Movie Review – Satanic (2016)

Satanic
Directed by Jeffrey Hunt
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: October 4, 2016

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I always enjoy seeing actors and actresses branch out from the norm and attempt roles that their fans wouldn’t expect them to do. I say “attempt” because sometimes these performances fall flat and said thespian winds up with a black mark on their filmography instead of a hit. Yet sometimes, the result is a cult classic, an unexpected gem that fans flock toward.

But what about those mediocre films? The ones that defy description because they don’t suck, but then they’re not that great either. This is the no-man’s land in which SATANIC finds itself. Actress Sarah Hyland, who fans will recognize from the hit TV show MODERN FAMILY, flexes her acting muscles and tackles the role of a scream queen. And while she does a fine job with her character, the movie itself is confusing, jumbled, and just downright lackluster.

If you are not familiar with SATANIC, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

SATANIC follows a van full of young, college-aged coeds who are visiting old Satanic Panic-era sites in Los Angeles. They end up following the creepy owner of an occult store home, only to find themselves saving a suspicious girl from an apparent human sacrifice. Only this “victim” turns out to be much more dangerous than the cult from which she escaped.

I wanted to like this film because the premise is intriguing and has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the writing and the execution of it kills any positives here. This surprises me, too, because the script was written by Anthony Jaswinski, the same guy who wrote VANISHING ON 7TH STREET (which I reviewed years ago), and more recently, THE SHALLOWS.

From a production standpoint, SATANIC appears pretty good overall. The cinematography is decent, the sets look solid, and the film itself looks good onscreen.

The acting is really good, with the afore mentioned Sarah Hyland heading up a nice cast. Joining her is Sophie Dalah, a relative newcomer to the big screen who does an excellent job as the mysterious Alice. I have to be honest and say I didn’t care for the other characters that much as they were annoying, but the actors portraying them did a fine job.

The story is what I have problems with here. SATANIC tries to be several movies at once, but it never fully comes together. The result is a mishmash of genre staples that don’t blend well. **SPOILER ALERT! For example, we are never given an explanation as to what Alice was talking about before she killed herself. Nor are we ever told what exactly is stalking the characters; is it the Devil himself? Is it a demon? Is it a coked-out Muppet? Clarification would have helped the storyline tremendously.

I also didn’t like the “twist” that we see near the end. **SPOILER ALERT! In this scene, Hyland’s character, Chloe, sees a past version of herself and her friends in the van at a stop sign and tries to get their attention. Earlier on in the film, the group sat at that stop sign and saw someone in the building above waving and screaming. This is a neat idea, however it doesn’t fit into the story. It made me think there was a science fiction twist to the supernatural events that were unfolding…and it completely pulled me out of the story.

SATANIC has a decent dose of intensity, but the vagueness of what is happening simply forces it into mediocrity. I would say check this one out if you are a huge Sarah Hyland fan, but otherwise watch at your own risk. The film is available now in a variety of formats, should you decide to watch.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Burial Ground (1981)

Burial Ground
Directed by Andrea Bianchi
Courtesy of Severin Films
Original Year of Release: 1981
Blu-ray Release Date: October 25, 2016

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If you’re any kind of horror fan, chances are you’ve seen at least one or two Italian horror films. There are many iconic titles and names in Italian horror cinema, and their movies run the gamut from slasher flicks to creature-features. I’ve seen many titles in several of these categories, but I have to say my favorite subjects of Italian horror are zombies. For some reason, they get zombies, and they do them right.

Back in 1981, director Andrea Bianchi joined the likes of Lucio Fulci and Umberto Lenzi when he made BURIAL GROUND. This is a film I’ve been wanting to see for a long time, and thanks to the fine folks at Severin Films and CAV Distributing, I got to check it out in HD. My verdict? I loved every minute of it. If you’re a zombie lover like me, then add this film to your Must Own list today.

If you are not familiar with BURIAL GROUND, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films and CAV Distributing:

For his only foray into the zombie genre, sleaze maestro Andrea Bianchi (MALABIMBA: THE MALICIOUS WHORE) unleashes enough flesh-ripping, gut-chomping and depraved mayhem to set insane new standards in Italian horror: Mariangela Giordano (of SATAN’S BABY DOLL and MALABIMBA fame) stars in the splatter classic about a cursed country estate besieged by houseguests, undead Etruscans and the relationship between a mother (Giordano) and her mega-creepy young son (disturbingly portrayed by diminutive actor Peter Bark). Severin Films is improbably proud to present the definitive version of this gorehound favorite, now packed with all-new Extras and featuring a 2k scan and restoration from an immaculate 35mm print recently discovered beneath the floorboards of a Trastevere church rectory.

There’s so much to love about this film. It’s quirky and weird in places, but it’s got some amazing gore and it’s oozing with tension.

BURIAL GROUND looks excellent onscreen, thanks to a hefty restoration. I never had the opportunity to see what the VHS or even the DVD prints looked like, but I’m extremely happy with the HD presented on the Blu-ray. Granted, there are still a few grainy shots here and there, but the quality is excellent regardless.

The acting in BURIAL GROUND is typical of a film from that time period; it’s not bad, but it is a bit overdone. The men are dripping with machismo, while the women are generally helpless and hysterical. I understand the intent of this stereotyping, as it is a ploy to try and ratchet up the tension…but I have to confess I’m glad movies today have stronger female characters. Nobody in the cast really jumps out, except for those portraying the zombies.

And speaking of the living dead, they are truly terrifying in this film. The makeup artists do a superb job of making the dead look like something that just crawled out of the ground. Several of the zombies even have LIVE maggots and worms on their faces! You can’t get much more real than that! The other special effects look great, and there’s plenty of carnage to go around as well. One particularly nasty and gruesome scene has a zombie biting a woman’s nipple off!

The plot is a little vague as to why and how the zombies have arisen, but the lack of explanation doesn’t detract from the film at all. If anything, it adds a further air of mystery to the storyline. Once the film starts, the action hits pretty quick, and then the film accelerates at a frantic pace. I was able to completely immerse myself in the film, and I never once looked at the counter to see how long it had to go.

BURIAL GROUND is a big win for me, and it’s another gold star title for Severin Films and CAV Distributing. The film hit store shelves earlier this week, so snag a copy today; it’ll make a nice addition to your Halloween Weekend viewing. In addition to the HD picture and sound, the Blu-ray boasts some nice special features, such as:

Special Features
• Villa Parisi – Legacy of Terror: Featurette on the historic house location
• Peter Still Lives: Festival Q&A with actor Peter Bark
• Just for the Money: Interview with actor Simone Mattioli
• The Smell Of Death: Interviews with Producer Gabriele Crisanti and Actress Mariangela Giordano
• Deleted/ Extended Scenes/ Shots
• Theatrical Trailer

MSB

Adult Coloring Book Review – Uncle Glenny’s Zombie ‘Pocalypse by Glenn Chadbourne & Dave Hinchberger

Uncle Glenny’s Zombie ‘Pocalypse: An Adult Coloring Adventure
By Glenn Chadbourne & Dave Hinchberger
Courtesy of Overlook Connection Press
Release Date: October 6, 2016

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Looking for that perfect gift for the horror-lover in your life? Well stop searching…I have it for you right here: UNCLE GLENNY’S ZOMBIE ‘POCALYPSE, an adult coloring book recently released by Overlook Connection Press. You don’t have to be an artist or even a coloring fanatic to enjoy this book, but it’s a sure bet every horror fan will love it.

If you’re not familiar with UNCLE GLENNY’S ZOMBIE ‘POCALYPSE, here is the book’s description courtesy of the authors:

Glenn Chadbourne’s first, full-fledged, adult, coloring book! Featuring one of his favorite subjects in horror: Zombies!

Created by Glenn Chadbourne, and Overlook Connection Press publisher, Dave Hinchberger, they’ve put together a one helluva zombie collection for you to love – and color! – for all you zombie lovers too!

