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!
Sara, a desperate young mother, infiltrates a secret facility workplace under the false pretentions of becoming an employee of the critical janitorial department. After losing custody of her adolescent daughter Jenny in court, the child becomes misplaced when her custody awarded father, an employee, loses Jenny in the facility that’s conducting unusual activity involving the building’s light energy source. With everyone on constant edge and under the powerful and dangerous influence of the light, including her very organized and unstable employer, Sara is able to find a sympathizer in the head janitor and by exploiting his mental map and valuable knowledge of the building, Sara goes deeper into the structural bones of a nightmarish reality where evil lurks in the shadows and not everything is what it seems.
“Feed the Light” is a H.P. Lovecraft inspired sci-fi horror directed and co-written by indie filmmaker Henrik Möller with Martin Jirhamn sharing the co-write. The gothic tale stems from the Lovecraft short story “The Colour Out of Space” that tells the tale of a meteor crash landing in the hills near Arkham, Massachusetts, poisoning and deforming all the living creatures nearby that creates chaos amongst the locals. The light, that never dulls, becomes the driving force of everything malevolent and that carries over into Möller’s film, but isolates the setting to a dilapidated building instead of a natural landscape and focusing more on the people inside rather than vegetation or livestock as the Lovecraft short story builds upon. Originally shot in color, Möller thought best to suck the color out from the reel and produce a mostly black and white film, sprinkled with color at strategic moments, that would convey the importance of the ever-present light and interpret a far more dramatic effect to play out; a decision I whole-heartedly agree because if laced with color, much of the abandoned warehouse setting would be a monotonous eye-sore. Instead, black and white enhances the light’s presence, makes it almost seem to stand out amongst the greyscale, and give way to more inspirationally vibrant hues when they are revealed.
For Henrik Möller, this is the director’s first dive into feature films and for the filmmaker whose better known for his shocking shorts, “Feed the Light” doesn’t water down the deranged, creative machine that just steam-plows through a 75-minute runtime and still managing to be mechanically sound to comprehend the Lovecraftian tone. Lina Sundén fills the lead shoes as Sara and Sundén embodies complete innocence and bewilderment when her characters goes forth into this strange facility, but doesn’t show much fear as if a mother’s determination is her driving force to go beyond being what frightens her. Alongside Sundén is Martin Jirhamn, who you might remember me saying he co-wrote the script, as the sympathizing janitor. Jirhamn has collaborated on many of Möller’s shorts, feeling comfortable taking on the challenge of a full length feature by taking on more of a scripted role that has a face with two sides. Rounding out the cast of memorizing characters are “Not Like Others'” Jenny Lampa as an authoritarian boss of the facility who tries to keep Sara from going on Indian Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in the basement and Patrik Karlson otherwise known as the VHS-Man and Jenny’s father in the film.
“Feed the Light” has undertones beyond that of Lovecraft. The story feels nearly anti-establishment, a surreal and extreme look at how doing the same job, in the same office, staring at the same fluorescent lights can make one loose one’s humanity. The boss is a strict enforcer of the rules and doesn’t shrug at the thought of one of her employee’s burning out as long as the job gets done, but it’s not burning out that’s the problem. The light symbolizes obedience and control, turning those with a soul into mindless workers. There’s an unseen power embodying them such as with the dog man, played by Morgan Schagerberg, who, literally, sounds and acts like a canine that just happens to have glittery dust goo ooze out of it’s anus. Yup, weird. “Feed the Light” is jarringly weird, but also laminates into the prospect of hidden doom that’s very similar to the truth is out there concept reveled in the “X-Files.”
The Severin sub-label, Intervision Picture Corp., usually subjects us to older projects, but embraces newer indie films such as Henrik Möller’s “Feed the Light” and with the help of CAV Distributing, Möller and “Feed the Light” can be exposed to every house hold on Earth as a region free Blu-ray in 1080p full Hi-Def. The full frame is a staple of Intervision and doesn’t necessary cause any distress over cropped images. There is a fair amount of interference, but again, only enhances the indie labels reputation. Other than that, the image is fine laid under a Swedish language dual channel audio track that’s well balanced with a brooding industrial soundtrack by Testbild, a Möller familiarity. There are two extras accompanying the feature: one is a making of featurette and the other is an interview with the director, Henrik Möller. “Feed the Light” is a science fiction oddity chocked full with surreal depictions and nightmare creatures with a Lovecraft base and a passionate director’s otherworldly view of how light and color powerfully dictate our everyday lives.
Hellbent on being the first to discover something big between 1000-feet, talented marine biologist and ecologist, Olive Crown, constructs a convincing case in a video hiring application to test a deep sea diving suit invented by Dr. Fletcher, but a harrowing encounter with monstrous creature at 2500 feet nearly claims Olive’s life. Blamed for a botch dive and unable to remember the incident, Olive has been fired from her dream position, but when she double checks the dive suit for evidence of what might have happened, she discovers an alien substance, an egg-like object, attached to the outer layer and smuggles it home. The egg hatches to birth a blood thirsty, Cthulhu being that has marked Olive as in a symbiotic relationship as protector and mother. Olive senses everything the creature does, even it’s hunger, and caves in to her discovery’s need to feed with those who antagonize Olive and her creature baby, but at an alarming rate, the life form grows into a mammoth creature and Olive might be losing the perspective of who is really in control.
“The Creature Below” puts a spin on a popularly wild H.P. Lovecraft tale and adds a notch into the belt of the Cthulhu mythos. From director Stewart Sparke in his first feature film comes one woman’s tragically macabre endowment that runs amok through the uninteresting confines of her own life and obliterate it from within. Co-written by Paul Butler, the British Cthulhu feature, “The Creature Below,” melds together a very grand unearthly story into the restrictive walls of an unwanted love triangle Olive’s involved in while dipping toes into also being a pre-Romero zombie film with the automata slave. Though very modest in story and budget, “The Creature Below” is an itsy-bitsy speck in a bigger mythological genre and that’s usually the case for indie Cthulhu flicks, as they should be, because giving a little mystery to Lovecraft’s myth tends to build worlds later, sparks the imagination aflame, and leaves a lasting impression long after the movie is over.
Anna Dawson stars as Olive Crown, creature’s foster parent, and Dawson’s first impression of Olive emits a fierce, go-getter ecologist, looking to make a name for herself in the deep dive exploration field. That egotistical drive tapers off a bit once she’s canned for botched dive, delivering a more humble and reserved Olive Crown, but Dawson puts on the sunken-eyed, icy-cold skin that’s clammy and deadlike in order to fulfill the infant Cthulhu’s bidding. Daniel Thrace embraces the lovably sweet boyfriend, Matthew, whose sensible, charming, and overall nice guy. The pair are complete oil and water, a welcoming dynamic, when Olive’s rationality goes off track. Olive and Matthew are really the only two developed characters as, disappointingly, three considerable major characters don’t build too much of a reputation to warrant their value, especially with Olive’s sister, Ellie, played by Michaela Longden. There’s something more between Ellie and Matthew that doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head and there’s also more to her staying with her sister, Olive, that the audience is not aware of and the scenes where Olive comments on her sister’s freeloading just loses all it’s credibility. The other two actors, roles awarded to Johnny Vivash and Zacharee Lee, are more involved in Olive’s deep sea dive and bring more of a well rounded antagonistic or betrayal personality to the table.
Sparke doesn’t linger too long on the creature, shielding it mostly behind a plastic tarp with a nude façade and that’s, perhaps, more in line with the micro budget constraints. In any case, Sparke focuses the story around Olive’s paranoia and obsession with the creature and with her boyfriend and the bitterness between him and her Sister, Ellie, seemingly toward Olive. Dave Walter has composed from start to finish a low and slow synth soundtrack, that’s familiar to a slowly anticipating heartbeat, and really heightens Olive’s spiraling paranoia similar to that of Ennio Morricone’s work on John Carpenter’s 1982 remake entitled “The Thing” where the eerily sounds of a personified isolation breaches every corner of your body, mind, and the dark room you’re in and all you can hear is that thump…thump…thump in a chest vibrating synchronicity of tones. While the soundtrack is riveting throughout, the story becomes a bit sluggish around the midsection in the sense that space and time don’t exists and Olive’s encounters with Dr. Fletcher, Dara, and various others, are halted to develop any kind of affluence amongst each other or with the audience. Even the ending, which I do adore on a certain level, bares the mark of being incomplete and devoid of substantiating that monolithic ending. There is some post-view satisfaction with the blend of practical and computer generated special effects and as I reflect on the film as a whole, to display a species from birth to adulthood, Sparke and his special effects team had amazing results that are fanned out well enough to leave a lasting impression of the unearthed creature’s visceral and intelligible girth.
Breaking Glass Pictures with Dark Rift Films in association with High Octane Pictures release “The Creature Below” onto DVD. The 16:9 widescreen presentation of this sci-fi horror thriller explores a sleek and clean, with a hint of being just a little hazy, picture that puts forth the appropriate dark grey and blue tone for an underwater or above water creature feature. The English Dolby 5.1 sound’s slightly muffled, but solid. Special features include a behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, “Rats” a short film, and a Frightfest Q&A. Stewart Sparke’s “The Creature Below” is not perfect and does have appalling, laughable moments, but underneath the surface is a UK film that’s budget-busting bold and aims to be a goliath in an indie market.
“The Thing on the Doorstep” is a nearly 8o-year-old gothic tale converted the short story written by H.P. Lovecraft to a small screen adaptation from Leomark studios and MVDVisual home entertainment. The story tells of Daniel Upton and his relationship with friend socially hopeless affluent Edward Derby. When Edward meets and weds a bizarre hypnotists Asenath Waite, his relationship with good friend Daniel turns eccentric and mysterious. Edward’s personality switches from the person Daniel knows and loves to a completely separate entity. As Daniel investigates down the rabbit hole, he learns that Edward might be a victim of black magic and that Asenath’s disturbed and demented background might be behind it all.
Telling the story of this magnitude would be a difficult feat but director Tom Gilserman’s style through the narrative the character Daniel Upton and the structure is simple enough to make this story work well on screen. Penned by Mary Jane Hansen, who also has the lead role of Asenath Waite, pieces together natural dialogue to form believable characters. For great writing to transmit, you also need great actors. David Bunce, Susan Cicarelli-Caputo, Ron Komora, and Rob Dalton round out a great first time cast of actors that join Hansen and have completed a flowing conversations.
Gilserman does try to a create a Lovecraftian atmosphere with unique camera angles, a dark complexion, and a gothic facade that would make H.P. proud to have his story told through this medium. The film plays out as a bad nightmare full of continuous and repeated flashes of scenes that will drown you into madness while also attempting to make Edward have two sides of him – his soul and a wicked others.
One thing that I thought the film lacked with the use of black magic revealed. Anenath is suppose to be this powerful being who may or may not be human, but a witch, a succubus, a shell of a human. What the plot is more focus on is Daniel and Edward’s relationship and I believe this to be contributed to the narrative style of this film as it delivers as if one is reading straight from the source – the short story. Not too much is given about Asenath or her ‘hired help.’ Budgetary constraints more than likely contributed to the lack of black magic effects if there were to be any.
Take the plunge and test out this adaptation of one of Lovecraft’s more psychological horror stories. The DVD from MVD was released this past tuesday and surely will get your head twisted around and your spine snapped with intense suspense and mystery.
No Nudity 😦
Perhaps the most very definition of sensory stimulation lies with the Stuart Gordon 1986 mad science horror film From Beyond. Numerous sensors are teased from color perspectives to sexual stimulation to even the thrill of exciting the mind through science. From Beyond is not only a maddeningly weird and utterly slimy film about expanding the pineal gland to the point of losing yourself to a creature ridden other-dimensional world where you’re absorbed into chaotic, gelatinous mutated mass. No. From Beyond lets you fully and freely experience what most people consider to be taboo and frightening.
Dr. Edward Pretorius and his assistant Crawford Tillinghast construct a machine called the Resonator that will tap into the dormant pineal gland of the mind in hopes of expanding to beyond the regions of the mind. When Crawford first turns on the machine, creatures appear swimming in the air and attack Crawford. Ignoring the warnings of possible danger, the obsessed Pretorius turns on the machine and has his head twisted and decapitated by a shape-shifting monster. Crawford’s story lands him committed in an mental institution where he is greeted by Dr. Katherine McMichaels who treats Crawford and wants him to recreate his experience in order to treat what she thinks is schizophrenia. Crawford, Katherine and Bubba Brownlee, an overseeing officer to make sure Crawford behaves himself, return to the Pretorius house to reactivate the Resonator – to recreate the nightmare.
How can you not read that synopsis and not be curious to see this fun flick? Loosely based of H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same title and intertwined with other Lovecraftian stories. We all know that director Stuart Gordon is the true historian behind Lovecraft as he has most likely studied and then directed most of Lovecraft’s stories such as Herbert West-Re-Animator and Dagon. Yet somehow with From Beyond, Gordon and his team did something right; they infused their own ideas and their own creative style making From Beyond more memorable and highly controversial amongst the MPAA. Hell, I’m guessing this is why we can never have a home entertainment copy stay in print for more than 3 years – point in case, the MGM release! Luckily, for you and for me, UK cult and horror film loving Second Sight Films has brought back From Beyond from the DVD grave and has even enhanced the film for Blu-ray!
From Beyond really did push the limits with the MPAA; so much in fact that even using green slime over blood to lessen the effect still caused heavily edited down editions. But there are scenes of extreme uncomfortableness which I find a sense of relieve and peacefulness in. Such scenes are with Barbara Crampton in the S&M outfit and she fondles Jeffrey Combs as he lies hair less and injured in bed. If I feel awkward, dirty, or uncomfortable after a scene, I’m extremely enjoying the movie and thank you director, producers, writers, actors, and the rest of the crew in making uncomfortable scenes enjoyable for weird folks as myself. Like I always say, if a horror movie frightens you, then the movie is doing it’s job! From Beyond will surface all sorts of internal emotions and stimulations that cause the sensations to overload and explode much like the Resonator stimulating the pineal gland to the point of blissful agony.
If you want to feel like you’re on a severe acid trip, I’d suggest grabbing From Beyond from Second Sight here before the DVD goes out of print again. Remember, this is a region 2 disc and can only be played on region 2 players so beware!