Thursday 21 March 2024

Lovely Dark & Deep (2023)

"Ambitious Beyond Its Means"

And that's being kind. Writer-director Teresa Sutherland seems to be going for a 'Benson & Moorhead meets Arthur Machen' vibe with LOVELY DARK AND DEEP, (now getting a UK digital release from Blue Finch). Unfortunately it's an attempt that falls flat and will leave most viewers confused, not at all helped by a third act that tries to go for 'weird and enigmatic' but instead will only confuse some and annoy others.

Georgina Campbell is Lennon, who has just taken up a post as a park ranger in a US National Park where so many people have apparently gone missing it's hard to believe anyone is ever allowed to go hiking there. 

Her sister who disappeared there many years ago, and Lennon plans to use the job as an opportunity to search for her. She sets off into the lovely and welcoming sunlit forest which at no point feels anything other than just that. THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT gave us a forest no-one would want to spend an hour in, whereas here there's never any sense that Lennon's trip is anything other than a lovely walk in the woods.

There's mention of someone recently having disappeared. Lennon finds her. Or does she? Because as the film goes on we become less and less sure of anything Lennon experiences. Rather than this being suspenseful and disorientating, it's actually terribly difficult to care about any of what's happening. There are frequent shots of the forest she might be trapped in, which looks like a lovely place where you might want to holiday there yourself. The ending leaves you trying to piece things together that make no sense, but in the worst way. Ambiguity in this kind of narrative is fine, utter confusion is not. 

Teresa Sutherland was also responsible for writing 2019's THE WIND, which I described as either a very slow measured piece or really rather boring depending on your point of view. LOVELY DARK AND DEEP isn't boring, but it misfires on a number of levels that may leave you questioning if it was worth the time you devoted to watching it. Here's the trailer:

LOVELY DARK AND DEEP is out on Digital from Blue Finch on Monday 25th March 2024

Wednesday 20 March 2024

City of the Living Dead (1980)

Following on from their recent release of HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, Arrow Films bring another Lucio Fulci classic to UHD.

A priest hangs himself in the small town of Dunwich in one of the many mesmerising sequences Fulci manages to conjure up on a small budget. This causes the gates of hell to open, and if they're not closed by All Saints' Day (which of course is going to be very very soon) then Hell on earth will ensue. So it's up to cigar-chomping Christopher George and medium Catriona MacColl (after she's been rescued by George from being buried alive in another standout scene Tarantino would later steal for KILL BILL VOL 2) to either save the day or cause reality to fracture in a kind of spider webby way that has left people debating the ending of this one for years.

It's a testament to just how good, and how varied, Fulci's 'zombie quartet' of 1979-1981 is that any one of the four (the other two are ZOMBIE FLESHEATERS and THE BEYOND) can be justifiably be argued by fans to be their favourite. CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD does a fantastic job of conjuring an otherworldly atmosphere such that you can believe Hell is leaking into the town of Dunwich. Add in some memorable special effects and Fabio Frizzi's music and it's easy to see why the appeal of CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD persists after all these years.

Arrow's UHD transfer provides an upgrade on previous release, and while you can't expect miracles it's amazing how much more detail you get on direct comparison with their previous Blu-ray release. One example would be the shot of the hanging priest which mow shows much better definition of the tree branches against the sunlight. 

The disc does come with a ton of extras, though, many of which have been carried over from previous releases. These include two commentary tracks (Catriona MacColl and Jay Slater, Giovanni Lombardo Radice and Calum Waddell) and a stack of interviews with screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, production designer Massimo Antonio Geleng, DP Sergio Salvati, SFX man Gino De Rossi, composer Fabio Frizzi and actors MacColl and Carlo De Mejo.

Fulci expert Stephen Thrower provides a video essay, and Andy Nyman gives us his appraisal of Fulic's gothic period. There's also a Kat Ellinger video essay, behind the scenes footage, alternate title sequences and image gallery.

Finally, you get a reversible sleeve, a double-sided poster, six lobby card reproductions and a 60 page book with writing from Travis Crawford and Roberto Curti. 

Lucio Fulci's CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD is out from Arrow Films on 4K UHD on Monday 25th March 2024

Tuesday 19 March 2024

A Million Days (2023)

 "Thought-Provoking British SF"

After its UK premiere at Frightfest last year, Mitch Jenkins' warning (or is it?) about what AI might become gets a digital release from Signature Entertainment.

It's the future (2041 to be exact) and it's eco-catastrophe time. Mankind's only hope is to 'seed' somewhere else in the universe and make it habitable. Not surprisingly earth's moon has been chosen for the planned procedure. Anderson (Simon Merrells) is the man to head the mission and his partner Sam (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) is the scientist responsible for creating Jay, the AI that's being used to simulate and predict every possible outcome. 

So when Sam's assistant Charlie (Hermione Corfield) arrives and explains that she has caused the simulation to look at the next 2739 years (the 'Million Days' of the title) why has Jay ignored the moon as man's next potential place of colonisation and instead gone straight to Europa? And does it have anything to do with a previous moon mission where Nazra (Nina Mahdavi) was killed? 

After a bit of a bumpy start A MILLION DAYS settles down and turns out to be rather good science-fiction of the 'three people in a room discussing the potential catastrophic effects of a scientific advance' type. I'm saying that so that you're not put off by the first fifteen minutes, where events and info dumps all stumble over each other a bit and may feel a bit confusing. Be assured it's all relevant and as the film proceeds there are a number of very satisfying twists and turns. By the end you're left with enough to ponder and as such A MILLION DAYS falls very much into the category that is that gem of science fiction - the small film with big ideas. Let's have a trailer:

A MILLION DAYS is out on digital now from Signature Entertainment

Thursday 14 March 2024

Dark Water (2002)


Hideo Nakata's film of Koji Suzuki's novella gets a UHD upgrade from Arrow.

Yoshimi (Hitomi Kuroki) is getting divorced, and the big question is who is going to get custody of her six year old daughter Ikuko (Rio Kanno). For now it's Yoshimi, and the two of them move into an apartment in a refurbished but still rundown tower block.

Despite the flat having been redecorated, a bothersome damp patch persists on the bedroom ceiling, a patch which gets steadily larger and more drippy the longer they stay there. Then there's that blurred figure in a yellow raincoat, and the fact that apparently a little girl who lived in the block went missing a couple of years ago. And she lived in the flat above Yoshimi and Ikuko.

DARK WATER isn't as good as the team's previous RINGU (1999) and could probably have done with about 15 minutes trimming off its 101 minute runtime. It's still nicely atmospheric, though, and delivers at least one good ghostly scare.

Arrow's UHD transfer looks fantastic. DARK WATER has always looked rather muddy on disc but the image here is crystal clear. Extras include interviews from 2016 with Nakata (26 minutes), Suzuki (20 minutes) and DP Junichiro Hayashi (20 minutes). There's also an archival 2002 making of and interviews with actors Kuroki and Asami Mizukawa (who plays the grown up Ikuko) and Shikao Suga who wrote the song at the end.

You also get trailers, TV spots and a booklet with writing on the film from Michael Gingold and David Kalat. 

Hideo Nakata's DARK WATER is out on 4K UHD from Arrow on Monday 18th March 2024

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Possessor (2020)

Writer-director Brandon Cronenberg's second feature (after ANTIVIRAL but before INFINITY POOL) gets the Second Sight special treatment in a limited edition UHD & Blu-ray boxset, with individual releases for the different formats as well.

The very Cronenbergly-named Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough) is a hit-person employed by Girder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who has a special device that allows Tasya to take control of other people's bodies. Her newest assignment is to possess Colin Tate (Christopher Abbott, most recent seen in POOR THINGS) whose girlfriend Ava (Tuppence Middleton) is the daughter of Tasya's target John Parse (Sean Bean). But Tasya's brain is starting to get affected by all the mind-jumping she's been doing and that, coupled with the nature of her job, is beginning to induce murderous psychopathic tendencies.

POSSESSOR is a right old brain-banger of a film: Philip K Dick by way of Michael Reeves' THE SORCERERS (which director Brandon Cronenberg gives a nod to early on, allowing us film nerds to nod sagely). The film's plots is straightforward enough, allowing Cronenberg to use his not inconsiderable skills to scramble your brain with visuals that will leave you staggering. Gorgeously shot by Karim Hussein and with terrific performances from everyone involved, this isn't a film you can watch everyday, but it's definitely one to regularly revisit. And then have a nice lie down in a darkened room afterwards.

Second Sight's set comes with a stack of new extras including a commentary track from Cronenberg, Hussein, producer Rob Cotterill and SFX provider Dan Martin. There are also new interviews with Cronenberg, Cotterill and Hussein. Disassociating from Mind and Body is a new piece on the film from Zoe Rose Smith and there's an FX 'Show and Tell' with Dan Martin. You also get three archive featurettes, deleted scenes, and the short film Please Speak Continuously and Describe Your Experiences as They Come to You.

Finally, there's a 120 page book with new essays, six art cards and a lovely box to keep everything in.

Brandon Cronenberg's POSSESSOR is out in limited edition UHD & Blu-ray boxset, plus as individual UHD and Blu-ray discs, on Monday 18th March 2024

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Dogman (2024)

"Luc Besson's JOKER - With Dogs...(Sort Of)"

Writer-directot Luc Besson's latest feature gets a Blu-ray and digital release from Altitude Films.

Doug (Caleb Landry Jones) is stopped by the police after the abandoned school he calls home is found full of dead bodies. The van he is driving also happens to be full of very much living dogs, who he assures the police won't hurt them as long as the dogs don't feel Doug is under threat.

Confined to a police cell he is interviewed by psychologist Evelyn (Jojo T Gibbs). In flashback we see the story of his awful upbringing by his father and brother who kept fighting dogs and who imprisoned him in the dogs' cage. Befriended by the animals who became his loyal companions, the number of dogs Doug looked after only increased when he starting working for the local pound. Now he has a veritable canine army who are happy to do his bidding.

DOGMAN feels like JOKER by way of WILLARD, only with dogs instead of rats. It also feels like a film with a few too many ideas to form a satisfactory story. Doug is more or less paralysed from the waist down from a gunshot injury by his father, he sings at a nightclub in drag, and he has trained his dogs to steal from rich people's houses. 

The result is a film that feels like a grungy super-villain origin story, but one that bumps along in too many fits and starts to satisfy the comic-book crowd. That said Jones is excellent in another quirky role, as are all the dogs, and any film directed by Luc Besson is worth checking out. DOGMAN is a far cry from his more recent glossy SF efforts like LUCY or VALERIAN and while it's nowhere near as good as NIKITA or LEON if you've ever been a fan of the director it's definitely worth checking out. Here's the trailer:

Luc Besson's DOGMAN is out on Blu-ray and Digital from Altitude Films on Monday 11th March 2024