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

 

COMIC REVIEW: CREEPSHOW

By Nick Durham

In 1982, George Romero and Stephen King collaborated on the horror anthology film Creepshow, and the rest as they say, is history. Beloved and revered in the decades since its release, Creepshow is a horror classic that was inspired by both creator’s love for the classic horror comics of the EC days; helping them craft an incredibly entertaining horror film that’s still ever bit as good today as it was in 1982. Around the time of the film’s release, there was a comic book adaptation of King’s screenplay that ended up being just as beloved as the film. Sadly, it’s been out of print for a while…until now.

Creepshow the comic features all five segments of the film in glorious comic form, drawn to horrific life by the late, great Bernie Wrightson (famous for co-creating Swamp Thing and drawing a huge number of horror titles throughout the decades) and featuring a cover drawn by legendary EC Comics illustrator Jack Kamen. The five stories: Father’s Day, The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill, Something to Tide You Over, The Crate, and They’re Creeping Up on You are adapted to perfection here. Wrightson’s artwork manages to illicit the horrific chills, thrills, and dark humor of the film, while also managing to perfectly capture the throwback atmosphere of the horror comics of yesterday.

Published by Gallery 13, Creepshow the comic doesn’t seem to feature any restoration done to the artwork itself, which is perfectly fine to be totally honest. These days, modern day reprints of older comics feature some sort of digital restoration, and it’s actually refreshing to see that this is not such the case here. Wrightson’s artwork is just that damn perfect that it doesn’t need any kind of modern touches done to it. The comic is also presented in a deluxe large frame format, which makes the total package be even more perfect.

If you’re a fan of George Romero and Stephen King’s Creepshow, it goes without saying that this comic adaptation deserves to have a spot on your shelf. Much like the film, the comic has aged wonderfully, and it’s a super fun and enjoyable horror ride that you can’t help but love. You need to get your hands on this as soon as you possibly can, you won’t regret it.

Rating: 5/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: CREEPSHOW 2

By Nick Durham

George Romero and Stephen King’s 1982 collaboration Creepshow is a horror classic. It’s a super fun horror anthology with studio backing, big name actors, and wonderful effects work. The film became a pretty big hit upon release, so it wasn’t that baseless a conclusion that we’d eventually get a sequel. Well, we did in 1987, for better or worse. Creepshow 2 features less stories, less scares, and overall less fun than its predecessor, but for what it’s worth, it still manages to be a pretty fun ride; even if it manages to be painfully obviously inferior to the first film from it’s opening scene onwards.  Arrow Video has decided to give the film a super deluxe Blu-ray treatment, which is a sight to behold to say it lightly.

 

Creepshow 2 finds Romero and King taking a bit of a backseat compared to their roles with the first film, with longtime Romero cinematographer Michael Gornick taking over directing duties and Romero himself writing the screenplay with stories based on short King tales. We get three stories here: the fairly yawn-inducing Old Chief Wood’nhead which is a tale of revenge featuring George Kennedy, the pretty damn good The Raft (in fact, it’s probably the best segment here), and the concluding The Hitchhiker that is fairly memorable in itself. There were supposed to be two additional stories (to match the first film’s five segments) entitled Cat from Hell and Pinfall; both of which were cut due to the film’s budgetary constraints. Cat from Hell would end up getting filmed some time later by Romero himself for the Tales from the Darkside movie, while Pinfall never officially saw the light of day in film form. The film’s wraparound story is an animated (with a little live action) segment of a young kid named Billy encountering the Creeper himself (Tom Savini) and giving some local bullies their comeuppance.

 

As I already stated, Creepshow 2 is definitely an inferior sequel. The film as a whole just feels cheaper than the first film in terms of overall quality and content alike. That aside, it’s still super enjoyable for what it is, and has a very brisk pace and manages to make its own impact. The animated wrap around segment can be a bit of a chore to watch. There’s even a Stephen King cameo in The Hitchhiker, which in itself is a hoot.

 

Arrow’s Blu-ray release of Creepshow 2 features a bevy of special features. The film itself is restored in 2K HD and features the original uncompressed mono audio. There’s a commentary track from director Michael Gornick, and archival interviews with FX legends Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero. There’s another interview segment with Berger discussing FX master (and his mentor) Rick Baker, and a handful of other behind the scenes features as well. There’s a handful of trailers for the film, and a booklet is included as well featuring new essays on the film. You have two options in purchasing the film, with either the standard edition Blu-ray release that comes with all this, or the super limited edition which includes all these features plus a comic book featuring an adaptation of the never-filmed Pinfall segment. Good luck finding this edition for a low price though. I had preordered mine through Amazon some time ago when it first became available, and I’m very glad I did.

 

Looking back on it, Creepshow 2 is a fun, if super flawed, sequel to a horror anthology classic. It isn’t perfect and is definitely inferior, but on its own the film is a pretty enjoyable ride. Arrow’s Blu-ray is definitely a must have for fans of the film, as this is without a doubt the best the film has ever looked and sounded. Pick up the limited edition if you can find it without having to sell your first born child (or do it anyway, kids are awful), but no matter which version you get, you’ll be happy with what you find here. Now maybe someday we’ll get that super deluxe edition of the original film that we’ve been chomping at the bit for over for years.

 

Rating: 4/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: CARRIE (1976)

carrie90

By Nick Durham

The fact that Scream Factory is giving Carrie the Blu-ray treatment seems like a match made in heaven. Given the fact that the film has seen many varying releases over the years on DVD and Blu-ray, it doesn’t seem like there could really be anything new added overall to make it worth picking up, but low and behold, Scream Factory has crafted a well put-together Blu-ray release. Granted there isn’t that much here you probably haven’t seen before, but it’s still a more than worthwhile pickup, and the film itself is still a classic.

 

If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 or 40 years (or if you’re 8 years old, in which case get the fuck off this site), Carrie is Brian De Palma’s (Scarface, Dressed to Kill) adaptation of Stephen King’s smash hit novel. Sissy Spacek stars as the title character: a habitually picked on teenage girl with a domineering, overly religious mother (Piper Laurie). Carrie suffers humiliating abuse at school from a bevy of assholes (including Nancy Allen, John Travolta, and PJ Soles). Unbeknownst to them though, Carrie has telekinetic abilities that are beginning to manifest themselves, culminating in an infamous prom scene in which the shit literally hits the fan. Forty years after its original release, Carrie remains an iconic film in both the horror genre, and Brian De Palma’s filmography. Granted I’ve never really thought of it as the massive kind of classic that many consider it to be, but despite that, the film still manages to be an absolute blast and one of the best adaptations of Stephen King’s work, at least to me anyway.

 

Scream Factory has done a pretty good job here in terms of video and audio quality. The film definitely looks better than the MGM Blu-ray that came out a few years back, and the film’s audio is outstanding. Every sound and note from Pino Donaggio’s music score sounds brilliant and chilling. This is without a doubt the best the film has ever looked and sounded. In terms of special features, this set includes two discs. The first disc includes the film itself, along with the film’s trailer, and a franchise trailer as well that features that best-forgotten sequel from the late 90s, The Rage: Carrie 2. The second disc is where the meat and potatoes of the special features are found, which include a shitload of interviews with various crew members, the film’s screenwriter, Pino Donaggio, and there’s also new interviews with Nancy Allen, Piper Laurie, PJ Soles, and William Katt. There’s a look at the film’s shooting locations, an archival piece on the infamous musical based on Carrie that hysterically bombed big time, and a handful of TV spots, radio spots, and still galleries as well. Sadly there’s no contributions from Brian De Palma or Sissy Spacek, which is a damn shame. I would have loved a commentary track from De Palma, but I guess that’s just wishful thinking.

 

All in all, if you’ve missed out on any of the previous home media releases of Carrie thus far, Scream Factory’s set is definitely worth picking up. Hell, even if you do own the film already on DVD or Blu-ray, this is still worth picking up just because of this edition’s video and audio quality. It’s still one of the better adaptations of Stephen King’s work, and if for some reason you’ve never seen the film before, you should probably rectify that pretty soon.

 

Rating: 4/5

RETRO REVIEW: CHRISTINE (1983)

christine23

By Nick Durham

John Carpenter’s filmography is filled with films that could be considered missed opportunities. I call them missed opportunities because they either didn’t find much of an audience upon their original releases (Prince of Darkness and They Live come to mind, being excellent films that didn’t find the appreciation they deserve until years later) or just somehow manage to end up falling flat (Memoirs of An Invisible Man, Village of the Damned). Christine always fell somewhere in the middle, at least for me. A fairly solid adaptation of Stephen King’s novel that features the best and worst of Carpenter’s filmmaking style, I decided to watch the film for the first time in a long time recently, and came out enjoying it more than I did in the past.

 

Chances are you all know the story here, so I won’t spend too much time discussing it. Christine revolves around the frequently shit upon Arnie (Keith Gordon) and his jock pal Dennis (John Stockwell) in the late 70s. Arnie discovers the titular beaten up 1957 Plymouth Fury for sale one day, and automatically becomes obsessed with it. Arnie soon begins changing, and becoming a bit of a prick, as he restores Christine to her former glory, and a body count soon starts racking up. Can Dennis and Arnie’s suffering girlfriend (Alexandra Paul) save Arnie from a terrible fate perpetrated by being linked to this demonic car? Well, we all know how that goes right?

 

When Stephen King wrote Christine, he was still at that stage in his writing career when almost anything he penned was gold. Carpenter chooses to ignore flat out explanations for the car’s demonic ways and instead only implies certain things, and he does so to great effect. Actually, I find Christine to be one of Carpenter’s more underrated efforts. His directorial skill may come off as a bit more pedestrian here than it has prior or after this effort, but there are times when he’s a true master of mood here with what all he orchestrates. There’s little on-screen violence and bloodshed believe it or not, just a pretty damn good sense of suspense and dread that many Stephen King adaptations of this era frankly didn’t have and thus didn’t do their source material justice.

 

Christine recently got a Blu-ray release, which I recommend picking up. There’s also a super-rare release of the film from Twilight Time (which I have) out there somewhere, which is probably best reserved for die-hard fans of the film or of King/Carpenter only. No matter which way you go, you should give Christine another look when you can. It’s much, much better than you remember it being, and one of the more unheralded entries in John Carpenter’s filmography.

 

Rating: 4/5

BLU-RAY REVIEW: JUST DESSERTS: THE MAKING OF CREEPSHOW

creepshow2323

By Nick Durham

Do you know a single person that doesn’t like Creepshow? I don’t, at all, but if for some reason you do, you shouldn’t be friends with them. The reason why is that Creepshow is an absolute classic and one of the most enjoyable films of George Romero’s filmography. Thanks to the fine folks at Synapse, we now have a Blu-ray release of the making of the film, told through interviews and archival footage. Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow is a blast to watch to say it lightly.

 

Originally filmed for the UK special edition release of Creepshow (that for some reason never made it out over here in the States; we’ve been stuck with barebones releases of the film since the dawn of fucking time), Just Desserts features interviews with George Romero, Tom Savini, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Ed Harris, Richard P. Rubenstein, and more besides. There’s a hefty amount of archival footage spliced in between the interviews, including footage of Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, and Gaylen Ross all fucking around (which is quite humorous) and makeup tests from Savini as well. All the interviewees gush over their time working on the film, and there’s some interesting anecdotes sprinkled throughout; ranging from a key grip’s story of spending the night with a girl and faking a Hal Holbrook autograph to give to her mother, or the interesting (and disgusting) reminiscing of using a shit load of cockroaches in the film’s final, infamous segment.

 

Special features wise, Synapse managed to pack this disc with extras. There’s a commentary from the documentary’s director Michael Felsher, and another one that features John Amplas. There’s a vintage compilation of Tom Savini’s home movies during the making of the film, extended interviews with Romero, Savini, and legendary artist Bernie Wrightson, an episode of Horror’s Hallowed Grounds with Sean Clark and Tom Atkins, an hour long TV special focusing on Savini’s makeup effects work (mainly focusing on Day of the Dead), and tons more as well. Sadly, there’s no input from Stephen King, at least on film, which is kind of a shame considering I would have loved to have seen his take on working on this landmark film.

 

All things considered, it’s nice to finally have Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow wind up on our shores finally. Though who knows if we’ll ever get the proper special edition release of Creepshow that we’ve yearned for now for so damn long, this is a nice alternative. In that regard, you should go check this out and pick it up. You’ll have a blast.

 

Rating: 4/5

EDITORIAL: THE IT REMAKE IS COMING…FOR BETTER OR WORSE

STephen King's IT

By Nick Durham

I’m going to get this out of the way right now and just say it…I’ve never seen what the big deal is about Stephen King’s IT. Yeah yeah, save your vitriol for the comments section, but it’s true. I’ve never ever seen what the big deal is about Stephen King’s IT. I’ve tried to though, I really have, even way back when I was just a little shitkicker of a kid.

 

I remember first seeing the TV film adaptation when I was about six years old in 1990. Even as a kid, it didn’t really scare me much. From what I remember, it bored me even back then. Fast forward into my teens, and I gave IT another chance. Well, my opinion of the TV film hadn’t changed all that much, other than the fact I had found much appreciation for Tim Curry’s ridiculous over-the-top performance as Pennywise. The TV film is a slow and plodding adaptation of Stephen King’s novel. Granted the novel itself is quite lengthy, but it never felt boring. The TV film on the other hand sure does, and it suffers from so much melodrama it isn’t even funny.

 

That’s why hearing about all the on and off again news on a theatrical reboot/remake over the past few years really hasn’t affected me all that much. Everyone else it seems has either been up in arms about a remake, or been super excited at the prospect of it. Is Stephen King’s IT really considered a classic or something to have that kind of effect on people? If so, I really, really don’t get why. Maybe I’m just being more prickish than usual….

 

…na…couldn’t be that.

 

Anyway, the IT reboot is finally coming out, and Hemlock Grove‘s Bill (brother of Alex) Skarsgard is playing Pennywise. There will be two films, the first focusing on the Losers Club as children and their first encounter with Pennywise, while the second film will focus on them as adults as they face him for the final time. This way makes sense, making two films instead of trying to cram everything into one movie. Maybe this time around things will be more faithful to King’s source material given not being restricted to TV rules? Who knows. It’s being reported that the time period has been updated, which means we could potentially get Pennywise hunting hipster douche bags, which would make me buy a ticket right then and fucking there.

 

Either way, for better or worse, and whether I care or not, the IT remake is finally happening, so strap yourselves in folks. I personally can’t wait for the inevitable porn parody. You know that will be happening, there’s a fetish for everything.

FILM REVIEW: CELL (2016)

By Amy Mead

 

CELL poster

CELL

Directed by Tod Williams

Starring John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrman, and Stacy Keach


Cell begins with protagonist Clay Riddell arriving home after a year of being estranged from his wife and son. Shortly after landing, all hell breaks loose without warning. He witnesses unspeakable acts as people start convulsing, foaming at the mouth and fatally attacking anyone around them. They appear to be some sort of zombie type of creature that are driven by rage and they are out for blood. He is forced to fight for his life right there in the airport and very narrowly escapes after teaming up with an airport train conductor named Tom. 

Clay seems to be a very observant man and he very quickly he comes to realize that the ones attacking people had just been on their cell phones. After sharing this observation with Tom, they come to the conclusion that it was some sort of mysterious signal that was broadcast via mobile networks and anyone on their phone at the time of the “pulse” are now infected. 

The duo soon meets up with Clay’s teenage neighbor Alice and before long, the group sets off so that Clay can begin to look for his wife and son. During this trek, they meet up with a few scattered groups of people as they try to evade the hordes of “phoners”. The group continues to find themselves in situations where they barely escape with their lives and several people are tragically lost along the way. Very quickly, the outcome for Clay’s estranged family starts to look very grim indeed…

 

For quite a few years now, many Stephen King fans (myself included) have been anxiously awaiting this film adaptation of Stephen King’s 2006 novel, CELL. Earlier this month the films was released on various VOD platforms (LIMITED theatrical release slated to happen on July 8th) and the fans got what they wanted…Or did they? 

I am a huge fan of the novel, so I was naturally very skeptical when I sat down to watch the movie (because let’s face facts here, King’s film adaptations often leave us wanting). For the first 30 minutes or so, I rather liked the film and for the most part it seemed to follow the novel fairly closely. But the rest of the film? Sadly, I was sorely disappointed. Perhaps I am being too harsh because I read the book but I didn’t find the film even half as entertaining as I found the book to be, which is unfortunately most often the case with film adaptations. 

There were a lot of key elements from the novel that were not included and it greatly affected the plot and how everything within the story flowed. The only real common thread was that there had been a catastrophic event and that Clay was trying to find his son in the aftermath of it all. The saddest part for me in all of this is that King himself was involved with the screenplay.

The cinematography and sound are amazing, but unfortunately the casting choices didn’t do much to help the film. Even with some fairly big names attached, the performances left a lot to be desired and most of the actors appear downright bored and unenthusiastic about the whole thing. There was a potential for some powerhouse performances here but sadly, most of them fall short and are unimpressive, just like the film itself.

This film had so much potential but there is a surprising lack of action here, especially for a film of this nature. Because of that, I found it very hard to get invested in the plot or the characters and I can’t imagine that anyone who hasn’t read the book will get much more out of it than those of us who have. 

I am with the critics on this one: CELL does not deliver and it could quite possible be the worst adaptation of a Stephen King film to date. It is unimpressive and the finale of the film, which was changed because apparently people were unhappy with the books ending, will still make for many dissatisfied customers. Do yourself a favor and wait for this one to pop on on a streaming platform and save yourselves some money. I want mine back. 

Cell

I give this one 4/10