Schlockmania Returns To Its Old Home

Schlockmania is happy to report it is back at its own website.  You can access that site by clicking here:

http://schlockmania.com

All of the content posted at this back-up blog has been reposted to the main site.  We’ll keep this site as a fall-back option in case of technical issues but all future content will otherwise be posted at the main site.  For example, here are two new reviews currently available at the official Schlockmania site:

DARKMAN film review: http://schlockmania.com/darkman/

BAD DREAMS/VISITING HOURS blu-ray review: http://schlockmania.com/ds-bad-dreams-vis-hours-blu/

We’ll close by saying thanks to all the new readers who checked out Schlockmania at this back-up site. Please consider yourself cordially invited to check out the main site, which offers hundreds more reviews for your reading pleasure.  We hope to see you there soon…

CHASTITY BITES: Bathory Goes Burlesque At John Hughes High

Something often forgotten by modern horror filmmakers is that the genre functions at best when it is about something more than just jump-scares and blood spilling.  Indeed, the elements of horror offer a kind of coded language that can be used to explore many different types of social and psychological themes.  Too many filmmakers today ignore these possibilities, simply exploiting the genre for its commercial potential or using it as set dressing for another multiplex romance or action potboiler.

Chastity Bites offers a scrappy, likeably ambitious alternative to this status quo. The plot is a riff on the true-life “Countess Bathory” tale that has inspired so many vampire films. The teen heroines are snarky would-be journalist Leah (Allison Scagliotti) and her neo-hippie pal Katharine (Francia Raisa), a pair of misfits who are constantly sneered at by the school’s resident mean-girl clique, the “Hiltons.” Leah is determined to get back at them but Katharine secretly wishes she could fit in.

ChasBite-dvdThings get interesting when new teacher Liz Batho (Louise Griffiths) comes to the school to start a virginity preservation society with the school’s young ladies.  The Hiltons eagerly join up and, much to Leah’s dismay, Katharine falls under the spell of the charismatic, distinctly European Liz.  Leah soon discovers that Liz has a sinister history that suggests she has something vampiric in store for Katharine and the other would-be victims. When no one believes Leah, her only hope is the assistance of Paul (Eddy Rioseco), a handsome nerd who carries a torch for her.

Horror comedies are a risky proposition but Chastity Bites beats the odds most of the time because it uses humor to interpret the horror genre instead of diluting it. Indeed, the film has got a lot on its mind: the film’s plot allows it to tackle such ideas as how a conspicuous display of “good morals” often conceals evil deeds, the ludicrous way virginity is fetishized by the repressive elements of society and how the pressure to conform can breed hypocrisy and distort one’s view of the world.

That said, Chastity Bites isn’t some heavy-handed treatise. Lotti Phariss Knowles’ screenplay shows a flair for snappy dialogue that fits the film’s stylized high school milieu nicely and gives the piece a certain screwball comedy energy.  The kitschy vibe of the plot and its villains (both social and vampire) is effectively offset by the sweet, convincingly rendered nature of Leah and Katharine’s friendship, which gives the audience a human grace note amidst the knowing campiness.  The plotting is simple and sticks to a familiar narrative progression but that’s forgivable because the story’s more interested in using the genre to explore its ideas about society, high school and sisterhood rather than rewriting the genre playbook.

The story isn’t big on shocks or scares but isn’t afraid of throwing around a little red stuff, either: giallo fans will be amused by scenes where peripheral characters are killed and milked for blood by a black-clad, dagger-toting killer. The direction from John Knowles does well with what was obviously a low budget, backing up the storyline with the energetic, colorful touch it needs.  He doesn’t go in for a lot of flashy flourishes, instead concentrating on a getting a look that blends the candy-colored high school movie elements with some shadowy, gothic touches for the more horrific moments.

Chastity Bites also benefits from some strong lead performances. Scagliotti delivers an impressively confident performance as Leah, showing strong deadpan-humor chops as she deftly navigates her oft-twisty dialogue, and Raisa blends warmth and vulnerability as the sidekick who longs to rise above her social station.  Griffiths is both eerie and elegant as the vampiress villain and Rioseco makes an excellent romantic foil for Scagliotti, smartly underplaying the role to compliment her more up-front style of comedy acting.

