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Dark Shadows: The Greatest Episodes Collection – Fan Favorites / The Best of Barnabas (DVD)

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Dark Shadows: The Greatest Episodes Collection: Fan Favorites / The Best of BarnabasStarring Jonathan Frid, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker, David Selby

Directed by Various

Distributed by MPI Home Video


Those interested in the upcoming Tim Burton/Johnny Depp collaboration Dark Shadows may want to check out the original source material first – Dan Curtis’ highly popular (and highly influential) 60’s soap opera of the same name. There is a seemingly endless wealth of media spawned from that series, from DVD box sets to comic books (both old and current), soundtracks, novels, and audio plays. You can even purchase all 1,225 episodes in a gigantic, coffin-shaped set that will set you back around half a grand. However, if you just want a quick overview of the original phenomenon, look no further than these two Greatest Episodes collections.

Both DVD sets (titled Fan Favorites and The Best of Barnabas) are relatively cheap and are a perfect way to sample the original “Dark Shadows” without needing to take out a loan or devote over 600 hours. Each release (reviewed together here, as separate writeups would undoubtedly be redundant) features nine episodes highlighting the various eras from throughout the show’s five-year run. The Best of Barnabas mostly focuses on, of course, Jonathan Frid’s vampiric antihero Barnabas Collins, while Fan Favorites gives a broader look at the overall show (though Barnabas fans will no doubt be satisfied with this release as well).

Storywise, newcomers to the land of “Dark Shadows” may find these sets a bit disjointed, as the episodes rarely connect with one another. Fortunately, each disc gives the option of introductions for every episode (given by either Lara Parker or Kathryn Leigh Scott, both veteran cast members), each of which manages to set the stage and place each episode in context with the larger tales being told. While it may not be the most ideal way to view these stories, one should be able to keep up fairly easily.

The picture quality on each disc ranges from surprisingly good to quite awful, with most episodes falling somewhere in-between. It’s much the same with the audio, with some of the dialogue coming across as either too soft or almost distressingly hot (to the point of distortion, occasionally). Still, it’s nice to be able view these episodes at all so I’ll keep my complaints about the presentation to a minimum.

As far as the bonus features? Well, this is more than a letdown. Aside from the individual episode introductions, all we get are what amount to nicely produced ads for various other “Dark Shadows” products, including books from both Parker and Scott. With the amount of material that must be available, it’s a shame that these discs were left at, essentially, bare-bones level. Further special features might have gone a long way toward converting viewers merely interested in the show into fans in their own right.

Still, if you have yet to visit Collinsport, Maine, or if you simply find the upcoming big-screen remake enticing, it’ll be more than worth your time to check out these sets.

As a side note, I would like to express this reviewer’s sadness at Jonathan Frid’s recent passing. Frid was a wonderful actor with incredible presence and created in Barnabas Collins one of the most indelible, iconic antiheroes in all of television. Rest in peace, sir.

Special Features:

  • Exclusive New Episode Introductions by Series Stars Lara Parker and Kathryn Leigh Scott

    Sets

    3 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1/2 out of 5

    Discuss “Dark Shadows” in the comments section below!

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    American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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    Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

    Directed by Colin Bemis


    Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

    The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

    As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

    Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

    Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

    In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

    On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

    In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

    Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

    • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
    3.5

    Summary

    Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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    Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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    We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

    In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

    Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

    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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    Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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    Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

    Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


    Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

    17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

    What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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