The Super Nintendo Mini for Horror Fans!

So today I grabbed one of these beauties:

The Super Nintendo Mini! I preordered it several weeks ago, actually upon announcement, as this was my favourite video game system of all time.

I’ve only hooked it up to a little Sonic TV and I’ve played almost all of the 21 games, I leave the RPGs to a later date, but the unit is cute, about ten cm square and 5 or 6 cm high, but the controllers feel like they are the same size as the old ones. I bought it so I could play Super Mario and Mario Kart again, but was thrilled to find that a couple of frustrating old favs in the horror/ science fiction genre have made it on as well.

The awesome sideways scrolling…. actually, these three all are…. beat em up/ shoot em up Castlevania IV where you are making your way through a map slowly taking on harder and harder villains and obstacles.

Next is Super Ghouls and Ghosts:

Super Ghouls n Ghosts was a classic arcade game and it’s still fun and frustrating and features a brave knight in a fight against zombies, werewolves and other supernatural beasties.

Last but not least was the game Contra III: The Alien Wars

Contra III is another similar style of game but can be for two players simultaneously as two tough guys are up against an alien invasion.

So what did I think of the unit? Well, I’m not a retro gamer in the slightest and even though I appreciate the look back at the past and the fun that I had with these games, especially things like Starfox and Street Fighter in addition to the ones I mentioned above, but I’d rather super cool, realistic graphics and online connectivity with my gaming. Sure this was fun, but we certainly live in a better time for gaming now!

It’s a fun distraction, but I don’t see myself playing it for a great deal of time.

The Fog (1980) Review

One from the re watch pile…
The Fog (1980)

The Australian Bluray cover

Film: There’s several people who are real heroes of cinema for me: Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento are amongst them, and John Carpenter really stands up there. He is responsible for several films that I really like, like Halloween, They Live and Prince of Darkness, but it’s not just that: his soundtracks that he himself creates sit directly in my love of synth music too. This movie, The Fog, is no exception.

I am not really a ghost/ supernatural fan when it comes to horror movies as I’d rather a slasher or a giallo or mutants or monsters: I like tactile, physical baddies and I think that comes from not believing in ghosts makes me not fear them. Sure a jump scare might alarm me, but I won’t walk away from the film traumatised.

That’s not to say I don’t still watch them though as even though the potential fear doesn’t scare me, I can still enjoy the story, performance and if I’m lucky, some chunky gore.

This is one of those times where the film is solid and the fact it’s a supernatural tale doesn’t matter.

The beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay has a dark past where a ship full of lepers were killed when their boat was lead to its destruction. Now, 100 years later, the town is ready for its centenary under the guidance of Kathy Williams (Janet Leigh) but the local priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) has discovered, hidden in the church, a diary telling the awful tale of the founding of the town, but the show must go on regardless.

Adrienne Barbeau… sigh.

A strange occurrence is happening on this celebration though: a mysterious fog is moving into town, and effecting the lives of the town including DJ Stevie Wayne (Adrienne Barbeau), fisherman Nick Castle (Tom Atkins) and a hitchhiker he has picked up, Elizabeth Solley (Jamie Lee Curtis) but what is in the fog killing people?

Could it be the spirits of the Dead coming back to haunt the descendants of the original families of Antonio Bay? Of course it is.

The first thing I have to say I love about this film is it’s cast: Psycho’s Janet Leigh, Night of the Creeps Tom Atkins, Magnum Force’s Hal Holbrook, Swamp Thing’s Adrienne Barbeau and of course Halloween’s Jamie Lee Curtis, to mention but a few.

Jamie Lee Curtis notices Tom Atkins’ moustache has stuck to his beer can.

This is film is clearly a Carpenter film as well, and I must say his surname suits perfectly as his stories me direction builds slowly and to a fantastic finale, as does his soundtrack… I love it when Carpenter scores his own films! 

This is no exception, and the record of this soundtrack gets a regular spin here at the To Watch Pile!

Really though, this film wins with its warm and likable characters who are victims of their ancestors crimes and potentially innocent themselves, and with Caroenter’s masterful handling of the pacing of the film.

Seriously, if you haven’t seen The Fog… or anything else by Carpenter, you need to fix that immediately.

Score: ****

Australian Bluray menu screen of The Fog

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Australian region A/B Bluray release, which runs for approximately 90 minutes, and is presented in a clear, but not wholly sharp, 2.35:1 image with a really nice DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Crappy extras on this release, I’m afraid. There is an audio and video configuration test. What?

