Friday, October 20, 2017

OUT OF THE SHADOWS (2017) (DVD review)

OUT OF THE SHADOWS (2017) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: Region-FREE NTSC 
Rating: MA 15+
Duration: 88 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Dee MacLachlan
Cast: Goran D. Kleut, Jake Ryan, Lisa Chappell

Australian export Out of the Shadows 92017) starts off strong enough, with Detective Eric Hughes (Blake Northfield) arriving at the scene of a grisly murder, father Charles Winter (Jake Ryan) has murdered his wife and three children, including an unborn child that has been torn from her womb and which is nowhere to be found. The case haunts Detective Hughes, his own wife Katrina (Kendal Rae) is pregnant with their first child, and they've just moved into a new home in a rural area, but they're unaware of the home's tragic past and soon find themselves amidst ghostly visitations and a demonic presence hungry for the blood of their first-born child. 

Katrina is left on her own quite a bit while Hughes is investigating the Winter's case, she begins to experience strange happenings around the dilapidated house, seeings shadowy figures and the frightly spirit of a seemingly malevolent nurse with ties tot he home. Katrina seeks medical help, but doctors attribute the visions and fears to pregnancy related psychosis, but when the medication doesn't make the visions go away Katrina seeks the help of a reticent clergy member (Helmut Bakaitis, The Matrix Reloaded) and a renegade demonologist (Lisa Chappell), meanwhile her husband attributes the happening to more earthly culprits, until thy literally flip his car upside down. 

The film benefits from some scenic drone-enabled shots of rural Australia and the look of the film is quite good for a low-budget production, and the special effects and make-up work that aren't too shabby at all, but despite the strong start and decent build up eventually it all descend into the usual haunting cliches with very few surprises in between, we get an exorcism, a demonic presence that's sort of cool, but there's an awful lot of 'been there and done that' familiarity about this one. 

Audio/Video: The disc from Umbrella Entertainment presents the film in anamorphic widescreen framed in scope 2.35:1 and looks good for a low-budget indie-horror, the special effects are decent and the surround audio is serviceable. There are no subtitles and no extras, this is about as bare bones as you can get.

There's nothing about Out of the Shadows (2017) that sparks or stands out, obviously this is hoping to trade-in on the goodwill of better films like Insidious (2010) and The Babadook (2014), but at the very best this is only a decent Netflix one-and-done watch.  

THE LIFT (1983) (Blue Underground Blu-ray Review)

THE LIFT (1983)
Limited Edition (3000) DVD/Blu-ray Combo

Label: Blue Underground
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 99 Minutes 
Rating:
Audio: Dutch: DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1; Dutch, English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 ; Dutch Dolby Digital Surround EX 5.1; Dutch, English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.66:1) 
Director: Dick Maas
Cast: Huub Stapel, Willeke van Ammelrooy, Josine van Dalsum


Synopsis: There is something very wrong with the elevator in a stylish office high-rise. The passengers never end up on the floor of their choice. They end up dead! When Felix, an inquisitive repairman, investigates the faulty deathtrap, he discovers that something other than malfunctioning machinery is to blame. Some dark, distorted power has gained control of the elevator for its own evil design. After his horrifying discovery is given the shaft by the authorities, he joins a nosy female journalist to battle the unholy force inside THE LIFT!


The Dutch 80's sci-fi horror flick The Lift (1985) opens inside the Icarus office building where a rowdy group of late-night revelers find themselves trapped in an elevator when the power goes out during a storm. One of the couples attempt to make the most of it, with the man groping the woman's bare breasts greedily in the dark, but soon the air proves too thin and they all nearly suffocate. Lift repairman Felix Adelaar (Huub Stapel, Amsterdamned) shows up to check out the faulty equipment but can find no malfunction that would account for the lack of air or any other mechanical-based issues. 


However, the elevator soon racks up a decent body count, beginning with a blind man who walks into an empty shaft and falls to his death, and a security guard loses his head when his he becomes stuck in the doors as the lift descends upon him. It's a fun scene, though the prop head looks mighty fake it is still a fun low-budget decapitation with his head falling several stories down the shaft, landing on the corpse of the as of yet undiscovered blind man. Another security guard, who was helpless to prevent the tragedy, though he didn't seem to try all that hard, can be seen puking into his cap when it happens. 

Felix makes several more trips to the office building to check on the elevator but each time finds nothing peculiar, though he does meet a reporter named Mieke (Willeke van Ammelrooy) who teams-up with Felix to get to the bottom of the seemingly murderous lift. What they discover is a weird experiment being conducted by Rising Sun, a manufacturer of microprocessors, who secretly supply electronics for the Deta Liften, the elevator company that manufactures the lift and who employ Felix as a repairman. His nosing around angers his boss, who puts him on a leave of absence, but Felix is already obsessed with the lift and he and Mieke continue their investigation on their own.


The movie is a weird little entry, the idea of a killer elevator is truly absurd, but is no less strange that a killer car (Christine, The Car, The Hearse) or dry-cleaning press (The Mangler), and Maas clearly knows that, but the actors play this straight as can be, and it makes for a fun, campy watch. There are some slow parts though, Felix sorting through various newspaper  clippings and circuitry diagrams for the lift can me a bit tedious, and the growing rift between he and his wife doesn't exactly set the film on fire, but the fun kills and well-crafted low-budget thrills make for a good watch with stylish visuals and an incredulous premise that somehow works.  

A scene involving a young girl playing in the lobby near a trio of lift doors is well done, she plays a game with the seemingly sentient apparatus, a sort of peek-a-boo that nearly ends in the young girl's death, crushing her precious dolly in it's doors. The finale of this one is a bit kooky, with Felix facing off against the lift's organic-microprocessor brain, but it does manage to squeeze in one more kill with the lift using it's tentacle-esque cables to murder one f it's creators, it's a fun scene and close the movie out on an appropriately cheesy/awesome note. 

Audio/Video: The Lift (1983) debuts on Blu-ray and DVD in the US from distributor Blue Underground with a brand new 2K restoration from the original negative approved by director Dick Maas, framed in the original 1.66:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The image looks solid with a nice looking grain field, the oftentimes neon-infused visuals pop in a low-budget sort of way, but there are certain limitations due to the source, with some scenes looking softer than others, but the transfer and encode look fantastic. Audio on the disc comes by way of a fun Dutch DTS-HD MA  5.1 surround mix with optional English subtitles, the surrounds get some use for this one, which is awesome. There are also DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mixes in both Dutch and dubbed-English, the dubbed track is not too bad, but the dialogue obviously sounds more natural and less canned on the Dutch tracks, with the synth score from Maas also coming through with more power and fidelity on the Dutch tracks. 


Onto the extras we have a new commentary from Writer/Director Dick Maas and Editor Hans van Dongen moderated by David Gregory, a lively discussion as the director recalls making this low-budget horror film, how certain effects were achieved, creating the synth score himself and the inspirations seen in the movie from Jaws to Star Wars. He also tells of how actress Willeke van Ammelrooy was not a fan of his direction style, after the film wrapped she left him a cassette tape with notes on how to be a better director with actors, which he never listened to. There's a nine-minute interview with star Hubb Stapel, a continuation of his boat-tour interview we saw on the Amsetrdamned disc, speaking of how he came from a theater background, having appeared in a stage pay of Harold and Maude, being cast in the role, struggling a bit with how Maas directed, and the success of the film, and how he didn't receive any work after the film for another two years, despite how successful it was. The extras are finished up with a gallery of various poster and release artwork from various territories, behind the scenes images, still, Dutch and US trailers and Maas' 2003 short film "Long Distance". 

This 2-disc release comes housed in a clear Criterion-style Scanavo case with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring two art options including the original VHS artwork sporting the infamous tagline "Take the stairs. Take the stairs. For God's sake take the stairs!!!". The discs likewise offer up the same two key artworks on their visage. There's a 20-page collector's booklet with new writing on the film by former Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, this includes cast, crew info plus chapter selection, and behind-the-scenes images and stills, plus various posters for this and the American remake and John Carpenter's Christine. 

Special Features:
- Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Dick Maas and Editor Hans van Dongen moderated by David Gregory 
- Going Up – Interview with Star Huub Stapel
- “Long Distance” – Short Film by Dick Maas (2003) (4 min) HD
- Dutch Trailer (4 min) HD 
- U.S. Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Poster and Still Gallery (88 Images) HD 
- BONUS 2o-Page Collectible Booklet with new essay by writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander

Blue Underground give The Lift (1982) a top-floor 2-disc release, the new 2K transfer looks great and the extras are a great value-add. I've only seen a handful of Dick Maas's movies, but I love them all so far, his quirky sense of humor an affinity for stylish well-staged thriller/horror action continues to please. In my opinion you can never have too much Dick Maas, and Blue Underground continue the love with this release, which coincides with their release of Maas' American remake of The Lift, Down (2001), starring Naomi Watts (Twin Peaks: The Return), also on 2-disc DVD/BD, and to be reviewed soon.  


Two Suspenseful Thrillers,"Darkness Rising" and "Killing Ground" Make BD/DVD Debuts November 7th, 2017 from Scream Factory

DARKNESS RISING (2017)
KILLING GROUND (2016) 

Available November 7th, 2017 from Scream Factory

Two suspenseful thrillers, Darkness Rising and Killing Ground, make their Blu-ray and DVD debuts November 7th, 2017 from Scream Factory, in conjunction with IFC Midnight. Fans can pre-order their copies now by visiting ShoutFactory.com

They came in search of her past. Pray it lets them escape. A house’s horrifying secrets are resurrected in the blood-drenched nightmare, Darkness Rising. For years, Madison (Tara Holt) has been tormented by her memories of a traumatic incident: the murder of her younger sister at the hands of their own mother. Joined by her fiancĂ© (Bryce Johnson, Willow Creek) and cousin (Katrina Law, Arrow, Spartacus: War of the Damned), Madison returns to her childhood home just before it’s slated to be demolished. Seeking closure, the trio instead find themselves pursued by the same malevolent, supernatural presence that drove Madison’s mother to unthinkable violence!

An unassuming couple’s vacation becomes a desperate fight for survival in the ultra-raw, unhinged thrill ride Killing Ground. In need of a break from the pressures of city life, Sam (Harriet Dyer) and Ian (Ian Meadows) head to a remote beach for a romantic weekend camping trip. When they stumble upon an abandoned campsite, they’re concerned. When they discover a lone, traumatized child nearby, they’re scared. And when they encounter two sadistic sociopaths (Aaron Glenane, Aaron Pederson), they’re in for one hell of a getaway. Weaving with unexpected twists and turns, Killing Ground delivers both nerve-shredding suspense and gut-punching realism.

About IFC MIDNIGHT
Established in 2010 and based in New York City, IFC Midnight is a leading U.S. distributor of genre entertainment including horror, science-fiction, thrillers, erotic art house, action and more. IFC Midnight’s films include Jennifer Kent's critically acclaimed THE BABADOOK; Can Evrenol’s gore-filled surrealist tale BASKIN, Corin Hardy’s Irish creature feature THE HALLOW, Adam MacDonald’s wilderness thriller BACKCOUNTRY; Ben Wheatley’s unconventional hitman thriller KILL LIST and Franck Khalfoun’s slasher movie MANIAC. IFC Midnight is a sister label to Sundance Selects and IFC Films, and is owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc. Visit IFCMidnight.com

About Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory, LLC is a diversified multi-platform media company devoted to producing, uncovering, preserving and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. Founders Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos have spent their entire careers sharing their music, television and film favorites with discerning consumers the world over. Shout! Factory’s entertainment offerings serve up feature films, classic and contemporary TV series, animation, live music and comedy specials. In addition, Shout! Factory maintains a vast entertainment distribution network which delivers culturally relevant programming, movie and audio content to all the leading digital service providers in North America and across multiple platforms. Shout! Factory owns and operates Shout! Factory Productions, Scream Factory, Shout! Factory Kids, Shout! Factory Films, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory TV. These riches are the result of a creative acquisition mandate that has established the company as a hotbed of cultural preservation and commercial reinvention. Shout! Factory is based in Los Angeles, California. For more on Shout! Factory, visit shoutfactory.com.

LEWIS BLACK: BLACK TO THE FUTURE (DVD Review)

LEWIS BLACK - BLACK TO THE FUTURE (2017) 

Label: MVD Visual 
Region Code: 1 NTSC 
Rating: Unrated 
Duration: 50 Minutes 
Audio: English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 with Optional English  Subtitles 
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
I've always loved Lewis Black and his curmudgeonly, acerbic views on the world, the rant-riddled comic came into my life with a fun tirade about NyQuil and has stayed with me ever since. This time out the comedian offers up his pre-election views of the presidential candidates of Hillary Clinton, Cruz and Donald Trump, and we all know how that ended - apparently no one listened to his argument against the Doritos-colored douche. He also pokes at the dim witted weirdness of lizard-eyed Ben Carson, gun control and mental illness as prescribed by the NRA and exemplified by the members Congress. Black is aging, he's in his 60's, and has plenty of that irritable grandfather charm I seem to enjoy so much, his stand-up is laced with profanity but he's always driving home the point, ranting about Christian's clinging on to the Old Testament, which he again affirms is not their book, and is irritated by people who buy their pets Valentine's gifts, while extolling the virtues of mouth-watering, glistening titties is advertising and the pro gun-control benefits of lactating robbers.

