Blog Archives

Edge of Sanity (1989) | The lurid Anthony Perkins Jekyll and Hyde meets Jack the Ripper horror on Blu-ray

When his experiments into a new anaesthetic using cocaine go awry, respected London physician Dr Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) takes off into the night in pursuit of sensual pleasures under the guise of Mr Jack Hyde. As his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) continues her charity work with Whitechapel’s fallen women, Jekyll’s growing addiction draws him into an escalating cycle of lust and murder as the seemingly unstoppable Hyde. Can he be saved? Does he want to be saved?

Produced by the legend that is Harry Alan Towers (AKA the king of the co-production deal), this 1989 independent horror is an intoxicating fusion of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Jack the Ripper’s real-life reign of terror over Victorian London – but with an interesting (contemporary) spin that incorporates the power of drugs to unleash the unconscious mind.

From an idea by Towers (under his Peter Welbeck pseudonym) and helmed with a surreal, lurid eye by French erotica director Gérard Kikoïne, Edge of Sanity afforded Perkins one of the best performances in his final years before his death in 1992. Sporting just a bit of red eyeliner and red lipstick, a pallid complexion, and greased down bangs, he brings his bisexual drug fiend Hyde to savage, livid life (and chews the scenery in the best possible way), and effectively counterpoints this with a gentlemanly, staid Jekyll, who is the embodiment of Victorian values.

The film also boasts hugely atmospheric lighting and camerawork, and evocative Budapest location work. Indeed just some set-up shots were filmed in London, but you’d never guess – except for one scene that takes place at Budapest’s famed Art Nouveau Gellért Thermal Bath. Kikoïne also makes excellent use of the red and pink-tinged brothel set for the film’s kinky hallucinogenic scenes that border on Ken Russell-styled excess.

Thanks to this new 2k restoration, this is the best the film has ever looked. Indeed I had only ever seen it before in a muddy VHS print, so this has been a revelation – as have been the extras, which add a new dimension to the horror slasher.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

• Brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio commentary by writer David Flint and author/filmmaker Sean Hogan
French Love: an interview with director Gérard Kikoïne (French with subtitles)
Staying Sane: Gérard Kikoïne discusses Edge of Sanity (French with subtitles)
Edward’s Edge: an interview with Edward Simons
Over the Edge: Stephen Thrower on Edge of Sanity (ED: loved Stephen’s analysis of the film’s anachronisms which places Hyde into a late-1980s post-punk, goth and alt clubbing context and compares them with the visual style of Derek Jarman)
Jack, Jekyll and Other Screen Psychos: an interview with Jack the Ripper in Film and Culture author Dr Clare Smith
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jon Towlson

The Initiation of Sarah | The 1978 TV tale of telekinetic terror makes its restored Blu-ray debut

WELCOME TO HELL WEEK!

Shy teen Sarah Goodwin (Kay Lenz) secretly harbours psychic powers which she cannot fully control. When she and her sister Patty (Morgan Brittany) arrive at the prestigious Waltham College, their mother’s plans to have them both join her old sorority, Alpha Nu Sigma (ΑΝΣ), are scuttled by its snooty Queen Bee president, Jennifer Lawrence (Morgan Fairchild), who chooses Patty over Sarah.

Separated from her sister, Sarah is taken in by a rival sorority, Phi Epsilon Delta (ΦΕΔ AKA Pigs, Elephants and Dogs), which is made up of a group of independently-minded misfits. But Sarah soon becomes embroiled in a bizarre revenge plot masterminded by her satanic house mother, Mrs Erica Hunter (Shelley Winters).

Helmed by veteran British director Robert Day (The Haunted Strangler, First Man into Space, She) from a treatment written by Tom Holland (making his debut here), The Initiation of Sarah was part of a wave of made-for-TV horror movies that were shown on the US ABC network in the 1970s. This one aired on 6 February 1978, so was a late entry in what had started out as the ABC Movie of the Week in 1969, and which gave us such delights as Duel (1971), The Night Stalker (1972), Satan’s School for Girls (1973), Trilogy of Terror (1975), and so much more.

Growing up in this decade, I was lucky enough to have caught these – and they certainly fuelled my appetite for all things creepy, weird, and occasionally taboo. I have a lot of love for The Initiation of Sarah and am so pleased it’s been given a new lease of life on Blu-ray (and restored in all its kitsch 70s pastel glory). Yes, it does bare quite a few similarities to Carrie (most notably the shower scene, Jennifer’s cruel prank and the fiery climax), but it’s the cast that really sells it for me.

First and foremost, Shelley Winters! What can I say! She commands every scene she’s in as the mysterious Mrs Hunter, who starts out all nice and cuddly before revealing her evil true colours (in a flaming red robe, no less). And when she does, she certainly lets loose – very much like her wicked witch character in 1972’s Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (who also – SPOILER – goes up in flames).

Then there are two future US soap legends, Morgan Brittany and Morgan Fairchild, a fit-looking Robert Hays (just before his Flying High fame) – he effectively plays a character similar to John Travolta in Carrie – and Tisa Farrow (long before her Euro-horror turns) as Mouse, a withdrawn music student who is infatuated with Sarah.

When I first saw this on Australian TV in the 1980s, I knew there was something going on under the surface of Mouse’s attraction to Sarah (just check out those lingering looks between them). And thanks to the extras on the Arrow release, the queer connection is deffo playing out. Indeed, listening to the comments by the Gaylords of Darkness podcasters (who are a hoot) and Samantha McLaren (sporting fantastic batwing glasses) you’ll garner a new appreciation of the film from a queer perspective.

And if you count in Amanda Reyes’ commentary and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ feminist analysis – there’s a lot more to The Initiation of Sarah than just being a small screen Carrie rip-off. It’s all about sisters doin’ it for themselves!

Mind you, Tom Holland’s original idea was to have Sarah turn her victims into animals. Now, if only the terrible 2006 remake had gone down that dark path instead of the teen friend one?

On a trivia note, star Kay Lenz had been one year married to singer David Cassidy at the time (they divorced in 1983), while playing her ‘bitchy’ adopted mum was Kathryn Crosby (AKA Mrs Bing Crosby). Now, wouldn’t it have been cool if David and Bing had been asked to do a song together for the film? It certainly would have been way better than the annoying theme tune by the legendary Scottish composer Johnny Harris, who worked with the likes of Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones and scored the terrific jazz-fuelled Fragments of Fear (sorry Johnny).

The Arrow Video Blu-ray is out on 20 June 2022

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
• Original lossless mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by TV Movie expert Amanda Reyes
Welcome to Hell Week: A Pledge’s Guide to the Initiation of Sarah, visual appreciation by Stacie Ponder and Anthony Hudson, co-hosts of the Gaylords of Darkness podcast
Cracks in the Sisterhood: Second Wave Feminism and The Initiation of Sarah, a visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
The Intimations of Sarah, interview with film critic Samantha McLaren looking at witchcraft, empowerment, TV movies, and telekinetic shy girls post-Carrie
The Initiation of Tom, a new interview with Tom Holland
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Luke Insect
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Lindsay Hallam and Alexandra West

Shock (1977) | Mario Bava’s final feature is an underrated gem – just watch out for the walking wardrobes!

More than two years after his 1974 thriller Rabid Dogs remained unfinished and the same year’s horror Lisa and the Devil went unreleased in Italy and was cut to shreds on its international release, 63-year-old Italian director Mario Bava was in a bad way.

After a glittering career spanning some 40+ years, he found himself in semi-retirement as young guns like Dario Argento were becoming the new face of Italian horror. But with the help of his son Lamberto, who was just finding his way in the family business, Mario went on to helm what would become his final feature, 1977’s Shock (AKA Schock in Italy and Beyond the Door II in the US) – a modern-day psychological thriller in which true horror lies from within.

Daria Nicolodi stars as the mentally fragile Dora, who moves back into her old family home on the Italian coast with her pilot husband, Bruno (John Steiner) and Marco (David Colin Jr), her young son from a previous marriage. When Bruno departs for work in London, Dora finds herself plagued by accidents and apparitions, as well as Marco’s increasingly bizarre behaviour, which inescapably leads her to a nervous breakdown.

Everything seems to be linked to Dora’s former dead husband Carlo, a drug addict who took his own life. Has his spirit come back to haunt her? Is he using Marco as a conduit to torment her? Is Dora manifesting some deep-set guilt? And what lies behind the brick wall in the cellar?

