Thursday, October 30, 2014

Witch's Night Out

Director - John Leach (The Gift of Winter)
Starring - Gilda Radner (Haunted Honeymoon), Bob Church (Videodrome), and John Leach
Release Date - 1978
Genre - Children's
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     With Halloween just a few days away I try to watch films that are oriented towards children for the holiday.  I watch the bloody and gory horror flicks all year so when Halloween rolls around I watch the films I watched when I was a kid.  While most go on a movie binge watching the same films over and over again I relive my childhood.  Last month I made contact with Mill Creek Entertainment and they told me about their October releases.  Among those releases was the 1978 animated movie Witch's Night Out.   I had never seen that film before but if it involved witches and took place on Halloween then I'm all over it.  I reached out to them about their release and they were kind enough to send me a copy!
     The film follows a witch (voiced by Gilda Radner) who is depressed that no one celebrates Halloween the correct way anymore.  However, she has her wish when she meets a pair of kids who want to be scary for Halloween.  She turned them into a werewolf and a ghost along with turning their babysitter into Frankenstein's monster. The kids have a little fun but they scare the towns people.  They mistake them for real monsters and form a mob to rid their town of the beasts.  They chase the kids and the witch has to step in to remind everyone about what Halloween is all about.  Then she transforms them into beasts and they enjoy the holiday.
     What I love about children's Halloween films is that they are so wound up with the holiday.  Every scene and every second has something to reference about the holiday and that should be the point of these films. That was one of the many reasons I really enjoyed this film.  It was honestly a Halloween film for those that want to see a film for Halloween.  The voice acting in this one is fun.  Gilda Radner was perfect in her role but the others just did not fit their characters.  The voice just doesn't match their personalities.  A little more thought in the casting would have helped this film out a lot.  The story for this one is simple and fun for the holidays.  It focuses on the light-hearted side of Halloween with kids trying to scare adults and dressing up for the holiday.  Fans of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and The Halloween Tree will enjoy this one.  Finally, the animation for this one is simple and somewhat fun.  The artists doesn't try to give the characters a great deal of detail.  They all are one color with no separation from clothes to skin.  Overall, Witch's Night Out is a Halloween classic and fun for the whole family.  If you have yet to see this one then head out to your local Wal-Mart and grab it for a great price!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Stage Fright

aka Deliria
aka Aquarius 

Director - Michael Soavi (Cemetery Man)
Starring - David Brandon (The Blade Master), Barbara Cupisti (Flesh and the Devil), and Domenico Fiore (Warehouse 13)
Release Date -1987
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "The threatre of death"
Format - BluRay (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
      Slashers are easily my favorite sub-genre but this sub-genre is so vast that they can be split up into groups. We have the slasher in the woods/camp, slashers in high school, slashers in college, the 90's self-aware slashers, and at the height of the slasher craze we had the Italian take on the slasher genre which dived deep into the Giallo sub-genre.  In 1987 Italian director Michael Soavi crafted the slasher Stage Fright while Joe D'Amato produced.  The film was one that I had always wanted to see but friends of mine that loved slashers said the film was not that good.  As time went on I found the film Cemetery Man and I fucking loved it.  When I found out it was directed by Soavi it made me wanna see Stage Fright even more but with time I forgot about the film until Blue Underground released the film on Blu and was nice enough to send me a review copy.
     The film follows a group of actors who are rehearsing a musical about a killer owl.  During rehearsal one of the ladies hurts her ankle.  The director refuses to get her help so she sneaks out with another cast member.  They go to a nearby hospital which happens to be a mental hospital.  A doctor helps but they find a mental patient who was once an actor who snapped and killed a lot of people.  This stirs the unstable man and he kills an orderly and sneaks out.  He follows them back to the theater where he grabs the killer owl costumer and kills an actress on stage.  This causes a frenzy among the cast.  Everyone panics and runs for their life as he stalks and kills them one by one.  They try to escape but the director has locked the doors for rehearsal and they try to frantically search for a key but they does not go well as more members of their group turn up dead.  As everyone turns up dead one young lady is able to find a key and get out with her life.
     I love how mindless slasher films can be.  Most do have twist ending but the story is so straight forward.  These are the kind of films I love to watch when I don't to think.  I throw them in and watch the senseless violence befall me without having to think. However, some slasher films try to throw in a story more complex than it needs to be.  These tend to take away from the charm of watching a slasher.  Let's be honest, we only watch slashers for tits and bloodshed.  The acting in this is the mediocre slasher effort that we have became accustomed.  No one is trying to win an award and that shows in every scene.  This is something fans of slashers are used to seeing.  The story for this one is not your traditional slasher story.  There is no revenge in this one which is something different.  Sadly, the story tries to be very detailed and complex which it fails to pull off.  It makes the film feel thrown together.  Also, the killer has a look we are not familiar with that does not invoke fear but brings about laughter.  A killer owl is just fucking ridiculous and takes away from the slasher aspect.  Finally, the film has some very bloody and original kills that make up for the shitty killer and piss poor story.  We get some brutal axe murders, a drill to the abdomen, and even a body cut in half.  How often do you get that shit in a slasher?  Overall, Stage Fright is an artsy take on the slasher sub-genre that just does not sit well with fans of the sub-genre.  However, the kills are very impressive and more than make up for the film.  Check it out if you haven't!

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Night of the Living Dead

Director - Chad Zuver (New Blood Rising)
Starring - Mark Klein (The Dead Will Rise 2), Melissa Zahs, and Rebekka Daniel (New Blood Rising)
Release Date - 2014
Genre - Horror
Format - Streaming (online screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     One of the most influential indie horror films to ever grace celluloid is George A. Romero's classic Night of the Living Dead.  The film was released in 1968 and forever changed horror and the way we see zombies in cinema. The film is phenomenal and truly stands the test of time.  The film has seen so many parodies, sequels, and remakes over the years.  However, 2014 seems to be a fruitful year for NotLD with two remakes scheduled to be released and both are indie production taking root in Ohio.  The first remake is coming to use from Shattered Image Films and director Chad Zuver who was kind enough to shoot me a review copy.  Thanks!
     This reincarnation of the classic tale follows a father, his two daughters, and the boyfriend of one of his daughters as they travel to a cemetery out in the country to pay respects to their late mother and wife. She tragically passed away and now the family is torn apart dealing with her death.  While in the cemetery one of the young girls is attacked by a man and her boyfriend intervenes only to be murdered by the man as he rips his throat out with his teeth.  She rushes to her father where she find him and her sister.  They all race to the car where another fiend is waiting and nabs one of his daughters.  They flee and soon find a man wielding a pistol and fighting for his life against the undead.  The three head off where they find a home to seek refuge in.  Once inside things turn heated as tension comes to a boil.  The father and man have a hard time seeing eye to eye and fight about what they need to do to survive.  If the undead don't kill them then they may kill each other.
     I don't mind remakes and sequels unlike most of my horror brethren.  Most bitch and complain when someone mentions one of the two but I get excited as hell.  These tend to be a continuation of my favorite stories or the same stories told in new light. However, I am at the point where I feel there is just too damn many Night of the Living Dead remakes.  Night of the Living Dead is easily one of my favorite movies and I respect any film that is a remake or a parody of it but I am at the point where I am getting a little bored with them.  That doesn't mean the films are bad, not all of them anyway, but they are all telling the same story and most do it in a boring manner.  The acting in this one is indie grade.  They all show heart and talent but they truly lack on screen experience.  Also, some of the scenes featuring the two male stars fighting were hard to watch.  One of the men constantly yells and it very annoying.  This ruined the scenes and made them almost impossible to watch.  The story for this one is a modern re-telling of the classic with bits and pieces of the original story tossed in for good measure.  I actually liked the layout of this story when compared to the other remakes with the exception of the Savini remake in 1990.  If this was executed better it would have been one hell of a story.  Finally, the special effects and on screen kills we get are a bit of a disappointment.  The special effects are bad and I mean bad in an indie sense.  The camera angles and cheap effects are this films real downfall.  Overall, A Night of the Living Dead is a heartfelt remake that just can't capture the flare that made the original so damn enjoyable.  The film is beautifully shot but the story is slow and the special effects are lacking.  Fans of the original should check it out but your typical movie going fan may not care for it.

The Sins of Dracula

Director - Richard Griffin (Exhumed, Murder University)
Starring - Sarah Nicklin (The Creeping Fucking Kid in Apartment B), Jesse Dufault (Accidental Incest), and Samantha Acampora (The Last Halloween)
Release Date - 2014
Genre - Horror/Comedy
Tagline - "Soon there will be no one left to confess"
Format - Streaming (Online Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Indie horror has seen the rise and fall of so many directors.  Many started out making films for fun and because they are fans of the genre but over time it turned into a job that was not pulling in the profits they were expecting.  Other stop making films because they no longer were having the fun they once had.  Very few indie directors can make a career out of film making but director Richard Griffin has been able to do so all while having fun at it.  I have said this multiple times in reviews I have written about his films.  His films always pay tribute to a style or trend that has been long since forgotten and with films like Creature from the Hillbilly Lagoon, Necroville, and Atomic Brain Invasion you always know what you will be getting into up front.   Sometime last year I became friends with Griffin on Facebook where I have followed his career like a tween with a One Direction fascination.  Several months back I reviewed his film Future Justice and was really impressed.  This only fueled my excitement for his next film which I learned was a tale about Dracula in a style reminiscent of the Satanic films of the 70s.  The film, The Sins of Dracula, was scheduled to premier October 26th but Griffin was kind enough to send it me earlier than that as a birthday present to myself.  Thanks for giving me the chance to see the film Richard!  Also, happy birthday to you as well.
     The film followed devout christian Billy who ventures away from church and church choir so he can be with his smokin hot girlfriend and participate in stage plays.  His pastor is concerned for his christian soul but allows Billy to go out into the real world where he can learn about life outside of the church.  His beautiful girlfriend Shannon (Nicklin) takes him to the theater where he meets everyone involved with the production and their unique backgrounds.  It is here that he meets the director of the play who is also an evil man who want to resurrect the prince of darkness, Dracula (Thurber).  He has killed his production assistant and stage actor to use their blood to resurrect him and it works.  Dracula and his new, well spoken, lacky set out to turn everyone involved with the theater into vampires while Billy struggles to stay pure and devout. 
     What I love about Richard Griffin's films is that he is able to take a very low budget and with that low budget he is able to take me back in time to when movies had style and not shock value. With this film Griffin is taking us back to the 70s when there was a trend in cinema where the films were centered around Satan and religious cults.  Griffin was able to craft that same kind of film but he threw in a little Hammer horror style that set this film apart from the rest.  The acting in this film is phenomenal which is something that makes Griffin's films so amazing.  The entire cast is great and we have names that need to be in more indie horror flicks.  Jamie and Jesse Dufault are great.  Both have been in other Griffin films and both always make every scene flow fluidly.  These are two names that I think I will see in the end credits of a lot of films in the future.  Horror hottie Sarah Nicklin shows why she is Griffin's go-to-girl.  She is beautiful and talented.  Also, Samantha Acampora has a decent sized role as well and she shows a tremendous amount of talent and beauty.  Finally, one of my favorite indie actors give an amazing performance and the dark prince.  That actor is the talented and phenomenal Michael Thurber.  If you have yet to catch a film he has been apart of then do it now and stop reading my ramblings. The story for this one is one told before but in a more modern setting.  Numerous films have been made where someone with evil intentions has tried to raise Dracula or the devil but none do so with style like this film did.  Griffin is able to tell a story in a way that you actually care about what is going on rather than making a film with the intent of making the audience cringe and gag.  Finally, the film has decent special effects but they are what you would expect from a vampire film.  The film would rather pull you in with enthralling storytelling and superb acting instead of blood and gore.  Overall, The Sins of Dracula is a modern classic that shows how talented Richard Griffin and company really is.  The film has style instead of cheap scares which is a breathe of fresh air in the current state of horror.  Check it out because you will not be disappointed.

Friday, October 24, 2014

HI-8 Horror Independent 8 - VHS release

Ron Bonk...(segment "Gang Them Style")
Donald Farmer...(segment "Thicker than Water")
Marcus Koch...(segment "A Very Bad Situation")
Tony Masiello...(segment "The Tape")
Tim Ritter...(segment "Switchblade Insane")
Chris Seaver...(segment "Genre Bending")
Todd Sheets...(segment "The Request")
Brad Sykes...(segment "The Scout") (wraparound segment "No Budget Films Presents...")

My tape arrived today and I eagerly opened it, anxious to watch this anthology.  I've had my sights on it for quite some time now.  Eight different directors do retro horror SOV.  All that back-in-the-day goodness delivered on VHS? Hells to the fuck yeah!

I'm not gonna dig terribly deep into this one.  I enjoyed each segment, and I liked the movie as a whole.  It was excellent to kick back and relax with a few beers, chill out, and immerse myself in the era.  I felt like I was in a time warp.  HI-8 brought back memories of growing up in the 80s and watching any and every horror tape that National Home Video or Hollywood Video had.  Bonus points for the "Hollywood VD" jab in the one segment.

I won't say that every segment is absolute gold.  What I will say is that I thoroughly enjoyed quite a few of them, and found the rest of them to still entertain.  No part of this was a terrible disappointment.

There are many sick practical fx on display in this collection of stories. Personal highlights include the segments by Marcus Koch, Tony Masiello, and Tim Ritter.  HI-8 is not shy, there's some gore to witness, and it looks pretty fucking good.  This throwback wouldn't be complete without some nudity, and there are a few sets of titties to be seen as well  Although I would definitely say the nudity is far away from gratuitous territory.

I have to say this one nails it's vibe down and totally delivers that retro feel. It was completely self-aware and amusingly irreverent to its own existence and even it's delivery on VHS.  Watching HI-8 on this medium was fantastic.  I really enjoyed the startup and intro, totally got me into the mood.  As a whole the film looked excellent and exactly as it should, but I'll be honest and say I couldn't read the credits. At least there's IMDB.

I will certainly pick this up on dvd when its available.  I must recommend picking up the VHS if you're into it... this film will certainly not let you down!


Thursday, October 23, 2014


Director - Corey Norman (Natal, The Hanover House)
Starring Casey Turner, Andrew Lyndaker, and Sean Carmichael
Release Date - 2014
Genre - Horror
Tagline - "It's only a story"
Format - DVD (Personal Collection) (Screener)

Rating (out of 5):
     Short films have tremendous power when used properly.  I have reviewed several shorts during my short time writing reviews and everyone I write I feel the need to express how powerful they can be. Shorts have the ability to give the viewer story, action, adventure, and even scares in a short period of time.  This is great for the viewer because they don't have to wait long or listen to horrible dialogue to get to the good parts.  Recently, I learned that director Corey Norman was at it again and this time he would be making another short.  Some of you may remember my reviews for his film's Natal and The Hanover House.  Both films are great and this forced me into waiting for his next film which came in the form of another short like his film Natal.  Corey was kind enough to send me his new short Tickle to review and for that I thank you!
     This short follows a babysitter who tells a young boy a bed time story.  As Halloween approaches she decides to tell him a story about a troll named Tick Tack (Tic Tac, sp?). Tick Tack tickles the feet of those that are asleep and leave them out of the covers.  The little boy tells her he doesn't believe in trolls and she tucks him in for the night.  After she leaves the room the little boy becomes scared and covers his head up with the cover as his closet opens.  A few moments later the babysitter falls asleep while watching a movie.  Tick Tack makes his way to the living room where he uses a sickle to hack off both her feet.  He then slowly takes his two prizes back to the little boy's closet.
     Tickle is a short that makes use of it's running time and make's every minute count.  However, the short running time actually works against the film. Not all stories can be shorts.  Some stories just have so much going on, or could possible happen, that the short running time actually ruins the film.  That is my problem with Tickle.  The story is so rich that it could easily be an amazing feature length film.  The acting in this one is great.  The little boy and babysitter was cast perfectly.  They both show skill and talent.  Also, the babysitter is easy on the eyes and that is something I have to comment on.  The story for this one could be so much more than a 10 minute short.  Take away the gore and this could easily be a modern children's horror film in the vain of The Gate and Monster Squad.  This is something that has to happen Corey!  Finally, we do get one kill scene and the short makes it count.  The kill is effect and the practical effects are beautiful.  The troll also looked great.  It reminded me of the evil Nazi elf in Elves but not shitty.  Overall, Tickle is a short made for those that are fans of 80s horror.  This is a short that is destined to become a Halloween classic.  Check it out because you will not be disappointed.