Movie Review – Slasher.com (2017)

Slasher.com
Directed by Chip Gubera
Courtesy of Cinedigm
Release Date: March 7, 2017

SLASHER.COM is one of those films you feel like you’ve seen before. From premise to execution, a lingering doubt will probably plague you throughout the duration of the film…something about this seems familiar. And that would be just about spot on. This IS a concept with which we, as horror fans, are already well acquainted.

And yet…

Despite its familiarity, this film actually does bring something new to the table, a nice twist that I did not see coming. Oh, I had my suspicions…but the film caught me off guard and switched the tables on me. As such, I enjoyed the last half of the movie greatly. Granted, this is not a perfect film, and it does have some glaring flaws…but go into this with the right mindset, and you’ll have a genuinely entertaining time.

If you are not familiar with SLASHER.COM, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cinedigm:

After meeting online, Jack and Kristy go on a weekend getaway to the woodlands of rural Missouri. While discovering each other, they soon learn of the terrorizing horrors that the forest has in store.

I confess: the first hour of this 90 minute film is fairly dull. Sure, there’s several things going on…but as mentioned, we’ve seen this many times before. It’s not until around the 1 hour 5 minute mark that things get interesting. THEN, about 10 minutes later, the REAL fun starts. I’m not going to mention a single detail, because doing so would ruin the movie for you. And I’m definitely not that heartless.

SLASHER.COM is shot fairly well and looks pretty good for a low budget film. The cinematography is decent, and I particularly like the panning drone shots we are given of the forest and terrain; for some reason, I feel these shots actually add depth to the film.

The acting is probably the biggest detractor for the film, and I honestly almost stopped watching because of it. I feel bad stating this, because this really looks like a labor of love as a whole…but to start with, these folks are difficult to watch. Thankfully, Ben Kaplan, who portrays Jack Roper, finds his rhythm late in the film, which is one of the reasons the ending is a lot of fun. The sole highlight in the cast is Jewel Shepard, who portrays Momma. Shepard is an alumnus of RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and as such, is somewhat familiar with the horror genre. She plays the psycho mother with gusto.

The storyline in SLASHER.COM takes us over ground covered many, many times in the past…but as I said, there’s a nifty little twist that shows up toward the end. This kink and the results of it actually made the movie worth watching, and I’m glad I toughed it out.

SLASHER.COM is B-movie fare, but it does offer a fun outing, that is IF you can make it through the first part of the film. Just keep telling yourself it will pay off in the end, and I think you’ll enjoy it overall. The film is available now.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Caltiki the Immortal Monster (1959)

Caltiki the Immortal Monster
Directed by Riccardo Freda (as Robert Hampton) & Mario Bava (as John Foam)
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1959
Blu-ray Release Date: April 25, 2017

I would wager many horror fans like me consider the 50s and 60s to be the building block years of modern day horror. Many iconic directors cut their teeth during these decades, and most of the films they made are still very much relevant today. Italian horror legend Mario Bava is one of these filmmakers, and his “collaboration” with director Riccardo Fred in making CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER helped define his trademark style.

CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER is one of those classic, black and white giant monster movies that were popular during that time, but it still has merit today. With an interesting premise and some clever special effects, the movie is a lot of fun and very entertaining. Granted, it’s obviously dated in many aspects, but the tension and terror still remain. If you’re any kind of horror fan, you’ll want to add this title to your collection immediately.

If you are not familiar with CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER, here is the synopsis courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

Arrow Video presents a collaboration between two giants of Italian cult cinema Riccardo Freda (The Vampires, The Horrible Dr Hichcock) and Mario Bava (5 Dolls for an August Moon, Blood and Black Lace)!

A team of archaeologists led by Dr John Fielding (John Merivale, Circus of Horrors) descends on the ruins of an ancient Mayan city to investigate the mysterious disappearance of its inhabitants. However, the luckless explorers get more than they bargained for when their investigation of a sacrificial pool awakens the monster that dwells beneath its waters the fearsome and malevolent god Caltiki.

Though Riccardo Freda received sole directing credit, a significant portion of the film was in fact the work of Mario Bava, who also served as its cinematographer and was responsible its striking special effects. Drawing on a diverse array of influences, from The Quatermass Experiment to the works of HP Lovecraft, Caltiki the Immortal Monster is a unique and unforgettable sci-fi chiller which showcases these two legendary filmmakers at their most inventive. Presented here for the first time in a newly restored high definition transfer, Caltiki shines and terrifies like never before!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to enjoy this film as much as I did. It’s very engrossing, and it pulls you in pretty much from the start. This is one movie I’ll probably revisit again soon.

As mentioned, CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER is shot in black and white, but that actually adds a lot of dimension to the film. The special effects work better as a result, and the underwater scenes are truly chilling. The HD transfer looks simply amazing. Many films from that time period have only cruddy copies, full of screen pops and fuzziness. Not so here. The restoration looks excellent, and the Blu-ray gives this film a very nice upgrade.

The acting is pretty decent, although it is crammed full of the overly dramatic characterizations that plagued films of that time period. Still, the cheesiness is part of the film’s charm, and I got a particular kick out of watching Didi Sullivan portray the “damsel in distress” wife, Ellen; Sullivan is the typical suburban housewife, yet her character appears very frail and waiflike.

The special effects in CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER are surprisingly good. I was wondering if we would get a hokey, gel-filled bag rolling around on the floor as the monster. Thankfully, the filmmakers got inventive and created a realistic, life-like, “pulsing” creature. There’s also a bit of gore, which looks gruesome. Of particular note is when fellow scientist Max has his arm partially dissolved by the monster’s saliva. This looks very real and is a sight to behold.

CALTIKI THE IMMORTAL MONSTER is an aged masterpiece, and I highly suggest giving it a look. It is an interesting glimpse into Bava’s training years, and it helps showcase the massive talent that would quickly emerge. In addition to the film, the Blu-ray boasts some great special features, including:

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
• New audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava and So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films
• From Quatermass to Caltiki, a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman on the influence of classic monster movies on Caltiki
• Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master, an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
• The Genesis of Caltiki, an archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
• Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
• Alternate opening titles for the US version
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti

The film will be available tomorrow, so make a note.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Dark Waters (1994)

Dark Waters
Directed by Mariano Baino
Courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1994
Blu-ray Release Date: April 25, 2017

I consider myself to be pretty well versed in 90’s horror, however I am always pleasantly surprised to discover obscure gems that slipped past me. Such is the case with DARK WATERS, an Italian horror/Nunsploitation hybrid that bares its fangs in all the right places. A dark and foreboding film, DARK WATERS will keep you captivated throughout its entirety. And while it’s not perfect, it’s still vastly entertaining and well worth the watch.

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

It has been acclaimed as “visually amazing” (Videoscope), “deeply disturbing” (BBC Radio One), “a must see for serious horror buffs” (Film Review), and compared to the works of Bergman, Bava and Argento. Now experience the modern Nunsploitation masterpiece from co-writer/director Mariano Baino as you’ve never seen or heard it before: When a young Englishwoman attempts to discover her mysterious connection to a remote island convent, she will unlock an unholy communion of torment, blasphemy and graphic demonic depravity. Louise Salter (INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE) stars in this “stunning and horrifying debut” (Digitally Obsessed) filmed on location along the grim Ukraine coast now transferred in HD from the original 35mm negative and featuring over 4 hours of startling Special Features.

The look and feel of this film is truly excellent. Director Mariano Baino does a phenomenal job of projecting Gothic overtones, both obvious and discreet, here. This atmosphere, infused with dark, medieval organ music, creates a haunting and desolate backdrop on which the horror plays out.

DARK WATERS is shot very well and looks amazing onscreen. In addition to the great HD picture, the visuals themselves are truly spectacular. There is an artistry to Baino’s camerawork, and the film flows smoothly as a result. This delicate touch to the cinematography is an interesting contrast to the horrific images it portrays.

The acting is good, with Louise Salter heading up the cast as the main character, Elizabeth. Salter is talented and beautiful, and I’m surprised she has not been in more roles than her IMDB page lists (she only has four credits). The rest of the cast does a fine job as well, however I have to confess I am not familiar with any of them.

The special effects are practical (this film is pre-CG), and they are all great. I’m not going into great detail about them because doing so could potentially spoil certain aspects of the film. But I am impressed with what the effects team accomplishes.

My minor complaints about DARK WATERS involve the plot. Granted, these are small issues, but they do warrant mentioning. My primary gripe is the lack of explanation about certain things. **SPOILER ALERT These things include why Elizabeth’s father was sending money to the convent, and what Elizabeth and her sister were doing on the island as children. Also, several of the character’s accents are so thick it’s hard to understand them; perhaps explanations were given, and I just couldn’t understand them. I don’t know. But I feel like some point-blank, in-your-face elucidations might have been helpful.

I have to say, though, that I really enjoyed this film, and I highly recommend it. It is labeled as part of the Nunsploitation genre, however I’m not sure if that fits; there’s no nudity in DARK WATERS, which is usually a staple of the field. But this is definitely a horror flick and worthy of the tag. Give this one a look for sure. DARK WATERS hits store shelves next week, so make a note.

In addition to the excellent HD picture and sound, the Blu-ray boasts some great features as well, including:

Special Features:
• Audio Commentary With Writer / Director Mariano Baino
• Lovecraft Made Me Do It Featurette
• Let There Be Water Featurette
• Controlling The Uncontrollable Featurette
• Deep Into The Dark Waters Featurette
• Director Intro
• Deleted Scenes
• Silent Blooper Reel With Audio Commentary by Director Mariano Baino
• Short Films Of Mariano Baino: Dream Car, Caruncula, Never Ever After
• Making Of Never Ever After

MSB

Movie Review – Chupacabra Territory (2017)

Chupacabra Territory
Directed by Matt McWilliams
Courtesy of Maltauro Entertainment
Release Date: April 11, 2017

I’ve mentioned many times before that I am a fan of the found-footage subgenre of horror. For the most part, I enjoy how the films are put together, and I like the “personalized” element these films contain. But at the same time, I’m getting very tired of watching the same concepts over and over again. Unlike other genres, where a familiar premise can be redone in a unique way or with an extra twist, there’s not much that can be done differently with found-footage films. Because of this, these movies must truly bring something new to the table, or else they wind up as yet another throw-away rehash of what we’ve already seen a hundred times.

Such is the case with CHUPACABRA TERRITORY, a recent release from Maltauro Entertainment. This film is a perfect example of what I’m describing. It is chocked full of everything found-footage is famous for, but it offers absolutely nothing new, and many of the scenes even resemble those found in previous titles. Heck, the whole second half of the film is basically THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, except the witch has been replaced with a cryptid.

In short, I cannot recommend this film on the basis that hundreds that have come before it offer the exact same experience.

If you are not familiar with CHUPACABRA TERRITORY, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Maltauro Entertainment:

Four friends hike into the Pinewood Forest to find evidence of the Chupacabra, an ancient creature believed to be responsible for the disappearance of four experienced hikers a year earlier. As they journey deeper into the forest, their innocent search uncovers more than they had ever hoped for, and with it a darkness that threatens to consume their very existence. One by one they are hunted down, their survival tested, their lives hanging in the balance of fear, friendship, disbelief, and horror.

In addition to found-footage, I’m also a HUGE fan of creature features. Thus, when I got the press release for this film, I was foaming at the mouth to give it a look. I only wish it had lived up to my expectations.

CHUPACABRA TERRITORY is shot in the obvious first person perspective, and it is shown through the different viewpoints of the four friends. This looks fine for the most part, although there are a couple of glaring WTF? Issues that ruin the concept, the primary one being the outside, third person shot of the vehicle as it drives around a corner. Uh…if this is a “found footage” documentary, where did this scene shot from atop the bluff come from? I even backtracked the film to see this shot again, just to make sure I wasn’t missing something. Guess the editor/director/continuity-checker did.

The acting is just so-so. It’s not terrible, as I’ve seen in many other films…but it’s also nothing to write home about. The cast does a decent job in their roles, although the script does not help them much. The characters themselves are boorish and just plain annoying, not to mention the fact they are the dumbest group of people on the planet; some of the decisions they make are beyond idiotic. I have to admit, I was actually pretty happy when the chupacabra started slaughtering them.

The special effects in CHUPACABRA TERRITORY are not too bad, and they are probably the sole “highlight” of the film, if that can be said. There’s some good practical gore, including a couple of animal carcasses that are way believable. Even the human remains look deliciously real; I particularly like the disemboweled man found in the forest towards the end.

As for the chupacabra itself, we never really get to see enough of it in the movie to make a decision about its appearance, although any suspense that might have existed is lost because the creature is plastered on the front cover of the DVD/Blu-ray. Personally, I HATE it when distributors do this; half the tension that is present in creature features is created when the beast is never seen until later in the film. But when the monster is put on the front cover, it really ruins the surprise.

CHUPACABRA TERRITORY is exactly like every found-footage movie you’ve either seen or heard of, and it offers nothing you haven’t seen before. As such, this is just one of a thousand of the same thing. Watch if you don’t mind seeing a repeat of everything.

MSB

Movie Review – The Quiet Hour (2017)

The Quiet Hour
Directed by Stephanie Joalland
Courtesy of Monarch Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 21, 2017

Years ago, after my wife and I first discovered the television joy that is BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, I began to ponder what about the show made it so good. Obviously, there’s a lot to like about a teenage demon killer who is cute and perky…but I ultimately decided it was the element of human drama that made the show so love-worthy. Sure, the vampires and monsters were great, and the characterizations of the “Scooby Gang” were very strong, but it was the interactions between them and how they dealt with the horrors they faced that created such an enthralling series. As such, I began to describe BUFFY as a human drama piece set against the backdrop of a Hellmouth.

When THE WALKING DEAD hit the scene, I saw the same characteristics. Strong characters with gripping and emotional writing…it was another major hit. I dubbed it in a similar fashion, a human drama series set against the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse.

THE QUIET HOUR is a science fiction film that attempts to capture the spirit of BUFFY and TWD. Set against the backdrop of an alien invasion, the movie focuses more on a human threat than an alien one. Unfortunately, this film lacks the spark that both BUFFY and TWD contain. The result is a ho-hum alien film that alienates its audience instead.

If you are not familiar with THE QUIET HOUR, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Monarch Home Entertainment:

Humans are few and far between since Earth was invaded by extra-terrestrial machines that harvest the planet’s resources and relentlessly kill its inhabitants. In a remote part of the countryside, where starved humans have become as dangerous as the alien machines in the sky, a feisty 19 year old girl, Sarah Connolly, sets out on a desperate attempt to repel a group of bandits and defend her farm, the remaining livestock, and the solar panels that keep them safe. If she doesn’t succeed, she will lose her only source of food and shelter; but if she resists, she and her blind brother will be killed. If the mysterious intruder dressed like a soldier turns out to be a liar–then the enemy may already be in the house.

I wanted so badly to like this film more than I actually did. It does have a tad bit of entertainment value, but not enough for me to call it “good”. Still, the premise is interesting, and the execution is pretty solid. It’s just the writing that does the movie in.

THE QUIET HOUR is shot well and looks good onscreen. I watched this on DVD, so I didn’t get to experience the film in HD. Thankfully, that’s not a negative. The picture is not grainy at all, and the cinematography looks tight.

The acting is good, with Dakota Blue Richards portraying the main character, Sarah. Richards gives a great performance, and I daresay she steals every scene in which she appears. She is joined by Karl Davies, who plays Jude, her brother; Davies also does a great job, as does Jack McMullen, who shows up as the solider Tom Connelly. All three play off each other very well, and their onscreen chemistry is blatantly evident.

The special effects in THE QUIET HOUR look good overall. The alien ships are obviously CGI, but they still appear convincing for the most part. I admit there was a scene where they looked very cartoonish, but otherwise the spacecraft are semi-believable.

The plot (or rather the lack thereof) is where the film’s biggest flaws lie. First, there’s barely any palpable tension anywhere. The characters are very one-dimensional, therefore we do not have any reason to relate to them or care about what happens to them. Even the blind brother comes off as a forced dramatic piece; we are supposed to feel sorry for him because of his lack of sight, yet he is so underdeveloped that it is sometimes difficult to remember he is there.

Also, the aliens are almost an afterthought. In BUFFY and TWD, the primary antagonists are usually present in some form or fashion; rarely an episode goes by when we don’t see a vampire or demon in BUFFY or a zombie in TWD. Sadly, we NEVER get to see an alien in THE QUIET HOUR. It’s great to have human drama intermingled with the main enemy…but we need to see the main enemy at least once.

Despite its flaws, THE QUIET HOUR would still make for a semi-interesting short film; there’s no arguing the main plotline can fill at least 20 minutes or so. But there’s not enough here to warrant a 90 minute feature film. I was bored throughout most of the movie, and the ending did little to make up for that. THE QUIET HOUR starts off with a whisper and ends just as silently and uneventful as it starts.

MSB

Movie Review – The Burningmoore Deaths (2017)

The Burningmoore Deaths
(aka The Burningmoore Incident)
Directed by Jonathan Williams
Courtesy of Cleopatra & MVD Distribution
Release Date: February 14, 2017

If you are not familiar with the name “Geoff Tate”, then you must not be a hard rock fan. Tate was the lead singer of the band Queensryche, and he can belt out awesome songs with the best of them. I am a big fan of the ‘Ryche, so when I heard Tate was starring in a horror film, there was no way I was going to miss it. Thus, with high expectations, I threw in THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS and prepared myself for greatness.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get greatness.

Instead, I wound up with mediocrity. THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS is a so-so horror film that lacks in several areas. It does have an interesting premise, and the execution starts off pretty strong. Yet, the film begins to fall short once the house renovation starts. I won’t say the movie is awful, because it does contain some entertainment merit…but it’s certainly not great. As such, I have to classify this as a decent three out five stars horror flick.

If you are not familiar with THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of MVD Distribution:

James Parrish never displayed any signs of mental instability. That was until he murdered his wife and three sons then disappeared without a trace. Although police and regional authorities conducted a nationwide search, Parrish was nowhere to be found. In March 2010, a home improvement company began filming their debut television show in an abandoned house on Bayside, Queens, NY. Unfortunately for them, James Parrish had taken up residence in the derelict building. They never expected the events that would unfold that day would chronicle a bloody tale of murder at the hands of a disturbed and brutal killer… and everything was caught on film.

THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS is shot in two different styles. It starts off as a pseudo-documentary, filmed using interviews and archived video surveillance footage. But the second half of the film contains the “unused” as well as the edited footage from the home renovation television show. This drastic difference threw me off a bit for some reason. Thankfully, there are lead-ins that describe what we are about to see. If the lead-ins were missing, this would be a jumbled mess of random video.

The acting in THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS is decent, although I don’t think anybody will win any awards for their performances. The cast tries to come across as typical, gruff Northeasterners for the most part, however a few of them oversell their roles. The resulting stereotypical characters are not very likable, and therefore the audience doesn’t really care if they live or die. Geoff Tate does a decent job as the killer (yeah, I’m probably biased, but…), however the flashback scenes of his character are much more chilling than when he’s actually offing someone. I also have to mention Tate sings the primary theme song for the film, which is a great track. I’m going to try and find it online to buy.

The story premise is intriguing, however I have a hard time believing a killer can pick off people in a house full of carpenters and workers without anyone noticing. I think this lack of believability took me out of the film a bit and made me distance myself from the story. I would like to see this film redone, with a bigger budget and a different cast; a few changes in direction might make this a much better movie.

THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS is not a high budget feature, but it does have a lot of heart. Still, many horror fans will probably not enjoy this one, as heart alone cannot carry it for the full 82 minute running time. THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS is available now, should you decide to take a look.

MSB

Movie Review – Child Eater (2017)

Child Eater
Directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen
Courtesy of MVD Distribution
Release Date: February 28, 2017

I’ve said many times before that I greatly enjoy original horror. But I also appreciate revisiting existing staples of the genre as well, just as long as they bring something new to the table. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to watch a film with a plot synopsis that is all-too familiar yet promising something new, only to be disappointed once again because it only rehashes what I’ve already seen a hundred times over.

I’m happy to report CHILD EATER does not fit into that category. Sure, there are plenty of films out there that contain a “boogeyman” of sorts in the closet or basement, but this one brings plenty of tension and scares along with it. Crammed full of gore and terror, CHILD EATER is a horror film you’ll revisit again!

If you are not familiar with CHILD EATER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of

A babysitter. A missing kid. A local legend who feasts on the eyes of children. CHILD EATER is a nightmarish roller-coaster ride of a horror movie inspired by the fantastical tone of the 1980s. When little Lucas goes missing from his bedroom in the middle of the night, his babysitter Helen ventures out into the deep, dark woods armed only with a flashlight and a fierce determination to find him.

I love the simplicity of the setup here. It’s your basic babysitter-and-kid-in-a-town-with-a-terrible-legend scenario. But no matter how many times you might have seen it, this movie brings along thrills and chills as well. The result is a satisfying and entertaining experience all the way around.

CHILD EATER is shot well and looks good onscreen. Much of the film takes place in low-light settings, therefore the atmosphere is consistently dark and foreboding thanks to this. I have to commend the production team as well on their use of low-lighting; many times, the picture is grainy and hard to make out…not so here. The film looks good from pretty much all angles.

The acting is surprisingly sharp as well. Cait Bliss does a great job as the babysitter, Helen. I had some misgivings about her in the role as the film started, but those were quickly dismissed as she warmed to the role. Her co-star, Lucas Parker, who plays her charge, Colin, does an excellent job as well. I hope to see both onscreen in the future.

The story in CHILD EATER is familiar, however it is the execution of it that brings the real fun for this film. The tension is thick, thanks to the way the film is shot, and it drips from every frame. There are plenty of taught, fright-filled scenes that will make you cringe and squirm, along with a nice helping of gore.

And speaking of gore, the special effects look great, and I would love to see what this team could do with an even bigger budget. Still, there’s plenty of carnage to appease gore-hounds. Even the effects of the Child Eater himself, Robert Bowery, are chilling and lifelike. I had no problem believing the character was real.

My sole complaint about CHILD EATER is the lack development in the titular character. Granted, we are given a little bit of information about him, however we are not fully vested with who he is. This isn’t a detractor from the film at all, however I do feel it worth mentioning.

CHILD EATER is a big win for me, and I highly recommend it. Fans of film icons like Freddy Krueger will love to dig into this one. Just make sure you watch it with the lights on…and check your closet twice before you go to bed! CHILD EATER is available now.

MSB

Movie Review – A Kind of Murder (2017)

A Kind of Murder
Directed by Andy Goddard
Courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment
Release Date: March 21, 2017

I can’t say that I’ve ever been a diehard fan of the Noir film genre, however I do have a respect for it, and I enjoy the occasional film now and then. I suppose this lack of general interest stems from my love of horror; after you’ve seen horrific atrocities in the act onscreen, it’s often difficult to shift gears and be enthralled by a murder-whodunit.

When I received the press release for A KIND OF MURDER, I initially thought I’d decline. But after scanning the cast list, I figured I needed to give it a look. I enjoy Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel as actors, so I decided to take a chance on the film and see how it was.

As it turns out, I am a bit disappointed with this movie. Despite the fact that it is well made, the film doesn’t offer much in regard to mystery or tension. The characters are never fully developed enough for the viewer to care about them, therefore their actions and the resulting reactions are lacking in flavor. And the attempt at creating an enigmatic whodunit falls flat due to the clear announcement of the killer very early on in the story. In short, there’s really not much going on here.

If you are not familiar with A KIND OF MURDER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel star in this Hitchcockian noir based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Carol). It’s 1960 in Manhattan and Walter Stackhouse (Wilson) seems to have it all: status, money and a “happy” marriage. But he has become obsessed with Marty Kimmel (Eddie Marsan), a man suspected of killing his wife. This brutal murder unlocks Walter’s darkest fantasies his desire to be free from his own wife, the beautiful but damaged Clara (Biel). When she is found dead in suspicious circumstances the lines blur between innocence and intent. Who, in fact, is the real killer?

I can’t say this is a bad film because, well, it’s not. It is simply bland and tame. The production value appears high, and the sets, costumes, and background details are great. But unfortunately, the story and the characterizations are where this film is lacking.

The plot starts off decently, with Patrick Wilson as a working man who writes crime fiction. After one of his stories is published, he becomes obsessed with a local man who is suspected of killing his wife. Then, his own wife turns up dead, and his world is turned upside down. The problem here is that there’s no real tension. As mentioned, the killer is very obvious from the start, which ratchets down the suspense and turns the movie into a waiting game…waiting for the plot to reach the obvious conclusion.

Also, the characters in A KIND OF MURDER are way too stereotypical for Noir films: the suicidal, unhappy housewife…the free-spirited singer who catches the main character’s eye…even the main character himself, a regular guy who finds himself in a strange situation and then digs a hole difficult to climb out of. If the movie had been 30 minutes longer, and more time was spent on fleshing these folks out, I might have enjoyed it more. But as it is, they are too flat to care about.

A KIND OF MURDER has a lot of potential, but the execution needs to be refined. Despite its flaws, the film does have some entertainment merit, but only if you don’t have high expectations. I had high, high hopes, which is why it didn’t work too well for me. But give this a look on your own, and decide for yourself.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Wild Beasts (1983)

Wild Beasts
Directed by Franco Prosperi
Courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distributing
Original Year of Release: 1983
Blu-ray Release Date: February 7, 2017

In a day and age where computers can generate the majority of what we see on the silver screen, I am extremely thankful for those directors who choose practical special effects over CG. No matter how good the CG is, I can usually tell what’s real and what’s not (pretty much the sole exception to this is Neill Blomkamp’s work…his CG is amazingly realistic). My preference for real-world effects is one of the reasons I love 80’s horror so much. Obviously, CG was not prominent back then, and extremely expensive; thus, it was used in only a handful of films. Filmmakers had to get quite ingenious at times to accomplish the shots they wanted in their movies.

WILD BEASTS is an Italian horror flick that fits this bill. The film deals with nature gone amuck, thanks to drugs polluting the zoo’s water supply. It boasts all practical effects, and I have to confess it contains some of the most chilling animal attacks I’ve ever seen. Granted, the dialogue is kinda hokey, and some of the situations seem a tad ridiculous (a cheetah tries to run down a woman who is speeding away in her car)…but if you can look past that, you’re in for a real treat.

If you are not familiar with WILD BEASTS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distributing:

For his final work, Godfather Of Mondo Franco E. Prosperi took on the Nature Strikes Back genre and delivered perhaps the most shocking movie of his controversial career: When PCP gets into the water supply of a city zoo, the drug-crazed beasts including tigers, lions, cheetahs, hyenas and elephants, as well as seeing eye dogs and sewer rats go berserk and rampage through the streets of Rome. What follows is a terrifying mix of actual animal attacks (supervised by professional circus trainers) and over-the-top 80s Italian gore that remains the greatest eco-revenge shocker in EuroCult history. Lorraine De Selle (CANNIBAL FEROX, HOUSE AT THE EDGE OF THE PARK) and Ugo Bologna (NIGHTMARE CITY) star in this disturbing urban bloodbath, now digitally remastered for the first time ever and bursting with all-new Special Features!

Despite its small flaws, this film kept me captivated from start to finish. From the first animal attack on, I was hooked. I can see why this has been an underground cult favorite for so long.

WILD BEASTS is shot well and looks great onscreen, thanks to the HD transfer. The Blu-ray picture is crisp and clear, and I can’t recall a single grainy scene. Likewise, the sound is impressive. My surround sound made good use of the ambient noises, offering an immersive viewing experience all the way around.

The acting is about what you’d expect from Italian horror from those days: it’s not terrible, but it’s nothing to write home about either. This is probably due in part to the lackluster writing (as mentioned, the dialogue is clunky and hokey in places), but it is easily forgivable. I enjoyed watching the cast get eaten as a result.

And speaking of carnage, there’s plenty of it in WILD BEASTS. The animal attacks are gruesome and very realistic, as is the gore. When these animals take a person down, it’s for good. They waste no time in ripping out throats and mauling their victims in a frenzy of crimson. One particular scene that really made me squirm involves a couple making out in a car. They are lost in each other and do not notice the massive horde of rats that are sneaking up on them. They realize what is happening as the rodents attack, but it is too late; the couple is basically eaten alive, one small bite at a time. This scene is horrific and gruesome, a fitting dose of gore for a film like this.

WILD BEASTS is a win for me, and I definitely recommend giving it a look. The film is chocked full of intensity and all-out craziness, but it is a hell of a ride. In addition to a great-looking movie, the Blu-ray also contains some great special features, including:

Special Features:
• Altered Beasts: Interview With Director Franco E. Prosperi
• Wild Tony: Interview With Actor Tony Di Leo
• Cut After Cut: Interview With Editor & Mondo Filmmaker Mario Morra
• The Circus is in Town: Interview With Animal Wrangler Roberto Tibeti’s son, Carlo Tiberti
• House Of Wild Beasts: A Visit To The Home Of Franco E. Prosperi
• International Trailer

WILD BEASTS is available now.

MSB

Roleplaying Game Product Review – Call of Cthulhu Metal Dice Set

Call of Cthulhu Metal Dice Set
Courtesy of Q Workshop & Chaosium
Release Date: TBD

Ok, my fellow gamers and geeks, it’s time to check out this amazing dice set from Q Workshop and Chaosium! I present to you, the Call of Cthulhu Metal Dice Set:


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You don’t have to play the Call of Cthulhu Roleplaying Game to appreciate the artistry and functionality of these beautifully crafted dice. Per Q Workshop, “this is a set of full metal dice, made of tin and painted in black. The numbers and ornaments are engraved in the dice, ensuring their top quality. They are practically indestructible – and they come with the lifelong guarantee.”


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The fine folks at Q Workshop sent me a prototype set of these dice to try out, and I have to say they exceeded every expectation I had. Not only are they stylistic and downright awesome to look at, they are well balanced and roll nicely on my playing mat.


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The dice set contains:

1xD4
1xD6
1xD8
1xD10
1xD12
1xD20
1xD100

The total weight of the set is 163.25 grams / 5.75 oz.

I LOVE these dice, and I highly recommend you head over to the Kickstarter page and pledge to back them now. Yes, the goal has already been met, BUT pledging on Kickstarter is your chance to get many exclusive Call of Cthulhu items that WON’T BE AVAILABLE ANYWHERE ELSE AFTER THE CAMPAIGN. The main dice set will be available to buy later, but at a higher price and only after all of the rewards have been shipped to their backers.

Look at this attention to detail! Each die is adorned with tentacles on the edges and fanged mouths in the corner!


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Do yourself a favor and get in on this dice set now. Regardless of whether you are a gamer or not, you will certainly appreciate the careful detailing and artistic craftsmanship of these dice. If you don’t play, then display these as a conversation piece. And if you do play, you can take pride in knowing these dice will never wear out and the numbers will never fade away. Either way, pledge now. You don’t want to anger the Elder Gods…do you?

Click here to go to the official Kickstarter page.

MSB