Trancers (1984) Blu-Ray Review

t1 (1)TRANCERS -1984

88 FILMS

DIR: Charles Band

STARRING: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt

88 Films bring another of Full Moon productions B-movie ‘classics’ to Blu-ray, and afford it more respect than most big budget releases get these days. Considered to be one of Full Moons better productions Trancers is offered a little more love than most B flicks, but how you feel about it will depend on how you respond to its low budget eccentricity. Sitting somewhere in between Blade Runner and The Terminator it has a low budget charm and surprisingly slick visuals that set it apart from many other sci-fi films of the era. It has dated somewhat, but 88 have given it a top notch spit and polish that fans will love.

The story follows the time-travelling antics of hard boiled ‘Trooper’ Jack Deth (Thomerson) as he hunts the leader of a futuristic cult known as Trancers. Going back to 1984, the present at the time of the film’s release, he hooks up with Helen Hunt’s kindly punkette and sets about trying to save the future by changing the past. If that sounds familiar it is because it very similar to James Cameron’s seminal The Terminator, and plot wise the two walk very similar paths. But in all fairness, Trancers probably owes more to Ridley Scott’s ground breaking Blade Runner. Both visually, and thematically Trancers attempts to recapture some of the Raymond Chandler/Philip K Dick detective future noir that helped make Scott’s movie so compelling.

t2 (1)Trancers doesn’t really have the resources to match Blade Runner, but it manages to stretch what it does have to the limit and is armed with plenty of wit and charm. The future it presents is believable looking both advanced yet wearyingly apocalyptic; a place where humanity has lost much of its soul and seeks refuge in dark places. Its time travel set up is neat too; offering a believably brutal and grounded idea. Free from the perils of modern CGI it is a brilliantly jarring moment when the film switches time lines. The film loses some of its visual prowess once it lands itself in the 1980’s, but it ups the wit and offers up some genuinely inventive set-pieces that have been repeated in bigger budget films since.

A particularly smart sequence in which Jack Deth slows time in order to avoid injury and death is repeated in the recent, mega budget X-Men: Days of Future Past. Bryan Singer’s blockbuster is more spectacular, but the influence is there and it’s to Charles Band’s credit that a little B-Movie like Trancers was able to form its own identity and become influential in its own right.

Trancers may not be as memorable, or as important as The Terminator or Blade Runner, but it is successful within its own boundaries and manages to transcend its influences by creatively side stepping its budgetary limitations and some inspired casting.

t3 (1)88’s Blu –ray is packed with plenty for fans to enjoy. The film itself looks fantastic in 1080p and it still amazes me how well some of the older films scrub up on Blu-ray. As for extras the film has plenty of interviews with many of the main cast and crew and some oddities for those who like to dig deeper. Cybercrime: The making of Trancers is a fun talking heads documentary that gives a decent history of how the film came into being and how it became the cult hit it is today.

The rather superfluous Flashback Weekend featurette is just a few fans at a showing of a special Trancers work print. Probably of most interest to die- hard fans is Trancers: City of Lost Angels: a 25 minute piece of Trancers history that was believed lost for 25 years. It also has a commentary from Charles Band and Tim Thomerson along with a wealth of trailers and promo materials. A genuine must buy for fans of the film.

Film 7/10

Extras 8/10

The Killjoy Collection (2014) DVD Review

Killjoy1The Killjoy Collection DVD Review

Directed by Craig Ross, Tammi Sutton, John Lechago
Written by Carl Washington, Douglas Snauffer, Tammi Sutton, John Lechago
Starring Ángel Vargas & Trent Haaga

RRP £5.99

Distributor 88 Films

OUT NOW

Occupying that unique space between the sublime and the awful is Killjoy; Full Moon Entertainment’s stupefying schlock saga concerning the various nefarious exploits of the demonic, homicidal clown of the title. And now, after years of wild west-like distribution from a whole slew of different discount pit companies, 88 Films have whacked this four flick strong cavalcade of deranged cheap-o chunder together in one attractive little box-set; the first time it’s been available as one complete collection anywhere in the world. How long it remains that way though is something else entirely: With Full Moon chieftain Charles Band’s penchant for sequel milking, and with his recent attempt to crowdfund a spin-off web series, Killjoy’s Psycho Circus, this marvellous chunk of fodder will likely need an expansion pack or six by this time next year…

In a move seemingly tailored to simultaneously delight Killjoy’s small but rabid following and horrify its many – MANY – detractors (and, not to mention, bamboozle any poor sod who’ll now become acquainted with it), 88 have, cannily, fashioned this two-disc DVD package as a limited run HMV exclusive. It’s the third set of its kind Blighty’s most B friendly boutique label have produced over the last six months, with the first three chapters of Full Moon’s flagship Puppet Master and Subspecies legacies having both received similar, collector-baiting treatment. While the zippy Killjoy canon isn’t quite as beloved as those distinguished horror programmers – at least not yet anyway – 88’s solid compendium will hopefully go some way to improve its rep among cult circles.

A rare beast, Killjoy, as a series, actually improves with each successive entry.

Killjoy 22000’s numero uno is the unequivocal runt of the litter: Produced by Full Moon’s short-lived urban division, Big City Pictures, it is a crude attempt at reconciling the studio’s distinctive pulp house style with the uniquely millennial wave of hip-horror pictures; a subgenre exemplified by the fun, Snoop Dogg-starring Crow retread Bones at its best, and Albert Pyun’s horrendous Urban Trilogy at its absolute worst. Killjoy is – mercifully – at least a step up from tosh-meister Pyun’s soul crushingly terrible three way, but only just; like them, it too seems to have been assembled as a deconstructive exercise in truly terrible filmmaking. From the shockingly cheap sets, to the hysterical performances, and Craig Ross’ clumsy direction; quite simply, it stinks. Yet, for that very reason, it is never less than totally watchable; a so-naff-it’s-amazing experience in the lofty, essential clag tradition of Manos: The Hands of Fate and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2.

Killjoy 3Though still disgustingly tacky, 2002’s second offering, Deliverance From Evil, fares much better in a conventionally good sense. It benefits greatly from a talent transfusion, the by-this-time fading Big City Pictures being mostly replaced by Dead Next Door maverick J.R. Bookwalter’s Tempe Entertainment; the grassroots outfit responsible for co-producing some of the very best Full Moon movies of the early naughties. Despite being a touch too slow on the get go, for the most part Killjoy 2 is sassily written and directed by future Isle of Dogs helmer Tammi Sutton who, along with co-scripter and fellow Tempe mainstay Douglas Snauffer, re-works the first film’s voodoo revenge idea into a back-woods slasher scenario with surprisingly audacious results. Best of all, however, is low-budget Renaissance man Trent Haaga, who takes the eponymous psychotic jester role over from the screeching Ángel Vargas. Haaga – who’d go on to write the superb indie DeadGirl and last years sleeper hit Cheap Thrills – exudes charisma in a Krueger-meets-Pennywise mash-up; a turn as imaginatively freaky as it is gleefully silly.

