A maniacal and obsessed ghost hunter, Cyrus Kriticos, traps 12 tormented and violent spirits with the help of an avaricious, but anguished psychic, Dennis Rafkin, but when trapping the last ghost, the worst of the worst, a barbaric mass murder in life and in death named Juggernaut, Cyrus is killed in the process. His death leads to the inheritance of a one-of-a-kind house to his widowed nephew, Arthur, and his two children who are barely scraping by after the unexpected fiery death of their beloved wife and mother. When they enter what seemingly feels like a godsend house, immaculately structured entirely out of glass and metal, they find themselves trapped inside after tripping a series of mechanism that turn the isolated and elegant abode into a labyrinthic machine. Stuck inside with Arthur and his family are Dennis Rafkin and a ghost friendly liberator, Kalina Oretiza, who explain that the house is actually an evil machine with a goal of opening the eye to Hell and that the ghosts, imprisoned in the basement, are components that are being set free one-by-one in order to fulfill the ritual.
In the world of remakes, only a select few ever surpass the original. In fact, on rare occasions, do remakes actually replace the original due in part to being beyond respectful as well as masterful amongst critics and genre fans that have bestowed the reimagining an untouchable rendition to which no one can find anything wrong with it; this films include John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” and Chuck Russell’s “The Blob,” with Zack Synder’s “Dawn of the Dead” and Tom Savini’s “Night of the Living Dead” receiving well-deserved honorable mentions, because let’s face it, topping George Romero’s original work can be said to be blasphemous slander. What about those remakes in between? Those just above the pile of awfulness that generally makeup remakes? I consider Steve Beck’s “Thir13en Ghosts” to be one of this mid-level remake films that registers well with fans, but on the flips side of that coin, doesn’t ascend to total prominence over its predecessor. Written by longtime Full Moon Entertainment writer Neal Marshall Stevens (“Hideous!” and “The Killer Eye”) and Richard D’Ovidio (“The Call”), “Thir13en Ghosts” is a 2001 near-total rework of the 1960 William Castle directed and Robb White scripted “13 Ghosts” that used gimmicks like 3D specter glasses to draw audiences into the theater. “Thir13en Ghosts” was the second film after another William Castle remake, “House on Haunted Hill,” of the newly formed, William Castle nod-to, Dark Castle Entertainment, a division of Joel Silver’s Silver Productions formed by Silver, Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”), and Gilbert Adler (“Bordello of Blood”) that honed initially on producing stylishly modern takes on classic gothic horror, such as “Ghost Ship,” the remake of “House of Wax,” and “Orphan.” What came out of this collaboration between Steve Beck and Dark Castle Entertainment is a complete dismantling of the wood paneling and lament flooring story for a modern marvel to emerge of unique terror that hasn’t been duplicated since.
“Thir13en Ghosts” has an impressive, if not all-star, cast with diverse range of styles and experiences that it’s almost dumbfounding on how the filmmakers were able to contract some of these talents, including F. Murray Abraham, who has had an already eclectic credit list with “Amadeus,” “Surviving the Game,” and Mimic, and Tony Shalhoub who hand standout performances in “Addams Family Values,” “Men in Black,” and “Galaxy Quest.” Abraham and Shalhoub bring a sense of classical and methodological structure in a stark contrast between rationality and irrationality built upon an indifference of solitude and a sense of family. Then, there’s the comedic relief in the midst of danger, Matthew Lilliard (“Scream”) as the suffering psychic who uses his wit tongue to spur others and introducing hip-hop artist, Rah Digga, in one of her only motion picture performances to alleviate suspension with more tongue-and-cheek moments. Lilliard and Digga offer up two different comic styles while sustaining the underlying severity of being trapped inside an evil machine full of violent ghosts. Shannon Elizabeth, who we all know by now as the stunning “American Pie” girl, Nadia, or as I know her as the unfortunately raped and murder victim of a killer snowman in “Jack Frost,” plays Arthur Kriticos daughter, Kathy, who still a fresh faced newcomer to Hollywood despite being a hot commodity after her topless role in “American Pie.” The superb support roles don’t end there with notable roles from JR Bourne (“Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning”), Matthew Harrison, Alec Roberts, John DeSantis, and EmBeth Davidtz, Sheila from “Army of Darkness,” as the ghost liberator.
