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Lord of Tears (UK Blu-ray)



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Lord of Tears (UK Blu-ray)Starring Euan Douglas, Lexy Hulme, Jamie Gordon, David Schofield

Directed by Lawrie Brewster

Distributed by Hex Media

When his estranged mother passes away, mild-mannered school teacher James Findlay finds himself the sole proprietor of his parents’ estate, including the secluded Scottish manor, Baldurrock House, in which he grew up. Against the express wishes of a letter left behind by his mother, James decides to visit the homestead once again in order to hopefully come to terms with his past there – a past all but forgotten due to what he believes was some kind of mental breakdown as a child.

Upon arriving, James meets local housekeeper Evie, an American living at the estate with whom he enters into a burgeoning relationship. As James investigates the various personal relics left behind from his childhood, he begins to experience ever more disturbing nightmares and visions of the ‘Owlman’ – a creepy, suited spectre haunting the woods surrounding the home and sporting a giant owl’s head and elongated, clawed hands. As more memories are unearthed and James’ supernatural experiences become even more intense, he soon finds himself trapped in a living nightmare of ghostly vengeance for familial sins in the service of an ancient Pagan god.

A true Kickstarter success, having been brought to our hands by the combined efforts of horror fans and Dark Dunes Productions, Lord of Tears is a magnificent specimen of classical horror filmmaking. Taking its cues from some of the most creepy Hammer productions and now-legendary haunted house films such as ‘The Innocents’, it’s a slow-burn affair whose every frame is bathed in the dark promises of malevolence and dread. The low budget is most easily apparent in early indoor dialogue scenes, however once the action moves to Baldurrock, the native Scottish locations and superb Manor house allow the cinematography to open its all-encompassing black wings as the film folds over you with shots of grimly beautiful forests and silently threatening shadows. Debut feature director Lawrie Brewster frames some absolutely gorgeous gothic images, made all the more shiver-inducing by the presence of the super-creepy Owlman. Seriously, all that the feathered fiend needs to do is stand there or slowly point with those bark-like talons and you’ll feel it run up your spine; a first-rate display of something completely otherworldly invading our realm.

Thankfully, he doesn’t just stand and point, however, with the Owlman’s voice being provided by veteran actor David Schofield. They couldn’t have made a better choice, either, as the volume ramps up during each of his verbose monologues, drowning the room in resonant bass tones and a feeling of superlative, esoteric power. Yet, despite the promotional focus on the Owlman himself, he is more of an observer to the unfolding events at Baldurrock, seemingly restricted from intervening in a physical way himself. Though he is indeed at the very core of what has gone on at the Estate, his guidance and taunts play as more of a nudging motivation for the tortured James as he continues further down a rabbit hole from which he may not return. As James, Euan Douglas carries the film extremely well, even if still recognisably amateur in front of the lens, while Lexy Hulme brings a smouldering classical sexuality to her performance amidst more disturbing facets that come to the fore as the rug is pulled from under the pair. There’s a strange incongruity to her initial scenes, however, as her broadly American accent and theatrical deliveries seem to clash with the more subdued nature of the cinematography and Douglas himself, but this initial shock soon subsides as the absorbing nature of the story sets in.

On the topic of the story itself, it is most assuredly a simple yet effective ghost story underpinned with arcane horror. Those looking for a fast paced, in-your-face spook show would be well advised to seek their needs elsewhere as a modicum of patience is required to let Lord of Tears truly sink its claws into you. Even when it has, however, a little extra is needed as the pacing does suffer unduly because of a few over-extended sequences that lose their traction much, much sooner than they end. Their length feels over-indulgent and, at times, serves to negatively impact the generation of fear. Just a couple more minutes of trimming would have made for a more effective beast.

Atypically though, that’s probably the worst that can be said about the film! As the narrative unfolds, Brewster throws in a number of dream-like (or, rather, nightmare-like) sequences that are initially mystifying, and often mark movement to the next scene. It adds challenge to the film on first viewing, and when all is said and done it actually succeeds in tying together exceptionally well, adding a deeper layer of foreboding and hopelessness that really opens up on subsequent viewings. And you will indeed view it again – because when the base mystery has been revealed to you, it’s even better the second time.

Lord of Tears (UK Blu-ray)

On the actual presentation and features side of things with this release, something really does have to be said about the effort put into it by the folks at Hex Media. Rather than your standard DVD or Blu-ray clamshell, Lord of Tears comes in a beautifully constructed fold-out Digipak covered in gorgeous gothic artwork and harbouring the film disc, a CD of the film’s excellent score (complete with Owlman dialogue snippets), and a booklet detailing the stages of the ancient sacrificial rites upon which its mythology is based. It also arrives in your mailbox perfectly wrapped in black tissue paper with a single owl feather stuck on the outside. It feels exciting, yet ominous – a package that promises untold horrors to come should you dare open it – a very special little touch that feels a shame to disturb. Alas, you’re going to have to if you want to get to the good stuff inside.

On the disc, we have a selection of deleted scenes, extended interviews with director Lawrie Brewster and actor David Schofield, the film’s trailer, and a few short films including the deliriously surreal (and subsequently quite delightful) Daddylonglegs and the Black Hare. Brewster steps in to provide a commentary for the film that shows him to be an exceptionally pleasant and erudite speaker as he discusses the story and symbolism of Lord of Tears, adeptly guiding the viewer through what are, on first viewing, some of the more perplexing images of the film. Biggest of all is a downloadable book in PDF format that comes provided separately and houses writing on nearly every single facet of Lord of Tears‘ creation – from an autobiographical piece by Brewster to sections on the pre- and post-production processes, a complete daily production diary, short stories set within the film’s world, a breakdown of the mythology, an entire set of film storyboards, the complete script and even more besides. Amazing stuff through and through.

You can buy this edition of Lord of Tears directly via the Hex Media website here, and the release is also (pleasingly) region free, so can be played just fine across the globe.

Special Features:

  • Official Soundtrack CD
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Director’s Commentary
  • Interviews
  • Trailer
  • Short Films
  • 22 Page Booklet of Owlman Incantations
  • Digital Art Pack
  • Individually Numbered and Signed Digipak
  • Downloadable 440 page eBook including Production Diaries, photographs and more.


    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    5 out of 5

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    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility



    Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita

    Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita

    The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.

    The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.

    The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.

    From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.

    The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.

    Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.

    The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.

    • Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters


    Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.

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    Satan’s Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review – Sacrifice This Snoozer At The Altar!



    Starring Jack Kruschen, John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo, Jacqueline Cole

    Directed by Greydon Clark

    Distributed by VCI

    The ‘70s. Satanism. Sultry cheerleaders. Sex appeal. With these tools nearly any low-budget filmmaker should be able to turn out something that is, at the very least, entertaining. The last thing a viewer expects when tuning in to a film called Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is to be bored to tears. But that is exactly the reaction I had while watching director Greydon Clark’s wannabe cult comedy. Even on a visual level this film can’t be saved, and it was shot by Dean Cundey! No, unfortunately there isn’t a cinematic element in the world that can overcome a roster of bad actors and a storyline so poorly constructed it plays like it was written on the day. The only saving grace, minor as it may be, is the casting of John Ireland as Sheriff B.L. Bubb (cute), a hard-nosed shitkicker who adds all the gravitas he can muster. But a watchable feature cannot be built upon the back of a single co-star, as every grueling minute of Satan’s Cheerleaders proves.

    The cheerleaders and jocks of Benedict High School rule the campus, doing what they want, when they want, with little else on their minds except for The Big Game. Their belittling attitudes rub school janitor (and stuttering dimwit) Billy (Jack Kruschen) the wrong way. What they don’t know is Billy is (somehow) the head of a local Satanic cult, and he plans to place a curse on the clothes (really) of the cheerleaders so they… suck at cheerleading? Maybe they’ll somehow cause the jocks to lose the big game? When Billy isn’t busy plotting his cursed plans, he spies on the girls in the locker room via a hidden grate in the wall. I guess he doesn’t think being a sexual “prevert” is fair trade enough; might as well damn them all, too. Billy has his own plans to kidnap the girls, for his Lord and Master Satan, and he succeeds with ease when the girls’ van breaks down on the highway; he simply offers them a ride and they all pile in. But when Ms. Johnson (Jacqueline Cole) gets hip to his plan the two tussle in the front seat and Billy winds up having a heart attack.

    The squad runs off in search of help, coming across the office of Sheriff B.L. Bubb (John Ireland), who, as the name implies, may be a legit Satanist. Bubb invites the girls inside, where they meet his wife, Emmy (Yvonne De Carlo), High Priestess of their quaint little satanic chapter. While the girls get acquainted with Emmy, Bubb runs off to find Billy, who isn’t actually dead. Wait, scratch that, Bubb just killed him for… some reason. The girls figure out things aren’t so rosy here at the Bubb estate, so they hatch an escape plan and most make it to the forest. The few that are left behind just kinda hang out for the rest of the film. Very little of substance happens, and the pacing moves from “glacial” to “permafrost”, before a semi-psychedelic ending arrives way too late.

    “Haphazard” is one of many damning terms I can think of when trying to make sense of this film. The poster says the film is “Funnier Than The Omen… Scarier Than Silent Movie” which, objectively, is a true statement, though this film couldn’t hope to be in the same league as any of the sequels to The Omen (1976) let alone the original. It is a terminal bore. Every attempt at humor is aimed at the lowest common denominator – and even those jokes miss by a wide berth. True horror doesn’t even exist in this universe. The best I can say is some of the sequences where Satan is supposedly present utilize a trippy color-filled psychedelic shooting style, but it isn’t anything novel enough to warrant a recommendation. Hell, it only happens, like, twice anyway. The rest of the film is spent listening to these simple-minded sideline sirens chirp away, dulling the enthusiasm of viewers with every word.

    A twist ending that isn’t much of a twist at all is the final groan for this lukewarm love letter to Lucifer. None of the actors seem like they know what the hell to be doing, and who can blame them with material like this? I had hoped for some sort of fun romp with pompoms and pentagram, like Jack Hill’s Swinging Cheerleaders (1974) for the Satanic set, but Clark provides little more than workmanlike direction; even Cundey’s cinematography is nothing to want on a resume.

    Viewers have the option of watching either a “Restored” or “Original Transfer” version of the 1.78:1 1080p picture. Honestly, I didn’t find a ton of difference between the two, though the edge likely goes to the restored version since the title implies work has been done to make it look better. Colors are accurate but a little bland, and definition just never rises above slightly average. Film grain starts off heavy but manages to smooth out later on. Very little about the picture is emblematic of HD but given the roots this is probably the best it could ever hope to look.

    Audio comes in the form of an English LPCM 2.0 track. The soundtrack sounds like it was lifted from a porno, while other tracks are clearly library music. Dialogue never has any obvious issues and sounds clear throughout. Subtitles are available in English SDH.

    There are two audio commentary tracks; one, with director Greydon Clark; two, with David De Cocteau and David Del Valle.

    A photo gallery, with images in HD, is also included.

    Special Features:

    • Audio commentary with director Greydon Clark
    • Audio commentary with filmmakers David De Cocteau & David Del Valle
    • Photo gallery
    • Satan's Cheerleaders
    • Special Features


    Although the title is enough to reel in curious viewers, the reality is “Satan’s Cheerleaders” are a defunct bunch with little spirit and no excitement. The ’70s produced plenty of classic satanic cinema and this definitely ain’t it.

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    A Demon Within Review – Familiar Possession Beats To A Dreary Tune



    Starring Charlene Amoia, Clint Hummel, Patricia Ashley, Michael Ehlers

    Directed by Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau

    Possession flicks don’t often hold a long shelf life in the horror community, with Ayush Banker and Justin LaReau’s A Demon Within suggesting why. Hands emerging from the darkness, exorcisms, anxious priests – you’ll see it all again as you’ve seen it before. Early scenes glimmer a polish unlike equal indie products, but that’s just the devil playing tricks on you. Once the film’s main satanic takeover begins, cursing teens and stony glares become the been-here-before norm. Low-budget filmmaking isn’t an immediate detractor like some high-society snobs may believe, yet it’s surely no excuse either. Today’s review being an example of both mindsets.

    Charlene Amoia stars as Julia Larsen, a divorcee who moves into Crestwick, Illinois looking for a clean start with daughter Charlotte (Patricia Ashley). Their dusty toucher-upper is a quaint, aged farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, complete with electrical issues and weird noises at night. Nothing to worry about, right? Julia’s focus is better directed towards town doctor Jeremy Miller (Clint Hummel), who she immediately hits it off with (after almost hitting *him* with a car). She’s eating stir-fry at his place one night, all things going well, and that’s when it happens – Charlotte is possessed by an evil force who enacts its sinister plan. Charlotte may physically be present, but only as a vessel for “Nefas.”

    Without hesitation, A Demon Within lays predictable groundwork as small-town haunters have for decades. Charlotte’s new home is already infested with a spiritual squatter, Jeremy bottles (and drinks down) a blemished past that’s exposed too late, there’s plenty of characters sneakin’ up on one another – never with much “oomph.” Charlotte’s teeny-bopper voice drops to truck-driver deep at the height of possession, but it’s a distracting sound design that alone strikes little fear. Serious scares are attempted, be it a pitch-black basement slashing or Charlotte’s hide-and-seek pounce, just never delivered. An inconsequential failure to unite tone and atmosphere.

    Performances are…well…rigid, to say the least. Amoia and Ashley strike a surprisingly likable chemistry as living humans, but once Ashley goes demonic, chemistry bottoms out. The way A Demon Within positions Charlotte when possessed is utterly dull and undefined; Ashley playing an unenthusiastic harbinger of death. It’s bad enough that Hummel’s tortured doctor masters the emotional range of Mona Lisa and the town’s pastor is hardly a scene stealer – but to have a demon be so vanilla (without a side of nuts, no less)? Getting past the limited lighting and Charlotte’s manly demon voice is hard enough, let alone her mostly relenting threats.

    Making matters worse, the film’s third act is hardly a religious salvation that flows with ease. I had more fun watching Julia stammer over pizza and beers with Jeremy than their final fight against ghastly hellspawns. The truths of Jeremy’s past leak out in flashback form, only to reveal his stubborn inability to comprehend one’s own possession encounter in the very house Julia bought (useful information, eh?). The local priest shows up in the nick of time, a few cutaway jolts attempt cheap thrills, and some holy water mucks up an old painting – but again, minimal notability. Er…not even minimal? Shaky last-minute framing makes it hard to even notice the touch-ups to Charlotte’s face that signify her unholy imprisonment, even worse than blackened CGI mists.

    A Demon Within tries, fumbles, and tries some more, but it’s best treated as a reminder of better exorcism stories that exist elsewhere. Even something like The Vatican Tapes is an improvement over this possessive redundancy, hokier than the honky-tonk love song that plays atop a pizza-chain flirt scene. There’s something to be said about getting out and creating original horror, but herein lies the problem – this ain’t *that* original. With harsher scares and tension, such a fate could be ignored. As-is? It’s hard to see past anything more than a January release placeholder.

    • A Demon Within


    A Demon Within is a seen-it-before possession thriller that brings nothing new to the conversation. Not the worst, but also not a “hidden secret.”

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