Killjoy 4It’s Haaga’s show come Killjoy 3, which tardily arrived eight years later amidst Band’s rejuvenated slate of previously dead Full Moon franchises. Shot back-to-back in China with B auteur David DeCoteau’s charming Puppet Master: Axis of Evil, Killjoy 3’s locale is, sadly, used just as inconsequentially; though Axis of Evil, at least, featured a Chinese opera house. Regardless of Full Moon’s cost-cutting ‘minimal set syndrome’, John Lechago – who directs this outing, and whose previous work includes the remarkable, softcore S&M shock cheapie Blood Gnome – crafts a wonderfully dynamic sequel. It’s infectiously entertaining stuff, heavily accenting comedy and cartoon-like, violent slapstick as a bunch of college students cross over into Killjoy’s netherworld via a cursed mirror. Credit too for tying in with the rest of the series through something other than self-reflexive dialogue.

Killjoy 5Lechago keeps the energy high for the collection’s final entry, 2012’s barnstorming Killjoy Goes to Hell; released but last year by 88 under the uninspiring alternative title ‘Killer Clown’. It’s once again delirious popcorn fluff; an exceptionally stylish and uproarious blend of sharp, profanity-laced patter and humour even more outrageous than before as Killjoy is placed on trial by ol’ Beelzebub himself for not being scary or evil enough. Haaga dominates but there’s nice, laugh out loud support from part three’s returning quartet Tai Chan Ngo, Al Burke, Victoria De Mare and Jessica Whitaker, as bad-ass clown trio Freakshow, Punchy and Batty Boop, and ingenue Sandie, respectively.

Clag connoisseur’s and thrift hawks will almost certainly recognise Killjoy’s un and deux from their regular spot in Poundlands and car boot sales the country over; thankfully, 88 have trumped those previous Film 2000 and Boulevard editions – and even Full Moon’s own Region One versions – by providing the films with their first anamorphic transfers. Though far from demo material, it’s a thrill having them in a true, 16×9 friendly presentation. The real jewel in the crown, however – for us Limey’s at least – is the inclusion of Killjoy 3, which makes its UK DVD premiere. Extra features, unlike the aforementioned Puppet Master and Subspecies sets which included an assortment of commentaries and various Band-related gubbins, are restricted to 88’s trailer collection and Killjoy one, three and four’s bite-sized, behind the scenes VideoZones. Still, with an RRP of only £5.99 for the full sha-boodle, it’s hard to criticise too much. Fans and the adventurous, just get it bought already.

Killjoy: 3 out of 10

Killjoy 2: Deliverance From Evil 6 out of 10

Killjoy 3: 7 out of 10

Killjoy Goes to Hell: 8 out of 10

The Killjoy Collection is available exclusively at HMV from 13th October, via 88 Films.

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Follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

Lurking Fear (1994) DVD Review

LF DVDLurking Fear (1994)
Wri./Dir. C. Courtney Joyner
Exec. Prod. Charles Band
Starring Ashley Laurence, Blake Adams, Jeffrey Combs, Jon Finch
Out NOW in the UK from 88 Films

Often lost amidst the studios usual killer doll and assorted other mini-beast output, 1994’s Lurking Fear is perhaps the most overlooked film in the entire Full Moon canon. Saddled with a poor reputation both critically and amongst horror fans, this actually quite charming and quirky shocker hits UK DVD this week courtesy of 88 Films; the first time it’s been available upon these shores since its incredibly hard to find rental tape release back in 1996.

Though at a list price of £12.99 it’s a touch on the costly side for what is essentially a budget release (right down to its awful new artwork, thankfully reversible), the disc is a poor but welcome reissue. Whilst the inclusion of the films original VideoZone – Full Moon’s now iconic mini-making of series – is a lovely touch, this far from special edition should be picked up for the film and film alone: it’s the perfect opportunity to reassess or just outright discover this zippy little gem.

LF1The second of three films based upon H.P. Lovecraft’s 1923 serial of the same name (the other two being the ultra low budget but effective Dark Heritage, and the gleefully perverse Rutger Hauer-starring Hemoglobin), this one may not be the most faithful to its source material but it’s certainly the most fun. A loose riff, it’s more a macabre comic book than strict Lovecraftian chiller; an approach liable to infuriate Lovecraft purists, but one that helps give Lurking Fear a distinct identity all of its own. Whilst it may not quite match the exquisite tension of fellow Lovecraft pic The Resurrected, or indeed quite capture the raucous energy of the seminal Stuart Gordon H.P.L. one-two of Re-Animator and From Beyond (even with its shared Jeffrey Combs casting), writer and director C. Courtney Joyner’s playful mash up of Night of the Living Dead-style ghoul-siege and crime potboiler is still top-end fodder.

Like Joyner’s previous directorial outing – the exemplary Trancers III, his debut – Lurking Fear once again proves him talented when calling the shots. Though a little clumsy at times, he’s a solid craftsman perfectly suited to delivering the requisite schlocky goods typical of all the best Full Moon stuff. Make no mistake, Lurking Fear is right up there and Joyner is every bit as vital as his peers David DeCoteau, Ted Nicolaou and the aforementioned Gordon.

LF2 (1)It is in the writing however where Joyner truly excels. A B scripter par excellence, Lurking Fear is filled with the same sharp patter and sly humour that characterises his word-work on the likes of Class of 1999, Vietnam Texas and Puppet Master III. His tongue-in-cheek tough talk segues well with the films bursts of cheese-ball horror, with most of the lines spat out by Lurking Fear’s trio of tough crims ranking high on the chuckle-ometer: “It’s a Porsche, not a Toyota,” Bennet [Jon Finch] snaps when bruiser Pierce [Joe Leavengood] plonks his backside down on the gangs car bonnet.

On the hunt for ex-con John Martense [Blake Adams, as Blake Bailey] and a stash of hidden loot, Bennett, Pierce and femme fatale Marlowe [Allison Mackie] arrive in the sleepy town of Lefferts Corners just as a rag-tag bunch of townsfolk [which includes Combs’ cracking Haggis, a chain smoking alcoholic doctor] are holding up for the night in the local church. Led by former meek geek turned sexy, Sigourney Weaver-liked arse kicker Cathryn [Hellraiser’s stunning Ashley Laurence, curiously billed as Ashley Lauren], they’re going to blow up the humanoid monsters that have been blighting them for the past twenty years. Spanner in the works, the two sides must band together if they want to survive ’til morning.

