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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Biography > Filmmaking > Independent > Industry > Zombie > Horror > Thriller > Vampire > Telek > Birth Of The Living Dead (2013 Documentary/Romero/First Run DVD)/Black Water Vampire (2013/Image DVD)/Carrie (2013 remake/Fox/MGM Blu-ray w/DVD)/Concrete Blondes (2012/Inception DVD)/Stonados (2013/Ar

Birth Of The Living Dead (2013 Documentary/Romero/First Run DVD)/Black Water Vampire (2013/Image DVD)/Carrie (2013 remake/Fox/MGM Blu-ray w/DVD)/Concrete Blondes (2012/Inception DVD)/Stonados (2013/Arc DVD)/Syrup (2012/Magnolia Blu-ray)

Picture: C+/C/B- & C/C/C+/B- Sound: C+/C/B- & C+/C+/C+/B- Extras: C+/C-/C-/D/C-/C- Main Programs: B/C-/C-/C+/C-/C-

This is a good mix of action, horror and comedy for you to consider... or avoid....

Rob Kuhns' Birth Of The Living Dead (2013) is yet another documentary on the success of George Romero and his zombie films, but this one is especially interested in the original 1968 Night Of The Living Dead and manages to give us ideas, detail, stories and key history the many other horror/zombie based approaches to the same material skipped. We get more biography on Romero than ever before, he tells stories of growing up in the Bronx and New York City before moving to Pittsburgh, goes into detail about his love of all film, the fantasy classic that changed his life, the people in 1960s Pittsburgh that made the film possible, his previous film work, the project that gave them a 35mm movie camera and much more.

We get new interviews with many fans and scholars, plus the great story of how the film was first sold as just another B-movie before becoming a huge hit. How they then lost the copyright as it moved overseas making untold hundreds of millions of dollars they never saw. But it is also a character study of the arts, the film industry, culture, pop culture industry and how a love of film can change your life for the better forever. Some may object to pre-teens seeing the film as part of a school class, but this documentary hold nothing back and that is a plus.

Extras include a 7 minute piece on one of the Monroeville Mall, Pennsylvania Zombie Walks with Bill Hinzman in attendance getting his due, a 6/16/70 10-minutes audio-only clip of Romero being interviewed about the film at the Museum Of Modern Art in New York and Extended Interview footage of Romero for this program running 33 minutes.

Though the film has not yet been issued on Blu-ray in the U.S., two region-free Blu-rays that are decent (with slightly different prints) have been issued overseas that you can get now for your Blu-ray player and you can read more about both at the following links...

Network U.K. Blu-ray


Australian Umbrella Blu-ray


Evan Tramel's Black Water Vampire (2013) is simply a bad recycling of the awful and sadly over-imitated Blair Witch Project (down to the three word title and almost the same initials) running 82 minutes with limited ideas and development of any kind. We get odd deaths, a mysterious symbol that keeps popping up and a group of people dumb enough to go in the middle of nowhere to solve the so-called mystery. Unfortunately, this is not even a decent vampire flick and though a few moments suggest potential inf the makers tired to be original, it is all to no avail.

A Behind The Scenes clip is the only extra.

When the original 1976 Brian De Palma Carrie was released, Stephen King was not yet established as a big writer, but the film did business, though De Palma thought it could be bigger like Jaws and was not happy United Artists did not promote it even more. Still, it was a hit, King was happy with it and it remains one of the few tales of terror he wrote that was filmed properly. Since then, a bad sequel called The Rage, Carrie 2 (where the lead was not even named Carrie!), a TV remake and a stage musical were all produced and all failed if not outright bombed. Now in 2013, Director Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don't Cry, Stop Loss) does a second remake because if if bombed in TV, it will work better with a larger budget in theaters?

As bad and weak as the TV movie was, this is the worst incarnation yet of the tale or anything connected to it. This time, Chloe Grace Moritz is the title character, unpopular in school (for reasons not explained or made clear in any way this time out) and about to be the target of bullying and a semi-sexual assault in a gym locker room. Julianne Moore is badly, over-obviously cast as her crazy religious mother and all sleepwalk thought the film (mostly unknowns in the supporting roles their 1976 originators far outact, but they are strait-jacketed by bad directing here) and Judy Greer is the only one who shows any energy as the Gym Teacher outraged at Carrie's abuse.

From a pre-title sequence where the ill mother has Carrie alone in childbirth and great pain in her bed alone, then tries to kill her (overkill in the first scene and it just gets worse and worse) to a shallow, clueless, mechanical retelling of the story to making every mistake anyone could in a remake of this material makes this one of the most unnecessary remakes of recent years. Reactionary youths with no love of film will start talking about an original not being
scared, especially without comparing the two or say something dumb like it is a version for today, but that is ignorant, naïve, tired, lame, weak, sad, pathetic thinking.

Even the idea of using a cell phone to capture the early assault with sound and motion video is not used effectively and we get no suspense, then when the retreaded script blatantly runs out of ideas (which is very often in its long, long, long 100 minutes, here comes the bad, dated-on-arrival digital effects as carrie learns she has telekinesis early on. That she has the power developed so quickly, too quickly, never works. Then she becomes a cross between Darth Vader (that choking schtick) and a X-Men villain Marvel Comics would have never used, we get a disaster that never recovers and never even becomes unintentionally funny.

Pierce sadly admits she thought of this as a superhero piece in the extras, which has nothing to do with the book, storyline, what King ever intended and what the material was ever about. For that film-hating crowd who would chime in with a so-what, they are the same people who not pay to see this or ask for their money back. How boring! If Pierce wanted to take such liberties, she should have tried to go all the way, but that also negates it as a horror story and make her female lead sexless, plastic and as tired and mannequin-like as the rest of the cast.

As for those endings, the one they settled on is a cop-out that would be saving us from the nightmare had the nightmare worked and the alternate one is simply (figure this one out) if someone imitating David Cronenberg badly did what they shallowly thought would be his take on the original ending. The trivialization of actual bullying is the other big failure here proving Pierce has run out of gas as a filmmaker after only 3 features. Send her to filmmaking prison, please!!!

Extras include a limited edition (yee haw?) lenticular slipcase that is supposed to make the blood on the title character's face appear and disappear just by tilting it, but it does not work, Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and iTunes capable devices, while the Blu-ray sadly adds three Making Of featurettes that are boring, a run-on feature length audio commentary track by Director Pierce, Deleted/Alternate Scenes that would not have saved this in any cut and that Alternate Ending not shown in theaters so those who paid to get in could see another equally lame ending.

For the original 1976 classic, learn more about seeing it at this link:


Nicholas Kalikow's Concrete Blondes (2012) is one of the better releases here as a trio of gals (all of whom also happen to be lesbian, but so sexy and pretty that between the way they are portrayed, written and acted, it is borderline thought-police lesbianism without the XXX scenes; possibly an in-joke?) get involved with drug runners when two of them land up with a big briefcase of their money. Two of them go to entertain at a private party only to find all the guests have shot each other to death in a showdown. The shock of those bloody dead men is quickly replaced by the shock of finding a small fortune.

For the majority of the 95 minutes, script manages to juggle it's multi-layered narrative well about what is actually happening and who saw what and has what advantage to get and keep the suddenly-loose fortune including a scene-stealing John Rhys-Davies as a Greek mobster who wants all the money, power and drugs in a fine performance. Carly Pope, Samaire Armstrong and Diora Baird are convincing as the dysfunctional trio with some true chemistry, but the conclusion is not convincing and some of the plot aspects do not hold up under scrutiny.

However, this one is worth a look.

There are no extras.

Jason Bourque's Stonados (2013) is the latest of the TV Movie Disaster Cycle and with Sharknado spawning merchandise like calendars, you can see why all the producers of such material are trying to imitate it's success. However, the sudden tornadoes we keep seeing appear and disappear here are laughable and unconvincing, not even good enough for a vacuum cleaner ad. In addition, the script is dumb (beyond the on-purpose part) and the cast of unknowns render Boston boring along with the title, which is the name of the weather pattern causing said tornadoes.

If I were an Italian critic, it is so dumb, I would call it Stunados! Skip it!

A trailer is the only extra.

Aram Rappaport's Syrup (2012) want to be a big comic statement against the seedy side of advertising, but lands up instead being a bad one-joke tale (at a long 90 minutes) about a young dreamer (Shiloh Fernandez) who has a great idea he things can make him a fortune: sell a soda pop based on an ad campaign that will make everyone buy it no matter how it tastes. Aside from the fact that the sales of such drinks have been in historic decline of late (bring back the cane sugar!!!), the approach and way the script coms up with this is implausible and never works.

Amber Heard (Zombieland, Pineapple Express) plays his sexy, sophisticated love interest who is wiser than he about just about everything, Kellan Lutz (Legend Of Hercules, the Twilight films) shows up as a sleazy opportunist, but his character is underutilized and hardly used in the script. Brittany Snow (the musical Hairspray film), Rachel Dracht and Kirstie Alley cannot even save this from being a dud, but this is sadly the last appearance of the solid actor Christopher Evan Welch, who passed away at only 48 years old from cancer, so that is the one reason to still see it out of respect for him. Too bad he did not have a larger role.

A trailer is the only extra.

The Blu-rays tie as the visual champs on the list, but that does not mean they are in any way spectacular. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 (AVC @ 28 MBPS on Carrie) digital High Definition image transfer are both digital shoots ands they show it. Carrie is slightly styled down with the color slightly off and a slight (cliched at that) darkness going on throughout while Syrup is just plain generic beyond any commentary it might be making on the phony look of advertising. The anamorphically enhanced Carrie DVD is far softer and as poor as anything on the list here, making it almost pointless to watch, much like the remake itself.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 performance on Vampire and Blondes ties that DVD for the softest performer on the list, but at least those shoots are comparatively more inspired. I would be curious to see both on Blu-ray as a result. That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Dead and the silly Stonados looking better than expected, though Dead has an excuse using rough archive footage throughout.

The Blu-ray both offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes and are the sonic champs, yet again, the soundfield in both cases is nothing to celebrate as dialogue is too much in the center channel and the soundmixes are uninspired. Carrie is more obnoxious and showy in ways that further sabotage it and seem immature and flighty, especially as compared to the original mono mix on the 1976 film down to Composer Marco Beltrami not able to help no matter how hard he tries. The lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD version of Carrie is even weaker still. The rest of the DVDs also offer lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes easily as good as that of the Carrie DVD, save Vampire, which is much weaker, badly mixed and poorly edited than expected.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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