Movie Review – Cosplay Fetish Battle Drones (2015)

Cosplay Fetish Battle Drones
Directed by Gregg Golding
Courtesy of CAV Distribution
Release Date: February 10, 2015

cosplay

Say what you will, but I’m still a fan of the Power Rangers after all these years. Sure, the show is kinda corny, but they’re so much fun to watch, even after all of these different iterations. So when I first heard about COSPLAY FETISH BATTLE DRONES, I thought, “Sure, I’ll give it a shot. Why not?” But I wish now that I hadn’t thought to do so. I spent 90 minutes of my life on this film that I’ll never get back.

If you are not familiar with COSPLAY FETISH BATTLE DRONES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of CAV Distribution:

It’s Morphin’ time! There’s a tumor in the collective unconscious, and it’s up to 6 young people to draw on its power to become the Struggled Reagans! Armed with Metaphysical super powers, a giant robot, and perverse sexual fetishes, they can defeat an ancient Hindu god and his googley eyed monster…Right?

COSPLAY FETISH BATTLE DRONES is a hallucinatory journey to the throbbing and cancerous heart of 21st century nostalgia; a frenetic collage of pop culture ephemera that weaves together everything from Eastern mythology and post modern philosophy to oversexed tokusatsu warriors and time-traveling hip-hop musicians.

I can usually find something positive to say about every movie I watch, no matter how horrible it is. Sometimes the camerawork is pretty good, or the actors do a good job, or even the story itself is decent. But this film puts me in an awkward spot, because there’s not a single plus side to it anywhere.

COSPLAY FETISH BATTLE DRONES looks like it was shot on a low-end 80s VHS camcorder. Needless to say, the picture quality is terrible. The sound is ok, but still slightly muted in places. The lighting is also acceptable, but certainly not good.

The acting is bad and corny, so much so that it’s painful to watch. I did not find a single character I could relate to or even like, so the entire cast annoyed me throughout the film. I knew going into this that each character was a damaged individual, but this group garners neither sympathy nor emotional interest. In turn, I spent most of the 90 minutes watching the clock instead of watching the film.

The special effects are a joke, and even if they were meant to be cheesy, they fail in that aspect as well. They simply made me angry. I get this is a low-budget film, but more effort would have gone a long way.

COSPLAY FETISH BATTLE DRONES is simply an awful movie, all the way around. At times, I couldn’t tell if it was meant to be campy or serious or trying to make a social statement, but it falls way short in all regards. I would steer clear of this one.

MSB

Movie Review – Wild Card (2015)

Wild Card
Directed by Simon West
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: March 31, 2015

wild card

Jason Statham is one of those actors I could watch all day. Aside from being a bad-ass, he’s also a versatile actor who can portray a wide variety of emotion, regardless of the role he’s playing. Granted, he’s best known for his action (THE TRANSPORTER is one of my favorite films of all time), and that’s one of the major reasons I like the guy. But it’s also nice when he has the chance to throw in a bit of drama here and there. Such is the case with WILD CARD, a Lionsgate release due out tomorrow. Statham gets to flex his acting muscles just as much as his skull-crushing ones, and the result is a pretty entertaining jaunt that showcases the underbelly of Sin City.

If you are not familiar with WILD CARD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

Nick Wild (Jason Statham) is a Las Vegas bodyguard with lethal professional skills and a personal gambling problem. When a friend is beaten by a sadistic thug, Nick strikes back, only to find out the thug is the son of a powerful mob boss. Suddenly Nick is plunged into the criminal underworld, chased by enforcers and wanted by the mob. Having raised the stakes, Nick has one last play to change his fortunes…and this time, it’s all or nothing.

I will admit up front that this movie is far from perfect. It does have some flaws that weigh it down. But the film is definitely entertaining nonetheless, and fans of Statham’s work should have no problem enjoying it.

WILD CARD is shot pretty well and looks good overall from a production standpoint. Interestingly, the cinematography doesn’t capture a whole lot of the glamour Las Vegas has to offer. We get to see some, but I was actually expecting more.

The acting in WILD CARD is good, with Statham portraying a no-nonsense bodyguard who knows all too well what Vegas is all about. Alongside him are Michael Angarano, whose work I have enjoyed since RED STATE, back in 2011, and several others. I also have to point out Stanley Tucci, who is always a joy to see onscreen, and a host of other screen vets, including Jason Alexander, Sofia Vergara, and Anne Heche.

The storyline is where the flaws come in. For the most part, this is a revenge flick, with Statham seeking justice from a mob boss’s son at the behest of a friend who was raped by the guy. The ‘friend’ is a woman from his past, but we are never told what their relationship was. Instead, we get cryptic hints that are never fleshed out. But that aside, the revenge aspect is only one piece of the story; we are also given a lengthly excursion into Statham’s gambling addiction. This threw me off a bit, as it tried to reset the tone of the film in a way. I understand the characters are damaged, but I felt like this was detracting from the main elements of the film.

Those are the primary slips worth mentioning. WILD CARD also contains a few subplots that don’t really go anywhere, but they are minor and do not take away from the film too much.

Thankfully, the action is intense and brutal. Statham doles out his trademark head-bashing with gusto, and this is what makes the movie for me. The fight scenes are exactly what you would expect from a Statham picture, and they do not disappoint. I only wish there were more of them.

Still, WILD CARD is fun and entertaining for the most part. It’s not Statham’s best movie, but it’s also not his worst (I think DUNGEON SIEGE might still hold that honor). Give this one a look if you’re in the mood for something different. Just be willing to overlook some of the story. WILD CARD hits store shelves tomorrow.

MSB

Movie Review – WolfCop (2015)

WolfCop
Directed by Lowell Dean
Courtesy of Image Entertainment
Release Date: March 10, 2015

wolfcop-dvd-cover-92

When I first heard about WOLFCOP, I didn’t realize it was a horror-comedy, and therefore I rolled my eyes and shook my head. But when I discovered it was meant to be funny, I knew I had to see it. I like lycanthrope, and I was intrigued to see a perspective on how it could be funny. And wow, I’m glad I watched it! Writer/Director Lowell Dean has a big hit on his hands, and it delivers on many levels. If you have had any reservations about seeing this film, wipe them all away and give it a shot. It’s fun and entertaining, with some great effects and a lot of laughs.

If you are not familiar with WOLFCOP, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Image Entertainment:

Officer Lou Garou isn’t the best cop in small-town Woodhaven – in fact, he’s probably the worst. He mostly just looks to avoid anything that could possibly interfere with his goal of getting wasted. One evening during the night shift, Lou investigates a mysterious disturbance at the edge of town and wakes up with a pentagram carved in his chest, heightened senses, and body hair that’s growing at an alarming rate. To solve the mystery of his transformation, he’ll have to take on a case no normal cop would be able to solve, but this half-man, half-beast is not just a cop…he’s a WOLFCOP.

I love how campy WOLFCOP looks, with his blue fur and Beast-from-X-Men-style make-up. I’m not sure if this is intentional or not, but Beast is who I thought of every time WolfCop is onscreen. This is not a bad thing at all, as the image and style of WolfCop works for his character…but I felt like I had to mention it, as many other viewers probably thought the same thing as me.

WOLFCOP is shot well and looks very professional onscreen. The production value appears high, and the film team does a great job with utilizing their budget. The acting is tight, the special effects look great, and the story is mysterious. Overall, you can’t ask for much more.

Although I enjoyed it immensely, there are a couple of minor flaws I have to point out. First, there are a couple of things in the film that are not explained. For example, when WolfCop first transforms in the bathroom of the bar, he kills a couple of thugs that have arrived for some reason. When the thugs walk in the bar, they immediately head downstairs…to the bathroom. Why? Were they there to kill WolfCop? Later, the bar owner tells him he saved her life…but she never saw the thugs to begin with…? This confused me.

Also, there is a ‘love scene’ between WolfCop and a woman that lasts way too long. I’m sure it’s meant to be funny and campy, but I just kept raising my eyebrow, wondering when it would end. It’s not full of gratuitous nudity or anything, but it didn’t serve much of a purpose in my opinion.

Still, WOLFCOP is a heck of a film, and I highly recommend it. It’s got some excellent dark humor, not to mention some high-caliber special effects. I particularly like the scene where WolfCop tears off a thug’s face in a meth lab, and the guy runs around for several minutes screaming about his face. Gruesome, but well done and funny (you just have to see it!).

WOLFCOP is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – House of Last Things (2015)

House of Last Things
Directed by Michael Bartlett
Courtesy of Revolver Entertainment
Release Date: February 10, 2015

House-of-Last-Things-600x900

I love films that defy classification and make you think. There are many out there, however they seem denied major publicity unless a big name like David Lynch or Tim Burton is attached. Revolver Entertainment has released an epic film that fits into this category, titled HOUSE OF LAST THINGS. This film is a visual masterpiece that is as haunting as its imagery. I would wager this is a film that will be talked about for a long time.

If you are not familiar with HOUSE OF LAST THINGS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Revolver Entertainment:

ALAN (Randy Schulman) is a successful classical music critic as reflected in his spacious Portland home. His wife SARAH (Diane Dalton) is an obsessively grieving woman, struggling with an unspoken tragedy, even after months of institutionalized therapy. Upon Sarah’s release, Alan forces Sarah into a trip to Italy. He has already arranged for a house sitter in KELLY (Lindsey Haun), a young woman lonely for commitment and the better things in life. Kelly is quickly joined by her younger brother TIM (RJ Mitte), and her trashy boyfriend JESSE (Blake Berris).

When Jesse suddenly decides to kidnap eight-year-old ADAM from the supermarket, an act that seems too cruel even for him, it isn t long before the trio find themselves drawn into a web of disturbing revelations and caught in a netherworld between hallucination and reality. Both the future – and the past – are far less certain in a HOUSE OF LAST THINGS.

Director Michael Bartlett is a truly visionary filmmaker, and I will be putting his name on my list of Directors to Watch For. He has accomplished a huge feat here by releasing a visually stimulating film rife with symbolism and interpretation. And yet it is a gripping thriller/mystery at the same time. This Kubrick-esque jaunt into surreal territory is a real treat.

HOUSE OF LAST THINGS is shot beautifully and contains a slew of artistic cinematography. But the portrait it helps paint is a vivid and haunting tapestry that portrays a story of love and loss. The artistic elements intertwined with the thrilling storyline make this movie cinematic gold.

The acting is superb with the entire cast doing an excellent job in their roles. I found no lacking performances, and I credit each cast member with bringing their characters to larger-than-life status. This is yet one more feather in the cap of the production team.

The plot of HOUSE OF LAST THINGS is what really wins here, though. It keeps you guessing, right up until the big reveal at the end, and then gives a satisfying climax with a nice dose of resolution to close the film out. I will admit I was confused early on, but I quickly caught up and finished the film very happy.

HOUSE OF LAST THINGS is a major win for me. Part mystery, part drama, and part thriller, this hybrid of a film will entertain on many levels. Give it a look for sure. It is available now in a variety of formats. Clink on one of the links below for more information:

Amazon: House of Last Things
iTunes: House of Last Things

MSB

Book Review – Defending Your Castle by William Gurstelle

Defending Your Castle
(Build Catapults, Crossbows, Moats, Bulletproof Shields, and More Defensive Devices to Fend Off the Invading Hordes)
by William Gurstelle
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Release Date: June 1, 2014

defending

Why would a blog devoted to horror, sci-fi, and fantasy review a book about home defenses? The answer should be obvious, and I can sum it up for you in two words: zombie apocalypse. That’s right. When the living dead rise and seek to feast upon your flesh, what better way to ward them off than with a catapult? And if THE WALKING DEAD has taught us anything, it’s that crossbows are better than guns because arrows are easier to replace than bullets. So why not build your own? Author and engineer William Gurstelle enlightens and entertains with the informative and fun book, DEFENDING YOUR CASTLE, a guide to fortifying your home for the ages. Chocked full of pictures and diagrams (including instructions and how-tos), this is one book every DIY aficionado will want to own.

If you are not familiar with DEFENDING YOUR CASTLE, here is the book’s synopsis courtesy of Chicago Review Press:

A man’s home is his castle, or so the saying goes, but could it withstand an attack by Attila and the Huns, Ragnar and the Vikings, Alexander and the Greeks, Genghis Khan and the Mongols, or Tamerlane and the Tartars? Backyard Ballistics author William Gurstelle poses this fascinating question to modern-day garage warriors and shows them how to build an arsenal of ancient artillery and fortifications aimed at withstanding these invading hordes. Each chapter introduces a new bad actor in the history of warfare, details his conquests, and features weapons and fortifications to defend against him and his minions. Clear step-by-step instructions, diagrams, and photographs show how to build a dozen projects, including “Da Vinci’s Catapult,” “Carpini’s Crossbow,” a “Crusader-Proof Moat,” “Alexander’s Tortoise,” and the “Cheval-de-frise.” With a strong emphasis on safety, the book also gives tips on troubleshooting, explains the physics behind many of the projects, and shows where to buy the materials. By the time they’ve reached the last page, at-home defenders everywhere will have succeeded in creating a fully fortified home.

I have to tell you: this book is an absolute joy to read. It is witty and insightful, and yet crammed to the hilt with information. I daresay it is a refreshing perspective on what could otherwise be dull, textbook like data. And while it doesn’t technically discuss zombies or any other end-of-the-world scenario, the information contained within would be invaluable in the event of such an occurrence.

DEFENDING YOUR CASTLE is written well and presents a slew of information in an easy-to-understand format. The illustrations and pictures are precise and informative, eye-catching images that spice up the text in a variety of ways. The instructions are crisp and clear, but they are also presented with specific warnings and cautions; these are included to help not only the average handyman, but even the most veteran of builders. The result is a top-notch guide in which every homeowner should invest.

I particularly like how each chapter pertains to a different and unique ‘threat’. For example, one is devoted to the Huns, another to the vikings, a third to the Mongols, and so on. These groups attacking a modern-day house are somewhat humorous in concept, however they form the basis for which these designs are founded. They also help show the reader why a particular defense might be necessary.

In addition to defensive plans (for items such as moats, walls, watchtowers, and shields), the book offers several offensive option plans as well, for things mentioned above, such as catapults and crossbows. This diversity allows you to choose what methodology to plan for when mapping out the goals for your home.

DEFENDING YOUR CASTLE is a major win for me, and I recommend it to every person concerned about home protection. Whether you are a doomsday prepper, a zombie apocalypse defender, or even just an average citizen, this is one guide you will want to add to your library immediately; it might just save your life in addition to changing it. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

TV Show Review – Star Trek: Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions

Star Trek: Captain Kirk’s Boldest Missions
Directed by (various directors)
Courtesy of Paramount
Release Date: March 17, 2015

star trek

I have to confess I’ve never been much of a Trekkie, however I’ve always respected the show’s significance in the science fiction genre. It was truly ahead of its time, and it dutifully paved the way for many prominent franchises. With that being said, I do enjoy watching some of The Original Series (TOS) and The Next Generation (TNG) episodes. This was the primary component that prompted me to give STAR TREK: CAPTAIN KIRK’S BOLDEST MISSIONS a look. I’m happy to report this collection contains some of my favorite TOS episodes, and I would bet this will be a must-have for any and every Star Trek fan out there.

If you are not familiar with STAR TREK: CAPTAIN KIRK’S BOLDEST MISSIONS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Paramount:

Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) steps squarely into the spotlight in this thrilling Star Trek collection that features his greatest interstellar adventures! And the commander of the star ship U.S.S. Enterprise finds a galaxy full of intriguing missions as he and his crew are destined to boldly go where no man has gone before. From an encounter with the mysterious Balok in The Corbomite Maneuver and attempting to rescue survivors from a planet-killing weapon from another galaxy in The Doomsday Machine to the critically acclaimed, Hugo Award-winning The City on the Edge of Forever, this collection of eight thrill-packed, heart-pounding adventures from the original Star Trek series will have you joining Captain Kirk and the Enterprise crew as they soar off on exciting quests and unforgettable encounters.

Episodes
1. The Corbomite Maneuver
2. The Conscience of the King
3. Balance of Terror
4. Space Seed
5. The City on the Edge of Forever
6. Mirror, Mirror
7. The Doomsday Machine
8. Return to Tomorrow

At one point during my college career, way back in the early 90s, my English Comp instructor gave an assignment to write a lengthy compare and contrast essay. For some reason (and I cannot for the life of me figure out why to this day), I chose to compare and contrast Captain Kirk from TOS and Captain Picard from TNG. I made a wise choice, because my instructor told me in his grading notes that he was a huge Trekkie. Now, every time I watch a Star Trek episode, I am reminded of his comments.

Each episode in STAR TREK: CAPTAIN KIRK’S BOLDEST MISSIONS is a carefully crafted journey into the unknown. I would even go so far as to state these are some of the best episodes of the series. From what I’ve read and heard, several of these are considered fan-favorites.

