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Otherworld, The (Blu-ray/DVD)

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Starring Richard Stanley, Scarlett Amaris

Directed by Richard Stanley

Distributed by Severin Films


It is helpful if you are the sort of person who errs on the side of faith before embarking upon the long, strange trip that is director Richard Stanley’s The Otherworld (2013). The more likely you are to believe in such things as apparitions, visions, visits from alternate dimensions, and the enigmatic power of arcane mysteria, the more likely it is you may buy into much of what Stanley, and a collection of mystics and historians, is selling. However, the more skeptical viewers in the audience – ahem – are likely going to explain away every tale as the result of either science or drugs… possibly both.

Stanley’s personal stories bookend this feature, and they are the most interesting part of this head-tripping metaphysical movie that stretches the boundaries of time, space, and possibilities, while the bulk of the run time is devoted to spiritual science and wild suggestion.

The feature opens with Stanley, moodily lit and mysterious as ever, recounting a story he “expects few to believe” wherein he experienced the appearance of an unexplainable entity during a visit to southern France with his lady friend, Scarlett Amaris. The veracity of Stanley’s story is less important than his retelling of it, which is done in an ominous cadence with an abstract reenactment showing viewers an approximation of what the famously eccentric director experienced. After this intriguing little nugget, the film delves deeply into the geography of the area in France, known as Montsegur, and the telluric and cosmic energies that are purported to frequent the area. According to some of the locals, this is one of the few areas in the world where “magic still has currency” and so superstitions and ritual are adhered to more closely.

The real star of the show here is a shaman-type who uses spare Barbie doll parts and bootleg DVDs of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell (1980) as lawn ornaments, while dressing in an old Cradle of Filth t-shirt and painting his face like one of the background extras in Braveheart (1995). This is a man who exists on a different plane, living his life as though he were trapped in a game of Dungeons & Dragons, battling against the forces of evil on a constant basis. There are moments early on where you might be tempted to take this guy seriously because he speaks and acts with such reverence for his beliefs that they take on a sense of weight and plausibility. But then he’ll discuss the trinkets in his yard as being useful for warding off certain spirits, or he’ll discuss the time he successfully closed a portal to Hell by smashing a mirror in a hotel lobby, and it’ll be a quick reminder that Ol’ Chief Puddinhead is a few eggs short a full dozen. I mean, the man does say he was a patient at a mental hospital for a few years. But I’ll be damned if he isn’t entertaining.

Stanley doesn’t want viewers to think everyone in the area has been indoctrinated to the local beliefs, and so a few skeptics pop up to offer up their own thoughts on the usefulness these “powerful spirits”. Hint: not very. Even still, there are enough stories of unexplained occurrences and bizarre phenomena that even the most skeptical of viewers will hear the faint cry of a “maybe” in the backs of their minds. Is any of this likely? Oh, god no, but seeing people tell their stories of encounters they just can’t understand or deny feels powerful, even if it is entirely bullshit. Conviction is a powerful tool.

The picture ends with Stanley regaling the audience with one last trippy tale, this one leaving a much more profound impact on him than his first experience. Unlike the other interview subjects seen here Stanley has this spooky, magnetic quality to him when telling a tale; the gravity of his encounters seem to be both terrifying and beautiful in a way that his words can’t properly express, so he only does the best he can. I have to say, even as someone who has never had an otherworldly encounter, and doesn’t believe in anything of the sort, Stanley is the most convincing voice in his documentary. Just as with the brilliant Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau (2014), the man himself seems infinitely more intriguing than the films of which he is a part and I am convinced a camera crew could mine gold simply from his daily routine. The Otherworld ventures into the head-scratching netherrealm of another out-there doc, Room 237 (2012), but Stanley’s film avoids the extreme strain of credibility that befell the Kubrick analysis because unexplainable environments still hold some degree of power and fascination, like the Bermuda Triangle. Film is powerful, sure, but nothing comes close to the wonders of the world which we are still discovering every day.

The 2.35:1 1080p image tends to be variable, as the shooting location dictates the level of quality. Stanley shoots himself and other subjects with low lighting or firelight, leaving the picture dark and suggestive. Much of the film, though, is shot in broad daylight and this allows for the emergence of fine details, bold color reproduction, and overall clarity to be maximized. There are many sequences where Stanley employs superimposed images, lighting effects, and, well, trippy psychedelic imagery to drive the picture and these scenes are likely presented just as the director intended. Many shots of the French mountainside and valleys are done so with sweeping, grand pans and they look absolutely gorgeous. At times this almost plays like a nature documentary.

An English DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo or 5.1 surround sound track is provided, although the dialogue tends to be in French more often than not. The score is mostly minimal and soothing, like something you would hear at a day spa. The sound quality between interviews is consistent and clear, with every bit of dialogue understandable. There are moments when the sound design gets a little Lynchian, adding in droning tones or dissonant cues. During the final tale at the climax the music becomes a bit more bold and tense. Subtitles are available in English and French.

“Deleted Scene #1” – Focusing on a place called the “Angel Sanctuary”.

“Deleted Scene #2” – This is another brief story from Scarlett Amaris.

“The Other Side of the Moon” – This is a making-of piece that is mainly a fly-on-the-wall look at Stanley putting together his feature.

A trailer is also included.

BONUS DVD:

Voice of the Moon – Filmed in 1990, this is a doc Stanley made showcasing various points in the history of Afghanistan. This feels incredibly relevant now, maybe more than when it was made. Available with optional introduction and commentary by Stanley.

The White Darkness – Stanley heads to Haiti for this 2002 look at the voodoo culture that is still prevalent in the ravaged country. Available with optional introduction and commentary by Stanley.

The Secret Glory – In 2001, Stanley made this piece focused on the famed occult experimentations carried out by the Nazis, including a search for the Holy Grail. Available with optional introduction and commentary by Stanley.

Special Features:

  • The Making of The Otherworld – Featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • Limited 2500 Bonus DVD Includes Voice of the Moon, The White Darkness, and The Secret Glory with new Richard Stanley Intros and Commentary
  • Original Trailer

BUY IT NOW!

  • Film
  • Special Features
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Suspiria U.K. Blu-ray Review – Argento’s Masterpiece In Stunning 4K Clarity

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Starring Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Udo Kier

Directed by Dario Argento

Distributed by CultFilms


Although the 40th anniversary of Dario Argento’s seminal giallo masterpiece Suspiria passed only last year, plans for that milestone had been underway for years. Unbeknownst to all but the most diehard fans, restorative work was ongoing for a long while, most notably under the masterful eye of Synapse’s Don May, Jr., leading up to a grand unveiling of the all-new 4K picture that had been perfected and tweaked endlessly. That version of the film toured across the country at select events, giving fans an opportunity to watch Argento’s colorful classic with a picture more vibrant and full of pop than ever before. Even the original English 4.0 audio track from 1977 was restored to its former glory. Between all of the loving care Suspiria received, as well as the wealth of Argento reissues on Blu-ray, this is a good time to be a fan of his early works.

There are, however, actually two 4K restorations that were done for Suspiria; one, by Don May Jr., while the other was performed by TLEFilms FRPS in Germany. This is the same master used for home video release in Europe and Australia. Fans have viewed and picked apart both transfers, though you would have to be one of the ultra-purists to enter that debate and engage anyone willing to discredit either image. The job done by Synapse is extraordinary and the same can also be said for the work done by TLEFilms. This release by CultFilms features the TLEFilms restoration, making it either an attractive alternative to Synapse’s (currently OOP) steelbook release or a nice supplement for fans who wish to own both 4K versions.

Suspiria has been viewed and reviewed and discussed an endless amount of times and there are no undiscussed criticisms or introspective viewpoints I am likely to offer that haven’t been made before. Argento has long been an example of style over substance and Suspiria is his most emblematic work in that regard. American Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) arrives in Germany at a prestigious all-girls dance academy late one rainy night. Girls have mysteriously vanished from the compound in recent days, with more to follow. Suzy is coldly greeted and frequently uncomfortable during her stay. Eventually she uncovers a plot involving witchcraft and murder. The story is less thrilling than the ride, which is a kaleidoscope of horror. Argento uses every trick in his bag, from inventive camera movement to ingenious framing, and the use of colored filters to evoke a mood so many have attempted to replicate.

The real interest many will have with this review is in regard to the picture quality. As I said before, the 2.35:1 1080p image provided by TFEFilms’ exhaustive restoration work is nothing short of astounding. This looks like a film that might have been made last year, never mind over four decades ago. The image is razor sharp, exceedingly clear and completely free of blemishes, dirt, debris, scratches, fluctuations, and jitter. The picture could not appear more stable, with the contrast rock solid and coloration a thing of beauty. Primaries leap off the screen with vibrancy even longtime fans will admit is a shocking surprise. Watching this picture in action is a true treat. Detailing is exquisite, revealing every little nuance in Argento’s framing. Simply put, this is a flawless image that ranks among the upper echelon of reference-quality Blu-ray transfers.

Similarly, the audio is no slouch with options available in both English and Italian, each receiving both a DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround sound track and an LPCM 2.0 option. The multi-channel track is the clear winner here, proving a deep, immersive audible experience that completely envelops the viewer in both Argento’s world and Goblin’s phenomenal score. Seriously, the soundtrack for Suspiria has never been as unsettling and overpowering as it is here, filling every corner of your home theater room with a palpable sense of dread. Subtitles are, of course, available in English.

Please note: this release is locked to Region B, meaning you must have a compatible player to watch the disc.

This release also features different bonus material from the Synapse release, with an emphasis here placed on the restoration process. Completists may want to add this disc to their collection because it not only offers up a different-but-equal a/v presentation but also a new collection of bonus features.

An audio commentary is included, provided by film critics/authors Alan Jones and Kim Newman.

“The Restoration Process” is a nearly one-hour piece that examines every step along the way in bringing Suspiria back to such stunning life. Technical talk abounds here; definitely for fans who want a glimpse into the nerdier side of making movies look pretty again.

“Argento Presents His Suspiria” is a new interview with the director, who surprisingly doesn’t seem sick to death of talking about this film yet.

“Fear at 400 Degrees: The Cine-Excess of Suspiria” offers up critical appraisal of the film’s visual style, featuring interviews with critics, theorists, and others involved in making the film.

“Suspiria Perspectives” offers up more in-depth discussion of the film, covering both this feature and similar Italian pictures made during that era.

A DVD copy of the feature is also included. The two-disc set sits within a slick, shiny embossed slipcover with the film’s logo in metallic silver. It’s kinda sexy.

Special Features:

  • The Restoration Process
  • Argento Presents His Suspiria
  • Fear at 400 Degrees: The Cine-Excess of Suspiria
  • Suspiria Perspectives
  • Audio Commentary
  • Suspiria
  • Special Features
3.5

Summary

Looking better than ever before, Cult Films’ release of this giallo classic is welcomed as both a more affordable (current) alternative to the U.S. release and as a complement to it, since this edition has a slight variation in picture quality and a selection of different and insightful bonus features.

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Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review – Killer Special Features Make This a Must-Own

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Starring Parry Shen, Kane Hodder, Laura Ortiz, Dave Sheridan, Felissa Rose, and Tiffany Shepis

Directed by Adam Green

Distributed by Dark Sky Films


Like many of you horror fans out there, I was surprised as hell when Adam Green announced that there was not only going to be the fourth entry in his famed Hatchet series but that the movie had already been filmed and was going to be screening across the country.

Of course, I wanted to get to one of those screenings as soon as possible, but unfortunately, there were no events in my neck of the woods here in Gainesville, Fl., and so I had to bide my time and await the Blu-ray.

Then a few days ago, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley landed on my doorstep and I jumped right into watching the film. Short story, I loved it. But we’ll get into all of that more in-depth below. For now, let’s do a quick rundown on the film for those two or three horror fans out there who aren’t familiar with the film and its premise.

Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, a franchise that follows the tale of a deformed man that accidentally met the wrong end of his father’s hatchet long ago and now roams the Louisiana swamp each night as a “Repeater”, aka a ghost that doesn’t know it is dead and thus cannot be killed. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. After all, Victor was supposedly killed at the end of Hatchet III by a combination of Danielle Harris, his father’s ashes, and a grenade launcher. Dead to rights, right? Not so much.

In this fourth entry/reboot, a group of indie horror filmmakers, lead by the adorable Katie Booth, accidentally resurrect Crowley just as the original trilogy’s lone survivor (Parry Shen) is visiting the swamp one final time in the name of cold hard cash. Long story short, Shen’s plane crashes with his agent (Felissa Rose), his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown), and her film crew in tow. Some survive the initial crash, some don’t. As you can imagine, the lucky ones died first.

Victor Crowley is a true return to form for Adam Green, who sat out of the director’s chair on the third film. As always, Green doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top comedy and gore the franchise is well known for. The blood rages and the sight-gags hit fast and unexpectedly. And, speaking of the sight-gags, there’s evidently a shot in this Blu-ray version of the film that was cut from the “Unrated” version released on VOD. The shot is one I won’t spoil here, but for the sake of viewing Green’s initial vision alone, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley is really the only way to own this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are (many) more reasons to shell out the cash for this Blu-ray, but I’ll get into those soon.

Back to the film itself, what makes this fourth entry in the series one of the very best Hatchet films (if not THE best) is Adam Green’s honesty. Not only does he conquer a few demons with the ex-wife subplot, but he gives us a truly tragic moment via Tiffany Shepis’ character that had me in stunned silence. Her death is not an easy kill to pull off in a notoriously over-the-top slasher series, but it earned mucho respect from this guy.

Basically, if you loved the original trilogy, you will love this one as well. If you mildly enjoyed the other films, this one will surely make you a fan. Slow clap, Adam Green.

Special Features:

Let it be known that I’m a massive fan of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking documentaries. Like many of you out there, I find film production to be utterly fascinating and thus have grown a little tired of the typical making-of featurettes we get on Blu-rays. You know the ones. The director talks about his vision for the film, the cast say how much fun they had on-set with the other actors and crew, and we get cutaways to people dancing and trying to kiss the behind-the-scenes camera – all usually set to upbeat music.

While I’ll take what I can get, these kinds of behind-the-scenes features have grown to be little more than tiresome and superficial. But no worries here my friends as Adam Green has pulled out all the BS and given us a full-length, 90-minute behind-the-scenes feature called “Fly on the Wall” that shows it how it really is on the set.

Highlights include new Hatchet D.P. Jan-Michael Losada, who took over for Will Barratt this time around, who is little less than a f*cking hilarious rockstar, a front row seat to the making of Felissa Rose’s death scene, a creepy-cool train ghost story prank by Green, a clever impromptu song via Krystal Joy Brown (Sabrina), and a fun bit towards the end where Green and the SFX crew create the “gore inserts” in (basically) the backyard after filming. Good times all around.

The documentary then ends with the Facebook Live video of Adam Green announcing Victor Crowley‘s surprise premiere at that Hatchet 10th Anniversary screening. A great way to end a killer making-of documentary making his disc a must-own for this special feature alone.

But wait, it gets better. On top of the film itself and the above-mentioned “Fly on the Wall” documentary, the disc features an extensive interview with Adam Green called “Raising the Dead… Again.” This interview is basically Green going over the same speech he gave to the crowd at the surprise unveiling shown at the end of the “Fly on the Wall” doc, but that said, it’s great to hear Green tells his inspiring story to us directly.

So while this feature treads water all of us have been through below (especially fans of Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt), Green is always so charming and brutally honest that we never get tired of him telling us the truth about the ins-and-outs of crafting horror films in this day and age. Again, good stuff.

Additionally, the disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan, and another “technical” commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft.

Add in the film’s teaser and trailer, and Victor Crowley is a must-own on Blu-ray.

BUY IT HERE!

Special features:

  • Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan
  • Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft
  • Raising the Dead… Again – Extensive interview with writer/director Adam Green
  • Behind the Scenes – Hour-long making-of featurette
  • Trailer
  • Victor Crowley
  • Special Features
3.5

Summary

One of the best, if not THE best, entries in the Hatchet series, with special features that are in-depth and a blast (and considering all other versions of the film have been castrated for content), this Blu-ray is really the only way to own Adam Green’s Victor Crowley.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual

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Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.

Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!

Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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