The Damned – Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead [Blu-ray + DVD]

damned-dvdDon’t You Wish That We Were Dead is a three year labour of love by film maker Wes Orshoski whose last subject was the legend that is Lemmy.

This time Orshoski tackles UK punk pioneers The Damned, first UK punk band to release a 45 (the classic New Rose), the first LP in Damned, Damned, Damned and the first Limey punks to tour the US of A. All this and yet they still don’t get the accolades they deserve, or at least that’s the way the band sees it. Nor the money which is a re-occurring theme through out the doco. This is a band who fell apart, got back together, feuded, argued, have now split into two camps and still complain about the bucks! It would almost be funny except for the fact we’ll probably never see the original band playing together again.

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Dead End Drive-In [Blu-Ray]

dead-endBrought to us by Ozploitation icon Brian Trenchard-Smith (Turkey ShootThe Man From HongKong, BMX Bandits) our story starts with a string of disasters including racial riots in Sydney, a nuclear disaster in the Pacific and the crash of Wall Street leading to a dystopian future where the economic chaos means Tow Trucks fight it out for business, cops are corrupt and the kids form gangs of carboys, roaming the roads stripping cars and raising hell.

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople [Blu-Ray]

wilderpeopleTaika Waititi has been a talent constantly on the rise. First making his name as an actor, he then broke through as a director with the Oscar-nominated short film Two Cars, One Night before a sequence of feature films drew him further into the spotlight. As such, this may be his last New Zealand film for a while, as he has at time of writing been deep in directing Thor 3: Ragnarok. If this really is the send-off for his laid-back style of local filmmaking, it’s a hell of a way to finish.

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The Evil Dead Anthology [Blu-Ray]

Evil-DeadIn the annals of horror history, few films are as universally adored as Evil Dead (1981). A ragged, breathless, almost plotless adrenalin surge of a movie, it is about as pure a horror movie as you can get.

The set-up is that which launched a thousand imitators. Five college kids go to an abandoned cabin and, through playing a tape recorder of a vocal translation of the fabled Necronomicon, unleash an evil in the woods that possesses and kills them, one-by-one.

As simplistic as this is, the film really stands on pure energy and imagination. In particular, the frenetic and innovative camerawork of teenage director Sam Raimi. In time, he would become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, but the invention and will to entertain are already firmly in place in this, his first calling card.

A splattery roller-coaster of a film, Evil Dead belies its minuscule budget to deliver high-octane thrills and a genuinely creepy atmosphere. Shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, the Blu-Ray transfer does little to clear up the murky grain of the movie but in this case, that is not a problem. Indeed, the roughness of the look only adds to the underground, punk rock grime of it all.

At turns chilling, action-packed and even nasty (the notorious tree-rape scene), Evil Dead is a deserved 80s horror classic.

Raimi and his producing partner Rob Tapert would next attempt an action/comedy/caper flick called Crimewave. The ill-fated film was mired in studio interference and a young filmmaker operating beyond his means. Disheartened, they returned to the well with the 1987 release of Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn.

A bigger budget, more experienced cast and crew and a more deft Raimi at the helm saw that rarest of beasts emerged – a sequel that actually improved on the first. Evil Dead II is effectively a remake of the first, but this time with a critical difference – comedy.

Raimi, Tapert and star Bruce Campbell had grown up making Three Stooges-style slapstick comedy short films and the cold-blooded horror of Evil Dead was purely a financial decision as to what sort of film was ruling the drive-in theatres of the time. The second time out, though, they were able to let their comic sensibilities shine.

The big evolution was in Campbell. His character, Ash, was the only returning one from the original, now positioned securely front-and-centre. The film shifts to rest securely on Campbell’s shoulders and he rises to meet the challenge with a scenery-chewing performance that jumps off the screen. It is a massive work of physicality, commitment and surely more suffering than any other character in film history (witness a scene where his hand is possessed by evil, resulting in him beating himself up, complete with forward flip onto a wooden floor). It is the kind of performance than in a just world would have catapulted Campbell to A-list stardom.

Alas, it was not to be. A failed TV series (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr) and a near-miss in being The Phantom on that character’s big screen debut would be as close as Campbell would come to breaking out of cultdom, aside from a latter-day supporting role on TV series Burn Notice.
Evil Dead II remains his crowning glory, however. Not the brightest of characters, Ash remains thoroughly sympathetic throughout as he alternates between battling darkness and shouting desperately into the night for a break, any kind of break.

The third Evil Dead film, Army of Darkness, would eventually follow in 1992.

In the lead up, the horror press were slavering at the idea of a big-budget Evil Dead film. Initially titled, The Medieval Dead, it was touted as a horror epic to end all horror epics.

Instead, and in retrospect predictably, Army of Darkness was a comedy. Not a horror like Evil Dead or even a horror/comedy like Evil Dead II, but a pure, slapstick-and-pratfalls comedy. This did not go down well. The hardcore fans were disappointed and the movie flopped badly.

Time, however, would be kind to Army of Darkness. Campbell’s Ash character had now been amped up into a full-blown windbag, full of boasting and unearnt confidence. With this change came endless quotable lines mostly made out of the fact that the modern Ash now found himself trapped in 1300AD yet still fighting the Deadites.

Armed with his chainsaw and shotgun (his ‘boomstick’ as he describes it to the medieval folk or ‘primitive screwheads’) and of course his trusty Oldsmobile (actually Raimi’s own car), Ash is forced to fulfill his destiny as the hero of prophecy, saving two warring clans from destruction at the hands of the evil dead.

As a comedy, Army of Darkness has hits and misses. Some inspired moments (Ash’s cockiness leads him to not remember magic words very well with disastrous results) are mixed with Stooges-type silliness (complete with ‘boink’ sound effects) that feel crushingly unfunny.

Despite a decent budget – which production ended up going over by nearly double – the film also over-stretches. In the pre-CGI age, creating a convincing army of undead is beyond the realms of practicality and a lot of clearly static skeletons are knocked over in ‘battle’. While the handmade aesthetic of the previous Evil Dead films gave them an eerie, otherworldly feel, here it just feels cheap.

For fans – the ending here is the director’s cut “downer” ending, rather than the studio-enforced, happier, “supermarket” ending. It may be debatable which is actually superior, but the darker conclusion may be tonally off-kilter with the rest of the film, but it is consistent with the bumbling, self-destructive nature of the Ash character.

Once again, though, it is the mix of Raimi’s energy and Campbell’s charisma that save the day and Army of Darkness, while undoubtedly the weakest of the trilogy, is still an enjoyable watch.

Raimi would then go on to make the star-studded action/western The Quick and the Dead (1995) before the more mature efforts of A Simple Plan (1998) and The Gift (2000) would lead to the global blockbuster Spiderman (2002). With Tapert, he would also find success on the small screen as a producer with Hercules, Spartacus, Legend of the Seeker and Xena shooting in New Zealand (the latter starring Tapert’s future wife, Lucy Lawless) and the formation of Ghost House Pictures, producing films such as the US remake of The Grudge (2005) and 30 Days of Night (2007).

Throughout this time, rumours kept circulating of a possible Evil Dead 4. But the schedules of the key players remained packed and, as Campbell in particular aged, it looked increasingly unlikely to ever happen.

But with the dawn of the 21st century came a rash of horror remakes and a different option appeared – a remake with an entirely new cast and director. Fede Alvarez had come to attention with his special FX short film about giant robots attacking Montevideo Panic Attack! and got the nod to helm a new take on Evil Dead in 2012.

Shooting in Woodhill Forest outside of Auckland in New Zealand, Alvarez approached the set-up with a clever twist: the characters this time would be at the remote cabin to help one of their number, Mia (Jane Levy) to go cold turkey from her drug addiction. Naturally, as Mia is the first one to encounter the Deadites, the conceit allows the other characters to not believe her…until things really get crazy.

As a remake, Evil Dead (2013) is a definite success. Alvarez has his own style, but it is as high-energy as Raimi’s, giving the film a familiar-yet-fresh feel. If anything, the nods to the original actually serve to hold back the remake and it is at its best when it is adding fresh mythology to the mix.

The gore is amped up and the FX are nothing short of brilliant, but gone is the eerie atmosphere of the original. The remake may be shocking, violent and high-octane, but it is never creepy or scary. The horror is much more physical and biological – culminating in a literal rain of blood that is the only real tongue-in-cheek moment.

Levy proves herself at least as game as Campbell and indeed her acting is probably superior. The supporting cast is weak, however, and one wonders if first-timer Alvarez, for whom English is a second language, was unable to get the best out of his young charges.

As a modern take on Evil Dead, the remake is an excellent piece of work held back from true high regard simply because of its lack of originality. This is naturally a problem with any remake, but when the ‘five kids in a cabin’ set-up of Evil Dead became the de facto standard template for horror movies in the past three decades, it became an insurmountable problem by 2013.

At time of writing, no further films were planned, but instead a TV series on Starz has been greenlit. The Evil Dead march on…


Evil Dead has seen numerous releases of various formats over the years, but this package really is the best of them. As well as including the four films – all hugely entertaining – the discs are packed with extras with all sorts of behind-the-scenes details and footage.

The focus on the extras is definitely the original film, and justifiably so. The story behind Evil Dead has become almost as mythic as the film itself.

A group of friends in Michigan decide to make a horror movie and set about doing it the hard way – with no external help at all. They make a test mini-feature on 8mm called Within the Woods and take that around local businessmen, looking for investment. Eventually, from various merchants and dentists, they scrape together enough cash to get to work on their masterpiece and so would begin an incredibly gruelling shoot.

As retold in a variety of pieces – most are also present on previous releases, especially the Anchor Bay trilogy package – the remote shoot would test friendships, health and sanity. Campbell laughingly retells how none of the cast would talk to he or any of the other producers for a long time afterwards. Sleeping on floors, freezing temperatures, toxic smoke machines, unbearable fake blood and FX…the shoot ran way over time and took everyone to breaking point.

The release would be initially muted, until a screening at the Cannes Film Festival resulted in a glowing Stephen King pullquote (“the most ferociously original horror movie in years”) and a purchase by UK distributor Palace Pictures. Palace would launch the film in theatres in Britain simultaneously with a release on the burgeoning new home video format, resulting in major waves.

Then, the film found itself banned as part of the infamous conservative video nasty clampdown in Britain, but that only served to increase its infamy and it began to find an audience in America, too, eager to see what all the fuss was about.

One extra included is a feature-length documentary on Tom Sullivan, the lead special FX man on Evil Dead. His story is one of practicality and clever workarounds as he stretched a micro-budget into some iconic visuals. The stop-motion climax is explained in all its painstaking, multi-month detail and his illustrations for the Necronomicon are now the subject of a thousand tattoos worldwide.

Sullivan’s own story would take a dark turn as depression and the death of his wife ultimately would drive him from the set of Evil Dead II, but now he is an affectionately-viewed fixture of the horror convention circuit.

A behind-the-scenes of the special FX of Evil Dead II is excellent viewing. It is a showcase of the first time the legendary Kurtzman/Nicotero/Berger trio worked together, prior to the formation of their KNB studio. The effects are a wild mix of superb sculpture and magician-level sleight of hand and seeing them laid out is compulsive viewing, even if special FX are not normally of interest.

Army of Darkness is completely passed over in terms of extra material, but the remake is packaged with all the same extras from its own previous Blu-Ray release. These are a director’s commentary, plus a neat series of featurettes on various aspects, including some shots from Jane Levy’s video diary of a typically tough day of filming. (“You just missed my temper tantrum. I just hate the blood rain, it makes me into a…child.”)

On top of that, the whole collection comes packaged in a replica of the Necronomicon itself (although the discs are just in paper envelopes within) and there is also a scaled-down version of the Kundarian spine-dagger from the film, which makes for a pretty damn cool extra!

The Evil Dead Anthology is available on Blu-Ray/DVD from Madman.

20,000 Days on Earth [Blu-Ray]

Nick-CaveAfter watching Autoluminescent (the documentary about former Birthday Party member Rowland S. Howard) I thought it was odd that there hadn’t been any about Nick Cave and hoped I wouldn’t have to wait for him to die to see one.

20,000 Days on Earth is based around a fictional day in the life of Nick Cave. At the start there’s some montage clips presented in fast-forward of Nick’s milestones from birth to The Birthday Party and Bad Seeds, right up to present day. 20,000 Days on Earth is not of the past. Nick discusses events and people from the past but it is not a retrospective documentary about his career. It also focuses a lot on the recording of Push the Sky Away, so those anticipating any coverage/stories about The Birthday Party/Bad Seeds won’t find it here.

Cave also provides voice-over narration that has a literary quality to it, although some of it comes off a tad ostentatious (more so on first viewing), it totally fits Cave’s style and so does the film itself in that it breaks a lot of conventions. In between scenes of Cave going about his (fictionalised) day we see rehearsals, interviews with psychoanalyst Darian Leader, and footage of Cave driving around with Blixa Bargeld, Kylie Minogue and Ray Winstone. I enjoyed the scenes in the car and Warren Ellis the most as the conversations felt really organic and not as boring as the usual talking heads of people answering questions/fawning over the subject of the film/documentary.

Cave has said that  20,000 Days on Earth is fictional but within it there are truths. It’s definitely more of an art film rather than your typical “rock n‘roll” documentary.  It is very stylized and staged and Cave is presented in a very flattering matter (lighting, narration etc) but that’s not to say there’s no meat to the film or that it lacks an intimacy. It’s elegantly shot and despite it being staged, is very affecting and you gain a lot of insight into the myth of the man. I really enjoyed the filmic/meditative take on exploring an artist but having said that I’d still love to see a traditional documentary about The Birthday Party and Bad Seeds. If you’re expecting a more in-depth warts-and-all type of documentary this will disappoint.

It’s a film that has a little bit of something for everyone and can be enjoyed by those who don’t even know the man. Not so much a film about a man and his career but the art of storytelling and the artistic process.

An absolute must own for fans of the man.


The Making Of – Runs for 15 minutes and includes interviews with Nick Cave, the directors, producer, director of photography and has some behind-the-scenes footage mostly of the car scenes. Watching the Making Of kinda ruined it a little for me in that it’s not Warren Ellis’ house (he actually lives in France) and someone else cooked the eel. The archive is also fictional. I didn’t think they would have taken it that far but even though a lot of it is set up, the footage that is captured and the discussions are 100% authentic.

The Archives – About 6 minutes of extended/different footage of Nick talking with the archivists about photos and artefacts, a particularly funny anecdote is of an image of a bronze statue Nick wanted to give to his home town – big pineapple, big lobster, big Nick Cave.

Tour Rehearsals – about 10 minutes long, they perform Your Funeral My Trial and Stranger than Kindness.

Interviews –About 9 minutes of interviews that didn’t make it into the film or are extended.

Studio Backing Vocals – About three minutes of clips of Nick, Warrren and co doing backup vocals and Warren playing violin.

Ray Winstone Fish and Chips – a 2 minute clip of Nick and Ray arguing over which country does better fish and chips.

Demo Sessions: 3 minute clip of See that Girl.

Live at Koko Duet with Kylie – Nick and Kylie perform fan favourite “Where the Wild Roses Grow”.

To round out the disc there’s a theatrical trailer and Madman Propaganda.

20,000 Days on Earth is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Madman Entertainment.

Sepultura: Metal Veins Alive at Rock in Rio [Blu-Ray]

sepulturaI’m starting to feel really old. Does anyone else remember owning a copy of We Are What We Are on VHS (with an exciting runtime of 11 minutes) and paying like $35 for it from Play it Again/*insert local record store name here*.  14 years later I’m about to turn 29 and here I am reviewing a Sepultura Blu-Ray and it only costs a measly $25. Sepultura were my FAVOURITE band. I LOVED them, I had a 24 page poster of Max Cavelera in my bedroom but I’m glad that I never followed through and got a tattoo of their logo. Admittedly I only own early releases such as Beneath the Remains now and was never really into post-Max era Sepultura, but  I was interested in checking this out mostly due to their collaboration with Les Tambours du Bronx.

The Blu-Ray/DVD/CD was released in celebration of Sepultura‘s 30th anniversary and was recorded at the Rock in Rio festival on September 19, 2013. Sepultura play alongside French industrial percussion group Les Tambours du Bronx who are known for beating barrels with bats and axe handles . The 13 tracks they perform are: Kaiowas, Spectrum, Refuse/Resist, Sepulnation, Delirium, Fever, We’ve Lost You, Firestarter, Requiem, Structure Violence, Territory, Big Hands and Roots Bloody Roots.

Had it not been for  Les Tambours Du Bronx I don’t think the release would have been as interesting visually. Without Max helming the band there’s an energy missing and that’s not to put down Derek Green who has loads of energy and talent, he just kinda bops around the place happily whereas Max brought something different that seemed more suited to the music. They bust out some classics as well as newer stuff and a really cool cover of The Prodigy‘s Firestarter. Still a decent viewing for those who aren’t into later era Sepultura.

There’s a documentary included as well but you have to go to the set-up section and put the subtitles on as it won’t automatically play with subtitles and like me you’ll be cursing the release. The documentary consists of interviews mostly with Andreas, Derek and Le Tambours du Bronx as well as some rehearsal footage/behind-the-scene footage with some live clips as well. It runs for approx 25 minutes.

A must own for Sepultura completists.

Sepultura: Metal Veins Alive at Rock in Rio is available on DVD and  Blu-Ray from Shock.

Only Lovers Left Alive


Eve (Tilda Swinton) and her lover Adam (Tom Hiddleston) are vampires. She reclines in Tangier while he hides himself away in a crumbling house in Detroit. She is an avid reader, capable of devouring entire books in a matter of minutes while music is his poison, both listening and creating.

Both have negotiated dignified ways of procuring the blood they need to survive. Eve gets hers from fellow vamp Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) while Adam has struck a deal with a local doctor (Jeffrey Wright).

Their centuries of existence have been ones of art and culture and enjoyment of human creativity. They talk at length of the famous people they have known. Writers, actors, scientists. But into their world is coming a wild card, Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), who has not yet withdrawn from humanity and who still finds blood best served warm and fresh from a jugular…

Only Lovers Left Alive sees Jim Jarmusch at his most laconic and his most elegant. It is a film paced for its characters, luxurious and deliberate. Indeed, coupled with the near-total lack of plot for the first half of the piece, this feels like a misstep. It is more a character study than a story.

Without a doubt, this is a movie that loves its lead pairing. The camera spins around them, hovers over them and adores them. Hiddleston is all lean, tousled angst while Swinton is heroin-chic opaque. They are striking to look at and so is the set design.

We spend most our time at Adam’s abode, a cluttered mish-mash of electrical parts, antique musical instruments and peeling paint. Outside, Detroit is a deserted ruin, scorched yellow by streetlights with empty streets lined by shuttered and crumbling buildings.

The pair drive through the streets, mourning the city’s loss while promising its rebirth. They also occasionally pause to point out sights such as Jack White’s childhood home.

The mix makes for an odd film. There is so much time-jumping name-dropping and focus on the consumption of the arts that the question arises – is Jarmusch mocking his characters or glorifying them?

The pair themselves are hyper-cool to the point of cartoonish. They watch bands in a club while wearing sunglasses. They dance and listen to music and are rarely anything above relaxed. Are these the trendy types, doomed to only care about themselves, the superficial and brushes with fame as the world crumbles around them? Until only lovers are left alive?


There are lengthy interviews with Swinton, Hiddleston and (somewhat shorter) Wasikowska as each discusses the film, their character and how they became involved as actors. In addition, there are the usual array of deleted (and extended) scenes.

The main extra, though, is a 50-minute behind-the-scenes piece. What makes it interesting is that it is not the usual ‘talking heads’ approach. Instead, it is a fly-on-the-wall look at the shooting of various key scenes. We see scenes being rehearsed and rewritten the night before shooting, blocking being figured out on the spot and continuity concerns.

Perhaps the most striking aspect is how calm and even Jarmusch and his two leads are throughout. It appears that Jarmusch establishes the same tone for work on the set as will happen in the scenes, to make it easier for his actors to drop into the moment as required.

Only Lovers Left Alive is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Madman Entertainment.

An American Hippie in Israel [Blu-ray]

AmericanHippieORDER BLU-RAY

Prior to this disc release, I had never heard of An American Hippie in Israel, but being something of a fan of counterculture cinema, I was curious to see what it was about this film that prompted Grindhouse Releasing to give it the deluxe treatment.

Written and directed by Amos Sefer (who doesn’t seem to have made another feature other than this), An American Hippie in Israel stars Asher Tzarfati as Mike, the titular hippie of the title, a Vietnam vet who lands at Tel Aviv airport (in bare feet and complete with requisite beard and furry vest) with no real plans other than to live “an absolute free life in an absolutely isolated place, away from this civilization and culture of violence- without clothes, without government and without orders.” Fortunately for him, he is picked-up hitchhiking by young theatrical actress Elizabeth (Lily Avidan), who becomes instantly infatuated with Mike and his hippie lifestyle, joining him in his quest for peace and freedom. After hooking up with another local hippie couple (played by Shmuel Wolf and Tzila Karney), they head for a small uninhabited island just off the coast, only to find that the nice ideals of the counterculture lifestyle do not necessarily hold-up to the harsh realities of life and the basic instinct to survive. Continue reading