Thursday 25 June 2020

The Invisible Man (2020)

"Masterful Reimagining"

Leigh Whannell's cracking interpretation of a classic horror concept comes to Digital Download to own, 4KUHD, Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

 Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) escapes her abusive relationship with rich optics company founder Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) only to learn two weeks later that he has apparently committed suicide. Adrian's lawyer brother Tom (Michael Dorman) informs Cecilia that Adrian has left his fortune to her, to be paid at regular intervals provided she commits no crime and is not declared insane.

It's not long before strange things begin to happen. Cecilia goes for a job interview and her portfolio has disappeared. Her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer) claims Cecilia has sent her a hateful email. And why does it feel as if there's frequently someone watching her?

Jettisoning everything from the H G Wells source novel (the poor old author doesn't even get a credit) except for the concept - which is now due to a piece of advanced tech rather that a drug - and the surname Griffin for the man who wields it, Leigh Whannell's film is a splendid updating of a concept that hasn't been filmed seriously since a couple of short-lived TV series of the 1970s (one with David McCallum, the other - Gemini Man - with Ben Murphy). 

Combining elements of the stalker thriller with sequences suggestive of John Carpenter at his most HALLOWEEN-esque, the entire endeavour is rounded off a treat by a superb central performance by Moss, who anchors the whole film and makes it believable. The action sequences are as well constructed as one might expect from the director of the excellent UPGRADE and if you're a fan of the Whannell-written SAW series look out for a special in-joke just for you at around the 90 minute mark. 

Extras on Universal's Blu-ray include 14 minutes of deleted scenes, a ten minute featurette with Leigh Whannell and shorter pieces on Elizabeth Moss and the other actors. There's also a feature-length commentary by Whannell but this was not provided for review. 

Leigh Whannell's THE INVISIBLE MAN is out on digital for purchase on Friday 19th June 2020 and 4KUHD, Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 29th June 2020. 

Saturday 20 June 2020

Dream Demon (1988)

"A Bit of a Nightmare"

Anyone active in the UK horror scene in the late 1980s will likely remember the critical vilification with which Harley Cokeliss' DREAM DEMON was met, both from major publications and the fanzine world, partly because everyone had been promised the British NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, but mainly because it just wasn't terribly good. Now Harley Cokeliss (dubbed Harley CockUp in more than one review of the time) is back, introducing this, his re-edited cut of DREAM DEMON, which has been given a smart new presentation from Arrow with loads of extras. Does it deserve this special attention?

Primary school teacher, English rose and heir to millions Diana (oh what a giveaway) is due to marry Falklands hero Oliver (Jemma Redgrave and Mark Greenstreet respectively). She keeps having nightmares her psychiatrist (the late Susan Fleetwood, best known to readers here as Athena from 1981's CLASH OF THE TITANS) believes is due to stress. Diana's nightmares become increasingly sub Elm Street and she joins forces with perky / annoying Kathleen Wilhoite and together they solve the mystery while being pursued by Timothy Spall and Jimmy Nail (who doesn't sing - that would come a couple of years after this).

Even with re-editing DREAM DEMON isn't that great. The good news is that it's no worse (and actually a bit better) than some of the fare Arrow have been providing us with lately (eg Nico Mastorakis' back catalogue) so if you liked those you'll probably like this. I certainly didn't feel the sense of rage with which I left the cinema back in 1988 but an awful lot of cinema has passed before these eyes since then, so perhaps my youthful anger with what is basically a sub-par NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET ripoff was a little misjudged. 

Arrow's Blu-ray has a wealth of extras. First off there's the original cinema version for anyone who fancies a (re) watch. There's a new 27 minute interview with director Harley Cokeliss and a 37 minute one with producer Paul Webster. Cokeliss and Webster also contribute a feature commentary track. There are also new interviews with star Jemma Redgrave (15 minutes) actors Mark Greenstreet, Annabelle Lanyon and Nickolas Grace (9 minutes each), composer Bill Nelson (15 minutes), and a contemporary making of from 1988. As usual there's a trailer and image gallery and the first pressing has a booklet with new writing from Anne Bilson (who wrote the novelisation which isn't bad at all) and Harley Cokeliss.

DREAM DEMON is out on Blu-ray from Arrow Films on Monday 22nd June 2020

Sunday 14 June 2020

Criss Cross (1949)

"Excellent Siodmak Noir"

The film director Robert Siodmak made just after CRY OF THE CITY (1948) gets a Blu-ray release of a new 4K scan courtesy of Eureka.

Steve Thompson (Burt Lancaster) returns to Los Angeles having finally got over his now ex-wife Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo). He gets a job as an armoured car driver but just can't help going back to the bar where Anna hangs out. She's now married to mob boss Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea) but that doesn't stop Steve and Anna from rekindling old passions. 

In an attempt to convince Dundee there's nothing going on Steve claims he only contacted Anna to meet Dundee, whose help he needs to rob an armoured car Steve will be driving that's filled with payroll money. Does the heist work? Do people double cross each other? Do Anna and Steve end up together? 

Robert Siodmak is known to horror fans for directing Universal's SON OF DRACULA (1943) but he came into his own directing thrillers and film noirs like PHANTOM LADY (1944), THE KILLERS (1946)  and THE DARK MIRROR (1946). The director himself claimed that only about five minutes of any one film of his was any good. You'll probably be able to tell which bits he was referring to in CRISS CROSS but that's doing the rest of this film a disservice. Burt Lancaster is excellent as the lovesick Thompson while Yvonne De Carlo doesn't always get to grips with the lines but certainly looks the part. Oh, and there's a cracking score from the marvellous Miklos Rozsa.

Eureka's 4K scan sparkles - CRISS CROSS has never looked this good. Extras on the disc include a commentary track by Lee Gambin and Rutanya Alda and a new video piece on the film by Adrian Martin. There's also a booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kat Ellinger and Adam Batty as well as reprint articles and stills.

Robert Siodmak's CRISS CROSS is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 22nd June 2020

Thursday 4 June 2020

Bloodshot (2020)

"UPGRADE Upgraded?"

Vin Diesel continues his bid to be the biggest action star of the 21st century with this science-fiction actioner from first time feature director David S F Wilson, getting a 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD release from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

After a gruelling day rescuing hostages in a third world country, soldier Ray Garrison (Diesel) is relaxing with his wife in the kind of Italian hotel where Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are probably downstairs doing Roger Moore impersonations. But before either can raise an eyebrow Ray and his wife have been abducted, tortured and shot. They Ray wakes up.

Or rather, he's brought back to life by one-armed (he's got a cybernetic limb instead) Dr Emil Harting (Guy Pearce) who tells Ray he's been reanimated by being infused with nano technology. He's also now virtually indestructible, as every time he's injured the nanobots flowing through his veins can  rebuild him. Ray escapes the high tech institution and hunts down his wife's killers. But that's just the beginning of the story.

Based on the series of Valiant comic books, and very much in the spirit of Leigh Whannell's (superior) UPGRADE, BLOODSHOT has more money, more stars and more stunts (the climax is especially over the top) but it's missing the emotional core that made Whannell's film so effective. That said, if you fancy a couple of hours of explosions, stunts and Vin growling you could do a lot worse than this. Extras on Sony's Blu-ray include two minutes of out-takes, a ten minute featurette on directing the film and another of similar length on the cast. You also get twelve minutes of deleted scenes and an alternate ending, which has the option to be played with a director's commentary. There is no commentary track for the main feature. 

BLOODSHOT is out from Sony on 4KUHD, Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 8th June 2020. It's already available on digital download.