10.21.2017

Red Christmas Blu Ray Review; Dee Wallace Delivers In New Holiday Slasher


by: Jason Elizondo (robotGEEK)

I had actually never heard of Red Christmas until just a few weeks ago. And it's a pitty really, because it's actually a pretty good slasher. While I'm not entirely sure if the intent was to be somewhat of a throwback to 80's slasher's, there are certainly elements that lead me to believe that, while also being something very recognizably modern. Let's dig in.

When Diane (Dee Wallace) is having a Christmas get-together for her large family in her remote home in Australia, an unwelcome stranger from her past arrives. Soon this mystery guest is killing them off one by one in bloody fashion and Diane needs to figure out who this person is and how she can protect her family. 

Red Christmas was a very pleasant surprise. Actor/Writer/Producer/Director Craig Anderson, here directing his first horror film, has fashioned an old-school style slasher that delivers the goods on all fronts. It's a blood-soaked punch to the face of bright neon colors and slick camerawork, with a script that sticks to the standard tropes associated with these types of films, while also adding a few new elements to the table to my surprise, and I really ended up enjoying this one quite a bit. I had to simmer on it for a day or two though before I could write anything about it because it packed quite a visceral punch once it was over. The new thread Anderson incorporated into the standard slasher might ultimately hit a nerve with a few of you, but it will certainly get you talking, and might make a few uneasy, but that's always a good thing.


One thing you'll notice right off the bat is that this film looks better than it should. Anderson has acquired such a talented team behind the camera that despite it's limited budget restraints, this could easily pass for a film playing at your local cinema. In fact, I have to admit that it was even better than some of the PG-Rated garbage that big studio's are releasing theatrically these days. While I didn't think that his particular style was in tune with classic 80's slasher films (I'm not even sure he was trying to though), it was slick enough to almost pass for it. As far as his script goes, it's a pretty straight-forward film involving a stranger who shows up unannounced during a family gathering over the holiday's and proceeds to pick them off one by one once the sun goes down. Yet he adds a number of certain ingredients (one of them being the killer himself) that easily makes it stand out among the crowd. I won't mention them here for you, but I found them both brave and intriguing, greatly benefiting the final product overall. Of course, there are all the standard tropes that come along with this type of sub-genre slasher, even the annoying ones, but if you listen to his commentary, you'll understand why he felt it important to include some of them, knowing that they can drive people crazy.



The real standout in the film though will undoubtedly be Dee Wallace' performance. Holy crap. That woman, a legend in her own right, delivers one helluva tour de force performance as the matriarch of this highly dysfunctional family, the glue that holds them together (as she tries), and ultimately their protector. Man, if there was ever an actress worthy of the title Scream Queen, it's Wallace. While I have continued to see her regularly throughout the years in various projects, most notably Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem, I can't remember the last time I saw her in such a physically demanding role and performance other than Cujo back in 1983. And though decades have literally gone by since then, you'd never know it by her physicality. She hasn't lost her step, spunk or vigor and easily carries the film entirely on her own. The rest of the cast is also quite excellent, with not a single dud to be found, but it's really Dee Wallace you'll take away from this experience.

The practical effects work is commendable and more often than not impressive. And that was another area I really enjoyed in keeping with it's throwback vibe. I loved that they stuck to effects work practically rather than with CGI, where it would have been cheaper and easier to do so, and I have to admit, there was a kill or two that really impressed me. Helen Grimley's score is good and does the job well in ramping up the tension when it needed it, but her standout work has to be in the opening title track, which oozes 80's synth cool. In fact, it's this fantastic opening number that kind of gets the ball rolling in making you think that the film is going to be an 80's style slasher, and it is to a degree, and then it isn't. I really wish Grimley had continued that style of score throughout the film though. It really gave the film an extra kick of awesome, only to turn more conventional and serviceable for the remainder of the film. Still good, but not as good as that opening number.


The Specs:
- 1080p HD presentation
- Unrated Cut
- Runtime: 81 minutes
- 5.1 Surround Sound
- 2.25:1 Widescreen
Special Features: 
- Director's Commentary
- "Dee Wallace Speaks!": An interview with Scream Queen Dee Wallace
- Interview with Gerald O'Dwyer
- Blooper Reel
- Deleted Scene
- Craig Anderson Mini-Interview

If you love horror, and more importantly slasher's, this is a Must-Buy. Great care and attention to detail has been to the visual aspect of this, so to be quite frank, Blu Ray is the only way to go. It's candy-colored bright neon drenched 1080p presentation is stunningly clear. I also highly recommend watching "Dee Wallace Speaks!", where Craig Anderson interviews her for 20 minutes and she discusses her long lasting career and lots of insight into some of her more iconic roles in Cujo, Blake Edwards "10", and The Frighteners. She's such an engaging personality and so much fun to listen to when she revisits some of her past films rather matter-of-factly.

Red Christmas doesn't reinvent the genre, but it does add a few new twists to keep it interesting. Strong visuals, character development and effects work make the film better all around and worth checking out. Dee Wallace steals the show, and the masked killer, complete with his motivations, drives the narrative in a surprisingly fresh way. Red Christmas was released by Artsploitation Films on October 17 and is currently available to purchase on DVD and Blu Ray from any number of major online retailers and also available to stream/rent on Amazon.

10.20.2017

80's Action Attack!: American Eagle - A Commando Ripoff That Delivers The Goods


by Jason Elizondo (robotGEEK)

Max Shane (Asher Brauner) is a Vietnam vet who currently works as a soldier of fortune, much to the dismay of his wife Angela. When she decides to go visit her brother, and Max's former Vietnam brother-in-arms, in Cambodia for a break, she is kidnapped by a prostitution ring run by one of their former Vietnam brother-in-arms Johnny Burke (Vernon Wells), who has fallen off the deep end into a kidnapping pimp and psychopath. Max and Angela's brother soon set out on a rescue mission to Cambodia to save Angela.

I have to be honest, I loved this. It was a blast from start to finish and I loved every minute of it. Not because it's a great film, but because it was so damn entertaining for all the wrong reasons; first and foremost because of the fact that this is essentially just a Commando ripoff. It seriously is. Only Max is heading to Cambodia to rescue his wife, not his daughter. Hell, Vernon Wells literally just reprises his role of Bennett from Commando, playing him to a "T". He just looks different, this time sporting a blonde mullet and skeezy beard and going by the name of Burke. But he's literally playing the same exact role. If you closed your eyes, you'd swear you were listening to Commando. Burke (Wells), acting as the main muscle man (again), even works under the big boss, a local kingpin, just as Bennett did in Commando. And the similarities to Commando don't end there either. There's even a knife-fight between Max and Burke similar to the one in the end of Commando between Matrix and Bennett. And there's a moment where Max is running past a row of windows during the end battle as they are being shot at in succession, just the way Matrix did in Commando.

Asher Brauner kicking ass and taking names
Now that we have all the Commando references out of the way, let's talk about the movie. It's one of those perfect examples where it's painfully obvious the main actor also wrote the script, which he did. He tries so hard to make himself seem cool, tough and macho, oftentimes to the point of absurdity. For example, when Max discovers his wife has been kidnapped, you'd never know it. He never shows a thread of emotion at any given moment. You'd think he actually didn't care. No sir, all that falls on her brother Rudy (Robert F. Lyons) who has to provide enough dramatic acting and range for the both of them. It's actually a bit much a lot of the time, but hey, someone has to pick up Max's emotional slack. And honestly, all the macho stuff is really undeserving. Asher Brauner just isn't that cool, or good of an actor. In fact, he just comes across as being terrible, which at the same times makes it highly amusing and even sometimes hilarious. He looks like a cross between Nick Nolte and James Remar, while trying to impersonate Michael Pare, right down to his voice. And with the film's surprisingly obnoxiously loud over-dubbing, it's like constantly getting punched in the face with Brauner's terrible line delivery.

Vernon Wells unintentionally reprising his role of Bennett
I really enjoyed this one quite a bit. I mean, how can you not? This is the kind of shit I live for when it comes to low-budget action movies. Though meant to be a serious rescue mission film, it's so cheesy, corny and insanely cliche that you just kind of watch in bewilderment at it all. But I love that about this. Everyone is taking this seriously, and that's what makes it so special. It's so hard for us (the viewer) to take it seriously though when Asher Brauner is so over-the-top macho/cool that he ends up being more of a caricature than anything else. I mean, who talks like that? Who acts like that? Even worse, who dresses like that? I know it sounds like I'm giving the guy a hard time but trust me, I love him. I love that he is that way in this and it's because of him that American Eagle soars as high as it does. Yes, I just went there.

Say hello to my little friend!
What surprised me the most was how competent this ended up being under the direction of Robert J. Smawley, an assistant director on a few films like The Buddy Holly Story and Lethal Weapon 3. Seriously, for a film this small, he does a great job making it look bigger and better. And most importantly, he handles the action exceedingly well, which is surprising since he's only ever directed 3 films. How he came to get this gig, I'll never know, but it's a far better film because of him.

You really can't go wrong with this one if you're looking for a good time in the Low-Budget 80's Action department. It's cheesy, full of action, nearly plays on the original Commando storyline beat for beat, and it's a blast watching Vernon Wells play a different character, but at the same time also playing the same character of Bennett. It's weird. Oh, and Asher Brauner is a hoot. Honestly, he's a fascinating character. His unusual "acting" style, his line delivery, his machismo script; it's all drenched in over-the-top 80's excess and it's glorious. I will say that the first half is a bit slow and sometimes confusing. He's trying to be clever by only hinting at things for a while before it all comes together in the second half. But it's fine, because we get to see unnecessary steamy showers with his wife and a trip to the zoo with his family, because deep down inside he's really a family man. Only we don't ever see his son again after that, which is bizarre. Though there's little action in the first half, the seriously corny melodrama is entertaining enough and holds you through until the second half kicks in, where all hell breaks loose, and it's a blast.

Matrix and Bennett, eerr, I mean Max and Burke
Brauner was a television actor for 3 decades before trying to make it as an action star. Seeing as it wasn't going to happen any other way, he decided to write them for himself, and he would end up starring in 2 self-written action films in 1989 alone, this one and Merchants of War. Sadly he never broke out as an action star, only appearing in a few more films in supporting roles before calling it quits, but if American Eagle is any indication, he just needed the right material to deliver some solid cheesy goodness. One thing's for certain though, I need to track down Merchants of War immediately.

10.19.2017

Cool Shit: Commando 16 Inch Super Action Figure From Diamond Toymakers (1985)

by: Jason Elizondo (robotGEEK)

Diamond Toymakers was a company founded in 1969 by Sid Diamond, who started the business by selling yo-yo's, then transitioning into stickers in the 80's, securing rights to hot properties such as Pac-Man, E.T. and Donkey Kong among others. They eventually created the famous "scratch and sniff" stickers that are still collectors items today. I don't know a whole lot about them, but at some point in either the early or mid 80's, they dipped into the action figure market, most notably securing rights to the Arnold Schwarzenegger hit Commando.

In 1985 they released a line of Commando toys and action figures which included a line of 6" figures including John Matrix (the rarest figure in the entire toyline), a 7.5" John Matrix figure and 2 different 16" John Matrix Super Action Figures. From what I can gather, both of these Super Action Figures are identical, with only the box being different; one red and yellow (pictured) and the other black and grey. Same company, same line, same figure, just different packaging.

I don't recall ever seeing these big bad boys in the toy store when I was a kid, but the one I do remember wasn't an action figure, but rather their Mega-Ultra-Super-Duper-Rare Commando Combat Vest Set, which included the vest, a grenade, knife and I.D. I remember seeing it at a toy store in my local mall back in '85 or '86 and begging my mom to get it for me. I wanted to be John Matrix for Halloween that year. Alas, my pleas were in vain. She didn't get it for me, but I've been on the hunt for that Combat Vest Set ever since so if anyone out there can help me out, please feel to contact me. It's my Holy Grail of 80's toys and the one thing I will never give up on trying to get. But moving on.
This 16" bad boy is just awesome. I recently acquired one complete in box just this past year. But to be honest, I'd never even knew of it's existence until maybe a few years ago, at which point I began trolling eBay nearly on a daily basis for years. You see, they're not cheap, often going for well over $100 typically, and sometimes for several hundred. As much as I wanted it, that was more than I was comfortable with. So I waited.....patiently. If there's something I've learned in the world of collecting, patience is a virtue. I know if I wait long enough, I will in fact find one at a decent price, and that day finally came. Someone had listed this on eBay for $40 in an auction-style listing. I put in my bid and hoped for the best. I couldn't believe it. I won. I won the fucking thing with my single $40 bid. Not a single person on this planet must have been needing one of these during the 6 days it was listed. Needless to say, I was very happy. Considering it's age, and the fact that the box is already flimsy to begin with and probably has been moved around quite a bit in it's 32 years, it's in remarkably good shape.

This guy currently sits on a display shelf in my bedroom. I would love to find a box protector for him some day though. Maybe not one of the big hard acrylic ones as they tend to take away so much of the visual impact of the toy, but maybe one of the lighter ones, like the ones they sell for vintage NES game systems. I've been looking, but so far can't seem to find one big enough.

My obsessive toy collecting has pretty much stopped recently since I've gotten most of the toys I'd been after. But there are still a handful that I still need to get, most importantly the Commando Combat Vest Set (1985) from Diamond Toymakers. If you know of one, please let me know. I'm more of a casual toy hunter these days, only browsing for long-lost childhood toys from time to time. But I'll always be a kid at heart, and the hunt is always on.

Check out this great article I found about the Diamond Toymakers Commando line of produced and unproduced toys via The Arnold Fans website by clicking HERE.


10.18.2017

Never Hike Alone Review; A Friday the 13th Fan's Wet Dream

Written by: Jason Elizondo (robotGEEK)

We can all agree that most horror franchises lose a fair amount of steam at some point. Michael, Leatherface, Pinhead and Freddy all suffered from too many bad sequels, and Jason is no exception. Honestly, the last great Friday the 13th film was Part 6: Jason Lives.....31 years ago. Sure, people tend to love some of the others that followed for various reasons, but most certainly not because they're great horror films. Enter writer/director/actor Vincente DiSanti, who spearheaded a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 to fund an originally estimated short 22 minute fan-film. With an enticing teaser trailer and kickass incentives, it's no surprise that they surpassed their goals, which might explain why it turned into a 55 minute film rather than the original 22. Anyway, here we are in October of 2017, with the film brilliantly being released for FREE all over the world on.....wait for it......Friday the 13th! Amazing. Let's dig in.

An avid back country hiker and vlogger, Kyle McLeod, is out hiking on a solo trip when he stumbles upon a deserted camp. He soon discovers that this camp has a brutal history and worse yet, he might not be alone.

Never Hike Alone is hands-down one of the best Friday the 13th films ever made. DiSanti and his crew took all of the fundamental elements that made the franchise so great in the first place and puts a fresh spin on it by incorporating the found footage narrative. But wait! Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. I personally can't stand found footage films. I find them lazy. But the way DiSanti incorporates it into Never Hike Alone works brilliantly. It's only a small tool, and thankfully, most of the film is shot traditionally. Even so, the found footage angle is still done surprisingly well, in that it's not shaky-cam nonsense, which was entirely refreshing. And that's another thing I found surprising here. The film itself is visually impressive. In fact, if you were to judge it purely on the camerawork alone, it's a better looking film than any of the last 6 in the franchise, including Freddy VS Jason. But that's just me. On a technical level, it delivers the goods in every single department; from the sound editing, the score, the effects, the stunts and most importantly, the editing. It's a trim 55 minutes that never overstays it's welcome, and utilizes every second to help push the film further along at a brisk pace.



On a narrative front, the film packs a punch. While the first half does a good job of setting things up in a timely manner, it's really the second half that delivers the slasher goods, and boy you're in for a treat. Every creative and technical decision DiSanti and his crew make bring the film to life in such a startlingly frightening way, that it makes you wonder why filmmakers today can't make films like this anymore. He doesn't bring anything new to the table, other than the found footage angle, but uses the typical slasher tropes to full effect, and in some instances, enhancing certain elements for a much more visceral experience. I don't want to give too much away before you've actually seen it, but needless to say, Vincente DiSanti did his homework. For example, every single time Jason (DiSanti) took a step, it sounded like a giant dinosaur was walking the Earth. You felt every single step. And that brings me to DiSanti's portrayal of Jason. He does a phenomenal job. The guy is big, and he takes on the role with gusto. I'd have to say it's probably one of my favorite Jason's after C.J. Graham in Part 6: Jason Lives. Fuck Kane Hodder. The makeup department also needs to be commended. I loved Jason's "look" in this. Traditional, yet cleaner. Again, it's more in tune with his look in Part 6 than say his zombie-look in Part 7 and 8.



If you've been missing a good traditional slasher, then Never Hike Alone will surely fill that sweet spot. The film was filled with nonstop surprises for me. It's so good in fact that you'll want more. You'll wish they were able to stretch it out for an extra half hour, but trust me when I say that it's a strong 55 minutes and just as long as it needs to be. And wait till you see the surprise at the end. I couldn't believe it. Such a.....awe hell. I'll just let you experience it for yourself. Just a great bombshell in an already great experience. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how good this little crowd-sourced film is compared to big budget studio films in general. Only, it's not just good.....it's fucking GREAT!!

Check out the full movie below:

10.17.2017

80's Attack!: Gleaming The Cube


Written by: 
Jason Elizondo (robotGEEK)

Gleaming the Cube, one of the last skateboard films to come out of the 80's, has retained it's status as one of the best of it's kind for a number of reasons. For starters, it's a standout among the crowd because it's primarily more of an action/thriller rather than a film about skateboarding. There just happens to be some skateboarding in it because the main protagonist, Brian Kelly (Christian Slater), is an avid skater via the late 80's. And while the film in general is a great crime/detective/action/thriller in it's own right, it's really in it's "skater" moments where Gleaming the Cube really shines.

This was a film that was such a huge part of my teenage years, when the skateboard trend really seemed to hit it's peak. I wasn't a skater, but my brother and his friends were. I just loved the film because I thought it was awesome. And I remember watching this often, either as something playing in the background, or with a group of friends fascinated by the fact that a very young Tony Hawk, already a certified legend, had a bit part as one of Brian's crew. It was just one of those films that was always on, or we always found time to watch. Having not seen it all these years though, somewhere close to 30 to be exact, I was somewhat surprised to discover, or rediscover, that unlike Thrashin', this really wasn't necessarily a skater film per say, but rather a crime/thriller about an adopted straight-lace teenager who mistakenly stumbles upon a scheme to sell and smuggle firearms into Vietnam, only to be murdered by his boss's henchmen. When Brian, his troublemaker brother, realizes that his adopted brother may have been murdered and not committed suicide (staged by the henchmen), he sets out to solve the murder himself when he's met with constant frustration and no help from local detective Al Lucero (Steven Bauer), putting his skating talents, and his skating crew, to good use. And it's really this angle that I found so intriguing, when this film could easily have been another run-of-the-mill skateboarding film about a local competition or a turf war against another local skate gang. I loved that it was about something else entirely, only incorporating the skateboarding aspect a good half the time to full effect.

Christian Slater, who had just co-starred in the dark comedy cult hit Heathers the previous year, really does a killer job in the role of a troubled, moody, adolescent teen who despises authority and relishes the role of the black sheep in his well-to-do upper class family. His constant conflict with his father and repeated headbutting with local detective Lucero only feed his growing anger and quest to solve his brothers murder, even if it means putting his own life on the line, which he repeatedly does. Slater is just excellent here. It's strange to think this came out after Heathers, because you'd most certainly assume it was the other way around. He looks a bit younger here, and his Jack Nicholson impression isn't nearly as prominent. He handles the skating sequences like a pro, even when you don't believe for a second that it's really him doing some of the bigger stunts, which he clearly isn't. Mike McGill and Rodney Mullen were Slater's skate doubles. The bad wig is a dead giveaway, but still highly amusing to try and spot the moments when these pro's are actually doing the tricks. There's even a hilarious sequence when Brian is so pissed off at the world and decides to go skate his frustrations out in a parking garage and it's just hilariously cheesy awesome. He's so angry, and this rock song is playing, and even his skating is angry, and the fact that it's very obviously not really Slater skating but someone else with a very bad wig. It's awesome, and I love that about this film. It tries so hard to be serious, but you can't take this shit seriously. Regardless of the amusing stung-double, Slater does a great job in the role and is strong enough to carry the film squarely on his shoulders.


