot of an evil looking face fading in and out of shot.

scalps3Going into this film and seeing the locations it’s shot on, I was expecting something a little closer to The Hills Have Eyes albeit with a dated and less progressive representation of Native Americans. Instead we have something a little closer to Pet Sematary, using dark Native American magic as a means to kill off their cast. Scalps is technically a possession movie as one of the students becomes possessed by (and slowly turns into) a Native American renegade. His Transformation mostly happens off screen, with the actor running into shot with more prosthetic make up that borders between caveman and insensitive caricature. There is one part of his character that makes it clear that this is a transformation and not a different character and that is his blue jeans, which also adds some unintended comedy.

Not really a slasher classic and dated by it’s appropriation of Native American culture, Scalps is likely to fade into obscurity, although 88 Films’ Bluray release keeps it alive for all the lovers of obscure horror movies. They do there best to restore the footage as best they can, making it watchable even though the picture quality does suffer in certain scenes. 88 Films also fills the bluray with plenty bonus features and packages the disc with it’s usual high quality, reversible sleeve. Bonus features include trailers, commentary, and featurettes about Scalps.

scalps2While limited with a low budget, Scalps could have easily gotten away with being weirder than it is. It sticks to the slasher movie formula a little too much and I would have enjoyed it with more Lion Wizard, but we don’t get anything too interesting. Definitely one for the hardcore slasher fans.

4/10

Splatter University (1984) Review

splatter1Splatter University (US, 1984)

Dir: Richard W. Haines

Starring: Forbes Riley, Dick Biel, Ric Randig

Available on DVD & Blu-Ray now from 88 Films

Buy direct from 88 Films own shop here – http://88-films.myshopify.com

Plot: Julie Parker (Riley) has just started teaching at St. Trinians University, a Roman Catholic run University full of raucous students who just want to party and get laid. Not everything is so laid back at the University though, an escaped mental patient is loose on campus. The maniac has already killed the teacher Julie is replacing and is making quick work of the students. Who is this crazed killer and will Julie solve the mystery or meet her fate?

SU1I’m a sucker for a splatter movie, visceral films like Evil Dead, Bad Taste or Street Trash have the kind of manic imagination that are guaranteed to blow you mind. So with a name like Splatter University, I went in expecting big things. If I’m honest I got confused and thought it was a sequel to Slaughter High (1986) although quickly realised that wasn’t the case (I mis-remembered the name and the fact that it came out two years later should have been a clue). Slaughter High was a similar film, a maniac on campus slasher film. It also had some amazingly imaginative kills. That was the bar that I had set for Splatter University.

The first main difference between those two films is that Splatter University isn’t really a slasher film in the same respects. It’s more of a “Whodunnit” style murder mystery, focusing on Julie’s investigation and the mystery of who the maniac is. The film does implement some misdirection, there’s lines of dialogue like “…find out who he is” “Or she!” to try and throw the audience off the scent. This film lacks a notable killer, lacking a Voorhees or a Myers, and tries to build up the suspense with the fact anyone could be the killer. Except it’s more likely to be one of the three characters that Julie really interacts with.

su3For a film that takes place in a university, the film doesn’t focus too much on the students, instead opting for the staff in the main roles. The female students are just fodder, the only male character to die is the doctor that the maniac kills (although I’m pretty sure he appears again at the end and he was stabbed in the crotch rather than the heart so maybe not dead). The male students are either trying to sleep with the girls, getting angry at them for not wanting to sleep with them, or being entirely unphased when they turn up dead. There’s an interview in the bonus features of the blu-ray that mentions the film’s misogynistic moments in the film, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a criticism of misogyny in society or just early slasher films, or if it was a message at all.

su2The second difference between Splatter University and Slaughter High is that Splatter University lacks the imaginative and diverse kills. For a film with Splatter in the title the film isn’t that gory and there is only one murder weapon, a large knife. Splatter University was Haines’ directorial début and distributed through Troma who are famous for championing low budget horror films so I could give Splatter University a pass based on budget constraints, but I’ve also seen a lot more imagination from low budget horror films so it’s not getting off so easy.

Even if it mixed in a couple of other murder weapons, this film would be a lot more interesting to watch. I think that practical gore effects are comparable to stage magic tricks and seeing a knife getting dragged across someone’s forehead (Why the forehead?) with a trail of fake blood behind it, it’s kind of the inter-linking ring trick of horror effects. Everyone knows how it’s done and nobody is impressed.

su4Splatter University is dull. It’s predictable and lacks flare. It’s the sort of film I could only recommend to hardcore slasher movie fans who really want to watch something obscure, but there’s a reason that this film is obscure. It doesn’t have much to offer.

88 Films has done a good job in their release of this film for their Slasher Classics Collection, offering features including stills, tv spots and theatrical trailer. It also includes an interview with Slasher Expert, Justin Kerswell, and more surprisingly Richard W. Haines’ most recent film “What Really Frightens You“. Two films for the price of one. Although maybe it would be better to watch Haines’ next film, Class of Nuke ‘Em High instead.

3/10 (Film)

SPECIAL FEATURES

Brand New 2K Scan and Restoration from the 16mm Interpositive
Restored Soundtrack
Bonus Film! Richard W. Haines’ What Really Frightens You (2010)
Audio Commentary by Director Richard W. Haines
Splatter Scholar: Interview with Slasher Expert Justin Kerswell
Stills Gallery
Trailer
TV Spots
Trailer Reel
Reversible Sleeve

Blastfighter (1984) Blu-Ray Review

bf1Blastfighter (1984)

Directed by: Lamberto Bava

Written by: Luca De Rita & Massimo De Rita

Cast: Michael Sopkiw, Valentina Forte, George Eastman

Running Time: 87 Minutes

UK Certificate: 18

Format: Blu Ray & DVD available now from 88 Films – HERE

Studio: 88 Films Italian Collection

Jake ‘Tiger’ Sharp, Michael Sopkiw, is an ex-cop who has been behind bars for 8 years. As he leaves prison he is picked up by a man in a car who hands him his service revolver and a shotgun. This shotgun has been adapted to fire grenades, darts, lead slugs, you name it, and this monster fires it. Tiger is going to use it to assassinate a man who was involved in a cop killing, which led to the murder of his wife. Tiger has had it tough; you can read it in his moustache. However he can’t go through with it, enough is enough, so he returns home to seemingly the town of hillbilly stereotypes.

bf4Whilst setting up home Tiger makes friends with a baby deer and upsets the local yokels. This escalates into a full out feud, eventually becoming a Rambo like vendetta against anyone who looks at him funny. Oh and his estranged daughter makes an appearance just to let the audience know this guy is really going through the mill, not just physically but emotionally.

Blastfighter is a classic but for all the wrong reasons. Borrowing from First Blood and Deliverance, scriptwriters Luca De Rita & Massimo De Rita, never find a new hook, instead cramming in exposition and characters that go nowhere and a back story that never finds resolution. Having said that, Blastfighter is an all out 80’s revenge, action movie, sense and reason is not required and what it lacks in subtlety, it more than makes up for in cinematic cheese.

Lamberto Bava, Director of DEMONS, directs with a kinetic style and puts the action as far in your face as possible. He isn’t ashamed to have people blown up in close up, or put his two leads in danger by hurtling them down white water rapids because stuntmen would be too costly. Being a co-production between the US and Italy meant a small budget and the shoestring is on show. I can forgive all this however because it reminded me of cult classics like John Carpenter’s They Live or Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing.

bf3The acting, although reminiscent of many episodes of The A-Team, never gets dull; it will raise a smile or two. Michael Sopkiw, starring in only one of four movies on his CV, gives it all he has. He has the steely stare down to perfection. He is every bit the proto D-Fens from the wonderful Falling Down, a man who has had enough and been pushed that little bit too far. The majority of the ensemble is made up of Italian actors such as Tiger’s daughter played by Valentina Forte. All the roles were dubbed but I would have liked to have seen an original audio version fir comparison, just to see if it affected the performances.

Fabio Frizzi’s score is pure synth heaven, a pure 80’s sound for a pure 80’s film. The only thing I found weird and off putting was the sun over the end credits, as out of place as ‘He ain’t heavy he’s my brother’ from Rambo III, we are treated to a random a country and western song about dreams written by the BeeGees.

Blastfighter was never going to win any awards but if you like your movies that are so bad, they are good, and then give it a go. Presented on a 25 GB disc with a sharp transfer, 88 Films have done a great job restoring this movie. Including trailers for forthcoming releases and a 12 minute interview with director of photography Gianlorenzo Battaglia, this is a solid release.

bf2Quentin Tarantino calls it Bava’s best film. Having only seen this and Demons I can’t really comment but I do know that if I ever need cheering up, I’ll be popping in Blastfighter. A fine edition to my so bad it’s good collection.

