Monday, March 28, 2022

A New Move in a Slasher X-orcise: X (2022) Review

Director: Ti West

Notable Cast: Mia Goth, Jenna Ortega, Brittany Snow, Kid Cudi, Martin Henderson, Owen Campbell, Stephen Ure, James Gaylyn


Over the last few years, the slasher has started to make another comeback. I’ve mentioned it a few times in recent reviews, including our coverage of Scream (2022) just a couple of months ago, but it’s a fascinating time for the slasher to be rearing its gory and gimmicky head. Perhaps it’s the reactive way that things swing after a handful of years of slow burn, artsy horror that has dominated the landscape, but nonetheless, here we are once again as slashers regain momentum. 


Of that reactionary stance, perhaps it makes sense that A24 would leap in on it as they continue to be one of the big studios leading the horror charge in theaters, but a slasher seems like it could be outside of their overall style as a studio. Compound that by having writer and director Ti West helm the film X for the studio and it seems like it could be a massive misfire in concept out of the gate. 


Yet, X, the film that brings Ti West and A24 together for the first time, is a wild and offbeat success. It rocks a see-saw teetering balance between the director’s notable slow-burn style and the more entertaining titillations of the genre. It also adds in just enough of that artistic flavor of the studio to snatch the horror fans with an “elevated” taste. It’s strangely effective at what it does and it makes X one of the more effective throwback horror flicks in recent memory. 


Sign the Dotted Line: The Contractor (2022) Review

Director: Tarik Saleh

Notable Cast: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gillian Jacobs, Kiefer Sutherland, Eddie Marsan, Florian Munteanu


As the industry continues to shift in recent years, it’s hard not to lament the loss of certain mid-tier genres in the wake of a spectacle-driven box office. The death of the mid-budget adult-targeted film is well recognized throughout film criticism and industry analysis where many great writers have spoken about it at length so iterating the eulogy here is not the best use of my word usage. With the rise of streaming, however, there seems to be a grasp towards grabbing those genres and reclaiming them for a modern era. 


The Contractor, exemplifies this. 


Although this latest old-school espionage thriller is receiving a small theatrical run this week, its sale to both Showtime and Paramount+ at the same time is indicative of this move. The Contractor is not the spectacle-driven spy flick that Mission: Impossible or James Bond fans might expect, but it is a solid sleeper hit that manages a balance between modern political themes and old-school espionage tension and thrills. It’s not wholly the most thrilling watch, thanks to a very drama-heavy first half, but its dedication to creating realistic characters and then throwing them into the military action shouldn’t be written off as boring either. The Contractor is simply more throw-back tone than anything. It’s utterly refreshing at times.  


Sunday, March 20, 2022

Fight Father, Fight Son: Executioners from Shaolin (1977) Update Review [Shawscope Vol. 1 Box Set]

It’s amazing how much difference a decade makes. Executioners from Shaolin is considered, by fans at least, as one of the best films that the Shaw Brothers catalog and it’s an iconic classic in a variety of other ways. It’s loved for so many reasons and all of them are legitimate. The stars, the action, the story… you name it and there’s a reason why Executioners from Shaolin is considered a cornerstone film of the cornerstone studio. 


Yet, just ten years ago in the early days of Blood Brothers, I wrote a very lukewarm review of the film. It’s not a very well-written review, to be frank, and part of me hates to link it HERE, but it’s important to recognize the flaws of the past. That’s what Executioners from Shaolin teaches us anyway. To learn from the past, make the proper corrections, and move forward to claim justice. 


A few years ago, I was graciously asked to write a new piece on the film for the official Celestial Pictures Shaw Brothers website - which can be found HERE, and in that time I saw that I was perhaps a bit harsh on the film initially. With its inclusion in the Shawscope Vol. 1 boxset from Arrow Video, now it’s my third time addressing the film and I like to think that it’s the charm. 


Sunday, March 13, 2022

18 and Bronze to Go: 18 Bronzemen (1976) Review [Cinematic Vengeance Box Set]

Director: Joseph Kuo

Notable Cast: Tien Peng, Carter Wong, Polly Shang-Kuan Ling-Feng


Heading into the final leg of Eureka’s Cinematic Vengeance box set, it’s nice to be able to see a remastered, high-def version of one of Joseph Kuo’s most iconic films - 18 Bronzemen. The original copy that I had laying around the house, a bootleg DVD with a VHS style rip of the film, was one that remained in rotation as a film to put on in the background when I was doing house chores, but after seeing this latest release - I’ve found a new respect for Kuo’s Shaolin saga of revenge. 


Although it’s easy to compare 18 Bronzemen to The 36 Chambers of Shaolin for its structure and themes, it’s not necessarily a comparison that does either film any favors. As noted in the booklet that comes along with the Cinematic Vengeance boxset, written by James Oliver, 18 Bronzemen came out two years prior to the Lau Kar Leung cornerstone classic and that’s a fact that should be remembered. 


Thursday, March 10, 2022

A Short, Sharp…: Shock (1977) Review Update

For the record, there is already a review for the film Shock here on Blood Brothers. It just happens to be under the original US title, Beyond the Door II, and was written by Eric Reifschneider as a defense of the film. You’re welcome to read it at this LINK. The intention of this piece is to give a slightly new viewpoint on the film and address the latest Blu Ray from Arrow Video. 


What’s fascinating is that while Eric defended the final film from the iconic genre director Mario Bava, almost 12 years ago on this very site, it’s only now that Shock is finding its way onto the Arrow Video lineup. The label has made a statement to release damn near every film from the Italian auteur under their banner and they are getting damn close with the latest being this ghostly Italian spin on the haunted house film. 


Upon this latest watch, a gorgeous new 2K restoration by Arrow Films that truly brings out Bava’s use of visuals and sound design in some impressive ways, it’s remarkable that this film gets as overlooked as it does. Even in the years since Eric originally posted his review here on Blood Brothers, Shock finds itself mostly falling between the cracks in discussions of Italian horror. 


Let the Lack of Games Begin: Deadly Games (1982) Review

Director: Scott Mansfield

Notable Cast: Alexandra Morgan, Jo Ann Harris, Sam Groom, Saul Sindell, Steve Railsback, Denise Galik, Dick Butkus


If you’re a horror fan of a certain age, then growing up with slashers and having an affinity for them is part of the nostalgia and heritage. They were all the rage and became the formula for what the social conscious associated with the term horror. Although I would not care to place myself within the confines of being a slasher diehard, I, too, have an affinity for the genre that piques my interest when I hear about lost films from the golden era (i.e. 1980s.) 


However, the die-hards of the genre will certainly claim that a slew of films from that timeline are cult classics when they are often baffling, watered-down representations of all the great things that slashers could be even within the boundaries of its genre. For every true slasher gem, whether it is the surprisingly competent and effective tones of The Mutilator or the hilariously tongue-in-cheek Blood Rage, there are ones that simply do not come close to living up to the standards of the genre - even with nostalgia goggles firmly in place. 


Deadly Games, despite its glorious cover artwork absolutely meant to guarantee rentals in the ma n’ pop video shops of the 1980s, is one of those films. For every moment where it finds traction in a fun idea or shockingly sober pop of artistry, there are a dozen perplexing choices being made throughout the film. It’s bewildering how Deadly Games manages to misfire at almost every corner from its concept, script, performances, or style. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Pour Another Round: Come Drink with Me (1966) Review Update

Similar to my updated review for King Boxer, I have spent a considerable amount of time in my career singing the praises of Come Drink with Me as a cornerstone to martial arts cinema - and in my opinion, all of action cinema. Enough so, that I assume I sound like Drunk Cat, the mysterious vagabond in the film, when he sings for the bar in an attempt collect some tips. I'm just singing the praises of martial arts cinema classics. 


There is already a full review for the film here on the website that you can read at the following LINK which I wrote some seven years ago. more recently I included the film in an article about King Hu’s Inn Trilogy - a piece that can be found HERE. So, yes, I have been spending some time already writing about this film. Yet, with the latest Arrow Video Blu Ray due to hit shelves this month, I felt inclined to pipe up once again with my warblin' singing voice.