Happy New Year from the To Watch Pile

Just thought I’d drop a my supporters, followers and readers a note of thanks for all the support you’ve given me over the past 10 months.

The TWP was born out of a love of movies and some egging on by a few like-minded friends, and I appreciate that those of you who have taken time out of you lives to stop and read a review, or watch a YouTube did so. This is all done out of my love for movies and comics and toys and stuff, and it’s done part time as I do actually have a full time job which, over Christmas, took up a lot of my time (I manage a ‘toy’ store).

I get frustrated with the site now and again when I can’t get it to do what I want it to do, but I now have it at a point where I am so far ahead of my published reviews that there shouldn’t be any bumps unless something disastrous happens. The regular publishing days should be – movie reviews Monday and Thursday, and Friday will be a roundup of stuff I have picked up over the preceding week. Occasionally I’ll throw in some news or if something cool happens in the world of movies or comics, but I don’t intend on doing death notices anymore here as we are so flooded by this information from other sources, and I’d rather the TWP be about the work that awesome people have done, rather than the sadness of their passing. I will however still make note of those sorts of things on the Facebook page.

Also this year, the Nerds of Oz podcast should start and there may be a few competitions along the way, not to mention months dedicated to whole sub-genres of horror or sci fi or whatever.

Don’t forget, follow me on Twitter at @TheToWatchPile, Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/towatchpile , Instagram at @towatchpile, YouTube at The ToWatchPile and on Letterbox’d at To Watch Pile.
So thank you again for your support, and I wish all of you and your families a heartfelt Happy New Year and hope whatever you want from the next year is delivered to you by a horny vampire, a cyborg from the future, a sexy superhero or a large breasted zombie.

Graduation Day (1981) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Graduation Day (1981)

The cover the 88 Films’ Graduation Day BD release

Film: I love my 80s slasher films. From the Halloweens (yes I am aware that they started in the 70s, but predominantly the sequels hit in the 80s) and the Friday the 13ths and their imitators like The Burning, which I think is one of the finest slashers of all time, I love em all… to varying degrees…

I was very excited to see that 88 Films were making a bluray collection that focused on the slasher film. Excited, because it meant some of the lesser known and released slashers would get a working on bluray. 88 Films did a cool job with this collection too, all the cases in red and with thin, numbered spines, though some of the decisions made, like my previously reviewed Dead of Winter,  are a bit dubious.

Graduation Day: Patch MacKenzie as Anne Ramstead

This however is 1981’s Graduation Day, directed by Beyond Evil’s Herb Freed, who also co-wrote the story with Anne Marisse and it tells of a series of murders that are taking place in a town after a track star dies after a particularly stressful run, but why are these murders taking place? Is the runner’s sister, Anne (Patch MacKenzie) who has returned from military service responsible? Or is it the coach, (the unfortunately named) George Michaels (Christopher George) who has snapped after a feeling of responsibility for the girl’s death? 

Graduation Day: Michael Pataki as the Dean

Or is it someone else?!?

Honestly, it’s not the greatest slasher in the world, though some of the deaths are quite inventive. If it has any notoriety at all, it is due to the fact that the aforementioned Christopher George, star of Lucia Fulci’s City of the Living Dead stars in it, and a very young and pretty Linnea Quigley, scream queen extraordinaire and star of Return of the Living Dead amongst other films gets her very young and nubile boobies out.

So I guess at the very least it’s worth it for that.

Score: **

Graduation Day menu screen

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the UK 88 Films release from their Slasher Classics Collection (Volume 1 actually) and is presented in an OK 1.78:1 widescreen image, which has an occasional artefact, and a pretty good DYS-HD mono audio presentation.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: The disc opens with a trailer for Calum Waddell’s doco Slice and Dice decent bunch of extras appear on this release of Graduation Day:

 First we have a documentary called Scream Queens: Horror Heroines Exposed which is hosted by Debbie Rochon, which talks about the ‘classic’ scream queens of the 80s. Thankfully it features Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer and Linda Quigley aka the REAL scream queens! It explores the entire ideal of the scream queen from nudity to crazy fans.

Graduation Memories, an interview with author and critic Justin Kerswell who talks about the film and its history.

Next we have a bunch of Troma extras which are, well, of Troma’s usual quality, if you know what I mean.

The Cannibal Lesbian Hoedown, a music video by Lloyd Kaufman and it’s exactly what you think it is… but with more boobs.

Tromantic Filmmaking Classroom: The Arm Rip shows how an arm rip effect can be done. It’s pretty dire and not very funny.

Interview with scream queen Linnea Quigley sees Quigley talk about her career.

Intro by Lloyd Kaufman which was made for a DVD release (which all of these are) and again, isn’t too funny.

Theatrical trailer is exactly what it says it is.

Speaking of trailers, there is also a bunch of trailers of 88 Films releases including Puppet Master, The Pit & the Pendulum, Demonic Toys, Bloody Birthday, Two Moon Junction, Doll Man, Bloodsucking Freaks, Puppet Master II, Puppet Master III, Tourist Trap and Castle Freak.

This release also has an interview card with a an article called Class Dismissed, in which Calum Waddell interviews star of Graduation Day Patch MacKenzie. This release also has a reversible cover with alternate art. 

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s an OK slasher but I can’t really see myself watching again.

Graduation Day: Linnea!!!

Nerds of Oz Collection Post: 30th December 2016

Week Ending 30th December
Comics, and Pops, and Records: oh my!

Funko Pops

Horror Pops, not the band.

I know, I know, I wasn’t gonna buy more of these, but it’s Leatherface, Michael Myers and Pinhead: how could I resist?!?


I managed to read all my comics this week! How did I find the time?

READ! Harley Quinn #10 from DC Comics. Honestly I don’t know why I read Harley Quinn anymore. The stories are getting worse and worse and are usually just her going on silly inconsequential adventures, with a variety of artists that aren’t very good or funny. Occasionally they’ll do a serious one, but I think it’s time for a writer change on this one, sorry Jimmy and Amanda, I used to love the stories but now they just seem to be like old issues of Archie. Lame jokes and no real involvement with the rest of the DCU. At least a couple of art favourites of mine show up here in Bret Blevins and Joe Michael Linsner.

READ! Justice League vs Suicide Squad #1 from DC Comics. My two favourite teams from DC in a comic together? Yes please, though basically the plot will go that they’ll versus each other u til they realise they have a common enemy before begrudgingly working together. Comic Trope 101. The comic of course starts that way be we are also given a look into another group of bad guys who have banded together to,’save the world’ as the leader of them puts it. I won’t give away who they all are, but it’s nice to see the ‘main man’ of the DC universe back! Art by Jason Faibok is excellent, and the writing by Joshua Williamson is damned good too!

READ! Raven #4 from DC Comics. Continuing the tales of Raven of the Teen Titans. So far this comic has been amazing! I hope it continues in its Spiderman-ish teen alienation tales of woe and adventure. This comic just keeps going from strength to strength.

READ! Lady Mechanika: La Dama De La Muerte #3 from Benitez Productions. Awesome art and a pretty good story so far have made this anxiously looked forward to. Joe Benitez’s art is one of those things that both inspires me to draw, and makes me not want to draw as it is so beautiful. This issue doesn’t fail to impress! The bummer though it’s the Final issue… ARGH!

READ! Captain America: Sam Wilson #16 from Marvel Comics. I don’t normally buy this but it had Misty Knight on the cover carrying the shield: I’m buying that! If any character screams ‘Blaxploitation films’, it’s Misty Knight, and I LOVE Blaxploitation films! Tragically it doesn’t live up to its cover. The art is nice but it seems like it’s a fill-in issue. I probably won’t buy this title again. One, and done.

READ! Gamora #1 from Marvel Comics. She may not be on any Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise, but she at least gets a title of her own. Let’s hope it’s got some longevity. The story is written by Nicole Perlman and is fantastic, and supported well by really nice art by Marco Checchetto. I look forward to the next issue!

READ! The Mighty Captain Marvel #0 from Marvel Comics. I’ve always loved this character, from Ms. Marvel to Binary, so I’ll keep buying! It takes place after the terrible Civil War II which to me was an absolute travesty, especially after the awesome first Civil War which really was a thought provoking look at the whole super heroic experience from a ‘real world’ point of view. Anyway, now Marvel is in charge of Alpha Flight and is suffering from a touch of PTSD after Civil War II… hopefully she’ll get over it quickly and this book doesn’t end up just about ‘feelings’.


Anime mags

I grabbed Otaku USA’s Dec 16 issue, and NEO’s issue 155. Due to my workplace, which has several anime fans, I am being dragged back into becoming a fan of anime, which I was many years ago. I have started on Eureka Seven AO, the sequel to an anime I like a few years ago called Eureka Seven.