7/10

Dead of Winter (1987) Blu-Ray Review

dow1Dead of Winter (USA, 1987)

Dir: Arthur Penn

Starring: Mary Steenburgen, Roddy McDowall, Jan Rubes

UK Blu-Ray Out NOW from 88 Films – http://88-films.myshopify.com

Plot: Katie (Steenburgen) is an unemployed actress, struggling with her rent. Things seem to be improving though when she goes for an audition with Mr Murray (McDowall). He wants to cast her in a film due to the fact that she bears an uncanny resemblance to the lead actress who walked off set. The one stipulation is that she has to come upstate with Mr Murray to meet the producer, Dr Lewis (Rubes).

It’s not long after she arrives at the doctor’s home when things start to take a turn for the suspicious, the phone doesn’t work and the two film makers seems oddly unprofessional. Katie is trapped with a snow storm raging outside as the two men’s plan starts to reveal itself. She’s become a pawn in their blackmail scam and they’ll do anything to make sure it all goes to plan, even murder.

dow2Dead of Winter is part of 88 Films Slasher Classic Collection, a Blu Ray collection of more obscure gems including Slaughterhouse, Graduation Day, and Splatter University. Slasher films that are much lesser known than Halloween, Friday The 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street. I have to admit I had never heard of Dead of Winter before and having watched it now, I wouldn’t really call it a slasher film. There is no reckless teens and masked killers in Dead of Winter. Instead it has more in common with the likes of Hitchcock’s Psycho. It even starts off with what feels like an homage to Hitchcock’s classic following an ill-fated woman with a bag of illicit money.

Dead of Winter’s setting of an isolated manor in the middle of a snow storm gives it a well defined character that sets it apart. Snow set horror is not common, due to the fact that relying on the weather can ruin a production. Dead of Winter does it well, it is the rock that boxes Katie in next to the hard place that is the malicious nature of Dr Lewis and Mr Murray.

dow4McDowall and Rubes as Murray and Lewis are great, they are menacing yet subtle, balancing their façade of caring about Katie’s well-being, even when she is uncovering their lies. Mr Murray is a complex character, the roper that pulls her in but also with a history of mental illness, he is sometimes visibly unhinged. Steenburgen is fantastic as Katie, a truly sympathetic character, but even more impressive is her multiple roles in this film as the disappeared actress, Julie Rose, and her sister, Evelyn. Each character has their unique traits and Steenburgen has no problem becoming all three.

The only issue I have with Dead of Winter is that the pacing drags a bit near the end due to the rescue attempt by Katie’s boyfriend. It could have ended a lot quicker and cleaner if Katie was able to save herself, especially because she shows so much skill and strength in her investigation and fighting off her attackers. She seems capable enough that she doesn’t need a knight in shining armour (on in this case, a leg cast) to save her. This ends up with a lot more filler, prolonging Katie’s suffering that doesn’t seem to add much to the plot.

dow388 Films has done a great job bringing forth several lesser known slasher films to the public’s attention and Dead of Winter deserves this spotlight as a Classic Slasher. An obscure little gem from the 80s. The blu ray is a bit basic, the only extra features is some stills and a trailer reel, but the film is worth the space on your blu ray shelf.

7/10

The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) Blu-Ray Review

bloodstainedshadow1The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) aka’Solamente Nero’

Blu-Ray release date: 25th May 2015 from 88 FILMS

Director / Co-writer: Antonio Bido

Starring: Lino Capolicchio, Craig Hill, Stefania Casini, Juliette Mayniel

Runtime: 109 mins

UK Certificate: 18

‘The Bloodstained Shadow’, the second horror offering from director Antonio Bido first released in 1978, emerges later on in the giallo period and is possibly one of the less well-known films of the genre. Now released on Blu-Ray, the film has been well-restored to accentuate the vivid orangey-reds so characteristic of gialli films and sharpen the grey, evocatively bleak backdrop of the Venetian town of Murano during the off-season colder months in which the story plays out.

