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Vincent Price Collection III, The (Blu-ray)

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Vincent Price Collection 3Starring Vincent Price, Charles Bronson, Nancy Kovack, Elizabeth Bergner

Directed by William Witney, Roger Corman, Reginald Le Borg, Kenneth Johnson, Gordon Hessler

Distributed by Scream Factory


When it comes to legends of horror cinema, there are only a few names that occupy the upper echelon; stars such as Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and the inimitable Vincent Price. What sets Price apart from the others – and everyone else – is that he never really had a signature role; he was a journeyman of the genre, portraying dozens of characters that were nefarious or noble (often both). In many ways he is the quintessential horror actor (though he’d probably dislike that assertion), with a mellifluous voice that was equal parts soothing and sinister. Price has a magnetic on-screen presence, and his inclusion to any cast instantly commands my interest. To be fair, there are unquestionable classics, average thrillers and total turkeys in his filmography – they can’t all be winners, especially when you are so prolific – but I can honestly say if Price is in a movie then I am going to watch it.

After having released two glorious collections already (the first of which is out of print), Scream Factory has come through for Price fans yet again with “The Vincent Price Collection III”. This four-disc set contains five features – Master of the World (1961), Tower of London (1962), Diary of a Madman (1963), An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970), and Cry of the Banshee (1970). While the first two sets feature more of the “prestige” titles in Price’s oeuvre, the inclusions here are no less worthy of fans’ time. All have seen release on DVD in the past, either through the now-defunct Midnight Movies line or MGM’s Limited Edition Collection on DVD-R, but even buyers who own those editions will be pleased with the high quality of both the video & audio that Scream Factory has presented here. Additionally, each film features a nice bounty of extra features, including classic television shows starring Price, alternate cuts, extensive interviews and much more.

The first picture in the set, Master of the World, was guaranteed to command my attention because it stars two of my favorite actors of all-time: Vincent Price and Charles Bronson. Do I even need to continue? For those unfamiliar with the film, think of it as a Disney adventure epic as done by American International Pictures. This Jules Verne tale, produced seven years after Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), has a similar production design and aesthetic to that picture, only slightly less refined and a bit more intense thanks to AIP’s trademark styling and a diminished desire to appeal to kids. Verne’s two novels “Robur the Conqueror” and “Master of the World” were used as the basis for the script, which was written by the great Richard Matheson.

Price stars as Captain Robur, a 19th century inventor who has created the ultimate flying airship, the Albatross, which he built with the intention of using it to stop all wars. His construction and on-board voice amplifier have drawn the attention of some Philadelphia locals who have commandeered a hot air balloon to fly over the crater in which he houses his skyward behemoth. The surveyors – U.S. government agent John Strock (Charles Bronson), Prudent (Henry Hull), Prudent’s daughter Dorothy (Mary Webster), and her fiancé Phillip Evans (David Frankham) – are shot down by Robur and taken aboard his ship as “guests”. Once the Albatross is airborne, Robur fills his captive audience in on his plans for “peaceful” world domination – this ship, constructed with specially processed paper, will instill peace through superior firepower. Robur will demand the armies of every nation thrown down their weapons or else face his wrath, and he has a small squadron of like-minded sycophants to enact his plans.

The irony of Robur’s plan appears lost on the man, leading to many impassioned discussions between he and his guests. Everyone is against Robur’s methods, though Strock seems like he may be siding with him, leading to conflict between he and the other guests. What the others don’t realize is Strock is trying to gain Robur’s trust, to expose his weaknesses, and when the time is right he intends to enact a plan that will destroy the Albatross and save humanity from further reprisal by Strock and his steadfast crew.

Ostensibly an airborne adventure film, Master of the World tackles some deep, difficult topics that highlight the lack of clear boundaries between good and bad. Robur’s ambition is, at its core, rather noble, but his method of achieving peace calls for acts that are the antithesis of his end game. Like any good villain (if you can even call him that), Robur believes in his heart that he is right; that his plans will finally bring about global peace. After all, what are thousands of lives when the end of all war means sparing millions? His arguments with Prudent are intense and well scripted, brimming with authenticity.

As much as I loved seeing Bronson in action here, long before his turn as an ‘80s aging action hero, I’ll agree with Matheson that he was woefully miscast. Bronson is supposed to be playing a cultured man, yet he comes across like a Pennsylvania coal miner – which is exactly how he told Matheson he was going to be playing the role. Miscast or not, however, he’s a powerful force on screen.

Second in this set is Tower of London, a fictionalized account of Richard III’s rise to power. Legendary filmmaker Roger Corman was hired to direct this picture, after having success with his Poe adaptations, once again working with Price to bring storied lore to the big screen. Price hams it up here as Richard, duke of Gloucester, who takes great umbrage with his dying brother King Edward IV’s (Justice Watson) wishes to have George, Duke of Clarence (Charles Macaulay) named as Protector of the Realm. Richard was really hoping to score that gig, so, naturally, he figures the best way to get it is to kill George and anyone else who stands in the way of the throne. Never mind that most of them are family… Richard’s plans all seem to go accordingly, that is until he begins seeing visions of the spirits of those he has killed, tormenting him endlessly and assuring him his own demise will be forthcoming soon enough. But Richard, deranged and filled with hubris, sees himself as untouchable, a folly that will not serve him well during the infamous Battle of Bosworth, where he is destined to fall.

Corman tried to make much out of little, and Tower of London practically feels like a filmed stage play due to the limited environments and lack of any major set pieces. Corman, who is famously frugal, even repurposed footage from 1939’s Tower of London to avoid shooting a costly Battle of Bosworth on his own. Cheesy as the sequence is, the point is made all the same. Price carries this picture wholly, chewing scenery with reckless abandon. Richard is a juicy character for Price, allowing him to sink into an overflowing pool of madness. Richard is so paranoid he would probably wear a crown of tin foil if it had existed at that time. Even when his power seems assured, he is of the “no half measures” variety, wiping out every blood relative that could challenge his claim to the throne, as well as those who refuse to kowtow to his capricious demands. Despite being a fairly stiff film overall Richard is made out to be such a sniveling jerk that his eventual comeuppance does bring with it a reasonable sense of satisfaction.

Produced the following year, the third film in this set – Diary of a Madman – is a similarly paranoid feature, though it plays much better than Tower of London. Based on Guy de Maupassant’s short story “Le Horla”, Price plays a magistrate, Simon Cordier, who is dead when the film opens. His funeral party uncovers a secret diary that outlines Cordier’s last days, and they read it aloud in hopes of learning what happened to the man they all admired. Turns out, he had been beset upon by a horla, an evil entity hell-bent on ruining his life and forcing him to do its bidding. Cordier inherited the horla after coming into contact with a condemned prisoner, whom he accidentally kills. Soon after, the horla attempts to use Cordier as a vessel for evil, but the magistrate fights his mental oppressor and sees a psychologist, who suggests he take up his old hobby of sculpture.

Cordier agrees, and soon finds his muse in Odette (Nancy Kovack), the wife of a local, penniless artist. Simon’s advances – and considerable wealth – woo Odette to the point that she is ready to leave her husband. But where Simon sees a sweet woman who loves him for his personality, the horla suggests Odette is nothing more than a gold digger. And, really, it’s more or less right on the money. This leads to the horla forcing Simon to make some very poor decisions that haunt him, leading to an eventual final confrontation between the magistrate and the enigmatic entity that has overtaken his mind.

Diary of a Madman is no different from dozens of other Price films in that were the star someone else the picture would not be nearly as memorable. The concept is interesting, suggesting some primordial disembodied villain is capable of steering the direction of a person’s life toward evil, though it is a touch too vague. Cordier seems like a strong-willed individual, yet the horla seems to have no problem overtaking his mental faculties. Was Cordier a prime candidate simply because he came into contact with a criminal who was under the horla’s spell? Seems so. The story also makes suggestions about Cordier’s previous wife, who seems to have died under mysterious circumstances, though it drops any attempt at illuminating the details of her death. This is a film that works almost entirely due to Price’s efforts.

Also of note: keen-eared viewers might pick up on some dialogue from the priest during the film’s opening which was used on “Return of the Phantom Stranger” from Rob Zombie’s “Hellbilly Deluxe” album.

Fourth in this collection is a rather unique entry: An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe. Essentially a stage play filmed for television, Price takes on the onus of success all his own by performing four short stories as written by Poe. As the only actor on the stage, Price powerfully carries each segment, reading aloud Poe’s words verbatim while delivering some of the finest acting I have ever seen from him. His only accouterments being various wigs, costumes and a single room dressed appropriate to the story. The four stories read here are “The Telltale Heart”, “The Sphinx”, “The Cask of Amontillado”, and “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Price imbues each tale with such fierceness and bravado that it is impossible not to be sucked into his one-man tour de force. The high point among the four is easily “The Telltale Heart”, where Price absolutely rips into the material and lays waste to any who have recited this story before or after. True Price aficionados appreciate his many small screen appearances just as much as his large scale cinematic endeavors, and this “film” is arguably among his best simply because he carries it all so effortlessly. A true talent.

Finally, we come to the last film of the collection, Cry of the Banshee. Viewers have the option of watching either director Gordon Hessler’s cut (the preferred version) or a truncated AIP version, which is nice to have included as a curiosity. Price once again plays a magistrate; unlike his character in Diary of a Madman, however, this one is truly diabolical and deranged. Lord Edward Whitman (Price) rules over his township with the notion of keeping his residents safe, yet he achieves this “safety” by casually branding dissenters witches and having women burned, whipped and killed with little care. Even his own wife isn’t spared from savagery when she speaks her mind. Whitman and his guards come across a coven of witches performing a black mass in the forest. He orders several of them killed before banishing the rest, including their leader Oona (Elizabeth Bergner), instructing them never to return to these woods or his town. Oona is extremely upset by Whitman’s carnage, so she performs a ritual intended to bring about death to all in the Whitman house. The purveyor of death is to be a “sidhe”, a demon spirit that uses the body of a normal person as host. Too bad the person it chooses is Roderick (Patrick Mower), one of the only respectable people in town.

As the sidhe begins to kill of Whitman’s family members one by one, Lord Edward becomes desperate to find Oona and end this madness. His efforts see him continuing his torturous ways, though he fails to understand that nothing will stop the sidhe from carrying out its orders. Even when it appears Whitman and his comrades are successful in vanquishing the conjured evil, the Lord gets a rude awakening when it is revealed nothing will stop what is coming for him.

This is one of Price’s more entertaining efforts from his Gothic horror period, thanks to capable direction from Hessler and a rousing performance by Price. Things kick off splendidly with an awesomely warped title sequence created by Terry Gilliam. The titles then segue to a scorching opener – literally – as Price orders a suspected witch branded with the letter “H” (“for heretic!”). The scene of a black mass in the forest feels very ancient and evil, as does the conjuring of the sidhe. The beast itself is a bit of a letdown – the creature is akin to a werewolf, but the clearly limited make-up effects left Hessler little choice but to shoot the beast swathed in shadow. The film never offers a clear view of the monster… which is probably a good thing. This film came two years after Price’s most memorable witchcraft picture, Witchfinder General (1968), arguably the superior of these two similarly themed films. Still, Cry of the Banshee has a mostly solid script, one that gives more sympathy to the witches than most films of this ilk. Additionally, the balance between characters is decidedly lopsided, with Price’s devious actions being relentless, making him out to be the perfect villain. There is a bit of sagging during the second act, but thankfully things ramp up in the third heading toward a climax that ends with Price heading out on a trip he would certainly rather not be taking.

The video quality can vary quite a bit between each title, so rather than attempt to use some blanket statements to describe the overall look here are some cursory comments on each:

Master of the World features a 1.85:1 1080p picture that is emblematic of AIP productions, coming from a “new high-def master from the inter-positive”. After a rough, grainy B&W opening the picture settles in and displays a wide range of colors, which are occasionally faded a bit but accurate, and definition that goes in and out of sharpness sporadically. Sometimes the level of detail can go from crisp to muddy within a single scene. Stock footage looks pretty rough, too, but some of the rear and front projection looks surprisingly decent. The print displays damage as well, with cigarette burns and scratches a common occurrence.

Tower of London is framed at 1.66:1 and was shot in black and white, with this being a “new high-def master from a fine grain film print”. The print used here is very clean, with minimal damage present, and a fine grain structure in place. Contrast is very good and details are quite apparent. Shadow delineation is average – never too poor for images to be obscured.

Diary of a Madman is also framed at 1.66:1 and it looks quite stunning given its vintage. This release features a “new high-def master from the inter-positive film element”. Colors are richly saturated, practically dripping off the screen. Price’s bright red magistrate robe is vibrant and bold. Definition is strong, too, with many minute details apparent in close shots. The print itself looks virtually flawless, with almost no instances of damage or debris. Grain looks excellent as well.

An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe was shot in standard definition for television, so don’t expect much out of the 1.33:1 image, although this release does see the use of a new master as created from the original 2” tape masters. It looks like something your parents recorded off TV back in the ‘80s.

Cry of the Banshee, presented at a ratio of 1.85:1, features two cuts of the film, each culled from different sources. The director’s cut comes from an inter-positive, while the AIP theatrical cut was sourced from the only surviving element in MGM’s vault, which was a color reversal intermediate. The director’s cut is not only worth watching because Hessler’s original vision is intact, but, geez, is it ever gorgeous in hi-def. The film looks far more recent than its 46-year age might suggest. Colors are vivid and bounding off the screen, depth of the image is considerable, details are razor sharp and black levels are mostly rock solid. There are a handful of shots that look out of focus, mostly wide shots, and occasionally the black levels can be a bit inconsistent, but overall this is easily the hands-down winner for best picture quality in the set.

Now, unlike the video, the audio here can be covered with a few statements that are applicable across the board… with a couple of exceptions. All of the films are presented with an English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono track, other than Master of the World which is in stereo. Dialogue is discernible and well balanced for each film, with sound effects and score mixed together nicely. There is some minor hissing present on Tower of London, and there is some very noticeable hissing and ringing on An Evening of… (no shock given the television roots). Other than those two issues the tracks here capably deliver dialogue and Foley effects while pumping out their respective scores – most of which have a classical flair – with great fidelity. Subtitles are available on each film in English.

DISC ONE: Master of the World

Actor David Frankham delivers an audio commentary track full of fond memories and vivid recollections. It sounds a bit prepared at times, though that’s usually better than trying to go off the cuff.

“Richard Matheson: Storyteller – Extended Cut” – The venerable writer sits down to discuss his career as a teller of stories non-specific to any genre, a word he detests. He’s also got a great story about Bronson from the set of “Master of the World”. This piece was chopped up and included on various DVD editions, but now it is presented fully uncut. Any fan of Matheson’s work should absolutely watch this.

A theatrical trailer and two photo galleries – one featuring posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes shots, the other featuring photos from David Frankham’s personal collection – finish off the extras on this disc.

DISC TWO: Tower of London

“Interview with Director Roger Corman” – I could listen to Corman talk all day long about absolutely anything. Here, having him talk about working with Price on this feature is a real treat. The only shame is it’s so short.

“Producing Tower of London – An Interview with Producer Gene Corman” – Corman goes over his own history in the business a bit before delving into the details behind how this production came to be.

A photo gallery shows off the usual ephemera.

Awesome bonus alert: two episodes of “Science Fiction Theatre” (1956) are included, both starring Vincent Price: “One Thousand Eyes” and “Operation Flypaper”.

DISC THREE: Diary of a Madman/An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe

Diary features an audio commentary with film historian & author Steve Haberman who, as usual, is ridiculously prepared with all manner of scholarly information on the production and its history.

There is also a photo gallery and a trailer.

An Evening With… also features an audio commentary with Haberman, which is another avalanche of information.

“Interview with writer/producer/director Kenneth Johnson” – Johnson, who is an industry vet, tells some great tales of his early days in the biz, meeting Price, working with the man and how this project came together.

A photo gallery is also included.

DISC FOUR: Cry of the Banshee

Once again, Haberman is here to deliver an audio commentary track. Expect to hear much of his usual banter, which comes quickly and packed with factoids.

“A Devilish Tale of Poe – An Interview with Director Gordon Hessler” – Hessler, an industry vet who learned from Hitchcock, discusses his career and the events that led him to direct Price in this film.

The theatrical trailer, TV spot, radio spot and photo gallery conclude the bonus features.

Also included with this set is a full-color 12-page booklet, filled with promotional photos of posters, lobby cards, and more.

Special Features:

DISC 1:
MASTER OF THE WORLD Special Features:

  • NEW High Definition Master from the inter-positive
  • NEW Stereo Soundtrack created from the original 4-track mag
  • NEW audio commentary with actor David Frankham
  • NEW Richard Matheson: Storyteller: Extended Cut (72 minutes)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Posters, Lobby Cards and Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery
  • Photo Gallery of images from David Frankham’s personal collection

DISC 2:
TOWER OF LONDON Special Features:

  • NEW High Definition Master from a fine grain film print
  • NEW interview with director Roger Corman
  • Producing Tower of London – an interview with producer Gene Corman
  • Two episodes of Science Fiction Theatre: One Thousand Eyes and Operation Flypaper (1956) both starring Vincent Price (in Standard Definition – 52 minutes)
  • Posters, Lobby Cards and Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery

DISC 3:
DIARY OF A MADMAN/AN EVENING OF EDGAR ALLAN POE Special Features:

  • NEW High Definition Master from the inter-positive film element (Diary of A Madman)
  • NEW master created from the original 2” tape masters (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe)
  • NEW Audio Commentary with film historian and author Steve Haberman (on both features)
  • NEW Interview with writer/producer/director Kenneth Johnson (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe)
  • Theatrical Trailer (Diary of A Madman)
  • Poster and Lobby Card Gallery (Diary of A Madman)
  • Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery (An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe)

DISC 4:
CRY OF THE BANSHEE Special Features:

  • NEW High Definition Master of the director’s cut from the inter-positive
  • NEW High Definition Master of the American International Theatrical Cut from the only surviving element in MGM’s Vault, a Color Reversal Intermediate
  • NEW Audio Commentary by film historian Steve Haberman (Director’s Cut)
  • A Devilish Tale of Poe – an interview with director Gordon Hessler
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spot
  • Radio Spot
  • Posters, Lobby Cards and Behind-the-Scenes Photo Gallery

  • Master of the World
  • Tower of London
  • Diary of a Madman
  • An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe
  • Cry of the Banshee
  • Special Features
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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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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 Popcornand 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!

  • Trick or Treat (1986) 3.5
3.5

Summary

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.

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AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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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.

Spoiler free.

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.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

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.

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User Rating 4.13 (23 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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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.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • 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.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

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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User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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