It’s hard to believe that “Thir13en Ghosts” is nearly 20-years old. I still recall my 17 year old self sitting in for a theatrical showing, remembering the opening gargoyle growling as the Dark Castle Entertainment logo reveals itself during the opening title credits, and coming out of the maze-like, gory-ghost film having experienced something special, even if then I didn’t understand why, only to years later realize that I’ve never seen something like “Thir13en Ghosts” before in my life. How does a remake reinvent itself so much that it can separate itself from the original film while also beguile with fresh ideas and no take a slew of browbeating chirps from those who holdfast that the original is the one and only? Most remakes cheaply throw gore to the wind, adding buckets of blood in hopes to satisfy horror buffs, but what winds up happening is that we ultimately get bored, having experienced blood and guts from singular storied films. “Thir13n Ghosts’” premise isn’t the only worthwhile experience that deserves praise, but also the spectacular production design by Sean Hargraves that thrusts the glass house concept into new heights with the house actually becoming an interestingly steampunk character itself and the prosthetic effects from a team spearheaded by a trio of the best special makeup effects artists in horror today, such as Howard Berger, Robert Kurtzman, and Gregory Nicotero., turning ghoulish encounters to ghastly visions that convey truly a tormented soul in the 12 ghosts. Though the story itself isn’t perfect, flawed at times with static character development and a few plot holes involving the ghosts and sequences of events, “Thir13en Ghosts” remains a cult favorite gaslit by frightening imagery, a solid cast, and unforgetting production design that started 21st century horror off brazenly strong.
Collect all “Thir13en Ghosts” on the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray courtesy of Scream Factory sheathed in a cardboard slip cover and has a reverse artwork liner that has the original poster artwork and new vivid illustration by Joel Robinson. Presented in a 1080p, high definition widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, from the original 35mm negative, “Thir13en Ghosts” shares a consistent image and vibrancy layer with the DVD version with an enhanced color stability. No edge enhancement or cropping adjustments rendered or any other blemishes to speak of, but the softer details could have been sharpened to gave a hard edge around the non-spiritual energy. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 boosts the already hefty soundtrack that’s full of explosions and ghostly swooshes and moaning hums, finished off with grand, orchestra soundtrack by John Frizzell It’s been said that audience had to excuse themselves from the film due in part to the overbearing noise coupled with the strobe-like imagery, but the overall audio and visuals are a combined one-two punch of sensory power that works well. The Scream Factory release has new interviews in the bonus material, including sit downs with actors Shannon Elizabeth, Matthew Harrison, and John DeSantis and producer Gilbert Adler. There’s also a audio commentary with director’s Steve Beck, production designer Sean Hargraves, and special effects artist Howard Berger. There’s also an in-depth look at the creation of the thirteen ghosts in a small featurette, their backstory profiles, and the theatrical trailer. However you want to call it, whether it’s “Thir13en Ghosts,” “Thirteen Ghosts, or “13 Ghosts,” this new century remake still holds up to today’s horror lot with spellbinding phantom pandemonium in a glass box!
English newlyweds, Gerald and Marianne Harcourt, travel by motorcar to their honeymoon destination when, all of the sudden, the car breaks down in a small Bavarian village. The remote village is barren of life except a few irregular villagers remaining reclusive in their residence. Unable to go any further, the Harcourts stay at the local hotel where one other guest resides. Soon, their presence is requested in invitation by Dr. Ravna, a prominent and respected gentlemen of affluence, to have dinner with him and his family, but little do the newlyweds know is that Dr. Ravna is the master of a vampiric cult that has been plaguing the small village, turning the inhabitants into acolyte vampires, and now Dr. Ravna has turned his fixation on the beautiful Marianne. Will Marianne succumb to the vampire’s alluring powers or with the help of Professor Zimmer, a drunkard vampire hunter bitter with revenge, stop Dr Ravna before it’s too late for his new wife.
