Directed by Jack Hill
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Ah, yes! The maddest story ever told! That’s been the subtitle for this long lost, yet recently rediscovered gem, and for its time way back in the Sixties with a budget of just around sixty thousand dollars, it more than lived up to it. Having been one of the lucky few who tracked this flick down on a horrid bootleg VHS, I’ve been waiting for a definitive DVD release for what seems like forever. Dark Sky Films has heard the cries of fans the world over, and now they have given us a gift! Spider Baby a.k.a. Cannibal Orgy is finally here. Remastered, restored, and for the first time ever, complete! Can you hear the angels singing? I know I can!
Meet what’s left of the Merrye family — Elizabeth (Washburn), Virginia (Banner), and Ralphie (Haig). They were just your average everyday kids until they started suffering the effects of a rare genetic disease that causes its victims to regress into savage cannibals (and you thought your family was fucked). Good thing they have the family chauffeur Bruno (Chaney) looking out for them. Bruno helps to keep the murder and mayhem to an absolute minimum for as long as he can, but then some distant relatives and their lawyer show up with greed on their minds. Little did they realize that their minds would end up decomposing rapidly in the stomachs of the Merrye kids! All manner of insanity ensues, and we get to see every frame in absolute clarity thanks to the painstaking restoration and remastering effort put in by Dark Sky Films under the watchful eye of director Jack Hill!
The print of the film itself isn’t the only thing worthy of praise as this DVD is absolutely dripping with extras. Things kick off with probably one of the best commentary tracks of the year courtesy of Jack and star Sid Haig. These guys not only have history but a deep respect and love for one another (also check out our interview with Jack and Sid here). The things they have done and seen in this industry are the stuff of legend. This was one conversation I did not want to end, but alas, there are even more goodies in store …
First up is a thirty-minute featurette called The Hatching of Spider Baby in which the cast, crew, and even master of horror Joe Dante discuss their love for this project and its humble beginnings while sharing on-set stories and exchanging anecdotes. A good chunk of the run time of this featurette is dedicated to speaking about genre legend Lon Chaney, Jr., and rightfully so. There’s not much out there that details the life of Chaney, but this extra delightfully gives us a look about not only the actor but the man himself. Really good stuff. Next up is The Spider Stravinsky: The Cinema Sounds of Ronald Stein. A veteran of the Roger Corman films of this era, Stein brought a unique sound to Spider Baby. This eleven-minute featurette takes a look back at him and the weekend he spent in Mexico composing the flick’s score.
From there we have an eight-minute featurette that revisits the house used in the movie called The Merrye House Revisited. Here Jack Hill and bonus material producer Elijah Drenner walk us around and through the digs while discussing shot setups, etc. It’s always cool to get a then and now perspective on things, and since the house was very much a character in the film in and of itself, this inclusion perfectly fits the bill. Finally we get an extended scene that gives us more Chaney (never a bad thing) that runs about four minutes, an alternate opening credits sequence, and a still gallery. There’s no doubt that for a single-disc release this fucker is packing the goods.
Spider Baby has gone on to reach mega-cult status among fans. One look at the film and it’s easy to see why. Every performer gives it his or her all, but as expected, it’s Chaney who steals the show with one scene in particular that is probably the actor’s best performance ever. If you’ve never seen this classic, then the time is perfect to jump in head first and enjoy the ride. Click that link below and got your copy like yesterday!
5 out of 5
5 out of 5
Discuss Spider Baby in our forums!
Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It
Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido
Directed by David Moscow
It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.
Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.
Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.
While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.
Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.
Wolf Guy Blu-ray Review – Sonny Chiba As A Werewolf Cop In ’70s Japan
Starring Sonny Chiba, Etsuko Nami, Kyosuke Machida
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi
Distributed by Arrow Video
As virtually every American adaptation has proven, translating manga to the big screen is a job best left to Japanese filmmakers. There is an inherent weirdness – for lack of a better term – to their cultural media that should be kept “in house” if there is to be any hope for success. Ironically, the stories are often so fantastical and wildly creative that a big American studio budget would be necessary to fully realize such a live-action vision. But I digress. Back in 1975, Toei Studios (home of Gamera) adapted the 1970 manga series Wolf Guy into a feature of the same name. Starring the legendary Shin’ichi Chiba (a.k.a. Sonny Chiba), who at that time was in his prime, the film combines elements of crime and psychedelic cinema, delivering less of a werewolf film (despite the title suggesting otherwise) and more of a boilerplate crime caper with a cop who has a few tricks up his hairy sleeve. I should stress it is the story that plays fairly straightforward, while the film itself is a wild kaleidoscope of strange characters and confounding situations… mostly.
An unseen killer, known only as “The Tiger”, prowls the streets at night slashing victims to death and leaving behind no trace. Beat cop Akira Inugami (Sonny Chiba) is on the case, and he has an advantage over his fellow brothers in blue: being a werewolf. As the opening credits flashback shows, Akira is the sole survivor of the Inugami clan of werewolves after a slaughter wiped out the rest of his kind. Now, as the last of his brethren, he uses his acute lycanthropic skills, under the auspices of the moon, to track down underworld thugs and solve cases uniquely tailored to his abilities. As the lunar cycle of the moon sees it growing fuller Akira’s powers, too, increase to superhuman levels.
Searching for this mysterious “Tiger”, Akira is led into a subterranean world of clandestine government organizations, nightclub antics, and corrupt politicians. One night, Akira is attacked and taken prisoner by a government research lab that wants to use his blood to create werewolves they can control. Only problem is – which they don’t realize – Akira’s blood cannot be mixed with that of a human; the only end result is death. Miki (Etsuko Nami), a drug user with syphilis, comes to Akira’s aid and proves to be quite useful. She holds a secret that has the potential to vastly change Akira’s world but, first, a showdown with the criminal underbelly looms on the horizon… as does the fifteenth day of the Lunar Cycle, when Akira will be made nearly invincible.
First, some bad news: Sonny Chiba never attains full werewolf status. This is not that movie. Sure, he growls and snarls and sneers and possesses many of the traits of a werewolf but in terms of physical characteristics he more or less remains “human” the entire time. Yes, even during “Lunar Cycle Day 15”, a.k.a. the moment every viewer is waiting for, to see him turn into a wolf. Instead, he just winds up kicking a lot of ass and taking very little damage. To be fair, a grizzled Sonny Chiba is still enough of a formidable presence, but, man, to see him decked out as a full-on kung-fu fighting werewolf would’ve been badass. The film could have done better at tempering expectations because it builds up “Day 15” like viewers are going to see an explosion of fur and flesh, instead it’s just plenty of the latter. Aw, well.
Lack of werewolf-ing aside, the film plays out a bit uneven. The opening offers up a strong start, with The Tiger attack, wily underworld characters being introduced, and a tripped-out acid garage rock soundtrack (which I’d kill for a copy of). But Second Act Lag is a real thing here and many of the elements that may have piqued viewer curiosity in the first act are scuttled, and although the third act and climax bring forth fresh action and a solution to the mystery it also feels a bit restrained. Then again, this is Toei, often seen as a cheaper Toho. Wolf Guy serves as a good introduction to Akira Inugami and his way of life, which makes it a greater shame no sequels were produced.
Presented with a 2.35:1 1080p image, Wolf Guy hits Blu-ray with a master supplied by Toei, meaning Arrow did no restorative work of their own on the picture – and it shows. Japanese film elements, especially those of older films, are often notorious for being poorly housed and feebly restored. This transfer is emblematic of those issues, with hazy black levels, average-to-poor definition, minimal shadow detail, and film grain that gets awfully noisy at times. The best compliment I can give is daylight close-up scenes exhibit a pleasing level of fine detail, though nothing too eye-popping. This is a decidedly mediocre transfer across the board.
The score fares a bit better, not because the Japanese LPCM 1.0 mono mix is a beast but because the soundtrack is so wildly kinetic, exploding with wild garage rock and fuzzy riffs right from the get-go. Dialogue has a slight hiss on the letter “s” but is otherwise nicely balanced within the mix. Subtitles are available in English.
“Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts” is a September 2016 sit-down with the film’s director, who reflects on his career and working with an icon like Sonny Chiba.
“Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master” is an interview with Yoshida, a former producer at Toei who oversaw this film and many others.
“Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1” covers the man’s career up to a point, with the remainder finished on Arrow’s other 2017 Chiba release, Doberman Cop.
A theatrical trailer is also included, as is a DVD copy of the feature.
- Kazuhiko Yamaguchi: Movies with Guts
- Toru Yoshida: B-Movie Master
- Sonny Chiba: A Life in Action, Vol. 1
- Theatrical trailer
While the film might be a bit of a letdown given what is suggested, fans of bizarre Japanese ’70s cinema – and certainly fans of Chiba’s work – should, at the least, have fun with this title.
Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?
Starring Rachel Nichols Laura Harring
Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas
While the directing duo of the cringe-inducing and original 2007 French grand guignol thriller Inside have gone on to refurbishments of their own—Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo recently helmed a retread of Leatherface’s origin story—their flick now has an American stamp on it with the release of the remake, also titled Inside.
A cheerless Christmas eve sets the stage for heavily-pregnant widow Sarah’s (Rachel Nichols) oncoming ordeal. It’s a frigid and snowy night. She’s got a huge house to herself, following the accidental and violent death of her husband. She wants to sell the home that was meant to hold a family, to forget the nascent memories it once held. But she’s got to ride it out until the baby is born. While Sarah is lonesome, she won’t be alone. She’s got her genial gay neighbor nearby, and her mum is going to come and stay with her for a few days. Oh, and there will be an unexpected visitor too.
When a shadowy, seemingly stranded stranger (Laura Harring) knocks on the door pleading to be let inside, Sarah instinctively balks. She even calls the cops. But the woman leaves and all seems well. Crisis averted. Sarah puts the housekeys in the mailbox outside for Mom, and goes to bed. Big mistake.
Mystery Lady shows up at Sarah’s bedside armed with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case full of sharp-and-pointies (sorry, ’07 fans… those implements do not include a pair of scissors). The horror unfolds and the expected yet lively game of gory cat-and-mouse ensues. Then the tete-a-tete becomes a body-count chiller featuring one shocking moment after another.
Nichols is fantastic in the role, giving it her all. When the original Inside came out eleven years ago, she was starring in another French-helmed horror, P2—also set on Christmas eve—and she stole the show. She does the same here but with a less-intense adversary. Harring’s killer character, unlike her European counterpart, has a lot to say—which takes away from her initially mysterious manner as the minutes tick off. Still, the girl-on-girl action is a welcome change from the usual gender dynamic one sees in these things. Both deserve kudos for their performances.
While Inside isn’t a died-in-the-wool “Hollywood” remake (Miguel Ángel Vivas directs, while [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró wrote it) it feels like one. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end). However, Inside is still a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it.
Inside is a serviceable thriller that’s well-acted, beautifully shot, and effectively scored. Folks coming in fresh, and casual horror fans, will more than likely enjoy it. For those who’ve seen the original, there will be mild disappointment (which turns to major letdown at the very end).
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
Armageddon’s Will Patton Joins Blumhouse Halloween as a Police Officer
An Early Draft of Halloween 6 Has Been Released And It’s… Interesting
Sulphur for Leviathan to Haunt the Festival Circuit
House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn Announced for Arcades
Dread Central UK Enjoys a Box of IT
Josh Millican’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Mike Sprague’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Jonathan Barkan’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton’s Best Horror Films of 2017
Gender Bashing: The Exorcist Series and the Male Body in Possession Horror
John Carpenter … NOT DEAD!
Rest in Peace: Dolores O’Riordan
Exclusive Delirium Clip Goes Running Through the ‘Net!
Devil’s Tree: Rooted Evil – Exclusive Trailer, Stills, Poster and More
New Victor Crowley Trailer Owns the Swamp and Then Some!
News5 days ago
Zak Bagans’ Paranormal-Themed Documentary Demon House Acquired: Aiming For March Release
News5 days ago
Breaking: Blumhouse’s Halloween Officially Begins Filming!
News5 days ago
Inside (Remake) Review – Is It as Brutal as the Original?
News5 days ago
Exclusive: Bloodlands Trailer Reveals Albania’s First Horror Film
News5 days ago
Adam Green Curating the Next Box of Dread
News6 days ago
World’s First Saw-Themed Escape Experience to Open in Las Vegas
Drinking With the Dread6 days ago
Drinking With The Dread: A Deathgasm You Won’t Forget
News6 days ago
Four Things You May Have Overlooked in IT