Scream Factory are one of the EuroCultAV.com gangs favorite labels. Since their inception they have released a huge swath of horror onto Blu-ray, and the American horror market has certainly been affected by their presence. They also tend to work like the factory portion of their name, as their release schedule tends to be fast and furious, and is occasionally hard to keep track of. As such I decided to throw together this handy review column with some Scream Factory reviews from earlier this autumn, and one that comes out later in the season.
Director- John Carl Buechler/Claudio Fragrasso
Cast- Michael Moriarty, Shelley Hack/Michael Stephenson, George Hardy
Country of Origin-U.S./Italy
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
Troll's biggest claim to fame might be coincidentally naming one of its main characters Harry Potter over a decade before the similarly named character would end up as a worldwide fantasy icon. This Harry Potter finds himself moving to an apartment building in San Francisco with his Mother(Shelley Hack), Father (Michael Moriarty), and sister Wendy Anne(Jenny Beck). No sooner do they arrive then Jenny gets possessed by the spirit by a Troll. This troll was once a renegade wizard named Torok, and using Wendy Anne's little girl-ish cuteness stalks the building killing the tenants, and transforming their apartments into fantasy lairs. Harry and one of the other tenants Eunice (a former witch associated with Torok) must find a way to stop the creature before it can over the building.
Troll has excellent creature effects, and some pretty awesome set design when it comes to the Troll's magical worlds. The performances are fairly solid across the board, with standouts like Michael Moriarty as the Father. On the other hand, I found the performance of young Jenny Beck grating, and found the film significantly less enjoyable from the moment she started shrieking about burger toppings, which is pretty soon after it begins. That being said the film is a bizarre enjoyable romp that combines the feel of an average Empire Pictures monster film with the suburban fantasy genre that has become so popular in the 80's.
Troll 2 is an odd duck of a film, and that's putting it lightly. First off, it's not a sequel to Troll. But then again it is an Italian horror film lensed in Utah, and like Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2 (which was a pseudo-sequel to Dawn of the Dead), the title Troll 2 was forced on by producers who wanted to use it make a buck off an already popular film.
Troll 2 follows the Waits family as they pack up their urban Utah lives to head into the rural community of Nilbog ("Goblin spelled backwards!") as part of a sort of cultural exchange program with a family from that community so the Father Michael Waits (George Hardy) could live out his dream of being a farmer. Before they leave however, young Joshua (Michael Stephenson) is warned by the ghost of his Grandfather to stop the family from going to Nilbog at all cost, that it would be a danger to all their lives. However, upon arrival the citizens of the community pretty much try to kill the family with kindness offering them Nilbog food covered in green paste that will turn the family into plants that the vegetarian goblins can then eat. Even with the weirdness of the townspeople the family refuses to leave, and so it's up to Joshua, and his grandfather to stop the Trolls and their Queen before they can kill the family.
In recent years Troll 2 has been written about as the modern contender for "worst movie ever made". The young star of the film Michael Stephenson has gone so far as to make a documentary entitled Best Worse Movie (included on a separate DVD in this package) that helps stake that claim. I can't deny Troll 2 is a terrible movie. The performances from the cast aside from Deborah Reed who plays the Goblin Queen are pretty atrocious. The dialogue is ridiculous, and stilted, and the characterizations seem so far from how real people act. Also, the film is seemingly built upon a series of nonsensical and increasingly bizarre situations, and yet the whole thing works wonderfully. A viewer would have to have absolutely no sense of humor to not enjoy this film. It's bad, but delightfully so, and open-minded viewers that haven't seen it yet should definitely do so.
Both films are presented in a 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Troll looks surprisingly good here, it won't blow anyone with it's upgrade, but colors are stable, detail is nice, there is nice healthy grain structure present, and only minor instances of damage, and softness to complain about. Troll 2 is the same transfer that MGM used for their Blu-ray a few years back, and that's still a solid release. It's a nice, grainy, very natural looking transfer. Colors are nice, and blacks are deep. I didn't find much to complain about here.
Troll is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track in English. The track is solid, dialogue and score come through nicely. Troll 2 gets a DTS-HD MA 2.0 and a 5.1 track both in English. Both tracks are quite good with dialogue, score, and effects coming through nicely. I did not detect any issues with either.
Scream has put together a solid extra features package for their release of Troll. We get a a nearly hour long making of the film with the director, producer, writer, and more. A Stills gallery, and a theatrical trailer. Troll 2 gets an audio commentary with George Hardy and Deborah Reed, and a theatrical trailer. Those lucky enough to buy the first 5000 copies will also get a copy of Best Worst Movie a documentary on the Troll 2 phenomenon on DVD. This is the same version of that film that was released on DVD years ago, and has it's own slate of extras.
The Films - Troll (2.5/5) Troll 2 (4/5)
Audio/Video Troll(3.5/5) Troll 2 (4/5)
Extras - Troll (3/5)/ Troll 2 (4/5)
Blood and Lace
Director- Philip S. Gilbert
Cast- Gloria Grahame, Melody Patterson
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
I love it when a film basically sneaks out of nowhere, and blows my mind. Such is the case with Scream Factory's release of Philip S. Gilbert's only film as a director Blood and Lace. This film according to all the research I have done has never gotten a domestic home video release until this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Scream Factory.
The film opens with a scene that could easily be seen as a blueprint for the opening to John Carpenter's later Halloween. From a first person perspective a prostitute named Edna is murdered while in bed with her "client". The murder weapon is a hammer, and the whole thing is basically a call to the audience to pay attention to this one, right from the start.
Edna's death leaves her daughter Ellie orphaned. With nowhere else to go, the state turns her over to a local orphanage run by the maniacal Mrs. Deere and her gardener Tom Kredge. Mrs. Deere is sort of the evil overseer of the orphanage. She also doesn't have enough money to run the place, so the kids are doing whatever they can to get more food portions including stealing from the table. Some of the kids try running away, however since Mrs. Deere is paid by the head, they are quickly retrieved, and punished (or murdered). Of course this is no big secret to Ellie who stumbles upon some of the goings on, this alone makes it difficult to settle in, but the fact that she keeps butting heads with the other kids doesn't help either. A police detective is sent out to observe her, but doesn't seem interested in actually helping all that much, and it seems like the bodies are going to pile up, and Ellie is going to join them.
Blood and Lace surprised me. I had no expectations for the film going into it. The film opens with a scene that really gets the audiences attention from the get go with a mix of solid direction from Gilbert, and pretty effective sound design.. The rest of the film has a nice brisk pacing, that never really allows things to slow down. Though Melody Patterson the actress who played Ellie in the film was dubbed, the performances are solid for the most part. Of course, special mention needs to be made to Gloria Graham and Len Lesser (Uncle Leo from Seinfeld) who perform the villainous Mrs. Deere and Tom Kredge with such evil and sadistic abandon it's hard not to get caught up in their performances. Aside from the opening the film isn't a bloody affair, but it uses it's murder sequences (and it's corpses) to great effect in generating horror and suspense. Blood and Lace is a fine low budget chiller, and I certainly hope this release brings it more attention.
Scream Factory presents Blood and Lace in a quite decent 1:78:1 1080p AVC encoded soundtrack. There are some minor bits of damage throughout the presentation, but nothing overly distracting. What we are left with is a solid, quite natural looking transfer with decent colors and black levels, and fairly strong detail. There is a nice organic grain structure at play as well. The audio is presented in a DTS-HD 2.0 mix in English. The track is solid for the most part with dialogue, and score coming through nicely. However, there were moments like the opening where the mix goes above and beyond and creates a deeper sound field than expected for a movie of it's pedigree. The main extra is a commentary by Richard Harland Smith, we also get an alternate title sequence, and a trailer.
The Film (4/5)
Director- Elliott Silverstein
Cast- James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
Growing up 1975's The Car was never a film held in very high regard. It fell chronologically between Spielberg's earlier Duel and Carpenter's later Stephen King adaptation Christine, both of which handle the concept of a killer car much better than this film. That being said time has been kind to the Car, and the film which was created as a sort of Jaws on land, when viewed through cult cinema glasses can be viewed as a reasonably fun film.
The film stars James Brolin (The Amityville Horror) as Chief Deputy Wade Parent who finds himself in charge of a murder investigation after the Sheriff is killed. This isn't any ordinary series of murders as the killer is running down people in a large weird looking black car. The car keeps killing, and Parent tries to stop it using the full power of the department, not realizing that the car is powered by evil itself.
The film opens with a quote by Church of Satan founder Anton Lavey, and the car itself is apparently driven by the power of Satan. OK, as a former teenage metalhead, this sort of thing goes really far in selling me on a movie from the outset. However, the film as a whole is a mixed bag. The scenes involving the car are a blast to watch, almost anything with human characters tends to drag. We do have some really funny moments like a hitchhiking hippie getting involved in an argument with an old married couple, however, rather than playing an acoustic guitar, he is hitchhiking with his French Horn. It's moments like that that break up the between chase tedium. It certainly isn't anything with James Brolin who has to be one of the most drab and dull actors of the 70’s, and he carries that over to his performance here. That being said, I doubt anyone could have made this character interesting on screen, so I can’t entirely blame Brolin for this one.
The Car is presented in a solid 2:35:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Detail is excellent throughout, with nice color reproduction, and nice deep blacks. The audio comes with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 track. I recommend the 5.1 here which really brings a lot of depth to the sequences with the car. Aside from that the dialogue and score come through nicely, and I did not detect any issues with the track. Scream has put together a solid extras package for the Car. There is an on-camera interview with director Silverstein, and 2 with actresses from the film. We also get Radio Spots, a Still Gallery, TV Spot, and Theatrical Trailer.
The Film (2.5/5)
The Larry Fessenden Collection (No Telling, Habit, Wendigo, The Last Winter)
Director- Larry Fessenden
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
It has been about a year since Scream Factory unleashed Larry Fessenden's last film Beneath onto the the horror Blu-ray market. Now, they've gone back and released the prior 4 directorial features by Fessenden in conjunction with IFC Midnight. Fessenden, personally speaking is someone I knew more from their acting roles than his directorial output, so it was interesting to see these 4 features. Outside of the fact that Fessenden is an actor/director, I was struck when watching these 4 films how he appeared to be akin to a horror genre John Cassavetes. Like Cassavetes the films seemed to be largely character pieces with the supernatural and horror situations used to gauge each characters emotional responses.
The first film in the set No Telling is a slow burn of a film about a married couple who move to the country. The husband is a sort of mad doctor that uses animals in Frankenstein-esque experiments. The film is certainly horror, but like the other films in the set is leisurely placed giving emphasis to the characters more than the bizarre horror at play. The film has a raw quality that I enjoyed that shows Fessenden as a filmmaker whose preoccupations were fairly clear from the get-go.
The second film in the set is Habit. Fessenden takes the lead here as Sam, a guy who has recently lost a lot in his life, and suddenly finds himself falling for a woman named Anna. The deeper he gets into a relationship with Anna the more he begins to suspect that there is something wrong with her. Habit is an interesting film, very emotionally striking, and powerful. Fessenden as a filmmaker follows in the traditional of George Romero's Martin in the way the supernatural trappings of the film are handled. He never explicitly states whether the supernatural is present in the film, or if it's just in the eye of Sam who is using it as a crutch for his failures.
The third film Wendigo falls into more traditional monster mold with some of his typical flourishes. The film is about a family who goes to the country for the winter with their son. On the way they hit a deer, setting off a spiral of events that see them face to face with the Wendigo a creature of native superstition who may be brought to life by the young boy's imagination. Wendigo hits on the emotional conflicts between characters like his earlier films, and also the strong environmental themes present is almost more pronounced here than this earlier films.
The fourth film in the set the Last Winter offers more polish than the prior 3 films in the set, and has a cast that is practically out of a Hollywood film. Yet, the film which has strong echoes of Carpenter's the Thing, feels less potent than the 3 before it. The Last Winter involves a drilling team in the arctic who slowly descend into madness beginning with one member having hallucinations, and those being the springboard for conflict amongst the group who are trapped.
All 4 films are presented in their original aspect ratios 1:78:1 for No Telling and Wendigo, 1:33:1 for Habit, and 2:39:1 for The Last Winter. They are all 1080p and AVC encoded. The transfer differ from one another pretty wildly, but as the first 3 films are very much in the indie horror mold, while the fourth and most recent is much slicker that is to be expected. No Telling has a raw quality to it with fine detail and a nice grain structure. There is some issues with softness present throughout. Habit is probably the most lo-fi transfer of the bunch, offers an abundance of grain, but decent natural colors, and some fine detail. There is quite a bit of soft/bright moments at play here, but like No Telling that is probably a nature of the production itself. Wendigo has a solid transfer with decent colors, and detail throughout. The film has a very natural look to it, and a natural, but unobtrusive grain structure. The Last Winter being the most recent film also offers the best transfer of the bunch, solid black levels, crisp image with an organic structure, and very good color reproduction and detail.
All 4 films are given DTS-HD MA 5.1 and 2.0 tracks in English. The 5.1 tracks seem a bit overkill for these films, but they work solidly with dialogue and score coming through clearly, and some nice ambiance at moments. Scream have put together a solid extras package for the set with multiple commentary tracks and at least one on ech film. Making of Documenatries, interviews, sizzle reels for Fessenden's Glass Eye Pix, and much more.
(No Telling (3.5/5), Habit, (3/5), Wendigo (3.5/5), The Last Winter (2.5/5)
(No Telling (3.5/5), Habit, (2.5/5), Wendigo (3.5/5), The Last Winter (4/5)