Movie Review – Cooties (2015)

Cooties
Directed by Jonathan Milott & Cary Murnion
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: December 1, 2015

cooties-blu-ray-cover-side

When I first read the plot synopsis for COOTIES, I chuckled out loud. The title alone was enough to earn my interest, but the story sounded humorous and therefore made it a must-see. The idea of infected kids terrorizing a group of teachers could be comedy gold if done right. And thankfully, filmmakers Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion nail the concept squarely on the head. COOTIES is a hilarious and unapologetic film that will having you laughing hysterically while fighting the urge to cringe.

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

A horror comedy with unexpected laughs and unapologetic thrills. When a cafeteria food virus turns elementary school children into little killer savages, a group of misfit teachers must band together to escape the playground carnage. The film stars Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, and Alison Pill as teachers who fight to survive the most unruly students ever on the worst Monday of their lives!

I admit the cast of the film was a large draw for me. I’ve enjoyed Elijah Wood’s films for a long time, so he was a big plus. But throwing in Rainn Wilson, Jack McBrayer, and Leigh Whannell made my funny-bone tingle. I expected to be in for a good time, and I was not disappointed.

COOTIES is shot well and looks great from a production standpoint. I had the pleasure of watching the film on Blu-ray, and the HD picture is vivid and great.

The acting, as mentioned above, is top notch with an all-star cast headlining the film. I particularly enjoyed Jack McBrayer and Leigh Whannell in their performances. McBrayer plays a weenie who can barely keep his wits about him, while Whannell portrays an extremely socially awkward teacher who focuses more on fitting in (even though he fails epically) than surviving. These two are just fractions of the whole in this riotous, laugh-out-loud horror comedy.

The special effects in COOTIES look good, however they are few and far between. The children mostly look like agitated, over-caffeinated youngsters with dirty faces. But this is not a bad thing at all…if anything, it helps elevate the humor level by making them less zombie-like and more realistic.

And speaking of humor, this film is crammed full of it. Each character handles the chaos in a unique and laugh-inducing way, which allows the one-liners to fly. And when things go from bad to worse, the dialogue gets funnier. But there’s plenty of tension here, too. And when the final credits roll, you’ll be praying for a sequel (I know I was!).

COOTIES is a great flick, and I highly recommend it. Brutally funny with plenty of non-politically correct humor, this film will make you look at your own kids in a different light. And the opening credits sequence will convince you to NEVER eat another chicken nugget again. COOTIES is available tomorrow in a variety of formats, so make a note to give it a look.

MSB

Movie Review – Lily Grace: A Witch Story (2015)

Lily Grace: A Witch Story
Directed by Wes Miller
Courtesy of Midnight Releasing
Release Date: November 3, 2015

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Last month, I reviewed a Midnight Releasing film titled BLOOD PUNCH which I proclaimed to be in the running for Best Horror Movie of the Year. With this month’s title, however, I have to move to the opposite end of the spectrum. While LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY is not the worst movie I’ve seen this year, it will certainly not garner any accolades from me.

If you are not familiar with LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Midnight Releasing:

After the death of his estranged father, Ron returns to his childhood home. His first night there he is visited by a supernatural being. Haunted by feelings of guilt, convinced this entity has something to do with his father’s passing, he stays to uncover the truth behind the witch named Lily Grace.

I really wanted to like this film. I think witches and warlocks are a very underrated horror genre, and I love fiction and films that do them justice. Unfortunately, this film never reaches that level.

The cinematography in LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY is decent, however the picture quality looks grainy and cheap. This would be forgivable if the story was enthralling, however the plot leaves a lot to be desired. As a result, the film suffers visually and story-wise.

The acting is not terrible, yet I don’t think any of the cast will be winning awards anytime soon. Nobody gives a breakthrough performance, but they all do a satisfactory job with their roles.

The special effects are pretty good for the most part. The makeup job for the witch looks pretty creepy, and it stands the up-close test. There’s not really any gore to speak of, which is a shame; decent carnage might have saved this film for me.

The story in LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY is where I have the biggest problem. It is basically a jumbled, unorganized mess. We are hastily introduced to characters and given no reason to like them. Not to mention the fact that we are given no backstory on several of them. Also, there’s no tension in the plot. I never once felt like this was a horror movie, not even when the witch was on the screen.

As it is, LILY GRACE: A WITCH STORY is a bust. I cannot recommend it because it simply has too many flaws. The film is available now, however, if you decide to check it out.

MSB

Book Review – We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

We Are Monsters
by Brian Kirk
Courtesy of Samhain Publishing
Release Date: July 7, 2015

we are monsters

When we hear the term ‘monsters’, we oftentimes think of nonhuman creatures. At least I do, anyway. Very rarely will I identify the word with an actual figure, like Ed Gein or Ted Bundy. I suppose my love of creature-features is the reason for this. But author Brian Kirk is determined to change my view. His recent release, WE ARE MONSTERS, shows just how monstrous humanity can be. And if this book is any indication of what we can expect from him in the future, sign me up…I’ll be a lifelong fan.

If you are not familiar with WE ARE MONSTERS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

The Apocalypse has come to the Sugar Hill mental asylum.

He’s the hospital’s newest, and most notorious, patient–a paranoid schizophrenic who sees humanity’s dark side. Luckily he’s in good hands. Dr. Eli Alpert has a talent for healing tortured souls. And his protégé is working on a cure for schizophrenia, a drug that returns patients to their former selves. But unforeseen side effects are starting to emerge. Forcing prior traumas to the surface. Setting inner demons free.

Monsters have been unleashed inside the Sugar Hill mental asylum. They don’t have fangs or claws. They look just like you or me.

I was very pleasantly surprised with this book. The cover art is decent but very plain; it does not grab me the way other Samhain covers do, therefore I wasn’t sure what to expect with the story. Thankfully, my concerns were unmerited. This book is a monstrous debut, and it is excellent in almost every facet.

WE ARE MONSTERS is written well and flows at a nice pace. The story starts off with an intriguing opening, and then progresses quickly, wrapping its icy hands around your heart. By then, it’s too late…you are ensnared in a riveting and chilling tale.

The plot is entertaining and terrifying, a realistic look into a scientific possibility that holds both hope and terror. I had no problem believing the plausibility of the story’s concept, and it prompted my mind to continue pondering it after the book was finished. This haunting after-effect is true testament to the author’s talent.

The characters in WE ARE MONSTERS are damaged and believable. Some are likable individuals, however many are not. The diversity of personalities is a nice change of pace as many horror authors rely on stereotypes to fill their rosters. Not so here, thankfully.

If I were forced to find a flaw with WE ARE MONSTERS, I would have to say the cover art is the only lacking element, and granted, it is a very minor one. Otherwise, this book is a great read, and I highly recommend giving it a look. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – American Ultra (2015)

American Ultra
Directed by Nima Nourizadeh
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: November 24, 2015

american ultra

The BOURNE series is one of my favorite book reads as well as one of my favorite espionage film sets. The concept of an extremely adept ‘super-soldier’ losing his memory is very compelling, and many things can be done with it. In AMERICAN ULTRA, Director Nima Nourizadeh asks what could happen if said ‘super-soldier’ is actually a stoner with several phobias and severe self esteem issues. The result is a high-caliber action-comedy that entertains on many levels.

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

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart star in this dynamic thrill ride that mixes explosive action with edgy humor. Mike (Eisenberg) shares a small-town life with his girlfriend Phoebe (Stewart). But Mike’s sleepy world goes wild after he discovers that he’s actually a CIA sleeper agent with lethal fighting skills—and the target of attackers as he and Phoebe fight to survive in this exhilarating adventure.

I will be honest: I did not like Kristen Stewart much prior to watching this film. Granted, she was great in ZATHURA, but then she went on to do the soul-crushing TWILIGHT films. At that point, I thought her career was over. But in AMERICAN ULTRA, Stewart gets to lick her proverbial acting chops and show us she’s more than just a cardboard figure that can talk.

AMERICAN ULTRA is shot very well and appears to have a high production value. The sets look great, the attention to detail is evident, and everything meshes well to offer a great onscreen experience.

The acting is very good, with Jesse Eisenberg and the afore mentioned Kristen Stewart in the leads. I was thrown a bit by the casting choice for Eisenberg as the sleeper agent, however his skill as an actor shines through and he owns the role with the familiar quirky zest we have come to expect from him. Likewise, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, John Leguizamo, and Walton Goggins round out a superb cast.

The special effects in AMERICAN ULTRA are decent and fun. We are given a small dose of gore, but most of it is done in a comical way. I laughed and also found it interesting to see all of the nontraditional ways Mike comes up with to dispatch his foes. For example, in one scene, he uses a single spoon to kill two men.

The story is entertaining and compelling. I am impressed with how much depth the creators put into the film for having such a basic premise. There are many subtle inferences to concepts such as loyalty, faith, and love, and they all make you think. I like how the movie forces you to confront idealisms like this and still be entertained.

AMERICAN ULTRA is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. Chocked full of action and dark humor, this is a film you won’t soon forget after its over. I plan on revisiting it in the near future, just to enjoy it once more. Be sure and check it out on Blu-ray, so you can enjoy the HD picture and sound. It is available today.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Turkey Shoot (1982)

Turkey Shoot
(a.k.a. Escape 2000)
Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith
Courtesy of Severin Films
Original Year of Production: 1982
Blu-ray Release Date: September 22, 2015

turkey

Seems like every time I turn around, the fine folks at Severin Films and CAV Distribution are releasing even more obscure and excellent titles, many of which I’ve never even heard of. As an avid movie fan, I am chagrinned to admit there are titles out there with which I’m not familiar, but I also find it fascinating as well. It’s amazing just how many are out there. Today’s title, TURKEY SHOOT (also known as ESCAPE 2000 and BLOOD CAMP THATCHER) is one of these long-lost classics. And although it’s dated, it’s a lot of fun nonetheless.

If you are not familiar with TURKEY SHOOT, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films:

The Infamous Ozploitation Splatter Classic Now Presented Totally Uncut In HD For The First Time Ever!

In a totalitarian near future, defiant citizens are labeled ‘deviants’ and sentenced to brutal ‘behavior modification’ camps. But when new prisoners Anders (Steve Railsback of THE STUNT MAN and HELTER SKELTER) and Walters (Olivia Hussey of ROMEO & JULIET and BLACK CHRISTMAS) are chosen as human prey for rich people to hunt, they will be thrust into a nightmare of depravity, dismemberment, cleaved skulls, exploding heads, lesbians with crossbows, the insane hungers of a deformed cannibal circus freak, and more. Michael Craig (THE VAULT OF HORROR), John Ley (BMX BANDITS) and Roger Ward (MAD MAX) co-star in this notorious blood-and-thunder shocker – also known as ESCAPE 2000 and BLOOD CAMP THATCHER – from maverick Ozploitation director Brian Trenchard-Smith (STUNT ROCK, DEAD END DRIVE-IN) and producer Antony I. Ginnane (PATRICK, THIRST), now fully restored in HD from the original vault negative.

The concept of this film is not new, however it is one of my favorite overarching storylines in fiction or films. I love the idea of someone hunting human beings because man is intelligent and resourceful, therefore he makes the perfect prey to try and bag.

TURKEY SHOOT is shot well for the most part (as I said, it’s dated, so the camerawork is nothing amazing), but it looks good onscreen. If you take into consideration the time period in which it was made, the production value looks high and makes this look like a bigger budget film (IMDB estimates the budget was 3.2 million, certainly nothing to sneeze it for back in the day).