LF3The Morlock-looking creatures are nicely designed by Wayne Toth [House of 1000 Corpses, Wishmaster] and are a suitably nasty bunch, dragging any poor sod they can down into their subterranean abattoir. The product of years of inbreeding, they’re perhaps a fitting metaphor for just how incestuous the Full Moon production line once was. Just cross referencing the overlap between Joyner, Combs and Lurking Fear’s exec producer (and Full Moon head honcho) Charles Band alone is a tangled mess of dangling threads; throw the rest of Lurking Fear’s talent pool into the mix and it’s the stuff of aneurysm’s to ponder.

Of course it’s that kind of connective cool that makes Lurking Fear’s drubbing and relative obscurity all the more mystifying. It’s a veritable mass of cult appeal; from the cheeky inter-schlock referencing (like Hammer icon Michael Ripper’s name listed in an obituary) to Vincent Schiavelli’s cameo as sleazy mortician Knaggs. It’d be a thankless expository part in lesser hands but the late, great character specialist shines. It’s a real highlight.
Elsewhere, veteran genre composer Jim Manzie [Night of the Scarecrow, Sleepstalker] provides a cracking little score. Equally silly and atmospheric, it’s rousing stuff that fits the film perfectly; especially during Lurking Fear’s charnel house finale. Another genre vet, long-time Full Moon cinematographer Adolfo Bartoli [Netherworld, Bad Channels], brings his ever-keen eye to proceedings too. Sadly, the wonderfully robust pulp feel Bartoli gives the film just looks cheap on 88’s dreary transfer. Whilst it’s 4×3 presentation doesn’t matter too much (Lurking Fear was designed for the direct to video market after all, right down to the framing), it’s riddled with poor and badly mastered colours; the VHS is actually more pleasing on the eye.

LF4 (1)Supposedly the film that put an end to Full Moon’s relationship with backers Paramount over some dubious claims about how much it really cost to make, the little nuggets of production trivia that have surfaced over the years have proved fascinating. From the overbearing on set attitude of Jon Finch, to the hardships of making the, erm, “exotic” Romanian locations look properly Americanised on a shoe-string, it’s a shame Full Moon or 88 didn’t get Joyner or at least some in-the-know talking heads in for at least a simple yak-track. Considering the stellar treatment they’ve given their Subspecies and Puppet Master releases, it’s irritating that they’re prepared to let this peach just slop out there, unloved and overpriced.

Naff disc, yes, but at the risk of repeating, check it out for the movie.

The Movie 7/10
The Disc 3/10

Tourist Trap (1979) BluRay Review

ttTOURIST TRAP (1979)
88 FILMS BLU-RAY REVIEW
Directed by David Schmoeller
Written by David Schmoeller & J. Larry Carroll
Produced by J. Larry Carroll, Irwin Yablans [executive], Charles Band [executive]
Starring Chuck Connors, Jocelyn Jones, Jon Van Ness, Tanya Roberts

Released 21st April

Tourist Trap has enjoyed something of a renaissance throughout the horror community over the last decade or so. Thanks to a slew of disc reissues and the more than passing resemblance the underrated 2005 House of Wax redux bears to it, this cult favourite has now become a permanent part of modern macabre movie lexicon; a bonafide sleeper. Now hitting Blighty-side blu-ray as part of 88 Films’ ever expanding Charles Band-based catalogue, the opportunity to revisit this wonderful shocker for the gazillionth time in its new HD form– and to give you guys the lowdown on it, natch– was too impossible to resist.

So first off, how does the film stack up?
Why, as brilliantly as ever of course! Tourist Trap is one of this hacks all-time favourite fright flicks, number nine on the Budrewicz Top Ten Terror Scale for the record. Like Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the film that Tourist Trap is admittedly the most indebted to), often over-looked fear auteur Schmoeller [Crawlspace, Puppet Master and Catacombs] has crafted a sweaty, surrealistic nightmare of a picture; a deranged ninety minute squeeze of palpable- and often darkly comic- dread. It is this crazed carnival funhouse and bad dream-like vibe that is Tourist Trap’s key, the films creepy charisma and tense escalation of frightening imagery mattering more than “does it all make sense?” story logic.

tt1What story there is though remains compelling, with the basic set up cheekily throwing you off the scent with its simplicity. Granite jawed Connors leads as Mr. Slausen (a neat performance, poised somewhere between endearingly kooky and genuinely menacing thanks to the stars impressive physicality), the kindly but eccentric proprietor of the ramshackle roadside waxwork attraction Slausen’s Lost Oasis. Slausen’s near seclusion is interrupted by the arrival of a gaggle of early twentysomethings (headed up by ingénue Jones and featuring the hot dam’ Roberts), and their discovery of Slausen’s mask wearing brother Davey in the Bates-ish family home. Completely effed in the head, Davey is soon preying upon the hapless youths, murderously terrorising them with his bizarre, mind controlled mannequins. Can Davey be stopped? And, more importantly, can any of the gang escape in one human piece?

Fun, scary and abstract; a definite minor classic. It’s maddening then that Tourist Trap’s blu debut should be something of a fudged release: it’s missing approximately five minutes of bloody footage! Though not acknowledged anywhere (including the extras), the film presented here is actually a slightly shorter, alternative cut, with a few random trimmings here and there to various random scenes. Why? Who knows! Oh dear 88…

Meanwhile, the films new transfer leaves a lot to be desired too. Whilst it was always going to be a stretch for such a low budget, flea pit jolter of Tourist Trap’s vintage to look as slick as, say, Avatar, by and large the transfer is a bit, well, bleargh. There are moments of aesthetic harmony, yes: the flesh tones are gorgeous and naturalistic, a vast improvement over the orangey glow they had back on the films initial 1998 Koch/Full Moon DVD release. The blacks are lovely and rich too, especially in the scenes where Jones and Roberts are prowling around the Slausen grounds in the dark; whilst Davey’s first startling introduction looks wonderful as well. However, the near constant background visual noise is distracting; it’s almost like watching an old, incorrectly tuned portable television. Worst of all though, there’s a strange jittering going on throughout, with about sixty per cent of the films presentation marked by a tiny, flicker-like jumping. Visible if one studies the bottom of the frame, it’s at its most obvious whenever a shot calls for movement. It is, frankly, infuriating.

tt2Sound wise, the disc cuts the mustard. I’ve said it before that I’m no audiophile but everything sounds tickety-boo to me; the dialogue is nice and audible and composer Pino Donaggio’s [Don’t Look Now, Carrie and The Howling] fabulous, lush score fills the speakers. The extras are decent, if a little on the scant side, too with a cool interview with Schmoeller kicking things off. Entitled “Exit Through the Chop Shop”, the pleasant seeming chap fondly reminisces for twenty-ish minutes on the films genesis, production and release, giving a few witty anecdotes in between. Anyone who has seen his excellent documentary short Please Kill Mr. Kinski should know what to expect; Schmoeller makes for good company.

