Re-Animator (1985)

    Re-Animator; it’s a fright flick I’m absolutely positive that the majority of you kooky creeps already have in your collection (or at a bare minimum, have at least seen), so I’m sure you need me to tell you how insanely awesome the film is like you need a third nipple in the middle of your forehead…but I’m fixin’ to do just that in a bit, right after I give you a quick sinister synopsis (which I’m also sure you don’t need, but there may possibly be one of you that hasn’t seen this film…yeah, and there may be a leprechaun that lives in my ass named Wild Pierre as well…). Anyway…

    Medical student Dan Cain is in search of a room mate, and who should answer the call but new kid on campus Herbert West (played to the absolute hilt by Jeffery Combs); an exceedingly strange man recently returned from an unholy corpse based orgy of blood academic sojourn in Europe. As fate would have it, not only is West mentally unbalanced, he is also the creator of a strange serum that can actually resurrect the dead (which he demonstrates on Dan’s cat). The only problem? The recently undead are basically blood crazed murder machines, which becomes a problem when West (with Cain in tow) performs his experiments on the Dean of the University (who’s daughter Cain is dating) as well as one of his teachers. Extreme gore, zombie mayhem, and severed head cunnilingus ensue.

    Look, Re-Animator is the shit. It’s one of the greatest fright flicks ever made, and it belongs in the collection of each and every gore hound, period. It’s ultra-gruesome, equal parts hilarious and horrifying, and all around extremely entertaining (not to mention based on the writings of horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft)…but, as stated previous, I’m sure you know that. So, saying all that, what makes this new release of the flick worthy of your time, and more accurately…cash?

    Let’s start with the film itself, or rather it’s presentation thereof. In this edition from Arrow video you get two versions of Re-Animator; the uncut version, and a longer “integral” version (spread out over two discs). And if you are wondering just what in the F’n F the “integral” version is; let me explain. You see, when the unrated version of Re-Animator was released, it had all of the gruesome gore excised from the R-rated cut of the film plopped back in, but it took out some dialog and other odds and ends…so as unbelievably unbelievable as it seems in this day and age; the unrated cut of the film ran way shorter than the R-rated version. The integral version basically jams those extended sequences (which you also get presented separately in the special features) back into the film.

    Moving on we have the extras…good F’n Dagon, the extras…First up you get: 3 commentary tracks, two ported from  previous DVD releases of the film featuring Stuart Gordon, as well as members of the cast and crew, as well as a new track featuring director Gordon as well as horror actor/writer Graham Skipper and Re-Animator:The Musical star Jesse Merlin (okay, Skipper starred in that production as well). All of these tracks are ultra-informative and anecdote laden…so in other words, great fun for the Re-Animator aficionado. Following that we get the previously released feature length documentary on the making of the film titled Re-Animator Resurrectus that covers all of the bases as to the ins and outs of the film’s production (you know, if those three freakin’ commentaries left a few stones unturned). Next up is a slew of archival interviews featuring Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, writer Dennis Paoli, composer Richard Band (who is also featured in a separate archival examination of the film’s score), and Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. This is where you really start to get some overlap on the information presented, but I’ll never knock the “completest” aesthetic when it comes to hearing all there is about one of my fav flicks (and it’s cool to see the camaraderie between Gordon and Yuzna in action). Following this we get a fantastic career spanning interview with actress Barbara Crampton (a new bonus for this release), a piece discussing Gordon’s roots in live theater (as well as a piece about the Re-Animator stage musical), extended and deleted scenes, and storyboards. Bringin’ up the ol’ rear are a smattering of TV spots, a trailer, and a still gallery. And that covers Disc One…yup; there’s more…

    On Disc Two we get only two special features, but they are good ‘uns! First up is a comprehensive look at the various cinematic adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work that have made it to the silver screen over the years hosted by Chris Lackey of the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast. This is an informative and entertaining watch, and Lackey is an enthusiastic host that really knows his shit where ol’ Howard Philips is concerned! Following that you get an audio presentation titled Doug Bradley’s Spinechillers: Herbert West – Reanimator. As you can undoubtedly guess, this is a reading of the original Reanimator tales as told by Dou…wait, it’s read by Jeffery Combs?!! Why on Earth Bradey’s name is front in center if he neither reads nor wrote the material (literally all he does is pop in and say the name of the chapter) is anybody’s f**kin’ guess, but whatever…enjoy that easy check Dougie!

    I’m just going to put it this way; you need to own this. If you have never purchased a copy of Re-Animator (you know, like if you are some sort of complete dumb-ass for instance); this is the package you absolutely need, and if you already own the film, this makes for a worthwhile upgrade. Highly Recommended!

    Beyond the Darkness (1979)

    Ya know that flick Beaches where two dear friends share a life of childhood antics, romantic foibles and heartfelt tragedy? Well, Beyond the Darkness is nothing like that shit. Nope, ol’ B.T. D. is like a sucker punch to your nuts (if you’re a dude that is…if you’re a lady, then it’s like a sucker punch to your lady…nuts? It’s like getting punched, o.k.? ) . Don’t believe me that this flick is the real deal hardcore nasty shit? Check out one of my award losing synopsis and judge for your own damn self!

    Good ol’ down to earth taxidermist Frank loses his wife Anna (I mean she dies…he doesn’t misplace her or anything) and does what any well-adjusted cat would do; he digs her up, stuffs her, and sleeps with her every night. He also nurses from the teat of his housekeeper Iris (who secretly dispatched Anna via voodoo out of jealousy…say whaaaa???) and gets handies; ya know for comfort…I guess? I don’t know, and you fucking won’t either. But wait…there’s so much more for you to be baffled or repulsed…baffpulsed by! So, you know how ol’ Frankie-baby made Anna his own human Build-A-Bear? Well, he just can’t wait to show her off to every random chick that happens to have the misfortune to enter his estate…and you can just guess how thrilled they are about that, which of course leads ol’ Frank to go all blood simple and off them in the most revoltingly violent ways you can imagine…go on, just imagine them…o.k. what did you come up with? Nope, the shit Frank does is much more repugnant then most of that…and for that one thing you came up with, please seek professional help right away! Anyway, things of course escalate, as they oft do when things like a plot are concerned, until finally ol’ icky Iris has the fam over to announce her betrothal to Frank; which would be fine and dandy if she had bothered to let him in on it. Things then go over like a fart in a submarine except with considerably more blood.

    And that’s the flick in a nightmarish nutshell. From that really rad die-scription above, you’ve probably already decided to rush out and buy Beyond the Darkness, so my work here is done…what’s that? Still not satisfied? Well, feast your putrid peepers on the extras your ol’ fiends at Severin have cooked up for this release! Included are: an archival anecdote-laden chat with late director Joe D’Amato that runs for over an hour and covers the length of his career in the horror biz, interviews with actresses Franca Stoppi and Cinza Monreale, a live performance of the film’s theme by Goblin Reborn, a modern look at the locations utilized during production, and the film’s trailer. Oh, and before I forget, the entire freakin’ soundtrack is included on a separate CD!

    For my money, Beyond the Darkness has always been one of the gnarliest, nastiest, and all around vile of the spaghetti shockers…so of course it’s a must own for each and every gorehound, and this is definitely the version to add to your creepy collection!

    • I originally wrote part of the above sinister synopsis for the Fang of Joy zine; a truly rad ass publication that you should all run out and buy!

    The Glass Coffin (2016)

    Amanda is an actress on her way to receive a lifetime achievement award at some such gala or another. Exiting her home she enters a limousine and begins a ride with enough lens flare to give JJ Abrams an erection lasting four hours or longer. Before long the windows on said vehicle go pitch black and a synthesized voice informs our comely protagonist that she is trapped in the car, her cell phone is jammed, and she must comply completely with whatever “the voice” asks of her or she will face dire consequences…which naturally means she is asked to get naked almost immediately. She refuses and is beaten silly by a masked chauffeur…and we’re off to the races folks! The depravity of course continues at a disturbing pace with the unseen antagonist’s demands getting ever more explicit as the mystery of exactly “why” this is happening to Amanda is slowly revealed.

    Where should I start with The Glass Coffin…well, for one thing, the film is absolutely gorgeous to look at with light and color being utilized with the skill of a master painter. Also of note is the tour de force performance by Paola Bontempi as the beleaguered Amanda who goes from fragile to resilient with utter conviction (and it’s a good thing she has the chops too as she is the only character on screen for like 90% of this flicks run time). Speaking of run time, The Glass Coffin clocks in at an economical seventy-seven minutes, so needless to say this baby really hums along and keeps you on the edge of your seat with it’s mounting tension.

    As for the negatives, there really aren’t many to be honest, but I do have to mention this film is subtitled, and I know some of you fine fiends get a wild hair up your asses if you have to “read” a movie. Also, as you may have surmised above, The Glass Coffin gets a tad rape-y, and that has never been my favorite subject matter (to put it mildly), so if you are adverse to seeing that type of thing, you may want to skip this one.

    In the beastly bonus department, this DVD features but two things; jack and shit…so that makes my life easier I guess…

    When all is said and done, The Glass Coffin is one hell of a fright flick; it’s disturbing, suspenseful, and shockingly well made…I strongly urge you creeps to lay your putrid peepers on it!

    The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)

    Detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento) is in Florence, attempting to track down a brutal serial killer. She enters a museum following a lead that the killer will be there, and while looking at the paintings, Anna is overcome by them…finding herself drawn into the artwork (the Stendhal Syndrome from which the film derives it’s title). Unknown to Anna, she’s being watched by the killer, Alfredo Grossi (Thomas Kretschmann), who upon learning of of her disorder, utilizes the knowledge to disorient and abduct her. After a series of brutal sexual assaults, Anna manages to escape…but Grossi continues to stalk Anna, and he could strike again at anytime!

    Fans of Dario Argento’s earlier films, might be a little surprised by The Stendhal Syndrome as the bright, flashy visual style and traditional Goblin soundtrack are nowhere to be found here. Instead the film has a more toned down and gritty aesthetic which makes the brutality on screen all the more effective, and the score by Ennio Morricone’s (his long overdue return for Dario after a falling out) is simply haunting.

    When you get down to it though, this is Asia Argento’s film; her character is the story’s heart and soul, and we are with her character Anna nearly the entire running time…delving into her story completely. Asia gives one hell of a performance, making Anna both tough and fragile all at once, and she pulls off the character’s various physical transformations well.

    The only negative here are the shitty CGI effects. They’re totally unnecessarily, taking you right out of the film. It’s strange to think they’re from the same man that gave us that awesome “bullet through the peephole” scene in Opera…then again, he also gave us that “amazing” CGI mantis in his adaption of Dracula.

    As great as The Stendhal Syndrome is on it’s own, Blue Underground really pulls out the stops with the extras on this release! You get: a new audio commentary with Troy Howarth (author of So Deadly, So Perverse), new interviews with star Asia Argento, co-writer Franco Ferrini, and special makeup artist Franco Casagni. Also included are the film’s theatrical trailer, and a poster and still gallery…and that’s only the first disk!

    Besides the Blu, you get a DVD of the film and a third disk which contains all the bonus features from Blue Underground’s previous two disk DVD edition from a few years ago including: interviews with Dario Argento, psychological consultant Graziella Magherini, special effects artist: Sergio Stivaletti, assistant director Luigi Cozzi, and production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng. Topping it all off is a collectible booklet with a new essay by author Michael Gingold!

    The Stendhal Syndrome is gritty and brutal and while it may not be for everybody given the rape factor, fans of Dario Argento, Asia Argento, or Italian horror cinema will likely want to check this sucker out (plus those extras make it nigh irresistible). Plus where else can you see the dude from Cinema Paradiso get manhandled by Asia Argento?!

    -Guest Review by Shane Migliavacca

    Devil’s Domain (2016)

    Lisa has bulimia, digs on chicks, and loves her some social media. Well, as fate would have it ol’ Lis-Lis is bullied AF by some mega-cartoony cardboard cut-outs posing as characters who inexplicably call her fat even though she looks as though she weighs a hundred pounds (maybe they are so surely because they have shitty eye-sight and are too ashamed to admit they need glasses and therefore take out their ocular based rage upon the world). Anyway, instead of just blowing off these dullards taunts, our heroine instead decides to get all Faust up in this piece and make a deal with the devil (who appears here as a hot ass woman who enjoys making online snuff films…the fuuuuu???) for a big slice of that sweet, sweet revenge. Of course that deal starts to turn to so much shit as Lisa has second thoughts and the Devil has to get all “eternal suffering” on her ass. There’s additionally talk of siring demon offspring. Also, Michael Madsen.

    As mentioned, Devil’s Domain is basically a YA Faust…you get your evil contract action, but you also get IM’s, cellphones, fake Youtube et.al. which will assure this thing dates about as well a slice of bologna with mayo in the hot August sun. That said, this flick isn’t exactly horrible, but it ain’t great neither.

    Let’s start with the positives. One, the lead actress, Madi Vodane, is pretty damn good as Lisa, and bravo to the film makers for presenting a multi-layered character instaed of the one-note “final girl” we often get in these flicks. Also worthy of praise is the grizzly gore on display, and the brief “monster” form of ol’ Scratch…it’s a cool creature suit, and I would have liked to see more of it.

    As for the negatives, well…some of the acting blows more chunks than our protagonist, the story holds few surprises, and the film drags in spots (and admittedly the film does hit my golden sweet spot of a nintey minute…give or take…run time) as too much screen time is given to dicking around with Lisa’s personal life instead of the blood soaked carnage we want to see.

    So the flick was admittedly average, but how about the special features? Well we get commentary from director Jared Cohn, a “making of” featurette, footage of the flick’s red carpet premier, a slide show gallery, and a trailer. So not too shabby there…

    Here’s Devil’s Domain in a nutshell: It’s too well made to be entertainingly shitty, and too pedestrian to stand out in our crowded horror biz…it just kind of “is”…you won’t hate yourself for watching it, and you will no doubt not give it a second thought after having done so.

    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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