Movie Review – The Mutilator (1984)

The Mutilator
(aka Fall Break)
Directed by Buddy Cooper
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1984
Blu-ray Release Date: February 16, 2016

the mutilator

Ah…the good ol’ 80s slasher flick. Does cinema get much better? Well, of course it does. But you can’t deny the fun these throwback films offer up regardless. THE MUTILATOR is one of these obscure treasures, and it was recently given a Blu-ray release by the fine folks at Arrow Video and MVD Distribution. If you’ve never visited this film before, now is the time to do so. Chocked full of typical teenage hijinks and some very nice gore, this is one 80s slasher every horror fan needs to own.

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

BY SWORD. BY PICK. BY AXE. BYE BYE. Although the slasher film was in decline by the mid-1980s, there were still some grisly delights to be had… and they don’t come much grislier than writer-director Buddy Cooper’s sickening stalk-and-slash classic The Mutilator! When Ed receives a message from his father asking him to go and lock up the family’s beach condo for the winter, it seems like the perfect excuse for an alcohol-fueled few days away with his friends. After all, his dad has forgiven him for accidentally blowing mom away with a shotgun several years ago… hasn’t he? But no sooner are the teens on the island than they find themselves stalked by a figure with an axe (and a hook, and an onboard motor) to grind… Originally entitled Fall Break (watch out for the incongruous theme song of the same name!), The Mutilator has earned a reputation amongst horror fans as one of the ‘holy grails’ of 80s splatter mayhem due to its highly inventive (and not to say, decidedly gruesome) kill sequences, courtesy of FX wizard Mark Shostrom (Videodrome, Evil Dead II). Finally making its long-awaited bow in High-Definition, The Mutilator has returned to terrorize a whole new generation of horror fans!

I was very surprised to discover this film was the only movie director Buddy Cooper ever did. From what I can see onscreen, the man had talent as a filmmaker, and I’m curious as to why he never did anything else.

THE MUTILATOR is shot well (for a slasher) and looks good overall. The 2K restoration looks amazing, and once again helps preserve an aging classic for later generations to enjoy. Likewise, the audio is crisp and clear. Unfortunately, this means the viewer has to endure the horrid opening theme song in stereo. I say this lightly, because the quality of the song sounds great…it’s just the song itself that is atrocious. This might not make sense, but once you hear the song, you’ll know what I mean.

The acting in the film is typical lower-budget slasher fare. This is not a negative, but I will say none of the cast will win any awards with their roles. Part of this is due to a clunky script. But the other part is thanks to wooden, cardboard performances.

The special effects in THE MUTILATOR are excellent for the most part. They are realistic and vibrant. Blood spurts in crimson fountains and appendages fly. But the sole negative in regard to the gore is a single scene where young Ed. Jr. gets his throat slashed; the special effects are very poor in this shot, and it is obvious they are fake. Otherwise, the carnage is top notch.

Overall, I give THE MUTILATOR a big thumbs up, and I highly recommend it. Arrow Video and MVD Distribution once again deliver exactly what horror fans want. In addition to the film, the Blu-ray comes with a host of nice extras, including:

* Brand new 2K restoration of the unrated version from original vault materials
* High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
* Original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray
* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
* Introduction to the film with writer-director Buddy Cooper and assistant special make-up effects artist/assistant editor Edmund Ferrell
* Audio Commentary with Cooper, Ferrell, co-director John Douglass and star Matt Mitler
* Audio Commentary with Buddy Cooper and star Ruth Martinez Tutterow
* Fall Breakers: The Story of The Mutilator – brand new feature-length documentary on the making of the splatter classic featuring interviews with Cooper, Douglass, Ferrell, Mitler, actors Bill Hitchcock, Jack Chatham and more
* Mutilator Memories – special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom looks back at one of his earliest projects
* Tunes for the Dunes – composer Michael Minard reveals how The Mutilator’s unique score was created
* Behind-the-Scenes Reel
* Screen Tests
* Alternate Opening Titles
* Trailers and TV Spots
* ’Fall Break’ Theme Song (Original and Instrumental Versions)
* Opening Sequence Storyboards
* Motion Stills Gallery
* Original Fall Break Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM content)
* Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks

The film is available now, so grab your copy quick!


Movie Review – E.N.D. (2016)

E. N. D.
Directed by Luca Alessandro, Allegra Bernardoni, Domiziano Cristopharo, & Frederico Greco
Courtesy of One 7 Movies & CAV Distribution
Release Date: February 9, 2016


E.N.D. is an Italian anthology film that almost defies classification. Sure, it obviously has horror connotations (which you can discern just from the DVD cover), but it also tries to be artistic and even throw in some social commentary here and there. But is it a good film? Well, yes…and no. While E.N.D. has several positive aspects, there are a couple of glaringly negative ones as well. In the end (no pun intended), I am going to suggest watching this for yourself to decide whether or not it is a welcome addition to the horror genre.

If you are not familiar with E.N.D., here is the plot synopsis courtesy of CAV Distribution:

Three different times, three different places, three different steps… of the plague.

Day 1. Italy. In a funeral home. The owner of the agency, the hearse driver and the make-up man are forced to deal with an epidemic spread by cocaine. Soon, the corpses ready for the burial wake up in their coffins.

Day 1466. When the epidemic already devoured the whole country, an American soldier and a pregnant woman are surrounded by zombies in a cabin in the woods. When the woman gives birth to her baby, the man understands that he has no more chance for survival.

Day 2333. The country is divided in two factions. Some of our characters preserved themselves. Some… remained human beings.

Although the film has flaws, I do have to commend the filmmakers on their attempt at making something original. Zombies are way overdone in many cases, but not so here. The filmmakers made three separate films that tie in to a central storyline, therefore the viewer gets multiple angles in regard to the main plot. And while this might sound similar to films like V/H/S, E.N.D. takes the concept in a different direction, keeping the focus on a singular storyline instead of multiples.

Each segment in E.N.D. is shot fairly well, although the cinematography doesn’t really stand out in any way. The set locales are decent, and everything looks good overall onscreen.

The acting is pretty good, about what you would expect from a lower budget feature. I can’t say any of the cast gives an outstanding performance, however those actors portraying the zombies in the 3rd segment do a great job of conveying emotion and tension without using actual language. You have to see it to understand what I mean, but I’m sure you’ll agree it is impressive.

The special effects in E.N.D. are great, and there’s quite a bit of gore involved. I enjoy carnage in a zombie flick as much as the next guy, and I certainly applaud what is presented here. My sole complaint is the zombie-fetus shown in the 2nd segment. This effect could have been much better, but I understand budget constraints and how cuts have to be made somewhere.

The segments themselves are where I have the biggest problems. The first segment is almost a throwaway; there’s not much going on in terms of setup, although the attempt is obviously there. I would have liked a bit more tension and more “open-faced” storytelling. Instead, the viewer has to make a few assumptions.

The 2nd and 3rd segments are good, and I particularly like the concept of the 3rd. I won’t give away what happens, but I had to smile as the film concluded. The idea is original, and the execution looks good for the most part.

Overall, I’d have to say E.N.D. was a decent viewing experience, and I might even revisit it in the future. I wish there was an English dubover, as it might help immerse me more into the film, but I’ll have to settle for subtitles instead. No biggie, I suppose…just a preference. The film is available now if you want to take a look.


Movie Review – MI-5 (2016)

Directed by Bharat Nalluri
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: February 9, 2016


Ok…I confess: one of my primary reasons for wanting to watch MI-5 was because of Kit Harington, AKA Jon Snow on GAME OF THRONES. I’m not crushing on the guy or anything, but I really like his character in GoT, so I was curious as to how he would do in other roles. I’m happy to report he’s just as good here as he is on The Wall. And in addition to the great acting, MI-5 is a compelling thriller full of twists and turns. If you’re a fan of spy movies, you’ll definitely want to check out this film for sure.