My favorite episode from this collection probably has to be “The City on the Edge of Forever”. In fact, it’s probably my favorite episode of the whole series, although I can’t actually say I’ve seen every episode within it. “The City on the Edge of Forever” is considered to be one of Star Trek’s most influential shows, and it is a masterful piece of storytelling.

STAR TREK: CAPTAIN KIRK’S BOLDEST MISSIONS is a big win for me, and fans of the show will want to snatch this up immediately. It epitomizes everything William Shatner’s famous character is infamous for. It also contains a few Special Features, including:

* What Makes a Good Captain?
* The Importance of the “Captain’s Log”
* Captain Kirk’s Legacy
* Introduction by William Shatner and Joan Collins

This collection is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – Muck (2015)

Muck
Directed by Steve Wolsh
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Release Date: March 17, 2015

muck

I learned something after watching MUCK that I wish I had known beforehand: this film is the first of a trilogy. Had I known that prior, I would have enjoyed the experience much more so. Why? Primarily because the ending would not have infuriated me as much. Now, don’t get me wrong: I really enjoyed the film overall. It’s made well and shot on a RED camera, so it looks great onscreen. But, there are a few things about it that I feel need to be addressed.

If you are not familiar with MUCK, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment:

This throwback horror film just raised the hacked-up bar: Horror legend Kane Hodder and Playboy Playmate of the Year 2012, Jaclyn Swedberg star in this scary, sexy, indie shocker that joins a group of friends just as they emerge from the thick, murky darkness of the marshes tattered, bloody, and lucky to be alive. But they will soon find out that the lucky ones are already dead. Muck is packed with old-school gore effects and brutal stunts, without any CGI or apologies. Lachlan Buchanan (Pretty Little Liars) co-stars in writer/director Steve Wolsh’s searing directorial debut that unfolds like a blood-stained love letter to horror fanatics everywhere!

Judging from some of the other reviews I’ve read on MUCK, this is one of those films you either love or hate. Public opinion seems to be pretty evenly mixed. Interestingly, I find myself in the middle. I really enjoyed certain aspects of the film…however, I also did not like certain things as well.

MUCK is shot well and looks amazing onscreen. As I mentioned, it’s filmed on a RED camera, so the film quality is excellent. This is important to note, as most of the film takes place at night. On lesser cameras, the image is grainy or too dark to see. Here, the picture shines in all of its HD glory.

The acting in MUCK is also a high note. Granted, it’s not superb, but the cast still does a good job in their portrayals. I always enjoy seeing Kane Hodder onscreen, and he delivers as expected. But I also particularly like Lachlan Buchanan’s performance as Troit, the smart-ass cousin of the character Noah. Buchanan does a stellar job with his role, and I’m glad to see he’s going to be in the sequel.

The special effects in MUCK are amazing. The film boasts all practical effects (no CG here!), and the result is a supremely satisfying and entertaining gore-fest. I commend the production team for insisting on practicals, as it makes the horror so much more believable.

But for all of its positives, there are several glaring negatives. First and foremost is the storyline, or more specifically, the lack of information in the storyline. The film starts off right after a harrowing incident in the marsh. The audience is not told what has transpired, but I assumed we would find out later on in the film. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The group shows up to a house and then starts getting attacked. But whom or what, we have no idea. This would have been fine, IF we had eventually discovered what was going on. I’m assuming we have to wait until the sequel(s) to see.

Another big sticking point for me is the ending. Even if I had known this was part of a trilogy, I still would have been upset with it. Abrupt is too mild of a word to describe it. The film just…ends. I actually yelled at my TV when the credits started.

Still, MUCK does have quite a bit of entertainment value as a whole. I actually do recommend the film, as it has A LOT of potential, and I can see a whole franchise series stemming from it. The film is available now in a variety of formats if you decide to give it a look.

MSB

Book Review – Still the Shadows by Elizabeth Fields

Still the Shadows
by Elizabeth Fields
Publisher: (self published)
Release Date: October 1, 2014

still-the-shadows

As I’ve mentioned countless times before, the short story form never gets old for me. But shorts are not easy to write. The average person cannot just sit down and whip out a good short story; it is a skill that takes time and practice to perfect. Author Elizabeth Fields is well on her way to becoming a phenomenal short story writer, and she proves this with her latest anthology, STILL THE SHADOWS. This is a short collection with only four stories, but quality is not an issue. Fields once again delivers intense and entertaining tales that any horror fan will love.

