Reviewed by MattFini
Starring Guy Stockwell, Blanca Guerra, Axel Jodorowsky
Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Distributed by Severin Films
Alejandro Jodorowsky doesn’t make films for the layman, even if Santa Sangre happens to feature a sounder narrative structure than any other film in the director’s career. It’s been described as the world’s only arthouse slasher movie, and while it does feature scenes where our mentally unbalanced protagonist butchers any woman that happens to tickle his fancy, the pull of the film is something far more significant.
One of the most amazing things about holding Severin’s spectacular release in my hands is remembering the bizarre road I traveled to see this sucker for the first time. None of my local video stores were stocking this one when it hit VHS back in 1990 so it wasn’t until the early Internet age when I was able to track down a bootleg copy and indulge in the truly bizarre depths that Jodorowsky explores. There was a beautiful DVD release overseas a few years back (courtesy of Anchor Bay U.K.), but Severin’s fully loaded package brings this classic Stateside for the first time in twenty years.
First and foremost, Jodorowsky’s color palette is kaleidoscopic in such a way that virtually every frame is an assault on the senses. In the DVD edition colors pop with such veracity it places the viewer alongside the film’s wicked amalgamation of society’s “haves” and “have nots”. Upscaling this sucker to near 1080p resolution, I was also struck by how much detail was contained in the image. Backgrounds offer fairly rich textures, and even facial features reveal a breadth of detail. This is a gorgeous presentation of Santa Sangre, and if you haven’t taken the Blu-ray dive yet, rest assured, this is a technically sound DVD in every regard.
As for the image quality of the Blu-ray, something has gone a bit awry. Don’t get me wrong; it definitely looks great at the very least, but the image is at times dull with a sort of haze over it. As if the black levels and the contrast were raised just a bit too high. Still, it’s nothing too distracting, and the print of the film is so clean you probably won’t even notice.
The sound wasn’t pumped up in one of those overly verbose 5.1 mixes. When you’re dealing with genre filmmaking, such tracks aren’t always warranted and that’s the case here. The 2.0 mix seems to be a fair representation of original elements: dialogue is clean and always at the forefront while music/sound packs a punch without ever overpowering. For Spanish-audio, you’re stuck with a mono track that doesn’t appear to be any less clear than its English counterpart (although I only sampled it). The technical aspects of this release are exemplary and, in what appears to be the waning days of standard definition media, serve as a welcome reminder that DVD can walk the walk when properly utilized.
Santa Sangre’s technical prowess aside, we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what makes this release so special. Wading through nearly six hours of bonus features, I was unable to find a lame duck in the bunch. In fact, aspects of this supplementary material only helped in enriching my appreciation of a film that I’d already grown quite fond of in the last fourteen or so years.
We can begin with an audio commentary by Jodorowsky and Alan Jones. It’s a thoughtful discussion that covers the duration of the film in a more definitive light than I would’ve liked. Not because it isn’t an excellent discussion, but because it’s a bit of a shame to hear Jodorowksy offer up answers to some of the film’s more ambiguous aspects. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad David Lynch will never spill the beans on the secrets of Mulholland Drive (or anything else, for that matter). There’s still a lot of mystique behind this particular film, but after this commentary there’s a little bit less. It’d still give it a recommended listen for anyone looking to glean a bit more from the proceedings, but do so with caution.
Next up is the all-new documentary Forget Everything You Have Ever Seen: The World of Santa Sangre. A 96-minute, seven-part look at the creation of this horror epic, it spans everything from the genesis of the film all the way through its creation before concluding with a satisfying look back. Throughout this piece virtually no stone is unturned, and the sheer amount of participants is simply staggering. A vast majority of the cast is on hand, along with Jodorowsky, composer Simon Boswell and even the film’s publicist(!). This is the type of documentary that should be commonplace on any milestone release, and I’d love to see more studios take note of the beautiful work that Severin did in putting this one together. It’s paced well and works as a perfect companion piece to the film – so much so that I can’t imagine not wanting to watch this as soon as the film is over.
Beyond that we have For One Week Only – Alejando Jodorowsky. It’s an archival documentary produced for British television running just north of thirty minutes and features interviews with the director, Dennis Hopper and New York critic Jim Hoberman. It’s a lot of fun to see some of the opinions of Jodorowsky that are thrown around here – even if this focuses too much on Santa Sangre and serves as a bit of a redundancy coming off the excellent 90+-minute documentary.
Much more to my linking was Goyo Cardenas – Spree Killer, a twenty-minute look at the real life inspiration behind the film. It’s one feature I would’ve enjoyed even more had it run longer. The facts behind the case are pretty chilling, and the still photographs displayed throughout will definitely stay with you. It was a good call on Severin’s part to include something like this as it complements sections of the feature-length documentary quite nicely.
Next up is a delightful Q & A with Jodorowksy from a London revival screening of the film in 2002. Considering the level of artistry in his films, it’s surprising to see such a good-natured man behind the scenes. This looked like a fun time, and it’s nice to see it included here. It segues nicely into a thirty-minute interview from 2003. Here the director recants a lot of information we’re already privy to (if you’ve been wading your way through these extras in the order I did) while talking about frustrations of working in Hollywood (something I can never tire of). Sadly, I wanted to hear (in great detail) every word about his ‘could’ve been’ adaptation of Dune in the 1970s. One day …
Winding down, we’ve got a handful of featurettes left. Jodorowsky is interviewed by composer Simon Boswell, and their chemistry is a lot of fun. A handful of deleted scenes can be viewed with optional Jodorowsky and Alan Jones commentary. “Echeck” is a short film from the director’s son. It runs less than four minutes and is one of two things on this disc I could’ve done without (pretentious nonsense), the second being a two-minute clip of Jodorowsky blinking his eyes over Simon Boswell’s music. Yep. There’s also a music video called
“Close Your Eyes”, which is a Santa Sangre clip set to Boswell’s score. Rounding out this collection are some film trailers and, finally, a group of Severin trailers.
We’re early in 2011, sure, but Severin’s two-disc set is going to be in the top five at the end of the year. No question. They’ve gone the extra mile in presenting one of the best genre films of the 1990s. It’s true that the film isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but Jodorowsky’s psychological horror story isn’t easily forgotten. Even if you’re a disbeliever. With superb A/V presentations and a trove of supplements, it’s a release that belongs in every cult aficionado’s film collection.
4 1/2 out of 5
5 out of 5
Discuss Santa Sangre in our comments section below!
The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!
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.”
Ultimately chilling in nature!
DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!
Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon
Directed by Adrian Corona
I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.
Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.
Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.
Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.
If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.
Director Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended!
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review – A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form
Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes
Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace
“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.
That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.
Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?
At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play
second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?
These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.
Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?
It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.
If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.
Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End brings closure to hungry fans in all the ways they’d hope – albeit turned down a notch through animation. Over-the-top kills and headbanging metal riffs still reign supreme, they’re just drawn by hand instead of oozing practical effects this time.
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