DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Elvira's Haunted Hills

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1988's "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark" was a goofy film, but it worked well with a lighter sense of humor, with star Cassandra Peterson attempting to create a big screen space for her television persona, wisely electing to surround the oddity of Elvira with conservative, condemning types. Some jokes landed successfully, and Peterson proved she could carry a movie as Elvira, playing up the icon's wackiness and good-natured sexuality. The business of Hollywood prevented Peterson from immediately following "Mistress of the Dark" with something else to maintain cinematic momentum. 2001's "Elvira's Haunted Hills" is meant to restore the marquee value of the eponymous character, but the feature has some trouble with funny business, watching Peterson and co-writer John Paragon deliver weak one-liners and feeble slapstick, while director Sam Irvin goes the cartoon route with material that needs a slightly more refined touch. It's always great to have Elvira around, but her second cinematic adventure is a noticeable step down in quality from the first one. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Blades

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There have been many parodies and knockoffs of the 1975 blockbuster, "Jaws," with the brand name itself evolving from something terrifying to pure ridiculousness thanks to a steady downturn in sequel quality. 1989's "Blades" has the imagination to take the premise of an unstoppable killing machine to the open world of a golf course, with the top predator not a shark, but a bloodthirsty lawnmower. Because…why not? Director Thomas R. Rondinella (who co-scripts with William R. Pace) attempt to revive the "Jaws" formula, but they don't play it completely straight, slipping into lampoon territory with "Blades," showing some hesitation when it comes to the presentation of a serious killer lawnmower movie. Laughs are limited in the picture, but the setting allows for a different genre energy, adding some "Caddyshack"-style touches and broad daylight to deal with gruesome events and, well, golfing, blending tournament excitement with growing fears of a lawn care machine on the loose. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Resurrection

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They made a kind of magic with 1986's "Highlander" and managed to physically survive the making of "Highlander II: The Quickening," but director Russell Mulcahy and star Christopher Lambert weren't done with each other just yet. For 1999's "Resurrection," Lambert and Mulcahy reteam for a serial killer thriller, using marketplace momentum created by 1995's "Seven" to unleash a similar tale of an urban nightmare that involves the discovery of mangled bodies and the battling of random rainstorms. There's a detective story included to maintain audience interest, but "Resurrection" is trying to generate a disturbing understanding of a dangerous mind and the cop determined to stop a highly orchestrated game of murder. The creative team arrives with enthusiasm, but the derivative elements of the endeavor mangle most of their plans for excitement. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Kid Candidate

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Hayden Pedigo is a resident of Amarillo, Texas who wanted to express his sense of humor by making a short film about his run for a city council spot. Inspired by the works of Harmony Korine, Pedigo set out to generate a little absurdity, displaying his acting skills and love of weirdness. And then the video went viral, making him internet famous for a brief amount of time, but just long enough to help him transition from a joke candidate to a real one, beginning his political career by targeting a real city council election. Director Jasmine Stodel follows Hayden around for the documentary "Kid Candidate," tracking his progress from initial intent to election night, examining the taxing experience of a political run, especially one from a twentysomething man who refuses outside money and runs on a platform of progression in the middle of Texas. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - For Madmen Only

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Director Heather Ross is trying find a way to make Del Close known to those outside the comedy world. She's upfront about her mission with the documentary "For Madmen Only," suggesting that anyone outside of comedy nerds probably doesn't have a clue who this man is, or understands his contribution to the funny business as we know it (and sometimes loathe it) today. Close is the father of modern improvision, with his "Harold" technique managing to break through and influence generations of comedians, with many of these people now in command of Hollywood entertainment. However, Close was no cheery individual proudly fashioning a new way of long-form improvisation. He was a man with dark sides to him, wrestling with mental illness as he attempted to "follow the fear," giving his sense of humor and stage exploration an atypical level of creative achievement. "For Madmen Only" attempts to understand Close as he was, studying his behavior and the rise of his career, eventually reaching a deity-like space in the comedy world. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - What Really Happened to Baby Jane?

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Gay Girls Riding Club was a filmmaking group from the 1960s that wanted to have some fun in front of the camera, creating a series of shorts that spoofed melodramatic and action entertainment of the day, doing so with a cast of actors working in and out of drag. Director Ray Harrison provided creative leadership, working with shoestring budgets to deliver silent comedies (and at least one sound endeavor in "All About Alice"), deploying a large imagination for broad antics featuring a cast of engaged actors. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Demons 2

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It didn't take long for producer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava to cash-in on the unexpected success of 1985's "Demons." Released eleven months later, "Demons 2" is out to sustain genre momentum, with the production basically creating a remake of the first picture, which ended on a grim, apocalyptic note. Such tonal bravery is gently pushed aside for round two, which moves the central conflict between man and monster from a movie theater to an apartment building, with television the grand conductor of evil this time around. "Demons 2" endeavors to offer a busier sense of screen activity, but not necessarily a more gruesome one, with Bava pulling back on demonic grotesqueries to play with a more sustained creature threat, dipping into puppetry to secure a "Gremlins" vibe. The production works hard to create a big screen mess, but a double dip into this world of media zombification and viral outbreaks isn't quite as enchanting as the last effort. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Demons

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Director Lamberto Bava and producer Dario Argento look to raise a little hell with 1985's "Demons," using the sanctity of a single-screen movie palace to construct a mysterious monster uprising. It's an Italian production created during a fertile creative period in the local industry, inspiring Bava and Argento (who also collaborated on the screenplay with Franco Ferrini and Dardano Sacchetti) to dream up interesting ways to destroy bodies without spending too much time in the outside world. Atmosphere is plentiful in "Demons," which doesn't burden itself in the plot department, sticking with a simple premise of evil on the loose, taking it to interesting extremes. Bava aims to create a genre thrill ride with the feature, and he's mostly successful, delivering numerous gross-outs and violent encounters, keeping up the pace with chases throughout the building, often sold with a driving heavy metal soundtrack. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Shallow Grave

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1987's "Shallow Grave" follows marketplace demands by putting a collection of young women in the line of fire, tracking their mad dash for survival as a predatory man is suddenly inspired to end their lives. The premise is nothing new, remaining withing the parameters of slasher cinema, but writer George Fernandez and director Richard Styles aim to add a little sinister business to the material, giving it more of an edge while it manages the deaths of multiple characters. "Shallow Grave" has some issues with pacing, but when it digs into nasty business, it produces decent suspense sequences and a pleasingly dark finale, helping the project to stand out from the competition. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Little Vampire

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"Little Vampire" is inspired by a book series created by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg, who wrote about a friendship between a human boy and his monster pal. The source material is changed somewhat for the film adaptation, with director Joann Sfar aiming to transform the idea into a comedy with a slight horror approach. For the French production, Michel is an orphan looking for something more than life with his grandparents, coming into contact with the Vampire, who was once a human as well 300 years ago, now rebelling against a protective curse that's kept him 10 years old for centuries. In the mix are the Vampire's monster buddies, a skeleton pirate and the woman who loves him, and a villain with a head shaped like a crescent moon. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Coppelia

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As a ballet, "Coppelia" dates back to 1870, where it achieved enormous success on the stage. It was adapted into a 1900 short film by Georges Melies, who worked his own cinematic magic on the material, which was initially taken from an E.T.A. Hoffmann short story. For 2021, the Dutch National Ballet is called in to update the tale with digital twist, offering an exploration of heroes and villains, low self-esteem, and young love with help from CG-animation. It's a brightly colored, highly acted version of "Coppelia" for specialized audiences, but the display of dance is quite enchanting, with talented professionals challenged to merge with unreal elements of temptation to revive the story for a new audience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Wild Tigers I Have Known

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2006's "Wild Tigers I Have Known" is abstract, interpretive cinema similar to the work found in Gus Van Sant's forays into art-house flexing and the depths of depression during the time period. Short filmmaker Cam Archer makes his feature-length debut here, and the fingerprint of performance art is pushed deeply into the skin of the picture. "Wild Tigers I Have Known" is difficult to watch, yet undeniably hypnotic. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Debbie Does Dallas Part II

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Riffing on the pop culture rise of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, 1978's "Debbie Does Dallas" didn't have to do much to become an adult film sensation, as long as star Bambi Woods maintained some presence in the feature while wearing an NFL-adjacent uniform. The movie was an enormous hit, giving Woods (who tried out to be an actual Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader) a major boost to her acting career. A sequel was inevitable, and eventually arrived in 1981, with "Debbie Does Dallas Part II" trying to keep a good thing going, though the follow-up weirdly drops the cheerleader storyline, keeping things episodic with Debbie and her journey of sexual curiosity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers

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Just when you thought it was safe to go trick-or-treating in Haddonfield again…here comes 1989's "Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers," which represents producer Moustapha Akkad's quest for maximum box office profit, turning around a sequel to "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers" in just a hair under a year. As explored in the supplementary material on the Blu-ray, the shoot for the fourth sequel began without a completed screenplay, and one can easily tell this from the general make-em-up nature of the film, which never offers a clear franchise idea worth pursuing. "Halloween 5" is a mess, but director Dominique Othenin-Girard tries to provide a stylish return to Michael Myers and his night of terror, overseeing impressive technical achievements that help the feature seem a little different than what's come before. Beyond some slick moviemaking, the endeavor doesn't come together, stumbling around with half-baked ideas and needless character deaths, trying to keep the gravy train running without thinking things through. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers

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The murderous wrath of Michael Myers was seemingly stopped for good in 1981's "Halloween II," and the brand name's box office potential was torpedoed with 1982's "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," which tried to steer the franchise away from Myers-related havoc. Looking to make a comeback, 1988's "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers" puts The Shape back to work terrorizing the residents of Haddonfield, out to recreate the pure "Halloween" experience with a new cast and a back-to-basics creative approach. Director Dwight H. Little and screenwriter Alan B. McElroy are handed the keys to the series, tasked with getting Michael Myers back up and running, and with that limited goal in mind, "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers" is successful, playing strictly to fans as the production endeavors to find fresh inspiration to take on traditional slasher business. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Halloween III: Season of the Witch

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In 1982, producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill decided to do the one thing that most people don't do in Hollywood: they took a creative risk. They delivered a massive hit in 1978's "Halloween," and begrudgingly decided to return to duty for 1981's "Halloween II," but the pair grew tired of dealing with the murderous ways of Michael Myers, putting The Shape to bed after two commercially triumphant endeavors. The duo wanted to do something different, looking to take the "Halloween" brand name into a different direction, with plans made to generate a new spooky story for the holiday every year, working with the specifics of Halloween to create fresh possibilities for big screen horror. The first and only chapter to make it out alive was "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," which didn't include Michael Myers, going to a far darker place, exploring the macabre plans of a mask maker and his dream to kill the children of America after they go trick-or-treating. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Halloween II (1981)

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We live in an age when sequels are planned out before the first film even reaches theaters, but 1978's "Halloween" was such an out-of-nowhere success, it left co-writers John Carpenter and Debra Hill temporarily stunned. The creators were caught between using the moment to advance their careers and being put on the spot for a follow-up, tasked with figuring out a way to resurrect the "Halloween" experience for another survival quest featuring The Shape. It took three years for "Halloween II" to hit screens, which is a surprising amount of time considering how routine the sequel is, as Carpenter and Hill return with very little invention for the continuation. "Halloween II" has the novelty of taking place on the same night as the original feature, but this idea hurts the picture as much as it helps it, asking audience to return to the same dramatic starting point with Michael Myers, who's once again on the loose, out to slaughter innocent people on Halloween night. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Halloween (1978)

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I'm not sure there's anything left to say about 1978's "Halloween," with the feature becoming bulletproof over the decades, growing in reputation as producers have scrambled to replicate its success with sequels and spin-offs. It's a masterpiece from co-writer/director John Carpenter and co- writer/producer Debra Hill, with the pair putting in the effort to elevate what could've been a cheap, exploitative horror film for basic drive-in entertainment, giving it an unusual sense of style and defined level of menace. The low-budget endeavor retains its obvious production limitations, but the joy of "Halloween" is watching Carpenter work his magic on the genre, playing with conventions in inventive ways, also focused on giving the picture a pure sense of escalation, going from creepiness to blasts of suspense in the final act. It's a gem, and a movie that's endured for over 40 years, still inspiring imitators as the brand name remains active and the boogeyman sustains his iconic intimidation factor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Pufnstuf

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Producers Sid and Marty Krofft finally landed a hit show with 1969's "H.R. Pufnstuf," which brought audiences to the oddity of Living Island, inhabited by a mix of fantasy characters and the witch who wanted to kill them all. Trying to capitalize on this creative momentum, the Kroffts quickly put a film version of "Pufnstuf" into production, looking to make some money on the matinee circuit, adding a few guest stars to boost the marquee value of the picture. Director Hollingsworth Morse was put in charge of making magic for the big screen, tasked with opening up the world of "H.R. Pufnstuf" to a certain degree while keeping young audiences entertained with non-stop wackiness. The gamble didn't result in huge box office returns, but it did produce one of the strangest movies of 1970, finding the Kroffts doubling down on weirdness to make the endeavor stand out from the competition, sold with their usual blend of broad performances and floppy, full-body puppetry. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Terminal Island

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Director of "The Student Nurses" and "The Working Girls," Stephanie Rothman is tasked with making an exploitation film with 1973's "Terminal Island," only she has limited interest in the traditional extremity of the subgenre. Also co-scripting the endeavor with Charles S. Swartz and James Barnett, Rothman strives to keep her distance from pure ugliness, more interested in the psychological weariness of the characters as they manage an impossible situation of imprisonment. This creative approach splits "Terminal Island" into two moods, as Rothman labors to make something passably meaningful with the premise, while the other side of the feature plays B-movie games of violence and revenge, content to recycle scenes of confrontation. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com