When EVIL Gets Tough, You Fight Back! “The New Kids” reviewed!


Loren McWilliams and his sister Abby were both proud of their illustrious military careered father as well as adoring him immensely. When the teenagers’ parents set off toward Washington D.C. to receive a commendation from the President after foiling a terrorist hostage situation, Loren and Abby felt like the luckiest kids alive, but that all quickly changed with a phone call, announcing a deadly accident that killed both their parents. Somber in disbelief, Loren and Abby decide to take up on an offer from their uncle Eddie and aunt Fay who own a gas station and a joint rinky-dink amusement park in Glenby, Florida in hopes to whet the appetites of thrill seeking tourist right before hitting the major league theme parks of Disney. Settling into a new school system is relatively easy for the siblings who’ve often been use to moving from location-to-location with their father in military service, but acclimating to the local drug pusher, Dutra, along with his entourage of subversive delinquents, has placed a target on their backs. A cat and mouse game over dominance ensues with an unreasonable Dutra unable to ever settle the score until his complete satisfaction in punishing the new kids in town has been sated, even if that means Loren and Abby, and those close to them, have to fight for their very lives.

“The New Kids,” aka “Striking Back,” is a horrifying suspense thriller from the original “Friday the 13th” director Sean S. Cunningham and penned by the father of Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and “Visiting Hours” screenwriter, Brian Taggert. Instead of a lurking serial killer stalking and massacring half-naked and carefree camp counselor teens on a secluded camp ground, Cunningham tackles felonious teenagers wreaking havoc on popular outsiders treading on their drug turf, especially those who give a good fight back. “The New Kids” bombards every scene with caustic, no-good trouble and when push comes to shove, the only rational is to give the razor-edge scrap right back in a serrated do or die narrative.

Before the face of the collegiate admission scandal and before being the beloved onscreen mother to twins fathered by Uncle Jess on “Full House,” Lori Loughlin co-stars with Shannon Presby as on the defensive Abby and Loren. Presby slightly overshadows Loughlin as a stronger character or presence on screen. Loren continuously evolves through the storyline beginning as a well-rounded, cool-headed, optimistic son who recently lost his parents and then blossoms through bullying and violence as a mad dog protecting what’s his – family. Abby staggers quite precariously and never quite finds her footing in the grand scheme of things other than being a passive victim of Dutra and his gang. Even the contrast between Loren and Abby’s respective love interests is lopsided as Loren and his girlfriend (“Silent Madness’” Paige Price) dominate the dynamically in comparison to Abby and an underused and very youthful looking Eric Stotlz (“The Prophecy”). The real stud of “The New Kids” is a young, slim James Spader (“Wolf” and “The Blacklist”). Pure platinum blonde hair topping piercing eyes with a pinch of a Boston accent really brought out the villain in Spader in one of his very first feature films. Many other familiar faces in the cast, some familiar amongst horror fans, including John Philbin (“Return of the Living Dead”), the late Eddie Jones (“C.H.U.D.”), and the legendary Tom Atkins (“The Fog” and “Halloween III”) in a brief role. The remaining cast round out with Vince Grant, David MacDonald, Theron Montgomery, Lucy Martin, and Jean De Baer.

On the surface, “The New Kids” might seem polar opposite to Cunningham’s franchise birthing “Friday the 13th” series, but if looking with a keen eye, Cunningham has slapped and slathered his style all over the bullying barraging thriller. Techniques such as the camera focusing on feet that come out from hiding, the sudden appearance of people behind objects, and the menacing atmosphere of being watched are sensationalized characteristics of his camper slasher flick. Also, though the soundtrack is akin to the likes of Harry Manfredini, it was actually composed by the renowned Lalo Schilfrin who more than like was given precise instructions from Cunningham to compose a companion like score with a twist of a new kind of fear.

Mill Creek Entertainment presents Columbia Pictures’ “The New Kids” onto a Blu-ray home video with a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The region A release on a BD25 has a well preserved transfer with little to no damaging issues and lots of good, wholesome natural grain speckling on the solid and wide range color palate. Even the darker scenes have pronounced definition so nothing is obscured from the viewer. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio track is quite robust with no sings of hissing or crackling during the entire 90 minute runtime. Even with Loren is whispering to Dutra in an intense claustrophobic and apprehensive scene, Loren is audible and understood, completing a dialogue friendly release with a, as aforementioned, a baleful score by Lalo Schilfrin. English SDH subtitles are also included. Unfortunately, there are no bonus features on this release; however, the retro style slipcover, where the VHS tape looks to be protruding from the VHS box, is a nice tough by Mill Creek Entertainment, especially with the faux wear around the edges and on the facade. For director Sean S. Cunningham, “The New Kids” steered clear of being a Voorhees repeat, but was certainly a recapitulation of Cunningham’s strong suits and with a strong, confident cast, “The New Kids” is sorely understated and overshadowed and I’m personally pleased that Mill Creek Entertainment delivered a Blu-ray release to the U.S. even if there are no bonus features.

The New Kids available at Amazon!

Cross-Dressing, Katana Wielding Evil! “Der Samurai” review!

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In a small German village, Jakob, a police officer, encounters a blonde cross-dresser wielding a samurai sword who reeks havoc throughout the village. Before Jakob can make an arrest, the decapitating murderer quickly vanishes and reappears during random points of the night. Jakob soon realizes that this cross-dresser killer has more in store for Jakob who, before the strange encounter, struggled to remain above the water living in a town that doesn’t seem to want him there. Does this dangerous individual hold to key to the answers of Jakob’s questions or is he just a mental head case wielding a katana for the fun of it?
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“Der Samurai” is certainly an interesting piece of German cinema that’s difficult to follow, but if you dig deep and look closely into the bones of the film, a glimpse into the personal life of our hero Jakob and his conquering of personal struggles is clear to the mind’s eye through the interpretation of writer and director Till Kleinert in his sophomore film. Jakob, portrayed by Michel Diercks, doesn’t quite fit in in his small hometown village; he has no outside life as he spends his every waking moment taking care of his grandmother when not on official police duty, his boss is constantly degrading him, and the town doesn’t respect his job given authority. While he struggles through these life issues, his work obsession becomes with a wolf that has been sited in the village. Since nothing ever happens his his small village, the wolf is the most interesting thing ever to happen as far as crime goes.
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The wolf is hardly seen throughout the movie except for a few brief sightings and up until near the end and the reason for that is the katana wielding, cross-dressing maniac Jakob happens upon. The cross-dressing psychopath, played by Pit Bukowski, is a representation of the wolf and the wolf represents the epic struggle in Jakob’s pitiful life. If he can overcome the epic struggle, then he’ll be free of all the insecurities that have burdened to him and dished out by his insincere village folk. However, the quest to best the manic isn’t going to be easy and will be bloody.
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With a title like “Der Samurai,” there will be blood, but the production crew had to use cheap tricks to make the realistic violence work and work well. These cheap tricks were very well done and certainly didn’t look phony or cheesy on screen. The effects are also very experimental and up for interpretation. At one point when a character is decapitated, a spectacular display of blood and fireworks skyrocket out of the neck as a sort of spirtual release for the poor headless character. Experimental and up for interpretation, just like the androgynous character that Pit Bukowski portrays. What kind of sexual desires are being explored here between Jakob and the maniac? At first, I thought maybe Jakob was the maniac due to his boss questioning Jakob on the phone that he might be dressed up and wielding a katana and when his grandmother, in a frightened state, claims that the person tending to her was not her grandson when clearly it was Jakob tending to her. This all changes when other police officers and town folk also see the cross-dresser, putting to defunct the speculation that Jakob was this cross-dresser.
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Artsploitation Films brings to Blu-ray home video “Der Samurai” and we’re lucking to have a film like this to be available now in America. However, the 1080p widescreen 1.85:1 transfer isn’t up to the Blu-ray quality one would think. There lies a lot of grainy noise interference, perhaps to the low lighting provided for the film as much of duration is shot in the dark. Didn’t look like to me that there was any digital noise reduction used to smooth out the specks. The Dolby Digital 5.1 German dialogue with English subtitles is flawless and all the subtitles sync up well with the characters’ dialogue. Bonus features include a commentary with director Till Kleinert and Producer Linus de Paoli, a theatrical trailer, and a behind the scene featurette that is actually worth looking into as much of the background and backstory is explained. I’d recommend this German horror to all to experience and, to put the cherry on top, you’ll get to see an erect penis! Enjoy!