That story revolves around likeable sheepskin-coated professor Stefano D’Archangelo (Capollichio), who has come to Murano to visit his brother Paolo, the community priest. While there, the murder of a local none-too-popular medium occurs and Stefano learns that a similar strangulation of a teenage girl happened a few years previously in the town, which remains unsolved. Whilst romantically pursuing tiger-eyed beauty Sandra (Casini, whom Dario Argento fans may recognise from ‘Suspiria’), Stefano assists his brother, who witnessed the more recent killing, in trying to uncover the identity of the strangle-happy assailant. However, Paolo is being warned through the subtle mediums of decapitated sheep’s heads and blood-stained type-written notes to keep schtum, and other residents of the town are gradually starting to drop in even more gruesome manners than asphyxiation…

bloodstainedshadow2‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ isn’t shockingly original even considering it’s nearing forty – there’s the well-trodden staple threat of the black-cloaked and hooded murderer present and even the quasi-twist of the killer’s identity will be guessed by most viewers before it’s revealed. The acting isn’t brilliant (although the main cast for the most part deliver) and as with many foreign films of the period the dubbing-over of dialogue can be distracting to the audience, but having said that the film isn’t without merit.

I’m personally not a seasoned connoisseur of the giallo but I enjoyed this piece well enough and was glad to get the chance to review a film from this sub-genre. The location of Murano, with its slightly derelict, blankly-decorated buildings and uninviting ports and canals provide an interesting setting and there’s a good use of its winding, maze-like back streets for the killer to carry out the old stalky-stalky action – in fact, there’s a sequence in which Stefano takes a turn about the canals and is watched by various suspicious locals which goes a little into ‘Wicker Man’ territory. Also, the French actress Juliette Mayniel is very unsettling as the matronly, cold-eyed midwife Signora Nardi – it is possibly worth a watch just for her performance.

The music, too, is rather well-placed – of course, it’s the usual blend of Starsky and Hutch-style bass riffs and jarring piano keys at the jumpy bits that leave you in no doubt that you are watching a 1970’s horror film, but the soundtrack here is more memorable than most films of its ilk and the sequence at the end in which the perpetrator is confronted by both their victims and their damnation is very well put together in terms of score and visuals.

bloodstainedshadow3The film also has something else going for it in terms of plot that many other gialli arguably do not – the victims meeting their maker are not almost exclusively young, beautiful Farrah Fawcett-haired women – older people of both genders are done in who happen to have become embroiled in the secret behind the murders in various ways, so props to ‘Bloodstained’ for breaking the mould there. Or is the staple of young attractive women being the hunted and often the heroine an essential component of the giallo? A point for discussion maybe, but either way, I found ‘The Bloodstained Shadow’ to be entertaining and charming enough and whilst maybe not a classic, certainly deserving of place in the annals of 1970’s horror history.

6/10

A Blade in The Dark (1983) Blu-Ray Review

abitd1A BLADE IN THE DARK (1983)

Director: Lamberto Bava

Starring: Andrea Occhipinti, Anny Papa, Michele Soavi, Valeria Cavalli, Fabiola Toledo

UK Blu-Ray & DVD Release 24th August 2015 from 88 Films

BEHOLD! My first entry into the annals (that’s annals, people!) of UKHS’s/The Slaughtered Bird’s review writing multi-universe! And what better way to begin than with a bit of Bava – Lamberto, not Mario. “How unfortunate” I hear you exclaim, but you’d be wrong with this one – A BLADE IN THE DARK is a giallo joy!

Although considered the predecessor of the modern slasher genre, giallo is the Marmite of horror lovers and continues to divide audiences. While I’m a fan, I can understand people’s difficulty in totally immersing themselves in a world of brash, overpowering synth scores, vibrant lighting, aggressive editing, and often hilariously dubbed vocal acting (all of these, incidentally, being the reasons I loves ‘em!). Also, when your old man is Mario Bava – a horror legend, mentioned in the same glowing terms as Dario Argento – you’re going to struggle winning people over. Make no mistake, though; A BLADE IN THE DARK (only Lamberto’s 2nd film) is an edgy, well-paced, claustrophobic horror on par with a lot of his father’s work (the outstanding Blood & Black Lace and Bay Of Blood aside).

abitd2‘Giallo’ – the simple definition (in terms of literature and cinema) being an Italian thriller/mystery, but that falls some way short of capturing what makes this sub-genre so utterly fascinating.  Usually, as with ABITD, we’re thrown a central character that sets out to investigate a series of gorgeously shot and scored, overly-colourful murders, uncovering sinister truths about themselves and others in the process, with the plot commonly a by-product of an unspoken, viscerally charming filmmaking competition amongst the directors of that era. This particular vessel gives us composer Bruno (Occhipinti), on his first night in a secluded villa, tinkering with a horror soundtrack he’s been hired to create. Finding a comically flirty young woman called Katia in his cupboard, he then proceeds to have a casual flick through her diary (that’s not a euphemism), only to discover there are a few secrets surrounding the house’s previous tenant that someone is desperate to keep hidden.

