Reviewed by Nomad
Starring the voices of Fred Tatasciore, Steve Blum, Bryce Johnson, Tom Kane, Grey Delisle
Directed by Frank Paur
Distributed by Lionsgate Home Entertainment
For some time now, it seemed that DC understood what serious comic fans wanted to see in a direct to DVD title, while still keeping things light enough for kids to get on board. Meanwhile, Marvel titles rewrote history into a slick version of itself, void of any tension or real depth, ready for a Saturday morning viewing. Oddly, a giant step forward was made with the release of Next Avengers. What was perceived to be just the kiddified version of the mightiest heroes on Earth turned out to be a fairly emotional story of loss in a future where Ultron has destroyed almost all opposition. Not your typical kid’s story! Now comes Hulk VS … two tales of conflict seemingly ripped from the pages of Marvel comics. The question on everyone’s mind was, could they pull the trigger? I’m here to tell you, they’ve done that and more.
Things I thought I would not see in an animated Marvel project for a very long time …
1. Wolverine using his claws on something besides robots and inanimate objects
2. Hulk pummeling a super hero into a bloody mess
4. Enchantress with no shortage of cleavage
The list could go on and on. Hulk VS brings it all to the table. This may not be the EXACT retellings of key Marvel events, but that doesn’t mean anything is held back on action, intensity, quality writing and appearances from characters you never imagined you’d see on the screen, and be true to their nature.
Hulk VS Wolverine
This is the pre-X-Men tale of the Canadian Department H operative codenamed Wolverine, sent to track and stop the rampaging creature known as The Hulk, who has already torn through one helpless little town. It doesn’t take long for them to go head to head with ferocity unmatched in any Marvel or DC animated feature to date. Wolverine rakes, gouges and hacks away at the jade giant, sending the red stuff flying. Hulk grabs anything not nailed down to pummel the little man in yellow until he can introduce his giant fist to one adamantium coated skull. I could easily watch these two beat each other silly for 40 minutes, but the powers that be have other plans! It seems some old foes of Wolverine have been watching and waiting for an opportunity to take down both fighters and secure them for a little project called … Weapon X! This is a tale of two monsters, bred from anguish, both trying to suppress the rage that threatens to engulf their souls, but there are monsters in this world that have already given in and relish in that darkness. When the unbreakable claw meets unrivaled power … and the tendril … and the bullet … who knows who may prevail?
In one fell swoop, we get the smack down of the century paired with an unflinching retelling of the most torturous moments from Wolverine’s past, leaving the door open to bring Deadpool, Lady Deathstrike, Sabretooth and Omega Red into the story, allowing all those “what if” battle questions to be answered! Geek overload!! This is seriously a Marvel fan’s dream come true. Wolverine is particularly vicious and anyone who gets in his way meets the wrong end of a claw. Decapitations GALORE!! His mean streak is captured with utter perfection. He’s the good guy, but he’s the baddest good guy there is. Hulk on the other hand is just a force of nature. He’d blow right past you unless you give him a reason to stop…and you don’t want to give him that reason! He may be simple minded but he has a steel focus and will remember anyone who does him harm for years to come. Once you are in his sights, it is his mission to destroy. Stealing every scene he appears in is Deadpool, who is so damn funny you’ll have to rewind spots to hear what he’s said next after you and your friends drowned him out in laughter. He brings sick and twisted to a whole other level and doesn’t mind putting a bullet in your head to punctuate his punch line.
The animation in Hulk Vs Wolverine is based on the designs of Jeff Matsuda who brings a look reminiscent of Ramos and Joe Madureira with a little Bruce Timm tossed in for good measure. Madhouse fills in the blanks with super tight movement and a level of shadow I, personally, have been dying to see for a very long time. Perfection. If I could marry this DVD, I’d do it in a heartbeat. This is one fast, unrelenting film that stands strong as a MOVIE, much less a 40 minute animated feature. Seriously, I’m in love. Watch it once and have your jaw dropped. Watch it 5 times to spot all the fantastic imagery held within. Also, watch past the credits for a little extra bit!
Extras include audio commentary from writers Craig Kyle and Chris Yost who are such big fans of the source material, you can hear the pride in their latest creation busting out of them. They are also keen on letting us know that certain cast members are not just knocked out, but killed horribly. Thanks for the tip! They are full of odd information like this, so you’ll want to give it a listen. A second commentary track has Frank Paur, Kevin Altieri and Butch Lukic who are responsible for much of the look of the film. They banter back and forth like brothers who are likely to wrestle at any moment for control of the remote, so this is also enjoyable. This is Gonna Hurt: The Making of Wolverine gives you time with all the key players from design to script writing to voice actors and all the good times between friends that went along with a labor of love like this film. Think making a Hulk voice for a cartoon is easy? Think again! Fan Frenzy: Hulk VS Wolverine at 2008 San Diego Comic Con shows the panel before and after the world premiere screening last summer. You also get a featurette on the new Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon, (playing now on Nicktoons) and a trailer gallery.
Hulk VS Thor
The scene opens on Asgard, home of the Norse Gods (as depicted in the Marvel Universe, of course.) Once a year, their king Odin must sleep, leaving their realm open to attack from all manner of monstrosity…and a parade of cameos from Asgard’s most wanted! We discover that Loki has kidnapped the infamous Doctor David Banner and, with the help if the Enchantress (sexiest cartoon character EVERRR!), hopes to harness the power of the Hulk to crush Thor under his heel. Naturally, nothing is ever so clear cut when dealing with the limitless rage of the green goliath and before long, all of Asgard is in peril.
Get ready to watch Hulk go head to head with a being so powerful he can grind him into the ground and he’ll come back for more. You’ll also see Thor unleash the full fury of his hammer, bringing down the lightning in an astounding display which just seems to piss the big green guy off. It becomes clear that Thor knows Hulk is a two man party and when they first go toe to toe, he holds back. Bad move. It’s refreshing to watch a cartoon that throws in copious amounts of characters for fan boys like me and doesn’t feel the need to tell everyone’s life story upon their meeting, including back story on characters we know have met before in the pages of our favorite comics. Not everything needs to be an origin story!
The design style is slightly less graphic than Wolverine. The cold, shadowy pallet is replaced by earthen tones and bright landscapes. This is an epic tale with epic scale and the canvas upon which it is told is breathtaking. Where Wolverine kept a tight focus on blood and rage, Thor strikes an almost Shakespearean tone with themes of blind, unwarranted retribution, heaven and hell and the sacrifices a true hero must make. The cost of failure to stop the Hulk is the end of a civilization and the voice actors step up to the task of conveying unwavering heroism, deep set loyalty and, in the case of Loki, an evil thirst that can not be quenched. There are moments of this film that will tear your heart out, which says a lot for the animation as well. This could have just been a slow march through Asgard with any number of known Thor characters thrown at you for the sake of geek cred. A blind rampage. Fantastic writing spares us those doldrums, delivering numerous levels of storytelling worthy of those classic Marvel tales we treasure and share with new comic fans. It’s fairly inspiring and should be seen as a benchmark in animated story telling.
Once again we get a nice pile of extras, beginning with a second commentary featuring the comedy stylings of Kyle and Yost who seem to feed off each other and have no end of hysterical comments to make, including a brand new tally of dead folks and a chuckle for any moments of astounding brutality. The second commentary stars Frank Paur, Sam Liu and James Peters who delve into the extreme details of every scene. Very informative and enjoyable. Of Gods and Monsters: The Making of Hulk VS Thor featurette is another ride through the minds of the creators behind this project. I swear I could sit and watch voice actors perform next to the scenes they are mixed into all day long. There is just something about the process that peaks my interest. I’m glad the crew putting this DVD together acknowledged that excitement as well! We also get an early look at Thor: Tales of Asgard, a new animated feature film that explores the youth of Thor, how his long rivalry with Loki came to be and events that sparked a war that would continue throughout the ages. More trailers here as well.
Not since the finale of Avatar have I seen animation that made me grin from ear to ear and hang on every moment, hoping that at least 10 more minutes lay ahead. Finally we have the direct to DVD Marvel geekstraviganza we always dreamed we’d see one day. This one isn’t for little kids or first time film fans curious about a new super hero smack down. This one is for you … and me.
Special Features: Standard Edition DVD
Special Features: Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray
Hulk Vs. Wolverine:
Hulk Vs. Thor:
*Note: Blu-ray special features are hi-def.
5 out of 5
4 out of 5
Discuss Hulk Vs. in our Dread Central forums!
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
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