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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Supernatural > Demons > Possession > Murder > Haunted House > Action > Kidnapping > Thriller > Heis > Back From Hell (2011/Inception DVD)/Barricade (2012/WWE DVD)/The Courier (2011/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/Robert Conrad Double Feature (Live A Little, Steal A Lot (aka Murph The Surf (1975) + Sudden Death (

Back From Hell (2011/Inception DVD)/Barricade (2012/WWE DVD)/The Courier (2011/Well Go USA Blu-ray)/Robert Conrad Double Feature (Live A Little, Steal A Lot (aka Murph The Surf (1975) + Sudden Death (1977)/Inception DVD)/The Tall Man (2012/Image Blu-ray)


Picture: C/C/B-/C/B-     Sound: C/C+/B-/C/B     Extras: D/C/C/D/D     Films: D/C/C/C+/D



Here is a mix of action and horror genre releases aimed at much the same audiences, but with little success despite some with interesting differences.



We start with Leonardo Anareo’s Back From Hell (2011) which is yet another bad, dumb, would-be supernatural exercise in boredom, predictability in the “found “bad video” footage: category that people like himself and the others who backed this mess somehow think is a good idea to produce, as if people will pay money for it.  As always, the characters we meet are less compelling than an antiquated PC floppy disc and you get the same lame shaky, weak, problematic-on=purpose footage that tells us something is going on versus a script that should.


The truth is, unless you are doing a Paranormal Activity release, these formulaic messes are all the same, don’t do a penny of profit and are pointless.  The cover has that long, dark haired gal in a long white t-shirt cliché that might just be a reason to suggest a cheap Halloween costume ladies can make for themselves if they are could care less.  That is actually more interesting than anything on screen here.


In this one, the group of unknowns bring their camcorders to a house in the middle of nowhere (they used to go to school together; guess they were the low-achievers) and of course, it is haunted.  Funny how these isolated places seem to be the only ones haunted.  There are no extras either.



Trying to find respectability on some low level, WWE Films tries to “stretch” here from their usual limited mix of wrestler movies, wresters-as-monsters-going-GRRRRRR movies and bad Rocky rip-offs with a Shining knock-off of sorts called Barricade (2012) with Eric McCormack (one of the few true actors to appear in any WWE releases to date) as a father who takes his family into a house in the woods… during the Christmas season when it snows hard!


Not the smartest father in the world, things seem like fun until he starts not feeling well and starts to question his perception of reality as some darker things start to surface.  If only the script had followed that line of approach before abandoning such creepy challenges and going for formulaic idiocy, it unravels about a third of the way through, but was interesting while it lasted.  We’re supposed to take this seriously, but the makers can forget it.


Director Andrew Currie has limited helming skills and an even more limited script.  If the WWE want to get more serious about feature-length productions, they’re going to have to do better than this.  Extras include four small featurettes about how this was made.



Next we have a story about a man who will deliver anything, no caring what it is, as long as you pay him well.  However, this is not the latest Jason Statham formula pic, but Hany Abu-Assad’s The Courier (2011) with Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the title character.  This opens with him in an amusement park saving a woman (who he turns out to be connected with) and has a package with him, then (in what I see as a cop out); the rest of this is told in flashback, lessening potential impact.


This is basically a plot-point formula piece like you have seen before trying to do something like a 1970s thriller, but way too distant from that in edge or power.  So the reason this is not a total dud is the guest casting that make this more interesting and tolerable than expected.


We get Lily Taylor and Miguel; Ferrer as a couple who seem to be a hit-team and in it for the money on the wrong side of things, but turn out to be worse and casual about it, even down to torturing people (which plays out in one of the eventually weakest parts of the script) and we later get a creepy old enemy of the lead who is singing on stage as the old, fat (and even dead) Elvis played very well and creepily by no less than Mickey Rourke.  Til Schweiger and Mark Margolis also turn up, so you can see the makers were trying to make this work, but too much is standard here otherwise, so the result is average and mixed.

A Trailer, Deleted Scenes and Behind The Scenes featurette are the extras.



So with that, we go back to the real 1970s with two actual action films and attempts for TV star Robert Conrad (The Wild, Wild West) to become a big screen movie star.  That never worked out, but he continued to be a star on TV (Baa Baa Black Sheep aka Black Sheep Squadron, A Man Called Sloan) but the two films in the new Robert Conrad Double Feature are as good as anything here.


Marvin Chomsky’s Live A Little, Steal A Lot (aka Murph The Surf, 1975) has Conrad and Don Stroud (the title character) as best friend who like money and women, but don’t want to work for it, so they like stealing valuables and here, they go after some very rare diamonds.  Whether they can get them and get away with them is another story, but it is a somewhat comical heist film that does nothing new, but at least is competent enough throughout to enjoy without faltering script-wise.


Supporting performances help, including performances by Donna Mills, Lou Adler and Burt Young.  At least here, all involved are trying to make this work, but it seems more like it imitates Bond films and the series It Takes A Thief than trying to be something more.  Too bad, because this had more potential and the comedy side does not make a difference.


More serious is Eddie Romero’s Sudden Death (1977) which is not to be confused with the silly Jean-Claude Van Damme film of the same name and reminds me a bit of The Courier in that the lead character has family that might get stuck in the middle of the violence, which this film has plenty of.


The film opens with a family having a fun private cookout when gunman show up and brutally shoot them to death, but the father actually survives and wants revenge.  Enter Conrad as a man who intends to find out and Stroud hired to play a killer out to stop him.  This is more brutal than I remembered while the tone is dark, I think this is slightly better than the other film, but we have seen some of this before, yet it also works and when any children are the targets of violence, the film and script don’t dwell on it or make it seedy.


Thayer David and Larry Manetti are among the supporting cast and like the first film, this too is worth a look, even if neither are great.  They are still more competent than what we get in the same genres now.  Sadly, there are no extras here for either film, though Conrad at least could have been interviewed and trailers have to be somewhere.



Finally we have a film with that children issue.  Pascal Laugier’s The Tall Man (2012) at first seems to be about the mysterious figure of the title nabbing young children left and right, albeit in a certain small town.  Is it cursed?  Does someone what revenge?  Is it supernatural?  Sadly, this is just bad M. Night Shyamalan recycled as the makers think they are deconstructing a genre and doing something clever or important.  It might turn smug if it were not so problematic in its treatment of child abduction, abuse and terror, which it lands up wallowing in.


The twists and turns all over the place cannot cover this up, nor can the cast including Jessica Alba and The X–Files’ William B. Davis recycling his persona from that show somewhat.  Outside of any exploitation, the script is never convincing, never adds up and is really weak, but add the children angle and this is one of the year’s worst releases.  After the mid-point with too many twists, it was finished and never recovered to say the least.  This is really awful!


A Trailer, Deleted Scenes and Visual Concepts are the only extras and weak as well.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Hell and Barricade are much softer than expected despite being new productions with detail issues, color limits and some motion blur even when we consider stylizing the images to be a little darker.  As a result, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on both Conrad films can actually be a little sharper, but the prints are not in the best of shape and have some color inconsistencies including some fading throughout.  I still like their look better than the newer releases.


The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Courier and Tall are much better, but they too have the same blur, styling down and detail issues, even if they are less so than the newer productions on DVD. 


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is on Courier is a bit more towards the front speakers than I would have liked at times, but some scenes are simply more well recorded than others and the sound design can only cover that up so much.  Still, we get some good sound design here too.  Though the film is horrid, the Dolby TrueHD lossless 5.1 mix on Tall is the best sound release here with a consistent soundfield and good recording all around.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Barricade is the next best with a mix that is sometimes overdone and even silly, but has its weaknesses and is also not too consistent.  Wonder if the lossiness is part of the problem.


The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Hell is much worse, just spreading around the limited sound not so well recorded, sometimes offering purposely bad location audio and sticking too much sound in the center channel.  That is why despite its age and distortion, the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono sound on both Conrad films are its equal.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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