I couldn’t bring myself to color any of the pages yet because I’m not very good at staying in the lines. And let me tell you: there’s PLENTY to fill in on these pages!

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As you can see, each picture tells an interesting (and sometimes humorous) story in its own way, making each scene a zombie fan’s paradise.

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I am extremely excited to show this book to you, and I hope you’ll consider picking up a copy or three for your horror-loving family members and friends. Click on the links above for ordering information.

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An excerpt from the introduction, “Why I Love Zombies” by “Uncle” Glenny:

I love zombies. I’ve loved them in all their many forms since I was a carpet crawler (or, “youngwun” as they say up in this neck of the woods) when they first shambled into view on our old RCA console tube in the family living room… White Zombie with uber creepy Bela Lugosi working a herd of them on his island plantation… they staggered around, wall-eyed and moaning, powered by weird voodoo rites. There were a host of these sorts of flicks featured on Saturday creature features on the local channels…By the time I reached “tweenhood” I considered myself fairly well acquainted with that particular genre of the undead; through movies of course, but also in no small measure through stacks of comics and the great old Warren magazines of the day: “Creepy, Eerie, Vampirela… The seventies… brought an absolute slew of zombies on the screen. Hammer made the great gothic entry, “Plague of the Zombies,” and the Italian splattermeisters helmed a whole subgenre genre via the creeping dead…Of course George Romero served up the most famous humdinger classic of all in the late sixties… Night of the Living Dead”… This is in no small part due to the phenomenal success of the TV show, “The Walking Dead.” I figure all that deserves a nifty coloring book!

I very much hope you enjoy the book, and know I enjoyed the hell out of dredging it up for you.

MSB

Movie Review – Killbillies (2016)

Killbillies
Directed by Tomaz Gorkic
Courtesy of Artsploitation Films
Release Date: October 25, 2016

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Just in time for Halloween, the fine folks at Artsploitation Films have offered up a great slasher flick from overseas. Granted, the plot might sound familiar (what slasher film DOESN’T sound familiar, though?), but there’s still plenty to love about KILLBILLIES. Full of gut-wrenching carnage and unbridled tension, this movie will make an excellent addition to your holiday viewing this year.

If you are not familiar with KILLBILLIES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Artsploitation Films:

Proving that the American South does not hold a monopoly on sexually depraved, bloodthirsty hillbillies, Killbillies depicts a harrowing tale of abduction, violence and hoped-for survival. A group of fashionistas from the city out on idyllic countryside hilltop are confronted by two physically deformed psychopathic countrymen. A wild, bloody, taut clash ensues between urban and rural, women and men, between savages and civilized man.

You know you’re in for a hell of ride just by looking at the DVD cover. The image of the evil, mutated bastard on the front screams “horror fun”, and thankfully the movie delivers.

KILLBILLIES is shot very well and looks great onscreen. The movie was filmed in Slovenia, and the cinematography does an amazing job of capturing the picturesque landscape in vivid detail. I wish this had been given a Blu-ray release, as I would love to see the scenery in HD.

The acting is very good, with a solid cast of folks I’ve never heard of before. Nina Ivanisin does an excellent job as Zina, the main character. She is joined by Lotos Sparovec, who plays Francl, the hideous “killbilly” featured on the cover. Like his leading lady, Sparovec does a great job in his role and offers a convincing (and horrifying) portrayal. Their supporting cast is top-notch, and they all mesh well as a whole.

The special effects in KILLBILLIES look superb onscreen, and there’s several nice scenes of gore to enjoy. One particularly gruesome scene involves Zina chopping off the hand of a “killbilly” and then hacking him to death with an ax. And speaking of the titular baddies, the make-up effects for the backwoods killers is also impressive. They look a lot like the inbred cannibals from the WRONG TURN franchise, but there’s nothing at all wrong with that.

