A Sleepover With More Pillow Fight Than EVIL. “Slumber Party Slasherthon” reviewed! (Wild Eye Releasing / DVD)

“Slumber Party Slasherthon” on DVD at Amazon.com

We all know the familiar stages of a slumber party. The pillow fights, the junk food, and the all-nighter horror movie marathon that elicits amongst the room a simmering suspense that boils to bubble-popping action when even just the lightest rap at the front door can make one jump out of their seat in fear that the monster on the screen is also the monster clawing its way inside. These are all classic campout characteristics of a well-organized slumber party for a group of young high school planning a night of fun. Immerse in a string of video thrillers and with their male friends having joined the party, all fells safe during their night of revelry. That is until a manic with a high-powered, industrial drill shows up uninvited and unhinged. A night of fun quickly spirals into a night of unescapable terror just like in the horror movie marathon as they become the lumped together prey of their very own horror movie.

Slumber parties with uninhibited and skimpy-dressed teenage girls and the bedlam brought to the party by the unstoppable and unglued serial killer are a winning combination that go hand-in-hand just as well as vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup on a classic sundae dessert. For the unofficial king of direct-to-video sequel and the despot of campy, indie horror filmmaker, Dustin Ferguson shares that perspective with his very own unique spin on the slumber party horror subgenre with “Slumber Party Slasherthon” that showcases snippets from Ferguson’s earlier movies, as well as Abel Ferrera’s video nasty “Driller Killer,” spliced into the wraparound story in what could be considered an eclectic compilation of clip anthologies with one common theme – homicidal killers. The 2012 “Slumber Party Slasherthon” is one of a handful of Ferguson’s early feature submissions before he went on a marathon of his own in the DTV market with films including some of his more recognizable titles in “Die Sister, Die!,” “Camp Blood 4 & 5,” “RoboWoman,” “5G Zombies,” and “Ebola Rex.” Under his own production and distribution label of RHR (Retro Home Remix) Home Video, Ferguson self produces the film in Lincoln, Nebraska as a one-man operation who knows showing up to a slumber party with a blood thirsty drill is better than showing up to a slumber party empty handed.

If you’re in the mood for familiar faces or recognizable names in what could be an interesting slasher trope-laden production, well you won’t have that memory jogged I know that actress moment with a cast of unknowns beyond this credit and have securely hitched their body of work to the Dustin Ferguson business model. With a next-to-nothing on the dialogue outside the marathon showreel, the performances of Nina Colgan, Tara Hinkley, Kim Moser, and Jettie Sorensen-Sticka are left to defend their acting credentials with the dual variation of a pillow fight sequence and in which one of the arrangements, intercut with the opening title credits, is shot in negative image. The brief topless nudity of one of the actresses and the frolicking of soft pillow swings are all the girth given to the principal cast, providing no arcs, no substance, and no real chance to do anything but be bit part actors in what seems like a commercial or faux trailer for Ferguson’s other films. In fact, I did read that “Slumber Party Slasherthon” was originally intended to be a fake trailer for a sequel to the “Slumber Party Massacre” line, yet somehow the project became unbuttoned from that franchise and fashioned in a way that’s more Frankenstein’s Monster than feature file, turning “Slumber Party Slasherthon” into a demo reel for Furgeson and RHR Home Video’s DTV catalogue. I couldn’t tell you who Colgan, Hinkley, Moser, or Sorensen-Sticka played in the foursome, but Breana Michell’s is distinct from the others as the girl who arrives late only to get drilled later – offscreen, of course.

A muddied-up potpourri of RHR Home Video produced and distributed enumeration of slasher films, “Slumber Party Slasherthon” isn’t as gorily galvanizing as it sounds. From beginning to end, there’s not a single ounce of a story conveyed to lure in a potentially captivating audience wanting to bestowed upon highly sexualized girls in lingerie being ripped to shreds by a lunatic over a single night sleepover. Instead, Furgeson regurgitates clips of his schlocky direct-to-video titles from years’ past, such as “Terror at Black Tree Forest” and its sequel “Escape to Black Tree Forest,” which look just as cliched and trashy as the intended feature with an over enthusiastic use of primary color filters. Other features not directed by Furgeson but are a part of the RHR Home Video assemblage of titles is “7 Down” directed by Tyler L. Schmid and, perhaps the most buoyantly intelligible and substantial film of the whole grouping, “The Diller Killer” directed by Abel Ferrera, that ironically enough clearly partitions itself from the rest of the films as a completely deranged concept not borrowed from the canon like the rest.

A part of the Raw & Extreme label, “Slumber Party Slasherthon” comes to the masses unrated on a Wild Eye Releasing DVD. The region free releasing is presented in a stretched full screen 1.33:1 aspect ratio with a variety of video problem areas. Aside from the poor, commercial grade filmmaking equipment, likely a shot on a handheld digital camcorder with a max resolution output of 720p, compression artefacts run rampant with a blotchy, and often jittery with swelled pixels, image. Despite a flat hue palette for the main story, an assortment of color filters is placed on the 3rd party films showcased as horror movie marathon fodder, whether or not the “Escape to Black Tree Forest” or “Terror at Black Tree Forest” camp powwows and kill highlights are authentically presented or not in its rehashed integration into “Slumber Party Slasherthon,” I could not definitively know. The English Stereo 2.0 mono has little to offer in shepherding any kind of storytelling design nor is there an attempt at a clean sense of clarity around a dialogue track that’s poorly edited, plagued with electronic interference, and has about the sharpness of a butter knife. Levels vary wildly in the ambient and the soundtracks also. The single redeeming quality of “Slumber Party Slasherthon” is John Altyn’s “High Roller” single that leaned on to way too hard – being used in the opening credits, first act, and in the post-credits, and post-credits music video – to excel save a little change and give Ferguson’s film flashier audio tinsel with 80’s rock-n-rock. Bonus features are about the same as expected with A/V quality with a scene selection and Wild Eye trailers, plus RHR Home Video previews of “Scared Sillies 2,” “The Wanted,” “The Devil Times Five” and an awkward two-girl sway-your-hips-in-place dance party featuring Altyn’s – you guessed it – “High Roller” single (not the official music video by the way). “Slumber Party Slasherthon” is a sleeping bag full of disappointments and is the anti-scary story told that’ll lull teenage girls right to dreamland during the slumber party pajama party.

“Slumber Party Slasherthon” on DVD at Amazon.com

EVIL is Always the Quiet Ones. “Forced Entry” reviewed! (Dark Force Entertainment / Blu-ray)

“Forced Entry” on Blu-ray Available from Amazon.com and MVDShop.com

On the outside, Carl is a mild-mannered and a bit of a simpleton who works as a mechanic at the corner gas station.  On the inside, Carl’s an unstable, sociopathic rapist and murderer with chauvinistic patriarchal tendencies.  His grisly exploits rock the small New Jersey town but as life continues on so does Carl’s misguided perception that the women who cross his path want him.  As a mechanic and a rapist, Carl continues in getting his hands dirty even when the exceptionally beautiful housewife, Nancy Ulman, drops off her husband’s car for repairs.  With Nancy’s husband out of town, Carl creates an unfounded fantasy of being the one and only that can please her right.  As his obsession swells, Carl’s pushed over the edge into a no-turning back captive scenario by holding Nancy bound and hostage in her own home as he attempts irrationally and violently his case for bestowing his flawless companionship to her. 

Throughout nearly the entire history of cinema, the adult industry has remade blockbuster film titles into triple X spoofs.  “Beverly Hills Cox,” “The Penetrator,” “Clockwork Orgy,” and “Forrest Hump” are a few titles that come to mind.  But have you ever heard of a porn remade into an actual movie?  Of course, there’ve been a few biopics surrounding controversial cog players of the adult industry machine, such as with mainstream biopics that expose the lives of starlet Linda Lovelace of “Deep Throat” with Amanda Seyfried as the titular character and the notoriety of porn filmmakers Artie and Jim Mitchell in Showtime’s “Rated-X,” starring real life brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  Never in my existence on this tectonic plate shifting Earth have I’ve ever bear witness to a porn being remade into a film marketed on retail shelves to the general public.  That’s the backstory behind Jim Sotos’s 1976 debut feature “Forced Entry” based off Shaun Costello’s 1973 stag film of the same name and starred that “Deep Throat” connection with Harry Reems as well as Reems costars Jutta David (“Sensuous Vixens”), Nina Fawcett, and Laura Cannon (“The Altar of Lust”).  Also known more uncommonly as “Mr. Death” and “Rape in the Suburbs to more commonly as“The Last Victim,” Henry Scarpelli adapted the script out of the X-rated context but kept much of the aggressive themes, changing the gas station attendant from a Vietnam shell-shocked maniac to delusional maniac stemmed from abusive mother issues.  Sotos and Scarpelli also serve as producers under the Kodiak Film production company. 

“Forced Entry” stars a then fresh faced Tanya Roberts.  The late “A View to a Kill” Bond girl and “The Beastmaster” actress received her start as the slightly frustrated, but overall pleasant, housewife Nancy Ulman who must fight for her life when Carl, under the wonderfully wild and violent guise of “Heated Vengeance’s” Ron Max, breaks into her home to fulfill his ferocious fictious fantasy.  The contrast Nancy and Carl is extremely key to “Forced Entry’s” modest success as the story plays out in both perspectives with more lean on Carl with a far more interesting mindset, internalizing monologues of desires and anger.  While Tanya Roberts is hardly stimulating on screen as routine wife and mother, concerned a little on her husband’s sudden indifferent behavior, she exhibits a stark normalcy that makes Carl’s actions flagrantly deviant with the anticipation that Nancy will be too submissive or afraid to fight back.  Ron Max is no David Hess but instills a disturbing, looney bin creeper who, most frighteningly of all, could be your neighborhood grease monkey mechanic.  Like Roberts, another yet-to-be-famous actress has her brief moments of screen time as Carl’s hitchhiker victim.  “Robocop” films’ Nancy Allen finds herself riding shotgun with a serial murder-rapist even before going face-to-face with the telekinetic prom queen, “Carrie,” in a blink and you’ll miss her thumb lifting and chitchat-disparaging segment to give Carl more depraved depth.  Billy Longo (“Bloodrage”), Michael Tucci (“Blow”), Vasco Valladeres (“Bad”), Robin Leslie, Frank Verroca, Brian Freilino and Michele Miles.

Color me easily impressed by the novelty of the basis of a porn plot being transposed into a more accessible outlet for audiences.  Pushing that novelty aside, “Forced Entry’s” plot is simply stitched together to make Carl this really bad guy by fashioning situations that indulge his impulses – a stranded woman motorist out in the middle of nowhere, a female hitchhiker talking back to him in his own car, a girl with high cut shorts pumping gas station air into her bike.  Though often disjointed in the story’s framework and for some reason, Carl’s face is initially pointlessly concealed for the broken down motorist attack, helpless moments like these, plus the crazed internal monologuing rationalizing his actions, pushes Carl’s chances of being stopped next to nil with audiences.  How will a happy homemaker, trapped in her own home, be able to survive crazy Carl?  That’s where the story really begins with the first moment he laid eyes on Nancy and as he rolls out the imaginary carpet of playing house with her, we begin to see how attached he becomes to the idea as he strays away form his normal off-the-cuff methods that has served him well until this point.  Much of the shock value comes from the climatic finale that determines Carl and Nancy’s fate with a slow-motion shot full of cacophonous screaming to bring a definitive effect to an unexpected turn of events.  “Forced Entry” is more Spinell “Maniac” than it is Hess “Last House on the Left” but not as well-known and has unformulaic structure that strolls too comfortably between the lines of shocking consternation.

Dark Force Entertainment and MVD Visual distributes this notable unconventional remake onto another Blu-ray home video, but this new and improved version of the film that includes nearly additional ten minutes of footage into the original 73-minute director cuts of the previous 2019 Dark Force Entertainment prints under the Code Red label. This longer version adds back in more of the sexually graphic material and is 1.85:1, anamorphic widescreen, presented in a 2K scanned transfer with a 1080p output from the original 35mm negative material of the US theatrical release. Granted, some of that footage, such as the snatching of the bike girl, is nearly impossible to discern much beyond an unrefined image. The coloring throughout is inconsistent and unstable with clear fluctuations in hue flickers and a few scenes early in the film suffer from conspicuous wear damage. However, I suspect this transfer to be the best of the best to date and is not all a waste of viewing space with much of the image holding up strong. The single audio option is an English LCPM 2.0 mono is not the cleanest with clearly noticeable crackle and static throughout and overtop a muted dialogue track. Tommy Vig’s (“Terror Circus”) score nabs more support than the others in the audio output. Special features include the full-length 88-minute VHS minute version from standard definition video so don’t expect the highest resolution if you’re looking for more sordid footage in an essentially quantity over quality version. The blue snapper case does have a limited edition stark black and yellow/orange cardboard slipcover. The new scan runs at 83 minutes in length in the region free and rated R Blu-ray (updated from the original PG rating when reexamined by the ratings board…go figure). Not just another rape-revenge notched into the controversial subgenre’s hole riddled belt, “Forced Entry” agitates suspicion in the most harmless of unsuspecting, quiet-natured nobodies as it only takes one to be the filthiest troublemaker hidden right under our trusting, naïve noses.

“Forced Entry” on Blu-ray Available from Amazon.com and MVDShop.com

Book an EVIL Getaway Rental from the “Superhost” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon

Airbnb reviewer vloggers Claire and Teddy are bleeding viewership fast.  To save their monetized video channel, their financial independence, and possibly live happily ever after as man and wife, the duo was finally able to rent a highly demanded location set in isolated in the forest when it became available.  The house is more than they could ever hope for with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious accommodations, and breathtaking idyllic mountain views.  The one little hiccup about the residential stay is the quirky superhost, Rebecca, who has been more than overly friendly.  An unsuspecting guest from the past turns the tables on Claire and Teddy as Rebecca slowly unravels her true intentions in a nerve-wracking game of life and death with all the amenities.

From the director of the supernatural baby-snatching “Still/Born” and the imaginary friend from Hell in “Z” comes Brandon Christensen’s next written-and-directed demented thriller “Superhost” that takes the automated vacation rental methodology and breaks them in half.  Shot just outside Las Vegas in the rural area of Mount Charleston, Christensen provides the illusion of a far trek away from busy street society with a cabin in the woods what if’er of an overzealous hosting homeowner making weird and uncomfortable conversation with their tenants on a daily or nightly basis.  Tacked onto that idea is the new age monetizing of vlogs and racking up subscribers that overtake or make us blind to what’s really important.  The Superchill and First Look Releasing production is executive produced by the Ty and Darren Siversten and produced by Christensen, Kurtis David Harder (“Spiral,” “V/H/S/94”), and stars Sara Canning and Osric Chau.

Aforementioned, Sara Canning (“Z,” “The Banana Splits Movie”) and Osric Chau (“Supernatural”) star in the film as vlogging couple Claire and Teddy.  Whether be the actors’ performances or the blind obsession toward their monetized YouTube platform to secure financial freedom, the on-screen chemistry between the couple didn’t jive.  What doesn’t help is there’s no real romance being displayed during their time together nor was there any expositional or any form of mentioning what their life looked like before becoming internet influencers.  Being influencers makes up a sizeable portion of what the audiences (us as viewers and not their video channel followers) know about the couple sans the miscellaneous background of Teddy’s parents providing rent aid whenever needed and Teddy’s top-secret engagement plan in which he also vlogs to his viewers behind Claire’s back.  We experience a little more where Teddy comes from, but Claire is a complete mystery much in the same way as superhost Rebecca.  However, as the crazed host, the enigma surrounding the jovially expressed Rebecca, eager to help with clog toilets and whip up pancakes, adds to her strange and frightening demeanor.  I would never want Gracie Gillam (“Fright Night” ’11, “Z Nation”) to uninvitedly walk into my vacation rental in her full Rebecca form.  I would forego my deposit lickety-split and hightail away from a much-needed getaway to literally save my skin from Rebecca’s crackpot revelry. Popping into the frame a couple of times is genre veteran and overall fan favorite is Barbara Crampton (“From Beyond,” “Re-Animator”) as Vera, a disgruntled property owner who tracks down Claire and Teddy for a vindictive, rock-throwing rant but becomes unsuspectedly ensnared in the Rebecca’s mare’s nest.

Brandon Christensen is no stranger to small productions with a small cast, but “Superhost” is a micro-production with a micro-cast and, somehow at no surprise, busts out a truly terrifying lunacy that can make you double think before clicking that confirmation button on the vacation rental reservation. “Superhost” is unsettling and invasive as if privacy is nonexistent and the ever-watchful eye is always looming. In fact, it is! With security cameras installed in basically every room, there’s 24-hour CCTV footage of every moment of Claire and Teddy, but isn’t the moment captured and being filmed constantly is what their livelihood and vocation is all about? Christensen has that paradoxical undertone packed exceedingly well beneath the veneer of voyeurism, inescapability, and troubled relationship issues that the theme becomes a backburner hit on the tail end in that what the thing that provides Claire and Teddy a reason to be free as individuals is the also the very thing that they can’t flee from and become merely a battered object of one’s mad person’s whims much like their more critical reviews can be ruinous to others. While “Superhost” can feel a bit slow for the first two acts, the story showcases a development and escalation of Grace Gillam’s Rebecca as a woman with more than one loose screw. Of course, Rebecca’s not seen for who she really is by the compulsion to film not just the rental, but also her, as gold-plated viewership material. “Superhost” admonishes a tread carefully thriller to beware and adhere the signs of mania danger and all those Rebeccas out there.

Trust me – cancel that reservation, plan on a staycation, and watch the Shudder-exclusive “Superhost” now on Blu-ray home video from Acorn Media International. The region 2, PAL encoded, Blu-ray is presented in an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Nothing terrible to note here as much of the digitally captured, RED Gemini images are about as crisp as they come with a natural presentation all around from cinematographer Clayton Moore (“It Stains the Sands Red”) with the exception of the unfiltered handheld camera and CCTV footage, which is also very authentic. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound rustles together clearly and discernibly ever creak of the floorboards and every gushy stabbing sound for full impact purposes. Dialogue track is clean with pronunciation clarity and the bottom-and-bass dropping score by instrumental band Blitz//Berlin (“Psycho Gorman,” “The Void”) continue to impress with their original soundtracks. The special feature includes a director’s commentary, a behind-the-scenes that talks about Mount Charleston location, the annoying tiny beetle swarms, and how amazingly small the production crew was, a solid blooper reel, “Superhost” VFX featurette with green screening and matting car scenes and the ultra-graphic knife through the mouth effect, a behind-the-scenes still gallery, and episodes 1 and 2 of Brandon Christensen’s television shorts, “Scaredycats.” Remember, guys, hit that like bottom and subscribe to follow Brandon Christensen’s descension of guests becoming unaccommodated by a psychotic “Superhost!”

Never Again Feel Welcome After Watcing “Superhost” on Blu-ray Available at Amazon

When That Sexy Roommate Turns Out to be an EVIL Hexing Hag! “Don’t Let her In” reviewed! (Full Moon / Blu-ray)

“Don’t Let Her In” on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features and Distributed by MVD Visual

Young artist couple Amber and Ben live downtown in a spacious single floor loft.  To afford rent and earn a little extra cash on the side, they decide to sublet a portion to Serena, a beautiful, and recently single, new age jewelry bowl artist who crafts old age product.  Some would say Serena’s craft is witchcraft as the alluring artist is actually being inhabited by an ancient, malevolent demon.  As she settles into her new abode, Serena slowly works her way between Amber and Ben, seducing and bedding both for her reasons to prolong a legacy on Earth.  When Ben is suddenly whisked away for an unexpected rock tour, Amber finds herself cornered by the demon in human skin and, to her on the pill surprise, pregnant because of Serena’s daily bewitching manipulation and incessant satanic chanting.

As a part of the new Full Moon lineup of 2022, principal Full Moon filmmaker Ted Nicolaou, the mastermind behind “TerrorVision” and the longstanding director of the “Subspecies” franchise, returns with another vision of terror, a beautifully demonic roommate from Hell, in “Don’t Let her In.”  Shot entirely on location at the historic Nate Starkman and Sons Building in Los Angeles, home to an array of productions from inside Paddy’s Bar of “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” to appearing in a handful of iconic horror series, such as “Candyman:  Day of the Dead” and “Wishmaster 2:  Evil Never Dies,” the 1908 erected factory is said itself to be haunted, adding to the miscreant charm of a shapeshifting fiend plaguing the innocence of a young couple.  Charles Band, like all of his productions, serves as chief producer and executive producer with the cannabis friendly Nakai Nelson, this side of the century Full Moon Feature producer with credits such as the “Evil Bong,” “Weedjies,” and a pair of more recent “Puppet Master” films to her name. 

“Don’t Let Her In” has an intimate cast comprised of four actors who have to pull in different, varying levels of character dynamics and frames of mind depending on how Serena’s orchestrating of the strings upon her marionette subjects favor in or from her dastardly ambition.  At the center is first time Full Moon actress Lorin Doctor as the pleasantly chic but unpleasantly succubus-like Serena who wants more than just a place to sojourn from an ex-boyfriend.  Serena is the kind of role where you have to applaud Doctor for not only pulling off grimacing in the shadows and being able to keep up the rhythms and beats of complex chanting but also be comfortable in the facial prosthetic makeup and make like a troll for a creepy crouch walk in a backwards reel speedup effect.  Kelly Curran and Cole Pendery are also newcomers to Full Moon’s world of strange and unusual T&A horror as the loft-residing couple Amber and Ben.  Curran and Pendery make up for an okay, downtown twosome with hints toward a checkered past of philandering that’s irritated by Serena’s provocative presence, but that’s doesn’t quite blossom into more of an issue as Amber is quickly eager to just go with the flow without being too bothered by the prospect that Serena and Amber did the bedsheet whoopee next to Amber as she slept.  The four and last character Elias Lambe is by far the most lacking in development and substance as an important piece of Serena’s puzzle that quickly becomes shoved under the rug.  Austin James Parker plays the part that’s mostly standing outside the building on the street corner looking gothically mirthless rather than ominous and before realizing how Lambe fits into the narrative, the long haired, trench coat-cladded, vampire-esque backstory is quickly snatched away with not a morsel left of his bigger part as suggested.

“Don’t Let Her In” is a refreshing addition to the Full Moon feature line that maintains a lot of hallmarks of the company, such as heavy use of body prosthetics, an expensive veneer on an indie budget, and, of course, nudity.  Though many other audiences draw comparisons to “Rosemary’s Baby,” Nicolaou relates only a smidgen in the story alone without the Roman Polanski pin drop suspense of subjective narration.  Instead, Nicolaou embodies Full Moon’s quirky and special effects greased terror fried to a familiar taste all fans have known from the past 40 years and that’s not terribly a bad thing.  “Don’t Let Her In” feels like an original piece of storytelling, much like “Castle Freak” or  “The Dead Hate the Living,” that detaches itself from Charles Band’s obsession with miniature maniacs, but Full Moon has no shame in telling us we’re still watching one of their films, gratuitously plopping easter eggs of their films all throughout “Don’t Let Her In” (i.e. Poster artist Amber’s current project, a rendering of “Corona Zombies,” and “Castle Freak” playing on the television set as Amber and Serena spend an evening as a pair of winos).  Serena’s demoness rat-faced makeup does appear stiff and inane at times, but the way Nicolaou mostly presents Serena in true form is through a blend of quick-sufficient editing, a manipulation of lens and pace, and the to-and-fro from the human façade that ultimately makes rodent Serena become scary Serena when accompanied by Charles Band’s strike of forte notes when not being melodiously carnivalesque.

Lesson here, kids, is to always background check you potential roommates because they might end up being a demon. Happens all the time. Fortunately, Full Moon Features delivers the entertainingly sapid “Don’t Let Her In” onto Blu-ray home video, presented in region free and a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Full high-definition and 1080p resolution, this release has a strong, robust presentation in favor of Nicolaou’s often in your face with evil style despite the single loft location. The fact that this Full Moon feature is toned down from the usual moody, tenebrous gothic style shows a bit of range can be good for the collection. There are two available audio options: a 5.1 surround sound and a dual channel 2.0 stereo. If you want more fluff to your sound design, the 5.1 offers extra street ambiance while characters converse, sawing through the dialogue with car horns, traffic, and other urban outdoor racket as if they’re living right in the middle of Times Square. Yet, all outdoor scenes show little car or foot traffic that makes this fluff foolish. The dialogue is otherwise clean and Charles Band’s soundtrack interposes pizzazz and dread in this brawny audio output. Bonus features include a “Don’t Let Her In” behind-the scenes with snippet interviews from director Ted Nicolaou, actresses Lorin Doctor and Kelly Curran, and producer Nakai Nelson and rounding out with an array of Full Moon trailers. “Don’t Let Her In” has vim and vigor for an indie guise horror that’s erotic as it is fun surrounding a small cast and single location; yet there is also an evoking pathos in its decimation of young, naive artists and couples with career ending consequences.

“Don’t Let Her In” on Blu-ray from Full Moon Features and Distributed by MVD Visual

Is Deceptional Fraud More EVIL Than Psychopathy? “Paranoiac” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)

Get “Paranoiac” on the Collector’s Edition Scream Factory Blu-ray!

The parents of siblings Tony, Simon, and Eleanor Ashby die in a tragic plane crash. Two years later, Tony commits suicide by plunging himself off a cliff into a watery grave with his body never having been recovered from the ebb and flow of crashing waves upon the oceanic rocks. Eleven years later, the long thought dead Tony suddenly and unexpectedly returns to what’s left of his family: an overprotectively cold and matriarchal substitute in Aunt Harriet, a narcissistic and alcoholic brother Simon, and a sister, Eleanor, on the precipice of losing her mind from grief over Tony’s death. Shocked by this return, the surviving Ashby siblings split their concerns regarding Tony’s authenticity. Eleanor believes her brother is alive and has come back to rebuild the happy relationship between them whereas Simon denounces Tony’s validity and works underhandedly to either expose Tony as a fraud or to get rid of the imposter by any means necessary, especially when the conditions of receiving the Ashby family fortune have nearly come to an end and a hefty inheritance awaits his opulent tastes. Tony’s arrival causes complications with the inheritance, opens up old wounds, evokes new romantic sensations, and regresses transgressional guilt toward a fiery conclusion to the Ashby family mystery.

A ravishingly dark, mystery thriller inspired by Scottish author Josephine Tey’s crime novel “Brat Farrar” from 1949, the 1963 “Paranoiac” works from off of Tey’s dysfunctional and deceptional family building blocks and extending it into a gothic framework of demented greed in a brand-new of-shooting avenue of psychological thrillers from Hammer Films, hoping to branch off the traditional horror trunk and piggyback success off of the American released, 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film, “Psycho.” “Paranoiac” is the junior film of Freddie Francis (“The Skull,” “Torture Garden”) and penned by the longtime Hammer writer, who basically wrote all of Hammer’s classics, Jimmy Sangster (“Horror of Dracula,” “The Revenge of Frankenstein”). Anthony Hinds and Basil Keys served as producers.

“Paranoiac’s” ensemble cast is quite brilliant in their respective roles.  Oliver Reed (“Curse of the Werewolf,” “Gladiator”) stands out immensely with a flamboyantly cruel and warped performance as the erratic Simon Ashby constantly under the influence of Brandy, Champagne, or whatever alcoholic beverage he can get his organ-playing hands on.  Reed puts out this hateful energy that can’t be ignored and outlines Simon with defined truth about where the character stands with his own flesh and blood – a callously cold and calculating black sheep.  Simon becomes fascinating in every scene, every scenario, and continues to unravel as a wild card that always leave us wondering what he’s going to do next.  Then there’s sweet and innocent but overly distraught Eleanor from Janette Scott in complete sibling behavioral polarity that sinks Eleanor further and further into madness designed by those close to her.  Scott, who also had a starring role in “The Old Dark House” that was released the same year, came aboard relatively new to Hammer but equates her status against Reed, who Hammer was grooming to be a prominent leading man for more of their productions, by selling Eleanor’s despair and the deep-seeded craving for her other, more sweeter, brother, Tony.  Encompassing the thought dead younger brother is Alexander Davion, another newbie to Hammers’ brand with, in my opinion, a neutral and bland face that doesn’t fit the Bray Studio’s swarthy and distinguished lot of male actors.  Davion’s also doesn’t do terribly much with Tony’s sudden resurrection as he folds himself back into Ashby manor.  While this could be Freddie Francis’s shrouding display of truth upon Tony’s legitimacy, there is literally no life or passion behind Alexander Davion’s eyes as he stares blankly at accusations and even Eleanor’s incestuous flirtations.  Yes, incest becomes a rummaged theme that walks a tightrope between more than just two family members.  “Alone in the Dark’s” Sheila Burrell is the stern protector in Aunt Harriet, “Blood Beast from Outer Space’s” Maurice Denham ruffles Simon’s feathers as the Ashby estate treasurer holding all of his inheritance, “The Maniac’s Liliane Brousse nurses a façade over the well-being of Eleanor and the love interests of Simon, and the cast wraps up with John Bonney as the treasurer’s fraudulent son.

Hammer had by 1963 already established itself as a horror powerhouse with the success of colorfully bold, violently stout, and sexually-saturated innuendo classic monster features, such as with “Horrors of Dracula,” “The Curse of Frankenstein,” and “The Mummy.”  Capitalizing on the coattails of Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and sitting on the adaptational rights for Josephine Tey’s “Brat Farrar,” Hammer decided to pivot into the crime and suspense thriller direction that alluded to the aftereffects of cerebral breaking blended into elements of collusion, creating an endless tense-filled turbine revolving around the whodunit particles and the who’s veneer is covertly smeared by corruption.  In a way other than the similar one word title and an unhinged theme, “Paranoiac” could be mistaken as a Hitchcockian-shot production with the larger than life and depth rich landscapes; the vast wide shots of Isle of Purbeck’s peaks and cliff steeps are engulfed oxymoronically as an idyllically menacing key peninsula landscape centric to Tony’s long thought demise as well as a place of hopelessness as the natural English Channel waves crash relentlessly onto the rocks below.  Francis and Sangster hinge the film success on the colossal subtext of brittle strength, guilt, and a vague but prominent suggestion of incest between sister and brother and brother and aunt that, in all honestly, was a personal surprise to myself that it passed the British Board of Film Certification (BBFC).  Yet, the insinuation did and paved a real pothole plague path for viewers in a good way that the story kept evolving, kept us on our toes, and when it spiraled, it spiraled quickly and sharp in a descent onto those very hopeless rocks below waiting for our emotions to be swept away lost in a mobile, violent current. 

Paranoia runs rampant like an epidemic in this Freddie Francis aptly entitled sullen celluloid “Paranoiac,” the next Hammer film receiving a collector’s edition Blu-ray treatment from Scream Factory, the horror sublabel from Shout Factory! The region A locked encoded Blu-ray features a new 2K scan from the interpositive. By 1963, Hammer was well versed in technicolor, especially for Stateside releases of UK films, but “Paranoic” opts for the black and white picture in another subtle nod to “Psycho.” Under veteran Hammer Film’s cinematographer Arthur Grant, that famous gothic-cladded manor house is aesthetically fetching with in every detail captured by Grant’s 35mm camera as well as the broad wide shots in the bird’s eye view of Isle of Purbeck. Scream Factory releases the film in 1080p, full high definition of the original aspect ratio 2.35:1 with sterling results in extracting details and balancing the contrast without brightening or darkening where not needed or intended. There were no real damage spots to point out nor were any crops or enhancements made to touch up possible problematic or stylistic areas. The release comes with a single audio option in a DTS-HD Master Audio monaural track with slight static in the background. Dialogue is clean and mostly clear with an occasion hiss during more boisterous moments, but the range and depth of a faultless ambience and Elisabeth Lutyens brassy and bass soundtrack comes through symmetrically balanced. English SHD Subtitles are also optional. The special features include a new audio commentary with Film Historian Bruce Hallenbeck, two new interviews with author and critic Kim Newman in Drink of Deception and with film historian Jonathan Rigby in A Toast to Terror – two familiar faces seen in recent Scream Factory’s restorations of Hammer productions, a making-of segment that dives archive interviews with Jimmy Sangster and others going over the genesis of the story and into Hammer’s aspirations at the time, and a theatrical trailer. “Paranoiac” is more than just its creepy, bulbous mask that graces the Mark Maddox gorgeously green illustrated slipcover and snapper case cover art. Rarely does a film evolve from one narrative into another without crisscrossing the stitchwork, becoming overly convoluted beyond repair, yet “Paranoiac” digs in and dilates the already volatile chemistry with integrated and powerful performances from Oliver Reed and Janette Scott that makes this film high on the Hammer watch list.

Get “Paranoiac” on the Collector’s Edition Scream Factory Blu-ray!