Horror Blu-Ray Reviews, News, & Experiments!

Archive for August, 2014

Willow Creek Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Willow Creek

Distributor: Dark Sky Films

Street Date: September 9th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 80 Minutes

Willow Creek (Dark Sky Films)

Willow Creek (Dark Sky Films)

The Film:

The legend of the Sasquatch in North America can likely be traced back to the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest, but stories like it have been passed down across various cultures throughout the world. From the Yeti (or Abominable Snowman) of the Himalayan region of Tibet and Nepal, to the homegrown legend of Bigfoot himself, there have been numerous purported “sightings” all over the globe. Most would agree that the legend received a spike in popularity when Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin filmed what they claimed to be a 7 foot tall female Sasquatch in Bluff Creek, California. The resulting footage has been shown in movie theaters, news broadcasts, and is readily available online. Many different scientists and video analysts have both debunked the film as a hoax, as well as supported the film as evidenced by the apparent difficulty to recreate it. In 2014 famed Director and comedian Bobcat Goldthwait shocked the horror world when he announced that he would be making a found-footage type Horror film centering on the Bluff Creek location, albeit with a twist.

In Willow Creek, we’re introduced via supposedly found footage to a young couple named Jim and Kelly on their journey to Willow Creek, California. Jim is making a documentary on the subject of Bigfoot, aiming to film their entire trip to Bluff Creek, the sight of the Patterson-Gimlin footage. Once they arrive in town, they hit up a few local “Bigfoot” restaurants and souvenir shops, talk about the legend himself with the townspeople, and get some advice on how to go about their trek into the woods to find Bluff Creek. Some of the town folks even warn them about their journey, which the naive couple repeatedly shrugs off.

Jim and Kelly proceed to make their way into the wilderness surrounding Bluff Creek, backpacks and tent in tow, but Kelly insists that they stop to camp for the night roughly halfway there. During the night, strange growling and clawing sounds come from within the woods, slowly getting closer and closer to the couple, as an unknown creature begins to attack the tent. Morning comes, some odd hair is found nearby, and the couple decides that they’ve had enough. But the drama doesn’t stop there! After walking for hours, they figure out that they have been walking in circles the entire time, ending up at their original starting point. Now may seem an odd place to cease with the plot details, but if I told you anymore, it would ruin the movie. I’ll just say that the chaos begins now, with only roughly ten minutes left of the film (ugh).

Willow Creek is one of the most dull, cliché, and tedious Horror endeavors I’ve come across in some time. It’s not scary in the slightest, meandering with excruciating long takes of the couple walking through the woods, and features an ending similar to The Blair Witch Project that doesn’t answer any questions (and even leaves the viewer asking a few more). I’ve enjoyed some of Bobcat Goldthwait’s previous directorial efforts, notably World’s Greatest Dad, but Willow Creek doesn’t have any of his signature dark humor or style. In fact, it’s rather confusing as to why the man directed this film at all. Despite feeling as if the “found footage” genre has overstayed it’s welcome for more than a few years now, I was initially very warm to finally seeing this film, especially with Goldthwait at the helm. Let me make this abundantly clear, there is nothing to enjoy here for Horror fans. There are no scares, the plot takes literally the entire movie before anything significant happens, and when that significance comes, it’s already the last five minutes of the film, and it doesn’t make any sense. Avoid this one at all costs folks!

Video Quality:

This is one of those cases where the video quality isn’t nearly as important due to the constraints of the cameras utilized. The movie appears to be shot with a standard HD camcorder, and looks accordingly. Contrast and colors are undefined for the most part, and obviously look better in well-lit scenes. Definition is near non-existent, again, due to the source material. Willow Creek was made to look like it was shot by amateurs with a High Definition camcorder, and that’s exactly how it looks here.

Audio Quality:

On the other hand, the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track delivers fairly well here, balancing the dialogue and creepy sound effects with dynamic ease. There is a slight “ringing” evident throughout, perhaps a filter made to increase the believability of HD camcorder audio, but it sounds fine nonetheless.

Special Features:

Dark Sky Films has provided fans of Willow Creek with a few select special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Commentary– This feature length commentary with Director Bobcat Goldthwait, Alexie Gilmore, and Bryce Johnson gives viewers some insight into why the Director chose the material, how certain scenes were planned out, how the small cast and crew made a feature film from a 20-page outline, and more.
  • Cliff Barackman’s Deleted Scene- Running roughly 4 ½ minutes, this deleted scene from the film features “Jim” interviewing Bigfoot expert Cliff Barackman. I personally can’t imagine another 4 ½ minutes of random interviews added to this already tedious film.
  • Bryce Johnson’s The Making of Willow Creek- This one runs roughly 11 ½ minutes and features actor Bryce Johnson’s personal behind-the-scenes footage he captured on the last day of filming. The entire running time is dedicated to filming a crew member (along with Goldthwait) as they use the “bigfoot” shoes to make the footprints seen at the end of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for Willow Creek. This is the trailer I remember watching, you know, the one that really made me want to see this film! Yikes.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Dark Sky Films features the theatrical poster design for Willow Creek, including the large skull with Bigfoot and human silhouettes walking at the top. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features, technical specifications for the disc, as well as select production stills from the film. On the interior of the packaging you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc, which mirrors the art from the cover.

Willow Creek (reverse)

Willow Creek (reverse)

Willow Creek (interior)

Willow Creek (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Willow Creek is one of the most dull, cliché, and tedious Horror endeavors I’ve come across in some time. It’s not scary in the slightest, meandering with excruciating long takes of the couple walking through the woods, and features an ending similar to The Blair Witch Project that doesn’t answer any questions (and even leaves the viewer asking a few more). Having enjoyed some of Bobcat Goldthwait’s previous directorial efforts, Willow Creek doesn’t have any of his signature dark humor or style, and is utterly lacking as a Horror film. The Blu-Ray picture quality is OK, mimicking the hand-held HD camcorder style of the film itself, and never really displaying anything wondrous to behold on your High Definition television. The audio quality is decent, but the special features included here are, much like the film, a rather boring affair. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so hard on a film, especially in a genre where I regularly give ample lee-way, but this one is terrible folks. Avoid it at all costs!

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Scanners Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Scanners

Distributor: The Criterion Collection

Street Date: July 15th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 103 Minutes

Scanners (The Criterion Collection)

Scanners (The Criterion Collection)

The Film:

As a life-long Horror and Science Fiction aficionado, I felt like I hit the gold mine when I came across David Cronenberg’s work for the first time when I saw The Fly (1986) as a pre-teen. The Director’s insanely gory vision of the dark side of technology, as well as his reliance on a solid story and realistic characters, made me seek out his work in a frenzied pre-pubescent panic. Soon I would watch Videodrome (1983), which would become one of my all-time Top 10 films. But it was Scanners, a film that as far as I knew was about exploding heads, which really captured my interest at the time. What a concept! We’ve all had a bully or tormentor of some kind that we only wished we could unleash the same sort of telepathic revenge on. The concept had been done before in films like Carrie (1976) and The Fury (1978), but Cronenberg brought a polished level of sadism to his take, and a cinematic Horror classic was born.

In Scanners, Stephen Lack stars as Cameron Vale, a telepathic vagrant known as a “Scanner”, who is completely unaware of the full extent of his powers. “Scanners” can telepathically link themselves to others’ nervous systems, allowing them access to their thoughts, heart rate, brain waves, you name it. Following a disturbance in a mall food court, Cameron is captured by government agents and placed into the care of Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan), a research specialist with ConSec. When one of ConSec’s scanners is attacked by the dangerous rogue scanner Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside), the company turns to Dr. Ruth for a solution. Dr. Ruth begins to train Cameron to not only control his “scanning” capabilities with an experimental drug called Ephemerol, but also to hone his dangerous skills in order to defeat Revok once and for all. Scanners is one of those films that I would hate to spoil for those who haven’t seen it, so I’ll leave my plot synopsis at that.

Revisiting Scanners on this brand new Blu-Ray edition from The Criterion Collection was both delightful and eye-opening in that I continue to appreciate the film as a unique and strong effort from Cronenberg, but I’m also willing to admit that the film is quite dated in 2014. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve seen so many various telepathic movies since I first viewed Scanners as a pre-teen, and I’m able to recognize its strengths and shortcomings by comparison. Scanners still benefits from fine execution on behalf of the filmmakers, with brilliant special effects that are still very effective and engaging performances from a talented cast. What does it lack? Well the ending for one, though the effects are impressive, is a bit anti-climactic and “small scale” for a film that promises it’s viewers an all-out telepathic battle of epic proportions. It’s rather short and confined to one space.

Though it may sound like I’m being too hard on a legitimate cult classic, there were just a few things I noticed this time around that somehow evaded me over the years. Believe me when I say that I wouldn’t own four separate versions of the film on home video if I didn’t adore it, even with a few shortcomings. Scanners remains an exciting cinematic tale of social paranoia and telepathic chaos that will delight fans of the genre.

Video Quality:

Mind=blown. I’ve owned many different versions of Scanners on home video throughout the years, from Laserdisc to VHS and DVD, and this latest Blu-Ray edition features a transfer that blows them all away. Restored digitally from a 2K scan, the fine object detail is outstanding, revealing facial features and small clothing textures that one would have never noticed on previous formats. The colors look superb and accurate to the time period in which it was filmed, retaining the somewhat washed-out look of the theatrical print. This is a very clean print to boot, with very minimal (if any) anomalies or artifacts to report. Beautiful doesn’t quite capture it; this is one of the better restorations I’ve seen in 2014.

Audio Quality:

The HD Mono track presented here may lack the power of a multi-channel effort, never quite enveloping you in the cinematic realm, but dialogue always comes through clean and clear and background sound design is captured with somewhat dynamic results (given the limitations). It’s a little front heavy and obviously lacks range, but it gets the job done.

Special Features:

The Criterion Collection has provided fans of Scanners with their usual Collector’s Edition treatment, loading this Blu-Ray release with tons of great features. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • The Scanners Way: Creating the Special Effects in Scanners– This great featurette lasts over 20 minutes and delves into the creative process involved in the special effects wizardry behind the film. Featuring several of the crew that worked on the makeup and practical effects, these extended interviews offer some fascinating insight the work that these magical people do on a daily basis.
  • Mental Saboteur- How can one not love Michael Ironside? He’s one of my personal favorite villains and character actors of the 80’s and 90’s, and this nearly 20 minute interview is fascinating. Michael delves into all things Scanners including his respect for David Cronenberg, comparing paychecks with his fellow cast mates, the special effects wizardry behind the exploding head sequence, his other work following his move to America from Canada, and much more. I absolutely loved hearing from the man himself about his career. He’s very down-to-earth and honest about life and the living he chose to pursue.
  • The Ephemerol DiariesThis featurette was produced in 2012 and features a roughly 14 minute extended interview with actor Stephen Lack discussing his work on Scanners and other films as well as his contribution to the visual arts. I especially enjoyed hearing him discuss Patrick McGoohan’s daily frustrations on the set relating to the screenplay and focus of the film.
  • The Bob McLean Show- Taken from a March 1981 episode of the show and running about 11 minutes, Bob McLean sits down with Director David Cronenberg to discuss Scanners and his seven previous films at the time including: Stereo, Rabid, The Brood, and other cult gems.
  • Stereo- On a disc packed with great special features, this is the standout gem of the set! Stereo is David Cronenberg’s first feature film from 1969 and truly acts as a prequel to Scanners in some ways, as it involves telepathy and medical experimentation. Presented in High Definition black and white, the film looks splendid on the format. The feature running time is 65 minutes.
  • Radio Spots- Roughly 1 ½ minutes of radio spots that aired during the theatrical campaign for Scanners.
  • Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for the film runs over 2 minutes and gives viewers a fairly good idea of what they’re in for by presenting an edited version of the exploding head scene. The video quality is understandably not up to par, but it adds to the nostalgic atmosphere.

The Packaging:

This Blu-Ray edition from The Criterion Collection features some brilliant new artwork on the cover, with Michael Ironside in the midst of combustion. Hardcore fans of the film have been a little mixed on this artwork, but I personally dig it. On the reverse of the slip-box you’ll find a plot synopsis, a listing of special features, and technical specifications. Inside the case is a digi-pack with more beautiful art which contains the Blu-Ray disc, and two separate DVD discs for the film and special features. There is a booklet with an essay by Kim Newman entitled Mind Over Matter, as well as some more in-depth technical information on the video transfer and production notes. This is a slick and modern looking set with a design that Cronenberg fans will adore.

Scanners (booklet + discs)

Scanners (booklet + discs)

Scanners (digi-pack)

Scanners (digi-pack)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

While Scanners hasn’t necessarily aged as well as other films from the Cronenberg catalog, it remains a well-executed science fiction horror hybrid that balances terror and high-drama in equal measure. The director’s later films would delve more deeply into the bizarre extremities of humanity, but Scanners is a solid and exciting effort with fine performances from the cast and incredibly fun special effects that solidifies its well-deserved rank among the genre films of the 1980’s. This long awaited Blu-Ray edition from The Criterion Collection delivers the goods on picture and audio quality, and provides a fascinating array of special features (including Cronenberg’s first film Stereo) that will delight fans of the film. This Criterion Collection edition comes recommended, especially with the top-notch video/audio and fully-loaded bonus features.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness DVD Review

DVD Review- In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness (Drive-In Collection Double Feature)

Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome

Street Date: August 12th 2014

Technical Specifications: 480P Video, Color, 1.33:1/1.85:1 Aspect Ratios, Mono Audio

Runtime: 76 Minutes/91 Minutes

In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness Double Feature (Vinegar Syndrome)

In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness Double Feature (Vinegar Syndrome)

The Films:

If you’re a cult and exploitation film fan and are somehow unfamiliar with Vinegar Syndrome, you need to get acquainted fast! Operating out of Bridgeport, Connecticut, the company has been putting out some fantastic vintage erotica, cult horror films, and other genres onto DVD and Blu-Ray for the past few years. With this brand new release of In Search of Bigfoot and Cry Wilderness (part of their Drive-In Collection of double features), they have taken us on yet another fascinating journey into cinema obscurity.

In Search of Bigfoot (1975) – Directed by Lawrence Crowley and William Miller, this documentary follows a group of scientists, researchers, anthropologists and other experts as they journey into the Washington wilderness to locate the elusive Sasquatch (Bigfoot). The leader of the gang of researchers, Morgan, claims to have personally come face-to-face with the creature 20 years prior to the filming of the documentary, which propelled him to launch this expedition. This is actually a fairly well made documentary on the subject, even with its corny voice-over and overzealous obsession from the crew. It reminds you of a cheesy film reel a science teacher may have shown their students in the 1970’s, but at the same time, remains very informative of not only the legend itself, but the surrounding Washington wilderness. This one comes recommended, even though it’s clearly a “watch once” kind of film (unless you’re a Bigfoot fanatic).

Cry Wilderness (1986) – In this low-budget offering, a young boy at a Private school insists to his headmaster that he befriended Bigfoot last summer while visiting his father, a forest ranger. After getting in quite a bit of trouble for what the headmaster deems as lying, and being told by Bigfoot himself that his father is in danger, the boy runs away from the school, hitch-hiking his way to the wilderness to visit his father once more. Upon arrival, the boy, his father, and their friends have frequent run-ins with the Sasquatch, who remains fairly hidden for the most part. When the boy becomes separated from the group and with hunters on the creature’s tail, Bigfoot’s there to save the day and teach a lesson or two for those that wish to deprive nature of its natural beauty. This is a really bizarre but ultimately harmless family film, utilizing some cheap effects and a B-squad of acting talent, but also showcasing some beautiful scenery and impressive footage of various animals in the wild. I’m not sure if I was supposed to laugh out loud at some of the dubbed voices and Bigfoot’s “Santa Claus” laugh, but I sure did, and ultimately enjoyed this odd gem for the most part.

Video Quality:

Vinegar Syndrome presents In Search of Bigfoot and Cry Wilderness with brand new transfers that were scanned in 2K from the original camera negatives. The 16mm source for In Search of Bigfoot looks outstanding and generally lacks the artifacts or anomalies you would see in most footage from the time period. Even with the occasional scratch or debris, the colors look outstanding and the detail is surprisingly clear, even in standard definition. Cry Wilderness exhibits a bit more inherent softness on the print, but looks fairly clean and consistent throughout. Black levels are solid for the most part, and colors are strong and authentic to the time period. For the most part, both films look really good, and hats off to Vinegar Syndrome for the restoration work they have done here.

Audio Quality:

With a solo Mono audio track for both films, the audio is never very impressive, but it’s clear and audible enough for the DVD format. Running a little front-heavy with a “tinny” sound, the dynamic range is never there, but honestly, who cares, right? As mentioned before, both of these films are rather obscure and it’s delightful just to have them on DVD on this double feature set.

Special Features:

Vinegar Syndrome’s DVD for In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness doesn’t have any special features to speak of. There are chapter selections located in the main menu labeled “reels”, but no trailers or commentaries are found on the disc. I believe that most would say that the films themselves are quite enough, given that the movies presented here are rather obscure and catered to cult audiences who seek out films of this nature.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this DVD edition from Vinegar Syndrome features the original theatrical posters for both films within the “Drive-In Collection” retro case design. I really dig the style utilized on this series, which emphasis the cult fun and grindhouse style posters for these films. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for both films, some technical specifications, and production stills.

In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness (reverse)

In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness (reverse)

In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness (interior)

In Search of Bigfoot/Cry Wilderness (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Vinegar Syndrome’s Drive-In Collection has offered up some tasty cult and exploitation treats, and this double feature for In Search of Bigfoot & Cry Wilderness stands apart from the collection in its focus and family friendly tone. In Search of Bigfoot is fairly informative on both the subject and surrounding nature in Washington’s forests, and Cry Wilderness is a cheesy but harmless family film with some unintentional laughs to boot. The transfers have been restored from the original camera negative, and look surprisingly detailed for the DVD format. Though the audio track is a little lacking in terms of power, I’m not sure the audience that seeks out these kinds of films would even notice. I really enjoy these DVD gems that Vinegar Syndrome puts out, and this collection comes recommended for fans of strange cinematic oddities.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Pumpkinhead Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: September 9th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 86 Minutes

Pumpkinhead: Collector's Edition (Scream Factory)

Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“For each of man’s evils, a special demon exists. You’re looking at vengeance, cruel, devious, pure-as-venom vengeance.”

–Haggis in Pumpkinhead

Released into theaters in 1988, Pumpkinhead remains one of the late, great Stan Winston’s few directorial efforts. Inspired by a creepy poem by Ed Justin, the film received a mixed reaction upon its theatrical release, but thankfully went on to develop a fervent cult following over the years from die-hard fans of the film (myself included). Simply put, it’s one of the best modern day fairy tales with a dark horror twist, and not only features outstanding performances from everyone involved, but one of the scariest creature designs in Horror history.

The opening prologue set in 1957 instantly conjures goose-bumps as we’re introduced to Tom Harley, his wife, and son Ed. Ed watches in horror as his father, shotgun in hand, locks up the horses, bars the door to their home, and waits patiently for something to emerge from the darkness of the woods. Soon a desperate and terrified man is running away from an unseen monster, and begins to pound on the Harley’s door for help. Tom refuses, citing his obligation to protect his family. The monster brutally kills the man as young Ed watches from his bedroom window.

Fast forward to the present day, and Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) is all grown up, a father himself to his young son Billy. They live on the very same farm that his family has passed down through the years, and run the local Harley & Son Grocery store. They have a wonderful father-son relationship built around unconditional love, daily routines, and story time around the dinner table. One day while tending to the store, a group of dirt-bike racers and their girlfriends from out of town use the dirt paths in the nearby fields to stage some trick jumps for photographs. With Ed having to run back home to grab some feed he promised to a customer, young Billy is left to take care of the store with his dog in tow. When the dog escapes into the dirt-bike racing path, Billy gives chase, getting run over by a dirt bike, and eventually dies from his injuries. Most of the bikers leave the scene, afraid of the consequences that will likely follow.

Heartbroken over the death of his son, and filled with rage toward the bikers, Ed Harley visits a creepy old woman in the middle of the woods who is able to conjure the Pumpkinhead demon from his slumber. Once brought back to life, Pumpkinhead begins to slay the out-of-towners one by one. A guilt-ridden Ed, able to telepathically “experience” the carnage as it happens, moves past his hate and grief to help the young folks in a final battle against Pumpkinhead. That’s all I’m going to say about the film, as this is definitely one you’ll want to experience for yourself.

Revisiting Pumpkinhead on this brand new Blu-Ray edition was an absolute treat! Stan Winston’s direction is masterful, highlighting the Southern Gothic atmosphere with sweat-drenched sunshine and fog-filled moonlight, nearly every scene leaps off the page of a fairy tale. The acting is superb, especially from Lance Henriksen and Matthew Hurley, who truly make an impact on the viewers as we experience their happiness and eventual devastation. I loved the opening moments between father and son; such a touching relationship that enhances the audiences involvement in the terrifying events that follow. The creature design on Pumpkinhead itself remains impressive, and made me smile reminiscing about the good old days of animatronics and practical effects. This is a modern day Horror classic as far as I’m concerned.

Video Quality:

As a lifelong fan of Pumpkinhead, my anticipation was high for this Blu-Ray release, and I can say without a doubt that this is the best the film has ever looked on home video. The color grading is especially impressive, with the summer days drenched in golden hues, and the moonlight blues of the humid nights on bold display. The natural film grain has been left intact, and there is an abundance of detail in facial features, clothing, and the slimy skin of Pumpkinhead itself. The transfer is very clean to boot, with artifacts or anomalies to report. As Horror fans, we couldn’t ask for anything more, Pumpkinhead looks great in High Definition!

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is another high point, with dialogue, Richard Stone’s creepy score, and background effects coming through clean and clear on your home theater system. There is a nice balance to everything presented, from the quiet, peaceful opening scenes on Ed and Billy’s property, to the frenetic terror and action of the finale, everything sounds great in High Definition audio.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of Pumpkinhead with a fully-loaded Collector’s Edition featuring some truly fantastic bonus material for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary– Featuring co-screenwriter Gary Gerani, creature & F/X creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, and filmmaker/moderator Scott Spiegel, this is one of the better audio commentaries I’ve heard in some time. There is never a dull moment here, the group is talkative, informative, and relate some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes from the making of the film.
  • Pumpkinhead: Unearthed- Split into several chapters and lasting over an hour, this documentary from Red Shirt Pictures and Scream Factory delves into all things Pumpkinhead: from original concepts and design, to screenwriting and Stan Winston’s involvement, and casting to special effects, it doesn’t get any better than this for Horror fans! We also get to hear from the cast including Cynthia Bain, Kerry Remsen, Brian Bremer, Florence Schauffler, and Lance Henriksen among others. I particularly enjoyed Brian Bemer reminiscing about having to do multiple takes because he couldn’t stop laughing when Pumpkinhead found him in the closet. Lance Henriksen also provides some fun stories relating to how he was able to get into his character, from obtaining fake teeth to buying his own props to enhance the realism, he’s always fun to listen to. The ad-libbed line regarding his Grandmother washing his hands is touching. It’s an in-depth and revealing look behind-the-scenes of the production, and the cast and crew share some delightful stories. Great stuff!
  • Pumpkinhead: Behind the Scenes- Scream Factory has provided some fascinating footage from the making of the film, including Tom Woodruff Jr. testing out the costume design for the first time, molding and painting the various pieces in the workshop, and testing the final suit with mechanical elements in place. This one runs a little over 7 minutes.
  • Night of the Demon (w/Richard Weinman)- This is an extended interview with Richard Weinman (who co-wrote the story) from Red Shirt Pictures. Richard provides us details on his involvement in the film, how the production came to fruition, and some more in-depth details, some that were previously discussed in the aforementioned Unearthed documentary. Runs about 17 minutes.
  • The Redemption of Joel (w/John D’Aquino)- One thing is certain, John D’Aquino possesses an anti-aging potion that he needs to bottle, sell, and provide to the masses! The man looks great! This is yet another extended interview from Red Shirt Pictures featuring the actor detailing his involvement in the film, his character’s bad choice and resulting consequences, and much more.
  • The Boy with the Glasses (w/Matthew Hurley)- This great extended interview runs about 14 ½ minutes and features Matthew Hurley, who played young Billy Harley in the film. This is probably my favorite featurette on the disc behind the Unearthed documentary. Matthew talks about how he got involved in the film, coming from a Christian background and being involved in a Horror movie, working with Lance Henriksen and Stan Winston, and much more. Billy is such a vital and important character in Pumpkinhead, and it was a treat to listen to Matthew discussing his role as a child actor.
  • Demonic Toys- This short segment runs nearly five minutes and features sculptor Jean St. Jean discussing his work on the Pumpkinhead design. He talks issues involving the design itself, including weighing and balancing the different features to make the creature work on film.
  • Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston- Lasting nearly 50 minutes, this is another standout documentary from Aine Leicht and Scream Factory involving various industry professionals, actors, and other relevant people remembering Stan Winston and the legendary work he left behind. This is wonderfully edited together, informative, and fun. What a legend!
  • Still Gallery- About 14 minutes of production stills from the film in High Definition.
  • Theatrical Trailer- I love and miss seeing that U/A logo! The original theatrical trailer for the film gives viewers a fairly good idea of what they’re in for with Pumpkinhead. It’s creepy, intense, and showcases the wonderful cinematography well.
  • More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other Scream Factory titles including Motel Hell, Squirm, and Without Warning.

The Packaging:

This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features newly-commissioned artwork from fan-favorite artist Justin Osbourn on the slip-cover. Simply put, this is one of my all-time favorite pieces of art from their collection. You have Pumpkinhead creeping over the scenery, Lance Henriksen ready for action with pitchfork in hand, and the pumpkin patch graveyard sprawled across the landscape. The coloring is perfect, and the detail is stunning, evoking the ideal atmosphere to accompany this release. On the reverse of the slip, you’ll find a plot synopsis, a listing of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. Inside the case is the disc artwork as well as a reversible slip-sheet for those that prefer the original theatrical poster design. This is a hauntingly beautiful looking set!

Pumpkinhead: Collector's Edition (reverse)

Pumpkinhead: Collector’s Edition (reverse)

Pumpkinhead (interior)

Pumpkinhead (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Pumpkinhead is a modern day Horror classic as far as I’m concerned, and revisiting the film on this brand new Blu-Ray edition was an absolute treat! Stan Winston’s direction is masterful, highlighting the Southern Gothic atmosphere with sweat-drenched sunshine and fog-filled moonlight. The creature design is outstanding, and the father-son relationship between Lance Henriksen and Matthew Hurley feels so real in moments of happiness and devastation, making for a twisted fairy tale that comes to life on screen. The picture quality is superb, highlighting the golden summer hues and blue moonlight fog with exceptional clarity, and the HD audio is well balanced and effective. Once again, it’s in the special features department that Scream Factory knocks it out of the park with some truly fantastic documentaries and featurettes. Pumpkinhead kicks off Scream Factory’s Fall Frights in spectacular fashion, and comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


The Legend of Hell House Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- The Legend of Hell House

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: August 26th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono

Runtime: 95 Minutes

The Legend of Hell House (Scream Factory)

The Legend of Hell House (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“Although the story of this film is fictitious, the events depicted involving psychic phenomena are not only very much within the bounds of possibility, but could well be true.” –Tom Corbett, Clairvoyant and Psychic Consultant to European Royalty (From the opening scroll of The Legend of Hell House)

Based on the book by Richard Matheson (who also wrote the screenplay) and released into theaters in June 1973, The Legend of Hell House stars Clive Revill as Dr. Lionel Barrett, a physicist who is tasked with the challenge of proving the existence of life after death. After some hesitation, he proceeds to venture to the so-called “Mount Everest of haunted houses”: The Belasco House, which is more commonly referred to as “Hell House.”

Accompanying him on this trip into the supernatural is his wife Ann (Gayle Hunnicutt), renowned “mental” medium Florence Tanner (Pamela Franklin), and the sole survivor of the last investigation into Hell Houses’ secrets; “physical” medium Benjamin Franklin Fisher (Roddy McDowall). Upon their arrival, Benjamin explains, rather vaguely, some of the monstrosities that occurred in the house throughout its years under Mr. Belasco’s ownership. A grotesque and evil man, everything from murder to séances, and torture and necrophilia were common place. On their first night in the house, Florence conducts a prayer followed by a psychic channeling of the evil spirits that remain in Hell House, causing physical and vocal phenomena to emanate from her. It’s a truly unsettling scene.

As the spirits of the house continue to terrorize the unwelcome guests, trust begins to dwindle among the group, as Dr. Barrett suspects the hostile force to be a product of Florence’s doing, not Belasco’s son as she insists. Chandeliers crash and poltergeist fingernails terrorize, promiscuous ghosts seduce and black cats attack among other mayhems, as the group morale crumbles and Hell House takes hold of its victims.

I’m not sure I would count The Legend of Hell House among my favorite “haunted house” films. It’s a little stuffy, more than a little slow, and lacking much in the way of genuine scares. That’s not to say it’s an outright disappointment in the slightest. The film is a gorgeously produced modern gothic horror entry, with impeccably framed shots, some fun special effects for the time, and a particularly energetic performance from the always magnificent Roddy McDowall. The music from Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire adds to the creepy atmosphere to boot, sounding like some sort of macabre tribal music. For many Horror fans, this is a welcome addition to the Scream Factory line, and at the end of the day, it’s a genre film you can respect, even with a few bumps along the way.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory brings The Legend of Hell House to Blu-Ray with an overall solid transfer. Colors look authentic, bold, and retain the look of the period. Film grain is natural and plentiful as well. There are sporadic artifacts and slight damage to the print in places, ranging from minimal scratches to a few burns, but as I’ve stated many times before, I tend to look at those anomalies as an added “bonus” to films of this genre. It makes for a fun grindhouse-style experience while watching at home. There are some hazy or soft shots, particularly in wide shots, but detail in facial features and clothing looks nice and solid in nearly every close-up.

Audio Quality:

The DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track balances dialogue, the creepy tribal drum score, and background effects quite well. A slight crackling noise accompanies the audio in select scenes (similar to the natural audio static you hear in early sound films), but it seems likely to be inherent to the source. There are moments of surprising power here, especially when Hell House begins to wreak havoc on its victims, making for a fine home audio experience.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of The Legend of Hell House with select special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary– This feature-length audio commentary with Actress Pamela Franklin is really laid back, fun, and informative for the viewer. Pamela reminisces about her costars, the sets, the Director, and more. Definitely a fun addition to this fine release.
  • Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer runs about 2 ½ minutes and definitely gives the viewer an idea of the bizarre and terrifying experience they’re in for with the film.
  • The Story of Hell House: An Interview with Director John Hough- This nearly 30 minute extended interview from Scream Factory and Calum Waddell is a wonderful addition to this Blu-Ray release. Mixing High Definition interview footage with clips from the film, Director John Hough provides some fascinating insight into the making of The Legend of Hell House, from the hauntingly beautiful shooting location to his thoughts on the cast and performances, and much more. Well done!
  • Photo Gallery- Nearly 3 minutes worth of production stills and behind-the-scenes photos from The Legend of Hell House, including some really beautiful black and white photos presented in High Definition.
  • Radio Spots- Exactly two minutes worth of vintage radio commercials created during the theatrical campaign for The Legend of Hell House. You have to admire the great voice-over work and background effects here, definitely would have made me run to the theater to see it back in 1973.
  • Also Available from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for two other titles in the Scream Factory line including The Vampire Lovers and The Amityville Horror.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for The Legend of Hell House. It’s a creepy and effective cover, with the one-eyed skull dripping blood over Hell House, being held in the grip of a finely manicured hand. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, technical specifications, and a list of special features that accompany this Blu-Ray release. On the interior of the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as some reversible cover art for those that prefer it.

The Legend of Hell House (reverse)

The Legend of Hell House (reverse)

The Legend of Hell House (interior)

The Legend of Hell House (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Legend of Hell House (reversible slip-sheet)

The Legend of Hell House (reversible slip-sheet)

Final Report:

Though I’m not sure I would count The Legend of Hell House among my personal favorite “haunted house” films, it remains a gorgeously produced modern gothic horror entry, with impeccably framed shots, some fun special effects for the time, and a particularly energetic performance from the always magnificent Roddy McDowall. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features overall solid picture quality that retains authentic color reproduction and nice fine object detail in close-up shots. The DTS-HD mono track nicely balances dialogue, the creepy score, and background effects as well. The special features are once again the standout aspect on this release, with a great extended interview with the Director of the film, an audio commentary from Pamela Franklin, and select other goodies. For many Horror fans, this is a welcome addition to the Scream Factory line, and at the end of the day, it’s a genre film you can respect, even with a few bumps along the way.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre

HellHouse5


Leviathan Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Leviathan

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: August 19th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 98 Minutes

Leviathan (Scream Factory)

Leviathan (Scream Factory)

The Film:

Released in 1989 in direct competition with two other aquatic-themed science fiction films (Deep Star Six and The Abyss), Leviathan may not have blown away the critics or scored big at the Box Office, but it has slowly and rightfully developed a cult following over the years. Featuring one of the most underrated movie monsters in film history (designed by Stan Winston) and solid performances from a talented cast with great on-screen chemistry, Leviathan remains a wildly entertaining creature feature that deserves more recognition.

Directed by George P. Cosmatos, Leviathan stars Peter Weller as Steven Beck, geologist and captain of a deep sea mining crew in charge of mining for precious metals for the Tri-Oceanic Corporation. With only a few days left on the job, the crew is looking forward to getting back home to their families and back to the real world. The team consists of the always absent Dr. Glen Thompson (Richard Crenna), soon-to-be astronaut Elizabeth “Willie” Williams (the beautiful Amanda Pays), the horn-ball Buzz “Six-Pack” Parrish (Daniel Stern), the cool and calm Justin Jones (Ernie Hudson), and the seasoned veteran G.P. Cobb (Hector Elizondo) among others. Each of the ragtag crew are fully fleshed out in a short amount of time, letting the viewer inside their claustrophobic world of dirty jokes, pranks, and bitching about the job.

Things take a turn for the worse when two of the crew members fall off the mining platform and stumble upon a soviet shipwreck. Dr. Glen is able to translate the Russian name of the ship to Leviathan, a vessel that oddly shows up on “active duty” when they search their computer database. “Six-Pack” decides to bring a rusted safe back from the wreck, which the crew happily explores, finding some alcohol and other souvenirs. But that’s not all they brought back with them! One by one, the crew becomes sick with an unidentified virus that mutates them into a terrifying creature capable of absorbing their bodies and minds, and continuously sprouting horrifying appendages. With a hurricane on the surface affecting their escape, and an ever-growing list of excuses from Tri-Oceanic Corp as to why they can’t be rescued, the crew is forced to battle the creature and find their own way to survive.

Twenty-five years after its theatrical release, Leviathan remains an incredibly exciting creature feature with top-notch performances, brilliant special effects from Stan Winston, and exciting action sequences. While it may borrow elements from other movies in the genre, the execution from Director George P. Cosmatos is near perfection, leaving the viewer on the edge of their seat for the entirety of the film. Revisiting the film on Scream Factory’s brand new Blu-Ray edition was a treat, and makes for one of my favorite releases from their Summer of Fear lineup.

Video Quality:

I was incredibly pleased with this transfer of Leviathan from Scream Factory, and this is without a doubt, the best it’s ever looked on home video. Color grading is important on a release like this, especially with a film that features such deep underwater blues and metallic shine, and the work here is consistently solid. Detail in facial features, clothing, the mining gear, and especially the creature itself is very clear in High Definition. The transfer is clean and virtually free from any artifacts or anomalies as well. The natural grain structure has been left intact, making for a beautiful and authentic presentation.

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track sounds terrific on your home theater system, and I was actually taken aback by how dynamic and balanced this sounds in HD audio. The underwater mining station has some very fun background effects that envelop the audience, dialogue is always strong and clear, and the frenetic mayhem in the latter half of the film is powerful on this track.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of Leviathan with an array of great special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Leviathan: Monster Melting Pot– This 40 minute documentary focuses mostly on Stan Winston’s creature effects, featuring entertaining stories and anecdotes from the team that worked closely with him, and is an absolute treat for Leviathan fans. This is very well assembled, mixing entertaining highlights from the individual interviews with clips from the film. Breaking down everything from concept drawings to effects rendering and assembly, as well as the occasional awkward tension and arguments between Stan and Director George P. Cosmatos (chalk it up to egos and creativity), this is yet another fine addition to the phenomenal special features that Scream Factory has come to be known for. The Leicht/Scream Factory team strikes again!
  • Dissecting Cobb with Hector Elizondo- How can you not adore this guy? Hector Elizondo is fascinating to listen to, and comes off as such a seasoned professional and joyful human being. Discussing everything from the heavy fiberglass suits to a particularly claustrophobic moment on the set, he’s ridiculously entertaining! I loved hearing about the advice that Lee Marvin gave him on one of his first movies, as well as his thoughts on the late, great, Stan Winston.
  • Surviving Leviathan with Ernie Hudson- Ernie Hudson sits down with the folks at Scream Factory to discuss his experience making the film. Ernie is very engaging from start to finish, discussing his thoughts on everything from the monster design (“I thought it looked like a chicken.”) to working with the politically incorrect George P. Cosmatos, and seeing the film with an audience in South Central, Los Angeles. I had no idea the filmmakers achieved the underwater segments by simply floating small feathers in the air underneath the actors. It’s very clear that Ernie didn’t agree with a particular death scene in the film as well…very clear. His stories are fun, and this extended interview is well put together!
  • Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for Leviathan, fast paced and fun, and genuinely gives the viewer a decent look at what they’re in for.
  • More from Scream Factory- Vintage trailers for other titles in the Scream Factory line including: Without Warning, Lake Placid, Saturn 3, and Swamp Thing.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for Leviathan (which also makes for a fun animated menu on the disc). The poster is one of my favorites! Honestly, who doesn’t remember that image, the tagline (“How long can you hold your breath?”), and those cheeks on Amanda Pays while perusing their local video store during their childhood? On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features and technical specifications, as well as select production stills from the film. On the interior of the packaging is the Blu-Ray disc and some fun reversible cover art.

Leviathan (reverse)

Leviathan (reverse)

Leviathan (interior)

Leviathan (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Twenty-five years after its theatrical release, Leviathan remains an incredibly exciting creature feature with top-notch performances, brilliant special effects from Stan Winston, and exciting action sequences. The Blu-Ray transfer from Scream Factory boasts impressive detail, authentic color reproduction, and is virtually artifact-free. I was taken aback by the dynamic power of the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track as well. Once again, the special features are the standout aspect of this release, with some truly terrific documentaries and interviews with the cast and crew from the film. Leviathan is one of my personal favorite titles from Scream Factory’s Summer of Fear lineup, and this brand new Blu-Ray edition comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Motel Hell Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Motel Hell

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: August 12th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 101 Minutes

Motel Hell (Scream Factory)

Motel Hell (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters.”

There is oh so much to love about Motel Hell, Kevin Connor’s 1980 Horror-satire that is legitimately scary in its own right, while poking fun at the genre it so clearly inhibits and adores. From the terrifyingly hilarious performances from Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons to the unsettling and hypnotic score by Lance Rubin, Motel Hell has remains an 80’s Horror classic with a fervent and well-deserved fan following.

In Motel Hell, we meet Vincent Smith (Rory Calhoun), proprietor of the Motel Hello (the “o” flickers on the sign), a sick and sadistic man with a dark sense of humor. With help from his equally psychotic toddler-esque sister Ida (Nancy Parsons), the pair set traps for weary travelers on the property surrounding their Motel, bury them up to their necks in dirt, and proceed to cure and process them for Vincent’s famous local “smoked meat”, unbeknownst to those unlucky enough to try it.

When Vincent’s next victims lose control of their motorcycle before he even gets a chance to trap them, he’s immediately taken by the beautiful female Terry (Nina Axelrod), and takes her back to the Motel, tricking her by saying that her boyfriend died in the accident, while he’s actually neck-deep in Vincent’s garden. The siblings continue their macabre charade, with the clueless Terry happily staying at the Motel, and their younger brother Bruce (the town Sheriff) completely unaware of their nightly activities. As the inconsistencies start to stack up and Terry and Vincent begin to grow fond of each other, Ida’s jealousy is unleashed and Bruce’s suspicions are confirmed. I hesitate to say too much more about Motel Hell, and allow you to enjoy the film for yourself.

Motel Hell works on many levels, even with shades of Psycho and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film manages to be an original outing strengthened by the fantastic chemistry between Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons, and enhanced with fine execution by Director Kevin Connor. Featuring as many scary moments as laugh out loud ridiculousness, it’s the kind of Horror film that you can’t help but feel bad for laughing along with these wacky characters.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory has brought Motel Hell to the Blu-Ray format with a pleasant and natural transfer featuring bold colors, impressive clarity given the stock, and authentic film grain. It looks great in High Definition, and is a clear improvement over past DVD releases. Detail is solid in most scenes, especially close-up shots (Vincent’s suspenders for example). Any softness that the print exhibits is likely inherent to the original negative.

Audio Quality:

The 2 channel DTS-HD track works very well for the most part, balancing the various elements (dialogue, music, background effects) equally and strongly throughout your home theater. The sound is crisp and clean, with little to no hiccups along the way, and Lance Rubin’s score in particular sounds amazing. I usually don’t mention other reviews in my own reviews (and won’t name call here), but seeing another website critique the amplitude as “anemic” is about as far off as one could imagine. There is no need for subtitles, period. Dialogue/vocals are strong and steady throughout the entire presentation. Well done!

Special Features:

Scream Factory has given Motel Hell the deluxe treatment with some great special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Commentary– This audio commentary features Director Kevin Connor, moderated by Dave Parker, and delves into all things Motel Hell. From the initial screenwriting and pre-production to casting choices and tales from the set, this is a very fun listen for fans of the film.
  • It Takes All Kinds: The Making of Motel Hell- This nearly 25 minute documentary is extremely well put together, and features various cast and crew detailing the experience of making the film. The interview subjects are candid and often very funny, providing great insight into both the making of the film and its legacy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Producer Aine Leicht and the folks at Scream Factory make for a wonderful team! In an age where most companies don’t bother to include special features, or simply recycle older materials, their work is a breath of fresh air for fans and collectors alike.
  • Shooting Old School- Cinematographer Thomas Del Ruth details his involvement in shooting Motel Hell, sharing a little bit of personal history as well as his experience on the set. He’s easy to listen to and provides plenty of worthwhile stories from his career.
  • Ida, Be Thy Name: The Frightful Females of Fear- Running over 18 minutes, this fun featurette features several actresses, commentators, and critics discussing Nancy Parson’s role as Ida Smith in Motel Hell, as well as other important female roles in Horror films (Friday the 13th, Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, Misery, etc.). Directed by Calum Waddel, this is another interesting piece that fits well with the movie’s themes.
  • From Glamour to Gore: Rosanne Katon Remembers Motel Hell- This featurette runs over 11 minutes and features Rosanne Katon (Suzy) discussing her experiencing acting in the film. Though she’s barely in the film, Rosanne’s experience getting into the film and how important her career was to her family at the time makes for an interesting watch.
  • Another Head on the Chopping Block: An Interview with Paul Linke- This extended interview runs almost 15 minutes and features Paul Linke, who played Sheriff Bruce Smith in the film, sharing his memories on the making of the film and the importance of his role.
  • Motel Hell Trailer- This rough looking vintage trailer is fun, especially with its gravely voice-over, but definitely makes the film look more terrifying than darkly funny, which must have been a welcome bonus for audiences when they actually saw the film.
  • Behind the Scenes Gallery- About 2 ½ minutes’ worth of behind the scenes photos and production stills, which play automatically.
  • Posters and Production Gallery- A lengthy series of various poster designs and production photos from the marketing campaign for the film, running over 17 minutes.
  • More from Scream Factory- Original Theatrical Trailers for The Funhouse, Terror Train, The Fog, and Without Warning.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features awesome newly commissioned cover art from Nathan Thomas Milliner featuring Vincent in his Pig head with chainsaw, Ida looking creepy with her butcher knife, the garden of heads, and a great font design meant to resemble the flickering motel sign. It’s important to note that this Blu-Ray set features the original theatrical cover art on the inside slip-sheet, which fans can reverse if they please. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, special features, technical specifications, and select stills from the film. Inside the Blu-Ray case you’ll find the discs (BD & DVD) with some fun artwork to boot.

Motel Hell (reverse)

Motel Hell (reverse)

Motel Hell (interior)

Motel Hell (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Kevin Connor’s Motel Hell remains a top notch Horror satire, strengthened by the fantastic chemistry between Rory Calhoun and Nancy Parsons. It’s the kind of Horror film that you can’t help but feel guilty for laughing along with these wacky characters. The fervent fan following is well deserved. This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features a strong transfer with natural film grain and bold color reproduction, and audio that nicely balances the clever dialogue and creepy score from Lance Rubin. The wealth of bonus features are incredibly impressive, featuring insightful documentaries and featurettes that fans will adore. This brand new Blu-Ray edition of Motel Hell comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Sorceress Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Sorceress

Distributor: Scorpion Releasing

Street Date: August 19th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono

Runtime: 83 Minutes

Sorceress (Scorpion Releasing)

Sorceress (Scorpion Releasing)

The Film:

Working with the same cost effective formula established at AIP, Roger Corman’s New World Pictures delivered an array of memorable B-movie goodness throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Made for only half a million dollars, Sorceress would go on to gross roughly 4 million dollars at the box office, and become a late-night cult staple of premium television entertainment on HBO and Cinemax.

Sorceress begins in unintentionally hilarious campy fashion, with the wizard Traigon in hot pursuit of his wife in the forest, who has run away from him after giving birth to their twin daughters. Traigon had plans to sacrifice his first born child to their God Caligara, but is unsure which daughter was born first. The Gandalf-esque wizard Krona shows up to save the day, leaving Traigon dead, but not before he promises to resurrect himself and finish the job. Traigon’s wife leaves her twin daughters to Krona, who promises to raise them as warriors, but then promptly leaves them with a trusted friend. You get an immediate sense of the camp value involved here with the forced line delivery, bad dubbing, and cheap effects during the battle between Krona and Traigon’s guards.

Several years pass, and Traigon returns with the help of his hairy-pit female companion and a man in a monkey suit. The twins, Mira and Mara, are grown up now and played by Playboy playmates Leigh and Lynette Harris. They’re trained warriors now, catching arrows with their bare hands, glowing bright blue at random times (for unexplained reasons), and swimming naked in lakes while being watched by a horny goat man. When their adoptive parents are killed, they come across the Barbarian Erlik and Baldar the Viking, who join the girls in their journey to defeat Traigon before he can fulfill his promise to Caligara.

When watching a film like Sorceress, you have to put things in perspective. I don’t think there’s any way you could call this a quality film, but New World Pictures was never aiming for Oscar material. This is pure Roger Corman B-movie goodness, with plenty of poorly choreographed action scenes, ample sex and nudity, and genuine laughs (both intentional and unintentional). There’s even a lion-bat hybrid God, which Corman had created and filmed in post to reflect the already made poster. Sorceress falls into the “so bad it’s good” category of cult classics, and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it in High Definition.

 

Video Quality:

Scorpion Releasing has conjured Sorceress onto the Blu-Ray format with a solid High Definition presentation. The film grain is intact and authentic, colors look accurate, and fine object detail is impressive for the most part. You can see a surprising amount of detail in the recycled Corman costumes and set dressing. The bottom line is that the picture quality is consistent throughout, with only a handful of scenes exhibiting some anomalies (scratches, pops, etc.). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, for me personally, those anomalies are part of the fun for B-movie genre films. Scorpion Releasing has done a fine job on the transfer.

Audio Quality:

The DTS-HD Mono track isn’t quite as strong as the video presentation, but it certainly gets the job done. The dialogue, sound effects, and the score come through just fine, but seem a bit “tinny” and lack the dynamic range of a multi-channel effort, which is to be expected. I was satisfied with the presentation, especially given the nature of the film.

Special Features:

Scorpion Releasing has provided fans of Sorceress with select interviews and trailers on this new Blu-Ray edition. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • The Magic Behind Sorceress: An Interview with Roger Corman– This interview with the legendary Roger Corman runs nearly seven minutes and details the production of Sorceress in surprising depth given the runtime. From the initial budget and filming restraints to the sexy Playboy Playmate Harris twins, and the low budget special effects to filming in Mexico, we get to hear quite a bit about the making of the film. Corman, as always, is a delight to listen to. He seems to remember the production on each of his films so well on these interviews with Scorpion and other distributors, which is great for the fans!
  • The Illusion Behind Sorceress: An Interview with John Carl Buechler– This extended interview runs nearly 16 minutes and features Special Effects technician John Carl Buechler discussing his work on the film. Buechler discusses starting the production after working on Galaxy of Terror, being asked by Corman to pick-up Don Post masks from Famous Monsters of Filmland and manipulate them for the film, deciding to sculpt his own masks after all, and other fun insights into the low budget effects for the movie. He does a killer Roger Corman impression to boot! Buechler is hilarious, and his on-set stories are so much fun for fans of the film.
  • The Incantation Behind Sorceress: An Interview with Jim Wynorski- This roughly 10 minute interview with Screenwriter Jim Wynorski details his involvement on Sorceress, including being given a single week to write the script for the film (which Roger Corman requested after seeing the box office success of Conan the Barbarian), the last time he saw Jack Hill after he turned in a religious-themed final product, the re-editing and re-shoots involved, the inclusion of the horny goat man, and much more.
  • Interview with Clark Henderson- The former head of Post Production for Corman, Clark Henderson spends this nearly 9 minute interview discussing his work on the production of Sorceress. The discussion of Corman and Hill’s conflict during the making of the film is fascinating. With this final interview featurette, we get a very well-rounded look into the making of the movie. Great stuff!
  • Trailers- Roughly 9 ½ minutes of trailers for current and upcoming titles from Scorpion Releasing including: Sorceress, Space Raiders, Stripped to Kill, Sorority House Massacre, and Seizure.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scorpion Releasing features the fantastic original theatrical poster design for Sorceress, which according to Roger Corman, helped the film achieve great success. It’s the perfect sword and sorcery imagery, with the hybrid animal, barely dressed babe, and shiny steel weapons. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. On the interior of the case is a Blu-Ray disc that features the same theatrical poster design.

Sorceress (reverse)

Sorceress (reverse)

Sorceress (interior)

Sorceress (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Sorceress falls into the “so bad it’s good” category of cult classics, and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it in High Definition. This is pure Roger Corman B-movie goodness, with plenty of poorly choreographed action scenes, ample sex and nudity, and genuine laughs (both intentional and unintentional). The video presentation looks clean and consistent, with natural film grain present and accurate color reproduction. The DTS-HD master audio track lacks the dynamic quality of a bigger production, but it gets the job done. The special features are the standout aspect on this Blu-Ray release, with wonderful interviews with the likes of Roger Corman, Jim Wynorski, and more. Scorpion Releasing put a lot of effort and passion into this release for B-movie fans, and they absolutely delivered. If you’re a fan of “so bad it’s good” cinema, then this is an easy recommendation.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Deadly Eyes Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Deadly Eyes

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: July 15th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono

Runtime: 87 Minutes

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

The Film:

How could one not enjoy the camp value and sheer fun that a film about giant man-eating rats (played by Dachshunds) brings? Deadly Eyes is the kind of 80’s B flick that I could throw on anytime. It has a brilliantly creepy score by Anthony Guefen, solid direction from Robert Clouse (Enter the Dragon), and a terrified Scatman Crothers being chased through a sewer by loveable rat-dogs. What’s not to love?

Deadly Eyes stars “perfectly coiffed haired” Sam Groom as Paul Harris, a recently divorced High School teacher who becomes romantically involved with Elly (Sara Botsford), a Health Department inspector, as giant killer rats begin to take over the city of Toronto. We also get to know Trudy (the beautiful Lisa Langlois), one of Paul’s students who harbors a massive crush on her teacher, whom she believes to be much more mature than her basketball player boyfriend. Lesleh Donaldson plays Martha, one of Trudy’s friends who can’t help but tease her about her complicated love life.

With the help of Paul’s friend and former Professor Dr. Spencer (Cec Linder), it’s soon determined that the massive rats have spawned from feeding off steroid laced grain that was burned on Health Department orders earlier in the film. Having lost their home and possessing a new taste for human flesh, the mega-rats begin to infest the city (and the brand new subway line), leaving our human protagonists searching for a way to get rid of them once and for all.

Deadly Eyes is simply too much fun. The acting is sincere, with everyone playing it straight, which absolutely enhances the terror and fun for the viewer. The dachshunds in rat suits are hilarious to behold, hopping along in an almost loving fashion towards their victims, and the close-up special effects shots are well done for the time. I love the cornball moments too, especially when Paul visits one of his students in the hospital, where the cheese is nearly too much to take. I’m always up for a good old fashioned creature feature, and Deadly Eyes, with its sincerity and goofy fun, remains a satisfying B-flick for a rainy Saturday night.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory brings Deadly Eyes to High Definition with a solid transfer, boasting natural film grain and accurate color reproduction, and consistently inky black levels to boot. You can almost smell the masculinity that certainly must have been emulating from Sam Groom’s brown leather jacket. The transfer is virtually free of anomalies as well, with only an occasional scratch or pop in the reel here or there. This one makes for yet another great presentation from the fine folks at Scream Factory.

Audio Quality:

The DTS-HD Mono track works very well, and adds to the natural nostalgia one feels when watching a B movie from the early 80’s. The dynamic range of a multi-channel effort isn’t here, but this authentic front mix handles dialogue, music, and sound effects very well.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of Deadly Eyes with some fun special features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rats’ Clothing– This fantastic documentary piece runs over 24 minutes and features brand new interviews with the crew of Deadly Eyes. From romance budding behind the scenes between writer Charles H. Eglee and production designer Ninkey Dalton to the special effects sequences and the hilarious training of the dachshunds in rat costumes, there is an abundance of fun and engaging discussion going on here. Producer Aine Leicht and the folks at Scream Factory have hit gold on these recent collaborations, and this one is an absolute treat for fans of the film!
  • Interviews-
    • Lisa Langlois- A nearly 19 minute interview with the beautiful Lisa Langlois, brought to you in collaboration with Scorpion Releasing. Lisa talks all things Deadly Eyes, from her beginnings as an actress and her nervousness around Sam Groom with the sexual undertones between their characters. She also discusses her make-out scene with her cinematic boyfriend Joseph Kelly, and shares some funny memories of the dachshunds on set.
    • Lesleh Donaldson- Another Scorpion produced interview that runs nearly 14 minutes and features the sweet and funny Lesleh Donaldson speaking on her role in Deadly Eyes.
    • Joseph Kelly- I was amazed how little Joseph Kelly has changed over the years! If her were to shave off the goatee he would look almost the same as he did in Deadly Eyes. This Scorpion interview features Joseph’s memories on the making of the movie.
    • Allan Ipone- Ipone discusses the special effects and challenges involved in making the rats seem realistic in the film.
  • TV Spot- This lightning quick television spot for Deadly Eyes is so short that it hardly gives the viewer an idea of what they’re in for, but it’s a nice addition to this release. Even with poor film elements to work with, I love it when distributors add vintage promotional material.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for Deadly Eyes with the menacing rodent eyes above the title, the chewed through barbwire fence, and the city in the background. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills. On the interior of the case is a Blu-Ray disc, a DVD disc, and more fun production stills from the film lining the slip-sheet.

Deadly Eyes (reverse)

Deadly Eyes (reverse)

Deadly Eyes (interior)

Deadly Eyes (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Deadly Eyes is my type of Horror film, providing plenty of scares, laughs, and camp value in only 90 minutes. It’s the kind of genre film that you could revisit anytime and have just as much fun as you did on the first viewing. It has Dachshund’s in rat costumes for Pete’s sake! The Blu-Ray transfer from Scream Factory is very solid, sporting authentic color timing and inky black levels. The DTS-HD Mono track is effective as well, supporting dialogue, music, and sound effects with ease. But it’s the special features that fans will die for, featuring the stellar Dogs in Rats’ Clothing documentary that is an absolute blast. This brand new Blu-Ray edition of Deadly Eyes from Scream Factory comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Curtains Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Curtains

Distributor: Synapse Films

Street Date: July 29th 2014

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio/Original 2.0 Mono

Runtime: 90 Minutes

Curtains (Synapse Films)

Curtains (Synapse Films)

The Film:

After watching Curtains, I found myself thinking about how a film achieves cult status over time. If you do some research, you’ll find various definitions of the term cult classic, as well as various sub-types (“so bad it’s good”, camp, guilty pleasure). I believe that Curtains has gone from an obscure Canadian horror film to “cult classic worthy” based on the fascinating troubled production history and behind-the-scenes disputes, a fantastic ice-skating kill sequence, and one hell of a strangely creative execution. The film is part soap-opera, part slasher film, and all bizarre. Though Curtains wasn’t exactly up my alley, after a few days of mulling it over, I believe I finally understand the adoration from fans, though I still can’t conceive revisiting it again anytime soon. Perhaps that will change, and if it does, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve enjoyed a movie more the second time around.

In Curtains, we meet Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Egger), a seasoned actress of stage and screen who decides to commit herself to a mental asylum in preparation for the title role in Jonathan Stryker’s (John Vernon) upcoming film Audra. Jonathan and Samantha are romantically involved, and given the great lengths she goes to impress him for the part, the casting decision is a given as far as she’s concerned. Samantha is soon surprised to find out from a Variety column that Jonathan has invited several actresses to his secluded mansion to audition for the part, and she’s understandably furious.

The female contenders for the lead in Audra include a figure skater, a comedian, a musician, a dancer, and an actress. A wronged and bitter Samantha soon shows up at Stryker’s mansion as well, still eager to convince him that she was born for this role. As the women are put through various method acting challenges (including sleeping with Stryker, ha!), a killer in an old hag mask is stalking them one by one.

I found Curtains to be a mixed bag frankly, but I get the strange affection some seem to have for it. It has an amazing and unique ice skating murder sequence, a very creepy masked killer, an equally creepy doll, and soapy camp performances from everyone involved. Sound like fun? It did to me too, which is why I’m sad to say that it just didn’t live up to expectations. Though it does have some standout moments mentioned above, for the most part Curtains is an agonizingly slow and poorly edited film with so much wasted potential. I think the wasted potential is part of the fun for fans, as it just doesn’t “gel” even with all of the right pieces in place.

Video Quality:

It goes to show how much Synapse truly cares about not only their product, but their fan-base, when they slightly delayed Curtains in early July to ensure that the transfer looked as good as it possibly could. Let me tell you folks, they knocked this one out of the park! Re-mastered from original vault materials in 2K resolution, Curtains has been given the deluxe treatment on Blu-Ray. Colors look very authentic to the time period, detail is surprisingly clear and vivid given the age, and fine natural film grain is thankfully present. Any anomalies that have appeared in previous DVD releases have also been removed. Simply put, Curtains looks fantastic in High Definition.

Audio Quality:

Synapse has graciously provided two separate audio options for fans of the film: the original 2.0 Mono track, as well as a newly created 5.1 DTS-HD mix. From Paul Zaza’s lovely and creepy score, to dialogue and suspense sequences, everything comes through beautifully on this track. There is some surprising dynamic range here, especially on the new 5.1 mix, with all channels utilized nicely, making for a balanced and pleasant audio presentation.

Special Features:

Synapse Films has included a solid array of bonus content for this Blu-Ray edition of Curtains. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary– Stars Lesleh Donaldson and Lynne Griffin discuss the film after several years of avoiding it in this great commentary track moderated by Edwin Samuelson. Just like The Ultimate Nightmare documentary, this is fascinating stuff, and provides for a really fun and engaging listen for the viewer.
  • Vintage Audio Interviews– These audio interviews play throughout the film when selected from the main menu under “setup”, and feature Producer Peter R. Simpson & Star Samantha Eggar discussing their contributions to the film. The audio is admittedly a little rough, but it works just fine.
  • Ciupka: A Filmmaker in Transition- This vintage documentary runs about fifteen minutes and focuses on Director Richard Ciupka’s transition into the film industry. The feature starts directly after a quick prompt from Synapse regarding the image quality of the featurette. This piece is pretty by the numbers, but it’s a fun look at Ciupka’s rise at the time of production.
  • The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of Curtains– This is a brand new 35 minute documentary on the making of the film from Red Shirt Pictures and Synapse. Through interviews with Director Richard Ciupka and talent like Lesleh Donaldson among others, we get to hear about the troubled production of the film (re-shoots, creative spats, etc), the confused response of the cast and crew to the finished product, and the cult love that has developed over the years. This is extremely thoughtful and informative for both fans and non-fans of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer– This is a really fun vintage trailer, complete with the Jensen Farley Pictures logo, red screen “R” rating card, and cheesy 80’s voice over.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Synapse films features the ultra-creepy original theatrical poster design for the film with the Special Edition banner across the top. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a detailed plot synopsis, a list of the fantastic bonus features, and technical specifications along with select production stills from the film. Inside the case there is a Blu-Ray disc with some nice artwork, and a background design featuring the classic ice skating scene from the film.

Curtains (reverse)

Curtains (reverse)

Curtains (interior)

Curtains (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Though Curtains wasn’t my personal cup of tea, I do understand the adoration from fans. The film is part soap-opera, part slasher film, and all bizarre. For those that dig the Canadian cult classic, this Blu-Ray edition from Synapse Films is the definitive edition to own. Featuring a breathtaking 2K restoration, the picture quality is simply excellent, and both audio options provide for a dynamic catalog experience. The special features alone are worth a recommendation, proving excellent insight into the troubled production. Though I didn’t appreciate the film as much as some folks in the Horror community seem to, Synapse has put together a wonderful release here, and there is no denying their pure love for the genre and dedication to the format. Recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre