DVD / Blu ray reviews

1984     1984     Criterion Collection Blu ray                                                                            Published in "Screem" #37, 2019

          Published in 1948, George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare remains an eerily prescient warning as we prepare to close out the second decade of the twenty-first century.

          For those who may’ve slept through English Lit, the novel centers around protagonist Winston Smith, a low-ranking Outer Party functionary in the Ingsoc (English Socialists) Party. The fascist regime controls every aspect of life through its perpetual...[read more]

Abominable     2006     MVD Visual Blu ray                                                                        Published in "Screem" #36, 2018

          It’s good to have friends. No one knows that better than director Ryan Schifrin, whose debut feature film boasts plenty of them before and behind the camera. The son of world-famous composer Lalo Schifrin (the “Mission Impossible” and “Starsky and Hutch” television themes), Ryan calls in plenty of favors—from Drew Struzan (poster art) to genre stalwarts Dee Wallace Stone (Halloween, 2007; Cujo, 1983), Jeffrey Combs (Would You Rather? 2012; Re-Animator, 1985), and Lance Henriksen (Harbinger Down, 2015...[read more]

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf   1973   Scream Factory Blu ray                                           Published in "Screem" #32, 2016

          In 1973 Universal Pictures paired this lycanthropic tale (or is that ‘tail’?) with the top-billed Sssssss for one of its final double features. The Boy Who Cried Werewolf is straight from the made-for-TV mold and is mostly remembered for scaring little children during any of its numerous 70s TV screenings. That, and a werewolf in a turtleneck...[read more]

A Cure for Wellness   2017   20th Century Fox Blu ray / DVD                                                     Published in "Screem" #34, 2017

          High in the Swiss Alps, the Volmer Institute broods over the small town below it like Castle Dracula in an old Hammer film. The sanitarium-turned-health-resort for the ridiculously affluent is beautiful and serene, but surrounded by whispered legends. Guests check in to detox from the stress and pressure of life but strangely enough no one ever leaves… Or perhaps it isn’t so strange if you’ve seen a classic Universal horror movie, or one of Hammer’s Dracula or Frankenstein flicks.  [read more]

Curse of the Crimson Altar   1968   Odeon Entertainment Blu ray                          Published in "Screem" #30, 2015

          Boris Karloff.  Christopher Lee.  Barbara Steele.

          A trifecta of genre talent in a tale drawn from an H.P. Lovecraft story, and created by Tigon British Film Productions, responsible for Witchfinder General (1968) and the superb The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971). Add in Michael Gough, Peter Knight’s music and orchestration, the Gothic interiors of Grim’s Dyke House (used in British TV series “Doctor Who,” “The Avengers...[read more]

Doomwatch   1972   Kino Lorber Blu ray / DVD                                                                 Published in "Screem" #32, 2016

          Doomwatch is a British government agency tasked with curtailing pollution and other threats to the environment. One of its scientists, Dr. Del Shaw (Ian Bannen, From Beyond the Grave, 1974; The Watcher in the Woods, 1980) goes to the island of Balfe to collect specimens of shoreline life following an oil spill. His presence on the reclusive, possibly inbred isle is as welcome as a...[read more]

Dracula 3-D / Argento's Dracula   2012   IFC Midnight DVD                                    Published in "Screem" #28, 2014

          Dario Argento’s nineteenth feature film (not counting 1990’s Two Evil Eyes) was an Official Selection at Cannes in the Out of Competition category--a group of films the selection committee chooses to recognize, but which do not compete for any prizes. Argento does with Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” what he did with Gaston Leroux’s “The Phantom of the Opera” in 1998: he plays fast and...[read more]

The Endless   2017          Well Go USA Blu ray                                                                     Published in "Screem" #36, 2018

          Shared universes or cinematic universes are all the rage although the idea has been around for a long time. The “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” James Bond, and “Planet of the Apes” franchises continue to exist because of the shared commonalities of their mythological worlds. In 2008, Marvel Studios introduced their Marvel Cinematic Universe with Iron Man, and in 2014 Universal Studios'...[read more]

The House That Screamed   1970   Scream Factory Blu ray                                      Published in "Screem" #33, 2017

          In the 19th century French countryside, Mademoiselle Fourneau (Lilli Palmer; Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1971) runs a remote boarding school for troubled girls. Everything is proper and precise, and the icy headmistress brooks no foolishness, dispensing punishment such as imprisonment and lashing for the slightest deviation from her norm. New student Teresa (Cristina...[read more]

I, Madman     1989     Scream Factory Blu ray                                                                    Published in "Screem" #31, 2015

          Virginia Clayton (Jenny Wright--Near Dark, 1987) is a bookish, aspiring actress who spends her evenings drinking tea, listening to the piano across the street, and reading.  Demure and a bit socially awkward, her life consists of work, acting classes, and late night visits from her detective boyfriend, Richard (Clayton Rohner—The Relic, 1997; The Human Centipede III, 2015). Her chief escape is...[read more]

Leviathan     1989     Scream Factory Blu ray                                                                      Published in "Screem" #29, 2014

          Sixteen thousand feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, a team of miners employed by the Tri-Oceanic Corporation prepare to end their 90-day work rotation. On their final job, two crewmembers stumble upon “Leviathan,” a sunken Russian vessel that appears to have been intentionally scuttled. A safe salvaged from the wreck contains the ship’s log that hints of an illness that infected the crew. It isn’t long before the peculiar ailment begins to spread among the miners. However, this is more than just a strain of...[read more]

The Lift     1989     Scream Factory Blu ray                                                                           Published in "Screem" #35, 2018

          Promoted with one of the best cinematic taglines of the 1980s--“Take the stairs! Take the stairs! For God's sake, take the stairs!!” (which sounds like that old fire chief who visited your third grade class for Fire Safety Day)—The Lift was the first film by director Dick Maas, who would go on to helm the slasher/crime mash-up Amsterdamned in 1988. Working with a miniscule budget, a classically-trained lead actor (Huub Stapel) who wasn’t sure he wanted the part, a dubious plot, and crumbling special effects, Maas...[read more]

The People Who Own The Dark        1976        Code Red Blu ray                             Published in "Screem" #32, 2016

          There’s no better way to totally ruin a de Sadian sex party than with a well-timed atomic war. A group of elite debutantes and professionals gather at a Spanish villa for a weekend of uninhibited debauchery, only to be interrupted by an (off screen) explosion as festivities begin. They emerge from their basement playground to find the house servants blinded from the explosion. One of the revelers, Professor Fulton (Alberto de Mendoza, “Father Pujardov” from Horror Express, 1972), knows what’s happened. As a high...[read more]

Prey     1977     Vinegar Syndrome Blu ray                                                                             Published in "Screem" #36, 2018

          Jessica (Glory Annen in her first starring role fresh out of Canadian drama school; Supergirl, 1984) and Josephine (Sally Faulkner; Vampyres, 1974) are reclusive lovers living on a British country estate. They spend their days in leisure, neither apparently having or needing a job (since we’re led to believe that Jessica inherited the estate from her parents). In an opening hijacked from...[read more]

Scalpel     1977     Arrow Video Blu ray                                                                                 Published in "Screem" #35, 2018

          Southern Gothic is a subgenre of Gothic storytelling that addresses and explores elements that are unique to Southern culture. Brooding castles are replaced with Spanish Moss-draped trees and plantations. The quaint village becomes the isolated small town. But the madness, taboos and sinister secrets remain the same. The subgenre runs the gamut from some of Hollywood’s most...[read more]

Shock Waves     1977     Blue Underground Blu ray                                                          Published in "Screem" #29, 2014

          Released in the summer of 1977, Shock Waves was immediately capsized by box office giants Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit, The Spy Who Loved Me, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Saturday Night Fever. This low budget gem stood little chance of keeping its head above water against such odds. Yet its release was advantageous in one significant way: it would be nearly two years before George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead redefined the zombie subgenre. It’s doubtful the bloodless Shock Waves would’ve....[read more]

Silent Hill     2006     Scream Factory Blu ray                                                                     Published in "Screem" #37, 2019

          Adopted Sharon Da Silva (Jodelle Ferland—The Messengers, 2007; The Cabin in the Woods, 2012) sleepwalks and has nightmares about a place called “Silent Hill.” Her mother, Rose (Radha Mitchell—Pitch Black, 2000; The Crazies, 2010), discovers such a place in the backwoods of West Virginia. Together they head off to discover the reason behind Sharon’s troubles. Husband and father Christopher (Sean Bean—“Games of Thrones;” Black Death; 2010; The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001) stays behind...[read more]

The Stendhal Syndrome, Blu ray, review, Dario Argento

The Stendhal Syndrome   1996     Blue Underground Blu ray                                    Published in "Screem" #34, 2017

          “Works of art have power over us. Great works of art have great power.”

          So says the sadistic rapist and murderer to his next victim after she succumbs to the “Stendhal Syndrome” (a psychosomatic medical condition that is triggered when a person is mentally and emotionally overwhelmed by beauty). While Argento’s twelfth feature film didn’t carry a lot of power upon its initial release, its power has grown in the intervening years. It treads into some extremely dark...[read more]

We Are The Flesh    2016     Arrow Video Blu ray / DVD                                                Published in "Screem" #33, 2017

          Life, sex and death. Three of the most primal and fundamental experiences that human beings have. One leads to another and then back again--at least that’s how transgressive Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter (Inside, 2013; not to be confused with Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s 2007 French film of the same name) sees things in this often-bizarre, controversial, repugnant and deeply layered film. It’s an unsettling mélange of art house, porno theater, avant-garde and psychological character...[read more]

Witchhammer (Kladivo na čarodějnice)   1969   Second Run Blu ray                Published in "Screem" #35, 2018

          In a 17th century Czech village, an elderly woman is caught stealing a Communion wafer from the church. The sanctified Host, she confesses, is for a neighbor whose cow has stopped giving milk. The local priest and ruling countess fear that witchcraft is afoot in the region, and summon the inquisitorial aid of Boblig of Edelstadt (Vladimír Smeral). With his leering clerk and assistant...[read more]