Saturday, 4 February 2023

Video Shop Tales of Terror (2023)

Not given an actual release yet but starting to make the rounds of film festivals is anthology movie VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR, one of a number of ultra low budget UK genre movies that have been made over the last few years. Some of these, such as the oeuvre of the late Andrew Jones, have found distribution through supermarket shelves, others through mail order and VOD, and doubtless there are a few languishing in distribution hell to be discovered by UK horror obsessives at some point. The thing many of these films have in common is an almost guerrilla approach to film-making, fuelled in the absence of money (and sometimes talent) by sheer enthusiasm and love of the genre. VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR is packed with enthusiasm and has buckets of genre love. It also has buckets of blood, gore, and an endearingly cheerful sense of nostalgia.

The action centres around a video rental store, the exterior of which is rendered a charming little model straight out of Michael Bentine's Potty Time. To continue the 1970s kids' TV vibe the proprietor of the shop bears an alarming resemblance to Dusty Mop from ITV show Hickory House. It's from here we go into the stories.

First off is MJ Dixon's Egghead, a jolly bit of comic strip-styled fun very much in the EC style in which disgraced surgeon Dr Egbert Humphries goes to a rival of his to get a new face and things get horrible from there. Next is Sam Mason-Bell's The Red-Lipped Moon, in which a man investigates the death of his friend and ends up meeting the lethal Ivy. Filmed in slick, stylish black and white this one has the look of a classy 1950s British B movie and gets the awards for the most professional-looking segment of the bunch. 

Third is the brief Fleurs du Mal in which there are strange time-travel goings on Andrew Elias' 1894 horror set in a convent staffed by Nigel Wingrove-style nuns who wear nail varnish and makeup. After that it's Mary Whitehouse You're a C***, an extremely jolly and good natured EVIL DEAD tribute from Alexander Churchyard and Max Davenport that includes Mrs W herself back from the grave (and the reason for her being brought back did make me laugh out loud) and some endearing stop motion animation.

Tom Lee Rutter's These Burnt Children features disillusioned film director Ron Bayliss taking revenge on producer Benny Southpaw. A scene with a medium (with the splendid name of Lemora Lachymose) is the closest VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR ever gets to the classic Amicus anthologies of old and as the segment reaches hysterical fever pitch you're left with the distinct feeling that a John Waters-style script in the hands of Mr Rutter could be a dangerous and wonderful thing.

The final tale is the SALON KITTY-style Vergessen. Those in the know will enjoy ticking off the Nazisploitation personality names in this tale of a brothel designed to get secrets out of visiting officers.

But that's not all. The wraparound features plenty of bonus bits and pieces, including a trailer for something called Don't Sit On His Face which again had me laughing out loud. A bit later on there's a bizarre advert for Japanese hot dogs and the soft core porn video Video Repair Man which, true to the era, has at least eight 'sequels'. 

The overarching theme of VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR is determinedly (and affectionately) retro. It's frequently crude, both in terms of subject matter and execution, but it succeeds in one very important area, in that it actually feels like a project its makers enjoyed making, and their enthusiasm, dedication and love for their subject matter really does shine through, and it's infectious. By the end of the movie I felt I'd had a disgustingly fun time. Well done, chaps.

VIDEO SHOP TALES OF TERROR is currently awaiting a distribution deal

Friday, 3 February 2023

Bros (2022)

"Utterly Charming RomCom"

Star and co-writer Billy Eichner's entertainingly in your face romantic comedy  gets a DVD and Blu-ray release from Mediumtrare Entertainment.

Bobby (Eichner) is a podcaster with a place on the board of a local LGBTQ+ history museum that's in desperate need of funding for it to even open. His romantic life consists of brief Tinder hookups and he's content (albeit neurotically) to remain single. But that all changes one night when he meets Aaron (Luke MacFarlane) who is far happier just to play the field. Gradually the two men are drawn together in the good old-fashioned romcom manner.

BROS is almost consistently charming, frequently laugh out loud funny, and gives the Hollywood glitz and glamour treatment to a lifestyle with which many viewers of mainstream cinema will be unfamiliar. It's a little bit long (no innuendo intended) and could have done with tightening up (ditto) here and there, but overall the characters are likeable, there are plenty of funny set-pieces, and we even get Debra Messing turning up for a cameo playing herself.

Mediumrare's disc comes with a stack of extras, including 13 minutes of deleted scenes. If you only watch one watch the Pride Fight scene. I know I've just said the film is a bit too long but it's a shame they left this out. There's also a four minute gag reel and six behind the scenes featurettes including a 13 minute making of, six minutes on the filming of the deleted 'Pride Fight' scene, eight minutes on the cast, and a selection of other bits and pieces including Art of the RomCom and the filming location for the LGBTQ+ history museum. Here's the trailer:

BROS is out on DVD and Blu-ray from Mediumrare Entertainment on Monday 6th February 2023 - just in time for Valentine's Day!

