COOL STUFF: PUMPKINHEAD on BLU-RAY

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PUMPKINHEAD COLLECTOR’S EDITION Blu-Ray

I love Pumpkinhead (see full review here), it’s a favorite horror, especially around the Halloween season, and one of my favorite movie monsters. The film has never been released on video or DVD in it’s proper aspect ratio, so, those like myself who didn’t catch it in it’s limited theatrical release in 1988 have yet to see it in all it’s glory… until now!

Scream Factory once again takes a cult classic title and gives it the proper respect it is due. The remastered picture looks absolutely gorgeous with rich colors and clarity that preserve the wonderfully spooky imagery director Stan Winston brought to this creepy tale of backwoods revenge. The image is presented in a sumptuous 1080 HD and there is remastered DTS audio to go with it. It’s like seeing it and hearing it for the first time.

As for the extras, there are commentary tracks from writer Gary Gerani and the creature FX team and about 3 hours of interviews and featurettes to chew on. Everything from the previous MGM DVD special edition is there, as well as, some new interviews from producer Richard Weinman and actor John Di’Aquino (Joel), as well as, an interview filled tribute to the late Stan Winston… which brings about my only criticism. The Stan Winston tribute documentary goes on for about 15 minutes too long. At about the 35 minute mark, the interviewees seem, at that point, to be rambling on and it becomes tedious and loses a bit of it’s focus. Some judicious editing would have kept this at a more reasonable length and still preserved the essence of it’s fond look back at working with the FX legend and the impact he had on these individuals. There’s a lot or repetitiveness as it drags on and would have lost none of it’s heartfelt purpose with losing a few minutes.

But, aside from that one meager critique, this is an absolute must have for fans of this flick. It is a gorgeous looking edition filled with extras that take you back behind the scenes of the making of a cult classic that sadly never got the proper attention it deserved… until Scream Factory got a hold of it. Another great collector’s edition from the awesome folks at Scream Factory! Pumpkinhead has truly been resurrected at last!

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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 (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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BARE BONES: GINGER SNAPS on BLU-RAY

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GINGER SNAPS (2000) on BLU-RAY

I’m normally not one for product reviews but, am so very happy that this cult classic (full movie review here) has finally been given the love it deserves by the awesome folks at Scream Factory. This label just keeps delivering these wonderful editions of horror cult classics and giving fan favorites and obscure guilty pleasures the respect they deserve with pristine restored prints and engaging extras. Ginger Snaps is finally presented in it’s Anamorphic Widescreen glory (1.78:1) and has a nice DTS 5.1 sound mix. I don’t have the best sounds system but, it sounded really good to me and the picture was clear and had only some mild graininess in some of the darker scenes but, this is a low budget horror movie and that is just fine. The colors are rich but, not over-saturated so, they look natural and the picture is certainly better quality then any other presentation before it. There are some nice featurettes and deleted scenes along with commentary and new interviews from director and co-writer John Fawcett and Karen Walton as well as leading lady Emily Perkins. Obviosuly the presence of star Katharine Isabelle is sadly missing but, Scream Factory claims communication with the actress’ representatives went unanswered. Too bad. Otherwise this is a must buy for fans of this Canadian cult classic horror.

… and DAMN! Emily Perkins looks good in those new interviews!

three and one half stars rating

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: DEADLY BLESSING (1981)

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DEADLY BLESSING (1981)

While I wouldn’t say Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing is one of my all time Halloween Favorites, I would say it’s a film that holds sentimental value being one of the films seen at my beloved Oritani Theater in Hackensack, N.J. and if you’ve been coming to this site for a while you know that was a special place for the movie geek in me and holds a lot of equally special memories. But, having recently revisited this creepy thriller thanks to Scream Factory’s gorgeous blu-ray, I found that not only was it still very enjoyable but, has some really nice 80s nostalgia attached to it now, too!

Deadly Blessing tells the story of young couple Martha (Battlestar Galactica hottie Maren Jensen) and Jim (Douglas Barr) who live on a farm near the rustic and religious Hittites of whom Jim is family but, was exiled for marrying a woman not of their clan. Tragedy strikes as a horrible accident…or was it…leaves Martha a widow and soon she is joined by loyal friends Lana (Sharon Stone) and Vicky (Susan Buckner) who come to console her. But, someone or something is watching the young women and soon Jim isn’t the only body turning up on Martha’s land. The Hittites, lead by the strict Isaiah (Ernest Borgnine), say that it is the work of the Incubus, a seductive demon come to temp all to sin and damnation, while Martha and her friends believe it is the work of someone far more down to earth…but, who and why?

While Craven…who co-wrote the screenplay with story writers Glenn M. Benest and Matthew Barr…would really hit his stride with A Nightmare On Elm Street three years later, he still delivers a solid little horror thriller here that is actually an entertaining and well made film. It has some spooky sequences and keeps you guessing while presenting us with some likable characters to fear for and some other characters to be suspicious of. Craven gives the film some nice atmosphere accented by some beautiful cinematography by Robert Jessup and a nice score from James Horner.

The cast are fine, Jensen is a bit wooden but not enough to sink things, Stone is good as the emotionally troubled Lana and Buckner makes a crush-worthy and perky Vicky…and a big crush on her Vicky I had upon seeing this flick in 1981. Borgnine is perfectly menacing and just over the top enough as clan leader Isaiah and genre favorite Michael Berryman is equally effective as a Hittite man with an eye for his pretty neighbor. Also good are Lisa Hartman as Faith and Lois Nettleton as her mother Louisa, who live near Martha and who appear nice enough, if not a little odd.

There is a body count but, not a large one as this is more a mystery thriller then a slasher. The bloodshed is moderate as is the violence and Craven has his usual fun with dream sequences…one involving Sharon Stone and a spider is still goose-bump inducing even today. There are also a few scenes and lines that almost seem to foreshadow Mr. Krueger’s appearance a few years later, now that we are familiar with that classic and it’s legendary boogeyman.

The film isn’t perfect. As said, Jensen is a bit wooden and there are some weak bits of dialogue throughout. And while it is enjoyable, the last act, including the film’s big reveal, does skirt very close to going over the top and becoming silly. And the final scene is an unnecessary shock ending that does come across as more silly then scary. It almost appears like it’s tacked on from another movie.

Overall though, Deadly Blessing is a nostalgic and fun early 80s horror that may seem tame by today’s standards and even the standards of Craven’s later work but, it shows the director of the brutal and shocking Last House On The Left, the vicious The Hills Have Eyes and the comic book-ish Swamp Thing (which came after Blessing) was continuing to show his versatility and could handle something on a more subtle level that didn’t require the heavy violence or over the top theatrics of his previous films. A very entertaining and delightfully 80s horror from one of the genre’s greats.

As said, this cult classic is now available from Scream Factory including a beautifully restored print along with some nice extra’s including fun interviews with genre favorite Michael Berryman and sassy lead Susan Buckner who both have amusingly different versions of how well…or not…the three leading ladies got along. Fun stuff!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 Borgnines!

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE FOG (1980)

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JOHN CARPENTER’S THE FOG (1980)

Since The Fog has just been released on blu-ray from the awesome folks at Scream Factory, I thought I’d roll out another Tomb Of Nostalgia and take a look back at this classic ghost tale…

One of my all time favorite horrors and one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, in fact, since I was too young to see Halloween when 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 it’s 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 it’s 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, lets 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 phoney 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!

As stated, the film was just released for the first time on blu-ray from Scream Factory with all the extras from previous releases plus an added 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 new transfer!

4 spectral sailors!

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