Friday, December 25, 2015


2015 was a banner year for reissues of classic cult and horror cinema, with outstanding entries from Arrow Video, Scream Factory, Grindhouse Releasing and Blue Underground among many others. There are so many awesome niche labels re issuing vintage horror in 1080p these days, it' is truly a great time to be a collector, though your wallet may disagree with that statement. 

I will keep my list of the best re issues confined to only the releases I have sitting on my shelf at the moment, and not the dozens now on my Amazon wish list, just out of my grasp. The list is not in any particular order, just 20 releases worth your money that I loved and highly recommend to fans of cult, horror and exploitation - here it is - the best of the best in vintage, retro and re issues from this past year, enjoy and let me know what you think of the list. 


I love the Italian whodunits and this release evaded me for years, the Shriek Show DVD has long out of print and expensive. It's great to have it in HD now, Arrow did a bang-up job with a new 2K restoration and some quality extras. 


A very attractive packaging of movies from Sergio Martino and Lucio Fulci from Arrow Video, both films are underrated and look great in 1080p, plus a new wealth of extras for fans of Eurocult cinema. 

03. SHE KILLED IN ECSTACY (Severin Films) 

She Killed in Ecstasy (1970) is an erotically charged revenge film laced with intoxicating visuals and scene after scene of the lovely Soledad Miranda, who fills nearly every frame of the movie. On top of that you have a swinging psychedelic lounge score that just cannot be beat. This movie was my introduction to the strange and provocative world of Jess Franco over a decade ago, and it remains so to this day, if you're a Franco fan this is the must-own edition of the film.

04. MADMAN (Vinegar Syndrome) 

We've been waiting for years from this super-fun second tier slasher to make the jump to 1080p HD and it was worth the wait. Vinegar Syndrome always come through with superlative restorations and Madman has never looked better. while the label is mostly known for porn and sleaze they've come through with some fantastic horror movies, this is one of the best. 

05. ANGST (Cult Epics) 

A Criterion-worthy presentation of the demented Gerard Kargl movie Angst (1983) from Cult Epics, loaded with extras and fantastic A/V presentation, an unsettling watch and a phenomenal Blu-ray release. 

06. THE BEYOND (Grindhouse Releasing) 

The Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray of Lucio Fulci's The Beyond is an attractively packaged special edition jam-packed with a stunning array of new extras with a pleasing HD upgrade. A gorgeous package all around, a phenomenal fright film loaded with creepy atmosphere and torrents of dazzling gore, it doesn't get anymore essential than this one right here. The edition from Grindhouse Releasing includes an embossed, glow-in-the-dark slipcase and a CD of the Fabio Frizzi score. 

07. CANNIBAL FEROX (Grindhouse Releasing) 

Cannibal Ferox (1981) is a truly vile and repulsive cannibal entry, that on a surface level is on par with Cannibal Holocaust, though one I would be cautious to recommend to the average movie fan for fear it might have the more casual horror fan spewing chunks. This is hands-down the definitive version of the infamous cannibal classic for what will be a very long time, I cannot imagine anyone topping this stunning three-disc set which includes a CD of the Buddy Magnlione score and another sweet embossed slipcase. My favorite extra is the feature length documentary EATEN ALIVE! THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ITALIAN CANNIBAL FILM - worth the price alone in my opinion. 

08. GHOST STORY (Scream Factory) 

Ghost Story is a great old fashioned haunter with some serious atmosphere and a surprising amount of horrific special effects peppered throughout. It stars a cast of Hollywood veterans backed up by a solid turn from the underrated Craig Wassom, plus a haunting performance from Alice Krige. The Blu-ray from Scream Factory is top-notch with a pleasing A/V presentation and with over two-hours of new interviews with cast and crew this is a very highly recommended release.

09. BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (Arrow Video) 

Arrow Video have breathed new life into this classic slice of Italian whodunit cinema with a brand-new and gorgeous 2K restoration that is by quite a stretch the best this film has ever looked on home video. No self-respecting horror fan or Mario Bava completest should be without this on their movie shelf, an essential and seminal slice of whodunit. 

10. LONG WEEKEND (Synapse Films) 

Long Weekend (1978) is an unnerving nature gone wild Ozploitation entry infused with an eeriness not often associated with these sort of movies, this one is quite intense and atmospheric. The Blu-ray transfer from Synapse Films looks fantastic and will hopefully earn this lesser known Australian gem legions of new fans.  


This release is massive! All four movies are housed on separate Blu-ray discs inside a single Criterion-sized Blu-ray case with a slipcover, both the Blu-ray sleeve and slipcover feature a painting from The Dude Designs which captures the essence of the release with the characters erupting from the top of Larry Fessenden's head, which is very cool. This is quite a tribute to the wild-haired Larry Fessenden and Glass Eye Pix and what they've accomplished through the years. Here's hoping we have another volume in a few years, Fessenden has only directed one feature post The Last Winter, the fun killer fish movie Beneath (2013) for the Chiller channel, but he's been busy producing (Late Phases) and acting (We Are Still Here), but the world needs more Fessenden! 

12. CONTAMINATION (Arrow Video) 

Arrow Video's new 2K restoration of Luigi Cozzi's sci-fi splatter classic is top notch and the extras were far beyond my expectations, watching this again for the first time in years I was surprised by just how much my appreciation for the Alien knock-off had grown, this was quite a bit of fun. A high recommend for fans of Italian gore and science-fiction horror, a fantastic Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

13. MASSACRE MAFIA STYLE (Grindhouse Releasing) 

Massacre Mafia Style (1978) might just be one of the most cult movies ever made, a wildly entertaining piece of crime cinema dripping with mob violence, revenge and a tiny pinch of b-movie camp. Kudos to Grindhouse Releasing for the dusting off this forgotten gem with a gorgeous restoration and the exhaustive bonus content, a very high recommend for any enthusiast of crime and cult cinema.

14. SOCIETY (Arrow Video) 

The wait for a proper North American release of Society has been a long one and the Director-Approved Limited Edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video was definitely worth the wait, a fantastic transfer with loads of awesome extras and some inspired packaging extras. Society is a body-horror classic, this is top-notch and highly recommended.

15. NIGHTMARE CASTLE (Severin Films) 

A fantastic release from Severin Films that should those with enthusiasm for Eurocult, Gothic horror or just fans of the erotically charged Barbara Steele, regardless of which this is a terrific package. A high recommend, if not just for the main feature and the excessive amount of quality extras on the disc keep in mind you're getting three HD Italian Barbara Steele movies for the price of one, now that's a bargain.

16. MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE (Syanpse Films) 

When a Texas fertilizer salesman makes a movie you sort of would have to expect it would be a turd of a movie, right?  If you love it cheap and crave drive-in era schlock this release is the b-movie holy grail of awfulness, and Synapse have gone above and beyond to prove you can indeed polish a turd. 


This just might be a top five Franco movie for me, a dizzying blend of arthouse erotica and lurid exploitation, Franco was a master of both and rarely did they come together in such a delirious and woozy way onscreen, this is primo Franco. If you're a Franco-phile this is a serious no brainer, you need to own this. This is a gorgeous three-disc set from Blue Underground includes a CD of the Bruno Nicolai exotic lounge score and a reversible sleeve of artwork. 

18. THE SENTNEL (Scream Factory) 

The Sentinel is truly one of my favorite slices of supernatural cinema, for those of you who haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and check out this cult-classic now. This is a movie I've been wanting on Blu-ray since the format emerged and Scream Factory have done a nice job with the HD presentation. . 

19. BURNT OFFERINGS (Kino Lorber) 

Kino Lorber had the good sense to bring this house of horror classic to Blu-ray this year, one of my favorites with a fantastic cast. We have Oliver Reed and Karen Black as a troubled couple falling under the spell of malevolent house, with their son caught in the middle. Add to that we have the always awesome Burgess Meredith and Bette Davis. The Blu-ray looks great and has some fantastic extras including interviews with screenwriter William F. Nolan, actor Lee Montogomery and two audio commentaries. 


Tobe Hooper's Spontaneous Combustion is a movie I have long sought to own but being out of print and pricey it just never came into my possession, until Code red announced it was coming to Blu-ray earlier this year it was a first day pre-order for me. More or less a bare-bones Blu-ray, at least the new 2014 HD Master looks good, and I am glad to have this one in my collection. 


Another year of movie watching is coming to a close, and as years go I think this past year was a damn fine year for horror, cult and exploitation movies at home. Many of these movies did not receive a wide release in the major cinemas, which is a shame. A few of these I can see becoming true genre classics - or maybe just cult classics -  but only time will tell. As so often happens last year's best have a tendency to fade away as the years go by, only to be re discovered decades later by a new crop of horror fans hungry for the treasures of decades past. 

These aren't in any particular order as I loathe having to choose just one movie and hold it above all others, declaring that it was the best of the year beyond any of the others. So just take this as twenty movies I loved, and in most cases, have re watched and enjoyed more than once. Hopefully you will agree with a few, and I would love it if this list turned you onto something that may have passed you by this past year.

01. IT FOLLOWS (Anchor Bay) 

It Follows has style, atmosphere and a fantastic concept about a sexually transmitted monster with one of the year's best retro synth scores, a movie that borrows heavily from John Carpenter and sets the bar high for original horror in the year to come. 

02. COOTIES (Lionsgate) 

A horror-comedy about snot-nosed school kids who have been infected by a bad batch of tainted chicken nuggets, a lot of gore-tastic fun ensues, loaded with blood and humor, highly recommended. 

03. THE EDITOR (Scream Factory) 

Astron-6 tackle the Italian whodunit with The Editor,  a tone-perfect love letter to the Italian movies from the '70s and '80s loaded with nudity, gore and that strange Eurocult aesthetic filtered through the trademark Astron-6 ironic retro-horror awesomeness.

04. DEATHGASM (Dark Sky Films)

Kiwi horror-comedy Deathgasm has the goods, a rocking metal soundtrack, horny and rebellious teens, and sweet gore that would make Peter Jackson proud, a fist-pumping devil horns salute to this one. 

05. STARRY EYES (Dark Sky Films) 

A nice slice of slow burn Satanic cinema tempered with atmospheric nightmarish imagery, and strange occult elements with a satisfying payoff and an outstanding retro-synth score, this is a movie that will only grow on stature through the years,   

06. HOUSEBOUND (Xlrator) 

Kiwi horror comedy Housebound is only further proof of the fertile cinema scene happening these past few years in New Zealand, a fun it of fun with some good scares throughout.

07. WE ARE STILL HERE (Dark Sky Films) 

Director Geoghegan hasn't set out to reinvent the haunted house movie so much as he is paying homage to the seventies cinema of Lucio Fulci with a shot in the arm of adrenaline fueled gore at the end, and it completely worked for me, loaded with slow-build atmosphere and supernatural tension at every turn.

08. SPRING (Drafthouse Films) 

A wonderful slow-burning Lovecraftian love story with some great mythical elements set on the coast of Italy, this surprised me, caight be with my guard down and won me over thoroughly. 

09. LET US PREY (Dark Sky Films) 

Director Brian O'Malley's debut film is a savage and fun movie that erupts into a bloody dark comedy of sorts, this is a Hell of a fun watch, and Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman) is fantastic as the bad ass moral-center of the movie over-flowing with corrupt and murderous bastards


The only entry to feature some howling werewolf action is the English language debut from director Adrian Garcia Bogliano starring Nick Damici as a blind 'Nam vet left to rot at a home for senior living only to have to face-off against a lycanthropic threat.

11. HORSEHEAD (Artsploitation) 

Horsehead is an artfully crafted movie with some stylistic nods to both Dario Argento and Mario Bava and an unnerving Lynchian nightmare weirdness. If you're open to something strange and out of the ordinary, if you crave nightmarish cinema dripping with dread, Horsehead comes highly recommended

12. CUB (Artsploitation) 

The tone is fantastic, its eerie and creepy, it captures some of that youthful magic and dark fantasy of 80s movies with vintage slasher tendencies wrapped-up in a good camp tale. It's a sweet throwback enhanced in no small measure by the creepy synth score.

13. WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD  (Scream Factory) 

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a pretty fantastic slice of undead Ozploitation cinema, it comes at you fast and hard with a action-packed mix of horror, gore and comedy, by far my favorite zombie movie of the year. 

14. HONEYMOON (Magnolia) 

This is one of a few movies I missed the first time around which I caught up with on Netflix. A creepy story of two newlyweds honeymooning at the family cabin in the woods, a simple set up that is well executed. 

15. EXTRATERRESTRIAL (Scream Factory)

Loved this one from start to finish, a spunky sci-fi horror mash-up with some quality special effects and a good cast. Proof that it doesn't have to be an original idea to love a movie, just thoroughly. 

16. BOUND TO VENGEANCE (Scream Factory) 

I didn't love this the first time I watched it but upon re watch it really stuck with me, a violent tales of revenge that just keeps going further down the rabbit-hole, quite a strong performance from the lead actress.  

17. KNOCK KNOCK (Lionsgate) 

Eli Roth's remake of DEATH GAME was just as odd and weird as the original, which was quite strange. Keanu Reeves is such a likable guy in general, but he makes some weird choices  with this one, his line delivery is skewed and I just enjoyed it for how deranged it was. 

18. STUNG (Scream Factory) 

As creature features go this is an engaging slice of bug-horror cinema with just the right out amount of action, humor and splatter, with a one-perfect final scene that made me smile from ear-to-ear. 

19. BLOODY KNUCKLES (Artsploitation) 

I loved the spirit of Bloody Knuckles, it has a few pacing issues but overall this is a winner of an offensive comedy with fun gore. A punk rock middle-finger to those who would censor art. 

20. LAST SHIFT (Magnolia) 

Caught this on Netflix and was really blown away with just how creepy it was. Definitely a film that came under the radar for me, a claustrophobic watch and a creepy one.  


The movies below are movies I've heard some good buzz about and I would have been jazzed to watch them and maybe include on my list but I just did have not had the time to get out and watch...yet. 


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

NIGHTMARES (1983) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory 
Region Code: A
Duration: 99 Minutes
Rating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1), Fullframe (1.33:1) 
Director: Joseph Sargent
Cast: Cristina Raines, Richard Masur, Tony Plana, Veronica Cartwright, Emilio Estevez, Lance Henriksen, James Tolkan, William Sanderson

Nightmares (1983) is an horror anthology I caught on TV numerous times growing up in the '80s and loved it as a kid, I've always had a weakness for the anthology format, and even third-tier stuff like this got my horror heart pumping. I've long held onto my DVDR'd copy of the movie dubbed from a late night presentation on cable, as I refused to pay the ridiculous $100 plus dollar price tag the old Anchor Bay DVD was fetching on eBay for years since going out of print, praise be to Scream Factory for bringing this one to Blu-ray. 

Against what I've heard about the origins of this movie for years the commentary tells us it was actually a failed TV pilot for a new anthology series, and not merely unused episodes of the Darkroom TV anthology series. The movie begins without the benefit of a warp-around story, straight into 'Terror in Topenga', a nice moody slasher entry, featuring chain-smoking homemaker (Cristina Raines, The Sentinel) who insists on going out for cigarettes against the advice of her husband. Stopping off at the local corner store where she encounters a somewhat threatening attendant who frightens her. She leaves and discovers that she's about out of gas, and what a night to run out of gas, when an escaped mental patient is prowling the are. This is my favorite of the bunch, I like the simple set-up, the escaped mental patient angle, and Raines is always great. A local cop gets massacred at the top of the segment, which is decently gruesome, but this one operates on atmosphere and suspense for the most part, and does a damn job about it.

Up next we have video gamer J.J. Cooney (Emilio Estevez, Repo Man), a video game hot-shot obsessed with the arcade game The Bishop of Battle. The young punk has to hustle kids at the arcade to feed his obsession. His parents are down on him since his gamer obsession is seemingly ruining his life, some things never change. When his parents forbid him to go to the arcade he sneaks out and breaks into the arcade in the after hours to spend some quality time with his video nemesis, pumping quarters into the slot to get to that elusive next level. I can somewhat relate to this one, as a kid who loved the arcade with an obsession for the game Galaga, I would skip school to play it at the grocery store next to my house. I still have to stop and pump quarters into the damn game whenever I come across it. As a child of the eighties I loved the vintage video graphics on this one. Estevez would go onto star in Repo Man the following year, and the films shares a pumping punk soundtrack, each featuring the songs of punkers Black Flag and Fear!

In 'The Benediction' we have troubled priest (Lance Henriksen, Aliens) who leaves the church after the death of a young boy, the conflicted priest is travelling the desert alone with a jug of Holy Water to quench his thirst when he encounters a malevolent Chevy 4x4 which pursues him, nearly driving him out of his mind. This is an obvious riff on the better movies Duel and The Car but it pales in comparison, but director Joseph Sargent does a decent job with what he has, creating some pulse-racing chase scenes, one scene of the 4x4 erupting from beneathhe ground is fun, and seems to have been ripped-off from the Eurocult classic Psychomania (1973)!

The movie goes into the night on a whimper with 'Night of the Rat'. Here we have harried housewife Claire (Veronica Cartwright, 
Alien) who hears the sound of rats in the walls of her home. Her asshole husband (Richard Masur, License to Drive) refuses to allow his wife to hire a professional and chooses instead to lay down a few traps. The rat-invasion only intensifies, threatening the structural integrity of their home and the safety of their young daughter. This could have been a lot of fun ...and it is, but for all the wrong reasons. The poorly composited scenes of the monstrous (and telepathic) rat are just pathetic, but Cartwright and Masur are just fine in their respective roles. 

Audio/Video: Scream Factory offer two viewing options for Nightmares (1983), a widescreen (1.781) presentation or full frame, which is he framing I am most familiar with. Comparing the two I can now see that the fullframe is not open matte as I had always suspected, it is cropped on the right and left sides. The 1080p HD image is not exactly eye-popping, the image is soft and the colors are a bit on the muted side, but it is an improvement over my DVDR. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 offers decent fidelity, dialogue and score come through clean and the punk soundtrack on The Bishop of Battle segment are strong, optional English subtitles are provided. 

A bit light on the extras we have an Audio Commentary With Executive Producer Andrew Mirisch And Actress Cristina Raines moderated by blogger Shaun Chang of the Hill Place Blog who also moderated the commentary with Raines for Scream Factory's Blu-ray of The Sentinel. Mirisch and Raines offer a splendid track with Mirsch offering loads of information, but moderator Chang doesn't seem to have a lot of knowledge about the movie, more a super-fan of Raines, which is fine but he doesn't contribute a whole lot to the commentary. The only other extras are the fullframe theatrical trailer and two-minutes of radio spots. 

Special Features
- Audio Commentary With Executive Producer Andrew Mirisch And Actress Cristina Raines moderated by Shaun Chang of the Hill Place Blog 

- Original Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins)
- Radio Spots (2 Mins) 

Not sure how this would watch with someone who didn't grow-up with it on TV as I did. As horror anthologies go this is a bit anemic on the gore and suspense, with the exception of the 'Terror in Topenga' segment, which I give high marks all the way around, a tight bit of suspense. A definite nostalgia enhanced recommend for me, glad to see this one become widely available again and at a reasonable price, now I can throw that DVDR in the trash! 2.5/5


IFC Midnight proudly announces the release of THE ABANDONED (previously titled THE CONFINES). The film opens in New York and LA on January 8. The film will be release day and date with VOD.

Director Eytan Rockaway makes his feature film directorial debut in this tense thriller that blurs the lines between illness and reality to mirror the traumatized psyche of the protagonist in a story that challenges the power of our own perception.

Take a terrifying plunge into the warped mind of a disturbed young woman. Desperate to get her life back on track, the unstable Streak (Martha Marcy May Marlene's Louisa Krause) takes a job as a security guard, working the graveyard shift at a once upscale, now abandoned apartment complex. But on her first night on duty, she discovers a horrifying presence lurking deep within the bowels of the decaying building. With her nerves already on edge, Streak must confront demons both real and imagined as she struggles to keep a grip on her sanity. Jason Patric (The Lost Boys) co-stars in this harrowing thrill ride.

JANE B. PAR ANNES V. (1987) & KUNG-FU MASTER! on Blu-ray March 8th from CINELICIOUS

JANE B. PAR ANNES V. (1987) / KUNG-FU MASTER! (1988) 

Label: Cinelicious Pics
Release Date: March 8th 2015 
Region A
Duration: 177 minutes 
Audio: French DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo or Mono with English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1)
Director: Agnes Varda
Cast: Jane Birkin, Mathieu Demy, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Serge Gainsbourg, Jean-Pierre Leaud


JANE B. PAR AGNES V.: I'll look at you, but not at the camera. It could be a trap, whispers Jane Birkin shyly into Agnes Varda's ear at the start of JANE B. PAR AGNES V. The director of CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 and VAGABOND once again paints a portrait of a woman, this time in a marvelously Expressionistic way. It's like an imaginary bio-pic, says Varda. Jane, of course, is the famed singer (Je t'aime ... Moi non plus), actress (BLOW UP), fashion icon (the Hermes Birkin bag) and longtime muse to Serge Gainsbourg. As Varda implies, JANE B. PAR AGNES V. abandons the traditional bio-pic format, favoring instead a freewheeling mix of gorgeous and unexpected fantasy sequences.

In each, Jane inhabits a new character, playing a cat & mouse game with Varda as they explore the role of the Muse and the Artist, all the while showcasing the multifaceted nature of Birkin's talent. I'd like to be filmed as if I were transparent, anonymous, like everyone else, says Birkin. But her wish to be a famous nobody is impossible to achieve; Birkin is simply too magnificent, too mesmerizing. Here, Varda's signature mix of aesthetic innovation and generosity of emotion results in a surreal and captivating essay on Art, Fame, Love, Children and Staircases. For its first-ever U.S. theatrical release the film has been newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative, overseen by director Varda herself.

KUNG FU MASTER: A lovely, bittersweet companion to JANE B. PAR AGNES V. from director Agnes Varda and star/muse Jane Birkin, KUNG-FU MASTER has nothing to do with martial arts -- the film's title comes from an arcade video game played obsessively in the film by a teenaged boy, Julien. Birkin delivers one of her finest performances as a lonely 40-year old woman who finds herself shattering taboos by falling in love with the 14-year old Julien -- but is it romance, or a desperate attempt to turn back time in the face of middle age?

KUNG-FU MASTER is truly a family affair: Varda's son with the late director Jacques Demy, Mathieu Demy, plays Julien -- and Birkin appears here with her two real-life daughters: Charlotte Gainsbourg (from Lars von Trier's MELANCHOLIA) and Lou Doillon, her child with well-known filmmaker Jacques Doillon. Briefly released in the late 1980s in the U.S. and long unavailable here, KUNG-FU MASTER has been beautifully restored from the original 35mm camera negative. It's a film in which all the younger actors are the children of the director and lead actress says Varda. It was like a picnic, you know?

Bonus Features:

- Trailer
- New Interviews with director Agnes Varda
- New essay by Sandy Flitterman-Lewis
- New interview with Agnes Varda by Miranda July