Black has arguably lost some of his comedic edge over the years but none of his patented angry-man rage and kinetic/frenetic delivery, not all the jokes/tirades land 100% but the ones that do still kill, so there's just more padding than usual around the edges of the comedy deathblows but there's still plenty to love about the ranty grandpa of comedy and his "jewy-jewness".  

Aside from the main stand-up routine there's also a bonus feature, a 50-minute Q/A titled "The Rant Is Due: Live From Napa" that was streamed to members of Black's fan club at some point, moderated by fellow comedian Kathleen Madigan, with Black answering questions from the crowd with his usual irritable charm. 

Audio/Video: Black to the Future(2017) arrives on single-disc DVD from MVD Visual framed in anamorphic widescreen, the image is solid and the English Dolby Digital Stereo 2.0 audio is crisp and clean, optional English subtitles are provided for both programs. It comes housed in digibook cardboard case with a clear plastic tray.  

Black to the Future Tracklist: 
1. What's My Job'
2. Ben Carson
3. The Media
4. Gun Control
5. Mental Illness
6. Pet Lovers (Bark Mitzvah)
7. Old Testament
8. Copenhagen
9. Lactating German Woman
10. Election
11. Ted Cruz
12. Donald Trump
13. Hillary Clinton
14. Optimism

Special Features: 
- "The Rant Is Due: Live From Napa" (50 min) 

The Rant is Due Tracklist: 
1. This Could All Go Horribly wrong
2. Moms
3. Knowing Your Audience 
4. Social Media
5. Great Gay Man
6. Public School Teachers
7. Gluten-Free
8. Public Office 
9. Best And worst Countries
10. Your Plays
11. Childhood
12. Funnier As A Woman
13. Golf Score
14 Favorite Republicans 15. Legalize It
16. Meeting Kathleen  

If you love Lewis Black's ranting fervor and passionate profanity you will no doubt have a fun time with Black to the Future, the release is available on a variety of formats, aside from the DVD there's a 2-disc CD and 2xLP, both of which feature the bonus program "This Should Have Been A Special", a 65-minute set from 2016, but do not include "The Rant Is Due" extra which is on the DVD. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978) EXTENDED CUT (WAC Blu-ray Review)

SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978) 
EXTENDED CUT / SPECIAL EDITION 2-FILM COLLECTION 

Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 188 Minutes (Extended Cut), 151 Minutes (Special Edition) 
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 – English (Extended Cut), English DTS-HD MA 5.1, English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, French Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5,1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Director: Richard Donner
Cast: Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Trevor Howard, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Maria Schell, Terence Stamp, Phyllis Thaxter, Susannah York

Synopsis: Decades before blockbuster Extended Cuts were common, Superman proved a true “Man of Tomorrow.” Superman: The Movie received an ahead-of-its-time makeover for its television premiere – nearly 40 more minutes of story, creating a two-night television event. Audiences had already been swept off their feet by Christopher Reeve’s Last Son of Krypton, and now there was more to enjoy. Unseen in decades, this version is paired here with Richard Donner’s definitive vision of his film, the Special Edition Director’s Cut (2000), to create a supersized celebration of Metropolis’ favorite son that preserves the director’s intent while feeding superfan demands.

I was five when Superman: The Movie (1978) arrived at the cinemas, I was in kindergarten and I was the perfect age to take a kid to see this movie, but like Star Wars the year before I never did get to see it in the theater, I grew up poor and the cinema was a luxury my struggling parents could not afford. It wasn't until Superman aired on ABC in 1982 that I would catch-up to the Man of Steel, and that was the version I grew-up with, the 182-minute version aired over two nights on network TV packed with additional scenes not seen in the cinema, which was cool. In the 90's when I was well into my teens a longer 188-minute version was syndicated on TV, but I didn't catch that version until a VHS bootleg showed up years later, but that longer 188-minute version is what Warner Bros. have released on Blu-ray to the delight of fans. 

This longer version is known as the "Salkind International Television Cut" or the "KCOP Version", it was long though to only exist in a full frame, pan and scan version, but when Warner found eighteen reels in their vaults they were delighted to discover this version of the film in the original widescreen aspect ratio, and they devoted months of preparation into restoring and cleaning it up for it's debut on any legit home video format. 

