Tales from the Vestron Vault #1

Chopping Mall & Blood Diner

by Scott MacDonald

         Vestron Video was one of the seminal video distribution labels for horror, cult, and "B" movie content on VHS throughout the 80's and into the early 90's during the earliest part of the VHS boom. They were started in 1981 by a former Time Life executive who found himself in ownership of a large library of titles from the Cannon Films library amongst other things.  In 1992 after 11 years of making waves in cinema circles Vestron Video closed up shop leaving their distinct Red "V" burned into the brains of the many cult and horror aficionados who frequently rented their tapes.

   In 2016 Lionsgate Films decided to go through their library of cult horror cinema, and give them long overdue releases on the Blu-ray format. They have decided to do this under the guise of the defunct, but well remembered and well loved Vestron name. Lionsgate’s new horror line has been branded the Vestron Video Collector's Series, and though not every titles that has been announced, or will be announced will have been a prior Vestron release (though some will), they will certainly fit the mold of what the company was releasing at the height of their popularity in the 1980's. 

The first 2 films to see release through the resurrected Vestron are 2 titles that have needed Blu-ray releases for some time, Jim Wynorski's CHOPPING MALL and Jackie Kong's BLOOD DINER.

 

Chopping Mall

Director– Jim Wynorski

Starring – Kelli Maroney, Barbara Crampton

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- Scott MacDonald

   Chopping Mall is the 2nd feature film by Jim Wynorski following the excellent action spoof The Lost Empire. The film follows a group of teenagers who decide to stay the night in one of their parents furniture stores in the local mall. Unfortunately, for the group the mall has just acquired new security in the form of 3 robots that will kill unless proper ID is shown. The robots end up malfunctioning so even with ID they go the robot equivalent to insane, and begin killing the group 1 by 1 using their weapon systems. The teens only defense is the supplies in the mall stores or to evade the robots until morning.

   Chopping Mall comes from the golden age of Wynorski, meaning that the film is about as much fun as you can have with a horror film. The film features among its cast John Terlesky who would go on to appear in Wynorski's Deathstalker II (aka one of the cinemas greatest achievements), Kelli Maroney who would become well known for her turn in Night of the Comet, and of course, Barbara Crampton from Re-Animator and From Beyond. There are also cameos from Phantasm's Angus Scrimm, Phantom of the Paradise's  Gerritt Graham, as well as Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov of Eating Raoul fame, and the immortal Dick Miller (as WALTER PAISLEY!).

     Wynorski keeps the film at a short and sweet 76 minute in length, so the pacing is tight and never boring.  He also manages to create a very classic horror/sci-fi look for the film even though it was set in a 1980's mall. The cast as a whole perform admirably with the material which admittedly is cheesy as hell, but works. The film is loaded up with copious amounts of nudity in the early portions of the film, and then some very decent blood and gore later on.

     Chopping Mall is the inaugural film in Lionsgate's Vestron Video Collector’s Series and they have presented the film in a very solid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The film looks quite solid with decent color reproduction, solid blacks, and excellent detail much improved from prior DVD editions. There are some soft spots that are probably from the source material, but I did not note much in the way of damage from the source material. The audio is presented in its original mono track in English with optional English subtitles. The track is excellent with dialogue and score coming through loud and clear. Lionsgate have put together an excellent special features package for Chopping Mall including 3 commentary tracks, and multiple featurettes detailing the films production from various perspectives including a look back on the film, creating the score, designing the robots, and more

The Film (4/5)

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

Extras (4/5)

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Blood Diner

Director– Jackie Kong

Starring – Rick Burks, Carl Crew

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs-1

Reviewer- Scott MacDonald

   When Herschell Gordon Lewis created the gore film in the 60's with this Blood Trilogy (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs, and Color Me Blood Red), it was thought they would play the drive-in, and leave. They weren't considered much other than cheap thrills for an audience of young moviegoers. Lewis would leave the film business behind in the early 70's and move onto direct mail advertising, a business he would continue in for the remainder of his days. However, something changed from the time he left, and into the early 1980's. His films became popular in the cult underground. They left the drive in, and became cultural artifacts, first playing midnight showings, and then finding a new home on home video.

   Jackie Kong's seminal 1987 horror film Blood Diner started life as a sequel to Lewis' 1963 proto-gore film Blood Feast, before the production company decided that they could make more money by making a film that acted as a homage to that film rather than as a sequel. The film plays around in the same conceptual ballpark as Lewis, just with better acting, a much higher budget, more refined gore FX, and a director with a more distinct vision.

   The film stars Rick Burks and Carl Crew as Michael and George Tutman. As children they watch their murderous uncle get shot down by the cops after his latest killing. 20 years later, they dig up his bones, and using his book on the rituals of Sheetar to bring his brain and eyes back to life. They put them in the jar, and use him as an advisor for their plot to bring Sheetar back from the grave. They plan to do this, by creating a body for Sheetar, and then killing various sleazy women and using their body parts to power her (or something like that).

   The film is packed wall to wall with copious amounts of gore, and ridiculous humor. This basically feels like something that would have (and did) play on U.S.A. Up All Night in the late 80's and early 90's, and is essentially a step up from typical Troma fare. The performances aren't that great, but definitely far exceed the films they are paying homage too.

   The 2nd release in Lionsgate's Vestron Video Collector's Series  Blood Diner comes to Blu-ray with a solid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The Blu-ray looks and sounds quite good with excellent color reproduction, decent blacks, and solid fine detail. Flesh tones are accurate and there is a nice grain structure present. The audio is presented in an HD mono track and sounds excellent with everything coming through clearly, and no issues to report. Extras on Blood Diner include a commentary with Jackie Kong, multiple featurettes including an interview with Kong, behind the scenes featuettes on the FX, Scoring the film, and more. There is an archival interview with the Project Consultant. The set is rounded off by trailers, TV spots, and a still gallery.

 

The Film (3.5/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (4/5)

 

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