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Halloween Horror Express Vol. 1

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    Halloween is fast approaching, and as per usual DVD and Blu-ray labels are unleashing the horror contents of their libraries en masse just in time for the season. With so many titles coming out from so many labels, it is hard for even the most dedicated of horror fans to keep up with all the amazing horror coming out during the early fall, to keep it simple we have decided to compile some reviews of the best of the season's horror Blu-ray's and DVD's.

Land of the Dead

Director– George A. Romero

Starring – Asia Argento, Simon Baker

Country of Origin- U.S./France/Canada

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Scream Factory

 

   Land of the Dead, when it was released in 2005 was George A. Romero's long awaited follow-up to his Day of the Dead. It had been speculated for years that he was going to make this film, and a version of the script called "Dead Reckoning" had even leaked years before the film would see daylight. Needless to say I saw it day 1 in theaters, and oddly never saw it again until Scream Factory's Blu-ray release ended up in my mailbox.

   Land of the Dead takes place sometime after Day of the Dead when humanity begins to slightly regroup in fenced in settlements. One of these settlements Fiddler's Green is run by the Donald Trump-esque Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), a rich overlord who maintains a class based society. In this society a military force goes out by night, kills zombies, and finds supplies for those who lives in "The Green". Of course, this wouldn't be a Romero film if things didn't go awry, and they do.

   The film is far better than I remember it being, and truly packs a punch both in its horror elements and with its still quite relevant social commentary. Performances from the cast, possibly one of the strongest ever assembled for a Romero film are impeccable, and the film truly could be considered one of Romero's great ones. 

    Scream presents 2 cuts of Land of the Dead in new 2:35:1 1080p transfers from the IP. Everything looks great here, blacks are deep, detail is excellent. Audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA track in English that sounds as good as the film looks. The Blu-ray is packed with special features both new and archival including multiple commentary tracks, interviews, deleted and extended scenes, trailers, featurettes, and much more.

The Film (4/5)

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

Extras (5/5)

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Dawn of the Dead '04

Director– Zack Snyder

Starring – Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames

Country of Origin- U.S./France/Canada/Japan

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Scream Factory

 

    OK, so I was probably never going to like this film, however, I finally after 13 years of putting it off gave it a shot, I can at the very least say that. I, like many horror fans find that George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead is very close to scripture, and no film could ever bear that title without comparing every little detail. Now, I will say this for Director Zack Snyder (Watchmen) and Screenwriter James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy). They did attempt to do their own thing with their version of Dawn of the Dead, while keeping certain trademarks of the original apparent. However, it must didn't work for me. With that being said, I did try to separate both films, trying to make this its own thing in my head. It just wasn’t enough of its own thing to save it as a singular unique entity like Carpenter’s The Thing can be separate from Nyby’s.

   Dawn of the Dead ‘04 opens with a nurse Ana (Sarah Polley) returning home from a long day at work. She wakes up the next morning to the apocalypse. Her husband is quickly killed by a little neighbor girl, and she runs off trying to find a place of security. This she finds alongside other early survivors in the Crossroads Shopping Mall. The group begin to work together to secure the facility, as other join them, and zombies gather outside. Of course, tensions rise as supplies begin to dwindle, and the ever present threat of the undead looms over them all.

    If there is one aspect of the film that truly works it is the cast. Dawn of the Dead 2004 has a superb cast of actors that really sell the tension and horror of the situation. The script from James Gunn is quite solid, and manages in many ways to create a new vision for Dawn of the Dead separate from the original including zombies that run in a 28 Days Later manner.

    The Blu-ray from Scream Factory looks quite excellent. The film is presented 2:35:1 in a 1080p AVC encode. Colors pop, detail is excellent, and I found nothing to really complain about.  There are 2 sound mixes here a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 track both in English. Both sound excellent and do the film justice with truly dynamic sound and clarity. Scream packs this release with archival and new extras including interviews with the cast and crew, commentaries, documentaries, mockumentaries, trailers, storyboards, still galleries, and more.

The Film (2/5)

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

Extrass (5/5)

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Kill Baby, Kill

Director– Mario Bava

Starring – Giocomo Rossi-Stuart, Erika Blanc

Country of Origin- Italy

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Kino Lorber

 

    If there is one Blu-ray I would encourage every single reader of this article to run out and buy right away this Halloween season it is this one. Mario Bava's Kill, Baby Kill is not just a classic of Italian and Eurohorror, but it is stone cold horror classic, and it has been a long wait to get this on on the Blu-ray format. Within 3 months we have gotten releases from Arrow Video, Koch Media, and now a Region A Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber.

    Kill, Baby Kill stars Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Dr. Paul Eswai who is a coroner sent to a remote Italian village to investigate a murder. He alongside Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli) determine that they must conduct an autopsy on the latest victim to help solve the murders, however, the superstitious townspeople attempt to get in their way. Assisting them is Monica (Erika Blanc), a young woman who was born in the town, but has spent her life away from there and studied medicine. The trio begin to investigate the killings and the local lore, and find it could be tied into the death of the daughter of the Baroness Graps who died many years before, and might be back to seek her revenge.

    Kill, Baby Kill is a true gothic chiller. Bava creates a wonderfully creepy atmosphere with this one. Outside of that he creates some truly iconic imagery including the young ghostly Melissa Graps at the window. His use of color here is iconic, and overall the film is one of Bava's best, and truly a great of Italian horror cinema.

   The Blu-ray from Kino Lorber is sure to please Region A capable fans of the film. It is presented in an AVC encoded 1:85:1 1080p transfer. This transfer like many from Kino looks quite natural with the film's organic grain structure being left intact, and being quite prominent in certain sequences. Detail is excellent, and colors are for the most part quite nice, though they do veer toward the green a bit. There are some outdoor moments that are a bit on the lighter side, but I'll attribute that to a facet of the production. Audio is presented in both English and Italian tracks with HD audio and sound fantastic. The soundtrack to this pops, dialogue is clear, and I detected nothing to complain about.  Extras include an unreleased documentary by Severin Films' David Gregory revisiting the film's locations, an audio commentary by Bava biographer Tim Lucas, an interview with Erika Blanc, the German title sequence, and concludes with trailers and TV spots.

The Film (5/5)

Audio/Video (3.5/5)

Extras (3/5)

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Demon Wind

Director– Charles Philip Moore

Starring – Eric Larson, Francine Lapensée

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Vinegar Syndrome

 

    It would appear more than any other label Vinegar Syndrome decided to go out and hit Halloween in style. Releasing 5 Blu-ray's and 6 films that will please horror fans in many different ways. However, of all of the VS releases to come out this month, none are more exciting to me than  their Blu-ray release of Charles Philip Moore's Demon Wind. Admittedly sometimes nostalgia plays a pretty strong role in fandom, and Demon Wind is a film I rented a lot as a video store rading horror junkie. However, the film never got a real DVD release (a tape sourced one in the U.K.), and so this one from Vinegar Syndrome is the first truly legit release of the film.

    Demon Wind combines the worlds of Lucio Fulci and that of the Evil Dead to create something while not unique, is certainly trashy fun in the world of 80's horror. Demon Wind follows Cory, a college aged kid who along with his girlfriend Elaine, and a unique group of friends go a rural country farmhouse owned by Cory's grandparents to learn more about Cory's family history. When they get there they are to find that the family is cursed and the farmhouse is the key  to a supernatural dimension where demons and spirits fought. Cory and his friends now find themselves trapped at the farm, fighting for their lives and souls against these demons.

   OK, so I'll just start by saying nostalgia only goes so far with me. Demon Wind is not a great movie by any measure you can throw at it.  That being said, it is trashy, and it is fun. It also has some quite bizarre monster effects with some truly grotesque looking demons throughout the film that really help it stand out from similar fare.  The film takes a while to get going after an intro that sets the splattery tone of the piece. If you really enjoy trashy 80's low budget splatter this a film to get.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents Demon Wind in a gorgeous 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks bright, colorful, and still retains a natural look to it.  The audio  is presented with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in English that sounds mostly fine with  dialogue and score coming through clearly some minor distortion in some parts. Extras included cast and crew interviews (3 video, 1 audio), a trailer, and a stills gallery. The first few thousand copies get a lentacular cover like the VHS release.

The Film (3.5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (3/5)

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A Woman's Torment

Director– Roberta Findlay

Starring – Tara Chung, Jeffrey Hurst

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Vinegar Syndrome

 

   I had actually never heard of A Woman's Torment when I popped it into my player last night, which in all honesty is my favorite way to go into a new film. Films can provide an interesting experience with just a quick look at the cover, a little knowledge of the director (in this case Snuff's Roberta Findlay), and then just a quick hit of the play button. I knew that all of Vinegar Syndrome's releases this month bordered on horror, and some more than others, but 3 of them were directed by Findlay. So I was excited to start on her work with this one, which mixed elements of hardcore porno with the then burgeoning slasher genre.

     A Woman's Torment follows Karen (Tara Chung), a young woman who has recently started living with her sister Frances (Crystal Sync), and her husband  Don (Jeffrey Hurst) at a small beach side cottage.  Karen it was established has some mental health issues that are causing issues for Frances and Don to deal with. Don would like to send her to a facility, or at the very least get her treated, while Frances sees that as an insult to her family.  However, as it turns out there is definitely something wrong with Karen. She hears voices, and anyone that approaches her or visits the house ends up getting killed. 

    I was absolutely surprised by a Woman's Torment. This film blends horror and hardcore in a way that is truly effective, and creates something truly unique and memorable. The performances are solid across the board, but Tara Chung as Karen is absolutely a marvel. Findlay creates a nice desolate atmosphere, and uses her sparse locations well, as almost a character in the piece.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents A Woman's Torment in a splendid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded tranfser preserving the film's OAR. Everything looks well detailed, and natural, colors are stable and well reproduced, and there is only some minor damage throughout. Audio is handled by a DTS-HD mono track in English that sounds quite solid and I could find no issue with. Extras include the R-Rated version, a commentary track with Findlay on that version. We are also treated to a Q & A with Findlay, and an interview with actor Michael Grant.

The Film (4/5)

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

Extras (3.5/5)

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Prime Evil/Lurkers

Director– Roberta Findlay

Starring – William Beckwith, Christine Moore

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Vinegar Syndrome

 

    Vinegar Syndrome continuing on with their Blu-ray treatment of the cinema of Roberta Findlay have put together a more straight-forward horror double feature release with her films Prime Evil and Lurkers.   I honestly, only knew about Roberta Findlay through her grimy grindhouse pseudo non-classic Snuff. Which had a reputation over the years, so I was pleasantly surprised with this double hit (triple if you count Woman's Torment).

    Prime Evil is an oddly larger film in scope that opens with a medieval prologue before entering into 80's New York. Where a group of Satanic monks (the best kind) scour the city looking for relatives to sacrifice to help achieve immortality.  The film is cheesy, and oddly paced, but is charming in all the right ways.  Findlay manages to achieve a nice creepy and moody atmosphere and I oddly had a good time with this one.

    Lurkers involves Cathy a young woman who as a child watches her abusive Mother get murdered. Coincidentally, she lived in a house that apparently had “Lurkers” spirits that punished those that did things they deemed wrong. As an adult Cathy dated a fashion photographer, and his partner just happens to throw a party at Cathy's old building that was filled with Lurkers. Things don't exactly end well.  This one is a little more hit or miss than Prime Evil. It's still a decent little film if you know what you are in for, like a Jess Franco film she seems to be throwing ideas at the wall, but the film is let down by a more tepid pacing. The last 20 minutes or so is completely and utterly off the wall, and if you have hung on by that point you are in for a truly bizarre treat.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents both films in solid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfers both films looks quite nice, and I have no complaints colors are reproduced nicely, and detail is excellent. Audio  is handled with DTS-HD MA mono tracks, both sound quite solid with dialogue and score coming through clearly. Extras include a Findlay commentary on Prime Evil, an isolated score track on each film, and trailers for each film.

The Films (3.5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (2/5)

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Blood Beat

Director– Fabrice A. Zaphiratos

Starring – Helen Benton, Terry Brown

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Vinegar Syndrome

 

   Reading the synopsis for Fabrice Zaphiratos' Blood Beat my mind automatically went to Ninja III: The Domination. The film follows Sarah and Ted who have gone to rural Wisconsin to visit Ted's parents for the holiday. Family issues normally arise for the holidays, but none quite like this. Upon entering the home, Sarah begins to feel an odd presence about her Mother, and soon after they begin to notice a figure decked out like a samurai who begins attacking and killing people in the area, before attempting to kill their family.

    Blood Beat is a totally weird experience almost from the get go. But, I mean how can it not be with the description like “ A Samurai Slasher in Wisconsin”. The film  pretty much hits the ground running with its weird atmosphere in its opening minutes. The film makes some interesting graphic effects choices, and  also utilizes an interesting synth sound track that really helps channel the bizarre nature of the film. Couple that with a samurai that just appears and kills and you have a treat. Of course, the film is not a total winner, and the pacing at times is kind of dry and slow, and for a film that is only 86 minutes this kind of lets it down. But overall Blood Beat works like gang busters and I highly recommend this to slasher fans looking for a truly unique experience.

    Vinegar Syndrome presents Blood Beat in a solid 1:33:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Everything here for the most part looks solid. There are patches where damage becomes more obvious and black speckling takes over. The last moments of the film are also sourced from video, but there is a text preface to the feature that describes this. Audio is actually a mixed bag, but I do credit the production for those faults, as it is very muddled, and sounds quite hollow, and I found myself juggling with the volume to hear dialogue throughout the feature. It is presented in a DTS-HD mono track in English. Extras include a director commentary and interview. An interview with the cinematographer, a silent version of the film, and a still gallery.

The Film (3.5/5)

Extras (3/5)

Audio/Video (3/5)

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The Corpse Grinders

Director– Ted V. Mikels

Starring – Sean Kenney, Monika Kelly

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Vinegar Syndrome

    Well you know you have hit the low budget trash heap when you've hit the films of Ted V. Mikels (Astro Zombies, The Doll Squad). Mikels is one of those directors like Ed Wood or Herschell Gordon Lewis who is not known for the quality of their films, but still manages to make films that are at the very least entertaining.  Vinegar Syndrome have previously released Mikels’ The Doll Squad in a double feature with Mission: Killfast, and recently Kino Lorber have put out the director's Astro Zombies on Blu-ray, so we have actually seen some decent representation from the director on the format in recent years.

    The Corpse Grinders involves the Lotus Cat Food Company which has been using human cadavers ground up as the source for its very successful cat food.  Unfortunately for the cat owners whose cats eat the product, their cats get a very specific taste for human flesh  after eating the product. Unfortunately, for the company's bottom line a nurse has begun to suspect something is going on, and begins her own investigation into Lotus.

   Corpse Grinders is probably Mikels most successfully entertaining film. It is bizarre and campy, and at times colorful in the same way a Mario Bava or later a Dario Argento film would be (obviously not as skillfully as those two). The acting is not great, but it fits the trash aesthetic of the piece, and though the pacing is not always great, the film is a joy to watch.   

    Vinegar Syndrome presents The Corpse Grinders in a very nice 1:85:1 transfer sourced from the original 16mm. Of course, that means that the transfer is quite grainy, but that is expected, detail is solid, colors are well reproduced, and though there is some minor print damage there is nothing overly wrong here. Audio is handled by a DTS-HD MA mono track that represents the sound of the film well.  A commentary is included with American Grindhouse's Elijah Drenner, and an archival interview with Mikels' is included from 2007. There is also a still gallery.

The Film (3.5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (2.5/5)

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Innocent Blood

Director– John Landis

Starring – Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Warner Archive

    I know the saying is to never judge a book by its cover, but every single time I saw the cover of Innocent Blood at a video store over the last 20+ years I ignored the film. Further, on DVD I continued to ignore it. However, when John Landis's vampire offering made it's way to Blu-ray and ended up in my mailbox, I decided to stop judging this film by its cover, and give it a watch.  I am honestly glad I did, though I'll admit it's a pretty good film, but it's not perfect.

    The film follows Marie (Anne Parillaud) a French vampire living in Pittsburgh of all places in the early 1990's. Marie, tries to balance a sense of ethics with her need to feed on human blood. She only kills criminals, and specifically recently has been killing members of Pittsburgh's Mafia.  Detective  Joe Gennaro (Anthony LaPagglia) has been working undercover and has finally made it into the Mafia's inner circle, specifically in the gang of Sal Macelli (Robert Loggia). One night Marie takes Macelli back to his house, and attempts to drain him, but doesn't quite finish the job turning Macelli into a vampire. This ends up complicating Gennaro's investigation, and now Marie ends up reluctantly helping him to stop what she started.

   Innocent Blood is a pretty charming, and violent mix of comedy, horror, and gangster film. I was actually surprised at how well this film works especially in the first half. Early on, it felt like Landis was channeling some of the European horror films of the 70's with his atmosphere and combining it with Martin Scorsese's gangster work. However, after Macelli shifts into a vampire, and thus began turning his gang into vampires the film's pacing begins to drag over the repetition and absurdity of the whole thing from that point on. The film still works on a lot of points, but it feels like it could have lost about 20 more minutes, and still packed a significant punch. As it stands Innocent Blood feels like it is “almost a classics”, while never quite reaching those lofty heights.

     Warner Archives presents Innocent Blood in a spectacular 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Everything here looks brilliant. There is some minor speckling that's it. Detail is excellent, blacks are inky and deep, colors are well reproduced. I could not detect any issues here. Audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA track in English. That sounds quite excellent as well.  The extras, however, are limited to a trailer.

The Film (3.5/5)

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

Extras (.5/5)

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Blood Feast

Director– H.G. Lewis

Starring – Connie Mason, Mal Arnold

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Arrow Video

    If you are a fan of splatter cinema than you know about H.G. Lewis'  iconic Blood Feast. This is the film that started it all over 50 years ago in 1963, and holds up as an entertaining violent, and campy romp to this day. Last year those fine foks at Arrow Video releases a slew of H.G. Lewis films in a huge box set. Now they seem to be issuing those films in individual editions.

    Blood Feast is straight forward splatter flick.   A killer is going around viciously removing body parts from people throughout South Florida.  The culprit is none other than local ethnic caterer Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) who has been hired recently by Dorothy Fremont to do an Egyptian caterian job for her daughter's party. He has other plans, such as making her daughter the final sacrifice to Ishtar his Goddess, in the hopes of bringing her back as he makes his BLOOD FEAST.

    No matter, how many times I watch Blood Feast I never do not  have fun with the film. This film is a hoot, from first scene to last the film is violent camp classic. The performances are terrible, but are amazing in their awfulness.   The film is shot quite naturally in usually one or two takes, so don't expect anything but workmanlike direction from Lewis, but the film looks solid especially in its Blu-ray form. The gore FX are primative, but like the film that's part of the fun.

    Arrow Video presents Blood Feast in a spectacular 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. These films will never look  pristine, but they look as close to that here. Colors pop, especially the blood red that is prominent in the film, and oddly things like the pastel tiles in the opening bathroom scene, and things like that. Detail is excellent, and aside from the occasion damage, everything looks fine here.  Audio is presented DTS-HD mono, and sounds quite solid. Extras include H.G. Lewis' entire Scum of the Earth feature,  commentaries for both films, documentaries, featurettes, interviews, short films, and more.

The Film (5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (5/5)

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Beyond the 7th Door

Director– B.D. Benedikt

Starring – Lazar Rockwood, Bonnie Beck

Country of Origin- Canada

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Intervision/Severin

    Beyond the Seventh Door is a Canadian Miracle. The fact that this film exist is part of my continued reasoning for my deep dive into bizarre horror and exploitation cinema. Every once in a while a film so amazingly bizarre comes along, that you basically sit back, mind blown, and can't believe the luck you have just to experience it.

    The film stars Lazar Rockwood (yes, that's his name) as  Boris, a criminal who has just emerged from a stint in prison.  He wants to swear off the criminal life, but first wants to perform, (repeat after me.) “ONE LAST JOB”. The job happens to involve robbing  the mansion of his ex-girlfriend, Wendy's (Bonnie Beck) employer Lord Breston.  Breston, it is rumored has a great treasure hidden in his house, and Boris wants a piece of it. Wendy agrees to help him, but upon entering the house through the back, they discover that to get the treasure they must survive seven rooms that are trapped in ways that will most certainly kill them unless they can solve a variety of puzzles in each.  

    Beyond the Seventh Door is a mix of suspense, and just straight bizarre. The film has a camp quality that can't be beat, but also there are moments of tension that I wouldn't have believed could be created in a film like this one.  The film has bizarre and strange dialogue recited by actors who aren't remotely great, but in the end it all works. All of this is set to a soundtrack that can be described as Carpenter-esque.

    Severin presents the film in a 1:33:1 video sourced transfer from what appears to be a tape master. The image is clean, and reasonable. It will surely please fans of the film. Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 in English. It sounds quite decent with no issues.  Extras include a commentary with the director and Rockwood, and a pair of on screen interviews.

The Film (5/5)

Audio/Video (3/5)

Extras (3/5)

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The Devil's Rain

Director– Robert Fuest

Starring – Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Severin

    The Devil's Rain is one of the few American films directed by Abominable Dr. Phibes director Robert Fuest. During it's initial release, it became somewhat of a drive-in hit, and had multiple re-releases especially after John Travolta became a success off the back of Welcome Back Kotter, and his bit role in the film could be exploited to put more asses in seats. The film itself is a mix of 70's occult cinema influence, but far less coherent, and in a way that is what makes the film so much fun. I can't claim that Devil's Rain is a good movie, but it is a strange one, populated with a spectacular cast that aside from Travolta includes Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner, Tom Skerritt, Ida Lupino amongst others.

    What plot their is involves the Preston family. Who have been cursed by Satanic cult leader  Jonathan Corbis (Borgnine) for generations. As the film opens the matriarch (Lupino) has a nightmare about her missing son, before the Father of the family turns up at the door, eyeless and melting, but before he turns into complete goo, he warns them that Corbis is coming for them and wants his book. The film then breaks into multiple narratives involving various members of the family, and how they deal with the hunt for Corbis, and their attempts to stop him.

    The narrative for the film as it does not center on any one character of the Preston family is all over the place. So this is not a film to watch for any other reason that a love for bizarre, occasionally surreal horror films. It happens to also have a great cast that happens to go a long way in selling the material.

    Severin does some excellent work bringing the Devil's Rain to Blu-ray, the film is presented 2:39:1 with a 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Colors all around pop, detail is fine throughout, and everything looks quite natural. Audio is presented  with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track, and again sounds quite crisp and clear. Extras include a commentary with Robert Fuest, multiple interviews with cast, crew, high priest and priestesses of the Church of Satan, and even Anton Lavey's biographer. We also get treated to multiple galleries, trailers, and TV spots.

The Film (3.5/5)

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

Extras (5/5)

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Laserblast

Director– Michael Rae

Starring – Keenan Wynn, Roddy McDowell

Country of Origin- U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Full Moon

 

 OK, so technically speaking Laserblast is not horror. BUT it does have aliens which in a way are monsters, and thus can sort of fit the Halloween vibe so I'm including them in this piece.   The film opens with a pair of aliens who have come to Earth to kill a third criminal alien. Once dispatched, this alien  leaves behind his weapon and a pendant the former of which is discovered by teenage Billy Duncan, who begins to use the weapon against bullies, and those who have wronged him. As he does so he begins to turn into a green alien-like monster.

    Laserblast is one of the earliest films by Charles Band and Empire Pictures. However, it is far from the fun classic films he would later go on to produce. That is not to say it is a terrible film.  It has some bizarre charms to it, and it does have some early stop motion work by David Allen, who was working under severe time constants with this production, and would end up creating much better work later on in this decade, and into the next before his untimely death. Unfortunately, this work here isn't all it can be, and the film is let down by a very off putting pacing where shots linger for far too long, and the whole thing feels like it could wrap up much sooner than it does.

   Laserblast is presented by Full Moon in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer that looks decent, and a nice upgrade from prior editions, but is certainly far from a high quality HD image. The film has a faded look throughout the picture, and there is damage, detail is OK at times, and colors are decent. Audio is handled by a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, the track doesn't sound great, but gets the job done. Extras include a commentary with Charles and Richard Band and a series of vintage Full Moon/Empire Trailers.

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The Lift/Down

Director– Dick Maas

Starring – Various

Country of Origin- The Netherlands/U.S.

Writer - Scott MacDonald

Distributor – Blue Underground

 

    OK, so I was going to pass both of these off to another ECAV-er before I decided to just write this marathon of an article, but decided to do an odd double feature of these films on a Friday night and like my previous Vanishing/Vanishing double to see how they worked. The Lift and Down filmed 18 years apart tell the story of an Elevator repairman (Huub Staapel in the original, James Marshall in the remake) and a journalist (Willeke van Ammelrooy in the original, Naomi Watts in the remake) who investigate and do battle with the psychotic elevator. 

    The films are not in the Funny Games/Vanishing school of remakes. These are not shot for shot, though they are driven by similar narratives, there are enough changes to have each stand on their own independently of one another. It helps that Maas like Haneke and Sluzier had the opportunity to remake his own work.

    The films basically involve an elevator in a building that begins to malfunction and murder its occupants. As the body count begins to rise the repair man  pairs up with the journalist to investigate and stop the deaths. In the original there is a technological conspiracy going on involving a “biochip” where the elevator has a mind of its own. Oddly, the remake uses a terrorist angle, and the film was released in the Netherlands in the month preceding 9/11.

    The Lift is a dark film and drenched in bright neon lights. It has a weird anything goes, conspiracy drenched atmosphere. The plot of the film (both actually) wouldn't feel out of place in an X-Files episode. The Lift manages to deal in some very nice gore, but also offers a good deal of suspenseful and (obviously) claustrophobic moments. Down, really does feel like a Hollywood interpretation of the original with a bigger budget appearing on screen almost immediately. We have a cast of near A-listers, a much more slick look to the film, and the death sequences are more elaborate than what we had in the original. While the color palette was more garish and bright in the original, this is more muted, offering more of a contrast from the original, and keeping it in step with the horror of the 2000's.

    Both films get outstanding transfers from Blue Underground. The Lift is presented 1:66:1 while Down is 2:35:1 both are 1080p AVC encoded. Colors pop from the Lift, and it is quite grainy, but natural in its appearance, and detail is excellent. Down has it's muted tones well reproduced, grain is at a minimum, but it appears natural, and blacks are inky and deep. Audio is handled by a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in Dutch for the Lift, and English for Down. There are also 2.0 HD options for the Lift and Dolby Digtal Stereo for the Down. Everything sounds quite good from the scores to the dialogue, and I could find no issues.  Both Blu's have commentary tracks with Maas and a member of the crew (Editor Hans van Dongen on the Lift, Stunt coordinator Willaim de Beukelaer on Down) There is a making of for Down, also BTS footage trailers, a gallery, and a booklet of liner notes by Michael Gingold. The Lift has a short film by Maas, an interview with Huub Stapel, trailers, and a still gallery. There are also liner notes by Chris Alexander.

The Films (4/5, 3.5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (3.5/5, 3.5/5)