In 1974, legendary Hammer Studios teamed up with the equally legendary Shaw Bothers Studios for this martial arts/horror mash-up, bringing Hammer’s gothic, vampire storytelling style together with the fast-paced martial arts action of a classic Shaw Brothers production!
Martial arts horror, also known as The 7 Brothers Meet Dracula in the United States, has Kah (Chan Shen), high priest of the 7 golden vampires, coming to Transylvania to beg Count Dracula himself (John Forbes-Robertson) for help in resurrecting the creatures he serves. Dracula betrays him and takes his form to return to China and bring the golden vampires back to life to serve his own sinister purposes instead. Lucky for us, Dr. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) is touring China to lecture about vampires! Soon he, his son Leyland (Robin Stewart), and a rich widow (Julie Ege) are teaming with martial arts warrior Hsi Ching (David Chiang) and his brothers and sister, to battle Dracula, the golden vampires and a vampire army.
Film is directed by Roy Ward Baker, with Chang Cheh directing the martial arts sequences, from a script by Don Houghton. The flick is a delightfully well-balanced mix of gothic Hammer style horror and Shaw Brothers martial arts period fantasy. The visuals are quite spooky, and the film embraces both Western and Eastern styles in its portrayal of the undead and their supernatural hijinks. There are grotesque walking corpses armed with swords and weapons, fog shrouded graveyards, spooky castles both European and Asian, and, of course, the fanged, golden masked villains of the title. There is quite a lot of bloodshed and a surprising amount of nudity from a host of nubile young Chinese woman who fall prey to the vile villains. Add to that some fast-paced martial arts battles and you have a very entertaining mash-up that, unfortunately, was poorly received critically and failed at the box office, despite combining two very popular types of movies at the time in the 70s. The flick is simply lots of fun and has some spooky and disturbing sequences mixed in with all the bloody martial arts action. Sure, a lot of the FX are cheesy by today’s standards, but that adds to its nostalgic charm and charm is something this entertaining flick has to spare!
Speaking of charming, the film has a splendid cast of both Eastern and Western actors. Peter Cushing is his usually scholarly and dignified self as Van Helsing, a role he played many times. Make no mistake, when faced with supernatural dangers, this dapper professor can kick vampire butt with the best of them. Cushing took every performance very seriously, yet still had fun with the role. Robin Stewart is a chip off the old block as Van Helsing’s son Leyland. Dashing and handsome, while at the same time, dangerous and full of fight, like his dad. Julie Ege is pretty and spunky as the rich widow Vanessa Buren, though is utilized more as a damsel in distress. John Forbes Robertson is fine as the briefly seen Dracula, though, to be honest, Christopher Lee would have been far more imposing in what amounts to as an extended cameo. Our Eastern heroes are good as well! David Chiang is a noble warrior as Hsi Ching, a descendant of another vampire slayer, and Shih Szu is cute yet quite formidable as Mai Kwei, Hsi Ching’s sister and a love interest for Leyland. Rounding out is a properly sinister Chan Shen as Kah/Dracula. A solid cast who all get the material!
Filmed entirely on location in Hong Kong, this is a fun martial arts/ horror mash-up whose initial failure is all the more disappointing when one sees how enjoyable it is. It has the perfect blend of horror and martial arts, along with a nice mix of Eastern and Western supernatural folklore. It looks great, with some very effective visuals, along with plenty of martial arts action and bloody horror film mayhem. Sure, it’s cheesy at times, but that adds to the overall 70s charm and nostalgia. A really fun, yet sadly one-time collaboration from Hammer and Shaw Brothers Studios! Currently available on a special edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory!
Good things came from Amazon today! One of my favorite guilty pleasures from the 80, and one of the best of the pre-Lord of the Rings sword and sorcery epics, The Sword and the Sorcerer has finally made it to Blu-Ray, and it’s 4k, too! Directed by Albert Pyun and written by him, Tom Karnowski and John V. Stuckmeyer, The Sword and the Sorcerer is a gory, action-packed 80s cult classic that fans have been waiting to arrive on HD disc for a long time! Now, thanks to the awesome folks at Scream Factory, it was released today with all the extras you have come to expect from this amazing label! I can’t wait to watch it in all its remastered glory! (Full review HERE)
Good things came from Amazon today! One of my favorites from the 80s and one of the best of the Jaws rip-offs, Alligator has finally made it to Blu-Ray, and it’s 4k as well! Directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo) and written with loads of wit by John Sayles (Piranha, The Howling) and Frank Ray Perilli, Alligator is an 80s cult classic that has been waiting for a decent release for decades! Now, thanks to the awesome folks at Scream Factory, it was released today with all the extras you have come to expect from this amazing label! I can’t wait to watch it in all its remastered glory! (Full review HERE)
HAPPY 42nd ANNIVERSARY to JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)
John Carpenter’s The Fog was released on February 8th, 1980, and my butt was there in a theater to see it! So, in honor of the 42nd anniversary of one of my all-time favorite horror flicks, I am re-posting this look back at Carpenter’s classic!
One of my all-time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloweenwhen it came out, this was the first Carpenter film I saw in a theater and the flick that started me on my love of his movies.
The Fog tells the story of the 100-year anniversary of the small coastal California town of Antonio Bay and as the town prepares for its centennial celebration, a dark secret is revealed. Legend has it a leper colony paid the founders of Antonio Bay a lot of gold to let them settle nearby, but they were betrayed and murdered, as their ship was lured onto the rocks to crash and sink on a fog laden night. All were lost, but now a horde of vengeful spirits returns from the sea, wrapped in a surreal fog, to make the descendants of those who wronged them, pay with their lives.
The Fog focuses not on a main character, but a group of central characters whose individual experiences during this supernatural crisis bring them slowly all together, for its tense and creepy final act set in the town church. A good cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis as hitchhiker Elizabeth, Tom Atkins as local fisherman Nick, Janet Leigh as centennial chairwoman Kathy Williams and Adrienne Barbeau as single mom and radio DJ Stevie Wayne, give life to this ensemble and make them characters we like and care about, so we fear for them when they are placed in harm’s way. Add to that Hal Holbrook as the town’s alcoholic priest and a host of Carpenter regulars—with even a cameo by Carpenter himself—and you have a film wonderfully filled with a variety of characters who are all potential victims for the marauding phantoms. As for those phantoms, let’s not forget to mention the ghostly Captain Blake (FX man Rob Bottin) and his vengeful crew who are portrayed with in-camera practical FX. This makes them quite spooky and gives them a heavy dose of menace and a lot of effectiveness when they are on the attack. There is loads of atmosphere and some very solid scares and suspense created by Carpenter, along with some great cinematography from frequent Carpenter collaborator Dean Cundey, which makes this a good, solid, old-fashioned ghost story and a fun Halloween season treat. Carpenter again delivers a score which adds chills and foreboding to his tale of ghostly revenge, much like he did for Halloween and he starts the film off perfectly, with a chillingly fun opening sequence featuring veteran John Houseman as a crusty sailor who likes to tell kids scary stories. It sets the mood for the thrills and chills yet to come. This classic was made back when there was no phony CGI, just solid make-up effects from master Rob Bottin (who went on to do The Thing’s FX for Carpenter) and some very basic down to earth smoke and mirrors style visuals, that are as beautiful as they are scary. A great flick the likes of which they rarely make anymore and one of MonsterZero NJ’s must-watch flicks during the Halloween season!
The film is thankfully available, on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases, plus a new commentary track with Barbeau, Atkins and Tommy Lee Wallace and two really fun and informative interviews with Jamie Lee Curtis and Cinematographer Dean Cundey, who also supervised the absolutely gorgeous transfer!
Having recently treated myself to the awesome Scream Factory box set of this four film Spanish horror series, from Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, I decided to revisit my reviews for each film in this chilling series…
One of the best of the post Blair Witch found footage horror movies, this Spanish fright flick starts out quietly and slowly builds the tension until a truly nerve-racking final act. The film starts quietly as a pretty reporter, Angela (Manuela Velasco) for a news team is documenting the activities of a Barcelona fire dept. She and her camera man, whose perspective we are following, go along with them on a routine call at an old apartment building involving and elderly woman. Soon they realize that something is very wrong as the old woman violently attacks them and one by one the occupants are turning vicious and homicidal, and the group falls under siege. Worse yet, the authorities have arrived and sealed them all inside the building with the increasing numbers of ‘infected” sealed in with them and a few remaining unaffected tenants.
Using the first-person camera style to draw you in, the viewer takes the perspective of Angela’s camera man and you’re along for the ride. Directors and writers, Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza really know how to turn the screws and use the found footage format to maximum effect. There are some really tense and violent scenes once the story gets going and you are right in the middle of it through the camera’s eye as they decide to keep documenting what is happening around them. The final scenes are done in the dark with night vision and will give you the appropriate nightmares. A top notch and quite nerve-wracking horror from Spain.
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) scared Señoritas!
This is the best trailer I could find. It doesn’t have subtitles, not that it needs them, but the film does…
Sequel to the Spanish chiller [REC] picks up right where the original left off with a SWAT team escorting a health dept. official into the sealed tenement. This enables the intensity and chills to start almost immediately, whereas the original took time to build the story and tension. And not only are we treated to more nail-biting horror as in the first film, but some new twists to the story really crank up the goose bump factor as the ‘infection’ may have a far more horrifying origin. Add to that some foolishly inquisitive teens who find a way into the building and become trapped inside with the police and the murderous zombies and the makers of the original [REC] once again put the audience through the ringer.
A sequel that manages to continue the story and up the ante at the same time. Watch for some fun cameos from some of the first flick’s characters as zombies and a sinister surprise at the climax. Another scary treat from writers and director’s Jaume Balaguer and Paco Plaza.
Since I posted about the first 2 films in this series in a recent Saturday Night Double Feature… check it out here… I thought I’d give the third flick a shout out…
I am a huge fan of the [REC] films, they are among my favorite horrors of recent years so, I was very much looking forward to this latest installment…and while it is the weakest of the series so far, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have a bloody good time. First off, [REC] 3: Genesis has the best excuse for found footage yet…a zombie outbreak at a wedding where the wedding videographer captures the horrific events, but the film also abandons the format when logic dictates the videographer no longer films and then becomes more of a routine zombie flick. That is the film’s weakness, that it is more of a generic zombie movie then the first two especially when it changes to a more straightforward format. The film is also much lighter in tone then the first two installments, as well, as it tells the story of a wedding occurring at the same time as the tenement outbreak, where guests and relatives start turning into demon possessed zombies. A lighter tone and a change of format doesn’t mean a fan of this series or of zombie flicks won’t enjoy the fun and carnage [REC]3 throws our way. Director Paco Plaza seems to have wanted to have a little more fun with this chapter and as long as his loyal audience accepts that, they can join in the gore-soaked amusements too. The cast seem to be in on the fun and while they take their parts serious enough, there is also a quick wink to let us know that we’re lightening things up a bit this time round. Pretty lead Leticia Dolera as the blood spattered, chainsaw wielding bride, Clara especially seems to have a good time going from frightened future Mrs. to zombie killing Bridezilla. Top notch gore once again punctuates the film as with the previous two installments. Again, lesser of the three, but still blood-soaked fun!
(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)
After the fun but lighter toned [REC] 3: Genesis directed by series co-creator Paco Plaza, this Spanish horror franchise returns to its more serious roots and brings back original chapter heroine Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) for it’s supposed conclusion. The story picks up where [REC] 2 left off with Angela being rescued from the tenement by a team of armed soldiers and finding herself in “quarantine” on a large ship at sea housing a few other survivors, including an old woman (María Alfonsa Rosso) from the wedding in [REC] 3. The ship is filled with soldiers and scientists who claim to be testing the survivors for the lethal virus before releasing them. Unknown to the survivors and crew, though, the paramilitary team is also experimenting on an antivirus and to do that, they need the infected to test it on. When one of their test subjects is freed, the zombie plague begins to spread through the ship, which is isolated at sea, and now the lives of everyone are threatened by zombies and self-destruct protocols alike.
This final(?) installment is directed by series co-creator Jaume Balagueró, who co-wrote with Manu Diez and completely jettisons the found footage format that was used for the first two films and part of the third. The film also underplays the religious overtones while returning to a darker and more intense tone after the more playful third film. Balagueró definitely gives the proceedings some nice atmosphere and cinematographer Pablo Rosso adds to that with taking full advantage of the claustrophobic old ship it’s set on. The film never quite reaches the nail-biting intensity of the first two films, but Balagueró does gives us a very exciting and suspenseful third act when the infestation is in full swing, and our survivors are fighting the undead and each other. The film is also quite gory in the series tradition and the only thing that is somewhat disappointing is that it never feels like a climactic chapter, but just another installment. It never felt like it was a conclusion, or that it truly wrapped things up for the remaining characters…or the infestation for that matter. By downplaying the religious aspects of the zombie outbreak, it removes the need for a deeper explanation to what was initially a demon caused viral possession. Now it is just a virus that can be isolated and stopped once the host parasite is found and destroyed. It does take away a bit of the creepiness derived from the fact that the zombies were caused and guided by a malevolent demonic intelligence. There is only a brief moment where a character that hosts the parasite talks as if possessed, but it is brief and leads nowhere. Don’t get me wrong, the film still delivers a very entertaining and bloody 90 minutes and there is a very effective score by Amau Bataller to accent the action…of which there is plenty. It’s just the film never gives the viewer the closure they need to bid farewell to this franchise, if it truly is the end. We needed something stronger and something that felt more final.
The cast are all very good, from sexy heroine Manulela Velasco who can get just as vicious as any zombie when she needs to. Paco Manzanedo is a solid hero as Guzmán, the soldier that saves Angela from the tenement and earns himself a voyage on the ship/lab. Héctor Colomé is appropriately slimy and intense as Dr. Ricarte, who has been following this outbreak from its inception and seems to have his own agenda. As for the supporting players, all do solid work whether good guy, bad guy, human or zombie and having a strong cast goes far in making this as good as it is.
Overall, I liked [REC] 4 very much, but was just slightly disappointed that it chose to side-step some of the more interesting religious aspects of the initial story developed over the first three films. By doing away with the found footage formula, it both freshens it up and takes away one of the more unique aspects of the series and now it’s a routine zombie flick, though a very good one. As a conclusion, it didn’t have the weight and finality that once expects from a final chapter, but overall, it is a suspenseful and gory good time. Maybe not a completely worthy finale, but a very solid and entertaining installment in an overall quality horror series and a return to form after the lighter third chapter.
THE HILLS RUN RED (2009) COLLECTOR’S EDITION BLU-RAY!
The Hills Run Red (2009)(full review HERE) is a bloody…and very 80s…slasher flick that was sadly overlooked when first released directly to DVD on 9/29/2009. It has since gained a strong and loyal cult following and now, thanks to the great folks at Scream Factory, is getting the treatment and respect it deserves!
As for the disc itself….
The high definition transfer of this cult favorite looks really good and wonderfully complements Ilan Rosenberg’s cinematography, as well as, the film’s unsettling visual design. The flick is presented in the original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The colors are bright and vibrant and the images are sharp. The sound is in DTS HD 5.1 and should satisfy any home theater enthusiasts, as well as, it’s intended audience.
Now on to the extras….
There are some very extensive and informative extras on this disc! The special edition contains all the extras from the original DVD release, including the audio commentary and the It’s Not Real Until You Shoot It: MakingThe Hills Run Red feature.
The new stuff is bountiful. We get two new audio commentaries featuring director Dave Parker, podcaster Patrick Bromley and fan favorite filmmakers Joe Lynch and Adam Green. We get a bunch of video interviews. They start off with an in-depth look at the creation of it’s score from composer Frederik Wiedmann. We get extensive interviews with executive producer Erik Olsen, director Dave Parker and writer David J. Schow. These interviews give some great insight into the production, especially detailing Warner Brothers enthusiastically green-lighting the film after reading the script, then backtracking once they saw the first cut. This explains the short runtime and why the film was dumped unceremoniously on DVD. We get a day in the shooting of the film with, Friday the 13th, June 2008. We get a look at improve scenes shot by the cast for the character filmed segments in The Hills Are Alive…With The Sound Of Improv. The next batch of new featurettes appear to be put together from unreleased interview and behind the scenes footage during the production. These include separate documentaries each on William Sadler’s portrayal of Wilson Wyler Concannon, as well as, Janet Montgomery, Sophie Monk, Alex Wyndham and Tad Hilgenbrink playing their respective roles. After the cast, there are on-set interviews with producer Robert Meyer Burnett and production designer Antonello Rubino. Also be aware, there is a lot of unused footage from the film peppered throughout all these featurettes and a nice production scrapbook that is the icing on the new extras cake. All in all, this is a whooping selection of extras to delight the film’s fans that make this modestly priced special edition well worth the purchase.
Babyface! The masked killer of The Hills Run Red and of the lost film of the same name.
The Hills Run Red (2009) may not have gotten the attention or box office release it deserved, but the folks at Scream Factory have finally given this fan favorite slasher the respect it’s due. The film looks great and there are some very extensive and informative extras involving many facets of the film’s production. If you are a fan of this film, this disc is almost certainly what you have been waiting for!
The Blob (1988)(full review HERE) is an 80s remake of the 1958 classic, that sadly underperformed at the box office when it was released on August 5, 1988. The film has gained a strong cult following all these years later and is finally getting the respect it deserves. No more evidence of this is Scream Factory’s recent collector’s edition, which gives this fun flick the proper treatment.
Classic creature updated…for the 80s.
As for the disc itself….
The transfer of this 80s monster movie is great and the print looks fantastic. The film is presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and as it is over three decades old, there is some grain in the picture, but that is to be expected at this point. The colors are bright and vibrant, which makes the gelatinous creature all the more effective as a colorful beastie it is. The sound is in HD DTS 5.1 or DTS 2.0 and makes this action/sci-fi/horror really come alive, as the sound design on the film is already very strong. Once again Scream Factory gives a film the royal treatment all films deserve and if you are a fan of this flick, the technical presentation is reason alone to have this.
Original Theatrical Poster
Now on to the extras….
The extras included are generous and features some fun stuff. For starters, there is an extensive two-part interview with Chuck Russell. In the first part he describes his journey into being a filmmaker, from his early days with Roger Corman, working on Hell Night, to his directorial debut on A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. In the second part, Russell goes into extensive detail on filming this 1988 remake. A great interview! Other interviews include, production designer Craig Stearns, FX man Chris Gilman, cinematographer Mark Irwin, FX man Peter Abrahamson, FX man Mark Setrakian, SPFX expert Tony Gardner and cast members, Candy Clark, Jeffrey DeMunn, Donovan Leitch and Bill Mosley. That’s a lot of personal insight into the making of this film! Be advised though, the box art also lists an interview with star Ricky Paull Goldin, but it does not appear with the extras. There is also some new commentary on the film, with Russell, Mark Irwin and Tony Gardner with a second solo commentary track featuring star Shawnee Smith. Scream Factory has also included a previous commentary with Chuck Russell and producer Ryan Turek. Rounding out the extras are some behind the scenes footage and, of course, the traditional theatrical trailer, TV spot and still gallery.
The Blob (1988) was sadly a box office disappointment when first released. A shame, as this is a fun, energetic and chilling monster movie with a lot of inventive filmmaking done to bring it’s creature to life. Today, the film has finally been recognized by genre fans and now has a well-deserved cult following. Thanks to Scream Factory, that following finally has a great way to enjoy it. Highly recommended!
Hell Night is a fun 1981 slasher that finds a group of college pledges spending the night in a haunted house as part of their initiation (Full Review HERE). It’s a good representation of the type of horror movie made back during that era and now with the added nostalgia, it’s aged very well. Scream Factory has resurrected this long sought after and unavailable flick and given it their star treatment. It comes in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack and with a host of extras
As for the feature…
The picture is a 4K remaster from a 35mm print and is presented in the original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio, preserving the film’s theatrical dimensions. There is some grain in the picture and a few lines here and there, but for a low budget film over 35 years-old, this is a great looking disc. The colors are vibrant and the picture has some nice contrast, especially in the shadow filled night scenes. The sound is in DTS-HD mono and it sounds just fine. Again, this low budget flick is from 1981, so don’t expect 7.1 surround sound. The menus are simple, fun and easy to navigate, which is the usual for Scream Factory’s releases. Overall a nice restoration of a cult classic and it brought memories back, having seen it during it’s theatrical run in a theater.
Now on to the extras…
The extras consist of some wonderful new interviews with cast and crew, who are all too happy to talk about this sometimes overlooked movie. We have interviews with star Linda Blair, leading man Peter Barton, producer Bruce Cohn Curtis and writer Randy Feldman. We then get some fun one on one conversations between actors Vince Van Patten and Suki Goodwin and then Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann. We also get a look at the design of the film and an examination of the death scenes with various crew members and a return to the original location. Follow that up with the usual trailers, TV spots, radio spots and photo gallery and you have a really fun and informative disc giving a low budget cult classic the respect it deserves!
As a film that has nostalgic resonance with me, I can’t express how great it is to see this little flick get such royal treatment! The disc arrives from Scream Factory on 1/2/18!
Jackals opens in 1983 with a chilling murder of a family in the middle of the night. The film then switches to the kidnaping of a young man, Justin (Ben Sullivan) by two masked individuals. We find out they are actually Ben’s father, Andrew (Johnathon Schaech) and ex-Marine, Jimmy (Stephen Dorff). We also learn that Justin is involved with a cult and his family has abducted him to a remote cabin for Jimmy to deprogram him. But as horror fans we know remote cabins in the woods are never a safe place and soon they are surrounded by masked cultists who want Justin back and his family all dead.
Flick is written by Jared Rivet and directed effectively by Kevin Greutert (Jessabelle). The plot may be a mix of things we’ve seen before like The Strangers, Faults and You’re Next, but it works well enough. There are some chilling scenes and some intensity, especially when the cultists surround the cabin and begin their efforts to get in. There is also some brutal violence and director Greutert does give it some atmospheric visuals to support the night-set story. The film falters a bit in a few aspects. First off, the Powell Family remain far too calm and organized when the cultists make their presence known. They quickly arm themselves, make weapons and seem quite ready to defend the cabin as if they’ve done this before. Have they? Did we miss something? Did Jimmy conduct a family boot camp just in case? Also, the cultists seem like they are a large group, yet constantly attack the cabin one or two at a time, instead of rushing the cabin all at once and overrunning it…which would end the movie very quickly. That and the whole animal masked killers thing is starting to get old and is far less effective since many films have used this trope in recent years. Still the film does entertain and there are some effective moments alongside the familiar ones.
The cast are all fine enough. The vets like Schaech, Dorff and Deborah Kara Unger take the material seriously and try their best to add some dramatic intensity. Ben Sullivan is creepy as Justin and the dynamic of being a brainwashed cultist is conveyed well enough to make the story work. We also have Nick Roux and Chelsea Ricketts as Justin’s jerk brother and girlfriend/baby momma, respectively and as the cultists are masked and silent, we never really get to know any of them. Cultist “Fox Girl” (Alyssa Julya Smith) had nice abs, but that’s as far as the character development went with her.
Overall, this was a decent enough horror/thriller to pass the time and there were some effective and brutally violent scenes to punctuate the story. There visual style of director Greutert added some atmosphere and the veteran cast took the material seriously. There were some story flaws, questions and a lot of familiarity which kept this from being a real nail-biter or more original, but you could do far worse for a night on the couch with a brew or two.
3 hatchets, a common weapon for jackal masked cultists.