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    Madhouse (1981)

    Oh Julia, you’re such a nice girl; you selflessly dedicate your life to helping deaf children to learn and experience their world. Now that your birthday is almost here, I really hope the world gives you the gift of eternal happiness…wait, what’s that? Your diseased, emotionally abusive, Rottweiler controllin’, completely unhinged sister has just escaped from the loony bin and is coming to kick your ass up under your hat? Oh well, maybe the cake will be half way decent at least. Along for the fun are Julia’s weird ass priest uncle, a hilariously put-upon Japanese handy-man, a wacked out southern belle, a fake dog head so unconvincing it boarders on the obscene, and most head scratchingly of all; a woman with the dress sense of Holly Hobby and a haircut Straight Outta Vulcan (seriously, this woman is the one thing I guarantee will stay with you long after the stalk n’ slay hijinks have lurched to a conclusion).

    Vicious, full of twists, and completely off-kilter, Madhouse is a fun time in the horror biz, and is full of the nostalgic trappings that a lot of us boils and ghouls really appreciate in flicks from the golden age o’ slashers (red herrings, dated clothing, groovy gore, and characters that seem to function on pure nightmare logic).

    If there is a negative with this flick is that it shares a lot in common with another killer on the loose film from the same year; Happy Birthday To Me, so if you’ve seen that one some of what is on display here will seem awfully damn familiar…but as stated previous, the zaniness of the characters (and the uniqueness of the setting…this yarn un-spools in an apartment complex), make this film the better of the two in my opinion.

    Madhouse is worth the price of admission for the flick alone, but as is their usual way, Arrow Video has included some eerie extras to sweeten the ol’ pot! Included in this package are: an audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues podcacst blokes that manages to both inform and entertain in equal measure, interviews with actress Edith Ivey, cinematographer Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli, and producer/director Ovidio Assonitis. An alternative opening title sequence and trailer round out the package.

    Fun, surreal, and over-the-top in both acting and elements of storytelling, Madhouse is a hidden gem from the classic age of sin-ematic slash ’em ups, and this feature packed and beautifully re-mastered release is the best way to experience it!

    The Lawnmower Man (1992)

    Oh the ‘90’s. Remember when computer generated graphics were really taking off and were featured heavily in movies regardless of the fact that they often looked as phony as a stripper’s teets? Thank goodness that godless crap died off. Wait? What? Movies are still packed to the gills with that hot garbage? Damn kids! Get off my lawn with your VR headsets and your Pokeyman! Anyway that of course brings us to today’s review; The Lawnmower Man.

    Dr. Lawrence “007” Angelo (Pierce Brosnan) works for shady company VSI. His job mainly consists of getting chimps high and then plugging them in to some VR (which is absurd because I know actual humans that do that shit for funsies). VSI is hoping to train the chimps as soldiers to sell to the government. Seems legit. Well, one of said chimps goes rouge and ends up running into mentally handicapped Jobe Smith (Jeff Fahey), a local greenskeeper. Jobe mistakes the chimp, still in it’s VR gear, for Cybo-Man, a comic book character he loves (and annoyingly goes on about every 3.7 seconds). As is the way, that chimp goes tits up at the end of a gun, and before long, Doc Angelo has persuaded Jobe to take the ape’s place in the program. Long story short, the program makes Jobe smart and violent (not to mention telekinetic and pyrokinetic). Hilarity ensues.

    It had been forever since I saw Lawnmower Man as It hadn’t really made an impression on me back in the ‘90’s. So how do I feel about it now? Truthfully, it wasn’t bad. I was expecting it to be very dated, and while it certainty is in some spots, it holds up okay. The story is engaging enough and both Brosnan and Fahey are both in fine form which is admirable considering during the making of the film, Brosnan’s wife was battling cancer). The effects, while insanely tacky, are not a complete deal breaker as amazingly enough they were never distracting enough to take me out of the story. As a side note; the director’s cut (included in this release) is the way to go when watching Lawnmower Man as it adds about a half hour to the film, it fleshes out much more of the story.

    Now let’s talk about the big old elephant in the room. We all know that The Lawnmower Man is based on a short story by_____. But due to a Kong sized lawsuit Mr._____ is never mentioned once…not in the credits, not in the trailer (compare the trailers below for ultimate hilarity), not even in the special features. One gets the feeling ____ is waiting off camera with a team of lawyers as they film just waiting for somebody to mention him.

    Scream Factory has put together a great package here, with the real stand out being the extensive “making of” doc. Going into every aspect of the making of the film and including interviews with co-writer/director Brett Leonard, actor Jeff Fahey, editor Alan Baumgarten, make-up effects artist Michael Deak and special effects coordinator Frank Ceglia, this is a real winner (though Bronsan’s absence is weird). Also included are audio commentaries with writer/director Brett Leonard and writer/producer Gimel Everett on both cuts. Rounding out the features we get deleted scenes, the film’s archival Electronic Press Kit, edited animated sequences, the theatrical trailer and TV spot, a hilarious hidden Lawnmower Man contest commercial, conceptual art and design sketches, a still gallery, and a storyboard comparison featurette.

    If you’re into dated ‘90’s CGI and VR, or are a completest when it comes to films based on the works of ____, this release will do you fine. Now, does this mean we’re going to get the sequel with Max Headroom on Blu? I Hope so!

    -Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca

    Death Line (1972)

    The first thing you’ll notice about Death Line isn’t it’s atmosphere, chilling story, or top-notch acting…nope, the first thing you will notice is that the score for Death Line is one of the raunchiest pieces of music ever composed in the history of melody and sound…seriously this thing could make a porn score blush. What in the ever-loving hell were the makers of this film even thinking to open a horror film with this kind of absurd nonsense (don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it..but I don’t know if people should be boning or bleeding)? After that comes to it’s inevitable end we get down to the story proper, namely; after a young couple find a local politician (who just got his eggs scrambled by a hooker’s knee) lying unconscious on a subway platform things take a turn for the strange as he up and vanishes once the local police are called in to investigate. Enter Donald Pleasence as a hard ass (and possibly bi-polar) inspector who’s investigation leads him to discover there are modern day mutant descendants of workers trapped in a cave-in in the 19th century attacking and partially eating anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path! Tea is drank, flesh is consumed, shag haircuts are worn…a splendid time indeed!

    Death Line is one hell of a fright flick; filled to the brim with class act British actors (horror legends Pleasence and Christopher Lee among them) that is never afraid to be full of charm one minute and utterly revolting the next (you can definitely tell Death Line was the blueprint Landis followed for his An American Werewolf in Paris nearly a decade later). Adding to the excellence is a fantastic subterranean setting for much of the flicks grizzly goings-on; it’s cold, claustrophobic, and the perfect location for our main monster’s munchies. This is also a flick that knows the value of the “golden run-time” for fright flicks as it clocks in just shy of ninety minutes which keeps the action movin’ briskly (minus one sequence which I will discuss below).

    If there is one sequence in Death Line that may put off some viewers, it’s the long continuous sequence that introduces us to the nightmare world of the monster. It’s devoid of dialog and plays out like a fever dream, and some may find it jarring in the middle of a more traditional narrative. I personally feel it makes the entire picture as you get to see the monster in his own environment, and therefore you gain a sort of twisted sympathy for him (which is lacking in roughly 99% of fright flicks).

    In the beastly bonus department things get kicked off with an audio commentary from co-writer/director Gary Sherman, Producer Paul Maslansky, and assistant director Lewis More O’Ferrall; the track is engaging with no silent stretches, and is loaded with anecdotes about the making of the film as well as technical info (yet no one mentions that damn music). Next up are interviews with co-writer/director Gary Sherman, executive producers Jay Kanter and Alan Ladd Jr., stars David Ladd and Hugh Armstrong, and producer Paul Maslansky. Bringing up the rear are a collection of trailers, TV and radio spots, and a poster and still gallery. Quite the creepy cornucopia of freaky features eh, my creeps?

    Usually I try and wrap these things up with a pithy comment or two, but all I’m going to say here is click the damn title of this review and order a copy of Death Line immediately…your creepy collection desperately needs this terror title today!

    The Wake (2017)

    A group of attractive people manage to mow down a kid while doing the ol’ DWI bag and then find themselves stalked and slayed by a maniac wearing a burlap sack over his head. It’s like Jason Voorhees knows what you did last summer with The Wake. To elaborate, after our “heroes” murder said child, they are invited to his wake by his mother, and for some outrageous reason they actually go, only to be drugged and bound within a house lit only by blue lighting (seriously…every. damn. scene. Blue, blue, blue…). The group then slowly (and I mean slowly…more on that in a bit) meander around the house and occasionally have a go-around with the dude in the sack mentioned previous.

