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DVD Release List: Blood & Rider

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Horror invading your home this Tuesday, June 12th, 2007…

Click here to see it bigger!Blood & Chocolate (2007)
Directed by Katia Van Garnier

Though not nearly as terrible as it had the potential to be, this barely horror film is really the kind of thing you should point your teenage daughter towards if she’s inclined to start with scary movies but still wants to see cute boys. Based on a YA novel of the same name, the story follows a wolf girl who is struggling against who she really is and falls in love with aforementioned cute boy. Check out our DVD review for Blood and Chocolate here for more! Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!The Clown Murders (1976)
Directed by Martyn Burke

Wait, John Candy? In a horror movie? What the hell is that all about? And with such a terrible title, too. The film follows four friends who kidnap one of their girlfriends in what is supposed to be an innocent prank, but pretty soon they’re being picked off left and right by a real psychotic clown, which is the role I really hope John Candy is in, though something tells me he only has a bit part. Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Creature Features Collection
Directed by Various

A collection of three 45-minute documentaries about some of the best our genre has to offer. The Beasts has clips from movies like Aliens, The Thing and more; The Machines tells of our fascination with the horrors of technology and has clips from The Terminator and, of course, War Games; finally, The Dead is the on you’re really going to like. How death and dying effects our films and what they say about our inherit fear of death featuring clips from Army of Darkness, Poltergeist and more. Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Death Knows Your Name (2007)
Directed by Daniel de la Vega

A freaky sounding premise, this one is. A scientist working in an insane asylum starts digging into the place’s past when he shares his nightmares with one of his patients. After one such nightmare he goes even deeper and into the hospital and finds a human skull that unleashes a horrible curse on the asylum. While he deals with those repercussions his anthropologist father figures out that the skull actually belongs to the man who found it. How the hell does that work? Find out tomorrow! Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Forest of the Dead (2005)
Directed by Brian Singleton

Now this sounds like a fun concept for a movie! A group of friends traveling cross-country stop at an abandoned summer camp and are almost immediately slaughtered horribly. A second group arrives shortly after, only to find that the first group are now bloodthirsty cannibalistic creatures, ready to stalk and eat anyone who they can get their hands on. Who will survive and what will be left of them? Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Ghost Rider (2007)
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson

Oh man, did Nic Cage screw this one up. And yes, I blame him completely. He was the big GR fan from the outset and really wanted to see this made, and look how it turned out. A bad hairpiece and pretending to be years younger than anyone would believe he actually is. Though I guess it was kind of fun in it’s own right, it still could’ve been a lot more, you know? Check out our DVD review of Ghost Rider for more. Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Hardcore Horrors
Directed by Various

You go ahead and tell me if you’ve ever heard of any of the films in this box set of “hardcore” horrors; Hollywood Vampyr, Soul of the Demon, Terror at Baxter U, This Darkness, The Vulture’s Eyes and The Witching? No? Me, either but at least it has a cool cover right? Here’s a cheap way to watch some indie horror and you never know, maybe there is a diamond in all this rough? Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Hellboy: Blood & Iron (2007)
Directed by Tad Stones

Tad Stones returns to direct another animated Hellboy adventure and judging by everything I’ve read, this one is even better than Sword of Storms (review). This time out, Big Red, Abe, Liz Sherman and Prof. Bloom travel to the very haunted mansion of an eccentric millionaire, whose been collecting all sorts of supernatural artifacts of Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory for years. Unfortunately it causes all manner of problems for the BPRD folks and many fights with many monsters ensue. Check our DVD review of Hellboy: Blood & Iron for more! Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Masters of Horror: The Screwfly Solution (2007)
Directed by Joe Dante

In the near future, whenever men become sexually aroused they brutally attack and usually kill a woman instead of what men do now when aroused; the solution is to utilize the same type of method we used to take care of the screwworm; release sterile males into the world so we can’t reproduce. At it’s heart the story tries to be as politically and culturally motivated as Dante’s season one episode, “Homecoming”, but more or less falls flat. Check out our DVD review for “The Screwfly Solution” for more! Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Morbid Mutilations
Directed by Various

Wow, another collection of indie horror films you’ve never heard of all gathered together for release? How could we get any luckier!? Sorry, I guess I should be happy Mill Creek it’s putting out deceiving-covered semi-horror films that would be more fitting under the Lifetime banner like some other company we know of… This set features Nightmare Asylum, Dead 7, Hell’s Highway, Tales of Terror, Shower of Blood and Massacre. Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Primeval (2007)
Directed by Michael Katleman

Well, look who’s finally ownning up to the fact that they put out a movie about a giant crocodile. And of course, because the movie did shit business when it came out, they assume their original marketing plan of never mentioning the crocodile was the reason so it’s time for the other extreme; all croc all the time! You know what the weirdest thing is, to me? Some people have been saying it’s really not that bad of a movie. And hey, at least it does have a giant crocodile in it, right? Check our DVD review of Primeval for more! Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Sadistic Sinners
Directed by Various

And the final collection of “rare” horror films from Mill Creek Entertainment/Pendulum Pictures; Sadistic Sinners! I’m sorry, but is that a heavily Photoshopped image of a girl with a pacifier in her mouth on the cover? If so… ew. This collection features Autopsy: A Love Story, Dead is Dead, Demon Seduction, Goth, ShadowHunters and, of course Terror Toons. Hey! I’ve heard of that last one! Nice! Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!The Shock Cinema Collection
Directed by Various

Wow, a collection of interviews and behind the scenes footage from some of the best of the indie horror world… 10 years ago. But seriously, this 4+hour collection has interviews with Charlie Band, Jeff Burr, Scott Spiegel, J.R. Bookwalter, Forrey Ackerman, David DeCoteau and a lot more, and it’s hosted by Brinke Stevens. So you can pop this in and pretend like it’s the late mid to late 90’s all over again! Though why you would want to I have no idea. The second disc contains previously unseen footage, blooper reels, and other assorted bits of wackiness. Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Silk (2006)
Directed by Su Chao-pin

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this one, I just hope it turns out to be as good as those before have said. The story is about a team of paranormal researchers who use an experimental method when investigating a mysterious death and manage to actually capture a ghost; a 13-year old boy. They can see him and not hear him, though, so they bring in a specialist in lip-reading to try and understand why the ghost is stuck on our plane and why he feels the need to kill. Buy it here!


Click here to see it bigger!Zombie Bloodbath Trilogy
Directed by Todd Sheets

Camp Motion Pictures continues their new trend of releasing ridiculously low-budget, shot-on-video affairs of the 90’s on DVD, apparently filling some kind of consumer demand I would not have imagined existed. Herein are three films from Todd Sheets that death with the undead; 1993’s Zombie Bloodbath, 1995’s Zombie Bloodbath 2: Rage of the Undead and 2000’s Zombie Bloodbath 3: Zombie Armageddeon. Buy it here!


Johnny Butane

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Hell Night Blu-ray Review – Mischief & Mayhem At Mongoloid Manor

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Starring Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Suki Goodwin, Vincent Van Patten

Directed by Tom DeSimone

Distributed by Scream Factory


1981. Prime time for the slasher film, when studios were more than content to pump out one after another since production cost was often so low. The downside, though, was that many wound up being formulaic and, eventually, forgotten. Time has allowed the cream to rise to the top of that crop and while Hell Night (1981) isn’t among the best it does stand out due to some novel choices made by director Tom DeSimone and executive producer Chuck Russell, the man responsible for some of the most consistently entertaining horror films of the ‘80s. A dilapidated mansion, oozing with gothic atmosphere, stands in place of a college campus or generic forest setting. Characters are dressed in formal costume; a stark departure from typical ‘80s teen garb. The film is half haunted house, half crazed killer and there is a not-entirely-unexpected-but-definitely-welcome twist at the end providing a solid jolt to a beleaguered climax. Fans are rightly excited to see Hell Night makes its debut in HD, though the final product is still compromised despite Scream Factory’s best efforts.

It’s Hell Night, every fraternity brother’s favorite evening; when new recruits are tormented in hazing rituals from, well, Hell. Peter (Kevin Brophy), president of the vaunted Alpha Sigma Rho house, comes up with the brilliant idea to have four pledges – Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Denise (Suki Goodwin), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) – spend the night in a decaying mansion. But this isn’t just any old house, as Peter regales a rapt audience – this is where former owner Raymond Garth killed his wife and three malformed children before hanging himself, sparing only the life of his son, Andrew, who was rumored to reside within the place after the murders. The pledges enter Garth Manor and quickly pair off, with Marti and Jeff getting intellectual while Denise and Seth take a more physical path.

A few hours pass and Peter returns with some of his bros, planning to initiate a few good scare pranks they set up earlier that week. The chuckles don’t last long, though, because Jeff and Seth quickly find the shoddy wiring and poorly placed speakers rigged upstairs. What they don’t know is that there is an actual killer on the loose, and he just decapitated one of the girls. Leaving the labyrinthine home proves difficult, with Marti & Jeff getting lost within the catacombs beneath the estate, evading their mongoloid menace however possible. Seth, meanwhile, has to scale a massive spiked fence if they hope to get any help way out here. Wait, didn’t Peter mention something about Andrew having a sibling?

The production team on this picture was a beast, and I’m convinced that’s the chief reason why it came out any good at all; specifically, the involvement of Chuck Russell and Irwin Yablans. I give a bit less credit to director Tom DeSimone, who up to that point (and after it) filled his filmography with lots and lots of gay porn; storyline and direction are usually secondary in that market. Hell, they even had Frank Darabont running around set as a P.A. which is just a cool fact because nobody listens to P.A.s on a film set. Music is just as important, too, and composer Dan Wyman is a synth master who worked with John Carpenter on his early films. His score here is reminiscent of those lo-fi masterpieces.

Solid atmosphere and rounded characters make all the difference. Instead of a roster of stereotypical sophomoric faces the bulk of the film focuses on four individuals with personality and a bit of depth. Blair makes a good turn as the bookish good girl type, while Barton is a charming match for her mentally, showing interest in more than just a drunken hookup. Denise and Seth are both superficial, and their interactions inject the most humor into the film. Denise continually calling Seth “Wes” is one example. A good horror film gets the audience invested in who lives and dies, and while I won’t go so far as to say these are exemplary characters the script does make them three-dimensional and not so paper thin.

The 1.85:1 1080p image is sourced from a 4K restoration of an archival 35mm print with standard definition inserts. This is a step up from Anchor Bay’s old DVD but not by leaps and bounds. Colors attain greater saturation and definition is tightened but the picture looks awfully soft too often and the jump between HD and SD footage is plain as day. The print displays vertical scratches and white flecks. Black levels are decent but there is clear room for improvement across the board. To their credit this is the best image Scream Factory was able to produce but fans should temper expectations going in because this is not a pristine picture by any means.

There is nothing wrong to be found with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, which does a fine job of carrying the dialogue alongside Dan Wyman’s sinister synth soundtrack. Direction is limited and the presentation is routine, but no problems were detected and the track capably supports the feature. Subtitles are available in English.

Here is where Scream Factory does their best to make up for the shortcomings of the a/v presentation: a ton of extra features.

An audio commentary track features actress Linda Blair, director Tom DeSimone, and producers Irwin Yablans & Bruce Cohn Curtis.

“Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror” – This is a recent discussion with the actress, who covers her run in the genre in addition to diving deep into this film’s difficult production.

“Hell Nights with Tom DeSimone” – Shot on location at the Garth Manor (actually Kimberly Crest Estate in Redlands, CA), DeSimone reflects back on shooting the film there over 35 years ago.

“Peter Barton: Facing Fear” – The actor offers up expected discussion, covering his career in horror and navigating the Hollywood scene.

“Producing Hell with Bruce Cohn Curtis” – This covers more of the behind-the-scenes work that went into making the movie.

“Writing Hell” – Screenwriter Randy Feldman offers up some insight into his process for creating the story and writing the script.

“Vincent Van Patten & Suki Goodwin in Conversation” – The two actors, who have not seen each other in quite some time, sit down together for a back-and-forth discussion.

“Kevin Brophy & Jenny Neumann in Conversation” – This is another chat conducted the same way as Van Patten & Goodwin.

“Gothic Design in Hell Night” – Art director Steven Legler talks about his process for turning Garth Manor into how it is seen on film; evoking the right chilling atmosphere.

“Anatomy of the Death Scenes” – Pam Peitzman, make-up artist, and John Eggett, special effects, scrutinize each of the film’s kill scenes and discuss what went into achieving them.

“On Location at Kimberly Crest” – DeSimone guides viewers on a tour of the “Garth Manor” as it can be seen today.

A theatrical trailer, two TV spots, a radio spot, and a photo gallery are the remaining features.

Special Features:

  • NEW 4K Scan of the film taken from the best surviving archival print
  • NEW interviews with actors Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Vincent Van Patten, Suki Goodwin, Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann
  • Audio Commentary with Linda Blair, Tom DeSimone, Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis
  • Original Theatrical Trailer & TV spots
  • Blu-ray Disc Exclusives:
    • NEW interview with Director Tom DeSimone
    • NEW interview with Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis
    • NEW interview with Writer Randolph Feldman
    • NEW – Anatomy of the Death Scenes with Tom DeSimone, Randolph Feldman, Make-up artist Pam Peitzman, Art Director Steven G. Legler and Special Effects artist John Eggett
    • NEW – On Location at the Kimberly Crest House with Tom DeSimone
    • NEW – Gothic Design in Hell Night with Steven G. Legler
    • Original Radio spot
    • Photo Gallery featuring rare, never-before-seen stills
  • Hell Night
  • Special Features
4.0

Summary

“Hell Night” overcomes being lumped in with standard slasher fare thanks to dripping atmosphere, unique production design, and characters that elicit some empathy. The a/v presentation leaves much to be desired but a plethora of bonus features softens that blow.

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Video: The Shape of Water Q&A with Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre

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This past weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA betwixt a double screening of The Shape of Water and the classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the former’s director Guillermo del Toro (and star Doug Jones) sat down to discuss the latter’s influence on the film, Gill-man sex, “one sock movies,” his career in the genre, and more with moderator Jonah Ray, and we were there to film a portion of it.

Our sincere thanks to American Cinematheque general manager Dennis Bartok for extending the invitation.

For more Cinematheque screenings, visit the official website here.

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The Open House Review – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

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Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Patricia Bethune, Sharif Atkins

Written by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote

Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote


Mere weeks, even days, after effusively beating Netflix’s original horror content drum (The Babysitter, Before I Wake, Creep 2), I’m here to confirm that The Open House is emptier than an vacant bomb shelter. Cold, unappealing and thoughtlessly plotted to the point where “generic” would have been an improvement. From the moment we’re welcomed into Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote’s scripted imprisonment, it’s nothing but loose floorboards and busted plumbing. The home invasion genre has rarely been navigated with such little attention to detail, asking for our suspension of coherent storytelling early, often, and without earning the right to be deemed mindless genre fun. Not even Ty Pennington could save this extreme renovation disaster.

Dylan Minnette plays Logan Wallace, a track star and student who must find closure after watching his father fall victim to a fatal car accident. It is his mother Naomi’s (Piercey Dalton) idea to spend a little time away from their suburban home – escape those painful memories – so they retreat to her sister’s luxurious mountain getaway. The catch? It’s in the process of being sold and open houses are on the regular, so Naomi and Logan must vacate their temporary premises on certain days. It’s after one of these very showings that Logan begins to notice slight changes around the house, and he fears that an unwanted visitor may be in their midst. Guess what? He’s right.

To understand how little The Open House cares about conscious blueprinting, just read the poster’s tagline. “You can’t lock out what’s already inside” – right, but you could have prevented them from coming in, or checked the house to make sure they weren’t squatting, or explored numerous other possibilities to avoid this scenario. The mansion’s realtor allows prospective buyers to come and go but it’s not her job to make sure no one’s hiding in the basement? Naomi can’t even keep track of the *single* visitor she lets look around the house? It’s infuriating to see so many people neglect safety out of forced coincidence because the script couldn’t rationalize the killer’s entry any other way – a confounding strike one.

This is also a film that admits no reasoning for why its own murderer has targeted the Wallaces, or why he stokes a violent fetish when it comes to open houses. We never actually see his face, just his imposing handyman-looking attire, nor do we savor any kind of tangible backstory (his family died during their own open house and he suffered a psychotic breakdown – just give me *something*). His undefined form never demands curiosity like John Carpenter’s “The Shape” once did, because scripting is nothing more than bullet notes for basic horror movie necessities. Here he is, your bad guy – too bad he’s introduced without fear, handled without originality and unable to characterize beyond torturous kidnapper dotted lines. He’s just, you know, a guy who sneaks into open houses and kills – COMPLETE WITH A FINAL PAN-IN ON AN OPEN HOUSE SIGN WHEN HE MOVES TO HIS NEXT TARGET [eye roll into infinity].

Every scene in The Open House feels like an afterthought. “Ah, we need a way to build tension – how about a senile local woman who lives down the street and wanders aimlessly into frame?” Overplayed and in no way suitable to most her inclusions, but sure. “Oh, and we need inner conflict – what about if the breaker-iner steals Logan’s phone and frames him for later acts?” I mean, didn’t Logan canonically lose his phone even before Naomi’s mid-shower water heater issues – but sure, instant fake tension. “How are people going to believe the killer is always around and never blows his cover – think they’ll just buy it?” No, we don’t. Worse off, his cat-and-mouse game is dully repetitive until a finale that skyrockets intensity with jarring tonal imbalance. This closing, dreadful end without any sort of redemptive quality. More abusive than it is fulfilling.

If there’s anything positive worth conveying, it’s that Minnette does a fine job shuffling around as a character with severe sight impairment. The killer makes a point to remove his contacts as a final “FUCK YOU,” just to toy around a bit more, and Minnette frantically slips or stumbles with nothing more than foggy vision. Otherwise, dialogue finds itself ripped form a billion other straight-to-TV Logo dramas about broken families, no moment ever utilizing horror past a few shadowy forms standing in doorways after oblivious characters turn away. You can’t just take an overused subgenre and sleepwalk through homogenized beats…case and god-forsaken point.

Even as a streamable Netflix watch, The Open House is irredeemable beyond fault. The walls are caving in on this dilapidated excuse for home invasion horror, benefiting not from the star power of a temperamental Dylan Minnette. I have seen most involved players here in far better projects (Minnette’s stock has rightfully been skyrocketing, Matt Angel in The Funhouse Massacre, etc), but this is bargain bin theatrics without a fully formed idea. A nameless villain, doomed nice guy (Sharif Atkins), woefully unaware plot advancement – all the worst cliches found in one rage-quit worthy effort. Anyone who makes it through deserves an award…or a dunce cap.

  • The Open House
1.0

Summary

Unless you’re irrationally afraid of cold showers, The Open House fails to deliver on a premise that can be summed up by no more than two lines of text.

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