When it comes to intensity, this film really knows how to take it up a notch. The tension is as thick as pasta and just as tasty; I found myself riveted to my seat for the last half of the film. My favorite scene plays out inside the mutant’s hovel, when Zina and her companion are trying to make their way through the darkened passageways without rousing their captors. This scene lasts for several minutes, but you’ll bite your fingernails down to nubs as it unfolds.

I also have to mention the ending. I did NOT see it coming, and I love how everything plays out. Some of you will probably hate it, but I actually found it fitting in a sense.

KILLBILLIES is a big win for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’m really happy to discover other countries can do backwoods slashers as well as we can, and I hope director Tomaz Gorkic has something just as fun up his sleeve for his next project. KILLBILLIES hits store shelves today, so make a note to snag it for your weekend Halloween festivities.

MSB

Horror Pack Monthly Subscription Box Service

There’s a new staple of pop culture that has arisen over the past several years, and it’s quickly gaining popularity: monthly subscription box services. If you are not familiar with this concept, it’s basically a program where you pay a small monthly fee, and in return the company sends you a “mystery” box each month. From what I’ve seen, there’s a subscription box for just about everything: underwear, wine, collectibles…even make-up!

Thankfully, there are subscription services for us horror fans as well. Some send collector’s items and unique merchandise, while others send movies and books. Horror Pack is one of these quality movie vendors, and I have to say: they are well-worth the investment!

They recently sent me a Blu-ray Horror Pack, and here are its contents:

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These are all new Blu-rays, and the titles will change every month. Each plan sends you four movies at a time (which are yours to keep), and the price decreases for longer subscriptions. Here is a breakdown of the subscription plans:

1-month plan – $24.99/month for 4 horror Blu-rays
3-month plan – $24.24/month for 4 horror Blu-rays each month for 3 months (you save $2.23)
6-month plan – $23.49/month for 4 horror Blu-rays each month for 6 months (you save $9.00)
12-month plan – $22.74/month for 4 horror Blu-rays each month for 12 months (you save $27.00)

The shipping is free for ALL plans, and the 12-month plan comes with a special bonus surprise. Horror Pack even throws in some Limited Edition items from time to time, which will make your monthly surprise even more surprising!

If DVDs are more your style, have no fear; Horror Pack offers a DVD service as well. Click on the link below to visit their website for more information.

Horror Pack is an excellent subscription service, and you get a lot for your money. If you price the movies I received above on Amazon, the total cost comes to more than $41.00…and that’s not including shipping!

Give yourself an early Christmas present, and start your subscription with Horror Pack today! (You know you’ve earned it!)

Link:
Horror Pack Subscription Box Service

MSB

Movie Review – The Windmill (2016)

The Windmill
(a.k.a. The Windmill Massacre)
Directed by Nick Jongerius
Courtesy of XLrator Media
Release Date: October 25, 2016

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I can tell already that THE WINDMILL will be one of those Love-It-or-Hate-It movies. It has all the components for a successful genre film, but I can still see many folks out there thinking it too hokey or too ludicrous of a concept.

What are my thoughts? I loved it. Granted, it’s not a perfect film…but it is fun and entertaining; full of intrigue and suspense, it moves at a nice clip and has some great gore. Not to mention, I like the premise. I will not give anything away, but I didn’t see the “big reveal” until it happened. If you’re looking for a great Halloween film, and you have good reality-detachment skills, then I am certain you will enjoy THE WINDMILL as much as I did.

If you are not familiar with THE WINDMILL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of XLrator Media:

THE WINDMILL is an English-language slasher about a group of tourists from all over the world who embark on a windmill tour through the Dutch countryside and end up facing cold-blooded, masked killer who lives in an abandoned windmill. One by one, he goes after the members of the group using his scythe, spiked wooden shoes, and the mill to grind and mold his victims. Through the last survivors, we learn the horrific truth and the motivations behind this madman.

THE WINDMILL combines the richness and traditions of The Netherlands and drenches them in blood. Its iconic green fields, grazing black & white cows, bulb fields, panoramic skies, and traditional windmills will never be the same again after seeing…THE WINDMILL.

THE WINDMILL is shot well and appears to have a fairly high production budget. The cinematography does a great job of telling the story but also in capturing the rich scenery of the Netherlands countryside.

The acting is pretty good, although I don’t think any of the cast will win awards for it. I always enjoy seeing Noah Taylor onscreen, and Charlotte Beaumont does a fine job as the main character, Jennifer. They are joined by a decent ensemble of talent, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of each actor’s work outside of this film.

The special effects are top notch. I greatly enjoyed The Miller’s make-up and costume. He is both menacing and terrifying, a perfect genre addition to the likes of Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger, and Jason Voorhees. I also loved the gore. There are some particularly nasty scenes that stand out, such as a guy getting chopped off at the legs and a girl who takes a large hook to the face. I backtracked each scene and re-watched them both, just to enjoy the carnage a couple of times over.

And as I mentioned above, the plot in THE WINDMILL is interesting and fun…IF you can suspend a few notions of reality. I, personally, do not have much of a problem doing this, therefore I had a great time watching the film. But if you’re the kind of person who has to have EVERYTHING spelled out and all factors involved laid bare, then you’ll probably hate this movie.

As for flaws in the film, I do have a couple to point out. First, we are never told how the bus driver fits into anything in regard to the plot. He is a part of the big reveal, yes, but we are never told how. This doesn’t detract from the movie too much, but it was enough to make me stew on it for a while.

Also, I have to comment on the lack of subtitles when the Japanese character, Takashi, is speaking. I’m not sure if my DVD screener copy just omitted them somehow, or if the filmmakers left them out on purpose…but I feel like I missed a whole section of backstory because I didn’t know what he was saying.

But those points aside, THE WINDMILL is a lot of fun, and it’s a perfect addition to your Halloween movie list. The film hits VOD and theaters next week, just in time for the holiday.

MSB

Movie Review – The Stitcher (2007)

The Stitcher
Directed by Darla Enlow
Courtesy of VCI Entertainment
DVD Release Date: October 16, 2007

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Thanks to technology decreasing in price and increasing in its ease-of-use over the past several years, just about anybody can make a feature-length film these days. For example, I am an amateur filmmaker myself, and I made a 25-minute horror flick on a budget of less than $50. Granted, it’s not a very good film, but I’ve been told it’s somewhat entertaining.

Because of this recent affordability, genre movies are coming out of the woodwork, with horror films leading the pack. Slasher flicks are one of the most prominent types of horror film I see in this trend, probably because they are generally cheaper than most others (creature features have to have a budget for the monster, haunted house and possession flicks usually have to have “invisible” special effects”, etc.) to make. As such, there are TONS of B- and C-grade movies for connoisseurs of every level to “enjoy”.

The point I’m trying to make is this: in an ocean-sized pool of repeating horror staples and rehashed fright elements, good filmmakers have a hard time separating themselves from the rest. But every now and then, a low-budget feature comes along that impresses and entertains. These films are usually fun and full of heart.

Such is the case with THE STITCHER, a 2007 film from Oklahoma. It is a low-budget jaunt into familiar territory, but it has enough originality and soul to satisfy even the heartiest of horror fans. And while it’s not perfect, it is still a heck of a film despite its flaws, and it’s a worthy addition to your Halloween viewing agenda.

If you are not familiar with THE STITCHER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of VCI Entertainment:

From the director who brought you “Toe Tags” and “Branded” comes a new face of terror. Something strange is happening in this eerie backwoods town. An ordinary town that could be miles from your own home. Inspired by true events, a group of friends must survive the weekend in order to escape the terror that is beyond their imagination. Desperate and fearing for their lives, the horror surges when a legendary killer wants something they all possess. They soon find out the town is not what it seems, and with no hope of rescue, they must find their way out before they fall victim to the Stitcher’s obsession. This blood curdling story is a shock a minute horror rush, that will make you never want to wear certain pieces of clothing again.

I am bracing myself for the attempted arguments I feel are headed my way. Many folks will probably disagree with my assessment of this film, but most have probably never tried to make a film themselves. It is a toiling, exasperating effort that can be rewarding and fun while on set, but then brutally cruel when critics start picking apart the finished result. Because of this, and because I am familiar with what is involved, I try to look at how much effort was put into a film before I start dissecting it.

THE STITCHER is shot fairly well and looks good onscreen for the most part. I only found a few scenes that looked “off”, in terms of shot quality. Similarly, the sound isn’t half bad, either. Many lower-budget films tend to sacrifice sound quality for the sake of special effects or acting talent. Not so here, thankfully.

And speaking of acting, the cast isn’t too shabby, although I don’t think anybody will win any awards for their performances. Still, I have seen MUCH worse, and the folks in this film never forced me to drop out of my immersion into the movie because of bad or over acting.

The story is what really wins me over. The pacing starts off a bit slow, but when the bodies start piling up, the intensity and intrigue rise with them. And the big reveal is nice, as well; I had no inkling who the killer really was prior to unveiling, so it was a nice surprise.

My major complaints about the film are minimal. A couple of the actors overdo a bit with their roles, and some of the “redneck” aspects are too over the top to take seriously. Also, I would have liked more special effects (i.e. gore). We don’t get much, and I feel every decent slasher needs a nice helping of carnage.

Yet overall, THE STITCHER is entertaining and fun, a low-budget slasher that is rife with heart and guts (no pun intended…ok, yeah, maybe a little bit…). Director Darla Enlow shows talent and determination, two characteristics that are vital to success in film. Interestingly, this film is the last and most recent listed on her IMDB page, so I’m curious as to what she’s been up to for the past decade. Hopefully, she’s plotting another horror flick.

THE STITCHER is available now through VCI Entertainment.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

The Hills Have Eyes
Directed by Wes Craven
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1977
Blu-ray Release Date: October 11, 2016

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One of the most vivid memories from my childhood is hearing my mom and dad talking about the commercial for THE HILLS HAVE EYES. I was probably four or five at the time, and the film had just come out in theaters. My mom was horrified and appalled that such a film could be released, and I remember my dad saying he wasn’t surprised with the way the world was headed. I’m not sure why this memory sticks out in my mind, but it’s an interesting prelude to who I would eventually become (meaning an avid fan of horror).

When I heard Arrow and MVD were teaming up again to release Wes Craven’s masterpiece on Blu-ray, I knew it would be a hit. And sure enough, it does not disappoint. If you’re a fan of the film or even just a fan of Craven’s, this Collector’s Edition Blu-ray set will be a must-have for your library. I will go so far as to even say every horror fan worth his or her salt should add this one; it is an epic version of a great film.

If you are not familiar with THE HILLS HAVE EYES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

THE LUCKY ONES DIED FIRST…
Horror master Wes Craven achieved critical and commercial success with the likes of Scream and A Nightmare on Elm Street but for many genre fans, the director’s seminal 1977 effort The Hills Have Eyes remains his masterpiece.

Taking a detour whilst on route to Los Angeles, the Carter family run into trouble when their campervan breaks down in the middle of the desert. Stranded, the family find themselves at the mercy of a group of monstrous cannibals lurking in the surrounding hills. With their lives under threat, the Carters are forced to fight back by any means necessary.

As grueling a viewing experience today as it was upon initial release, The Hills Have Eyes stands alongside the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Night of the Living Dead as one of the defining moments in American horror cinema.

In an interesting bit of timing, I just saw THE HILLS HAVE EYES for the first time a couple of days ago on DVD, prior to receiving this Blu-ray set. As such, I can testify to how much better the picture looks on Arrow/MVD’s version; the HD transfer is a HUGE leap forward, and it makes the movie experience much more enjoyable. Although the colors don’t pop (I mean, how can they…the film is set in the desert!), the image is cleaned up nicely, and the grainy composition is almost completely gone. The sound quality seems about the same, however I did notice my satellite speakers getting more use from the Blu-ray version.

The acting in THE HILLS HAVE EYES is great, with some very familiar names gracing the credits. Genre icon Dee Wallace is one that jumps right out at me, although she’s got plenty of good company with the likes of Michael Berryman, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, and Janus Blythe. The whole cast does a great job.

The special effects are very good for the time period, although there’s not nearly as much gore as I was expecting. This is not a detractor from the film at all, just more of a personal observation. Still, what we do get to see is great.

The intensity in the film is what really wins here, though. Craven does an excellent job of building tension and a foreboding atmosphere. The result is an adrenaline-churning thriller that keeps you chomping on your fingernails until the credits.

My sole complaint about THE HILLS HAVE EYES is the ending, and from some of the other reviews I’ve read, I’m not alone. Many people feel it to be too abrupt, and not satisfying enough. Interestingly, in the Special Features, we are offered an Alternative Ending, which does much better, in my opinion. I’m surprised this one was not used for the theatrical release instead, although I guess I can see the original’s merits from an artistic standpoint.

Also included in the Special Features, which as far as I can tell is NOT available on the DVD edition, is a nice collection of Outtakes/Bloopers from the film. I enjoyed seeing this, as it gives a more personal feel to the film in a way.

THE HILLS HAVE EYES is a major win for me, and I’m very happy Arrow and MVD have released it. I hope they give the second film the same treatment, particularly because that is one I’ve never seen, either. This Limited Edition set includes some great extras, such as a collection of postcards featuring scenes from the film, a reversible fold-out poster with original artwork, and more.

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 4K restoration from original film elements, supervised by producer Peter Locke
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• 6 x postcards
• Reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork
• Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills
• Audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke
• Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes making-of documentary featuring interviews with Craven, Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen
• The Desert Sessions brand new interview with composer Don Peake
• Alternate ending, in HD for the first time
• Trailers and TV Spots
• Image Gallery
• Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper

MSB

TV Show Review – Vikings, Season 4 (Volume 1)

Vikings, Season 4 (Volume 1)
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment & MGM
Release Date: October 4, 2016

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In this day and age, where almost everything has a TV show, I’m always glad to see original programming gain popularity. Granted, unique shows seem few and far between, but those that break out of the standard genre rut shine like beacons in the dark. As such, these titles usually gain a cult following that continues to grow long after the final episode has aired.

I am predicting this is what will happen to VIKINGS.

VIKINGS is one of those rare shows that pops with originality but still manages to stay grounded. Brutal and unforgiving, the show is an enthralling drama that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. And if its fans are half as unyielding as its main character, King Ragnar, then this series will live in infamy forever.

If you are not familiar with VIKINGS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment:

Take another gripping voyage into the ruthless world of Vikings, with its thrilling action, powerful performances and intriguing story line. King Ragnar returns from battle gravely ill. Disheartened by his marriage to Aslaug and challenges with his sons, Ragnar seeks companionship with his slave, Yidu. Meanwhile, a defiant Rollo remains in Frankia, Queen Kwenthrith plots to reclaim Mercia, and the enigmatic Harald Finehair appears. Ultimately, Ragnar and Rollo engage in a merciless battle to define their legacies.

Season four moves at a very nice clip and continues the plotline started in season three. Just like its predecessors, this season is rife with tension and action, a perfect combination of both.

VIKINGS is shot well and looks great onscreen. The production value appears high, and every episode has a feature-length film look to it. I don’t know what the budget is for the show, but the crew is spending the money wisely, it would seem. The Blu-ray picture is crisp and looks great in HD.

The acting in VIKINGS is excellent. Travis Fimmel gives an outstanding performance as Ragnar, and he is supported by a top-notch cast. Many noteworthy names jump off the cast list, including Maude Hirst, Katheryn Winnick, Clive Standen, and Gustaf Skarsgard.

But the most compelling component of the show is the drama. I had major misconceptions about VIKINGS until I actually sat down and watched a couple of episodes. Much like GAME OF THRONES and THE WALKING DEAD, the genre-specific aspect (in this case, the historical barbarian) is only a backdrop on which the characters and their interactions unfold.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of action as well. The battle scenes are tight and gritty, much like I imagine they were back then. And even the special effects look good. There’s not an excessive amount of gore or blood, but what we do see is very well done.

VIKINGS SEASON FOUR is a major win for me, and I highly recommend it. If you’re new to the show, start at season one and catch up as quickly as you can. And if you’ve been watching all along, I’m sure you’ll agree the fourth season is just as much a hit as the first. Season Four, Volume One is available now, so snag your copy today.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Slugs (1988)

Slugs
Directed by J. P. Simon
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1988
Blu-ray Release Date: October 4, 2016

slugs

There’s no doubt creepy-crawlies make ideal subject matter for horror films; many, many great films from the past sixty years in the genre have been iconized because of them. But the 80s gave birth to some of the best creature features ever made. This is partly due to the fact many of them used REAL bugs!

SLUGS is one of these very films, and it is chocked full of schlocky, slimy goodness. Arrow Video and MVD Distribution have restored this 80s classic in HD, and the result is a fantastic foray into good, gory fun. If you’re new to SLUGS, pick it up today and enjoy its squishy goodness; and if you’ve seen it before, get this version immediately…there’s nothing like watching these small creatures wreak big havoc in high def!

If you are not familiar with SLUGS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

THEY SLIME. THEY OOZE. THEY KILL.
From celebrated Spanish director Juan Piquer Simón, the man behind the truly demented slasher flick Pieces (1982), comes a terrifying tale of mutant slugs on the rampage in small-town America.

The townsfolk of a rural community are dying in strange and gruesome circumstances. Following the trail of horrifically mutilated cadavers, resident health inspector Mike Brady is on the case to piece together the mystery. He soon comes to a terrifying conclusion giant slugs are breeding in the sewers beneath the town, and they’re making a meal of the locals!

Based on the novel by acclaimed British horror author Shaun Hutson, Slugs outdoes its creature feature peers by adding an extra dose of gross-out gore into the equation, culminating in one of the most squirm-inducing animal attack movies ever to slither its way across screens.

One of the greatest aspects of this film is how unintentionally funny it is in some parts. The overall tone is serious, but the clunky dialogue and odd overacting make some of the scenes riotous.

SLUGS is shot well and looks great, thanks to the restoration from original film elements. I saw this long ago (on VHS, I think), and I remember the picture quality as grainy and difficult to see, particularly in the low-light shots. But everything looks excellent now. Even the sound quality is improved; my surround sound cranked out every squelch and slime-splatter to perfection.

The acting in SLUGS is actually pretty laughable, although the fault lies in the script, not in the talent levels of the cast. They do the best they can, but the dialogue is so awkward that it’s difficult to imagine a real person saying it. Thus, that detracts a little from the viewing experience, but not nearly enough to stop watching.

The special effects in SLUGS are excellent for the most part, and I am impressed with how well they stand the test of time. Some of the blood appears pretty fake (it’s a lot lighter in color than it should be), but the rest of the gore is superb. Of particular note is a scene in a restaurant, where a man’s face literally explodes with bugs. I’m not sure how they pulled off this effect, but it looks stunningly real. I tip my hat to the effects crew and their efforts.

Despite its flaws, SLUGS is a lot of fun, and it’s a perfect Halloween film for horror fans of all ages (well, those 17 and up, of course…the film is rated R, after all!). I’d wait until after dinner to watch it, though…some of the gore, and even the slugs themselves, might force a few unintended gastric disruptions.

Special Edition Contents:

• Brand new restoration from original film elements
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Uncompressed PCM Stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary by writer and filmmaker Chris Alexander
• Here s Slugs In Your Eye an interview with actor Emilio Linder
• They Slime, They Ooze, They Kill: The Effects of Slugs an interview with special effects artist Carlo De Marchis
• Invasion USA an interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo
• The Lyons Den an interview and locations tour with production manager Larry Ann Evans
• 1988 Goya Awards promo reel
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Wes Benscoter
• Fully-illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by writer Michael Gingold

MSB