Deathgasm

DeathgasmDVDDeathgasm began life as a competition entry. The second year of the New Zealand “Make My Movie” competition specialised in horror and the winning pitch was from Weta digital effects man Jason Lei Howden. As a result, he had $200,000 and a shooting schedule of less than three weeks to make it. The results are a minor miracle.

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Spring

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Evan (Evil Dead‘s Lou Taylor Pucci) is having a terrible time. After his father dies, he drops out of college to look after his ailing mother. The day she, too, dies, he gets in a fight at the bar in which he works…and promptly loses his job. With no prospects, no family and the police after him, he decides on a whim to go to rural Italy for a fresh start.

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The Masque of the Red Death

Masque-Death

I’ve had to pull myself into line a bit lately when it comes to watching TV shows and movies. I flick from show to show on Netflix like a teenage boy on Red Tube, I have the laptop in front of me, I watch too much crap TV, and am beginning to find it hard to sit through a 90 minute film without checking a performer’s credits on IMDb or reading the Wikipedia entry. I am putting an end to this as I swore it would never happen to me. So let’s say I was not exactly psyched to watch this film. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vincent Price and I love old horror movies, but I had always avoided this film cos I am not really into Gothic Horror, nor am I a fan of horror literature (the film’s based on Poe’s short story). I far prefer the campy and traditional horror films of Price, specifically The Tingler, House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax and Abominable Dr Phibes. So, onto the film.

Whilst out collecting wood in the medieval Italian countryside, a local woman comes across a red-cloaked man shuffling tarot cards under a tree. The man gives the woman a white rose that ends up spotted with blood and turns completely red. It turns out that the woman is plagued with the red death and local satanist/prince Prospero (Vincent Price) orders the village be burned to the ground to prevent the spread of the disease. He then takes a peasant’s beautiful daughter back to his castle and invites the local nobility to ride out the plague while providing all sorts of festivities as the world outside the castle dies.

Price is just amazing as Prospero, I kept thinking how great he would have been in Polanski’s MacBeth, his performance is Shakespearean and there is no sign of camp here (but us Noir fans already knew he could act). Prospero is commanding and sadistically cruel, I kept thinking of Salo whilst watching the film play out. The nobility, the boredom, the torture, the excess all at the hands of the peasants. Red Death favors black magic and stark truths – cruelty is just a fact of life – and in doing so forgoes blood and other traditional scares and shocks. It’s a cerebral film and something I would expect from a director like Polanski. A great watch, but challenging at times. That’s not to say that it doesn’t pack a punch with its nastiness, it does. There’s a particularly “trippy” sequence that kind of creeped me out and decadence at the hand of innocents, children and men dressed as gorillas is always a touch unsettling. I get it though, if you are watching ISIS beheading on-line for laughs then atmosphere, tension, and aristocratic bastardiness just ain’t going to cut it.

It probably didn’t help that I am not familiar with the source material, the film weaves two Poe Stories (Masque of the Red Death and Hop-Frog) together along with a third arc from Torture by Hope by Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam . Red Death is also the 7th out of 8 Poe adaptations that Roger Corman directed/produced. I am sorry if you were hoping for an arty-farty analysis of the film, I am sure there’s a lot of symbolism I could be analyzing.

The sets are spectacular, in a day where modern films can’t even photoshop fake family photos convincingly I kind of crave decadence and authenticity in films. It is truly tragic the state of current movie making, a film like this could never be made today. Apparently Corman shot the film in England to cut costs but was left unhappy with the final sequence due to not having enough time to shoot it due to the English crews working at a slower pace than American crews.

The print here is also exceptionally good. I am not a huge tech geek but to me it appeared to be free of any flaws. I always expect some visual or audio disturbances with older films but then on DVD Compare the Shock (Cinema Cult is a sub-label of Shock) their  Blu-Ray was ruled a draw with an International release. A must own for fans of Price or for those who appreciate good art, there’s no excuse to not pick this up at $9.99 on DVD or $19.99 on Blu-Ray . Here’s hoping Cult Cinema release more classic horror!

The only extras present are trailers for other Cult Cinema releases including: Masters of the Universe, Dr Phibes Rises Again!, The Abominable Dr Phibes, Electra Glide in Blue, Vanishing Point and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Madman Enterainment.

The Corpse Grinders

Corpse-GrindersThe Corpse Grinders is a lurid and rather crass film that revolves around a cat food company called Lotus Cat Food. The Lotus brand of cat food is the most costly and superior cat food on the market. Run by two shifty businessmen (Landau and Maltby), the pair get into trouble with their suppliers and have to find an “alternative” supplier who is a local grave robber. They buy cadavers for 20c a pound and eventually come to the conclusion that “ingredients are everywhere” and resort to seeking out live product, mainly people they owe money to and winos.

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Over Your Dead Body

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Yotsuya Kaidan is one of the classic Japanese ghost stories. Written in the 19th century as a kabuki play, it has been filmed over 30 times. The tale centres on Iemon, a masterless samurai and his wife, Oiwa. When an opportunity to marry into a wealthy family appears, Iemon conspires to poison and then murder his wife, only for his guilt to mean he is haunted by her ghost. Finally, mistaking his new love for his wife’s ghost, he kills her, too and vengeance is served.

Over Your Dead Body sees a variant on the re-telling. The focus here is on actors Kousuke (Ebizo Ichikawa) and Miyuki (Ko Shibasaki), a couple who are starring in a play of ­ you guessed it ­Yotsuya Kaidan.

As rehearsals progress, tensions raise between them and the story of the play begins to bleed and echo in real life. Miyuki suspects she is pregnant, while Kousuke starts an affair with their co-star…the actress playing his new love in the play.

Over Your Dead Body is directed by Takashi Miike, the enfante terrible of Japanese cinema who found global fame with extreme pieces like Ichi The Killer, Dead or Alive and Visitor Q. But Miike has always had many sides to him, directing everything from colourful childrens’ films to sombre introspective pieces like The Bird People in China.

This appears to be cut from the cloth of the latter, but in fact it is more like his classic Audition…a slow­burn that erupts into blood and violence. This is, without doubt, a horror movie at the end of the day.

One of the most impressive things in Miike’s extensive resume is that while his films are often very stylish, he never settles on one particular style. Over Your Dead Body is another extension, the lavish production design of the theatrical sets and sleek, modern ‘real world’ houses creating space for the languid pacing of the film. The camera-work matches, all slow moves and deliberate framing. As reality and fiction wind together, so the filming becomes more unsettled as close-­ups, hard cuts and off­-kilter shot selection reveal the shakiness in the mental state of the characters.

The effectiveness of the movie lies in the subtle build-­up of the character work. Miyuke’s mental state crumbles under the combination of her suspicions and seeing the possible result of these suspicions play out in the theatre. The problem is that this reservation carries too far ­ when the impacts are required at the end, events feel somewhat distant.

The coldness comes from not only the shooting style, but also from Ichikawa’s impassive performance. It is so hard to see chinks in his emotional armour that the film loses the intimacy it needs to fully absorb.

The result is an interesting film with a lot to recommend about it. That it never fully hits home is the key element holding it back from real greatness and a place in the “best of” section of Miike’s filmography.

Extras:

The extras are simply trailers for other Madman Eastern Eye titles coming out. Although it is testament to how prolific Takashi Miike is that two of the films promoted are also his!

Martyrs

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In recent years France has been unrivaled in producing some of the most visceral and provocative horror cinema of our time. Mention titles such as Haute Tension, À l’intérieur, Irreversible and Frontière(s) to the seasoned horror connoisseur and you will most likely be met with an intense reaction, be it negative or positive. Martyrs is yet another fine addition to the new wave of French horror canon.

Circa 1970; a little girl is found wandering by the side of the road covered in blood. The police discover her name is Lucie and she has been listed as missing for over a year. She is soon situated in an orphanage where her only confidant is a girl named Anna. From what little details Lucie relates to Anna it appears that she was held captive and tortured by a sadistic couple.

Cut to 15 years later – now grown, Lucie manages to track down her captors and massacre them, resulting in carnage of grand guignol proportions. She is soon joined by Anna who attempts to clean up her mess in order to protect her from the authorities. Although things soon take a turn for the worse when more misfortune befalls Lucie and Anna encounters the truth about who and what happened to Lucie.

I’ve tried not to give much away in my synopsis as in my opinion it is better to go into this film not knowing too much. Suffice to say that Pascal Laugier has crafted a truly horrendous and genre-bending piece of horror cinema in Martyrs. There is violence a-plenty but it isn’t another hackneyed “torture porn” flick (though admittedly it does share a few commonalities with Hostel).

Martyrs is a film of two halves – during the first half I was reminded of Haute Tension and, to a lesser degree, À l’intérieur, particularly during the home invasion scene. But it is in the second half where Monsieur Laugier comes into his own by subtly manipulating genre conventions and expectations. Though I found it slightly harder to suspend my disbelief during it, this half contains certain themes and concepts of martyrdom that set it apart from your run-of-the-mill splatter film. Though I think it highly possible that the biting social commentary will not translate to all and indeed may completely miss its intended target due to the gratuitous violence accompanying it.

The only aspect that slightly diminished the film in my opinion was the J-horroresque appearance of the figure in the violent hallucinations that haunt Lucie, it adds a supernatural horror element to the film that only reduces the impact. On the whole though, Martyrs is a bleak and unrelenting trip through hell that will appeal to fans of the new wave of French horror and extreme cinema aficionados.

No extras.

Upcoming Release: Honeyspider

HoneyspiderThe critically acclaimed independent horror feature film ‘HONEYSPIDER,’ and winner of “Best Horror” at the 2015 Mad Monster Film Festival, hits shelves just in time for Halloween on OCTOBER 6TH.

You can pre-order the DVD now on Amazon.com.

HONEYSPIDER has teamed up with Vultra Video to release the film on Limited Edition VHS!!!

Only 100 tapes are available and the package is killer – this is a must have for any collector!

See below for complete details and pre-order your copy NOW at the official Myers House NC store – http://myershousenc.storenvy.com (this is the ONLY place you can buy the VHS).

HONEYSPIDER LIMITED EDITION VHS:

  • LIMITED TO 100 (69 BLACK TAPES & 31 BLOOD SPLATTERED WHITE TAPES)
  • HAND-NUMBERED SLEEVE
  • HONEYSPIDER DIGITAL SOUNDTRACK
  • 11×17 ‘SLEEPOVER SLAUGHTERHOUSE III’ POSTER
  • AUTOGRAPHED HONEYSPIDER PROMO CARD (SIGNED BY JOSH HASTY, KENNY CAPERTON & MARIAH BROWN)
  • HONEYSPIDER 1” BUTTON
  • NEON GREEN “HORROR” DOT STICKER 4-PACK TO CUSTOMIZE YOUR VHS BOX
  • VULTRA VIDEO STICKER.

HONEYSPIDER is a cult throwback film that takes place in 1989 on Halloween day and follows college student Jackie Blue as she slowly unravels, all while a mysterious stranger watches over her every move. HONEYSPIDER is written and produced by Kenny Caperton (‘Deviling,’ ‘All Hallows Evil: Lord of the Harvest,’ and owner of the infamous Myers House NC) and directed by Josh Hasty (Rob Zombie’s ‘31’ documentary) of Paramount Scope. The film stars Frank Aard (‘April Fool’s Day’ remake), Joan Schuermeyer (‘Zombieland’ and RZ’s ‘Halloween 2’), Rachel Jeffreys, Samantha Mills (‘Bombshell Bloodbath’) and Mariah Brown.

Synopsis:

It’s Halloween day in 1989 and college student Jackie Blue wants to enjoy a quiet birthday in the midst of a chaotic semester at school. Her friend Amber has other ideas and persuades Jackie to come to the annual Monster Mash party on campus after her shift at the local movie theater. As murder plays out on the silver screen during the theater’s Halloween night Horrorthon, Jackie falls under a strange spell, all while a mysterious stranger watches over her every move. As the night unfolds, Jackie slowly unravels and everyone around her is turning up dead. Jackie finds herself helplessly trapped like prey in a spider’s web, and all she can do is try to survive the night!

http://www.honeyspidermovie.com

Nurse Sherri

Nurse-Sherri

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Shock-O-Rama presents 2 versions of Nurse SherriThe Possession of Nurse Sherri, which leans more to the ‘horror’ side of things and Nurse Sherri which is the more sleazy sexploitation cut of the film for the grindhouse / drive-in audiences. The main differences between the two are that the ‘horror’ version has additional scenes with actor JC Wells being pursued by the laughing disembodied head of a cult leader and a long car chase which ends with one of the cars crashing and exploding. I chose to watch the sexploitation cut.

The introductory prologue has a small devil-worshipping cult in the desert trying to bring a man back to life. In the midst of conjuring up the forces of evil, the head necromancer Reanhauer has a heart attack and is rushed to hospital. Whilst in hospital he is attended to by Nurse Sherri and he speaks to her in long monologues regarding the supernatural. Reanhauer’s condition rapidly worsens and he ends up on the operating table under the scalpel of Peter, Sherri’s surgeon boyfriend (with the assistance of Sherri) where he eventually expires. Later on when Sherri is at home masturbating on her bed, a strange animated green ethereal fog floats into her room and rapes her (although she doesn’t really put up much of a fight). This is definitely one of the ‘trippiest’ rapes I’ve ever witnessed on celluloid, and probably the highlight of the film.

It turns out that the green fog was the blasphemous cult leader’s spirit and now Nurse Sherri is possessed! You can tell cos she speaks in a man’s voice and bugs her eyes outta her head. She then goes on a killing spree, massacring a few doctors – one is dispatched via pitchfork impalement, another is stabbed in the chest. A blind ex-footballer hospital patient whose grandmother is a Haitian Voodoo priestess says the only way to exorcise Nurse Sherri’s evil possessor is to dig up and burn the corpse of Reanhauer, so a couple of Sherri’s nurse friends cruise to the cemetery for some good ol’ grave desecratin’.

I actually dug this cheapie from Al Adamson quite a bit more than I’d expected to. I mean yeah, there are a lot of slow parts, the ultra low budget sets and amateurish acting are blatant and the films theme song is stolen directly from The Godfather, but that just goes to show this flick for what it essentially is – a typical slice of ’70s exploitation fare designed to draw in the crowds who are eager to see some gratuitous nudity and a bit of blood.

And there’s enough exploitable elements here to make for some entertaining (if slightly tame) sleaze, mainly of the sexed-up female nurse variety. Whether it be pointless flashbacks to ‘the craziest sexual experience’ Sherri and her boyfriend have ever had (a lesbian encounter and a naughty blowjob), patient ‘relief’ that goes far beyond the call of duty, some semi-bloody kills, and a grand finale that has a bugged out Nurse Sherri covered in blood with a meat cleaver in each hand preparing to slaughter her boyfriend Peter. All in all one of the more enjoyable pieces of trash I’ve seen from schlock-maestro Adamson.

Like a lot of recent double feature DVD releases (due to the bullshit ‘grindhouse revival’ instigated by the Tarantino/Rodriguez film) Shock-O-Rama have presented this release as a tribute to the classic grindhouse double features with a bunch of trailers acting as intermission between the two films.

Extras:
  • Nurse Sherri (alternate cut)
  • Interview with Marilyn Joi
  • Retro Drive-In Theatre promos
  • Commnentary with Producer Samuel M Sherman

Ju-on: White Ghost / Ju-on: Black Ghost

White_Ghost_Black_Ghost_DVD

There have been few horror properties in the past decade as prodigious as the Ju-on series. From the Japanese originals, to American remakes and even video games, it is a surprising proliferation for a film with a seemingly limited core concept. Even six years after the last Japanese film in the series, the concept has been revived for two new films in the form of Ju-on: White Ghost and Ju-on: Black Ghost.

Around the turn of the century, the J-horror boom was just starting to hit. The cerebral works of Kiyoshi Kurosawa had garnered interest on the festival circuit, along with the more visceral films from Takashi Miike, but it was Hideo Nakata’s adaptation of Koji Suzuki’s novel Ring that truly ignited things.

When Ring came out in 1998, Takashi Shimizu was a young assistant director attending a filmmaking class conducted by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Kurosawa subsequently invited Shimizu to contribute a couple of short films to an anthology made-for-TV project called Gakkô no kaidan G. Shimizu’s contributions would be Katasumi (AKA In The Corner) and 4444444444, two simple one-scare three-minute pieces that would introduce the two key ghosts of the JuOn milieu and set the template for all of the films to follow.

What did follow was the surprise V-cinema hits Ju-on: The Curse and Ju-on: The Curse 2 which would then be conglomerated and reworked into a theatrical version called, Ju-on: The Grudge. This release would also be successful to the point that a sequel, Ju-on: The Grudge 2 soon followed. Then Hollywood came a-knocking and tapped Shimizu to remake his own work into the Sarah Michelle Gellar-starring The Grudge.

The US version would itself spawn two sequels, but Shimizu was no longer involved. When two more Japanese films were announced in 2009, Shimizu was on board, but only in an advisory capacity. The results were the hour-long pieces, White Ghost and Black Ghost.

White Ghost continues (loosely) the tale of the Ju-on Saeki house where Takeo murdered his wife Kayako and child Toshio. Years later, the rage locked up in the house infects another family, resulting once more in mass-murder and a new wave of ghosts who take vengeance on any unfortunates straying too close.

The movie continues the Ju-on structure of a series of chapters, each titled after a different protagonist. These are always told out of chronological order, serving to create a satisfying narrative from what is usually (and again in this case) a pretty threadbare plot. Ultimately, a Ju-on film stands or falls on the quality of its scares; this is very much a set-up that is like a theme park ride – a succession of tense build-ups followed by a sudden fright.

In this capacity, White Ghost is a mixed bag. It has terrific moments (a creepy cassette that plays by itself stands out), but some choices may result in laughs, rather than scares. Electing to make one of the ghosts an old woman is a valid choice, but when it is apparently portrayed by a child in a cheap rubber mask, the effect is badly undercut. This is not helped by having this particular ghost always carrying a basketball.

Black Ghost takes a very different approach and in fact, aside from a fan service nod by having a cameo by Toshio, this does not feel like a Ju-on film at all, rather a generic ghost story with no connection to the mythos. In this story, a young girl named Fukie is committed to hospital suffering from an apparent cyst. Naturally, this turns out to be the remains of her unborn twin…who is angry for not ever being born.

Events progress is a fairly pedestrian manner, bringing neither quality scares nor anything that hasn’t been done in numerous horror films before. It is telling that, even at only 60 minutes long, Black Ghost feels stretched too thinly.

The results are an uneven pairing. White Ghost is a worthy addition to the Ju-on pantheon, being somewhat of a middling entry, but Black Ghost is arguably the worst in the series, possibly even including the dire American The Grudge 3. A mixed bag and really only one for Ju-on fans.

Extras:
  • Trailer

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

The Thing on the Doorstep

Thing-Doorstep “It is true that I have sent six bullets through the head of my best friend, and yet I hope to shew by this statement that I am not his murderer.” So begins The Thing on The Doorstep, a short story by the legendary H.P. Lovecraft, now adapted as a film by Tom Gliserman.

The story is recounted by Daniel Upton (David Bunce) and concerns his friendship with one Edward Derby (Rob Dalton). Edward enters into a whirlwind romance, followed by a rapid marriage with Asenath Waite (Mary Jane Hansen), a young woman reputed to have strange hypnotic powers. Almost immediately, Edward’s personality seems to change, and Daniel and his wife Marion (Susan Cicarelli-Caputo) begin to suspect there is something seriously amiss in this new relationship.

While he is currently considered one of the most influential horror authors of all time, Lovecraft has had relatively few film adaptations. This is partly because his mainstream popularity is a reasonably new phenomenon (compared to his contemporary Edgar Rice Burroughs, for example) and partly because many of his stories are not particularly easy to film. Lovecraft tended toward first-person narration (which can come off as heavy-handed when done poorly in film) and often refused to specify exactly what the horrors he described were like – a central trope of his is forces that are literally impossible for the human mind to comprehend. With this in mind, The Thing On The Doorstep is (while not one of Lovecraft’s best-loved stories) an inspired choice for adaptation, as it largely skirts the more cosmic horrors of Lovecraft’s universe in favour of more human-scale evil.

The film shift the action from 1933 to the modern day, but is otherwise fairly faithful to Lovecraft’s text. This is by and large handled pretty well – Upton’s wife (largely absent from the short story) is given a greatly-expanded role, and there’s an interesting conflict between her and Upton as to whether Asenath or Edward Derby is the dangerous one in the relationship. The downside is that while Lovecraft’s 1930’s “Arkham” (a fictional town, but one definitely located in his native New England) was a plausible place to find people who publicly dabbled in the occult and spiritualism, and were considered “intelligentsia” for doing so, this seems odd in a modern context.

This is compounded by a general lack of focus on the setting that lends the film a feeling of being set nowhere in particular. This is disappointing, because The Thing On The Doorstep is one of the stories which draws on Lovecraft’s invented geography for some of its horror – Asenath is one of the “Innsmouth Waites”, and Innsmouth is a town which has deep and unwholesome ties to occult forces. Innsmouth as presented in the film is indistinguishable from Arkham, and contains nothing more unsettling than a kid riding a bike at night.

The film also makes heavy use of post-production effects. Everything is in soft focus and stained a murky green. This seems like it’s meant to evoke a dreamy atmosphere, but actually tends to evoke a headache after the first 45 minutes. It also undercuts the (much more appropriate) use of such effects in the actual dream/hallucination episodes. This is a shame, because the film actually gets really great mileage out of limited (but effectively chosen) locations and sets, or it would have if they hadn’t been drowned in a layer of green sludge.

At base, this is a pretty good movie. The adaptation is handled skilfully, the dialogue has been updated well, the actors are clearly doing their best, and the ways that it chooses to diverge from the original short story all make good sense (as do the things it chooses to keep). When the effects are appropriate, they work really well (the titular “thing on the doorstep” deserves a mention here as an excellent practical monster effect) and the atmosphere builds steadily and effectively throughout. It’s just a shame about that green fog.

Recommended for Lovecraft and genre fans, recommended (though with the reservations noted above) for everyone else.

No special features, not even a title menu.

Available on DVD from MVD Visual.