Wes Craven’s Evil After School Special! “Summer of Fear” review!


Julia Trent is left orphaned after the fatal accident of her parents that involved them falling to their fiery deaths when their car careens off a cliff attempting to drive their housekeeper home. The only family Julia has left is the Bryant family whom she hasn’t seen in over 15 years. The Bryants welcome their niece with consolation and open arms, inviting her to room with her cousin, Rachel. Rachel has the perfect life: a loving mother and father, a cute boyfriend, and the ability to ride and compete in horse competitions. However, Rachel’s world is upended when Julia enters her life and something just doesn’t seem right when Julia slowly begins to push Rachel out of her comfy position, bewitching the men in her life to turn against her and being the center of a number of considerable accidents. As Rachel suspicions grow and she becomes further attached from all those that surround her, an investigation ensues with Rachel at helm to retrieve what’s rightfully her’s from an underlying evil.

The late Wes Craven made for television movie “Summer of Fear,” also known as “Stranger in the House,” is a living relic; a time capsule type horror this generation will find difficult to grasp, like Nintendo’s Gameboy or music tape cassettes, with thrilling suspense unlike today’s cookie cutter product. After he shocked audiences with the controversial “The Last House on the Left” and crafted a shifty dream killer in “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” director Wes Craven embarked on a venture into the television movie scene that didn’t spur graphic content, but focused putting the supernatural in the forefront of reality with a similarity to that of “Tales of the Darkside” or “The Twilight Zone,” captivating audiences sitting in front of the boobtube with twists and thrills in a Halloween premiered NBC movie. Based on Lois Duncan’s novel of the same title and written for television by Glenn Benest (who also wrote another Craven directed picture “Deadly Blessings”) and Max Keller, Wes Craven greatly accepted the challenge of reaching a broad audience without being subversive and explicit, sharing his vision with another living horror icon in the starring role.

“The Exorcist’s” Linda Blair has a role that’s certainly a far cry from the possessed Reagan, but the 1978 “Summer of Fear” had opened up a sleuth-type role for Blair that made her more of the hunter than the victim. Blair’s raspy voice and spoiled girl attitude completes the privileged daughter of the household compared to her tall and charming rival, Julia Trent, in “Necromancy’s” Lee Purcell. Purcell compliments Blair all too well and, together, the on screen tension is ever present, even if slightly over exaggerated. From that point on, “Summer of Fear” was filled in by other great talent such as Jeremy Slate (“True Grit” ’69), Carol Lawrence, a very young Fran Drescher in the beginning of her career, Jeff McCracken, and Jeff East (“Pumpkinhead”), but the more fascinating role, that was hardly explored, is awarded to MacDonald Carey, the resident occult professor of the neighborhood. Carey’s has a very old school actor with a performance very familiar to Robert Mitchum and the veteran actor’s vast career felt very small here in the catalytic role as the confirming source for Rachel in her suspicions.

In addition to the withdrawal of the contentious content, “Summer of Fear” entertains on a minimalistic special effects stage that still pops with jaw-dropping suspense and still caters to an, even if slightly dated, story altering moment that rockets toward a maelstrom finish. All the while, Lee Purcell’s character has such glam and beauty that the bewitching sticks overpoweringly raw as a telling moment that beauty isn’t all that’s wrapped up to be and people can be ugly on the inside. Through brief glimpses into Julia Trent’s authentic past, including the mountainous Ozark retreats, one could conclude the story’s ultimate ending, but the fact that the actors embrace their rolls and Wes Craven connects himself enthusiastically to the project makes “Summer of Fear” a solid small box show of terror.

Doppelgänger Releasing releases the Wes Craven classic “Summer of Fear” for the first time onto Blu-ray home video. Transferred to a 1080p resolution, the presentation is certainly made from TV in the Academy, 4:3 or 1.33:1, aspect ratio. Image quality sporadically has moments of definition instability where the image goes fluffy or soft and amongst the duration’s entirety are a slew of white specks and noticeable grain, but the transfer remains solid over the decades that display a grandeur of vivid coloring despite some scenes of with an overburdening washed yellow tint. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio cleanly presents the feature with not a lot of flashy audio moments and the dialogue is clean and clear suggesting that the audio track aged very well. Bonus material includes an audio commentary track by director Wes Craven, an exclusive interview with Linda Blair, photo and poster gallery, and concluding with the original 1978 trailer. “Summer of Fear” might be obsolete in modern ways of terror filmmaking, but Wes Craven imprints a searing cult classic that brandishes more than just guts and gore. Instead, the father of “Scream” continues to impress beyond the grave, thanks to distributors like Doppelgänger Releasing, with the filmmaker’s expansive range that debunks many popcorn horror goers’ assumptions about the director and his films. “Summer of Fear” simply showcases that Craven was a jack of all trades when coming down to brass tax in creating a terrifying story.

Buy Summer of Fear at Amazon!

Does Evil Go Incognito? “Sheep Skin” Review!

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A four person punk rock band, known as The Dick-Punchers, kidnap an egotistical businessman named Todd because they suspect the white collar professional to be a vicious, man-eating werewolf.  Confined to a chair in an abandoned warehouse, Todd is interrogated, threatened, and tortured to reveal his true beastly self, but as the night drags on, the band’s evidence weakens against Todd and tensions boil to a flare as the band’s leader, Schafer, starts to question their suspicions and motives.  Doubts divide the band’s handling of the overwrought situation, especially when Todd’s wife tracks her husband’s phone to his exact location, hoping to catch him in an unfaithful act, but ends up becoming entangled in his internment.
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Crafting a werewolf film on a microscopic budget is a daunting and difficult task to accomplish and having the resulting finish to be mediocre is a good achievement for any filmmaker whether working in the independent market or in the Hollywood limelight.  Writer-director Kurtis Spieler found a conduit through the immensely barbed brier patch for his 2013 indie horror film “Sheep Skin” and came out relatively unscathed by the pricks.  The ambitious werewolf flick was developed on the heels of his Spieler’s 2007 short film of the same title with actor Laurence Mullaney reprising his role of the kidnapped businessman, or maybe a werewolf in plain sight, Todd and with Nicholas Papazoglou returning as producer.  With a little more backing behind Spieler’s Invasive Image production company, the director was able to recreate his short to a feature film on a reported $25,000 budget.
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The budget amount surely gives a bit of hesitation when going into a viewing of “Sheep Skin,” but by cutting down location costs and maintaining afloat with the equipment already obtained, Spieler puts his heart and soul into the cast of gifted actors and a talented crew and into a story that’s nail-bitingly entertaining without the possibility of a werewolf ever making an appearance on screen.  Along side the return of Laurence Mullaney, the relatively unknown Michael Schantz, who had a role in the Alistair Pitt episode of NBC’s popular espionage drama series “The Blacklist,” portrays Schafer, the vengeance seeking leader of The Dick-Punchers.  Schantz’s rendition of the character is undeniably acute to the rampant emotions and stakes of kidnapping and holding Todd.  Schafer’s band member and girlfriend, Dylan, portrayed by Ria Burns-Wilder finds an unwavering loyalty in her man.  The two wild cards, Clive and Marcus, filled in fittingly by Zach Gillette and Bryan Manley Davis.  Gillette and Davis play characters that contrast each other very strongly with Clive being more of a bruiser and a hot head looking forward to roid-rage mayhem while Marcus nervously questions his friends’ intentions if the situation goes south.  Jamie Lyn Bagley is an It’s Bloggin’ Evil favorite (see our reviews for “Flesh for the Inferno,” “Sins of Dracula,” “Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead,” and “Future Justice“) and the upcoming scream queen becomes the last puzzle piece to a dynamic cast as Todd’s mistrusting wife.
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The kidnapping portion of the story starts from the get-go, nabbing Todd as soon as he attempts to leave the office.  After all introductions are completed and the plot is set, the pace slows down toward an uneventful position with characters vacillating.  Schafer holds many sidebar conversations with his crew, as a good captain should always do, but makes for tedious anticipation instead of white knuckling action.  The deceleration of content during this time doesn’t necessarily bore down the story as the characters react rightfully so due in part to Spieler intentionally incorporating doubt into The Dick-Punchers’ plan and when the snowball starts to roll downhill and the strain starts to disintegrate their plan and, ultimately, their friendship, “Sheep Skin” is a juggernaut of confined bloodletting.
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Unearthed Films and MVDVisual courtesy releases Kurtis Speiler’s film onto DVD with a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio that soaks in a noir style filter for a mysterious-horror atmosphere.  The DVD offers an alternate black and white version of the film that’s preferable as the dark filter kept the image devoid of natural colors.  Digital noise overtakes the brighter coloring in which DNR could have reduced the effect for a cleaner finish.  The noise also affected the Dolby Digital 2.0 audio with a  low lying hum throughout the background of the entire duration.  Dialogue tracks levels vary heavily during calmer or character enclosed scenes while the soundtrack booms out LFE during abrupt moments.  The DVD has a solid cache of extras including director’s commentary, deleted scene with director introduction, behind the scenes look at the making of “Sheep Skin,” the original short film, The Dick-Punchers music video, and the theatrical trailer.  “Sheep Skin” isn’t an archaic werewolf tale, but a fresh suspenseful spin on lycanthrope mythos.  

BUY “Sheep Skin” on DVD from Unearthed Films and MVDVisual at Amazon.com! Just clink on the above image.

Kevin Bacon and the Evil Cult! The Following (TV Series – Ep. 1 Review)

The-followingFox usually has some pretty entertaining shows.  I was a religions Hugh Laurie House M.D. follower and Tim Roth’s Lie To Me really had me going until the show was canceled for some, most likely, idiotic reason.  After that those two shows were no longer running new episodes, I occasionally watched Family Guy, The Simpsons and Football whenever the Detroit Lions were playing.  This new crime/horror thriller show called The Following had aired January 21st and I can’t say I was eager to turn away from Monday night’s The Biggest Loser that airs at the same time that The Following airs.  I’m not ashamed to say that my wife and I caught The Following on On Demand and I’m impressed.  What a great first episode to set up all the characters and their stories and now I am eager enough to start being a religious follower; however, I will not turn away from watching obese people sweat to death and curse at their trainers for a killer’s killer cult.  Something about big people struggling to lose weight has more of an appeal, but thank you On Demand for being so convenient in helping me catching up on my shows (Dexter, American Horror Story: Asylum)!

The Following is about a charismatic and powerfully persuasive English professor Joe Carroll who is also a murderer of young college women to capture the essence of Edgar Alan Poe’s literary work.  FBI agent Ryan Hardy tracks down Carroll and single handedly arrests him despite being stabbed in the heart.  Years later, Carroll escapes just a week before his execution and now the ex-FBI agent Ryan Hardy has to once again track him down.  Before Hardy is able to apprehend once again, Carroll sets forth a plan that involves his loyal followers doing his murderous bidding for him which will tie up loose ends and most certainly involved the wash up agent Hardy.

Kevin Bacon in the first episode had a good first impression, but I didn’t empathize with him.  This is not to say that his character will develop more into something more in depth and I can’t wait.  My third eye tells me that there will be more to his character and his story.  Bacon isn’t a stranger to horror (Tremors, Stir of Echos, Flatliners, Friday the 13th) and his performances usually stands out.  I believe in the Bacon.  Plus, with being the brain child of Scream series screenwriter Kevin Williamson, I have no doubt that we’ll get some great thrills.  Episode one delivered some fantastic and dark scenes, especially with Joe Carroll’s potential serial killer prodigy and his dog experiments.  The cast is well rounded out with Shawn Ashmore (Lord of the Rings, Frozen), James Purefoy (Resident Evil) and Natalie Zea.

What I seriously hope to be a brutal series, I kind of have my doubts that this will be anything like American Horror Story.  Unlike it’s more edgier little brother F/X, FOX seems to be a tamer, more conservative counterpart and FOX, much like ABC and NBC, have had too many shows that are a hit and a miss and are canceled before you can say seven degrees of Kevin Bacon.  I see The Following lasting beyond the first season and I see my ass in bed turning in a couple of days after the airing to catch up!  Keep your eye on this one from FOX.