Movie Review – XX (2017)

XX
Directed by various directors
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Release Date: May 23, 2017

Before you read any further, let me assure you: this is NOT a review of a softcore porn. The XX title is not the rating of the film…it’s simply a denotation of the X-X chromosome set all of the directors share (for those of you who did not attend high school science, that means all the directors in this anthology are female).

The short films in this collection are not perfect, but they are very well made, and each showcases the budding talents of these four up-and-coming horror directors. I am definitely making a note to watch out for these ladies because I wager we will be hearing much more about them in the future.

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

An all-female helmed horror anthology featuring four dark tales written and directed by fiercely talented women:

• Annie Clark rocks her directorial debut with THE BIRTHDAY PARTY
• Karyn Kusama (THE INVITATION, GIRLFIGHT) exorcises HER ONLY LIVING SON
• Roxanne Benjamin (SOUTHBOUND) screams DON’T FALL
• Jovanka Vuckovic (THE CAPTURED BIRD) dares to open THE BOX.

Award-winning animator Sofia Carrillo (LA CASA TRISTE) wraps together four suspenseful stories of terror featuring a cast including Natalie Brown, Melanie Lynskey, Breeda Wool and Christina Kirk.

I need to clarify something before I continue with the review. There is a single flaw keeping these shorts from perfection, and interestingly enough, it plagues all four of them: a lack of clear explanation. I will go into deeper detail below, but I needed to state this up front because I’m NOT trying to convince you to steer clear of this anthology. On the contrary, I am highly recommending it. The films within it are entertaining and fun, despite the missing resolution.

As mentioned, each film is shot very well and looks great onscreen. The camerawork is effective, and the sets and props are all top notch.

The acting is very good in all four shorts, although I only recognize a single face: Melanie Lynskey, who plays the mom in “The Birthday Party”. Fans of TWO AND A HALF MEN will remember Lynskey as Charlie’s stalker-neighbor, Rose. But despite a lack of other recognizable faces, each cast does a great job regardless.

The special effects are minimal but well done. “The Box” and “The Birthday Party” really didn’t have many to speak of, and “Her Only Living Son” has a few, and they look good. “Don’t Fall” has the most, and they are excellent.

**WARNING: The following section contains spoilers!!

As I said above, each short suffers from a lack of resolution or explanation. In “The Birthday Party,” this is very minor, as the only subject not explained is how the husband died (I THINK it is insinuated that he killed himself, but not sure why, and not sure why this didn’t upset the mom). “Her Only Living Son” is great, up to the end, and then we are left to wonder what happened; did they kill each other? I couldn’t tell. “Don’t Fall” leaves us asking, ‘What did the girl turn in to, and why? Just because she cut her finger?’

But the most agonizingly persistent questions linger with “The Box”. I LOVED this piece, right up to the final scenes…where we are given no resolution. WHAT WAS IN THE BOX? And why the cryptic statement at the end, “…and I’m so hungry”. The intention here might have been to create suspense, but it wound up annoying me instead.

**End spoilers!

Still, I cannot deny how enthralling these pieces are, and I suggest giving this anthology a look for sure. I truly hope to see more work from these directors soon, as I’m betting it will be big and bold, whatever they choose to do. XX is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – The Other Hell (1981)

The Other Hell
Directed by Bruno Mattei (as Stefan Oblowsky)
Courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1981
Blu-ray Release Date: April 25, 2017

When it comes to exploitation films, one of the first names that should pop into your head is Bruno Mattei. The Italian director is known in some circles as “The Italian Ed Wood”, and for good reason; he is renowned for consistently using stock footage, soundtracks from other films, horrible acting, and eye-rolling dialogue. But you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who does exploitation better.

THE OTHER HELL is one of his forays into Nunsploitation films, and it’s a doozy. It’s not a great film, but it is certainly entertaining. And while I find his zombie films much more fun, I still have to suggest to you to give this one a look…that is, if like this sort of stuff (and thankfully, I do!).

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

At the peak of his ’80s excess, Italian sleaze maestro Bruno Mattei using the alias Stefan Oblowsky stunned audiences with this Nunsploitation shocker about a series of brutal murders in a depraved convent. And while his cinematic legacy may remain controversial, Mattei delivers a surprisingly stylized yet undeniably blasphemous orgy of stabbings, stigmata, Satanism, violence and graphic savagery that ranks among his very best. Franca Stoppi (THE TRUE STORY OF THE NUN OF MONZA), Carlo De Mejo (WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE) and Franco Garofalo (HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD) star in this nugget written by the notorious Claudio Fragasso (RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR, TROLL 2) and featuring a score borrowed from Goblin, newly transferred from a 35mm print discovered behind a false wall in a Bologna nunnery!

The cover of the Blu-ray, as shown above, is a duel-sided beauty that lets you choose how you want to display the film on your shelf. I personally love the skeletal nun, as it is much more provocative and mysterious.

THE OTHER HELL is shot well and looks very good onscreen, thanks to the HD restoration. I like the story of how a 35mm print of the film was found behind a false wall in a nunnery in Bologna; it makes the film even more interesting for me. And, thanks to the discovery, a true upgrade was given to the picture and sound. Both are impressive, and I will state Blu-ray is definitely the way to see the film.

The acting is wooden and stiff, which are typical traits of a Mattei film. Those of you who have experienced his films in the past know what I’m talking about…but if this is your first time, do not expect much in regard to the cast. Thankfully, it is also a part of the film’s, uh, “charm”, so it’s easily sidestepped.

The special effects in THE OTHER HELL are pretty laughable. The bit of gore we get is recycled, and the other effects (such as the baby in the flashback) are so obviously fake, it’s hard to watch them with a straight face. But still, schlocky is what Mattei is famous for, therefore it’s no surprise to see them as such.

The storyline in THE OTHER HELL is a confusing mish-mash of several Nunsploitation films. There’s a singular plotline that peeks through, but it is never really fleshed out well enough to reveal its intentions. And when the Big Reveal is shown, it comes across as more of a joke than anything.

Still, if you are fan of Mattei’s work (and I am), this film will definitely merit watching. It’s full of all the campy, cheezy stuff we’ve come to expect from the legendary filmmaker’s works, and it fits right in with the rest of his filmography. I personally loved it, and I’ll probably give it another viewing later on.

The film is available now.

Special Features:
• Audio Commentary With Co-Director/Co-Writer Claudio Fragasso Moderated By Freak-O-Rama’s Federico Caddeo
• Sister Franca: Interview With Actress Franca Stoppi
• To Hell And Back: Archive Interviews With Director Bruno Mattei and Actor Carlo De Mejo

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Brain Damage (1988)

Brain Damage
Directed by Frank Henenlotter
Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1988
Blu-ray Release Date: May 9, 2017

Director Frank Henenlotter looks like a normal guy. But don’t let that fool you; housed inside that nondescript head is the mind of a genius. How else can you describe someone who has given the horror genre films like BASKET CASE and (my personal favorite) FRANKENHOOKER?

Henenlotter definitely reaches new heights with BRAIN DAMAGE, though.

While the premise of BRAIN DAMAGE might sound familiar, I can guarantee you’ve not seen anything like this. Whereas many films rehash what has already been done, this movie will take you on a vivid and entertaining trip. And when it’s over, you might have to ask yourself if it was all a dream.

BRAIN DAMAGE is the latest offering from Arrow Video, and it’s a definite must-have for horror fans. Chances are you’ve heard of this film; but if you haven’t, then buckle in and get ready for a weird and crazy ride.

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

IT’S A HEADACHE FROM HELL!
From Frank Henenlotter, the man behind such cult horror favorites as Basket Case and Frankenhooker, comes Brain Damage the ultimate head-trip, now finally on Blu-ray!

Meet Elmer. He’s your local, friendly parasite with the ability to induce euphoric hallucinations in his hosts. But these LSD-like trips come with a hefty price tag. When young Brian comes under Elmer’s addictive spell, it’s not long before he finds himself scouring the city streets in search of his parasite’s preferred food source: brains!

Featuring late TV horror host John Zacherley as the voice of Elmer, Brain Damage boasts some of the most astonishing, bad taste gore-gags ever realized, including the notorious brain-pulling sequence and another that let’s just say ends with a distinctly unconventional ‘climax’.

I went into this film knowing very little about it. Sure, I’d heard about it over the years, and I even own a rare DVD copy of it. But I purposely ignored conversations about it and kept myself from learning too much about the plot. As such, I think I enjoyed the film even more so.

BRAIN DAMAGE is shot well and looks great onscreen. The HD transfer is solid, although there are a couple of scenes where a vertical line can be seen on the left-hand side of the screen. This isn’t very distracting, however, and I assume it has something to do with the original negative. I do have to complain about the sound, though. Most of the voices are very quiet for some reason, which made me keep adjusting the volume based on the action onscreen. A minor annoyance, but I feel it worth mentioning.

The acting is very good, with Rick Hearst playing the main character, Brian. Hearst does a great job, and he convincingly portrays an addict with ease. John Zacherley offers the voice to Elmer, and he also does a fine job.

The special effects in BRAIN DAMAGE are outrageous, over the top, and excellent. There’s a lot gore, and it looks great. I particularly like the brain-pulling sequence, where Brian is slowly pulling his brain out of his ear. This is extremely well done and looks brutally realistic.

BRAIN DAMAGE is a quirky and fun film, but it won’t be for everyone. It’s a slow-burning horror comedy that emphasizes the grotesque, but it also offers an interesting perspective on addiction. I highly recommend it to horror fans, particularly those who enjoyed BASKET CASE and FRANKENHOOKER. It is available now.

In addition to the HD picture and sound, the Special Edition Blu-ray boasts:

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Digital transfer from original film elements
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original Mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by writer-director Frank Henenlotter
• Brand new interviews with cast and crew
• Q&A with Henenlotter recorded at the 2016 Offscreen Film Festival
• Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sara Deck
• PLUS MORE TO BE ANNOUNCED!!!
FIRST PRESSING ONLY!
• Limited edition O-card with exclusive artwork
• Collector s Booklet with new writing on the film by Michael Gingold

MSB

Movie Review – Galaxy of Horrors (2017)

Galaxy of Horrors
Directed by various directors
Courtesy of Indiecan Entertainment & Unstable Ground Productions
Release Date: May 2, 2017

Man, I love how the fine folks over at Unstable Ground Productions are keeping horror fresh!

They recently sent me their latest anthology piece, GALAXY OF HORRORS, and I have to say: it is nothing short of excellent. Granted, there are a couple of shorts that didn’t do much for me, but even they have merit; they are well made, and the talent of each director is blatantly evident regardless. If you love your science fiction combined with a nice dose of horror, then this collection is definitely for you.

If you are not familiar with GALAXY OF HORRORS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Indiecan Entertainment & Unstable Ground Productions:

Trapped in a damaged cryogenic pod, a man is forced to watch a series of horrific science-fiction tales while his life support systems run out. Featuring eight intense stories of the unknown and other-worldly, equally wonderful and terrifying. Visit the GALAXY OF HORRORS, if you dare! Curated from Rue Morgue & Unstable Ground’s Little Terrors Festival. The second release in this anthology series.

The diversity of films in this anthology is a big part of what makes it so good. There’s straight up science fiction, but you’ll also see post-apocalyptic nightmares, smart phone terror, and even aliens. As such, this assemblage offers something for everyone.

One of my favorite segments is “They Will All Die in Space.” In this story, two crewmen aboard a starship awaken an engineer to fix the communications systems in order to send out a distress call. But the engineer quickly realizes there’s more to his awakening than he initially thought. This film is shot very well (in black and white), and it creates a believable and horrific atmosphere of terror.

Another favorite is “Iris.” This short shows the relationship between a hitman and his semi-cognizant smartphone, and what happens when the phone witnesses one of his murders. I love the pacing of this film and its satisfying ending.

A peculiar short captured my eye, although primarily for visual purposes. “Entity” tells the story of a female astronaut who is outside her ship when it explodes. The resulting shockwave throws her into the black void, alone and helpless. This film is visually stunning, and I backed it up a couple of times just to watch the special effects play out. Unfortunately, nothing in regard to the ending is explained, and I still have no idea what it was about.

Probably my least favorite piece is “Eden.” This one started off strong, but then quickly spiraled into a mess. As it concluded, I was left feeling more frustrated than anything. It looks great from a production standpoint, but the story is not easy to follow.

GALAXY OF HORRORS is a hell of an anthology, though, and I highly recommend it. The films contained within it are entertaining, and they all look great. The acting is top notch, and the special effects are very believable. If you’re a fan of films like V/H/S or TV shows like THE OUTER LIMITS, this collection will be right up your alley. Don’t go to a galaxy far, far away to be entertained…just check out GALAXY OF HORRORS!! It is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Drive-In Massacre (1976)

Drive-In Massacre
Directed by Stu Segall
Courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1976
Blu-ray Release Date: March 14, 2017

DRIVE-IN MASSACRE is one of those cult classic titles I always heard about but never got the chance to see. Thankfully, Severin and CAV got together to release it recently on Blu-ray. I sure wish I’d seen it back in the day, though; this would have been right up my alley…even with as schlocky as it actually is.

Sure, by today’s standards the film is very tame. But back then, I’m sure it was just as horrifying as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and JAWS. Not to mention it was one of the earliest slashers in 70’s horror, coming out well before Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees. As such, this iconic, albeit trashy, horror flick deserves a spot in every horror fan’s library.

If you are not familiar with DRIVE-IN MASSACRE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution:

It was one of the few true slasher movies to pre-date HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE 13th, and remains the closest you’ll ever come to an actual seedy 70s drive-in experience: It’s a hot summer night in Southern California and the local passion pit is packed with patrons. But when a sword-wielding psycho begins carving up customers, it’ll unspool a grubby cavalcade of creepy carnies, peeping perverts, graphic decapitations and an ending you have to see/hear to believe.

John F. Goff (THE FOG), Bruce Kimball (LOVE CAMP 7) and co-writer George Buck Flower (BACK TO THE FUTURE) star in this nasty slab of ’70s sleaze directed by film & episodic television veteran Stu Segall (INSATIABLE), now packed with all-new Special Features and restored from the original camera negative recently discovered in the ruins of the Sky View Drive-In near Oxnard!

Just so you know what you’re getting into, DRIVE-IN MASSACRE is one of those so-bad-it’s-good movies. The special effects are cheesy, the acting is mediocre, and the storyline throws plenty of red herrings at you. But all of these attributes help make for an entertaining viewing experience.

The film is shot decently, however the cinematography is only used to tell the story. The HD restoration is ok, however there are still many grainy shots throughout the film. I know this has to do with the original film negative, but I feel it worthy of mentioning nonetheless. The sound quality is not very good. I had a hard time trying to make out what some of the characters were saying, even with my surround sound cranked. Once again, the restoration is only as good as its original source material, so I don’t think this has much to do with the Blu-ray itself.

As mentioned above, the acting in DRIVE-IN MASSACRE is very vanilla. Nobody gives a downright sucky performance, however I don’t think any of the cast will be winning any awards for their performances, either.

The special effects, although blatantly obvious, actually do a pretty good job of conveying a sense of horror to each situation. We see a couple of decapitations, although each only has a smattering of blood to accompany it. Anybody who has taken high school biology knows that a severed head would bring about serious geysers of crimson, therefore it’s hard to take these shots seriously. But at least they don’t look like cheap, Halloween effects.

Despite its shortcomings, DRIVE-IN MASSACRE is still a lot of fun to watch. It’s a short horror film, clocking in at about 74 minutes, but it still offers an entertaining ride. I didn’t see the ending coming (although it infuriated me), so the “unknown” aspect still has weight here as well. I recommend giving this film a look, particularly for those interested in pre-mainstream slasher flicks. DRIVE-IN MASSACRE is available now.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – House: Two Stories (House & House II: The Second Story)

House: Two Stories
House
Directed by Steve Miner
Original Year of Release: 1985
House II: The Second Story
Directed by Ethan Wiley
Original Year of Release: 1987
Blu-ray Set Courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution
Blu-ray Release Date: April 11, 2017

One of my fondest cinematic memories from childhood is watching HOUSE over and over again on a worn out VHS tape. I was probably 12 when I saw it for the first time, and I loved everything about it. The film is quirky and fun, all the way around, and it appealed to my thirst for dark humor and horror.

Then, HOUSE II came along, and I gave it a shot. This one is more on the campy side, with more tongue-in-cheekiness and less horror. I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as the first, but as a sequel, it still has merit and quite a bit of entertainment value.

The fine folks at Arrow Video and MVD Distribution got together and recently released the definitive HOUSE collection, and it’s nothing short of fantastic. With new HD restorations of both films and some slick special features, this great-looking box set is a must-own for all fans of horror.

If you are not familiar with the HOUSE: TWO STORIES movie set, here is the description courtesy of Arrow Video & MVD Distribution:

Step inside, we’ve been expecting you! At long-last, Arrow Video is proud to present the first two installments of hit horror franchise House on Blu-ray for the first time!

In the original House, William Katt (Carrie) stars as Roger Cobb, a horror novelist struggling to pen his next bestseller. When he inherits his aunt s creaky old mansion, Roger decides that he’s found the ideal place in which to get some writing done. Unfortunately, the house’s monstrous supernatural residents have other ideas…

Meanwhile, House II: The Second Story sees young Jesse (Arye Gross) moving into an old family mansion where his parents were mysteriously murdered years before. Plans for turning the place into a party pad are soon thwarted by the appearance of Jesse’s mummified great-great-grandfather, his mystical crystal skull and the zombie cowboy who’ll stop at nothing to lay his hands on it!

From the team that brought you Friday the 13th, House and House II are era-defining horror classics now newly restored and loaded with brand new extras!

Revisiting these two films really took me back in time. I don’t know how many times I watched them as a kid, but I can still feel the chair I sat in to do so, as well as taste the Coke I sipped on at the time. Movies like this are etched forever in time for some of us, and this duo will always be in my Top Moments of a Lifetime List.

Both films look great onscreen thanks to the HD restorations. As mentioned, I used to watch HOUSE on an old VHS tape, so seeing it on Blu-ray was a huge treat. The color pops in both films, and the darkened scenes offer only minimal graininess (if any at all).

The acting in each film is just as good as I remember it. William Katt (who will forever be THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO to me) is the main character, Roger, in HOUSE, and he does a fine job. He is joined by George Wendt and Richard Moll, as well as a host of others. In HOUSE II, Arye Gross plays the lead, Jesse, and he is supported by such names as John Ratzenberger, Bill Maher, and Royal Dano. Both casts are great, and they are both a pleasure to see onscreen.

The special effects in each film are top notch (for the time period), and they look great in HD. I particularly enjoy those in HOUSE, as opposed to those in the sequel, although I’m obviously partial to the original overall. Both utilize practical effects (thankfully!), and they help add to the bizarre tone of each film.

The HOUSE: TWO STORIES movie set is a huge win for me, and every fan of 80’s horror will want to snatch this one up quick. In addition to the two great films, the collection features fantastic original cover art on the outer sleeve and a limited edition booklet with info on the whole HOUSE franchise.

The set also features some top notch special features, such as:

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restorations of House and House II: The Second Story
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• The House Companion limited edition 60-page book featuring new writing on the entire House franchise by researcher Simon Barber, alongside a wealth of archive material

HOUSE
• Audio commentary with director Steve Miner, producer Sean S. Cunningham, actor William Katt and screenwriter Ethan Wiley
• Ding Dong, You re Dead! The Making of House brand new documentary featuring interviews with Steve Miner, Sean S. Cunningham, Ethan Wiley, story creator Fred Dekker, stars William Katt, Kay Lenz, and George Wendt, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Barney Burman, Brian Wade, James Belohovek, Shannon Shea, Kirk Thatcher, and Bill Sturgeon, special paintings artists Richard Hescox and William Stout, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
• Stills Gallery
• Theatrical Trailers

HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY
• Audio commentary with writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham
• It s Getting Weirder! The Making of House II: The Second Story brand new documentary featuring interviews with Ethan Wiley, Sean S. Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Lar Park Lincoln, and Devin DeVasquez, composer Harry Manfredini, special make-up and creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
• Stills Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

MSB

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2017

It was that time of year again, so my wife and I packed up and, along with our very good friends Hayes Hudson (from Hayes Hudson’s House of Horror) and his lovely wife April, trekked down to Dallas to attend the Texas Frightmare Weekend. Another friend of ours, Craig, met us at the hotel, and then our group proceeded to take TFW 2017 by storm!

TFW is always a bittersweet experience. We love going, and while there, we live in a dreamlike world of movie stars, writers, and talented artists. But when we come back home, we always feel “deflated” for a couple of days afterward as reality sinks back in. Pretty sad, huh? Maybe that means we were meant to live in Hollywood instead of Arkansas?

But enough drivel. Here are some highlights from our weekend. Enjoy!


Two living legends: Italian filmmaker Dario Argento and British actor Malcolm McDowell. We were standing in line to meet Argento when McDowell walked up to the filmmaker and gave him a hug. They conversed for a few moments, and then McDowell left for his table. As he left, he apologized to those of us in line for taking up the man’s time and making us wait a few minutes longer. We didn’t mind at all, but that shows you how classy these guys really are.


Me with the legendary filmmaker, Dario Argento.


I’m not sure who this guy was supposed to be, but I love the character.


Me, Hayes, and Craig, along with the infamous Charles Band, writer/director and the founder of Full Moon.


Me and director Robert Hall, the man responsible for such great horror films as LAID TO REST 1 & 2 and FEAR CLINIC.


This life-size Jane Doe cadaver doll was just one of the items up for auction at this year’s event. Wonderfully gruesome, isn’t it?


One of my favorite guests this year was Richard Brake, who GAME OF THRONES fans might recognize (well, maybe not without make-up) as The Night King. He was also Joe Chill in BATMAN BEGINS, but my favorite character he’s played was the sleazy soldier Portman in the movie DOOM.


Me with the beautiful and talented Stefania Casini, who played Sara in Dario Argento’s iconic film SUSPIRIA. Casini was so sweet and a real joy to talk to.


Last but certainly not least is me with filmmaker Frank Henenlotter, the mastermind behind such horror classics as FRANKENHOOKER, BRAIN DAMAGE, and BASKET CASE.

That’s about it! Had a great time and definitely looking forward to next year. For now, it’s back to life as usual.

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Cathy’s Curse (1977)

Cathy’s Curse
Directed by Eddy Matalon
Courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1977
Blu-ray Release Date: April 11, 2017

I confess I had never heard of CATHY’S CURSE prior to receiving the Blu-ray press release, therefore I was quite intrigued when I read about it. Horror movies that deal with children are even more so terrifying to me because, well, I love kids. I’m a dad, and I love my kids more than anything. Thinking of them in a horror-movie situation is almost unbearable. As such, I was expecting great things from CATHY’S CURSE. Sure, the setup is familiar, but I figured this 70’s flick could offer an entertaining experience nonetheless.

As it turns out, I got a mediocre film with minimal entertainment value. CATHY’S CURSE isn’t really a bad film per se, but it’s not a great film for sure. It’s pretty much vanilla…a middle-of-the-list horror film that doesn’t offer up anything we haven’t seen before except a confusing storyline. If you’ve never seen many possession films in your life, then definitely give this one a look; otherwise, you’ve probably seen this film many times before under different names.

If you are not familiar with CATHY’S CURSE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films & CAV Distribution:

Forget what you’ve seen in blurry bootlegs and cruddy budget packs.

This first-ever restoration of the depraved Canadian shocker is being hailed as the genre re-discovery of the year: In 1947, a young girl is roasted alive in a car accident. Thirty years later, her grown brother returns to their childhood home with his mentally unstable wife and sweet daughter Cathy. But when the dead aunt’s vengeful spirit possesses the child, it will unleash an unnerving nightmare of creepy mediums, demonic dolls, and plenty of sick 70s foul-mouthed moppet mayhem.

Experience one of the strangest EXORCIST/OMEN/CARRIE-inspired grindhouse hits like never before, now transferred in 2k from recently-found film elements and featuring revealing new Extras with long-lost star Randi Allen and producer/director/co-writer Eddy Matalon.

CATHY’S CURSE is one of those films plagued with stupid characters. You know the type I’m talking about…they ignore things that would be obvious to a three-year old child, and then they barely act surprised when everything goes to hell. Maybe dim-witted is a better word, but you get the gist.

I will say CATHY’S CURSE looks great onscreen, thanks to the HD restoration. From what I understand, previous copies of this film looked horrible, as most were copied from VHS releases. The fine folks at Severin Films and CAV Distribution have this film looking almost new, with barely any graininess and some top notch sound development. Blu-ray is definitely the way to go, if you decide to watch this.

The acting is so-so thanks to a cast of relatively unknowns. I don’t recognize a single name, although this could be due to the film’s Canadian nature. Alan Scarfe does a decent job as the dad, George Gimble; and Randi Allen, who plays Cathy, does a fairly good job as well. The rest of the cast is forgettable.

The plot in CATHY’S CURSE is where I find the most problems. First, the “prologue” is never fleshed out, nor explained. We do not know anything about the characters, other than the guy thinks “all women are bitches.” This would be forgivable, except for the fact this scene is key to the rest of the film.

Secondly, we are never told why the doll is possessed. We are sorta led to believe the girl’s dead aunt is the one possessing her (although that’s an insinuation the audience has to make…it’s never spelled out, unfortunately), however there’s no reason for the possession, of the doll or Cathy. I found this aspect the most frustrating; a few minutes spent fleshing this out would have made this an interesting film to watch.

As it is, there’s not much going for CATHY’S CURSE. It’s a quirky, low-thrills possession film that pulls from a number of prior movies. I won’t recommend this one, however I’m not going to say it’s terrible either. This will be one for you to decide.

In addition to the excellent picture and sound, the Blu-ray boasts a few special features that include:

Special Features:
• Director’s Cut
• Alternate U.S. Release Cut
• Tricks And Treats: Interview With Director Eddy Matalon
• Cathy & Mum: Interview with Actress Randi Allen and Costume Designer Joyce Allen
• Audio Commentary on US Cut by BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins and Filmmaker Simon Barrett
• Introduction To Cinematic Void Screening At American Cinematheque By BirthMoviesDeath Critic Brian Collins
• Theatrical Trailer

MSB

Blu-ray Movie Review – Cinema Paradiso (1988)

Cinema Paradiso
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore
Courtesy of Arrow Academy & MVD Distribution
Original Year of Release: 1988
Blu-ray Release Date: March 21, 2017

The term “magical” is a frequent adjective used to describe many films these days. It seems the distribution companies are trying more and more to use sentimentality and emotional connections to sell their pictures. And sure, some movies are worthy of this description…however, unfortunately, most are not.

I’m very happy to report the 80’s Italian film CINEMA PARADISO does not fall into that category, and it is a film beyond worthy of the label “magical”. I’ve been itching to see this film for years, but for some reason, I just never got around to it. When I heard the fine folks at Arrow and MVD were teaming up to release it, I knew I had to give it a go.

And I’m certainly glad I did. CINEMA PARADISO is one of those heartfelt films you’ll watch several times over, just to relive the emotion it elicits. It is a beautiful film, made very well and chocked full of entertainment. I daresay, if you have never seen this film before, do yourself a favor and check it out now. You won’t be disappointed.

If you are not familiar with CINEMA PARADISO, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Arrow Academy & MVD Distribution:

A CELEBRATION OF YOUTH, FRIENDSHIP, AND THE EVERLASTING MAGIC OF THE MOVIES
A winner of awards across the world including Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, five BAFTA Awards including Best Actor, Original Screenplay and Score, the Grand Prize of the Jury at the Cannes Film Festival and many more.

Giuseppe Tornatore s loving homage to the cinema tells the story of Salvatore, a successful film director, returning home for the funeral of Alfredo, his old friend who was the projectionist at the local cinema throughout his childhood. Soon memories of his first love affair with the beautiful Elena and all the high and lows that shaped his life come flooding back, as Salvatore reconnects with the community he left 30 years earlier.

Presented in both the original award-winning cut and the expanded Director s Cut incorporating more of Salvatore s backstory, newly restored from original negative materials.

I’ve heard this film described as “a movie-lover’s movie”, and I agree 100 percent. If you’re a fan of cinema, this coming of age film will be right up your alley.

CINEMA PARADISO is shot very well and is mesmerizing onscreen. Director Giuseppe Tornatore masterfully captures the look and feel of 1950’s Italy, and he uses it to create a small world full of fun and raucous characters. I quickly fell in love with the town, and it is a big part of what ensnares the viewer early on.

The acting in CINEMA PARADISO is top notch, with the entire cast giving excellent performances. I have to commend the young actor, Salvatore Cascio, who plays the character of Toto as a child. Cascio is a precocious talent, and the audience immediately falls in love with him the minute he shows up onscreen. With an infectious smile and a mischievous air, this little boy steals the show.

The plot of the film is engrossing and engaging. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as the synopsis is a bit vague, but that is actually a good thing; going into the film a little blind makes the story even more entertaining. As Toto ages, so does the drama and the fun. But the movie also tugs on your heartstrings in more ways than one. We create a strong bond with Toto, since we get to see him grow up, and that creates a truly magical movie experience.

CINEMA PARADISO is a major win for me, and every fan of cinema should give it a look. There’s no English dub-over, but don’t let that dissuade you; I quickly forgot about the subtitles as the events onscreen unfolded. The Blu-ray contains an excellent HD picture and sound, but also some nice Special Features as well. These include:

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Restored from the original camera negative and presented in two versions the 124 minute Cannes Festival theatrical version and the 174 minute Director s Cut
• Uncompressed original stereo 2.0 Audio and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary with director Giuseppe Tornatore and Italian cinema expert critic Millicent Marcus
• A Dream of Sicily A 52-minute documentary profile of Giuseppe Tornatore featuring interviews with director and extracts from his early home movies as well as interviews with director Francesco Rosi and painter Peppino Ducato, set to music by the legendary Ennio Morricone
• A Bear and a Mouse in Paradise A 27-minute documentary on the genesis of Cinema Paradiso, the characters of Toto and Alfredo, featuring interviews with the actors who play them, Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio as well as Tornatore
• The Kissing Sequence Giuseppe Tornatore discusses the origins of the kissing scenes with full clips identifying each scene
• Original Director s Cut Theatrical Trailer and 25th Anniversary Re-Release Trailer
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Collector’s booklet by Pasquale Iannone illustrated with archive stills, behind-the-scenes images and posters

The film is available now, so take a look.

MSB