Thursday, January 28, 2016

UNCAGED (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Daniel Robbins
Written By: Mark Rapaport, Daniel Robbins
Starring: Gene Jones, Ben Getz, Kyle Kirkpatrick
Color/95 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: February 2, 2016

The Film
Jack has recently turned 18 and is plagued by a series of sleepwalking episodes which leave him waking up naked outside and having no memory of the night before. Jack straps a camera to himself to record the nights he can't remember and discovers that he is committing bloody murder after transforming into a beast at night. Jack's actions lead to the discovery of a nasty family legacy that he may have no escape from.

UNCAGED has an interesting idea of inheriting the family gene of transforming into a werewolf on your 18th birthday and having to deal with that awful reality but it does absolutely nothing interesting with it. The writing is atrocious and far too much time is spent on an unnecessary subplot involving a gangster and his wife. There's little response from the characters surrounding Jack about his revelation of transforming into a beast and his murderous rampage and those characters are the least interesting cookie cutter college stereotypes I've seen in a long time.

The worst part of UNCAGED, worse than bad writing and poorly constructed characters is that it's just plain boring. Actually, it isn't just plain boring, it's painfully boring. It drags and drags and drags and never, not once, is interesting or entertaining. There's no sense of horror, or suspense or even shock. The movie fails to get any sort of reaction out of the audience and the quicker this one fades from my memory the better off I'll be.

The Audio & Video
The DVD presentation is a solid one with a clean 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer. The movie has a cold blueish grey color palette and black levels are handled with grace. The 5.1 Dolby Digital surround mix is a bit weak overall. It's a decent mix but lacks any major punch or depth. There's no damage or background noise to distract the listener.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary with Cast and Crew

The Bottom Line
What's that toy from the early 90s that went around your ankle and you jumped over it repeatedly? Oh yeah, Skip It.

UNCAGED is available HERE

Friday, January 22, 2016

MARTYRS (2016)

Directed By: Kevin Goetz, Michael Goetz
Written By: Mark L. Smith
Starring: Trojan Bellisario, Caitlin Carmichael, Kate Burton
In Theaters and Digital HD: January 22, 2016
VOD Release Date: February 2, 2016

The original French production of Martyrs from 2008 was part of a wave of films from the country that bombarded audiences with extreme violence and a metric shit ton of gore. Along with Frontier(s) and Inside Martyrs helped launch France into the forefront of horror fandom. For better or worse. Frontier(s) was a passable horror film with a lot of half realized ideas it is worth a watch. Inside fares far worse being nothing more than gore for the sake of gore without any real thought put into a cohesive and believable story. This film panders to the lowest common denominator of gore hound. Martyrs on the other hand offered up something a bit more serious, deeper and certainly colder. It featured all of the shock and gore that the wave of French films had been known for but the film had depth and levels to it that it's blood soaked predecessors of a year earlier did not. Martyrs gained plenty of positive reviews and acclaim from fans and like plenty of films before and since, the remake was quickly planned. As immediate as the year it was originally released, the remake rights to Martyrs were being negotiated but it would take another seven years to have the film fully realized and produced.

2015 saw the quiet production and announcement of completion of the US remake, MARTYRS. With little fanfare or coverage the film was shot and awaited its release date, surprising fans with the news. Now that film is here it is finally time to see if the more than half decade of fuss and back and forth was worth it. And I can firmly sit here and answer that with a resounding - sort of. It was sort of worth it. I'm sure it will be worth it for the producers who stand to make money on the film as the budget had been cut numerous times over the years but that didn't affect the film. Audiences who are familiar with the original will find little new ground covered here despite it being a completely watchable and enjoyable film but new audiences have the most to gain as it will be something entirely new to them.

MARTYRS centers around a pair of girls who become best friends at a young age at a Catholic orphanage. Years later one of the girls shows up at a secluded house and opens fire on the family inside with a shotgun claiming she knows it was the father who had kidnapped and tortured her years prior. The girls quickly find out about the depraved experiments being run out of the house by a secret group and they're thrown headfirst into a living nightmare that will quite literally bring them to the brink of death.

The budget cuts this remake went through may have played in its favor as the film doesn't try to be bigger than it needed to. The secluded house setting and underground laboratory type setting are more than enough to carry the majority of the picture. It keeps the film a bit tighter and doesn't let it wander. The Goetz Brothers offer up rock solid direction that occasionally shows a bit of flair with the camera. Our two lead girls have a natural connection on screen giving the audience a true set of protagonists to care about.

I could spend plenty of time talking of the characters but the majority of people interested in this film whether as a remake of the original or totally on its own merits will be mostly showing up for the violence, which is plentiful. And not only plentiful but it is graphic, rarely shying away from showing your the dripping and the pulling and the cutting. Flesh may as well be pizza dough and blood the sauce because you see so much of it that it almost becomes second nature.

MARTYRS ended up surprising me that it wasn't more of a mess given how long it took to actually come to fruition. The movie is entertaining and competently made without being the cold day ruiner that the original ends up being.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

THE HORROR NETWORK (DVD Review) - Wild Eye Releasing

Directed By: Joseph Graham, Manuel Marin, Lee Matthews, Douglas Conner, Ignacio Martin Lerma, Brian Dorton
Written By: Douglas Conner, Brian Dorton, Joseph Graham, Manuel Marin
Starring: Macarena Gomez, Nick Frangione, Artem Mishin
Color and Black & White/97 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Relesae Date: October 27, 2015

The Film
THE HORROR NETWORK is an anthology film of five unrelated stories featuring different aspects of the horror genre.

3:00 AM
A short centered around a woman who has been receiving prank phone calls and investigates a noise she hears in the middle of the night. The suspenseful tone is what progresses this short forward but it is one that should have appeared toward the middle of the film and not what should start us off. Decent but a bit underwhelming in its execution and production.

A psyhcologically driven story about a psychiatrist and his patient who has night terrors about his mother and a shadow man along with the feeling of a split personality. A couple of light scares and a gross out moment. The acting is passable but heavy handed at times. I think this chapter would be better suited slowing things down after a balls to the wall segment.

The Quiet
The tale of a young deaf schoolgirl that is stalked after she steps off of her school bus that immediately thrusts the viewer and listener into a world of fear felt by the young girl as she runs for her life without the advantage of being able to hear her surroundings. It's none the less tragic in that we know the outcome is inevitable.

Merry Little Christmas
Plot is of little consequence when discussing this short. It is easily the most skillfully made, most graphic and best short of the film. The film features a simply disgusting and despicable scene of rape that will stay with the viewer as the rape scene in Irreversible does. It may not be as drawn out as Irreversible's but it is deplorable. It also features the best special effects and most memorable visuals that give Hellraiser's Cenobites a run for their money. I'd love to see a bigger budget full length version of this.

The Deviant One
Presented in black and white without dialogue but almost narrated by bible passages, this entry is a weak way to end, despite being an interesting and welcomed change of delivery. I don't care for the entry itself but it would fit much better in the middle of the film, letting the heavy hitter and visual feast that is Merry Little Christmas round out the film.

The Audio & Video
Wild Eye Releasing brings THE HORROR NETWORK into your home on DVD. Picture quality fluctuates a bit over the different productions as you'd expect but it always looks quite good. The anamorphic widescreen transfer has a clean and crisp image with strong colors and deep black levels. The audio is crystal clear and the foreign language entry has nicely translated and perfectly timed subtitles. There's no distortion, fluctuations or background noise.

The Extras
-Extended Cut of The Deviant One
-Image Gallery

The Bottom Line
I love a good anthology film and while THE HORROR NETWORK isn't a home run it is worth picking up for Merry Little Christmas short alone. The rest is a bonus.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

SINISTER 2 (Blu-ray Review) - Universal

Directed By: Ciaran Foy
Written By: Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Starring: James Ransone, Shannyn Sossamon
Color/98 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: January 12, 2015

The Film
Bughuul is back in this sequel to the 2012 hit film that featured a demon that had a fetish for forcing mass murder on a family while filming it on an 8mm camera. This time he focuses his attention on a pair of boys who have escaped their abusive father with their mother and are haunted by a group of ghost kids who try to fulfill the family's destiny with another one of the 8mm murder reels.

SINISTER 2 takes perhaps the most interesting part of the first film, the murder films, and shoves them down our throats like dicks in a gang bang. It gets to the point where you find yourself counting the number of films for entertainment because there is nothing else worth while on display and of course too much becomes too much too soon but at least they solved the plot hole that these silent films all had original scores in the first film as the films are synced up to a record player which is probably the most thought or effort put into any aspect of the film.

The film is competently made from a directing standpoint and the performances are passable but with a script so dreadful nobody will care. The characters are cookie cutter and make cliche decisions. There's sequences that simply don't add up, such as one of the brothers getting run over with an SUV at a violent speed and shaking it off in seconds but by the point that happens there's so many plot holes that who cares about one more.

SINISTER 2 plays out like the lamest Children Of The Corn sequel you could imagine, complete with children hiding in the corn. It takes the most interesting parts of the first film and turns them into the only moments with any real thought put into them but rendering them worthless at the same time. It is a completely phoned in and thoughtless piece of crap.

Rutabaga rutabaga save me rutabaga!

The Audio & Video
Universal delivers a stunning Blu-ray for the film. The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix is brilliant featuring a crystal clear mix across all channels. There's no background noise and no annoyances. The mix pounds through when it wants to and features a delicate mix when it needs to. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is gorgeous with inky black levels that have no sign of compression issues. Colors are natural with highly detailed surface detail. There's no waxiness to skin tones which appear fleshy and healthy.

The Extras
-Extended Kill Films (Blu-ray exclusive)
-Deleted Scenes
-The Making Of SINISTER 2
-Audio Commentary With Director Ciaran Foy

The Bottom Line
The movie is an absolute waste of time even for fans of the first. If they're trying to make a franchise out of SINISTER than they're going about it the wrong way. Skip this mess.

SINISTER 2 is available HERE

CLOSED Sinister 2 Blu-ray Giveaway

Universal is providing one (1) Blu-ray of SINISTER 2 for giveaway in conjunction with Celluloid Terror! There are only a couple rules and entering to win couldn't be easier so please keep reading!

Available on Digital HD January 12th and BD & DVD January 12th! 

The Rules
1. US residents only
2. That's it!

How To Enter

One winner will be picked at random on January 16th 2016 and I'll contact them at that time to notify them. Prizes ship directly from Universal.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

CONDEMNED (DVD Review) - Image/RLJ Entertainment

Directed By: Eli Morgan Gesner
Written By: Eli Morgan Gesner
Starring: Lydia Hearst, Ronen Rubinstein, Dylan Penn
Color/83 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: January 5, 2015

The Film
A well off teen girl escapes bickering parents to live with her aspiring musician boyfriend and his roommates in an abandoned Manhattan building filled with other squatters. The mix of chemicals from all of the derelicts calling the building home combine to destroy the minds of the residents and turn them into drooling, puss spewing maniacs.

In the vein of classics like Street Trash and Slime City, CONDEMNED is a seedy splatter horror film set in New York City. The abandoned building with its flickering lighting, dripping pipes, and graffiti covered walls serves as a properly disgusting and scary setting for the film to take place in. There's plenty of colorful characters on display like the rich runaway trust fund girl, the wannabe punk rock stars, the abusive pimp and his woman, the leftover superintendent from the 70s, the meth cooker, the Neo- Nazi and his gay sex slave, and the junkies. This is the all star lineup of fuck ups and that makes every character unlikeable and totally disposable.

There's a big plot hole at the end involving our main protagonist girl and the CDC where they've taken her into custody with the sickness that infected the building and have no idea who she is despite that she'd obviously be on recent missing persons reports. It's forgivable and easily overlooked but it is there. The film stands toe to toe with the messiest splatter cheese fests. Abscesses are popped, disgusting vomit is spewed, blood is sprayed and in various colors.

Acting is a bit over the top for as each character plays a mini caricature of their stereotype and it works for the tone of the film as the whole thing is a bit over the top in violence and excess. I feel there is a bit of an homage to Return Of Living Dead on display with the camera following the various chemicals mixing and dispersing into each apartment similar to how the infected zombie smoke flowed up through the pipes and into the sky forming acid rain in Dan O'Bannon's classic 1985 horror comedy. I appreciate how director Eli Morgan Gesner linked the various residents of the building through their disgusting pipes.

CONDEMNED isn't perfect by any stretch, there's a painfully out of place scene involving a couple of policemen smoking weed that could have been handled much better to keep the point and outcome of that scene the same. It is hamfisted and feels like it was part of another script. The effects on display aren't always the greatest and that all of the characters are unlikable, including our rich girl Tess that the film wants us to cheer for but we have no reason to, takes away our emotional connection to anybody involved in this situation. It's not perfect but the faults are points deducted on a passing grade and not a failure.

The Audio & Video
RLJ/Image deliver CONDEMNED on DVD in a nice looking anamorphic widescreen 1.78:1 transfer with dark and inky black levels and solid detail for a standard dvd. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio features a nice mix job. The soundtrack and dialogue are complimentary while there's no background noise or audible hiccups.

The Extras
-Cast Interviews
-Script Readings
-42nd Street Mode w/ Live Audience Commentary
-"Entertainment Tonight Canada" on set interview with Dylan Penn

The Bottom Line
CONDEMNED is flawed but fun and deserves an audience. It is a nice way to start off the 2016 horror year and hopefully it gains some attention.

CONDEMNED is available HERE

Monday, January 4, 2016

THE GREEN INFERNO (Blu-ray Review) - Universal

Chile, USA/2013
Directed By: Eli Roth
Written By: Guillermo Amoedo, Eli Roth
Starring: Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Aaron Burns
Color/101 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: January 12, 2016

The Film
A group of college students determined to protect the rainforest fly to Peru and crash land in the Amazon jungle where they are captured by a tribe of cannibals and suffer brutal and grotesque acts of savagery while their very existence becomes a fight to survive.

I'm a huge fan of the Italian cannibal films that were released in the 70s and 80s from Umberto Lenzi's Man From Deep River that started it all to the infamous classic Cannibal Holocaust from director Ruggero Deodato. Eli Roth has made it known that's he's a big fan of these films and wanted to make his own film to pay homage to them with THE GREEN INFERNO.

I'm watching this film again to bring you a review and I hope you appreciate it because this movie is pure ass. Where even the lowest form of the Italian cannibal films succeed at only being an exploitation film with graphic imagery and questionable agendas at least they succeeded at being sleazy entertainment. THE GREEN INFERNO isn't entertaining and it is filled with obnoxious unlikeable characters and wooden acting.

Many of the big scare and gross out moments of the film are filled with awful looking CGI that not only takes the viewer out of the moment but can actually have you laughing at the screen when you should be shocked and deplored - one look at the "ant" scene will show you exactly what I mean.

The film is a mess from start to finish with moments of comedy sprinkled throughout that have no place being there. Any message that Roth wanted to convey is completely lost. I doubt there was ever one to begin with.

I'm done talking about THE GREEN INFERNO. I endured it a second time for this review and that will be the last time I waste my time on it.

The Audio & Video
The Blu-ray from Universal features a stunning full HD 1080p transfer in the film's original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant and jump off the screen from the lush greens to the blood reds and various color paints used on the native's faces and bodies. Skin tones are fleshy and natural with no signs of waxiness. There's excellent detail level in both surfaces and textures, from the barks of trees to facial hair and threads of cloth. A DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix handles the English audio with great success. The mix is brilliant as background noises such as wild birds and animals are noticeable without taking away from the more primary channels of dialogue and score. There's not a single bit of damage or background noise evident in the crystal clear track. You couldn't ask for a nicer A/V presentation of the film.

The Extras
Where Universal killed it with the A/V, they totally dropped the ball on special features including only a audio commentary track and a still gallery. A featurette on shooting in the jungle, the history of cannibal films and where THE GREEN INFERNO fits in, or cast and crew interviews would have been a welcomed addition to really round out the disc.

The Bottom Line
If you're a lover of modern gore movies and don't care about decent writing, acting or watching a good movie in general you may find something to enjoy here. This is shock value for the sake of shock value and doesn't even entertain on the lowest levels.


CLOSED - Green Inferno Blu-ray Giveaway

Universal is providing one (1) Blu-ray of THE GREEN INFERNO for giveaway in conjunction with Celluloid Terror! There are only a couple rules and entering to win couldn't be easier so please keep reading!

Available on Digital HD January 5th and BD & DVD January 5th! 

The Rules
1. US residents only
2. That's it!

How To Enter

One winner will be picked at random on January 12th 2016 and I'll contact them at that time to notify them. Prizes ship directly from Universal.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

WRECKER (DVD Review) - XLRator Media

Directed By: Micheal Bafaro
Written By: Micheal Bafaro
Starring: Anna Hutchison, Andrea Whitburn, Jennifer Koenig
Color/83 Minutes/Not Rated
Region 1
Release Date: January 5, 2016

The Film
Emily and Lesley are on a road trip to party with some friends. The girls quickly become victim of a psychotic tow truck driver who begins playing deadly cat and mouse games with the girls at high speeds and life or death stakes.

I'll be blunt and to the point to save you some time - If you've seen Stephen Spielberg's Duel you've seen this movie done much much better. If you haven't seen Duel go see it. There's nothing here that you won't get with better filmmaking, actual tension and suspense and actors that aren't cliched bimbos.

WRECKER pulls together a full movie that makes sense and that's where the praise really ends. It's seems to be on a counter that every 5 minutes something has to happen but it's never exciting and is telegraphed. Every big moment in the movie is predictable and foreshadowed like the viewers are idiots and can't follow along without our hand being held. The climax is filled with clunky CGI that looks terrible.

The Audio & Video
XLRator Media delivers WRECKER on DVD with a standard release. The 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio is maintained and looks good when the movie looks good. There's times the camerawork in the movie simply doesn't look good and there's nothing the transfer on the DVD could do about that. The 5.1 Dolby Digital has a great mix and is very crisp and clear. Levels are balanced and stable so there's no need to reach for the remote for fluctuating volume.

The Extras
A trailer is the lone extra

The Bottom Line
WRECKER is a movie that has previously been made numerous times and in much better quality. If you're a die hard for these types of highway terror movies you may want to check it out otherwise skip it.

WRECKER is available HERE

Friday, January 1, 2016

THE LAST HORROR FILM (Blu-ray Review) - Troma

Directed By: David Winters
Written By: Judd Hamilton, David Winters, Tom Klassen
Starring: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Judd Hamilton
Color/87 Minutes/Not Rated
Region FREE
Release Date: December 15, 2015

The Film
Vinny Durand (Joe Spinell) is a cab driver with dreams of being a big time Hollywood director working with his favorite actress Jana Bates (Caroline Munro). Vinny decides the perfect time to make this happen is to follow Jana to the Cannes Film Festival and begins stalking her while her entourage begins turning up dead.

Spinell and Munro team just two short years after they paired up for one of my personal favorites, the classic Maniac and are brilliant here again. Joe Spinell portrays the delusional and increasingly psychotic Vinny Durand with grace, never coming on too strong to the audience or hamming it up. The film could have very easily entered cheesy territory which is not at all the tone that this film was going for but Spinell was a world class talent and brought that to the table to handle Durand's personality quirks.

Former Bond girl Caroline Munro can't be overlooked either and she's as gorgeous as ever as the starlet Durand longs to work with. Munro plays a great damsel in distress type character and is a perfect character to root for and care about - the perfect counterpart to Spinell.

THE LAST HORROR FILM was shot guerrilla style with no permits during the 1981 Cannes Film Festival and that raw, organic energy can be felt seeping through each and every scene. This isn't something filmmakers could easily get away with today and likely will never be duplicated. It's fascinating to watch director David Winters work through the crowds of film fans, critics and stars to form a genuinely disturbing and twisted horror film that packs in some fantastic shots, a good bit of violence and a couple of surprises.

I already have a deep love and appreciation for THE LAST HORROR FILM and what they managed to create while breaking all of the rules and somehow the film still gets better with each viewing. My feelings on the film were echoed by Caroline Munro as she was genuinely excited to chat about it with me at a convention in spring 2015 where she mentioned it was one of her favorite films she's been a part of and is proud of how it turned out. She's a class act and for such an oddly off the wall and twisted exploitation film it can still manage to be defined as classy.

The Audio & Video
Troma dishes out a quality Blu-ray release that does the film justice. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen transfer has good detail and color reproduction. There's a bit of speckling and light scratches showing that the source material wasn't overly cleaned up but it fits the tone and style of the film to have a bit of grit left over. There's no digital noise or excessive DNR so skin tones still look healthy and natural. The English HD mono audio sounds very good. There is some noticeable background crackling in the audio but it's not distracting and is easily ignored. Otherwise the audio sounds nice and has quality mix and steady levels.

The Extras
-Audio Commentary
-Mr. Robbie short film - the unfinished follow up to Maniac starring Joe Spinell
-New Intro by Lloyd Kaufman
-Highlights of the 2015 Tromadance Film Festival
-A Full Episode of Kabukiman's Cocktail Corner
-The Return Of Dolphin Man

The Bottom Line
I was beyond excited to see that the vastly overlooked movie was getting a Blu-ray release and that it turned out to be a quality presentation. THE LAST HORROR FILM is not only worth your time and money but your collection is suffering without it.