An ambitious physics professor Hiram Otis obtains a research grant that requires him to study in England, pulling his wife, daughter, and two young boys from their Indiana home into a strange new world. In an age of obsolete aristocracy, the Otis family is able to afford rent at the grand Canterville Hall, a legendary castle with an infamous tale of death and suspicion that also might have resulted in being an affordable estate for the American family. Legend records have it that the lord of the castle, Sir Simon de Canterville, had subsequently killed his wife due to his obsessions and became the victim of his wife’s family spiteful vengeance by being chained to a dungeon cell. For 400 years, Sir Simon remained in that cell and his ghost haunts Canterville Hall, but despite their beliefs in the supernatural, the physics professor and his wife can’t see the ghost and only their teenage daughter and two young boys are able to witness him roam the halls, haunting those who live within the castle walls.
Every once and awhile, we’ll thoroughly review a light-hearted fantasy, horror, or sci-fi film and since we’re hot off the heels of the review for Wes Craven’s “Summer of Fear,” the made-for-television train might as well keep chug-chug-chugging alone with the 1996 TV movie adaptation of the Oscar Wilde novella, “The Canterville Ghost.” Distributed by ABC, the Sydney Macartney (as Syd Macartney) directed and Robert Benedetti teleplay written installment tries to differentiate itself and standout amongst a plethora of adaptations that span across the globe, but the American Broadcast Company, a subsidiary of the great and powerful Disney, aimed to separate from the masses by adding star studded power and the result brought a rejuvenation to the ye old tale over two decades ago.
The big name headliner is none other than Captain Jean-Luc Picard himself, Patrick Stewart, two years after his 7-year stint on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Stewart, who co-produced the film, adds his theatrical flair and is absolutely brilliant shaping drama monologues into dense thickets that define Sir Simon de Canterville’s ghost, but there’s an issue; the problem doesn’t lie with Patrick Stewart, but with how Benedetti’s teleplay expos from the story as a continuous, if not slightly jumbled, stream of old English that just feels like rambling. To alleviate that strain is Stewart’s co-star Neve Campbell to add a softer, glassy-eyed touch to the story with a pinch of plain jane American girl insecurities, characterized in Wilde’s story as Virginia Otis. Perhaps in the beginning portion of the height of her career, Campbell finds herself between “Party of Five” and hitting scream queen status as Sydney Prescott in “Scream,” but the “Wild Things” actress wasn’t that sultry or that chased in “The Canterville Ghost” who only took upon an annoyed teenage girl persona, wishing her life was back in America up until the mysterious spirit of Sir Simon de Canterville allured a spark into her dull life. Alongside Stewart and Campbell, Daniel Betts, Ciarán Fitzgerald, Raymond Pickard, Cherie Lunghi, Donald Sinden, Joan Sims, and the late Edward Wiley, who died shortly before the film’s premiere, costar.
Going into “The Canterville Ghost” was nothing short of knowing nothing other than the fact the Patrick Stewart and Neve Campbell were in the lead roles of a Disney backed, family film and to be completely honest, Macartney’s vision completely underwhelms. Along with the verbose nature of the script-to-teleplay alterations, the magical supernatural portions are inarguably cheap, even for television. The simple superimposing of Sir Simon de Canterville offered no stimulation as the the two scenes just didn’t splice together well to seamlessly make the grade. Firecracker explosions and party store cobwebs dilute even thinner the already slim pickings of special effects that top when Virginia Otis crosses over into a dense fogged ghostly realm thats chopped, cropped, and edited with such disorganization, the entire scene feels more lost than Virginia trying to escape the other side back to the living.
Sydney Macartney’s “The Canterville Ghost” is presented for the first time ever on Blu-ray courtesy of the U.K. distributor Second Sight Films. The Blu-ray is presented in the Academy ratio of 1.33:1 with 1080p resolution on a MPEG-4 AVC BD 25. Second Sight’s release will have the best looking version of this film, if the quality is anything like the screener sent to me, with a strong color palette, minor digital noise, and rich in great detail; so detailed in fact that the blemishes on Neve Campbell and Daniel Betts can be seen. The English DTS-HD audio track is lively, but not entirely boastful with more thematic and dramatic elements. Dialogue track is clean and clear and the score by “Dead Heat” and “Tremors” composer Ernest Troost augments his fairy tale rendition into the mix. Bonus material includes new interviews with director Sydney Macartney and producer-writer Robert Benedetti. Second Sight’s presentation of Hallmark Entertainment’s “The Canterville Ghost” has strong Blu-ray technical potential, but despite the big names of that time period and a visually stimulating setting, the fantastic adventure through a cursed ghost’s melodrama and a bored young girl’s tenure of self discovery unfortunately didn’t rivet with excitement or wonder, losing steam with it’s important message that life is more than being in a bubble of stagnant disappointment and guilt.
An unknown corpse of a young woman, found naked and half-buried in the basement of a home involved in a gruesome crime scene, is strolled into a small town family morgue and crematorium by a puzzled local sheriff. Without any idea who this woman is and how to explain the her presence at the scene, the sheriff wants a cause of death on his Jane Doe as soon as possible and it’s up to Tommy and his son, Austin, to investigate what caused her demise and to determine her involvement in the grand scheme of the grisly events. When the medical examiners begin to peel back the layers, each segment of the autopsy reveals impossible and unspeakable horrors underneath her cold flesh that go against their combined years of medical experience and the deeper they dig into her body, the more the autopsy room becomes a spine-tingling area as strange occurrences begin to happen to the father and son. Their only hope in stopping the ominous terrorizing presence and surviving the hell-bent stormy night is to continue the examination in order to unravel the enigma that surrounds Jane Doe.
“Troll Hunter” director André Øvredal helms a contemporary horror masterpiece with the Americana horror film,”The Autopsy of Jane Doe, that can be described as American folklore lit ablaze with modern day macabre that plays like a gruesome adult version of the children’s game Operation. Øvredal pulls inspiration from present day classical horror, including such films as the widely popular James Wan franchise, “The Conjuring,” by not embarking on an overkill journey of heavy duty effects or relying on gallons upon gallons of fake blood to sell his film. Instead, André Øvredal’s “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is patient, subtle, and massively creepy, utilizing the dated morgue and crematorium basement setting to construct a dreadful, despairing dungeon atmosphere and focus on being very particular with every scene having a function to take advantage of the overwhelming brooding aurora and pop scare moments that can scare the pants off a mannequin. Øvredal heightens moments of complete pin-drop silence to amplify the terror and plays with camera angles that linger longer to leave an unsettling residue pooled in a spine-tingled soul.
Not only is the Ian Goldberg and Richard Naing script palm-sweaty frightening, tack on A-list actors like Brian Cox (“Manhunter”) and Emile Hirsch (“Killer Joe”) as a father and son team pitted against a dead body and “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” jumps up by tenfold as a must-see. Brian Cox is masterful as the widowed mortician whose numb to the pain of life and shock of work, making him a dedicated professional at uncovering the truth inside corpses, and he’s well companioned with Emile Hirsch, the mortician’s eagerly loving son and apprentice to the family business. The only problem is Austin doesn’t want to be a part of the family legacy, but is rooted by his continuously cloaked grieving father and you can see the struggle in Hirsch’s wish-washy character. The pair of veteran actors play off each other well being a medical super duo by conducting examination procedures and digging right into the corpse of dead, disfigured bodies like it’s just another day at the office. The gorgeous Olwen Catherine Kelly is dead on being a dead body. Though Kelly literally doesn’t move an inch for the entire runtime, her slim frame and blank facial expressions are truly haunting, if not also alluring to behold.
Immediately, my first impression of André Øvredal’s film had me stroll back to the past, nearly a decade a go to 2008, with the Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel thriller “Deadgirl.” The premise of the film told the story of two high school aged boys discovering a seemingly near dead young woman in an abandoned asylum; the dead girl being played by Jenny Spain. Whereas each film have their separate horrific identities, their end games bare supernatural similarities. What also separates André Øvredal’s film from Sarmiento and Harel’s “Deadgirl” are the two protagonists; instead of two teen boys pulling hormonal hijinks on a motionless attractive female body, Tommy and Austin are strictly professional, focused on their task to answer the riddle lying inside the very fabric and bones of Jane Doe. The only gripe I can bottom barrel scrape out is how Tommy and Austin had this big ‘what if’ epiphany that becomes the very basis of the entire film and, in my opinion, felt that scene was extremely chintzy and a cop out.
