Thursday, April 29

Some quick thoughts on Pandorum (2009)

Two astronauts in the very distant future awake from a protracted "hyper sleep" to find themselves in a powerless spacecraft with memory loss as to exactly why they're floating in a tin can. One of the men, Bower (Ben Foster), goes on the hunt for the ship's reactor and finds a few terrified survivors, but also discovers a marauding clan of bloodthirsty gearhead creatures. The other man, Payton (Dennis Quaid), remains at the one operational terminal to assist Bower despite progressively questioning his own sanity. Nah, you don't really have to "fear what happens next."

I wonder what the real studio/investor pitch was for Pandorum. Travis Milloy's screenplay and what ended up on the screen isn't a remake, but more a true "re-imagining" of a gaggle of well-worn ideas seen on prior space horror outings. Using the re-imagining excuse is probably sugarcoating what might be a more insidious method of reselling genre fans the same bill of goods over again in a hackneyed and confused package. All I'm saying is that programmers like this that go theatrical make you wonder if studios are trying to pawn off aging concepts as fresh to clueless mainstream movie goers who haven't seen their many points of reference. Of course, very rarely do genuine horror gamechangers appear, but the wanton theft seen in Pandorum is more insulting than even the most misguided straight forward remake.

The pallid, scrap metal-wearin' beasties are a mix of those seen in John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars and Neil Marshall's The Descent. The film describes "pandorum" as a dangerous God complex that can develop over extended time in deep space, but you'll immediately think of the devilish Sam Neill in Paul Anderson's Event Horizon. Throw on poorly realized allusions of Carpenter's The Thing, Marshall's Doomsday, Scott's iconic Alien, and McTiernan's Predator. Drench all that with a bland aftertaste and there's Pandorum in a nutshell.

There's also echoes of my gripes with Anderson's Resident Evil with this appropriately grimy yet pretty-looking Christian Alvart-directed mishmash simply having no sense of gravity or importance given the incredibly vital hook of the ship essentially being the cradle of life for mankind itself. The not-terribly-bloody fight sequences also share Resident Evil's millisecond assemblages of limbs lurching about with little sense of what's actually happening. Even though overuse of slow motion can be annoying, it's certainly more agreeable than filmmakers treating hand-to-hand choreography as a formality to slop together in post.

As I've said, there's not much thrust to Pandorum, much like the giant motionless spacecraft at the center of the story. The creatures have no rhythm or reason with an unsatisfyingly vague origin. Since the vicious DOOM-rejects like to adorn themselves with metal, Milloy should have made a piece key to Bower's mission of power reactivation embedded on the body of the leader of the opposing race. There's instant reasoning for the creatures to exist other than merely being a device for chair jumpers. Also, Milloy's screenplay suffers from a lack of any message despite there being ample opportunities. Bower keeps holding out for hope of finding his wife only to ultimately fail. This could have tied into a message of [axelrose]nuthin' lasts forrrrevurrr...[/axelrose], yet nope; more explosions and Dennis Quaid speaking tersely for you.

Pandorum had potential even with its glut of "influences", but Alvart seems to be sharpening his directorial skill with no real passion for the material while Milloy raided Blockbuster's action/sc-fi rack one rainy night and got damn lucky. Even Stuart Gordon's Space Truckers has vastly more heart and creativity on deck. If anything, afterward you'll want to revisit any of the other superior examples of apocalyptic exosphere nightmares mentioned above and leave this experience to those who shout "fuck" in various forms at the screen as an expression of shock or joy...

Class Reunion Massacre (The Redeemer: Son of Satan) (1977) - 1985 Continental Video Big Box VHS


Wednesday, April 28

Tuesday, April 27

Prom Night (1980) - 1981 MCA Videocassette Inc. & 1988 Virgin Vision VHS

I was actually going to write up a longer "quick thoughts" entry about this one, but I figured brevity is the soul of wit...or something. Sometimes you run across a vintage horror film with aspects reminiscent of more prominent trends seen later in the genre. Virtually every element of Paul Lynch's archetypal Prom Night is steeped in this vibe and you literally see a now familiar slasher template/formula break ground in its ninety-one minutes. Lynch's style is dynamic, beguiling the film's thirty years, and Brian Ravok's editing only working to help push Prom Night above much of its subgenre brethren. The cast works as an ensemble and balances well with the Hollywood-bound Jaime Lee Curtis. The more exploitative fare is conservative, but refreshingly so with the direction and performances more than making up for the dearth of the period's usual insanity. An essential piece to any self-respecting horror fan's collection and a slasher deserving to stand equal with best of the early '80s heyday.

Monday, April 26

Some quick thoughts on Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)

From the IMDB: A demonic force has chosen Freddy Krueger as its portal to the real world. Can Heather play the part of Nancy one last time and trap the evil trying to enter our world?

Jason might have gone galactic and become über. Chucky might have fucked plastic and reared a gender-confused son/daughter. Busta Rhymes might have happily drove the final nail into the real Michael. Pinhead might have even grown rather chubby and got shoehorned into shitty screenplays that had been languishing in Hollywood for years. But Fred Krueger received the sweetest retirement package by the hands of his original creator and his New Nightmare.