Elsewhere, Schmoeller provides an informative yak track. There’s a little overlap with the one on one piece, yes, but on the whole it makes for enjoyable and detailed listening; a must for Tourist Trap buffs and casual commentary fans alike. Interestingly, it should be noted that these are new special features and NOT just ports of the much shorter interview and old, different commentary option available on previous releases. These have not been included so, if you’re a devout fan like I, don’t be getting rid of your old DVD copy just yet (especially since all the DVDs contain the full version).

tt3A spoiler-filled trailer (DON’T watch it if you’re checking Tourist Trap out for the first time!) and liner notes round out the package, the liner notes being sadly unavailable with the screener copy. Weirdly, considering just how much he mentions it, Schmoeller’s short student film that inspired Tourist Trap, The Spider Will Kill You, is once again not included. It’s an odd omission, and would have been a great bit of supplementary material.

The bottom line? A cracking film with a bit of a crummy and truncated release. Though it’s hard to recommend it to anyone other than a real horror blu nut or a Tourist Trap completist, it’s not entirely worthless either thanks to some OK extras. Approach it with great caution and if you do buy it, for the love of all that is Holy please use the original cover art included on the sleeves reverse. The new art is awful, making this ghoulish gem look like nothing more than a hackneyed Wolf Creek knock off. Gah!

The film 9/10
The disc 4/10

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Follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

Bad Channels (1992) DVD Review

badchannels1Bad Channels (1992)

Directed by Ted Nicolaou

Written by Charles Band & Jackson Barr

Starring – Robert Factor, Martha Quinn, Aaron Lustig, Michael Huddleston, Paul Hipp.

Out on DVD from 88 Films UK .

 

Bad Channels is a sci-fi comedy which tells the story of an invading alien taking over a small town Californian radio station, in order to hypnotise and shrink earth women for its collection back home. That is pretty much all that can be said for any synopsis.

The movie is basically critic proof. It is brought to us by writer / producer, Charles Band, the man who, in various writing, producing and directing guises, is responsible for well over a gazillion movies (mostly of the “B” variety), ranging from well received horror genre pieces, such as Puppet Master, through to the downright silly, like Gingerdead Man and Evil Bong – and including everything from thrillers to “erotic comedies” in between.

Although not as silly as something like Evil Bong, Bad Channels has an all pervading sense of fun and nicely captures the atmosphere of a 1950s “B” movie, coming across as something of an homage to what were, one presumes, the movies of Band’s childhood. It is this air of fun which makes criticising the film seem like a pointless and churlish exercise.

badchannels2Now, Bad Channels is professionally made and obviously has some productions value (when compared to a lot of the stuff that manages to find release these days) and it is not as “out there” as, say, a Troma movie (nor, it should be made clear, is there any suggestion that it is trying to be). However, it is intentionally silly and lighthearted and some of the design is poor to the point of perfection in reflecting 1950s sci-fi schlock; the alien looks like he has a big rubber rock for a head and his robot sidekick looks like a refugee from a Smash commercial. Everywhere this horrible pair go, they cover everything in green rubber stuff and the alien carries a staff-like weapon which either makes people disappear, or gives them a nasty case of green jock strap rash all over their body.

Whenever the alien identifies a female target from his radio studio headquarters, he wiggles a lever about and the girl hallucinates being in some kind of promo video for whatever track the alien plays, seemingly going crazy to any onlookers, whilst, in her mind, she bumps and grinds along with the band. Eventually, this process ends with the victim (now only a few inches tall) teleporting into captivity in a test tube in the radio station. There was obviously some kind of deal with record companies in place here, or something going on, because for every kidnap scene, the audience is treated to an entire song – and guest appearance – from a different, awful, left-field rock band of some ill conceived sub genre or another (it was that early 90s period when cock rock was on the way out and ten tonnes of various shite were jostling to be the mainstream face of rock, a battle eventually won by grunge).

badchannels3It all just adds to the silliness, though, and one can’t help but feel that, had they involved decent bands the overall effect would have been lost, to the detriment of the film.

A proper “popcorn movie”, Bad Channels won’t revolutionise your life, but it will make you smile, which is a precious commodity itself in today’s world of torture porn, unhappy endings and rampant cynicism.

7/10

 

 

Doctor Mordrid (1992) DVD Review

drm1Doctor Mordrid (1992)

Directors – Albert Band, Charles Band.

Starring – Jeffrey Combs, Yvette Nipar, Brian Thompson, Jay Acovone, Keith Coulouris, Julie Michaels.

 

Released in the UK on DVD by 88 Films on 17th Feb 2014.

 

Whenever I hear certain things to do with Horror I get goosebumps. Now when I received Doctor Mordrid (which I haven’t seen since the mid-nineties) I immediately got them there goosebumps.

Why? I hear you ask. Well Doctor Mordrid features many things which moulded me as a horror fan as I grew into the genre. Firstly it is from Full Moon Entertainment, directed by Charles AND Albert Band (I think this was there first together?) , stars the legend that is Jeffrey Combs and has a cameo (naked) from the lovely Julie Michaels.

 

Doctor Anton Mordrid (Jeffrey Combs- Reanimator , From Beyond) has been on earth for 100 years. He is in fact a sorcerer from the 4th dimension and is here as a guardian . He is awaiting the return of Kabal (Brian Thompson – Terminator, Cobra) who is his arch enemy and another sorcerer.

 

drm2Mordrid and Kabal had been childhood friends , happily playing with their powers until Kabal became power-hungry and evil . Thus started a 100 year war which ended when Mordrid locked Kabal up in a prison.

 

But Kabal has escaped and is on Earth to enact his revenge on Mordrid and make the planet his slave and plaything. But with the help from a new friend Samantha (Yvette Nipar – Robobcop TV Series) Mordrid sets about protecting the earth and also trying to keep alive while under attack from Kabal. Can Mordrid save himself and all of mankind?

 

Doctor Mordrid is a huge amount of fun, there is very little violence and no gore whatsoever but it is a hugely enjoyable piece of cinema. Jeffrey Combs is in fantastic form as Mordrid who is an intergalatic sorceror, he lives in an apartment block (which he owns) and then befriends his neighbour Samantha who just happens to be a special police advisor on cults and demonology (of course) , and this is very lucky for Mordrid as he later gets arrested for a murder.