The acting is pretty decent, with Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey in the lead roles. Railsback is just about a genre icon, starring in many memorable films that include LIFEFORCE and ED GEIN. Hussey is probably best known for her stunning portrayal of Juliet in Franco Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET, however she is well known in genre circles as well for starring in films such as 1974’s BLACK CHRISTMAS, Stephen King’s IT, and the cult classic ICE CREAM MAN. The rest of the cast is somewhat memorable, although the only standout performance is given by Michael Craig as the prison warden, Thatcher.

The special effects in TURKEY SHOOT are surprisingly very well done, particularly the gore. Some of my favorite scenes include a man getting both hands chopped off with a machete and a woman whose head explodes when she is stabbed in the face with an explosive-tipped arrow.

The storyline is nothing new, but it is executed well and holds the viewer’s interest. When all hell breaks lose in the camp towards the end, a full-fledged battle breaks out between the prisoners and the guards. This battle sequence is intense and fun, a great note on which to end the film.

TURKEY SHOOT is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. Labeled as a classic from the Ozploitation (Australian exploitation) genre, this is a film you won’t soon forget after it’s over. The film is available now, so give it a look.

MSB

Movie Review – Four Warriors (2015)

Four Warriors
Directed by Phil Hawkins
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: November 3, 2015

four warriors

If a movie is touted as “Game of Thrones meets Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”, it’s obviously going to be a must-see for me. I’m one of the few people in my social group who liked HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, and I’m a rabid fan of GAME OF THRONES…so this kind of lure is almost too much for me to deny. This description was initially what drew me to FOUR WARRIORS, a recent release from Lionsgate. Unfortunately, I wish I would have listened to my instincts on this one; despite its claim, this film is nothing like either title. I want the 90 minutes of my life I spent on this film back.

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

Four battle-weary Crusaders take on a mission to track down the evil predator who has abducted all the men and children from a devastated village.

From a production standpoint, the film looks ok. It is shot decently and the camerawork is clean. Likewise, the sets are fairly believable (much of it is shot in the woods, so not much you can do with that), and the locales look nice. Even the acting is acceptable. But that is where the positives end.

FOUR WARRIORS is a low-budget venture that has the look and feel of a LARP (Live Action Role Play) production. I say this because the details of the whole film are all lacking. The characters look nothing like Crusaders (these guys are all clean cut and fit), and they are about as mismatched a group as you can imagine. I couldn’t decide if they were supposed to be comical or serious. In the end, they quickly started to annoy me. The weapons look fake and even the armor seems too clean and shiny to be real for the time period.

The battle scenes try to be intense, but they have no flair. I never once felt like anybody was in real danger, as the swings and strokes of the weaponry are so far off the mark it’s just plain sad. I have seen more action in high school plays.

The ‘demons’ in FOUR WARRIORS are too humanlike, which makes them eye-rolling-ly laughable. I attribute this to the low budget film factor. Granted, this is not a huge negative, but when combined with everything else wrong in the film, it’s yet another reason to shrug this one off.

FOUR WARRIORS misses the mark for me, and therefore I cannot recommend it with a good conscious. Director Phil Hawkins shows some promise, but a few major issues (as mentioned above) will have to be addressed for future projects. This film is available now, however, if you decide to give it a look.

MSB

Movie Review – The Horror Network, Volume 1 (2015)

The Horror Network, Volume 1
Directed by (multiple directors)
Courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing
Release Date: October 27, 2015

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I love, love, LOVE horror movie anthologies! Seems like the more I watch, the more I love ‘em. Just like with short horror stories in literature, creating an effective short horror film is a true work of art; it’s certainly not something just anybody can do. It takes talent and skill. THE HORROR NETWORK, VOLUME 1 is rife with both, and the result is an excellent collection of horror shorts that fans of the genre will love.

