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Day of the Dead (UK Blu-ray)

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Day of the Dead UK Blu-ray ReviewReviewed by Gareth Jones

Starring Lori Cardille, Richard Liberty, Joe Pilato, Gary Klar, Terry Alexander, Anthony Dileo, Jr., Howard Sherman

Written and directed by George A. Romero

Distributed by Arrow Video


It isn’t often that I can’t think of words to describe how I feel about something. In those rare instances I’ll usually just throw in a bunch of expletives and hope for the best, but in the interest of decency I’m going to try extra hard to refrain from doing so lest the torrent that would ensue in this particular case scar the minds of any who may unwittingly come across this review.

George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead needs very little introduction to genre fans. The third entry in his ongoing saga is undoubtedly the most bleak and desolate of them all, pitting scientists against the military in an isolated research station. Surrounded by a world overrun with the walking dead, lead scientist Logan (Richard Liberty) is attempting to find a way to domesticate the flesh-eaters in the hope of developing coexistence; meanwhile the borderline psychotic Captain Rhodes (Joe Pilato, giving a legendary performance) is rapidly losing patience with the lack of results. In true Romero Dead fashion, human differences (and blatant stupidity) eventually give the ever-present zombies a chance to gain the upper hand.

And holy shit, do they ever! The final third of Day of the Dead contains some of the most amazing, and abundant, gore to ever grace the screen as zombies bite, tear, disembowel, decapitate, and just plain annihilate our villains. The prosthetic creations of Tom Savini and company stand as a pinnacle of their craft even today, and it’s absolutely no surprise that the film is still hailed as a splatter classic.

Day is also guilty of splitting fans right down the middle in terms of opinion, right from its initial box office failure. Gone is the humour with which Dawn was laced, replaced with an unyielding sense of foreboding and sheer mean spirit. Personally, I find it creeps just above Dawn to take the top spot in Romero’s canon – in fact it’s not only the best of the series, but one of the best zombie films ever made.

Being such a big fan of the film, Arrow’s Blu-ray release feels like a gift that was designed just for me. It’s astounding. The film looks and sounds fantastic (though the first few minutes contain a slight hissing on pronounced “s” sounds), the picture the best it’s ever been or realistically may ever be. A few small moments of murkiness betray the source material, but the gore scenes look positively wonderful (or do I dare say gore-geous? Wakka wakka…).

Day of the Dead UK Blu-ray Review

On the Blu-ray disc we have two brand new documentary features. The first, Joe of the Dead, is a brand-new 50-minute interview with Joe Pilato by Calum Waddell. The ever-likable Pilato does repeat some of the age-old anecdotes about the movie (such as the oft-retold unrefrigerated pig intestines during his climactic demise), but he also goes into a lot of detail regarding his career, festival experiences, fanbase, and a whole lot more. An excellent interview.

Alongside this we get Travelogue 09 Tour, a short video diary of sorts displaying excerpts from a promotional tour Pilato did with Ken Foree in 2009, travelling across Ireland and Scotland appearing at Q&As, film festivals, and signings. Foree is nowhere to be seen during the video segments of this featurette, but it’s a lot of fun watching Pilato interact with the fans, answer some ridiculous questions, and get accosted by a very strange and almost incoherent fan.

The final feature present on the Blu-ray is a world exclusive commentary track by effects team Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Everett Burrell, and Mike Deak. In a nutshell, this is a must-listen. The guys get on like a house on fire, even letting us know when they’re cracking open the next beer, keeping a steady stream of behind-the-scenes info and details of many of the gore gags flying at you. They’re also incredibly funny – I haven’t laughed out loud this much during a commentary in a long, long time.

The second disc supplied in the set is a DVD that is the exact same supplementary disc found in Anchor Bay’s Divimax edition of the film. If you’re a fan, you’ll likely already own this, but for those who don’t, it includes a 38-minute documentary called The Many Days of the Dead (shot before Romero made Land of the Dead) featuring contributions by Romero himself, Tom Savini, Greg Nicotero, producer David Ball, Joe Pilato, Lori Cardille, and Bub himself, Howard Sherman. It’s definitely worth a watch to hear them discuss experiences with the film and Romero’s original vision. After this, there’s the 20-minute Behind the Zombies Footage. This featurette gives us a look at some of the makeup effects and zombie stunts and a few moments speaking with a few of the extras playing zombies in the movie.

The last substantial extra on the disc is a 15-minute audio interview with the late Richard Liberty. It’s a good listen but unfortunately suffers from some volume issues and audio dropouts, appearing to have been recorded outdoors.

Finally, there’s a collection of Day TV spots; trailers for Night and Dawn; a written Romero bio/filmography; gallery of featured zombie production stills; another gallery of Day related promotional material such as lobby cards, posters, drinks coasters, and various cover art; and a cheesy 80s promotional video for the Wampum Mine location (ideal for storage services!).

Now, even though the above is an impressive number of features, it isn’t everything. Arrow has also included a ton of physical extras. You’ll find yourself with four different pieces of cover art to choose from, including a brand new design by artist Rick Melton; a double-sided fold-out poster including the awesome “wall of faces” cover design; a brand new booklet written by Calum Waddell entitled For Every Dawn There Is a Day, which features an essay on the film and brand new interviews with cast and crew; and, finally, an all-new comic book – Day of the Dead: Desertion – which fleshes out the story of Logan’s smartest zombie pupil, Bub. Unfortunately the press pack didn’t include these physical extras, but if the booklets in Arrow’s past releases and the preview of the comic we gave you here are anything to go by, the quality will be exceptionally high.

Arrow has excelled with this release. It can only be described as a labour of love – far and above anything fans could have seen coming. It’s like Christmas has come early in 2010, and the ultimate zombie movie has almost been given the ultimate treatment. I say almost because I’m going to be a bit of a prick and complain about the lack of a commentary by Romero himself (which was present on the Anchor Bay release from which the second disc is sourced). You see what happens when you spoil people?!?

Special Features

  • Four sleeve art options
  • Double-sided fold-out poster
  • For Every Dawn There Is a Day collector’s booklet
  • Day Of The Dead: Desertion – an all new exclusive 24-page comic
  • 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio and 1.0 Mono audio options
  • Disc One:

  • Theatrical feature
  • Audio commentary with Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger, Everett Burrell, and Mike Deak
  • Joe of the Dead
  • Travelogue 09 Tour
  • Disc Two:

  • The Many Days of the Dead
  • Behind the Zombies footage
  • Romero Zombography
  • Audio interview with Richard Liberty
  • TV spots and trailers
  • Stills galleries
  • Wampum Mine promo video
  • Film:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    4 1/2 out of 5

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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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    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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    The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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    Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

    Directed by Alan Lougher


    The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

    When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

    Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    Ultimately chilling in nature!

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    User Rating 3.5 (8 votes)
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