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DVD & VHS: September 10

A swashbuckling hero, trailer trash vampires, and a total butthead... these and more in this week's Vidiocy

By John Thonen     September 10, 2002


Luis Guzmán and Jim Caviezel star in THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.
© 2002 Touchstone Pictures

VIDEO NEWS


The Fangoria website recently put an end to any ongoing belief in the luck of the Irish, with their announcement that Trimark Pictures has begun casting on LEPRECHAUN: BACK IN THE HOOD. Now, I'm sure little person, and the actor inside Gabe Bartalos' leprechaun mask, is a nice guy and I'm glad he's getting regular work, as I'm sure it's tough to make a living in the film business when you're under three feet tall. But couldn't we just take up a collection for the guy and put an end to this series? I mean, how long before we see LEPRECHAUN MEETS THE CHILDREN OF THE CORN? Or even something as stupid as FREDDY VS. JASON? Oh! Really? Well, I'm not surprised.


Veteran film director J. Lee Thompson passed away over the Labor Day weekend at the ripe old age of 88. In a career nearly 40 years in length, Thompson directed almost 50 films, including the classic WWII film THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and the original (and superior) CAPE FEAR. He began his career as a writer in the late '30s as a writer and ended it by directing a string of action films in the '80s, many of them starring perennial tough guy actor Charles Bronson, including the last of the DEATH WISH series. Genre fans will likely also remember Thompson as the director of the last two entries in the PLANET OF THE APES series, an erotic tale of the supernatural, THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, 1981's slasher, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME, and the cop vs. serial killer tale, 10 TO MIDNIGHT. Thompson also wrote the original screenplay for a film which eventually became 1989's little seen FUTURE HUNTERS, a film best remembered today as having some plot similarities to the TERMINATOR films and having also starred future TERMINATOR 2 star Robert Patrick.


THIS WEEK'S NOTEWORTHY NEW RELEASES


CHANGING LANES was [IMG3R]a surprise success at the box-office, driven largely by the dubious popularity of its star, Ben Affleck, and the high level of audience respect held for his co-star, Samuel L. Jackson. Also helping the film was an ad campaign which suggested that this tale of two very different men who end up adversaries due to a car accident would be a fairly conventional good guy vs. bad guy revenge tale. Thanks to these elements, audiences were tricked into seeing a wonderfully written, skillfully acted and very well directed drama about two men unraveling from their core out. Affleck is a yuppie lawyer, Jackson a recovering alcoholic, but both are men capable of good and bad, of wisdom and stupidity, of action and reaction. Easily one of the best films of the past year and a testament to the fact that a deceitful ad campaign and old fashioned star power can be used in support of a film of considerable merit which might, otherwise, be overlooked.


THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO was

Luis Guzmán and Jim Caviezel star in THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO.

one of the most pleasant surprises of this past year. The idea of director Kevin Reynolds butchering another swashbuckling classic as he'd done with ROBIN HOOD seemed frightening. In addition, actor Jim (FREQUENCY) Caviezel seemed far too modern for Dumas' 16th century tale of Edmond Dantes, a good man wronged by his best friend, unjustly imprisoned and seemingly betrayed by his true love, who eventually is freed and hell-bent on revenge. Preconceptions are often wrong though, and Reynolds and Caviezel turn out to be the perfect pair in this exciting and visually sumptuous tale of action, lust and treachery. Particularly notable in this well cast film are Richard Harris as Dante's imprisoned benefactor and Luiz Guzman as Dante's friend and right-hand man.


BRAINWAVES is a [IMG4R]rather familiar and cheesy tale of a woman who ends up in a coma after a car accident but is seemingly saved by the experimental transplant treatments of Dr. Clavius, played by a miscast Tony Curtis. Unfortunately, she finds herself suffering from visions involving the murdered woman who provided the source material for her life-saving transplant. This has a pretty good cast (Curtis, Kier Dullea, Vera Miles, Suzanna Love) and director Uli Lommell tries hard to create a Hitchcock-like ambience, but it just doesn't happen.


DEAD SEVEN is this week's "I have no clue what this movie is" title. The synopsis on the company's website offers the following: friends disappear into a forest that's home to a man and his homicidal sister, then witnesses start showing up murdered. If I see it, I'll let you know.


DRACULA THE DIRTY OLD MAN / GUESS WHAT HAPPENED TO COUNT DRACULA is [IMG5L]a double-feature disc, offering first a sub-par skin flick from the '60s which features a truly laughable werewolf and Dracula as Henny Youngman would have portrayed him, if the producers could have afforded him. The second feature is a new one to me, but I'm sure the site's resident expert on sexploitation schlock, Andy Hershberger, will chime in shortly with more info than anyone needs to know about it. God bless him.


THE INITIATION is [IMG6R]a pretty lame teens and terror tale from the heyday of the slasher movies. It all involves a pretty but troubled young girl (a pre-stardom and pre-pre-where are they now question Daphne Zuniga) who spends the night with her stuck-up, prank oriented sorority sisters in an empty shopping mall. Veteran and highly respected character actors Hal Holbrook and Clu Gulager seem embarrassed to be involved in this shot-in-Texas dud, but you'll feel even worse than them if you waste time watching it.


LOST VOYAGE premiered [IMG7L]on the Sci-Fi Channel a few weeks ago, but if you didn't catch it there, this tale of the mysterious return of a long missing cruise ship is well worth a rental. Judd Nelson headlines as a psychic researcher whose fascination with the supernatural stems from the mysterious disappearance of his father and stepmother on their honeymoon cruise in the Bermuda Triangle. Now, that ship is back, and Nelson joins a pair of ambitious news reporters and a somewhat mysterious representative (a very welcome Lance Henriksen) of the cruise line company as they board the ship in the midst of a storm. Their goals are to keep salvagers from claiming it, and to investigate what might have happened to it, but what happened to it isn't done yet. The plot bears some similarities to the upcoming GHOST SHIP, but this is crisply directed, well acted and features some great effects and a spooky mood.


NAKED EVIL / EXORCISM AT MIDNIGHT Special edition will [IMG8R]likely get a more detailed review shortly from Cinescape's own Andy Hershberger, so I'll keep this brief. This is actually two versions of the same film. Both involve voodoo and a demon in a bottle, though the latter version has been cut a fair bit and its running time padded out with some new footage featuring recently deceased tough-guy actor (and real-life tough guy) Laurence Tierney.


NEAR DARK special edition is [IMG9L]quite simply one of the best, and most original, vampire films ever made. It's also the highpoint to date of the careers of its director Kathryn (K-19) Bigelow and writer Eric (THE HITCHER) Red. Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton are just two members of a family-like gang of bloodsuckers who are as far from the suaveness of a Count Dracula as you can get. Gory, funny, scary, dark and twisted, and yet still somehow offering a love story, this is a bona-fide classic. The DVD set offers a commentary track with Bigelow, deleted scenes with director's commentary, a new documentary with interviews with cast and crew, trailers, poster and still gallery, storyboards and DVD-ROM features. Just buy it, OK?


THE ST. FRANCISVILLE EXPERIMENT / CUT is an OK DVD double feature from Lion's Gate. ...EXPERIMENT is just a BLAIR WITCH PROJECT clone, but it's marginally more entertaining than the film which inspired it. CUT is a fairly fun Aussie film with Molly Ringwald as a once-popular actress whose fast fading career drives her to become involved in a remake of her first film, an unfinished slasher film where most of the cast and crew was slaughtered. Needless to say, cinematic history repeats itself. The last fourth of the film suddenly veers from slasher territory into a surreal, supernatural monster tale which, while imaginative, doesn't really gel well with what came before it. Still, this one is well worth watching in spite of its, sometimes, glaring missteps.


SIDEWALKS OF BANGKOK is a delayed release we covered a few weeks ago. It's a recent, but lesser, Jean Rollin vampire tale wherein the master of empty, but cool to look at, vampire films seems to be making fun of himself.


SOCIETY special edition is [IMG10R]a well deserved special edition re-release of director Brian Yuzna's flawed gem of a movie. A young man is adopted by a wealthy family as a child, but grows up always feeling there is something different about his rich family and their friends. His feelings aren't surprising, because they are different; they are shape-shifting creatures who literally live off those who live in social and financial strata beneath their own. The film is filled with perverse notions and shocking special effects, courtesy of the always surreal Screaming Mad George. The plot doesn't always make sense, the acting is pretty uneven and the dialogue has some real clunkers, but this is a fiercely original film executed with courage and imagination. The DVD features four minutes trimmed from Yuzna's original cut of the film and considering how shocking some of what survived the scissors was, the new material may curl your hair along with a commentary track by Yuzna.


THE SURGE (a.k.a. THE SOURCE) is a pointless re-title of a low budget tale of high school witchery involving four social outcasts whose status changes when they discover their skills in sorcery. The influences here would seem to be THE CRAFT (the British title for the film is THE SECRET CRAFT) and David DeCoteau's BROTHERHOOD films though without the homoerotic undertones. The film's special effects are too ambitious for the film's obviously limited budget, and don't expect much in the way of originality. But, past those weaknesses, this has a fairly interesting story, some OK acting and a surprise or two. If you like teens and horror flicks, you could do way worse than this one.


TEQUILA BODY SHOTS / THE CURVE is another DVD double feature from Lion's Gate. The first film is a pretty lame Joey Lawrence vehicle, which is mostly a teen sex comedy that suddenly detours into supernatural territory. The second film was one of the first direct-to-video kids n' killers tales to cash in on the popularity of SCREAM, and it even features SCREAM alum Matthew Lillard. It's not a horror film at all, but there is some suspense and quite a few fun plot twists. Fans of the recently departed FELICITY may also want to check out Kerri Russell, who filmed this just before that TV series premiered.


EASTER EGG HUNT


The ever reliant DVD REVIEW website recently unveiled a couple of hidden goodies from Anchor Bay's recent release of the SLEEPAWAY CAMP films. On SLEEPAWAY II, select "Extras" from the main menu and then select "Commentary" from that submenu. Now, press "Right" to highlight a "No Trespassing" sign and then press "Enter" to hear a music track by the band Ravenstone, along with some trivia on the band, which features the film's director as a member. Now, on SLEEPAWAY 3, again select "Extras" from the main menu, but then press "Left" to highlight the camp logo on Angela's T-shirt. Now, press enter and you will be taken to a 1988 news report about the film's production, complete with interviews with cast and crew.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


Cue singing monsters, the destruction of Washington D.C., Kaiju Eiga, and budget priced, multi-movie DVD sets. All this and more, next week in Vidiocy.



Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

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