A Life In Blood – Tales of A Horror Queen by Genoveva Rossi #5 – A Death House Special

A Life In Blood – Tales of A Horror Queen by Genoveva Rossi #5 – A Death House Special

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gendh5Shock and sadness ran threw the horror community in November 2015 when Gunnar Hansen died of pancreatic cancer. Horror fans all over the world mourned the passing of Leatherface, but Hansen was able to leave loyal fans with a parting gift: Death House.

What is Death House? It is an incredibly ambitious horror film written by Gunnar Hansen and director Harrison Smith. This film has been called “The Expendables of Horror” due to it’s spectacular casting choices: Adrienne Barbeau, Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, Sid Haig, Michael Berryman, Tony Todd, Barbara Crampton, Dee Wallace, Tom Savini, Bill Oberst Jr and more. Directed by Harrison Smith.

gendh1I am truly honored to have a cameo among such a talented cast and crew. It was great to spend some time on set with horror icon Kane Hodder. We have both been guests at the same cons a few times, but Death House is our first film together. While on set, Hodder said, “It is truly an honor to be in Death House. This is an amazing film.”

Michael Berryman and I previously worked together on a Sci-Fi thriller called Apocalypse Kiss and it was great to be in a film with him again.

“I was very proud to be a part of this film. Gunner was a good friend and the story is solid with a cast that includes many friends and the best actors in our genre. Harrison is a keen director with an editor’s eye as the scenes are composed. I know that this film will be well received.” -Michael Berryman

gendh3“Harrison Smith is an actor’s director with affection for our genre’s past and a real vision for its future. Gunnar Hansen would be very, very proud of what Harrison has done with DEATH HOUSE, and speaking as a life-long fan of classic horror, so am I.”
-Bill Oberst Jr.

A big thank you to “Scary” Sheri Fairchild and her husband Frank Nicosia. I have worked with both actors on a few film projects in the Buffalo area and Sheri reached out to tell me Death House was looking for more actors.

gendh4I was going through my own spiritual upheaval at the time. I had found my poor mother passed away of a sudden heart attack on Easter Sunday. That huge loss had left me shaken, but not beaten. My mother always said, “My daughter is tough” and lately I have been challenged to continue to prove her words right no matter the obstacle; even losing her so tragically. But God only gives us what he knows we can bear.

So I got in touch with the casting director of Death House and ended up on set in Philadelphia at the beautifully grotesque and haunting Holmesburg Prison. I had the good fortune of being in a scene with screen legends Barbara Crampton and Dee Wallace.

gendh2While on the set of Death House I was able to sit down and talk with producer Rick Finkelstein. He explained, “This film was started by Gunnar Hansen. It has really come together better than we ever imagined. We have the best locations, best cast, horror icons, and an amazing script.”

Even the location was perfect, Holmesburg Prison, which is part of the Philadelphia prison system. It’s history already sounds like a horror movie. For thirty years chemical companies tested on inmates with sometimes horrific results. Also the prison warden and assistant were murdered mere steps from where we conducted our interview.

gendh6Watch for Death House for it’s amazing cast, horrific special effects, and to see Gunnar Hansen’s last blood splattering performance. This film was Leatherface’s baby, it was Gunnar’s dying wish that Death House be finished, and made into a huge success in the genre. Horror fans are sure to enjoy this truly epic film. Finkelstein promises, “When you leave this film you will be questioning your own thought processes and concepts of good and evil.”

gendh7This article is dedicated to the memory of Gunnar Hansen and my mother.

Mission 88 aka ISRA 88 (2016) Review

isra1MISSION 88 (aka ISRA 88) (2016)

Starring Casper Van Dien, Sean Maher, Adrienne Barbeau and Chris Newman

Directed by Thomas Zellen

Written by Jordan Champine and Thomas Zellen

UK DVD Release 08/08/16 from High Fliers Films

“A scientist and a co-pilot volunteer for a high profile mission to reach the end of the universe. After 13 years, the ship crashes through the end of the universe and into the unknown”. Via Thomas Zellen.

Dr. Abe Anderson (Maher) and Lt. Col. Harold Richards (Van Dien) have been floating towards the end of the universe for 13 years. To pass the time, Anderson procrastinates, experiments, and watches TV, while Richards sticks to a strict daily routine. But with only each other’s company and surrounded by the vast void of outer space, they begin to irritate each other, and strange dreams and voices begin to make them question reality.

isra2Casper Van Dien will always be Johnny Rico for me, battling bugs for no good reason other than OO RAH! I’ve always thought that, like Starship Troopers the film, he was always misunderstood and underrated. But in the years since he’s pretty much been relegated to entertaining enough B Movies, carving out roles in the odd hit like The Pact. So colour me surprised when Mission 88 turned out not to be an outer space bug-hunt, but a subtle, well made and existential sci-fi drama. Think more along the lines of Moon and Solaris and you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

The casting is actually very strong here. As Richards, Van Dien subverts his typecast, playing a brute with a brain that slowly loses any machismo when he realises he’s not in complete control. Maher, a valued member of the Joss Whedon Club, contrasts greatly with him, as an intelligent guy that gets bored easily, having to rub Dien up the wrong way for his own entertainment. They both play men who, even though they are spending a lifetime together, don’t want to let their guards down. And they nail the little eccentricities of each with skill. They literally live and breathe these characters, and it’s there commitment that holds everything together. Also popping up is John Carpenter muse Adrienne Barbeau, in a small but significant and well played part.

isra3What the performances and the script really nail are the psychological effects of isolation. Both men can barely escape each other day in day out, but they are so different that they have never been lonelier. With their different routines or lack thereof, it’s pretty clear that both of the men are dealing with depression in completely different ways, Richards keeping himself busy, Anderson sleeping. And as they focus on their own state of mind, they miss strange incidents around them that would help them understand what is going on. It begs the question that even if they knew, what the hell could they do about it? Eventually, they do bond, even kind of become friends. But as they grow closer, so does a sense of impending doom.

Technically the film is lovely. Zeller directs with a sure hand, establishing a tone and rhythm in the film with the slow moving, creeping camerawork and subtle editing tricks. Music by Ryan Stratton is similarly moody and evocative, and I really liked how low-rent the production design of the ship was, with interiors tight and claustrophobic, and exterior shots kept to a minimum and lit dimly as to not draw attention to the very basic CGI.

My only complaints are that for such a deliberate and ponderously paced movie, I wanted more from the payoff. Sometimes ambiguity is welcome, but to throw so many questions up in the build up without answering them is just unfair. And unfortunately, the conclusion I came to on what the film was about was much less original than the way it was actually executed.

isra4Mission 88 explores similar themes and ideas to the mega-budget critical hit Interstellar. But I couldn’t stand Interstellar. I found it pompous, overblown and completely nonsensical. Mission 88 was probably made for less than the catering budget of that film, and I found it much more profound. And entertaining. Oh, and just wait until you see the leads play The Honeymooners to absolute perfection. Priceless.

8/10

Tales Of Halloween (2015) Review

toh1Tales of Halloween (USA, 2015)

Dir: Axelle Carolyn, Darren Lynn Bousman, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet

Starring: Pollyanna McIntosh, John Landis, Adrienne Barbeau

UK Release TBC

Plot: Ten tales of Halloween horror in small town America. Killer Jack’o’lanterns, UFOs, and murderous neighbours are all included as eleven directors take us through the spookiest night of the year.

The last film of this year’s Fright Fest line up and what could be more fitting than an anthology film that exhibits the work of some of horror’s finest up and coming directors. Some might be more established than others with directors such as Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers), Lucky McKee (The Woman, May), and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Repo: The Genetic Opera) on board. Tales of Halloween was the brain child of Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate) and thankfully she brought her many director friends with her (Collectively known as The October Society).

toh2Anthology films have made a real comeback recently with the likes of VHS and Trick R Treat, the latter already setting the bar for Halloween based anthologies. The bar is set pretty high but Tales of Halloween manages to hit the mark with a mixture of the weird and wonderful.

While Trick R Treat was diverse, it didn’t have to put up with the collaborative effort of multiple directors, a technique that can give the movie a very uneven feel. Tales of Halloween manages to pull it off as the directors manage to constantly keep up a high quality in both it’s visuals and it’s story-telling.

The humour of Tales of Halloween varies between pitch-black gags and cheesy b-movie antics, never afraid to go to strange places. The overall theme of Halloween is open to interpretation and the segments don’t mind mixing things like slasher movies and aliens to hilarious effect.

It’s not hard to notice that everyone involved in Tales of Halloween seems to be having an amazing time so it wouldn’t surprise me if this time next year I find myself reviewing Tales of Halloween 2. With directors like Adam Green (Hatchet, Frozen) only having time to make cameo roles, I would think they would want to get involved in a bigger capacity if Tales of Halloween was to return.

toh3There’s nothing really bad to say about Tales of Halloween, it’s a trick or treat bag full of goodies and even if you don’t like one particular segment, you don’t have to wait long for something else to come along to scare or delight. My personal favourites included Bousman’s tale of a kid and the devil’s night of debauchery, the story of two kidnappers who get more than they bargained for, and the tale of a slasher movie killer getting a taste of his own medicine.

Tales of Halloween is the perfect film to watch this Halloween (even better when in a double feature with Trick R Treat). It encapsulates the feel of the season and the fun of a thousand buckets of fake blood.

7/10

Creepshow (1982) BluRay Review

creep1CREEPSHOW – 1982

BLU – RAY RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 28TH 2013 UK

SECOND SIGHT FILMS

DIR: GEORGE A ROMERO

SCR: STEPHEN KING

STARRING: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielson, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Carrie Nye, Stephen King, Viveca Lindfors, Elizabeth Reagn, E.G Marshall, Ed Harris, Tom Atkins.

 

Possibly the most beloved of all the anthology horrors, Creepshow makes its debut on Blu- Ray later this month courtesy of the folks at Second sight. Inspired by the E.C. Comics of the 40’s and 50’s King and Romero come together to spin five crazy yarns about angry zombie fathers who need their cake, poisonous meteorites, vengeful husbands, crate monsters, and bug infestations. It’s all done with a wry smile, and a tongue in its cheek and exploits its love for comic books to grand effect.

Being horror fans it’s probably safe to assume that most of you reading this have seen Creepshow before and know the five stories here pretty well. Father’s Day, is a simple tale of a vengeful Zombie father rising from the grave to avenge his death, and claim his cake! The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill is the story of a lonely hick who finds a meteorite in his yard that turns him into a giant plant. Something To Tide You Over is probably the strongest story; an angry husband finds his wife has had an affair, buries the offending couple in the sand and gleefully watches as the tide comes in and slowly drowns them.

creep2But soon enough, their watery zombies have risen from the grave and come for a revenge of their own. The Crate is another tale of revenge as a put upon husband fantasizes about murdering his nagging wife, then finds himself in possession of a crate containing a ravenous monster. The final tale: They’re Creeping Up On You tells of an evil man living alone in a supposedly bug proof apartment, only for the cockroaches to get in and give him his just desserts.

If the truth be told, Creepshow has become a rather nostalgic experience. It looks a little dated, is gleefully cartoonish, and more than a bit odd. I can’t imagine modern audiences buying into it anymore, but frankly that’s their loss. As we head into Halloween it’s a great movie to return to as it captures that spirit of fun and fear that encapsulates October and the Halloween spirit. The key word here is fun; in recent times horror has become almost entirely focussed on its nastier side, and Creepshow harks back to a time when it was okay to be fun as well as scary .

The stories sometimes feel a little under developed, and by Stephen King’s standards the screenplay feels a little slight. But it contains enough of the writer’s flourishes and knowing affection to lift it, and it has some wonderful character quirks. Romero is firing on all cylinders here, and Creepshow is a reminder of what he was once capable of, using split screen and comic book style framing to create a wonderful demented effect. There is real love for the genre present all the way through Creepshow, and it’s not often it is treated with such honest fondness.

Blu- Ray is a great home for Creepshow. Shot to resemble a living comic book, it’s full of bright blues, reds, and greens and the HD format really brings this to life. It looks vibrant and alive and Second Sight have presented a really good 1080p transfer. As a huge fan of Blu- Ray, it is always good to see older movies like this scrub up so well. It isn’t perfect, as these things never are, but whenever the frame is filled with colour, or becomes animated the format really elevates it and it looks dazzling. Tom Savini’s great practical effects look wonderfully garish here too.

The special features are much the same as the previous DVD release. The audio commentary with George Romero and Tom Savini is present, it’s affable and fun and the two make endearing hosts. There is also the great ‘Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow’ documentary. A feature length look at the making of the film with lots of interviews and anecdotes about how the film came together. Romero is a wonderfully laid back man, and it’s great to see people like Ed Harris show up to reminisce about his early days. The only glaring omission is any contribution from Stephen King, which is a shame because his involvement was integral to the whole thing working. For completests the Blu-Ray includes a second commentary featuring a host of others involved from the Director of Photography to the Property Master!

creep 3Second sight have put together a great package here, but it’s questionable as to whether it is worth buying again if you already have the DVD. The transfer is great, and if you are a die- hard fan then the Blu-Ray is definitely worth your money. However, it carries over much of the same stuff as the DVD package, so there is little new to discover here if you already own that.

FILM 8/10

FEATURES 7/10