Which brings me to my bluray purchase, which includes collections 1, 2 and 3 of the anime RWBY, a horror from Monster Pictures called Satanic and the heart-stopping horror film Don’t Breathe. No doubt reviews if the movies are on their way!


Picked up three soundtracks at the Boxing Day sales: The Lego Movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Only listened to the Lego one so far which is by Devo’s Mark Mothersborough, and it has a fun vibe to it, and it starts with the epic ‘Everything is Awesome’.

Society (1989) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Society (1989)

Arrow Films’ bluray of Society

Film: There is no doubt that David Cronenberg is the absolute king of body horror! Films like Rabid, The Fly and Videodrome are a doorway into a world where man is a pliable thing that can be manipulated. Brian Yuzna’s Society is the room that that doorway takes you to!

Yuzna is probably best know for producing the glorious horror film Re-animator, and got the bug to direct when he realised as a producer it’s hard to get money for a film if there is no director attached. When you intend on directing yourself, that’s not a problem.

… and there’s nothing wrong with Yuzna’s direction either! I am a great fan of some of his other films like Faust, Return of the Living Dead III and of course, Bride of Re-animator.

Did someone say Rottweiler? No? Good, let’s move on.

Society: Billy Warlock as Bill Whitney

Society tells of a young man, Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) who, like most teenagers, feel that something isn’t right in his life, even though he is a member of high society. He feels like his parents hate him, and that something is going on in his house behind his back. 

His suspicion is that his mother and father (Charles Lucia and Concetta D’Agnesse) are engaged in a sexual relationship with his sister (Patrice Jennings)

But it is so much more than that.

As the story goes on, Bill discovers that there may be a HUGE conspiracy involving his entire family, his schoolmates (including Devon Devasquez and Ben Meyerson) and other members of society… but it might be more than what he suspects…

Immediately one has to talk about the absolutely ridiculously amazing special effects work of Screaming Mad George, also know for his work on films like Guyver, Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and the aforementioned Faust. His work is surreal and cartoony, which fits this film perfectly, but it has an element of it’s elastic doughiness that’s really disturbing.

The story really has an underlying story about class distinction and prejudice, but the story, acting and effects are so over the top it’s hard to really get any message out of it, but who cares: it’s freaky as hell and great fun to watch!

Typically, Arrow have made a masterful copy of this film on an extras-filled disc that is just spectacular.

Score: ****

The menu screen to Arrow Films’ Society

Format: This film was reviewed on the Arrow Pictures bluray release which is multi region and runs for 99 minutes. The film is presented in a really great 1.85:1 images with an equally great stereo 2.0 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: As usual, Arrow have delivered on the extras front:

Governor of Society sees Brian Yuzna talk about not just the making of the film, but also the steps it took to get to actually get it made. Filmmaking sounds like it takes a LOT of patience to get through.

Masters of the Hunt is a featurette containing interviews with Billy Warlock, Devon DeVasquez, Ben Meyerson and Tim Bartel. It’s a nice bunch of recollections of their careers and experiences on the making of this film.

Champion of the Shunt talks to Screaming Mad George, David Grasso and Nick Benson about the special effects for the film. Being a practical effects nut, I found this extra particularly fascinating!

Brian Yuzna Q&A is just that, but taken after a screening of Society in 2014. the quality is average, but his stories are interesting.

Brian Yuzna – Society Premiere is archival footage of Yuzna at the world premiere of the film at the Scala Cinema in London, circa 1989. The quality of the film is a step down again, but it’s still co plenteous audible.

There is a theatrical trailer of the film.

Also, we have a Screaming Mad George music video which is as weird as one would expect, but still pretty cool.

The movie also has a commentary by Yuzna, hosted by David Gregory which is amusing and informative throughout.

This edition also has a reversable sleeve with original artwork on the alternate cover, and a pretty cool booklet with an article by Frightfest curator Alan Jones. Also included in a slightly lesser quality DVD release of the film.

One warning though: the ‘Society’ song being played on the menu screen gets real old, real quick!

Score: *****

WISIA: I hadn’t seen this film since probably 1990, and now I have it in my collection on bluray, I’ll be watching it probably monthly!

Society: Devon DeVasquez as… hang on, are her…?

Inside aka À L’Interieur (2007) Review

Merry Christmas from the To Watch Pile! For the silly season, here’s a special Christmas movie as a gift, sourced from the re watch pile…

Inside aka À L’Interieur (2007)

The cover to the US DVD of Inside

Film: ‘Taste’ is a funny thing. There are things in life that one feels that they should love but for some reason, don’t. I love chocolate, and I love chilli, but chilli chocolate I just can’t do.

In the realm of TV, everyone who watched Game of Thrones told me I would love it due to it containing elements of other things I love: a fantasy medieval period, violence, blood ‘n’ guts, dragons and boobs, but to date I haven’t been able to get past the second episode. Yes, I am aware that by the sixth episode I’ll be hooked, but I’m sorry, if someone told me that a film gets good ‘at the sixth hour’, I probably wouldn’t waste my time with it. Sure it’s acted beautifully but I just don’t get the obsession over it.

Now a few years ago, French cinema made a few films that took the world by store, and me along with it. The filmic cheat of ‘Haute Tension’, the mind blowing ‘Martyrs’ and the nuevo-Nazploitation of Frontier(s) all kicked me in the balls, but there were two films that everyone on the planet rubbed their rhubarbs over that just didn’t click with me: ‘Ils’ aka ‘Them’ and this film ‘Inside’ aka ‘Á L’interieur’.

Inside: Allysson Paradis as Sarah

Inside tells of a pregnant woman, Sarah (Allysson Paradis) whose husband dies in a car accident, and several months later, on Christmas Eve, and the night before she is to go into hospital to have the baby, a stranger (Béatrice Dalle) knocks at her door wishing to come in and use the phone as her car has broken down. Sarah, feeling vulnerable, tells her that she can’t let her in as her husband is sleeping.

To which she tells her that she knows her husband is dead.

The next several harrowing hours (in film time, not actual time) are spent with this strange woman trying, and succeeding in gaining access to the house, but what does she was from the inside the ‘house’ and what are her motives for trying to get ‘inside’…

Inside: Béatrice Dalle as the intruder

My main issue with this film is the protagonist. I am certainly one with whom a movie does not sit well if the final girl or guy is unpleasant, and this is so very true here. Sarah is such an unpleasant human being that I don’t care about her, in actual fact on several occasions I was praying that Dalle would just execute her and be done with it. 

I get that the French films of this period were trying to show a more ‘real’ and gritty cinema at the time this was made, and honestly, home invasion films scare me more than any other kind, but this just did not strike the right chord with me.

Don’t get me wrong, the violence and gore of this film is tiptop and shocking, and, if you’ll excuse the pun, executed brilliantly, and I winced more than once. If Chas. Balun were still alive (we miss you, Chas.) I am sure this film would have rated quite highly in the ‘gore’ section of his ‘Gore Score’, but without that sympathetic lead, I just don’t care.

Also, it’s made really well too and there is a real feeling if claustrophobia to the whole film, and I’ll even give credit to the idea of a pregnant woman being terrorised should have worked and the whole script is pretty good, though their are a few police procedures that even the cops from The Last House on the Left and Human Centipede would raise an eyebrow at.

So yes, I don’t think it’s a total abortion but not being able sympathise with the main character makes it difficult for me to like. For me, if I want to watch a home invasion film set at Christmas, I’ll probably watch Home Alone again instead of this.

Score: **

The menu screen to the US DVD of Inside

Format: This region 1, American release DVD runs for approximately 82 minutes and is presented in a nice 1.78:1 video with a great pair of audio tracks, one in English 5.1 and one in French 5.1, both which are top shelf. There are, of course, subtitles available.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with several trailers: Diary of the Dead, Storm Warning and The Mist, and the extras menu has one for Inside as well.

The core part of this extra package though is a pretty amazing, almost one hour long making of the film. It isn’t divided into 10 mini-featurettes like most of these things are: it’s a solid look at the making of a film. I will warn that it is in French, so you can’t put it on and do something else… you know, like write a review for a blog.

Score: ***

WISIA: I’m not a fan, so probably not.

Béatrice Dalle showing why scissors are so dangerous.

Christmas Eve bonus: All Through The House (2015) Review

Have we all be good little people this year… is Santa going to visit?

… or will it be THIS guy?

One from the to watch pile… and have a fantastic Christmas. Thank you all so much for your support since the creation of the site.

All Through The House (2015)

All Through The House bluray cover

Film: Christmas and genre films go together hand-in-hand. Black Christmas and it’s remake, the Silent Night, Deadly Nights, Gremlins, Christmas Evil, Jack Frost, Silent Night Bloody Night, Santa’s Slay, Sint, Krampus, P2… the list goes on, and that’s not to mention the comedy’s and action films. Ne’er a Christmas season goes by without Die Hard and Home Alone getting a spin in my house.

In this wonderful tradition, writer director Todd Nunes delivered a slasher tribute that firmly entrenches its roots in the tradition of the silly season. This film is based on his short film, Here Comes Santa, but expanded into a full feature.

All Through The House: Rachel (Ashley Mary Nunes) dressed for Christmas

Rachel (Ashley Mary Nunes) has returned home from college for the Christmas break, but unfortunately, so has a killer dressed in a Santa Claus outfit (Lito Velasco) and a horrible old-man mask, but what does this have to do with town kook, Mrs Garret (Melinda Kiring), Rachel’s missing mother, and Mrs Garret’s daughter, the institutionalised Jamie?

All Through The House: Kooky Mrs Garrett (Melinda Kiring)

Nunes has nailed the slasher tropes with this film… it’s like cinema never moved on from 1985! The girls are sexy and bimbo-y, and the guys are empty headed and oversexed morons, and the killer hides his face behind a grotesque mask. If it wasn’t for a few of the modern day bits in here, and the fact the film’s quality is crystal clear.

Even better that all that: practical effects! Actual proper non-CGI effects! Now, I don’t have a problem with CGI as a rule, but to see a film like this done with practical effects is almost a relief, me they are plentiful: two head stabs and two dick removals within the first 30 minutes, and don’t think kids and pets are safe from Santa’s shears either!

All through the film I got a real original Black Christmas vibe about it, which isn’t a bad thing, and there are heaps of occasions where there seem to be direct homages to other famous slasher films, like Tourist Trap and Halloween. Even the overacting and red herring jump scares feel familiar, but he has executed this without it feeling contrived, or just a flat out rip off.

I honestly find it difficult to find too much wrong with this film, though the final fight scene looks like it was choreographed by a complete amateur, which is a bummer. Above that though, I had an absolute blast.

Score: ****

All Through The House menu screen

Format: This Monster Pictures bluray release of All Through the House runs for approximately 88 minutes and has an super-clear 1.75:1 image with a matching Dolby digital DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. 

Score: *****

Extras: Unfortunately, you’ve all been bad this year, so Santa left you no extras at all. Shame, as I wouldn’t have minded seeing the short film it was based on: I’ll have to try and be a good boy for next Christmas.

Score: 0

WISIA: Every Christmas, without fail, I’m gonna watch this film.

All Through The House: don’t run with scissors!

Week Ending 23rd December

A better weekly update of stuff this week with a great variety of stuff imvoleved, but first a small note. These weekly updates started on the Nerds of Oz website, but that is exclusively going to be for the podcast list from now, so technically this is the first TWP weekly buy update!


Grabbed four new movies this week.

The Mutilator from Arrow Video. Arrow video rarely disappoint, and I hope this will be just as trashy and slashy as their usual output!

All Through the House from Monster Pictures. Monster occasionally disappoint but I like how regular their output is and the price is occasionally right so I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Review coming soon.

Yoga Hosers from Reel DVD. Kevin Smith’s last few bits of output didn’t impress. His segment in ‘Holidays’ was the worst of them, and Tusk failed to entertain. I’ll be interested to see how this pans out. Review coming soon.

Last is an Australian bluray release of cult classic I Drink Your Blood! This limited edition comes with a repro of the VHS release, a ‘horror hypo’ and a sheet of I Drink Your Blood LSD sheets. Best thing about this release is it also comes with the films I Eat Your Skin and Blue Sextet! I love this film just because the exquisitely beautiful Lynn Lowry appears an a mute hippie!

Video Game

Watchdogs 2 from Ubi-soft. I liked the first one but wasn’t going to worry about this, but when EB Games discounted the edition with the statue, I leapt on it. I’ve played about 30 minutes, and totally dig it, though like with all video games, I’m not very good at it.


I haven’t quite gotten to read everything I grabbed this week, so some of these comments are about the art only, my apologies to the writers! I’ll point out which ones I managed to read before the blog post was published with a big ‘READ!’ before the comic’s comments.

READ! Red Sonja #0 from Dynamite.I’ve always loved Marvel’s re-do of Robert E. Howard’s Russian revolutionary character into Conan’s world, and the quality of art continues with this Dynamite collection. Unfortunately the story is a ‘person from the past gets sent to the future’ story, which is a bit generic, but if it opens some new opportunities for the character, I’ll at least give it a go.This was a ‘cheaper’ comic with not quite a full story, but with some cool sketchbook pages, and a buttload of adds!

READ! Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #5 from DC Comics. I’m really liking this series, and the fact it contains three of my favourite DC heroines doesn’t hurt. The quest for who is the new Oracle continues: it’s some really nice art with well written banter. Huntress has become particularly funny with her ‘should I kill him/her’ attitude.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #5 from DC Comics. I can’t comment on the quality of the writing in this series yet as I’ve not yet started reading it, but conceptually, the idea of a second rate Batman (in Red Hood), Wonder Woman(in Artemis) and Superman (with Bizarro) is both intriguing and hilarious. The art by Dexter Soy is solid too.

Suicide Squad #8 from DC Comics. Its Suicide Squad, and I have loved the Suicide Squad since the 80s when I first started reading it, and I grabbed the awesome alternate fractured Harley cover, so definitely loving it!

Supergirl #4 from DC Comics. I’m loving the TV series, so I thought I’d give the Rebirth Supergirl a go, just for nostalgia’s sake.

Superwoman #5 from DC Comics. I’ve never picked up an issue of this so I can’t make a comment on it at all yet, but this was bought due to the Supergirl TV series high as well!

READ! Hawkeye #1 from Marvel Comics. The re-sexing-of Marvel comics continues… only joking. I liked this character from the Young Avengers comics from a few years ago, and like the style of this comic. It’s a sweet mix of Alias, Veronica Mars and the New 52 Batgirl, and that ain’t a bad thing! I like the low key art, realistic with a David Lapham swagger to it, and the story is told efficiently with some smart dialogue.

 IVX #1 from Marvel Comics. Inhumans versus X-men is the new big thing for Marvel this season… I am wondering if they aren’t going to squeeze the X-men into a bunch of solo comics so the films don’t have to acknowledge their existence until Marvel movies regain control of the license. I will say though, a Marvel Universe with no Fantastic Four is no Marvel Universe in my books, not properly!


The Art of Star Wars: Rogue One from Abrams. I can’t talk about this at all as I don’t open books about films until I’ve seen the film, so I’ll just say the price was right ($55 from Harry Hartogs) and it’ll look nice with my other ‘art of’ books.

Movie Merch

Normally I’d divide this up into it’s individual bits, but it’s ALL Assassin’s Creed so I thought I should share it! First is the book of the film, which I normally don’t open, like I said with the Rogue One book, but I couldn’t help but open this. It has some amazing pics from the film, and appears to be quite text heavy, so let’s hope it’s packed with information!

Next I have a couple of AC scotch glasses… I’d better start drinking scotch!

Lastly a couple of cosplay/ role play bits. A pretty cool Hidden Blade and a fancy Apple of Eden. Normally I would buy roleplay/ cosplay stuff but these are pretty cool!

Summer review: Piranha (1978)

To celebrate the summer solstice, here’s an oldie from the re watch pile…
Piranha (1978)

Piranha Australian blurry release

Film: In Australia, nothing says summer like a swim in at the beach or a dip in a river in one of our many national parks, and just as Jaws makes everyone stay out of the surf, Piranha is sure to dull anyone’s inclination to enjoy the river ways.

Piranha: Menzies, Dillman and McCarthy

Piranha is a film that is probably just as well known as it’s ‘older brother’ Jaws, it’s written by The Spiderwyck Chronicles screenplay writer John Sayles, from a story devised by him and Kingdom of the Spiders Richard Robinson. The film was directed by Joe Dante, who also gave us the wonderful Gremlins, and The Hole.

Piranha tells of Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies), a private investigator who enlists the help of mountain man, Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) to find two missing hikers. They find the hiker’s devoured bodies at the bottom of a swimming pool that they empty, but what they don’t realise is, they have delivered into the local river, where a Summer Camp and a Resort lie, a school of deadly killer fish. Scientist and creator of the creatures, Dr Hoek (Kevin McCarthy) informs them of their deadly faux par! 

How can they stop them and is the appearance of the military and mysterious Dr. Mengers (Barbara Steele) going to benefit to hinder their efforts?

Piranha: fish food.

This film is pretty much 70s horror/ exploitation/ Corman distilled into the perfect package. It exploits Jaws by its very existence and playing on the fear of the water it gave us a few years earlier, and it does so with bravado: look out for the video game of Jaws, and a copy of Moby Dick in various scenes as well as other references. Throwing in fan favourites Steele, McCarthy and Dick Miller and Paul Bartel doesn’t hurt the proceedings either! 

It does play very cleverly on that fear of the unknown in the muddiness and darkness of the water and there is enough levity to make it fun as well as horrifying. A favourite of mine as well as a damn good Corman film!

Score: ****1/2

Piranha menu screen

Format: The review copy of this film is the Australian multi-region bluray release which runs for approximately 92 minutes, and is a pretty good anamorphic widescreen presentation, with a clear 2.0 stereo audio.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: There’s a cool bunch of extras on this disc.

There’s a commentary starring director Joe Dante and producer Jon Davidson, both of whom give a cool commentary on the film. It is interesting and thorough, and so informative!

Behind the scenes footage has some pretty cool ‘home movies’ of what went on on the set of the film.

The Making of Piranha is a 20 minute doco about the film with reflection on it from Roger Corman, Joe Dante, and various other cast and crew.

Bloopers and Out takes are just what they sound like. Really it feels like more behind the scenes stuff but it is occasionally funny.

Additional scenes from the Tv version is exactly what it is called. There is a pretty cool bit with Dick Millar and Paul Bartel, where Bartel manages to squeeze in a nose-pick joke: well played!

 There is some radio spots, Tv ad and trailers for the film, and a poster and stills gallery is a bunch of international promotional material.

Phil Tippet’s Behind the Scenes photo collection which is about 50 pretty cool behind the scenes shots of the various effects used in the film, including sculpts and the internal mechanics of the fish.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a 70s horror classic and I watch it quite regularly.

Piranha: the 70s at its finest

The Whisperer in Darkness (2011) Review

One from the to watch pile…
H.P. Lovecraft’s The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)

Monster Pictures’ The Whisperer in Darkness DVD cover

Film: A discussion circulating the idea of ‘horror’ cannot be maintained without the mentioning of one particular name: Howard Phillips Lovecraft, better known as H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft is one of my favourite horror authors, though some may say he is actually a science fiction writer! I first discovered Lovecraft after watching the film ‘Re-animator’ and fell in love with the stories and style, mainly due to how different it was from the Richard Laymon’s and Shaun Hutson’s and James Herbert’s that I had been devouring.

As much as I love director Stuart Gordon’s film (as a matter of fact, it’s my favourite horror film – I think it’s the perfect horror film) and his other adaptations, I always felt the modernisation of them did the original stories a slight disservice… though perhaps I was wrong in that thinking.

The Whisperer in Darkness: Matt Foyer as Wilmarth

This film comes as a revelation as far as keeping to the time period is concerned. It’s kept very low key, so the anachronisms are kept to a minimum. First, the filmmakers had the idea to set the film in the year in was written with the cinematic style of the era (black and white with a grand soundtrack) and it’s a great one, the entire structure of the film feels like it was made in the early years of the talkies, though the clarity of the film reveals the truth. There is some great tributes to other horror films through the ages, and to the author as well.

The story tells of Albert Wilmarth (Matt Foyer) a skeptical literature teacher at Miskatonic University in Arkham who engages, from a negative standpoint, in a debate about creatures supposedly seen in Vermont after some flooding. He is eventually convinced to personally investigate after he receives letters from Henry Akeley (Barry Lynch) via his son George (Joe Sofranko) but what he finds in Vermont may actually prove his disbelief to be inaccurate, and maybe there are creatures… and their human supporters… engaging in dark rituals…

Even though this is a supposed accurate portrayal of the film, it does actually extend the short story to flesh it out, and theres nothing wrong with that. It is shot well, and I’m sure whatever Lovecraft societies exist would appreciate what the filmmakers have done, and there are some real clever usage of light and sound.

The Whisperer in Darkness: what’s in the cave?

There is some pretty good effects in the films, but the CGI creatures are jarring as they just aren’t very well realised. This is possibly unfair as it is a lower budgeted film, but still, they stick out as being fake and ineffective.

This film is one of those slow burn films, and that’s not necessarily bad as slower, deliberate horror films, like say, The Wicker Man, can be effective. The acting is excellent and as melodramatic as it should be to replicate the time, but perhaps Gordon was right in modernising the stories and adding boobs and blood ‘n’ guts to the unfolding events as this has not lopped Re-animator off the top of my list, nor does it rival From Beyond, another of Gordon’s efforts. It is a decent film and an enjoyable watch.

Score: ***1/2

The Whisperer in Darkness DVD menu screen

Format: The reviewing disc of the film is the Monster Picture’s Australian multi-region DVD which runs for approximately 103 minutes is presented in a good 16×9 letterboxed visual with an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The image is clear and sharp all the way through.

Score: ****

Extras: A cool collection of extraterrestrial extras turn up on this disc. The first is an interesting making of The Whisperer in Darkness which is amusing, and makes movie-making sound like an awful thing that anyone could ever want to do. There is also a trailer for the film.

Next is the short film, The Call of Cthulhu which, like the feature is done in the style of when it was written, so we have a black and white silent film, complete with title cards and almost German Expressionistic styled make-up and environments. The music is also melodramatic as one would expect. Even, the the recent way of doing things, to ‘age’ the film they have added grit, hairs and an occasional touch of telecine wobble. Sure this has been over done since the ‘grindhouse’ revival several years ago, but it adds to the atmosphere much more in a film that’s replicating the age… though all of the camera work may NOT do the same thing. There is also a trailer for this film.

In addition, there is a commentary performed by director Sean Branney, writer Andrew Leman and cinematographer David Robertson and is a pretty complete, informative and entertaining one.

All in all an epic bunch of extras with a pretty cool short film make for an excellent package.

The cover claims that their are more extras at the Monster Picture website (unreviewed).

Score: *****

WISIA: This was a grand attempt at doing ‘proper’ Lovecraft, but I can’t wholly see me watching it again.

The Whisperer in Darkness: disembodied head projection!!

Copycat (1995) Review

One from the re watch pile…
Copycat (1995)

The Australian DVD of Copycat

Film: There was a period in the 90s where it felt like horror was maybe-not dead, but starting to smell a little. Even Fangoria was sticking blockbuster films on its covers! In the post Silence of the Lambs world though, a few thrillers popped out that surprised me with their level of entertainment, this, Copycat, being one of them.

(Yes, the irony of after a film like Silence of the Lambs that a similar film called Copycat would be released is not lost on me)

Copycat: Sigourney Weaver

Copycat tells of agoraphobic abnormal psychologist, who specialises in serial killers, Dr Helen Hudson (Sigourney Weaver) who has become this way due to being captured and tortured by a killer named Daryll Lee Cullum (Harry Connick Jr.) who was apprehended soon afterwards.

Thirteen months later a new serial killer has started a reign of terror in town, and investigating officers Monahan (Holly Hunter) and Goetz (Dermot Mulroney) are stumped, but when Helen starts calling them offering them advice, she ends up involved… but perhaps she was already involved… perhaps the killer is working on her involvement, and maybe it involves Cullum…

Now it’s not the greatest thriller in the world, and the technology in it is laughably dated, and not yet kitsch enough to be cool, but solid performances by the leads, particularly Hunter and Weaver, both of whom I been a fan of for years. There are some other actors who pop up in this as well who add to the acting quality of the film: Terror at the Opera’s William McNamara, The Punisher’s Will Patton and Pollock’s John Rothman.

Interestingly though I am drawn to it, and it remains a film that I return to quite regularly, even though it’s not so great. I think it’s because it is easy to watch, and the story, whilst a little generic, does have a few surprises that drive the female leads on, though the motivation of Hunter’s character is more alluded to than confirmed. 
Maybe that’s when the appeal lies, in the fact that it’s like comfort food: easy to consume but not necessarily a proper meal.

Score: **1/2

Menu screen for the DVD of Copycat

Format: This film was reviewed on an (admittedly) older Australian, region 4 DVD version of the film which runs for just shy of 1 hour and 59 minutes. The video, present in 2.35:1, was of a below average quality but I imagine the age of the DVD may have something to do with that. The audio was presented in a functional Dolby 2.0.

Score: ***1/3

Extras: Only a few extras on this disc. The first is a ‘cat and crew’ text piece that looks like you are able to see the credits of a bunch of cast and crew, but when you go to select them, only Weaver, Hunter, Connick Jr. and Amiel are available! It seems weird to me to list everyone, especially when you consider Mulroney, McNamara, Rothman and Patton’s many and varied careers!!

There is also a commentary by Amiel that is accessible by the ‘languages’ option on the menu. It’s a fascinating commentary that explores filmmaking and serial killers, and really explores how important the score is to a successfully creating mood and tension.

Score: **

WISIA: I actually really like this movie, even though the story is little more than an extended episode of a police procedural TV show, and not necessarily a great episode either. I think it’s due to the quality of performance by all the actors in it. Whatever it is, I do seem to watch it once a year.

Copycat: Harry Connick Jr. as Callum and a future unfortunate cop