A father mysteriously goes missing when visiting aliens violently abduct him from his serene cottage home. Thought to be a deadbeat husband and father for abandoning his family, the man returns three years later at the doorstep of his wife’s London flat. A bewildered and conflicted wife struggles with his return while the live-in boyfriend makes it clear that he wants the man out, shelling out a vicious cold shoulder whenever in the same room, but the returned father seeks to resume his patriarchal position amongst his family; however, he’s not exactly the same person he used to be as he garnishes an exterior shell of a human and the interior of a hostile extraterrestrial with ulterior motives. His return has nightmarish affects on his traumatized son whose becoming a device of deviancy at the hand of his father’s otherworldly influence, issuing carnivelesque ill will toward other flat tenants. By the time the boyfriend suspects something, the not-so-friendly alien might have already established the intended invasion into a family so eager and willing to accept their sorely absent loved one.
Perhaps one of the most out of this world science fiction horror films ever made that’s set on Earth, “Xtro” is the Don Coscarelli-like bizarre horror film from British filmmaker Harry Bromley Davenport. Co-written the story with Michael Parry (“The Uncanny”), Davenport’s blended American and British financed 1982 unsettling venture was penned by Iain Cassie (assistant director on “Schizo”) and Robert Smith. Honestly, no other film comes within a comparison zone of “Xtro’s” sheer creativity that doesn’t just redesign the genre or it’s tropes, but, rather, embraces a new kind of fragmented oddity by telling an uncomfortable story consisting with the graphic birth of a full grown adult, the flesh crawling sensation of an adult man bending down to child level to drink from the bare skin of a child’s shoulder, and the exhibition of the dark pageantry of humor underlined death. Over an umbrella of horror shades metaphorically a fairly common family crisis baseline premise of an inattentive father’s return home to try to reinstate himself with conflicted wife and eager son only to, once again and concretely, destroy them internally.
Philip Sayer sets foot into the duplicitous titular space invader. The trained veteran actor had experience from the stage that translated to what could be considered performance art in “Xtro” to embodied a creature on the inside to his humanity on the out. Sayer costars alongside an unseasoned child actor, Simon Nash, as the young Tony and the pair make a inharmonious father and son with cankerous performances by Nash who doesn’t exactly fit, when considering accent and even appearances, his portrayed parents. Bernice Stegers is the other half of Tony’s folks and the “Macabre” star does a phenomenal job as the stiffly conflicted mother and wife Rachel Phillips, straining toward more what’s best for her love life rather than to the care of her son. The live-in boyfriend Joe, portrayed by Danny Brainin, limps by as a fairly useless character who doesn’t contribute either way to a conclusion. Other than providing a minor tether to Rachel Phillips life to normalcy, Joe can’t swallow his emotions and the best the character can offer is to abandoned his girl and son, another frail male in their life. Brainin’s performance is good for the character’s weak minded attitude. The cast rounds out with Maryam d’Abo (who goes onto to be a bond girl in “The Living Daylights”), Peter Mandell, and Anna Wing.
Though thought provoking and wildly entertaining through soul rattling imagery, “Xtro” is by far from a perfect film. Sure, the Tom Harris special effects pull at innard chords you may never knew you garnished and certain scenes would be the subject of mysterious gif images in the dark corners the internet that proclaimed creatures do live unknown amongst us, but the British science fiction horror film, a video nasty of the time, just might have been too absurd in the nonconformist form that struck unpopular opinions with audiences and critics because the villain wasn’t necessarily tangible and wielded a blood stained machete and more so involved obscure telepathic references that were non-explicit. There’s literally no connective tissue which makes this film so beyond the mind’s grasp. “Xtro’s” niche saw non-homaging aspects, but had familiar flavors such as a bit of Peter Jackson humor, a dry slapstick that’s hard to enjoy, but fascinating to take in at the same time. That’s the whole idea behind “Xtro” was to create an off-structured horror film that pushed the limits while not just replicating other great horror movies.
New Line Cinema’s “Xtro” is coming to a limited edition Blu-ray set from UK distributor Second Sight. The newly restored extended presentation of the transfer will also have option alternate ending plus will also be accompanied with the original video version. Unfortunately, a screener disc was provided for this particular review and comments about the image and audio presentations will not be commented on. The disc did include extras such as a brand spanking new 57-minute documentary that included new interviews with Harry Bromley-Davenport, Mark Forstater (producer), Bernice Stegers, Susie Silvey, Tim Dry (Tik), Sean Crawford (Tok), Robert Pereno, Alan Jones and Craig Lapper. Also included is a new featurette with Dennis Atherton, Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater, ‘Beyond Xtro’ – a new featurette with Harry Bromley-Davenport and Mark Forstater looking ahead to new reboot, ‘Xtro – The Big One’, including exclusive test footage, ‘Loving The Alien: A Tribute to Philip Sayer’ featuring exclusive Brian May music tribute, and ‘Xtro Xposed’ archive interview with Harry Bromley-Davenport. A venturous Robert Shaye at New Line Cinema wanted to match wits with his own one-two punch version of a video nasty. The result was an out of body experience alien feature with unapologetic tastes and unafraid wills to push the shock market limits. “Xtro” might be one of the billions of stars in the film archive, but at least it’s one of a kind.
After painstakingly trying to argue to her boyfriend that he never hangs out with her drug abusive friends, the woman withdraws to her friends’ exclusive sanctum without telling him. Before he realizes what’s really at stake, the boyfriend learns that her friends are potential Devil worshippers that aim to practice human sacrifices, but little does he know that his girlfriend is beyond the dangers of a Devil cultist as she had unwittingly placed herself in the experimental hands of a mad Nazi doctor named Gunter and his serum produced harem of female vampires and loyal male acolytes. As the boyfriend attempts to infiltrate the cult incognito, he’s overwhelmed by the flesh-piercing, bikini-wearing beauties, but the eldest vampire, whose bored after years of being with Gunter and wants to find true love, spares the man’s life and instantly imprints herself onto him. She shows him that his girlfriend is no longer mortal and promises to be with him forever, but before he can commit, he first must destroy Gunter and his work before the evil scientist distributes a new serum that’ll be able to transform women and men into the upgraded superior race of blood-thirsty vampires.
There have been moments where horror enthusiastic filmmakers have embarked creatively on re-creating cult favorites or re-inventing that of the European, over-sexualized female vampire, Victor Matellano’s remake of Jose Ramon Larraz’s for instance, and most have come out on top with inspirationally faithful stories or portray the particular type of promiscuous vampire. Writer-director Matt Johnson takes a wooden stake stab at the complexities of the homage with “Lust of the Vampire Girls,” his feature film debut, and with a budget that’s resting on a minimalistic mishmash pot of a self and crowd-funded platter, the director runs with his sparsely written script with a vast amount of bodies able to fill a plethora of roles. Instead of mystical, fantastical, or ancient damned souls feeding on the hapless male sex, the “LofVG” story surrounds a Nazi madman injecting his serum into women over the years (No, that’s not an euphemism) which is Johnson’s modern day spin to the genre.
Nameless characters, aside from Gunter, shape the lineup of vampires and humans, starting with Victor Medina as the boyfriend. Medina’s performance further darkens the character whose an utter jerk lacking chivalry and a moral compass, but the actor is able to fulfill the boyfriend’s character arc as he tracks down, and express a figment of empathy toward, his estranged pretty girlfriend played by “Friend Request’s” Amy Savannah. The two battle against each other with petty ventures of, sometimes typically, relationship woes and Medina and Savannah reflect that rather well until coming entangled with Dave Nilson’s Gunter. Certainly fitting the part and wielding a passable German accent, Nilson comes off as power, arrogant, and invincible. In short, perhaps the most convincing performance in the entire film. Leading Gunter’s harem den of vampire girls is a the doctor’s oldest, yet ageless, subject, donned to the lovely Ashley Eliza Parker, whose eagerness falls just beyond the fumes of desperation. Rounding out the cast are Jeff Christiensen, Cherish Dawn, Mary Etuk, Jami Kelly, Flo Median, and Bri Northem.
“Lust of the Vampire Girls” might be billed as a homage to the 1960’s and 1978’s European exploitation, but as the film seeps into a quasi-level surrealistic state garnished with sexy female lasses in undergarments, very much reminiscent of the genre claimed to respect, the allure finitely founders and tilts more toward below a meager attempt that results in wince-worthy acting and female vampires perpetually hissing through their teeth. In the sequence of events, the beginning offers a small non-linear storyline that’s sorely misplaced starting with the pretty girl being lost only to be found by a vampire loyalist, then the boyfriend, surrounded by variously masked cladded acolytes, becomes a sleeper agent in Gunter’s psychosexual church of horrors, but then the couple are having an embattled conversation at a coffee house, and then, before we know it, we’re back at the church again – with, again, the perpetual hissing, underwear garnished, vampires in silky, see-thru robes. Overly sexualized female vampires are a very Eurotrash and the hazy environment is very reminisce of the LSD era, which Matt Johnson pulls off both fairly well, but the greats, like Jean Rollin or Jesus Franco, made them more captivating than just being mindless, eye-candy monsters with a very bad lisps.
Wild Eye Releasing and MVDVisual release Matt Johnson’s “Lust of the Vampire Girls” onto DVD home video. Image quality varies in a numerous shades of tint, but for the majority, there’s a soft glow to the entire stock and macroblocking during night scenes. The stereo track has an unbalance wit about it that’s unsavory in it’s lossy quality during the genre uncharacteristically progressive metal soundtrack and offers a cacophony during scenes of anger and scuffle. Bonus material includes “LotVG” trailer and storyboards. On the surface, Matt Johnson skimmed the exploitation genre the filmmaker was shooting for and whether intentional or not, the quality waivers from script to performance and then there are aspects that just don’t make since (like vampires wearing gas mask..?), but it’s an atmospheric A-to-Z low-budget horror film and nothing more.
A Hollywood screenwriter named Nicholas owns a very special household feline. Angel, his Cat, has a unique relationship with her owner Nicholas. Yet, their unbreakable bond has put a severe damper on Nicholas’s intimacy with women as Angel slaughters any and all who becomes close with her beloved human. When Nicholas finally catches wind of the reason behind his love life woes and learns that Angel is actually possessed by an obsessive and dangerous demon, he and his friends Adam, whose also his downstairs neighbor in the apartment complex, seek to exorcise Angel back to being a nice kitty, but all who’ve challenged Angel thus far have been unlucky enough to be scratched to death. A medium, two priests, and even a cat therapist haven’t seem to help Nicholas through the bombardment of weird dreams and death that surround him in his lonely and tiny one bedroom apartment.
Cat lovers beware! “Hell’s Kitty” is purring up your leg to claw you in this new horror-comedy by writer-director Nicholas Tana. If you had thought cats were already contemptible enough to begin with then sit down in your air freshening kitty litter and get a can of Friskies out because you’re about to take a 666 ride with this demon kitty. “Hell’s Kitty” is original a web series created by Tana that began all the way back from 2011 to 2015 and, since then, has been immensely popular through the inter-webs with the extra special casts of genre vets ranging from “The Hills Have Eyes'” Michael Berryman to “The Fog’s” Andrienne Barbeau. From the web series, the episodes were pieced together, forming one hairball adventure of Nicholas and his demon cat, Angel.
Aforementioned, Nicholas Tana headlines as himself because, essentially, “Hell’s Kitty” is based off true events of his turmoiled love life. Series regulars also become essential players in the film, such as Nicholas’s downstairs loafing neighbor and best friend Adam (Adam Rucho), Lisa Graves (Lisa Younger of “Cold Creepy Feelings”), and Dr. Laurie Strodes (Nina Kate of “Snake Club: Revenge of the Snake Women”). Then, there’s a slew of special guests that, at times, pay homage to the works that made them household names in horror or relating genres. Special guests that include “Children of the Corn’s” John Franklin and Courtney Gains semi-reprising their roles as Isaiah and Mordicia. Lynn Lowry (“The Crazies”), Doug Jones (“The Shape of Water”), Bill Oberst Jr. (“Coyote”), Kelli Maroney (“Night of the Comet”), Dale Midkiff (“Pet Sematary”), Lee Meriweather (Catwoman from “Batman” television series), Victoria De Mare (“Killjoy” franchise), and porn star goddess, and legend, Nina Hartley (“Pleasure Maze”)! That’s one heavy-hitting lineup! As a cherry on top, even a Killer Klown, you know, the ones from Outer Space, made an appearance!
If a viewer didn’t know of or research into “Hell’s Kitty” web series past, the thought of low-budget junk just might scroll across a judgmental mindset. Let’s be honest for a second; “Hell’s Kitty” is grade-A camp with schlocky special effects and the editing quality of a ramshackle shackled ram. Along with the unique cast being intertwined into the story, other aspects of the Frankenstein-glued together film, such as the sharp pivoting subplots, stir up Nicholas ever so chaotic life into a new and interesting fold. From his fruitless sex life with various attractive women to the friend who always makes himself welcome in Nicholas’s apartment, Nicholas only has one consistent thing in his life and that is his relationship with the cat from hell and that journey is explored from episode-to-episode that climaxes with an ultra-drag musical rendition of something out of the “Birdcage.” Another quality to watch for, and enjoy, are the homages to fan favorites like “Children of the Corn” and “Killer Klowns From Outer Space” as mentioned before, “The Exorcist,” and “Psycho.”
MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing presents the Smart Media LLC,. production of “Hell Kitty,” as a whole, on DVD home video that’s visually subpar when considering the quality. The low bitrate crudely displays blotchy image quality, leaving details to the waist side. The 5.1 surround sound is the best attribute to the DVD with clear dialogue and a modest soundtrack. There are no extras included aside for the film’s trailer. While technically incompetent, “Hell’s Kitty” meows murderously onto DVD in a cultivation of cult actors and hellacious comedy by writer-director Nicholas Tana that does sometimes feel rehashed or borrowed from previous films, but the quirky evil pet element gnaws on an inner layer to be enjoyed and enthralled in a day-and-a-life of one man’s skewed, if not deranged, version of events of a lackluster romantic lifestyle blamed toward one jealous feline.
The United States comes under a relentless siege from a formidable foe unlike any other. An enemy that’s risen from the ground up to overthrow the very soil Americans’ inhabit. Flashing proudly their red colors, this adversary will fight and destroy anyone in their path. The attack of the killer tomatoes will seek to end mankind and take over the world! As desperation sets in, top U.S. generals, under the aloof guidance of the President of the United States, assemble a motley crew of special ops that become America’s best hope against a vicious barrage from the killer fruit….or are they vegetables? Under the leadership of Mason Dixon, his team will infiltrate, investigate, and, if lucky, exterminate the rotten to the core tomatoes. From the glossy red cherries to the plump big boys, the round ripe killers are hungry from human pulp and only Dixon and his team can stop them!
Courtesy of the MVD’s Rewind Collection, a newly released line of retro cult cinema, comes the impeccably unsystematic comedic spoof “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!” for the first time on high definition Blu-ray! Writer-director John DeBello, along with his co-writers and fellow many hat wearing cohorts Costa Dillon and J. Stephen Peace, takes satire to the composter, lets it fester for a month, and releases a heaping pile of slapstick gold to the masses. The zany indie production, backed by various family members and local mom and pop retail operations, has been a horror comedy staple for past 40 years with not-so-cutting edge timeless humor that pokes a satirical finger at other more serious ventures such as Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” with the film opening with a message about viewers brushing-off jovially the Hitchcock subtle creature until the event actually happened with aggressive, unflinching fowls terrorizing a small town and in that context, a film about killer tomatoes was born. DeBello’s film aimed to poke fun at many other things as well and successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of critics who remarked how awful his film was to behold, but that was the director’s sought-to, goal line intention.
Out of a cast of untrained talents and actors and actresses who never saw the bright lights and prepped sets ever again, only one actor stands out as a recognizable face and household name and that face and name was of Jack Riley as a Government slug. I might be a sucker for classic re-runs, but I remember Riley from his stint on “The Bob Newhart Show” and his very presence in “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” legitimizes not on the film’s creditability but set the humor tone that was to be expected and despite almost being killed during filming as the rented helicopter accidentally crashes with him in it, the comedian rose from the ashes like a reborn phoenix and suggested to use crash footage to seemingly boost the pint-sized production value. However, it’s David Miller, who has zero interactions with Riley, in the lead role as a Mason Dixon. Though with an uncanny resemblance to the late funny man John Belushi with the wavy dark hair upon his short round figure, Miller goes fairly dark, as in quiet, for his leadership role as perhaps the only sane, and logical, character in the entire sequence of misfits. Dixon’s right hand Lt. Wilbur Finletter is played by co-writer, co-producer J. Stephen Pearce who courageously commits himself to doing all his own stunt work in a film that proudly wishes to just have a good time. Pearce’s approach to the lieutenant is with a sullied gung-ho persona that’s effective, but barely in the eyes of Mason Dixon. Dixon’s love interest Lois Fairchild, the only credited role of actress Sharon Taylor, inarguably is involved in an awkward game of being coy with Finletter as Fairchild, being a rookie reporter, aims to get the story at any cost while Finletter’s dimwit has him skate around her advances and oblivious to her information seeking intentions. Rounding out the cast is George Wilson, Eric Christmas (“Porky’s), Ernie Meyers, and Ron Shapiro.
Before “Scary Movie,” before “Naked Gun”, and even before “Airplane!,” “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” had tailored, if not probably pioneered, this particular gag humor and in today’s day-and-age of political correctness, films like John DeBello’s are much like the Dodo bird – extinct. In the mix of light hearted witticisms, a number of racial, sexist, and overall bad taste cracks lie sporadically about the 87 minute runtime that wouldn’t make past the MPAA standards of today, that would invoke public ridicule and outcry for the filmmakers’s heads, and would unjustly place on a blacklist mark all involved, but just like a many number of these cinematic relics, they’re grandfathered into the fold. Though I doubt many millennials have even heard of the killer tomato franchise which would be baffling since health conscious wackos would enjoy seeing genetically modified tomatoes run a rampage, proving their points.
“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” arrives on a special collectors edition Blu-ray/DVD combo set from MVD’s Rewind Collection. For the 1978 film, this release, presented in an AVC encoded 1080p 4k digital transfer of a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, is by far the best yet with a rich coloring range that pop and bring new life to the cult favorite. Hair line blemishes and some blotchy moments rear ugliness every so often, but the outcome of this release is astonishing when compared to previous DVD versions. The mono uncompressed PCM track reinforces a well rounded release when technically speaking. The dialogue is crystal clear and the musical numbers go off without a hitch. Perhaps, not as resonating as one would hope, but in the end, the mono track really sounds good here. Bonus features aplenty with audio commentaries from director John DeBello, J. Stephen Pearce, and Costa Dillon, three delete scenes, a collection of old interviews from cast and crew entitled Legacy of a Legend, a discussion on the helicopter crash, and “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” original 8mm short film plus much, much more. Roughly about two hours of bonus content on this release makes it certainly a definitive collection. It took only 40 years for “Attack of the Killer Tomaotoes” to receive the treatment the John DeBello directed creature feature rightfully deserves and though might stink like rotten organic matter, there’s certainly nothing like the splat-fest riot of rolling, death-dealing fruit fleshed with trail blazing comedy unlikely to be repeated in today’s uptight community.
Special effects technician Dom joins a small cast on the scenic outskirts of Pittsburgh to work on a horror film with wealthy director Lacey Bickel at the helm. Filmmaker Bickel’s indifferent passion about obtaining the perfect shot for his movie puts Bickel at odds with the other cast and crew, rendering Lacey just another irregular and peculiar director attempting to show the general public his ultimate vision, but during one particularly odd behavioral moment, Dom was subjected to the exhibition of a presumably snuff film possibly directed by Bicket during a coke-filled round table discussion. Dom begins to suspect that the movie he’s laboring over isn’t the sole objective of Bickel’s, but stays quiet about his instincts and he forms a romantic relationship with Celeste, a gaffer whose worked with Bickel prior to, and the two resume their work on the film despite the being the oblivious subjects of a real snuff film.
In 1978, the Godfather of the modern zombie film, the late great George Romero, had an inner circle of friends conjure up their own funding for an idealistic, ahead of it’s time horror film entitled “Effects” with then newcomers and Pittsburgh natives Dusty Nelson at the helm, John Harrison producing and starring as the offbeat Lacey Bickel, and post-“Effects” “Day of the Dead” and “The Dark Half” editor, Pasquale Buba, as the other producer. Filming had wrapped with tons of positive public review potential to be the next big horror film of it’s time being produced out of Pittsburgh, but a major distribution complication had put the kibosh on any theatrical and home release run, leaving “Effects” to be shelved for nearly thirty years until 2007 when Synapse released the film on DVD. The snag resonates soundly with the group of filmmakers who are probably more than acquainted with their friend and colleague George Romero’s “Night of the Living” and the copyright problem. However, the American Genre Film Archive, or AGFA, began a kickstarter funding campaign to buy a 4K scanner to remaster cult and underground titles to Blu-ray and “Effects” became one of the first selected!
“Day of the Dead” star Joe Pilato stars as special effects technician Dom and Dom is a far cry from being his future role of the sadistic and stir crazy Captain Rhodes. Pilato brings a lot of peace and tranquility to his mild mannered, if not very gullible, character. Along side Pilato is another fellow “Dead” series star, Tom Savini, as portraying not his trade of a special effects tech, but as a producer of sorts in the film. Off camera, Savini handles the gruesome special effects with a straight blade and gunshot sequences. In character, Savini doesn’t stray too far from his character on “Dawn of the Dead,” donning the black leather jacket and sporting a cocky-jerk attitude. Producer John Harrison also has a role as the callus director Lacey Bickel who bosses around his two surface actors “Life of Brian” actor Bernard Mckenna and a “Dead” series dead head zombie in two of Romero’s films, a Mrs. Debra Gordon. McKenna delivers question mark after question mark of a performance that Matthew Lillard, perhaps, imitates the best in Wes Craven’s “Scream” whereas Gordon just provides a straightforward background performance with her scene with Lacey conversing over the idea of stress releasing sex being one of the more intense moments of the movie. Susan Chapek, Charles Hoyes, and Blay Bahnsen complete the cast.
Despite the modest budget, Nelson and his team construct monumental frightening moments. When Dom, Lacey, Lobo, and Barney converse around a mirror laced with coke, Lacey wants to show Dom a film after their sharing their opinions on what the general public will or will not pay to see. The actors’ faces and reactions as the snuff film rolls is on the brink of teeth clenching madness. The catalytic moment bombards questions internally into the group of presumably professional people and starts the separation between whose really in control of their fates. “Effects” is a movie within a movie and a deception within a deception where the characters have more than one role and pinpointing their specific purpose is difficult to land that Nelson’s film will have your head spinning with guesses. A fierce and boldly ambitious film from a scrappy Pittsburgh crew of talented filmmakers taking a risk with an intricate plotted thriller.
AGFA and MVDVisual present Dusty Nelson’s “Effects” for the first time on a region free Blu-ray. The 1980 thriller has been scanned and restored in 4K from the only existent copy of the 35mm negatives and delivered the original aspect ratio, an anamorphic widescreen 1.85:1. The image quality is better, but only slight above the Synapse DVD that sourced from 16mm negative and still maintains a healthy dose of noised induced and film grain and print damage. The color palette has a dullish grey-brown combination fairly noticeable to the naked eye. The English DTS-HD dual channel audio has hints of a hiss and faint crackle in more scene intense segments, but relatively clean and clear inside a limited range. Extras included are an updated version of Synapse’s retrospective documentary entitled “After Effects” that brings a stingy melancholy when seeing George Romero converse with his friends. There are also two short films by John Harrison, an archival commentary track, and liner notes by AGFA’s Joseph Ziemba. Plus, the AGFA Blu-ray has a snazzy illustrated cover, with reverse cover art, encasement. “Effects” glorifies snuff film with ample attention to detail and precision that only this Pittsburgh all-star team of filmmakers could produce on a limited budget and AGFA, alongside MVDVisual, amplify their efforts by a hundredfold with a remastered transfer withstanding straight razor home movies, a bombastic car explosion, and cloak and dagger guerilla filmmaking that’ll have you second guessing if the effects are only movie magic or not?