Creepy. Kooky. Mysterious. Spooky. All Together EVIL! “The Addams Family 2” reviewed (MGM and United Artists Releasing / Digital Screener)

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Morticia and Gomez Addams have lived dangerously head on for all their grotesque lives and loving every second to the fullest with their strange family.  Nothing scares the macabre mother and father of Wednesday and Pugsley until their children begin to display the adversarial and angsty signs of growing up, creating a distancing wedge between them.  As Morticia and Gomez are missing the hideous and fright-filled family time once shared morosely and adventurously between them and the children, a zany road trip is planned across the deepest, darkest parts of the country to rekindle again that kooky Addams family bond, but when the threat of possibility that Wednesday may not truly be an Addams comes to light, Morticia, Gomez, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Thing, and even hairy cousin IT, will do anything, kill anyone, to prove Wednesday is a full-blooded Addams.

For over 80 years, Charles Addams’ creepy-crawly and spookily quirky family has been entertaining the masses with their avidity for danger and the deranged.  Now, one of America’s favorite bizarre families is back on the big screen with the animated sequel, “The Addams Family 2.”  Returning directors Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon delivered an origin story in 2019 that developed the who and how the demented Addams came to be one as one of the most lavishly and lovable lamentable families we all grew up with in popular culture.  The Canadian-American filmmaking twosome take the Addams’s on a road trip into a whole new direction with a standalone story separate from the first’s that revolved around inclusion and not judging a book by its cover.  “The Addams Family 2” is a production of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Cinesite Animation and presented by BRON Creative, a Jackal Group/Glickmania production, with Conrad Vernon, Gail Berman, Jason Cloth, Aaron L. Gilbert, Kevin Miserocchi, Andrew Mittman, Alison O’Brien, and Danielle Sterling return as producers and executive producers. 

The sequel reteams the loaned voice talents of “Dune’s” Oscar Isaac as Gomez, “Prometheus’s” Charlize Theron as Morticia, “Suspiria’s” Chloë Grace Moretz as Wednesday, “Big Mouth’s” Nick Kroll as Uncle Fester, and “Hocus Pocus’s Bette Midler as Grandma, picking up almost entirely where they left from the first film, voicing the core characters with twisted, haphazardly happy soul that keeps aligned the original concept with room for originality.  Hip-Hop and gangsta rapper Snoop Dogg also returns as the manipulated high-pitched voice of Cousin IT and lending his more vocational vocals on a couple original songs for the soundtrack, including “It Ain’t Nothin’.”  However, one original film voice doesn’t make an encore.  “Stranger Things” and the upcoming “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” star Finn Wolfhard is replaced by feature film newcomer Javon “Wanna” Walton as Pugsley Addams due to, supposedly, Wolfhard’s pubescent changes in his voice.  To circumvent an obviously different sounding Pugsley, Tiernan and Vernon reduces Pugsley amount of dialogue to nearly zilch with only an exclamation or two as Pugsley becomes more of the running gag, punching bag trope for Wednesday’s diversely ingenious methods to off a die hard Pugsley.  Also new is Wallace Shawn (“The Princess Bride”), who always manages to be typecast in animation as a pygmy, shrewd character – see “Incredibles,” “Toy Story,” and “Happily N’Ever After” for reference – playing a hired hand to “It’s” Bill Hader, who comes aboard as chief antagonist, Cyrus, with a master plan to make a lot of money off Wednesday’s unmatched smarts. 

Cinesite’s animation continues to be a tribute to Charles Addams’s original comic strip characters in appearance and keeping the action cutting edge with a variety of textures and fluorescent lighting to sustain a tightly spooky, yet still toon like, veneer without being chunky or plastic in appearance.  Frequent collaborators Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit are joined by “Cars’” screenwriter Ben Queen and “The Spy Who Dumped Me’s” Susanna Fogel with a script that hones in on the mad dash, madcap hallmarks of sword fighting, axe-throwing, flame shooting, and monster brawling that makes the Addams family THE Addams family.  The script keeps the action moving as the family traverses across the nation, evading Cyrus’s dissimilar henchmen, while the two Addams children find their place in pre-adolescence with Wednesday battles alienation and Pugsley attempts at wooing the opposite sex, but absent from the script is landed comedy.  Chock-full with slapstick humor, many of the jokes will go over the head of PG youngsters who won’t understanding Pugsley wanting dating advise from a Cousin It’s pimp-like status or the overabundant morbid humor that crosses the line, even for the Addams, with a Donner Party joke and one of the characters actually being killed off by Wednesday.  Considering the PG rating, the two latter bits really stick in the mind of an adult with children.  Also, the script honestly lacks something else, an important staple in Addams grim culture that can be challenging to apprehend if not present, and that is the Addams’s house.  Family and house are separated for nearly the entire duration, leaving the diabolical funhouse as an omitted character lost to the whims of Grandma’s large house party which is scarcely and sorely revisited.  Instead, Thing, who has an eyeball on the wrist by the way (never knew Thing had any sort of optics), and Uncle Fester, with a side-story of him metamorphizing into an octopus as a result Wednesday’s story-opening grandiose (mad) science fair project, drive an ostentatious camper that pales in comparison as the house substitute.

Hitting U.S. theaters nationwide today, October 1st, “The Addams Family 2” is a solid kickstart to the beginning of the Halloween season as a United Artists and MGM distributed release.  The sequel will also be available to rent through the following platforms:  Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, YouTube, Vudu, DirectTV, Spectrum, Xfinity, and among other digital outlets and pay TV operators.  Aforementioned, the 93 minute, animated feature is rated PG for macabre and rude humor, violence and language with much of the more grave content flying over children’s heads.  Trust me, my 7-year-old and 4-year-old either didn’t understand the references or didn’t catch the intent.   Seeing the kooky antics of the Addams family back in the spotlight keeps the lovable ghoulish characters alive for generations to come, but with “The Addams Family 2” borders being insipid with a trying-to-impress out of the box and unconventional Addams road trip narrative that nearly creates the unthinkable to happen – making the adventurous Addams family a dull bunch.

The Crossover EVIL Has Been Fearing! “Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog reviewed! (Warner Bros / DVD)



“Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.”

A sub-frequency sound sends Scooby-Doo into a crazed and booty shaking fit.  So much so, Scooby runs away from the mystery solving gang and straight into the quaint, bizarre rural town of Nowhere, Kansas where he bumps into another canine, Courage, whose experiencing the same soundx and sensations.  When a plague of monstrous cicadas dig from out of the earth, Scooby and his friends, plus Courage and his lovable human Muriel and grouchy old farmer Eustace, must understand the copious amounts of the longstanding strange and unusual happenings in Nowhere to solve the mystery of the giant cicada attack that goes deeper into Nowhere’s roots…literally.  The two dogs have to peel off their scaredy cat shells and face fear head on while chowing down some of Nowhere’s delightful delicacies!

Finally!  The two most famous, fright-filled dogs make their cinematic crossover debut in “Straight Outta Nowhere:  Scooby-Doo!  Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” that brings the terror tenfold to toon town!  Under the supervision of the serial animation director, Cecilia Aranovic, who helmed two previous Scooby-Doo installments, “Scooby-Doo! And the Curse of the 13th Ghost” and “Scooby-Doo:  Return to Zombie Island,” and tackled the action-packaged animation of “DC Super Hero Girls,” finds herself tackling a short-lived, Cartoon Network created cult fan favorite, “Courage the Cowardly Dog.”  Returning to the Scooby-Doo universe is the televised “Mystery Incorporated’s” writer and editor Michael Ryan penning a script with Courage the Cowardly Dog and creative mastermind of John Dilworth in mind to maximize all the grandstanding personalities faithfully.  Both lovable and yellow-bellied pooches are produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, who do more crossovers of their cartoons characters than NBA’s Tim Hardaway, and are joined by Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network studios. 

“Straight Outta Nowhere” reteams the “Mystery Incorporated” voice cast of Frank Welker as Fred Jones and Scooby-Doo, Grey Griffin as Daphne Blake, and “Scream’s” Matthew Lillard as Shaggy Rogers.  The revamped “Ducktales’” Kate Micucci replaces Mindy Cohn as the voice of Velma Dinkley with an apt Velma impression that easily transitions without discording the mystery solvers.  Courage voice actor Marty Grabstein reprises his quirky exclaiming hound whose full of heart and also returning Thea White stepping into the boots of Muriel, one-half of Courage’s owners.  Sadly, like original voice actor for Eustace, the late Lionel Wilson, who passed away shortly after the original show’s discontinuance, Thea White also passed away but the sting of her death was more poignant as White past July at the age of 81 and this crossover is presented in White’s memory.  Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck funnyman Jeff Bergman voices the grouchy and sarcastic Eustace without missing a beat and with about as much cynicism as his predecessors even when unloading a boatload of scares with his giant and unsightly boogey-boogey mask!  A Eustace classic! To preface my character opinion, this movie is obvious about the Scooby and Courage spellbinding the little viewers about location gumption in themselves to face their fears when it matters, but Scooby and Courage’s friends and family provide pivotal, building black support that should render each mystery solver and podunk rural-ite as a mini-lead within the story. That’s not the case inside this crossover that lacks specifics with certain characters, such as the straightforward Fred, Daphne, and Velma who instantly fall way behind without much dialogue or screen time in favor of the more caricatured Muriel, Eustace, and Shaggy. Eustace even gets his own rap music video. Some minor characters from Courage’s past return to scheme and terrorize with the voice work rounded out by Jeff Bennett (“Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood”), Chuck Montgomery, and Paul Schoeffler.

Who would have thought it? Scooby-Doo has been a staple of Saturday morning cartoons, television specials, spinoff movies, holiday events, and has been reimagined animatedly and in live-action since 1969. And Courage the Cowardly Dog? Well, Courage ran on Cartoon Network from 1999 to 2002 with little specials here and there in between, but virtually radio silent when compared to his over 50 year-old co-star. Yet, did you know, the 2021 film isn’t the first time these two hounds crossed paths? That’s right, Scooby and Courage (along with Shaggy, Mureil, and Eustace) were first seen in a brief Cartoon Network promo together that you current see on Youtube – search “Scooby and Courage Cartoon Olio.” To be honest, I had assumed Scooby-Doo, who has spanned over multiple generations, is practically known worldwide in every household, and has been an invaluable money-making machine for Warner Bros., would tip the crossover screen time into the animated Great Dane’s favor, but in a pleasant surprise, a good chunk and crucial portions of the story revolves around Courage and his immediacy characters who are brought to the forefront with Scooby and the gang clearly taking a backseat to the smaller, lesser known pup.  Even the animation sides more with Courage, preserving within a smoother veneer the intrinsically warped details familiar to the show, as seen with Eustace’s Courage-scaring mask or Courage’s fluid scared reactions, and we can be honest with ourselves that although Scooby works in Courage’s surrealistic macabre world, the Dane and his gang have been rendered countless times in many different animation styles throughout the last five decades.  Enigmatically familiar to one of the mysteries Scooby and his gang dive right into, the tale fashions a composite of two different protagonist dynamics to expose who or whom are behind the giant cicada attack and the hypnosis causing ruckus; however, like the original episodes of the early 2000s, Muriel and Eustace are present just for the ride as Muriel stumps a self-frustrated Velma with elementary riddles and Eustace mouths off like an old kook without as much as a care in the world around them or what’s happened in their own backyard of Nowhere. 

Witty, zany, and all of the above with a nostalgia high, “Straight Outta Nowhere:  Scooby-Doo!  Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” will delight fans of both series with the hope for more team-ups in the future.  Warner Bros. Animation will release the film on DVD come Tuesday, September 14th with a G rating approved for all audiences and with a runtime of 78 minutes. The disc’s animation picture quality is about as animated and as lively in it’s vibrancy as the characters with no real cause for format concern as aside from a cleaner, more robust color palette, the colors translate nearly indistinguishably from it’s 1080, HD counterpart as the colors do saturate nicely, leaving little room for a potential washed or dull veneer. The English (and dog gibberish) language Dolby digital 5.1 surround sound mix boosts an energetic and immersive output with nonstop creature effects, explosions, laser zaps, etc. All the creepy ambience and score that make “Courage the Cowardly Dog” spookily alluring is right here on this DVD, filling out the channels with dichotic range and space with the depth. Screams take centerstage as the keystones to ever scary flick to maximize the intended feeling of fear and, in this case, laughter. One of the more disappointing aspects of the release is the special features and while three episodes, seemingly randomized picks – Scooby-Doo! Where Are You!’s – “Decoy for a Dognapper” and The Scooby-Doo/Dynomutt Hour’s – “The Gruesome Game of the Gator Ghoul” and “Chiller Diller Movie Thriller,” is a blast from the past and a bit of nostalgia watching reruns as a kid, I really wished there were interviews with the voice cast, especially Marty Grabstein, Thea White, and Courage creator John Dilworth to laud the show and let the fans their appreciate for the little guy…meaning Courage. “Straight Outta Nowhere:  Scooby-Doo!  Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” wins on many levels: Courage the Cowardly Dog is back, Matthew Lillard is Shaggy once again, and the most petrified pooches in all of animation land bring two generations of people together for the whole family to enjoy their staple idiosyncratic gags and colorful personalities.

A Must Own “Scooby-Doo Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog” on DVD!

Time Travel to Stop EVIL via Astral Projection: Part II! “Mandao Returns” reviewed! (Indie Rights / Digital Screener)

With his powerful ability to astral project, along with the help of a motley entourage of friends and family, Jay Mandao saved multiple lives, some who are close to him, from his blood thirsty ex-girlfriend on Halloween night.  Two months later, days before Christmas, and now living in the scheming medium Cousin Andy’s townhome after his unrelated cousin Jackson set fire to his apartment, Mandao and Jackson float through life, sleeping in Cousin Andy’s living room and barely off the royalties of Mandoa’s father breakfast cereal line.   Dreams of his father, Raymond Mandoa, urging him to stop astral projecting as dark entities will discover him are reluctantly ignored when Cousin Andy connives a get-rich-quick opportunity to contact the recently deceased Aura Garcia, a well-known B-movie actress having died a few nights ago after a drug overdose, but as soon as the spiritual and time planes are disturbed, sinister plans of murder, from the living and the dead, deck the halls with a blood red Christmas.  

Mandao is back!  Or rather returns in a new scouring the astral plane misadventure entitled “Mandao Returns.”  When we last reviewed the Scott Dunn 2019 comedy-horror sleeper hit, “Mandao of the Dead,” an open ending left us salivating with a possible sequel under, what we know now to be a working title, “Mandao of the Damned” that promised exploring the nonphysical and paranormal realm’s mysteries and secrets that threatened Jay Mandao’s whole grain boxed-in existence, at least according to Mandao’s father, Raymond with a foreboding sign of inexplicable things to come.  The Kickstarter.com, crowdfunded modern cult favorite raised more than $26,000, doubling the first film’s budget, from approx. 250+ generous likeminded supporters within two weeks time that brought back four core characters essential to “Mandao of the Dead’s” grim, but lighthearted success to battle half-cocked the supernatural forces of evil.  Instead of a blood drinking cultist, a by-midnight death ceremony concretes stardom and greatness, but not if Jay Mandao has something to say about it.  “Mandao Returns” is a production of Scott Dunn’s Dunnit Films and distributed by Indie Rights.

Returning, obviously as stated in the title, to ensure the safety and well-being of those who incessantly annoy yet deep down care for him on a daily level is the hapless Jay Mandao, the titular hero played by writer, director, and story creator, Scott Dunn, along with Dunn’s wife, Gina Gomez Dunn, who steps back into a co-producer role for the sequel as well as stepping back into the shrewdly wild shoes of Fer, a close but no cigar Mandao love interest continuing to become mixed up in Mandao’s spiritual shenanigans while being a private driver for the Uber-equivalent Bum Rides.  Though blood is thicker than water, Mandao’s cousin-by-marriage Jackson oozes with dense innocence as Sean McBride reprises the daft role to another perfect tune of witless naivety.  Together, Mandao and Jackson arouse a likeable dynamic duo that becomes the keystone to both films’ success because without McBride’s timely childlike disposition, Mandao would just be a snippy and angsty loner and without Dunn’s subtly serious tone, Jackson would overrun the comedy-horror with one-sided gullibility.  With any sequel aiming to top its predecessor, the buddy comedy needed to be bigger and by adding the fourth returning character, Cousin Andy, as an important ingredient to the mix, Sean Liang adds a grounding hoodwinking conspirator that thrusts Mandao and Jackson into action on the astral plane field when the no-good antagonist, Aura Garcia, played by newcomer Jenny Lorenzo, becomes scorned in the spiritual world and takes heinous vengeance that not only involves Mandao, Cousin Andy, Jackson, and Fer, but also Garcia’s talent manager, Ted (Jim O’Doherty), in a sacrificial ritual gone terribly wrong. 

“Mandao Returns” is a smartly written script from creator Scott Dunn whose able to mold fallibly fascinating characters into unlikely heroes juxtaposed against a monumental occurrence much greater than themselves with the vast possibilities in the spacetime continuum.  Of course, the cinema flair to decorate the otherworldly dimensions with accessible ease and gloomy aesthetics faces speculation of existential questions of mindpower and life after death and the challenges the mechanics of the theory of metaphysics, but all that abstract mumbo-jumbo is pushed aside in order to make the “Mandao” films entertaining and for a good reason because when the script has colorful characters and a working narrative, “Mandao Returns” allows audiences to turn off rationality for approx. 71 minutes to enjoy a modestly produced Sci-fi comedy-thriller with a cast accurately in sync with each other’s methods.  The one thing I will say about “Mandao Returns” that I found to be a sore spot, despite still immensely enjoying, is that the story echoes eerily to “Mandao of the Dead.”  With a slight tweak to Mandao’s astral projection powers and trading in a different breed of villain, from point A to point B, from dynamics to outcome, everything seemed nearly identical to “Mandao of the Dead’s” narrative, delivering nothing distinctively new to the table to elevate the character’s fate and circumstances into unique, un-before-seen horizons.  Dunn comes close to challenging and upgrading the prior narrative by hinting something lurking within the spirit world was on the verge of closing in on Jay Mandao if he continues blindly using astral projection by the forewarning words of his father, Raymond Mandao, but slips out of that digressional stream to pit Mandao versus greenhorn cult acolytes looking for glam and glory by way of the gory and that, done in the Dunnit Films’ essence, is okay too.

As a quirky, out-of-body sci-fi thriller experience, “Mandao Returns” succeeds in succeeding as the sequel that brings the thrills and the laughter of far-fetched heroes ready to tear into the fabric of time to stop evil once again. The film comes to you from distributor Indie Rights and is available now streaming only on Amazon Prime so get your pandemic pants on aka comfy, stretchy pants, grab some movie style popcorn, and recline back to watch “Mandao Returns.” Experience the vibrant and wraithy-visioned glow cinematography of A.J. Young, returning from “Mandao of the Dead” as well as Dunn’s first film “Schlep” and another camping trip horror film, “Camp 139.” Young stays true to the films atmospherics with hard lighting a variety of hues and creating a story through the presence of shadows, working movie magic creating an opulent visual experience when really only working with about 25 grand. There were no bonus features nor extended credit scenes with this digital screener. One day, I’d like to see Scott Dunn and his Dunnit Films team work with a good chunk of budget cash and push the limits beyond the simplicities of the “Mandao” films, but until then, “Mandao Returns’ is disseminated with a whimsical awareness and fervent macabre that’s intent to please.

Watch “Mandao Returns” on Prime Video. Click the Poster!

A Disciple of EVIL! “The Brides of Dracula” reviewed! (Scream Factory / Blu-ray)

Marianne Danielle travels alone on the mucky and fog-riddled roads of Transylvania, traversing from France to be a student-teacher at a prestigious dance school for girls. When her coachmen departs without warning, leaving her stranded at a village inn, the Baroness Meister extends an invitation for Marianne to stay with her an the illustrious manor house, but the sign of compassionate hospitality turns into a near deadly encounter as Marianne discovers the Baroness’ son, the Baron Meister, chained against his will in an isolated room. As Marianne is tricked into removing his shackle, she unwittingly releases a conniving vampire into the surrounding village who prays on young women, but, nearby, Dr. Van Helsing has been summoned the Transylvania countryside by the local priest to hunt down the disciples of Dracula, the most powerful vampire Van Helsing had fought and prevailed. In order for the vampire plague to not spread like a virus, Van Helsing will stop at nothing from slaying the Baron Meister to stop the metastasizing of Dracula’s curse against mankind.

Let’s take a step back into time, 1960 to be exact, when Hammer Horror brought a flair for the dramatic to iconic monsters, lush with not only vibrant color schemes, but also in elaborate production designs that scaled the imagination while evoking fear of Satan’s most prolific profaner, the vampire, in Terence Fisher’s “The Brides of Dracula.” The sequel to “Horror of Dracula,” starring Christopher Lee as the titular character, staked vitality two years after the first film’s success and sought to return Peter Cushing back into the good doctor’s shoes once again to battle evil. Shot on lot at Bray Studios and with the grand house exteriors of the nearby Oak Court, “The Brides of Dracula” had greatly masqueraded the elegance and sophistication of the gothic design, bringing settings to life with monumental attention to detail. Before the shooting draft was ready, the script saw numerous rewrites which caused the narrative to fall into numerous hands and, so, the script is built on an overlapping composition of writers, such as Jimmy Sangster (“Horror of Dracula”), Peter Bryan (“The Plague of the Zombies”), Anthony Hinds (“The Curse of the Werewolf”), and Edward Percy. Hinds financed the film under Hammer Film Productions in association with Universal International.

In stark contrast to Christopher Lee’s dark veneer that ennobled Dracula’s arcane and evil presence, David Peel brought a different kind of vampire stemmed off of Lee’s main bole as a disciple of the Prince of Darkness turned because of the Baron Meister’s uninhibited living the life of Riley. With blonde hair and a lighter complexion, Baron Meister became something of a pretty boy vampire that definitely propelled Peel into something of a sex symbol after the film’s initial release. While Peel’s terrific performance goes without wane, Baron Meister sticks out like a sore thumb with the lighter hair color and babyface dermis. The Meister is hunted down by the one and only legendary vampire hunter, Dr. Van Helsing, from Bram Stoker’s novel. Peter Cushing revives his performance from “Horror of Dracula” with a another meticulous and defining act that epitomizes the character’s nature as a knowledgeable and dignified combatant against the dark arts. Cushing versus Lee is the epic King Kong versus Godzilla faceoff that doesn’t leave much room for David Peel in a fight that’s more like King Kong versus King Koopa. The leading role went to French actress Yvonne Monlaur who, at the time, spoke really good English with a thick accent. The “Circus of Horrors'” Monlaur added beauty and innocence being ruthlessly taken advantage of as the hapless Marianne Danielle. With striking red hair and definitely a sex symbol, Monlaur was paraded as one of Hammer Horror’s finest leading ladies to ever grace their terrorizing tenure in genre. “The Brides of Dracula” has a supporting cast like none other with performances from Martita Hunt as the Baroness Meister, Freda Jackson as Baron Meister’s Renfield-like caretaker, Andree Melly as Marianne’s colleague, Gina, Miles Malleson as a greedy blowhard physician, and Mona Washbourne and Fred Johnson as the dance school’s proprietors.

“The Brides of Dracula” has lush, expensive looking production designs from Bernard Robinson that delicately acknowledge a 19th century coach and buggy society and creates a gothic tincture to brood in the bat-flying, eye-catching, blond-haired vampire sinking his canine’s into the untarnished flesh of young women. Yet, Fisher’s follow-up doesn’t add anything to the vampire etymology nor does it tack onto the mythos and, instead, clings barely to a compelling good versus evil narrative closely suited more toward one of the working titles, Disciple of Dracula. “The Brides of Dracula” bewilders as a final title that not once broaches the women stalked by the bloodsucker who seems to attack the random village virginals and, also, barely references Dracula, whom the harem of titular vampires are not at the crook of his pale elbow, but the now 60-year-old film, which I can still remember seeing on television back 30-year-ago, remains as one of the most memorable Hammer productions. Was it because of the enriched looking, old-fashion look? I’d say yes. Was it because of the soap opera designed performances that lavished in melodrama? I’d say yes. Was it because of the undertones of lesbianism, rape, and other taboo-esque themes? I’d say it was all of the above that drove “The Brides of Dracula” in not only being an opening day success but also encapsulating the legacy of Hammer Horror.

“The Brides of Dracula” is the unholy, unceremonious matrimony from hell and has come far from its run on the television with a new high definition Blu-ray collectors edition from Scream Factory, the horror sublabel of Shout Factory! Presented in two formats, a widescreen 1.85:1 and standard 1.66:1, the Blu-ray sustains the deluxe technicolor through the high-res, 1080p, video image that went through a new 2k scan from the interpositive master and absolutely appeals to the visual cortexes with an extensive color palette and very miniscule film imperfections from a super preserved 35mm stock. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio mono track is a resounding success with a grand big band score from debuting composer Malcolm Williams that juxtaposes significantly with the dialogue to only be a support device rather than be a main stage act. With many Scream Factory releases, “The Brides of Dracula” comes with exclusive and previously recorded special features included a new audio commentary with film historian Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr, a making-of the film that includes a graveyard introduction goes into interviews with the late Yvonne Monlaur, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, assistant director Hugh Harlow, continuity supervisor Pauline Harlow, art director Don Mingaye, model maker Margaret Robinson, and producer Anthony Hinds, and rounds out with a still gallery and theatrical trailer. The Blu-ray is sheathed in a cardboard slipcover with a cover illustration by Mark Maddox and inside is a reversible front cover. Irrefutably a classic, despite some quirks, “The Brides of Dracula” is vintage vampire stock, a pedigree of it’s time, of hallmarking the classical villain in a different, blonder light.

Own the collector’s edition of “The Brides of Dracula” on Blu-ray!

Burt Gummer Neutralizes EVIL Graboids in “Tremors: Shrieker Island” reviewed! (Universal 1440 Entertainment / Digital Screener)

A wildlife preservation maintains categorizing and tracking of native elephants, but when one of the company’s philanthropist turns his private island, just across the water from the preservation campsite, into a game reserve for apex predators, nothing will stop him from wagering the thrill of the hunt on expensive, top-of-the-line game.  That is until the graboids he’s illegally bred and genetically modified starts to hunt the wealthy trophy gamers back, especially when the Precambrian lifeforms metamorphize into the fast-spawning shriekers.  With an island full of graboids and shriekers that contributed to already one death, graboid expert and arms enthusiast-survivalist, Burt Gummer, is tracked down and brought out of retirement to once again battle his longtime killing machine adversary.  With no munition weapons, an obstinate playboy’s maniacal urge to hunt the fierce predator, and the most powerful of the graboids bred on the island able to wriggle underneath the sea floor between land masses, Gummer and a team of preservationists must band together to stop the graboids from being an invasive and unstoppable species. 

From an icy Canadian landscape in “Tremors:  A Cold Day in Hell” to the tropical beaches of Thailand, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” is the seventh feature film in the Tremor’s 30-year franchise.  Heading straight to video on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital, including Streaming and VOD platforms come this October 2020, the subterranean monster action-comedy is steered by serial sequel director Don Michael Paul, who directed the last two “Tremors” installments, off a Paul script co-written with Brian Brightly that set sights on expanding the graboid footprint even farther East and surrounded by the seas of Thailand, further more distancing itself from the dust bowls of Perfection, Nevada and Mexico into new and unexplored terror-itories.  Universal Pictures’ off-shoot subsidiary banner, Universal 1440 Entertainment, and Living Films serves as the presiding production companies. 

 

The smart-mouth, quick-wit, arms-toting Burt Gummer has become, dare I say it, the Ash Williams of the Tremors’ franchise as a perpetually dragged back hero into monstrous circumstances to battle graboids and their offspring on land, air, and in the pits of hell of the innate underground habitat.  Aside from Bruce Campbell, there are not too many heroes in a genre that usually has a villainous backbone and so Michael Gross is the longest lasting reoccurring actor, spanning now 30-years, to return as an original hero who first encountered and killed the bastard creature who “broke into the wrong God damn rec room” in Perfection, Nevada.  Gross, now gray with a few more wrinkles sporting his iconic Gummer mustache, fits into the military-esque attire under his ball cap to square off alongside a ragtag team of unprepared, unqualified, and novice graboid hunters in Jon Heder (“Napoleon Dynamite”), Jackie Cruz (“Orange is the New Black”), Caroline Langrishe, and Richard Brake (“31”).  Heder fills in for the Jamie Kennedy role of Burt Gummer’s son, Travis, from the two previous installments and though Travis is mentioned briefly, the character’s presence is extended through Caroline Langrishe as Travis’s mother and preservation camp leader.  Heder and Langrishe complete that entangled trio that has been a trope present in nearly all the Tremor Films, starting with Val McKee, Earl Basset, and Rhona LeBeck, battling side-by-side to overcome the odds.  Cruz and Brake offer a serious side dish of badass on a polar opposite spectrum.  Jackie Cruz as Freddie, an entrenched team member of elephant tracking, is the Latina MacGuyer and is a weapon in herself that only someone like Burt Gummer would fully appreciate while Richard Brake, with his trademark sinister smile as obsessed game hunter Bill, relishes the role, pulling a watered down, PG-13 version of his typical bad guy motif from the more violent-venomous Rob Zombie films.  However, a minority of characters fall through character development cracks, such as Anna played by the up and coming Cassie Clare (“Death Race 4:  Beyond Anarchy”).  The archery expert Clare is a pertinent show off with a bow and arrow and is Bill’s right hand, but the Anna, under Cassie’s muscular thin frame and ironclad persona direction, has an inclined built up that goes to naught as she’s snubbed-shoved to a lesser role without having a significant impact in the latter half.   The reverse can said for Heder’s Jimmy character with first impressions of a top class scientist with lower class ambitions; yet, in an instant, Jimmy becomes a battle-worn graboid and shrieker killer while more experienced hunters, especially one wielding a mini gun, have less of a handle on the situation. 

While it’s neat and cool and nostalgic to see graboids and Burt Gummer back in action, much like the disconnect with lopsided arch able characters left to be graboid-fodder, “Tremors:  Shrieker Island” falls short of earlier predecessors, replacing personal filmmaking style over story substance.  For one, graboids just haven’t been the same since going from practical applications to computer imagery since “Bloodlines” on that has radically evolved the creatures from a less-is-more model to a complete overhaul of their veneer, resembling the dark and slimy man-eating tentacles of “Deep Rising,” and as well an overhaul of the creature mechanics that lead graboids to leap out of the ground and into the air like a flying fish, spiraling and twisting back into their dirt environment.   The graboid burrowing irks me as well as the ground explodes 10-15 feet up into the air in a blatant uses of detonating charges by the effects team to create the earthworm moving effect instead of just a perpetual hump and collapse of the ground that’s more of a menacing effect. Nuances run amok, causing subtle points of frustration in how Paul’s direction is really more a passive glance than a serious absorption of the franchise. Meandering people on the ground when they fully well know graboids are attracted by movement, half the film scaled back to slow motion to accentuate big money explosions, and the mother of all graboids able to target Burt Gummer for a mano on monstro showdown are just more examples of the charmless details in, what is, a palpable comedy with Earth dwelling monsters. “Tremors: Shrieker Island” is the equivalent of “Jaws: The Revenge;” the story may not make sense, but watching gigantic monsters cause mortal destruction is pure creature feature bliss.

What may be Burt Gummer’s last ride (or so they said in the last film), “Tremors: Shrieker Island” tunnels onto Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD come October 20th, 2020 and soon to be streaming on Netflix shortly after. The BD50 Blu-ray will feature an anamorphic widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, with an English language DTIS-HD Master Audio 5.1 while the DVD9 is presented in a widescreen 16:9 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix. Both formats will include optional English Dolby Digital 2.0 as well as a dubbed French, and Spanish DTIS Digital Surround 5.1 with a slew of option subtitles: English SDH, French Canadian, French European, and Latin American Spanish. Since the film was reviewed on a digital screener, the A/V aspects will not be critiqued. The exclusive bonus features listed on all physical and VOD include a Burt Gummer narrated “The Monster of Tremors” that gives you everything you need know about the diabolical monsters, “Tremors Top 30 Moments” that hone in on 30 years worth of scenes that provide laughs, Burtisms, and some of the most gory moments in graboid history, and, lastly, “The Legend of the Burt Gummer” that focuses on the iconic graboid hunter character told by his persona creator himself, Michael Gross. Richard Brake, once again, nails the villain, Jackie Cruz stuns as a resourceful Gummer-ite, and Michael Gross fleshes out one more commando swashbuckling Burt Gummer in the zany seventh installment of the unstoppable “Tremors” franchise.

Pre-order Tremors: Shrieker Island on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital!