Return of the Living Dead 3


Viewed – 01 September 2017  Blu-ray

In the nineties I remember really loving this movie and watched it on a rental double bill with Stephen King adaptation The Dark Half (I really need to see that again also).  So when I heard this was finally getting not just a Blu-ray release but was also digitally re-mastered and fully restored with a plethora of extras – I couldn’t resist.  Telling a sort-of Romeo & Juliet story of a young teenage kid who’s trashy girlfriend is killed following a motorcycle accident. Said kid then decides to bring girlfriend back to life using his father’s shady military experiments on the recently deceased via a mysterious chemical known as Trioxin.

ROTLD3

The poster art of this movie was instantly iconic, what with sexy star Melinda Clarke posing as some sort of sadomasochistic zombie hottie.  It may not be all that clever and is mostly low budget fair but for some impressive practical effects work that still look good to this day (bar occasional dodgy puppetry zombie action).  Clark’s performance, although nothing all that layered is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast, really bringing home the pain and suffering of her undead cravings whilst resorting to inflicting pain on herself to strop from eating her boyfriend (!).  It’s a fun concept and a very entertaining ride, with director Brian Yuzna (Bride of Re-Animator, Society) pulling out all the tricks to deliver lots of gory fun.

I suppose with many gorier, nastier movies since, this one’s impact has been considerably diluted and is much more pop-corn schlock than ‘full on horror’, and the idea of Clark’s Julie fighting her desires to eat brains isn’t as explored as it could have been, with her gradual transformation rather rushed.  Yet this has it where it counts; great effects, lots of blood and gore and bags of energy meaning I still came away grinning like the twenty something former me.

The Blu-ray from Lionsgate as part of their Vestron Video Collector’s Series is impressive stuff.  The soundtrack may only be in the original 2.0 stereo but has clear dialogue and plenty of atmosphere.  For a mostly low-budget movie where clearly all the money was spent on the make up effects, the movie has some nice detail, retains clarity and depth despite mostly night-set scenes and facial detail is decent.  Add to this extras that consist of two worthwhile commentaries, interviews and stills galleries.  Great treatment for what may be a cult favourite but doesn’t get talked about all that much..

Verdict:

(the movie) 3.5 / 5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

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The Fly


Viewed – 29 August 2017  Blu-ray

It’s hard to believe this movie came out in 1986.  It’s look and atmosphere still feel contemporary and semi-futuristic bar some 80s fashions and hair styles.  This retelling / remake of the 1950’s b-movie has Jeff Goldblum on star-making form as eccentric scientist Seth Brundel, who after inviting a plucky reporter (Gina Davis) to his lab, reveals he has invented a teleportation device.  However after the initial reveal, Brundel decides to teleport himself but makes the mistake of allowing a common house fly inside the pod, therefore setting into motion a grotesque and alarming physical transformation.

The Fly

This is perfect material for director David Cronenberg (Scanners, Videodrome) who has always had an interest in body-horror and transformation in his movies.  However beyond the gory effects (that still impress and revolt) this is a tragic love story.  Helped immeasurably by convincing chemistry from the leads (who were a real life couple at the time) and a strikingly complex turn from Goldblum … watching events play out is both emotionally draining and exciting.  It’s a very unique kind of horror experience, with no actual evil enemy but more a horrible set of circumstances. In that respect it’s not unlike The Elephant Man.  It may be at it’s core fairly simple and only really has three characters … but what Cronenberg achieves with such simple tools is a revelation and made this an instant classic.

The Blu-ray has a decent if slightly soft image but colours are strong and close-up detail is good.  The soundtrack in 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio is also effective with atmospherics and Howard Shore’s obvious b-movie throwback score both doing their job.  The only slight let down is somewhat mono sounding dialogue that whilst still clear could have done with sprucing up.  Extras are plentiful though with an essential commentary from Cronenberg as well as some worthwhile deleted scenes, press kits, behind the scenes stuff and photo galleries.  Overall a decent job for a genuine horror gem.

Verdict:

(the movie)  5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Annabelle: Creation


Viewed – 24 August 2017  Cinema

I’ll certainly go on record as saying the first Conjuring movie is one of the best horrors of recent years, and it’s follow up wasn’t too shabby either.  Set in the same universe, the Annabelle movie so far has passed me by, Luke warm reviews and generally ‘meh’ word of mouth not helping matters.  However I had heard this follow up was meant to be superior, so I thought I’d give it a chance.

Annabelle Creation

Set some time before the events of the original movie, this has a group of orphans coming to live at a house in the middle of nowhere (of course).  The ageing couple that run the house however hide their own tragic history following the death of their daughter twelve years previous.  However it’s not long that things start to go bump in the night, mystery surrounds the reclusive wife and there’s a closed off room that certain girls should not go poking their noses into.

A solid premise, a creepy location and inquisitive young girls in night gowns wondering around creepy corridors in the dark.  Yes it’s rather familiar stuff and pulls out many a horror movie trope.  However it’s also a movie that wears its clichés like a badge of honour, delivering effective scares and plenty of freaky imagery and nail biting atmosphere that I found genuinely unnerving.  The mostly young cast do a fine job especially lead girl Talitha Bateman and with several nods to both The Conjuring movies this was the whole package.  It gets pretty messed up and nasty towards the end and I left the cinema fairly shaken but thoroughly entertained.  A small tie in with the last movie ends things on somewhat of a ‘ok..er, what?’ and for a movie labelled ‘creation’ it’s still a bit of a mystery just what Annabelle’s origins are  – but otherwise I still got a kick out of this.

Verdict:  4 /5

Get Out


Viewed – 01 August 2017  Online-rental

I kept hearing very good things about this relatively under-the-radar horror-thriller so thought I’d check it out.  A black guy goes to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend’s family but not long after arriving he starts to feel there is something rather strange about these people.  Is it simply paranoia or is there really something sinister afoot?

Get Out

Think of this like a more seriously creepy version of Meet The Parents.  I quickly began to get absorbed by the concept and the racial tension take was refreshing.  British actor Daniel Kaluuya (Psychoville) proves an effective lead and support from Catherine Keener and Allison Williams were also decent.  It’s what makes this work so well; a strong cast and a foreboding, well handled sense of dread and eeriness.  The eventual revelation of what is really going on is also pretty damn disturbing.  Comic relief from motor-mouthed newcomer LilRel Howery felt a little out of place but still kind of worked and although not a horror in the traditional sense, this holds up a compelling reflection of modern racism and social classes that is surprisingly scary and probably still relevant.

It descends into typical horror survival territory towards the end despite maintaining a freaky atmosphere (with echoes of The Wicker Man).  However, along with good use of foreshadowing, solid performances and leaving this viewer with plenty to think about post-credits …  this remains one to see.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage


Viewed – 20 June 2017  Blu-ray

Cult Italian horror auteur Dario Argento’s 1970 debut, has all the trade marks that have distinguished his career right through to the present.  The black gloved killer, beautiful female victims, superb camera work, an effective, characteristically unnerving musical score, and grand set-piece murders.  Tony Musante plays an American writer travelling in Rome with his girlfriend (the gorgeously photogenic Suzy Kendall, who resembles like a young Suzanne George), when he witnesses an attempted murder on a local female gallery owner by a dark figure dressed in a black raincoat.  He quickly becomes amateur sleuth after the local detective takes away his passport, and soon further murders take place and he grows ever closer to unmasking the assailant.

Although by no means as graphic as the director’s other works, this well told murder mystery harks back to the classic films of Alfred Hitchcock in both the theme and iconic imagery.  Dario Argento has been often labelled the Italian Hitchcock, and with this thriller such a label is hard to deny.  Yet although his work has become more abstract and bizarre over the years, and such creating a style that is distinctly his own, with this effective film, the director made a mark in cinema that introduced the world to a bold and brilliant new visionary.  Engaging performances by its lead actors (especially Musante), several colourful, odd-ball characters and situations that really get your pulse racing create a distinctly classy thriller right up their with the director’s best.  

Bird with the Crytsal Plumage

This newly restored 4k transfer from the always dependable guys at Arrow Video comes in a deluxe box set that boasts a vintage poster, a detailed booklet and the movie itself on both Blu-ray and DVD complete with a plethora of extras.  We get an essential audio commentary by Argento expert Troy Howarth as well as a new interview with the director, featurettes, trailers and newly commissioned artwork with a reversible sleeve.  Add to this 6 art cards.  The movie itself is in great shape with a clean, grainy image that only suffers from somewhat garish colours (which I’ll admit suit the era the movie was made in).  The soundtrack may only be in it’s original mono audio but is still effective, especially with composer Ennio Morricone’s memorable, haunting score.  An impressive treatment for a genuine classic of the Italian giallo genre.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5