Australian director Graeme Clifford seemed like a most unlikely choice to direct this sort of film, mainly since he had only done television work and dramas prior to this. Yet he handles the material and the job with ease, giving the film a slick detective thriller look, even in the skateboarding sequences, which always seem to find their way into the storyline and action. He also makes the most of the California setting, utilizing a lot of aerial shots showcasing the mountains, hills, swimming pools (big part of the film's narrative), and palm trees. Skateboard legend Stacey Peralta actually worked as the second unit director shooting all of the skateboarding sequences in here (who better?!) and composer Jay Ferguson adds a deft touch to the material with another fantastic score.

All in all I had a blast revisiting this 80's gem. It's fun, engaging and so fucking nostalgic that it's impossible not to have a smile on your face. I was flooded with a barrage of amazing memories and there were things that I had forgotten about, like the fact that Peter Kwong (Never Too Young To Die, Big Trouble in Little China) was in it! It's a far better film and experience than I was expecting, as well as a totally different genre of film altogether, which still surprises me when I think about it. Gleaming the Cube is wholly deserving of it's reputation and cult status. It's a film that plays on it's reputation effortlessly in such a satisfying way, without throwing it in your face in a vulgar way. It's hip, without even trying. It's fun, when it's supposed to be serious. It's nostalgia on crack when it was just a thriller involving skateboarding. All of these unintentional elements make for a fantastic viewing experience.


How to watch it:
Still no Blu Ray as of yet, but even so, the VHS and DVD aren't hard to find on the secondhand market, but can run you anywhere from around $20 on up. If you're diligent, you'll sure to come across one for cheap. It took me a few years of patiently waiting until I snagged a VHS within my comfortable spending range. The mega-rare Laserdisc is even harder to find, and far more expensive should you ever come across one. Unfortunately none of these have ever been released in widescreen officially, at least not here in the U.S., including the 1999 DVD release from Geneon (Pioneer), which is full frame. I'd love to see this on Blu ray though, with a cleaned up image, in widescreen and a healthy dose of extras. I'd love to see all of those skate legends discuss there experience working on this all these years later, and how much this film ultimately influenced a generation of skateboarders. Here's to hoping someone like Shout! Factory will heed the call.

10.14.2017

Arrow Video's Children of the Corn Blu Ray Review


Children of the Corn was one of my very first introductions to the world of Stephen King. It was a film that I fondly remember playing over and over again on cable back in the mid to late 80's, and it was a film that I saw so frequently that I now know the entire film by heart, line for line. In fact, my brother, sister and myself would hilariously recite many of the more memorable and catchy lines of dialogue throughout our life. It helps that I was roughly about 8 when this came out, so basically the prime age to absorb horror on a visceral level once this hit home video and cable a year or two later.

There's a reason why Children of the Corn has remained one of the more memorable Stephen King adaptations all these years later. Because it's actually pretty good. While not one of the best, it's certainly earned it's status as one of the better film adaptations when you consider the vast majority of them are shit. It's a modest film from a budget standpoint, but that doesn't keep it from being an engaging and oftentimes terrifying thriller/horror film. I mean, the idea of a town full of kids killing every single adult is indeed terrifying, but it's the film's overall structure - from it's tight script, direction, dark, brooding tone, incredible casting and most of all, Jonathan Elias' now iconic score (easily one of the most identifiable scores in the history of cinema whether you like the film or not), all create a strongly structured film that kickstarted a franchise and continues to this day to be one of the most iconic horror films in the last 3 decades. And that theme song. Oh that theme song will stay stuck in your head for days and days after.

One of Arrow Video's most recent releases is this exceptionally packaged 2K restoration that comes packed to the gills with extra content that will take you days to sift through. If you are a fan of this film or of Arrow Video's releases in general, then this Blu-Ray upgrade should be a no-brainer. But if you were still debating whether the film's 1080p upgrade or it's Special Features content are with the investment, I decided to dig into all of that for you, to help you better make that decision. So let's dig in.