Stepping once again into the mystifyingly, macabre tale of a Hammer Films’ production, “The Kiss of the Vampire” stimulates as one of the progenies of the early beginnings that is today’s Hammer Horror as we know it and adore with the 1963 gothic tale of seductive vampirism and the callous, if not equally heartful, reprisal of the brokenhearted vampire hunter from director Don Sharp, who would direct a decade later the deadly occult riders of 1973’s “Psychomania” aka “The Death Wheelers.” The picture is produced and penned by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Anthony Hinds with the latter being credited under Hinds’ pseudonym, John Elder. Perhaps one of the lesser known Hammer Horror films due to limited broadcasting, “The Kiss of the Vampire” becomes the next installment of a Hammer Horror classic upgraded through a 2K scan from Scream Factory for maximum restoration on a nearly five decade year old film that included a scene straight out of the book of Alfred Hitchcock, but instead of birds, a swarm of crazed bats scour a chateau tower for blood. One of the last films to be shot at the Bray Studios in Berkshire, England, “The Kiss of the Vampire” is a smooch baring fangs that pits good versus evil marred as a defect from the Devil himself.
At the center of the natural versus supernatural tug-a-war is Marianne, a young, blonde English on the heels of being quickly hitched to Gerald Harcourt seemingly on the downlow, is played by Welsh actress Jennifer Daniel, who, at the time, was a newcomer to full-length features as she developed a steady career in television from the 50’s to the 60’s. Daniel is no Tippi Hedren, but she’s close, as the English socialite having embarked toward unfamiliar surroundings, a brooding Bavarian land with a fatal affliction that’s ravaging through the residents. Marianne and Gerald, an elated husband in a role by Edward de Souza, make a fairly adorable couple complete with newfound marital bliss and ignorance of the harsh realities of the outside world; perhaps, that young and in love ignorance is the most profound theme in “The Kiss of the Vampire” that explores the naïve nature of outsiders and blinded youthful endeavors despite the clear and present dangers that loom around them. Playing Dr. Ravna, who is not Dracula mind you, is Noel Willman, who bares a stunning resemblance to plumper Peter Cushing, and Willman’s socialite role is interesting as Dr. Ravna’s a blunt around the edges and, yet, unbelievably charming, a find blend from the Irish born actor who would later collaborate again with Jennifer Daniel in another Hammer Films product, “The Reptile,” in 1966. Opposite to the abundance of Dr. Ravna’s seemingly endless wealth and power is Professor Zimmer, a brooding dipsomaniac hellbent on destroying Dr. Ravna for the death of his daughter, played by “The Curse of the Werewolf’s” Clifford Evans. Though we know immediately from the opening graveyard funeral scene Professor Zimmer’s outskirt profession, his dark top hat, cape, sunken eyes, and brash persona places him in a seemingly villainous category and that displays Clifford Evan’s range as an actor. “The Kiss of the Vampire’s” strong support cast includes Jacquie Wallis, Peter Madden, Isobel Black, Vera Cook, and “The Devil-Ship Pirates’” Barry Warren as an intense spellbinder disciple of Dr. Ravna.
Critically speaking, “The Kiss of the Vampire” tenders more of an extension of the vampire mythos that directs more of the classic creature to the enigmatic way of the cult through an elegant Don Sharp vision rich in Gothicism and sound in the era it’s portrayed, early 20th century. Focusing more on the Hinds’ story that more or less involves Dr. Ravna’s fascination with Marianne to join his co-ed harem, the way he initiates Marianne might also indicate that the good doctor his binary feelings toward both sexes, making “The Kiss of the Vampire” very much an appealing, but clandestine, homoerotic companion to it’s more straight seduction tale. Another more obvious taboo for a film from the early 1960’s, “The Kiss of the Vampire” has no shame in being bloody. Scenes involving Professor Zimmer impaling his undead daughter violently with a shovel through her coffin and the blood floods upon the coffin opening is morbidly beautiful. Even when Gerard Harcourt smears with blood the sign on the cross on his chest is an absolute eye opener of the use of blood, as a weapon, and a defender of holy sanctums that nearly frightened Universal Pictures to the point of changing the entire essence of Sharp’s original depiction. Yet, one thing is constant between Hammer’s version and Universal’s broadcasted edit, the batty ending is a quick, cut-corner finale that puts a bat screeching halt to everything the story built up to and leaves plot holes that go seriously unexplained no matter how newfangled the method was on how to dispatch a cultish vampire coven. Okay, that’s enough vampire puns for this review.
