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

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 

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

 

 

 

 

 

The Evil Clergyman (1987) Short Film Review

CLERGY-001THE EVIL CLERGYMAN (1987)
Dir. Charles Band                 29 mins
88 Films / Full Moon Features
UK Release: 15th July 2013 (as part of the Castle Freak blu-ray)

Pulse Pounders. Two words that will prick up the ears of any self-respecting Full Moon fanatic. For the uninitiated, Empire Pictures was Charles Band’s film company during most of the 1980s, churning out such classics as Zone Troopers, Troll and Terrorvision. By 1987, Band had the idea to make an episodic film to provide semi-sequels to three of Empire’s biggest hits. He chose Trancers, Dungeonmaster (aka Ragewar) and Re-Animator – except with the latter he decided upon a different H.P Lovecraft adaptation – The Evil Clergyman, as opposed to a direct sequel to the Stuart Gordon smash. It still retained direct links to Re-Animator however, with returning cast members Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and David Gale while adding the notable talents of cult favourite David Warner.

After the three shorts were shot, the original 35mm negatives went AWOL somewhere around Rome, and with Empire Pictures falling into financial difficulties by late 88/89 the project was shelved indefinitely. Fast forward 25 years later and a VHS cassette of all three half hour segments is located, and Charlie states he intends to polish them up and master them as best as possible. Here is the very first one of them – The Evil Clergyman. Based on a letter written by H.P Lovecraft that set about describing a dream he had had, it was published in 1939, just after his death, as a short story in an issue of Weird Tales.

CLERGY-002

The film adaptation is written by Lovecraft adaptor extraordinaire Dennis Paoli (From Beyond / Dagon / The Black Cat) and it begins with the lush orchestral score that Charlie’s brother Richard recorded especially for this restoration. Barbara Crampton plays Said Brady who arrives at a castle and is led up the steep internal staircase by the housekeeper (Una Brandon-Jones). We discover that her lover, Jonathan (Jeffrey Combs) has recently hung himself, and Said is there to collect the remainder of her belongings. Once the housekeeper has left her alone, we see Jonathan appear before her. They embrace, but can Jonathan really be alive? After a moment of intimacy Said is left alone naked on the bed as Jonathan has disappeared. In his place however is a Bishop from Canterbury (David Warner) as well as a creature he refers to as ‘the beast with a human face’ – a disgusting rat like human hybrid that has eyes for Said.

The Bishop’s message is clear and he states simply that “he wants your soul” while referring to Jonathan. He says that he was left beaten to death by him and that he leaves a trail of carnage in his wake. “You must save yourself, he is a sorcerer” cries the Bishop in his short yet pivotal scene which soon makes way for the re-emergence of the Jeffrey Combs character.

CLERGY-003

This is an excellent 30 minute segment of Lovecraftian brilliance. The setting of the purpose built castle interior is just great, and the re-uniting of Combs and Crampton equates to a brilliant partnership that works extremely well together. David Warner’s appearance as the Bishop is particularly chilling, not to mention the repulsiveness of the beast with a human face which features first class make-up from the uber-talented John Carl Buechler.

Some might question the picture quality, as irrespective of ‘digital re-mastering’ it still looks like a VHS transfer. I for one though care not as just having the chance to see this fabled work more than compensates for any slight picture issue. For once, this is a legendary lost movie that lives up to the hype. Now we just need Charlie to crack on with Trancers 1.5 and Dungeonmaster 2, and we’ll have completed the restoration of a cult classic that many thought would never see the light of day.

8.5 out of 10

Would You Rather (2012) Review

 

Would You Rather (2012)

Dir. David Guy Levy   –  93 Minutes

Starring Jeffrey Combs, Brittany Snow, Eddie Steeples & Sasha Grey

Would you Rather tells the story of Iris played by Brittany Snow who is a 20 something young woman who after her parents are killed has to look after her brother who is suffering from Leukaemia and the cost of a bone marrow transplant is just out of the question. Out of the blue she gets a call to see her doctor , when she arrives her doctor is with a rather dapper gentleman named Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) who explains he comes from a rich philanthropic family who wish to help Iris. All she needs to do is turn up at his family home the following evening where she and 7 others are invited to a dinner party and to play a game where the winner gets all the medical expenses paid for and all treatment expedited.

Iris decides to mull the invitation over but eventually realises this may be her only hope as her brother’s condition is deteriorating rapidly. She is picked up the following evening by a driver and taken to a large house where she meets the fellow guests/contestants and they sit down for a meal. Now not long after arrival things start to take a more sinister turn, firstly Iris is a vegetarian and Lambrick offers her $10,000 to eat the steak and foie gras in front of her, which she does. Then we learn another guest Conway (played by the great John Heard) is a recovering alcoholic and he is offered $50,000 to drink a decanter of scotch.

 

And so the games begin, a little silly if yet with sinister overtones to begin with until Lambrick starts the real game of Would you Rather where each contestant is given two options , failure to choose or refusal means the person is eliminated . The game will carry on until only one remains.

And so this is the setting for the film, not the most original of ideas but as Would you Rather is set for the majority in one room it leads to a really effective and very claustrophobic little indy horror that draws you in an is full of little twists and turns along the way that at times had me squirming in my seat.

The cast works really well together, Combs as always wonderfully overacts as the eccentric millionaire , Brittany Snow is fantastic as the main protagonist with just enough empathy and fragility to win you over. Other member include Eddie Steeples and Enver Gjokaj as the good guys , June Squibb as the disabled Linda and the fantastic Sasha Grey as the nasty Amy.

There are a few huge plot holes and some issues with scripting , but in the main Would you Rather keeps you glued to your seat watching as a seemingly innocent game descends into much much more.

This may not be the most original film of the year or indeed the best, but it is another great watch for horror fans and worth it just to see Jeffrey Combs go for it and Sasha Grey pout . Standout star (and exec producer) Brittany Snow holds the whole thing together and makes this a really impressive feature that deserves a much wider release.

Decisions decisions !!      7/10

 

From Beyond (1986) BluRay Review

 

frombeyondFrom Beyond 1986

Dir. Stuart Gordon – Prod. Brian Yuzna  – 86 Minutes  – 18 Cert  –  Region 2

From Beyond is the 1986 release Directed by Stuart Gordon and Produced by Brian Yuzna. Based on the short story by H P Lovecraft it stars Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton who are re-united from Gordon’s previous film , another Lovecraft adaptation Re-Animator.

The story is that Dr Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) , who is a sexual deviant and a genius is attempting to discover the secrets of the pineal gland (or third eye). He creates a resonator and opens a world of horror which initially kills him and leaves his student Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) incarcerated in a metal institution .

Dr Katherine McMichaels (Crampton) is a pioneering psychiatrist and decides to return Tillinghast to the scene of the experiment so she can study him as he re-creates the experiment. And then all hell breaks loose in a wonderful adaptation.

This is now being released in the UK courtesy of Second Sight Films in a wonderful BluRay presentation. The colours are stark and vivid and look really fresh here and wonderfully lavish.

But what makes this release so fantastic are the stunning extras featured here. It is chock full of interviews with Gordon , Crampton and Dennis Paoli (screenplay). Also full commentary from Gordon, Yuzna & Combs as well as a great FX piece and much more.

 

frombeyond2BONUS FEATURES:
Stuart Gordon on From Beyond
Gothic Adaptation – an interview with writer Dennis Paoli
The Doctor is in – an interview with Barbara Crampton
Monsters & Slime – the FX of From Beyond
Director’s perspective
The Editing Room – Lost and Found
Interview with composer
Commentary with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna and Jeffrey Combs
Photo montage
Storyboard to film comparison

Includes English subtitles for hard of hearing.

A fantastic release and really if you have any interest in From Beyond then buy this and you will not be disappointed. Second Sight are putting many classic releases out this year and are definitely a company that are dedicated in putting out quality releases.

The BluRay is released on February 25th from all good stockists.

You can also visit Second Sight Films at http://www.secondsightfilms.co.uk or at their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/SecondSightFilmssecond sight