HELLRAISER's Ashley Laurence: The CFQ Interview, Ep. 104

Ashley Laurence in the clutches of a Cenobite in HELLRAISER.
Ashley Laurence in the clutches of a Cenobite in HELLRAISER.

It’s not easy playing the ingénue in the psycho-sexual farrago that is Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER — one has to maintain one’s humanity while being pursued by your demonic, hell-bent-for-incest uncle (masquerading as your father!) and courted by the sadomasochistic nightmares that are the Cenobites. Ashley Laurence pulled it off, and established herself as a supreme scream queen, following up with appearances in the HELLRAISER sequels as well a numerous genre and non-genre productions.
We were able to speak with Ashley on the occasion of the release of make-up effects artist Robert Hall’s semi-autobiographical drama, LIGHTNING BUG, in which Ms. Laurence plays the damaged mother of the film’s teen protagonist, a boy who dreams only of escaping life in his dead-end Southern town to make monsters in Hollywood. Click on the player to hear the show.


Barker Disowns 'Hellraiser: Revelations'—Trailer

On his Twitter feed author Clive Barker let his feelings about Dimension Extreme’s HELLRAISER: REVELATIONS be known.  And he wasn’t pulling any punches.

It seems REVELATIONS was made to keep the film rights intact, and from possibly reverting to Barker, who signed away the rights to the characters and storyline from his story The Hell-Bound Heart when he made the deal to direct the first HELLRAISER film.
This is the first HELLRAISER to have an actor other than Doug Bradley play the daemonic Pinhead character.  His replacement, Stephan Smith Collins,  doesn’t seem particularly impressive in the role,  jugding from the equally underwhelming trailer. Apprently there’s also a “Psuedo-Pinhead” in the film, a new recruit to the Cenobites.
Perhaps the finished product will be more to fans of the original’s tastes. Or not.
HELLRAISER: REVELATIOS is set to be released direct-to-video October 18th, directed by Victor Garcia from a script by Gary Tunnicliffe.

