TV Review: The Walking Dead Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

Picture of Andrew Lincoln with an undead co-star

Walking Dead Season One Blu Ray Box Art - Zombies!

THE WALKING DEAD SEASON ONE

[Editor’s note: The countdown to The Walking Dead Season Five has begun! The fifth season will shamble back to AMC on October 12th. To celebrate, we will feature a weekly review of each season. We wish to thank Mark Rivera for allowing us to reprint his TWD reviews from his Genreonline site!]

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season

Genre: Post Zombie Apocalypse Horror/Character Driven Human Drama

Media: Blu-ray Disc

Region: A

Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Emma Bell, and Chandler Riggs

Guest Stars: Lennie James, Michael Rooker, Norman Reddus, and Noah Emmerich

Writers: Frank Darabont, Charles Eglee, Jack LoGiudice, Alex Kirkman, Glen Mazzara, and Adam E. Fierro

Based On The Graphic Novel Series By: Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard

Directors: Frank Darabont, Michelle MacLauren, Gyneth Horder Payton, Johan Renck, Ernest Dickerson, and Guy Ferlanf

Executive Producers: Alex Kirkman, Chales Eglee, Jack LoGiudice, Frank Darabont, and Gale Anne Hurd

Episodes: Disc One) “Days Gone Bye”, “Guts” “Tell It To The Frogs”, “Vatos”

Episodes: Disc Two) “Wildfire”, “TS-19”

Languages and Sound: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound

Subtitles: English Subtitles For The Deaf And Hearing Impaired And Spanish Language Subtitles

Extras: Making Of The Walking Dead, Inside The Walking Dead,: Episodes 1-6, A Sneak Peek With Robert Kirkman, Behind The Scenes Zombie Make-up Tips, Convention Panel With Producers, The Alking Dead Trailer, Zombie School, Bicycle Girl, On Set With Robert Kirkman, Hanging With Steven Yeun, Inside Dale’s RV, On Set With Andrew Lincoln, Do They Have The Walker Disease? Insert

Running Time: 292 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Year Of Television Broadcast: 2010/Blu-ray Disc Release: 2011

Home Video Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment

Reviewer: Mark A. Rivera

 

Picture of Andrew Lincoln with an undead co-star
Picture of Andrew Lincoln with an undead co-star

Along with Syfy’s Being Human, AMC’s The Walking Dead is one of the best genre dramas to premiere during the 2010-2011 television season. The series is based on the acclaimed and best selling graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard and the reason why I think the series is so successful is because it is a character driven drama and not an exploitation show. Yet it not only stays true to the traditional zombie apocalypse roots originated by George A. Romero, it stays true to the graphic novel series in the same way Peter Jackson’s big screen The Lord Of The Rings trilogy stayed true to Tolkien’s books; by capturing the essence of the graphic novel in a way that it works for television. Thus it is not a slavish frame for frame live action version of the film, but it is true to it in spirit and only veers away from the text when it is an improvement that works better for television. So the same way I have heard that when someone asks Stephen King if he is ever unhappy with how some of his books and stories are translated to the big and small screen, King is said to show the person who asked the question that the books are still there independent of the feature film or TV miniseries or movie. In this case however Frank Drabont, oe of the best filmmakers to ever bring King’s work to the big screen is working with Kirkman to make sure that The Walking Dead stays true to the graphic novels, but works for television as well as adds a few unexpected surprises for fans who are very familiar to the books. There is a Nitpicker’s Guide To The Lord Of The Rings online that goes through the books and details every point where Jackson veered away from them and I have no doubt that there will be fans of the graphic novels that might be upset that the series is not an exact replication of the books, however they still have the books as King has been said to point out with regard to adaptations based on his work and I never thought I would ever state this, but as much as I am a fan and admirer of George A. Romero’s Living Dead Saga, The Walking Dead totally blows away his last installment Survival Of The Dead.

 

For reasons not revealed, a zombie apocalypse has overrun humanity, leaving isolated groups of survivors struggling to survive and remain human. Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up from a coma unaware of what has taken place, but soon becomes shocked into the reality that the world he lives in now is nothing like the one he once knew. Starting with Rick’s quest to find his family, The Walking Dead quickly unfolds to reveal a collection of top notch performers who form the ensemble cast that includes a few Darabont alumni actors who have appeared in his feature films like Jeffrey DeMunn and Laurie Holden. The first season cast also features Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Steven Yeun, Emma Bell, and Chandler Riggs. Guest stars for season one include Michael Rooker, Norman Reedus and Noah Emmerich, who adds a great bit of pathos to his role and can next be seen in J.J. Abrams Super 8. Lennie James arguably has the best dialogue of the series premiere that was directed by Darabont.

 

Anchor Bay Entertainment presents The Walking Dead in an AVC encoded high definition 1080p/24fps (where available) maximum resolution that preserves the gritty (1.78:1) aspect ratio television presentation with a full English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Soundtrack and English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired coupled with Spanish Language Subtitles encoded as options. The first disc contains the first four episodes and the second disc contains episodes five and six and the extra value features. Sadly there are no episode specific audio commentaries on either of these discs and the six episode specific featurettes which generally between four and six minutes each are the same ones that can be seen on the official AMC website and on i’Tunes. In fact all of the featurettes can be seen on either one or the other or both so there is not much specific for the Blu-ray Disc release hear. The most disappointing feature is the trailer (1:02), which is just a TV spot and not the fantastic Comic Con preview that as made available on i’Tunes and can be seen on the AMC website as well. The Comic Con panel discussion is included however (11:33). The sneak peek with Robert Kirkman (4:50) is a little disappointing because at the time of my writing this review, production on the second season of The Walking Dead, which will premiere in October of 2011, has not yet begun. I was hoping for a few words on what we can expect beyond what Darabont has already stated in the episode specific featurettes.

 

A scene from the pilot episode
A scene from the pilot episode

All of the bonus materials are presented in 1080/60p and include a making of documentary (29:52), zombie make-up tips (6:44) and specific focus shorts showcasing actors training to behave as zombies (2:55) for the series, a look at the iconic Bicycle Girl zombie make-up (5:03), a tour of Dale’s RV with Jeffrey DeMunn (3:24) and on set interviews with Writer and Series Co-Creator Robert Kirkman (5:03) and Actors Steven Yeun (3:49) and Andrew Lincoln (3:45).  There is an amusing insert within the two-disc Blue BD case informing the reader how to spot and what to do if they suspect someone may have the “walker disease.” The interactive menus are well rendered and easy to navigate. The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season is available on Blu-ray Disc now courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

 

Check out The Walking Dead Season 5 trailer:

Movie Review: As Above, So Below


As Above, So Below movie poster
As Above, So Below movie poster

As Above, So Below

Directed By: John Erick Dowdle, Written By: Drew Dowdle, Starring Perdita Weeks, Ben Feldman, Edwin Hodge, Universal Pictures

WARNING: This review contains spoilers!

 

I am not a huge fan of found footage films. They are often predictable and boring. I had very low expectations for As Above, So Below. But I was pleasantly surprised. As Above, So Below offers the unique story of a very brave Alchemy student Scarlett, (Perdita Weeks) who is out to offer the world a discovery that will change the course of history; proving that the urban legend of Nicolas Flamel creating the Philosopher’s Stone is real. Flamel’s tombstone offers clues on the whereabouts of the stone’s location; hidden in a secret area within the Catacombs under Paris.  This is an adventure worth taking! That is, until the journey reveals otherwise.

 

As Above, So Below creepy viral image
As Above, So Below creepy viral image

Scarlett gathers a crew. Her cameraman Benji (Edwin Hodge), a friend whom she shared some fun times with, Translator George (Ben Feldman) and a team of locals to navigate the “off limits” areas  of the catacombs. Take note to the Siouxsie And The Banshee reference when you hear it in the movie. No relevance to the movie, just a reference.

 

I would not consider myself claustrophobic but, if presented with some of the situations in the movie, there would be cause for hyperventilation, dread and panic. There is one uncomfortable scene where I found that I had to concentrate on my own breathing and I was in an open wide theater! The footage inside the catacombs was fantastic! Creepy to those who find walls made of human skulls and tunnels filled with femur bones scary.

 

A few of the crew begin seeing objects and apparitions from tragedies in their pasts. The group actually finds what they were looking for; treasure and the Philosopher’s Stone… or did they? They are forced deeper into the catacombs upon discovering the Emerald Tablet which reads: “That which is above is the same as that which is below”. The only way up is down.

 

Perdita Weeks in As Above, So Below
Perdita Weeks in As Above, So Below

Now, the group’s previous actions are being mirrored as they try to reach the surface. That is, until they arrive at tunnel which has the inscription: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”. Which legend has it, is the entrance to Hell. Of course there is no way back as the way the group came has disappeared. The characters begin to face tragedies of their pasts and the moral of the story is revealed.