Friday, 27 January 2023

Eight For Silver (2022)

"Decent Slice of Grisly Gothic Horror"

Writer-director-cinematographer Sean Ellis' EIGHT FOR SILVER (retitled THE CURSED in some other countries) gets a UK Blu-ray and DVD release from Mediumrare Entertainment.

Rural France in the 19th century. Wealthy landowner Seamus Laurent (Alistair Petrie) is having problems with a band of gypsies who are claiming 'his' land belongs to them. Unable to reach a compromise he and his cronies kill them all, saving the worst fate for their leader who has his hands and feet chopped off before being crucified. A gypsy woman is buried with him, as is a set of silver teeth.

Soon children in the village are starting to have weird dreams, leading to them meeting in the field of the crucified man. One digs up the teeth, puts them in and proceeds to bite Laurent's son. It's just the start of a curse that will lead to those around Laurent transforming into hideous beast creatures to wreak revenge on him and his family.

The press release for EIGHT FOR SILVER cites Hammer Films, but those of us justified ancients of horror will more likely get a distinct Tigon vibe, which is no bad thing. The evil spreading through the community is reminiscent of BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW (we even have an 'I need nails and some wood!' moment) and there's a scene straight out of THE CREEPING FLESH as well, when Boyd Holbrook's pathologist mixes monster blood with his own and sees it absorbed on a microscope slide. 

There's plenty of gore (some of it brutal), some really decent transformation stuff, the occasional bit of nudity for the 'audience sophisticates' and a decent enough sense of period that anyone fancying a bit of good old fashioned gothic exploitation will find a lot to enjoy here. On the downside the acting is all rather one-note, the photography tries to render everything a little too authentic and as a result ends up a bit drab, and the music score could have been much better (but again that's par for the course with much of modern horror). Even so, these are actually minor quibbles in a film that's engrossing, atmospheric, and likely to be one of the better horror offerings to get a disc release this year. Here's the trailer under its other title:

Sean Ellis' EIGHT FOR SILVER is out on Blu-ray and DVD from Mediumrare Entertainment on Monday 30th January 2022

Friday, 20 January 2023

The Harbinger (2022)

After a successful run playing at pretty much every UK horror festival last year, the latest film from writer-director Andy Mitton (THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW) gets a digital release on the Frightfest Presents label through Signature Entertainment.

At the height of the Covid pandemic lockdown, Monique (Gabby Beans) leaves her family in the suburbs to go to the aid of old friend Mavis (Emily Davis) in the city.. Mavis has been suffering from nightmares so extreme and so catatonia-inducing she's been unable to wake up from them. The dreams centre around a mysterious hooded and masked figure that resembles the plague doctors of old. 

Monique hasn't been in Mavis' apartment for long before she, too, begins to suffer reality-distorting nightmares and soon she's starting to see the same figure. Seeking advice online the two women eventually end up having a Zoom consultation with a demonologist who reveals the situation is much worse than either of them had feared.

A creative, thoughtful and above all scary treatment of the concept of the  'lethal nightmare', Andy Mitton was apparently inspired by the phenomenon of sleep paralysis. The isolation of the pandemic lockdown provides a discomforting backdrop to what is basically a lower budget, more arthouse, grownup version of Wes Craven's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Performances are excellent across the board with Beans especially giving us an understated, sensible yet vulnerable lead in Monique. Mitton himself provides the effective music score and overall THE HARBINGER is an unmissable piece of subtle thought-provoking, contemplative horror. Highly recommended. Here's the trailer:

Andy Mitton's THE HARBINGER is out from Signature Entertainment under the Frightfest Presents banner on Digital Platforms on Monday, 23rd January 2023

Sunday, 15 January 2023

Emily the Criminal (2022)

"Riveting Thriller With a Superb Central Performance"

One of the big hits of 2022's London Film Festival gets a DVD andBlu-ray release from Mediumrare Entertainment.

Emily (Aubrey Plaza) is a young woman saddled with a huge student debt and, despite her college degree, is unable to get a job because of a previous conviction for assault. While working for a food delivery company a colleague gives her a number to contact with the promise of being able to make some easy money.

The next day, Emily earns herself $200 by buying a flatscreen TV with a stolen credit card and delivering it to the organiser of the scheme, Youcef (Theo Rossi), who promises she can earn $2000 if she's willing to do something more dangerous. Soon Emily is becoming something of a high roller in the credit card fraud racket, with all the double dealing and violence that entails. Will the offer of a job in graphic design bring Emily back to the straight and narrow? Or will she stick with her new more profitable line of work?

EMILY THE CRIMINAL has been likened to the Adam Sandler-starring UNCUT GEMS (2019) but there's something of a Breaking Bad feel to this one as well. Emily is in financial straits due to a misfortune that's not really her fault, and she turns out to be very good at a life of crime. Aubrey Plaza. who never delivers anything less than an interesting performance in anything she's in, excels here as Emily. She's in pretty much every scene in the film and she delivers a portrayal that's as hard-edged as it is sympathetic. Theo Rossi is also excellent as her boss who then becomes her boyfriend, and there are cameos from Gina Gershon and John Billingsley so it doesn't feel entirely a one woman show.

Medium Rare's disc comes with a trailer and two sound mix options but that's it. A commentary track from first time feature director John Patton Ford would have been welcome (apparently the film was shot in just 20 days) but don't let that put you off getting hold of one of what is likely to be one of this year's highlights.

EMILY THE CRIMINAL is out on DVD and Blu-ray from Medium Rare Entertainment on Monday 16th January 2023


Saturday, 14 January 2023

Vengeance (2022)

"Excellent - A Real Surprise"

Probably best known for appearing in the US version of the TV comedy The Office, writer-director-star B J Novak's feature film debut gets its DVD and Blu-ray release courtesy of Mediumrare Entertainment.

Ben Manalowitz is a writer with The New Yorker, busy enjoying the trendy New York way of life while trying to find an angle for a podcast that will make an impression on society and thus increase his own sense of self worth. One night he receives a telephone call to say that his girlfriend has died. The girl, Abilene (Lio Tipton) was actually just a brief flirtation but Ben finds himself travelling to a tiny town in the wilds of Texas to attend her funeral.

Once there Abilene's brother Ty (Boyd Holbrook, most recently seen as The Corinthian in The Sandman TV series) tells Ben he is convinced Abilene was murdered despite there being no evidence to suggest it. Initially reluctant to stay and help, Ben quickly views this as an opportunity for him to immerse himself in a community that he sees filled with ignorance and conspiracy theories. But there's a lot more going on than he realises.

Cinema trailers for VENGEANCE sold it on its comedy aspects, and there are plenty of laughs to be had here. But the film has a lot more going on than that, and to say what would be to spoil what is a surprisingly thoughtful movie about the things in modern life that can divide a nation. Novak makes for a good leading man with a performance that means you're with him all the way even when his initial plan is to exploit the locals for his podcast. There are some breathtaking shots of the Texas landscape and overall VENGEANCE successfully achieves a difficult balance of comedy, satire and thriller all to satisfying effect.

Mediumrare's Blu-ray contains a trailer but no other extras.

B J Novak's VENGEANCE is out on Blu-ray and DVD from Mediumrare on Monday 16th January 2023

Saturday, 7 January 2023

The Munsters (2022)

"Rob Zombie's THE MUNSTER CLUB?"

So here it finally is. After the underwhelming critical response it received on its Netflix premiere in the US, Rob Zombie's THE MUNSTERS is getting a UK DVD and Blu-ray release from Mediumrare Entertainment. So, is it as bad as all those American reviewers have claimed?

The opening minute is rather charming, with the 1930s Universal logo giving way to a very classic Universal horror movies-type setting. Dr Wolfgang (Richard Brake in a rare comedy role. Well, I say comedy. More about that in a bit) is digging up graves and opening crypts looking for parts so he can assemble the perfect human being. He's aided by the hunchbacked Floop (Jorge Garcia). Twin brothers have died - one a genius, one an idiot. No prizes for guessing which brain Floop gets hold of.

Meanwhile, lovelorn Lily (Sheri Moon Zombie also in a rare comedy role and also more about that in a bit) is on the dating scene. A night out with Orlock (also Richard Brake) goes even more uncomfortably than the opening ten minutes of this film. However, any thoughts that writer-director Rob Zombie is merely trying to show the audience how excruciatingly embarrassed she must be feeling is dispelled as the film continues in exactly the same vein for its entire running time of 109 minutes. Herman Munster (Jeff Daniel Phillips in a rare comedy etc etc) gets created, dates Lily, they get married, and end up living at Mockingbird Lane.

THE MUNSTERS is based on a 1960s TV show that some may remember (ITV broadcasts continued into the 1980s at least) and which was always considered something of a low rent, more kiddie-orientated pretender to the throne of the superior The Addams Family. For a film made by the director of DEVIL'S REJECTS and LORDS OF SALEM it's difficult to work out who Zombie's target audience for this one actually is. I tried to be as forgiving as possible while watching it but THE MUNSTERS really is stultifyingly unfunny. Nobody has any comic timing, least of all the film's director. Scenes play at a snail's pace and are dragged out well past the point where any humour value might be had. Swannee whistle sound effects are added in case you don't get one of the many terrible laboured jokes, and this is one that really dares you to stay with it until its bitter, unfunny, cheaply animated end. All I can say is that if you are one of the few individuals who finds the linking sequences in Milton Subotsky's 1980 THE MONSTER CLUB funny you might want to check this out, but otherwise it's one for curious fans of terrible cinema only.

Medium Rare's disc comes with an hour long making of in which everyone seems to be having more fun making it than most will have watching it. Finally there's a Rob Zombie commentary track that is actually excellent. The man knows and loves his horror and his enthusiasm for the subject matter here almost made me want to be less harsh about the film. So if you do get THE MUNSTERS on disc, make sure to give it a listen. In the meantime, here's the trailer, which will give you a good taste of what you're in for:

Rob Zombie's THE MUNSTERS is out on Blu-ray and DVD from Mediumrare Entertainment on Monday 9th January 2023