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Shut In (2016) Review

rsz_shut1Shut In (2016)

Running time: 91 minutes

Director: Farren Blackburn

Cast: Naomi Watts, Oliver Platt, Charlie Heaton, Jacob Tremblay

Out NOW on UK DVD from Arrow Films

A strong cast head up this psychological thriller whose script was plucked from the 2012 Blacklist; a list of the best unproduced screenplays of the year. So, in some respects, Shut In has a lot to live up to from the very outset.

Naomi Watts plays Mary Portman, a clinical psychologist who has reluctantly agreed to send her eighteen year old son, Stephen, away from home due to his increasingly out of control behaviour. Her husband re-assures her it is for the best but after he and Stephen leave, an argument results in a horrific car accident, killing father and leaving Stephen (Charlie Heaton, fresh from the Netflix hit Stranger Things) unresponsive and wheelchair bound.

rsz_shut2Skipping six months forward, Mary struggles to cope alone with her severely disabled son whilst still running her practice. They live remotely and Mary has little outside help, bar her assistant, Lucy and her therapist, Dr Wilson (a reliable Oliver Platt), who converses with Mary over Skype.

When a patient of Mary’s; nine year old Tom (an underused Jacob Tremblay) runs away from his care home, she finds him having broken in to her car and hiding in the back seat. Wanting to help she takes the child in to her home but he soon disappears in to the night and the hunt for the missing boy begins. Due to the extreme weather and impending storm, it is swiftly believed the boy has died and Mary begins to to be tormented by visions of the child.

As the strain of caring for her son bears heavily down on her, her nightmares escalate. She hears noises throughout the house, believes she sees Tom at her bedroom door and then disturbingly finds scratches on the side of her son’s face. Seeking help from Dr Wilson, he re-assures her that this all just a vivid dream. That stress and the difficult situation is taking it’s toll. Obviously, we realise there is more here than meets the eye and the truth slowly starts to present itself.

Shut In takes the single setting premise and crafts an interesting story around its limitations. Stephen finds himself ‘shut in’ his own body post-accident, whilst Mary has become ‘shut in’ her own home and possibly her own mind.

The film starts promisingly, the story is established quickly and it drip feeds information as it progresses. We learn that Stephen is in fact Mary’s stepson and it was ultimately her decision to send him away. As her guilt eats away at her, the boundaries between reality and Mary’s dreams become blurred and you are pulled further in to seeing things from her perspective. It is in these scenes that the strength of the film lies; the image of Mary bathing Stephen, discovering him alone outside and the ghostly appearances of Tom. Director Farren Blackburn, teases you with the anticipation of the shock and then delivers on that promise, providing some genuine jumpscares. Having directed such UK television staples as Casualty and Silent Witness, it’s clear that Blackburn can create a polished thriller.

rsz_shut3However, is it all rather too polished, if indeed that can be levelled as a criticism? It feels that there could be more beneath the surface of the story that is left untapped. As the film moves in to its final act, it starts to lose some of it’s atmosphere; heading towards a more predictable conclusion than you might have hoped for. You start to question certain characters actions and moments begins to feel plotted. With the limited setting and relatively small cast there is nowhere to hide and although the performances are good, there are no iconic characters or moments that linger with you once the film has ended. By taking very few risks, you are left feeling like you have seen this all before.

Whilst not hugely innovative, Shut In is still a solid piece of filmmaking, albeit probably not one that will resonate in your memory in years to come.

6 out of 10

The Driller Killer (1979) Arrow Video Review

dk1THE DRILLER KILLER – REVIEW

(Dir- Abel Ferrara, USA, 1979)

Starring- Jimmy Laine, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day

Out NOW from Arrow Video!

“Notorious video nasty” is the one term used to describe Ferrara’s low budget exploitation flick. Yet its notoriety and inclusion on the video nasties list in the UK primarily comes from the it’s brutally up front and infamous video cover, which features a man with a drill bit going into his forehead, screaming with blood rushing down his face, a testament to the almost recognisable aspect of shock advertising employed by the people who exhibited exploitation films in cinemas only a few years before the dawn of VHS, with a tactical blatant use of shocking title and gaudy often graphic cover promising lurid and unspeakable thrills. Most of the time the films on the nasties list where a disappointment and only a few often proved to be exceptional and DRILLER KILLER is one of them and is now getting a brand new dual Blu-ray and DVD release from the folks at Arrow.

THE FILM

Ferrara’s film stands out from the video nasty crowd in that it purposefully invokes different genres such as character study, black comedy, psychological thriller and of course horror. Its a portrait of struggling painter Reno (Jimmy Lane, but actually Ferrara under a pseudo name) and his attempts to fend of piling up rent, bills, complaints from his girlfriend Carol (Marz) and her on/off lover Pamela (Day) and the racket created by a punk band who move in downstairs brought in by Carol called Tony Coca-Cola and The Roosters consistently practising day and night. All these aspects start to affect Reno’s psyche leading to a change in mental state and the purchase of a battery pack that can power a portable drill and send him on a killing spree of New York’s drunk vagrants, a group he has a fear of becoming part of and a defenceless one at that who he takes out his rage on instead of those causing him grief in the first place.

dk3Shot in 16mm THE DRILLER KILLER ranks up there with films that document a period in the time of New York of the late 70’s and early 80’s such as TAXI DRIVER, MANIAC, BASKET CASE, COMBAT SHOCK and even part of NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN in its portrayal of a city in the midst of sleazy often dangerous areas, exploitation cinemas, punk bars, artists apartments and in this films case a massive homeless problem brought in part by the closure of mental hospitals (which is briefly mentioned in the shot of a front cover of a newspaper). This is the period before Rudolph Giuliani cleaned up the city in the early 90’s, of a city that had a grit and rough edge to it and often a sense of desperation which is perfectly captured by Ferrara who has even hailed this a documentary in parts, and in some respects the rough edge of the film adds a realist approach and makes a perfect nightmarish setting for the action as Reno’s mind slowly starts to break and he succumbs to violent urges.

The film has an almost languid freestyle approach to the pacing with occasional scenes of the Roosters band practising, Reno trying to finish his painting, trying to get money off his art agent and also witnessing the homeless problem and violent crime around the city and this slow style is punctuated by viscerally brutal scenes of violence sound tracked by a hypnotically, psycho-esque synth score that acts in a JAWS type of way of building the ensuing attack on vagrants, with Reno being the proverbial shark wandering the streets with his power drill stalking his prey. Its this style and energy which makes the film work and stand out amongst the “notorious video nasty” label and earns it a level of realism towards the genre and might put those expecting it to be a straightforward horror, off. Admittedly even amongst the drilling and blood there’s an attempt to skewer horror clichés, such as a scene where Reno sees Carol and Pamela sleeping in bed and its suggested that he is about to kill them in that build up where the murderer strikes yet this ends in no carnage but with Reno just staring at them making it an anti climatic scene altogether and could almost buy into Ferrara’s explanation that he classes this film as a black comedy.

dk2Throughout the viewing of DRILLER KILLER there’s a sense of seeing Ferrara taking his first steps at themes that would punctuate his work throughout his career, especially the use of the setting of New York and its effect on an individual that would become more common especially in his next film MS 45: ANGEL OF VENGEANCE, the superb KING OF NEW YORK, his masterpiece BAD LIEUTENANT and his other (meta) horror themed film, the philosophical vampire flick THE ADDICTION. It is also a chance to see the second film (his first being a porn film called 9 LIVES OF A WET PUSSY) from a director who has remained constantly interesting, changing and ever evolving.

9/10

EXTRAS

Of course when it comes to extras Arrow tend to pull out all the stops on gathering enough for film fans to pick over and whilst it might not be a jam packed package, there is a nice selection of features that complement the main film. Most notably impressive is the addition of a feature length documentary by Ferrara and the first time its been released in the UK of MULBERRY STREET, which chronicles the directors neighbourhood one which he has grown up in and used in his films and that he lives in and the various characters that populate all based around the traditional Italian feast of San Gennaro. It’s an interesting documentary that gains engaging insight into the working of a community and the ever increasing commercialisation of traditional areas of New York as well as featuring the weird sight of Matthew Modine on a segway scooter.

dk4Added to this we also have LAINE AND ABEL which is a brand new interview with the director, WILLING AND ABEL: FERRAROLOGY 101 a superb and insightful visual essay by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, trailers and a funny audio commentary with Ferrara and Brad Stevens author of ABEL FERRARA: THE MORAL VISION (the best book on the director that you should seek out), which whilst offering insights into the film also allows Ferrara to take sly digs at his work (my favourite quote on the commentary track by him “finally a god-damn zoom shot…after an hour!”). Added to this the contents of the package include a booklet and reversible sleeve featuring new art work by the Twins of Evil on one side, and a recreation of that notorious video nasty sleeve on the other so you can shock your neighbours when they come round (if you trust them!). Credit should be given to the transfer as this looks the best I’ve seen this film in, well, since I first encountered it on the cut release back in the late 90’s.

Arrow have gone back to the original negatives and spruced it up nicely making the film look and still, retain the grittiness of its urban landscape but at the same time cleaning it up nicely and creating a brighter more sharper picture. This again is another example of Arrow’s commendable work in restoring classic often looked down upon genre fare that would usually get sub standard releases and not display any effort put into it, though here, again they have made another fine example of there dominance in the cult genre home entertainment field.

9/10

Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion – Book Review

arrowbook1Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion – Book Review

Hardcover: 246 pages
Publisher: Arrow; 1st edition (11 April 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0993306012
ISBN-13: 978-0993306013
Product Dimensions: 28 x 3 x 22 cm

Is it possible to love a book too much? I’m not talking about going all the way…that’s a really good way to get paper cuts you definitely don’t want to explain in the doctor’s office. No, I’m talking about reading a book over and over, poring over the details like an Edgar Wright movie, finding more and more nuggets of goodness the longer you look.

And so we come to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion. For the last seven years, Arrow Video have been putting out quality reissues of all your favourite pieces of off-kilter cinema, from trash epics like Hell Comes to Frogtown, to cult offerings like Night of the Comet. If you ever glimpsed the cover on a plastic rack of de-boxed sleeves in the local video store, back in the glory days of VHS tapes, chances are Arrow have the distribution rights. They love cult movies, so putting out a book celebrating them and their creators makes a lot of sense.

arrowbook2For your money, you get a collection of 30 essays covering the history & making of movies ranging from Battle Royale to Zombie Flesh Eaters, plus the effects they had on cinema in general. You also get glances back at influential directors, actors and genres. Snippets of interviews, both recent and historical, add valuable and interesting insights into the film-making process, and the influences which shaped some of the most beloved genre classics.

There’s a lot to take in here, and a lot to like, from the recreations of artwork and stills from the movies discussed, to fascinating behind-the-scenes information. Films you may have overlooked, are shown to have layers far deeper that you might expect. There’s a touching history of Wes Craven’s contributions to the horror genre, an analysis of Romero’s zombie (and non-zombie) works through the years, and a superb look back at Vincent Price’s time in the movies, drawing from old interviews. This was my favourite essay in the bunch, but then, I could read about Price – and imagine his voice – all day if I could. The history of the giallo written by Michael Mackenzie was also a great read; but again, as a big giallo fan, I’d happily eat up anything to do with that genre.

The only thing knocking this book down from a perfect score-perch is the fact that many of these essays have been printed before, in the booklets accompanying the films they mention. Not a terrible thing, as even an avid collector like me doesn’t own every one of these movies (or at least, not the Arrow versions), but devout Arrow fans may be disappointed to find they already much of what’s been collected here.

arrowbook5This is more than just a regathering of old material though (and arguably easier to refer back to than a DVD booklet); it’s a loving look at the films which exist on the edges of the mainstream, slowly pushing their weird tentacles into the public consciousness. Just like the world of cult cinema itself, there’s something for almost every genre fan here, from spaghetti westerns to food horror, highbrow Asian cinema to lowbrow video nasties. Recommended for horror fans and cinema junkies alike.

Score: 8/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993306012/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0993306012/

You can read more about Arrow releases at http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk and follow them @ArrowFilmsVideo for release info and general horror-related goodness.

P.S. The answer is no. You can’t love a book too much. Just don’t expect them to spoon you back at night.

The Pack (2015) DVD Review

thepack1The Pack (Australia, 2015)
Dir: Nick Robertson
Starring: Anna Lise Phillips, Jack Campbell, Katie Moore

Out NOW on UK DVD from Arrow Films

Plot: Things aren’t going great for the Wilson family. The bank is foreclosing on their farm and their livestock has been found mauled to death. It doesn’t look like things can get any worse, until a pack of bloodthirsty wild dogs start scratching at the door.

I remember once having the discussion if Jaws is a horror film, and all other animal attack films by extension. An animal pursuer is just as horrific as a human one so why not as long as it fills the audience with dread. However animal attack movies are also similar to disaster movies in respect to the motivation behind the killer, there is no motivation. This is nature and if a film ever does give the animal (or weather if it’s a disaster film) some sort of motivation it is that mankind’s destruction of the environment is to blame. The Pack doesn’t push an environmental message and sticks to bloodthirsty mutts just doing what comes naturally to them.

thepack3The most important aspect of this film when it comes to keeping the audience on board is making sure that the audience don’t want the main characters to be eaten by dogs. This is achieved by making a relatable family that we can route for. The Pack manages to pull this off mostly. I say mostly because they are a bit archetypal. The Dad is driven but maybe a little too proud. The Mum is caring and a little bit bad ass. The youngest is introspective and sweet. The eldest is moody and disrespectful, but will learn appreciation for their parents by the end of this ordeal. It’s nothing too original.

Another flaw with the characters, or at least in the way they interact with the story is that they are clearly to blame for the situation they are in. It becomes a little hard to be on their side when it’s obvious that they are making things worse for themselves. Even if you disregard the scene where they break not only their defences but their communication to the outside world, you would think that as a farmer, Adam (Campbell) would have maybe dealt with the potential danger of wild dogs when his livestock started showing up dead. He owns a rifle, I’m pretty sure that’s the only reason he’d own it.

thepack2The Pack is full of dramatic moments but it all feels a little forced. The film sets up several elements including what I’d assume is some sort of sheep herding tunnel, a secret stash of bullets and some blatant dialogue about the absence of mobile phone signal. Pairing those elements to the characters’ poor choices when dealing with the dogs, it felt like the film makers are leading the audience. It wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t so blatant but also certain plot points aren’t dealt with, specifically the bank foreclosing on their home. The lesson here seems to be, it’s okay to be homeless as long as you and your loved ones aren’t eaten by dogs.

4/10

The Mutilator (1984) Blu-Ray Review

mutilator1The Mutilator (1984)

Starring: Mat Mitler, Ruth Martinez, Bill Hitchcock, Connie Rogers

Directors: Buddy Cooper & John Douglass

UK Dual Format Blu-Ray & DVD release from Arrow Video Feb 15th 2016

I always love to snap up the oldies when they get a new release on Blu-Ray; they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore! ‘Bloody’ Buddy Cooper’s brainchild The Mutilator, A.K.A. Fall Break, is a fun, camp, totally mid-‘80s slashfest that combines the creativity of Friday the 13th and the sympathy and humour of Sleepaway Camp. Before even starting the movie, I liked it. The Blu-Ray menu is blessed with an extract of the movie’s theme song, performed by Peter Yellen and the Breakers (one of whom is writer-director-producer Cooper) – an instantly catchy and upbeat retro pop song which also serves as the opening credit music.

This use of ironic soundtrack to juxtapose the violence is somewhat reminiscent of David Hess’s musical contribution to Last House on the Left, which may push the cheese level into overdrive for those who can’t appreciate techniques of the era, but made me feel quite at home.

mutilator2The introduction is a compelling one, which tugs at the heartstrings and lands the audience’s sympathy somewhat with the character who goes on to do all the slashing. Young Ed leaves a birthday note for his father and makes a start cleaning his shotguns as a gift, when he accidentally shoots his mother dead. The father, a surly and burly man, finds them and, much against his usual behaviour, we guess, takes the blame and confesses to murder.

Years later, Ed (Matler) is in high school, and his friends complain that there’s no way to pass the school holiday in their boring little dump of a town. So when Ed receives a call demanding that he close up his father’s beach villa for the winter, the crew jump on the opportunity for a little fun, and a road trip is underway. Along for the ride are his prudish virgin girlfriend Pam (Martinez), essential sex-crazed couple Mike (Morey Lampley) and Linda (Frances Raines) and slightly more restrained couple Ralph (Hitchcock) and Sue (Rogers). They are a very standard dead teenage bunch, and with frigid Pam on board, she’s pretty much guaranteed a free invincibility cheat when it comes to who’s getting butchered.

mutilator3I mean, it goes without saying that they start getting butchered, and I shan’t disclose who’s behind it all, but I shall say that though the set-ups for the murders are wonderfully stupid (“Come on you guys, quit messin’ around!”) and a few of the kids are in the habit of incessantly thinking out loud, the attack sequences are imaginative, with impressive make-up effects. It really ticks all the boxes for a fun old slasher movie, and let’s face it, the fun has always been of equal importance to the fright.

Yes, the acting is pretty bad, but yes, in a sort of ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ way, and it’s comfortable for this sort of movie. All good horror fans know to approach dead teenager movies from any era with an open mind, especially ones from the 1980s, churned out when the slasher bug had firmly burrowed itself into the cultural ear, following on the heels of the some of the more admirable and professional horror efforts of the ‘70s. Semi-amateur production, below-standard acting, and the majority of effort being put into special effects just go with the turf.

The Mutilator is a thoroughly entertaining movie, with a stirring beginning and ending, and a hell of a lot of fun in between.

Rating: 8/10

mutilator4DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:

Brand new 2K restoration of the unrated version from original vault materials.
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations.
Original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray.
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Introduction to the film with writer-director Buddy Cooper and assistant special make-up effects artist/assistant editor Edmund Ferrell.
Audio Commentary with Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass and star Matt Mitler.
Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper and star Ruth Martinez Tutterow.
Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator brand new feature-length documentary on the making of the splatter classic featuring interviews with Cooper, Douglass, Ferrell, Mitler, actors Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more.
Mutilator Memories special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom looks back at one of his earliest projects.
Tunes for the Dunes composer Michael Minard reveals how The Mutilator s unique score was created.
Behind-the-Scenes Reel
Screen Tests
Alternate Opening Titles
Trailers and TV Spots
Fall Break Theme Song (Original and Instrumental Versions)
Opening Sequence Storyboards
Motion Stills Gallery
Original Fall Break Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)
Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
Region: Free

Hellraiser Trilogy Blu-Ray from Arrow Video (2016) Review

Hellraiser Trilogy Blu-Ray from Arrow Video (2016) Review

hellraiserarrow3

UK Release January 25th 2016 from Arrow Video

Hellraiser (1987)

Directed by Clive Barker

Starring Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence and Claire Higgins

The Film

By this point in time nearly everyone in the modern world has seen at least one Hellraiser film and if not, knows the character of Pinhead at least. He has become woven into modern culture and has spawned sub cultures and numerous sequels. The film where it all began, Clive Barkers’ Hellraiser, is a stone cold classic. The musical theme that opens the film is recognisable but not hummable ala a John Williams or John Carpenter. The film is infused with set pieces, that although aged, are a sight to see, from Frank rising from the floorboards in Harryhausen stop motion to Skinless Frank staring into the moonlight (a favourite shot of mine). There is subtext if you dig deeper, the horrors that lie upstairs and the domestic middle class bliss of a dinner party downstairs. Unlike most horror films today the script is tight, scenes are there for a reason, not just to lengthen the running time. The film is a classic, seek it out.

The Presentation

Arrow Video released the Hellraiser trilogy in a ‘Scarlet Box’ limited edition set only a short amount of months ago. I couldn’t find this for love nor money in local shops or supermarkets which was a shame as it was an excellent collection. Now Arrow have seen fit to release a boxset of the trilogy. Hellraiser has also been remastered in 2K, approved by the DOP Robin Vidgeon. I watched the film on a 40” Samsung Full HD TV and unfortunately the disc did not hold up. The grain over the film in certain scenes makes the film worse than VHS and I expected better.

The Extras

Arrow Video are renowned for presenting films with generous extras, you can almost call them the UK version of Criterion. Each individual film comes with a plethora of extra which I have summarised below:

Audio Commentaries

1) Clive Barker – a well spoken thoughtful track with the director alone in the booth. Some stories are supplemented in other areas but the track is highly enjoyable. The track is only dated by him mentioning the track is being recorded days before Hellraiser – Bloodline comes out. This would date it around 1995/96.
2) Clive Barker, Ashey Laurence and Moderator – another lively track, helped in parts by the moderator. Clive Barker seems a lot more energised by having other people with him. Again an enjoyable track. Well worth a listen.

Making Of – Leviathan

A feature length documentary behind the first Hellraiser, missing only Clive Barker. Most of the interviews are modern and represent a good portion of the cast that are not present on the commentaries. The only downside is a wholly unnecessary ‘trailer man’ voice over which spoils it some what.

Being Frank – Sean Chapman on Hellraiser

The actor who plays Frank is given time to speak about the role and how it came about

Soundtrack Hell

A well known historical fact is that the music of Hellraiser could have been so much different. An industrial 80’s band called Coil were supposed to score the film before a more ‘Hollywood’ composer cam onboard. This featurette interviews a former member about the scoring and the removal of the band from the film. We also get to hear some themes played over the opening to the film which is a nice touch.

Vintage Featurette – Resurrection

An of its time featurette with interviews including an on set Clive barker looking scarily like Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame.

Trailers and TV Spots

Interesting trailers including the original voice of Skinless Frank (it was dubbed with an American accent in the final film)

Overall

Overall the package from Arrow is sumptuous and will take any horror fans days to get through. Although the picture quality of this first outing isn’t the strongest which is a disappointment for this HD outing I highly recommend it.

 

hellraiserarrow1Hellbound – Hellraiser II

Directed by Tony Randel

Starring Doug Bradley, Ashley Laurence and Kenneth Cranham

With most sequels the saying goes, make it bigger, better and darker. Hellbound – Hellraiser II certainly ticks each of those boxes. Rather than try and remake the original again, the creative team behind the mega hit Hellraiser decide to go further and look further into the world of the Cenobites, where they come from and their origins.

I’ve seen Hellbound a handful of times and I have mostly watched it while its on in the background. This time was different. I watched it with no distractions and, rather than feel it was characters running down endless corridors, I got a lot more from it. It’s a worthy sequel. Most, if not all, of the creative team are back, from the writer to the make up and effects team. Scenes with skinless characters are excellent and hold up in the this début 2K HD product, unlike the original Hellraiser which looked awful in parts. Special consideration should be to Kenneth Cranham and his character of Dr. Channard, his death howl still gives me shivers to this day. An enjoyable and well made continuation of the Hellraiser saga.

Again, like before, Arrow have released a disc bursting with extras. My notes are below:

Commentaries

1) Director Tony Randel and Writer Peter Atkins – a enjoyable commentary especially when talk turns to when they start talking about the late great ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper. Also of note, they do say Laserdisc at one point which must mean this commentary is from a long long time ago.
2) Director Tony Randel, Writer Peter Atkins and Star Ashley Laurence – bringing a different dynamic to the group, star Ashley Laurence joins the conversation and talks of her time on set

Leviathan: The Story of Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Made by the same team from the Hellraiser disc, another well made, in depth discussion of the sequel and the series as a whole. The same annoying voice over is present though, it is unneeded.

Being Frank: Sean Chapman on Hellbound
Actor Sean Chapman talk about reprising the role of Frank Cotton in this film.

Surgeon Scene – the holy grail of deleted scenes. In the Under The Skin featurette, Doug Bradley says “we did not film the scene”. Sorry Douglas, yes you did! Here it is in all its glory, but it is terrible, doesn’t work and is rightfully been hidden away all these years.

Lost In The Labyrinth – Vintage Featurette – what is says on the tin, looks like it was filmed through a film of Vaseline though, oh how we loved VHS quality.

Under The Skin – Doug Bradley on Hellraiser II – discussion from the main man on why he returned to the role and its legacy.

On Set Interviews – Clive Barker/Cast and Crew – Clive Barker still looks like Trent Reznor and is very articulate/Cast and Crew are excited about the sequel and the new blood coming in.

hellraiserarrow2

Hellraiser III – Hell On Earth

Directed by Anthony Hickox

Starring Doug Bradley and Terri Farrell

Each of the original trilogy films are of their time Hellraiser and Hellbound are almost one continuous film as the British creative team were kept on but with Hell On Earth the location was changed to sunnier climes of LA. It sounds like the move overseas shouldn’t work but, for me, it does. In fact, I would go as far as saying this film is the most accessible and fun. The first two films have no humour or brevity in it, and are serious as hell, but Hell On Earth does and it works.

Doug Bradley returns again as Pinhead but this time he is mostly confined to a pillar with his head stuck in it. It weirdly works. The film again is of its time, when grunge and heavy metal were popular. Seeing the fashions and music infused into the film is a good call back to a time of fun and excitement in America, before we all became too self aware and afraid to go out our front door.

The inclusion of different Cenobites is a good addition and takes the pressure off Pinhead. Scenes set within a nightclub are gory and well done. A scene where Pinhead sheds a victims skin right off her body is a gross moment but fun at the same time.

Hell On Earth is a different beast from the first two films. Some may not like the location and tone shift but if you ride the wave, its an enjoyable ride. Also, the late great Lemmy sings a song called ‘Hellraiser’ over the end credits, its a great song. I’ve been singing it to myself since I finished the film.

Extras

Commentaries

1) Writer Pete Atkins – a solo discussion from the Liverpudlian Atkins and how he was kept on from Hellbound.

2)Director Anthony Hickox and Star Doug Bradley – a deep discussions about the behind the scenes filming

Alternate Unrated Cut of Hell On Earth – a longer cut of the film. Doesn’t really add anything of note.

Hell On Earth – The Story of Hellraiser III – a shorter, sharper look at the behind the scenes making of the film.

Terri’s Tales – an up to date interview with actress Paula Marshall

Under The Skin – Doug Bradley on Hellraiser III – Hell On Earth – further discussion with the legendary actor under the make up of Pinhead.

Raising Hell On Earth – archival interview with the director Anthony Hickox

On Set interviews with Barker and Bradley – what is say on the tin.

Rare Dailies – a fun look at the raw materials that made up the film.

What Have You Done To Solange? (1972) Blu-Ray Review

whydts1What Have You Done To Solange? (1972)

Director: Massimo Dallamano

Stars: Fabio Testi, Karin Baal, Cristina Galbo, Camille Keaton

UK Release Date: December 14, 2015 from Arrow Video

What Have You Done To Solange? could serve as a great stepping stone for anyone interested in Italian cinema, in particular Italian horror. Its action plays out as far more of a crime thriller, with a classic ‘whodunnit’ premise, surrounding the serial murders of students at St Mary’s Catholic College for Girls in London. Its dashes of actual horror, that is to say, the murders themselves, are not shy, and are quite typical of the more hardcore titles that made their way onto the infamous Video Nasty list. This is Giallo 101.

The film opens with a man and young woman in a rowing boat on the river at sunset, and the woman is startled to witness a murder on the riverbank, although the low light means she cannot identify the people. The man is Professor Rosseni (Testi), a married Italian teacher at the Catholic college, and the girl he is with is one of his students. The presence of his Louise Fletcher-like wife Herta (Baal) – who also teaches at the college – back at his marital home is something of a deterrent from reporting having witnessed the crime.

whydts2As it happens, the murder victim was one of Rosseni’s students, and in quick succession, other students are killed, all in the same disturbing fashion as in Aldo Lado’s Night Train Murders (1975). For the first half or so of the movie, we cannot help but suspect Rosseni, despite his presence as a bystander at the murder.

A captivating murder mystery it is: the Catholic school setting and the obvious sexual repression that it imposes on both staff and students creates the impression of the murders being somehow related to the Church’s beliefs towards sexuality. Interesting camerawork guides us towards suspecting the various priests who also work at the school, and keeps us guessing. The themes of sex, sin and death do not go unnoticed.

From the second the opening credits displayed the name of Camille Keaton, who of course went on to achieve cult stardom in Meir Zarchi’s I Spit on Your Grave (1978), I was watching out eagerly for her. It just so happens she landed the title role in this, her first movie, and does not appear until two-thirds of the way in. Solange is the key to the happenings: she embodies the consequences of oppressive belief, and has suffered terrible traumas revealed in the finale.

whydts3What Have You Done To Solange? is a surprisingly well made picture. The Seventies are quite notorious for having churned out many cheaply made grindhouse or drive-in movies, which involved little care or craft, and whose stars often only made one or two other titles, if any at all.

But this movie feels loved: both dialogue, and the actors who deliver it, are remarkably natural for the genre and era; Ennio Morricone delivers a strong trademark score which rings with early incarnations of themes he would later go on to write for Carrie (1976) and Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977); and none other than Joe D’Amato, director of such classics as Anthropophagus the Beast (1980), pulls it all together with some really top-notch cinematography, which is used not only to tell us the story, but to arouse our suspicions and bring us to misleading conclusions.

whydts4What Have You Done To Solange? possesses pretty much everything I look for in a good horror movie. It has an intriguing, unfolding plotline that keeps us hooked, it makes effective use of imagery and themes, and it is created by a team of talented people, who obviously cared about what they were making. And as a Blu-Ray release, it is strong. The movie is viewable in both English and Italian, and the special features contain several interesting and amusing interviews with cast members. Excellent viewing.

Rating: 8/10

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Brand new audio commentary with critics Alan Jones and Kim Newman
  • What Have You Done to Decency? A conversation with Karin Baal the actress shares her thoughts on Dallamano s classic giallo in this brand new interview
  • First Action Hero a newly-edited 2006 interview with actor and former stuntman Fabio Testi, including a look at his role in Solange
  • Old-School Producer a newly-edited 2006 interview with producer Fulvio Lucisano
  • Innocence Lost: Solange and the Schoolgirls in Peril Trilogy a brand new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie, exploring the themes of Solange and its two semi-sequels
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Malleus
  • Collector s booklet featuring a new article on the giallo scores of Ennio Morricone by Howard Hughes, alongside a Camille Keaton career retrospective from Art Ettinger, comprising interview excerpts with the Solange actress, all illustrated with original archive stills and posters

Tenderness of The Wolves (1973) Review

TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES (WEST GERMANY, 1973)

Dir- Uli Lommel

Starring- Kurt Raab, Jeff Roden, Margit Carstensen, Rainer Werner Fassbender

UK Release – out NOW from Arrow Films on Dual Format DVD & Blu-Ray

Despite ending up in America churning out schlock straight to video fodder, Uli Lommel had an interesting early career and was part of troupe of West German filmmakers led by Rainer Werner Fassbender who collaborated on various projects. One of those projects is TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES a dark yet somehow beautifully shot tale of real life serial killer Fritz Haarmann that has not seemed to have received the critical acclaim that was associated with much of Fassbender’s work and with the German new wave of the 70’s, though thanks to a brand new digitally remastered release from Arrow the film can be appreciated in a new light. Made under Fassbender’s production company, Tango Film, Lommel’s film is a striking feature and stands up as a superb study in the nature of evil made all the more disturbing by being based on factual sources.

Set in a post World War 2 Germany (production costs made it cheaper to film in this period rather than pre world war 2), the film follows black market dealer Haarmann who is given the job of becoming a police informer and an official ID, allowing to exploit his position and bring young homeless boys home, who then soon disappear. However he soon finds twisted side line in dismembering the body and selling the flesh onto friends and restaurants. Also selling on the clothes and shoes of his victims to make a profit. His partner in crime and lover Hans Grains (Roden) soon starts to disassociate himself from Haarmann partly thanks to a local pimp (played by Fassbender himself). Haarmann starts to get sloppy and to draw the attention of a neighbour who is wary and becoming increasingly aware of his sinister night time activity’s.

One of the comparisons that has been made to TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES is to Fritz Lang’s M, whose serial killer is also based on Haarmann and another notorious serial killer at that time, Peter Kurten. It’s no surprise that Raab (who also writes the script) looks like a cross between Peter Lorre’s character from Lang’s masterpiece thrown in with a bit of Nosferatu, made all the more disturbing and relevant with Haarmann’s method of biting his victims throats which produce some of the films shocking moments of violence. Yet WOLVES seems like a darker cousin to M even if it does has some superb stylistic elements which recall that film. The excellent opening sequence where Haarmann creeps along a footpath with his shadow being framed as it’s cast on a wall is a great example.

Indeed much of the style of the film relies on following the characters, not judging the actions of those involved or expressing sheer horror in tone at what is happening. Rather its presented in a realistic style that makes the film all the more uncomfortable and is certainly in the tone of much of the emerging West German Cinema from this period from directors such as Fassbender and Werner Herzog. It’s a horror emerged and taking place in the real world. Raab is particularly excellent as Haarmann striking a disturbing menacing figure, that seems pathetic at first particularly in the opening scenes where he is interrogated by a policeman. Yet as the saying goes, he is the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing, as we see him openly take back young men to his apartment with most people including the authority’s oblivious to the grizzly fate that befalls them.

The only criticism of the film and in it’s central character is that it doesn’t really go into great depth why Haarmann went into blood sucking and eventually selling cheap ‘meat’ on the black market though in the long run the fact that this is not delved might add weight to the realism and disturbing nature of the true story origins. This happened and Haarmann maybe human, displaying a nature of humility and kindness which disguises that he is also a monster or rather someone capable of acts of evil. The support cast are also on form particularly Fassbender who is part of the central characters eventual downfall and look out for an early appearance from famous German actor Jurgen Prochnow most well known for DAS BOOT.

TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES might have received more acclaim or even notoriety if Fassbender was in the director’s chair however, that would be unfair as it would discredit how Lommel has crafted a fine and disturbing film. It’s noted though that the Fassbender producer credit certainly does help the film and as Lommel states in a interesting interview on the disc’s features, that this did help launch his career and as an interesting aside Lommel states that Fassbender initially did not like the film, but once the positive reviews starting coming in he was happy to acclaim the film and have his name on it.

A possible underrated entry into the new wave of German cinema that occurred in the early 70’s TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES has been given a fantastic presentation by Arrow and certainly its a film that without the release from this company I would not really have actively sort out. However it turns out to be a fantastic release of a film that is not afraid of treading the murkier, nastier side of human nature.

8/10

Special Edition Contents:

New high definition digital transfer prepared by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original uncompressed PCM mono 1.0 sound Newly translated optional English subtitles
Audio commentary by director Ulli Lommel, moderated by Uwe Huber
Introduction by Lommel
The Tender Wolf, a newly-filmed interview with Lommel
Photographing Fritz, a newly-filmed interview with director of photography Jürgen Jürges
Haarmann s Victim Talks, a newly-filmed interview with actor Rainer Will
An appreciation by Stephen Thrower, author of Nightmare USA and Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco
Stills gallery
Theatrical trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Tony Rayns, editor of the first English-language book on Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Edgar Allan Poes Black Cats: Two Adaptations By Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci from Arrow Video

bc2Edgar Allan Poes Black Cats: Two Adaptations By Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci

THE BLACK CAT (Dir- Lucio Fulci, ITALY, 1981)

YOUR VICE IS IN A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY (Dir- Sergio Martino, ITALY, 1972)

Starring: David Warbeck, Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, Luigi Pistilli, Edwige Fenech, Anita Stringbgerg

Available now from Arrow Video !

bc1Arrow video plough on with another fantastic release to spoil genre fans with a set of films based around Edgar Allen Poe’s THE BLACK CAT from two of Italy’s genre masters. Whilst Poe’s work has been most famously adapted by Roger Corman in his series of films for American International in the 60’s, most of these adaptations only loosely take material from the writers work and even taking parts from various story’s into one film.

THE BLACK CAT for instance has been one of his works that has had its narrative elements taken into various forms, from Universal’s Karloff and Legosi collaboration to Dwain Esper’s fantastically enjoyably bad MANIAC. THE BLACK CAT, is Fulci’s take on Poe’s story and its one of the instances of the director using giallo elements and a more moodier Gothic approach especially with its use of an English village setting. It’s also one of the directors entry’s that’s the least well known or favoured by fans of the director.

The films story focuses on a series of mysterious deaths in a small English village. The only thing linking them is a black cat, whose owner Robert Miles (Magee) keeps tape recorders in cemetery’s to capture messages from the dead and who just happens to be psychic, and also loathes the black moggy. In steps an American tourist (Farmer) who on meeting Miles notices that there seems to be an unusual connection between the two. She soon starts to snoop around the village and at the same time meets up with an out-of-towner detective (Warbeck) sent into help with the investigation of the deaths and both start to sense a strange psychic connection between Miles and the cat and that one might have a control or psychic bond over the other.

bc3Being a slightly more slow paced than his usual gore fests and not featuring the stand out gore scenes that have marked him out in his previous work, Fulci manages to craft an entertaining horror that his helped with Sergio Salvati’s cinematography adding a nice visual hammer like element to the film with the camera prowling around at cats eye level along English countryside village. LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE might be the film that springs to mind when watching this, though that might just be in the simple connection that that was also an Italian (well also co- Spanish) produced film where a European cinematographer manages to use the quaint village setting and the director conjures up an atmosphere of menace in the most pleasant and quiet surroundings.

Fulci is also aided by a great performance from the ever brilliant Magee, who has some of the best eyebrows in cinema that seem to deliver a performance of their own, and who is supported by Warbeck who would go onto star in THE BEYOND and also Al Cliver as an English bobby who also featured previously in ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS. Whilst it doesn’t contain the extreme gore set pieces that has trademark Fulci’s work it does still feature a few violent scenes though its quite restrained by the directors standards and even though it has it’s many detractors who wont hail it with ZOMBIE or THE BEYOND, it still is an entertaining watch.

bc4Martino’s take on the Black Cat is a lot more loosely based on the story, but having one of the best titles around (if slightly long winded). YOUR VICE IS IN A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY follows Oliviero (Pistilli) who lives on an estate regularly hosting parties inhabited by hippies and who enjoys tormenting his wife in front of his long haired exhibitionist guests. He is also having an affair with a bookkeeper much to the annoyance of his long suffering wife and overall he’s pretty much a bastard.

In the obvious Black Cat connection Oliviero’s wife hates the household feline called Satan as it constantly attacks her and also has eyes on attacking and making a meal of her collection of birds. Oliviero also has an obsession with his mother, something that his wife teases him with when she turns up in a dress that once belonged to the matriarch. It’s not long before the giallo element kicks into full gear and when the long suffering abusive couple find their maid slashed to death on their staircase and then soon there is a figure dressed in black coat and wearing black gloves sporting a fedora hat (the standard Giallo killer outfit) killing off various people associated with Oliviero.

bc5Martino’s take is very much of the loose kind of adaptation were used to seeing of Poe’s work that extracts various elements of the Black Cat story such as the bricking up of body’s behind a wall, and the hatred of the black feline, who in this particular film is given the name of Satan, which is slight too obvious reference to the old fashioned belief of black cats being harbingers of the devil. However the main focal point is Martino’s use of the giallo style, something he has already become associated with and accustomed to with films such as ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK and TORSO which was made after YOUR VICE…, and like that film YOUR VICE… certainly has a sleazy element to it with plenty of nudity and good looking women on display who somehow all fall victim to violent deaths at the hand of a black gloved killer.

It’s familiar Giallo style and in many respects the problem with YOUR VICE… is it does seem to drag in parts with more focus on softcore sex scenes that seem to become a distraction a don’t seem to push the plot along, though this might be part of the course to fill in the sleaze quota, and might be in essence one of Martino’s stylistic traits to be found in his giallo work, it still seems to be a slight distraction. Either way there’s a great central performance from Pistilli who is a loathsome character and another great performance from the black feline. In comparing both films, they have their weaknesses and their strengths. The two pictures seem to have a moody atmosphere with Fulci’s being the most noticeable of all and Martino’s being the less obvious reference point to the Poe story and finding more in the ground of a sleazy giallo thriller. Though both prove equally entertaining and would make a great double bill screening especially to compare both films use of the classic Poe story.

bc6As usual Arrow go out of their way to provide enough extras on the disc they can find for both films. THE BLACK CAT features an audio commentary by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, some features including Poe Into Fulci, where film historian Stephen Thrower looks at Fulci’s take on Poe, a nice feature on the English locations used in the film and also an archived interview with David Warbeck. VICE follows on in similar vain with an interview with Martino, Unveiling the Vice, where Martino, star Edwige Fenech recount the making of the film. A visual essay on Martino’s Giallo films by Michael Mackenzie, a profile by Justin Harries on Edwige Fenech and also a small interview with Eli Roth on the film. This also comes with an 80 page book featuring a final interview with Fulci and a reprint of Poe’s original story, and the film is in both Blu-Ray and DVD format, all 2k restorations which look fantastic in Blu Ray. Overall another well presented disc from Arrow.

Films:
THE BLACK CAT 6/10
YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM…..6/10

Disc:
8/10

Arrow Video release BLOOD RAGE on DVD & Blu-Ray November 23rd

Arrow Video release Blood Rage

AVAILABLE ON DVD & BLU-RAY 23rd NOVEMBER 2015

THIS THANKSGIVING, “IT’S NOT CRANBERRY SAUCE”

bloodrage1bloodrage2

Arrow Video is thrilled to announce the release of an almost-forgotten retro 80s slasher pic Blood Rage, presented here for the first time as a brand-new 2K restoration of the “hard” home video version.

This new and exciting release will feature a host of bonus content and most impressively not one, but three versions of the film – Blood Rage, the original home video version, Nightmare at Shadow Woods, the theatrical re-cut, and an alternate “composite” cut combining footage from both versions. This new dual format Blu-ray and DVD will be released on 23rd November 2015.

Synopsis
What do you get if you combine Thanksgiving, American TV star Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), killer 80s synths and some of the most gruesome special effects in all of slasher history courtesy of Ed (Terminator 2) French. Why, it’s Blood Rage of course!

Twins Todd and Terry seem like sweet boys that is, until one of them takes an axe to face of a fellow patron at the local drive-in. Todd is blamed for the bloody crime and institutionalised, whilst twin brother Terry goes free. Ten years later and, as the family gathers around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, the news comes in that Todd has escaped. But has the real killer in fact been in their midst all along? One thing’s for sure, there will be blood and rage!

Shot in 1983 but not released until 1987, Blood Rage (re-cut and shown in theatres as Nightmare at Shadow Woods) is a gloriously gruesome slice of 80s slasher heaven now lovingly restored (in 3 versions no less!) from original vault elements for its first ever official home video release.

Special Features
3-DISC DIRECTOR-APPROVED LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
Three versions of the film – Blood Rage, the original home video version, Nightmare at Shadow Woods, the theatrical re-cut, and an alternate “composite” cut combining footage from both versions
Original Stereo 2.0 sound (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joseph A. Ziemba, author of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey
BLU-RAY DISC 1 & DVD – BLOOD RAGE
Brand new 2K restoration of the “hard” home video version, transferred from the camera negative and featuring the original title card Slasher
Audio commentary with director John Grissmer
Both Sides of the Camera – an interview with producer/actress Marianne Kanter
Double Jeopardy – an interview with actor Mark Soper
Jeez, Louise! – an interview with actress Louise Lasser
Man Behind the Mayhem – an interview with special make-up effects creator Ed French
Three Minutes with Ted Raimi – an interview with actor Ted Raimi
Return to Shadow Woods – featurette revisiting the original locations in Jacksonville, Florida
Alternate opening titles
Motion still gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes make-up photos

BLU-RAY DISC 2 – NIGHTMARE AT SHADOW WOODS [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
Nightmare at Shadow Woods – the re-edited 1987 theatrical cut featuring footage not seen in the Blood Rage home video version
Alternate composite cut of the feature combining footage from the home video and theatrical versions
Never-before-seen outtakes

Specs

Release Date Monday 23rd November 2015
Certificate 18
Language English
82/82/79 mins
Region Free
Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Audio 2.0 Stereo
Blu-ray Cat Number FCD1135

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