Friday, September 30, 2022

It Takes Two to Witchcraft: Two Witches (2021) Review

Director: Pierre Tsigaridis

Notable Cast: Belle Adams, Rebekah Kennedy, Tim Fox, Clint Glenn Hummel, Danielle Kennedy, Kristina Klebe, Dina Silva, Ian Michaels, Lindsey Rose Naves, Julien Marlon Samani


When the new Blu-Ray disc of Two Witches loaded up on my screen, the montage of videos accompanying the menu had a flair that immediately caught my eye. Arrow Video has been nabbing some intriguing titles lately in terms of more modern and obscure genre material, including films like Sleep or The Deeper You Dig. Still, Two Witches was a title that had never crossed my path. Judging a book by its cover or, more accurately, a film by its menu, this one had already perked my interest. 


Fortunately, the film matches the menu. 


Two Witches is a horrific delight. It’s a film that combines its creepy moments with a stylish offbeat combination of visual punches and manages to balance its world-building to be both unnerving and often humorous. Its tone could feel a bit combative for some viewers, but it takes some wild swings and connects on most… which is impressive for a directorial debut. 


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Off with Their Heads!: Flying Guillotine, Part II (1978) Updated Review

It’s been almost a decade since I watched Flying Guillotine, Part II for Blood Brothers (at the time in the US it was released via Dragon Dynasty as Flying Guillotine 2 and you can read my review of the film HERE) and it was a film that didn’t really come off its chain spinning and slicing as I wanted. 


Yet, when 88 Films announced the film as one of the final Shaw Brothers flicks that would be released on Blu-Ray in both the US and the UK, it was hard not to reassess where I stood with the film. Would it take my head off with its sharp edges or would I continue to find its weaponry rejected by an extended anti-flying guillotine broken umbrella staff? Yeah, that comparison between the weapons and my feelings towards the film was a reach, but this movie kind of deserves it.


As simple as it is, during this recent viewing, the strengths of Flying Guillotine, Part II became more apparent while its flaws became more perplexing. To add to that, I rewatched the original Flying Guillotine (a UK Blu-Ray exclusive from 88 Films) prior to this one. The dissonance between the two seemed larger. Not that this sequel doesn’t have its merits, but it makes some baffling choices throughout to be both a oddity as a sequel and as a film on its own.


Sunday, September 25, 2022

Dig Two Graves or Just Come Back from One: Lady Morgan’s Vengeance (1965) Review [Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror Box Set]

Director: Massimo Pupillo

Notable Cast: Barbara Nelli, Paul Müller, Gordon Mitchell, Erika Blanc, Michel Forain, Carlo Kechler, Edith MacGoven


Arrow Video has delivered another one of those classic box sets they are known for unleashing with their latest: Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror. Pulling together four films under a common thematic and stylistic aspect, this set contains some 1960s cult cinema finds with brand new 2K restorations, gorgeous packaging, and enough new commentaries, essays, and interviews to impress any movie collector.


Although this might be the first film in the Gothic Fantastico: Four Italian Tales of Terror box set, one might expect that a film named Lady Morgan’s Vengeance would have a lot more - vengeance? Yet this 1965 gothic romantic horror film centers most of its time and energy around the gaslighting of the titular Susan Morgan rather than the vengeance that comes thereafter. Not that establishing characters, plot, and motivations is a bad thing, but despite some strong visual elements and performances Lady Morgan’s Vengeance is a film that doubles down on its easy-to-consume (yet oddly offbeat) story which burdens the overall experience. 


Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Pearl Before Swine: Pearl (2022) Review

Director: Ti West

Notable Cast: Mia Goth, David Corenswet, Tandi Wright, Matthew Sunderland, Emma Jenkins-Purro, Alistair Sewell


When Ti West dropped his A24 neo-retro-slasher (is that a thing?) X earlier this year, it took the horror community by surprise. Love it or hate it, West delivered a slasher that used its retro 70s exploitation style to chat a bit about the genre in a way that made a splash in the community. 


The real twist of the film was that West, actress Mia Goth, and studio A24 managed to simultaneously film a prequel about one of the film’s villains. Pearl, named after the villainess at the center of the film, is inherently tied to X in most of its themes but serves as a character study about the birth of a killer ala American Psycho or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. In a bold maneuver, A24 attached the teaser trailer to the end of X. Surprise! This is already a franchise.  


Reportedly, West and Goth had worked out this character story together during the process of filming X. Yet, on paper, Pearl achingly feels like an exercise in extensive character backstory writing, but one that is both empowered and hindered by that intention. As viewers of its predecessor, where can the film go that will hook us? The answer that Pearl presents is a story that is far more character focused than plot focused. Is the story going to drive the film? Absolutely not. Is the character going to drive it? Absolutely.


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Just Kidding Around Again: Orphan: First Kill (2022) Review

Director: William Brent Bell

Notable Cast: Isabelle Fuhrman, Julia Stiles, Rossif Sutherland, Matthew Finlan, Hiro Kanagawa, Samantha Walkes, David Brown, Lauren Cochrane, Gwendolyn Collins


When the shockingly effective and fun horror flick Orphan didn’t get a sequel greenlit, the chances of seeing the conniving killer, Ester, get a franchise seemed like more and more of a long shot. As the titular killer kid, Isabelle Fuhrman was not getting younger and the story and character required a young-looking antagonist to drive it home so as the years passed, the rumors of a franchise seemed to dwindle. Yet, as those years passed, Orphan only garnered a more die-hard fan base, including myself and my own 4.5/5 blood drop review HERE, and the fans clamored for more - no matter what. 


Perhaps this is what led Paramount to purchase the rights to the franchise from Warner Bros, to begin with, but what really surprises with this long-awaited new entry, titled Orphan: First Kill, is that the announced film was not a reboot. It would continue the story of Ester, in all her horrific pigtailed glory, and Isabelle Fuhrman would be back in the role. To make matters more complicated, not only would it be a now 25-year-old in the role, but it would also be a prequel to the original. 


As if the twist of the original wasn’t batshit crazy enough, the path this franchise was taking seemed just as insane. 


Yet, here we are with Orphan: First Kill, and not only is this prequel a success, but it’s also shockingly effective at replicating the B-movie madness of its originator. It’s such a fun and delightfully twisted flick, leaning even further into its silliness as a story, that fans of the original will consume it gleefully. Ester is back to deliver the same fun, but she’s doing it in some all-new ways. 


Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Lion Eats Tonight: Beast (2022) Review

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Notable Cast: Idris Elba, Leah Jeffries, Iyana Halley, Sharlto Copley


After watching the initial trailer for Beast, I immediately told my significant other “we have to see this film.” I pulled out my phone and purchased tickets. She looked at me perplexingly. “Babe, Idris Elba punches a goddamn lion!” I proclaimed. It’s not often that silly action thrillers find their way to theaters anymore. With the relative death of mid-tier cinema that aims for a specific demographic rather than the four-quadrant blockbuster, a film like Beast would normally be poached off to the highest bidder in streaming. Beast could have easily been the next Amazon Prime, Netflix, or (shudder) Peacock exclusive. 


It is a relative blessing that Universal did not seemingly pitch Beast to that market. Even though this 90-minute nature run amok is just that - with the bonus of having Idris Elba playing a sad dad thrust into a life-or-death situation for him to prove that he’s not fuckin’ around when it comes to his daughters’ safety, Beast is the kind of B-movie elevated to cinematic A-level experience that benefited wholly from its theatrical experience. Not to mention, it also manages to fulfill its marketing destiny by having Elba punch its titular killer repeatedly in the head.