The concept of a dormant depiction of on-screen evil conjuring into a demonic rendition of Freddy set to stalk the character's first love final girl in reality is simply tremendous. It's the best and most mature way of resetting the very idea of A Nightmare on Elm Street back from five perfunctory sequels. It's also something so drastic that it's rarely done, let alone to a beloved franchise, mostly due to financial and studio concern. Though New Line Cinema owed Wes Craven in more ways than one and let the director/writer craft the night cap for his iconic horror creation. The question is does the execution live up to the lofty premise?

I hate to say this, with New Nightmare being so lauded, but I personally don't think Craven quite hit the right target despite an undoubted commitment toward fresh originality with his series return. In fact, the only thing the feature does really well is imbuing itself with an atmosphere reflective of Craven's 1984 classic. Heather's husband's funeral, the fantastic scenes with John Saxon, the hospital sequences, the white lock of hair, and the babysitter's wall crawling death serve as both fan service and a method of conveying the cyclical theme Craven wanted. In a moment of perfect fan appeasement, just as we feel the Elm Street déjà vu of Heather once again running into her home in search of her young son, the film ingenuously shifts Heather back into her role as Nancy. At this point, the chunk of diseased brain matter that makes you a horror fan instantly ignites and you find yourself giddy over the possibilities. Yet, before anything potentially juicy is explored, Craven delivers the very "theatrically pleasing" antics that make him such a name in Hollywood. That's what essentially damns New Nightmare. The entire film seems torn between the fanbase and the mainstream, in spite of its great concept, as evident in its long, obvious build brimming with red herrings from the first scene.

The main vessel of delivering these unsubtle hints is Heather's on-screen son; who simply screams one-dimensional "creepy horror flick kid" you'd wish the villain would turn into cubed flesh. Craven should have had the child be more aware of his "possession" and absolutely terrified over what's happening to him. Instead, the little bastard relies too much on a damn stuffed dinosaur, even after witnessing his babysitter butchered above him. An (absent) aspect of awareness of evil in the boy would have given Craven another chance to mirror the original in a "reality revised" take on the chat Nancy and her mother have about the origin of Krueger. At least Craven and execs had the balls to allow a scene of a child with kitchen knives taped to his fingers. Another great change would have been to have Englund "himself" more involved. After all, the actor was largely responsible for crafting the demon's Freddy-infused netherealm.

Imagine Englund confronting his creation and realizing he can also "take the energy" away from the evil much in same way as Nancy's final confrontation with Freddy in Elm Street. Taking the idea to a crazy degree; after Englund's realization, he could have turned the underworld against the demon, materialized his glove, and destroyed the threat against Heather. A new, more interesting bond between Heather/Nancy and Robert/Freddy would have resulted. Talk about an amazing conclusion that would have driven the series into a full well-defined circle. Damn, I might be smarter than Wes Craven. Okay, I'm getting full of myself, but that hypothetical scenario certainly sounds better than than terrible CG-demon burning climax seen in New Nightmare. I mean, how in the hell would fire adversely affect a demon anyway? Also, why would the demon choose to bother Nancy or anyone involved with its chosen form? I guess we can either blame the ambiguous earthquakes or perhaps 1993's megabomb Last Action Hero for ruining the thought of a Robert vs. Freddy meta-battle.

Wes Craven's New Nightmare is without question the best conclusion to any of the matriarchs of '80s slasherdom. Still, getting into the "what-ifs?" in this case proves far more interesting and lively than Craven's wooden vision of the "end" of Freddy Krueger. The film is too processed to kindle the imagination of fans and proved too unlike the expected norms of the series for more mainstream audiences. It's not hard to believe this feature being much more substantial if written and directed by a younger Craven.

Sunday, April 25

Demons 2 (Dèmoni 2: L'incubo ritorna) (1986) - Imperial Entertainment & Best Video VHS Editions

Not too much this morning at the swap meet, but I did come across this EP-variant of Lamberto Bava's Demons 2 from "Best Film & Video Corp" I never even knew of until now. I've seen a few Best Video tapes in the past, the last one being Enzo G. Castellari's 1990: Bronx Warriors, and despite being in shitty EP mode they sport some nice colorful artwork. You might notice the Best front cover being a lighter shade of black because the box is some kind of ultra cheap recycled particle-like cardboard. These two tapes are indicative of the later trend of the VHS format. Imperial released their SP-mode edition in 1988, but like most of the old independent video rental heavyweights, were on the skids by the mid-'90s. In a last ditch effort to turn a buck, many of these companies licensed their catalogs out to no-name fly-by-nights to produce dirt cheap EP tapes that clogged K-marts nationwide. A few years after the Best tape, Anchor Bay acquired the rights and released their uncut 91 minute DVD/VHS releases. Both the Imperial and Best are edited to 88 Minutes for an R-rating.

Imperial Entertainment / Best Film & Video Corp.

Saturday, April 24

The sublime nature of Tromaville...

I can remember when Lloyd Kaufman's Terror Firmer first broke loose on video a decade ago. I wasn't much of a Troma fan with my only experiences with the proudly independent studio at that time being memories of reruns of Toxies and Nuke 'Em Highs on Up All Night. I was aware of the film, but became very surprised upon overhearing a co-worker bring it up one lunchbreak. This guy didn't seem to be a prude, yet he made the mistake of watching it, now get this, as a "family movie night" selection. He never explained why he made this spectacularly idiotic decision, and after railing on the movie as the worst pile 'o shit ever made, then exclaimed he had to shut it off after thirty minutes. Not because of the high shit quota--his young daughter started crying(!?!).

At this point, I had to leave the table, or face the awkward situation of uncontrollably laughing while everyone else there seemed totally oblivious to the guy either being a horrible father or a magnificent dumbass. Naturally, I rushed to see Terror Firmer for myself afterward and honestly wasn't too impressed by the film. It just felt different from my edited-for-TV Troma of old and more-than-anything seemed like an excuse to be offensive for the sake of being offensive. I didn't get the point of all the boobs, incredibly ribald antics, and fat man with microdick flopping about the streets of New York. Still, at least I wasn't the guy who traumatized loved ones for life.

The 1999 feature didn't inspire me to seek out other Troma product. So I went along with my steady diet of horror and cult cinema, saw some Troma-distributed flicks, with the best being Pericles Lewnes's warmly regional Redneck Zombies. Little did I know, my improper education in other areas of schlock primed my appreciation for what Kaufman's little grotty studio that could stood for. On a whim years later, I popped in Terror Firmer again one night and with a few beers tagging along--there was my Tromatic epiphany. Kaufman and partner Herz craft purposeful trash as counterprogramming to all the other forms of media dogged by the moral police and corporate interests. Terror Firmer is more crude than previous Troma output, however; it belongs in a succession of the studio's films becoming harder to stay ahead of the real, increasingly "severe" norms of American culture.

They're John Waters after John Waters and South Park before South Park with "30 years of reel independence." Kaufman, Herz, and Troma Team have long become something much larger than their hardships and accomplishments. Now, perhaps more importantly than ever, Troma doesn't just make vital social statements in microcosm with each trashy film; they stand as one of the scant few defending the sublime liberation resting in freedom of expression. If and when Troma closes up, the saddest part will be there probably won't be anyone to keep the torch burning, but at least their testament will continue to endure. Even if you don't care for Troma's firebrand form of entertainment; you must respect what they're unassumingly doing under the barrage of libertine flesh and dimestore gore overkill. If you don't, you have no business watching anything anyway...

Dolph Lundgren: Maximum Potential (1986) - 1987 International Video Entertainment VHS

Interesting IMDB Trivia: The now-renowned directors Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary got their first Hollywood jobs in 1986 as production assistants on this workout video. The director John Langley knew them from the video store where Tarantino was working. Not until Quentin Tarantino had arrived on location, however, did the future director receive his assignment: cleaning dog feces from the front lawn of the house in which the video was being shot.

Friday, April 23

...and she came out in a rubber bag!

Is it just me, or does toetagged Tina in the original Elm Street look far more unsettling than the still below from the remake? The girl in the Bayified re-imagining looks the victim of a raspberry jam and cellophane (or dress closet bag?) experiment gone wrong...

Thursday, April 22

Some quick thoughts on A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (1988)

From the IMDB: Following up the previous Nightmare film, Freddy Krueger is resurrected from his apparent demise, and rapidly tracks down and kills all three of the surviving Elm Street kids. However, Kristen (who has the ability to draw others into her dreams) wills her special ability to her friend Alice before her demise. Afterwords, Alice soon realizes that Freddy is taking advantage of that unknown power she now wields to pull a new group of teenage children into his domain.

It's hard for me to discern, out of the Elm Street and Friday the 13th sequel cycles, which I have the most respect for. On one hand, Paramount treated Jason Voorhees like a dirty little secretive cash register to lucratively ride out until the well had run dry by the eighth installment. The studio liked the revenue enough to let the series and the effects meisters behind the camera mostly do their own thing. Then after the given Friday sequel was completed, haul the task of cutting for an R-rating to the MPAA, who seemed to increasingly relish the job with each successive entry. Of course, this "hands-off" approach ultimately screwed the fanbase, as we all know from Paramount's recent dicking about with multiple "decent" yet not definitive DVD and Blu-ray releases of their eight films in the series. Not to mention the cut footage mess...

Then we have New Line's Nightmares which are still being milked with next weekend's debut of the Englund-less remake. The efforts of Krueger have not fallen on deaf ears among the ranks of New Line; the slasher stalwart being greatly responsible for carving out a name for the once faceless studio. While this appreciation is refreshing over Paramount's see no evil, hear no evil bullshit, New Line were also much more involved and aware of boundaries during the creation of Freddy's sequels. The climate of the Regan era pulled Hollywood, perhaps unwillingly, toward the center. The raw, morally fraudulent, and hellishly fun romps both in horror and comedy of the early quickly fell in the later '80s. New Line understood this tide and tempered the Elm Street series over their course with camp and a general sense of being "en vogue" with their teen audiences as opposed to actually frightening them. Can't blame them, but at the same time, all this led to the unusually stale horror slate of the first half of the '90s.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but 1984 yielded both A Nightmare on Elm Street and Revenge of the Nerds. Both films mirror each other on different genre spectrums, with the former being an often terrifying, gritty horror classic; the latter a raunchy comedy classic filled with the kind of risqué material only now coming back into mainstream popularity. By the time 1987 rolls around, a Nerds sequel arrives, but is stripped of all its gratuitous laughs of the original. Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise basically sucks ass. Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors also debuted this same year, and while it's certainly not a bad sequel, both Dream Warriors and 88's Dream Master feel like transitional films of the series. Dimishing returns of the ol' magic are there, but are plastered over with globs of slapstick, hip pop rock, and horrible sunshine-bathed '80s fashion.

But you say, Jayson, through all your like-you-know-something babble, what about the stories? I guess one could argue that storylines save the Elm Street sequels, but not with Dream Master. Honestly, despite sorta being a halfhearted continuation of the third film, this outing gets off to a very rocky start and never quite recovers. Tuesday Knight replacing Patricia Arquette's Kristen is only part of the problem. Instead of retaining the likable survivors of Warriors, Master falls into the familiar sequel annoyance of using their deaths merely as fodder to spice up the first half hour. Then the story nearly starts at zero again with a new set of disposable teens. Master also does something underhanded with Freddy's kills. Instead of the damage imposed in dreams crossing into reality, several characters just die from shock upon waking from their nightmare. Concerning Freddy, how did they explain his rebirth? They didn't, but that effects sequence was great, huh? Blah.

Lisa Wilcox is really the only thing anchoring Dream Master--aside from everyone's favorite horribly scarred child molester from Hell. The whole concept of her character, Alice, receiving attributes of her dead friends isn't well ironed out. Where Wilcox shines is presenting a rather homely, bland girl for the majority of the feature before becoming an utterly convincing Krueger asskicker for the great showdown that seems disembodied from the film that came before. Freddy's climatic, phantasmagorical "soul-ripping" is alone worth fast-forwarding for. Still, it probably wasn't the best idea to lead the viewer into thinking Kristen was the final girl again before unceremoniously burning her alive to begin with. It's the kind of uncaring continuity that might have led this sequel to be the highest grossing of the first seven, but now only hurts the enjoyment in hindsight. Unfortunately that's about it, Elm Street 4 is the beginning of a mess that splashed upon this series's floor only spread further by The Dream Child and Freddy's Dead. Blame Reagan.

Wednesday, April 21

Two Rare Beat Up Big Boxes

Just been digging through some of my collection's b-sides. Although rare, sadly these porno-boxed horror tapes had rough travels through history...

Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981) Wynmore Video VHS

Premonition (Alan Rudolph, 1972) 1986 Active Home Video VHS

Tuesday, April 20

Remember Unicorn's Warlock Moon on Seinfeld?

From back in February, I finally caught the episode again to take photographic proof. Sorry about the quality, from a dodgy digital standard def broadcast.

Monday, April 19

Some quick thoughts on The Collector (2009)

Arkin (Josh Stewart), a low-level burglar for a crime boss doubling as a handyman, cases the home of a vacationing family with a prized jewel locked away in a concealed safe. On the night of his break-in; he discovers the family bound in the basement, the entire house cleverly booby trapped and fortified to keep any occupants in, and someone else roaming the hallways...

The back cover of The Collector has this pull quote from Twitch: "this is exactly the kind of film horror fans will delight in discovering." That sentence perfectly encapsulates what Saw sequel and Feast series tag team Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton's film embodies. This is another single-serving concept slasher that comes around every few years in the same vein as Lighthouse (Dead of Night), Haute tension (High Tension), Cry_Wolf, and Venom. The kind of slick, edgy horror film that has just enough huff to slip into theaters, evaporate quickly, and somehow seem obscure by the time of the DVD release. One of those decent underdogs that will probably be discovered by many on cable or the used disc section. Taking The Collector on those terms, it makes for a solid evening of grisly diversion.

The premise is a natural one for the writers of the last three Saw sequels and upcoming Saw 3D. The masked Collector (Dominican "that guy" Juan Fernández) lures those he "picks" into a deadly trap-riddled game of cat-and-mouse with any unchosen also entrapped destined for death. The chosen one is then utilized as bait in the next murderous toying; hence the tagline, "he always takes one." It's a novel concept, but not all that original and ill-defined. It's unclear whether the madman, who dawns a black leather mask looking like the burnt-up Cropsy from The Burning, traps victims with elaborate killer Rube Goldbergs or releases them into the wilds of the torturous devices as a means of sadistic fun. The latter seems to be more the case; at one point the severely bloodied father discovers Arkin and becomes enraged before literally being wrenched into another trap upon lifting a golf club in defense. This designed mayhem makes the Collector even more perverse and represents a nice change from the "good" character of Jigsaw constructing "well-intentioned" traps in the Saw franchise.

Ultimately, Arkin must decide whether to escape with the jewel or remain and attempt to save the very family he's burglarizing. The reason for the theft, Arkin's estranged wife desperately needing to pay off a loan shark by midnight, is such an afterthought that it was probably scribbled onto the screenplay's margins. For the best, the film seems so enamored with getting to the meat of the hellish house that this slim, bookended exposition is meaningless. At least Dunstan and Melton were smart enough not to be beholden to the midnight deadline with constant audience reminders. By the time the ordeal subsides and the deadline is mentioned again, it feels like the entire night passed anyway.

Dunstan's directorial debut reads from the Book of Fincher mixing the stark scope photography of Panic Room and Se7en. Despite the R-rating, The Collector is incredibly brutal and makes many of the unrated Saws appear weak in comparison. It seems as if the MPAA is more okay with violence committed upon "knowing" combatants than cold-blooded acts against the wholly innocent in modern horror. Whatever the case, it's amazing how far the rating can go nowadays. We get sliced fingers, gushing throats, fish hook gouges, electrocutions, razor bladed flesh digs, sewn lips, bear traps, melting feline, and more all lovingly presented in super high contrast glory. No, The Collector isn't a classic or birth of a new slasher icon, but it's bloody fun and one I should have seen theatrically. Be sure to listen for the score quoting Goblin's Sleepwalking from the Phenomena soundtrack as well.

