Blu-ray Review - The Fear


For his first screenplay, writer Ron Ford tries to get ambitious. For 1995's "The Fear," Ford hopes to examine the power of phobias and the pain of trauma, mixing deep-dive psychological scarring with the premise of a killer mannequin on the loose, attacking characters unwisely looking for a special weekend inside a cabin in the woods. There's one half of the picture that's aiming to be a sensitive study of broken people and their problems, and the other half is a slasher-style event featuring a menace carved out of magic wood. "The Fear" is definitely weird, and its level of oddness helps the viewing experience, as Ford struggles to create suspense with the effort, more interested in knotted character business than essential shock value. While some form of vision is there, keeping the feature compelling in a small way, the movie still struggles to define itself, with director Vincent Robert visibly struggling to manage a plethora of subplots, creating confusion along the way as the material throws a lot at the audience, hoping something will stick beyond the central image of a malevolent mannequin. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Forest


"The Forest" is a 1982 release looking to participate in the great horror movie gold rush of the early 1980s. Writer/director Don Jones collects a small amount of money and heads to the Sequoia National Park in California to create a genre picture that plays into slasher trends of the era, but also wants to try a few different ideas, including the addition of a ghost story to a tale of outdoor survival. Jones doesn't have the time or coin to provide hospital corners on the effort, which is prone to padding and pausing, but he has a strange vision for "The Forest" that's almost worth a sit, working to change a few elements of intimidation to help the material reach different areas of fear. That's not to suggest anything in the feature is suspenseful, but Jones takes a different route to scares at times, ending up with a lumpy oddity that merges the afterlife, cannibalism, and camping, making for a passable bottom shelf offering. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Raw


In 2016, there was so much pre-release hype collected over "Raw," which shocked some audience members to a point of physical illness during its film festival debut, offering the type of "dare to see it" publicity every movie studio dreams about. The reality is, "Raw" isn't that extreme, and those who embrace the horror genre on a regular basis are likely going to feel underwhelmed by the grisliness of the effort, which is regulated to only a few brief scenes. Thankfully, the rest of "Raw" is interesting enough to pass, with writer/director Julia Ducournau picking apart femininity and sexual awakening with this tale of cannibalism, constructing a stylish coming-of-age chiller that's big on bodily fluids and Italian cinema worship. The endeavor is certainly graphic, but it's also patient with its reveals, which doesn't always mesh with its shock value intent. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Widow


"The Widow" is a Russian film from director Ivan Minin, who oversees a dark journey into the thick of a Saint Petersburg forest, tracking the panic of a search and rescue team and their encounter with a dangerous spirit known as the "Lame Widow." The screenplay tries to summon a spooky mood for the picture, but it's pulling from a lot of different movies to do so, with "The Blair Witch Project" clearly an influence on the endeavor. It's difficult for a genre feature to emerge with complete originality, but "The Widow" isn't even trying at times, once again presenting a group of hapless victims who find themselves in deep in the middle of nowhere, fighting a force they don't understand. Minin isn't exactly making something special here, mostly concerned with creating any sort of fear factor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Madame


Filmmaker Stephane Riethauser offers personal therapy with "Madame," a documentary exploring his relationship with his grandmother, Caroline, identifying the parallel journey of their lives. It's a relationship saga first and foremost, but Riethauser is also using screen time to deal with his own baggage as a young man raised to fear his sexuality, which complicated a search for identity for decades. It's an intimate collection of feelings and desires, and "Madame" has a lot to say about the pain of conformity and the bravery of resistance, spotlighting a woman who managed to survive the stress of expectations, sharing wisdom with her beloved grandchild, who was right there with a video camera to capture their special relationship. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Jeremy


In 1973, the state of the teen movies was still being defined. After time with juvenile delinquent and party time endeavors, the subgenre enjoyed a major evolution in the 1970s, with "Jeremy" part of a movement to make pictures for younger audiences about the highs and low of being young. Writer/director Arthur Barron looks to create something intimate with the endeavor, using his experience in documentary filmmaking to capture the nuances of new love as it develops over a few weeks, marrying such excitement with the bustle of life in the center of New York City. Barron's efforts are helped by his eye for casting, with Robby Benson and Glynnis O'Connor providing startlingly unaffected performances, capturing raw emotion the helmer is hoping to communicate. "Jeremy" is simple, comfortable in its limited storytelling goals, with Barron looking to replicate a specific feeling of awakening hormones and new encounters, and he manages to do so with unsettling authenticity at times. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Hitcher in the Dark