Pucker up! “The Kiss of the Vampire” is receiving a Blu-ray collector’s edition treatment from Scream Factory! The interpostive went through a 2K scan and presented in a high definition, 1080p, of two widescreen aspect ratios, 1.66:1 and 1.85:1. The picture is phenomenal with lush hues that earlier home video versions, even the Warner Blu-ray boxset, didn’t even skim the level of Scream Factory’s collector’s edition. Colors only fade during the superimposed editing between scenes that really rack the vision cortexes to try and make sense of the transitions. The original negative survived well over the years with little wear and tear that consists of some minor scratches that are barely noticeable. The English language DTE-HD Master Audio mono track is a suitable accompaniment for single channel audio. Dialogue is clear and relatively unobstructed aside from a low distortional hum throughout the entire 88 minute runtime, but it’s faint enough to be a natural tune of the film. One audio mishap happens around the opening scene with the priest’s depth during his graveside sermon. The priest’s dialogue starts out strong and prominent, but when cut to Professor Zimmer, standing far in the distance, the priest vocals are reduced by a few decimals, but the volume remains the same when cut back to the priest, never upping his dialogue when cut back to his graveside sermon. English SDH subtitles are optional. A slew of new bonus material includes a new audio commentary by film historian and author Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr and Little Shoppe of Horror’s founder, Richard Klemensen, speaks in tribute to the life of the Men Who Made Hammer with composer James Bernard and production designer Bernard Robinson. Other bonus content includes audio commentary with actors Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel that’s moderated by Peter Irving, deleted scenes from Universal’s NBC Broadcast that are bloodless filler interjections reshot with a brand new sub-story involving new characters not from the Don Sharp production, and the theatrical trailer. “The Kiss of the Vampire” might be an offbeat Hammer film, but the Scream Factory collector’s edition aims to infiltrate into horror collections nationwide with glorious looking picture and a stockpile of new bonus features to chew on.
Set amongst the simple, yet sometimes divisively barbaric, culture of Eighteenth Century Spain, a beggar stumbles into the castle of a cruel king whose throwing a lavish wedding reception with his lords. The King’s young bride takes pity on the beggar as his force to be the occasion’s jester to obtain scraps of food and wine, but when the King retires with his new wife, he orders the beggar to be imprisoned. Forgotten to the point of insanity with his only visitor a lovely mute jailkeeper’s maid, the haggard and disheveled beggar goes mad with ravenous intentions and when the maid is punished for disobeying the now elderly, but still cruel, King, she is locked away with the beggar who rapes her. When the maid is released next morning, she kills the King and escapes into the woods to live like an animal until she’s barely found alive by a nobleman named Don Alfredo. Nursed back to health by Don Alfredo’s servant, Teresa, and discovering that the maid is pregnant, Don Alfredo and Teresa tend to the maid until the eventual birth on Christmas Day, an unholy time to give birth to a child according to superstition. The maid dies shortly after giving birth and the child, named Leon, is then raised by Don Alfredo and Teresa as their own, but carries with him a terrible curse stemmed from the maltreatment of his parents and being born on Christmas Day that transforms him into a bloodthirsty werewolf when the moon is full. When a priest advised that only love will restrain the beast from emerging, young Leon must be continuously shown affection, but when a young man, Leon leaves home to live his life, but the beast within him returns to ravage the village’s population.
Let’s travel back in time to the groovy year of 1961 when the renowned Hammer Horror direct, Terence Fisher (“Horror of Dracula”), was accelerating to the height of his career into what would be the United Kingdom’s very own colossally cult production studio, Hammer Horror, that economically constructed violent storied horror concepts splayed with a brilliant crimson blood inside an orgasmic gothic melodrama circulating around most of the classic monsters like Dracula, The Mummy, and Frankenstein, but, in this review of a new collector’s edition of Scream Factory’s Blu-ray release, Fisher wrestled with the hound from Hell, the werewolf, in “The Curse of the Werewolf” that was penned by Anthony Hinds, under the pseudonym of John Elder, as his sophomore credit behind “The Brides of Dracula.” English studio locations were transformed, not under the light of a full moon, to fabricate a mock village of Eighteenth Century Spain with the immaculate details to the sets and costumes, surely recycled from previous Hammer films, to offset the inherent English accents on a broken Spanglish vernacular. Fisher and Hinds upend common werewolf narratives, spinning a wildly tangent rendition of Guy Endore’s already highly taboo tricked out horror novel, “The Werewolf of Paris,” and drape it heavily with Gothicism.
Playing the shapeshifter werewolf is Oliver Reed who at the time was relatively unknown, playing a few bit parts such Plaid Shirt (“Wild for Kicks”) or my personal favorite, Man With Bucket on Head (“No Love for Johnnie.”) Yet, Reed exuded animalistic qualities, such as his dark features and somber eyes, that made him ideal for the role by appearances alone. The thespian in him didn’t quite fit what I believe Fisher was trying to flush out for his beast as Reed held back with a stoic reserve rather than a man desperate for salvation or death, but no one could deny that Reed wore the werewolf makeup like no other, a fine tuned testament of makeup artist Roy Ashton’s creativity that intensified an already beastly framed actor. “The Kiss of the Vampire’s” Clifford Evans took the role of being the wealthy socialite and surrogate father, Don Alfredo, who took the responsibility of raising a cursed child as his own with much suppression love as he could muster to stave the beast from returning. The legendary actor who starred in countless crime-dramas step outside his niche and into horror, even if at the time horror was considered a schlocky exercise of distaste content for a cheap thrill. As Don Alfredo, Evans wages his worth solely on the prospect of being a gentled hearted father-figure doing the right thing even if it’s detrimental to himself and the veteran actor triumphs taking an aloof man with little responsibility to his village, let alone his home, and turning him into taking the matter of his adopted son’s affliction into his own hands when he fails to cobble another solution together. “The Curse of the Werewolf” holds many other fine support performances from “Circus of Horror’s” Yvonne Romain as the mute jailkeeper’s maid, Catherine Feller, Richard Wordsworth, Warren Mitchell, Anne Blake, and John Gabriel.
“The Curse of the Werewolf” is driven not by the snarling teeth action or the transformative body horror one expects of Lycanthropy features. Instead, Hammer’s film rides a story high without being arbitrary with nonsensical waning on the centerpiece of the story, the curse, coursing the path that led to Leon’s fate that was no fault of his own. Leon’s throat-ripping moonlight rendezvous was bred from cruelty and circumstance of severe class division that reaps the life from those in the same blue collar social class as Leon, leaving the higher, wealthy class virtually unscathed by the curse’s wrath in a cruel ironic twist of events. With the story leading the charge, special effects and makeup take a backseat without only some immature fangs and shadowy lurking to sate the need for creature presence. When Roy Ashton’s vision of the half-man half-beast does make a full presentation of Oliver Reed in the full hairy beast getup, complete with a furrowed brow, elongated lower canines, and large wolf ears that were connected with bristly, greyish brown hair down the side of his lower jaw, the werewolf is worth the wait for some of the best practical werewolf makeup from the mid-20th century and surely was the inspiration for future werewolf films, such as “Wolf” with Jack Nicholson. The novelty of “The Curse of the Werewolf” still remains ripe despite being nearly half a century young, giving the beast a meaningful, if not also pitiful, existence to empathize being damned on two fronts: a wretched, cursed soul and being the target of a village mob.
Can love soothe a killer heart? Find out in Scream Factory’s collector edition Blu-ray of “The Curse of the Werewolf” with a new 4K scan from the original 35mm negative and presented in a 1080p high-definition widescreen format of a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Rendering with clean textures and superb details, the image has remarkable vibrancy and hue balance in it’s tinctured technicolor. The transfer is virtually blemish-free, suggesting that the original negative aged well, with agreeable natural grain to complement the film stock. Scream Factory has produced the best looking version of this classic Hammer release. The English language DTS-HD single channel Master Audio renders, again, scot-free of aged distortion with the high-definition eminent boost to providing even clearer dialogue and untarnished ambient clattering during more turbulent scenes of laughter or beastly disarray. English subtitles are optional. A collector’s edition wouldn’t be complete with a slew of bonus materials and, boy, does “The Curse of the Werewolf” have brand spanking new material for the special features that include a new Roy Ashton tribute piece by his friend and “Little Shoppe of Horrors'” writer Richard Klemensen and new audio commentary with film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr. Plus, interviews with actors Catherine Feller, Yvonne Romain, Mike Hill, art director Don Mingaye, art department member Margaret Robinson, and filmmaker Jimmy Sangster in “The Making of The Curse of the Werewolf” featurette, a look at Lycanthropy that discusses whether man’s inner wolf can be a transformative source of mental will, a still gallery, and the theatrical trailer. The package is illustrated with Oliver Reed’s snarling werewolf persona by Mark Maddox, who designed Scream Factory’s “The Thing” release, and comes in a nifty cardboard slip cover. All in all, Scream Factory brought new life into the re-originating and re-orientating “The Curse of the Werewolf” that is, perhaps inarguably, the best Hammer upgrade to date.
After the accidental and traumatizing death of his beautiful actress mother, happening right before his eyes, Jeff Matthews and his veterinarian father move from Los Angeles to his mother’s quaint hometown of Ludlow, Maine to start over. The father and son are met with small town hostility from an arrogant, abusive Sheriff and the high school bully, but the ease of settling into their new surroundings with a new veterinarian business going well and Jeff gaining friendship with the Sheriff’s stepson, Drew, provides some inkling of comfort after their loss. When the Sheriff’s hot-headed temper murders Drew’s dog, the disconsolate Drew, along with Jeff, buries his beloved best friend in a sacred Indian burial ground with a smidgen of hope of the dog’s return, as the town’s urban legends suggest, but the dog becomes the first to return in a series of deaths and catastrophic returns that stagger to a family reuniting climax Jeff and his father won’t ever forget.
With Stephen King removing his name and separating himself from the overall project, the sequel to the 1989 “Pet Sematary” raised a few eye brows from the general public, and I’m sure some anxious investors, of how just would a non-adapted sequel to one of Stephen King popular novels would pan out come release. “Pet Sematary Two,” released three years after first film, would follow the predeceasing story a few years later with an entirely new cast of characters while still evoking the presence of the first film to linger about with director Mary Lambert to return to the director’s chair and helm a script by a relatively unknown writer, Richard Outten. Yet, Lambert’s return didn’t necessary equate to the reimplementing a broody, ominous, darkness facade as the well versed music video and television director flipped the script on a film she might not have any control over albeit financial backers did. Instead, “Pet Sematary Two” garnishes a scoffing rock’n’roll polarity that’s a raiper-like obverse approach of merriment morbidity doused with flammable fun and demented delight.
Hot off the presses of his first major role as a young John Connor fighting man-killing machines from the future in “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” Edward Furlong stars as the scathingly broody Jeff Matthews. While Jeff Matthews isn’t as punk, off the street, as the delinquent turned hero John Connor, Furlong is about to turn Jeff back into being a kid with real life problems such as bullying, father-son quarrels, and dealing with the death of a parent. That screeching cry, those sunken eyes, and that bad boy attitude from “T2: Judgement Day” convinced thousands of young teenage girls that Edward Furlong was a desired heartthrob and “Pet Sematary Two” continued to showcase those attributes even further. However, in my humble opinion, Clancy Brown is the real heartthrob of the sequel with his over-the-top performance in the abrasive Sheriff Gus. The New England twang instantly sells Gus’s malignancy and crimson temper without even lifting one ill-fitting moral finger. From another King adaptation in “Shawshank Redemption” to being a bug hunter Commander Zim in “Starship Troopers,” Brown’s distinguishable deep and resonating voice, square jaw, and tall with broad shoulders has made the veteran actor the picture of law enforcement and military type and while “Pet Sematary Two” played into that typecast, Brown, who didn’t want to venture into horror, saw the laughter in the darkness and came out on top with a stellar exaggerated and unforgettable Sheriff Gus as a full blown undead maniac. Furlong and Brown stands out immensely over the rest but the remainder of the roles are just a grand with performances from “Revenge of the Nerds'” Anthony Edwards, Jared Rushton, Darlene Fluegel (“Freeway”), Jason McGuire, and Sarah Trigger.
“Pet Sematary Two” might have been profane against all that is (un)holy from the Stephen King’s novel and Lambert’s first film, but truth be told, the sequel is a whole lot of fun, a shell of the name worth watching, and provides substantial brutality with gory leftovers including skinning stark white rabbits, shredding the face off a young punk with the back wheel of a motocross bike, and an electrocution that ends with a head eruption. The Steven Johnson effects had range and bite, but unfortunately, the full brunt of the “Videodrome” and “Night of the Demons” effects artist’s work was perhaps not entirely showcased with some hard cuts to obtain a R rating, even unfortunately keeping the age-old rating with the new collector’s edition from Scream Factory that’s also the feature’s Blu-ray debut. Lambert certainly wanted the sequel to bask in a different kind of darkness that’s more comedic than gloomy and the schism between the two gulfs compares like a night and day, but the core principles of what makes “Pet Sematary” “Pet Sematary” remains faithfully intact. In hindsight, the sequel should have been labeled something else other than “Pet Sematary.”
Back from the physical media graveyard comes Paramount Pictures’ “Pet Sematary Two” onto a full 1080p, High Definition, collector’s edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory, hitting retailers February 25th. The release sports a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative and presented in the original aspect ratio, 1.85:1 widescreen. The fact the source material remains unblemished becomes a plus that renders the newly scanned transfer with complementary darker shades of Autumn foliage and outerwear, delineating the burial ground and town nicely, and offering a range over hues that amplifying the perilous circumstances ahead. Still leaving some natural grain, the scan chisels through the softer portions and really does offer some nice details toward facial finishes, even in the dog’s mangy and matted blood stained fur. A few select poor edit choices, such as slow motion techniques, counteract against the detail naturally by disrupting the frames per second and causing a bit of a smoother finish than desired. If the English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio could be described as one thing, that would be a menagerie of ambient gratification. The crinkling of leaves and the subtle cries of wildlife really set the primal and augury atmosphere. Dialogue clearly comes through and Mark Governor’s score shutters as a gothic western, an oddity for sure, mixed with wolf howls and Native American percussions, that fits the in the film’s black argyle pattern. All new special features accompany the single disc release, sheathed in an Laz Marquez illustrated cardboard cover, including a new audio commentary by director Mary Lambert, new interviews with Edward Furlong, Clancy Brown, Jason McGuire, special effectors advisor Steven Johnson, and composer Mark Governor, and a standard edition theatrical trailer. While not a fully uncut, “Pet Sematary Two” for the first time on Blu-ray is paramount to the genre the feature serves, swerving far from the antecedent, and evolving into a promising guilty pleasure.
A determined doctor pledges revenge after his wife fell victim to a crazy, sadistic, cannibalistic, sex-fiend killer. Known by only the Mastermind, his quest lures him to buy a junkie from an underground trafficking organization and trains her, without given her a choice, to be an lethal assassin. The Mastermind teaches her hand-to-hand combat, how to handle a handgun, and even how to survive surgical procedures in order to have the mechanical parts of a handgun implanted into various portions of her body and then abstract the bulky pieces when the time is right. The dastardly plan for assassination comes to fruition when the Mastermind’s target makes his rounds at a necrophilia and cannibalistic business called “The Room” where Gun Woman feigns her death to infiltrate and carry out the hit.
“Gun Woman” is an insane Japanese action-thriller concept from the mind of a relatively new director Kurando Mitsutake. From this reviewer’s point of view, Mitsutake’s film is much more tame compared to the other numerous Japanese’s extreme and unthinkable plot lines. Basically, the Japan film industry produces three solid genres that hover around outside the realm of their mega-popular Japanese Adult Video and Pinku markets: Dramatic noris involving a various range of characters from gangsters to samurais, the Americanized popular ghost films such as Ringu or Ju-on, and the outrageous, ultra-violent films, spreading amongst various sub-genres from action to horror. “Gun Woman” suits the latter category with it’s necrophilia, super-soaking blood, rape and torture, cannibalism, and the odd jobs of the reproductive body parts. Remember when I said that “Gun Woman” is the fairly tame?
The Maxam produced film stars the ever gorgeous actress Asami of “Machine Girl” fame. You may remember my last Asami film review for the Pink Eiga released “Prison Girls” starring the once former JAV actress turned phenomenal B-movie heroine. Asami’s uncanny ability to conform to any role heightens the film’s viewing and enjoyable factors and “Gun Woman” is the epitome of B-movie schlock, almost as if her role as Gun Woman was made just for Asami. Alongside Asami are Kairi Narita as the Mastermind and Noriaki Kamata as the heinous sex-fiend only known as Hamazaki’s son. Narita towers over Asami with a strong muscular face, proving to be a powerhouse character even though the Mastermind character is partially crippled. Kamata possesses such a freaky super thin, yet muscular build with defined facial features that his role as a necrophiliac, a cannibal, and a rapist-murderer wouldn’t be so far from the truth if bumping into Kamata randomly on the street.
While Asami’s character might be the heroine of the film, “Gun Woman” surely feels like an anti-woman film. Many of the female roles, no matter how minor, are subjected to some sort of abuse. Hamazaki’s son rapes and strangles various American women while also raping and killing the Mastermind’s wife. The Mastermind himself kidnaps an innocent woman and uses her as a tool to create a lethal weapon in Asami. Even Hamazaki’s female body guard doesn’t get a chance to have one line in the entire film, does really nothing at all, and ultimately meets her end and I can’t help but wonder why even have this character at all if the character serves so little a purpose? Like I aforementioned, Asami might be this kick-ass, gun-toting, deadly femme-fatal, but her mission for revenge isn’t even her mission for revenge; its the Mastermind’s and he’s using her, a junkie bought off a secret organization, with given a single choice: to either kill for him or die.
“Gun Woman” markets itself as a “no-holds-barred revenge flick” and has all the makings of a cult film. Blood gushes out of gaping wounds, intense fight and gun scenes, and naked women galore grace the film’s entire presence. However, “Gun Woman’s” enticing premise isn’t without major flaws including obvious plot holes, inaccurate medical procedures, and some unbalanced acting from not the Japanese, but from the English speaking Anglo-Saxons driving the car during the outer-story. Hey, this is the movie industry where anything can happen as long as someone can think of whatever it is up and as long as someone can construct it as well. The whole premise behind the film is bogus in reality and Asami’s character might as well be a part of the IMF because her mission is impossible. To provide an example, nobody could withstand having three parts of a firearm surgically implanted into their body and then live 22 minutes later after removing the said parts by reopening the wounds to assassinate everybody in “The Room.” Other factors are involved when contemplating blood loss and time such as what if Asami is additionally injured resulting in blood loss? What if her pulse rate increases during heart-pounding scenarios causing a faster blood flow?
Show business is all smoke screens, lengthy mirrors, and customized misdirection and Mitsutake’s “Gun Woman” certainly provides just that while pushing the boundaries of taboo subjects and being, what I consider, a chauvinistic perspective against women. If a viewer wishes to suspend disbelief for 87 minutes, witness a bloody-stellar end game, and see their fair share of naked and abused women, then “Gun Woman” would be right up their mentally deranged alley. The Scream Factor (Shout Factory) Blu-ray release is presented with little digital noise interference in a 1080p High-Definition widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ration with DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix with English subtitles available. I’m not sold on the Scream Factory Blu-ray cover of a closeup of Asami’s face and holding two smoking sidearms in a criss-cross way (think Kate Beckinsail on the “Underworld Evolution” DVD). This doesn’t actually represent the movie as she never really garnishes two handguns. Other releases are more accurate with a naked and bloodied Asami, aiming one handgun. Still, the release is solid and I wouldn’t discourage anybody, especially Asami fans, of a good time.