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Daughters of Darkness (DVD)

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Daughters of Darkness DVD (click for larger image)Starring Delphine Seyrig, Danielle Ouimet, John Karlen and Andrea Rau

Directed by Harry Kümel

Distributed by Blue Underground


What can top your standard vampire story? A lesbian vampire story! And what could top that? A lesbian vampire story double feature! Yes, oh yes!!! Blue Underground has brought two classic “adult” psycho-sexual thrillers from the early 70’s together in one beautiful set. However, one must ask the question: Do these sexy movies withstand the test of time?

This two-disc special edition release of Harry Kümel’s Daughters of Darkness is more than it appears. At the ass end of the film’s description, on the back of the DVD case, you will see another title mentioned … The Blood Spattered Bride. This came as quite a surprise since nowhere on the front cover or even the cardboard slipcase is it mentioned that the buyer is receiving an extra film. No objections here!

Let’s start things out with the film this reviewer watched with his lovely cohort, Trish the Dish. The thought of lesbo-fueled vampire hanky panky is hot even on a boring Sunday morning. We were both set to watch some of that great old 1970’s horror magic that could fall along the lines of The Wicker Man, but it was not to be.

Daughters of Darkness DVD (click for larger image)Daughters of Darkness is the tale of two newlyweds who are off enjoying the bliss associated with being married. There is early tension in their relationship as Stephan (John Karlen) keeps skirting the reservations of informing his “mother” about his hasty union with Valerie (Danielle Ouimet). Stephan also seems to have a violent streak and occasionally mistreats Val in the physical sense. Sometimes women require a little roughing up. You understand, right?

The young lovers soon arrive at a lovely seaside town and stay at a very posh hotel. Things are beautiful, especially the newly arrived Countess Bathory (Delphine Seyrig). She oozes sexiness and has caught the eyes of both Valerie and Stephan. What could this seemingly ageless Countess want with these two?

Daughters of Darkness is essentially the retelling of Elizabeth Bathory’s legend. It’s just too bad that the plot slowly turns and bores the audience until the ever graceful Delphine Seyrig appears on screen. One could basically shove the story aside and watch her scenes because of her strong and pleasing presence. Sure, she doesn’t get naked or actually do much in the way of carpet munching, but that isn’t significant. What is prominent, on the other hand, is that the movie isn’t all that sexy or shocking. Back then it may have been something for the press to eat up, but today it’s just another snail paced horror film with thick, paint-like blood.

Most of the characters never become interesting enough to invest emotion in. Stephan is unlikeable from the start and Valerie is more of a beautiful statue than anything else. She never really gets to shine until the film nears its end and the audience witnesses a very mind-boggling car accident that may produce more laughs than gasps.

Daughters of Darkness DVD (click for larger image)What about the lesbianism? It’s there … sort of. There is a little sexual tension between Countess Bathory and her lover Ilona (Andrea Rau), but there is never enough of a payoff to solidify what their relationship is. Honestly, there is more sex between men and women in this picture than anything else. When one watches a lesbian vampire film, one expects to see some labia licking or something, anything apart from a cheap peck on the lips and a quick roll around in the bed. Talk about blue-balling.

The special features did help things become more interesting as the audience learns that this movie did accomplish a few “cinema firsts” via the commentary. Some of these things include a man having an orgasm on screen and opening a film with a sex scene. Shocking! Director Harry Kümel’s commentary track is the most informative out of the two to be sure, but he needs a bit of coaxing from another person during the recording session. If only the movie was a little more gripping, then it would be easier to sit through the commentaries. At least he was a little more lively during the Locations of Darkness featurette where he and co-writer Pierre Drouot visit the film locales as they exist in the present day. It’s no Horror’s Hallowed Grounds though.

The second commentary track features John Karlen and journalist David Del Valle. This reviewer never thought he would learn more about Dark Shadows watching this picture than an actual Dark Shadows DVD. Mr. Karlen reminisces about his days on that classic vampire soap opera and remarks on how it would be delightful to be youthful again. Woo! All that was missing was a bit of hemorrhoid and backache discussion!

The interviews with Danielle Ouimet and Andrea Rau are very short but do make the most of the time. Each of them recount the shooting conditions, sexual positions and the shock value of the film. Both of these ladies still retain a bit of their former beauty, but it would be advised to watch the feature, get yer jollies and then watch the extras. Old and wrinkled lesbianism is not a pretty thing in the mind’s eye. I can no longer sleep at night.

Daughters of Darkness is a very watchable film, but the viewer has to go into it with the mindset that this is not a graphic sexual tale or even a violent horror film. Its charm is in the beauty of the cast and locations. While it may not get you or your partner into the mood to have sex, it does make intercourse a better alternative than sitting through the film. This DVD shall now accompany me on every date. We’ve given hope to the the nerd populace! Bump nasties thanks to the Daughters of Darkness.

Oh snap, almost forgot that there was another movie in this set. How can the The Blood Spattered Bride section of the review be done without boring everyone to death? Let’s make it quick …

Daughters of Darkness DVD (click for larger image)Vicente Aranda’s The Blood Spattered Bride rings the bells of lesbian vampires again, but this time it’s sexier. The comparisons between this film and Daughters of Darkness are as plentiful as used condoms on a beach after Spring Break. Once again we see an abusive man wed a timid and mysterious woman. She is soon haunted by a ghost from the past played by Alexandra Bastedo and her amazing body. It soon comes to pass that the ghost is in fact a vampire hot for some living puddin’. Breasts are everywhere: in the sand, in the crypts and in the woods.

Just like Daughters of Darkness, The Blood Spattered Bride leaves much to be desired as far as characters are concerned. How can you side with a physically and mentally abusive husband? How does one start to care about a bitchy young wife who speaks her lines like she expects no response? How the hell do you not have girl-on-girl action AGAIN in a vampire lesbian movie?! What in the name of Bluebeard’s shanty crab shack is going on?!

And the problems don’t end there, friends. Aside from the pretty bodies there’s not much else going for this movie. Men don’t fight back against knife-wielding women? The thought of your wife being a labia licker is more disgusting than her being a vampire? Scuba-diving women get buried under three feet of sand and no one questions it? Isn’t it time to just destroy the knife your wife keeps finding and attacks you with? All these questions and more are the audience’s for the asking when you bite into The Blood Spattered Bride. Come for the boobs, but stay for the WTF’s!

Special Features
Audio commentary #1 with co-writer/director Harry Kumel
Audio commentary #2 with star John Karlen and journalist David Del Valle
Locations of Darkness – Interviews with co-writer/director Harry Kumel and co-writer/co-producer Pierre Drouot
Playing the Victim – Interview with star Danielle Ouimet
Daughter of Darkness – Interview with star Andrea Rau
Theatrical trailer
Radio spots
Poster and still gallery
Disc 2: The Blood Spattered Bride
U.S. combo theatrical trailer

3 out of 5

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THE STRANGERS Blu-ray Review – Let This Stellar Release From Scream Factory Sneak Into Your Home

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Starring Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman, Man in the Mask, Dollface, Pin-up

Directed by Bryan Bertino

Distributed by Scream Factory


It’s a bit odd – though somewhat fitting, given the number of waited-too-long sequels being produced these days – The Strangers (2008) finally got a follow-up after a lengthy ten-year gap. The original is a fine example of a home invasion picture done right, or at least well enough, but, as anyone who has seen the film knows, the leads probably won’t be returning and the killers have the personalities of dime store Halloween masks. The Strangers is a disturbing film in the sense the events seem like they “could happen to you” – it is, after all, “based on a true story” (not really). Plus, the situations our leads find themselves in are exactly the sort people still freak themselves out, like whenever someone enters a room with large windows at night – let’s all be honest here. The only thing scarier than things that go bump in the night is the thought those things are just out of eyesight, waiting to scare you. With the exception of a few “wait, why are you doing that?” moments The Strangers manages to activate certain primal responses to being stalked and frightened. It’s creepy.

Not-newly-engaged couple James (Scott Speedman) and Kristen (Liv Tyler) have returned to James’ childhood summer home after a day spent at a wedding, where James’ proposal to Kristen was sadly declined. They go through some awkward motions back at home, trying to figure out where their relationship stands, when there’s a sudden KNOCK at the door. James answers and finds a young girl asking for a person who has never lived there. She leaves, cryptically mumbling she’ll “see them later”. She does, along with two other “friends” – the Man in the Mask and another girl in a pin-up mask – who proceed to stalk, taunt, tease, and terrorize both Kristen and James until the morning light breaks.

There aren’t many huge surprises in this film but the less you know about how the night plays out, the better. This isn’t to suggest the main characters make smart decisions viewers aren’t expecting, though. James is initially dismissive of a series of terrorizing occurrences Kirsten experiences when he goes out to get her a pack of smokes, brushing all of it off like she has an overactive imagination; this after the weird situation with the girl moments before. And expectedly, once James is finally on board with believing something sinister is afoot it’s already too late to do much about it. Past that point he and Kristen do act like rational people (mostly) and their plight gains a little more sympathy because of their noble efforts.

I hate the scene where James’ friend, Mike (Glenn Howerton), shows up, though. Spoiler alert: any viewer can see his accidental death coming from a mile away. Since it’s established early on James has called Mike to pick him up, what would have worked better would be if all the footage of Mike’s arrival and inspection of the house was cut. That way, his reveal at James and Kristen’s makeshift stronghold in the back bedroom would have been a major surprise. Instead, it plays out so obviously the intended impact is completely muted.

While the film falters in a few areas, it manages to make up for those gaffes by stepping outside the norm. One thing is does incredibly right is refusing to give the trio of terrorizers any personality or backstory or motivation. Viewers are left just as cold once the credits roll as they were upon being introduced to these faceless miscreants. This feels especially refreshing when watching the movie today because lately it seems so many horror films have been yanking the mystique out of things; between prequels and reboots and lengthy exposition it’s rare when a film chooses to eschew all of that. The film is also dire and dour, leaving little room for hope aside from a tiny tidbit that occurs at the very end. There are no white knights; the cavalry isn’t coming – and when you are staying at a house with weak security, near the woods, with no neighbors close by, don’t expect a deus ex machina to save the day.

Universal previously issued The Strangers on Blu-ray, though it featured both cuts on a single BD-25 and used an outdated codec. This new release from Scream Factory spreads the goods out onto two discs, giving each cut a full BD-50 to maximize bit rate. As a result, the 2.35:1 1080p image looks much more refined, smoothing out past compression issues and tightening up both contrast and definition. The lion’s share of this film was shot at night and black levels maintain a rich consistency throughout, while still allowing for details to remain apparent. Nothing is lost to the shadows, which frequently bathe the actors and environments. Scream Factory touts a new 2K scan of the intermediate and the results are nearly flawless.

As viewers might expect, sound design plays a crucial role in this film and the audio options ensure they’ll be immersed in subtle and not-so-subtle sounds from every direction. Both cuts feature an English DTS-HD Master Audio track in both 2.0 and 5.1 options. As expected, the multi-channel track offers a more discreet experience, spreading out the spooky sound design to fully envelope listeners. Thuds, knocks, voices, and footsteps creep from unexpected corners of the room, placing viewers right in the action and heightening the tension. The soundtrack goes a bit overboard on the jump scares stingers but since the whole point of this film is a couple being jolt scared over and over they seem fitting. Subtitles are included in English SDH.

Just as buyers should rightfully expect, Scream Factory has included all of the previous extra features found on Universal’s release and then some.

DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut

“The Element of Terror” – This is a routine EPK, filled with behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the cast & crew.

“Strangers at the Door” – This piece covers the film’s initial concept and shows off some of the cast & crew working on set, with a few being interviewed, too.

A reel of deleted scenes, three TV spots, and a theatrical trailer, which is quite effective, can also be found on this disc.

DISC TWO: Unrated Cut

“Defining Moments – Interview with writer/director Bryan Bertino” – This is a newly recorded chat with the director, who discusses not only the making of the film but its legacy now that so much time has passed since release.

“All the Right Movies – Interview with actor Kip Weeks (Man in the Mask) – Here, the actor discusses how he got the role and what kind of direction was given to him for the character.

“Brains and Brawn – Interview with actress Laura Margolis (Pin-up Girl) – Just as with Kip Weeks, Margolis talks about playing such a quiet character as well as discussing some changes to the trio that were made during production.

“Deep Cuts – Interview with editor Kevin Greutert” – Learn about how the film took shape, the reasoning behind cuts and sequencing, and what changes were made right up until the theatrical release date.

A still gallery is also included.

The cover art is reversible and there is a slipcover included on first pressings featuring newly commissioned artwork.

Special Features:

  • NEW 2K REMASTER of the Theatrical Version of the film
  • NEW 2K REMASTER of the Unrated Version of the film
  • NEW Defining Moments – An Interview With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino
  • NEW All The Right Moves – An Interview With Actor Kip Weeks (Man In The Mask)
  • NEW Brains And Brawn – An Interview With Actress Laura Margolis (Pin Up Girl)
  • NEW Deep Cuts – An Interview With Editor Kevin Greutert
  • The Element of Terror – Interviews With The Cast And Crew
  • Strangers At The Door – Interviews With Writer/Director Bryan Bertino And The Cast
  • Deleted Scenes
  • TV Spots
  • The Strangers
  • Special Features
3.8

Summary

Still effective only with only a modicum of true stupidity, “The Strangers” might not be the classic it’s been called in more than a few recent retrospective pieces but it does occupy a cushy spot near the top of the contemporary home invasion film list. Scream Factory’s release offers up excellent A/V quality and all the bonus features anyone could want (barring an audio commentary).

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7 GUARDIANS OF THE TOMB Review – Rest Easy, Indiana Jones, There’s Not Much To See Here

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Starring Kellan Lutz, Bingbing Li, Kelsey Grammar

Directed by Kimble Rendall


If it only weren’t for those friggin’ spiders. Kimble Rendall’s adventurous flick, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is one of those “wanted to be, yet couldn’t quite hit the mark” action-films that will probably entertain those looking for some cave-dwelling escapades caught on celluloid, but for the more picky aficionado of said slam-bang pics, this one might be viewed as a bit stagnant. Let’s strap on our mining helmets and pick around this one, shall we?

Acting as a bit of a search-and-rescue formation, the movie tails alongside Dr. Jia Lee (Li) as she hunts down the whereabouts of her missing brother after losing contact with him while he was on expedition in Western China. Apparently he was looking for a secretive Emperor’s tomb that supposedly holds a potion that can reanimate, or re-invigorate…or rehabilitate – anyway you slice it, the juice has got some pretty potent powers. So a search team is assembled, led by Mason (Grammar – glad someone got Frasier off of the barstool), and he’s latched onto all-American fella Jack (Lutz) to assist this operation. As it turns out, the initial journey is cut off fairly quick when a violent electrical storm forces the group to head underground, and that’s when things get creepy and crawly…like 8-legged style. The film is ripe with some feverish action and a few decent performances, but it’s the overall framework that acts as the big bully, tauntingly kicking sand in the little guy’s face at the beach.

We’ve got love interests, a flurry of backstories, and oh my lord, those spiders! Yep, even the heartiest of CGI can effectively ruin a good case of the willies when it comes to arachnids and their powers of sucking humans and animals dry of their lifeforce. It’s an intently goofy movie, and even the dialogue seems a bit showy at times, leaving plausibility and intelligence at the entrance to the caves. Lutz is fun to watch as the burly rescuer, and he looks as the type who is just waiting for his cinematic moment to step into the spotlight. What pains me is that this movie really could have been something much bigger, and apparently it looks as if the majority of the film’s budget was wasted on those hokey-looking computerized spiders.

All in all, 7 Guardians Of The Tomb is spotty entertainment, even if you despise those little skittering aphids racing towards you, programmed or not. Give it a peek if Raiders Of The Lost Ark isn’t readily available at your disposal…even that crappy Crystal Skull one.

  • Film
2.5

Summary

A film that could have been so much more adventure-wise instead comes off looking like a lesson in how not to waste too much time on computer imagery.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 160 – A QUIET PLACE

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Lately, it seems as though comedy actors are cutting their teeth as horror directors and absolutely killing it! This year’s indie horror darling comes in the form of John Krasinki’s A Quiet Place. Chris has been sick as a dog, so the haomie Christine from Horrible Imaginings Film Fest is filling in to discuss whether A Quiet Place is 2018’s horror heavyweight, or just a lot of noise.

What Bruno took was what changed me; it only amplifies your essence. It simply makes you more of what you already are. It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 160!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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