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s one of Carpenter’s best: you better believe it should be watched over and over again!

No shower scene for Janet Leigh here.

The Funhouse (1981) 

One from the re watch pile…
The Funhouse (1981)

Arrow’s UK Bluray cover of The Funhouse

Film: To most people, Tobe Hooper peaked early in his career with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but I disagree. I am not the world’s biggest fan of TCM at all, in actually fact I find it to be poorly paced, with a really great payoff, I’ll grant you, but with quite possibly the world’s most annoying character, Franklin.

For me though, it’s Hooper post TCM and 80s output I like better: Eaten Alive, Lifeforce, Invaders From Mars, and even Tcm’s sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2! Another one of those I like is this film, The Funhouse, written by Larry Block aka Lawrence Block, whose only other real credit was the Matt Salinger Captain America movie made almost ten years after this.

Elizabeth Berridge in a not-so-famous shower scene.

The Funhouse tells of Amy Harper (Elizabeth Berridge) and her blond date, Buzz (Cooper Huckabee) along with friends, Liz (Largo Woodruff) and her boyfriend, Ritchie (Miles Chaplin) who decide, against Amy’s father’s wishes, to visit a travelling carnival, but they get more than what they bargain for.

They decide to spend the night in the Funhouse, but unfortunately bear witness to the carnival barker’s (Kevin Conway) deformed son (Wayne Doba), kill the sideshow fortune teller (Sylvia Miles) after an unsuccessful sexual transaction. 

So there they are, trapped in a carnival attraction overnight, pursued by madness… will they all survive.

Oh, the freak show is gonna have freaks (Wayne Doba)

I dig this film. It’s classic 80s with weirdo characters and ridiculous practical make-ups, obnoxious jocks who are the good guys, virginal heroines (who’s boobs we get to see, which is an odd juxtaposition), slutty ‘best’ friends who tease their friend about being virginal, and a bizarre environment.

The acting is of a level one would expect from a film of this era, but Kevin Conway in his multiple roles as three different carnival barkers adds a bizarre almost respectability to the whole film, even though he is as creepy as hell, and the ultimate abusive parental figure.

I only saw this film for the first time when this release came out in 2011, and have been a fan ever since, mainly due to the overall tone of the film and the fact that I am an 80s connoisseur, though the fact I find both Elizabeth Berridge and Largo Woodruff cute doesn’t hurt either.

Recommended for fans of 80s slashers.

Score: ***1/2

UK Bluray menu

Format: This Arrow U.K. Multi-region Bluray release runs for approximately 95 minutes and is presented in a nice 2.35:1 image with a good stereo 2.0 audio. As one would expect the image is slightly grainy at times, and fairly artefact free.

Score: ***

Extras: There’s no shortage of extras on this disc.

First, three… count them… THREE commentaries! One by film critic/ journalists Calum Waddell and Justin Kerswell, the next by Craig Reardon and Jeffrey Reddick, and the last by Derek Power and Howard S. Berger. They are three completely different styles of commentary but all have areas of interest.

Next there is a trailer for the film.

Carnage at the Carnival sees Tobe Hooper reflect on his experiences in the making of Funhouse.

Miles of Mayhem has Miles Chapin, who played Ritchie, recollect on his experiences on the film and how every decision his character made screwed the futures of the other main characters.

The Make-up Madness of Craig Reardon looks at Reardon’s history with special effects in Hooper’s films.

Masterclass of Horror sees fellow horror director, and creator of Masters of Horror, Mick Garris talk about Tobe Hooper.

Tobe Hooper Q &A is a fairly poor quality interview with Hooper around the time of the release of his 2004 film, The Toolbox Murders. Despite the quality, it’s an interesting Q & A.

Stills Gallery is a slideshow of the make up and other behind the scenes shenanigans.

This is one of Arrow’s releases that has the multiple covers, 4 in total, a poster of the film and an illustrated essay booklet by horror historian and author Kim Newman.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s a fun 80s slasher and yeah, I’ll be watching it again.

Largo Woodruff taunts her best friend for being a virgin.

An Awful Week for Horror Fans

There is no doubt this week has been an epic bummer.

First, we lose comic writer/ creator Len Wein:

Len Wein

Wein delivered many awesome comics and created two super-important characters in Marvel’s Wolverine and DC’s Swamp Thing, and could regularly be seen on extras to many movies discussing various subjects as his knowledge of the history of comics was quite extensive.

Swamp Thing

Next, and for me this was one that really stung, we lost artist Basil Gogos. 

Basil Gogos

One of the reasons I love to draw monsters is from growing up with Gogos’ garishly coloured and totally amazing covers of Famous Monsters of Filmland. His capacity to add an amazing depth of varied colour to portraits of characters who only have photographs in black and white was amazing!

Basil Gogo’s portrait of Frankstein

Finally we get news today that cinematic legend Harry Dean Stanton has left us!

Harry Dean Stanton as Brett in Alien.

I was first introduced to Stanton when I first read the photo novel of Alien which I received before I got to see the film, but over the course of his career I enjoyed seeing him in things like Repo Man and The Green Mile, and even got a small shiver of excitement when he cameoed in things like The Avengers.

The To Watch Pile would like to forward our condolences to the respective families of our departed idols.

XX (2017) Review

One from the to watch pile…
XX (2017)

Monster Pictures Australian Bluray release of XX

Film: I have said previously that I love anthology films (the last time with the anthology Torture Garden): one of the things I love about horror is that there is a capacity to tell a quick tale of terror, be it in this way, or even with some of the YouTube shorts that get developed into full length features, like Lights Out, or TV shows like the Twilight Zone and Masters of Horror.

Horror: yeah! Most anthologies have a thematic similarity, like Creepshow’s comic tales from the pen of Stephen King, or Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors train-bound tarot reader of doom, and XX is no exception. As the title may suggest, all the directors of this anthology have a double xx chromosome, or in more general terms, are women. Our directors are writer/ director of Southbound, Roxanne Benjamin; director of Jennifer’s Body and Aeon Flux, Karyn Kusama; musician St. Vincent aka Annie Clark and writer/ director of The Guest, as well as former editor-in-chief of horror magazine, Rue Morgue, Jovanka Vuckovic.

Quite a line up of impressive talent, for sure.

Most anthologies have some kind of connective narrative and in this case it is a mysterious, almost Jan Svankmeyer-ish stop motion of a walking dollhouse created by artist Sofia Carrillo that connects the tales, not so much as an introduction to each one, but instead just as a break in between each story. It looks incredible but doesn’t really seem to have any kind of reverence to the story, though each story seems to be a ‘room’ of the dollhouse.

The stories, though are mostly wonderful.

Danny (Peter DeCunha) looks into terror

First cab off the rank is Vuckovic’s The Box. Based on a story by Jack Ketchum and adapted by Vuckovic, The Box tells of a boy named Danny (Peter DaCunha) who asks a strange man (Michael Dyson) on a train what is in the box he is nursing. The man lets him sneak a peak, and this immediately stops Danny from wanting to eat. Danny slowly starves himself and as he shares his secret, other family members stop eating as well. Will his mother, Susan (Natalie Brown) be able to save her family? Vuckovic has created a true tale of fear here that’s told very matter-of-factly and leave you with a sense of dread, and is probably my favourite of the collection.

The second story is The Birthday Party, co-written by Roxanne Benjamin and director Annie Clark. This is black humour at its finest as it tells the tale of a woman, Mary (Melanie Lynskey) who is holding a party for her daughter Lucy (Sanaa Victoria), when she discovers that her husband, David (Seth Duhame) has inconveniently passed away. The tale then leads into her attempts to hide the body so that Lucy’s party can go on without any interruption… will she be successful? Annie Clark directs Lynskey into some funny physical situations which she takes too like a duck to water, and the whole tale is told with a colour palette that suggests a sugary 60s sitcom. It’s heaps of fun, and a nice break after Vuckovic’s dense tale.

Next is Don’t Fall, written and directed by Roxanne Benjamin, which tells of four friends, Paul (Casey Adams), Jess (Angela Trimbur), Jay (Morgan Krantz) and Gretchen (Breeda Wool), who has an abject fear of heights, on a camping trip. Whilst resting against a shallow cave wall, they find an image of several figures painted on one of the walls. During the night, Gretchen is attacked by a creature who looks like one of the painted figures, and she attacks her friends with an animalistic ferocity… will they survive her?

This was my least favourite of the tales as it after the complexity of the first two, it felt a bit empty. If Benjamin was influenced by films like Primal or Dying Breed, I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s nicely filmed, but essentially below average.

Last is Her Only Living Son, written and directed by Karyn Kusama, and it’s a tragic tale of a single mother, Cora (Christina Kirk) who is called up to the school as her son, Andy (Kyle Allen), has assaulted another student, but it would appear that the staff of the school aren’t too worried about it… which leads Cora to suspect that he somehow has them under his thrall. She has a horrible suspicion about her boy, which becomes greater when she sees he is developing talons on his hand and feel… could her only son be a Spawn of Satan?

Mary (Melanie Lynskey) has a horrible secret revealed

Kusama’s story is steeped in tragedy, and is well shot and acted well, and is a great way to finish the film after the disappointing third entry.

All in all, the parts of this film make up for a greater whole, and I certainly hope we see an XX2 down the track with some of the directors who were originally proposed when this movie was first announced, like American Mary’s Soska Sisters, Boxing Helena’s Jennifer Lynch and American Psycho’s Mary Harron.

Score: ****1/2

XX Bluray menu screen

Format: On the Australian bluray, this disc runs for approximately 80 minutes and is presented in a perfect 2.39:1 image with a matching DTS Digital Surround 5.1 sound.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc is bloated with extras, and it starts with a trailer for the film Raw, before we get to the menu.

The extras are:

Making of the Box looks not just at the making of Vuckovic’s entry, but also the proposal for making an all-female director horror anthology.

XX Set Visit in 360: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Birthday Party takes a look at some of the filming of The Birthday Party with pop-up bits saying who did what… like those old pop-up videos.

Don’t Fall Stunts and Special F/X is a series of stills and behind the scenes stuff on how the effects were done for the Don’t Fall entry.

Behind the Scenes of Her Only Living Son is really just some behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew at work (but with a cool synth score!)

Making of XX: Directors Interviews is a series of interviews with the directors, but what’s great is immediately after that we have Extended Interviews with Karyn Kusama and Jovanka Vuckovic, Roxanne Benjamin and Annie Clark and Sofia Carrillo

Trailer: I bet you can guess what this is.

This package also contains a reversible slick for the bluray.

Score: *****

WISIA: Loved it, and I’ll definitely watch it again.

Cora (Christina Kirk) is concerned for her son…

A Cure For Wellness (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
A Cure For Wellness (2016)

The Australian Bluray cover

Film: I love it when you get an opportunity to see a film you barely know anything about but surprises you. Especially when the surprise is a weaselling un-nerving that gets under your skin.

I had seen half a trailer for this film A Cure For Wellness, and had decided it was the type of film I’d like to see at the movies, and yet it slipped by quickly and I didn’t get an opportunity to see it until it’s release on bluray.

A Cure For Wellness was written by Justin Haythe, with director Gore Verbinski, who last worked together on Disney’s The Lone Ranger… but don’t let that jade your judgement, or allow it to be used as a deterring factor to watching the film. Any mistakes they may have made together on that film aren’t evident here.

The mountaintop retreat.

Dane DeHaan plays Lockhart, an ambitious executive at a large international firm that is in trouble. He has been employed by the people upstairs to track down the CEO, Pembroke (Harry Groener) who has retreated to a mountaintop wellness facility in an attempt to ‘get better’.

The facility, run by Volmer (Jason Isaacs) in what used to be a castle, seems to be trying to stop Lockhart from seeing Pembroke and soon, after a horrific car accident, Lockhart finds himself with a broken leg, and interred at the facility. 

During his stay he is offered treatments, but the longer he stays, the more he thinks there is something more happening at the facility, something sinister, something involving the youngest patient, Hannah (Mia Goth)….

Immediately, and as can be read by my synopsis, what we appear to have here is a modern-day retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with the young executive investigating a colleague’s disappearance, only to find that ‘something’ (in Stoker’s case, but not here, a vampire) may have taken them hostage, or performed some other sinister act upon them. The difference is shocking and makes for a kick-ass, slick horror movie.

Typically, Verbinski’s primary skill lies in how damn beautiful the film looks. It is extraordinarily beautifully shot, every scene is like a painting. This isn’t hurt by how damned clear the entire film is too. For the most part it has a very blue and cool palette which is truly stunning, but that colour plate also changes depending on the part of the story that is being told, and looks amazing at every point.

The soundscape is preposterously amazing too. For example, the creak of DeHaan’s crutches are a constant reminder of his temporary disability but every sound has an echoing eeriness to it, and that whole is also made effective by the wonderful presence of Benjamin Wallfisch’s score.

Dane DeHaan as Lockhart

For the most part the cast is fantastic but they have a collective atypical look: there are no traditional Hollywood hunks or beauties in this flick, but this unusual anti-movie star face of the film makes it feel both more real, and surreal at the same time. I admit I had my doubts about Dane DeHaan being the leading man in this film, but he ‘looks’ right for the film.

It seems to me this was mistreated by its advertising as a thriller, when in actual fact this is a flat a gothic horror, with many scenes that look like someone like Mario Bava was the cinematographer. It sits well beside things like Shutter Island and it’s has everything you want from a horror film, though it might be a touch overlong.

Score: ****1/2

The Australian Bluray Menu screen.

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian, region Bluray, which is presented in a totally amazing 1.78:1 video with a matching DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a small collection of extras.

First, there is a deleted scene, and with a film as long as this one is, I don’t know why it was excised.

Meditations is a series of 3 guided meditations relating to 3 of the 4 elements: air, water and earth. These aren’t your traditional meditations as they have a distinctively sinister nature. They are interesting and creepy.

The Score addresses the totally impressive score of the film by Benjamin Wallfisch, a score so impressive I immediately bought the record as soon as I finished watching the film.

There is also three trailers for the film.

I should also point out the menus are special too. They have a feeling of being stuck, which is perhaps one of the themes of the film.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: It is such a deep and detailed film that I feel several watchings are in store, and it’s a great story with an amazing look too.

Pembroke (Harry Groener) enjoys a ‘treatment’.

The Cheerleaders (1973) Review

One from the to watch pile…
The Cheerleaders (1973)

The cover of the UK Arrowdrome DVD release

Film: The teen sex comedy was a huge thing in the 80s, and I reckon as a teenager I saw most of them, which were basically stupid jokes mixed with hot half-naked girls in a soft-porn environment. 

As a teen in those days it was hard to get your hands on prom so this was as close as you could get… you kids have it so easy these days.

The film, The Cheerleaders, from 1973, clearly inspired by the films of Russ Meyer, were personably an inspiration to those eighties films and there is a lot of the bare bones of them in this. 

Written and directed by Paul Glickler, this film was also a clear influence on 1978’s Debbie Does Dallas not so much plot-wise, but certainly with the environment and the over-sexed teenaged girls.

The Cheerleaders of Amorosa High need a new cheerleader to make up their squad, seeing as how one of them has ended up pregnant. Now these Cheerleaders are, well, somewhat slutty, and so the head (heehee, ‘head’) cheerleader Claudia (Denise Dillaway), in cahoots with the ladies physical education teacher, decide to get a virgin to be their replacement so they don’t have that problem of pregnancy flare up again.

Claudia (Denise Dillaway) is concerned about something over there.

The problem is Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) is desperate to ‘lose her cherry’ and the rest of the team want her too as well… and she does! Very soon the team are caught up in a match rigging exercise where their team are tired out by a massive orgy organised by an unscrupulous crook, but to make things even the Cheerleaders kidnap all the opposing team and proceed to have their way with each and every one.

Jeannie (Stephanie Fondue) does her best Jan Brady impression

The acting is terrible and the jokes are sophomoric at best, but it has a weird charm to it, which honestly might just be due to its age, rather than actual quality… the fact I love 80s teen sex comedies probably play into that as well. Heaps of ‘ nice balls’ and businesses with the names ‘Beaver Wash ‘ (a car wash) styled jokes run riot. Its Carry On and Russ Meyer all mixed together.

The weird thing is the world in which this movie exists. All teenage girls are oversexed, men are dumb crooks, and every adult male is an ephebophile.

It’s fun and dumb and I reckon an absolute influence of the biggest teen sex comedy of the 80s, Porkys, but it doesn’t necessarily hold up like Porkys does.

Score: **1/2

The DVD menu screen for disc one

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was on the UK Arrow films release DVD, and was an ok image, but far from great. The films image is a 1.78:1 aspect and has heaps of artefacts and some streaks, but everything that needs to be seen, can be, so it’s not too detrimental to the viewing experience. The audio is in 2.0 stereo and is just fine.

Score: ***

Extras: This disc was one of Arrow Films’ ‘Arrowdrome” series of releases, and comes with a reversible cover, an Arrow Films catalogue and a booklet featuring an essay from Cinema Sewer legend, Robin Bougie.

There are two extras on disc one: the trailer and a radio spot for the film.

Disc two though, has the full feature length sequel Revenge of the Cheerleaders, and includes trailers, radio and TV spots for the film. Make sure you watch this one too as it does feature Cheryl ‘Rainbeaux’ Smith, and a young David Hasselhoff as ‘Boner’.

Score: ****

WISIA: Once was enough for me.

Peripheral vision was at an all-time low in the early 70s.