C.H.U.D. (ARROW VIDEO BLU-RAY RELEASE)

Image result for chud arrowBY BLAINE MCLAREN

If you grew up in the 80s and early 90s you probably have some vague memory of seeing Daniel Stern in a (gritty) New York City movie called C.H.U.D. It was one of those films that always played after reruns of Star Trek and helped inform the tastes of a whole generation of burgeoning nerds.  The truth is that I had not seen this film since my teens and I was excited to visit this movie again with fresh eyes.  What I remembered was a very basic monster flick, but what I got was a smart and entertaining piece of Americana.  In my younger years I never noticed all of the social commentary (and there is tons of it on display in this film)…but lets not forget that there are also some kick ass monsters too.

Image result for chud arrowC.H.U.D. tells the story of a police captain (John Heard) who is investigating the mysterious disappearances of people in a neighborhood of New York City, including his wife.  His investigation leads him to the sewers and he uncovers a gruesome monster (or monsters) that is preying on unsuspecting victims.  He teams up with a local (Daniel Stern) and the two attempt to discover what is behind it all.

This film holds up and documents a lost era of a truly dangerous feeling New York City that my generation will only know from movies like this.  Most monster movies have some thinly veiled social message, but C.H.U.D. addresses social issues head on.  We are dropped into a world of homeless people and government cover ups that feel just as relevant now as it did in 1984.  This Blu Ray release keeps the magic this film offered over thirty years ago and will (hopefully) expose a whole new generation to its subtle genius.

Contents

Brand new restoration from the original film elements
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Integral Cut from a new 2K film transfer
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the Original Theatrical Cut [Limited Edition Exclusive]
Original Uncompressed PCM Mono Audio
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio commentary with director Douglas Cheek, writer Shepard Abbott, and actors John Heard, Daniel Stern and Christopher Curry
A Dirty Look– an interview with production designer William Bilowit
Dweller Designs – an interview with special make-up effects and creature creator John Caglione, Jr.
Notes from Above Ground: The NYC Locations of C.H.U.D. – featurette hosted by journalist Michael Gingold and filmmaker Ted Geoghegan
Behind-the-Scenes Gallery
Extended Shower Scene
Original Theatrical Trailer
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Dan Mumford
Fully illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Gingold [Limited Edition Exclusive]

C.H.U.D. IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM http://www.arrowvideo.com/product/chud/762

 

VAMPYRES (2015)

Image result for vampyres 2015BY BLAINE MCLAREN

I am not really sure who asked for a remake to the 1974 film Vampyres, but someone did it anyway.  Why someone would revisit this sleazy classic is beyond me, but I was happily surprised at how this film turned out.  What we got was a trashy, but wonderfully shot story of vampires.  Sexy, lesbian vampires who have some sort of plan that does not really much make sense.  Lets be honest, who cares, I  just said sexy lesbian vampires and that should give you an idea what you are in for.

Image result for vampyres 2015The film begins with two beautiful women who are vampires living in an English estate. Just feeding on travelers and holding a middle aged man hostage in their basement.  Once three young adults accidentally set up camp on their property, the blood thirsty couple is disrupted and forced to start feeding on these interlopers.  Will these uninvited guests compromise the vampire couple’s twisted lifestyle?  Maybe, but they wont go without a very (very!) sexy fight.

Image result for vampyres 2015I have a hard time not cracking jokes while discussing this film’s plot, but where this movie lacks in story it makes up in tone.  Very few filmmakers could capture the tone of an old Jess Franco film, but Victor Matellano did.  Between graphic sex and/or murder scenes, we are treated to beautiful scenery and the production value of a more expensive film.  The capturing of this era does have its sour notes though.  On top of nailing the vibe, it also nails the pacing…which is slow.  Whenever characters are clothed (or not bound to posts in a makeshift dungeon) the film grinds to a painful halt.  There is very little investment to be made in these one-dimensional villains and victims.  But, who really gives a shit…there are lesbian vampires and loads (and loads) of blood.  This may not win any major awards, but it is a fun way to spend a buzzed Saturday night.  VAMPYRES IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON VOD AND DVD http://www.artsploitationfilms.com/film/vampyres/

 

THE HILLS HAVE EYES (ARROW VIDEO BLU-RAY RELEASE)

Image result for arrow video the hills have eyes press bookBY BLAINE MCLAREN

There is not a lot to say about this 1977 classic that has not been said hundreds of times.  This is one of those great films that you may not appreciate when you are young, but grows on you as you get older and more jaded.  Wes Craven started his career with the one-two punch of nihilism know as (back to back releases) Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes.  What is fantastic about “Hills” is that it works out all of the goofiness in “House” and shows why (the late) Wes Craven would go on to be a master of horror.  He sets the tone and maintains it from beginning to end, making outlandish characters feel real and alive.  When it is time to turn up the tension, he never hesitates to show true ugliness and violence.  While being a great film, most of its releases have been fairly sub par.  Luckily the good folks at Arrow Video decided to rerelease it and give it the care/attention that it has always deserved.

Image result for arrow video the hills have eyes press bookThe 4k scan used for the blu ray looks great and you finally get to see the detail and great photography in this film.  Most prints have that very “brown” look that instantly makes a film seem older and less impressive, but this print corrects that.  The color shines through and you get a real feel for the desolation and heat these actors are enduring.  My favorite part of this release is the hour long “making of” that managed to bring back most of the central cast and crew.  Wes Craven tells stories and we get to hear the details of what it took to get this story from page to screen.  If you don’t dig great movies, then you can watch the “feel good” alternate ending (that is also included).  Overall, this is the home release that the film deserves and it offers a lot of goodies that make it well worth the sticker price.  THE ARROW VIDEO RELEASE OF THE HILLS HAVE EYES IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE AT RETAILERS, INCLUDING AMAZON.COM 

DETAILS

Brand new 4K restoration of the film, supervised by producer Peter Locke and viewable with both original and alternate endings

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original mono audio
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • 6 x postcards
  • Reversible fold-out poster featuring new and original artwork
  • Limited edition booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Brad Stevens and a consideration of the Hills franchise by Ewan Cant, illustrated with original archive stills
  • Brand new audio commentary with actors Michael Berryman, Janus Blythe, Susan Lanier and Martin Speer
  • Brand new audio commentary by academic Mikel J. Koven
  • Audio commentary with Wes Craven and Peter Locke
  • Looking Back on The Hills Have Eyes – making-of documentary featuring interviews with Craven, Locke, actors Michael Berryman, Dee Wallace, Janus Blythe, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier and director of photography Eric Saarinen
  • Brand new interview with actor Martin Speer
  • The Desert Sessions – brand new interview with composer Don Peake
  • Never-before-seen Outtakes
  • Alternate ending, in HD for the first time  
  • Trailers and TV Spots
  • Image Gallery
  • Original Screenplay (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Paul Shipper

DREAMING PURPLE NEON (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Todd Sheets is a living legend of no-budget filmmaking and he is a filmmaker that I am always excited to see anything that comes from him.  Movies like Zombie Bloodbath, Goblin and Nightmare Asylum were “go-to” films back in the VHS era and he has made a fantastic comeback over these past few years.  Contributing to a couple anthologies and his impressive feature House of Forbidden Secrets.  The title and one-sheet alone had me hooked for Dreaming Purple Neon, so when I had the opportunity to check it out I did not hesitate one bit.  This film packs a lot of genres and ideas into its nearly 2 hour runtime and Mr Sheets manages to pull it off to an impressive degree.

Dreaming Purple Neon begins with two drug dealers/gangsters, Tyrone (Ricky Farr) and Ray Ray (Antwoine Steel), who are dealing with an associate who has clearly crossed the two.  Once things go south, they kill the associate and scare the hell out of their employee Catriona (Millie Milan).  She freaks out, steals the mysterious drugs and flees to one of her friends who works for a dentist.  At the same time, Dallas (Jeremy Edwards) has returned to his hometown to try to settle things with his ex.  It just so happens that this leads Dallas to the same dentists’ office as Catriona.  Once all of these stories intersect it leads all of our players into the clutches of an evil Satanic cult that is manufacturing a drug called (you guessed it) Purple Neon.  It is at this point that things get messy and our characters end up in a fight for their lives and sanity.

This film harkens back to a lot of what has made Todd Sheets early films so enjoyable, but the level of craftsmanship makes this film much more impressive than what you would expect.  Scenes are shot well and scenes feel deliberate and lack the padding you would usually see in a film like this.  Todd Sheets’ direction feels very confident and this confidence affects everyone involved in the film.  The acting is a little rough around the edges, but the lines are delivered with that same confidence, which (instantly) sells the viewer into believing what they say (no matter how ridiculous).

The biggest star of this film is the practical FX on display in this film.  They must have gone through gallons and gallons of fake blood.  Gooey latex and prosthetics get torn to shreds by cleverly designed demons, people and monsters throughout.  I can only imagine how much work it was to clean up after these scenes, but this film puts every single dollar if its budget on the screen.  The sign of a true indie filmmaker that understands why we all love these types of films.  The only complaint I found was that the (occasional) CGI really stood out.  With these budgets it is necessary, but the top notch practical FX made the digital FX look worse.  That tiny (and easily overlooked) gripe aside, this is an original horror that rises above your normal glut of low budget horror that fans deserve.  Todd Sheets has blessed us with another great splatter-classic that gore fans will be singing praises of for years to come.   DREAMING PURPLE NEON WILL BE RELEASING SOON AND I WILL UPDATE WHEN IT IS ANNOUNCED.

ANOTHER EVIL (2016 BURIED ALIVE FILM FESTIVAL)

Image result for another evil 2016

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Another Evil dwells in that strange world where there is no real genre to place it in.  It is funny, but it is not a comedy and it is has ghosts, but it is not really a horror movie.  Where it falls in…who knows, but I can say that it is one of the best written and acted films of the year.  There is no rhyme or reason in the plot and these odd choices make sense in the bizarre world that (Director) Carson D. Mell and company have created.  This strange film may be tough for some crowds, but those who do connect with it will be in for a fantastic trip.

The film begins with a family who is indulging in a frantic and confusing game of Charades.  Midway through the game, they are interrupted by movement in the home and the eventual discovery of ghosts.  They immediately get a spiritualist and he tells them that the ghosts are actually “pretty cool”.  The husband decides to get a second opinion and then opens his home to a man who could be a much bigger threat than anything supernatural.

Image result for another evil 2016As I mentioned before, the script is one of the best I have seen in years.  All of the dialogue fits the characters perfectly and the odd sense of humor turns the darkest scenes into its funniest.  The actors are all on point and the two leads nail their roles as friends/foes.  The only gripe I had was that the ending seemed a little rushed and I would have liked to see some of the details fleshed out more.  This minor complaint aside, this film was my favorite feature of the festival and I am excited to see how it is received once it is released.  Another Evil is far from conventional, but it is a brilliant and original take on the well-worn haunted house subgenre.  ANOTHER EVIL IS CURRENTLY BEING RELEASED BY RAVEN BANNER, BUT DOES NOT HAVE A RELEASE DATE YET

THE NIGHT WATCHMEN (2016 BURIED ALIVE FILM FESTIVAL)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Mitchell Altieri has made a lot of interesting films over the past 15 years, originally operating as one-half of “The Butcher Brothers”. My first exposure being The Hamiltons.  It was one of the better films to come out of the After Dark Film series and he has continued to make odd, entertaining films over the past few years.  So when I saw that he was directing a new horror-comedy called The Night Watchmen, I was pretty excited and surprised that it was premiering in my hometown of Atlanta.  I am pretty picky when it comes to comedy, but at only 5 minutes in I was belly laughing in my seat.  This slapstick, gore-soaked comedy came out of nowhere and left me with a smile on my face for its entire runtime.  Some may be too cool for its silly (and occasionally campy) sensibilities, but those people are not the target audience and will probably never see it.

The Night Watchmen is a story about a group of security guards at a Baltimore Newspaper , who are going through an average day of work.  They recently hired a new guy and during his orientation, the building is attacked by bloodthirsty clowns.  This outbreak happens when a local (celebrity) clown is killed in Romania and his body is delivered to the wrong address.  From here, the gang has to stick together to hilariously battle the undead and try to make it through the night.

I have mentioned how funny this film is, but this is still a horror film.  Tons of gore gags and arterial sprays are littered through this picture and it is hard not to smile each time it occurs. Another standout is all of the stunts and action scenes.  There are full body burns, high flying monsters and even a spider-walking vampire (ala The Exorcist).  Even with all of this great action, the cast really carries this film and the mile a minute comedy style works well.  It becomes very apparent that the cast are really friends and that the chemistry on film is 100% real, making it even easier to rally behind our heroes.  This is one of the best horror-comedies the year and I am hoping this film finds its audience.  I have a good feeling that this title will be on a lot of top ten lists and will be a Netflix hit.  THE NIGHT WATCHMEN IS CURRENTLY PLAYING FILM FESTIVALS, BUT THERE SHOULD BE RELEASE INFO SOON

CANNIBAL CLAUS (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Sleaze Box and Gatorblade pictures are back at it again…just in time for the holidays.  I am not sure who said “let’s make Bob Glazier Santa Claus”, but I want to personally thank them.  Cannibal Claus is a Christmas movie, but it is not exactly fit for the whole family.  It has all of the gore and naked breasts you have come to expect, but this time it is set to the jolly tune of Christmas carols.  It may not be the best film from Director Sean Donohue, but it is one of his most enjoyable.

Cannibal Claus starts with a mall Santa (played by Bob Glazier) losing his job to his smug employer.  This sets our central character into a tailspin of debauchery and violence, putting together “a list” of those who have been naughty and nice.  This includes anyone who has ever wronged him and his methods are as brutal as they are funny.

The company of actors that Sean Donohue and Sleaze Box films continually work with really seem to be growing as a whole.  These actors are clearly having a great time and it shows throughout the film’s brisk runtime.  The direction is solid and feels cinematic, but it does lack a little of the polish we saw in Death-Scort Service.  The scenes are a little choppier than his last film, but it’s not distracting and may help with the playful tone.  What works best is how this film interweaves the two storylines, giving an explanation for our Santa’s quick decent into insanity.  The family from the flashback sequences give great performances (They are played by a real family; Alberto, Mady and Lucio Giovannelli) and give the viewer a break from the non-stop gore flinging.

I would be remised if I did not mention the parade of lovely women in this film.  There is a list too long to name, but they all deserve credit for giving fun performances and never wasting a moment of screen time. So if you prefer your Christmas movies a little sleazier, trading cheer and snow for blood and boobs, then give Cannibal Claus a chance!  CANNIBAL CLAUS IS COMING SOON FROM GATORBLADE FILMS AND SLEAZE BOX

STREETS OF VENGEANCE (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Holy shit, this movie is full of nudity! I say this up front, because the film has a ton of it.  From beginning to end there is a cavalcade of beautiful, nude women on display.  Paul Ragsdale’s sophomore feature, Streets of Vengeance, is a whirlwind of sex and violence that has a lot of things going on in it.  Some things work and others don’t, but ultimately it is a lot of fun and does not shy away from female empowerment.

This is that age-old tale of an ex adult film star who is being stalked by a murderous cult of misogynistic men.  These “He-man, woman haters” call themselves The Sword and they are dead-set on reigning terror on both feminists and adult film actresses.  After Mila (Delawna McKinney) is attacked, the ladies band together in search of vengeance.

Streets of Vengeance is sexploitation, through and through.  It never takes itself too seriously and it relishes in letting the actors give fun, over-the-top performances.  Most of the actors kill it, but there are a few cameos that interrupt the vibe and (seemingly) stall the film’s progress.  Paul Ragsdale’s direction is spot on and the lighting is stunning.  The issue for me is found in its long runtime.  The film clocks in at almost 2 hours and (I feel) the film would have benefitted from editing down some scenes.  This may not be an issue for some people, but when it comes to exploitation films, I prefer them short and sweet.  This one may not have completely connected with me, but it still has a lot to offer.  After seeing Streets of Vengeance I am curious to see Mr. Ragsdale’s first film (Cinco De Mayo) and any other output, because I really enjoyed his stylistic choices.  STREETS OF VENGEANCE is currently playing in film festivals and please follow the release info at https://www.facebook.com/streetsofvengeance/

[usr 3]

BB (2016)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Expectation can be a very tricky thing, especially with movies and the internet.  Rarely can films live up to their own hype, but when I see a film’s name popping up all over…my curiosity gets the best of me.  Over the past month (or so) I have been seeing the name BB pop up on sites that I respect.  I would quickly skim the reviews and could tell that this was a film for me.  BB is a self financed movie from C.J. Wallis that is rough around the edges, but full of interesting choices that make for an excellent first feature.

This film follows a woman named Leah (played by Jennifer Mae) who is starting a job as a camgirl to support herself and her girlfriend.  She spends her time ineffectually flirting with her viewers and reaping the financial benefits of her new career.  She earns enough money to send her partner overseas and finds herself alone, with a very real threat from one of her many online admirers.

BB is a cinematic example of watching an artist find his voice.  The film shifts multiple perspectives and is not afraid to mix things up (stylistically speaking).  This entire movie could have been done much easier (and lazier) as a found footage film, but luckily they choose not to and opted for a more stylish route.  A lot of the film seems very unscripted, but never sloppy.  Scenes can begin to meander, but before they get sloppy, Wallis reels it back in and pushes the story forward.  There are a lot of scenes of Leah dancing, but it is more than just an excuse to show nudity.  The film takes advantage of these titillating scenes by adding a tone of dread, helping build to the film’s intense final twenty minutes.  The only critical thing that I can say is that the sound mix can get a little muddled.  This occurs mostly in its final scenes, when the music and dialogue crosses over.  It can be a little frustrating, but is not too distracting.  It is easy to say that BB is one of my favorite films of the year and hopefully Wallis’ follow up will be just as interesting and exciting.  BB is currently available to purchase at https://now.bt.co/bundles/bb

[usr 4.5]

SOUVENIRS OF A HITCHHIKER (SHORT FILM)

BY BLAINE MCLAREN

Luke Ramer and (his company)West 2nd Productions have been pouring out a lot of interesting content over the past few years.  They have made 2 short features, a web series and now “Souvenirs of a Hitchhiker”.  This film is a short found footage film that was originally to be included in an anthology.  As these projects tend to do, the anthology fell apart.  Instead of just letting the movie sit, Mr. Ramer decided to let it loose on YouTube for free.  Lucky for us, its a pretty great little film!

The film opens with a young woman who is hitchhiking across the Northeast and taping her adventures.  Soon she is picked up by an odd guy, who is may or may not be a good Samaritan.  Once he convinces her to stay at his home, things take a turn for the worse and no one is who they seem to be.

This is another home run from this gang of no-budget filmmakers and I am happy to see them continuing to try new things.  Most of the acting is fairly good and seems to improve as the movie progresses.  Luke Ramer really shines when he is building suspense and the found footage aesthetic gives him a great opportunity to show off his chops.  I enjoyed that the camerawork (itself) feels more handheld, then completely found footage.  It reminds you that this is a movie and does not insult your intelligence or pretend that it is real.  I cannot recommend this film enough and I think that it is only a matter of time before Luke Ramer becomes a household name among horror fans.  Souvenirs of a Hitchhiker can be watched below for free.  Please support his other films and projects at https://www.facebook.com/west2ndproductionsPA/