Blu-ray Review: Bride of Re-Animator

Director: Brian Yuzna. Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Claude Earl Jones. Theatrical release: 1989. Company: Wild Street. Special Edition Blu-ray/DVD release through Arrow Video

borframe1If you have read my Night Things books, you’ll see that I have a particular fondness for Herbert West. A character from a throw away episodic series that Lovecraft hobbled together (influenced mainly by Shelley’s Frankenstein), Dr. West has become an iconic horror figure. The first Re-Animator film is easily in my top three 80’s splatter fests. I have seen Bride of Re-Animator a few times over the years, but it never really found a spot in my video library. But when the new Arrow Video edition of Bride hit my player, it became evident to me that I had not really given the film a chance.

In this outing, Herbert (Jeffrey Combs) and Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) continue their mad experiments. Herbert uses a piece of Dan’s departed love (Megan’s heart) to build the perfect woman. Using various dead parts, he uses Dan’s misery over losing Megan to keep his assistant and experiments alive.

You simply cannot envision Herbert West without seeing Jeffrey Combs in the role. He embodies the part perfectly. If you think people threw a fit when Freddy and Jason were cast without Englund and Hodder, just imagine a reboot without Combs. Villages would burn.

Bride-Reanimator-Blu-rayWith this installment, West begins to show how mad he truly is. He takes more of a perverse pleasure in his experiments. You start to see that mean streak exhibited in Lovecraft’s original stories. Abbott works well as Herbert’s straight man, Dan Cain. But a few scenes of Herbert convincing Dan to continue with the work feel very flat. That is really my only complaint about the movie itself. Dan is convinced, fairly easily, to see Herbert’s creation through and I always felt Dan had a bit more backbone. The highlight of the film, of course, is the final act gorefest. The team of Screaming Mad George, Richard Kilroy, Robert Kurtzman and Greg Nicotero (you’ve heard of them, right?) hand in some great, gruesome practical effects.

The disc itself is packed with bonuses. The highlight is Brian Yuzna discussing what Bride would have been, given more time and money. The behind the scenes footage of David Gale as dead head Dr. Hill is a lot of fun as well. Arrow Video did a hell of a job with this one, folks. I highly recommend adding this to your collection, based on the extensive added bonuses. The film looks great. The 2K restoration makes this the best viewing you can possibly imagine. This might be one of the best horror film packages I have ever seen.

Check out this video from Arrow video regarding their special edition of Bride of Re-Animator:

London After Midnight

lomframe1London After Midnight
Reminiscing about a lost film by Kerry E.B. Black

On this day, 17 December, 1927, MGM Studios released the American silent mystery film “London After Midnight.” Director Tod Browning of “Dracula,” 1931 fame, based the movie on his short story “The Hypnotist.” “London After Midnight” was Browning’s first attempt at a vampire film and starred Lon Chaney in a dual role. Chaney also provided uncredited makeup artistry which produced an iconic look for its monster. Some of the effects he used included sharpened teeth and a haunting eye apparatus which required monocle-like wire fittings. Fishhooks in his cheeks created the character’s eerie grin. Chaney exaggerated the vampire-like qualities of the nemesis to differentiate it from the film’s investigator, since he portrayed both. The movie includes a bit where Chaney used his famous makeup case. Modern filmmakers of “Babadook” found inspiration and incorporated Chaney’s dark-hatted character into its own monster. Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion also used Lon Chaney’s depiction as a model for their hatbox ghost.

A melancholy menace permeates the story. Roger Balfour (Claude King) supposedly committed suicide. Five years later, his neighbor Sir James Hamlin (Henry B. Walthall) discovered mysterious interlopers including a ghostly woman called Luna the Bat Girl (Edna Tichenor), her assistant (Andy MacLennan), and a black-hatted fellow capering in the abandoned Balfour’s estate. He and his nephew, Arthur Hibbs, called on Scotland Yard’s inspector Burke for assistance. Arthur (Conrad Nagel) feared the ghoulish intruders were vampires. Lucille Balfour (Marceline Day), Roger Balfour’s now grown daughter joined the investigation but began hearing a voice similar to her father’s calling from the garden. The Balfour’s staff, including Williams the Butler (Percy Williams) and the comedic new maid (Polly Moran) participated in the action as the cast discovered Roger Balfour’s body missing from its tomb. Hypnotism, requests for trust, gunshots, and an abduction spurred the action until they solved the mystery.

