Time Travelling Tourists Just Want to See the Spectacle of EVIL! “The Grand Tour” reviewed! (Unearthed Films / Blu-ray)

Unearthed Films Stopped a Disaster by Going Back in Time and Re-releasing “The Grand Tour” now on Blu-ray!

Widowed contractor Ben Wilson and his daughter, Hillary, are a many 2×4 and paint bucket deep into a renovation of a dilapidated inn on the outskirts of town. Haunted by his wife’s death violent death and reminded of it by an angry father-in-law, Ben tries his best to be the best father to Hillary that a single dad can be despite his urge to drink and forget about the horrors of that fateful day. Unexpected and eccentric guests arrive at his doorstep demanding to pay handsomely to stay at his unfinished inn, regardless of the condition, and eager to be present for the secret spectacle to come that makes his inn more desirable than all the amenities of the hotel in town. The guests’ odd behavior, strange belongings, and secret talk lead Ben to believe these so-called tourists are not from his time and that the spectacle their awaiting for is tragedy in the making.

For an extreme film label such as Unearthed Films, Jeff Daniels is not necessarily a headlined name I would see on the cover art. Nor, and more surprisingly so in this instance, would I ever have thought that a PG-13 rated film would be in the same assemblage of titles as “Slaughter Vomit Dolls,” “Philosophy of a Knife,” and “Christmas Cruelty.” Yet, here we are today, the year 2023, over two decades of extreme horror distribution, and David Twohy’s “The Grand Tour” has been released. The 1992 time-traveling clock-racer, that also went by other titles such as “The Grand Tour: A Disaster in Time” or “Timescape,” is written for filmic treatment by the “Riddick” franchise director, adapted from the novella “Vintage Season” by the husband and wife writing team, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. “The Grand Tour” is a production of Channel Communications and Drury Lane Productions, the companies behind Brian Thompson starring “Nightwish” which became also another Unearthed Films’ vault release and is produced John A. O’Connor (“Steel Justice”) and Robert Warner (“The Return of Swamp Thing”).

“The Grand Tour” stars the aforementioned Jeff Daniels who at this point was coming off the phobic-inducing success of the itsy-bitsy film called “Arachnophobia.” Daniels brings the same family man charisma, sarcastic wit, and unnerved intensity to the widowed construction contractor Ben Wilson. The character of Ben Wilson is unbuttoned from the beginning with only nightmares of an accident involving a horse drawn sleigh and verbal tit-for-tats with his bristly former father-in-law concluding the death of his wife only a short time ago. Wilson’s marked as a drunk and a shirker though barely do we see only a slither of the former; instead, Wilson’s rather astute, loving, and fearless in his time of time designed duress. Perhaps, Wilson’s arc has already been puzzled together and Twohy only mirrors into his once shameful soul to showcase how much he’s learned and how far he’s come to be more than just an abashed single dad and though Wilson is unbuttoned from the beginning of the story, Daniels buttons up the role with nothing less of perfection. Wilson’s daughter Hillary is played by pre-“Jurassic Park” screamer Ariana Richards who solidified her round-eyed concerned, over-the-shoulder look first in “The Grand Tour.” Hillary becomes the crux torn between the loving father that Wilson’s portrayed to be and an overreaching grandfather, who’s also the town judge (George Murdock, “The Death Squad”), holding a longstanding and personal grudge with his daughter’s ambivalent death. The youngster is also the reason Wilson is willing to risk the perfect future to save an ill-fated past. “The Grand Tour” enlists a versed lot of talent to round out the cast with Marilyn Lightstone (“Heavy Metal”) as the voluble tour guide, David Wells (“Society”) as a tourist with a conscious, and Jim Hayne (“Sleepwalkers”) as a down-to-Earth bus driver caught in the middle just like Wilson. There’s also Nicholas Guest (“Dollman”), Time Winters (“Skinner”), and Anna Neill.

Temporal manipulating or time-travelling films will undoubtedly always have faults as time is a finicky thing, some films accomplish time loops better than others, but I personally feel that as long as the narrative is entertaining enough and the time theory isn’t ludicrously idiotic, all can be forgiven or overlooked on the stretched fabric of time and place concept that can have easily spotted loopholes.  “The Grand Tour” is one of those divertingly pleasurable narratives with calamity hanging in the balance, a central do-or-die performance, and theme that hits at the core of a numb human perspective when seemingly life is nothing less than perfect.  The script bypasses the whole negating physics of the narratives time-travelling and butterfly effect piece with Daniel’s character verbally damning the hypothetical’s inaccuracies in a fit of life- and time-saving panic to not hang up on the details and keep the story churning.  Twohy never offers too much too early when the intrusively eccentric inn guests appear without concern for their surroundings but are increasingly curious about minor, trivial things that when compared to the small town residents, people would take such things for granted, yet their curiosity isn’t exactly appreciation for the humbler things as it’s more of a naively morbid reflection on how who these well-dressed and fit-as-a-fiddle travelers call “bygoners” lived and died.  Historical catastrophes have become looking glass sideshows for the bored or how the event is termed as a spectacle is if the disaster is an extravagance performance for others to reap the benefit from its grim amusement.  Twohy pulls off the massive feat of catastrophe without the use of computer-generated imagery that we see heavily in his later films to create galactic worlds and creatures.  There’s composite motion paint work and diorama miniatures to create the illusion of a small town in turmoil that works just as well, if not better.  The whole “Grand Tour” package sells the sleight of hand devastation but also the intrinsic emotion and passion that follows it, or in this rewind the clock case, before it as well. 

Though I’m wigged out by the tame release from Unearthed Films, I’m still glad the out of print and sci-fi jarring “The Grand Tour” has booked an excursion back to the physical media outer rim!  A brand-new AVC encoded Blu-ray, released as the 11th cult classic under the Unearthed Classics sublabel, shepherds a new in-print North American option.  Sold as a Hi-Def release with 1080p, there’s honestly nothing that can be really done or to improve upon a Betamax 350 resolution by 480 pixels in a stretched 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Certainly better video and audio quality compared to VHS, and likely the best quality “The Grand Tour” will ever be in to-date, the release remains a deficient for detail with blurry, soft-glowing traits.  The Blu-ray’s bitrate is also erratic, dipping as low as upper DVD, 8-11 Mbps, to shooting up as high as lower 20s which tells me the storage capacity of the BD25 likely isn’t enough to properly decode the film and, in certain frames, compression artifacts show with smooth surface, color blurring that eliminates sharper edges amongst other issues, such as faint banding and blocking nothing to really warrant discouragement. The English PCM 2.0 stereo mix is commensurable with the original Betamax audio recording and though soft around the audible gills, the dialogue, ambient, and soundtrack mixes satisfy the need but in case you need an English SDH option, the Unearthed Films’ Blu-ray has you covered with a well-synched and timed error-free translation. The special edition bonus features include the “Timescape” title sequence, production stills, various posters and one-sheet artworks, a new Lost in Time: Cannes promo discussion with Ed McNichol who worked on the pre-production Cannes promotional trailer with Jeff Daniels but isn’t available in the special features here, and Unearthed Classics trailers. The physical aspects of the release include a cardboard o-slip with a front image reminiscent of outside region 1 DVD covers of Jeff Daniels running between two periods in time. The slipcover sheaths a clear Blu-ray case with latch, the inserted cover art is the same slipcover but is reversible with a mockup of the Canadian released DVD cover. The disc print image echos the reversible cover art image. “The Grand Tour” is Blu-ray has a region A playback, clocks in at 99 minutes, and the film is rated PG-13. An obscure Jeff Daniels film lost in time, unable to reach back into the past for a new, refreshed release, is paradoxically meta in its own right but luckily for us, Unearthed Films has our best interests in mind while keeping the blood and guts at bay for only for a single, solitary stitch in time.

Unearthed Films Stopped a Disaster by Going Back in Time and Re-releasing “The Grand Tour” now on Blu-ray!

Who Dat? Dat EVIL! “Creature from Black Lake” reviewed! (Synapse / Blu-ray)

“Creature From Black Lake” on Blu-ray is Bigfoot’s Bestfriend

Two University of Chicago students interested in discovering the legendary creature bigfoot take a road trip down to Oil City, Louisiana where there have been multiple reports and sightings of a ape-like man wandering in the Bayou and even an attack on a local trapper, witness by the gruffy drunk, Joe Canton.  Met with stern resistance from the Oil City Sheriff Billy Carter and some reluctance from scared locals in the Bridges family after an mortal encounter with the beast that killed two of their family members, the students dig in and continue their swampy-laden search for bigfoot as well as finding the time to mingle with Louisiana women.  When they discover the mythical beast actually exists, nothing can stop them into catching sight of the creature or maybe even snaring it, not even the Sheriff’s threat of jail time if they don’t high tail it out of town could persuade their mania, but their expedition deep into the swamp and coming in proxmital contact with the aggressive primate outlier may prove to be a fatal mistake rather than a claim to fame. 

Having searched high and low for many years to review just any Bigfoot film that’s above average worthy has been a wearisomely long and arduous task.  A slew of movies dedicated to the big hairy fella have been nothing but a mockery, whether intention or unintentional, of the Sasquatchsploitation horror subgenre.  Instead of being subjugated to the countless, blasphemous modern tales of the mythical monster, I had to travel back in time to 1976 to retrieve what I’ve been searching for in the last decade or so.  The late J.N. Houck Jr’s “Creature from Black Lake” fulfills a great need with very little in its idiosyncratic cast and its obscure visibility of the creature that creates upscale mystery.  The based out of Louisiana “Night of Bloody Horror” and “The Night of the Strangler” director, whose father, owner of The Joy Theaters, already had an established footing not only in the movie business but also in the horror genre when helming a script penned by Jim McCullough Jr. as his first grindhouse treatment blessed by his father, producer Jim McCullough.  McCullough Jr. co-produces the film under the Jim McCullough Productions banner along with William Lewis Ryder Jr. serving as executive producer of the shoot shot on location in Oil City and Shreveport, L.A.

“Creature from Black Lake’s” cast is a distinctive assembly as aforementioned earlier.  Not only do they play their roles well by incorporating localisms where needed but they add a blend of intensity with chunky bits of comedy marbled through a storyline that’s half-anecdotal and half-present action. University of Chicago students Rives (John David Carson, “Empire of the Ants”) and Pahoo (Dennis Fimple, “House of a 1000 Corpses”) set course to Oil City, Louisiana where an indistinct creature is suspected to be in area based of science and suspected fish stories told by local kooks and drunks that turned out to be horribly true. Rives and Pahoo, who in McCullough script is constantly chaffed about his unique name but shrugs and deflects like he’s done it all his life, interview Oil City residents who believed to have bare witnessed firsthand the beast’s atrocities that has taken the lives close to them. These Bayou denizens are enriched by veteran actors with robustly created caricature personalities. Surly voiced with bulging, wild eyes, typecasted western actor Jack Elam had branched out from films like “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and “Once Upon a Time in the West” to play a similar grouchy character dwelling in the swamps as a trapper. Elam’s great a feigning an intoxicated mess as you can literally taste the alcohol sweat from his porous skin sheltered by an unkempt beard and a loose fitting crumpled up onesie that’s staple motif for any drunk Cajun or drunk cowpoke, so Elam was fairly comfortable in the role. Dub Taylor is another big old-timey name in the western genre and rarely saw horror as a place to call home. For Taylor, his role as Grandpaw Bridges gave the actor a chance to play an old hayseed complete with a solid effort in Cajun English. Taylor’s lively at times with an animated excitement but can turn somber and stern as soon as his character’s scorned and calls for a more serious tone. Compared to Elam and Taylor, youngsters Carson and Fimple pilfer very little from the veteran’s epic role characteristics but do fine in their own rite with carrying the hunt’s harrowing third act. Bill Thurman (“‘Gator Bait”), Jim McCullough Jr., Cathryn Hartt (“Open House”), Becky Smiser, Michelle Willingham, and Evelyn Hindricks round out “Creature from Black Lake’s” cast.

How could a 1976 bigfoot feature be more surprising and compelling than any modernized version? Well, one of the biggest pros to “Creature from Black Lake’s” success is Jim McCullough Jr.’s script that’s surprisingly well written by the first go-around screenwriter and while I’m not primarily speaking on behalf of the principal leads’ motivation or the slightly lack thereof, there lies more interest in the quick-witted dialogue and the blunt banter to keep Rives and Pahoo from being dullards and to keep the story from being a slog. Another aspect that is sharp as a tack is Dean Cundey’s cinematography that keeps the creature firmly in the shadows, producing that suspenseful and mysterious “Jaws” effect where we actually don’t see the shark until the third act. Cundey, best known for handling the cinematography on titles you might have heard of such as “Jurassic Park,” “Death Becomes Her,” and “Big Trouble in Little China,” made a name for himself first in grindhouse horror and exploitation of the early 1970s.  Cundey keeps the apelike creature shrouded from direct light, lurking mostly in the shadows with only a glimmer quickly streaking across the snarling face and an animalistic outline of its furred body and tall stature.  The full effect of bigfoot is never directly in your face or full in view which can be best at times depending on the look of the creature.  Cundey had partially designed the face of bigfoot and thus covering up perhaps his own shoddy work with how to film the titular antagonist of Black Lake.  Now, Black Lake is an actual lake in Louisiana but is about 100 miles SE of Oil City and Shreveport and likely used a combination of Big Lake and Cross Lake that were near the majority of shooting locations to serve as representation of Black Lake.  Where “Creature from Black Lake” struggles is with the Rives and Pahoo dynamic that barely tether’s to how their friendship, though diverse individually, becomes stronger up the end with a near death experience.  Pahoo’s a Vietnam vet and with his wartime experience, he’s the more on edged character out of the two suggesting an underlining PTSD theme when the creature’s roar and circling of the camp puts Pahoo into an eye-widening internal panic.  Rives is cool as a cucumber and is determined to prove something inexplicable in pushing forth and bagging a big hairy beast.  At times, contention flares up between them but is quickly extinguished with a simple sharing of homemade fireside baked beans to sate Pahoo’s ever ravenous stomach.  Their hot and cold amity and indeterminable mission into the Bayou shapes very unsatisfactory their resulting unbreakable bond that hints at something more than just friendship, as if there is metaphorical points of betrayal and forgiveness that makes their connection scar tissue stronger but are not clearly delineated.

Finally!  A bigfoot feature that works mostly at every angle, is more than just palatable from a story standpoint, and has a formidable bigfoot presence that’s more than just a man in a monkey suit. Synapse Films restores not only “Creature from Black Lake’s” original widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio onto a high-definition Blu-ray from the dreadfully cropped VHS and TV versions but also restores the creature feature with a brand new 4K scan from the original 35mm camera negative. The result is phenomenal with a widow’s peak view and the grading is touch of tailored class that freshens the 46-year-old with new vigor. No instantaneous signs of compressions issues on the AVC encoded BD50 with inky black shadows and profiles that are sharp around the edges, never losing sight of image and never losing the quality. The Blu-ray comes with only one audio option – DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track. Not the best representation but perhaps the best that’ll get, some audio elements succumb to the production limitations, such as the stifled dialogue track early on in the film that leaves exchanges between Rives and Pahoo soft and scarcely perceptible. The dialogue issues alleviate as the story progresses, falling in line into an even keeled dual channel output. “Creature from Black Lake” has ample range between the booming closeup shotgun and rifle shots to the light tinkering of utensils and camping gear. We don’t receive much depth, not even with the creature’s roar as it thunders into much of audio space and overtakes everything else. Newly translated English subtitles are available. Bonus features includes an audio commentary with author/filmmaker Michael Gingold and film historian Chris Polliali, a brand-new featurette with cinematographer Dean Cundey Swamp Stories, the original theatrical trailer, and radio spot. The physical release comes in a blacked-out Blu-ray snapper, Synapse Films’ catalogue insert, and has Ralph McQuarrie illustrated cover art that’s an unmistakable masterstroke of his craft. The region free Blu-ray of “Creature from Black Lake” is rated PG and has a runtime of 95 minutes. If you’re on a quest to quench a midnight movie about bigfoot, journey no further as Synapse Films delivers one of the better, more comical and terrifying, Sasquatch movies of our time and in beautiful high definition!

“Creature From Black Lake” on Blu-ray is Bigfoot’s Bestfriend

A Stop-Motion EVILscape of Totalitarian Hell! “Mad God” reviewed! (Acorn Media International / Blu-ray)

Descending from above into the depths of grotesque terror and suffering, The Assassin steps out of the drop pod with a gas mask, industrial armor, a suitcase, and a crumbling map.  Bearing witness to the surrounding horrors – cruel experimentations, enslaved beasts, tortured manufactured slave laborers, dog-eat-dog atrocities – The Assassin sallies forth, descending deeper into the primordial pit.  The missioned at hand is to set an explosive charge that will eradicate out the ruinous, oppressive filth that aims to corrupt the everything, but there the darkness won’t be so easily wiped away and The Assassin must stay in the shadows and out of sight or else become a tortured fixture in the fray. 

“Mad God?”  More like mad genius!  Phil Tippett’s 34-year, stop-motion, pet-project “Mad God” is the purest Hell I’ve ever seen.  Tippet, famed stop-motion and puppeteer effects artist responsible for the iconic visual effects and stop motion work in fan films such as the original “Star Wars” saga and the “Robocop” franchise as well as cult favorites “Howard the Duck,” “Piranha” and “House II:  The Second Story,” started “Mad God” in 1987 that become more of an ambitious project than originally thought and once the 1993 saw a computer generated effects revolution with a little prehistoric dino-disaster film called “Jurassic Park”, a film Tippett also did work on as dinosaur movement consulting supervisor because of his expertise on the short “Prehistoric Beasts,” the gifted animator had shelved “Mad God” for about 20 years with the though a newer, shiner, computer-driven animation would be the next best thing studios would ardently desire. This two-decade span gave Tippett time to outline objectives and really expand upon ideas of how “Mad God” should look and feel when conveyed. Tippett co-produces the film with Jack Morrissey under Tippett Studios and presented by IFC Midnight and AMC’s Shudder.

Just because “Mad God” is dialogue-less doesn’t make the “Mad God” voiceless. All around, in every scene, is a disturbing commentary or an unhinged metaphor bred mostly out of the animatable inanimate, but there are some live action performances weaved into the mad tapestry of monstrous titans and despot of cruelty. The most clearly discernible face of the lot comes from a director, “Repo Man” and “Sid and Nancy” director Alex Cox to be more exact. Cox plays the long nailed and regime-driven “Last Man,” representing divine leadership of a modest, dieselpunk heaven above a more organic and grotesque hell-type world. Only on screen for perhaps a total of 5-to-10 minutes, Cox grunts and gestures with precision articulation to give off a fair and just ruler impression. Niketa Roman plays the next real person to have some substantial screen time. Less of an actress and more of an animator by trade, with credits including “Blade II,” “Jurassic World,” and “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker,” Roman finds an expressive talent in her striking, heavily made-up eyes overtop a surgical mask and gown when whisking away one of the Assassin’s souls to be studied and experimented on by a broodingly ethereal entity. Other micro-performances include minor roles of tortured monkeys, various iron-cladded Assassins, witches, and gnomes from Satish Ratakonda, Harper Gibbons, Arnie Hain, David Laur, Chris Morley, Anthony Ruivivar, Tucker Gibbons, Tom Gibbons, Hans Brekke, and Jake Freytag.

“Mad God’s” possibilities and interpretations are endless. Phil Tippett pulls from a motley of inspiration that includes, but is not limited to the fantastical, sometimes hellish, paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, the wacky, often gonzo animation of Tex Avery, the stop-motion titans of Nathan Juran’s “The 7 Voyages of Sinbad, and Dante’s Inferno. The mind is a deranged and wonderful creator of the macabre and of the aberrant and as a receiving device, the mind can also, if opened up enough, accept such visceral visuals of bowel fluids being jettisoned out by electric shock and into the mouth of an organic machine that manufactures fibrous, lumbering humanoids for slave labor. Like lemmings in a way, these exploited shadows of human beings will succumb under their own demise or at the gnarled and unforgiving hands of their master’s gargoyleish work-whippers. “Mad God’s” eye for detail is greatly disturbing to see cities in monolithic cities and cultures in ruins, the composite depth between foreground and background action in one scene reminds me a lot of older works like “The Neverending Story” or “Clash of the Titans” that create a vast scale with smaller objects, and the playful irony of a nightmare netherworld being commanded over by a baby’s babble doesn’t nearly seem to a stretch from the truth. As the multiple Assassins trek through the chaos and the insanity, an overwhelming sense of life is meaningless scores the landscape as there isn’t an ounce of compassion or empathy to be had or displayed for any of the malformed creatures and wretched humans. A laborer is crushed by a stone – no biggie. A cute and cuddle animal is attacked and whisked away for food storage – all in the day of cruelty. A man is stripped of his armored gear, injected with a mysterious substance, and prepped for exploratory surgery – all for show in front of a live clapping and cheering audience. The only compassion I can make sense is the Assassin’s mission to blow up this God-forsaken world of eternal suffering to restart the heart. Madness grinds bones, fillets spirits, and crushes souls in Phil Tippet’s Godless underworld and can haunt you even while you’re awake.

A surreal stop-motion wonder and excruciation, “Mad God” brings all the horrors of the subconscious mind to the surface with a high-definition, 1080p Blu-ray. The region 2, PAL encoded release from UK distributor Acorn Media International presents Tippet’s tour de force in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio and the image is purposefully varied to exhibit different strokes of craft as students would assist Tippet with contrastive topographies to carve out an apocalypse-riddled world that’s in a state of a violet retrogression. Tippet and Tippet Studio visual effects artist, Chris Morley, pivot to “Mad God’s” cinematography appearance with brooding, darker tones that illuminate and are erratically sparked with warm neon glows or brilliant voltage streaming through highly conductive bodies. Some earlier scenes from the late 80’s have natural grain from the 35mm stock and then later, more recent scenes have a cleaner, sleeker look with the digital recording. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound mix has an all-embracing range, mostly with sudden and alarming blazons of guttural roars, unnerving baby babble, elongated zaps and shocks, and the indistinct yips and yaps of a mad world, that sustains on a line of being lesser than crisp, which might be contributed to the inexact capture of depth as sometimes all sounds casts like from inside the reverberations of a fishbowl. Descriptive SDH subtitles are available. Bonus features include audio commentary with Phil Tippett and “Pan’s Labyrinth’s” Guillermo del Toro, cast & crew commentary, an interview with Phil Tippett, “Mad God’s” various painter, cartoonist, animator, and psychology inspirations, the making-of “Mad God,” Maya Tippett’s Worse than the Demon – Phil Tippet’s daughter’s 12-minute thesis documentary of her father’s 34-year passion project journey, Academy of Art & “Mad God,” a behind-the-scenes montage, and a behind-the-scenes photo gallery. “Mad God” has a runtime of 84 minutes and is UK certified 18 for strong violence and gore. A motion picture diorama of Phil Tippett’s neoteric psyche, “Mad God” is wrath wrapped in heart and soul, two descriptors not topmost on the surface but are meticulously integrated into every frame of pain, suffering, and despair.

When Marriage Sours, EVIL From Within Manifests. “Possession” reviewed (Umbrella Entertainment / Blu-ray)

After his return from a lengthy time abroad, Mark finds himself in a contentious and spiteful relationship with his skittish wife Anna unveils her infidelity.  Unable to pry any kind of information from her before her sudden disappearance, Mark results to all the stages of grief and heartache:  denial, isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance.   Anna comes-and-goes from Mark and their son’s life, but their spats continue, increasing in anger and violence which each encounter.  Mark hires private investigators to track down Anna’s whereabouts.  He evens confronts her flamboyant and Zen-mastering lover.  But when Mark comes face-to-face with Anna’s sinister secret, a sub rosa affair unlike anything Mark has ever seen, he will go to unimaginable lengths to protect the wife he obsessively loves. 

Polish filmmaker Andrzej Zulawski’s “Possession” spans over a number of parallels that, in abstract theory, reflect social political matters of a post-war, Berlin wall divided Germany and the personal matters of Zulawski as a mirror of his ugly and bitter divorce from actress Malgorzata Braunek.  The 1981, Berlin shot, inimitable horror is a speeding melodramatic bullet train racing down a tracklayer of surreal rails and planks, ripping toward destruction with two turbulent people who about to slam, engine first, into an unforeseen mountain façade of towering despondency. That unforeseen mountain takes form from the tug-a-war of within, materializing duplicity, in every sense of the word, unnaturally. Frederic Tuten cowrote the emotionally florid and easily post-grad thesis dissecting film with Zulawski that was French mounted by Gaumont Film Company under producer Marie-Laure Reyre. Two other French companies, Oliane Productions and Soma Films, co-produced.

Watching Mark (“Jurassic Park” and “Event Horizon’s” Sam Neill), and Anna (“The Tenant” and “Diabolique’s” Isabelle Adjani) go at each other’s throat in a vicious cycle of matrimony madness can be in itself, maddening. Neill and Adjani radiate such loathing and desperation that’s seeing the two interact could possibly ignite World War III right there in the heart of Germany. What makes the contentious and hyperventilating scenes more interesting and alluring are the actors’ stage-like, full of hyperbolic melodrama, performances that somehow don’t quite register as the feisty interactions playout in what can only be concluded being pinpoint precision. Even Heinrich (“A Young Emmanuelle’s” Heinz Bennent”) is blatantly over-the-top with erratically wild movements of his body during scenes of emotional and physical struggle. Zulawski and “Possession” embraces the international cast with individual methodology on acting from Britain, France, Germany, and with even Zulawski who’s Polish and though you know the film is set in a divided Berlin between East and West Germany, there’s never this sense that “Possession” is strictly locked down to be anything but German. Aside from the Berlin Wall and some signage, maybe even the architecture, the multinational cast thins out the inklings of thinking, “oh yeah, this is filed in Germany!” “Possession” cast concludes with Margit Carstensen, Shaun Lawton, Johanna Hofner, Michael Hogben and Carl Duering.

Being that this was my second sit down with Andrzej Zulaski’s “Possession,” the first being Second Sight Films’ DVD release over 10 years ago, you begin to fathom the pattern of surrealism Zulaski aims to bombard viewers with through incessant bickering and an unspoken love-and-hate undertone. The doppelganger theory that’s attached itself to “Possession” from over the years warrants merit because those in a relationship on the precipice of implosion always wish the other person to be a better version of themselves, of who they want them to be, or of who they fell in love with in the first place. One can’t go deep into the doppelganger theory without totally exposing all of “Possession’s” secrets, surreal or not, and that infestation of preference takes shape for Zulaski as, ironically enough, a shapeless creature. The desire is tremendously powerful for Anna she can’t avoid being away from it for long stretches of a time, popping in to her and Mark’s old apartment for just enough time to have Mark stir the pot with his own manifested infernal creature, himself. Anna, an extremely passive woman, rarely confronts Mark about her infidelity and is always Mark who has to extract that information with every tooth and nail. “Possession” will forever be hailed a film that can analyzed over and over again without ever finding a concrete interpretation and, you know what, we can live with that.

As I said, last time “Possession” was visited by these aging eyes was over a decade ago on a UK DVD. Now, I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down with a new Blu-ray release from Australia. Umbrella Entertainment, in conjunction with The Film Institute (TFI) Films Production, releases a single disc, full 1080p Blu-ray, registered as their volume #11 on the spine, as part of the banner’s Beyond Genres collection. Presented in European widescreen 1.66:1 aspect ratio, this “Possession” release has a giant leap of negative exposure in comparison to Second Sight’s DVD, retreating away from a more natural and textural palpable transfer, full of detail and good amount of grain, to a blue-tinged headscratcher with a higher contrast that renders details and shadows nearly wiped out. The transfer is also conveyed with slight damage seen in approx. minute 14 with a vertical scratch and some image destabilization that makes discernability dematerialize right before your eyes near minute 44 and 57. The English language DTS-HD 2.0 master audio renders better with cleaner tracks seeing little-to-none hissing or static. The dialogue’s apparent and unobstructed thought slightly isolating without much depth. Despite some limited capacity with the dual channels, “Possession’s” more adrenalized scenes/ranges – i.e., speeding car flip, shoot outs, apartment explosion – sound effective and robust. Special features include an archival audio commentary with director Andrzej Zulawski and co-writer Frederic Tuten, an archival interview with the late Zulawski The Other Side of the Wall: The Making of Possession from 2011, a U.S. Cut of the film with a following featurette Repossessed, a location featurette A Divided City, the musical compositions in an interview with composer Andrej Korzynski The Sounds of Possession, an interview with producer Christian Ferry Our Friend in the West, a poster analysis, and the international and U.S. theatrical trailer. What’s presented by Umbrella is the fully uncut 123-minute version in a region B-code format though, weirdly enough, rated 18. Another weird note about the release is the back cover credits are displayed in French on the cardboard slipcover housing the reversible DVD artwork featuring a new illustrated snapcase cover art by Simon Sherry. I’m a clear fan of “Possession’s” clear ambiguity despite being not sure positive about the new Blu-ray release. Zulawski’s tale of corrosive dissolving of wedlock definitely fits the Beyond Genres banner and is a fine edition to Umbrella’s celebratory bank of classic horror.

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EVIL’s Confessional Will Be Their Rex-oning! “The VelociPastor” reviewed!

Father Doug Jones witnesses his parent’s murder by a violent car explosion and begins to question his devotion to God. At the advice of his friend, Father Stewart, Jones travels the world to rediscover his faith, landing him in the deep forests of China where he comes in contact with an ancient, mystical artifact. His discovery is life changing, or rather physically changing, as the power of the relic enables him to transform into a vicious dinosaur. The horrifying thought of his transformation and killing of an armed and dangerous thug has the priest scrambling to recollect himself as the man of the cloth, but the prostitute, who witnesses his true calling of vigilantism, convinces him to use his newfound powers against the swarm of crime. A secret clan of ninjas, acquainted with Jones’ abilities, seek to destroy his unofficial denomination to progress their diabolical plan for domination.

Full disclosure. There in lies a soft spot for bad, sometimes off-script, horror movies involving the prehistoric reptilians. On the USA Network, decades ago when USA Network had late night horror films, “Carnosaur” trilogy was enjoyable to watch, hooking and reeling me into the dino horror subgenre. The categorically offbeat genre even unearthed my celebrity crush even before I knew who she was with “Tammy and the T-Rex.” Even in the heavily edited form, Denise Richards still stunned me with her dino-riffic dynamics. Plus, Vinegar Syndrome is releasing an unedited version! ItsBlogginEvil just posted a review, not too long ago, for another Wild Eye releasing, “Jurassic Dead!” Steven Spielberg and the “Jurassic Park” franchise, of course, laid the foundation of critically acclaimed Triassic and Cretaceous thrillers, but the crude complexion of the indie market feels more at home, more uninhibited, and, definitely, more spirited and that’s what writer-director Brendan Steere and his team breathes new life into with the horror-comedy “The Velocipastor!”

The man behind the titular “The VelociPastor” character is Greg Cohan, a television actor regular, who dons the clerical collar and endeavors through the practical special effects of “The First Purge’s” Jennifer Suarez. Young, fit, and a good sport, Doug Jones is perfect for a clergyman turned velociraptor who dismembers the wicked and karate kicks ninjas while also sporting a pink mini dress in a scene of self revelation and also doing hand-to-hand combat in whitey-tighties. Opposite Jones, playing the love interest, is Alyssa Kempinski as the hooking for tuition pre-law med student, Carol, who becomes the facilitator of Father Jones prehistoric predicament. Jones and Kempinksi charisma shine through the absurdity as their keenest for each other develops into a full fledge fighting duo. Kempinski’s softer touch compared to Cohan’s zany comedy levels out, if that’s even possible, a film about a priest with a dino-lycanthrope complex. “The VelociPastor” supporting cast are equally as sharp with the farcical, pulpy vibe, rounding out with some really fantastic performance from amateur actors, including Aurelio Voltaire (“Model Hunger”), Brendan Steere’s father Daniel Steere, Jesse Turtis, Jiechang Yang, and a pulsating rendition of a worst-of-the-worst pimp with Fernando Pacheco de Castro.

“The VelociPastor” doesn’t take itself seriously, paralleling the similarities to other martial art parodies like “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist,” but Steere incorporates a healthy appreciation for pulp writing and independent filmmaking for his crowdfunded venture. While the “The VelociPastor” might have a trashy, kitschy name to draw in audience and also heavily lined pocket patrons, the film itself isn’t all that trashy, schlocky, or shoddy. Much of the action is not Father Doug Jones as a skin-shredding Dinosaur wreaking havoc amongst the lowlifes and crime syndicates, the very vibrant montage takes care of that, but rather runs a baseline story of a man and a woman, from two separate worlds of prostitution and a man of faith fall in love, has fairly simple and conventional means once all the idiosyncratic glitter and glam is removed; a notion that can be said to be the foundational basis for many other movies. Even director Brendan Steere admitted during a Q and A session that “The VelociPastor” isn’t a jab at the Church, closing the door on conjecture and blasphemous intentions with the ending remark that velocipastor just sounded cool from a harmless auto-correct error.

Wild Eye Releasing and Cyfuno Ventures presents “The VelociPastor” onto a unrated DVD home video. Based off Brendan Steere’s 2011 faux grindhouse trailer of the same title which the director used 16mm Kodak stock, the feature film loses a fair amount of that particular grindhouse appeal, but Steere still manages to manufacture grindhouse attributes by creating scratches on the floor of his dark bathroom and also baking the film in his oven to obtain a warm, dry coloring to give the film age and deterioration. Details in the 2018 film are ten times more distinguishable than in his 2011 trailer and the since being garnished almost completely with practical effects, nothing detailed has grand poise and exhibits every uncouth knook and cranny that only adds to the horror-comedy’s charm. The 2.0 stereo mix has an even keel about it and doesn’t embark on the same grindhouse wear Steere attempts to develop on the image, but the dialogue is prominent and ambience, from the fighting hits to the roar, is on point with depth and range. English closed captioning subtitles are available. Bonus features include a commentary track, gag reel, a Texas Frightmare Cast and Crew question and answer with Greg Cohan, Brendan Steere, and Jesse Gouldsbury, and the theatrical trailer. As about as B-movie as a feature can get, “The VelociPastor” rekindles the jurassic age’s primal instincts and unleashes a new and ferocious cult icon, one that’ll not only bite your head clean off, but will exact the last rites before doing so! Amen!

The VelociPastor on DVD! Click the DVD to buy!