Horror Blu-Ray Reviews, News, & Experiments!

Posts tagged “horror blu-ray reviews

Student Bodies Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Student Bodies

Distributor: Olive Films

Street Date: August 25th 2015

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

Runtime: 86 Minutes

Student Bodies (Olive Films)

Student Bodies (Olive Films)

The Film:

Michael Ritchie’s Student Bodies may indeed be the very first spoof film parodying the Horror genre. Released in 1981, the filmmakers take stabs at countless slasher movies from the period including Halloween, Friday the 13th, When a Stranger Calls, Carrie, and many more. Similar in style to the Zucker Brothers’ Airplane or Naked Gun series, the gags come in quick succession, with more hits than misses, and if you’re a fan of either the comedy or horror genre, you’re bound to catch yourself smirking at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.

In the film, a killer known simply as “the breather” stalks the women of Lamab High School in increasingly hilarious fashion. Sporting green dish gloves and black galoshes and using everything from paper clips to eggplants and chalkboard erasers to kill his victims, the breather terrorizes the teenagers and faculty of the school until Toby Badger (Kristen Riter) decides she’s had enough. Part of the gag here is that nearly everyone in the film (teacher, custodian, and student alike) wears green dish gloves at one point or another, making the list of suspects never ending. There’s also a running on-screen body count, a self-aware killer who’s aware of his downfalls (squeaky galoshes, prone to masturbation), a mid-film MPAA notice, and a custodian with urinary tract problems.

Student Bodies is frequently hilarious, often downright stupid, and sometimes cringe-inducing cheesy. Though still not quite as memorable as other spoof films (see Airplane!, Top Secret, Spaceballs) in the genre, Student Bodies easily enjoyable and offers up more than a few laughs.

Video Quality:

I was shocked that Student Bodies could ever look this good! Olive Films presents the film in beautiful high definition with natural film grain, an authentic color scheme, and plenty of detail and clarity. There are fairly frequent instances of minor debris or light scratches to the print, but none too distracting for the viewer. The level of detail in facial features, clothing, and objects is pretty spectacular for the time period and budget. Student Bodies looks great in HD!

Audio Quality:

The 2.0 DTS-HD audio track gets the job done, excelling in the areas of dialogue and score. It’s a front heavy presentation that sounds fairly tinny at times, but I highly doubt anyone was expecting a Dolby Atmos equivalent here. Everything comes through clean and clear, even if it’s not exactly the most audio experience.

Special Features:

Olive Films has not included any special features on this Blu-Ray release.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Olive Films features the utterly fantastic original theatrical poster for the cover art. Everything from the voluptuous blonde with the cheerleader megaphone shoved down her throat to the vintage school desks and the chalkboard title are just absolutely perfect. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. On the interior of the case you’ll find some hilarious disc art with some snapped lead pencils and the “sex kills” button, as well as the usual Olive Films insert card. I really dig the packaging design on this release!

 

Student Bodies (reverse)

Student Bodies (reverse)

Student Bodies (interior)

Student Bodies (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Michael Ritchie’s Student Bodies is a spoof similar in style to Airplane! or the Naked Gun series, but is likely the first of its kind to poke fun at the slasher genre. The gags come in quick succession, with more hits than misses, and if you’re a fan of either the comedy or horror genre, you’re bound to catch yourself smirking at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. The Blu-Ray features a shockingly good video presentation and a respectable audio mix, but lacks in the area of special features. The packaging on this release is superb, with the memorable original theatrical poster in addition to some funny disc art to seal the deal. Student Bodies is frequently hilarious, often downright stupid, and sometimes cringe-inducing cheesy, and this Blu-Ray release from Olive Films comes recommended for a good share of laughs.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Ghost Town Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Ghost Town

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: July 28th 2015

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

Runtime: 85 Minutes

Ghost Town (Scream Factory)

Ghost Town (Scream Factory)

The Film:

Empire Pictures and Charles Band’s 1988 production of Ghost Town contains too many laugh-out-loud “what the fuck am I watching?” moments to count. When bride-to-be Kate Barrett goes missing in a desert town (honestly…who keeps their wedding dress in the backseat of a top-down convertible in the desert?), the local Sheriff’s Deputy (Franc Luz) Langley is assigned to track her down. A rough sandstorm is the apparent cause, but we (the viewers) know that a ghastly western outlaw apparition on horseback has carried her off.

As Langley begins his search, the same outlaw apparition quickly decimates his vehicle, leaving him stranded and desperate in the scorching desert heat. Our hero stumbles across the barren landscape into an abandoned Old West town in his search to solve the mystery of Kate’s disappearance, but soon finds out, nothing is what it seems. The entire town’s inhabitants are dead, stuck in a limbo of sorts, waiting for the day when a legendary lawman will come to town and rid them of the ghostly outlaw that is keeping their souls hostage. Langley, by chance, just might be the lawman they’re looking for.

Ghost Town is a fairly enjoyable B-movie cheese-fest! The story is unintentionally silly, with less-than-stellar acting ability all around, exaggerated line delivery, and questionable editing choices. If it wasn’t for its lack of repeat-watch value, Ghost Town would almost qualify for the “so bad it’s good” stamp of approval. For those that enjoy bad movies, there is no denying that the film delivers the goods. I will say that the special effects aren’t half bad, with a few select gore shots and makeup details that are impressive given the obvious budget restraints. Do I recommend it? Sure. Ghost Town isn’t a terrible way to waste away a rainy afternoon, and cheesy movie fans will delight in the film’s unintentional comedy.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory has given Ghost Town an incredibly solid transfer onto the Blu-Ray format! It’s almost too good given the film’s B-movie laugh-fest quality (joking of course). The print is very clean, free from defects, and offers up some beautiful natural film grain without any evidence of manipulation. The dusty ghost town exhibits a depth and lifelike quality in High Definition, and facial features and clothing material are captured in stunning clarity. There are a few scattered shots with artifacts, and a handful of scenes that exhibit a “jumpy” quality (likely a stabilization issue from the source), but Ghost Town overall looks fantastic on the format!

Audio Quality:

The 2.0 DTS-HD audio track is another fine aspect to this Blu-Ray release. Dialogue always comes through clean and clear, music and sound effects are rather dynamic for a mono track, and there are no hiccups or other distortions in sound throughout the experience. The cheesy score sounds especially great here!

Special Features:

There are no special features included on this Blu-Ray release for Ghost Town. For many of us, having the film on the High Definition format is a special treat in and of itself. Others may be disappointed with the lack of extras.

The Packaging:

This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for the film on its cover. I love the classic Western “pistols at dawn” pose paired with the menace of the skeleton cowboy. The artistic touches of the town’s buildings fading away and the skeleton’s shadow in the foreground are appreciated. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside of the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as some nice reversible artwork that fans can choose to display instead of the theatrical poster art.

 

Ghost Town (reverse)

Ghost Town (reverse)

Ghost Town (interior)

Ghost Town (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Ghost Town is a fairly enjoyable B-movie cheese-fest! The story is unintentionally silly, with less-than-stellar acting ability all around, exaggerated line delivery, and questionable editing choices. If it wasn’t for its lack of repeat-watch value, Ghost Town would almost qualify for the “so bad it’s good” stamp of approval. For those that enjoy bad movies, there is no denying that the film delivers the goods. The Blu-Ray from Scream Factory boasts very impressive video and audio quality, making for an enjoyable home theater experience for Horror fans. The lack of special features may be disappointing for some, but most of us are satisfied enough to finally own a rare treat like this one on the High Definition format. Western Horror films are hard to come by, and though you have to be in the right mood to appreciate its B-movie charms, Ghost Town on Blu-Ray comes recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


The Babadook Limited Edition Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- The Babadook

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: April 14th 2015

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

Runtime: 93 Minutes

The Babadook (Scream Factory)

The Babadook (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“If it’s in a word, or it’s in a look, you can’t rid of the Babadook”

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook will stay with you long after the final credits roll. It’s not your typical Horror film, and I’m actually finding it difficult to describe it as anything but an incredibly well-executed drama that happens to feature some horror elements. It’s about grief, loss, and the struggles of parenting. There is indeed a Babadook…but exactly what is it and what does it represent? Jennifer Kent has crafted a unique little masterpiece that steps outside the lines of Horror and forces it’s viewers to dig deeper.

In The Babadook, Amelia Vannick (Essie Davis) is a single mother raising her 7-year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), a child with considerable emotional and behavioral needs. Years prior, Samuel’s father was killed in a car accident while driving Amelia to the hospital to give birth to him. The accident has left Amelia with nightmares, and left her son without a father figure in his life to aid in raising him. Samuel’s daily behaviors wreak havoc on Amelia’s sleep, and things grow more desperate when Samuel brings some homemade weapons to school and gets expelled.

One night the pair decides to read a mysterious pop-up book called The Babadook that Samuel finds in his room. The story starts out innocently enough, but grows more disturbing as they read on. The top-hat wearing, clawed menace from the book begins to haunt their dreams, and soon spills into their everyday life. As sleepless nights begin to make it hard to differentiate one day from the next, and fantasy from reality, Amelia and Samuel fight for their lives against the mysterious Babadook.

My plot synopsis is purposely vague, as I would hate to ruin this fantastic tale for the viewer. Jennifer Kent expanded upon some great ideas she displayed in her short film Monster, and crafted a true genre masterpiece with The Babadook. The acting from Essie Davis in particular is stellar, making for a performance that evokes incredible sympathy from the viewer. Young Noah Wiseman is also particularly good here, delivering a believable portrayal of a boy terrorized by not just a “monster”, but in knowing that he’s different from his peers. The Babadook is both scary and dramatically effective, with plenty of style and atmosphere that easily bests most modern day Horror fare, and comes highly recommended.

Video Quality:

This brand new HD transfer of the film looks simply splendid. The interiors of the house offer up a nice blue-gray color palette, which look gorgeously drab. Facial features and fine object detail are a standout, with fantastic depth and clarity throughout. Black levels are also as solid as can be, with an inky perfection that works wonderfully for this type of genre (where anything could pop out from behind the shadows). There isn’t even the slightest hint of artifacts or blemishes here. The Babadook looks perfect on this Blu-Ray from Scream Factory.

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track is a solid one, and pairs well with the fantastic video quality. Dialogue comes through clean and clear, and the brooding music and background effects are perfectly captured here. The sound design of this relatively single-space film really envelops you in your home theater, maximizing the anxiety while watching.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of The Babadook with a fantastic selection of bonus features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Jennifer Kent’s Short Film, Monster: This short film from director Jennifer Kent runs just over ten minutes and shares some thematic qualities with The Babadook. Filmed in Black and White, the story centers on a mother struggling with her son’s insistence that his doll is real. She hides the doll in the downstairs closet, which only unleashes a further disturbance in their home. The “monster” of the film shares more than a few qualities with The Babadook (claws/hands), and the pop-up book that she reads to her son was obviously an early influence on her later film as well. This was rather brilliant, and definitely offers up some scares in a short amount of time.
  • Deleted Scenes– Nearly 3 minutes of deleted scenes from the film include: Amelia picking Sam up from school after his suspension, Amelia checking-in on Sam after the birthday party mishap, and Amelia bringing Sam to Gracie’s before her shift. The first two scenes were easily left on the cutting room floor, but I would have welcomed the addition of the final one. Gracie’s line “It’s not a crime to ask for help love” is quite moving, and it further allows the viewer to experience Amelia’s daily struggle.
  • Creating the Book with illustrator Alex Juhasz- This nearly 4 minute featurette has designer Alex Juhasz (of The United States of Tara’s opening sequence) discussing and showcasing his handmade pop-up book featured in The Babadook. I loved hearing Alex discuss his designs and the process that he used to create something unique in a territory he was fairly unfamiliar with. Great stuff!
  • A Tour of the House Set- This featurette runs nearly 7 minutes and has the crew showing the process that went into creating the interior sets of the house featured in the film. It’s interesting to hear from the crew regarding their color and design choices for the set, which feature a very storybook-like quality to them.
  • The Stunts: Jumping the Stairs– This short featurette runs almost 2 minutes and offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Essie Davis, Jennifer Kent, and the stunt coordinator trying to make a flying-wire sequence work as Essie’s character is moving quickly up the stairs.
  • Special Effects: The Stabbing Scene– This one runs 1 ½ minutes and has the crew showcasing the effects work that goes into a “stabbing” sequence in a Horror film, which pretty much just includes clothing and a leg of lamb. What a fun job these folks have!
  • Behind the Scenes- Yet another behind-the-scenes featurette that runs nearly 3 minutes and features Jennifer Kent directing the birthday party sequence from the film and one of Amelia’s long nights “zoned out” in front of the television.
  • Cast and Crew Interviews- This is the most extensive portion of the bonus features, with individual interviews with many members of the cast and crew. The entire feature runs over an hour in length, but for those of you wanting to dig more in-depth on the film’s deeper meanings, it’s all rather insightful.
  • Theatrical Trailer- This is actually several theatrical trailers for the film that last nearly 5 minutes altogether.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features some of the most brilliant artwork and overall design of the year thus far. The red matte finish slipcover opens up to reveal a 3D pop-up book effect of the Babadook himself, along with the now-famous tagline from the movie. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features and technical specifications, and a continuation of the artwork. On the interior of the slipcover is the standard Blu-Ray case, which has reversible artwork for fans to choose from. The interior of the case features the Blu-Ray disc which also has some standout artwork. Hats off to Shout! Factory’s Mindy Kang for the packaging design!

The Babadook (slipcover interior)

The Babadook (slipcover interior)

The Babadook (reverse)

The Babadook (reverse)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Babadook (slipcover pop-up effect)

The Babadook (slipcover pop-up effect)

The Babadook (interior)

The Babadook (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

The Babadook will stay with you long after the final credits roll. It’s not your typical Horror film, being both scary and dramatically effective, with plenty of style and atmosphere that easily bests most modern day genre fare. Jennifer Kent has crafted a unique little masterpiece that steps outside the genre lines and forces it’s viewers to dig deeper. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features truly outstanding video and audio quality, a wealth of fun bonus material, and the best packaging job of 2015 thus far. The “pop-up” book slipcover is a genius design, and is especially welcome for admirers of unique home video packaging. The Babadook comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Invaders from Mars Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Invaders from Mars

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: April 7th 2015

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

Runtime: 99 Minutes

Invaders from Mars (Scream Factory)

Invaders from Mars (Scream Factory)

The Film:

Being an uber-fan of all things science fiction, mars-related, and of B-movie camp value, it’s an absolute wonder that I don’t find Tobe Hooper’s 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars very enjoyable. It’s the kind of film where all the right elements are in place…but it never quite gels to offer anything substantial in the end. The intentions of the filmmakers are curious, as if they’re constantly jumping back and forth between the lines of serious science fiction, parody, and goofy children’s theatrics. This may indeed have been the purpose, but nevertheless, their efforts veer more toward an uneven bore than anything worth remembering. I’m not usually so hard on the genre, as my regular readers well know, but coming from the genius of Tobe Hooper I expected more. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist, and Lifeforce are easy recommendations from me and each offer up something very unique to the Horror genre. Invaders from Mars on the other hand, alas, does not.

In the film, little David Gardner (Hunter Carson) lives an idyllic childhood. His father, a NASA employee, takes the time to stargaze with him on a nightly basis and his mother is as doting and comforting as Mrs. Cleaver. Yes, everything is wonderful until David witnesses a large alien spacecraft land in the fields behind his house. His parents assure him that this couldn’t possibly have been the case, and that he must have been dreaming. Even so, his Dad assures David that he’ll look into it the next morning.

Sure enough the next morning Dad has investigated the supposed landing, is missing a shoe, and acting more than a little strange. Not only does he have a mysterious wound on the back of his neck, but he also has a sudden craving for piping hot coffee with tic-tac’s and burnt bacon strips. Our young protagonist tries to resume his normal life but David’s Dad soon takes his mother for a stroll into the back fields, and she returns “changed” as well. When his already creepy teacher at school (Louise Fletcher) sports the very same neck wound (not to mention a sudden craving for live frogs), David’s only safety net comes in the form of Linda, the school Nurse (Karen Black, young Carson’s real-life mother). Soon David and Linda are running for their lives from the Martian invasion (while also somehow actively investigating it), and even rack up some muscle with some help from the military. It’s now up to David, Linda, and the US Army to take down the dastardly race of Martians and their master supreme.

Invaders from Mars has its moments, including some very unique Martian designs, a solid score, and fun special effects for the time…but it simply doesn’t click for me like it seems to for so many others (as mentioned above). The acting is uneven, the script and dialogue uninspired, and the movie never quite finds its rhythm. For those that do enjoy it, this brand new Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory is the way to go.

Video Quality:

I may not be the biggest fan of the film itself, but Scream Factory’s High Definition presentation of Invaders from Mars will surely please those that enjoy the film. The picture is clear and crisp for the most part, with only the occasional scratches. Film grain is natural and authentic, with no digital scrubbing evident. The colors look accurate as well, with nice reproduction and timing, and solid black levels to boot. This is without a doubt the best the film has ever looked on home video!

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track is also another standout aspect of this release. Dialogue comes through clean and clear with only the occasional muffled effect. The action and score are also well represented on all channels, and though it certainly won’t wake the neighbors with its power, the track suits the film well.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has provided fans of Invaders from Mars with an array of bonus features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Tobe Hooper: This audio commentary with Tobe Hooper is a great companion piece to The Martians are Coming documentary (discussed directly below), with Tobe running through all things related to the film including the conception of remaking the 50’s classic, pre-production and planning, the actors involved, special effects sequences, etc.
  • The Martians are Coming! The Making of Invaders from Mars– Running over 36 minutes, this fantastic retrospective documentary from Red Shirt Pictures features Director Tobe Hooper, Composer Christopher Young, Hunter Carson (David Gardner), Alec Gillis (special creature effects), and many more talent involved in the making of Invaders from Mars. I can’t imagine a more definitive documentary for fans, who will absolutely appreciate hearing about all the behind-the-scenes interactions among the cast, pre-production planning, the insanely cool creature effects, and so much more. Wonderful stuff!
  • Theatrical Trailer & TV Spot- The original theatrical trailer and a television spot are provided separately here (although under the same bonus prompt), and the pair run nearly 2 minutes.
  • Production Illustration Gallery from Artist William Stout- William Stout, who designed the Martians in the film, provides commentary on over 14 minutes of his original illustrations he created during the production of the film. His approach is fascinating, especially on a relatively low budget film, and the final designs compared to the Martians in the film are very impressive!
  • Storyboards– This bonus gives us over 4 minutes of storyboards from the production of the film. It’s really fun to get an idea of what the filmmakers wanted to accomplish during their planning stages and how accurate the final scenes turned out.
  • Still Gallery– Just over 2 minutes of posters, production stills, and behind-the-scenes photos from Invaders from Mars.

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 Invaders from Mars. 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 fantastic reversible cover art that I wish Scream Factory would have printed for a Collector’s Edition slipcover!

Invaders from Mars (reverse)

Invaders from Mars (reverse)

Invaders from Mars (interior)

Invaders from Mars (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Being an uber-fan of all things science fiction, mars-related, and of B-movie camp value, it’s an absolute wonder that I don’t find Tobe Hooper’s 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars very enjoyable. It’s the kind of film where all the right elements are in place…but it never quite gels to offer anything substantial in the end. The good news here for fans of the film (and there are plenty of you) is that the video quality is fantastic and the 5.1 DTS-HD audio comes through clean and clear. The special features, notably the incredible documentary The Martians are Coming! from Red Shirt Pictures, are once again the standout aspect of this release. Though it’s not my personal cup-o-Martian-tea, Invaders from Mars still comes recommended for fans!