Now restored in high definition for the first time, Mario Bava’s cinematic swansong is ripe for rediscovery courtesy of Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release, which features some superb extras. These include an insightful audio commentary from Tim Lucas, who is, without doubt, the foremost authority on all things Mario Bava, and Lamberto Bava’s interview, which lays bare the ins and outs of his collaboration with his dad. Plus, much more.

I hadn’t seen Shock before (and I’ve seen most of Maria Bava’s films over the years) and I must say, it’s an underrated gem. There’s so much on offer here, despite its poor reception on its release. There’s a Repulsion-esque scenario that plays crazy mind games on you; an intensely engaging performance from Nicolodi (who was working through her own personal issues following her separation from Dario Argento); some inventive practical special effects (including walking wardrobes and a possessed Stanley knife), and one particular jump scare that certainly got me! (and inspired a scene in the original Scream).

Bava also conjures up a hauntingly beautiful sequence that is pure Bava – when Dora has an erotically-charged encounter with Carlo’s spirit and her hair seemingly comes alive. And to top it all, there’s the eerie synth-and-percussion score by Italian jazz-rockers I Libra, whose members included Goblin’s original drummer Walter Martino (who worked on Profundo rosso). It’s such an earworm, I’m now hunting down a reasonably priced vinyl. A must-have for any fan of Italian’s founding father of horror.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative by Arrow Films
• Original Italian and English front and end titles and insert shots
• Restored original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark
A Ghost in the House, a new video interview with co-director and co-writer Lamberto Bava
Via Dell’Orologio 33, a new video interview with co-writer Dardano Sacchetti
The Devil Pulls the Strings, a new video essay by author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
Shock! Horror! – The Stylistic Diversity of Mario Bava, a new video appreciation by author and critic Stephen Thrower
The Most Atrocious Tortur(e), a new interview with critic Alberto Farina
• Italian theatrical trailer
• 4 US “Beyond the Door II” TV spots
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Troy Howarth, author of The Haunted World of Mario Bava

The Snake Girl and The Silver Haired Witch | This 1968 tokusatsu terror tale is a terrific delight

Japanese director Noriaki Yuasa is best-know for Daiei Studios’ iconic Gamera series which he helmed from 1965 to 1980. In 1968, in between Gamera films, he turned his eye to adapting Kazuo Umezu’s classic 1966 horror manga Hebi shōjo (AKA Reptilia), about a shape-shifting snake woman, for the big screen. The result was The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch (Hebi musume to hakuhatsuma) – a tokusatsu terror tale that’s rarely been seen outside Japan since its release but gets a new life on Blu-ray from Arrow Video. And it’s a doozy.

A young girl called Sayuri (Yachie Matsui) is reunited with her scientist father and amnesiac mother after a long stay at a children’s home and is surprised to discover that she has an older sister, Tamami (Mayumi Takahashi).

With her father away on business, and her mother lost in her thoughts, Sayuri tries to befriend Tamami, who treats her with scorn, and is doted on by the family maid. Finding reptile scales on Tamami’s bed, Sayuri suspects her sister is a snake.

Moving to the attic, Sayuri begins having terrifying visions of a fanged creature and a witch that wishes to do her harm. But who is she? and why is she targeting her?

Yuasa’s 1968 horror is a revelation. I had never heard of the film before, and it doesn’t appear in any of my go-to reference books. But it’s got all the right ingredients to be a bona fide genre classic: a big house with shadow-lit passageways, a lab full of snakes and an attic draped in cobwebs, two genuinely scary monsters and a little girl heroine caught up in a nightmarish mystery.

Boasting haunting visuals, atmospheric production design and photography (that evoke Hammer’s psychological thrillers of the same period), a nerve-jangling score, and effective performances (especially Matsui, whose androgynous appearance serve to make this a Boys’ Own Adventure, too), The Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch is one to watch time and again.

Oh, and it doesn’t lack in shocks either: I had to turn away when poor Sayuri ends up having her hands repeatedly bashed while hanging for dear life from some scaffolding. It’s the stuff of nightmares.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

● High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation, with original uncompressed mono audio
● Optional English subtitles
● Audio commentary by film historian David Kalat
This Charming Woman: Interview with manga and folklore scholar Zack Davisson
● Theatrical trailer
● Image gallery
● Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork by Mike Lee-Graham
● Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Raffael Coronelli

The Brotherhood of Satan | The 1971 horror is devilishly good fun

Sam Peckinpah favourites Strother Martin and LQ Jones take the lead in the 1971 American indie horror The Brotherhood of Satan, which is now out on Blu-ray from Arrow Video.

After witnessing a gruesome traffic accident, widower Ben (Charles Bateman), his girlfriend Nicky (Ahna Capri) and daughter KT (Geri Reischl) find themselves unable to leave the southwest desert town of Hillsboro, where scores of families have been slaughtered and their children have mysteriously disappeared.

As the sheriff (Jones) and his deputy (Alvy Moore) try to make sense of the situation, the local priest (Charles Robinson) suspects a supernatural force is at work. The town’s physician Doc Duncan (Martin), meanwhile, is hiding a diabolical secret – he’s the head of a satanic cult whose elderly members are planning on transferring their souls into the bodies of the kids.

Filmed (in Albuquerque, New Mexico) in 1969, but not released until 1971 (through Columbia Pictures), The Brotherhood of Satan belongs in the top tier of the satantic panic movies of the 1970s – alongside my personal favourites Race With the Devil and The Devil’s Rain. Originally titled, ‘Come In, Children‘ it was produced by best buddies LQ Jones (who also wrote the script) and Alvy Moore (who is best known for his comic turn as Hank Kimball in TV’s Green Acres), and directed by Bernard McEveety (who did loads of TV shows like The Fall Guy and Charlie’s Angels).

The film certainly wears its indie credentials on its sleeve as Jones goes down the arthouse route with the film’s visuals and pacing; while also giving his actors loads of room to invest in their respective roles – just like John Carpenter would do in 1976’s Assault on Precinct 13.

Everyone is brilliant here, particularly so Reischl, who would find fame (and infamy) taking over from Eve Plumb as Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1976-1977). Martin also shows much light and shade with his duplicitous character, before launching into full-blown scenery-chewing in the climax; while the facial contortions of Helene Winston’s doomed witch Dame Alice will haunt you forever.

Jones and Co also seem to be paying homage to Roger Corman and his 1960s Poe films with one effective dream sequence (that uses distorted lens and colours) and with the design of the film’s set-piece – the coven’s lair featuring an enormous spider web and the kids displayed like mannequins on pedestals. It’s terrific, if incongruous to the film’s dusty desert setting and looks like a rock concert stage creation by way of Alice Cooper’s Welcome to My Nightmare. But then, the reason why it does look so out of place does become evident in the closing scenes. Interestingly, director Peter Sasdy’s Nothing But the Night, starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, shares a similar pay-off.

This is a super release from Arrow, with some excellent extras – especially the interview with Alvy Moore’s daughter, Alyson. Although it would have been great to hear from LQ Jones, too.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed mono audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary by writers Kim Newman and Sean Hogan
Satanic Panic: How the 1970s Conjured the Brotherhood of Satan, a visual essay by David Flint
The Children of Satan: interview with actors Jonathan Erickson Eisley and Alyson Moore
• Original Trailers and TV and Radio Spots
• Image Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Richard Wells
• Booklet featuring new writing by Johnny Mains and Brad Stevens.

Weird Wisconsin: Are you ready for The Bill Rebane Collection?

You may not immediately recognise the name Bill Rebane, but the Wisconsin-based indie film-maker was the person responsible for The Giant Spider Invasion. With its lame acting, cheap special effects and the use of VW Beetles to create the titular creatures, this 1975 sci-horror has gone on to become a cult classic of the highest order and I still have fond memories of seeing it at the cinema (aged 11). Now, when I heard that Arrow had collected six of Rebane’s features spanning his 30-year-career, I had to take a look. Now that I’ve seen them, all I can say is that they are all pale in comparison to Rebane’s career-best success.

Each film is presented in a brand-new restoration and the 4-disc box-set is loaded with new interviews and extras, including a 60-page tribute written by diehard fan Stephen Thrower. Now, there’s no doubt that Rebane put his heart and soul into each of his efforts, which were all produced at his farm-based studio, The Shooting Ranch, in Gleason, Wisconsin. But they’re all quite a chore to get through. The highlight of this box-set, however, is David Cairns’ feature-length documentary, Who is Bill Rebane? I suggest starting with that before dipping into the main attractions, as you’ll get a better appreciation of Rebane’s outsider approach to film-making. He may not be the best indie director but he sure did it his way.

