Wednesday 30 November 2022

Out of This World / Hors Du Monde (2021)

After its UK premiere nearly two years ago at the Glasgow Film Festival, Marc Fouchard's grim, affecting serial killer picture is getting a Digital HD release from Bulldog Distribution.

Leo (Kévin Mischel) is a composer who lives in his car and earns money as a taxi driver. He becomes smitten with one of his clients, a deaf ballerina named Amélie, with whom he begins a relationship. But what Amélie doesn't know is that Leo is a serial killer who has found stabbing of women to death inspires his creativity.

A measured journey into the mind of unique serial killer, Marc Fouchard's film achieves much of its effect through the use of visuals and music, with long sequences devoid of dialogue. So effective are these that when someone finally does speak you wish they hadn't because the spell has been broken, almost. The music Leo composes is hauntingly beautiful and the soundscape he creates is juxtaposed with the brutality of the murders he commits extremely effectively.

Fouchard leaves you with plenty to think about, not least the history of Leo's abuse by his famous classical singer mother. Like the best films of this type, you cannot help but feel sorry for Leo while at the same time being repelled by the acts he is driven to perform. OUT OF THIS WORLD isn't for everyone but if you're an art house horror nut this one is unmissable.

Marc Fouchard's HORS DU MONDE / OUT OF THIS WORLD is out on Digital HD from Bulldog Distribution on Monday 5th December 2022

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Dr Terror's House of Horrors (1965)

Who doesn't love DR TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS? The first Amicus portmanteau film, it was followed by a series of similarly styled movies that, on the whole, were better than it, but you have to start somewhere. Anyway, after the guest appearance of the film's poster in Edgar Wright's LAST NIGHT IN SOHO Fabulous Films are giving the film a new Blu-ray release. 

Peter Cushing! Christopher Lee! Roy Castle Freeman! If nothing else DR TERROR is an interesting time capsule of things past (including attitudes). So, nearly sixty years later, are the five stories the film tells still worth a look? Well, the Werewolf episode is still fun and the most atmospheric, Creeping Vine was always a bit silly but now it comes across as ludicrous, Voodoo has those 'attitudes of times past' but does have some fun Tubby Hayes jazz and it's based on an uncredited Cornell Woolrich story so it's still of interest, Disembodied Hand has some great interplay between Lee and Michael Gough (with monkey) and the Vampire story has Jennifer Jayne and an ending that's rather fun. 

Then there's Freddie Francis directing and doing his best to use the widescreen format to depict a cramped railway carriage (he doesn't do too badly) and a music score by Elisabeth Lutyens - twelve tone Lizzie herself (as she was apparently known) that's refreshingly different from a lot of horror movie music scores of the time.

DR TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS has been released on disc in the UK a few times, and unfortunately if you're a DR TERROR obsessive you need all the releases, including the new Fabulous Films one. The significant ones are the original Anchor Bay DVD release which boasted two commentary tracks, one from Freddie Francis and Jonathan Sothcott and the other from Alan Bryce. The 2015 Odeon Blu-ray dropped the Bryce commentary, added a new making of (House of Cards by Jake West) but had transfer issues and a repressed disc had to be issued. 

The latest Fabulous Film release keeps the West documentary, as well as the trailer and Stephen Jones image gallery, but has no commentary tracks. What it does have is nearly an hour of new interviews courtesy of Derek Pykett, namely Ann Bell (21 minutes), Jeremy Kemp (8 minutes) and Kenny Lynch (24 minutes). The disc also comes with a booklet and a double-sided poster of Graham Humphreys artwork

DR TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS gets its latest Blu-ray release from Fabulous Films on Monday 5th December 2022

Sunday 27 November 2022

The Cat and the Canary (1939) and The Ghost Breakers (1940)

Eureka are bringing out two classic comedy horror pictures from Paramount, both starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard with THE GHOST BREAKERS being presented from a new 2K master. Here's what we get:

The Cat and the Canary (1939)

The 1939 feature version of this well-known stage play sets its 'Midnight Will Reading in an Old Dark House' plot in the depths of the Louisiana swamps. Hope, Goddard and a motley assortment of family members gather to hear George Zucco's solicitor explaining that everything goes to Goddard's character providing she stays alive and sane. But what's that? A psychopathic killer called The Cat has escaped from the local mental institution and may be headed their way? And there's a hidden necklace worth thousands hidden on the property too?

With all of this going on it's surprising to realise that director Elliott Nugent gets everything done and dusted in 72 minutes (the 1927 Paul Leni silent version is closer to two hours). It's a crisp affair with crackling dialogue and appealing leads. The film's secret weapon, though, is Gale Sondergaard as the creepy housekeeper, obviously relishing every line of dialogue she has. 

Extras consist of a commentary track from Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby who have plenty to tell us about the cast , the production, and the history of the play and its various adaptations, including that the two earlier Universal sound versions are now considered lost films. While they do point out that the alligators we see have their jaws taped shut they don't spot that Paulette Goddard goes to bed with her shoes on. Kim Newman provides an excellent 20 minute summation of the 'source novel' of this subgenre, Earl Derr Biggers' Seven Keys to Baldpate, and the productions it inspired, and there's also a trailer.

The Ghost Breakers (1940)

While THE CAT AND THE CANARY wastes no time getting its protagonists out to its scary location, THE GHOST BREAKERS has more breathing space to set up its characters. This time Hope is Lawrence Lawrence Lawrence ("My parents didn't have much imagination") a radio personality and 'Ghost Breaker' which seems to involve him revealing secrets about mob bosses live on air. 

At least, that's what causes him to end up in Paulette Goddard's trunk bound for her haunted ancestral Cuban castle (a fantastic set, by the way). The cast is livened up by a young Richard Carlson and an even younger Anthony Quinn but the film almost belongs to Willie Best as Hope's manservant / sidekick. Add in Nobel Johnson as a zombie and it's certainly arguable that THE GHOST BREAKERS is even better than its predecessor.

Extras for this film consist of a 30 minute radio version (also starring Hope), a trailer, and another excellent Lyons and Rigby commentary track that provides plenty of information on the cast (including the bit players) and is extremely helpful in explaining some of the 'of its time' humour that certainly went over my head, especially all the stuff where Hope & Goddard are dancing on the boat. 

THE CAT AND THE CANARY and THE GHOST BREAKERS is out as a single disc Blu-ray set from Eureka on Monday 5th December 2002. The first 2000 copies will  also includes a collector's booklet with new writing by Craig Ian Mann, and a slipcase

Tuesday 22 November 2022

Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)

"Witty Body Count Movie Hit From A24"

After its successful theatrical run earlier this year director Halina Reijn's BODIES BODIES BODIES is getting a Blu-ray and Digital release from Sony.

A bunch of Obnoxious Young Things meet up at the remote country mansion of the father of one of them for a weekend of drinking, drug-taking and everything else that in the Reagan era would have had movie slashers salivating at the thought of all that errant behaviour requiring gory punishment.

And guess what happens? Halfway through the evening, and after a game of Bodies Bodies Bodies has been proposed (don't worry if you don't know it - the rules are explained & I'd certainly never heard of it before) one of the kids turns up with their throat slashed. After that the film abruptly changes gear to become a tense and frequently witty body count picture with everyone suspicious of everyone else and a resolution that is as smart as it is satisfying.

A wicked satire on aspects of modern youth culture (and social media in general), BODIES BODIES BODIES' clever script means that all the deaths that pile up are still almost incidental to the cutting dialogue and sharp observations. The film's playful sense of morbid mischievousness despite the increasing volume of blood drenching everything is reminiscent of at least a couple of Italian director Mario Bava's movies from the early 1970s, not so much in the visual style but once again in the writing (so perhaps I should namecheck Ernesto Gastaldi here as well). Suffice to say the film always has a smile on its face while it's dealing out horrible fates to some quite horrible self-obsessed people.

Sony's Blu-ray comes with a couple of brief deleted scenes, but the real bonus is the commentary track from director Reijn who makes it worth sitting through the film again. Yet another excellent production from A24 who are fast exceeding Blumhouse as the low-budget movie house to watch. 

Halina Reijn's BODIES BODIES BODIES is out to download and keep on Monday 7th November 2022 and Digital Rental 

and Blu-ray on Monday 28th November 2022

Friday 11 November 2022

Orphan: First Kill (2022)

"Supremely Entertaining Horror Prequel"

So who remembers ORPHAN (2009)? Jaume Collet-Serra's unassuming little horror picture featured Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard as a couple adopting nine year old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), who actually turned out to be a thirty-something psychopath suffering from one of those fabulous made up horror movie syndromes that made her only look like a little girl.

You don't need to know any of that to enjoy ORPHAN: FIRST KILL, a prequel that's careful to explain all of the relevant stuff in its first few minutes, leaving the rest of the running time to revel in what might just be the most enjoyable exploitation movie of the year. 

At the start of the film Esther resides in one of the worst (one presumes / hopes) Estonian institutions for the criminally insane, where the guards' qualifications seem to consist of unhealthy sexual proclivities combined with an inability to stop a small girl from beating them to death. Soon Esther is out and getting herself inveigled in a family in Connecticut, posing as their long lost daughter.

Somehow the family believe that during her four year period of absence she has somehow learned to play the piano and paint really well (very Bohemian these Eastern bloc child abductors) and we assume she is going to cause similar degrees of mayhem to those seen in the preceding film.

But oh no! Hang on just a minute! Because then ORPHAN: FIRST KILL takes an unexpected right turn so barkingly mad it's just short of brilliant, one which may well make it the most entertaining horror spinoff we'll see this year. I won't say what happens because discerning exploitation fans deserve to find it out for themselves. Add in some endlessly quotable dialogue, the husband of the family wearing the best underpants we will likely see in the cinema for some considerable time, and a tribute to Robert Aldrich's WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE and ORPHAN: FIRST KILL really is something special, and I do mean that in the best possible way.

The director this time around is William Brent Bell, he of THE DEVIL INSIDE (2012), WER (2013) and THE BOY (2016), all B-Movie masterpieces that are keeping alive a venerable tradition in horror cinema. Add in Interpol on the soundtrack and the perhaps inevitable addition of Michael Sembello's iconic Maniac (and by the time it comes on the discerning viewer will be thinking it would be rude not to) and ORPHAN: FIRST KILL might actually be more entertaining than the film that spawned it. If it had been shown at Frightfest the final shot would have brought the house down. If the same team do an ORPHAN III: EVEN MORE KILLS I'll be first in line. Signature's Blu-ray comes with a making of featurette.  Anyway, let's have a trailer:

William Brent Bell's ORPHAN: FIRST KILL is still showing in some UK cinemas, is available from Signature Entertainment on Digital now, gets its DVD and Blu-ray & 4K UHD release on Monday 14th November 2022 and the 4K UHD is coming out on 28th November 2022

Thursday 10 November 2022

Most Horrible Things (2022)

Valentine's Day giallo-style horror ensues in Hiroshi Katagiri's MOST HORRIBLE THINGS, which is getting a digital release courtesy of Reel2Reel.

In Los Angeles, six Attractive Young Things are invited to a dinner party with the promise of being paid $10 000 if they can make it through the evening to 'their own personal revelation'. As their mysterious host asks more probing questions and tensions rise, it's still late in the game when they begin to realise they may not make it out alive.

Released in the USA under the title LOVE HURTS, Katagiri's film feels very much like a modern-day version of the dafter giallos that filled Italian cinemas fifty years ago, and anyone who enjoyed those movies will find a lot to love in this. The fragmented narrative style, in which we flip from the evening itself to the police procedural investigating the deaths, actually has a point to it, and the pieces of the puzzle all fit nicely (if crazily) together by the end. 

Performances are all as you'd expect for this kind of film, with Sean Patrick Flanery (SAW 3D), Natalie Burn (KILLER MERMAID) and Simon Phillips (lots of British junk including STRIPPERS VS WEREWOLVES) being the most familiar faces to connoisseurs of modern trash cinema. 

The direction keeps everything tight and intriguing during the dinner party sequences while making everything neon-drenched and giallo-stylish during the body count climax. I'd certainly watch another film from Hiroshi Katagiri and while we're waiting, MOST HORRIBLE THINGS is a lot of trashy fun. Let's have a trailer:

Hiroshi Katagiri's MOST HORRIBLE THINGS is out on digital from Reel2Reel on Monday 14th November 2022

Sunday 6 November 2022

Son of the White Mare (1979-1981)

There currently seems to be a resurgence of interest in animated fantasy features not intended for children, with THE SPINE OF NIGHT enjoying a recent festival run followed by streaming and Blu-ray releases, and the ultra-violent UNICORN WARS still currently receiving deservedly rave reviews on the festival circuit. 

       So it makes sense that older movies are being brought out of the vaults, dusted off, and given Blu-ray releases. One such example is Hungarian film-maker Marcell Jankovics' SON OF THE WHITE MARE, a feature-length animated film that took three years to make and which is now getting a Blu-ray release from Eureka.

The story is based on mythic folk tales, some of them Hungarian, and tells the story of Treeshaker, a man born of a horse, who has to defeat evil dragons that have taken over the world. He enlists the aid of his two brothers, Stonecrumbler and Ironrubber, and together they set off for the underworld. During their quest they encounter princesses to be rescued, an evil gnome, a griffin, and other mythical creatures.

The style of animation employed in SON OF THE WHITE MARE is possibly best described as 'trippy', as the stills used to illustrate this review hopefully demonstrate. Some may find the whole 86 minutes of its bright colours and swirling animation to be really quite the brain-frying experience. One imagines a unique film-maker like Panos Cosmatos (BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW, MANDY) being inspired by it, and if you love his films you'll definitely want to check this out. 

Extras include Jankovics' first feature Johnny Corncob (which runs 78 minutes and there's also a three minute making of on the disc), Sisyphus (2 mins), The Struggle (2 mins), and Dreams on Wings (an 8 minute ad for Air India). You also get a 33 minutes interview with Jankovics from 2020, and a 10 minute featurette on the director by the Hungarian Film Archive.

Marcell Jankovics' SON OF THE WHITE MARE is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 14th November 2022

Friday 4 November 2022

Expired (2022)

Ivan Sen's SF art house piece EXPIRED (original title LOVELAND) is getting a digital release from Reel2Reel films. 

In a Hong Kong of the future Jack (Ryan Kwanten, likely best known to readers here from James Wan's DEAD SILENCE) is a hit man who finds himself simultaneously falling in love with Karaoke nightclub singer April (Jillian Nguyen) and finding that his health is deteriorating. He finds he is being followed and when one of his pursuers is killed, the chip that is dislodged from the man's head turns out to be from a corporation whose head of development, a Dr Bergman (Hugo Weaving) has disappeared.

Jack finds Bergman working in a supermarket. He's still carrying on research in his flat, and he has some answers as to why Jack had been feeling the way that he has.

The publicity for EXPIRED compares it to BLADE RUNNER but apart from some nice neon-augmented cityscapes of Hong Kong this is pretty meagre stuff. It's slow to the point of being ponderous and not well-enough written for the dialogue to be anywhere near as meaningful as it so desperately wants to be. The biggest problem though, is the lack of a decent plot to drive everything, making you wonder exactly what audience EXPIRED is aimed at. The discussions on identity and the revelation at the end are all very well, but they are the kind of things that are for the downtime scenes of a movie like this, in between the main action, something which EXPIRED completely lacks. I'm not saying every film needs exploding helicopters and car chases but this is a case where such elements could have done nothing but improved the experience. I described it as art house at the beginning but even if you have plenty of patience and enjoy slowly delivered portentous dialogue you might find yourself having trouble getting through this one. Anyway, here's a trailer that definitely makes the film look more interesting than it actually is:

EXPIRED is out on digital from Reel2Reel on Monday 7th November 2022