Blu-ray Movie Review – We Are the Flesh (2017)

We Are the Flesh
Directed by Emiliano Rocha Minter
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Release Date: February 28, 2017

Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night by something, like a mysterious thud, but you only partially regained consciousness? If you have never experienced this, it’s basically like a waking dream: you are only vaguely aware that you are still half asleep, therefore everything you see and hear while in that state has an almost mystical quality…and yet the whole experience doesn’t make much sense when you try to process it the next day.

This semi-conscious state is exactly the way you’ll feel when you watch WE ARE THE FLESH. This surrealistic film is a weird journey into the bizarre, yet it is so visually arresting, it’s hard to look away from it. I will admit I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the film since it ended, and I am still not sure what I saw. But was I entertained? Well, yes and no. I’ll explain in a moment. But one thing’s for sure: WE ARE THE FLESH is a definite eye-grabber, and it might just make you question your own sanity!

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

A visionary and bizarre slice of Mexican arthouse cinema, We Are the Flesh is an extraordinary and unsettling film experience, a sexually charged and nightmarish journey into an otherworldly dimension of carnal desire and excess, as well as a powerful allegory on the corrupting power of human desire.

A young brother and sister, roaming an apocalyptic city, take refuge in the dilapidated lair of a strange hermit. He puts them to work building a bizarre cavernous structure, where he acts out his insane and depraved fantasies. Trapped in this maddening womb-like world under his malign influence, they find themselves sinking into the realms of dark and forbidden behavior.

Mixing the graphic, powerful imagery of Gaspar Noe s Love and Enter the Void with the surreal, hallucinatory impact of Alejandro Jodorowsky, We Are the Flesh is a bizarre, psychedelic head trip, mixing intense, outrageously explicit imagery with a profound allegory on the nature of existence, to make this an unforgettable, boundary-pushing experience unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

By now, you’re probably wondering if I actually enjoyed this film. The answer is yes, as a whole. But there are several elements about it that I did not like. For example, the sexuality aspect. I am not a prude by any means…however I don’t feel like the VERY graphic depictions of sex in this film are necessary. And when I say graphic, I mean it; NOTHING is left to the imagination. I wager many folks would simply label this film as blatant pornography. Personally, I think the film would have had more of an impact if much of what happens was implied instead of shown. But that’s just me.

There’s no denying WE ARE THE FLESH is shot very well and looks mesmerizing onscreen. I’m SO glad Arrow and MVD released this on Blu-ray, as HD is the only way to truly capture the imagery within the film. I particularly love the scenes inside the cave-like structure. Once it is complete, the set takes on a life of its own. The resulting scenery is almost magical.

The acting is superb, with Noe Hernandez heading up an excellent (albeit small) cast. Hernandez plays the maniacal Mariano, a guy who is way off his rocker and just charismatic enough to entrance the two siblings to join him. Maria Evoli and Diego Gamaliel play the brother and sister, and both do a phenomenal job, but Hernandez steals the show. Whether he is spouting philosophical gibberish, beating the hell out of a random drum, or simply pleasuring himself at the siblings’ expense, Hernandez appears to relish each activity. I daresay there are few actors who could have done such a perfect job with this role.

The special effects in WE ARE THE FLESH are very good as well. There’s some nice gore, particularly a gut-wrenching throat slashing scene that will make you wince. Also of note is the cave-like structure. I read online that the set was made exclusively for the film, and it looks awesome. I would LOVE to have something like that in my house to crawl around in, although my wife would probably hate it.

But the problems with the film do abound, unfortunately. I already mentioned the gratuitous nature of the sex, but there’s several other issues. The film makes absolutely no sense at all, despite an intriguing start. I found myself wondering many times about Mariano’s motivation: is he Satan? Or is he just some screwed up park-bench philosopher who wants to live vicariously through other people?

Also, I had a hard time believing the siblings would participate in Mariano’s madness. Granted, they were hungry to start with…but I don’t think they would have honestly gone as far as they did with the acts.

And finally, I really don’t like the ending. It’s supposed to be a big surprise reveal, but I was so confused by the time it occurred that it lost any impact it might have had. As a result, it just annoyed me.

But even so, WE ARE THE FLESH is still a stunning film to experience, if anything just to see how much of a fever-dream it is. I’ve only seen a handful of films that made me ask, “What in the hell did I just watch?” but this is now number one on that list. Thankfully, it is interesting enough to hold the viewer’s attention for its short duration (79 minutes), and therefore it is not a burden to sit through overall. Just don’t expect a clear storyline.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• 5.1 surround and uncompressed stereo 2.0 audio options
• Optional English subtitles
• A new video essay by critic Virginie Sélavy
• New interviews with director Emiliano Rocha Minter and cast members Noé Hernández, María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel
• Two short films by Emiliano Rocha Minter; Dentro and Videohome
• Theatrical trailer
• Stills gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Anton Bitel, and a note from the producer on the film

MSB

Movie Review – Drifter (2017)

Drifter
Directed by Chris von Hoffmann
Courtesy of XLrator Media
Release Date: February 28, 2017

Over the past several years, I have found myself gravitating toward post-apocalyptic movies and books, more so than I ever have before. I hope this act is not prophetic in some way, as I’m really not ready to scavenge a wasteland for food or try to rebuild civilization with mutants. Regardless, I really enjoy PA films that are well made and make you think.

DRIFTER isn’t necessarily cerebral, and honestly, it’s not overtly original. But I will say it is a post-apocalyptic film with bite. And although it’s not perfect, this movie is still a lot of fun.

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

A pair of outlaw brothers seek temporary refuge in a desolate town inhabited by a small family of psychotic cannibalistic lunatics.

Pretty much anything involving cannibals will grab my attention pretty quick. I am fascinated by them (in a healthy way…not a psychotic one…I promise!) for some reason, and I love seeing the different variations that are brought to screen. As such, this aspect made DRIFTER a must-see for me.

The film is shot well and looks good from a production standpoint. The cinematography does a great job of capturing the isolated feel of the desert and telling the story at the same time.

Likewise, the acting in DRIFTER is pretty good, with talented Aria Emory portraying the main character, Miles; Emory does a great and believable job in his role. He is joined by Drew Harwood, another capable actor who also does a fine job. The rest of the cast is decent, however nobody really gives a breakout performance.

But the film has several detractors that make it a head-scratching experience. I found certain characters, particularly Doyle’s henchman, to be extremely annoying. They are the standard, stereotypical wasteland mutant/inbred family/anything cannibal fare, and they almost overshadow the plot because of how painfully formulaic they are. Spastic brute, quiet idiot, and Harley Quinn-wannabe…ugh.

The biggest flaw that prevents the film from being an instant classic is the lack of originality; it appears to draw on several iconic movies, such as MAD MAX, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. This wouldn’t be such a big issue, however the particular influences here are very specific to those franchises, which in turn makes DRIFTER look like it is plagiarizing. For example, everybody remembers the classic dinner table scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2, right? DRIFTER offers up one that looks very similar. The scene doesn’t directly copy it, but avid horror fans will catch the familiarity quickly.

Even so, DRIFTER is still entertaining, and I do recommend giving it a look. Despite the appearance of a relationship with previous genre films, the movie is intriguing and keeps the viewer interested through its entirety. I never once felt like it lagged or bored me, so that is a definite positive. If you can look past the obvious references to other films, you might enjoy this one.

DRIFTER will be available on VOD and iTunes tomorrow, February 28, 2017.

MSB

Graphic Novel Review – Escape From the Dead

Escape From the Dead
By Brad McCray, Sean Skelding, & Cliff Richards
Courtesy of Grind House Comics & Cheezy Flix
Release Date: Available Now

Despite the fact many horror fans and reviewers are giving up on the zombie genre, I still find it invigorating for the most part. Sure, for every great living dead book or movie you run across, there are a hundred others that suck…but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to find them. Even a single diamond in the rough can pay off with incalculable wealth.

ESCAPE FROM THE DEAD is a recent graphic novel offering from Grind House Comics and Cheezy Flicks (yes, the movie company). I was just as surprised as you to discover Cheezy Flicks had their hands in other venues besides film, but I think it’s a definite win for them. There’s nothing wrong with diversifying your media interests, after all. ESCAPE FROM THE DEAD is not a perfect comic, but it’s very entertaining nonetheless and will make a great addition to any collector’s library.

If you are not familiar with ESCAPE FROM THE DEAD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Grind House Comics:

One man. One mission. One million zombies.

Masquerading as a prisoner, Talon Moon returns to Earth with a mission that will determine the survival of the human race. To succeed he must survive an army of flesh-eating zombies and a well-armed enemy that knows his purpose.

Double-crossed at every turn, forced into unlikely alliances and unsure of his own sanity, Talon Moon must make decisions that will affect the future for all mankind.

Alone and running out of time, Talon Moon must free himself, save the world and escape from the dead!

ESCAPE FROM THE DEAD is science fiction/horror hybrid that boasts great artwork and an interesting storyline.

But even so, the execution lacks a little bit. For example, the course of the plot is disrupted in a couple of places because the narrative doesn’t quite flow like it should. The reader has to accept a few implied notions that cause a couple of head-scratching moments; thankfully, it’s not too difficult to jump back into the story, but I recall this happening to me at least twice.

The characters are certainly fun, though. I particularly like Weasel. He’s such a bizarre and messed up individual, you can’t help but like him. Well, “like” is perhaps too strong of a word…maybe I should say, “…you can’t help but be entertained by him.”

If you look past its flaws, ESCAPE FROM THE DEAD is a fun read, and I do recommend it. The pages contain some great, vivid gore, and the finale has a nice resolve to it. This graphic novel is available now in both digital and hardcopy formats.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – The Survivor (1981)

The Survivor
Directed by David Hemmings
Courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1981
Blu-ray Release Date: January 10, 2017

I’m sure we will all agree that the 70s and 80s gave us some of the greatest horror classics of all time. I could name a dozen right now, but I’m pretty sure we’re all familiar with those for the most part. On the other hand, those two decades also offered up some curious and interesting titles that aren’t quite good enough to be considered classics, but are still entertaining nonetheless. Many of these are lesser known movies that developed cult followings after brief stints in the cinema.

THE SURVIVOR is an Australian film that is technically classified more as exploitation (or Ozploitation, to be precise) rather than horror, but I wouldn’t label it as a classic. Possibly a cult classic in some circles, however I personally would not even peg it as that. Despite an auspicious start, the movie’s ending has too many flaws to overlook. The resulting film is an overall letdown, even though it contains some crazy intense scenes and one of the most terrifying plane crashes ever put to celluloid.

If you are not familiar with THE SURVIVOR, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution:

When a 747 crash lands in a Sydney suburb – a still-spectacular sequence that helped make this the most expensive Australian film of its time – the inferno kills everyone on board except the pilot (Robert Powell of JESUS OF NAZARETH and TOMMY) who emerges from the wreckage miraculously unscathed. But as a local psychic (Jenny Agutter of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON) begins to communicate with the spirits of the doomed passengers, it will unlock a nightmare of madness, murder and supernatural horror.

Hollywood legend Joseph Cotten in his final film performance co-stars in this shocker directed by British film icon David Hemmings (BLOW-UP, DEEP RED) and produced by Ozploitation maverick Antony I. Ginnane (THIRST, PATRICK, TURKEY SHOOT), featuring haunting cinematography by Academy Award® winner John Seale (THE ENGLISH PATIENT, MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) and now transferred in 2k HD for the first time ever.

I admit I’m greatly disappointed this film turned out the way it did. The first ¾ of the film are excellent: a breathtaking plane crash sequence followed up with sixty minutes of intrigue and gut-wrenching suspense. The shots involving the burned baby doll are BEYOND creepy, and I foresee nightmares with that imagery haunting me in my future. But unfortunately, the last quarter of the film is bad enough that it negates all the previous positives.

From a technical standpoint, THE SURVIVOR is shot well and looks great onscreen. The HD restoration for the Blu-ray is excellent, and the picture quality is top notch. Likewise, the sound rocks as well.

The acting is also very good. I particularly enjoyed Robert Powell’s performance as the main character, Keller. He is joined by Jenny Agutter, who gives a powerful performance as Hobbs. The rest of the cast does a fine job, although I don’t think anybody necessarily gives a breakout performance.

The special effects in THE SURVIVOR are staggeringly good. As I mentioned, the plane crash is amazing, as is the wreckage it leaves behind. I had no problems believing it was real. Also of note are the burned bodies; they are grisly and gruesome, just like you would expect something that horrific to be.

But the story is unfortunately what kills this film, or more accurately the END of the story. Most of the plot is great; there’s a lot of buildup and not many clues, which makes for some wonderfully wretched tension. But when the “big reveal” comes about, it makes no sense. It almost seems like it was thrown in as an afterthought. The ending also leaves MANY questions unanswered, with the biggest one for me being **SPOILER ALERT**: WHY did Keller’s burned body wind up in the cockpit at the end, and HOW? Not to mention, **MORE SPOILER ALERTS** what did the bomb on the plane have to do with the supernatural aspect of the film? As the film ended, I was left more aggravated than entertained.

Still, I cannot deny how powerful the first ¾ of the film is. This could have been a powerhouse of a movie. But the writer(s) seem to have lost their drive and creativity towards the end of the film. Even the writer on whose book this was based (James Herbert) said the film was “rubbish”. The Blu-ray does boast some great special features, though, including:

Special Features:
• Not Quite Hollywood Extended Interviews with Producer Antony I. Ginnane and Cinematographer John Seale
• The Legacy of James Herbert
• Robert Powell on James Herbert – Archive TV Special On Location Featuring Interviews with Stars Joseph Cotten and Peter Sumner
• Archive TV Interview with David Hemmings
• Archive TV Interview with David Hemmings and Robert Powell
• Antony I. Ginnane Trailer Reel
• TV Spot

MSB

Book Review – The FrightFest Guide to Exploitation Movies by Alan Jones

The Frightfest Guide to Exploitation Movies
By Alan Jones
Publisher: FAB Press
Release Date: October 15, 2016

If you’re a diehard horror fan like me, then you probably have a place in your heart for exploitation films as well. After all, many of the horror classics we love are dually labeled as both. As such, the exploitation genre covers a broad range of topics, from sexploitation to Nazisploitation to Blaxploitation, and more.

THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO EXPLOITATION MOVIES offers an in-depth look into some of the more popular and bizarre titles in this beloved genre of film. Chocked full of informative pieces and high-caliber visuals, this manual entertains just as much as it informs. I’m proud to own this book, and I believe every horror lover and film buff should have a copy of this handy at all times.

If you are not familiar with THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO EXPLOITATION MOVIES, here is the book’s synopsis courtesy of FAB Press:

From the moment motion pictures were invented, fearless entrepreneurs, poverty row profiteers and money-grabbing grifters gave cinemagoers what they truly craved…. the sex, horror and cheap thrills that were too hot for Hollywood to handle. And so the exploitation industry was born. Nothing was taboo and selling sin, shock and sensation became an art form.

Soon, what were once the dirty little secrets of the film world became the most sought-after must-sees in every grindhouse and drive-in, as an ever-growing legion of fans travelled miles to witness the most unbelievable sights ever put on celluloid.

From MANIAC to ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO, DERANGED to ZOMBIE, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE to THE SEXUALIST, THE JESUS TRIP to NAKED FIST and ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS to AFRICA EROTICA – just 10 of the 200 hand-picked outrages covered in this comprehensive and representative history – critically acclaimed film critic, author and broadcaster Alan Jones takes you on a startling tour through the astounding exploitation movie extremes of its 1935 to 1985 Golden Era.

Tinsel town trash and global grunge like you’ve never seen it before, complete with an all-embracing, richly-textured A-Z guide to everything you ever wanted to know about the inglorious exploitation movie genre but were afraid to ask. With a blistering introduction by 42nd Street habitué, aficionado and COMBAT SHOCK writer/director, Buddy Giovinazzo, The Frightfest Guide to Exploitation Movies fully captures the range and breadth of the entire exploitation spectrum.

Enter, if you dare, into the sordid, sleazy underworld of Z-studio slime and punishment, where orgies of the dead, cesspools of vice and shameless desires featured tantalizing titles, lurid artwork, daring advertising campaigns and overblown hype.

Exploitation movies have never gone away. Inside you’ll discover the unbelievable reasons why.

With this book, author Alan Jones offers an exhaustive look at 200 of the more obscure and popular films in the exploitation genre. A trove of information is given about each title, including year of release, where it came from, who directed it, the cast, and so on. The result is a wildly entertaining volume that will present hours of informational entertainment.

THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO EXPLOITATION MOVIES is easy to follow and offers its content in an easy-to-understand manner. The guide lists the movies in order of release year, which in turn gives a chronological timeline of the genre. This is fascinating to see, as definitive trends can be distinguished, indicating which type of sleaze was popular and prominent at the time.

I love the visuals in this book, as they add monumentally to the information. They also add a new dimension of depth to each film, giving a glimpse into the promotional side of the business. Many of these exploitation titles boasted intriguing taglines and entertaining quotes. This is a big reason many collector’s now relish the actual box office posters and images that are represented within the book.

THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO EXPLOITATION MOVIES is a major win for me, and I highly recommend it. Whether you’re an avid fan of the genre or you just have a minor interest, this book will offer something for everyone. It is available now, so snag your copy soon.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Love Camp 7 (1969)

Love Camp 7
Directed by R. L. Frost
Courtesy of Blue Underground & CAV Distributing
Original Year of Release: 1969
Blu-ray Release Date: January 31, 2017

When reviewing LOVE CAMP 7, I took into consideration the time period in which it was released. I had to do this because, frankly, the movie is very tame compared to today’s standards. But back in the day, I can see where it was considered extremely obscene.

From what I understand, this film basically ushered in the Nazisploitation era, and therefore it should be heralded as a cult classic. It’s a lot of fun, too, though; I found myself chuckling and cringing throughout. And regardless of whether you are fan of exploitation films or not, there’s simply too much quality here not to enjoy.

If you are not familiar with LOVE CAMP 7, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Blue Underground & CAV Distributing:

The story of LOVE CAMP 7 is based on fact! During the darkest days of World War II, two young American WAC officers volunteer to infiltrate a Nazi Love Camp on a desperate rescue mission. Once inside, they are subjected to horrid humiliations at the hands of their captors. Can they survive long enough to complete their objective and escape with their lives intact?

Launching the Nazisploitation craze of the 1970s, LOVE CAMP 7 was the dream child of Writer/Producer/Star Bob Cresse (THE SCAVENGERS), Producer Dave Friedman (BLOOD FEAST), and Director/Cinematographer Lee Frost (THE BLACK GESTAPO). Blue Underground presents the original version of LOVE CAMP 7 in a brand-new 4K restoration from its recently discovered camera negative!

Ok, I don’t know if this film is really based on fact or not, but it is fun to think that it is. Still, I can very easily see instances like this occurring during the war, and as such, this is a very feasible scenario.

LOVE CAMP 7 is shot fairly well, but the movie looks great onscreen. The HD transfer looks excellent, and I love how vivid the picture quality is. Likewise, the sound quality is top notch as well.

The acting is basically atrocious…but you don’t watch exploitation films to see stunning performances. As such, it is completely forgivable. Maria Lease and Kathy Williams do a decent job as the WAC officers charged with infiltrating the Love Camp. But everybody else, particularly those actors portraying the German officers, is terrible.

The story in LOVE CAMP 7 is interesting, especially if it is actually based on true events. But even so, the middle drags a bit. Just slightly, but enough to warrant mention here. Again, though…this is exploitation, so you just forgive it and move on.

As I mentioned, the film is very tame when compared to those made today. Granted, there is quite a bit of nudity (mostly from the waist up), but the shock value is no longer there. The atrocities to which the women are subjected are not shown onscreen for the most part (the worst we see is a woman who is set atop a wooden device known as the Seat of Honor, a device intended to torture her nether-region), and the worst carnage we see is a little bit of blood.

But even so, LOVE CAMP 7 is a win for me, and I recommend this gem from decades gone by for anybody who likes exploitation or grindhouse films. The Blu-ray has some very nice Special Features that include:

Special Features:
• NAZITHON: DECADENCE AND DESTRUCTION
• Theatrical Trailer
• Poster & Still Gallery
• BONUS Collectable Booklet featuring The History of Nazi-Exploitation by Paolo Zelati

The film is available now.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Psychomania (1973)

Psychomania
(aka The Death Wheelers)
Directed by Don Sharp
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1973
Blu-ray Release Date: February 21, 2017

PSYCHOMANIA is one of those films that I remember seeing over and over on VHS store shelves for years…however I never bothered to rent it. I’m not sure why. I don’t remember picking up the box or reading about the film, although the imagery of the skull-shaped helmets stands out in my brain for some reason. So when Arrow and MVD teamed up to release the movie in HD, I figured it was time to give it a shot.

I have to confess I’m glad I didn’t watch this one back in the day. Despite its intriguing title and eye-catching cover art, this film did not do much for me. It’s not a bad film as a whole, but it’s extremely tame for a horror film, and it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

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

The United States gave motorcycle-mad cinemagoers Easy Rider, The Wild One and The Wild Angels. The United Kingdom gave them Psychomania, the tale of zombie bikers run amok is southern England.

The Living Dead are a delinquent biker gang, fond of causing havoc on British roadways and making out in graveyards. Gang leader Tom (Nicky Henson) also has a Satanist for a mother, and when he discovers the secret of immortality, the name of his motley crew takes on a more literal meaning…

Directed by Hammer veteran Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire, The Devil-Ship Pirates) and co-starring Beryl Reid (Dr. Phibes Rises Again) and George Sanders (Village of the Damned), Psychomania is a wonderfully offbeat gem, outlandish and eccentric in equal measure.

First, the good.

The film looks spectacular onscreen, thanks to the HD restoration. I found NO grainy scenes, even in the low-light shots, and the color pops vibrantly. The sound quality is solid as well.

Likewise, the acting is fairly decent, although I don’t recognize many names in the credits. George Sanders stands out because he has an extensive filmography, as does Beryl Reid, who portrays Tom’s mother. Reid holds a particularly dear place in my heart because she played Lady Lambourn in one of my favorite 80s comedies, YELLOWBEARD.

Now, the bad.

The story is simply never fleshed out enough to offer any kind of explanation for why the bikers rise from the dead. Sure, the audience is given hints at a couple of things, but even those offerings make you raise an eyebrow and go “Huh?” Similarly, some of the “facts” offered in the film are laughable, such as a certain species of frog that only grows in graveyards.

Also, the film has NO real horror aspects. The “zombie” bikers look just like they did prior to death: living, breathing human beings, with no rot or decay to indicate they are deceased. There’s no intensity, no scares, and, well, not much going on other than the gang disrupting downtown and doing little jumps on their motorcycles.

PSYCHOMANIA wasn’t for me, and I’m not sure if many horror fans will find it enjoyable, either. Still, it’s a nostalgic trip back to the early 70s, so some folks might like it. It will be available in a couple of weeks, should you decide to give it a look. The Blu-ray edition comes with some nice special features, such as:

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• 2K restoration from preservation negatives
• High Definition (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original 1.0 mono audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Brand-new interview with star Nicky Henson
• Return of the Living Dead, an archive featurette containing interviews actors Henson, Mary Larkin, Denis Gilmore, Roy Holder and Rocky Taylor
• Sound of Psychomania, an archive interview with composer John Cameron
• Riding Free, an archive interview with Riding Free singer Harvey Andrews
• Hell for Leather, a brand-new featurette on the company who supplied the film s costumes
• Remastering Psychomania, a look at the film s restoration from the original 35mm black and white separation masters
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector s booklet containing writing by Vic Pratt, William Fowler and Andrew Roberts

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Wax Mask (1997)

Wax Mask
Directed by Sergio Stivaletti
Courtesy of One 7 Movies & CAV Distributing
Original Year of Release: 1997
Blu-ray Release Date: January 31, 2017

Italy has long been notorious for the production of sleazy Eurotrash and cheeky (albeit excellent, in many cases) horror films. I’m not sure if most folks would consider this a good thing or not, but I certainly do. If it weren’t for Italian cinema, we wouldn’t have classic films like ZOMBIE, SUSPIRIA, and PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES.

In 1997, horror masters Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci teamed up to make WAX MASK, a period horror piece that pays homage to earlier “waxworks” films like HOUSE OF WAX. Unfortunately, Fulci passed away before he could start. Argento replaced him with special effects wiz Sergio Stivaletti, and the resulting film is his first foray into directing. And while it’s not a perfect film, WAX MASK is still a hell of a debut, and it’s definitely worthy of a spot in any collector’s horror library.

If you are not familiar with WAX MASK, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of One 7 Movies & CAV Distributing:

There’s a new attraction in town that’s not for the fainthearted. A wax museum that recreates, for the thrills of a paying audience, some of the most gruesome murders ever committed by human hands.

A young man makes a bet with his friends that he can spend an entire night in the museum but he is found dead the morning after. Who is the savage slayer? The police are unable to come up with a reason or a clue to identify the murderer. Weirdly enough, the museum starts featuring new murder scenes as the killing spree increases. Is the metal-clawed killer that haunted Paris years ago, prowling the streets of Rome, looking for fresh flesh and blood?

I will start off by stating I really enjoyed this film. It has great atmosphere, top notch special effects, and an intriguing concept. Granted, it’s an idea we’ve seen before…but this is a sort of fresh take on what’s already been done.

WAX MASK is shot well and looks great onscreen, particularly due to an excellent HD transfer onto Blu-ray. The picture is crisp and sharp, which impresses me given the number of dimly lit scenes that occupy the film. Many times, lower-light shots stand out in a bad way in an HD upgrade…but not so here. The darker spots are just as clear as the brighter ones.

The acting is very typical of what I’ve come to expect in Italian horror films: very mediocre. No major names stand out in the cast list, and no major talent shines through in anybody’s performances. This isn’t a big detraction from the film, but you need to know what you’re in for if you watch it.

The special effects look fantastic overall, although I will confess a couple of them do look a bit cheesy. I say this because a couple of dismembered body parts look a bit too “rubbery” to pass off as real. Again, this doesn’t take away from the movie, and the rest of the gore is great. There’s plenty of it, too, thankfully.

The story in WAX MASK is familiar, as mentioned, but it has enough originality to stand out from previous versions. The intensity is high, and there’s even a couple of nice twists that you (hopefully) won’t see coming. I didn’t catch on to them until they happened, which in turn made the surprise a nice addition to the plot.

Regardless of its minor flaws, WAX MASK is still a lot of fun, and I recommend it. If you are any kind of fan of Fulci’s or Argento’s, or even an Italian horror buff at all, this one is for you. And even if you’re not familiar with Italian horror, this still warrants a look. It is available now.

MSB