    Let’s start with a few nice things to say about The Wake. Let’s see…there were a few unexpected elements that added a  bit of freshness to this somewhat pedestrian affair; namely, the dude driving the car actually admits to the crime, and the killer is unmasked way before the end. You don’t see things like that everyday in slasher flicks, and I appreciated the effort, no matter how minimal, to be original. Also, the killer’s mask was cool, and while being of the burlap sack variety it does impress with it’s “face”, and there is a twist included in the narrative that I found fun (though I of course won’t be spillin’ the beastly beans here on the details of that one my creeps). Moving on…

    First up, The Wake doesn’t know if it wants to be a self aware Scream clone, or a straight up fright flick. The characters alternate between being aware of the tropes of the genre to being completely guilty of following the beats without a hint of the ol’ “wink wink” biz. It’s like the script started out one way, then mutated and no one bothered to change the two halves to match. Another problem with this one is that the middle gets a real case of “lead in ass” as the characters just wander around for a long spell with nothing really to do…it makes slogging through a grind which is insane given this film’s brief run time (86 minutes if you are keeping score at home). also, the “kills”…the whole reason we watch these things…are rather uninspired and play out very similar to one another.

    And that’s that; The Wake is an “okay” slasher that won’t set your world on fire, nor will you regret the time you spend with it…the film is competently made, I just wish the pacing and story were tighter and more inspired respectively.

    Peelers (2016)

    After an effective sequence where a mysterious man vomits and turns into a zombie in a dark hospital, things start in earnest in the newest entry in the strip club horror genre; Peelers from director/co-writer Sevé Schelenz (with a screenplay from Lisa DeVita). Following that bit of freaky fun we are introduced to the denizens of a rural strip joint, owned and operated by the no nonsense Blue Jean, on it’s final night of operation. Let me stop the sinister synopsis right here and say that these characters are instantly likable, an important element a lot of modern fright flick maestros seem to forget…we need to actually like the people that are about to meet their doom, or the whole affair becomes an exercise in hollow tedium…moving on. In the audience of the club this fateful night are a group of miners who have recently discovered oil in the town’s coal mine…a strange occurrence which of course is not as it seems as the vicious black liquid has infected these blokes and is turning them into bloodthirsty pseudo-zombies. of course the infection spreads and these ghastly ghouls begin shredding strippers (and patrons) in the most over-the-top ways possible! Blood (and other fluids) spray six ways to Sunday as our  comely heroes (and a few dudes as well) try and keep on livin’!

    Look, from the beginning I’ve laid it on the line for you cats about what really gets me revved up in a fright flick; namely the unholy trinity: boobs, blood, and bad guys. Well, I’m happy to report that Peelers has all three; you get gobs of grizzly gore splashed across the sinister screen (most utilizing glorious practical effects), mounds of mammaries, and hordes or ravenous monsters (with a unique origin no less) ready and willing to cause all manner of chaos! Along with that awesomeness you get a film that while doubtless produced on a lower budget sure as hell doesn’t look as though it was! The sheer amount of effects, not to mention things like including more sets than just the club (which is where the action would be contained exclusively in most film’s of this ilk), make this seem like a high budget production and while that never really factors in to my enjoyment of a film, it certainly took me by (pleasant) surprise! And while the story may involve classic tropes of our beloved horror biz (“zombies” attacking a group of folks in a single location), the diversity of effects, strong performances, and fun storytelling (a female lead that goes straight into kick-ass mode when faced with a nightmare scenario was a nice change of pace); which deftly balances laughs and scares without ever swaying into “wink wink” satire, make the whole affair seem fresh…oh, and the method of dispatching our not-so-merry monsters is creative as well, but you’ll have to watch the flick to learn more about that!

    Crude, gory, sexy, and most of all fun as f**k, Peelers is a fright flick you need to feast your putrid peepers on post-god damn-haste!

    The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970)

    Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is a down on his luck American writer living in Rome with his girlfriend Julia (Suzy Kendall). Sam’s just finished a book about birds and the couple are going to use the cash from that to head back to the states…but, fate has other plans in mind for poor Sam. While out walking one night, he witnesses a woman in an art gallery get attacked by a mysterious black-gloved assailant in a raincoat. Sam tries to help her but gets trapped between two mechanically-operated glass doors at the gallery’s entrance, and can only watch the violence helplessly. The police show up, and soon Inspector Morosini confiscates Sam’s passport to keep him in Rome believing him to be an important witness to the latest attack of a serial killer who’s been terrorizing the city. Obsessed with what he saw, Sam stats helping the police, but before long the killer is on to him and Sam and Julia become the killer’s targets.

    It’s insane to think this is Argento’s first freaking movie, as the whole affair looks gorgeous and every set-piece is presented with a sure hand. The scene where Sam is trapped between the glass doors is fantastic, as is the scene where Julia is trapped in their apartment…the lights out and the killer slowly, determinedly hacks through the door as the tension grows and grows. There’s also a great “sudden attack” scene involving a foggy morning street and a clever wielding killer. All of this atmospheric goodness is aided and abetted by the simply glorious score provided by Ennio Morricone.

    While the film is great on it’s own, the care Arrow Video has put into this release is astounding. The brand new 4K restoration is fantastic, and an already colorful, beautiful film looks even better. The other standout of this edition is an analysis of the film by movie critic Kat Ellinger; It’s an informative, in depth, and engaging look at Bird that fans of the film will find indispensable . Also included are: a new audio commentary by Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films, a new visual essay on the cinema of Dario Argento by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, author of Devil s Advocates: Suspiria and Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, and new interviews with Dario Argento and actor Gildo Di Marco. Rounding out the release is a limited edition 60-page booklet illustrated by Matthew Griffin, featuring an appreciation of the film by Michael Mackenzie, and new writing by Howard Hughes and Jack Seabrook.

    If you’re a big Argento fan or a fan of the giallo, this release is a must own, and it gets the highest recommendation there is!

    -Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca

    Victims! (1985)

    Within the first two minutes of Victims! we are treated to three murders, a killer in Bosom Buddies level drag, and full frontal nudity before moving on to two of the most non-threatening stone cold criminals I’ve ever seen stealing a car and then some ribald folks F’n in the brush accompanied by a score that wouldn’t be out of place in a random episode of High Feather. I find it hard to believe that the film makers can screw this up after this level of awesome. We are then treated to a rape sequence that begins with a woman getting punched in the stomach…god damn it. Anyway, the flick rolls on and we get a shower sequence, some hot n’ horny teens going camping, skinny dipping (yeah this thing is big on the naked femme flesh), forced lesbianism,  and of course our dastardly duo mentioned previously doin’ the ol’ stalk n’ slay bit.

    While not the most original movie ever made (think of this as kind of Last House on the Left’s demented cousin), Victims! nevertheless delivers what it sets out to be; namely a sleazy, violent, and above all nudity filled picture that seems tailor made for Drive-in and Grind House aficionados…unfortunately it’s subject matter just isn’t my personal cup o’ terror tea.

    As for the non-personal preference based negatives of this film, the presentation appears as you may have seen it in the ’80’s, like it’s straight off from a well loved VHS tape (a.k.a. the picture and sound are not great). I actually found this enhanced the overall vibe of the picture, but those of you that dig on crystal clean remasters of these trashy treats will be disappointed.

    One area the presentation does not disappoint however is in the extras department. First off you get a anecdote packed commentary with director Jeff Hathcock that reveals the down n’ dirty way this low-budget shocker was brought to life. Following that you get an interview with Hathcock that expands a bit on the information provided in the commentary track. Also included are a photo gallery and a trailer.

    There you have it creeps; if you dig on kinda rapey tawdry terrors like I Spit on Your Grave or the aforementioned Last House, then Victims! will be your thing for sure!

    Sorry, couldn’t find a trailer for this one o’ fiendish ones!

    Feed The Light (2014)

    After a young woman, Sara by name, loses custody of her daughter to her abusive husband, she takes a job in the same whacked out warehouse where ol’ slappy is gainfully employed (it’s some sort of half baked plan to steal the child back). Well, the leadership on the job is lacking (only one hard ass of a woman is in charge… a woman who keeps a naked guy at her desk that believes he’s a dog), and Sara is soon assigned to a sinister n’ strange cleaning crew who have to make sure silver dust is swept up…dust that seems to come from the light fixtures of the building. Speaking of light, there’s a strange one in the depths of the warehouse that seems to have a debilitating effect on those that spend time with it (as Sara’s husband does), and the secret of it may spell curtains for our heroine as she explores it’s mysteries (hallways appearing out of nowhere, a strange shadow creature, and most disturbingly of all a figure that appears to be her estranged daughter).

    Equal parts Lovecraftian dread and Lynchian strangeness, Feed The Light is a bizarre, surreal, mind f**k of a flick. Everything about the universe in which the film exists seems off-kilter and just wrong; subtly at first and then with more persistence until the whole affair makes you feel uneasy and unsure…like a great nightmare should…and that’s exactly what this flick feels like; a filmed nightmare! I have never seen another film quite like Feed The Light, and that is high praise indeed; it’s engrossing, disturbing, and engaging from beginning to end, with an unbeatable atmosphere, provided in equal measure by the story and the moody black and white (with occasional accents of color for emphasis) photography.

    With such high praise, you would suspect the negative aspects of this flick to be light…and you would be correct. As you can surmise from the synopsis above; if you like your fright flicks straight forward and spoon fed, you will be turned off by Feed The Light and it’s fever dream aesthetic. Additionally, if subtitles ain’t your bag you’ll be unhappy to find that this film was shot in Swedish. Minor quibbles, and ones of taste, but they should be mentioned nevertheless.

    As for bonus material, you get a “making of” featurette, an interview with co-writer/director Henrik Moller where he speaks about H.P. Lovecraft’s influence on the film, and the movie’s trailer.

    Feed The Light is exactly the type of film I love coming across; daring, original, surreal…with just enough nods to the masters. I strongly urge you to seek this one out, especially if you are a lover of the strange and unusual!

    Navy SEALS V Demons (2017)

    Back in the ‘90’s the local Mom and Pop video stores around here used to have a five for five deal…rent five movies for five dollars for five nights. After awhile though I  exhausted the usual go to movies (the horror and action sections were only so big after all), so, it got harder and harder to get five movies together. You’d end up with four and have to comb through a ton of crap until finally you settled on some cheapo flick that you had no clue about…and nine times out of ten it blew. This leads me today’s review. Going in I had no freaking clue about what I was getting, but it sure looked like that desperate “fifth choice” from years ago.

    Retired Navy Seal Carr (Mikal Vega) is your troubled hero type…”something” dark in his past and all that. He’s been moping around a bit when Commander Brian Jacobs (Tony Nevada) shows up to recruit him for a special mission. Seems that demons are taking over a small town deep in the Bible Belt…killing people and kidnapping virgins.  As shocking as you may think that revelation may be to hear, Carr is just like: Demons? Must be Tuesday! Seriously, I have never seen anybody give less of a crap. So, Carr recruits a couple former teammates for the mission; a spiritual dude and a hard-ass guy (for the record, they’re also not phased by the demons thing). So disguised as Sons of Anarchy castoffs they ride into town as the demon cult sends out Daft Punk cosplayers to abduct virgins. Soon our SEALS are holed up in the local church which falls under siege by the demons.

    For the first twenty minutes or so I was enjoying the men on a mission/Able Team vibe the film had going on. (Fun fact: We don’t get opening credits ‘til 17 minutes in!) The team members are very stock tough guy tropes, but the interplay between them is fun. The trouble is, once the demons show up everything goes down hill, as the beasts are very underwhelming and never feel threatening and their ranks are a bit light. The action fares much the same way; it’s okay, but nothing standout.

    The “meh” extends to the special features…there are none. Well, the film played,  so there’s that.

    I won’t lie, I went in expecting nothing, and was pleasantly surprised for the first half, then the film got bogged down in the usual horror tropes. Anyway, if you need a ninety minute action/horror hybrid and go in expecting nothing, you might and I stress might get something out of it. Otherwise… Nope!

    -Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca

    Daniel XIII
    Daniel XIII; the result of an arcane ritual involving a King Diamond album, a box of Count Chocula, and a copy of Swank magazine, is a screenwriter, actor, artist, and reviewer of fright flicks…Who hates ya baby?

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