Category Archives: Horror

Under the Shadow | Babak Anvari’s 2016 Sundance hit gets a UK Blu-ray release

Iranian director Babak Anvari’s 2016 Sundance hit Under the Shadow is loved by audiences and critics alike. Part ghost story, part social thriller with cutting political commentary, the film is already considered a genre classic and now gets a UK Blu-ray debut in a feature packed Limited Edition box set, courtesy of Second Sight.

Making his feature debut, Anvari has crafted an outstanding piece of work. It follows mother Sideh (Narges Rashidi) struggling to cope in a post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s. After being blacklisted by the authorities from continuing with her medical studies, Sideh finds herself reduced to playing housewife and exercising to Jane Fonda work-out videos on a contraband VHS machine.

When her husband (Bobby Naderi) is called away on military service, Sideh refuses to take her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) to her in-laws despite the very real threat of a bomb attack on the city. And when one such bomb crashes through the family’s apartment block, it doesn’t so much as detonate, as bring with it something far more deadly – malevolent spirits called djinn that begin to haunt her home.

Many critics have compared Anvari’s thriller with 2014’s The Babadook, but its a very different entity indeed. While writer/director Jennifer Kent’s Aussie howler was about how grief, guilt and loneliness can manifest the monster inside us all, Under the Shadow is much more subtle affair – but one that’s not lacking in two seriously unnerving sequences.

The ‘monster’ in question in this Tehran-set chiller (that was – unsurprisingly – shot in Jordan) is an unseen malevolent force that is felt not only by Sideh and little Dorsa, but also their neighbours. But we see little of that, as everything happens behind closed doors. It’s all very much a metaphor for the country’s new world order under the Khomeini regime. And Amvari is certainly using his ghost story for some social subtext – especially with regards to the role of women following the revolution that toppled the country’s more liberal monarchy and replaced its with an Islamist republic.

Rashidi brings a wide range of emotions to her role as an educated young woman at war with her own internal demons  – she wants to rage against the machine and motherhood. And once her husband leaves, we are left pretty much with a two-hander, as Rashidi and Manshadi’s Dorsa soon come to blows over a missing doll and VHS tapes. And its their chemistry together that makes the film so engrossing to watch. I won’t reveal anything about the ending here, but I must admit I was begging to know what happens next. One final point is the Farsi language spoken throughout – it’s a wonderfully clear and melodious delight to the ear.

If you haven’t seen it yet, then do check out Second Sight’s new UK Blu-ray release, which is packed with some fantastic extras…

SPECIAL FEATURES
Two & Two: Babak Anvari’s BAFTA Award nominated short film
Escaping The Shadow: a new interview with director Babak Anvari
Within the Shadow: a new interview with actor Narges Rashidi
Forming the Shadow: a new interview with producers Lucan Toh and Oliver Roskill
Shaping the Shadow: a new interview with cinematographer Kit Fraser
• A new audio commentary with Babak Anvari and Jamie Graham

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Limited Edition of 2,000
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Christopher Shy
• Soft cover book with new essays by Jon Towlson and Daniel Bird plus behind-the-scenes photos and concept
illustrations
• Poster featuring new artwork

The Beyond (1981) | Lucio Fulci’s Italian Southern Gothic horror gets a Special Edition Blu-Ray from Shameless Films

In 1981, New Yorker Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl) arrives in Louisiana to claim a seedy, isolated hotel as her inheritance. In 1927, evil spirits possessed the hotel and the manager hasn’t been seen since. Liza is advised to abandon her inheritance. But the locals are suspicious of strangers! Liza is befriended by Dr John McCabe (David Warbeck), who tells her that the hotel has one of the seven gateways to hell. According to a prophecy, when the gates are opened, the dead walk on earth… But country folk are a superstitious lot – aren’t they?

Lucio Fulci’s celebrated 1981 Italian Southern Gothic horror fever dream – and the second in his Gates of Hell series – is out now on Blu-ray (Region B) in the UK from Shameless Films, remastered from a new 2k scan in its original aspect 2.35:1 ratio, with English and Italian audio and English subtitles, and includes the following extras including four different versions of the prologue.