 

As a horror movie fanatic, I found that the elements of the film were unsettling. Going deeper and deeper underground and ultimately finding this vision of Hell is what made the movie worthy.  I was grateful there was not an abundance of unnecessary gore. There’s no lack of hellish sound effects either.

 

It made feel like I was in a nightmare. Not a nightmare formed of monsters, demons or ghosts… but the places our mind goes when when we are in a dark dream and our fears are manifested as quick as we think of them.  Therefore, I left the theater satisfied and thrilled. There is still hope for modern horror films.

Check out the As Above, So Below trailer:

Classic Horror Movie Reviews from an Almost 13 Year-Old

Marilyn Eastman

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD review

[NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: Arianna is the daughter of some friends of mine. She is almost 13 and a huge horror fan. She is also an aspiring author. I thought it might be interesting to get some input from the younger crowd, so I proposed a review series to Arianna. I asked her to watch a list of classic horror films, because I was really curious how older films would play to a younger crowd. Her first assignment was the 1968 zombie opus, Night of the Living Dead. I have said countless times that NOTLD is my very favorite horror film. I present to you her thoughts. This review has been edited only for spelling and grammar. Any hilarious factual errors regarding the film belong to Arianna. -TMW]

Night of the Living Dead movie posterI’ve recently watched an older film, by the name of  Night of the Living Dead. Now, this film was produced in the thirties, at the dawn of all entertainment in the form of television. When all of the zombie apocalypse things started, this movie was introduced to the public, and was considered terrifying.

However,  present day, if I must say so myself, we’ve seen worse. Much, much worse. They say that the AMC series, The Walking Dead, was inspired by this particular picture, but clearly The Walking Dead was most definitely updated.  Some prefer the black and white, silent, pick your poison, all relevant and ancient. I am very much so into various types of horror, including paranormal, possession, witches, psychopaths with knives, but deep in my obsession lies a special place for apocalyptic pleasures.

On a scale of 1-10, I enjoyed Night of the Living Dead at about a 2, if even. What gets me scared, grossed out, dizzy etc… is the cherry red color of fresh blood , or the rotting aging shade of old. Also guts, but the only way you could tell someone was a zombie in this movie was by the tears in their clothes.

Marilyn Eastman
Marilyn Eastman pulls double duty in Night of the Living Dead

Going deeper, there was a single woman who looked slightly gory, yet not enough to duel against more updated favorite films of mine. This amused me, but did not scare me in any way, shape, or form. I’m sure if I had never seen something like this before, I would have better things to say about it.  But I have, and this was a huge letdown. I found this on a top 25 scariest movies list at number 7. And I was like what?  But others have different opinions, and I am sure I disliked this highly due to my youth.

 

 

 

 

 

Check out the Night of the Living Dead trailer:

Movie Review: Tales of Poe (2014)

Tales of Poe PosterTales of Poe

A co-production between Mastropiece Productions and Southpaw Pictures

Directed by Bart Mastronardi & Alan Rowe Kelly

Starring Debbie Rochon, Amy Steel, Bette Cassatt, Adrienne King, Caroline Williams, Randy Jones, Alan Rowe Kelly, Brewster McCall, Lesleh Donaldson, Desiree Gould, Cartier Williams, Joe Quick, Michael Varrati, Andrew Glaszek, David Marancik, Susan Adriensen.

 

I was fortunate to attend the Tales of Poe Hollywood world premiere on August 20th. Anyone who is familiar with me knows that I am a fan of Alan Rowe Kelly and Bart Mastronardi. I have appeared in two of Alan’s films and Bart worked on those films as well. And while there is a fair number of work in my past that I would like to deny, I wear my Alan Rowe Kelly day player T-shirt with pride. Having appeared in The Blood Shed and Gallery of Fear, I am very familiar with how both directors operate.

 

So when I heard they were going to collaborate on an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe tales, I knew immediately that something special was going to come from it. And I was 100% correct. Tales of Poe stands as the highest achievement for both Kelly and Mastronardi. The anthology film boasts quite a few familiar names to horror fans. Debbie Rochon, Caroline Williams, Amy Steel, Adrienne King and the Village People’s Randy Jones headline the film.

Tales of Poe: The Tell Tale Heart photo
Alan Rowe Kelly and Debbie Rochon in THE TELL TALE HEART

 

Alan Rowe Kelly also appears as two different characters. I was very pleasantly surprised to see three of Alan’s regular players: Zoe Daelman Chlanda, Susanna Adriansen and Jerry Murdock. I was a little disappointed that they had relatively minor roles (except for Zoe; she has a pretty meaty presence in The Cask).

