Starring (Dark Ride) Jamie-Lynn DiScala, Patrick Renna, David Clayton Rogers, Alex Solowitz; (Wicked Little Things) Lori Heuring, Scout Taylor-Compton, Chloe Moretz, Geoffrey Lewis, Ben Cross; (Penny Dreadful) Rachel Miner, Mimi Rogers, Mickey Jones, Michael Berryman; (The Hamiltons) Cory Knauf, Samuel Child, Joseph McKelheer, Mackenzie Firgens; (Unrest) Corri English, Scot Davis, Joshua Alba, Jay Jablonski; (Reincarnation) Takako Fuji, Yasutoki Furuya, Atsushi Haruta, Hiroto Itô, Karina, Mantarô Koichi, Marika Matsumoto, Tomoko Mochizuki, Yuka; (The Gravedancers) Dominic Purcell, Clare Kramer, Josie Maran, Marcus Thomas, Tchéky Karyo, Megahn Perry
Directed by (Dark Ride) Craig Singer, (Wicked Little Things) J. S. Cardone, (Penny Dreadful) Richard Brandes, (The Hamiltons) The Butcher Brothers, (Unrest) Jason Todd Ipson, (Reincarnation) Takashi Shimizu, (The Gravedancers) Mike Mendez
”Each year there are movies produced that are never seen by the public. Their content is considered too graphic, too disturbing, and too shocking for general audiences.” So says the trailer for the 2006 After Dark Horrorfest, and for the most part it delivered on every little gory thing promised. The unfortunate truth is had it not been for the festival, we would have never have gotten the chance to see these little gems on the big screen. Otherwise these fine bits of filmmaking would no doubt be sentenced to direct-to-video hell where they would get lost among the shit that takes up most of the space there.
Good horror! Blood-hungry fans! Hot popcorn! It was a memorable few days indeed!
After a successful run (the After Dark Horrorfest cracked the Top Ten box office that week), the films that were “too shocking” have now found their way home sold separately and in a jam-packed, gore-soaked box set.
I’m going to do things a bit differently this time around. Rather than write new reviews for each film, I’m going to just link to their existing reviews so I can spend my time here giving you the skinny on the many bits of supplemental material that await.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s begin shall we?
Dark Ride film review
First up on the special features for Dark Ride is your standard making-of featurette entitled “Ticket to Ride”. Clocking in at a run time of about sixteen minutes, this is a brief yet informative chat with the filmmakers and cast about their experiences on set. Everyone involved seemed to be having a blast. If only Dark Ride were as much fun to watch. From here we’re treated to a five-minute musical montage type look at the film’s make-up effects, which were quite good. Personally I felt a bit cheated by a few of the film’s demises, but when Dark Ride did go for the proverbial throat, it did so with a great deal of ferocity so this look back is definitely warranted. This brings us to the deleted scenes. There’s about seventeen minutes of excised footage here including some extended and alternate takes. The good news? Along with some extra added exposition, we get some more violence! The opening death scene of the twins is shown off in truly gruesome fashion. It’s no wonder this scene was trimmed as heavily as it was. I don’t think the MPAA was too keen on seeing a screaming little girl getting her guts torn out. Me on the other hand… Things get rounded up nicely with a quick storyboard montage and a commentary featuring director Craig Singer and producer Chris M. Williams in which at least one of the filmmakers talks about the few instances in which he felt he’d missed the boat, especially pertaining to the rather flaccid ending. All in all this is a very good package for a very average film.
3 1/2 out of 5
Penny Dreadful film review
While watching this long dreary little film for a second time, I was kind of hoping there wouldn’t be much supplemental material to have to sit through. Thankfully, my prayers were answered. Other than an eight-minute cookie-cutter making-of, all we get here is a music video from the band Sanity for their song “Stay Away”. Unless you get Penny Dreadful as part of the box set, I’d take the band’s advice.
1 1/2 out of 5
Wicked Little Things film review
Here’s a bit of a shock. Despite being one of the better films of the After Dark Horrorfest, Wicked Little Things ends up getting one of the skimpiest DVD treatments. The only thing to be found is a commentary with director J. S. Cardone and actress Lori Heuring. There’s little to be learned other than what you’d expect — lots of technical discussion and also talk of being inspired by films like Village of the Damned. Supplemental wise, this is one boring little disc.
1 out of 5
The Hamiltons film review
Things aren’t faring too well for the saga of The Hamiltons family in terms of DVD extras. What we get here are about nine minutes of deleted scenes that really don’t add much to the film itself, a four-minute blooper reel, and a commentary with the very entertaining Butcher Brothers and actor Cory Knauf. Truth be told, I’m kind of disappointed. Don’t get me wrong; the commentary is brisk and engaging, but just like with the film itself, I found myself wanting more.
2 out of 5
Unrest film review
There’s no question Unrest was one of the creepiest films of the entire After Dark Horrorfest. Being that director Jason Todd Ipson was a med student himself, he brings a lot to the table in terms of a film with a vibe like this. In the seven-minute making-of there is a surprisingly good deal of ground covered, including his inspiration for Unrest, which he attributes to feeling the “strangest sensations” while walking around the endless corridors of his local VA Hospital in the wee hours of the morning. The autopsy and morgue scenes shiver with authenticity, and this is further explored in the feature commentary with Ipson and editor Mike Saenz. While not the most entertaining, this audio track is certainly the most interesting (and not just because Dread Central gets a quick shout-out along with Bloody Disgusting and Fangoria). The only trouble here is that’s all we get – a commentary and a brief featurette. Come on, guys, if the Dark Ride DVD can deliver the goods, can’t we get a little more from a DVD that’s home to a film that is better on every conceivable level? Sigh.
2 1/2 out of 5
Reincarnation film review
And what would any modern-day horror festival be without a little Far East flavor? Director Takashi Shimizu (best known for creating the Ju-On/Grudge franchise) kicks off the DVD features of his film Reincarnation with a brief introduction in which he seems almost apologetic for his movie being another non-linear creation. We stupid Americans! We need our entertainment spoon-fed to us, damnit! From here we get the lengthiest bit of supplemental material of the box set, an hour long making-of featurette. This exploration of the film covers the usual bases along with an in-depth look at the differences between Eastern and Western filmmaking coupled with a great deal of unsubtitled behind-the-scenes shots. From there we have a ten-minute interview with Shimizu not only about Reincarnation but why he has chosen horror and what has drawn him to the genre. Things are then rounded up with nearly 30 minutes of deleted scenes with commentary by Shimizu, star Yuka, and producer Taka Ichise. All in all, good stuff.
3 1/2 out of 5
The Gravedancers film review
It seems fitting that the highlight film (second only to Nacho Cerda’s The Abandoned, not included here because it was enjoying a theatrical run at the time of this box set’s release) of the After Dark Horrorfest gets the best damned DVD treatment of the bunch. However, before I get to the myriad of special features, I’d like to concentrate on one in particular, the commentary. Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of speaking with or listening to director Mike Mendez can all attest to one thing – he’s a fan just like you and me. A genuine everyman! And as such he and composer Joseph Bishara have provided us horror hounds with a truly unique feature during the film’s commentary – a drinking game. For whatever reason, The Gravedancers ended up having an absurd number of lit lamps in almost every scene. I never noticed this before, but now that Mendez has gleefully pointed this factoid out, it’s almost impossible to ignore. The rules of the game are simple: See a lamp, take a drink. By the time the film’s over, trust me, you’ll be pretty lit yourself. Joy! The rest of the commentary is brisk and funny, but who cares when we have yet another reason to get shitfaced in the name of horror cinema? YAY!
After you’ve gotten your buzz on, and if you’re still able to focus on the DVD remote, it’s time to dive into the rest of the supplements. First up is the thirteen-minute making-of titled A Grave Undertaking. This behind-the-scenes featurette features interviews with various crew members and most of the principal cast. The Gravedancers was a six-year long labor of love, and everyone involved takes this opportunity to let us be privy to their good and not-so-good times. Great stuff. From there we move on to the original 2003 trailer for the film, which was used to raise money for the project. Clocking in at about three minutes, we get to see how an alternate cast and some cool effects helped to bring the idea to life even at such an early point in the film’s life. Next up are eleven minutes of deleted scenes. Nothing too exciting here, just a few moments that were trimmed either for pacing or budgetary issues. From here we get the disc’s second featurette, a twelve-minute look at the making of the movie’s ghosts. Without question, the specters of The Gravedancers are the true stars of the film. Once you see them, you will not forget them. Fan’s of William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus will be especially pleased by their look. Spooky shit, man! Things are then rounded up with a three-minute set of storyboard galleries. It should be noted that all of the above features (except for the latter) come with their own commentary (sans continued drinking game). Needed? No. Masturbatory? Maybe. Fun? You betcha!
4 1/2 out of 5
So there you have it. How you own all this madness is completely up to you. To purchase the box set, simply click on the link below. To pick and choose what you want, just click on the reviews that you’re interested in, and follow the links at the bottom of their respective pages.
Given the homogenized horror Hollywood has been doling out by the shitload, the After Dark Horrorfest is exactly the breath of fresh air our beloved genre needed! Here’s to the next one!
4 1/2 out of 5