DVD Review- Locker 13
Distributor: Arc Entertainment
Street Date: April 29th 2014
Technical Specifications: 480P Video, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, Color, Anamorphic Widescreen
Runtime(s): 103 Minutes
In Locker 13 we’re introduced to Skip, the scruffy ex-con recently employed as a nighttime custodian at a Wild West Theme park. It’s the kind of joint you might run into every ten miles or so in the American Southwest. Skip’s manager shows him around the grounds, waxing philosophical and explaining the rules to maintain the “effect” for visitors. As he’s shown around, Skip encounters various items and keepsakes that spark the series of anthology stories that follow.
In the first story, we get to know down and out boxer Tommy “The Trigger” Novak (Ricky Schroder) in the midst of a comeback bout. Unfortunately, his lucky gloves start getting him into trouble when he can’t finish a match without killing his opponents.
Other stories involve an initiation into a secret society where things get slightly out of hand, a suicidal man attempting to jump off of his apartment building when he’s interrupted by a talkative stranger, and a hit-man providing a running commentary to three female victims in chains. Like most anthology series, the filmmakers take us home to finish the story of the Wild West theme park custodian, albeit with an added twist.
Playing like a low budget modern day Twilight Zone episode, Locker 13 starts out promising but just doesn’t have much strength in the individual anthology segments to merit a recommendation. Most anthology films have at least a couple of duds, but I didn’t find any of the stories in Locker 13 either original or entertaining. By the time the narrative gets back to Skip the nighttime custodian, the film starts to get really tedious and repetitive.
The key to a good Horror or Thriller anthology film is for the screenwriters to make sure that each segment is engaging and unique from the one preceding it. Both Trick ‘r’ Treat and Creepshow are good examples. Unfortunately, Locker 13 lacks the right combination.
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s always a little difficult for me to fairly evaluate the picture quality of a DVD in an age when 1080P High Definition is the standard. Locker 13 looks about as good as it can on the format, with a muted color scheme and solid black levels. Definition is never crystal clear, lacking the resolution and fine detail that Blu-Ray provides.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital track works well here, with some nice balance on display. Each segment of the film presents various unique sound effects and background noise to play with, and all of the punches, gun shots, musical inflections, and dialogue come through clear. Again, it lacks the power of a DTS-HD track that a Blu-Ray would provide, but it is what it is.
Arc Entertainment has included the theatrical trailer for the film as the lone special feature, which provides a fairly thorough look at the film and the basic gist of what you’re getting into. For a movie with various directors, screenwriters, and stories involved, it would have been nice to see a behind-the-scenes featurette or making-of documentary.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Arc Entertainment DVD release comes with a nice slipcover featuring some of the supporting cast, a plot synopsis and technical specifications on the back, and the disc with plain artwork on the inside.
I always enjoy a good Horror/Thriller anthology, but Locker 13 is lacking in just about every area. The film has a cheap look to it, with individual segments that fail to entertain or captivate, and characters that we have a hard time caring about. The DVD from Arc Entertainment features a presentable video presentation and fine audio, but lacks any worthwhile special features. Skip this one.
Blu-Ray Review- Dead Shadows
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: April 29th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, English Subtitles
Runtime(s): 74 Minutes
At the beginning of David Cholewa’s Dead Shadows, strange black tentacles appear in the outer universe, and as they form a black hole, a meteor emerges. The glowing meteor breaks apart as it enters Earth’s atmosphere, leaving small particles strewn in its wake. Young Chris wakes after hearing some commotion, only to find his Stepfather slashing his Mother’s face in the kitchen. Fast-forward to ten years later, Chris is now in his early twenties and “working” as an over-the-phone computer support specialist. Of course he would much rather play video games than actually help any of his customers.
After a short run-in with neighborhood bullies and end-is-nigh spouting alcoholics, David finally gets a chance to meet the beautiful Claire, the neighbor across the hall from his apartment. David is shy and soft-spoken, and Claire is sarcastic and forward. After some small talk, David agrees to attend the “end of the world” party down the block to celebrate the passing of another comet.
The promising party quickly turns sour, thanks to some melting faces, mutated alien genitalia, and other creepy comet shenanigans. Making his way back to his apartment, David is soon forced to overcome his fear of the dark and troubled past to take on the alien invaders. With a little help from his samurai sword-wielding neighbor, and a couple of baseball bats, he just might get the job done. Or will he become part of the problem?
Dead Shadows is an odd genre mix, produced on a low budget, and seemingly cobbled together from other, better films. One of the main problems with the film is its odd length and frantic timing, with the main action sequences saved for the last twenty minutes of the movie. It’s a shame because the first 40 minutes or so had me hooked, even with a lack of originality, it kept my interest with it’s ominous opening and creepy musical score by Kevin Riepl. But alas the creatures are very Cronenberg-esque, the CGI effects are a bit sloppy, and the editing is inconsistent (count the fade-to-black moments), resulting in a forgettable film experience.
Those who have followed me here from The Film Fan Channel know that I am a huge supporter of Scream Factory and their mission. They are without a doubt the best company distributing Horror titles right now, ever mindful of pleasing the fans while crafting a quality product line of cult-classics Horror titles. But I’ll be honest with you: whenever Scream Factory announces a modern film title (like the Chiller TV entries they have put out), I get a little nervous. The anxiety, unfortunately, was substantiated here.
Dead Shadows looks pretty good in High Definition from Scream Factory. There are moments, usually during the visual effects sequences, where parts of the picture seem pixelated or soft, but then it quickly clears up in the next shot. When evaluating the picture quality, you do have to take into account the production budget and digital development Dead Shadows was filmed with, which wasn’t exactly high end. The overall look of the film has a slight blue-green tint. Fine object detail is never stand-out, but color reproduction is relatively good and this is likely an accurate representation of what it looked like theatrically.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio here works well. Dialogue (in French) comes through clean and clear, the music is well balanced, and sound effects and background noise are integrated just fine. It won’t blow you away or wake the neighbors, but it gets the job done. Whatever you do, watch the film in French with English subtitles. I briefly turned on the English dub to test it out, and very quickly changed back.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Interview with David Cholewa: Running over thirty minutes in length, this extended interview with the Director is in French with English subtitles. Clearly a fan of the genre and with the best intentions in mind, David Cholewa is interesting to hear from. The interview questions come in title cards with a static shot of Cholewa answering to the camera. This isn’t the usual well-made interview featurette from Scream Factory, but it’s obvious that they didn’t have much to do with making this particular segment.
- Making of Special Effects: This short featurette runs nearly four minutes and is a simple before and after look at several sequences from the film, before and after the CGI effects were added. There is no commentary throughout this, just a song that plays over the visuals.
- Deleted Scenes: Not exactly what you expect. This is forty-nine seconds of slightly extended scenes that were already in the film including the aforementioned mutated genitalia (which looks slightly different), a practical effect shot of an arm falling off, and a tentacle arm effect shot.
- Unfinished VFX Scene: Yet another strange and short (32 seconds) segment from the end of the film where a human-faced alien slug slithers in the background.
- Trailer: The original theatrical trailer for the film.
- Teaser Trailer: The original teaser trailer.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Scream Factory release comes with a nice slipcover as well as reversible artwork and disc art. Though I wasn’t crazy about the film itself, I really dig the cover art here, and it’s an all-around nice looking package.
I went into Dead Shadows with a positive attitude and ready for fun, but what I experienced was an odd genre mix that just didn’t work for me. Heavy on borrowed elements, poor CGI effects, and a disappointing finale, this is rental material at best. The good news is that Scream Factory (as always) has included some worthwhile bonus features for fans, and the picture and audio quality get the job done. Luckily this great company has some terrific catalog classics up their sleeves for their upcoming Summer of Fear.
Blu-Ray Review- White of the Eye
Distributor: Arrow Video (Region B/2)
Street Date: March 31st 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Uncompressed 2.0 Stereo PCM, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Runtime: 111 Minutes
White of the Eye stars David Keith and Cathy Moriarty as Paul and Joan White. Paul works as a hi-fi stereo specialist, with the unique gift of being able to perfectly arrange his upper class customer’s audio experience for their home. Cathy is his sexy and supportive wife, who is obviously enamored by her husband’s charm and knowledge. The two of them enjoy their seemingly happy and secure life in Arizona, but all that is about to change. Our drama begins when the wealthy female citizens of their isolated community begin to fall victim to a serial killer, and both Joan and local law enforcement’s suspicions turn to Paul.
There is much to admire about this thriller from the late Donald Cammell. For the majority of this film, this isn’t your standard serial killer “slasher” thriller. In fact, there is a twisted beauty to the unique cinematography, creative use of filtering and lighting, and meticulous editing that you don’t normally find in films of this genre. The murder sequences in particular are brilliantly executed. One of them takes place in a kitchen as our female victim prepares a meal: Glass shatters in slow motion, a fish struggles for air after his bowl is smashed to pieces, red wine sprays violently across the walls, all while the signature electronic 80’s soundtrack pounds in the background. Much like other works in Cammell’s short filmography, this is stylish art-house filmmaking wrapped in a B-movie package.
The acting here is especially involved and dynamic for a genre film, and David Keith turns in a multi-layered performance that is quite memorable. Cathy Moriarty also turns in an effective performance here that exhibits sexiness, vulnerability, and strength interchangeably. The writing is natural, featuring realistic dialogue and a police procedural that unfolds in a believable manner.
Unfortunately, the climax of the film falls into some seriously goofy territory, and without revealing pivotal plot points, settles into a more cliché’ ending that took me out of the film. The events that unfold reminded me of Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear, where you’re completely along for the ride until the ending transforms into a Looney Tunes special. I forgave that particular film for its over-the-top finale, and I feel the same way about White of the Eye. The majority of the film is so stylishly executed, well-acted, and tense, that it’s easy to forgive the uninspired ending.
The folks at Arrow Video have proved once again that they can bring together the right team of people, existing elements, and technology to create a wonderful High Definition transfer of an older film. Other movies of the late 1980’s often suffer from issues related to the film stock used at the time, even when remastered. But Arrow has provided an authentic and natural looking transfer that retains the film grain and color scheme while cleaning up unnatural debris and scratches. Detail is clear and objects defined, and there are no signs of manipulation via digital noise reduction. The desert cinematography and dry dusty landscapes are beautiful to behold on Blu-Ray. Well done!
The original uncompressed Stereo PCM track included here supports the film well enough, and is even quite dynamic during the electronic music sequences. Dialogue is appropriately balanced among background effects and music as well. It’s not as powerful as it could be, but again, it gets the job done. The musical score in particular sounds great on this release.
Arrow Video has, once again, knocked it out of the park. This Blu-Ray release is jam packed with commentary, a feature-length documentary, deleted scenes, a short film, and so much more. This is absolutely one of the best bonus feature packages of the year so far. As a film buff and collector, being able to learn so much more about a film and its creation is exactly what owning physical copies is all about. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary by Biographer Sam Umland– This commentary is rich and entertaining. It’s absolutely worth listening to after watching the film first. Sam Umland knows his stuff, and makes it abundantly clear that Cammell was setting out to make a different kind of thriller. He discusses filming techniques, personal anecdotes, and some of the on-set history behind White of the Eye.
- Donald Cammell: The Ultimate Performance– Originally broadcast on the BBC following Cammell’s death, this 1998 documentary is fascinating. We get to hear from not only the Director himself, but his friends, colleagues, and family. If you weren’t aware, Donald Cammell committed suicide at the age of 62. His family explains that he had known since the age of seven that he would take his own life one day. Though parts of the documentary are incredibly depressing, it’s so well made, and hearing about his genius from those who knew him is consistently enthralling.
- The Argument (1972)– This is one of Donald’s short films that was discovered posthumously, and re-edited by Frank Mazzola, one of his frequent collaborators on film. Filmed in the Utah desert, the imagery assembled here is breathtaking. It’s only 11 minutes long, but it packs quite the punch.
- Into the White– In this bonus segment we get a brief interview with Larry McConkey, cinematographer and collaborator of Cammell’s.
- Rare Deleted Scenes– This is a special treat for fans of the film! Several deleted scenes that have been newly remastered from the original film negative. I’m always grateful when distributors go to great lengths to find deleted or extended scenes for catalog releases, but Arrow went above and beyond by remastering them in High Definition.
- Bleach Bypass Sequences– A series of comparison shots of the flashback sequences in the film before undergoing the “bleach bypass” processing for the final film.
- Alternate Credits Sequence– This one is rather self-explanatory, but it’s a fun alternate segment of the opening credits and imagery that was left on the cutting room floor.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Arrow Video features some spectacular cover art with a brilliant color scheme and design by Nathanael Marsh. You also have the option of reversing the sleeve for alternate art featuring the original theatrical poster design. The included Blu-Ray and DVD discs include some beautiful and creative artwork as well. You will also find a very detailed booklet with behind-the-scenes photographs and an essay by Brad Stevens. If you’ve never seen the film before, avoid reading the essay as it does contain significant spoilers. With that being said, it’s incredibly well written. Biographer Sam Umland (featured in the aforementioned commentary) also contributes with his essay on The Argument. You’ll also find an insert advertising Arrow’s upcoming release for City of the Walking Dead.
White of the Eye is an incredibly well-made and entertaining thriller that grows increasingly intense up until the goofy, over-the-top ending. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter as much because you will revisit this film for the brilliantly executed cinematography and filming techniques, memorable performances from the cast, and nostalgic 80’s soundtrack. The late Donald Cammell made very few films, but each of them were memorable and unique. The transfer here is authentic, and the audio is generally well balanced. The big reason to purchase this one is the significant amount of worthwhile bonus features on this release, including the heartbreaking and finely assembled documentary. This one comes Highly Recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Blind Woman’s Curse
Distributor: Arrow Video (Region B/2)
Street Date: March 31st 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Japanese Mono 2.0 PCM, Color, 2.44:1 Aspect Ratio
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse is a bizarre and highly entertaining mix of samurai films and traditional Japanese ghost stories. Having seen this and Lady Snowblood after the fact, it’s very clear that Director Quentin Tarantino paid homage to these violent yet strangely beautiful films from the Nikkatsu and Toho catalogs with his Kill Bill series.
In the beginning of the film we meet Akemi (Meiko Kaji), leader of the Tachibana yakuza clan, as she leads her fellow dragon tattooed warriors against a rival gang. This sequence is one of the most beautiful battle scenes I have encountered, with a mix of fast action and slow motion camera techniques capturing the dueling samurai swords clashing in the rain. The showdown comes to a screeching halt with Akemi blinding the brother of the rival gang’s leader, Boss Goda. A black cat licks the blood from the injured girls face, growling and staring at Akema as she becomes cursed for what she has done.
We follow Akemi to her prison experience some time later, as she tells her story to fellow female inmates. The blind girl and black cat are giving her nightmares, and she knows revenge will soon follow. Cut to three years later, the local villages are in a state of unrest as the rival gang war over territory reaches a new peak. The blind woman slowly begins to exact her revenge on Akemi’s gang, skinning the dragon tattoo’s from their backs one-by-one.
Director Ishii’s film is heavy on style and mood, but has a sense of humor about the story at hand as well, as evidence by some of the outrageous facial expressions left on the blind woman’s victims. The female characters are very strong in this, with some of the male roles left solely for comic relief. This is a welcome gender role change from other Japanese films that proceeded Blind Woman’s Curse, helping to usher in a new era in cult cinema’s tough women.
The climactic showdown between Akemi and the blind woman is skillfully done and a treat for genre fans. This movie is a lot of fun, everything from the sincere performances, light comedic moments, matte painting backgrounds, set design, and musical score creates a mood that is undeniably cult and consistently entertaining.
