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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray)

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Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray)Starring James Stewart, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Tippi Hedren, Sean Connery, Kim Novak, and more.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Distributed by Universal Studios

Review co-authored by Scott Essman and Jacqueline Bastawroos


If Alfred Hitchcock, “The Master,” isn’t the greatest director in the history of English-language filmmaking, he is certainly one of its best. Responsible for dozens of memorable films, his heyday might rest in the 1950s through mid-1960s though other periods surely contain superior works. And a new box set, coincidentally released when a cable TV film and a theatrical feature about his life each first come to light, asserts why Hitchcock is worthy of any and all film retrospective and analysis.

In celebration of Universal’s 100th year anniversary, they give the world a present, Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection on Blu-ray. The collection consists of 14 Hitchcock classics: Saboteur, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rear Window, The Trouble with Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, Marnie, Torn Curtain, Topaz, Frenzy and Family Plot. This brilliant Blu-ray box set allows you to witness the genius of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies in the sequence that made him known for his legacy, the “Master of Suspense.” Not only do you get to see the way the world evolved from the 1940s to the 1970s, but you also get to see how Hitchcock evolved as a director. He pulls off shocking the viewer in a way many directors cannot easily execute today. His movies, such as Shadow of a Doubt, Vertigo and The Trouble with Harry, leave you guessing from beginning to end.

There isn’t much negative to say about this box set, which also includes an exclusive book, The Master of Suspense. The book is filled with intriguing information about Hitchcock, his cast and crew. You don’t really know Hitchcock or his films until you’ve had your hands on this box set as you get a deeper understanding of why and how he made these dazzling movies.

The bonus features on these Blu-ray discs are the icing on the already delicious cake. They are informative, interesting, and open your eyes to a new world of Hitchcock.

Love, Murder and Suspense: Hand in Hand

Television has brought back murder into the home—where it belongs,” is a quote from the one and only master, or, “Father of Suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock. Murder and love are very obvious themes that take place in all of Hitchcock’s movies, two things Hitchcock stays loyal to throughout this box set. Either people are murdering the ones they love, like in Shadow of a Doubt, or become murderers for the ones they love, such as Topaz and Psycho. Regardless of how the heart probes death, love and romance are portrayed in every one of these horror murder films. Hitchcock could have used mythical creatures, monsters or ghosts but instead decided to use something much more real: average people. Things that could really happen and probably do happen in real life make his films all the more scary, nerve-wracking and suspenseful.

Even though love and murder are somewhat oxymorons, Hitchcock uses them to play with the viewer’s emotions. Hitchcock manages to use his themes of love and murder to give his audience a feeling of palatable suspense. Every movie in this box set makes you think twice about what is going to happen next. The oldest movie is Saboteur; Hitchcock does an outstanding job here combining love and murder to create suspense.

Saboteur (1942)
What a great movie to begin the set with. Right off the bat, you get to see how different Hitchcock was as a man and filmmaker. In this film, he does not hide much from his audience since we know right away Barry, played by Robert Cummings, is being framed. We also know who the real killer is. The suspense lies within. Is Barry going to be proven innocent or not? Will he ever find the real murderer, Fly? Hitchcock found a way to keep his audience at the edge of their seats without having to throw too many twists and tricks into the plot. The love that develops between the two main characters is also very hopeful, pure and beautiful.

Watching Saboteur as a Blu-ray has never made black-and-white cinematography look so good. Since the transfer to Blu-ray really enriched this movie, everything from the opening Universal logo to the end is clear and perfected. Even the soundtrack and musical score sound better than ever. Of course, music is very important in all Hitchcock films. At times there is no dialogue, and it is up to the music and facial expressions of the actors to create the suspense and anticipation Hitchcock intends the viewer to have.

This movie ends with a beautiful, inspiring and meaningful message: Even though the police were so sure Barry was the killer, the blind man never doubted him. Hitchcock leaves us with a positive message; he reminds us to trust and have faith in one another. The blind man welcomes Barry into his home, trusting him and believing in his innocence. Even Barry is faced with the fate of Fry’s life in his hands, and he decides to help him. Sadly, Fry’s sleeve rips, so he is destined to fall off of the Statue of Liberty, but Barry did everything he could to try and save the man who framed him for murder. It is amazing how we are so many years removed from when Saboteur was released; yet, we struggle with the same issues of trust, conspiracy and faith today.

The film’s bonus features gives you a great look into what filmmaking was like back in the 1940s. The best feature, the production photographs, is truly eye-opening.

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Shadow of a Doubt is by far one of the finest works of art in this genius box set. This movie is interesting from beginning to end. We notice the shadows on Joseph Cotten’s face as he portrays Uncle Charlie. The shadows add so much mystery, depth and character to the film. It is unclear if Hitchcock intended to add the shadows or if it was ironic, but it is breathtaking nonetheless. It is a shame Hitchcock can’t see how amazing his film looks today on Blu-ray.

There is a series of incredible camera angles during the scene where the young Charlie, played by Teresa Wright, is home alone and making phone calls. Every time she makes a phone call, the camera angle changes, starting from up the stairs and moving throughout. This Blu-ray disc brings out the true pureness of these images. Another iconic shot is when Uncle Charlie is giving his opinion on widowed women. The way the camera zooms into his face is absolutely amazing. The Blu-ray transfer makes the detail in his face look incredible in this scene.

The music score in this film is absolutely outstanding as well in and of itself. We are able to understand what is transpiring, what we should be feeling and what might happen next by simply listening to the score.

This movie is a perfect example of how “innocent” society used to be back in the 40s, compared to now. The closeness between Uncle Charlie and his niece, Charlie, is disturbing. The way she speaks so highly of him, and how physically close the two of them would be, rubs us the wrong way. When considering the time frame of this movie, it is understandable and easier to see the innocence behind their actions.

Hitchcock does an exceptional job keeping the viewers on their toes. Just when we start thinking Uncle Charlie might be this crazed murderer, we get tricked into believing otherwise. Then, once again, we are tricked and discover he was the murderer all along. This is truly one of Hitchcock’s best pieces of art. This box set would not be called The Masterpiece Collection without Shadow of a Doubt.

The special features are very enlightening, the best of which is the in-depth documentary, Beyond Doubt: The Making of Hitchcock’s Favorite Film.

Rope (1948)
The transfer to Blu-ray is evident right from the get-go. The idea of starting off with the murder scene is brilliant. This opening murder is slightly confusing, perhaps due to the combination of camera shots and transfer. Once we see and hear the dialogue between the men and the rope, we are able to say, “Oh – they just strangled one of their friends!” Regardless, the risky, suspenseful and creative storyline is lovely. The plot and the amazing actors, especially James Stewart, plus the exceptionally clear image, make for a seamless presentation. You are able to see the midnight shadow on all the men, the detail of their expressions and their bright eyes.

Our favorite part is when the camera pans as Brandon, played by John Dall, is telling James Stewart, the professor, how he would kill David. The suspense is actually emanating from the actor, Farley Granger, who plays Phillip. He is constantly panicking and worrying about being caught, but is on his toes so much more than we, the viewer are.

The music and audio are not as entertaining as the two previous films.

The bonus features include Rope Unleashed, production photographs and the theatrical trailer. Rope Unleashed is clearly the best of all bonus features.

Rear Window (1954)
Another movie regarded as a classic and also starring James Stewart is actually not one of the best in the set: Rear Window. The plot itself is very exciting, but there is too much dialogue and not enough happening for a modern audience. Ultimately, there are only two scenes which are inherently enjoyable and wholly incomparable to other parts of this movie. The first is when actress Grace Kelly, portraying Lisa Carol Fremont, is in the murderer’s apartment as she is being watched by her boyfriend, James Stewart, who is acting as L.B. “Jeff.” As the camera angle is situated from behind James Stewart’s rear window, it feels as though we are in the room watching for ourselves. The second scene that has such an impact in Rear Window is the very last scene with the murderer in Jeff’s apartment, attacking him. The camera shots, clear image and suspense are a wonderful dynamic all together.

