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Cannibal Holocaust: 25th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (DVD)

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Cannibal Holocaust: 25th Anniversay EditionStarring Robert Kerman, Gabrielle York, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi

Directed by Ruggero Deodato

Releaesd by Grindhouse Releasing


It’s been called one of the most vile and disgusting movies ever made. My wife, a hardcore horror fan if there ever was one, can find no redeeming qualities in it. Some of the cast and crew were brought up on charges because of their participation in the film. So how is it that Cannibal Holocaust has not only remained a favorite of horror fans everywhere, but has recently taken on an almost mythic quality because of it’s content?

The answer is pretty simple; there’s nothing else out there even remotely like it. Sure, The Blair Witch Project ripped off the whole idea of a movie featuring footage recovered form “lost” explorers, and other cannibal films like Cannibal Ferox showcased all manner of excessive violence to and by natives, but there isn’t another film that is willing to push it all quite as far as Holocaust was able to do. Grindhouse Releasing saw the potential there not only for a definitive DVD release of the film, but a chance to make sure the record was set straight by those who were involved as to just what did or didn’t happen during the shoot.

Their solution? Put together a massive 25th Anniversary DVD of the film with pretty much every kind of feature a cannibal fan could ask for… and then get more. Because of some technical issues on our end it’s taken us longer than usual to get this review to you, and for that I apologize, but trust me; it’s worth the wait.

For those unfamiliar, the film finds a professor named Harold Monroe (Kerman) out on an expedition to the wilds of the Amazon to search for four filmmakers who were shooting a documentary there about cannibalism in modern times and were never seen from again. The first half of the film details the professor’s journey to find out what happened to the kids, but it also sets us up to see just what kind of people the Amazonian natives are. While not all together pleasant, their lifestyle is one that the professor reluctantly accepts, though he’s unable to condone some of their actions. He soon discovers the remains of the filmmakers, as well as most of their equipment and film reels.

Cut back to New York City, and Monroe sits down with some of the edited footage to see if he can piece together the fate of the filmmakers, since the condition of their remains indicate they didn’t die by anything close to natural causes. The footage they shot revealed a path of destruction the group went on across the Amazon, torturing and raping villagers, burning down their homes, and in general giving them great cause to hate the white man. When their ugly retribution comes, you get the feeling that they earned every torturous second the natives make them suffer through before finally killing them.

After seeing the whole story, Harold wants the footage destroyed. Those with a right to it refuse to let that happen until they see it for themselves, not believing anything could be as ugly as the picture he paints. This ongoing narrative allows the footage jungle footage to be intercut with goings-on in New York, which serve to give the viewer a moment or two to breath after the excessive, brutal violence. Finally, after witnessing the rape and consequential impalement of a native girl, the trio’s attempts to burn the villagers alive, and numerous other atrocities, the group agrees that the footage should never be seen by anyone. Ever.

Except, of course, horror fans around the world.

To say that Grindhouse’s treatment of Cannibal Holocaust is exhaustive would be to sell it short. I literally could not believe how much material they have put together for this 25th Anniversary release; no one will dispute that this is the definitive version of the film.

Disc One features a brand-new, high definition 16×9 transfer of the film, complete with a new stereo and mono sound mixes. It’s never looked better than this, which is a bit of an issue when the 16mm footage shot in the jungle takes over from the 35 of New York, because it’s hard to see the difference in quality at times. Not that this will take you out of the movie, by the time that footage is seen you’re too far in to probably notice. I know just how different it originally looked because the first time I ever saw the movie was on the big screen, thankfully, but overall it’s not all that distracting.

The main feature on this disc is the commentary track done by director Ruggero Deodato and star Robert Kerman. At first Deodato speaks only Italian with an interpreter, but he quickly switches to broken English for the most of the film, giving sharp contrast to Kerman’s mild New York accent. The track itself is filled with all sorts of great information from how most of the more elaborate effects were pulled off (the iconic image of the girl impaled by the pole? She was on a bicycle seat!), Ruggero’s feelings on his practice of really killing animals on camera (he says more than once he wouldn’t do that today if given the option), as well as Kerman’s recollection of what it was like to shoot in one of the most inhospitable environments imaginable.

