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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Slasher > Heist > OzPloitaion > Australia > Exploitaion > Serial Killer > Action > Kidnapping > Thr > Bloody Birthday (1981/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)/Halloween (2018/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Heaven's Burning (1997/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Monster Party (2018/RLJ Blu-ray)/Peppermin

Bloody Birthday (1981/MVD/Arrow Blu-ray)/Halloween (2018/Universal 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray w/Blu-ray)/Heaven's Burning (1997/Umbrella Region Free Import Blu-ray)/Monster Party (2018/RLJ Blu-ray)/Peppermint (2018/Universal Blu-ray w/DVD)

4K Ultra HD Picture: A Picture: B+/B+/B/B+/B+ & C+ Sound: B+/A/B-/B+/B+ & C+ Extras: B/C+/B-/D/C+ Films: B/C+/B-/C+/B

PLEASE NOTE: The Heaven's Burning Import Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment in Australia, can only play on all Blu-ray players and can be ordered from the link below.

Now for a new group of thrillers, sometimes horror and supernatural, for you to be in the know about...

Previously released on Blu-ray from Severin Films, Bloody Birthday (1981) gets a new 2K remaster and a few new extras in this deluxe Arrow release. A cult classic directed by Ed Hunt (The Brain), you can tell that it was made around the time of the original Friday the 13th film and they were aiming to get the same crowd as the music and the slasher formula of teenagers having sex before their gruesome deaths are a tad similar. However, this has got to be one of the better 'child murderer' films that I've seen, even if it tends to be a bit unrealistic at times.

Three little kids share the same birthday - (the height of the eclipse of the sun)... and all share a love of bloodlust and murder! While innocent on the outside, on the insides of these little darlings is pure evil! In this cult romp, on the children's tenth birthday they start this vicious cycle of murder, and even their own families become the victims! How many will have to die until their murderous plot will be exposed?

The film stars Lori Lethin, Melinda Cordell, Julie Brown, Joe Penny, and Bert Kramer.

Bloody Birthday is presented in 1080p high definition with a 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and is that new 2K restoration from the original film elements thanks to Arrow. Paired with an original uncompressed mono audio mix, the film does look a tad bit better here than the previous release. Colors are vibrant and really pop, preserving the film look perfectly on disc.

Special Features include...

Brand new audio commentary with director Ed Hunt

Brand new audio commentary with The Hysteria Continues

Brand new interview with actress Lori Lethin

Bad Seeds and Body Counts - a brand new video appreciation of Bloody Birthday and the killer kid sub-genre by film journalist Chris Alexander

Archival interview with producer Max Rosenberg

Original Theatrical Trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides and the original (and very awesome) one sheet art

and First Pressing Only: Collector's booklet featuring new writing by Lee Gambi

This movie is truly freaky at times and is a lot of fun to watch. If you haven't seen it before, then I would definitely check out this Arrow release. There's a few new extras here and the stellar looking transfer make it recommendable to anyone pondering an upgrade.

The Halloween saga continues with Halloween 4K (2018, but titled Halloween with no other suffix and could have used a more unique title), is in celebration of the original film's 40th anniversary. While a bit better than Halloween: H20, which celebrated the film's 20th anniversary, this reboot features Jamie Lee Curtis back again in her iconic role as Laurie Strode and ignores every sequel made after the first film, which had some fans in an uproar. Overly hyped online and throughout the horror community until its initial release, the end product seems like there were one too many cooks in the kitchen and gets more wrong than right, unfortunately. That's not to say that there aren't a few good moments and a fine performance by Jamie Lee, however, its not enough to not make this feel like a misfire and make one wonder what could have been...

Directed by David Gordon Green (George Washington, HBO's Vice Principals, Your Highness), the film also stars Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, and a cameo by original Michael Myers actor Nick Castle. The film is produced by Hollywood heavyweight Jason Blum (Blumhouse), co-written by Danny McBride, and the score by the saga's creator John Carpenter.

