DVD Reviews: A Ton of Terror

DVD Reviews: A Ton of Terror

What better way to follow a ton of toon reviews than with a ton of terror?

After all, the line between something being funny or horrendous is simply who’s being shredded to bits, you or the person next to you. It can be hilarious…when it’s the other guy. Ask Freddie Kreuger. .

This column doesn’t contain anything with Freddie or his hardworking counterpart Robert Eglund. It still has plenty of gore, goo and ghastliness to wade through. If you find some ghoulish gags gross or (intentional or otherwise) frightfully funny, why that’s even better. Enjoy.

CUTS OF THE WEEK

CINEMATIC TITANIC PRESENTS: Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks

(Cinematic Titanic)

The title alone should tell everyone this film is perfect Titanic material.

If that isn’t enough, this 70s pile of pasta-powered panic stars Michael Dunn (the only Dr. Loveless, not that foo foo British Shakespeare dewd), someone so proud of his job he went under the title of “Boris Lugosi” and--most horrifying of all!--Rossano Brazzi. That’s right! The guy who wooed women with the song “Some Romantic Evening.” The former star of South Pacific plays the epitome of mad doctors.

He’s not only contending with scads of torch bearing local villagers, but twice of everything else. By that we’re taking both a dwarf and a hunchback assistant, two “Neanderthal men” (one who he does his trademark work over on). He not only has a buxom-y daughter, but her equally hot friend; both of whom think nothing of dropping their dresses to bath their Euro-trash physiques in hot springs pools and tubs of milk.

In all, that gives the CT crew double the material to riff off of. So don’t be surprised if you get double the laughs.

Only two minor points from making this a perfect product. First and foremost guys, you gotta get rid of the damn Breast Blimp. Horror fans deserve all the fan service they can get. Second, a quick sheet or two about the true history of the film wouldn’t hurt. It would also cost about as much as the set the CT crew uses, when all is said and done.

Otherwise, a truly great addition to the Cinematic Titanic library. To find out how to order, check out the URL: www.cinematictitanic.com.

REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA (Lionsgate)

Take some Sweeney Todd in the form of a lead character whose work is slashing people to death. Throw in rocking, camp visuals ala Rocky Horror. Add a set that’s part-Moulin Rouge, part-Rent.

Notice there are nothing but musicals? Put together a killer backing band that includes members of Bauhaus/Love & Rockets, Joan Jett, Nine Inch Nails/Skinny Puppy and some Jane’s Addiction. Season said cinematic epic with frames from a comic book.

Call this unholy train wreck Repo: The Genetic Opera. Yet once it starts playing, go ahead and try to take your eyes off of it. You won’t.

Repo is the creation of Terrence Zdunich, whose primary previous employment was as a story board artist for shows and games as Max Steel and Roughnecks. His partners in crime include Darren Smith and Darren Lynn Bousmann, the latter having directed three of the Saw films. Together, this terrifying trio put together their homage to such 70s uberworks as Tommy, Quadrophenia and Jesus Christ Superstar. They even got Anthony Head, the brother of the guy who played Judas Iscariot in the original JCS (Murray head), to sing the title role.

If Pete Townsend and Ken Russell were dead, they’d be rolling in their graves. Whether it is out of revulsion or jealousy is a matter of opinion.

The base premise has the makings of a good science fiction yarn. An unnamed disease causes a mass pandemic. It’s main symptom is the catastrophic failure of individual body organs. Enter GeneCo, a potential reference to The Godfather, headed by Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), who’s much more a beast than Don Vito Corleone could ever be.

GeneCo provides legal organ replacements at extortionate prices. If you don’t keep up with the payments, they send out Repo Men. They not only take back the organ in question, but every other part of your body they can profit on.

The best Repo Man in the business is Norman (Head). He has a daughter, Shilo (Alexa Vega) who Poppa Largo has eyes on, being she’s the daughter of the woman he always loved (and killed when she fell for Norman). Pops also has three useless, ruthless children; Luigi (Bill Moseley), Pavi (Ogre) and Amanda Sweet (Paris Hilton). Rounding out the cast is the anti-heroic Grave Robber (Zdunich) and internationally popular singer and property of GeneCo, Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman).

What the film does is mix people who can actually sing/act--Brightman, Head, Sorvino, Vega and Zdunich himself--with others who never should be seen on any screen. Throw in a plot so convoluted it could only work as opera. The music itself is a mixed bag of torching goth and theatrical tripe. Got to admit though, the costumes and sets righteously spectacular. So are many of the Blade Runner-like special effects.

In all, Repo is a collection of brilliant moments and horrendous failures. There’s a should’ve- been spectacular scene where Hilton tries to sing to an adoring audience. Her only problem is her newly transplanted face keep falling off. In the hands of someone who can act, this could have been amazing. Hilton’s performance is so blasé it falls flat on its, well, you know.

At the same time, one can’t help but feel an incredible respect for Brightman, who proves she’s got a lot more chops than any Broadway diva should have. The sequence where the Grave Robber and Shilo escape from a graveyard is also a real eye catcher.

This horror film seesaws between superlative highs and ridiculous lows. The highs can make having this DVD worthwhile, but the real reason for having it should be for more historical reasons. One gets the feeling there’s a lot more talent in Zdunich and the two Darrens. If they continue to refine their craft, their next effort could stand right up there with all their influences.

now some sloppy seconds….

ALPHABET KILLER (Anchor Bay)

In this slasher flick, Eliza Dushku (Faith from Buffy/Angel) and Cary Elwes (X-Files, Saw) are cops on a serial child killer case no one else in the force wants to touch. It drives Dushku’s character insane. Then two years later she’s called back in when new children start to die again.

Supposedly based on a real case, the film starts off promising and ends up completely unbelievable thanks to weak plotting and over-the-top scripting. This is particularly in the case of the character played by, of all people, Tim Robbins, who’s been around enough to have known better. Boring.

ANAMORPH (IFC)

Now if you want a seriously good killer film, search this one out. Willem Dafoe is a NYC cop who’s called back into a case that also almost destroyed him. This killer has a particularly dark twist. He turns his victims into anamorphed sculptures, bizarre constructs with two images implanted in them, depending on the angle you see them at. Suffice some of the corpse-based creations will turn your stomach inside out.

Dafoe shines as he tries to hold on to his sanity in spite of the situation he is in. The only weak point is the ending, which was just unsatisfying. Still, for the first 1 ½ hours it’s one truly hellish ride.

BLOOD SCARAB (Free Enterprise)

This Hollywood super low budget parody finds the legendary Elizabet Barthory in a quandary. Sunny California isn’t exactly the best place for a vampire to call home, especially when her husband forgot the sun screen. Besides…it’s nearly impossible to fill a bathtub with virgin blood in Tinsel Town.

So the Queen of the Damned comes up with a nefarious scheme involving the most tired looking immortal mummy in indy horror.

Starring cult horror aficionados Del Howison (Renfield) and Monique Planet (Barthory) this is funniest when it doesn’t mean to be, has higher than expected production values, and not a single real scare. Otherwise, it’s around to show off a random sample of barely dressed women. Go in knowing that, you’ll have an occasional laugh and be fine.

BOOGEYMAN 3 (Sony)

This sad attempt at a franchise hat trick, the titular monster moves out of his asylum to a college dorm. Considering how such facilities are great sources of raging hormones and high pitch emotions, you’d think this would be a great source of gory goodness.

Guess again. Even the fan service is hackneyed and tired. The biggest shame is the underlying core of this franchise is pretty good. The execution is so contrived and over wrought it only to death.

EDEN LAKE (Dimension)

This British Deliverence finds a young couple becoming the attention a pack of sadistic country teens. Starring Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbinder, by the time this one’s done, you’ll truly understand why Sherlock Holmes called the English countryside the center of evils he himself never wanted to face. A seriously solid bit of entertainment with its fair share of scares to boot.

FANTASTIC FLESH (Anchor Bay)

This Starz Inside documentary is by the people who gave us Comics Unbound. They explore the world of the horror make-up artist.

Aided by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, John Carpenter and Landis, and actors like Josh Brolin, the doc covers the transformation of the makeup process from Lon Chaney Sr. to computer-enhanced techniques of modern fantasy.

While heavy readers of mags like Fangoria probably won’t learn anything new, this well-conceived doc has its place. A solid supplement to any horror library.

GHOST HUNT 2 (FUNimation) (2 DVDs)

The second half of this anime horror series steps up and transcends where it left off.

The key characters firmly established, the paranormal detective agency focuses its attention on three cases. The first is how a high school mania with a Japanese version of Ouija has serious repercussions. The second finds one of the Prime Minister’s mansions has a certain Eastern European guest with a monstrous rep. The last is about a seaside resort where the fatality rate spikes when the head of the ruling family dies.

While the dialogue can get hysterically over-dramatic, how the characters use their special abilities to confront each case are truly creative and endlessly intriguing. What’s more, there is still enough not mentioned to make you want a lot more.

Let’s hope there is.

GONE THE WAY OF FLESH (Cut’n Run)

Just what’s in Pittsburgh’s water? The home of steel, great sports franchises, children’s show like Mr. Rogers & Carmen San Diego; Steel City has created some amazing horror, especially the independent brand. It’s the home of Night of the Living Dead to The Bloodsucking Pharoahs of… guess where?

Way of Flesh is a slasher film created by one young Jason Martinko, a rock band leader who worked with the whopping budget of $700. His mix of old school cheapo gore and, as he says in the EC, “strippers and strap-ons” would help promote the work of his bar-rock trio. The best advice one could give is he should stick to filmmaking.

Quite frankly, Martinko and his bandmates do a much better job with a couple of handheld cameras then with guitars. Is the stuff amateur? How can it not be with that kind of budget? The acting and effects are truly Dollar General standard. At the same time, one wants to see what these guys could do with a bigger budget, say $7,000. They have the chops to do a much more entertaining splatter fest behind the camera than the boozy beer stuff they produce on stage.

As said before, they’re from Pittsburgh, who’s rock’n roll heritage is the bands Steam and Crack The Sky. Compare that to George Romero. Guess which direction you should go?

MIRRORS: Unrated (Fox)

With all the possible projects Kiefer Sutherland could probably have chosen during his writers strike-prolonged break from 24, it interesting he would return to horror. Even more so, he hooks up with horror innovator and “splat pack” director Alexandre Aja.

Mirrors, based on a mindblowing Korean terror-fest, mixes the grand tradition of haunted house films with international effects, both Euro and Asian. Sutherland is a defrocked NYPD cop trying to get to the bottom of a series of grisly murders associated with a shopping mall built on a former asylum. As his 24 work shows, Sutherland uses the martyr archetype to maximum advantage. Alexandre has a great time with the special effects, and does pull a few solid scares off. The film’s only real weakness? An ending coda that just blows the previous 1 ½ hours.

So does this film rank up there with Lost Boys or Flatliners? Not really. Then again, if it wasn’t for that ending he didn’t miss by much, either.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE: Special Edition (Lionsgate)

If you believe the hype, the modern day slasher film owes its existence to three movies: Friday the 13th, Halloween and this little gem. Telling the tale of a mining town that can’t celebrate February 14, what gave this film its edge is it primarily being set miles underground with the psycho killer. Talk about a claustrophobic living death.

If the film isn’t enough, this edition is truly special. The extra content gives a sickly sweet and relatively complete history of the slasher genre, replete with family tree. The unearthed deleted footage isn’t bad, either.

So if you’re a fan of the slasher, this is a must have.

THE POSSESSION OF JOEL DELANEY (Paramount)

This Shirley MacLaine vehicle is notable for one interesting reason, it’s the direct predecessor to William Friedkin’s The Exorcist

Released in May, 1972, a full 1 ½ years before Linda Blair gave new meaning to pea soup, MacLaine plays Norah, a sophisticated blue stocking whose brother (Perry King) is carving the heads off of women. The problem is twofold. First Joel swears he has no memories of the deed. Second, a lot of Santeria symbols and artifacts start showing up.

While no where near as chilling as Friedkin’s masterpiece, there are just too many parallels between this film and Exorcist to deny it was an influence. It’s also hard to deny Possession’s cult classic status in its own right.

RED GARDEN (FUNimation) (2 DVDs)

If this title seems familiar to you, it’s not just because it’s one of the titles FUNimation picked up from ADV.

This Gonzo production revolves around five NYC prep school girls, four of which come back from the dead. From there, they are sent out to hunt the creatures of the night with only their bare hands and wits for weapons. If they fail to do their job, even work as a team, they can very well be dead…again. The thing is, the creatures these teenagers are hunting may look like humans, but they’re anything but. There is also the matter of the fifth girl, the one who didn’t revive.

The fact is Red Garden is the horror answer to another mind raping series, Gantz. True, there are no aliens or futuristic weaponry, but the tension and terror can match that shock classic on a pretty even scale. The animation, as always, is prime Gonzo, which is seriously good.

This set collects the first 12 episodes. It’s well worth digging up.

SAW V (Lionsgate)

Sometimes is just a good idea to kill a franchise.

The basic premise of this latest chapter of Saw is Jigsaw (still Tobin Bell) never really worked alone. He was molding a successor all the while. Then the film quickly gives all that away as well as a new series of games for another set of victims.

If that isn’t anti-climatic enough, the various “lessons” developed just don’t have the nasty grusomeness of the previous films. One also gets the feeling a lot of items have been purposefully left unanswered so they can somehow squeeze a Saw VI out of the junk that’s left behind.

In all, it sure does look it’s time to give the latest creators some lessons of their own. After all, horror fans will only take so much before they turn and bite back.

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