If you are not familiar with MI-5, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

When a terrorist escapes custody during a routine handover, Will Holloway must team with disgraced MI-5 Intelligence Chief Harry Pearce to track him down before an imminent terrorist attack on London.

I am not familiar with the show MI-5, but from what I understand, the movie is a nice compliment to it. Peter Firth stars in the show as well, but Harington’s character is new. I plan on catching up on the series soon, and I hope it is as entertaining as the film.

MI-5 is shot well and looks good onscreen. The production value seems high, and I had no problems with anything regarding the sets or filming locales. While not a huge-budgeted picture, I would assume it was modest nonetheless.

As mentioned above, the acting in MI-5 is very good. In addition to Harington and Firth, the cast is highlighted by Elyes Gabel, also a GAME OF THRONES alumni. Gabel portrays the villain, Qasim, and does a fine job. Whereas many baddies are one-dimensional, Gabel brings depth to the character and, in turn, creates a villain you almost feel sorry for.

There aren’t many special effects in MI-5, but the film doesn’t need many. This is not a Bond film, with gadgets and explosions galore. This is a more realistic thriller that focuses on tension and intrigue over gizmos. Don’t get me wrong: I love Bond, too. But MI-5 cannot be classified in the same genre.

My sole complaint about the film is that it feels a bit rushed in places. Holloway’s background is a bit hazy, as is the relationship he shares with Firth’s character. You can get by with making assumptions during the film, and eventually several things are answered…but fleshing them out and making the film ten minutes longer would not have hampered it in the least.

Still, MI-5 is a big win for me, and I recommend giving it a look. Fans of spies and espionage should feel right at home with this one. The film is available now in a variety of formats.


Blu-ray Movie Review – Count Dracula (1970)

Count Dracula
Directed by Jess Franco
Courtesy of Severin Films
Original Year of Release: 1970
Blu-ray Release Date: December 8, 2015


The Dracula legend has been around for over a century and has been told and retold many, many times. As such, every filmmaker who puts the story onscreen puts his or her own spin on it. Because of this, the actual story has become distorted and therefore, unless you’ve read the book, you don’t know how true to the source material a film actually is.

From what I’ve read, Jess Franco’s take on Dracula is fairly accurate, although he took liberties here and there. But one thing is for certain: his decision to cast Christopher Lee as the titular character was an excellent choice. While COUNT DRACULA as a film itself is good, Lee’s portrayal of the vampire is uncanny and unsettling, a good enough reason alone to see what this movie has to offer.

If you are not familiar with COUNT DRACULA, here us the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films:

Completely Uncut & Re-Mastered In HD For The First Time Ever
In 1970, cult director Jess Franco and screen legend Christopher Lee collaborated on what they promised would be the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel ever filmed. From its remarkable performances – including Lee as the Count, Herbert Lom (MARK OF THE DEVIL) as Van Helsing, Soledad Miranda (VAMPYROS LESBOS) as Lucy, Maria Rohm (VENUS IN FURS) as Mina, and authentic madman Klaus Kinski as Renfield – to its lush locations and atmosphere of sinister sensuality, it remains perhaps the most spellbinding version of Dracula in movie history. Fred Williams (SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY) and Paul Muller (NIGHTMARE CASTLE) co-star in this “thrilling” (Twins Of Evil) and “fascinating” (Arrow In The Head) horror classic, now fully restored, loaded with all-new Bonus Features, and re-mastered in high-definition for the first time ever.

Now remember: this film was shot in 1970, therefore it is obviously dated. But Severin’s HD restoration looks amazing, and it gives the film a new look and feel.

As mentioned, the acting in COUNT DRACULA is excellent, with Lee solidifying his status as a horror icon with his portrayal of the Count. But following him up is Klaus Kinski as Renfield. Kinski appears truly mad in this role, and I had no trouble believing his character to be real. Also in the supporting cast is the incomparable Soledad Miranda, who Franco collaborated with several times prior to her death, and Herbert Lom as Van Helsing.