If you are not familiar with STILL THE SHADOWS, here is the book’s plot synopsis courtesy of the author, Elizabeth Fields:

Still the Shadows is the latest in terror from Elizabeth Fields. Inside these dark pages are four new twisted tales.

FLYPAPER
A young couple, stranded on their way to a romantic getaway, gets more help than they bargained for when they happen across the home of an old farmer and his wife.

CINNAMON
A girl finds out that cats aren’t the only creatures with nine lives.

THE APARTMENT
A young woman moves into a new place in LA only to find it’s not exactly the home sweet home she’d had in mind.

THE CHANGE
When a sleepy town goes through hard times, a dairy farmer finds a new way to make ends meet.

Fields once again writes with a simple style that focuses more on the story and less on unnecessary prose. This is a concept I wish more authors would follow. I can’t tell you how many short stories I’ve run across that are bogged down by too much exposition. I’m happy to report this is not the case here.

Each story in STILL THE SHADOWS is fun and full of horror. The ideas in this collection are unique and inventive, a testament to the imagination of the author. She does not rely on rehashed plotlines, but instead builds new ones. This is a large part of what makes her stories so enjoyable.

My favorite story in this group is “Cinnamon”. In this tale, a young woman has an early morning battle with a spider that will simply not give up the ghost. I would almost wager this story is the result of something similar that happened to the author at one time. The story is written with a lot of intensity, and I actually cringed at its conclusion.

A couple of years ago, I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing another collection of shorts by Fields titled DON’T LET THEM IN (click here to read that review). That anthology has six stories and is just as wildly satisfying as this one. If you are a fan of horror fiction, I recommend snagging it in addition to STILL THE SHADOWS. But regardless, check this one out for sure. This book is a huge winner for me, and I can’t wait to see what the author does next. It is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Mark of the Devil (1970)

Mark of the Devil
Directed by Michael Armstrong
Courtesy of Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment
Original Release Date: 1970
Blu-ray Release Date: March 17, 2015

mark of the devil

Growing up, I watched quite a bit of horror. In fact, I watched a lot of horror…almost to the point of driving my parents into hysteria. They were convinced for a while that I was on a downward spiral into madness. Of course, that might have been true, but it’s completely beside the point. Although I was fascinated with the genre and devoured every movie I could, there were still those titles that were beyond my reach. This was primarily due to the fact my video store resources were limited; most were just mom-and-pop places that did not order anything too exotic.

MARK OF THE DEVIL is a movie I grew up hearing about but never had the pleasure of watching. Because of its hardcore torture scenes (for that time period), many stores would not carry it. But thankfully, the fine folks at MVD snatched it up and present it now in a HD restoration that is fit for a king. If you have never experienced this film before, you will definitely want to add this to your library soon. It is an iconic horror flick that deserves a spot of recognition everywhere.

If you are not familiar with MARK OF THE DEVIL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD Entertainment:

Once proclaimed as “positively the most horrifying film ever made”, Mark of the Devil arrives in a director-approved edition featuring a new restoration of the feature. A bloody and brutal critique of religious corruption, Mark of the Devil sees horror icon Udo Kier (Flesh for Frankenstein, Suspiria) play a witchfinder’s apprentice whose faith in his master (Herbert Lom) becomes severely tested when they settle in an Austrian village. Presided over by the sadistic Albino (a memorably nasty turn from Reggie Nalder), the film presents its morality not so much in shades of grey as shades of black. Written and directed by Michael Armstrong, who would later pen Eskimo Nell, The Black Panther and House of the Long Shadows, this classic shocker has lost none of its power over the years.

Although this movie is quite dated, it is still captivating and entertaining. It pulled me in from the start and never let go. Aside from the fact it’s got some great gore that is still impressive by today’s standards, it’s also a riveting period piece.

MARK OF THE DEVIL is shot well and the HD restoration looks amazing onscreen. There are only two spots in the whole film where the quality of the picture degrades (it gets grainy), and these don’t last but just a minute or so.

The acting in MARK OF THE DEVIL is excellent, with film icon Udo Kier portraying the lead character, Christian. Kier is one of my favorite old school actors, and his performances are always stellar. He is joined by some of the silver screen’s biggest names, including Herbert Lom and the enigmatic but memorable Reggie Nalder.

