Phantasm 1-5: Limited Edition Collection | Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm series is back – with added balls on Blu-ray

Phantasm Gift Box Set

Few horror movie franchises are as iconic as Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm series. From its deadly flying silver spheres through to its hooded dwarf minions, and of course, the towering figure of arch villain The Tall Man himself, the imagery conjured up by the Phantasm films remains etched in the psyche of genre fans everywhere.

The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) reigns supreme in the Morningside Mausoleum in Phantasm.

The Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) reigns supreme in the Morningside Mausoleum in Phantasm.

Beginning with the 1979 original through to 2016’s Phantasm: Ravager, the five films follow Mike (A Michael Baldwin) as he battles against the enigmatic Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) – an extraterrestrial being intent on harvesting the human race as slaves for his home planet. Aided by his friend Reggie (Reggie Bannister) and a four-barrelled shotgun, Mike resolves to vanquish the Tall Man before he wipes out humanity altogether…

Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) meets the Black Sphere in Don Coscarelli's PHANTASM III.

Mike (A. Michael Baldwin) meets the Black Sphere in Don Coscarelli’s PHANTASM III.

Presented here in a stunning Limited Edition Dual Format release by Arrow Video, it’s the first time all five films have been brought together on Blu-ray – including a brand new 4K restoration of the 1979 classic, Phantasm, overseen by JJ Abrams. Check out the full specs below ad  order from Amazon here

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LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES
• 5 movies together on Blu-ray for the first time!
• Limited Edition Bonus Disc
• Exclusive 152-page book with new writing on the Phantasm universe
• Replica Sphere
• Newly-commissioned artwork from Gary Pullin

PHANTASM (1979 – 2016 REMASTERED)
• Original Mono and 5.1 Surround Audio Options
• The Los Angeles Premiere Experience – join the audience of die-hard phans as they experience the restored classic for the first time! Watch the entire feature with a 5.1 Surround audience track recorded at the 2016 Los Angeles premiere followed by the full Phantasm Q&A panel
• Audio commentary with director/writer Don Coscarelli and actors A. Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury and Angus Scrimm
• Archive Introduction by “Tall Man” Angus Scrimm
• Reflections of Fear: Realising Phantasm – In this brand new pheaturette, experience new stories about the people and personal inspiration behind Phantasm, and learn how the film’s success has impacted on the actors and filmmakers’ lives. Features interviews with Don Coscarelli, actors A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester and Ravager director David Hartman
• Q&A panel from the 2016 Austin Premiere of Phantasm: Remastered
• 1979 TV interview with Don Coscarelli and Angus Scrimm
• Behind-the-Scenes with optional audio commentary by Don Coscarelli and Reggie Bannister
• Phantasm: Actors Having a Ball – Phantasm cast and crew offer up various recollections from the making of the film
• Deleted Scenes
• Original Trailer, TV and Radio Spots

PHANTASM II (1988)
• Original Stereo and 5.1 Surround Audio Options
• Audio commentary with director/writer Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm and Reggie Bannister
• Reflections of Fear: Realising Phantasm II – In this brand new pheaturette, learn from the cast and crew how and why a Phantasm sequel happened, the evolution of the story, and the introduction of the most iconic props in the series. Features interviews with Don Coscarelli, Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, special make-up artists Mark Shostrom and Dean Gates and Ravager director David Hartman
• The Ball is Back – archive making-of documentary featuring interviews with Don Coscarelli, Angus Scrimm, Reggie Bannister and others
• The Gory Days – FX artist Greg Nicotero looks back at his work on Phantasm II • Deleted and Workprint Scenes
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Angus Scrimm Fangoria Convention Appearance
• Angus Scrimm Fangoria TV Spot
• Original Trailer and TV Spots
• Still Gallery

PHANTASM III: LORD OF THE DEAD (1994)
• Original Stereo and 5.1 Surround Audio Options
• Audio commentary with actors A. Michael Baldwin and Angus Scrimm
• Reflections of Fear: Realising Phantasm III – In this brand new pheaturette, the cast and crew reflect on the third chapter in the Phantasm series and the vast amount of make-up work on the film. Features interviews actor A. Michael Baldwin, Ravager director David Hartman and make-up artists Mark Shostrom and Dean Gates
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage with optional audio commentary by Mark Shostrom and Dean Gates • Deleted Scene
• Original Trailer
• Still Gallery

PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION (1998)
• Original Stereo and 5.1 Surround Audio Options
• Audio commentary with director/writer Don Coscarelli and actors Angus Scrimm and Reggie Bannister
• Reflections of Fear: Realising Phantasm IV – In this brand new pheaturette, the cast and crew reflect on how the fourth Phantasm film evolved and reflect on their personal relationship with The Tall Man, Angus Scrim. Features interviews with director Don Coscarelli, actor A. Michael Baldwin, special make-up artists Mark Shostrom and Dean Gates and Ravager director David Hartman
• Behind-the-Scenes
• Original Trailer
• Promo
• Still Gallery

PHANTASM: RAVAGER (2016)
• Exclusive Introduction(s!) by director David Hartman
• The Los Angeles Premiere Experience – join the audience of die-hard phans as they experience Phantasm: Ravager for the first time! Watch the entire feature with a 5.1 Surround audience track recorded at the 2016 Los Angeles premiere
• Audio commentary with director David Hartman and writer/producer Don Coscarelli
• Reflections of Fear: Realising Phantasm: Ravager – Brand new pheaturette looking at the final chapter in the Phantasm series, featuring interviews with actors A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Kathy Lester, Daniel Schweiger and director David Hartman
• Q&A panel from the 2016 Austin Premiere
• Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
• Deleted scenes with optional audio commentary
• Bloopers and Outtakes
• Original Trailer
• Phantasm and You – a light-hearted recap of the Phantasm franchise by David Hartman

BONUS DISC
Phantasmagoria: feature-length documentary covering Phantasm I-IV
Phantasmagorical Mystery Tour: location tour hosted by actor Reggie Bannister
Tall Tales: newly-edited featurette comprised of largely unseen footage from Phantasmagoria
Dear Angus: a tribute to Angus Scrimm by long-time friend and collaborator Kristen Deem
Phantasm: Genesis: featurette looking at some of the key stunt sequences from the series
Phandom: A look at the enduring nature of ‘phandom’

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Fright Night (1985) | This 4k HD release of the cult horror comedy is ‘So cool!’

Fright Night (1985)

The iconic 1980s horror Fright Night is out in a dual-format special edition from Eureka Classics in the UK featuring a 4k digital restoration of the film and a coffin load of bonus material (check them out below). And the best news? It’s currently available on Amazon for just 8 quid (while the Limited Edition Steelbook is fetching £69.99).

Fright Night (1985)

This 1985 vampire movie certainly has plenty of bite – but also strikes the perfect balance of blood and guts horror and darkly comic humour. And alongside the same year’s, The Return of the Living Dead, it remains one of my personal favourites that I return to time and again.

If you love being scared, it’ll be the night of your life…
No-one will believe teenager Charley (William Ragsdale) when he tells them that a vampire called Jerry (Chris Sarandon) has moved into the house next door and is seducing and murdering young maidens there. He then turns to TV horror host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) for help. Lured by a $500 incentive by Charley’s girlfriend (Amanda Bearse), who happens to look like Jerry’s long-lost love, the one-time Great Vampire Killer discovers that Jerry is indeed a vampire as he casts no reflection in a glass – and so the deadly games begin…

Sarandon is every inch the smoothie-savage bloodsucker, while Stephen Geoffreys steals every scene he’s in as Charley’s bestie turned beastie ‘Evil Ed’. But the real star of this late night horror show is Roddy McDowall, whose character name is made up of two iconic horror actors – Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Alongside his turns in the Planet of the Apes films, this must rank as one of his career-best turns.

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Fright Night SteelbookSPECIAL FEATURES:
• 4K digital restoration, with original stereo PCM soundtrack and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options, plus English subtitles
You’re So Cool, Brewster! Exclusive to this release, a two-hour version of the 2016 documentary on the making of Fright Night.
What is Fright Night? 2016 video piece featuring cast and crew interviews (BLU-RAY ONLY)
Tom Holland: Writing Horror, a 2016 video piece featuring interviews with Holland and his collaborators (BLU-RAY ONLY)
Rowdy McDowall: From Apes to Bats, a 2016 video piece featuring archival footage of McDowall and cast and crew interviews (BLU-RAY ONLY)
• Fear Fest 2 2008 reunion panel featuring Tom Holland, Chris Sarandon, William Ragsdale, Stephen Geoffreys, Amanda Bearse, Jonathan Stark and moderated by Rob Galluzzo (BLU-RAY ONLY)
• Shock Till You Drop Present Choice Cuts with Tom Holland and Ryan Turek, a three-part video interview on the film (BLU-RAY ONLY)
• The full electronic press kit, featuring extensive on-set interviews and behind-the-scenes footage (BLU-RAY ONLY)
• Stills and memorabilia from Tom Holland’s personal collection (BLU-RAY ONLY)
• G-rated and R-rated theatrical trailers (BLU-RAY ONLY)
• Collector’s booklet (STEELBOOK EXCLUSIVE)

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Pieces (1982) | Juan Piquer Simón’s bonkers Spanish slasher gets a 4k restored limited edition Arrow release

Pieces (1982)Back in 2011 Arrow Video released Juan Piquer Simón’s 1982 splatter hatchet job Pieces uncut on DVD, with just a handful of fun extras. Now, they have gone further by creating a new 4k transfer from the original camera negative to present both the US theatrical version and the original director’s cut (Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche) with the original score (by Librado Pastor, who only ever composed four film scores) in a limited edition 3-disc dual format box-set loaded with bonus content.

Pieces (1982)

These include archive interviews with the director and actor Paul L Smith (of Midnight Express fame), new interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo (Slugs), a fan appreciation featurette, and an audio interview with producer Steve Minasian (Don’t Open Till Christmas, Slaughter High). The alternate re-score by Umberto is also a special feature, while a separate disc features the original 16 track score. Podcasters The Hysteria Continues supply the well-informed audio commentary, while artist Marc Schoenbach has come up with the new artwork (way less gory than Jeff Zornow’s 2011 artwork), and a collector’s booklet is also included.

Pieces (1982)

Best served as a splatter spoof than an exercise in excessive violence, Pieces is a real guilty pleasure despite its flaws (and there are many), and this new release from Arrow is a real step up from their 2011 DVD release. So, if crazy Spanish splatter is your bag, then I’d highly recommend adding it to your collection.

READ MORE ABOUT THE FILM HERE

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Don’t Knock Twice (2016) | It’s Hansel and Gretel meets The Ring’s Sadako… in Wales

Don't Knock Twice?

From writer/director Caradog James and producer John Giwa-Amu, who gave us the inventive 2013 sci-fi The Machine, comes Don’t Knock Twice? starring Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton and Nick Moran.

Sackhoff plays American sculptor Jess, a former addict who has turned her life around and is now settled in the UK with her banker husband (Moran). When she decides to reconnect with Chloe (Boynton), the daughter she was forced to give up nine years ago, she’s shocked to discover that Chloe has only agreed to come and live with her because she’s terrified of a supernatural curse. Chloe claims her boyfriend Danny (Jordan Bolger) was taken by a vengeful child-eating witch and is frightened she’s next on the urban legend’s menu. At first, Jess disbelieves her Chloe, but when she learns that other children have gone missing, Jess sets out to uncover the truth…

Don't Knock Twice

I really really enjoyed James and Giwa-Amu’s The Machine (you can read my review here), so I was so looking forward to being surprised once again by the Red and Black Film gang, but their Welsh-filmed horror follow-up – which puts a contemporary spin on Hansel and Gretel and the Baba Yaga legend, with a dash of bit of estranged mother-daughter reconnecting – fails to deliver.

Yes, it’s got a couple of scary moments, as well as solid performances from all involved, but I was left feeling I had seen it all somewhere before. Now, the long-fingered witch make-up is terrific, but its physical movements were too much like The Ring‘s Sadako Yamamura or The Exorcist‘s Linda Blair in full possession mode to really stand out. It’s also very dark – not so much in tone, but in the excessive use of low lighting effects – which had me wondering if the film-makers had run out of budget as well as steam.

Don’t Knock Twice? is out on VOD and DVD from Signature Entertainment

 

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House: The Collection | Step inside, we’ve been expecting you!

House: The Complete Collection

Now, I haven’t seen any of the House films since their original releases, and while they’re a perfect example of ‘the law of diminishing returns’, they’ve been dusted off and given a sparkly 2k restoration by Arrow Video for a new Blu-ray/DVD release. Fans of trashy, cheesy 1980s comedy horror will certainly be adding the box-set to their collection, not only because they boast some might sine fine transfers, but for bonus content which includes new ‘making-of’ documentaries alongside some replicated Anchor Bay DVD extras.

So, for what its worth, here’s my take on these blasts from the past…

House: The Complete Collection

HOUSE (1985)
William Katt (TV’s Greatest American Hero) inherits his dead aunt’s neat Victorian gothic mansion where his troubled author Roger hopes to finish his novel about his experiences in Vietnam. But the house has other ideas, and soon Roger finds himself facing off monstrous apparitions and a vengeful spook…

Fusing spooky scares and funny thrills is certainly no mean feat when it comes to creating the perfect slice of comedy horror (Return of the Living Dead and Fright Night being of the superior kind), and while this first visit to the House franchise means putting up with a lot of silliness and some stage-bound Vietnam scenes with a bunch of extras that look like they belong in a gay porn, the pay-off (involving Roger trying to rescue his missing son from the great beyond) is worth putting up with the crappy bits. For me, the best scenes involve Katt (sporting a chest revealing 1980s cardi) teaming up with George Wendt (of Cheers fame) to battle a really cool Lovecraftian-inspired monster in the closet.

• 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: 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: The Complete Collection

HOUSE II: THE SECOND STORY (1987)
Arye Gross’ fit nerd Jesse gets into all sorts of inter-dimensional scrapes when he digs up his mummified great-great-grandfather (Royal Dano) while searching for a mystical crystal skull…

Coming off like a live-action episode of Scooby-Doo, this light-hearted supernatural sequel is pure 1980s, boasting a typically naff party sequences, lots of big hair and neon attire and really bad synth pop. It’s also got some cute Henson-styled puppets (a baby pterodactyl and a caterpillar-dog), which just adds to the cartoon-like atmosphere.

Another Cheers favourite, ohn Ratzenberger, has a cameo, but the film’s big star is the Stimson House, the 19th-century Richardsonian Romanesque LA mansion which stands in for the film’s Aztec-temple home (it’s also appeared in Mad Men, Pushing Daisies and the Vincent Price episode of The Bionic Woman).

• Audio commentary with writer-director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham
It’s Getting Weirder! The Making of House II: The Second Story – 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 & creature effects artists Chris Walas, Mike Smithson, visual effects supervisor Hoyt Yeatman, and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder
• Stills Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

House: The Complete Collection

HOUSE III: THE HORROR SHOW (1989)
Lance Henriksen’s craggy cop Lucas McCarthy finally nails serial killer ‘Meat Cleaver Max’ (Brion James). But when Max is sent to the electric chair, he’s transformed into a vengeful evil spirit which sets his sights on putting Lucas in the frame for a new series of gruesome murders…

This schlocky shocker bears no relation to the previous two House entries apart from its production team. It’s also a much more serious affair. But while the execution scene is staged with flair and James (a favourite of director Walter Hill) brings some excellent crazy-eyed charisma to a role that hits all the right slasher movie buttons, it’s just not that great and pales against Wes Craven’s Shocker, which came out the year and had the exact same premise.

• Uncut Version, for the first time on Blu-ray.
• Audio commentary with producer Sean S. Cunningham
The Show Must Go On – interview with actor/stuntman Kane Hodder
House Mother – interview with actress Rita Taggart
• Slaughter Inc. – brand new featurette with special make-up effects creators Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Stills Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

HOUSE IV: THE REPOSSESSION (1992)
This direct-to-video entry got William Katt back (albeit very briefly) as Roger Cobb who is killed in a car accident at the very start. The rest of the film has his widow Kelly (Terri Treas) and crippled daughter Melissa (Melissa Clayton) experiencing ghostly goings-on and the greedy machinations of Roger’s brother (Scott Burkholder), while a Native American spirit guide tries to help them contact Roger from the other side…

I think one of the reasons I’ve never really clicked with the House franchise is that there is a real lack of cohesion between them – unlike Cunningham’s more successful Friday the 13th series, which I return to time and again. This final nail in the coffin is by far the weakest of the lot and confusingly has Katt return as Roger Cobb, but he’s a completely different character with a different back story and family. Even the house is not the same as the original one. Instead, we have what looks like a studio set like the house in Tobe Hopper’s Eaten Alive (which is a real guilty pleasure, check it out here). The best thing to do is listen to the commentary as director Abernathy is far more entertaining than the movie.

• Audio commentary with director Lewis Abernathy
Home Deadly Home: The Making of House IV: documentary featuring interviews with director Lewis Abernathy, producer Sean S Cunningham, stars Terri Treas and William Katt, actor/stunt coordinator Kane Hodder, and composer Harry Manfredini
• Stills Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer

House: The Complete Collection

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Caltiki: The Immortal Monster (1959) | A true five-star release of an important film in Italian horror cinema

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)REVIEWED BY ALAN HOARE
The week’s big screen movie was a premier of Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (original Italian title: Caltiki, il Mostro Immortale, British title: The Immortal Monster) a 1959 Italian science fiction-horror film directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava, which neither Chris or I had seen before.

A team of archaeologists investigating Mayan ruins who come across a creature that is a shapeless, amorphous blob. Meanwhile, a comet is due to pass close to the Earth, the very same comet that passed near the Earth at the time the Mayan civilization collapsed, raising the question: “Is there a connection between the creature and the comet”?

* John Merivale as Dr. John Fielding
* Didi Perego as Ellen Fielding
* Gérard Herter as Max Gunther
* Daniela Rocca as Linda
* Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Prof. Rodriguez’s assistant
* Daniele Vargas as Bob (expedition member)
* Vittorio André as Prof. Rodriguez
* Nerio Bernardi as Police inspector
* Arturo Dominici as Nieto (expedition member)

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

[WARNING: The following contains spoilers]

The opening narration tells us about the achievements of the Mayan civilisation and their unknown demise leaving their city empty and abandoned. We then see a delirious, worse for wear, man stumble from the ruins of the Mayan city and into his group’s camp (without his partner, both of whom have been exploring a nearby cave). He quickly babbles away madly, repeatedly muttering the word Caltiki. The group sets out for the cave to investigate what happened.

Upon entering the cave they find a huge chamber containing a deep pool of water, behind which on a stone pedestal is a large statue of Caltiki, the vengeful Mayan goddess who was ceremonially presented with human sacrifices.

Puzzled by the pool, they quickly decide to send a man with “full immersion gear” (in other words a diver) to investigate. Descending to the bottom, he finds the sandy bed scattered with Mayan skeletons clad in gold jewelry. Excitedly he surfaces clutching as much gold as he can carry. Although the group advises that he not go down again, he insists that he has plenty of air and suggests that they could all become millionaires from the wealth below. Relenting, they let him descend once more.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

As he greedily collects more and more treasure he inadvertently disturbs something and his cable to the surface suddenly begins to move erratically. Fearing for his safety, the group pull him back to the surface, only to find, upon removing his face mask, that his face has been reduced to a decayed mass over his skeleton.

Moments later, a shapeless pulsating creature rears up from the pool, attempting to envelop anyone within reach. Max is caught by the arm but is rescued by John who chops off part of the creature with an axe, freeing Max’s arm.

As the team escapes, the shapeless mass begins to crawl out of the cave. Nearby, there is a tanker truck full of gasoline. John drives the truck directly into the creature , causing a violent explosion which sets fire to the blob, destroying it.

The team returns to Mexico City to take Max to a hospital to treat the small piece of the creature on his arm, which is slowly digesting him. The surgeons carefully remove the creature, wrapping it up. They find that Max’s arm is nothing more than a few moist scraps of flesh connected to the underlying bones and that Max’s face is also begging to deteriorate.

Through experimentation the scientists discover that sample of the creature is a unicellular bacterium that appears to be dead, only to revive and quickly grow when bombarded with radiation. Overnight the janitor inadvertently irradiates the creature which quickly grows, but is destroyed when the laboratory accidentally catches fire.

Investigating the origins of the creature they learn of a comet emitting radiation, which crosses Earth’s path only once in every 850 years, was in the earths orbit at the demise of the Mayan civilisation and now is approaching earth again. Unfortunately, the remaining samples of the creature are stored in the home of Dr. John Fielding. At the comet’s closest approach to Earth, the remaining piece of the blob begins expanding to an enormous size and reproducing. At the same time the deranged Max has escaped hospital and is terrorising Ellen Fielding.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

While attempting to convince the Mexican government to send its army to destroy the reproducing blobs, Fielding is arrested for speeding but manages to escape. A colleague finally convinces the authorities to sound an alarm because if the creature multiples it will be beyond even their ability to control.

The government sends a regiment of soldiers equipped with high powered flamethrowers to Dr. Fielding’s home. Upon their arrival, they find that the creatures have multiplied and have overrun the house and grounds. Dr. Fielding’s wife and child have been forced to hide on a second-floor window ledge to escape being devoured. Fielding arrives just in time to save them, just as the soldiers lay waste to the creatures with torrents of fire.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

ALAN’S VERDICT
A very enjoyable Italian take on the monster movie, that takes The Quatermass Xperiment as it’s basis, but goes well beyond this with graphic realistically detailed gore and a simply, but marvellously realised creature deigned by Mario Bava, which looks like old towels were utilised to incredible effect. Indeed there are elements of found footage genre and possibly the genesis of David Cronenberg’s body horror sub genre

Special mention must be made of Mario Bava’s excellent use of glass matte painting for the Mayan village were live action is skilfully mixed to strengthen the illusion of the painting, when the mystery man stumbles from the city and then walks directly in front of the painting. The use of sets combined with models is well handled and as realism to the film.

Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (1959)

Allegedly, director Riccardo Freda was angered by the way the producers had treated his cinematographer, Mario Bava, on their previous film, I Vampiri. So Freda concocted a way to push Bava into the director’s chair of his next film, Caltiki, The Immortal Monster; he left the project early once Bava had been hired again as the film’s cinematographer. Freda felt that this would lead producer Lionello Santi into recognizing Bava’s talents as a film director. Bava described Caltiki, The Immortal Monster as “my very first film” while noting that Freda had fled the set “because everything was falling to pieces. I managed to carry it out, patching it up here and there”.

Arrow’s Blu-ray release of this long unavailable masterpiece is a wonder to behold. The black and white photography is crisp and detailed whilst still retaining a suitable filmic look. There is the option of English or Italian language, two audio commentaries and several documentaries.

A true five-star release of an important film in Italian horror cinema.

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
• Audio commentary by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas
• Audio commentary by Italian Giallo cinema author Troy Howarth
• From Quatermass to Caltiki: a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman
• Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master: an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
• The Genesis of Caltiki: archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
• Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
• Alternate opening titles for the US version
• Newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• First pressing only: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti

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See No Evil 2’s Soska Sisters on their Rabid remake, TV ambitions and being big fans of WWE

With the Horror Channel’s UK premiere broadcast of See No Evil 2 screening on Friday 7 April, the Twisted Twins, Jan and Sylvia Soska, reveal their TV ambitions, the latest on their Rabid remake and being huge WWE fans.

It’s been while since we last chatted and apart from See No Evil 2 what have you both been up to?

S: It has been a while, but it’s really cool that we get to chat again. We hosted a reality horror game show from Matador, GSN and Blumhouse called Hellevator that was like ‘Saw the game show’. We had a blast making it. I really can’t even believe that was a job a person could have. We’re still trying to get it over to the UK – I think the audience over there will really enjoy it. We have had a lot of fun working in television, it’s something we’re interested in pursuing more of not only in front of the camera, but behind the scenes as well.

J: Oh, it’s been ages! We’ve been up to nothing but trouble. We made an action movie with the WWE and Lionsgate called Vendetta where we made everybody’s favorite Superman Dean Cain break bad fighting the Big Show in jail. It was basically a Punisher goes to jail movie for us. We got to achieve a big bucket list dream and start writing for Marvel comics! We did a ‘Night Nurse’ and a ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ story so far and are stoked to do more with them. And we’re re-making Canadian Horror King David Cronenberg’s Rabid. We keep busy.

Did the incredible, international success of Dead Hooker in a Trunk surprise you?

S: We were working very hard towards getting that kind of reaction, but considering how many films and filmmakers come out now, it’s always such an unpredictable journey. I remember we would carry screeners in our purse with these little booklets, just in case we met anyone who we could get the film in front of, but it really paid off. I’ll always be particularly grateful to the people who saw that first film and decided to support two very different filmmakers.

J: In a way, when I really think about it, yeah. It’s a weird “WTF is even happening” film and it’s really “us”. The humor, the insane plot, the passion, the violence, and that take no prisoners attitude. I was both surprised and delighted to learn there are so many fellow weirdos like us out there. I love all our fans, but the people who have been in our corner since Dead Hooker In A Trunk have a very special place in my heart.

How did your family react to how it took off?

S: My parents couldn’t have been more proud. My dad appears as the Rabbi in the flashback, we shot at our church, we had a lot of support from our church on that one, ha ha. We’re very lucky in the way that our parents have always been incredibly supportive of what we wanted to do. My mom tells me it wouldn’t have made a difference because once we got an idea in our head, even as little kids, we had to make it happen.

J: My folks are the best. They’ve always been so supportive of our paths wanting to be artists. They’re both artists themselves so they never told us to settle on “normal jobs”. I think they couldn’t believe how big it got. When people starting yelling, “Dead Hooker In A Trunk!!!!” at us in the street it was like, “wow, what is even happening to our lives??” They’re very proud. They always get to see the early cuts and my mum will let me know when the gory bits really sell. I have no idea what’s too much anymore. I don’t know if I ever did, ha ha

When American Mary showed at FrightFest a few years back it gained huge critical acclaim, what are your most vivid memories of this time?

S: I remember lying awake in my hotel room with Jen at the Soho and being extremely nervous and excited. The next day our film was going to play in front of a huge crowd and we were going to be wearing these fantastic outfits made out of surgical plastic created by Enigma Arcana that we were going to wear for it. I kept thinking about what a surreal situation that was and it’s kind of a vulnerable story, so I was feeling that. But I couldn’t have dreamed up a better audience. I remember Mike Hewitt from Universal made sure we got a bunch of people from the European body modification community in the front rows of the theatre, so seeing their faces and getting the reactions from the crowd was a beautiful experience. I’ll always be in love with the UK because of truly wonderfully they have treated us throughout the years.

J: I remember Dead Hooker fans waiting outside our hotel for autographs and photos. It was so cool, but I’m very Canadian so I was all like, “how long have you been out here? Oh no, I would’ve come out sooner! I didn’t know!” I have never received a warmer welcome anywhere in the world. The UK fans know their horror and they got American Mary at a level I didn’t expect anyone to. It meant the world to us. And FrightFest is the best. The gents there were so good to us. I’m dying to return.

Let’s chat about See No Evil 2. How were you selected to direct and how much say did you have on the incredible cast?

S: We got the script knowing it was time sensitive and were really excited about the opportunity, but we didn’t think we’d be hired. After American Mary and Dead Hooker in a Trunk, I think people kept trying to put us in this box of this is what the twins make, but we have very diverse interests and like tackling different sub genres. I hear a lot of nightmare stories about people working with a studio for the first time, but we were extremely lucky. Michael Luisi, the head of WWE Studios, hired us to bring a female perspective to the film. We got to pick our team and modify things creatively as we went along to make the sequel really special. We’re fans of the material, so we kept thinking what would be like to bring, knowing we were reintroducing this character from an original that was from so many years ago.

J: We always go to bat for our actors. We love this cast. We got Glenn “Kane” Jacobs as part of it and being huge Kane and Undertaker fans it was really the opportunity of a lifetime. I had wanted to work with Danielle Harris for ages. She’s an icon. True Horror Queen. And we had to bring Katie Isabelle with us. We wanted to give her something really fun to do. We sat in on every audition and met our boys. Kaj-Erik Eriksen is just the best. I met him and felt like I knew him for years. I knew Greyston Holt, a fellow Hungarian, for a while and had been wanting to get him in something of ours. We were fans of Chelan Simmons from the Final Destination series and Tucker and Dale Vs Evil. Lee was another gift from the auditions. And Michael Eklund? He’s the Canadian Daniel Day Lewis. We love him. We were looking for something together for a while and this was perfect.

Were you big WWE fans before this movie?

S: Yes. A lot of people don’t know that we are huge WWE fans. One of the only dreams that my Dad didn’t support was me becoming a professional wrestler and getting tattoos. I guess through working with the WWE and making American Mary, I got to experience those avenues as closely as I could. We’re still such WWE fans. I think the popularity of professional wrestling is like nothing else. You have these super hero soap operas and these brilliant coordinated fights where heroes & villains fight each week and they have such positive messages about overcoming obstacles or never giving up. Then, you see them on their off time and they are visiting the troops overseas or going to a children’s hospital to brighten someone’s day. I still dream of maybe getting an opportunity to write an episode of RAW or maybe get in the ring. With Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs and Paul ‘Big Show’ Wight as back up, though. Those lady Superstars are tough, I’d love to train to get in the ring with them. Maybe take on the Bellas?

J: Only the biggest. I lose my shit at the live events. I love it so much. Getting to work with and meet so many of the WWE Superstars has only increased my love for the whole organization and what those performers put themselves through. Real life super heroes, all of them! I remember an acting teacher made fun of me for loving WWE and said it was a waste of my time. Guess he can “suck it” (Degeneration X) now.

Did you change any of the script and if so (without giving too much away) was it much and why did you change it?

S: We had a completely collaborative team and that was a very supportive environment to make the film. I don’t want to give too much away, but we switched up the gender roles in this film big time. It’s very subtle, so a lot of people didn’t really notice it until the end. I sometimes think, oh I wish I had done this or did that, but the scene in the morgue with Katharine Isabelle and Lee Majdoub with Kane on the slab was very much us. That character went from being a dude to being Tamara and ended with such a sexy moment. We like playing with people’s expectations and the team was totally down for it too.

J: Ugh, I can’t say much without giving it away but we wanted to give the film that classic 80s slasher feel to it. AND we played with typical gender roles. Nuff said! Can’t say more without ruining everything!

How tough was the shoot, what did you learn from it and if you could go back and do it again what would you change?

S: The worst planned moment was that the big final fight was on the last day and then Jen, Glenn, and I had two hours sleep before we had to get on a plane to fly to New York for New York Comic Con. I was ecstatic to go and it was our first time in New York which was amazing, but the three of us were so dead after shooting non-stop for weeks, then going back into it, but these are the kind of hours you have in the WWE. You don’t really think about all that traveling that they do until you see it first-hand. But then again, sleep is something you can do when you’re dead.

J: Any 15 day shoot is ambitious. You have got to pick your battles. You have to lose some battles to win the war. If I could change anything it would be that promo NYCC trip that made our first time in NY feel like an acid trip.

What’s Kane like in real life?

S: He’s the best. He’s not Kane. I mean, if anyone is Kane, it’s Glenn and he’s such a phenomenal performer that that character is a real guy to people. He was a real guy to me too, until I got to meet the man behind the Devil’s Favourite Demon. He’s very intelligent, he’s ridiculously funny – I think it’s a shame that we don’t get to see more of that comedic genius on the show, he’s very down to earth, and he’s one of the kindest souls I have had the pleasure of meeting. You see him doing different charity events constantly, he’s always giving back to his fellow man, and he’s always visiting people in the hospital. It’s funny that everyone knows him as this monster on TV, but in real life he’s much closer to an angel. I don’t want to ruin his street cred, but Glenn is literally the best.

J: He’s the coolest. He is SUCH a nice guy. He didn’t set anything on fire or murder anyone that wasn’t meant to be murdered. Glenn is very down to Earth and terribly brilliant.

See No Evil 2 is one of those rare things, a sequel that’s stronger than the original, would you agree?

S: That’s what we set out to do. I think one of the most important aspects of a slasher is that you care for the cast so there’s a sense of wins and losses in this horrific situation you’ve placed these people in. We wanted it to be visually beautiful, we wanted to revamp Jacob Goodnight so that he would be more fear-inducing, and we wanted to have a lot of fun killing whoever it is we end up killing in the film. I’m hoping with the set up in See No Evil 2, they’ll let us have another round with a third instalment.

J: That’s what I think, but I’ve heard people say the opposite. You can’t make everyone happy, I suppose. And those people are idiots. No accounting for taste! I wanted to create this extension of Jacob Goodnight’s world that made the audience actually feel something. I feel that’s the main difference between a horror film and, say, an action film. If you care when someone dies you’re probably watching a horror film and if you don’t care someone did something wrong. We wanted to redesign the Jacob Goodnight character. The fans wanted a mask and we were totally into delivering. What’s a horror icon without a cosplayable costume, right?

Are you pleased See No Evil 2 is getting its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel?

S: Nothing makes me happier! You guys were the first ones to put us on TV and now look what’s happened. Technically, this is all your fault.

J: I am deliriously excited. I LOVE the UK Horror Channel!! You guys have been so deliciously delightful to us. You cared about us before anyone got aboard the band wagon! We Soskas don’t forget stuff like that!

If See No Evil 3 ever came about would you be up for it?

S: We have been talking to the team for years about making a third one. We nicknamed it 3 No Evil and we have a killer idea set up for it. The team is interested in coming back, maybe this UK TV premiere will be what gets them to say, why not, how bad could it be?

J: 3 No Evil? I’ve actually been dying to do a sequel to our sequel. It would be so fun to reunite with Glenn and company. We have some big plans for him in the future…

How much in the last 10 years has the movie industry changed for women? Are you now rightfully treated as equals?

S: There’s definitely more of a spotlight on the inequality in hiring female directors which has opened up this dialogue that has been going strong for years. You look at filmmakers like Ana Lily Amirpour with A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Julia Ducournau with Raw, Agnieszka Smoczyńska with The Lure, and so many others – and you see these unique perspective films and you see that audiences are hungry for that. There’s this misconception about who the film-going audiences are and what they will pay to see in the theatres, but then you see someone try something different like Jennifer Kent did with The Babadook and its insanely successful. Yet instead of looking for more new ideas to give audiences more of a variety, they try to recreate the last success and there’s no art in that. Creating true equality is an ongoing process, but I truly don’t mind. There are no other sister directing teams that we are following in the footsteps of, every step is new ground that hopefully makes the path less unruly for those who come next.

J: We’re getting there but we’ve still got a ways to go. Female filmmakers are making a lot more noise about diverse representation and the fans are echoing that call. Ladies still have to fight hard for those opportunities and get overlooked for their male counter parts. If another male director with less experience than me gets another superhero franchise I might lose my shit. With all the attention on female filmmakers right now, particularly in the horror genre, I think we’re gonna see more of a shift in hiring (and paying equal wages). But ask me next time we chat, we’ll see how far we came.

So, what are you working on at the moment?

S: We are very honored to have been the team chosen to take on the remake of Cronenberg’s Rabid. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of remakes but that’s if they don’t have anything new to bring to the story. We have a unique perspective just because of who we are to tell the story from Rose’s eyes as well as make a commentary on the increasingly rabid world that we live in. Also, we’ve been dying to get back into body horror. Ten years into David’s filmmaking career, he remade The Fly and it brought him to this new level. This is ten years into our career and this will be our first film that gets a wide theatrical release, so it feels like a good pairing. We just have to make sure we don’t let down our country, our fanbase, and our hero. No pressure.

J: Rabid! And sadly a bunch of stuff I can’t talk too much about. I will say that one of our original scripts has now gone into production and I’m really beside myself about it. It’s a dream I’d forgotten I’d even had. We wrote this particular script at the same time as American Mary and it’s maybe my favorite thing we’ve ever written. It’s a “fuck yeah” film so get stoked for that. We have quite a few films in production and Kill-Crazy Nymphos Attack!, our (very) graphic novel that we’re doing with Daniel Way with artwork by Rob Dumo. It’s coming this summer, so grab that if you want to be horribly offended.

See No Evil 2 is broadcast on Horror Channel, 10.50pm, Friday 7 April 2017

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Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos | Underworld fans will lap up this vampiric animated motion comic with a Black Metal twist

Omer Sheriff Patel on Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos

This new UK-made animation tells the story of vampire hunter, Alberic Van Helsing who is ‘recruited’ by vampire queen, Athena to seek out and destroy her recently-resurrected brother Balaur – the demonic warlord who once fought alongside the legendary ‘Impaler’ (yep, ol’ Count Drac himself). In true reluctant ‘anti-hero’ fashion, Alberic Van Helsing agrees if only to find some sort of redemption; he loathes himself as he himself uses a special ‘vampire-serum’ to stay alive over the centuries in order to defeat the forces of evil.

Main baddie Balaur himself is a twisted, power hungry, jacked-up version of Dracula who wants to attain nothing less than complete domination of the world (of course!) and to join the ‘Tenebris Deos’ – the mythical pantheon of the dark gods.
Van Helsing’s narration is delivered in the style of an old noir detective story as he encounters several insanely over-the-top creatures including the man-made giant known as The Nameless (a very ‘Frankenstein’-like character), Queen Nemetari (a Mummified Criminal Kingpin) and the werewolf clan leader, La Bete.

This tale will definitely appeal to fans of the Underworld series, as it mixes up elements of 15th-century gothic vampire lore with modern day, hi-tech action elements. And this is all played out against a backdrop of Black Metal tunes. Oh, and gore. LOTS of gore! This ‘motion comic’ definitely owes a lot to the likes of Heavy Metal magazine in its style. In addition to the blood-splattered imagery, the writer of this tale (Alec Worley of 2000AD fame) really likes to use a LOT of profanity (sometimes a bit TOO much!) but it all adds to the grittiness of the narrative.

Motion comics are a very interesting, yet ‘limited’ medium and I can only imagine that this would be sought out by die-hard fans of Morbid Angel and Cradle of Filth (and the Sons of Balaur, the ‘fake’ Norwegian metal band who also feature in the original graphic novel). Still, it’s good fun if you like variations of vampire mythology and at just under an hour, the story moves at a fast and kinetic pace.

Realm of the Dead – Tenebris Deos is available on Blu-ray & DVD from 7th April 2017

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Zombie Lake (1981) | God help us! Jean Rollin’s soggy horror rises again on DVD!

A decade on from the end of the Nazi occupation of France, a small rural town finds itself engaged in another war. A platoon of dead German soldiers are beginning to return from their unholy water grave – a cursed lake where the Spanish Inquisition held black masses and sacrificed children to appease evil spirits that would rise up in search of fresh blood.

At first, the town’s Mayor (Howard Vernon) refuses to take action, despite reported attacks on local women and the instance of a city journalist to investigate. But when a women’s basketball team is massacred and a local homicide squad arrives, the Mayor rally the townspeople to drive the Nazi soldiers into a infernal trap…

This 1981 Spanish-French horror film, which is also known as Le lac des morts vivants, was supposed to have been directed by Jesus Franco. But when he bailed Jean Rollin (Female Vampire) was roped in to put it together. But it’s a soggy mess.

Franco favourite Howard Vernon looks so bored as the Mayor of a picture postcard but deadly dull French town lives in a castle folly decorated in gargoyles; while the locals (made up of extras) seem to spend every waking moment in the town’s one and only tavern.

Lime green makeup is the only attempt at special make-up for the film’s zombies, so they end up looking like a bunch of Shreks in Nazi clobber – and certainly pale beside Shock Waves’ genuinely scary barnacle encrusted Storm troopers (that film’s highlight).

Interestingly, the zombie attacks come off as quite sexual, with lots of passionate kissing rather than any primal flesh tearing. Given Rollin’s penchant for eroticism, I wonder if this was his only creative contribution to the film, which some off a bit Benny Hill in its ludicrous attempts at titillation by chucking in nudity at every turn.

In a riff on Frankenstein and little Maria from the Universal classic, there’s a side story in which Helena (Anouchka), the 10-year-old daughter of one of the Nazi zombies befriends her undead dad (Pierre-Marie Escourrou, TV’s Une femme d’honneur) who ends up having to protect her from his bloodthirsty pals. This is actually more interesting than the main story, and provides the film with a moving (read: melodramatic) ending in which little Helena helps to release her dad’s restless spirit from its eternal torment.

The last 20-minutes sees the zombies walk very slowly into an ambush to the tune of an avant-garde score made up of drum and a harpsichord. It’s a bizarre choice, and just as patchy as the film as the music ranges from some melodramatic piano and string to jaunty la la la tunes every time there’s a nude swimming scene. And when the screen isn’t swelling with muzak, the incessant birdcalls are really grating.

Which leaves me with this last question: How would you react if your dead Nazi soldier dad came back as a pond dwelling green-tinged zombie?

Zombie Lake is out on DVD in the UK from Screenbound & Black House Films

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Ludwig (1973) | Luchino Visconti’s melancholy masterpiece gets a stupendous 4k restoration release

Ludwig (1973)Ludwig. He loved women. He loved men.
He lived as controversially as he ruled.
But he did not care what the world thought. He was the world.

In 1864, 18-year-old Ludwig II (Helmut Berger) ascends the throne of Bavaria. Following a scandal involving Richard Wagner (Trevor Howard) and his mistress Cosima von Bulow (Silvana Mangano), Ludwig is forced to expel them from Munich. Under pressure to marry, the latently homosexual king, who is having an intense relationship with Hungarian actor Josef Kainz (Folker Bohnet), agrees to an arranged wedding with his cousin Sophie (Sonia Petrovna). But the strain of this relationship, the war with Prussia, and fears of a conspiracy brewing his court play havoc on his mental state…

Visconti's Ludwig (1973)

With a string of masterpieces behind him – including Ossessione, Senso, The Leopard and Death in Venice – director Luchino Visconti turned his attentions to King Ludwig II of Bavaria with this lavish 1972 historical drama that traces his bizarre 22-year reign, ending with his mysterious death in June 1886.

Sporting a sickly countenance and redden eyelids, Helmut Berger’s Ludwig cuts a miserable figure, who sinks further into despair and madness as he moves from one overly ornate palace and castle to another, which soon become gilded prisons, made all the more claustrophobic by the incessant rain and snow showers.

Visconti's Ludwig (1973)

Featuring Armando Nannuzzi’s sumptuous cinematography and Piero Tosi’s Oscar-nominated costume design, Visconti mounts his epic of 19th century decadence on such an opulent scale – and in the very locations that the real king lived (*) – that it needs to be seen in its entirety to admire its dazzling operatic stature. And this new Arrow Academy release presents the film in its completed form in accordance with the director’s wishes, and – for the first time on home video – includes the English-language soundtrack.

Berger dominates every scene, but he does get some excellent support from the ever-reliable Trevor Howard, who is the spitting image of Wagner, and The House That Screamed’s John Moulder-Brown, as his mentally-unstable brother, Prince Otto, while Romy Schneider reprises her Elisabeth of Austria characterisation from the classic Sissi trilogy. The music includes Richard Wagner’s last original composition for piano, as well as works by Offenbach and Shuman. A melancholy masterpiece deserving of a revisit.

Ludwig Arrow Academy box-setARROW ACADEMY RELEASE
• 4K restoration from the original film negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Two viewing options: the full-length theatrical cut (1hr:15min) or as five individual parts (with the full pisodes 1-3 are on disc 2)
• Original Italian soundtrack with optional English subtitles
• Original English soundtrack available with optional English subtitles (This version also includes the Italian soundtrack where no English track was recorded… which makes for any interesting experience. But if you are familiar with Italian, then it works quite smoothly)
• Interview with actor Helmut Berger (OMG! Be afraid! Be very afraid! Helmut is very candid and very eccentric)
• Interview with producer Dieter Geissler (who also did Short Night of the Glass Dolls, Without Warning and The Neverending Story)
Luchino Visconti: an hour-long documentary portrait of the director by Carlo Lizzani (Requiescant) containing interviews with Burt Lancaster, Vittorio Gassman, Francesco Rosi, Claudia Cardinale and others
Speaking with Suso Cecchi d’Amico: an interview with the screenwriter
Silvana Mangano – The Scent Of A Primrose: a portrait of the actress (30min)
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet containing new writing by Peter Cowie (first pressing only)

DID YOU KNOW?
(*) The film was shot on location in Munich and Bavaria, including Roseninsel, Berg Castle, Lake Starnberg, Castle Herrenchiemsee, Castle Hohenschwangau, Linderhof Palace, Cuvilliés Theatre, Nymphenburg Palace, Ettal, Kaiservilla and Neuschwanstein Castle.

 

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