SPECIAL FEATURES
For the first time ever The Beyond is also presented with four different versions of the prologue, seamlessly branched, allowing fans of Fulci’s masterpiece to see the original colour footage which the film was actually shot on, as never seen before and show the various stages of the post-production process of this landmark film.

• The now accepted standard sepia
• The original colour camera footage
• The B&W version
• A new fourth-way: presented as an homage to director Lucio Fulci and DOP Sergio Salvati

For the new alternative prologue version Shameless have used the restored colour camera footage as a base on which a new golden toning was applied in reference to known considerations from Salvatti. The result is that the reds of the gore are now strikingly visible and all the light sources such as the torches and car headlights are much more luminous.

PLUS
Emily’s Eyes: new interview with Cinzia Monreale (with English subtitles)
Arachnophobia: new interview with Michele Mirabella (with English subtitles)
Murder, They Wrote: new interview with scriptwriter Giorgio Mariuzzo on working with Lucio Fulci (with English subtitles)
• Audio commentary from Sergio Salvati (Director of Photography) with new English subtitles
• Audio commentary from stars Catriona McCall and David Warbeck
Lucio Fulci Speaks: Short conversation from the film set

Order direct from the Shameless shop: http://bit.ly/SHAM224

Asylum | Amicus’ chilling compendium of terror heads to Blu-ray

A year on from releasing The House That Dripped Blood (in February 1971), Amcius brought their latest horror anthology Asylum to UK screens in July 1972.

Written by Robert Bloch and directed by Roy Ward Baker, Asylum sees Robert Powell playing a doctor who undergoes a bizarre job interview for a position at a secluded asylum for the incurably insane. He must prove himself by listening to the macabre tales of four inmates to determine which is the former head of the institute who experienced a breakdown.

In Frozen Fear, Barbara Parkins relates a grisly plot to murder the wealthy wife (Sylvia Syms) of her lover (Richard Todd); The Weird Tailor sees Barry Morse stealing a suit from Peter Cushing that has power of reanimation; Charlotte Rampling is trapped by her imagination when Britt Ekland’s Lucy Comes to Stay; and Herbert Lom plots to transfer his soul into a tiny automaton in Mannikins of Horror.

Following its Limited Edition Blu-ray release last July, this chilling compendium of terror is now out as a standalone Blu-ray from Second Sight Films and includes the following special features…

• Audio Commentary with director Roy Ward Baker and camera operator Neil Binney
• Two’s a Company: 1972 on-set BBC report featuring interviews with producer Milton Subotsky, director Roy Ward Baker, actors Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers and Megs Jenkins, art director Tony Curtis and production manager Teresa Bolland
• Screenwriter David J. Schow on writer Robert Bloch
• Fiona Subotsky remembers Milton Subotsky
• Inside The Fear Factory: Archieve featurette with directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and producer Max J Rosenberg
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork
• SDH English subtitles for the hard of hearing

 

The House That Dripped Blood | The Amicus anthology horror UK Blu-ray is out now!

Seminal 1971 Amicus horror The House That Dripped Blood, from Peter Duffell in his directorial debut and written by renowned screenwriter Robert Bloch (Psycho), is a star-studded anthology and its out now in the UK as a stand-alone Blu-ray from Second Fight Films.

Scotland Yard’s Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) investigates an old mansion with a ghoulish history and a chilling fate for its occupants in these four tales of terror…

Method for Murder stars Denholm Elliott as a writer whose latest character seeminly comes to life; Peter Cushing and Joss Ackland are haunted by a lost love in Waxworks; Christopher Lee fears his daughter (Chloe Franks) is a witch in Sweets to the Sweet; and The Cloak finds Jon Pertwee playing a horror star who starts turning into a vampire when he buys a vintage cloak from a mysterious antique shop owner (Geoffrey Bayldon).

Following its limited edition Blu-ray release last June, Second Sight have now released The House That Dripped Blood as a standalone Blu-ray with the following special features…

• Audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby
• Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth
• Interview with second assistant director Mike Higgins
A-Rated Horror Film: Vintage featurette featuring interviews with Peter Duffell and actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks
• Theatrical trailers
• Amicus radio spots
• Stills gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
• SDH English subtitles for the hard of hearing

If you want to read more about the film, and its colourful costuming, check out my original post: https://kultguyskeep.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/the-house-that-dripped-blood-claret-and-colourful-cravats/

The Dark Half (1993) | A twisted thriller from horror masterminds George A Romero and Stephen King

Horror writer Thad Beaumont (Timothy Hutton) hopes to distance himself from his murder novels and from George Stark, the pseudonymous name he has used to author them. To achieve this, he cooks up a murder of his own: a publicity stunt that should lay Stark to rest forever.

But when the people around him are found gruesomely slain – and his own fingerprints dot the crime scenes – Beaumont is dumbfounded until he learns that Stark has taken on a life of his own… and begun a gruesome quest for vengeance!

The combination of Stephen King and George A Romero had a hit-and-miss film start with 1982’s Creepshow, but it moved up a notch in this clever adaptation of King’s story from 1993 which makes the most of its Jekyll and Hyde storyline by slowly building up the tension and then keeping the suspense aloft rather than relying solely on gory visual shocks.

Hutton gives a bravura performance in the dual role of both Beaumont and Stark, and there’s some strikingly chilling moments (especially the digitally realised flocks of sparrows that permeate the story and are key to the climax). Along for the scary ride are Amy Madigan (Field of Dreams), Julie Harris (The Haunting) and in his final film role character actor Royal Dano.

The Dark Half is available on Blu-ray in the UK in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition from Eureka Entertainment, with the following special features…

• 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray (with a progressive encode on the DVD)
• LPCM audio (uncompressed on the Blu-ray) and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• Audio commentary with George A Romero (this is a must-listen – but watch the film first)
Son of the Incredibly Strange Film Show [38 mins] – A very young Jonathan Ross’ documentary on Gerorge A Romero which originally aired on UK TV in 1989
The Sparrows Are Flying Again! The Making of ‘The Dark Half’ [36mins] – Retrospective with Romero, special make-up effects creators Everett Burrell and John Vulich, visual effects supervisor Kevin Kutchaver, actor Robert Joy, editor Pasquale Buba and more!
• Deleted Scenes
• A selection of Behind-the-scenes and archival video material
• Original Storyboards
• TV spot
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve
• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase
• Limited Edition Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Simon Ward

Available to order from:
Eureka Store
Amazon

 

Hammer Volume Four: Faces of Fear | Four classic chillers arrive on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK

Four classic Hammer chillers arrive on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK from Indicator: The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), The Two Faces of Dr Jekyll (1960), Taste of Fear (1961) and The Damned (1962). Accompanied by a wealth of new and archival extras – including exclusive new documentaries, audio commentaries, alternative versions, new and archival cast and crew interviews, a series of appreciations of their female stars, analyses of their composers’ scores, and extensive booklets – this stunning limited edition box set is strictly limited to 6,000 units. Out on 25 November 2019. Expect some individual reviews very soon.

THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1958)
• New 4K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
• Audio commentary with authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman (2019)
Back from the Dead: Inside The Revenge of Frankenstein (2019, 22 mins): new documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Eunice Gayson (2019, 8 mins): actress profile film historian Pamela Hutchinson
A Frankenstein for the 20th Century (2019, 27 mins): video essay by film historian Kat Ellinger and Dima Ballin
Arpeggios of Melancholy (2019, 13 mins): appreciation of composer Leonard Salzedo’s score by David Huckvale
• Outtakes reel (1958, 12 mins, mute): rare, unseen on-set footage
• Super 8 version (8 mins, b&w, mute): cut-down home cinema presentation
• Original theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins)
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays the film, Hammer’s unrealised Tales of Frankenstein TV series, plus promotional materials and film credits

THE TWO FACES OF DR. JEKYLL (1960)
• High Definition re-master
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with film historians Josephine Botting and Jonathan Rigby (2019)
• Identity Crisis: Inside The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (2019, 19 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Dawn Addams (2019, 11 mins): actress profile by British cinema expert Laura Mayne
• Interview with Paul Massie (1967, 10 mins): archival audio recording
Now and Then: Wolf Mankowitz (1968, 28 mins): archival interview
Mauve Decadence (2019, 11 mins): appreciation of composer Monty Norman’s score by David Huckvale
The Many Faces of Dr. Jekyll (2019, 7 mins): an overview of the film’s censorship history
• Original theatrical trailer
• Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 3 mins): short critical appreciation
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays, promotional materials, reviews, and film credits

TASTE OF FEAR (1961)
• High Definition re-master
• Original mono audio
• Two presentations of the film: Taste of Fear, with the rarely seen original UK title sequence, and Scream of Fear, with the alternative US titles
• Audio commentary with Kevin Lyons
Body Horror: Inside Taste of Fear (2019, 23 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Ann Todd (2019, 12 mins): actress profile by Melanie Williams
• The BFI Southbank Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 68 mins): archival audio recording
• The BEHP Video Interview with Jimmy Sangster (2008, 117 mins): archival video recording
• The BEHP Interview with Douglas Slocombe, Part Two: From Hammer to Spielberg (1988, 82 mins): archival audio recording
Fear Makers (2019, 9 mins): interviews with camera operator Desmond Davis and assistant sound editor John Crome
Anxiety and Terror (2019, 25 mins): appreciation of Clifton Parker’s score by David Huckvale
• Super 8 version of Scream of Fear (20 mins): original cut-down home cinema presentation
• Original US theatrical trailer
• Sam Hamm trailer commentary (2013, 2 mins): short critical appreciation
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet with essays, an archival on-set report, promotional materials, reviews, and film credits

THE DAMNED (1962)
• 2K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Alternative presentations of the complete 96-minute version, playable as either The Damned or These Are the Damned
• Box-set exclusive presentation of the rarely seen original 87-minute UK theatrical cut of The Damned
• Audio commentary with film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
On the Brink: Inside The Damned (2019, 27 mins): documentary, featuring Alan Barnes, Kevin Lyons, Nick Riddle and Jonathan Rigby
• Hammer’s Women: Viveca Lindfors (2019, 15 mins): profile by film historian Lindsay Hallam
Looking in the Right Place (2019, 10 mins): actor Shirley Anne Field on working with Oliver Reed and Joseph Losey
Children of The Damned (2019, 24 mins): interview with David Palmer, Kit Williams and Christopher Witty
Something Out of Nothing (2019, 7 mins): interview with screenwriter Evan Jones
Smoke Screen (2019, 12 mins): interview with camera operator Anthony Heller
Beneath the Surface (2019, 26 mins): interview with filmmaker Gavrik Losey, son of director Joseph Losey
Beyond Black Leather (2019, 15 mins): academic IQ Hunter discusses The Damned
No Future (2019, 26 mins): appreciation by author and film historian Neil Sinyard
The Lonely Shore (2019, 21 mins): appreciation of James Bernard’s score by David Huckvale
• Isolated music & effects track
• Original US theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013, 4 mins)
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• 36-page booklet, includes Joseph Losey on The Damned, a look at the US pressbook, reviews, and film credits

The Golem: How He Came into the World | Paul Wegener’s 1920 silent horror classic on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Paul Wegener and Carl Boese’s iconic silent German horror masterpiece, Der Golem (1920), as part of The Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK, from a brand new 4K restoration on 18 November 2019.

In the Jewish ghetto in 16th century Prague, Rabbi Low (Albert Streinruck) creates a clay Golem (Wegener) to protect his people from tyrannical Emperor Luhois (Otto Gebuhr). Brought to life with an arcane incantation to the demonic spirit Astaroth and an amulet placed in the centre of the creature’s chest, the Golem begins performing acts of great heroism. But when the Rabbi’s assistant (Ernst Deutsch) attempts to control the Golem for selfish gain, it becomes a terrifying force of destruction…

A landmark film in the horror canon, influencing most notably James Whale’s 1931 adaptation of Frankenstein, Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (aka The Golem: How He Came into the World) as Paul Wegener’s third attempt at adapting the Golem character for the big screen, the other two being The Golem (1915) and the short comedy The Golem and the Dancing Girl (1917).

Based on Gustav Meyrink’s 1915 novel, it serves as prequel to the lost 1915 film and is an important contribution to the golden age of Weimar Cinema. The film’s Plastic Expressionist interpretation of Prague’s labyrinthine medieval Jewish ghetto (after the shapes and textures used in the sets) was designed by famed architect Hans Poelzig, while the interiors were executed by Poelzig’s future wife, sculptor Marelen Moeschke.

Behind the camera, meanwhile, was Karl Freund, who would go on to lens Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), before emigrating to the US, where he would famously helm Universal’s 1930s horror classics, Dracula, The Mummy and Mad Love (which all benefit from a touch of German Expressionism).

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The Masters of Cinema Series presents the film in its UK debut on Blu-ray from a brand new 4K restoration, with the following special feartures…

• Limited Edition O-Card Slipcase (First 2000 copies)
• Presented in 1080p from a stunning 4K digital restoration of the original film negatives, completed by FWMS in 2017
• Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
• Option of three scores, by composer Stephen Horne; electronic music producer Wudec; and musician and film-score composer Admir Shkurtaj
• Brand new and exclusive audio commentary by Scott Harrison
• Brand new and exclusive video essays by critic David Cairns and filmmaker Jon Spira (Elstree 1976)
The Golem [60 mins]– The US version of the film, also fully restored, and featuring a score by Cordula Heth
• A video piece highlighting the differences between the domestic and export negatives of the film [22 mins]
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Scott Harrison; and reprints of illustrations from the original 1915 novel

Order from: Eureka Store or Amazon

Child’s Play (2019) | Chucky’s back and wants you to be his friend – until the end!

After seven films, the Child’s Play franchise gets an upgrade and Chucky gets a new lease of life with this edge-of-your-seat re-imagining. Instead of Chucky being a Good Guys doll possessed by the soul of a serial killer, this Chucky is a high-tech Buddi doll whose AI goes murderously awry when its maliciously reprogrammed.

Hearing-impaired Andy Barclay (Gabriel Bateman) gets an early birthday present from his struggling mum Karen (Aubrey Plaza) – a returned Buddi doll that is scheduled for the scrapheap. But once activated, the doll (voiced by Mark Hamill) names itself Chucky and becomes so attached to Andy that it starts killing anyone who upsets his new friend – including Karen’s horrible boyfriend Shane (David Lewis). But when Andy tries to dispose of Chucky, the disturbed doll turns stalker and goes on a murderous rampage to win Andy back…

Eschewing the campy humour of Don Mancini’s sequels (which I love BTW), screenwriter Tyler Burton-Smith and director Lars Klevberg have favoured a darker tone for their re-imagining, but also inject some black comedy in the inventive death scenes – the shopping mall massacre recalls the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday shopping sprees in the US, while the gift wrapped dismembered head is pure Henenlotter. And one of the best scenes is when Chucky downloads knives, chainsaws and face-skinning as a ‘fun activity’ when he catches Andy laughing at the violence in Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

But what sets this Buddi Chucky on its own is that it is not just another pint-sized killing machine spouting wisecracks, but is actually quite pathetic – you actually feel sorry for him. After all, he just wants to be your friend (until the end) and is learning from example – think ET meets Fatal Attraction.

But while the kills verge on the gory (aided by some great practical effects), the real horror on display here is smart tech (and our growing reliance on it). After watching this you might think twice about asking Alexa, Siri and their ilk to lock all the doors. But then, I’ve been wary of AI ever since 1977’s Demon Seed.

Grossing over US$43 million worldwide against a US$10 million budget, it looks like we may not have seen the last of Buddi Chucky, and with a TV series in the works featuring the original Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif), how great would it be to have the Buddi and Good Guys dolls face-off each other in another big-screen adventure. Bring it on?

The Universal Pictures UK Blu-ray/DVD release (out on 21 October) features the following extras:

  • Audio Commentary by Lars Klevberg
  • Bringing Child’s Play‘s Chucky to Life
  • Lee Hardcastle Claymations: Toy Massacre & A.I. Mayhem
  • Gallery

 

3 From Hell (2019) | RIP Sid Haig as Rob Zombie’s ultra-violent sequel is unleashed

From the one and only Rob Zombie comes 3 from Hell, the latest blood-soaked chapter in his ultra violent sociopathic crime family saga that started with his 2003 throwback shocker House of 1000 Corpses and was followed two years later by the equally depraved The Devil’s Rejects.

After being ‘gunned down’ at the end of The Devil’s Rejects, Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie), Otis Driftwood (Bill Moseley) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) are serving their long sentences behind bars. But pure evil cannot be contained. Following the death of Captain Spaulding, Otis’ half-brother Wilson (Richard Brake) is enlisted to break Otis and Baby out of prison. But things don’t go according to plan… Otis has killed a well-connected gangland leader called Rondo (Danny Trejo in a super brief cameo), and now his son Aquarius (Emilio Rivera) and his Black Satanists gang are out for blood…

Rob Zombie’s films are like Marmite – you either love them or hate them. To be perfectly honest, I’ve never warmed to the ‘Firefly’ series, but them I’m probably in the minority in hailing his Lords of Salem as a horror masterpiece (check out my review here). But here he seems to be spoofing the exploitation genre with a knowing sadistic glee (think Robert Rodriguez’s Machete), which makes this latest entry in his saga so much more fun. An extra bonus are the OTT turns of some of his co-stars, especially Dee Wallace as a genuinely nasty butch prison guard (I had no idea it was Wallace until after the credits) and Panchor Moler as the loyal one-eyed Sebastian. Plus, you’ve got Sheri going full-on mental.

Zombie also has fun paying homage to some of his cinematic influences. The film starts off aping the TV news reports of the arrest of Charles Manson and his ‘Family’ (a key inspiration for the film’s psychopathic trio), but there are also nods to 1955’s The Desperate Hours, in which Humphrey Bogart and a gang of escaped convicts hold a family hostage, the 1952 classic Gary Cooper western, High Noon, and even Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1989 avant-garde horror Santa Sangre.

There’s also something very poignant on offer here, and that’s Sid Haig. Ill health prevented the legendary character actor from appearing in anything more than a cameo, so this ended up being his final screen role. He died, aged 80, on 21 September 2019, just over a month after receiving the Vincent Price Award at Hollywood Horrorfest (something that was truly dear to him). But he goes out with a bang, delivering a touching, raging and powerful monologue that’s eminently quotable: ‘I’m just a clown dancing for the fucking man’. ‘I am what they make me. I’m your bozo Jesus hung out to dry for the sins of mankind!’ So, if you are on the fence about watching another Rob Zombie movie, this is reason to check this film out.

3 From Hell is unleashed from Lionsgate UK on digital download, Blu-ray and DVD from 14 October

American Horror Project Vol. 2 | Arrow Video unleashes another trio of obscure stars-and-stripes terror flicks

I’ve finally got around to checking out Arrow Video’s second volume in its American Horror Project series, and its mixed, but fun, bag of obscurities co-curated by Stephen Thrower (Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents), which have all been remastered in 2k from the best surviving film elements. while the box-set is packed with a wealth of new and archival extras, including artwork by The Twins of Evil and a 60-page booklet.

DREAM NO EVIL
First up is this surreal 1970 offering from director John Hayes (Grave of the Vampire) about troubled preacher’s assistant Grace (Brooke Mills), whose desperate quest to be reunited with her long-lost father (Edmund O’Brien) propels her into an imaginary world of homicidal madness…

Part Jack Hill, Part Russ Meyer, part Psycho, this is one weird ride with Mills (who was also in Hill’s The Big Doll House) turning in a rather sympathetic turn as the demented Grace, who goes all Norman Bates when the father she has been searching for turns up dead in the local morgue. Imagining him to still be alive, she sets up home with him in a deserted shack on the outskirts of town, but soon her beaus are ending up dead because ‘daddy’ doesn’t like them touching her baby girl.

Among the supporting players are Hayes’ regular Michael Pataki (Zoltan, Hound of Dracula, Grave of the Vampire) as Grace’s revivalist preacher foster brother, character actor Marc Lawrence as the local mortician who is also a pimp, and former 1940s film noir star Edmond O’Brien, who comes off a bit like Lon Chaney Jr in Spider Baby (another Hill cult fave).

Best line in the movie: ‘Your duck is bleeding really badly’.

The Arrow special features also include…

• Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower
• Brand new audio commentary with Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan
Hollywood After Dark: The Early Films of John Hayes, 1959-1971 – brand new video essay by Stephen Thrower looking at Hayes’ filmography leading up to Dream No Evil
• Writer Chris Poggiali on the prodigious career of celebrated character actor Edmond O’Brien
• Excerpts from an audio interview with actress Rue McClanahan (The Golden Girls) on working with director John Hayes.

DARK AUGUST
This 1976 rural horror stars future Barney Miller actor JJ Barry as Sal, a New York illustrator who relocates to Stowe, Vermont, to set up a photography studio. But when he accidentally runs over and kills a young girl, her occultist grandfather places a curse on him. After a series of terrifying visions and mishaps, Dal seeks the counsel of local white witch Adrianna (Kim Hunter, of Planet of the Apes and A Streetcar Named Desire fame) — but can she stop the dark forces from achieving their goal?

Director Martin Goldman (who was previously a Madison Avenue art designer) and cinematographer Richard E Brooks (who went on to direct 1982’s We Will Rock You: Queen Live in Concert) bring a touch of cinema verité to their offbeat indie horror that features a lot of hand held camera and tracking shots, while also making effective use of the rural location. While I was baffled by the ending, there’s a real sense of creeping unease going on here; and Hunter is very convincing as the witch (It’s said she did lots of research into wiccan practices for role).

The Arrow special features also include…

• Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower
• Audio commentary with writer-director Martin Goldman
• Interview with Martin Goldman
• Interview with producer Marianne Kanter
The Hills Are Alive: Dark August and Vermont Folk Horror – with author and artist Stephen R. Bissette
• Original Press Book

THE CHILD
This 1977 bad seed horror is the best of the bunch in my book, and a delirious slice of horror mayhem. Laurel Barnett plays the new governess of bratty Rosalie (Rosalie Cole), who is so incensed by her mother’s death, she raises the dead from the local cemetery to lay siege on the family mansion…

I remember seeing the poster for this film in magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland when I was in my teens, but it never saw the light of day in my home town. 40 years on and I finally get to see it — and I was not disappointed. No wonder its a favourite of AHP curator Stephen Thrower — its totally bonkers. Cheap and silly, but oddly atmospheric — its like an ultra cheap fusion of Dark Shadows and The Innocents with ghouls (covered in blackened oatmeal) and some very bad acting.

This one was produced by that sultan of sexploitation, Harry Novak (who also unleashed Mantis in Lace and The Mad Butcher) and ends with a Night of the Living Dead meets Tombs of the Blind Dead-style life and death struggle in a local mill

Best lines:
‘I want to know who you were meeting in the cemetery?’
‘I don’t have to tell you anything!!!’

The Arrow special features also include…

• 1.37:1 and 1.85:1 presentations of the feature
• Filmed appreciation by Stephen Thrower
• Brand new audio commentary with director Robert Voskanian and producer Robert Dadashian, moderated by Stephen Thrower
• Brand new on-camera interviews with Robert Voskanian and Robert Dadashian
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Original Press Book

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