"And A Child Shall Lead Them"

The Specs:
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin
- Return to Gatlin: A look back at the iconic filming locations in Iowa with host John Sullivan
- Cut from the Cornfield: An interview with actor Rich Kleinberg on the infamous "lost" Blue Man Scene
- Disciples of the Crow: A 1983 short film adaptation of Stephen King's story
- Storyboard Gallery
- Stephen King on a Shoestring: An interview with producer Donald P. Borchers
- Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights & Sounds of Children of the Corn - interviews with production designer Craig Steams and composer Jonathan Elias
- ...And a Child Shall Lead Them: a brand new interview with actors Julie Maddalena and John Philbin
- Field of Nightmares: A brand new interview with screenwriter George Goldsmith
- Harvesting Horror: A retrospective documentary featuring interviews with director Fritz Kiersch, and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
- It was the Eighties!: An interview with Linda Hamilton
- Audio commentary with director Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains
- Brand new audio commentary with horror journalist Justin Beahm and Children of the Corn historian John Sullivan
- Optional English subtitles
- Original stereo and 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio options
- Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative
- High Definition Blu ray (1080p) presentation



That is a lot of extra content if you ask me, and well worth the price of this Blu-Ray alone. You'll spend more time digging through all those extra's than you will watching the film, which is always a plus and personally one of the main reasons why I ever buy Blu-Rays to begin with; the extra content. And Arrow Video's release does not disappoint. Let's start with the film itself. Arrow Video's new 2K restoration from the original camera negative is simply gorgeous. The film has never looked more vibrant than it does here. Whereas most previous releases never did much to restore the original film's lush color scheme, here it's on full display in glorious HD. And that was always a problem with every previous release of CotC. It was always so gloomy with a faint gray haze/filter, with much of it's original luster gone. But here the colors pop, and you see for the first time how the film is awash in saturated greens, reds, yellows, and even down to Malachai's orange hair, to an eerie effect. There is a slight graininess present throughout, but that's entirely expected considering it was shot on film in 1983/1984. The slight grain only adds to the film's visual presentation in a positive way. It "looks" like film, rather than digital, and by restoring it from it's original camera negative, CotC looks stunningly clear and impressive - the best possible version you're ever going to get.

Of all the many interviews located on this release, the most enjoyable by far is "Harvesting Horror", an immersive retrospective clocking in at a fun 35 minutes. Director Fritz Kiersh is front and center as he explains in detail the entire history and process of making his first big screen feature film for New World Pictures, offering bits of fascinating information that really surprised me, such as the film being on such a tight budget that it's technically a low-budget film. And it's because of the tight budget, they were forced to get creative in a number of different area's to make the most of what they had. You'll finally understand, in detail, why the ending was never all that impressive or exciting, mainly in it's use of mediocre special effects. One of the funniest bits of behind-the-scenes info is in regards to the crew misjudging the ever-changing seasons, and not taking into account that the corn stocks, a huge element to the entire film, begin to turn brown, forcing the crew to spray paint most of them green. You also learn through all the various interviews (all separate elements) from the stars and production that Sam Raimi was considered to direct at one point, and that a positive or negative quote from King himself on the cover of your film, at the time, could make or break it. There was so much fascinating stuff to absorb and I won't spoil it all for you here, but rest assured, it's a helluva fun time to dig through.

Linda Hamilton had not yet starred in The Terminator (that would be later the same year), so she was relatively new to films having stuck to television work up until this point, but her solo interview "It Was The Eighties!", offers insight into the casting of her very first starring role, and her experience working on a relatively low-budget film that would go on to endure for decades in this enjoyable 13 minute interview.

The plethora of other interviews were also excellent and if you love behind-the-scenes stories, these are a must watch. For example, I had no idea that this was composer Jonathan Elias' first film, and arguably his most recognized. But it's information like this that keeps so much of these extra's engaging and worth digging into, most notably whenever director Fritz Kiersch was discussing anything related to the film. He just has this very endearing way of getting so much information and the history of it's production across in a very easy matter-of-fact manner. I always liked his work on this. I always felt he did such a good job by trying to go Hitchcock with a lot of the suspenseful elements, by utilizing creative camerawork and techniques a la Psycho and even Jaws. Kiersch would go on to direct a few more films following the success of this with cult classics such as Tuff Turf, Gor, Winner Takes All and the ultra hard to find The Stranger.

Arrow Video has done it again with yet another outstanding release. The upgrade is superior in every way to any other version out there, and the insane amount of extra content make this a must-buy for your collection. Release on October 3rd, you can purchase this on any number of online retailers (we all tend to stick to our favorites), or you can purchase it directly from Arrow Video HERE.

Until next time, robotGEEK out...

If you have a new film or Blu Ray release you would like me to review, please feel free to contact me at jasonisageek@yahoo.com for all media inquiries. 

Geek News: Little Shop of Horrors Director's Cut To Return To The Big Screen This Halloween

That's right. This coming Halloween Cinemark Theaters will be screening Frank Oz's 80's musical masterpiece Little Shop of Horrors courtesy of Fathom Events. But wait! That's not even the best part. Not only is it coming back to theaters for 2 nights only (Oct. 29 & 31), but it will be the legendary Director's Cut, featuring the balls-to-the-wall epic ending that see's an army of Audrey 2's descending upon the city and literally obliterating it in what can only be described as one of the best practical effects sequences ever produced. It's bleak, dark and violent for sure, but it's also epicly badass. And really, that long-lost ending is reason enough to revisit this on the big screen.

Of course, it also helps that the film in general is one of the best musicals ever made. And this is coming from someone who doesn't generally enjoy them. But there has always been something very special about this one. The songs are actually good, every single one of them, and damnit if they weren't catchy as hell either. The spot-on casting was brilliant, and I just love the "backlot" feel to the entire film. It all looks and feels so very much like it was filmed on a studio lot, and it was, but that's also part of what makes it so special and charming. It's an intentional homage to the type of film that was so popular in the 50's and 60's, which is where LSoH is set. The look of this film plays a hugely important role in it's success as a film and Oz and his production team did a phenomenal job.



We all remember the theatrical ending right? Seymour saves Audrey and they live happily ever after having killed Audrey 2 with an electrical shock that resulted in it's explosion. Pretty straight-forward and corny, which is what the studio wanted. Well the original ending was much darker. Audrey 2 produced rapidly, eventually growing an army of plants who would grow to mammoth size proportions. They unleashed onto an unsuspecting city obliterating it to shreds. The U.S. Army infiltrates the city and a large scale attack is delivered. This final act in the film is insanely awesome. The impressive model-work and practical effects STILL blow my mind today and when you see it, you get pissed off that we weren't given this far better ending in the first place. I can't even imagine how incredible that large-scale city-wide chaos and destruction will look on a huge screen, but I'm certainly going to find out.

Check your local theater listings or go to Cinemark or Fandango for showtimes and theater screenings in your area. 


10.13.2017

90's Action Attack!: Passenger 57

Passenger 57 came out at the crux of the "Die Hard on a..." boom in the 90's. Speed, Die Hard 2, Skyscraper, Under Siege and it's sequel, No Contest and Passenger 57; all films that capitalized on the huge success of a single film that literally created a new sub-genre of action film. And though there were countless "terrorist" themed action movies before such as The Delta Force or Invasion USA for example, it really wasn't until Die Hard in 1988 that really turned the action genre on it's head. What soon followed was a barrage of copy-cat's that offered the same premise, just in different locations such as a boat (Under Siege), bus (Speed) and plane (Turbulence, Air Force One) rather than an office building. And then there were the flat-out shameless ripoffs like Skyscraper and No Contest. I have to admit though, I do still love those two quite a bit, but for completely different reasons other than being an action film.

While some of these types of films are better than others, Passenger 57 is one of the better ones. It's a serviceable terrorist/action film that takes all the standard tropes associated with this new genre and doesn't bring anything new to the table, but puts it all together rather well and effortlessly. As you can estimate by it's title, Passenger 57 takes place on a plane. Well, about a third of it actually takes place on a plane to be more accurate. But that's okay, because the change of scenery does wonders for the overall structure, in that it never gets boring or feels stale. The constant shift in location (hospital, plane, carnival, landing strip, then plane again) keeps the film visually and narratively interesting while keeping you, the viewer, on your toes.

This was Wesley Snipes first starring role in an action picture. While he had been a star in his own right well before this film in comedies, dramas and thrillers, this was the first time he was the main star of any film, let alone an action one. So it's safe to say Passenger 57 kickstarted his long and lustrous action career. Though he would continue to dip into more dramas, thrillers and a few comedies, it was really in the action genre where he flourished, even more so when he took on the role of Blade, the immortal vampire in 1998. But really, what better way to begin your action career than with this fairly by-numbers, yet highly entertaining exercise.

What kind of surprised me was how good this ended up being, and how for some reason it never received the type of status or hype as other "Die Hard style" action films did, like Under Siege for example. It has everything you'd want; action, fights, explosions, a kickass English villain, a killer roster of character actors (Tom Sizemore!), and a hip, fun vibe with plenty of style to burn. That's another area I found surprising. Passenger 57 is directed by Kevin Hooks, who up until this point had previously only worked in television, with the exception of the urban comedy Strictly Business the year before, yet did such a fantastic job handling a big budget action film his first time out. In fact, he does a much better job than most current action directors working today, which surprises me that Hooks didn't really make it big as an action director. Sure he did Fled and Black Dog later, but they just didn't seem really up to par with what he could do as a solid director in this genre. Yet at the same time, it seems to be a trend with these directors. They knock it out of the park with a solid film, but then sort of fade into obscurity. It happens to nearly all of them; Jan De Bont, Renny Harlin, Andrew Davis, Dwight H. Little, Geoff Murphy and most certainly Kevin Hooks.



You won't find anything groundbreaking in here, but it sure was a helluva good time from start to finish. Wesley Snipes shines, even impressing us with some kickass stuntwork, while resident bad guy Bruce Payne again delivers yet another fantastic villain. Seriously, the guy is underrated as hell. For me personally, if I see his name in the credits, it's almost a guarantee I'll have a good time. The films constantly shifting locations keep the film moving along at a breakneck pace, while simultaneously ramping up the tension, suspense and thrills as the film progresses to a satisfying climax. Really, you just can't go wrong with Passenger 57. More people need to be aware of this little gem.

10.12.2017

Sleepwalkers Film Review; An Awkward, Absurd, Guilty Pleasure



Stephen King's Sleepwalkers is such a bizarre film all around. In fact, it may very well be one of the strangest in his catalog. I literally hadn't seen it since it was first released back in 1991, which I did revisit on home video a few times after, but for arguments sake, let's say it's been a good 25 years really since I've seen it. So I didn't really know what to expect going in, as my memory of it was fuzzy. I remembered it was directed by Mick Garris (Psycho IV, Critters 2), who as I recall mainly stuck to television work, and that it was about a mother and son who were secretly these cat-like people who could transform themselves to look human. And that's really all I remembered. It already sounds silly, but I know it has a solid reputation so I figured maybe there was something I wasn't remembering correctly? Maybe there's a reason why it has remained one of the stronger King films out there? So let's dig in.

"They feast on your fear - and it's dinner time"

Sleepwalkers was a lot sillier and more goofy than I remember. While there were some elements about it that made me think it would be headed in that direction, I don't think I was really prepared for just how far it was going to go. But don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. But nearly everything about this film threw me off right from the get-go, beginning with it's tone. Is it meant to be serious? I think so. But it surely won't come across that way. There were so many things about this that left me wondering "what the fuck?", including the incestuous relationship between the mother and son. But at the same time it's all played straight, without a hint of self-awareness happening anywhere. So I have to assume Sleepwalkers is meant to be a serious horror film, even though everything about it leads you to believe otherwise. On the surface that is.



There's just something about it. Maybe it's in the early 90's setting, or maybe it's Mick Garris' direction, but Sleepwalkers really looked, felt and played out like a cheesy early 90's Made-for-TV horror film, which is fitting since Garris would continue to work on Stephen King films for the remainder of his career directing a total of 6 (to date) King adaptations as TV Movies and Mini-Series, most famously The Stand 2 years later. It's clear Mick Garris is having a grande old time here, because I doubt any other director would have infused the film or King's script with so much life and energy. There's a playfulness here, and while unexpected, really becomes endearing.

King had just written and released one of his biggest hits to date with Pet Sematary 3 years earlier in 1989, which makes this film's overall tone so bizarre. Whereas Pet Sematary is a dark, brooding and cold horror film, Sleepwalkers goes in the complete opposite direction with it's high energy, bright saturated colors and fun vibe. Coupled with it's bizarre subject matter and Made-for-TV aesthetic/quality, I was really scratching my head for most of the film, often asking myself "what were they thinking?".




But here's the thing. About halfway through I just decided to stop trying to figure it out and just let it roll. While I may have been initially thrown off by it's cheesy and downright strange vibe, once I allowed myself to just enjoy the ride, I was having a great time with it. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. It got weirder, stranger and really dove head-on into the ridiculous as it went along, culminating into an absurd finale that played on every cliche it could think of, yet effortlessly throws it all together in a satisfyingly campy way. And it's all done with a straight face, rather than with a wink of the eye, which made it even better.

The cameos. Oh the wonderful cameos. Seriously, I thought I was watching a John Landis film (who's tendency to fill his films with tons of cameos has become legendary), who also makes a cameo himself in this. But right off the top of my head I spotted Mark Hamill, Joe Dante, John Landis, Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper and Stephen King himself. And then there's the one and only Ron Perlman, here in either an extended cameo or just a very small minor part, who by the way doesn't show up until the very end of the film, yet leaves such a strong impression in his limited screen time. It's a shame too, because he's arguably one of the most memorable characters in the film and he just comes across as wasted in this. Despite wishing Perlman had a bigger part, these little bits of stunt casting just really made it all the more fun for me.



The film is not great by any stretch of the imagination, but it's so entertainingly peculiar that I was wholeheartedly invested after the first act. There are a LOT of things wrong with this film in general, but if I had any one single complaint, it would be that we don't really get any kind of backstory to the 2 main villains in the mother and son. We get little bits and pieces of what they are, but nothing is ever really explained or fleshed out. They're ancient cat-like people with superhuman strength that need to feed on human souls and can somehow transform themselves to look human, and also transform their vehicles into anything they want. Oh, and the mother and son constantly have sex with each other. Okay? That's all we're really told, and while a bit fascinating, it's also incredibly frustrating that there's no history, rhyme or reason for any of that.

While I ultimately really enjoyed Sleepwalkers for it's campy/absurd/silly vibe, it was a bumpy road getting there. I think I was initially thrown off by it's tone. I'm sitting there watching a film that was written by Stephen King himself, yet it was unlike anything I had seen from him before and didn't feel like a typical King film. But that's also one of it's biggest strengths and why it set's itself apart from the rest of the flood of periodically good, but mostly bad Stephen King adaptations. Make no mistake. Sleepwalkers is a bad film. But it sure is fun; a guilty pleasure if there ever was one. If there's anything Sleepwalkers really hit home, it was reminding me that I had such a huge crush on Madchen Amick back in the 90's.


How to watch it:
If you want to watch it for FREE in HD, it's currently streaming on Crackle, which is a FREE movie app found on most streaming devices like XBOX, Roku and Playstation. I use it through my XBOX 360 that's hooked up to my living room TV. But hurry, as they might take it off by the end of this month. It's also available on a bare-bones Blu Ray from 2012 for roughly under $15. And honestly, if you're going to grab a physical copy of this, Blu Ray is the way to go, because for all it's faults, it's ultimately a very visual film full of color that transcends any logical or narrative issues it may have.