Sunday, January 14, 2018
Directed By: Andy Maschetti
Written By: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, Gary Dauberman
Starring: Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Bill Skarsgard
Release Date: January 9, 2018
The small town of Derry, Maine is plagued by a rash of disappearing children, similar to events that happened 27 years earlier. A group of ragtag kids, lead by Bill whose younger brother Georgie is amng the missing, encounter a sinister shapeshifting monster named Pennywise who stalks the children in his preferred form of a clown. The kids try to uncover the truth of Pennywise and the disappearances without winding up on a missing poster themselves.
Based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King, IT is the first feature film adaptation of the story but not the first screen adaptation as it was turned into a two-part miniseries in 1991. That miniseries has attained a bit of cult classic status over the years, largely based on Tim Curry's memorable performance as Pennywise. That adaptation was heavily flawed, especially in its second half and the ending of it is much maligned. That hasn't stopped it from heavy rotation on cable and a huge fanbase. This feature film version of the story was in the works in one form or another for half a decade, going through several changes at director. Finally in the summer of 2017 IT arrived in theaters and would wind up becoming the highest grossing horror film of all time (not adjusted for inflation).
Plenty of bad movies make loads of cash at the box office though and with already having a shaky screen adaptation it's reasonable to ask if IT was any good. I'm here to say that yes, IT is in fact a well done adaptation and horror film. While it changes some of the source material and if you're at all familiar with the source material you're well aware that there are just some scenes that simply will never make it in to an adaptation. That's okay, it doens't hurt anything. The most important part of the movie is the kids. Without a group of kids that turn in good performances and give the audience a reason to connect and care about them the movie fails on its most important level. This is the film's best aspect. The cast of kids led by Jaeden Lieberher as Bill, Sophia Lillis as Beverly and Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things) and Richie, they each bring a distinct personality to the group but are a wonderful ensemble together. Their chemistry is entirely believable and natural. It's easy to connect with them and be taken back to our own childhoods. If there's one thing I wanted more out of the kids was more backstory for each of them as a couple get glossed over and lost in the shuffle a bit even at the film's two hours and fifteen minute run time. There's still time to bring more of their backstories out in the inevitable sequel so I'm not holding it against the film too much. Bill Skarsgard is effectively creepy and menacing as Pennywise. His facial expressions and line delivery bring are memorable but there is an over reliance on CGI effects and scares which don't always look great and at times it does cheapen the overall quality of the movie with tired cliches.
IT has a strong screenplay and script however and has a stunning look. The late 80s setting is recreated brilliantly and brings back a sense of nostalgia. That sense of nostalgia is a driving force in the film but never gets too heavy handed. It teleports us back to a time when we were young, adventurous and vulnerable. That's why it works and while it may not match the darkness of the novel we will be getting a sequel that could certainly bring a darker tone and more serious scares but even if history repeats itself and the second half falls flat as it did with the 1991 adaptation IT is a self contained horror film that works perfectly on its own as it hopefully works as a great first half to a great second half. Only time will tell but IT will still be a very good horror movie either way.
The Audio & Video
Warner Bros Blu-ray release of IT looks and sounds as good as you could possibly imagine, as it should. The film's anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio is super wide and gorgeous with no signs of edge enhancement or DNR. The colors are vibrant and natural with incredible levels of detail from textures and fabrics to faces and body closeups. The black levels are very deep and inky with no trace of blocking up. I don't think I could ask for a nicer Blu-ray presentation while the Dobly TrueHD 5.1 surround mix sounds exceptional and free of any flaws. It really is that simple to describe as the audio sounds perfect. There's not a single instance of distracting background noise or staticy damage. Five stars, ten out of ten, I'm on board with whatever you want to consider the perfection of this disc.
There are four featurettes that are all worthwhile and clock in around 15 minutes (give or take a minute or two). There's no throw aways here.
-"Pennywise Lives" - A look at how Bill Skarsgard prepared and performed the iconic character including how he saved the production from having to use CGI effects with his eyes and face. This is my favorite supplement on the disc.
-"The Losers Club" - A featurette focusing on the relationship of the kids in IT and how their friendship. The kids' relationship makes the film what it is and this feature documents how real it is. It's hard to watch this without a smile on your face.
-"Author Of Fear" - An interview with Stephen King as he hashes out his history with the IT story including the history of writing it and how he came up with various aspects of the story.
-Deleted Scenes - Things the movie didn't need but maybe could have used...and maybe not.
The Bottom Line
IT isn't perfect but it hits the right notes to be a fun, nostalgic and whimsical horror tale that lives up to the novel it was based on. Recommended.
IT is avaiable HERE
Friday, January 12, 2018
REESTYLE DIGITAL MEDIA ACQUIRES
“DEMON HOUSE” FOR MARCH RELEASE
Paranormal-Themed Documentary Hits North American Theaters and VOD Platforms March 16
Los Angeles, CA – January 12, 2018 – Freestyle Digital Media, the digital film distribution division of Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, has acquired the North American rights to the paranormal-themed documentary DEMON HOUSE. DEMON HOUSE debuts in select theaters nationwide, and will also be available to rent and own on VOD in digital HD across cable, internet, and satellite platforms through Freestyle Digital Media on March 16, 2018.
DEMON HOUSE documents what happens when Zak Bagans – the host, creator, and executive producer of The Travel Channel’s smash hit series GHOST ADVENTURES – and his crew are overwhelmed by a demon possession case some have called the next Amityville, the most authenticated case of possession in American history. After buying the haunted home in Indiana over the phone, sight unseen, Bagans and his crew are unprepared for the demonic forces that await them at the location referred to as the “portal to Hell.”
Written, produced and directed by Zak Bagans, DEMON HOUSE features Zak Bagans, Father Michael Maginot, Dr. Barry Taff, and Captain Charles Austin. DEMON HOUSE was produced by Joseph Taglieri and Mike Dorsey, and was co-produced by Jay Wasley.
Freestyle Digital Media Vice President of Acquisitions, Dan Fisher, negotiated the deal for DEMON HOUSE with Alec Shankman, Abrams Artists Agency’s Senior Vice President and Head of Alternative Programming, Licensing & Digital Media.
“DEMON HOUSE is a chilling, edge-of-your-seat horror-thriller pitting the world’s most renowned paranormal investigator against his greatest challenge--the house of 200 demons,” said Dan Fisher, Vice President of Acquisitions for Freestyle Digital Media. “We at Freestyle could not be more excited to bring Zak’s documentary to millions of homes across North America this March.”
“I destroyed the house because I do not want anyone to ever live there again,” said filmmaker Zak Bagans. “I saw too many things, and there was something inside the house that affected everyone. The police, clergy, children, my production crew. Everyone. I am delighted that Freestyle will now be making DEMON HOUSE available to North American viewers soon!”
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Directed By: Antonio Margheriti
Written By: Robert Bailey, Antonio Margheriti
Starring: Reb Brown, Corinne Clery, John Steiner
Release Date: January 16, 2018
The early 80s were an odd time for film, especially the lower budget film market that was looking to capitalize on the next big trend. The Italian film market was notorious for latching on to a trend and riding it until it was gasping its last breath (and beyond). Star Wars was still the biggest thing going in 1983 so it's no surprise that there are plenty of ripoffs from the early to mid 1980s. Not all of them were straight forward attempts at a space opera however. Some took "A long long time ago" quite literally like YOR: THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE did. "That doesn't make sense" you say? Well, you're right, it really doesn't but then again not much in this slice of delightfully cheesy adventure film does.
Reb Brown (Captain America, The Howling 2) stars as Yor, a great hunter in pre-historic times that rescues Kalaa (Corinne Clery), the princess of a tribe from certain death when she is attacked by a giant dinosaur-like beast. Kalaa latches on to Yor but they're separated when the tribe falls under attack to a tribe of hairy, purple skinned savages. Yor eventually reunites with Kalaa and her caretaker Pag, but has also gained a new follower in Ena who is blond haired like Yor and is getting more of his attention. The group heads toward the desertlands in search of answers as to what the medallion that hangs fro Yor's neck is and find a futuristic army rand by the Overlord who wants to keep Yor from learning of his true origins and identity.
YOR: HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE is directed by Antonio Margheriti (Horror Castle, Seven Dead In The Cat's Eye) who should be well known to Italian genre film fans as he was one of the biggest trend hopping directors of the 1960s-80s. Whatever trend was big at the time you could safely bet Antonio Margheriti was making a movie or two in that genre whether it be the Gothic horror of the early 60s, giallo films of the early 70s or more war oriented fare of the late 70s, Margheriti made them all. And he was no stranger to peplum films early on in his career either which made for an interesting pairing when he returned to the sword and sandal style to mash it up with the sci-fi epics that ruled the box offices when YOR was made. His directing is serviceable but this isn't Margheriti's best or most stylish work. His best films, arguably, featured gothic elements from the horror films he made in that style to his gothic spaghetti western And God Said To Cain which is one of the most underrated films in that genre, he knew how to work mood and shadow into the film as a character unto itself. Obviously something like Yor, based more in fantasy and captivating the audience with might and magic doesn't feature much in the way of a gothic atmosphere. Margheriti does craft an entertaining little thrill ride that sets our hero against various creatures and enemies along with several different settings of time and space though the futuristic Star Wars ripoff territory doesn't come along until the last 20 minutes or so and it's not quite the epic send off you hoped for but it is equally as entertaining as the rest of the film.
Reb Brown is an actor that confuses me a bit, I'm not sure how he ever managed to get leading man status, even on smaller genre pictures. He's good looking, which is probably all it takes but he lacks any charisma that comes naturally to big stars. He's fine in the role of Yor but doesn't add anything to the character that isn't already there in the writing. I suppose all they needed was a decent looking blond haired lead and they got it. The acting never rises above average here but that's all I needed or cared to have in this schlocky picture. Corrine Clery and Luciano Pigozzi, who is probably the best actor in the cast, aren't given a ton to do as they romp through the forest and swamps but Clery is plenty attractive as the film's resident eye candy. The movie succeeds where it really needs to though. The sets look good from the forests to deep cave interiors filled with perils and booby traps, to the futuristic settings that looked like sets recycled from some of the post-nuke Mad Max ripoffs but I'm totally okay with that. The film looks good. And it's a lot of fun. Silly fun, but fun nonetheless. You can't take YOR seriously. The gaps in the story will bug you, the seams in it all will begin to show and before too long the entire movie will fall apart and that would be a shame because you'd be missing out on a goofy genre mash up that brings our distant past and future together and smashes them into one Reb Brown whirlwind of blond hair and muscles. And laser guns. And dinosaurs. And furry purple people.
The Audio & Video
Mill Creek has done very respectable work bringing YOR to Blu-ray for the first time. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer features good detail and a healthy and natural color palette. Black levels are deep and have no issues with compression or blocking. The picture has consistent speckling and imperfections throughout but it's never overly intrusive and there's only one or spots that have any sort excessive damage. The grain structure is solid and free of DNR. There are a few areas where the image gets softer but they're few and far between. The Blu-ray features an uncompressed PCM 2.0 stereo mix that sounds very good. The track is quite crisp and clear. The dialogue and score are complimentary and there's no distracting imperfections like pops, crackles or background noise.
The special features are limited to a new audio commentary with Reb Brown and the original theatrical trailer. While it would be nice to have more on the disc, just getting a brand new commentary with the film's star is a very nice addition and more than we typically get on Mill Creek releases.
The Bottom Line
I'm really pleased with this release from Mill Creek. YOR isn't a film that needs a super special limited edition release that a company will charge $30+ for but it is deserving of a solid Blu-ray release and that's exactly what we have here. For under $10 you can grab YOR in HD and go on a wild adventure to our past and future all in 90 minutes. Mill Creek's done good on this one.
YOR: THE HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE is available HERE
Monday, January 8, 2018
IN THEATERS: January 19, 2018
AVAILABLE ON VOD AND DIGITAL HD: January 23, 2018
DIRECTOR: Mark Dacascos
WRITERS: Craig Hamann, Alexander Nevsky (Story By)
CAST: Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Mark Dacascos, Tia Carrere, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Matthias Hues, Maria Bravikova
SYNOPSIS: Private detectives Nick (Alexander Nevsky) and Charlie (Casper Van Dien) live and work in Manila. A murder investigation leads them to the jungle camp of an international terrorist called The Wrath. Not trusting the police, Nick and Charlie assembly a team of daredevils to walk straight into the Wrath's lair and fight an army of his goons.
Saturday, January 6, 2018
Directed By: Nathan Rumler
Written By: Nathan Rumler
Starring: James Bell, Terence Lee Cover, Dave Parker
Before I get into the review I want to throw out a quick apology to Nate on how long it has taken me to get this review done. Sorry Nate. Now that the sappy shit is out of the way let's talk about gay Jesus.
GAY FOR PRAY follows a pair of down on their luck roommates who have their lives invaded by Jesus who has been kicked out of heaven by God for being Gay. Without his powers he's masquerading as a wizard until he can get his powers back and that's just what these guys intend to do, even if one is a dickhead Athiest and they have do deal with the town's religious fanatics.
If you're not familiar with Nathan Rumler's previous work or his film company Rock Bottom Video let me give you a bit of a Cliff's Notes on what to expect. Raunchy humor, gore and gratuitous everything. You might be offended and you'll probably laugh. Hopefully you laugh. That's generally the point. If you're offended while watching Gay For Pray well then these movies probably aren't for you and you should lighten up.
GAY FOR PRAY: THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF JESUS CHRIST is what you probably think it is. It's low budget (very low budget) and features a small cast, a tight set of locations and actors that aren't exactly award winners. But the cast is actually quite competent and the writing is genuinely funny and at times absolutely hilarious. Nathan Rumler has had GAY FOR PRAY written in one form or another for over a decade and I have to say that the final product was worth the time and effort he put into it. It's consistent in its delivery of laughs and shocks. The film features the most gratuitous shower scenes I have ever seen and then outdoes itself later on in the film and by that point I was close to tears from laughing.
And then there's the gore, which is plentiful. GAY FOR PRAY is not a horror movie but good lord it delivers on the gore and gross out factor. Guts fly, fetuses are born, crosses are fucked. It's a genuinely good time for the whole family (don't show this to the kids). And then there's the scene where Jesus and Judas have a threesome in the desert. Oh you don't remember that from the bible? How about the piss drinking? No? What version are you reading? Maybe the electric chainsaws? Have you even read the bible? Well it's actually a quite entertaining read but this is way shorter and just as crazy. And you'll miss out on all of the penciled on mustache dry humping if you only read the bible.
I can spout off every ridiculous thing GAY FOR PRAY has within. I can tell you about each and every erotic adventure that Jesus has in this film and I still wouldn't fully be able to tell you just how ridiculous this movie is and how lovingly crafted it is by everyone involved. If you sit there eating cereal while watching this I bet you'll either sit there with milk spilling out of your mouth while you laugh or you'll throw the bowl at the TV in disgust, and in that case I repeat that you should lighten up. GAY FOR PRAY is far from perfect but it really doesn't need to be. It is exactly what it needs to be. It's raunchy, graphic, stupid, hilarious, and features the greatest closing monologue I've ever seen.
Go support GAY FOR PRAY: THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF JESUS CHRIST and Rock Bottom Video HERE
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Directed By: Bobby Roe
Written By: Zack Andrews, Bobby Roe
Starring: Brandy Schaffer, Zack Andrews, Mikey Roe
Color/101 Minutes/Not Rated
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Have you ever been surprised by how much you like a movie? I'm sure you have, we all have. I was incredibly surprised by how much I enjoyed Bobby Roe's 2014 found footage horror film The Houses October Built. This found footage horror film followed a group of friends going cross country in their RV documenting the most extreme haunted houses they can find until they come face to face with a secret haunt that takes them to their absolute extreme and blur the line of entertainment and reality. So when I heard a sequel was made I was caught off guard but totally game to check out THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2.
And then I watched it.
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 is lazy. It retreads the same ground laid in the first with the same plot. The same friends get together to go to some haunts and capitalize on their internet fame after the events of the first film. Except they're all incredibly shitty people this time around more worried about making a couple bucks instead of their own friends mental health. Brandy suffered the worst fate of the first movie and her shitty friends do everything they can to bribe her to join their trip because she's the pretty girl all of the haunts want to promote their attraction and without her the group is worthless. So her friends throw her in to increasingly extreme haunts despite her protests to do the extreme haunts. Of course she gives in when a few more dollars are thrown at her so we get to hate her too. This is where the film fails but definitely isn't the only place. If we're forced to spend 100 minutes confined mostly to an RV with this group of people they better be likable folks and in the first film they were but this time they've devolved into typical pieces of shit more concerned on a quick buck and exploiting their friend than a love of haunted houses and Halloween.
The film is also victim to just about every pitfall a found footage style horror movie can fall for. The added music, slick editing and basic set up of movie doesn't make a lick of sense for something being shot on the road and supposedly "found" and uploaded to Youtube. The first film did this as well but was fun enough that I could mostly overlook it but when the movie is a bad time, and I mean that it is a bad time. It's like being at a shitty party with people you barely know who are annoying the absolute piss out of you and you have no way to get home or leave, when it's that bad of a time the things you can nitpick begin to add up and then the laziness of the film shines through and it's like being blasted in the face with a nasty fart.
I loved the first. I loathe the sequel.
The Audio & Video
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 has been brought to Blu-ray by RLJE Films and looks fantastic with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The color palette is vibrant while shining and popping just enough. The black levels, of which there's plenty in the haunt interiors, are deep and inky. Detail levels are high and skin tones natural with no signs of edge enhancement or DNR. The audio is presented in a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that sounds just as good as the picture looks. The audio is warm and full bodied with a strong mix throughout. There's no damage or hiccups to speak of.
-Uncut Projection Scene
-Portrait Of A Scare Actor 2 featurette
-"Halloween Spooks" music video
The Bottom Line
It's a colder, less genuine, lazy and boring rehash of the first. Skip it.
THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT 2 is available HERE
Saturday, December 30, 2017
Directed By: Joe Lynch
Written By: Matias Caruso
Starring: Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving
Color/87 Minutes/Not Rated
Release Date: December 26, 2017
Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) has been busting his ass for a law firm rising through the ranks to find himself in a nice corner office with a good position as a law analyst only to find himself being set up to take the fall on a major account by his own firm's dirty tactics. Unfortunately for the executives, a deadly virus that spread wildly in recent months and causes the victim to lose any sense of inhibition and act out on their wildest ideas whether they be silly, sexual or just plain violent, has made it's way in to the building and an 8 hour quarantine has everyone locked inside until an antidote can be filtered in through the vents. Derek and a client (Samara Weaving) whose home is being foreclosed on because of the law firm simply not giving a shit decide to get some revenge on the soulless bloodsuckers at the top of the office building while the virus gives them legal impunity.
MAYHEM is a movie that anybody who has ever been mistreated, talked down to, used and abused, overlooked or under appreciated by their boss can appreciate. I think I've included a good 90% of the population. How many times have we dreams about getting one clean punch in, free of consequences, at our bosses. Or better yet, being able to overtake their position and give them a dose of their own medicine on their free fall down the ladder. Steven Yeun who any genre fan probably knows best as Glenn from The Walking Dead TV series, is fantastic as Derek, an average guy who has sacrificed and bested his ass for a company and to get some level of success and for what? Just to get spit on. Literally and figuratively. He's a perfect Joe Everyman and turns in a great performance that the audience can rally behind. His counterpart is Samara Weaving who plays a sassy, sexy and as we come to find out, tough and badass woman who is in a tough spot as the law firm won't help her with a two month extension on her loan and is planning to foreclose and take her home. After a brief spat with Derek they end up locked up together during the quarantine and reach a mutual breaking point and arm themselves with everything from a nail gun to an electric saw and hand tools.
The film plays out like The Raid meets The Belko Experiment (in the world of Office Space) as they fight their way up each floor of the office building and lands somewhere firmly between the two. It's not the action classic that The Raid is but I think it's a better gory office horror film that is far more relatable and engaging than The Belko Experiment. Yeun and Weaving play off each other brilliantly and Joe Lynch has never been more sure footed behind the camera. His direction is solid and slick in spots to add some flair to MAYHEM that raises it up a notch. The unsung hero of the film is Steve Moore who provides the score and it's a moody, at times catchy, and overall pulsing synth driven piece of music that lurks in the background until the film needs the punch that Moore's score adds to really get the audience's adrenalin pumping. While watching the film I was thinking to myself how much I liked the score and then I saw Steve Moore's name pop up in the credits and it all made sense. Moore is a member of the band Zombi who writes synth driven rock not unlike Goblin and it's always a treat to get a soundtrack from him.
I like MAYHEM a lot. It's straight forward, well written and executed, highly entertaining and something you can easily place yourself in. It's not perfect and there's plenty of things that require a suspension of disbelief but I had so much fun with it and think this is one of the hidden gems of genre film of 2017.
MAYHEM is available on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD HERE.