Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Celluloid Horrors Movie Reviews

By Brian M. Sammons

Director & Cast: various

Come on, you know what these movies are all about. Don’t tell me you don’t. Even if you never seen any of these flicks before, which I would find surprising as hell if you call yourself any sort of horrorhead at all, you know about these classic and hugely influential (and no, I’m not joking) films. You’ve got to know about the hockey-masked killer, Jason. He’s a bona fide horror rock star. You show anyone in the world his infamous mask and chances are still very high that they will know who you’re talking about, despite the heyday for this series being long gone. So with all that said, I’m not going to go through the plot of each of these eight FRIDAY THE 13TH films, the ones put out by Paramount Pictures before they sold the rights to New Line Cinema, and the eight movies collected here for the ULTIMATE COLLECTION. Because if you don’t know what a FRIDAY THE 13TH flick is then I have nothing to say to you, other than go watch them now and come back when you’re done.

So what will I cover in this review? Well the reasons why you should, or should not, pick up this latest re-re-rerelease of these fan favorite films. And sadly the only reason I can come up with is the packaging and extra not-on-the-disc goodies.

This set comes in a neat, if somewhat flimsy, plastic box. Each collection is a limited run so they are numbered out 50,000. Mine has a little sticker on it saying that it’s 31,153/50,000. Inside the box the coolest bit has got to be the mini hockey mask right out of Part 3. Too small for anyone other than infants, it would make a nice wall decoration if you were so inclined. Next there is the attractive book/DVD case. Not only does it hold all your discs in one convenient and compact spot, but each sleeve has some facts and trivia on each film, including a body count and a list of all the weapons used in that installment to slice and dice the teens with. Case in point, I never stopped to think that in the first FRIDAY THE 13TH film, only four weapons were used; knife, arrow, axe, and of course, the machete. Little stuff like that I always find cool. Two pair of 3D glasses, for Part 3, round out the physical extras in this collection.

Now for the down side; these are the exact same DVDs from the previous Deluxe Editions of the DVDs. So not one, teeny tiny new bit of anything is added to the movies or the extras on the actual discs. That is a huge disappointment and means that if you have the last edition of the FRIDAY films there is really no reason to get this unless you’re the world’s biggest FRIDAY THE 13TH fan and you’ve just got to have a mini Jason mask for yourself. I hate to say it but this sort of feel like a blatant attempt by Paramount to rip off the diehard fans who love these movies to pieces. After all, who is the Ultimate Collection aimed at, if not them? And if that’s the case, then such fans already have these movies. Chances are they have purchased the FRIDAY films multiple times, so I why not try to get some more bucks out of them, I guess. No one if putting a gun to the heads of Jason fans and making them buy this, but it still feels kind of sleazy since the only thing new this time around is the packaging.

All that said, it is a really neat boxed set. The movies look better than ever, short of Blu-ray, and I can only assume that a Blu-ray boxed set is in this series’ future sometime. The extra goodies are cool and the fanboys, like myself, are sure to find them cool. If you already own the Deluxe Editions of these movies then you really don’t need to get this. If you don’t have the first eight FRIDAY THE 13TH films on disc, then what the hell is wrong with you? They’re awesome! If that is you, then this collection is a great way to rectify that gross oversight. But other than that, I would have to suggest you pass on this one.

And, instead of posting every trailer, I thought this fan made YouTube Video of the 13 Best Kills would be a better representation of why we all love and admire the man behind the mask:

--Brian M. Sammons

By Brian M. Sammons

Director: Bill Philputt
Cast: Linnea Quigley, Clu Gulager, James Karen and others

Documentaries on horror movies seem to be a pretty hot ticket right now. The recent spate of fright film docs started with HALLOWEEN: 25 YEARS OF TERROR with films about the FRIDAY THE 13TH, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and PSYCHO franchises soon following. There’s even talk of documentaries on the JAWS, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, and HELLRAISER films being made soon-ish. But one series I, and pretty much everyone else, never thought would get the documentary treatment is the RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD movies. So imagine my surprise when I opened my mail one day to see this baby staring up at me. I mean, I love, love, LOVE the original RotLD, it’s one of my favorite fun fright flicks of all time. But the sequels…well not so much. Still, how cool is it that this very influential, yet mostly unknown by non-genre fans, cult film would get its own documentary all about it? The answer is; it’s very cool, and thankfully, it’s also very good. So let’s get to it.

Now one of the things that surprised me the most about MORE BRAINS was that it was all about the first movie…and that’s it. Now I think that may be a first. All the other horror docs talked about a series of movies, but here you had an almost two hour documentary on a single movie that was only 90 minutes long. Am I alone in thinking that’s kind of funny? I also think that was pretty awesome, and I only really liked the first RoTLD, so I didn’t have to sit through a bunch of stuff I really didn’t care about (but I’m not saying that stuff isn’t on this disc somewhere, I’ll get to that in a moment).

Pretty much everyone who was even remotely involved in RotLD can be found in this doc. All the actors, producers, writers, makeup artists, production designers, and more are here giving their .02 on everything. The notable and sad exception to this is writer/director Dan O'Bannon and actor Mark Venturini who played Suicide, both of whom has passed away. Again, this may be a first, for I can’t think of any other film doc that had such a complete collection of cast and crew. Furthermore, this isn’t the same old “oh everything was grate and we were one big happy family while filming this” Hollywood BS that you see in almost every other film documentary or behind the scene extra. No, these people speak their mind and some real inside info, and perhaps even a little bit of dirt, is given here and I found that honesty refreshing. Especially when people had the guts enough to say that director O’Bannon might have been a bit of a bastard. While they don’t burn the man if effigy, that whole “don’t speak ill of the dead” thing that keeps people mum even about the real a-holes was largely chucked out the window here.

This doc has real honesty, plenty of inside info, a bit of catty in-fighting, a complete history of how this great movie came to be, tons of info from all the living crew and actors, and that even includes the two guys who played the paramedics. So that right there should be enough for any brain-eater, but the special features on this DVD are every bit as good as the movie itself.

First off, there is a 30 minute featurette on the sadly lackluster sequel, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD 2, followed by a 20+ minute featurette on RotLD part 3. Both of these are as well produced as the feature documentary and they are not just filler. They even have lots of interviews with the cast and crew of those sequels that don’t appear in the main doc. Even though I don’t like these films all that much, it was great to have these extras on here for the people that do. Oh, and thankfully the filmmakers here all but ignore all the sequels after the third one that came out direct to DVD and were truly horrible.

But wait, we’re not done yet. There is a wonderful 30 minuet interview with director/writer Dan O’Bannon on here too. This was probably one of his last, and it was amazingly frank and candid. I loved it. Other extras include a bunch of deleted scenes from the doc, a live performance by Stacey Q of “Tonight”, or as you may know it; the song that Trash strips to in the graveyard, and a 10 minute featurette on the locations where the movie was shot, hosted by two of the original actors. A neat little bit of silliness called “Return of the Living Dead in 3 minutes” and a theatrical trailer for the doc round out the extras and all together the special features gather here run over two hours. Now that’s impressive.

MORE BRAINS is a great documentary. It’s informative, funny, and never boring. If you’re a zombie fan, if you love RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, or you are just interested in the behind the scenes stories on filmmaking in general, then this is a must buy for you. Consider this one highly recommended.

--Brian M. Sammons

by Anthony Servante

Director: Wes Craven
Cast: Michael Beck, Mimi Craven, Paul Sorvino, Starletta DuPois, William Forward.

I am talking to the casual horror fan right now. You Wes Craven fans have probably already seen this movie. That’s right, I’m talking to you Netflix, Blockbuster, YouTube, torrent-sucking pirates, and bootleg buying movie watching addicts who see everything that looks like horror, slasher, or terror related flicks. But if there are any Craven fans who haven’t seen this film yet, then I can add you to the list too.
Do not buy Chiller for entertainment. It’s not even so bad, it’s good. And therein lays the problem. For a Wes Craven film made for TV in 1985, it’s not half bad. Yes, the man who brought us The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), followed up the Freddy Krueger classic with Chiller (1985). So, what’s the problem, you ask?

Well, there are no good copies of this DVD or VHS out there, and there are a lot of copies, believe me. First, it was called Chiller. Then to drum up sales, the name was changed to Wes Craven’s Chiller. Then they changed the cover to include Michael Beck from The Warriors (1979). Later they added Paul Sorvino to the cover, even though his role in the movie does not warrant such a prominent display of this fine actor. Then they tried to include Chiller as a double feature with Night of the Living Dead (1968) and later with Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart (2004). I’ve seen this movie priced from 99 cents to $19.99. Don’t fall for it. They’re all basically bad copies.

But let’s get the good out of the way first. Young wealthy mogul Miles Creighton (Beck) dies from liver failure, but his mother (played by Beatrice Straight, although she remains unnamed on some of the DVD jackets), pays some big bucks to have her son frozen in cryogenic sleep. Now in the 1980’s they were freezing the entire body, whereas in the 1990’s someone figured all you need to freeze is the head. It’s here Paul Sorvino as the family priest protests the unholy refrigeration. But a mother’s love and mega-bucks wins out.

Ten years pass and Miles is revived. Only he comes back to life without a soul. We can tell this spiritual omission by the fact that Miles returns to life as a slacker. He drinks, watches a lot of TV, and sleeps late. The fiend. But he soon grows bored and decides to resume his corporate duties as Mega-CEO. With this power, he hits on his sister, beats women, tortures animals, and starts telling fibs. The scoundrel.
But after her son starts killing people, Mom finally figures out the priest was right and puts down her son before he can escape into cryogenic refrigeration again.

So there you have it. That’s the story. But here’s the problem. The picture is out of focus. Sometimes the shots are so dark, you can’t even tell what’s going on. It looks like someone recorded a bad copy of the movie off the TV with an antique camcorder. Also, the soundtrack is bootleg quality at best. It’s bad in some scenes, worse in others. It is an unforgivable mess. And they’re selling this mess by putting recognizable names on the cover. If only the movie were as in focus as the pictures on the DVD jacket.

So, until the powers that be decide to do a Blu Ray version off the original masters, which are probably lost in TV land somewhere, go watch one of Mr. Craven’s other fine horror movies. Or watch The Warriors again. But do your eyes and ears a favor and avoid this terrible piece of technology. Remember, you’ve been officially warned by the "Servante of Darkness".

And it looks like you're in luck, if you'd like to see the entire movie for free; it has been posted in 14 parts on YouTube. Below is Part 1 of 14 for your viewing pleasure:

--Anthony Servante