Dead Snow (2009)

Dead Snow (2009)Zombie Nazis” sounds like an unbeatable combination, but it turns out to be one of those great ideas that cannot sustain itself purely on the concept alone (unlike, say the “Soup Nazi” episode of SEINFELD, which could have earned classic status merely on the basis of its title). Although DEAD SNOW has its heart in the right place (enthusiastically embracing the horror genre, it is eager to please its target audience), in execution it does not quite live up to the brilliance of its own premise; only occasionally does it mixture of horror and hysteria reach critical mass, igniting the explosions of screams and laughter promised by the coming attractions. For horror fans it is worth seeing, but this is one of those examples when the trailer is the movie.
The film starts off with Sara (Ane Dahl Torp) being pursued through the snow by some shadowy shapes that eventually overtake her. We then see her friends driving to an isolated cabin owned by Sara, where they anticipate a weekend of snowboarding. The pristine photography (by Matthew Weston) and the likable performances cue us to expect something really exceptional as DEAD SNOW slowly builds up a head of steam, but instead of creating tension, the long first act gives the audience a chance to slip into its comfort zone.
Not that things get boring. There interaction of the characters is intially engaging: one is a film buff who notes the number of horror films that begin with a group of friends heading out to an isolated cabin (including THE EVIL DEAD and EVIL DEAD II). Unfortunately, hints of sloppy writing emerge: it takes way too long for anyone to worry about Sara’s absence. If you’re going to spend a half-hour making viewers like the characters before they get killed, it’s not a good idea to make them so indifferent to the fate of one of their own.
When the zombies do show up (after a walking mouthpiece – who should have been named Basil Exposition – wanders in just long enough to deliver a brief history lesson of the Nazi occupation of the area), they deliver some entertaining kills, but DEAD SNOW still does not hit its stride until late in the third act, when the gross-out gore turns more overtly comical, and a pair of survivors (including a med student who is afraid of blood) engage the enemy in a bloody battle that leaves many heads, arms, and legs severed – and one penis badly damaged.
In the frenzy of the fight, the fact that our queasy med student has overcome his fear is little more than a throw-away, never overtly stated, just left for the audience to observe. This is probably smarter than spelling the point out melodramatically, but it’s symptomatic of a weakness in the script, which shoe-horns in various plot elements without bothering to make them fully pay off.
We never learn how long Sara has owned the cabin without encountering the undead Nazis, nor do we definitely learn what keeps the German soldiers walking around. The script introduces small box of gold objects (stolen by the soldiers from the locals during the war) as if it is the key, but the script is vague on details. A dream sequence implies that Sara found the box recently, but it’s not clear whether the Nazis target anyone who touched the contents or merely know about the box. This vagueness undermines the twist ending: a character thinks he has gotten away until he realizes he has a gold coin in his pocket. But the audience had little reason to think he was safe after seeing at least one previous victim die without ever laying eyes on the box, let alone purloining any of its contents. After all, are we really to assume that zombie Nazis cause trouble only when treasure they stole is in turn stolen back from them?
As confusing as this plot device is, it is interesting that DEAD SNOW bothers to use it to motivate its zombies. Most movie zombies don’t need motivation; they just want to eat you out of blind instinct. But rather like the Knights Templar in Amando de Ossorio’s BLIND DEAD movies, these zombies are not mindless; they still maintain military organization, the soldiers obeying the orders from Colonel Herzog (Ørjan Garnst), who communicates usually with gestures but but bellows out a one-word order late in the film.
This makes DEAD SNOW’s approach to its zombies relatively unique – instead of mindless eating machines, we have undead evil – but director and co-writer Tommy Wirkola does little with the concept. More than in any ordinary zombie movie, you really want to see the heroes put the dead back in their graves. The walking corpses are not just unfortunate victims of a plague or a bite; they are almost literal embodiments of evil, and seeing them mowed down by machine gun, chainsaw, hammer, and any other short implement offers a brief cathartic highlight – until the film takes a wrong turn with one of those “you thought it was over, but it’s not” moments, refusing to deliver the image promised in its poster. This last-minute descent into mechanical genre cliches (dramatically satisfying conclusions are verboten; mechanical twist endings rule) robs DEAD SNOW of the much greater impact it could have achieved, had it fully exploited the potential inherent in zombie Nazis.
As a director, Tommy Wirkola proves he knows how to draw his audience into the movie’s world. Even though this is an unapologetic horror film, he avoids falling back on the “it’s only a movie” attitude (“Hey, it’s about zombie Nazis – what more do you expect?”), instead presenting the early events as believably as possible. When it comes to the horror, he’s a little uneven. The early suspense moments (before the zombies are fully revealed) should fray a few nerves, but the later pursuit scenes don’t generate as many thrills as they should. (He slightly bungles the punchline for one scene: after two women decide to stick together rather than separate, a zombie runs into frame, scaring them into opposite directions, but the camera angle doesn’t fully capture the visual irony; it simply looks as if they are running out of frame.)
Fortunately, Wirkola delivers as much gross-out as any hardcore fan could want (including a head ripped apart and not one but two examples of trailing entrails). And he’s really great at going over-the-top with his action, which includes not only gore but such amusing sights as a snow-mobile mounted with a machine gun that takes out a platoon’s worth of zombies.*
Perhaps I’m being too hard on DEAD SNOW – which, all nitpicking aside, is an entertaining horror film – not to mention, hands down, the best zombie Nazi movie ever. If the finished film is disappointing, it is only because it had the potential to be even better than it is. As part of the recent wave of Scandinavian horror films like ROOM 205 and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, DEAD SNOW initially looks as if it will rise above its genre trappings, offering something scary and sophisticated. But when you stop and think about it, a movie about zombie Nazis could have easily been nothing more than a piece of dumb exploitation; the fact that it could raise expectations high enough to allow for any level of disappointment at all is, in and of itself, quite an achievement.

Pristine photography lends a layer of atmosphere to the high-concept horror.

DEAD SNOW (Død Sno, 2009). Directed by Tommy Wirkola. Written by Stig Frode Henriksen & Tommy Wirkola. Cast: Charlotte Frogner, Ørjan Garnst, Stig Frode Henriksen, Vegar Hoel, Jeope Laursen, Evy Kasseth Rosten, Jenny Skavlan, Bjorn Sundquist, Ane Dahl Torp, Lasse Valdal, Tommy Wirkola.

  • I do wish, however, that the script had bothered to explain exactly what it takes to kill off these zombies. I am getting tired of horror films in which supernatural beings appear to be destroyed with little more than bullets or swordplay. You see the same thing in UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS and the upcoming BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE.


Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives – Deluxe Edition DVD Review

Smarting by the anemic box office and angrily negative fan reaction to FRIDAY THE 13TH PART V: A NEW BEGINNING, Paramount brought in writer-director Tom McLoughlin (whose only previous directorial experience was the well regarded ONE DARK NIGHT back in 1983) to revive the franchise. McLoughlin – under studio directive to bring Jason back to life – decided to use humor to smooth over the more ludicrous plot machinations, and his comic sensibilities were thankfully more graceful than his predecessor’s had been. As with previous entries, production began almost before the previous film had exited theaters, and FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART VI: JASON LIVES! was released in August of 1986. The sequel picks up with teenage Tommy Jarvis (Thom Mathews, so memorable alongside James Karen in the previous year’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) and fellow asylum inmate Allen (Ron Palillo, TV’s Horshack, in what would sadly be his highest profile role post-KOTTER) on a breakneck graveyard run to once and for all purge Jason from his dreams. This plays out almost identically to the opening of the previous FRIDAY THE 13TH – though instead of ghoulish pranks, Tommy and Allen set out to burn Jason’s corpse to cinders. What follows gives a fair indication of the type of humor that McLoughlin offers, as the attempt to put Jason down for good has the exact opposite effect: a steel pole gets lodged in the torso of the lifeless, desiccated body – which is brought back to life Frankenstein-style by a bolt of lightning. After Allen gets a hole punched through his chest by the newly animated killer, Tommy flees, his unfinished task a heroically epic fail. The prologue finishes up with an optical shot through the eye of the hockey mask, with Jason stalking across the frame, then stopping to throw a machete at the camera in a takeoff of the James Bond opening that elicited wild applause from the audience with whom we saw the film.
Tommy makes a fruitless attempt to warn the local authorities in the form of Sheriff Garris (an appropriately gruff David Kagen), who winds up throwing Tommy in jail after he makes a grab for a shotgun. Having renamed itself Forest Green in an effort to distance itself from its most infamous son, Crystal Lake – understandably – doesn’t lay out the welcome mat for Tommy; he does, however, find a believer in the Sheriff’s daughter, Megan (Jennifer Cooke), who just happens to be one of the counselors at yet another summer camp operating off the lake (how do they get insurance?)
Director McLoughlin showcases a few humorous moments of the all-too-rare “laughing with” variety, as Jason goes after a pre-Ghost Tony Goldwin and the director’s wife, Nancy. Jason blocks the path of their rather unintimidating Volkswagen, and after Tony’s unsuccessful attempt to threaten him with a fist-sized handgun, Nancy tries offering him her wallet – cut to final shot of an Amex card floating in a blood-soaked puddle.
McLoughlin is careful never to let the humor drift off into outright satire – probably harder than it sounds when you’re talking about a Part VI of anything – but he’s also aware that given the triteness of the setup it’s probably the only way to squeeze out a halfway entertaining movie. Even if the sequence wherein Jason kills a bunch of corporate executives on a survivalist weekend plays too broadly for comfort, McLoughlin’s heart is in the right place.
With the help from Megan, Tommy escapes from the jail and heads to the place he know Jason can’t resist – a summer camp. McLoughlin does take a risk here; previous films in the series have only shown camps getting ready to open, but here we see Jason actually menacing a little girl in her bunk, and the series dips its toe into palpably uncomfortable waters for several moments (though some of that tension is relieved by a snoozing camper with a copy of “No Exit” open on their chest.)
Being a Paramount film, nothing too horrible happens (though at the risk of a spoiler, let’s say that one character bends over backwards in a more than figurative sense.) However, the MPAA once again had at the film, dulling the impact of nearly every kill. Being the final film in the unofficial Tommy Jarvis trilogy of IV, V, and VI, the showdown leaves Final Girl Megan without much to do, as Tommy lures Jason back to the very lake where he drowned as a boy, leading to a fiery – if not quite final – confrontation.
Far superior to its dreadful predecessor, Friday the 13th, Part VI: Jason Lives is the last decent film in the series made at Paramount. The ill-conceived A New Blood introduced a Final Girl with telekinetic abilities, thus ripping off two movies instead of just one, and the aberration that was Jason Takes Manhattan featured a High School graduation party on a cruise to NYC that doesn’t reach the titular city until the conclusion for some hastily filmed Times Square shots (the Pilgrims got to Manhattan quicker.)
While not all the humor in Jason Lives works, at least the failed bits don’t up-end the whole show. The only major complaint is the shift in location shooting to Georgia; while the California locations of III, IV, and V stood out like a bloody machete from the effective Northeast setting of the first two films, Georgia always looks like Georgia.
Paramount has understandably decided to make this film the last of the series to get special edition treatment, possibly because they have run out of installments of Lost Tales of Camp Blood, the 6th (and we hope, final) of which is included here. The film has also been cleaned up a bit since its last release, with a much better looking image than the copy found on the box set.
The best extra is the commentary with Tommy McLoughlin, editor Bruce Green, and writer Vinnie Guastaferro. McLoughlin is a horror enthusiast (who directed several episodes of the Friday the 13th syndicated series); he still relishes his shot at making a Friday the 13th film (he still has Jason’s gravestone in his yard) and he leads an informative and fun chat that makes it hard to switch hack over to the film soundtrack. (We actually had the opportunity to meet McLoughlin shortly after this film, while he was shooting Date with an Angel at the de Laurentiis studios in North Carolina and can confirm that he really is that nice.)
As for the remaining bonus features:

  • The making-of piece, Jason Lives: The Making of Friday the 13th Part VI is interesting, but features a lot of overlap with the commentary.
  • Slashed Scenes is another tribute to the MPAA, featuring complete versions of the edited kills, though the workprint quality is wobbly.
  • Meeting Mr. Voorhees describes McLoughlin’s unfilmed ending that would have shown Jason’s never-discussed father visiting his grave.
  • The mocumentary The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part III doesn’t offend; neither is it worth much of your time (particularly for the third time.)
  • The nearly apologetic theatrical trailer is also included.


Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning (1985) – Deluxe Edition DVD Review

We’ll give Paramount the benefit of the doubt that they truly intended to end the FRIDAY THE 13TH series with young Tommy Jarvis chopping Jason Voorhees into a million pieces at the conclusion of FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER. Screenwriter Barry Cohen was given explicit instructions to make sure that the form of Jason’s exit wouldn’t leave any doubt that this was indeed the end of the line, even if  the final shot lingers ominously on the face of a traumatized Tommy, suggesting a possible alternate route – just in case. It turned out that “just in case” happened less than a year later when Paramount came to its fiduciary senses and commissioned a 5th installment of the franchise after THE FINAL CHAPTER raked in sixteen times its own meager budget. Danny Steinmann, coming off the nasty Linda Blair revenge-themed programmer SAVAGE STREETS in 1984, moved into the director’s chair. FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART V: A NEW BEGINNING has since become a bit of a pariah among fans because the screenwriters – looking for a way to get themselves out of the narrative dead end that THE FINAL CHAPTER had boxed them into – gave the sequel a twist ending that (while it makes more sense than most other films of the franchise) is handled so poorly by Steinmann that it utterly overshadows the show’s few virtues.
Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning opens with a dream sequence in which young Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman returning for a cameo) watches a pair of grave robbers unwittingly revive Jason. He wakes from the nightmare as a teenager (played as a near-mute by John Shepherd) riding in the back of a bus on route to the Pinehurst halfway house for troubled teens (presumably, Tommy has been under state care since hacking Jason to pieces as a child.) As Tommy is shown the facility, we meet the heroically under-written cast of characters, a group of teens whose only real trouble seems to be a tendency towards petulance. ‘Always eating fat kid’ battles ‘walkman wearing, robot-dancing punk girl’ and ‘crazed axe-wielding loner’ for our attention until the arrival of neighbors Ethel Hubbard and son Junior straight from a Hee Haw parody of Mother’s Day.
It was at this point in the series that you could feel the producers, screenwriters and directors just throw up their collective hands and say “Hell, nobody takes this crap seriously – so why are we sweating it?” From this point on, the already limited characterization dropped down to almost nil. With no human beings to feel any sympathy with, audiences began to actually embrace Jason – often the only character with a defined agenda. We clearly remember our crowd at a showing of Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood cheering loudly for Jason’s brand of faceless mayhem and nothing else.
Anyway, Ethel’s complaints about the kids at the shelter getting into trouble on their property soon prove legitimate as fat kid Joey (Dominick Brascia, complete with melting chocolate bar screwed tightly in his pudgy little hand) pesters dangerous loner Vic (Mark Venturini) once too often and gets an axe buried right in his skull in broad daylight. People who remember nothing else about the film remember this moment – the one bright splash on an otherwise dull, ugly canvas. It’s at this point that the film begins setting up its twist ending, so if you haven’t seen the film and want to remain “surprised,” skip the next paragraph.
When the ambulance crew arrives to pick up fat kid Joey, paramedic Roy Burns (Dick Wieand) begins to have a fit of apoplexy at the sight of fat kid Joey’s body. Watching Wieand’s face contort recalls third-tier silent movie acting at its most histrionic. At the crime scene of the next two victims – a pair of leatherboys that arrived at Crystal Lake via Rydell High – Wieand has a similar outburst that etches into the very celluloid itself “I’m the killer!!!” and of course, he is. That’s right – it’s not Jason. Excluding his cameo in Tommy’s dream, A New Beginning marks the only film in the series where Jason is utterly MIA, racking up zero real-world kills to the chagrin of fans.
There’s an attempt to cast the specter of guilt on Tommy himself, real estate paid for at the conclusion of the previous film and spread more thickly here, but we simply know that it’s not him. Once “Jason” has hacked through the majority of the cast, we’re left with Shavar Ross, last seen making an ill-fated trip to a local bike shop with Arnold Drummond, Final Girl Pam (an unmemorable Melanie Kinnaman) and Tommy, who saves both of them by pushing the hockey masked killer onto a grouping of sharp farm-type implements. The mask is removed, revealing not the malformed inbred son of Pamela Voorhees, but the most obvious suspect since Raymond Burr in Rear Window. We’d love to tell you that A New Beginning is better than its reputation – to tell you that the efforts of the production not to cheat the finality of the previous film’s conclusion, but we simply can’t.
Even by the muted standards of low budget horror, the film is an unforgivably crass, ugly experience, devoid of suspense, and, thanks to the MPAA’s blood vendetta against the franchise, bereft of any interesting kills (after the broad daylight demise of fat kid Joey, of course.) Director Steinmann’s idea of humor can be found glued to the gutter, begging for scraps of uncomfortable laughter from the lowest possible denominator. Fans of the series – and of horror in general – are right to vilify it.


Whatever its faults, Paramount has given Friday the 13th, Part V: A New Beginning an excellent presentation on their Deluxe Edition DVD, released june 16. No one with the film fresh in their mind will be surprised at Director Steinmann’s demeanor on the commentary track; sounding near-inebriated, he jokes his way through the film offering little decent information. Joining him is Shavar Ross, who offers the only interesting stories about the production, and a “superfan” moderator, who has probably chosen to champion the film precisely to crowbar himself into this sort of situation (mission accomplished, we thought, you can stop pretending to like this turd.)

  • We also have the fifth (!) installment of the fan-made Lost Tales from Camp Blood, pointless as ever, but at least this time it’s more interesting than the feature.
  • The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part II offers another bit of news magazine-style mocumentary, examining Jason’s murder spree as an actual news story.
  • New Beginnings: The Making of Friday the 13th – A New Beginning is the laboriously titled documentary on the production, offering a far better look at the process than the commentary does.

The package is rounded out with the original theatrical trailer, and the disc comes with the same lenticular slipcase as Friday the 13th Parts IV and VI.