Watching this 188-minute version of the film took me right back to being a nine-year old kid watching the two-night movie event, the movie that made me believe a man could fly!  Now this runs about forty-five minutes longer than the theatrical cut, but some of this footage was reinstated in Donner's special edition, so what we are really getting a about twenty-minutes or so of footage not seen in either the theatrical or special edition versions of the film, though two scenes of Lex and Otis in their subway lair feeding some unseen beasts  kept locked away in a pit can be found in the additional scenes section of extras on the special edition Blu-ray. 

What exactly is new? Well, I'll be honest and say I don't know exactly, I sort of wish the film has the option to denote all the  new/extended/alt scenes the way the Alien special editions did, but I know that there are additional/extended scenes on Krypton, Smallville, The Daily Planet and the scenes of reprogramming the nuclear missile, a fun comic scene with Lex berating/beating Otis for his incompetence. The scenes are a mix of interesting and superfluous stuff, for fans of the film this should be a delight, for the casual viewer it might be a long watch, but I fall firmly into the earlier category. I loved watching this longer cut, even if I think the theatrical version is still he best version at the end of the day, I love that I have the option to watch this longer cut. 

None of the new stuff adds new story lines the film, it enhances and elongates the movie, sometimes complementary, sometimes slowing t down, but that it works as well as it does is a minor miracle as producers the Salkind's assembled this version using nearly every scrap of additional footage shot for the movie to extend the running time, it was a straight up cash grab on their part, selling the longer version to the network who paid by the additional minute! 

The movie still stuns after all these years, it has a sense of innocence and wonder, after all this was made at a time when superhero movies weren't jaded - this was one of the first super hero movies, don't forget that. The stuff that worked then works still, though it is slightly dated, the miniature work is sort of laughable now, those trains and images of the dam crumbling do not hold up, but for the most part the scenes of Superman flying around still make you believe! Christopher Reeve (Death Trap) is the one true Clark Kent/Superman in my eyes, everyone else has paled in my opinion, his sense of honor, nice guy naivety and super-strength embody everything we've come to love about this character, and this movie in particular still manages to make magic that keeps me in awe, even in this longer, extended cut. 

Audio/Video: The 188-minute cut of Superman: The Movie (1978) arrives on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive, sourced in large part from a recently discovered interpositive, framed in the original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. They've given it a new 2K scan with some additional clean-up done to improve the viewing experience, but thankfully they didn't scrub away the film grain, this is a very filmic looking experience. Watching both cuts and switching back and forth between the two there are notable differences in the image, the extended cut is granier, which I actually like,  and the color timing is slightly different, the blacks seem deeper and the blues, yellow and reds of Superman's iconic suit look more saturated. Honestly I prefer the extended version image to the special edition disc on this set, but both are fantastic in their own unique way. 

Audio on the extended cut is presented in English DTS-HD MA Mono 2.0, with optional English, French, Dutch, Chinese, Korean and Spanish subtitles. The audio is sort of true to the original TV broadcast mono presentation, the opening and end title credits  present the score in stereo, but as with most re-releases of movies of such high acclaim it has not gone without some concern from die-hard and passionate audio/cinephiles who have noticed that the title credits music by John Williams have been re-edited and seemingly pitch adjusted, none of which I noticed during by two viewings, but I'm not the biggest soundtrack nerd either, I'm just happy to have this three-hour version available on Blu-ray, a tint music glitch won't affect my enjoyment. 

Unfortunately there are no extras on the extended cut of the film, but this release comes with a second disc, the special edition cut of the film with all the same extras from that solo release, so this makes for a nice little package, you get the 151-minute special edition and all the extras, plus the 188-minute TV version, the only thing I would have liked s the original 143-minute theatrical cut of the film. I would like to think that someday we will see a comprehensive release of Superman: The Movie (1978) with all the versions together on one release, along the lines of the Blade Runner: 5-Disc Complete Collectors Edition or the Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition, which would be all sort of awesome, but I also applaud Warner for making this available at a great price! This 2-disc release comes housed in a standard Blu-ray keepcase with a non-reversible sleeve of art, and that artwork is rather bland, it looks like a budget release (which it is) but I wish they had sprung for new artwork for this one, it deserves it. 

Special Features (on Superman The Special Edition Disc): 
- Commentary by Director Richard Donner and Creative Consultant Tom Mankiewicz
- Taking Flight: The Development of Superman (30 min) SD
- Making Superman: Filming the Legend (31 min) SD
- The Magic Behind the Cape (24 min) 
- Screen Tests; (23 min) 
- Restored Scenes (11 min) 
- Additional Scenes (3 min) 
- Additional Music Cues (36 min) 
- Music-Only Track (91 min) 

Superman: The Movie - The Extended Cut is a wonderful gift from WB to fans of this iconic superhero movie, it's not the definitive cut, but it is certainly the longest, and was previously the one least likely to ever get a home video release - let alone such a wonderful looking Blu-ray presentation. Looking ahead I have to wonder if this will spur Warner release the TV versions of Superman 2 and beyond? As a cinema-deprived fan who grew up with the TV cut of the film I love this release, this is a wish-list item for sure, and I'm glad to have it in the collection with an official Blu-ray, a high recommend.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

STEPHEN KING'S CAT'S EYE (1985) (Umbrella Blu-ray Review)

STEPHEN KING'S CAT'S EYE (1985) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment 
Region Code: A/B
Rating: M (Mature)
Duration: 95 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.4:1) 
Director: Lewis Teague
Cast: Drew Barrymore, James Woods, Alan King, Robert Hays, Kenneth McMillan, Candy Clark

Synopsis: A wandering supernatural feline's adventures provide the linking story for Stephen King's Cat's Eye, a dead on trilogy scripted by King and directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo).
The staff at Quitters Inc promises to help nicotine fiend Dick Morrison (James Woods) kick the habit. If not, someone in Morrison's household might get smoked... because QI is run by a very persuasive mob family. Next, a luckless gambler (Robert Hayes) is forced into a bet involving a stroll around a building - on the five-inch ledge encircling the 30th floor. Finally, our wayfarer kitty rescues a schoolgirl (young Drew Barrymore) from a vile, doll-sized troll.
Fan of the works of Stephen King will have fun finding the many references to his other projects throughout the film.

This often overlooked 80's trilogy of terror begins with the titular feline escaping the jaws of not only the dog from Cujo (1983) but the wheels of the cursed-car from Christine (1983)in a nice homage to Stephen King's other movies. The cat shows up again in the opening story of the anthology, "Quitters, Inc." wherein a die-hard cigarette smoker named Dick Morrison played by James Woods (Videodrome) seeks the help of Quitter's Inc. to curb his addiction to nicotine. Quitters Inc. and the strong-armed Dr. Vinnie Donatti (Alan King, The Bonfire of the Vanities) have put together quite an extreme stop-smoking program, one seemingly based on the tactics employed by mafia, as demonstrated by their willingness to repeatedly electrocute a poor cat as an example of what they will do if they catch him smoking. A threat not directed towards him, but to his lovely wife and family. The threat is only too real as he comes to find out when sneaking a puff proves too much for him to resist, even when faced with dire consequences. The short has plenty of laughs and uncomfortable moments of pain being inflicted upon his wife, Woods is wonderful as the chain-smoker caught between his addiction and his love of family and there's a great surreal party-scene with him surrounded by exaggerated smoking behaviors. .  

Next up, the high-rise thriller "The Ledge", where we have a former tennis pro named Johnny Norris (Robert Hays, Airplane) who has angered wealthy casino owner Cressner by running off with his estranged wife. Cressner is played with comical ruthlessness by Kenneth McMillan (Dune) who kidnaps the would-be Lothario and forces him into accepting a deadly bet. The wager is that if Norris can circumnavigate his high rise penthouse apartment on the exterior ledge without falling to his death he will grant his wife a divorce and give the tennis pro a bunch of money. Norris reluctantly accepts the wager and climbs out onto the perilous ledge where he is menaced by Cressner who harasses Norris with water hoses and loud noises, all while taunting him with the annoyingly awesome line, "just trying to keep you on your toes". Norris must also contend with a tenacious pigeon who relentlessly pecks away at his ankles until they begin to bleed. Unsurprisingly Cressner welshes on the bet when Norris succeeds but when the tables are turned things to not go so well for the casino owner. It was a ton of fun to watch McMillan play such a son-of-a-bitch, he's an intense actor and plays the part with so much diabolical glee. The scenes of Norris traversing the exterior of the high rise are done with what appears to be a mixture of rear projection and miniature sets and the optical effects still look good to my eyes, this is a fun one, those with an aversion to heights might even get a bit light headed by the high rise thrills. 

The third and final entry in this trilogy of terror is "General", starring a young Drew Barrymore (E.T.) as Amanda, a young girl who is being menaced by a breath-sucking troll that lives inside her bedroom wall. However, her mother (Candy Clark, Amityville 3-D) places the blame for the troll's increasingly alarming shenanigans on the family poor cat, banishing him to stay the night outside, leaving poor Amanda unguarded with the malicious troll who threatens to steal her breath while she sleeps. Of course the cat comes through in the end, but I had forgotten what a gory end the troll comes to in this one, and was a bit surprised how bloody it was for a PG-13 rated anthology, but we got away with a lot more in kids movies back then. 

Cat's Eye is a fun watch, based on two of Stephen King's short stories from his Night Shift collection, plus a new one which he scripted just for this movie. I like the connective tissue of the titular cat going from one story to the next, and Lewis Teague, who also directed adapted Stephen King's Cujo for the silver screen, does a fine job with all three of the vignettes within the context of a kiddie friendly horror anthology.  

Audio/Video: Cat's Eye (1985) arrives on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment looking great, there is a nice layer of film grain that looks like it has not suffered any major digital manipulation. The image is crisp, the colors are strong, skin tones look natural and the image is nicely detailed, the cinematography from Jack Cardiff (Ghost Story)looks phenomenal. Audio is handled by a lossless English DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 track that is nicely balanced with good depth and fidelity, the score from Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future) sounds good in the mix, optional English subtitles are provided. 

Umbrella's release has two new, exclusive extras, a half-hour interview with actor Robert Hayes, plus an eight-minute interview with animal wrangler Teresa Ann Miller, produced by Cinemaniacs.  The interviews are good, with Hays recalling working on the film, particularly working with McMillan and how some of the high rise visuals were achieved, and animal trainer Miller recalls working on the film with her father Karl Lewis Miller, and how the St. Bernard seen in the film was actually one of the same one from the Cujo adaptation. Notably, Umbrella do not carry-over the audio commentary with director Lewis Teague which is found on the US disc from Warner Bro., so if you own that release you may want to hang onto it.  


The single-disc Blu-ray release comes housed in an over-sized Blu-ray keepcase with a sleeve of reversible artwork featuring new artwork, which is fantastic, made to look like a well-worn Stephen King paperback novel, even the spine has a coll distressed look. The reverse side features a variant of the same artwork minus the rating label, and the backside of the b-side features the original one sheet movie poster for the film. The disc features the same key art as the sleeve. While this release is labeled as a region B it plays just fine on my region A player. 

Special Features: 
- Interviews with Actor Robert Hayes (28 min) 
- Interview with Teresa Ann Miller (8 min) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) HD 

Cat's Eye looks great on Blu-ray from Umbrella Entertainment, a solid HD upgrade for this 80's Stephen King horror anthology with some very cool artwork and exclusive new extras. This is an awesome trilogy of terror that is both suspenseful and kiddie-friendly enough that you can watch it with your kids, which is awesome.  


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

RED CHRISTMAS (2016) (Umbrella DVD Review)

RED CHRISTMAS (2016) 

Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: 4 (PAL)
Rating: Unrated
Durataion: 78  Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Surround 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (2.35:1)
Director: Craig Anderson
Cast: Dee Wallace, Geoff Morrell, Sarah Bishop, Janis McGowan, David Collins, Bjorn Stewart, Gerald Odwyer, Sam Campbell 


Synopsis: Matriarch Diane (Dee Wallace) has invited her children to celebrate one last Christmas in their family home. Amid celebrations and domestic drama, they receive a visit from a mysterious stranger. Disfigured and cloaked, they feel sorry for him until they discover his extreme religious motives and anti abortion message. Diane orders him to leave unaware he is her son. Twenty years ago she had an abortion and on that day a religious zealot bombed the clinic. Her still-living foetus was taken and raised by the bomber. After being rejected by his mother once again when all he wanted was love, he seeks vengeance and kills the family who cast him out.

Australian director Craig Anderson's Red Christmas (2016) is a gleefully bloody abortion-themed Christmas slasher that you won't soon forget, opening with the bombing of an abortion clinic by pro-lifers, the explosion interrupts an abortion in progress, in the end the fetus is unceremoniously tossed into a bucket, where it still clings to life, as evidenced when a bloody hand emerges from the bucket, where it is rescued by a pro-lifer.

With that low-standard of taste established we move ahead twenty years to a Christmas gathering at the home of Diane (Dee Wallace, The Howling) with her children and in-laws gathered. We have her second husband Joe (Geoff Morrell, Rogue), the down-syndrome afflicted twenty-something Jerry (Gerard Odwyer), uptight daughter Suzy (Sarah Bishop) and her preacher hubby Peter (David Collins), plus the very pregnant, slightly stoned and super horny Ginny (Janis McGavin) and husband Scott (Bjorn Stewart), plus adopted daughter Hope (Deelia Meriel). The gathering is a typical xmas get together with the usual amount of family tensions, particularly from Virginia who is angered that her mother is on the cusp of selling their childhood home to go on a European vacation, and Suzy who has been struggling to have a child is resentful of her preggers sister Ginny - all pretty typical family/holiday stresses.


The difficult yuletide gathering is interrupted when stranger draped in a black cloak and covered in bandages shows up on the doorstep. In the spirit of the holiday Diane allows the stranger into her home, his introduces himself as Cletus (Sam Campbell). While seated in the living room Cletus begins to read a letter to the group in a muffled voice, it's a note addressed to his mother. The letter has religious overtones that touch on the subject of abortion, which immediately angers Diane, who angrily forces him to leave the home.


However, the cloaked stranger shows up later in the night and a proper bloodbath ensues with family members meeting their doom at the end of his ax. Red Christmas is a fairly standard low-budget holiday themed slasher with a strange abortion  theme, it doesn't pretend to have a great deal of mystery about it, but it is bathed in blood with plenty of low-budget gore, which is executed nicely with what looks to be mostly practical special effects. The killer draped in a Grim Reaper style hooded cloak makes a visually intriguing killer, and his origin story is unique., the whole thing feels very Troma-esque at times - you could have called this one The Aborted Avenger, especially when we catch a very brief glimpse of his deformed face!

Dee Wallace, bless her, still has the strength and presence she brought to her roles in Cujo (1983) andThe Howling(1981), chewing on the scenery as the matriarch trying desperately to stop the extinction her bloodline at the hands of the deformed abortion survivor - who may or may not be her son. The kills are well done and deliciously bloody, we have someone being sliced in-half the long way down, someone getting their brains scrambled by the blades of a blender, and an umbrella through the eye - the latex and blood kills are fun - even when the budget limitations show through from time to time.

The movie is drenched in red and green colored lighting, this is maybe the most retina-burning red movie since Dario Argento's Suspiria (1977), the scene towards the final third are deeply lit by harsh colored lighting - despite having had the power cut - which gives the whole thing a surreal Christmas feeling, which is both stylish and perhaps a way to cover-up some of the low-budget issues of the film, but it does feel slightly overdone at a certain point. However, you cannot deny that this xmas slasher is bathed in more moody Christmas lighting than few films before it.


The movie is a fun black comedy, the kids of this family are down right annoying, with he exception of down's syndrome afflicted Jerry, who turns out to be a very capable adversary and protector, but his sisters and their hubbies are unsympathetic meat for the slasher grinder, these are not victims you mourn honestly, you cheer their demise. The mix of family dysfunction, pregnancy and abortion themes, special needs and bloody carnage make for an odd mixture, but I loved it.

The abortion theme seems to be played from both sides of the argument, on one hand if Wallace's character hadn't of had the abortion none of this would have happened, on the other hand, if the pro-lifer hadn't of rescued the deformed fetus from the waste bucket that too would have been the end of the story, I don't mind the ambiguity if that's what it is, this is a pretty straight ahead slasher, and the abortion theme is just another layer of exploitation to cut through.  


Special Features: 
- Feature-length commentary with writer-director Craig Anderson (20 min) and actor Gerard O'Dwyer 

- Behind the Scenes Part 1 (15 min) 
- Behind the scenes Part 2 (13 min) 
- An Interview with Gerard Odwyer - Craig Anderson and Actor Sam Campbell Speak with Actor Gerald Odwyer (10 min) 
- Deleted Scene (1 min) 
- Teaser Trailer (1 min) 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 min) 

Dee Wallace shines in this yuletide bloodbath, it's great to see her still doing her thing in this fun and rather cynical abortion-themed slasher. While the movie is not a stone-cold Christmas terror classic along the lines of Black Christmas (1973) it is a fun dysfunctional family Christmas slasher with loads of gore, you should give this a turn in your Christmas horror-thon this year, you won't be disappointed.