DISC ONE
MONSTER A GO-GO! (1965) An American astronaut (played by 7 ft 6¾ Henry Hite) returns to Earth as a radioactive monster and bothers blissful sunbathers while some military types try to track him down. This monster’s a ‘no-go’ and so slow. It doesn’t even have an ending as it was bought by Hershell Gordon Lewis (as Terror at Halfday) and he just changed the title and added some narration. Great title though.

INVASION FROM INNER EARTH (1974) In the Canadian wilderness, two pilots and a young woman barricade themselves in a cabin when they hear a plague is wiping out humanity. Talky, with some snowmobiles racing about in the snow. The film’s lead, Paul Bentzen, gives a masterclass in improvised overacting here, and would go on to become Rebane’s No.1 leading man.

EXTRAS
Straight Shooter: newly filmed interviews about the making of Monster A Go-Go and Invasion from Inner Earth with director Bill Rebane
• Brand new interview with historian and critic Kim Newman about the films of Bill Rebane.
Twist Craze, and Dance Craze, two early short films by Bill Rebane
Kidnap Extortion (1973), a newly restored industrial short directed by Bill Rebane
• Stills and Promotional Gallery

DISC TWO
THE ALPHA INCIDENT
(1978) When deadly alien spores are accidentally released while in transport, a train station is placed under quarantine. It’s then a waiting game for those trapped inside to try and keep awake while the government tries to find a cure. This could have been Assault on Precinct 13 meets The Thing, but it’s not. It’s a sci-fi snorefest.

THE DEMONS OF LUDLOW (1983) As the folks in a small rural town prepare to celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of its founding, the ghosts of its past return to seek retribution via a haunted antique piano. This rural gothic horror is a bargain-basement take on John Carpenter’s The Fog. Slow going as usual, with only minimal frights on offer.

EXTRAS
Straight Shooter: newly filmed interviews about the making of The Alpha Incident and The Demons of Ludlow with Rebane
• Rebane’s Key Largo, a visual essay by historian and critic Richard Harland Smith
• Original trailers
• Stills and Promotional Gallery

DISC THREE
THE GAME 
(1984) Three jaded millionaires gather nine people at an old mansion to play “The Game” … if they can meet and conquer their fears and they’ll receive a million dollars in cash. This comical body count movie is just plain silly, and the ending is a right cop out.

TWISTER’S REVENGE (1988) Three bumbling idiots try to steal the artificial intelligence control system of a monster truck called Mr Twister. This Knightrider meets Death Wish rip-off is the most bizarre offering here, and have to admit I rather enjoyed its infantile slapstick humour. It’s also one I’d like to see Rebane remake, but with those fur-covered VW spiders added into the mix.

EXTRAS
• Two presentations of The Game (aka The Cold) in 1.85 and 1.33 aspect ratio
Straight Shooter: newly filmed interviews about the making of The Game and Twister’s Revenge with Rebane
Discovering Bill Rebane, historian & critic Stephen R Bissette discusses his personal connections with the films of Bill Rebane and their importance to regional film making in America
• Original trailers
• Stills and Promotional Gallery

DISC FOUR
Who is Bill Rebane? An exclusive new feature-length documentary by historian and critic David Cairns
King of the Wild Frontier, historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette on the films of Bill Rebane
Invasion from Inner Earth, The Alpha Incident and The Demons of Ludlow outtakes from the shoot
The Giant Spider Invasion original trailer
• Gallery of Behind the Scenes stills
• Stills and Promotional Galleries for the rest of Rebane’s filmography

Death Has Blue Eyes | Nico Mastorakis’ wacky 1970’s paranormal sex comedy action thriller on Blu-ray

There’s a whole lot of love over at Arrow for the crazy cine-verse of Greek film-maker Nico Mastorakis, as they have so far released his 1975 infamous ‘video nasty’ exploitation debut Island of Death (twice), Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), Blood Tide (1982), The Zero Boys and The Wind (both 1986), Bloodstone (1988) and 1990’s Hired to Kill.

I’ve seen and reviewed Island of Death and The Wind, and now have finally caught up with Death Has Blue Eyes, which was released back in April (2021) on Blu-ray in a new HD master in both widescreen and full-frame versions.

Be prepared as this is a wacky, messy but wholly entertaining cocktail of conspiracy thrills, psychic chills and action spills (with a bit of a 1970s sex comedy vibe thrown in).

International gigolo-cum-racing driver Ches (Chris Nomikos) and his dodgy Vietnam vet mate Bob (Peter Winter) meet up in Athens where they encounter the wealthy but mysterious Geraldine Steinwetz (Jessica Dublin) and her psychic daughter Christine (Maria Aliferi).

All the lads want to do is have sex (with a penchant for threesomes – oo-er!!!), but they soon find themselves in the middle of an international conspiracy – and nothing is what it seems, especially Geraldine, who has a secret agenda.

While Island of Death was released first, this was in fact Mastorakis’ debut feature – and it’s one to watch with a gang of fellow exploitation film fans, while Graham Humphreys’ colourful poster artwork really captures the essence of Mastorakis’ lurid conspiracy thriller.

But what really thrilled me was checking out Jessica Dublin’s credits. She so steals the show here and should be better known as she’s been in so many cult faves – including Visconti’s The Damned, Mastorakis’ Island of Death, Kostas Karayiannis’ The Devil’s Men and was Mrs Junko in Troma’s Toxic Avenger sequels.

Mastorakis made his last feature in 1990, before turning his hand to TV sitcoms, but he’s recently scored renewed success as the writer of the award-winning 2018 documentary, Mykonos, the Soul of an Island.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

  • Brand new restoration from the original camera negative approved by the director
  • High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentation
  • Two versions of the film: the widescreen 1.85:1 version and the full-frame 1.33:1 version
  • Original mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Exclusive new interview featurette with Nico Mastorakis
  • Exclusive new interview with actress Maria Aliferi
  • Dancing with Death: tracks from the original soundtrack
  • Original theatrical trailers
  • Image gallery
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Julian Grainger

The Bloodhound | Creeping dread is at the dark heart of this stylish Poe-esque chiller

From Arrow Video in the UK comes first-time director Patrick Picard’s The Bloodhound – a stylishly atmospheric modern take on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher.

Down on his luck, Francis (Liam Aiken) accepts an invitation to visit his childhood friend, Jean Paul (Joe Adler), a wealthy recluse living with his twin sister Vivian (Annalise Basso) in the family’s secluded modernist home. On his arrival, Francis discovers JP is suffering from a deep malaise, while Vivian refuses to come out of her room. JP is desperate to form an emotional connection with the homeless Francis, so he has his belongings sent to the house. He then tests Francis by exhibiting some very cruel behaviour. All the while, something strange is happening inside the house — but what has it to do with JP’s dream about the Bloodhound (a masked figure that has crawled its way inside a wardrobe)?

Creeping dread is the name of the game in this slow-burn chiller that not only draws on the spirit of Poe, but also touches on issues relevant in a Covid-pandemic world — like the effects of social isolation and loneliness on our mental health, and our quest for true and meaningful friendships. With Vivian locked away for most of the time, it’s essentially a two-hander that could easily be adapted for the stage.

While I loved the film’s mid-century modern colour palette and minimalist design, the big highlight was Joe Adler. Channelling Truman Capote (intentionally or not), he is mesmerising as the self-absorbed eccentric, bringing much depth and shade to the role. It’s worth checking this out just to watch him at work.

SPECIAL EXTRAS
• Audio commentary by director Patrick Picard and editor David Scorca
• Four experimental short films by director Patrick Picard
On the Trail of The Bloodhound (45min): Making-of featurette
• Booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anton Bitel

Tremors | The 1990 creature feature gets a monster 4K UHD Blu-ray release

1990’s Tremors was a hugely entertaining comedy horror that paid loving homage to the giant monster features of the 1950s. A hit with audiences and critics alike, it spawned a hugely successful franchise on the big and small screen. Now it’s breaking new ground with Arrow Video’s 4k-restored 2-disc special edition release.

In the tiny Nevada desert town of Perfection (population 14), Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward’s repairmen Val and Earl pick the wrong day to leave town for good when four giant earthworm creature start feasting on the local citizens. Trapped along with a group of survivors, Val and Earl unite to save the day – and the world!

Featuring a fantastic ensemble cast, including Family Ties‘ Michael Gross, who went on to appear in all of the sequels, great practical special effects, and lashings of action and humour, Tremors is a modern-day horror-comedy classic. I’ve lost counts the number of times I’ve seen it in various formats (cinema, TV, DVD) and while I don’t (yet) have a UHD player/screen, Arrow’s 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation really sparkled on my Blu-ray home cinema system.

But Arrow has really done themselves proud with the extras, and there are loads. The first disc features two new audio commentaries with director Ron Underwood, writers/producers Brent Maddock and SS Wilson, and Jonathan Melville, author of The Unofficial Guide to Tremors.

There’s also a new making-of documentary (which also revisits the film locations), alongside informative interviews with co-producer Nancy Roberts, DP Alexander Gruszynski, associate producer Ellen Collett, and composers Ernest Troost and Robert Folk.

Plus, TV overdubs, on-set camcorder footage about the making of the Graboids (the name that Victor Wong’s store owner Walter gives them), deleted scenes, trailers, TV and radio spots. And ported over from the Universal Blu-ray is the 1995 documentary.

But wait! There’s still more. The second disc has extended interviews from with Underwood, Maddock, Wilson, Roberts and creature designer Alec Gillis, outtakes, and three early short films, including Wilson’s 1975 stop motion short Recorded Live, all remastered in HD. And this monster of a release is packaged with a collector’s book, posters, lobby card repro art cards and new artwork by Matt Frank. Phenomenal!

Creepshow 2 | George A Romero’s second helping of Stephen King tales gets a 2k restoration

For this second issue of his horror anthology Creepshow, George A Romero stepped away from the camera and took on screenwriting duties, adapting three Stephen King tales, while former cinematographer Michael Gornick took the helm. The results are very much a mixed bag, but still great fun for both King and Romero fans.

In Old Chief Wood’nhead, the elderly owners of a general store in a run-down Arizona town are terrorised by three hoodlums who steal a local tribe’s sacred treasures (a bag of turquoise jewellery). In revenge, an old wooden cigar store Indian statue comes to life and hunts them down. This story is the best of the bunch in my books thanks to the lovely performances given by George Kennedy and 1940s screen legend Dorothy Lamour (in her final screen role) as the store owners, and the way the statue moves is chillingly effective. Also, there’s an affectionate nod to the vintage 1950s TV Wester series, The Cisco Kid, which I have fond memories watching as a youngster.

In The Raft, four college friends head to a remote lake for some swimming and sex, but become trapped on a pontoon by a flesh-eating oil slick. This tale is my least favourite mainly due to the obnoxious characters who I wanted to die even before they got to the lake. Good riddance, I say. However, there’s one scene involving broken limbs that’s a real gross-out.

In The Hitch-hiker, Lois Chiles (Moonraker) plays an adulterous businesswoman who knocks down a hitchhiker (Barbershop’s Tom Wright) and speeds off. But she soon gets some unwanted company when he keeps reappearing. This final tale does overstay its welcome, but with each successive viewing, it has grown on me. Its ghoulishly grisly, but also very funny – especially the state that the car ends up in. Chiles is excellent and the pay-off is a hoot!

A co-production between Romero and Richard Rubinstein’s Laurel Entertainment and Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, 1987’s Creepshow 2 was panned by critics but scored well at the box office; and while it’s not a patch on the original, it’s still worth a revisit. Plus, you get to see Tom Savini in some great make-up as the Creep in the animated wraparound story in which a comic-mad boy fights off bullies with the help of some giant venus flytrap creatures. Horror kids rejoice!

Arrow Video’s Limited Edition Blu-ray release includes the following special features…

• Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Uncompressed PCM Mono 1.0, Stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround Audio Options
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick
Poncho’s Last Ride – interview with actor Daniel Beer
The Road to Dover – interview with actor Tom Wright
Screenplay for a Sequel – interview with screenwriter George A Romero
Tales from the Creep – interview with actor and make-up artist Tom Savini
Nightmares in Foam Rubber – archive featurette on the special effects, including interviews with FX artists Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero
My Friend Rick – Berger on his special effects mentor Rick Baker
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Image Gallery
• Trailers & TV Spots
• Original Screenplay (BD-ROM Content)
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by festival programmer Michael Blyth
Creepshow 2: Pinfall – Limited Edition Booklet featuring the never-before-seen comic adaptation of the unfilmed Creepshow 2 segment Pinfall by artist Jason Mayoh
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Mike Saputo

%d bloggers like this: