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Slaughter High (UK DVD)

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Slaughter HighStarring Caroline Munro, Billy Hartman, Simon Scuddamore

Directed by George Dugdale, Mark Ezra, Peter Litten,

Distributed by Arrow Video


If there’s one particular legacy that the 1980’s holds within the horror genre, it’s the slasher film. With the success of Friday the 13th kick-starting an infernal machine of quick and nasty body count flicks – some looking to shock and impress, others to make a rapid cynical buck – audiences of the decade were inundated with endless casts of young people just waiting to end up at the business end of their stalkers’ weapons of choice. Many were great, others were just plain crap, and a few managed to straddle the in-between with enough craziness to become genuine curios. Slaughter High is one of those films.

Originally entitled April Fool’s Day before having that moniker stolen from it by another production in the same year, Slaughter High opens on the aforementioned day with a bunch of jocks and their wenches playing a cruel practical joke on the high school nerd, Marty Rantzen (Scuddamore). Believing he’s about to engage in steamy coitus in the shower rooms with the gorgeous Carol (Munro), he quickly finds himself at the receiving end of some particularly nasty bullying. Not only is he filmed naked in the shower, prodded with a javelin, given a swirly, electrocuted when reaching for a towel, and made violently sick by some fake weed he’s given but they also see fit to fuck with a science experiment he takes off to complete.

Well, of course, fucking with science experiments never goes well and poor Marty ends up with his head covered in acid and trapped in a burning room, while his tormentors stare on with expressions like they’re watching their parents engage in scatological sex play. Fast-forward 10 years to the day, and those involved receive invitations for a high school reunion. After they arrive, it quickly becomes apparent that they are the only invitees, and their host is one hideously scarred, pissed off Marty hell bent on bloody vengeance.

A basic body count flick if ever there was one, Slaughter High’s Marty-fodder are an entirely unlikable bunch of complete and utter assholes, and making it through the first half of the film will likely be a chore for many. Before the killing starts, performances (apart from the impressively genuine Scuddamore) generally range from just passable to utterly unbridled with an explosion of horribly cheesy dialogue and theatrical shaking-head screams. It’s hard to hate it, though, as it all so distinctively ‘80s – think back to Fright Night, and how almost quintessential of the decade Stephen Geoffreys’ delivery of the “You’re so COOL, Brewster, I can’t stand it!” line is. Well, they pretty much all speak like that here. Constantly. All of this comes together in such a way that you can’t help but wonder if you’re actually watching an outright parody of the genre rather than a more subtly tongue-in-cheek approach.

Once the deaths begin and Marty shows up sporting a pretty creepy jester mask, Slaughter High begins to get a lot more interesting, and a lot more mean-spirited. Exploding intestines, hanging, some electrifying sex and even a gruesome acid bath are just some of the ways these bullies are offed, and as the finale approaches we’re even treated to a couple of effective shocks and tense stalk sequences. Ultimately, everything culminates in a totally nutso psychedelic blood-spewing zombie nightmare sequence complete with massive hair, and lighting and costuming straight out of a Billy Idol music video. The embedded schizophrenia throughout means it isn’t particularly hard to tell that multiple directors had the reigns here; yet despite the ups and downs, horrible dialogue and ropey acting, the out-there spirit and mix of playful and mean natures in Slaughter High help it remain endearing. It could never be accused of ranking among the most solid entries of the decade, but it’s definitely one that fans of the slasher-factory ‘80s will have some fun with.

Arrow Video’s DVD presentation of Slaughter High comes with a fully uncut transfer (with the title 1 April Fool’s Day), and the staggering amount of special features that you see below. Two different audio commentaries offer very different takes on the film with the first featuring co-director Mark Ezra filling in a huge amount of info from the filmmaker’s perspective, and the second being a more energetic and fun approach with star Caroline Munro, journalist/critic Calum Waddell and DVD World editor Allan Bryce. Mark Ezra also appears in a circa 11-minute interview with more information on the film’s inception and early production. Fans of scream queen Munro will lap up the next piece, as she discusses her career across the genre from Slaughter High to Maniac to working with Jess Franco, and more. A trailer rounds off the on-disc extras.

You’ll also notice plenty of physical extras from Arrow on this edition in the list below, however they were not included with the review copy. Still, it’s another huge amount of effort to create extra materials for a film that could easily be argued as undeserving of such treatment. Kudos to them for that with an easy 4 knives gained.

Special Features

  • Introduction by co-writer/co-director Mark Ezra
  • Commentary with co-writer/co-director Mark Ezra moderated by Teenage Wasteland author J.A. Kerswell
  • Commentary with star Caroline Munro, DVD World Editor Allan Bryce and critic Calum Waddell
  • Jesters and Jolts – Mark Ezra remembers Slaughter High
  • Lamb to the Slaughter – The Scream Queen Career of Caroline Munro
  • Trailer
  • Collectors’ booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by author Troy Howarth, an interview with Harry Manfredini by Calum Waddell and an interview with star Josephine Scandi by Justin Kerswell
  • Reversible sleeve with choice of original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
  • Double-sided foldout artwork poster

    Film

    3 out of 5

    Special Features

    4 out of 5

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    Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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    Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

    Directed by David Moscow


    It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

    Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

    Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

    While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

    • Film
    3.0

    Summary

    Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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    Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan

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    Wolf Guy UK SleeveStarring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida

    Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

    Distributed by Arrow Video


    As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.

    An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.

    Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.

    First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.

    Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.

    Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.

    The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.

    “Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.

    “Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.

    “Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.

    A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.

    Special Features:

    • Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
    • Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
    • Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
    • Theatrical trailer
    • Wolf Guy
    • Special Features
    2.8

    Summary

    While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.

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    Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?

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    Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring

    Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas


    While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.

    A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.

    When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.

    Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.

    Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.

    While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.

    • Inside (Remake)
    3.0

    Summary

    Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).

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    User Rating 1.75 (4 votes)
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