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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Fantasy > Literature > Supernatural > Korea > Mystery > Crime > Martial Arts > Camp > Satire > Alice In Terrorland (2023/High Flier DVD)/Ghost Station: Dead On Arrival (2022/Well Go Blu-ray)/Roundup: No Way Out (2023/MPI/Capelight DVD)/Tormented (1960/Allied Artists/Film Masters Blu-ray)/Wednes

Alice In Terrorland (2023/High Flier DVD)/Ghost Station: Dead On Arrival (2022/Well Go Blu-ray)/Roundup: No Way Out (2023/MPI/Capelight DVD)/Tormented (1960/Allied Artists/Film Masters Blu-ray)/Wednesday: The Complete First Season (2022/Warner Blu-ray Set)

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

Now for a new group of thriller releases, including a few surprises...

Alice In Terrorland (2023) is a modernized take on the beloved Lewis Carroll story, but with a slasher / murderous psycho kind of twist. While the cover-art eludes to a more visual and stylistic take, the film has a frosted over look that is dream-like and an over abundance of the use of B-roll and lack of imagination behind the filmmaking. While the cover art is interesting enough, the low budget film doesn't seem to be trying hard enough to deliver on its promises.

Alice, a bereaved teenage girl, must live with her twisted Grandmothers in a isolated cabin in the woods. As the Grandmother poisons the girl and reads to her, she has dark hallucinations that coincide with Alice in Wonderland.

A story as visually limitless as Alice in Wonderland can be, this low budget stab at the property tries to be a nightmarish spin on the fairytale similar to Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, but has even lower production value and a lead that never seems fully engaged in her performance.

We have seen Tim Burton's take on the classic tale and Disney's iconic animated feature which were both more kid-friendly, and so an adult take on the material could theoretically work with the right filmmaking team behind it, but what this tries to be it doesn't quite succeed at. In recent years a similar concept was pulled off in video game form with Alice: The Madness Returns, which pulls off that more adult and darker take on the material that's screaming to be made into a film, but the Hollywood studios seem unaware of its existence. Nevertheless, Alice in Terrorland doesn't really grab its audience in the first act, but strings them along waiting for the madness to start and when it finally does, it's lackluster at best.

The film stars Lizzy Willis, legendary European actress and personality Rula Lenska, Lila Sarner, and Rikki Kimpton.

Alice is presented in standard definition on DVD with a 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio mix. The film has an overall hazy kind of dream-like look that is hit with hard compression from the aged standard definition DVD video. The film looks as good as it can here.

Only extras are trailers.

The Ghost Station: Dead On Arrival (2022) is an intense Korean supernatural thriller that is attention grabbing from scene one and doesn't let go. The film centers on a haunted train station that has taken many victim. Those that hold their mark can see them, but those that don't cannot. When an Oksu reporter digs a little too deep into the case, she discovers that the haunted train station was built over a creepy looking well and an orphanage. In the same vein as The Grudge and The Ring films, The Ghost Station features vengeful ghosts that never get their fill of vengeance.

The film stars Kim Bo-Ra (Ghost Mansion), Kim Jae-Hyun (Love You as the World Ends), and Shin So-Yul (A Violent Prosecutor). The film is directed by Jeong Yong-Ki (The Doll Master, Once Upon a Time).

The Ghost Station is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1 and a lossless, Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) with English subtitles. There is also a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, which is available as an option in Korean as well. Luckily, there's no awful English dubbed track. The film itself looks fine on 2K Blu-ray disc and the film is shot and produced very well.

The only extras are Trailers.

I would suggest The Ghost Station to fans of Korean horror films especially The Grudge and The Ring films as mentioned. The film is now out on Blu-ray disc from Well Go USA!

Lee Sang Young's Roundup: No Way Out (2023) is the kind of rare surprise I always hope for from independent sources, but rarely see; a film or genre film that keeps working and even surprising, even when it does not have the biggest budget and features mostly new talent. Here, the star is Don Lee (aka Ma Dong-seok) who you might already recognize for his work in the Marvel Comics movie The Eternals, the import zombie hit Train To Busan, retro spaghetti western The Good, The Bad, The Weird, Doomsday Book and Kundo: Age Of The Rampant. A big star overseas, it is unreal that he has not crossed over into the U.S. market and watching this makers on wonder further.

Actually the third of four (so far) feature films (starting with The Outlaws in 2017) where he plays Police Detective Ma Suk Do (or Ma Seok-do) solving complex mysteries and corruption with his brain as much as his superior martial arts skills. This time, a dangerous new drug that has become instantly popular (reminded me of Robocop 2 in a good way) at the same time a really good detective as suddenly disappeared, he intends to find out what is going on this time and it will be more violent and complex than expected.

Lee can more than carry the lead, this even is sending up the glut of police procedurals U.S., U.K. and otherwise, yet the directing and screenplay show the makers know their way around several genres, including action films, martial arts films and the cast really keeps delivering all around. The action is as effective as just about anything I've seen lately, the editing is exceptional and if the other three films are this good, why is this not a trilogy as hot as the Eastwood/Leone spaghetti westerns were, or the Knives Out and Branagh/Poirot Agatha Christie films have been? With the superhero genre collapsing spectacularly in a peculiar way and current action films not being at their best lately, I could see there is a huge audience for this film and if you like this kind of film, I cannot highly recommend it enough. Now I want to see all of Lee's films, especially these!

As for playback quality, the film is well shot and the like as noted, but sadly, the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix are a little weaker than they should be, even for this older format, but you can see this is well-made and needs a Blu-ray or even 4K release, the latter of which it apparently received in Germany. This will have to do until then.

Trailers are the only extras.

Bert I. Gordon's Tormented (1960) makes its Blu-ray debut, but not from Warner Archive, who issued a DVD of the film with zero extras years ago, as covered at this link:


About it, I wrote...

''...Tormented (1960) from the infamous B-movie director Bert I. Gordon with Richard Carlson as a man who has been cheating on his wife (Susan Gordon) with a hotter, more sexually wild woman (Juli Reding) who he wants to leave and have her not speak of their affair. During an argument, she accidentally falls through the railing of an old lighthouse and is holding on for dear life. He could reach out to save her, but lets her loose her grip and fall to her death in the ocean... but is she dead?

Turns out she is now a ghost who can move objects in the world of the living and is out to get him for what he did to her. The film runs only 70 minutes (quitting while it is ahead [this Blu-ray restoration is actually 74 minutes]) and is hilarious for just about the whole time from campy moments to howlers to wacky, dated visual effects and a few genre cliches. It is still worth a look and Joe Turkel, later known for Blade Runner and Kubrick's The Shining, also shows up.''

Sometimes a film will play better when restored and you might get something new out of it or its impact will be better, even leading to a letter-grade upgrade. That did not happen here and the film gets unusually slow for a Gordon film, not quite building any momentum. However, I was glad to see it looking better than I had ever seen it just to see it cleaned up and improved, while the MST3K version included here is in worse shape than either video version, as expected. If you want to see it, this is the best way now, with Carlson, Turkel and Gordon, all making this a curio.

As for playback, the 1080p 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfer can show the age of the materials used, but this is an nice improvement over the older DVD, though I wish the film was also offered in a 1.33 X 1 version. Either way, this is much better, though its budget was low and there are going to be issues and limits. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix is about as good as this film will ever sound. The combination is the best way to see the film, unless you can find a mint 35mm or maybe 16mm mint film print.

The Warner Archive DVD had no extras, but extras here include a nice, high quality, illustrated booklet on the film and Gordon, while the disc (just about per the press release) adds an Unreleased TV pilot of Famous Ghost Stories, made by Bert I. Gordon and hosted by Vincent Price in black and white; Mystery Science Theater 3000 (aka MST3K) version of Tormented taped in 1992 that shows a rough version of the full feature in 1:33.1, with captions; new documentary by Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, Bert I. Gordon in the 1950s & 1960s: Bigger Than Life, featuring C. Courtney Joyner; archival interview with writer-producer-director Bert I. Gordon, Bert I. Gordon: The Amazing Colossal Filmmaker; feature essay by Tom Weaver with a bonus essay by John Wooley, former president of the Susan Gordon fan club and a personal friend of the actress; Feature-Length Audio Commentary Track provided by film historian-writer-filmmaker Gary Don Rhodes; new, visual essay by The Flying Maciste Brothers, The Spirit is Willing: CineMagic and Social Discord in Bert I. Gordon's ''Tormented''; Original Theatrical Trailer, scanned in 4K from 35mm archival elements, presented in its raw format and as well, a recut trailer using restored film elements.

To the amazement of the world, Netflix has decided after two years to unleash another one of their most popular (and best) titles onto physical media with the release of Tim Burton's Wednesday: The Complete First Season (2022) on a 2-disc Blu-ray set with no extras (and no 4K UHD option sadly.) The series was nominated for eleven Emmy awards and remains a huge smash on Netflix's streaming platform. The show was an internet and pop culture sensation from the get-go, with many being enamored by Wednesday unique dance moves, a scene that was mimicked by millions across America on social media platforms.

A re-imagining of The Addams Family for modern times, Wednesday features rising star Jenna Ortega (Scream, X) in the lead role and whom does a masterful job of putting her own gothic spin on the character. Several big names are in the supporting cast including Catherine Zeta Jones and Christina Ricci (the former Wednesday from the films of the '90s), and nobody but Tim Burton could have done such a unique job of adapting the property. Similar in some ways to the Harry Potter (Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry) concept, Wednesday attends a school for unusual children with supernatural abilities and solves a murder spree in the process. Familiar characters from the Addams Family universe pop up with a few surprises, but the scene stealer is obviously Thing, which has only gotten cooler with the advent of digital VFX technology.

The 8 episodes span 2 Blu-ray discs and include:

Wednesday's Child Is Full Of Woe

Woe Is The Loneliest Number

Friend or Woe

Woe What a Night

You Reap What You Woe

Quid Pro Woe

If You Don't Woe Me By Now

and A Murder of Woes.

Wednesday is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and an English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) lossless mix. The show has dark color tones and desaturation much like Burton's more expensive films (Sweeney Todd and Sleepy Hollow have similar desaturated color schemes in places), and the transfer to Blu-ray is fine for 1080p resolution. Dare I say the show looks better on streaming if you subscribe to the 4K HDR option, but having it on a 4K UHD disc would be sublime. Still it looks fine for the Blu-ray format here.

No extras.

This fantastic series certainly deserved a better home video release with a 4K/HDR transfer and some extras and maybe a commentary or two wouldn't have hurt, but I guess us fans will take what we can get while we are still waiting for Netflix to get around to releasing Seasons 3 and 4 of Stranger Things on disc, why they only released two seasons a few years ago and the others didn't follow is the equivalent of the platform holding them hostage unless you subscribe to the service.

This Wednesday Blu-ray set is also not available in stores (for now?) and so you'll have to hunt it down online to get a copy. But if you do, it is nice to have in the collection and looks as good as it can in 1080p Blu-ray.

I am happy to own this series on physical media as I am a huge fan of Tim Burton. We will have to wait another few years (as of this writing) for Season Two which sounds on track to be even better than this already excellent first season. It's great to see Tim Burton return to form and debut his first long-form series.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Way, Tormented) and James Lockhart



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