Sunday, June 30, 2019

Annabelle Comes Home (2019)

Director: Gary Dauberman
Notable Cast: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife, Michael Cimino, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Samara Lee

Annabelle Comes Home is a fascinating occurrence. The Conjuring franchise is only two films long and it has inspired five theatrically released spin-offs. The latest is the third of its own franchise and the focus of this review. How many theatrically released films can make that claim? There are many franchises where the spin-off series has more entries than the originator, but most of those are relegated to direct to home video with the Scorpion King/Mummy series being the first to come to mind. Here we are with the latest Conjuring-verse film and while none of the spin-offs have held a candle to the roaring fire of horror quality that is the main films, Annabelle Comes Home, weirdly, might be the best. That’s not saying a whole lot, honestly. Although I am quite the fan of most of the films, the quality of the spin-offs has been middling at best with mediocre scripts uplifted by solid directorial choices. Oddly enough it was the last Annabelle film, Annabelle Creation, that was my favorite of the spin-offs and after seeing Annabelle Comes Home with a packed audience, this one just might top it. Barely.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

American Horror Project Vol. 2 [Dream No Evil, Dark August, The Child] (2019)

Over three years ago, Arrow Video unleashed the first volume of American Horror Project. Three films were selected as representations of obscure or seemingly lost slices of American horror history and they were given the same red-carpet treatment that the label gives all of their cult cinema releases. New restorations, a slew of new features, and a package that put the films on the pedestal they never received. Although the quality of the films could be argued, the love and intriguing choices for the titles were enough to perk the interest of any horror fan looking to expand their collection and dig into the deep cuts.

Now it’s 2019 and Arrow Video is finally releasing the next volume. American Horror Project Vol. 2 once again features three deep cut horror films from the wild wild west of America’s cinematic past. Titles included within this box set are Dream No Evil, Dark August, and The Child. This review will do a brief overview of each title and list the expansive features at the bottom for fans to look over. Rest assured, Arrow has once again unleashed the bells and whistles for this set with brand new 2K restorations, tons of features like film appreciations by author Stephen Thrower and interviews, and brilliant packaging that matches the first set.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The New York Ripper (1982)

Director: Lucio Fulci
Notable Cast: Jack Hedley, Almanta Suska, Howard Ross, Andrea Occhipinti, Alexandra Delli Colli, Paolo Malco, Cinzia de Ponti, Daniela Doria, Cosimo Cinieri

One of the problems about being a critic that focuses on cult and genre cinema is navigating the often overzealous fanbases. There are ravenous fans out there that even refuse to acknowledge the idea that a film (or films) have flaws despite their love for the film. This is fine. An emotional attachment to a film or some part of it is the essence of what makes cinema so fantastic. I love films that don’t deserve my unadorned appreciation. However, as a critic, it becomes problematic when reviewing a film that has an incredibly dedicated fanbase and the film is significantly flawed. Such is the case with Lucio Fulci’s brutal and sleazy giallo-esque The New York Ripper. Although the film has its own rabid fanbase, enough so that Blue Underground felt comfortable enough to re-release the film in a stunning new 3-disc 4K restoration, it’s hardly the perfect film. A patchy script is somewhat reclaimed by Fulci’s intense style and intention to push horror cinema at the time to some new extremes, but it’s a film where some of the bold choices feel awkward. This latest release is a stunner though, so fans of the film will more than likely – if they already haven’t – pick up this Blu Ray for the sheer effort that went into delivering the best version of this film.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Child's Play (2019)

Director: Lars Klevberg
Notable Cast: Gabriel Bateman, Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Brian Tyree Henry, Tim Matheson, David Lewis, Beatrice Kitsos, Ty Consiglio, Carlease Burke, Trent Redekop, Marlon Kazadi

Honestly, the Child’s Play series has always been a favorite of mine. The original terrified me as a kid and growing up with the series through its ups and downs has been a pleasure to follow. When it hits its lows (Child’s Play 3) it bottoms out, but the series has always somehow found a way to reinvent itself in bold and intriguing ways. Enough so that Mancini’s last two entries, Curse and Cult of Chucky respectively, have been two of the best of the franchise and downright fascinating films in their own regards. It’s the love for the franchise and fantastic last couple of entries that lead me to be completely baffled by Orion’s choice with a remake of the original film. The Chucky series isn’t done and the upcoming TV show by Mancini is easily on my top list of awesome things that I am looking forward to in the future. An unnecessary reboot/remake certainly wasn’t something that was also on that list.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Red Peony Gambler 2: Gambler's Obligation (1968)

Director: Norifumi Suzuki
Notable Cast: Junko Fuji, Bin Amatsu, Koji Tsuruta, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Bunta Sugawara, Junpei Arishima, Daisuke Awaji, Shogo Egami, Tatsuo Endo, Michitaro Mizushima, Yuki Shirono

After the impressive debut of Oryu in Red Peony Gambler, the first film of this decently long classic yakuza franchise, there was a sense that it could be all downhill from there. The first film made such a massive impression, through performances and a sly script that added its own thematic weight to the usual ninkyo eiga, that a sequel was bound to disappoint in comparison. Well, maybe not. Red Peony Gamber 2: Gambler's Obligation is, on its own merits, an impressive follow up. The film starts off in a more traditional manner, often doubling down on the tropes of the yakuza film of the time period, but as it moves its way towards its conclusion the film continually picks up speed and delivers a third act that is both incredibly emotional and highly entertaining.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Trapped Alive (1988)

Director: Leszek Burzynski
Notable Cast: Sullivan Hester, Laura Kallison, Mark Witsken, Alex Kubik, Randy Powell, Michael Nash, Elizabeth Kent, Paul Dean, Cameron Mitchell
Also known as: Trapped

‘Never judge a book by its cover’ is an overused phrase that too many people like to spout as if it’s an epiphany to all the questions in life. Still, it’s best to keep that in mind that often times the cover is not representative of the substance inside. Usually, this is a reference to how an ugly cover can hide beautiful content. In the case of Trapped Alive, it’s the opposite. When Arrow Video announced the film, they revealed this badass cover art (which is posted here at the beginning of this review) and I was sold. This just had to be some kind of glorious forgotten 80s slasher gem that I had somehow overlooked. Maybe it was a monster cult flick that deserved a second appraisal in a similar way that I found The Slayer a fun surprise? Unfortunately not. Despite an intriguing premise, Trapped Alive is a relatively slow and generic film that struggles to find its tone as it meanders around its narrative aimlessly for most of its runtime. With the cover art and fantastic set that Arrow Video put together, it’s a wonder if this film deserves the treatment it received.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Blood Brothers is proud to announce that we have struck a questionable deal with the eclectic and controversial director Byron Wilhelm von Belgerstein to be our guest reviewer for a short time here on the site as he preps for filming of his new film The Last Mutation of Christ.

If you would like to help Mr. von Belgerstein out with his latest "passion" project, please check out the Kickstarter for his new film at the link below.

You can also follow him on Twitter for some fantastic ramblings on all things film and all things von Belgerstein.

Without further ado, please enjoy his soon to be iconic review of Jordan Peele's modern horror classic, Us. Thank you.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch (2019)

Directors: Wong Jing, Jason Kwan
Notable Cast: Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Louis Koo Tin-Lok, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Sabrina Qiu Lu-Fan, Willie Wai Kar-Hung, Jason Wong Chung-Fung, Simon Yam, Du Jiang, Candice Yu On-On

One of the most beautiful and baffling things about Hong Kong and more recently Mainland Chinese cinema is their ability to embrace the thematic franchise. A franchise doesn’t need to inherently share characters or plot lines and for the longest time, HK has done it best – expressly in their action franchises. When the first Chasing the Dragon film became a relative success, thanks mostly to a unique performance by Donnie Yen as the villain and Andy Lau to parallel his story, it wasn’t all that shocking that its sequel would be a thematic one. Instead of a drug kingpin in the '70s, Chasing the Dragon II: Wild Wild Bunch tells the ‘based on a true story’ of a '90s kidnapping mogul and the undercover cop set to unravel his massive money-making schemes. Once again, the film is powered on the sheer skill of two brilliant actors, Tony Leung and Louis “I’m in every film” Koo, and the combination of its cast with another easy to consume slab of crime entertainment does have its merits. Wild Wild Bunch is infectiously enjoyable in a way that betrays its obvious mainstream pandering and occasionally overzealous style. Partner that with the scene devouring performances and Wild Wild Bunch is borderline criminal in its entertaining qualities.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Director: Michael Dougherty

Notable Cast: Millie Bobby Brown, Kyle Chandler, Vera Varmiga, Bradley Whitford, Ken Watanabe, Zhang Ziyi, Charles Dance, Sally Hawkins, Thomas Middleditch, Aisha Hinds, O’Shea Jackson, David Strathairn, Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah.

Despite my own extreme excitement for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the film was a wild card. Considering the fall out of audiences after Godzilla 2014 with complaints about “too many people, not enough Godzilla” and the surprise success of Kong: Skull Island, who knew how Warner and Legendary would react to the mixed messages for their follow up in their shared kaiju universe – now deemed the ‘Global Reboot’ series on Toho’s Godzilla website. Intriguingly enough, the studios tripled down on catering to the already established Godzilla fans out there. Not just by adding three more iconic kaiju to the film – Rodan, Mothra, and Monster Zero itself, King Ghidorah, but Michael Dougherty and company deliver probably the biggest and boldest love letter to the 65 years of Godzilla…for better or worse. Godzilla: King of the Monsters is massive. Incredibly massive. It’s also messy. Incredibly messy. However, for all of its flaws, King of the Monsters owns that it’s Godzilla’s Greatest Hits and punches through it with an insane amount of fan service and key moments that will have fans celebrating their own love.

Brightburn (2019)

Director: David Yarovesky

Notable Cast: Jackson A. Dunn, Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner, Steve Agee, Becky Wahlstrom, Emmie Hunter, Stephen Blackehart, Gregory Alan Williams, Michael Rooker

Deconstructing superhero films is not necessarily a new thing, even in this day and age where the big-budget superhero flick dominates the box office with relative ease. Films like Super and Chronicle were easily breaking down the tropes into strange – and very effective – films for a while now. It was only a matter of time where someone decided they needed to make a superhero slasher film. This is where we get Brightburn, spurred on by producer James Gunn through his brother and cousin who wrote the film, which features some decent talent to attempt at tackling this premise. It’s one hell of a premise too. The high concept is readily on display in the film, where a young boy discovers he has the powers of Superman and then decides he needs to use them to destroy/take over the world. It’s almost too good of a premise, really. Thus explaining why the film has some issues taking full advantage of it as both deconstruction and a mainstream release.

Yakuza Law (1969)

Director: Teruo Ishii

Notable Cast: Ryutaro Otomo, Bunta Sugawara, Minoru Oki, Hiroshi Miyauchi, Teruo Yoshida, Renji Ishibashi, Keiko Fujita, Yukie Kagawa, Hisaya Ito, Ichiro Sugai, Yoshiko Fujito

Like most of the of the cult directors from Japan at the time, Teruo Ishii cut his teeth in secondary genre films before getting its big break with the Abashiri Prison series of which he directed the numerical equivalent of a ‘shit ton’ before punching out and doing what he would be known for best – wild and artistic exploitation films. Over the last year, Arrow Video dropped two brilliant new Blu Rays of two of his classics, The Horrors of Malformed Men and Orgies of Edo, for fans to enjoy. To complete the set though, their latest release is for his other anthology film, Yakuza Law. While both of the previously mentioned films will appease fans of exploitation with nightmarish imagery, intense violence, and plenty of erotic elements, Yakuza Law represents a slightly different version of Ishii. Coming out in 1969, this film feels like a bridge between his earlier career in action films and that of his more artistic exploitation era. It’s an anthology of three yakuza stories, all told in a different time period, but the film’s intention to showcase the awful lows of how man treats one another gives the film that intense exploitative violence too. It’s a strangely effective combination that proves to be both perplexing and provocative. A bold combination that will definitely appeal to fans of the Arrow Video distribution line.