lomframe2When the film premiered at the Miller Theater in Missouri, set musicians Jack and Sam Feinburg heightened the experience for those in attendance by performing works by Greig, Rappe, Wagner, and Ase. The film’s production was $152,000, and it grossed $721,000 at the domestic box office, marking a successful collaboration between Lon Chaney and Tod Browning. Contemporary critics at the New York Times criticized the “sometimes incoherent storyline,” and Harrison’s Report felt the story was nonsensical. However, Film Daily called it “a story to disturb the nervous system of the more sensitive patrons,” and The Warren Tribune noted Chaney’s presence in most every scene “in a dual role that tests his skill to no small degree.”

Although the last known copy of “London After Midnight” burned in 1967 during a vault fire at MGM, Turner Classic Movies reconstructed the film in 2002 using the original script and film stills. It gives a feel for what the movie must have been like. The Internet Movie Data Base lists “London After Midnight” was release in eleven other countries. In Australia, it’s known as “Der Vampyr,” “The Hypnotist” in England, and “La Casa Del Horror” in Spain. Film enthusiasts hope to find an undamaged copy of the film. In 1935, Tod Browning remade the film as a talkie “Mark of the Vampire” starring Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosi in the Lon Chaney roles.

One ill-intentioned soul cited Lon Chaney’s portrayal in this film as an unsuccessful defense for an attack. In the 1990’s, Californian songwriter and musician Sean Brennan began a gothic rock band named London After Midnight.

Movie Review: The Mirror (2014)

The MirrorThree friends purchase a “haunted mirror” from eBay in hopes of filming paranormal happenings. They set up round-the-clock surveillance, certain their footage will earn them a one million dollar paranormal challenge sponsored by the James Randi Foundation. The results surprised them.

This British “found footage” horror film finds its inspiration from a news story about a mirror in Muswell Hill said to bring misfortune to its owners. Most of the action takes place in Matt’s (Joshua Dickinson, “Opening Night of the Living Dead” 2014) flat. His girlfriend, Jemma (Jemma Dallender, “I Spit on Your Grave II,” 2013) doesn’t believe in ghosts. Steve Higgins (Nate Fallows, “Christmas Eve,” 2014) operates the cameras and drives the experiment, bringing in an Ouija Board when things don’t progress quickly enough for his liking. Their relationship strains when strange dreams, nocturnal happenings, and mysterious toothaches bother them. Although the script dictates the cast lack common sense and the ability to recognition of the need for medical treatment, the acting is believable. However, much of the found footage is dull and unremarkable. The few scares in the film are largely given away in the trailer and film packaging, but the short escalation into gore was done well.

Directed by Edward Boase (“Blooded,” 2011) who co-wrote the screenplay with Theidrych Waslay, The Mirror was released in the UK on 8 September, 2014 to a mixed reception. It was nominated by Total Film Fright Fest for the Best Found Footage Horror.

Movie Review: Crimson Peak (2015)

crimson peak posterGuillermo Del Torro waltzes his viewers through another visually stunning cinematic experience with his gothic tale, Crimson Peak. In it, aspiring novelist Edith Cushing (Mia Waikowska, Alice from “Alice in Wonderland”) asserts, “Ghosts are real.” Her first visitor from the beyond came with a warning when she was a grieving ten year old. Although she had no idea what the terrifying spirit meant, she never forgot its message. “Beware of Crimson Peak.”

After being dismissed by a publisher for writing ghost stories instead of the more socially acceptable romance, Edith asks to use her father’s work typewriters to disguise her feminine handwriting. While thus transcribing her manuscript, she made the acquaintance of Sir Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston, Loki from “The Avengers”) who visited Buffalo, New York in hopes of securing an investor in his mining invention. Edith’s father, self-made industrialist (Jim Beaver, Bobby from “Supernatural”) distrusts the smooth-handed, slick-featured Baronet.