If you are not familiar with THE HORROR NETWORK, VOLUME 1, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing:

Serial killers, ghostly phone calls, inner demons, otherworld monsters and creepy stalkers collide in this frightening anthology. Five of horror’s most promising new directing talents join forces to pay homage to classic horror like Creepshow, Tales From the Crypt, V/H/S and The ABCs of Death, and weave an unforgettable, disturbing tapestry of terror.

I think what I love most about this anthology is the diversity of the films. There’s a little bit of everything in here, from supernatural scares to serial killers. Chances are, if you give this collection a shot, you’ll find something you like.

Each film in THE HORROR NETWORK, VOLUME 1 is shot well and looks good onscreen. A couple, specifically “The Quiet” and “Merry Little Christmas”, are more vibrant than the others in their look and feel. But the sound quality in “3:00 AM” is the best out of the bunch by far.

The acting is nice as well. I didn’t recognize a single actor or actress, however that means nothing because the quality of the performances is top notch regardless. The entire cast does a great job with their roles, and I’ll wager we will be seeing more than just a few of the faces in this crowd.

THE HORROR NETWORK, VOLUME 1 is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. The production quality is great, the stories are intense and intriguing, and the directorial styles are all refreshing. You just can’t ask for much more out of an anthology. THE HORROR NETWORK, VOLUME 1 is available now…but I can’t wait to see what Volume 2 will offer.

MSB

Book Review – Seeing Evil by Jason Parent

Seeing Evil
by Jason Parent
Courtesy of Red Adept Publishing
Release Date: August 4, 2015

seeing evil

Although I read mostly horror, I do branch out into other genres. I particularly like crime dramas that involve children and teens, which explains why I’m such a huge fan of shows like LAW & ORDER: SVU. As a dad of three kids, children hold a special place in my heart, and thus any drama or thriller involving them tend to be exponentially more powerful for me. Such is the case with SEEING EVIL, a recent release by author Jason Parent. Although this is a great book to begin with, knowing the background of the character Michael makes it even more so. The result is an excellent read that any fan of thrillers will want to pick up.

If you are not familiar with SEEING EVIL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Red Adept Publishing:

Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly prefers to work alone—she’s seen as a maverick, and she still struggles privately with the death of her partner. The only person who ever sees her softer side is Michael Turcotte, a teenager she’s known since she rescued him eleven years ago from the aftermath of his parents’ murder-suicide.

In foster care since his parents’ death, Michael is a loner who tries to fly under the bullies’ radar, but a violent assault triggers a disturbing ability to view people’s dark futures. No one believes his first vision means anything, though—not even Sam Reilly. When reality mimics his prediction, however, Sam isn’t the only one to take notice. A strange girl named Tessa Masterson asks Michael about her future, and what he sees sends him back to Sam—is Tessa victim or perpetrator?

Tessa’s tangled secrets dram Michael and Sam inexorably into a deadly conflict. Sam relies on Michael, but his only advantage is the visions he never asked for. As they track a cold and calculating killer, one misstep could turn the hunters into prey.

This book is 230 pages long, but I tore through it in two days. It is just that good. With the opening scene in chapter one, the story grabs you in a chokehold and doesn’t let go until the final page is turned. SEEING EVIL is one book you will have a hard time putting down.

SEEING EVIL is written very well and flows at a crisp, smooth pace. I like how Parent does not bog down his narrative with unnecessary prose and overly vivid descriptions. Too many authors get hung up on both, and the story suffers as a result. That is thankfully not the case here. Parent whisks the reader away on a thrilling ride that culminates in a climactic conclusion perfect for the story.

The characters are realistic and believable, particularly Michael himself. The trauma he endures as a toddler helps define him as a teen, and Parent does a great job of fleshing him out to the point of realism. This aspect is a major part of what makes this read so good. I never once felt the characters were over the top or unbelievable.