As I mentioned earlier, the special effects are impressive, particularly the gore that is shown. While people are being tortured, we get to see impalements, rope burns, rack-stretching, and more. The effects team does a phenomenal job in portraying these atrocities, and I’m surprised the film didn’t earn any awards for them.

MARK OF THE DEVIL is obviously a huge win for me. And although the film is over 40 years old, the terror and intensity it doles out are timeless. MVD has done a magnificent job with this rerelease, so be sure and snatch up the Blu-ray next week; it will contain some nice extras, including:

– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the feature, transferred from original film elements
– Optional English and German audio
– Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
– Newly translated English subtitles for the German audio
– Audio commentary by Michael Armstrong, moderated by Calum Waddell
– Mark of the Times – exclusive feature-length documentary from High Rising Productions on the emergence of the ‘new wave’ of British horror directors that surfaced during the sixties and seventies
– Hallmark of the Devil – author and critic Michael Gingold looks back at Hallmark Releasing, the controversial and confrontational distributor that introduced Mark of the Devil to American cinemas
– Interviews with composer Michael Holm and actors Udo Kier, Herbert Fux, Gaby Fuchs, Ingeborg Schoner and Herbert Lom
– Mark of the Devil: Now and Then – a look at the film’s locations and how they appear today
– Outtakes
– Gallery
– Reversible Sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
– Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Adrian Smith and Anthony Nield, plus an interview with Reggie Nalder by David Del Valle, all illustrated with original stills and artwork

MSB

Movie Review – V/H/S: Viral (2015)

V/H/S: Viral
Directed by (multiple directors)
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: February 17, 2015

VHS-Viral-Blu-ray

Let me preface this review by stating I am a huge fan of the V/H/S franchise overall. The first film was groundbreaking, a revolutionary entry into the horror genre. The second film topped the first, in that it took the thrills of first-person video terror to new levels. But the third entry, V/H/S: VIRAL brings nothing to the table, and instead clouds the continuity of the first and second films. This movie has nothing to do with the first two, which confuses and irritates me to an extent. And while VIRAL is not a complete and total train wreck, it is the weakest of the trilogy and a big letdown.

If you are not familiar with V/H/S: VIRAL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

A stream of police cars chasing after a deranged ice cream truck driver has captivated the attention of the greater Los Angeles area. Dozens of teens flock to the streets with their video cameras and cell phones, hell-bent on capturing the next viral video. But there is something far more sinister occurring in the streets of L.A. As they’ll soon find out, these fame-obsessed amateur videographers, capturing salacious footage for the amusement of the public, are themselves the stars of the next big viral video – one where they face their own horrifying deaths.

It pains me to write a negative review of this film because I love the rest of the franchise so much. But there are simply too many flaws and not enough positives. As a result, this one left me hoping for a reboot of the series so it can at least continue on.

V/H/S: VIRAL follows the same format as its predecessors, in that a central storyline encompasses the other short films within. Unfortunately, the main story is weak and poorly constructed. We are thrown into a situation with the main characters and given no reasoning or information behind it. It is also filled with static bursts and grain-segments which quickly gave me a headache and an uptick on my annoyance meter.

Also, I don’t like how this film deviates from the first two in how it shows the shorts. Previously, the films were all single-shot shorts, with no cutaways or picture transfers. In this movie, the films are pieced together with different camera angles and cues, much like a documentary. I feel this detracts from the original theme of the franchise, and it takes me out of the immersion I am usually able to enjoy with a V/H/S flick.

The shorts within the film itself are ok, however they cannot save V/H/S: VIRAL by themselves. Each is constructed decently for the most part, and yet each also feels rushed, particularly the endings. I think I know where each director was trying to go, but they never quite get there.

If I had to pick a favorite of the three short films, I would have to say the third segment, “Bonestorm”, would have to be it. In this film, a group of skateboarders travel to Tijuana to film a skate video in a seemingly abandoned drainage area. But when one of the skaters gets hurt, his blood seeps into cursed ground and brings forth an army of zombies. I like this one because the zombies remind me of Fulci’s living dead; they look realistic and gruesome, a true testament to the special effects crew.

But V/H/S: VIRAL still cannot pull itself out of the hole it digs from the start. As such, it falls way short of the precedent set by its predecessors. I would say you should give this one a look, if anything to see what the shorts have to offer…but do not expect great things. I hope the franchise continues with a fourth film, but I also hope the filmmakers go back to the original formula. V/H/S: VIRAL is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB