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Blu-ray Reviews for September 26, 2017

October is soon upon us, which means one thing: horror! And horrific new releases as well. It’s a doozy this week with the brain-breaking Transformers: The Last Knight and the first season of NBC’s Taken, followed by an onslaught of horror old and new: The Devil’s Candy, John Landis’ Innocent Blood,, Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, the old-school zombie cult classic The Dead Next Door, and the offbeat horror/comedy Psychos in Love.You can also check out details for the other releases that street today.


Distributor: Paramount

Transformers: The Last Knight shatters the core myths of the Transformers franchise, and redefines what it means to be a hero. Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth. Saving our world falls upon the shoulders of an unlikely alliance: Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg); Bumblebee; an English Lord (Sir Anthony Hopkins); and an Oxford Professor (Laura Haddock). There comes a moment in everyone’s life when we are called upon to make a difference. In Transformers: The Last Knight, the hunted will become heroes. Heroes will become villains. Only one world will survive: theirs, or ours. America!

Popular belief posits that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. This isn’t actually true, mind you – kinda like the whole “left brain vs. right brain” thing – as the true definition of insanity can be found throughout our current President’s twitter feed.

In a weird way, Transformers: The Last Knight proves that this long-held definition of insanity is a fallacy. Director Michael Bay essentially makes the same Transformers movie over and over again. In response, the audience willingly pays to see the same Transformers movie over and over again. Michael Bay expects to get much richer from making gigantic robots with celebrity voices glint and spark and look cool. (He does). The audience walks into the theater wanting to see gigantic robots with celebrity voices glint and spark and look cool. (They do). Everyone gets what they want while doing and expecting, respectively, nothing at all different, and this on top of the most important part: that this series has never been within cannon-fire distance of “good.”

That’s insanity.

The Transformers series:

Sometimes Shia Lebeouf is there. Sometimes Mark Wahlberg is there. John Turturro is there all the time. They are all there, looking up at the robots and talking to them, and being their friend. The robots are cars sometimes, but sometimes they are robots. If the robots are dancing, they are in robot form. If they are going very fast, they are probably cars.

Robots are aliens. From space. The planets. Transformers.

I think I’m losing my grip on reality.

Focus, me. Focus.

The Transformers movies are bad. All of them. If you want to be that person who defends the first one, have at it. You’d be the person defending the one good Hot Pocket you’ve eaten in your life after having microwaved a hundred bad ones, but that’s your prerogative.

By now the Transformers series has become a punchline on Internet whenever someone wants to put down someone else. “You didn’t adore Inherent Vice? I bet you like Transformers,” etc. Even the people who bravely defend their enjoyment of Transformers don’t have that much kindness to share toward it. “What’s wrong with turning your brain off once in a while?” asks the guy whose brain has been left on the charger since birth.

In Transformers: The Last Knight, John Goodman plays a fat robot because he is fat, and Stanley Tucci plays Merlin because he is magical. Mark Wahlberg’s character name is Cade Yeager. There are puppy dinosaur robots that shoot fire from their mouths and also take naps, even though they are nonliving mechanics that shouldn’t suffer from fatigue. Sir Anthony Hopkins is there, for some reason, actually saying the words “Optimus Prime” and “Cybertron.”

Robots. America. Transformers. American flag. Bumblebee. Car. America! Cars go very fast in Transformers when they are the robots, the transformers. Stop. No. Pull back. Cybertron! The moon! The knights and transformers!

Okay, I’m losing it. Time to bail out.

After Transformers 3, Michael Bay said he was done making Transformers movies.

Then he made Transformers 4.

After Transformers 4, Michael Bay said he was done making Transformers movies.

Then he made Transformers 5.

After Transformers 5 made a buttload of money, Michael Bay said he was done making Transformers movies and Paramount said they were going to make a bunch of Transformers spinoffs to continue this money-printing franchise of theirs long into the future.

If you think Michael Bay is done making Transformers movies, you’re insane.

PICTURE & SOUND:

The robots look and sound really cool. The humans look and sound really cool. This high-def presentation of both robots and humans look and sound really cool. The music stirs, we hear it, it sounds good and cool. The things explode, the buildings fall, the humans look stoic, the robots look cool. (America.) It all looks really good and cool. Excellent PQ and AQ here in Cool Shots, America. The men and the women of America who like the Transformers will be very happy with how the Transformers look and sound.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Merging Mythologies – Explore the secret TRANSFORMERS history
  • Climbing the Ranks – Military training
  • The Royal Treatment: Transformers in the UK
  • Motors and Magic
  • Alien Landscape: Cybertron
  • One More Giant Effin’ Movie

OVERALL:

Listen, you’ll have to excuse me. I have a lunch meeting with Cliff Huxtable at the Four Seasons in 20 minutes.


Distributor: NBC Universal

An action-packed prequel to the international blockbuster TAKEN franchise, this series stars Clive Standen (”Vikings”) as Bryan Mills, a younger, hungrier version of the iconic character played by Liam Neeson in the TAKEN films. A former Green Beret, Mills becomes swept up in a quest for vengeance after he fails to protect one of those closest to him. Recruited to join a group of CIA operatives, Mills begins to hone his deadly skillset as he dives headfirst into dangerous missions that test his courage, and push him to the edge.

We’re living in an artistically incestuous world. (No, I don’t mean Game of Thrones.) In the old days, a film was just a film. Maybe it was based on a book, but that’s about it. But now films are based on television shows, comic books, board games, phone apps, and everything else you can think of not nailed down. And films aren’t the only medium exploiting this new avenue for adaptation. Television shows are now taking the leap from big screen to small and resulting in more television adaptations than ever before. And as usual, there have been some real winners (Hannibal, Westworld), some lousy ones (Uncle Buck, Rush Hour), and some that just make you sit back and wonder, “Why bother?”

The first season of Taken has a very particular set of skills — skills it has acquired over the course of some pretty lousy Liam Neeson sequels and some lousier Taken ripoffs. Skills that make it a cup of warm milk and soothing Yanni for viewers like you. And that’s Taken’s biggest offense as a series: it’s not distinctive enough to be terrible, guilt-pleasuring trash (like Riverdale), but it’s also not good enough to actually just be a well constructed spin on, by now, an iconic action series. It’s just…there. It exists — one more series thrown on top of a mountain of other series about shadowy government agencies rooting out terrorists all while undergoing a variety of domestic disputes. Even though it features a  “what-if?” younger version of Neeson’s Bryan Mills (still the least bad-ass name in action history), it has no identity, energy, or drive. Taken the film wasn’t exactly built on a unique premise, but the act of putting Liam Neeson in that kind of role was what made it special. Had Bruce Willis been the one hunting down his daughter in the sleaziest brothels of Europe, it wouldn’t have had the same effect because he’s done basically that ten times already. But take the earnestness of Neeson’s reputation and the novelty of seeing him kill men by the couple-dozen, add in Pierre Morel’s energetic but not overbearing directorial skills (which would plague the sequels), and what resulted was a fun and brainless flick not seen since the days of the earliest Bourne.

Again, as evidenced by this first season, Taken isn’t at all poorly made. It’s very competent and, for the most part, well acted. (Special shout out to Jennifer Beals, who plays well the icy, detached, somewhat emotionally ambiguous government agent.) But the new Bryan Mills, Clive Standen, is the least engaging part of the show. I won’t “throw shade” on his abilities as an actor, as I haven’t seen his more well-known shows like Vikings and Camelot, but for this particular role, Standen is wholly forgettable.

Taken seems fully satisfied with being yet another clone of Homeland, but filtered through the blandness that infiltrates a lot of network television. But, to everyone’s surprise, Taken was renewed for a second season, with original showrunner Alex Cary being shown the door (along with six(!) of the supporting cast members). Will this result in a massive improvement, a massive misstep, or no change at all?

I guess we’ll see when the second season premieres sometime this year.

PICTURE & SOUND:

This part of the show is great: its high-def presentation. The visual image presented by the show hews on a darker and bluer tone than normally seen on network television, which offers it a slightly different overall look. Clarity is stellar and details are very fine. Audio runs about the same, although incidental dialogue is mixed low in some spots. Overall, no concerns with any of the audio presentation.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Taken: On Set

OVERALL:

In a landscape that’s become overwhelming to traverse with a constant barrage of new series being produced, and not just on television but across multiple streaming services, your bingeing time has become a rare commodity. Taken, frankly, isn’t worth it. Having said that, fans of the series should be more than pleased with its excellent Blu-ray release, lack of special features aside. Recommended for fans only — everyone else, wait for streaming.


Distributor: Shout Factory

A family faces off with evil itself in a house from hell in this hard-rocking shocker from Sean Byrne, the director of The Loved Ones. Diehard metal-head and struggling artist Jesse (Ethan Embry) moves with his wife (Shiri Appleby) and daughter (Kiara Glasco) to a rural Texas town, unaware that the house they got for an unbelievable deal comes with a grisly history. Their dream home turns into a nightmare as disturbing demonic occurrences culminate with the appearance of Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), the home’s former resident – who’s destined to do the devil’s bidding.

The rock ‘n’ roll horror film has somehow become a sub-genre over the years. Say that phrase and people have their favorites: Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare, Hard Rock Zombies, the original Trick or Treat. Rock and horror became somewhat synonymous following the popularity boom of acts like Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, and Kiss, among many others. Their black and dour and chain-ridden iconography and focus on dark lyrics and subject matter made them kindred spirits, so it was only a matter of time before they began to blur the lines and appear in each other’s worlds. Eventually, Alice Cooper was writing songs for Jason Voorhees. Almost all of these titles weren’t just broadly painted with the horror brush — the films were generally satanic or demonic in nature. Appropriate, being that rock ‘n’ roll was, for a long time, the devil’s music (according to our grandmothers).

The Devil’s Candy is the next step, but also damn refreshing, taking the well-worn trope of “the devil made me do it” and doing something unique with it. Jesse (Embry) and his daughter (Glasco) love metal — Metallica, Slayer, and all the rest — but otherwise the film presents them as normal and fully functioning — no hint of a troubled past, no signs of self-harm, depression, etc.

I doubt it’s spoiler material if I say the devil never appears on screen in physical form, nor does anyone become possessed by the devil or any of his minions. And I’m certainly not saying this idea is bad (I tell anyone who will listen about the awesomeness of Let Us Prey, starring Game of Thrones’ Liam Cunningham [Davos] as Beezlebub), but it’s always welcome and appreciative when someone takes a well traveled concept and does something new with it.

Ethan Embry has become a friend to the horror genre over the years, appearing in one of the best Masters of Horror episodes, “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road” (directed by Don Coscarelli), as well as the recent werewolf-at-the-old-folks home flick Late Phases. But if you’re in my demographic, then you remember Embry from one film alone: Can’t Hardly Wait, arguably the Fast Times at Ridgemont High of my generation. Remembering him from that goofball comedy, but seeing him in The Devil’s Candy, makes the actor much more likable in the role, and we, the audience, feel for him when he begins to lose control of his life and fall victim to the dark voices inside his head. The actor is barely recognizable with his Brad Pitt hair and his Bloodsport-era Van Damme body (seriously, I’m a functioning heterosexual and even I was in awe), but his kind and soulful eyes shine through, and every second of pain he experiences is felt by the viewer.

The film is strikingly directed as well, offering a handful of extremely suspenseful, shocking, creepy, and disturbing sequences (not all at once, of course), and this more than includes the excellent finale.

Though The Devil’s Candy runs at a scant 72 minutes, its story never feels incomplete or in need of additional content. It’s not a typical running time for the genre, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. When the film ends, you’ll swear it had only been on for 20 minutes. That’s less to do with running time and more to do with how easily it sucks you in.

PICTURE & SOUND:

Rock ‘n roll. Video and audio are tremendous. Visuals really begin to come to life as Satan’s grip tightens on various character(s) throughout the film. The finale looks tremendous. Audio wise, of course there’s a big (although not huge) emphasis on metal selections. Dialogue sounds great and is fairly presented.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The sole featurette on the disc is one dedicated to the film’s visual effects, although its brief running time (three minutes) plays more like select-scene commentary by the visual effects supervisor Johnny Han. He breaks down the few scenes dependent on visual effects, which is interesting, as he reveals that everything had been shot for real, in camera, and was later spliced into the scenes that required it. Despite this hard work, it all kind of looked like CGI, anyway.

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary by Director Sean Byrne
  • Behind the Scenes: Visual Effects
  • Advantage Satan Short Film
  • Music Video
  • Art Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer

OVERALL:

The genre is alive and well, and smaller films like The Devil’s Candy prove that. IFC Midnight has been on an absolute roll with its releases this year, which include The Autopsy of Jane Doe and A Dark Song. Of course I hope they keep it up. The Devil’s Candy sports excellent PQ and AQ, and though features are a little light, it comes highly recommended.


Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome

Joe (Carmine Capobianco) runs a strip club and Kate (Debi Thibeault) is an attractive young manicurist. After bonding over their mutual dislike of grapes, they discover another commonality: both of them are bloodthirsty serial killers. As they begin to balance their obsession with murder and each other, they meet Herman (Frank Stewart), a cannibal who, upon discovering their bloodlust, attempts to lure them into killing as a means to satisfy his craving for human flesh!

Bloody and hilarious, Gorman Bechard’s PSYCHOS IN LOVE is an absurd, home grown horror-comedy, which alternates between gratuitous killing scenes and self-aware parody of romantic comedies. Vinegar Syndrome presents this lurid classic in a fresh 2k restoration from its 16mm original camera negative.

Right off the bat it’s clear that Psychos in Love is operating on a nearly non-existent budget. Somewhat shot to look like a documentary (sometimes, anyway – director Gorman Bechard seems to play fast and loose with this concept and what’s supposed to be documentary footage vs. narrative gets a little lost), Psychos in Love’s full-screen presentation with basement level audio (high-def presentation aside) complements the mostly true-life nature toward which its striving. Black and white interview segments with its lead psychos lend itself to this docudrama look very well, and also help to set the tone pretty quickly.

Psychos in Love begins on shaky ground as the audience has to take a step back and realize they’re not about to witness an A-list, even modestly budgeted genre flick. Everything is very raw, and there’s an obvious DIY aesthetic throughout, but the performances by our leads are very naturalistic. What might be most surprising about Psychos in Love is how often the comedy works, and that sounds like a dismissive thing to say about a film that bills itself as a horror-comedy, but so very often the words “low budget” and “horror-comedy” only lead to pain. As one might imagine, the comedy often lends itself to the dark and morbid, but sometimes the film takes a step back and rests on older, broader comedy. The marriage scene leans on Abbot and Costello’s most famous routine, but still manages to wrench some honest laughs out of it, but there’s an even better scene set at the bar where psycho Joe is having a duel conversation with both psycho Kate and a random Asian man in the back of the action – one of those “how long are they going to keep this bit going?” kind of things – and it left me pretty tickled.

Above all Psychos in Love does manage to be sweet on top of the murder and mutilations (and there are plenty of those), and leads Carmine Capobianco (also the film’s co-writer) and Debi Thibeault are easily likable, with Capobianco showing off a natural affability.

For those of you out there lucky enough to be paired up with a horror-loving partner, Psychos in Love makes for the ideal date-night movie. Just leave expectations for a glossy production at the door.

PICTURE & SOUND:

Psychos in Love was shot on full-frame 16mm in both black and white and color, so it’s not one of Vinegar Syndrome’s finer looking releases. Still, what is presented does look rather good, and VS’s previous releases prove that this is the best Psychos in Love could have possibly looked. Audio is a bit of concern, with issues of sibilant dialogue coming across at times, and this on top of an original audio presentation that wasn’t full or dynamic to begin with. Dialogue receives top prominence at all times, however, only contending with a cheap sounding synth score. (Special shout out to VS’s use of very specific subtitles, as I was laughing out loud during a strip club-set scene in which the subtitle (vaguely sleazy blues rock music) popped up on the screen.)

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Newly scanned and restored in 2k from the 16mm original camera negative
  • Commentary track with: Gorman Bechard (writer/producer/director) and Carmine Capobianco (writer/actor/music)
  • Commentary track with: Gorman Bechard
  • “Directing the Psychos” – Interview with Gorman Bechard
  • “Playing a Psycho” – Interview with Carmine Capobianco
  • “Discussing Psychos” – With Gorman Bechard & Carmine Capobianco
  • “Making Psychos” – Making-of featurette
  • Director’s introduction
  • Carmine Capobianco Q&A from Cinema Wasteland 2016
  • Original trailer
  • Behind the scenes photo gallery
  • Promotional image gallery
  • Rough edit outtakes & extended scenes
  • Alternate opening credit sequence
  • Highlights from the “Psychos in Love” stageplay
  • Four short films directed by Gorman Bechard
  • Booklet with essays by Art Ettinger & Matt Desiderio
  • Original cover artwork by Derek Gabryszak
  • Reversible cover artwork

OVERALL:

I have to admit, intriguing premise aside, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy Psychos in Love as much as I did. I’m a self-admitted snoot, and I tend not to go out of my way to see this level of low budget horror — and one that’s billed as a horror/comedy, forget it. Time and time again I’m proven wrong for this when I cross paths with something surprisingly well made like Psychos in Love. With regards to its technical presentation, this isn’t one of VS’s best releases, but given the nature of the original film elements, I doubt it could have looked and sounded much better. As far as a release overall, complete with a stacked supplements section, this stands tall along with VS’s generally excellent catalog. This release comes very recommended for those with an appreciation for low budget horror and dark humor. 


Distributor: Warner Bros. via Warner Archives

This ghoul just wants to have fun! She also wants an occasional bad guy to sink her fangs into – because she never, ever takes Innocent Blood. Anne Parillaud is Marie, a vampire who imperils Pittsburgh when she fails to kill off one of her victims, mob boss Sal Macelli (Robert Loggia). Sal realizes what a lucky stiff he is: a vampire with deadly powers! If Marie and her undercover cop boyfriend (Anthony LaPaglia) can’t stop the mobster’s new “family” of goons, Pittsburgh will be the pits. As in his An American Werewolf in London, director John Landis saw in Michael Wolk’s script many “possibilities to be outrageous” – and transforms them into outrageous screen reality.

I don’t think John Landis is capable of making an out-and-out horror film, free of black humor or whimsy. And that’s not to disparage the filmmaker at all, but when you look back over his career, it’s amusing to see he’s first known as a horror director, even though he’s only made a handful in the genre, and all of them are horror/comedy hybrids. Considering he’s the mastermind behind comedy classics like National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Blues Brothers (a top-five title for this writer), it’s not surprising to see Landis can’t help himself but look for the absurdity in the concepts behind his horror titles and magnify them to stand head and shoulders with the terror.

Even though it has its “official” and incredibly shitty sequel, An American Werewolf in Paris, Innocent Blood feels more like the real spiritual sequel to Landis’ trademark An American Werewolf in London. Playing out like A French Vampire in Pittsburgh, Landis’ vampire romp hits similar beats: a lead character in a strange land dealing with supernatural powers and unexpectedly falling in love. (And along the way, people are viciously killed.) Gender is swapped this time out and vampire Marie is played as just a tad bit more villainous (she only eats bad guys, you see), but otherwise An American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood are kismet.  

Despite Anne Parillaud’s shaky performance as Marie (the actor struggles to convey the right emotional beats through her heavy accent), she’s well cast as the vampire seductress because of how unassuming and atypically beautiful she is. Anthony LaPaglia as Joe does a serviceable job as the half-cop/half-mobster, but really, Innocent Blood is all about the bad guys, boasting mafia-film fans’ wet dream of a cast. Lead baddie Sal “The Shark” Macelli is played by none other than Robert Loggia, who appears to be having more fun playing a bastard vampire than he did dancing with Tom Hanks on a giant keyboard. Joining him is the inimitable Chazz Palminter and pretty much half the character actor cast of The Sopranos.

Innocent Blood is violent as hell — the scene with a recently-vampirized Don Rickles in his hospital room is still impressive all these years later, rivaling the infamous transformation scene in An American Werewolf in London. But despite the bloodletting and violence, Innocent Blood is often very funny — from the vaudevillian reactions to the ironic soundtrack to the most terrorized wife in all of cinema (played by Elaine Hagan). And of course it’s very funny…it’s a John Landis film.

PICTURE & SOUND:

Warner Archive has been dependable in presenting its older catalog titles that may lack mainstream appeal with the same care they have shown to their larger titles. The opening credit sequence shows no signs whatsoever of telecine tremor, which bodes very well for the equally stable transfer to come. Clarity is very strong, with colors hewing more to the dark. (Innocent Blood takes place over the course of 24 hours, though it’s mostly set at night, so except for deep red blood, colors are subdued.) The audio presentation is equally good. Landis consistently picks interesting songs to complement his films, and those along with dialogue make for a fun and immersive experience.(You will hear quite a bit Sinatra.)

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

None, sadly. I was hoping they’d at least bring Landis in to record a new commentary, but alas.

OVERALL:

Innocent Blood is one of Landis’ least heralded films, but it doesn’t deserve that whatsoever. Far better than some of the director’s other works (Beverly Hills Cop 3: yeesh…), it’s worthy of a reevaluation by horror fans and Landis fans alike. This new release from Warner Archives has excellent PQ and AQ, though sadly hasn’t a single feature. Despite that, it still comes easily recommended.


Distributor: Warner Bros. via Warner Archives

Rod Steiger plays the tattoo-covered title role in this fascinating vision of doom and danger based on the classic short story collection by futurist Ray Bradbury. Robert Drivas portrays a good-natured drifter who can’t tear his eyes away from Steiger’s freakish illustrations. And Claire Bloom is the mysterious seductress who created the “art” that curses its bearer – and comes to life in a nightmarish trio of tales. Two spoiled children turn playtime into slay time (from The Veldt). Shipwrecked astronauts wander across a planet cursed by The Long Rain. And loving parents choose their children’s fate when the end nears (from The Last Night of the World). Every one of The Illustrated Man’s pictures tell a story. And every story ends in terror.

I adore Ray Bradbury. I grew up reading the author’s works, but without truly honing in on the emotion and sense of wonder that the author infused in his writing until I was much older. The Halloween Tree, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The October Country all rank as not just my favorite Bradbury works, but favorites works ever. But as someone who leans more toward out and out horror rather than sci-fi and fantasy, there are some books and short story collections by the author I never felt compelled to read — an example being The Martian Chronicles, as well as The Illustrated Man.

By the studio’s own synopsis, one would think that the film adaption strayed away from the heavier sci-fi leanings of the anthology of the same name, but that’s not the case. Though the wraparound story (featuring the titular character played by an excellent Rod Steiger) exists in a mid-1900s, middle-America environment, every tale spun by the illustrated man exists in a science-fiction or futuristic environment. Source material aside (again, I haven’t read it, so I don’t want to tick off the purists), but the wraparound story doesn’t mesh well with the stories that are told. (For once, the wraparound story is actually the best part of the anthology.) A single story existing in the sci-fi world would have been one thing, but by the second story, the theme is established and it feels at odds with the film’s opener (and closer).

Steiger and Claire Bloom (who plays the illustrator witch in the wraparound) play all the lead roles in each story, and though they do a great job, it also lends itself to confusion — especially with the very subtle inference that some of the stories may or may not overlap. Sci-fi aspect aside, there’s another thing that all the stories have in common, and it’s one very unexpected, and that’s a slight hint of sexuality. Steiger’s carnival drifter becoming attracted to Bloom’s witch and undergoing his body transformation in hopes to sleep with her is just one example, but each story includes something akin to this. I’m not sure what it all means, to be honest.

If there’s one reason to watch The Illustrated Man, it’s for Rod Steiger. He’s a blast to watch, and manages to play an intimidating, authoritative figure in every tale. His dominating performance anchors every segment, and there’s an interesting dichotomy in place in that, though every character is supposed to be different, Steiger’s approach seems purposely similar in each, suggesting that maybe all of them are him in some way. And if there was anyone with the audacity to attempt such a thing, it would be Bradbury.

PICTURE & SOUND:

Considering its age, The Illustrated Man looks fantastic. Except for some soft backgrounds in the film’s opener, clarity is incredibly strong. Steiger’s complex body illustrations will attest to that, but very strong detail can also be found in his stubbly, sweaty face upon closeups. Audio presentation shows a fine deference to dialogue, with the score by Jerry Goldsmith remaining under the surface for the most part. The most impressive segment is the third, which sees astronauts trapped on a planet where it never stops raining, which provides the most audio activity.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

Only one nine-minute vintage featurette, which looks at the creation of Steiger’s tattoos.

OVERALL:

Surprisingly, Bradbury hasn’t been adapted for film as much as you’d think, given his large body of work and Hollywood’s tendency to adapt cult and horror authors. (Stephen King is already starting to lap himself, racking up two adaptations, or more, per novel or novella.) I can’t imagine that those Bradbury fans who enjoy or prefer his science-fiction writing won’t enjoy The Illustrated Man, but for me I was hoping for something a little more “paranormal” (as promised by the tagline). Again, this is another fine release in the Warner Archives line and is a certain recommendation for most Bradbury fans.


Distributor: Tempe Digital

Two and a half decades before “The Walking Dead” made zombies mainstream on cable television, 19-year-old writer/director J.R. Bookwalter (“Ozone,” “Witchouse 2: Blood Coven”) embarked on “The Dead Next Door,” an ambitious horror feature pitting an elite team of Zombie Squad soldiers against hoards of the undead and the secretive religious cult hell-bent on protecting them. The film would ultimately take four years to complete with the help of a now-famous Hollywood director and more than 1,500 Northeast Ohio residents, who portrayed the multitudes of bloodthirsty ghouls.

Zombies!

Sick of them yet?

I know I am! Have been since about the third season of The Walking Dead (the same point at which I quit that show altogether).

But perhaps you remember a time — as I do — when zombies hadn’t breached these pop culture shores beyond the every-decade release of George A. Romero’s revered zombie series. Zombies weren’t emblazoned on t-shirts or kids’ lunch boxes or burned into game apps found on tablets. They were for “weirdos” — ya know, those same “weirdos” who liked horror films in general, and enjoyed seeing heads get cut off or eaten in half.

Made on a shoe-stringiest of shoe-string budgets back over four years, The Dead Next Door finally saw a release in 1989 — another four years after the release of Romero’s own Day of the Dead, which didn’t set the box office on fire. By all accounts, whatever life there had been in the zombie sub-genre was dead. And The Dead Next Door, written and directed by J.R. Bookwalter, wasn’t going to change that.

When compared even against Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which was made for about the price of a half a pack of cigarettes, The Dead Next Door still comes off incredibly cheap looking, so it shouldn’t surprise you that it was made for $125,000. (Okay, to put things in real perspective, NOTLD was made for about $115,000, and that was in mid-1960s dollars.) When you watch them back to back, The Dead Next Door suffers (though, to be fair, most films would.) But even to watch it on its own and judging it on its own merits, it still looks unbearably cheap, but damn it all if it ain’t charming. Lousy acting, directing, writing — nearly everything — aside, The Dead Next Door shoots for the rafters but tears the roof off the place with its impressive and unrestrained gore effects. The amount of gore on display puts to shame any of Romero’s most well-known zombie gags, though Bookwalter is obviously going for the outrageous over the cringe-inducing. Numerous characters are named after legendary horror directors — ie, Carpenter, Raimi*, etc. — so Bookwalter is obviously a genre fan at heart, and is trying to make a film akin to the more visceral from those directors’ career. (*And Raimi better get a shoutout — he ghost-produced the film and helped fund it with whatever profits he earned from Evil Dead 2.)

Low budget films have their defenders, especially in the horror genre, and The Dead Next Door is a beloved title along the same lines as The Evil Dead and Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead (sensing a theme here?). Though it may lack those films’ directorial flair or legendary status, it’s got an awful lot of heart — and it’s flying just past your head along with all the brains.

PICTURE & SOUND:

Temper your expectations, ladies and gents: The Dead Next Door was originally shot on Super 8 film. For a feature length production made in the era of color film stock, that’s unheard of. Because of this, the high-def image looks rough, although the film has obviously gone through a meticulous restoration to present it at its best. With that said, it probably looks as good as it possible could, but unless you have an appreciation for the shortcomings of Super 8 film, you’re not going to be wowed. Audio is very utilitarian. It gets the job done, and dialogue is, for the most part, coherent, but the presentation definitely lacks oomph.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • 2K Restored Feature in 4:3 Original Aspect Ratio (1.33:1)
  • 2K Restored Feature in 16:9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
  • DTS HD-MA 5.1 Surround Original Cast Mix
  • DTS HD-MA 5.1 Surround Classic Dubbed Mix
  • Audio Commentary with producers J.R. Bookwalter, Jolie Jackunas and Scott P. Plummer
  • “Restoration of the Dead” Featurette (19 mins.)
  • Capitol Theatre Screening Q&A (12 mins.)
  • The Nightlight Screening Q&A (16 mins.)
  • Behind the Scenes Footage (19 mins.)
  • Deleted Scenes & Outtakes (7 mins.)
  • Storyboard Gallery (27 mins.)
  • Around The World Gallery (4 mins.)
  • Behind The Scenes Gallery (9 mins.)
  • Production Stills Gallery (6 mins.)
  • NEW! Rare 2001 Foreign DVD Audio Commentary with writer/director J.R. Bookwalter and makeup FX artist
  • David Lange
  • NEW! Richards Returns: An Interview with actor Scott Spiegel (5 mins.)
  • NEW! 1999 Akron Location Tour with actor James L. Edwards (5 mins.)
  • 2005 Audio Commentary with writer/director J.R. Bookwalter, actor Michael Todd and cinematographer
  • Michael Tolochko, Jr.
  • 20 Years in 15 Minutes (16 mins.)
  • Video Storyboards (8 mins.)
  • Video Preshoots (6 mins.)
  • Auditions (14 mins.)
  • Three Miles Out Music Video (3 mins.)
  • Trailers

OVERALL:

If you’re a fan of The Dead Next Door, this is the definitive release (if you missed out on Tempe’s previous limed 3-disc edition, that is). If you’re a fan of very low budget gore, this is a strong contender for your next Amazon splurge. And if you’re in the mood for something inept but lovingly made, you could do worse. Regardless, this Blu-ray release is still an easy recommendation, for almost any reason other than those looking for something pre-Diary of the Dead-era caliber Romero.


Also Available This Week:

Distributor: Arrow Video

Winner of the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival, The Legend of the Holy Drinker is another classic from the great Italian director Ermanno Olmi (Il posto, The Tree of Wooden Clogs). Adapted from the novella by Joseph Roth, the film tells the story of Andreas Kartack, a homeless man living under the bridges of Paris. Lent 200 francs by an anonymous stranger, he is determined to pay back his debt but circumstances – and his alcoholism – forever intervene. Working with professional actors for the first time in more than 20 years, Olmi cast Ruger Hauer as Andreas and was rewarded with an astonishing performance of subtlety and depth. Hauer is joined by a superb supporting cast, including Anthony Quayle (Lawrence of Arabia), Sandrine Dumas (The Double Life of Veronique) and Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen).

Special Features:

  • Brand-new 4K restoration from the original negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Stereo 2.0 options for the English presentation with optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Stereo 2.0 audio for the Italian presentation with optional newly translated English subtitles
  • Brand-new interview with actor Rutger Hauer, recorded exclusively for this release
  • Interview with screenwriter Tullio Kezich
  • Theatrical trailer
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: New writing on the film by Helen Chambers, author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradictions

Distributor: Shout! Factory

Drop into the Pacific Northwest in the early ’90s and watch a vibrant underground music scene explode into a global “grunge” media frenzy. Hype! follows the music from local bands playing for their friends, to Sub Pop Record’s brilliant exploitation of “the Seattle Sound,” to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hitting #1 on the charts. Questions of money, authenticity, and fame arise as “grunge fashion” hits the runways and a mass migration of wanna-be Seattle bands saturates the city. The Northwest experience is one of humor, loss, and epic irony. With intense live performances by Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and many more, Hype! rocks the definitive story of the world’s last great local music scene.

Special Features:

  • NEW HD Transfer From The 35mm Interpositive
  • NEW “Hype! 20 Years After” – Featuring New Interviews With Members Of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, And The Fastbacks, Record Producers Jack Endino And Steve Fisk, Manager Susan Silver, And Photographer Charles Peterson
  • NEW Audio Commentary By Director Doug Pray
  • Audio Commentary By Director Doug Pray And Producer Steve Helvey
  • Peter Bagge’s Animated Short, “Hate”
  • Additional Performances (With Optional Director’s Commentary) By Mudhoney, Supersuckers, Pond, And The Gits
  • Additional Interviews With Megan Jasper, Art Chantry, Tad, Leighton Beezer, Peter Bagge, And More
  • Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Magnolia

New York City air traffic controller Dylan Branson (Michiel Huisman) is the embodiment of a guy at the top of his game, until one day at 2:22 p.m., a blinding flash of light paralyzes him for a few crucial seconds as two passenger planes barely avoid a midair collision. Suspended from his job, Dylan begins to notice the increasingly ominous repetition of sounds and events in his life that happen at exactly the same time every day. An underlying pattern builds, mysteriously drawing him into Grand Central Station every day at 2:22 p.m. As he’s drawn into a complex relationship with a beautiful woman who works in an art gallery, Sarah (Teresa Palmer), disturbingly complicated by her ex-boyfriend Jonas (Sam Reid, Serena), Dylan must break the power of the past and take control of time itself.

Special Features:

  • Time with the Story and Characters
  • Working with the Director and Cast
  • Recreating New York and Grand Central
  • Theatrical Trailer

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Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

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