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Monster Squad, The (Blu-ray)

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The Monster Squad 20th Anniversary Edition (click for larger image)… For Brent …

Reviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan, Ashley Bank, Ryan Lambert, Brent Chalem, Leonardo Cimino

Directed by Fred Dekker

Distributed by Lionsgate


The Monster Squad Blu-ray Review. Words alone cannot express just how long I have been waiting to type out that sentence. The time has come, and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is one of my all time favorite films officially available on DVD and now Blu-ray, but Lionsgate has put out a package with nards-a-plenty!

For those out there who have been living under a rock for the last two decades or for new fans looking to find out what all the fuss is about, let’s recap the story.

Count Dracula (played with amazingly evil grace by Duncan Regehr) has a new plan for world domination. He’s joined forces with The Wolfman, The Creature, The Mummy, and Frankenstein’s Monster (Noonan) as a means to unleash all of the powers of darkness upon the Earth. The only thing standing in their way? A scary German guy (Cimino) and, of course, a group of teens and pre-teens who make up The Monster Squad. Yeah, there’s a bit more to it, but trust me. All you need to know is the basic gist.

The Monster Squad Two-Disc 20th Anniversary Edition (click for larger image)Before this the only movie to succeed in packing as much monster punch was the classic Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Truth be told, The Monster Squad excels for the very same reason that film did — the monsters play it straight. They’re scary, murderous, menacing, and fuckin’ cool to look at! Director Fred Dekker effortlessly delivers all of the fun of yesteryear to modern audiences. Well, that is if you can consider the Eighties modern anymore. Shit, I could sit here all day ranting about why this flick is a classic, but chances are if you’re reading this, you already know. Instead let’s focus on the supplemental material.

Now this is a 20th Anniversary Edition done right. The picture and sound quality here are TOP SHELF! No more bleeding colors or sub-par soundtracks. The Monster Squad has never ever looked or sounded better. The high definition transfer and 5.1 sound mix are a treat for the eyes and ears. That’s right! I’m gushing! I’ve been waiting forever for this! Screw you if ya don’t like it! Also to be found here are two commentaries. The first is with Dekker and squad members Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank. The second is with Dekker and director of photography Bradford May. While they each offer something very different in terms of content and information, they share one common thread … they’re extremely entertaining! It’s obvious that all of the principals involved have been raring to go in terms of wanting to do this, and once they begin, the good times come fast and furious. Nothing like having three different choices pertaining to how you will watch one helluva movie! Sweet!

Michael Felsher and his company Red Shirt Pictures have put together a five-part feature length documentary and a half for us entitled Monster Squad Forever. Simply put, this film delivers every single thing a fan could want. Felsher has a genuine affection for this stuff, and it shows in every single frame and edit. Let’s break down the five parts, shall we?

The Monster Master: Clocking in at about eleven minutes, this segment introduces us to Fred Dekker, a filmmaker looking to make it into the biz despite being kicked out of two of the country’s biggest film schools. Here we trace Fred’s story from his first screen credit, House, through Night of the Creeps, and continuing on to our subject of the day. All I can say is thanks for sticking with it, Fred! You’ve made a lot of memories!

The Monster Squad  20th Anniversary Edition (click for larger image)The Monster Makers: Why does this movie kick such a copious amount of ass? Check out the line-up of talent bringing the ghoulish gang to life: Stan Winston, Tom Woodruff, Jr., Matt Rose, and Steve Wang. I think that about says it all. This sixteen-minute segment takes an in-depth look at what it took to bring each of the creatures back to the big screen. All the creatures except for The Mummy, that is. My guess is that since he unraveled in the film he’s remained unavailable for comment. Moving on …

The Monsters and the Squad: Here’s where everyone involved starts dishing out the on-set memories for a full twenty-two minutes. For instance, did you know that Liam Neeson was originally slated to play Dracula? Or maybe that Tom Noonan never let the kids see him out of character? Truly interesting stuff; however, things end on a bit of a somber note. It is revealed that Brent Chalem, who played everyone’s favorite fat kid, Horace, died ten years ago due to complications from pneumonia. He was 22. Godspeed, Brent; we wish you were here to share in this.

Lights, Cameras, Monsters: This twenty-six-minute segment delves into the more technical aspects of the film with a good chunk of time set aside for director of photography Bradford May and Dekker himself discussing various shots and set-ups for the flick. Also included here are a talk with composer Bruce Broughton about the score and a brief discussion about the movie’s marketing and eventual box office failure. I’m sure all parties concerned are feeling pretty damned good about themselves now, however, as evidenced by the final segment of the doc …

Monster Mania: Sometimes movies can take an awfully long time to find their audiences. For The Monster Squad it’s taken about twenty years. This twelve-minute segment brings us some archival footage shot at Cherry Hill, New Jersey’s Monster Mania convention, which featured a Monster Squad reunion panel. Turns out the stars and crew of this film had no idea there was such a cult following for it. Needless to say, the reunion was a smash, and it’s great to have a piece of it immortalized forever on DVD and Blu-ray.

The total run-time for the above segments (which can be viewed individually or as a whole) is about one hour and twenty-seven minutes. That’s like having a whole other movie. But wait … there’s more! I shit you not!

The Monster Squad 20th Anniversary Edition (click for larger image)We still have to tackle around eight minutes of deleted scenes. According to the text intro(s) not much was cut from the film and there are still a couple of minor sequences missing. What is here primarily focuses on the marital problems experienced by the parents of the leader of The Monster Squad, Sean (Gower). There are a couple of worthwhile things though that come in the form of a wink wink at Universal Pictures in a newscast, and a whole lot of (hold on to your asses) fish vomit. Yep. You read that right, and that’s all I’m saying.

The usual supplemental suspects can also be found here in full force such as the theatrical trailer (which has also been remastered), the original TV spot, an animated storyboard featurette of The Mummy fight sequence, and of course a five-minute still gallery.

That’s still not it though. I’ve saved the best for last. Get ready to check out the first and only filmed interview with The Frankenstein Monster from 1986. Clocking in at around eight minutes, this truly candid interview shows us a different side of old Franky. One that’s tired of being typecast as a monster all the time. Believe me when I tell you, this shit is side splittingly funny. “How was I supposed to know that little girl couldn’t swim?” Fucking classic!

Do you need any more reasons to buy this on DVD or Blu-ray like yesterday? The Monster Squad is every bit as entertaining today as it was twenty years ago. Hell, it seems to be getting better with age. This new classic is one that pushes every boundary just far enough to entertain fans of any age. Lionsgate has given it the golden treatment, and as it stands right now, this package has my vote for Horror Blu-ray of the Year!

Know what’s gonna be weird though? Going to conventions and not seeing table after table of DVD-R bootlegs of The Monster Squad. A new day is dawning, I tell ya! Now just imagine what it would be like if Night of the Creeps was available as well. A guy can dream, no?

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with director Fred Dekker, Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, and Ashley Bank
  • Audio commentary with director Fred Dekker and director of photography Bradford May
  • Monster Squad Forever five-part feature length documentary
  • A Conversation with Frankenstein interview
  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Animated storyboard sequence
  • Still gallery
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • TV spot
  • Film:

    5 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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    Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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    Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

    Directed by David Moscow


    It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

    Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

    Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

    While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

    • Film
    3.0

    Summary

    Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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    Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan

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    Wolf Guy UK SleeveStarring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida

    Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

    Distributed by Arrow Video


    As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.

    An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.

    Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.

    First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.

    Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.

    Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.

    The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.

    “Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.

    “Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.

    “Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.

    A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.

    Special Features:

    • Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
    • Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
    • Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
    • Theatrical trailer
    • Wolf Guy
    • Special Features
    2.8

    Summary

    While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.

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    Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?

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    Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

    Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


    While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

    A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

    When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

    Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

    Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

    While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

    • Inside (Remake)
    3.0

    Summary

    Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

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    User Rating 1.67 (3 votes)
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