Third year medical student Dan Cain is on the verge of graduating from the New England Miskatonic University Medical School. That is until Dr. Herbert West walks into his life. Learning all he can from neurologist Dr. Hans Gruber in Zurich, Switzerland, West eagerly enrolls as a student at Miskatonic to viciously dismantle, what he believes, is a garbage postmortem brain functionality theory of the school’s grant piggybank Dr. Carl Hill while West also works on his own off the books after death experiments with his formulated reagent serum. West takes up Cain’s apartment for rent offer and involves Cain in a series of experiments that lead to reviving the old and the fresh dead. The only side effects of revitalizing dead tissue is the unquenchable rage and chaos that urges the recently revived to rip everything to shreds. Things also get complicated and people begin to die and then revive when West and Cain’s work becomes the obsessive target of Dr. Hill, whom discovers the truth and plans to steal West’s work, claiming the reagent serum as his own handiwork while also attempting to win the affection of Dr. Cain’s fiancee and Miskatonic’s Dean Halsey daughter, Megan Halsey, in the most undead way.
A vast amount of time has passed since the last time I’ve injected myself with the “Re-Animator” films and I can tell you this, my rejuvenation was sorely and regrettably way overdue. Stuart Gordon’s impeccable horror-comedy, “The Re-Animator,” is the extolled bastardized version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein without direct references and begins the ghastliness right from the initial opening prologue and never wanes through a fast-paced narrative of character thematic insanity and self-destructing arrogance with hapless do-gooders caught in the middle of undead mayhem. Producer Brian Yuzna financially backs Charles Band’s Empire International Pictures distributed 1985 film that’s based loosely off the H.P. Lovecraft 1922 novelette “Herbert West-Reanimator.” From a bygone novelette to an instant cult favorite amongst critics and fans, “Re-Animator” glows vibrantly like it’s reagent serum embodied with reality-buckling entertainment and grisly havoc displayed through the silver screen adapted form. Umbrella Entertainment has released a two-disc collector’s set, the first volume on their Beyond Genres label of cult favorites, and this release, with various versions, will include the allusive 106 minute integral cut!
From his first moments on screen holding a syringe to over three decades of pop-culture films, comics, and social media presence, nobody other actor other than Jeffrey Combs could be envisioned to be the insatiable Dr. Herbert West. Combs is so compact with an explosive vitality that his character goes beyond being a likable derivative of a Machiavellian anti-hero. Narrowing, dagger-like eyes through thick glasses on-top of small stature and a cruel intent about him makes Combs an established horror icon unlike any other mad doctor we’ve ever seen before. Bruce Abbot costars as Dr. Dan Cain, a good natured physician with a penchant of not giving up on life, but that’s where he’s trouble ensnares him with Dr. West’s overcoming death obsession. Abbott’s physically towers over Combs, but his performance of Cain is softly acute to West’s hard nose antics. Abbott plays on the side of caution as his character has much to lose from career to fiancée, whose played by Barbara Crampton. “Re-Animator” essentially unveiled the Long Island born actresses and made her a household name who went on to have roles in other prominent horror films, including another Stuart Gordon feature “From Beyond,” “You’re Next,” and the upcoming “Death House.” David Gale rounds out the featured foursome as the detestable Dr. Carl Hill. Gale embraces the role, really delving into and capturing Dr. Hill’s maddening short temper and slimy persona; a perfect antagonist to the likes of Combs and Abbott. The remaining cast includes Robert Sampson (“City of the Living Dead”), Carolyn Purdy-Gordon, and Peter Kent.
The “Re-Animator” universe is right up there with the likes of Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.” Hell, there is even a line of comics that pit the two franchises together in a versus underlining. Unfortunately, “Re-Animator” is frankly nothing without the franchise star Jeffrey Combs, much like “The Evil Dead” is nothing without Bruce Campbell even though we, as fans, very much enjoyed the Fede Alvarez 2013 remake despite the lack of chin. Gordon’s film needs zero remakes with any Zac Efron types to star in such as holy role as Dr. Herbert West. That’s the true and pure terrifying horror of today’s studio lucrative cash cow is to remake everything under the genre sun. Fortunately, “Re-Animator” and both the sequels have gone unscathed and unmolested by string of remakes, reboots, or re-imagings. Aside from a new release here and there, such as Umbrella’s upstanding release which is fantastic to see the levels of upgrades up until then, “Re-Animator” has safely and properly been restored and capsulated for generations to come.
Umbrella Entertainment proudly presents the first volume of the Beyond Genres’ label with Stuart Gordon’s “Re-Animator” on a two-disc, full HD 1080 Blu-ray set, presented in a widescreen 1.77:1 aspect ratio. A very fine and sharp image quality that maintains equality across the board with minuscule problematics with compression issues, jumping imagery on solid colored walls for example, but the issues are too small amongst the rich levelness of quality and when compared to other releases, Umbrella Entertainment’s release is a clear-cut winner. The English DTS-HD master audio puts that extra oomph into Richard Bands’ score that’s heavily influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” adding a pinch of chaotic gothic charm to the macabre story. Dialogue is balanced and upfront, but there isn’t much prominent ambient noise to put the dialogue off-kilter. Special features on the first disc include the 86 minute unrated version of “Re-Animator,” audio commentaries from director Stuart Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna, and stars Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson; there’s also a “Re-Animator Resurrectus” documentary, 16 extended scenes, and a deleted scene. The second disc includes the 106 itegral cut along with interviews with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, writer Denis Paoli, composer Richard Band, and former Fangoria editor Tony Timpone. Plus, a music analyst by Richard Band, TV spots, and the theatrical trailer. All this and a bag of corpses is sheathed inside a remarkably beautiful encasement with a seriously wicked custom slipcover desgin by illustrator Simon Sherry. There’s also reversible Blu-ray casing cover art with previous designs incorporated. H.P. Lovecraft would be extremely flattered and proud on how Umbrella Entertainment not only enhanced the film adaptation of his classic tale of macabre, but also with how diabolically attired the release is distributed. A true horror classic done right!
Entombed under the volatile sands of what’s now the Iraqi dessert, an ancient Egyptian princess Ahmanet, who made a pact with an evil God named Set, lies and waits for more than 500 years to rise again and fulfill a destined promise to birth hell on Earth and rule the world. Ahmanet resurrects after being mistakenly unearthed by loose cannon treasure seeker Nick Morton and curses a reign of archaic terror over Nick and all of modern day London in search for a gem cladded dagger to make good on her pact. With the help of a well-funded secret organization called Prodigium ran by mysterious physician Dr. Henry Jekyll, and skillful researcher Jenny Halsey, the cursed Nick will need all the help he can muster to save himself and humanity from a mummified, hellbent she-devil.
Alex Kurtzman’s “The Mummy” is the gateway reboot that’ll give life once again to Universal’s classic monsters and place them in Universal’s newly established realm known as Dark Universe, think what Marvel accomplished with Marvel Comic Universe but with monsters. The kickoff action-horror has the delectable adventure wit seen from the Stephen Sommers directed, Brendan Fraiser starred trilogy from 1999 to 2008 while channeling the Boris Karloff mysticism and menace that made a frightening black and white classic. So, how did Kurtzman exactly provide new breath to an ancient, decrepit mummy that’s been redone two times over and has been spun off more ways than wrapped? One major way was to be the inaugural launch of Universal’s Dark Universe that opens the door for other classic monsters such as Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. In fact, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde makes a brief appearance as the head of the Prodigium, the ringmaster that’ll be the epicenter connecting creatures together. In another aspect, Kurtzman isn’t afraid to use practical effects, such as Ahamanet’s mummy minions, while also lighting up the screen with some brutal thrilling moments, such as murdering a baby and killing pilots with a murder of crows, that clearly separates the 2017 film from it’s 1999 predecessor, but watch for the quick scene easter egg that pays homage to the Fraiser film.
Upon first hearing Tom Cruise would star in a reboot of “The Mummy,” a long moment of hesitation washed over like a cold wet blanket as the “Mission Impossible” star hadn’t tackled a horror film since the adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1994 Lestat film “Interview with the Vampire” during a time when Cruise bathed in dramatic thrillers and added quite a bit of finesse to his characters. However, with every passing year, Cruise becomes more and more involved with not only his love for acting, but sides heavily with the unquenchable need to a part of action films and “The Mummy” promised to display his enthusiasm for accomplishing his own rigorous stunt work and the script provided the heart-throbbing intensity that’ll sure to awe audiences. Cruise’s performance as a shoot first, ask questions later Nick Morton snugly fits the razor sharp mold the megastar has equipped himself ever since the first “Mission Possible” film over two decades ago, but as a selfish knucklehead, Cruise short sells the charm with a flat expressive tone and doesn’t progress his shell of Nick Morton to a enlightened savior battling for the fate of humankind. Yes, there are other actors in “The Mummy” other than Cruise. Russell Crowe fills the mighty big shoes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, splitting his personalities into two and fulfilling both characters to the very epitome they’ve been classically scribed. Love interest Annabelle Wallis (who was also in John Leonetti’s “Annabelle”) sparked little-to-no chemistry with a overpowering Cruise and she felt rather like a Robin sidekick in a Joel Schumacher Batman film, but Wallis did a fine job as a historical researcher with a lifelong goal of discovering ancient artifacts. Algerian actress Sofia Boutella as the titular character was almost non-existent until the filmmakers had to scramble to redesign the villain due to similarities in another film, but the dark features of Boutella and her elegant performance made Ahmanet lustfully scary with dual irises and body-riddled tattoos, like a wild animal with deep blue eyes, and she sinks into Ahmanet’s malevolent soul and embraces the darkness that is the mummy. Jake Johnson (“Jurassic World”), Courtney B. Vance (“The Last Supper”), and Marwan Kenzari, who will star in Guy Ritchie’s upcoming “Aladdin” film, costar.
Now while “The Mummy” is overly successful and generally positive, an itch of amiss pains a slimly slithering way nearly through the entire runtime. Perhaps because the premise involving a mummy sets itself more in the dank and dark allies of London rather than in the hot Egyptian sands where thirst, heat, and isolation provide a slew of dangerous possibilities. During multiple scenes, a looming sensation that Jack the Ripper would pop out with blade in hand ready to strike at Jenny Halsey’s non-prostitute neck, but like a good adventure film, the story’s progression goes through numerous UK hotspots such as the Natural History Museum and tries to blow up London with every Mummy superpower. Ahmanet compounded concerns about her powers such as the introductory prologue of her characters, told in flashback scenes, where after she obtains all this evil power, the princess is easily taken down by Egyptian guards with blow darts and spears. You figured a Demigod like Ahmanet would be able to summon creatures to her aid, mold the sands of Egypt to free her, or resurrect other Egyptian dead, but none-the-less she was mummified alive and buried thousands of miles away under a giant crypt.
“The Mummy” is a win for the first of many Universal reboots under the Dark Universe label. The September 12th release of the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set, with also a digital copy, clocks in at a hour and 50 minutes and is presented in 1080p High Definition 2.40:1 aspect ratio with no flaws in the image, quality is crisp, and the coloring is naturally lively. The digital effects don’t exhibit an amateur hour complexion that was more attuned to the 1999 film, a different time two decades ago. The Dolby ATMOS is booming with LFE action that reverberates nicely with every nail-biting mummy scenes; certainly balanced with the surround sound. The dialogue is coarse at times during these intense sequences but overly prominent and clear for the most part. Extras on the release are about as monumental as the antagonist with deleted and extended scenes, Cruise and Kurtzman: a conversation, Rooted in Reality – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of “The Mummy,” Life in Zero-G: Creating the Plane Crash, Meet Ahmanet – the stark villain, Cruse in Action – a segment involving Cruise’s action in the film, Becoming Jekyll and Hyde, Choreographed Chaos, Nick Morton: In Search of a Soul, a graphic novel about Ahmanet, and featured commentary. “The Mummy” is all Cruise, all the time, but lives and breathes like a true Universal classic monster movie in modern day, providing superb visuals, an engrossing storyline, and delivers an action-topping-action ferocity. A whole new line of respect must be bestowed upon star Tom Cruise for his insane work ethic and his dedication to any project, especially a one half horror film that redesigns the gender of the iconic villain while maintaining the values of the original.
Victor, a pioneering and experimental genetic scientist, has done the impossible, cloned a living human baby and named the girl Elizabeth. Obsessed with learning from his creation, Victor works tirelessly, neglecting his wife and two children. He also neglects a dark secret from his past that threatens everything he’s worked for and achieved. Religious group and lawful prosecutors blind him from the underlining and he continues with his research, diving deeper into the mysteries of Elizabeth. When Victor’s dark past catches up with him and reveals itself, he becomes forced into protecting his family and his creation Elizabeth from harm.
The Billy Senese sophomore written and directed film about the inevitable consequences of cloning shares a familiar similarity to being an adult version of Larry Cohen’s monster baby macabre “Its Alive.” Instead of hideous and murderous Davies baby, “A Frankenstein Story” caters more to realism with a deformed, genetically developed child growing up in pain and in secret. Senese tunes into a style that’s comparable to the likes of “Contagion” director Steven Soderbergh, soaked in a contrast of composure and slightly solemn.
The “A Frankenstein Story” title is a UK title. In the USA, the film goes more recognizably under “Closer to God,” which is a line withdrawn from the film, and while I do think “Closer to God” is a more suitable title, the gothic-like title has holds water in an off color way. Aside from a man creating a human out of biological genetics instead of using body parts and electricity, the Senese film homages the old Mary Shelley tale in some other respects. Lead actor Jeremy Childs plays Victor and we all know Victor is a the first name to the titular character Victor Frankenstein in Shelley’s story. Also, Senese, wether intentionally or not, has envisioned and dressed Childs as the creator and the monster. Victor is toweringly tall, freakishly broad shoulders, and has a square like face, making him appear like The Creature.
Senese’s narrative has promise at the very beginning and the very end with everything else in between being quite stagnant in developing and displaying Victor’s awfully well hidden secret. There also isn’t any exposed motivation between Victor, and some of the other characters, in behind the laboratory conceiving of Elizabeth. The only conclusion that’s explicit is that Victor becomes obsessed with being God, a very fine line between being human and the Almighty, putting the science more in the background and putting his fatherly strides first in defeating nature.
The High Fliers Films DVD hit retail shelves in the UK this past Tuesday, January 25th. The disc was a DVD-R review screener and contained just the film so I can’t speak upon or review the bonus material or the film’s quality. However, we’re not totally sold on Billy Senese take on the mad scientist genre, even with a semi-favorable review. The last 15 minutes is intense, tragic, and compelling that the second act needed so desperately to keep interest and to keep the story developing along.
A group of mischievous and detention bound high-schoolers are handed two choices: either spend the day in a classroom after school or take an educational trip to a wax museum in Salem. Instead of spending the entire day in a classroom, a trip to a wax museum seemed to be the lesser of two evils. Little do the hooligans know that the museum’s curator Charles Frank is the relative of the infamous Dr. Victor Frankenstein and Charles Frank, a pseudo name for Frankenstein, has continued the ghoulish work his elder kin started long ago. Trapped inside Frankenstein’s wax museum of horrors, the high-schoolers are pitted against Frankenstein’s flesh eating creations with no way out. What was suppose to be a fun and devious night of intercourse and dancing turns into a bloody-blood bath of unspeakable horror.
This isn’t my first rodeo with director Richard Griffin’s work. The last It’s Bloggin’ Evil Griffin review, “Sins of Dracula,” didn’t strike the right key notes and became only a shell of a honoring horror film. “Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead,” also known as Dr. Frankenstein’s Wax Museum of the Hungry Dead,” was made a year earlier than “Sins of Dracula” and reminds me more of a true Griffin film. At first, I was afraid “Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead” would dull the mood as rebellious youth have yet again landed themselves into a death trap and this scenario just seems to be regurgitated over and over again in horror cinema. Eventually, and to my surprise, Griffin digs and builds out of that redundant hole and still manages to display his ever long homage to horror and horror icons comically. The thing about Griffin is is that he relies on mashing many genres together. For example, “Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead” is a mesh of Frankenstein, the Romero zombie genre, and a little bit of naziploitation to give the film some flavor. Second and third act strengthen the film’s roots and the comedy really pops during these acts making the film comical and gross at the same time.
Another conventional Griffin film schtick is the long-winded dialogue. I tend to get breathless just listening to the dump truck loads of exposition that seamlessly spew out of the actors’ mouths. The dialogue to death ratio just doesn’t add up and this film does get a bit talkative with a script that doesn’t quite measure up to Shakespearian work. The dialogue tends to be juvenile and obvious in a sense that every scene is laid out by description. Unless you’re Michael Thurber playing Dr. Frankenstein, there lies no reason behind other characters to have more scripted lines than there are end credits.
Speaking of Michael Thurber, Thurber has cemented himself as part of Griffin’s entourage a long with others who are also casted in this film: Johnny Sederquist, Jesse Dufault, and Jamie Lyn Bagley. However, Thurber’s versatility seems quite amazing. My first experience with Thurber was as a hard nose cop hellbent on vengeance in “Murder University” and I think he’s the best part of Griffin’s films. Thurber’s portrayal of Charles Frank combines a “Young Frankenstein’s” Inspector Kemp with a long lost, and black sheep, cousin of Hammer Horror legend Peter Cushion. Johnny Sederquiest and Jesse Default are starting to grow on me more and more with their acting styles. Their outrageous over acting is childish but hypnotically effective in humor. Bagley has been the more serious actor of the bunch, staying away from the horribly cliched parts and sticking with simple, easy to miss characters such as her breakout role as nerd girl heroine Katherine.
Overall, “Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead” is less about Frankenstein’s creature and more about the creation of flesh eating zombies and reaping hell upon meddling teenagers. Certainly a different take on the mad scientist genre and the Frankenstein legacy, but Griffin does mix things up for not necessarily the worst and I’m sure Mary Shelley would agree, if not really mind at all. The MVD and Wild Eye DVD release distributes a fairly standard unrated package that doesn’t disappoint and would be a winner in anybody’s B-movie collection.
Wolfenstein has come to life! What seemingly looks like a video game turns into a motion picture unlike any other. Other filmmakers have only half-assed an attempt to take the Nazi industrialization and combine it into cybernetic top secret warfare. A reconnaissance company of Soviet solders receive an S.O.S. transmission from an abandoned mining facility in the middle of nowhere behind enemy lines. The squad finds themselves in the middle of hell where soldiers are took apart and sewn together with machine parts creating a killer, monstrous army. These abominations are the work of the grandson of Viktor Frankenstein. What’s worse is that the soldiers are a part of a secret mission that will put their lives in more danger than the hell they’ve stepped into with Herr Doctor Frankenstein!
I was once in e-mail contact with the film’s director Richard Raaphorst many years back when he was trying to fund an on screen production for Worst Case Scenario. A project I couldn’t wait until the dream came true on the big screen. I waited and waited and waited. Only two promo reels were released and then the project just drifted off into the dead project pool and drowned out of existence. Raaphorst was inspired again, most likely, by his failed project to create Frankenstein’s Army and even using some of the monster nazis he was once going to input into Worst Case Scenario. I’m stoked that Raaphorst was able to see his creation in another, more profitable direction.
Speaking of nazi monsters, the creations where spectacular especially the creature “Mosquito Man.” Mosquito Man has blades on all fours and a drill for a mouth – pretty fucking frightening. There are also creatures with razor sharp blade fingers, cast iron maiden-chopping faces, slice and dicing propeller heads, and whatever your demented imagination can conjure. Frankenstein’s Army is an ultimate take on the Frankenstein legacy and spins it into the 20th century during World War II the most crucial and humbling time in the world’s history.
Raaphorst chose to film Frankenstein’s Army in first person using the story of a soviet solder recording a documentary of the team’s reconnaissance mission and to show back home in mother Russia, to the socialist people, that their solders were happy and safe and brave in the face of the enemy. I watch a lot of movies and I stand by my personal decision that the first person use has been overused, abused, and old as a Roman shoe. In saying that, the first person works here for Raaphorst because we’re only given glimpses of the creatures leaving more to the imagination and probably so the audience can’t really see how bad the costumed nazi getups may have turned out.
Usually in screening the portrayal of any historical war, I can usually tell if a war’s historical accuracy is off or how I feel on how believable these characters can be in period piece. The Soviets soldiers felt like Soviet soldiers. The war felt like war. Saving Private Ryan is a good example of what I’m trying to convey where we, the audience, can empathize and experience the gruesome war with Tom Hanks and his band of brothers. That same sensation didn’t strike me when viewing Nicholas Cage’s Windtalkers which seemed to bastardized by Hollywood. Raaphorst had me in the dark, dank underground tunnels of these spooked Soviet lads and had me feel the fear in the face of patchwork humanoid creatures.
I can’t recommend Frankenstein’s Army enough. The unique concept and the precision of execution should be a great draw for this film. More likely, Raaphorst’s film won’t win any major awards. Dark Sky’s picture presentation is clear. The audio suffers tremendously as much of the background noise drowns out the fake Russian accents. The extras are a little thing with a 31-minute “making of”, the trailer, a “creature spot” which displays the picture in a slide-show like feature. Raaphorst steampunk horror-thriller will keep you entertained and see what kind of man-machine construction will lurk around the corner, but the movie does feel like a video game with creatures hacking away at the camera while others stalk in the dark.
If you want to see Raaphorst Worst Case Scenario promo reels and see the similarities – see below.
Promo Trailer 1
Promo Trailer 2