If I were forced to find a flaw with SEEING EVIL, I simply could not. This is an intense story with nice twists and a conclusion you don’t see coming. In short, it’s a perfect read. I highly recommend this one, and I suggest you check it out soon. It is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Book Review – Blood and Rain by Glenn Rolfe

Blood and Rain
by Glenn Rolfe
Courtesy of Samhain Publishing
Release Date: October 6, 2015

blood and rain

I have to admit I am so glad to see a resurgence in the werewolf genre. Recently (within the past year or so), I’ve seen several lycanthropic movies and books released, and most of them look pretty tight. I cannot stand to think about how certain authors treated werewolves in the past (yes, Stephanie Meyer, I’m looking at you), making them tame, sensitive weenie-dogs with no bite. That is NOT what I envision when I think of werewolves, and I’m very happy to see many authors and filmmakers agree.

One of these authors is Glenn Rolfe, and his recent novel BLOOD AND RAIN shows just how bloodthirsty and unpredictable these savage beasts can be. But while his werewolves are brutally realistic, the story itself is lacking in key areas. The result is a choppy read that could have been great, but instead falls short.

If you are not familiar with BLOOD AND RAIN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

The light of a full moon reveals many secrets. Gilson Creek, Maine. A safe, rural community. Summer is here. School is out and the warm waters of Emerson Lake await. But one man’s terrible secret will unleash a nightmare straight off the silver screen. Under the full moon, a night of terror and death re-awakens horrors long sleeping. Sheriff Joe Fischer, a man fighting for the safety of his daughter, his sanity and his community, must confront the sins of his past. Can Sheriff Fischer set Gilson Creek free from the beast hiding in its shadows, or will a small town die under a curse it can’t even comprehend? One night can-and will-change everything.

I think the most disappointing aspect about this book for me is just how great it could have been with a little more polish. As it is, the story feels incomplete and jumbled. Still, I cannot deny Rolfe’s talents as an author, and I certainly hope to read more from him in the future.

BLOOD AND RAIN is written well from a grammatical standpoint, and the author writes in a nice, unique voice. Yet several characteristics poses many confusing questions that are never answered. For example, the time period in which the story is set. The prologue starts off in 1997, but then chapter one gives us no indication of how much time (if any) has passed…until the movie SCREAM 2 is mentioned. SCREAM 2 came out in 1997, but it is referred to in the past, possibly many years ago. I assumed then that the story had skipped forward several years…and this was reiterated at the start of chapter two, when a character is described as graduating back in ’97. BUT then, to make things even more confusing, one of the characters mentions going to see Kirsten Dunst in the new SPIDER-MAN 2 movie…which came out in 2004! So is the book set in 2004? If so, why?

The characters are damaged and believable individuals, however they are not fleshed out enough for me to care about them. I would have liked a little more backstory on the sheriff and his daughter, particularly. Still, Rolfe paints his people well for the most part, and the way he writes his dialogue is spot on.

I really like the werewolves in BLOOD AND RAIN, and I have to commend the author on the vivid way he brings them to life. They are bloodthirsty and, well, downright evil in nature. This is exactly how I pictured lycans to be: decent people to start off, but once they are bitten, the beast-like mentality overtakes their human selves.

I will say BLOOD AND RAIN is a decent read, IF you can overlook the fact that the book does not feel complete. The ending is fine, but the opening should have been fleshed out more. Still, as I mentioned above, I cannot deny the fact that Rolfe possesses talent as an author, and I hope to read more from him in the future. For his next book, however, he might want to have a content editor go through it with a fine-tooth comb to help even it out.

BLOOD AND RAIN is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Tenderness of the Wolves (1973)

Tenderness of the Wolves
Directed by Ulli Lommel
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Year of Production: 1973
Blu-ray Release Date: November 3, 2015

tenderness

In an age where heinous atrocities appear in news headlines every day, society has almost become desensitized to just how sick and depraved people can be. But almost a century ago, before the news media had perpetual outlets through which to bombard the public with tragedy, truly shocking news could stun a crowd into silence. I imagine this is how many people reacted when hearing of the crimes committed by Fritz Haarmann, a serial killer in Germany responsible for raping, killing, and cannibalizing dozens of young men in between World War I and World War II. Whereas we have seen many news stories like this over the past three or four decades, back in those days, such things were practically unheard of.

