COOL STUFF: WITHOUT WARNING and OCULUS on BLU-RAY

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As my last product review did quite well, I’ve decided to premiere my new column… Cool Stuff! Obviously it will be a look at/review of cool genre related items and home media.

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WITHOUT WARNING (1980) DVD/Blu-Ray

The folks at Scream Factory have done it again by bringing this hard to find cult classic to DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time ever. This 1980 low budget sci-fi flick (full review here) has been out of reach for decades and Scream Factory has resurrected it in all it’s cheesy fun, 80s glory. The combo DVD/Blu-Ray pack features a remastered print with a really nice package of extras. We get commentary from director Greydon Clark along with all new Scream Factory exclusive interviews with leads Christopher S. Nelson and Tara Nutter, producer Daniel Grodnick, legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey and make-up FX master Greg Cannom. They are all fun recollections about the making of a lost cult classic… and a personal guilty pleasure of mine. Scream Factory always gets some fun and informative interviews out of these people, treating us to an inside look at a film the likes of which would normally not get… but strongly deserves… such star treatment. A lot of enjoyable nostalgia here.

As for the print itself, the film looks as good as it probably ever will. There is some flickering and extra grain in some of the darker scenes. Probably due to flaws in the existing print revealed when those scenes were lightened but, as a film left in a closet somewhere since the 80s, this is probably the best source material available and considering it’s age and the low budget nature of it’s production, it still looks really good and the colors are rich and the image crisp. The sound is clean and very good quality and overall, despite any minor flaws in the source print, this looks far better then one might expect and the overall quality far outweighs those minor anomalies. Another great job by Scream Factory giving a cult classic the respect it deserves. Definitely recommended!

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oculus blu ray

OCULUS (2014) Blu-Ray

Oculus is my favorite horror, so far this year (full review here) and as a big fan of co-writer/director Mike Flanagan too, I eagerly awaited it’s home media release anticipating some cool extras and it didn’t disappoint. The disc comes with commentary from director Flanagan and a nice assortment of deleted scenes, including one with a cameo by Absentia‘s other leading lady Katie Parker (Courtney Bell’s cameo as a auctioneer remains in the final cut). There is a fascinating documentary about the making of the film including interviews with behind the camera talent and gives some cool incites on how the film came to be and how they pulled it off. To add to that, it also includes the full 32 minute short film version of Oculus that the feature film started out as. If you love the film making process as much as the movies, like myself, these are some extras that follow the genesis of how a film is created and brought to life. Very Cool!

As for the movie itself, the print is gorgeous. The disc preserves the rich but, varying color scheme of the film (brighter colors for sequences early on but, more muted and cold as the darker story elements unfold) and the picture is crystal clear. The sound is nice and full and while I don’t have a fancy sound system yet, it sounded great to me. All in all, a really nice presentation of what I believe is one of the best horror flicks of the year, if not in some time. It’s got some really solid extras and the movie itself was just as effective the second time around. Highly recommended.

Deleted scene from Oculus featuring the lovely Katie Parker…

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: VAMP (1986)

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VAMP (1986)

A full ten years before Robert Rodriguez took us to the ‘Titty Twister’, writer/director Richard Wenk took us to The After Dark Club, a vampire infested strip bar deep in the urban jungle of Los Angeles in this 80s horror/comedy from post-Corman New World Pictures (Corman sold it in 1983). Keith (Chris Makepeace) and A.J. (Robert Rusler) want desperately to get into a fraternity and to do so, make the frat brothers a deal that, if they get them a stripper for one of their parties, they are in. The boys hitch a ride with nerdy but, wealthy Duncan (Gedde Watanabe) into downtown L.A. and choose a place called The After Dark Club to find their stripper. Inside the sleazy club, the haunting and impressive Katrina (Grace Jones) is whom they choose but, unknown to them, Katrina is a centuries old vampire and so are most of the club employees except for new girl and old friend of Keith’s, Amaretto (Dedee Pfeiffer… Michelle’s sister). Soon a quest to join a frat becomes a night of terror and survival for Keith and his friends as they face an ancient and hungry evil that wants them all dead.

Low budget flick is no Lost Boys but, it is fun, though, not as fun as I remembered it when I saw it in 1986. Under Wenk’s direction the film has a slower pace than a flick like this should and he could have used some more intensity and energy in the action sequences, though budgetary restrictions probably were to blame here too as, the action is pretty small scale and low key. His visual style gives it a sleazy neon-bathed look and that works in the film’s favor and Wenk is supported by some nice gore and make-up FX from master Greg Cannom. The script has some definite weak points such as vampires keeping drums of flammable liquid in their lair and an albino youth gang that prowls the neighborhood yet, somehow has never come across their fanged neighbors but, the local coffee shop guy is well aware of them? But, giving the film a boost over it’s flaws is that the flick is very 80s and the nostalgia helps one past some of it’s weaker spots. Wenk also has a cast that gets the material and it’s tone. Makepeace is a suitable hero and it doesn’t hurt that he has a passing resemblance to Mel Gibson. Rusler plays well the part he usually played in the 80s flicks he was in, the cool player. Wantanabe is still milking Long Duk Dong but, with better English here and Pfeiffer gives us a crush-worthy, cute and ditzy heroine in her Allison/Amaretto. Grace Jones doesn’t have as much screen time as you might think as Katrina but, she is formidable and has presence even though she has no dialog and spends a lot of time under Greg Cannom’s make-up artistry. The music by Jonathan Elias suits the mood fine and the cinematography by Elliot David and Douglas F. O’Neons captures the sleazy neon soaked atmosphere of the setting. And to give the film credit, the comedy and horror elements do mix fairly well and that isn’t always easy.

Overall, Vamp is still fun, especially with the 80s nostalgia added but, not as good as I remembered it being. Grace Jones made an interesting stripper/vampire queen and with a little more energy and a perkier pace, this could have been a real treat. It’s still considered a cult classic by some and I agree it is a good example of 80s B-Movies, the type that soon went direct to DVD. It might be one of the last films of it’s kind to get a theatrical release before the home video era made it cheaper to go direct with flicks like this. It’s an amusing 80s horror/comedy and while there are certainly better examples of that genre mix, Vamp is still worth a look and a bit unique in it’s own way… and it did pre-date Lost Boys by a year and From Dusk Till Dawn by a decade. Also stars 80s B-Movie bad guy Billy Drago as albino street gang leader Snow.

3 fangs.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: WITHOUT WARNING (1980)

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WITHOUT WARNING (1980)

Yet another early 80s gem that I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen at the great Oritani Theater in Hackensack N.J. This delightfully cheesy sci-fi/ horror flick tells the story of an alien hunter who preys on humans using flying, fanged starfish-like creatures as weapons and a full 7 years before Arnold tangled with the Predator.

Without Warning focuses on two young couples (Tarah Nutter, Christopher S. Nelson, Humanoids From The Deep’s Lynn Theel and a young David Caruso) who decide to go camping at a remote lake despite the ominous warnings from strange local gas station owner/hunter, Joe Taylor (Jack Palance before City Slickers revived his career). Soon upon arrival at the secluded lake, they become the targeted prey of the extraterrestrial creature and his flying minions who have apparently staked out this area as their hunting ground. Now running for their lives and with no one believing them, they have only the gruff off-balanced Taylor and crazy war vet and conspiracy theorist “Sarge” (Martin Landau before Ed Wood revived his career) to turn to. Apparently these two have had dealings with this evil E.T. and have been equally ostracized for their claims, so maybe now it’s time to stand and fight.

This 1980 film is cheesy fun and brings a lot of unintentional laughs such as one youth’s attempt to describe the alien threat to a bar full of drunk locals and the alien actually stopping to steady a swinging lamp before continuing his pursuit of a victim. Greydon (Satan’s Cheerleaders) Clark directs from a script with no less than 4 writers listed for some reason. He gives the flick a rather pedestrian pace, but he treats his material seriously as do the cast, especially Palance and Landau, who properly chew up the scenery with Landau especially cranking up the nuttiness. Aside from them, though, the acting and dialog is strictly what you’d expect from a B-movie like this and the barely adequate performances suit the material oddly well. The production is strictly low budget with some passable alien SPFX and OK gore from future FX master Greg Cannom with the alien’s head created by the legendary Rick Baker. There isn’t a lot of action till the last act, but it is entertainingly worth waiting for and the fact that everyone in the small lakeside town seems to be some kind of nut does go a long way to make up for it in the meantime. And who can pass on a three-way showdown between Jack Palance, Martin Landau and a 7 foot purple alien? Not me! Add in a typical 80s electronic score by Dan Wyman and some nice cinematography by frequent John Carpenter DOP Dean Cundey and you have a good example of the type of B-movie they sadly don’t make anymore. Despite all it’s inadequacies, it’s heart is in the right place.

Not a classic or great movie by any length, but it is a fun 80s ‘so bad it’s good’ flick to enjoy with a couple of beers and a few other flicks of equally enjoyable awfulness (like Laserblast for example). Without Warning also features appearances by film vets Ralph Meeker and Neville Brand as doubting locals and Cameron Mitchell and Larry Storch as a hunter and scout master, respectively, who are among the creature’s first victims. Nostalgic 80s fun.

MONSTERZERO NJ EXTRA TRIVIA:  Ironically, the alien hunter here is played by Kevin Peter Hall who also played the Predator in the similarly themed, classic Schwarzenegger flick in 1987.

For an in-depth comparison of Without Warning and Predator, go HERE to read all about it.

3 cheesy angry aliens!

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