There is also the option to watch the animal cruelty-free version of the film, which only eliminates a few minutes of footage all told and may help you sleep better if the on-camera killing of monkeys and turtles is too much for you, and with selected on-camera commentary. This is a pretty cool feature that I’d like to see more of, but unfortunately usually only crops up in independent releases. While watching the film with commentary, at certain points a skull icon will appear. If you click the “title” button on your remote, it switches to footage of Ruggero and Kerman recording the commentary while the movie plays between them. It’s a cool way to break up the commentary track and give you face to put to the voices. And if I may say so, Ruggero’s looking good for his age. Kerman, on the other hand… not so much.

The other prominent feature on this disc is “Inside the Green Inferno”, a collection of back stories for all the characters in the film, from documentary director Alan Yates to Professor Monroe to the native tribes they come across in the jungle. It’s a collection of behind the scenes and production photos with extensive text on everyone mentioned. Just another example of how far Grindhouse went to deliver the best possible version of this movie. There is also an alternate opening for The Last Road to Hell, the documentary the filmmakers did before going to the Amazon, which oddly enough features completely different credits than the ones seen in the film and is a bit longer. Finally, you can read the entire script as a DVD-Rom feature, and there’s a collection of theatrical trailers for your enjoyment, as well.

And that’s only the first disc.

The primary feature on Disc Two is “In the Jungle: The Making of Cannibal Holocaust“, an hour-long look at the history of the film primarily told through the opinions of the director, cinematographer, composer, and a few others. Ever aspect of making the movie is covered in here, from the effects to the violence to the backlash once the film was out. Praise is heaped on Deodato from pretty much the entire Italian crew, everyone hailing him as brillliant and one of Italy’s few great filmmakers.

Then we have a section just for interviews, the first of which is a 35-minute chat with star Robert Kerman. This one starts off a bit dull, only one camera angle and a boring environment, but later the angle is switched around and the discussion gets more animated. It’s hard to tell if Kerman respects Deodato or fears him, though I get the feeling it’s a bit of both, and hearing his recollections on making a movie in a location that was only accessible by plane is pretty fascinating.

The next is a 5-minute interview with composer Riz Ortolani, who takes the time to explain how he got involved, what he tried to do different, and how much he still likes the film to this day. Ortolani goes into a bit more depth in the “In the Jungle” featurette, as well.

Finally the cream of the crop; a 51-minute (!) interview with Gabrielle York, who played the documentary director Alan Yates in Holocaust. His recollections are much different from Kerman’s, as he was forced to do all sorts of nasty stuff on camera; stuff that you can tell still disturbs him to talk about. It’s definitely the best of the bunch in terms of behind the scenes anecdotes and real, raw emotions regarding the Holocaust’s disturbing subject matter. To top it all off it was shot by Feast director John Gulager! The difference between the quality of cinematography on this interview and that of the one with Kerman is night and day, something else that sets it apart from the other two interviews.

There’s a still gallery, which is in a slideshow presentation with pieces of the memorable score played over them, biographies and filmographies for Ruggero Deodato, Robert Kerman, and Gabrielle York, the music video for Necrophagia’s “Cannibal Holocaust” (shot by Manson Family director Jim Van Beber), and trailers of upcoming Grindhouse releases.

One of the easter eggs I found features footage from Cult Con 2000, where they had a Cannibal Holocaust panel, and since Ruggero and Kerman are wearing the same outfits they are when they’re doing commentary, one can assume that commentary was done shortly after this convention. The highlight of this panel is the simple fact that it’s a lot more fun than anything else, and features the group interacting with fans once it’s all over. Great stuff.

The menus for the discs themselves are very well put together and easy to navigate. The packaging is great, as well. The DVDs are in a hard case that opens to reveal both discs, complete with movie reel graphic on them, and the whole thing is in a slip case which features the cover above. There’s a booklet with an intro piece of sorts by famed horror author Chaus. Balun, as well. Great stuff.

To say Grindhouse went above and beyond with this release of Cannibal Holocaust would be doing it a disservice, because they went so much further than that. The disc took many years to be put together and finally be released but for fans of the movie, and even those with just a causal interest in the film like I had going into it, it’s been worth the wait.

Try not to let the film’s infamy put you off. Yes, it is disturbing and graphic; yes, animals are killed on screen; yes, the effects are hyper-realistic. But after sitting down with this disc and digging through all the features, listening to the cast and crew talk about the movie and it’s impact on their lives, I believe Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most important horror movies ever put to film. This disc respects that importance to the utmost degree, and demonstrates the love and attention Grindhouse is willing to put into something to make the fans happy. I can’t wait to see what the come out with next (and I promise that one will be reviewed in a timely manner…)!

4 ½ 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 3.5 (14 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 4.1 (21 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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