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.
For their 2 November 2016 releases they have dug into the Lionsgate and Trimark vaults in order to resurrect 2 titles that have certainly needed Blu-ray restorations, one loved, and one in need of reappraisal. Return of the Living Dead 3, and the much maligned C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.
C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D.
Director– David Irving
Starring – Gerritt Graham, Brian Robbins
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
1984's C.H.U.D. (Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers) was a minor cult hit when it hit video in the mid-80's. It isn't a classic in any way other than it had a really cool title, and a cast of about to be really famous actors (John Goodman, Daniel Stern, John Heard). The film has its moments, and is fun in spots (I will admit to being a fan). Of course, it was guilty of being a semi-successful horror film in the 1980's, and as such it got a sequel.
Of course, just because C.H.U.D. got a sequel doesn't mean anyone was going to take it remotely seriously. The first film, even with its stupendously ridiculously title was a pretty straight forward horror affair with limited humor. C.H.U.D. doesn't even seem to play in the same continuity as the first film, and disregards the straight forwardness for an all too ridiculous atmosphere to create something odd, bizarre, not C.H.U.D.-like, but on reappraisal quite a bit charming (you read that right).
C.H.U.D. II follows a group of teenagers that misplace a corpse (yeah, weird thing), and end up finding a frozen military corpse named BUD (Gerritt Graham), who ends up thawing out, and going nuts in their small rural community turning citizens into more CHUDs (who are more like zombies than anything else here). While the teenagers give chase and try to stop the small town CHUD-pocalypse, while the military whom BUD was stolen from attempt to do the same.
Robert Vaughn who during his career started in films such as the Magnificent Seven, had by this point descended to the world of B-Movie fodder, and was appearing in films like Bud the C.H.U.D. and Killing Birds. Early on he tries to attempts serious performance as a military leaders, but by the end he seems to be hamming it up with everyone else. Bud is played by the always wonderful Gerritt Graham, who really makes this film as good as it is. Graham will eternally be remembered as the hard rocker BEEF in Brian DePalma's Phantom of the Paradise, but in the 80's he also appeared in Ted Nicolau's wonderful Terrorvision before showing up in this unfortunately maligned film. His performance here is hysterical, and he owns the screen every moment he's on screen.
The film is definitely an entire 180 degree turn from it's predecessor, but that is not a bad thing in this case. Much like Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Evil Dead 2, and House 2: The Second Story, C.H.U.D. 2: Bud the C.H.U.D. went in a unique and humorous direction to interesting results. The pacing is occasionally a bit off, making it drag at times, but the film is a fun ride, and I implore fans who have spent decades deriding the film to give this one a second chance.
The newly revived Vestron Video and Lionsgate give C.H.U.D. II a quite solid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the films OAR. Bud the C.H.U.D. is inherently a soft film and the new transfer certainly shows that off those qualities. There is some nice detail, and texture to the transfer, blacks are solid, and grain is natural, but kept at a minimum. I did not detect much in the way of damage from the source material. The audio is a 2.0 Stereo track in English. The track is solid with dialogue and score coming through clearly. Extras include a director's commentary, 2 actor interviews, and an interview with the FX artist on the film. There is also a trailer for the VHS ,and a still gallery.
The Film (3.5/5)
Return of the Living Dead 3
Director– Brian Yuzna
Starring – Mindy Clarke, J. Trevor Edmond
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
Like C.H.U.D. Return of the Living Dead was a film that didn't need a sequel. Hell, the film ended with Louisville, KY. being nuked into oblivion so none of the characters were left (though the threat of returning zombies was certainly there). It was, however, given a generic retread of a sequel a few years later in Return of the Living Dead 2 with a handful of returning cast members. The film did not work, and is mostly written off by fans of the first film.
The series was put on hold, and in 1993 was resurrected by Society and Bride of Re-Animator director Brian Yuzna. Yuzna brought his wild biological horror charms to the RotLD franchise, and created what is to date, the only good sequel the series has had, and a film that only has minor connections to the original film, choosing to go in a vastly original direction.
Return of the Living Dead 3 stars J. Trevor Edmond as Curt and Mindy Clarke as Julie. They are a rebellious teenage couple living in what appears to be a beach side coastal town around L.A. Curt is the son a military leader Colonel John Reynolds, who is working on using 2-4-5 Trioxin to resurrect the dead for use as a military weapon. The Colonel's experiment goes awry, and he finds himself reassigned to Oklahoma City. Curt, however does not want to leave Julie, and fights his Dad and leaves with her on his motorcycle. In the midst of their newly found independence, they crash the bike, and Julie dies. Having observed his Father's experiment earlier in the night, he resurrects Julie using the 2-4-5 Trioxin, but having a zombie for a girlfriend is not easy, and as the night goes on the couple will find themselves chased by a gang, and the military.
The last time I saw Return of the Living Dead 3 was about 15 years ago. I remember my reaction being a bit tepid at the time. I remember enjoying it, but not loving it. This time my opinion turned around a lot on it. I really loved the film, and found myself just drawn into it. The overall look of the fim is dated to the early 90's, but I really liked how Yuzna integrated the pair into the heavy metal and industrial music culture of the time. When Mindy Clarke does her piercing thing at the end, even though it's an in-character way to stop the pain she's in as a zombie, it also feels like it ties into the culture the pair belong to, and thus feels like a natural extension to the background of the film.
The special effects by Steve Johnson and his crew are absolutely top notch here. Yuzna, from his work in Bride of Re-Animator and Society to here seemingly always had the best practical FX artist going on his crews, and this is no exception. All the way through the film from the first zombie we on screen, to the last it of zombie mayhem at the end, everything looks goopy and great.
Lionsgate and Vestron Video bring Return of the Living Dead 3 to Blu-ray with a quite solid Blu-ray transfer. The film is presented 1:85:1 with a 1080p AVC encoded transfer. The transfer is quite solid and natural at times. There is mostly excellent detailwith occasional softness, black levels are deep, and flesh tones accurate. The audio is presented a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track in English. The track is quite solid with dialogue and score coming through clearly. Extras include a cast and crew commentary ported over from a prior DVD release. We also get an interview with Yuzna and screenwriter John Peney. There are interviews with Steve Johnson, Chris Nelson, Production Executive David Tripet, and Post-Production Supervisor Christopher Roth. The disc is rounded off by theatrrical trailers and a still gallery.
The Film (4/5)