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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Supernatural > Demons > Possession > Murder > Stalking > Sexploitation > Internet > Psychopath > Ho > At The Devil's Door (2013)/CAM2CAM (2013/MPI/IFC Midnight DVDs)/Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out/1980/Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray w/DVD)/Samurai Cop (1989, 1991/Cinema Epoch Blu-ray)/Traffickers

At The Devil's Door (2013)/CAM2CAM (2013/MPI/IFC Midnight DVDs)/Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out/1980/Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray w/DVD)/Samurai Cop (1989, 1991/Cinema Epoch Blu-ray)/Traffickers (2012/Well Go USA Blu-ray)

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

Here's a new set of action thrillers that started with ideas that could have worked, then they go down their own paths to often bizarre results...

Nicholas McCarthy's At The Devil's Door (2013) has the director of The Pact going into the world of devil children and the women made victim to accomplish this. Though there are some good ideas, a few good moments, some suspense and a decent cast, the plotting falls flat and never adds up to what it could or should have been. The early scene of a guy seducing a young woman his age as a sacrifice to Satan is creepy, but still too obvious and predictable, then we drift into a tale of two sisters, one of which lands up wanting revenge for what was done to the other.

As I watched, it sometimes seemed as if McCarthy was second-guessing himself, then I turned to the Deleted Scenes and it turns out he threw out a potentially much better film by making the worst possible decisions at every turn and at the expense of exposition, realism and impact. What a big shame, but the devil was in the details and he threw out too many of them down to some points in the ending. He should have been much more disciplined.

Extras include those Deleted Scenes with director commentary, Making Of featurette entitled Speaking Of The Devil, a trailer and a feature length audio commentary with the director.

Joel Soisson's CAM2CAM (2013) is the big dud here, with its issues with women (young gals deserve to be assaulted, especially if they toy with sex and lesbianism on the net?), also the transgendered are bad (don't ask), torture will usually follow if not outright murder and act as if this could only happen in Thailand. I'm being too nice. If there was a serious attempt to do a thriller here instead of an overindulgent exploitation flick, this could have been something, but it is seedy from the first shot and the few times it mighty get better, it doesn't. Yawn!

A trailer and feature length audio commentary with the director are the extras.

Lewis Jackson's Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out/1980) might at first seem like another 'killer Santa' film, but it is more amusing and less simple than that high concept. Involving the clever producer Edward R. Pressman with its sights on maybe being the next Black Christmas (the original 1974 Bob Clark classic, reviewed elsewhere on this site) has a traumatized Harry (Brandon Maggart in a better performance than it would first seem) is a white collar worker at a local toy manufacturer (more realistic and believable in the pre-Reagan era than now) who is haunted by some bad, shocking holiday memories (seeing his mother getting it on with Santa, who he believed was real, especially) and has him in a mode of regression.

When one of the workers unknowingly sets him off, he decides to transform himself into Santa and if anyone, anyone gets in the way of his happy memories or a happy holiday, they will die! To the script's credit, it waits for this to build a while so it is not outright angry exploitation (and therefore does not qualify for that silly war on Christmas trend), but its violent moments are not that well done. Yet, this is still creepy in other ways we don't see enough in thrillers these days and the actors are amusing all around. Jackson goes bonkers trying to make this work with his limited resources, so his ambition goes a long way, but he also makes some very bad choices in advance (wait until you see all the big names he passed on that he could have had here in the extras!!!) that hurt the film in the long run. The one good choice he made was hiring Director of Photography Ricardo Aranovich after seeing his work on Alain Resnais' Providence (1977) and would shoot Missing (1982) and Hanna K (1983) with Costa-Gavras soon after.

In all that, the film deserves some serious rediscovery and can be a hoot at times, so you might want to catch it, especially if you are a fan of such demented thrillers.

Extras include two feature length audio commentary tracks with Director Lewis, a third with John Waters, an Original Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Scenes, Actor Screen Tests, Storyboards Gallery, a few archival interviews with Lewis and lead actor Maggart and Vintage Test Screening Comment Cards.

Amir Shervan's Samurai Cop (1989, 1991) is another very low budget Robert Z'Dar film, but now it is on Blu-ray, though we covered it on DVD a little while ago:


The two schools of thought on this film is that either (as my fellow writer would vote) it is so bad it is good or as I thought, it is a wreck, though amazing how ambitious it is with very limited talent and funds to emulate the pricier action films (and maybe cheesy sex flicks, softcore at least) of the 1980s making it one of the more bizarre time capsules of the time by default. Some gay-baiting also puts in in the camp comedy category, but it is still more watchable than an Expendables film since it is less pretentious and more authentic by default. Oh, and its attempts at martial arts set the arts back a good bit, but at least that too is amusing.

Extras are increased from the still galleries, interviews and trailers from the DVD, with the solid additions of three audio commentary tracks, a photo shoot for the sequel and music score excerpts.

Kim Hong-Sun's Traffickers (2012) is a Korean thriller that wants to be comical and gross while taking on serious subjects of drug transportation and human organ stealing. The plotting gets convoluted very early on and never recovers including a gangster (cliché of one), 'nice' couple and some very sick, corrupt people all over. This all becomes a mess quickly, though again, if the makers had thrown out the comedy and tried for more mystery and suspense, they have a good cast and this could have worked much better. What we get instead is yet another disappointment, especially since they had somewhat of a good budget here.

A trailer is the only extra.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image in Traffickers should have been the visual champ here and it does have its share of shots, but it also has more than its share of slight motion blur, Video White that is a little blown out and other odd shots that undermine its consistency. The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Evil and Cop can show the age of the materials used as expected and Cop looks better here than it did in its DVD version, but it too has some Video White blowout issues along with the variances of the film print material used (it looks like parts of 5 prints stored in varied conditions) leaving Evil also rough, but actually having the best color of all the releases on the list. It looks better than the decent anamorphically enhanced DVD version also included and the hard work to restore it and do a new 4K transfer from original 35mm elements has paid off nicely.

The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image in Door and anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Cam should at least look as good as the Evil DVD, but they are soft HD shoots (especially Cam) with some good shots and even color, but too soft throughout. Blu-ray versions could only improve both so much, though Door would likely benefit more.

As for sound, Traffickers has a sometimes interesting DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix that should be the all out sonic champ, but it is inconsistent and some dialogue is flatter than it should be, so the DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Mono lossless mix on Evil can match it despite its flaws and age. It has warmth and the music score in particular sounds good. The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Cop is about the same as the DVD version, but it is so badly recorded that it becomes comical in ways they could not have imagined then. That leaves lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 on Door and Cam sounding better, yet not great, but still offering the occasionally good surround moment.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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