abitd3Of course, there are parts that will annoy the perfectionists among us – fuck, there’s moments that made me burst out laughing at their absurdity – but when something blatantly doesn’t take itself too seriously, why should we? While the quality of his later films fell away dramatically and it became easier to be dismissive of his talents, there’s a passion driving A BLADE IN THE DARK that helps us ignore any glaring imperfections, which in turn aides the intensity of the numerous shocking set-pieces (particularly the infamous bathroom scene). Also, everything is kept simple and small (cast, locations), and filled with clever techniques to make us uneasy: unexpected, smooth camera swoops and jarring musical blasts. As our characters grow uncomfortable, so do we. Although, the downside to this small cast means it’s pretty easy to guess our killer as the final third plays out!

Adding to the film’s charm is the presence of Michele Soavi, both as assistant director AND Bruno’s landlord, Tony – charismatically stealing scenes during his limited screen time, even with the dodgy English dubbing! That being said, despite him being involved, Dardano Sacchetti’s script suffers from some baffling dialogue interactions – notably between our lead and the various, attractive female characters, who do everything they can to woo our reserved hero within seconds of meeting him – that hinder the film’s integrity. This may partly be due to the fact ABITD was initially invented as a 4-part television series, but later edited into a feature length film.

abitd4Despite trendy claims Lamberto Bava relied on his dad’s reputation to get a cinematic leg-up, he’s created a solid, enjoyable entry to the sub-genre here. Considering the small budget, A BLADE IN THE DARK makes a nice companion piece for giallo heavyweights such as Suspiria or any super Mario classic. Besides, the man gave us DEMONS, for fuck’s sake! LAY OFF HIM!!!

6/10

Chris Barnes (@TheBlueTook)

Extras:

NEW HD Master
Uncompressed LPCM English Soundtrack
Uncompressed LPCM Italian Soundtrack with newly translated English Subtitles
Archive Q&A with Lamberto Bava, moderated by Calum Waddell
Reversible Sleeve with alternative art
Includes a Collectible 300gsm Original Poster Post Card

Tromeo & Juliet (1996) Blu-Ray Review

tromeo1Tromeo and Juliet (USA, 1996)

Dir: Lloyd Kaufman

Starring: Jane Jensen, Will Keenan,William Beckwith

Out now on UK Blu-Ray from 88 Films

Plot: The William Shakespeare classic tragedy re-imagined in the grungy punk-rock style of Troma. Star-crossed lovers Tromeo (Keenan) and Juliet (Jensen) fight for their love against their two warring families, The Ques and the Capulets. Can Tromeo whisk Juliet away before her abusive father (Beckwith) can marry her off?

My first experience with Troma was Cannibal! The Musical (Also known as Alferd Packer: The Musical), a film by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. I was already accustomed to the rude and crude humour of South Park so it only seemed like a natural progression to start watching films from Troma. Troma is famous for two things, 1) being incredibly crude, and 2) being passionately DIY. Lloyd Kaufman, director of Tromeo and Juliet and Co-founder of Troma, is a firm believer that anyone who wants to make movies should make movies. It’s that punk rock ideology of learn three chords and write a song, substituting three chords with a couple buckets of blood. Yet much like punk rock, if you’re not into punk or cheap blood effects this might not be the movie for you.

tromeo2Lloyd Kaufman has created an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, sticking very close to the plot of the Shakespearian source material. A lot of the scriptwriting for Tromeo and Juliet was done by James Gunn, another alum of Troma that has gone onto bigger things including writing two Scooby Doo movies and directing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (look out for Kaufman’s cameo in the space prison). Troma is not known for it’s tasteful period dramas, so this film is much closer to Kaufman’s other work such as The Toxic Avenger than it is to Downton Abbey. There is gore by the bucketful, plenty sex, and a giant rubber penis monster. It really sets the tone of what kind of movie this is.

It’s quite difficult to review a Troma film because I think you really need to find their films by yourself.It’s the kind of rite of passage for grungy outcast teenagers who just want to see something really messed up and kind of stupid. Troma specialises in films that you could find in video stores back in the day when you would browse somewhere between the horror films and theadult films. You’d pick one and you’d laugh your ass off and you’d want to watch more. Thankfully, despite the demise of the videostore, Troma has taken to you-tube so it’s easy for the uninitiated to get that first taste.

tromeo3Tromeo and Juliet is classic Troma for better or worse. It’s the filthy fun version of Romeo and Juliet, and that’s enough to peak the interest of those who might know Shakespeare but not as educated on the work of Kaufman. It’s also agreat film for nerding out, with things like Troma’s running car-flipjoke, and Sean Gunn (James Gunn’s brother and the motion-captureactor for Rocket Raccoon) appearing as Sammy Capulet. If you like weird foul humour and being part of a rabid fan-base, Tromeo and Juliet is a great film for introducing yourself (and all your friends) to the world of Troma.

The blu-ray copy of Tromeo and Juliet has plenty of special features including four commentary tracks, deleted scenes, rehearsal footage and the original trailer.

8/10

88 Films To Release First THREE Children of the Corn on Blu-Ray

cotcblu1The Classic Adult Nightmare Returns in HD!

88 FILMS PRESENTS THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN TRILOGY BOX SET!

THE ORIGINAL THREE THEATRICAL CLASSICS OBTAIN A STUNNING NEW LEASE OF LIFE

Having experienced a superb first eight months in 2015, including with their critically acclaimed AMERICAN NINJA COLLECTION, 88 Films is thrilled to present another box set of bloody brilliant thrills: CHILDREN OF THE CORN.

Released in 1984, and adapted from a popular Stephen King short story, the original CHILDREN OF THE CORN became one of the most successful of the legendary author’s page-to-screen adaptations. The hit horror sickie headlines a pre-TERMINATOR Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton (TV’s THIRTYSOMETHING) as a travelling couple who unwittingly become trapped in the fictional town of Gatlin, Nebraska, and find themselves stalked by a creepy clan of young cultists. No adult is allowed to survive in Gatlin or else, their prophecy predicts, the harvest will collapse. Suffice to say, all hell soon breaks loose (literally) and demonic entities ensure that Hamilton and her husband are in for a long night… Co-starring popular genre face Courtney Gains (THE ‘BURBS) and given a malevolent mid-western touch by director Fritz Kiersch (TUFF TURF), CHILDREN OF THE CORN remains one of the most spine-tingling terror titles of the 1980s.

Unsurprisingly, this blockbuster bout of bloodshed led to a franchise of fan favourite sequels – although it would take until 1993 for CHILDREN OF THE CORN II: THE FINAL SACRIFICE to rear its rural shocks. Once again set in Nebraska, this frightful follow-up has some members of a nearby town choosing to adopt the surviving adolescents from the previous pot-boiler. Unfortunately for them, a demonic entity out in the cornfields is planning to possess the supposedly sane school-kids so that a new crimson-caked celebration can begin. Featuring some malicious set pieces, and a script co-written by Gilbert Adler (producer of SUPERMAN RETURNS and VALKYRIE), CHILDREN OF THE CORN II: THE FINAL SACRIFICE carves up a thrilling entry into the winning franchise formula.

Also re-mastered in HD for this very special set is CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST (1995), the concluding episode in the series to see the light of a cinema screen. Perhaps the most potent of all the CHILDREN OF THE CORN sequels, this third instalment gave an early role to future Oscar winner Charlize Theron (MONSTER/ MAD MAX: FURY ROAD). With Nebraska cowering in fear at the thought of another child-led slice and dice revolution, two youngsters are adopted and taken to Chicago – where, it would seem, they are safe from any satanic influences! Alas, the opposite is true, and even big city life is revealed to be irrelevant to our clan of pint-sized psychopaths. Another winner, with a slow-burning sense of suspense and plenty of gory thrills and spills, CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST is a spook-fest that more than deserves its BluRay reappraisal.

Accompanying this delicious package will also be a new full length documentary feature, THE LIFE, LEGACY AND LEGEND OF DON BORCHERS. As the title suggests this labour of love undertaking focuses on the charismatic and frequently unrecognised genius producer behind CHILDREN THE CORN as well as such B-movie classics as BEASTMASTER (1982), ANGEL (1984), CRIMES OF PASSION (1984), VAMP (1986), TWO MOON JUNCTION (1989), DESIRE AND HELL AT SUNSET MOTEL (1991), DOPPLEGANGER (1993), THE DEMOLITIONIST (1995) and many more. Developed and produced by Calum Waddell and Naomi Holwill of High Rising Productions, and directed by Jim Kunz, this feature production is sure to appease anyone curious about the challenges of creating quality low budget genre cinema.

Scheduled for release on November 23rd, with an RRP of £34.99, on both BluRay and DVD, the CHILDREN OF THE CORN collector’s edition set, which will also come with a franchise-spanning booklet from author Calum Waddell, is sure to have horror film fans screaming with anticipation!

cotcblu2ABOUT 88 FILMS:

88 Films, named in homage to the Back to the Future franchise, was launched in 2012 and has become one of Britain’s leading boutique labels – dedicated to the loving presentation and restoration of both classic and marginal genre movies. Choice cuts from the 88 Films’ vaults include HD releases of several features from Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment including the PUPPET MASTER and SUBSPECIES series, Stuart Gordon’s crimson-caked creature feature CASTLE FREAK (1995), DEMONIC TOYS (1992) and the pint-sized superhero thriller DOLLMAN (1991). In 2014, 88 Films debuted an uncut print of Alfred Sole’s masterpiece ALICE SWEET ALICE (1976), unleashed the controversial killer-kids chiller BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981) and gave a long-awaited UK BluRay bow to MANIAC star Joe Spinell’s frequently misunderstood postmodern coup d’état THE LAST HORROR FILM (1982). Since then the company has developed a line of Slasher Classics and Italian favourites, produced first class BluRays of such Troma weirdies as THE TOXIC AVENGER and unleashed the quartet of AMERICAN NINJA films together in a best-selling set. Also known for their release of high quality documentaries, most recently 42nd STREET MEMORIES (which accompanied their BluRay and DVD release of ANTHROPOPHAGOUS) and SCREAM QUEENS: HORROR HEROINES RELEASED – winner of the Best DVD/BD Extra Feature 2014 from HOME CINEMA CHOICE magazine – 88 Films has grown to be seen as the UK’s premiere label for grindhouse and VHS-era cult classics.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) Blu-Ray Review

hchdvd1Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) Blu-Ray Review

Dir- Fred Olen Ray

Starring – Jay Richardson, Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer & Gunnar Hansen

88 Films Slasher Classics Collection 06

UK Blu-Ray Release from 88 Films – 23rd March 2015

The CHAINSAWS used in this movie are REAL and DANGEROUS! They are handled here by seasoned PROFESSIONALS . The makers of this Motion Picture advise strongly against anyone attempting to perform these stunts at home. Especially if you are naked and about to engage in strenuous SEX. My Conscience Is Clear!”  Fred Olen Ray

And with that so begins the 1988 schlockfest that is HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS .

Private Investigator Jack Chandler (Richardson) is hired by the mother of a young runaway (Quigley) who has left home due to her step-father’s nightly visits. Chandler gets a call from the local PD who have a girl fitting the runaways description in custody, she is charged with the murder of a client and two police officers with a chainsaw.

Unfortunately for Chandler this is a dead-end , and now as the film progresses and we see more prostitutes do away with their ‘Johns’ using a chainsaw as the weapon of choice. Mercedes (Bauer) sees of a burly client whilst Lisa (Elise) strikes out baseball loving perv Hermie (Fox Harris). At each killing there is a mysterious dark stranger in the background , but who is he and why are these sexy sexy party girls butchering their clientele ?

hchdvd2Well Jack is handed a book of matches found amongst some grizzly body parts tossed away in a bag, and on the book is a number. This leads Jack to an encounter with the lovely Mercedes and much much more.

Now where to start with Fred Olen Ray’s seminal work on safe sex ? Well I (unlike some who pretend to be) am old enough to remember the UK release on VHS, in fact I did own a copy until ‘The Culling’ back in the mid 90’s when I had to get rid of most of my VHS collection (insert tears of sadness). Anyway without going into massive detail as this review is for the new 88 Films release, the UK VHS release had the word ‘Chainsaw’ deleted from the cover and artwork and it was replaced by a picture of a chainsaw instead, so we ended up with Hollywood ‘pic of a chainsaw’ Hookers. Yes that was the crazy days of 1980s moral panic Thatchers Britain.

So before even watching HCH it already had the ‘BBFC’ factor , now add to this Michelle Bauer in red underwear wielding a phallic chainsaw, one of the most iconic images of 1980s horror , and you have a cult classic in the making. But even with all of the above you still a good film, don’t you?

hchdvd5Firstly director Fred Olen Ray is the king of Eighties & Nineties pulp cinema, and he was pumping out 5-10 features a year. There are many of varying quality , but what you will get (mostly) is laughs and babes, in fact I think Fred is almost hitting 20 films of his own that feature the word bikini in the title. He may not be to everyone’s taste but if you are a fan of the Eighties the do yourself a favour and check out his work , especially his earlier titles.

Well HCH is an absolute classic, it embodies everything that I love in Eighties cinema. Made over just 5 days pulp director Fred Olen Ray managed to get horror icon Gunnar Hansen, scream queens Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer and introduced Jay Richardson , who he would work with on numerous later features.

HCH is a full on riot, it has blood, gore, tits, laughs, violence, tits and fucking chainsaws. What is not no like? Running as a film noir comedy , HCH has a running narrative from lead Jack Chandler that gives us an insight into the mind of an LA private detective. And it is absolutely hilarious, and in fact HCH is one of the greatest horror comedies you will ever see. Jack Chandler is just full of side-splitting one-liners that just crease me up each and every time I hear them , and I have listed a few at the end of the review.

But as usual I am waffling and the review is all over the place, but I love HCH so much that it is very difficult for me to maintain a steady cognitive stream as images keep flashing in my brain. Bauer doing her amazing sexy nude dance (and miming the wrong song – points to ring), Chandler’s one-liners, Gunnar Hansen just smouldering, Linnea Quigley in a double chainsaw dance and lots and lots more.

hchdvd688 Films must be continually applauded for their releases. The quality of the films chosen, transfers and extras are exceptional and at the moment they are second to none in my opinion in the UK re-release market. They are also not just bringing these films back to us seasoned older horror hacks but also introducing these gems to a new, younger audience.

The restoration looks fantastic and the sound is superb, real care and love has gone into this and it can be seen throughout the complete presentation.

So if you are looking for one of the most iconic and influential no-budget horror films from the decade that brought us poodle perms and care bears then look no further because 88 Films have just knocked this out of the park. And I haven’t even started on the extras yet!!

Essential Viewing 9/10

You can purchase HCH from ** Films own shop – http://88-films.myshopify.com

The Extras

lqhwLINNEA QUIGLEY’S HORROR WORKOUT – Bonus feature directed by PUPPET MASTER’s Kenneth Hall and starring the beautiful blonde icon of HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS in an alluring, creature-packed, fear-fitness video! Join former PLAYBOY pin-up Linnea as she whips zombies and other monsters into shape with all of the cheeky and sexy charm that you would expect from the legendary Scream Queen! -With Bonus Audio Commentary!! A unique piece of trash gold and the audio commentary from Linnea & Kenneth is brilliant.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Brand New Director overseen Restoration

5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack

LPCM Stereo Soundtrack

Audio Commentary with director Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau

Audio Commentary with genre experts Calum Waddell, director of SLICE AND DICE: THE SLASHER FILM FOREVER and Justin Kerswell, author of TEENAGE WASTELAND: THE SLASHER FILM UNCUT.

Original Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Fred Olen Ray’s Nite Owl Theater

hchdvd3Remembering Chainsaw Hookers 27 years later (HD) – Which is a lovely piece starring Fred Olen Ray, Michelle Bauer and Jay Richardson. They talk with great fondness about the filming of HCH and Michelle Bauer definitely still has that twinkle in her eyes!!

Archive Making of Documentary – Again another nice docu but this one from back in the day starring Fred Olen Ray, Michelle Bauer and Linnea Quigley.

Reversible sleeve with original poster art -88 Films Trailer Reel

Booklet notes by Calum Waddell featuring an extensive, career spanning interview with star Gunnar Hansen

TECHNICAL SPECS

Region Code: B
Picture Format: HD 1080p 1.78:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA Stereo 5.1 / LPCM Stereo
Language: English
Certification: 18
Running Time: 75 Mins Approx

 

The Jack Chandlers Quotes

chandler

Chandler – “Being a Dick is a 24 hour-a-day job”

Bartender – “What’s it to be”? Chandler – ” Bourbon with a Bourbon chaser”

Chandler – “If my head wasn’t hurting so much I’d have sworn I was in heaven – heaven for guys who like big tits!”

Chandler – “The girl talked like a frosted flake, but she had the nicest set of knockers that I had seen in a long time!”