The one noticeable flaw of Chastity Bites is that both script and direction get a little rushed during the finale: confrontations that could been crafted into setpieces whip by in a hastily-choreographed blur while other clashes are left off-screen entirely – and the whole thing ends too quickly in a way that shortchanges the horrific fun that could have been had.  It doesn’t help that the shocks we do see often favor cheap CGI effects over traditional latex-slinging.

However, Chastity Bites remains impressive for what it achieves. It takes familiar horror elements and successfully infuses them with satire, creating something that is socially conscious without forgetting to be fun.  Even when the comedy gets a little too broad or the ambition exceeds the resources, this film has a brainy charm and a love for its misfit heroes that keeps it on track.

DVD Notes: this film was recently released on DVD by Grand Entertainment. It presents the film with a crisp, colorful anamorphic transfer and includes both 2.0 and 5.1 stereo options.  The 5.1 track was listened to for this review: it doesn’t go wild with directional speaker effects but layers the rock score around the soundscape nicely. Extras consist of a theatrical trailer and a 13 minute EPK-style “behind the scenes” piece that includes the cast and filmmakers. It’s promotional in nature but does a nice job of showing the fun the film’s creators had and the passion they share for its themes.

Digi-Schlock: REEL ZOMBIES (Synapse DVD)

One of the nice things about Synapse is they release DVDs for the kind of genre film festival favorites that would have a hard time getting seen on home video otherwise, giving them solid transfers and adding extras when possible. Reel Zombies is their latest entry in this vein, offering a nice presentation of a self-parodying zom-com from a group of Canadian filmmakers that earned some good press on the horror fest circuit.

The main feature is presented in an anamorphic transfer that does well by film that was shot on video in “fast and cheap” conditions.  The image is clean and sharp, offering as much detail as the documentary-style cinematography will allow. A 2.0 stereo mix is offered and sounds smooth, offering clear dialogue throughout.

ReelZom-dvdThe first of the extras is a commentary track featuring writer/co-director Mike Masters, co-director David Francis and producer Stephen Papadimitriou, all of whom also star in the film as comedic versions of their real-life selves.  It’s a fun, rollicking track that quickly reveals just how close the participants stuck to reality: for example, the auditions sequence incorporates a lot of real audition footage and the actress playing Masters’ ex-girlfriend in the film was really his ex-girlfriend.

They also reveal how arduous a task the editing was (the film was cut down from 88 hours of footage and the rough cut took eight months to do).  Elsewhere, they discuss their relationships with the other actors in the film, most of whom they’ve worked with on other films, and offer plenty of scene-specific memories, including a number of incidental injuries that occurred during stunts.  Fans of the film will also be happy to know that the real life Masters/Francis relationship is much like how it is depicted in the film.

The next extra is about 40 minutes’ worth of outtakes, ranging from brief snips to full scenes and even a few extended versions of scenes in the film.  It’s easy to see why much of this material was cut for pacing reasons but it’s worth watching at least once for fans for a few gems sprinkled throughout the running time: highlights include Master’s slow-burn reaction to discovering zombie extras have been dressed in his collection of jerseys and a funny scene where one actor attempts to negotiate nude and sex scenes for himself in the film.

The last of the extras is a trailer: it moves fast and, in true exploitation film style, crams most of the exploitable stunt and gore elements into its short running time.  All in all, Synapse has put together a tidy DVD edition of Reel Zombies that will hopefully help this festival fave get some more exposure to the horror audience.

To read Schlockmania’s film review for Reel Zombies, click here.

Schlock-Wire: Herzog’s NOSFERATU Rises On Scream Factory Blu-Ray In May

Shout! Factory made news last year when they acquired the American license for a slew of classic Werner Herzog films.  Horror fans were looking forward to a new release of Nosferatu The Vampyre and their wait will end in May, when Shout label Scream Factory issues a blu-ray of this title.  This classic 1979 remake features Klaus Kinski as the famous vampire and a supporting cast that includes Isabelle Adjani and Bruno Ganz.  Read on for all the Bavarian bloodsucker details, including info on extras…

Scream Factory Presents

Werner Herzog’s

Nosferatu the Vampyre

Nosfer79-bluCritically Acclaimed Film Makes its Blu-ray Debut May 20th, 2014

Since its release in 1979, Wener Herzog’s Nosferatu the Vampyre has not only become one of the director’s most acclaimed films, but one of the most compelling and visually-striking interpretations of the Dracula story ever committed to film. In his haunting interpretation of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 classic, Herzog eschews the popular conception of the vampire as confident and alluring, and instead focuses on the tragedy of the creature: doomed to immortality, weary, and disgusted at his own existence. A must for both cinephiles and horror-fans alike, the award-winning Nosferatu the Vampyre makes its Blu-ray debut on May 20th, 2014 from Shout! Factory.

Starring Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani (Camille Claudel, Possession) and Bruno Ganz, Nosferatu the Vampyre comes loaded with extras, including audio commentary with Werner Herzog, a vintage featurette on the making of Nosferatu, theatrical trailers, as well as both German and English versions of the film.

Set in 1850 in the beautiful town of Wismar, Germany, Nosferatu the Vampyre tells the story of Jonathan Harker, who is about to leave on a long journey, despite desperate warnings from his wife Lucy.  Upon his arrival at his destination, he is greeted by Count Dracula: a pale, wraith-like figure with deep-sunken eyes. The events that transpire convince Harker that he is in the presence of a vampire, but what he doesn’t yet know is the magnitude of danger the creature poses to him, his wife and his town.

Bonus Features:

Audio Commentary with writer/producer/director Werner Herzog

Audio Commentary with Werner Herzog, moderated by Laurens Straub (In German with English Subtitles)

Vintage Featurette – The Making of Nosferatu

Theatrical Trailers

Shout! Factory will continue to present the on-going SCREAM FACTORY™ home entertainment series in 2014 with specific release dates, extras and key art.  Meanwhile, fans  are encouraged to visit the Scream Factory main website (www.screamfactorydvd.com), follow them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ScreamFactoryDVD) and Twitter (@Scream_Factory) or to view exclusive video content on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/ScreamFactoryTV).

SEX HUNTER 1980: A Chamber Piece For The Sadean Set

Nikkatsu’s “Roman Porno” line of sexploitation films could incorporate many genres into its carnal stew: comedy, melodrama, even spy film.  However, this type of film was frequently at its best when set crossbreeds aside and concentrated on delivering a dark, adult take on sexual obsession.  For example, Fairy In A Cage is considered one of the finest Nikkatsu films from the Roman Porno era. Another strong example is Sex Hunter 1980, a tightly-controlled piece of work that uses the most disturbing elements of this cinematic style to startling effect.

Sex Hunter 1980 begins in the world of high art, with ballet student Miki (Ayako Oota) performing impressively in a production of Swan Lake. Her skills are noticed by Akiko (Erina Miyai), a well-to-do woman who runs a new ballet company out of a castle she owns.  It just so happens that Akiko is the sister of Miki’s boyfriend, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances while abroad.

Akiko takes Miki to her school and offers to make her the lead dancer in a new ballet company – but when Miki passes out from a spiked drink, it is revealed that Akiko has sinister, sexually predatory plans for Miki. The young girl finds herself thrust into a dark world of S&M and prostitution, one that will transform her as fate hurtles SexHun80-dvdher towards the discovery of what happened to her boyfriend.

Sex Hunter 1980 is an overpowering experience, in the best sense of that phrase. Masahiro Kakefuda’s script, adapted from an anime, takes the S&M undercurrent of many Nikkatsu films and puts it front and center. It hurtles from one perverse plot point to the next, constantly upping the ante of its own debauchery until it culminates in an overheated erotic/brutal pileup of a finale that would have made De Sade smile. The elements and scale of the story are simple but it quickly immerses you in a world of sexual obsession that is as hypnotic as it is disturbing.

Better yet, this script is done justice by artsy, smartly crafted direction from Toshiharu Ikeda, who would later move into horror with the popular Evil Dead Trap.  Much of the action occurs in the castle’s ballet training room: in lesser hands, this could have look cheap but Ikeda makes it a stylistic choice by using it as ironic backdrop for a series of startling yet artfully crafted scenes of torture. These moments have the frenzied rising energy of a good action sequence, particularly a staggering moment where a certain soft drink is used in a way that puts a perverse spin on the concept of “product placement.”

Ikeda also sprinkles in some surreal flashbacks on a beach and throws out the stops for the aforementioned finale, which works in everything from shattering mirrors to a thunderstorm.  His stylish work is bolstered by some impressive sets – the ballet studio with a double-sided mirror is used to memorable effect – as well as lush, ‘scope-format cinematography from Yoshihiro Yamazaki and a gorgeous, Rick Wakeman-esque keyboard score by Hachiro Kai that mixes classical elements with synth fantasias.

Finally, the film is anchored by a few impressive performances that anchor the film’s flights of Sadean fancy. Oota gives a fearless performance, spending much of the film naked and tormented and bringing a convincing physicality to the scenes where she is put through the story’s S&M paces.  However, she also builds an impressive character arc as she transforms from hapless victim to sexually savvy manipulator. Miyai hits the right note of menace as her tormentor, using her almost aristocratic beauty as a sphinx-like mask before revealing the character’s perverse streak of cruelty. Seru Rando is also impressive as Akiko’s servant, who also serves as Miki’s gleefully perverse instructor in S&M.

In short, Sex Hunter 1980 is bracing stuff, the kind of film that raises sexploitation filmmaking to a pinnacle of dark art.  Anyone with a serious interest in Japanese erotica needs to put it on their viewing list.

DVD Notes: This title just made its U.S. home video debut via a new DVD from Impulse Pictures as part of their Nikkatsu Roman Porno line. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 ratio, anamorphically enhanced, and looks gorgeous.  Color, detail and celluloid texture are all spot-on. The Japanese soundtrack is presented in mono with English subtitles. The wild trailer is included (dig those crazy captions) and an insert booklet with notes by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp are also included. The notes offer an informative, absorbing capsule history of director Ikeda’s career and how his status as a second-generation Nikkatsu Roman Porno director shaped it.

REEL ZOMBIES: I Wonder Who The Real Schlockmeisters Are

If you’re into modern horror fare, zombie films and found-footage films are inescapable parts of the terrain.  There have even been crossovers of these two subgenres: Diary Of The Dead is probably the most notable but there were also two Zombie Diaries films. Reel Zombies takes this crossover to its logical end by adding comedy to the mix. Thankfully for horror fans, Reel Zombies favors satire over slapstick and uses its found footage/zombies element to create a pretty savvy and pointed satire of low-budget horror filmmaking.

A look at the plot of Reel Zombies will reveal the filmmakers have thrown meta-storytelling into the mix, too: directors Mike Masters and David J. Francis are real-life low budget filmmakers who star as fictionalized versions of themselves. The story is mock-doc set in a world where the living dead have become a daily reality. Masters ReelZom-dvddoesn’t want to give up his shoestring film-producing career so he pitches Francis on doing a zombie movie… with real zombies.

Despite the ever-present zombie nuisance, Masters and Francis manage to gather up a gaggle of veteran schlock production people and actors new and old to make a film entitled “Zombie Night 3.” At first, the usual low-budget film hassles -  a rushed schedule, lack of resources, disgruntled workers, arguing actors – are more of an obstacle than the zombies themselves. However, their mixture of over-ambitiousness and under-preparation catches up with them, leading to a darkly funny third act.

Reel Zombies is a lot of fun because it manages to satirize its milieu with a mixture of barbed observations and genuine affection for low-budget horror. Masters and Francis make the found-footage element tolerable because it used to humorous ends rather than as a cheap substitute for real filmmaking.  They go for more of a deadpan humor rather than over-the-top mugging and slapstick and the presentation of what a low-budget horror set is like rings true because they’re drawing from genuine experience. The realism of their approach intensifies the humor and their handling of the third act pulls a nice switcheroo that shows they know their zombie horror tropes well.

The acting is also surprisingly good for a micro-budget flick. Masters does a nice slow-burn as a filmmaker who knows he’s churning out hackwork while Francis creates a convincing portrait of a trash auteur whose enthusiasm is stronger than his talent or his common sense. The backing cast also includes witty turns from Sam Hall as an intensely bitter assistant producer and Paul Fler as a cynical would-be filmmaker who is shunted into the role of “transportation captain,” only to find the indignity intensified when he has to drive around a zombie. There’s even a brief but hilarious cameo from Troma honcho Lloyd Kaufman, who gleefully skewers his own persona.

All in all, Reel Zombies is a true rarity – a horror comedy that is genuinely funny.  Before you screen another found-footage horror or cut-rate zombie epic, watch this instead.

Schlock-Wire: Severin Unleashes An Aussie Blu-Ray Barrage With PATRICK, DEAD KIDS, THIRST And OZSPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION

If there’s a theme for March 2014 at Severin Films, it’s got to be “Ozsploitation Onslaught.”  The month will see them releasing new blu-ray/DVD combos of three Australian horror classics – the telekinetic thriller Patrick, the quirky mad doctor/slasher hybrid Dead Kids and the high-concept vampire flick Thirst – plus an entire DVD of Aussie genre trailers entitled Ozsploitation Trailer Explosion.  All three features make their blu-ray debut in the U.S. and each will feature extras.  Read on for all the Aussie avalanche details…

The original killer in a coma classic PATRICK hits Blu-Ray from Severin Films on 3/11/14

Patrick-bluAussie horror favorites THIRST & DEAD KIDS will also be issued in Blu/DVD Combos

In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s while films like MY BRILLIANT CAREER and BREAKER MORANT were putting Australia’s ‘New Wave’ on the map, a depraved generation of young Aussie filmmakers was putting a very different kind of movie on screens. Three ‘Ozploitation’ horrors, PATRICK, DEAD KIDS & THIRST, will have their Blu-ray debut from Severin Films, while their sub-label Intervision will issue the definitive compilation OZPLOITATION TRAILER EXPLOSION.

PATRICK: Just as Mark (NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD) Hartley’s highly anticipated remake hits US theaters, Richard (PSYCHO 2) Franklin’s original Ozploitation classic is back… now in stunning HD: A comatose killer is seemingly unresponsive in a small private hospital. But DeadKids-bluwhen a hot new nurse begins to question his condition, Patrick will unleash a waking nightmare of psychokinetic carnage. Loaded with Extras including a recently discovered vintage interview with Franklin & the never before available in America Italian track with soundtrack by Goblin (SUSPIRIA, DAWN OF THE DEAD). 

DEAD KIDS: Fangoria called it “One of the best horror movies you’ve never seen”: Michael Murphy (MANHATTAN), Dan Shor (WISE BLOOD) and Academy Award® winner Louise Fletcher (ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST) star in this grisly saThirst-bluga of bizarre experiments, butchered teens, New Zealand doubling for suburban Illinois, and a killer in a Tor Johnson mask. This cult favorite – released in America as STRANGE BEHAVIOR – features a hypnotic score by Tangerine Dream, co-written by the Oscar®-winning director of CHICAGO, directed by the producer of TWO LANE BLACKTOP, now loaded with Extras and transferred in HD from the original negative for the first time ever.

THIROzTrExp-dvdST: One of the most unique vampire movies of our time – is back like you’ve never seen it before: David Hemmings (BLOW-UP, DEEP RED) and Henry Silva (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE) star as executives of an international blood-drinking cartel known as ‘The Brotherhood’. But when they abduct a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory to reboot her depraved legacy, she must escape before the corporation can expand their human ‘blood cow’ dairies and create a vampire master race. Now transferred in HD from the original negative for the first time ever anywhere! 

Ozploitation Trailer Explosion: This is the ultimate collection of ‘Ozploitation’ trailers, packed with 65 ockers, knockers, pubes, tubes, comatose killers, outback chillers, high-octane disasters and kung fu masters, featuring such classics as: ALVIN PURPLE, WAKE IN FRIGHT, MAD DOG MORGAN, BARRY McKENZIE HOLDS HIS OWN, STUNT ROCK, STONE, FANTASM, ROAD GAMES, FELICITY , TURKEY SHOOT, BMX BANDITS, THE MAN FROM HONG KONG, DEAD END DRIVE-IN…and many more!

NURSE GIRL DORM: STICKY FINGERS: Laughing And Lusting All The Way To The Bank

The phrase “sex comedy” is usually a deceptive phrase, as the comedy in these films is frequently tiresome and all the goofing around tends to negate the “sex” element of these films. However, Nikkatsu often beat these odds with the sex comedies that were a staple of their Roman Porno output.  Sure, they might be silly enough to make the average sexploitation fans eyes roll but they never skimped on the sex.

Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers is a good example of how Nikkatsu could effectively blend schtick and sex in a way that kept the horndogs in the audience pleased. Its heroine is Yuki Inoue (Jun Izumi), a nurse who has just gotten a divorce from her accident-prone cop hubby (Shu Minagawa). She moves back into the nurse’s dorm, usually a place for younger women, to rebuild her life.

NGD-SF-dvdThat said, Yuki’s life rebuilding plans have a distinctly sexploitation edge, as she throws herself any attractive man or woman in arm’s reach for casual sex. Between her many amorous encounters (four in this 62 minute film), there are also subplots about the troubled romance between nurse Mayumi (Chiaki Kitahara) and her undertaker boyfriend, Yuki’s hubby trying to win her back and a randy doctor (Koji Nakamura) who covets Yuki when he isn’t fooling around with Mayumi.

Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers rises above the usual sex comedy limitations thanks to the inherent professionalism of Nikkatsu’s filmmakers and cast. Director Yoshihiro Kawazaki gives the film a playful, “pop” style, complete with a new-wavish pop-rock score, and makes sure there is at least one sexual encounter per reel. The gags are also a little more ambitious than usual: one fun bit has three men simultaneously sneaking into the dorm for erotic encounters, none of them aware of the others.

Better yet, all the performers are enthusiastic about the sex scenes, throwing themselves into the sexploitation part of the film with often acrobatic levels of abandon. Izumi’s cheerfully sexed-up performance sets the tone for the film: she looks prim enough to play a mom on a sitcom but she’s totally uninhibited when the time for sex scenes arises. Watching her at play offers more of a thrill than seeing the usual jaded sexploitation starlet go through the motions and the other ladies in the film follow her lead.

Simply put, Nurse Girl Dorm: Sticky Fingers is the rare sex comedy that doesn’t let the comedy shortchange the sex. Anyone interested in the lighter side of the Nikkatsu’s Roman Porno fare should check it out.

DVD Notes: this film was recently issued on U.S. DVD by Impulse Pictures as part of their Nikkatsu Roman Porno line. The new anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) looks great, with crisp details, healthy levels of color and zero element damage. The mono Japanese mix is used for this transfer and presented with freshly translated English subtitles. The main extra on the disc is a typically wild theatrical trailer. Also included in the disc case is an insert booklet with excellent notes from Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp. The notes present a fascinating history of how Nikkatsu came to rely on outside producers to keep the Roman Porno line stocked, with discussions of the many different companies who added to this line, plus some info on Jun Izumi’s career as a pink film starlet.

 

Digi-Schlock: WITCHBOARD (Scream Factory Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack)

As their back catalog reveals, Scream Factory has a serious sweet tooth for ’80s horror. Thus, it’s fitting that they’ve done the blu-ray honors for Witchboard, a serious cult fave with the ’80s horror crowd. It’s obvious that it’s also a favorite with the producers at Scream Factory as they put in quite an effort here, delivering a nice new transfer and supplementing it with an array of bonus features new and old.

Things start on a good note with a sleek-looking high definition transfer used on both discs. The blu-ray was used for this review and the results look nice for a mid-’80s low-budget film: black levels are solid during the night sequences, the colors have a new richness and the detail gets a new boost in clarity. The audio offers a lossless presentation of the film’s original mono mix: thus, there is no directional speaker activity but the blend of dialogue, music and effects works and has a nice punch.

The set’s cavalcade of extras begins with two commentary tracks. The first track dates back to the film’s Anchor Bay DVD release and features writer/director Kevin Tenney, producer Jeff Geoffrey and executive producer Walter Jostyn.  It was the first film for all three so they have pretty vivid memories of the production and are quick to share them.

Witchb-bluTopics discussed include having to replace the cinematographer early in the shoot, the technical challenges involved in different setpieces and how the use of a Ouija board presented legal challenges that had to be deftly negotiated. Tenney self-deprecatingly notes the role that “dumb luck” played in their success, including how the sudden popularity of Stephen Nichols on t.v. and Tawny Kitaen in music videos helped spark interest when the film was released. All in all, it’s a good nuts-and-bolts track that gives you a sense of the work involved in making a polished low-budget film.

The second commentary track was recorded for this set and features Tenney with cast members Nichols, Kathleen Wilhoite and James Quinn. It establishes a nostalgic and witty vibe early on thanks to the chemistry of the participants. Quinn and Tenney were childhood friends (a topic they discuss here) so they make a pretty amusing pair of cut-ups, Wilhoite self-effacingly asks Tenney questions to keep him primed and Nichols adds the occasional wry aside, with his mock-indignance about his hand model in the Ouija board scenes becoming a running gag.

There are fun tales of the rigors of the shoot, practical jokes and some revealing details from Tenney about why he took a long break from filmmaking.  In short, this commentary offers a nice counterbalance to the other track and makes for a fun listen.

The heart of the video-based extras is a new documentary featurette on the film entitled “Possessive Entrapment.” Tenney, Geoffray and Jostyn are on hand to set up the genesis of the film and its production, including some interesting info on how Tenney left film school to make this movie, but it devotes more time to the cast and how different special effects were achieved.

Todd Allen, Kitaen, Nichols and Wilhoite also turn up in this piece to offer fond memories of working together and the occasional tale of pranks or on-set jokes.  Allen in particular tells a funny tale about being recognized after the film by a girls tennis team in a hotel.  FX coordinator Tassilo Baur is a great addition to the piece, offering detailed but concise accounts of how different setpieces were done (his opinion on Ouija boards also offers a good laugh).  In short, this is an entertaining and fast-paced piece that will please Witchboard fans.

From there, the extras move into vintage material. First up is a “Making Of” piece that runs about 7 minutes. It’s really more of an informal EPK where interview snippets with the actors are interspersed with goofing around on the set and footage from the film, including a glimpse of the boat explosion prologue that was cut from the film.

The producers also had access to over 90 minutes of behind-the-scenes video footage from the production and they parcel it out via a quintet of video segments. The first of these is simply called “Cast Interviews”:  it’s half interview snippets with Allen, Nichols and Kitaen, who mainly discuss that they love the script because it’s so character-driven, and raw edits of footage from the film sans music, inserts or sound effects.

There are also two “On Set” interview segments, both 20 minutes each. The first has a few minutes with Allen talking about his experiences as a film actor before moving into a longer interview with Nichols. The chat focuses around his work in the film and he comes off as a charming, unpretentious type. The second segment features Tenney, Geoffray and cinematographer Roy Wagner. They all praise the dedication and skills of the crew, which helped them deal with the time and money limitations.

The last two segments are more casual, oriented around footage of production work. “Life On The Set” has lots of informal footage of the crew at work, a brief interview with a stand-in for Kitaen and footage of a makeup artist working on Allen and Kitaen. It livens up when Tenney walks in the room and they all start goofing on each other. “Constructing Witchboard” is a montage of footage from the last day of principal photography as the crew worked on a false window front and an elaborate camera rig. It’s not terribly exciting but it gives an impression of the time and work involved in a film shoot.

The last few extras are devoted to promotional materials. There are two t.v. spots and a theatrical trailer for the film: oddly, the t.v. spots do a better job of selling the film’s appeal. There are also two image galleries: a behind-the-scenes gallery includes around 200 shots from the set, including extensive coverage of the deleted boat-explosion prologue, and a promo gallery includes stills, posters and what appears to be some photos from a premiere.

In short, Scream Factory has created the jam-packed special edition of Witchboard that its fans have been waiting for and it’s a nice complement to their equally extensive special edition for Tenney’s Night Of The Demons.

Digi-Schlock: NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (1988) (Scream Factory Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack)

Though Darkman is probably the biggest of Scream Factory’s Feburary 2014 releases, they’ve also put in plenty of work on the Kevin Tenney films they released the same month.  Case in point: Night Of The Demons is a deluxe blu-ray/DVD set that offers an impressive array of extras old and new. This is a film with a strong cult audience and Scream Factory has really gone all-out to earn their favor with this release.

Things starts with a nice new transfer of the film.  The blu-ray was viewed for this review and it does well by a challenging film: the film takes place entirely at night, with much of it taking place in dimly-lit interiors.  Black levels are appropriately string and the colored lighting registers nicely.  The overall image is nice and sharp for a vintage low-budget production, thus offering a testament to how skillfully shot the film is.

The extras begin with two commentary tracks, one new and one old.  The new track features Kevin Tenney as leader/moderator and also features actors Cathy Podewell, William Gallo and Hal Havins plus FX maestro Steve Johnson.  Unlike a lot of group tracks, this one is as strong on information as it is on enthusiasm. Tenney takes the lead and delivers a lot of specifics on the tight schedule and technical details, including interesting breakdowns of how many different camera moves were achieved. Johnson covers the makeup FX info and adds some wry asides about “chemical” use that kept him going on the shoot.

NightOTD-bluThe actors supply fun comments specific to their experiences: Gallo has a funny/creepy tale about a run-in with a local during the shoot and Podewell’s reaction to her brief butt-baring scene is a hoot.  All in all, this track is strong on both info and entertainment, making it a fun listen for fans.

The other commentary track dates back to the old Anchor Bay DVD release and features Tenney along with producers Walter Jostyn and Jeff Geoffray.  Tenney repeated a lot of stories from this track on the newer one but this track is worthwhile for fans as it’s more subdued and analytical, looking at the movie from a film-biz perspective.  There’s a lot of praise for writer/producer Joe Augustyn’s script plus Tenney goes into detail on how the photography and production design enhanced the film.  The director also reveals that every scene shot for the film was used in the finished edit!

The heart of the extras is “You’re Invited,” a 71-minute retrospective from extras producer Aine Leicht.  Tenney, Augustyn, Johnson,  the producers, and most of the cast appear in this comprehensive piece, which covers the film from its inception through production and distribution, also offering the contributors’ thoughts on the film’s following.  The filmmakers are frank about their disagreements as the film came together, also revealing why the title was changed and a breakdown of script changes (usually implemented for budgetary reasons).  There’s even an in-depth account of the film’s impressive opening animated titles sequence.

The actors get plenty of room to share their memories once the piece moves into the production phase, with everyone having something to say about the creepy house location, the horrors of the “blue smoke” used for diffusion in the interiors and the physical rigors of the makeup (Kinkade and Linnea Quigley get the most screen time in this area).  On the latter note, Johnson is candid about the ego he invested in designing and enacting his effects – and he tells some great stories about how he fell for Quigley, whom he later married.  The latter stages of the segment offer some interesting stories of how the film was successfully self-distributed and promoted.  All in all, this is a consistently engaging and sharply-paced documentary, with Kinkade and Johnson being its biggest scene stealers.

Those entertained by the snippets of Kinkade in the documentary will be happy to see there is also a 22-minute interview piece devoted solely to her. A lot of this stuff is longer versions of clips used in the documentary but there are some interesting bits rescued from the cutting room floor, including more info on the rigors of the makeup she had to wear in the Demons films and her later career as an animal rights advocate.

Along similar lines is a brief piece called “Allison Barron’s Demon Memories,” a 4-minute segment where the actress narrates a series of behind-the-scenes shots she kept from the film’s shoot.  She covers a lot of ground in a short space, including the rigors of makeup and promoting the film during its theatrical release, and the selection of shots keeps it engaging.

The remainder of the extras are devoted to an extensive array of promotional material. For starters, there are no less than five types of coming attraction included here. The first is a theatrical trailer that starts in a comedic style and deftly shifts to horror, even managing to work in two topless shots(!). The t.v. spots are all edited down from the theatrical trailer: interestingly, they all use the same “the party’s just begun” dialogue in their tags.  A video trailer is cut differently from the theatrical spot and makes great use of the Bauhaus song used in the film’s dance sequence.  There’s even a radio spot that uses an amusing, faux-interview with patrons format and mentions the film’s infamous lipstick scene.

However, the most unique inclusion amongst the trailers is a promo reel aimed at video store owners.  It starts like a trailer but quickly works in review quotes and box office statistics before closing with a breakdown off all the promotional items that the distributor would make available to purchasers (everything from a Spanish-language version of the film to a standee with a glowing lights in its eyes!).

The last items in the promo materials area are a series of four still galleries that offer over 300 different images.  The behind the scenes gallery features many shots of the actors and crew at work, plus some interesting shots of the location sans visual effects trickery.  A makeup effects gallery not only shows photos of Johnson at work but also an array of continuity Polaroids and some design sketches.  Stills and publicity photos are captured in an area simply marked “photo gallery” while posters for both titles of the film and full-color storyboards get their own gallery.

In short, Scream’s dual-format edition of Night Of The Demons is a real everything-but-the-kitchen-sink affair that goes the extra mile for this cult favorite. Any fan of the film will want to pick up this upgrade.

 

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