While credited as "Humphrey Humbert," 1989's "Hitcher in the Dark" is the work of Umberto Lenzi, the man who gave the world "Cannibal Ferox," "Ghosthouse," and "Spasmo." A helmer who always favored quantity over quality, Lenzi liked to move fast and collect whatever footage he could, and that professional drive is most apparent in "Hitcher in the Dark," which plays like a community theater workshop session, only with more lurid writing to power hysterical performances. The general idea here is to offer a serial killer story with deep psychological grooves, turning an encounter between predator and prey into an extended dance of insanity. Lenzi isn't a refined moviemaker, happy to make something goofy as long as it's finished, and that's what happens here, gifting viewers a wild ride of the unsavory and the unintentionally hilarious. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Crazy Desires of a Murderer


Vinegar Syndrome hopes to do the world of B-movies some good by offering 1977's "Crazy Desires of a Murderer" to larger Blu-ray audience, pulling the feature out of obscurity after it was denied distribution in North America for decades. Now that it's here, the picture provides a weird ride of tonal changes, with director Filippo Walter Ratti trying to develop a murder mystery with sexploitation asides, also working in some extreme gore and mild perversion. There's a lot to unpack with the endeavor, which never finds true storytelling stability, but there's just enough oddity to enjoy as Ratti tends to try everything to see what sticks in his film. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Autopsy


1975's "Autopsy" is engineered to capture audience attention right away. The first 15 minutes of the movie offer strange visuals and gruesome events, with director Armando Crispino refusing to delay his vision for horror, commencing the endeavor with multiple suicides, vicious acts of sexual harassment/assault, and the procedural particulars of a morgue. Good luck finishing your popcorn with this initially brutal effort, which eventually settles down into a more palatable mystery, providing its most outrageous actions in the first reel. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Murder Mansion


Why introduce individual characters when they can all join the picture at the same time? That's the general vibe of 1972's "Murder Mansion," which is an Agatha Christie-esque take on the dangers of suspicious people staying inside a spooky dwelling that's also home to a murderer. Director Francisco Lara Polop isn't trying to reinvent the wheel with "Murder Mansion," which offers a routine set-up of evil events and a slow-burn fear factor. The helmer tries to win audiences over with some sense of style, fighting the inherent inertia of the production with a few effective suspense sequences. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Money Plane


Unlike a lot of bottom shelf actioners, "Money Plane" actually has a promising premise. It takes viewers to a casino in the sky where anything goes involving the worst people on Earth, giving them a free space to indulge their awfulness in games of skill and chance. Writers Tim Schaaf and Andrew Lawrence (who also directs) provide a solid reason to track such unrepentant ugliness, which retains a delicious camp factor, but they're mostly interested in following heist movie formula, aiming for suspense that never emerges. There's a circus there for the taking, but "Money Plane" plays it safe, delivering familiar beats of intimidation and brutality, trying to wow viewers with twists and turns when they might be better off with a blunt study of evildoers taking to the sky to make a fortune. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Bad News Bears (1976)


The world was a vastly different place 45 years ago, and 1976's "The Bad News Bears" is both a film of its time and timeless in many ways. It's the screenwriting debut for Bill Lancaster (son of Burt), who provides saltiness and silliness with this underdog comedy about a California little league team, but he also has something to say about the ways of guardianship and parental influence. Put into the hands of director Michael Ritchie (who was on a roll at the time, building career momentum with "Downhill Racer," "Prime Cut," "The Candidate," and "Smile"), and "The Bad News Bears" is transformed into a true sports cinema classic, with the helmer finding a way to celebrate the rougher edges of the writing while still making an approachable picture about baseball, offering a vivid understanding of the little league experience. Ritchie does a remarkable job keeping the endeavor invested in character and mindful of abrasiveness, never slipping into mean-spiritedness when dealing with loudmouthed kids and their learned behavior. It's a heroic directorial effort, with Richie finding just the right tone to make a crunchy movie lovable. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Twice Dead


Director Bert Dragin didn't have much of a filmmaking career, but he tried his luck with scary movies in the 1980s, making his debut with "Summer Camp Nightmare" before quickly jumping into 1988's "Twice Dead." Dragin, along with co-writer Robert McDonnell, attempt to create a haunted house experience with the feature, which follows two siblings as they deal with the violent history of their new home. The helmer puts in the work to generate a modest level of suspense and a surprising amount of style, but his focus isn't strictly aimed at the supernatural. "Twice Dead" is more of a "punks at war" viewing experience, keeping the endeavor from living up to initial expectations for a creepy event involving a malevolent spirit and its determination to disrupt domestic peace. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Rent-A-Pal


"Rent-A-Pal" is set in 1990, but it's a relevant picture for today's world of frustrated people dealing with isolation. This isn't what writer/director Jon Stevenson initially intended, but he's found a way to make a movie about today's increasingly isolated world, creating a slow-burn chiller about one man's decent into madness due to suffocating domestic experiences and his own distance from a functional relationship. While other filmmakers have touched on the toxic relationship between man and machine, Stevenson gets oddly specific with his writing, which turns a simple quest for VHS attention into a downward spiral of insanity. "Rent-A-Pal" has flashes of originality, and Stevenson has a good eye for casting, finding actors capable to doing something memorable with a shapeless threat. It's not the tightest feature around, in need of more editorial pruning, but when it focuses on blurred lines of reality, it's vividly executed with a wonderfully dark sense of humor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Terror Within II


Sometime during the production of 1989's "The Terror Within," star Andrew Stevens took a moment to consider his professional situation and thought, "Yeah, I could make one of these movies easily!" Stevens makes his directorial debut with 1991's "The Terror Within II," also claiming a screenplay credit while resuming his acting duties as David, a scientist crossing America to save the world from a growing mutant threat. Stevens doesn't have a new vision for the story, which remains an "Alien" rip-off, but he brings a stronger cast, different monster madness, and hires cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who, in two years' time, would go from shooting this no-budget endeavor to Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List." So yes, kids, don't give up on your dreams. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Terror Within


A full decade after the release of 1979's "Alien," and producer Roger Corman was still in the business of ripping it off. The concept of a malevolent beast from beyond attacking characters in a confined space gave director Ridley Scott a classic movie, but Corman views "Alien" as an unlimited resource, with 1989 "The Terror Within" another knock-off from his company. To be fair to the Hollywood legend, the feature does take place on Earth, and the creature causing all the trouble is a mutant, but the rest of the effort is the same old xenomorph-ian stuff, this time finding Andrew Stevens in the hero role, taking on a grotesque beast who enjoys killing survivors of a deadly plague. The villain also does other stuff to the locals, which manages to drain any possible fun factor out of this incredibly dull endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - On-Gaku: Our Sound


Promotional materials for "On-Gaku: Our Sound" celebrate the feature's very existence, with director Kenji Iwaisawa putting in a heroic effort to simply complete the picture, which was seven years in the making. It's also completely animated by hand, with use of the rotoscoping process to bring to life a rather small story of adolescent awakening via the power of music. The material takes its inspiration from a manga written by Hiroyuki Ohashi, giving Iwaisawa a storytelling direction to follow while the production cooks up its own wonderland of attitudes, musicianship, friendship, and personal expression, sold with an exquisite dryness that pulls humor out of the strangest of places. "On-Gaku: Our Sound" loves its stillness (probably for financial reasons), but it's a marvelous exploration of an askew liberation. It's as small in scale as an animated film gets, but it delivers such a wonderful understanding of character, detailed through inventive and unusual artistry. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Devil Times Five


1974's "Devil Times Five" (a.k.a. "The Horrible House on the Hill" and "People Toys") rides the line of good taste as it offers a story about mentally ill children who enjoying killing adults, spending a weekend at Lake Arrowhead murdering a collection of couples who've settled in for a nice vacation. The "Evil Kids" genre is a tough one to deal with, as it takes a special filmmaking touch to extract the horror of the situation without making the whole endeavor mean-spirited. While "Devil Times Five" isn't a polished picture, with plenty of dim directorial and editorial choices, it's also not an endeavor that's looking to destroy viewers with scenes of cruel behavior. There's plenty of violence to satisfy genre fans, but the movie isn't a complete chore to get through, helping it to rise above the competition. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Slithis


Writer/director Stephen Traxler has a vision for 1978's "Slithis" (a.k.a. "Spawn of the Slithis"), but he doesn't have a movie to back it up. Inspired by genre classics such as "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and "Jaws," Traxler tries to create his own little corner of horror, taking the action to Venice, California, playing into growing environmental concerns of the era to inspire a mutant monster effort that barely features the titular menace for a good portion of its run time. Weird creative decisions are common in the picture, which devotes time to inane conversations, wild overacting, and the seductive powers of a potential sexual predator, keeping away from the basic enjoyment of a man in a rubber suit gobbling up local idiots. Traxler is hanging on for dear life with "Slithis," almost going out of his way to generate a painfully dull viewing experience, finding it more comfortable to do nothing with his production. After all, violence costs money, and there's not a lot of that to be found in the endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com