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Archive for March, 2013

Zombie Lake (1980) Blu-Ray Review

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Stars: Anouchka, Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou
Director: Jean Rollin
Released by Redemption / Kino Lorber

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Leave it to Jean Rollin working with a script by Jesse Franco to figure a way to get Zombies, Nazi and a Girls Volley Ball team into one exploitation film. The film starts off with a young lady taking an idyllic walk to a deserted cabin in the woods. The lady takes a completely revealing sun bath and then goes to cool off in the nearby lake. She is barely in the water when she is attacked by a zombie dressed if a full World War II Nazi uniform. You sure know just what you’re getting into right from the start. There is an investigation and after much chit chat we get to see a nice long flash back sequence that explains it all.

During the War this quaint little village in France was being guarded by a very small detachment of German army men. There were maybe seven of them. One of the girls in town is saved from enemy motor fire by a young soldier. She falls for him and they have a fling. She bares his child but dies soon after. Meanwhile the townspeople have set up an ambush for the soldiers who are all cut down in a hail of bullets by the resistance. In order to hide the bodies from an approaching German patrol they throw them all in the lake. The war ends and years pass by. However the lake remains the center of spooky tales

We return to the present time, which probably should be sometime in the fifties judging by the age of the young girl who was fathered by the solider. She looks to be about ten, but don’t let that worry you. It certainly didn’t bother anyone connected with the production. Seemingly borrowing a page from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and a few from George Romero the long dead soldiers choose this moment to rise up from the lake and seek revenge on the town that betrayed them. Never mind that they invaded the town in the first place. There is even a tender reunion between the young German solider, who is now a zombie and his little girl. He gives her a necklace that her mom had given to him. The high point in the film and likely the reason most people will want to give this one a look see is the arrival of the girls volley ball team by bus to the lake. They bound out and prance around like extras in a nudist camp film. They are all smiles and giggles as clothes fly every which way and they take to the lake to cool off. At one point as two of the girls toss a ball back and forth. The subtitles refer to it as a basketball. Don’t let that fool you, it is a volley ball. In a series of increasingly revealing shots the zombies come up from the depths to grab at their prey. They toss them about and maul them. Most of the make up on the zombies consists of green greasepaint. It drips off their faces as they slosh around in the water. Those uniforms, some complete with helmets sure looking like they held up pretty well being submerged in the water all these years.

It should be noted at this point that there is no gore or really gruesome special effects. Much of the time the attacking zombies appear to have a mouthful of red liquid that they leak out over the necks of their victims as they attack. The zombies run amuck in the tiny village until someone figures out a way to stop them. Despite the overall cheap production values three is some entertainment value to be had here. Fans of dead Nazi soldiers who have turned into zombies on the rampage will get some cheap thrills here.

Video – 1.66:1
This is a very enjoyable presentation. Colors are all strong and stand out when called upon. In the more brightly lit scenes healthy detail is apparent. Granted there are specs of dirt and the more than occasional scratch but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Zombie Lake looks quite good. The materials sourced for this transfer have been presented without any undue fuss or muss. While not pristine fans will be more than pleased.

Audio – French and English 2.0 Mono, Subtitles are offered in English.
The audio feels dubbed and done in post production along with the effects is either language  although much of the film seems to play on a purely visual level. The music does not add much to the proceedings. This is a very cheap track. Those used to dubbed Euro titles of this style will feel right at home.

Extras – An unusual extra lets viewers see the credit sequence and the Zombie attack on the girl’s volley ball team done in clothed versions that were alternate versions made for television. They completely defeat the entire purpose of making the film in the first place. So often it is the other way around with a sneak peek offered of the more explicit censored footage. The original trailer is here along with others from director Jean Rollin.  The cover is very well done.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:

Movie – Fair

Blue-Ray – Good

Come and Get Me (2011) DVD Review

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Stars: Christian Radford, Shaun Trainer, Alexis Fernandez
Director: Chris Sun
Released by Bloody Earth Films

Reviewed by Richard J. Doyle

Four friends … Michelle (Alexis Fernandez), Leah (Kelsie Mcdonald), Gemma (Allira Jacques) and Susan (Sarah Jane Blair) … go out for a night of hard drinking at a dance club.  They had convinced one of their boyfriends to drive them there on his way out for a night with the boys.  As the evening progresses, they realize they have no way of getting home.

Three guys … Johnny (Christian Radford), Bretto (Shaun Trainer) and William (Christopher Price) … share an apartment, a fondness for beer and a taste for loud hardcore punk music.  When a girl they holler at as they drive past her talks back to them, we learn they also share a murderous rage.  They not only torture and murder this girl, they kidnap, torture and murder William’s high school principal when they find him drunk and waiting for a cab.

Eventually we discover that the girls went to high school with William.  So who do you think they call for a ride home from the bar?  Do you think this ride will go well?  Do you think that Johnny and Bretto will behave themselves when William asks them to because he really likes one of these girls?  Do you care?

This Australian indie horror flick has a few problems, chief of which is that it’s completely predictable from moment one and does little to make you want to see what will happen once you realize just how predictable it is.  To its credit, the acting by the largely amateur cast is pretty good for this kind of film and the gore effects (of which there are less than you might expect for a film full of carnage) are better than average for a low budget horror film.  However, every last character in this film is unpleasant and thoroughly unlikeable, so you just can’t work up any interest in what happens to them.

Whether it’s intentional or not, the unpleasantness of everything that happens in this film leaves you with the distinct feeling that the film sides with the killers. No matter how despicable they might be, they are characters with points of view that get expressed repeatedly and vehemently throughout the film, while the other characters are only around to get drunk and be brutalized.  The film seems to revel in the brutal retribution the trio of psychopaths inflict on the people they feel have wronged them, and it can’t recover from this by letting the audience work up any sympathy for the drunken, annoying ciphers that get slaughtered.  The film leaves the impression of being made by one of the psychos as an act of ultimate retribution against anyone dumb enough to watch it … a grubby, demeaning experience that I was eager to be done with and couldn’t possibly recommend to anyone else.

Video – 1.78:1 The image quality is pretty good for a low budget film shot in HD video.  The film is very dark and is often difficult to make out any details, but thsi appears to be faithful to the way the film was lit.  This is probably as good as it ever looked.

Audio – As with the picture, the audio is as good as you’d expect from a low budget feature.

Extras – The DVD a commentary by director Chris Sun, plus interviews and deleted scenes.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic

DVD – Good

Movie – Poor

Eaters (2011) DVD Review

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Stars: Alex Lucchesi, Gugliemo Favilla, Claudio Marmug, Rosella Elmi,
Elisa Ferretti. Steve Sylvester
Directors: Marco Ristori, Luca Bona
Released by Entertainment One

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Uwe Boll’s name is emblazoned across the cover. He didn’t direct this one. He didn’t write it or produce it. He is credited with presenting it. Apparently he met the directors of this film and saw a zombie short they had made. He was encouraging to them, gave them some advice and told them that if they managed to finish a feature length film he’d help them get it distributed. That is why you now have the opportunity to hold this DVD in your hands. Uwe Boll was a man of his word. In the making of featurette one of the directors estimates that they spent less on this than someone would have on their wedding video. It looks it.

In a post apocalyptic world we follow two soldier hunter types who sort of police things up. The current world is overrun with zombies and all the women have died off. They share a run down building with a few barely functioning workers and a scientist. The scientist seems to be based on the character from Day of the Dead (1985) who is always operating on tied up or strapped down zombies to no avail. At one point they have to deal with a group of neo-Nazis for supplies, bargaining for more zombies for the doctor to continue his experiments with. These guys collect the zombies and make a sport of pitting people against them and each other in a competitive game. They appear pretty bored with their circumstances. Later on the two central characters discover a girl who is immune to the plague. With her in tow they have to fight it out with the neo-Nazi gang. That’s a plus because it gives the film at least one action sequence. The film meanders around toward its conclusion.

Some of the effects appear to have been worked on quite a bit, while others are hastily done. There is a lot of post production computer work especially concerning any bloodshed. Occasionally a zombie is seen with very detailed make up. What really hurts this is the leaden pace and completely dank and dour look to everything. The entire movie looks like it has been sifted through a strainer removing all color and contrast. What we are left with is a drab flat looking image that is difficult to watch. It simply offers nothing of interest. Even the effects that are clearly dear to the directors suffer by this presentation. The acting is bad, too.

Video – 2.35:1
As mentioned above the entire film has been drained of any color or interesting texture.

Audio – 5.1 Dolby Digital in Italian, 2.0 Dolby Digital in English. Subtitles offered in English.. Though the acting is bad the actor’s voices are easily heard.

Extras – Making of Featurette
We get to meet the two directors who are very enthusiastic about their chance to make a feature. They tell their Uwe Boll story. This is truly an amateur film that got a shot compliments of Mister Boll.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:

Movie – Poor

Blue-Ray – Poor

Sexcula: DVD Review

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Sexcula (1974)

by Troy Howarth

Directed by Bob Hollowich

Starring Debbie Collins, Jamie Orlando, John Alexander, Tim Lowery

A woman (Debbie Collins) unearths the diary of her infamous ancestor, Countess Sexcula (also played by Collins), and decides to read up on her debauched activities…

 

Nothing horror-oriented lends itself to porn quite so much as the vampire legend.  The notion of the vampire is highly sexualized to begin with, and it’s not such a stretch to suggest that one of the ghostly beings might be able to sustain themselves on some other human bodily fluid other than blood.  Jess Franco and Jean Rollin made a number of erotically charged vampire films in the 1970s, with Franco arguably achieving the most notoriety with his dreamy blend of horror and sex, Female Vampire (1973), which cast his muse and real life love Lina Romay as the semen-sucking titular character.  Whereas directors like Rollin and Franco had some artistic aspirations, however, there were plenty of low rent pornographers looking to score a piece of the action, too.  The Canadian-lensed Sexcula fits into this latter category.

 

The film was directed by John Holbrook, under the nom de plume of Bob Hollowich, the film was clearly thrown together quickly and cheaply, with little attention paid to such insignificant matters as plotting or characterization.  The actors enter into the spirit of the thing with tongues (amongst other things) wedged firmly in cheek.  The tone is goofy and over the top, with every horror cliche imaginable tossed in for good (?) measure.  There’s a horny hunchback looking to get in on the action – a running gag has the eager bastard being chased away every time he mounts another not-so-willing victim – and there’s even a guy in a gorilla suit.  It doesn’t really make a lot of sense, but fans of vintage erotica may still find it charming in a nonsensical kind of way.

 

Leading lady Debbie Collins – whom the packaging correctly identifies as something of a ringer for porn legend Marilyn Chambers – gets to carry the show.  She’s not really much of an actress, and she lacks the smouldering, go-for-broke attitude of Chambers, but she’s still a photogenic and agreeable presence.  Jamie Orlando is similarly wooden-beyond-belief in her dialogue scenes as “mad scientist” Dr. Fellatingstein (get it?!), but she also proves to be quite capable in her erotic sequences.  John Alexander is similarly amateurish as Fellatingstein’s man-made “stud,” Frank – whose equipment does not appear to be in working order.

 

Fans looking for flith and lots of it may be disappointed to note, however, that much of the sex is of the “soft” variety.  There’s plenty of skin, but things don’t get properly graphic until the final act – and tellingly, it is here that the film is least effective.  As a gentle lampoon of the horror genre with a softcore bent, Sexcula is an agreeable time killer – it’s poorly made and acted, of course, but taken on its own terms, it’s kind of fun and endearing; when it gets into more “grown up” terrain, however, it just seems all the tackier for it…

Video:
Impulse Pictures brings the “long lost” Sexcula to DVD for the first time.  The Region 0 disc is presented in the intended 1.33 aspect ratio, and has been mastered from the only known surviving print.  The materials show plent of age and such, but it’s as nice looking a transfer as one could hope for, realistically speaking.  Colors pop, detail is as strong as the photography will allow, and there are no pesky authoring flaws to grouse about.

Audio:

The mono English soundtrack is a little muffled in places, but the canned porno music comes through loud and clear.

Extras:

Extras include a worn theatrical trailer, and liner notes by “porn achaeologist” Dimitrios Otis, who provided some nice background information on the picture.

Film: ** out of *****

Video: *** out of *****

Audio: **1/2 out of *****

Extras: ** out of *****