Movie Review – Queen Crab (2015)

Queen Crab
Directed by Brett Piper
Courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing
Release Date: September 29, 2015

queen crab

I should have known what to expect from QUEEN CRAB when I realized it was directed by Brett Piper, the guy responsible for 1990’s A NYMPHOID BARBARIAN IN DINOSAUR HELL. My friend Joan and I rented that one years ago as a joke for a ‘Who Can Find the Dumbest Movie Contest’, and it came in second place. So, I honestly should not have been surprised by what QUEEN CRAB had to offer. Still, I’m a sucker for just about any creature-feature, so I gave it a look. Unfortunately, the ninety minutes I devoted to this film would have been better spent cleaning my bathroom or doing just about anything else at all. The stop-motion special effects were decent, but they’re not enough to save this bomb.

If you are not familiar with QUEEN CRAB, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing:

A meteor crashes into a quiet lake in the remote countryside and awakens a centuries-old beast, who tears through a nearby town and its inhabitants, who must fight for their lives and stop this Queen Crab before she can hatch an army of babies. Bonus features include: Special Effects Featurettes, Behind the Scenes Featurette, Blooper reel, Director’s Commentary , Sneak Peak: Triclops, Trailers

I realize this film is meant to be a sort of homage to the giant creature films from the 50s and 60s…and if it was meant to be a comedy, ok fine. But I never got the feel that it was. There’s too much ‘seriousness’ in it to be a comedy, and as such, the movie fails on almost every level.

The primary component that kills QUEEN CRAB from the start is the super low-budget quality the film has from the opening scenes. This is a huge contrast from the DVD cover and the opening credits; both sucker the viewer into thinking this is a bigger-budget movie that will entertain and thrill. But when the opening credits end and the movie starts, the opposite becomes evident very quickly.

The film quality looks as if the production crew used an old VHS camcorder to shoot the movie. This could be overlooked if it was done to make the film look old, however that’s not the case. The movie is set in modern times but simply looks cheap and crappy.

Likewise, the acting in QUEEN CRAB is absolutely horrible. This is the second nail in the proverbial coffin. I wanted to overlook it, but there’s no way to do so. Aside from the fact the casting decisions were terrible, the people (I cannot call them actors) who fill the roles cannot act to save their lives. Again, if this was intentional, it might lend a bit of offhanded charm to the film…but again, it’s not done on purpose.

The only somewhat saving grace for this film is the stop-motion effects used for the crab. These actually looked pretty good, and they were blended in with the film fairly well. But, even so, this isn’t nearly enough to save the film.

QUEEN CRAB is a definite ‘No’ for me, and I cannot recommend it at all…unless you are looking for a cheap creature-feature that will annoy you instead of making you laugh. I’m not sure what vision director Brett Piper had for the film, but I doubt it was this. The film is available today if you want to give it a look.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Immoral Tales (1974)

Immoral Tales
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD
Original Year of Release: 1974
Blu-ray Release Date: September 15, 2015

immoral

I have to say, 1974 was an excellent year. The UPC code made its debut; Muhammad Ali regained the Heavyweight title in The Rumble in the Jungle; THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE was released on an unsuspecting public; and, oh yeah…I was born. It also marked director Walerian Borowczyk’s first foray into explicit eroticism with IMMORAL TALES. I first heard of this film many, many years ago, but I never thought I’d get the chance to see it. Thanks to the fine folks at Arrow Video and MVD, this classic sexploitation piece is now available in HD. And while it won’t appeal to everyone, fans of this genre will label this as a Must See!

