Sunday, April 30, 2017

This is Not What I Expected (2017)

Director: Derek Hui
Notable Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhou Dongyu, Ming Xi, Tony Yang

Food lovers are transported to the best interpretation of 'food heaven' yet as This is Not What I Expected takes the potential erotics of food (visually speaking) and cranks them up to be the most eye-pleasing series of close-ups and slow-motion preparation shots of all time, in cinematic history, period. Now that may be up for debate, and is perhaps a strong opinion to throw out into the wild upfront, but it is what I stand by, just like the confidence of Kaneshiro's masterful critique of said cuisine.

Brimstone (2017)

Director: Martin Koolhoven
Notable Cast: Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce, Kit Harington, Carice van Houten, Emilia Jones, Jack Roth, Jack Hollington, Paul Anderson, Carla Juri, Vera Vitali, William Houston, Bill Tangradi

It’s almost unfair to call Brimstone a horror or western simply because this is a film that refuses to succumb to the tropes of any one genre. On the surface, yes, it’s about a vicious reverend that seemingly tortures a young woman throughout her life, appearing in increasingly violent and malevolent ways to continue her torment… which certainly sounds like a horror movie set up with a western setting. However, Brimstone uses western motifs, dramatic pacing, horror themed elements of tension and dread, and an approach to its narrative that lifts it above being ‘just another horror movie’ or ‘just another western.’ This is a film that’s meant to be an intense and still often subtle roller coaster of commentary, character study, and cinematic craftsmanship. It succeeds at doing it all and is going to be one of the underdog best films of the year.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Three Brothers (1981)

Director: Francesco Rosi
Notable Cast: Phillipe Noiret, Michele Placido, Vittorio Mezzogiorno, Andrea Ferreol, Maddalena Crippa, Rosaria Tafuri, Marta Zoffoli, Tino Schirinzi, Simonetta Stefanelli, Pietro Biondi, Charles Vanel, Accursio Di Leo, Luici Infantino, Girolamo Marzano, Gina Pontrelli

The more artsy avenues of cinema have not necessarily been ones that we transverse here at Blood Brothers, but the recent American releases for Arrow Academy have certainly opened some of those gates. Just in the last few months, we have started to explore the realms of high end Italian cinema after spending years digging through the trenches of their exploitation and genre work. Reviews for films like Cinema Paradiso or a couple new releases from director Elio Petri have kick started this move and the next step is into the works Francesco Rosi. While the director has a few iconic titles under his belt that many cinephiles will recognize, the focus of this review is on the newly released Blu Ray edition of his political and familial drama Three Brothers. Layering a simple plot around the reunion of three very different brothers who return home when their mother passes, Three Brothers is far more than just another family centered drama where the characters have to work out their intricacies. This is a film that works on a variety of layers of character focus and various commentaries. It’s easy to see why it was nominated for an Oscar the year it came out.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Django, Prepare a Coffin (1968)

Director: Ferdinando Baldi
Notable Cast: Terence Hill, Horst Frank, George Eastman, Jose Torres, Bruna Simionato, Pinuccio Ardia, Guido Lollobrigida

The explosion of Django films in the 1960s is almost laughable. Everyone and their grandmother was trying to capitalize on the success of the original Django and the amount of poor and mediocre Django films can be daunting for someone diving in for the first time. I know because I just recently started my journey into Django-sploitation. Fortunately, there are a handful of guides and people out there to help and it was from these handy chaperons that the film Django, Prepare a Coffin first came to my attention. As if on queue, it wasn’t long after that Arrow Video announced the US release of Django, Prepare a Coffin for a Blu Ray release. While not an official sequel, I’m glad that this one got a nice release because it’s one of the few Django films I’ve seen deserving to be placed next to the original on my shelf. It’s cohesive in its approach, adamantly trying its best to feel and continue on the story of the hero it’s based on, and it’s a solid blend of entertaining spaghetti western and thoughtful storytelling. Prepare a Coffin is definitely one of my favorites to feature this character.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Love and Other Cults (2017)

Director: Eiji Uchida

Notable Cast: Sairi Itoh, Kenta Suga, Kaito Yoshimura, Hanae Kan, Ami Tomite, Antony, Hana Matsumoto, Nanami Kawakami, Katsuya Maiguma, Matthew Chozick, Taro Yabe, Yoshimasa Kando, Denden

Eiji Uchida has become a household name with indie distributor Third Window Films, leading the company to jump into the production world 100% on their own with Lowlife Love. With the surprise success of said project, Adam (TWF) and Eiji have teamed up once again for another crazy and wonderful production... Love and Other Cults.

