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Twins of Evil (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Twins of EvilStarring Peter Cushing, Dennis Price, Madeleine & Mary Collinson, Isobel Black, Kathleen Byron, Damien Thomas, and David Warbeck

Directed by John Hough

Distributed by Synapse Films


”The Devil…has sent me…TWINS OF EVIL!”

Few actors could deliver such a line with not only a straight face, but also the sincerity needed to make that possibly hammy bit of writing utterly believable. But then, that’s Peter Cushing for you. The actor, well known to genre fans for his illustrious and prolific career in gothic yarns and trembly terrors, lends his considerable talent and gravitas to the 1971 Hammer classic Twins of Evil, now available in a newly-remastered and extras-laden Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from the fine folks at Synapse.

Twins finds Cushing playing the fanatical Gustav Weil, the head of a witch-hunting brotherhood whose self-appointed task seems to be finding every pretty young woman in sight and burning them at the stake. Weil’s life is soon interrupted by the arrival of his newly-orphaned nieces, twins Frieda and Maria (the beautiful Madeleine and Mary Collinson). Frieda, the more impulsive and wild of the two sisters, tires quickly of her uncle’s puritanical ways, and soon sets her sights on Count Karnstein (Jimmy Fallon look-alike Damien Thomas), a local nobleman who may or may not be a Satan-worshipping vampire (okay, spoilers, he is a Satan-worshipping vampire). Before long, Frieda finds herself a member of the undead, Maria falls under suspicion for her sister’s crimes, and Weil is forced to join up with local teacher Anton (David Warbeck, long before his days as an Italian horror hero) in order to stop Karnstein’s reign of terror and, hopefully, save his nieces’ lives.

From top to bottom, this is a fantastic film that perfectly exemplifies why Hammer used to be a giant in horror cinema. Beautiful locations and photography, fun story, superb cast. Cushing is wonderful as always, Thomas chews the scenery with glee as Count Karnstein, and the Collinson sisters prove that they’re more than simply eye candy with their solid performances (noticeable voice dubbing aside). Toss in the stylish direction by John Hough (The Legend of Hell House), and you have yourself a classic.

Oh, and speaking of Count Karnstein – if that surname seems familiar to you, it’s because it also belongs to the villainess from two previous Hammer films (The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire). In fact, Mircalla Karnstein does make a brief appearance in this film, which is seen as something of a prequel to those earlier movies. Fortunately, you don’t need to have seen either Lovers or Lust to enjoy Twins.

Much like their previous Hammer release Vampire Circus, Synapse does a bang-up job with Twins. The 1080p hi-def transfer is pretty fantastic. While not perfect (this likely due to the source print), this is undoubtedly the best the film will ever look. Likewise, the DTS-HD Mono 2.0 soundtrack is very good, if not dynamic.

But ohhh, where Synapse excels is the bonus features. First up is The Flesh and the Fury, an exhaustive, beautifully produced feature-length doc that delves deeply into Hammer’s “Karnstein” trilogy. From covering the changes in Hammer’s approach to filmmaking (which led to racier pictures like Twins), to taking a look at J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (the literary inspiration for the trilogy), to eventually covering the production and releases of the three films, Flesh leaves no bloody stone unturned. It makes for fantastic viewing.

Then we get The Props That Hammer Built, a nice look at Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey’s collection of Hammer movie props. While this may or may not interest most average viewers, it will undoubtedly leave hardcore Hammer fans green with envy. Fun featurette, this.
Also included is a neat Motion Still Gallery, which is essentially a slide show of behind-the-scenes and promotional photos set to the film’s score. And speaking of the score, Synapse has also included an isolated music and effects track, which is worth a listen for die-hards.

Rounding out the features is a selection of TV spots, the American trailer, and a deleted scene (a sequence which included the song “True Love”, wisely left out of the finished film).

If Synapse keeps it up, they’re going to become the single greatest distributor of old school Hammer flicks we’ve seen here in the U.S. Here’s hoping their upcoming slate of Hammer horrors (Countess Dracula, Hands of the Ripper, and the television series Hammer House of Horror will have the same love and attention to detail shown to them as with Twins and Vampire Circus. If so, it’d be nice if they could eventually take a shot at a good deal more of Hammer’s catalogue.

So, if you’re a Hammer fan, you already know that you need this Blu-ray (need). However, even if you’re simply a fan of sexy gothic chillers (or, hell, great horror movies period), then you owe it to yourself to check out this release. Hope you enjoy!

Special Features

  • The Flesh and the Fury: X-Posing Twins of Evil – an all-new, feature-length documentary
  • The Props That Hammer Built – featurette (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Motion Still Gallery (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Deleted Scene (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Isolated Music & Effects Track (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • TV Spots (Blu-ray Exclusive)

    Film

    4 out of 5

    Special Features

    4 1/2 out of 5

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    Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club Review – A Charming, Quirky Dark Drama

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    Starring Keren Mor, Yiftach Klein, Hana Laslo, Ania Bukstein

    Directed by Guilhad Emilio Schenker

    Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


    One of the great joys I have in being a horror fan is seeing horror films from around the world. I view these films as a chance to learn about the fears, folklore, mythology, and lore of varied cultures. Films like Inugami, Frontier(s), [REC], and the like transport me across oceans and into places I might never get the chance to visit otherwise. Hence my interest in the Israeli dark drama Madam Yankeolva’s Fine Literature Club, the feature debut of director Guilhad Emilio Schenker.

    The film follows Sophie (Mor), a member of a strange, female-only reading club – who believes that love is a lie – that we soon realize brings men into its midst only to have them killed. The woman who brings the most fitting man is awarded a trophy for her fine taste. When a member reaches 100 trophies, they get to enter a coveted and highly esteemed upper echelon of the reading club’s society, one that includes lavish surroundings and an almost regal lifestyle. Sophie starts the film earning her 99th trophy but her plans towards the all-important 100th trophy are thrown askew when she ends up developing feelings for her latest victim. She must now decide if the mission that has been so dear to her for so many years is something she wishes to see through or if she’s ready to take a huge risk and fall in love.

    Now, if this seems like a strange story for a horror website, I don’t disagree. Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is certainly not your traditional horror film. In fact, I’d liken it far more to the more playful works of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s The City of Lost Children than something more grotesque and violent. It’s very playful and quite charming, although there are times when the presentation feels amateurish and certain moments when things become wildly unbelievable. That being said, the film aims to be a dark fairy tale come to life, so a healthy amount of “I’m okay letting that go” will not go unappreciated.

    The film is shot in such a way that it’s very soft around the edges, almost like we’re constantly in a dream. This is aided by composer Tal Yardeni’s score, which obviously takes inspiration from Danny Elfman, playfully weaving its way through each scene.

    While there’s a lot to love about Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club, it’s certainly not a flawless film. As mentioned previously, there are times when it feels quite amateurish, as though no one thought to look at how a scene is being filmed and say, “People, this isn’t how things would go down. We can have fun but this just doesn’t sit right.” Additionally, the story moves very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard of love at first sight. But that’s not how this story plays out, so the wildly strong feelings that develop between Sophie and Yosef (Klein) seem strangely out of place.

    All things being what they are, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a charming film that can definitely appeal to horror fans if they’re willing to stretch their boundaries to include films that have absolutely no scares or gore but imply quite a horrific situation.

    • Madam Yankelova's Fine Literature Club
    3.5

    Summary

    Charming, quirky, but not without its faults, Madam Yankelova’s Fine Literature Club is a dark drama for fans of Tim Burton and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Don’t go in expecting any scares or gore. Rather, anticipate a fairy tale that might be just a bit too gruesome in tone for young children.

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    User Rating 3.3 (10 votes)
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    Beyond the Seventh Door DVD Review – No-Budget S.O.V. Canuxploitation At Its Finest!

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    Beyond the 7th DoorStarring Lazar Rockwood, Bonnie Beck, Gary Freedman

    Directed by B.D. Benedikt

    Distributed by Severin Films/Intervision


    Two people trapped within a labyrinthine complex. Booby traps. Rigged doors. Death lurking around every corner. And a mysterious voice communicating clues every step of the way via recorded tapes. No, this isn’t the latest Saw film but a Canuxploitation entry from the shot-on-video market, 1987’s Beyond the Seventh Door. Oozing ambition and bolstered by a truly bravado performance from newcomer Lazar Rockwood – a man who looks like the love child of Tommy Wiseau and Billy Drago – this no-budget Canadian shocker delivers just as many twists and turns as Lionsgate’s dead-horse franchise. The main difference being that instead of having to mutilate yours or someone else’s body, the protagonists here are forced to solve obtuse riddles in order to move on to the next room; failure means death. Intervision has been crushing it throughout 2017 – and this release may be the best yet.

    Boris (Lazar Rockwood) is a career thief and recent ex-con who is trying to turn his life around when Wendy (Bonnie Beck), a former flame, comes back into his life. She now works for a rich paraplegic, Lord Breston (Gary Freedman), who lives in an actual castle just outside of town. Desperate for “one more job” and a big payday, Boris begs for a gig and Wendy delivers; the plan is for the two of them to break into the basement of Breston’s castle and steal whatever treasures he has socked away, all while her boss is busy entertaining guests at his costume party. The next night, the plan is enacted and the duo clandestinely slip into the castle’s lower level, when suddenly the door locks behind them and a tape recorder begins to play. Breston’s voice is heard, welcoming the thieves into his home and offering up a challenge: use scant clues (or sometimes, none at all) and uncover a way out of each of the six rooms linked together down here. Succeed and a briefcase of money awaits; fail and you die. Truly motivating.

    Going into this film blind is my best recommendation, and so for that reason no other plot points will be revealed here. Besides, the real motivation for watching this movie is to witness the raw acting prowess of Lazar Rockwood. Glad in a denim jacket and rocking the ubiquitous ‘80s bandana headband, Rockwood has the delivery of a porno actor stammering lines between sex scenes. His accent is impenetrably thick and the range of his acting could fit within a matchbox, but dammit the man is weirdly magnetic on screen. He’s clearly throwing everything in his arsenal onto the screen with tremendous bravado. Modesty must be a scarce commodity when you have a name that would go perfectly alongside Dirk Diggler on an adult theater marquee in the ‘70s. My favorite line in the entire film is when Wendy is trying to solve the first clue, which has something to do with rings. When she’s rifling through possibilities and says, “Lord of the Rings?” Boris replies with, “Lord of the ring… who the hell is that guy?” said with equal parts confusion and annoyance. The kicker is viewers will believe that query could have come from either Boris or Lazar.

    The rooms aren’t likely to impress viewers with their intricacy or set design, but each has a clever solution that is often a stretch to imagine our leads managing to solve within the allotted time. The clues provided by Lord Breston are esoteric and Boris isn’t exactly the erudite type, but working together with Wendy they are able to move ahead, often with mere seconds to spare. Evidence of past would-be thieves’ unlucky attempts are glimpsed, including one room where a body remains. NON-SPOILER: I completely expected the body to in actuality be Lord Breston, “checking up” on his unwanted guests much like John Kramer in Saw (2004), especially since you can clearly see the actor breathing, but this is not the case. Instead, the he’s-clearly-not-dead guy is played by a local eccentric, whose life is briefly chronicled in the bonus features.

    Viewers will already be hooked on Beyond the Seventh Door by the time the climax arrives, but the final twists are what drive this S.O.V. thriller over the edge and into the cult territory it so richly deserves. It’s crazy to think this film went virtually unseen for years, being impossible to acquire on VHS and never receiving the proper home video release until now. Director B.D. Benedikt offers up further proof that strong ideas can be realized on any budget, and fans of films like Saw or Cube (1997) will enjoy this “store brand” version of those bigger budgeted hits.

    The video quality review for every Intervision title could probably be a copy/paste job since each one is shot on video, always with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The quality here is comparable to a remastered VHS tape. There is a slight jerkiness to the opening but that passes quickly. Colors appear accurate and contrast is about as strong as can be. The picture is often soft which, again, is just something inherent to shooting on video. Film grain is minimized as much as possible; don’t expect a noisy mess just because this isn’t shot on film.

    The English Dolby Digital 2.0 track plays with no obvious issues. Dialogue is clean and free from hissing and pops. The score is another awesomely cheesy ‘80s keyboard love-fest, with the three (!) composers – Michael Clive, Brock Fricker, and Philip Strong – getting plenty of mileage out of the main theme, which sounds like it would be the in-store demo default keyboard setting. No subtitles are included.

    There is an audio commentary with writer/director B.D. Benedikt & actor Lazar Rockwood, moderated by Paul Corupe of Canuxploitation.com.

    “Beyond Beyond the 7th Door features new interviews with Benedikt, Rockwood, and Corupe.

    “The King of Cayenne” – Focusing on “legendary Toronto eccentric Ben Kerr”, a street performer who played the role of “dead guy in that one room”.

    Special Features:

    • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director BD Benedikt and Actor Lazar Rockwood, moderated by Paul Corupe (Canuxploitation.com)
    • Beyond Beyond the 7th Door: Interviews with Writer/Director BD Benedikt, Actor Lazar Rockwood, and Canuxploitation.com’s Paul Corupe
    • The King of Cayenne: An Appreciation of Legendary Toronto Eccentric Ben Kerr
    • Beyond the Seventh Door
    • Special Features
    3.5

    Summary

    Virtually lost for nearly three decades, Beyond the Seventh Door deserves a wider audience and Intervision’s DVD should bring it. The then-novel plot and sheer ambition should be enough to get most viewers hooked, but if not the Yugoslavian wonder Lazar Rockwood will handily have them glued to the screen.

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    User Rating 3.4 (20 votes)
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    The Crucifixion Review – Should’ve Left This One Nailed to the Cross

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    Starring Sophie Cookson, Corneliu Ulici, Ada Lupu

    Directed by Xavier Gens


    Claiming to be inspired by actual events, director Xavier Gens’ The Crucifixion forgoes the affecting shocks and awes, and instead beats its audience into the ground with a laundry-list of ho-hum dialogue and lesser-than-stellar instances…forget the priest, I need a friggin’ Red Bull.

    A 2005 case is spotlighted, and it revolves around a psychotically damaged woman of the cloth (nun for all you laymen) who priests believed was inhabited by ol’ Satan himself. With one rogue priest in command who firmly believed that this was the work of something satanic, the nun was subject to a horrific exorcism in which she was chained to a cross and basically left to die, which ultimately resulted in the priest being stripped of his collar and rosary…how tragic. Enter an overzealous New York reporter (Cookson) who is intently focused upon traveling to Romania to get the scoop on the botched undertaking. After her arrival, the only point of view that seems to keep sticking with interviewees is that the man who sat close to the lord killed a helpless, innocent and stricken woman, that is until she meets up with another nun and a village priest – and their claims are of something much more sinister.

    From there, the battle between good and evil rages…well, let me rephrase that: it doesn’t exactly “rage” – instead, it simmers but never boils. Unfortunately for those who came looking for some serious Father Karras action will more than likely be disappointed. The performances border on labored with cursory characters, and outside of some beautiful cinematography, this one failed to chew out of its five-point restraints.

    I’d normally prattle on and on about this and that, just to keep my word limit at a bit of a stretch, but with this particular presentation, there just isn’t much to bore you all with (see what I just did there). Gens certainly had the right idea when constructing this film according to blueprints…but it’s like one of those pieces of Wal-Mart furniture that when you open the box, all you can find are the instructions that aren’t in your language – wing and a prayer…but we all know what prayers get you, don’t we, Father?

    My advice to all who come seeking some hellacious activity – stick to The Exorcist and you’ll never be let down.

    • Film
    2

    Summary

    The Crucifixion is one of those films that needs the help of the man above in order to raise its faith, but I think he might have been out to lunch when this one came around.

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    User Rating 3.3 (20 votes)
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