 

The sets on Doctor Mordrid are brilliant, I just loved his huge and tardis like apartment which is just so much roomier on the inside. And Jeffrey Combs looks stunning in his later scenes as he wears his official high waisted sorcerer’s jump suit, very tasty indeed.

 

This is a great piece of early 1990’s low-budget filmmaking, admire how Mordrid watches a bank of TV screens showing the news, so he can see if anything points to a return of Kabal. And when he finds something he records it on long-lasting VHS tapes and even writes on the spine what is on the tape. I just hope he has removed the tab so he doesn’t tape over it!  Oh what retro lovliness.

 

Doctor Mordrid is a little confusing at the start , it basically just kicks straight into the story and tells the backstory as we go along. But once everything kicks into gear then Doctor Mordrid goes along at a great pace , is just the right length and is an enjoyable gem of a film.

 

drm3The ending is a little disappointing with a crappy dinosaur skeleton fight , but all in all this is a great addition to the 88 Films collection and will look great on your shelf.

 

So the last line must go to Kabal “ Before this is over I will drink your blood and eat your flesh, and it will taste sweet”!

 

7/10

SPECIAL FEATURES

• ALL REGION CODES
• VIDEOZONE – MAKING OF
• ORIGINAL TRAILER
• 88 FILMS TRAILER PARK
• BLUE CASE
• REVERSIBLE SLEEVE INCORPORATING 

DeCoteau DeCoded by Matty Budrewicz

dc1DeCoteau DeCoded


Director and producer David DeCoteau has had one helluva career. Whilst even his most ardent supporters would have a hard time describing it as illustrious, the Canadian-American schlock kingpin has certainly been prolific. Hell, a look at his IMDb slate should be enough to tell you that, with well over one hundred directorial credits (under a variety of eclectic pseudonyms) since the mid eighties alone. Factor in his producing, writing and assorted other credits and well… Well I guess it’s safe to say that dissecting his full body of remarkable, money-spinning work would be a meteoric task; a near impossible endeavour, in fact, that’d be better served by a wordsmith far greater than myself.

Now, by and large DeCoteau has been responsible for a fair amount of dreck, something that he himself would probably admit to too. However, for the more liberal, loon-minded cineaste- you know, those of us with a voracious appetite for hootingly good tripe, there is actually a whole lot to savour with ol’ Davey’s hokum. And, what’s more, there’s a surprising amount of artistry and craft behind it all too.

One of the standout directors of the late eighties-early nineties direct-to-video B scene, DeCoteau is certainly one of the strongest visual stylists amongst them. Unlike his contemporaries Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski who prefer a more ‘locked-off’ camera approach, DeCoteau sports a keen eye for staging and pomp-filled composition. Favouring Dutch angles and deep focus, he possesses a strong understanding of how to get a slick, richly photographed film in spite of meagre budgets, schedules and resources. Just check out the sorely undervalued car boot sale classic and discount shop favourite Legend of the Mummy 2 (or Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy as it’s also known)(1999) for the proof: bottom-end it may be, but it’s wickedly photographed, with a look falling somewhere between classic Hammer and the glossy energy of Tony Scott.

dc2It’s perhaps with the late Scott that the best comparison lies. Like Scott was, DeCoteau is a populist filmmaker. Just consider the evidence: both were/are commercially safe and both filled/fill the needs and demands of their paying audience and financiers, churning out profit-making hits in their respective fields in spite of often vicious critical lambastings. Best of all, however, is how they both managed/manage to do so whilst remaining true to their own artistic sensibilities, elevating them far beyond that of a pair of box-ticking journeymen to the status of true pulp auteur’s. Sure, their budgets may be drastically different, but it can’t be denied they’re not a million miles away from each other, especially when one considers that beach volleyball scene from Scott’s ’86 smash Top Gun…

I refer, of course, to homo-eroticism DeCoteau’s defining trope. Openly gay himself, DeCoteau has been the figurehead of the niche homo-horror sub-genre since his minor video success with Voodoo Academy back at the turn of the millennium. A thoroughly enjoyable quickie (DeCoteau shot it all in four days), Voodoo Academy is one of DeCoteau’s finest, the story of six male students at a strange Scientology-tinged Bible School being seduced into kinky black magic by the resident Reverend and house ma’am. It’s effective and surprisingly atmospheric stuff, a sort of low-key hodge-podge of Suspiria (1977), Angel Heart (1987) and a Calvin Klein boxer shorts commercial.

Retrospectively, it’s easy to see DeCoteau’s distinctive blend of histrionic horror and sculpted, shirtless young men implicitly flirting with one another as the next logical step in his filmic evolution. Reworking and inverting the playful, girl-ogling sexiness that characterised his earlier gun-for-hire T&A jobs like Beach Babes From Beyond (1994), and infusing them with the same Queer Cinema sensibility that made his experimental black and white gay art-pic Leather Jacket Love Story (1997) such a festival hit, DeCoteau has turned post-Scream teen-centric terror into a girl and gay-baiting art-form a fact his longevity can attest to. Though perhaps a little too much for some, there’s without doubt a big and demanding market for DeCoteau’s kind of chilling chintz. I mean, just look at the colossal Twilight saga – what are they if not glorified DeCoteau flicks? Angsty teens, topless hunks, supernatural shenanigans…

dc3Ultimately, I think without Dave DeCee and, say, his Brotherhood series (2001-2009), Sparklin’ Edward Cullen et al just wouldn’t have been possible. The only difference is that the six-strong Brotherhood chapters are actually pretty damn good, unlike the god-awful Twilight, and the first three (I’ve Been Watching You, Young Warlocks and Young Demons as they’re known over here) especially so. It would seem even directorial titan Martin Scorsese isn’t above lifting from him either, what with his latest DiCaprio-starring hit bearing a strikingly similar title to DeCoteau’s 2002 lycanthrope romp Wolves of Wall Street. Oh, to see the faces of the people who unexpectedly stumble across that one…

Beginning his film career as a production assistant for the legendary Roger Corman back in the eighties, DeCoteau soon found himself at the attention of another iconic B sultan, Charles Band, with his first mainstream movie proper, Dreamaniac (1986).

The impact Band has had on DeCoteau is gargantuan and it’s often under the Full Moon head honchos auspicious guidance that DeCoteau has made a vast majority of his best stuff, such as the terrific should-have-been-a-series Shrieker (1998) and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)- his most well-known film. Indeed, a lot of DeCoteau titles I’ve already mentioned have also been Band produced, occasionally – as in the case of Legend of the Mummy 2 – uncredited. However, the real treat of their numerous and fructiferous collaborations is 1991’s Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge. For my money, it’s DeCoteau’s masterpiece.

dc4Retconning the timeline established in the first two instalments of the flagship Full Moon franchise, DeCoteau’s part III is a period-set prequel starring Mr. Sardonicus (1961) himself, Guy Rolfe. It’s Berlin 1941 and the Nazi’s- as they so often do, are unsuccessfully attempting to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers, via the experiments of the surprisingly well-meaning Dr. Hess. His superiors, the lecherous General Mueller and full-blown S.O.B. Major Kraus, are a different story however, and they take great umbrage when they learn, through Kraus’ driver and spy Lt. Stein, that master puppeteer Andre Toulon has been performing politically subversive shows with his anthropomorphic puppets. After a Kristallnacht-esque raid on his home in an attempt to grab Toulon’s secret life-giving elixir results in the death of his beloved wife Elsa, the heartbroken Toulon swears revenge and, with the help of his deadly puppets, embarks on a swath of bloody retribution against his wrongdoers.

Made whilst DeCoteau was closeted both personally and professionally, and purely because he was the only director willing to travel to the originally planned Romanian locations, Toulon’s Revenge is understandably free of his guy-candy fetishism. It’s for the best really too, as any sort of over the top eroticism would likely be out-of-place in the comic book-y series, lest of all between a gaggle of overly tactile male model types! Even without DeCoteau’s signature auteurist flourish though, Toulon’s Revenge is a far from perfunctory mercenary gig, packed as it is with his usual panache and creative bombast.

Transcending its modest budget, Toulon’s Revenge is a big-feeling picture, without doubt the most ambitious and most handsomely mounted of DeCoteau’s career. It’s part rollicking little horror programmer and part Where Eagles Dare-ish wartime adventure, just as DeCoteau and scripter C. Courtney Joyner envisioned it. This magpie, cherry picking knack is another goodie habitual to cinematica DeCoteau: his utilising of an obvious love of the movies to create interesting and often inter-textual cross-genre product. Take Creepozoids (1987) and Final Stab (2001) for example. On paper, both are nothing more than shameless rip-offs of Aliens (1986) and Scream (1996) respectively, with the latter actually going as far as to be being cheekily retitled Final Scream here in the UK. Now, I’m not going to dispute for one second that that’s not how they came about, but both transcend the usually awful ‘Rubbish Clone’ category by actually being quite inventively referential and self aware.

dc5The excellent Creepozoids, for instance, knows it’s fundamentally man-in-a-rubber-suit tosh and DeCoteau is more than willing to celebrate it, firing a whole manner of archetypal sci-fi and horror motifs at the screen with gleeful abandon: Aliens, a monster baby a la It’s Alive (1974), giant rats, an abandoned research facility, the fall of man, and a future earth thrown into ecological hell… It’s all there, delivered with a fair amount of wit too. Even better is that it’s all capped off by the, erm, ‘double delicacies’, shall we say, of Scream Queen Linnea Quigley.

The twisty-turny Final Stab meanwhile, is DeCoteau’s pleasing contemporary valentine to the golden age of slashers. It’s a wonderfully silly and loving patchwork of retro fun and sly humour, a shining minor gem vastly superior to more famous and truly chunder-some soulless Hollywood slash-arse like the Prom Night (2008) remake. In short, it’s much better than a casual glance would suggest.

Elsewhere, DeCoteau inverts the Death Wish (1974) vigilante formula with a female twist in his self-explanatory Lady Avenger- a cheap and cheerful blast of kinda-gritty action fluff from 1988. It’s an area DeCoteau would explore further with his producer only Steel & Lace (1991), a schlock hybrid of rape-and-revenge and the then blossoming DTV cyborg genre that followed in the wake of RoboCop (1987). Tailored towards what sells they both may be but, like Creepozoids and Final Stab, the glee in which they each embrace and toy with their own conventions is refreshing. Interestingly, Lady Avenger and Steel & Lace link pretty nicely thematically with Toulon’s Revenge, essentially creating a loosely connected ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ well over a decade before Park Chan-wook even began his. What? I’m just saying…

dc6In Toulon’s Revenge, perhaps the most striking moments (other than the ones of puppet carnage, natch) are those which allude to the classic Universal horror of the thirties, Frankenstein (1931) in particular. The similarities between actor Ian Abercrombie’s conflicted Dr. Hess and Colin Clive’s conflicted Victor Frankenstein are just as impossible to ignore as their shared use of stylised lab equipment.

It’s an obvious tip of the hat really, considering how Frankenstein’s director, the openly homosexual James Whale, is the progenitor of ghoulish camp. Fittingly, DeCoteau would later go on to helm his own revisionist version of the classic Mary Shelley tale, the kiddie-friendly Frankenstein Reborn! (1998), and even go as far as to cite Whale’s stupendous Bride of Frankenstein (1935) directly during a scene in 1999’s prequel to the prequel, Retro Puppet Master: “A world of God’s and monsters,” a young Toulon says, echoing the effete Dr. Pretorius.Stuart Gordon, a DeCoteau peer and fellow Band alum, and his debut film Re-Animator (1985) are another key Toulon’s Revenge touchstone.

In a fun visual quote, Toulon’s magical serum looks suspiciously like Herbert West’s glowing green re-agent from the similarly Frankenstein-like saga; who knows what kind of Freddy vs Jason franchise hopping this could’ve yielded too, had Re-Animator just kept the original H.P. Lovecraft stories thirties setting! The DeCoteau-Gordon back and forth doesn’t stop there, however. Exchanging the weird creepiness of William Hickey’s portrayal in the original Puppet Master (1989) for a more human and pathos laden take, the then seventy-nine year old Rolfe gives an excellent dramatic performance as the definitive incarnation of Toulon. It’s a turn cut from the same genial horror hero cloth as his part in an earlier Charles Band exec produced killer toys flick, Dolls (1986), directed by (you’ve guessed it) Stuart Gordon. Rolfe would return to the Toulon role three more times (or four if you count his archival footage appearance in the duff part eight, Puppet Master: The Legacy) before his death in 2003.

dc7Weirdly, and as if to confound even more the already incestuous nature of the eras B movie scene, Brit actress Sarah Douglas- best known as the villainous Kryptonian Ursa in Superman I and II (1978/80)- would later go on to star in Re-Animator and Dolls producer Brian Yuzna’s Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993). Unlike her part as the angelic Elsa in Toulon’s Revenge, Return finds Douglas as the driven military head of a scientific programme planning to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers. Just like Mueller, Kraus and Hess. It’s a convoluted web, no? Even more so when you think that Return’s producer, Gary Schmoeller, is the brother of David Schmoeller, the director of the first Puppet Master. Good Lord…

Ironically, just as Toulon’s Revenge stands as DeCoteau’s best, two of his subsequent entries in the series are amongst his worst: 1998’s Curse of the Puppet Master and the aforementioned Retro Puppet Master. Whilst bad scripting and a general air of rushed tackiness are forgivable, that both movies are so painfully dull is not; DeCoteau land is many things, but it’s never boring. It’s a shame too as Curse in particular boasts one of the most nifty but wasted premises of DeCoteau’s filmography; a Tod Browning-tinged tale of a madman attempting to turn one of DeCoteau’s beloved twinks into a human puppet. Thankfully, DeCoteau atoned somewhat with Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), an interesting, amusing and again World War II-set Toulon’s Revenge companion piece.

Though the old rental medium that allowed someone like DeCoteau to flourish in the first place is now a thing of the past, it’s lovely to see that he remains as productive and as enterprising as ever. By embracing the online streaming platform, DeCoteau and his production company Rapid Heart have certainly proved themselves still relevant in the home entertainment arena, just as his recent 1313 brand shows.

Sure, the films may now be of noticeably lower quality than his giddy heyday (a truly horrifying thought if you’re one of the man’s detractors), but any filmmaker who still manages to regularly belt out gloriously goofy gay-tickling pap like Giant Killer Bees! (2010) and Hercules Unbound! (2012) deserves to be celebrated if you ask me. I mean, the MILF-tastic 1313: Cougar Cult (2012) alone is enough to warrant a look for the B curious, reuniting Quigley with fellow schlock sex sirens Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer, some twenty-four years after their last team up in DeCoteau’s Nightmare Sisters.

dc8A look around your local Tesco’s entertainment aisle will tell you Big Dave is as vital as ever too. Just last week a new DeCoteau joint, Bonnie & Clyde: Justified (2013), stormed into their charts top ten, whilst his endearingly naff Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013) has been one of their bargain zone mainstays since its release back in March last year.

What with that and companies like 88 Films pushing his back catalogue out into the market again, there really is no better time to immerse oneself in DeCoteau’s stuff. You’d do well to give it a go. I think you’d just might like it.

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For more ramblings, follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

 

 

 

 

The Pit and The Pendulum (1991) BluRay Review

pit1THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM – 1991

Dir: Stuart Gordon

Starring: Lance Henrikson, Rona De Ricci, Jonathan Fuller, Jeffrey Combs, Tom Towles, Oliver Reed.

88 Films

Blu-Ray

There is much talk these days of the death of physical media such as DVD and Blu-Ray. With broadband getting faster and better all the time, and services such as Netflix and Lovefilm offering the average film fan everything at the touch of a button, it is easy to buy into the idea that everything is moving out into ‘the cloud’ as it were. However, there are still plenty of folk out there that prefer their films to come well presented, in cool packaging and with that little bit extra that online entertainment simply can’t provide. 88 Films with their motto “Classic movies treated with respect” are more than willing to step up and offer real fans that little bit more. Like the people over at Arrow their goal seems to be to source and provide us horror and exploitation fans the best possible releases of films that have long been neglected and resigned to bottom shelf VHS releases in the past. In fact, despite the market leaning towards online sales, it has developed into a bit of a golden era for lovers of the obscure, exploitative, and the grotesque.

The Pit and The Pendulum is a loose adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. Poe’s story was a simple one, tracing one man’s tortuous ordeal with The Inquisition and his date with the titular pit and pendulum. Like a lot of Poe’s stories it delves into the deepening internal madness of his main character, meaning it is open to interpretation where film adaptations are concerned. Somewhat sacrilegiously I have never seen the Roger Corman version, but Stuart Gordon’s movie expands the story and develops elements surrounding The Inquisition, adds characters and a lot more blood-letting. The film follows a young innocent, God-fearing couple (Fuller and De Ricci) who fall foul of the brutal Grand Inquisitor Torquemada (Henrikson). The couple find themselves at the mercy of The Inquisition as Torquemada battles with his own attraction to his beautiful young captive.

pit2The Pit and The Pendulum is a strange beast that never seems quite sure what it wants to be. Coming as it does from Charles Band’s Full Moon productions and directed by Stuart Gordon it is sometimes an uneven mix of the outright horrific, ill-advised humour, old-fashioned swashbuckling and strange romanticism. At its best the film is truly horrifying, offering up some of the grittiest and most disturbing examples of medieval torture and punishment ever filmed.

To make this all the more chilling Lance Henrikson gives one of his career best performances as the vile, insidious Torquemada. A character of such vicious conviction, with confused and repressed emotion always threatening to boil to the surface, he gives the film a sense of violent dread whenever he is on-screen. Sadly the film insists on shying away from this too often and attempts to lighten the tone with scenes of humour and heroism that only undermine the tension and terror. This is a real shame because for around half its running time The Pit and the Pendulum is a fantastic horror movie; for the other half it’s a confused adventure film that feels like it belongs somewhere else. However, this is still a very entertaining movie that ranks as one of Gordon’s better efforts and looks a lot more than its low-budget origins would suggest. And it’s never bad to see so many genre favourites such as Henrikson, Jeffrey Combs and Tom Towles all in one film, not to mention a cracking cameo from the late, great Oliver Reed.

88 Films have put together a decent package here with quite a bit for fans to dig in too. The Blu-Ray transfer is decent, not mind-blowing, but good enough to justify the purchase. As for the extras an interview with Gordon is full of great anecdotes and insight, and it was interesting to find that the film was originally intended as a much bigger budget affair to be shot in England with Peter O’Toole as Torquemada.

pit3But the real jewel here is the full length ‘Videozone’ from Full Moon. It’s a fun, nostalgic trip back to the days of VHS video rental, and when you had to join fan clubs by post! It includes behind the scenes stuff from The Pit and the Pendulum, interviews with Henrikson and other members of the cast as well as promo materials from other Full Moon releases of the time. It’s a great little extra that took me back to my childhood and the hours I spent looking for films I wasn’t supposed to see in the 321 video shop. Like most of them now, that particular video shop has long been a pizza takeaway. But the fond memories of a time when these films lurked in the corners and the bottom shelves of the local rental shop still remain.

FILM: 7/10

PACKAGE: 8/10

 

 

 

 

 

Hideous (1997) 88 Films DVD Review

hideous1Hideous (1997) DVD Review

Director – Charles Band

Starring – Michael Citriniti, Rhonda Griffin, Mel Johnson Jr, Jacqueline Lovell, Tracie May, Jerry O’Donnell.

UK DVD release – 27th January 2014 from 88 Films !!

 

 

Charles Band Directs this entry into 88 films essential Grindhouse collection, making this movie number 14 in the series

 

The underground world of black market biological mutant trading is the story which contains this rivalry of teo eccentric collectors of oddities, Dr Lorca ( Michael Citirini, Goodfellas) – a bizarre mixture of Tony Stark and Svengoolie will do anything to obtain a precious specimen that he was cheated out of by ruthless business woman Belinda Yost (Tracie May).

 

Lorca is tipped off by dim but beautiful receptionist (Jacqueline Lovell, FemAlien) and sets up quite possibly the greatest theft ever; including a topless woman in a gorilla mask ( this is Full Moon people, enjoy) robbing his rival Napoleon Lazar (Mel Johnson Jr. Total Recall’s Taxi driver himself) of the creature as to display it prominently in his own collection.

 

Lazar is unhappy and hires a tough Boston P.I to track down and recover the stolen item, this brings the four characters into a beautifully designed Gothic castle ( built on the Full Moon stages and pretty darn impressive) which they are promptly and conveniently trapped inside.

 

Our precious and Hideous specimen in the meantime is evolving and recruiting the other creatures resurrecting them to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting cast, initally thinking that Lazar has sabotaged his collection due to the fact his is less majestic than his own, Lorca and his semi naked maid/secretary/lover? Plan to get revenge.

 

hideous2The creatures are all excellently created and are reminiscent of the monster from the movie “Head of the Family” Band loves puppets and miniature versions of humans, dolls, monsters and anything else on a micro scale they are scattered throughout his career and these are an impressive addition to his own collection.

 

The movie does the right thing and doesn’t take itself too seriously, the witty dry humour which is scattered throughout helps the pacing and even though the main focus of the story is the Shakespearian rivalry of the freak collectors the monsters littered enhance this giving a reason to cheer and jeer along with the film.

 

A particularly funny scene sees one of the hideous creatures getting a little to amorous with Elvina the receptionist and has to be seen to be believed.

 

The acting on display is adequate and the comic battling between the two collectors is great fun ending in a spectacular finale involving possibly the worst sword fight committed to celluloid and an acid bath!

 

The only quibble with this entry into the Grindhouse collection is the fact the titular hideous creatures are for the most part put on the back burner becoming underused in the action,their mutation, plot to escape and the subsequent fight to retrieve and own them seems rushed, would’ve been nice to see much more of the great puppetry and special effects on display akin to the level they are used in Puppet Master, the flagship Full Moon cannon.

 

hideous3The transfer is on par with the other releases and included is a rather excellent trailer reel as is usual on these discs, also an episode of the Full Moon produced infomerical VideoZone this time focusing on the making of hideous but also showcases some of the new (for the 90s) features and action figure lines that Charles Band had in the pipeline.

 

The great thing about this feature is the cast talking about their roles with gusto and it looks like they all had a pretty fun time making this movie.

Best watched with a group of like minded horror fans with a few beers, this comes recommended to those already collecting the series and newcomers alike.

 

6/10

 

 

 

The Grindhouse Collection 12 – Shadowzone (1990) DVD Review

sz1The Grindhouse Collection 12 – Shadowzone (1990) DVD Review

 

Director – JS Cardone

Starring – DAVID BEECROFT, JAMES HONG, SHAWN WEATHERLY, MIGUEL NUNEZ  LU LEONARD, FREDERICK FLYNN  and  LOUISE FLETCHER

 

UK DVD Release – 21st October 2013 from 88Films

 

88 Films have another spate of excellent releases from Charles Band’s Full Moon films/ Empire films back catalogue, under the subtitle of the “Grindhouse collection” these movies (12 to date) do exactly what they say on the tin and cheap Sci-Fi and horror lovers will have plenty to rejoice over.

 

ShadowZone is a 1990 Alien/The Thing clone starring James Hong ( Big Trouble in Little China) and David Beecroft and is pretty standard Sci-Fi fare filmed on a shoestring, but as this is a Full Moon film there’s a Bevvy of flesh on display and plenty of violent action to savour.

 

Scientist Dr Van Fleet (James Hong) is conducting research into dreams in a subterranean facility under the codename Shadowzone (fans of Full Moon features will be familiar with this territory- See Creepazoids) and it perfectly encapsulates the action and the budget costs firmly down.

 

After one of the experiments at the facility dies, NASA Captain Hickcock (Beecroft) is sent to investigate the experiments to make sure that the facility is secure. The aforementioned subjects are used as vessels into another parallel universe whilst they are in a state of deep sleep called EDS.

 

sz2After asking to see the EDS ( Extended Deep Sleep?!) experiments first hand Hickcock finds not everything is above the surface so to speak and after an experiment goes awry they find that not only is the universe open to them but a creature has managed to return with one of the subjects.

 

The monster unleashed on the impenetrable lead facility still manages to escape and returns in a natural predator state stalking and slashing the remaining scientists whom are trapped in the underground facility.

 

The special effects on display are astounding featuring an excellent head exploding scene which is the highlight of the film. The actors, Hong especially bring gravitas to the poor script and the feature overall is acted competently and the fact that this is treated seriously helps the pacing rather than hindering as is the case on many of these low budget affairs.

 

The creature aptly named Jon Doe is excellently designed and frankly it saves the movie from the depths of obscurity, solid effects work and a particularly nasty design ( Think XTRO meets Pumkinhead) make the kills enjoyable and coupled with the above average practical effects make this worth at least one viewing. The plot device that “Jon Doe” can take the form of anything a human fears isn’t exploited as much as it could’ve been (it turns into a giant rat at one point) this is undoubtedly due to the small budget but this could’ve thrown this movie a notch or two higher if used creatively.

 

There is nothing new on display here though and long time genre fans will have seen this set up countless times. The action set pieces are enjoyable for the most part……..until the final five minutes the movie takes a downward spiral trying to resolves matters quickly and sadly it is not a satisfactory ending, in-fact the movie “ends” with the newly awoken (and naked) beauty being told that the events were “a Long Story” as she awakes to broken machinery and sparks flying around her while NASA Captain leers over her naked form.

 

Shadowzone was clearly made to cash in on the popularity of Ridley Scott’s Alien and the James Camereon sequel Aliens, and is for the most part a fun 90s sci fi horror, fans of Full Moon will find lots to enjoy.

sz3This is one curiosity which is worth tracking down just don’t let the ending mar your opinion too harshly.

 

The Grindhouse Collection DVDs are excellent budget releases from 88 Films, the disc’s design are the highlight of the series an extensive trailer reel is included and presented in an inventive drive-thru style set-up some of the other titles are worth tracking down and surely when this collection is complete will be a near definitive release of all the Full Moon/ Empire Films catalogue and that’s not a bad thing.

 

5/10