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Hills Have Eyes, The (Blu-ray)



Hills Have EyesStarring Martin Speer, Dee Wallace, Michael Berryman, Robert Houston

Directed by Wes Craven

Distributed by Arrow Video

Wes Craven’s early films were designed to produce a primal response from audiences. As a writer and director, he had a knack for tapping into central, universal fears and exploiting them for maximum effect. His first two pictures dealt exclusively in the most vicariously satisfying subgenre of them all: revenge. Both of those films were also based on olden tales. In the case of The Last House on the Left (1972), the progenitors were Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960) and the 13th-century Swedish ballad upon which that film is based, “Töres Döttrar i Wänge”. For his follow-up film, The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Craven looked to another tale – this one of questionable veracity – the legend of Sawney Bean. As Scottish folklore tells, Bean and his 40-plus-person clan were cannibalistic savages who engaged in criminal acts and incest on a regular basis back in the 13th-or-so century. Whether or not the story is true… who can say? But the depravity displayed by Bean and his brood in these stories was carried over nearly wholecloth to Craven’s film, wherein an inbred band of brutes prey upon a very typical nuclear family in the barren desert of California, forcing the good-natured people to turn primitive and attack with extreme prejudice.

Out in the scorching desert of California, reclusive hermit Fred (John Steadman) works at his gas station and minds his business, which is mostly drinking and cursing. There’s a local population of inbred folks who live up in the hills, one that may have a strong connection to the old timer, and on occasion they rely on Fred to supply them with wares. One young member of the group, Ruby (Janus Blythe), wants out but Fred warns her that Papa Jupiter (James Whitworth), the fearsome leader of her family, won’t be hearing any of that. On a particularly blazing afternoon the Carter family – Big Bob (Russ Grieve), his wife, Ethel (Virginia Vincent), and their children – roll up to the station for some gas. The family is on their way to California from Ohio and they’re looking to take the scenic route – aka the back roads – something Fred strongly advises against. But Big Bob is stubborn and he takes the road less traveled regardless… and promptly drives the family station wagon into a rut after some low-flying jets give him a big fright. Seriously, this guy was a cop?

Stranded and miles from any help, Big Bob and his brood decide the best course of action is to set out for help. Big Bob heads out in one direction, while Doug (Martin Speer), his daughter’s husband, goes off in another. Bobby (Robert Houston) stays behind to mind the women, but when one of their two German Shepherd’s, Beauty, runs off Bobby gives chase and leaves the girls. He eventually finds Beauty, dead, before tripping on a rock and knocking himself out. The family might think they’re far from anyone but the reality is they have driven right into the waiting arms of Papa Jupiter and his cretin clan, which includes his bloodthirsty sons Mars (Lance Gordon), Pluto (Michael Berryman), and Mercury (Arthur King). The ravenous marauders are out for more than just looting and terrorizing, though; they’ve been starving up in those hills, and Big Bob and co. look like an easy meal. The one thing Jupiter and his kids weren’t counting on is how hard the family will fight back.

The latter half of The Hills Have Eyes succeeds in offering up some unflinching brutality (though many scenes were trimmed, with that footage lost to time) but its greatest strength is during the first half when tension and a foreboding sense of dread permeate the atmosphere. Craven lets it be known there is something in those cavernous hills, but he only offers up bits and pieces of the hillfolk. Viewers remain in the dark as to what these pseudo-mutants look like or just how many of them there are, right until the moment when they enact a deadly plan to take out the men and brutalize the women. It’s a cold, calculated attack that would seem to be above the skill level of such brutes until you realize their aptitude is likely the result of having done this many, many times. This isn’t a case of a villain reveal removing that sense of fright, either, because these guys are tougher than they look… and they look like they have seen some shit. The make-up effects and costume design are incredibly effective, allowing these radiated freaks to seem legitimately deadly.

Our regular folk, on the other hand, tend to act irrationally and without much thought, especially someone like Big Bob who is presented as the most collected and capable leader of the lot. Like most horror films of that era, once night falls so do IQs and there are many moments when you’ll be left wondering why in the hell a person would make such choices. But that’s de rigueur for horror, so in some ways it has to be expected. The plot needs to get the characters into certain situations and sometimes the means aren’t ideal, but at least in this case the payoff makes a few stupid moves worth it. The inanity isn’t limited to the Carter family because ol’ Fred pulls a few boners, this despite the clear fact he has lived alongside these mountain men for the better part of a few decades. But then, he is a stumbling drunk, so…

Similar to Last House…, Craven shot this film with a grainy stock that imbues a certain harshness and realism that more polished 35mm film might not have achieved so easily. While part of me wants to say the 2006 remake is equal, if not superior, to the original it is the unvarnished sense of reality that gives Craven’s original picture the edge. Not to take anything away from Aja’s remake, which is a great example of redoing a film right, but there’s a certain slickness to that production that makes it feel… safer? The 1977 version feels more dangerous, thanks to the austere but grim production design, grindhouse aesthetic and Don Peake’s atypical score done using unique instrumentation.

Arrow Video’s latest Blu-ray release includes two versions of the film: the theatrical cut and a version that has an alternate ending, which is really an extended ending. The theatrical version ends abruptly on a heavy note, whereas the alternate ending offers up a glimmer of positivity.

Image previously issued Hills on Blu-ray, featuring a transfer that was rightly blasted for being a weak upconvert. Arrow Video has taken the additional step of commissioning a new 4K restoration from the original film elements, supervised by producer Peter Locke. Don’t allow that verbiage to fool you, though; this is still a rough looking film, but what Arrow has done is still a massive improvement over any prior release. There is only so much that can be done with 16mm, but what this restoration succeeds in doing is bringing out every bit of detail and punching up colors as much as possible. Don’t expect a pristine image, as film grain is still very present and very thick, which I find to be the only way a film like this should look. Anything too pristine would strip away character. Definition can and does vary wildly, with some scenes looking far sharper than others.

On the audio front, Arrow sticks with their purist ethos by providing one option: an English LPCM 1.0 mono track. There aren’t any bells & whistles to this one, but dialogue is incredibly present & clear and there are a few moments of punctuality that offer up a sonic quality that makes the track sound larger than it is. Don Peake’s score is reproduced with strong fidelity. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

With Wes Craven gone, and existing bonus features with him available, Arrow has done the smart thing by including a few new pieces alongside the already great extras Anchor Bay produced for their own DVD edition years ago.

There are three audio commentary tracks – first, with the cast; second, with Wes Craven & peter Locke; third, with Mikel J. Koven. If you’re going to choose one, go with Wes’ because his tracks are always an educated joy.

“Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes” is a carryover documentary from Anchor Bay, with interviews from nearly all of the cast & crew. It’s the definitive look at the film’s production history.

“Family Business” is a new interview with Martin Speer, covering the usual topics alongside some standard recollections.

“The Desert Sessions” is an interview with composer Don Peake, discussing the methods he used for creating the organic, minimal soundscape.

The film’s alternate ending is also included here as a standalone feature.

A nearly twenty-minute reel of outtakes can also be found.

A handful of trailers & TV spots, as well as an image gallery, complete the bonus features.

Additionally, the set comes in a sturdy chipboard case along with six postcards, a double-sided poster, and a booklet on the film featuring essays and archival stills. The cover artwork is also reversible.

Special Features:

  • Brand new 4K restoration from original film elements, supervised by producer Peter Locke
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • 6 x postcards
  • Reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork
  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills
  • Audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke
  • Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes making-of documentary featuring interviews with Craven, Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen
  • The Desert Sessions brand new interview with composer Don Peake
  • Alternate ending, in HD for the first time
  • Trailers and TV Spots
  • Image Gallery
  • Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper


  • The Hills Have Eyes
  • Special Features
User Rating 2.57 (7 votes)
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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 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


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.

User Rating 3.59 (22 votes)
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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


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)


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.

User Rating 4.13 (23 votes)
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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.
  • The Axiom


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.

User Rating 3.95 (20 votes)
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