JOHN CARPENTER'S GHOSTS OF MARS died a quick death at the box office, but audiences will get a second chance to check out its off-the-wall pleasures when Columbia releases it to video on December 4th, making it a priority on my Christmas wish list. In addition to the movie itself which is basically a celebration of Western B movies, albeit relocated to the Red Planet the DVD will feature commentary by Carpenter and the film's star, Natasha Henstridge. There will also be a "making-of" featurette, "Red Desert Nights," and another short on the creation of the film's score, an aspect that is undeniably one of the film's highlights. As if that wasn't enough, the disc will feature a third featurette on the creation of the film's effects.
HORRORDVDS.COM recently reported an interesting development involving Elite Entertainment, the video distributor perhaps best known for their enjoyable DRIVE-IN DISCS series. It seems Elite has become involved in the production of the film ACCORDING TO OCCAM'S RAZOR, a UFO "mockumentary" from the notoriously uneven director Philippe Mora. Mora's chief claim to fame is probably as the creative force behind COMMUNION, the film version of Whitley (THE WOLFEN) Strieber's purportedly "true life" experiences with alien abduction - which starred the always weird and watchable Christopher Walken. Mora has been working on the film for some time, so Elite's involvement was presumably supplying completion money for the Australian filmmaker. Elite will release an interactive DVD of the film sometime in late December.
THIS WEEK'S NEW RELEASES
ALONG CAME A SPIDER is the sequel to the. The inestimable Morgan Freeman returns as Alex Cross, the serial killer-tracking psychologist. This time he's after a killer who has kidnapped a senator's daughter and plans to skin her and make a suit... whoops! Sorry, that's SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, the first movie to use the serial killer kidnaps a senator's daughter plot, over a decade ago. SPIDER is quite competently made and reasonably well acted excepting Monica Potter who is in serious need of a personality transplant but it's all woefully familiar, as its recycled plot suggests.
AXE: SPECIAL EDITION is the latest in the surprising trend of DVD Special Editions on little known, largely forgotten, direct-to-video titles from the 1980s. Shot in 1974, but sparsely released, this is a crudely made, but reasonably depraved tale of a bunch of hoodlums who get more than they bargained for when they hide out in an isolated farmhouse. It seems that one of the original occupants, Lisa, is a psychological time bomb about to explode. Try to imagine DESPERATE HOURS taking place at Norman Bates' house on a budget of about $12.75, and you've got the general idea of the proceedings. This was released under several titles, including THE CALIFORNIA AXE MASSACRE, a technique often utilized by its distributor, Harry Novak. The disc is loaded with extras, most of which have little or no connection to the main feature but which are probably more fun than the feature itself. There're trailers for other films distributed by Novak, a second feature, THE ELECTRIC CHAIR, from H.G. Lewis protégé Pat Patterson, a couple of shorts and a collection of Novak's joyously sleazy promotional materials.
BLACK SCORPION RETURNS was discussed a couple of weeks ago when its original release date passed us by. Suffice it to say, this pairing of two episodes from the Roger Corman produced TV series has not improved in the interim.
BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS is one of the great horror titles of all time. Unfortunately, things go down hill pretty rapidly once the title has left the screen. This cinematic atrocity from one-man-film-studio, T.V Mikels, features terrible acting, lighting by Eveready and uneven sound to boot, but even if one overlooks those minor "flaws," this would be a terribly dull film that delivers on none of the cheap thrills its title promises. Mikels contributes a commentary track here that reminds one that the director was probably more of a gifted and charming con man than an overlooked cinematic talent. It's worth a listen, but this is a rental-only item for any outside of Mikel's inexplicable cult following.
THE CHILD: SPECIAL EDITION is another title from the Harry Novak film vaults which has seen earlier video release as ZOMBIE CHILD and KILL AND GO HIDE. While this is a bargain basement style production, it's also a surprisingly effective little spooker about a young child's efforts at revenge on the adults around her through the aid of graveyard ghouls and demons. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was clearly an influence on this one, but the film stands pretty well on its own. Unrelated extras add to the value of this disc, which sports a second feature, I EAT YOUR SKIN, a couple of shorts, and the same assortment of Harry Novak trailers and advertising materials as found on AXE.
CIRCUITRYMAN: DOUBLE PACK is the long delayed release of the highly enjoyable original CIRCUITRYMAN and its less than satisfying sequel. Vernon (ROAD WARRIOR) Welles tears up the scenery as an evil maniac with computer inputs built directly into his head and a need for the computer chips being transported cross-country by the title's synthetic human. The lovely Dana Wheeler-Nicholson is the mercenary protecting Circuitryman. Most of the cast returned for the follow-up, including writers Robert and Steven Lovy, with Steven again directing, but they fail to recapture the original's mix of sci-fi, humor and action.
CORPSE GRINDER: SPECIAL EDITION is yet another Special Edition release of a film that isn't remotely "Special" in any way. This is another T.V. Mikels gem about a town plagued by flesh-eating cats because a couple of goons are kidnapping people and grinding them up into cat food, hence the felines have developed a taste for ladyfingers, and other assorted parts. The proceedings are gleefully cheap and innocently sleazy, which is not to say they are particularly entertaining.
THE FORSAKEN was one of a slew of low budget, teen oriented horror titles the studios have thrown onto the theatrical marketplace in the hopes that one would hit. That one, of course, was the recent JEEPERS CREEPERS, not this nonsensical, derivative, often-dull bit of claptrap about highway cruising vampires. Mixing elements of better films, including NEAR DARK and VAMPIRES, with a naked girl and veteran actress Carrie Snodgrass in a rare and utterly thankless film role, this is a film that not only isn't greater than the sum of its parts. It's just parts.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 5: A NEW BEGINNING offers people being killed by the superhuman, supernatural Jason Voorhees, an indestructible killer in a hockey mask.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 6: JASON LIVES offers people being killed by the superhuman, supernatural Jason Voorhees, an indestructible killer in a hockey mask. Jeez, but that sounds familiar.
PET SEMATARY 2 is an unnecessary 1992 sequel to the so-so 1989 original which brought Stephen King's novel to the screen. This time around it's Anthony Edwards and Edward Furlong who mistakenly get involved with the plot of Maine landscape that can revive the dead. There's really nothing new here, but the story unfolds with such calculated mean-spiritedness that one feels in need of a good bath when it's over.
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE is a delayed release of the theatrical anthology inspired by the then-recent TV series of the same name. A good cast and inspired makeup effects fail to enliven a trio of familiar tales, though the last story does have its moments.
TEQUILLA BODY SHOTS is a bit of an oddity in the home video arena. The title does nothing to suggest the movie's supernatural aspects, the trailer for the film makes it seem like an all out horror fest, and the film itself is really a teen-sex comedy with just enough horror elements to totally confuse its audience. Joey (I need a new agent) Lawrence toplines a cast of unknowns in this schizophrenic, Mexican-set tale.
TREES is such a perfectly concocted spoof of JAWS that one wants to like the film more than it really merits. As the title suggests, Spielberg's ocean set suspense masterpiece has been moved to a forest setting where a rogue tree is chomping up unsuspecting campers. The film is a shot-for-shot, character-for-character takeoff and has some very clever and funny moments. If this had been a 20-minute short, it would be a classic. However, at feature length, it wears out its welcome and soon becomes like a seemingly endless SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE is widely
BIBLEMAN: CONQUERING THE WRATH OF RAGE and BIBLEMAN: SHATTERING THE PRINCE OF PRIDE are a pair of odd little releases aimed at the burgeoning Christian home video market. The shot-on-video tales are essentially the comic book styled adventures of the title character, a scriptures spouting superhero dedicated to leading America's youth away from temptation. It's a noble goal and using a superhero to achieve it is an inspired method of executions. Unfortunately, this cheaply produced, shot-on-video series from former EIGHT IS ENOUGH TV star Willie Aames is simply too cheesy and too insincere to achieve its goals. I'd be the last one to accuse Aames of being a money-grubbing, out-of-work actor of limited abilities trying to callously exploit the faith of others in order to maintain some level of fame to stoke his over-inflated ego... but.
IT CAME FROM THE BOTTOM SHELF
IMMORTALITY is a title that most horror fans will likely overlook, since nothing on the box vaguely suggests that this is a vampire tale. This odd subterfuge is not entirely unjustified as the film itself is more of a semi-pretentious art-house effort than a drive-in terror fest. However, it features an outstanding performance by Jude Law (who seems to increase his hold on the "best actor of his generation" title with every new role) and damn near as good a one from the uniquely beautiful Elina Lowensohn. Originally titled THE WISDOM OF CROCODILES, this 1998 European production more than merits the attention of horror lovers who don't need a lot of gore and shocks and can accept a slow pace, all in return for a film of depth, intelligence and emotional impact. An overlooked gem.
EASTER EGG HUNT
While the release of the BOOGEYMEN horror compilation video has been delayed in respect for the recent tragedy in New York, DVDEASTEREGG.COM has managed to come up with info about a hidden goodie on the soon to be released disc. Select "Special Features" from the main menu and then "Filxmix Recommends." This will highlight upcoming FlixMix titles, but if you press the right arrow on your remote a green "Jack Frost 2" will pop up in the upper right of the screen. Hit enter and you'll find a sequence cut from THE BOOGEYMAN video, probably due to the scenes onscreen nudity.
Next week will find Tartu going Helter Skelter in Indian Flats while Boogeymen and Schizos engage in Monster Mania. Trust me. It'll all make sense next week.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.