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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


Howling II Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: July 14th 2015

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

Runtime: 91 Minutes

Howling II (Scream Factory)

Howling II (Scream Factory)

The Film:

Few would argue with the fact that Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf is the very definition of a bad movie. One could also argue that this is the very reason why it’s so incredibly enjoyable. Absent from this sequel are the stylish storytelling, horrifying werewolf effects, and creeping suspense of Joe Dante’s original film. But what exactly does Howling II offer up for Horror fans? Horror legend Christopher Lee hamming it up with every line delivery, Sybil Danning’s incredible body and less-than-stellar acting abilities, random out-of-sequence editing that completely confuses the viewer, and an 80’s rock soundtrack complete with synthesizer and title-referencing music that is just about as cheesy as can be. It’s an endlessly enjoyable hodge-podge of self-referential humor, over-the-top performances, and terrible screenwriting. For B movie fans (those who get an insane kick out of MST3K style humor), Howling II is right up your alley!

The film attempts to pick up directly where Dante’s original left off, with the funeral for Karen White taking place and her brother Ben (Reb Brown) in mourning. Soon a mysterious man named Stefan Crosscoe (Christopher Lee) appears and attempts to convince Ben that his sister’s death was more complicated than he realizes, and that his sister was, in fact, a werewolf. Though Dee Wallace is entirely absent from this sequel and the actress that replaces her will never be confused as her doppelganger, we’re soon introduced to the completely ridiculous “lost” footage of Karen’s violent death. Pay no mind to this sequence being completely different than the ending of the first film. No mind at all. Ben and Karen’s former colleague Jenny (Annie McEnroe) are soon not only convinced of his sister’s affliction, but of the entire underground existence of werewolves that threaten the human race. Stefan soon convinces Ben and Jenny to travel all the way to Transylvania to battle the queen of the werewolves, the incredibly sexy Stirba (Sybil Danning). This task, of course, turns out to be more difficult than any of them could imagine.

Howling II is one of those rainy day B movies that bad film aficionados can appreciate on so many levels. It’s also one that requires time to fully appreciate its awkwardness and charm. I remember seeing the first Howling as a teenager, absolutely loving it, and running straight back to the video store to get the sequel. Saying I was disappointed by what I saw that night would be an understatement when compared to the first film. But then something strange happened…I rented it again. Perhaps it was my burgeoning manhood craving countless playbacks of Sybil Danning’s best moments. Whatever the case may be, I’ve since been able to appreciate the film on that “next level”, savoring every moment of pure ridiculousness. With that being said, Howling II on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory comes highly recommended.

Video Quality:

Rest assured Horror fans (and bad movie aficionados); Howling II looks fantastic on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory! The natural film grain is plentiful, colors look accurate for the time period, and digital manipulation is entirely absent from the print. It should, and does, look like film. Scratches and slight damage occasionally rear their head, but they are few and far between. Facial features and fine object detail, while not the strongest I’ve seen for the decade, look quite clear here in High Definition.

Audio Quality:

The 2.0 DTS-HD audio track is a solid one, regularly balancing dialogue, background effects, and the cheesy score in fine fashion. There is a lack of power and depth to the overall experience, which is to be expected, but when paired with the great video, it makes for a finely presented experience.

Special Features:

Scream Factory has given Howling II a fantastic array of bonus features that will surely make you bark at the moon with joy. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentaries (2) – Scream Factory has provided fans with two commentaries on this brand new Blu-Ray edition. The first commentary features Director Philippe Mora and the second has composer Steve Parsons and Editor Charles Bornstein. Both commentaries are informative for fans of the film and franchise!
  • Leading Man: An Interview with Actor Reb Brown- This brand new HD interview from Red Shirt Pictures features actor Reb Brown and runs nearly 14 minutes. It’s an absolute blast hearing from Reb, who was a club bouncer and training to be a Sheriff when he was noticed by casting agents and hired as a contract actor at Universal. Reb comes across as a delightful man, more football coach than Hollywood actor, and offers up some insightful stories regarding his career and the making of Howling II.
  • Queen of the Werewolves: An Interview with Actress Sybil Danning- This 17 minute interview has the still gorgeous Sybil Danning sharing her behind-the-scenes stories regarding the making of Howling II. Sybil is honest and forthright about her career, starting out as a model in Germany and making her way to Hollywood to star in films. Hearing Sybil discuss being a tomboy as a child and utilizing her imagination to “become” various characters growing up was especially enjoyable. Sybil’s stories about having dinner with Christopher Lee while being watched by the KGB is also a highlight! Great stuff!
  • A Monkey Phase: Interviews with Special Make-Up Effects Artists Steve Johnson and Scott Wheeler- This featurette runs 15 ½ minutes and features fantastic interviews with the makeup guys behind the film. Both artists discuss the beginnings in the industry and films they worked on before joining the team behind Howling II, the unique special effects and challenges for their team behind the scenes, and much more.
  • Alternate Opening-The alternate opening for the film runs 10 ½ minutes and features just a few alternate takes on specific scenes mostly consisting of some trimming of Christopher Lee and company talking after the funeral. There is really not too much of a difference here as I was straining to figure out exactly what had been cut or edited between the two.
  • Alternate Ending- The alternate ending runs roughly 9 ½ minutes, and much like the aforementioned alternate opening, doesn’t offer very much as far as unique differences. A few shots are extended or trimmed compared to the theatrical cut. Both versions luckily still feature Sybil Danning tearing off her clothes.
  • Behind the Scenes- This behind-the-scenes montage offers up some fun outtakes with the special effects crew and Director Philippe Mora work and runs nearly 4 minutes.
  • Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer for the film lasts just over a minute in length and gives viewers a good general idea of the B-movie mayhem they’re in for with Howling II.
  • Still Gallery- Just over 8 minutes of behind-the-scenes photos and production stills that play along to the rockin’ 80’s theme from the film.

The Packaging:

This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for the film on its cover, which is one of my personal favorite 80’s posters. You definitely get the feeling of the silliness of the film (red lipstick and sunglasses) with the art included here. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, a listing of special features, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside the case is the disc as well as some nice reversible artwork that fans can choose to display instead of the poster art.

Howling II (reverse)

Howling II (reverse)

Howling II (interior)

Howling II (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Few would argue with the fact that Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf is the very definition of a bad movie. One could also argue that this is the very reason why it’s so incredibly enjoyable. It’s one of those rainy day B movies that bad film aficionados can appreciate on so many levels, but also requires repeated viewings to fully appreciate its awkwardness and charm. The Blu-Ray presentation from Scream Factory is fantastic, with great video and audio that makes for a well-rounded presentation in High Definition. But it’s in the bonus features where Scream Factory will truly delight fans, with plenty of great interviews and featurettes with the cast and crew. Though disappointed with my first viewing as a young man, Sybil Danning kept bringing me back for repeat viewings. I’ve since been able to appreciate the film on that “next level”, savoring every moment of pure ridiculousness. With that being said, Howling II on Blu-Ray from Scream Factory comes highly 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


Starry Eyes Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Starry Eyes

Distributor: Dark Sky Films/MPI Home Video

Street Date: February 3rd 2015

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 96 Minutes

Starry Eyes (Dark Sky Films)

Starry Eyes (Dark Sky Films)

The Film:

Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Starry Eyes is a Cronenbergian Horror Fantasy centered on the dark side of Hollywood and the depths of despair one woman puts herself through to achieve stardom. It’s a haunting and unnerving fable with an incredible breakout performance from Alex Essoe, a brilliantly composed score from Jonathan Snipes, and plenty of chilling images and memorable gross-out moments that will be difficult to shake.

In the film, Alex Essoe plays Sarah, an aspiring actress who works at Big Taters (a clever Hooters-esque salute) by day and attends acting classes and auditions by night. Sarah lives with her roommate Tracy (Amanda Fuller), the only friend in her life that appears supportive of her aspirations in a group full of wannabe filmmakers and toxic females seeking to bring Sarah down with passive-aggressive commentary on her dream-seeking goals.

Sarah’s life seemingly changes for the better when she auditions for an upcoming Horror film titled The Silver Scream from Astraeus Pictures, but even when she completely nails the audition with a solid performance and complete line memorization, she fails to impress the casting directors. Fed up with her apparent failure, Sarah throws a messy, banshee-crying, hair-pulling fit in the bathroom of the building, only to be overheard by the female casting director, who invites her back to the audition room to have a similar meltdown.

Sarah receives a callback, and this time the casting directors want to film her naked on camera, and a subsequent callback allows her to meet the owner of Astraeus Pictures, but Sarah finally has had enough when he propositions her for the lead role in exchange for sexual favors. At first, Sarah is disgusted and repelled by the man, but soon believes that she has made a mistake and asks for a second chance at stardom, even if it involves degrading her self-worth. When Sarah awakens the next morning, she’s a changed woman, but not anywhere close to the way she expected. As Sarah begins to rot from the inside out, we learn the true intentions behind the sadistic folks at Astraeus Pictures.

I hesitate to say anything more about Starry Eyes and allow you, the prospective viewer, to enjoy it in all of its macabre glory. As a lover of classic Horror, I’m always a little skeptical going into modern day genre offerings, but the filmmakers behind Starry Eyes have crafted a truly eerie and methodically unnerving film that comes highly recommended. Alex Essoe, in particular, turns in a performance that is impressively raw and realistic (even in a fantasy scenario) and deserves every accolade she has received. Despite an ending that, in my opinion, goes a bit overboard with the gore for a film that had been stylishly creepy until that point, Starry Eyes is the first modern Horror film in some time that has captured both my attention and admiration.

Video Quality:

This Blu-Ray edition from Dark Sky Films features a very strong video presentation with deep black levels, authentically gritty visuals respecting the theatrical source print, and no signs of digital scrubbing or unwanted artifacts. Well done!

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio track regularly balances dialogue, the wonderfully eerie musical score from Jonathan Snipes, and background sound design with ease, making for a terrific home audio experience. The score reminds me of some of John Carpenter’s wonderful soundtracks over the years, and sounds great in HD surround.

Special Features:

Dark Sky Films has provided fans of Starry Eyes with select bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Commentary- Writer/Director’s Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch along with Producer Travis Stevens sit down for this insightful commentary that offers behind-the-scenes anecdotes including how the concept and story came together, production locales and their intentions, and much more.
  • Deleted Scenes- Some random deleted scenes that were definitely better left on the cutting room floor as they wouldn’t have added much to a picture that flows rather smoothly in the final product. There’s a scene with Sarah’s room shaking as she wakes up from a dream, Sarah driving with Tracy in her car, some party moments and drunken discussions, Sarah jogging, an extended audition callback, more jogging, Sarah leaving the Astraeus Pictures’ owner’s house, some extended vomiting and lip-pealing, and more.
  • Jonathan Snipes Music Video- Not your typical music video, but some intercut scenes of Jonathan Snipes mixing the score on his computer along with footage from the film.
  • Alex Essoe Audition Video- An impressive audition tape from Alex Essoe who seemed like a natural fit for the role right from the start.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery- Nearly ten minutes of behind-the-scenes photos from the making of the film.
  • Trailer- The theatrical trailer from the film.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Dark Sky Films features some creepy cover artwork that gives potential viewers just a hint of insight into the subject matter of the film. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a brief plot synopsis, along with a list of special features and technical specifications. The simple matte finish disc design mimics the cover of the Blu-Ray edition, and there is also some reversible artwork for those interested.

Starry Eyes (reverse)

Starry Eyes (reverse)

Starry Eyes (interior)

Starry Eyes (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

As a classic Horror aficionado, I’m always a little skeptical going into modern day genre offerings, but the filmmakers behind Starry Eyes have crafted a truly eerie and methodically unnerving film that comes highly recommended. This Cronenbergian Horror fantasy from Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer is a haunting and unnerving fable with an incredible breakout performance from Alex Essoe, a brilliantly composed score from Jonathan Snipes, and plenty of chilling images and memorable gross-out moments that will be difficult to shake. The Blu-Ray edition from Dark Sky Films features a very solid video and audio presentation along with some fun special features for fans of the film. Highly Recommended!

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre


Annabelle Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Annabelle

Distributor: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Street Date: January 20th 2015

Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Runtime: 98 Minutes

Annabelle (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

Annabelle (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)

The Film:

When The Conjuring was released in 2013, it made me believe that quality modern day Horror films could still be made in this day and age. I’m a classic Horror fan…an admirer of everything from the Universal Monsters to Hammer Films and even the cheesy cult-classic slashers of the 80’s. But modern Horror has left me wanting so much more. Gone are the days of unsettling genre pictures filled with style and atmosphere that truly terrified audiences, and unfortunately, what we’ve been left with for the past twenty years would mostly fit into the “torture porn” category.

But James Wan crafted The Conjuring with grace and style, a motion picture filled with atmosphere, dedicated performances, and a throwback aura that mirrored that of the great Horror entries from the 1970’s (The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror, etc.). When I heard that Warner Bros. planned to make a spin-off prequel featuring Annabelle (a doll expertly yet briefly utilized in The Conjuring), my hopes were high. Unfortunately without the assured direction of James Wan and a direct-to-video feel this time around, Annabelle fails to conjure up the scares of its predecessor.

In the film we meet Mia and John Form (Annabelle Wallis, Ward Horton), a young married couple who have recently settled down in Santa Monica, California. The couple is expecting their first child soon as John makes his way through medical school and Mia tends to the house by day (this is the 1960’s after all). When the next door neighbors’ cult-member daughter returns home after running away years prior, she kills her parents and attacks the Form’s in the middle of the night, possessing the Annabelle doll before she dies in a hail of Police gunfire.

Sometime later Mia and John relocate to an apartment in Pasadena with their baby girl Leah, but the Annabelle doll that John discarded at their old house has somehow found its way into one of their moving boxes. As you would expect given her history, Annabelle and the demon that uses her as a conduit wreak havoc on the Form’s and their baby daughter. With the help of a local priest (Tony Amendola) and a bookstore employee with a tragic past (Alfre Woodard), Mia and John attempt to rid their home of this evil once and for all.

Annabelle is not without its share of jump-scares and creepy moments, but they are too few and far between for a film of this length, like clever architectural design choices on a building with a crumbling foundation. The story itself and the events that unfold are simply too familiar and borrowed from other, better films. The performances are all very earnest, especially from Annabelle Wallis and Alfre Woodard, but they fail to rescue the film from its sheer lack of originality. I do hope that with James Wan back in the director’s chair for the upcoming The Conjuring: The Enfield Poltergeist, we’ll get a stylish return back to feeling of the first film, as Annabelle unfortunately left me unfulfilled.

Video Quality:

This Blu-Ray edition from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features a very nice high definition video presentation with incredibly solid black levels, plenty of pristine fine object detail to behold, and a color palette that is pleasing to the eye. There isn’t a single instance of dirt, debris, or artifacts throughout, making for a very clean and strong presentation.

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD audio regularly balances dialogue, the creepy musical score, and background effects with ease, making for a terrific audio experience at home. The few jump scares the film has to offer are very effective on this surround track, and again, Warner Bros. has done a great job on the technical side of things.

Special Features:

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has provided fans of Annabelle with some frightful bonus features to accompany this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • The Curse of Annabelle- Running about 5 ½ minutes, this short featurette focuses on the inception of this spin-off entry and the true story that inspired both films featuring the now-famous Annabelle doll that currently resides in the Warren Occult museum. Cast and crew discuss their fascination with Ed and Lorraine Warren’s careers, as well as some spooky shenanigans that happened behind-the-scenes of the film.
  • Bloody Tears of Possession- This one also runs about 5 ½ minutes and details the cinematography and camera work involved in the making of the film. Much is discussed about trying to capture a suspenseful atmosphere with innovative camerawork and a particularly long-shot during the initial assault on the Form’s house in Santa Monica.
  • Dolls of the Demon- This featurette runs just over 4 minutes and centers on the Annabelle doll herself, along with some discussion about various dolls in Horror cinema and their seemingly innocent nature that somehow brings the goose-bumps.
  • A Demonic Process- Another nearly 5 minute featurette that focuses on the demon of the film and his gargoyle-esque look from the folks at KNB effects. The composer for the film (Joseph Bishara), who has also played the demons in both Insidious films and The Conjuring, also plays the demon here. We get some footage of the sculpting and makeup application process which is pretty fun.
  • Deleted Scenes- Included here are 8 different scenes that were deleted from the film including: Meet Fuller the Landlord, Baby Bath/Fuller Fixes the Sink, Bugs in a Bottle, Infestation, Attack, Scratches & Father Perez’s arrival, Mia Wakes Up, and Demonic Kidnapping/Carnage. Everything is presented in High Definition and has final music/editing cues in place, leading us to believe that these scenes were excised at the last minute. Some of the cut scenes are surprisingly effective, and others involving a creepy landlord and bugs in the baby’s bottle were definitely better left on the cutting room floor.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray combo pack edition from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment features artwork that mimics the theatrical poster campaign with Annabelle herself on the slipcover. It’s an effective tease for the film, but I do wish that Warner Bros. had made it a lenticular one to pair nicely with their awesome lenticular “clap” cover for The Conjuring on Blu-Ray. On the back of the packaging you’ll find a very brief plot synopsis, a list of special features, and technical specifications. Inside of the case are two very plain black discs; one Blu-ray and one DVD, along with an insert featuring the Ultraviolet digital copy code and an advertisement for the upcoming game Dying Light.

Annabelle (reverse)

Annabelle (reverse)

Annabelle (interior)

Annabelle (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Though I truly loved The Conjuring for its throwback 70’s style, genuinely unsettling atmosphere, and effective chills set against a true story, Annabelle fails to conjure up the scares of its predecessor. This spin-off entry is not without its share of jump-scares and creepy moments, but they are too few and far between for a film of this length and budget, like clever architectural design choices on a building with a crumbling foundation. The good news here is that the Blu-Ray disc video and audio quality are expertly crafted by the folks at Warner Bros., making for a great home viewing experience. Fans of the film will appreciate the special features that, while short, offer up some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes for the film. I really wanted to like Annabelle, but unfortunately she was better left as a singular creepy element to a much better film.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre

Annabelle Promotional Doll with Blu-Ray Combo Pack

Annabelle Promotional Doll with Blu-Ray Combo Pack


Ginger Snaps Blu-Ray Review

Blu-Ray Review- Ginger Snaps

Distributor: Scream Factory

Street Date: July 22nd 2014

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

Runtime: 108 Minutes

Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory)

Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory)

The Film:

“Out by sixteen or dead on the scene, but together forever.”

Pairing the cycle of the werewolf with the puberty experience of a teenage girl, Ginger Snaps is truly a horror film unlike any other. In the cookie-cutter town of Bailey Downs, sisters Ginger and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle & Emily Perkins) stand out from the rest of their high school peers. They’re morbid obsession with death, suicide, and all things macabre doesn’t fare too well for popularity, and both girls are several years late experiencing their first period. None of this seems to matter too much to their loving mother, or anyone else for that matter, in this bland, boring town. The only break from the mundane comes from the occasional family dog being torn apart by a mysterious beast that lurks in the woods.

Seeking revenge on a female classmate who wronged them, Ginger and Brigitte head through the woods one night, intent on killing the girl’s dog and making it look like the work of the mysterious beast. The girls quickly realize they’re in trouble when the beast, a werewolf, stops them in their tracks, dragging Ginger through the woods with Brigitte attempting to fight it off. Scared off by the girls, the wolf is killed in a car accident, but Ginger appears mortally wounded as Brigitte drags her back to their house. Surprisingly, Ginger’s wounds heal in a matter of minutes, but something is different about her. Thinking at first that her mood swings and sudden hair growth could be the side effects of her first menstruation coming on, the sinister truth of Ginger’s transformation will change their lives forever.

Somewhat overlooked and underappreciated at it’s time of release, Ginger Snaps has gone on to develop a fervent cult following. It’s not your average teenage Horror film, and certainly not your average werewolf picture. The teen angst feels real and genuine, it’s darkly funny with memorable dialogue, and the town may remind you of your old stomping grounds and the reasons why you left it all behind.

The acting here is top notch as well, and though she has the less flashy role, Emily Perkins in particular nails her character’s inhibited nature and increasing worry for her beloved sister. Their complex relationship makes the film unique, and even though the cause of their rift is an element of fantasy, there are obvious parallels to the real-world problems of teenage girls everywhere. Ginger Snaps remains a brilliant little Horror film after 14 years, and it was an absolute treat to revisit on this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory.

Video Quality:

Scream Factory presents Ginger Snaps in High Definition for the first time on this latest Blu-Ray release, and they’ve done a fine job! The transfer exhibits very accurate color timing and impressive fine object detail in everything from clothes, facial features, and even the gory stuff (notice the clarity of the white hairs growing out of Ginger’s wounds). Film grain looks natural and authentic, and this print is relatively free of anomalies. I was in High School when Ginger Snaps was released theatrically, so I had a good laugh noticing the clothing from the time period look so accurate on this HD print.

Audio Quality:

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track included is a solid upgrade! Dialogue comes through clean, with little to no background distortion or hiccups during the runtime. The score sounds terrific and is evenly balanced throughout your system to provide a very rich and dynamic track. Well done!

Special Features:

Scream Factory has once again gone above and beyond to make their Collector’s Edition releases very special for the fans. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:

  • Audio Commentary (2)- There are two audio commentaries on this disc, one from Director John Fawcett, and another from Writer Karen Walton. The team that eventually brought us Orphan Black provides us with some detailed and informative commentaries discussing the film, screenwriting process, pre and post-production, and their careers in film.
  • Ginger Snaps: Blood, Teeth, and Fur- This is the absolute standout special feature on this release, running over an hour long, it includes incredible insight into the making of the film, it’s themes, and production. From location scouting to Ginger Snaps’ legacy, to casting and feminism in film, there are a variety of topics explored in this wonderful documentary.
  • Growing Pains: Puberty in Horror Films- From Aine Leicht and Kristy Jett, this featurette runs nearly half an hour and features Jett, Rebekah McKendry, Heidi Honeycutt, and Axelle Carolyn discussing the concept of puberty in horror films. These lovely ladies recall their first experience watching films like Carrie and Ginger Snaps, how they related to them, and their impact on horror culture. The conversation is engaging throughout, and even the tangents the group tends to go on are thought provoking. This was a wonderful idea for a featurette, and fits quite nicely with the tone of the film.
  • Deleted Scenes– Presented here in three separate ways, you can watch the deleted scenes by themselves, with commentary from John Fawcett, or with commentary from Karen Walton. The 25 minutes worth of deleted scenes presented here are quite fun, some existing as entire stand-alone segments, and some that were merely trimmed from existing scenes in the final film.
  • Featurette- This short featurette is a catalog promo for the film presented in standard definition, possibly featured on an earlier DVD release. It features the cast and crew discussing the film, why people should go see it, and other anecdotes all while clips from the movie play throughout.
  • Cast Auditions & Rehearsals- Roughly 18 minutes of auditions and rehearsals with Katharine Isabelle, Emily Perkins, and select other cast members. This is a fun watch, especially seeing the interplay between the two leads develop.
  • Creation of the Beast- This is a fun behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the werewolf utilizing practical effects.
  • Being John Fawcett- A short, fun little video shot by John Fawcett of him and the actresses goofing around during pre-production.
  • Theatrical Trailers- Various trailers used throughout the theatrical campaign for the film.
  • TV Spots- Various television spots used throughout the theatrical campaign for the film.
  • Production Design Artwork- A quick but fun look through some of the production design logos associated with various items or products throughout the film: cigarettes, alcohol, logos, magazines, etc.

The Packaging:

As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory features impressive newly commissioned cover art from artist Joel Robinson. The colors look great, the likenesses are perfect, and the full moon background and werewolf design on the bottom look fantastic. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis for the film, a list of special features, and technical specifications for this release. On the inside of the case you will find both the Blu-Ray and DVD discs with a nice picture of Ginger and Brigitte. As always on their collector’s edition releases, the cover art is reversible, and features the original theatrical poster design for the film.

Ginger Snaps (reverse)

Ginger Snaps (reverse)

Ginger Snaps (interior)

Ginger Snaps (interior)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Report:

Overlooked and underappreciated during it’s theatrical release, Ginger Snaps has gone on to develop a fervent cult following. It’s not your average teenage Horror film, and certainly not your average werewolf picture. The teen angst feels genuine, it’s darkly funny with memorable dialogue, and the parallels to the real-world problems of teenage girls are cleverly alluded to. The picture quality is very good, with natural color timing and impressive fine object detail, and the audio delivers the dialogue and scares with full force. The special features are the standout aspect on this release, including a wonderful documentary and featurette made specifically for this edition. Ginger Snaps remains a brilliant little Horror film after 14 years, and this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory is the definitive home video release.

Yours Truly,

Doctor Macabre

Ginger Snaps: Collector's Edition (Artwork: Joel Robinson)

Ginger Snaps: Collector’s Edition (Artwork: Joel Robinson)