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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Slasher > Embodiment Of Evil (2008/Coffin Joe series/Synapse Blu-ray + DVD) + The Inheritance (2010/Image Blu-ray) + The Toolbox Murders (1978/Unrated/Blue Underground Blu-ray)

Embodiment Of Evil (2008/Coffin Joe series/Synapse Blu-ray + DVD) + The Inheritance (2010/Image Blu-ray) + The Toolbox Murders (1978/Unrated/Blue Underground Blu-ray)


Picture: B- & C+/C+/B     Sound: B & B-/B/C+     Extras: B-/C-/C     Film: B-/C/C


When the Horror genre tries to go into unique directions, you can get interesting results and when it tries to go into bold, daring areas, it can get outright bizarre.  Here are three Blu-ray releases in the genre worth knowing about.



I have not seen much of the Coffin Joe horror film series, but it has been running since 1964 and produced 17 feature films to date, usually written and directed by José Mojica Marins.  The gravedigger possessed of supernatural, even Satanic powers, returned for a 15th time (not unlike Fu Manchu) in the amusing Embodiment Of Evil, where the now older man of death (also known as Zé do Caixão) is back trying to find the most suitable woman to bear him a child, preferably a son who is a chip off the old block of gravestone granite.


The director (for the 11th time of 12 times to date) plays the evil entity in what is a surprisingly old-fashioned Horror exercise with older-style effects (hardly any digital work is here) and it is comic (intentionally and not) throughout in was I did not expect.  If it did not look so new and good, you’d swear it was older in the best way.  For some reason, he was in a mental institute for 40 years and is now free, though Marins played him in another Coffin Joe film earlier the same year.  Logic is not a strong suit of this film, but I understand its appeal and this supposedly picks up from a 1967 film as part of a trilogy, but more on that when we see more of the films.


Many of the films in the series seem to suddenly be coming out in print on DVD and so far, this is the only Blu-ray.  I am curious to compare it to the other films and see the differences.  This is as good a place to start as any of them.



Robert O’Hara’s The Inheritance (2010) is an attempt to do an all-African American cast Horror film and it has some potential, but despite an interesting cast cannot seem to build any suspense, never builds up enough suspension of disbelief to make this work and also cannot decide if it is a slasher film, a supernatural thriller, both or something else.  Still, axe murders and other bloodletting are eventually the order of the day as a family reunion turns into a literally dismantled affair.  As for any attempts to connect this with something or anything to do with African culture, that never works at all.  Compare to the great Ganja & Hess (reviewed in two versions elsewhere on this site) and see how this could have worked.  Keith David supports the mostly unknown cast.



In the one-upsmanship that was going on in exploitation films of the time, Dennis Donnelly’s The Toolbox Murders (1978) arrived the year of Carpenter’s Halloween and actually caused much more outrage and ending the first cycle of such films that began in 1968 with the likes of Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead.  While Halloween (itself inspired by Bob Clark’s 1974 original classic Black Christmas) became the megahit which eventually led to the slice & dice cycle in the 1980s, Toolbox freaked out those who would dare see it with even more graphic violence than Halloween or anything since Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chain Saw Massacre in 1974.


The star who would never appear in such a film that appeared this time was child character actress Pamelyn Ferdin (Space Academy) who was making a bid to be taken more seriously and leave her child star persona behind (she even voiced Lucy in some classic Peanuts animated TV specials) and plays one of several people in an apartment building being targeted for murder, especially if they are female.  The murders (featured in their uncut version here) are still shocking and bold as the film goes over the top, but then there is a point where it jumps the shark midway through and never recovers, becoming silly, dumb and loses whatever credibility it was building early on.  It wants to be seen as based on a true story as if it were a docudrama, but that backfires in the end and you can see why Halloween took it over when if it had handled itself better, would have been a bigger hit and more remembered.


Still, it is a key film from the genre at the time (much like the original I Spit On Your Grave would be, playing more like a product of the 1970s than 1980s) and still has the ability to be shocking.  Too bad the script fails its ambitions, but it deserves to be in print for everyone to see and this Blu-ray does a great job of presenting it.  Cameron Mitchell also stars.



The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image in all three Blu-rays are as good as their respective images can be expected to be.  Evil is a print from 20th Century Fox, so it is not the usual Synapse transfer and the film has been styled down on purpose for effect.  The Blu-ray does its best to show how this is supposed to look, but expect detail edges to be soft on purpose.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD is passable, but cannot match the color, solid look or depth of the Blu-ray.  Inheritance is an HD shoot and is so noisy and has so many issues with detail and Video Black crush, that the Evil DVD can compete with it.  That leaves Toolbox, which is a surprisingly solid, colorful transfer for an older slasher thriller (we believe the claim that it comes form the original camera negative) and it is obvious Blue Underground took time to really fix this film up.  They and Synapse seem to be the top companies when it comes to transfers of Horror genre films, which is now more apparent than ever on Blu-ray.



The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on the Blu-rays Evil and Inheritance are the sonic winners with well recorded sound and soundmixing that creates the kind of enveloping soundfield you would expect from new Horror releases.  Evil is only here in Portuguese, but it is just fine, while the Dolby Digital 5.1 on its DVD is also not bad.  That leaves the original theatrical monophonic sound on Toolbox upgraded to a DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix that is a little better than the Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and original Mono sound also included, but no amount of remixing can hide the age of the recording.  However, I could not imagine it ever sounding better.


Extras on all three films include their original theatrical trailers, with Evil adding a Making Of featurette and footage from the Fantasia Film festival premiere of the film.  Toolbox adds TV & Radio Spots, “I Got Nailed” interview with star Marianne Walter and a feature length audio commentary by Producer Tony DiDio, Director of Photography Gary Graver and Ferdin.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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