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Monsters: The Complete Series (DVD)

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Monsters: The Complete Series (DVD)Starring Steve Buscemi, Lily Taylor, Chris Noth, Deborah Harry, and many more!

Directed by Various

Distributed by eOne Entertainment


Horror has had a presence on television for nearly as long as the medium has existed, and most fans would agree it hit an apex in the 1980s. In the middle of that decade, small screens across America were graced with updated versions of both The Twilight Zone (1985-1989) and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1985-1989), as well as new series like Tales From the Darkside (1983-1988). All of these shows shared the common bond of featuring short-form stories (around 22 minutes) that told some kind of morality tale, usually with a twist ending literally right before the credits rolled. When Tales From the Darkside ended its run, show producer Richard P. Rubinstein (whose name should be very familiar to devotees of George A. Romero) immediately got to work on a new production that took the morality tales in a fantastic new direction. Monsters (1988-1990) made its debut a mere three months after Tales from the Darkside ended, only this series put more of an emphasis on ghoulish creatures brought to life via the wonders of practical FX.

The show’s famous opening set the tone by featuring a family of, well, monsters who appeared to be an average nuclear family sitting down to watch TV while eating their favorite snack made by mom: candy critters. It immediately conveyed to viewers the tone and make-up effects that would permeate each new episode – gruesome creations alongside darkly humorous storylines. Some episodes played as straight horror, others as straight comedy, but all incorporated elements of both to varying degrees of success. The series went on to last for three seasons – 72 episodes – before getting the axe. Many viewers who are familiar with the show likely caught the extensive reruns done on the SciFi (now SyFy) Channel back in the early ‘90s.

There were a number of notable faces and names that appeared during the series’ run. First and foremost, legendary FX artist Dick Smith was the supervisor for practical FX work, overseeing all of the ghastly, twisted, horrific beasts designed for each episode. Many famous actors and actresses lend their talents to the show, too. Famous faces such as Adrienne Barbeau, Linda Blair, Ashley Laurence, Darren McGavin, Tom Noonan (who also directed an episode), Pam Grier, and many, many more graced episodes each season. The list of directors isn’t quite as impressive, though a few notable names dropped in each season. John Carpenter’s longtime producer Debra Hill helmed an episode, as did FX artists Greg Cannom and Mark Shostrom.

Fans of the series are well aware of the long road it’s been to get these episodes a proper home video release. A number of twofer VHS tapes were released in the ‘90s, but the series has been conspicuously absent from the DVD market for years. This has led most fans who were rabid for their Monsters fix to hit the bootleg circuit, where multi-disc sets of the series (featuring poor tape transfers from the SciFi Channel airings) were ubiquitous. Fret no more, because Entertainment One has come to the rescue by releasing a box set containing every single episode from the series’ three seasons. All 72 of ‘em. Glorious. Revel in the fact that back in the ‘80s networks were more than happy to grant a full order of 24 episodes per season to their shows. Nowadays that number would have been halved, and we’d be lucky to get more than a single season.

Monsters includes each season’s 24 episodes spread across three discs, totaling nine discs for the entire run. The seasons have (thankfully) been broken up within the box set, with each housed in its own case. The inside of each case contains a breakdown of what episodes are included on which disc, as well as a brief description of each. No airdates, though, which I know some fans (like myself) enjoy seeing.

Every season features a few solid hits, a few clunkers, and a lot of just good-ol’ TV-level horror; the type of stuff that’s easy to watch just about any time the mood strikes. If you’re at all a fan of horror anthologies, or the aforementioned series from the opening of this review, then chances are you’re already a fan and don’t need to be sold on a thing because you want town this. If, by some small chance, you’ve never seen the show but love properties similar to Tales From the Darkside, then this is absolutely a must-own. It’s not the ideal box set fans would have liked (more on that later), but it gets the job done – the job in this instance being just getting the episodes out – in reasonable quality – onto DVD. And now, after a long wait, it’s finally here.

Each episode is presented in the broadcast standard of the time – 1.33:1 4×3 standard definition. There is zero doubt this looks better than whatever old VHS tape or convention circuit bootleg you possess. Each episode looks fairly remastered, with a moderate-to-heavy layer of grain seen throughout. The show was shot on 16mm, so you have to provide some leeway in the presentation’s appearance. Colors and contrast are about as good they need to be. Nothing spectacular; just perfectly acceptable. Likewise, the English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track has as much presence as whatever speakers your television is rocking right now. The track is serviceable and clean, with no audible anomalies present. There are no subtitles.

Here’s the sad part – nothing to be found here. I suppose at the least it’s kinda cool they kept the show’s bumpers intact during each episode, right? Right?

I know. There should be some awesome retrospective stuff here but there’s not.

Special Features:

  • Nothing

    The Show:

    4 1/2 out of 5

    Special Features:
    “>

    0 out of 5

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    AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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    Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

    Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


    ** NO SPOILERS **

    It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

    Spoiler free.

    To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

    That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

    Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

    Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

    Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

    Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

    But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

    But let’s backtrack a bit here.

    Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

    And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

    Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

    With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

    Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

    I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

    Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

    Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

    Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

    On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

    That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

    In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

    While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

    Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

    Bring on season 12.

    • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
    3.5

    Summary

    The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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    User Rating 4.43 (7 votes)
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    The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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    Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

    Directed by Nicholas Woods


    The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

    The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

    The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

    The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

    The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

    The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

    • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
    • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
    • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
    • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
    • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
    • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
    • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
    • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
    • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
    • The Axiom
    4.0

    Summary

    In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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    User Rating 4.14 (14 votes)
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    The Dollmaker Short Film Review – Welcome to Heebie Jeebie City!

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    Starring Perri Lauren, Sean Meehan, Dan Berkey

    Directed by Alan Lougher


    The loss of a young child drives a mother to take a set of unusual measures to preserve his memory, and all it takes is one call to The Dollmaker.

    When the short film by Alan Lougher opens up, we see a rather disturbing image of a little boy inside a casket, and the sound of a grieving mom speaking with an unidentified man in the background – he’s requesting something personal of the child to help “finish” his product, and it’s not before long that mom has her little boy back…well, kind of. What remains of the child is the representation of his former self, although it’s contained within the frame of a not-so-attractive doll, and the boy’s father isn’t a believer in this type of hocus-pocus (or the price to have this constructed, either). The doll comes with a specific set of instructions, but most importantly, you cannot spend more than one hour a day with the doll, or else you’ll go mad thinking that the soul inside of it is actually the person that you lost – sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

    Well this is just too good to be true for Mommy, and as the short film progresses, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens to her mind – it’s ultimately a depressing scenario, but Lougher gives it that creepy feel, almost like visiting a relative’s home and seeing their dearly departed pet stuffed and staring at you over the fireplace – HEEBIE-JEEBIE CITY, if you ask me. All in all, the quickie is gloomy, but ultimately chilling in nature, and is most definitely worth a watch, and if I might use a quote from one of my favorite films to apply to this subject matter: “Sometimes…dead is better.”

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    Ultimately chilling in nature!

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    User Rating 3.41 (17 votes)
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