Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Library Suicides (2016)

“Stylish Welsh Thriller”

You don’t see those three words together very often, but that is indeed what this is - a Welsh language thriller (don’t worry, there are English subtitles) set in the National Library of Wales and the nearby town of Aberystwyth, now getting a DVD release courtesy of Soda Pictures.

Famous Welsh novelist Elena Wdig (Sharon Morgan) kills herself by jumping from the window of her seafront home. Or was she pushed? Her twin daughters Ana and Nan (both played by Catrin Stewart) seem to think so, and they believe they know who did it as well. In fact, so convinced are they that biographer Eben (Ryland Teifi) is the culprit that they concoct an elaborate scheme to lock him in the library after hours, with the intention of getting the truth out of him before killing him.

Needless to say, things go wrong. While one security guard is drugged as planned, the other, Dylan (Dyfan Dwyfor) doesn’t get his full dose of sedative. The twins have also failed to take into account that the actual truth behind what happened might be far more complex and involved than either of them has realised.

A slick, sexy thriller with just a few characters and an imposing and atmospheric setting (the outside of the National Library could double for the Tanzakademie in a remake of SUSPIRIA), THE LIBRARY SUICIDES is well worth a watch. The script is fine, the acting is good, and the direction (from Euros Lyn) ensures this is sharp and suspenseful.
         Soda Pictures’ DVD includes a making of featurette, deleted scenes and a trailer. I would say more about this film but I don’t want to give too much away, suffice to say it’s well worth checking out if you’re a fan of unassuming, original Eurothrillers. 

THE LIBRARY SUICIDES (Original title Y LLYFRGELL) is out on DVD from Soda Pictures on Monday 31st October

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Gods of Egypt (2016)

“Hoo-Ra! It’s GODS OF EGYPT!”

         Alex Proyas’ infamous megabudget spectacle comes to DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray courtesy of Entertainment One, but is it as bad as so many people have claimed? Well, I’ll admit that if you want to have any chance of finding GODS OF EGYPT fun (and it’s actually heaps and heaps of fun, oh yes indeedy) than you need to approach it in the right way. Perhaps a bit like this:

         Bryan Brown is Osiris - a god and the King of Egypt. For some reason he decides to make his son Jamie Lannister king instead. We aren’t told why, but perhaps Bryan wants to get back to the sheep shearing that made him famous in THE THORN BIRDS. There’s a big coronation ceremony. Osiris’ brother Set the God of Darkness (it says here) is late. He is played by that man who was very proud of loudly saying what country he was from in that film about Sparta. Being a God of Darkness has left him looking okay but has done something very strange to his accent, and now he seems to be possessed by the spirit of Sean Connery. Set brings Darkness to the land (which everyone seems oddly surprised about) by killing Osiris and blinding Jamie, making us wonder if Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has it in his contract that every role he plays must involve him losing at least one body part.

If I don't lose a body part soon I'm off
Meanwhile, we have also been introduced to two typical examples of the Egyptian working class. These are a pretty girl called Zaya who can’t act at all but has a cleavage so magnificently distracting that quite a lot of the viewing audience just won’t care, and a pretty boy called Bek with perfect skin who can’t deliver his lines very well either. However, as it’s already been demonstrated that you don’t have to act to even be a god in this place we assume that’s not going to hamper him in whatever adventure this film has planned. 

"The only way to meet Geoffrey Rush is to pretend you're Johnny Depp!"
         Bek enters Rufus Sewell’s Video Game of Doom to grab one of Jamie’s eyes. Zaya gets shot and we gasp as the crossbow bolt doesn’t actually bounce off her wooden acting. Jamie’s relaxing in his ?tomb. Bek drops Zaya there and does a deal with Jamie to get his other eye back and defeat Set who plans to take over the world and kill all the other gods which include the rather sexy Nephthys. Continuity fans will love the bit where Set quite obviously treads on Nephthys’s cloak but she gets to her feet without any effort in the next shot anyway. Maybe that’s what being a god is really all about.

"What is it you'll be wantin' up here in space then, Jaaaaaack?"
         Jamie visits Captain Barbossa from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN who has somehow ended up in space fighting Cthulhu (I know - How could any critic claim that this film isn’t brilliant?). Barbossa sends Jamie Lannister back to earth with a magic potion and he and the pretty boy fight some giant human cows before falling off a waterfall.
         Meanwhile, Set is in his flying chariot being pulled along by giant beetles (you see? This film gets even BETTER) laying waste to everything. Some stuff happens. Jamie turns into a metal flying eagle. Jamie and Set fight and Set bleeds gold in a misplaced tribute to Sean Connery in GOLDFINGER. The film is nearly over and I still haven't told you about the sphinx, the lettuce, the slave girls, that goddess whose dress nearly falls off in a swamp and whose name I don't think I ever learned, the secret lair of Thoth accessed by a door that looks like something off VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, or lots and lots and lots of CGI that gives us a very odd-looking version of Egypt indeed.
         GODS OF EGYPT is not to be taken at all seriously. I bet five year olds love it. I loved it. I saw it at the cinema and now I’ve seen it on Blu-ray and if anything the Blu-ray is even better. There are some extras on the disc that try to make out this was an actual real film that was meant to be about gods in Egypt but don’t be fooled. This is a marvellous, flamboyant, two hour-plus stream of random consciousness that feels like the big-budget piss take of adventure movies Ken Russell never go the chance to make. The box office performance of this means there will never be a sequel and there shouldn’t be, because you can never catch lightning like this in the same canopic jar twice. Watch it and see what I mean. THE Trapped in the Room with It picture of 2016, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. 

GODS OF EGYPT, directed by Alex DARK CITY & THE CROW Proyas, is out on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray from Monday 24th October. 

Friday, 21 October 2016

The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast (1963 - 1972)

“Amazing Collection of Movies and Material From a Unique 
Film-Maker No Longer With Us. RIP HGL. ”

You have to be a special kind of person to appreciate a film made by the (very recently) late, great Herschell Gordon Lewis. You have to be someone who isn’t put off by tatty film-making, writing, or acting; someone who perhaps revels in the sheer bad taste of his shoestring enterprises; and perhaps most of all, someone who can appreciate the work of a man who was actively thumbing his nose at a movie industry that, at the time, considered the output of Hammer Films not worth reviewing, let alone scenes of a foot long tongue being removed from the mouth of a Swedish lady.
  I am an HGL fan, so welcome to a far lengthier review than usual as I delve into the contents of this massive set that provides a most fitting monument to this very singular film-maker. There are 17 discs in here, and even counting the fact that it’s dual format, that’s still pretty impressive. Also impressive is that HGL himself provides a newly filmed (and charming) introduction to every movie included. It’s quite a bit to cover, so let’s dive in!

Discs 1 (Blu) & 2 (DVD)


BLOOD FEAST kicks off!

The ‘classic’ that started it all, and still surprisingly watchable if you’re the kind of very forgiving horror fan who can excuse terrible acting, dodgy direction and editing, and crappy dialogue synching. Because BLOOD FEAST really does have something - the verve with which the ludicrousness is pulled off, the sheer outrageousness of the gore effects, and the music that should be terrible (and frequently is) but which somehow fits this jolly nonsense perfectly. I don’t think it’s a classic, and you really do need to be a special kind of horror fan to enjoy it, but if you are you’ll end up watching it again and again. This version has been restored but for some reason is presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. I would, of course, suggest watching it in 1.33:1 and that version thankfully is on one of the two supplementary Blu-ray discs. 


She also gave us the screenplay for BLOOD FEAST!

“You’re damaged goods, and this is a fire sale!” I can’t say I’m at all familiar with the ‘roughie’ subgenre of American exploitation cinema. Knowing HGL, SCUM OF THE EARTH might not even be a reasonable example, but it is a piece of sleazy black and white fun as good girl Kim (frequent HGL screenwriter and general helpmate Allison Louise Downe) gets coerced into having nude pictures taken which are then used to blackmail her into performing ever further unspeakable acts. Interesting for seeing Mal Arnold not being Fuad Ramses (in fact watch this and then BLOOD FEAST and several familiar faces pop up) and some great trashy dialogue. Also presented in 1.85:1 but there’s a 1.33:1 version on the supplemental Blu-rays. 

Extras include a Lewis & Friedman commentary on BLOOD FEAST, directors Nick McCarthy and Rodney Asher talking about the importance of the film, BLOOD FEAST outtakes (silent), archive HGL interview and another with HGL and Dave Friedman as well, CARVING MAGIC vintage short and HGL discussing his early work in nudie cuties (what a strange name for a genre). 

Discs 3 (Blu) & 4 (DVD)


Southern Hospitality. 

Arguably HGL’s best film, which manages to combine BRIGADOON with politics, bluegrass country music and gore effects. More accomplished than BLOOD FEAST (and some of HGL’s subsequent offerings), this one’s actually quite unsettling because of its plot and acting as well as the splat. Like a low rent Twilight Zone episode but with blood and a worrying integrity on the part of some of its actors, this is probably the best HGL film to use as a gateway drug on the unsuspecting (as opposed to TASTE OF BLOOD because that wouldn’t be fair). 


You've seen the poster. You probably don't need to see the film

Definitely one for the HGL / crap country music movie completist, because there’s no nudity or gore in this one to liven it up. There is, however, lots of hillbilly tomfoolery, drinking, and the mayor from TWO THOUSAND MANIACS. Maybe it’s not that bad. But then again, it probably is. 

Extras: TWO THOUSAND MANIACS Friedman & Lewis commentary, outtakes and Tim Sullivan talking about it. A tribute to David F Friedman, visual essay on the American south in horror from David Del Valle, and Herschell’s Art of Advertising! 

Discs 5 (Blu) & 6 (DVD)


But is it art?

Holy bananas! There’s a foot sticking out of the sand here! Don’t worry - it’s just HGL’s tale of a mad artist who discovers blood is just the right shade of red for his grisly paintings. Neither as amateur as BLOOD FEAST nor as interesting as 2000 MANIACS it’s still worth a watch as the final part of the Lewis-Friedman trilogy. Plus there’s some of the reddest swimsuit attire I have ever seen


The aspect of this still is wrong, but then so is the entire film. 

HGL’s tale of ESP and a serial killer kicks off with three minutes of karate, then something silly happens and a man falls off a roof before we cut to a picture of clouds. A lecture follows and just as we are all falling asleep we cut to our man in hospital and flashing lights. Some doctors talk. The man attacks a nurse, then puts a sock over his head and starts telling fortunes. A pretend old lady appears. She has lips tattooed on her right knee. The porn boss from SCUM OF THE EARTH turns up. Everything turns red during an LSD trip. What on earth is going on? Why am I even asking? Is it SOMETHING WEIRD? Yes it is. 

Extras: Commentaries on both movies. Outtakes from COLOR ME BLOOD RED, David Del Valle affects his best spooky voice (if there’s a better one I want to hear that too) to tell us about mad artists in the movies, Film Scholar Jeffrey Sconce defends SOMETHING WEIRD, saying you have to work up to that one (he’s right). HGL talks about his musical JIMMY THE BOY WONDER (not on this set - are we pleased or relieved?). A 1966 dance short HOT NIGHT AT THE GO GO LOUNGE ‘presumably’ directed by Lewis which plays more like the inside of John Waters’ head than anything remotely sexy. Never before in the annals of horror....

Discs 7 (Blu) & 8 (DVD)


Irresistible daftness

This is the one about the wig shop run by a batty old lady who is obsessed with her stuffed cat Napoleon. On the opposite side of the shop are rooms for rent. Every girl who comes inquiring gets locked in with the old lady’s son who scalps them with typical Apart from the wacky ‘comedy horror’ plot, this one’s worth watching for the priceless drive-in scene (and the film being shown) that had me in tears. 72 minutes, quite a few of them serving nothing plotwise at all, but still a pretty good time. Especially those talking heads at the start that feel so post-modern they could be a youtube video. 


…and a blob of gore

HGL’s ‘vampire epic’ that features him as a sailor because the chap intended for the role never turned up. It’s a bit overlong at two hours but if you’ve been watching the discs in sequence you’ll probably be surprised at how competent this one is. A businessman inherits a couple of bottles of brandy from Dracula, basically. They turn him into a vampire & he embarks on a revenge spree for his late relative. Slightly better acting than usual and a nice print on the whole, except for some greeny spotty bits in the middle. 

Extras: San Francisco female impersonator Peaches Christ talks about the film, Fred Olen Ray talks about filming in Florida, HGL commentaries on both pictures and a piece on HGL versus the censors. 

Discs 9 (Blu) and 10 (DVD)


An icon of grindhouse!

A bit like the TV show THE BANANA SPLITS but with women bikers and no cartoons, HG’s second most profitable picture is brightly lit and features lots of ladies riding motorbikes while wearing the kind of clothes a young Divine must have drooled over. There’s a fair bit of violence as well (including the old head flying through the air gag) before a really abrupt ending. Stay after the credits, though, for some more of the biker ladies’ “poetry”.


I put up the poster. Just for the hell of it

Teens smash things up as four punks (Denny, Mitzi, Dexter and Lummox!) terrorise a neighbourhood. WIZARD OF GORE Ray Sager leads the gang. Possessing the same level of energy as (if not more than) SHE DEVILS this is juvenile delinquency HGL style. Just make sure if you watch this you also catch the Ray Sager interview on the next disc.

Extras: Chris Alexander talks about HGL and there’s a clip of the two of them performing the title song from 2000 MANIACS a couple of years ago that’s utterly endearing. Also an interview with Bob Murawski (editor on ARMY OF DARKNESS and SPIDERMAN), HGL on THE ALLEY TRAMP, trailers and a commentary for SHE DEVILS. 

Discs 11 (Blu) and 12 (DVD)


No stills available for this one. There's a reason

Oh good Lordy. Here’s one just for the HGL completists out there. If a group of schoolboys in the late 1960s had decided to make a sex comedy about a scientist building lady robots they would probably have done better than this. Worth seeing the bit with the computer about 20 minutes in, complete with special HGL sound effects that consist of him burping, groaning and playing what sounds like a swanee whistle to suggest the computer is going about its business. 


Oh Montag, what are you up to now?

Chris Alexander claims this is the apotheosis of HGL’s work and he may well be right. At his nightly stage show Montag the Magician does ridiculous things to people on stage and they somehow survive except they don’t really. It’s all to do with the audience being hypnotised. Or is Montag hypnotised? Or asleep? Or is the entire film a dream? Either ambitious (if you’re being kind) or a load of old random rubbish (if you’re not and if so why have you read this far?) it’s fair to say that there is no film on earth quite like THE WIZARD OF GORE. Not even that remake with Crispin Glover came close. Show this one to an unsuspecting friend and watch their face as their brain fries. Oh, and this is the 1.85:1 aspect version. The 1.33:1 is on one of the bonus Blu-rays. 

Extras: Trailer and commentary for WIZARD OF GORE. Great interview with star Ray Sager, Stephen Thrower talks about WIZARD, Jeffrey Kasten (who made the WIZARD remake) talks about HGL’s movies, and we get the HGL episode of Jonathan Ross’ Incredibly Strange Film Show (which is a huge piece of 1980s nostalgia in itself). 

Discs 13 (Blu) and 14 (DVD)


See my caption for MOONSHINE MOUNTAIN and apply

Hillbillies, moonshine, lots of bluegrass fiddle music, two girls crucified and an early appearance by Larry Drake (DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW, DARKMAN et al). That’s all you need to know about this one, which is for HGL completists only. 


A rare non-gory, non-sleazy bit. Well, non-gory anyway.

A mixture of giallo murder mystery and rather dull TV detective movie, this is the one that even Fangoria said contained ‘vomitous amounts of hard core gore’. Certainly the treatment of the (extremely amateur) effects verges on the pornographic. That, along with one of the darkest, grimmest-looking strip clubs ever committed to film as the main setting of this one, means you may want to have something else lined up afterwards as a bit of a palate cleanser

Extras: Stephen Thrower reminds me of my youth watching this stuff on very very blurry VHS and provides as erudite a ‘defence’ of GORE GORE GIRLS as anyone possibly could. HGL commentaries on both pictures, HGL talks about why he left the film industry at this point, and Joe Swanberg and Spencer Parsons discuss HGL’s movies in general and GORE GORE girls in particular. 

Disc 15 (Blu-ray only)

Original aspect ratio transfers (1.33:1) of




Disc 16 (Blu-ray only)

Original aspect ratio transfers (1.33:1) of:



Disc 17 (Blu-ray only)

H G Lewis: The Godfather of Gore - Quite possibly more entertaining than the films themselves, this is a 100 minute+ documentary on HGL with plenty of interviews, clips, and a healthy sense of humour about the whole thing. There’s also just over an hour of deleted scenes as well, so in all you get nearly three hours of people talking about HGL’s films, including John Waters, Frank Henenlotter and of course HGL himself. 

So in summary, I loved this set. It's probably the most exhaustive tribute to HGL that's ever going to exist. There is so much stuff here, and so many extras, that it's going to keep grindhouse fans happy for a month and possibly forever. Arrow are releasing two sets - a standard version and a special limited edition that looks like this:

The postcards are especially nice. Right - I'm off to run my brain under a cold tap and chill out by watching something normal. Or perhaps I'll just watch WIZARD OF GORE again

Arrow Films are releasing THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST and THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS FEAST - SHOCK & GORE EDITION (with all that extra stuff in the picture up there) on Monday 24th October 2016. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Tales of Halloween (2015)

“Definitely the Lighter, Sillier Side of Halloween”

After its UK premiere at last year’s Frightfest this US anthology movie, that manages to tell ten stories in just over ninety minutes, gets a UK disc release courtesy of Arrow Films.

Over the years, it’s fair to say that British and American attitudes to the 31st of October have been markedly different. For many in the UK, Halloween night still represents an uneasy mix of pagan ritual history, coupled with an excuse for the more PURGE-like members of modern teen and twenty-something society to perform wanton acts of vandalism. In the US, on the other hand, it seems to be mainly about sweets. Oh, and having a party, with a distinct orientation towards children and family fun. 

I say this because if you’re expecting a grim and downbeat anthology movie about witchcraft, cruelty and the general grimness that we might expect from a Halloween here in the UK (as I think quite a few Frightfest attendees including myself were anticipating when this one premiered) you’re going to be disappointed by TALES OF HALLOWEEN, a movie that’s very much about the lighter, sillier, and very much more American aspect to this particular night of the year. 

The movie opens with a cracking credit sequence designed by Ashley Thorpe that deserves not to have the credits reeled out over it. The ten stories all take place during one Halloween night, pretty much on the same street as far as I could tell. We begin with Dave Parker’s Sweet Tooth, a cautionary tale featuring a pre- BLOOD FEAST remake Robert Rusler and Caroline Williams who make the mistake of eating all their little boy’s sweets. 

In Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Night Billy Raised Hell Barry Bostwick with horns takes his little friend around the neighbourhood to play some ‘hilarious’ pranks on a Jeffrey Combs lookalike and others. Adam Gierasch’s Trick involves some eyeball violence, while Axelle Carolyn’s Grim Grinning Ghost crams in a host of cameos before getting to the subject of the story. Lucky McKee’s Ding Dong is a thinly veiled tale of domestic abuse with a hilarious Pollyanna Mackintosh looking like Donna Summer with four arms. 

Mike Mendez scores a daft hit with Friday the 31st, a tale of a tiny space alien that ends up chasing a Jason Voorhees lookalike. John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s This Means War details a feud between neighbours and their garden decorations, pretty much all set to music. Paul Solet does a backstreet Halloween Western with The Weak and the Wicked and Ryan Schifrin’s The Ransom of Rusty Rex is all about how John Landis has his son kidnapped for ransom. Or does he? Last and best and daftest of the lot has Neil Marshall directing his tale of a monster killer pumpkin on the loose in Bad Seed, with Joe Dante turning up at the end.

I have to admit that, much as I wanted to enjoy TALES OF HALLOWEEN, I found it a bit of a slog, with the first bit that was actually any good occurring way past the halfway mark. A couple of these stories would work well as comedy sketches, others just seem an excuse to parade a host of famous friends in bit parts. Bad Seed is the kind of solid silly comedy the Zucker brothers used to do so well, and Friday the 31st could have been lifted direct from something like ROBOT CHICKEN. You’ll probably have trouble remembering the rest of the stories the next day.

Arrow’s DVD comes with a number of extras, including a commentary track, deleted scene, behind the scenes, photo gallery and storyboards. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are a number of shorts including the rough-as-VHS-ever-got Brain Death from Neil Marshall, Axelle Carolyn’s The Halloween Kid, Joe Lynch desperately needing a drink and finding a serial killer in Thirsty, thirty seconds of a plasticene man and his penis in Lucky McKee’s Boilly, a brain-frying pop video called Hot Rod Worm and a great little short by Ryan Schifrin called No Rest for the Wicked - go straight to this one as it’s by far the best of the bunch.

TALES OF HALLOWEEN is out on Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Films on 24th October 2016

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Darling (2015)

“The New American TENANT”

Writer-director Mickey Keating’s follow up to POD (2015 - premiered at Frightfest last year) gets a DVD release in the UK courtesy of Soda Pictures.

         Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter) is the name of the troubled (we are soon to find out) young woman who gets the job as caretaker for Sean Young’s posh New York townhouse. She (and we) get a brief info dump on how allegedly it’s the oldest house in the city, that someone once tried to conjure up the devil in one of the rooms, and that the previous caretaker killed herself by jumping from an upstairs balcony. Then Darling's left alone to get on with things and quite possibly go even more mad than she already is.

         So far, so Polanski (the black and white photography helps with this) and indeed, soon we’re in REPULSION land by way of THE TENANT with a good dollop of David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD thrown in as Darling starts to experience flashbacks (or are they?) and ends up inviting Henry (Brian Morvant) whom she meets in a bar back for brandy and horrible things. After that there’s a touch of Abel Ferrara’s MS.45 before things get even more stuttery and loony. I won’t tell you the ending because, well, you have to watch the film for that.

         Proudly wearing its influences on its sleeve (and director Keating cites some of the above as reference points in the three short featurettes that are extras on the disc) DARLING has loads of scary style, some properly disturbing imagery, and a great central performance from Lauren Ashley Carter. In fact the only criticism I would make about DARLING is that it feels like a long short film rather than a feature (if you see what I mean). The photography, the soundscape and the general sense of weirdness are all excellent, but there’s not quite enough substance there to make this entirely satisfying.

          That said, Keating comes across on the extras as extremely knowledgeable about the history of cinema in general and weird cinema in particular and a director’s commentary would have been most welcome. On the basis of POD and this he’s definitely one to watch and if you fancy a bit of late-night messing with your mind DARLING is definitely worth a watch.  

Mickey Keating's DARLING is getting a UK DVD release from Soda Pictures on 24th October 2016. Here's the trailer: 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Preacher (2016)

“Twin Peaks - Texas Style!”

Well the start of this one certainly feels like it. Courtesy of Sony Pictures, here comes the first season of PREACHER, an adaptation of writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon’s Vertigo comic book series of the same name.

Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) is the preacher in a small Texas town. He styles his hair similar to Jack Nance in ERASERHEAD (another Lynch connection?), and has a Dark and Mysterious past, which he shared with his ex girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga). She arrives back in his life about the same time an Irish vampire called Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) jumps 30 000 feet from an aeroplane and lands with a splat in a nearby field, pausing only to eat an inquisitive cow in order to reconstitute himself.

But it’s not just in Texas that odd things are happening. An African preacher, a priest of the Church of Satan, and Tom Cruise all explode, and before you can say “I beg your pardon?” Jesse has been possessed by the same extra-terrestrial force that did them in. He doesn’t explode, though. Instead it gives him the ability to control others by simply telling them what to do. This results in a chap cutting out his own heart and giving it to his mother (a bit of a mistake, that one,) and a local girl in a coma opening her eyes for the first time in months. And there are even bigger things planned for Jesse and his friends. 

PREACHER starts off really well. There are plenty of quirky characters with interesting back stories, some good acting (Jackie Earle Haley turns up as the evil boss behind the local ‘Meat and Power’ company) and everyone has obviously tried to hard to give this a graphic novel ‘look’. Unfortunately, it does all start to drag a bit after that, with far too much talking and not enough weird things happening. Still, it is early days and apparently the second season premiere is set for 2017, so it may well pick up (the original comic book runs to over 70 issues).

Sony’s three disc Blu-ray and DVD release contains all ten episodes, with deleted and extended scenes, a piece on the stunts and more information on the pilot episode. Exclusive to the Blu-ray release is a gag reel, and a couple of featurettes - ‘Chainsaw Fight Breakdown’ and “Behind the Killing Machine’ which were not provided for review. 

Preacher Season One is out from Sony on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 17th October 2016

Friday, 14 October 2016

Burnt Offerings (1976)

“Oliver Reed Vs Haunted House” 

And you probably won’t guess who wins if you haven’t seen this, TV Movie maestro Dan Curtis’ shot at big screen haunted house horror, now given a new dual format Blu-ray and DVD release courtesy of Arrow Films.

The Rolf family (father Oliver Reed, mother Karen Black, aunt Bette Davis and son Lee Harcourt Montgomery from BEN and Curtis’ own DEAD OF NIGHT - the ‘Bobby’ episode) move into a remote country mansion for the summer. Even the presence of a flamboyantly eccentric and wheelchair-bound Burgess Meredith to help explain the (very low) rent doesn’t worry them, nor the knowledge that apparently the ancient and reclusive Mrs Allardyce will be living in the top room during their stay.

But they should be concerned, because while Mrs Allardyce is nowhere to be seen, Karen Black starts behaving as if the old lady is in fact there. Lee Montgomery ends up close to death on several occasions, Bette has a stroke and Oliver, while staying off the shandies (for the most part) starts to be haunted by visions of his mother’s funeral, and the scary chauffeur he remembers from it. Is Mrs Allardyce hiding somewhere in the house, or is it the building itself that’s the villain of the piece?

Dan Curtis was best known for TV horror. Movies like THE NIGHT STALKER, TRILOGY OF TERROR and DEAD OF NIGHT still evoke fond memories in horror fans. His soap opera DARK SHADOWS never made it over here but it was instrumental in making his name and giving him the chance to do other work within the genre. 

Unfortunately, with the transition to a lengthy cinema film (nearly two hours) Curtis does lose his way somewhat, with an idea that would be better suited to the shorter television format. Performances are all fine, as is the music by his regular composer Robert Cobert. But BURNT OFFERINGS still lacks something substantial enough to make the movie ultimately unsatisfactory. It’s not entirely a dead loss, but don’t go in expecting too much. Besides, there weren't many mid-1970s movies that boasted the technical credits of both Eugene GORGO Lourie as production designer and Jacques ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN Marquette as director of photography.

As always, Arrow have gone the extra mile to give their presentation of BURNT OFFERINGS some decent extras. There are two commentary tracks, one from Richard Harland Smith and a second from Dan Curtis, Karen Black and screenwriter William F Nolan. Nolan is also the subject of one of the featurettes in which he talks about his collaborations with the director. There’s also a great interview with Lee Montgomery, who shows us his signed script for the film. As well as that there's an interview with character actor Anthony James (who plays the chauffeur), plus a promotional gallery, reversible sleeve and new writing in a booklet that’s limited to the disc’s first pressing. 

Dan Curtis' BURNT OFFERINGS is coming out on Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD from Arrow Films in Monday 17th October 2016