Dark Shadows: The Best Of Barnabas + Fan
Favorites (MPI DVDs)/The Divide
(2011/Unrated/Anchor Bay Blu-ray w/DVD)/The
Hills Have Eyes, Part 2
(1986/Horizon Blu-ray)/Killer Nun
(1979/Blue Underground Blu-ray)/Night
Wolf (2010/Lionsgate DVD)/The Terror
Experiment (2010/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/The
Wicker Tree (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)
C+/C+/B- & C/B-/B-/C/B-/B- Sound:
C+/C+/B & B-/B-/C+/C+/B-/B-
Main Programs: B-/B-/C+/C/C+/C-/C-/C-
the latest slate of Horror titles you might want to check out… or not…
Tim Burton/Johnny Depp revival coming up, MPI has issued two singles (in
advance of a massive Complete Series
DVD box) of the hit 1960s horror soap opera Dark Shadows, which was never a comedy
to begin with. Dark Shadows: The Best Of Barnabas + Fan Favorites are warm-up singles so viewers can find out or
refresh their memories on how the hit series played and worked. The show began as simply a supernatural soap
opera as a new concept that ABC tried out and worked, but then, vampire
Barnabas Collins showed up and that put the show over the top.
has 10 episodes and will get you more than familiar with the show and it will
not even ruin the up coming film, if you intend to see it. As would be the case with the two MGM feature
films and 1990s TV revival that followed this original series run, the show was
filled with mystery, surprise and suspense in ways that had never been tried in
the otherwise melodramatic soap opera format for TV and rarely for radio drama
before it. Extras include intros for all
episode sand some tie-in promos for fans and the curious. All in all, these are nice sets.
Gens first received notice with his genre hit Frontier(s), which we reviewed twice (I covered an import DVD) and
neither of us were impressed, yet he followed that up with Hitman (also reviewed on the site) starring Timothy Olyphant (now
of the huge hit series Justified, reviewed elsewhere on this site) that I
thought had its moments and was onto something including a new star. Now comes The Divide (2011) which is his best film yet, sort of. He still has problems, but has some
interesting moments, making it one of the few “stuck-in-a” movies (or TV shows
for that matter) I found watchable in a while.
war breaks out and a group of people are trapped in the basement of a big
building. One man (Michael Biehn) lives
there and tries to help. One woman is
there with her daughter and the rest try to figure out what is going on, especially
when they cannot see much, electric is limited, food more so and all wonder
what they will do next. Then someone is
trying to get in.
including Michael Eklund, Milo Ventimiglia, Lauren German, Courtney B. Vance,
Ivan Gonzalez, Ashton Holmes and Rosanna Arquette is a more interesting group
than we have seen in such a set up and the results are some tense moments. I was also happy with the acting more than
usual overall. Unfortunately, this is
not sustained and when the film starts to veer into more interesting territory,
it goes off track. Still, not awful and
at least all involved were trying.
Extras include a trailer and feature length audio commentary by Gens and
Actors Biehn, Eklund and Ventimiglia.
a dozen years after the original, Wes Craven made and has since disowned The Hills Have Eyes, Part 2 (1986), a silly slasher
sequel to the amazing original (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site)
which suffers sequelitis to no end (far too many clips of highlights of the
first film are here; guess VHS had not caught on yet) and it is done as a
joke. Starting with a survivor of the
first film in therapy, the slice-and-dice psycho killer films cycle was in
decline by this time and comedy was slowly arriving permanently, as Craven
would prove in his almost endless Nightmare
On Elm Street series.
lead killer from the first film is goofy and this has zero suspense, though we
get plenty of jokes, political incorrectness, blood and screaming, it is just a
time capsule at best. I will say it
plays much better than most similar works in the genre since (especially
torture porn) and moves along smoothly for a low budget work, but it is weak
overall and was an unnecessary sequel when that kind of thing was rare. It is still better than the awful sequel to
the remake Fox backed. Now it is a
curio, just don’t expect much. Trailers
and a still gallery are the only extras.
Berruti’s Killer Nun (1979) dared to
claim it was from the “secret files of The Vatican”, had Anita Ekberg in the
title role and was a “nunspolitation” film based on an actual case where a nun
had been killing patients at a hospital for years before anyone realized
it. Here, we get her pathology, nudity,
lesbian sexual desire, nuns having sex and all hell breaking loose. The film is amusing, but like other films in
this infamous subgenre, a one-note affair.
Andy Warhol favorite Joe Dalessandro (Flesh For Frankenstein, Blood
For Dracula) shows up here as a new doctor who might figure out the truth,
but he is dubbed in both the English and Italian tracks as apparently, his New York street
accent did not fit the role and that is one of many things that makes this
fearless, even sending up her reputation and the film was banned and censored
all over the place, even subversive by today’s standards. The result is a curio that delivers some
interesting scenes, even if it is not great overall. Extras include a Poster & Still Gallery,
Trailer and interview featurette From The
Secret Files of The Vatican with Director/Co-Writer Berruti.
that the werewolf film might be dead, a producer of Dog Soldiers has backed Johnathan Glendening’s Night Wolf (2010) about a werewolf on the loose killing. Isabella Calthorpe, Gemma Atkinson and Simon
MacCorkindale (from the infamous NBC TV failure Manimal, in his last work before he passed away at only 58 years
old!) are among the cast in this silly British production. Nothing is new here, we get proof once again
that fur does not strike terror in the heart of audiences and we get a series
of clichés instead of a suspenseful thriller.
visual effects, endless blood, red werewolf vision ripped off from Wolfen, more door pounding from Dog Soldiers, endless creaming and a
script that has no idea of where to go.
I always expect more from the British, but maybe that is a mistake. This is laughably sad, but Manimal fans might enjoy it…
maybe. Trailers are the only extra.
Medeluk’s The Terror Experiment
(2010) is our worst entry here. This
dumb tale has a lone angry veteran (yawn) detonating a biologic weapon
resulting in people turning into zombie-like creatures that must die. Boring, cynical and idiotic, the look is a
mix of war porn and bad horror movies with no point and it goes on and on and
on and on. What a waste of time. C. Thomas Howell and Judd Nelson (?!?) even
show up in what is essentially a bad TV movie, but the effects, acting and
directing are almost as bad as the script.
We guess the real experiment is to make this bad mess and see if people
will pay to see it. Domestic terror
indeed! The only extra is a feature
length audio commentary by Medeluk.
we have Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Tree
(2011), a very belated sequel to his 1973 independent hit The Wicker Man and not to be confused with the horrid Nicolas Cage
remake. This is not as bad as that
disaster, but (based on Hardy’s book Cowboys
For Christ) has the amusing but unlikely premise that a southern singer who
is now a born again Christian and her boyfriend travel to Scotland to
convert a town to their religion.
Unfortunately, they pick the one with the Satanic cult from the 1973
film and chaos ensues.
becomes the same film and like the remake, telegraphs (or is that visually
texts) its results in a tired, recycled script that takes little advantage of
the possibilities the situation offers.
At first, it played well, but after the first 15 minutes, the film gets
into trouble and never recovers. Why a
tree replaced a man is never explained, even with a cameo by Christopher Lee
reprising his role from the first film more or less (he was going to be in the
remake, but passed) and I was not a fan of the original anyhow.
We get a
group of unknown actors who are not bad, but the chemistry, irony and oddness
of the original film is, like the bad remake, missing here and only diehard
fans will care. Otherwise, you’ll have a
few chuckles and be bored. Extras
include a Trailer, Deleted Scenes that would not have helped much and a Making
X 1 image on the Dark Shadows DVDs vary
in quality, but as good as you could expect for older videotaped shows, coming
from 2-inch black and white, then color NTSC professional videotape. Unless extensive, expensive work is done,
there is not much more you can do with this material to clean it up, but it
plays fine for its age.
digital High Definition image transfers on all the Blu-rays are about equal,
which is amazing considering they range from an old low budget film to newer
over-stylized productions increasingly moving to HD video. Hills
2 is here in 1.66 X 1 presentation that offers most of its footage in
then-new 35mm film and flashback footage from the first film as shot in 16mm
looking better than the original Hills
on Blu-ray as reviewed elsewhere on this site.
Unfortunately, it is not as consistent as it could be, but is still not
bad for its age.
Nun is off of its original 35mm
camera negative here in a 1.85 X 1 frame, but the film was shot with a certain
naturalistic softness and despite being consistent, shows its age and has light
grain throughout that may be intended, but holds back its overall
performance. Divide has limited digital effects, a 2.35 X 1 scope frame, is an
HD shoot using the Panavision Genesis camera to some effect and has a decent,
if not great look. The anamorphically
enhanced DVD is much weaker as already noted.
Terror has a 1.78 X 1 frame, is all over
the place, was shot on HD and is lucky it looks as good as it does. Even Wicker
was shot on HD, in this case an already dated Red One HD camera, but we still
get a few nice shots for what that is worth and not too much stylizing. The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 on Wolf, as noted above, is very weak and is
also an HD shoot. HD just does not work
as well for Horror genre productions, at least for now.
DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless Italian and English Mono mixes on Nun are as good as they are going to
get for their age and with all that post-production dubbing, while Hills 2 has been upgraded from its
optical theatrical mono sound to PCM 2.0 Stereo that is better than expected
for its age. The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 on Divide is not stretching things out too
much, but it is easily the best-sounding of all the releases here. The DVD version has lossy Dolby Digital 5.1
that is no match for the 7.1 mix, but is acceptable for that older codec. We get Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on Terror and Wicker that are limited, with Terror
not so well mixed and Wicker more
dialogue based more often than you might think.
That leaves Wolf with lossy
Dolby Digital 5.1 that sounds like 2.0 Stereo stretched out, while the lossy
Dolby 2.0 Mono on both Dark Shadows
DVDs are better than you would expect for their age.
- Nicholas Sheffo