Creepshow 2 (1987)

Creepshow 2 (1987)

The Arrow Video cover to Creepshow 2

Film: I was born in the late 60s, which of course means two things: I’m very very old and I was an impressionable teen during the 80s, which means, I am of the boobs ‘n’ blood generation! A time where ‘banned in Queensland’ was a badge of honour!

This film, Creepshow 2, came from that era and has a special place in my heart as it was one of the first VHS films I actually owned! I honestly cannot remember if it was a sell through video I got from Kmart of somewhere like that, or if it were an ex-rental that a video shop gave me (I worked in one and they gave me tapes now and again) but it got watched over and over again.

Creepshow 1 and 2 were both written by Steven King and directed by George Romero and have their foundations in the joy the two found in reading EC Comics as kids. The short version of that company’s story is that EC Comics made pretty violent comics and caused the creation of the Comics Code Authority, which featured on the covers of many comics for years, and also resulted in Mad becoming a ‘magazine’ rather than a comic (in format) because magazines weren’t subject to it and it’s restrictions.

Basically, Google ‘Frederick Wertham’ or ‘William Gaines’ for the full story.

Tom Savini as The Creep

Anyways, Creepshow 2 is an anthology film, and the three stories contained within are bookended by the tale of a young man waiting for something he ordered from the advertisements within the pages of his favourite comic, Creepshow, and as an issue of the comic flicks through the pages it reveals our tales. This section is mainly animated, but has a pretty awesome love action piece at first and the delivery man who delivers the comics is actually a fantastic mask, worn by horror make-up legend Tom Savini!

The first tale is titled ‘Old Chief Woodenhead’ and tells of a kindly old couple, the Spruces played by George Kennedy and Dorothy Lamour, who have a general store in a town which is on its last legs. There are heavy supporters of the local indigenous community, and are entrusted by their leader Ben Whitemoon (Frank Salsedo) to take care of their tribes greatest treasures, but unfortunately, the ne’er-do-well of the tribe, Sam (Holt McCallany) knows the Spruces have these treasures and has decided that perhaps he’d like them for himself…

The second story, The Raft, sees four friends (played by Paul Satterfield, Jeremy Green, Daniel Beer and Page Hannah) go to a secluded lake, late in autumn, to go swimming as the raft is still there until winter. What they don’t realise though is that there is something in the water… something hungry…

The Raft

The final story, The Hitchhiker, tells of Annie Lansing (Lois Chiles) who has been cheating on her husband, but tonight has lost track of time and needs to race to get home from her lover’s place before her husband gets home. Unfortunately, she hits a hitchhiker (Tom Wright) on the way home, and leaves him by the side of the road, but his spirit pursues her with the sole purpose to punish her…

As is typical of these Tales of the Crypt/ Twilight Zone styled stories, the objective is to show a supernatural punishment of some sort paid out to those who have transgressed some kind of moral code… and it still works!! Of the three, I think I like The Raft the best as it is nice and concise

I do have to admit that a lot of my love of this is purely nostalgic, and realistically the first film is certainly the better film, but I still enjoy every watch of it. The stories are in no way as impactful as the first film, but it is still lots of fun, and well made in every way.

Score: ****

The menu screen for the Arrow Bluray release

Extras: Crikey, does this little disc from Arrow Video have some extras on it:

Screenplay for a Sequel is an interview with Romero, where he talks about his love of comics, and how they influenced his career.

Tales from the Creep is an interview with make-up legend and actor Tom Savini about his work in the Creepshow films.

Poncho’s Last Ride is an interview with Daniel Beer, who played Randy in the episode ‘The Raft’, as he tells his anecdotes on his casting and the filming.

The Road to Dover talks to Tom Wright about his experiences as the ill-fated hitchhiker in the episode of the same name.

Nightmares in Foam Ruber (sic) sees us sitting down with Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero, the special effects team, and have them discuss their experiences of the production of the film.

My Friend Rick continues with Berger discussing his fandom of special effects legend Rick Baker, and with an accompanying personal anecdote.

Behind the Scenes is just some footage of the actual filming of the production with some nice behind the scenes bits.

Trailers and Tv Spots is the two theatrical trailers and one TV spot.

There is also an Audio Commentary with director Michael Gornick, which has some interesting information about the film within it.

Score: *****

WISIA: Creepshow 2 is a horror classic and I’ve already watched it hundreds of times!

Old Chief Woodenhead

The Unholy (2021)

The Unholy (2021)

The cover to the Australian bluray

Film: I picked up the new Blumhouse film, The Unholy, on a whim. I had wandered into my local movie retailer to pick up a couple of different films, and in a classic case of ‘while you’re down there’, I grabbed this as well.

One thing I didn’t realise until the end of the film is that this film is based on a book, The Shrine, by one of my favourite horror authors, James Herbert, who also wrote The Rats trilogy, and Sepulchre.

This film version of that book, was written and directed by Evan Spiliotopoulos, who wrote the live action version of Beauty and the Beast from Disney.

The film starts on February 31st, 1845 – we, the viewer, get to witness the burning of a witch from the POV of the victim, as her soul or spirit (or whatever) is cast into the body of a doll.

… and yes, that date is correct…

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Fenn

Flash forward to now, or yesterday, or tomorrow, and we meet scumbag washed-up alcoholic photographer Gerry Fenn (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who now works for a National Enquirer, Alien Elvis Stole My Sister- styled website who has been sent to the small town of Banfield to photograph a mutilated cow, only to find the ‘mutilation’ was actually a graffitied Metallica ‘M’ on the cow’s hindquarters.

Whilst with the farmer, Fenn notices an object shining under a dead tree and after a bit of digging, finds a small doll, which the farmer suggested may have been a ‘Kern Baby’, a doll that farmers used to bury in their fields to get good crops. Fenn smashes the idol and takes a few photos to try to salvage his journey to the small town and prepares to leave.

On the trip out he crashes his car after swerving to miss a girl standing in the middle of the road. He climbs out of the vehicle and follows her, only to find her return to the dead tree he was at earlier.

Cricket Brown as Alice

We quickly learn her name is Alice (Cricket Brown) and that she is the deaf-mute niece of the local priest, Father Hagen (William Sadler), but the very next day, both her hearing and voice return to her, and she claims to have been visited by the Holy Mother, Mary.

In addition, she discovers she is also able to heal the sick, bringing a paraplegic boy to his feet, and healing her uncle’s lung cancer… but Fenn is getting his OWN visions, and think perhaps that something more unholy might be behind the healings…

Herbert’s book was an absolute corker that took me about a day to read, which, if I’m honest, is how I find all his books. This film is disappointing in comparison. Of course, the idea is interesting, but Spiliotopoulos’ modernisation and translation of it has several tropes that are overused in this religious type of film. It’s not all bad though.

Even though Morgan feels like he’s sleepwalking at times, and Cary Else’s’ performance is occasionally ostentatious and William Sadler is… well, William Sadler, the winner of the acting department was Cricket Brown, who plays both the victim and the bold promoter of our evil, is consistently on-point. She plays every scene with the confidence the role required. I’ll point out that even though what I said of the actors sounds like an insult to each of them, it actually somehow meshed really well.

Some of the special effects were a little off, especially the fire effects, but the make up of the actual baddie was absolutely terrifying, and a credit to the make up department. It was actually difficult to look at and surprising when it’s finally exposed.

Unfortunately this film was one that was hit by Covid-19 during its filming, and one of the stipulations made when they returned to filming was that the cast had to be reduced to 10 only on set. This was something I did actually notice, particularly with a red headed cast member who stood out, so when they were reused, it was a little obvious. I wrote it off as being the same character just in a different part of town.

I wanted to like this, and I think if I really dig deep within me, maybe I do a little, but it was just to generic, and a little boring, for it to be really successful as a good film.

Score: **

The Australian Bluray menu screen

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: There is actually something about this film that would tempt me to watch it again, even if I can’t put my finger on it.

This review was done using the Australian 2020 Bluray release.

The Kern Baby

Wrong Turn (2021)

Wrong Turn (2021)

Film: In general I find it strange when they ‘reboot’ a movie series. I’m a firm believer that if a series reaches the end of its live span with the movie-going public, it should be allowed to rest. When I first heard about this film, it was called ‘Wrong Turn: The Foundation’ and I must have glossed over the idea of a ‘reboot’ and was more than happy that I’d see more of Three Finger’s cackling and his family’s murderous ways.

What I found though upon purchasing this Bluray… yep, physical media lives… is the abandonment of ‘The Foundation’ part of the name and a film that completely abandons the entire concept of the ‘first’ bunch of films, and basically just kept the concept of a weird-arse family living in the woods, and more traps than you could shake a noose at.

This film adds much more to the mix, and at the risk of burying the lead, does it quite well. The reason for that might be because the writer of the original film, Alan McElroy, is back at the writing desk for this one.

The film starts with Scott (Matthew Modine), in backwater Virginia searching for his missing daughter, Jen (Charlotte Vega). He files a missing person report with the town sheriff, who comments on her ‘black fella’ boyfriend (a foreboding of the townships attitudes, indeed) and shows her picture to several locals, none of whom claim to have seen her, but all of whom are as weird as hell.

Before we enter too far into his story, we flash back to over a month previously where we see Jen, her boyfriend Darius ( Adain Bradley) and their friends Adam (Dylan McTee), Luis (Adrian Favela), Milla (Emma Dumont) and Gary (Vardaan Arora) in the same small town ready to hike along the Appalachian trail… when unfortunately, they make a… you guessed it… WRONG TURN!!!

Very quickly, one of the party of friends is killed by a falling log which panics the others and causes them to run off the trail, making them lost even deeper in the woods. They camp overnight and in the morning, Adam finds that his girlfriend Milla has disappeared, and is caught by some weird forest dwellers in a trap. The rest of the friends confront the strangers, who don’t seem to understand them, and after Adam is untied, he kills one of them with a makeshift club, furnished from a dropped branch.

The death of one of their own upsets the other member of the forest family, and very quickly, they are pursued by their associates, whom the friends find out are part of something called The Foundation, a group who live hidden in the mountains, patiently waiting for the fall of America.

I think the biggest problem with this film is the use of the title Wrong Turn! It seems to have suffered a bit on many of the online reviews but I imagine that was due to the fact that this is in NO WAY a sequel. A better way to have sold this film would have been to have promoted it as ‘from the mind of the writer of Wrong Turn’ with the simple title of ‘The Foundation’. Franchise fans would have been extraordinarily pissed of, I imagine, when they found this to be not even slightly associated.

I, however, found this film to be a breath of fresh air, and for some reason was reminded of Jordan Peele’s films. Thematically they are different, and I can’t explain why it reminded me of them… maybe in the way it was filmed, I’m not sure, but I also was reminded of 2014’s Welp aka Cub from Jonas Govaerts, due to its environment and its constant feeling of moisture and claustrophobia.

The direction is great and the ‘hero’ group feel far more like real people than franchise victims. The bad guys are suitably scary, and their actions justified rather than just moustache twirling evil-for-evil-sakes types. The main villain, Venable, played by Bill Sage, has an oppressive presence, though for me I’m afraid that someone who is a wood dwelling priest-like character, his hair was far too well-groomed, and that’s possible my only criticism.

This film is less a horror movie, and more the cinema version of a Far Cry movie… and I don’t mean the god awful Uwe Boll one staring Til Schweiger and Udo Kier! It travels along a quite the clip, and is full of surprises. I can’t recommend it enough.

Score: *****

Extras: Not a brass razoo!

Score: 0

WISIA: I’ve watched it twice already, so yes!

Death of Me (2020)

Death of Me (2020)

Film: I’d like to say I’m a fan of Darren Lynn Bousman, but I just can’t. For me, his output has been massively hit or miss for me. I loved his additions to the Saw saga, and the Mother’s Day remake (was it REALLY a remake? I’m not sure), but films like St. Agatha completely missed the mark.

There’s no doubt he has a great visual eye and he gets good performances from his actors, but I think occasionally the stories are duds, and that reflects on him.

This film, Death of Me sits smack bang in the middle of the two extremes.

Death of Me tells the story of Christine (Maggie Q) and her husband, travel writer Neil (Luke Hemsworth… how many Hemsworths are there?!? There seems to be more than the Baldwins and Daddos combined) are staying at a small AirBnB on a remote island in Thailand when something strange happens.

The film opens with our couple waking up in their room which has been destroyed. There is mud everywhere and they are both filthy. They do some investigation and find a two hour video on the memory card, which shows them both doing shots in a small bar, before finding themselves outside the AirBnB, where Neil rapes Christine, strangles her, and then remorsefully buries her right there and then.

If he killed her though, how is she still alive? Christine seems to be getting strangely sicker too, with her vomiting up grass and dirt initially, followed by a small snake, and the local doctor, suggested to them by the owner of the AirBnB, Samantha (Alex Esso, from Starry Eyes and Doctor Sleep), tells her that there is nothing wrong.

They continue their investigations until Neil suddenly goes missing after Christine seemingly witnessed him committing suicide on a nearby dock, and then it starts to get REALLY weird… but how is it all tied into the weird necklace, and the threat of an incoming typhoon?

Easily the two best things about this film are the location, which was filmed in Thailand and looks so lush and fresh that it’s almost unbearable, and the casting of Maggie Q, an actor I have adored since I saw her in Naked Weapon and followed her career through various Die Hards and Mission Impossibles.

Another point on the location: Bousman does a fantastic job at mixed the wide open spaces and beautiful landscapes, with some really claustrophobic interiors that make for an occasional effectively creepy scene.

Now the problems: the story is somewhat bland. It’s clearly influenced by films like The Wicker Man (even to the point one of the characters even references it) with its ‘strangers in a strange land/ odd locals’ theme but it just doesn’t resonate, and the Carrie styled ending is a little bit daft too. Hemsworth probably wasn’t the greatest companion for Q either; she is far to strong an actor and he is somewhat pedestrian.

It’s a shame. This film could have possibly been great, but it just flapped around, not really doing anything extraordinary.

Score: *1/2

Extras: Nothing. Sorry.

Score: 0

WISIA: No.

The Haunting (1999)

Film: The 90s were a time where horror was really suffering. The idea of creating a franchise rather than good, quality horror, due to the popularity of Jason, Michael and Freddy, had become paramount to the studios and it didn’t kill the genre, but it certainly put it on life support.

The Blair Witch Project was a clever manipulation of the general populace with a crappy film made interesting by the suggestion that is was real, and many people fell for it. It want u til Scream thoigh that Wes Craven really pulled horror back from being like westerns or musicals: only made now and again for nostalgias sake.

Another thing that saved horror in the late 90s and early 2000s was the remake, the idea that taking an older film and redoing it. Not a new idea surely, especially when you consider the popularity of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Chuck Russell’s The Blob. Also, taking a film from another country and making an English version of it seemed to really give the genre a kick in the pants. Yep, remakes were the way to go…

Unfortunately, and I’m burying the lead here, The Haunting possibly wasn’t a great choice.

The Haunting is a close to the book film, based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, and this version was written by Road to Perdition’s David Self and directed by Speed’s Jan De Bont.

It’s tells of Nell (Lili Taylor) who after 11 years of taking care of her ill mother, has joined a group including Theo (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Luke (Owen Wilson) of people with sleep disorders, collected together by Dr. David Marrow (Liam Neeson), at Hill House, a beautiful old mansion with a hidden secret.

The house isn’t the only thing Wilma secret though, Dr. Marrow hasn’t brought them to the house for an insomnia study… no, he had brought them together to study fear, and house suggestions can make the human mind create a false narrative, but what he didn’t expect was that the house MIGHT just actually be haunted…

This film starts of with a casting choice that’s pretty impressive. Taylor, Neeson and Zeta Jones are really quite adept at the character archetypes they create (the shut-in, the nutty doctor and the slut) but unfortunately Wilson sticks out like a sore thumb. Sure he’s fun in the comedies he’s been in, but here he feels like he’s taking nothing seriously. I’m not sure if De Bont thought he could take the bone-headed surfer dude-type and make him a serious actor route again, like he did with Keanu Reeves in Speed, but it doesn’t work here. He seems to take none of it seriously, and that’s a detriment to the story, which is a shame because with the right cast this could have been ok… even a challenger to the other remake about a haunted house that came out at a similar time, The House on Haunted Hill.

It is, however, nice to see cameos from Marian Seldes and Bruce Dern.

Unfortunately the visual aspirations of the film were possibly a little high too. There are several cgi effects that are so bad… SO BAD… that it’s hard to take the film seriously. I’m not a fan of bagging a film too much due to its effects, I’ve seen some films with truly DIRE special effects, but these are really horrible. A product of the time, sure, but terrible.

On the flipside if that, the set design is grand, and majestic, and overdone as some if those old mansions were!

It’s final and main problem is it’s just not good! The story is fine, but the jump scares aren’t jump scares, and the slow burn scares just don’t work. It’s never truly a scary film as a movie about scary ghosts SHOULD be!

Another issue I have with this film is the packaging. Lili Taylor is clearly the star of this film, but she is 4th billed on the cover, and in the original marketing. She’s a fine actor and that’s a bloody crime!

On a good note though is the quality of this Bluray. The image is super bright and crisp and presented in a 2.35:1 image, and the audio, which will really work out your bass channel, is presented in Dolby DTS-HD MA 5.1.

Even though the accuracy to the novel is lacking, the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House is a more entertaining prospect, you’d honestly be better off watching that.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Absolutely nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s not really very interesting, so no.

Video Nasties: Draconian Days aka Video Nasties The Definitive Guide: Part 2 (2014)

Film: I wonder if Jake West realised that his first documentary about banned films, called Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tape, was going to be such an amazing piece of work. I have to say that there is probably only two documentary films series that I really could watch as much as I watch regular cinema, they are these two films, and a Gary Hustwit series of three films called Helvetica, Objectified and Urbanised (a loose series starting with regular things we see every day, but looked at from a design point of view (if you haven’t seen them, give them a watch!))

The first film in this series, reviewed elsewhere on this very site, dealt with the banned films of the so-called ‘video nasty’ era in the UK, whereas this film deals with the fallout; the censorship and movie classification under the direction of the Secretary of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), James Ferman.

It’s an interesting look at the pointlessness of having both censorship and classification, as they don’t work together: why have an age related classification of (18) if you are then going to cut it?

It makes no sense.

The reasoning behind it damaging people psychologically wasn’t proven then, and nor is it proven now… and if these films are so bad, why do the censors get to watch them? What makes THEM above us… and why is age a level for censorship? I know immature 50 year olds (I am one) and I’ve observed 20 years old far more mature than me… and hang on, what is maturity anyways?

It also steeps into the specifics of ridiculousness of some decisions. For example, nunchucks and ninja stars were seen as problematic weapons for films, so those films were rejected or edited. This led to cuts made to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.

Yep.

It would seem that Ferman’s rule seemed to become an excuse for him to exert his lost career as a director and re-cut others films. One of his criticisms claims he made ‘censorship by stealth’.

This film features interviews with everyone involved, from ex-BBFC employees, government officials, film-makers, film journalists and so many others that it presents a quite an even discussion about censorship, especially considering some of the interviewees have such varied opinions about what is ‘good’ censorship, and when does it become borderline fascism? There is also a lot of supplementary material from the time that shows how moral panic can lead to dangerous societal results.

This documentary seems to be far more relevant now with the rise of the so-called ‘cancel culture’. Is it right to delete art because it doesn’t stand up to current standards? If we delete prejudice and violence will it change our state of thought or are those things printed on some of our DNA strands?

I’m just a guy who likes movies so don’t look at me for the answers!

All in all it’s a fascinating look at archaic laws, how some politicians who believe themselves to be better educated than you DECIDE what is good for you, and just how quickly power can corrupt anyone.

The image and sound on this disc aren’t great, but it’s just talking heads so the need for hi-def, 1080hp with super duper surround sound probably isn’t needed.

Score: ****

Video: **

Audio: **

Extras: Oh did you want extras? Well, buckle up, sunshine!

Disc 1 has a series of slideshows: the first is a selection of fanzines who traded in illegal video tapes, then we have DPP72 and DPP82 which show the covers of films banned/ almost banned.

This disc also has trailers for The Playgirls and the Vampire, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Night of the Bloody Apes, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, Dead of Night, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varitease, Ghost Story, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, Between Your Legs, Cruel Passion, Escort Girls, Some Like It Sexy, Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hit Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise. (Though both Fantasm and Fantasm Comes Again attach to the same trailer, which is a bummer)

There is also a couple of Easter eggs that feature images of programs and passes from various film festivals, and a short film “It’s Just A Movie’.

Disc 2 and 3 have, in total, about 10 hours of trailers (which for length-of-review reasons I won’t list them all) of the Section 3 video nasties, with introductions.

Score: *****

WISIA: It’s fascinating and a great supplement to the first documentary, but meanders a little. That hasn’t stopped me from giving it several watches.

Hellraiser (1987)

Hellraiser (1987)

Film: I may be a little old and set in my ways, but I am willing to listen to alternate opinions and think about stuff that I may not agree with, and can sometimes even be swayed. There is a caveat though: one thing I have to assure you about is I will never EVER be convinced that the 80s WASN’T The best time for horror!

Because it was.

100%.

Truly the 80s were one of the generations of horror when legends were built, not just in film, but also in literature. Clive Barker is certainly one of those legends. Not just with his selection of six volumes of horror short stories The Books of Blood, but also with his debut directorial effort (also based on his novella The Hellbound Heart, first published in volume 3 of the Dark Visions anthology series of books) Hellraiser, described by the reviewer for Melody Maker magazine as the greatest British horror film ever made.

Hellraiser tells of Larry (Andrew Robinson) and his wife Julia (Clare Higgins) who are moving into his abandoned parents house after his mother’s passing. They find that his brother Frank (Sean Chapman) a ne’er-do-well who is also Julia’s adulterous partner, unbeknownst to Larry, has been staying there but now appears to be missing… and seemingly in a hurry…

What they don’t realise is that Frank was the recipient of a mystical puzzle box called The Lament Configuration, which opens a door to Hell and drags you in. When Larry cuts his hand whilst moving in, his blood dripping onto the floor allows Frank (now a skinless monster, played by Oliver Smith) a door to escape from Hell, but he requires more blood to regain his full human appearance, and Clare is more than happy to spend her days luring men back to the house for him to consume from his hideout in the house’s attic.

He does eventually reveal himself to Larry’s daughter, Kirsty (Ashley Lawrence) who escapes his clutches and steals the puzzle box, accidentally activating it and releasing Pinhead (Doug Bradley) and fellow Cenobites, creatures who collect the souls of people, offering them an opportunity to feel the ultimate ecstasy. Instead of taking her though, Kirsty offers them Frank, whom they don’t believe managed to escape Hell… so it’s up to Kirsty to prove to them who he is.

I still remember seeing the trailer for this at a Village cinema in Sydney, and even that creeping me out, so when it finally arrived I couldn’t wait to see it, and I was thrilled by what I saw. For me, horror before this has been either monsters or slashers, and this film certainly opened my eyes to a different form of horror, and how in the right hands, a low-budget film could be just as, if not more thrilling than the biggest of blockbusters.

This film has quality thrills, great acting and a solid storyline that’s like nothing you’ve ever seen. Of all the big guns of 80s horror, Hellraiser is certainly one of the biggest, and shouldn’t be missed. The sequels, of course, get lesser as they go on and honestly, if you must watch any of the 9-odd films, you should watch the first three, and then stop.

Score: *****

Format: The quality of the feature seems to be only slightly above that of a DVD release, but it’s 1.77:1 image and Dolby HD-DTS Master Audio 5.1 sound do the job.

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Whilst Umbrella used to be the legends of extras, they seem to care less about it now.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a classic and deserves to be rewatched regularly. Mind you it also deserves a more complete package of extras so THIS release might not be the one to get!

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

Planet of the Vampires aka Terrore Nello Spazio (1965)

20 years ago this came out!!

Film: There is no doubt that director Mario Bava is truly the Godfather of Italian cinema. Able to dance between genres like a ballet dancer at breakdance school, he did everything from horror to westerns, from historical to sci-fi proving himself to be a master of cinema.

American International Pictures hit a few home runs with the Bava films Black Sunday and Black Sabbath (as well as some other non-Bava Italian films) and were looking to invest more heavily in the production of films so they could have the rights in the USA. Planet of the Vampires was one such collaboration and is based on the short story, One Night of 21 Hours by Renata Pestriniero, originally published in Interstellar Science Fiction Magazine. The screenplay was adapted by Bava, along with Ib Melchior, Alberto Bevilacqua, Castillo Consulich, Antonio Román, Rafael J. Salvia and Louis M. Hayward.

Angry astronauts attack!

So, do many hands make light work, or did too many cooks spoil the broth?

Planet of the Vampires sees the deep space vessels Argos and Galliot answer a distress call on the planet Aura. As the ships descend into the atmosphere, a high gravity pressure forces the crews into unconsciousness, only finding themselves acting temporarily violently upon awakening.

When the ships land, the only person unaffected by the temporarily is the captain of the Argos, Captain Markary, who, after his crew come to their senses, organise a team to search the strange alien landscape for the Galliot.

The finest in astronautical fashion and equipment!

When they find the Galliot, they discover the entire crew has killed each other and so all are buried, only to come back to life and attack the surviving crew. What is causing the crew to return to life though, and what happened to the gigantic alien race whose crashed spaceship seems to have suffered the same fate…?

Essentially, this is more or less a stock standard sci-fi film of the 50s but with a little bit of blood and gore… I mean, a LITTLE bit… but it’s notoriety comes from the influence it had on films like Alien and Prometheus, and if I may throw a little suggestion in their as well, Event Horizon and Lifeforce, but not to the same extent.

Bava’ s use of studios for the planet’s exteriors make for a bizarre looking alien world that does use his amazing skill of depth of field using lights and forced perspective, and should be included in any film schools education repertoire.

The costuming is a highlight though because it’s out of this world (wink wink)!! The best way to describe the main suits of the astronauts would be… um… ok, imagine if Hugo Boss has designed the SS uniform based on Kiss-Ass’s superhero suit/ wetsuit, but with 70s shirt collars flipped up like a polo on a frat boy. Yep. Nailed it.

Ultimately it’s 50s sci-fi made in the 60s. It’s quaint and it’s fine but I wish I’d watched Alien again instead! Or Lifeforce.

Or Event Horizon.

Hell, even Prometheus!

Score: **1/2

Planet of the Vampires Menu Screen.

Format: I had a weird revelation whilst watching this DVD in that it’s 20 years old.

Yep. This release from MGM’s Midnite Movies brand is 20 years old at the time of this review, and for a DVD that old, it’s 1.85:1 image and mono audio wasn’t too bad. It’s not brilliant, but it was watchable and the audio was clear.

Score: ***

Extras: A trailer, and that’s it.

Score: *

WISIA: Like I said, I wish I’d watched Alien again.

SHOCK! HORROR!

Assimilate (2019)

Film: I loves me a good body snatcher film. Seriously, from The Thing and Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (and their remakes) to Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty, I’ve always loved a weird alien-replacement conspiracy story. Thankfully, Hollywood does too, so you’ll get a new one once a decade or so… even if in several of those occasions they have been remakes, yes, a weird alternate simplicity of an original!

Wow, I’ve only just realised that a remake is the pod person version of an original film.

Anyway, this decade’s version is this film Assimilate, written, directed and produced (and starring) John Murlowski, who previously directed Amityville: A New Generation and Contagion… no, not that one, the other one from about ten years prior.

Assimilate tell of two friends, Zach (Joel Courtney from Super 8) and Randy (Callum Worthy from American Vandal), who have decided to start a YouTube Web channel all about how boring their small American town is. During the course of the filming we meet various family members and odd locals (no weirder than normal oddness, that is) and of course, Zach’s high school crush, Kayla (Andi Matichak from 2018’s Halloween).

Also, they film a few pieces of weirdness, including a woman who is bitten by ‘something’. They chase the ‘thing’, only to see it picked up by the creepy local priest. They return to see her the following day but when they return to see if she is ok, she is, and with no evidence of ever being bitten, but there seems to be something off about her.

Quickly, the three realise that the townsfolk are being replaced by something, but will they be able to escape the town without being replaced themselves? Will the succumb to the aliens horrible scheme for world domination?

Honestly, I was surprised by how much I liked this film. At first I thought it was going to be derivative of the earlier mentioned films, but it was surprisingly entertaining with a decent amount of jump scares and actual thrills. I was also concerned it was going to be a Blair Witch/ Paranormal Activity found footage thing too, and even though it dips it’s toe in that pool, it doesn’t go full tilt into it, and the idea of the uploads has a payoff that is worthwhile.

The cast are great. Again, I thought the two male leads were going to be chuckleheads but they developed differently to what I first thought they would, and Andi Matichak, who appears to be the token final girl role at first, develops completely in a different direction. As a side note it was also nice to see Cam Gigandet again, I really liked him in Never Back Down (even though his character was a right knob) and The Unborn, so his appearance as the disbelieving Deputy in this was great.

The fault with this film is the special effects, which simply put, are terrible. I’ve seen a lot of cruddy effects in my time though, and even some of my favourite films suffer this fate, so it would be unfair to simple this film out on that notion.

Seriously though, they are well crappy.

All in all, this is a cracking film which entertained and surprised from start to finish… especially the finish.

Score: ****

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australian region 4 DVD, which is presented in a thoroughly decent 1.85:1 image with a matching Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The problem with the image being so clear is that it does reveal the effects to be a little bit… well, crappy. The image also varies somewhat due to the fact the mains characters are using their own webcams occasionally.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: It was pretty good, but the surprise has gone so it won’t be as eye-opening.

The New Mutants (2020)

The New Mutants (2020)

Film: A strange thing happened to the 13 year old me in 1983… no, not pubic hair and the realisation that boobs are amazing… no, I became a ‘proper’ comic collector. I had been collecting comics for almost a decade at this point, but comics were something I rolled up and shoved in my pocket, and carried around in cardboard boxes with little regard for comic company, numbering or continuing stories.

I just liked the pictures with the words.

In 1983, though, I picked up something special whilst at the local news agency with my mum, who was doing her lotto: the first issue of a comic which would change my life, The New Mutants.

The New Mutants told of teens, some the same age as me, who upon hitting puberty, discovered that hidden in their DNA was a horrible secret/ curse of special abilities that if untethered, could accidentally kill others. Thankfully, they were taken on by the kindly teacher Professor Charles Xavier, who at his private school would just teach them and protect them, would also train them to use their powers, but unlike his other team, the missing (at the time) X-men, he wouldn’t allow them to become ‘super heroes’… but they are strong-willed teens, so obviously THAT wasn’t going to happen!

Imagine my excitement, then, when it was announced that 20th Century Fox was going to make a HORROR film based on my favourite comic of all time! Imagine my disappointment at the constant delays, some COVID-related, and some due to the Disney buy-out of Fox, and other because it was getting some bad press, even though no one had actually seen it.

The New Mutants FINALLY got a release in late 2020, where it was unceremoniously dumped… even though it was part of the successful but floundering (well, except for Deadpool and the magnificent Logan) X-men series… to DVD and Bluray (in the companies defence, it was right during COVID lockdowns and few, if any, cinemas were actually open). Tragically you can tell it was dumped by the fact that bother the symbols for Marvel, and it’s parent company Disney, and not mentioned on the front of the packaging, and are a tiny part of the back cover, which is a resounding ‘we are embarrassed by this movie’.

At the risk of spoiling the rest of the review, they are wrong.

This film was directed by Josh Boone, the director of teen drama The Fault in our Stars, who had envisioned it to be the first in a trilogy, which is now obviously abandoned, and was based on a script by him and Bad Grandpa’s Knate Lee… please don’t let those credentials scare you off… and is based loosely on the comics Demon Bear Saga, written by Chris Claremont, with art from Bob McLeod and Bill Sienkiewicz.

The New Mutants tells of Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt), a teenage girl who has been admitted to a hospital after a tornado destroys her community, and her father is killed by… something…

At this institute, she discovers that the doctor in charge, Dr. Celia Reyes (Alice Braga) intends on keeping her there until she understands and can learn to control her mutant powers of being able to make people’s worst nightmares come to life.

Maisie Williams and Blu Hunt

Dr. Reyes already has a group of kids at the institute though: the quiet, but lycanthropic Rahne (Maisie Williams), the Brazilian hothead, Roberto (Henry Zaga), southern boy Sam (Charlie Heaton) and Uber-bitch, is-she-actually-a-demon Illyana (Anya Taylor-Joy), and quickly, Dani discovers that she is being held with these others, in a cage if sorts.

The problem with cages, though, is sometimes they keep what’s outside, outside, but they also trap everything inside, perhaps even whatever it was that killed Dani’s rather… and with 5 super powered and erratic teens, that could be a dangerous mix!

Roberto’s girlfriend is a hottie!

Now this film isn’t your traditional ‘Bang! Pow!’ Superhero movie, oh no. This takes all that bluster and works it down to something that you saw in some of the X-men films, especially with the horrors of Rogue’s (Anna Paquin) powers which caused he to be unable to touch the skin of another human being: getting your powers for the first time would be horrible. Mix with that the difficulties of puberty and a bit of sexual chemistry and you have an absolute cracker of a movie.

It reads very much like a super powered, horror version of The Breakfast Club, and honestly this probably does tap into my love of that John Hughes film, with maybe a little of A Nightmare on Elm St 3: The Dream Warriors thrown in for good measure.

The cast, for me, are an absolute dream. Maisie Williams, hot off her time as Anya in Game of Thrones, Charlie Heaton, the creepy hot guy from Stranger Things and Anya Taylor-Joy, my current obsession, and star of The VVitch and hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit. In a weird piece of chance, and I guess it’s what a good casting person does, the cast somehow both fit, and don’t.

The story is a great introduction to these characters, and choosing to make this film with horror and teen elements is just as clever as making Deadpool a full-tilt comedy. It was supposed to be the first part of a trilogy and it’s a shame we’ll miss out on that as this film quite heavily leans into a future appearances of X-men baddie, Mr. Sinister.

Just because this film was dumped by Disney, please don’t assume it’s anything bad. It’s great!

Score: ****

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Australian release, region B Bluray copy of the film. The 1.85:1 image and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track are fabulous.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a bunch of extras on this Bluray:

There are 7 deleted scenes which the movie really doesn’t miss at all.

Origins and Influences sees Boone, Lee and Sienkiewicz talk about the New Mutants comic. For me this is an unusual featurettes as Boone and Lee talk about how much they loved the New Mutants comic but it started off as a usual superhero comic, which for me, it definitely did not. Towards the end, it became boring and generic, but at first it was a proper school for people learning to control their abilities. I do appreciate it did become something unique when Sienkiewicz could really unleash his art style into it.

Meet the New Mutants introduces us to the cast and the characters they play.

Audio commentary with Boone and Sienkiewicz is really fascinating. To hear two storytellers from different areas of creative storytelling coming together and discussing a project they both worked on in different media. It’s so refreshing to see a comic creative get such a voice in a commentary. Normally in most superhero movies, a tiny bit of lip service is paid to the source material, or poor Stan Lee was forced to tell one of his oft-told tales again, but this really feels like a tribute to the comic. Fantastic.

There’s also the teaser and theatrical trailer.

Score: ****

WISIA: Oh boy, it’s so good it’ll get regularly rewatched!

Anya Taylor-Jot is Magikal