This is best kept in mind when viewing Ulli Lommel’s TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES, a brief but graphic depiction of Haarmann’s life a few weeks prior to his arrest. Obviously, the world was a much different place back in that time period, but the crimes he committed were unthinkable. As such, this chilling portrait of one man’s perversion is a haunting trek into history.

If you are not familiar with TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video:

Fritz Haarmann, aka the Butcher of Hanover and the Vampire of Hanover, was a German serial killer responsible for the murders of two dozen boys and young men during the so-called years of crisis between the wars. His case would partly inspire Fritz Lang s M, and its central character portrayed by Peter Lorre, as well as this forgotten gem from 1973.

TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES treats the viewer to a few weeks in the company of a killer. Baby-faced and shaven-headed, in a manner that recalls both M and F.W. Murnau s Nosferatu, Haarmann is a fascinating, repulsive figure. Using his status as a police informant to procure his victims, he dismembers their bodies after death and sells the flesh to restaurants, dumping the remainder out of sight. This isn t an easy film to watch, but it certainly gets under the skin…

Produced by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (who also supplies a shifty cameo), TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES provided two of his regular actors with a means of expanding their careers. Ulli Lommel later responsible for the infamous video nasty The Boogeyman made his directorial debut, while Kurt Raab wrote the screenplay as well as delivering an astonishing performance as Haarmann.

I would wager many viewers will look at some of the characters in this film as being stupidly naive. But again, take the time period in which this is set (the film actually takes place after World War II, but the actual events occurred in between the two great wars). People just didn’t consider such brutality could happen near or around them. I suppose many of us think the same way today, however news reports seem to pop up daily to state otherwise.

TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES is shot decently and looks pretty good onscreen. You can definitely tell the film is dated, but for good reason: it IS over 40 years old. The HD transfer looks great, however, and the updated sound is a huge upgrade from previous versions.

The acting is very good, with Kurt Raab giving a phenomenal performance as Haarmann. Raab looks very harmless, and yet he exudes a creepy vibe that will haunt you long after the movie ends. I daresay nobody else could have portrayed the killer in such a convincing fashion.

Surprisingly, the film does not have many special effects, but this doesn’t detract from it in the least. There are a few scenes involving blood, and it looks realistic…particularly when it is spurting from a gaping neck wound at one point. This effect looks amazing, and I immediately wondered how the effects team pulled it off.

The story in TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES is pretty slow to start off, with much of the buildup making little sense. The sequence of events seems disjointed at first, and I wasn’t sure what I was watching. But then, about 45 minutes in to the film, things start to click. When Haarmann’s true nature is revealed, many previous scenes start to make more sense. As this happened, a chill crept down my spine; I understood why the film had been made this way, and the effect was terrifying. This startling realization made the film much more intense, and therefore an excellent viewing experience.

TENDERNESS OF THE WOLVES is a big win for me, and I recommend it. Be warned, however: some of it is difficult to watch. In addition to a couple of grisly killings, there are also several scenes of male nudity, so you might want to keep the little ones out of the room if they have a habit of wandering in. But if you’re a fan of horror, particularly the kind based on real life, then make a note to pick this one up soon. It is available now.

The fine folks at Arrow have included top notch special features that include:

* New high definition digital transfer prepared by the Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
* Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM Audio
* New translated English subtitles
* The Tender Wolf – a brand-new in-depth interview with director Ulli Lommel
* Brand-new interview with director of photography Jürgen Jürges
* Newly-filmed appreciation by film historian and expert on European horror cinema Stephen Thrower
* Theatrical trailer
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
* Illustrated booklet featuring new writing on the film by Tony Rayns

MSB