Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hi-Def Blood Movie Reviews

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980) Blu-ray review

By Brian M. Sammons

Director: Lucio Fulci
Starring: Christopher George, Catriona MacColl, Carlo De Mejo

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, also known by some as THE GATES OF HELL, is a masterpiece of horror cinema in many ways. It is one of Italian horror and gore maestro, Lucio Fulci’s zombie flicks and that alone makes calling it a masterpiece easy. It is also considered by some to be Fulci’s best movie, and while I don’t agree with that 100%, I can see the reasons why people would think that and I would say that it is easily one of the top three horror movies Lucio ever directed. It also has some of the most original and memorable gore gags in all of horror film history. Let me repeat that last part so that it really sinks in; in ALL of horror film history. How memorable? Well here’s a teaser, a woman literally vomits her guts out. Intestines, stomach, liver and other assorted organs come spraying out of her mouth in full view of the camera. So if that little tidbit has just put you off your lunch, then this CITY may not be a place you want to visit. However if reading that made you grin, say “oh my God, what?”, or fondly remember seeing this movie on VHS back in the 80s like I do, then this most certainly is right movie for you.

The story starts off on the right foot by showing a priest hanging himself in the small town of Dunwich. Despite its name, this little berg, and this film, has nothing whatsoever to do with H.P. Lovecraft, sorry Cthulhuheads. The holy man’s suicide causes the gates of hell to crack open and soon the ghost, or something, of the priest starts popping up all over town giving people the evil eye which causes folks to go crazy or to die in really horrible ways. See the aforementioned gut puking scene for a good example of “really horrible”. Additionally a few corpses get up to join in on the thrill kill fun, however if you are expecting zombiefests like Fulci’s ZOMBIE or THE BEYOND then you might be a little disappointed in the undead turnout. There are really not that many zombies to be found here, however those that do show up are very creepy and are some of the best shuffling stiffs ever captured on film. Into this nightmare are thrust a brave newspaper reporter and a female psychic (Fulci seems to love psychics almost as much as he loves zombies) who team up to save the world before All Saints Day when the gates to hell will fly all the way open and the world of man will be irretrievably lost. Can the pair save the day and avoid the deadly glare of the phantom priest, the brain squishing zombies, the crazies that like to stick people’s heads into drill presses, and the rains of maggots? Only time, and having the never to watch this movie, will tell.

In addition to having lots of great splatter moments and truly terrifying zombies, Fulci is a master at creating weird atmosphere and building up the dead, and in CITY those talents are in top form. There is a eerie, ickiness that begins with the priest’s hanging and continues all the way through the film to its rather bizarre ending. Along the way actors Christopher George and Catriona MacColl, as the reporter and psychic investigators, portray their characters believably and well and are backed up by a solid supporting cast. The direction, as usual for Fulci in this era, is superb and is a wonderful example of a master of horror at the top of his game. The music always sets the right creepy mood, the locations are well lit and sinister, and the gore effects, well I’ve gone on enough about the special makeup in this movie, so I’ll just say one last word about them: wow.

This new Blu-ray edition of the film is from the genre lovers at Blue Underground and as typical for most of the recent BU releases, CITY comes packed with tasty extras for you to sink your teeth into, or drill through the head, as the case may be. There’s a 32 minute making of documentary that pretty much talks to ton of people who worked on or acted in the movie. There are two feature interviews with actors Catriona MacColl at 11 minutes and Giovanni Lombardo at 10 minutes. There is also a featurette called Memories of the Maestro where cast and crew recount tales of working with director Fulci. Rounding things out are a number of trailers, radio spots, and a poster and still gallery. Together all these goodies clock in at well over an hour of extra content. Add to this three different audio tracks, one in 7.1 DTS, another in 5.1 surround EX, and the original mono soundtrack and you have one well endowed Blu-ray.

If you are a zombie fan, a gore fan, a Fulci fan, an Italian surreal cinema fan, or just a horror fan then this is a must have disc. CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD has never looked or sounded this good, and it’s not likely to get any better than this any time soon. So if you’ve been waiting for the definitive copy of this Fulci classic, then the good news is that your wait is over. I highly recommend this movie to all serious horrorheads.
To get your own copy of CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, or any of the other fine fright flicks Blue Underground offers, go here: Blue Underground

--Brian M. Sammons

I SELL THE DEAD (2008) Blu-ray review
Reviewed by Brian M. Sammons
Director: Glenn McQuaid
Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman, Larry Fessenden, Angus Scrimm

This movie is a throwback comedic mash up of EC Comics and a Hammer Studios flick. Not familiar with EC or Hammer? Then you need to brush up on your horror classics. Suffice to say, this film is funny, groovy, perhaps a tad bit silly at times, and above all else, it’s fun. If you don’t take your horror too seriously, and like your movies to do the same, then this might be the perfect move for you.

The story begins with Dominic Monaghan (of LORD OF THE RINGS and LOST fame) as grave robber Arthur Blake imprisoned in a 19th century English dungeon. Just hours till his execution a monk, played by genre great Ron Perlman, comes into his cell take his confession. With nothing better to do to pass the time, Arthur agrees to tell his life’s story, and what a weird story it is to.

Arthur began his ghoulish career as a young lad, apprenticed to an older grave robber named Willie Grimes played by Larry Fessenden, and actor perhaps best known as a producer and director of chilly horror films WENDIGO and THE LAST WINTER. From the start the two were busy scrounging up cadavers for the nefarious Dr. Quint, played to creepy perfection by Angus Scrimm, who was the nefarious Tall Man in the PHANTASM films. Then one night they accidentally dug something that wasn’t quite dead. Surviving that encounter, the pair discovered that digging up and selling undead things were a lot more profitable than selling the normal dead things. As the years pass the two have plenty of eerie adventures, fall in love (no, not with each other), and run afoul of a bigger and badder bunch of grave robbers called the House of Murphy.

Now as said before, I SELL THE DEAD is chock full of ghoulish, gothic fun. It is told more as a series of vignettes, such as “I remember the time we dug up a vampire” and “there was this one time Willie and I dug up an alien” rather then in a linear, normal way. This may turn some people off, but I liked it fine. I also thought it was well directed, acted, and the effects walked the fine line between cheesy and cool. There are some nice twists along the way, not to mention plenty of twisted characters, and a quite enjoyable ending.

The Blu-ray, brought out by IFC Films, offers quite a few extras in addition to a crisp, clear picture. There are two commentary tracks, a funny one with stars Monaghan and Fessenden, and a more serious one with the director. Likewise there are two featurettes, a smaller one focusing on the visual effects and a meaty one coming in at roughly sixty minutes that’s the usual making of and behind the scenes thing. Lastly there’s also a nice surprise to be found in the box in the form of a little comic book. All in all the entire things is a nicely done package.

I enjoyed I SELL THE DEAD a lot and I can give it a high recommendation. If you like off kilter horror comedies then I think you’ll dig (ha, get it?) this movie.

--Brian M. Sammons