Tuesday 30 August 2022

Frightfest 2022 Day Five - Monday

The Ghosts of Monday

A prime slice of way over the top EuroTrash to delight the most obsessive of fans (that will be me, then), GHOSTS OF MONDAY is the biggest surprise of this year's Frightfest. A TV crew arrives at a Cyprus hotel to film a documentary about the 100 people who were poisoned to death there years ago, while hopefully spotting a few ghosts at the same time. They're led by an alcoholic has-been presenter (Julian Sands at his most Julian Sands) and the rest of the team are Attractive Young Things. Scarcely has the story got underway than one of the girls is slashed to death in a glass elevator while her friends converse in the foyer below. It's a scene that's representative of the kind of cinema GHOSTS OF MONDAY actively revels in - it's frankly ludicrous but who cares when it looks this great and is this much fun? And just when you think that the film is presumably a giallo it turns out there's some kind of serpent monster thing living in the basement. Or is there? "You don't understand anything," says a character who is discovered suddenly and inexplicably mummified in some sort of temple under the hotel near the end. By that stage I was nodding at the same time as I was applauding. GHOSTS OF MONDAY is like if Norman J Warren and Jess Franco had a baby. In Cyprus. I loved it. And hopefully now you know if you want to watch it too. 


World War II drama from writer-director Ben Parker (THE CHAMBER). In 1991 Harriet Walter surprises a home invader and, when it turns out he's a neo-nazi, chains him to the radiator in order to tell him a story about her exploits in 1945. In flashback she's Charlotte Vega (THE LODGERS, the latest WRONG TURN), part of a squad charged at the end of the war with transporting a large human-sized wooden crate that has to be buried at night. The Germans are after the crate and what it contains and are prepared to torture and kill to get it.

BURIAL is a Ffilm Cymru production and is beautifully shot. The scenes of armed combat filmed in lush forest exteriors is reminiscent of John Coquillon's full-blooded photography for WITCHFINDER GENERAL and the RIO BRAVO-style final showdown in a church - Molotov cocktails and all, will remind some of a certain Lucio Fulci zombie picture. The actors do a decent job of fleshing out their roles although Vega does seem to be overstretching herself here, delivering every line with the identical degree of urgency. But BURIAL's not bad at all and on the strength of this and THE CHAMBER Ben Parker's next project should be worth watching as well.

Ben Parker's BURIAL is out on digital from 101 Films on 12 September 2022 (selected platforms) and 26th September 2022 generally


Unable to post review due to embargo restrictions imposed by Disney


Successful films are often the result of a simple concept done well, and FALL deals with the concept of two girls trapped on a 3 foot by 2 foot square 2000 feet up in the air very well indeed. The two in question are Becky (Grace Fulton) and Hunter (Virginia Gardner), experienced climbers who plan to climb a television mast in the desert, firstly to scatter the ashes of Becky's husband who fell to his death a year ago when the three of them were climbing together, and also to get Becky out of the depression into which she plummeted after. All goes well on the ascent, but when they try to come down the rusting ladder collapses, leaving the two girls stranded and having to rely on their wits both to survive and to work out how to get back down. Director Scott Mann wrings the maximum amount of tension out of the situation, the two leads are charismatic and have a great rapport and for maximum vertigo-inducing effect FALL is a must-see at the cinema. What a great way to end the festival.

Signature Entertainment are releasing FALL exclusively in UK cinemas on Friday 2nd September 2022

Monday 29 August 2022

Frightfest 2022 Day Four - Sunday


Unsatisfying French horror in which Camille Rezat plays Louise, a terrible psychiatrist whose patients all seem to end up killing themselves while she herself spends much of the runtime under the influence of large quantities of self-administered psychiatric drugs. She works in a similarly poor hospital which seems to have a policy of leaving the windows open on high floors so patients can throw themselves out if they want after her latest bout of failed hypnotherapy. Louise relocates to the country and pretty soon an entire local family is dead of gunshot wounds while she is being visited by a hairy stranger for yet more of her unvalidated treatments. One sincerely hopes MASTEMAH isn't intended as a reflection of the current state of French psychiatric practice. It's also glacially slow and so gloomily photographed the rural area of France to which Louise moves seems to need electric lighting even outside in the middle of the day. If there is a worthwhile story buried in here all the above elements are far too distracting (there's also some of the silliest Latin to grace a horror film I've ever seen) to allow one to get into it.

Incredible But True

Or rather INCROYABLE MAIS VRAI because here's another film from the decidedly peculiar imagination of French writer-director Quentin Dupieux. M. Dupieux's previous films include RUBBER (2009) about a sentient homicidal car tyre, and more recently DEERSKIN (2019) about a man who develops a singularly odd relationship with his supernatural deerskin jacket. In his latest film a couple buy a house where a duct in the cellar leads to a bizarre form of time travel to which the wife becomes addicted with appropriately horrific results. Meanwhile the husband's boss has had a new electronic device fitted in Japan, the misadventures of which are singularly French. INCROYABLE MAIS VRAI has a few too many ideas crammed into its scant 74 minutes, making it the most scattergun and undisciplined of Dupieux's movies. That said if you liked his previous work (and I very much did) there's a lot to enjoy (and laugh uproariously at) here, just don't expect it to go the TIMECRIMES route or for the cat that turns up to have any major significance.

Quentin Dupieux's INCREDIBLE BUT TRUE will be getting a release on the Arrow Academy label.


Aka My Mother Married A Werewolf, or it would have been if it was a story by the great British writer R Chetwynd-Hayes. Instead WOLFKIN is from Luxembourg and for a country whose horror tradition (if any) is somewhat muted in the eyes of the world this is actually surprisingly good stuff. Single mother Elaine (Louise Manteau) becomes concerned when her ten year old son starts biting his schoolmates. His father deserted the family years ago, Could his parents help explain the boy's behaviour? Only a trip to their splendidly gothic ancestral manor can provide the answer. WOLFKIN is a Frightfest highlight with great acting, directing, and a storyline that's intriguing and well-handled, as are the special effects so if you're a werewolf fan don't worry about having to put up with crappy CGI as the film has its own way of dealing with the curse that afflicts the family.


If Edgar Wright snorted a bucketload of cocaine and got his similarly chemically enhanced friends to make a fast-paced comedy movie about a heist gone wrong, one involving lots of high speed driving in Belgium accompanied by one of those banging house / dub / trance soundtracks that will endear this to as many as it will likely alienate then H4Z4RD is it. It is very funny and it is very fast paced and while your mileage may vary if this is your sort of thing you will think you've died and gone to heaven

The Ghost Writer

A best-selling writer gets blocked trying to come up with his second novel and moves to the isolated country retreat of his late father in search of inspiration. He finds it in a rolled up manuscript jammed up the kitchen sink and starts to see manifestations of what may be ghosts from his father's past. THE GHOST WRITER feels like a film made by people unfamiliar with a genre whose tropes, twists and turns are so well known to fans that those fans are advised to steer well clear because they'll likely find the whole of this rather hard going. Some of the performanecs are sadly lacking although Andrea Deck as Jane the 1940s-style temptress is spot on and has real presence. Quite why the flashback scenes feel as if they are set in the 1940s is a bit odd as presumably the lead's father would have been active in the 1990s at the earliest but with washed out photography and a meandering ending that's the least of THE GHOST WRITER's problems. 

Sunday 28 August 2022

Frightfest 2022 Day Three - Saturday

Something in the Dirt

Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead strike again with another enigmatic, thought-provoking drama. A man wakes up in the LA apartment he has just begun renting to discover lots of maths written on the walls and possibly the gateway to another dimension in his closet. Teaming up with his downstairs neighbour to film a documentray on the phenomenon the situation they find themselves uncovering is due to end in tragedy. Like much of B&M's work, there's more concentration on the process (finding mathematical patterns, strange 'coincidences' regarding times and places) rather than the consequence (although we get to that at the end). As such SOMETHING IN THE DIRT is more THE ENDLESS than SYNCHRONIC and is a fascinating film in it own right. Once again they've proved that there are no film-makers out there now who are remotely like them, and for that alone they deserve praise.

They Wait in the Dark

Writer-director (and in this case editor) Patrick Rea (ENCLOSURE, I AM LISA) returns to Frightfest with a piece that mixes a pastoral setting with Grindhouse horror themes. Amy (Sarah McGuire) is on the run with her son Adam (Patrick McGee). She eventually makes it back to her home town, one which harbours a dark secret from her childhood, but perhaps nowhere near as dark as the reason she has had to return there. Pursued by her abusive lover Judith (Laurie Catherine Winkel) who is busy causing as much carnage as she can along the way, the movie culminates at Amy's ancestral home in a final act that turns things on its head and rewards the audience's paying attention to what has gone before. As with his previous work Rea makes evocative use of landscape, with emphasis on the claustrophobia and isolation of horror in the parochial setting, making THEY WAIT IN THE DARK another important addition to his developing oeuvre. 

The Leech

If Dennis Potter had been commissioned to write an episode of My Name Is Earl we might have ended up with something a bit like THE LEECH, probably the most deliciously cynical Christmas movie we'll see this year. Father David (Graham Skipper) takes pity on homeless Terry (Jeremy Gardner) and allows Terry and his girlfriend Lexi (Taylor Zaudtke) to stay with him over Christmas. There's the suspicion that Lexi might be pregnant but as the two turn out to be the guests from hell David has to seriously reconsider the Christian values he has been preaching to his pitifully small flock. What begins as a potential comedy, THE LEECH becomes more uneasy as it goes along, escalating into blood-soaked hysteria by the end. Writer-director Eric Pennycoff manages a nice line in subtext, with this one working on a number of levels for the viewer to either read into if they want, or just enjoy an entertaining, tightly written low budget thrill ride. 

Eric Pennycoff's THE LEECH will be getting a release from Arrow Films


In the late 1930s two sisters invent a machine that can see into the future. When World War II breaks out they use it to predict bombing raids and consequently save thousands of lives. But their actions have other effects they haven't reckoned with, leading to Germany ultimately winning the war and the face of Europe and the world being changed forever, not just politically but culturally. Andrew Legge's remarkable, prescient and terribly clever film was shot on hand-cranked 16mm using a Bolex camera so expect an extremely grainy black and white film in 4:3 aspect ratio. Expect to be blown away and profoundly moved by this unique movie that also boasts an extremely effective music score by Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy. Destined to become a future classic.

Raven's Hollow

1830. Military cadet Edgar Allan Poe and his fellow soldiers-to-be are on manoeuvres in upstate New York when they come across a dying man strapped to a wooden framework in the wilderness. They take his body to the nearest town, the Raven's Hollow of the title, where everyone behaves shiftily and it soon becomes apparent to Edgar that something's Not Right. RAVEN'S HOLLOW boasts good photography in nicely atmospheric standing sets (in Latvia, apparently), excellent supporting performances from Kate Dickie and David Hayman, and a terrific monster creation that's responsible for all the mayhem. It's therefore sad to report that stylistically the film as a whole is as flat as a pancake, with insipid leads (male and female) and uninspired direction of the 'point and shoot' variety.


More Grindhouse-style mayhem to add to yesterday's NIGHT OF THE BASTARD. Unlike that film, however, this one's more firmly in the mode of movies like TRUCK STOP WOMEN and HITCH HIKE TO HELL, but the pre-publicity stating it has a hefty dose of Alfred Sole's classic COMMUNION isn't wrong either. A group of Lot Lizards (prostitutes who hang around truck stops) welcome a newcomer to their ranks, not realising that she's a psychopathic Christian intent on killing everyone she meets in order to cleanse their souls so they can enter heaven. Cue plenty of extreme violence in this well acted, expertly paced bit of down and dirty exploitation cinema.  

Dead Stream

A disgraced youtube celebrity tries to rebuild his following by investigating a haunted house, inadvertently releasing evil spirits during his bumbling progress. That rarest of beasts, DEADSTREAM is a comedy horror that's frequently very scary and very funny, often at the same time. It benefits greatly from a tremendously creepy setting and an EVIL DEAD II 'throw anything and everything at its hapless central character' attitude. A big crowd pleaser and definitely one to catch up with when it gets its forthcoming Shudder release.

Saturday 27 August 2022

Frightfest 2022 Day Two - Friday

The Breach


A catalogue of missed opportunities might be the best way to describe THE BREACH, a film in which there are weird goings-on in a weird isolated house where a weird scientist has been creating weird creatures. Unfortunately the pace is glacial to the point where you want to shout at the screen and there's far too little explanation as to what's actually going on. Peppering your dialogue with terms like 'particle accelerator' and 'Cerne' won't fob us seasoned veterans off, you know, it just confirms that your film is essentially an empty collection of cliches, right down to a love triangle that's ultimately as pointless and boring as the rest of the film. Some excellent makeups effects are squandered and even the music score (by Slash) could have saved some of this but it doesnt feel as if he thought it was worth the bother either. 


A gang of crooks breaks into a country house to steal a valuable knife at the request of dodgy antiques dealer Larry Lamb. But they've only just started prowling around when the family that lives there knocks them out with tasers. Soon they're dumped in a field and the subject of a hunt, complete with horses and hounds. HOUNDED deals with its subject matter in very broad stokes, with its examination of class differences little more than perfunctory. Adam Levins' 2015 ESTRANGED tackled the class issue  much better, while Craig Zobel's THE HUNT is a better and more complex exploration of the basic idea. Finally, it's always awkward when a film requires you to root for criminals and while HOUNDED tries hard it's an uphill struggle to feel any sympathy for them. 

HOUNDED is getting a release from Signature Entertainment in October

Orchestrator of Storms

An ORCHESTRATOR OF STORMS is how French director Jean Rollin described what he wanted to be when early on in his life he decided film-making was the career for him. And what a bumpy, poorly-budgeted, often even more poorly received (critically at least) career that turned out to be, with formal appreciation of his work only coming quite late in life. Dima Ballin and Kat Ellinger's nearly two-hour documentary covers the entirety of Rollin from birth to death, with plenty of interviews from the like of stars Brigitte Lahaie and Francoise Pascal and distributor Nigel Wingrove, whose Redemption Films was the first time many of us in the UK got to experience a Rollinade. There's plenty of time spent on many of the films we all know and love him for, although some do get skipped over, while the part about his death could perhaps have done with editing down, but overall this is a solid, thorough  piece about a vital contributor to horror, art house and European cinema as a whole and Ballin and Ellinger have done an excellent job of documenting the life and career of this unique and, now, deservedly much-loved and respected genre auteur.

ORCHESTRATOR OF STORMS will be coming out from Arrow Films

Night of the Bastard

A glorious grindhouse tribute with a grim and grisly prologue set in 1978 before we flash forward 40 years to enjoy some naked devil worship ih the desert and a good old-fashioned siege as the satanists' intended victim escapes and ends up at the house of a local eccentric whose only friend is a terrapin. Shot 'off grid' this was everything that's right about low-budget independent film-making - tightly editedm action-packed and with moments that made the audience roar with applause.

Final Cut

Who would have guessed that the French would remake the Japanese hit ONE CUT OF THE DEAD? And who would have guessed that it would be done so successfully? Even if you are more than familiar with the original FINAL CUT offers plenty of laughs, a few surprises and even goes a little bit meta. Not the week to give up watching remakes.

Midnight Peepshow

An anthology horror film with three stories from three different directors, but always intended as a single movie (rather than the unsavoury practice of welding three unrelated short films together). This gives MIDNIGHT PEEPSHOW a definite coherence but also means the three tales of sex and horror are possibly a bit too similar, all of them crossing elements of HOSTEL with SAW. They are also surprisingly coy when it comes to nudity. Jake West has improved as a director since the days of RAZOR BLADE SMILE and EVIL ALIENS and his closing segment is the most extreme, so things do climax on a suitably gory note, with the wraparound also having a satisfying payoff,

Friday 26 August 2022

Frightfest 2022 Day One - Thursday

We're back! It's been three years since we last attended Frightfest and here we are again at the Empire / Cineworld in Leicester Square, smack in the middle of London's glittering West End. Back in 2019 the opening night of the festival consisted of crowd pleasers COME TO DADDY, CRAWL and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. Did tonight's offerings measure up? Well there was another crocodile on the rampage picture, albeit in the tiny Cineworld Discovery screen, but luckily Mrs Probert was able to secure a ticket so without any further ado let's see what the opening night films for Frightfest 2022 were like.

The Lair

Neil Marshall's latest is better than THE RECKONING but not as good as DOOMSDAY. Make of that what you will. Improbably glamorous fighter pilot Kate (Charlotte Kirk) is shot down in Afghanistan, where she ends up having to single handedly fight a gang of terrorists straight out of TEAM AMERICA WORLD POLICE. She then happens upon an old Russian military installation filled with mutant space monsters. She escapes only to be saved by a bunch of soldiers who take her back to their base. The monsters follow. THE LAIR is a B-grade monster movie with a C-grade cast but if you can get past the dodgy accents (including possibly the worst Welsh Accent In Cinema Ever), the clunky dialogue and the strictly one-note performances it's still possible to appreciate Marshall's considerable skills as an editor and action director, meaning this will satisfy undemanding monster movie fans on a slow evening but that's about it.

The Visitor From the Future

Continuing the Frightfest tradition of the second film on the Thursday night usually being something good, THE VISITOR FROM THE FUTURE is a hugely entertaining time travel romp that could easliy be described as French comedy TRANCERS but is actually so much more. A disaster at a cheaply-built nuclear power plant results in an apocalyptic wilderness. A man travels back to try to prevent it, pursued by Time Agents who want things to stay the way they are, but they haven't reckoned with the eco-warrior daughter of the power plant's owner who's happy to help them, especially when she and her father get inadvertently transported to the future he is responsible for. Possibly the only time a massive nuclear explosion has been received with applause and raucous laughter in a cinema, this one's a delight from start to finish.  


A source close to Frightfest who shall remain nameless said this might be the worst film Frightfest has ever shown. Judging from audience reports it would seem that person might well be right. 

Scare Package II: Rad Chad's Revenge

 Yes there was a SCARE PACKAGE I and no I can't tell you anything about that one. What I can tell you is that SCARE PACKAGE II is a comedy horror anthology picture with a framework story that limps along and very quickly wears out its welcome. The individual stories, however, aren't too bad, with an amusing riff on Final Girls, a HALLOWEEN spoof that's actually better than most of the real sequels, and a piece that manages to make fun of REANIMATOR and THE FLY all within the context of STAND BY ME. So if you're forgiving, know all about 1980s horror films and fancy the odd chuckle this might float your boat.

Wednesday 24 August 2022

All My Friends Hate Me (2022)

"Excruciatingly British Horror Comedy Of Manners"

The BFI are releasing the witty and frequently painfully well-observed British comedy ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME on Blu-ray following its limited cinema release earlier this year.

Pete (Tom Stourton, who also co-wrote the film with Tom Palmer) is invited to celebrate his birthday by some old university friends at the country residence of the father of one of them. When he arrives at the house, after first losing his way and having to ask directions, no-one is there. When they eventually turn up they claim they were at the pub and had left a message for him. They've also brought with them local boy Harry (Dustion Demri-Burns) who quickly makes himself at home as part of the group and starts to behave oddly with Pete. As the weekend progresses more strange things happen as Pete finds himself digging ever deeper holes of embarrassment with both his friends and the locals. Things culminate in a bizarre stage play in which Pete himself is the star.

ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME is comedy of the most exquisite, excruciatingly embarrassing kind. Fans of the writing of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, or Larry David's CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM will find much to enjoy cringing at here. Intended as a tale of 'millennial angst' it's an entirely successful combination of a keenly observed script coupled with pitch perfect performances and direction that ramps up the awkward tension. 

The BFI's Blu-ray has a commentary track from the writers and director Andrew Gaynord, and the writers take centre stage for a 26 minute Q&A from last years London Film Festival. Other bits and pieces include seven minutes of deleted scenes, a four minute short film, a three minute comedy press junket, plus trailer, storyboard and production notes. Finally the first pressing comes with a booklet with 'statements' from both the writers and the director, plus a decent little potted history of comedy horror.

ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME is out on Blu-ray from the BFI on Monday 29th August 2022

Tuesday 23 August 2022

The Mummy (1959)

"It Lives! Again!"

Second Sight are bringing out Hammer's THE MUMMY in a special limited edition on Blu-ray. It's been nearly nine years since Icon released their own three disc edition in. the UK. That sold out quickly and is hard to get hold of today, so if you missed out on that, or if it's on your shelf and you're wondering whether to pick this release up too, read on. But first a bit about the film itself.

Egypt, the late nineteenth century. The Banning family, comprising of father Stephen (Felix Aylmer), uncle Joe (Raymond Huntley), and son John (Peter Cushing) discover, and break into, the tomb of Ananka, high priestess of the Great God Karnak. On entering the tomb Stephen sees something he really shouldn’t, and it drives him mad. The family is cursed by Mehemet Bey (George Pastell), and when they return to England, Stephen is placed in an asylum. Bey moves into a large country house close by, and pretty soon a large wooden box filled with ‘Egyptian Relics’ is being delivered to there by Hammer character actor Harold Goodwin and his friend. Unfortunately they’ve both had a bit too much to drink and the crate ends up at the bottom of the local swamp. Luckily, Bey has recovered the Scroll of Life from the tomb, and pretty soon Kharis the Mummy is up and about and bumping off members of the Banning family. John is married to Isobel (Yvonne Furneaux) who, by a tremendous coincidence, just happens to resemble Princess Ananka and leads to Kharis’ downfall.

Hammer’s THE MUMMY is absolutely cracking stuff. After the success of their first two gothic horrors, Michael Carreras, usually relegated to Executive Producer duties, got the job of line producing this one, and it shows. While Anthony Hinds was undoubtedly one of the masterminds behind Hammers success, Michael’ love of spectacle is what elevates THE MUMMY to something greater than it might otherwise have been. Carreras’ input, a bigger budget, and the general increase in confidence of a company hitting its peak are all on display here. The movie ‘feels’ much bigger than either CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN or DRACULA, the cast is a lot larger, and just to put some truly spectacular icing on this particular cake, Franz Reizenstein’s music score is there to tell you that this is Hammer doing epic. And for a tiny company filming all this in a few sheds near Windsor this was a tremendous accomplishment and should be viewed as such. Bernard Robinson’s set design feels epic, and Jack Asher’s cinematography is gorgeous. Jimmy Sangster’s script condenses a whole cycle of Mummy movies into one film, and even if he mistook Karnak for a god rather than the location in Egypt it actually was, we can forgive him. Terence Fisher’s unobtrusive direction ensures that everyone’s skills are displayed to their best advantage.

Last, but by no means least, we come to the cast. As well as an entire cadre of familiar British character actors we get the immortal teaming of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. In their scenes of confrontation together it almost feels like VAN HELSING VS THE MUMMY, but the film is all the better for it. Even though Cushing is his usual accomplished self, the real star of the film is Lee, the first screen mummy to actually seem dangerous. He neither limps, nor drags bandages behind him, Rather, Lee plays Kharis as a lithe, and vicious killing machine, fully capable of both breaking bars on a prison cell and a man’s back. At the same time his gift for mime, coupled with the superb makeup that leaves little of his face visible but his eyes, allows him to convey Kharis’ eternal sense of longing and the utter tragedy of his situation.

Second Sight's Blu-ray provides us with the same excellent transfer as Icon's previous release, offering the film in two aspect ratios: 'open frame' (1.37:1) and the ratio in which it was shown in many British cinemas (1.66:1). The Universal DVD release of 19 years ago presented the film in 1.85:1 Comparing all of these, if you want to see as much picture information as possible then the ‘open frame’ ie 1.37:1 option is the one to go for.

Ported over from the Icon disc is the Marcus Hearn / Jonathan Rigby commentary track. New to Second Sight's release is a commentary from film academic Kelly Robinson which manages the difficult job of being entirely different from the Hearn / Rigby commentary by talking about the mummy's history in literature and film leading up to the Hammer version. Also ported over are the 30 minute making of documentary Unwrapping the Mummy and the Jonathan Rigby 15 minute featurette on The Hammer Rep Company”. For Bray fanatics there’s “The House of Horror: Memories of Bray” to keep you happy for 48 minutes.

Where Second Sight's disc wins is in its new extras, which finally provide some commentary and analysis on Franz Reizenstein's music score, something noticeably lacking from previous releases. In The Music of THE MUMMY David Huckvale provides a brief but thorough look at the Reizenstein score, and Mr Huckvale returns for An Appreciation of THE MUMMY in which he talks about the Universal Mummy movies and how elements of these were incorporated into Hammer's version. There's also a stills gallery and Hammer's original six minute promo reel for the film. Add in a soft cover book, art cards and have everything house in a rigid slipcase with lovely art by the lovely Graham Humphreys and this set is a beautiful presentation of one of Hammer's most gorgeous movies.

THE MUMMY is out on Blu-ray in a limited edition set on Monday 29th August 2022

Monday 22 August 2022

Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1973)

One of the best Hammer Frankenstein films (fight me) gets a new limited edition Blu-ray release from Second Sight. 

After the events of 1969's FRANKENSTEIN MUST BE DESTROYED Baron Frankenstein (Peter Cushing) is presumed dead but is actually then resident medical director of an asylum for the criminally insane, practising under the name Dr Carl Victor (a nod to 1958's REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN). Sent to the same asylum is Dr Simon Helder (Shane Briant) for the 'same crimes' as the Baron and pretty soon the two are back to monster-making, with expected results.

"Hammer's Gothic giant running on near empty", said Cinefantastique. "Michael Carreras pushing the panic button" said the late lamented Denis Meikle in his seminal History of Horrors. Kat Ellinger, in a new commentary recorded for this release, passionately defends the film against the many naysayers the film has had over the years, and you'll find no argument here with much of what she says.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL is a triumph, the natural end point for both a character, a genre, and a way of film-making. Nobody gives the Baron much thought anymore (in both real and reel life) and while he's ostensibly free to come and go as he pleases, the film suggests that he's definitely a prisoner of his surroundings, pottering along in his lab, trying again and again with increasingly worse results (the latest creation is a disaster - to think he once reached the heights of Susan Denberg) and with very much a sense that things are never going to get better. As Ellinger says, it's a very well thought out film, perhaps surprisingly so given the circumstances under which it was made.

It's also surprising that everyone brings their A game to FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. You'd expect it from Cushing, and perhaps from the dedicated British cast, but the tiny budget only occasionally shows. The sets and set dressing are marvellous, the lighting and photography are claustrophobic and forbidding, and James Bernard's music score is one his his best, especially that violin 'concerto'.

        Second Sight's Blu-ray provides the same excellent transfer as Icon's previous release, offering the film in two aspect ratios: 'open frame' (1:1.37) and the ratio in which it was shown in many British cinemas (1:1.66). If you want to see as much picture information as possible then the ‘open frame’ ie 1:1.37 option is the one to go for. As well as the new commentary, Second Sight have ported over the commentary with Marcus Hearn, Shane Briant and Madeline Smith, which is agreeably chatty as well as providing plenty of facts on the production. Other special features brought over from the previous Icon release are Taking Over The Asylum - a 25 minute making of with Denis Meikle, Jonathan Rigby and others, and Charming Evil, 13 minutes on Terence Fisher with contributions from both family members and academics.

New to Second Sight's release is David Huckvale, whose analysis of the music had me going to the piano to play all those augmented chords. It's excellent stuff and Mr Huckvale returns to provide an appreciation of the film in the other new extra. Add in a book, art cards, and a rigid slipcase and this is the treatment one of Hammer's best and most poignant films deserves.

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL is out on Blu-ray in a special limited edition from Second Sight on Monday 29th August 2022

Sunday 21 August 2022

Dog Soldiers (2002)

"Something to Howl About"

Second Sight give their extra special treatment to writer-director Neil Marshall's debut feature as DOG SOLDIERS gets a new 4K restoration on UHD and Blu-ray.

As Gavin Baddeley eruditely puts it in one of the disc's extras, DOG SOLDIERS is a soldier movie with werewolves in it, rather than the other way around. So instead of a tale of cursed souls and elaborate transformation sequences, instead we are introduced to a bunch of squaddies sent on a seemingly routine training mission to the wilds of Scotland where they are attacked by werewolves and find themselves trapped in a cottage in the middle of nowhere as the beasts wage attack after attack. 

That's pretty much it for a story that is about as simple and straightforward as they come, but Marshall's genius lies in solid characterisation, aided immensely by an ear for dialogue, coupled with his skills as both director and editor. Mind you, special effects and production design also contribute greatly to the claustrophobic atmosphere and the performances are all endearing as well.

Second Sight's disc comes with three commentary tracks. Two have been ported over from previous releases, one from Marshall and another from producers David Allen and Brian O'Toole. There's also a new commentary from academic Alison Peirse who has a pleasant, engaging style and offers lots of insight into and ways of regarding the film.

Werewolves, Crawlers, Cannibals and More is a new 40 minute interview with Marshall in which he discusses his entire film career, right up to and including his experiences on HELLBOY and making THE RECKONING. I wish he'd been able to make the zombies on an oil-rig picture he pitched after DOG SOLDIERS and maybe one day he will.

Gavin Baddeley, author of The Frightfest Guide to Werewolf Movies offers a potted history of werewolves in cinema with specific reference to DOG SOLDIERS, including its use of comedy. We also get a history of werewolves in literature and film in a video essay by Mikel Koven that ranges from depictions of lycanthropy in classical Greek through to the Universal pictures and beyond.

Werewolves Vs Soldiers is an hour long making of featuring interviews with Marshall, producers Christopher Figg and Keith Bell, SFX artist Bob Keen and members of the cast. Production designer Simon Bowles gets his own 14 minute featurette about the sets for the film.

Marshall's short film COMBAT is also included, along with deleted scenes, a brief gag reel, trailers and a photo gallery which is well worth checking out as, rather than the usual set of movie stills, it's an account of how some of the special effects were achieved. 

This is a Second Sight release so of course there's more, in the form of a 108 page book with new writing, behind the scenes photos and a new Neil Marshall interview, six art cards and a rigid slipcase to house it all in. Twenty years on DOG SOLDIERS remains a tightly edited, superbly characterised, action-packed werewolf picture (or soldier picture with werewolves in it) and Second Sight have done the film proud.

Neil Marshall's DOG SOLDIERS is out in a limited 4KUHD and Blu-ray double disc set and standard 4KUHD and Blu-ray editions on Monday 22nd August. The new 4K restoration will also be screened at this year's Frighfest