HORROR GAME VAULT: ALIEN: RESURRECTION

By Nick Durham

 Alien: Resurrection is the fourth installment in the beloved Alien franchise, and often becomes the subject of debate with fans whether it’s the worst installment of the series. Released in 1997, the film manages to have its share of fans, despite the fact that it’s an awful mess. Alien: Resurrection the video game, released in 2000 after being stuck in video game development hell for three years, more or less follows the formula of the film: it’s an absolute mess, but has its share of fans regardless. 

Like Alien Trilogy before it, Alien: Resurrection is a first person shooter with some minor survival horror elements thrown in. A majority of the game takes place on the USM Augria which is overrun with Xenomorphs, and you play as Ripley once again (albeit a cloned Ripley with some very minor implementations of Xeno-powers). There are times in the gameplay when you’ll get to play as other characters such as Call (Winona Ryder’s character in the film), Christie, or DiStephano; and there’s an assortment of different weapons and equipment at your disposal. You’ll face off against the usual assortment of Xenomorph warriors, as well as facehuggers (that can actually implant you and give you a limited amount of time to find a device to remove the embryo before it births and kills you) and even enemy human soldiers as well. 

While the game’s concepts and gameplay sound good on paper, actually playing it is a mess. Alien: Resurrection looked like shit back in 2000, and it doesn’t look much better these days. 32-bit 3D graphics never tend to age well, and the game looks like a flat out muddy and blocky mess. Despite that though there manages to be some pretty good atmosphere, and the ship’s stages are fairly well designed. It should also be noted that many consider this game to be the first to properly utilize analog sticks for console first person shooters. The left and right sticks are used exclusively for movement, which in the years since has become the standard control scheme for every single console FPS. That alone really helps Alien: Resurrection preserve a legacy on its own, but it doesn’t make it any better of a game in my eyes at least.

What’s really most interesting about Alien: Resurrection is that the game spent practically three years stuck in video game development hell. The game was originally fashioned to be a third-person survival horror game in the realm of the original Resident Evil; featuring multiple playable characters and more standard survival horror-esque gameplay. Originally planned to be released on the Playstation, Sega Saturn, and Nintendo 64; developer Argonaut Games scrapped what they’d been working on after the film was released in theaters, and started over from the ground up, eventually creating this FPS. In October of 2000, the game was finally released on the Playstation to negative reviews and sales, which led to ports on the Sega Dreamcast and PC being cancelled. Despite its negative feedback, the game managed to find an audience and still has fans to this day surprisingly.

All in all, Alien: Resurrection is a disappointing game in the sea of Alien-centric games, though for its control innovations of the time, it deserves some kind of praise. If you’ve never played it before, I suggest playing the previous Alien Trilogy first before diving into this. Despite its flaws though, there’s still some stuff here to admire that makes it worth checking out if you’ve never played it before though, so at least there’s that.

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

EDITORIAL: WHY WE NEED A RAWHEAD REX REMAKE

By Nick Durham

Just recently it was announced that the 1986 adaptation of Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex is getting a surprise 4K Blu-ray remastered release this year courtesy of Kino Lorber. For fans of the film, and the source material it’s based on, this is wonderful news considering the only way to get your hands on a physical copy of the film thus far have been in the form of a super old DVD release (that up until now cost an arm and a leg) and various bootlegs (of which I own a pretty good quality one). It’s good to see this film get a well-deserved treatment, but it got me thinking about the original source material itself, and why it deserves to have another shot at getting a cinematic adaptation. 

Clive Barker’s original short story Rawhead Rex first appeared in the third volume of his Books of Blood series, and is a visceral and nerve-wracking blast from beginning to end. It also manages to be a fairly simple horror tale with some very nasty imagery, and manages to be wonderfully enjoyable as well. It’s one of my personal favorite Barker stories to this day, and while the film adaptation is definitely flawed, it still manages to be enjoyable in spite of itself. The film, directed by George Pavlou and featuring a screenplay by Barker himself, suffers from its low budget and dull direction. While most low budget horror films of this era managed to do a lot with a little, Rawhead Rex suffered from an absolutely terrible monster design that has no resemblance to Barker’s original design (basically a walking phallus with teeth) and is literally a rubber-faced mask that never moves an inch. Not to mention the fact that the film’s climax is an absolute mess, and many of the death scenes and carnage are watered down mightily. Like I said though, the film still somehow manages to be enjoyable despite all these problems, but the more I think about it, it’s probably because of my love for both Barker and the source material that makes me see the best in this flick.

In my life, I’ve often been told I’m a remake snob, especially when it comes to horror films. I absolutely loathe retreads on horror films (I’d much rather see sequel number 12 to something than a remake of it), but Rawhead Rex is one film that I truly do think deserves to be remade. Hell, Barker himself (who was never happy with how the original film turned out) expressed interest in having a hand at remaking the film some time ago, but who knows if that would ever happen. In a perfect world, a remake of Rawhead Rex would feature more input from Barker, wonderful practical effects, a beast that looked more like how Barker envisioned this creature, and plenty of harrowing and nasty moments of bloodshed, destruction, depravity, and evisceration. Years back, there was a comic book adaptation written by horror stalwart Steve Niles, and it was absolutely wonderful; meaning that there are people out there that love and get this story. Hell, a new film adaptation could be released unrated direct to digital, Blu-ray, and DVD and would more than likely make its money back in little to no time just based on morbid curiosity. This needs to be a thing, like right fucking now.

Now granted, this all may end up being little more than a pipe dream in all honesty. However, the fact that there is renewed interest in Rawhead Rex, and even with a looming 4K restoration, there would never be a better time than now to kick the tires on resurrecting Barker’s story for a new generation of fans and filmmakers. Barker deserves it, the source material deserves it, and fucking hell, we deserve it. Make this happen somebody, and we’ll love you forever.

VIDEO GAME REVIEW: RESIDENT EVIL 7

By Nick Durham

Hard to believe that the Resident Evil franchise has been around for over 20 years now isn’t it? In that time what started as a video game series evolved into countless other media, whether it be the now long-running live-action film series, comic books, novels, toys, and more. In that time frame, the video game series all this sprouted from has seen numerous sequels and spin-offs across a variety of consoles and platforms. The main numbered series of games has reached a bit of stale note however in the past few years, with the last truly great game in the franchise being Resident Evil 4 from 2005. Resident Evil 5 and 6 were more concerned with action-oriented gameplay than true survival horror elements, and besides being littered with bugs, glitches, and other annoyances; were chores to play through. We did get the Resident Evil: Revelations spin-offs, which were relatively fun on their own, but they didn’t reach those lofty heights that longtime fans of the series were yearning for…until now.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard isn’t just a glorious return to form for the staggering series, it’s a landmark entry in the franchise that makes it feel every bit as fresh that Resident Evil 4 did over a decade ago. Like that game, Resident Evil 7 changes the main gameplay itself, this time around dropping the third-person, over the shoulder gameplay of the past few entries, in favor of a first person perspective. Now this isn’t the first time Capcom has tinkered with giving the series an FPS treatment (and the less said about 2000’s Resident Evil: Survivor on the original Playstation, the better), but unlike back then, this is exactly what the series, and what we as fans and gamers, have been waiting for.

The storyline of Resident Evil 7 ditches long recurring characters like Chris, Jill, Leon, Wesker, and more in favor of giving us something new. Instead, it focuses on a man named Ethan who receives a message from his thought to be deceased wife Mia. Ethan is led to a run down plantation in Louisiana where he encounters the family that reside there, and it doesn’t take much to figure out that there is something seriously wrong with them. This is confounded by the fact that there are regenerating enemies and other horrors lurking in this house; along with some flat out terrifying secrets for you to uncover.

The biggest strength of Resident Evil 7 is that it is in first person view. This in itself ratchets up the scare and “holy shit” factor all the way through the roof, even though cheap jump scares are surprisingly minimal. Being in this view makes the game’s horror elements feel absolutely primal and insanely freaky. It may sound like a promotional line for the game, but if you don’t jump playing this fucking thing, you should probably check your pulse. The environment you navigate through help make this game even more freaky, with claustrophobic areas that are incredibly well designed. The tense atmosphere, combined with the brutal, gory violence and increasing sense of dread throughout the proceedings are what survival horror video games should be, and this game succeeds mightily. I should also mention the game’s boss battles range between being pretty damn epic, and pretty damn frustrating, so that at least continues the old Resident Evil tradition.

Graphically speaking, Resident Evil 7 is a sight to behold. The game’s sounds are creepy and it controls pretty well for the most part. From a gameplay perspective, Resident Evil 7 is practically flawless, with the only faults lying within the game’s story. As the story progresses, things take an insane turn, and you’ll either be all in along for the ride, or you’ll completely tune out because of the sheer ridiculousness. That aside, it doesn’t change the fact that this game is fucking terrifying to put it lightly. There’s a couple different endings depending on your decisions and such, which adds to the replay-ability, and that’s a pretty nice touch. There’s also a playable VR Mode for the PS4 version of the game available now out of the box, while there will be a future mode available for the Xbox One and PC versions sometime down the road. I didn’t play this version because I’m poor and don’t own a VR headset, but I’d imagine that in itself is a terrifying experience all the same. 

All in all, Resident Evil 7 is an absolute must own for fans of the series. Once again, Capcom has managed to reinvent the franchise with a new, bold take on it, and it succeeds wonderfully. Let’s just hope that the next installments of the franchise don’t take this formula and beat it into the ground with staleness, which often tends to be their forte with the Resident Evil games. Oh well, pick this fucker up and scare the shit out of yourself; you deserve it.

Rating: 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

HORROR GAME VAULT: ALIEN TRILOGY

By Nick Durham

Besides a whole film franchise, the Alien series has spawned a whole multimedia brand that includes numerous comic books, toys, and naturally video games as well. All together, there are a fuck-ton of Alien-themed video games, ranging from side-scrolling action/platformers, stealth-based adventures, arcade beat ’em ups, and first person shooters as well. There’s good games and bad games alike, but I want to take a look at one of my personal favorite games that the franchise birthed. Published by Acclaim Entertainment (who released a slew of licensed video games in the 90s) and developed by Probe, the game was released in 1996 for the original Playstation, Sega Saturn, and even DOS (yes, fucking DOS). Alien Trilogy is a first person shooter that despite not aging all that well over the decades, is still a lot of fun, and manages to do a number of things quite well that do justice to the franchise. 

Even though the title implies Alien Trilogy encompasses the events of the first three films, what it really does is feature is the locations based on the films instead. The story of the game is more like the universe of Alien in an alternate reality almost, as you play as Ellen Ripley (who is somehow a Colonial Marine here) and travel to LV426 to find out why contact was lost with the colony there. This leads you through the infested colony, prison facilities, and eventually the actual crashed Space-Jockey ship as well (I don’t care if they’re called Engineers now, they’ll always be Space-Jockey’s to me). There are about 30 levels that feature the usual assortment of facehuggers, chestbursters, Xenomorph warriors, dog Xenomorphs, and a handful of Queens thrown in as well that serve as the game’s bosses. 

Gameplay-wise, Alien Trilogy appears to be a basic mid-90s Doom clone. It features all of the usual FPS elements of the time such as strafing and a multitude of weapons at your disposal, including the Pulse Rifle from Aliens and a flamethrower. There’s even a shoulder lamp and motion tracker to use as well, so the game actually manages to utilize these elements well. The game’s environments are creepy and almost claustrophobic, and the various monstrous enemies you’ll encounter are well designed and animated for their time. There’s CGI cut scenes peppered throughout the game, which are kind of funny to watch here because the characters almost look kind of like marionettes in motion.

The graphics during gameplay can be fairly blurry, but that’s mostly because playing this game on an HD TV today isn’t exactly ideal. Not to mention the fact that for being a console FPS game from the mid-90s, the controls haven’t aged well either. Modern console FPS gamers don’t know how lucky they are to be able to play first person shooters with controllers that have two analog sticks. Back in 1996 when this was released, we had a D-pad and face buttons, and had to make the most out of them in terms of moving around smoothly (Jesus fucking Christ I sound old). The game boasts some super eerie sound effects and has a pretty good atmosphere as well, so it still delivers the goods in terms of action and fright elements.

All in all, if you can find Alien Trilogy for cheap (which is more than likely, the PS1 version is fairly common), it’s definitely worth picking up. For a mid-90s Doom clone, it does things pretty well and captures enough elements of the Alien films to make fans happy. If you remember playing this 20 years ago and enjoyed it, I’d recommend going back to it if possible. If you never got to experience it back then, I say check it out. You can do a lot worse with first person shooters based on the Alien franchise, such as the next game we’ll focus on in the next installment of the Horror Game Vault…Alien: Resurrection.

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

FILM REVIEW: HOUSE ON WILLOW STREET

By Nick Durham

House on Willow Street, also known as From a House on Willow Street and A House on Willow Street (at least it wasn’t the Last House on Willow Street though right?) is a film that begins with a very interesting premise and set up but quickly degrades into a by the numbers horror film. It’s a shame too because this film shows a lot of promise right off the bat as it kicks into gear. Sadly, it never gets itself out of that first gear, and instead goes into full reverse, never to return again.

The plot of House on Willow Street revolves around Hazel (You’re Next star Sharni Vinson) and her small crew attempting to kidnap Katherine (Carlyn Burchell), the daughter of a wealthy jewelry dealer. Hazel has her own reasons for wanting to pull this off, resulting in a small subplot that goes nowhere. Regardless of that, the crew pulls off the kidnapping, only to discover that there is something definitely, seriously wrong with Katherine, and now everyone’s lives and souls are at stake.

I’ve never been much of a fan of demonic possession movies, but I wanted to give House on Willow Street a fair chance because it looked fairly interesting. After doing just that, I was massively disappointed. There’s a lot that gets set up in the first act of the film that never comes to fruition, and what we get instead is a bombardment of clichés and predictability. Our lead characters Hazel and Katherine are meant to be sympathized with given their respective predicaments, but neither are fleshed out enough for us to really care much about what happens to them. Not to mention the fact that by the time the film becomes a watered down slasher with possessed people hunting unpossessed people, you’ll be ready to take a nap. It’s just flat out boring, and the bargain basement CGI effects don’t help much either, although the climax and ending are even more of a hoot than they’d already be because of how shoddy they are.

Despite its many drawbacks, House on Willow Street does manage to be somewhat entertaining, almost in spite of itself. There are some interesting ideas sprinkled in here and there, but not nearly enough to sustain the film for its hour and a half running time. If you’re into demonic possession films, this may be worth looking into if you have absolutely nothing else to watch. For everyone else though, you won’t miss much by not seeing this.

Rating: 2/5