Lionsgate Home Entertainment delivers “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” from production companies 42, Impostor Pictures, and IM Global onto UK DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, a DVD-R screener was sent to me, resulting in no true examination of the audio and video qualities and the only extra on the disc was a Q&A with directorAndré Øvredal. Even if viewers might be able to guess the nature of the corpse – I did about halfway through – “The Autopsy of Jane Doe” is still way ahead of it’s genre brethren in being the best horror film of 2017 with an unlimited amount of sinister wretchedness that tugs at your soul strings and weighs heavy in your mind’s cache as soon as the lights go out for bedtime. I would recommend this title to anyone seeking an unadulterated horror experience.
A cursed countess has returned home to the Madeira Island. Countess Irina Karlstein has an insatiable thirst, deadly to any man or woman she’s comes in content with on the scarcely populated island. By day and night, the beautiful mute countess, wandering the terrain more than half naked, enjoys the islet’s amenities, including sucking the blood, or the sperm, out from her erotically hypnotized prey and zapping their life essence right at the point of climax. Discredited Dr. Roberts and a mystical blind Dr. Orloff aim to track down the creature practicing vampirism, despite the local authorities unwillingness to aid them and wishing to debunk the outlandish theory. Amid the rising death toll, the countess unexpectedly falls in love with an aspiring writer on holiday and she fears her curse, her hunger, her need to be filled will consequently overtake the love she has bestowed upon the writer.
Classic European schlock from the greatly candid and voyeuristic director Jesús Franco, “Female Vampire” goes by many interesting titles, just like Franco himself who also has a cache of various, widely used monikers. “Erotikill.” “Loves of Irina.” “Lustful Vampires in Sperm Frenzy.” These are just the tip of the enigmatic iceberg that is of the English titles associated with Franco’s film with “The Bare-Breasted Countess” and “Female Vampire” the better suited for the version reviewed by Its Bloggin’ Evil. Oh, did I forget to mention there are multiple cuts and versions of this film? The 1975 sleazy vampire flick has numerous renderings from an XXX version with sexy-time vampire scenes to a 35-minute reduced cut where many of the sexually graphic material has been removed and more of the horror either remains or second, more conservative, takes are introduced. Whether “Female Vampire” is a good film or not ultimately determines to be an unnecessary factor as Franco’s film can be rather an interesting case study in how one story or, in this case, one reel can be reworked and reconstructed to emit a completely different sensational perceptive.
Barcelona born actress Lina Romay exposes herself as the Bare-Breasted Countess Irina Karlstein. Her striking dark features and piercing eyes make her resemble your typical lady bloodsucker and with vampires being naturally attributed with strong sexuality and influential powers, Romay doesn’t need the omitted dialogue as she instills beauty, sex, and power into the body and the expression of her character. The untrained actress leads by being an extrovert, uninhibited by conventional proprieties, and Romay wins at being Countess Irina Karlstein just by naturally being herself. Her longtime collaborator and future husband, Jess Franco, had developed, whether intentionally or not, this role for his free-spirited companion and, as well, stars himself as the inquiring Dr. Roberts. As the countess’ love, cult genre favorite Jack Taylor brings his tall, dark attributes to be a soft spot for the unquenchable cursed and an Amazonian built Anna Walican gets hanky-panky as a islander journalist with Lina Romay in a sensual scene of unchained lust. Alice Arno (“Justine de Sade”), Monica Swinn (“Hitler’s Last Train”), Luis Barboo (“Conan the Barbarian”), and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou round out the cast surrounded by Romay’s eroticism.
On the outside, Jess Franco directs like the utmost perversity, deep-seeded with gratuitous nudity and filled with revamped versions of the same scene. On the inside, “Female Vampire” is tragic love letter with Countess Irina Karlstein’s wretched curse stretching beyond her power. Her curse is more than just yearning from blood (or semen), but also an ache of the inability to be sexually gratified. Even when her victims are dead, she continues the carnal ritual of graphic grinding, tantalizing touching, and manic masturbating. Aside from being mostly nude throughout the entire feature, and if not, semi nude through a see-through blouse, Lina Romay’s perfectly shaped apple bottom is constantly upended, flaunting her pheromones in more way than one, with each conquest more exposed than the other.
Screenbound Pictures has released “Female Vampire,” aka “The Bare-Breasted Countess,” as one of the first United Kingdom DVD titles from the new Euro cult label, Maison Rouge, who specialize in Euro trash and sleaze. I was offered a DVD-R screener and can’t comment on the quality or the bonus features, but with release, with excellent cover art, contains two versions of the film: the highly erotic version with as much body part exposure as one can handle and the “Erotikill” which has alternate scenes and less sleaze. The main feature dons no blood, except the countess in a blood tub, and allows Countess Karlstein to roam in sunlight, non-typical traits of the conventional vampire and as the “Erotikill” version still lets the countess be exposed to ultraviolet rays, there’s more blood that’s more than enough to barely gentrify the horror genre. “Female Vampire” is an usual bird of love and lust, a perfect example of Jess France’s body of work, in an awful take on an iconic horror villain legend.
Unable to cope working as a hospice nurse, Danni begins a new life in a new apartment after separating herself from a server downhearted state while living with her uncle Gus. As Danni settles into her degrading new job involving saving the whales and into her small apartment, she begins to decorate her home, starting with hanging a simple shower curtain. However, as soon as she exits the bathroom, the shower curtain vanishes and so begins the mystery that leads to the discovery that she’s now part of secret order to protect The Gate, a passage way that can be used to give birth to the vilest evil. With the tireless help from her co-worker Tim, the two set off to stop The Gate from potentially destroying Dani’s life…or the world.
Movies like “Curtain” are the reason why I enjoy writing about them so very much. One tiny event, an event anyone would think couldn’t be turned into a full feature film, snowballs through the pages of a script and that script is presented to us by independent filmmakers Carys Edwards, writer, and Jaron Henri-McCrea, writer and director, of “Curtain.” The 74-minute film revolving around shower curtains being sucked into the bathroom tile opens with a seemingly distraught individual on an empty subway car, rambling and shaking after a reoccurring and thunderous dream that doesn’t make sense at that moment. The film’s hook comes early, sucking us into this man’s life when we learn he’s duck taped his bathroom door shut. He’s tensely afraid of the small enclosure to where one goes for unburdened release whether to drop a load or get cleaned up, but as the man decides to cut away the tape and opens the door to proceed in hanging a curtain, he unintentionally sets the stage for our heroine, Danni.
Solid performances all around by the cast. Danni Smith, portraying her namesake character, conveys a strong, defiant character even in the wake of her depressive struggle. Her characters goes through complete denial of the curtain eating bathroom, shutting down Tim, played by Tim Lueke, almost instantly when he’s curiously goes berserk of the possibilities of what to gain from this phenomenon. Tim Lueke does amazing work displaying a naïve activist and we discover the character’s humbleness through his naïveté, making him a likeable, standout character whose has motives that semi trump his passions when Danni is concerned. I really liked Martin Monahan and his Pale Man character, a blind gatekeeper, if you will, trying to protect the realms The Gateways portals. Monahan worked with director Jaron Henrie-McCrea previously, headlining Henrie-McCrea’s comedy-thriller “Pervertigo,” and the Indiana native takes a backseat, co-starring role that packs a memorable punch, leaving an everlasting mark of solemn and death.
If you haven’t noticed already, Henrie-McCrea has an affection for Alfred Hitchcock films. Between “Pervertigo,” a slight play of words from Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” starring James Stewart, to this film entitled “Curtain;” the shower curtain is an iconic set piece for Hitchcock’s more popular film “Psycho.” The Columbia University alumnus Henre-McCrea knits his own pattern into the Sci-Fi Horror film that is “Curtain,” subtly building-in comedy elements amongst the characters and not so much surrounding the situation. The young director has an eye for cinematography and bringing substance from the scene to the forefront as the director blends suspense, terror, comedy, and sadness, meshed together so intricately it’s seamlessly composites all genres that’s shot in some particular tight locations. The comedy stems from only certain characters such as the crass Preston The Super or Willy the homeless, paint can sniffer.
Much of Henrie-McCrea’s shock value spurs from intense close ups, as you’ll see in this articles screen shots. Quick, loud, and in your face scares or disturbances that’ll cause eye-popping jumps effectively note “Curtain’s” tone. This technique is very familiar with Evil Dead’s Sam Raimi and does bear a resemblance to a staple of 80’s horror with an Italian-like synth score by Adam Skerritt to match. Creature and special effects are briefly shown to obscure the possibility of detecting flaws (perhaps) and also to suggest that less is more, leaving more for the mind to fill out the horror’s of what you just saw. No scenes are left lingering on the horrific moments as much of “Curtain” is story centric, focusing on the mystery of The Gateway.
Frightfest presents the Icon Studio’s “Curtain” on DVD this July 18th in the UK. The DVD will be released in a gorgeous 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix and an accompanying 2.0 stereo mix option. The DVD includes a film introduction, an presentation commentary, and an entertaining making-of featurette. I can’t comment too much on the audio and video since a DVD-R was available for screening. “Curtain” has a particular taste of comedy that’s favorably dry and on-point synced well to the horror mystery engulfing the genre. Director Jaron Henri-McCrea becomes a force to be reckoned with paired to the talented actors Danni Smith, Tim Lueke, and Michael Monahan. “Curtain” is everything that’s right with horror-comedies and nothing short of excellent independent filmmaking.
The Doomwatch organization was created to investigate and stop the approaching environmental harmful effects of destructive pollution. Doomwatch sends Dr. Del Shaw to the fishing village island of Balfe where only one year ago an oil tanker sank off the island’s coast, leaving behind a devastated waterfront of oil waste that annihilated a chunk coastal life. Upon Dr. Shaw’s arrival, a strange sensation of unwelcomeness overwhelms him in the close knit fishing village. Shaw’s one day visit stretches to a longer stay when his curiosity about the village’s secrets gnaw at his conscious. Though what Shaw unearths is a direct result of man-made pollution, his discovery reveals a much more frightening mutation, transforming the quiet and isolated fishing village into a violent and turmoil lot of locals.
The 1972 feature film “Doomwatch” was born out of the brief lived and sorely lost British television series of the same name from 1970 to 1972. Surely a familiar shelf life and fleeting path of another placed on the back burner sci-fi great, a little series known as “Alien Nation,” in which did the exact reverse strategy and spawned from a hit movie starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin. However, “Doomwatch” sought a more practical and realistic approach that attempted to warn the public of the dangers of monumental pollution and instill a self conserving fear into the residents of Earth. The scenario is also on a smaller scale from other similar plots such as an example of one would be the 1950s testing of the hydrogen bomb that had consequently overdeveloped and mutated an oversized, fire-breathing lizard you may know as “Godzilla.”
“Doomwatch” isn’t full-throttle horror and doesn’t quite even board the chills and thrills train. Instead, the Peter Sasdy directed film plays out more toward a science fiction mystery that lingers and hangs on the story’s catalytic moment. Prior to the “Doomwatch” film, Sasdy did partake in directing notable horror features for Hammer Films production such as “Taste the Blood of Dracula,” “Countess Dracula,” and “Hands of the Ripper,” but Sasdy made his start in television with over a decade amount of experience working on the smaller screen. Sasdy did have some help in amongst two writers who previously had long-running experience writing for the “Doomwatch” series. Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis saw fit to put their two cent input, but the film’s script was finalized and streamlined from the relatively unknown writer of that time Clive Exton who went on to pen “Red Sonja” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I feel like Peter Sasdy safely cradled “Doomwatch” for the public with the content being alarmingly prophetic. For a director who exposed colorful amounts of blood and fantastical and villainous inhuman creatures to the world, Sasdy had disappointingly failed to shock audiences with potential world wide devastation. “Doomwatch” could be deemed more of a workplace educational video required in the protecting of the environment and to become ISO certified. Poor Ian Bannen tried his damnedest to sell his performance as the Doomwatch’s over-caring Dr. Del Shaw, but Bannen’s character, for the most part of the film, just yelled his case (or the village’s case rather) to an unsympathetic and ignorant written fishing village that, in my opinion, deserved to wither and die out due to their lack of wanting to be cured of digesting hormone chemicals and also from the years of inbreeding that would have eventually sprouted genetic mutation as well. The “Doomwatch” cast rounds out with leading lady Judy Geeson, Percy herbert, George Sanders, and Jean Trend.
UK located Screenbound distributes a newly restored DVD version that’s region free with a runtime of 85 minutes. However, the copy I received is a screener disc and can’t be necessarily critiqued for the audio and video quality. If I had to answer the three important story related questions about the film’s character, the answers would be the following: Entertaining? To a degree. Horrifying? Not really. Thought provoking about the welfare of Earth? Not as powerful as intended. The PG rated Peter Sasdy directed pre-apocalyptic call to arms film “Doomwatch” flashes no teeth for a long-haul fight against global defilement, even though the writers attempted to portray the disfiguring results of others’ mindless ignorance.