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – DVD Review

Is it possible that this film is so old that there’s no longer any snarky fun to be had making fun of its title? It was certainly possible that in 1984 Paramount Pictures was growing awfully tired of being known as the “Slasher Studio” with titles like the FRIDAY THE 13TH  series, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, and APRIL FOOL’S DAY, giving the venerable studio bad press among powerful critics like Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, who railed against the the violence and supposed misogyny. The problem was that the films were all solid earners on thrifty investments, and studios are notoriously gun shy about killing golden geese. But once Paramount’s fortunes began to rise with a series of successful Eddie Murphy comedies and a string of blockbusters like FOOTLOOSE, FLASHDANCE, (and RAIDERS OF THE something or other) the studio must have felt that they could afford to cut the slasher films loose. Screenwriter Barney Cohen was tasked with killing Jason Voorhees (a job that no fictional character had thus far been capable of) and PROWLER director Joseph Zito was brought on board to send him off with style. An unusually capable cast was assembled, including then-heartthrob Peter Barton (THE POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR, anyone? Anyone?), future star Crispin Glover, future child-star catastrophe Corey Feldman, and everyone’s favorite LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN, Lawrence Monoson, all of whom contributed towards giving the film a feeling of professionalism and legitimacy that the series would never see again while the franchise was at Paramount.
As with the previous entry, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter picks up right where the previous film left off, with an apparently dead Jason lying on the floor of the barn at Higgin’s Haven. With the characters unaware of Jason’s medical condition, which prevents death, his body is brought to the county morgue where he promptly slaughters the attendant (Police Academy’s Bruce Mahler as the show’s only truly obnoxious character) and a nurse before heading back to Crystal Lake. Meanwhile, a group of teens (who apparently don’t listen to the news on the car radio) are headed out to the lake for a weekend getaway in a rented house, situated right across from the Jarvis home, with young Tommy (Feldman) teenage sister and future ‘Final Girl’, Trish (Kimberly Beck)living with their mom (Joan Freeman.) On their way home, the Jarvis’ meet would-be camper, Rob (Erich Anderson) who has returned to Crystal Lake for revenge against Jason for killing his sister years earlier (apparently she was the bottom half of Friday the 13th Part II’s notorious Twitch of the Death Nerve-inspired spear kill.) The arrival of twins Tina and Teri (Camilla & Carey More) completes the victim roster and we’re off to the races, with director Zito bringing a polished execution that the series hadn’t seen before or since.
Zito’s instincts for performance allowed someone like Glover to improvise moments like his stupendously insane dance; and had the series actually ended with this film it would be quite well remembered today. Of course, the spine of any Friday the 13th film is the kills, and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapterhas some of the series’ most visceral deaths, displaying the same nasty edge to the violence that Zito brought to The Prowler and the crazy violent Chuck Norris vehicle, Missing in Action. The slaughter scenes here have more weight to them simply because we care more about the performers (one very impressive kill is implied by shadow play against the side of the house during a rain storm and nicely demonstrates creativity trumping gore.)
Besides the always entertaining Glover, a pre-Goonies Feldman is also very good as the monster-mask wearing, Zaxxon-playing Tommy Jarvis – a familiar character to many of us who were too young to see this film when it first came out, but snuck in anyway. Anyone who wonders why he was such a popular child star need only watch the scene where he peeps on a pair of naked teens from his bedroom across the way; the kid nearly always made something out of nothing. And while Kimberly Beck is a bit bland as final girl, Trish, and the phrase “dead fuck” isn’t nearly as funny as screenwriter Barney Cohen seems to have thought it would be, this would be the last time that pointing out the deficiencies of a Friday the 13th film would take up so little space.


It’s a shame that Paramount didn’t deem the film deserving of a Blu-Ray release (yet), but the new Special Edition DVD looks quite nice. Though inflation would drive the budgets of future installments up, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter seems practically epic when compared to the poverty row entries still to come, and the DVD’s image reflects the higher production standards.
To make up for the lack of commentaries on the last 2 Friday the 13th films, there are actually 2 tracks included here, the first featuring Zito, Cohen, and editor Joel Goodman, none of whom are under the impression that the film is anything more substantial than it is, but are rightfully proud of what they were able to achieve. The second is a fan track featuring directors Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2) and Adam Green (the woefully under-appreciated Hatchet), which is actually quite fun. They’re both smart, savvy guys who grew up on the same horror feed as the rest of us, and they have a legitimate and heartfelt affection for Zito and the film.
As for the bonus features:

  • Buckle up for the 4th installment of the increasingly irritating Lost Tales from Camp Blood (see our reviews for the previous films for an explanation that we’re getting too tired and embittered to re-write.)
  • The Crystal Lake Massacres Revisited Part 1 is a mock Investigative Reports-style documentary on Jason’s killing spree that is fun for a few minutes, but we ran out of steam long before it was even half over.
  • A more substantial extra is the documentary, Jason’s Unlucky Day: 25 Years After Friday, a brief but informative piece on the making of the film, featuring Zito, Cohen, SFX artist Tom Savini (who returned to the series for the first (and last) time since the original) and star Beck.
  • Jimmy’s Dead Fuck Dance Moves is an unedited take of Glover’s hysterical dance, where you can see other actors straining to keep straight faces.
  • The Lost Endingis exactly that, presented without production audio but with commentary by Zito and Beck.
  • Longtime fans will likely be most excited by Slashed Scenes, a 15min collection of alternate takes that offers the best look yet at the unedited murder sequences.

The only disappointments are that the show didn’t qualify for a HD release and that not all the extras from the previously released box set have been ported over (this really ought to be step 1 when studios double-dip on releases), so purists should hold onto their old discs. Otherwise Paramount has done an admirable job with this release. Highly recommended.