Sir Thomas then woos and wins the lovely Edith. They marry after her father is brutally murdered. The newlyweds move to the Baronet’s dilapidated ancestral home, Allerdale Hall in England, joining Sir Thomas’s stoic sister, Lucille (Jessica Castain). Lucille volleys from disdain for her new sister-in-law to fawning, offering tea and comfort to Edith. After taking up residence at her new home, Edith befriends a Papillion dog and is assailed by terrifying visions. She sets out to solve a mystery as her health begins to fail.

CP oneDel Torro combines includes all the classic elements of a Gothic romance. Brooding secrets, an innocent heroine, a dashing rescue come into play. Edith’s friend, Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) provides a foil for the mysterious bridegroom. Lush, Victorian costuming, haunting melodies (including a creepy lullaby), and enormous portraits of deceased family members couple with hidden pasts, secret marriages and murders, and the betrayal of long-held plans to provide the feel of a Hammer horror film. Most important for the genre, though, is the setting which assumes its own vibrant importance within the story; dripping in red and as thick with shadowy recesses as the secrets it holds, Allerdale Hall invites viewers to linger as its tale unfolds. Del Torro adds his own, distinctive touches, including an obvious respect and sympathy for the departed (mostly portrayed by Doug Jones, Paleman from “Pan’s Labyrinth), cinematic views, and a focus on insects.

cp 2Although Crimson Peak is not scary in the “clutch your seats and try not to scream” way, its subtle approach diverges with a few “avert your eyes” scenes of violence that warrant the movie’s “R” rating. Despite a couple of blips, including items dropped by actors that mysteriously disappear (notably a candelabra and a strangled dog) and a few problems with synching the words with the actors’ lips, the film was well-acted and a worthy diversion for an autumn evening.

Anchor Bay to Unleash GOODNIGHT MOMMY Dec. 1st!


GMA DVD FlatAustria’s Official Entry for Foreign Language Film for 2016 Academy Awards®

Available on Blu-ray and DVD December 1st  

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF. – October 13, 2015 – “Unsettling.”  “Terrifying.”  “Sinister.”  The most talked about movie of summer and one of the most critically-acclaimed films of the year,
Goodnight Mommy arrives on Blu-ray and DVD December 1st from Anchor Bay Entertainment and RADiUS. The “masterful and artfully unsettling” film, which is generating strong Oscar® buzz as Austria’s official 2016 entry for Best Foreign Language Film, is written and directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, and stars Susanne Wuest  (Antares, Judas Goat, Thank You Mr. President), and brothers Elias Schwarz and Lukas Schwarz in their feature film debut. 

A worldwide festival favorite, Goodnight Mommy made audiences squirm at the Venice Film Festival, AFI Fest, TIFF, Sitges, Thessaloniki Film Festival and Fantastic Fest.

In a lonesome house in the countryside in the heat of mid-summer, nine year old twin brothers await their mother’s return from the hospital. When she comes home with her face obscured by bandages, nothing is like before and the children start to doubt whether this woman is actually who she says she is. What ensues is a terrifying struggle with fatal consequences on par with The Shining and Dead Ringers in what The Daily Beast calls “the most terrifying film of the year.”

Goodnight Mommy is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment on December 1st for the suggested retail price of $26.99 and $22.98, respectively, and includes the special feature “A Conversation with Filmmakers Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala.”

To learn more about the film, please visit www.anchorbayentertainment.com.

Movie Review: Devil (2010)

M. Night Shyamalan creates movies with glorious camera work and marvelous twists.devil poster

The twist with his 2010 “Devil” is the narrator tells the premise from the outset. A suicide paves a path for the Devil to take human form and sport with some victims.

Of course, any time the Devil plays, there is Hell to pay.

A group of flawed humans become trapped in an elevator with the Lord of Lies in a clever disguise. Claustrophobia and paranoia prey on them while the building engineer and security staff scramble to rescue them from the situation. Within the car are actors Logan Marshall-Green, Jenny O’Hara, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, and Geoffrey Arend. Threats are leveled, music enrages, and the lights flicker and die. With the return of illumination, they find a passenger dead.

devil picLuckily Police Detective Bowen (Chris Messina) already on hand to investigate the rosary-clutching suicide comes to their aid.

None of the players lent credence to security’s Ramirez (Jacob Vargas) and his religious foreboding. He admonishes Detective Bowden, “Everybody believes in him (the Devil) a little bit, even guys like you who pretend they don’t.” He explains, “The lies we tell ourselves introduce us to him (the Devil).”

Rescuers need rescuing and the sins of the elevator’s inhabitants become known.

John E. Dowdle directed and Brian Nelson wrote the screen play for M. Night Shyamalan’s story.

“Don’t worry,” Ramirez relates, “if the Devil is real, then God must be real, too.”

Movie Review: Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 (2009)

Halloween2-2009There are a few very good reasons why John Carpenter’s Halloween has made such an impact even three and a half decades later:  The music, the mask, and the mute.   No other film’s soundtrack is as recognizable or sets the mood as much as the one Carpenter himself composed for his swan song, Halloween.  The subtleness of Michael Myer’s plain mask helps create a spook factor that has been replicated over and over since.  Mix in a merciless, homicidal madman who never utters a word sporting said mask, and you get this emotionless enigma that can’t be reasoned with.  If you’re in his line of sight, you’re dead.  Plain and simple.  No matter how fast you run, Michael can walk faster.

Rob Zombie took that enigmatic nature of Michael Myers that we all know and very much love and pinched a big steaming loaf on it.  I tolerated his remake of the original Halloween.  I was curious, and I’ll admit there was an interesting back story.  But I never saw any reason for him to do a second, and after witnessing the pile of garbage that is Zombie’s Halloween 2, I understand it even less now.  After sitting through it I felt like I needed to watch Carpenter’s Halloween 1 and 2 back to back while taking a long shower with a toothbrush planted firmly in mouth.  It left a bad taste and ruined an image I’ve had since I was 12.

Where I come from, Michael Myers was a 6-foot tall human Godzilla that destroyed anything in his way—doors, windows, glass, and of course… humans.

Rob Zombie tried adding a more humanistic side to Michael Myers with grunting, being maskless half the movie (and looking suspiciously like Zombie himself), and even giving us a single word in English at the end.  Part of what brings people back to watching the Halloween franchise is wondering if we’ll ever seen Michael’s face (excluding the very dark glimpse of him in the original Halloween) or witness some type of emotion.  We’re waiting for it, but we never really want it.  Like the sexual tension between two characters in a TV series.  You want Jim and Pam to hook up, but when it happens the excitement is gone.  It was a mistake.

Halloween 2 pic 1Zombie also destroyed the image of Dr. Loomis—the lovable doctor that did everything he could to help Michael and everyone around him, dedicating his entire life to the monitoring and treatment of Michael, all the while reminding us time and time again that Michael Myers was pure evil.  In Zombie’s Halloween 2 remake, Dr. Loomis is nothing but a greedy-eyed, selfish monster himself with no real regard for anything but a bigger paycheck and a girl in his bed.

In my opinion, Zombie isn’t a horrible filmmaker, though I think he misses the mark several times with all but maybe The Devil’s Rejects.  You can tell the man has a great artistic eye, but he also likes to trash up his movies to where even the hardcore audiences wonder where he’s coming from.  I believe he feels he’s bringing some unique element to something that doesn’t need it and instead distracts the audience from a potentially decent film.

I think one day Zombie may just get a homerun with one of his films.  But I’d really like to see him stay clear of tainting any other franchise that so many hold dear.

TV Review: The Strain Season One (2014)

The Strain pic 3With the second season having started this summer, here are a few words about a show that I noticed a lot of people are missing out on.  The Strain is a horror drama TV series based on the book series of the same name written by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan.  This particular review covers the entire first series as a whole.

Though I’d heard of the TV series as well as the books, I’d never actually dove into either until Hulu had the complete first season available.  I saw a few mentions of it via Facebook friends, and when I noticed el Toro’s name attached to it I decided to give it the ole’ three-episode trial run–something my wife and I came up with.  Giving a series a three-episode chance should develop the characters enough for you to be emotionally invested in the show and be enjoying the experience.  And if it doesn’t, well then it’s probably not worth your time or anybody else’s and it’s time to move on.  After watching the pilot, there was no need for the three-episode trial.  I would be completing the season.

TV and video streaming series have become addictive, dark soap operas.  The writing and character development in many of these shows in the last decade have been quite impressive.  People are revolving their social and recreational activities around episodes of American Horror Story, The Walking Dead, Hannibal, and others like it, more than ever.  Though The Strain may not be reeling in the masses like a few of the aforementioned, in my opinion it rates up there with one of the best made-for–TV horror series to ever grace a living room screen.

The Strain pic 1The show contains all the gore we’ve been accustomed to in today’s modern TV that The Walking Dead brought with it.  The story brings your traditional Nosferatu type and fuses it with a modern-world apocalypse via viral infection–a strain that turns you into a blood sucking nightwalker with a tongue that truly shames Gene Simmons’ own appendage in comparison.

The Strain beings with a mysterious event involving an idle commercial plane that has safely landed but with no signs of life on the inside.  Enter the Center for Disease Control, and the main characters it brings, with an attempt to make sense of it all.  Things slowly unfold, and in the meantime New York City is being taken over by the spread of the evil-born strain.

The series bounces around various characters and their subplots.  And while some shows bore their audience with at least one subplot that feels more like filler than a functional building block, The Strain manages to keep us interested in each person’s life.  The characters in The Strain feel nearly equally exciting as we explore their background, their flaws, and their struggles with each playing an important role in the unfolding of the story.  However, I do have one problem with the show:  The computer hacking mastermind.  This is where using a stereotype would have helped the believability.  I’m more apt to think someone who can take down the internet on a global scale is most likely filled with abhorrently awkward social skills and is probably not all that familiar with makeovers, exercise, or even the sun.  But we’re presented with a toned sex symbol with long, flowing locks and a great complexion.  It’s bothersome, but not enough to change the channel.

The Strain pic 2I’m one of these people who read and watch with pessimistic eyes.  I look for the bad in everything.  I’m just searching for an excuse not to like something.  It’s my own personal test I put things through.  I have high standards.  I’m drawn to loop holes and weak characters and stereotypes that don’t work; the whole time longing for originality, particularly anything that takes me for an unsuspecting ride.  The Strain provides a very enjoyable ride.

The show’s overall concept isn’t exactly innovative.  It takes our fascination with a zombie apocalypse and gives it to the vampires in the form of a visible contagion that at one point gave me an actual nightmare with the strain’s infectious worms burrowing in my own flesh.  The cursed worms…quite possibly the most disturbing element of the show.  For fans who have taken to The Walking Dead and are looking for another horror series, this show does not hold the same dark tone, and perhaps it’s even a bit more unbelievable.  But I think you’ll find that by even attempting to apply that three-episode trial run you’ll want to ride it all the way to the end.

Television Review: The Walking Dead Season 5 (2014)

norman-reedus-steven-yeun-the-walking-dead-season-5-01-2000x1000The fifth season of The Walking Dead picks up quickly from where the previous finale left off with our survivors discovering the terrible truth behind Terminus and quickly marches ahead almost like an odyssey through the zombie infested wasteland as characters meet tragic fates and an almost too good to be true opportunity tests their resolves as they struggle with the reconciliation with what life has made each of them over the last two years do to survive and whether they could ever reintegrate within civil society again. The zombie threat continues to be great as some characters are graphically eaten alive with shockingly greater amounts of gore than has been previously exhibited before. Perhaps it not really more gory, but it is the close ups in particular with one character that is simply disturbing because the actor playing the victim was the star of a popular sitcom on American broadcast television for several years.

The performances and casting are all up to the same quality we have come to expect from the previous seasons and one is left with great wonder for the sixth season to come which will debut in the States on AMC this October of 2015. All sixteen episodes are spread out across four Blu-Ray Discs with the majority of the extra value features found on the fifth disc. Each episode is presented in a gorgeous (1.78:1) broadcasts aspect ratio in full 1080p24fps, (where available), high definition resolution and English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround Sound as well as a French Language Dubbed Dolby Surround Soundtrack with English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired and Spanish Language Subtitles encoded as options too.

The audio commentaries are informative and in some cases were recorded during the production of the sixth season with speakers sounding like they are in the same room despite very often the participants may be talking with one or more in Los Angeles and the rest on location in Georgia where the series is shot. The fifth season premiere features two episode length audio commentaries. One with Executive Producer Scott M. Completely and Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd while Makeup Effects Master and Series Director Gregory Nicotero does the other track with Actress Melissa McBride. On disc two, Steven Yeun, Michael Cudlitz, Christian Serratos, Lauren Cohan, Josh McDermitt, and Allanna Masterson participate in the commentary for the episode, “Self Help.”

wd5Chad Coleman and Gregory Nicotero deliver a screen specific audio commentary on disc three for the episode “What Happened and What’s Going On” while Norman Reedus, Sonequa Martin-Green participate with series Director Julius Ramsay participate in an episode commentary track and a third audio commentary with Greg Nicotero Tom Luse and Danai Gurrira making it a total of three episode length audio commentaries on disc three. The season finale episode features optional audio commentary with Gregory Nicotero and Scott M. Gimple on disc four.

A reel of deleted scenes (16:01), sixteen making of spots as well as sixteen inside featurettes are also included along with featurettes covering the making of Alexandria (9:45), the character arcs of Beth (4:20), Bob (4:54), Noah (4:28) and Tyreese (6:33), featurettes of a day on the set for Actors Michael Cudlitz (7:58) and Josh McDermitt (7:56) and the liquified walkers sequence (4:35) encompass what is on the fifth disc. A few short AMC TV spots for the upcoming season premieres of Comic Book Men and The Walking Dead and series premieres of Fear The Walking Dead and Into The Badlands are on the first disc too. The interactive menus are all well rendered and easy to navigate. An insert containing a limited time only redemption code for an Ultraviolet Digital Copy of Season Five of The Walking Dead and a twenty page booklet of tie-in merchandise are included within the blue BD case too.

The Walking Dead: The Complete Fifth Season is available now at retailers on and offline either on Blu-Ray Disc or DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Movie Review: Final Girl (2015)

Final GirlAbigail Breslin portrays a young would be assassin trained from childhood by her mentor (Wes Bentley), who is assigned the task of killing a bunch of tuxedo wearing high school sadists who every night hunt young blond women for sport. This is her first assignment where she will be flying solo as they say and she must use were wits to lure in and single handedly defeat each boy. Final Girl was directed by renowned celebrity photographer Tyler Shields, who wanted to make a thriller without any CGI and instead uses evocative lighting and atmosphere to bring the surreal world to life. Visually the forest scenes look great and there are some bizarre instances where characters imagine things they think are in the forest to torment that lend gravitas to the film. The problem here is while Shields creates a surreal world of barren training grounds, nostalgic diners, and spooky moonlit woods, the story suffers from a lack of meaningful momentum. We know very little to practically nothing about Breslin’s or Bentley’s characters and we know even less about the boys other than they pick up and target young blonds out of what appears to be the same diner over and over again while wearing tuxedos and then take them into a clearing where they give the girl a head start while the boys, who one must keep in mind are still wearing immaculate tuxedos follow each with their weapon of choice.

One boys uses a bat, another carries an axe, one carries a gun while the other seems to prefer using his bear hands to strangle the women. How no one would have caught these for teenage murderers by now is never explained. They certainly stick out like soar thumbs. Instead they are basically singled out to be hunted by Beslin’s character as her graduation assignment. Thus there is really not much to like or care about here because the film’s title says it all. Last Girl. Life she fails then she will be another victim. However since we know little about her and her trainer, we can root for her to beat the boys, but the film puts the odds in her favor early on so the killers really never have a chance and the viewer always know the girl will be triumphant. What would have been more interesting is to have her capture the boys and bring them to justice instead of just killing them one by one with the help of psychedelics the killers have no idea they have ingested.

So the boys hallucinate and Breslin’s character takes them out one by one and that is basically it. No revelation or payoff. Just a straight flat line with a slither of a story and flat characters. Final Girl is nothing but style over substance with the exception of Abigail Breslin’s performance. She can look scared and make it believable without coming off like a scream queen. Bentley just sleep walks his way through the film and his talent seems wasted.

Final Girl opened both theatrically and on Video On Demand on August 14, 2015.

Check out the Final Girl trailer: