Monday 22 February 2021

Mindwarp (1991)


It's time for a bit of low budget post-apocalyptic splattery action as Eureka brings out MINDWARP (released in the UK back in the day as BRAIN SLASHER) to Blu-ray.

There's been an apocalypse. The earth is now divided into the inworlders who spend their days hooked up to computers living fantasy existences, ad the outworlders who inhabit the wastelands, some of whom, the crawlers, have resorted to cannibalism and live underground.

Inworlder Judy (Marta Alicia) has had enough of her fake life, so she unplugs herself from the system and finds herself sent to the outworld where she meets Stover (Bruce Campbell), but it's not long before they end up captured by the crawlers, whose leader is called the Seer (played by none other than the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm). Will Judy and Stover escape before they get subjected to the Seer's cannibal grinding food-making machine?

Originally premiered in the UK at Manchester's Black Sunday film festival, MINDWARP feels as if it belongs to the same subgenre as low-budget fare like DEATHSTALKER or THE BEASTMASTER. The monsters are gloppy (courtesy of KNB FX), the girls wear tight underwear and there's lots of running and if you're nostalgic for this sort of thing then this lesser known movie will be just for you.

Extras on Eureka's disc include a commentary tack from Fangoria editor Tony Timpone (MINDWARP was the first film produced as part of the Fangoria Films label) as well as videotape footage of Bruce Campbell and Angus Scrimm at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors in 1990, just after they'd finished work on the film. The first pressing also comes with a booklet containing an essay on the film.

MINDWARP is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 22nd February 2021

Saturday 20 February 2021

Demons and Demons 2 (1985 & 1986)

"The Epitome of 1980s Italian Horror"

Having done a fine job already bringing Lamberto Bava's DEMONS and DEMONS 2 to Blu-ray many years ago, Arrow are now going the extra mile to bring us both films on 4K and UHD.

In many ways, DEMONS is the archetypal Italian horror film, or at least it’s archetypal of a certain subgenre its obsessive fans will be only too familiar with. The plot makes no sense whatsoever, the acting and dubbing is indifferent, and the climax is a bit silly; and yet amongst all of this there are moments of such gobsmacking genius that you find yourself rewatching the entire film just in case you missed a vital point of earth-shattering brilliance to explain all the daft bits. (Don’t worry, you didn’t). 

Most of the action of the first film takes place in a cinema in Berlin, where patrons, who have been given free tickets to an untitled premiere by a masked Michele Soavi, find themselves watching a horror film about the coming of demons. A bite or a scratch from one of these nasty creatures results in the victim turning into a demon themselves. Events in the film mimic events taking place in the cinema, and eventually the place is over-run with infected, clawed, fangy monsters drooling green froth. The hero and heroine escape by using a handy helicopter that crashes through the roof towards the end, only to find that the apocalypse has begun and the demons now overrun the earth.

The film is given a tremendous punch by its soundtrack, which is predominantly heavy metal based, but also features some fine synthesiser work by Claudio Simonetti, including a great main title theme that plays with riffs on Grieg and Bach. 

Overall, then, DEMONS is an example of Italian horror cinema at its most frenzied, confusing, laughable, exhilarating, loud, intense, stylish and horrific. It does nothing by halves and takes no prisoners, laughing in the face of serious criticism just before tearing the eyes out of that face and transforming it into a green foam-drooling unstoppable killing machine. Whether or not you’ll enjoy it will depend on how much that previous paragraph sets your spine tingling or makes you laugh disdainfully.

Even though it may have been thought difficult to do so, Arrow’s new 4K transfer looks fantastic- even better than the previous Blu-ray release. Also, obsessive fans can now rejoice as Arrow have included the two different versions of the film - uncut and slightly cut but with a dubbing track that will be more familiar to fans of the old Avatar VHS release and DVD releases as well. 

The new extra for DEMONS is a Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain commentary track while everything else has been ported over from the previous release, including the commentary track between Lamberto Bava, Sergio Stivaletti and journalist Loris Curci that was brought over from the old Anchor Bay US disc, as well as the newer one from Bava, Stivaletti, Claudio Simonetti and actress Geretta Geretta (Rosemary in the film). Other archival extras include two short featurette interviews, one with Simonetti and one with Dario Argento, and Luigi Cozzi’s Top Ten Italian Horror Films.

DEMONS was such a huge success that the inevitable sequel surfaced a year later, with the same basic technical personnel (including the same four screenwriters!) but a change of location to an apartment block, and a change of soundtrack from heavy metal to goth. DEMONI 2 L'INCUBO RITORNA isn’t a patch on the original but there are still moments that stand out. This time the demon plague comes out of a television set and spreads through the building, with the inevitable chaos ensuing. Less appealing characters and too many moments where the film veers into the outright laughable (a demon dog and some kind of terrible demon puppet thing that’s on screen for far too long are good examples) mean that DEMONS 2 does all fall to pieces as it goes on, and it’s probably only for very forgiving Italian horror enthusiasts.

Once again Arrow's 4K UHD is another splendid presentation. There's a new commentary track from Travis Crawford and a new featurette from Alexandra Heller-Nicholas on both films. Once again all the previous release's extras have been carried over, including the old Anchor Bay US DVD commentary with Lamberto Bava, Sergio Stivaletti and Loris Curci, a little featurette on the special effects, and Luigi Cozzi pops up again (why is he always sitting in the basement of that shop? He must have been there for ten years now) to discuss the history of Italian horror in Bava to Bava.

Exclusive to Arrow's limited edition set is a 60 page booklet featuring new writing on the film, a double-sided poster, one of the DEMONS movie tickets for those who haven't been lucky enough to get one at festival screenings and limited edition packaging with new artwork.

Lamberto Bava's DEMONS and DEMONS 2 are coming out on 4K Blu-ray and 4K UHD double disc sets on Monday 22nd February 2021

Friday 19 February 2021

Ideal Home (2018)


"Charming Comedy with Excellent Chemistry Between the Leads."

Andrew Fleming's heartwarming (that's not a word you see on this site very often) comedy IDEAL HOME is getting a digital release from Signature through Amazon Prime. Now before seasoned veterans of horror ask 'is that the same Andrew Fleming who made the 1989 NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3 rip off BAD DREAMS?' I can tell you that yes it is, and he made 1996's THE CRAFT as well. Since then his career has veered away from horror to include 2008's HAMLET 2, which he also made with Steve Coogan, who stars in IDEAL HOME with Paul Rudd.

The IDEAL HOME of the title is a cooking show hosted by Erasmus Brumble (Coogan) and produced by his long-time partner Paul (Paul Rudd). When Erasmus' son Deau (Jake McDornan) is sent to jail the couple end up having to look after Erasmus' young grandson (Jack Gore).

A film with this subject matter could go in all sorts of directions and while the presence of Coogan and Rudd ensures there are plenty of laughs (and there certainly are) IDEAL HOME does a decent job of providing depth to the key relationships in this without ever making anyone the subject of ridicule. In fact it ends up being quite surprisingly charming and makes you wish Rudd and Coogan would pair up for another film together. A delightful surprise. 

Andrew Fleming's IDEAL HOME is free to view with an Amazon Prime subscription through Signature Entertainment on Monday 22nd February 2021

Thursday 18 February 2021

Hellraiser: Revelations (2011) and Hellraiser: Judgment (2018)

For those who prefer their sequels numbered and have lost count then consider these:

Hellraiser 9


Hellraiser 10

Both of which are getting a Blu-ray, DVD and digital release courtesy of Lionsgate. Before we get to the films, however, it's time for another edition of Summarise That Franchise! Regular readers will be familiar with this part of the reviewing process, which I've done previously with TREMORS and before that THE GRUDGE. So, for those who may have lost track of the HELLRAISER films along the way (and possibly after the first one back in 1987), here's a quick House of Mortal Cinema summary:

HELLRAISER (1987) Clive Barker's original and the reason you are reading this.

HELLRAISER II (1988) Tony Randel's sequel that some love but I don't because it feels like a midlantic Italian-style ripoff of the UK-made first film.

HELLRAISER III (1992) Anthony Hickox's surprisingly good part III that some hate but I love because it isn't part II and because it opens up the mythology while remaining true to its origins.

HELLRAISER IV BLOODLINE (1996). Anthology film that director Kevin Yagjer took his name off with the final segment set in space.

HELLRAISER V: INFERNO (2000). Directed by the SINISTER man himself Scott Derrickson

HELLRAISER VI: HELLSEEKER (2002). The one where Kirsty Cotton comes back.

HELLRAISER VII: DEADER (2005). Kari Wuhrer in Bucharest. Me neither.

HELLRAISER VIII: HELLWORLD (2005). Aka The Last One With Doug Bradley (and well done for lasting that long that man). This one stars TV's VIKINGS Katheryn Winnick so might be worth a look. But then again maybe not.

Right! Back to HELLRAISER IX: REVELATIONS. Who knows if the events of the previous films are relevant (I haven't seen it but I suspect not) but anyway a familiar-looking cube is now in Mexico and gets given to two young men who waste no time in getting it open. One disappears into Cenobite-ness while the other gets transported to the family home where most of the action takes place owing to the tiny budget. 

To be fair if all you want from a HELLRAISER movie is the box, the Cenobites, some hooks in flesh and a bit of prattling about how pain and pleasure are, in the words of a once popular song like love and marriage (you can't have one without the other) then you'll be happy enough with this one, and with a running time of 75 minutes you'll still have time to watch something else of an evening, especially as this disc contains no extras. 

HELLRAISER X: JUDGMENT was made in 2018 but is only now getting a UK release. Screenwriter Gary J Tunnicliffe also directs this one and plays one of the cenobites as well, resembling a cross between Claude Raines in James Whale's THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933) and Peter Lorre in Karl Freund's MAD LOVE (1935). 

This one starts off with some unsettling imagery but quickly settles into the 'write anything with Pinhead so we can keep the rights to the franchise' furrow of the last few movies. The police, consisting of cut-price Brad Pitt and cut-price Jason Statham (or possibly Michael Fassbender) are on the trail of serial killer The Preceptor who has been perpetrating a series of low-budget SEVEN-like killings based around the Ten Commandments. 

There's too much emphasis on the bureaucracy of Hell to the extent that suspense and horror are diffused by too much explanation. It's not a terrible film (we've had much worse in the screening room here) but there are much better part tens out there (JASON X being the standard any will be compared to).

Extras on Lionsgate's disc are four minutes of gag reel (mainly silly dancing like on the Marvel discs) and deleted and extended scenes.

HELLRAISER IX: REVELATIONS and HELLRAISER X: JUDGMENT are out on digital from Lionsgate on 22nd February 2021 and Blu-ray and DVD on 1st March 2021

Friday 12 February 2021

Breeder (2020)


"Danish Mad Gynaecologist Torture Porn"

There's plenty of social commentary in Jens Dahl's grim science fiction horror thriller as well, but if you go in with your expectations set at the above then chances are you won't be disappointed, especially if you're a fan of movies like Pascal Laugier's MARTYRS (2008) and Bustillo & Maury's L'INTERIEUR (2007). BREEDER, which can also fit into the 'Extreme EuroHorror' subgenre, is getting a UK Blu-ray release from Eureka after playing at last October's Frightfest.

Mad vet Dr Isabel Ruben (Signe Eghom Olsen) is researching ways to prolong life and has succeeded to the point where wealthy men are prepared to pay for her services. Unfortunately those services require her to kidnap women, inseminate them with her client's DNA and then harvest cells from the resultant baby to produce her youth serum. Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) discovers that her husband is helping fund the research and goes to investigate, and ends up as one of the test subjects herself.

Filled with brandings, beatings and women in cages forced to bear children, BREEDER starts off a little like Brandon Cronenberg's ANTIVIRAL with its clinical TV advertising and rich clientele before veering off into Pete Walker HOUSE OF WHIPCORD territory with its ineffectual male lead, ruthless villainess and general sense of hopelessness, before finally 'coming out' as a social commentary piece. There's a stark contrast between the sterility of people's homes and place of business compared with the grim and grimy 'factory' where the nuts and bolts of the biological processes are carried out.

There's no real attempt to explain the science of what is going on - there's talk of telomeres and at one point Dr Ruben mentions Rapamycin (an immunosuppressive drug first isolated from organisms found on Rapa Nui on Easter Island - don't say you never learn anything here), but that's not really the point.

The only extra is a short (just under ten minute) interview with Dahl (who wrote PUSHER for Nicolas Winding Refn) and screenwriter Sissel Dalgaard Thomsen, both of whom show a welcome embrace of horror as a genre, believing it to be the last place where serious social issues can be tackled in an extreme way, which they certainly achieve with BREEDER. Eureka's disc comes with a booklet containing an essay by Kat Ellinger who suggests the film could be considered as a modern-day vampire story. 

Jens Dahl's BREEDER is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 15th February 2021

Wednesday 10 February 2021

The Last Warning (1928)


A new 4K transfer of director Paul Leni's final film for Universal (he died in 1929) gets released on Blu-ray by Eureka.

During a packed Broadway performance of the play 'The Snare' star John Woodford (D'Arcy Corrigan) backs into a candlestick and drops down dead. Shortly afterwards his body disappears. The theatre is closed and remains so until five years later the same cast and director are brought back to the venue for a new performance of the same play by a suspicious new producer.

Following on from Leni's 1928 THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (also on Blu-ray from Eureka) and 1927's THE CAT AND THE CANARY (when's that one coming out, then?), THE LAST WARNING reteams Leni with star Laura La Plante who also starred in CAT. Belonging to the same subgenre of 'theatre horror' as Pete Walker's 1972 THE FLESH AND BLOOD SHOW and Michele Soavi's 1987 STAGEFRIGHT the action takes place mainly in the rundown theatre, where a mysterious masked figure is on the prowl. 

Both the opening and finale of the film are highlights of silent cinema. Leni's innovative setups and creative use of lenses were imitated many times and for many years afterwards. The film sags a little in the middle but for something made nearly a hundred years ago this still boasts some jaw-dropping visual compositions and (not least) production design, especially during the climactic attempt to trap the killer.

Eureka's Blu-ray is of a new 4K transfer. The musical accompaniment is composed by Arthur Barrow and features some excellent moments that would not be out of place in 1970s Italian giallo cinema (one bit is very reminiscent of Simon Boswell's Demons Groove from DEMONS 2 of all things).

Extras include a commentary from Stephen Jones and Kim Newman and is up to their usual excellent standard, with both providing a fact-packed track about the Laemmle family and the early years of Universal. A short (just under ten minutes) visual essay is provided by John Soister which is half about Leni and half about what happened at Universal after his demise. You also get a stills gallery and a booklet with new writing on the film from Philip Kemp and from Arthur Barrow about his score.

Paul Leni's THE LAST WARNING is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 15th February 2021

Friday 5 February 2021

The Nightingale (2018)


"A Modern Classic"

Writer-director Jennifer Kent's follow-up to 2014's THE BABADOOK, and one of House of Mortal Cinema's Top 20 Films of 2019, THE NIGHTINGALE is now getting the whistles and bells treatment from Second Sight in the UK, with a Blu-ray release that includes a rigid slipcase housing the disc, a 40 page booklet featuring new writing on the film from Elena Lazic and Alexandra Heller-Nichols, and three art collectors cards.

Van Dieman's Land (which will eventually become Tasmania) in 1825. Clare Carroll (Aisling Franciosi) is an Irish prisoner working as a servant in the Van Dieman's penal colony. When she is brutally raped and her husband and baby are murdered by colonial officers, Clare sets off into the bush in pursuit of the perpetrator.

She teams up with Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), an Aboriginal tracker and together the two travel deep into the Australian wilderness in search of bloody revenge.

Causing something of a controversy at various festivals including Venice and Cannes because of its unflinching depictions of rape and violence, Kent's film plays out as a cross between the brutal westerns of the early 1970s like Don Medford's THE HUNTING PARTY and Ralph Nelson's SOLDIER BLUE, and Australian equivalents like THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH. THE NIGHTINGALE has been described as a 'hard watch' but only in that it succeeds in portraying its atrocities with the same unflinching realise as those early 1970s pictures, and is a much more effective picture for it.

Second Sight have done their usual excellent job with their Blu-ray release. Extras include a whole host of interviews with Aisling Franciosi and actors Michael Sheasby, Damon Herriman, and Harry Greenwood. There are also interviews with prodcuer Kristina Ceyton, editor Simon Njoo, production designer Alexander Holmes and composer Jed Kurzel.

There's also a making of, a video essay by Alexandra Heller-Nichols, a trailer, and a featurette contextualising the film, as well as all the lovely physical extras listed at the top there.

Jennifer Kent's THE NIGHTINGALE is out from Second Sight Films in a limited edition Blu-ray release on Monday 8th February 2021