The Blob


Viewed – 06 February 2018  Blu-ray

You have to love the 80s.  It was a golden era for horror, and a time when horror could be fun as well as horrifying. Today a lot of horror movies go straight for the jugular and can be way too nasty   They’re almost a test of endurance.  That can’t be said for this rather under-appreciated 1988 remake of a 50’s b-movie of the same name.

the_blob

When a meteor crashes near a small town, biker rebel Kevin Dillon (The Rescue) finds himself thrown into a battle for survival alongside high school cheerleader Shawnee Smith (Saw).  Even as authority figures and adults dismiss the disappearances along with sightings of a weird goo … of course it’s up to the kids to find a way to stop what’s happening.  Yeah, there’s nothing all that clever here, but it retains that b-movie tongue-in-cheek tone that perfectly suits such a silly concept, with cast all doing a great job of going along for the ride.  Director Chuck Russell (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors) piles on some effective gore with still great practical effects and a couple of genuine shocks (the kid in the sewer).  Also I’d forgotten how likable Shawnee Smith is, and well Kevin Dillon’s always been a great bad-boy (where’s he gone?).

It reminded me at times of John Carpenter’s seminal The Thing remake but fares poorly in comparison due to clichéd characters and only passable acting, and that silly tone stops it from being scary even for a second.  Yet as it stands this is still a great deal of fun and is certainly worth your time.

The Blu-ray is rather a pleasant surprise … image quality may seem a bit soft but colours are vibrant and overall the picture is clean, and free of any print damage.  The sound gets the lossless 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio treatment, but seems to lack a bit of ‘punch’ overall.  Extras feature a trailer and a director interview, but that’s it.  Considering the movie at time of writing still lacks a UK Blu-ray release this Region B Australian release is a godsend.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3 /5

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Pet Sematary


Viewed – 23 January 2017  Blu-ray

I seem to be doing a Stephen King season lately with my viewing, and with this fondly remembered entry from 1989 I was very excited to check it out again.  It tells the tale of a family who move into a house located near a busy main road where truckers drive seemingly with no awareness of their surroundings.  A kindly, elderly neighbour (the late Fred Gwynne) befriends the family and soon tells them about the aforementioned Pet Cemetery, a place where for decades children have gone to bury their pets.  However something sinister lies beyond the cemetery, that of a sacred Indian burial ground – and we all know they’re never good places.

Pet Sematary

I was surprised how well I remembered this adaptation and it certainly has a slightly goofy charm along with it’s intriguing concept.  Acting is serviceable and a little cheesy in places (especially Fred Gwynne not that far removed from his turn as Herman Munster in The Munsters TV series).  Yet it certainly has it’s moments; the child actors especially stealing the show, with the stand out being toddler Gage who turns rather iconic in later scenes.  Also it’s got effectively freaky flashbacks / dream sequences that send shivers (creepy sister ‘zelda’) and a few solid set pieces with effective gore.  Yet the movie didn’t entirely get under my skin, not helped by questionable motivations of certain characters (despite warnings and shit-going-down) which ruins the movie’s second half.  Yet for one of those 80s horrors that has for some reason always stayed in my mind … I still had fun with this.

The Blu-ray, part of a ‘premium collection’ boasts a very detailed and vibrant picture that I wasn’t expecting.  Sound is delivered in the original 2.0 stereo or a very effective and immersive 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio (just hear those trucks shake the room).  Extras aren’t exactly plentiful but we do get a commentary from director Mary Lambert as well as welcome featurettes on the making of as well as Stephen King himself.  The set also boasts a nice slip case and art cards.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

IT


Viewed – 19 January 2017  Blu-ray

Stephen King has always been a great writer of children characters, often portrayed as outsiders and free of that Hollywood cuteness we often see.  They’re relatable and often complex on a par with their adult counterparts.  This latest adaptation, a sort of remake of the 1990 two part TV movie and a closer interpretation of King’s book has a group of school kids all seemingly haunted by visions of the same creepy clown.  It begins with the disappearance of one kid’s younger brother and soon these kids find themselves thrown together to face an evil that has lurked in the town for decades.

IT

Although at first a scary movie in typical sense, with an over-bearing orchestral score and a reliance on jump-scares, this thankfully focuses on character for the most part and presented this viewer with children to really care about and rout for.  There’s overly-vicious bullies seemingly out to beat up any nerdy kid for no apparent reason, and parental supervision is either completely absent or abusive.  So demonic clown Pennywise is free to lure in his next victim and only the ‘losers club’ can do anything about it.  Bill Skarsgård, at first a strange casting for the role previously filled by genre favourite Tim Curry … is a revelation; creepy, unpredictable and mischievous, whilst at times genuinely frightening.  The way the movie has Pennywise playing of certain kids fears is well done even if that ‘hair in plug hole’ sequence seemed plucked from another movie.   With that said, the movie isn’t afraid to go for the jugular and some of the violence is pretty brutal even when aimed at children (that opening scene).  So I was impressed at how this movie simply went for it, wasn’t trying to tame itself for a wider audience and piled on the scares and gore to full effect.  It’s also surprisingly effective as a coming-of-age story, leaving quite an emotional impact on me towards the end.  The young cast also do a great job, especially Sophia Lillis (looking like a younger Elizabeth Olson) and Jaeden Lieberher.

Director Andrés Muschietti (Mama) has delivered a thrilling and freakily effective experience that’s despite a few clichés is well cast and left this viewer thirsty for more.  Let’s just hope ‘chapter two’ isn’t the let down the second half of the original movie was.

Verdict:  4 /5

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2


Viewed – 13 January 2018  Blu-ray

I’ve always been a casual fan of director Tobe Hooper’s notorious 1974 vision of terror… it’s a very raw and unrelenting experience that certainly leaves a mark.  This 1986 follow up, further more unavailable for years in the UK reunites us with the cannibalistic Sawyer family as a Texas Marshall (Dennis Hopper) tries to track them down, thirsty it seems for revenge.  Meanwhile a plucky radio DJ becomes embroiled in the hunt.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2

There’s certainly a more tongue-in-cheek tone to this and it only marginally works.  It gives an already crazy concept an even nuttier vibe which came off for me more annoying than scary or disturbing.  The Sawyer family this time around are given a little more character, thanks mostly to Bill Moseley’s deranged ‘chop-top’ and we also see a side to Leatherface I wasn’t expecting.  Add to this a volatile, unhinged turn from Hopper who’s character is rather cartoonish but still entertaining.  The big let down acting wise is Caroline Williams as radio DJ ‘Stretch’ Initially she seems interesting, spunky and a good heroine … but then becomes scream-queen and oh boy, was she annoying!  I’ve watched my fair share of scream queens and this one, was so over the top I was quickly hoping the Sawyer family would just end her. 

Gore hounds are only slightly catered for, despite the presence of effects artist Tom Savini… so we get a skinned face and some chainsaw meets guts stuff, but not much else.  Overall the movie isn’t as visceral or effectively disturbing as either the original or the remake … but as a frantic, crazy ride this still entertained.  Considering this sequel’s reputation though, I was expecting … more.

The Blu-ray from Arrow Video boasts a detailed, clean and vibrant picture and even though the soundtrack is only the original 2.0 stereo it’s sharp and very effective.  The disk itself is packed with extras, with ‘It Runs At Night’ a six part documentary, and we also get several interviews with cast, crew and horror critics.  Add to this two commentaries (one with director Tobe Hooper and another with Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley and Tom Savini) making this deluxe treatment for what is otherwise a fun if forgettable entry in the franchise.

Verdict: 

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

Carrie


Viewed – 09 January 2017  Blu-ray

I have memories of this 1976 horror classic as being really unsettling and disturbing, and recall catching it on TV a long time ago, back when I was first discovering horror.  Based on the Stephen King book of the same name, incidentally the famed author’s debut – this tells the simple story of an outcast school girl, bullied by other students and living in the shadow of a controlling, deeply religious mother.  However Carrie hides a secret, the fact she can movie objects with her mind, and sometimes experiences such power manifesting when she’s at her most troubled.

CarrieBrian DePalma’s movie is mostly a teen drama; an exploration of youth and peer pressure from woman’s perspective.  To this extent it’s a very feminist movie with strong themes of puberty, menstruation and womanhood.  It’s also of that glut of religion themed horrors that over-flowed from the 70s, like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby even if it’s never quite as gritty or unsettling as those two.  Add in elements of exploitation movies and schlocky-horror of the time and quite a cocktail we have.  Sissy Spacek as the title character is mesmerizing and iconic, but then again so is Piper Laurie as her nutty mother who gets all the best lines and is probably the real creep factor of the show.  Add to this decent runs from Amy Irving, a bitchy Nancy Allen (Dressed to Kill, RoboCop) and a memorable John Travolta and this ticks all the boxes.

Piper LaurieI didn’t find it anywhere near as scary as I remembered, and it’s occasional light, almost comedic moments sit uneasy with the horror.  This is however a movie where DePalma shows his true colours, with a mostly haunting, dream-like atmosphere throughout, leading to a stunning, still show-stopping finally that sent equal amounts of shivers and relish through me as Carrie takes her vengeance.  For me it remains one of the most heart-stopping moments in cinema history.  With this movie DePalma brings together all the techniques he’d honed in the earlier years.  It’s as showy and eye-catching as you may expect from the director but also surprisingly touching and sweet, which you may not expect considering the movie’s legacy.  It’s also a lot better than any carbon copy remake.

Arrow Video Limited EditionI managed to pick up the limited edition version of the Arrow Video blu-ray and well, what can I say?  The packaging firstly is stellar, housed in a nice slip case that has a 40 page booklet, art cards and a poster.  Also, the movie is in great shape.  The 4K restored image is vibrant and detailed despite an intentionally soft-focus look, and sound is also excellent with clear dialogue and an especially thumping soundtrack when the prom (from hell) occurs.  We get soundtracks in both the original 2.0 stereo as well as very good 5.1 DTS Master Audio.  Add to this the disk itself being filled with extras, with a brand new audio commentary from two film critics that is both funny and fascinating, and a wealth of features comprising of interviews, behind the scenes footage, location footage and explorations of all the various version of Carrie that have been made, from remakes to a musical(?).  The absence of both King or to a lesser extent Travolta is disappointing, however this is a small niggle for what is mostly an exhaustive and epic release.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5