Friday the 13th, Part 3 3-D – Blu-ray Review

With the release of the abysmal JAWS 3D in 1983, the short-lived 3D fad of the early ’80s had finally burned itself out with a whimper. But the previous year had given us perhaps the best 3D film of the era: a romp of special effects and atmosphere that proved why horror is still the first, best choice for a 3D production – FRIDAY THE 13th PART 3 – 3-D. Put into production less than a year after Part 2 had wrapped, it’s unknown (at least to us) when it was decided to incorporate 3D into the picture, but it was a likely factor in retaining Steve Miner for the director’s chair, as it no doubt helped to smooth over a technically difficult shoot. Even under luxurious circumstances, making a 3D picture is a complex, and technically tedious process; necessitating a Kubrickian number of takes of even the simplest actions. But working with only a few million dollars (large by the franchise’s standard, certainly) made the shoot a grueling experience – not just for the crew, but for actors who felt neglected while the bulk of attention went to the technical aspects. The resulting film looked completely different than previous FRIDAY THE 13TH films, not just because of the 3D, but because the show was the only film in the series to be shot in an anamorphic 2:35 aspect ratio, giving it a distinctly cinematic feel.
Friday the 13th, Part 3 picks up literally moments after the end of Friday the 13th, Part 2, with the first reports of the latest massacre at Crystal Lake going out over the local news. The show is being watched by a middle-aged couple who appear to run a local convenience store, and quickly give us a good indication of the lack of attention given to performance. The hideously abrasive duo represents the typical Hollywood idea of rural folk: filthy, unshaven cussaoholics that spit dime store abuse at each other like short-bus Tennessee Williams characters. The direction given the actors clearly stopped at “act gross” and they proceed, as if to curry favor with a director that was likely unconcerned with their actions, to bury the needle in the red. Perhaps we’re overreacting, but there’s just something so dismaying low-rent and lazy about this level of stereotyping (and Miner had shown just the previous year that he could be better that that sort of back-row pandering).
Fortunately, this sequence, like the rest of Friday the 13th, Part 3, is saved by the superb use of 3D; nearly every shot – from incidental camera movements to laundry poles right in your lap – conveys both a depth of field and a sense of fun. Unfortunately, characterization doesn’t get much better once we get to the main group of teens; abandoning the notion of camp counselors, we have a party hosted by Chris (Dana Kimmell) at her family’s cabin. Other guests along for the weekend include the hunky Rick (Paul Kratka); a spare, disposable couple, Debbie and Andy (Tracie Savage and Jeffrey Rogers); sad, overweight prankster, Shelly (Larry Zerner); the lets-have-one-more-girl-in-the-cast Vera (Catherine Parks); and a pair of aging, dope-addled hippies (Rachel Howard and David Katims), who appear straight out of a Groove Tube sketch. For variety sake we also get a trio of trouble-making bikers (Crystal Lake is getting worse than Gary, Indiana) as grist for the killing wheel.
The evidence on screen points to a group of young, hungry actors who were given brief character notes and then left largely to their own devices. In some cases, this results in utter blandness; Chris, Vera, and Debbie are utterly interchangeable, and the only defining trait given to poor Andy is the ability to walk on his hands (which does, however, result in the film’s best kill). Too often this results in a replay of the hayseed couple from the opening, with stereotyping as broad as an L.A. freeway and just as unpleasant to encounter. Chubby loser Shelly (not the fault of Zerner) wears out his welcome almost instantly, constantly faking his own murder with homemade SFX makeup from an enormous kit (which he refers to as “my life”) and telegraphing his own demise so forcefully that there’s no surprise when it finally happens. There’s just no way that any of the other characters would be hanging out with this guy, much less the High Times centerfold couple, who seem to be along for the ride because Paramount counted up their Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams receipts and decided that America’s love affair with aging hippie dopers was still going strong.
On home video – without the novelty of Friday the 13th, Part 3 became notable only for containing the moment when Jason first dons his trademark hockey mask – iconic, for sure, but a slender thread on which to hang an entire movie.
Paramount has gone a long way towards restoring the film’s reputation with next week’s Blu-Ray release, however. As with Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray edition of My Bloody Valentine 3D, the disc contains both the 3D and flat versions of the film (2 sets of 3D glasses are included, and don’t make the same mistake we did and think you can just use the glasses that came with My Bloody Valentine 3-D – the red and blue lenses are reversed.) The flat transfer is superior to previous home video editions, but not as demonstrably so as the Friday the 13th, Part 2 Blu-Ray release.
The print appears to have weaker colors and somewhat more dirt and print damage than the other titles in the series, though this could easily be a side effect of the 3D photography that more technical savvy people might be able to confirm. It’s not a quite a bad transfer, but if the 3D version were not included it would be difficult to recommend an upgrade from the standard DVD edition.
The 3D version actually has a reasonably stable image that is easily comparable to My Bloody Valentine 3-D; unfortunately, the polarized-lens gasses that made the theatrical experience so special have been subbed out for the inferior anaglyph type for home viewing. Fortunately, the effects translate decently to home viewing, and we found the image less headache-inducing than most 3D films on disc.
Don’t throw out Paramount’s old box set, as the cast commentary track hasn’t been ported over to this release; as with Friday the 13th, Part 2, a Steve Miner commentary track is sorely missed, but there’s still plenty to chew on:

  • Fresh Cuts: 3D Terror (HD) features the affable Larry Zerner and gives an entertaining overview of the difficult shoot.
  • Legacy of the Mask (HD) is devoted to the iconic hockey mask and its almost immediate resonance with the public.
  • Slasher Films: Going for the Jugular is a bit of a ramshackle look at the genre that is too slight to make much of a ripple.
  • Lost Tales from Camp Blood – Part 3 (HD) is yet another chapter in the apparently endless series of loosely connected, fan-made tribute shorts that simply have no business being here while older extras are being left off.

The original theatrical trailer is also included (HD). Paramount has righted numerous past wrongs with this release, establishing a standard to which other major studios should be looking to when it comes to genre releases on Blu-Ray.