Ai is a girl who is budding into a young woman, but the world she inhabits seems to vehemently reject her existence, and she finds herself hopping about various groups of living, seemingly absorbing herself in blend as a chameleon, only to shortly thereafter continue that hop. Along the way she meets some interesting characters, all nasty in a certain sense, but as the story unfolds, so do the reasons behind these characters brokenness.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Caltiki, the Immortal Monster (1959)

Directors: Riccardo Freda, Mario Bava (uncredited)
Notable Cast: John Merivale, Didi Sullivan, Gerard Haerter, GR Stuart, Victor Andree, Daniel Vargas, Arthur Dominick, Black Bernard, Rex Wood

Outside of the name Mario Bava being included on the front artwork, my knowledge of Caltiki, the Immortal Monster was pretty limited. The name has popped up a few times during my work on some other Mario Bava reviews, however, there wasn’t any indication that it was a film that would eventually be getting the pristine Arrow Video treatment. Now that it has, it’s easy to see why there would be a cult fan base for this film. For one, it’s co-directed (uncredited and from various sources described as fully directed) by the prestigious Mario Bava and his fan base seems to only grow larger and more ferocious with each passing year. The film certainly shows a lot of his trademarks and Gothic tones he would use in his solo work in a handful of years. Secondly, Caltiki is the Italian version of the classic 1950s monster movie and could easily fall right into the same categories as many of the Hollywood or Japanese films from the same period. Thus, fans of Bava or the 50s monster flicks are going to want to seek out Caltiki no matter how effective the film is as being either.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Dead or Alive 2: Birds (2000)

Director: Takashi Miike

Notable Cast: Show Aikawa, Riki Takeuchi, Noriko Aota, Edison Chen, Kenichi Endo

If a person were to judge the direction of Dead or Alive 2: Birds by the finale of Dead or Alive, then you wouldn’t be too much off the mark in the outrageous tone that it uses. However, the mistake in that line of thinking comes from believing that Dead or Alive 2 is a sequel to Dead or Alive at all. Outside of the title, being directed by Takashi Miike, and starring the same two leads, there is no actual story element or character that connects the two films. There are a few thematic elements that could be seen as carrying over, but they are some of the same elements that one sees in a lot of Miike films. Even with no connection, Dead or Alive 2 might just have the edge on its predecessor by embracing a lot of the quirky elements of its story and characters and delivering a phenomenal third act worthy of the Miike brand. It’s a strange film that doesn’t always feel cohesive, but that doesn’t stop it from hitting a lot of amazing moments with pizzazz.

Assassin, The (1961)

Director: Elio Petri
Notable Cast: Marcello Mastroianni, Micheline Presle, Cristina Gajoni, Salvo Randone, Marco Mariani, Franco Ressel, Giovanna Gagliardo, Paolo Panelli, Toni Ucci

As the second film from director Elio Petri that we are reviewing this month, The Assassin is also his debut and it’s a doozy. Playing out like a kind of murder mystery with noir elements, the film is not nearly as upfront with its layered commentary as the other film we just reviewed (the very awesome Property Is No Longer a Theft), but the effective way that it unravels its story in a leaping structure and the crisp manner that the film builds into its third act makes it one that we cannot recommend enough. It may not be the most original film out there, but the execution is immaculate and this Arrow Academy release belongs in any self-respecting cinephile’s collection.

Friday, April 21, 2017

The Mayor (2017)

Director: Park In-je
Notable Cast: Choi Min-sik, Kwak Do-won, Sim Eun-kyeong, Ra Mi-ran, Moon So-ri

Choi Min-sik is an actor whom I can always follow no matter the choices he makes as whether the film he is in is good or not and he always delivers. In The Mayor, Choi not only lives up to his wonderful reputation, but he gives one of the finest performances of his career yet.

