Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vampires, Mummies & Monsters Collection (2011, Shout! Factory)

Just in time for Halloween comes Vampires, Mummies & Monsters, a 2 disc collection from Shout! Factory's Roger Corman's Cult Classics line.  Included are (as the title states) four obscure gems that run the gamut of the horror genre.  I get excited every time a new Corman Classic release comes out and this set is no exception.
The Velvet Vampire is a modern day (well, modern for 1971 when it was released) vampire story about a couple (Michael Blodgett and Sherry Miles) who are invited to stay the weekend at a mysterious woman's lavish home in the middle of the desert.  After arriving, their host Diane (Celeste Yarnall) starts invading their dreams and tries to seduce them.  The longer they stay, they realize that their host is much older than they first thought...like centuries older.  Oh, and she's a vampire
Lady Frankenstein takes the classic story and adds a new element to it - Dr. Frankenstein's daughter.  After her father (Joseph Cotton) fails at his experiments and dies, his equally mad daughter (the beautiful Italian actress Rosalba Neri, billed here as Sara Bay) takes over her father's lab.  She employs her father's assistant Dr. Charles Marshall (Paul Muller) who is in love with her and will do anything she wants.  Unfortunately he's a little too old for her so Lady Frankenstein decides to take their mentally retarded but physically perfect handyman's body and put Marshall's brain into it.
Grotesque (1988) stars Linda Blair as Lisa, a young woman who is going for the weekend to stay at her parent's vacation home with her friend Kathy (Donna Wilkes from Jaws 2).  Lisa's father (Guy Stockwell) does makeup effects for horror movies so he loves to scare the girls with his masks.  After a gang of punks break into the house and start terrorizing the family, they find something much more terrifying than masks hiding in the house.
Time Walker (1982) follows a college professor (Ben Murphy) who is about to open a Mummy's coffin found in King Tut's tomb.  After noticing something hidden in the coffin after X-raying the mummy, one of the students breaks in to steal the treasure, which turns out to be 5 mysterious gems.  What he doesn't realize is that the radiation from the X-rays reanimated the mummy, sending it on a deadly rampage to recover the stolen gems.  

What I like best about this collection is how varied it is.  Other than the Roger Corman connection, there isn't much these films have in common besides the fact they are all low budget horror films.  We have a 70s vampire film, a Hammer-esque gothic horror film, Sci-Fi horror and a good old 80s slasher.  To be honest, none of these were necessarily great films and individually wouldn't be something I'd probably seek out but together here, they are well worth the price.  Grotesque was quite cheesy and I had some problems with it but there were also many elements I really liked about the film (Linda Blair being the main one).  Time Walker too was a little cheesy but the far out story saves it and it actually turned out to be pretty original and interesting.  The Velvet Vampire and Lady Frankenstein were both actually quite good films that had good acting, scenery and gore.  The transfers from all 4 films look amazing, especially considering the budgets and age and the set is full of special features (trailers, interviews, commentaries and two different cuts of Lady Frankenstein).  So don't go in expecting a bunch of classic horror films but I would still highly recommend this set to horror/exploitation fans for its sheer scope of the genre, the obscurity of the films included and the wealth of bonus features.
RATING:  8/10

Order now directly from SHOUT! FACTORY

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mystery Science Theater: "Manos" The Hands of Fate (2011, Shout! Factory)

Considered by many as the worst film ever made, "Manos" The Hands of Fate is truly a sight.  I'd say it makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like Citizen Kane in comparison.  For MST3K lovers though, the crappier the movie - the funnier the show.  Joel, Tom Servo and Crow certainly have their work cut out for them here.  Coming September 13th from Shout! Factory is a Special Edition of this MST3K fan favorite.

"Manos" The Hands of Fate is the tale of a couple who go on vacation with their daughter and their dog.  The family gets lost or something and winds up at an old house.  A creepy character named Torgo (John Reynolds) is there to greet them and agrees to let them stay the night.  Soon we find out that the house is actually a den of sin where "The Master" (Tom Neyman) and his stable of brides live.  The vacationing family become prisoners and must do whatever they can to survive the wrath of MANOS!

From that synopsis, you might think the film isn't half bad.  Well, it's not half bad.  It's about 8,000 times bad.    To have a reputation like this film is quite an achievement (or damnation).  Luckily, we get to watch it in the Satellite of Love where bad movies are shown to torture Joel and his friends.  The crew absolutely rip this films to shreds.  Widely considered one of the best episodes of the series, this latest installment in the MST3K collection is absolutely hilarious.  A tough movie to sit through on its own, this 2 DVD set features both the original version of "Manos" The Hands of Fate, as well as the MST3K version.  That's not all though.  This set also has a boatload of bonus features, including a documentary on the making of "Manos" as well as interviews with the MST3K cast and crew re-living the horrible experience of this film.  Take those, along with some MST3K Hour Wraps, exclusive mini poster by Steve Vance and more and you have one of the best MST3K sets available.  If you are new to the show then this episode is the perfect starter and if you're a fan than you already know how good it is.

RATING:  10/10

If you order this set directly through Shout! Factory's site HERE then you get a free MST3K stress ball!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Exterminator (1980, James Glickenhaus)

Eagerly awaited by many genre fans, The Exterminator finally hits Blu Ray (in a combo BD/DVD 2 disc set) from Synapse Films on September 13th.  This little horror/exploitation/revenge film has a huge cult following and (with its unforgettable cover art) was a staple in the classic days of VHS.  I'm sure many folks remember seeing this in your local mom and pop video stores back in the 80s.  I sure do.  Amazingly, I had never seen the film before and held off after hearing about this exciting new release.

The Exterminator takes place in the slums of NYC where two ex-vietnam buddies, John (Robert Ginty) and Michael (Steve James) get in a fight with a local gang.  After winning the fight, they come back and get revenge by crippling Michael.  This enrages John so much that he snaps and goes on a rampage to try to wipe out not only the gang that crippled his friend but also the kingpins who are responsible for the dangerous city streets.  John, being a trained fighter and weapons expert makes these criminals pay for the wrongs that they've done.

The Exterminator is a Grade A revenge film that not only has lots of action, but also some interesting characters and some great Gore FX.  Check out the first 5 minutes of the film and you'll know what I'm talking about.  The characters, especially John the lead, are well developed and much more human than you would expect from a film like this.  Robert Ginty does a great job as John and it's fun seeing genre vets Christopher George (City of the Living Dead) and Samantha Eggar (The Brood) trying to figure out the Exterminator's identity.  Synapse's new release is the Unrated Director's Cut, featuring more gore and violence as well as a director's commentary and (for the first time in the US on home video) the original 2.0 stereo track.  I'd rank this one right up there with Death Wish and Vigilante as one of the most violent and brutal action/revenge film.  I can't really think of any flaws in this film.  The film kept me interested and really delivered everything I was hoping for (and then some!).

Now....where's Exterminator 2 on DVD or Blu Ray?

RATING: 10/10

Pre Order The Exterminator DVD/BD 2 disc set HERE from Synapse Films.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Haunting at the Beacon (2009, Michael Stokes)

Coming September 13th from Take 2 Releasing, Haunting at the Beacon is a modern day ghost story starring Teri Polo (Meet the Parents/Fockers series).  The interesting thing about this film is that it was filmed at an actual haunted hotel (Rogers Hotel in Waxahachie, TX) and the cast and crew reportedly experienced some supernatural occurrences. 

Haunting at the Beacon is about Bryn (Teri Polo) and her husband Paul (David Rees Snell) who move into a new apartment after their young son disappears and is presumed dead.  After trying to cope with her loss, Bryn starts seeing a little boy running through the hotel and hears voices from a vacant apartment.  Is Bryn slowly going crazy over the guilt she has for her son's death or is something really haunting the Beacon?

Haunting at the Beacon definitely has some good things going for it.  First of all is the strong cast, including  Polo, Snell, Elaine Hendrix (as their seductive neighbor) and genre vet Michael Ironside (Scanners).  The creepy atmosphere of the apartment/hotel was also beneficial to the film's spookiness as were the impressive makeup effects by Vincent J. Guastini (Requiem for a Dream).  The climax caught me off guard and the shocking ending was a nice finish too.  My only real complaint is that the film could have been a little scarier but overall it is a worthwhile film that should please supernatural horror and haunted house fans.

RATING:  7/10