Surprisingly, the special features on this Blu-ray disc are more pleasing than the actual movie. The Hitchcock/ Truffaut interview excerpts are a must watch.

The Trouble with Harry (1955)
This film is definitely another classic. The opening montage of the trees and field is stunning with radiant colors and a transparent shine bouncing off of the purses, hats and cars. The beautiful imagery, combined with perfect musical scoring, is solidified by the amazing Blu-ray transfer.

Hitchcock does a wonderful job leaving his viewers with anticipation in this movie, which has trick after trick, leading us to believe that two different people murdered Harry two different times. The greatest part is how we think we figure out who the murderer was, but then the doctor states Harry died of natural causes. We think we are done being fooled, but no, Hitchcock throws another twist to the story. His theme of love and murder might be most ardently portrayed in this film. Here, he is truly a genius and the noted “Master of Suspense.”

There are not as many bonus features for this Blu-ray disc, but The Trouble with Harry Isn’t Over is very entertaining and worth viewing.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
One word comes to mind when reviewing this film: brilliant. The camera angles, music, and screenplay all complement each other. Having James Stewart in another one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces never gets old. Stewart is such a natural that he adds his own personality in this film. He seems witty, funny and daring as he plays Dr. Benjamin McKenna. Although this is another murder film filled with suspense, there is some light humor embedded into the proceedings. Having the movie start with a man with cymbals waiting for his queue is almost a little silly. Of course, in the end, it makes sense, but until we find out what it means, it is basically goofy. Even the way Dr. McKenna hides from the lady in church as she collects money is rather odd and amusing. Also, the way Dr. McKenna climbs out of the church bell, causing a commotion, is hysterical. The slight comical relief makes the film stand out from the rest of this box set.

The absolute best scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much has to be when Doris Day is singing at the embassy and her son begins whistling the song. That scene will send chills up your spine. The following scene is just as breathtaking as the son walks out to meet a gun pointing at his head, and we can’t help but be terrified for his life.

It’s amazing how Hitchcock manages to throw added twists into all his films. It is shocking when we find out the couple who befriends the McKennas kidnapped their son. We are mesmerized by Hitchcock’s mastery and are concerned the whole way through the story.

Even though it is a magnificent film, the transfer is not the best. There are many scenes where the color changes from light to dark. The audio is also not up to par. On the other hand, the image is still very clear (in the beginning, the dirt on Bernard’s face is visceral). Even the chicken that is being eaten is so detailed, it is as if they are eating in front of us and not in our television.

The bonus features allow you to see how The Man Who Knew Too Much came about. It is very insightful, and the production photographs are astounding.

Vertigo (1958)
This is actually the first film to give us the creeps. The opening scene could not have been done better. It would have been nice if the movie hadn’t been so long because some parts lose our attention, but overall this is a near perfect movie. James Stewart is easily one of the best actors of all time, and Hitchcock knew he had the perfect everyman in Stewart who brought Hitchcock’s ideas to life.

“Breathtaking” is the best way to describe the effects they use to portray the dreams of Scottie, Stewart’s character. The scene in which he is dreaming after the death of Madeleine Elster, played by Kim Novak, is perfectly done with its use of color effects.

The theme of love and murder is very prevalent in Vertigo. Madeleine Elster is murdered by her husband, which he sets up to look like a suicide. Scottie falls in love with Elster and becomes obsessed with Judy Barton, whom we think is just a lookalike. Hitchcock, surprising us, decides to make Judy Barton the lady whom Elster’s husband hired to trick Scottie into falling in love. What an amazing twist which we never once saw coming. Hitchcock tied in the idea of vertigo perfectly; our hero would never chase her up the ladder because he is too fearful.

There is a large amount of bonus features for this film, all of which are captivating, stimulating and thought-provoking.

North by Northwest (1959)
This is by far another one of Hitchcock’s glorious masterpieces. The way the camera catches the craziness and business of all the people in the beginning is fabulous. It is such great quality we forget it was made in the late 50s. The drama starts right away, building suspense and questions in the first few scenes. The shots during the “drunk driving” scene are exciting, suspenseful and daring. The image is very crisp, especially the iconic scene where Roger Thornhill, played by actor Cary Grant, is being chased by the plane. The way the car looks when the plane crashes and it catches on fire is superb. Another great camera angle is when the maid is cleaning and sees Thornhill’s reflection in the television. Naturally these shots are outstanding, but thanks to the Blu-ray transfer they look better than ever.

As stated before, Hitchcock is such a trickster. He has again earned the title “Master of Suspense” with this project. We are all surprised to find out Eve Kendall, played by Eva Marie Saint, is working for the antagonists. Since we don’t expect that, it is safe to say how stunned we become when we find out Eve is only pretending to be working for the bad guys, as she is actually an undercover agent. Once again, twist and after twist, on which Hitchcock based his best work.

All of the bonus features add to the North by Northwest experience, enhancing every aspect of it.

Psycho (1960)
Stating the obvious, Psycho is the one movie that perfectly completes this box set. Hitchcock took the human mind into a whole new direction with this movie. Similar to Saboteur, we know something the other characters in the movie do not. As soon as the infamous shower scene has concluded, we only think we know who murdered Janet Leigh, portraying Marion Crane. Psycho is classic Hitchcock: love, suspense, murder and a numerous amount of twists.

The Blu-ray transfer does justice to this movie. The shower scene did not need much refining to begin with, but the transfer makes it immaculate. Although it would have been an experience to see this film in color, it is understandable why Hitchcock chose to make it in black-and-white as people were not ready to see all that gore in color yet; they would have to wait six years for Torn Curtain to come out. Moreover, the black-and-white scenario adds to the haunting mood of the movie. Arguably, Psycho wouldn’t have been as huge a success as it was if it were filmed in color. Even the blood looks absolutely spectacular in black-and-white.

Subjectively, the musical score in this film is the best of all Hitchcock’s films in this set, and possibly all of the director’s films outright. The voiceover audio as Leigh is driving is very precise. The Blu-ray transfer is a definite success here.

It is interesting to see how implied nudity is slightly more accepted at this point in time, including several moments of Leigh wearing only a bra and of course the infamous shower scene. We can see the change in generations and Hitchcock himself from Saboteur up until Psycho.

The twists and horror in this film cannot be described with words. No matter how many times it is said that Psycho is genius filmmaking, it cannot be enough.

The bonus features are another indispensible aspect of this Blu-ray set. We get to see the shower scene in multiple incarnations, view behind-the-scenes photos and listen to exclusive interviews.

The Birds (1963)
Almost 50 years after its unsettling debut, The Birds remains a compelling film. Nevertheless, the Blu-ray transfer doesn’t necessarily aid the film as most of the prop birds fail to deliver requisite realism. With technology not half as advanced in 1963 as it is today, given crude process photography and no computer graphics, the mechanical birds are just too obvious. Since the Blu-ray enhances the image, it all but backfires for this film.

Of course, there is still one specific clip that we might not be able to get out of our heads. It is the scene where an older lady is scolding Tippi Hedren, as Melanie Daniels. The closeup on the lady’s face is outstanding as we see the detail, anger and fear in her face. She looks as though she is right in front of you, yelling at you; so clear, so pure.

The bonus features that are part of this Blu-ray disc experience are extravagant. The deleted scenes are all terrific and very much worth watching.

Marnie (1964)
In this follow-up to the successive triumphs of Psycho and The Birds, Hitchcock’s creative camera work still astonishes. There is one particular zoom while Marnie, Tippi Hedren again, is talking to her mother in the beginning that catches our attention right away. We can really appreciate the effects that take place when she panics at the color red. Marnie appears so fearful towards the lightning, which is very childlike. Her reactions begin to make sense when we find out her traumatic experience that took place when she was a child. The best scene is when Marnie’s husband, played by Sean Connery, goes to her mother. During the scene Marnie begins having flashbacks to her childhood that answer all our questions. This movie has a great storyline, but there are issues with the Blu-ray transfer as the image quality looks pixellated and grainy. This might be the poorest transfer in the whole box set.

The Trouble with Marnie gives us great insight on the movie we likely had no information about previously.

Torn Curtain (1966)
This film is not one of the best in the collection, which is sad because Julie Andrews is remarkable, even to this day. The only scene that appears flabbergasting is the murder scene. It is almost painfully graphic and horrific, but we wouldn’t expect any less from Hitchcock. The bus scene is also very well done; it doesn’t reek of realism, but the scene itself is creative. We even become a little nervous in anticipation of what is going to happen when the real bus catches up.

The Blu-ray transfer is great: The color, image and sound have all been enhanced as a result of this transfer.

The bonus features are superb, especially Scenes Scored by Bernard Herrmann.

Topaz (1969)
Despite the notable qualities of this film, the box set would have survived without it. All the extreme closeups are very clear, and the colors almost perfectly match with natural skin tone. Even the water in the actors’ eyes is very glossy. The effects used to get the headlines of the New York Times are absolutely remarkable. With that said, there is an argument for it being part of this box set.

There is one scene of the movie that is to die for, literally — the best scene of the movie is by far when the camera is slowly moving around Juanita right before she gets shot. It is almost as though she gets murdered because he was so in love with her, he did not want to see her tortured. Another perfect Hitchcock example of how love and murder go hand in hand.

Overall, this movie is too political and not as intriguing as the others. It is also difficult to follow all the connections from the beginning to the end. Maybe if it was condensed, keeping only the major sequences, it would be more gratifying.

The alternate endings in the bonus features are exciting and give you a different perspective on what could have happened in this film.

Frenzy (1972)
This is one of the best films in the entire masterpiece collection. It is scary, suspenseful and bold. This movie has a few parallels to Saboteur, in a sense where someone is wrongfully accused of murder and the viewer knows the truth, but the main characters do not.

This movie also shows how much the generations have evolved. There is more nudity in this film than any other in the box set. The rape scenes are very discomforting, which begs the question how audiences in the post-Production Code early 70s handled this film.

Frenzy‘s cinematographic qualities elevate the material. The opening shot is pretty shaky, but since the quality is so rich, it makes up for it. The best part is when the murderer, Rusk, takes Babs, played by Anna Massey, into the room and you don’t see anything though you know exactly what’s going on. The camera zooms out to the outside world as it proceeds like everything is normal. It really shows how sneaky Rusk is and how oblivious the world can be.

This is by far one of Hitchcock’s preeminent films.

The bonus features are slightly weak, but The Story of Frenzy should still be seen.

Family Plot (1976)
As the box set reaches its end, so does the quality of Hitchcock’s work. The opening scene is wonderful, but the quality isn’t as consistent as his other prime work. The scene where the couple, George and Blanche, played by Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern, are driving in the canyon with faulty brakes couldn’t look any more dated. When comparing it to the drunk driving scene in North by Northwest, it is strange to see that a film made so much earlier has better realism. Also, the music selections have dropped off considerably here since his earlier films. The only scene where the music sticks in our mind is when Maloney passes by George and Blanche after their car crashes.

The plot is still very interesting, but like nearly everything else about Family Plot, his earlier films are much more stimulating.

The bonus features are still very interesting to watch, however. Plotting Family Plot is by far the top bonus feature.

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection
This Universal box set is a must own. Among all the Hitchcock classics, bonus features and exclusive book, no cinema fan will regret this investment. With love and murder as recurring themes that Hitchcock uses to create a sense of suspense for his viewers, the large body of work in this set is essential viewing. As the “Master of Suspense,” Alfred Hitchcock was a moviemaking icon who will live on forever through his fans, films and now this Blu-ray box set.

Saboteur (1942)
Bonus Features:
• Saboteur: A Closer Look
• Storyboards: The Statue of Liberty Sequence
• Alfred Hitchcock’s Sketches
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Bonus Features:
• Beyond Doubt: The Making of Hitchcock’s Favorite Film
• Production Drawings by Art Director Robert Boyle
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

Rope (1948)
Bonus Features:
• Rope Unleashed
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

Rear Window (1954)
Bonus Features:
• Rear Window Ethics: An Original Documentary
• A Conversation with Screenwriter John Michael Hayes
• Pure Cinema: Through the Eyes of The Master
• Breaking Barriers: The Sound of Hitchcock
• Hitchcock-Truffaut Interview Excerpts
• Masters of Cinema
• Feature Commentary with John Fawell, author of Hitchcock’s Rear Window: The Well-Made Film
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer
• Re-Release Trailer Narrated by James Stewart
• Blu-ray exclusives: BD Live, Pocket Blu

The Trouble with Harry (1955)
Bonus Features:
• The Trouble with Harry Isn’t Over
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
Bonus Features:
• The Making of The Man Who Knew Too Much
• Production Photographs
• Trailers

Vertigo (1958)
Bonus Features:
• Obsessed with Vertigo: New Life for Hitchcock’s Masterpiece
• Partners in Crime: Hitchcock’s Collaborators
• Hitchcock / Truffaut Interview Excerpts
• Foreign Censorship Ending
• The Vertigo Archives
• Feature Commentary with Associate Producer Herbert Coleman, Restoration Team Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz, and Other Vertigo Participants
• Feature Commentary with Director William Friedkin
• 100 Years of Universal: The Lew Wasserman Era
• Theatrical Trailer
• Restoration Theatrical Trailer
• BD Live, Pocket Blu (Blu-ray Exclusive)

North by Northwest (1959)
Bonus Features:
• Feature Commentary by screenwriter Ernest Lehman
• The Master’s Touch: Hitchcock’s Signature Style
• Cary Grant: A Class Apart
• North by Northwest: One for the Ages
• Destination Hitchcock: The Making of North by Northwest
• Music-only audio track
• Stills gallery
• Theatrical trailers and TV spot

Psycho (1960)
Bonus Features:
• The Making of Psycho
• Psycho Sound
• In The Master’s Shadow: Hitchcock’s Legacy
• Hitchcock-Truffaut Interview Excerpts
• Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho
• The Shower Scene: With and Without Music
• The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass
• The Psycho Archives
• Posters and Psycho Ads
• Lobby Cards
• Behind-the-Scenes Photographs
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer
• Re-release Trailers
• Feature Commentary with Stephen Rebello (author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho)

The Birds (1963)
Bonus Features:
• Deleted Scene
• Original Ending
• The Birds: Hitchcock’s Monster Movie – New! (Blu-ray Exclusive)
• All About The Birds
• Storyboards
• Tippi Hedren’s Screen Test
• Hitchcock-Truffaut Interview Excerpts
• The Birds Is Coming (Universal International Newsreel)
• Suspense Story: National Press Club Hears Hitchcock (Universal International Newsreel)
• Production Photographs
• 100 Years of Universal: Restoring the Classics
• 100 Years of Universal: The Lot
• Theatrical Trailer
• BD Live, Pocket Blu (Blu-ray Exclusive)

Marnie (1964)
Bonus Features:
• The Trouble with Marnie
• The Marnie Archives
• Theatrical Trailer

Torn Curtain (1966)
Bonus Features:
• Torn Curtain Rising
• Scenes Scored by Bernard Herrmann
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

Topaz (1969)
Bonus Features:
• Alternate Endings
• Topaz: An Appreciation by Film Historian and Critic Leonard Maltin
• Storyboards: The Mendozas
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

Frenzy (1972)
Bonus Features:
• The Story of Frenzy
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

Family Plot (1976)
Bonus Features:
• Plotting Family Plot
• Storyboards: The Chase Scene
• Production Photographs
• Theatrical Trailer

Films:

5 out of 5

Special Features:

5 out of 5

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Reviews

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 3.62 (21 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 4.14 (22 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 3.95 (20 votes)
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