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

 

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

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

BLU-RAY REVIEW: PUMPKINHEAD 2

By Nick Durham

Do you enjoy needless sequels to beloved horror films that have no right to exist and only serve to squander any promise or good will that was made with the first one? If so, you’re gonna be head over fucking heels with Pumpkinhead 2: Blood Wings. Released in 1994 (and filmed in 1993) and directed by Jeff Burr (who knows a bit about needless sequels since he also directed Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and The Stepfather 2), Pumpkinhead 2 features more demonic small town shenanigans that seem to have little to do with anything that took place in Stan Winston’s original film, other than the titular vengeance-driven creature, who looks nowhere near as creepy or scary here, despite featuring effects work from KNB. But really how bad can this movie be? Well, Scream Factory has decided to give it the Blu-ray treatment, so let’s find out.

Pumpkinhead 2 focuses on small town sheriff Braddock (Hellraiser‘s Andrew Robinson) who returns to his home town along with his wife and teenage daughter Jenny (Ami Dolenz, suffering from 90s hair). Soon enough, Jenny begins hanging out with a crew of 90s cool kids/bad kids/toolbags (including Return of the Living Dead 3‘s J. Trevor Edmund and Punky Brewster star Soleil Moon Frye) who end up running afoul of a local old witch (not Haggis). Soon enough, Pumpkinhead is reborn thanks to the soul of a tortured deformed teenager, and he begins taking out those responsible for killing him back in the 50s before focusing on the crew of 90s toolbag teenagers. Got all that?

To put it bluntly, Pumpkinhead 2 is a slog to get through. It shifts between being boring and unintentionally funny, with plenty of cliches and predictable story twists along the way as well. It lacks the emotional depth that the original film had, and we don’t care one ounce about any character’s fate. Hell, in all honesty, I was flat out hoping that everyone would seriously fucking die. Not to mention the fact that the look and feel of the film comes off as being cheap. Now I know the original Pumpkinhead didn’t exactly have a large budget, but it overcame those limitations thanks to the fact that the film had heart and soul to it, where as Pumpkinhead 2 has the heart and soul of being a cheap knock off, which is exactly what it is. Between unlikable characters, shitty plotting, atrocious dialogue, and a score that sounds like someone gave a four year old child a bag full of sugar and let him go apeshit on a Casio keyboard, this movie is one pure fucking turd. Genre stalwarts Kane Hodder and Linnea Quigley (I recognized her by her rib cage I swear) are here in blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameos, but even they don’t help this amount to being anything other than a turd of a sequel that no one asked for.

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Pumpkinhead 2 features a half decent transfer of the film, as well as a handful of special features. These features include an interview with director Jeff Burr, and a retrospective about recreating the monster featuring Greg Nicotero. It seems everyone involved thought the film would turn out to be more fun than it actually was, but at the end of the day, did anyone really expect an unwanted sequel to Pumpkinhead to be anything more than a steaming turd of celluloid?

Even though Scream Factory gave the film a half decent Blu-ray release, I implore you to skip Pumpkinhead 2. It’s a needless sequel that no one was clamoring for, and it isn’t helped by the fact that the film is a cheap mess from beginning to end. You know what’s worse though? There’s even more needless Pumpkinhead sequels out there, and even those pieces of shit are better than this fucking train wreck.

Rating: 1/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: DEADTIME STORIES

By Nick Durham

Not to be confused with the no-budget anthology films that bear George Romero’s name that came out a handful of years back, Deadtime Stories is an oft-forgotten horror/comedy anthology film from 1986. It’s something that offers up way more laughs than scares and doesn’t take itself too seriously in the least, which is actually half-refreshing, and half-frustrating given the potential of the film. Scream Factory has decided to release the film on Blu-ray for the first time, and now a new generation can discover the film for the first time.

The wraparound story of Deadtime Stories involves an annoyed uncle telling his young nephew some bedtime stories. He gives a handful of fairy tale bedtime stories the horror treatment, all of which are told with the utmost glee. Our opening story deals with a coven of killer witches, and is probably the least enjoyable of the trio of tales, even though it features the best makeup and gore effects. The second story is a take on Little Red Riding Hood, finding our voluptuous heroine running afoul of an asshole werewolf. The third story is a take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears (and features future Oscar winner Melissa Leo) in which a psychotic (and psychic, and sexy) Goldilocks teams up with the Baer (no, that’s how it’s spelled) family to cause chaos and carnage. 

While Deadtime Stories may be classified as a horror anthology, it’s definitely more of a comedy anthology. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek here, and the film’s tone is definitely nothing serious or scary in the least. In fact, the film’s soundtrack features a number of original songs featuring self-aware lyrics that will make you laugh your ass off. It’s obvious that writer/director Jef Delman wanted to do something fun here, and he succeeded. Granted the film as a whole is quite uneven and occasionally drags in spots, but that aside, it’s still a welcome diversion. 

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Deadtime Stories features some interesting supplements. There’s a new commentary track from Delman as well as a brand new interview featuring him as well. There’s also new interviews with Melissa Leo, as well as actors Scott Valentine and Cathryn de Prume as well. There’s an interesting alternate cut of the opening story segment, as well as a handful of deleted scenes and the usual trailers and still gallery. The film itself has received a new HD transfer, and this is undoubtedly the best the film has ever looked. It’s good to see Scream Factory putting in a pretty good effort for a film that not many may remember all that well.

All in all, Deadtime Stories is far from the best horror anthology film you’ll ever see, but for what it is, it’s pretty damn entertaining. You’ll definitely laugh more than get any kind of thrills from scares or gore here, but that’s all well and good, and doesn’t deter from the overall enjoyment of the film all that much. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is pretty good as well, so if you can find this at a good price, I’d say pick it up.

Rating: 3.5/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: THE EXORCIST III

By Nick Durham

It goes without saying that The Exorcist III is the best sequel in the franchise, mainly because it’s the only sequel in the franchise to have any kind of spirit that comes close to the original classic. This is mainly because the writer/director of the film is none other than Exorcist author William Peter Blatty. Even more interesting is the behind-the-scenes drama that occurred during the making of the film, with the studio forcing Blatty to alter a majority of the film in an effort to make it more commercial. Over the years many have desired to see Blatty’s original vision restored as much as possible, and this Blu-ray release from Scream Factory comes awfully close to doing just that.

The story of The Exorcist III revolves around police Lieutenant William Kinderman (now played by the legendary George C. Scott, replacing the late Lee J. Cobb from the original) seventeen years after the events of the first film. In the wake of the brutal murder of a young boy, Kinderman comes to learn that a supposed deceased serial killer known as The Gemini Killer may be responsible for this and subsequent brutal crimes. Kinderman’s investigation leads him to a mysterious patient that alternates looking like the actual Gemini Killer (Brad Dourif) and Kinderman’s old friend, the late Father Karras (Jason Miller).

It takes a while for The Exorcist III to kick into high gear, but when it does, it’s pretty damn scary. It’s scary not because of jump scares or cheap thrills, but because of atmosphere. Granted it doesn’t come anywhere near close to the lightning in a bottle perfection of the original film, but it comes pretty damn close for what it is, and that in itself is a major accomplishment. It’s even more of a major accomplishment given the fact that the film suffered from a ton of off camera drama involving Blatty and the studio. The film itself was originally titled Legion and studio 20th Century Fox forced Blatty to insert an exorcism scene into the film’s climax (which literally comes out of nowhere). This, along with other behind the scenes turmoil, is a major part of what makes the overall film feel uneven and even patch-worked. Despite that though, the film’s atmosphere and imagery are wonderful and even at times unforgettable. Oh, and Brad Dourif? He’s fucking amazing. Every time he’s on screen it’s a treat, and this may very well be his finest screen performance ever.

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of The Exorcist III features a bevy of supplements. The first disc includes the theatrical version of the film, as well as a vintage featurette, trailers, photo gallery, outtakes, a deleted prologue, and old interviews with Blatty and more. The second disc of this set includes the director’s cut of the film, which features alternate footage and such that has been cobbled together from VHS sources. The quality of it all together isn’t that great to say it lightly, but having this version of the film here is a wonderful thing regardless. There’s also a more recent audio interview with Blatty, and even more interviews with Brad Dourif and others that worked on the film as well. It should also be noted that the audio and video presentation of the theatrical cut is by and far the finest the film has ever looked or sounded. This set is wonderful, and that’s saying it lightly.

As I said before, The Exorcist III is by far the best sequel in The Exorcist franchise, and honestly the only one that’s worth your time. Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of the film is one of the best releases they’ve unleashed thus far, and it definitely deserves to be in your collection. If you’ve never seen The Exorcist III, be aware that it doesn’t come close to holding a candle to the original film, but it is a very atmospheric and thought provoking film that manages to stand on its own despite its shortcomings. Pick this up.

Rating: 4.5/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: RABID

By Nick Durham

Before David Cronenberg took the horror world by storm with Scanners, Videodrome, The Fly, and Dead Ringers; his exercises in body horror more or less began with 1975’s Shivers (AKA, They Came From Within). While that film is certainly rough around the edges in terms of technical aspects, those shortcomings are more than made up for in terms of scale, vision, and being able to creep you the fuck out. Cronenberg would follow up Shivers two years later with Rabid, another film that is fairly rough around the edges, but manages to overcome whatever flaws it has and winds up being a pretty damn chilling flick. The film has been long out of print on any kind of home video format here in the States for quite some time, so thankfully Scream Factory has decided to bless us with a pretty good Blu-ray release of the film.

 

Adult film legend Marilyn Chambers stars as Rose, a young woman involved in a motorcycle accident along with her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore). Due to the severity of Rose’s injuries and literally being out in the middle of nowhere, an experimental procedure is done on Rose to save her. The end result leaves Rose with a strange growth under her armpit that emits a stinger-like appendage she uses to feed on blood. Victims of said appendage end up becoming blood-thirsty maniacs, resulting in a frantic search for Rose, and a public health nightmare across Canada.

 

As I mentioned earlier, Rabid like Shivers before it is nowhere near a technical masterpiece. Cronenberg hadn’t really started coming into his own as a filmmaker just yet, but his vision and scope even here are unparalleled. He has big ideas here that don’t always get capitalized on due to the various limitations of the film itself, but despite that, the film manages to pack a punch. It was a big deal back in the day when Marilyn Chambers was cast in the lead, but she’s actually not too bad in terms of acting chops, and she’s definitely easy on the eyes. The effects work hasn’t aged so well, but given the film is almost 40 years old, this isn’t really much of a surprise.

 

Scream Factory has packed some decent features into this Blu-ray release of Rabid, as well as presenting the film in a new 2K scan. There’s a commentary track from Cronenberg as well as one featuring Cronenberg historian and author William Beard. There’s interviews with Cronenberg, producer Don Carmody, and executive producer Ivan Reitman, as well as a handful of trailers and radio spots. There’s also a video essay from Caelum Vatnsdal, which is more or less a retrospective on the early days of Cronenberg’s career.

 

All in all, Rabid is far from David Cronenberg’s best work, but it’s an early almost-gem that laid the groundwork for the kind of nasty body horror he would become known for. It’s definitely worth checking out to be sure, and Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release is a worthwhile pickup, so give it a shot. If you’re new to Cronenberg’s work, this is also a pretty good place to start.

 

Rating: 3.5/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: CHILD’S PLAY

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By Nick Durham

Child’s Play is one of those rare gems from the late 80s that despite its ridiculous premise, managed to be a pretty effective killer doll flick. Not to mention the fact that it also spawned a whole franchise with numerous sequels (that range from “meh” to “sweet Jesus this is awful”) and solidified possessed killer doll Chucky as a slasher icon. Scream Factory has bestowed upon us a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray release, and despite the fact that there’s already been numerous releases of the film on DVD and Blu-ray over the years, this is the edition to pick up.

 

I won’t go into the story of Child’s Play too much because we all know it by heart: a serial killer on the run from the cops (Brad Dourif) transfers his soul into a Good Guy doll at a toy store. It isn’t long before said doll finds its way into the home of young Andy (Alex Vincent) and his mother Karen (Catherine Hicks). Soon enough, some nasty shit starts happening, culminating in a showdown between the murderous Chucky and his would-be victims (as well as cop Chris Sarandon). Nearly everything about the film’s story shouldn’t work, but thanks to director Tom Holland (Fright Night), it ends up being a surprisingly taut and even more surprisingly good flick; in fact, it’s probably better than you remember it being.

 

Scream Factory has packed a hefty amount of features on these two discs. Disc one features the film itself, along with a new commentary track from Tom Holland. There’s older commentary tracks as well, including ones that feature Catherine Hicks, Alex Vincent, screenwriter Don Mancini, producer David Kirshner, Chucky designer Kevin Yagher, and even select commentary from Brad Dourif as Chucky, which are a hoot.  The second disc features a bounty of new and archival interviews and making-of featurettes, as well as a great interview with effects maestro Howard Berger. There’s photo and poster galleries, as well as the film’s trailer and a TV spot too. In terms of video and audio presentation, Scream Factory did really well here, and this is probably the best Child’s Play has ever looked or sounded.

 

All these years later, Child’s Play is still a blast to watch, and undoubtedly the best of the franchise by far. Even if you own the film on DVD or Blu-ray already, you should get your hands on this set from Scream Factory. It’s a very enjoyable edition of a fun film, and is more than worthy to be in your collection.

 

Rating: 4/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: RAISING CAIN

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By Nick Durham

Raising Cain is a weird fucking movie. Let’s get that out of the way right fucking now. Not to mention the fact that it is also one of director Brian De Palma’s most underrated films as well. A critical and commercial flop when originally released in 1992, Raising Cain is an exercise in lunacy with a serious Hitchcock-ian vibe. Now I know that just about all of De Palma’s films are Hitchcock inspired, but Raising Cain seriously takes it to another level. Scream Factory has graced us with a Blu-ray special edition release of the film, so now hopefully it will receive the appreciation it deserves.

 

The story of Raising Cain revolves around child psychologist Carter Nix (John Lithgow) who has his share of problems. These problems include the fact that he has multiple personalities and is a murderous nutjob, and that’s really only scratching the surface here. Carter’s cheating wife Jenny (Lolita Davidovich) and her lover Jack (Steven Bauer) appear to be in the crosshairs of Carter’s many personalities, in particular that of Cain; a demonic personality which seems to have some fucked up plans of his own. In the midst of all this are child experiments (including Carter’s own child) and Carter’s mysterious father (also played by Lithgow); culminating in so many what the fuck moments and legitimate shocks that I’m really having a hard time explaining things here, so all I can really say is that you need to see it yourself.

 

First and foremost, John Lithgow is having a pure blast in Raising Cain. He gleefully switches between desperate and joyfully over the top that it’s just pure joy watching him have fun. Lithgow is usually always a treat to watch no matter what he’s in, but here he gives such a dynamite performance that’s it’s hard not to admire the work he’s doing here. The rest of the cast don’t appear to take things too seriously though, which kind of drags the film down a bit to be totally honest. Not to mention the twisting plot and outrageous characters and overall story make Raising Cain hard to get into. It’s really no surprise that the film didn’t do so well when originally released, but hey, if this film were made today, chances are it wouldn’t get a theatrical release at all.

 

Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release of Raising Cain is interesting to say the least. It’s a two disc set which features the theatrical cut of the film on the first disc, along with a handful of lengthy interviews with Lithgow and De Palma stalwarts Bauer and Gregg Henry, along with others as well. The second disc of the set features a “director’s cut” of the film, and I use quotation marks here because technically it isn’t so much a director’s cut at all in the traditional sense of inserting extra footage or things like that. It’s actually kind of a re-editing of the film more or less based on the original screenplay that De Palma apparently had little to no input on. This alone makes this set worth picking up. Additional features include a small featurette on Peet Gelderblom; the man who is responsible for this re-edited cut, and a video essay from Gelderblom explaining the differences between the cuts. Just like with the Carrie Blu-ray release, there’s nothing from De Palma himself included here, which is a real shame.

 

All in all, saying Raising Cain isn’t for everybody is saying it lightly. That being said, it’s a very unique film, and one of De Palma’s more underrated ones as well. Scream Factory has assembled a pretty nifty Blu-ray release that fans of the film should undoubtedly pick up. For everyone else though that isn’t familiar with the film, this is definitely an acquired taste.

 

Rating: 3.5/5