On that Halloween night in 1978, Michael Myers was eventually captured and contained in a heavily monitored mental facility. Forty years to the night, The Shape overcomes his keepers and escapes back into the sleepy suburban town of Haddonfield, IL. However, a no-holds-barred Laurie Strode (Curtis) is now ready for Michael and has an entire house dedicated tailored as one big trap for him. She doesn't have as tight of a leash on her daughter (Greer) or her granddaughter (Matichak), both of whom are running amok whilst this supernatural madman is on the loose and the bodies continue to stack up.

The film is presented in 2160p HEVC/H.265, HDR (10; Ultra HD Premium)-enhanced Ultra High Definition image disc with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and great sounding audio mixes in lossless DTS-X 11.1 (DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) mixdown for older systems). When comparing the look of this film to previous sequels in the series, there isn't much of a contest as this is easily the best shot Halloween film since the original. Colors are vivid and crisp and more details are apparent with the HDR (high dynamic range).

John Carpenter's new score is center channel at all times and makes the film even creepier and more effective. It is worth mentioning though, that Carpenter didn't use many of the infamous 'stingers' that make Michael's sudden appearances so unnerving in the original. There's also quite a few scenes where Carpenter restrained himself of making the music as dominating as he did in the original, but I guess it boils down to a matter of preference. Overall, I wanted a little more about of this new Carpenter soundtrack, but I would definitely like to see him do more composing in the future.

Also included is a 1080p Blu-ray version of the film with the same widescreen and audio specs, though some compression issues evident when placing it side by side to the 4K Ultra HD. Also included is a standard digital copy.

Special Features include...

Deleted/Extended Scenes

Back in Haddonfield: Making Halloween featurette

The Original Scream Queen featurette

The Sound of Fear featurette

Journey of the Mask featurette

and The Legacy of Halloween featurette

While there are a good number of featurettes, none of them are very long or go into any real detail about anything you can't find on the film's IMDb page. A few of the deleted scenes should have likely stayed in and made for a new un-rated version. In fact, I'm surprised they didn't do that with this as an extra cash grab. (Perhaps that's later as I've read there are more deleted scenes than featured on the disc) There's also plenty of advertising for the new 4K Ultra HD release of the original film, which is worth checking out if you haven't yet.

While it's better than the past several films in the franchise, Halloween '2018' is fun, but could have been much better. Still, I remain optimistic about the franchise's future as this is the closest to capturing the cinematic essence of the first two original films. Let's hope the next sequel spends less time paying homage to previous installments and focuses more on Michael doing what he does best.

What the franchise really needs, however, is John Carpenter to come back one more time and the studio to give him complete control... but who knows if that will ever happen.

And another classic franchise gets a reboot... and isn't much better.

Craig Lahiff's Heaven's Burning (1997) is now a curio because it features Russell Crowe before he became a big star (as was the film Spotswood, reviewed on DVD elsewhere on this site, with a much younger Crowe) putting him in the middle of trouble when he accepts money for being the waiting driver in a bank heist down under that goes very wrong. Before we meet him, we meet a Japanese couple where the wife (Youki Kudoh) runs away from her shocked husband after reporting she was kidnapped, but that becomes a reality when she turns out to be in the bank the crew Crowe is waiting for. Then he becomes interested in her!

From there it is a sometimes unintentionally hilarious, late Oz-Ploitation film (most of the films form the cycle ended by the later 1980s) and even when the film has dull moments, they do not last for long thanks to several twists, turns or outright riotous moments you cannot tell if the filmmakers intended certain things or not. Sometimes it is budget limits, but other times, who knows. Of course, this cycle is politically incorrect, so those having low tolerance for ignorance by some of the characters might not be able to handle this.

Needless to say Crowe more than holds his own and the film has aged in interesting ways. The rest of the cast is not bad and the action is not bad either. I like the locales and though there are mandatory scenes and formula here, that does not last for long spells. I definitely would recommend it for all those interested.

Though I saw a great Agfa Film sign on one of the buildings towards the end of the film in one of its last action sequences, that was not an ad placement as might be typical of a cynical Hollywood production. Instead, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer was shot in the Super 35mm format on Kodak Vision 35mm color negative film stocks on Arri cameras and looks pretty good throughout. This has been restored a bit, but still has the intended grit and some surprisingly good shots otherwise. Those who never saw the film before or for a long time will be surprised.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix of the theatrical Dolby Digital 5.1 release is not bad, but this was an early digital sound release and for a low-budget film, so there are still some limits and flaws here and there. A DTS-MA 2.0 Stereo version is also included, but is not as good.

Extras include a feature length AUDIO COMMENTARY with writer Louis Nowra and Producer Helen Leake, CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS w/Russell Crowe, Yuki Kudoh, Craig Lahiff, Al Clark and Helen Leake, DELETED SCENES w/ OPTIONAL COMMENTARY from director Craig Lahiff, SCRIPT TO SCREEN STORYBOARDS w/ OPTIONAL COMMENTARY from director Craig Lahiff, a BEHIND THE SCENES featurette, THEATRICAL TRAILER and CRAIG LAHIFF SHORTS & TRAILERS: LABRYNTH (1979), THE JOGGER (1980), CODA (Trailer, 1987), FEVER (Trailer, 1988), BLACK & WHITE (Trailer, 2002) and SWERVE (Trailer, 2011).

Monster Party (2018) is also a 'heist goes awry' thriller about a trio of teenage thieves who get more than what they bargained for. Whilst attempting to pose as waiters at a mansion dinner party, they realize that the people they robbed are psychotic maniacs. The battle for survival begins once the heist goes wrong and the teenage thieves are locked insideā€¦

The film stars Julian McMahon, Robin Tunney (End Of Days), Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner, and Brandon Micheal Hall. Monster Party is directed by Chris von Hoffmann.

Presented on 1080p Blu-ray with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and a nice sounding DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix, the presentation is standard and looks consistent throughout. The film was obviously shot digitally, but well, and has a pretty cinematic feel that's slightly stylized.

No extras.

Monster Party kind of has a Get Out-style of vibe and certainly has a fare bit of gore. Some of the acting is a little iffy with many scenes too full of characters yelling obscenities to one another and lots and lots of begging and crying, however the overall concept isn't terrible. I was expecting the party guests to be vampires or something supernatural instead of just cold blooded killers, as that could have added a little more to their characters. Robin Tunney does what she can with the material and is a highlight of the film, though. Overall, it's a one timer.

Finally, Jennifer Garner steps back up as the badass female lead with Peppermint (2018), which is from the director of the original Taken film, Pierre Morel. While Garner has had a career full of family films and just plan bad films, she holds her own here in this action thrill ride not completely unlike Charlize Theron did last year with Atomic Blonde. While it's not as jaw dropping as the John Wick films (or Atomic Blonde for that matter), Peppermint will do if you're in the mood for some action.

The film also stars John Gallagher Jr., John Ortiz, Richard Cabral, and Juan Pablo Raba.

Peppermint is a revenge thriller that pits a young mother named Riley North (Garner) whose forced into kicking butt and taking names when her family is gunned down by a drive by shooting in front of her. Desperate to find the tattoo faced killers responsible, Riley will do whatever it takes to avenge her family that was taken from her too soon. Smartly hiding right under the noses of the Police, Riley becomes a ruthless killer that isn't afraid to pull the trigger!

While the first half of the film is pretty standard revenge origin movie, the second act ups the ante with the violence with Garner blowing away any bad guy that gets in her way. One sequence where she invades their hideout is especially gory with her sounding off headshot after headshot.

The film is presented is 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and a nice sounding English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks, both of which are of a high quality for the format. Also included is an anamorphically enhanced standard definition DVD with the same widescreen spec and a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital mix and a digital copy. The HD transfer is strong and has a fair share of texture and detail, which captures the film fine.

Special Features include...

Commentary by Director Pierre Morel

and Justice - BTS Featurette

It's nice to see Jennifer Garner back in an action role after she has been in so many other films in lesser parts as of late. This demonstrates that she can still carry a film, and a return to her Alias days. As far as the film goes, it's nothing special plot wise, and stylistically akin to Taken with flash cuts and shaking action scene camerawork. That being said, Peppermint is a fine action flick, but nothing too groundbreaking.

To order the Heaven's Burning Umbrella import Blu-ray, go to this link for it and other hard to find releases:


- Nicholas Sheffo (Heaven's Burning) and James Lockhart



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