Monday, November 28, 2011

Ken Russell 1927-2011

I'm going to keep this short and sweet because his filmography, career and legacy speak for itself. If you haven't familiarized yourself with any of his work you're cheating yourself of one of cinema's finest.

When a film maker as talented and important as Ken Russell passes it cannot go with mention. Had he never made another movie other than The Devils he would have had an important career that would be worth remembering. The Devils is quite simply a perfect film and is one hell of an experience (no pun intended). I'm disappointed to say that I've barely scratched the surface of his filmography but that doesn't take away the sadness I know the film word is feeling. If the world of movies was filled with more Ken Russells the real world might not be such a terrible place.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

INTRUDER Blu-Ray Review

As the Walnut Lake Supermarket prepares to close for the night a man enters the store and begins to torment and attack cashier Jennifer. After the entire night crew gets involved in the situation and the bumbling cops don't get anything done, the employees of the store can finally start marking down the entire store for clearance as the owners have announced that they'll be selling the store. It is soon after that the bodies start dropping and the blood starts flowing.

By the time INTRUDER was released in 1989 the slasher film that created such a buzz and had divided audiences and critics had become bland and mundane. We had seen it all and we knew the formula. These movies were cheaply made and usually profitable despite whatever flaws each individual film may have. INTRUDER doesn't totally fall victim to it's time. The setting is a rather unique and interesting one for a slasher film, and the blood and gore that made the genre popular is abundant and handled well by KNB EFX Group. Sadly the gratuitous nudity that so brazenly graced the silver screen in the 80s is nowhere to be found here. Director Scott Spiegel (best known for his work on Evil Dead 1 and 2 and other Sam Raimi films) doesn't let the film get overly hokey even with plenty of cliches and one liners placed around the set. The reveal of the killer isn't going to blow your mind with life altering meaning but it serves the purpose of the movie just fine. I have seen this movie a number of times on different formats but this is by far the best time I've had with it. I'd never been much of a fan of the film but my opinion may be shifting.

Synapse Films delivers the 2 disc Blu-Ray & DVD combo of INTRUDER with a brand new 2K digital restoration of the original Director's Cut. To put it simply it has never looked better on home video and likely never will. The print and transfer are clean with a nice natural film look to it. Very minor speckling during the opening credits were the only debris I noticed during the film's 88 minute run time. Flesh tones are recreated beautifully and textures are nice. Black levels are pretty deep and don't block up. Colors of items on the market shelves pop well, and the reds from blood are rich and vibrant while not looking unnatural. The film is presented with DTS 2.0 audio which is clear and free of any interference. A perfectly serviceable audio track for this movie.

Extra features on the Blu-Ray include:
-Slashed Prices: The Making Of INTRUDER (HD) This is a nice retrospective featurette from much of the cast including Bruce Campbell. They discuss everything from the Super 8 version of the movie made a decade before the feature length all the way up to filming and production.
- Audio Commentary with writer/director Scott Spiegel and Producer Lawrence Bender
- Extended "Murder" Sequences from the original workprint
- The Slashing of INTRUDER - A short interview with film maker Vincent Pereira (HD)
- Outtakes from the lost Super 8 short film NIGHT CREW
- Original Audition Footage
- Still Gallery
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Night Crew Trailer

Synapse Films has done an excellent job with the presentation of this movie. From the beautiful transfer to the lineup of special features (not to mention NOT SPOILING THE MOVIE ON THE BACK COVER LIKE THE OLD DVD VERSION!) they've proved again that they understand how to present cult films on the Blu-Ray format. Synapse is even offering a DVD-R of the workprint version of the film limited to 500 hand numbered pieces if you order directly from their website. That is worth jumping on to see a different cut of the film and for how limited it is!

You can feel good about picking up this release

Film - 7.5/10
Video - 8.5/10
Audio - 8/10
Extras - 8/10
Overall - 8/10

Syngenor (1990)

The late 80s and early 90s were a time of trying to figure out what the fuck was going on with horror and Sci-Fi. The slasher run had been crap for a while and even the Alien rip offs were abundant by 1990. Syngenor will get lumped into the Alien ripoff category. The film revolves around a Classified project about a SYNtheszied GENetic ORganism. This Syngenor is a super soldier built to fight the next world war in the desert climates of the Middle East. After some shady doings, one of the prototypes breaks loose and all hell breaks loose. The head of the operation Carter Brown(David Gale of Re-Animator), loses his shit and decides everybody dying would be the best option. The building becomes a war zone with cyborgs and people fighting for survival, and for an end to the project and total destruction to the Syngenors.

Syngenor is directed by George Elanjian Jr. who did this film and a few TV series and documentaries. His lack of storytelling in feature films is evident as the entire run time of over 100 minutes is jumpy. Characters are never fully developed and neither is the story except in a very bare bones way. We find out what can kill the cyborgs early on but it is hardly brought into play in the story until the very end. The movie is best viewed as a shitty B-movie than anything serious. It does work on the level of a bad, over the top B-movie to a certain extent. The story sucks, but some of the characters, especially David Gale of Re-Animator fame is fucking insane in the best possible way. He would die from complications in heart surgery a short time after this film was released but he made a memorable impression here. He certainly made better, but aside from the classic H.P. Lovecraft adaptation I don't know if he made a more memorable role than in Syngenor. The charm of this movie comes in just how shitty is.

This is a so-bad-its-good movie through and through. I found out it is a sequel just before starting it and it made little difference. There is enough setup for this to be a standalone movie and plenty of insanity and ridiculousness to carry anyone that can appreciate such things through to the end. The monster design is actually pretty decent (you'll be able to tell the borrowed look from movies such as Alien and Creature From The Black Lagoon without any trouble) and the effects aren't bad. The movie on a whole is just lacking. It isn't hammy enough to be fun, it isn't suspenseful enough for the horror, it isn't smart enough for the Sci-Fi.

David Gale is really the reason to watch because he is seriously out of his mind in this movie. Other than him it is messy, and underwhelming with entertaining bits sprinkled throughout.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lone Wolf And Cub: Sword Of Vengeance (1972)

While I'm still on my hiatus from horror films after last month's barrage I'm back to you all of you to bring you my first review since and it is for a movie I just watched for the first time.

The Lone Wolf And Cub series was based off a successful Manga series, which I've never read and don't know much about aside from basic plot details which you can easily find so I won't bother you with all of that right now. The first entry in the film series is Sword Of Vengeance. It follows Ogami Itto, a former executioner for the Shogun. He was set up and betrayed leaving his wife dead. Their infant son was left to choose his own fate by Itto, join his mother or follow his father in avenging her death. The boy chose his father. So we have a Samurai who is possibly the best swordsman in Japan seeking vengeance with a baby in tow. There are 6 films in the series, not counting Shogun Assassin which is an edit of the first 2 in the series into one movie, so there is plenty of time to hash out the future of the father and son.

Sword Of Vengeance, to put it simply, is great. The direction is extremely stylish, especially during the fight scenes, which have fantastic choreography. Their is such a tight artistic vision that raises it above most bloody revenge films. Not that it is short on the blood, it flows... and sprays freely. Limbs are hacked off, heads roll... there is no shortage of violence and excellent swordplay. The acting is good across the board and the baby son is adorable. There is also a lot of breast feeding, human and animal. I don't know if I've ever seen it happen as much as it did here. The first time it happens is weird as hell too.

Moving on from the boobs, this movie really is very cool and it has me ready to steamroll through the rest of the series but I must pace myself to avoid burning out on them.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October Horror Challenge Day 31 - The Wrap Up

Now that it is officially November and all we have to look forward to for a while is dinners with family we are obligated to talk to once a year, annoyingly long lines anywhere you go and crappy weather I suppose the October Horror Challenge is over. The last day for me was mostly filled with helping out my little cousins get ready to trick or treat and then handing out candy. The smaller of the 2 boys is 6 years old and Dracula was on TV while we were getting stuff ready and he was mesmerized, seeing what he was for Halloween on screen almost exactly (he was a "classic vampire"). During the commercial breaks they showed ads for Creature From The Black Lagoon and Frankenstein. He immediately wanted to know all about them. Then Hammer's version of The Mummy came on and he was again stunned at what he was seeing. He couldn't get enough. I don't know if a horror head was born yesterday but there is no better time than October 31st for that to happen.

The movies I actually watched were Trick 'R Treat and Halloween. I'm sure you all know plenty about Halloween so I won't say too much about it other than it is my 2nd favorite movie and I love the shit out of it. Trick 'R Treat gets a little more attention every year after sitting on the shelf for far too long because the studio couldn't get it's collective head of it's ass and release it. It is a great anthology film with a few different stories intertwining together about the spirit and tradition of Halloween. Everything about this movie is wonderful and I hope you'll check it out if you haven't. It has become a tradition to watch it on the 30th or 31st.

Halloween - 10/10
Trick 'R Treat - 9.5/10

The Wrap Up:
This challenge was a big mixed bag. Some good, some bad. The movies and life in general. The movies helped me escape the endless drama though, and the nights I got to spend watching with friends were great. This is my third year doing this challenge along with DVDTalk and I'm ready for next year... well not really but I know I will be soon. Thanks to anyone that read the blog over the course of the month especially those that read it daily. And a big thanks to anyone that liked CT on Facebook. Hopefully some cool bigger stuff will be happening as I've been wanting to do for a while, in the near future. Now on to some fun stuff from the challenge...

The Stats:
Entries- 108 (100 feature films, 4 tv (120 minutes compiled), 1 short film (90 minutes compiled), 3 wild cards) (previous best was 107)

First Time Viewings (Feature Films) - 50 of 100 feature films = 50%

Average Rating /10 (Feature Films) - 6.76

Favorite 1st Time Viewings - [REC]2, Sledgehammer, The Deadly Spawn, Swamphead

Worst Movie - Slaughtered Vomit Dolls (you already knew that)

Biggest Surprise - Swamphead (I expected to like it, but not that much)

Biggest Disappointment - Halloween 6 producer's cut

Random Thought To Sum It Up - The whole Vomit Gore genre can go fuck itself and Kevin Smith can join them.