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Blind Woman’s Curse Blu-Ray Review (USA Version)

Blu-Ray Review- Blind Woman’s Curse

Distributor: Arrow Video USA

Street Date: March 24th 2015

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.44:1 Aspect Ratio, Japanese Mono PCM Audio

Runtime: 85 Minutes

Blind Woman's Curse (Arrow Video USA)

Blind Woman’s Curse (Arrow Video USA)

The Film:

Teruo Ishii’s Blind Woman’s Curse is a bizarre and highly entertaining mix of samurai films and traditional Japanese ghost stories. Having seen this and Lady Snowblood after the fact, it’s very clear that Director Quentin Tarantino paid homage to these violent yet strangely beautiful films from the Nikkatsu and Toho catalogs with his Kill Bill series.

In the beginning of the film we meet Akemi (Meiko Kaji), leader of the Tachibana yakuza clan, as she leads her fellow dragon tattooed warriors against a rival gang. This sequence is one of the most beautiful battle scenes I have encountered in film, with a mix of fast action and slow motion camera techniques capturing the dueling samurai swords clashing in the rain. The showdown comes to a screeching halt with Akemi blinding the brother of the rival gang’s leader, Boss Goda. A black cat licks the blood from the injured girls face, growling and staring at Akema as she becomes cursed for what she has done.

We follow Akemi to her prison experience some time later, as she tells her story to fellow female inmates. The blind girl and black cat are giving her nightmares, and she knows revenge will soon follow. Cut to three years later, the local villages are in a state of unrest as the rival gang war over territory reaches a new peak. The blind woman slowly begins to exact her revenge on Akemi’s gang, skinning the dragon tattoos from their backs one-by-one.

Director Ishii’s film is heavy on style and mood, but has a sense of humor about the story at hand as well, as evidence by some of the outrageous facial expressions left on the blind woman’s victims. The female characters are very strong in this, with some of the male roles left solely for comic relief. This is a welcome gender role change from other Japanese films that proceeded Blind Woman’s Curse, helping to usher in a new era in cult cinema’s tough women.

The climactic showdown between Akemi and the blind woman is skillfully done and a treat for genre fans. This movie is a lot of fun, everything from the sincere performances, light comedic moments, matte painting backgrounds, set design, and musical score creates a mood that is undeniably cult and consistently entertaining.

Video Quality:

Arrow Video’s US release for Blind Woman’s Curse features an updated transfer that is even more impressive than the UK release counterpart. The US version looks slightly darker by comparison, with better contrast and a more authentic overall look to the film. From my original UK review: Arrow Video has breathed new life into this 1970 cult-classic with a 1080P transfer that retains the look of the time period, yet graces us with a remastered image that looks great on a High Definition screen. Colors are authentic and bold, from the slightly blue hue of the timing to the bright red blood spraying on the walls, there is a balance here that looks marvelous. There is some minor print damage in some scenes including scratches and “pops”, but it’s never distracting and adds to the cult atmosphere. Detail is crystal clear in most scenes, particularly close-up shots of the main cast. I also didn’t detect any digital noise reduction or edge enhancement on the transfer, which is always a bonus for those of us that appreciate the original intended look of the film. This is yet another standout transfer from Arrow.

Audio Quality:

The uncompressed Linear PCM mono track included here is surprisingly powerful, even though it doesn’t have the dynamic range of HD 5.1. Dialogue is supported very well, as are the incredible action scenes. There is a respectable balance to the audio that Arrow provided, and it absolutely sounds authentic to the time period of the film. Swords clang and clash, blood squirts, and flesh peals in glorious detail. There’s a little bit of everything to find safely balanced on this track. Well done.

Special Features:

Arrow Video USA has included the same decent if not relatively limited bonus content here, but the audio commentary alone is extremely informative and well worth listening to. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary by Japanese Cinema Expert Jasper Sharp– Truly an expert on the genre and time period for Japanese cinema, Jasper’s commentary makes for a very entertaining audio experience.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer– This is a short but fun trailer for the film that originally played in front of Japanese audiences in 1970.
  • Stray Cat Rock Trailer Series– Four trailers for Nikkatsu studio films also starring Meiko Kaji.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this US Blu-Ray edition from Arrow Video features some spectacular cover art featuring Meiko Kaji and her dragon tattoo by artist Gilles Vranckx. You also have the option of reversing the sleeve for alternate art as well. The included Blu-Ray and DVD discs also feature some nice art with a blood-red color scheme. You will also find a very detailed booklet with behind-the-scenes photographs and an essay by Tom Mes titled Meiko’s Adventures in Professor Ishii’s Erotic-Grotesque Wonderland.

Blind Woman's Curse (reverse)

Blind Woman’s Curse (reverse)

Blind Woman's Curse (interior)

Blind Woman’s Curse (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Blind Woman’s Curse is an enormously entertaining cult mix of Japanese samurai films, yakuza culture, and traditional ghost stories. With an odd but fascinating mix of drama, action, and dark comedy, there is a little something for everyone in this film. Though the audio track remains similar to the UK version, the new US transfer from Arrow Video is top notch, further elevating the already sharp looking disc with better contrast and a more pleasing darker image. Though this release is still slightly lacking in the bonus features department, it’s a minor quibble in the scheme of things. Serving as one of Arrow Video’s flagship titles for their upcoming US releases, Blind Woman’s Curse remains an absolute treat to add to the collection, and comes highly recommended.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Love at First Bite/Once Bitten Blu-Ray Review

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

Love at First Bite/Once Bitten (Double Feature (Scream Factory)

Love at First Bite/Once Bitten (Scream Factory)

The Films:

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.

Video Quality:

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.

Audio Quality:

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.

Special Features:

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.

The Packaging:

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.

Love at First Bite/Once Bitten (reverse)

Love at First Bite/Once Bitten (reverse)

Love at First Bite/Once Bitten (interior)

Love at First Bite/Once Bitten (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

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.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


ABC’s of Death 2 Blu-Ray Review

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

The ABC's of Death 2 (Magnet Releasing)

ABC’s of Death 2 (Magnet Releasing)

The Film:

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:

The Best:

  • 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!

The Worst:

  • 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.

Bottom Line:

  • 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.

Video Quality:

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.

Audio Quality:

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.

Special Features:

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 2The Directors of A, E, & M (not in that specific order) discuss their respective segments in this featurette which lasts just over 2 minutes.

The Packaging:

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.

ABC's of Death 2 (reverse)

ABC’s of Death 2 (reverse)

ABC's of Death 2 (interior)

ABC’s of Death 2 (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

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.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Ouija Blu-Ray Review

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

Ouija (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Ouija (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

The Film:

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.

Video Quality:

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.

Audio Quality:

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!

Special Features:

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.

The Packaging:

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.

Ouija (reverse)

Ouija (reverse)

Ouija (interior)

Ouija (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

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.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Dracula Untold Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Dracula Untold

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: 93 Minutes

Dracula Untold (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

Dracula Untold (Universal Studios Home Entertainment)

The Film:

Ever since my father introduced me to Universal’s 1931 Dracula (starring the legendary Bela Lugosi), I have been enthralled by the undead romanticism of Bram Stoker’s iconic vampire. There is an eternal enchantment the original film leaves with the viewer, begging to be watched time and time again. Other iterations of the source material have proved successful and enjoyable as well, such as Hammer Films’ series starring the commanding Christopher Lee, as well as Universal’s 1979 reboot starring Frank Langella. In addition, Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 screen version of the novel exhibited wonderful special effects, fine performances, and beautifully gothic set design.

As you may be able to discern, in my eyes, Dracula has had a pretty good track record on the big screen. It was with that mindset that I walked into Universal’s latest reboot Dracula Untold with an open mind. Unfortunately, this film has to be one of the most ridiculously awful adaptations of the character that one will ever witness.

In Dracula Untold, Luke Evans portrays Vlad the Impaler (Vlad III Tepes), the reigning Prince of Transylvania who once was a child slave and subsequent legendary warrior of the Turkish Empire. Vlad now enjoys a relatively simple life with his beautiful wife Mirena (Sarah Gadon) and kindhearted son Ingeras (Art Parkinson), but worries that the Turks may someday call upon him to fight again. Soon Mehmed II (Dominic Cooper), his once childhood friend and current ruler of the Turks, orders 1,000 Transylvanian boys to fight alongside his armies. Vlad’s dedication to his people, knowledge of the life of enslavement, and love for his son moves him enough to refuse Mehmed’s orders, beginning a war where Vlad’s people are far outnumbered. Fearing for his people and the safety of his family, Vlad ventures onto a nearby mountain to seek out the Master Vampire (Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance), the only man who can give him the power of 1,000 men and the curse of eternal life.

The problems with the film are numerous, and it’s a shame, because with a different script entirely, Luke Evans would have made a fabulous Dracula. In fact, his portrayal given the material is quite good. The problem lies within the execution of the film entirely, and makes one wonder why the filmmaker’s thought that Dracula’s backstory was the most interesting aspect of the iconic literary figure. The medieval European setting serves as a backdrop for numerous epic clashes between Dracula and the Turks, echoing Lord of the Rings or Excalibur more than anything associated with Bram Stoker’s creation.

With that being said, the first half of the film is somewhat watchable, but I kept waiting for the filmmakers to jump forward a few hundred years to Carfax Abby. Sadly that moment never happens. Instead the remaining time is filled with cringe-inducing dialogue, utterly predictable plot turns, and battles that offer little to wow the viewer. Dracula Untold is the definition of miscalculation, a film that shows little respect to the source material and assumes that the audience cared to see a feature length origin story of a character that is far more interesting in a more modern setting.

Video Quality:

Though I obviously didn’t care for the film itself, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Pictures features outstanding video quality with deep black levels, plenty of impressive clarity and fine object detail, and a stylized color scheme that looks gorgeous in High Definition.

Audio Quality:

Same goes for the 5.1 DTS-HD audio track, which regularly balances dialogue, the clang and clash of swordplay, and the score from with precision and power, making for a wonderful home audio experience.

