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Hellraiser: Hellworld (Blu-ray)

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Hellraiser: Hellworld (Blu-ray)Starring Doug Bradley, Lance Henriksen, Katheryn Winnick, Henry Cavill

Directed by Rick Bota

Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment


Anyone remotely familiar with Hellraiser as a franchise is acutely aware of its languishing prestige at the hands of the Brothers Weinstein. Sure, the creative team behind each film likely did whatever they could to make the best possible movie under the given circumstances, but when you’re working with scripts that were never intended as part of the Hellraiser mythos in the first place, it’s not terribly difficult to understand why the later collection of loose sequels failed to resonate with fans.

The eighth entry in the series, Hellworld keeps with the tradition of the last few films as having started out as something different entirely. Previously, a script called Deader was re-written and fashioned into Hellraiser: Deader. This time, the source material was a short story by Neo Art & Logic boss man Joel Soisson, which was then reworked to accommodate the world of Cenobites, puzzle boxes and Lemarchand. Sort of. Considering that Hellraiser is perhaps the only franchise which could’ve possibly sustained multiple entries without ever repeating itself, it’s a shame that the powers that be have decided to squander its potential time and time again.

For a hefty chunk of the first act (and some of the second), Hellworld looks like it could be the best of Dimension’s direct-to-video sequels. Granted, there’s a terribly melodramatic opening scene so detached from everything else that one can potentially solve all the climactic ‘surprises’ – providing you’re willing to assume that’s where the producers are going to take a Hellraiser sequel (read: somewhere the franchise should never have gone). But moving beyond the hackneyed setup (in which the death of a close friend causes strife amongst a group of PC gamers), it was looking promising for Hellworld – at least in theory.

The rest of the film deals with a group of friends (the gamer group) who’ve been invited to a party at Leviathan House – an isolated mansion in the middle of nowhere – to partake in an evening of debauchery directly related to the ‘Hellworld’ video game (which somehow manages to utilize Pinhead’s actual voice) they’re all obsessed with. These characters are unsympathetic, screenwriter Carl Dupre’s dialogue is so unforgivably atrocious (”this is from the Norman Bates school of design.”, says a character upon arriving at the house that looks nothing like that Bates house) and painfully obvious CGI really crush this sucker before it ever has a chance of taking off – but there’s still a nifty setup that occasionally created the illusion that the filmmakers behind this one were working hard to expand the Hellraiser mythology. At least initially.

The party is hosted by Lance Henriksen, who is revealed to be an avid collector of all things pertaining to the Lament Configuration. The kids are all into this as well, and the mansion is revealed to have been Philip Lemarchand’s second greatest creation (behind that crazy puzzle box, of course). So there’s an interesting stage set that, at last, promises to do something more with Hellraiser. Unfortunately, after the first-act setup, the story devolves into something of a generic slasher film, with Pinhead showing up to, yes, murder the guests one-by-one. All of this is done to drive home a series of ludicrous twists in the finale and, at this point, it’s probably safe to reveal that Henriksen turns out to be behind the whole thing.

The issue here isn’t that Hellworld isn’t really a Hellraiser movie, rather that director Rick Bota and writers Joel Soisson (story) and Carl Dupre (script) never bother exploring the themes of obsession and sex that are intrinsically Hellraiser. That Lance turns out to be the tired and true villain is hardly surprising to anyone who’s watched a movie in the last twenty years, but that the story blows the perfectly good premise of showcasing his character’s obsession with vengeance is the real shame. The final five minutes are a bona fide Hellraiser film – the one which should’ve been the focal point of this entire narrative. Instead it’s an afterthought. Kind of like everything else happening here.

Echo Bridge brings Hellraiser: Helllworld to 1080p high definition in a transfer that hangs somewhere in the outer wrung of acceptable. Banding issues are apparent from time to time, and flesh-tones are a bit on the cold side – and without much texture. Blacks are oftentimes grey and there’s not much depth to the image. That said, it’s a clean print, with some above-average color separation. Nothing special, though this is a step up from the ‘HD’ streaming version currently offered through Netlfix. Unless you’re the hardest of the hardcore Hellraiser fans however, this isn’t a must have.

On the audio front, Echo Bridge seems to have been listening to the steady stream of feedback they’ve collected. Hellworld offers a lossy 5.1 Dolby surround track that certainly heightens the viewing experience a bit. Rear-channels are oft-used and aggressive, with musical stings, off-camera dialogue and sound FX all booming through your surround speakers. Leviathan House is given a nice boost of ambiance because of this, while main dialogue remains confined to the front-center speaker. While Echo Bridge really needs to jump into the realm of lossless audio for their next crop of releases, this is a step in the right direction.

And speaking of steps in the right direction, Hellworld carries over all of the supplemental material previously offered on the Dimension DVD. It’s not much, but the commentary from the Neo Art & Logic crew of Bota, Soisson, Nick Phillips and FX man Gary Tunnicliffe is a worthwhile listen. It’s an amiable discussion, fairly honest and with some good rapport amongst the four. There’s no reason to treat the Hellraiser franchise this way, however, so it’s hard to extend them too many accolades for what amounts to a fluffy, goof-off track. There’s also a little making-of that really doesn’t amount to very much. The annoying characters in the film are every bit as annoying in their interviews so while I don’t recommend this little documentary, I laud Echo Bridge for recognizing that horror fans like extra features on their discs. They’re not quite there yet (especially since the back of the package hilariously lists the commentary and documentary as one feature: Commentary Track: Ticket to Hell – whoops!), but it shows that they’re trying.

Hellraiser: Hellworld is pretty bad. It’s not badly made and it’s nice to see Neo Art & Logic striving to give their films some degree of production value. But with a script this lousy it’s almost impossible to recommend. Echo Bridge’s Blu-ray doesn’t offer stellar picture, but the sound quality is very strong and the inclusion of bonus features is nice touch. Pinhead completions may enjoy the upgrade once the disc goes on sale, but everyone else is better off forgetting the Hellraiser series actually climbed this high.

Special Features

– Audio Commentary with director Rick Bota, writer Joel Soisson, executive producer Nick Phillips and FX artist Gary Tunnicliffe
Ticket to Hell featurette

Film

1 1/2 out of 5

Special Features

2 1/2 out of 5

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Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review

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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
3.5

Summary

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.

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User Rating 3.14 (7 votes)
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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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User Rating 4.43 (7 votes)
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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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User Rating 4.14 (14 votes)
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