 

So I’m going to start where the anthology starts: with Mastronardi’s The Tell Tale Heart. Now when I first heard this was going to be one of the stories adapted, I was hesitant. Adapting the Tell Tale Heart is akin to making another wheel, in my opinion. But Bart turns it on its ear fairly quickly with the story of a night nurse (Debbie Rochon) who cares for an ailing silent screen legend, Miss Lamarr (Alan Rowe Kelly in a perfectly cast performance). The night nurse is driven to madness and murder by the fading starlet’s sickly gaze. I love the interplay between Rochon and Lesleh Donaldson’s character of Evelyn Dyck in the sanatorium in the prologue of this tale. It is a cat and cat game between two psychopaths and you can feel the waves of malevolence coming off of it.

 

Edgar Allen Poe
The master himself

One thing that I will declare right now: Debbie Rochon does the best job I have ever seen her do in the role of the night nurse. I have worked with Debbie, and she is a very dedicated actress. She has a strong self- awareness of what works for her. She is a student of the game. An observation I have made about Debbie in the past, and this is by no means a slight: I never saw her entirely as the characters that she played. I always saw Debbie as Debbie. I have the same sort of perception with actors like Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro. She has a very strong presence that is difficult to subdue.

 

 

 

Tales of Poe Caroline Williams card
Caroline Williams

But I am happy to report that Debbie totally disappeared into this role. She proved to me unequivocally that she is the brightest and most talented actress in the indie horror film field.

Mastronardi’s take on The Tell Tale Heart goes exactly where Poe fans know it will go. But it is stylish as hell and the acting is top notch across the board. The tale has never felt fresher.

 

 

The next segment in the movie is Alan Rowe Kelly’s adaptation of The Cask. In this tale, Alan plays Gogo Montresor, the conniving and murderous wife of a well to do vintner, Fortunato Montresor (Randy Jones). This segment also featured cameos by Amy Lynn Best and Mike Watt and it was good to see some old friends in there. And the always reliable Susan Adriensen brought her quirky weirdness to housekeeper, Morella. When Marco Lechresi (Brewster McCall) shows up at the wedding party, you realize the short honeymoon is over for Fortunato and Gogo. This segment was absolutely breathtaking in its design, and composition of the shots. The spooky nighttime interiors put me in the mind of a dreamy Euro-horror film from the 70’s. And the effects were fan-effin-tastic. The reanimated corpse make-up was very retro and it was the same type of presentation and look that you would see in really well done horror films of the early 70’s. You know, the ones that actually scared the crap out of you. Watching this segment definitely made me feel like a kid.  I enjoyed the hell out of the acting in this one (especially Randy Jones. He was great!).

 

Adrienne King
Adrienne King at the premiere

My only complaints are two tiny ones, and they both concern the opening of the tale. I felt The Cask could have been trimmed down just a hair (it felt a little top heavy), and it had a little too much scenery chewing between the characters during the wedding celebration. Trust me, though: these are minor criticisms. The Cask is a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable adaptation delivered as only Alan Rowe Kelly could deliver.

 

The last segment of Tales of Poe is Mastronardi’s very artistically composed Dreams. Bette Cassatt (who you can’t take your eyes off of) stars as a young woman who seems to be languishing between life and death in a hospital bed. Her mother, played by Friday the 13th Part 2 star Amy Steel, lingers near as her daughter wanders the dream land found between life and death.

 

There are two other really huge horror actresses in this segment that a lot of fans of 80’s horror will recognize. There is Caroline Williams of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 fame. Caroline plays the Angel of Dreams. This character seems to be a benevolent, silent guide. Caroline does so much with just a look. She is stunning to behold here. And Adrienne King (the star of the original Friday the 13th) appears as the Queen of Dreams; a dark personification of death. Both actresses perform and express extremely well in this mostly dialog-free piece. There is a very cool Tarantino vibe here, especially if you were raised on 80’s horror. The actors in this piece feel painted into the scenery. Their commitment to the director’s vision here is highly evident.

 

Amy Steel
Amy Steel at the premiere

There is a very cool feast scene that comes off as a combination of David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick and it is beautiful. Mastronardi went for an abstract piece of art here, and he succeeded. The last segment of this anthology is probably the best put-together piece. Ending the film with a strikingly diverse piece like Dreams was a good decision, because at that point the viewer will have come so far down the rabbit hole that they will be committed to finishing the maze. In case you think there was any negativity in my last statement,  allow me to clarify: I am not putting down the average horror fan and I am not trying to diminish the raw horror or beauty of Dreams (there is gore and the piece is deeply disturbing). I am simply saying that Dreams veers down a conceptual path that the more by the number horror fan might not want to follow.

 

But screw those guys. Bart Mastronardi knocked me for an unexpected loop with this one.

 

And so my final verdict? Tales of Poe is one of the best indie horror anthology films that I have ever seen. It is breathtaking in its beauty. It’s technically sound; there wasn’t one technical blemish on it that I noticed. It is the best work (so far) of two of the hardest working and talented mofos in independent horror cinema. Tales of Poe takes the work of a master and puts it into the hands of two of the finest modern craftsmen in the field. You must see this film when it comes out.

Visit the official Tales of Poe website! And check out our Tales of Poe World Premiere coverage!

Check out the trailer:

Movie Review: CIRCUS OF THE DEAD (2014)

CIRCUS OF THE DEAD artDirected By: Billy “Bloody Bill” PonWritten By: Billy “Bloody Bill” Pon & Lee AnkrumStarring: Bill Oberst, Jr., Parrish Randall, Chanel Ryan, Roger Edwards, Brad Potts, Tiffani Fest, Ryan Clapp, Rusty Edwards, Mike WilliamsRunning 114 minutes

 

 

Circus Of the Dead is the first full length feature for director Billy Pon, who has made a pretty big splash in indie horror already with his short film, Doll Boy. Billy is far from a novice when it comes to horror though, having ran two different haunted attractions in Texas for some time now. He is quite adept at his craft and all of those long hours as a self professed “Haunt-trepreur” really come into to play in his film work.

Circus of the Dead Synopsis: “A man becomes entangled in a deadly morality game when the circus comes to town and a sadistic clown forces him to examine the things in life he takes for granted in the most horrific ways.”
CIRCUS OF THE DEAD still
Send in the COP CLOWNS!

 

If you have a fear of clowns, this one may throw you into therapy for years to come. On the other hand, if like me, you have never really been affected by the strange folk in funny shoes and makeup, you will finally empathize with the thousands that run screaming every time Send in the Clowns plays!

In Circus of the Dead, we meet a particularly nasty gang of clowns consisting of Papa Corn (Bill Oberst Jr), Noodledome the Clown (Ryan Clapp), Mister Blister the Clown (Rusty Edwards) and Jumbo the Clown (Mike Williams), all of whom will have horror fans chanting We Want the Clowns, We Want the Clowns, We Want the Clowns for years to come!
CIRCUS OF THE DEAD's Papa Corn!
Bill Oberst Jr. plays the evil but enigmatic Papa Corn!
With nods to great actors and classic films of the genre, Circus of the Dead is a rich viewing experience for any horror fan. The story is tight and well-written. The dialogue, violence and motivations of the characters all make sense within the story-line. Everything has a specific purpose that drives the film as fast as the Camaro the clowns cruise town in. Circus of the Dead feels very organic in its terror.

Visually, Circus of the Dead is full of grotesque moments that will fill the most cynical of horror fans with hope for the future of the indie horror film genre. Billy Pon has a great eye for detail and doesn’t hold back in his delivery of the gore. Circus of the Dead is filled with scenes that will get under your skin and into your head; leaving you reflecting on the experience for weeks to come. Some films you forget almost as soon as you see them; the memory fades as soon as the end credits role. I can promise you this is not the case with this Circus of the Dead, folks!

 

The performances by all the main players are phenomenal. There is not enough that can be said about how each clown has a particular charisma all his own. With a film like this, it is easy to go too far and become laughable with these archetypes. But Pon and his cast glide seamlessly across that line between realism and absurdity! I have to mention that Papa Corn (played by Bill Oberst Jr.) is one of the most despicable and vulgar characters you can imagine, and yet Oberst plays him in a way that he is more than just the monster he appears to be. There were moments when I felt a deep empathy for him; he had a tangible sadness and longing that was really quite beautiful in the character. It made him multidimensional in way that is rare in a film so heavy in depravity and violence.

 

CIRCUS OF THE DEAD's clown gang!
Papa Corn’s gang! And I am digging the Kung-Fu lunchbox!

Circus of the Dead has removed the net from under the trapeze swing for all indie horror films to come. Billy Pon and his horrific crew of clowns have made a film that will inspire fans and filmmakers alike! This is a film that will be an indie standard, and it will no doubt endure the test of time. Calling it a cult classic is an understatement, I believe the audience is going to go well beyond the typical “cult” scene, therefore I say, behold the newest horror classic!

I can’t finish off with out a word of warning on this one. This film is in your face and will not be for all viewers. There are scenes of extreme violence, full frontal nudity, and graphic sex, this is not a movie to put on for younger eyes. I definitely recommend parents watch it prior to making any decision on whether it is acceptable for anyone under 18.

Check out the official Circus of the Dead Facebook page to keep up with all of the COTD happenings!

And check out this insane trailer:

Movie Review: Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1982)

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch Poster

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch Poster

[Editor’s Note: Halloween: The Ultimate Collection is now available and contains EVERY Halloween movie made! Check it out!-TMW]

Halloween III: Season of the Witch– 1982 -Directed by Tommy Lee Wallace

Starring Tom Atkins, Dan O’Herlihy

With Halloween firmly established as a bankable horror franchise after two successful outings, creator John Carpenter wanted to try something different for the third film in the series. To that end, he opted to abandon the story of Michael Myers- which had come to a fiery conclusion in the previous film- in favor of an anthology approach, with each year witnessing the release of a new movie telling an original horror story set on All Hallows Eve.  It was definitely an attempt to try something outside of the box. Unfortunately, “original” doesn’t necessarily translate as “good”.

This sorry sequel follows a doctor (the usually reliable Tom Atkins, who seems to be on autopilot here) as he investigates a plot by a famous toymaker (Dan O’Herlihy, being an awfully good sport)  to mass murder every child wearing one of a line of Halloween masks he produces. The idea here is to invoke some vaguely referenced Celtic tradition by spilling the blood of the children on Halloween night. The toymaker plans to convince the kids to gather in front of their television sets by saturating the airwaves with ads promising a “big giveaway” on October 31st.  When the kids tune in to watch, the image of an electronic Jack O’ Lantern will be broadcast, activating a laser embedded into a disc fastened to the back of each mask and frying the kids brains.

Halloween 3
Hey kid, don’t sit so close to the TV! Your head might melt!

There are some decent gore effects and cinematographer Dean Cundy returns for his third and final time in the series to give the film something of a boost by providing a spooky visual sheen. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to overcome a plot that is so nonsensical as to not even work on it’s own terms. This is a film where the villain inexplicably opts to pursue an elaborate plan that can be defused by either turning off a television set or taking off a mask while he already has a small army of robot assassins running around, dispatching people at his behest.  Additionally, there’s never any concrete reason given as to what exactly killing the kids is supposed to accomplish, other than some rambling dialogue about “a joke on the children.” It all feels slapdash.

Halloween 3 Tom Atkins
Tom Atkins calling his agent.

Even worse, the overall production looks really cheap. Considering the success of the first two films, I would have expected the studio to put more money into making Halloween III. If they did, it doesn’t show.

This film has developed a cult following over the years, but it isn’t really deserved. Not so bad it’s good but just plain bad, Halloween III: Season of the Witch is a dreadful, poorly scripted misfire that doesn’t deserve to bear the franchise name. It also features the single most annoying television jingle ever composed.

 

* out of ***** stars for some effective make up effects. Fans can skip this one and it literally won’t make the slightest difference.

Movie Review: Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)

Tombs of the Blind Dead Cover Art

Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971)
Directed by Amando de Ossorio

Tombs of the Blind Dead Cover ArtDescription: A semi-retarded hottie in a pair of Daisy Dukes jumps from a moving train and winds up in the ruins of an ancient castle where some evil Knights Templar once performed Satanic/Egyptian eternal-life rituals. As it should happen, the rituals were a great success and now the place is infested by cool looking mummy/skeleton/vampire Knights Templar who apparently just sit around, kickin‘ it, waiting for visitors/dinner to come strolling in. You can imagine what happens to the afore mentioned hottie in said Daisy Dukes.Written and directed by Amando de Ossorio as the first part of his masterful Blind Dead series.

The Good: Mummies on horseback! Yippee Kayay Cadavers! These dudes are the original Mordor posse. There’s also several dozen wicked looking musty old monks with long black goatees who have no eyes, roaming around with fifteenth-century bastard swords. Now add to that a hot lesbian in a graveyard in the middle of the night who’s wearing a pair of knee-high white vinyl go-go boots and you’ve got yourself a badass movie!

The acting is decent for the kind of film it is and the camera work has moments of interest. For the most part, these elements are not so bad as to distract which allows the viewer to stay focused on more important things, like the dumbass getting naked while completely alone in a deserted, crumbling castle at midnight for apparently no reason. I live for those moments. So do evil, visually impaired Knights Templar it seems.

The Bad: Seventies hair. Oh yeah, and the centuries-old, abandoned and crumbling, haunted castle has freshly cut grass and lots of Giallo mood lighting, both of which are altogether uncommon amenities in a centuries-old, abandoned and crumbling, haunted castle.

The Ugly: Seventies hair. Other than that, this film is exactly what one should expect from 1970’s Italian horror – which is plenty of kickassness. This is not a Serious Statement film, nor is it an Artistic Expression film. It’s goofy, shock horror, teenaged boner stuff, so an in-depth cinematic critique is out of place. It’s a fun film, leave it at that already!

Old School: Fans of schloky drive-in films will enjoy Tombs of the Blind Dead, if you haven’t already watched it twenty hundred times.

New Blood: Under-thirties will find a lot to laugh about so get your giggle on with this one. It’s totally harmless, booby-flashing fun with the occasional squirt or two of Cardiff red.

To See or Not to See?   The next time you’re flipping through Fangoria, look for the coffin-shaped box set of DVDs that features this classic and buy the whole damn thing asap.

Check out the Tombs of the Blind Dead Trailer:

Movie Review: The Exorcist 2: The Heretic (1977)

Exorcist II The Heretic Poster

EXORCIST 2: THE HERETIC

Exorcist II The Heretic PosterIn the early 1970s, director William Freidkin and author William Peter Blatty successfully combined forces to adapt to the screen Blatty’s tremendously successful novel of terror and possession, The Exorcist. The film became a worldwide phenomenon and has gone on to generally be regarded as the gold standard for horror by most genre fans. So naturally, plans for a sequel were immediately green-lit.

A few years later, in 1977, director John Boorman (who would go on to deliver the superb Excalibur) brought us Exorcist II: The Heretic. Filmed sans the involvement of either Blatty or Friedkin, this film teamed a returning Linda Blair with Richard Burton in a plot that had them…..

…..you know what? To this day, I have no idea what in the hell this movie was actually about. As far as I can tell, Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest runs a psychiatric clinic for children where Regan McNeil (Blair) works, occasionally utilizing a hypnosis machine that functions like some sort of skating-rink-disco-ball nightmare to try to probe into whatever repressed memories Regan has of the time when she was possessed by Pazuzu. Burton portrays a priest who gets involved and somehow Africa and locusts factor in. I did not embellish that synopsis in any way.

Look, let’s cut through the crap. This is a terrible film. The pacing is lethargic, the acting stilted and the plot mundane. Only in a flashback sequence involving Father Merrin (Max Van Sydow, returning for a brief cameo) performing an earlier exorcism does even a hint of the atmosphere exuded by the original resurface.

In all other regards, this a muddled waste of time and effort, with a conclusion that stupidly brings Regan back to the house on M street and attempts to equal the suspense and horror of the original film’s climax by recreating it. This only serves to remind audiences of the original film, which in turn heightens the sense that what we’re watching is actually a second rate cash grab.

Horror fans who wish to see a truly frightening, inventive and thought provoking sequel should check out the sadly overlooked  Exorcist III: Legion which was written and directed by William Peter Blatty. It’s far and away superior to II and, based on the connective narrative tissue, is the legitimate sequel to the original.

The Bottom Line: Exorcist II:The Heretic is exactly that: Heresy towards the name of the motion picture many fans still regard as the greatest horror film ever to roll before a camera. You know you’re in trouble when James Earl Jones appearing as an African witch doctor who transforms into a tiger can’t lift a picture out of the mire.

0/5: My worst rating. Don’t even bother. Watch the original again and then skip straight to Legion. You’ll save the price of a rental and actually end up with a better sense of continuity.

Check out the Exorcist 2: The Heretic theatrical trailer:

Movie Review: V/H/S (2012)

Hannah Fierman as Lily from V/H/S

V/H/S posterV/H/S

There’s an old saying that in order to break the rules, you have to understand what they are, first, and from the opening sequence of V/H/S, one can sense where the different groups of filmmakers were going to go wrong by not understanding those rules—which of course, they did; especially with the ‘wraparound’ story of a bunch of slackers, breaking into an old house to look for a “valuable tape”.

Happily, they lead with a strong episode, “Amateur Night”. Two fratboys (Mike Donlan and Joe Sykes) and their buddy (Drew Sawyer), find a pair of spy-cam glasses on the last night of spring break, and decide to try and trick a girl into shooting an amateur porno.  They get what they wish for, but in a way that goes horribly wrong. I can’t write about this segment without mentioning the amazing Hannah Fierman, who plays the quirky “Lily”, the last girl any guy would want to pick up if they’re not wary…or sober.

Hannah Fierman as Lily from V/H/S
Hannah Fierman as Lily from V/H/S

The second tale, “Second Honeymoon”, was written and directed by Ti West—whose work didn’t exactly make a fan out of me.  This is the story of a young couple trekking across Arizona, and trying to get the ‘mojo’ back into their relationship.  The introduction of a mysterious hitcher does not bode well for them. Sorry if I make it sound more intriguing than it actually was.  I recognized the cliches West incorporated here from other, better films from the moment they appeared, and the ending left me pretty much Arctic cold.

Story Three, “Thursday The 17th” from Glenn McQuaid (I SELL THE DEAD) puts things back on track, as a group of doomed friends go on a “special trip into the woods”.  The killer in this story is presented in a startling fashion that not everyone will like or “get”, but I thought it was a pretty creative twist, and the likable cast makes it go down that much easier.

The fourth story, “The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily…” is my favorite for sheer ingenuity.  Shot completely via Skype, it’s about the main character, who is involved in a long-distance relationship with a doctor…who witnesses the strange goings-on in Emily’s haunted pad.  Kudos to Helen Rogers as Emily and Daniel Kaufman as Jason, but especially Rogers, whose Emily comes off as a smart, post-modern horror heroine, who even knows (or at least thinks she does) how to deal with infestations of “Casper, the UN-friendly Ghost”.

The strongest of the bunch, “10/31/98”, cleverly finds its P.O.V. in the costume of a guy dressed as a teddy-bear ‘nannycam’. He and his four buddies get lost on the way to a Halloween party, and wind up going to a house where something IS going on…but it’s no party! If anything, this final tale underscores the ease with which filmmakers can now use CG imagery in a smart and creative way.

Check out the V/H/S trailer!

Movie Review: BEGOTTEN (1990)

Begotten Cover Art

BEGOTTEN

Begotten (1990)

Written and Directed by Edmund E. Merhige

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Description: an 80min abstract Rorschach version of the Judeo-Christian creation story.

The Good: If you are not a fan of abstract/coffee-house films, then there will probably be nothing in this film that you will like. There is no dialog and in fact, not even color as all of the images are comprised solely of pure black and pure white with no half-tones. The story is cryptic and hard to follow or understand (for most viewers) but if you like the bizarre and abstract then you will probably love this film. To be sure, there are certainly elements of horror here: scenes that are so graphic in nature that they are hard to watch and impossible to forget, but a suspenseful/slasher film it is not. Though there is no dialog, the sound effects are unsettling, creepy, and at times, completely unnerving. Combined with the stark contrast and almost alien imagery, the soundtrack helps to evoke a completely surreal and horrifying world. For all of the truly gruesome and graphic images that abound in the realm of cinema horror, no other film as made this reviewer as uncomfortable, tense, and truly horrified as Elias Merhige’s Begotten. Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible came close for a few minutes during the infamous rape scene, but that is only a fraction of the freaked-out-edness to be experienced in this film.

The Bad: Begotten is surreal and somewhat abstract. The characters are more akin to Jungian archetypes than they are stock character types, which makes this a hard to follow/understand film. However, these elements give the viewer an interpretive freedom and participation level that is rarely, if ever, found in mainstream films. You may not come away with the same story the filmmaker was telling, but the one you glean will be more personal and meaningful.

The Ugly: The imagery is borderline theoretical at times due to the phenomenal amount of processing that went into this film but it is up to each viewer to truly determine the value of this quality. For myself, I have nothing negative to remark on concerning the style, acting, video or audio quality of this film.

Old School: Truly old school fans of horror will probably dig this one, and by truly old school I mean those people who own a copy of The Student of Prague, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or Murnau’s Nosferatu. You know who you are. Also, fans of Eraserhead will most likely enjoy it as well.

New Blood: Younger audiences who enjoy MTV-style editing and seeing Paris Hilton in horror films, will probably hate this one. If you don’t know who Max Schreck is, then I’m talking about you.

To See or Not to See?  Good luck finding this one anywhere. I have never seen it on eBay, and only once at Amazon – for over one hundred dollars (US). I know of one video store in Atlanta that rents it. So however you can watch this film, by all means do so.

Check out the Begotten trailer!