If you are not familiar with IMMORAL TALES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD:

Walerian Borowczyk’s first explicitly erotic feature, Immoral Tales presents a veritable cavalcade of depravity: cosmic fellatio, transcendental masturbation, blood-drenched lesbianism and papal incest. It tells four stories, each delving back further in time, as if to suggest that the same issues recur constantly throughout human civilization, whether involving notorious historical figures like Lucrezia Borgia and Erzsébet Báthory, or present-day teenagers. Capitalising on the relaxation of censorship laws, Immoral Tales would transform Borowczyk’s image from brilliant but obscure avant-garde artist to one of Europe’s most confrontational filmmakers when it came to trampling on sexual taboos.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this film, particularly because I’m somewhat familiar with some of his later work. I reviewed another film of Borowczyk’s a while back titled THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE (click here to read that review), so I figured this one might be another surrealistic jaunt into the bizarre. Interestingly enough, I was wrong; IMMORAL TALES deals less with the strange and more with the expressive.

IMMORAL TALES is shot very well, and it looks more like an artistic piece than a feature film. I am impressed with how well Borowczyk utilized camera angles to enhance the sensuality of the film. For example, the cover art on the Blu-ray is actually a shot taken from the film. This close-up accentuates the sexiness of the steamy scene and sets the tone for the act that follows.

The acting is so-so, but the viewer is not focused on the expressive talents of the cast in this film. More can be said of what the actors don’t say, as opposed to their actual dialogue. This is not a negative at all, but more of an observation. In the end, this does nothing to dampen the entertainment experience as a whole.

When I sat down to view IMMORAL TALES, I watched the ‘extended’ version, which includes the short film “The Beast of Gévaudan”, upon which another of Borowczyk’s notorious films is based, THE BEAST. This was interesting, as much of the footage from THE BEAST came from this short. I enjoyed this, as it gave a bit of a behind-the-scenes feel to the piece.

IMMORAL TALES is a win for me, and I recommend it. Fans of dated exploitation films will love this one, as will folks looking for some vintage erotica. In addition to the vivid HD picture and enhanced sound, the Blu-ray set comes with a slew of Special Features, including:

* New high definition digital transfers of two versions of the feature, the familiar four-part edition and the original five-part conception including the short film The Beast of Gévaudan (which later became the feature The Beast)
* Uncompressed Mono 2.0 PCM Audio
* Optional English subtitles
* Introduction by Borowczyk expert Daniel Bird
* Love Reveals Itself, a new interview programme featuring production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry
* Obscure Pleasures: A Portrait of Walerian Borowczyk, a newly-edited archival interview in which the filmmaker discusses painting, cinema and sex
* Blow Ups, a visual essay by Daniel Bird about Borowczyk’s works on paper
* Theatrical trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring Borowczyk’s own original poster design
* Illustrated booklet containing new writing on the film by by Daniel Bird and an archive piece by Philip Strick

The film is available now.

MSB

TV Show Review – The Returned

The Returned
Courtesy of A&E Studios and Lionsgate
DVD Release Date: September 15, 2015

the returned

Shows like THE RETURNED always throw me for a loop. The plot synopsis for such shows can be very vague, and sometimes it suggests simplicity in nature. But when you watch the show, you get much more than you bargained for. I can say for certainty that this is the case here. I wasn’t expecting much from THE RETURNED, but I was hoping to at least be entertained. I’m happy to report I enjoyed the show and then some. THE RETURNED is a pretty enthralling series, and I wish they had not canceled it.

If you are not familiar with THE RETURNED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of A&E Studios:

Starring Mark Pellegrino (“Lost”), THE RETURNED™ focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people, who have long been presumed dead, suddenly re-appear and struggle to reintegrate into a world that has left them behind. As strange phenomena begin to occur, family members must grapple with the mysterious return of their deceased love ones.

I am always intrigued when an American show is based on a foreign one. In this case, THE RETURNED is based on a French show of the same name, titled in their language “Les Revenants”. I have not seen the foreign version, but I understand it is a very good show.

THE RETURNED is shot well and appears to have a high production value. The sets are well chosen, and the filming location is beautiful.

The acting is top notch with an all-star cast loaded with talent. I cannot pinpoint a ‘best’ performance, however I will call out Agnes Bruckner and Jeremy Sisto and say they give rock solid portrayals of their characters. The rest of the cast does a great job as well.

