Saturday, August 31

Sorry that I've been a stranger recently, got addicted to DOOM all over again...

Prepare for some potentially longwinded self centered talk. In some now terrible decision, I can remember pleading with my parents for "Santa" to bring a Sega 32X for Christmas of '94. Looking back, it's hard to fathom why I wanted the clunky add-on that quickly rode off into console abyss after a disastrous reception, but one of the reasons was the now iconic first person shooter Doom. My best friend was privileged enough to have a PC and had the shareware version which contained the first episode and I instantly fell in love.

Of course, the 32X version complete with its awful music blew donkey nuts, but ignorance was bliss and I ravenously played it anyway. That is until my parents finally ponied up nearly two thousand bucks on a 133Mhz Packard Bell when I was able to enjoy the shareware myself and eventually Doom II (once the price dropped a bit). Soon though, other PC shooters caught my attention; like Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, Eradicator, Killing Time, Dark Forces, and Shadow Warrior. Okay, well, maybe that was pretty much all the ones I played on that dinosaur of a computer (along with Harvester, Carmaggedon, Strife, Hexen, and Diablo!).

Were my parents okay with all this digitized violence on my impressible young mind? My mom never quite
understood the point of blasting away for hours but in my mind there was always a huge chasm between the death witnessed in movies and games and grim reality. This was only reinforced when my uncle gave me a stack of movies with one inadvertently being a Faces of Death knock-off around that time. 

The contents of that tape, including Budd Dwyer's infamous press conference suicide, mortified the hell out of me in a way no simple video game ever could. Like with Doom, all the enemy sprites would without fail fall over dead in the exact way fashion to the exact same sound effect. Same with other shooters or other targeted games like Mortal Kombat. One could argue that with such huge advances in game "realism", kids could be more influenced to the "dark side" nowadays, but that's just the media treating kids like total idiots for the sake of sensationalism.

Getting back to Doom, I hadn't even thought about the game in years until recently when I was tasked toretrieve some MP3s off an ancient Windows 98 machine for a friend. No games were on the virus encrusted system but navigating the old OS made me nostalgic and I began searching YouTube for clips of the games I once played. That's when I ran across a fan made mod released just last year called Brutal Doom (download here). Despite Id Software encouraging the homebrew community, I never got into custom level and map making, unlike the friend mentioned prior who went wild with that aspect.

So instead of registering with Steam or visiting Pirate Bay for a "free" copy of Doom, I went the old fashion route and ordered the Collector's Edition CD-ROM with Doom, Doom II, and Final Doom released in '97 from eBay. This free and easy to install mod compatible with all three Dooms is jaw-dropping and along with source port Zandronum (download here) makes the experience less the usual letdown upon revisiting such an old game and more an incredibly fun testament to the game's enduring legacy. At its heart, it's a gore mod that skillfully ramps up the blood and grue to levels unfathomed in 1993. Yet there's much, much more improved upon or newly added.

Mouselook enables the player to target particular bodily areas causing heads to explode into splattery gibs smearing walls and detached limbs to fly everywhere. Sometimes zombie soldiers crawl around screaming after you kindly remove their legs or simply writhe in agony after a chunk of their head suddenly ends up ten feet away from them. Barrels erupt with much greater force and you can push them around or throw them in Berserk mode. Also in Berserk you can perform third-person "fatalities" like beating an Imp's face in with your bare hands until it's mush.

The pistol is gone and replaced with a far more useful assault rifle (pictured) that can used in an ironsight mode for long distance shots (same with the improved thunderous shotgun). Weapons are rebalanced and simply feel more modern with additions like reloading, new graphic skins, and ejecting shell casings complete with that badass "tinkling" sound. To offset this devastating firepower, enemies are now tougher and have revamped AI to evade attacks (soldiers can even barrel roll to avoid gunfire). Even with the increased difficulty, all the improvements and little touches, like flipping off baddies with a cruel "go fuck yourself!", always makes gameplay tremendous fun.

Doom purists may balk, but I'm glad to have had my interest rekindled in the game in such an unexpected way. If you have an old copy laying around or want to revisit the game, check out Brutal Doom, it's fucking badass deluxe. This instructional video on the installation process helps greatly and I was up and running within minutes of receiving my copy of Doom in the mail. Also this video detailing the slew of high quality resolution and graphics settings for modern PCs in Zandronum helps as well.

Friday, August 23

Today's Badass Find: Magnetic Video Corporation Poster for their 1980 VHS of Alien (1979)

 Nope, can't say I've ever seen this before, an ad for the very first home video release of Ridley Scott's Alien!

