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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Drama > Comedy > Romance > Supernatural > Shipwreck > Mystery > Murder > Witch > Erotic > Black Magic > Beautiful Creatures (2013/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Drive-In Collection: Dungeon Of Harrow (1962)/Death By Invitation (1971/Vinegar Syndrome DVD)/Last Kind Words (2012/RLJ/Image DVD)

Beautiful Creatures (2013/Warner Blu-ray w/DVD)/Drive-In Collection: Dungeon Of Harrow (1962)/Death By Invitation (1971/Vinegar Syndrome DVD)/Last Kind Words (2012/RLJ/Image DVD)


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



The horror genre’s range is more than just schlock, but that doesn’t mean those who try and do more with it will succeed, as the following entries prove…



An attempt to have a Twilight type romance plotline with the creepy family aspect of The Addams Family and recent Dark Shadows remake, Richard LaGravenese’s

Beautiful Creatures (2013) is a big budget dud that does none of what it tries to do well despite backup from some very talented actors like the underused, underrated Margo Martindale, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Viola Davis and Emily Rossum as a young man (Aiden Ehrenreich) is haunted by a mysterious female figure, then becomes slowly involved with an outsider (Alice Englert) who is being harassed by Right-Wing bullies.


Unfortunately, the screenplay by LaGravenese has laughably bad dialogue, bad plotting, is obnoxious and so broad that the attempt to appeal to a wide audience lands up making a overproduced mess that appeals to no one.  Could this have worked?  If it tried to be smarter and actually take advantage of the amazing talent here, it could have at least been watchable, but it is made by a man who thinks this is what young women want to see on screen.  Almost smug, always dull, the visual effects are a mess, the film is a wreck overall and the ending promises a sequel or two I hope never get made.  See this one when very awake and not operating heavy equipment.


Extras include Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, the bonus DVD if you want to count that, Blu-ray exclusive Deleted Scenes that would not have helped much, the Original Theatrical Trailer and six Making Of featurettes.



The latest DVD double feature from Vinegar Syndrome’s Drive-In Collection offers Pat Boyette’s Dungeon Of Harrow (1962) about a ship wreck that land the few survivors on an island that turns out not to be barren but has a mysterious castle with deadly secrets and Ken Friedman’s Death By Invitation (1971) about a witch burned at the stake 300 years ago who comes back to current times for revenge on the ancestors of those who humiliated and destroyed her.


The best films on the list here, they are B-movies, but the makers in both cases were trying to do something that worked.  Both were shot in color and take advantage of that in select scenes.  The former does look like one of Roger Corman’s Edgar Allen Poe films in a good way and has a few interesting moments and lots of voice over, while the latter is bloodier and takes advantage of new cinematic freedoms in general and in the genre in particular down to nudity and graphic violence.


Though neither are great, they are certainly more honest and ambitious than most of their ilk today and it is a nice pair to have out on DVD finally for all to see.  Young filmmakers can learn more than a few things from what works in both, even if they are not great works or always competent.


The only extra is a fine commentary for Death by four guys dubbing themselves The Hysteria Continues, worth hearing after seeing the film.



Finally we have Kevin Barker’s Last Kind Words (2012) which is sold as an outright horror film on its cover, but is more of a drama with horror as a young man (Spencer Daniels) is haunted by images of death and bodies hanged to death, which come back when his family visits a local man (Brad Dourif not playing to type at first) as the young man finds a romantic interest who may know more about some evil things going on than even she realizes.  Yes, it sounds a bit like Beautiful Creatures above and seems to be going for a perceived formula audience, which is how this eventually gets undermined.


He has a clichéd tough father and the stereotypes and two-dimensional characters hamper what is going on here, though Barker is trying to do more than just a horror entry, he is still there to do just that and the result drags on and on and on (often predictably, like they are out in the woods, so bad things will happen.  Yawn.) for 87 minutes that seem longer.  Another dud is the result, so skip it.


There are no extras.




The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Creatures has some detail issues and more digital CGI effects work than it needed, to say the least, but despite all these issues, some softness, motion blur and even sloppy shots, it is the best performer here by default.  I found no good demo shots and though money is on the screen, it is not looking too good.  The anamorphically enhanced DVD version of the film, plus anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 on the Drive-In movies and anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Last are all shockingly soft throughout, though Harrow and Death have the excuse of being nearly lost orphan films barely saved and with print issues throughout beyond their control.  They also have some of the best color by default of all the releases.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Creatures is the best title here sonically, but the sound mix tends to be towards the front speakers and the soundfield is inconsistent, except when the visual effects kick in.  This is bad mixing and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on its DVD version is weaker still.  The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Last is as weak as the Creatures DVD, but it is more dialogue-based, though it also has issues with location recording.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Harrow and Death really show their age, but Harrow is particularly rough unfortunately with audio that has a source we would call fluttered and brittle.  I was still listening closely, because at least it was interesting.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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