The story itself is nothing really new (as in, we have seen it before), but Franco does a great job of building a menacing atmosphere around the Count. There’s plenty of tension involved, and the ultimate climax of the story is satisfying and fitting.

COUNT DRACULA is a big win from yesteryear, and fans of classic horror will want to grab this one soon. I enjoyed this take on the legend, and I suggest you give it a shot. In addition to the restoration, the folks at Severin offer some nice Special Features on the Blu-ray that include:

* Audio Commentary with David Del Valle and Actress Maria Rohm
* Beloved Count – An Interview with Director Jess Franco
* A Conversation with Jack Taylor
* Handsome Harker – An Interview with Actor Fred Williams
* Christopher Lee Reads Bram Stoker’s Dracula
* Stake Holders – An Appreciation of Jess Franco’s COUNT DRACULA by French Director Christophe Gans
* German Trailer
* BONUS DISC: Cuadecuc Vampir- Pere Portabella’s Expressionistic Behind-The-Scenes Feature


Blu-ray Movie Review – Blood Rage (1987)

Blood Rage
Directed by John Grissmer
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Date of Release: 1987
Blu-ray Release Date: December 15, 2015


I love the gems that Arrow and MVD continuously find and release. I have to confess, many of them I’ve never heard of. As such, these treasures quickly become classics in my book. Today’s entry, BLOOD RAGE, is such a case. I have never heard of this film prior to watching it, but it is definitely a worthy addition to the 80s Slasher Flick category. With a pretty unique premise and some excellent gore, this is one throwback film horror fans will want to snatch up for their collections soon.

If you are not familiar with BLOOD RAGE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video:


What do you get if you combine Thanksgiving, American TV star Louise Lasser (Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman), killer 80s synths and some truly gruesome special effects courtesy of Ed French (Terminator 2: Judgement Day). Why, it s Blood Rage of course!

Twins Todd and Terry seem like sweet boys that is, until one of them takes an axe to the face of a fellow patron at the local drive-in. Todd is blamed for the bloody crime and institutionalized, whilst twin brother Terry goes free. Ten years later and, as the family gathers around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, the news comes in that Todd has escaped. But has the real killer in fact been in their midst all along? One thing s for sure, there will be blood and rage!

Shot in 1983 but not released until 1987, Blood Rage (re-cut and shown in theaters as Nightmare at Shadow Woods) is a gloriously gruesome slice of 80s slasher heaven now lovingly restored (in 3 versions no less!) from original vault elements for its first ever official home video release.

I love everything about this film. It’s quirky in some aspects, and it has a lot of demented charm. But primarily it’s just a whole lot of fun.

BLOOD RAGE looks like typical 80s fare, and it is for the most part. The cinematography is not stunning, but it doesn’t need to be. We are given what we need for the story, and therefore we are not presented with any artistic camerawork or scenery.

The acting is about what you’d expect from an 80s slasher, and that’s just fine. One bright spot, however, is Mark Soper, the actor who portrays the twins, Todd and Terry. Soper does a great job of bringing both characters to life, giving each unique qualities and portraying both on opposite ends of the personality spectrum. I am impressed with his acting abilities, and I am surprised we did not see more of him in later years.

The story in BLOOD RAGE is fun and intense. There are several “What the—?” scenes that will surprise and delight viewers, including some witty observations from the psychopathic Terry. The film’s tagline, “It’s not cranberry sauce”, is one such quote, and the expression on Terry’s face is perfect. I love how these lines are delivered, as they add some dark humor to the intensity.

BLOOD RAGE is a big win for me, and I suggest snagging a copy very soon. This 3-Disc Collector’s Set has a slew of extras and original content, including:


* Three versions of the film Blood Rage, the original home video version, Nightmare at Shadow Woods, the theatrical re-cut, and an alternate composite cut combining footage from both versions
* Original Stereo 2.0 sound (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
* Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
* Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Marc Schoenbach
* Fully-illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Joseph A. Ziemba, author of BLEEDING SKULL! A 1980s Trash-Horror Odyssey


* Brand new 2K restoration of the hard home video version, transferred from the camera negative and featuring the original title card Slasher
* Audio commentary with director John Grissmer
* Both Sides of the Camera an interview with producer/actress Marianne Kanter
* Double Jeopardy an interview with actor Mark Soper
* Jeez, Louise! an interview with actress Louise Lasser
* Man Behind the Mayhem an interview with special make-up effects creator Ed French
* Three Minutes with Ted Raimi an interview with actor Ted Raimi
* Return to Shadow Woods featurette revisiting the original locations in Jacksonville, Florida
* Alternate opening titles
* Motion still gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes make-up photos


* Nightmare at Shadow Woods the re-edited 1987 theatrical cut featuring footage not seen in the Blood Rage home video version
* Alternate composite cut of the feature combining footage from the home video and theatrical versions
* Never-before-seen outtakes


Movie Review – Black Mountain Side (2016)

Black Mountain Side
Directed by Nick Szostakiwskyj
Courtesy of Monarch Entertainment
Release Date: January 26, 2016


When I got the DVD of BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE in the mail, I was very intrigued. The cover art definitely screams “Watch me!”, and the premise itself is enough to draw my interest. But when I read the quote from Film School Rejects on the back, I immediately classified this as a must see. The quote says, “A beautifully shot, creepy love letter to John Carpenter’s THE THING.” If you were not aware already, THE THING is one of my Top Five Greatest Horror Movies of All Time. Thus, I HAD to see if this film could do that one justice.

I’m happy to report BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE is an excellent tribute to Carpenter’s masterpiece. Moody and atmospheric, director Nick Szostakiwskyj does a superb job of building tension and terror. In short, this is a film every horror fan will want to check out soon.

If you are not familiar with BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Monarch Entertainment:

Canada’s remote wilderness becomes a chilly catalyst for terror as a group of archaeologists uncover a strange structure buried in the snow. As paranoia and mistrust take hold, the researchers turn on each other, encouraged by visions of a mysterious figure lurking at the fringes of the woods. Is the terror real or a hallucination? Whatever they’ve unleashed is a powerful force they may never comprehend…if they survive.

BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE is shot very well and looks excellent onscreen. I really wish this film had been given a Blu-ray release, as the cinematography captures the bleak landscape perfectly, and I’d love to see it in HD. Still, it looks very good on DVD nonetheless.

The acting is impressive as well. I am not familiar with any of the cast, however they are a talented group. I can certainly see them in future projects, and I hope to do just that.

BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE has only a few special effects, but those we see look good. I particularly like the antlered being that speaks to the men individually. It is an imposing figure, and its voice will chill you to the grave.

The horror within the film is edgy and tense. And just like THE THING, the mystery unravels in parallel to the scares, giving the viewer a first-rate jaunt into terror.

BLACK MOUNTAIN SIDE is a huge win for me, and I highly recommend it. The film is available now on DVD and VOD, so give it a look for sure.


Book Review – Desolation by Kristopher Rufty

by Kristopher Rufty
Courtesy of Samhain Publishing
Release Date: January 5, 2016


When I first read the synopsis for author Kristopher Rufty’s new book, DESOLATION, I have to confess I was a bit skeptical about reading it. The premise sounded like a typical revenge-for-past-wrongs plot, and I didn’t see how it could be interesting again. But I should have known better…after all, I’ve reviewed and loved four of Rufty’s previous works. Sure enough, after I finished the book, I had to swallow all of my doubts and admit my skepticism was blatantly unfounded. DESOLATION is a hell of a read, and it’s one of the best revenge stories I’ve read in a long time.

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

There’s no escaping your past. Especially when it wants revenge.
Grant Marlowe hoped taking his family to their mountain cabin for Christmas would reunite them after his alcoholic past had torn them apart, but it only puts them into a life and death struggle. On Christmas Eve, a stranger from Grant’s past invades the vacation home and takes his wife and children hostage. His agenda is simple—make Grant suffer the same torment that Grant’s drunken antics have caused him. Now Grant must confront his demons head on and fight for his family’s lives. Because this man has nothing left to lose. The only thing keeping him alive is misery—Grant’s misery.