Wednesday, August 21

More SOV Craziness from Japan: GUZOO: The Thing Forsaken by God (1986)

Upon visiting a secluded summer home, four high school girls are soon targeted by a horrific creature in the basement with a knowing housekeeper trying to keep the unspeakable heap secret and at bay using a flute. (aka: GUZOO: Servants of a Forsaken God)

Clocking in at a mere forty minutes, it's a little hard to say that much about this gore short from Japan, especially if you're like me and don't know the language. Directed by the Kazuo "Gaira" Komizu and coming off the heels of his sex n' gore riddled Entrails of a Virgin and Entrails of a Beautiful Woman, Guzoo is a comparatively sedate affair. Gone is the dizzying softcore and while there certainly is gore, the focus seems to be on the wizardry of the Rob Bottin-style effects that recall The Thing (1982) and less on the sadistic brutality toward the beast's victims (yes, despite what these images might suggest!).

This is likely due to the feature being produced by VZONE, a once popular horror magazine in Japan, who probably wished to avoid controversy while still pleasing its target gorehound audience. That doesn't mean Gaira doesn't manage to linger on the legs and bare feet of the girls at every chance or the couple attack sequences not being absolutely blood drenched. The creature itself, or the "Guzoo", appears to be a marine animal about the size of a large recliner and resembling a hermit crab without its shell made of guts and long tentacles. It also has the ability to use mirrors to ensnare and teleport its prey straight through the glass.

Unfortunately, it's still quite short in duration, so the story is minimal and fleet-of-foot even compared to the also brisk, direct-to-video effects oriented Biotherapy (1986), Cyclops (1987, review here), and Conton (1987, review here). Although it's still interesting as a weird curiosity with a fantastic cover and one to seek out if you're completing a collection of these very niche short features from Japan.

The VZONE/ROCO Ltd. VHS doesn't seem impossible to find, but is extremely scarce in its original uncut box that recalls the size MGM used for a time for VHS in North America. Box styles like that, well actually cardboard VHS cases at all, were very uncommon in Japan so most copies of Guzoo got scissored up by rental joints like the copy scanned above. I was just glad to get one in reasonable shape with little fading and a great condition cassette despite the cut up cover. Here's scans of two articles from VZONE about the film and its creation (thanks to 2S1T Club!).

Sunday, August 18

New Evilspeak DVD from Code Red and My Take on the Blu-ray Situation...

A new Special Edition DVD of Eric Weston's Evilspeak (1981), where a geeky yet demonically computer-possessed Clint Howard goes on a horrifically gory rampage, has just recently put up on Code Red DVD's online shop.

This new release sports an new transfer from a high definition telecine of a newly discovered 35mm interpositive of the U.S. version that features all the gore but is still missing around ten minutes of exposition seen on Anchor Bay's out-of-print British two-disc DVD release. Anchor Bay's old stateside disc is identical to this Code Red except the gore was composited in from a poorer quality theatrical print. The CR disc also features a new commentary from Weston and interviews with Howard, Don Stark, and Joe Cortese.

This is great news considering the aftermarket price range of prior out-of-print DVDs, but some are pissed that Code Red's head, Bill Olsen, has been quite ornery when presented with questions over a possible Evilspeak Blu-ray release. To quote the man himself, "Problem with EVILSPEAK Blu is that I have to re-create the whole menu & etc. It would've been a lot cheaper if I did both at the same time. This why I rather do barebone/movie only to keep the budget low. also I need to get a 4th storage place to keep 1,000 Blu for that title, since I must press 1,000 Blu at a time, unlike DVD which is 500 per pressing. I doubt it'll sell 1,000 copies, people only buy CODE RED when it's [out of print]."

...merely because its my favorite Code Red release.
If you've been following Code Red on Twitter (@CODEREDDVD), you're probably aware of Olsen's rather combative nature. I'm not going to make excuses for him, but I'm tired of the overreaction to his stubbornness with releasing onto Blu-ray. As I've touched upon before, BD seems have just become more "another format" and less the premium way of seeing movies and I remain unconvinced that it's the best investment for tiny outfits like Code Red (who is basically just Olsen). It is however strange CR just announced plans for BDs of Just Before Dawn (1981), Voices from Beyond (1991), and Nailgun Massacre (1985). I wouldn't fret about the current status of Evilspeak since if these perform well it's a safe bet it'll eventually appear. Although I can't see the point in Voices from Beyond on Blu-ray out of being a terrible waste of time that looks shot through gauze. Sorry, Fulci fanatics...

What really irks me is a few voices proposing a Code Red boycott due to Evilspeak only arriving on standard definition (for now). I'll agree a Blu-ray would be nice, especially since this is advertised as being downconverted from a HD master, but just because you're into the format doesn't grant you a right to be a total dick to others that don't follow your narrow opinion. Frankly, I'm sick of hearing such arrogance from rabid BD fans. Unjustified bashing of the format from those misinformed does occur, and I can see how that's irritating, but there's many that see the benefits of Blu-ray, and maybe even own a player and library, yet don't get so far up its ass that the actual content becomes secondary to defending the honor of the latest video medium that probably won't have the longevity of DVD.

At this point with the continuing rise in popularity of streaming media, movie fans should all be thankful distributors like Code Red are still trudging along at all. Disc-based media's days, even for your precious Blu-ray, are sadly numbered and I'd much rather see small distributors continue forward as long as possible--be it on Blu-ray or DVD or both. Those choices are far preferable to the delusion of calling a list of titles from a tiny box attached to the Internet your "collection". Even the assholes will miss DVD when it's gone...

Friday, August 16

Midnight (1982) - TDK Super Video Japan VHS (Clamshell Variant)

To accompany this standard slipcase edition scanned last February, here's the very scarce clamshell version of Midnight (1982) from TDK Super Video. The distributor issued several of their cult slipcase titles in sleeves with different artwork, like Nightmare City (1980) and Killer's Curse (Nurse Sherri) (1978). It's still unclear if all of these plastic-cased variants have been accounted for since a few like Killer's Curse have only surfaced once in collector circles.

Tuesday, August 13

The New Limited VHS of MIDNIGHT (1982) Has Arrived!

Yeah, I buried this stinker from John Russo in this old review, but dammit I couldn't resist grabbing this brand new analog release from Sub Rosa Studios. Limited to fifty copies (already sold out) and signed by actor and Romero cohort John Amplas with a few goodies thrown in. It'll look nice on my shelf next to their recent VHS of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers!

Monday, August 12

Body Melt (1993) - 1995 Albatros Video VHS (Japanese Title: "Bio-Scanners")

Watched this melt movie hailing from Australia the other evening and left unimpressed. It's tough to shake the feeling writer/director Philip Brophy wanted to be clever by telling its straightforward story of a big pharm corp testing an experimental drug on unsuspecting residents of a suburban cul-de-sac that literally turns flesh fatally gelatinous in the most roundabout way possible. As several nearly aimless subplots meander along, Body Melt ends up pretty damn irritating long before its climax clumsily ties everything together. In the vein of other quirky Australian films like Death Warmed Up (1984), Contagion (1987), Encounter at Raven's Gate (1988) except with much annoyance. This one's got nothing on Street Trash (1987) or Slime City (1988), despite this badass Japanese cover...

(signed by the director as "Lou Brophy")

Saturday, August 10

Some quick thoughts on Zombie Massacre (2013)

Stop me if you've heard this one before. A team of mercs each with specialized skills are assembled to plant a nuclear explosive after a black toxic rain falls in an industrial town in Romania turning its inhabitants into raging undead. After infiltration they discover that the device, set for denotation in under an hour, is hardwired into their only truck and can't be deactivated. Setting out on foot to find a fast way out of the area, they discover a few other survivors and the daughter of the head scientist responsible for the outbreak who might also hold the antivirus to stop the plague's spread.

Pardon getting all stupidly philosophical for a moment, but as a horror fan, there comes a time when you realize it's simply all been done. Very rarely do examples come along with even a single revelatory concept. The genre is constantly cannibalizing itself and the best that can hoped for is a continual stream of standout films with enough twists on old tropes to keep inching the genre forward. As such, most of us have learned to see value in movies that provide entertaining takes on nothing new and that's perfectly fine because that's a large percentage of what horror is.

Then we have backwash like Luca Boni and Marco Ristori's Zombie Massacre which doesn't fall into either of these categories. This sad effort, that you could literally fast forward through without missing anything, represents an almost total reversal of the budding positive qualities of the pair's 2011 debut, Eaters (thoughts here). That feature has a sense of enthusiasm that manages to outshine rough patches most likely due to being their first time out. Sure, overall Eaters was just another formulaic zombie movie in a popular (yet now waning) era of the subgenre, but ZM takes such modern direct-to-video walking dead formalism to an unprecedented height.

Far too much faith is placed in the cardboard hired as actors as we endure thickly accented gibberish from characters we never grow to care about (people who disliked the Evil Dead remake because of "unlikeable" characters, see this and then say that). Eaters was talky as well, but you could tell everyone in front of the lens gave a damn even if you didn't know Italian. This never happens in ZM and it quickly devolves into the same ol' cheap zombie movie claptrap shoveled by actors who eat by driving to endless casting calls with the best they'll ever achieve being "Silent Tough #4" buried in the credits of some moderately budgeted Hollywood production.

Intermixed into this boredom are encounters with running packs of zombies being mowed down in short order. The make-up is great but there's hardly any time to appreciate the work with the frenzied editing of the action and the ugly desaturated appearance of the entire film destroying any subtly by the artists. The one female hand-to-hand "expert" on the team, who looks a bit like martial arts legend Cynthia Rothrock, ends up especially embarrassing because it's obvious the actress doesn't have the background and the movie doesn't mask her lack of skill. She flings swords around with less zeal than the Star Wars Kid as her undead victims do the Harlem Shake while falling. Actually, why not just dump many of the needless actors and get Rothrock kicking decomposed ass for ninety minutes? The first image in your mind after reading that was way more awesome than anything ZM offers.

Besides of the make-up, and I know this sounds ridiculous, but the military garb and equipment by Italian outfitters S.O.D. Gear is more interesting in looking "correct" and functional than any of the individuals wearing them. One of my weird pet-peeves is military gear in movies that doesn't look right when worn or used by actors but for all this boring waste does well, boring that aspect is nailed down. And yes, that ad above is real and they should be proud.

Boni and Ristori state in the featurette on the Blu-ray that this movie was essentially a favor to Uwe Boll for all he did for the distribution of Eaters. That's great but it's hard not to wonder whether they truly had their hearts into this movie that was originally an ultimately cancelled video game. There's even a short, unrelated sequence before the end credits of topless zombie babes attacking three of Eaters' principal actors poolside. After sitting through Zombie Massacre, it's like waking up from a coma and I would have much rather have seen that movie instead. Hopefully these guys have more creative freedom next round (Eaters 2, please). Once again, bigger isn't always better...

Sunday, August 4

Some quick thoughts on DOOR (1988)

After several strangely threatening calls from a local salesman, a homemaker becomes increasingly afraid to answer her apartment door. The phone subsides and later upon a knock she answers only to be greeted by the same voice. The saleman's hand is painfully jammed when he tries to reach inside with a business flyer as she slams the door shut. 

He furiously kicks at the door and vows she's just made a grave mistake. In the following days, it becomes clear the disgruntled man is stalking her and her young son. After finding the apartment accidentally unlocked, he slips in and greets her with a knife.

Bluntly put, the simplistic plot of Banmei Takahashi's Door is the kind of generic fare seen in television movies made for those soccer mom-centric channels no one watches. A scared-to-death yet attractive mother stalked and cornered at home by an armed psycho where she alone must defend her and her child. Naturally, her husband is busy with a deadline at work and the next door neighbor is some old lady who couldn't care less. And everything generally plays out in that no-frills fashion. Some scenes possess outlandish logic, like the fact a small chainsaw, that just happens to be on a balcony, is obviously electric and that never plays into its use even when the power trips off. However; this gap and others might be explained if it weren't for my near total inability to comprehend Japanese.

Takahashi manages to keep the threadbare story interesting with direction that captures a queasy intimacy between the woman and her attacker. In particular one sequence involving a continuous overhead shot of the two struggling from room-to-room evokes a bit of Dario Argento's masterful crane-assisted tracking shot in Tenebrae (1982). Door also does something not usually seen in a Lifetime TV movie. In defense of her son, the mother violently lashes out with the camera never shying away as he's stabbed and struck repeatedly into a bloody mess. We even get a nasty shot of a long barbecue fork jammed into his cheek and he wrenching it out causing a large chunk to rip away. That magical corded chainsaw that's never plugged in also makes one final appearance...

Door doesn't seem to have any video releases outside of an unsubtitled Japanese VHS and DVD. It spawned two sequels, Door II: Tokyo Diary (1991) and the Kiyoshi Kurosawa directed Door III (1996). Unfortunately, there's no videos of the first film on YouTube, but there is a clip from the paranormal themed Kurosawa sequel that echoes probably the most famous scene in his later Pulse (Kairo) (2001).

Saturday, August 3

The Violent Blair Shit Witch? One of the strangest retitlings I've ever seen...

For some unknown reason (maybe because it takes place in the woods?), CAM Video Japan wanted to capitalize on the popularity of The Blair Witch Project by turning Andreas Schnaas' Violent Shit 3: Infantry of Doom into "Prey of the Devil: Brutal Devil Project" (悪魔のえじき ブルータル・デビル・プロジェクト). They even copied the VHS artwork (crappy image here). Otherwise, this tape is an authorized uncut copy of the Reel Gore VHS in German with Japanese subtitles. you dare tread upon the staircase?

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