BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE LAWNMOWER MAN

By Nick Durham

It’s been a while since I’d seen The Lawnmower Man, actually it’s been quite a long time. So long in fact that I remember more of the video game (yes there was a video game tie-in to the film) than I do the actual film. In fact, I remember the promotional material for the film more than I do the actual movie itself. I distinctly remember trailers and TV spots that had a tagline that was something similar to “from the mind of Stephen King” or something to that effect. Well, turns out there was a short story from King called The Lawnmower Man, but that’s pretty much where the similarities between prose and film come to an end. In fact, King even sued New Line Cinema over attaching his name to the movie because he knew this had practically absolutely nothing to do with his short story, and actually went back and forth with the studio in court over it before they finally removed his name. Off-screen drama aside, the film has made it’s Blu-ray debut (here in the States anyway) thanks to Scream Factory, so let’s dive on in.

Released in 1992, The Lawnmower Man revolves around scientist Dr. Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) who uses virtual reality to increase the intelligence of chimpanzees. The company Angelo works for (which is actually funded by “The Shop”, which Stephen King lovers will instantly recognize) seeks to use his VR work for military purposes, whereas Angelo wants to help the world. Angelo manages to convince simpleton greens keeper Jobe (Jeff Fahey) to be his human subject in an effort to increase his intelligence, and things appear to be going well…but of course that doesn’t last long. Soon enough, Jobe has gained all kinds of crazy abilities from reading minds to manipulating objects, and things escalate from there, leading to a virtual reality showdown between Jobe and Angelo courtesy of early 90s CG effects which were weird looking then, and are now just flat out hilarious to look at.

While The Lawnmower Man means well in the department of wanting to deliver some genuine thrills, the whole film feels haphazardly slapped together. Not to mention the fact that this is another case of smart people (namely Angelo) doing pretty damn stupid things and being surprised at the end results of which. Despite all that though, 25 years later the film is still somewhat fun, even in spite of itself. Brosnan and Fahey are actually pretty good, and horror stalwarts Geoffrey Lewis and Near Dark hottie Jenny Wright are here in supporting roles as well.

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Lawnmower Man is packed to the brim with extras, including two versions of the film: the theatrical cut, and the 140 plus minute director’s cut; both of which have been remastered in 4K. There’s a commentary track on both cuts featuring director Brett Leonard, as well as new interviews featuring Leonard, Jeff Fahey, and more of the film’s crew. There’s a bunch of deleted scenes, trailers, TV spots, conceptual sketches and artwork, and more besides as well. Scream Factory really poured a lot into this release, which is a very good thing for fans of this flick. For those of you that have never enjoyed this film though, there’s nothing here that’s going to win you over.

All in all, Scream Factory’s release of The Lawnmower Man is a must own for fans of the film to say it lightly. As for the quality of the film itself, that’s pretty debatable. I know it’s a piece of shit and I enjoy it regardless, and chances are I’m not the only one that feels that way. If you’ve never seen it before, check it out for some 90s cheese and marvel at Pierce Brosnan’s earing if nothing else.

Rating: 3/5

 

FILM REVIEW: BEYOND THE VALLEY OF BELIEF

By Amy Mead

Beyond the Valley of Belief

Beyond The Valley Of Belief: Real or Unreal Vol. 1


Directed by Brian Papandrea

Written by Brain Papandrea, Nathan Rumler and Brian Kilby

Starring Brian Papandrea, Brian Kilby, Nathan Rumler, Sadie Tate, James Bell and Adam Lorenz


Rock Bottom Video has got to be one of my favorite indie production companies around right now. Having been a huge fan of their other films, Fangboner, and the Big F, I was very pleased to find out that The Rock Bottom Video boys were  back at it with yet another contribution to the indie film world. And what a contribution it is.

Their latest effort, BEYOND THE VALLEY OF BELIEF: Real or Unreal Vol. 1, is a highly entertaining parody of the old television series Beyond Belief: Fact of Fiction. For those of you that don’t know, the show ran from 1997-2002 and would present the audience with a series of  weird, outlandish, and creepy tales that the viewer would try to determine if they were true or false. The show host, Jonathan Frakes, would then do a reveal at the end of each episode.

What the gang over at Rock Bottom Videos have given us with Beyond the Valley of Belief is something similar in that it follows the format in that respect. But that is where any similarities end. The content presented is unlike anything you’d ever see on the actual show. And it is fucking hilarious.

Our host, Jonathan Fritz (Brian Papandrea) presents us with five stories that include a scarecrow man, haunted bicycles, possessed toys, vampire cannibals, farting ghosts, and an evil witch, while simultaneously losing his battle with alcoholism and continued sobriety in a special live Halloween episode.

There are five segments, complete with commercials, and while not all of them are not all equally entertaining, they are all extremely amusing. I found it to be quite a challenge  to stop laughing,especially at the commercials (which are sure to delight fans of their other films). And some of the stories had me rolling. My stomach hurt after watching this film. 

Director Brain Papandrea has done a great job with the films micro-budget. The film seems to carry itself along on its own momentum, almost seamlessly. And as usual, Brian Kilby kills it with the camera work and lighting. 

Starring the usual cast of Rock Bottoms other productions, the acting in this film was beyond hilarious. Brain Papandrea, Brian Kilby, Nathan Rumler and Sadie Tate are all back in new roles, and they are nothing short of fantastic in them. That being said, I have to say the stand out performance here for me is Brian Papandrea. His portrayal as a witch is one of the greatest things I have ever seen in an indie film. 

I like a little comedy mixed in with my horror and I truly cannot recommend this film enough. It’s campy, fun, and even a little bit bloody. Grab yourself a copy and see for yourself. And while you’re at it, check out the other films they have to offer. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

 

BLU-RAY REVIEW: EVIL ED

By Nick Durham

1995’s Evil Ed is one of my favorite foreign horror films of the 90’s just based on the fact that it’s so damn ridiculous that if you’ve never seen it, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Making its way to our shores a few years after its initial release, Evil Ed is a Swedish horror/comedy hybrid that satires the harsh censoring that films were subjected to in Sweden from 1911 to 1996. Knowing this information helps going into Evil Ed, as it becomes much easier to appreciate what the filmmakers were going for here in terms of the sheer over the top carnage and screwball hilarity that follows.

The story of Evil Ed (not to be confused with Evil Ed from Fright Night) follows relatively conservative film editor Ed, who gets charged with cutting and editing the Loose Limbs slasher film series. After going through numerous scenes and cuts that feature copious amounts of blood, gore, dismemberment, nudity, and the voice of the great Bill Moseley (who is a hoot whenever his voice is overheard), Ed begins to slowly lose his mind. Eventually Ed goes on an ultra gory rampage, culminating in a showdown with film geek Nick along with the cops too. In between all that is plenty of zaniness, slapstickery, and plain old bloody fuckery to boot.

While Evil Ed on its surface may not appear to be anything too special, deep down this film is a gem. It’s well shot, well-directed, and the scenes of carnage and nastiness are well done as well, with some pretty good effects and makeup too. The English dubbing is hilarious to listen to, and only makes the film more enjoyable in my opinion. Not to mention the fact that the few times Bill Moseley’s voice shows up in scenes wherein Ed is working are worth the price of admission here alone. Even though the film kind of begins to fall apart in the beginning of its third act, Evil Ed is still a totally enjoyable horror hoot regardless.

Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of Evil Ed, dubbed the “Special ED-ition”, is a wonderful limited edition set. The first two discs of the set are the Blu-ray and DVD versions of the new 99-minute cut of the film, and features an introduction by writer/director Anders Jacobsson and editor Doc. There’s a long featurette that details the making of the film and the trials and tribulations associated with making a splatter film in a film industry that was ruled by censors, which is very interesting to watch. There’s also retrospectives on the careers of the filmmakers pre and post-Evil Ed; as well as deleted scenes, trailers, and a video on how this new cut of the film was assembled. The third disc of this set is a Blu-ray featuring the oringal 93-minute cut of the film, as well as a three-plus hour long documentary on the making of the film which is ridiculously in-depth and informative. This set is rounded out by the typical collectible booklet featuring new writings on the legacy of the film which have become standard issue for Arrow’s bigger-ticket Blu-ray sets as well. 

It goes without saying that Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Evil Ed is most definitely worth picking up. The film itself isn’t for everyone to be sure, but Arrow’s Blu-ray set is flat out wonderful. If you’re a fan of the film, it goes without saying that you should definitely pick this up, and if you’ve never seen Evil Ed before, there’s no better time to do so than now.

Rating: 4/5

 

FILM REVIEW: ALIEN COVENANT

By Nick Durham

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE IS FULL OF SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM YET, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER.

Ridley Scott’s follow up to 2012’s mostly maligned Alien prequel Prometheus has finally been unleashed in the form of Alien: Covenant, and goddamn it I finally got around to seeing it. Before I get to my thoughts on the film, I just want to express that it feels good to finally see the Xenomorphs back on the big screen slaughtering people after 20 years since the last real installment of the franchise (no, I don’t count the Alien VS Predator abortions), so no matter how the film would end up turning out, at least I had that little nugget to tide myself over with. With that in mind, let’s dive right in and see if Ridley Scott made a gem of a film here, or if he pissed all over his own legacy, which I was very fearful of him doing in the past.

Alien: Covenant picks up about a decade or so after Prometheus ended with a ship called Covenant that features a terraforming crew and colonists aboard. We’re introduced to a synthetic named Walter (Michael Fassbender with an American accent), and after a tragic accident befalls the ship, we’re introduced to the surviving crew, including Daniels (Katherine Waterston), pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), religious acting captain Christopher (Billy Crudup), and more. On their way to a habitable planet to begin new lives, the crew comes to realize that there is a never-before known planet in closer proximity that appears to be able to sustain human life. Upon investigating it they find unhinged synthetic David (Fassbender again), the only survivor of the Prometheus. As Daniels and co. begin to discover what horrific secrets lay in wait in this world, they also discover that David has been quite busy with some experiments; namely creating the Xenomorphs.

That revelation in itself is probably what my own personal biggest problem is with Alien: Covenant. The fact that the Xenomorphs aren’t an evolutionary step of a parasitic alien being, but rather are a race of creatures that through trial and error are engineered by David. If you’ve heard of people complaining that this is how Ridley Scott messes with the lore of the series, this is what they’re mainly talking about. This revelation raises so many questions about what we’ve been led to believe that it’s honestly kind of hard to digest. It’s something that I myself have wavered with trying not to make a big deal about, but part of me wants to shit all over this movie just because of that alone. Looking back on it, I honestly try not to think too much about this revelation, and instead focus on the rest of the film, which is actually pretty good.

First and foremost, Alien: Covenant is much more enjoyable than Prometheus was. The characters here are written better, even if a few of them suffer from the syndrome of being really smart yet do some really stupid things that lead to their gory deaths. And speaking of which, there are some balls-to-the-wall gore-drenched moments that will make any fan of the franchise stand up and cheer. The Xenomorphs, what little we see of them, are brilliant looking; even when CGI effects take over for them. The other creature effects are pretty good too, and are designed well enough that it would probably make H.R. Giger proud.

From a technical standpoint, Alien: Covenant is gorgeously shot, as it should be since this is a Ridley Scott film. Even with his worst directorial efforts, Scott’s films are sights to behold, and this film is no different. There’s a great deal of suspense and tension and dread permeating throughout the film, which is a massive plus and evokes the original film in terms of this as well. The acting is pretty good as well, and Fassbender is absolutely fucking dynamite in his dual role. The only saving grace for David being responsible for the creation of the Xenomorphs is that this practically guarantees Fassbender will be around for a while, and I’m very, very okay with that. Katherine Waterston is good as well as the heroic Daniels, although the Ripley-esque haircut is a little much. Danny McBride does pretty well being cast against type as our cowboy-hat wearing pilot, and the rest of the cast is alright as well. The ending stinger though you will see coming a mile away, which is fairly disappointing, meaning the whole film kind of ends on a bit of a whimper.

In closing, Alien: Covenant is a better film than Prometheus, and probably the best Alien film in the franchise since Aliens. Granted that isn’t saying too much when compared to Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, but you get the point. If for some reason you haven’t seen the film yet and continued to read this after the spoiler warning, I still recommend seeing it to form your own opinion, and judge for yourself if Ridley Scott redeemed himself for Prometheus or continued to piss on his own legacy. Either way, it looks like we’re getting more films in the series one way or another, so maybe the best (or the worst) is yet to come.

Rating: 3.5/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: BRAIN DAMAGE

By Nick Durham

Frank Henenlotter has been one of my favorite directors seemingly forever now, and as much as I love his schlock classics Basket Case and FrankenhookerBrain Damage has always had a very special place in my heart. A gory allegory of drug addiction that was notoriously edited upon its original 1988 release, the film managed to gain a small following throughout the years, eventually leading to a fully uncut release and finding a new generation of fans. Arrow Video has given the film the long awaited Blu-ray treatment, and it’s certainly a sight to behold to say the least.

The story of Brain Damage revolves around Brian (Rick Herbst) who becomes the newest host for a brain eating parasite named Elmer (or Aylmer, voiced by the recently departed TV horror host John Zacherle). Elmer injects Brian with an LSD-esque fluid that brings him massive amounts of euphoria, while in return Brian supplies Elmer with a steady stream of victims. This causes Brian to become withdrawn from his girlfriend and brother in the process, and eventually leads to some horrific and disastrous results for everyone involved. 

While Brain Damage‘s allegorical themes are easy to point out, the film offers its fair share of over the top comedic moments as well. Combined with some wonderful practical effects work and some really, really gnarly gore scenes, Brain Damage is an absolute blast. Two of the film’s most infamous scenes: the blowjob surprise and the brain-pulling scene, remain hilariously horrific and startlingly iconic to this day. The acting itself, outside of Rick Herbst as Rick and the wonderful John Zacherle as Elmer, is fairly pedestrian to be honest, but you’re not watching a Frank Henenlotter movie for the acting, so this isn’t too big a deal. That being said, there’s a surprising moment of poignancy in the film, namely when Brian realizes what he’s gotten himself into and attempts to “quit” Elmer cold turkey in a run down motel room as Elmer looks on, awaiting Brian to come crawling back when he can’t take the withdrawal any longer. As someone who has had their own addiction issues, I can say that this scene strikes a chord with me, and I honestly think this may be the most well-acted scene that Frank Henenlotter has ever crafted in his whole career. Were it not for Elmer sitting on a sink taunting Brian, you wouldn’t know this scene took place in a horror splatter film.

Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of Brain Damage improves on Synapse Films’ out of print DVD release from 2007, featuring a pretty good transfer. There’s a brand new commentary track from Henenlotter, as well as a new documentary on the film featuring a slew of interviews with Rick Herbst and various members of the film’s production. There’s a featurette starring FX artist and Elmer creator Gabe Bartalos, as well as other features detailing the film’s gory visual effects. There’s even more included here, including revisiting the film’s shooting locations, an interview with superfan Adam Skinner, a recorded Q&A session from 2016, and an animated short that includes John Zacharle’s final performance. There’s an assortment of even more features packed into this set as well; all of which makes this an absolute must own.

All in all, Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of Brain Damage is a must have. Like many of their best releases, this is of course a limited edition set, so you’d better get your hands on it while you still can. Whether you’re a long time fan of the film or have only heard about it through word of mouth and want to see what the fuss is about, now is your best time to set your sights on this flick.

Rating: 5/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: EXTERMINATOR 2

By Nick Durham

1980’s The Exterminator is a wonderful, low-budget exercise in exploitation/revenge cinema, and deserves to be discovered (or re-discovered) by one and all based on these merits. Its 1984 sequel though…ugh. Produced by the lovable shlock studio Cannon, Exterminator 2 somehow manages to be both awful and incredibly fascinating; mainly because of the production drama that surrounded it. Feeling cheaper in terms of quality and overall design, Exterminator 2 somehow still manages to be enjoyable in spite of itself, even though the whole thing is a total mess. Scream Factory has given the film a Blu-ray release, which goes along nicely to Synape’s Blu-ray release of the original film a few years back.

Exterminator 2 picks up some time after the events of the first film, with our war vet turned vigilante John Eastland (Robert Ginty) still at large dispatching the criminal scum of New York City. This in itself is odd considering his identity was leaked in the first film and he was even targeted by the CIA, but I digress. This time around Eastland has a dancer girlfriend named Caroline (Deborah Geffner) and another old war buddy named Be Gee (Frankie Faison) that drives a garbage truck. Eastland ends up being targeted by a gang led by X (Mario Van Peebles) after Eastland torches his brother, and the following results are pretty damn predictable. By the time it’s all said and done, Eastland is taking down the gang, culminating in a final showdown with X.

Though the film’s central plot is extremely formulaic and definitely predictable, Exterminator 2 ends up being kind of fun. That being said, it can’t hold a candle to the original film in terms of overall quality, so this sequel instead tries to up the ante on the graphic violence. Doing this is what began a whole series of drama behind the scenes during the production of the film, as Exterminator 2 was heavily edited for its violent content. To make matters worse, the film was plagued with re-shoots, re-edits, and even firing the director at one point as well. Star Robert Ginty wasn’t happy with the film, and scenes of Eastland taking down baddies with his flamethrower are performed by Ginty’s stunt double wearing a fire proof mask. The fact this film was cut to shit is very apparent upon viewing it, as it’s a largely uneven mess from beginning to end. Even though the film is fairly entertaining for an 80s exploitation/revenge flick, it flows like utter hell.

Scream Factory managed to give Exterminator 2 a pretty good video transfer and a few special features, chief among them is a commentary track from director Mark Buntzman and actor Mario Van Peebles. It is insightful enough and they even discuss the film’s troubled production. There’s also a handful of TV and radio spots as well, but sadly there’s no deleted/alternate scenes anywhere to be found. This isn’t surprising considering there’s never been a fully uncut version of the film that’s been officially released, but fans of the franchise would have absolutely loved to have something here. Maybe one day down the road we’ll get some kind of ultimate cut of the film, but I’d say there’s probably little to no chance of that ever happening sadly.

All in all, Exterminator 2 is definitely an inferior sequel to a grindhouse favorite, but it does manage to be a fun ride regardless. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is worth picking up if you can find it for a good price. If you’ve never seen this sequel but enjoyed the original, don’t go in expecting much here. However if you’ve never seen either film, pick up the first one before you go diving into this.

Rating: 2.5/5

FILM REVIEW: BEYOND THE GATES

By Nick Durham

Remember those board games from the 80s/90s that included a VHS tape with them? These were interactive board games, and they set themselves apart from the usual pack of Sorry and Scrabble thanks to the fact that these VHS tapes would mostly include a host that would range from explaining how the game was played to flat out taunting you. These games were usually of the fantasy variety and ended up doing a lot with a little in terms of overall depth and most of the time ended up being pretty damn enjoyable for what they were. Over the years, these kind of board games (which there weren’t too many of sadly) are looked back on with a healthy bit of nostalgia; more so than any of the typical board games that have been around forever or are still around today.

Beyond the Gates is a movie designed to feed on this nostalgia, pure and simple. That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, as it’s actually quite enjoyable for being what it is. The plot of the film revolves around a pair of estranged brothers named Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (John Dies at the End‘s Chase Williamson). The brothers reunite in their home town after their father mysteriously disappears, and seek to sell the remnants of his video store as well. In the process however, we discover that a mysterious VHS board game (hosted by genre stalwart Barbara Crampton, who also served as a producer on the film) may be responsible for the father’s disappearance, and soon enough the brothers are drawn into the power of the tape as mysterious events start happening, and escalate into some downright creepy moments.

As fun and almost whimsical as Beyond the Gates ends up being, it’s the film’s overall lack of execution that is the most disappointing. Know that when I say lack of execution, this mostly refers to the fact that the film’s ideas end up being too big for its budget to contain. You can tell the filmmakers had a very big vision here for what they wanted to do, but budget limitations can be a bitch. This really isn’t that big a deal though believe it or not, and kind of adds to the charm of the film as a whole. The point of the VHS board games, and fantasy board games in general, is to use your imagination; and this film manages to reflect that. The acting is wonderful as well, and Chase Williamson is hilarious. The characters are all given some pretty good depth, and the drama between the brothers is well orchestrated. Barbara Crampton channels her inner-Elvira, and the film itself is well shot with some decent atmosphere.

All together, Beyond the Gates is a fun little film that will satisfy the kid in you, as well as please the horror fan that you are. It will be streaming on Netflix in the very near future, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out. If I can make any other recommendation, it’s that to leave sky high expectations at the door, and just plain old enjoy the nostalgia trip you’re about to embark on.

Rating: 4/5

FILM REVIEW: THE BURNINGMOORE DEATHS

BY AMY MEAD

The Burningmoore Deaths

The Burningmoore Deaths

Directed by Jonathan Williams

Written by James A. Colletti and Jonathan WIlliams

Starring Geoff Tate, Tony Guida and James Doheny



James Parrish was a quiet family man who never exhibited any signs of mental illness or committed any crimes. All that changed when his wife and three children were found brutally murdered on a cold winter night in early 2010. All evidence pointed to James. Although police officials conducted a nationwide manhunt for the loving family man turned killer, he was somehow able to avoid capture and was not seen or heard from those who knew him again. 

Five long years after the heinous crimes, the Parrish family home is purchased by a man looking to turn it into a bed and breakfast while filming the first episode of his home improvement show, Let’s Get Hammered. Unfortunately for the film crew, James is back and he is very unhappy about their presence in his home. What was supposed to be a 30 day shoot ends tragically in just one day as the cameras capture the murders of the film crew…

 

First announced in 2010, and supposedly based on true events, The Burningmoore Deaths (Also known as The Burningmoore Incident or Reality Kills) which features former Queensryche frontman, Geoff Tate in his acting debut, has been quite a few years in the making.

Having been a longtime Queensryche fan since my early teens AND a complete sucker for found footage films, I naturally HAD to watch this after discovering that it was finally available. After seeing Geoff Tate perform on stage many times, I was eager to see what he was capable of when it came to acting. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed. There was a lot of potential with this role but he never speaks a word (other than the films narration) and all we really get to see of him are some occasional menacing looks that are caught on  the film crew cameras. There’s nothing spectacular about this role, or his performance in it. What could have been a breakout role for him just sort of falls flat. And it’s a damn shame.

Sadly, despite some great ideas and what could have been a great film, The Burningmoore Deaths falls short. Really short. Most of the murders take place in dark areas and are only seen through grainy camera shots. What could have been some rather brutal and bloody kill scenes are unfortunately lackluster and diluted by the way they are presented and the audience is left wanting more. Much more.

My biggest problem with this film is the almost complete lack of back story. There is very little character introduction with James Parrish and we have no idea why he up and  lost it and killed his family seemingly out of nowhere. There’s a rather weak mention of how he got a tattoo of the word “MOROS”, which roughly translates into “God” or “Diety”, just before committing the murders but nothing more than that.

The Burningmoore Deaths is like a mash up of Extreme Home Makeover and a true crime documentary, which I would normally be all about, but unfortunately the action is far too low key for a film of this nature. What could have been a fairy decent film as far as found footage goes, is just disappointing, boring, and dull. I was left wanting both my time and money back. Save yourself the grief and skip this one, you won’t be missing much.

FILM REVIEW: THE VOID

By Nick Durham

More often than not, when I hear about a heap of praise being levied on a horror movie at any time from any kind of critics, I tend to approach it with caution. Remember when everyone said The Babadook was the greatest thing since sliced bread and it turned out to be the equivalent of a frozen dog turd with sprinkles? Yeah, when it comes to praise, I usually tend to feel the opposite way. That’s why when I was going into The Void, I honestly wasn’t expecting too much from it, even though I went into it knowing practically nothing about what the film was about. Coming out of it…well, all I can say is that this may in fact be the best horror film I’ve seen in a long fucking time. This film is equally inventive and unpredictable, and saying it made a lasting impression on me is saying it lightly.

The Void picks up with a small town sheriff named Daniel (Aaron Poole) picking up a disheveled man he finds bloodied and disoriented. Transporting him to a local, understaffed hospital inhabited by his ex (Kathleen Munroe), a veteran surgeon (Twin Peaks vet Kenneth Welsh), and a handful of others; Daniel soon learns that something very sinister is going on when mysterious hooded figures start surrounding the hospital. Things go from bad to worse when bodies start dropping, but that’s only a taste of the unrelenting horror that unfolds as the film goes on, and gets legitimately totally fucking shocking.

I really don’t want to spoil much more about the plot of The Void, because I really do feel that the less you know about this film going in, the more you’ll enjoy it. Granted there are some plot elements that come out of left field, but the end result is a genuine shocker of a film that will leave you with plenty of lasting impressions. Not to mention the fact that this film is loaded with wonderful practical effects work and some ridiculously grotesque sequences that gorehounds will undoubtedly adore. I’ve often heard people labeling the film as being Lovecraftian and also making comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and I agree with both sentiments wholeheartedly. There is an aura of unpredictability and flat out “what the fuck” moments peppered throughout the film, along a feeling of isolation and hopelessness that are perfectly orchestrated here. I’ve also heard comparisons to the work of Lucio Fulci quite a bit as well, but I think these are more aimed towards the fact the film’s ending shot may be a bit of a head scratcher for some and leave you wondering what the fuck you just watched. Regardless of that, this is a modern day horror film that is truly one of a kind.

I can praise The Void day and night and keep going on, but I won’t. This is a film that you flat out need to see right fucking now. I myself may love it more than most, and it goes without saying that The Void isn’t a film for everyone or all tastes either, but this is truly an unforgettable achievement in practical effects work and being able to orchestrate an overwhelming sense of dread that most modern horror films couldn’t do if they tried. Co-directors Steven Kostanski and Father’s Day co-helmer Jeremy Gillespie really crafted something special here, and The Void is something that I’ll be happily revisiting for years to come.

Rating: 5/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: TALES FROM THE HOOD

By Nick Durham

Tales from the Hood is an odd little movie given the era it was released and the talent involved in it. Released in 1995 and having Spike Lee as an executive producer, Tales from the Hood is what the title implies: a horror anthology film with an urban flavor. It’s managed to develop a cult following in the two decades since its release, even though it went largely unappreciated upon its original release. This wasn’t helped by the fact that after the film was released on DVD in 1998, it went out of print and it seemed the film would never see the light of day again on the home video market. Thankfully, Scream Factory has given the film a well-deserved Blu-ray treatment, and it’s more than worth your time.

The wraparound story of Tales from the Hood revolves around three gangbangers that go to the funeral home of the super eccentric Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III) to pick up some drugs that he’s acquired. During their stay, Mr. Simms relates four horrific stories to the trio. The first story is a tale of revenge from beyond the grave, as a slain African-American city councilman (Tom Wright, aka the homeless hitcher from the final segment of Creepshow 2) uses an alcoholic ex-cop (Anthony Griffith) to lure the three racist cops (Wings Hauser, Michael Masse, and Duane Whitaker) that murdered him to their demises. The second segment (and probably the best one) involves a young boy named Walter who learns how to vanquish the all too human “monster” that’s been making his life a living hell. The third story finds a racist senator (Corbin Bernsen) getting his comeuppance via the souls of murdered slaves in the form of little dolls, which is probably the most entertaining of the four segments. The fourth and final story a violent gangbanger receiving an experimental treatment to alter his behavior, which ends up tying in to the wraparound story and its absolute hoot of an ending.

I’ve always enjoyed Tales from the Hood, even if it is uneven more often than not. Directed by Rusty Cundieff (who also appears in the film), the film delivers in terms of gore, shocks, and pure entertainment; making it pretty damn enjoyable overall. Some of the stories feel as if they should have been longer (the second segment in particular), but considering they’re all crammed into a 98-minute film, we should be glad that they’re as solid as they are and don’t feel rushed or patched together given the film’s running time. 

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Tales from the Hood features a pretty good transfer of the film. There’s a new documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with Cundieff, producer Darin Scott, and actors Wings Hauser and Corbin Bernsen among others. Alongside this is a vintage featurette from 1995, as well as a commentary track from Cundieff and Scott. There’s also the typical handful of trailers and TV spots as well, rounding out the package. 

All in all, if you’ve never experienced Tales from the Hood before, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Even if urban-flavored entertainment isn’t your thing, but you dig horror anthologies, you should at least give this a look. For those of us that have fond memories of this film playing late at night on HBO in the 90s, this Blu-ray is definitely worth your money. 

Rating: 4/5