The Mayor is a political thriller loaded with twists and turns at every corner. Choi Min-sik plays Byun Jong-go, the mayor of Seoul, who is running for a third term, and if elected he will be the first in the history of South Korea to do so. In his opposition is Yang Jin-joo, played effectively by Ra Mi-ran, a rough contender in the race to the top in what folds out in a total war.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Property Is No Longer a Theft (1973)

Director: Elio Petri
Notable Cast: Ugo Tognazzi, Flavio Bucci, Daria Nicolodi, Salvo Randone, Mario Scaccia

Property Is No Longer a Theft is the kind of film that I had to chew on for quite some time before putting a single word down about it. Part of this is because the film defies the limits of the genres that it fringes on, never settling on one to be the focus and instead existing in the blurred spectrum of definition. The other part is that the film is odd in its execution. It’s a film where themes and focuses between characters and plot seemingly float in and out leaving far more questions about what the intent of the film was and its commentary than anything else. It’s a lot to chew on. It’s no wonder that Arrow Academy decided to give the film a nice robust home video release. Property Is No Longer a Theft is the kind of artistic film that rests just below the mainstream appeal of a loud cult audience that will stand up for it as years go by, yet it deserves some kind of attention because of its artistic merit. While my initial feelings on the film are mixed, there is mad respect for Arrow Academy to give this film some love and dedicated cinephiles should most certainly experience it for themselves to see how they feel about the entire thing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Black Rose (2017)

Director: Alexander Nevsky

Notable Cast: Alexander Nevsky, Kristanna Loken, Adrian Paul, Robert Davi, Matthias Hues, Emmanuil Vitorgan, Robert Madrid, Oksana Sidorenko

As a cinema fan for most things foreign, I find myself perplexed by the Russian film industry and eager to find out more about it. When the chance came up to be able to review the Russian/US film Black Rose, one that I had heard about a few years ago at first, I was excited to jump in and see what it had to offer. In a strange twist of fate, Black Rose attempts to replicate a Hollywood style by having some of the tones and feel of an early 90s action thriller instead of a film that uses its Russian ties to deliver a more diverse experience. Perhaps this is a way for Alexander Nevsky, who directs and stars in the film, to break ground with western audiences which has yet to really happen with his career, but it’s also makes for a watch that follows the formula a tad too closely. Still, there is plenty of things to enjoy about Black Rose and for fans of low budget cinema it’s a film worth seeing.

Sadako vs Kayako (2016)

Director: Koji Shiraishi

Notable Cast: Mizuki Yamamoto, Tina Tamashiro, Aimi Satsukawa, Masahiro Komoto, Masanobu Ando, Mai Kikuchi, Misato Tanaka

Crossover films are very divisive by nature, and cause a ruckus among the representatives of each side of the franchises coming together. I actually don't get excited for these joining of properties, as I don't find myself in the fandom of the subjects usually, but in this case, I love both of these Japanese cinema icons and their respective franchises, Ringu and Ju-On.

Sadako vs Kayako, as it were, is a Japanese horror fan's wildest dream come true. So many crappy doodles on papers all across the world of The Ring and The Grudge (yeah sorry about that) standing next to each other, has become a thing of reality, and it is as awesome as it is a let down. Get excited, adjusts your expectations accordingly (probably lowering them would help), and get ready for one of the most iconic horror showdowns ever conceived.

Priests, The (2015)

Director: Jang Jae-hyeon

Notable Cast: Kim Yeon-seok, Gang Dong-won, Park So-dam

A film that starts off rather weak and slowly builds its way into something great along the way, The Priests is a film that despite its many flaws, I can say is a great piece of work.

The story is simple... a priest had been exorcising a young schoolgirl of her demons for months and enlists the help of a student as he realizes there are far too strong a forces within her. That's pretty much it, plot wise, and the film works as more of an entertaining popcorn movie than a thought-provoking horror flick.

Like Father, Like Son (2013)

Director: Hirokazu Koreeda

Notable Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Yoko Maki, Lily Franky, Machiko Ono, Jun Kunimura, Kirin Kiki, Jun Fubuki, Shogen Hwang, Isao Natsuyagi, Keita Ninomiya, Arata Iura, Yuri Nakamura

Concepts like this, which apparently have happened quite a bit in Japan, and I'm sure elsewhere, tend to get predetermined reactions and answers on what people would do in said situation, which is to have your child mistakenly swapped with another set of parents' child. I know exactly how I would react had as much time passed in the situation as it had for this film's sets of parents. You love who you grow with, and suddenly losing that will take a certain toll on you.

Vanished Murderer, The (2015)

Director: Law Chi-leung

Notable Cast: Lau Ching-wan, Jiang Yiyan, Gordon Lam, Rhydian Vaughan, Lulu Li

One of the most disappointing sequels I've ever had the unfortunate pleasure of getting through. I am not sure where to start, so this review may be a bit scattershot, but here we go!

First off, I loved the previous film in this 'Vanish' series, The Bullet Vanishes, but this uninspired sac of crap barely manages to be a cohesive narrative, faltering under its own repetitive mystery that echoes the 1st entry, to the point where you find yourself wanting the film to hurry along and reveal its already exposed self. It is beat for beat similar in too many moments and aspects.

Scandal Makers (2008)

Director: Kang Hyeong-cheol

Notable Cast: Cha Tae-hyun, Park Bo-yeong, Hwang Seok-hyeon, Hwang Woo-seul-hye

A film I've watched at least a dozen times since seeing it a few years back, and each and every time, I find more and more to love about it. While it is pretty predictable, it is so well crafted and confident in its style and comedy, that it more than makes up for its slight predictability.

Sometimes its not about coming up with something new, but rather telling a familiar story, just doing so better and with more gravitas, and this is a borderline master class in doing so. I believe this film to be the definitive family film from Korea.

Boiling Point (1990)

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Notable Cast: Yurei Yanagi, Yuriko Ishida, Takeshi Kitano, Gadarukanaru Taka, Dankan, Makoto Ashikawa

When I initially had watched Boiling Point about a decade ago, I did not like the film whatsoever... and admittedly my understanding of cinema and my growth as a person myself has greatly changed my outlook on what was my least favorite Kitano film back then. I truly believe that Kitano's sophomore effort is a very well made film that deserves to be more sought out by movie goers.

Seoul Station (2016)

Director: Yeon Sang-ho

Notable Cast: Sim Eun-kyeong, Ryoo Seung-ryeong, Lee Joon, Kim Jae-rok

Yeon Sang-ho made an animated zombie feature, alongside his live-action Train to Busan, whose only real connecting factors are the walking dead and a brief return of a character from this animated piece. I really didn't want to spend a lot of time comparing Seoul Station to its speeding train infested companion piece, but alas, it is practically impossible to.

The Game Is Finished, Now You Die: The Phantasm Collection

On April 11th Well Go USA released a very inclusive box set that features all five of the Phantasm films and it’s a doozy. Whether you love or hate the series and/or love or hate specific entries, if you are a horror fanatic or collector than this set is worth the purchase. There are a variety of reasons for this. The box design itself is classy, featuring individual cases for each film with matching covers (or reversible original cover art for those who enjoy those like myself) and it’s made with high quality material so people don’t necessarily have to worry too much about it being damaged quickly as you pull out the films time and time again to revisit them.

The Phantasm Collection also features the new remastered and restored versions of all five films and a variety of great special features on each disc (including a feature length documentary on each film that features so many interviews and segments that any Phans out there will be drooling over it), but this boxset hits all the right notes for those looking to add them to their collection. Not to mention it comes with other goodies to add to its value like a companion book, a slick poster of the collection artwork, and bonus disc with hours and hours of more features. Here at Blood Brothers, we did reviews on each of the films individually to coincide with the release of the set (links below) and it’s hard not to be impressed. Both in the physical look of the films and the treatment of the series itself, which is highlighted by Don Coscarelli’s approval of all of it, it’s the boxset to beat in 2017.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Dark Tapes, The (2017)

Directors: Vincent J. Guastini, Michael McQuown

One of the blessings about an anthology film, a subject that seemingly comes up time and time again with the continued popularity of the format, is that a film can cover a lot of ground with little money and give opportunities to a variety of talents. Anthology films do contain some flaws as a whole, balancing the tone or pacing for example, but a great anthology film is something to behold. That’s what makes The Dark Tapes such a fascinating flick. Despite some flaws as a low budget indie flick, it brings a lot of interesting ideas and executions to the table that make it one of those films that wins over its audience with its lofty aspirations more than anything else. While The Dark Tapes may not be one of those films that is going to spark with a more mainstream audience, it’s definitely a film that showcases a lot of talent for a low budget horror anthology. A fact that should have the attention of horror fans looking for the next underground cult film.

Punching Henry (2017)

Director: Gregori Viens
Notable Cast: Henry Phillips, Tig Notaro, Jim Jefferies, JK Simmons, Sarah Silverman, Doug Stanhope, Mark Cohen, Mike Judge

Ah, the indie comedy. Recently, the indie comedy has been overshadowed by big, loud raunchy comedies that dominate the cinemas and it’s left them to occupy a small niche of the genre. At this point, I’m hardly an expert on comedies and generally avoid most of them on the principal that that I hate being told something is funny rather than finding it as funny. However, after seeing the trailer for Punching Henry I found myself intrigued. A dramatic comedy about the struggles of a touring comedian that covers the development of a group of TV execs wanting to make a dramatic comedy show about the struggles of a touring comedian? It was just meta enough that it could work as both a comedy and a drama and it featured a slew of famous cameos. However, the problem is not in the idea behind Punching Henry, but more along the lines that the film itself isn’t dynamic enough to sell its concept. It’s almost so “indie comedy” in its approach that it trips itself up and fails to fly like it might have. This is the kind of film that will find its cult audience with its premise, which is why it’s being reviewed here, but for the more casual comedy fan it may not strike the usual fancy.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Fate of the Furious, The (2017)

Director: F. Gary Gray
Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren

There are now eight films in the Fast & Furious franchise so I’m not sure a review of the latest entry, The Fate of the Furious, is going to convince people one way or the other to enjoy what it must offer. At this point, either you buy into the entire concept or you don’t. The way that this franchise has embraced its own ridiculousness is kind of brilliant. I’ve said this before about the various sequels that I’ve reviewed for the site and for Fate (which I will refer to as F8 as an example of how it embraces its own outrageousness) is no different. In fact, it might even double down on giving its audience what it wants: over the top characters doing over the top things in over the top situations while blowing up things in over the top manners. In the whole, while I think F8 is not nearly as balanced as the previous handful of outings since the franchise shifted into full on action spectacle, it is a film that once again fires on all cylinders to entertain. Do we really need more than that?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thundering Mantis, The (1980) / Born Invincible (1978)

Director: Teddy Yi Wing-Cho
Notable Cast: Leung Kar-Yan (Beardy), Cheng Feng, Eddy Ko, Wong Yat-Lung, Chin Yuet-Sang, Lee Kwan, Fang Mian, Ma Chin-Ku
Also known as: Thundering Mantis, Mantis Fist Fighter

After seeing Sleeping Fist, it seemed only natural to revisit Thundering Mantis for review. It has the same director and two so the same stars and, generally speaking, I remember it being a better film overall. Those comparisons are legitimate too. The first two-thirds of Thundering Mantis even retain some of the same tone and fun, off the cuff vitality. Beardy plays an arrogant kung fu student who crosses the Jade Horse Gang while trying to prevent them from bullying, but to defeat their boss he will have to go to the older hermit and his trouble making grandson (played once again with the over energetic screen stealing appeal by Wong Yat-lung) to learn Mantis Fist. There are plenty of hijinks along the way as our main hero learns to be more attentive to his friends and it features plenty of strongly choreographed fights and the balance of action to drama to comedy is decent. There is even a sequence where the young kid gets plastered and tries to fight some thugs…so I guess that counts as humor. It falters in a few ways to really establish some secondary characters that could have built up to add to the emotional impact of the film, like his old teacher’s daughter who seems poorly utilized considering she has a fight sequence in the credits. However, the film is efficient in its narrative and has just enough silly slap stick humor and impressive fights to make the more mundane parts of the story entertaining.

Void, The (2017)

Directors: Steven Kostanski, Jeremy Gillespie
Notable Cast: Aaron Poole, Kenneth Welsh, Daniel Fathers, Kathleen Munroe, Ellen Wong, Mik Byskov, Grace Munro, Even Stern, James Millington, Art Hindle, Stephanie Belding, Matt Kennedy

Here at Blood Brothers, we have been fans of the directing and production company Atron-6 since the release of Manborg. Our love for their love of cult genres and their ability to harness the style and pizzazz of films and genres from decades past has made it sure that we never miss one of their films. This group of dedicated cult cinema enthusiasts are now shaking off the shackles of their more comedic and homage tones for their latest film, The Void. While there are certainly elements of the Astron-6 concept here in the film, this is certainly their most serious and perhaps darkest film to date and it’s a phenomenal experience to have. The Void remains a stylistic love letter to the likes of Carpenter, Fulci, Lovecraft, and Gordon, but it also features a wit and modern speed that make it worthy of a 2017 audience.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

Director: Don Coscarelli
Notable Cast: A. Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Bill Thornbury, Bob Ivy, Heidi Marnhout

“Small man, your end approaches, but it is not yet. Take great care how you play. The final game now begins.”

As the Phantasm series continues, each additional entry receives a more mixed reception from both fans and critics. By the time that Phantasm IV: Oblivion was released in the late 90s, the series had already been kicked from theaters to straight to home video and the budget for the fourth film was slashed to just over $600,000. Normally this means that a franchise is terrible, for one reason or another, but in the case of Phantasm it’s because no one seemed to have faith in the series. Even the third film, for all of its poorly developed quirks, is entertaining as hell and it gets a lot of flame from casual fans and critics. Oblivion falls into the same pattern. It’s a unique entry into the series, far more serious than the last two and much more atmospheric, yet many fans dismiss it as a misfire. I, however, will stand beside it. It may not be nearly as fun as the last two or hit quite the right balance of the first, but Oblivion approaches things in a much more atmospheric and surrealistic manner and it makes it memorable and just as strange as its fellow franchise entries. While it's understandable that the budget hurts the film and it might play things a bit too loose with its vague plotting, Oblivion stands out as perhaps the one sequel that attempts to restore the balance between artfulness and entertainment.

Monday, April 10, 2017

House II: The Second Story (1987)

Director: Ethan Wiley

Notable Cast: Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, Royall Dano, Bill Maher, John Ratzenberger, Lar Park Lincoln, Amy Yasbeck, Dwier Brown, Gregory Walcott, Jayne Modean, Lenora May

The entire House franchise is a love it or hate it ordeal depending on your taste in cult cinema. As each one goes, they do get weaker as films, but too often all of the sequels get thrown together as a terrible franchise when that is not necessarily the case. In fact, House II: The Second Story deserves some credit. Firstly, for its brilliant title and secondly, for being a film that’s just so weird and insane that it kind of works. It doesn’t work necessarily on the same level as most films, but it is so ambitious in its comedic and fantasy focus that it’s hard not to love it on a plane that exists only in the cult cinema realm. It’s truly a film that is so bad, it’s good. It takes a certain kind of film fan to enjoy what House II has to offer, but if you’re willing to accept its outrageous attempts at being bigger than it is…then boy, you’re in store for a treat.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

House (1986)

Director: Steve Miner

Notable Cast: William Katt, George Wendt, Richard Moll, Kay Lenz, Mary Stavin, Michael Ensign, Susan French, Erik Silver, Mark Silver, Peter Pitofsky

House is a film that firmly resides under the ‘cult cinema’ tag. Despite being a fantastic blend of horror, humor, and just a hint of heart, House has fallen into one of those categories where fans love it, but it doesn’t actively seek out a new fan base as it goes. This is tragic. The film is a blast. It takes its balance of genre bending to delirious 80s levels of cheese with its wink-wink attitude and fantastic low budget special effects. Yet it goes wildly unseen and underappreciated. Fortunately, cult icon distribution company Arrow Video seems out to change that fact. House is getting a needed restoration for a two film box set (titled House: Two Stories) that features both the original cult classic and its even stranger and more maligned sequel House II: The Second Story. In the UK, the boxset features all four of the films from the series which comes highly recommended too, but here in the US it was still wonderful to see the first two get the much-needed love that they deserve as truly unique and off beat films. In particular, House is a film that needs a lot of reassessment as a true underground 80s classic.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Story of Sin (1975)

Director: Walerian Borowczyk
Notable Cast: Grazyna Dlugolecka, Jerzy Zelnik, Oligierd Lukaxzewicz, Roman Wilhelmi, Marek Walczewski, Karolina Lubienska, Zdzislaw Mrozewski, Miezyslaw Voit, Marek Bargielowski, Jolanta Szemberg
Also Known As: The Story of Sin

Truthfully, I’ve only seen three Walerian Borowczyk films before this and I’ve only enjoyed one, the surrealistic horror flick The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne. When Arrow Academy decided to release his Cannes selected film Story of Sin, I kept my reservations tight. Much to my surprise, being the fourth film I’ve seen of his, Story of Sin is easily my favorite thus far and is completely deserving of the top tier treatment it has been given on this packed Blu Ray release. It’s a film that is not nearly as overzealous in its style as the others I have seen and instead uses it to truly enhance the dramatic story being told. It’s still a film that features this style, but it’s more subdued and impactful rather than over the top which is what makes Story of Sin a more effective film than what I’ve seen previous. As a bonus, this Arrow Academy release is ridiculously loaded with extras for fans of the director or those looking to dig into what he offers and even my hesitation towards him was appeased by the obvious love put into this release.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dead or Alive (1999)

Director: Takashi Miike

Notable Cast: Riki Takeuchi, Show Aikawa, Renji Ishibashi, Hitoshi Ozawa, Shingo Tsurumi, Kaoru Sugita, Dankan, Hirotaro Honda, Michisuke Kashiwaya, Ren Osugi

After releasing the wonderful Blu Ray set of Takashi Miike’s Black Society Trilogy, Arrow Video follows it up with an equally exciting (for fans at least) set of Miike’s Dead or Alive trilogy. Unlike the previous set, this one is not going to be as gloriously praised for its artistic merit, but it might be a set that is just as entertaining and vibrant as one would expect from the director. The first film, titled Dead or Alive like one would assume, is a film that does somewhat fit in the same category as the Black Society Trilogy  when it comes to its themes at least. It’s not nearly as robust in its dramatic heft or razor sharp writing though and occasionally comes off as a bit muddy, particularly when one looks at the odd way it starts and finishes. However, with powerhouse actors in the two lead roles and Miike behind the camera, you know you are in for something a bit off the wall and uniquely unbalanced and for those prepared it’s another wild trip into the world of outcast cops and gangsters that any Miike fan will want to add to their collection.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)

Director: Don Coscarelli

Notable Cast: Reggie Bannister, A. Michael Baldwin, Kevin Conners, Gloria Lynne Henry, Angus Scrimm, Bill Thornbury, Cindy Ambuehl, Brooks Gardner, John Davis Chandler

"Run, dammit! It's all over!"
"It's never over."

The Phantasm franchise is a strange one, entertainingly so, and by the time it reaches this third entry it’s already covered a lot of ground and tones. Horror, suspense, comedy, action, fantasy. You name it and this series covers it. The first two entries are outrageous in different ways so one expects that from the third entry, Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead, but while it hits all of the same tropes and style that fans come to expect from this series, it’s played even more loose and illogical than its predecessors and that can be a detriment. What that does allow Phantasm III to be is an outrageously fun movie, an aspect that always makes me want to come back to the series, and it has earned an increasingly solidified chapter as time goes on for this reason. When the first two entries of a series are as good as Phantasm one and two, it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed though. Keep that in mind and III is still a very enjoyable entry not nearly deserving of some of the hate it receives.

Phantasm II (1988)

Director: Don Coscarelli
Notable Cast: James LeGros, Reggie Bannister, Paula Irvine, Angus Scrimm, Samantha Phillips, Kenneth Tigar

The first Phantasm took a fun and silly horror movie concept and layered it with an interesting and thoughtful approach to give it the nightmare logic and structure to push boundaries. Almost ten years later, the first sequel to this cult classic has no intent with trying to out-artist its predecessor, but instead trims the dream like layering back and delivers a much more exciting, packed to the gills kind of 80s horror experience. Phantasm II is just insane and very, very entertaining in being that way. The film doesn’t present itself as anything particularly clever or smart, but it does take all of the entertaining ideas of the franchise and amp them up to a full fledge screaming ’11.’ Take it with a grain of salt, enjoy it for its bat shit insane plot and moments, and just run with it and Phantasm II is bound to hit all of the right buttons.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Phantasm (1979)

Director: Don Coscarelli
Notable Cast: Michael A. Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Reggie Bannister, Angus Scrimm, Kathy Lester

“This guy’s not going to leak all over my ice cream, is he?”

As a young horror fan, the Phantasm series was always one that sparked my curiosity and the original film, Phantasm, was one that blended the right amount of horror and humor to be entertaining enough to land in regular rotation. Over the years though, the original film was one that I found myself returning to again and again and with each additional viewing I found that it only got better with time. On the surface, it’s a dark comedy littered with stark visuals and creepy atmospheric moments, but it’s effectively layered in regards to how it navigates a series of thematic approaches to its story. With the release of the Phantasm series in a delightful box set from Well Go USA, it was only my pleasure to have a reason to review one of my favorite cult films for the site. On top of that, this new Bad Robot and director approved remastered version of the film is stunningly well done and a treat for fans – or those new to the entire Phantasm universe.