Laserblast: The Paramount Vault – Science Fiction & Horror on YouTube

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Parmount Pictures recently created a new YouTube channel, The Paramount Vault, which streams free films from the studio’s library. Along with clips from classic titles, there are approximately 150 full length movies. Of course, these are not premium titles but lower end stuff for which services such as Netflix might not be inclined to pay licensing fees. However, there are some horror and science fiction films that might be of interest to cult movie enthusiasts and completists: THE COLOSSUS OF NEW YORK, THE SPACE CHILDREN, CONQUEST OF SPACE, THE DEADLY BEES, CRACK IN THE WORLD, BENEATH, THE SENDER, etc.
The Paramount Vault divides its titles into playlists. You can find science fiction films here and horror films here.
Films worth checking out include I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE (an tense little thriller despite the title); THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 (a gore-filled sequel to the cult original); IN DREAMS (Neil Jordan’s psychic thriller); and SHANKS (an oddity starring mime Marcel Marceau). And of course fans of ’80s cheese from Cannon Films should get a kick out of MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.
Note: The Paramount Vault YouTube channel is not to be confused with the Paramount Pictures YouTube channel. The former is a library of archival titles; the latter offers trailer and promotional videos for Paramount’s upcoming releases.

Rigor Mortis Director Juno Mak – The CFQ Interview

Chin Siu-Ho discovers that urban renewal ain't all it's cracked up to be in RIGOR MORTIS
Chin Siu-Ho discovers that urban renewal ain't all it's cracked up to be in RIGOR MORTIS

Even in the anything-to-get-your-adrenaline-pumping world of Hong Kong cinema, RIGOR MORTIS stands out. The story of a famous actor, Chin Siu-Ho (played by actual famous actor Chin Siu-Ho — your heard us), who has to contend with a seedy apartment building whose walls reverberate with echoes of his most famous film, the hopping vampire horror-comedy MR. VAMPIRE — including mysterious spirits, a mystical warrior-cum-resterateur (played by MR. VAMPIRE cast-mate Anthony “Friend” Chan), and, yes, a hopping vampire — the film plays as both a tribute to, and a dark and dizzyingly intense reimagining of, a beloved sub-genre. Director Juno Mak makes his feature film debut with this visually stunning, shockingly violent, and at times surprisingly moving, effort, and we were eager to discuss the roots of the project in the legendary MR. VAMPIRE franchise, and the challenges of creating this effects-laden feast. Click on the player to hear the show.

Here Comes the Devil (2012) review

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Fuses the grindhouse with the arthouse into an interesting but unsatisfying hybrid.

Landscapes are scary. Their enormity makes us feel small. Their longevity mocks the brevity of our existence, reminding us that they were around before our birth and will continue after our death. They represent natural forces beyond our control, that shape our lives in ways we can barely understand, and if you stare at them long enough, you might start to imagine that these forces are not merely natural but supernatural – possibly incomprehensible and potentially malevolent. This brooding, irrational dread infuses the early scenes of HERE COMES THE DEVIL, lending an aura of uncanny menace, a la Peter Weir’s PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, that lingers in the memory long after writer-director Adrián García Bogliano has diluted the atmosphere  with a potent but rather inchoate mix of exploitation horror, revenge, gore, and sex. Fortunately, in what is either a happy accident or a clever piece of cinematic jiu-jitsu, Bogliano’s inability or refusal to formulate the disparate elements into a rational whole leaves the film itself feeling a bit like an incomprehensible artifact – a metaphoric crevasse in the intimidating landscape the film depicts so unnervingly. So score this one as a partial victory, in spite of itself.
The story follows Sol (Laura Caro) and Felix (Francisco Barreiro), parents out for a weekend excursion with their children, Sara (Michele Garcia) and Adolfo (Alan Martinez). This kids want to explore a nearby landscape on their own. Felix grants permission, because he wants a few moments alone with Sol in the car, so that they can have sex (which we are led to believe happens too infrequently since the kids came along).

You don't need to be Freud to figure out the significance of this crevasse.
You don't need to be Freud to figure out the significance of this crevasse.

While Sara and Adolfo explore a crevasse in the rocks, Felix explores Sol’s crevasse in the car. There is an orgasm and an earthquake; the kids disappear; the police are called. The children are found the next day, and life goes back to normal. Well, not so much: there is something odd about Sara and Adolfo, almost pod-like; they seem too secretive about their mysterious absence, and a child psychologist suggests they may be too close for a normal brother-sister relationship. Did something happen on the mountain? Something vile and unspeakable? And was it sexual in nature, or supernatural?
In case you didn’t notice,  “crevasse” in this context is a deliberate pun on the use of the word as a slang term for female genitalia. I wish I could take credit for this, but that goes to Bogliano, who leaves us in little doubt about the true source of horror in the film. If there is one thing more profoundly disturbing than eternal landscapes, it is sex. Bogliano establishes this in the opening scene a gratuitous lesbian coupling that leads immediately to a violent confrontation with a home invader (later revealed to be a serial killer), who is wounded and retreats to the mysterious mountain top, presumably to die (though his death throes suggest a sex act with the local rocky terrain).
Clearly no good can come of this, at least not in a film titled HERE COMES THE DEVIL.
Clearly no good can come of this, at least not in a film titled HERE COMES THE DEVIL.

The sequence has little to do with what follows, except insofar as it provides one concrete example of the mountain’s ominous reputation for evil (like villagers in Transylvania, the locals warn the tourists to avoid the cursed spot). The real purpose of the sequence is to make the initial connection between sex, violence, and death. To be fair, there is at least a suggestion that the problem is not sex, per se, but feelings of guilt over acting in ways that violate conservative social expectations: Sol fears she is neglecting the children; one of the women in the opening seems to immediately regret her Sapphic liaison. In any case, the symbolic “little death” of the orgasm leads inevitably to literal death – suggesting a dark conspiracy of primordial forces both inside and outside of us, tempting us to indiscretions with fatal consequences.
If this sounds pretentious, don’t worry. HERE COMES THE DEVIL never makes the mistake of explicating this in the dialogue; the implications simply exist like raw ore, waiting to be extracted. Unfortunately, Bogliano is not content to let his viewers mine this vein on their own; he has other, more visceral concerns that trump thematic ambition, distracting him from what could have been an effectively ambiguous tale of sexual aberration hiding beneath a veneer of the supernatural (a la THE CAT PEOPLE or THE INNOCENTS).
Sol (center) wonders what's wrong with Sara and Adolfo.
Sol (center) wonders what's wrong with Sara and Adolfo.

Let’s face it: the audience for an unrated horror film such as HERE COMES THE DEVIL is not interested in subtle ambiguity; they want to see boundaries crossed and taboos broken, and Bogliano is happy to oblige, whatever the cost to his film. Besides establishing the sex-death connection, the lesbian prologue immediately grabs attention-deficit viewers, who might otherwise tune out during the slowly building tension of the first-act disappearance and the gradually escalating concerns of the parents after their children reappear. This kind of pandering is easy enough to understand – an artist has a right to hook his audience, after all – but later developments are not so forgivable.
HERE COMES THE DEVIL goes off the rails when Bogliano introduces a subplot in which Sol and Felix track down a misfit they believe sexually abused their children. Not only does this distract from the main story; it mars an interesting variation on the either-of ambiguity of the scenario: Most films would ask, “Are the children possessed, or are the parents imagining it?” HERE COMES THE DEVIL asks, “Are the children acting strangely because they are possessed or because they were abused?” Unfortunately, instead of exploring this concept, Bogliano uses it as an excuse to stage a bloody atrocity scene.
Working on the thinnest of evidence, Sol and Felix murder the suspected abuser. The scene is staged for maximum gore – and quite nonsensically. Felix slits the man’s throat, the inexplicably grabs his legs, which doesn’t seem a particularly effective way to restrain him but does give Sol access to the man’s upper torso. Not content to let the struggling victim simply bleed out, Sol reaches into his gaping throat and tears out his larynx with her fingers. The violence is spectacular but ridiculous. Even worse, it utterly destroys any sympathy we have for our protagonists, whose fate ceases to interest us, rendering the rest of the film as an archetypal example of the dreaded “Eight Deadly Words” syndrome: I don’t care what happens to these people.
Charitably, one might argue that there is a point to the scene: Faced with a horrible reality they cannot process emotionally, Sol and Felix seek a scapegoat. The irony here is that the “horrible reality” is demonic possession, and they mistakenly target a more tangible, believable source for their troubles. Whatever the intention, HERE COMES THE DEVIL starts to become less about the problem with the children and more about the parents’ getting away with murder, as a local sheriff starts showing up to ask questions about the missing misfit.
It's not PARANORMAL ACTIVITY but an amazing simulation!
It's not PARANORMAL ACTIVITY but an amazing simulation!

Along the way we see some paranormal activity focused on Sara and Adolfo; a babysitter recounts what sounds like supernatural sexual abuse and strongly hints at witnessing an incestuous relationship between the brother and sister; the story of the serial killer from the prologue is recounted, this time with a glimpse of his demonic visage. The clever touch here is that most effectively eerie supernatural phenomena are recounted second hand and seen in flashback, leaving us to wonder how literally to take these tales (is it real or imagination).
Just in case the title were not enough, HERE COMES THE DEVIL ultimately comes down squarely on the side of ominous occult forces, when we see Adolfo and later Sol levitating. The sequence with Adolfo is effective not only as a set-piece but also as a dramatic development driving the parents’ hysterical search for answers. Unfortunately, the later sequence with Sol leaves actress Laura Caro looking less like the helpless victim of supernatural menace than a comic relief character falling out of a hammock. In any case, after being menaced not only by her affect-less living children but also by zombie-like visions of their corpses, Sol returns to the mountain and learns the awful truth.
Not that we care by this point, but….
SPOILERS
… it turns out that Sara and Adolfo never came out of the crevasse: Sol finds their bodies inside the cave, suggesting that they have been replaced by evil dopplegangers. Just when you are wondering what she will do about it, the film takes another weird turn: she shows the awful truth to her husband, adopting an accusatory tone (presumably because he wanted to have sex while letting the children wander off on their own). Felix shoots Sol and then himself – presumably because he cannot face the guilty truth but really so that Bogliano can hit us with the “shocking” conclusion, in which duplicates of Sol and Felix emerge from the cave and drive home, presumably to reconcile with their duplicate children and enjoy a happily demonic home life. The nuclear family has been totally subsumed by the evil lurking in the mountain, their lives destroyed by the aftershocks of the parent’s sexual dalliance (a metaphor emphasized by the fact that an earthquake occurs whenever someone dies on the mountain and is replaced by an evil double).
SPOILERS
The downbeat ending might have had some impact if we had been in any way invested in the outcome, but by the time the film finally fades out, we have long since given up on the characters and are interested only in an explanation. The revelation about Sara and Adolfo is good enough to satisfy on a simple “What happened?” level, although strictly speaking it does not gibe with the legends surrounding the haunted mountain (which involve evil forces possessing people as vessels – not exactly what happens here).

CONCLUSION

In spite of all the narrative mis-steps, HERE COMES THE DEVIL’s gloomy aura of cynicism (which passes for authenticity in so far as it eschews Hollywood glitz) sustains itself for most of the feature length. Consequently, the usual suspects (Dread Central, Arrow in the Head, etc) have been singing praises to the film while overlooking that, far from being a radical departure, it is actually not far removed from todays’ mainstream horror film formula (in which families routinely succumb en masse to evil unseen entities).
What raises HERE COMES THE DEVIL a tad above the latest PARANORMAL ACTIVITY spin-off is more a matter of tone than content. Bogliano’s film adopts a grim 1970s exploitation tone that sets the viewer on edge. You see it in the cinematography and hear it on the soundtrack – not so much in the rapid-fire heavy metal song but in the background music, which offers echoes of Pink Floyd’s work for Barbet Schroeder’s mystical THE VALLEY and Fabio Frizzi’s work for Lucio Fulci’s gruesome THE BEYOND. (There is even a character named Lucio, though it is pronounced differently from the moniker of the Italian filmmaker.) Those two touchpoints may seem astronomically removed from each other, but they underline HERE COMES THE DEVIL’s singular achievement, which is fusing the art house with the grindhouse. The result may not be satisfying, but it is interesting.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW FILM
CLICK HERE TO VIEW FILM

HERE COMES THE DEVIL is currently in limited theatrical release, with engagements scheduled in Kansas City, Gainesville, Toronto, and Ottawa. Check Magnet Releasing’s website for details. You can also view the film via Video on Demand in the Cinefantastique Online Store, powered by Amazon.com.
[rating=2]
On the CFQ Scale of 0 to 5 stars, worth checking out if you like this sort of thing.

NOTE:

Adrián García Bogliano explores a similar theme in his “B is for Bigfoot” episode from THE ABCS OF DEATH, which also features a couple trying to get rid of a child so that they can engage in sex. Being a short film, “B is for Bigfoot” avoids the narrative detours the derail HERE COMES THE DEVIL. Also, the only characters who “get it” clearly deserve it, punished not so much for having sex as for cruelly terrifying a young child with a ghastly bedtime story (in order to get her to hide beneath the covers and thus put prevent further interruptions).

This babysister seems to have escaped from Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND.
This babysitter seems to have escaped from Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND.

HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012). USA Video on Demand and Theatrical Release, December 2013 from Magnet Releasing. Written and directed by Adrián García Bogliano. Cast: Francisco Berreiro as Felix; Laura Caro as Sol; Alan Martinez as Adolfo; Michele Garcia as Sara; David Arturo Cabezud as Lucio; Giancarlo Ruiz as Sgt. Flores. 97 minutes. Not Rated.

Alien Uprising: trailer & photos

Phase 4 Films releases this British alien-invasion thriller in limited theatrical engagements and through Video on Demand outlets. Known as UFO when it made its debut in English theatres  back in December 2012, the film follows a group of friends who awaken one morning to find all electricity and power shut off, and an immense alien aircraft hovering in the air above their heads. Although the trailer suggests lots of high-tech action and special effects, these elements emerge mostly in the third act; most of the film focuses on the drama of ordinary people caught up in a terrifying situation.
Dominic Burns wrote and directed. The cast includes Bianca Bree, Sean Brosnan, Simon Philips, Maya Grant, Jazz Lintot, and Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Running Time: 101 minutes
U.S. Theatrical and VOD Release Date: June 21, 2013
Alien Uprising UFO 1
Alien Uprising UFO 2
Alien Uprsing UFO 3
Alien Uprising explosion
Alien Uprising

Maya Grant
Maya Grant

Sean Brosnan, son of Pierce
Sean Brosnan, son of Pierce

Maya Grant and Bianca Bree
Maya Grant and Bianca Bree

Sense of Wonder: Instant Internet access offers a Golden Age of Gods and Monsters

golden age of horror on in copy
A sample of fantasy films you can easily find online: (clockwise) SHADOW OF THE CAT, HAXEN, THE VIRGIN OF NUERMBERG, WHITE ZOMBIE, LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS, THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE, GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, and in the background IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA.

While visiting a Los Angles courthouse last month to testify at the murder trial of Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, I had a strangely irrelevant epiphany: Those of us with a Sense of Wonder are living in the Golden Age of Gods and Monsters. This revelation had nothing to do with our legal system and everything to do with the location: with Chinatown and Little Tokyo within walking distance of the courthouse, a trip like this would, once upon a time, have been an opportunity to stock up on items difficult if not impossible to obtain elsewhere. There used to be – and, to some extent, still is – an almost literal cornucopia of videotapes, laserdiscs, DVDs, and action figures related to Fant-Asia, Anime, and Kaiju cinema in the family-owned shops downtown. If you wanted to see POKEMON with its Japanese dialogue or check out the SUPER SENTAI series in its original form (before being cannibalized for POWER RANGERS), or if you wanted VHS tapes of the 1990s-era Godzilla films (which went unreleased in the U.S for nearly a decade), this was the place to go: such an opportunity was not to be missed; leaving empty-handed was not an option. However, on this occasion, when searching my memory banks for hard-to-find horror, fantasy, fiction science fiction films and memorabilia that I should seek out in the nearby stores, I came up blank. Because, you see, fewer and fewer cult movies are hard to find these days; almost anything we want is available at the push of a button.
Heading home, I registered a certain disappointment, much as many people mourn the passing of their favorite local video stores. But unlike the doom-sayers who think this as something akin to a huge chunk of our cultural heritage disappearing down a black hole, I realized that just the opposite is true: we now have instant access to even the most obscure elements of our cinematic heritage. The search for little-seen films no longer forces us to search through dusty shops like Allan Quatermain delving into King Solomon’s Mines; we need no longer wait for the occasional airing on late-night television or – even more rarely – a screening at a revival house.
Anyone old enough to remember the early days of Cinefantastique magazine should appreciate this. Those old back issues are loaded with capsule reviews of foreign fantasy films and cult exploitation horror that never received nationwide release. Some odd-ball opus would open at a single theatre in New York City or at a mid-west drive-in, never to be seen again. You would read the review of the latest Mario Bava film or of TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD and wonder, “When will I ever have a chance to see this?” And the answer usually seemed to be: Never.
Beginning in the 1980s, the home video revolution changed that, making hundreds of unreleased or barely released titles available. However, beneath the deluge of cinematic sea creatures, Aztec mummies, and grind-house gore, there lay buried an unfortunate truth: it cost money to manufacture tapes and discs, and not every lost title was potentially profitable enough to justify a release.
To a great extent, our current era of ,video on demand, digital downloads, and streaming video has changed that, by eliminating the costs of manufacturing and distribution. Yes, most of the titles on Netflix or Amazon Instant View have been restored and remastered for DVD and/or Blu-ray; nevertheless, the streaming options offer an additional source of revenue and little additional cost. Moreover, with public domain options such as Archive.org and Pub-D-Hub, many older titles that have gone out of copyright are now available for free viewing. Fans can even post these films, in their entirety, on YouTube.
This overload of obscure cinefantastique may mean little to viewers interested only in the latest box office blockbusters. However, a Sense of Wonder can find expression in many strange ways ways, not all of them likely to appeal to a wide swath of the ticket-buying populace. Fans eager to revisit old favorites or to seek out previously unavailable films for the first time are benefiting from 21st Century technology in ways almost unimaginable even a few years ago. To wit:

  • You want J-Horror? JU-ON 2 is currently available on Netflix, along with SHOCK CORRIDOR and dozens of other Asian scare shows. If that is not enough, head over to Asian Crush.
  • You want Kaiju? Check out the Godzilla titles on Sony Pictures’ Crackle.com. Also, Gamera is flying all over Pub-D-Hub.
  • You want anime? Check out Crunchyroll.com or Starz’ Manga channel.
  • You want obscure Hammer horror? SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961) – a film long available only in bootleg DVDs – is up on YouTube.
  • click to view instantly
    click to view instantly

    You want Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion monsters? IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) and 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) are up on YouTube. You can watch the colorized version of the latter on Amazon Instant View. THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (1969) and THE BEAST FROM 20,000 FATHOMS (1953) are available in high-definition at the Warner Archives instant viewing service.
  • You want Euro-horror? ZOMBIE LAKE (1981) and OASIS OF THE ZOMBIES (1982) are on Netflix. Fans of Paul Naschy’s doomed werewolf Waldemar Daninsky can catch ASSIGNMENT TERROR (1970) on Flixstream.com’s Drive-In Classics; even better is LA NOCHE DE WALPURGIS (a.k.a. THE WEREWOLF VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMAN, 1971) is on YouTube – uncut, widescreen, in Spanish with subtitles. (You can buy this one on Amazon Instant View, but it’s the shorter, English-dubbed version.)
  • You want an eclectic mix of vampires, aliens, and giant monsters? Creepster.tv has a little bit of everything: COUNT DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDE (1973), ALIEN CONTAMINATION (1980), GORGO (1960). One particularly obscure item is HORROR CASTLE (a.k.a. THE VIRGIN OF NUREMBERG, 1963), with Christopher Lee, which combines Gothic horror with a post-WWII murder-mystery.
  • You want classics? THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) is on Netflix and several public domain sources; so is WHITE ZOMBIE (1932). THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) and SVENGALI (1931) are on Pub-D-Hub. The brilliant, silent docu-drama HAXEN (“Witchcraft,” 1922) is available on Archive.org. Warner Archives offers such titles as FREAKS (1932), CAT PEOPLE (1942), THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957), SOYLENT GREEN (1973),  THE WITCHES (1990), UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD (1991), and many others.
  • You want something new? New theatrical films from Magnet Releasing and other independent outfits frequently show up on Amazon Instant View and iTunes downloads weeks before they reach the big screen. An excellent film like THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE (2012) – which once you would have had to track down on import disc in some specialty store – made its U.S. debut that way; now it is available on Netflix.