Laserblast: Quarantine, Midnight Meat Train, Feast III

Home video offerings this week are small but varied: a couple of recent theatrical releases, some DTV titles, and a few oldies hauled out of the moth balls…
Quarantine (Sony DVD & Blu-Ray)
We haven’t seen Sony’s remake of the chilling Spanish [REC], but early reports had the plot closely following Jaume Balaguero’s 2007 film. We follow a television reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) on a fluff assignment to document a typical night at a local fire station. When a 911 call comes in from an apartment building where residents report screaming from an upstairs apartment, she tags along with the paramedics to the scene. Now, if you’re at all familiar with the original, you know that things start to go very, very bad not long after they arrive at the building; reactions to Quarantine have been mixed, and it’s likely that your enjoyment of the film will be enhanced in direct opposition to how much you know about the plot going in. It suffices to say that what follows in both films owes an enormous thematic debt to Romero’s living dead films and a stylistic one to The Blair Witch Project, as the entire story is told through the lens of the news crew’s camera. While Romero stumbled badly in his attempt to use the ‘found footage’ device with the unbearably stiff and embarrassingly un-amusing Diary of the Dead, [REC] managed to get to the heart of what made Blair Witch so effective back in 1999 (and Cannibal Holocaust before that). Unfortunately, Quarantine’s Spanish forbearer is only available as a pricey import DVD, and while we’re not suited to either damn or recommend the remake, we weren’t pleased by the report by Joshua Zyber’s High-Def Digest review noting that neither the director nor producer-writer of Quarantine saw fit to even mention the original on the commentary track. Not the classiest of moves… Read CFQ’s review of Quarantine here.
Midnight Meat Train (Lionsgate DVD & Blu-Ray)
Based on a story from the revered Books of Blood series by Clive Barker – actually the first story from the first volume – Midnight Meat Train was supposed to have been given a much more ‘red carpet’ theatrical release than it wound up with. A regime change at Lionsgate knocked MMT out of a wide theatrical release and into what amounts to little more than a handful of contractually obligated screens prior to a dump on DVD and Blu-Ray this week. It would be great to be able to champion the film without reservation, but it has a host of problems all its own that threaten to upturn several very effective moments. Read full review here.
Feast III: The Happy Finish (Dimension Extreme DVD)
We really, really weren’t fond of the original Feast, the subject of the third and final season of Project Greenlight. Even though the director, John Gulager, seems a pleasant sort (and can wrangle the efforts of his father, the estimable character actor Clu Gulager to appear), the finished product oozed the worst sort of self-reflexive, Tarantino-inspired smarminess that somehow manages to pass as horror post-modernism. The simple story of a rough ‘n tumble bar in the middle of nowhere where a disparate group of patrons face off against an onslaught of man-eating monsters would have been so much better off had it just had the courage of its convictions and went for a more straightforward approach, instead of leaning heavily on winking and nudging. The good news is that one only need to watch the character “introductions” early in the film that literally spell out their stereotype and give each a life expectancy meter – see, it’s not lazy writing as long as you make fun of it – to know whether the rest of the show is worth your time. We haven’t seen either of the two sequels (both helmed by Gulager) and acknowledge that both could be an improvement on the original. Extras include a director’s audio commentary and a featurette on Gulager.
When Time Ran Out (Warner Bros DVD)
After Paul Newman’s death last September, someone at Warner Bros decided to comb through their catalog and release any remaining Newman films that they owned the rights to. Unfortunately, their previous box set, The Paul Newman Collection, managed to skim most of the cream off the top with titles like Harper, The Young Philadelphians, and Somebody Up There Likes Me, leaving the brothers Warner with a quintet of all-but forgotten films that the studio hasn’t even bothered to gather in a box set. Christened with a “Paul Newman Film Series” banner across the packaging, we get the stilted The Helen Morgan Story in which Newman has only an uncomfortable supporting role, the gorgeous-looking but dramatically inert The Silver Chalice, and Martin Ritt’s Rashomon remake set in the old west, The Outrage, featuring Newman stretching nearly past believability as a Mexican bandito. The best film of the bunch, Rachel, Rachel is actually a showcase for Joanne Woodward that was only directed by Newman, leaving us with a film that Newman himself has derided as one of the few that he actually regrets making (and made only a year after the determinedly unwatchable Quintet), Irwin Allen’s When Time Ran Out. Although made in 1980 – long after the golden age of the disaster film peaked with The Towering Inferno in 1974 – WTRO looks like a much older film; as the language of cinema grew up around him, producer Allen was still stuck in the ’60s, with flat lighting, sets, and effects that wouldn’t seem out of place on an episode of Time Tunnel. WTRO blazes new ground in the bare bones release department – no special features, no chapter selections, not even a trailer. The only choice on the main menu screen other than “Play Movie” is “Languages”, from which you can choose only “English”. Read the complete review here.
This week’s other home video releases include Bluray discs of FREDDY VS. JASON and SEED OF CHUCKY, and DVDS of  THE REAL ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY QUEST and ALIEN RAIDERS. The last of these (about an apparent armed robbery in a supermarket that turns into a tale of alien invasion) took home the Best Thiller Feature Film Award at last year’s Shriekfest film festival. You can read a review of the film here.

You can purchase this week’s releases below, or find more in the Cinefantastique Online Store.

Midnight Meat Train pulls into the home video station : Blu-ray Review

Based on a story from the revered Books of Blood series by Clive Barker – actually the first story from the first volume – Midnight Meat Train was supposed to have been given a much more ‘red carpet’ theatrical release than it wound up with. A regime change at Lionsgate knocked MMT out of a wide theatrical release and into what amounts to little more than a handful of contractually obligated screens prior to a dump on DVD and Blu-Ray this week. It would be great to be able to champion the film without reservation, but it has a host of problems all its own that threaten to upturn several very effective moments.
Freelance photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper, resembling the love child of Josh Lucas and Ralph Finnes) attempts to “really capture the city” with a series of artistic photographs in order to impress gallery owner Susan (Brooke Shields in a truly dazzling bit of WTF casting) into a showing of his work. He ventures down into the Metro system of an unnamed American city and shoots the near sexual assault of a young model before chasing the attackers away. Later he learns that the young woman has been reported missing and that he was the last person to see her boarding a train. Intrigued, Leon begins hanging around the station and spots a large, formally dressed man carrying a leather bag (Vinnie Jones) who he begins to suspect may be responsible for not just the model’s disappearance, but many others going back almost a century. In spite of the warnings of girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb), Leon becomes obsessed with the man, following him to work at a slaughterhouse, and finally witnessing him brutally murdering passengers on a late night train – butchering them, almost as if for food…
Barker’s original short story was exemplary in its brevity, like much of the work in the Books of Blood volumes – short, sharp, visceral horror tales that blew the cobwebs off much that passed for literary horror in the ’80s. “Midnight Meat Train” would have made for a perfect episode of Masters of Horror, but the story can’t quite bear being stretched to 102 minutes and nearly collapses under its own length.
The film wants to create the atmosphere of a city in the grips of a fearful serial killer, yet Leon seems to be the only one noticing the staggering death toll associated with the subway system.  It’s a shame that director Ryuhei Kitamura didn’t think to better exploit the claustrophobic atmosphere of a subway car; the limited locations (Leon’s apartment, Maya’s diner, and Susan’s gallery) don’t offer much in the way of a comparative reality – just a fashionably dreary world of which the meat train is yet another, more deadly element. At least Barker’s story had a somewhat interesting “why” to end the story with, one that owes a small debt to Gary Sherman’s superb subway thriller Deathline, though Midnight Meat Train’s monsters were smart enough to have their meals catered.
It’s also more than a little depressing to see the energy exerted in setting up Mahogany (the killer’s name, which I didn’t learn until the supplemental section) as a next-gen Pinhead or Candyman, a new horror avatar with a signature weapon to sprout DTV sequels for the next decade. However, the silver-metallic sheen of the subway sequences are visually striking (and a welcome respite from the underlit stalking that populate most horror shows), and Jones makes for a physically imposing figure, visually striking in a wonderfully out-of-fashion suit. Watching him calmly walk up behind his victims and brutally pound them with a massive meat hammer creates a horrifically indelible image. We were also pleased to see Roger Bart (memorable in Eli Roth’s Hostel 2) and genre favorite Ted Raimi in supporting roles.
Lionsgate offers up the “unrated” version for Blu-Ray and DVD, adding some outlandish bits of gore, most of which is, unfortunately, rendered in unconvincing CGI – a crutch that too many horror films have been leaning on of late. The Blu-Ray image offers a very pleasing amount of clarity and detail, while some of the drearier locations can appear murky on SD DVD. The image can also appear excessively grainy during indoor scenes, of which this movie is nothing but. Both feature an identical set of special features, including a commentary track featuring Barker and Kitamura, the usual EPK-style featurettes, and a slightly longer docu on Barker himself, focusing mostly on his passion for painting (and for those wondering about the author’s health, his raspy voice has apparently been the result of polyps in his throat, a condition the he discusses in brief here). Midnight Meat Train is certainly worth a rental, and is a good shade more interesting than most of the derivative junk that washes up week after week on home video, but beware the tendency to rally support around pictures merely because they were ill-treated by their studio.

Midnight Meat Train arrives on May 16

MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN is a filmic adaptation based on the Clive Barker story of the same name (which appears in the first volume of his “Books of Blood” series). Director Ryuhei Kitamaura (who practically exploded with screen with far-out monster action in GODZILLA: FINAL WARS) is the director, so I can only imagine that the film will be one wild ride.

Hopefully, the screenwriters have figured out a good way to develop the short story into a feature. Barker’s tale really just builds up to an awful revelation (the protagonist is forcibly recruited by monstrous cannibals living in the subway) and leaves the reader reeling from the blow. It’s pretty effective, but a film will need a second and a third act that can dramatically resolve the situation without feeling like an anti-climax. Here’s hoping…

Hellraiser 20th anniversary DVD

Anchor Bay Entertainment plans to open the Lamont Configuration on October 23, unleashing a 20th anniversary edtion DVD of Clive Barker’s HELLRAISER, the film that introduced Pinhead into the pantheon of movie monsters. Although the film has previously been released on disc, Anchor Bay promises to add some new bonus features on top of the ones you have already seen. Their disc will include:

  • ‘Mr. Cotton, I Presume?’ – An Interview with Star Andrew Robinson – NEW
  • Actress From Hell – An Interview with Star Ashley Laurence – NEW
  • Hellcomposer – An Interview with Composer Christopher Young – NEW
  • Hellraiser:  Resurrection
  • Under The Skin – Doug Bradley on Hellraiser – NEW
  • Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Clive Barker and Star Ashley Laurence, moderated by Screenwriter Peter Atkins
  • Domestic and International Trailers
  • TV Spots –  NEW
  • Still Galleries – Behind The Scenes, Make-Up & SFX Photos, Promotional Materials, Storyboards
  • First Draft and Final Draft Screenplays
  • (DVD-ROM) – NEW
  • Also, be on the lookout for a special Hellraiser Easter Egg! Only don’t open the puzzle box by mistake!