Special Features:

Universal Studios Home Entertainment has provided fans of Dracula Untold with a nice array of bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Commentary- Director Gary Shore and Production Designer Francois Audouy sit down to discuss the film in depth. I appreciate their dedication to various aspects of the film (costumes, design, etc.), but would have loved to hear more of the “why” behind their decision involving the origins of this character.
  • Luke Evans: Creating a Legend- This nearly 20 minute featurette has Luke Evans discussing various scenes from the film. As I stated in my review above, I thought Mr. Evans’ portrayal of Dracula was fine, but would have been better served with a different storyline in tow. Hopefully any potential sequel will allow him to sink his fangs into a more traditional version of Stoker’s tale.
  • Alternate Opening- A romantic alternate opening to the film, which would have provided slightly more insight into the love between Vlad and Mirena.
  • Deleted Scenes- Roughly 13 minutes worth of deleted scenes from the film. I’m not sure their inclusion would have made it any better, but fans of the film may find these interesting.
  • Day in the Life: Luke Evans- Nearly ten minutes of Luke Evan’s days on set, from the actor prepping in the early morning to discussing various aspects of the story on set.
  • Dracula Retold- Some insight into the history behind the film.
  • Slaying 1,000- A roughly 5-minute behind-the-scenes look at the first battle of the film, where Luke Evans takes on the army of Turks storming Castle Dracula.
  • The Land of Dracula- An interactive map that includes various short featurettes on specific locations utilized in the film.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a nice glossy finish, embossed title, and the theatrical poster art featuring Evans’ Dracula in battle mode. 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. Collectors may want to note that Walmart will be selling a Steelbook exclusive edition with some fancier artwork.

Dracula Untold (reverse)

Dracula Untold (reverse)

Dracula Untold (interior)

Dracula Untold (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Dracula Untold is a ridiculous venture into the origin story of Bram Stoker’s iconic character that pays little respect to the source material, offering up cringe-inducing dialogue, tired and bloated battle scenes, and predictable plot turns that do little to aid this gross miscalculation. The good news here is that the Blu-Ray from Universal Studios Home Entertainment features a very solid video and audio presentation along with some decent special features. If you somehow enjoy this unnecessary and cheap exploration of a character that is much more interesting in modern times, the technical specifications and features will be a bonus to your purchase. Personally, I need a Lugosi and Lee marathon to rid my mouth of the awful taste that Dracula Untold left me with. Skip this one, at all costs.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014

Doctor Macabre's Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014

Doctor Macabre’s Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014

Doctor Macabre’s Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014:

There is no denying that 2014 was a stand-out year for Horror when it comes to Home Video releases. Exciting would be an understatement. Not since my teenage years in the mid to late 90’s; saving up my lawn-mowing cash to pre-order the latest Anchor Bay tin set at Suncoast Video, has there been a time as good as this for fans of the genre. I found those sentiments echoed throughout the Horror community lately. It was simply a great year to be a Horror aficionado. And who do we have to thank for that? The fine folks at Scream Factory, Synapse Films, Scorpion Releasing, Blue Underground, Kino Lorber, and Grindhouse Releasing to name just a few. Their dedication to the genre, attention to detail on video transfers and extras, and pure willingness to go above and beyond to please the fans deserves admiration and applause.

2014 saw the release of a multitude of titles that many of us never saw coming, including the Halloween 6 Producer’s Cut and the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed. We saw the painstakingly beautiful efforts of 4K restorations on titles like Sleepaway Camp, Prom Night, and Curtains. And let’s not forget the incredible documentaries and featurettes included on these releases from the likes of Aine Leicht and Red Shirt Pictures. The bottom line is this: we were spoiled beyond belief this past year, and here’s to more of the same in 2015.

Without further ado, the following are my personal Top 10 picks for the very best 2014 had to offer when it came to Horror films on Blu-Ray (counting down from 10 to 1):

Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)

Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)

  1. Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)

*Besides the fact that this Hammer release is a gorgeous gothic delight all on its own (with the beautiful and sultry Ingrid Pitt in the title role), but Synapse Films delivered it masterfully in High Definition. Featuring a breathtaking new transfer and the fantastic (if short) Immortal Countess: The Cinematic Life of Ingrid Pitt featurette touching on her heartbreaking childhood spent in a concentration camp, her escape via river from Berlin (being pulled out of the water by a US soldier whom she would later marry), and beginnings in Hollywood, it’s a fascinating piece on an underrated actress. Complete with reversible cover art and a solid audio track, this one easily made my list.

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

  1. Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)

*How can one go wrong with dachshunds in rat suits chasing Scatman Crothers down a sewer drain? This movie is simply too much fun, with earnest performances and goofy practical effects, it’s pure camp entertainment that remains one of my favorite 80’s Horror entries to revisit. Producer Aine Leicht’s Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rat’s Clothing documentary is an absolute hoot too, with fun interviews and insight into the making of the film. Scorpion Releasing adds a few bonus features on this Scream release as well, rounding out this great disc (with solid picture and audio quality).

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)

  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)

*Along with F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, this is one of my favorite Horror pieces from early German cinema. It’s incredibly well made, with plenty of memorable set designs and costumes that have gone on to inspire Horror auteurs that would soon follow. The imagery is endlessly spooky and haunting, and it looks simply stunning in this brand new 4K scan on Blu-Ray from Kino. With two separate HD audio tracks (one by DJ Spooky!) and the captivating documentary Caligari: How Horror Came to Cinema, there is so much to love on this release for fans of the film.

The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)

The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)

  1. The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)

*There is nothing in cinema quite as calming or comforting to me as sitting down and enjoying a good ol’ Vincent Price movie marathon. He is, without a doubt, my favorite Horror icon. The man simply knew how to deliver the goods to his audience, and delighted in the fandom of the genre that he understood so well. With a simple tweak of an eyebrow, or escalation in his vocal tone, the man was endlessly watchable on the silver screen. Scream Factory’s Volume II collection includes some wonderful films from his outstanding career including: The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. They’ve also included an array of great special features on every disc including commentaries, featurettes, and my personal favorite, Iowa Public Television’s Gothic Horror introductions starring the man himself. Joel Robinson’s perfectly rendered artwork rounds out this great collection.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)

  1. The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)

*From the disease spreading among Rick and his band of survivors holed up in the abandoned prison to the Governor’s assault and subsequent heartbreak for fans of the show, Season Four of The Walking Dead offers up the very best in television entertainment. Whenever I encounter someone who hasn’t seen the series and dismisses it as “that Zombie show”, I have to shake my head. This series just keeps getting better and better, and zombies are a mere backdrop in a story about human strength, weakness, and survival. Anchor Bay’s release for Season Four featured stellar video and audio quality on every episode and countless hours of commentaries, deleted scenes, and featurettes that will entertain fans of this great show.

The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)

The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)

  1. The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)

*This 1983 slasher about a group of sorority sisters stalked by an unknown killer is an absolute campy hoot, with a great score and creepy atmosphere, not to mention some less-than-stellar performances that add to the fun. Scorpion Releasing treats this minor cult-classic with the utmost respect, delivering a very solid video transfer and bonus features. The two commentaries included are absolutely worth listening to, and the extended interview with Harley Jane Kozak is one of the best of 2014.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Edition (Dark Sky Films)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Edition (MPI/Dark Sky Films)

  1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (MPI/Dark Sky Films)

                *Available in a standard box-style release and the “Black Maria” truck edition, Dark Sky Films’ 40th Anniversary release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre exhibits strong video and audio (especially considering the original elements utilized) and an endless array of bonus material that perfectly pairs with the great packaging job. There are several commentaries, interviews, an alternate ending, storyboard comparisons and much more. The film itself remains horrifying and effective, even after all these years.

Sleepaway Camp: Collector's Edition (Scream Factory)

Sleepaway Camp: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

  1. Sleepaway Camp: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)

                *Scream Factory’s release of Sleepaway Camp on Blu-Ray is the perfect example of why this company is the very best at what they do. Starting with the amazing cover art by regular contributor Nathan Thomas Milliner that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the film, featuring a jaw-dropping brand new 2K-sourced transfer and strong audio, and ending with some of the best bonus content on any release this year, this is the definitive version of the film to own on Home Video. The included documentary titled At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp from Reverend Entertainment’s Justin Beahm offers fans every behind-the-scenes story and anecdote that one could ever wish to discover about this Horror classic.

Prom Night (Synapse Films)

Prom Night (Synapse Films)

  1. Prom Night (Synapse Films)

*With an opening that Horror fans new and old will have a hard time forgetting, the Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis (fresh off her Halloween success), Leslie Nielsen, and plenty of teenage shenanigans and kill counts to boot, Prom Night is as enjoyable as ever on Synapse’s standout Blu-Ray release of the year. The meticulously mastered 2K scan included herein is one of the best catalog treatments we’ve seen, and for that alone, Synapse deserves kudos for taking their time to get the transfer right (something they have come to be known for). But they didn’t stop there, the packaging features reversible artwork that is gorgeous to behold, a truly outstanding 5.1 audio track, and consistently top-notch bonus material. The Horrors of Hamilton High documentary features the cast and crew discussing the film at length, and we also get never-before-seen outtakes and additional footage featured in the television broadcast. Simply superb!

Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition) (Anchor Bay & Scream Factory)

Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition) (Anchor Bay & Scream Factory)

  1. Halloween: The Complete Collection– Limited Edition (Scream Factory & Anchor Bay)

*The #1 release of the year easily belongs to Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition), the result of an unheard of partnership between two home video giants: Anchor Bay and Scream Factory. Featuring every single film in the franchise and for the first time ever, the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 (on a beautiful transfer), as well as a vast array of bonus materials newly produced by Scream Factory, this is the absolute definitive set to own for fans. The artwork from Paul Shipper sets the mood perfectly, and the attention to detail with the individual black cases and original theatrical artwork on each separate film case is perfection. This is dedication folks! The fact that so much time and effort went into ensuring that fans would be happy with the results of this box set (along with the aforementioned content itself) is reason enough to select this fine release as the best of 2014, and one that will be appreciated by Horror fans for years to come.

Runners Up: Frankenstein Created Woman (Millennium Entertainment), The Blob (Twilight Time), Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory), Motel Hell (Scream Factory), The Quatermass Xperiment (Kino Lorber), Scanners (The Criterion Collection), Curtains (Synapse Films), The Final Terror (Scream Factory), and Nightbreed (Scream Factory).

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre