The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia in theatres & on demand February 1

Lionsgate releases this production from Gold Circle Films, a sequel to 2009’s THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT. Tom Elkins ( who edited the first film) takes to the director’s chair, working from a screenplay by David Coggeshall. The cast includes Katee Sackhoff (BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA), Chad Michael Murray (HOUSE OF WAX), Abigail Spencer, and Cicely Tyson.
According to the press release, THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA “traces a young family’s nightmarish descent into a centuries-old Southern hell. When Andy Wyrick (Murray) moves his wife Lisa (Spencer) and daughter Heidi to an historic home in Georgia, they quickly discover they are not the house’s only inhabitants. Joined by Lisa’s free-spirited sister, Joyce (Sackhoff), the family soon comes face-to-face with a bone-chilling mystery born of a deranged desire…a haunting secret rising from underground and threatening to bring down anyone in its path.”
TheHauntingInConnecticut2_PosterBy the way, we will assume that the film’s claim to be “based on a true story” is a reference to the back story regarding the Underground Railroad (which helped escaped slave get to the northern states before and during the Civil War).
The film opens on February 1, putting it in direct competition with WARM BODIES.

John Dies at the End: Limited Theatrical Engagments

Magnet Releasing provides platform theatrical exposure to this bizarre fantasy film, currently available via Video on Demand. Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM) wrote and directed, based on the novel by David Wong. Chase Williamson leads a cast that includes Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti (LADY IN THE WATER), Clancy Brown (COWBOYS AND ALIENS), Doug Jones (PAN’S LABYRINTH), Jonny Weston, Jimmy Wong (singer-songwriter of “Ching-Chong, It Means I Love You”), and the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm. The plot has a pair of college dropouts battling a drug that sends users into other dimensions, from which they return in non-human form.
John Dies at the End (2012) posterTheatrical Engagements:

West Los Angeles, CA: Nuart Theatre
New York, NY: Sunshine Cinema 5
Berkeley, CA: Shattuck Cinemas 10
Chicago, IL: Music Box
Dallas, TX: Texas Theatre
Philadelphia, PA: Ritz at the Bourse
Portland, OR: Hollywood Theatre
San Francisco, CA: Bridge Theatre
University City, MO: Tivoli Theatre
Charlotte, NC: Movies @ CrownPoint 12
Columbus, OH: Gateway Film Center 8
Denver, CO: Denver Film Center/Colfax
San Diego, CA: Ken Cinema
Albuquerque, NM: Guild
Austin, TX: Alamo Slaughter Lane 8
Cambridge, MA: Kendall Square Cinema 9
Greensboro, NC: Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema
Houston, TX: River Oaks Theatre 3
Pleasantville, NY: Jacob Burns Film Center
Seattle, WA: Varsity Theatre
Tucson, AZ: The Loft Cinema
Dormont, PA: Hollywood Theatre
Brookline, MA: Coolidge Corner Theatre
Kansas City, MO: Screenland Crossroads Theatre
Atlanta, GA: Midtown Art Cinemas 8
Columbia, MO: Ragtag Cinema
Fort Collins, CO: Lyric Cinema Cafe 2
Minneapolis, MN: Lagoon Cinema
Omaha, NE: Dundee (Art)
Springfield, MO: Moxie Cinema 2
Asheville, NC: Carolina Asheville 14
Miami, FL: O Cinema
Washington, DC: E Street Cinema
Chattanooga, TN: Barking Legs Theater

January 15 Home Video: Paranormal Activity 4, Possession and more

click to purchase
click to purchase

POSSESSION, which played in U.S. theatres last August, hits video store shelves on Tuesday, January 15. The supernatural thriller, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick arrives in two versions: the first contains a DVD, a digital copy, and UltraViolet; the second contains Blu-ray, Digital Copy, and UltraViolet.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 becomes available for download in two different versions: the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut. Blu-ray discs and DVDs will follow two weeks later on January 29.
Other titles arriving on home video this week are:
BEING HUMAN: SEASON 4 on DVD and on Blu-ray.
THE BISHOP’S WIFE, the 1947 classic starring Cary Grant and David Niven, arrives on DVD from Warner Home Video. A previous DVD was released by MGM in 2001. The film is also now available for instant streaming.
Also of interest: Woody Allen’s TO ROME, WITH LOVE arrives on DVD, on Blu-ray, and Video on Demand. Although not, strictly speaking, a genre effort, several of its episodes straddle the borderline, especially the sequences in which Alex Baldwin’s character seems to meet a younger version of himself, reliving events from his past.
You can purchase these and other titles in the Cinefantastique Online Store, powered by

Laserblast Podcast 3:46.2: Universal Soldier, Red vs. Blue, Jack & Diane, Bava

Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning crop
The Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast returns, bringing you news and reviews of the latest horror, fantasy, and science fiction films on home video – DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and instant streaming. Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski take a look at new releases for Tuesday, November 20, including the Japanese anime title GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, now on Blu-ray for the first time, and the DOCTOR WHO LIMITED EDITION GIFT SET on DVD (featuring the three most recent doctors: Matt Smith, David Tennant, and Christopher Eccleston).
But wait, there’s more! Dan Persons reviews Season 10 of RED VS. BLUE. Steve Biodrowski reviews two films in limited theatrical release that are also currently available via Video on Demand: JACK & DIANE (a teen romance with weird, artsy horror elements spliced in) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (the film that asks whether the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER franchise can successfully incorporate elements of MEMENTO and APOCALYPSE NOW). And things wrap up with a look at some titles from the late Italian horror specialist Mario Bava, which have recently become available on Netflix Instant Viewing.


Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning in theatres November 30

Magnet Release, the genre division of Magnolia Pictures, gives a limited platform theatrical release to this fourth entry in the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER franchise, including an exclusive Los Angeles engagement at the Mann Chinese 6 Theatre in Hollywood. The story follows what happens when the Universal Soldiers (dead soldiers resurrected and genetically enhanced) regain their memories and go rogue, led by Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren). Also back for more bloodshed is Jean-Claude Van Damme. New man on the block is Scott Adkins, as the the distraught husband and father tracking down the man who killed his family. John Hyams directs from a screenplay he co-wrote wtih Doug Magnuson and Jon Greenhalgh.
Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning poster
Theatrical Release Schedule:

November 30:

  • Hollywood, CA Mann Chinese 6
  • New York, NY: Village East Cinemas
  • Austin, TX: Alamo Slaughter Lane 8

December 14:

  • Tucson, AZ: The Loft Cinema

Click here to check for additional engagements on the official website
UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING is also currently available via Video on Demand.

Jack & Diane review

Teasing glimpses of horror pose as manifestations of alleged inner psychological turmoil.

Diane is overwhelmed by her powerful new feelings, and they begin to manifest themselves in terrifying ways, causing unexplainable violent changes to her body. Young love is a monster – can Jack and Diane survive? – from the JACK & DIANE press notes

This lesbian love story is not quite what SOUTH PARK was spoofing with the independent film festival that showed up in the “Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls” episode: there are no gay cowboys eating pudding, but there is the same kind of pseudo-importance meant to make an artistic mountain out of a narrative molehill. What is interesting in this case – at least briefly – is that this particular mountain is eaten through with wormholes, filled with creepy-crawling things suggestive of sinister psychological forces that may erupt at any moment – but never do. You see, JACK & DIANE (which managed to draw the attention of a few a few media outlets devoted to horror films, thanks to a log-line that implies Cronenberg-style body horror) features darkly disturbing animation inserts by the Brothers Quay and two or three scenes of bestial man-in-a-suit monster action. Unfortunately, these teasing glimpses of horror merely pose as manifestations of an inner psychological turmoil that is nowhere else evident. They make the trailer seem interesting, but they are too brief and too disconnected to enliven an uneventful story stretched out to an interminable 110-minute running time.
Strangely, the monster is revealed almost immediately, startling Diane (Juno Temple) in a public restroom. This “WTF?” moment is presented as a prologue to intrigue us, before the narrative slips back in time to show how Diane met her girlfriend Jack (Riley Keough). The love story that ensues is marked by some of the most trivial dialogue ever recorded on film – which, to be charitable, is meant to convey two young people who are not articulate enough to convey their profound attachment for each other.

Quay Brothers animation shows what's going on inside Diane.
Quay Brothers animation shows what's going on inside Diane.

In order to portray the depth of feeling that the characters cannot express, writer-director Bradly Rust Gray utilizes the Brothers Quay animation: as the camera slowly tilts down from Jack and Diane, a seamless cut transitions us to what looks like the interior of a human body, where long strands of female hair twist and twine around what could be bone and internal organs. The imagery is clearly metaphoric – a literal representation of the impact this new emotion is having on Diane.*
Sadly, this is all that the film has to say on the subject. We will periodically see this imagery throughout the running time, without ever learning anything new. Nor will we see any hint – in the narrative, the dialogue or Temple’s performance – justify the turmoil supposedly boiling beneath her placid surface expression. Consequently, the imagery (as marvelous as it is on its own) feels gratuitous, as if it were added in post-production in a desperate attempt to goose a film otherwise devoid of memorable developments.
Mostly, JACK & DIANE consists of the two characters floundering through their relationship, at length. The editing pace is deliberately slow: the camera lingers over every glance as if imparting some secret significance; the long pauses between lines are lovingly recorded as if their mere passage of time somehow conveys simmering passions that never ignite on screen.
JACK & DIANE earns its place in Fangoria
JACK & DIANE earns its place in Fangoria

Eventually, the monster shows up again, attacking Jack in scene suggestive of sexual violence – which is ultimately revealed as Diane’s dream. The impact on the story is nil. Jack seems rather nonchalant upon hearing Diane say, “I dreamed I ate you.” After all, what’s a little cannibalism between lovers? Still, this is the most significant event in the entire relationship – you would think it would merit at least a “What the hell are you talking about?”
Ultimately, the horror element in JACK & DIANE is a ploy, apparently meant to convey a message: love reaches down inside your guts and changes you; the changes hurt; and they can even turn monstrous. You have to give Bradly Rust Gray credit for making himself clear; unfortunately, the message fits snugly into the two-minute trailer. There is nothing in the feature film that in anyway expands or develops the idea. Despite the gristle and bone, and the drooling creature, love as portrayed in JACK & DIANE is not a catalyst for monstrous transformation; it is an inert gas that wafts invisibly across the screen, failing to spark a chemical reaction.
Love is a monster. Get it? It's a metaphor!
Love is a monster. Get it? It's a metaphor!

JACK & DIANE is currently in exclusive theatrical engagements in New York and Los Angeles, with subsequent dates scheduled in Kansas, Seattle, and Salem. It is also available via VOD.
JACK & DIANE (Magnolia Pictures, theatrical release November 2, 2012). Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray. Cast: Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Kylie Minogue, Dane DeHaan, Leo Fitzpatrick, Haviland Morris, Cara Seymour.

  • The effect is not too dissimilar from one that David Lynch pulled off in BLUE VELVET, tilting down into the grass to reveal swarming insects, suggestive of strange things lurking unseen beneath the surface. The difference is that Lynch knew he had made his point, and moved on. Gray continually reprises the move, without ever adding anything.

Vamps review

vamps poster

In Amy Herckerling’s film, being a vampire is ordinary rather than remarkable – which pretty much describes VAMPS.

Writer-directed Amy Herckling’s horror-comedy is a bit clueless about what makes vampirism interesting. VAMPS is  built around a premise as thin as the last anemic drops of blood dripping from the veins of a blood-sucker’s victim: For a couple of beautiful women, being vampires isn’t all that different from being ordinary humans; you share a nice apartment, go to clubs together, lie about your age, pine over past relationships, and hope to meet Mr. Right. In other words, being a vampire is rather ordinary – humdrum, rather than remarkable. Which pretty much describes VAMPS. The potential in the concept of a hip, sophisticated vampire-comedy-romance goes mostly untapped, as the film focuses on silly sit-com humor and poorly executed sight gags.
Alica Silverstone plays Goody, who is trying to keep up with modern times with the help of the much more recently vampire-ized Stacy (Krysten Ritter). Living off rat’s bloody, the pair work a night job as exterminators and find time to hit the clubs while earning multiple college degrees at night classes. The SEX IN THE CITY story line is not enough to transfuse any life into VAMPS, so a couple complications arise: Goody and Stacy are occasionally summoned by their domineering “stem,” named Cisserus (Sigourney Weaver), who is ranking up quite a body count around town. (What’s a stem, you ask? A vampire that can make other vampires.) Next, Krysten meets Joey (Dan Stevens), who surname just happens to be Van Helsing (cue spit take – and I mean that literally). Joe’s father (Wallace Shawn) just happens to work in Homeland Security. This is meant to explain the persecution being suffered by the vampire community, whose members are being hit with a raft of subpoenas, tax audits, and jury summons – all of which are presumably meant to force the vampires, figuratively and literally, into the daylight.
It’s a sign of VAMPS’ overall sloppiness that Dr. Van Helsing’s connection to this persecution is never clarified; although we presume he must be behind it, he is never shown shown orchestrating these events, nor is he held accountable for it. Likewise, we never learn how a vampire becomes a “stem” (the concept is just used as a plot device to contrive a happy ending: kill your stem, and you revert to normal). Nor do we get a convincing reason for why Goody, who has been undead since the 1840s, tells her much younger companion Stacy that she’s from the 1980s; the deception never pay off in any dramatic way (unless you count the unfunny running joke, in which Goody continually explains her vast knowledge of past events by crediting the History Channel). You get the impression that Heckerling just ran with her premise wherever it took her, regardless of whether it made any sense.

Vamps (2012) Sigourney Weaver Wallace Shawn
Sigourney Weaver and Wallace Shawn

Which would be okay of the comic set pieces were hilarious, but they’re about as lifeless as the drained rats on which Goody and Stacy dine. A few of the jokes are amusing (e.g., the girls applying embalming fluid instead of skin lotion), but the scenes that attempt to exploit the vampire element for scary giggles betray signs of a director who simply does’t know how to make this kind of material work. To cite two examples: When Stacy foils an armed robbery, the speeded-up photography looks about as lame as the effects work in the first TWILIGHT FILM. Later, when Cisserus attacks Dr. Van Helsing, her smooth glide across the room – meant to convey an unstoppable supernatural attack – takes so long that Shawn has to just stand there and wait for Weaver to reach him, leaving you to wonder why he doesn’t use the time to raise a crossbow at her heart or swing a scythe at her neck.
Silverstone and Ritter are pretty but bland, unable to breath life into either the comedy or the romance. Malcolm McDowell is amusing in a bit as Vlad Tsepes – yes, that Vlad Tsepes, who has learned to sublimate his impaling proclivities through knitting and shoving the sticks into candy appels. Richard Lewis, as Goody’s old flame, has a sincere moment or two. Sigourney Weaver is okay at best; we know she can do much better, judging from her work in GHOSTBUSTERS, but her role here feels rushed, as if she was paid for a day or two, and every first take was printed as long as there were no obvious flubs. Shawn fares a little better, because his nervous-humor shtick suits the material. Somehow, Dan Stevens comes across well in what is essentially a straight leading man role – usually a thankless task in this kind of genre comedy.
Girls just want to have fun, even if they're VAMPS.
Girls just want to have fun, even if they're VAMPS.

Amy Herckling had big hits with CLUELESS and LOOK WHO’S TALKING, but VAMPS (which is currently in limited theatrical engagements and available through VOD) is not likely to follow in their footsteps.  The film offers occasional glimmers of wit, and even a moment or two of genuine pathos, but Heckerling never comes to grips with the horror element, which seems tacked on as an afterthought. (Even the title is a misnomer: Goody and Stacy are not “vamps” who ruthlessly enthrall and seduce victims.) Even on a spoof level, Heckerling winds up trashing her own best gags (when Goody and Stacy find Cisserus sated amid a pile of drained victims in a Chinese restaurant, we instantly get the joke – when you eat Chinese, you get hungry again – but then Heckerling has Weaver say it out loud for the benefit of those too stupid to figure it out on their own). Perhaps Herkerling should have taken a cue from Ivan Reitman’s handling of GHOSTBUSTERS, in which the special effects (though not played exactly straight) were handled as well as in any serious movie, allowing the humor to come from the characters’ reactions to the supernatural shenanigans.
It’s too bad that, in the era of TWILIGHT, recent vampire-comedies (this means you, VAMPIRES SUCK) have been unable to hit such an easy target. Perhaps the problem is that the TWILIGHT films are so bad that they make parody irrelevant; there is simply nothing that anyone else can do to top their absurdity. VAMPS is not intended as a TWILIGHT spoof, but it plays with similar elements (veggie vampires versus homicidal blood suckers, love stories, vampires as outsiders trying to blend inconspicuously with humans). You would think that a film could do something better with these elements; unfortunately, VAMPS does not. In the end, this vampire-comedy is much less funny than any of the TWILIGHT films.
VAMPS (Anchor Bay, theatrical release: November 2,2012). Written and directed by Amy Heckerling. Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Krysten Ritter, Dan Stevens, Richard Lewis, Sigourney Weaver, Wallace Shawn, Malcolm McDowell, Marilu Henner, Justin Kirk.

Jack & Diane Theatrical Engagements

Magnolia Pictures offers a limited platform release to this weird little love story, which is currently available on VOD. Written and directed by Bradley Rust Gray, with animation by Brothers Quay, JACK & DIANE stars Juno Temple and Riley Keough as two teenage girls – one sweet and innocent, one tough as nails – who fall in love. Unfortunately, when the relationship sours, Diane’s body manifests her emotional torment in unexpected ways. The plotline is vague about the genre element, but the suggestion of Cronenberg-style body horror comes through a bit more in the trailer. The supporting cast includes Kylie Minogue, Dane DeHaan, Leo Fitzpatrick, Haviland Morris, Cara Seymour. 110 minutes. Rated R.
Limited theatrical engagements begin on November 2 in New York and Los Angeles, with more to follow:

November 2
West Hollywood, CA: Sundance Cinema Sunset 5
New York, NY: Cinema Village
November 23
Seattle, WA: Northwest Film Forum
November 30
North Kansas City, MO: Screenland Armour 2
December 14
Salem, MA: Cinema Salem 3

Click here to check for any additional playdates that may be added later.

[REC]3: GENESIS – VOD 8/2, in theatres 9/7

Magnet Releasing rolls out a series of limited theatrical engagements to this Spanish horror film, which has been available via Video on Demand since August 3. The third in the [REC] franchise takes a new route, emerging from the old location into broad daylight and smashing straight into a young couple impending nuptials! Setting a horror film on a wedding day strikes us as a wonderful idea – which should hopefully be enough to make [REC]3 somewhat better than the usual third-film letdown.
Director: Paco Plaza. Writers: Luis Berdejo, Paco Plaza, from an idea by Berdejo and David Gallart. Cast: Leticia DOlera, Diego Martin, Javier Botet, Alex Monner, Claire Baschet, Ismael Martinez.
[REC] 3 tunnel chainsawTheatrical Engagements:

September 7

  • Denver, CO: Denver Film Center/Colfax
  • Chicago, IL: Logan
  • Brookline, MA: Coolidge Corner Theatre
  • Albuquerque, NM: Guild
  • New York, NY: Cinema Village
  • Columbus, OH: Gateway Film Center 8
  • Katy, TX: Alamo Mason Park 6
  • Seattle, WA: Grand Illusion Cinema

September 8

  • Tucson, AZ: The Loft Cinema

September 14

  • Kansas City, MO: Screenland Crossroads Theatre

September 17

  • Minneapolis, MN: Trylon Microcinema

September 18

  • Syracuse, NY: Palace

September 20

  • Phoenix, AZ: FilmBar

September 28

  • Salem, MA: Cinema Salem 3
  • Dormont, PA: Hollywood Theatre

October 27

  • Omaha, NE: Dundee (Art)

October 29

  • Atlanta, GA: Cinefest Theatre

Check the official website in case future engagements are added.
Plot summary from the Magnet website:

Koldo and Clara are about to celebrate the most important day of their lives: their wedding.
Everything appears to be running smoothly and the bride and groom and their families are enjoying a wonderful day; that is until some of the guests start showing signs of a strange illness. Before they know what’s happening, the bride and groom find themselves in the middle of a hellish ordeal, as an uncontrollable torrent of violence is unleashed on the wedding.
Amidst the chaos, Koldo and Clara become separated and begin a desperate search for one another. What started off as an idyllic day quickly descends into a nightmare of the worst kind…