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DVD This Week: August 27

The Dead return, and so do the Dogs, the Sopranos, the crew of Moya, and the Damned

By John Thonen     August 27, 2002

VIDEO NEWS


Proof, as if any was needed, that direct-to-video horror producers have no shame is the recent report (from CREATURE CORNER) of a sequel to the dreadful BLOODY MURDER. That film was an unexpected video hit, probably due to its cover art of a chainsaw wielding maniac so, despite the fact that no one I ever heard of liked the film, a follow-up is in the works under the title of BLOODY MURDER 2: CLOSING CAMP. Yep, more campers and counselors whom no one cares about will get skewered in order to launch a new horror franchise, which nobody wants. Now that's genuinely scary.


On a more promising note is the recent announcement that Dimension Home Video will soon start work on MIMIC 3: SENTINEL. The first MIMIC, from BLADE 2's director Guillermo del Toro, is an under-appreciated gem and the first sequel was better than average DTV fare, but this latest follow-up, soon to start lensing in Romania, has some real potential. The film will be written and directed by J.T. Petty whose debut, the little seen SOFT FOR DIGGING, was a rather unique film experience - a horror-thriller film with almost no dialogue. Petty's story involves a man whose severe health problems keep him in a sealed "bubble" room in an apartment building, watching, but never participating with his neighbors. But when he notices that his neighbors are disappearing, he comes to realize that the entire neighborhood has been infested with the deadly Judas Bug, the genetically created mutant cockroach blessed with both intelligence and an ability to mimic other life forms.


THIS WEEK'S NOTABLE NEW RELEASES


THE ATTIC / CRAWLSPACE [IMG2R]is an odd pairing. THE ATTIC is a subtle, if overly slow, tale of a woman who has spent most of her life caring for her semi-invalid, and rather abusive, father. It's a drama really, but with a growing undercurrent of horror as audience, and lead character, increasingly suspect the answer to why her one chance at love and happiness didn't come to pass may be hidden in the title location. CRAWLSPACE, on the other hand, is a heavy-handed and exploitative tale of a landlord who was once a Nazi (true for most of them I think) who likes to spy on, and occasionally kill, his lovely female tenants from the title location. Trash, but fun trash, and a great scenery-chewing performance from the late Klaus Kinski.


THE BELIEVERS is one of the few films which deal, reasonably accurately, with the religion of Voodoo, specifically the cult known as Santa Ria. Featuring an excellent cast including Martin Sheen, a young Jimmy Smits, Robert Loggia and Harris Yulin, and directed by the talented John Schlesinger, the film is a well-paced shocker with some graphic and gruesome moments and an admirable lack of restraint which allows it to, perhaps unpleasantly, surprise the viewer.


CAT PEOPLE is a horror remake which was pretty much spayed by critics when released in 1982 because director Paul Schrader featured nudity, sex and gore instead of the atmospheric subtly of the 1942 original. The same thing happened to JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING but, two decades later, both films were clearly ahead of the their times and deserve praise for being so different from their progenitors instead of unimaginatively imitating them. Natassia Kinski is an unequaled erotic force here and little of the film seems dated. Here's a film deserving of rediscovery and reappraisal.


CROCODILE shouldn't be confused with Tobe Hooper's recent film of the same name. Hooper's film is merely stupid and dull. This incredibly cheesy dud hails from Thailand and features some of the worst special effects since THE MIGHTY GORGA and a plot that makes less sense every minute its unfolding.


DAHMER isn't the exploitative gross-out one might expect from a low budget bio of one of the country's best-known serial killer cannibals. Unfortunately, the film also isn't as interesting as, say, HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, because of its admirable restraint. Well acted and directed, but not all that compelling.


DAN CURTIS' MACABRE COLLECTION (4-DVD set) is a heck of an opportunity to pick up four above average adaptations of classic horror tales, all produced by Dan Curtis, the man responsible for the DARK SHADOWS TV serial and THE NIGHT STALKER TV movie. THE TURN OF THE SCREW stars Lynn Redgrave and hails from 1974 and takes some considerable liberties with Henry James' oft-filmed tale of a governess, her wards and a ghostly presence. THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY is a 1973 production featuring a well cast Shane Briant (of Hammer's CAPTAIN KRONOS: VAMPIRE HUNTER among others) in the title role of a handsome, but amoral, man who remains ageless while a painting of him becomes withered and diseased. Also featured, amongst a strong cast, are Nigel Davenport, Charles Aidman and, and from the recent hit THE OTHERS, Finnoula Flannagan. The best of Curtis' horror films is 1973's DRACULA, which is one of the more faithful adaptations of Bram Stoker's classic, and offers Jack Palance as a menacing, yet sympathetic count. Also on board are Nigel Davenport and Simon Ward. Last, but certainly not least, is the first of Curtis' classic story adaptations, THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. Made in 1968, this is another fairly faithful version of a classic horror tale, again offering an effective Jack Palance in the title role and a fine, largely British cast, including Denholm Elliott. All four titles are also available separately, but when you can pick up this set for under $40.00, why bother?


DARK SHADOWS Set #2 is, since we've been talking about Dan Curtis, the almost legendary TV serial which launched his career. This is the second of MPI's collections from the gothic/horror soap opera and includes forty episodes along with interviews with Curtis and some of the cast members. While incredibly crude (many episodes were shot live) by today's standards, there is a hardcore fan following for these shows who have remained loyal to it for over thirty years, spawning several movie spin-offs, a short-lived new series in the '90s and a, rumored, new film version.


DERANGED / MOTEL HELL [IMG3L]is another strange double feature from MGM, though both films are well worth seeing. DERANGED is a seriously disturbing but somewhat low key telling of a serial killer loosely based on the infamous Ed Gein, whose real-life exploits "inspired" both PSYCHO and THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Roberts Blossom is superb as Ezra Cobb and the film's advertising tagline, "Pretty Sallie Mae died a most unnatural death. But the worst hasn't happened to her yet," is pretty damn accurate. While DERANGED has a bit of a dark sense of humor, MOTEL HELL is out and out black comedy. This is the story of a farmer and his sister who run the title place of lodging (actually it's Motel Hello, but that pesky letter "O" light seems to have a short in it) and kidnap people in order to turn out their renowned meat products. You owe it to yourself to see this one, if only for the chainsaw duel. And just remember, "It takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent's fritters."


EDGE OF SANITY is a very loose interpretation of DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, and was one of the last films its star, Anthony Perkins, made. Sadly, it was under the direction of Gerard Kikoine, a filmmaker best known for European skin flicks such as TALES OF TIFFANY LUST and HEAVENLY NURSE. The talented Perkins, one of the great cinematic purveyors of neuroses and psychosis, is asked to do little here but overact while Kikoine pours on the blood, nudity, sex and perversity. One can hardly blame Perkins, who was wasting away from AIDS at the time and grabbing any job he could find in order to leave his family as financially secure as possible. But he's not going to benefit from you buying or renting this, so don't join the exploiters of his talent by partaking of this trash.


FANGS OF THE LIVING DEAD (a.k.a. MALENKA) is a largely forgotten drive-in item from the '60s. It's a vampire tale (or is it?) which was given this title in order to cash-in on the popularity of George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The film is best remembered, by those old enough to do so, as part of the "Living Dead" trio of films (unrelated to Romero's film, or to each other) which played in drive-ins well into the '70s. In this one, Anita Ekberg inherits a castle, but when she goes to check it out she learns that she is part of an infamous family of vampires. It's all pretty silly, but it's atmospherically directed by Armando de Ossorio, best known for the Spanish produced BLIND DEAD films.


FARSCAPE: Season 2, Vol. 2 [IMG4R]is a two disc, four episode set from the deservedly popular Sci-Fi Channel series about astronaut John Crichton and his adventures in a distant galaxy on board a living spaceship with a crew of escaped prisoners. The episodes included are "The Way We Weren't," "Picture if You Will," "Home on the Remains" and "Dream a Little," along with deleted scenes, a Farscape dictionary, featurettes on alien encounters and weapons and ships, as well as conceptual artwork, a bio of oh-so-sexy actress Claudia Black, and character backstory on Black's Officer Aeryn Sun.


FIANCEE OF DRACULA is a fairly recent (1999) offering from Jean Rollin, whose languid tales of lesbian vampires have earned a strong cult following both here and in Europe. Unfortunately, this isn't one of his best. In fact, he seems to be spoofing his own reputation and style.


THE FOG [IMG5L]was director John Carpenter's first film following the amazing success of HALLOWEEN, which for over twenty years was the most profitable independent film ever made. The story, which I personally believe is just a dream in the main character's mind, is simple enough. On the 100th anniversary of the founding of the coastal town of Bodega Bay, a mysterious, glowing fog rolls in, often moving against the wind, and with a seeming purpose of its own the fog brings with it violent deaths and the eventual revelation of a long hidden secret about the town's founding fathers. This DVD special edition includes: theatrical trailer(s), the "Tales from the Mist: Inside The Fog" documentary, the "Fear on Film: Inside The Fog" documentary, storyboard to film comparisons, outtakes, an advertising gallery and liner notes by John Carpenter.


HANNIBAL / SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is a 2-disc set offering the classic first Hannibal Lecter film and the undeservedly popular second film in this odd horror franchise, the third of which will be hitting theaters soon.



HOUSE OF CLOCKS is an obscure item from cult favorite director Lucio Fulci. This was one of four films made for Italian TV under the blanket title "House of Doom" and involves three criminals whose brutal home invasion goes awry in a manner no one could have been prepared for. Sorry, I haven't seen this one but I'll try to check it out and get back with you in the future. Which is where each of us will spend, the rest of our lives.


THE INCUBUS is, along with THE ENTITY, the only American made horror film to graphically deal with supernatural sex. In this one, a series of incredibly brutal rapes lead a doctor (a badly slumming John Cassavettes), a cop and a writer to discover that a sex-crazed demon, sporting a schlong which would have made John Holmes insecure, is the culprit. While not all that much is shown, this is pretty sleazy stuff, and not particularly scary.


LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT [IMG7L]is the long awaited DVD debut of one of the more infamous films ever to earn a cult following. Directed and produced by the then unknown Wes (SCREAM) Craven and Sean (FRIDAY THE 13TH) Cunningham, this is a remarkably brutal retelling of the same story used in Bergman's THE VIRGIN SPRING. In terms of structure and story, this is almost a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, but in terms of what is depicted on screen, it's a still shocking and brutal tale of depravity and revenge. The DVD includes: commentary by director Craven and producer Cunningham, outtakes and dailies with never-before-seen footage, including the never-seen lost murder and the disembowelment scene, along with a making-of documentary and a "Forbidden Footage" featurette exploring the film's most shocking scenes.


MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH / THE PREMATURE BURIAL [IMG8R]is a double feature DVD of two of the best of Roger Corman's numerous Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. MASQUE... is a visually brilliant telling of the final days of Prince Prospero (Vincent Price) who sought to escape a plague by locking himself and fellow nobles in his castle to live an existence of constant pleasure while the disease ravages the countryside. BURIAL offers Ray Milland (too old for his role) as a man obsessed with the fear of being buried alive.


MUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER [IMG9L]is yet another, currently unseen, lesbian/horror tale from the folks at Seduction Cinema. If you've seen one of these, you've seen them all.


NEEDFUL THINGS is a well produced, and very well cast, telling of a Stephen King tale of a small town whose inhabitants find their darkest dreams realized by a new shopkeeper (Max Von Sydow) whose products provide the film with its title. In spite of the cast, this is a familiar story told with little panache by director Fraser (son of Chuck) Heston.


THE OBLONG BOX / SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN is another MGM double feature, both of which were directed by the generally unreliable Gordon Hessler, and also star Vincent Price and Christopher Lee, with the latter also tossing in Peter Cushing for good measure. BOX claims to be a Poe adaptation, but this gory and willfully perverse tale of a man trying to protect his brother, seemingly driven mad, or perhaps possessed, by demons, bears no resemblance to any of the master's work. Slightly better is the latter film which offers Price as a mad scientist, and Lee as a good guy!


QUEEN OF THE DAMNED [IMG10R]is likely the worst of the terrible crop of horror films which somehow found theatrical release over the past year. This dull and confusing adaptation of an Anne (INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE) Rice bestseller should have gone directly to video. Instead, the tragic death of its star, soulful singer Aaliyah, drove the distributor to try and make a quick buck by releasing it to theaters and stressing her presence in, an admittedly pivotal, secondary role. It's basically an overlong music video with everybody looking damn good, sounding damn silly and acting damn badly.


RESERVOIR DOGS: 10th Anniversary Special Limited Edition [IMG11L]is a re-release of the film that started it all, Quentin Tarantino's trendsetting tale of a jewelry robbery gone awry and the nameless criminals involved. Brutal, breathtaking and bold, this is one of the quintessential films of the 1990s. The DVD includes: deleted scenes with alternate angles of the famous "Ear" scene, rare footage of key scenes rehearsed and filmed by Tarantino a year prior to the film's actual production, a retrospective look at the indie films and filmmakers at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival where the film was introduced, a tribute to the late Lawrence Tierney, who played Joe Cabot, a look at nine filmmakers who influenced Tarantino's film, a look at the writers and directors who defined film noir, "Small Dogs," a look at the bizarre, plastic action figures currently available of the film's main characters, selected scene audio commentary with various cast, crew, and critics, and even more. Plus, the film is available with five different covers, one for each of the key gang members, so you can get your favorite character on the cover of your DVD.


RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD: special edition is the long awaited DVD release of director/writer Dan O'Bannon's cult classic, non-sequel sequel to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Gory, perverse and frequently hilarious, this is about as good as '80s horror got, and I'm including the revered RE-ANIMATOR in that assessment. The DVD features: trailer(s), a commentary track with O'Bannon and production designer William Stout, a "Designing the Dead" featurette, conceptual art and TV spots.


THE SOPRANOS: The Complete Third Season [IMG12R]is, I am shamed to confess, the latest collection of a hugely popular and critically acclaimed HBO series which I have never seen an episode of. Yep, the guy who has seen most of the collected works of Jean Rollin, Jess Franco and Jacinto Molina just never got around to this one. But come on, how great can a show about some singing group be? I mean, it's not like it's THE GODFATHER or something.


TEEN WOLF / TEEN WOLF TOO is a double feature title offering a minor, yet sweet and harmless film which helped make Michael J. Fox a star, and a crass and pointless sequel which helped keep Jason Bateman from ever becoming one.


VAMPIRE'S KISS [IMG13L]is one of the stranger films in the Nicholas Cage filmography. This one is about a literary agent so bored with his life that he becomes convinced that a woman he met - played by future "where-are-they-now" question Jennifer Beals has turned him into a vampire. This was too deliberately quirky and over the top for me, but some love it as a demented black comedy, and you do have to see Cage eat a real, live, cockroach for the sake of his art.


WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? / WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? both come from the final days of a once popular sub-genre of gothic horror/suspense shockers starring past their prime former superstars, which began with HUSH HUSH SWEET CHARLOTTE. Both films star scenery-chewer Shelly Winters and were directed by the talented, if erratic, Curtis Harrington, with the former film adding Debbie Reynolds as an extra bit of star power. HELEN offers Winters and Reynolds as the disturbed mothers of a pair of criminals who decide to start their lives over again in 1930s California by opening a dance studio. The latter film is a twisted variation of "Hansel And Gretel" with Winters as the title victim, a surrogate mother for her niece and nephew.


WOLFHOUND is an unseen erotic tale in the vein of Surrender Cinema and even Seduction Cinema films. This one offers the story of a young man whose return to his Irish roots brings him into contact with a community of shapeshifters and a hauntingly beautiful woman who may herself be a werewolf. It stars some "Playboy Playmate" so you know it has to be good.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


Do not attempt to adjust your television screen. This is no April Fool's trick. You've got a date with the dead as the Shock Waves hit and guarantee us a Rocky time. Next week, with The Vidiot.



Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.

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