The story is interesting, however I wish we could have learned more about the returners and their situation. That is my sole complaint about this series, however it is no fault of the production team. I am sure we, the audience, would have learned more as it progressed, had it not been canceled. Still, I am left with questions that cannot be answered. I will not voice them out loud here, as I don’t want to give anything away.

But regardless, THE RETURNED is still definitely worth the watch, and I recommend it. The series is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look.

MSB

Movie Review – Silent Retreat (2016)

Silent Retreat
Directed by Ace Jordan
Courtesy of Midnight Releasing
Release Date: January 12, 2016

silent retreat

I LOVE it when directors and authors track me down from out of the blue to review their work. This shows ambition and initiative, and in many cases, the work in question is a labor of love. These pieces are usually well made and carefully constructed, and they are also very enjoyable. Such is the case with SILENT RETREAT, an upcoming offering from director Ace Jordan. This film took me by surprise and blew me away. Although you will have to wait four months for the film’s DVD release, I highly suggest you mark it on your calendar; this is one film you’ll be glad you waited for.

If you are not familiar with SILENT RETREAT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the film’s official website:

Six members of a media company go on a weekend business retreat at an isolated lodge in the woods. When one of the members goes missing, they discover that the lodge was formerly a private mental institution that had been shut down after allegations of devious misconduct. One by one, they fall victim to the dark secrets buried at the lodge.

SILENT RETREAT is shot well and looks great onscreen. I never once thought of this as a low-budget film. I have to confess I do not know the budget for this movie, however IMDB estimates it at $600,000. Regardless, the production crew does a great job utilizing the funds.

The acting is very good, with several notable performances. Donny Boaz is excellent as Zach, and after looking at his IMDB page, I would dub him as ‘the hardest working actor you’ve probably never heard of’. I enjoyed him in this film, and I look forward to seeing him more onscreen. Actor Eli Bildner is hilarious as slacker Teddy, and actress Devon Ogden shines as the bitchy Lira. Both play off of each other well, and the result is a fun onscreen chemistry. Finally, young Aidan Flynn gives a chilling performance as the disturbed Ned. He seems to be a talented young man with a bright future in Hollywood.

SILENT RETREAT does not contain many special effects, but those we see look very good. I particularly like the gore that comes about when a man accidentally falls backwards, head-first, into a bear trap. This caught me by surprise, and the resulting onscreen carnage is fantastic.

I was expecting the story to be a rehashed version of countless films, however it is thankfully somewhat original. Not only that, but it’s well done. The plot plays out nicely, and it even has a clever twist towards the end that I did not see coming. As a result, I found the film wholly engrossing and wickedly engaging.

SILENT RETREAT is a major win for me, and I highly recommend it. Chocked full of dark humor and intense thrills, this is one for every horror/thriller fan out there. Make a note on your calendar to snatch this up as soon as it is released.

MSB

Movie Review – Grim Reapers (2014)

Grim Reapers
Directed by Cade Saint
Courtesy of Dark Room Productions
Release Date: September 27, 2014

grim-reaper-poster

I love the spirit of indie films. No matter how good or bad an indie film is, the spark of ambition is usually always evident within (I say ‘usually’ because some of the films I’ve seen in the past were train wrecks with no soul or flare). Indie director Cade Saint recently touched base with me to see if I would review his newly released horror flick, GRIM REAPERS. And while the film is not perfect, it definitely showcases the up-and-coming talent of a horror name in the making.

If you are not familiar with GRIM REAPERS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Dark Room Productions:

A teenager and his friends become terrorized by dark hooded figures after his father goes missing at a remote house in the woods. See what happens when death comes for a surprise visit in this creepy terrifying thriller.

I have to preface this review by saying ‘Thanks!’ to Saint for reaching out to me…I love to help promote work with promise, and his talents seem to be well on their way to development.

GRIM REAPERS is shot very well for the most part, and the camera work shows a lot of intuitive aspects. However, there are a few scenes that are way too shaky; I’m speaking particularly of the scene where Jay is running through the house, trying to find his friends. I could not tell what was going on. The lighting in the film is pretty good, too, overall. Many lower budget films sacrifice lighting and sound, but that’s not the case here. The film is well lit, and the audio sounds nice as well.

The acting in GRIM REAPERS is pretty good. I was expecting cardboard-acting from relatives or friends; instead, I got decent performances and a wide range of character emotions. I have to single out Henry Friedman, who portrays younger brother Kyle. Friedman does a magnificent job with his role, and I hope to see more of him in the future.

The storyline is where I have problems with the film. It is incoherent and does not have much in terms of substance. There is plenty of build-up and tension created…but then nothing happens. A shadowy figure here, or a creepy sound there…only to have the characters walk off. I also did not fully understand what was going on, in terms of the ‘reapers’. Were they trick-or-treaters from Hell? Were they kids who took a prank too far? There’s no big reveal and no conclusion. I would have preferred a massive, boring info-dump of an explanation, instead of no explanation at all.

Still, GRIM REAPERS is not a total loss, and it shows the talent Saint possesses. I have seen way worse, from films and directors that do not have any hope of a future in the industry; this film just appears to be a stepping stone for Saint. I look forward to what he does in the future. GRIM REAPERS is available now on VOD (click here to order it, if you want to check it out).

MSB

It’s giveaway time again…over at Hayes Hudson’s House of Horror

My buddy Hayes is at it again…he’s giving away more free stuff!! Up for grabs this time is a Limited Collector’s Edition VHS/DVD bundle of Wild Eye Releasing’s sci-fi/horror flick, MOLD!

mold1

This is an epic giveaway, so hop over to his site to enter now (click the link below). IT’S FREE!!

Hayes Hudson’s House of Horror MOLD! Giveaway

MSB

Book Review – Childhood Fears by Various Authors

Childhood Fears
by Various Authors
Courtesy of Samhain Publishing
Release Date: October 6, 2015

childhood

Few horrors can do justice to the adolescent fears of your youth. When we are young, fear is a driving force behind our growth. We either learn from it and grow stronger…or we succumb to it, and we falter. But regardless of the outcome, the terror we experience during our childhood is many times raw and primal, some of the most powerful we will ever feel. As such, these make for great horror fiction. CHILDHOOD FEARS, an upcoming release from the fine folks at Samhain Publishing, is an excellent look into a few of these horrors. And while most of us survived our younger years without permanent scars, chances are readers of this book won’t be as lucky.

If you are not familiar with CHILDHOOD FEARS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

Four original novellas to make you hide under the covers!
Ah, the carefree, sunny days of childhood. And oh, the terrifying, dark nights. Nights when you closed your eyes tight, afraid to open them and see the painted, eternally leering face of a clown mere inches from your own. Nights when you could look out your bedroom window and watch the scarecrows walk across the lonely cornfields. When every story or fairytale your parents told you seemed to include monsters. And when even the teddy bear by your side had fangs and plans of his own. Travel back to those nights of horror now with four original novellas by four wonderfully macabre authors. And…sleep tight!

I love the concept for this book. It is such a fitting subject for an anthology. And, true to form, the folks at Samhain assembled the perfect group of authors to help create this ominous tome.

Each story in CHILDHOOD FEARS is written well and flows smoothly. Likewise, each embraces a specific fear from our youth and capitalizes upon it exponentially. I found myself literally shivering from time to time, an involuntary response to an exposed memory from my own childhood nightmares.

My favorite story has to be the first one, “Nightmare in Greasepaint” by L. L. Soares and Daniel Gunn. This haunting story tells of a man who goes back to his childhood home after his mother dies. There, he confronts a few demons, both old and new. The subject of this story is clowns, although not in the traditional sense. I love the originality of this piece and the way it ends.

CHILDHOOD FEARS is a major win for me, and I recommend giving it a look. Make a note to grab it when it is released next month, but don’t be surprised if you find yourself sleeping with a nightlight afterwards…

MSB

Movie Review – Lost After Dark (2015)

Lost After Dark
Directed by Ian Kessner
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment

Release Date: September 1, 2015

Lost-After-Dark-Blu

I’ve seen many films that claim to pay homage to the classic slasher flicks of the 80s, but few of them do the genre justice. Many are weak attempts that rehash what we’ve already seen with little flair or ambition. But every once in a while, a film comes along that captures the heart and soul of this beloved class. Such is the case with Anchor Bay’s recent release, LOST AFTER DARK. A true labor of love, this film sets the standard for homage films, and I highly recommend this one to anyone who is a fan of good horror.

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

Spring Ball, 1984. Adrienne (Kendra Timmins, Midnight Sun, Wingin’ It), a straight-A student, joins her quarterback crush Sean (Justin Kelly, Maps To The Stars, Big Muddy) and some friends in sneaking out of their high school dance for some unsupervised mayhem. The teens’ party plans hit a snag when they run out of gas on a deserted road. They head out on foot and discover a rundown farmhouse where they hope to find help, but instead find themselves at the mercy of Junior Joad (Mark Wiebe, Sweet Karma), a cannibal killer from an urban legend. After the brutal murder of one of their friends, the group s quest for help becomes one of survival. Will anyone survive the night?

I have to tell you: I loved this movie from the start. It is set in 1984, and it actually feels like it was shot in that year. This aspect truly impressed me, as many films claim to have an air as such, but they then fall short. LOST AFTER DARK succeeds where those films fail.

LOST AFTER DARK is shot very well and looks excellent onscreen. The film-style has a vintage look, complete with grainy images and tiny blemishes on the ‘film’ itself. I love this, as it adds to the nostalgia, and it helps give the film a sort of credibility as a slasher.

The acting is top notch, as well. I did not recognize anybody in the cast, but they all do a great job bringing these high school stereotypes to life.

LOST AFTER DARK feels like THE BREAKFAST CLUB meets THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. It has truckloads of intensity and some great gore, to boot. Even if the film was set in modern day, it would still be effective as a slasher. I love this movie, and I highly recommend giving it a shot. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Dark Was the Night (2015)

Dark Was the Night
Directed by Jack Heller
Courtesy of RLJ Entertainment
Release Date: September 1, 2015

DARK WAS THE NIGHT. (DVD Artwork). ©Image Entertainment.

DARK WAS THE NIGHT. (DVD Artwork). ©Image Entertainment.

I love, love, LOVE creature-features, and I cannot get enough of them. Films with monsters/creatures are some of my favorite in the horror genre (James Cameron’s ALIENS and John Carpenter’s THE THING are in my Top Five Horror Films of All Time, if that tells you anything). So when I heard about DARK WAS THE NIGHT, I jumped on the opportunity to watch it. After all, I’ll give just about any monster movie a shot. I will admit this film is not perfect, but it’s a lot of fun nonetheless, and fans of the genre like me will definitely want to give this one a look.

If you are not familiar with DARK WAS THE NIGHT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of RLJ Entertainment:

Maiden Woods is a remote and quiet town of decent, hard-working people, but something stirs in the dark woods surrounding this isolated community. After a logging company decimates an area of the forest, a rash of increasingly violent and unexplainable events transpires. Sheriff Paul Shields (Kevin Durand) and his deputy (Lukas Haas) struggle to confront their own personal demons while facing down a new breed of raw terror that is possibly older than humanity itself… and much, much hungrier.

DARK WAS THE NIGHT is shot well and looks great onscreen (what I could see of it, anyway…the review copy I was given had a VERY annoying watermark that dominated most of the dark scenes). I particularly like the locales chosen for the filming. While they are not stunning in scope, they do a great job of building the desolate feel needed for the film.

The acting in DARK WAS THE NIGHT is pretty good, though I’m surprised to see Kevin Durand in the lead. Durand is a decent actor, however I was thrown a bit by seeing him in this role. I picture him more as a heavy, a menacing figure that instills fear on those who see him. Still, he does a pretty good job here. The supporting cast do the same; I can’t recall any wooden or particularly bad performances.

The story is nothing we haven’t heard before, however that’s just fine for a film like this. The tension builds nicely, culminating to a climactic battle at the end. I’m very proud of the filmmakers for not revealing the creature in the DVD cover art or even too soon in the film. I cannot stand it when distributors do this, and thus DARK WAS THE NIGHT is a nice change from the norm in regard to spoiling the surprise.

*SPOILER ALERT* But the creature is the cause for my problem with this film. The beast looks wicked and downright vicious…but I don’t think it would be found in the wintery northeast; it appears almost reptilian in nature, and thus, it wouldn’t be trekking around in the snow. Also, we don’t get to see it long enough at the end.

Still, with those two issues aside, DARK WAS THE NIGHT is an entertaining creature-feature that fans of the genre should enjoy. I recommend it, and I hope to see a better version of it soon (minus the watermark). The film is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Tortures of the Damned by Hunter Shea

Tortures of the Damned
by Hunter Shea
Courtesy of Pinnacle Books
Release Date: July 28, 2015

tortures

Hunter Shea is one of those horror authors who just keeps getting it right. By ‘it’, I mean the formula for terrifying reads. The tales he weaves will force your heart to race and your breath to catch in your throat. His bibliography is growing at a rapid rate, and, thankfully, his talent level is keeping pace. And if you’re not scared by his prose now, give him a bit…I’ll bet he will find a way to chill your blood soon enough.

TORTURES OF THE DAMNED, a recent book from Pinnacle, is just such a story. A post-apocalyptic tale like no other, this book will force you to reconsider your own humanity and make you wonder just how far you would go to survive.

If you are not familiar with TORTURES OF THE DAMNED, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Pinnacle Books:

SHOCK…

First, the electricity goes—plunging the east coast in darkness after a devastating nuclear attack. Millions panic. Millions die. They are the lucky ones. 
 


AFTER SHOCK…

Next, the chemical weapons take effect—killing or contaminating everything alive. Except a handful of survivors in a bomb shelter. They are the damned.
 
 

HELL IS FOR HUMANS
Then, the real nightmare begins. Hordes of rats force two terrified families out of their shelter—and into the savage streets of an apocalyptic wasteland. They are not alone. Vicious, chemical-crazed animals hunt in packs. Dogs tear flesh, cats draw blood, horses crush bone. Roaming gangs of the sick and dying are barely recognizable as human. These are the times that try men’s souls. These are the tortures that tear families apart. This is hell on earth. The rules are simple: Kill or die.

I’ve read several of Shea’s books, and I have to admit that this one is a bit different than his usual fare. This one is way more graphic and way more brutal. These are not negative aspects at all, either…in fact, they help amp up the intensity.

TORTURES OF THE DAMNED is written well and flows at a nice clip. The mass market paperback book measures in at 439 pages, but there’s not much fluff within the pages to push it so. Instead, Shea focuses on a taut, well-knit story that entertains and thrills.

The characters are believable, broken people who are pushed almost beyond their limits for survival. I found it interesting to see the transformations they have to undergo in order to make it through their ordeal. By the end, most of the characters are completely different people than when the book starts.

The story in TORTURES OF THE DAMNED is engrossing and tense, a flurry of conflicts and horrific encounters that will leave even the heartiest of horror readers cowering. I was surprised by the outcome of several engagements, and at certain points, I had to put the book down and walk away for a few moments. The tension is that palpable, a testament to the writing skills of a talented author.

TORTURES OF THE DAMNED is a major win for me, and it’s another fine addition to Shea’s library of titles. If he can keep delivering top-notch thrills like this, he is sure to go down in literary history as an icon of the horror genre. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB