Blu-Ray Review- Exterminators of the Year 3000
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: March 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Let’s go ahead and discuss the elephant in the room before we even begin. Giuliano Carnimeo’s Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983) is a direct rip-off of George Miller’s The Road Warrior (1981). There is no opposing viewpoint or argument in defense of Exterminators’ originality, it’s written in stone. Whether or not that’s the reason Carnimeo took the pseudonym Jules Harrison as his directing credit, we’ll never know. The only reason I state the obvious here is because Exterminators of the Year 3000 is nevertheless, highly enjoyable. It’s an absolute cheese-fest of epic low budget proportions, and as long as you can go in with this mindset, I’m positive you’ll have a howling good time (the awful Italian to English dubbing alone is worth your while).
In the film, a band of survivors live out of a makeshift cave base in the post-apocalyptic future. The earth is now a scorching hot desert with a roaming motorcycle gang on the prowl for water, led by the hilariously insane Crazy Bull. The band of survivors sent out one of their own to search for a new water supply, but he never returned. Growing more desperate as each day passes without life’s most essential substance, the group decides to send out a new group, but they are quickly decimated by Crazy Bull’s gang. The only survivor of the massacre is young Tommy (son of the first searcher), who comes across a lone badass named Alien (Robert Iannucci). After some initial trust issues between the two lone wanderers are sorted out, Alien begrudgingly agrees to help Tommy and his people find water and take on Crazy Bull and his army of psychos.
From the ultra-80’s synthesizer score and the incredibly awful dubbing to some fairly well orchestrated action scenes (not to mention a few laughable ones), there is something for everyone in Exterminators of the Year 3000. It’s a guilty pleasure for sure, but in name only as one shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying cheesy movies. They’re this particular reviewer’s bread and butter. It may be a complete rip-off of The Road Warrior/Mad Max franchise, but that’s all part of the fun.
Scream Factory’s High Definition presentation of Exterminators of the Year 3000 is pretty solid overall, exhibiting the film’s dusty post-apocalyptic color palette with nice detail and relatively clean of debris. There are some standout scenes, mostly in the first 30 minute of the film that suffer from clarity issues and digital noise, but they are few and far between. From what I understand, this is the first time the film has been presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio, and to my eyes, it looks surprisingly good given the budget, import status, and time period.
The DTS-HD mono track included herein is also impressive, relaying the hilarious dubbed dialogue, car battles, and explosions in very clear fashion on your home surround system. It has a slightly tinny/hollow feel at times when the action/score let up, but overall the film sounds impressive on Blu-Ray.
Scream Factory has provided fans of Exterminators of the Year 3000 with select bonus features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary with Robert Iannucci: This audio commentary features actor Robert Iannucci (Alien) discussing the film in depth, from the production to casting and filming the action scenes, he has plenty to say about the making of the film.
- Boogie Down with the Alien: Interview with Robert Iannucci– This nearly 18-minute interview with Robert Iannucci is slightly repetitive if you’ve already watched the commentary at this point, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. This particular interview segment was borrowed from a previous Code Red DVD release.
- Trailer- This original theatrical trailer lasts nearly four minutes (!) and gives viewers an overview of nearly every action scene in the film.
- TV Spots- 43 seconds of original television spots from the film’s theatrical promotional campaign.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for Exterminators of the Year 3000. 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 background art with a poster and more production stills from the film.
Exterminators of the Year 3000 is an absolute cheese-fest of epic low budget proportions, and as long as this is understood beforehand, I’m positive you’ll have a howling good time. From the ultra-80’s synthesizer score and the incredibly awful dubbing to some fairly well orchestrated action scenes (not to mention a few laughable ones), there is something for everyone here. It’s a guilty pleasure for sure, but in name only as one shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying cheesy movies. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features impressive video and audio quality for a film of this nature, and the special features, though light, are entertaining for fans. It’s an admittedly cheesy and borrowed affair, but Exterminators of the Year 3000 comes recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Love at First Bite/Once Bitten
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: February 10th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 96 Minutes/94 Minutes
Before I even discuss the movies themselves, can we take a moment to applaud Scream Factory’s efforts to mix things up a bit when it comes to catalog releases? Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the Horror distributor is releasing this double feature for 1979’s Love at First Bite and 1985’s Once Bitten (not to mention Vampire’s Kiss/High Spirits as well). Their willingness to cater slightly outside the genre circle with these Horror comedy-romances speaks highly to both their business savvy and knowledge of their fan base.
Love at First Bite– In this 1979 comedy, bronze statue George Hamilton portrays Count Dracula, who along with his trusted Renfield, is forced to vacate his castle to make room an Olympic Training facility. Believing that New York model Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James) is the reincarnation of his one true love, he soon arrives in the Big Apple searching for her. Subsequently, her Psychiatrist Jeffrey Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin) happens to be the grandson of Dracula’s nemesis: Van Helsing. Though it’s certainly not a laugh-a-minute affair, as a Horror fan, it’s the type of comedy that brings the perma-smiles throughout. It’s corny, cute, harmless, and unequivocally stuck in its place and time.
Once Bitten– This 1985 comedy stars a young Jim Carrey as Mark Kendall; a desperate High School kid in L.A. who just wants to get laid. With his girlfriend’s rejections and ongoing desire to wait until she’s ready, a fed-up Mark and his friends decide to hit up the local club scene in search of easy sex. There, Mark meets The Countess (Lauren Hutton), who whisks him away to her mansion for a seemingly good time. Mark is bitten (and fooled into thinking he finally had sex), but has not been completely “turned” into a Vampire yet. His increasingly odd behavior begins to worry his friends and girlfriend, and the Countess pursues desperate measures to finish what she started. Once Bitten, sadly, hasn’t held up too well over the past 30 years. It’s a somewhat fascinating film for Jim Carrey fans to see the young actor hamming it up, but that’s likely the only reason you’ll keep watching. There is some fun chemistry between Lauren Hutton and Cleavon Little (as The Countess’ assistant), but other than that, this is a mostly yawn-inducing 80’s effort.
Let’s begin with Love at First Bite. The print utilized here is a clean one (given the period stock), sporting natural film grain and an authentic color palette. The black levels are surprisingly inky and solid, with only the occasional white speckling or debris visible periodically throughout the film. Once Bitten looks even better, with fantastic grain structure and color reproduction on display. Both films look surprisingly good in High Definition.
The 2.0 HD mono tracks works well for both movies; supporting dialogue and intermittent music and background sound design appropriately. Neither audio track is going to “wow” you with sheer power necessarily, but they get the job done for the respective films they accompany.
Scream Factory has given this blood-sucking double feature select bonus features for fans to peruse, and only for Love at First Bite. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for Love at First Bite.
- Radio Spots- Select radio spots that played throughout the theatrical campaign for Love at First Bite. I love when Scream Factory includes these gems on their releases, as they truly serve as a nostalgic time machine of sorts for genre lovers and Horror fans.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory mimics their past double feature releases with the original theatrical poster design for each film along with the double feature logo centered at the bottom. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis for each film, a short list of special features for each, technical specifications, and select production stills from the films. Inside the case are two Blu-Ray discs as well as more production stills on the reverse wrap.
I have to applaud Scream Factory for mixing things up with this Comedy-Horror double feature for Love at First Bite and Once Bitten. Their willingness to cater outside the genre circle speaks to both their business savvy and knowledge of their cult-classic loving fan-base. Love at First Bite is a cheesy delight that offers up some light laughs and a perma-smile that’s hard to shake, while Once Bitten is pure 80’s mediocrity that serves as a “curiosity” for those that want to see a young Jim Carrey shine, but offers little beyond. Nevertheless, this is a fun double feature release with great video and decent audio, but one that does admittedly run a little light on the special features. This release still easily gets my recommendation as a fun horror-comedy marathon for a rainy evening.
Blu-Ray Review- ABC’s of Death 2
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 122 Minutes
Anthologies may just be my very favorite type of cinema when it comes to the horror genre. From 1972’s Tales from the Crypt to 1982’s Creepshow and even 2007’s Trick ‘r Treat, they have the ability to absorb us as viewers with short, masterfully told tales of terror. In 2012 Magnet Releasing and Drafthouse Films teamed up to give us The ABC’s of Death; twenty-six Horror shorts directed by 26 different filmmakers who were each assigned a letter of the alphabet in which to weave their madness around. The concept was rather brilliant, but the execution left me wanting more. Those shorts ranged from masterfully well done to utterly pointless and the just plain bizarre. That films sequel, ABC’s of Death 2, offers up more of the same, but luckily for us, this time around the good outweighs the bad.
Rather than executing your typical review where I break down each segment, I thought I would explore the best and the worst of ABC’s of Death 2:
- A is for Amateur from E.L. Katz is a stylish and wickedly hilarious segment that follows a hit-man’s latest assassination, first from the perspective of how he imagines it happening, and then, how it actually occurs (which is, to say the least, much less smooth than he had imagined).
- B is for Badger from Julian Barratt is also ridiculously funny and involves a wildlife camera crew encountering a “larger than average” badger that lives in an ominous hole in the ground. The situation is drawn out for maximum effect and when “it” finally happens it’s unexpected and darkly comical.
- D is for Deloused from Robert Morgan is an awfully disgusting stop-motion segment that has a giant bug aiding an executed man with revenge on those that wronged him. It’s utterly ridiculous and the animation is disturbing, but it’s creative and well made.
- M is for Masticate from Robert Boocheck is perhaps the greatest segment of them all (and one you’ve likely seen replayed in the trailers). It’s all rather simple, a large hairy man in his underoos runs screaming down the street in slow motion, searching for someone to eat. The ridiculousness of it all and the reveal of “why” he is doing this at the end is timely and gut-busting funny (in a “so wrong I’m laughing” sort of way).
- R is for Roulette from Marvin Kren is filmed in black and white, artfully crafted, and definitely disturbing. Three people play Russian roulette in a basement while something sinister awaits them upstairs.
- U is for Utopia from Vincenzo Natali centers on your “average guy” in a shopping center full of very attractive people who is singled out in this “perfect” society in the worst way imaginable. It’s short, bizarre, and has some nice effects.
- W is for Wish from Steven Kostanski is likely my 2nd favorite segment, as it perfectly captures every 80’s kids’ favorite toy and game TV commercial memories into one sadistic little short film. The child actors are spot-on, the visual “look” of the piece really echoes the time period, and the resulting Horror twist is very clever.
- Z is for Zygote from Chris Nash is another rather brilliant segment involving a rural pregnant woman who manages to keep her baby gestating and growing inside her for 13 years. It’s extremely well made, utterly disgusting in every respect, and features an ending that sticks with you. Great stuff!
- C is for Capital Punishment from Julian Gilbey leaves a bad taste in your mouth, especially given recent events in the real-world. A man is amateurishly beheaded in the woods after he has been found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. I’m sure the filmmakers’ didn’t intend to echo actual events, but it comes off as being in bad taste. I’m also not sure what the point was plot-wise with this one.
- F is for Falling from Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado about an Israeli woman’s parachute becoming stuck in a tree in Palestinian territory is also offensive and in poor taste (in my opinion at least). Maybe some find the cleverness in these more politically themed segments, but I personally enjoy my Horror best when it’s not connected to real-life pain and suffering.
- S is for Split from Juan Martinez Moreno is admittedly well-filmed in several split-screen moments as a horrified husband has to stay on the phone with his wife as an intruder breaks into their home. Unfortunately, the death of an infant in brutal fashion is an automatic deal breaker for me. It’s the Father in me speaking and yes, I realize this is fiction, but it’s completely unnecessary and sadistic. The subsequent “reveal” at the end of this segment didn’t offend me as it did others, but I think it’s safe to say that these filmmakers were going for the “how many people can we offend” goal, which frankly isn’t Horror and strikes too close to home for some.
- X is for Xylophone from Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo is again, from a parent’s perspective, not funny and downright cruel. I understand the tone these filmmakers were going for but it honestly made me queasy. Maybe they would say that they did their job. Personally, my taste for Horror sits much better with the stylish and suspenseful spectrum than the gory and plotless.
- Segments that weren’t mentioned above were likely just middle-of-the-road and didn’t impress or offend me enough to write about. Though I obviously had a bone to pick with a handful of segments, I would say that ABC’s of Death 2 far outshines its predecessor in nearly every way. The majority of segments are clever and some even brilliant, making for some great Anthology-Horror fun.
Each segment was filmed and transferred via High Definition, and generally, they all look great on Blu-Ray. Each Director’s style and choice of filters and enhancements effects the segments accordingly, such as the stop-motion grittiness and imperfect look of D is for Deloused or the aforementioned nostalgic 80’s commercial vibe that W is for Wish has going for it. No complaints here folks, the video looks great with plenty of clarity and definition across the board.
The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track works well, and differs accordingly in power/nuances for each segment. While I wouldn’t say that this particular track as a whole is demo-worthy, dialogue and sound effects always come through clean and clear.
Magnet Releasing has provided fans of ABC’s of Death 2 with a vast array of bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Filmmaker’s Commentary- Several of the filmmakers involved in each segment, along with Ant Timson and Tim League, give their individual takes and unique commentary for their respective pieces. Worth listening to especially for the K is for Knell segment where the filmmakers offer up a unique retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Bells.
- Individual Segment Bonus Content- Listing out each individual bonus feature for the segments would take ages, so just know that there are is endless array of bonus featurettes, making-of’s, special effects segments, and production stills and galleries to accompany select Alphabet shorts.
- AXS TV: A Look at The ABC’s of Death 2– The Directors of A, E, & M (not in that specific order) discuss their respective segments in this featurette which lasts just over 2 minutes.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Magnet Releasing features some stylish cover art focusing on the grim reaper angel figure who has become the mascot of sorts for the series. I appreciate the font and style utilized in the film’s title as well. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, and technical specifications. On the interior of the packaging you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc, which mimics the cover art for the case, packaged in an eco-friendly design. I do need to mention that I personally adored the book-version of the first film’s release that Drafthouse had available exclusively on their site, and would have loved to see a follow-up book/Blu-Ray release for this one.
Anthology Horror films have long been a favorite staple of the genre for me, and though the first installment left me wanting more, ABC’s of Death 2 more than makes up for its predecessor with the majority of its 26 shorts ranging from brilliantly clever to memorable. There are a handful of segments that offended me, but I suppose that was the point. This Blu-Ray edition from Magnet Releasing features outstanding video and decent audio, not to mention an endless array of bonus features catered to individual segments. While it does have its share of duds, The ABC’s of Death 2 is an anthology piece that I will revisit again. Recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Ouija
Distributor: Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Street Date: February 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 90 Minutes
I would venture to say that most healthy upbringings involve some sort of journey into the spiritual world of the unknown. Whether it was clinging tightly to your group of friends as you nervously turned off the bathroom lights and chanted “Bloody Mary” in the mirror, got up the guts to walk onto the porch of the neighborhood “spooky house”, or even spent a night in a graveyard with candles and a Ouija board. Or…maybe I just had a particularly unhealthy obsession with the macabre as a youngster. All joking aside, I think most of us would agree that there was a point in our early teen years, perhaps earlier for some, where we became fascinated with what lies beyond. The history behind the Spirit board or Ouija board (as it has come to be known) is a fascinating one; from its beginnings in planchette writing in ancient China to its commercialization by Parker Brothers (later bought by Hasbro) in the late 1960’s, the controversial means of speaking to the dead have the makings of a movie written all over it. Though the concept had been explored before in films like The Exorcist and Witchboard, 2014’s Ouija from Director Stiles White goes all-out in exploiting the mysterious game on the big screen.
Ouija stars Olivia Cooke as Laine Morris, a young woman whose best friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig) has just apparently committed suicide after using a Ouija board while home alone. Unconvinced that Debbie would ever harm herself in this fashion, Laine and her friends begin to investigate the mysterious nature of her death. They hold a séance in Debbie’s home, and appear to make contact with her, allowing some comfort within the group to finally let her rest in peace. But the terror has just begun. Soon Debbie and her friends begin to experience visions, scrawled messages, and other dire warnings that lead them to believe that they have awakened something in this house that refuses to rest until it can take more lives with it.
I’ll be completely honest with you. I enjoyed the first half of Ouija quite a bit. Though there was nothing particularly original about the film’s opening or subsequent ability to draw the viewer in, it simply unfolded in a way that reminded me of cheesy 90’s Horror; a group of college-aged kids, a mysterious object, an untimely death in the group that begs to be solved. It wasn’t much, but it surprisingly captured my interest. But any positive feelings I had quickly faded soon after, when the film ventured into territory that was all too familiar and easy. The potential to scare with a film centered on spirit boards is huge, but Ouija instead relies on jump scares and formulaic plot devices that are devoid of any true fear for the viewer. The cast does well enough with the material at hand, but stumbles more than occasionally with a script that doesn’t give them much to work with. Word on the street is that Ouija suffered from multiple reshoots and studio edits that left quite a bit of footage on the cutting room floor (much of which you can see in the trailer). Hope fully someday Universal will release an Extended Cut and allow Horror fans the opportunity to gauge any lost potential.
As usual, Universal has done a fine job on the video portion of this Blu-Ray edition of Ouija. The HD print features deep black levels, a remarkably clear and vibrant palette, and clarity that impresses throughout. Though I didn’t care much for the film itself, this is a nice looking Blu-Ray disc.
The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track included herein is a great example of great sound design for HD audio. The thrills and jump scares in the film (cheap as they are) work extremely well on this surround track, filling your living room with atmosphere. It’s the kind of audio track that will get you peeking up from under the covers fairly quickly. Well done!
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has provided fans of Ouija with a limited selection of bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- The Spirit Board: An Evolution- This roughly 4 minute featurette has the cast and crew discussing the titular board, its origins, and the horror elements they utilized during the making of the film.
- Adapting the Fear- This featurette runs just under 4 minutes and features the cast and crew discussing their personal history involving Ouija boards as well as stories they heard that inspired the screenwriting process. They also share some spooky moments that happened on set while filming.
- Icon of the Unknown- This featurette runs exactly 4 minutes and features some historians and experts discussing how the Ouija board works.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a very nice matte finish slipcover complete with embossed logo. The design itself reminds one of the texture of an actual Ouija board, which is a nice touch. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, a list of bonus features, technical specifications, and details regarding the Blu-Ray exclusives featured on this release. On the interior of the packaging are two fairly plain discs for the Blu-Ray and DVD as well as the Ultraviolet Digital Copy Code insert. I would love to see Universal finally explore disc design options other than plain blue and silver.
Growing up with a fascination of the spiritual realm and all things macabre, I enjoyed my fair share of dark and stormy nights with a Ouija board and lit candles with my group of friends. The very thought of a movie centered on the concept of spirit boards seemed very exciting. Unfortunately, Ouija falls apart with an uninspired script, cheap thrills, and nothing in particular to set it apart from the myriad of repetitive Horror films these days. The good news here is that the Blu-Ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features strong video and perfectly captured audio design on the disc. The special features are light at only 12 minutes total. If you’re like me and were looking forward to a Horror film that would finally get the world of Ouija right, this certainly isn’t it.