My Bloody Valentine: 3D Blu-ray Review

click to purchase
click to purchase

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D, surely one of this still-young century’s most unlikely projects, snuck out onto Blu-Ray a few weeks back, containing an outstanding presentation of the 2D version and a reasonably passable version of the 3D experience. The original Canuck slasher came out in 1981, only to get swallowed up in the tidal wave of maniac-with-a-knife titles that littered the cultural highway in the early ’80s. Its lasting notoriety, however, came from the infamous cuts demanded of the film by an ultra strict MPAA, leaving the ’81 MY BLOODY VALENTINE as an anemic byproduct of the horror witchhunt era.* The edits had attained a legendary stature over the years, mostly through images of the offending frames that were published in Fangoria but also because its distributing studio, Paramount, was responsible for (until very recently) keeping the similarly cut footage from their FRIDAY THE 13TH films under lock and key.
Fortunately, a sale to Lionsgate, along with a far more relaxed attitude towards onscreen violence, allowed an uncut release of the original My Bloody Valentine late in January of this year. Not surprisingly, we found that the added bits of gore didn’t really change the film in any remarkable way (it really was more a matter of principal) though the “shower head” sequence was certainly spiced up considerably. The ever-so-slightly amateurish production wins a lot of points on the plucky ‘hey gang – let’s make a movie!’ drive of the actors and director George Mihalka (that last name always reminded me of a pitched battle between nouns and consonants struggling for dominance), a handful of genuinely suspenseful scenes, and the extremely frightening visage of a homicidal coal miner coming at you in full pickaxe rage. It was a little over a year ago when word of a new version filtered down through the internet, and while there was the expected moaning about yet another remake, we felt that this was exactly the sort of film that should be remade: a far from perfect picture with a decent core idea and a few nicely iconic moments. But when we heard that the remake was going to be in Digital 3-D, thinks looked very interesting indeed.
My Bloody Valentine 3D breathlessly runs through the plot of the original film before the end of the first reel. A flurry of newspaper headlines tell us that coal miner Harry Warden was the only survivor of a cave-in believed to be the result of carelessness by the owner’s son Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles, currently starring in the WB’s Supernatural). While Harry is thought to be wasting away in a coma, Detective Burke (the great Tom Atkins, getting more than just a cameo for a change) discovers that the other men killed were actually murdered by Harry with a pickaxe to conserve the air. A year later, Harry wakes from his coma and slaughters dozens of people in the hospital before heading over to the now closed mine where the town’s teens have gathered for a Valentine’s Day party, including Tom’s now estranged girlfriend, Sarah (Jamie King, better and more mature than we ever seen her.) Needless to say, the party ends abruptly, with Burke shooting and seriously wounding Warden just before he kills Hanniger and runs off bleeding into the mine shaft. Cut to 10 years later, and the return of Tom Hanniger after having mysteriously left the town after the Valentine’s Day slaughter (seriously, the death toll is like 30 people) to find his former girl now married to town sheriff Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith, another TV veteran who resembles Leo DiCaprio’s evil, alternate universe twin.) Still partially blamed for the cave-in, Tom’s popularity takes a few more hits once it’s announced that he’s selling the mill and many townsfolk will shortly lose their jobs; more disturbingly, a new wave of murders has coincided with his arrival – perpetrated by a killer wearing a very familiar outfit.
We were in our prime, pre-teen movie going years when a second wave of 3D films arrived in the early ’80s, beginning with the infectious fun of Italian-produced cheapies Comin’ at Ya and the Raiders knock off Treasure of the Four Crowns, but the wave crested with the headache inducing disappointment of the Universal produced cheapie, Jaws 3D (not to forget the minor sensation caused by our local NYC channel’s showing of Creature from the Black Lagoon, glasses for which could be procured at 7-11 stores.) The process died out quickly for much the same reason that it had three decades earlier; beyond a few undeniably fun show-off moments, wearing those cheap cardboard glasses and staring at a roughly projected anaglyph image for 90min or longer left most people with the feeling similar to that of being driven around in your Aunt’s Buick while she smoked Camels in the summer heat with the windows locked in the up position – it just wasn’t worth the discomfort for most people.
Fortunately, the last few years have seen massive developments in the technology; My Bloody Valentine 3D was the first ‘R’ rated film to use the RealD process (the same that James Cameron is using for his long-awaited Avatar) which augments the stereoscopic process with a much higher frame rate, digital cameras, the revolutionary use of a single projector, and modern, polarized glasses. Much of the distortion associated with older 3D processes is now gone, and the experience is mostly pain-free for people with normal eyesight (those requiring corrective lenses, however, are sadly out of luck.) My Bloody Valentine 3D is, without a doubt, the best 3D experience that we’ve had outside of IMAX, and certainly the most fun. Director (and former editor) Patrick Lussier sets a grand tone right from the opening credits – a deceptively simple collage of newspaper headlines that is rendered hypnotic in 3D. While the film is filled with the expected shock effects – even we underestimated the number of pickaxes that leapt off the screen – My Bloody Valentine 3D has also been designed with a keen eye towards framing objects in the foreground to give the entire show a sense of total immersion – it is the first 3D film that didn’t feel like a vehicle for a cheap gimmick.
The younger cast is also much better than expected. Jamie King seems to be moving from a jokey, party-girl presence into being an actress of some depth. She has an extended scene in a deserted market where her character is menaced along with a younger girl that we know is having an affair with her husband; we don’t find out until later that she knew it as well, and damn if there isn’t a subtle glimpse of that in her performance – it’s good stuff. WB heartthrob Ackles nicely plays the “is he/isn’t he’” crazy angle nicely, and Smith proves he can be good so long as he eschews casting that plays off his appearance (he looks like DiCaprio the same way that Shark Attack 3’s John Barrowman looks like Tom Cruise.)
However, My Bloody Valentine 3D ’s aces in the mine shaft are horror vet Tom Atkins (Escape from New York is currently on in the background by pure coincidence) and character actor extraordinaire Kevin Tighe (Emergency roots go deep, but check out his work for John Sayles in Eight Men Out and City of Hope). They play a pair of town elders who share a secret that refuses to stay buried, and it’s a very pleasant surprise to see so much of the film given over to actors with the muscle to carry it.


Lionsgate’s My Bloody Valentine Blu-Ray comes equipped with separate 1080p versions of the film – flat 2D and 3D – plus a generous set of 4 glasses. Unfortunately, the technology that made the theatrical experience so special doesn’t yet translate to home video, so it’s back to the old fashioned red/blue cardboard glasses and the accompanying loss of image fidelity. With the clarity of the Blu-Ray, a dark room, and with a large enough display, there are some very effective sequences.
Oddly, the opening credits were one of the better-translating bits, but generally it’s the darker scenes that work best, as too much color makes the image distortion worse. The 2D version is a perfectly lovely HD transfer, with an excellent, detailed image that we would recommend viewing first if you haven’t yet seen the film. Keep a mental checklist of standout moments and then go back and watch a condensed 3D version.
The disc comes with the usual making-of EPK material, a selection of deleted and extended scenes (mostly the latter), an alternate ending that isn’t all that alternate, a brief gag reel, and the goofy-fun theatrical trailer. The best extra is the commentary track with Lussier and writer Todd Farmer (who can be glimpsed in the film as the trucker with a penchant for homemade sex tapes) – they strike a nice balance between the fun and informative. A second disc is included that contains a 2D digital copy of the film.

  • What must the original film’s director, George Mihalka have thought when he saw the unholy bloodbath that the remake managed to get away with?!? Not that we mind in the slightest, but there’s more gore in the first 10 minutes of My Bloody Valentine 3D than in the 10 tandem viewings of the original. This poor guy gets crucified by the MPAA for the sins of others, and now he witnesses this? Lionsgate didn’t even need to issue the remake in an “Unrated Version” because there wasn’t any more gore to put in!


One-Eyed Monster – Capsule Review

one_eyed_monsterRon Jeremy’s –  ah, um, shall we say “private part”? – is possessed by an alien life force, and goes around slaughtering a cabin-full of porn actors. Annnnnnnd… we’re running a little late, folks. Drive safely and have a good night!

It’s a satire, sure, and not reluctant to go for any of the easy gags (one character studying a victim’s punctured cranium: “Now that’s what I call giving head!”). But where lazier directors would have just left it at that, director Adam Fields (who co-scripted with his brothers Jordan and Scott) apparently has spent enough time watching BUFFY to know how to goose things along with occasional lashes of clever dialogue and a bit of self-aware snap. Add in a cast of mostly legit actors (including Amber Benson and Charles Napier) giving their roles more gravitas than is actually deserved, plus a handful porn luminaries (the esteemed Mr. Jeremy, plus Veronica Hart and the unrelated Carmen Hart) bringing some insider verisimilitude to their performances, and you’ve got something that’s not a New American Classic, but remains surprisingly amusing across its run time.
ONE-EYED MONSTER (Liberation Entertainment, 2008; DVD release on April 28, 2009; 83 mins.) Directed by Adam Fields. Cast: Ron Jeremy, Amber Benson, Veronica Hart, Charles Napier, Carmen Hart.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Retrospective Horror Movie Review

It’s not easy being God – just ask Eric Clapton. Quentin Tarantino has achieved iconic status, to the point that it was widely assumed his involvement in this crime-horror hybrid would guarantee blockbuster success. What people forget, however, is that Tarantino has only one blockbuster to his credit (PULP FICTION). Not that artistic achievement should be judged by box office, but it’s not a bad idea ot remember that his name, on its own, is not yet a guaranteed franchise. If we needed any proof of this, the disappointing FROM DUSK TILL DAWN certainly provides it.
Tarantino tries to rework the structural ploy from the Bruce Willis section of PULP, in which a story going in one direction takes an abrupt and outrageous turn; unfortunately, that gambit can’t work in a feature film, when all the trailers and pre-release interviews have told us that this crime melodrama will end up in a lair full of vampires.
The result is that the set up takes too long, because we know what is going to happen. In fact, the killer on the road sequences end up resembling nothing so much as the most over-extended first act in screen history.

Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium
Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium

What accounts for this miscalculation? One can only assume that it ws to provide more screen time for Quentin Tarantino in his co-starring role. Actually, he acquits himself well enough by mostly standing in the shadow of George Clooney, who proves himself an excellent leading man. Still, one cannot help wishing that some of that screen time had been devoted to more deserving characters who show up later, such as Hayek’s vampire dancer Santanico Pandemonium, who ends up being destroyed far too soon (an unbelievable miscalculation on the part of Tarantino and director Robert Rodriguez).
When we finally get to the vampire striptease club south of the Mexican border, the film immediately jumps to life: it is as if Robert Rodriguez, back on home turf, has finally got a handle on the film. When the first melee occurs, and the characters we have been following find themselves thrust together and fighting for survival with the help of  two complete strangers (ably played by Fred Williamson and Tom Savini, the latter known for his makeup work on DAWN OF THE DEAD), the film briefly realizes some of its full potential.
Alas, no sooner is this new group drawing  together under adverse conditions, than Quentin Tarantino’s script begins dispatching characters left and right, rather than dramatizing the internal conflicts that must inevitably arise under such duress (a la NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD or ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13).
Quentin Tarantino is a real movie-movie talent; that is, much of his cleverness comes from knowing films and filmic expectations and bending them to suit his purpose or re-using familiar material with a win of recognition toward the audience. thus, the appearance of Savini and Williamson is an amusing nod to the cult audience, not because of the characters but because we recognize the actors and associate them with their past accomplishments.
At other times, Tarantino’s script is a bit too clever, setting up interesting ideas that never pay off. For instance, the Gecko brothers are escaping to a lace in Mexico called El Rey – which just happens to be the name of the enigmatic ruler of a south-of-the-border haven for escaped criminals in Jim Thompson novel The Getaway.In the final chapter, (which was omitted from both film adaptations), the escaped robbers find themselves in a criminal sanctuary that is little better than Hell on Earth (“You tell yourself it is a bad dream. You tell yourself you have died…and have waked up in Hell.”) One might, therefore, expect the sanctuary in DUSK TO be similarly revealed as no safe haven at all and that Seth Gecko, through his confrontation with tangible evil in the Titty Twister Bar, would change his ways, choose not to go to El Rey, and thus avoid a horrible fate. Instead, the idea is abandoned. As with everything else in the film, Quentin Tarantino seems almost frantic to throw away potentially good material in favor of impaling a few more hearts and exploding a few more bodies.
Tarantino, Hayek, Clooney
Tarantino, Hayek, Clooney

Sitting in the director’s chair, Robert Rodriguez does an adequate job of filming the gobs of gore, but for some reason the action lacks the balletic intensity of DESPERADO – the stylistic verb that invites sympathetic viewers to forgive the story deficiencies. and simply surrender to the excitement of the on-screen carnage.
Whereas one might reasonably have expected that the combo of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez would yield a critical mass of nuclear proportions, instead of an atomic fireball’s worth of entertainment, we get a long fuse, quite a bit of fizzle, and a rather minor blast. It is a shame to see so much good talent giving such low-yield results.
FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996). Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Written by Quentin Tarantino. Cast: George Clooney, Quentin Tarantino, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek, John Saxon.

Copyright 1996 by Steve Biodrowski. This review originally appeared in the June 1996 issue of Cinefantastique (Volume 27, Number 10).

Two Evil Eyes (1990) – Blu-ray Review

This is strange entry in the careers of George A Romero and Dario Argento, as fans expecting an anthology along the lines of Creepshow were instead given essentially 2 almost completely unrelated hour-long features based on stories by Edgar Allen Poe. Romero’s episode is about a wealthy patriarch who dies while under hypnosis; his gold-digging wife (Adrienne Barbeau giving one of her best performances) hides the body in the cellar until the estate can be settled. You needn’t have read Poe’s “The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar” to guess what happens next. We actually think this is one of Romero’s better films from this period, without the amateurish acting that occasionally plagues his efforts.
Argento’s effort is based on Poe’s “The Black Cat” and stars Harvey Keitel as Rod Usher , a crime scene photographer who kills his girlfriend’s black cat, photographing it at the point of death. Once she discovers the nightmarish photos in Rod’s just-published book, she confronts him, they struggle, and he kills her – but this is still a Poe story, and walling up a dead body isn’t always the best method of disposal. Unfortunately, this film falls in line with Argento’s other weak efforts from the period, including the Pittsburgh-filmed Trauma from 1993. Even with Argento’s trademark visual flair, the film seems much more slowly paced than Romero’s segment when the opposite ought to be true; even with the limited running time the film drags as we are left too long in the company of Keitel’s Usher character, an utterly unlikeable bastard who illicit zero sympathy. The heavy-handed gore (courtesy of Tom Savini) also seems forced – more like a contractual obligation than artistic method.
Like Blue Underground’s previous HD efforts, this Blu-Ray disc is gorgeous, bringing out excellent color and detail (though still limited by the occasionally rough source material – this wasn’t a lushly budgeted film). The extras replicate BU’s previous edition, including the documentary “Two Masters’ Eyes,” featuring interviews with both filmmakers.

Laserblast: After Dark Horrorfest on DVD

Lots of stuff science fiction, fantasy, and horror arrives on home video this week: a package of “eight films to die for,” a fantasy-comedy starring Adam Sandler, a scary time-travel thriller from Spain, plus some old titles making their debut on Blu-ray or DVD. Continue at your peril…
When it made its debut in November 2006, the After Dark Horrorfest was a sleeper success, built around a brilliant marketing concept: Take eight unknown independent horror films, package them together as a nationwide film fest, advertise them as being too intense to earn mainstream distribution, andput them in a few dozen theatres in major markets around the country for one weekend. The initial result was a $2.3-million opening weekend, good enough to edge into the bottom of the nationwide Box Office Top Ten – quite an achievement in an age when most low-budget horror films are lucky to get so much as a midnight movie screening on the way to home video. Unfortunately, the concept was higher than the quality of some of the films, leaving many viewers disappointed. Consequently, the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest generated less interest the following November, and its box office results fell below $1-million ($874,635, to be precise). After sitting out 2008, the fest returned this January, with less promotion, fewer theatres, and even more greatly reduced box office returns: $66,456.
In a way, the diminished box office does not matter. At this point the theatrical exposure is for promotional purposes – boosting the home video sales above what can be achieved with strictly direct-to-video fare. Thus, the current crop of “Eight Films to Die For” arrive on DVD today with as much fanfare as greeted their theatrical run. The quality of the films is still inconsistent, which makes them better fodder for home viewing (preferably renting rather than buying), so that you don’t waste both the price of a ticket and a trip to a movie theatre. Below is a rundown of titles (links lead to longer reviews):

  • Autopsy. A graphic gorefest somewhat enriched by the presence of Robert Patrick. It has a few moments, but it embraces the cult film aesthetic (or lack thereof) far too cheerfully to be considered anything like “good.” DVD special features include  an Alternate Ending; Commentary with director-writer Adam Gierasch, writers Jace Anderson and Evan Katza, actors Ross McCall, andproducer Jessica Horowitz; behind-the-scenes featurette. Presented in 5.1 Dobly sound.
  • The Broken is in some ways the best of the lot, thanks to an intriguing premise that goes easy on the bloodshed (except for one misguided moment). Unfortunately, the story is let down by a script that neglects to offer even a tentative explanation for what is happening.
  • The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelation. This is another sequel to the theatrical featuring that about a young man who jumps around in time, trying to avert disaster but only making things worse.
  • Dying Breed. Another warning about what goes wrong when you wander off the beaten path in Australia; in this case, you encounter cannibals. Bonus features: making-of documentary, production trailer.
  • From Within. Reasonably spooky tale of a small town afflicted with a curse leading to a rash of suicides.
  • Perkins 14. A police officer kills in inmate responsible for killing 14 children, but the murder and mayhem does not end there. Bonus features: 10 making-of webisodes.
  • Slaughter. A slow-paced psychological thriller whose highlight is seeing the heroine’s teeth knocked out. Bonus features: “The Making of Slaughter”; deleted scenes.
  • Voices. A Korean thriller based on a comic book series about a young woman who ties to avoid being the next in line in a string of violent killings.

All of the DVDs feature Dolby 5.1 sound and “Miss Horrorfest Webisodes as a bonus feature. There is also an eight-disc box set the packages all of the titles together.
Here are some of the other highlights among this week’s home video releases…
Timecrimes (Magnolia DVD)
This Spanish time-travel thriller earned critical kudos when released to art houses last year. Unusually, it uses the time-travel premise as a jumping off point for generating enough scares to fill a good horror film, as our hero pursues a masked man lurking in the woods, stumbles upon a laboratory experimenting in time travel, steps into the machine to undo the masked man’s deeds, only to discover that the masked man really is…well, we won’t give it away, although you can probably guess. The DVD includes featurettes, short films and deleted scenes as bonus features. Read a review of the film here.
Bedtime Stories (Blu-ray & DVD)
This Adam Sandler film (about an uncle telling bedtime stories that come through) was a hit in theatres last year. It arrives on home video in three different versions: a single-disc DVD, a two-disc DVD (+Disneyfile); and a three-disc Blu-ray & DVD combo (including a digital copy). DVD bonus features include a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and two featurettes. The Blu-ray ports these over, adding BD-Liveas the only exclusive Blu-ray bonus feature. [NOTE: originally announced these discs for release on March 31, then changed the date to April 5 for the Blu-ray and April 7 for the DVDs.].]
Two Evil Eyes (Blue Underground Blu-ray)
This is the 1990 collaboration between George Romero and Dario Argento, consisting of two films based on stories by Poe. At the time, it seemed like two-thirds of an unofficial remake of Roger Corman’s TALES OF TERROR; now it looks more like a precursor to GRINDHOUSE and MASTERS OF HORROR. Like Blue Underground’s previous HD efforts, this Blu-Ray disc is gorgeous, bringing out excellent color and detail (though still limited by the occasionally rough source material – this wasn’t a lushly budgeted film). The extras replicate BU’s previous edition, including the documentary Two Masters’ Eyes featuring interviews withboth filmmakers. Blu-ray review here.
Cat in the Brain (Grindhouse DVD)
Regarded as Lucio Fulci’s 8½, this is a late-career film for a director whose best days were behind him. We’ve no complaints about Grindhouse’s new 2-disc edition, however. The image is taken from a new HD master andlooks remarkably good (having previously been consigned to the domain of the gray-market). If features both English and Italian audio options (though the majority of the language spoken before the camera appears to have been English). Extras include a long-form interview with Fulci (filmed just prior to his death in 1996) and footage of his only appearance at a stateside horror convention in 1996, another long-form interview with actor Brett Halsey, numerous trailers for other Grindhouse releases, and a more substantial-than-usual insert featuring remembrances from Lucio’s daughter, Antonella, David J Schow, and Eli Roth.  DVD reviewed here.
The Sinful Dwarf (Severin DVD)
Purportedly restored from a rare 35mm print “discovered in a janitor’s closet at the Danish Film Institute”, Severin’s DVD release proves that the well of Euro sleaze is indeed bottomless. As the filmmakers and actors have either passed away or successfully distanced themselves from the project, the DVD’s only extra is a humorous short produced by Severin that focuses on a couple petitioning Severinnot to release the film because of the negative effect it had on their lives after seeing it in a theater. The image itself is full-frame and in better shape than it probably deserves to be. DVD reviewed here.
The week’s other sci-fi, fantasy, and horror DVD and Blu-ray releases include:

  • The Matrix– 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Book
  • Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick – Blu-ray double pack of the unrated director’s cuts of both Riddick movies starring Vin Diesel
  • Ghosts of Mars – the John Carpenter film, now out on Blu-ray.

Drew Fitzpatrick contributed to this article.