Friday, August 26, 2016

SESSION 9 (2001) (Blu-ray Review)

SESSION 9 (2001) 
Label: Scream Factory
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 100 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Brad Anderson
Cast: David Caruso, Josh Lucas, Peter Mullan, Brendan Sexton III, Stephen Gevedon, Josh Lucas

Synopsis: It looms up out of the woods like a dormant beast. Grand, imposing... abandoned and deteriorating, the Danvers State Mental Hospital, closed down for 15 years is about to receive 5 new visitors.Donning protective gear, the men of the Hazmat Elimination Co. venture into the eerily vast and vacant asylum that is filled with an evil and mysterious past. Rampant patient abuse, medieval medical procedures and rumors of demonic possession are some of the many dark secrets the hospital holds – but then so do each of the men.

When I was a kid my dad was employed at the Willard Psychiatric Center in Upstate New York, a place which somewhat oddly loomed large in my youth. With the nearest legit cinema over an hour away I would watch 35mm movies at the asylum in Hadley Hall, an auditorium that served as both gymnasium and a cinema, there was even a bowling alley in basement - the place was very curious. As I recall they ran movies once a month on a Saturday and would screen second run and vintage movies for the patients. There  were usually a handful of other kids there whom I assume had parents who also worked at the asylum. When I wasn't watching movies there I would cut through the sprawling 500 acre grounds on my way nearby Seneca Lake for swimming and fishing, the asylum was perched on a hill overlooking the scenic lake, there was a public swimming area nearby a dock right off the mouth of Pines Creek which offered some awesome fishing opportunities, and in the winter there was a great hill for snow sledding. It seems strange now when I look back at it but the asylum was always there and a part of my life. 


I often wandered what life was like at the place for the inmates, the poor souls who lived there who haunted by inner demons. I could not help but wonder what lead to their being left behind in such a place. Did they ever have hope of leaving, did they have family who visited them? My father worked in a more modern building known as Hatch, but I clearly remember the red brick Victorian era buildings from the the previous century which were no longer in use, they were imposing and gave me the creeps when I walked past them. What primitive psychiatric horrors happened there, were they subjected to electroshock and ice bath therapies, did they perform pre-frontal lobotomies there? In my youth I would wonder about these things, and I still do

With those memories still intact I remember watching Brad Anderson's creepy Session 9 for the first time, it brought all those memories all back to me and seriously gave me the creeps, a claustrophobic tale of five men who have been tasked with cleaning up asbestos at an abandoned psychiatric center, eerily similar to the one I grew up next to. Each of the men are struggling with there own problems, though none more so that Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan) the owner of the small asbestos removal company who put in a low bid to remove asbestos from the Danvers State Hospital, which closed fifteen years earlier after mental health reform and a lawsuit. Gordon is a new father and is burdened with the threat of losing his business along with the rigors of a newborn child at home. Working the job with him are Mike (David Caruso, C.S.I. Miami), Phil (Stephen Gevedon), Hank (Josh Lucas), and Gordon's nephew Jeff (Brendan Sexton III, Welcome to the Dollhouse). right from the start there is animosity between Phil and Mike, as Mike's former girlfriend left him for Phil, a fact that Phil never passes up the opportunity to rub into his face. Jeff is a newbie and a bit of dipshit, and Hank quickly becomes obsessed with reel to reel audio tapes he finds in a records room at the asylum containing a series of audio recordings of therapy sessions with a woman named Mary Hobbes who was a patient at the asylum with dissociative identity disorder, who murdered her family on Christmas day. The creepy sessions are chilling as Hobbes slowly reveals her multiple personalities one by one throughout the course of the movie, first the innocent girl "the Princess", a young boy named "Billy", and the more menacing "Simon" who is reluctant to reveal himself.

As the team gets to work Gordon begins to slowly crumble under the mounting pressure, often stopping to make phone calls to his wife, you get the idea that something bad has happened and he is trying to make-up with her, eventually admitting to his nephew Jeff that he hit her after she accidentally spilled a pot of boiling water on his leg. He's also hearing voices in the asylum, the movie certainly plays a bit like Kubrick's version of The Shining in places. Meanwhile both Phil and Hank are making nightly after hours visits to the asylum pursuing their own private obsessions, Phil having found a stash of valuable in the wall of the basement near the mortuary and Hank is obsessed with those therapy session tapes, staying up all night an immersing himself in the multiple personality madness. 

The atmosphere is thick and tense and the setting is a stroke of genius, the dilapidated asylum is a nightmare and the crew needed to do very little to make it creepier, asylum's are creepy places and it's not hard to imagine someone losing their mind while working inside. Things begin to go awry when Phil goes missing after being attacked,  the guy's assume he's just abandoned the job but in quick succession several more of them men meet death at the asylum, murdered by unseen assailant with an orbitoclast, a tool used to perform lobotomies back in the primitive days of mental healthcare. 

This is a classic slow-burn slice of cinema with some sweet Kubrick-ian camera works, nice slow camera movements that glide along taking in the Gothic views of the crumbling asylum, the way the movie plays out is slow and masterful, there's a deliberate descent into madness that plays along to the scenes of Hank listening to the therapy sessions with Mary Hobbs, which are among the creepiest damn things you will ever hear in a movie. It may take a bit to get a proper head of steam but sometimes the fun is in the simmering of the movie before it boils over, and when it does finally boil over the payoff is haunting and stays with you for quite sometime, good stuff. 

Session 9 (2001) finally arrives on Blu-ray by way of Scream Factory framed in the original scope aspect ratio. The new HD transfer is a marked improvement over the 2002 DVD from Universal. The 1080p HD image is nicely crisp and finely detailed, to a certain degree, the movie was shot on a Sony HD camera in 2001 and the image has limitations but the blacks are nicely deep and the appearance of the image is very pleasing overall, definitely the best it has looked on home video. 

The only audio option aside from a commentary track is a English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 and it does the job nicely, well-balanced and crisp, those session tapes of Mary Hobbes are nightmare fuel and the music has some nice depth which adds another layer of atmosphere to an already creepy movie. I am a bit surprised this one does not have a surround sound option, the eerie music score and sound design would seem ideal for a surround mix, but the stereo track sounds just fine. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Scream factory carry over all the extras from the 2002 DVD beginning with a very good if somewhat subdued commentary from Director Brad Anderson and co-writer/actor Stephen Gevedon whom go into some good detail about the creation of the movie, production and stories from the set. Also carried over are a series of Deleted Scenes and an Alternate Ending with the option to view it with commentary by director Brad Anderson who speaks of how the scenes were trimmed following test screenings when a certain sub plot involving a homeless woman living at the asylum proved to be somewhat confusing. Also carried over are a storyboard to screen comparison, an on-set making of featurette and the theatrical trailer for the movie. 

New and exclusive to the Scream Factory Blu-ray is a forty-nine minute making of doc with interviews from director/co-writer Brad Anderson, actor/co-writer Stephen Gevedon, actors Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III, Larry Fessenden, composers The Climax Golden Twins and director of photography Uta Briesewitz. A lot of what is brought up is covered in the original commentary but there's some great stuff covered, , including creepy stories from cast and crew of strange happenings on-set, including a fleeting suicidal thought and director of photography Uta Briesewitz nearly being lobotomized in a freak accident on-set with a dental drill! It  is pretty clear the place unnerved many of the cast and crew who seem to believe that there may have been something supernatural happening at the asylum. 

Also new is an episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark who visits the location which has changed dramatically since 2001, the main building used in the movie has been torn down, but he visits the cemetery and a few locations used in the movie, plus the episode features vintage camcorder footage of the building used in the movie from 2004 before the building was torn down, it is creepy stuff as he and a few others navigate the dark corridors of the asylum in near total blackness, the footage is rough looking but still very unsettling

Special Features:
- NEW Return to Danvers: The Secrets of SESSION 9 featuring interviews with director/co-writer Brad Anderson, actor/co-writer Stephen Gevedon, actors Josh Lucas, Brendan Sexton III, Larry Fessenden, composers The Climax Golden Twins and director of photography Uta Briesewitz (49 Mins) HD
- NEW Horror’s Hallowed Grounds - revisiting the locations of the film (20 Mins) HD
- Audio Commentary with Brad Anderson and Stephen Gevedon
- Deleted Scenes/ Alternate Ending with/without commentary by director Brad Anderson (10 Mins) HD
- Story to Screen (10 Mins) HD
- The Haunted Palace (13 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) 

Session 9 (2001) is a criminally under-watched movie, hopefully this Blu-ray from Scream Factory will bring it to a wider audience which it so richly deserves. The Blu-ray's improved A/V and worthy new special features make an easy upgrade, well worth the money if you're double-dipping on this one, so dig and enjoy one of the creepiest asylum movies out there, very few have done asylum-horror better or creepier, this is a classic slice scary cinema.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

DER BUNKER (2015) (Blu-ray Review)

DER BUNKER (2015) 
Label: Artsploitation Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 85 Minutes
Audio: German Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Nikias Chryssos
Cast: Nikias Chryssos, Hans W. Geissendörfer, Hana Geissendörfer

Artsploitation have come through with another supreme slice of foreign weirdness, this time they've brought us the German import Der Bunker (2015), a surreal watch about a young boy named Klaus (Daniel Fripan), the son of oddball parents (David Scheller, Oona von Maydell) who live a reclusive life in an underground bunker located deep in the woods. The first bit of weirdness to get out of the way is that young Klaus appears much older than a boy of eight, in reality he is a grown man playing a boy, wearing ill-fitting schoolboy clothing and coming off as a bit developmentally challenged. The question of his age is a bit perplexing, whatever the explanation is it does add yet another odd element to the uneasy proceedings. 

A young man referred to only as the "student" arrives at the family bunker to rent a room which had been advertised as having a view of a lake. He seeks to rent a quiet room where he can fully immerse himself in solitude and his studies. What he finds is a cold, concrete bunker that is sparse and depressing. Despite the poor accommodations he decides to stay on as a tenant with the family, hoping to further his studies into subatomic quantum mechanics or some such science-y type stuff. His studies prove not to be too important to the story as he is quickly overcome by the strange happenings at the bunker-house and the oddball inhabitants who call it home. 

The father is a strict taskmaster prone to lashing his son with a rod when he disapproves of the boys lack of progress with his home studies, at night he dons white-faced mime make-up and tells awful jokes to the family, at dinner he counts how many dumplings and napkins the new tenant eats and makes notes in a journal. Mother is a weirdie, too. A quietly intense woman obsessed with keeping her seemingly challenged son at home, and again the boy seems to have aged well beyond eight years old, perhaps because his domineering parents have not allowed him to grow, perhaps stunted by their claustrophobic neediness. Strangely, Mom and Dad have set a lofty career goal for their son, encouraging him to rise to the challenge of becoming the President of the United States, which as a German might prove to be difficult

Weird seems to be the word of the day while watching Der Bunker, an arty movie that seems to touch on the dangers of suffocating parents, the horrors of home schooling, and wraps it up in a voyeuristic melange of surreal weirdness ... oh, and then there's the addition of a sentient wound on the mother's leg which makes decisions for the family. Yup, way beyond weird and darkly funny, which I was not expecting. The movie has a building sense of quirky dread which I thought would transform into some bloody carnage, but it only unfolds into more surreal lunacy. If a mash-up the 70's cult-classic The Baby (1973) by way of Delicatessen (1991) sounds like a good time, this ought to be a fun watch for you, for others it might just be a head-scratcher. Highly recommended for fans of surreal black comedies. 

Full Moon classic Dark Angel (1994) ascends onto Blu-ray this September!

DARK ANGEL:  THE ASCENT (1994) 

Released for the first time on Blu-ray, Full Moon Features’ classic horror Dark Angel: The Ascent starring Angela Featherstone (HBO’s Girls, Friends) and directed by Linda Hassani.
The release, remastered in 16 x 9 Widescreen and 5.1 Surround, digitally restored from the original 35mm camera negative, bows September 15.

Synopsis:  Deep in the depths of hell, Veronica, (Featherstone; "The Zero Effect," "Soul Survivors," "Friends") a young demoness, yearns to visit the world of man. Veronica finds a secret passage and ascends from Hades with her dog Hellraiser, and they find themselves on the streets of a modern American city.

Disguised as a human, she meets Max Barris, a young doctor, and begins living with him. Veronica decides her mission in life is to punish the wicked and evil, and goes about this with a bloody vengeance. She hunts down evildoers and kills them, feeding parts of their bodies to her dog. Finally she tells Max the truth about herself, and despite the fact that she's a spawn of darkness he falls in love with her. But will the separation of mortal and immortal allow their love to last...?

Intervision Pictures Corp Release Of Lady Libertine / Love Circles Coming On Blu-ray This September

LADY LIBERTINE (1983) / LOVE CIRCLES (1985) 

Label: Intervision Pictures Corp
Release Date: September 27th 2016
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 177 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Full screen (1.33:1) 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono 
Director: Gerard Kikoine 
Cast: Christopher Pearson, Jennifer Inch, Sophie Favier and John Sibbit, Marie-France, Josephine Jacqueline Jones

Two feature films from France's master of erotica, Gerard Kikoine

LADY LIBERTINE - THE INFAMOUS EROTIC SAGA AN ASHAMED STAR TRIED TO STOP!

Synopsis: Famed French TV game show hostess Sophie Favier stars in this boldly sexy epic about a cross-dressing teenage orphan named 'Frank' who is adopted by a handsome nobleman with his own strange urges. But when the sultry virgin's gender-bend is revealed, her deflowering unleashes a shocking torrent of voyeurism, violation, sadism and submission that will blur the line between pleasure and pain forever!

This 1984 Playboy production ignited an international controversy when Sophie Favier unsuccessfully sued to stop its long awaited re-release. Her court loss is a victory for Skinemax fans everywhere!

LOVE CIRCLES - AN INTERNATIONAL ODYSSEY OF SEXUAL IMMORALITY!

Synopsis: From Paris to Rome, Cannes to Hong Kong, and Los Angeles to New York City, the true universal language is lust! In this decadent update of the scandalous classic LA RONDE, a bevy of international beauties complete a chain of liaisons where every urge is fulfilled and no taboo is left unbroken. Will it take more than one man to satisfy a nymphomaniac's voracious needs? How does a single oiled body trigger an unstoppable steam room orgy? What is the ultimate act of love between sisters?

Special Features:
- Interview with director Gerard Kikoine (French with English subs)
- Gerard Kikoine introducing Lady Libertine at the Fantasia Film Festival

Intense Crash-and-Slash Thriller Makes its Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Debut October 4th, 2016 from Scream Factory™

FENDER BENDER (2016) 

There are no accidents. He stalks the streets. Remorseless. Brutal. Bloodthirsty. When his prey is at its most vulnerable, he appears. And when night falls and all is quiet…he strikes. Prepare for the next driving force in horror with the October 4th, 2016 release of Fender Bender on Blu-ray, DVD and all major digital platforms from Scream Factory. Just in time for Halloween, this chilling feature also comes loaded with bonus features, including a “Retro VHS” cut of the film, audio commentary with the director, a behind the scenes featurette, a producer’s commentary, a collection of vintage slasher film trailers and more! Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com.  

Evocative of the horror-thriller classics of yesteryear, Fender Bender  brings you back to a time when the boxes on the shelf at your local video store beckoned you with masked, knife-wielding maniacs and a twisted sense of morals.  Written and directed by Mark Pavia (Stephen King’s The Night Flier), the movie stars Makenzie Vega (The Good Wife), Dre Davis (Pretty Little Liars, Scavenger Killers), Cassidy Freeman (Smallville, Longmire) and Bill Sage (American Psycho, We Are What We Are). 

Seventeen-year-old Hilary has just received her driver’s license… only to have her first accident shortly thereafter. Innocently exchanging her personal information with the remorseful stranger behind the wheel, Hilary returns home for a quiet evening with friends. But when the man she so readily handed all of her information to reveals himself to be something much darker and sinister than she could imagine, Hilary finds herself in a head-on collision with terror.

Fender Bender Bonus Features
- “Retro VHS” Version of the film –watch the film in a re-created mode that takes you back to the 1980’s and the heyday of VCRs.
- “Slashback” Trailer Reel – A collection of vintage Scream Factory-branded slasher previews.
- Director’s Commentary
- Producer’s Commentary
- Behind-The-Scenes Featurette
- Original Trailer and TV Spot

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Lionsgate Resurrects Horror Cult Classics in High Definition with the Limited- Edition Vestron Video Collector’s Series




Chopping Mall, Blood Diner Arrive on Blu-ray™ September 27

Lionsgate is exhuming classic horror films with a red carpet rollout this fall for the limited-edition Vestron Video Collector’s Series. Hours of materials have been assembled for the Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-ray™ releases, starting with six horror cult classics! Taste the fear and the flesh, in shocking high definition for the first time, as teenagers meet their untimely demise at the hands of cannibals, killer robots, horror icons, sewer-dwelling monsters, and an army of the undead!

Vestron Video has been a leader in providing the most unique and wide-ranging selection of films. Lionsgate honors the spirit of Vestron Video by presenting the Vestron Video Collector’s Series — a line of classic genre films newly remastered and with a wealth of supplementary features. Starting with Chopping Mall and Blood Diner, and continuing with Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time Double Feature, Return of the Living Dead 3, and C.H.U.D. II: Bud the CHUD, these rereleases are for the collector and horror fan alike and will be available for a limited amount of time. 

Teenagers trapped in a high-tech mall overnight must find a way out before three malfunctioning security robots destroy them in Chopping Mall. In order to raise an ancient Egyptian goddess, two cannibalistic brothers use their restaurant to add something special to the menu in Blood Diner. 

Each limited-edition feature, transferred from the original film elements to high-definition Blu-ray™, is packed with special features including brand-new audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and interviews with cast & crew — including one with Chopping Mall’s robot! The Chopping Mall and Blood Diner Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-ray™s will each be available for the suggested retail price of $39.99.

CHOPPING MALL BLU-RAY™ SPECIAL FEATURES
• AUDIO COMMENTARIES:
- Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney, and Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell
- Historians/Authors Nathaniel Thompson (Mondo Video) and Ryan Turek (Shock Till You Drop)
- Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski and Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell

• FEATURETTES:
- “Back to the Mall”
- “Chopping Chopping Mall”
- “The Killbots”
- “Scoring Chopping Mall”
- “The Robot Speaks”
- “The Lost Scene”
- “Army of One”
- “Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots”
- Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino
- Trailer

BLOOD DINER BLU-RAY™ SPECIAL FEATURES
• AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Jackie Kong
• FEATURETTES:
- “Queen Kong”
- “The Cook, The Uncle, and The Detective”
- “Open for Business”
- “Scoring for Sheetar!”
- “You Are What They Eat”
- Archival Interview with Project Consultant Eric Caidin
- Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spots
- Still Gallery

CHOPPING MALL PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 1986
Title Copyright: Program Content and Package Artwork © 1986 Trinity Pictures/Concorde Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Package Design and Summary © 2016 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: R
Genre: Horror
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: English SDH
Feature Run Time: 76 Minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition, 16x9 Widescreen 1.85:1 Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: Original Monaural Audio

BLOOD DINER PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 1987
Title Copyright: Program Content and Package Artwork © 1987 Lightning Pictures, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Package Design and Summary © 2016 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Type: Theatrical Release
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Horror
Closed-Captioned: N/A
Subtitles: English SDH
Feature Run Time: 88 Minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition, 16x9 Widescreen 1.85:1 Presentation
Blu-ray Audio: Original Monaural Audio




Thursday, August 18, 2016

OBSERVANCE (2015) (Blu-ray Review)

OBSERVANCE (2015) 
Label: Artsploitation Films
Region Code: A
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 86 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 with Optional english Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Joseph Sims-Dennett
Cast: Lindsay Farris, Stephanie King, Brendan Cowell, John Jarratt, Benedict Hardie, Tom O'Sullivan, Roger Ward

Synopsis: Atmospherically creepy and visually unnerving, Australia’s Joseph Sims-Dennett’s startling feature film debut follows Parker, a young man in the grip of grief following the death of his young son, his marriage on the rocks and nearing bankruptcy, but who reluctantly returns to work as a private investigator. His assignment it to observe a woman from an abandoned apartment, and as her watches bizarre happenings surrounding her, he slowly becomes aware that the derelict building he is in has a dark presence which slowly threatens to consume him. A frightening horror tale of a man spiraling into madness and reminiscent of Roman Polanski’s THE TENANT, Hitchcock’s REAR WINDOW, and the works of David Cronenberg and David Lynch.

The creepy voyeur film Observance comes from Australia by way of distributor Artsploitation Films who have been doing good work bringing the best (and weirdest) that foreign cinema has to offer for a few years now. This one is a real creeper that brought to mind Francis Ford Coppala's underrated The Conversation (1974) by way of a David Lynch tinged version of Rear Window (1954). We have a troubled private eye named Parker (Lindsay Farris) who is hired to monitor a young woman named Tenneal (Stephanie King) for the span of seven days, tasked to watch her and report back to his benefactor, which seems a simple enough assignment. He is set-up in an apartment across the way from the woman with a great view of her place, but the flat they've set him up is real nightmare fuel, the place has faulty electricity and the walls are lined with yellowed newspaper, it looks like a place where nothing good has ever happened ... and what the fuck is that black liquid in a jar up on the shelf? Increasingly Parker becomes aware of the while not much is happening to the mysterious woman that a lot of weird stuff is happening to him, things not easily dismissed. 

He become increasingly obsessed with the beautiful woman, haunted by sexual dreams of her, all the while becoming more and more concerned about the nature of the assignment, of which everything seems ambiguous, nothing is clearly defined. Soon sores begins appear on his back, he begins vomiting awful black goo, and as his health and sanity begin to erode as he begins to spiral down a hole of madness, one with possible supernatural overtones. The movie brought to mind the early works of Roman Polanski like Repulsion (1965) and The Tenant (1976), with a bit of that David Lynch strangeness and some choice Brian De Palma tendencies, but without coming off as a clone or copy, all of these influences are swirled together into a claustrophobic concoction of weirdness, voyeurism and paranoia that made for a great watch. 

It is a bit of slow-burn that doesn't go out of its way to explain much to the viewer, which I appreciated, this is definitely a movie for fans of slow-burn weirdness. This Australian export is a high recommend, a thoroughly eerie and spellbinding watch. Fans of creepy slow-burn cinema like Session 9 (2001), The Tenant (1976), and Kill List (2011) are strongly urged to seek this one out.