Thursday, March 30, 2017

PSYCHO CIRCUS - THREE RINGS OF TERROR TRIPLE FEATURE (Blu-ray Review)

PSYCHO CIRCUS - THREE RINGS OF TERROR TRIPLE FEATURE

THE CREEPING FLESH(1973) / BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971) / TORTURE GARDEN (1967)

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment
Region Code: A
Duration: 277 Minutes
Rating: PG, Unrated
Directors: Freddie Francis, 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen 

STEP RIGHT UP AND EXPERIENCE THE TRILOGY OF TERROR THAT PEOPLE ARE DYING TO SEE!

THE CREEPING FLESH(1973) 

Duration: 94 Minutes 
Rating: PG
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Freddie Francis
Cast: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing

In Freddie Francis' The Creeping Flesh (1973) horror icons Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are again reunited following their on screen team-up in Horror Express (1972), this time we have a Victorian era tale of madness, mayhem and Gothic science fiction. The opening titles play over a wonderful viewing of a macabre painting, the tale a begins with scientist Emmanuel Hildern (Peter Cushing, Corruption) recounting the story of an expedition to New Guinea in 1894 where he unearthed the skeleton of a giant humanoid which he brought back to London for further examination. Upon arriving in London Hildern receives word from an asylum that his estranged wife has died while incarcerated there, the asylum is run by his cold half-brother James (Christopher Lee, Prince of Darkness), whom had agreed to keep his wife's insanity a secret from Hildern's daughter, Penelope (Lorna Heilbron, Symptoms), who believes her mother to have died years earlier. Hildern feared that learning of her mother's madness might ignite some latent form of the delirium within his daughter. Visiting the asylum in secret to make sure his wife's things are in order he is informed by James that he will no longer fund his science expeditions, and it is revealed that both men are vying for the prestigious science award, the Richter Prize, James for his study of psychiatry and Emmanuel for his study of the prehistoric giants.

Back at his London lab, while washing the skeleton in preparation of examination, Emmanuel wets the finger of the skeleton, which astoundingly begins to grow flesh around it, of course this is very peculiar, and warrant more study. Hildern begins reading local legends from New Guinea which tell of an ancient race of evil giants who once ruled the area, and he begins to fear he may have unleashed an evil upon the world. To that end he uses blood from the reanimated finger to develop a serum he believes will cure the world of evil - this part of the story is very convoluted, but hang in there folks. However, when his daughter discovers that her mother only recently passed away she freaks out, not unsurprisingly, and fearing that she may be heading down the same path of insanity as her mother, he injects her with his serum, in hopes it will stave off the threat of insanity. Of course it only worsens her hysterics, sending her into the night where she injures various people throughout the village, murdering one man with a broken bottle to the throat and another is pushed to his death from a height. Her crimes send her straight to the very asylum where her mother was incarcerated, her father's worst fears come to life.

Lee and Cushing are wonderful together in adversarial roles, they play off each other wonderfully, and Heilbron is quite good as Penelope, her descent into madness and violence unfolds very nicely, she sells the transformation from sweet and meek to hysterical and deadly convincingly. Eventually the skeleton of the evil one ends up drenched in rain and suddenly we have a cloaked skeletal figure roaming the woods, seemingly seeking his missing finger, it's good, gooey stuff. 

The movie looks great, Freddie Francis was at the peak of his powers here as a director, and with a game cast and an interesting Gothic horror story he lets the magic unfold in a way that is simply a good time. I hadn't seen this movie in at least thirty years, and hadn't remembered watching it until I saw the giant skeleton, then it all came back to me, but as I recall I watched it on a black and white TV as a kid at grannie's house, so it was a treat to see this Victorian shocker in color for the first time.

I love the ending of the movie, the way the story is framed it is sort of left open to interpretation, was it all the delusion of a madman or are key players the victims of a cruel and unethical family member, either way, this movie rock.    

BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN (1971)
Duration: 93 Minutes 
Rating: PG
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1) 
Director: Bernard McEveety
Cast: Strother Martin, L.Q. Jones, Charles Bateman, Ahna Capri

While not a William Castle production Bernard McEveety's The Brotherhood of Satan (1971) certainly owes a debt to the William Castle produced and Roman Polanski directed Rosemary's Baby (1968), a sweet slice of Satanic paranoia from producer L.Q. Jones who acted in many films including Martin Scorsese's Casino (1995) as well as producing and directing a few of his own, most notably the post-apocalyptic A Boy and His Dog (1975) featuring a very young Don Johnson (Django) and his telepathic dog, which I highly recommend!


