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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Supernatural > Witchcraft > British TV > Literature > Science Fiction > Slas > Casting The Runes (1979/Acorn Media DVD)/Elevator (2011/Inception DVD)/Goliad Uprising (2012/Fuzion DVD)/Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1987) + Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (19

Casting The Runes (1979/Acorn Media DVD)/Elevator (2011/Inception DVD)/Goliad Uprising (2012/Fuzion DVD)/Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1987) + Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989/Anchor Bay Blu-rays)/Scalene (2011/Breaking Glass DVD)


Picture: DVDs: C/Blu-rays: C+     Sound: C/C+/C/C+/B-/C+     Extras: B-/C-/C/C-/C-/D     Films: C+/C-/C/C-/C-/C



Here are some thrillers, old and new, that had some interesting ideas to work with, but all ran into various problems in how they eventually worked out.



Casting The Runes (1979) is from the ITV Playhouse series based on the story by the suspense writer M. R., James, whose work is rarely adapted for TV and very rarely if ever for feature films.  An alchemist who practices witchcraft (Iain Cuthbertson) is out for revenge on several enemies, including a TV producer who may be exposing him, unaware of how dangerous he really is.  Playing like a laid-back episode of Roald Dahl’s Tales Of the Unexpected (reviewed elsewhere on this site, also from Acorn), it is not bad, smart and worth a look, though its age and some aspects of it you may find unintentionally funny.  Still, it was worth seeing and extras include an earlier adaptation of James’ Mr. Humphreys & His Inheritance (1976) which runs 20 minutes, is from the Music Scene series and is intended to show how composer Philip Wilby (who hosts) scores a suspense piece.  I liked it.  We also get the documentary A Pleasant Terror: The Life & Ghosts Of M.R. James (1995) in which the writers life and underrated work is examined.  Among the interviewees are Ruth Rendell and Christopher Lee.



Stig Svendsen’s Elevator (2011/Inception DVD) is another stuck-in-a-tale, with an elevator being used again as a crazy killer (ala Se7en, yawn…) sets up a particular office building elevator and waits for it to get crowded, only to stop it and get the people inside to eventually turn on each other.  There are some good actors here (including John Getz, Shirley Knight and Joey Slotnick), but this is a corny, clichéd mess with what starts out as somewhat promising descending into silliness and early on becomes totally unbelievable in the way the people talk and behave.  What a shame to waste the talent and our time, but that is the result.  A trailer is the only extra.



More experimental and slightly more successful is Paul Bright’s Goliad Uprising (2012) about a near future where a hip new technology is actually not just for easy communication and self-aggrandizement, but part of a plot by the company and likely government to use mind control on people.  I liked the raw locations, semi-New Wave sensibility and some of the actors, but the script runs out of ideas early on and can only badly repeat and echo better ideas or the same ideas more poorly than previous films on the subject.  At least this one has some ambition.


Extras include Director’s Commentary, Trailer, Social/Political Commentary section, Behind The Scenes Mini-Documentary and Interview with star Shannon Lark.



Anchor Bay has issued both Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers (1987) and Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers (1989) at the same time on Blu-ray to go with the original film they issued on Blu-ray years ago (reviewed on this site) and with the other films in the series being issued soon.  We previously covered the films when they issued them on DVD, so you can read about their plots and more about them at this link:




This was an attempt to revive the original killer storyline that was abandoned with Halloween III, which tried to change the course of a potential series where each film or two would offer a new and different storyline.  That failed, so we got stuck with these duds.  Besides the child-in-jeopardy thing being overdone and just very, very bad outright, Donald Plesence is back as Dr. Loomis (a role Christopher Lee turned down)



Finally we have Zack Parker’s Scalene (2011) which has thriller elements, but cannot decide if it is a drama, thriller or something else.  Margot Martindale is the mother of a mentally handicapped son who away when we join her attacking her one-time caregiver (Hanna Hall) with a gun yelling and getting upset.  Acting is usually good here, but story comes every close to trivializing some serious subject matter (rape, sexual assault, other violations) and is a very mixed work when all is said and done.


There is not much of a mystery here and little suspense, yet Parker still visually references Hitchcock and Kubrick all over the place, but it never adds up, meaning he is saying or showing things only he seems to know the meaning of and they just don’t add up.  Martindale steals all of here scenes as expected, but this just did not stick with me in spite of its potential.  There are no extras.


The 1.33 X 1 on Runes is on the soft side and is a shoot that crossed professional analog PAL video for interior shots with 16mm outdoor filming, typical of so many British TV productions of the time.  So it is strange that the rest of the DVDs, recent productions presented here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 frames are as soft, have too much motion blur and other image flaws that are no improvement from a TV show 30+ years older.  That leaves the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on the Halloween Blu-rays the visual champs and by default, but I expected them to look the best of all.  However, this is not by much and the prints look old, as do the transfers.  These are barely better than their DVD counterparts and seem to be using the same video masters.



The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Elevator is not as good as it should be for a multi-channel mix and is easily matched by the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Scalene, but the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Runes and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Goliad are poorer and have their audio flaws, distortions and limits throughout.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes for the Halloween Blu-rays should be the best sounding releases here, but despite some system that was meant to expand their audio, they were both issued in always-distorted and problematic Ultra Stereo analog noise reduction that made old Dolby A-type analog noise reduction sound good.


As a result, Halloween 4 sounds poor and not very well recorded, with flaws here you could not hear on the older DVD version.  Halloween 5 has some more dynamic sound, but is still distorted, yet is the best-sounding release on the list, sadly.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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