Rufty’s imagination is as sharp as a serial killer’s meat-cleaver, and it never dulls. I’m a huge fan of his Lurkers series, and JACKPOT, which he wrote with three other great authors, is a terrifying gem. In short, he’s quickly becoming an icon in the horror genre.

DESOLATION is written well and flows at a smooth pace. The story has a quick progression, which works well here; several revenge tales I’ve read in the past have focused way too much on the buildup. Rufty does a skillful job of weaving the story together with plenty of tension, but he does not drag it out.

The characters in DESOLATION are realistic. They are all damaged in some form, and all display characteristics of people the reader can relate to. I found the depth of Grant Marlowe to be very interesting, as we get a lot of emotional insight into his character.

The horror in the story is delicious, and I gobbled it up by the handful. I like the tension that hangs in the air once Dennis is in the cabin. There’s so much of it in the air that I could picture it like smoke.

DESOLATION is another big win for Rufty and Samhain Publishing, and I highly recommend it. If you’re not a fan of Rufty already, you will be after reading this one. The book is available now in a variety of formats, so make a note to check it out.


Movie Review – The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

The Last Witch Hunter
Directed by Breck Eisner
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Release Date: February 2, 2016


When I first heard about THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, I was a bit concerned. I love witches and the different takes filmmakers keep coming up in regard to them…however a couple of recent releases made me think Hollywood didn’t know what to do with them anymore. The straw that broke the camel’s proverbial back for me was SEVENTH SON, a horrible movie that should have never been made. I was skittish about THE LAST WITCH HUNTER because it seemed to be in the same vein as SS, and therefore it could very well mimic its crapiness as well.

Thankfully, THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is nothing like that atrocity. This film is fun and energetic, and it makes witches scary again. Granted, you have to take it for what it is: an urban fantasy/horror hybrid that builds a new mythology on the back of Vin Diesel. But if you just sit back and enjoy the ride, you’re in for a treat.

If you are not familiar with THE LAST WITCH HUNTER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

The modern world holds many secrets, but the most astounding secret of all is that witches still live amongst us; vicious supernatural creatures intent on unleashing the Black Death upon the world. Armies of witch hunters battled the unnatural enemy across the globe for centuries, including Kaulder, a valiant warrior who managed to slay the all-powerful Queen Witch, decimating her followers in the process. In the moments right before her death, the Queen curses Kaulder with her own immortality, forever separating him from his beloved wife and daughter in the afterlife. Today Kaulder is the only one of his kind remaining, and has spent centuries hunting down rogue witches, all the while yearning for his long-lost loved ones. However, unbeknownst to Kaulder, the Queen Witch is resurrected and seeks revenge on her killer causing an epic battle that will determine the survival of the human race.

I’ve always enjoyed Diesel’s work, particularly in PITCH BLACK. As such, I like it when he branches outside of the stereotypical “macho bad-ass” roles he quite often plays. For the character of Kaulder, Diesel gets to do both, and offers us a glimpse at a three-dimensional warrior.

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER is shot well and looks great onscreen. The production value appears high, and there’s plenty of special effects to ogle while the story plays out.

The acting is good, with Vin Diesel heading up an all-star cast. He is joined by Elijah Wood and Michael Caine, two veterans of cinema that always shine. In addition, we get to enjoy Rose Leslie onscreen as well, who fans of GAME OF THRONES will recognize as Jon Snow’s wildling lover, Ygritte, and Julie Engelbrecht, who gives a daunting performance as The Witch Queen.

The special effects are great, an eye-pleasing spectacle that accent the storyline and showers the viewer with plenty of CG glory. I love the enormous tree in which The Witch Queen resides; the effects team does a top-notch job of bringing it to life and making it an imposing aspect of the backdrop.

THE LAST WITCH HUNTER won’t win any awards, but it’s a fun movie, and I recommend it. While not really horror, it is still fast-paced, with lots of action and some mesmerizing special effects. The film hits store shelves today, so make a note.