I could go on, but you get the idea. If some of these titles are not familiar to you, that is the point: these are low-profile films long buried in obscurity that, zombie-like, have been revived by the modern wizardry of the Internet. And now, like vampires who can cross the threshold only when invited, they are waiting for you to open your video portals and let them in. Some of these outlets are available only on the Internet; others are accessible through your Roku box, PlayStation, or XBox. All of them allow you to watch movies instantly – movies that you once would have waited months – even years – to see. Why not take advantage of this new virtual world of Gods and Monsters?
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You can find many of these titles available for instant viewing in the Cinefantastique Online Store, powered by Amazon.

Come Out and Play, Horror of Dracula, The Fury – Laserblast Home Video Podcast 4:12.2

ComeOutHorrorofDFury copy
Left to Right: COME OUT AND PLAY, HORROR OF DRACULA, THE FURY

Cinefantastique’s Laserblast Podcast returns with a very special episode, featuring guest Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog, along with regulars Lawrence French, Dan Persons, and Steve Biodrowski. The podcast of horror, fantasy, and science fiction on home video unearths a crypt-full of recent releases: the new horror thriller COME OUT AND PLAY, in limited theatrical engagements and simultaneously available via Video on Demand; HORROR OF DRACULA (1958), now out in a restored Blu-ray disc from Britain, containing footage not seen in decades; THE FURY (1978) and CHRISTINE (1983), on limited edition Blu-ray discs from Twilight Time; and CHERRY TREE LANE and TOYS IN THE ATTIC, the latter a piece of feature-length stop-motion from the Czech Republic.

[serialposts]

E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL's Dee Wallace: The CFQ Interview

I Said Pass the #@%*! Potatoes: Dee Wallace lets the witch show through the homey facade in HANSEL AND GRETEL.
I Said Pass the #@%*! Potatoes: Dee Wallace lets the witch show through the homey facade in HANSEL AND GRETEL.

It’s our first Spielberg veteran here at CFQi, and a good one, too. Dee Wallace probably reached her greatest audience as the progressive but put-upon suburban mom of E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, but she had previously developed her genre chops in two landmark horror titles: Wes Craven’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES and Joe Dante’s THE HOWLING, and most recently took her career in a darkly satirical direction with her work in the Asylum’s gory, fractured fairy tale, HANSEL AND GRETEL. Our conversation with Dee was frank and incisive, taking in a discussion of Spielberg’s personal investment in his films, the emotional complications of doing explicit sex scenes, and what it’s like breaking into the business on a low-budget horror film. Click on the player to hear the show.

[serialposts]

Sense of Wonder: The Ghosts of Georgia may be haunting Connecticut but not Los Angeles

The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia (2013)Wow, they really rolled out the red carpet on THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA, which supposedly opens in theatres today: the closest location to me is in Ontario. Well – Ontario, California rather than Ontario, Canada, but still. It turns out that the film is simultaneously available for streaming on Amazon. Didn’t anyone tell the distributors: the Video on Demand release for films that no one wants to see on the big screen is, traditionally, three weeks before theatrical?

Laserblast 4.4.2: Frankenweenie, John Carter, Iron Sky, Homicidal

laserblastfrankenweeniejoh copy
Welcome back to another edition of the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast, exploring the highways and byways of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Films on Home Video – Blu-ray, DVD, Video on Demand, and Instant Streaming. In Volume 4, Episode 4.2, Steve Biodrowski reviews the Blu-ray discs of FRANKENWEENIE and JOHN CARTER; Dan Persons waxes over the Nazi-on-the-Moon spoof IRON SKY; and Lawrence French offers up William Castle’s HOMICIDAL (1961) as an effective pinch-hitter horror film in place of PSYCHO (1960).
Also on the agenda: a look at FrightPIX, the new free streaming channel of horror films available through Roku; and a rundown of home video releases for the weeks of Tuesday, January 22 & 29.


NOTE: If you prefer reading to listening, details of the week’s home video releases are listed below…

JANUARY 29 HOME VIDEO RELEASES

Click to purchase
Click to purchase

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 sees the release of three titles that have actually been available on Video on Demand for two weeks through the magic of “Early Release.” This is a new strategy, in which films are available through downloading and streaming services before arriving on store shelves in hard copies. The early release price (for purchase only, not rental) is considerably higher; now that the films are on store shelves, the price for streaming and downloading has dropped, and rental options are available. The films in question are:

  • HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, now on single disc DVD; on triple disc Blu-ray and DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy; and quadruple disc with a 3D Blu-ray.
  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, which arrives in two packages: the first includes only DVD; the second includes both DVD and Blu-ray, plus a Digital Copy and Ultra-Violet. Both the Blu-and the DVD include the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut, which runs approximately ten minutes longer. The Blu-ray also offers a half-hour of “recovered files” – basically, deleted scenes – but there are no other bonus features. Amazon.com still has the unrated version available through their Instant Streaming service
  • click to purchase
  • THE AWAKENING: This excellent British ghost story from 2011, which got a small U.S. release last year, is now available on DVD and on Blu-ray; the steaming version is still available here. The latter includes numerous behind-the-scenes bonus features: deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurettes; an interview with director Nick Murphy; a look at belief in the supernatural and in spiritualism.

And speaking of “Early Release,” SILENT HILL: REVELATION goes on sale via Video on Demand and download this week. Expect discs to hit store shelves in a couple weeks.
Also out this week:
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS arrives on Blu-ray combo pack and on DVD and on Video on Demand.

click to purchase
click to purchase

WHITE ZOMBIE: The 1932 black-and-white classic, starring Bela Lugosi, reappears in a newly remastered transfer, available on Blu-ray and on DVD. These discs port over some of the bonus features from the Roan Group’s 1999 DVD (including a re-release trailer and an “Intimate Interview” with Lugosi), but not the excellent audio commentary by Gary Don Roades. WHITE ZOMBIE is a public domain title, available in lots of cheap DVD versions, but this new version from Kino Classics has been digitally restored – which you will appreciate if you recall the Roan version, which was good but still had problems. Source material was a 35mm fine grain master; the raw and enhanced versions are included.
Midnight Movies Volume 9 offers a zombie double bill of HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and NIGHTMARE CITY – two Italian gorefests from the 1980, following in the wake of DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979) and ZOMBIE (1980). The former is also known as VIRUS and as NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES, and reuses music from DAWN OF THE DEAD. The later stars actor Hugo Stiglitz, after whom Quentin Tarantino named a character in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

JANUARY 22, 2013 HOME VIDEO RELEASES

click to purchase
click to purchase

Since we posted no Lasberblast – either column or podcast – for last week, we will make it up to you by listing the titles this week, but rest assured, you did not miss much. The only new titles wer DEATH RACE 3: INFERNO, which made its direct-to-video debut on DVD and Blu-ray, and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, which arrived on store shelves after a pre-theatrical VOD debut last year, followed by brief, limited exposure in theatres.
Older titles resurrected on disc include several 1980s titles and a bunch of 1990s obscurities from Charles Band’s now-defunct Full Moon Productions. The 1980s titles include:

  • Wes Craven’s DEADLY BLESSING in a new Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD. This 1981 is from a few years before Craven hit big with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. You can also sense Craven inserting some NIGHTMARE style dream scenes toliven up the slasher-style scenario.
  • CUJO, based on the Stephen King novel and starring Dee Wallace (E.T.) sees new life on DVD and on Blu-ray.
  • THE INCUBUS (1982) with John Cassavetes flts into stores on DVD. The film was directed by John Hough, who has a couple of good titles to his name (TWINS OF EVIL and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE), but this is nowhere near as good. There is some nice atmosphere, but the script is problematic at best, and one suspects that Cassavetes was earning a pay check to fund one of his own directorial efforts.

click to purchase
click to purchase

Meanwhile, the Full Moon titles arrive on DVD are: LURKING FEAR (1994), MONSTROID, SEED PEOPLE (1992), and DARK ANGEL: THE ASCENT (1994). The last of these is a mildly amusing horror-comedy, featuring a female demon who ventures up from Hell and falls in love with a mortal man. The basic concept (the denizens of Hell are demonic, but they are doing God’s work by punishing sinners) is actually rather interesting.
That’s all for now. Since Captain Sparky has defeated the flying saucers, all is safe.
Or is it?
Purchase these and other videos in the Cinefantastique Online Store.
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Laserblast 4.2.2: The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Paranormal Activity 4 on demand, Dredd 3D TV

sorcerer-dredd-mark copy

Interested in what new horror, fantasy, and science fiction films are available on home video this week? You have two ways to find out: listen in to this week’s podcast, or read on. In fact, why not do both?

In the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast 4.2.2, Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski run down genre titles coming out on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand for the week of Tuesday, January 15. Biodrowski reviews THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE – currently available as a “pre-theatrical rental” with a couple of big-screen engagements scheduled for February 8. Persons explores the potential of watching DREDD in 3D without a 3D television set, by way of the 3D Video Wizard Console, which translated the signal from your 3D Blu-ray or streaming service into a picture that can be viewed with blue-and-red 3D glasses.

After that, Biodrowski offers some home video recommendations for the late actor Jon Finch, who passed away last week. Finch starred in Alfred Hitcock’s FRENZY and Roman Polanski’s MACBETH, both of which are available on DVD and through Amazon Instant Viewing (click here for FRENZY and here for MACBETH). Finch also played the young male lead in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), which is available on both DVD and through Netflix Instant Video. The DVD (which also contains COUNTESS DRACULA and which you can purchase here) features a nice audio commentary by Ingrid Pitt, who starred as the voracious, voluptuous, and yet vulnerable Countess Mircalla Karnstein. A Blu-ray release is scheduled for April 30; you can pre-order now. Sadly, Finch’s most eccentric and interesting science fiction film, THE FINAL PROGRAMME (a.k.a. THE LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH) is currently out of print, although old copies may be available for purchase at some outlets.

Next up: a new feature titled “Pinch-Hitter Films.” What are Pinch-Hitter Films? As the name implies (a baseball term), Pinch-Hitter Films substitute in a pinch for other films. If you have watched your favorite classic so many times that you never need to see it again, but you still feel a hunger for the sort of entertainment value it used to provide before you exhausted it through repeat viewings, you resort to a Pinch-Hitter Film.

  • Biodrowski offers up MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), directed by Tod Browing and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Mora, as a pinch-hitter for DRACULA (1931), directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. MARK OF THE VAMPIRE is no match for its predecessor, but it is a wonderfully atmospheric example of old-fashioned black-and-white Gothic horror, and it does surpass DRACULA in one or two ways (e.g., it actually shows the man-to-bat transformation only suggested in DRACULA).
  • Persons suggests that SILENT RUNNING (1972) is an adequate substitute for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Although not of the same stature, SILENT RUNNING is a sort of unofficial successor to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, directed by Douglas Trumbull, who provided special effects for SPACE ODYSSEY (in fact, SILENT RUNNING’s sequence of a spaceship passing through the rings of Saturn was originally intended for the earlier film).

EARLY RELEASE STEAMING AND DOWNLOADS

Not mentioned in the podcast but worth noting here, are a handful of “Early Release” home video titles. “Early Release” is the designation being given to films that are made available to be purchased via digital download or cloud streaming prior to arriving on Blu-ray and/or DVD. The general pattern seems to be a two-week window during which titles are priced to sell, followed by release in other home video formats, including rental options.

The most high-profile early release for Tuesday, January 15 is PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, which is now available in two versions: the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut that adds ten minutes to the running time. (Note: the theatrical version is available through iTunes but not Amazon.com, which offers only the unrated version.) Blu-ray discs and DVDs of both cuts will arrive on January 29.

Also available for early online viewing and download is HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, the computer-animated comedy about the titular establishment where monsters gather to avoid humans, until one stumbles in by accident and falls in love with Dracula’s daughter. The film is currently available for purchase in both high-def and standard-def versions at iTunes; Amazon.com has only the standard-def version. Rental options, along with DVDs and Blu-ray discs, will arrive on January 29.

Lastly, THE AWAKENING – the excellent 2011 British ghost story that arrived in U.S. theatres last year – is also now available for early release purchase. Amazon.com has a standard-def version for $11.99; iTunes has the same offer for the same price, plus a high-def version for $19.99. Again, the DVD and Blu-ray release will occur on January 29, at which time you should also be able to rent the film film through your preferred VOD method, whether digital download or instant streaming.