The film begins with a great scene which sorta blurs the lines of reality and fiction as a bratty kid playing with a toy tank crushes and entire family in a station wagon, it's pretty bloody, too. Next scene we're onto a family outing in the desert with, there's the father Ben Holden (Charles Bateman) and his annoying daughter K.T. (Geri Reisch, I Dismember Mama), also along for the ride is Ben's girlfriend Nicky (Ahna Capri, Enter the Dragon). They're on the road when they come across the bloody and twisted wreckage from the start of the film, they do what pretty much anyone would and drive into the nearest village to alert the authorities. However, when they arrive the entire town is in a state of pure panic and paranoia, even the town Sheriff (L.Q. Jones) treats the family pretty hostile, a man attacks Ben with an ax screaming "You took them from me!" and the trio jump back in the car just barely escape the mob with their skulls intact. Driving down the road a ways Ben swerves to avoid striking the apparition of a young girl and the car is kaput, stranded on the side of the road as the noonday sun beats down they have few choices other than to head back to the strange village. 


Once there things are a bit less hostile but just as weird and only get weirder, the Sheriff and his Deputy (Alvy Moore, A Boy and His Dog) along with the priest (Charles Robinson, The Cable Guy) and the town doc Mr. Duncan (Strother Martin, The Wild Bunch) set about sleuthing the heinous murders of adult-population and the mysterious disappearance of the town's children. The townsfolk are stressed, sleep deprived, paranoid and at their wits end. It turns out a Satanic Cult is committing the ritualistic murders and turning the town's tots into Satanic occultists in an attempt to gain unholy immortality, and guess what, it's the grandfatherly doc that's the cult leader! 


This is such a great watch, Strother Martin is amazing as the feisty cult leader, maniacal and just chewing up the scenery while leading a group of satanic seniors bent on immortality in services the the Dark Lord. It's drenched in great 70's atmosphere and there's a ton of blood and dismemberment for a PG film, one victim is clawed to death like skinned rabbit tossed into a chicken pen, it's pretty grotesque for PG rating! This schlocky Satanic nightmare is peppered with murderous children, creepy killer dolls, and spooky woods oozing with fog, this was quite the occult production with some great set pieces.


The finale is superb and unhinged in all the right ways as the cult gather in an underground tomb to perform their unholy ritual with diabolically over-the top incantations "Greetings Dear One, 'Tis We!", only Burgess Meredith could have outdone Martin's elderly satanic MC, this is a fantastic watch and the only thing that irked me was Geri Reisch, who was quite an annoying child actor!


TORTURE GARDEN (1967)

Duration: 100 Minutes
Rating: Unrated
Audio: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Freddie Francis 
Cast: Jack Palance, Burgess Meredith, Peter Cushing, Robert Hutton

Ah yes, the Amicus horror anthologies, I love 'em a bunch, and Torture Garden has always been a personal favorite, we begin with the framing story, were at a carnival and five people are attending the macabre show of performer Dr. Diabolo (Burgess Meredith, Burnt Offerings)who after the show promises the patrons the "thrill of a lifetime" for an additional five pounds, and that thrill turns out to be Atropos (Clytie Jessop), a motionless fortune teller holding a pair of scissors, or what Diablo calls the "shears of fate"! Each of the patrons for a few pounds stares into the shares of fate and glimpses a possible future scenario, which play out in four segments, plus the wrap-a-round story with der. Diablo. 

First up is "Enoch", a tale a familiar greed along the lines of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart or "The Drop of Water" segment from Mario Bava's Black sabbath (1963), wherein a younger man (Michael Bryant) visits his elderly uncle (Maurice Denham), causing his premature death by withholding medication, after the old codger is carted off the young man searches the house for hs rumored treasures, finding a creepy cat buried alive in the basement. The cat has evil powers and communicates with the young man, forcing him to do the unspeakable.

Second, we have "Terror Over Hollywood" wherein a young Hollywood wanna-be Carla Hayes (Beverly Adams) back stabs her roommate, usurping a meeting with a Hollywood legend which leads to her own stardom, but soon she discovers theirs a price to pay for Hollywood legend status, what she knows might end up killing her, or it might make her a Hollywood legend, but at what cost to her humanity?

Third entry is "Mr. Steinway"  about a concert pianist named  Leo (John Standing) who is obsessed with is piano, or is it the other way around? He becomes infatuated with journalist Dorothy Endicott (Barbara Ewing), but the beloved piano may have a problem with the pianist's affections for anyone else. 

The last of the stories is "The Man Who Collected Poe" starring Jack Palance (Shape of things To Come) as an obsessive fan and collector of author Edgar Allen Poe, he meets another collector, played by Peter Cushing (twins of Evil), a collector who is next level, and has a collection that is beyond comprehension, which makes Palance's character green with envy, driving the man to murder, and to the revelation that Poe is somehow still very much alive!  

The anthology finishes up properly by wrapping up the bookend device with a nice twist or two. The film is directed by Freddie Francis who does his usual good work, but these stories aren't as classic as some of the other Amicus anthologies, but they are good, campy fun, and always a treat to watch. 
REVERSIBLE ARTWORK 
Audio/Video: All three film arrives on Blu-ray from Mill Creek Entertainment, licensed from Columbia Pictures, and crammed onto a single Blu-ray disc, the 1080p HD image looks surprisingly decent all things considered, though I would have preferred to have this spread across two discs, even three, these films definitely deserve some deluxe treatment on Blu-ray. Colors, skin tones and black levels are decent, though grain is a bit chunky and not all that well resolved. Fine detail, depth and clarity leave a lot to be desired, but the sources look good and with a minimal amount of dirt and debris.  Mill Creek have opted to forgo lossless audio and each film has an English Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track, there are not subtitle options, extras, or trailers. 

The single-disc release comes housed in a standard blue keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork, which is not something you see often from Mill Creek, but something i would love to see more of with future vintage titles - the alternate artwork option is fantastic, featuring original theatrical artwork for all three films, see above. My advice is to turn that artwork over and never look back! This triple threat slice of vintage 60s/70s horror cinema  comes highly recommended, and you can pick it up for $7 right now, that's a steal.  

FACES OF HORROR (1971-1990) 10 MOVIE COLLECTION (DVD Review)

FACES OF HORROR (1971-1990) 
10 MOVIE COLLECTION

Label: Mill Creek Entertainment

Region Code: 1 NTSC 
Rating: R, Unrated 
Duration: 925 Minutes 
Audio: Fullscreen / Widescreen 
Video: English Dolby Digital 2.0 
Directors: Fred Walton, William Byron Hillman, J. Lee Thompson, Ross Hagen, John Stewart, Robert Hammer, Marc B. Ray, Theodore Gershuny,  David Paulsen, Yabo Yablonsky, Percival Rubens
Cast: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Mickey Rooney, Cameron Mitchell, John Carradine, Troy Donahue, Cleavon Little, Keenan Wynn

Mill Creek Entertainment have unleashed a new 10 movie collection, this one titled FACES OF HORROR, bringing together a few titles already released multiple times on past collections, no exclusives on this one, and no noticeable picture quality that I can discern, but what we do get is 15 hours of culty slasher-thriller fun for cheap, this one goes for about $7 on amazon.com right now. 

Here's what this oe has to offer...

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979) 

Rating: R
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio:English Dolby Digital 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Fred Walton  
Cast: Charles Durning, Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Tony Beckley, Rachel Roberts, Ron O’Neal

Synospsis: A terrified young baby-sitter...an incessantly ringing phone...and whispered threats set the stage for one of the most suspenseful thrillers ever filmed. Carol Kane stars as the baby-sitter who is tormented by a series of ominous phone calls until a compulsive cop (Charles Durning) is brought on the scene to apprehend the psychotic killer. Seven years later, however, the nightmare begins again when the madman returns to mercilessly haunt Kane, now a wife and mother. No longer a naive girl, though still terrified, but prepared, she moves boldly to thwart the maniac’s attack in scenes that culminate in a nerve-shattering conclusion.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1981) 

Rating: R
Duration: 111 Minutes 
Audio: english Dolby Digital 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1) 
Director: J. Lee Thompson 
Cast: Melissa Sue Anderson, Glenn Ford, Lawrence Dane, Sharon Acker, Frances Hyland, Tracy Bregman, Lisa Langlois

Synopsis: Get ready for a taut mystery-shocker that will keep you at your wit’s end and at the edge of your seat. Popular high school senior Virginia Wainwright (Melissa Sue Anderson) survives a freak accident, but suffers from memory loss and traumatic blackouts. As she attempts to resume a normal life, something terrible is happening - her friends are ruthlessly murdered one-by-one. Will she be the next victim or is she the killer? The terrifying truth is finally uncovered at Virginia’s 18th birthday party and you’re invited!


DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1983) 

Rating: R
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: William Byron Hillman
Cast: Michael Callan, Joanna Pettet, Cleavon Little

Synopsis: A photographer who specializes in taking pictures for men’s magazines is disturbed by his recurring dreams dealing with the apparent murder of his models. When his models begin showing up gruesomely killed, the photographer and his psychiatrist fear he may indeed be a killer. The photographer struggles to find out the truth behind the killings, whether he is responsible or he is being set up by someone else.


CLICK: THE CALENDAR GIRLS (1990) 

Rating: unrated
Duration: 87 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Ross Hagen, John Stewart
Cast: Troy Donahue, Ross Hagen, Hoke Howell

Synopsis: This suspenseful tale takes place in the world of high fashion photography, where a psychotic killer stalks the models who have gathered at a photographer's remote ranch. As the bodies begin to appear, the depravity in which the victims were murder indicates a twisted and sadistic mind. The remaining models and the photographer must protect themselves at all costs, while wondering if the killer is one of them or some stranger who is butchering them.


DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE (1980) 

Rated R
Duration: 95 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Robert Hammer
Cast: James Westmoreland, Ben Frank, Flo Lawrence

Synopsis: A deranged Vietnam veteran becomes a serial killer who targets the female models he photographs in their lingerie. After the killer dispatches each victim, he calls the female host of a radio show to talk about his problems and behavior. While the police attempt to track him down, the killer decides to set his sights upon the radio psychologist and begins stalking her.


A deeply disturbed photographer and Vietnam veteran, named Kirk Smith, terrorizes Los Angeles by going around strangling lingerie-clad young women in their homes while taunting Lindsay Gale, a young psychologist, by calling her on a radio call-in show to describe his sexual hang-ups and misogynistic ways, while a local police detective, Lt. McCable, is always two steps behind in trying to catch the psycho. Now here's an exploitation gem. Don't Answer the Phone stars James Westmoreland as Kirk, our deranged serial killer and boy is he ever a character. I love this film. My second favorite character is the film is a wisecracking coroner who always says the most inappropriate things, good stuff. 


SCREAM BLOODY MURDER (1973) 

Rated R
Duration: 85 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director:  Marc B. Ray
Cast: Fred Holbert, Leigh Mitchell, Robert Knox

Synopsis: A young man kills his own father and is subsequently set to a mental institution where he remains for many years. Upon his release, he returns home to discover his mother has remarried and, after growing to dislike his new step-father, murders the gentleman as well as his own mother. The crazed man then turns his attention to a young artist whom he has become obsessed with and continues his murderous ways in order to be with her.


SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1974)

Rated R
Duration: 85 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Theodore Gershuny 
Cast: Patrick O’Neal, John Carradine, Walter Abel

Synopsis: A man inherits his family’s mansion that has been unoccupied for years and was at one time a mental hospital. Desperate to sell for much-needed cash, he sends his attorney to the mansion to prepare it for sale. Unfortunately at the same time, a deranged killer escapes from a nearby institution and returns to the town and the mansion, both which hold some dark and sinister secrets.


When a man inherits a country mansion that was the former site of an asylum the bodies start piling up, it stars Mary Woronov (House of the Devil) and the print is just awful, which makes it difficult to enjoy what's happening onscreen, certainly this is a case of if we had a decent transfer it would be so much more enjoyable but as it stands if you have the patience to sit through it there's a really decent slasher at the asylum story here with some decent atmosphere and gory kills, it's a bit of a slow-burn but the creepy tension and decent payoff kept me hanging in there. 


SAVAGE WEEKEND (1976)  

Rated: R
Duration: 86 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: David Paulsen
Cast: Christopher Allport, James Doerr, Marilyn Hamlin

Synopsis: A rich New York City businessman decides to take his fiancee and a few friends upstate to his vacation home to relax. Everyone seems to be enjoying their time resting, drinking and enjoying each others company. This good time is spoiled by the appearance of a masked killer who begins stalking and then butchering the vacationers one by one.


THE DEMON (1979) 

Rated R
Duration: 93 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Percival Rubens
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Jennifer Holmes, Craig Gardner

Synopsis: A deranged killer is stalking the citizens of a small-town, brutally killing a family and abducting the daughter. The town is terrified of these events and is unable to find the killer. Only a former cop with psychic abilities appears to be the town’s hope of tracking down the murderer and finding the missing girl.


THE MANIPULATOR (1971) 

Rated R
Duration: 91 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital 
Video: Fullscreen (1.33:1) 
Director: Yabo Yablonsky
Cast: Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Luana Anders

Synopsis: A has-been movie make-up man has gone over the edge by kidnapping an actress and hiding her on the back lot sound stage of an old movie studio. While there, he forces the actress to perform scenes from various productions, all the while shouting orders to imaginary crew members and spiraling further into madness. Faced with death through starvation or by his hand, the actress must try to reason with a man who has clearly lost his mind.


Holy cow, you've never seen Andy Rooney like this, what a surreal slice of 70's movie making! 


Audio/Video: Let's be realistic folks, what we have here are ten movies crammed onto a three disc set, When A Stranger Calls and Happy Birthday To Me look decent in anamorphic widescreen, sharing disc one, but everything else is problematic as far as PQ, loads of compression issues, artifacting and rampant print damage, but what else would you expect, honestly we are not buying these budget sets expecting superior A/V presentation, but I will say that with with their recent Blu-ray releases Mill Creek have been doing alright, but these budget collections fare poorly in terms of quality with a few exceptions, the recent Hammer, William Castle and Sci-Fi  collections, licensed from Columbia Pictures, have look quite good. 


Disc 1:

When A Stranger Calls
Happy Birthday To Me

Disc 2: 

Double Exposure
Click: The Calendar Girl Killer
Don't Answer The Phone

Disc 3:

Scream Bloody Murder
Silent Night, Bloody Night
Savage Weekend
The Demon
The Manipulator 

Special Features: 

- None 

These Mill Creek sets are a guilty pleasure, and I credit Mill Creek with bringing a lot of these cult films to my attention through budget sets they've released in the past, of few of which have gone on to receive superior widescreen restorations from niche cult labels like Severin Films and Vinegar Syndrome, but it was Mill Creek that brought them to my eyes the first. If you're looking for superior quality presentations of a few of these films I would recommend seeking out the When A Stranger Calls/Happy Birthday double-feature Blu-ray from Mill Creek, which looks wonderful. Also available, both Double Exposure and Don't Answer the Phone have deluxe restorations available on Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome, as does Savage Weekend from Kino Lorber, but if you're just looking for some low-grade b-movies fun on the cheap this set from Mill Creek is worth the $7 price tag. 


DONNIE DARKO (2001) (4-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD Review)

DONNIE DARKO (2001) 
4-Disc Limited Edition Blu-ray/DVD

Label: Arrow Video:

Region Code: A/B
Rating: R
Duration: 113 Minutes/134 Minutes 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Director: Richard Kelly 
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone


Synopsis: Fifteen years before Stranger Things combined science-fiction, Spielberg-ian touches and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Richard Kelly set the template - and the high-water mark - with his debut feature, Donnie Darko. Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium. Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank's maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum. Described by its director as "The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick", Donnie Darko combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast - pre-stardom Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, heartthrob Patrick Swayze, former child star Drew Barrymore, Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell and Katherine Ross, and television favourite Noah Wyle - and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. This brand-new 4K restoration, carried out exclusively for this release by Arrow Films, allows a modern classic to finally receive the home video treatment it deserves.

I caught up with Donnie Darko on HBO, I had missed it in the cinema, in fact I had never even heard of it when it showed on HBO. It was one of those nights I was up late, and it was on, so I watched it. From the very start I was mesmerized by it, there's something about that opening scene of Donnie waking up on the road overlooking the valley, he smiles weirdly, hops on his 10-speed bike and rides home in the early morning hours, while Echo & the Bunnymen "The Killing Moon" plays along, there's something so chemically magic about this scene for me. The movie tells the supernaturally sci-fi tale of a troubled sixteen year-old boy named Donnie Darko, a boy with a sleepwalking disorder and some possible mental health issues. 


Set in suburban Virginia Donnie Darko (2001) taps into the weirdness of being a teenager during a particular era, set in 1989 when I was when I was a sixteen year old freshman myself, it captures a certain confusedness and uncertainty, a time that makes you question your sanity, which I am sure many of us did, the teen years were awkward times indeed, and Jake Gyllenhaal wonderfully captures that teen confusion as the young man suffering from possible schizophrenia, but also wrapped up in an enigmatic time travel story that involves wormholes and parallel realities, the damn thing is near impenetrable at times, but I love the tone and atmosphere that first time director Richard Kelly (The Box) brought to his debut film.

One night teenager Donnie is awakened by a creepy humanoid rabbit named Frank who summons him outside in the dead of night, Frank informs Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds, and that the fate of the world rests on the teen's shoulders, whoa, that's heavy stuff. Weirder, seconds later a random jet engine falls through the roof of the family home and lands on Donnie's bed where he had been mere moments earlier, perhaps even stranger is that no one seems to know where the engine originated from, not even the FAA who have arrived on scene to investigate. 


The film has some seriously weird stuff happening within, the science fiction story is mind-bending and even after countless viewings of both the theatrical and director's cut, I am not 100% sure what exactly is happening, and that's probably why I love it so much, it keep me coming back and I like what it offers, it holds up to repeated viewings. Aside from Gyllenhaal's wonderful performance as the aloof and sardonic teem, we get wonderfully caring performances from Mary McDonnell (Independence Day) as his emotionally struggling mom, Holmes Osborne (That Thing You Do!) as his somewhat goofy father, and his real life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal (Secretary) as his antagonistic older sister, they share some great scenes together, a political conversation around the dinner table at the beginning sets up the family so nicely, with McDonnell really putting across how torn up she is that her son might be suffering with sever mental illness, particularly during a scene with Donnie's therapist (Katharine Ross, The Stepford Wives), tears streaming down her face as she receives some devastating news about Donnie's mental health.

There's also a pretty great cast of side characters, we have Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express) appearing against type as a high school bully, Noah Wyle (E.R.)and Drew Barrymore as teachers who seem strangely attuned to Darko's plight, Beth Grant (The Dark Half) as an annoying gym teacher, and Patrick Swayze (Dirty Dancing) as a motivational author/speaker with a  very dark secret. plus Jena Malone (The Neon Demon) as Donnie's girlfriend.


This set also contains the 2005 director's cut of the movie, but I prefer the original theatrical cut, and if I am honest about it that is probably just because the DC  changes the music cue from the opening scenes, changing out "The Killing Moon" for  "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS, which really irked me, I don't mind the song, but "The Killing Moon" set the tone for me on the theatrical version, otherwise I like the DC just fine.  

Audio/Video: I have owned about as many versions of Donnie Darko on DVD and Blu-ray as I have of Evil Dead 2 - just pouring money into my love of the damn film, a movie which obsessed me for a long while after I first watched it, including at least two screening of the movie, both theatrical and director's cut. The only version I still owned prior to this review is the 4-disc 10th Anniversary Edition, and I was okay with it, the transfers of DD have always been problematic... until now!  What we have here with this new Arrow release is a 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster, and it's one of those night and day scenarios - this clearly blows away every other release. Fine detail and clarity are improved, colors look more accurate, skin tones are less ruddy, black levels are deeper, this is just a wonderful presentation. Audio on the discs come by way of an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track with optional English subtitles.  

Arrow carry-over all the extras from the many iterations of the film on home video in the US, and throw in several exclusive extras, including the 1996 short film The Goodbye Place(9 min), which is cool, you can feel familiar themes running through it. There also an 85 minute making-of doc made by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures with new interviews with writer-director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, director of photography Steven Poster, it goes deep into many facets of the making of the movie, this is the sort of doc I have long been waiting for about this film. what else? we have 5-min of b-roll footage, 14-min of archival interviews with Richard Kelly, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster. 




Special Features: 
- Brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of both cuts
- Original 5.1 audio (DTS-HD on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Disc One Special Features: Theatrical Cut (113 Minutes) 

- Audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut

- Audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut
- Trailer (2 min)HD 
- Twenty deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly (32 min) HD

Disc Two Special Features: Director's Cut (134 Minutes) 

- Audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director’s Cut
- Deus ex Machina: The Philosophy of Donnie Darko (85 min)HD, a brand-new documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures on the making of Donnie Darko, containing interviews with writer-director Richard Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick, director of photography Steven Poster,
- The Goodbye Place, (9 min)HD, Richard Kelly’s 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films
- The Donnie Darko Production Diary, (53 min)an archival documentary charting the film’s production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster
- Archive interviews with Richard Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Mary McDonnell, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster (14 min)
- Three archive featurettes: They Made Me Do It (5 min), They Made Me Do It Too (31 min)and #1 Fan: A Darkomentary (13 min)
- 4 Storyboard to Film Comparisons (8 min) HD
- B-roll Footage (4 min)
- Cunning Visions Infomercials with Optional Commentary (5 min)
- Music video: Mad World by Gary Jules (3 min)
- Gallery (49 Images) HD 
- Director's Cut Trailer (1 min) HD 
- 5 TV spots (2 min) 
- Exclusive collector’s book containing new writing by Nathan Rabin, Anton Bitel and Jamie Graham, an in-depth interview with Richard Kelly, introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal and contemporary coverage, illustrated with original stills and promotional material
- Limited edition packaging featuring new artwork by Candice Tripp

This 4-disc set is astounding, as a fan of the movie this is a real treat, the PQ is fantastic and there are a wealth of extras to pour through and obsess over, this is a movie that inspires obsession, a movie that will plunge you down the rabbit-hole of addictive mind-melting cinema, and this is a release worthy of the obsession, phenomenal! 5/5

Critically Acclaimed Thriller "The Autopsy of Jane Doe" Makes Blu-ray/ DVD Debut May 2nd from Scream Factory

THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE (2016) 

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray and DVD Combo Available Exclusively at Walmart May 2nd, 2017

Available Everywhere June 27th, 2017

Winner of Best Horror Film at Fantastic Fest 2016, the ominous thriller The Autopsy of Jane Doe makes its Blu-ray and DVD debut as a Walmart exclusive on May 2nd, 2017, from Scream Factory, in conjunction with IFC Midnight. The Blu-ray + DVD Combo will be available everywhere June 27th, 2017.   This taut, suspenseful film features strong performances from Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox, and has been a hit with critics and audiences alike.

It’s just another night at the morgue for a father (Brian Cox, Trick ’r Treat, Zodiac) and son (Emile Hirsch, Lone Survivor, Killer Joe) team of coroners, until an unidentified, highly unusual corpse arrives. Discovered buried in the basement of the home of a brutally murdered family, the young Jane Doe — eerily well-preserved and with no visible signs of trauma — is shrouded in mystery. As they work into the night to piece together the cause of her death, the two men begin to uncover the disturbing secrets of her life. Soon, a series of terrifying events make it clear: this Jane Doe may not be dead. The latest from Troll Hunter director André Øvredal is a scarily unpredictable, supernatural shocker that never lets up. This chiller also stars Ophelia Lovibond (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Michael McElhatton (Game of Thrones).

IFC Midnight's A DARK SONG (2017) Coming April 28th

A DARK SONG (2017) 

IFC Midnight announces the April 28th release of Liam Gavin's A DARK SONG in select theaters, on VOD, and via digital platforms in the U.S. It has screened at such prestigious festivals as Sitges, the London Film Festival, Fantastic Fest and the Morbido Film Festival. Prior to its April 28th release it will screen at the Boston Underground Film Festival on March 23rd and the Chattanooga Film Festival on April 7th.

Official Synopsis
An unholy alliance between two damaged souls leads them on a disturbing descent into the depraved realms of black magic. Sophia (Catherine Walker) is a grieving and desperate woman with a secret. Joseph (SIGHTSEERS’ Steve Oram) is an anti-social, alcoholic expert in the occult who reluctantly agrees to help her. Holed up in a remote cabin amidst the desolate wilds of Northern Wales, the two embark on a grueling six-month series of dark rituals that will push them both to the physical and psychological breaking point. The debut feature from rising horror auteur Liam Gavin sustains an air of quietly creeping dread as it builds towards one hell of a payoff.


COMING SOON! Empire Pictures Blu-ray Collector's Box Set!



EMPIRE PICTURES BLU-RAY COLLECTION


Stunning new limited edition, numbered and signed Blu-ray box set celebrates the legacy of '80s genre film studio Empire Pictures.
Every horror and cult movie fan who came of age in the 1980s still speaks in hushed tones about the late, great Empire Pictures. Founded by producer and director Charles Band in 1983, the fabled studio and distributor was responsible for a tidal wave of amazing, imaginative and profitable horror, science fiction and fantasy films many of which have become definitive works and high water marks of their respective genres.

And though Band moved on in the early 1990s to form Full Moon Features - which is still operating successfully today - the wild movies he made during the Empire years continues to loom large.

Now, as a gift to the legion of rabid Empire fans out there, Band and Full Moon (in collusion with Shout! Factory) will release The Empire Pictures Blu-ray Collection, a massive LIMITED EDITION collection (only 600 are being produced) featuring 18 films on 15 discs (14 Blu-rays and 1 DVD) packaged in a stunning, sturdy and elegant black collectors box adorned with a GOREgeous collage of original Empire poster art. Inside there will be an exclusive 24 page book with writing from Band, Empire of the B's author Dave Jay and Delirium editor Chris Alexander. Each set will be numbered and signed by Charles Band.


Classic Empire films included in this set are:

METALSTORM(1983) 
METALSTORM (1983)(3-D version)
THE DUNGEONMASTER (1985) 
GHOULIES (1985) 
TRANCERS (1984) 
ELIMINATORS (1986) 
CRAWLSPACE (1986) 
FROM BEYOND (1986) 
TERRORVISION (1986) 
TROLL (1986) 
DOLLS (1987) 
PRISON (1987) 
CELLAR DWELLER (1988) 
CATACOMBS (1993) 
GHOST TOWN (1988) 
GHOULIES 2 (1987) 
ROBOT JOX (1990) 
ARENA (1989)(DVD)

The Empire Pictures Blu-ray 
Collection ($250 US per unit) will be officially released on May 5th with a pre-sale going live on April 28th at www.FullMoonDirect.com

These units will not be sold in stores and can only be purchased at www.FullMoonDirect.com. Select units will be available at fan conventions across the U.S. where the Full Moon crew is scheduled to appear and vend.








Thursday, March 23, 2017

THE CREEPING GARDEN (2014) (Blu-ray Review)

THE CREEPING GARDEN (2014) 

Label: Arrow Academy

Region Code: Region-FREE 
Rating: Exempt
Duration: 81 Minutes 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Audio: English LPCM Stereo 2.0 with Optional English SDH 
Director: Tim Grabham, Jasper Sharp
Cast: Mark Pagnell, Heather Barnett, Bryn Dentinger

Synopsis: The Creeping Garden is an award-winning feature-length creative documentary exploring the extraordinary world of the plasmodial slime mould as revealed through the eyes of the fringe scientists, mycologists and artists who work with them. Long overlooked by biologists, in recent years this curious organism has become the focus of much research in such areas as biological-inspired design, emergence theory, unconventional computing and robot engineering, much of which borders on the world of science fiction. The film transports us from the laboratory into its natural habitat, depicting these otherworldly lifeforms using startling time-lapse macro-cinematography to reveal hidden facets of the world around us.

Here we have something unusual, a documentary about a mysterious creature known as the "slime mould", which is part plant, part animal, it's not a fungus but it does reproduces through spores, it's a weird creature. A festering blob with creepy tendrils crawling at a snail's pace along the rotted woods of the forests. Honestly, this is a doc which on paper sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry, which was my initial impression, but in the hands of co-directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp, it comes across with vivid imagery and a menacing undertone that I was not expecting. Tim Grabham is not a director I am familiar with, but Jasper Sharp was a name I knew well, as a noted Japanese cinema historian, who has written liner notes for many of Impulse Pictures' Nikkatsu erotic films collection, so it was sort of cool to see him be a part of this, glad to see a fellow lover of Asian smut have some other interest, it gives me hope, haha. 

The film approached the topic with a weird aesthetic, the ambiguous facts are presented by a series of amateur scientist who combs the woodlands in search of their primordial ooze of choice, the slime mold. There are also scientist and musicians who seek to unlock the mysteries of the goo through music and emotive robotic faces, it's fringy-stuff, but cool. I particularly enjoyed a tour of a fungarium, with a vast library of spores, molds and fungus, which sounds like it would have been nirvana for Egon from Ghostbusters.  

The science is not difficult to follow, it is presented in basic terms, and I love the tone, the doc is filled with stunning macro/time lapse photography of the various slime molds, the images are creepy, the unearthly blobs pulsating, the tendrils reaching out in search of a food source, and it seems that captive slime molds prefer oats as their food source. No one seems to know what these things are, what their place in the environment is, what their purpose it, but there's a select few out there, both professional and amateurs, who seem truly obsessed with the slime. Also cool is a look at turn of the naturalist F. Percy Smith, who aside from being an early slime mold pioneer was also a pioneer of an early version of time lapse photography, something he called “time magnification”, which we get to see, very cool.  

The directors have created something unique, a fringe science doc that feels more like science fiction, the movie has a creeping menace about it, the subject and visuals seem like something from the '78 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, particularly that scene on a rainy San Francisco morning when the red buds on the plant leaf, the tendrils reaching out, beginning their eventual replication/replacement of the human race. Another very cool analog to that Philip Kaufman film is the otherworldly and alien electronic score from composer/producer Jim O’Rourke (Sonic Youth) , which like the Body Snatchers score from Denny Zeitlin, it sets an alien and menacing tone, I was half expecting this doc to end with a reveal that these slime molds were somehow diabolical brain parasites. I also love some TV footage from the 70s, with a newscaster announcing the discovery of weird alien blobs in someones backyard, which are of course, turn out to be slime molds, but what was thought to have possibly been some alien life form descended from the sky, not unlike the pods from invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Audio/Video: The hypnotic 2014 doc arrives on region-free Blu-ray from Arrow Academy, framed in the original widescreen scope aspect ratio (2.35:1), the cinematography looks wonderful, those macro-time lapse images of the pulsating plasmodial ooze look crisp and stunning in HD, fine detail is abundant, colors are robust. The English LPCM Stereo 2.0 uncompressed audio sounds crisp and clean, with the eerie Jim O'Rourke score coming through nicely. Fans of the score will be keen to snatch up the 3-disc limited edition which also includes a CD of the soundtrack. 

This release is loaded with extras, beginning with an Audio commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp, a still gallery and the US theatrical trailer. There are also a series of shorts and featurettes, which if you enjoyed the main feature are pretty cool, including a short film documenting the creation of the aforementioned biocomputer music system, which brought to mind a scene from Close encounters of the Third Kind. there's also further exploration of the fungarium, with a large puff ball and a bighorn sheep skull encased in bone-devouring slime mold, plus a 2-min featurette about the eating habits of slime mold, who seem prefer oats, toenails, and weed.    

There are also three short films, two 1-min shorts using macro photography, and a 9-min mini doc about a project aimed at enabling the severely motor impaired to create music. Finishing up the extras we have a 3-min  animation of Angela Mele incredibly detailed illustration which play during the end credits which you can watch without text. We were only sent a disc copy for the purpose of review, but retail versions comes with a sleeve of reversible artwork and a collector's booklet.  

Special Features: 
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
- Original 2.0 Audio (Uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
- Audio commentary by directors Tim Grabham and Jasper Sharp
- Biocomputer Music, a short film by Grabham on the first biocomputer music system, allowing a two-way musical dialogue between man and slime mould (6 min) HD 
- Return to the Fungarium, a featurette revealing further treasures of the fungarium at Kew Gardens (3 min) HD 
- Feeding Habits of Physarum, a featurette on the feeding preferences and dislikes of slime moulds (2 min) HD
- Three cinema iloobia short films: Milk (2009)(1 min)HD, Rotten (2012) HD and Paramusical Ensemble (2015)(9 min)HD 
- Angela Mele’s animated slime moulds (3 min) HD 
- Gallery (46 Images) HD 
- US Theatrical Trailer (1 min) HD 
- Reversible sleeve featuring two pieces of original artwork
- THE CREEPING GARDEN SOUNDTRACK [Limited Edition Exclusive]
Bonus CD containing the rearranged soundtrack to The Creeping Garden by legendary producer and musician Jim O’Rourke
- FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet containing writing on the film by Jasper Sharp

This hypnotic doc sucked me in with it's menacing science fiction tone and the wonderful cinematography which transcends the usual science doc in terms of odd content and unusual visuals, The Creeping Garden (2014) is well-worth seeking out for fans of oddball science docs who can appreciate the arthouse/sci-fi aesthetic. 4/5