Vivendi Entertainment's DVD includes a commentary, terrible alternate ending, two deleted scenes, and Nico Vega music video. Also despite being a single layer disc, the image quality is very high with the vast majority of scenes retaining film grain as a stylistic choice by the filmmakers. The Blu-ray, which appears to be actually coming out tomorrow, is identical save for a 1080p transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track.

Sunday, April 18

1...2...Freddy's in 1080p for you...

After finally finding a copy at Wal Mart (several Best Buys were a no-go?!), I just watched a good bit of the fresh A Nightmare on Elm Street Blu-ray from New Line. I must say that it's definitely the best Elm Street has looked since its theatrical debut. About a year ago, Alliance Atlantis of Canada released their own bareboned, rather expensive Blu-ray, but don't be fooled and settle for no less than New Line's excellent presentation. The 1080p/24fps picture quality is very impressive with plenty of inherent fine film grain and refined colors which might stick in the crawl of diehards as this transfer shares the new "less red" color cast of the Infinifilm DVD. Though if this is a quibble, you'll most likely completely forget upon seeing the gang pull up in the '58 cherry red Caddy.

The film grain is especially important because this aspect reveals a level of high frequency detail absent in all previous home video incarnations--even the processed, waxy-looking Canadian Blu-ray. Grain is like fold marks on old posters or slightly yellowed pages in vintage comics--beautiful. What's even more impressive is the U.S. disc is from New Line Cinema. This particular studio is known for digitally eradicating grain from their Blu-rays; Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Pan's Labyrinth being two of the most famous examples. So it's a tiny, niche miracle that Elm Street escaped the clutches of this entirely counterproductive practice for a transfer that's unlikely to be topped in the high definition realm.

The audio comes in two English flavors, DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and the original mono track in Dolby Digital. The 24-bit (!!!) lossless 7.1 track is extremely aggressive, pronounced, and clear. Yet astute fans might notice a few missing "stunners" in the score also "unheard" in the Infinifilm DVD's standard DTS 5.1 mix. In contrast, even though it's probably preferred, the true center channel-only mono track is painfully muffled and much quieter. It's like listening to the VHS...only standing ten feet away with ear plugs.

The special features mirror the Infinifilm with two commentaries, three documentaries (in 1080i HD), fact track, and three short alternate edits of the ending (in 1080i HD). If there is one thing I really hate to admit I don't like about Elm Street, it's the tacky shock ending, which simply feels extraneous and a bit dumb after the chilling image of Nancy's burnt mother sinking into the mattress. So I hate listening to the interview footage concerning Bob Shaye's involvement in tinkering with Craven's wishes involving the ending. Also it's plain odd hearing Craven stress how painful it was to see the film suffer MPAA cuts with this version still featuring the slightly edited version of Tina's death presented uncut in prior VHS and Laserdisc editions. The alternate endings are nice, but with some additional audio touch-ups one wonders why these weren't integrated back into the film with a seamless branching option.

Some may not like the idea of the impending remake, but it probably was the catalyst for New Line to get off their asses so soon with this stunning Blu-ray of the classic A Nightmare on Elm Street. This might very well be the first must own genre Blu-ray of 2010.

Saturday, April 17

Nightmare (1981) - 1985 Continental Video Big Box VHS

For the hell of it, I love this nasty flick...

ZOMBIE 1 (Dawn of the Dead) (1978) - 2001 Austrian/German X-Rated Kult Video (#37) VHS

This one arrived direct from the land of Arnold Schwarzenegger and...ermm...Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday. It's X-Rated Kult Video's PAL video standard VHS of Romero's Dawn of the Dead released in 2001 as a dual-country edition (thanks to Louis from Massacre Video and Abomination). This clamshell-cased tape features a double-sided cover with the first scan below being the Austrian side. Notice the more graphic stills on the back and no rating. The spine also states a runtime of 156 minutes (159 in NTSC) which reflects Oliver Krekel's unauthorized "ultimate final" version. This version edits together all footage unique to each version of the film to create one dubbed in German cut that's the longest version available.

The second cover below is the German side sporting less graphic stills and a FSK-16 rating. The spine states a 144 minute runtime chopped down from the ultimate final cut. The Andreas Bethmann quote on the back seems to be a to-the-point explaination that it would be illegal to distribute the full "long version" under German law. Notice the spelling errors, "Ronero", on the back cover credits in both covers.

The tape included is the Austrian edition with 156 minutes printed on its label. Aside from the big colorful clamshell artwork, I grabbed this tape because it makes a good "pseudo-pairing" with my copy of Frank Koenig's book, Dawn of the Dead: Anatomie einer Apokalypse. Koenig's 256-page, German-text guide to Romero's trilogy was released in 2002 through Medien Publikations und Werbegesellschaft (MPW 2000). So they just seem meant to be together.

Austria (uncut)

Germany (edited)

Friday, April 16

Thank you generous host!

Sam arrived fine, courtesy of the infamous and magnificent Johnny of Freddy in Space!

Thursday, April 15

Some quick thoughts on Resident Evil (2002)

From the IMDB, 'cuz you already know anyway: "A special military unit fights a powerful, out-of-control supercomputer and hundreds of scientists who have mutated into flesh-eating creatures after a laboratory accident."

I can remember the furor across horror forums crawling all over this film's development and release a decade ago. After George Romero directed this commercial for the Japanese release of Resident Evil 2, Sony and Capcom entered into a development deal with the director to write and helm a Resident Evil film. If you weren't there you can only imagine the explosion of excitement across the 'net from this news. It was supposed to be Romero's long belated return to the subgenre that made him a household those homes that love horror. Yet ultimately, Romero's screenplay (read here) was ejected by one of the original producers, and the project placed on hiatus until director Paul W.S. Anderson came on board to write another screenplay. The rest is this resulting 2002 film. Though in some weird off-shoot, a piece of RE's Beltrami/Manson score showed up in the teaser trailer for Romero's Land of the Dead (2005).

I hate hokum that doesn't realize that it's hokey and fully embraces that. Anderson's Resident Evil typifies misjudging what should be lighthearted fun for a serious-minded genre cocktail. Little Paulie has aspirations for Cameron's Aliens or Carpenter's The Thing, but forgets about including believable characters that immediately convey dependability in what they are. There's something genuinely trustworthy in Wilford Brimley's Dr. Blair and supremely authoritative in Al Matthews's Sgt. Apone despite their respective limited screen time. One never quite gets the same feeling from any character Anderson and his cast construct. Martin Crewes's Chad Kaplan hits the right tone, the solider who fails to override the Red Queen's deadly entrance, but is underplayed and constantly dumped on. Instead of the potentially juicy angle of Kaplan being grief stricken over the loss of his fellow men by his hands (even though this wasn't exactly the case), the character's primary function is to pop in at just the right moment. In fact, two events that revolve around Kaplan illustrate another weakness with Resident Evil, the film adaption.

It's got no balls. Anderson sets up Kaplan for a Pvt. Steel salute with one bullet left, but then cops out. Also Kaplan halts Michelle Rodriguez's Rain near axe decapitation with a surprise appearance. I know these gimmicks aren't original, especially after the zombie's reentry into mainstream horror with this flick, however; they're more annoyances that make the entire feature seem like exactly what studio suits wanted from the picture. The biggest of these being what pisses off most fans of the video game series--Anderson takes a steaming pile on the storyline of the immensely popular and very theatrical first game installment. The director's excuse is that prior movie tie-ins weren't financially successful. C'mon man, Resident Evil ain't Super Mario Bros. or your Mortal Kombat. Like Silent Hill and plethora of next gen franchises, the game seems tailored to a translation onto film. Finally, the R-rating is incredibly meek, it's tiresome seeing bullet impacts explode into aerosoled cotton threads. Would it have killed them to throw some Karo syrup-filled squibs onto zombies that are being riddled with high powered weaponry at close range?

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but Resident Evil has (or had) potential splashed all over its ultra-slick sheen. The moment the Red Queen reboots with all the doors unlocking and horrific experiments becoming unstable is especially excellent. The film is reminiscent of Ryûhei Kitamura's Versus both in its sometimes frenzied style and score. Though Anderson substitutes that film's gory devil may care attitude for close-ups of CG bullets making slo-mo beelines and attempts at making the diamond-tit studded, hardly-above-frail Jovovich into a super estrogen-powered badass with spin kicks that would turn Anderson Silva inside out. The final product is like death by a thousand missed opportunities--both small and large. The second sequel, the nighttime-dominated Apocalypse, is a different story being a work that understands its own goofiness and gleefully rolls about like a pig in shit amongst the kung-fu tactics against zombies, city mayhem, and cumbersome man-in-giant-monster-suit fun.

Despite just buying the Japanese DVD, I watched Resident Evil on Sony's Blu-ray. I'm afraid to say the picture quality is only okay; probably due to the use of an older high definition master. Close-ups consistently don't have that tack-sharpness seen in other transfers of films from the early '00s. Colors also appear too thick and heavy. I imagine once this one receives another Blu-ray, hopefully a new uncut version, these quibbles will go away. Just as an FYI, even though the Blu-ray of Resident Evil: Apocalypse has the very false reputation of being one of the worst looking transfers on the format, it blows away the looks of Resident Evil.

On a sidenote, I'm unsure just what the hell to make of Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D. This trailer of the upcoming fourth series installment looks like Ultraviolet, The Matrix, Blade, 300, and The Day After Tomorrow smashed into one...IN 3-D!

Wednesday, April 14

One from the back of the video store...

Electric Blue oo1 (1982) - Kenyon Video, Inc. VHS, you can tell this is from the early days since there's no overly explicit stills on the cover. That "show-all" trend started later. Also the clamshell has a sticker stuck inside opposite of the cassette with the contents rundown like the back cover. Hosted by Fiona Richmond with special appearances from Marilyn Chambers and John Holmes. Runtime: 60 minutes.

Tuesday, April 13

Biohazard (バイオハザード) (2002) - 2003 Japanese Toshiba DVD

a.k.a. Resident Evil, might watch this one tonight, also check out the new Weekly Poll...of terror!

Monday, April 12

Some quick thoughts on Night of the Demons 3 (Unrated) (1996)

After an impromptu convenience store robbery gone wrong, a group of cookie cutter twenty-something teens unknowingly take refuge in Hull House and beckon "demonistress" Angela once more. Commence boring rehash of Kevin Tenney's first Night of the Demons.

So I snag a shitload of flicks over the weekend and what do I do? Naturally, I watch what might be the shittiest selection out of the stack almost immediately. Okay, Night of the Demons 3 isn't exactly "shitty". Much like '90's Demon Wind and '94's Pumpkinhead II, this currently final entry in this trilogy is too damn vanilla and uneventful in every respect. If anything, this sequel proves essentially remaking an original film within its own franchise might be worse than a separate "re-imagining".

This Jim Kaufman-directed/Kevin Tenney-scribed film has many of the same elements along with the basic premise of the first raunchy gem. The failure of this effort arrives in the form of all this regurgitation being undeniably and substantially watered down; right down to the display of three rather so-so sets of boobs that just can't compete with the combined beaming headlight power of Ms. Quigley and Ms. Terashita. I guess you can't blame them for trying; though Night of the Demons 3 could honestly be retrofitted into a Halloween TV special on the Hallmark Channel for the kiddies with a few careful cuts. Saying that, this eighty-five minute "unrated" cut has no teeth with gore regulated to three quick done-to-death gags in the climax with the rest left to the whims of goofball pranks. The worst offense of all is that not only do you rapidly feel Kaufman's film to be a chore; the cast and crew probably very much felt the same way as they went through the motions. Not to mention Amelia Kinkade as Angela looking noticeably less hot both in-and-out of demonic form than in the previous entries.

The fast-moving convenience store shootout is the only thing that enlivens the proceedings. It's as if director Larry Clark briskly walked through the set and farted on his way to get somewhere else. Before and after, Night of the Demons 3 falls right back into slumber. It's fine to safely avoid this one. I'm also fairly certain Wikipedia is mistaken with a listing of a $111 million gross; if that were the case we'd be subject to Night of the Demons 17: Premenstrual Hades Cometh this Halloween. I'd wholeheartedly suggest either a revisit or seeking out of Mike Mendez's cathartic The Convent instead. If you're still interested in NotD 3, avoid the out-of-print Canadian DVD from Seville as it has scenes chopped out over this unrated Republic Pictures/Paramount VHS.

Sunday, April 11

Swap Meet Finds: In Quickie Bulleted Form!

  • A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts 1-7 (New Line VHS Box)
  • Leprechaun 1-3 (Trimark)
  • Halloween 4 & 5 (CBS/FOX Home Video)
  • Bad Taste (Anchor Bay)
  • Tales from the Hood (HBO/Savoy, chrome box in great shape)
  • Freddy's Nightmares - Dreams That Kill (Warner, factory sealed)
  • Grizzly (Media Home Entertainment, factory sealed)
  • Demons 2 (Anchor Bay clamshell, factory sealed)
  • The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael J. Weldon (First Edition , 1983)
  • Fraternity Demon (1992, Simitar DVD)
  • The Dracula Saga (La saga de los Drácula) (1973) (out of print Deimos Entertainment DVD)
  • Night of the Demons 3 (unrated, Paramount Home Video)
  • Dracula, Price of Darkness (Anchor Bay clamshell)
  • Silent Night, Deadly Night (AVID cheapie)
  • No Holds Barred (RCA/Columbia Home Video)
  • The Reincarnation of Isabel (Redemption Video)
  • GWAR: Phallus in Wonderland (1992) (Metal Blade)
  • Green Jellÿ: Cereal Killer (w/ pamphlet insert and sticker sheet) (Zoo Entertainment)
  • A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell (1990) (Troma)
  • The Witchmaker (1969) (Interglobal Home Video)
  • Ebony, Ivory, & Jade (She Devils in Chains) (1976) (Anchor Bay clamshell, factory sealed)
  • KIX - Cold Shower (music video, can't figure out what this is, Atlantic Records promo?)
  • Razorback (1984) (Warner clamshell)

Saturday, April 10

MARTYRS (マーターズ) Japanese One-Sheets & Adverts


Swap Meet Finds: Meet the proud owner of one of only three British Fletch Lives VHS in America...

Sometimes you just find in the weirdest tapes in your own figurative backyard. I'm moseying about one of my usual haunts this morning and spy one of the many piles of unwanted Disney VHS clamshells cluttering the buyer's landscape. But my eye zeros in on one non-Mickey Mouse studio tape atop the usually worthless dump of kid's movies-- a clamshell with the original poster art of Fletch Lives. This was unusual because MCA/Universal never issued their releases in big plastic clamshell cases. Though it wasn't out of the realm of possibility the cover was old rental advert cut from a magazine by the hands of some video store. I've seen this practice and own a couple of examples. I guess certain shops wanted the larger art to scream louder at customers back when the particular flick was fresh.

As I walked over I noticed that wasn't the case. Once I saw the foreign Universal and CIC Video logos along with the BBFC rating; I knew I was holding a VHS from the United Kingdom. I know it's just the sequel to Fletch, but you can't but wonder how in the hell and why it traveled across an ocean to the United States. The flick isn't a real cult item an astute collector would knowingly import, the tape is definitely 100% PAL video standard, and the seller certainly wasn't anything of the sort. I should have asked.

Anyway, enough about my stupid morning surprise, the rest of the loot scored on this trip certainly can be certified as a good haul. Found another Thorn EMI clamshell of Return of the Living Dead, fuck yea, and the Warner clam of Wolfen. The first tape to the right is a cover/box-less Video Gems Blood Couple also known as Bill Gunn's 1973 Ganja & Hess. Then we have the Virgin Vision Prom Night, Embassy's The Video Dead, Media's NOES 3, Media's Class of Nuke 'Em High, and the EP-speed cheapie "Best Video" 1990: Bronx Warriors. Las luchadoras contra la momia (Wrestling Women vs. the Aztec Mummy) (1964) is a mail order tape from "The Fang" based in New York. The movie isn't hard to find, but this tape is cool nonetheless. "Horrible Horror" is a "rarish", 110 minute horror flick clip compilation hosted by the Cool Ghoul himself, Zacherley, from Goodtimes Video. The Embassy tape of '71's Lady Frankenstein has the designation of looking better than the glut of shitty dollar store DVDs and I should definitely add this to the list of horror "enhanced" by VHS. Rounding things out are Troma's Screamplay (1985), Media's The Man from Clover Grove (1975), and Henry Rollins - You Saw Me Up There.

Friday, April 9

Some quick thoughts on Deadgirl (2008)

In an old condemned mental institution, two high school guys find a beautiful naked woman chained behind a rusted shut door deep in the basement. One of the guys, J.T. (Noah Segan), decides to "stay behind" while his friend Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) flees too disturbed by the entire situation. The girl (Jenny Spain) has a secret which will drive everyone who becomes involved far beyond their limits...

I'm not going to spoil the little twist that made me finally pick Deadgirl up, however; color me completely out-of-the-loop of high praise that's been bestowed upon this film's shoulders. Yes, Deadgirl is mighty disgusting, morbid, and morally ambiguous (too much so) in its depiction of rape and the slippery slope that stripping humanity from the human form provides. That's not the reason I disliked the experience; I can do Jörg Buttgereit's Nekromantik and Nacho Cerdà's Aftermath while chowing on SpaghettiO's laced with syrup of ipecac. The prevailing problem is that Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel's film never decides just what it wants to be or what message it wishes to convey. In strident fits, Deadgirl is an awkward coming of age piece for the character of young Rickie mixed with mismatched comedy, the usual "hardcore" (har har) horror flick thrills, and the most dehumanizing thing that could possibly happen to a person without the pesky baggage of saying anything meaningful about it through the art of film.

Deadgirl never really condemns the inhuman act of rape and treats the aspect as more of a quirk of the "dead girl" character. The one tiny scene that solidified this for me was when J.T. curiously tilts his head as the tied down girl's feet twitch. It just seems an injustice to not take a stand, either way, and ultimately makes this exercise milquetoast and barely possessing a foothold on the first step on the staircase to genre greatness. Jenny Spain's character could have been portrayed as a martyr in defense of womanhood with her incredible, violent strength an embodiment of the agony of all victimized by this vile act. Yet you know, nah, that's too hard, instead we get some contrived outgrown adolescent love bull and laughs at the expense of abhorrent violence towards women. It's also irritating how every male in the feature is so easily lured into the highest order of misogyny. Only in a horror movie. Though what else could be expected from a writer on the dried skid mark of horror? Or maybe someone should have picked up Junji Ito's Tomie to see how to make this kind of concept actually work.

Sarmiento and Harel do a good job of not sexualizing the deeds committed in their film. Ms. Spain doesn't once appear appealing in the full buff, looking more like a grimy plasticized alien, which is quite a feet considering the source. Aside from that, there isn't too much to recommend from Deadgirl with the whole "stripping humanity from the human form" thing I said above merely a product of the story's escalation, not some purposeful statement crafted by its creators. The most uneasy thing about Deadgirl isn't its subject matter, but the sloppy balancing act it desperately tries to maintain to give off some sense of worth beyond its grandiose hopes. On the back cover of Dark Sky's disc is a Fangoria blurb stating this film being reminiscent of David Cronenberg's best. If anything, Deadgirl will only work to grow your appreciation for such learned works like Dead Ringers, Videodrome, and Crash. Or for that matter, and something much newer with its own share of ultra violence, Pascal Laugier's truly scarring Martyrs.

Unsure about Universal's Blu-ray extras policy

You can't tell me all of the extras have been ported into "U-Control"

HD DVD / Blu-ray

Thursday, April 8

Nothing much for today...

...but I did find something interesting in Comcast's On-Demand service this evening. Under Movies --> Trailers & Reviews there's a new "Nightmare on Elm St." section. The latest fourth trailer for the remake is featured and the standard theatrical trailer for Freddy vs. Jason, but more interesting are the odd "trailers" for Nightmare 2, 3, 4, and Freddy's Dead. The trailer for Freddy's Revenge is one I've never seen before, probably a video trailer, and looks taken from a Laserdisc. The VHS-sourced Dreams Warriors spot is actually an ad for a contest to be in The Dream Master. The Dream Master trailer is a Media Home Entertainment retail/rental EPK for the holiday VHS release of the fourth feature "hosted" by Freddy. Englund spouts off stuff like how well the tape will sell, how the tapes of the first three sold half a million units nationwide, order dates, and promo merchandise to decorate your store. Freddy's Dead is another VHS-quality video trailer I've never seen before. I'm sure diehard fans have seen these, but I can't find them on YouTube or in looking through a list of the clips on the Nightmare Encyclopedia bonus disc in the DVD box set.

For the sake of upping this entry's worth, here's scans of Media's Dream Master VHS and promo 3-D glasses: you dare tread upon the staircase?

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