Arrow Video has breathed new life into this 1970 cult-classic with a 1080P transfer that retains the look of the time period, yet graces us with a remastered image that looks great on a High Definition screen. Colors are authentic and bold, from the slightly blue hue of the timing to the bright red blood spraying on the walls, there is a balance here that looks marvelous. There is some minor print damage in some scenes including scratches and “pops”, but it’s never distracting and adds to the cult atmosphere. Detail is crystal clear in most scenes, particularly close-up shots of the main cast. I also didn’t detect any digital noise reduction or edge enhancement on the transfer, which is always a bonus for those of us that appreciate the original intended look of the film. This is yet another standout transfer from Arrow.
The uncompressed Mono PCM audio track included here is surprisingly powerful, even though it doesn’t have the dynamic range of HD 5.1. Dialogue is supported very well, as are the incredible action scenes. There is a respectable balance to the audio that Arrow provided, and it absolutely sounds authentic to the time period of the film. Swords clang and clash, blood squirts, flesh peals, there’s a little bit of everything to find safely balanced on this track. Well done.
Arrow Video has included some decent bonus content here, but fans of the UK distributor don’t get quite as much as we usually do from their other catalog releases. Nevertheless, the Audio Commentary alone is extremely informative and easy to listen to. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary by Japanese Cinema Expert Jasper Sharp– Truly an expert on the genre and time period for Japanese cinema, Jasper is easy to listen to and extremely informative.
- Original Theatrical Trailer– This is a short but fun trailer for the film that originally played in front of Japanese audiences in 1970.
- Stray Cat Rock Trailer Series – Four trailers for Nikkatsu studio films also starring Meiko Kaji.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Arrow Video features some spectacular cover art featuring Meiko Kaji and her dragon tattoo. You also have the option of reversing the sleeve for alternate art as well. The included Blu-Ray and DVD discs also feature some nice art with a blood-red color scheme. You will also find a very detailed booklet with behind-the-scenes photographs and an essay by Tom Mes, as well advertisements for other Arrow titles such as The Beast Within.
Blind Woman’s Curse is an enormously entertaining cult mix of Japanese samurai, yakuza, and traditional ghost stories. With an odd but fascinating mix of drama, action, and dark comedy, there is a little something for everyone in this film. The transfer and audio from Arrow Video is top notch, but slightly lacking on bonus features. I’m amazed that this movie evaded me for so long, and the release from Arrow is an absolute treat to add to the collection. Highly recommended.
Good evening creeps! I’ll have a short written review up for this Funko Mystery Mini here soon, but in the meantime, check out my Unboxing/Showcase video for Funko’s Horror Mystery Mini for Sam from Trick ‘r’ Treat. Feel free to subscribe to our brand new YouTube channel too!
Independent U.S. Distributor Mondo Vision has announced some pretty exciting Blu-Ray news for Horror fans! Later this year, they will be releasing Andrzej Zulawski’s 1981 film Possession in both Limited and Special editions. The unique and bizarre flick stars Isabelle Adjani (Nosferatu the Vampyre) and Sam Niell (Jurassic Park, In The Mouth of Madness). Though it’s hard to fit this film into one specific genre, it absolutely contains elements of Horror.
The most exciting aspect of this announcement for collector’s is the Limited Edition’s packaging, which “features a fully illustrated matte laminated Hardcover Box with magnetic enclosure + a separate Hardcover Slipcase with die-cut window. The slipcase is fully wrapped with import European blue velvet. The die-cut window reveals the original poster art from the magnetic box once the slipcase is on. Silver hot stamping is used throughout the packaging to highlight the title and the credits. Inside of the magnetic box features a foldout matte laminated 6-panel digipak, shiny black trays to hold the Discs + a Hardcover magnetic pocket to store the 84pg booklet and the remaining contents. The silver hot stamping theme is carried throughout the inside.”
This specific set is limited to only 2,000 copies, so rest assured we will update you when it’s available for Pre-Order. In the meantime, here’s the full press release from Mondo Vision:
LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY RELEASE:
DISC 1: THE FEATURE FILM-
- Digitally Restored 1080p HD Transfer Approved by Director Andrzej Zulawski [124min]
- EXTRAS: [4 Hr. 8 Mins.] [All extras except commentary come with Optional English Subtitles in White or Yellow]
- The Other Side of The Wall: The Making of POSSESSION [52min]
- Audio Commentary with Director Andrzej Zulawski [124min]
- Video Interview with Director Andrzej Zulawski [36min]
- Video Interview with Translator Eric Veaux [22min]
- Theatrical Trailer [3min]
- More from Mondo Vision [11min] [collection of 4 trailers from Andrzej Zulawski films]:
- La Femme Publique
- L’important C’est Da’imer
- La’mour Braque
Disc 2: SOUNDTRACK CD [Digitally Remastered]-
This complete 32 track CD consists of all the music composed for the film, plus additional outtakes that did not make the final cut. Track 32 is a Bonus Track and exclusive to this MONDO VISION edition.
- 84-page Commemorative Booklet – Content rich including 4 Exclusive Essays + Rare and Insightful Archival Essays & Interviews (retranslated and published for the first time ever in English) + Rare Photos and Artwork.
- POSSESSION: A Brief Review By Tom Huddleston, TIME OUT (2012)
- God Figured as a Public Whore Gone Crazy: Notes on Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION (1981), An Essay By Daniel Bird (2009)
- POSSESSION: An Essay By Jeremiah Kipp (2011)
- Pink Socks and Monsters: Excess in Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION: An Essay By Todd Garbarini (2010)
- “Cinema Superactivity”: Extracts From An Interview With Andrzej Zulawski — By Daniel Bird & Stephen Thrower (Spring 1998)
- Double Apocalypse in Berlin: POSSESSION: By Max Tessier (1981)
- Doubles Working in Concert (POSSESSION): By Hubert Niogret (1981)
- POSSESSION by Andrzej Zulawski: By Max Tessier (1981)
- POSSESSION, Andrzej Zulawski: By Carine Varène (1981)
- The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters: By Stephen Thrower (1998)
- 8 [ 5×7 ] U.S. Lobby Card Reproductions Inside Custom Envelope
- 5 [ 4×6 ] Exclusive Art Cards [ Original Paintings Courtesy of French Artist Jean-Philippe Guigou ]
- 1 Japanese Movie Flyer Reproduction
- Individually Numbered Certificate Of Authenticity With Unique Serial # [Only 2000 Individually Numbered Sets Produced]
Blu-Ray Review- Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Street Date: April 8th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese
Runtime(s): Theatrical: 84 Minutes, Extended: 101 Minutes
The original Paranormal Activity was released in 2009 on a budget of fifteen thousand dollars, and subsequently made over two hundred million dollars at the box office. The found footage genre was nothing new, but Writer/Director Oren Peli was able to inject some life and technical ingenuity into the concept. While this sort of Horror series is not my personal cup of tea, I will admit that I thought the first film was both scary and entertaining as far as the found footage concept goes.
Fast-forward to 2014, and we’ve had multiple sequels in the franchise, every one of them making an incredible amount of money on very small budgets (though the total haul has decreased significantly over time). Unfortunately, like most studio cash-in’s, by the fourth film the series had become repetitive, silly, parody-fuel material.
The Marked Ones begins with our main character Jesse graduating from Lincoln High School, Class of 2012. His vast family and friends celebrate throughout the night, and we get the obligatory strange neighbor conversation regarding Ana, a young girl who lives directly under Jesse’s apartment. Odd noises and wailing are regularly heard but dismissed by neighbors in the complex. Jesse and his friend Victor’s curiosity gets the best of them as they use their newly acquired Go Pro camera to spy on Ana through the floor vent. Witnessing a strange ritual occur, they shrug it off for the most part until Ana winds up dead. After exploring Ana’s seemingly empty apartment late one night, Jesse winds up with superhuman abilities, and a strange mark on his forearm.
Like most movie characters with newly acquired powers, Jesse revels in exploring his abilities: floating in mid-air, increased strength, and even more confidence with the ladies. But this blessing quickly turns into a curse, as Jesse’s body begins to slowly change into something sinister. To avoid spoiling any fun for you, I’ll leave my synopsis at that.
While Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones does not break any new ground in the realm of horror (not even close), it’s certainly more watchable and unique from the films in this franchise that preceded it. The mystery surrounding the witchcraft and occult aspects of the story consistently drew me in, at least up until the last ten minutes where the filmmakers clearly had a hard time deciding how to conclude their tale. The ending of this film makes no sense at all, and really took me out of an otherwise decent entry in the series. While there are definitely some enjoyable elements to The Marked Ones, this is a rental recommendation at best.
This type of film is always a bit difficult to judge when it comes to picture quality, simply because it looks rather terrible, but it’s supposed to. This is not some brand new polished studio epic to behold in High Definition. This is a grainy, rough, soft-looking, digital noise laden transfer. But again, this is how it looked in theaters, and represents the filmmaker’s vision. When you take into account, Paramount has done a great job in staying true to the source material and replicating the original theatrical presentation for this High Definition release.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offered here by Paramount is, again, faithful to the source material. This track will definitely not rattle the floors, wake the neighbors, or send the dog into a fit. The 5.1 channels, while never utilized to their fullest, support dialogue and increasingly disturbing sound effects very well for what it’s worth. Like most of the films in the franchise, audio becomes more important and significant as the movie progresses, and by the end of the track, you will feel as if the audio experience was well replicated for home viewing.
Paramount Home Entertainment offers up only one special feature for this Blu-Ray release. Titled “Found Footage”, the segment features multiple short deleted scenes that were left on the cutting room floor during the editing process. You can choose to ‘play all’, or watch the scenes individually. Specific deleted scenes include: Grandma’s rant (in Spanish), Cleaning Out Ana’s Apartment, Chavo growling at the closet, Jesse on ledge of Church after party, Possessed SIMON, Religious shop/Irma cleanses Jesse and apartment, and finally MEUS in Jesse’s room.
The entire segment runs roughly ten minutes, with the religious shop/Irma cleansing section taking up nearly half of that time. Though the scenes are interesting to watch, I’m not sure that they would have added anything significant had they been included in the final film. I would have enjoyed seeing a making-of documentary or even a short featurette included on this release, especially to give the filmmakers the opportunity to discuss their unique direction for this spin-off series.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray Combo Pack from Paramount Pictures comes with a nice lenticular slipcover, an Ultraviolet Digital Copy Code, and plain blue disc art with the title of the film. The reverse side of the Ultraviolet code features promos for the previous Paranormal Activity Blu-Ray releases.
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, while nothing groundbreaking, is definitely a step in the right direction for this franchise. I like the idea of further entries in the series being spin-off films rather than direct sequels to the tired storyline from the original. If it weren’t for the jumbled and confusing ending to the film, I might be recommending more than just a rental for the casual horror fan. Regarding the Blu-Ray release, the video and audio quality remain authentic to the filmmaker’s intentions, but the special features are lacking with only a handful of deleted scenes. Unless you’re a hardcore fan of the franchise, you may want to rent this one first.
DVD Review- Lizzie Borden Took an Ax
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Street Date: April 8th 2014
Technical Specifications: 480P Video, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Runtime: 87 Minutes
“Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When he saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.”
Everyone knows the old rhyme, whether you learned it skipping rope, or as a ghastly poem from a friend on the playground, it seems ingrained into our collective memories. Premiering on January 25th 2014 on the Lifetime network (!), Lizzie Borden Took an Ax stars Christina Ricci as the titular character. Bored with her tedious life in Fall River, Massachusetts, Lizzie seeks to rebel against the strict rules and expectations that her Father (Stephen McHattie) has of her and her sister (Clea Duvall). She steals money from her step-mothers purse, sneaks out for a few drinks on the town, and disobeys her Father’s seemingly demanding nature. After all, she is thirty-two years old, right? A grown woman should be able to make her own choices in life, but not if her parents have anything to do with it.
If you’ve heard the old rhyme, or know of the trial that followed and made national headlines, you know that Lizzie Borden’s Step-Mother and Father were found hacked to death in their home. Did Lizzie do it? She was an admitted liar and sneak, constantly rebelling against her parent’s expectations. Or was it one of her father’s many enemies around town? The man had a reputation for being abrasive in his daily interactions, and stingy with his money. The subsequent murder trial made national headlines and divided the town and country on its verdict, which I will not reveal here.
Those that are familiar with the case and it’s resolution may be slightly unnerved by this Lifetime film’s choice to assume what happened. With a Keyser Soze-type reveal at the end, the screenwriters have obviously made up their mind. I preferred the first ninety percent of the movie that, while corny and over-the-top at moments, played out like a police procedural rather than a straight-up horror film.
On that topic, don’t be fooled by the cover art for this DVD release, as this is not your traditional horror movie. Though I will admit, for a Lifetime network made-for-tv movie, there is quite a few moments of blood and gore. The filmmakers have fashioned this tale as more of a murder mystery and period soap opera than anything in the “slasher” vein. There are elements of Lizzie Borden Took an Axe that work (costume design, procedural mystery unfolding), but they are outweighed by far too many components that simply don’t. The acting ranges from good to cheesy, and unfortunately the script is extremely uneven. It seemed in some scenes that even the actors didn’t quite know how to deliver their lines. It’s not a terrible way to waste a Saturday night, but most of this film is painfully tedious.
Presented on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the 480P picture quality looks very good indeed. When reviewing a DVD in place of a Blu-Ray edition, I am usually able to notice the inherent softness and pixels that get in the way of clarity, unlike High Definition sources. But Sony has some fine mastering facilities at their command, and they have produced a very nice looking DVD here. Colors are intentionally muted and the film has a rather grey/blue tone to it throughout. Definition is also remarkably clear here. There were no anomalies such as edge enhancement or Digital Noise reduction to speak of. This is a very fine looking DVD release.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works surprisingly well on this DVD edition. As was the case in reviewing the picture quality, when you’re used to High Definition lossless audio, it’s always slightly hard to penalize an inferior format for not being able to produce the same result. I’m more lenient on this title because a Blu-Ray edition is not available, so we’re left with the DVD for home viewing purposes. At the end of the day, this is a well-balanced track that easily fluctuates between dialogue, instrumentals, and background effects. The music from Tree Adams is rather jarring for a period piece, and sounds like it could have been used for a modern day southern drama. Mixing some light rock and modern folk music, it’s a little inappropriate for the tone of the movie at times. With that being said, it does sound great on this audio track.
While Sony Pictures produced a very fine video and audio presentation for this release, they definitely dropped the ball on including any extras. The only bonus material here is a preview reel with trailers for Squatters, Cold Comes the Night, Insidious: Chapter 2, Pompeii, and Bonnie & Clyde: The Miniseries. Despite my reservations about the film, I would have enjoyed the opportunity to peruse a making of featurette or a commentary from the filmmakers. It would have been interesting to hear about their creative process that went into making Lizzie Borden Took an Axe.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this DVD features some creepy artwork of Christina Ricci’s Lizzie Borden heading up the stairs with a blood-stained dress, ax in hand. The back of the case features some production photos and technical specifications. Inside you’ll find the plain disc itself, but no artwork or inserts are included.
Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is a remarkably uneven and mostly tedious piece of lifetime fluff, with some style and suspense thrown in to keep it from being a total disaster. The good news is that the DVD release from Sony Pictures features good picture and sound quality, with the bad news being a lack of any bonus material. For Christina Ricci fans and history buffs only, everyone else might want to skip this one.