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From Beyond (DVD)

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From Beyond: Unrated Director's Cut DVD (click for larger image)Starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree, Ted Sorel, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

Directed by Stuart Gordon

Distributed by MGM and Fox Home Entertainment


Before I write another word, please, go over to your home video library and throw away every single bootleg or old VHS tape of From Beyond you have. You’re not going to be needing them any longer. Thanks, I’ll wait.

*whistles* OK then!

Finally. That’s the word that immediately jumps out at me when thinking about the Stuart Gordon horror kink classic From Beyond coming home to waiting (and boy, have we been waiting) fans. Ever since the movie came out in 1986 we’ve been clamouring to get our grubby little hands on an unrated cut of this flick, you know — the one that was rumored to have all that eye sucking goodness. Hold on to your collective asses, folks. The search (and the wait) is finally over.

From Beyond: Unrated Director's Cut DVD (click for larger image)Ah, those wacky mad scientists. They’re always fucking with things. Meet Dr. Edward Pretorius (Sorel). Old Eddie’s got a lot of stuff on his mind, and the mind is exactly where Pretorius finds his playground. You see he’s invented a device called The Resonator. A machine that in theory would be able to harness the powers of the human sixth sense. Unfortunately said device also ends up killing the good doctor and sends his assistant, Crawford Tillinghast (Combs), packing to a mental asylum. Man, talk about the shit hitting the fan, eh? Of course we never learn to leave well enough alone so before you can say “Humans are such easy prey” another psychiatrist (Crampton) decides it would be a good idea to continue Edward’s experiments.

Her results are a bit different as she ends up unleashing another dimension full of beasties who feed on and become aroused by human brains. Yes, what we have here is a genuinely deadly mind fuck film. Thank God Buford ‘Bubba’ Brownlee (Foree) is around to set things straight. Well, sort of. As you can imagine all types blood spattered erotic mayhem ensues which contributed to making From Beyond into one of the most sought after films in our genre.

First off, kudos to all those responsible for finding these deleted scenes and cutting them back into the movie (there’s an entire featurette titled The Editing Room which details the trials and tribulations of doing so). They work perfectly and look as if they’ve always been there. On top of that, the print of this movie is the best I’ve ever seen. The colors literally jump off the screen at you. Expect your own pineal gland to be stimulated!

From Beyond: Unrated Director's Cut DVD (click for larger image)In addition to the aforementioned five minute long Editing Room featurette there are some other cool things to be found here. First up, The Director’s Perspective, a nine minute interview with Stuart Gordon and company regarding the film’s genesis, its problems with everyone’s favorite band of elderly butchers, the MPAA, and of course the discovery of the thought to be lost footage. While this is some great stuff, sadly it represents the meat of the supplemental material. You just cannot help but want more. From there we have a four minute look at From Beyond‘s score with composer Richard Band, a five minute long photo montage, and a segment featuring storyboard to film comparisons of four different scenes. That’s it.

Right about now I was feeling a little let down in terms of extras. Thankfully the commentary with director Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs does a lot to patch that little wound. By the time it was over I have to say the experience felt quite satisfying.

Here’s the bottom line, despite my kvetching about wanting more bonus material, this DVD would be worth the purchase if only for the look and cut of the film alone. MGM and Fox took the time to go the extra mile for fans in terms of delivering From Beyond in the best fashion possible, and they have more than succeeded. Run to your stores. Click the link below. BUY THIS NOW!

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Barbara Crampton, and Jeffrey Combs
  • The Director’s Perspective featurette
  • The Editing Room featurette
  • Interview with composer Richard Band
  • Photo montage
  • Storyboard to film comparisons
  • Film:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 1/2 out of 5

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    TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL Review – This Sequel Delivers Hot Graboid Action

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    Starring Michael Gross, Jamie Kennedy, Jamie-Lee Money, Tanya van Graan

    Directed by Don Michael Paul

    Distributed by Universal


    Anomaly. Noun. Something that deviates from what is standard, normal, or expected.

    That’s the best way to describe the Tremors flicks. After around the third film most franchises descend into “wash, rinse, repeat” mediocrity; yet, here we are, six films in, and the Graboids, Ass Blasters, and most importantly, Burt Gummer (Gross) are still going not only strong, but seemingly invincible.

    Once again the action is taken out of the town of Perfection, but this time it heads toward a whole new landscape… one of snow and ice instead of just sand and rock. You see, with the environment changing, so are the habits of long-frozen Graboids. These wormy wonders are not content with just staying all locked into their formerly frozen places. With nowhere else to turn, a science team decides that it is high time for an authority on these friggin’ things to step in… the big guns… the big Gummers: Burt and his son, Travis (Kennedy).

    Upon their arrival on the frigid scene, we’re greeted with a truly colorful and likable ensemble of characters who, along with the Graboids, turn the horror, the comedy, and the action up to 11. Director Don Michael Paul once again turns in one of the most entertaining flicks in the film’s franchise, this time even eclipsing the good time that was his first entry into the series, Tremors 5: Bloodlines. It’s obvious that the team of Paul, Gross, and Kennedy is far more cocksure of the direction that their work and characters need to take, and it shows. For a little direct-to-video sequel, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell delivers tons of monster action that almost never suffers from its smaller budget. There’s a lot to like here, and longtime fans of the series are sure to eat this one up. You just cannot help but have a good time as the monster party tone is infectious.

    In terms of special features we get the serviceable basics here: The Making of Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell featurette, an Anatomy of a Scene feature that takes a look at one moment in the film that is truly a first for the franchise, and a brief inside look at Perfection’s hotspot – Chang’s Market. Nothing earth-shattering here, but certainly nothing bad either.

    As long as the trio of Gross, Kennedy, and Paul are up for it, I’m certainly down for more monster-fueled mayhem; and I’m pretty sure other Tremors fans will be, too. Here’s to looking toward wherever road this series travels. Something tells me its best moments are still ahead of it, and that, too, is without question an anomaly.

    Special Features:

    • The Making of Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell
    • Anatomy of a Scene
    • Inside Chang’s Market
    • Film
    • Special Features
    3.3

    Summary

    This sixth entry into the long-running franchise feels as fresh as the first day a Graboid sucked down its prey back in 1990. That’s quite the accomplishment! Its balls belong in the Balls Hall of Fame.

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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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