Sunday 24 May 2020

I See You (2019)


One of those films that's very difficult to review as it's best watched pretty much cold, Adam Randall's very fine thriller indeed gets a UK Blu-ray release courtesy of Arrow Films.

In a small town children are disappearing, and the method of abduction seems to be the same as that of a paedophile convicted for the crimes fifteen years ago and who is still in prison. That's not the only problem Detective Greg Harper (Jon Tenney) is currently having to deal with. His wife (Helen Hunt) has recently had an affair, their teenaged son Connor (Judah Lewis) is acting out as a result, and on top of all that, strange inexplicable things are happening in the family house.

I SEE YOU works very well indeed, and the credit for that can be given to its director. In lesser hands the complex interweaving and piling up of incident upon incident might have the viewer questioning some of the less believable aspects, but it's all so skilfully put together that such questions only occur after the film has finished. It's a clever piece of work and definitely worth catching up with and as I've said above, you really shouldn't read any more about it before watching. It's also likely you'll learn a new word (I certainly did).

Arrow's Blu-ray comes with a commentary track from Adam Randall and producer Matt Waldeck. There's also a making of and separate interviews with Helen Hunt and Randall. You also get a featurette on the filming of the opening scene, trailers and an image gallery. The first pressing of the disc comes with a booklet featuring new writing on the film from Anton Bitel. There's a warning at the start which I'll reiterate - don't read it before watching the film!  

Adam Randall's I SEE YOU is out on Blu-ray from Arrow Films on Monday 25th May 2020

Saturday 23 May 2020

The Final Wish (2018)

"Wish it Away!!"

Lin Shaye stars in The Final Wish, a movie co-written by Jeffrey Reddick (who gave us FINAL DESTINATION) and also featuring Tony Todd. It's getting a UK Digital HD release from Signature Entertainment.

Down on his luck lawyer Aaron (Michael Welch) returns to the small town of his birth for his father's funeral. His father collected curious objects and one of them, an ornate bowl found in Iraq, houses a demon capable of granting wishes. Of course, each wish comes at a price, with the biggest horrible surprise reserved for when you've made enough of them.

THE FINAL WISH should be a lot better than it is. Lin Shaye is fine as Aaron's mother, as is Tony Todd who turns up as the expository librarian. The rest of the acting is passable with the exception of Melissa Bolona who really should ask for her money back from any acting classes she paid for. 

Shots are framed well and there's some interesting use of coloured lighting. The reason I'm saying something nice about those things is because the direction on the whole is quite terrible, exhibiting little sense of how to tell a story like this. Scenes of possible suspense are presented more like an advert for washing up liquid, the camera lingers on pointless things for far too long, and the movie quickly veers into 'shout at the screen' territory. 

And that's a great shame because a horror film about wishes going wrong, with those headlining actors and some great design and set dressing (Aaron's father's house looks like something out of Night Gallery or an Amicus film and it's all wasted wasted wasted) should be fantastic and it's just awful. It's taken a while for THE FINAL WISH to get a release and it's not surprising. However, if you're looking for a night of so bad it's good entertainment, this is probably the one to go for this week.

THE FINAL WISH is out on Digital HD from Signature Entertainment on Monday 25th May 2020

Sunday 17 May 2020

Blood Tide (1982)

There are virgin sacrifices and an ancient sea monster in Arrow's latest Blu-ray release in its Nico Mastorakis collection. He didn't direct BLOOD TIDE (Richard Jefferies gets the honours) but he did co-write and co-produce.

Neil (Martin Kove from THE KARATE KID) and his wife Sherry (Mary Louise Weller) are searching for Neil's sister Madeline (Deborah Shelton, who gets an 'Introducing' credit here despite having already appeared in 1977 Greek sleazefest DANGEROUS CARGO before appearing in a lot of US TV including 63 episodes of Dallas).

They arrive on a remote Greek island that was Madeline's last known whereabouts. Jose Ferrer tries to make them leave. James Earl Jones is grumpy too, but that's because he wants all the underwater treasure he's busy looting for himself. He blows up the entrance to a cave, releasing an ancient demon that demands virgin sacrifices but seems to be happy to make do with anyone female.

There's the kernel of a good idea in BLOOD TIDE, plus some decent shots, great locations and a good cast, but sadly overall the film never really gets going.  What it really needed was taking to pieces back in the editing room, followed by complete reassembly and a new score and it might have been halfway decent. In fact in these times of coronavirus with so many doing jigsaw puzzles to pass the isolation time here's one film that really could have done with a 'do your own edit' feature. Maybe competitions could have been run for who could come up with the best version. All this and more will no doubt be going through your mind as the film runs through its regular cycle of something slightly interesting happening on screen, followed by nothing at all for several minutes. 

Arrow's Blu-ray comes with a commentary track from director Jefferies and a thirty minute interview with Mastorakis who is his usual ebullient self. You also get a couple of trailers, a reversible sleeve and the first pressing contains notes by Michael Gingold.

BLOOD TIDE is out on Blu-ray from Arrow on Monday 25th May 2020

Friday 15 May 2020

The Grudge (2020)

Writer-Director Nicolas Pesce's entry into the increasingly massive GRUDGE movie universe gets a Digital, Blu-ray and DVD release from Sony.

Detective Muldoon (Andrea Riseborough), new in town with her young son and still recovering from the death of her husband, finds herself investigating a body found in a burned out car in the woods. The trail leads back to a nearby house that has a tragic history, one that has led to multiple deaths and mutilations, including one of the detectives (William Sadler) who worked on a previous case. As she digs deeper into the mystery, it turns out the deaths began when Fiona Landers (Tara Westwood) returned from a trip to Japan.

THE GRUDGE is a strange beast. There are some beautifully composed shots, some good acting (and some not so good - step forward mumbly grunting policeman Demian Bechir - thank goodness for subtitles) and some decent shock bits (a few quite gory for the film's 15 certificate. 

But.... it just doesn't all hang together. In fact if I was being uncharitable I'd say it doesn't work at all. So bad is it at points you'd swear Akiva Goldsman (RINGS, THE DARK TOWER et al ad very much nauseam) was involved. And that's a shame because once you get to the extras you realise how much thought has been put into this.

There are twelve GRUDGE films prior to this one, and anyone can be forgiven for not knowing their exact chronology, so here we go. First of all there are four Japanese films:

JU-ON: THE CURSE 2 (2000)
JU-ON: THE GRUDGE 2 (2003)

Then come the American ones:

THE GRUDGE 2 (2006)
THE GRUDGE 3 (2009)

Then some more from Japan:


I've gone through all that because Nicolas Pesce obviously has, and the graphic novels as well. His new THE GRUDGE is packed with references to all the above, and if you're not 100% up on JU-ON don't worry, because one of the extras on here is a handy Easter Egg Haunt where Mr Pesce goes through some of them for you. This is one of three featurettes, the other two being 'Cast of the Cursed' and 'Designing Death'. There's no commentary track but you do get over thirty minutes of deleted scenes.

Nicolas Pesce's THE GRUDGE is out from Sony on Digital on Monday 18th May 2020 and on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 1st June 2020

Friday 8 May 2020

The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960)

"At Last!"

Eureka finally concludes its programme of releasing Fritz Lang's Mabuse trilogy on Blu-ray, with both DR MABUSE THE GAMBLER (1922) and THE TESTAMENT OF DR MABUSE (1933) having already been released in standard and attractive steelbook editions.

Dr Mabuse is dead...or is he? We get a brief summary of criminal mastermind Dr Mabuse's career and eventual fate, culminating in a shot of his gravestone, near the start of this film, one which actually begins with the killing of a journalist by hitman Howard Vernon using a specialised needle gun.

Inspector Kras (Gert Fröbe -GOLDFINGER himself) is assigned to the case and finds himself in a strange world of insurance salesmen who rely on astrology, a blind man who claims he can predict the future, suicidal Marion Menil (Dawn Addams) and rich industrialist Henry Travers (Peter van Eyck). 

Everything seems to centre around the luxurious Luxor Hotel, built by the Nazis to house dignitaries and loaded to the gills with surveillance equipment. As more bodies turn up it becomes clear (eventually) that either Mabuse is carrying out one of his dastardly plans to cause chaos throughout the world, or somebody has inherited his mantle.

A film that feels like a James Bond film before such a thing ever existed, THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR MABUSE anticipates the spy thrillers of the forthcoming decade with its weird gadgets, surveillance cameras, and master villain intent on ruling the world. Fritz Lang always admired Gordon Hessler's film of SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN and watching this it's not difficult to see why. The excellent car chase at the end of this is similar to the one in Hessler's film. and Fröbe's police officer is the likely inspiration for Alfred Marks' Inspector Bellaver.

Eureka's Blu-ray boasts a lovely-looking 1080p transfer, with both German and Fritz Lang-approved English dialogue tracks. There's a commentary track from Lang expert David Kalat, an alternate ending, and an interview with star Wolfgang Preiss from 2002. The sleeve is reversible, there's a collector's booklet with new writing on the film, and the first 2000 copies come with a slipcase.

Fritz Lang's THE THOUSAND EYES OF DR MABUSE is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 11th May 2020

Thursday 7 May 2020

The Shed (2019)

"Surprisingly Decent Retro-Style Vampire Flick"

Yes the shed of the title turns out to be harbouring a vampire in THE SHED, a film which had its UK premiere at Grimmfest last year and is now the latest Digital HD release from Signature Entertainment.

Teenager Stan (Jay Jay Warren) lives with his abusive grandfather (Timothy Bottoms,) in a rundown house out in the country. He's on probation from his juvenile detention centre, at risk of suspension from school, and gets into trouble with bullies and teachers, but his life is about to change.

Next door neighbour Bane (Frank Whaley), out hunting rabbits in the prologue, has instead encountered a vampire, who bites him. His assailant is destroyed by the sun's rays but Bane, now a vampire himself, takes refuge in Stan's shed, where it's not long before his presence is discovered.

The premise for THE SHED sounds like a pitch for a terrible sitcom (or possibly an episode of a really good one like The Young Ones). Instead, Frank Sabatella's directorial debut plays its subject matter straight and is all the better for it, culminating in a vampire-filled climax reminiscent of a Bob Kelljan Count Yorga or Blacula movie from the 1970s.  

Add in a clip from Roger Corman et al's 1963 THE TERROR playing on Stan's TV, with Dick Miller overdubbed to explain how vampires are destroyed, and THE SHED is all rather pleasingly retro, paying homage to its antecedents while being an entertaining low budget picture in its own right. Not bad at all.

Frank Sabatella's THE SHED is out on Digital HD from Signature Entertainment on Monday 11th May 2020

Saturday 2 May 2020

The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

Mad science leads to cosmic horror (well, a decent-sized hint of it anyway) as Second Sight releases Roger Corman's classic science fiction picture as a limited edition Blu-ray with a host of extras.

The researches of Dr James Xavier (Ray Milland) has led to him creating a serum 'X' that allows the eye to see through objects to what lies beneath. He's tried it out on monkeys and when it comes to human tests he decides to use himself as a subject. Initially he finds he can read documents covered by other papers, then at a party he finds he can see through everyone's clothes. 

Soon he can see further, diagnosing a child's heart condition and performing surgery for it against the clinical decision of his superior (John Hoyt). A threat of malpractice, plus an incident where he accidentally pushes a colleague out of a window, leads to Xavier going on the run & becoming a carnival sideshow attraction. But for him, the worst is yet to come.

A neat bit of 'meddling in things man must leave alone' is given a cosmic edge to it (and some great dialogue ) by a screenplay co-written by Ray Russell (Sardonicus and a number of very fine short stories) and Robert Dillon (PRIME CUT). The idea that Milland's Xavier is being tormented by what he can see at the edges of the universe has its roots in Lovecraft, but Roger Corman's no-nonsense direction keeps it all very sober until that final, classic, scene which I will leave you to discover for yourselves if you haven't already.

Second Sight's Blu-ray includes two commentary tracks, one from Corman and another fact-packed one from Tim Lucas. There's also a Corman interview and another with Kat Ellinger, as well as Joe Dante talking about the film and Mick Garris providing commentary on a Trailers From Hell segment devoted to it.

The disc comes in a sturdy slipcase with new Graham Humphreys art. The case also includes a double sided poster (UK quad art on one side, the new art on the other), plus a book with new writing on the film from Allan Bryce and Jon Towlson. 

Roger Corman's THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES is out on limited edition Blu-ray from Second Sight on 
Monday 4th May 2020